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Are you feeling frustrated with your spouse?

Do things just seem more intense between the two of you?

Is working from home and/or taking care of the family making you tired? 

Are you worn out from keeping up with the household duties? 

Do you find that you and your spouse are arguing and disagreeing more?

Are differences being exposed as a result of COVID-19 and social unrest?

Do you sometimes lie in bed and wonder if you married the right person?

Before we dig into this, I want to be clear that if you are in a relationship where someone is abusing you in any way, stop here and seek help.*

As you went through the list above, you may have answered yes to some or all of the questions. These are trying times for sure. Right now, I want to focus on the last question.

Have you caught yourself entertaining the question: Did I marry the right person? 

When we experience challenges that exist for an extended period of time, it can bring out the best and the worst in all of us. Before you fully convince yourself that everything is your spouse’s fault, here’s something to consider. Everybody has been under extra pressure for the last 106-plus days and as a result, may be acting a bit extra. That being said, it’s important to recognize that most marriages go through challenging times. 

Although throwing in the towel may sound tempting, it might be helpful to set the wheels in motion to have a constructive conversation with your spouse about your marriage and how to ride these waves together. 

Here are some things to think about as you prepare for the conversation.

What exactly is making you question whether or not you married the right person? Sometimes we entertain thoughts but have nothing of substance to back them up. Try to nail down where this idea is coming from.

Then ask yourself, based on history in your marriage, is this narrative something that has recently come up or has it been ongoing for an extended period of time, as in long before COVID-19 hit?

Does your spouse know you are having these thoughts? If you shared what you are thinking today, would they be blindsided?

Here’s the thing: When you start getting irritated with your spouse, you can actually teach your brain to only see the things that get on your nerves or irritate you about them. And, the more you go there, the more you tell yourself your thoughts are justified and accurate. It’s kind of like confirmation bias. This can be very misleading and has caused plenty of people to call it quits on a perfectly good marriage.

Talk It Out

★ Maybe you are not feeling valued or heard. Or, you just don’t feel connected anymore and are bored. Instead of deciding that you are finished, find a time where both of you can sit and have a conversation away from distractions. Beware of telling them all the things they aren’t doing—instead, talk about how you are feeling and ask for what you need. 

“I need help with the children.”

“I’m feeling very distant from you. I would like for us to spend time together.”

“I’m scared about all that is going on.”

“I don’t feel appreciated or respected. Can we talk about that?”

“I am bored.”

Lead-ins like this are more likely to take you to a conversation instead of a meltdown because someone feels attacked. It’s totally possible that your spouse has no idea you are feeling like this and that they would be willing to do some things differently. (It’s also possible that your spouse is struggling, too.)

[Pause right here and take a deep breath.]

Instead of thinking your marriage might be coming to an end because you are questioning whether or not you married the right person, this could be the beginning of breathing new life into your relationship.

All marriages go through hard times. Talk with anybody who has been married any length of time and they will tell you, it was the times when they were hanging on to each other in the midst of the storm that brought them to the other side stronger and more energized. 

Here’s the other secret: many couples have learned that there are times when they don’t like each other very much or the strong romantic passion toward each other ebbs and flows. The key is, their commitment to their relationship remains strong. And, as they continue to put one foot in front of the other, things transition—like children get older, COVID-19 calms down, work gets less intense, children are back in school, everybody is healthy, and more.

Problems and difficulties occur in ALL marital relationships. Your marriage can thrive when you respect, recognize, and appreciate what you each bring to your marriage. When you look back over your relationship, you may actually see that you have had many more good times than bad times. Be aware that we all are experiencing unique situations that we have never faced. 

You might really be really asking yourself, “Did I marry the right person?” In reality, there are so many questions you are probably trying to answer right now. Give each other space and time to express and deal with the stress and anxiety from these unprecedented sets of circumstances. Avoid making any impulsive decisions right now.

***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.***

Image from Unsplash.com

Ahhhh, it finally happened. You and your spouse sat down to eat and… dead silence. In fact, this has happened a lot lately: while lying in bed, riding in the car, sitting on the couch, deciding what to do for fun. You realize that the two of you have absolutely nothing in common to talk about. If you aren’t talking about the kids, work, responsibilities, or bills—there’s nothing.

Many emotions creep in—Fear. Sadness. Concern. Bewilderment. What happened to us? We used to talk non-stop for hours. We had endless fun and romantic dates. And now it feels awkward and forced. And it feels “in your face” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yes, I remember those feelings. My wife and I have had that moment where we sat in the bed, both wide awake, and couldn’t think of anything to talk about. We’ve had the arguments about us never wanting to do the same thing for a date or for fun. We’ve experienced the tension with not being able to connect intimately. And we know the awkwardness of not being able to talk about what’s going on at work. 

So, what do you do? These 9 things can help you really connect.

1. Accept that it’s NORMAL.

You’re not the first couple to experience this, nor the last. Marriages go through stages. The Gottman Institute, a relationship research institute says that “a person’s inner world changes as they pass through the seasons of life.” Each of you may be growing, changing, and evolving. That’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. It’s likely that you’re becoming better versions of yourself which is good for both you and the marriage. There are times when it is difficult to connect with your spouse because your way of connecting is becoming different. 

2. Be aware of letting the world creep in to your marriage

  • Is all your brain energy focused on work?
  • Are you totally focused on your children and that’s all you talk or think about?
  • Are you consumed with social media? Work, kids, and social media are, in and of themselves, not distractions. However, we can place a higher priority on each to the detriment of our marriage.
  • Are you taking the allotted vacation time from work?
  • Do you care more about your success at work than your marriage?
  • Are you overscheduling your children so that there’s no couple time?
  • Do you find yourself sharing all of your thoughts and getting absorbed in the information and conversation on social media? When your brain is focused elsewhere it can feel like you don’t have anything in common with your spouse.

It may be time to evaluate where your time and mental energy is going. If you are communicating, who are you communicating with and what are you communicating about? Be willing to make the necessary changes to ensure that your relationship is priority. Regular date nights may be in order. 

3. Curiosity is key.

Commit to learning new things about your spouse. Remember—you used to talk all the time. Part of that was because you were learning all kinds of new things about each other and it was fresh. There’s a good chance that one or both of you has grown or changed in the time you’ve been married. Kids may be grown and gone. Your philosophies on parenting or success may have changed. Instead of being bored with your spouse, take the initiative to become a student of your spouse. Talk about their dreams, what success means, or how they like to spend their time. 

4. Focus on loving the differences.

Get into your spouse’s world and learn about it. Sometimes we allow our differences to drive us apart. We begin making value judgments about our differences. For instance, I like to make lists and get things done on Saturday morning which I think is way better than my wife who likes for us to take Saturday morning and visit with other families. She’s an introvert—I’m an extrovert who likes to socialize and build relationships any and everywhere and I often think my way is better.

Don’t let differences lead to judgments. Instead, allow your differences to take you down a path of learning more about your spouse. She likes to garden and you don’t. Spend time with her in the garden. He likes to read, you’d prefer to watch a movie. Read a book together. Consider the ways that your spouse’s differences are not only likable, but helpful to the marriage. There’s a saying, “If both of you were the same, then one of you would be unnecessary.”

5. Plan and do some everyday things together.

Planning our weekly menu and cooking together was one thing that worked well for me and my wife. We didn’t focus on the silence. We were trying to accomplish a task together. For example, we started trying new recipes. We had to work together. We were learning about each other’s likes, dislikes, comforts, and discomforts. My wife is more willing to try new things. I began to appreciate and even love that more. We created some new dishes that we still eat to this day. We made memories. DIY home improvement projects, vacation and holiday planning are all fair game. The key is learning about your spouse by listening and doing things together.

6. Shared experiences create great memories.

It’s amazing how shared experiences of giving can increase your spirit and help you to remember what’s important in life. The two of you can accomplish more together helping someone else than you can apart from each other. Do something for an elderly neighbor. Serve food together at a community kitchen. Volunteer at Habitat for Humanity. Come together and decide what the two of you can do for someone else as a team.

7. Explore new things.

This is how my wife and I got into hiking together. She liked doing puzzles. I liked playing sports. I liked being in social settings with lots of people. She liked intimate settings with few people. I’d rather go to the movie theatre. She’d rather watch it on Netflix. We knew this wasn’t going to work forever. We needed some fun stuff to do together.

There were some hits and misses along the way. But getting outside and hiking became something that we tried and both loved. She doesn’t feel like she’s lost herself and neither do I. Be willing to try new things. Some couples create YouTube channels and post videos as a couple. Others take up doing regular community service. Don’t get discouraged. You’ll look back one day and laugh at the things you tried that both of you hated and others that one of you loved and the other hated. 

8. Support your spouse’s strengths.

Is your spouse really good at building relationships, problem solving, budgeting, fixing things, being a peacemaker, etc.? It’s not unusual that our partner’s strengths attracted us to them in the first place, especially when they are good at what we’re not. Opposites do attract. We used to admire it, encourage it, and even be excited to watch them work in their strongest areas. Look for ways to support your spouse in what they are good at.

9. Turn toward, not away.

It’s easy to build resentment or begin to think your spouse has the problem. They aren’t making you happy. We’re growing apart. And our mind will begin to complete the story for us. I can spend the next 2 pages alone making lists of all of the differences me and the wife have, and the things we don’t have in common. Don’t shut each other off. Instead, talk about your concerns. Train your brain not to think of your spouse or yourself as the issue. Check any resentment, bitterness or criticism at the door. And see this as an issue that we will work through.

When you begin to feel like you have nothing in common with your spouse, instead of looking for a way out, see it as an opportunity to learn how to enjoy the beauty of your differences. If you focus on what you don’t have in common, you will for sure find it. The opposite is true as well: if you look for what you have in common, you will find that also.  

Other Related Blogs: 

I’m Bored With My Spouse in Quarantine

We’re Total Opposites! Can We Make Our Relationship Work?

What To Do When You and Your Spouse Really Are Opposites

***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.***

Image from Pexels.com

COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD BE FULFILLING, NOT FRUSTRATING.

With the right tools, you and your spouse can have the best communication ever!

This easy-to-use virtual 5-day course guides you and your spouse to have the best communication you’ve ever had! This course includes exclusive access to:

  • 5 downloadable relationship-enhancing PDFs
  • Videos full of easy-to-use communication tools
  • Questions to ask each other to spark a deeper connection
  • Fun activities to guide you through each of the concepts discussed

ADD TO CART

Over the last two decades there has been a steady increase in the number of couples choosing to live together before marriage, and many of them expect to make a commitment to each other. The catch is that a large number of them decide not to marry. The nagging question becomes, does marriage really make a difference in relationship quality over time? 

The Census Bureau reports that the percentage of cohabiting adults ages 25 to 34 increased from 12 percent a decade ago to 15 percent in 2018. Among 25- to 34- year-olds, living together has become commonplace. Among currently-married adults, a whopping 67 percent say they have lived with either their current partner or someone else before they tied the knot. In 1978, however, marriage was more common, with 59 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds married compared to only 30 percent today. 

With the dramatic increase in couples who live together, one might believe that cohabitation is becoming more like marriage (or at least a step toward it). If you think that, you aren’t alone. 

Plenty of researchers across the globe have surmised that over time, cohabitation would become more like marriage with all of its benefits. Interestingly though, the latest research released by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and The Wheatley Institution at Brigham Young University indicates that might not be the case.

Researchers analyzed the results of a December 2018 YouGov “iFidelity Survey” of 2000 American adults. The data continues to confirm key differences in marriage and cohabiting relationships. They even found categorical differences between marriage and cohabitation on three relationship factors in particular.

First, married men and women are more likely than couples who live together to report satisfaction with their relationship. After controlling for education, relationship duration and age, married women (54 percent) and married men (49 percent) were more likely to report being “very happy” in their relationship compared to cohabiting adults.

Second, married adults are more likely to report higher levels of relationship commitment. Forty-six percent of married men and women were in the top relationship commitment group compared to just over 30 percent of cohabiting partners. This finding is consistent with other research that links cohabiting relationships with lower commitment levels.

Third, married adults are more likely to report higher levels of relationship stability than those who live together without the commitment of marriage. When asked how likely respondents thought their relationship would continue, 54 percent of married adults were in the top perceived relationship stability group, compared to only 28 percent of cohabiting adults. 

Married relationships are much less likely to break up than cohabiting ones. Even in places like Europe where cohabitation has long been an accepted practice, studies consistently show that married couples experience more stability than couples who live together.

Marriage has many other benefits for men, women and children in addition to commitment, satisfaction and stability, and there’s plenty of research to prove it. Whether adults are looking for financial benefits, better physical and emotional health, longevity or a more satisfying sex life, the evidence shows that marriage offers some things that cohabitation does not. 

If you are looking for a committed, highly-satisfying and stable relationship, the research strongly indicates that cohabitation is likely not the best route. Before you decide to move in together, do your homework and decide if that road will take you where you want to go.  

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on February 24, 2019.

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

How do you know if love will last? Some say you don’t, that it’s just luck of the draw if your love lasts over time. Many believe that the more a couple has in common, the more likely they are to be compatible over time. Others say, not so fast.

With more than 40 years of love and relationship research under their belt, The Gottman Institute says that whether love will last is more about how couples address their differences and support one another’s needs and dreams. And it all starts with these 8 conversations for couples.

In studying successful couple relationships and couples whose relationships fail to thrive over time, The Gottman Institute found that people connect and fall in love by talking. John and Julie Gottman and their co-authors, Doug Abrams and Rachel Carlton Abrams, MD, discovered eight crucial conversations that couples need to have.

These conversations can either help couples know that love will last or help rekindle love that has become lukewarm. The authors made the crucial conversations for couples into dates in the book, Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.

These conversation-based dates have the potential to help couples increase understanding and commitment regardless of how long they have been together.

The topics for discussion include:

  • Trust and Commitment. Trust is cherishing each other and showing your partner you are reliable. Choosing commitment means accepting your partner exactly as he or she is, despite their flaws.
  • Conflict. Conflict is a part of every healthy relationship. There is purpose behind it and it is an opportunity to take your relationship to a deeper level.
  • Sex and Intimacy. Romantic, intimate rituals of connection keep a relationship happy and passionate. Couples who talk about sex have more sex.
  • Work and Money. Money issues usually aren’t about money at all. Instead, they are about what money means to each person. Learning what money means to each person can help take your relationship to a totally different place.
  • Family. It is not unusual for relationship satisfaction to decrease after the birth of a child. The decrease often continues with each subsequent child. Couples who maintain their sexual relationship and learn how to manage conflict in a way that builds up their relationship can avoid this drop in relationship happiness.
  • Fun and Adventure. People are often so busy “adulting” that they underestimate the importance of play and adventure in their relationship. They are vital components to a successful and joyful relationship. While couples may not agree on what constitutes play and adventure, learning more about the one you love can be part of the fun.
  • Growth and Spirituality. The only constant in a relationship is change. How each person in the relationship accommodates the growth of the other partner is key. Relationships can be more than just two individuals coming together. They can be stories of transformation and great contribution and meaning to the world.
  • Dreams. Honoring each other’s dreams is the secret ingredient to creating love for a lifetime. When dreams are honored, everything else in the relationship gets easier.

The Gottmans contend that every strong relationship is a result of a never-ending conversation between partners. This book will guide you through how to talk and how to listen in a way that will benefit you as an individual and as a couple.

This article was originally publishedin the Chattanooga Times Free Press on February 10, 2019.

***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.***

Image from Unsplash.com

COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD BE FULFILLING, NOT FRUSTRATING.

With the right tools, you and your spouse can have the best communication ever!

This easy-to-use virtual 5-day course guides you and your spouse to have the best communication you’ve ever had! This course includes exclusive access to:

  • 5 downloadable relationship-enhancing PDFs
  • Videos full of easy-to-use communication tools
  • Questions to ask each other to spark a deeper connection
  • Fun activities to guide you through each of the concepts discussed

ADD TO CART

What can destroy a relationship, cause a company to lose customers and make athletes sacrifice millions in endorsements?

It’s trust, of course.

If you’ve ever regretted giving your heart to someone or done business with a company that didn’t deliver on its promises, you know that trust is a BIG DEAL.

“The single uniqueness of the greatest leaders and organizations of all time is trust,” says David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships and a Stronger Bottom Line. “When there is low trust, everything takes more time and money and creates more stress. Lack of trust is your biggest expense. Companies with high trust levels outperform companies with low trust levels by 186 percent. Everything of value from relationships to financial systems are built on trust.”

Whether you’re trying to build a strong marriage and family or a multimillion dollar organization, trust matters. In fact, Horsager contends that, even if you have excellent communication skills, insight, vision and charisma, you won’t go very far without trust.

He also says it’s the currency of business and life.

So what is trust, exactly?

According to Horsager, it’s a confident belief in someone or something. It’s the confident belief in an entity to do what’s right and to deliver on what is promised and to be the same every time, whatever the circumstances. For example, being trustworthy implies reliability, dependability and capability. You are trusted to the degree that people believe in your ability, your consistency, your integrity and your commitment to deliver.

Horsager’s research has identified eight pillars which are key to building and supporting trust:

  • Clarity. People trust the clear and mistrust the ambiguous.
  • Compassion. People put faith in those who care beyond themselves.
  • Character. People notice those who do what’s right over what’s easy.
  • Competency. People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant and capable.
  • Commitment. People believe in those who stand through adversity. In this instance, actions definitely speak louder than words.
  • Connection. People want to follow, buy from and be around friends. It’s easier to trust a friend than a stranger, so look for ways to engage with people and build relationships.
  • Contribution. People immediately respond to results. By giving of yourself and your talents, you are investing in others.
  • Consistency. People love to see the little things done consistently.

Remember, it’s not likely that you’ll get just one big chance to be trusted. Instead, you’ll have thousands of small ones. Just like a savings account, when you respond consistently you will see the results build up over time.

FIVE areas a person should know about another person before marrying them:

1. Make sure you have taken the time to get to know the person you are marrying.

Get to know them, their family, what their conscience is like, compatibility potential, relationship skills and previous relationship patterns.

2. How do you know you can trust them? 

As you get to know a person based on the areas above, you shape a picture in your mind of what this person is like. From that picture comes trust. 

3. Are they reliable? 

As you really get to know a person, you look to them to meet certain needs that you have. People prove they are reliable over a period of time.

4. What is their level of commitment? 

As a relationship grows, it goes through different definitions. Each definition is a level of commitment. Friends have a low level of commitment, whereas best friends have a higher level of commitment to each other and soul mates have the highest level of commitment.

5. What role does physical touch play in your relationship? 

If you base your relationship solely on physical touch, you can easily deceive yourself into believing there is more to the relationship. Ask yourself: If physical touch was not part of your relationship, what would your relationship be like?

Read more about this in How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk or Jerkette by Dr. John Van Epp or visit www.lovethinks.com.

***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.***

Have you ever thought or said these words?

I just can’t take it anymore… We’ve grown apart… I love you as a friend, but I’m not in love with you anymore… You aren’t the person I married… Things change.

The crazy thing is, many happily married people also experience some of these feelings. It’s true. Sometimes you feel like you can’t take it anymore. Other times you may feel distant to your spouse. Over time, mates do change.

But do all these things have to shake the very foundation of your marriage? The answer is NO.

What makes it possible for first-time marriages to survive?

Marriage experts have found that couples who make their marriage work decide up front that divorce is not an option. Although many couples who choose to divorce have challenges, their marriage probably could have been saved and in the long run been a happy one. Their fatal error in the relationship was leaving their options open. If the going got too tough, in their mind, divorce was always a way out.

You might be surprised to find this out, but research shows that divorce does not make you happier.

Does Divorce Make People Happy? Findings from a Study of Unhappy Marriages, conducted by the Institute for American Values, found that:

  • Unhappily married adults who divorced or separated were no happier, on average, than unhappily married adults who stayed married.
  • Unhappy marriages were less common than unhappy spouses.
  • Staying married did not typically trap unhappy spouses in violent relationships.
  • 2 out of 3 unhappily married adults who avoided divorce or separation ended up happily married five years later.

The bottom line is, you have to make a decision to stay at the table and be committed to making the marriage work. Here are some things to help you keep the vow: “until death do us part.”

  • Learn skills to help keep your marriage on track. Research continues to show that couples who learn how to talk to each other, resolve conflict, manage their money, have appropriate expectations of the marriage, and build intimacy are significantly more likely to keep their marriage on track over time.
  • Understand that the grass may look greener on the other side, but you still have to mow it. On the surface someone may look better than the one you are with, but in truth, even beautiful sod eventually has onions, crabgrass and clover if you don’t properly care for it. In most cases, people who have jumped the fence will testify that the grass is not greener, just different.
  • Learn how to resolve conflict without threatening to leave the marriage. All couples have spats. Some yell; others talk things through. The common denominator for couples who keep their marriage on track is learning how to disagree with the best of them, but leaving the marriage is never an option.
  • Stop using divorce as a crutch. Instead of throwing in the towel when the going gets tough, consider it a challenge to learn as much as you can about your mate and how you can effectively deal with adversity. Intentionally choose to love the one you’re with.
  • Keep the big picture perspective. Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. One woman described her 65-year marriage to a group of young people. She shared about seven years throughout the 65-year span that were really bad due to work conditions, children, lack of time together, the husband’s out of town job for a couple of years, etc. In the end, she asked herself, “Would I really want to trade 58 good years for seven bad years?” The answer was a resounding “No!” All marriages experience trials and tough moments. Don’t trade years of history for a couple of bad months or tough years.
  • Make a plan for your marriage. Going into marriage without a plan is like playing a football game without memorizing the playbook. If you want to win, you’ll have team meetings, set goals, learn and relearn skills, learn how to lead and follow, and share responsibilities. And, you both need a copy of the playbook.

If you want a “til death do us part” marriage, you must learn the plays so you can execute them correctly and prepare to adapt in different situations. That takes time. When you understanding that there will be occasional setbacks, you can move toward the goal line and even score a few touchdowns. Teammates block for each other, throw the ball to one another, help each other up, and encourage perseverance when the going gets tough.

It has been said that individuals win games, but teamwork wins championships. So, make it your goal to have a championship marriage.

 ***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.***

COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD BE FULFILLING, NOT FRUSTRATING.

With the right tools, you and your spouse can have the best communication ever!

This easy-to-use virtual 5-day course guides you and your spouse to have the best communication you’ve ever had! This course includes exclusive access to:

  • 5 downloadable relationship-enhancing PDFs
  • Videos full of easy-to-use communication tools
  • Questions to ask each other to spark a deeper connection
  • Fun activities to guide you through each of the concepts discussed

ADD TO CART