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Book Summary for We Love Each Other, But…

by | May 25, 2021

We Love Each Other, But… by Dr. Ellen Wachtel is a book I often recommend to others.  These are my personal notes from the book.  These are not all direct quotes, but also paraphrases and added commentary from me.  A * designates a note-worthy point.  As always, reading the book for yourself is suggested.  

4 truths about what makes love last:

1. We love those who make us feel good about ourselves.

The simple truth is frequently ignored. 

Think back to how you made each other feel the beginning of your relationship. 

Mutual admiration, ego boost, and close tender interested communication is doable and needed. 

Most couples could give each other that feeling of appreciation if they simply thought to do so. 

Others hold the mistaken notion that when you are married you are to be able to assume that you hold each other in high regard and verbalizing it seems ridiculous. 

Expressing admiration goes beyond saying I love you. 

Pay attention, make them feel good about them self, give them a pat on the back. 

Too often people feel unknown at home and Unnoticed. 

You can still make your partner feel good about themselves even when they annoy or disappoint you. 

Couples withhold positive feedback because they think it has been canceled out by disappointments. 

But withholding admiration and praise because you’re angry is just plain distractive. 

The more that each of you withhold praise, the more alienated from each other you will become. 

Practice noticing things that you like and admire. Then use specific observations.

2. Most of us know what will warm our partners heart.

We all know what warms our partners heart if we stop to think about it. 

When people are angry and hurt they gradually stop doing the things that make their partner feel warmly toward them. 

Often this happens without any plan or conscious decision. 

few of us actually decide to withhold or punish though of course this can happen. 

Rather when we feel hurt and angry it just doesn’t occur to us to be emotionally generous. 

Gestures can be small doable and not extravagant. 

Gestures can be a part of your every day interactions. (our loves list) 

you do not have to be feeling great about each other to do the things that warm each others Heart. 

What are you do need is goodwill and a desire to have a loving relationship. 

Love needs daily nourishment.

3. Criticism erodes love.

The willingness to accept  criticism seems to erode overtime. 

Biggest complaint from couples is that they constantly feel scrutinized and evaluated. 

What was acceptable during courtship stage rapidly begins to feel undermining and negative. 

When you become your partners critic instead of the president of his fan club you’re headed for trouble. 

Criticism is not the way to get your partner to change. 

You need to be very selective about what you do criticize. 

Ask yourself is this really important. 

For most couples even one criticism a day is too much.

4. There is no such thing as unshakable immutable affair resistant love

Don’t stop giving each other admiration recognition and emotional support that nourishes love. 

The wish to be loved and to feel you are a joy to another person’s life is one of the most powerful human motivators.

  • We love each other but every decision is a tug-of-war

Finding the right balance between I and we are tricky business. 

Ex- he won’t do it if I suggest it. 

Ask yourself honestly do I really care. 

You get nowhere with a sledgehammer.


Stuck in opposing positions in part because you do not elaborate enough on the various components of your preference. 

Provide more details and plant seeds. 

* Spark the imagination of your partner rather than stubbornly trying to push your ideas. 

Communicate and compromise.

Arguing your point long and hard enough that they wear each other down. 

Not healthy for relationships to have a winner and a loser. 

Both parties lose when one person feels defeated. 

A successful negotiation allows both sides to walk away from the table happy with the outcome. 

1. Try your best to find out the concerns of your partner and don’t dismiss them. He genuinely interested. Who does it become defensive and attack back when they feel assaulted? 

2. Big decisions you will need to have several conversations. Good negotiations take time.

3. Think of these differences as an opportunity to find creative solutions.

There are two ways for couples to resolve differences: compromising or finding a third mutually agreeable alternative. 

This requires creative thinking as well. 

Finding a third alternative that will satisfy both you and your partner is a better way to resolve differences. 

On important issues a third alternative is much better choice than a compromise. 

* Most complex issues come from the mistaken assumption that only one thing will make each person happy.

* Treating your partner like an adversary instead of a friend will lead to a stalemate and Chip away at the Love and trust that are the foundation of the relationship.

Expecting too much accommodation and coordination gets many couples in trouble. 

If one person is doing more accommodating than the other, a resentment can build up and unexpectedly erupt. 

One person may become overwhelmed with the feeling of having given up his or her identity. 

People sometimes need to march to their own drummer. 

When a couple allows each other more autonomy the gratifying parts of the relationship become more obvious and closeness returns. 

* Accept your differences and find ways for each of you to have it your way. 

* No strategy can replace an attitude of goodwill and a wish to see your partner happy. 

* Use creative brainstorming and remember that you’re on the same side.

  • We really love each other but we get into really bad fights

Learn to De-escalate:

Once a fight starts to escalate you no longer hear one another. You just get frustrated and lose hope. Fear and a relationship is not conducive to love and intimacy.

  • establish a stop rule. Only one of you has to feel uncomfortable with this argument to invoke the stop role.
  • Learn to recognize when a disagreement is escalating into a bad fight.
  • Disengage and allow your partner to withdrawal, to deep blood, to calm down. Write down thoughts/points for a later time. Plan in advance what u will do to calm. Self control leads to self esteem. Remember the positive feelings you have for your partner. Splitting: a person is either all good or bad; causes you to only feel love or hate; wonder if you love them. Physically withdraw to calm down.
  • Set a date to talk again. 24 hrs.
  • Honestly agree to consider the others point of view. Don’t just ignore, avoid, stuff

How to talk about what’s bothering you:

  • Talk about difficult subjects when you feel close to your partner not when you feel angry. These are what checkins are for.
  • talk about what pleases you not only about what bothers you. Use the sandwich method.
  • shorter is better. No rambling, venting, or spewing. Have a back-and-forth, though. Speaking short paragraphs. Limit to 20 minutes.
  • stick to the point and don’t revisit old hurts. Don’t revisit old injuries that have been discussed many times before. *  Decide it’s over. Fresh impacts are on you to deal with.
  • be careful what you say, harmful words can’t be taken back.

How to listen to complaints:

  • listen for what you can understand and not for what you disagree with.
  • don’t counter punch, the importance of timing and context. Do not respond to your partners complaint with a complaint of your own. * Escalation is almost inevitable when the response to criticism is counter criticism. Escalations occur when the person with a complaint feels unheard and unacknowledged. No how matter genuine your concerns are, by raising them in response to the others criticism they turn the focus to their  concerns and then the other person understandably feels frustrated and dismissed. Stick to one persons complaints at a time.
  • stay focused on the main point not on irrelevant details. You’ll lose all focus if you don’t. Learn how to hear the main point. Ask yourself: what’s the main point they are addressing to me right now? What I’m hearing being addressed is.l _.
  • don’t play psychologist. Don’t analyze, diagnose, and interpret. They perceive these as attacks.
  • don’t beat a dead horse, try to give honest thought to your partner’s point of you. It’s not productive to continue on and on with the argument. Agree to give a serious honest thought and get back to each other. Consider a specific point not saying generally I’ll think about it.


couples tend to get bogged down in the issue of apologies because the apology serves as an admission of guilt. 

Most hurtful events involve two people behaving in relation to each other. 

If an apology means that the hurt party bears no responsibility for what happened then often the partner will not want to apologize. 

Accept these statements as apologies: I regret having said that, I wish I hadn’t done that, I didn’t mean to hurt you… 

You may not feel totally satisfied but it’s enough. 

Demanding an apology can be harmful. It’s humiliating. 

Heartfelt and spontaneous apologies go a long way.

  • We love each other but we don’t have much of a sex life

Your partners dissatisfaction can make you feel guilty and in adequate. Then comes defensiveness about the problem rather than addressing it. 

Common mistake to believe that nothing can be done about a lack of desire or low sex drive. 

Familiarity definitely affects sexual desire. The intensity of the early stages of a relationship is not sustainable.

When you’ve lost interest:

  1. Make contact a part of your daily life and small but erotic ways. Remember that your lovers. Each a little bit of a Roddick contact you have with each other throughout the day keeps your sexual self from going into hibernation. Tease.
  2. Let your sexual contacts linger in your memory. Remember to remember. Visualize them as the same man you make love to.
  3. Stop look and listen. Daily demands of jobs and family life make it difficult for sexual arousal to occur naturally. Although teaching tapes or soft porn feels unnatural, it’s just as unnatural to let your sexuality disappear.
  4. Enjoy your own body. Relax. Listen to good music.
  5. Have sex even if you think you are not interested. * Waiting until you’re in the mood is probably the most common reason that couples begin to lose interest. * The less you have it the less you want it. Use sexual contact to get in the mood.
  6. Plan it.  Overcome the idea that sex should be spontaneous, planning works very well. You may actually feel annoyed when your partner tries to initiate something spontaneously. Planned dates are pleasurable so why not planned sex. Have an attitude of, let’s set aside this time to be with one another and we’ll see where it goes.

With a spirit of cooperation and commitment to making the other happy, you can do many things to get more in sync.

  • learn and know how to please one another.
  • Be a good sport about your partners directives and not to interpret them as criticisms.
  • Verbally communicate when you do like something.
  • Substitute empathy for anger. Know that it takes time.
  • Expand your repertoire so that you and your partner have the opportunity to find more areas that overlap.
  • Take turns.
  • It’s not realistic to think that you’re both going to like everything equally.
  • Expect to need warm up time. Your mind may be preoccupied in the beginning but your body will respond anyway.
  • Make love. Not just sex.
  • Bring back the loving feelings you have for one another into the bedroom.
  • Convey love physically by adding tender caressing touches. Kiss. Take
  • some time together before and after sex.
  • We love each other but I have a hard time dealing with my partners emotional hangups

Know your partner’s specific sensitivities and hotspots. 

Some common hotspots that lead to arguments: 

social situations, clutters and messes, stickler for accuracies, bickering, annoyed when asked what they’re feeling, walking out of a room, endless discussions, other people, tone or sarcasm, doing something incorrectly, feeling overburdened by responsibility, responding negatively to hysterical emotions, telling your partner that they’re being selfish or uncaring or not nice…, Reacts if you tell them they seem a certain way like depressed or anxious.

understand your own contribution to the problem. 

What do you know about yourself that might contribute to the conflicts that you and your partner have? 

* People rarely link what they know about themselves to the problematic interactions they have with their partner. 

Treat your partners vulnerabilities as opportunities to be loving rather than just bugged or irritated. Think about what warms your partner’s heart.

Five ways to use the knowledge of your own/your partners sensitivities:

  • even if your partners sensitivities seem irrational, try to accommodate them anyway. Think about where you can comfortably and creatively accommodate to your partners emotional issues. Your partner must feel that you were working hard on your own issues too.
  • Prevent automatic emotional reactions by taking into account what you know about your partner. Criticism is always hard to take but it’s particularly difficult if it taps into self-doubt and anxieties that go beyond the specifics of the complaint. The preface helps interrupt the tendency to over generalized.
  • Acknowledge your own sensitivities and turn criticisms into requests. The more you can Count your request as having to do with your needs rather than your partner’s feelings, the more likely you are to be hard.
  • Avoid fighting words. Don’t say things that almost always lead to trouble. Telling your partner that they are on caring and considerate or selfish only leads to counter criticisms.
  • Don’t make psychological interpretations of your partner’s behavior.

How to be in control of your feelings:

Feelings can change rapidly in response to new information. 

What we think directly affects our feelings. (ctfar) 

* Decide whether you actually want to change the feeling. 

Many people believe that what they feel is the truth and if they alter their feelings they put on blinders. 

  • Stop building your case. You have a little to gain in painting a portrait and with your partner is a bad guy. Confirmation bias. If you win you also lose because you’ve worked yourself up into an unhealthy state of mind.
  • Try to notice the kernels of alternative feelings you also have. Small passing thoughts that could also be true. Don’t push those away in order to build your case.
  • Argue with yourself. Assume the best or better position. Think about talking to yourself the way a good friend would to help you gain perspective.
  • Make an effort to put yourself in a better mood. self soothe. Know how to help yourself.
  • We used to love each other but now I’m not so sure

Many couples feel chronically disappointed in their marriages. 

They feel like nothing seems to work. 

They feel shame because they’ve been spinning their wheels for years unable to go forward but yet unable to call it quits.

Many feel emotionally tortured by their uncertainty about whether to leave the marriage. 

Vicious cycles develop when people are hurt and angry. 

Even one person in the couple can break a pattern of vicious cycles. 

Small changes in how you act can lead to changes in others behavior even if they don’t consciously decide to be different.

* The first step in getting unstuck is to notice what YOU are doing in response to your partners actions.

For tips for getting change started: 

  • make changes even if your partner doesn’t. Many people remain stuck because neither person wants to change until their partner does. Waiting for the other person to make changes first often gets the couple into a deeper and deeper hole. Power struggles develop. It may take a while for your partner to notice and respond to your gesture of goodwill. Be patient. Maintain your commitment to change your part in the vicious cycle for at least 4 to 6 weeks before concluding anything.
  • Remember the proverb you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Everybody responds better to praise than to criticism.  A common characteristic of stuck relationships is that each person keeps trying to motivate the other through criticism. Notice any step in the right direction no matter how small it is. Respond positively to that step without tacking on criticism of what hasn’t been done or what remains to be done. The more praise people receive the more inclined they will be to change. If you continue to express anger and criticism your relationship will continue to go downhill.
  • Be emotionally generous. Stuck couples have stopped being nice to one another. Decide to be nice. Our loves list. Many times both Expect the other to begrudge and keep accounts. Don’t keep score.
  • Walk in your partner shoes. Listen to each other’s point of you. Don’t have the I’m right you’re wrong attitude. Mentally argue his side instead of your own: what bothers him, what does he want? When one person gives even a little by saying I can understand why you feel that way the process of getting unstuck has begun. * Understanding must then be followed by action.


  • If they really loved me then why did they do that? Possible reasons: an ego boost when self-esteem is low, depression, confusion, stress. Reasons don’t excuse but they can help you understand that your partners behavior doesn’t mean that they don’t really love you- there were other factors at play.
  • How could a moral person do that? Intense emotions and rationalization lead people to act out of character. Think of your own moral mistakes and limitations. No one is perfect.
  • Do people ever get over feeling humiliated and manipulated? Understanding that your partner wants to protect you rather than hurt you can help you get past the hurt of being lied to, deceived, or manipulated.
  • Why do I have to focus on my part of the problem? It doesn’t mean that you both have equal responsibility for what happened. But you need to understand how each of you has contributed to weakening the relationship. The saint/sinner mentality is dangerous. By acknowledging your share of the problems that existed prior to the betrayal, you give your spouse some hope that you can eventually work things out between you.
  • Will I ever be able to relax and trust again without being suspicious all the time? It will never quite be the same. But the day in and day out sense that you and your partner are making each other feel good helps develop trust. All marriages need to remain working toward connection, so remembering what could happen isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
  • How can I go on in my marriage thinking my partner was in love with someone else? Establishing boundaries. Your partner should have as little contact as possible with the X.
  • How can I believe he wants to be with me when I know he was in love with someone else? Affirmations. There are many kinds of love. You can develop a stronger more loving relationship than you had before the betrayal.
  • Am I wrong to keep asking them about their love for me because they feel annoyed of the constant reassurance they have to give me? It can be annoying when someone obsessively asks for reassurance. But your spouse needs to know that in time you will feel better and won’t need to ask for reassurance so often. It’s also helpful to know that * complements and spontaneously expressing warm feelings are far far more powerful than the reassurances that you pull out of them. Approach your partner with the attitude that you too have faults and are willing to learn about your role in the marital problems and they will probably more will be willing to give it a try.
  • We love each other but life with children isn’t easy

A common dissatisfaction that I hear from couples is that their relationship is more about chores and responsibilities than friendship intimacy and fun. Romance seems like a distant memory never to return again. 

How to stay lovers even if your parents:

stop feeling guilty. You are not being selfish or neglecting the children if you and your partner spend time together without them.  children become anxious when their parents don’t get along. Children want their parents to have a good relationship.

Keeping romance alive:

  • develop a ritual to spend 15 minutes alone together every day. Couples don’t think to do this. Experiment with what works best. The purpose of your time together is to connect as a couple not as parents. Talk about things That don’t have anything to do with kids and family life.
  • Go out together. Apply the same role to your date, no talking about kids or chores. Drop things down on a list to talk about. Make a conscious effort to engage your spouse in an interesting non-family oriented way.
  • Have dates at home.
  • Break the rules. Go out during the week. Meet after work. Use a sitter for daytime hours.
  • Steal a sexy moment. Remember that sexuality is still part of your relationship. You should not accept that decreased interest in sex as inevitable.
  • Get the kids to bed earlier. Children will learn to fall asleep easily in their own room by themselves.

Dealing with anxiety about leaving the kids: 

attachment to children interferes with your relationship. It makes one spouse feel excluded. Feeling unimportant may lead your partner to disengage emotionally. Ask yourself honestly if you do substitute your child for your spouse.

Conflicts over responsibilities: 

your partner will become resentful if they feel like they’re doing more than their share. Don’t engage in the mentality that someone else has it easier. They lead to feeling misunderstood and unappreciated. Instead of listening for the truth and what the other is saying they look for how they can prove their point. Give up control wives. Don’t micromanage everything your husband is related to the kids. 

Reducing stress of family life: 

sometimes less is more. Don’t schedule activities for a weekend. Children need to learn how to entertain themselves and need more unstructured time. Be there when you’re there. 

Being relaxed while you’re at home with your children is far more important in the long run then completing your chores. 

Each parent gets some time off from family life and for some breathing space. Don’t take your partners wish to be alone as a personal rejection.

Improving your child’s behavior: 

many parents have trouble insisting on good behavior. If your leniency results in your own resentment and exhaustion after spending time with your child you’re not doing yourself or your marriage or your child a favor by being non-authoritarian. 

Get more comfortable setting limits. Tolerate unpleasant and annoying behavior only leads to outbursts and resentment. Upset with a child often leads to an argument with your spouse. Give timeouts. Children feel more secure when they know their limits.

Use positive reinforcement, praise and rewards. 

Know that your kids still want to be nurtured as if they were still very young. 

Teach your child to be self comforting. Don’t ask the child’s permission by adding OK? By asking your child what he can do to make himself feel better, you communicate that comfort is something that he can give himself. Help your child write down these things or draw pictures that will remind him of things he can do to feel better. When you ask your child what he could say to himself to help him feel better you give him an important tool to use in many situations throughout his life. Praise your child when they figure it out.

  • We love each other and we get along well but is this it?

Dull. Bland. Boring marriages. 

Stay attractive. Use politeness and manners. Make an effort. 

Don’t be too natural with one another like the way you are with your sibling. 

Don’t just treat them as a friend but as a lover too. 

Comfortableness should have its limits.

Impolite behavior suggest that you’re not important to them. 

Taking them for granted communicates that there not important. 

Going to bed at different times and just disappearing communicates that you don’t need to say good night to one another. 

Entering or leaving the home without saying goodbye communicate you don’t care. 

Get used to saying routine phrases like good morning and how was your day. 

Add tinder gestures of caring and feelings of warmth and love. 

Extend a hand to help your partner or offer to help them in someway. 

Make sure these gestures go in both directions.

When you chronically unburden yourself to your spouse though they may accept the behavior, it can lead to emotional distancing. 

In order to preserve vitality, continue day in and day out to care about being engaged and interested in your partner. 

When you stop caring you set the stage for serious deterioration. 

Chronic and constant expression of negative feelings can wear thin the patience of even those who love you the most. 

Your real self is as much how you act with friends as it is how you act when you make a little or no effort to be interesting. 

*  Allow support notice and appreciate the ways the other is changing. 

*  It feels great to be seen by your partner. Sometimes we behave differently with certain people. 

We all have many possible selves. 

Different people bring out different aspects of our personalities. 

Many people want their spouses to know them the way that their coworkers do. 

Humans seem to have brains wired in such a way that we often see what we expect to see rather than what is actually there. 

You actually Do act differently  at home. There’s many reasons for this but one is just habitual patterns. 

*  Good or bad, We tend to live up to others expectations of us.

Often times couples have rigid definitions of themselves and of each other. 

When you have rigidly  defined roles each person remain stuck for life in a role that they may no longer want to have. 

By noticing and supporting these behaviors you give each other one of the most valuable gifts possible, the gift of really being known and being allowed to change. 

Don’t pigeonhole yourself. 

Don’t say things like this is the way I am or this is what I like or don’t like. 

* Your marriage is much more interesting if you remain open to trying new things and having new experiences. 

Good moods are often contagious. 

It’s not easy to juggle a job and children but even a little time spent developing your own interest is time well spent.

have an” I’m game”  attitude and a willingness to try new things. 

Have little adventures. Take up a new hobby or learning a sport. Start to tell jokes. Dance play music learn to cook. Meet each other for a drink after work, play pool together.

* Continue to surprise yourself and each other.

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