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Ask the Expert: Creating harmonious couples relationships with Dr. Joshua Coleman

Whether you’re freshly dating, newlywed, or celebrating your 50th anniversary, you’ve probably found yourself at odds with your significant other at some point. Disagreements are inevitable, but they don’t need to end in disaster. We were glad to have LifeSpeak expert, psychologist and author Dr. Joshua Coleman join our Ask the Expert session this week to help our users navigate such conflicts and create more harmony. Dr. Coleman is a psychologist in private practice and is Senior Scholar of the Council on Contemporary Families. He has been a frequent guest on the Today Show, NPR, and The BBC, and has also been featured on Sesame Street, 20/20, Good Morning America, America Online Coaches, PBS Life Part 2, and numerous news programs for FOX, ABC, CNN, and NBC television. His advice has appeared in The New York Times, The Times of London, Fortune, Newsweek, The Chicago Tribune, Slate, Psychology Today, U.S. World and News Report, Parenting Magazine and many others.

Here are the highlights from our webchat with Dr. Joshua Coleman. Please keep in mind all user participation is anonymous.

Managing finances together

QUESTION — “Is there a good way to bring up finances with your partner? My boyfriend and I just got engaged and anytime I try to discuss finances (i.e. setting a budget), the immediate reaction is that ‘we’re so broke what does it matter?’. We’re not broke (we have a house, vehicles, pay our bills on time, etc.), but we’re just not rich. I really want to discuss this in a positive way so we can plan our financial future as well…”

Dr. Joshua Coleman — “Money is a common source of conflict in marriages. Studies show that with difficult topics, it’s useful to have a conversation where you both try to empathize with the deep and underlying values of the other. For yours, they might be based around security and not having to worry. For him, a ‘live for today’ mentality may make life feel more carefree or fun. Avoid getting into the right or wrong of your perspectives and try instead to really get why each person feels the way that they do.”

Being supportive through grief

QUESTION — “My husband’s mom is in another country and has terminal cancer. How can I support my husband through the tough times ahead?”

Dr. Joshua Coleman — “Many if not most men have a hard time talking about their feelings, so try to strike a balance between asking frequently enough about how he’s feeling so that he doesn’t worry about burdening you or being too emotional, but not so much that it feels intrusive. Simply empathizing with what he’s feeling is the most valuable thing you can offer him.”

Navigating ideological differences

QUESTION — “My boyfriend and I have been together for five months now and have quite a significant age gap (19 years). I think that this is a large part of the reason why we disagree on political views, and he also doesn’t understand my reasoning behind being vegetarian. He is very passionate about these topics, and every time they get brought up in conversation we end up getting in an argument. The thing is, our opinions will always differ and sometimes it’s hard to avoid these conversations. Do you have any advice on how to approach these topics in a respectful manner when our opinions are so vastly different?”

Dr. Joshua Coleman — “Sometimes couples fight over political or other issues because they haven’t resolved the underlying issues in the marriage. So he may complain about your being vegetarian or politically different from him as an expression of your not being as close to him as he’d like, or more independent of him than he’d prefer. Either way, some topics are better left avoided if they’re never fruitful. Don’t feel obligated to discuss or defend your values or your positions. You can say, ‘I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree about that.’ or ‘I don’t think these conversations are very productive so I don’t really want to go there. What else do you want to talk about?’”

Don’t miss our next Ask the Expert session!

If you weren’t able to catch our webchat with Dr. Joshua Coleman, you can always sign in to your LifeSpeak account to read the transcript. And be sure to log on March 25th at 12PM EST to chat with registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Constance Brown-Riggs, who will be answering your questions about rethinking nutrition. If you don’t have a LifeSpeak account, please have your HR team reach out to us about your company subscribing.

What is Ask the Expert?

Our Ask the Expert sessions allow our users to have regular access to our experts in real-time, which allows them to have their pressing questions answered. This opportunity provides our users with practical and easily implemented tips to help them make real changes in their lives. To learn more, don’t hesitate to book a walk-through.