“Relationships Work…®” for
By Lori W. Hollander, LCSW-C, BCD
Robert J. Hollander, JD, LCSW-C
A satisfying and loving relationship between
a man and a woman takes work.
Work??!! Yes, work. For those couples willing
to spend the time focusing on building a truly
close bond with their spouse or significant other,
the payoff in tremendous! The keys to having
a loving relationship are:
1. Making the Time
Make your relationship a
priority. After going
to work, taking care of the kids, sports, homework,
laundry, cooking dinner, and taking the dog
out, there is little time left for most of
us to even take a breath, let alone do something
for ourselves or spend time focusing on genuinely
communicating with our partner. We tend to
put ourselves and our relationships last. And
for that reason, our health, emotionally and
physically, and the health of our relationships
Most people seem to have
awareness that if we don’t devote enough attention to work and
to raising our kids that we will not be successful.
Yet when it comes to our relationships we expect
them to succeed on their own, without devoting
the same effort. When I see couples in my practice
who are having relationship problems and I ask
how much time they spend with each other, outside
of work, time with kids, chores and friends,
they often tell me they are too tired at night
to talk and that they haven’t gone on a “date” in
weeks, months or years! You need to devote the
time and energy it takes to “feed” the
relationship, to invest in loving your partner.
It won’t just happen by itself.
#1 – CARVE OUT THE TIME
Sit down with your partner and look at your
day to day schedule and figure out where
you are going to build in time each day
and each week to devote to communicating,
having dates, enjoying each other’s
company, and being intimate. Schedule it
or it won’t happen.
A. Communicate by actively
listening and trying to understand each other’s
points of view.
It is hard to understand what the big deal is
about listening. But listening is the most important
skill to be successful in a relationship with
your kids, your friends, your boss, your co-workers
and most importantly, with your partner.
With our busy lives, most
couples communicate “off
the cuff.” Active listening takes time,
energy and focused attention. Did you know that
we can listen at a rate of 135-175
words per minute, but we can speak at a rate of 400-500
words per minute. This means that while the speaker
is talking the listener has the ability to listen
with half his brain and at the same time be forming
a response, defense or comeback. This is NOT
True listening happens when
the listener puts aside his need to respond
and uses the extra space to focus fully on
the listener to understand and empathize with
the speaker’s point
of view. When you do this you are showing your
partner that you respect their point of view,
even if you don’t agree with it. By putting
yourself “in your partners shoes”,
and truly understanding what he/she is experiencing
and feeling, you can communicate a deep sense
of caring and concern for what they think and
feel. This builds intimacy.
#2 – LISTEN ACTIVELY
- Make time to communicate – whether
it’s about the big things or the
- Stop what you are doing, focus your
full attention on your partner and
listen. If you do this right you should
be able to “Make
his/her case,” even if
you don’t agree with it.
- Let the speaker know you understand
by paraphrasing. “So you were
- Then you can respond with your point
of view. If you listen first, your
partner will be more receptive to what
you have to say.
Express yourself by “owning” your
feelings, instead of blaming your partner for
Why is it so easy to speak to our loved ones
in ways we would never speak to a stranger? Strange,
but true… Sometimes we disrespect the
ones we love the most. When couples come in to
see me, I often hear a lot of blaming about how
my partner did this or that. Most sentences begin
with the word “You…”
Another communication skill
is to learn to start sentences with the word “I…” It
could be “I feel this way when you behave
this way,” or “I wish you would…” Own
your feelings and ask your partner for what you
need. Women, generally will feel, “If he
really loved me, he would know what I need and
how I feel.” This is not true. Women generally
have the intuitive antenna, not men. Men generally
feel nothing they do is good enough. How often
I hear from the guys, “I can’t please
her no matter what I do.”
#3 – OWN YOUR
FEELINGS AND ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED
- State what you want and need using “I” statements,
instead of “You” statements.
This takes the blaming out of the
communication and sets a tone of
responsible for your feelings.
- Two assertiveness statements I learned
along the way are:
“I need/want because…” and “When you… I feel… because…” If
it is difficult to do this, write down what you want to say and read
it to your partner.
Dealing with Conflict
Face conflict squarely and
respectfully. It is
human nature to deal with conflict in one of
two ways: fight or flight. When couples have
conflict I often see them either avoid the conflict
and emotionally distance themselves from each
other, or escalate the conflict to the point
where they attack and defend and may emotionally
or physically hurt each other.
Managing conflict is a crucial
communication skill that couples need to succeed
in a relationship. The goal isn’t to
have the absence of conflict. Conflict is inevitable!
The goal is to resolve conflicts in a way that
is healthy for both partners. How, you ask?
TASK #4 – CREATE
YOUR OWN GROUND RULES FOR FAIR FIGHTING
One person speaks at a
time (no interruptions) using “I” statements.
The other person listens actively.
- Respect the other person’s
point of view, even if you don’t
agree with it.
- If the discussion gets
heated, stop talking, take a time
out, but then come back to it.
creative solutions – compromise,
negotiate, agree to disagree.
- Remember, it’s not
about who’s right or wrong. You
are on the same team.
- If it
turns into win-lose, the relationship
ask yourselves, how can we make this
Loving Your Partner
Remember, love is a verb. There is a common misconception
that couples are either “in love” or
not. That love is a passive occurrence that just
happens sometimes. It’s actually not true
at all. Love is a feeling, but love is also an
action. We experience loving feelings towards
our partner when we do loving things for them.
Feelings follow action. Act in ways that energize
your love. For example, cook his/her favorite
meal. Go to the movie he/she wants to see. Stop
on the way home from work and pick up his/her
favorite ice cream. Sometimes people fall out
of love when they stop doing loving things for
each other because of past hurts and resentments.
#5 – LOVE YOUR
- Do the little things that your partner
- Remember back to when you met...
What did your partner do that made
you fall in love with them? Do those
- Ask your partner what would make
him/her feel loved.
- Ask yourself every day, what have
I done today to show my partner that
relationships are precious. Handle them with
care and the rewards are amazing!
For more information on Couple-to-Couple® Coaching
and upcoming Tele-Classes, visit Lori and Bob
Lori W. Hollander,
LCSW-C, BCD is a psychotherapist and marriage
counselor in practice since 1981, and is the
Executive Director of Hollander Counseling
Associates, LLC. She received her Masters in
Social Work at Rutgers University. Robert J.
Hollander, JD, LCSW-C is a psychotherapist,
marriage counselor, mediator and lawyer in
practice since 1984, and is the Clinical Director
of Hollander Counseling Associates, LLC. He
received his Masters in Social Work from San
Diego State University and his law degree from
Rutgers University Law School. He was also
a lecturer at The Rutgers Graduate School of
Social Work. Lori and Bob are certified “Mars & Venus
Counselors”, personally trained by John
Gray, Ph.D., author of “Men are from Mars,
Women are from Venus”.
Hollander Counseling Associates Programs include:
- Couple-to-Couple® Coaching
- Mars & Venus Coaching
- Psychotherapy & Counseling
- Divorce Mediation
- Business/Workplace Mediation,
Consulting & Training
- Tele-Classes on a variety
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