Articles for Married Couples

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    4 Tips for Becoming a Team in Marriage

    After you marry, who should you approach first as your confidant, to ask for an opinion or to work through an issue? Your spouse or your parents? Many couples wrestle with this in the early stages of marriage.

    One woman shared that she resented her husband of two years going to his mother about everything. He responded that he is closer to his mother and that she knows him better.

    “My husband and I dealt with this in the first few years of our marriage,” says marriage educator, wife and mother, Gena Ellis. “When I showed up on my parents’ doorstep, my mother told me to go home. She said I didn’t live there anymore and I needed to go home to my husband. My husband was not being mean or hurting me. I was just spoiled and mad that things weren’t going my way, so I ran home to Mama. I am grateful my mom set these boundaries.”

    Even though you love your spouse, learning how to get along together and grow your trust level takes time.

    “I think a lot of men don’t realize how their relationship with their mom can lead to their wife's insecurity in the marriage relationship,” says marriage coach Dr. David Banks. 

    “For example, many well-intentioned men do not realize that confiding in mom after getting married is like being traded from one sports team to another and going back to your former coach for advice. This actually works against building trust in the marriage and figuring out how to rely on each other.”

    Both Ellis and Banks agree that parents should receive, raise and ultimately, release their children.

    “It is truly in a couple's best interest if parents are a safety net rather than the first line of defense,” Ellis says. “If your adult child is having trouble 'cutting the apron strings,' helping him/her do that provides the best chance of a healthy and successful marriage. It is not helpful to say things like, ‘You will always have a room here.’ Or, ‘If she starts treating you bad, you just come home to Mama.’”

    If you are a newlywed, Banks and Ellis offer these tips as you leave your parents and join forces with your spouse.

    • First, sit down together and talk about what it means to be a team.

    • Resist the urge to run to your parents at every turn. Set healthy boundaries for you as the couple and for your parents. Constantly turning to your parents creates difficulty in building trust and confidence in each other.

    • Watch the influences you allow around your marriage. People who have a negative view of marriage don’t typically help you to build a healthy relationship with your spouse. In other words, you may have hung out with people before marriage that you should see less often now.

    • Consider attending a marriage enrichment class. There are great tools to help you build a strong, lasting marriage.

    “Loyalty is foundational to a healthy marriage team,” Banks says. “You may feel like your parents know you better and can offer better advice. But think of your marriage as your new team. Even though your old team knows you better, your job now is to make sure your new team knows you. This isn’t about giving up your relationship with your parents. It is about creating a new system where there is balance and everyone understands their appropriate role.”

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    How to Balance Marriage and Children

    Some couples marry and have lots of time to nurture their relationship before children come along. Other couples marry and bring children into the marriage relationship immediately. Either way, when children enter the picture, the marriage relationship often resembles two ships passing in the night.

    There is no question that parenting focuses a lot of energy and love toward the children. And sometimes it becomes a challenge to have anything left for your spouse.

    While research indicates that marital satisfaction decreases when you have children, it doesn’t mean couples should throw in the towel. Many assume that after children come along, the kids should be the main focus. But studies show that child-centered marriages are the ones that are most at risk for distress. Focusing on building a strong marriage is a wonderful thing to give your children... and yourself. But, any parent can tell you that is easier said than done!

    In many instances both spouses are running 90 to nothing trying to juggle the kids, work, take care of household duties and care for their marriage. If couples don’t have their guard up, tyranny of the urgent can push date night to the bottom of the list in a flash.

    “If your marriage is strong, your whole family will be strong - your life will be more peaceful, you’ll be a better parent, and you’ll, quite simply, have more fun in your life,” says Elizabeth Pantley, mother, author and parenting expert.

    Being intentional about taking care of your marriage doesn’t have to be complicated. Pantley offers some helpful (and free) tips that don’t require extra hours in your day.

    • Look for the good and overlook the bad. When you are tired and stressed, it's easy to focus on the negative. Train yourself to look for the good qualities in your spouse.

    • Give two compliments every day. Life often gets so crazy that you might think something like, “She sure looks pretty in that outfit,” or “I really appreciate the ways he engages our children,” without actually saying it. Think about how you feel when you receive a compliment. They aren’t hard to give and they don’t cost a dime.

    • Pick your battles. It is easy to fall into the trap of fighting over silly things that truly will not matter 24 hours from now. Before you gear up for battle, ask yourself if this is really a big deal. In many instances the answer is no.

    • Be intentional about spending time with your spouse. It might be early in the morning or in the evening after you have put the children to bed, or even better – a date night. This is the hardest part because the tyranny of the urgent typically reigns. Some parents have formed a co-op where they take turns taking care of each other’s children in order to allow for couple time.

    While loving your children is important, making time for each other should be at the top of the list. After all, the heart of the family is marriage and it's really important to keep that focus. Even though it probably doesn’t feel like it right now, your children will become adults in the blink of an eye. Then they will start their own families and it will just be the two of you again.

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    What Women Need to Know About Men

    Shaunti Feldhahn is a Harvard-educated analyst who wants to enable men and women to have healthy, long-lasting marriages.

    "I travel a lot," says Feldhahn. "People frequently ask me what I do, and my usual response is: 'I help women understand men.' The men usually laugh and say, 'You know, we really aren't that complicated.'"

    Feldhahn's research found that in most cases, relationship problems happen when a husband and wife care deeply for each other and are trying really hard, but often in the wrong areas.

    "I ended up writing For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men to help open people's eyes so they start trying hard in the areas that will help them avoid hurting each other unnecessarily," Feldhahn says. "We asked men and women ages 15-75 to tell us: 'What are your fears, what are the things that light you up, and what makes you feel really bad?'"

    Women wanted to know: Am I lovable? Am I special? Am I worth loving for who I am on the inside? 

    Guys wanted to know: Am I adequate? Am I able? Am I any good at what I do on the outside?

    "These responses were significant," Feldhahn says. " 'Am I adequate?' leads to an entirely different set of primary needs than, 'Am I lovable?' A solid three-quarters of the men surveyed said, if they were forced to choose, they would choose giving up feeling loved by their wife if they could just feel respected by her."

    Feldhahn realized that women could tell their husbands they love them and be critical at the same time. It happens by questioning his decision-making skills and constantly telling him what to do and how to do it.

    "Trying to gain a greater understanding of this, I was speaking with a friend who made the statement to me, 'I love my wife, but nothing I do is ever good enough,'" Feldhahn says. "I asked what he meant. He told me that they recently had friends over for dinner. When the friends left, his wife needed to run to a meeting so he cleaned up the kitchen. When she returned home she kissed his cheek and looked over his shoulder into the kitchen and sighed. She then went into the kitchen and started cleaning the countertops. I asked the husband if there was anything his wife could have done differently. He said, 'Yes, she could have said thanks.'"

    Feldhahn contends that many women make men feel that what they do isn't good enough and that they are idiots. In fact, women often say it is their job to keep their husband humble. In reality, underneath the mask of confidence, most men want to do a good job in whatever role, but they aren't sure they know what they are doing. And they hope nobody finds out.

    "When we as women are thinking about something you know it because we process out loud," Feldhahn says. "When men are thinking, they almost do an internal chess match before they ever talk about it. Our research showed that in most cases, if you see a decision, instead of asking 'Why did you do that?' if you will ask, 'Help me understand,' in most cases you will hear a long explanation."

    For example, a wife went out to a birthday party, leaving Dad with the kids. When she returned, she asked her husband why he had given the kids juice for dinner instead of milk. He got mad. She got defensive, and things went downhill from there.

    "I asked the husband to help us understand. He said, 'I went to the fridge to get the milk and realized if I gave them milk for dinner there wouldn't be enough for breakfast. I was going to go get more milk, but the baby was already asleep, and we've been having a terrible time with her sleep cycle, so I didn't want to wake her up just to go get milk. I decided to give the kids juice, which I diluted by half with water so they wouldn't have as much sugar.' The look on his wife's face said it all. This was a perfect example of assuming there was no thinking behind the behavior."

    Feldhahn believes it's important to let your husband be the dad he wants to be, not the dad you want him to be. Feldhahn encourages women to stop sending signals or telling your man he is inadequate and doesn't measure up. Instead of questioning his decisions, assume he has thought about it and seek to understand.

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    Is Date Night Dead?

    Date night may need some serious resuscitation. Redbook magazine found that 45 percent of couples rarely have date nights, while only 18 percent said they go out once a month.

    This is sad news, since marriage experts say you can keep your marriage strong, healthy and adventuresome by spending regular time together doing something you both enjoy. Couples who intentionally spend time together often marvel at the positive impact it has on their marriage and family.

    An astonishing 80 percent of marriages crumble, but it's not because of something huge. It's because they say they have become disconnected.

    According to The Date Night Opportunity, a report by the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project, couples who devote time specifically to one another at least once a week are way more likely to enjoy high-quality relationships and lower divorce rates.

    How can a simple date actually help a marriage? 

    Researchers say date nights provide opportunities to talk that may help couples deepen their understanding of one another and the relationship. Couples who engage in new activities that are fun, active or otherwise arousing — from hiking to dancing to travel to card games — enjoy higher levels of relationship quality. They also counteract the tendency to take each other for granted. Regular date nights may especially benefit couples who do more than the old standby of dinner and a movie.

    Date nights may also:

    • Strengthen or rekindle that romantic spark in order to sustain the fires of love.

    • Strengthen a couple's sense of commitment to one another. Partners who put each other first, steer clear of other romantic opportunities and cultivate a strong sense of "we-ness" or togetherness are happier than less-committed couples.

    • Relieve stress. They allow a couple to enjoy time away from the pressing concerns of their ordinary life.

    • Give couples an opportunity to support one another emotionally in trying times.

    The report found that couples who spend time together at least weekly:

    • Are about three times more likely to say they are "very happy" in their marriages;

    • Report higher levels of communication and commitment;

    • Express higher satisfaction with their sexual relationship than couples who spend less couple time together.

    If you haven't been planning date nights, maybe you could try it out for the next six weeks. Consider setting aside an hour or two each week for a little adventure. If you don't have a clue where to start or just need some fresh ideas, here are some tips.

    Agree not to talk about the kids, your job or the in-laws. You don't have to spend a ton of money - just play together! At the end of the six weeks, discuss any changes you have experienced in your relationship.

    "Couple time" can make a serious difference in your relationship. Try it and see for yourself.

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    Who Is More Likely to Cheat?

    This past year, in the midst of the #metoo campaign, a number of married men were among those accused of sexual misconduct. News of the inappropriate behavior probably created some extremely awkward moments within these marriages and perhaps made others wonder if their spouse is likely to cheat.

    Dr. Wendy Wang, research director at the Institute for Family Studies, recently released a brief on the subject called Who Cheats More? The Demographics of Cheating in America. Wang found that men, adults who did not grow up in intact families, and those who rarely or never attend religious services, are more likely than others to have cheated on their spouse.

    Based on Wang’s analysis of General Social Survey data from 2010-2016:

    • Men are more likely than women to cheat. Twenty percent of men and 13 percent of women reported they've had sex with someone other than their spouse, but the gap varies by age.

    • The infidelity rate also differs among a number of other social and demographic factors, such as race, family of origin and religious service attendance.

    Wang also found that cheating is somewhat more common among black adults. Some 22% of ever-married blacks said that they cheated on their spouse, compared with 16% of whites and 13% of Hispanics. And among black men, the rate is highest. In fact, 28% reported that they had sex with someone other than their spouse, compared with 20% of white men and 16% of Hispanic men.

    The data also revealed that a person’s political identity, family background and religious activity are related to whether or not they cheat. Interestingly, having a college degree is not linked to a higher probability of cheating. Almost equal shares of college-educated and less-educated adults have been unfaithful to their spouse (16% vs. 15%). The share among those with some college education is slightly higher (18%).

    So who is more likely to cheat - men or women? The data indicates men and women share very few traits in that area. For men, race, age, education level and religious service attendance are still significant factors. For women, family background and religious service attendance are significant factors for unfaithfulness, while race, age and educational attainment are not relevant factors. The only factor that shows significant consistency in predicting both men and women’s odds of infidelity is religious service attendance.

    The bottom line is that a lot of people are at risk and may not even know it. When it comes to cheating in marriage, the single most important protective factor is appropriate boundaries. In a culture where men and women work so closely, it’s important to make sure you are not putting yourself at risk to cheat. 

    Many relationship experts agree that one of the most common pathways to infidelity is when a man and woman who are “just friends” begin to discuss their marital problems. In other words, they are doing their marriage work with someone who might not be a friend to their marriage.

    If you haven't talked about guarding your marriage as a couple, you might want to talk about these things: 

    • Establish clear boundaries. Discuss expectations and boundaries in your relationship. You probably believe you would never fall prey to a relationship outside of your marriage. Unfortunately, few who found themselves there say they were looking for it. Keep the lines of communication open. Talk about how you will intentionally do your marriage work with your spouse and avoid keeping secrets from each other.  

    • Be aware, and value your mate's opinion. Sometimes other see things you don’t recognize.

    • The danger zones are for real. Being oblivious to tempting situations is risky.

    Intentionally protect and nurture your marriage. Check in with each other frequently and discuss how your choices impact your marital health. Avoiding behaviors that could create suspicion can’t hurt your marriage. On the other hand, it could be a tremendous help.

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    The Most Important New Year's Resolution

    When a new year dawns, people often reminisce about all they have experienced during the past year. Others consider whether or not to make the usual and customary New Year’s resolutions. You know the ones - exercise more, eat healthier, organize better and spend less. 

    Contemplating another year makes me thoughtful. The past year has been a hectic one. In addition to the day-in and day-out routines of life, there have been exciting and scary moments, a few once in a lifetime opportunities and amazing celebrations. One thing stands out though - the unexpected goodbyes I have said to a number of people.

    Most of us probably live life at a pretty fast pace. This year I have come face to face with how easy it is to take tomorrow for granted when it comes to relationships. For example, I recently saw a friend in the grocery store. We’ve mentioned getting together for coffee for months. We laughed about it, but in my heart I asked, “How can I be so busy that I can’t find time for coffee with my friend whom I love?” 

    My husband and I frequently talk at dinner about inviting friends over, but I know that if I don’t grab my calendar and look at dates, we’ll be having the same conversation about the same group of friends six months from now.

    Here’s what I think bothers me the most about this:  Not only is my life’s work all about healthy relationships, but I have also been blessed with many special people in my life. No question about it, I thrive on relationship. As I have come face to face with losing people who are close to me, it has hit me like a ton of bricks that life really is short and there is no promise of tomorrow.

    New Year’s resolutions aren’t necessarily my thing, but on the eve of a new year, I am absolutely resolved to spend more time with the ones I love. 

    I remember reading “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying - A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing,” written by Bronnie Ware, a hospice nurse who interviewed hundreds of her patients. It was interesting to me that all of the regrets really had to do with living life to the fullest with the people in your life. Every male patient (and many women, too) Ware cared for said they wished they hadn’t worked so hard but had spent more time with their loved ones instead. 

    Another regret was not realizing the full blessing of friends until they were facing death. Many said they had gotten so caught up in life that their friendships had been sidelined. Yet in the end when they were getting their affairs in order, the money or status weren’t what was most important to them - but the relationships were.

    I don’t want to look back with regret when it comes to the relationships in my life. I am definitely taking some intentional steps about creating space for the relationships that speak life to me.

    I hope the new year2018 brings you many blessings, including those of love and relationship.

    Happy New Year!

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    5 Tips to Help Your Marriage Survive the Holidays

    One year, Jayne Griffin looked at her calendar and realized she didn’t have a free weekend until after January 1st. She was hosting the family Thanksgiving meal and taking her grandbaby to see Santa. Then there was the staff party at her house, her husband’s office party and the church Christmas gathering. Plus, she planned a trip to see friends and committed to working two of the weekends.

    While commitments are great, it’s easy to stress about what to do when you have little downtime. And the most likely person to experience the brunt of that stress? The husband.

    “For many years I refused to start planning too far ahead of time for the holidays because I felt like I was giving in to the commercialism of it all,” says Griffin. “So I would end up doing things at the last minute when I was already exhausted. If my husband wasn’t doing what I thought he should be doing to help out, things could escalate pretty quickly between the two of us.”

    While everybody’s “to-do list” may look a bit different, most probably have one thing in common - it’s the big fight. It's not the one on television, but the one between you and your spouse as a result of poor planning, running at breakneck speed and communicating in shorthand.

    “For too long I put off the secular in order to enjoy the sacred, but I actually ended up squelching the joy of the sacred and the secular celebration, and it definitely took a toll on my marriage,” says Griffin. “Over many years of marriage I think I have finally learned that I can plan ahead without giving into the commercialization of the holiday.”

    Now, the Griffins sit down and discuss the schedule for November and December. Together they decide how they want things to go. They highlight the especially crazy times that would require extra finesse to keep the lines of communication open and attack problems instead of each other.

    “I am not dreading the holidays,” Griffin says. “In previous years I would wait until the week of a party to plan my menu. I now spend a couple of hours making my plan including menus for various parties, my gift list and other miscellaneous items. I have already purchased some gifts and I don’t get overwhelmed thinking about what’s left on my list. I am amazed at how different I feel. And, most importantly I am not at odds with my husband!”

    These tips can help you conquer the holidays. They can also help you enjoy them and keep your marriage healthy at the same time:

    • Consider fine-tuning your communication and conflict management skills by taking a marriage enrichment class. That can help prevent you from making mountains out of molehills.
    • Keep your attitude in check.
    • Plan out the next seven weeks together so the chaotic pace doesn’t blindside you.
    • Make decisions based on what is best for your family.
    • Remember, you do have control over how you choose to spend your holidays.

    Be mindful of the things that hinder your joy and put unnecessary strain on your marriage. They don't make for very happy holidays.

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    10 Resolutions for a Healthy Marriage

    The top 10 resolutions for each new year are often to: lose weight, get organized, spend less/save more, enjoy life to the fullest, stay fit and healthy, learn something exciting, quit smoking, help others in their dreams, fall in love, and spend more time with family.

    These are great goals, but studies show that without accountability, your goals will be out the window in a month. But what if you and your spouse made some fun resolutions to build up your relationship?

    Here are some examples to help you out:

    • Don’t come in and want to “talk” during the Super Bowl unless you want to pick a fight. Instead, schedule time for uninterrupted conversation on a regular basis. Just five minutes a day can make a huge difference in your relationship.

    • If you want to know what's going on in his head, don’t ask your man to share his feelings. Simply ask, “What do you think?” Chances are good you will actually end up knowing how he feels.

    • Eat dinner together. Seriously, taking time away from the television and other technology to eat together enhances communication and connectedness, and that's crucial to a healthy marriage. If you have children, feed them early and plan a late dinner for yourselves.

    • Help your spouse with organization, but remember it’s okay to be spontaneous.

    • Help your spouse be spontaneous, but remember it’s okay to plan. The key to both of these goals is clearly balance. Too much planning or spontaneity can make marriage miserable.

    • If your goal is good health, pay attention to what you eat, get enough rest and exercise regularly. Moderation in eating is important. Take walks together holding hands. Studies show that holding your mate's hand can decrease your blood pressure. Who knows? This exercise could lead to more “fun exercise.”

    • Set goals together no matter what. Decide on one thing you want to accomplish together this year and make plans to see it happen. Doing things as a team throughout the years will help you prepare for becoming empty-nesters.

    • Find ways to encourage your spouse. The truth is, most people know deep down what their weaknesses are, but often have trouble knowing and acknowledging their strengths.

    • Figure out how to live within your means. At the end of life, relationships trump material things.

    • Don’t forget, if you want to have a little fun, you can still embarrass your teenagers by just showing up.

    • Compete with your spouse by learning to out-serve each other. Selfishness comes naturally, but selflessness takes intentional effort.

    If you do the above, you'll probably lose weight, get organized, spend less/save more, enjoy life to the fullest, get healthy, learn something exciting, quit smoking, help others fulfill dreams, fall more in love with your spouse, and spend more time with family. Who knew?

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    Facebook and Divorce

    From America to Indonesia, the headlines read, "Facebook is Causing 20 Percent of Today’s Divorces."

    “When I heard the statistic, I did some research to find its source,” says Jason Krafsky. Krafsky co-authored Facebook and Your Marriage with his wife, Kelli. “It turns out that an online divorce firm in the UK sent out a press release stating that Facebook was cited in 1-in-5 divorce petitions. What got lost in the hundreds of articles it sparked was the research came from only their divorce petition database.”

    To add fuel to the fire, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers surveyed its 1,600 members. They claimed that 81 percent of the nation’s top divorce attorneys saw an increase in cases using social networking evidence during the past five years. Despite the media hype, you didn't hear the whole truth there, either. In reality, not all divorce attorneys completed the survey - just AAML members.

    “There were additional pieces that created even more confusion,” Krafsky says. “Suffice it to say this was like a big game of worldwide gossip and by the time the big media guns picked up the story the headline read, ‘Facebook Blamed for One in Five Divorces in U.S.’ The truth is, there is no valid research, study or collection of data at this point that accurately reveals how many divorces have been caused by Facebook. Until someone does legitimate research, trying to attach a number or percentage to what is happening only fuels an urban myth that is blazing out of control.”

    Clearly, Facebook impacts relationships of all kinds. Some marriages are breaking apart due to Facebook-related activity. Some married people use Facebook to live out their midlife crisis. For others, unexpected feelings and emotions when friending or interacting with an old flame catches them off guard. It can happen to the strongest of marriages.

    “I remember the day my wife walked into the room and said, ‘Guess who I just friended on Facebook?’ I asked who, and she said, ‘My first love.'

    "There was something about that statement that just hit me wrong," Krafsky shares. "I didn’t think Kelli would intentionally do anything inappropriate, but something in my gut said this wasn’t a good thing. It was shortly thereafter that we had a discussion about boundaries on Facebook to protect our marriage. We decided to unfriend past exes. This scenario prompted the writing of our book.”

    The Krafskys warn people that if you don’t have good boundaries, social networking sites are dangerous places to hang out.

    “Couples need to talk face-to-face and set up guidelines for their online time to protect their relationship from cyber-threats,” Krafsky says. “It is not enough to have good intentions. Most affairs do not start because someone says to himself, ‘I think I’ll have an affair.’ They start out very innocently.

    "Don’t fool yourself. You cannot friend an old flame and not take a trip down memory lane, thinking about what you did together in high school. We never forget that adolescent romantic love. Limit your time online and focus on taking your marriage relationship to the next level. While Facebook may not be the cause of 20 percent of all divorces, what some people are unknowingly doing through Facebook is undermining their marriage and putting their family at risk.”

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    Invest in Your Marriage

    It isn’t unusual for people to make time to attend training to increase their job productivity, improve their golf swing or even enhance their cooking or gardening skills, but when was the last time you took time away to work on your marriage relationship?

    Imagine getting away for a week with your spouse and a few other couples with no worries about what time it is or who needs to be at what practice. No kids yelling, “Mommy” or bosses calling. No cell phones, computers, or television and no clue about the news of the day. In fact, you really have no need to know what day it is or what your next meal will be. The focus of the week is just to enjoy each other’s company and to spend time with your mate.

    If you feel totally disconnected from your spouse, this could sound like torture or a total impossibility. Additionally, the thought of leaving technology behind can send chills up the spine. For others, this seems like something that would only happen in their dreams.

    One group of couples took some friends up on the challenge of getting away for a week - on a sailboat. They were a bit apprehensive about how things would go but by day two, they loved not having a clue about what time it was, and it really didn’t matter.

    At one point the couples were chatting after dinner. It was dark and people were yawning so everybody decided it must be very late. When they discovered it was only 8:30, everybody got a good laugh. A thoughtful discussion followed about how hard we live life and yet often forget to nurture the things that matter most to us because we are just too busy, stressed, selfish or just plain worn out.

    Throughout the week people napped, read books, chatted about their children and other things that were just silly. They also soaked in the sun, played in the water, ate together and spent time learning from each another.

    Here are a few lessons they learned while on the boat:

    • It's good to get away. We think we can’t afford to take the time, but we really can’t afford not to take the time.

    • Play is a good thing. Laughter and playing hard rejuvenates the soul and relationships.

    • Fasting from technology and the news of the day can be a very good thing. Spending time away from it made them realize how much time can be wasted just sitting in front of the television or answering emails instead of focusing on their spouse and family.

    • The kids can survive without parents for a few days. Time away from the kids can be a beautiful thing for everyone!

    • You don’t have to spend a ton of money on a fancy vacation to reconnect with your spouse. Camping, sailing or even staying at home while the kids visit the grandparents will work.

    At the end of the week no one was disappointed in their adventure. In fact, spouses felt closer to each other and re-energized.

    Consider how you can reconnect with your spouse and be intentional about making it happen.

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    How to Choose a Christmas Gift for Your Wife

    'Twas four days before Christmas when all through the house, no one was stirring, not even your spouse. Stockings were hung by the chimney with care. What should you get her? Buyer beware!

    Your wife all nestled snug in your bed while visions of diamonds danced in her head. The dog had his bone in front of the fire while you shopped online before you retired. So many choices. What do you see? "A blender, a vacuum or something for me!"

    On Christmas morn, you’ll awake to a clatter and spring from your bed to see what’s the matter. When what to your wondering eyes will appear, your wife with a look that is very clear...

    We’ve all heard horror stories of gift-giving gone bad. One newlywed, recalling the look on her mother’s face when she received an appliance for Christmas, told her husband if she could use it in the kitchen or for cleaning the house, it did not qualify as a Christmas present.

    Believe it or not, she is not alone. Most women say if it’s practical, it isn’t something that should be given as a gift.

    December 25 will be here before you know it, but it’s not too late for you to find a great gift.

    Remember, men and women think differently.

    When choosing a gift for your mate, consider how she will interpret the meaning behind your gift. When in doubt, ask one of her friends or don’t run the risk. What men often don’t understand about gift buying is this: Women see the creativity, effort and gift itself as a direct reflection of how much her husband loves her. Men see a gift as a gift.

    Whether you think it makes sense or not, there is a lot riding on gifts in general. So if you aren’t planning on taking up residence on the family room couch, you might want to take your gift buying seriously.

    Be a good understudy to your wife. Listen carefully to what she says. Pay attention to the things she enjoys and the way she spends her time. Does she like to cook, garden, sew, read, run, knit, go to the movies or ride bikes? You might even ask her for a list of things she would like for Christmas. With a little investigative work, you can uncover some helpful hints to guide you in your gift-buying.

    When some women were asked what they would like for Christmas from their husbands, here's what they said:

    • Buy a gift certificate for a massage, manicure or pedicure.

    • Make plans to take the children out for the evening, allowing your wife to stay at home in peace and quiet.

    • Purchase a gift certificate to her favorite restaurant for a date night.

    • Plan a romantic getaway and take care of all the details. Give her hints about where she will be going and what she needs to bring for your getaway.

    In case you are still struggling a bit, here are some more helpful hints:

    • Purchase some of her favorite “go-to” items like special lotion, fragrance, candles, books, tea, and/or coffee.

    • Plan a surprise date night to see a play or concert. (Don’t forget to line up the babysitter. It’s not a real date if the person receiving the gift has to do the work to make it happen.)

    • Do you have a crafty skill like woodworking or making stained glass? She might enjoy something you made specifically with her in mind.

    • If finances are an issue, believe it or not, a handwritten letter expressing your love for her and how she makes your life rich is a priceless gift.

    • Throw practical out the window. This is the time you give something that you know your wife would never purchase for herself.

    • Take her on a window shopping date and pay attention to what catches her eye.

    • If all else fails and you are still at a loss, ask her to accompany you on a shopping spree to find the perfect gift.

    If you already have her gift, you could start having a little fun now and leave clues in unusual places where you know she will find them. Creating anticipation can make the gift seem even more special.

    So...with a gleam in your eye and a plan in your head, you know that you have nothing to dread. Your wife will proclaim with a smile shining bright, "Merry Christmas, honey. You got it just right!"

  • Post Featured Image

    How You Can Keep the "Honey" in Honeymoon

    For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. 

    Starry-eyed in love, couples stand before friends and family and recite these vows with total commitment to each other.

    “Many people believe that if they have found their soulmate and are deeply in love, they won’t have disagreements or bad things happen in their marriage. If they do, they think something must be wrong with their relationship,” says Diane Sollee, founder of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education.

    “I believe one of the biggest disservices we do to newlywed couples is not giving them expectations about how things are going to be when two lives come crashing together. They get married, go on a honeymoon and then come home thinking things are going to be great, only to find that there are these little things that keep coming up that are wreaking havoc in their relationship.”

    For example, one newlywed couple lived close to the husband’s family and saw them all the time. Since they lived close to his parents, the wife thought they should go visit her family for Christmas and Thanksgiving. He thought that was totally unfair. She thought it was so fair it made her extremely angry and upset. Her didn’t see the logic between where you live and splitting up the holidays. This was an issue in their first three years of marriage.

    Studies indicate that every happily married couple usually has approximately 10 irreconcilable differences.

    “Learning how to live with your spouse is a constant adventure that requires advance planning,” Sollee says. “I think the first years should be called the 'clash of civilizations stage' instead of the honeymoon. This stage is when two people actually get to set up a new civilization determining how they are going to do everything from eat, sleep, work, raise children, deal with in-laws, make love, keep house, pay bills, etc. Couples who believe that because you love each other you will simply agree about how all of this should work are in for great disappointment. Instead of seeing these differences as part of the marriage adventure, this is the very thing that sends what could be a great marriage over time into a tailspin.”

    It might come as a surprise to know that noted marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, found that happily-married couples disagree the same amount as couples who divorce. Studies show that all couples fight about money, sex, kids, others and time. Couples who understand that these disagreements are normal and learn to manage those areas do better.

    “Finding these areas of disagreement is part of the adventure. It shouldn’t scare couples if they prepare for the journey,” Sollee suggests. “Entering into marriage without preparation would be like planning to climb Mount Everest and only hoping you have what it takes. When people first started climbing that mountain, many people did not make it because they did not know what to expect. Now the success rate is much better because people know how to prepare and often do so for years before they actually climb the mountain. The same is true with marriage. We know the tools couples need to be successful.”

    If you are marrying soon or are a newlywed, think of it as if you were preparing to climb Mount Everest. It's a great adventure with potential danger at every turn. You want to be as knowledgeable as possible about what to expect. That way, even the simple things do not pose a threat to your relationship. There are ways you can know what to expect from marriage - including how to navigate those annoying disagreements that keep rising to the surface.

    For instance, you can take a premarital or marriage education class where you can practice handling the hard stuff.

    “You can do almost anything in life if you know what to expect,” Sollee shares. “If you don’t know what to expect, you can fall in a crevasse and blame it on all the wrong things – your spouse, your mother-in-law, etc.”

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