Married_articles

Articles for Married Couples

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    For Richer, For Poorer

    Does marriage matter? People have been asking this question for decades.

    For Richer, For Poorer: How Family Structures Economic Success in America examined how family structure impacts the economic fortunes of American families. Dr. Brad Wilcox, senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and Robert Lerman, professor of economics at American University, conducted the research.

    They concluded that marriage is key to productive adulthood, stable families and healthy communities.

    Five significant findings emerged from this study about the relationships between family patterns and economic well-being in America:

    • The retreat from marriage is key to the changing economic fortunes of American family life. The median income of families with children would be approximately 44% higher if the United States enjoyed 1980-levels of married parenthood today.

    • Strong associations exist between growing up with both parents in an intact family and higher levels of education, work and income. Young men and women from intact families enjoy an annual “intact family premium.” The premium amounts to $6,500 and $4,700, respectively, over the incomes of their peers from single-parent families.

    • Men obtain a substantial “marriage premium” and women bear no marriage penalty to their individual incomes. Plus, both men and women enjoy substantially higher family incomes compared to peers with otherwise similar characteristics.

    • Growing up with both parents increases the odds of attaining higher education. Higher education leads to higher odds of marriage as an adult. Both the extra education and marriage result in higher income levels. Men and women from intact families who are currently married enjoy an annual “family premium” in their household income. The premium exceeds that of their single peers from in non-intact families by at least $42,000.

    • All populations benefit from growing up in an intact family and being married. It applies about as much to blacks, Hispanics and whites. The advantages also apply to less-educated men and women. Men with a high-school diploma or less enjoy a marriage premium of at least $17,000 compared to single peers.

    Strong and stable families are economically vital. Consequently, Wilcox and Lerman contend that business and civic leaders and policymakers should strengthen and stabilize marriage and family life in the U.S. And since the poor and working class feel the impact of the nation's retreat from marriage most, Lerman and Wilcox believe the efforts should be focused on them.

    The authors also recommend:

    • Public policy should “do no harm” when it comes to marriage. Policymakers should eliminate or reduce marriage penalties.

    • Civic institutions, private and public partners, businesses, state governments and public schools should launch a national "success sequence" campaign together. This would encourage young adults to sequence schooling, work, marriage and then parenthood. It would also stress the benefits of being born to married parents with a secure economic foundation.

    Lerman and Wilcox contend that the nation's retreat from marriage is worrisome. It not only affects family inequality, but men’s declining labor-force participation and the vitality of the American dream.

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    The Power of Words

    Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

    You probably recognize this childhood rhyme, but is it true?

    Social media posts, letters to the editor and rants to American newspapers increasingly spew angry and hateful words. In the spirit of supposedly expressing opinions and being helpful, writers name-call, judge from afar and are just plain mean. The words are cringeworthy, yet the writer somehow believes they are acceptable. Are we crossing a line?

    The words we use can either build others up or tear them down. Is our society so angry and insecure that we need to tear others down to feel good about ourselves? Can we discuss an issue without verbally attacking someone?

    In 2014, pop artist Taylor Swift took things to a whole new level. Responding to the hateful things people say about her, she wrote Shake it Off - and it skyrocketed to the top of the charts.

    In an interview, Swift told Rolling Stone magazine the meaning behind the song.

    "I've had every part of my life dissected — my choices, my actions, my words, my body, my style, my music. When you live your life under that kind of scrutiny, you can either let it break you, or you can get really good at dodging punches. And when one lands, you know how to deal with it. And I guess the way that I deal with it is to shake it off."

    Shake it Off has become an anthem for millions striving to shake off haters, players and fakers in their lives.

    There's another childhood saying, too: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.” Either we have forgotten the saying’s wisdom or a whole generation apparently never learned it.

    In Let it be Christmas, Alan Jackson sings:

    “Let anger and fear and hate disappear. Let there be love that lasts through the year.”  

    We all have hearts and minds. Some hearts harden over time and are a little rough around the edges, while other hearts are broken and in despair.

    So, what would happen if we remember that the words we speak and write have power? Communication has power to incite anger, discourage and create distrust among people. It can also encourage, give hope, affirm and bring out the best in people.

    Our words matter. If we intentionally give life through our words and actions, can it make a difference?

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    Caring for the Caregiver

    As part of her job, Amy Boulware walks alongside caregivers. So when she found herself caregiving for her grandmother and mother, she thought she had the tools she needed.

    “I did not expect to be caregiving for two,” says Boulware. “My grandmother moved closer so we could take care of her. Shortly after she moved, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I quickly realized caregiving is very different when it is your own family.”

    At one point, Boulware found herself running between hospital rooms trying to care for her mom and grandmother. On top of her caregiving responsibilities, she continued working and taking care her own family.

    “I was definitely burning the candle at both ends trying to keep up,” Boulware says. “One night, I came home late. As I walked through the door, my youngest daughter yelled from the bathroom, ‘Mom, can you get me some toilet paper?’ I went to where we usually keep toilet paper, but there was none. I searched the other bathrooms.  There was no toilet paper in the house. I had a complete meltdown over no toilet paper. As I’m lying on the bed sobbing, my oldest daughter comes in the room with a very large package of toilet paper.

    “She says to me, ‘Mom, Daddy and I talked on the way to the store and we are pretty sure this really isn’t about toilet paper, but here is toilet paper and a pint of chocolate ice cream because we thought you needed it.’”

    Surprisingly, the "toilet paper incident" made Boulware realize she was exhausting herself.

    “Carrying the load by myself was not the answer,” Boulware says. “I called my uncle and asked him to take over the finances. I called my sister and asked her to come home more often. We hired caregivers to help with my grandmother and we did some other creative things that made a huge difference.”

    Since she has walked this road, Boulware offers words of wisdom for caregivers:

    • Ask for help. Recognize other people's strengths and ask them to help you in those areas. Help can come from many places, including family, the faith community, friends and paid caregivers.
    • Time off is a must. Thursday night became date night for the Boulwares, and nothing interfered with it. Caregivers, family, friends and co-workers all knew that evening was sacred, so they helped them to have much-needed time away. The Boulwares turned their phones off and decided not to discuss caregiving at all.
    • Routine changes can help. Boulware’s grandmother lived close to her daughters’ school so the girls went to her home in the afternoon. The family ate dinner there one night a week. Making this change eliminated a lot of stress. Plus, they made memories with their grandmother that are forever etched in their minds.
    • Be a supportive spouse. Never once did Boulware’s husband tell her it was too much. In fact, she describes him as supportive and as a great gift as he walked alongside her. It brought them closer together as a couple.

    Being a caregiver is innately stressful, so properly caring for yourself is a vital part of the process. If you are running on empty, it is difficult to effectively care for others, but asking for help is not a sign of weakness. A helping hand or two can make all the difference.

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    Family and Finances

    Everywhere you turn these days it seems everybody is talking about the economy and its impact. Financial experts often discuss the dangers of people living beyond their means, and it seems that many are reaping the consequences of doing so. But despite the financial woes, is it all bad?

    Clearly families are getting hit hard. Studies indicate that for years now, close to 43 percent of American families have spent more than they earned, buying anything they wanted. Now, they are being forced to rethink their spending habits - and it is incredibly painful.

    Research shows that although money is not the number one thing couples consider when planning to marry, it is the number one thing they argue about. Instead of being happily married, they find themselves arguing about spending habits, credit card debt and unpaid bills.

    An analysis of Federal Reserve statistics in early 2015 revealed that the average U.S. household owes $7,281 on their credit cards. Average indebted households carry $15,609 in credit card debt.

    When it comes to spending money, the temptations are plentiful – shiny new cars with the latest gadgets, flat screen televisions, traveling sports leagues, private schools, a new house, surround sound systems, trendy clothing, iPhones - and the list goes on.

    Believer it or not, emotions typically drive spending decisions instead of affordability. When it comes to money, a lot can be said about the value of self-discipline and saving to purchase certain items or participate in an activity.

    People often complain that family members are like ships passing in the night because of busyness. Maybe the upside of an uncertain economy is that people might step back and evaluate what really matters. 

    When asked what is most important in life, people consistently say “family” is the single most important priority; yet their lives indicate that money and things are number one.

    These ideas can help you make family a higher priority than money.

    • Focus on building strong, healthy relationships instead of empires. Children spell love T-I-M-E, not T-H-I-N-G-S. There is no downside to living within your means - both financially and time-wise. It could actually mean less stress, more family time, less maintenance, more downtime, fewer arguments and stronger relationships.

    • Evaluate all of your family activities. Find ways to exercise together, not apart. Exchange gym fees, travel sports and golfing alone to play with the family instead. Instead of paying to play, choose free family hobbies like playing tennis, biking or hiking. It will save you money and time.

    • Learn how to control your finances instead of letting them control you. Many people believe that more money, a bigger house, and tons of toys are necessary for happiness. Money and toys are no substitute for time, so spend time with the people you love.

    • Look for opportunities to encourage your loved ones and affirm them as a person worthy of your love. 

    When you look back on an economic crisis, perhaps you will see that less of some things is more of the best things. You may also see that many of the best things in life truly are free.

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    Couples Who Play Together

    When was the last time you and your mate played together? Seriously... can you remember the last time you did something crazy fun together?

    In far too many marriages, couples throw play out the window and replace it with serious adult responsibilities like careers, raising children, taking care of elderly parents, household chores and community commitments.

    The University of Denver’s Center for Marital and Family Studies research finds that the amount of fun couples have together is the strongest factor in understanding overall marital happiness.

    The more you invest in fun, friendship and being there for your partner, the happier the relationship will be over time. The correlation between fun and marital happiness is high and significant.

    TAKE THE CHALLENGE!

    For the next four weeks, intentionally set aside time every other day to do something fun together. It doesn’t have to be something that will take hours; it could be a 30-minute activity. Watching television together or sitting next to each other while online does not count as play.

    In an informal survey, couples say they do these things:

    • Play games like Scrabble, Dominoes, Rook, Wii, Uno, Quiddler, Frisbee or Catchphrase.
    • Take a walk or run together.
    • Play a practical joke on each other.
    • Cook together, try new recipes and enjoy a great meal together.
    • List activities for each letter of the alphabet that cost less than $10, then work your way through the list.
    • Work a jigsaw puzzle.
    • Do an activity together like horseback riding, bowling, fishing or canoeing.

    Play isn’t a luxury, it's a necessity. So don’t just sit around reminiscing about how playful and adventurous you used to be or lamenting the fact that you never do anything fun anymore. Take the challenge and remember - playful people are a lot of fun to be around!

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    Celebrate Your Anniversary!

    Do you remember the date of your wedding anniversary? If you didn’t cheat and look at the engraved date on your wedding band, give yourself some points.

    How many years have you been married? If you had to think to figure it out, take away some points.

    How did you celebrate your last anniversary? Did you remember without having to ask your spouse what you did?

    If the answer is yes, give yourself a few more points. Add some points to your total if you did something fun as a couple. 

    If you let it slide by with no real celebration because you didn’t have time or were too tired, take away a few points. 

    If you completely forgot your wedding anniversary, you just lost ALL your points.

    Couples marry and even a year or two into their marriage they are still planning crazy fun adventures to celebrate their love. But after a few years, things begin to settle down. Children come along and creativity often flies out the window. Who has time or even feels like planning to celebrate a silly anniversary?

    We do a great job of celebrating birthdays and holidays, but lots of couples let their wedding anniversary slide by. Think about it - how many wedding anniversaries do you recall celebrating?

    Birthdays and holidays are certainly things to celebrate. But, considering how much time, effort and energy it takes to make a marriage really hum, wedding anniversaries are cause for celebration. If your marriage faced exceptional challenges during the year, some anniversaries might deserve a huge celebration to acknowledge making it through the tough times.

    When life is coming at you full speed ahead, you can easily take your marriage for granted. But doing this over the years is like watching a sinkhole form. Erosion is taking place underneath the surface. And while there may be a few signs things aren’t right, it may not appear to be anything major until the whole thing caves in and people are shocked.

    Don’t take your marriage for granted. It's up to both people in the marriage to intentionally make every anniversary something you won’t forget. Every time you make it another year, celebrate what you have and dream about your future together.

    Whether your anniversary is this weekend or nine months from now, take the time to make it special. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Re-create your first date, plan a romantic evening, write a love letter to your spouse or plan a surprise getaway. Do married well!

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    Fun Ways to Jazz Up Your Marriage

    David and Claudia Arp believe that fun in marriage is serious business. They have written several books on marriage together, including the 10 Great Dates series.

    “In our 30-plus years of marriage, we have learned important things like, if you don’t say what is on your mind when it is on your mind, it may not be there later,” says Claudia. “We have also learned that it is critical for people to be intentional about having fun in their marriage. Most of us lead such busy, stressful lives that many times there is very little left over for the marriage, especially when it comes to anything fun. When the fun dies in a relationship, it is hard to keep the marriage alive.”

    Through the years, the Arps have made it a point to enjoy each other’s company and to have fun. One time when they got lost, instead of getting irritated with each other, they realized they were lost together. The kids weren’t with them, so they decided to make it into a 30-minute get lost date.

    “We believe it is important to model a healthy relationship for your children,” says David. “Research has shown that the level of a couple’s friendship is a determining factor in whether their marriage will go the distance. In order to keep a friendship alive, you have to nurture it.”

    The Arps have many good ideas to help grow the friendship in marriage, including this fun assignment: Kiss for 10 seconds in the morning before leaving for work with your eyes wide open. When you return home in the evening, do the same thing.

    The key is to understand that you can turn any situation into a date, even a frustrating one. For example, you can go on a flu shot date. Or, if you find yourself in an airport with an extended layover, go to a gate where a plane is getting ready to take off. Pretend you are saying goodbye to each other. Once the plane leaves, move on to another gate and start all over again. You can do this for as long as your layover allows.

    If your marriage could use some jazzing up with a heaping helping of fun, these great dates can build a stronger friendship into your marriage.

    • Take a trip down memory lane. Remembering your past can energize your relationship for the future.
    • Celebrate your differences. Reclaim that unity and diversity you felt before you married. List ways you are alike and ways you are different. For all the ways you are alike, figure out how to compensate for those areas. For all the ways you are different, determine how you can make sure the differences complement your marriage relationship instead of creating friction.
    • Make a date to talk about “us.” Lots of couples talk over each other. They talk about the kids, work, community service, etc. On this date, the Arps encourage couples to talk about “you.” Talk about positive things, your hopes and dreams, what you want your marriage to look like.
    • Have an encouragement date. Verbalize all those things you keep in your head, like when you think he looks really good, but you forget to tell him or when she cooks a great dinner, you think about how great everything tastes, but you never say anything.

    “A number of years ago, we moved our office and David gave in to using an answering machine,” Claudia says. "The past few days had been rough so I decided to leave a message of encouragement for David on the new answering machine telling him I was really looking forward to seeing him at home and suggested some activities we could do.

    "What I didn’t know is that David had some friends at the office who ended up helping him install the answering machine. Then they all went out to lunch. When they returned, one of his friends noticed he had a message. David hit play and the whole group proceeded to listen to my message. When it finished, the friends turned to David and wanted to know who that woman was leaving that kind of message on his machine. My red-faced husband tried to convince them it really was his wife. Needless to say, we have had more than a few good laughs over that one!”

    Fun in marriage is serious business! To find out more ways to create fun and adventure in your marriage, take look around our website.

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    4 Keys for Taking Up a Hobby Together

    During the Yamadas' adventurous marriage, there haven’t been many dull moments.

    “I wouldn’t describe either of us as risk-takers, but we are definitely not afraid to try new things,” says Mrs. Yamada. “We enjoy ballroom dancing, mountain biking and scuba diving, but I couldn’t see either of us bungee jumping.”

    Several years ago, the Yamadas decided to take up a new hobby – flying.

    “I have always had a love for aviation,” says Mr. Yamada. “I used to build model airplanes as a kid. Learning to fly has been a lifelong dream. My wife loves to travel so getting our pilot’s license greatly expanded our travel options, which makes her very happy.”

    Getting their pilots' licenses would not be without its marital challenges. While Mr. Yamada seemed to innately know about spark plugs, electrical systems and mechanics, his wife would definitely not describe them as second nature. She had to work hard to keep up.

    "We are both very competitive people,” Mrs. Yamada says. “There were moments while we were taking lessons that the tension was elevated in our relationship. My husband might get ahead of me in an area and I would work extra hard to catch up.”

    A real sticking point for Mrs. Yamada was when she was flying the plane and he would give her instructions. "Don’t forget to make your ten mile radio call," or "Don’t forget your carb heat." That unsolicited advice would get under her skin. Mr. Yamada agreed that he has that tendency, but has found that this experience has motivated him to improve in that area and enjoy the ride while his wife flies the plane.

    It usually takes six to 12 months to get a pilot’s license. The Yamadas got theirs in 90 days. They would tell you it was a great experience and ultimately a good thing for their marriage.

    “This forced us to learn how to manage our personalities,” Mr. Yamada says. “I can be bossy and a know-it-all at times. However, that doesn’t work well in the cockpit. We also came to the realization that when we are flying the plane is not the time for an argument. Taking flying lessons together has taught us how to work better together as a couple team.”

    The Yamadas learned some additional valuable lessons to pass along to couples planning to learn a new hobby together.

    • Make the ground rules ahead of time. There will be conflicts and disagreements. How will you handle them when they arise?
    • Be patient. It is easy to get impatient with each other if you aren’t moving forward at the same pace. Keep the end goal in mind!
    • Guard against being critical. There are some things that each of you do better than the other. Take advantage of this by learning from each other instead of criticizing.
    • Apologize when you are wrong. This did not come easily for Mr. Yamada, but over the years he has learned he is not always right.

    “Getting our pilots' licenses actually improved our marriage,” Mrs. Yamada says. “We had to learn how to communicate better, trust each other’s decisions and manage conflict. We have been on several trips already. It has been awesome to be in the cockpit with my best friend!”

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    5 Ways to Stoke the Fire of Passion in Marriage

    In his song Too Cold at Home, Mark Chesnutt sings, “It’s too hot to fish, too hot for golf and too cold at home.” Even if it’s boiling outside, it can be cold at home when it comes to your marriage.

    Over time, many people seem to be willing to let sexual intimacy fly right out the window. Yet experts tell us that healthy intimacy is foundational to long-lasting, loving relationships.

    In a letter to Ann Landers, a woman wrote about how her parents could not afford a honeymoon so they made a promise. Every time they made love, they would put a dollar in a box and on their 50th anniversary they would take a honeymoon trip to Hawaii. In spite of hard times, they never took money out of the box. Some nights the husband would come home from work exclaiming he had a dollar in his pocket. His wife would tell him she knew just how to spend it!

    When each of their children married, they gave them a box and shared their secret. The couple took their 50th anniversary trip to Hawaii for 10 days and paid for everything from the money they saved in the box. As they were leaving on the plane, the husband turned and said, “Tonight we will start working on a trip to Cancun!”

    Many pieces of recent research cite how much humans crave intimacy, but many married couples experience a void in this area due to hectic schedules, children (young and old), jobs, stress, etc. Whether you have been married a few months or many years, sex can be exciting, adventurous, fun and creative. 

    You may be asking yourself how that couple made and kept intimacy in their relationship a priority for 50 years...

    Well, here are some things relationship experts encourage you to think about:

    • Do you always make love in the same place, at the same time in the same way? If your answer is yes, consider doing something different to spice things up.
    • Describe what a romantic time with your spouse would be like. What would be your spouse’s description of a romantic time together? If you don’t know the answer to this question, do some detective work and find out.
    • Does your spouse do romantic things that you really like? If yes, tell him/her so. If not, help him/her to know what you like.
    • Consider sending love messages to your spouse during the day. Stick-it notes in the wallet, voice mail, e-mail, lipstick messages on the bathroom mirror, a special delivery, flowers with a message, a snail mail letter, or a note on the dashboard are all great ways to communicate “I love you,” “Let’s get together,” or “Looking forward to this afternoon.”
    • People find all kinds of creative ways to flirt when they are dating. Think about some of the ways you used to flirt with your spouse. Consider resurrecting those that worked best. The outcome might pleasantly surprise you!

    According to Dr. Paul Pearsall, author of Super Marital Sex, “The marriage comes first. All other people and events come after the marriage. Children, parents, work and play all benefit most by marital priority instead of marital sacrifice, because the marriage is the central unit to all other processes. If it is true that we reap what we sow, then marriages are in big trouble - if we put as much time in our working as we allow for our loving, we would end up unemployed or bankrupt.”

    If the temperature on the thermometer outside is not reflective of the passion level in your marriage, get creative. Be adventurous and take it up a notch. Even if the passion in your marriage is nonexistent, it can get good. And if it is good, it can get even better!

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    Affair-Proofing Your Marriage

    Eric was married with two children. Life at home was good, and he considered his relationship with his wife to be healthy. They frequently spent time together and intimacy between the two of them was good. He never considered having an affair until he faced a potentially compromising situation with a co-worker.

    “Contrary to popular belief, most people do not set out to have an affair,” says Dr. Shirley Glass, infidelity expert and author of Not "Just Friends": Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity. “Eric’s situation is all too common. It is faulty thinking to believe that being attracted to someone else means something is wrong at home. It is possible to be attracted to somebody else, even if you have a good marriage."

    Appropriate Boundaries Are Important

    "The single most important protector against an affair is appropriate boundaries," Glass says. "In a culture where men and women are working so closely, you must make sure you are not creating opportunities for an affair to occur. Especially at a time when you might be vulnerable – like right after a fight with your spouse. One of the most common doorways into an affair is where a man and woman who are ‘just friends’ innocently begin to discuss problems in their primary relationship. They are doing their marriage work with someone who might not be a friend to the marriage.”

    According to research, 25 percent of women and 40 percent of men will have an extramarital affair at some point.

    Glass says that openness, honesty and self-disclosure defines intimacy in marriage. Anything that interferes with that creates walls of secrecy and should be a signal of looming danger. For example, meeting the same person every morning for breakfast in a public place without telling your spouse creates a wall of secrecy in your marriage. If you're uncomfortable talking with your spouse about it, that's a warning sign.

    Interestingly, only 10 percent of people who leave a marriage for their affair partner actually end up with them. Many say they wish the affair had never happened and that they had worked on their marriage instead. 

    So, how can you guard against an affair?

    • Establish clear boundaries.
    • Stay connected to each other and keep the lines of communication open.
    • Instead of creating walls of secrecy, talk with your spouse. Eric came home to his wife and told her about what happened with his co-worker. They were able to talk openly about strategies for clearer boundaries. This strengthened their relationship.
    • If you feel attracted to someone else, never let them know.
    • Watch out for outside influences that encourage infidelity. For example, avoid an environment where other people are fooling around. Be on guard at business socials where drinking and dancing happen and spouses aren’t present.
    • If you have experienced infidelity in your marriage, it's possible to survive it and be stronger than before. Unfortunately, it takes time for the wounds of betrayal to heal, and both parties must be willing to work together to move the marriage forward.

    If you are working through infidelity, Glass recommends the following:

    • Stop the affair. The betrayed person cannot begin to heal until the affair is over.
    • Replace deception with honesty. The person who had the affair must agree to be accountable and create a safe and open environment by letting their partner know where they are.  
    • Because someone has violated trust, you must tell the story of the affair. The only way to tear down the wall of deception is to have an open window – no secrets. Usually, partners want all of the details. They need to put all of the missing pieces together and ask questions. The partner who had the affair must be patient, understanding and willing to share information. This is one way to rebuild intimacy.
    • Identify vulnerabilities in your relationship and begin to work on them.
    • Discuss what faithfulness and commitment means to you. Just because a relationship is not sexual does not mean you are not having an emotional affair.
    • Understand that this is a very difficult process and you may need professional help to work through your issues.

    Eric was able to take a potentially harmful situation and turn it into one that fostered more open communication and trust in his marriage. The window of openness and the sharing of uncomfortable situations actually builds a marriage up instead of tearing it down.

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    Infidelity and Forgiveness

    Popular talk shows imply that everybody intentionally cheats in marriage.

    “In reality, most people don’t cheat,” says Kristina Coop Gordon, co-author of Getting Past the Affair. “Based on research, approximately 40 percent of married people cheat on their spouse. Studies indicate the person most likely to cheat is someone who is dissatisfied with their relationship and/or feels insecure about themselves. They use the relationship outside of their marriage as a way to feel better about themselves.”

    Some people believe that if sex isn’t involved outside the marriage, they weren’t being unfaithful to their spouse. However, Gordon and others such as Dr. Shirley Glass, author of Not "Just Friends," disagree.

    Being unfaithful to your spouse starts when you begin to hide what you are doing with someone else. If you'd be uncomfortable with your spouse knowing about conversations with a co-worker or a regular lunch appointment, or if you schedule workouts to spend time with someone, then you have probably crossed the line.

    Only 10 percent of people who leave their marriage to pursue their affair partner actually end up with them. Many say they wish the affair had never happened. They often wish they had worked on their marriage instead.

    “It is not uncommon for couples who have experienced infidelity to believe that their marriage is over,” Gordon says. “However, based on 20 years of research we have found that at least 65-70 percent of couples survive the affair.”

    For many, this seems impossible. How can you ever re-establish trust? At least one spouse has betrayed the marriage relationship, creating a lot of trauma and questions. The offended spouse often experiences great anxiety and wonders if it will happen again.

    “If you are willing to do the soul searching in your marriage, I will just about guarantee your marriage will not only survive, but you will be happy in your marriage,” Gordon says. “In fact, a couple I recently worked with shared that as difficult as the affair was to get through, while they would not want to experience it again or wish it on anyone, they are grateful it happened because it was a real wake up call for their marriage.”

    Gordon’s step-by-step guide helps couples dealing with infidelity. It encourages them to look at themselves and their marriage, discover where things derailed and identify steps to get back on track. A huge piece of the restoration process is forgiveness.

    “Some people confuse forgiveness with excusing unacceptable behavior or no accountability,” Gordon says. “This is not true. Forgiveness is very freeing. Just because you forgive, it doesn’t necessarily mean immediate reconciliation. Questions still have to be asked. People have to be willing to look at themselves and acknowledge, ‘I messed up. What caused me to do that?’ Couples willing to do the hard work receive a gift because they learn a lot about themselves, their spouse and their marriage.”

    “The affair is one layer of our relationship," says a couple who used Gordon’s book to help them heal from an affair. "It is a painful, awful, yucky layer. We are continuing to weave our relationship and lay so many more layers on top of that layer that it will be just one line in the many layers of our marriage.”

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    Mad About Us, Part 2

    Almost daily, unhealthy anger causes some kind of devastation. It could be anything from child abuse or domestic violence to road rage, or to children methodically preparing to harm their teacher. The emotion of anger in and of itself isn’t the problem, though. When people allow themselves to be controlled by this powerful emotion, it can become unhealthy and cause harm to others.

    “We have to continually remind ourselves that anger is energy and energy is neutral,” says Gary Oliver, clinical psychologist and co-author of Mad About Us: Moving From Anger to Intimacy with Your Spouse, with his wife, Carrie. “We have total control over how we choose to express our anger, so we can choose to express this emotion in unhealthy or in healthy and constructive ways. Plus, we can choose to spend the anger-energy by expressing it in ways that hurt ourselves and others. Or, we can choose to invest the anger-energy in building a healthier relationship.”

    The Olivers believe that anger can be an alarm or warning sign that we need to look at some aspect of our lives or relationship. It can serve as a powerful source of motivation. Healthy anger provides the power to protect loved ones, and healthy anger can lead to more intimate relationships.

    “Disagreements usually involve the emotions of fear and/or hurt and/or frustration. These are the primary emotions that lead to the secondary emotion of anger,” Oliver says. “Anger sets most people up for conflict - and most couples don’t know how to do conflict well. Couples can choose to spend their anger-energy by dumping, blaming, attacking or walking out. Or they can choose to acknowledge the fear, hurt or frustration and invest their anger-energy in seizing the opportunity to better understand their spouse.”

    For example, Oliver spoke with a couple in the middle of a serious conflict. The husband made a comment at a party, and his wife responded with a joke about it. Her response embarrassed him in front of their friends. He was making a serious point and, she spoke without thinking about how it would impact the situation. Since this was not the first time she had done something like this, her husband was hurt, embarrassed, marginalized and frustrated.

    When they headed home, the wife asked him what was wrong. Although he initially denied being upset, he releases his frustration after several questions.

    In working through Oliver’s seven conflict management steps, they discovered that the wife had no idea he was being serious. The husband realized that his wife didn’t intend to make him look bad, but his friends started laughing and he felt naked, exposed and embarrassed in front of them. As they talked, the wife truly felt bad and apologized. This was a landmark conversation for them because they were actually able to talk through what had taken place and understand each other. Then they set a new direction for how to manage their conflict.

    Couples who develop the healthy habit of working through differences often find that listening, asking questions, listening again and asking more questions leads to understanding. Additionally, it provides a window into each other’s hearts and a pathway to greater intimacy.

    “When you know someone loves you enough to take the time to understand you rather than take a walk out the door, you know that person’s love is not a shallow, superficial, conditional love,” Oliver says. “That type of love makes a person feel safe and secure. This type of security leads to an increase in trust, which creates the perfect environment for deep levels of intimacy to grow.”

    If you're seeking to more effectively manage the conflicts in your marriage, try these seven steps:

    • Define the issue. Listen and seek understanding. Whose issue is it? Is there more than one issue involved? What is my spouse’s core concern? What is my core concern?

    • How important is it? On a scale from 1 to 10, with one being low-ticket and 10 being high-ticket, how important is this?

    • Ask yourself, “What is MY contribution to the problem?”

    • Do I need to apologize or ask for forgiveness?

    • Choose radical responsibility. Don’t wait for your partner to reach out and seek understanding—be willing to take the first step.

    • Choose what both of you can do differently.

    • Make changes and review them.

    “Healthy conflict is good,” Oliver says. “When a couple has a disagreement and one person takes the time to listen even if they think the other person is wrong, that says to their spouse, ‘I value you and you are important to me.’"

    It isn’t always about agreeing on something. When you know your spouse is trying to understand what is going on, it increases your sense of value and safety.

    One of the best ways to go from being mad at each other to "mad about us" isn’t reading books on new sexual positions. Instead, it's about creating a sense of trust and safety within your marriage. A spouse who feels understood will feel safe and be willing to trust. Consequently, that trust leads to the deeper levels of intimacy every person longs for. Guaranteed!

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