18 Creating GREAT Relationships FAQs

The following questions have been collected from pre-questionnaires I submit to church groups before I speak to them. Many of the questions are universal and of interest to many so I thought I'd share them here with you.

These 18 questions cover the following areas:

  • Communication and Conflict
  • Ongoing Courtship and Relationship Building
  • Children
  • In-laws
  • Other Common Couple Issues

These questions are great questions and many require longer responses, coaching, time and practice to get them right. These responses are quick, brief responses to very complex questions. These responses are to provide general guidelines and are not meant to address any person’s specific issues. Don’t hesitate to seek out further help in getting your questions answered fully.

These questions have been modified to make them generally applicable to most people. Any specific, or identifying details have been removed or altered to keep them general so they are applicable as well as to protect privacy.

COMMUNICATION and CONFLICT

1. We fight in front of our children, should we do this?

  • No. You need to present a united front to children. "Get united or get divided" is the rule here. I never blame children for working their parents against each other. If the parental unit isn't clear and the kids can work it then more power to them. However, this is far from desirable and it is not good for anyone.
  • Unless, if using fair fighting rules where kids can see effective conflict engaged in/modeled for them.

2. What is the best way to work on communication?

  • Deep listening skills are the most important. Learn them and practice, practice, practice them!
  • See various communication articles, Building Strong Families, etc at www.bardos.net 
  • There is a LOT to this answer. Read, read, read, practice, practice, practice. Get coaching from a third party.

3. I like to argue and discuss certain things that concern me. My spouse would prefer to ignore the situation. Help!

  • Most people avoid conflict because it’s not safe and structured. Think about it? Most people hate conflict, but love sports, card games, and board games. The differences is that sports and games are safe and structured (clear rules that are mutually understood and agreed upon) conflict. Most relational conflict is neither safe nor structured.
  • Women: Watch how you start up an argument. Have you checked to see if your spouse is ready for a discussion or did you just ambush him? Mutual consent is essential before you can move forward.
  • Men: Accept your wife’s influence. Practice listening to her concerns w/o trying to “fix” her concerns.
  • See Rules for Fair Fighting and other articles at www.bardos.net/resources

4. It is ever appropriate to correct your spouse in front of others? Or should it always be done in private?

  • What would you prefer if it were you?
  • Personally, I rarely prefer to be corrected, so if I really do need to be corrected, I would hope that the person would do it discretely (privately), respectfully, clearly and gently.
  • The old rule is “Praise publicly, condemn privately.”
  • A side note: remember, your spouse is your partner and friend. It’s not your job to correct him/her. You have zero control over your spouse nor should you. You can, though, ask for what you want. You have no right to tell them what to do.

5. Do opposites really attract? How do you accept your differences?

  • "Like attracts like"—true. "Opposites attract"—true.
  • Start accepting your differences by respecting your differences. Pretend your spouse is another country. You don’t go to another country looking for what’s wrong with the language, customs and foods. You go there to explore and try out the differences. You don’t like everything, but you don’t criticize what you don’t like, instead you celebrate, enjoy, get stretched by what you do like and by what’s different. When’s the last time you took that same approach w/ your spouse? When’s the last time you looked at your spouse through those eyes? Been a long time? Never? Well, good. The time is now. Try it. Study your partner. Take out a sheet of paper. List all the differences and then list the value of those differences. List the similarities you share. List the value of those similarities. What can you learn from your partner’s differences? What can he or she teach you? How you can you practice getting out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself because of your spouses differences? How can you practice the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those differences rather than respond with impatience and irritation? Many questions, yes. Many opportunities for growth.
ONGOING COURTSHIP and RELATIONSHIP BUILDING


6. How can we show more appreciation towards each other over the little things we do?

7. What is a good way to remind my husband, that even though, we are married we still need to date? And he needs to be the one asking and planning something?

  • See my articles Valentine’s All Year, Daily Romance (Parts I and II).
  • He needs to ask and plan, AND you need to ask and plan, too. To keep it simple, just take turns each week planning the date and asking the other out.
  • Ask me about my Four Date Night Rules.
  • The GREAT Relationship Principle here is: Ask specifically and respectfully for what you DO want vs. complaining or hinting about what you didn't get. Ask for what you want him to do. Don’t complain, don’t hint, don’t demand, don’t require. Ask, don't tell. Ask, request, specifically. Do not expect him to “get it” if you don’t ask specifically for what you want. This type of expecting is immature and adolescent, however, most adult women want men to “just know.” Get over it and assert your needs respectfully and clearly. You may not like this approach, but most men appreciate this and you’ll find that you get more of what you want—which you will like the outcome even if you don’t like the approach.
  • I am working on a "GREAT Dates Guide", with hundreds of date ideas. If you'd like an advanced proof just send me your email address at jonathan@jonathansherman.net and let me know you want it and I'll send it to you as a freebie!

8. How do we keep the fun in our marriage? Is it wrong to get too comfortable?

  • It’s not wrong, it’s just stupid. You don’t buy a car and then never check and change the oil over the next 7 years. You don’t buy a house, not mow the lawn for 10 years, and then wonder why the yard looks so cruddy. Yet, for some reason we think we can get married and then let our marriages just run on autopilot. Maintenance, upkeep and enhancement is not only smart in vehicles, houses and marriages, it also keeps the value as well as often causes the value to appreciate over time.

Family work in the home: How to split house and family duties?

  • Ask me to talk about The OUR Way Plan

What about differing sex drives and interest? Help!

  • Well, you MAY have noticed by now that men and women are different. Yes? Great. With that being said, STOP expecting him or her to be like you. Men typically want sex more, women typically want sex less. 
  • So men: ease up—stop grabbing her every 10 seconds. Really, it's not fun for her after being "pawed" all day by kids who want things from her it just feels like she's being "pawed" more by someone who wants more from her. She's wiped out. She feels like she doesn't have any more to give. She needs to be related with, not sexed up. K? So listen to her (listen, don't fix or debate), attend to her, come home and ask what she needs help with, notice things that need to be done and do them without being asked, listen for hints and respond favorably to her suggestions. Women forget to ask men outright for what they want and by the time they do it often comes out "naggy". So pre-empt that by tuning in more attentively. And if she wants to cuddle up next to you it means "cuddle me." It does not mean "please grab my boob." Touch her frequently in non-sexual ways with non-sexual expectations.
  • Women: Sex isn't bad. And it's NOT true that your man "just wants sex" or that he's a "pig" because all he thinks about is sex. He wants you. That's a compliment. Take it as such. Let him know you want him. Be playful with him physically: Grab his butt, make cute sexy teasing references and innuendos. And please, don't give sex begrudgingly and don't say, "Okay, let's get it over with." Sheesh. That's insulting wouldn't you agree? If you don't like sex, that's okay, but work on it together as a couple vs. avoid it. 
  • Feel free to come talk to me together or individually. There's a LOT that can be done to increase sexual understanding and satisfaction for both. But, please please please don't argue about sex. Why? Arguing pushes each other away when we're trying to attract each other more. Duh, right? But often we miss this one. The way to attract your partner to you is to DO the things your partner finds attractive.

    9. What to do when my husband is too busy, stressed, tired, etc. to give me the attention and affection that I want?

    • See the above two questions
    • Pssst! Hint to my brothers: If this is such a frequently asked question (and TRUST me, it is! Not only were 4 out of 16—one quarter—of the questions from your own ward focused on this topic, I’ve also been hearing this one from hundreds and hundreds of women all over the country for the last 13 years) then maybe there’s something to it. The bad news is that few men get this. The good news is that few men get this—thus if you become one of the few who do get it then you’ll be earning big-time points all over the place. Don’t believe me? Ask 10 women and get back to me if I’m wrong. Believe, me, the sisters who are reading this right now are nodding their heads in agreement and are hoping and praying that you’ll be one of the few who “get it.” Give the attention and affection your wife wants and needs and see your marriage and your standing in her eyes go through the roof! You will be bragged about (great feeling by the way, to earn your “braggin’ rights” and be one of the few who get it). Major brownie points here. Major brownie points.

    10. Family Time. 

    •  Love, bottom line folks, is spelled T-I-M-E. That may sound cheesy, but it's still true. Too much time in front of the TV, computer, handheld, or video games interferes with relationship time and is a great way to tell your partner and children what matters most—and the message is "not them." Since that's not the message you want to send, of course, then set limits on screen time as a family and abide by those limits. 
    • Increase family time by: 
    1. Having dinner together as a family and refuse to take phone calls or answer the door during dinner. Don't know what to talk about or get a conversation going? Get the Family Talk cards. They are great conversation starters that little kids and teens enjoy. Make sure to listen to their answers and not debate their answers;
    2. Having Family Night every week;
    3. Having Date Night with your partner every week;
    4. Turn off the various screens in the house and play board games, games out in the backyard, go to the park. Focus on BEING together more than DOING something. 
  • Don't wait for these things to happen. Schedule them as you would any work, school or doctor-related appointment and keep these appointments with your family. As the old song counseled, "Take time to make time, make time to be there." (Lady, by The Little River Band)
  • CHILDREN


    11. What is an appropriate way to get kids to eat? Should we force them to eat or not worry about it?

    • Simple. Do not force. It’s very simple. For example, our kids know they can eat or not eat. Those that eat get dessert later (if we are having it) and/or snacks later. Those that don’t eat don’t get dessert or snacks at all. What should they have to eat? X number of bites that you specify is the “ticket” for getting dessert or snack privileges later. 
    • If they complain they are hungry later simply respond, “I know, but don’t worry. You can have a big breakfast in the morning.” As they whine and complain just repeat that sentence over and over broken record style. Do NOT give into whining or complaining—ever!

    12. What are some good ways to set strict rules that cannot be negotiated, because they are too important and have children (especially teens) feel like they are not feeling picked on?

    • First, get and read Parenting Teens with Love and Logic. If you have younger children, get and read Parenting with Love and Logic. Don’t just read it, practice it, try it, get out of your comfort zone, stick to the ideas and approaches, re-read it again two more times, go to a parenting class together. Keep practicing. Repeat.
    • Don’t be afraid to be your children’s parents. It’s okay to be their friend, too, but be willing to be a parent first always even if it means them not liking you. You can have enough love for both of you in the parent-child relationship when the child is angry with you.
    • Kids won’t feel overly picked on (they’ll still feel picked on) and will accept discipline much better when relationship building is central to your relationship, rather than just dealing with discipline issues. See the Building strong Families series of articles for some ideas at www.bardos.net/StrongFamilies

    13. What about anger, yelling and lecturing?

    • Good question. Anger, yelling and lecturing are the BEST ways to reinforce the very behaviors you are trying to get rid of. Yeah, it works in reverse that way. The more we yell and lecture the more we get the very behavior we were yelling and lecturing about. It all has to do with how we are neurologically reinforced (Ask me and I'll be happy to explain in more depth than I can here). 
    • Anger, yelling and lecturing are also the BEST ways to ruin the power of an otherwise good consequence. Best way to get a consequence to stick is to give the consequence firmly and calmly and follow through on it consistently with empathy: "Aw, man! That's too bad. That decision earns this consequence. Bummer, pal. But you know what? You're a great kid and you'll figure it out and do better next time I'm sure." Consistent, firm consequences without anger, lectures and yelling help kids learn on their own (which is the best way to  learn, really) from the interplay between choice and consequence. 
    • If you do need to lecture (really, do you? please ask yourself first), then EDIT yourself down to what I call the One Sentence Lecture. Keep it brief and too the point. Do NOT go on and on and on. 
      IN-LAWS


      14. I’m having trouble with my in-laws. My spouse always sides with his/her mother and our children witness and notice this. How can I tell the children that it is wrong, when their own parent does it?

      • Touchy subject, this one.
      • Let’s start w/ basic, ancient wisdom: “For this cause, shall a man leave his mother and a woman leave her father and become one and cleave unto another” or something like that 
      • The husband who doesn’t put his wife first will pay for it every day of his marriage. This man is a fool. If he wants to listen to his mother more than his wife he should’ve stayed home and not gotten married. It’s okay to listen to your parents after you get married; of course, they have knowledge, wisdom and a deep and profound love for their children. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. Both listen to your parents and your spouse. Just in the end, make sure that your spouse knows that it’s the two of you together (think “cleave”) that make the decisions together.
      • The wife who bad mouth’s a man’s mother is also a fool and has violated the playground code of “I can bad mouth my mama, but you can’t bad mouth my mama.” This is still a good rule to abide by in marriage. 
      • How to handle this? Model what you expect. Golden Rule applies well here: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Ask for what you want respectfully w/o complaining and criticizing. Show respect for his mother even though you disagree. Compliment her for what she does that you appreciate.

      OTHER COMMON COUPLE ISSUES

      15. Is it appropriate for women to have male friends and vice-versa?

      • Yes and No.
      • Yes, but not with them alone. Yes, with approval from spouse. 
      • No, not alone. No, if it makes your spouse uncomfortable, even if there’s no reason to be. Never alone w/ friends of the opposite sex.
      • Rule for going out to eat at work w/ co-workers of opposite sex. I work mostly with female colleagues who are also good friends. I go to lunch with them frequently. My wife knows all of them and I have asked her if it’s okay with her if I go to lunch with them. This is not a control or “being whipped” type of thing. This is a respect thing that sends the loud and clear message that my wife comes first and trumps all others. She knows that if for whatever reason, rational or irrational, that if she at any time is uncomfortable with me doing so that all she has to say is “Jonathan, I’d prefer you no longer go to lunch with so and so” and my response will be “Okay.” It’s that simple. She’s never asked me to, but I would in a second w/o hesitation and she knows it. However, she also knows she’s first, from a hundred other big and small words and actions that tell her so.
      • On a side note of interest, a buddy of mine chided me for being “whipped” because of stances like the one above. I laughed and simply responded, maybe a bit too cocky, “Yeah, well, look at my marriage and look at your marriage. Big return for the small price of being ‘whipped.’” That’s the last I heard of that. I don’t believe I’m “whipped” though. I believe in respecting my wife who I made a covenant to honor, love, cherish and to treat like a queen. I also take Paul at his word when he said, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it.” Good advice.

      16. Should you make your wife work for income so it’s 50/50?

      • First of all, you don’t “make” your wife do anything, unless you are practicing unrighteous dominion and wanting to say bye-bye to your Priesthood (see D&C 121).
      • Secondly, what has the prophet said about this subject? What have former prophets said about this topic? Need I really say more? 
      • Thirdly, the question is also this: will you be doing 50% of the household and child management. The research is that in dual income homes where both spouses work 40-hour work weeks; the woman still does 80% of the housework (this has been called the “second shift” and is simply ridiculous that women are expected to work outside the home and still have to do the vast majority of the work in the home, too).
      • Fourthly, have you considered the cost of daycare and other expenses of “making” your wife work outside of the home? Check the research on this one and you’ll find that the cost to benefit ration, just monetarily, is rarely enough to make it worth it. This does not take into consideration the incalculable value of having a parent raising your children instead of a hired hand raising them.
      • Fifthly, are you truly and really valuing the invaluable work a wife and mother does in the home or just giving lip service to it while actually really mostly valuing the actual monetary income?

      17. Can a couple compromise, if one wants a child and one does not?

      • Obviously, this is a tough one, but workable. 
      • The goal is to not work towards a compromise at this point (you can worry about that later). For now spend a lot of time trying to understand (really understand) where each person is coming from. The understanding I’m talking about here is not the “understanding” we usually give lip-service to when we say, “I understand, however…” That is not understanding. That is saying, “yeah, yeah, but listen to my counterargument…” Real understanding comes when I am willing and able to argue my partner’s viewpoint and concerns for them as well as they would for themselves and even go so far as to show genuine respect for their views (even though you may still disagree w/ their reasons) to the point that they respond with the tell-tale yes-you-got-it response of “Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel. I didn’t think you understood how important my view on this is, but clearly you do.” 
      • With issues this big, don’t rush or hurry towards the solution, outcome or compromise. Use big issues like these to study each other, to understand each other, to listen deeply to each other, to show respect for the person even though you disagree with the points. 
      • Compromise is not about giving in or giving up. It's about giving. It is about together making a promise (from the Latin "compromittere": com- "together" + promittere "promise"). Marriage, then, by definition of itself is a compromise—"we together promised" or vowed or covenanted of our own free will to join fully with another—and it then behooves us to become masters at the art of compromise. As with all things, if you don't know how—learn.

      18. How do you help an adult child that has a mental health issues like depression or anxiety who refuses to seek medical help or counseling? What can we do, besides keep communication open to help our child?

      • First of all, this is very common, and very treatable. The problem is that many don’t get the treatment they need because of the stigma around mental health issues. Men tend to be less willing to admit they are depressed or anxious because of the way men have been socialized to “just buck up and deal with it.”
      • Educate yourselves, read books, read Internet articles on depression and anxiety, attend NAMI Family to Family support group meetings.
      • Leave brochures, articles out where your child can see them. 
      • You can share resources and continue to give support. That’s about it.
      • If he/she is suicidal and he/she won’t go to therapy or the hospital, then call the police and they will come and do a wellness check and if necessary have him/her transported to a hospital to keep him/her safe.
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