What An Awkward Christmas Wish!


Choose Your Destination: A HAPPIER MARRIAGE WITH Monica Houttuin, LCSW, CST

“What do you want for Christmas?”

Choose Your Destination!!

A Happier Marriage with Monica Houttuin and Couples Counseling!!

The dreaded question from your partner.

We want to say something like “JUST SURPRISE ME”

“Be Imaginative.”  “You Know What I Like.”

But we all know where this is going.

The look on their face when you didn’t get it right or do it right.  Why is this so hard?

What does the average couple spend on each other for Christmas?

It ranges  from nothing ( I don’t recommend this)

to the absurd because we have no clue or didn’t think about it).

With that money what is it we really want to gain?

If you buy the right gift you are lucky.

Chances are you buy the wrong gift.

You spend too much, you spend too little, its the wrong size, the wrong color.

You didn’t put enough thought into it

or worse yet

you went to the drugstore on Christmas Eve and bought a gift card.

To be honest all couples really want is comfort, pleasure and connection.

All couples want is to be wanted and special to their partner.

We want to be close and improve our communication.





There is a way to do it.


What An Awkward Christmas Gift?

“What do you want for Christmas?”

Go on ask for your hearts desire!!

Choose Your Destination!!

A Happier Marriage with a Marriage Makover  and Monica Houttuin,  Couple’s Specialist.

Choose Your Destination: A HAPPIER MARRIAGE WITH Monica Houttuin, LCSW, CST

The dreaded question from your partner.

We want to say something like “JUST SURPRISE ME”

“Be Imaginative.”  “You Know What I Like.”

But we all know where this is going.

The look on their face when you didn’t get it right or do it right.  Why is this so hard?

What does the average couple spend on each other for Christmas?

It ranges  from nothing ( I don’t recommend this)

to the absurd because we have no clue or didn’t think about it).

With that money what is it we really want to gain?

If you buy the right gift you are lucky.

Chances are you buy the wrong gift.

You spend too much, you spend too little, its the wrong size, the wrong color.

You didn’t put enough thought into it

or worse yet

you went to the drugstore on Christmas Eve and bought a gift card.

To be honest all couples really want is comfort, pleasure and connection.

All couples want is to be wanted and special to their partner.

We want to be close and improve our communication.





There is a way to do it.

  It’s about re-visioning the gift that you give.

Figure out a way to PROACTIVLEY say to your partner

how can I be more loving to you?

And follow this by

‘What if  for Christmas this year we gave the gift of time

renewing, rejuvenating our relationship”.

What if this Christmas you gave a MARRIAGE MAKEOVER

to the two of’ you

instead of a 52 inch HD TV

(which certainly wont improve comfort and connection).

It might seem like an awkward thing to say to your partner

without raising concern and worry?

But phrased in the right way.

“I was thinking about how I could love you more……..

and I wondered……..for Christmas……..could we give each other the gift……..

of a


more comfort,   more connection, more joy……”

Call me and talk to me and I will explain to you how you can design several hours, a couple weeknd retreat,  or several weeks of time and attention to the most important Dream in Your life.  To love and be loved.

Happy Holidays



Secret Marriage Myth Number 2



 emotional-distanceOK everybody I’m gonna bust marriage
myth number two for you!
This is really important and I want to let you know that this marriage myth is very common.  In couples we regularly misunderstand that the distance and silence between us may have come about from exactly that, too much harmful communication.  This can be just as harmful as when couples do another harmful type of communication which involves criticism, contempt and defensiveness (aka arguing).

Communicating more in the same way that got you to this overheated or icy place may be keeping you stuck or dragging you further into stalemates, silent treatment and stonewalling.

Alright, so let’s say you are angry with one another, you are allowed, its normal.  Maybe you talk to each other pretty rough or contemptuous or the opposite,maybe you’re doing the silent treatment, you’re not even talking to each other anymore.  So obviously you know that is not working, not getting you anywhere.   At the end I am going to tell you the healthy types of communicating you need to do in the face of poor communicating.
But I want to tell you what you need to do first.   It is crucial and it makes all the difference going forward together. What I am talking about is, MAKING A REPAIR ATTEMPT,  IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.  When you are in the middle of your negative cycle as a couple, someone, anyone, has got to see that we need an olive branch, a reach out to one another, it really matters right now.
What’s a Repair Attempt?   When things are heading south in a couple communication it can be a crucial turnaround moment if either one of you can do one of the following for starters:
Words                                                                                       Actions
“This is not going the way I ment it too”                           (Each couple has their own
“I think we are making things worse”                                  sweet or funny actions.)
“I care about you I don’t want to do this”                          A silly face at the right time.
“How can I make this better”                                               A light joke about messing it up
“Can we Start Over”                                                               Maybe a hand touching another
“Can we take a break to calm down”                                   at the right time in the process
                                                                                                 it can lighten the mood and be
                                                                                                 accepted as a Repair Attempt.
Sometimes we would get further with a repair attempt and a restart.  But what couples often do is they try to push through when they are ramped up and this is where the damage occurs.
Here is what is suggested by marriage experts like the Gottman’s.
Instead of
Criticism                                                 use                           Gentle Starts to Important
Defensiveness                                         use                            Take accountability
                                                                                                     for your piece in this
Contempt (disdain or You did..             use                             Describe your own needs
                                                                                                     and feelings not theirs
Stonewalling (silent avoiding)              use                           Use ways to calm yourself so                                                                                                 you do not have to move away
                                                                                                             from them
Even when you learn about using safe healthy communication skills it still means you have to practice them over and over again.  That really is why some couples come to therapy to upload and practice the new skills they want in their relationship.
It is a relationship long goal to use healthy skills most of the time.  It doesn’t always happen and that is why  it is actually SO IMPORTANT TO LEARN HOW TO HAVE REPAIR CONVERSATIONS.
So remember even repair attempts that are not verbal can have huge effects.  Whether my partner accepts my silly grin or a hug, a repair attempt depends on how well we have been keeping up on our friendship.  So it is important that we are being kind and doing small acts of kindness for one another.
If these things are going on between you then there is more likelihood that our partner will accept your repairs when you mess up.    Messing up in relationships is not optional, it’s a fact of life, what you do after that can be transformational!!!!
So we don’t need more communication, but better communication, the right type, at the right time.  Tell me some of your favorite repair attempts in the comments section below.
Thanks for following along.    Watch for the next Marriage Myth Busting Blog to Come.
Want to hear a full length talk on Communication Intimacy and Trust and how to spot Negative Communication Patterns then click on the link below.  I would love to have you listen in.    Thanks Monica
http://www.crcmo.com/     Counseling Rediscovering Connections in Union, MO

3 Secret Myths About Marriage You Have to Know if You Want A Marriage Made in Heaven.

Marriages may be made in Heaven, but they have to be tuned and polished in ???

This Is The Biggest Secret Never Told.  Marriage is a People Making Machine.

Follow along in this 3 Blog Series to learn the Myths about Marriage from a Marriage and Intimacy Counselor.

sky-vortexNo one really thinks that a life like this is the reason for a happy marriage.

It cannot be that life is always good and we never have to go through anything or nothing bad challenges us.

But here is a SECRET MARRIAGE MYTH you have to know.  You probably have heard a friend or family member say this one.


By the end of this blog I will tell you the percent of couples that researchers estimate stay together.  You will be shocked.

So if it is not a given that you are going to break up or divorce because there has been an affair then how are you ever going to “get over it”.

Couples routinely, especially the hurt partner, routinely say to me “I love my partner, I love our life, but I don’t see HOW I AM EVER GOING TO MAKE IT THROUGH THIS?”

The betraying partner says, “I feel so horrible, I can’t believe what I have done, I just want this to go away, I just want it to be over.”   and “They are never going to stop thinking about this, I don’t know how I can live like this.”

So if you are in this situation or have a friends dealing with this,  you can imagine that both people just want this whole thing to go away. We want to move on, they say, so we can go on with our life. We want to get on with it, forgive, just go on with our life.

That makes great sense that we all would want that. However, if you want to be in the group of couples that makes it through pay close attention.


Couples routinely come to my office saying the following, 5 or 10, 15 years after an affair having tried to sweep it under the rug.   They attempted to forgive fast and try to move on, but it just doesn’t work.  “Why can’t we just get over this?” , they wonder.

Emotional and Physical Affairs are intimate injuries to the most special part of a couple, their CONNECTION, SECURITY AND TRUST.

You would not sustain a puncture wound to any other part of your body and just cover it up and go on.   No you would infect, abscess even cause gangrene to that whole part of the body.

If that is your foot, maybe you can go on, but if that is your heart  I doubt you can go on in the rest of your relationship with a injured or closed off heart. Then to go on building your relationships on  punctured, wounded, cutoff hearts is an extremely dangerous and serious move.

No matter if they say they forgive you without the correct care for the injury it will not stay under the rug, it will not be healed and it is lying ready to pop out in the relationship for the years to come.

You may not know this but there are actually two separate injuries that occur with affairs.

1. This is obvious, they broke the personal intimate   promise that we had for our special connection.

2. They DECEIVED, TRICKED, FOOLED you and made you question reality as you know it with them.  Your Trust.

Both of these injuries need a particular type of healing to really heal from the affair.

Sometimes there is a one time event that happens and you come clean. That is a different type of process to heal.  The affairs that ongoing and hidden, whether emotional relationships physical truly involve deception.

Well, so do you just go to counseling and talk about your feelings back and forth a couple times and all with be well.  NO, NO, NO, NO.

It is crucial that you receive the right care for the type of  injury you have had to the relationship.  What is the right type of care.

You have to seek out a professional who knows how to provide what is called “Affair recovery”.  Now even if it was EMOTIONAL betrayal that still is is the realm of the injuries that this type of counseling provides. The dynamics are often the same.  So a therapist trained to this type of therapy knows specifically how to treat those intimate and intricate injuries.

Watch a free video to learn all about Affair Recovery with Monica.   Click on the blue Affair Recovery Button.

You need a therapist who knows how to help you Atone for the Affair, Attune back into one another, and if possible re-Attach into a new more honest and sturdy relationship.

This process helps you heal and even Affair Proof your marriage.

Are you ready for the big secret.  Researchers commonly site  a typical estimate for couples to remain together after an affair is  72%.   Yes!  we do stay.

And since we stay it is our job to heal, grow in touch and create the marriage we want to be a part of.

So despite the myths that marriages  break up after affairs, despite what your family and friends might be urging you to do in anger, couples do stay together.

If you want to save your family, the life you built, and your marriage, ………………………………..then the odds are in your favor!!

With the right care, and careful healing and rebuilding it CAN BE DONE!!  It happens evey day in front of my eyes.

Look for my next Blog that Shares another  Secret Marriage Myth that is commonly believed.



We know

So what is the Key, What is the secret.  It is one important act during times of hardship orsupset, so important that it rul



Well This Is The Next Best Thing To The Secrets You Were Never Told

4 Surprisingly Common Ways To Ruin Your Marriage Quickly and Forever… Or Not.


4 Surprisingly Common Ways To Ruin Your Marriage Quickly And Forever!


I know, I’m a couples and intimacy expert and I’m not supposed to tell you the ways not to do it, right?

So many people want to know the secrets to be happily married forever. I think it might be important to know the for-sure, sure-fire ways you’ll mess it up and end in divorce.  Knowing these common mistakes will help you take the corrective action and avoid these marriage busters.

Researchers now can tell you with great assurance that there are four sure-fire things to do if you want to end your marriage.

Dr. John Gottman with the Gottman Institute has researched couples behaviors in the love lab in Seattle Washington. What he and his wife Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman found out was that there are four very common behaviors that will train wreck your marriage.

  1. Criticism.

This sounds very common, sort of like you should talk nice to your partner. however, if you are not careful your attempts to provide insights, feedback, suggestions and better ways of doing it are going to land on a sensitive heart and with time cause it to grow ..

  1. Defensiveness

If your partners attempts to speak with you, to share with you, offer suggestions come across as harsh and attacking and your responses are going to be edgy snappy and very sharp. This dynamic duo criticism and defensiveness set up a very dangerous climate in a relationship.

  1. Contempt

Time after time, week after week, year after year of trying to share and interact with each other can lead to negative defensive patterns in a couple. We grow very weary of that and we stop seeing our partner in a positive light.  Sometimes begin to think of them in negative terms in our head or out loud.  Some partners even report a negative feeling or sense of uncomfortable vibes when their partner comes home often preferring it when their partner is not there. And finally

  1. Stonewalling

Like the silent treatment, but perhaps a bit more subtle,  a partner no longer actively works to interact with you. Your comments, suggestions or influences are not taken to heart and they often go on as if they are unaffected by you. Some people say it’s like two strangers living in the same house.

Knowing these four negative indicators in a relationship is crucial to  partners beginning to reclaim the healthy parts that are left in a relationship and stamp out the negative communication patterns that have arisen.

Different methods of communicating can easily be taught and then practiced over and over again. Once we both know what is healthy for the couple and what is not then we can begin to make choices about how we want to interrelate.

Sure it’s not as simple as just learning communication skills.  Many important topics are covered. Couples can handle many serious and important topics when they know how to do it in a way that is safe and careful and secure.

Ridding your relationship of these four negative communication patterns is key to keeping your marriage together.  In fact,  Dr. Gottman is noted for saying that he can predict with 95% accuracy which couples will be divorced based upon the level of these for negative patterns in a relationship.

I don’t know if that’s true. However, it is true that you can’t change a pattern until you know it, identify it, and begin to turn it around. If you want to learn more about couple negative communication style and some of the most common issues couples face  head on over to my website and feel free to sign up for free orientation video that explains many of the patterns couples get into. More importantly, also learn how couples start to turn things around.

Hope you enjoyed learning about what an NOT to do.

Find Out More About Changing Negative Couples’ Patterns While You Still Can!

Warmest Wishes,




Getting the Most Out of Your Decision to Go to Therapy

Are You Making the Most of Your Therapy? 7 Tips

Don’t miss these tips on taking an active role in counseling

If you’re struggling or stuck, counseling may be a good way to get a new perspective, move forward positively and protect your well-being. And if you’re living with a mental health condition, seeing a therapist may be a key part of your treatment plan.

Are you in talk therapy or considering it? These tips can help you make the most of it:

1. Set goals
Be sure your therapist knows what you hope to achieve. For example, perhaps you want to:

  • Find ways to cope with strong emotions, such as grief
  • Change behaviors that are making you unhappy
  • Build healthier relationships
  • Better manage stress, anxiety or depression
  • Explore or navigate a major life change

2. Discuss a timeline
It will depend on your needs and goals. Ask your therapist how you’ll work together on your goals and how long you might need counseling services. Some issues are chronic or take longer than others to work through. But in other cases, people might feel that they’re making progress after just a few sessions.

3. Be honest
Sometimes, talking about personal problems can be uncomfortable. But the more open you are about your true feelings and experiences, the more your counselor can help.

4. Take notes during each session
Reading them over can remind you of what you discussed, including what action steps you should try.

5. Do your homework
For example, your counselor might suggest you write in a journal or change your behavior in a certain way. If you don’t get specific tips, ask what you can do outside of therapy to move toward your goals.

6. Welcome new ways
Often, therapy means exploring approaches that feel outside your comfort zone. But trying new strategies for managing or responding to situations is the only way to see if they work. If you give up too quickly, you might miss out on something that really helps.

7. Speak up
Your counselor wants your therapy to succeed — and collaboration is a key to that. So don’t hesitate to say if you:

  • Think a session didn’t go well
  • Don’t feel you’re making progress
  • Want to focus on a new goal
  • Are considering stopping your therapy

When you’re frank, it gives your counselor a chance to think about the best ways to help you.

It’s also vital that you develop trust and a good connection with your therapist. So if you don’t feel comfortable or you don’t feel like you’re being heard, it may not be a good fit — and you may benefit from making a change.


I welcome active involved clients who want the most out of their experience.



Why Is My Partner Afraid To GO To Counseling??

Here may be the REAL REASON your partner may not want to go to couples therapy,

and no

its not because they are stubborn….


You say WHAT!!!

They don’t seem afraid to me.  They seem worked up, belligerent, defensive, critical, snotty and impossible to reach.

YES, that’s what I said.  AFRAID.

So, let’s have a conversation about your spouse’s brain on


Suppose the two of you have been trying to talk about any of your “issues”,

you know, $$, kids, work, household chores, in-laws or


and despite how hard you try it always ending in bringing up everything and solving


The two of you have raised blood pressure, frustration, irritation, hurt and alienation (and your are not even “fighters”, this is with no yelling).

All your issues are open and


Time and time again and the “BRAIN” of your spouse (and you) learn that working on issues is not only not productive, its NOT SAFE, it causes emotional upset and therefore the Brain says it should be avoided or for sure DON’T DO IT on purpose.


When we say “I think we need counseling” most people fear it is gonna be a whole lot more of what we just talked about..(and  for the brain that is fearful).

So if that is the kind of couples counseling you may have had in the past


The human brain is programmed to protect us at all costs.  Sometimes it cannot tell the difference between a real attack to the body or a psychological (emotional) attack.  We often respond the to both of them the same.

The BEST TYPE of COUPLES COUNSELING helps the brain of each person stay safe and regulated as the couple learns to respectfully and with compassion work on the vital issues for their relationship.  Having these conversations in an atmosphere of calm, safe, understanding is VITAL for a couple.

Staying out of fear and in or wise minds during couple therapy allows the couple to do the work and untwist all the miscommunications and hurts.

You can see that your partner will have to know that counseling does not mean:

  1. We are GOING to get a DIVORCE      or
  2. the therapist is just going to REFEREE the two of us fighting.

So before you select a therapist make sure you can tell what type of counseling they are trained to  do.  Without saying DO NOT GO TO A THERAPIST WHO DOES NOT HAVE COUPLES THERAPY TRAINING…IT IS NOT THE SAME AS SOMEONE WHO WORKS WITH INDIVIDUALS.

Read their blogs, look at their website, and if that does not give you a sense that they have a plan to help you safely and productively begin some important conversations then you need to ask about this in your conversation with them BEFORE going in as a couple.

If you do select a couples therapist who has the emotional safety of the couple in mind you will be miles ahead.

The right couples therapy with the right therapist can dramatically help you have the best relationship you have ever had.

Warmest Wishes on your journey to have an even better relationship.

How Monica works with Couples