Category Archives: Couples

Are you speaking your partner’s love language?

Do you ever wonder why your partner doesn’t get excited about the new socks you spent ten minutes picking out for them? Or why they don’t feel your love through your actions? You might be speaking two different love languages.

The theory of Love Languages was created by marriage counselor Gary Chapman. The idea is that every person subscribes to one of five love languages: acts of service, receiving gifts, words of affirmation, quality time, or physical touch. Each of these specific ‘languages’ is a valuable part of any relationship but it is still important to recognize that you (and your partner) could have a preference to one over the other.

Acts of service: An action done out of love, not obligation (example: Making your partner’s favorite meal for them)

Receiving gifts: Giving a gift that is meaningful to the recipient (example: Buying your partner flowers)

Words of affirmation: Love shown through words (example: “You have the best smile”)

Quality time: Giving undivided attention (example: Putting your partner at the center of your attention, all distractions aside)

Physical touch: Physical closeness (example: Holding hands, hugging, cuddling up with your partner)

Although the age-old “golden rule” tells us that we should treat others how we would like to be treated, it is also important to consider how they would like to be treated. If your love language is, for example, quality time, you likely treat your partner in a way you would like to be treated in that regard. If their love language is acts of service, they may not have reacted how you had hoped. This is when miscommunication occurs and disappointment is likely. Communication can be improved if you can understand the language that makes your partner feel loved, and, your partner can understand the language that makes you feel loved.

Take the quiz below to discover your love language!

This blog post was written by Haley Thomas, our intern. She is a fourth year psychology student at Spring Hill College. Her internship at here at Hurley will provide valuable experince that she can take with her on her path to becoming a mental health counselor.


Sexting We Approve

With some free time while his girlfriend was working at a women’s shelter nearby, Michael Oonk did the unthinkable: housework! After a long day of work, school, or life, no one wants to come home to a messy house and have to clean it up, but that is exactly what Oonk did. In an interview, he said that he and his girlfriend Laine both contribute to the upkeep of their home but that night, she wasn’t home and had had a very busy day. He decided to clean up the house and send her pictures of him doing so. What’s sexier than knowing once you get home from work, you get to relax because everything is already done? Oonk posted these photos on Facebook to remind everyone that it is the “small, everyday gestures” that show people you love them. He says that small gestures, like leaving a note in one another’s lunchbox, are things the couple regularly do because “the little things add up.”

Man Goes Viral for “Sexy” Chore Photos for Girlfriend

This couple’s thoughtfulness goes far in the world of communication. Acts of service are sometimes just as valuable as words of kindness. An act of service is something you do for someone, freely given with no strings attached, that makes them feel loved. It could be something as small as cooking breakfast for them while they stay in bed or running an errand for them, or something like cleaning the whole house. This act says, “I know you have had a busy day and you deserve the chance to relax,” without explicitly saying it. We couldn’t agree more with Oonk, so surprise the one you love by doing the not-so-fun task before they get home and spend the time you have together, together!

Tell us, or show us, some of your favorite acts of service by commenting below.

10/90 Rule on Communication


Couples often seek help with communication. It can help them to know that in every communication there are multiple channels of information that collectively determine what message is received by the listener.

  • ~10% concrete, conscious, spoken words – Content
  • ~90%  ambiguous, unconscious – Emotional Stance, Role  Assignment, Demand

Only roughly 10% of communication is determined by the words we use. The rest (~90%) is communicated through ambiguous nonverbal channels. The same words can be delivered in a way that mean opposite things. Think of someone who says, “I’m so glad to see you!,” accompanied with wide eyes, upturned corners of their mouth, cheeks pulling toward their ears, elevated in an excited tone. Now think of the same words, “I’m so glad to see you,” accompanied by a sarcastic tone, more slow rate of speech, along with a sneer, tensed muscles around the nose, and head movement backwards. The same words can send opposite messages.

Arguments about superficial/barely relevant things (e.g. why did you not put my keys on the counter?) can actually be reactivity to nonverbal signals that show hostility/defensiveness/contempt, etc. These aren’t problems with the skill in articulation. Both people can usually explain in detail why the other is a jerk. Lack of skill in concretely identifying what nonverbal cues cause the reactivity is often the problem.

Assumptions about what nonverbal signals mean are learned before we have words to articulate them. Those assumptions filter how we read others throughout our life. They can only be adjusted to be more accurate (and explained to a spouse), if we have labels to identify them. Much of couple’s therapy is settling couples until they can calmly hear each other, then building the ability to recover from their reactivity to be open to, and caring enough to allow the other person to teach them how to explain themselves without reacting with hostility/defensiveness.

Nonverbal messages also contain “role assignments”. Every time we communicate, we are taking a role (in relation to the listener) and offering one to the other person. The taken role and offered role are reciprocal. Examples of common role pairs during argument are “burdened vs. self indulgent” (“I’m tired of cleaning the entire house by myself while you play golf every weekend!”), and “rational vs. irrational” (I’m trying to explain why we can’t go on vacation, but you won’t listen”). Even if what you’re saying is reasonable, if you offer a negative role to the other person, they are likely to reject it. Accepting your position included validating the roles contained within it. If I don’t believe I’m self indulgent, I’m going to disagree, even if your complaint seems valid.

If you recycle arguments, or the arguments drift across subjects, the problem is likely not the words you are using, it’s the way you are delivering them.

Andrew Hurley

Andrew Hurley, LPC

Andrew Hurley specializes in couples therapy.

Angry or Silent – Which couples have the best chance for survival?

Couples seek therapy for a host of reasons. Two frequent types are the silent couples and the angry couples. Is therapy more successful for one over the other? 

Chronic conflict or silent tension exhaust couples.  A typical pattern is that couples who can’t resolve conflict, and therefore live in it constantly, often divorce around 7 years in because it is too punishing to endure any longer. Other couples decide to simply avoid conflictual topics (sometimes for the sake of protecting the children from the stress of divorcing parents).  Avoidant couples typically reach a point about 5 years later when they realize that they avoid sharing the majority of their experiences with the other in order to not subject each other to the distress of direct conflict.  At that point, they usually are acutely aware that they basically live with a roommate, are very lonely, and as soon as kids are mature enough to handle divorce with minimal disruption, leave to connect with someone who “actually cares.”

Couples without anger, and with isolation from each other, have abandoned the hope that the other can or wants to ever meet their needs.  They usually seek therapy to be able to say that they “tried.”  If you bring a corpse to a hospital, it’s unlikely they can bring the patient back.  If isolated, detached, and apathetic spouses try to revive their marriage, it is a much higher mountain to climb.   

I’m more optimistic for therapy’s success with couples who are spitting nails at each other than couples who are apathetic toward each other.  If they can provoke anger in the other, they are clearly still important in the other’s life.  Reactivity and anger create connection between people, not in an enjoyable way, but a connection nonetheless.  Couples who have anger have not detached from each other, and are motivated to connect in positive ways.  That’s easy to adjust: active desire to get needs met by each other motivates them to work toward change.  If you are consistently angry with your spouse (for more than a of couple weeks), and can’t find a way to resolve the tension and relate in a way that feels good to both, seek help immediately! Chronically conflictual spouses become more convinced that resolution and reconciliation are impossible, the longer they live in active conflict/tension. 

If positive communication is not an option, negative conflict is better than nothing because at least it affirms a connection and with a connection, there is hope.




How Much Sex is Too Much?

I have been a therapist for almost twenty years now. And, I have been asked this question more times than I can count by couples struggling to balance the busyness of life, changing desires, and the loss of intimacy.

Unfortunately, the reality in most marriages is that sexual desire (seen here as how often a spouse wants to have sex) is not something that is static, nor is it something that is matched by our spouses. In nearly every marriage, one spouse has a greater desire for sexual intimacy, and concessions have to be made.

But, how is this to be done? Someone has to lose out, right?

Well, the optimistic truth here is, not necessarily. Ideally, when one makes a sacrifice for the good of the marriage, both partners grow, and the marriage deepens. Things begin to go wrong and the health of the marriage declines when this sacrifice is unbalanced. For example, if one spouse is always the one giving in, making concessions for the desires of the other spouse, resentment will build.

If you and your spouse are finding it difficult to talk about sex in your marriage, let us help you make sense of how to create a path forward. The lack of sexual of desire can be attributed to many things, and openness to discussion in a safe environment can lead to the growth of the marriage in ways that just may surprise you. Sexual intimacy is just one facet of healthy marriage, and we consider it a privilege to work with couples and individuals to explore ways to seek positive change.

Matt Fortner has been a licensed professional counselor for close to twenty years. He joined Hurley Counseling in the fall of 2018 after having a successful practice in Oxford, Mississippi.

Matt specializes in couples and adults.