I WAS MAD! Furious, in fact. Bitter and fed up. Totally resenting my husband. This was like the gazillionth Saturday in a row my husband got up and left the house to go do a job for someone and I was left with all the laundry and housework. Both of us had full-time jobs and paying someone else to do it was not an option.

This particular Saturday I decided I’d had enough. So, when he walked back through the door late that afternoon, I let him have it. I had rehearsed all day what I was going to say and how I was going to say it to make sure he didn’t miss a thing. The “deer-in-the-headlights” look I got in return let me know he was 100% clueless that resentment had been building up for a while. How in the heck could he NOT know?

That happened about three decades ago, but I remember like it was yesterday. That was the day I realized resenting my husband was actually more dangerous than his cluelessness.

So, here’s what this resentful spouse learned about how to stop resenting her husband.

Ultimately, I had to ask myself, “Are there any ways I am contributing to the resentment I feel?” I learned that I was following behind everything he attempted to do like folding the towels, vacuuming, or even putting the dishes in the dishwasher and criticizing how he did it. I finally figured out that criticizing him made him shut down, so I decided to stop.

Instead of thinking he could read my mind or SEE what needed to be done like the laundry basket I intentionally left sitting in the middle of the family room, I started telling him that I needed help with certain things and I didn’t tell him “the right way” (i.e. “my way”) to do whatever I asked him to do. 

If I am always at odds with my husband, I’m not very pleasant to be around. I honestly don’t want to resent my husband. What I really want is for us to enjoy time together, so I decided when I felt myself getting irritated and resentful to literally stop what I was doing and take a walk around the block and ask myself: “What is really at the crux of the matter?” 

Sometimes, I actually noticed, I just needed someone to be irritated with and he was an easy target. Other times, something didn’t go like I thought it should—date night, dinner plans, his arrival time home, he didn’t do what he said he was going to do because he forgot or whatever and I felt justified in my resentment. Now what? 

One time when I was ranting about all of my husband’s shortcomings, a very wise woman said to me, “So, I guess he never experiences any of this from you right?” The fact that she was 90 and I was 30 kept me from losing it. The truth was, she had a great point. I forget, not often, but I do. There are plenty of things I do that get on his nerves that he could resent about me. And, then she said to me, “In the end, what is it you want? I mean, what is your resentment going to accomplish in your relationship? At the very best you will be two people who figure out how to co-exist in the same house and at the very worst, you won’t stay together. Is that how you want to live?” The answer was an emphatic NO! That was the moment I decided I was going to kick ongoing resentment out of our house and relationship.

When I feel resentment trying to creep in, I figure out where it is coming from and if it is worthy of a conversation. If I believe that it is conversation-worthy, I ask my husband for a good time to talk. PRO-TIP: We have learned that if you are tired, hungry, or angry, that is not the time to try and have a conversation. When I can calmly explain, “I am exhausted and need help with our daughter,” or “I really need time with you—I am missing us,” it is a much better conversation than, “You never help with anything around here,” or “I think you don’t love me because you never want to spend time with me.” Trust me on this one.

✭ Let me be straight up with you: if you are experiencing resentment because you are in a physically, emotionally, or sexually abusive relationship, seek help. Abuse is serious and unacceptable. It will be difficult to navigate change in your relationship on your own.

If I were having coffee with my 29-year-old self, I would have no shortage of lessons learned to share, that’s for sure. Maybe one of the most important lessons I’ve learned when it comes to resentment is that I have a choice. I can choose to be resentful or I can choose not to be resentful. When I can see clearly, what I know about my husband is, he is trustworthy, hardworking, funny, respectful, honest, a good father, reliable and he really does care about me and us. When I think about those things, often what I am resentful about pales in comparison.

What kind of a guy are you married to? Have you trained your brain to only see his shortcomings? Here’s a challenge, for the next 30 days, focus on your husband’s positive character qualities instead of his flaws. Appreciation goes a long way when it comes to relationship restoration. You might be really surprised how you feel about him at the end of the challenge, and you just might be surprised at how he responds to you. 😉

If you have decided that waiting around for him to get the message that he is the problem and he needs to change, I am pretty confident you will be disappointed. It just takes one person doing something different to bring about change in your marriage. The question is, how badly do you want something to be different?
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Showing appreciation in your marriage isn’t just a nice, sweet notion—your marriage may just depend on it. 

When I go to my favorite coffee shop, the barista behind the counter greets me by name and begins to pour what he already knows is my favorite brew. He then asks if I want my usual—“Cheddar bacon onion muffin?” (Don’t knock it until you try it. It’ll change your life.) I ask him how his wife and daughter are, I say thank you, and I try to tip a little bigger than normal.

 I appreciate my barista. 

When my wife comes home from working hard at her job to provide a portion of our family’s financial security, she greets me with a kiss (no matter how tired she is). She then proceeds to pick up the small messes around the kitchen that the kids (and quite possibly I) left lying around. She’ll then start dinner on the stove, depending on the night (since we all take turns cooking during the week). 

  • In all honesty, there are times I fail to ask how her day went. 
  • I’ve gone long periods before without telling her thank you for everything she does. 
  • I say this with my head hung low: it used to be even more rare that I surprised my wife with some token of my appreciation: flowers, a nicely written card, anything

I appreciate my wife—I really do. But, at certain times in our marriage, if you were to weigh the observable evidence, it would look like I appreciate my barista a lot more than my wife. Ouch. 

Just how important is appreciation in marriage?

It’s been shown that being actively grateful (that is, actively showing your appreciation) is linked to higher levels of joy, optimism, and other positive emotions, and feeling less lonely. Feeling valued and appreciated by your spouse has been found to be a major indicator (the number one indicator in one study) of a happy, healthy marriage. 

Sara Algoe, a Ph.D. researcher from the  University of North Carolina, gives us perhaps one of the most convincing pieces of evidence out there pointing to the importance of appreciation in marriage. She proposes what she terms as the find-remind-and-bind theory of gratitude

The basic idea: showing appreciation and gratitude helps you find a new relationship partner (remember the appreciation you showed your spouse when you were first dating?) or reminds you of the relationship partner you already have. And (here’s the big kicker): showing gratitude to your spouse actually binds you together for a stronger relationship

So, yeah, showing appreciation is kind of a big deal. Especially if what you want is a happy marriage and your spouse feels unappreciated.

And it seems to me that Algoe’s Find-Remind-and-Bind theory signals to all of us that showing gratitude helps your spouse feel important, loved, and appreciated. It also places all the great things about your spouse directly within view and actually strengthens your relationship. 

Your spouse wins. You win. Your marriage wins. 

Wait a minute… what if I’m the one who doesn’t feel appreciated in this relationship?

I hear you. Yes, you need appreciation as well. But think of it this way: the appreciation that you are shown (or not shown) is not something within your control. You can’t make your spouse show you appreciation (and if you could, it wouldn’t be sincere). ✩ But what you can control is the appreciation you show to your spouse. ✩ It usually takes one person to lead the dance in order for your partner to follow your rhythm. Up the ante on how much appreciation you show to your spouse. When you do, chances are good they’ll see your bet and possibly even raise you in the appreciation they show in return. 

Fortunately, showing appreciation in your marriage isn’t rocket science. As a matter of fact, it’s super simple.

Here are some things to keep in mind: 

  • Be on the lookout for daily opportunities to give appreciation. Make it your mission to notice and respond to at least one thing you see in your spouse every day that you can express appreciation for. Did she put her socks in the dirty clothes? Did he make sure the kids were quiet while you got a nap in? Or did they accomplish a work project? Weed the flower bed? Listen to your concern? Let them know that what they did didn’t go unnoticed and how much it means to you. 
  • Be sure to show appreciation for the everyday things they do. It’s one thing to positively acknowledge something your spouse does that is out of the ordinary. But it’s usually the normal, mundane things they do on a regular basis that tend to go unnoticed and unacknowledged: working hard every day at a job, reading to the kids, washing the coffee filter every morning. Let your spouse know you see these things and that you appreciate their attention to them each day, because, after all, these things help life together go much more smoothly
  • Be a student of your spouse and learn their language of appreciation. According to Dr. Gary Chapman, we all have a primary love language, a particular pathway through which we feel love and appreciation. Chapman has divided these languages into five groups: physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. 

I really love it when my wife puts into words what she appreciates about me. When she verbalizes her love and appreciation (usually with more than just a “thank you”), it really means a lot. However, words don’t necessarily go as far for her as they do me. But when I show her that I appreciate how much she works by doing acts of service for her (like cleaning the kitchen, making the bed, feeding the dog… and without being asked), that’s when she feels truly appreciated. 

So ask yourself: What’s your spouse’s love language? And what can you do to speak that language to show how much you appreciate them?

Does your spouse feel unappreciated? You have everything in your power to change that. Do you not feel appreciated? Lead the dance and show the appreciation that you’re wanting. Find (your spouse everyday), remind (yourself of all the ways to show appreciation), and watch the two of you bind together for a stronger marriage! 

Want more ideas on how to show appreciation to your spouse? Check out these wonderful articles and websites: 

PSA for Dads: Easy, Thoughtful Ways to Make Your Wife Feel Loved on Mother’s Day 

Keys to Effective Communication in Marriage

Join the Kindness Challenge

The Five Love Languages

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

It’s the taboo subject nobody wants to talk about, but many think about it… a lot. What is it? Sex. 

Sex and marriage—the questions are endless. For the sake of time, I’ve boiled it down to 10 things every couple should know about sex.

Here we go…

1. The quality of your sex life often has more to do with what happens in your relationship outside the bedroom.

First and foremost, for you to keep your sex life going strong you must remember that foreplay begins long before you make your way to the bedroom. Look for ways to continually reconnect with each other throughout the day. Happy, stable couples have hundreds of ways they connect. Think about all of the creative ways you came up with to flirt when you were dating and do the ones that got you the best response. These types of activities create positive, warm feelings toward your spouse and in turn are building intimacy in your relationship. 

2. Anticipation and preparation stoke passion.

Typically, couples enjoy frequent sex in the early years of marriage, but once children come into the picture and the level of intensity increases at work, sex seems to get kicked to the curb. Consider this:

Passion = S2 I – Two sexual beings joined by intimacy 

Dr. Pat Love, in her book Hot Monogamy, makes this point. If you only have two sexual beings and no intimacy, you cannot have passion. Did you know, two-thirds of women have “sexy brains,” which means they don’t desire sex until they are in the midst of doing it? The majority of men have “sexy body brains,” meaning if their heart is beating they are interested in sex. Interestingly, men need two to three times more touching than women, and most men are touch-deprived. This is important information for couples who desire to increase passion and intimacy in their marriage. You have to do your homework. 

  • Know what arouses you—it can’t be a mystery. 
  • What is it that your spouse does that is such a turn on?   
  • What are three activities that make you feel close to each other?   
  • When do you feel closest and most connected to your spouse? 
  • When do you feel most loved? 

Tell your spouse the answers to these questions. This sets the stage for passion and intimacy to grow in your marriage. Communication is a huge part of great sex. Research shows that talking about sex during the first year of marriage is correlated with high marital satisfaction for men. Discussions after the first year are highly correlated with female satisfaction in marriage. As you talk and discover what brings closeness, guard it with a vengeance and practice it faithfully. Pat Love calls these activities “gateway activities” because they usually lead to opportunities for connectedness, increased intimacy, and lovemaking. Be courageous enough to love your spouse in the way he/she needs to be loved. Whether you are a “sexy body” brain or a “sexy brain” person, you might be pleasantly surprised at the results.

3. Talk about it.

Yup, I said it. Talk about your sex life, what you like, and what you don’t like. Are there things that make you uncomfortable? Are there things your spouse could do that might make it better? What brings you sexual fulfillment? How often would you like to make love?

4. There is no set amount of sex every couple should have in order to have a great sex life.

Obviously, it’s personal, but a lot of people want to know what is normal, so to speak. Keeping in mind, what is great for one couple may not be for another couple, research involving 2400 married couples that was published in 2015 found the more sex a couple had, the happier they were. So, the question for you as a couple to answer is, what is your magic number?

5. Teach your kids that your bedroom is your bedroom.

While this may sound totally unrealistic, you might be surprised how well it works once they get used to the idea. Think of your bedroom as your sanctuary. An escape from the craziness of the world and the place where you share meaningful intimate moments with the one you love.

6. Novelty Gets Your Attention

What changes do you need to make to keep sex fresh, fun, and adventuresome? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day gets old real fast. If you always approach sex in the same way, do the same things in the same place, you can find yourself feeling bored, unsatisfied and in a rut. Find different ways to delight your partner by doing the unexpected. 

7. Be intentional about keeping your energy and focus on your marriage.

The number one reason couples grow apart is they turn their interest and energy away from their relationship. Regardless of what your spouse is doing right now, you have to decide what kind of spouse you are going to be. Take responsibility for what you are doing that makes it difficult to have passion and an active sex life in your marriage. 

8. A little less talk.

Let me explain. Based on research by Drs. Steven Stosney and Pat Love, when women talk about their feelings, it is soothing to them. However, sharing feelings can make men physically uncomfortable or can cause them to withdraw. When men listen to women talk about their feelings, there is more blood flow to their muscles and they get fidgety. Women respond by thinking they are not listening, and things go downhill from there.

Here’s what Stosney and Love are not saying. They are not saying you shouldn’t ever talk about your feelings around issues in your marriage. They are saying, choose your time wisely. During your most intimate sexual moments, may not be the best time to talk. After lovemaking when you feel connected, men may want to talk more and women may need to talk less. The key is to meet somewhere in the middle.

9. Show physical affection without words.

Make physical nonsexual contact in an affectionate way. A hug, pat on the shoulder, tap on the behind, or squeeze of the hand can all say “I love you” without ever saying a word.

10. And, the super-secret sauce is… CONNECTION.

The more connected you feel to your spouse, the more you will enjoy sex with them. So many movies lead us to believe that sexual attraction, passion, and feeling close to your partner just happen when you are madly in love. The truth is, marriage has plenty of ups and downs, and sometimes heightened stress and anxiety can impact how we feel about our spouse and our energy level for sex. ✶You have to consistently make an effort to not let things creep into your marriage that will steal the passion, sexual intimacy, and closeness you desperately want from and with your spouse.✶

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

I have good news and bad news if you disagree about parenting. First, the bad news. Marriage researcher, therapist, and author, Dr. John Gottman has found that there are several issues couples will NEVER 100% agree on. Parenting is one of them. One of you is probably all about tough love while the other is more permissive. Maybe one of you is all about the bedtime while the other is a little more lax in that area. Or perhaps one of you makes them eat everything on their plate while the other gives them more options on what they eat. 

It’s been that way since you’ve had kids and it’s probably not going to change.

Now, for the good news. Your child needs both of you—differences and all. When a couple learns how to work together through their differences, the marriage is stronger. Just as importantly, your children are better off for it. Kids need stable, loving parents—not perfect ones that agree on everything.

I know that sounds good and all. But how does that work? Let me say that I understand your challenges. My wife and I are the proud parents of seven kids and we couldn’t be more different in our approach to parenting. She’s more black and white when it comes to discipline. Actions lead to consequences. I’m the, “Let’s talk this through and understand it better” parent. She’s the parent who wants the four oldest kids to clean the kitchen together so they learn how to work with each other. I’m the divide and conquer. Two of you clean today and two of you clean tomorrow because I don’t want to hear fussing and arguing.

When my oldest daughter doesn’t tell the truth about something (I’m sure that’s a surprise that a 13-year-old doesn’t always tell the truth), often our instinctive approach is very different from one another. 

Why is it so important that you recognize the differences?

  • Marital Tension: Your different approaches, at times, cause dissension within your marriage. You can feel like your spouse is either too hard, too lenient, too strict, too passive, too trusting, or too controlling. Tension also may grow when you feel like your spouse is not supportive of your parenting efforts.
  • Leads to children manipulating parents: Children can pick up on division. And they will feed off of it to get their way. (We’ve seen that happen a few times.)
  • Division: Families are meant to be a unit. When couples do not learn how to work together as parents, it can lead to division within the family—and that is unhealthy for everyone.
  • Poor Training of Children and Confusion: Kids don’t know boundaries, expectations, or structure. It becomes more difficult for them to learn right from wrong.

How do couples manage parenting when they disagree?

Discuss differences behind closed doors: Children don’t need to hear you disagree about parenting, how to discipline, what activities to participate in, where to allow the kids to go, etc. Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, says that 95% of issues don’t have to be solved on the spot. Don’t feel pressured to solve everything immediately. Become adept at saying, “Your (mother) and I will discuss this and let you know.

Don’t throw the other parent under the bus: Avoid statements like, “I think that’s a good idea. Let me check with your mother.” Now she’s the bad guy if in fact you decide it’s not a good idea. “We would, but your father doesn’t like that kind of thing.” Or, “You know your mom wouldn’t go for that.

Sincerely talk with one another from a team perspective: Figuring out how to work together is powerful. Listen and understand one another. Often you can meet in the middle. Sometimes you may lean more toward one spouse’s perspective or the other. Sometimes you can end up doing both. My wife and I have learned that I can generally get my children to acknowledge where they’ve gone wrong and how to correct it. And I’ve learned that without the consequences that she’s encouraging us to enforce, they are more likely to repeat the same behavior. We’ve often gotten the best of both worlds.

Present a united front: Once the two of you can agree on a parenting choice about an issue, then be on board with the plan, even if it wasn’t exactly the one you wanted. Make it your goal that the kids never know whose idea it was in the first place. I love it when my kids think a consequence was their mom’s idea, but really it was mine, not because I want them to think she’s the bad guy. Our goal is to show them we’re a team, not a team against the kids, but a parenting team working in the best interest of our family.

Don’t be afraid of making a “wrong” decision: It happens. There’ve been times we’ve come down too hard and times we were too lenient. There were times where we allowed them to participate in something that in hindsight was not the best decision. And what’s worse is that my wife and I disagreed on the front end and we chose the wrong path. Our children were not ruined for life because of our bad decision. Don’t forget, the best gift we can give them is a stable, committed relationship. Perfection is not part of the definition

Seek input from parents you trust: Find couples with similar values whose children are in the next phase your children are moving toward and pick their brain. Ask them about their parenting differences and how they’ve made it work. 

Support your spouse in their absence: Michele Weiner-Davis, best selling author and marriage therapist tells a story of undermining her husband’s parenting authority by disciplining and parenting her children over the phone when their father was home with them and she did not think he was doing what she thought was right. She learned that this was not healthy for her children, their father, or their marriage. She realized that it was healthier for her to truly trust and leave the parenting to her husband when she was out of town and to support his decisions. When she came to that realization, the next time a child called her for parenting when dad was home with them, she let them know that she supported whatever decision dad chose

➤➤There are parenting decisions that your spouse will have to make that are different than what you’d do. 🔎 Before criticizing your spouse’s decision, ask yourself this question: “Do I believe he wants what is best for our children?” More times than not, the answer is yes. Show your spouse you believe in them as a parent.

✰ Conclusion: Different is not deficient.

It’s just different. What I hope you both do agree about is that you both love your children and want the best for them. The relationship skills your child learns from watching the two of you parent in the midst of disagreements may just be more powerful than if you agreed on every single thing. 

Yes, your kids will pick up on the parental differences regardless of how united a front you present. The strength in the marriage is that the differences do not divide you. The security for your children that you provide by parenting them through the differences will serve them well years after they are grown and gone, living out the principles you’ve taught them.

**Please note that this article is NOT about an abusive or neglectful parent. The physical and emotional safety of a child is not a difference in parenting styles. Anyone who knows of child abuse happening should call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).**

If you have ever watched Everybody Loves Raymond, you know firsthand how overbearing in-laws like Ray’s mom can be. Giving her opinion when nobody asked for it, making off-handed comments about their parenting, criticizing decisions they make, and talking about them to each other was Marie’s style for sure. And, Raymond found it really hard to stand up to his mom, and we all know how that impacted their marriage. [Cue: Laugh Track]

Funny how so many have said they could truly identify with much of what happened on that show because they felt like they lived it every day. While some can kind of laugh it off, plenty of other couples find themselves actually having conversations about divorce because while they still love each other, they cannot figure out how to get one or both sets of parents out of their business. That’s NOT funny. Can you relate?

If you believe it is truly unhealthy for your family to be around your in-laws, your first responsibility is to your spouse. If being around your in-laws creates safety issues or requires you to put your family in an unhealthy situation—setting limits or creating boundaries is completely appropriate. Sometimes it may be necessary to make the decision that it’s in the best interest of your family not to be around your in-laws for a period of time. ★ 

If you feel like your in-laws are all up in your business, but it isn’t unsafe to be around them, the good news is, you’ve got options. You can:

  • Limit the amount of time you spend with them.
  • Plan ahead for how you will handle a visit that goes south.

Great! Got that part! But please tell me strategies for building a protective perimeter around my marriage!

Okay—here you go!

1. Your Marriage Is The Primary Relationship.

You both have to be intentional about making your marital relationship first. Marital distress may occur if one spouse doesn’t want to hurt his/her parents’ feelings and doesn’t see how them “investing” in your marriage is harmful. The two of you are a family and on the same team. Each person is responsible for communicating with their own parents in a way that does not throw your spouse under the bus. So, “We aren’t coming to your house this weekend because he doesn’t want to come.” is not an option on the table. Ever.

2. Stop Anticipating And Start Planning.

When you rehearse conversations in your brain, it actually gets you revved up. Stop playing it through in your mind how you think your in-laws are going to react or respond. Instead, discuss with your spouse how you want to approach or avoid certain topics. In essence, you are creating a strategy to help you both engage them and avoid being triggered by them. Make your plan together with your spouse. It may take a minute to get on the same page about how to move forward. It’s vital at this point however to remember that your spouse comes first, not your parents.

Here’s a side note worth mentioning: Before you and your spouse talk, spend some time thinking about where the angst with your in-laws is the most intense. 

  • Are they interfering with your marriage? 
  • Are they interfering with your parenting? 
  • Do they say things that hurt your feelings or rub you the wrong way? 

This is important to know in order to make a plan to help you move forward constructively.

3. Decide How You Will Respond.

Straight out of the gates, make a commitment to respond versus react. Every time you react to a situation, you are giving over power and control. When you respond, you are calm, think before you speak, take the time to get with your spouse and discuss feelings and opinions and then share your response with your in-laws. Think through the typical scenarios that tend to take place and decide what your response will be.

If something out of the ordinary happens and you aren’t sure what to do, you are probably better off taking a moment to breathe. Maybe even take a walk around the block with your spouse to decide the best plan of action. People often regret flying off the handle, but rarely regret an intentional, constructive response. Before you say a word, ask yourself, “Will my response build-up or further tear down the relationship?

4. Set Appropriate Boundaries.

As a couple, it is important to have clear rules of engagement with extended family. When you are being clear with established boundaries, you are choosing your marriage, not between your spouse and parent. 

Examples of this could include:

  • We will call before we come to visit and we are asking you to do the same.
  • Yes, we have given you a key to the house in the event of an emergency, but we are asking you not to use it unless there is actually an emergency.
  • If we ask for your thoughts about our parenting style, please share your wisdom with us. Otherwise, we are not looking for unsolicited advice.

But what about power struggles? For real!

The best thing you can do is seek to avoid them. That sounds easier said than done, but if you and your spouse are on the same page, there shouldn’t be “power” up for grabs.

⇨ Don’t underestimate the power of a positive attitude. I know it’s hard. Dig deep. ⇦

➤ Remember, they are family. No matter the conflict, they are part of your family. Be aware of the level of tension, tones of voice, and language choice. All of these things can and will impact your children (their grandchildren). Are there behaviors you can choose to ignore? Give the benefit of the doubt? Extend grace? Ask yourselves, “Is this really worth ruining the relationship over?”

➤ Don’t assume they are intentionally trying to be difficult. In many instances, people think they are being helpful. They don’t realize that dropping by unannounced or giving unsolicited marital or parenting advice is not appreciated. Get with your spouse and brainstorm things that your in-laws could do that would be helpful. Then sit down with your in-laws and talk about what you would appreciate them doing. Also, discuss things that you would like them to stop.

➤ Relationships change and evolve. Believe it or not, many couples have been in exactly the same place you are at the moment. Through some advance planning, agreement on changes that need to be made, and strategic conversations, they now have a healthy and respectful relationship with the in-laws. It may take a minute, along with some tears and hard conversations, but don’t give up.

If you see a difference in your parenting styles (and you will), let’s go ahead and throw out the “bad parent” moniker. This would be an inaccurate appraisal, and it’s much easier to work through parenting differences than it is to make a “bad” parent “good.” 

To helmet or not to helmet?

My wife wants our kids to wear helmets no matter when they bike. I, on the other hand, don’t feel strongly about helmets. Does that make me a bad parent?

Let me explain. This had been an ongoing dilemma in my family when it came to bicycling around the neighborhood. My wonderful wife, who is an equally wonderful mom, comes from the camp of parenting that prepares for the worst. She can just picture one of our daughters sailing like a dart over her handlebars and crashing into something much harder than the human head. Obviously, helmets are a thing for her

I, on the other hand, come from a different philosophy of safety all around. I grew up trying to take my bike over and through things where it wasn’t exactly designed to go—and I don’t remember a kid in the neighborhood who had a helmet. Heck, I still have the scars on my knees from road rash. And so, I tend to think, if they aren’t jumping over ditches or trying to break the sound barrier, why wear a helmet? 

This was an obvious disagreement in our parenting. And it would have been very easy for one of us to think, I can’t BELIEVE she makes them/he doesn’t make them wear a helmet! I’ve never seen such bad parenting!

Maybe this is where you’re at—about helmets, discipline, what your child eats, how late they’re allowed to stay up, who they can hang out with, how long they can play video games, how they are allowed to speak to you, what “good” grades are or a “clean” room, or you-name-it. 

So what do you do if you suspect that your spouse is a bad parent? 

**Please note that this article is NOT about an abusive or neglectful parent. The physical and emotional safety of a child is not a difference in parenting styles. Anyone who knows of child abuse happening should call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).**

🔎  The first question you need to ask is, “What is it that makes me think they are a bad parent?” Is the reason truly something that warrants the label “bad?” 

Or, is it a matter of their parenting style being different from yours?

I’ve worked with youth and parents for many years, and one thing I have come to understand is this: the vast majority of parents out there aren’t bad parents; they are simply doing the best they can with what they’ve been given. 

We all parent through the filters of our past experiences: the way we were raised, what we’ve observed in other parents, what we’ve read, and learned. This means that there are inevitably going to be at least some differences between how you and your spouse parent

Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, offers some very helpful steps in working through what to do when you disagree on disciplining your child. And I believe these translate well to all disagreements on parenting. Here are a few: 

1. Find (Any) Common Ground.

What aspects of parenting do you agree on? Look for parenting strategies your spouse uses that you appreciate. Are they good listeners with your children? Do they devote quality time to them? Are they calm in the face of parenting chaos? 

Even if all you can say is that you appreciate how much your spouse loves your children, that’s a positive you can recognize and work from. Identify these common parenting values and build on your commonalities. 

2. Explore the Underlying Reasons Why You Disagree.

Talk together about your disagreements and try to understand where each of your parenting styles come from. Understanding the origins of our parenting styles helps us to better appreciate these differences. Ask: 

  • What were the parenting styles used in each of our homes?
  • Which patterns do we want to change from how each of us was raised?
  • Which healthy patterns do we want to be sure to repeat? 
  • What parenting information have we each learned that affects how we parent our kids? 

3. Select a Signal.

Establish a non-verbal signal between the two of you that says, “We clearly don’t agree on this and should talk it out away from the kids.” This helps you to avoid disagreeing in front of the kids about your parenting decisions. McCready says that 95% of issues don’t have to be solved on the spot, and the signal gives parents a chance to take a breather and figure out a course of action a little later.

4. Avoid Good Cop, Bad Cop.

It’s important for your kids to understand that you and your spouse are a united front when it comes to parenting. Even if you disagree on how to parent in some respects, you never want to undermine your spouse’s parenting decisions in front of the kids. 

Don’t set your spouse up to be the “bad guy” by saying things like, “Well, your mother wouldn’t like that very much” or “When your dad gets home, he’s going to be very mad that you…” These phrases communicate to your kids that you each think differently about the situation and therefore you don’t support each other. Children need the security of knowing that both of their parents are a team in their parenting decisions. 

5. Seek Support.

Disagreements are going to happen because your and your spouse’s parenting styles originate from different places. So, finding common ground in your parenting will be an ongoing process. Seek encouragement from more seasoned parents who you respect and that have had obvious success with their own children. Consider taking a parenting course or share books or articles on parenting with each other. And if disagreements persist and become worse, consider seeking the advice of a therapist that specializes in parenting and family

Just in case you were wondering, our kids wear helmets when they bike. I still don’t know if it’s completely necessary (you may disagree—that’s okay). But it’s important to my wife, and so I support her feelings for that. And as much as it goes against my nature, I still remind my kids to wear their helmets when they go biking (without, of course, saying “because your mom wants you to”). 😉 

It is possible to come together and be on the same page with your parenting. But it does take work, some compromise, and plenty of discussions. Commit yourselves to constant communication regarding your parenting decisions, and understand that working out disagreements doesn’t happen overnight. But the process is worth it for both your kids and your marriage.

Are you feeling frustrated with your spouse?

Do things just seem more intense between the two of you?

Is working from home and/or taking care of the family making you tired? 

Are you worn out from keeping up with the household duties? 

Do you find that you and your spouse are arguing and disagreeing more?

Are differences being exposed as a result of COVID-19 and social unrest?

Do you sometimes lie in bed and wonder if you married the right person?

Before we dig into this, I want to be clear that if you are in a relationship where someone is abusing you in any way, stop here and seek help.*

As you went through the list above, you may have answered yes to some or all of the questions. These are trying times for sure. Right now, I want to focus on the last question.

Have you caught yourself entertaining the question: Did I marry the right person? 

When we experience challenges that exist for an extended period of time, it can bring out the best and the worst in all of us. Before you fully convince yourself that everything is your spouse’s fault, here’s something to consider. Everybody has been under extra pressure for the last 106-plus days and as a result, may be acting a bit extra. That being said, it’s important to recognize that most marriages go through challenging times. 

Although throwing in the towel may sound tempting, it might be helpful to set the wheels in motion to have a constructive conversation with your spouse about your marriage and how to ride these waves together. 

Here are some things to think about as you prepare for the conversation.

What exactly is making you question whether or not you married the right person? Sometimes we entertain thoughts but have nothing of substance to back them up. Try to nail down where this idea is coming from.

Then ask yourself, based on history in your marriage, is this narrative something that has recently come up or has it been ongoing for an extended period of time, as in long before COVID-19 hit?

Does your spouse know you are having these thoughts? If you shared what you are thinking today, would they be blindsided?

Here’s the thing: When you start getting irritated with your spouse, you can actually teach your brain to only see the things that get on your nerves or irritate you about them. And, the more you go there, the more you tell yourself your thoughts are justified and accurate. It’s kind of like confirmation bias. This can be very misleading and has caused plenty of people to call it quits on a perfectly good marriage.

Talk It Out

★ Maybe you are not feeling valued or heard. Or, you just don’t feel connected anymore and are bored. Instead of deciding that you are finished, find a time where both of you can sit and have a conversation away from distractions. Beware of telling them all the things they aren’t doing—instead, talk about how you are feeling and ask for what you need. 

“I need help with the children.”

“I’m feeling very distant from you. I would like for us to spend time together.”

“I’m scared about all that is going on.”

“I don’t feel appreciated or respected. Can we talk about that?”

“I am bored.”

Lead-ins like this are more likely to take you to a conversation instead of a meltdown because someone feels attacked. It’s totally possible that your spouse has no idea you are feeling like this and that they would be willing to do some things differently. (It’s also possible that your spouse is struggling, too.)

[Pause right here and take a deep breath.]

Instead of thinking your marriage might be coming to an end because you are questioning whether or not you married the right person, this could be the beginning of breathing new life into your relationship.

All marriages go through hard times. Talk with anybody who has been married any length of time and they will tell you, it was the times when they were hanging on to each other in the midst of the storm that brought them to the other side stronger and more energized. 

Here’s the other secret: many couples have learned that there are times when they don’t like each other very much or the strong romantic passion toward each other ebbs and flows. The key is, their commitment to their relationship remains strong. And, as they continue to put one foot in front of the other, things transition—like children get older, COVID-19 calms down, work gets less intense, children are back in school, everybody is healthy, and more.

Problems and difficulties occur in ALL marital relationships. Your marriage can thrive when you respect, recognize, and appreciate what you each bring to your marriage. When you look back over your relationship, you may actually see that you have had many more good times than bad times. Be aware that we all are experiencing unique situations that we have never faced. 

You might really be really asking yourself, “Did I marry the right person?” In reality, there are so many questions you are probably trying to answer right now. Give each other space and time to express and deal with the stress and anxiety from these unprecedented sets of circumstances. Avoid making any impulsive decisions right now.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Ahhhh, it finally happened. You and your spouse sat down to eat and… dead silence. In fact, this has happened a lot lately: while lying in bed, riding in the car, sitting on the couch, deciding what to do for fun. You realize that the two of you have absolutely nothing in common to talk about. If you aren’t talking about the kids, work, responsibilities, or bills—there’s nothing.

Many emotions creep in—Fear. Sadness. Concern. Bewilderment. What happened to us? We used to talk non-stop for hours. We had endless fun and romantic dates. And now it feels awkward and forced. And it feels “in your face” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yes, I remember those feelings. My wife and I have had that moment where we sat in the bed, both wide awake, and couldn’t think of anything to talk about. We’ve had the arguments about us never wanting to do the same thing for a date or for fun. We’ve experienced the tension with not being able to connect intimately. And we know the awkwardness of not being able to talk about what’s going on at work. 

So, what do you do? These 9 things can help you really connect.

1. Accept that it’s NORMAL.

You’re not the first couple to experience this, nor the last. Marriages go through stages. The Gottman Institute, a relationship research institute says that “a person’s inner world changes as they pass through the seasons of life.” Each of you may be growing, changing, and evolving. That’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. It’s likely that you’re becoming better versions of yourself which is good for both you and the marriage. There are times when it is difficult to connect with your spouse because your way of connecting is becoming different. 

2. Be aware of letting the world creep in to your marriage

  • Is all your brain energy focused on work?
  • Are you totally focused on your children and that’s all you talk or think about?
  • Are you consumed with social media? Work, kids, and social media are, in and of themselves, not distractions. However, we can place a higher priority on each to the detriment of our marriage.
  • Are you taking the allotted vacation time from work?
  • Do you care more about your success at work than your marriage?
  • Are you overscheduling your children so that there’s no couple time?
  • Do you find yourself sharing all of your thoughts and getting absorbed in the information and conversation on social media? When your brain is focused elsewhere it can feel like you don’t have anything in common with your spouse.

It may be time to evaluate where your time and mental energy is going. If you are communicating, who are you communicating with and what are you communicating about? Be willing to make the necessary changes to ensure that your relationship is priority. Regular date nights may be in order. 

3. Curiosity is key.

Commit to learning new things about your spouse. Remember—you used to talk all the time. Part of that was because you were learning all kinds of new things about each other and it was fresh. There’s a good chance that one or both of you has grown or changed in the time you’ve been married. Kids may be grown and gone. Your philosophies on parenting or success may have changed. Instead of being bored with your spouse, take the initiative to become a student of your spouse. Talk about their dreams, what success means, or how they like to spend their time. 

4. Focus on loving the differences.

Get into your spouse’s world and learn about it. Sometimes we allow our differences to drive us apart. We begin making value judgments about our differences. For instance, I like to make lists and get things done on Saturday morning which I think is way better than my wife who likes for us to take Saturday morning and visit with other families. She’s an introvert—I’m an extrovert who likes to socialize and build relationships any and everywhere and I often think my way is better.

Don’t let differences lead to judgments. Instead, allow your differences to take you down a path of learning more about your spouse. She likes to garden and you don’t. Spend time with her in the garden. He likes to read, you’d prefer to watch a movie. Read a book together. Consider the ways that your spouse’s differences are not only likable, but helpful to the marriage. There’s a saying, “If both of you were the same, then one of you would be unnecessary.”

5. Plan and do some everyday things together.

Planning our weekly menu and cooking together was one thing that worked well for me and my wife. We didn’t focus on the silence. We were trying to accomplish a task together. For example, we started trying new recipes. We had to work together. We were learning about each other’s likes, dislikes, comforts, and discomforts. My wife is more willing to try new things. I began to appreciate and even love that more. We created some new dishes that we still eat to this day. We made memories. DIY home improvement projects, vacation and holiday planning are all fair game. The key is learning about your spouse by listening and doing things together.

6. Shared experiences create great memories.

It’s amazing how shared experiences of giving can increase your spirit and help you to remember what’s important in life. The two of you can accomplish more together helping someone else than you can apart from each other. Do something for an elderly neighbor. Serve food together at a community kitchen. Volunteer at Habitat for Humanity. Come together and decide what the two of you can do for someone else as a team.

7. Explore new things.

This is how my wife and I got into hiking together. She liked doing puzzles. I liked playing sports. I liked being in social settings with lots of people. She liked intimate settings with few people. I’d rather go to the movie theatre. She’d rather watch it on Netflix. We knew this wasn’t going to work forever. We needed some fun stuff to do together.

There were some hits and misses along the way. But getting outside and hiking became something that we tried and both loved. She doesn’t feel like she’s lost herself and neither do I. Be willing to try new things. Some couples create YouTube channels and post videos as a couple. Others take up doing regular community service. Don’t get discouraged. You’ll look back one day and laugh at the things you tried that both of you hated and others that one of you loved and the other hated. 

8. Support your spouse’s strengths.

Is your spouse really good at building relationships, problem solving, budgeting, fixing things, being a peacemaker, etc.? It’s not unusual that our partner’s strengths attracted us to them in the first place, especially when they are good at what we’re not. Opposites do attract. We used to admire it, encourage it, and even be excited to watch them work in their strongest areas. Look for ways to support your spouse in what they are good at.

9. Turn toward, not away.

It’s easy to build resentment or begin to think your spouse has the problem. They aren’t making you happy. We’re growing apart. And our mind will begin to complete the story for us. I can spend the next 2 pages alone making lists of all of the differences me and the wife have, and the things we don’t have in common. Don’t shut each other off. Instead, talk about your concerns. Train your brain not to think of your spouse or yourself as the issue. Check any resentment, bitterness or criticism at the door. And see this as an issue that we will work through.

When you begin to feel like you have nothing in common with your spouse, instead of looking for a way out, see it as an opportunity to learn how to enjoy the beauty of your differences. If you focus on what you don’t have in common, you will for sure find it. The opposite is true as well: if you look for what you have in common, you will find that also.  

Other Related Blogs: 

I’m Bored With My Spouse in Quarantine

We’re Total Opposites! Can We Make Our Relationship Work?

What To Do When You and Your Spouse Really Are Opposites

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

It’s nothing new to disagree with the ones you love, whether it’s about COVID-19, quarantine, religion, guns, racism, politics, football or something else. In fact, chances are pretty good that you completely disagree on certain topics with someone you care deeply about. The disagreements may be so intense you wonder how you can actually co-exist. 

The level of intensity might feel more so at this moment in time in our culture. In fact, many people can hardly believe that the people they love have such different perspectives from their own. The ongoing stress from trying to navigate these issues can take a massive toll on our relationships. FOR REAL.

What do you do when you strongly disagree with the ones you love?

Although you might be tempted to confront them and tell them they are just plain wrong, you might want to reconsider. That plan probably won’t go very well for you because it’s likely your loved one will feel attacked. Nobody wants to feel attacked, right?

Instead, start by asking yourself a few questions.

What is the goal of my conversation with this person?

Do I just want to share information?

Am I trying to understand their perspective?

Do I feel the need to convince them they are wrong?

Am I trying to prove that I have a valid point?

Do I have to WIN?

Taking the time to think about your ultimate goal can help you prepare to constructively engage with them.

It may help to remember that no matter how hard you try, you cannot change someone else or make them see something the very same way that you do. Yelling at them, belittling them, coming across as condescending, stomping out of the room or being sarcastic will only fuel the fire. And it will take you further away from your intended goal.

Plenty of married couples, extended family,, siblings and roommates have vehemently disagreed about things, yet their love and respect for each other was never in question. How you have the discussion matters.

Here are some tips you can use to make your conversations productive:

  1. Look for things you do agree on. It is likely that you agree on far more than you disagree about. 
  2. Kindness and respect goes a long way when trying to discuss difficult topics. Be aware of your tone of voice and body language.
  3. Avoid imagining how you think the conversation will go or how it has gone in the past. Playing negative scenarios in your head will actually increase your stress. It could also steer the conversation downhill straight out of the gates.
  4. Be prepared to genuinely listen to their perspective—even if you already believe you don’t agree with them and can’t fathom how they could believe what they believe. When people feel heard, you are more likely to keep the conversation going and avoid damaging your relationship. **PRO-TIP: Paraphrase what you hear and avoid using the word, “but.” Using “but” negates everything that the other person just said. Try using “and” instead.**
  5. If it feels like the conversation is becoming heated, remember that getting louder will escalate the situation for sure. Plus, it actually makes it harder to hear what is being said. If you are struggling to think clearly or keep your cool, take a break. Say you need to go to the bathroom or you need to get a drink of water—anything to take a break in the action and allow yourselves time to breathe. Pausing is powerful.
  6. Avoid using “You always, you never,” and “You should.” Instead, focus on yourself and share your perspective while using “I” statements (I feel, I believe, I want, I need, etc.).

These are particularly stressful times, and when you disagree with the ones you love, IT’S HARD.

This means that many of us are experiencing extended periods of heightened anxiety and are constantly in a fight or flight mode—which is totally not normal. Fuses are shorter and we are probably more easily irritated. And, we may react more quickly, especially if we’ve been thinking or dwelling on the topic at hand. Acknowledge this and think through the fact that how we handle difficult conversations can impact the quality of our relationships. 

It’s vital to remember that this is a process. If over time the conversation seems to go nowhere, you may need to set boundaries around this topic in an effort to keep from destroying the relationship. Keep in mind that if you choose to walk away from the relationship, you will no longer have the opportunity to present a different perspective.

“I forgive you.” You desperately want to hear those words, but I want to explain to you why you might not hear those words right away and why you don’t necessarily need to hear those words right away. And that’s totally okay. ☆ What you need right now is to begin understanding forgiveness itself, especially in a marital context.

I’m operating under the assumption that you are not seeking forgiveness for forgetting to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer, but rather for committing some big breach of trust and inflicting deep emotional hurt in your marriage partner. Whatever you did, understanding how forgiveness works is important.

Why you probably won’t hear, “I forgive you,” right away:

  • Most definitions of “forgiveness” describe it as a process. Processes take time.
  • Even though you might truly be sorry and even expressed your sorrow multiple times, your hurt spouse has emotional trauma to work through in order to forgive. This emotional trauma often has physical symptoms, too. None of this can be rushed.
  • Your hurt spouse may need professional help to work through this process.
  • Your hurt spouse may need time to see changes in your behavior, rebuild trust, understand that you are truly sorry (not just sorry you got caught), and see over time that your relationship will be different moving forward. None of this happens overnight.

You’ve got work to do in the meantime…

  • You might be needed for some conversations to help process your spouse’s thoughts and feelings or answer questions. Offer to share as much information as your spouse feels the need to know.  On the other hand, your spouse might need some space to internally process. Respect both.
  • While it might be frustrating and take much longer than you believe it should, be willing to do what it takes to rebuild trust with your spouse, even if it doesn’t make sense to you, makes you uncomfortable, or is a blow to your pride. Transparency, vulnerability, and willingness are your best friends right now. Your phone, laptop, bank account, etc., might all need to be open books. Accounting for your time and whereabouts might be necessary now. Whatever it takes.
  • Your spouse might want you to attend some couple’s therapy sessions or for you to attend some sessions on your own. 
  • Your task is NOT to be the perfect spouse (there’s no such thing) but it is to demonstrate that you are truly sorry, value your spouse and marriage, and prove that you are working to be trustworthy and reliable and are willing to do what it takes to honor your spouse and protect your relationship. (If you were unfaithful with someone you met at the gym, you need to be willing to gladly switch gyms or even work out at home for a while to show that your spouse comes first. Many people have found new jobs to remove themselves from a co-worker they cheated with. Yes, that is the level.)
  • Empathize. Really empathize. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes and feel what they might be feeling. (If you reach a place of, “Well, I wouldn’t expect…” stop empathizing and keep honoring.)

While you’re at it… check your backbone. 

A lot of people have a wishbone where their backbone should have grown. They wish things were different, easier, that they wouldn’t have done this or that—but wishing doesn’t make it so. Marital mistakes, conflict, and difficult seasons don’t have to be terminal. In fact, they often have the opposite effect when people have some backbone and use it to lean into the hard stuff. Broken bones are stronger when they mend. 

You and your marriage can grow from this!

Whatever “this” is, it’s part of your story now. In the best stories, the good guys—the heroes—have had to work to overcome something very, very difficult. You can do this, and you don’t have to do it alone. Get growing!

  1. Learn how to manage conflict and how to communicate your way through it.
  2. Find meaningful ways to say things like “Sorry” and “I forgive you” and live those words out.
  3. Learn that love is an action, not a feeling.
  4. Have friends that are for your marriage.
  5. Have an older couple as mentors.
  6. No keeping score and no looking to “even” it.

This season isn’t easy or fun, but it can bring you and your spouse closer together than ever before. Every scar tells a story. What kind of story do you want this to be?

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***