Tag Archives: couples

Ten Big Truths for Every Committed Couple

As a licensed marriage and family therapist and marital researcher for almost 15 years, I’ve come to some big picture conclusions about relationships.  I call them “Big Truths” and penned them on Facebook for my friends and family.  I’ve decided to post them here as well, in case they might be of some support to you and your partner, or your future relationship.  All my best, Kelly Roberts, Editor ~ Red Dirt Chronicles

Big Truth #1:  No one ever really wins the “I did more than you” game. At best, it’s zero-sum…but not really. Because even in a stalemate, ill will can be generated. Continue reading Ten Big Truths for Every Committed Couple

Not-So-Newlyweds: Resolutions Together

I don’t think there’s anything magical about turning the calendar to January 1 that makes us all run to our bathroom mirrors to post lists of resolutions. Instead, I think those ideas for positive change are born of actually having time away from our regular schedules to remember who we are and who we want to be. In our individual lives and in our relationships, these vacation days at Christmas have almost a healing power, allowing us space to restore the parts of ourselves we give up during the rest of the year. This is will be the fifth New Year’s Resolution season Luke and I have experienced together, and there are some things I’ve learned about setting goals as a married person. It has been interesting to see the way that New Year’s resolutions are different as married people than they were when we were single. It seems that any change either of us make affects the both of us, and the relationship can provide the support we need to make positive changes.


Marriage has been a great place for positive peer pressure. In 2010, we decided that we would run in the OKC Memorial Half Marathon. That spring, we treadmilled our way through snow days, pounded the pavement on injured knees, and spent hours going in circles at whatever running trails we could find to keep things interesting. I guarantee I would have given up if I hadn’t had Luke beside me in the process. For one thing, I didn’t want to be beaten…to spend the whole next year watching him get into his car with the “13.1” bumper sticker and knowing I didn’t have one? No way! Besides, how would I have felt if he’d given up and left me to train alone?


The big goal for 2011 was to stop drinking pop (or “soda” or “Coke” or whatever you call it). I’ve sure been tempted by that Dr. Pepper that looked sooooooo good in someone else’s glass, but when one of us is weak, the other is strong, and amazingly enough, we have managed to succeed at avoiding the lovely mix of carbonation and syrup all year. However, there have been some goals we’ve set together that we haven’t met. For example, every January, we decide we should eat better, so we start counting calories and measuring portions, but somehow it never fails that we have an off week early in the year and relapse on all the stuff we were trying to avoid. We’ve had to realize that we can’t blame each other (“Well, if you hadn’t suggested pizza for dinner, we would still be on track.), but instead, we have to take responsibility together and avoid giving up on goals for a healthy lifestyle.


At the same time, I have to remember that my individual resolutions affect Luke. If I decided that I wanted to run a marathon in 2012, I would have to consider how much time that would take and what the effect would be on our time together in the evenings and on weekends. Right now, I don’t want to make that tradeoff because we seem to have little time together. Plus, my poor knee hasn’t totally overcome that last half marathon, and have you seen the weather, and it’s so dark in the evenings, and, and, and…ok, maybe I just don’t want to do it this year.


I think it’s important to think about what I’m like to live with and how my habits affect Luke. For example, when I had roommates in college, I didn’t even think about leaving my junk all over the living room for them to wade through. Somehow, though, I seem to find that acceptable with my lifelong roommate. He keeps his “area” in the living room spotless, but look to my side, and you’ll see my sewing box with a half-finished project, notebooks in which I jot everything from grocery lists to blog ideas, and depending on the day, probably my camera and computer and a few pieces of mail I haven’t look at yet. He never comments, but I know he can’t enjoy looking at my pileup when he is clearly interested in cleanliness.


On that note, I appreciate that he doesn’t make goals for me. If he recommended that I organize my project space, he might not get the positive results he expected from that conversation. I think we’ve both realized that while our stubbornness together is a very positive thing, we are not going to change each other. We have to wait until the other realizes a change is needed. Sometimes, that takes a lot of prayer, patience, and forbearance, but in the end, we have to trust each other to be constantly trying to become the best version of ourselves—both for ourselves and for each other.


One interesting aspect of marriage is the possibility of making goals for the marriage itself. I heard one time about a couple who had an annual business meeting to discuss their marriage. They talked about the status of the “merger” and what “assets” and “deficits” were present so that they could make improvements. I told Luke about this, and he just shook his head, but what a great concept—to be focused enough on the marriage as an important part of our lives that we would actually take a Saturday to talk about what is going well and what needs to be improved! Hopefully, we don’t need an annual business meeting for this to take place, and we can be in tune with each other enough to know when it’s time to talk about an issue. I have to remind myself not to just keep making plans of action for marriage improvement but to also highlight the strengths and to make sure Luke knows I think he’s had something to do with the good things being good things.


Making goals and then watching them succeed together is one of the ways our relationship has grown in these past few years, and it is always fun to discuss the plans we have for the upcoming year. Making a conscious decision to live every moment and to always improve what we have is what makes life an adventure. I think the main idea is to remember that no matter what our goals are this year, our marriage is our goal all the time. If my personal goals can positively affect that long-term goal, then they are worth working toward. If not, they may not be as helpful as I think they are.

Seven Things You Should Expect From a Couples or Family Therapist

From Moonstruck

Rose: Do you love him, Loretta?
Loretta Castorini: No.
Rose: Good. When you love them they drive you crazy because they know they can.

Rose: Do you love him, Loretta?
Loretta Castorini: Aw, ma, I love him awful.
Rose: Oh, God, that’s too bad.


Early February serves as a reminder to consider those you love platonically, as well as those with whom you are in a romantic relationship.  National Marriage Week is celebrated during Valentine’s Day season, and we see lots of information on television and the internet about how people enjoy their special time together, all in the name of Love.  What also happens, however, is that Valentine’s Day sometimes brings to the front of our minds things that aren’t going so well.  This is because, for some, the thought or events surrounding the season inevitably point them back home…where the heart is….or, where the heart MIGHT be if it weren’t for the fact that they were arguing all the time.

For those of you who plan to go out and have a wonderful time during the upcoming “week of love,” we wish you the best.  But for those of you who might be considering the possibility of getting some positive change in an unhealthy relationship, I want to make sure you have this list.  I’ve practiced therapy for ten years now and have summarized a list of standards you should expect if you decide to get counseling for your relationship. The list is based upon discussions with my own clients, and also from cases I’ve supervised:

Continue reading Seven Things You Should Expect From a Couples or Family Therapist

I Don’t Recommend Books, But If I DID… (Final Entry)

Kelly M. Roberts, MS, LMFT - Clinical Instructor, Oklahoma State University

Note – here are the links to my two former related posts: Introduction and entry number one: Two of the Big Three Basic Marital Challenges.  Follow up and entry number two: Sex and Intimacy Issues, and Developing Yourself as an Individual.


I’ve managed three different state or national surveys asking individuals what they think the area is in which they need the most help for their relationship.  The answers?  Every single time, “Conflict Resolution” comes out as the number one response, and “Communication” comes out as number two.  Every. Single. Time.

When I talk to people about what they are thinking when they answer “Conflict Resolution,” their answers basically hone in on the first word: conflict.  They feel, sense, are engaged in, or really demonstrate (quite loudly) conflict in one way or another.  They’re not really thinking about “conflict” as a problem to be solved.  Rather, they’re thinking about the emotions, feelings and dynamics involved when conflict takes place. Is it this way for you?  How about someone you know who has talked about conflict resolution…or just conflict?  Are they thinking “find a solution,” or are they thinking, “I hate that we’re having conflict and wish it would stop or get better?”  Granted, many want solutions and sometimes they try so hard at reasoning or trying to find solutions that it creates even more conflict!  By and large, conflict feels horrible.  But it doesn’t have to be…

Let’s talk for a moment about “Communication,” the number two issue for the general population.  (Ha! I wrote “talk” about communication – smile).  How do you describe couple communication?  How do you describe GOOD and/or BAD couple communication?  Again, many if not most people initially gravitate toward what is NOT working for them when they try to communicate, as opposed to what they’d LIKE to see or be doing.  Like conflict resolution, people have emotions or feelings attached to memories or impressions of how they communicate with one another.  They want to feel good when they finish a conversation – instead of bad.

People try all sorts of things to make bad communication stop.  They avoid, they leave, they press harder, they pursue, they say the same things over with more intensity – because perhaps saying it again and harder will help?  However, much about how couples communicate is hard-wired into them from the beginning:  their personalities, their physiological or biological make-up, how they were raised and how they learned communication from their own families, etc.  So, when it comes down to it, sometimes couples are left with feelings of frustration, anger, disappointment, rejection, loneliness, invalidation, sadness or even defeat.  But they don’t have to be…

Continue reading I Don’t Recommend Books, But If I DID… (Final Entry)

I Don’t Recommend Books…But If I DID…

Kelly M. Roberts, MS, LMFT - Clinical Instructor, Oklahoma State University

Friends, colleagues and sometimes people I don’t even know very well  ask me this same question several times each year, AND I provide them with a baffled face and stammering answer every single time: “Hey, what book do you recommend for __(enter any couples issue)__ ?  I’m thinking about buying a few books today.” OR …“I have a friend who is looking for a book.”  OR,… “I want to recommend a book, can you help me?”

I struggle with two main issues when asked this question.  First, I have no idea what the person or couple has already read.  And secondly, people apply books and personal growth in such unique ways that sometimes what I think is a great read or extremely applicable might fall flat with another person.  Or sometimes that flips and what I think isn’t necessarily sound or grounded information is the “key” to helping someone get out of a rut.

Therefore, understanding that you may have already read some (or all) of these books, and, that you may not get out of them what I or some of my clients have gotten, I’ve put together a list of the top five challenges I see couples face on a regular basis and books that might help in direct or indirect ways.  However, I’ve also provided a bit of discussion to go along with the books so I’ll be breaking this post into two or three parts.  Here we go…

To begin, I want to address the core “top three” basic challenges most couples will experience at some time in their life: opposing views on parenting, financial struggles, and sex/intimacy.  In that order:

Continue reading I Don’t Recommend Books…But If I DID…