Why it’s Good to Have Expectations in Your Relationship

Have you ever heard of the “nocebo effect”?  No?  Me neither.

Have you heard of the “placebo effect”?  It’s the phenomenon where if you believe you are being treated for something, you feel the effects of it.  For example, if you are told the pill you are taking will cure your headache, you take it and assume your headache will go away.  When it does go away, you think nothing of it, except when you are told the pill you took is a sugar pill.  That’s the placebo effect.

Well, apparently the same goes for the opposite of the placebo effect – the nocebo effect.  If you believe that something is not going to work, it doesn’t.  If you are told the aspirin you are about to take is a dud and won’t work, it doesn’t – even if it’s the same kind of aspirin you always take for your headaches.

Can you imagine how the nocebo effect could affect your relationship? Read More

3 Ways to be a Lifelong Learner in Your Relationship

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When you graduated from college, did you say to yourself, “Well, that’s it! I now know everything I need to know. My days of learning are over!” Probably not. In fact, you’ve probably continued to learn about new topics, acquire new skills, and seek out random tidbits of information, even if your days of formal education are over. It’s not only fun and fulfilling, but also keeps your mind open and your heart young, among other tangible and intangible benefits.

Interestingly, in long-term relationships, we often get to a certain point and feel as if we know “everything” about our partner. But whether you’ve been together for 3 years or 30+, there’s a good chance that there are still new things to learn about each other—it just might require more digging than it did when you were first getting to know each other. Read More

Your friends + My friends = Our friends?

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Healthy relationships are vital to life. When cared for, relationships bring us joy. They bring us strength. They bring us connection. And so many other great things. But relationships are work! And, I’m not just talking about relationships that come with a lifelong commitment like a marriage or parenting, but friendships too.

Friendships are relationships we choose to have. We start to take this autonomy of deciding our friends when we are young, even before we truly understand what it means to be a friend. When I was in elementary school, I remember sitting around the dinner table with my family and one of my parents always would ask, “Did you make any new friends today?” I don’t remember what my answer was on a given day, but I’m sure I answered yes.

Back then, a friend was someone who held the door for you while coming inside from recess. Or someone who would trade you their peanut butter and jelly sandwich for your egg salad. Or maybe even the girl who has the pretty bow in her hair … maybe we’ve never actually played together, but she seems cool, so I’ll say she’s my friend. Read More

Why Your Partner Shouldn’t Be Your “Everything”

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Social media has exacerbated the romanticism of your partner being your “#everything.”  We constantly see Instagram posts about our friend’s boyfriend with captions like, “He’s my everything.”  Facebook photos of a picture of a couple’s silhouette in the sunset with cute calligraphy typed over top, “She is my everything.”  Or tweets of a sleeping spouse with hashtags of, “#myeverything.”

What?  Where does that even stem from?  What lead us to the problematic belief that our partners are the one and only person we need in our life? Read More

Maintenance Required

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My husband and I have lived in our house for four years. There are still rooms I consider “unfinished” and boxes shoved in closets. You would think that four years would be enough time to get completely settled in. While we have made significant improvements to the quality of our yard, it is still a constant work in progress. In the last couple of years, our small deck, that seemed nice enough four years ago, has slowly devolved to a state of warped, loose planks and even one that fell off completely.

I’ve learned that being a homeowner is a lot of (ongoing) work, whether we choose to do the work or not. You might even say it’s kind of like being married or in a long-term relationship. Read More

Love and Intimacy Takes a New Form

Words to think about from our staff at PE

They have been married for 66 years. The wife lives in the family home. Her husband is in a full time care facility.  She won’t drive much anymore and he can’t drive at all.

Every Sunday morning he hires the accessibility van to bring him home. If the bus is late picking him up, he knows she will worry.  He calls her from his flip phone to give her a new ETA.

She cooks his favorite breakfast and has it ready as soon as he arrives. For a special treat for lunch, some Sunday’s she will go to the local fast food place and bring home his favorites. When she asks him what he wants for supper, he always answers “Whatever you make will be delicious.” They share and enjoy the comfort of eating their meals together at the dining room table; the same table that in the 50’s and 60’s sat a family of five, then six, and finally a family of seven.

These people are my parents.

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Sometimes the Issues Aren’t What They Seem

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My wife, Michelle, and I met with a couple that were fighting about how much time they should spend at her parents when they visited that weekend. We tried to get them to agree on the amount of time. He said 2 hours and she said 6 hours. Eventually, they compromised. He was at 4 hours and she was at 4 hours and 15 minutes. They couldn’t close the gap between the last 15 minutes.
Suddenly, it occurred to me. This isn’t about how much time they spend at her parent’s house. This was about something else. Negotiating a compromise wasn’t helping.

There are different levels to what couples fight about. Sometimes, the real issues aren’t the surface issues. Read More

How Being Vulnerable Changed Our Relationship

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Counseling seems scary.
But here’s a secret that could protect your future marriage- it’s not scary!

See, it isn’t counseling itself that is nerve-racking (though seeking help does often come with a stigma), but rather, it is the knowledge that at that counseling appointment, you will have to be vulnerable. You will be asked to bare your heart and soul – that’s what makes most people run the other direction. Then add your fiancé sitting next to you on that couch ALSO being vulnerable – you can see why many couples are unwilling to consider premarital as a part of their pre-wedding preparations.

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Relight the Fire in Your Relationship

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The snow has fallen, wool socks have been pulled out of storage, fire places have been lit, winter is here and it has plateaued: don’t let your relationship do the same.  Here’s the thing about complacency, it’s a natural part of a relationship’s journey, but it can be avoided.  Leading up to National Marriage Week, the team at PREPARE/ENRICH wants to encourage you to keep your relationship on your mind.  When you do this, you are already taking a step in the right direction to combat complacency. Read More

How to Deal with “Sexpectations” in Marriage

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When it comes to marriage, expectations are one of the first things a marriage counselor, coach, or premarital program will encourage you to put on the table and address. Oftentimes, people don’t even realize the rigidity of their expectations, or how many they actually have!

Adult couples often squirm in their seats when asked about their sexual expectations. For many, it’s a source of awkward unknowns or it becomes an emotionally charged conversation. Read More