Married_articles

Articles for Married Couples

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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!"

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    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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    What You Need to Know About Sexual Assault

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    Keys to a Healthy Family, Part 1

    Relationships are not always easy. Whether you're trying to understand your mate or learning what makes your child tick, the drama and energy it takes can be frustrating. We’ve all been there!

    Dr. Gary Chapman, author The Five Love Languages and The Family You’ve Always Wanted, shares about his own struggles during his early years of marriage. What he learned through the years impacted his own marriage and family.

    “When we got married, I thought things would be great,” says Chapman. “What I missed was that my wife is very social. I was still in school and studied most evenings. I assumed she would sit on the couch and read while I studied. That was not the case. She wanted to be around other people. I also assumed that when I was ready to go to bed we would go to bed together.”

    It didn’t take long for the Chapmans to experience extreme unhappiness in their marriage. Their response to the unhappiness was to point out each other’s faults.

    “We were so angry that we spent a lot of time trying to annihilate each other with our words and actions,” Chapman says. “At some point it occurred to me that I had entered our relationship with a very conceited, self-centered attitude. I thought that whatever made me happy would make Karolyn happy. In reality, I spent little time thinking about my wife's needs and a lot of time focused on my unmet needs and desires.”

    Over time, Chapman realized he would need to do some things differently if he wanted to improve his marriage.

    “At the lowest point in our marriage we were so estranged that we could not even talk about our relationship,” Chapman says. “That’s when I decided to take action. I decided to stop waiting on her to change. I changed my behavior.”

    It started with making the decision to serve.

    “Instead of talking at my wife and getting angrier with her at all that she was not doing for me, I began to quietly respond to my wife’s requests for help with laundry, chores and other things,” Chapman says. “In a few months, her attitude toward me had softened. I actually started feeling love toward her for the first time in a very long time. Instead of enemies living under the same roof, it felt like we were falling in love with each other all over again.”

    The early years of the Chapmans' marriage were rocky and seemed hopeless. But instead of ending in divorce, their marriage is healthy and thriving more than 50 years later. It's all because one person chose to adjust.

    Are you willing and ready to fight for your family by being the one to make a change?

    Oh, wait - there's more to the story! Read it here.

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    Keys to a Healthy Family, Part 2

    Miss part 1? Don't worry - you can read it here!

    It did not take Dr. Chapman long to realize that having an attitude of service toward his wife transformed and actually saved his marriage. As a result, serving others became a core value in their relationship. And when children came along, the Chapmans were intentional about instilling this value into their lives.

    “We played a couple of games at the dinner table that focused on service,” says Chapman. “One game asked each family member to share one way they had served another family member that day. The recipient of the act of service responded by saying, ‘I really appreciate that.’”

    When the children were older, in order to teach them the importance of serving outside the family, the Chapmans loaded the kids in the car and looked for opportunities to serve.

    “In the fall, we would search for yards that needed to be raked,” Chapman says. “I knocked on the door and explained that I was trying to teach my children about serving others and asked permission to rake their yard. I don’t think anybody ever turned down my offer. Some wanted to pay us, but I said no, explaining we weren’t working for pay. I want my kids to grow up understanding that life is about serving others.”

    Healthy families are characterized by an attitude of service. Imagine the impact it could have on the community if that attitude prevailed.

    In a healthy family, there is intimacy between husband and wife.

    “When people hear the word intimacy, they usually think sex,” Chapman says. “Intimacy between a couple should include intellectual, emotional, spiritual and sexual intimacy.”

    Chapman recommends that couples make time to share daily two or three things that happened in their life and how they felt about it. Couples often go for days without sharing, but it's impossible to have intimacy if you never connect.

    In a healthy family, parents teach and train their children so that the children will learn to obey and in turn honor their parents.

    “Three-year-olds are not to be running families,” Chapman says. “If your children don’t learn to obey you, they may never learn to honor you or learn to obey civil laws. If they see you abiding by the laws, they are more likely to live by them.”

    In healthy families, husbands lovingly lead their family.

    “I have learned three important questions to ask my wife in my quest to lead well,” Chapman says. “What can I do to help you? How can I make your life easier? And, how can I be a better husband to you? You have to view your wife as your partner and place her above fishing, golf and football. Love her unconditionally and be intentional about discovering and meeting her needs.”

    The closer your lifestyle comes to what you say you believe, the easier it is to respect you. The greater the distance between your lifestyle and what you say you believe, the more difficult it is to respect you as a leader.

    Serving others, in the home and out, does a family good

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    There is Hope for Your Marriage

    Margery D. Rosen, author of Seven Secrets of a Happy Marriage, a book based on her Ladies’ Home Journal column, Can this Marriage be Saved? interviewed hundreds of couples whose marriages were in distress and appeared hopeless.

    “The book is a compilation of columns over the years as well as information from social scientists to help couples have hope,” Rosen says. “All of the stories are true. I actually interviewed husbands, wives and their therapists. Interestingly, the main topics for couples in the 1950s and 60s are the same struggles couples deal with today. While the specifics of the story change from month to month, the circumstances that can shake the foundation of a marriage remain the same.”

    Rosen found something very interesting when she asked why some marriages burn out and others burn on.

    “The phrase ‘intentional commitment’ comes up often, the conscious desire and choice to make a marriage last,” Rosen says. “While commitment and acceptance don’t get a lot of press and they’re not the stuff of sound bites on the network news, it is clear that marriages are stronger when couples focus on what they like and appreciate about each other rather than what irks them. Happy couples argue, get depressed, lose jobs, battle over disciplining the kids. But their sense of we-ness over me-ness allows them to encourage each other during the good times and empathize during the bad.”

    When Rosen completed her research, she found that the issues couples struggle with boil down to these seven topics: trust, communication, fighting fair, power struggles, money, sex and balancing parenthood. Rosen believes these topics hold the secrets to a lasting marriage.

    Below is a taste of the wisdom from couples who made their marriage work under very difficult circumstances.

    • Trust. Trust is the cornerstone of a healthy, deeply satisfying marriage. In a trusting relationship, partners are honest with each other. Deceit does not shadow their words and actions. They don’t sacrifice a partner’s needs for their own or pursue their own goals at their mate's expense.

    • Communicate. Over and over again, communication problems rank as the number one cause of marital strife. “We’re just not communicating,” is a common lament. In many cases, couples think they are communicating, but the messages do not get through. In this area more than any other, couples can learn and practice specific techniques and strategies for sharing ideas and feelings. This can initiate dramatic changes in the way they relate.

    • Fight fair. People who live together are likely to disagree. Numerous columns showed that it is possible to direct anger constructively to improve a marriage rather than destroy it. A key step is for each person to recognize their part in provoking and sustaining the anger.

    • Defuse power struggles. Power struggles permeate every relationship. Being able to recognize marital power struggles is a key step in defusing them. Equally important, however, is understanding why a partner is so desperate for total control. Ultimately, the only lasting way to defuse a power struggle is to learn to accept each other fully, without competing, criticizing or blaming.

    • Be money-smart. Surveys identify money matters as the top trigger for everything from the occasional marital skirmish to all-out war. Money symbolizes power and control, love and security, as well as self-esteem and accomplishment. Couples who navigate best through financial issues consciously chip away the emotional veneer surrounding them and honestly discuss finances. They express what they need, what they want, how they can best attain these goals, and how to live with the anxious uncertainty that they just may not.

    • Make love. A couple’s sex life is in one sense a barometer of their marriage. The stress work and family obligations can physically and emotionally exhaust husbands and wives so much. As a result, they forget the importance of expressing love and tenderness outside and inside the bedroom. Couples with vibrant sex lives understand that the passionate, romantic love they felt at first becomes a more enduring, but equally satisfying love.

    • Team up. Most couples are unprepared for the transitional changes of parenthood. The arrival of children and their unignorable demands often propels couples into therapy. Seven Secrets of a Happy Marriage finds that a couple’s relationship is their child’s blueprint for intimacy. By watching their parents, kids learn about themselves and relationships.

    “It takes courage to face marital problems head on,” Rosen says. “Can this Marriage Be Saved? proves that both partners can transform their actions and reactions. That openness and ability to change brings them a giant step closer to where they both want to be.”

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    Changing Family Holiday Traditions

    Early in their marriage Susan and Scott* wanted to please both of their families when it came to how they spent time together over the holidays. Her mom wanted them to celebrate Thanksgiving with her. His mom celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve, so her mom requested Christmas Day at her house. 

    Despite some angst over changing things up, it worked fairly well until their first child came along. Then they realized that traveling late on Christmas Eve was not ideal. Once again, they found themselves stepping out and messing with tradition. 

    After negotiating, Susan and Scott decided to stay home for Christmas. Anybody who wanted to join the celebration was welcome. While not without its challenges, this adjustment to tradition held for a number of years - even as siblings married and added more in-laws into the mix. 

    Now Scott and Susan’s children are adults with jobs and lives of their own. Once again, Susan and Scott find themselves in a situation where what has worked in the past for holiday celebrations doesn’t seem to fit their current needs. While their parents still want time with them, Susan and Scott also want to celebrate with their own children. Except now, their grown kids only have the actual holiday off. 

    How can they be considerate of everyone as they plan to spend time with the ones they love?

    Change can be complicated, and trying to please everyone can create a stressful holiday season for sure. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a clear understanding of how families can easily transition from one phase to the next?

    Since that is not the case, here are some suggestions for navigating change and experiencing a special holiday season, no matter what stage of life you are in:

    • Instead of pressuring your grown children to keep things the way they have always been, give them the flexibility they need. 
    • Communication is key. Many misunderstandings surrounding the holidays happen because family members base their decisions on assumptions. Instead of being silent, request a family conference call or send out an email telling family members that you can adapt or adjust if necessary.
    • Take responsibility for your own emotions. Change is often difficult. The older you get, the more you realize you have limited time on earth. Although you want to spend more time with family members, they often have busy lives of their own. Acknowledging these feelings is important, and connecting with friends in a similar situation can help.
    • If you are the younger generation, recognize that holiday celebrations/traditions tend to be filled with emotion for everyone. In the midst of trying to juggle everything, be patient with your extended family. 
    • Even if being there on the actual holiday isn’t possible, make it a point to celebrate at a different time.

    In the throes of preparing for the holidays, it can be easy to get all worked up about what everyone expects from you. Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that family members are probably not intentionally seeking to complicate your life. Take some time to talk with your spouse and/or family to brainstorm possibilities. Then build a plan that works best, knowing that everybody may not be 100 percent pleased with the end result.

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    Sex: From Sparklers to Fireworks in the Bedroom

    According to marriage experts, there are probably more fireworks going on outside the bedroom than inside.

    Data collected from the 2014 General Social Survey indicates that married couples have sex approximately 58 times a year. If you are under 30, however, it’s around 111 times. Approximately 15 percent of married couples haven’t made love with their spouse in the last six months to a year.

    In a TEDx talk, therapist Michele Weiner-Davis describes this phenomenon as the sex-starved marriage. It's a marriage where one spouse is longing for more touch and passion and the other is thinking, “What is the big deal, it’s just sex?”

    “When disconnect happens in a marriage, intimacy on all levels goes out the window,” says Weiner-Davis, whose life work is to help resurrect flat-lined marriages. “These couples are the ones who have stopped laughing at each other’s jokes, sitting next to each other on the couch, holding hands or looking into each other’s eyes.”

    Many people automatically assume that all men think about is sex. But according to Weiner-Davis, low sexual desire is as much an issue for men as it is for women; it’s just a well-kept secret.

    Weiner-Davis says it is not uncommon for even long-married couples to never discuss sex.

    In a session with Weiner-Davis, a husband of 15 years shared that there is only a two-hour window on Friday night when his wife might be interested in sex. He turned to his wife and said, “When I reach out to you in bed and you aren’t there for me, the only thing I think about is, do you find me attractive anymore, do you still love me, do you want to be with me? I lie awake thinking at night that this is the loneliest place to be.”

    Surprised, his wife responded that all she ever considered was whether or not she was in the mood. Never had she ever thought about what it must be like to be in his shoes. This was the beginning of a breakthrough in their marriage. But, Weiner-Davis cautions that it doesn’t work this way for all couples.

    “It’s interesting that couples share decision-making on so many things. But when it comes to sex, one person makes the decision and expects the other person to accept it, not complain about it, and be monogamous,” Weiner-Davis says.

    Weiner-Davis contends that the primary cause of a sex-starved marriage is easy to fix. A few basic changes can help you move from little sparklers to fireworks in the bedroom:

    • Everybody has different ways of feeling connected to one another. You need to become an expert in making your mate feel connected to you.

    • If your spouse wants sex more often than you do, don’t delude yourself into thinking, “It’s just sex.” Sex is a powerful way to connect.

    • When you understand your spouse’s way of connecting, you don’t have to agree with it or understand it. You just need to do it.

    • Healthy marriages require mutual caretaking. Take care of each other. It is an act of love.

    “When we learn to be better caretakers of each other, we will make this world a better place one marriage at a time,” Weiner-Davis says.

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