A New York Post article 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! 

GRATITUDE IS POWERFUL IN MARRIAGE

This free guide is filled with 30 days of simple, easy-to-follow daily tasks. You’ll be guided through everything you need to fill the next month with gratitude and love! You can do it on your own or with your spouse. Either way, this guide can help you transform your marriage through gratitude in 30 days!



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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Everyone knows how to do “it,” but few people know the secrets to body-aching, soul-connecting, “I feel closer to you than ever” sex. What if sex wasn’t just doing it? What if sex was more satisfying physically AND emotionally? (Maybe it wouldn’t only be a Saturday night thing?) Here are 10 things EVERY married couple needs to know about sex.

1. Foreplay Begins With Each New Day.

Great sex starts outside the bedroom, long before the first button is unbuttoned. If sex is the high point of how the bodies and emotions of two people become connected—start that connection early and often, without expecting sex (or anything) in return.

Connect Emotionally: Listen, share feelings, do the dishes, help with the kids, don’t nag, give a sincere compliment, say “thank you.”

Connect Physically: Hold hands, give a quick shoulder rub, sit with your arms around each other. (In other words, sex shouldn’t be the only time you touch.)

2. Do Your Sex Homework.

  • Know what turns you on!
  • Know what turns your spouse on!
  • What kills sex dead for you?
  • What kills sex dead for your spouse?
  • Talk with your spouse about these questions. 

(This takes the guesswork out of sex.) 

3. Talk About Sex.

Talk about your sex life, what you like, what you don’t like, and what you’d like to try. Do some things make you uncomfortable? Are there things your spouse could do that might make sex better? What brings you sexual fulfillment? How often would you each like to have sex?

(This DISCOVER INTIMACY TOOLKIT can get those conversations started.)

4. New Is For You!

Keep sex fresh and adventuresome! Excite your partner by doing the unexpected. Don’t approach sex in the same way or do the same things in the same place! That’ll leave you and your spouse bored, unsatisfied, and in a rut.

5. Expectations Are Everything.

People are wired differently—that includes libidos. Sexual interest can be affected by stress, fatigue, medication, season of life, and problems in other parts of the relationship. Some people need to connect emotionally before they can connect sexually. Some people need to connect sexually before they can connect emotionally. Communication is the key!

6. Sometimes, Focusing On Having More Sex Will Get You Less.

Remember, sex is not an end in itself. Sex is a means to an end. The “end” is deeper intimacy, a stronger connection, and a healthier relationship. Focusing on other ways to increase intimacy, strengthen your connection, and grow your relationship frequently results in more sex! Nothin’ wrong with that!

  • 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?

7. Sex = Give & Take!

Sometimes, you might not have sex when your spouse doesn’t feel like it. Sometimes, you might have sex when you don’t feel like it. Understanding this and respecting each other will set the stage for some great sex! Sex shouldn’t be transactional. Sex should be intimate and treasured. When sex is “weaponized” or becomes a demand or entitlement—you’re not gonna have a good time. (If that’s frequently the situation, talk about it or get help from a counselor.)

8. A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action!

When you finally have time alone, talking about finances, kids or in-laws can kill the mood. Don’t get me wrong—there are important marriage and family things to talk about. But if you want to get down to the business of love, leave those conversations for another time and take time to enjoy each other.

9. Keep Sex Fun and Playful

Sex is serious business, but if it feels more like work than fun, it’s less likely to happen! Playing together helps you associate fun and good vibes with your spouse, and that’s a good thing. Little things like winking at each other, using that signal that says, “Let’s go somewhere private,” or flat-out flirting can do wonders. Perhaps you’ve seen the TikToks where people simply walk into the room in their birthday suit while their spouse is playing video games. That’s an attention-getter for sure. And there’s always strip poker…

10. Less Stress = More Sex

The things that take up your mental and physical energy can impact whether you’re in the mood for love. Helping each other out can lighten the load and make you feel more like a connected team. So that means getting that to-do list done in half the time by working together frees you up for a little party later on. (Note: Sex can also relieve stress, too!) Give these four little magic words a try: How. Can. I. Help. Then watch what happens.

***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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DISCOVER DEEPER INTIMACY IN YOUR MARRIAGE

READY TO HAVE AMAZING, MIND-BLOWING SEX?

A better sex life is totally possible.

Your marriage goes through ups and downs, highs and lows, crazy passion and mundane routine-filled days. But sometimes you can get stuck in that monotony. Not only does your sex life go out the window, you may find conversations are lacking and that you’re both just generally not connecting with each other.

Discover Deeper Intimacy in Your Marriage offers simple, practical strategies to help you reignite the passion and connection with your spouse in 5 intimacy-building modules.

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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Discover 5 Simple Steps to Creating a Deeper Connection In Your Marriage

Do you feel like your marriage is in the shallows? Listening well, vulnerability, and mutual respect are some of the hardest parts of marriage. We get it. And we’ve got 5 simple steps to help you develop a deeper understanding and trust in your relationship!

This is a 5-part online course for couples who want to…

✅ Stop making assumptions and start really listening to each other.

✅ Create a safe space to be your true, authentic selves.

✅ Feel more loved by being deeply understood by each other!

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$39.99 $9.99

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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