A recent article published by the New York Post has couples asking, “Will my relationship fail?” Even if you haven’t read this article, you should know the study talks about 10 signs that your relationship is less likely to fail.

Using artificial intelligence, researchers Samatha Joel and Paul Eastwick looked at the habits of 11,196 couples to try and predict relationship satisfaction and success. 

Perception is Everything!

The study found that relationship satisfaction and success is more about each person’s perception of the relationship and less about choosing the “perfect” person for you. In other words, Eastwick says, “‘Who I am’ doesn’t really matter once I know ‘who I am when I am with you.’” 

The biggest sign that each partner was content in the relationship was how they perceived their partner’s commitment to them.

The other four most important relationship characteristics were:

  • Appreciation. Does each partner show gratitude and thankfulness?
  • Sexual Satisfaction. This is a sign of connection, emotionally, physically, and mentally. 
  • Perceived partner satisfaction. Are both people feeling heard, known, understood, and cared for?
  • Conflict. How does the couple deal with and solve their disagreements?

The top five individual characteristics for relationship quality were:

  • Life satisfaction. How each individual feels about the quality of their own life, including work, family, social, meaning, purpose, etc. 
  • Negative affect. Constantly seeing your relationship and your experiences through a negative lens. 
  • Depression. Experiencing strong feelings of sadness and hopelessness. These things often cause noticeable problems in relationships.
  • Attachment avoidance. Consistently trying to avoid emotional connection.
  • Attachment anxiety. Becoming really dependent on your partner to fulfill your emotional needs.

For couples wondering if their relationship is likely to fail, this study could be a game changer.

In the end, relationship satisfaction is about how you do relationships together and view each other.

Scott Stanley, research co-author, encourages couples not to spend a lot of time wishing their partner was different when it comes to personality or education or political views. Instead, focus on what you can do to make the dynamic between the two of you as good as it can 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 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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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.***

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COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD BE FULFILLING, NOT FRUSTRATING.

With the right tools, you and your spouse can have the best communication ever!

This easy-to-use virtual 5-day course guides you and your spouse to have the best communication you’ve ever had! Through this course, you will learn:

  • How to establish healthy communication habits
  • The secrets to creating a deep connection through communication
  • Skills to help you (and your spouse) be a better speaker and listener
  • How to celebrate and understand your different communication styles
  • And so much more!

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.***

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How do you know how strong and healthy your marriage is? Doctors help us to know whether our bodies are strong and healthy. 

I love getting a good report from the doctor after a check-up:

Mr. Ownby, your lab work shows your cholesterol is at a very healthy level. 

Mr. Ownby, your heart rate is strong and your blood pressure is perfectly normal. 

Mr. Ownby, our tests show you have the abs of a Greek warrior. 

(I haven’t actually heard that last piece of news yet, but I’m working on it…) 

How do you get a marriage check-up?

In her book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Couples, Harvard-educated researcher Shaunti Feldhahn uncovered a number of things that highly-happy, healthy couples do. Here are four of those signs from her research that you can use right now in your marriage: 

Couples in healthy marriages remember that little things go a long way.

It’s easy to think the big, overarching gestures we give our spouses (like expensive gifts or a surprise trip) keep the marriage glue strong. In fact, while there’s nothing wrong with these big gestures, Feldhahn’s research indicates regular, small actions of love are really what keeps the relationship robust. 

More specifically, Feldhahn pinpoints five of these “little things” that each person in the marriage can do to help their spouse feel more cared for: 

What the wife can do for him:

  • Notice his efforts and sincerely thank him.
  • Make it clear you desire him sexually.
  • Let him know that he makes you happy. 
  • Say, “You did a great job at _________.
  • Affirm him in front of others.

What the husband can do for her: 

  • Reach out and hold her hand. 
  • Leave her messages during the day to let her know you are thinking about her. 
  • Pull yourself out of a funk/bad mood (rather than withdrawing).
  • Put your arm around her in public
  • Sincerely tell her, “You are beautiful.” 

Couples in healthy marriages spend time alone with each other.

Two keywords here are meaningful and regular. Happy couples talk or share an activity when they are alone together. And these couples report doing this at least weekly

One goal you may shoot for is having a weekly “date time.” This is an intentional time you plan for just the two of you, and it can be any time of the day that’s convenient. You don’t necessarily have to leave the house or even spend a lot of money on a fancy dinner. Take a walk around the neighborhood. Play a card game. Send the kids to their rooms, turn the lights down low, and enjoy your favorite TV show over a box of Oreos. Simplicity often makes for the most meaningful times together. The idea is to have meaningful alone time with the one you love most on a regular basis

Couples in healthy marriages believe the other person is the reason their marriage is so happy.

Most people in a “highly-happy” relationship said that what their partner contributes to the relationship is why they are highly-happy. Conversely, a majority of the individuals in “so-so” happy relationships indicated they were the reason for their (so-so) happiness. Developing a sense of gratitude for the value your spouse gives to your marriage is fundamental. Recognize the great things they do for your relationship and show them your appreciation

Couples in healthy marriages believe the best of each other and don’t let negative thoughts get the best of them.

Even in the midst of disagreements, couples from healthy, happy marriages still knew that they were both on the same team and that their partner deeply cared for them. When negative thoughts about their spouse began to creep in, couples were quick to intentionally change their thinking around. They realized the power they had over these feelings and trained their brain to think the best of their partner. When you feel these kinds of negative feelings coming on, don’t let them boss you around; decide to believe the best about your spouse

Keeping your marriage strong and healthy takes intentionality on a daily basis. But with these four keys, you can be sure that your marriage check-up will merit a clean bill of health. 

 ***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 your computer or device is being monitored, 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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We had been married for about a year and I was really frustrated. My husband owned his own business and to me, it felt like it was the mistress in our marriage. He worked long hours which meant I spent a lot of time by myself. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends I could spend time with. I did plenty of that, but I really wanted time with him.

I knew Jay wasn’t intentionally trying not to be with me. In reality, he had a demanding job and it revolved around other people’s schedules. In the midst of feeling lonely and frustrated, I knew I needed help. The question I had was, “What do you do when you know your marriage needs help?” At that particular moment, I reached out to a friend who had been married forever. I knew I could count on her to listen and give me sound words of wisdom.

Thirty years of marriage and a career focused on marriage have taught me a lot about what to do when my marriage is in trouble.

Truth be told, it would be unusual to be married for any length of time and not have troubled times. It’s the reality of two people coming together, trying to do life together. It’s often complicated. Unexpected challenges can throw you for a loop. The good news? Although perfectly good marriages get derailed, the right help can often get the marriage back on track and moving on down the rails.

Here are 4 things you can do if you find yourself in a marriage that feels like it is in trouble.

1. Surround yourself with people who are in healthy marriages. 

Too often, when things are hard it’s super tempting to hang around people who will “take your side” and offer lots of advice that they sincerely believe is helpful. In reality, their advice isn’t always beneficial. It would be like taking your car to someone who is not a mechanic and asking them what they think is wrong with your car. Then you let them tinker with it when they really have no clue how to fix the problem. What’s most helpful is to have people who are willing to listen, hold you accountable for your part, and help you keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Before we talk about anything else, I think it‘s important to say that if you find yourself in a marriage where someone is or might be emotionally or physically abusing you, you should seek help immediately. Call the Domestic Violence Hotline. They can help you create a plan to get to a safe place. The number is 1−800−799−7233. Thehotline.org also has lots of helpful information.

2. Counseling is for sure an option. 

Just like you would not put your children in the hands of just anyone, you don’t want to put your marriage into someone’s hands just because they have the title of counselor or marriage and family therapist after their name. Check out reviews online. Also, ask trusted friends if they know of counselors that have been helpful to their marriage or friends’ marriages. 

When you do call a marriage counselor or therapist to make an appointment, ask to have a  10-15 minute conversation with them to find out more about their experience with your particular issue. Tell them what your expectations are and what your end goals are. Do you want them to be directive in their approach or do you want more of an opportunity to process what is going on? All of this will be helpful information to them as they talk with you. 

If you don’t feel like they are relatable or have enough experience with your issue, say “Thanks for your time” and move on. Even if your spouse does not want to go to counseling, it doesn’t mean you can’t work on making your marriage better. It only takes one person to decide to do things differently to change the marriage dance. 

3. Online coaching and experiences.

These can also be helpful for you as an individual or as a couple. One word of caution: many people who have experienced and reached the other side of a crisis together become experts about their own situation, but present themselves as experts who can help others survive similar crises. Be careful to avoid putting your marriage into the hands of well-meaning people who may not have the experience necessary to be helpful to you. 

4. There are many resources (including some outstanding books) you might find helpful.  

In case you are wondering what my friend said, she asked if I had shared my frustrations with Jay. I told her I had not. She encouraged me to talk with him, but to really think about my words carefully. She also reminded me that we’re on the same team and that the goal was to figure out together the best way forward. I took her advice. Although she has left this earth, I can still hear her voice in my head on the hard days reminding me that my marriage is worth fighting for, and asking for help is courageous and wise. 

If you were to ask me now (almost 31 years into marriage) if it’s been worth it, I would say without a doubt. BUT, that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our share of hard times. There have been plenty, but it feels like the hard times were like good seasoning on food. It permeates through and just makes it better. Our marriage is better because of the hard times and being willing to ask for help.

***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.***

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For me, it often happens in the evening (though not always). It feels like a sudden Visitor at your door who comes in unannounced and spreads an uncomfortable, heavy, warm, wet blanket over you, gradually but quickly covering your whole body, and I feel it mainly in my chest. As soon as I feel myself covered, I’m very aware of the sense of unexplained dread that’s overcome me. Often my vision narrows and it’s difficult to concentrate on what people are saying. I can feel my heart pounding. My breathing is shallow. And it’s hard not to just sit there, paralyzed, and feel intense fear for something that I don’t know how to define. 

Sometimes it takes a long while for the feeling to gradually dissipate. Other times, it just sort of leaves quickly, like it wanted to slip quietly out the back door without anyone noticing. It’s exhausting. And the most frustrating part, every time, is the nonsensical, illogical way the Visitor just comes and goes, without any sort of reason, at least none that I can think of. 

Anxiety attacks are a beast, and I’ve experienced them for years. Every time I’ve had to deal with anxiety, my wife, Kristin, has been there right beside me, walking the road. She can tell when the Visitor is at the door because she can hear me trying to catch my breath. 

Feeling anxious? 

She’ll gently ask me this, and I never find it threatening nor snarky. This is in large part due to the fact that we’ve had some very open and real discussions about what I experience. What I appreciate the most is her understanding, even though she hasn’t felt what I feel when I have these attacks. 

If you are married to someone who struggles with anxiety, you may feel powerless to help them. Kristin and I want to offer you some tools and concepts to help you be a support for the one you love most when anxiety comes bursting through the door. 

What Is Anxiety Exactly?

It helps to have a basic understanding of anxiety itself. Anxiety is actually a natural, normal process the brain goes through to help a person cope with stress. It causes an apprehension or fear of something to come, and this typically serves to protect a person from harm and danger. 

However, this process is only made to come and go as needed. It’s not meant to pop up without warning and interfere with everyday life. 

This unhealthy anxiety is ambiguous; it can feel differently depending on the person feeling it, and it reveals itself in a variety of ways. Many (like myself) feel panic attacks with no apparent reason. Others may experience a phobia of certain objects or activities. Some have an irrational fear of social situations or worry about their health. 

Researchers can’t pinpoint an exact cause of this kind of anxiety. A mix of genetics, environmental factors, and brain chemistry seems to be likely, but this doesn’t exactly narrow it down. Therefore, there are a variety of ways professionals treat anxiety, from coping exercises such as deep breathing and other lifestyle changes to therapy and medication. (The Gottman Institute offers a great article here about using mindfulness to deal with difficult emotions like anxiety.) 

This all can seem very complex to you, the spouse, who sees how anxiety is plaguing the one you love. And you might be wondering, what in the world could I ever do to help? 

What Spouses Can Do

In fact, you are not powerless to help your spouse who has anxiety. Anxiety isn’t exactly something you can “fix,” but it can be managed. And as someone dealing with anxiety, a supportive spouse is the most important person to have in your corner. 

Here are some thoughts on how to help your spouse deal with anxiety:

  • Understand that your spouse doesn’t know why they struggle with anxiety. Even if they know what triggers it, such as work deadlines or having to engage with a particular person, the feeling itself just seems irrational. Even more elusive is how to get rid of that feeling. It’d be easy to put the blame of the anxiety on the person feeling it or to say, just stop feeling that way, but this is no help. As a person who experiences this, I can tell you that if I knew what it was I was doing that caused a panic attack, I’d immediately change course. And I appreciate my wife understanding this. 
  • Be present. One of the worst feelings—over and above the anxiety itself—is watching a person leave the room because they don’t know how to help. My wife’s presence is comforting and reassuring, even if neither one of us knows how to “stop the feeling.” Sometimes Kristin, if she is doubting what she should do, will say, I’m going to stay here with you until you tell me you want to be alone. And I can honestly say I have never asked to be alone during a panic attack. 
  • Gently direct toward some healthy coping strategies (and away from unhealthy ones). Again, my wife is good at this (she’s had lots of practice). When I feel an attack coming on, she will gently and respectfully steer me in another direction, maybe to watch a TV show with her or to take a walk. She understands the need to redirect my focus. Other good coping strategies include self-care, meditation, deep breathing exercises, physical exercise, eating a healthy diet, aromatherapy (such as using candles, oil, or incense), and spending time outdoors in nature. 
  • Talking it out helps. When I feel the pressure of anxiety coming on, Kristin will often ask me if I know where it might be stemming from. Sometimes, as we talk, we can identify some possible triggers, such as an impending work deadline or an inevitable difficult conversation I need to have with another person. My wife is really good at helping me think out what’s the worst that can come out of this situation? When I verbalize with her that the worst-case scenario isn’t all that bad, it helps to alleviate the anxiety. At other times, Kristin is also very good at reading when talking may not be very productive. This is usually when I’m in full-on panic mode and I can’t think straight enough to make conversation. In this case, she helps me with other coping strategies. 
  • Encourage rest. Exhaustion and fatigue are bullies to anxiety management. Getting to bed early or taking a short power nap in the afternoon helps me (I avoid long naps because it interferes with my sleep at night). I appreciate it when Kristin guides me to make rest a priority. 
  • If anxiety persists despite using coping strategies, it might be good to encourage your spouse to seek professional help through their physician or a counselor. 

There are times when I have felt very inadequate because I didn’t know how to fix what I was experiencing. It’s easy to feel that something is “wrong” with you. And even more so, I’ve wondered just when my wife was finally going to be over me and this “problem.” 

Kristin is very quick to put me in my place (in a good way). She assures me that nothing is “wrong” with me, that she doesn’t judge or think negatively of me because of my anxiety, and that she’ll be there no matter what to help me however she can. Without that, no coping exercise, medication, or therapy session would be nearly as effective.

You are in the prime position to be the main support for your spouse struggling with anxiety. You don’t have to “do” anything about it. Simply walk the road with them. Be in their corner. Encourage them. Be understanding. And be assured that your support means the world.  

***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 your computer or device is being monitored, 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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Someone once said that the quality of your life depends on the quality of the questions you ask. So, first of all, asking, “Why am I so mad at my spouse during this pandemic?” is such a quality question!

You could have asked: Why is my spouse such a jerk these days? What’s their problem? Why are they so annoying, unhelpful, boring, and not the person I married? Instead, you placed the focus squarely on yourself (Why am I so mad…) and you put the problem in its appropriate context (…during this pandemic). HIGH-FIVE! You’re on the right track!

Someone else once said that the answer is often right in the question. Let’s break the question down and see if we can find a reasonable answer.

Why Am I So Mad…

Anger is a normal emotion. It’s okay to feel angry. But, try to understand how it works and how it can affect you and your family. In that moment of anger, (his dirty clothes on the floor AGAIN, she had THAT tone, we’re BOTH supposed to help put the kids down for bed) your brain is flooded with stress hormones that override your pre-frontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that controls higher-order thinking skills such as decision-making, impulse control, focusing your attention, planning for the future and predicting the consequences of your actions. It also controls your ability to use logic and process feelings of empathy, shame, compassion and guilt. In that moment of anger, if you react, instead of pausing and responding, this is like handing over the keys to the part of your brain that is deciding between “fight, flight, or freeze.” 

If your spouse has done something that triggers “flooding” in you, it is physically and mentally impossible for you to have a reasonable conversation. You are literally incapable of rational thought. Your heart might be racing. You might be sweating or even crying at this point. Mentally, you won’t interpret and process the words and actions of your spouse accurately. 

This is definitely NOT when you want to address issues or problems in your relationship. 

This is why we say and do things when we are angry that, later, after the pre-frontal cortex gets the keys back, we totally cannot believe we said or did. It is also why the way we handle that 90 seconds or so of our brain “flooding” is so important. It’s why you’ve never heard of “Happiness Management” classes, either.

Marriage researcher and relationship expert, Dr. John Gottman, found that it takes about 20 minutes for the “floodwaters” to recede and explains this process and how “self-soothing” like taking a walk or calling a “timeout” can help. (More on that later.)

Even though anger is a normal emotion, it is not one to take lightly or ignore. We don’t want to camp out with our anger. In a very real sense, anger is a “Gateway Emotion.” Anger that isn’t dealt with often leads to bitterness, contempt, resentment and apathy. These feelings can wreak havoc even when we’re done being mad. People often take these feelings out on their spouses, their children, and even on themselves. Plus, dwelling on your anger sends a signal to your brain to start flooding all over again. This is not where you need to be. This is not your “best self.”

What do you do with your anger? What do you let your anger do to you? How do you handle your brain being “flooded?” Have you considered that anger is often a “secondary emotion” that masks the real issue? Have you reflected on what the real issue could be—not feeling appreciated, not feeling heard, not feeling respected? Are you really jealous, lonely or hurting?

Are you taking proper care of yourself?

At My Spouse…

Your spouse might, in fact, be acting very differently right now. But why? They might process stress, fear, conflict and communicate it differently than you do. That’s okay. Opposites attract, right? But you might be seeing some real opposite-opposite behavior at the moment. Your spouse might really be struggling. They might be flooded or they might be withdrawn because stress makes them shut down. They might be irritable because of what their employer is expecting from them or they feel like they are failing you and the family.

Dr. Gottman found that 69% of conflict in marriages is about “unresolvable, perpetual problems.” That is NOT a discouraging statistic. That is what we call marriage—two unique individuals with their own unique needs, personalities, ways of communicating, handling conflict, and let’s say… quirks—spending their lives together, trying to fail better tomorrow. That’s love. It’s beautiful. 

Get real honest with yourself—is this a tension to be managed or a problem to be solved? Is your spouse a convenient outlet for your anger? Are you leaving room for them to be them? Are you spending too much time together cooped up? Not enough quality time together? 

This is a time for patience, grace, and empathy. 

During This Pandemic?

The stress and fear that comes with quarantine and a global pandemic can keep us in a perpetual state of “brain flooding.” Think about that a second. We may be trying to be employees, tutors, parents and spouses while we are worrying about the future, finances and getting COVID-19. Add to this that we might be stuck in the house and cut off from our normal routines and the usual ways we “blow off steam” and have fun.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, (including you and your spouse) are their best selves right now—no matter how your friends appear on social media. We are all in Survival Mode. Everything is magnified right now. Everything is intensified. An off-hand comment that wouldn’t have phased you before now is a personal attack. Don’t let this “thing” we are all going through drive you away from your spouse. Be determined to handle your anger in a way and deal with conflict in a way that drives you toward your spouse

Make it a goal to come out of this better and closer on the other side.

Understanding Is Important, But Here Are Some Practical Tips.

  • Learn to recognize when your body is telling you that you’re flooding and have a plan. Find a healthy outlet for your anger. Journaling. Going for a walk. Calling a timeout. Take the reins of your brain and remind yourself of why you got married and your spouse’s awesome qualities and traits. Control your thoughts and emotions, don’t let them control you.
  • If there is a problem or issue that you and your spouse need to work out, remember that is a normal part of marriage. Don’t attempt to resolve it when you are angry. Pick a time when you can have a productive, constructive conversation about it. Use “I” statements, not “you” statements. Listen to your body—don’t escalate and don’t be afraid to call “timeout.”
  • Are you and your spouse connecting creatively with each other or crossing paths chaotically? Is it time for a special in-house dinner date? A movie night? Some yard work together? A walk around the block? Just enjoy each other’s company.
  • This is not the time for any harsh conclusions or permanent judgments, and definitely no big decisions—specially when you throw anger into the mix. Take responsibility for yourself and for what you can control. 

Why am I so mad at my spouse during this pandemic? Remember, the quality of your life depends on the quality of the questions you ask—and what you do about the answers.

***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 your computer or device is being monitored, 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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If one of the top issues couples fight about is money, then a worldwide pandemic where uncertainty fills the air is certain to magnify financial decisions and disagreements. It’s to be expected.

  • Stimulus checks
  • Job uncertainty
  • Job layoffs and unemployment
  • Food and grocery shortages
  • Kids at home 24/7

Whether you were in a financial rhythm or not, the changes or potential changes can cause significant conflict. And it’s not because there’s too much or not enough money. It’s because you both have an opinion on what should or shouldn’t be done with the money. And there’s a good chance that you’re both certain that you’re right. 

There’s some frivolous things that people can spend money on that are not helpful for the current situation. However, that’s not what I’m trying to address. The question is: How can we come together and make financial decisions for our family in the midst of the changes brought on by COVID-19?

Have Priorities Changed?

There’s an old saying, “If you want to know what’s important to someone, look at their bank statement.” It may be time for a discussion between the two of you regarding what is most important during this time of change and uncertainty. Prior to this quarantine, education, being debt-free, creating memorable experiences and family togetherness were tops on our list. We often tried to take advantage of several educational opportunities, feverishly paid down debts and would go all out to celebrate birthdays and holidays to create memorable experiences.

That’s changed—at least temporarily. Financial security, home improvement and family togetherness are top priorities now. We’re saving as much as possible and working on repairs as if we’re preparing to sell our home. 

Family togetherness is in both lists, but it’s interesting how they look different when you are trying to save money instead of focusing on creating memorable experiences. 

Couples that can come to an agreement on the current priorities take a huge step into making financial decisions together. Before deciding what to do with money, first agree with what’s important to the family.

As a Team, Assess Where You Are. 

Basic questions to answer: 

  • Do we have enough money for all of our current and necessary expenses? 
  • Do we need to cut spending? 
  • Is it possible to increase our income? 

The ability to answer these questions together helps couples lay a framework for working together. Notice, we haven’t made any financial decisions or judgments yet about what those changes should be. We’ve simply identified our priorities and our current situation.

We’re Not Making Enough Money. What Needs to Change?

First, look at each other and agree that you’re going to make it through this together. There may not be enough money because of a pay cut, a layoff, increased medical expenses or you’re subjected to a natural disaster. This may be the first time that one or both of you has ever been in this situation. Fear, panic and anxiety can begin to grab hold. Being in a marriage means being on the same TEAM. Not having to face new challenges alone. Hugs, Kisses, and Affirmation are priceless when the money is tight. Turn toward one another, not away from one another.

Looking at your bank statement and financial decisions for the last month or two is really helpful in knowing where the money went—especially when trying to eliminate spending on things that aren’t priorities. Discussing payment options and deferments is something that many companies are willing to do during this time of quarantine. Check out this great blog my colleague wrote about getting help when the money isn’t there.

The key is to look at all options with an open mind and be creative. It’s easy to be attached to certain practices. We can get trapped in the mentality that if we don’t do this thing we do every year, then we’ll ruin little Johnny’s life. Is that really true?

Phrases to Avoid When Working Together to Cut Spending

  • We can’t cut that. This statement stifles creativity. You may ultimately land on some things that can’t be cut, but before using this phrase, you must exhaust all options.
  • That’ll make them so mad. Changes often evoke emotional responses that we must learn to deal with.
  • There’s nowhere to cut. This statement also stifles creativity. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. 

Have an Open Mind. Be Creative. Work Together. Be Willing to Compromise. 

Your preferences can’t always be more important than your partner’s preferences. If you’re constantly fighting about what to cut, you may choose to focus on increasing your income. You also may develop a system to alternate who chooses what to cut. This is probably going to be painful for all involved. But that’s OK, you’re doing it together.

Is Increasing Income an Option?

You may be surprised at all the industries that are hiring during this season: cleaning services, delivery services (both food and packages), grocery stores, and landscaping, just to name a few. You may be good at tutoring or making specialty items of value. This may be the time to market your services. They may not fully replace your income. However, it may be better than nothing. 

Agreeing on the Assistance You Receive

Whether it’s the stimulus check, unemployment or any other infusion of cash, it’s important that the two of you agree about it before you spend it. You may likely have two different opinions on what to do with the money. Do we catch up on bills? Save it? Fix the car? Resubscribe to Netflix? 

Don’t feel like you have to make the decision the moment you get the money. Just be sure to work together. My wife and I have made an agreement that any infusion of cash cannot be spent until we come to an agreement together. Look at your necessities and priorities and work from there. 

Work Together—Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.

This can be an anxious time. We can be susceptible to scams, quick fix payday loans, predatory loan sharks, and addictions. Committing to connect with one another to talk about money, to talk about life and to talk about your emotions can heighten your emotional security and peace when you’re not sure if you can pay the light bill this month. 

However, with the right attitude toward one another and a commitment to working together as a team, the two of you can navigate through anything and be stronger for it.

***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 your computer or device is being monitored, 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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Opposites attract. Right? That’s why one of you is a homebody while the other likes to be out on the town. One of you is a talker while the other is an observer. One of you is a night owl while the other is up with the chickens. And it’s why one of you is vigilant about abiding by the CDC COVID-19 guidelines while your spouse, wellllllll… not so much.

Not being on the same page with your spouse can always be dangerous and can affect your marriage in some very destructive ways. You may feel uncared for, disrespected, unsafe, scared, and even lonely. The burden of carrying the weight to protect the family, especially if you have children, can begin to overwhelm even the broadest shoulders.

The stage is set for some pretty volatile arguments, thick tension, the silent treatment, and other destructive tactics designed to express your frustration, anger, and resentment. 

Some of us are stuffers. We don’t like conflict, so we don’t do a good job communicating the anger, hurt, and fear that we feel. So we passively let it build and try to make up for our spouse’s lack of seriousness about COVID-19 guidelines by being twice as vigilant. 

Others of us seem to look for conflict. So our spouse never stops hearing about how selfish, uncaring, and irresponsible we feel like they are.

All of a sudden, if we’re not careful, we’re allowing our different opinions on COVID-19 guidelines to rip our marriage apart. People don’t take it seriously for various reasons: they think the media has overblown it, conspiracy theories, or the feeling of invincibility. Regardless of the differences in our approach to COVID-19, we can’t give it the power to divide us. 

How do you cope when you can’t seem to convince your spouse that this is a serious matter?

Accept your spouse’s position on COIVD-19. You’re not going to change it. You’ve probably been trying for four weeks now to no avail. Their position is their position. 

Acceptance does not mean agreement. 

To accept does not mean condone. 

Accepting it does not even mean that you’re okay with it. 

It’s an acknowledgment that this is how you feel and that, “I am no longer going to put so much energy in trying to change your mind.”

Discuss contingency plans. If someone in the home comes in contact with someone who has the virus or gets the virus, what will the household do? Will you quarantine them in a room? Will the rest of the household leave and stay somewhere else? What will be the showering procedures, etc.?

Work to allow your position and actions to be understood and respected. You will obviously carry the weight of abiding by CDC guidelines for safety, but you must not spend all of your energy trying to change their mind. You can work to have your position and corresponding safety measures respected and not undermined. Talking and agreeing to let you handle the implementation of safety measures for yourself (and the children) may be an extra burden that you must be willing to carry to maintain the peace.

Try to understand your spouse. Listen and ask questions to understand why they don’t take it seriously. We try not to do this from a place of judgment, but more from a place of clarity and even curiosity. Most people can appreciate being heard even if there is disagreement. (This could even open an avenue to more compromise on your spouse’s part.)

Focus on the issue. It will be easy to draw conclusions about your spouse. He doesn’t care about me or his family. She’s selfish and only thinks about herself. He’s lazy. She’s stubborn. And while it’s okay and healthy to share, “When you take this virus so lightly, it makes me feel like you don’t care about me or the family,” it is not as productive to simply label your spouse. The goal is to get through the pandemic and this time of quarantine. Keeping as many conversations focused on that goal and not one another’s character is key.

Talk about how you can show one another love in the midst of the differences. Ways you may show your partner love is by not talking to others about how they aren’t taking this seriously. You continue to talk about them as your partner. They may be able to show you love by being willing to wash their hands immediately when they enter the home. 

Talk to a professional. Many counselors are accepting Tele-counseling sessions. Even if you are attending alone, it may be necessary to talk with a professional to walk through this season in your marriage.

This is no doubt a difficult challenge that can make you feel lonely within your own marriage. Remember that we all respond to a major crisis in different ways and that ultimately each person is responsible for the things they can control. As much as it hurts to feel like the people you love the most don’t share your same concerns, regardless of how grave they are, you are two different people and ultimately there are many differences that have kept you together before this pandemic and will be vital for your marriage after this pandemic.

***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 your computer or device is being monitored, 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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COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD BE FULFILLING, NOT FRUSTRATING.

With the right tools, you and your spouse can have the best communication ever!

This easy-to-use virtual 5-day course guides you and your spouse to have the best communication you’ve ever had! This course includes exclusive access to:

  • 5 downloadable relationship-enhancing PDFs
  • Videos full of easy-to-use communication tools
  • Questions to ask each other to spark a deeper connection
  • Fun activities to guide you through each of the concepts discussed

ADD TO CART

Every family in America is probably blessed with some members who are taking the CDC guidelines for COVID-19 very seriously and some who are taking them with a grain of salt. Often, those on opposing sides of the fence are looking down their nose at those who disagree with them. And disagreements about COVID-19 can start to affect the relationship if each wonders when the others are going to wake up and realize their perspective is the correct one.

There is a ton of information out there. From the mainstream news, to opinion papers, talk shows, Dr. Fauci, the CDC and of course we can’t forget social media, it’s almost like information overload. And, who you choose to listen to often determines your behavior.

Whether you’re intensely practicing social distancing or think it’s a massive overreaction, one thing’s for sure – how you have disagreements about COVID-19 with the ones you love will impact your relationship long after COVID-19 is no longer a concern.

At some point, many have figured out that it’s going to be complicated doing life together if you can’t agree on this issue. There is some degree of truth in that, but when have all members of a family ever seen everything exactly the same way?

We can spend our time arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong, which is unlikely to have a productive outcome. Or, we can figure out how to move forward while having differing points of view.

At the core of what many are dealing with is fear. Fear of getting the virus because people around you are not social distancing or following CDC guidelines. Fear of infecting someone else. Being afraid of doing the wrong thing. Fear of the government taking your rights away. Fear of losing a business. Fearing economic collapse. And the list goes on.

So, what do you do?

Talk about it. You may have family members who you believe are not handling things the way they need to. If that’s the case, you can choose to have a conversation with them. How you approach them really matters. If you are judgmental and condescending, it’s likely that the conversation won’t go well.  It’s probably a given that you feel strongly about your beliefs and you want those you love to get with the program. But the reality is, they may never be on the same page with you.

Case in point – your aging parents don’t want you telling them what to do. Or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, your college student does not want you telling them what to do. All the disagreements about COVID-19 needs to be talked about!

If all of you are living under the same roof, have a family meeting. Talk about how the entire family will work as a team to keep every member of the household safe. You don’t all have to agree. In fact, you may have to agree to disagree, yet all find a way to do what is best for the greater good.

Acknowledge what you have control over. If your parents are living hours away from you, what they do is beyond your control. You can make recommendations, but at the end of the day, they are going to do what they want to do. Can you love them anyway?

One thing that is within your control is your attitude. You could walk around angry all day because people are responding in a way you believe is irresponsible. On the other hand, you could do what you need to do to keep yourself safe and not seek to be responsible for other people’s behavior.

For example, you are trying to keep your family healthy and safe and your neighbor decides to have a party for 50 people in their front yard. You could choose to confront them, but that would probably create more angst on your part. It’s pretty likely that everybody is feeling a fair amount of tension, so why create more? Going on a walk away from the party, heading to the backyard to play or staying inside might actually help decrease your anxiety.

Be careful about being quick to judge. Things may not always be as they appear.  Someone leaving the grocery store with a lot of toilet paper and other items could at first glance be seen as hoarding much-needed supplies. In reality, the person may be shopping for several older people in their neighborhood. 

Show respect. At the end of the day, respect really matters. Even though you may have differing perspectives on the Coronavirus, being able to share, listen and seek to understand each other’s views goes a long way toward maintaining a healthy relationship over the long term.

It is our differences that make this world a rich place – even disagreements about COVID-19. Instead of trying to convince others that your way is the only way, treat them with the same respect you’d like to receive. Although you may not see eye-to-eye, disagreement doesn’t have to damage or destroy your closest relationships.

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