Before You Call the Therapist

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They are the closed doors everyone wonders about. What sends couple to therapy and, more importantly, what are the warning signs that got them there?

By the time clients come to my office, they are already in need of help and repair. Here are a few things to take notice of in your own relationship, to keep it strong, healthy and happy:


Edit yourself! Couples who avoid sharing every critical thought that comes to them when discussing touchy topics are consistently the happiest married couples around. When you do decide to bring up an issue, use wisdom! Too often, arguments start-up when a spouse escalates the conflict from the get-go by making a critical or contemptuous comment in a confrontational tone. (Women are usually more guilty of this than men.) The most successful approach is to bring up problems gently and without blame.


A marriage succeeds to the extent that the husband can be influenced by his wife. Research shows that women are already easily influenced by their husbands and that a true partnership can only occur when husbands do the same.


Happy couples start out with a low level of tolerance for bad behavior from their first day of marriage. Refuse to accept hurtful behavior from each other. If you feel your partner is out of line in how they’re responding to you, turn to them and ask, “How do you feel about how you’re treating me right now?”


Successful couples know how to repair a situation before an argument gets completely out of control. Positive repair attempts include using humor, a caring remark, a soft touch, or a warm smile. If an argument starts to escalate and become heated, take a 20-minute break and approach it again when you have both calmed down.


In a happy marriage, while discussing problems, couples make at least five times as many positive statements to and about each other and their relationship as they do negative ones. A good marriage requires a rich climate of positivity to thrive, such as, humor, affection, interest and joy.

Dr. John Gottman revolutionized the study of marriage by using rigorous scientific procedures to observe the habits of successfully and unsuccessfully married couples.

He has created the Magic Five Hours a Week to show couples how to reconstruct their week in a way that allows them to continually make positive connections and strengthen their relationship. We all have a million excuses for why we don’t spend enough time working on our key relationship. Yet all is takes is five hours per week to make our relationship a priority…(not that you have to stop at only five hours!)

It’s the little things that count! The more you participate in the following rituals, the more they will become a part of your everyday life:

Don’t part in the morning without knowing one interesting thing that will happen in your partner’s day that you can ask them about when you see them next. You can go your separate ways after a six-second kiss and an “I love you!”

Reunite with a six-second kiss, followed by a stress-reducing conversation in which each of you share your frustrations, anxieties, and a brief re-cap of what happened in your day. Listen well and provide emotional support. Key: Understanding must precede any advice giving!

Find some way every day to communicate affection and appreciation for your partner.

Kiss, hold, grab, touch! Play together often…..

Make sure to update your love maps (those things that cause you to feel loved by and good about your partner) and use them to create opportunities to turn toward one another. Set aside time for a date with your partner to catch up on their life, resolve issues, and enjoy each other’s company.

Even the smallest of changes can create a huge impact on your marriage. There is no reason not to make your relationship a priority. Start the Magic Five Hours this week and see just how far it takes you!

Bottom line:

Most of Dr. Gottman’s research for sustaining and creating happy marriages revolve around one crucial factor: Friendship. You know you have a great friendship in marriage when are able to maintain a mutual respect for each other and enjoyment each other’s company. Friendship kindles romance while also protecting against things getting adversarial. As long as you retain fondness and admiration for your partner you can always salvage your relationship. Without it, there is a greater chance that disgust (which is poison to a marriage) will be expressed.