Articles for Married Couples

Everything listed under: couple interaction

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    Couples Who Work Together

    Did you know that 1.4 million married couples in the United States not only live together, but they work together, too?

    Robin and Michael McKenna ran the family business together for 10 years in Savannah, Georgia.

    “My husband was working in corporate America,” says Mrs. McKenna. “We realized that we could either move around with his job or move to Savannah and help his father run the family business. We decided it would be fun to work together and it would allow our children to grow up close to at least one set of grandparents.”

    You may think, "I could never do that," or "Don’t you get tired of being around each other so much?" or "How do you work together without killing each other?" The McKennas actually enjoyed working together.

    “At one point, we moved into office space where my husband and I each had our own office,” McKenna says. “One of our employees said, ‘I don’t know why you all have separate offices. You are always together.’ We laughed, but that’s the way we work. It wasn’t complicated for us to figure out how to work well together. I think we might be the exception to the rule; we actually like hanging wallpaper together.”

    Working together taught the McKennas some valuable lessons that actually strengthened their marriage.

    “It definitely takes teamwork,” McKenna says. “We listed everything that needed to be done and got busy checking things off the list. There is no place for ‘that’s not my responsibility,’ when you are running a business together. We did not take each other for granted and I think that is huge.

    "Don’t sweat the small stuff. We learned early on that you can’t always be the one that is right and it was important to value each other’s opinion. Even though we spent a lot of time together during the day, it was still important to spend time together as a family in the evening. We ate dinner as a family every night and when the kids were old enough, they worked with us in the store.”

    They sold the family business, but after more than 40 years of marriage, they still work on projects together.

    “We are best friends and we have fun together,” McKenna says. “We entered into marriage committed to a lifetime together so we spent our time and energy focused on making our relationship work. Learning how to be together all the time and running a business together brought us closer as a team. Even though things didn’t always go the way I or we wanted them to, that’s life. We got over it and moved on.”

    The McKennas have great memories from their decade of working together. Most importantly, they discovered how to appreciate what each individual brings to their “team.” This realization, tempered with patience, love and understanding, keeps couples together and builds a stronger marriage foundation.

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    7 Tips for Couples Who Work Together

    J.J. and Beverly Jerman were dating when they decided to venture into working together.

    “I was working as a nurse in a GI Lab at the time and developed an allergy to cleaning chemicals so I had to find a different job,” says Beverly. “J.J. suggested that I come work with him, which scared me to death. We had been dating 2 ½ years at that point and I sure didn’t want to mess anything up. That was in 2010.”

    J.J. and Beverly married in 2011. For the past seven years, they have run Office Furniture Warehouse and have learned many valuable lessons about working together as a couple.

    “One thing we would for sure tell couples who are thinking about working together is it’s important to have defined roles and to discover each other’s strengths,” Beverly says.

    Both J.J. and Beverly agree they didn’t have clearly defined roles when they started this venture.

    “We weren’t clear about the lanes either of us should be running in within the organization,” says J.J. “I knew she was a great people person. I am definitely more focused on the business side of things and not as in tune with how people are thinking or feeling. After a few months of trying to figure things out, we decided Beverly would make a great ambassador for the company working in human relations and I would focus on tasks, goals and strategy. Knowing our lanes helped tremendously.”

    The Jermans also learned that if they didn’t determine their priorities and create some boundaries, the business could consume them. If you are considering starting a business as a couple, the Jermans suggest the following:

    • Have your priorities straight. For the Jermans, it was God first, then family, with their business coming in third. They quickly learned that misplaced priorities caused things to not go well at home or at work.
    • Make a conscious effort to turn off work at home. “There are times when we are so busy going in different directions, we don’t get to connect until we get home,” Beverly says. “However, we determined that both of us need the freedom to say I don’t feel like talking about anything work-related right now and your spouse won’t hold that over your head.”
    • Start your day doing something that sets a positive tone. The Jermans start their day by reading. They read a business book, a spiritual book and a book about some type of self-improvement.
    • When you are away from the office, focus on self-care. “We think it is really important to give our brains a rest,” Beverly says. “We hike, bike ride, connect with our kids, care for aging parents and go on weekly date nights. All of this is crucial to us functioning well at work and at home.”
    • If you find yourself in trouble at work due to the relationship, ask for help. The Jermans found a coach to help them navigate through uncharted waters.They believe this saved them from a lot of drama both at home and at work.
    • Have a sense of humor. Both J.J. and Beverly agree that being able to laugh definitely helps when the going gets tough.
    • Have an exit strategy. Going into business together is a huge commitment of time and energy. Having an agreed-upon plan in case change is necessary will help protect your relationship and the business.

    The Jermans are among approximately 2 million couples who choose to work together. The lessons they have learned through the years have helped them grow a very successful business.

    “While the business is important, the most important thing is the relationship we have,” Beverly says. “We have learned when to ask for help and have surrounded ourselves with people who believe in us. We are strong, and we enjoy what we have built together.”

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    Keys to Effective Communication in Marriage

    Research on what makes marriage work indicates that happy and healthy couples demonstrate a ratio of 5:1 positive to negative behaviors in their relationship.

    This means there are five times as many positive interactions between happy couples (i.e. listening, validating the other person, using soft words, expressing appreciation, affirmation, physical affection, compliments, etc.) as there are negative (i.e. raising one’s voice, stating a complaint, or expressing one’s anger).

    Tips for improving the quality of communication in your relationship:

    • Be intentional about spending time together talking. The average couple spends only 20 minutes a week talking with each other. Turn off the technology and make it a point to spend 20-30 minutes a day catching up with each other.
    • Use more "I" statements and less "You" statements. This decreases the chances of your spouse feeling like they need to defend themselves.  For example, “I wish you would acknowledge more often how much work I do at home to take care of you and the children.”
    • Be specific. When issues arise, be specific. Broad generalizations like, "You do it all the time!" are not helpful.
    • Avoid mindreading. It is very frustrating when someone else acts like they know better than you what you were really thinking.
    • Express negative feelings constructively. There will be times when you feel bitterness, resentment, disappointment or disapproval. These feelings need to be communicated in order for change to occur. BUT - How you express these thoughts is critical. “I am really disappointed that you are working late again tonight,” is very different from, “You clearly do not care one whit about me or the kids. If you did, you would not work late every night.”
    • Listen without being defensive. For a marriage to succeed, both spouses must be able to hear each other’s complaints without getting defensive. This is much harder than learning how to express negative feelings effectively.
    • Freely express positive feelings. Most people are quicker to express negative feelings than positive ones. It is vital to the health of your marriage that you affirm your spouse. Positive feelings such as appreciation, affection, respect, admiration, approval, and warmth expressed to your spouse are like making deposits into your love account. You should have five positive deposits for every one negative. If your compliments exceed your complaints, your spouse will pay attention to your grievances. If your complaints exceed your compliments, your criticism will fall on deaf ears.

    Tired of the so-so communication in your marriage? 

    Check out this hefty DIGITAL E-BOOK by Marriage Researchers & Therapists

    Inside, you'll find:

    • How and why you and your spouse communicate differently, and what to do about it
    • 5 proven listening techniques that will pump up the intimacy in your relationship
    • 4 ways to start and end difficult conversations well
    • 5 ways you may be hindering communication with your spouse without realizing it
    • AND MORE!

    PLUS! Every section has an easy, no-stress discussion guide created for you and your partner to build the communication you want in your marriage.