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Tips of the Month for Couples are regular tips for building strong relationships and healthy families. If you would like to sign up to receive these monthly tips, scroll to the bottom of the page and leave your email address.

How to Create Space to Avoid Triggering a Partner's Hurt Feelings

In the television series Parenthood, which ended its run eight years ago, the character of Adam tells his younger, more relationship-challenged brother that every morning he utters “I’m sorry” three times to his wife, whether or not he’s aware of having done anything to hurt her. He sees it as a kind of insurance policy against the inevitable injuries of married life. And he seems to understand how easy it is to trigger a partner’s hurt feelings — even accidentally, without…

Shame Spotting

What has the power to knock any relationship off its rails?  Shame. When shame stirs within a partner, conversations that were going along nicely can go haywire. Partners turn angry, even rageful, or withdraw into silence, even leave the room.  

Emotion Fixing

Partner One: “I feel really discouraged today…” Partner Two: “Come take a walk with me, it’s a really beautiful day out.”   Partner One: “I’m so frustrated with the people at work, they spend all day complaining.” Partner Two: “You should just quit, we can get by on my salary for a while.”   Partner One: “We never hear from the kids. It bothers me that they don’t call once in a while to see how we are.” Partner Two: “They’re busy with their own lives. You shouldn’t…

Argue With Kindness

Sky-high cholesterol and off-the-charts blood pressure aren't the only ways we put our health at risk. Research reported in the December, 2005 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry revealed that conflict within our primary relationship has the power to affect our physical health.

Sharing Influence

In the drama of intimate partnership, asserting a strong “no” can be a show-stopper. Negativity, firmly expressed, seems to have some intrinsic power to squelch what’s in its path, whether it’s a suggestion to purchase a certain piece of furniture, plan a weekend getaway, or try the new restaurant that opened nearby.

Invisible Support

Research reported in the Journal of Psychological Science (December, 2010) describes two types of support in a relationship: visible (when both partners notice the supportive actions) and invisible (when support originates outside the recipient's awareness).

Flip the Tense

Imagine you’re preparing a recipe that calls for two cups of flour. You open your pantry cabinet to retrieve the bag of flour and notice that the top of the bag is half-open.  You’ve seen this before: it’s how your partner always leaves the bag, exposed to the air and, in your view, compromising freshness. You feel irritated. 

Why We Blame

“Why did you have to…?” “If it wasn’t for you…” “How many times have I told you…?” Is there any couple alive that doesn’t sometimes indulge in the blame game — finding fault in one another when something goes wrong? Research reported in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (Volume 138, 2009) revealed that people credit others far more often for “negative” events — what we call blaming — than for “positive” events. Why might this be?