Can Kissing Save Your Relationship?

Marriage Counseling Series at The Life Change Group, written by Dr. Pam Wright, mental health expert. How can kissing save your relationship

What's in a Kiss?

Today we're talking about one of the most popular topics I get in marriage counseling and couples therapy. Believe it or not, it's kissing. The simple act of locking lips seems to have everyone just head over heels with questions. What's the best way? What does it mean if he/she doesn't anymore? And my favorite recently "can kissing my partner more save my marriage?" It's a fair question. After all, the practice of kissing has been around for a LONG time. There are reports of kissing from as far back as ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt in 2500 BCE. Since then, oral hygiene, Hallmark Channel and entire days and traditions devoted to kissing (think Valentines Day, New Year's, and even Kiss a Ginger Day) have all helped to propel this common human activity into popularity. It's estimated that about 90 percent of cultures practice kissing in one way or another.

Does Kissing Improve Relationships?

Biologically speaking there are a lot of benefits to kissing in relationships. Scientists note that kissing causes our brain to release a potent chemical cocktail stocked full of dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin. The combination of these three chemicals work by lighting up the 'pleasure centers' in our brain. Further, the effect of dilated blood vessels and increased blood flow can help relieve headaches and cramps. This is what I tell my couples in marriage counseling, after a long day, when both of your are exhausted and stressed out, there is perhaps no better way to treat your brain and your relationship, than kissing your significant other.

Mentally speaking, kissing is right at the top of the list in terms of easy ways for couples to connect and reconnect. Not to sound too clinical, but it's a low-risk endeavor with positive, high-yield result in terms of intimacy and connectedness. Research from the APA suggests that kissing has a positive impact on relationship satisfaction. Other studies show that couples who continue to kiss regularly tend to have longer and more fulfilled marriages. A German psychologist even showed that men who kiss their partners before going to work "earned 20 to 35 percent more money and used less sick time than their peers who left with no goodbye kiss."

Can Kissing Fix a Bad Relationship?

But can kissing fix a broken relationship or even one that's on the brink? The short answer is "it depends". Males and females view kissing differently (shocker, I know) but the effects of kissing differs still based on the type of relationship and what personality types the couples represent. It quite a complicated question because there are so many variables. What is clear is that more frequent kissing in a relationship was linked to the quality of a relationship - happy couples kiss more. So it goes to reason that if you want to fix a bad relationship, in addition to all the other issues you and your partner might need to work on, kissing is a great place to focus on (re)connecting. From my experience in relationship and marriage counseling, kissing is more than just a romantic gesture - it's a relationship booster.

Final Thoughts, From Dr. Pam Wright

Next we need to talk about sex and intimacy…I know that’s a major topic in couples therapy. But I’m always shocked when I ask clients when they last kissed their partner. It’s like the brain is ticking back to years ago…kidding… but I’ve been thinking of how important a kiss can be.  Kissing your partner not only helps your relationship, but models for your children and others a healthy relationship. I’m not advocating to go all PDA at a store, but greeting your partner with a kiss in the morning or after a long day may have multiple benefits…go get that Dopamine, Oxytocin, and Serotonin. And plant one on your kid’s forehead, or your furry children while you are at it!

#KissAndThrived #RelationshipGoals

Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and mental health expert. She is the founder and owner of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga.Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and a mental health expert. She is the Founder and Director of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga. Her psychology practice is a team of therapists, counselors and psychologists offering a wide range of psychological testing and individual, couples and family counseling. Dr. Wright is also a co-host of the "Middle Age(ish)" podcast and has appeared on NBC in Atlanta.

What’s the best thing to say after an argument with your partner?

spinsight Couples Therapy, Dr. Pam Wright, General Psychology ,
Marriage Counseling Series at The Life Change Group, written by Dr. Pam Wright, mental health expert. What are the best things to say after an argument with your partner

What to Say After an Argument

Couples counseling is filled with disagreements and sometimes even heated exchanges. And this is the purpose of the therapy. It's a controlled environment where both partners have an opportunity to communicate out in the open and are urged and guided to listen to each other. But what happens back at home? After the next argument has ended, what should you say to your partner to help repair the relationship? I was thinking about this topic and found this lovely article on, a online parenting site to "empower men to raise great kids and lead more fulfilling adult lives" (so their masthead claims). It's a great article and I wanted to comment on my 3 favorite things you should say to your partner after an argument.

In no particular order:

#1: Let Me Know What You Need Right Now

I love this phrase for several reasons. First "let me know" is an earnest plea to keep the lines of communication open. It signals that you are still invested in the relationship. Then the phrase "what you" underscores that your focus is on your partner and not your own self-interests. That last part "need right now" brings it all together because it defines the immediacy of the situation and again reinforces the commitment to being present in the moment.

In my couples counseling I've often used the 3C's - closeness, communication and commitment - as a framework for couples to use when working on their relationship and intimacy. This phrase nails all three of those. The "let me know" tackles the communication, the "what you" highlights the closeness, and the "need right now" speaks to committed action. All together, this is one of my favorite phrases to say or text to your partner after an argument.

#2: That Was Awful. I'm Sorry. I Let the Moment Get the Better of Me

Wow - this is another great way to respond after an argument or better yet on a pause or break during an ongoing disagreement. This phrase is stock full of empathy, apology and self-directed reflection and admission. Together this might be one of the most powerful ways to start the relationship repair process. Now with all of these, they need to be communicated with sincerity and the right tone. But in terms of structure, this one has all the right elements.

"That was awful" not only builds a bridge but it's also an attempt find common ground and understanding. Sometimes, if you and your partner can at least agree on how bad things got...that's a start. You physically can agree on something. Follow that up with the gold standard of apologetic keywords "I'm Sorry" and you're well on your way to mending your familial fence, so to speak. It's hard to go wrong with I'm sorry when you're talking about about couples counseling. It's rarely the easiest thing to say in the heat of the moment, but it's a go-to for post-argument phrases. And the last part, when delivered correctly "I let the moment get the better of me" has the potential to explain the situation without trying to blame your partner or reduce the significance of the situation. All together, pound-for-pound, this phrase is a top contender.

#3: It Makes Me Sad When We Can't Communicate

The last of my favorite selections from the article is this one because it employs the "I feel" statement and then couples that with a specific example. In my couples counseling sessions I've seen the first part "it makes me sad" paired with a variety of other phrases depending on the specific argument or contributing factors. When we don't see eye-to-eye, when we yell at each, when we don't listen, when we mock each other, etc. All of these will work wonders in helping to put the relationship back on track because we're dealing with the emotions in a productive and personalized way. We're not making broad, sweeping statements. We're not polarizing or using absolutes.

But I really like this specific ending-phrase "when we can't communicate" because of word communicate. As a former news reporter we learned that communication is a two-way process of sending and receiving messages. There's a sender and a receiver, and the message must travel from the sender where it's encoded and delivered to the receiver where the message is decoded. Effective communication only happens when there is a successful encoding, transmission and decoding of the message. The practice of couples counseling is really about how to make communication work admist all the ways that life and emotions can mess up that flow.

Honorable Mention: [Insert private joke here]

I couldn't leave this last one off the list because I feel it is so important in a relationship - humor. We're not all Kevin Hart or Carol Burnett, but sharing a joke or funny moment between two people can work in so many great ways. However, please head this warning - negative humor aimed at your partner will not work. The humor must come from a good place. As long as you both think it's funny, inside jokes and asides can de-escalate a situation faster than just about any other method. It can remind both partners of why you got together in the first place and the simple joys that once were. A simple laugh can move mountains.

Final Thoughts from Dr. Pam Wright

Regardless of what approach you chose, TAKE AN APPROACH. Make an apology if you are in the wrong. Make an apology even if you weren’t in the wrong but your words were hurtful. And above all, make your apology sincere. There is nothing worse than being on the receiving end of an insincere apology.


Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and mental health expert. She is the founder and owner of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga.Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and a mental health expert. She is the Founder and Director of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga. Her psychology practice is a team of therapists, counselors and psychologists offering a wide range of psychological testing and individual, couples and family counseling. Dr. Wright is also a co-host of the "Middle Age(ish)" podcast and has appeared on NBC in Atlanta.

Why Do Couples Yell?

spinsight Counseling, Couples Therapy, Dr. Pam Wright, General Psychology
Marriage Counseling Series at The Life Change Group, written by Dr. Pam Wright, mental health expert. Why do couple yell at each other?

In the Beginning...

Yelling is rarely the first scene. In fact, most relationships usually start with loving words and optimistic promises (they don't call it the "honeymoon period" for nothing), but it's not uncommon for situations and relationships to ebb, flow and spiral. Some studies indicate that as little as 3% of married couples say they never argue so there is a lot of arguing going in America's household. Yelling, however is a step above the average argument. It is a behavior that can surface in the heat of the moment, escalate rapidly and has the potential to inflict traumatic consequences on everyone involved. Knowing all of that, why do we still decide to yell at our partners?

yelling as a married couple is very common and it happens more often than you think

How Often Do Couples Yell?

Studies show that yelling is very, very common - that doesn't necessarily make it right or OK, but the statistics show that it happens a lot. This chart from YouGov indicates that approximately 30% of U.S. couples have heated arguments at least once a week, and nearly 60%  at least once a month.

What's all the Fussing About?couples argue about different topics depending on their ages

Even more intriguing than how often, is why we yell. If this were an episode of Family Feud, the top answers should be fairly intuitive - money, attitude, chores, and in-laws are typically the four most common reasons. But the other top reasons might surprise you.

The interesting points to note from this YouGov chart is how the different argument topics vary by age group. Older American couples argue about tone of voice, communication styles and health more than younger Americans. Politics is the same across all demographics - none of us can agree on that subject (my advice - just steer clear of it altogether). Another interesting note is how older couples mellow over time on certain topics - attitude, friends, sex and jealousy all cause fewer fights as we age.

Steps that Partners Should Take to Disagree Properly 

There are probably an infinite reasons why partners yell at each other, but there are a few key steps that couples can take to prevent the escalations of simple disagreements to the potential trauma of verbal abuse and yelling.

  1. Stay calm or suggesting to talk later. This is WAY easier said than done, but it is the foundation to centering emotions and not fueling fiery discussions. When either partner is yelling, the natural, primal instinct to fight or flight will prevent either person from thinking rationally and grounding conversations in honest communication. If neither of you can regain composure, then it is often best to suggest pausing and walk way until things cool down.
  2. Establish ground rules for arguments. Talk when you are both calm to set ground rules, like no profanity, threats, or insults. Explain you will walk away if boundaries are crossed. Follow through consistently.
  3. Address feelings with feelings. Many times there are complex subtexts to why either partner is yelling, and it may not even really be about what both of you are actually yelling about. Typically there might be something that has triggered an irritation, and thus the yelling. The key is determining the trigger and then re-focusing the conversation to openly discuss the real, underlying issue(s).

Final Thoughts from Dr. Pam Wright

92,100+ Time Out Hand Signal Stock Photos, Pictures ...I always teach my couples to determine who is the “distancer” and who is the “pursuer” in the relationship. The distancer needs time and space, often during or after a conflict, while the pursuer wants to figure out a solution immediately. I think of it as the distancer needs to take time to think or sleep on it, the pursuer can’t think about sleeping until things are settled. These couples have to learn to meet in the middle. I like for them to find a safe keyword or motion (like a football time out hand signal) when things get heated. But they MUST set a time to return and resolve the conflict. It doesn’t ever go away on its own!

Couples need to always come back to the relationship with each other and remember the "golden rule". Ideally you are the other's best friend, trusted partner and closest ally. With that comes a great responsibility to treat the other as you'd like to be treated - with respect - even if you're saying it loudly at the time.

What are the best phrases to use in an argument with your partner?

spinsight Couples Therapy, Dr. Pam Wright, General Psychology ,
Marriage Counseling Series at The Life Change Group, written by Dr. Pam Wright, mental health expert. What are the best phrases to use during an argument with your partner

How to Argue with Your Partner

Couples therapy often involves partners with differing viewpoints. Sometimes these points of view can be relatively minor and other times they are grand canyon sized - massive differences. Many times in session my couples argue. If you're married, you argue. It's as certain as the waves crashing into the shore. I've also found that there is a right way to argue with your special someone and a wrong way. But I ran across this article from recently that posed an interesting question - what are the best phrases to use in an argument with your partner? The story put forth six concepts that would help arguments reach better and ultimately more successful endings, where you understand yourself and your partner a little more.

In the spirit of the article, I agree with some of these, but not so much with others. So let's take a look at what phrases you need to use in your next argument.

#1: "I Feel" Phrases

When you want to avoid blaming the other person and talk about how emotions are affecting you, use phrases that convey a sense "I'm feeling". These can include things like "it hurts me when you..." or "I feel attacked, can you rephrase that" or "that felt unfair". The idea is that you are expressing your emotions and impact the other person's words are having on you.

Famed personal coach to the stars, Tony Robbins says "studies have shown that I-statements reduce hostility and defensiveness and that you-statements can provoke anger. It conveys that even though your partner is not acting or speaking in the way you’d prefer, you are not blaming him or her for how you feel. When using I-statements, you take responsibility for the part you played in the disagreement and display the openness for deep listening and resolution." I have seen this work so effectively in my couples therapy sessions. Try these types of phrases and watch the reaction - with the right tone, it has the power to really defuse a tense situation quickly.

#2: "I Need to Calm Down" Phrases

This is another great way to turn down the temperature of a heated argument. The strategy should be to put space between the words and allow for thoughts to catch up and for both parties to listen and process. These types of phrases could include things like "I need for you to please listen" or "let me rephrase that?" or "can I have a hug?". Couples therapy is all about giving both partners a safe and equal space to understand and be understood, but to do that there needs to be a bit of a lull in the back-and-forth. Using phrases that attempt to calm yourself and your partner can aid in creating that space, or in the case of the request for a hug...closing that physical space with compassion.

#3: "I'm Sorry"

You knew that this one was going to be in the list of phrases to use to have a better argument. The old "I'm sorry" line can work as a good open or a good close. "I'm sorry, I misunderstood you" or "I see your point now, I'm sorry". The point is that you are owning up to a part of the misalignment, unrealistic expectation or whatever the issue. It is not a sign of weakness or concession. Quite the opposite. The power of "sorry" is incredible really. Esther Perel, a psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author, puts it this way, "Apologizing also helps us to realize how much impact we can have on another person. There is weight to our actions. If we have the power to hurt, we also have the power to take a step toward healing. And, when we apologize first, we open the door for the other person to meet us in that place of open communication. We lessen the shame for them. We acknowledge together that being on good, or at least neutral, terms is more important than winning." The power of a well-timed and heartfelt apology is worth it's weight in gold.

#4: "Stop Action"

In principle, I see why this one is on the list, but it has a significant downside. Stop action phrases as described in the article include things like "please let's stop for a while", "I might be wrong here" or "let's start all over again". I like the fact that we're incorporating some of the I feel and apologetic terminology in these. Claiming a need to take a break, creating mental and physical space is also super helpful to calm the situation. Those are all great reasons to use these types of phrases. However, in my couples therapy work, the idea of saying "let's start all over again" could come off as being very counter-productive. It might indicate you're disregarding the other person's time and investment in the discussion and relationship. You want to be careful to always validate your partner even though you might 100% disagree with the point of view.

#5: "Getting to Yes"

This is another one where I kind of want to agree with the overall sentiment, but there are parts of me that after having counseled couples for so long, I just shake my head. It's one of the key tenets in couples therapy - arguments are not always about getting to a yes. Still the phrases cited were things like "you're starting to convince me", "let's compromise here" and "what are your concerns?" I love the last example here because it shows the partner is not only listening, but he or she is listening with an intent to understand. "What are your concerns...tell me me understand your point of view that I can better relate to you as my partner". That is an amazing mindset to have just in life, much less in the middle of an argument.

The compromise example is where I don't agree wholeheartedly. The adage is that marriage is about compromise, but in those situations both partners are losing. "I'll lose in a little as long as you also lose a little." Then you both lose. Why not aim for a situation where you both win? Trust's much harder, but it's so worth it too. It gets back to listening with an intent to understand and being honest and open which may not always lead to an immediate yes on both sides. Psychology Today has a great article about getting to win-win and further explaining my point.

#6: "I appreciate"

Last but not least, this is a great phrase to use in your next argument with your partner. This is table stakes in all of my couples therapy work because it's about using words that mend the situation, build up the other person and strengthen the bond through affirmations. These phrases include "I love you" (who doesn't love to hear that one), "one thing I admire about you is..." and "that's fair, I see your point". All of these are fantastic examples of positive and uplifting thoughts that will help generate trust and an "in it together" mentality. It also proves that the relationship is bigger than the disagreement, and that the other person is more important than winning the argument.

As the author's say in their closing paragraph "what determines the success or failure of a relationship is how you each respond to the repair". Well said!

Final Thoughts from Dr. Pam Wright

I really like using the “I feel___” statements in all types of communication. With family, friends, couples, etc.  Remember feelings are never wrong for that person, so we need to create a sense of understanding and explain how we feel as well.  Additionally, here’s a good technique I use with couples and families who never feel heard or can’t get their message across without being interrupted. Grab a pen, whoever is holding the pen gets to talk and then have the listener paraphrase back what the speaker said. Then the next person gets the pen. The only rule is that only the one with the pen can talk. Sounds a bit strange, but it can definitely be effective!


Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and mental health expert. She is the founder and owner of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga.Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and a mental health expert. She is the Founder and Director of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga. Her psychology practice is a team of therapists, counselors and psychologists offering a wide range of psychological testing and individual, couples and family counseling. Dr. Wright is also a co-host of the "Middle Age(ish)" podcast and has appeared on NBC in Atlanta.

How Should Couples Argue?

spinsight Counseling, Couples Therapy, Dr. Pam Wright, General Psychology
Marriage Counseling Series at The Life Change Group, written by Dr. Pam Wright, mental health expert. How should couples argue properly

Is there a Right Way to Argue with Your Spouse?

Couples argue all the time, but how should couples argue properly? Is there a right and a wrong way for couples to fight. Studies suggest that fewer than 3% of couples don't argue, so it is a very common occurrence in American marriages. What are the ground rules for arguments, disagreements and shouting matches (is the latter even allowed)?

It Depends on Your Type

John and Julie Gottman are renowned marriage counselors and have created a proven method to help couples regain their connection. Their method allows them to help predict with significant accuracy if a couple will make it long-term. A key to their marriage counseling philosophy is learning how to communicate better, and this involves how to argue the right way. The Gottman's posit that there are 5 types of couples:

  1. Conflict Avoiders: As the name implies, these couples steer clear of conflict and focus on areas of common ground while celebrating their relationship for generally being happy. Yelling is typically out of character for them.
  2. Volatile Couples: Conversely, this intensely emotional couple type loves to debate and argue, but they can yell at each other constructively. These types of couples have the rare ability to emphasize connection and honesty while they argue, and still lead a passionate love life.
  3. Validating couples: This couple type is somewhat in the middle of Avoiders and Volatile. They do emphasize supporting and understanding their partner's points of view, and are often empathetic. Still, they can be competitive on some issues which can lead to power struggles.
  4. Hostile couples: This couple type demonstrates a lot of criticism, defensiveness, and contempt by using absolute statements in their arguments - "you always" and "you never" are common in their vocabulary. Each partner strives to reiterate their perspective and not understand or empathize.
  5. Hostile-Detached Couples: This couple type is often focused on winning the argument but often just end up in a frustrating and lonely standoff. Yelling may often feel like second-nature for them. These couples rarely regulate their negativity so it just festers and rots the relationship from the inside out.

Love is saying "I feel differently" instead of "you're wrong"

Mismatched Types

What happens when you're both not in the same couple type? Are you doomed from "I do"? Not at all. The idea that matched styles would be superior to mismatched styles showed mixed validity in testing of this method. However, it is interesting to note that recent studies have shown that the "Validating" couples type is key. When individuals rate at least one person as validating this may insulate these couples from lower relationship quality.

Final Thoughts From Dr. Pam Wright

The Gottman Method is just one of a myriad of frameworks to help couples and marriage counselors guide partners on re-igniting relationships and becoming stronger couples. Every couple is different in their unique ways of relating, emoting and being together. The key to any of these models and stepped processes is being willing to do the work and focus on building the relationship. There has to be an openness and willingness to change, and more importantly to doing it together. That's the type of couple that we should all aspire to become.