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What Britney Spears Has to Teach Us About Alone Time in Marriage

Turns out, taking care of yourself helps you take care of each other.

Want a healthy, lasting marriage? Be prepared to be alone and focus on yourself. Totally. Backed. By. Research. “Alone Time” is part of what is frequently referred to as “Self-Care.” You and your spouse need it. You both probably work and stuff, so free time is couple time, right? And it should be. That’s why you got married. 

But not all free time should be couple time. You both need some alone time to recharge and recalibrate. This is part of you working to grow into the best possible version of yourself. No worries, the “self” in “self-care” isn’t self-ish. You and your spouse plan and prioritize alone time so couple time can be more meaningful. (And more fun!)

How much alone time in marriage do I need?

What do I do with it?

What if my spouse wants or needs more or less time?

How do we talk about it?

You’re asking all the right questions. Here’s why we need to answer them…

This month, the new unauthorized Britney Spears documentary, The New York Times Presents “Framing Britney Spears” premiered on FX and Hulu. It generated over a million tweets the first night. The premiere coincides with the growing #FreeBritney movement as lawyers convene to debate if the 39-year-old pop icon is competent to manage her own life.

Since 2008, Britney Spears has been placed under a “conservatorship” managed by her father and various lawyers. (You remember why. Head-shaving and whatnot.) This is a legal arrangement usually reserved for people in a coma, those who suffer from mental illness, and the elderly. Under these circumstances, Spears has not been allowed to:

  • Vote.
  • Drive.
  • Manage her money.
  • Make career decisions.
  • Get married.
  • Have children.
  • Have custody of her children.
  • Speak publicly about the conservatorship. (Kuhn-sur-vuh-ter-ship. Takes a few tries.)
  • Testify on behalf of herself regarding her mental, emotional, physical competency.

For over 12 freakin’ years! Imagine living like this! 

During this time, “she” has released three successful albums and one… um… not. (Sorry, Britney Jean.) “She” has completed world tours and a four-year, $140 million Las Vegas gig. “She” has launched fragrance and clothing lines. So, “she” has been busy. But other people manage her life. 

★ If you aren’t actively and mindfully managing yourself, who or what is? Imagine living like this! Just because you’re busy doing all the things, even the successful things, it doesn’t mean you’re taking care of yourself. In fact, busyness is the biggest enemy of healthy, constructive alone time.

So, those questions about alone time in marriage:

How much alone time do I need?

There’s no formula for calculating the ratio of couple time to alone time. Well, actually, there is. Research says 70/30, but I don’t want you looking at your watch. I’d rather you listen

Listen to:

  • Your spouse. 
  • Trusted friends. 
  • Your body. 

Any signs you’re not your usual self? Drifting away from your goals? Feelings building up? Body breaking down? Time for some alone time. NOTE: Ideally, you plan some alone time into your day and week to avoid getting some sorta way. Just sayin’.

What do I do with it?

Journal. Meditate. Exercise. Origami. Whatever helps you be healthy and “competent.” Mentally, emotionally, and physically. And hey, alone time doesn’t have to be a lonely time. Build friendships and socialize with people that encourage and energize you.

What if my spouse wants or needs more or less time?

It’s all good! Everyone is different. You’ll have seasons when you want or need more or less.

How do we talk about alone time?

This is important. It’s not just blurting it out. (Okay, it kinda might be sometimes.) You want to cultivate communication and a relationship where you and your spouse can speak to each other honestly and vulnerably. And hear each other with your hearts. Not just about your needs for alone time, but everything else in your marriage.

I’m gonna leave you alone now. Marriage is two individuals becoming a team for life. You owe it to yourself and your spouse to be a healthy, growing individual. Remember, if you don’t take care of you, something else will. You manage you.

More blogs you might find helpful:

***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.***

How to Communicate Better With Your Spouse

These six skills can transform your relationship.

What would the world be like without good communication? 

Airports would be a complete wreck (figuratively and literally). 

Kids couldn’t learn reading, writing, ’rithmetic, and computer coding. 

The barista at Starbucks would write a completely different name on my cup for my order. (Okay, well, that happens anyway.) 

Not to mention… marriage would be chaotic! 

Fortunately, communication in marriage isn’t some tricky thing that some people have, and some don’t. It’s a skill that you, me, and everyone else can practice and improve. 

Here are six of the most crucial skills you can use to communicate better with your spouse: 

1. Practice the art of listening well. 

Listening well means seeking to understand. It’s putting yourself in your spouse’s shoes. 

Seek to understand their point of view. And know that just because it’s not the same as yours doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. 

Repeat back to your spouse what you heard. This lets them confirm you heard them correctly or restate what they meant using other words. 

2. Ask lots of questions. 

The ultimate goal of healthy communication in marriage is to connect. Be curious for the sake of knowing your husband or wife better and how you can strengthen your relationship.

Ask questions to: 

  • Explore: What was it like growing up in your household?
  • Clarify: Am I right in saying you don’t like surprises because…? 
  • Draw out: Can you tell me more about how you feel when the barista gets your name wrong? 
  • Know how to be more compassionate: What can I do to help you feel more relaxed right now? 

Oh, and don’t forget to validate what you hear, even if it’s different from what you’d say! 

3. Go deeper in your communication. 

Communication can be shallow: My day was good. How was yours? I’m kinda tired. Tomorrow is Friday…

Nothin’ wrong with that. It’s just that way sometimes. But marriage can’t thrive in the shallow end of the pool; it has to take deeper dives. 

Your spouse is a complex person (in a good way!). So are you. The joy of marital communication is exploring and appreciating these complexities for what they are. 

And this takes deeper conversations about feelings, opinions, shortcomings, goals, hopes, needs, past experiences, and future dreams. 

4. Practice vulnerability.

Being vulnerable means showing more of who you are. Which means opening yourself up. And that takes trust, which is vital for a healthy marriage. 

Healthy communication is the treadmill that exercises the muscles of vulnerability. 

Showing vulnerability in deeper communication might be uncomfortable. Talk about that with your spouse. Why does it make you feel that way? What can your spouse do to help you feel more at ease and willing to be more vulnerable? 

Keep in mind that building trust through vulnerability requires affirming each other’s opinions—even if they’re different. Respect each other’s differences, and these kinds of conversations can totally help strengthen your relationship. 

5. Practice often.

Schedule times to talk and connect with each other on deeper levels, even if it’s for just a few minutes. The average couple communicates for only 20 minutes a week; choose not to be average. 

6. Learn to work through conflict well.

Disagreements are gonna happen. That’s part of marriage. But how you communicate through disagreements makes all the difference. And if you communicate better with your spouse, that’s a game-changer.

Attack the issue instead of each other. Be solution-driven. Remember, You. Are. A. Team. Establish your Rules to Fight Right: no name-calling, yelling, walking out on each other, bringing up past issues, etc. (You know what I’m talkin’ about.) 

(For more easy-to-use resources, check out How to Improve Bad Communication in Marriage and 6 Ways Poor Communication Can Affect Your Marriage.)

No matter what, remember communication is a process.  Learning communication skills doesn’t mean you’ll get it right all the time. 

Miscommunication will happen. Give yourselves a break and keep on truckin’ to better communicate with your spouse anyway. Look to these resources to practice: 4 Communication Exercises for Married Couples and 3 Great Dates to Enhance Communication in Marriage. Because working on healthy communication leads to a thriving 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 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.***

How to Talk to Your Spouse When You Feel Disrespected

These steps can help you express yourself so you can feel heard.

Feeling disrespected by your spouse can be one of the most conflicting feelings ever. Part of you wants to believe the person you love truly loves and values you. On the other hand, it can be demoralizing and hurtful to live with someone you feel dismisses you or doesn’t appreciate you. 

Not dealing with disrespect can make you feel less confident, less important, and downright angry. Trying to deal with the pain alone can make you respond to your spouse in destructive ways. That’s why talking with your spouse is the best medicine. 

Talking about it can be oh-so hard—especially if you’ve experienced major or continual disrespect. But you can do it, and you can do it well. Here’s how to talk to your spouse when you feel disrespected in your marriage.

Before You Talk…

  • Clearly and precisely identify what they said or did that you felt was disrespectful. John Gottman, marriage researcher and therapist, says you can often tell how a conversation will end by how it starts. 
  • Identify how the disrespect impacted you. Did it make you feel unimportant, inferior, betrayed, etc.?
  • Ask your spouse for a good time to talk. You may say, “There’s something important I’d like to talk with you about. When’s a good time for us to have some uninterrupted alone time to talk?” Pay attention to your tone because if you convey anger toward your spouse, it’ll probably put them on the defensive. BUT, if you can show a genuine desire to solve issues together as a team, it’s way more inviting.

When You Talk…

  • Ask your spouse to hear you out for a moment. Assure them you aren’t trying to make them feel bad or prove that someone is right or wrong, but that you simply want them to understand how you feel.
  • Avoid statements like, “You never,” “You always,” “You should.” Instead, focus on the specific actions and how they made you feel. (You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s worth repeating.) Use “I” statements as much as possible. “When you said _____, I felt disrespected. I felt unimportant and unheard.”
  • Be open to understanding your own feelings, but don’t let them control you. Emotions are real and powerful. We should express them, but using them to punish our spouse doesn’t help the marriage relationship.
  • When possible, be open to your spouse’s perspective. This doesn’t mean you let them justify what they did, but could it be there was a misunderstanding? Your feelings and experiences are real, and they shouldn’t be denied. Still, try to give your mate the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully, your spouse simply did something disrespectful, and they aren’t generally trying to be a disrespectful person.

Set some helpful ground rules.

  1. Either person can ask for a timeout if the emotions get too heated for a healthy conversation. Schedule a time to resume—ideally, within 24 hours.
  2. No attacking or belittling each other. You’re on Team Marriage. The goal isn’t winning, nor is it to crush your spouse. 
  3. Avoid defensiveness. It’s natural to justify, prove, or defend yourself, but it’s usually not helpful. 
  4. Try to express your thoughts, emotions, and desires calmly so your partner can hear and understand where you’re coming from. This may take time, and you may have to revisit the conversation. Some people process differently.

If you feel your spouse has disrespected you, these steps can help. Still, it doesn’t mean they’ll immediately understand and agree.

If you’re experiencing emotional or physical abuse, get help now. But for smaller forms of disrespect, kindly letting your partner know can help you respect each other more.

It may take several conversations to see how something was disrespectful. And it may be challenging to make healthy changes and get that mutual respect flowing in a way that makes you both feel valued and appreciated. But pushing through those hard conversations is vital to a thriving marriage.

You. Can. Do. This.

***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.***

How to Help Your Spouse When They’re Burned Out

Move forward and grow closer through this challenge, one step at a time.

You may have noticed that your once ‘Energizer bunny’ spouse has no energy to do anything. Or they share they don’t feel right but can’t give any specific reasons. It seems like all at once, it ALL became too much. They have no motivation to work or deal with personal issues. They feel exhausted after sleeping all night. And they begin to question their capability to complete tasks from work or at home. Your loved one may be experiencing burnout. 

Yes, burnout is a real thing. According to WHO, burnout is caused by “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” It affects people in all areas of their lives physically, emotionally, and mentally. 

If you believe your spouse is dealing with burnout, these strategies can help you as you help them.

Listen To Them

This may be one of the hardest things to do, especially if you think your spouse can accomplish anything they set their mind to do. Now, they’re questioning everything. You have to listen to them ask questions like:

  • Am I a good spouse? 
  • Is my child getting what they need?
  • Are my kids falling behind academically because I’m not a teacher?
  • Am I a good parent? 
  • Is this my fault?
  • Am I a good worker?
  • Can I do my job now that it’s different from what I was hired to do?
  • Am I giving time and effort to my relationship?
  • Why is this so hard for me right now?

It’s not the time to try to fix it for them or ask questions. Instead, this is the time to let them dump it all out and try your best to understand. (4 Communication Exercises for Married Couples may be useful!)

Help Out As Much As You Can

Taking things off your spouse’s plate may help relieve the stress. It could be as simple as dusting around the house or taking on homework time from virtual school. If you don’t know where to start, simply ask, “How can I make what you do easier?”

Rely On Your Friends and Family (Use Your Village) 

Remember—you don’t have to do everything on your own! Encouraging your spouse to spend some time with friends, family, or alone can lighten the load. Not only should your spouse spend time with friends and family—so should you. You don’t have to be the sole person to assist your spouse. In fact, if you aren’t careful about taking on too much, it may lead to your own sense of burnout. 

Take Care of Yourself

While being supportive and non-judgmental of your spouse, it’s vital to take care of yourself. Try to get rest, good food and exercise, too. Find things that help you recharge your own battery. 

Encourage Your Mate to Find or Rediscover Hobbies

Being creative can help their brain get out of the fight/flight cycle (more on that here). Be intentional about searching for new hobbies or finding enjoyment again in something they used to do. It could be anything from crocheting, hiking, or woodworking. You know better than anyone what they enjoy. (Read Why It’s Important to Care About Your Spouse’s Interests)

Reevaluate Your Family’s Schedule

Take some time to sit down and have a conversation about your family’s schedule. List everything for everyone, including work schedules, in-person or virtual school schedules, and other things to consider, like: 

  • When the kids need more hands-on help 
  • Mealtime
  • When the kids work independently
  • When you need to focus on your job (if working from home)
  • Family time

Looking at the schedule with clear eyes can help you see patterns. From these patterns, you can make conscious decisions together about how to spend your time and energy.

People are experiencing burnout at all-time high levels, and it’s a tough thing to deal with. Watching your spouse struggle with burnout can make you feel helpless, but you can get through this together. It’s an opportunity to grow closer and remind yourselves that you can’t pour from an empty glass. Make time for the things that fill you up. 

***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.***

How to Talk About Sex in Marriage

It may be uncomfortable at first, but it could be a great thing for your sex life.

Awkwardness. Uncertainty. Embarrassment. Shame. These common emotions (and others) can keep married couples from talking about sex. You’re not alone if talking about sex with your spouse is uncomfortable. But let’s get real: you’re more likely to have satisfying sex if you talk about it together. 

Most couples want to enjoy their sex life, but learning how to talk about intimacy in your marriage can take it to the next level if it’s not where you want it to be. The experts agree. So do most couples who’ve found a way to make the uncomfortable a little more comfortable

So, how do you talk about sex in your marriage in a sexual-healing-kinda way?

1. Make the sex talk a priority. 

It may be uncomfortable or awkward. You may have baggage (most of us do). Your feelings are real, but don’t let your emotions keep you from having a better sex life.

2. Pick a good time to talk. 

This isn’t the time to surprise your spouse. Calmly say something like, “I’d like for us to talk about some ways we can improve our sex life. When do you think would be good?” Initiating the topic will give your spouse time to get ready to talk. Then, nail down a time.

*Note: Many experts speak against having this conversation in the bedroom. Take a walk in a park. Sit in a coffee shop. Send the kids outside and find a cozy spot at home.* 

3. Eliminate distractions. 

This may already be a delicate topic, so you’ll want to be fully engaged and tuned in to each other—no cell phones. And set aside plenty of time.

4. Be specific about your goal. 

Maybe you could start with, “I want us to have the best sex life we can have. I’d like for us to talk about understanding each other’s sexual needs.” (You could also say, 🎵🎵 “Let’s talk about sex, Baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be…”  🎵🎵 Thank you, Salt-N-Pepa!)

The Gottman Institute reminds us, “The less direct you are about what you want, the less likely you are to get it.” Tell each other what you want (what you really, really want)!

5. Don’t rush the conversation. 

Your spouse may need time to think and express their thoughts, feelings, and desires. Be patient. This leads us to the next point.

6. This isn’t a one-and-done conversation. 

You don’t know how many times I’ve replayed conversations with my wife because I thought of something later that would help her understand me. I’m sure she’s done the same. You won’t cover everything in one talk. 

7. Listen to understand. 

Feeling valued will always be a part of having good lovemaking experiences in your marriage. One way to ensure your partner feels like they matter is to genuinely try to understand them.

8. Encouraging and positive statements will go further than critical or negative ones. 

For example, “I like it when you do this” is more helpful than “I hate it when you do this.” Or saying, “I need this from you,” is probably more effective than, “You don’t meet my needs in this way.” Think “I” statements instead of “You” statements. 

Talking about sex is not about being right or wrong. It’s about sharing what works, what you like, and what helps you both have fulfilling sexual experiences. Respecting each other’s differences is a must. Different is not deficient—it’s just different. 

The more you talk, the better you connect, the less uncomfortable it becomes, and the clearer you’ll understand one another. As the experts say, talking about sex in your marriage increases the likelihood that you’ll be doing something worth talking about later on. But shhh, we don’t kiss and tell.

More great stuff to read about sex in your relationship:

DISCOVER DEEPER INTIMACY IN YOUR MARRIAGE

READY TO HAVE AMAZING, MIND-BLOWING SEX?

A better sex life is totally possible.

Your marriage goes through ups and downs, highs and lows, crazy passion and mundane routine-filled days. But sometimes you can get stuck in that monotony. Not only does your sex life go out the window, you may find conversations are lacking and that you’re both just generally not connecting with each other.

Discover Deeper Intimacy in Your Marriage offers simple, practical strategies to help you reignite the passion and connection with your spouse in 5 intimacy-building modules.

***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.***

I’m Trying to Save My Marriage, but My Spouse Isn’t

You can still make a difference in your marriage.

Each new year, people examine things they want to change or improve. Some people want to work on their marriage. That’s a worthy goal, but what if you’re one of those people who’s trying to save their marriage, and you feel like your spouse isn’t trying? That can be painful, for sure.

Marriage is two people who choose daily to walk together through life. It’s probably a good idea to find out whether you’re having a marriage problem or if you or your spouse are having individual issues that are impacting your marriage. A good marriage counselor can help with that. In either case, these steps can help you move forward. 

Take time for self-reflection.

Inventory your thoughts, feelings, frustrations, challenges, areas for growth, etc.

Ask questions like:

  • Why do I feel like I’m the only one trying?
  • What’s making me feel dissatisfied?
  • How do I want my marriage to be? 
  • Am I trying to change my spouse or trying to add value to my marriage?
  • What can I do differently?
  • How am I putting forth my best effort?

Walk a Mile in Your Spouse’s Shoes (Empathy).

Now that you’ve examined things from your perspective, put on your spouse’s shoes. Look at your marriage from their perspective. Ask them what they’re thinking and feeling. When you’re open and curious, they may be willing to share. Maybe they don’t want to add anything to your plate. Seeing through your spouse’s eyes may show you that they’re trying more than you realize.

Change the Dance (It Only Takes One).

Even though “It takes two to tango,” you can change the dance! It may be challenging, and you may be tired of taking the first step, but don’t give up! Marriage therapists say that if just one person is working to improve the marriage, there’s hope. There are many great resources out there to help. And who knows? Before you know it, you may not be dancing by yourself at all.  

Connect More by Criticizing Less.

Sometimes we think we’re “helping” when we point out our spouse’s mistakes or missteps. Sure, we have good intentions, but our spouse hears criticism. They may think who they are (or their effort) isn’t good enough, so they just give up. Criticism hinders connecting. I want to challenge you to say 5 positive things for every negative thing you say. Experts say this makes a massive difference in your relationship. (Check out 30 Days of Gratitude and Love here.)

Be The Change You Want To See.

The key to being the change is your attitude/perspective. Changing may require that you do things without expecting anything in return. Or just listen. Or just put one foot in front of the other. What kind of change do you want to see? Are you connecting in a meaningful way with your spouse and creating space for things your spouse enjoys?

Mark Gungor, marriage speaker, says we should try to “outdo the dog.” Think about how your dog greets you when you come home. Your fur baby shows you they’re excited to see you and spend time with you. What if you tried this with your spouse? What could it hurt? 

Nobody wants their marriage to go through changes and hard times, but it’s normal. If you’re in a challenging stage, your willingness to keep trying to save your marriage may help pave the way for your spouse to try, too. 

***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.***

How To Find Common Interests With Your Spouse

It may not be as hard as you think it is.

There are two kinds of spouses in the world. (Ugh. I can’t stand statements like this.

  1. Those who think it’s not important to share some common interests with their spouse.
  2. Those who think not having common interests is the end of the world. (Or marriage.)

They’re both wrong.

“I don’t think our marriage can work. I just think we have nothing in common.” Keep thinking. You probably have more in common than you think. It’s easier to develop some common interests than you think. Your differing interests are probably healthier than you think.

Developing some common interests reinforces that you are a team and keeps you connected. It builds one of the most overlooked areas in marriage—friendship. (Newlyweds: “We’re soooo in love!” 10 Years Later And Beyond: “We’re best friends.”)

For those two kinds of spouses (and everyone in between) here’s how you find those common interests.

Each of you get out a piece of paper and thoroughly answer these three questions:

  • When you were a kid, what were you interested in?
  • What were you interested in when you were in high school?
  • What are you interested in lately?

Now compare your answers. One of you was interested in exploring as a kid. One of you was interested in camping out. Reconnect with those childhood interests as you connect with each other on a camping adventure. Be curious. Keep comparing lists. Make connections. Find the overlap. 

(Can’t find a single interest that connects, overlaps, or is in common? Really? I wanna know… Email pictures of your lists to [email protected] and if I can’t find some commonality, I’ll personally mail you a shiny new nickel.)

Get your pieces of paper back. List causes or issues, big and small, that you are concerned or passionate about.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Find something you can do about it together. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Get creative. It might be litter. Pick a local park and get some gloves and trash bags and chit-chat as you pick up trash. Nothing brings people together like a common cause. Your marriage might spark a movement. 

Take your problem to the internet like all rational people do. Try Random Thing Picker.

Let the universe intervene. Each of you puts in two or three ideas for date night. I put in: Dance Class, Cooking Class, Painting Class, Movie Night, Game Night, and to live on the edge, I put in Housework. Then click “Pick One!” Boom! Cooking Class. Sign up for a class or find one on the internet. (Spice it up by inputting things neither of you has tried before. Who knows where this will lead?)

Having problems finding common interests with your spouse? Yes, I think you can solve them with a piece of paper or a few clicks. And some time and thought. Oh, and the commitment to work on your friendship and to love your spouse because of your differences, not in spite of them. You got this!