My guest today is Terry Real, and we’re going to cover some advanced strategies for thriving in your relationship. Whether it’s how to recover from a grievous wrong, how to keep your relationship healthy, or how an unconventional way to take a relationship from good to great - there’s lots to discover in this conversation!

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Terry is a nationally recognized family therapist, author, and he has appeared on Good Morning America, Oprah, ABC News, and 20/20. In private practice for over 25 years , his most recent book is The New Rules of Marriage: What you Need to Know to Make Love Work.  He is here to discuss his newest book and tell us practical ways to make our marriages and relationships exceptional.

Terry sets the stage by sharing how relationships today are different than they have been historically.  People today have much higher expectations of what their relationship will be in their lives. The problem is that most people haven’t mastered the sophisticated set of skills needed to maintain the kind of relationship that they want. The purpose of his book (and this episode) is to give you the skills that you need.

Terry discusses the following details about relationships:

  • The phases of Harmony, Disillusionment, and Acceptance/Repair. What stage are you in now? The cycles are ever-repeating - which should give you hope if you happen to be in a state of disillusionment at the moment. If that’s the case, what would it take to move your relationship towards Repair?

  • Cherishing. While it sounds simple (and is simple in many ways), Terry actually devoted an entire chapter to it in his book. Are you focused on appreciating your partner’s good qualities? How do you let them know?

  • Terry discusses the losing relationship strategies of harshness and self-righteous indignation. “Harshness has no redeeming value of any kind.  There is nothing that harshness accomplishes that loving firmness doesn’t accomplish better.”

  • He refers to his “Winning Strategies,” including shifting from a negative past-focus to a positive future-focus.  He also explains his “Golden Rule.”

  • Terry has a 3-step action plan for a spouse to follow if their partner isn’t ready or willing to change the relationship. Dare to rock the boat. “Listen - this is really important to me!” Once you have their attention, help them WIN. Tell your partner what you need in order to make the situation better. Then, make it worth their while! Give positive feedback. Celebrate steps in the right direction, even if it’s not fully what you want it to be.

  • Put an end to the Cinderella Syndrome! It’s ok to ask for what you want.  

  • We each have a Core Negative Image of our partner - it is how we imagine them to be when they are at their WORST. It is an exaggeration, not even an accurate description of them at their worst - but there are bits of reality in them. Anything that you do that reinforces your partner’s Core Negative Image of you has the potential to create problems in your relationship. Anything you can do that’s the OPPOSITE of that will create enormous growth in your relationship.

  • Because we get together with our “unfinished business” - our relationships have enormous Healing Potential. The gift of our relationships is what we do, how we heal, when we encounter these problems that are echoes of the past and resolve them.

  • If you have a strong relationship, you can use the Dead Stop. In a dead stop, if you see your partner starting to act like your Core Negative Image of them, you let them know (using a keyword, such as “pineapple” is helpful) - and they stop everything, and without being defensive, apologize! Acknowledge what they’re seeing. And use it as an opportunity to release your need to be right, and instead to build connection with your partner.

  • Terry gives advice about recovering from a grievous wrong in a relationship, such as infidelity or other marriage disasters. First, the person who committed the wrong needs to be accountable for their actions. Next, address the hurt partner. Recognize that they are fundamentally disoriented - help them make sense of what happened. Dealing with their trauma. Then, re-establish trust. The past needs needs to be seen as the past. A demarcation ritual acknowledging the new, transformed relationship can be amazing. The crisis has the ability to transform us if we rise to the occasion. It can also be helpful to get outside help in these situations.

  • FYI - Terry teaches live workshops all over the United States for couples and singles. An amazing experience to take your relationship to the next level.

  • Use the relationship grid in order to diagnose where you are in terms of your boundaries and self-esteem - where do you need to improve?

  • “True intimacy is not the absence of tension, but the management of tension and using tension to grow.”

Links and Resources:

The New Rules of Marriage on Amazon

Please visit Terry’s website,  for all kinds of free information about his work AND a free intimacy test to see where you are and where you need to grow.

The Relationship Alive Community on Facebook 

This guide and episode are also available at

Text "PASSION" to 33444 to download a pdf of the show guide (and be entered for a free giveaway of a signed copy of Calling in the One within the first week of this show's airing)


AMAZING intro and outtro music graciously provided courtesy of The Railsplitters - Check them out HERE