Couples Who Work Together

You can learn a lot from living and working together.

Did you know that 1.4 million married couples in the United States not only live together, but 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 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 opinions. 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 they each bring to their “team.” This realization, tempered with patience, love and understanding, keeps couples together and builds a stronger marriage foundation.

Stop Trying to Fix It

You can work on communication issues together.

Perhaps you have seen the YouTube video that has millions of views: It’s Not About the Nail.

As a couple sits on the couch, the female describes relentless pressure and pain in her head that won’t go away. While she vocalizes her frustration, the scene expands enough for the viewer to see a nail in her forehead.

The male says to her, “You do have a nail in your head.”

Her response? “It is not about the nail.”

An argument ensues. She accuses him of not listening and of always trying to fix things when what she really wants is for him to listen. She continues to talk about how much pain she is in, how she is not sleeping well and that every sweater she has is snagged.

He looks at her and says, “That sounds really hard.” Her facial expression softens and she reaches out to touch his hand as she realizes he feels her pain. She leans forward to kiss him, only to hit the nail in her head. Once more, he tells her she just needs to get the nail out of her head, and off to the races they go…again.

Men are notorious for wanting to fix the problem, but women often just want men to listen.

Sound familiar? There probably isn’t a couple on the planet that can’t relate to this scenario.

If you have something so obvious like a nail in your head and you aren’t willing to listen to your spouse that is a problem, BUT not everything is that simple. Sometimes, not everything sticks out like a nail in the head, but guys try to fix it anyway. And, there are many instances when guys really do need to just listen.

Did you know there are ways to bridge this communication divide? 

Here are some tips to help you communicate with the opposite sex.

  • Stop trying to change each other. Men tend to communicate with purpose to solve a problem. Women spend a lot of time communicating to bond and build relationship. Neither way is wrong.
  • Before starting a conversation with your husband, tell him what you want. Do you want him to just listen or do you want him to help solve the problem? Doing this could spare both of you a lot of agony.
  • In general, men tend to think things through before they talk. Instead of saying nothing is wrong because you aren’t ready to talk about it, tell her you aren’t ready to talk and give her a time when you will give her the download. Women, this is your cue to back off.
  • If you want to keep your husband’s attention, cut to the chase and be direct.
  • Learn to listen. Listening does not come naturally. It takes effort to focus on what someone is saying.
  • Avoid mindreading. Assuming you know what someone else is thinking can create a lot of unnecessary drama.

Men, learn to look past the proverbial nail in the head. And ladies, don’t be so quick to dismiss a potential solution to your problem.

Instead of getting irritated because your spouse doesn’t communicate just like you, take it as a challenge to learn how to engage and understand each other’s point of view.

 

 

***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.***

The Second Half of Marriage

Staying together through life's ups and downs is possible.

When the kids leave the nest and are almost off the payroll, that second half of marriage is within sight. You finally have time to breathe. But suddenly you have questions…

  • What in the heck will we do with the second half of our marriage?
  • How will we handle the challenges of aging parents? Crises with the children or unexpected medical issues?
  • What about retirement, finances and the like?

While some couples look forward to the years ahead, others feel trapped. They’re unhappy in a marriage that is less than fulfilling… they wonder if this is all there is. For them, the idea of the second half is quite scary.

So… what does a thriving marriage look like in the later years? 

Gary Chapman and Harold Myra interviewed “second half” couples for their book, Married and Still Loving It: The Joys and Challenges of the Second Half. They found few couples who had escaped the unexpected challenges of life. However, some traits appeared to be significant between marriages that flourish in the second half and those that don’t. Laughter and acceptance, resilience and faith seemed to make the difference.

Whether the second half is just around the corner or you find yourself dreaming about it, you can prepare for it now. Chapman and Myra quote Swiss psychiatrist Paul Tournier’s book, The Adventure of Living:

“To make a success of one’s marriage, one must treat it as an adventure, with all the riches and difficulties that are involved in an adventure shared with another person.”

Even if your marriage is stuck in a rut, you can turn it into an adventure.

After years of marriage, it’s easy to focus on the differences between you and your spouse. But these differences aren’t necessarily bad things. The key is to figure out how to make your differences assets instead of liabilities.

Thriving couples learned to accept their spouse and were even able to laugh about their differences. This goes a long way in finding fulfillment in your marriage. Chapman writes, “While differences can be deadly, they can also be delightful.” 

What about the kids?

While many couples have terrific relationships with their adult children, others encounter one crisis after another. Chapman and Myra encourage these parents to maintain a balance between self-preservation and self-sacrifice. Many marriages suffer when they become so focused on helping the children that they lose themselves. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help to overcome these challenges together.

Despite encountering unexpected job loss, illness, family crises and difficulty adjusting to retirement, thriving second-half couples kept putting one foot in front of the other. Their commitment to marriage enabled them to stand together through life’s ups and downs.

And finally, these thriving couples said their faith was central to it all. That includes working through personality differences and all of the other challenges they have faced.

Although you might be anxious about what the future holds in the second half of marriage, Chapman and Myra encourage couples to embrace the challenge and to enter this season with great anticipation.

Other blogs:

How to Find a Counselor Who Will Fight for Your Marriage

7 Ways to Deal With Adult Children Who Make Poor Decisions

Marriage Course: Understand Your Spouse & Deepen Your Relationship

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

***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.***

Tips for a Highly Happy Marriage

These habits may be just what your marriage needs.

Do you ever feel like you and your spouse are roommates instead of lovers? Does it feel like your marriage is in a constant state of chaos? Have you caught yourself wishing for a life you don’t have?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you aren’t alone.

Truth be told, there are many chaotic marriages out there where both spouses are feeling disconnected and lonely.

When people feel disconnected in their marriage, anxiety, distrust, uncertainty and suspicion often creep in. Couples stop believing they are on the same team and start looking out for themselves. This leads to feeling the need to have the last word, always be right and a “my way or the highway” attitude which certainly doesn’t create an environment where a relationship can thrive and grow.

The first step toward changing the direction of your relationship is to identify what is creating chaos or disconnectedness.

Usual and customary suspects include children, career, community commitments, busyness and phubbing (otherwise known as snubbing your mate in favor of your smartphone).

Clearly, you can’t ship the children off; jobs matter, and it’s unrealistic to think that technology won’t be part of your relationship. However, if you are resolved that something needs to change, it might help you to know what research reveals about how happily married couples keep their marriages out of the ditch.

In her book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, Harvard-educated researcher Shaunti Feldhahn uncovered 12 things highly happy couples do.

Here are a few of them that you can apply to your own relationship:

  • Remember the little things. There are a few small actions that matter a lot to men and women. In fact, surveys indicate that consistently doing these five things will likely make your spouse feel deeply cared for.
    • For women: Notice his effort and sincerely thank him for it. Tell him when he does a great job. Mention in front of others something he did well. Show him you desire him sexually. Make it clear that he makes you happy.
    • For guys: Hold her hand. Leave her messages during the day. Put your arm around her. Sincerely tell her she is beautiful. Pull yourself out of a funk.
  • Believe that your spouse is well-intentioned and truly cares about you. It is unlikely they began their day plotting how to make your day miserable.
  • Sometimes going to bed mad is a good thing. When conflict and anger are hard to resolve, sometimes sleeping on it overnight can lead to a quicker resolution.
  • Boss your feelings around. Highly happy couples lead their feelings instead of letting their feelings guide their actions.
  • Cultivate generosity. According to the research, generosity toward one another is one of the greatest contributing factors to a happy marriage.
  • Hang out together. In the beginning, you were friends. Couples who cultivate their friendship over time seem to have happier marriages than couples who do not.
  • Get in over your head. Highly happy couples were willing to put it all on the line for the sake of their marriage. The research showed they have dramatically increased security and happiness.

If you are tired of the chaos and feelings of disconnectedness in your marriage, try incorporating some of these habits into your marriage. Although creating an environment for your marriage to grow and thrive may not happen overnight, these habits could be just what your relationship needs.

Other resources:

Discover Deeper Intimacy In Your Marriage – First Things First

 

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

 

***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.***

Planning Your Ultimate Date Night

Spending time together has amazing benefits.

Can planning a simple date night really make that much difference in a marriage? That’s a great question!

You probably know about the benefits of family meals and the preventative factors associated with pulling off this feat. For example, your children are less likely to try drugs and alcohol, and they’re more likely to do well in school. Believe it or not, the same thing applies to your marriage.

The Power of Connecting with Each Other

Eating meals together as a family and going on dates with your spouse is so impactful because of connectedness. Connecting in meaningful relationships such as marriage and family tends to make you feel more secure, supported, understood and valued. This usually leads to more positive interactions with loved ones.

Some find it hard to believe that simply going on regular date nights can actually enhance your marriage. Yet studies show that couples who engage in novel activities that are fun, active or otherwise arousing – from hiking and dancing to travel and card games – enjoy higher levels of relationship quality. Spending time together also counteracts your tendency to take each other for granted.

Regular date nights may potentially reduce unnecessary marital conflict, too. It’s because you’re actually making time to communicate with each other. Why is this a big deal? Because research indicates the average amount of time couples spend talking with each other per week is a whopping 17 minutes!

And, there are even more benefits. Date nights can:

  • Intensify or rekindle that romantic spark,
  • Help sustain the fires of lasting love, AND
  • Strengthen your sense of commitment to one another.

Couples who put one another first, steer clear of other romantic opportunities and cultivate a strong sense of ‘we-ness’ or togetherness are markedly happier than are less-committed couples.

According to the National Marriage Project, couples who spend time together at least once a week are:

  • About three times more likely to say they are “very happy” in their marriage than other couples.
  • More likely to report high satisfaction with their sexual relationship compared to those who spend less couple time together.

Convinced yet?

If you haven’t been on a date in a while, it just might be a really good idea for your marriage. We’ve got plenty of great ideas for planning some creative date nights that don’t have to break the bank.

 

***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.***

Kindness: The Superpower Everyone Can Use

Being kind has the power to transform every relationship.

“What if you don’t respect or appreciate your spouse?”

That’s the question a woman asked social researcher Shaunti Feldhahn after she spoke at a conference on the topic of kindness.

Feldhahn encouraged her to take a 30-day Kindness Challenge. The steps are:

  • Say nothing negative about that person – either to them or about them.
  • Each day, find one positive thing to praise or affirm about that person. Then tell them and tell someone else. 
  • Each day, do one small act of kindness or generosity for them.
  • You may or may not choose to tell the person you chose about the challenge.

Three years later, the same woman approached Feldhahn and said, “You won’t remember me, but I asked you a question three years ago about what to do if you don’t respect or appreciate your spouse. I decided to take you up on the Kindness Challenge and I learned a lot about myself. I had no idea how unkind I was to my husband, and I thought it was all him. As I was kind to him, his defenses lowered. Three years later, we have a great marriage.”

“What I have found based on my research is that when kindness starts to flow, it is really incredible,” says Feldhahn. “It’s actually a real-life superpower. For years, I’ve been studying what makes people thrive. And I’ve seen that whether or not we thrive in relationships is far more related to how we treat others than how we ourselves are treated.”

Feldhahn believes kindness is the answer in any difficult situation.

“This means being kind when you are super-irritated and you really don’t want to be,” Feldhahn shares. “Even in situations where you need boundaries, that is usually the kindest thing you can do. If someone is being abusive, for example, it is not kind to allow that person to continue to destroy their own emotional state by being that way.”

For her book, The Kindness Challenge, Feldhahn surveyed study participants extensively before and after the 30-day period.

After completing the challenge, 89 percent of all relationships had improved, 74 percent felt more love and affection for their romantic partner, and 66 percent felt more love and appreciation by their romantic partner.

“One of the biggest surprises from the research was that most of us already think we are kind,” Feldhahn says. “In fact, most of us are totally delusional. We have no idea how often we are unkind without even realizing it. In the book, we identify seven patterns of unkindness and negativity – and every one of us has at least one of them! We encourage everyone to identify their own pattern of negativity – because in most cases it is a pattern across all relationships, not just that one.”

The Challenge opened participants’ eyes very quickly to that reality, and it showed them that they also weren’t as affirming to the other person as they thought. It also changed their feelings, to appreciate the person more.

As Feldhahn put it, “That only makes sense, right? After all, if you’re irritated with someone, and you tell them that you’re irritated, and you tell someone else that you’re irritated, are you doing to be more or less irritated?”

We all know the answer to that. Just as we know that we’ll simply notice the positive more if we’re looking for it. And while being kind doesn’t take away problems, it often makes them easier to solve.

Feldhahn wants the Challenge to transform relationships.

“It’s really life-changing,” Feldhahn suggests. “It is a training ground to become a truly kind person. You have to designate one person to do the challenge for. But it can be anyone – your spouse, child, friend, in-law, co-worker, anybody.”

Like the woman who didn’t respect or appreciate her spouse, the outcome is a pleasant surprise for many Challenge-takers after 30 days.

If you’d like to try it for yourself, you can find out more at jointhekindnesschallenge.com. The outcome just might surprise you, too.

***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.***

Adult Children of Divorce Speak Out

The impact of divorce has long-lasting effects.

In The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: 25 Years of Research, Dr. Judith Wallerstein contends that the major impact of divorce does not occur during childhood or adolescence. Instead, the effects of divorce on children are cumulative. They crescendo in adulthood with the emergence of potentially serious romantic relationships, like when it is time to choose a life mate.

Seventeen years after Wallerstein released her book, Lelia Miller posed a question on social media to adult children of divorce.

She was intrigued by a friend whose parents’ divorce still affected her, even though she is married and has children. So, she asked her Facebook community if anyone would be willing to share about growing up in the shadow of their parents’ divorce.

“Over the course of a few days, more than 100 people said they were willing,” says Miller. “I asked questions such as: What effect has your parents’ divorce had on you, and what is the difference in how you felt about the divorce as a child and how you feel about it as an adult? What do you want to say to people who say children are resilient? What do you want adults in our culture to know about how divorce affects children, and what would you want to say to children?

“Seventy people out of the 100 answered the questions,” Miller says. “Most of them wanted to remain anonymous. The youngest was 22 and the oldest was in her 60s. I was shocked at my ignorance about the complex effects of divorce on children. I never knew that world existed. Their simple yet poignant responses are difficult to read, but not hopeless.”

While Miller does not claim to be a scholar or a researcher, many of the stories in her book, Primal Loss: The Now Adult Children of Divorce Speak, are very similar to what Wallerstein’s research found.

Divorce is a life-transforming experience, even for adults.

After divorce, childhood is different. Adolescence is different. Adulthood – with the decision to marry or not and have children or not – is different.

Miller only identifies the storytellers by number. When reading the book, many contributors read someone else’s story thinking it was their own.

“They were shocked to find out that many others had similar issues and circumstances,” Miller says. “One participant in her 50s shared that her parents divorced when she was 9. She said, ‘I still don’t know who I am supposed to be. I am one way with my mom and her side of the family and another way with my father and his side of the family. How do you maintain that?’

“Another shared about being ‘that girl on the soccer field.’ She always had to think about who she would hug first when she came off the field for fear of making someone angry or upset. She recalled a time when she had to get an X-ray after a game. Only one person could go with her. She almost had a panic attack trying to decide who to ask. Her stepmother was offended when she asked her mother to go.”

After reading the book, one lady asked her 35-year-old male friend how he felt about his parents’ divorce. Stunned, he said nobody had ever asked him how he felt about it.

“That was a common theme for most of the respondents,” Miller asserts. “Many were told ‘it was for the best.’ In fact, one woman recalled jumping up and down in the front yard saying, ‘We’re getting a divorce!’ honestly believing it was something good. I was actually shocked at the number of adults who were scared their parents would learn they had participated in the book. Many of the 70 are still in turmoil even after being in a really good marriage for 20 years.”

Miller does not imply that someone should remain in an abusive situation, nor is she saying that if your parents divorced you’re automatically going to have issues. She knows that many who found themselves divorced did not want it and were doing their best to cope. That doesn’t negate the impact on the children, however.

“So many adults desperately want to believe their child will come through a divorce unscathed,” Miller shares. “Nobody who answered my questions was unscathed. They felt like they had to go along with the narrative or be silent. That was the unnerving part.”

Miller’s work is not a scholarly research piece, but it is an honest representation of personal stories from adult children of divorce. Readers will definitely get a sense of divorce’s impact on kids. These men and women have much to say about their experience after years of reflecting on a question no one ever thought to ask them – until 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 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.***

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3 Skills for Managing Conflict in Marriage

A skill we all know can be a helpful tool.

Just weeks into their marriage, Sam and Ellen* were caught a bit off guard as their different perspectives about certain things became very real. While they had discussed many of the big potential areas of conflict – money, career, children and how they wanted to deal with their in-laws – the impact of the more “trivial” matters on their marriage surprised them.

For example, things like socks on the floor, how to squeeze the toothpaste tube, how to do household chores, how to spend their downtime and even how to get to a certain location had become frequently intense conversations.

It baffled the couple that these seemingly little things could have such a stranglehold on their marriage. The conflicts were affecting their relationship and neither one of them liked what they were experiencing.

In reality, it is nearly impossible for two people with different upbringings to not have differences in perspective about many things. Truth be told, we are creatures of habit. In most instances, it is far less likely that a spouse intentionally leaves socks on the floor or squeezes the middle of the toothpaste tube just to get on your nerves. It’s far more likely to be what they have always done.

So, how can you manage this stuff and keep these seemingly minor issues from becoming major areas of conflict in your marriage?

Parents teach their kids to stop, look and listen before crossing the street. But believe it or not, this is a really useful skill for managing conflict.

  • Stop. Before launching into a lecture or hissy fit, consider these things. Ask yourself if what you are about to say or do will be helpful to your relationship. What is your current state of mind – are you stressed, tired or hungry? These things can impact how intensely you feel about something at any given moment.
  • Look. First, look at your spouse and remember you are on the same team, not rivals. Then, examine the situation at hand and ask yourself if this is truly a big deal or really a matter of different preferences. Whether it is folding towels, loading the dishwasher or the current condition of your car’s interior, some things boil down to personal preference. Is pursuing a conversation about these things worth the cost? And, in looking at the big picture of living life together, will you choose to place your focus on these areas?
  • Listen. Instead of assuming your spouse couldn’t possibly have a reasonable explanation for why they do something a certain way, seek to understand their perspective before telling them why your way makes the most sense. It could help you avoid a lot of unnecessary drama. Even when you truly believe you are right, is it really necessary to prove it?

Undoubtedly, there are legitimate times for some hard discussions.

Moving past those little irritations, however, will require you to think carefully about how you manage those conflicts. After you have walked through stop, look and listen, think about these things:

  • Considering how much time we have together, is this matter worthy of our precious time and energy?
  • Why does this particular issue get under my skin?
  • Am I willing to sacrifice our relationship for this issue?

Most couples say their relationship is what matters most to them. What tends to trip them up is mistakenly making the minor things the major ones. In many instances, it’s better for your marriage if you agree to disagree and get on with enjoying life together.

***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.***