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What to Do When Your Child’s Marriage is Falling Apart

These tips can help you navigate this trying time.

Every parent wants to see their children grow to live happy and successful lives. This is why it can be difficult to watch from the sidelines as their marriage is falling apart. Many parents have stayed up at night trying to think of how they can best help their adult children, or even if they should help at all.

Determining what you should and shouldn’t do can be tricky. A lot depends on the nature of your relationship with your adult child and their spouse. What permission have they given you to speak into their marriage?

In matters that may involve abuse, violence, or anything that threatens personal safety, take swift action to ensure everyone is safe. *The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) 

However, if, by “falling apart” you mean issues such as an inability to communicate or connect in any meaningful way, growing distant, despising each other, constant arguing, or pure self-centeredness by one or both people, then this is for you.

What can you do about it?

  • Know your limits. You will always be a parent to your child. Pam Johnson, marriage therapist, says, “You know them as a child, but not as a spouse.” Without being married to that individual, you can’t know the fullness of their experience. 
  • Encourage them to work on their relationship. Give your adult child some things to think about when selecting a marriage counselor. Suggesting a marriage counselor you have a strong relationship with may not be the best move, especially if you’re concerned the counselor won’t be objective because of the familiarity. 
  • Set boundaries… Particularly for what you will and won’t listen to. Johnson encourages parents to avoid conversations that would make it difficult to forgive their child’s spouse. Often the adult child is sharing their perspective because they want you to take sides. It would be helpful to say, “You need to share that, but it’s best for you and your marriage for you to share with an objective third party.” As much as you want to be unbiased, the emotional closeness between you and your child can drive a bigger wedge in the marriage.
  • Support their relationship and them getting help. You might babysit to give your child and their spouse time alone, help pay for marriage counseling or do other things that strengthen their relationship. Tell them about Maximize Your Marriage.
  • Encourage them to be adults about their situation. In other words, encourage them to give all they can to work it out, hear and understand one another, and learn to be a team.

A few don’ts:

  • Avoid deciding you know best. Should they stay together? Should they divorce? That’s not the question you need to answer for them. And likely, they won’t let you answer it for them anyway.
  • Don’t make it easy for them to give up. As I mentioned earlier, with safety and health issues, help them get into a safe situation. But for many other instances, Johnson notes that making it easy for your child to leave their marriage and come home and stay with you isn’t helpful.
  • Don’t counsel. Expert counselors often won’t even give advice about their child’s marriage. It’s so easy for emotions to get involved. 
  • Don’t take sides. There are always two sides. Encourage them to do all they can to clearly understand each other’s perspectives.
  • Don’t try to control. You can’t control their thoughts, actions, or intentions. Even when we see the mistakes they may be making, we have to allow them to be adults and make their own decisions. 

Our children will inevitably make decisions that we disagree with and mistakes that could’ve been avoided. Ultimately, just like the coach has to allow their players to make the plays on the field, our kids have to make their plays in life. To love, accept, encourage, and give them space (even if you disagree with them) may be the secret to having the positive impact you desire. 

Other helpful resources (to help you help them):

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

7 Ways to Increase Trust in Marriage

Strengthen the foundation of your relationship with these tips.

Trust is the foundation of a healthy marriage. It’s like oil in a car engine, heat in an oven, Beyoncé in Destiny’s Child. Without it, things just don’t work well. 

Ideally, marital trust should grow with time. It’s a glue in your relationship that ought to get stronger, even though it isn’t always the case. Trust can rust. 

The good news is you can strengthen that glue. 

We all have the power to value or devalue a marriage, to help or hurt our spouse’s well-being. Think about it: the next words I choose to say to my wife can either make her smile or cry or make her just plain mad. I’ve got that power. (So does she.) And my words will make me look more or less trustworthy in her eyes.

A big part of increasing trust in marriage is channeling that power to be beneficial and to do that often. 

Want to increase trust in your marriage? Here are 7 ways to amp it up!

1. Extend Forgiveness

Forgiveness goes a long way. It means you’ve decided to work through negative emotions, that you’ve let go of the need to “get even.” Forgiving your spouse shows you’re willing to recognize they are human. Which, in turn, takes the pressure off having to be perfect for you. And it shows you can be trusted to not keep score of wrongdoings and that you are committed to trust again after a fallout. 

2. Uphold Boundaries

Maybe the idea of boundaries seems limiting to you. But when it comes to building trust, it’s quite the opposite. Healthy boundaries can keep you both on the same page. How you decide to navigate social media. What you view online. Friendships (particularly with the opposite sex). Resolving conflict. Spending leisure time. Dividing up chores. Handling these and other issues well can increase trust.

3. Express Humility

Humility is simply an accurate view of the self, both the good and the bad. You express humility when you use your power to build your spouse up instead of yourself or ask for forgiveness. And research suggests that humility is associated with greater trust and marriage satisfaction. 

4. Exercise Vulnerability

Brené Brown says vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and exposure. It’s being fully seen, warts and all. Research says trust arises when risk is involved. In other words, you’ve got the power to either affirm or attack each other’s vulnerable spots. The more you show vulnerability in your marriage and affirm your spouse’s openness, the stronger the trust. 

5. Practice Reliability

Your trustworthiness is also affected by how well your spouse perceives your follow-through. Do you follow up with people, complete projects, see your goals to the end? Keep your commitments? Have you ever given your spouse cause to doubt your reliability? When your spouse sees you as reliable, it builds more trust. 

6. Show Self-Control

The same idea goes for your spouse’s perception of your self-control. Do you typically keep your cool? Choose your words calmly and carefully? Keep your moral integrity intact? Do you try to respond in helpful ways, even if it’s tough or costly? These are all signs of self-control that build trustworthiness between you two.

7. Develop Confidence in Your Spouse

Author and researcher Shaunti Feldhahn says that couples who believe the best about each other have high marital satisfaction. Even during conflict, both acknowledge they’re on the same team. And no matter what, their spouse has their back. This kind of confidence boosts the marital trust factor.

The bottom line is, powerful trust makes for a powerful marriage. Share your intentions with your spouse. Begin working on one or two of these tried-and-true trust practices this week. Trust is key. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

So, You Need to Talk to Your In-Laws About Boundaries

Setting some limits can be a good thing for everyone.

Do you remember the first time you met your future in-laws? 

Was it important to you that they liked you, or did you even care?  

Did you dress to impress? 

Taking a walk down memory lane gives you a picture of how that relationship began. Once you got married, you may have thought your in-laws would have little to no impact on your marriage. (That’s funny!) 

Until they did. 

It could be that you recognized some of their behaviors in your spouse. Maybe your interactions with them directly or indirectly are driving you nuts. They may mean well, yet you feel overwhelmed and a little emotional about it. 

Perhaps it’s time to have that talk with your in-laws (you know the one), and you’re wondering how to begin the conversation about boundaries. Well, it probably won’t be easy, but it can be oh-so good if you handle it well!

Brené Brown defines boundaries as “simply what’s ok and what’s not ok.” It’s that simple and that complex. Boundaries often define the depth of a relationship, and they change and grow as the relationship changes. Your relationship with your in-laws will change and grow in many ways as you go through different life stages. Hopefully for the better.

Do a Self Check-Up

Before you have the “boundary” talk with the in-laws, it’ll be helpful to do a self-inventory to pinpoint what exactly is going on and what needs to happen. 

Here are some questions to think about.

  • Why is their behavior bothering me?
  • Is their behavior dangerous?
  • Can I deal with it because we see each other often (or not so often)?
  • Am I relating to my in-laws based on how my family operated?
  • Have I ever shared with my spouse that this bothers me?

Now, Do a Check-In With Your Spouse

Once you’ve thought about these questions, it’s time to share with your spouse. Remember that you are talking about their family, and they may be less than excited to have this conversation. Speaking about behavior, not Mom or Dad, can keep your spouse from feeling the need to defend their parents, and vice versa. Also, using I-statements such as “I feel (emotion) when your parent does (behavior).” Instead of, “YOUR mother always (Behavior).” 

Once you’ve discovered the boundary you need to address and share with your spouse what you feel would benefit your marriage…

It’s time to talk to the in-laws. Where do you even start?

Determine Who Is Going To Talk For You.

In-laws typically receive information better from their “child.” When my husband and I had to have a serious boundary conversation with our parents, he spoke to his parents while I addressed mine. They may not have liked what we said, but they wouldn’t stop loving their own kids. 

Give Grace.

If you’re newly-married, this may be the first time your in-laws have ever been in-laws. There are no rule books on how to be in-laws, so try to see the good in them rather than focusing on the negative. If you are new parents, that means they are excited to be new GRANDPARENTS. Everyone has a learning curve around roles, responsibilities, and boundaries. And sometimes those curves are pretty sharp.

Don’t Be Afraid to Get It Out In The Open.

When you don’t address issues openly, it only makes the problem bigger. Pretending something is ok when it isn’t is not helpful. In fact, it creates conflict inside you, in your marriage, and in your relationship with the in-laws.

Being open and honest with them gives them the chance to meet your expectations. They can’t mind-read. If you don’t let them know, they don’t know there’s a problem! Once it’s in the open, you may be able to resolve the issues quickly (and without any hurt feelings)! 

Talking with your in-laws about boundaries is not a one-and-done conversation. We’re talking about an ongoing, progressive conversation. As situations change in your life (moves, kids, job changes) or in theirs (getting older, retirement, health issues), you’ll probably need to revisit and revise boundaries.

But I’ve got some good news for you. When you set a positive tone for open communication, your family will see that limits allow you to love and respect each other more deeply. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

But we’re only just friends!” or “I have to talk to Karen in Accounting for work!” These can be the typical responses from people having emotional or “virtual” affairs. According to several sources like psychologists Kristina Coop Gordon and Erica A. Mitchell at The University of Tennessee Knoxville, data indicates that emotional or “virtual” affairs are rising. Big time.

So, how do you protect your marriage from an emotional affair?

It’s worth noting that with so many people working strange hours from home and using texts, phone calls, Facetime, and Zoom, the separation of work and home life has become muddled. Emotional affairs crackle across electronic devices as conversations easily slide from a work project to personal problems, usually innocently at first.

Working from home can be contributing to the rise in emotional infidelity in another way. You may be spending a lot more time at home with your spouse. This can quickly lead to conflict, taking each other for granted, or just plain boredom—making you more susceptible to an emotional affair without even knowing it. Some researchers are concerned this surge in virtual emotional affairs could lead to a surge in sexual infidelity when things get back to “normal.”

Many couples are on guard against sexual infidelity but don’t give as much thought to emotional infidelity. This is dangerous for several reasons:

  • Emotional affairs often escalate to sexual affairs.
  • Emotional affairs are often easier to justify because they blur the lines between co-worker/friend/someone you have an inappropriate connection with.
  • Connecting emotionally with someone other than your spouse means disconnecting emotionally from your spouse. That spells all kinds of trouble.
  • Co-workers, exes, and “friends” are just a click away.

Here are five ways to protect your marriage from an emotional affair. Pay attention.

  1. Invest in your spouse and your marriage. Schedule routines that keep you communicating and connected. Get creative—schedule a stay-at-home date night and dress fancy for your favorite dinner. 
  2. Have an honest talk with your spouse about boundaries that will protect your marriage. This isn’t about your “rights” or even trust. It’s about what your spouse needs to feel secure in your love. Include electronic devices in the conversation. Check out these resources for this ongoing convo: Help! My Spouse HATES to Talk About Boundaries! and 4 Steps for Setting Good Boundaries.
  3. If you have come close to or crossed the line, have friends for your marriage who ask you the hard questions and keep you accountable if necessary.
  4. If you can’t avoid someone altogether, keep everything professional, to a minimum, and your spouse in the loop.
  5. Seek professional marriage help if necessary.

Stay connected to your spouse. Do your marital work with them. Don’t let conflicts or disagreements turn into bitterness or resentment. Handle that stuff quickly

Where you invest is where you’ll get your returns.

If you’re both working from home, don’t take this opportunity for granted. Flirt with that hottie at your home office! Schedule times to have coffee breaks together, “working” lunches, and maybe even some activities in the afternoon that would make HR blush. 

You got this!

5 Ways to Protect Your Marriage

Am I Having an Emotional Affair?

Warning Signs of an Emotional Affair

Affair-Proofing Your Marriage

How to Move Past an Emotional Affair

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

AFTER I DO | THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO NEWLYWED LIFE

SEX. CONFLICT. IN-LAWS. OH MY.

Tired of no one talking about how hard those first years can be? Well, buckle your seatbelt. We’re here to embrace the awkward (sex!), talk through the hard stuff (in-laws!), and give you everything you need to ace your newlywed years and beyond.

After I Do is a COMPLETE guide for those first 5 years of marriage, when everything is new and sweet… and freaking difficult. Even if you’ve dated for years, going from ME to WE is a huge transition and sometimes you just need a little (or a lot) of sage wisdom so that you don’t completely go off on your spouse. (But if you already have, no judgment. We’re here to help.)

Our relationship experts will guide you and your spouse through 12 modules covering all the hot topics like communication, conflict, sex, in-laws, money, etc. Get practical solutions you can put into practice! So if you wanna turn up the passion and connect with your spouse on a whole new level, get this marriage course, stat.

How to Keep the Election from Ruining Your Marriage

You may feel differently about politics, but that doesn't have to change how you feel about each other.

Finally. After endless campaign ads, talking heads, polls and vote counting, the election is over. Now you’ve gotta figure out how to move forward and keep the election from ruining your marriage, especially if you live in a house divided.

One of you may be gloating over your candidate’s victory. But your spouse is licking his or her wounds, wondering how the nation will survive the next four years.

You CAN Keep the Election from Ruining Your Marriage

There’s probably an elephant or a donkey in the room nobody really wants to talk about. How will you navigate marriage in the midst of big political differences?

  • First word of advice: be nice and kind. When our kids start playing sports, most parents drill into their kids, “Nobody likes a sore loser and nobody likes a gloating winner.” You can feel strongly about your stance and still be generous in the way you love and care for one another.
  • Remember that your spouse is a multifaceted human being. Rarely do we look at a person and decide we can’t get along with them based on one aspect of who they are. 
  • Make a list of all the qualities you love about your spouse so that on the particularly challenging days you can refer to it. Let it remind you there’s a difference in how you feel about politics and how you feel about your spouse.
  • Make sure you’re having more positive than negative interactions when you are together. Research indicates a ratio of five positives for every one negative will keep your relationship in the green zone.
  • If you’ve been able to have civil conversation about politics in the past, but feel like things are too electrically charged right now, set some boundaries around what you will and will not have conversations about.
  • Be intentional about making time for fun together. Doing things you both enjoy together typically brings about smiles, laughter and playfulness between the two of you. On the inside your brain is releasing dopamine, known as the “feel-good” hormone. It boosts your mood and makes you want to spend more time together because you associate that time with your spouse in positive ways and you want to repeat it.
  • Guard against taking his or her political perspective as a personal affront against you. Family, religion and region of the country where they were raised are all factors contributing to a person’s political leanings. It likely has nothing to do with you, so your best move is to not engage.
  • Focus on what you DO have in common. It’s just human nature to pay attention to what divides you, but it’s really in the best interest of your marriage to consider all you agree on. Chances are great there is more that unites you than divides you in your relationship. 

When you get down to it, you probably both want what’s best for our country; you just disagree on what exactly that is and the best way to get there. It’s likely true you both want what’s best for your relationship, too. Keep in mind, while elections come and go, you married each other for the long haul. When your marriage matters more than who wins or loses in the election, your marriage becomes the winning team.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

My Spouse and I Have Different Political Views

Focusing on your marriage goals can help you navigate any political disagreements you have.

When Trump was elected President in 2016, Wakefield Research found 1 in 10 couples ended relationships over their political differences. For millennials, it was twice that. With the next presidential election upon us, many wonder if marriages with different political views can survive the increased volatility of the times.

political views

Susan and Darrell* have been married for more than a decade. In that time, they have experienced two presidential elections where they each voted for opposite sides of the aisle. If you ask them how their marriage is today, they will tell you it’s great…

But how can your marriage be great when you disagree on such huge issues?

Susan and Darrell certainly aren’t alone when it comes to being on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Nearly 30% of married households are bipartisan. In fact, there are some pretty well-known, long-married couples who have navigated these waters for years. Take James Carville, a Democrat and Mary Matalin, a Republican. Married since 1993, Carville says in Love & War: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters and One Louisiana Home, which he co-authored with his wife, “I’d rather stay happily married than pick a fight with my wife over politics.” 

That right there is the key. A study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (Explaining the impact of differences in voting patterns on resilience and relational load in romantic relationships during the transition to the Trump presidency) found that couples who actively maintain their relationship are better able to “weather the storm” of an election because they build up positive emotions that protect the relationship during difficult times. So, even if you vote differently, actively maintaining your relationship can help you keep feeling emotionally connected to each other and reduce the propensity for stress and conflict.

For example, in an interview with U.S. News and World Report, Mary Matalin shares that she and her husband have many interests other than politics that they enjoy doing together like fishing, cooking and learning about history. “Talking about the impact of the minimum wage is just not something that is high on our list of fun things to do,” she says.

What does this mean for couples who find themselves with opposing political perspectives? Susan and Darrell, along with other couples in the same political boat say this: “Instead of allowing your political differences to divide you, see it for what it is and don’t allow it to take center stage in your marriage. There are a lot of things we agree on and enjoy doing together. We choose to focus on those things.” 

When you find that you and your mate differ on things like politics, these tips can help you navigate through those differences for the good of your marriage:

  • Avoid trying to change your spouse. Trying to get your spouse to change will only create angst in your marriage. You can appreciate the fact that they are active in the political process and exercise their right to vote (just like you), which is a really good thing and not something to take for granted. 
  • Know that every married couple has issues they agree to disagree on for the duration of their marriage. Let politics be one of them. 
  • Focus on why you married them in the first place.
  • Build up those positive emotions that protect your marriage. Compliment your spouse. Speak kindly about them to others. Be intentional about focusing on the things you love about your spouse and your relationship.
  • Rein in negativity. The more you think negative thoughts about your differences, the more you teach your brain to think negatively about your spouse. This is a dangerous downward spiral that can take you places you do not want to go.
  • Appreciate ways that you are not the same. Differing opinions and perspectives can offer depth and the ability to practice empathy in a relationship.
  • Put safeguards in place such as agreeing that you aren’t going to talk about politics and you for sure are not going to chide your spouse about their political persuasion.
  • Remember what matters most. Your marriage is more important than many differences you have, including politics. It will likely outlast any president’s tenure. 
  • Be respectful. Even when you disagree with your spouse, you can still be respectful. (Here’s why respect matters.)

A pandemic + a struggling economy + an election all in the same year can = frayed nerves, anxiety and an unusual level of sensitivity.

These things can magnify differences in your marriage that normally wouldn’t be a big deal. Knowing that this moment in time is especially extraordinary and putting some safeguards in place can protect your marriage. This allows you to focus on the goals you have set for your marriage… even when you disagree.

*names have been changed.

If you have ever watched Everybody Loves Raymond, you know firsthand how overbearing in-laws like Ray’s mom can be. Giving her opinion when nobody asked for it, making off-handed comments about their parenting, criticizing decisions they make, and talking about them to each other was Marie’s style for sure. And, Raymond found it really hard to stand up to his mom, and we all know how that impacted their marriage. [Cue: Laugh Track]

Funny how so many have said they could truly identify with much of what happened on that show because they felt like they lived it every day. While some can kind of laugh it off, plenty of other couples find themselves actually having conversations about divorce because while they still love each other, they cannot figure out how to get one or both sets of parents out of their business. That’s NOT funny. Can you relate?

If you believe it is truly unhealthy for your family to be around your in-laws, your first responsibility is to your spouse. If being around your in-laws creates safety issues or requires you to put your family in an unhealthy situation—setting limits or creating boundaries is completely appropriate. Sometimes it may be necessary to make the decision that it’s in the best interest of your family not to be around your in-laws for a period of time. ★ 

If you feel like your in-laws are all up in your business, but it isn’t unsafe to be around them, the good news is, you’ve got options. You can:

  • Limit the amount of time you spend with them.
  • Plan ahead for how you will handle a visit that goes south.

Great! Got that part! But please tell me strategies for building a protective perimeter around my marriage!

Okay—here you go!

1. Your Marriage Is The Primary Relationship.

You both have to be intentional about making your marital relationship first. Marital distress may occur if one spouse doesn’t want to hurt his/her parents’ feelings and doesn’t see how them “investing” in your marriage is harmful. The two of you are a family and on the same team. Each person is responsible for communicating with their own parents in a way that does not throw your spouse under the bus. So, “We aren’t coming to your house this weekend because he doesn’t want to come.” is not an option on the table. Ever.

2. Stop Anticipating And Start Planning.

When you rehearse conversations in your brain, it actually gets you revved up. Stop playing it through in your mind how you think your in-laws are going to react or respond. Instead, discuss with your spouse how you want to approach or avoid certain topics. In essence, you are creating a strategy to help you both engage them and avoid being triggered by them. Make your plan together with your spouse. It may take a minute to get on the same page about how to move forward. It’s vital at this point however to remember that your spouse comes first, not your parents.

Here’s a side note worth mentioning: Before you and your spouse talk, spend some time thinking about where the angst with your in-laws is the most intense. 

  • Are they interfering with your marriage? 
  • Are they interfering with your parenting? 
  • Do they say things that hurt your feelings or rub you the wrong way? 

This is important to know in order to make a plan to help you move forward constructively.

3. Decide How You Will Respond.

Straight out of the gates, make a commitment to respond versus react. Every time you react to a situation, you are giving over power and control. When you respond, you are calm, think before you speak, take the time to get with your spouse and discuss feelings and opinions and then share your response with your in-laws. Think through the typical scenarios that tend to take place and decide what your response will be.

If something out of the ordinary happens and you aren’t sure what to do, you are probably better off taking a moment to breathe. Maybe even take a walk around the block with your spouse to decide the best plan of action. People often regret flying off the handle, but rarely regret an intentional, constructive response. Before you say a word, ask yourself, “Will my response build-up or further tear down the relationship?

4. Set Appropriate Boundaries.

As a couple, it is important to have clear rules of engagement with extended family. When you are being clear with established boundaries, you are choosing your marriage, not between your spouse and parent. 

Examples of this could include:

  • We will call before we come to visit and we are asking you to do the same.
  • Yes, we have given you a key to the house in the event of an emergency, but we are asking you not to use it unless there is actually an emergency.
  • If we ask for your thoughts about our parenting style, please share your wisdom with us. Otherwise, we are not looking for unsolicited advice.

But what about power struggles? For real!

The best thing you can do is seek to avoid them. That sounds easier said than done, but if you and your spouse are on the same page, there shouldn’t be “power” up for grabs.

⇨ Don’t underestimate the power of a positive attitude. I know it’s hard. Dig deep. ⇦

➤ Remember, they are family. No matter the conflict, they are part of your family. Be aware of the level of tension, tones of voice, and language choice. All of these things can and will impact your children (their grandchildren). Are there behaviors you can choose to ignore? Give the benefit of the doubt? Extend grace? Ask yourselves, “Is this really worth ruining the relationship over?”

➤ Don’t assume they are intentionally trying to be difficult. In many instances, people think they are being helpful. They don’t realize that dropping by unannounced or giving unsolicited marital or parenting advice is not appreciated. Get with your spouse and brainstorm things that your in-laws could do that would be helpful. Then sit down with your in-laws and talk about what you would appreciate them doing. Also, discuss things that you would like them to stop.

➤ Relationships change and evolve. Believe it or not, many couples have been in exactly the same place you are at the moment. Through some advance planning, agreement on changes that need to be made, and strategic conversations, they now have a healthy and respectful relationship with the in-laws. It may take a minute, along with some tears and hard conversations, but don’t give up.

Image from AdobeStock.com

Want to take date night up a notch?

DISCOVER A DEEPER LEVEL OF INTIMACY IN THE MIDST OF UNCERTAINTY WITH HOT LOVE.

This premium on demand virtual date night guides you and your spouse to learn the secrets to growing deep intimacy. You’ll work together to learn…

  • Tools to reframe your mindset
  • Ways to discover and remove roadblocks to intimacy
  • Strategies for turning up the temperature

We expect things to be different after marriage, and one of the more difficult changes is in our friendships, and especially our opposite-sex friends. Often, while we share similar stages of life with our friends, your marital relationship should be the primary relationship. It’s pretty likely that you and your spouse want what is in the best interest of your marriage. 

Many couples bring a variety of things into the relationship—including that comfy couch from your bachelor pad or that well-worn t-shirt or sweatshirt, mismatched plates, cookware, and friends of the opposite sex. While it may be easy for you all to decide what old items to discard, it becomes much more difficult to have the conversation with your spouse about ending and/or adapting long-standing or even newly-established opposite-sex friendships. These innocent friendships often create a rift between spouses, especially when our spouse sees the relationship as no big deal but there is something in your gut that makes you super uncomfortable.

If you find that you and your spouse are having more and more unresolved discussions about these “friendships,” you may be in the “Danger Zone.” In the Danger Zone, you and your spouse may find yourself: 

  • Emotionally disconnected from each other
  • Not communicating well
  • Having unresolved conflicts
  • Decreasing in physical intimacy

If you see, DANGER, DANGER, DANGER, take heed. Dr. Shirley Glass, licensed marriage and family therapist, has found that “82% of the unfaithful partners I’ve treated have had an affair with someone who was, at first, ‘just a friend.’ The new infidelity is between people who unwittingly form deep, passionate connections before realizing that they’ve crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love.”

How should I begin this conversation with my spouse? 

Ask Questions

Internal Questions:

  • Look at the person in the mirror.
  • What really is bothering me? Do I feel ignored? Insecure? Disrespected? Jealous?
  • Am I asking my spouse to look at their opposite-sex friendships while I have not examined my own? 
  • What about this relationship makes me uncomfortable?
  • Does my spouse share a past romantic relationship with this friend?
  • Does this remind me of something from my past relationships?
  • Do I know my spouse’s friend? Are they doing things for the friend that they won’t do at home?

Relational Questions:

  • What is the state of my marriage? Is it healthy? Do we laugh together? Play together? How well do we communicate? Handle conflict? How is our intimate life? 
  • Are we nurturing our marital relationship?
  • Have we talked about boundaries? Does my spouse include me in the friendship? 
  • Am I invited to go hang out together with the friend? 
  • Are we in the “Danger Zone?”

Once you have considered the above questions, find the right time and place to begin the conversation with your spouse. 

  • Use “I statements” (Speak from your own point of view—“I feel, I need, I think…”)
  • Be respectful 
  • Ask questions of your spouse
  • Actively listen to them
  • Being aware prevents you from approaching a slippery slope

Having this conversation is meant to create and establish relational boundaries that you both can agree on as well as be held accountable. Additionally, you should be open about how you feel about it when your spouse has opposite-sex friends, but do so in a controlled and positive way. Avoid opening an accusatory conversation because you’re feeling hurt or slighted. Choose to respond instead of react. Seek to understand your spouse and the situation first, then open the conversation as a way to strengthen your marriage. 

Being aware of the danger zone, paying attention to warning signs and being respectful of your spouse’s perspective will enable you both to be on the same page and do what is best for your relationship. This does not mean that you and your spouse can never have opposite-sex friends. No matter the difficulty, talking and being open about boundaries is necessary to build a strong, lasting relationship.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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