Therapy That Works...

What's Love Got To Do With It? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

October 28, 2009 

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

With a fifty percent divorce rate, millions of Americans experience the agony of divorce each year. Dr. Sylvia Gearing discusses the top risk factors of breaking up, the secrets to staying together and what you can do tonight to make your relationship better.

Here are the latest findings on factors that lead to divorce:

A new study reveals the following risk factors:

Difference in Age: Age differences between the partners are linked to marital instability. Couples in which the husband is two or more years younger than the wife are 53% more likely to break up. Husbands nine or more years older are twice as likely to separate.

Disagreement About Having Children: When the wife has a much stronger preference for having a child than the husband, there is twice the risk of separation.

Women Tolerate Misery: There are distinct gender differences in tolerating misery. Women who are in difficult marriages tend to adapt to their husband’s negativity. In happy marriages, women initiate conversation to solve the problem. In contrast, men compartmentalize their angst until they are overwhelmed with it. Once they are aware of their unhappiness, they often leave the relationship.

Here’s how this new research compares to findings you already know about:

These findings are purely correlations and don’t explain the basic relationship patterns of breaking up. There are two major keys to staying together happily in a relationship.

Repairing the Argument: If you cannot make up, agree to disagree, or change direction in real time, your relationship will eventually fold. If you get overwhelmed and fall into the Distance Isolation Cascade, your marriage is seriously threatened and your affection, no matter how great, will begin to erode.

Avoiding Distance- Isolation Cascade: Pulling out of a fight through repairing the conflict and avoiding the Distance-Isolation Cascade are pivotal skills.

Here are the progressive steps partners experience as the conflict progresses:

Flooding: When an emotion becomes so overwhelming it takes over the emotional world of the person and the individual floods with anxiety and anger. If you cannot calm and soothe yourself and your partner, you cannot solve the problem at hand.

Viewing Problems as Severe and Permanent: Viewing the problems in the marriage as unsolvable and never ending is a hallmark of impending breaking up.

Decision to Work Problems Out Alone: Detachment is the final step in leaving a relationship. Eighty percent of divorced partners attribute the divorce to growing apart.

Parallel Lives: Building a social infrastructure outside the marriage gives the person a place to land after breaking up.

Loneliness: There is nothing lonelier in the world than remaining in a relationship when it is over. This outcome is especially difficult for women who are more willing to tolerate misery for a longer period of time.

Everybody wants to know the secrets of staying happily married. Although there’s no magic wand, here are my best tips for keeping your marriage magical:

Accepting Influence: Although this marital skill is difficult to master, it is a key to making love last and building confidence in the relationship. Allowing your spouse to influence your opinion by finding the common ground, the common strategy and the compromise that always exists are important in de-escalating conflict.

Gridlock: Sixty nine percent of issues are perpetual and are never solved. Masterful couples pull together to converse capably and respectfully around issues they disagree upon. Common ground and a shared solution are then possible.

Overlooking the Negative: When marriages are new, we are all accepting and reinforcing of our partners. After 15 years, rates of satisfaction, adoration, shared activities decline precipitously in couples that divorce. In happy marriages that last, the couples show the reverse patterns. Increasing companionship, higher rates of satisfaction and adoration are all typical.

But if you want immediate results, try these strategies tonight:

There are two powerful antidotes to negativity that work every time:

The Magic of Positive Emotions: Use positive emotions, words and behaviors to love your partner through conflict. Great couples use positive emotion judiciously in de-escalating disagreements. Kind words, a smile and humor all soothe the accelerating heart and calm the angry and resentful mind.

Thirty Seconds a Day: According to marital research, just thirty seconds of positive emotion a day can change the direction of a love affair. “Thirty seconds of positivity a day amounts to 100 positive words a day: multiplied by 365 days a year, this comes to 36, 500 words –enough to fill a book of poetry.” John Gottman, Ph.D.

For more information about Dr. Sylvia, please visit!


The Marriage Clinic, John Gottman, Ph.D.

What’s Love Got to Do With It? Dr. Rebecca Kippen, Professor Bruce Chapman, Dr. Peng Yu

Letterman's Infidelity - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Letterman’s Infidelity

October 7, 2009 

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News 

David Letterman’s startling admission of infidelity with co-workers once again raises the difficult question of why so many powerful men cheat. Former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, former presidential candidate John Edwards and South Carolina governor Mark Sanford are just a few public figures who have been in the news for marital infidelity.

Why do so many powerful men have affairs?

Huge Egos: Unfortunately, huge power is often accompanied by a huge ego. Powerful men are often experts at manipulating others into admiring and catering to them. Female subordinates find power intoxicating in men and are often willing participants. They disregard the fact that this is an affair and they are being used.

Thrill of the Forbidden Enticing: Affairs are a grand source of narcissism and flattery for both parties. Many powerful men become addicted to the thrill of the forbidden and become serial cheaters. They enjoy exercising their ability to acquire the sexual favors of others “just because they can.” They consider themselves entitled to extramarital activities.

Collateral Damage: They often fail to think of the emotional consequences to their own partner or to the affair partner since the affair is “all about them.” Anyone else’s feelings are simply collateral damage. Impulsivity, self indulgence, egotism mixed with a penchant for rationalizing can push many men into crossing the line.

Most of the marital couples in my office want to understand how these kinds of affairs begin and under what circumstances:

“I Met Her at Work:” Today's workplace is the most fertile breeding ground for affairs. Forty six percent of unfaithful wives and sixty two percent of unfaithful husbands have an affair with someone they met through their work.

Men Like to Look: Men are more turned on than women by visual stimuli. Affairs begin in the mind and the office setting now offers an abundance of beautiful, young, and attentive people with whom we spend the bulk of our waking hours.

Attraction Versus Adrenaline: Very few activities are more captivating than working hard together to achieve common goals. The pressures of teamwork and shared deadlines lead to that adrenaline rush. Sexual chemistry flourishes in high-pressure situations. Many of us misinterpret that sexual “rush” as attraction.

Most couples don’t understand how affairs can happen if they are “happily married.”

You can regard yourself as “happily married” but you may be misleading yourself. A lot of men and women who stray consider themselves victims of their insensitive spouse or imprisoned in a marriage that has grown more companionable than romantic. Such excuses are rationalizations for cheating. Remember that having an affair means that you are choosing to lie deliberately and systematically. No amount of marital neglect or incompatibility is a sufficient justification for this kind of betrayal. Leave your marriage before you cheat.

You may be wondering how affairs have changed over the years:

Infidelity has changed over the last ten years with more good people in marriages straying. They unwittingly form deep, passionate connections with people at work or in the neighborhood before realizing that they've crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love. In one study, 82% of 200 unfaithful partners were described as "just a friend” in the beginning. But let’s be honest, at some point you said “yes” when you should have said “no.”

A common belief is that infidelity automatically leads to divorce.

However, cheating is not an automatic death knell for your marriage. However, according to this latest poll, cheating is responsible for around 54% of divorces. In the end, most unfaithful people want to stay in their marriages and work hard to revive them. Almost seventy percent of Americans don’t want to lose their partner with men being a little more worried than women.

If you or your partner have strayed, here are some of the steps you should take:

Stop All Contact with the Affair Partner: Remember, history creates interest which creates opportunity. Stop all contact with the affair partner. Avoid at all costs any risky situations that could compromise your judgment. Remind yourself that just because there has been an attraction to this person, it does not mean that you are married to the wrong person.

Emotional Accountability: The number one predictor of marital survival following infidelity is the ability of the betrayer to be emotionally accountable.

Here are the steps of Emotional Accountability:

Remorse, Reparations and Restitution: He must be able to take responsibility for what he did and how he hurt his partner and his commitment to the marriage. Remorse now becomes a verb.

Acknowledging the Affair: They must be willing to repeatedly acknowledge their actions and to provide all details to help their partner’s healing.

Pledging to a New Transparent Marriage: He must pledge unyielding commitment to a new, transparent marriage. Reinvented marriages are often among the most successful since each partner has worked hard to rebuild the alliance.

For more information on Dr. Gearing, please go to


The Narcissism Epidemic by Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell

Ellis, B.J. and D. Symons. 1990. “Sex differences in sexual fantasy: An evolutionary psychological approach.” The Journal of Sex Research 27: 527-555.

New Marital Program! - By Chris Gearing

Monday, September 21, 2009

In the next couple days, Gearing Up is rolling out our new Marital Emotional Intelligence program!

Dr. Sylvia has crystallized the latest research and methods with over 25 years of experience to craft the most effective marriage program available!

Marital Emotional Intelligence Program

We will teach our couples about managing emotions effectively, understanding their partner empathically, and how to sustain an emotionally intelligent marriage. Check back in the next few days in the "Marriage" section for the latest updates!

Living Together Before Marriage May Hurt - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Living Together Before Marriage May Hurt

July 23, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Although twelve million Americans live together before marriage, new research now reports that premarital cohabitation can actually increase the chances of divorce.

Let me tell you why you should care about this study:

For years, many people thought it was better to live together before marriage to confirm compatibility. This study now confirms that living together before marriage may introduce significant difficulties.

  • 1.) More Difficult Break Ups: People seem to have more difficulty breaking up when they are cohabitating than when they are dating.
  • 2.) Marriage Not Active Choice: Unfortunately, they transition into marriage more by default than by intention and complacency begins to define the relationship.
  • 3.) Routine and Habit: It is all too easy to drift into a companionable relationship and abandon the romantic aspects of relating.
  • 4.) Marital Neglect: All too often, marital neglect develops as the partners ignore the daily marital habits that are essential in maintaining romance and interest. Living together before marriage often causes partners to step past important rituals of connection.

You may be wondering how prenuptial cohabitation actually hurts a relationship.

Couples who cohabitate often live together for the wrong reasons including convenience, saving money and spending more time together. However, the chief reason most people live together is to test the relationship. However, “testing the relationship” may be based on faulty expectations since living together is fundamentally different from marriage. Knowing that there is a commitment to tomorrow shifts the relationship fundamentally. The partnership that has been formalized with marriage holds both parties accountable.

And what about the kids? Here’s how they affect these marriages.

A new study that followed couples for eight years found that ninety percent of the couples experience a decrease in marital satisfaction after the birth of the first baby. Couples who lived together before marriage seem to experience more problems when the first baby is born than those who postpone cohabitation until marriage. Apparently, they may not have made the best transition from dating to marriage.

Obviously, these kinds of issues come up in my practice all the time. Here’s a quick strategy I give people who want to make a successful transition from dating to marriage.

Expectations shift dramatically from dating to marriage and it is vital to keep two points in mind:

  • Moving Forward: For dating couples, the relationship revolves around whether things are moving forward. Happiness with the relationship depends on the belief that the relationship will develop and that the partner will support our dreams.
  • Fulfilling Obligations: After marriage, satisfaction is based more on the partner actually fulfilling responsibilities and obligations (which can include equality in childcare). Follow through is essential. The interwoven lives of today’s couples are based on “real time” strategies of mutual support rather than the theoretical hopes and dreams that are more typical of dating.

If you are determined to live together before marriage, here is some parting wisdom for you.

  • Reconsider that Decision: Protect the mystery of your relationship. Although it is prudent to be as certain as possible about marriage, there are better ways to assess marital potential. All too often cohabitation creates complacency, boredom and companionable relating too early.
  • Do Not Confuse Passion with Potential: Passion may lead you into decisions that feel good short term but may not be the best relationship sustaining decision.
  • Self Understanding is Key: The more self-understanding you can master, the better your assessment skills of a partner and the potential of the relationship. Give your relationship the time it needs to prove itself.

Should Parents Fight in Front of Kids? - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Should Parents Fight In Front Of Kids?

April 2, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

The stress of raising a family and dealing with a struggling economy is affecting millions of American families. Conflict often increases with stress and up to now, psychologists have cautioned couples to not fight in front of the children. Now a new study suggests that children may actually benefit from watching their parents disagree openly.

This new study taught us several things:

Parental Conflicts are Teachable Moments: These are prime opportunities to teach your children that even the best relationship experiences differences. Adults are not joined at the hip and kids are safer with two strong parents who disagree once in a while.

Conflict is Inevitable: Even the best adjusted adult reaches his limit once in a while and the marriage is the inevitable forum in which daily tensions are released. All of us snap at the ones we love the most and it is healthy for kids to see mom and dad misbehave, apologize and be forgiven.

Resolution is Vital: Even intense irritation and frustration can be instructive if the disagreement ends in compromise and resolution. Kids need to see that differences can be respected, argued about and resolved peacefully.

When parents do not fight, there are hidden dangers. Emotional disengagement is the number one correlate of divorce and parents who rarely fight may be increasingly disengaged. If you don’t disagree occasionally, you may be increasingly apathetic.

Disagreement signals that there are two adults who have separate opinions that are clashing and that each of the adults cares enough to argue about it. Such disagreements indicate that there is still connection and passion. Surrendering absolute power to another person is very destructive in marriage since it erodes self-confidence and self-efficacy. Through healthy fighting, parents, also demonstrate that each partner is empowered to stand by his convictions while working toward resolution.

Children who witness chronic and intense fighting between their parents may become symptomatic over time. If your children begin to show regressive behaviors such as uncharacteristic crying, irritability, bedwetting, increased aggressiveness or anxiety, or separation anxiety, pay attention. Parental fighting is highly correlated with childhood anxiety.

If the fighting is becoming too intense, parents should begin to take steps to resolve the tension. Remember that fighting is a learned discipline. Never let your child witness destructive, contemptuous conflict. Such exposure can be traumatic to your child.

When you argue, please remember the following tips:

  • Be concise and do not reference history.
  • Focus on constructive concerns and avoid blaming.
  • Start with something positive about your spouse.
  • Maintain empathy for your partner’s point of view.
  • Remain polite and express appreciation for the efforts your spouse is making.
  • Remain focused on achieving a successful resolution for both of you.

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