What do The Beatles, Diana Ross, The Doors, Mariah Carey and Rod Stewart all have in common? All of them had songs that made it to the top charts about today’s topic. (I will share the titles at the end of the post). Many relationships are suffering from the medical condition known as “Failure to Thrive”. In the early 1900’s, Dr. Luther Emmet Holt was known as one of America’s first and finest pediatricians. Dr. Holt came to the conclusion that parents were spoiling their children by cuddling and holding them too much. Good parents took notice and immediately followed his order, beginning a trend of “hands-off” parenting. Within just a few years, doctors across the nation started to notice a dramatic increase in infant deaths-particularly in seemingly healthy babies. It soon became apparent that these infants experienced “Failure to Thrive” simply because they were not getting enough human contact through touch. There are a host of studies of babies in orphanages concluding that those infants who suffered from touch deprivation achieved only half of the height normal for their age. This condition has come to be known in the medical field as “failure to thrive”.
Working with couples for the past two decades, I have learned that many relationships also suffer from “failure to thrive” because of the lack of touch in the relationship. Many couples have a “hands-off” relational style that is negatively impacting their relationship. Touch is critical to a phenomenal marriage. In fact, one of the ways to begin to transition a roommate marriage to a soul mate marriage it to begin to insert touch into your relationship on a daily basis. When you are standing in line at the grocery store, put your hand on your spouse’s shoulder. Make the decision that when you are walking, hold hands. Gentle caresses, cuddling, sitting close to one another both privately and in public, holding one another, and simply reaching out to touch are great disciplines that create great marriages. Touch creates a love connection. Many relationships start out with a great deal of touch but begin to neglect it later in the relationship. It requires being intentional. I have found that even when one spouse is obstinent and checking out of the relationship, touch is an incredible tool to begin to recreate a connection. I share with my clients that as they are touching their spouse, think to themselves, this touch means that I still believe in you, I still believe in us, and I am not giving up on this marriage. Every time I touch my wife I think, you are the only person in the world that I touch like this, and I touch you because I adore you and I am so glad that you are my wife. If your relationship is suffering from “failure to thrive”, there is hope. The remedy for this disorder is loving touch. Start today! You will be glad that you did and your relationship will improve. Please share this post with anyone who may benefit. The five songs that I referenced at the beginning of this post were I want to hold your hands, Touch me in the morning, Touch me, Touch my body and Love Touch. If I can ever be of any assistance to you and your marriage or if you would like more information about my non traditional alternative to marriage counseling visit stlouismarriagecoaching.com or call me at 314-606-4272. Until next time, keep falling more in love and keep touching.
Through the years I have received hundreds of thank you letters for my coaching services. The letter I received this month from Richard will always be one of my favorites. His letter highlighted for me what is hanging in the balance when we have children. I want to share his letter with you to highlight the reality that our children are constantly watching and learning from us. Here is what Richard wrote:
Dear Mr. Rispoli,
We have never met but I have heard your name plenty of times in the past two years. My name is Richard and you worked with my Mom and Dad two years ago in our home. I was fifteen years old and starting my Junior year of High School. Prior to your coming my Mom and Dad were constantly fighting and were on the verge of divorce. Our world was falling apart. Our home was being blasted apart and everything seemed so hopeless. I though for sure they were going to divorce and I was going to have to choose who I would live with. It was the worst time of my life. After you came everything changed. It was like my parents fell back in love. Thank you for saving my parents marriage. I head to college in the Fall and I know that my Mom and Dad are going to be OK. This makes me happy and I wanted to say thank you.
I want to make two observations about Richard’s letter. The first is how he was feeling in the midst of his parent’s crisis. He uses words like falling apart, blasted apart and hopeless. His fear of having to decide which parent he might have to live with is especially telling. This young persons’ life was in shambles because of his parents fighting and the instability in the home. The second observation I want to make about Richard’s letter is his comment about my saving his parent’s marriage. The truth is, I did not save his parents marriage, his parents saved their marriage. They saved their marriage the day they decided that while it would be easier for them to divorce and go their own separate ways, they would fight for their marriage and for their family. They saved their marriage the day they told their friends who were telling them that Richard would be better off if they separated, that the advice to divorce for the sake of Richard was the worst advice they had ever received. They saved their marriage the day they decided to stop fighting with each other and together they started to fight for the marriage. They saved their marriage the day they decided to positively move forward and stop focusing on the past. They saved their marriage the day they decided to reach out and get help. For Richard’s sake, I am so glad they did. The trajectory of Richard’s life will be incredibly different and much better because they decided to save their marriage. If you are in a marriage crisis and you have children, I am certain that people are telling you that your children will be fine and that kids are resilient. I am certain that people are telling you that you should never stay in a bad marriage for the sake of the kids. I am saying, don’t stay in a bad marriage period. Make a commitment to make it better. Like Richard, you will be glad you did, and so will your children! Please share this post with any of your friends who have children and may be thinking about ending their marriage. It might just be the source of inspiration to give them the will to fight for their marriage.
If I can ever be of any assistance to you on your own marriage journey or if you would like more information about my non traditional approach to marriage counseling, please call me at 314-606-4272 or visit my website at stlouismarriagecoaching.com
Today is my wife’s birthday! She asked me to share this post with you last month, but I wanted to wait until today. The purpose of this post is to encourage you to make your marriage your number one priority, because life is short. This week’s homework is found at the end of this post. What would you do? On February 15th 2017 my wife and I were feeling great. Our careers were going wonderful, our children were successful and healthy, we had incredible friends, a great church family and our marriage was strong. Life was all good! Within two weeks we would learn that Cathy has stage four lung cancer that has spread to her brain, liver and lymph nodes. We were initially shocked and devastated. This came out of nowhere. She had never smoked, was working out four times a week and has always been healthy and strong. Our plan had always been for me to finish my pastoral career in St. Louis, for Cathy to retire from Mo-Dot and eventually move to Destin Florida where I would continue to coach couples on making good marriages great and save broken marriages. Now what? After shedding many tears, going from Doctor to Doctor, praying and consulting with family and friends, we decided on a plan. Four words would guide our days and all of our actions. The four words are Live, Love, Fight and Trust.
Live: We have always lived everyday to the fullest. We are known for squeezing the most out of life, and we decided that this could not and would not change. God has given us this day and we are going to make the most out of it. We know we have today, we will probably have tomorrow and there was never any guarantee for that third day. So we are joyfully, making the most of everyday.
Love: The quality of your life is directly proportionate to the quality of your relationships. There is no greater relationship than the relationship between a husband and a wife. We always have loved deeply and we are committed to continue to love deeply. My wife is as beautiful to me bald as she was with her beautiful hair. We are committed to continuing to love people. We love our family, our friends, our church, our clients and even strangers.
Fight: Cathy is a fighter and she is fighting cancer daily. We have the best oncologist in St. Louis (Dr. Melissa Rooney). We are using the best and most cutting edge treatments in the world. We are using traditional and non traditional cancer defeating regimens. We are positive and not giving up.
Trust: As the St. Louis Marriage Coach, I seldom talk about my faith because I am given the opportunity to work with people of all different faith backgrounds. I love it when my clients share their faith with me, which enables me to share my own personal convictions about faith and marriage. But, the cornerstone of our marriage has always been our faith in Jesus Christ. We credit God with every wonderful thing in our life. We know He loves us so much, that there is nothing impossible for Him and that He has the power to heal. Whether he does or whether he does not, we are going to continue to trust Him.
What does this mean for my coaching practice? It means that I am more committed to helping people save their marriages today, then ever before. This whole dilemma has thrown gasoline on our passion to help people create phenomenal marriages. In the month of March, I had over 70 appointments where I helped save broken marriages and helped make good marriages great. Here is what I am asking you to do today. First, pray for Cathy and I. We are not looking for pity, just prayers. We are good. Really. Secondly, ask your partner the “What would you do?” question posed at the beginning of this post. Have a discussion around this topic. Use this topic to love more passionately. Thirdly, identify some key words that you might use for your marriage. Words that govern who you are as a couple and the actions you should be taking daily to make a great marriage. Fourth, share this post. Fifth, send Cathy a birthday wish. And finally, if your marriage is in crisis, reach out and get help. I would love to help you make your good marriage great and help you save your broken marriage. If you would like more information on my non traditional approach to marriage counseling check out stlouismarriagecoaching.com or call me at 314-606-4272. Until next time, keep falling more in love.
I was recently asked by a St. Louis radio talk show host what I believed was the number one problem facing married couples today. Is it affairs? Is it finances? It is children or extended family? Is it pornography? Is it work schedules or home stress? What is it? While all of these are serious issues, they are all symptoms of a greater problem. I have worked with hundreds of couples through the years and I am convinced that the number one problem couples face is that they lose their loving connection. Most of the couples and individuals that I work with tell me that at one time they had a deep loving connection with their spouse. They could talk for hours and loved spending time with one another. They had a sense that there was no problem that they could not solve as long as they were together. Most of these couples married and at first things were great. But shortly after marriage, they stopped doing many of the things that had created the initial connection. Then, as these couples focused less on each other and less on the relationship they began to drift apart. This drifting causes a loss of connection. This is usually followed by discouragement, disengagement and disillusionment. All of a sudden the problems in the relationship seem insurmountable. Instead of connecting, there is a great deal of fighting. For many, the easy solution is to divorce and start over with a new spouse. This explains why the divorce rate for second marriages is significantly higher than first marriages. I love having the opportunity to work with the couples that say they are going to fight to save the marriage. Sometimes initially, it is only one person in the relationship who wants to save the marriage. By refocusing on connection and having a plan to move forward reconnection is established and marriages are restored. Take time out this week to check in with your spouse about your current level of connection in the marriage. Here are three questions that you might use this week in a conversation with your spouse to access your connection level.
If you are not satisfied with the answers to these questions, make a commitment to do something to improve the connection. You will be amazed at how quickly things can turn around. Please share this post with anyone who might benefit. If I can ever be of service to you and your marriage or if you would like to learn more about my non traditional approach to marriage counseling, please visit my website at stlouismarriagecoaching.com or call me at 314-606-4272 to schedule an appointment. Until next time, keep falling more in love.
I recently looked up the phrase “Guys’ Night Out” in the popular online Urban Dictionary. According to the Urban Dictionary, “Guys night out is a harmless activity that male friends participate in for the purpose of reinforcing friendship or simply getting together to do something positive. Such activities include but are not limited to beer drinking, discussing business and finances, watching or playing sports, playing videogames or card games, occasionally talking about women or watching a movie that doesn’t suck.” I followed this search with the Urban Dictionary definition of Girls’ Night Out. Clearly the editors of the Urban Dictionary are men. I found the definition disturbing, so I am not going to share the definition here, but in today’s post I want to talk about the role of guys’ and girls’ night out in healthy marriages. Is it appropriate for your husband to go out every Tuesday night with the guys? Is is alright for your wife to play bunko every Friday night with the neighborhood girls? How often is too much? What are the danger signs? Having a sense of individuality can be healthy for the marriage relationship. The research is conclusive that having same sex friends improves health, makes us more attractive to our spouse and improves the overall quality of our lives. Having same sex friends to hang out with occasionally can be extremely healthy and beneficial to the marriage. There are two main challenges with the concept of guys’ night out and girls’ night out. The first challenge is that many couples have never had conversations about what behavioral guidelines are acceptable for the marriage. The problem with this is that when boundaries are crossed it creates conflict and a relational disconnect. When this happens the night out with friends becomes a constant source of conflict and chaos in the marriage. Take some time this week to talk about healthy boundaries in regards to this issue in your marriage. Make sure you have conversations about frequency, types of activities that are acceptable, and mechanisms to have conversations when it is not working for either one of you. The second challenge with girls’ night out or guys’ night out is the reality that we only have a limited amount of time. Our marriage needs to be our highest priority. If you want to know what your true priorities are look at your check book and look at your calendar. Some people are more intentional about their night out with their friends then they are the weekly date night with their spouse. If you are having regular guys’ night out or girls’ night out but are not having regular date nights your marriage is in trouble. Make a decision to fix this immediately. Make spending time with your spouse your highest priority. I have some of the best guy friends in the world. I truly am blessed with wonderful relationships and friends. But my very best friend is my wife, Cathy. There is no one that I love spending time with more than her. We have always gone on at least one date a week. I get with my friends and Cathy gets with her friends monthly or every other month. This works for us. Figure out what works best for you and your marriage, just make sure your spouse gets the number one place in your priorities.
The children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbi, illustrates two keys to having a phenomenal marriage. This book was written in 1922 by Margery Williams. The book tells the story of a stuffed rabbit and his desire to become real, through the love of his owner. It speaks powerfully to unconditional love and being real. I want to share a brief conversation between the rabbit and the toy horse that illustrates this point:
Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
When you have authentic honesty and unconditional love, you will have a phenomenal marriage. These two relationship skills work in tandem. Let me illustrate. My wife recently came home from a trip where she had been gone several nights. When she arrived home we went out to dinner. At the restaurant, she cuddled close to me and said, “Dave, I really missed you.” The waitress commented about us as a couple, and my wife smiled and said, “I like him a lot!” One of the most fabulous things about my marriage, is that the women who knows me better than anyone else still genuinely likes me. She knows the good, the bad, and the ugly. I never have to worry, “Well if she found this thing out about me, she would no longer love me”. She knows everything. She does not necessarily like everything about me. But she loves me. The truth is I really like my wife as well. I know her good, bad and ugly. Every secret. Her unconditional love makes it easy to be real. My being real helps her love me. These two skills work in tandem. The ability to be real and the ability to love unconditionally. Phenomenal marriages have figured this out. Do you love unconditionally? Are you real or do you pretend and keep secrets from your spouse? Work on these two areas of your marriage this week. As the horse, illustrates in the children’s book, it takes time, but it is definitely worth it. If I can ever be of any assistance to you on your marital journey or if you would like more information about my non-traditional approach to marriage counseling, please check out my website at www.stlouismarriagecoaching.com or call me at 314-606-4272. Until next time, keep falling more in love.
Happy New Year! I want to start this year, by sharing a story about honor and value that could truly transform your marriage, regardless of your current marital situation. The story is a Polynesian legend, that no doubt is rooted in truth. There was a Polynesian island tradition that when a man wanted to marry a woman, he would have to offer the brides father a payment that he believed to be of equal value to what she was worth. Most men would give a pig, chicken, parrot, or some similar small animal. For a woman who was exceptionally beautiful, the suitor might be willing to offer his goat. One day, there was a woman in the village whose name was Isabel. Isabel had just reached the age to be married but she was considered to be more plain and ordinary than most. She did not have many suitors. One potential suitor offered Isabel’s father a goose. Another potential suitor offered Isabel’s father a rabbit. One suitor came along, however, and offered her father ten of his finest cows. Everyone was shocked. No one had ever paid so much for a bride. All the other young men walked away saying, “No woman is worth that much!”. Everyone thought that the suitor was foolish and extravagant. But this suitor knew exactly what he was doing. Knowing the value her suitor had placed on her, Isabel began to hold her head higher as she strolled through the village. She, after all, was now the famous “ten-cow woman”. She paid more attention to her speech, her dress, and her way of conducting herself. She became confident and elegant. Her facial expressions became kind and gentle. Her body movements were graceful and elegant. Her voice was soft and caring. She became what she believed her worth to be and developed into the most stunning, beautiful and graceful woman on the entire string of islands. Everyone marveled at the young woman’s transformation and all thought the lucky man had received full value for his bride price. The truth is he had, and so can you. Begin to view your spouse and your marriage, through this “Ten-Cow” lens that says and believes that your marriage and your spouse are the most precious and valuable things in your life. Begin to treat your spouse like they are the most valuable asset in your life, and you will quickly begin to see a transformation in your marriage and your spouse. Start today! If you know of anybody who might benefit from this post, please share it. If I can ever of any assistance to you and your spouse, please know that my passion is helping good marriages become great, and healing broken marriages. If you would like more information about my non traditional approach to marriage counseling, go to stlouismarriagecoaching.com or call me at 314-606-4272. Until next time, keep falling more in love.
Cathy and I have several Christmas Tradition’s that we absolutely love. One of our traditions revolves around getting our Christmas Tree and putting it up with friends. The job of putting the star on the top of the tree always falls to me. We have traditions as they relate to gifts, our children, date nights and our church. Some of these traditions were started by our families and some of them have been created by us and they are just for us. These traditions are fun and help make the season special. Our traditions also help us keep connected, our love growing and our marriage strong. The power of the tradition is that we do them together and they have meaning and purpose. These traditions have become “our thing”. This Christmas Season, what is your “thing”? What are the traditions that you and your spouse engage in that help make the Christmas Season even more special? If you have a difficult time identifying any traditions, consider starting some this year. Here are a few possibilities:
For date night, drive around looking at Christmas lights. Stop and enjoy the lights, talking about what is great about this Christmas and what is great about your marriage.
Watch Christmas Movies together. Consider picking one that becomes “your movie”. For Cathy and I the movie we love to watch is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. (We watched it again this week!) It is the only time of the year I can watch movies that I have already seen.
Adopt a needy family and commit to making Christmas special for them. Consider getting involved in helping others.
Buy a special ornament that sums up the year. It could be an ornament that symbolizes a special milestone or event that happened for the both of you in the past year.
Bake cookies for your neighbors. After you have baked the cookies consider delivering them together as a sign of friendship and love to your neighbors.
Create a Christmas Eve Box. The box could include a bottle of wine, a board game, pajamas or lingerie, and snacks. Pull the box out after the kids have gone to bed on Christmas Eve.
Write a letter to each other. Exchange the letters on Christmas Eve and consider reading them to one another. The letter could share the highlights of the year, hopes and dreams for the upcoming year and express continued love.
Go to church. One of the most rewarding things that Cathy and I do every Christmas Eve is attend church together. It tunes us into one of the realities that drives our lives, and that is that Christmas is about a God that loves us so much that he sent a baby to be born in a manger 2000 years ago.
Pick a few of these traditions and commit to doing them the next couple of days and on Christmas Eve. You will find that these Christmas traditions are a lot of fun and strengthen your marriage. Also, if you know of someone who might benefit from these traditions, please share this post. Speaking of strengthening your marriage, if I can ever be of any assistance to you and your spouse, please know that my passion is helping good marriages become great, and healing broken marriages. If you would like more information about my non traditional approach to marriage counseling, go to stlouismarriagecoaching.com or call me at 314-606-4272. Until next time, keep falling more in love. Merry Christmas Everyone!
Ludwig Van Beethoven was the most famous and influential composers that ever lived. By his late 20’s his hearing began to deteriorate and by the end of his life he was completely deaf. Many of Beethoven’s most admired works were written, composed and performed after he had lost his hearing. Although he was stricken with ears that could not hear, he continued to compose songs on his harpsichord. Because Beethoven could not hear, he had not had his harpsichord tuned for years and it was sorely out of tune. In fact, several of the strings were so out of tune that when he played them they would sound terrible. He would write a composition, script it on his score and then he would play the notes. One story is told that as he played the notes, tears would be streaming down his face even though it sounded discordant and dissonant. But it did not sound this way to Beethoven, because he heard the sound that the instrument should make and not the sound that the instrument did make. For Beethoven, the music was beautiful. Our marriages can benefit from this lesson. Ralf Waldo Emerson said, “Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be and he will become what he should be.” We can begin to train our eyes to see our spouse the way they could be and our marriage the way it could be instead of always focusing on what is wrong. As we begin to focus on future potential as opposed to current problems, our marital situation will begin to change. Take the Beethoven Challenge this week. For the next seven days, focus only on what your spouse does right and what is beautiful about your marriage. If you can’t identify anything, focus on what could be right and could be beautiful. It is easy to focus on what is not right, what is not working and what you don’t want. The challenge is that when we focus on these things, they continue to persist. This week focus positively on your spouse and your marriage. You will be amazed that as you listen for the finished symphony, a refined masterpiece will emerge. Be certain to take the Beethoven Challenge this week and share this post with anyone who may need the encouragement.
This coming Saturday November 19th, I have been invited to be a special guest on one of the number one talk radio stations in the St. Louis Market, 590 The Fan. I will be a guest on the She Said, He Said Show. Kelley Lamm and Gordon Montgomery are a lot of fun and they have a great show. Plan on joining us Saturday morning at 9:00am on 590, The Fan. If I can ever be of any assistance to you as you strive to create a phenomenal marriage or if you would like more information about my alternative to marriage counseling, please contact me at 314-606-4272 or check out the stlouismarriagecoaching.com website. I work with individuals and couples. My passion is helping people save their broken marriages and turn good marriages into great marriages. Until next week keep falling more in love.
In the classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie tells the story of a young man who worried himself into a nervous breakdown. He worried about everything: his weight, his hair, his money, losing the girl he wanted to marry and what others thought about him. He worried that he had ulcers. Eventually, his worry made it impossible for him to work. Something had to give, and that was when he had his breakdown. The young man avoided everyone and cried a lot. He decided to go to Florida to see if a change in scenery would help him. When he got on the train, his father handed him a letter and told him not to open it until he reached his destination. He was even more miserable in Florida than he had been at home. Finally, he opened the letter from his father: “Son, you are 1,500 miles from home, and you don’t feel any different, do you? I knew you wouldn’t, because you took with you the one thing that is the cause of all your trouble, that is yourself. There is nothing wrong with either your body or your mind. It is not situations you have met that have thrown you; it is what you think of these situations. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is.” When you realize that, son, come home, for you will be cured.” After some reflection he realized that his father was right. It was not the world that needed to change; it was merely the lens of his mind that needed adjustment. He came home and found his father was right. I wish Fathers every where would give their sons and daughters similar letters, when their children believe that happiness is found by moving to another marriage. On a regular basis I work with men and women who find themselves in the same place that this young man found himself in. People who believe that happiness is one relationship away, or one move away. These are people who are in a crisis and are making a mess out of their marriages and their lives. All of them ask me, “Don’t I have a right to be happy”. I say, “Absolutely you have the right to be happy, but if you think leaving your marriage, your children, your current situation is the key to happiness you are mistaken.” Sometimes they don’t listen and end up in “Florida” miserable leaving a trail of broken promises and people. But sometimes they figure it out, begin to work on themselves, discover happiness and end up having phenomenal marriages. Today, if you find yourself heading to “Florida”, come home. Fight for your marriage, your family and you will discover happiness. If your spouse is heading toward “Florida”, be encouraged, they can and do come home. Please share this post with anyone whose marriage might be encouraged by this post. If I can ever be of service to you in your marriage, my passion is helping save broken marriages and making good marriages great. To learn more about my non traditional approach to marriage counseling or to schedule an appointment, call 314-606-4272 or check out the St. Louis Marriage coaching website at stlouismarriagecoaching.com. Until next week, keep falling more in love.
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