Top 10 Relationship Growing Tips in 2014


I am frequently asked if I could summarize what makes a marriage work in one word. And I honestly can’t. I have so many words to share with you.

In an attempt to keep it simple, I think marriage satisfaction increases when you work on your own emotional reactions in the presence of your significant other. It’s our negative reactions to what our spouse does, doesn’t do, says, doesn’t say that contributes to increasing emotional distance and marriage conflict. And the more negative the interactions, the more emotional intimacy and marital friendship is blocked and eroded.

“In the world of relationships, the most important numbers to learn are: five to one. That is the ratio of positive interactions to negative ones that predicts whether a marriage will last or become one of the sad statistics of divorce.” ~ Psychology Today

Most marriage advice tells you how to get your relationship where you want it to be or how to get your spouse to meet your needs better. Well I am going to throw a wrench in these ideas, because I think both of these can make a marriage more miserable.

Think about it this way. If you think you know how your marriage needs to look or your spouse needs to be, then you are interacting with pressure and expectations instead of openness and respect. Dr. Dan Papero, family therapist and international speaker, said it best when he defined intimacy as:

“…the ability to have a relationship with another human being in which I can be myself. And you can listen without correcting me or backing away. You can stay connected to me, and I can do the same for you.” ~ Dr. Papero, Divorce Video

It can be so hard to admit it, but we are each part of the problem and luckily part of the solution too. Marriages do take work, but it’s working on ourselves not the relationship or our spouse that grows relationships.

My Top 10 Relationship Growing Tips for 2014

I have updated what I think are the 10 best emotion and relationship tips I know so far. Read on and tell me what you think in the comments section.

Tip #1: Better Manage Your Own Emotions and Reactions

Tip #2: Find Your Own Happiness Switch 

Tip #3: Stay Interested in Learning About Partner (Without Taking Personally)

Tip #4: Communicate Anger Without Blame

Tip #5: Deal With Conflict and Differences Respectfully

Tip #6: Be Emotionally Intimate (Instead of Pulling Intimacy Out of Partner)

Tip #7: Allow Partner to Have Their Own Unhappiness

Tip #8: Work on Your Own Emotional Distance and Openness

Tip #9: Resurrect Your Sexy Self

Tip #10: Release Resentment by Giving Yourself Boundaries

While I haven’t given you a simple, quick fix solution for your marriage problems, I imagine you’d rather start working on self than waiting for your spouse to change. Even if you have to keep working on yourself every day, you will be boosting your own confidence and ability to interact personally and more positively along the way.

I’m growing too, so each year I add to my understanding of what makes marriages work. I’ve spent far too many days trying to shape up my man, only to help create more emotional distance and conflict. So I will spend the rest of my years learning how to love my man better and how to be a more emotionally responsible self.

“Marriage is our last, best chance to grow up.” ~ Joseph Barth

What ideas do you find most useful? Any tips you disagree with?


Marci offers face-to-face counseling services in the Kansas City, MO area and is available for coaching via Skype. Schedule an appointment today to turn life and relationship challenges into opportunities for growth and intimacy.

This will be my only post this month, as I am working on going digital and paperless in my practice. Make sure you are subscribed to my monthly newsletter, so you can hear all about using online scheduling and appointment reminders!

Photo Credit: “Life’s Options” by Pink Sherbet 

Is Successful Divorce Possible?

How do you cope with a divorce when you are the one wanting the divorce? Initially  you may feel relief when you think about getting away from your spouse. You may have convinced yourself that he or she is the one making you miserable.

At some point, those negative emotions about your spouse will resurface in the divorce process, in co-parenting or future relationships. Getting a divorce is a complicated and intense process. Most people work more on cutting off from their ex, then working on their own reactions and interactions with their ex. 

Negative interactions are inevitable, but how do you do your best to manage the emotions that divorce (and relationships in general) brings up? If you take on the growth challenge, you will need to work on the same things whether you are staying together or divorcing.

That means taking responsibility for your part in the problem and managing your own reactions. It’s in managing your emotions to the other that you can be open to hearing them without criticizing or withdrawing. Then you are better prepared to make co-parenting decisions and to know what to work on in future relationships.

Dr Daniel Papero, international speaker, author, and family therapist, shares his ideas on how to have a calm divorce in this video:

In doing so, Dr. Papero also dispels myths about what does and does not lead to divorce. I am interested to hear my readers and clients thoughts after you watch this video.

What do you think contributes to a successful divorce? And is it the same as what contributes to a successful marriage?


Subscribe to Family Matters on You Tube to hear more videos. The mission of the Bowen Center is “to assist families in solving major life problems through understanding and improving human relationships.”


Enhance Your Child’s Problem Solving By Helping Less

butterfly wing

A butterfly takes flight for the first time, showing it’s beautiful colors. What would happen if it feared the transformation? Or if a fellow butterfly hindered it’s flight? The butterfly’s wings would freeze or get stuck in it’s cocoon.

As parents, it is hard to see our kids get stuck. We want to see them grow and reach their dreams. And, we would do almost anything to help them reach their goals. So when does helping kids assist their growth and when does it block growth?

Absorb Fear And Block Growth

When my daughter learned to ride her bike. It was a much longer process than I anticipated. Her fear got in the way. She would start peddling, get scared, and stop. For months, I held on to her seat, her arm, or her back until we were both tired of trying.

I almost lost hope. Then, I realized that I needed to let go. I was holding on too tight and hindering her flight. By holding on to her, I was agreeing with her fear, that bike riding is scary.

When I let go, she just did it. She couldn’t believe that she was riding all by herself. To see her do it all by herself was gratifying to both of us. It was a day to celebrate.

Let Go and Allow Growth

What about you? Are there areas you might be holding your child back from growing?

I wasn’t intentionally holding her back. I was trying to be patient, yet was treating her fragile. I had tried talking to her about facing her fears, but it didn’t help. My actions didn’t match my words.

I had to get out of the way, and show her I wasn’t afraid. By letting go, I invited both her triumphs and her falls. I was no longer treating her fragile and hindering her wings from growing.

As parents, we don’t intentionally get in the way of our child’s growth. In fact, it can be really hard to see how we could be interfering with our child’s mastery of a task or conquering a fear.

Markers of Over-Helping

How do you know when your helping is getting in the way of your child’s growth? In theory, the more one thinks they have all the answers, the more the other one has none.

Here are some markers of over-helping:

  • You think you have all the solutions, while your child doesn’t seem to have any solutions.
  • You spend great time and energy trying to solve their problem.
  • You want them to reach the goal more than they want it.
  • You treat your child fragile as if they are broken, lost, or sick.
  • Worry about your child is guiding you more than the facts or your parenting philosophy.

I wanted my daughter to master this new task more than she wanted to. I expected her to master it as fast as I did. I was worried that she would be the only  one on the block her age that couldn’t ride a bike. And, I eventually let her worry convince me that she needed a lot of help.

Manage Your Worry About Child’s Ability to Problem Solve

Once my daughter faced her fear without my interference or over-helping, she smiled so big. She told me, “Now, I believe what is in my heart, instead of what my worry says in my head.” My heart melted as she so eloquently got it.

Not all challenges that kids face are this easy to overcome. As you know, once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget. Yet, most challenges are faced again and again. We have many opportunities to let our child grow and learn.

Whether your child or teen is facing social, academic, financial, or emotional problems, how you manage your own anxiety about their problem solving ability is very important. The more you worry about them failing, the more you will probably try to help them solve it. The more you help, the more they typically won’t help themselves or may withdrawal from you.

So you can’t prevent your child’s failure or struggle, but you can prevent your resentment and withdrawal from them when you can’t fix their problems. Many times the way to enhance your child’s problem solving ability is to help less.

Ways to be there without having all the answers:

  • Ask them what they think will help.
  • Let them try their own solutions without rubbing their nose in it when they don’t succeed.
  • Be emotionally available when they stumble and struggle without having all the answers or fixing the problem for them.
  • Put your worry in a container, so they can find their own way.
  • Share when you observe them mastering a new skill even if it’s sporadic.
  • Believe in their ability to solve their own problems.

Just like our children, we may stumble and slip. But we can re-learn how to let our children face their fears and solve their problems without getting in the way. In doing so, we allow our children’s wings to get stronger and more colorful.

How do you think about your parenting when it comes to your child or teen’s problem? Where do you need to let go and allow growth?


Marci offers face-to-face counseling services and parent consultation in the Kansas City, MO area. Schedule an appointment today to promote instead of blocking growth in yourself and others. 

Photo Credit: “Broken Butterfly Wing” by Claudio Gennari