The One Question That Can Make Your Relationship Stronger

BY: - 11 Jun '18 | Marriage

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When it comes to relationships, it’s really important to think about how your actions are affecting your partner on a daily basis. It’s really easy to forget how everything you do affects other people. So, how do you use critical thinking skills in your relationship to better your relationship? Well, you ask one important question. Am I helping or am I hurting my relationship with my actions?

Get in the Habit

First, let’s talk about getting in the habit of asking the question. When you’re making mindless decisions or you’re on auto-pilot, you can easily offend your partner without even knowing it. That means if you have someone, like an ex, talk to you on social media, you can easily get into a conversation without even realizing how this can affect your partner in the future. What if they found out? How would they feel? These are all questions that should come up constantly. But you have to get into the habit of asking them.

How about if you come home late without consulting your partner? Perhaps they cooked dinner for you and they really slaved over that stove. You get home an hour late and you’re just thinking, “Oh, I was just at the office. This is just what I do.” Well, in their mind, they feel disrespected. They feel like their effort toward you was not acknowledged. So, it’s really easy to get yourself into a conflict or an argument because you did not ask “how is this affecting my partner?”

An easy way to get into the habit of asking this question is by putting yourself in your partner’s shoes. Ask, “How would my partner feel if I were saying this about them? Or, how would I feel if my partner said something about me that was disrespectful, or even respectful?” So just constantly putting yourself in your partner’s shoes can really eliminate a lot of problems couples see on a day to day basis.

Become More Flexible

It’s really easy to become rigid and resistant when it comes to doing things. But the truth is that one partner may have a preference for something that the other doesn’t even care about. It’s important to think along the lines of “well, if my partner cares about this more than I do, maybe I can be a bit more flexible.”

An example from my marriage involves Thanksgiving. My husband loves football and every Thanksgiving, a football game takes place. I don’t like turkey and we didn’t have a child. We decided that rather than spend Thanksgiving day together, my husband would fly out to the game and we would spend the next day together instead. Some people found that strange, but I was willing to be flexible because it meant a lot to my husband to be at the game.  That works for us.

You have to decide what works for your relationship and what each of you can be flexible on and what you can’t be flexible on. When you come to that agreement, you will see your relationship flow smoother and smoother.

Put Your Ego Aside

It’s really important for competitive couples to win. Who’s going to do this? Who’s going to do that? Win, win, win! You will be really shocked to see how internally someone processes getting their way as a win. Sometimes, that does not serve your relationship at all.

That only serves on the court, not in your relationship. My challenge to couples is to put your ego to the side and realize you don’t have to win everything. Sometimes winning means letting the other person go. Think about that if you have always tried to dominate the conversation, or tried to be right. It’s just important to say, “You know what, it’s not that serious. Let’s just go with who works with what best.”

Create Boundaries of Respect and Consideration

I don’t think couples realize how not having boundaries or enough structure around boundaries causes a lot of disrespect in the relationship. Each of you needs to figure out what is respectful for you. If it’s not met with respect, it’s an automatic trigger. For instance, if you get into an argument and your partner walks out or goes to your in-laws’ house, that might be an abandonment trigger for you. This can be a situation where you sit down with each other and figure out what are some things that you do that affect your partner in a negative way. This helps you to be mindful enough to not continue those behaviors.

This goes back to asking the question, “Am I helping or hurting my relationship?” Is your partner sensitive in a particular area? Is teasing or flirting or staying out late or getting drunk something that bothers them. It’s important to ask your partner and become more aware of each other’s triggers and respect their boundaries.

These steps are all really simple but critical things that can either make or break your relationship. Just remember to keep asking that one important question: “Am I helping or hurting my relationship?”

About the Author: Emma J. Wallace, M.Ed is a Licensed Associate Professional Counselor Email:, Website:, Twitter:, Facebook:

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My Wife is Troubled: What is the Difference Between the Blues and Depression?

BY: - 12 Jun '18 | Marriage

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Dear Dr. Buckingham, I am having a hard time dealing with my wife’s emotional instability over the past three months, especially considering the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. She appears to be depressed because she loss her mother in January of this year and was laid off from her job in April. I believe that she lost her job because she could not focus or perform at work. She tells me that she is okay and is just feeling a little blue. Every time she talks about the blues I wonder if she is depressed. I am not a mental health professional so I do not know the difference. However, I do know that depression is the most common mental health disorder for those who commit suicide. I do not want to miss an opportunity to get my wife some professional help. My Wife is Troubled: What is the Difference Between the Blues and Depression?

Thanks Doc,

Concerned Husband

Ask Dr. Buckingham

Dear Concerned Husband,

You are definitely taking the correct approach in helping your wife. Unfortunately, so many people try to figure out mental health challenges without being properly trained to do so. Mental health is a very difficult and sensitive topic. Your wife could potentially be suffering from grief and depression. Grief is felt whenever we experience some form of loss and depression is when our mood is negatively impacted by our mental distress. Your wife lost her mother and job within a short timeframe. Given this, I would argue that she might be experiencing more than blues.

The blues is best defined as a temporary and non-dysfunctional mood that involves feelings of sadness, loneliness or grief that typically does not interfere with work, sleep or recreation. Depression, on the other hand, is best defined as a lingering and dysfunctional mood that involves feelings of sadness, fatigue, worthlessness, and weight change that affect your mood, thoughts, body, and behavior and also interferes with work, sleep or recreation.

The difference between the blues and depression is the ability to function. Blues are temporary and non-dysfunctional, which means you can still function in a somewhat a normal manner. Depression lingers and negatively impacts one’s mood causing him or her to struggle with daily functioning.

In order for your wife to be diagnosed with depression, five (or more) of the following symptoms must have been present during the same 2-week period and represent a change from previous functioning; at least one of the symptoms is either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.

  1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad, empty, hopeless) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful).
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by either subjective account or observation).
  3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  4. Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.
  5. Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  6. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  7. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self-reproach or guilt about being sick).
  8. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (either by subjective account or as observed by others).
  9. Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

Please keep in mind that the symptoms listed above must also cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning in order to be considered depression.

This is information for educational purposes only so please do not attempt to diagnosis your wife or anyone else. I highly recommend that you seek professional counseling for your wife. Diagnosing individuals with depression or any other mental illness requires appropriate clinical training. Professionals like myself are trained to identify and treat depression before it causes or contributes to significant life problems or suicidal thinking.

If you are interested in learning more about depression and suicide prevention, please attend my FREE webinar training, entitled To Live or Not to Live: Understanding and Preventing Suicide. The webinar will take place on Thursday, June 14, 2018 at 9:00 pm EST. For more details, please visit or my Facebook page at @DrDwayneBuckingham.

Best regards,

Dr. Buckingham

If you have questions for Dr. Dwayne Buckingham regarding relationships (married, single, etc), parenting, or personal growth and development, please send an email to

Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions, and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.

About the author

Dwayne Buckingham wrote 220 articles on this blog.

Dr. Dwayne L. Buckingham, author of Qualified, yet Single: Why Good Men Remain Single and Unconditional Love: What Every Woman and Man Desires in a Relationship, is a highly acclaimed international clinical psychotherapist, life coach, relationship and resiliency expert, motivational speaker and corporate consultant. He is also the President and Chief Executive Officer of R.E.A.L. Horizons Consulting Service, located in Silver Spring, Maryland. To learn more about Dr. Dwayne L. Buckingham visit his website at


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