Beyond Ordinary Listening

This article by Joyce Vissell originally appeared as an article on the former Support4Change website.

Learn how to communicate so fully that your partner can’t help but pay attention and listen to every word.

Jubilee and Munin, Ravens, Tower of London 2016-04-30The art of listening is very important in life and essential in any relationship. Being able to listen carefully assures that valuable communication is passed between two people. Some communication is so riveting that we can’t help but pay attention and listen to every word.

But what about the communications that do not capture our attention fully. These are slower communications that do not pull you right in and perhaps are harder to keep your focus. It is during these times when you can “listen-plus.”

What is “listening-plus”? Though I just made up the name for this article, I have been practicing this technique for many years and it has brought me much joy. “Listening-plus” employs the heart as well as the ears and mind. Read More

The Marriage Contract Game

If you are having a conflict with your spouse, it may be time to look at the expectations of your invisible marriage contract.

Chess king and pawns.jpgAs noted in last week’s post, Marriage’s Invisible Contract, when we agree to marry or to live together, we all have expectations concerning what we’re willing to give our partner, as well as what we want to get from him or her. Whether verbalized or not, these assumptions fall into three general categories that frequently are sources of marital and personal trouble if they aren’t understood by both people.

You can play the Marriage Contract Game by printing two copies of this page and having each of you look carefully through the sample statements and questions, exploring which ones are part of what you each believe is in your contract. Especially notice the ones about which you feel strongly, as they are ones most likely to cause trouble if they conflict with the expectations of your partner. Read More

Marriage’s Invisible Contract

Behind every marriage lay unspoken expectations that may only be vaguely understood by the spouses, but which can cause much distress.


When satisfaction or security of another person becomes as significant to one’s own satisfaction or security, then love exists.  — Harry Stack-Sullivan

Did you know there’s a contract hidden behind the marriage license? That’s right. When you sign your marriage license you THINK you’re agreeing to the same thing to which the other person agrees. But like millions of couples before you, it won’t be long before you’ll discover you were mistaken.

You see, we all enter into marriage (or agree to live together forever outside a legally sanctioned union) with the assumption that the other person knows the ground rules as we understand them. These assumptions are not written down, of course, although some of them are discussed in the process of dating and in deciding that you want to be a couple. The rest (especially those that can later cause a peck of troubles) are kept firmly stored in your mind. In fact, you aren’t even clearly aware of some of them. Nevertheless, they are powerful blueprints you expect to follow as you go through life together. Read More

How Do You Say Good-bye When a Marriage Ends?

A simple ceremony for couples who are breaking up, so that they don't carry excess baggage into their next relationship.

Van Gogh - Paul Gauguins Stuhl (Der leere Stuhl)If your relationship is sailing along splendidly or you are making progress with a marriage counselor, this post may not apply directly to you. But it may apply to a friend who has reached the end of a marriage that has become so distant, difficult or painful that all she can think about is ending the turmoil.

Had your friend sought professional help earlier, her relationship might have been salvaged. But by the time many troubled couples see a therapist, 80% are unable to salvage their relationship.

That is why, several years ago, Lynne Azpeitia wrote an article for Support4Change in which she shared an exercise she uses when couples decide that they need to split. The idea was to explore how they could break up so that they don't carry excess baggage into their next relationship.

Read More

Can We Feel Love All the Time?

This is the fifth post of advice from Opening to Love 365 Days a Year by Judith Sherven, PhD, and James Sniechowski, PhD.

When you love someone you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility.

   — Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Lots of people imagine that when they love someone they will feel that rich, warm passion every minute of the day. They believe that they will never feel angry or bored or doubtful. But that’s simply not true.

Loving someone is a journey that spans the gamut of human emotions and life experiences. If we were bedazzled every waking minute, we’d never be able to attend to a sick child or conduct a business meeting. We’d never sleep or gaze at the stars. Lasting love is ultimately a commitment, a CHOICE to continue loving someone “through good times and bad, sickness and health.” Read More