Couple talking about marriage

6 Hard Questions to Ask Your Spouse if you Want your Marriage to Last

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Marriage is a commitment.  You know that.  You said, “I do” days, weeks, months, or years ago.  And now you live out what you promised…right?  Most people think that marriage is work, but many are not doing the right kind of work.

Really?

Really.

Most marriages work re-actively–reacting to conflict, reacting to situations, reacting to this and that.  But to be proactive is rare.  As such is the case, being proactive in marriage is something that may be worth addressing.  One way to be proactive in marriage is to ask questions; however, these are not questions that you just ask “whenever.” Nor, do you ask in the midst of a conflict, or argument. These are questions that you schedule time to ask and to discuss.  So here are 6  hard questions that you should ask your spouse (because assuming just makes things more difficult.)

Question One: Are we happy together?

Now this is a humdinger!  What if they say “no?”  What if they say “not for a while?”  O…what if they say “yes” (Whew!)  Whatever the response, it is best to know the answer, and not just assume that because you have “no problems” that you have no problems. (Get it?)

If this answer is not what you want to hear, consider it an opportunity to get better and do better.  Don’t get mad, don’t upset–get focused.   Marriage is a journey, sometimes people get tired, that doesn’t mean that you can’t regroup and start the journey again…got it?

Question Two: Are our vows still valid?

What?  We said to love, honor and cherish til death do we part…how could that not be valid.  Easy–you had no clue what you were promising at the time.  Besides, these are very vague terms, and so perhaps it’s time to sit down and drill down on the expectations of those vows, beyond the fanfare and the 7-tier cake.

Question Three: What can we do to be better for each other?

This is a question for the bravest of the brave.  And if you ask this question…you are the real MVP.  Seriously.  Most married people believe that they are doing the best that they can, and that is all that they can do.  But is it?  Probably not.  What if your spouse just needs you to listen to their recap of the day (or wait and hour for them to get settled before you start).  The “do” can be very little–but have so much impact on the status of our unions.

Question Four: Is our sex life (physical intimacy) satisfying?

Ummmm yes!  This is a question that you have to ask.  You may think that you have it going on–and maybe you do–but perhaps that’s not always what the situation called for.  When we talk to premarital and marital couples at The Relationship Firm, we address their sexual expectations.  (Actually we tell them to address them, and then report back with as little detail as possible…SMILE!)  People always tell married people that they have to keep the spice–or keep “it” fresh…but what does that mean in YOUR marriage.  And if your spouse tells you know…don’t get all emotional…ask why?  Then we can move forward.

Question Five: Is there anything that you miss about me? (You can also add “about us?”)

This is different way to ask the question “have I changed?”  Great question.  And a great way to open up a dialogue around emotional intimacy, spatial intimacy, and spiritual intimacy.  You may have no clue that your spouse REALLY liked when you made pancakes and you had breakfast together on Saturdays; but now you grab granola as you head to yoga.  They may miss how you jumped in the shower and washed their back.  Again, it could be little things.

More questions on intimacy and closeness (if you need them). 

Lastly, Question Six: Is there anything that you want me to know?

This is a blanket question.  But it has power.  Consider using it if you are not ready to ask the other five questions.

At the end of the day, it’s your marriage and you have to find out what works for you.  All the couples at The Relationship Firm know that we are just a GPS and they have to set their destination.  When people tell you what works in marriage, they only know what worked for them–not you.  Don’t be afraid to have a unique marriage.  Don’t be afraid to do things differently that ANYONE ELSE.  If it works and keeps you moving forward as a couple, then that’s all that matters.

Ready…set…ask…

7 Scary Relationships

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There are all kinds of relationships…but here are six that I find a little, and one that I  find really “scary.”

We don’t really know anything about each other.
Consider the fact that most people send their representative out on at least the first 5 dates, and add to that the reality that the majority of people who date don’t want to ask hard questions about the other person, and the possibility of not really knowing anything about each other becomes very real.

But it doesn’t have to stay this way.  Both parties can ask meaningful questions so that they do get to know each other.  Questions such as:

  • What are your expectations for someone you’re in a relationship with?
  • Have you ever cheated? Why did you (if you did)?
  • What are your life and career goals?

help you come to an understand about who the person you call your “signif” (significant other).

I don’t like you, despite saying I love you.
Admittedly, I spent a decade in a relationship with someone I loved, but didn’t like.  But, liking the person you’re in a relationship with supersedes loving them–believe it or not.  The friendship element of your relationship helps sustain the rest of your relationship.  Out of friendship is born respect, trust, honesty, communication, common ground.  Friendship is the foundation of an amazing love story.

We don’t share anything/our communication sucks.
Sometimes we find ourselves in relationships with people who don’t let us into their lives.  If this is you, consider sharing some thing that is special, but doesn’t make you uncomfortable.  If you’re person who feels a bit jilted about what you’re not being told, then perhaps its time to look at the root of this situation.

Of course, you could always schedule an intervention or mediation, and we can talk through the things that are not being talked about.

I can’t trust you.
While this is a warning for both guys and gals, guys need to be aware that the gals in their lives need stability.  Stability doesn’t stop with trusting you to take care of things and being financially secure.  Trust and stability starts with keeping your word, calling/coming/doing when you say you will.  Every promise needs to be kept, or admitted that it can’t be kept.  It’s scares people (no pun) to be connected to someone that doesn’t keep their word, or fails to admit when they can’t.

In the end, everyone needs to be able to believe in the person they are with. Your word is your bond.

It’s just sex…REALLY!
You cannot build a relationship that lasts on sex.  You can build a sexual relationship, but to attempt to turn that into something meaningful is usually futile.  If it’s just sex, then that’s a decision that you BOTH should make, along with setting boundaries, getting tested, and agreeing that being physically intimate does not imply or guarantee an exclusive, long-term, or loving relationship.

If you want an exclusive, long-term relationship, you may want to consider exploring sex-free relationships so you can get to know each other and spend quality time without the burden of STDs, pregnancy scares, or late night texts asking, “what are
you doing?”

Lastly, you hurt me.
This is not just about emotional pain, but physical pain as well.  Without going through all the signs of an abusive relationship, the one thing that you have to know is that if you don’t feel safe…you probably aren’t safe.  Not only is today Halloween, but it’s the last day of Domestic Violence Awareness month.  If you’re in an abusive relationship–emotional, physical, financial, etc, perhaps it’s time to make this “last time,” be the LAST TIME.  Get  CONFIDENTIAL help now…

In conclusion, there are definitely some other scary relationships, and if you see your relationship in one of the seven above…there is something you can do about it.  There is no reason to settle for an average relationship when you can have an amazing relationship using the same time, energy and emotions.  Learn more…

3 Reasons Love May Not Be Enough

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Love seems to be the easy part.  People are falling in and out of love every day, and most have no clue why.  But there are others who, despite everything that is wrong with a “loving” relationship, have decided that love alone is the reason to stay–and mind you, some people are being treated really badly.  While the thought of staying committed to the love you have for this person is admirable, and is right up there with enduring a marriage that is failing for the sake of your children…the truth is…love may not be enough, and here are a few reasons why.

Reason One: Love is not synonymous with respect.

If the person that you love doesn’t respect you, then that is a problem.  When your memories of this special person in your life are littered with thoughts of their cheating activities, their lies, and even their bad habits, and the negative effect that they have on you, this is not about whether you love them, this is now a question of whether you love yourself.

Do you?

Reason Two: You may love them, but like them? Eh.

CONFESSION: I spent a long time with a person that I loved, but didn’t like.  While some people will say that love is more important, like is the glue that holds things together.  When I like you, it means that on a basic human level, I think you’re a nice person, a great guy or girl, and that you’re friend material.  Being friend material, and having a friendship within a romantic relationship is optimal.

Reason Three: They do not love you the way you should be loved.

This is usually the problem that most people encounter when they love someone, but the relationship is not quite right.  Just because someone claims to “love you,” that doesn’t mean that they know exactly what that means, or what it means to you.  There are entire programs, like the 5 Love Languages, that try to show people what love language they actually speak.  Some, like me, prioritize quality time, while others gifts or words of affirmation.  If the relationship works, but something is a little off–this may be a place to start. However, if the relationship doesn’t work (this means that you spend more time crying than smiling), then there is a bigger problem.  It’s time to sit down, perhaps use my SWOT Analysis Tool, which is in  The Business of Dating to figure out what is going on. (Click here to get the tool.)  When someone doesn’t love you the way you deserve to be loved–with respect, friendship, honesty, giving (of their time, energy and emotions) and commitment–that is not something that should be ignored, nor is it something that will go away.  It is a serious situation that requires a response.

In conclusion, it just must be said that love is not enough for a relationship to survive and thrive.  Sometimes we have to admit that and move on.  However, whatever you decide, do what’s best for you, and be encouraged by the lessons this situation has taught you.  There’s ALWAYS a lesson.

#CoachStephHasSpoken

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Aspen Wedding of Josh Altman

Celebrity Love Notes: Introducing Heather and Josh Altman

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Image result for josh altman marriageJosh Altman and Heather Bilyeu (the soon to be Mrs. Josh Altman) are one of the newest power couples in LA!  Both successful realtors, viewers see multi-million dollar real estate deals delivered each week by Josh and Heather on Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles (#MDLLA).  They have done a great job keeping business and “pleasure” separate, as Josh works for one agency and she with The Agency, owned by the amazingly attractive and successful husband, of Kyle Richards (of Real Housewives Beverly Hills fame)–Mauricio Umansky (www.TheAgencyRE.com).

However, recently, Josh and his brother decided to open a new real estate venture, appropriately named “The Altman Brothers,” and much to Heather’s chagrin, Josh decided that for the sake of their relationship, she will not be involved.

Of course, she was disappointed…make that a little shy of furious.

Despite the 82% (I read somewhere) that agree with Heather, I am going on record that  I agree ONE MILLION PERCENT with Josh!

It takes a very special couple to work and to “play” together.  In a business like real estate, which is competitive (and can be cutthroat), working together could pose some challenges.  The challenges at work, then become the challenges at home, and it’s down hill from there.  Consider the challenges that Heather endured with Madison, if those same issues emerged between Heather and another agent at The Altman Brothers, businessman Josh, then morphs into super-protective fiancé or new husband  Josh Altman, and we have a problem…a big one.  I personally, hate to see Josh when he’s not calm, cool and collected, and I can only imagine how wrong that can go in real life.

Hopefully, Heather has seen the light (since this was taped many moons ago), and recognizes that being separate in their professional endeavors will allow them to have professional happenings to share during their quality times at home, but will also keep them from having their personal lives overrun by real estate.  As a couple, it is imperative that this time is used to get to know each other –even better than they do now.  This is the time for deep discussions about our future and our children, NOT to be distracted by some deal that went South the day before, nor to explore the quickest way to entice a buyer for a $20.2 million compound in the Hollywood Hills.

What anyone can learn from this situation, is that if you have a significant other who is actively taking responsibility for the success of the relationship, then that is a good thing…this is what Josh did.  I give Josh kudos for standing up for his relationship and saying that working together may create situations that may impact our ability to stay together.  I give Heather kudos for being upset at first, but accepting the reality and–even if she doesn’t mean it–showing solidarity with Altman’s decision.  Ultimately, this is what marriage is about–being teammates.  As such is the case, “Team Altman-Bilyeu” is on the right track.

Congrats!

#CoachStephHasSpoken


Update: Josh and Heather wed in 2016 after a three-year engagement.  Congrats!

He’s (or She’s) Not Relationship Material

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He’s sweet, kind and even super nice when the opportunity presents itself.  You find yourself wondering if he could be the guy that you’ve been hoping for, despite the fact that he’s never made an advance nor seemed all that interested.  Nice, but not really “interested.”

But he could be the one…right? Or, at least the one for right now,  yes?

Well…Sadly, no.

Take the fact that he’s never made an advance to heart.  It’s not that he’s not interested, it’s that he is not, I repeat, not relationship material.  This is not a cliché, this is a reality.

So, what does it mean, he’s not “relationship material?” Great question.  Not being relationship material means that this person is not ready nor willing to invest the effort necessary to initiate or to maintain a mutually beneficial romantic relationship.  Yes, this does apply to people in friendships, but people are more apt to put more effort into making someone romantic relationship material–so that’s the angle I am coming from.

Now, most people believe that this is a fact that can be changed.  Many people believe that if they make enough of the effort for the person, that they will eventually pick up the slack because all they need is someone to care for them.

Again, no.

This person has made a decision to avoid relationships.  This is why he, or she, is nice but not pursuing you.  Don’t delude yourself into believing that you can change their mind.  For whatever reason, they are deeply committed to themselves, and that’s their priority.  If you choose to make the effort to change their mind, you are only setting yourself up to be disappointed, aggravated and often frustrated with the fruits of your labor.

Consider the possibility that perhaps they’ve recently been hurt–deeply hurt–by someone who they trusted.  This hurt created such pain within them that they decided that they needed to take a break…to heal. Or, perhaps they just realized that all their relationships are ending badly.  They’ve decided to get to the bottom of this cycle, and to do so means stepping away from starting a new romance–at least for now.

Now, you are in their life, hoping and wondering that this may become “something.” Honestly, it might…but not right now.

The best thing that you can do is to respect this person’s decision to take time to heal.  That is the best thing you can do.

  • Not try to convince them how awesome you are.
  • Not attempt to care and love them into being obligated to start a relationship with you.
  • Not lecture them about what they’re missing out on (this means you) because they are guarded or cautious.

Just respect the decision, and be the friend, confidant or best buddy that they need now…if you can handle that.  If you can’t, then care about them from a distant.  There is another option: you can wait them out.  But, seriously, do you have that kind of time?

Really?

You will avoid many, many moments of sheer confusion if you accept the fact that he, or she, is just not relationship material.  If you choose to do anything else but accept it, then let me know how that works out for you.  I am willing to be wrong–but I don’t think that I am.

Bottom line: Accept it…it’s ok.

#CoachStephHasSpoken

♥ Avoid bad relationships when you get FIRM. www.TheRelationshipFirm.com

3 Reasons People Lie to the Ones They Love [LATE NIGHTS WITH COACH STEPH]

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As a relationship advocate and relationship professional, I’m becoming increasingly annoyed by the lack of honesty in relationships.  And, I am sure that you agree with me.

The worst offenders are those who lie in the name of love.

So, in true “Coach Steph” style, here are three reasons people lie to the ones that they love.

Reason one: they are wussies.  Don’t be offended if this pertains to you, the truth is that it pertains to many human beings at one time or another.  Periodically it seems easier to lie–by admission or omission–instead of to face the reality and speak  the truth!  Ultimately, we all need to man up (or woman up) and be people of true integrity.

Reason two: the truth will hurt the other person.  Ummmmm duh! But a quickly discovered untruth hurts more.  If we truly care about NOT hurting the people in our lives, then we have to be truthful.  And, better yet, we have to make decisions that will not put us in the position where we feel lying is the solution to the dilemma.  This includes: not going places you’ve both agreed to not go to; talking to people who may cause strife or confusion to enter your relationship (this goes double…err, triple if you are married.) You get the point…honor your relationship.  If you can’t honor it, then let it go…now that’s the truth!

Reason three: the truth will rock your world! Sometimes we have to be honest, but in doing so, everything will have to change.  This covers everything from having to start or stop a relationship, more specifically, cutting people off; to deleting numbers; to accepting that you and this person are now priority.  So many times, this is the reason that the truth cannot come to light.  And, that it doesn’t come to light.  But, again, when you love someone…the truth has to take priority.  The truth may change everything, but what’s the alternative?  Living a lie is painful, and ultimately leads to undeniable unhappiness.  Referring back to reason one…stop being a wussy.

Now, if you are guilty this is your chance for redemption…if you love, like, hate, resent, need, care for, or need to break up with someone…tell them, period.  This game of lies and fallacies is for kids.  Grownups should operate in total transparency at every opportunity.  Time is not promised.  How would you feel if someone you love didn’t know the truth? Would you regret not telling them?   Would you wonder how things would have gone? If any of this matters, then stop with the excuses.

Let the truth set you free!

♥ Avoid bad relationships when you get FIRM. www.TheRelationshipFirm.com

Relationship Stuff: Why Sex Matters

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It’s not uncommon for people who are dating to want to get to know each other. They spend time together and, hopefully, have a good time. Walking together, talking for hours, finding out silly little things we have in common.

Uh-oh.

Because usually when two people have a good time, they want to have a better time.  And, that “better time” normally means sex.

No big deal, right?

Wrong!

Sex is a huge deal.  It’s not casual or incidental.  It’s major!

Here’s why sex matters:
This is not the STD, pregnancy, blah, blah, blah.  You’re a grown up, and if you don’t know that by now that sex can lead to STDs and pregnancy, then just stop reading now…because the rest is going to BLOW…YOUR…MIND!

Ok, you’re still here.  So, here are a few more reasons why sex matters.

Reason One: You’re literally intertwined with another person
This is a big deal, and the part that most people over look.  For those 20 to may 60 minutes, you are one.  And, being one with someone that you merely like, don’t know that well, or simply wanted to have some fun with, can be detrimental.  You’re not just one with their body…you are one with their mind…their soul…AND THEIR ISSUES.  And the connection doesn’t end when the deal is done.

Gasps!

No wonder you became confrontational after your last rendezvous with you-know-who.  Because you-know-who loves confrontation! While they may have left a smile on your face, they also left a residue.

This is the part where you should be a wee bit grossed out.

Don’t worry….I’ll wait.

So, to keep this brief, I will stop right here, but I challenge you to take just 30 seconds before your next intimate moment, and consider what that person is really giving you.  And, if think they’re hot, but hate their attitude, consider that your about to open yourself up (no pun intended) to being the very thing you hate.  On the other hand, if you love their attitude, this doesn’t exclude you, because nice people still have issues.

Bottom line: This is just one BIG reason (out of many BIG reasons) why sex matters.

#CoachStephHasSpoken

Are you Ashamed? (It’s Okay if you are…)

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You think about it all the time, and you wonder what has happened to the thing that used to bring you so much joy and happiness.  You’ve tried  to fix it, but it’s just not right.  You talk without resolution, and now you’re beginning to believe that you’re settling.  Your friends ask  how the two of you are doing, and you have no idea how to respond.  Do you tell them about your how unhappy you are, or do you continue to sing the praises of your privately dysfunctional relationship? Decisions, decisions.

Just admit it…you’re ashamed of your relationship.

It’s okay.

It happens in the best relationships.  Two people come together, and create a wonderful connection and begin to plan their future together.  It’s a healthy relationship.  Conflicts are resolved, and compromises are upheld.  This awesome pair soon hears the buzz of how perfect they are together and the inevitability of wedding bells.

It has worked…well…until now.

Now you’re confused.  And, while the relationship hasn’t changed drastically, you don’t feel the same way.  Perhaps some promises weren’t kept to your expectations, or some of your most recent discussions didn’t seem to merit the attention once given by your significant other.  In fact, you might even be wondering what you might have done wrong, or to this person to bring the relationship to this points.  Whatever happened…you’ve developed feelings of unhappiness…and again, it’s okay.

In order to push past this season of being ashamed, a few questions must first be answered:

One: Do you still want to be in a relationship with this person?  If so, then you may have to admit that the two of you need a little help.  I have to say that I find it odd that couples do not seek professional help when things are going awry. If you know that you are compatible (not just attracted to each other) and have hit a little rough spot, there is nothing wrong with calling in a coach, or counselor to help you…there’s NOTHING to be ashamed of. In one of my most recent mediations, it became clear that both parties were saying the same thing, but hearing each other differently. It is amazing just how often this happens.  Once I helped them hear each other, they were “fixed” and ready to get back to building a great relationship.  If you don’t want to be in a relationship with this person…then, stop reading, request information on my uniquely create breakup process, called D-Method, and let’s begin your relationship rehab, STAT!

Two: Have you been fair to this person? Have you been CLEARLY communicating your expectations and THEN holding your signif (significant other) to them?  Or, have you been expecting them to read your mind and act accordingly?  Sometimes we become complacent with our levels of communication, especially in a strong, long-standing relationship.  We believe that the other person can read our minds, and because of that, we become lax in our communications with them.  If you are guilty of this, there is only one thing to do…*pause for dramatic effect* …apologize.  Openly admit that this is what you’ve been doing, and how you think it’s been impacting the relationship.

Three: Is it time for a vacation?  Sometimes we all need to get away.  Away from work, life, the chatter of our friends and family members…just get away.  Stress impacts every relationship in your life, and if you two (or one of you) is not recharging his or her battery, it can become detrimental to the relationship.  Consider the case of a couple in my book, “The Business of Dating,” who were being impacted by his long hours and her desire to be flexible, but still a priority.  The stress and demands of his job were about to not only effect but terminate the relationship.  Don’t be a victim of poor work-life balance…pack your bags and get out of dodge!

As I said before, it’s okay if you’ve become ashamed of your relationship.  But, that doesn’t have to be the end of the love story.  Visit www.NoLoveLeftBehind.com and find a program that will help get you and your signif out of struggling and BACK into snuggling.  Trust me, it can be done.

#CoachStephHasSpoken

Are The Kardashians Ruining Your Love Life?!

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Photo Courtesy of The Daily Beast

They seem to be everywhere! The misguided (or unguided, depending on your perspective) brood of the late power-lawyer Robert Kardashian are perhaps stalking you.  But, what you didn’t know is that Robert, Khloe, Kim, Kourtney, and Kris might be ruining your love life.

Hopefully, you only see these individuals as a source of entertainment; however, if you ever remotely thought about taking them seriously, then here are a few reasons why these “reality stars” could be not only taking up precious real estate on your DVR, but also ruining your love life.

Robert, Jr.:
First of all, Robert is not a bad guy, but I recommend that you set your dating sights beyond a cute face, and a questionable wallet.  Rob, like many men is getting his life together (I hope), and while it may be tempting to be a passenger on his train, since of course, all he needs is encouragement from the right woman *sarcasm*, don’t do it.  And while you might not be pining over our fair Rob, this goes for other men in his situation.  Let a man be a man, and if he’s not being A man, then consider the possibility that he cannot be YOUR man…at least not right now.  It’s important that a man be able to stand on his on own two feet–otherwise you might have to carry him.

Khloe:
Where do I start?  A ten-day courtship and now it’s shocking that this marriage has challenges.  Love at first sight is a myth (unless you have just given birth).  When people want to have a life together, it requires time.  Time allows you to see beyond the newness of your shiny relationship, and into the reality (no pun) of what this person brings to your table.  I don’t doubt that Lamar is a nice guy, but with an interesting dating track record (and I will just leave it at that), Khloe should’ve given this relationship time to grow and mature before saying I do.  So what am I saying?  Take your time.  Rushing to the altar almost guarantees that the honeymoon, and then the marriage, will be over sooner than you think.

Kourtney:
If this young woman was the average girl in an American community, she’d be considered a random, run-of-the-mill “babymomma.”  But because she has fortune and fame, society overlooks the fact that she has two children out of wedlock.  Let me take a minute and warn the men who might read this that women like Kourtney are not the type of women you want to date, nor mate with.  While she’s cute, she is a demanding brat, who acts more like poor Scott’s mother than his lover–YIKES! While, I understand that he has made some dumb decisions, if it’s so catastrophic that you have to mother your man, then it’s not worth it.  Let him go, and for go measure, don’t tether yourself to him forever as the mother of his children. Voila!

And last but not least…

…KIM:
I will probably dedicate a Celebrity Love Note to her, as did for her NOT YET EX-husband, Kris Humphries.  My apologies if you thought that she was divorced…she is not.  The saddest part of her relationship life is not that she and Kanye procreated (while that is very sad), it is that this woman hasn’t stop dating long enough to learn from the failure of her past relationships, nor to even get divorced.  At some point, we all have to take responsibility for the roles that we’ve played in relationships that didn’t work, or are considered our own personal, “epic fails.” But we cannot do that if we continue to date through breakups and separations.  Take time to heal.  The person who said that, “the best way to get over an old man is to get under a new one,” is lying to you.  This is how you become confused, vulnerable and, possibly knocked up.  Kim is a young woman with severe issues.  Fellas…also take heed to this one.  Don’t let the size of her assets persuade you to be with someone who is not ready for a real relationship.  This will not end well.

Well, those are just a few of my thoughts on how The Kardashians are possibly ruining your love life.  If you after reading this feel that it’s beyond time for you to get your life (and love) together, then take a peek at our new low-to-no cost coaching and mentoring programs.  If you’re being a little, “Kardashian” I promise not to let you stay that way. (Smile!)

Until then…

#CoachStephHasSpoken