Dr. Don Cole on PBS Living Smart with Patricia Gras 2011
Don and Carrie on Great Day Houston 2009
Dr. Don Cole and Carrie Cole have been interviewed by local and syndicated TV shows, radio, newspapers and magazines. Meet Dr. Don Cole and Carrie Cole in the various media venues through which they have been interviewed.
Great Day Houston – February, 2009 – Don & Carrie Cole
Living Smart with Patti Gras – June, 2011 – Don Cole
Contribution to The Chicago Tribune – May, 2013 – Don Cole & Carrie Cole
Contribution to ME Magazine – Summer, 2013 – Carrie Cole
Contribution to USA Today’s Best Years Magazine – October, 2013 – Don Cole
Contribution to Brazilian Revista Trip Magazine (in English – Trip Magazine) Summer, 2013 – Don Cole
Contribution to Chilean magazine La Tercera Magazine – Summer, 2013 – Don Cole
Contribution to Woman’s World Magazine – August 12, 2013 – Carrie Cole
Contribution to Verily Magazine – November, 2013 – Carrie Cole
Contribution to Verily Magazine on Sirius XM Radio Channel 106– August 28, 2013
Mom, it’s a day that’s just for you — or is it?
May 12, 2013|Heidi Stevens | Balancing Act
Mother’s Day is the mother of all conundrums.
“Are you supposed to plan a celebration that includes the kids?” a colleague asked me. “Or plan a day that gives her a break from the kids?”
He’s a dad of two little ones. He wanted to do the right thing. I’m a mom of two little ones. He thought I might know the right thing. But I am, however, terrible at predicting what other people will like. I have nightmares about working at a marketing firm:
So they’re turtles. That are also ninjas. And they’re mutant. And teenagers. Who in their right mind would buy those? Next!
So it’s a square-shaped sponge. That wears pants. And it lives in a what? I’m sorry, I thought you said it lives in a pineapple. Ha ha ha, that’s hilarious. Next!
None of the cool toys are brought to market, thanks to me, and I stand in an unemployment line muttering about the unhailed beauty of Lincoln Logs.
None of this, of course, helps my colleague plan Mother’s Day.
“Both?” I tried. “Your kids are the whole reason for the day. But you sort of need to get away from them if you’re actually going to enjoy yourself. Er, I mean, get a pedicure.”
Here’s when a third colleague joined in.
“So why is it different for Father’s Day?” he asked. “If you want to spend Father’s Day away from your kids, you’re a terrible dad.”
He’s got a point. This is when I decided to call on some experts. Don and Carrie Cole are certified couples therapists with the Seattle-based Gottman Relationship Institute (gottman.com), a research center whose sole purpose is to strengthen marriages. (They’re married to each other.)
Is there a right way to celebrate these holidays?
“There’s not a right or wrong answer,” Carrie Cole said. “The important thing is knowing what the mother or father would appreciate on their day. What they would enjoy.”
But how do you know? What do you, like, ask them?
“Research shows the most successful couples are the ones that are most tuned in to each other,” Don Cole said. “We also know a lot of couples go through life without taking the time to ask each other questions like, ‘What do you want Mother’s Day or Father’s Day to mean?’ They just kind of go through life being disappointed every year.”
Sounds like the opposite of celebratory. Why would we do this?
“Some people are afraid of touching off an argument or bad feelings so they take the avoidance route,” Don Cole said.
“We assume a belief of similarity with our partner,” Carrie Cole said. “We think our partner would feel similarly to how we feel about the day.”
Thankfully, there’s a better way.
“We encourage couples to sit down and have ‘meanings’ conversations,” Don Cole said. “In this case, there are three questions they should ask: How was this day acknowledged or celebrated in the family you grew up in? What about that is meaningful to you and would you like to keep, and are there things you would like to add? And what would you like to delete or not have as part of our celebration?”
And try not to hate the answers.
“There’s a lot of parental guilt because we work so much, so if we ask for time to ourselves we worry, ‘Is that selfish?’ or ‘Is my partner going to think I’m selfish?’ ” Don Cole said. “Successful couples accept that fear without attacking each other. ‘You want to play golf? Let’s see if we can work that out and have a picnic with the kids.’ ”
“Develop a culture of appreciation around each individual,” Carrie Cole added. “Look for ways to point out all the things you like about them and appreciate and admire about them.”
This seems like a lovely way to spend Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Flag Day, Columbus Day and, frankly, all the days.
“It also models for your children,” Carrie Cole said. “It teaches them how to be thoughtful to the people we love and teaches them the importance and meaning of that.”
And it still leaves plenty of time for a pedicure. And a picnic.
4 Habits of (Really) Close Couples
Feel close to your partner long after the honeymoon phase
You know those couples: The ones that still hold hands, exchange inside smiles and call each other pet names (even in public). They restore our faith in true love – and also make us wonder whether our own relationships are as tightknit as they could be. But you and your partner don’t have to call each other “schmoopy” to make the long haul. Here’s how close couples stay, well, close.
They treat each other gently.
Every couple fights, but happier ones argue differently, says Carrie Cole, a Gottman-certified couples therapist in Houston. Instead of focusing on what the other person did wrong, they describe how they felt about a situation and what they wish had happened. Then, they listen to their partner’s perspective without dismissing it.
They don’t do everything together.
Rather than finding (or forcing) common interests, happy couples encourage each other to partake in hobbies they love, and cheer their partners on. “They’re interested in what their partner does and what makes it important to them, but they don’t have to want to do it themselves,” Cole says. She adds that while some couples can tolerate a lot of physical closeness, others need more time apart. Discuss what each person needs, and honor requests for alone time.
They prioritize coupledom.
“Two-thirds of all new parents report a reduction in marital satisfaction,” Cole says, “but a third of them do not: They work hard to maintain their connection, and they recognize the importance of being a couple.” Kids or no kids, make it a priority to spend time as a duo. Go to dinner, see a movie or get a couple’s massage.
They’re constantly curious.
Couples shouldn’t stop learning about each other, even after decades of anniversaries. People not only want to feel truly known by their partners, they also want to feel accepted, warts and all. “When we tell stories that are painful to us, it requires a vulnerability,” Cole says, “and when we become vulnerable, we’re giving the other person a weapon to use against us.” Close couples share even the most difficult parts of themselves, and don’t use the information to harm each other. – By Jessica Pucci
The happy state of America’s unions
In exclusive Tribune poll, 1,783 Americans rate their relationship and their priorities
January 04, 2014|Wendy E. Donahue | Tribune reporter
In exclusive Tribune poll, 1,783 Americans rate their relationship and their priorities
Asked, “When was the last time you and your partner argued?” Jason Keller, 31, didn’t hesitate:
“Five minutes ago,” he responded, while shopping with his fiancee, Christina Rosemeyer, 29, over the holidays at their local supermarket in Kansas City, Kan. “It was about how much the turkey cost” — more than Keller expected.
“By the time we got through the checkout line,” he said, “we were fine.”
They drove home, bird in the back, Keller still counting himself among the 94 percent of respondents to a recent poll who said they were very or somewhat happy in their relationship.
Completed by 1,783 adult Americans either married or living with their partner, the survey offers a glimpse of today’s relationship priorities and practices. It was commissioned by Thomson Reuters and conducted by the global research company Ipsos for the Chicago Tribune.
The responses paint a rosy picture of committed partnerships, one in which grievances are aired, chores are shared and intimacy is enjoyed — in short, one that clashes with a 45 percent U.S. divorce rate.
The results are cause for cautious optimism, researchers and therapists say, but to conclude that all of the “happy-nows” will lead to more “happy-ever-afters” is premature.
Self-reports in surveys often accentuate the positive, said Donald L. Cole, a certified couples therapist with the Seattle-based Gottman Institute, which provides science-based support for marriages (gottman.com).
“Direct observation and analysis of the interactions is the way to really learn what’s going on in a relationship,” Cole said. “But this is a good starting point.”
He sees positive signs in some of the more specific survey responses, such as how often partners have heated arguments.
Two-thirds of respondents said “never” or “less than monthly.”
“People are learning to stop the escalating kinds of quarrels, where I say something negative and then she says something more negative,” Cole said. “It’s that cycle of escalating negativity that really messes us up. That ’60s and ’70s idea of venting anger, we now know, doesn’t make things better.”
A “very happy” survey respondent, Calvin Gibbs, 54, attests to that. He and his wife, Ansonia, who works for a suburban Chicago school district, are buying a house about two miles from their town home in Aurora.
“Moving is a very stressful project,” said Gibbs, a former insurance consultant who is shifting to motivational speaking. “What I found is, if she’s upset and I get involved and try to calm her down, I usually end up getting upset. And two upset people cannot have a decent conversation. So one of us takes a walk, and when we’re calm later on, we approach it again.”
After dinner is OK for tough conversations; right after work or at bedtime isn’t.
“When I was out working 9 to 5 and had a bad day, as soon as I walked through the door, the last thing I wanted to hear was more bad news,” he said.
More than 80 percent of survey respondents rated good communication as the top priority.
That doesn’t mean conflict never flares. But successful couples apply repair skills, Cole said, whereas unsuccessful couples tend to withdraw, disregard or escalate.
“Research shows only 31 percent of our problems are solvable; 69 percent are perpetual,” said Carrie Cole, also a certified couples therapist with Gottman and Donald Cole’s wife. “They’re basically differences in personality, in values.”
“Problem-solving is highly overrated,” Donald Cole said. “It’s really accepting the differences.”
Men and women in the survey reported no significant difference in the importance of physical intimacy. More than half of respondents said they engage in physical intimacy weekly or daily.
“That’s a barometer,” Donald Cole said. “Their physical intimacy is going to directly correlate to their friendship. When people are emotionally on the outs with each other, physical intimacy is one of the first things to go.”
Among the “very happy” respondents, Traci Vanchure, 44, of Ashley, Pa., rated physical intimacy “very important.” She and her husband of 13 years, who have five children between them and care for their autistic grandson, define intimacy broadly.
“The main thing is, we kiss each other every morning, and every night say ‘I love you.’ We usually sit down and watch a movie together,” Vanchure said. “That’s what’s most important, being able to sit and snuggle. The other stuff happens when it happens, when you have time.”
Another “very happy” respondent, Larry Ottolini, 67, a former field engineer who lives in Mineral, Va., said he would prefer more physical intimacy with his wife.
“We both have a few more bulges in the wrong places than 34 years ago,” he said, “but it still drives me wild when my wife comes out of the shower and into the bedroom to dress.”
He also worries more than his wife does about having enough money to last through retirement.
But they’re unfailingly there for each other, he said, whether after surgery or on a summer afternoon.” We’ll take the pontoon out on Lake Anna and listen to the radio and watch the sunset, or take the grandkids out to swim or fish,” Ottolini said.
Accepting differences isn’t the same as “settling,” anathema to the “Sex and the City” generation.
“What research shows is that couples who set the bar high are couples who succeed,” Donald Cole said. “They have high expectations that I’m going to love my partner, and my partner is going to love me. Marriage is supposed to be fulfilling, it’s supposed to be beneficial.”
About 66 percent of women in the survey said they handle the majority or all of the household chores. About 35 percent of men report they handle about half or more of child-rearing duties.
“Men still may be behind the curve, present company included, in terms of day-to-day washing dishes,” Donald Cole said. “But the survey showed a high level of mutual parenting. That is huge.”
A “very happy” respondent, Patricia Brown, 29, of De Leon, Texas, said she and her partner of three years have four children, ages 8, 6, 2 and 8 months, two of whom are from her previous relationship. Her partner loves all of the children equally, she said.
“He cleans house, he does dishes, he helps with the kids,” she said. “We do almost everything together, and it’s kind of great.”
Survey respondent Mercedes Behzadi, 38, who is rearing three young children with husband Dara in New Buffalo, Mich., said she and her husband support each other’s interests and priorities.
“My family is in Argentina, so two years ago the children and I went and stayed for two months, and he was really a trouper, with an empty house, knowing that sharing time with extended family is so important,” said Behzadi, who is “very happy” with her marriage.
The Tribune survey results echo findings of recent decades, in which most Americans have reported very high levels of relationship quality, said Susan L. Brown, co-director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
“What’s interesting is it’s not as highly predictive of divorce as we would think,” Brown, a professor of sociology, said. “The divorce rate has been quite stable since the ’80s.”
One ray of light has emerged from recent research, she said.
“For young people, the divorce rate has been decreasing compared to prior generations. That reflects fewer people getting married these days, with many cohabiting instead,” Brown said. “But we also are starting to see evidence the divorce rate might be declining modestly for people in their 20s and 30s.”
Because barriers to divorce have fallen, those who remain in committed relationships are more likely to be happy, skewing survey results, said Arthur Aron, a social psychologist and relationship researcher at Stony Brook University and the University of California at Berkeley.
“Also, people want to believe they’re happy,” Aron said. “But, controlling for tendencies such as self-deception, happy marriages really can exist.”
Research in past decades focused on identifying relationship problems.
“Now we’re looking more at how to make things good, not just OK,” Aron said.
There’s solid evidence that a couple’s relationship benefits when they do novel, challenging, exciting things together, he said.
“It doesn’t have to be parachuting,” he said.
It can be starting a vegetable garden, which the Behzadis did together last summer. (Tomatoes flourished; cucumbers didn’t.)
Celebrating a partner’s success, what researchers call “capitalization,” also correlates with happiness, Aron said.
“Your partner gets a promotion or just finds something that was lost, and you celebrate it,” he said.
Recognizing his wife’s artistic talents, Dara Behzadi, a high school teacher, encouraged her to paint an umbrella for a charity auction in a neighboring town a few years ago.
“I don’t think I would have done it if he hadn’t pushed me,” Mercedes Behzadi said. “He said, ‘You can do it!’ ”
She has now, for five years.
Just being noticed and appreciated contributes to happiness, said Terri L. Orbuch, who has followed 373 couples over 27 years in a study called “The Early Years of Marriage Project,” funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.
“What I found is small gestures, like saying ‘thank you,’ ‘I love you,’ ‘you’re special ,’ ‘you make my life exciting’ — affirmation and validation — are really important,” said Orbuch, who wrote “Five Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great.” She’s a professor of sociology at Oakland University in Michigan and a research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.
Together for seven years now, Jason Keller and Christina Rosemeyer each have two children from prior relationships. Learning from their pasts, they share a belief that relationship success requires talking turkey.
“No matter how big or small or stupid it is, you have to be able to talk about it: ‘I felt this way about it,’ ‘Well, I felt this way,’ and ‘I didn’t mean to make you feel that way,'” Keller said. “If you’re arguing, and the hallway is so long, and by the time you get to the front door you’ve made up, that shows you can talk to the person. You have to find someone to communicate with, not just be with.”