Category Archives: Marriage

Communication through Feedback: Couple Differences about Toilet Paper on a Shoe

Imagine you attended a business event and spotted an acquaintance wearing an outstanding pair of shoes and— trailing toilet paper stuck to them. What would you do?

When I coach couples with dissimilar communication styles, I pose this scenario to gain a better understanding of their values and habits regarding feedback. The great toilet paper debate is a springboard to the broader question. We discuss and compare their self projected communication output with others to patterns they describe with each other. How does feedback to others contrast and compare with what occurs between them?

The he said/she said—or gender— choices vary. Yet one striking set of answers occurs frequently:

  • He said, “I wouldn’t say anything.”

The man confessed he would not risk embarrassing the individual.  He admitted he would bypass providing a genuine compliment because, even without mention of the toilet paper, his feedback posed an unacceptable gamble of being offensive. He agreed his choice reflected his own preference if he was the potential target of the feedback. He would not want someone to bring the toilet paper to his attention.

  •  She said, “I would not hesitate to say ‘that’s a great pair of shoes and they will look even better when you remove those four feet of toilet paper trailing behind you’.”

She indicated she would be relaxed with her response and comfortable with however the receiver handled it.

Haven’t many of us faced a similar “toilet paper” type issue? What have you done? And as a person with trailing toilet paper, what would you want people to tell you?

In couple communications, attitudes about compliments and the line between negative and constructive feedback are important. Couples often are not clear/do not agree on the difference between the two. The result is a history of conflict, poor communication, or incomplete communication.

In this next week, initiate a discussion with your partner, good friend, or close colleague. Discover similarities and differences in values or habits regarding compliments, constructive feedback, sensitivity to criticism, and other feedback issues. Your communication will improve.

Push back with your opinions and experiences. What do you think?

 © Copyright 2012 P.H. Pickett, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

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No Secrets in Marriage: Relationship Goal or Loss of Privacy?

Do you believe a great marriage is only built on no secrets? I think it depends on what you consider ‘secrets’.

Each partner will always know more about themselves than does the other. We can think we know it all or have told it all— that is seldom the case.

Consider this. Undisclosed information can be divided into secrets, surprises, and privacy.

  • Secrets are the kinds of things we advise our kids not to keep.  This helps      protect them. 

In committed adult partnerships, keeping secrets often suggests the need to hide something bad or cover up information. Hiding this secretive knowledge might function to prevent:

1. Verbal or physical abuse

2.  Surrendering individual rights to decision making

3.  Triggering of anger, frustration, or upset

4.   Loss of face

5.  Collapse of the relationship.


  • Surprises, in general, are considered the good things we hold in confidence temporarily.  But even so, not everybody appreciates surprises.


  • Privacy is an individual right to which we are all entitled—even in our intimate relationships. But how much? If we overvalue our privacy, intimacy is blocked. Too little privacy can compromise individuality and personal rights.


All three categories define limits in a marriage. The impact of secrets in a marriage depends on your marriage goals and the (healthy and unhealthy) relationship boundaries formed by secrets, surprises, and privacy.


  • Push back with your opinions and experiences. What do you think?



 © Copyright 2012 P.H. Pickett, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

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Marriage Improvement and Nagging for Change: Tomatoes Can’t Be Baseballs

Have you gotten a melody, jingle, or phrase stuck in your brain that twists and resists purging? My recent struggle was with a message on a church marquee. Usually the sayings are corny ‘no duh’ platitudes.  I easily dismiss them; however, here’s one I could not shake: “Tomatoes Can’t Be Baseballs”.  For miles, I failed to delete that phrase from my mental spin——

Surely a tomato can look more like a baseball— you can paint it white and add stitch-looking dotted lines. You might get by with throwing it around—-depending on its ripeness. But….. hitting it with a bat? A foam bat would….Enough! I failed to make meaning of it. Next  my mind flipped to the challenge of people and change. People are not tomatoes or baseballs.

Have you wanted (or nagged) your partner to change? Is she a tomato and you want a baseball?  Did you expect your husband to change after you married him? With the strength of habits and experience of history, many believe their partners cannot change their basic nature. I disagree.

External factors can impact the extent of personal change and physical attributes play a role. But personal change and self-improvement are primarily fueled by imagination, motivation, generation of choices, and action, of course.

A healthy person’s capacity for change is shaped by his/her own expectations. People can accept influence from others to change. Influence in the form of ‘you first’ carries the greatest weight.

You can not make your partner change—only yourself.  But if you want to increase the odds that your partner will change, set expectations of change for yourself and DO IT!  Nix the nag! Then look for the impact of your influence on your partner.

  • Push back with your opinions and experiences.

        What do you think?

 © Copyright 2012 P.H. Pickett, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permissions.





Sex, Emotion, and Intimacy: Are You Sexy to Your Wife?

Sex is not a dirty word. Emotion is not wimpy. Intimacy is not a stupid buzzword. If you are not getting “enough” sexual attention from your wife, stop blaming her. Maybe you need to jump into bed with intimacy?  Have you lost your sexy AND intimate edge with her?

What makes a man sexy to his wife? Even in the face of the gender stereotypic turnoffs—- pot bellies, poor grooming, couch potato syndrome, sports’ addict focus, boozing, smoking, and immature behaviors—- male initiative to generate emotional intimacy turns a marriage sexy. Intimacy is what bonds the couple together and creates the experience of a close connection.

The other day my wonderful husband was unshaven with coffee breath and dressed in house grubbies when he unexpectedly blurted out a sincere and emotional, “I love the sh_t out of you, babe!!” His provocative emotional expressiveness was accented by his endearing “in-love” look. I am clueless as to how I triggered his spontaneous communication—–but it was a huge intimate turn on for me.

What turns YOUR wife on? Quickly—-name five things. You can’t? No wonder you’re not sexy to her. Start an intimate discussion tonight and invite her to join in with you.



  • Push back with your opinions and experiences.

  What do you think?

 © Copyright 2012 P.H. Pickett, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permissions.









Do You Like Being Married?

Dr. Martin Luther King is quoted as stating that “There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.” Nevertheless, there are too many people who do not like their marriages—-for one reason or another.

Certain long term married women (even though they deny any interest in  divorce), adamantly state they would not remarry if widowed.  They explain that they do not want to be controlled or take care of anyone ever again. They want to do their own thing. And too many women with young children vow to ‘wait it out’ in their marriages for the ‘right’ time to divorce. They forecast their certain divorces into the future—when the kids enter school, are teenagers, go to college, leave home….

WOW! Are these wives simply tolerating unsatisfactory marriages and biding their time until death occurs or the optimum time to divorce arrives?

Women who have enjoyed a happy, healthy marriage are not so resistant to remarriage after widowhood—-and certainly not for those reasons. Women in unhappy unions, but committed to two parent households for financial realities and the perceived benefits to children, do not need to sacrifice themselves through the process.

If you are unhappy being married as you are, change yourself and your expectations. Create a better self and relationship instead of just tolerating your marriage until ‘death do you part’ or until a ‘better’ time to divorce. Reduce your stress and increase your self- care or you could be doing the ‘dying and parting and divorcing’ first—–at least emotionally.


  • Push back with your opinions and experiences.

 What do you think?

 © Copyright 2012 P.H. Pickett, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permissions.