This is Chapter 2 from my book, The Solution Focused Marriage:
5 Simple Habits That Will Bring Out the Best in Your Relationship

Chapter 2: Take Credit for the “Honeymoon”
Phase of Your Relationship

“Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a
flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and
flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love
becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.”

It happened on a normal afternoon during the fall
semester. I was walking across the campus on my way from
basketball practice. As I was walking, I noticed a beautiful girl
standing by her car looking a bit worried. I immediately
recognized her as someone that had been in several of my
psychology classes. She was very pretty. I will never forget
when I saw her that day. She was standing next to her car and
there was not another car in the parking lot, as it was late in
the afternoon and all of the students and professors had left
the campus. There she was, a beautiful girl, and I decided to
approach her to find out if she needed help. I asked her if she
was okay and she replied by saying that she had left the lights
on in her car, killing her battery. She continued to explain that
she was waiting for her father, who was an hour away. Since it
was getting late, I asked if she would like some company and,
luckily, she said yes. During that hour we just talked. Nothing
special and certainly not romantic; we just stood by her car
and talked.

By the end of the conversation, she offered me her
phone number and, of course, I accepted. The funny thing is,
she did not mean this as a romantic gesture. It was simply
because the conversation was so pleasant she had hoped to
continue it. Strangely enough, I also did not accept her phone
number with thoughts of dating or anything like that. I, too,
was just happy to have met a friend and wanted to continue
our chat. Eventually her father showed up, jumped her car and
away she went. Little did I know that I had just met my future

I walked away from that conversation feeling so good.
In truth, I cannot recall at all what we talked about. It was the
start of something special and neither of us knew it. As I was
heading back to my dorm, I felt good about myself for the first
time in a long time. I had this wonderful girl’s phone number
in my pocket, but I was not at all thinking about anything
other than how nice she was and hoping she made it home.
Later that night, I called her to check and see if she made it
home safely. When she did not answer the phone, I left her a
message expressing my concern. I honestly did not think we
would ever talk again, but I was okay with it because I was
truly just interested in helping this person. To my surprise,
later that night she called me back and the rest is history!
That story is the true and honest love story about how I
met my wife. It was the day my life took an amazing turn and
things have never been the same. She and I spent the next two
years building a great friendship that eventually turned into a
wonderful romance. Sharing this story, even now, always
brings a huge smile to my face. Each and every time my wife
and I talk about the beginning of our relationship we smile, we
laugh and we remember just how good for one another we
really are.

From the time we first met, we both began to use our
talents and skills to build a relationship, even before we
realized it was occurring. This relationship did not happen by
accident. The two of us contributed to its growth and we did
so with great attention and effective use of our respective skills.
The beauty is, every relationship has its own story and
each couple has two people, complete with their own set of
talents and skills that they use to create their relationship. The
truth about relationships is that what you notice manifests
itself in the relationship. This simple idea is at the very heart of
the Solution Building in Couples Therapy approach. The only
issue is that most couples do not take credit for the
formulation of their relationship. In the beginning of the
relationship, things are going so well that that we tend to turn
off our brains and simply try to enjoy the ride. However, that
is the exact opposite of what we should be doing.

Time and time again, couples come into my office
seeking to improve their relationships. When I ask them about
recent events that have transpired, couples are prepared to give
me detailed descriptions of their problems, but they are not
equally prepared to discuss the positives that exist with the
same level of detail. This discrepancy is much more than just a
minor issue; it is the very oxygen that gives the problem in the
relationship life. Couples that are able to spend time focusing
on what is good between them, in great detail, tend to have
the ability to get through the tough times and enjoy their
relationship to a much higher degree.

The Story of Steve and Joanne
Several years ago, I was working with an exceptionally
challenging couple. I was a new therapist at the time and this
was one of the very first couples with which I had ever worked.
Steve, a rough kind of guy, could easily be described as a
“man’s man.” Joanne was quite a fiery woman and it was clear
that, though Steve was a rough guy, she was not the type to
back down. It was clear when they came into my office that
they had both been hurt and subsequently spent time arguing
about certain events. When the session got started, the couple
resumed their conversation in the argumentative way that had
plagued this couple since this problem had begun to interrupt
their relationship. It was difficult for me to interrupt the
conversation and conduct a therapeutic conversation. It was
almost like I was not there. I would pose a question and they
would just keep on arguing with one another. As I sat in the
session with this couple, I was struggling to find useful
questions I could ask, digging for useful words I could say that
would shift the focus away from the current problems and
towards helpfulness. Then, out of pure desperation, I asked the
couple how they met. The response was amazing!
The couple’s mood shifted instantaneously, and they
told me what, to this day, is the most amazing love story I have
ever heard. They described that when they first met they could
not keep their eyes, or hands, off of one another. They never
fought, always spent time together. They described how they
met at a bar and how their eyes met from across the room.
They both knew instantly there was something between them
and once they started to talk they realized just how special this
feeling was. As the details of this story unfolded, Steve and
Joanne began to move closer to one another on my couch, as
the language they used continued to shift both in tone and in
content. I began to ask questions to elicit details about how
they played a role in this amazing story (meaning it did not
happen by accident). For example, in the beginning of the
relationship Steve would make sure that he called Joanne each
night just before he went to sleep to ensure she was the last
thing on his mind. He commented that this helped him have
pleasant thoughts every night and falling asleep while smiling
became a common occurrence. Joanne also contributed to the
relationship starting off so well. As the relationship was getting
started Joanne wanted Steve to know just how much she liked
him, so she made it a point every time they saw each other to
show him a smile as a sign to him that she was pleased to be
with him. These two things may seem small, but if they had
not been done, the relationship may not have grown in the
great way that it did. Each partner played a role, even though
they did not notice it. So, you see how the relationship
prospering was neither an accident nor a coincidence. It was
the result of two people working well together to create a
mutually beneficial environment. The longer we reviewed the
“honeymoon phase” of their relationship, the more the couple
shifted and actually transformed themselves into the couple
that did the work to fall in love rather than the couple that was
experiencing problems.

In time, I have come to believe that this kind of
transformation makes sense. Imagine that a young child has
asked you a question about a particular song that you loved
during your youth. In order to answer that question, you have
to close your eyes and allow your brain to take you back to a
time when the song was meaningful in your life. I’m guessing
you may even be feeling the way this particular song used to
make you feel all those years ago. This is exactly what happens
when we review the details of the successful past of our
relationships. It forces our brains to shift back to being the
person that constructed the relationship instead of the person
that may be unhappy or behaving in destructive ways. It really
is that simple.

The message of this chapter is that your relationship’s
successful past is more important than any current problems.
To take that further, the talents that each partner possesses are
more important than their flaws. Once understood and
applied, these ideas can have a profound impact on your
relationship, regardless how severe your current problems may
be. The bad news about being a human is that we are all
flawed and have personality deficits. However, the absolutely
great news is that we also have talents, amazing and wonderful
talents. When we learn to live our lives while recognizing and
utilizing our talents, those talents have a way of overpowering
our flaws, thus resolving even the most difficult of problems.
We simply have to shift our perceptions to notice the things
that move us in that direction.

Get together with your partner and recount to each
other the story of how you met. Then answer the following

• What did your partner do that led to the relationship
moving forward from the time you first met? List at
least 10 per partner.
• What did you notice about your partner that let you
know that they were interested in creating a
relationship with you? List at least 10 per partner.
• What did you do to let your partner know that you
were interested in building a relationship with them?
List at least 10 per partner.
• How long were the two of you able to keep the
“honeymoon phase” going? How did you keep it going
so long? List at least 25 ways you were able to keep this

If you’d like to purchase the full version of The Solution Focused Marriage, click here for paperback or click here for the Kindle version.