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When your relationship has a high level of emotional intimacy, you share your feelings, needs, fears, successes, and failures knowing you will continue to be loved and cared for by your partner.

Building strong intimacy in your marriage can give your marriage the satisfying fulfillment you desire. 

Here are 6 exercises to strengthen emotional intimacy in your marriage:

1. Do something new and engaging together. 

  • Prepare new, exotic meals together from beginning to end. Search recipes for some cuisine the two of you would like to try. Together, buy the groceries, prepare the meal, and of course, eat together. 
  • Learn a new language together. Focus on learning relationship-specific words that will help you express appreciation, be affectionate, and flirt.
  • Create a marriage bucket list and then get started on completing your list.

Research shows that doing new activities can reignite the passion in your relationship. They help the two of you experience challenges, successes, and failures together. You’re able to see each other’s authentic self without the pressure of being perfect. 

2. Show affection. 

  • Each day, give each other a deep, passionate kiss for at least 20 seconds. Your body will release chemicals in your brain helping you to increase the connection between you. (We aren’t responsible for whatever happens next.😉 )
  • Each day, give each other a great big hug for a minimum of 20 seconds. This has a similar effect of increasing the bond and connectedness. Just good, old-fashioned affection.
  • Cuddle. Yes, that simple. Cuddle and rest in each other’s presence.

3. Do marriage enrichment together. 

All are good ways you can invest in your marriage to help you share, grow closer to each other and strengthen emotional intimacy.

4. Make time to talk.

  • Practice focused, uninterrupted talking and listening. Take 15-30 minutes each day to share whatever is on your heart. Your one goal is to make sure that each of you feels heard and understood. Some days the conversation may be a rundown of the day. Other days you may each reveal deeper levels of transparency and vulnerability. 
  • Be curious. Ask each other questions. Be vulnerable and transparent as you share your thoughts. Increase your intimacy with these 200 conversation starters for couples
  • Set aside regular time to connect. Dr. Linda Duncan, a marriage researcher and Professor Emeritus at Tarleton State University, shares that couples can build intimacy by intentionally connecting at four distinct points throughout their day: 1. When you wake up. 2. Before you depart for the day. 3. When you reconnect after work/school. 4. As you go to bed. 

How you connect at each of these four moments can have a tremendous impact on the intimacy within your relationship. “Connecting” can be as simple as getting your spouse a cup of coffee and saying “Good morning,” giving them a kiss goodbye, and saying “I love you,” giving them a hug when they get home, and some pillow talk before saying “goodnight.”

5. Celebrate your togetherness

  • Stroll down memory lane, revisit memorable date nights, or look at pictures and videos while reminiscing on the experiences you’ve shared. 
  • Take 15 minutes to exchange genuine compliments or express appreciation for each other.

6. Make the most of pillow talk

  • Eliminate the tech devices and potential distractions. Invest that time into one another. 
  • Give kids a bedtime or at least a quiet time when they are in their rooms for the night leading up to bedtime.
  • Share with each other how they can make you feel safe, cherished, and valued.
  • Talk about what arouses each of you.

Each of these 6 exercises on their own may not strengthen your emotional intimacy. However, if you do these with a heart of gratitude and appreciation toward your partner and you make them a habit, you’ll begin to feel closer and more connected. You’ll find yourself sharing more of yourself and getting to know your partner more fully. 

***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.***

When you got married, did you imagine endless conversations and an unending exchange of thoughts, ideas, dreams, and emotions? Fast forward a few years down the road and now you find yourself sitting in the bed or eating a meal together in sheer silence, feeling disconnected from each other…

Finding yourself in this place isn’t that unusual. Many couples experience times in their marriage where the talking to each other seems to stop. However, like anything else in marriage, conversations do take a little extra intentionality than when you first began. To start talking again, it helps to understand some of the reasons you may have stopped talking in the first place.

Here are 10 reasons couples stop talking and a few ways you can spark the conversations again:

1. You’re just out of words.

It’s easy to run out of things to talk about. At times it’s okay not to be talking each other’s ears off.

The ebbs and flows of marriage will often self-correct this situation. Conversation starters can begin casual conversations that get you below the surface and learning new things about your spouse. Sometimes sitting and simply enjoying each other’s presence, taking a stroll down memory lane, or embarking on new adventures all aid toward a new batch of conversation.

2. You’re tired and busy.

Life stacks up, and all of a sudden you find yourself lying in bed at the end of the day too exhausted to connect. 

Stop, take a timeout, gain control of your schedule, and consider your priorities. Give yourselves the margin to gain your energy back and reconnect again.

3. You’re tired of having the same conversation over and over again with no resolution.

You know the argument… the one that never ends and neither of you can seem to agree or feel heard. You both feel like your feelings are being invalidated. This affects anything else you talk about, causing tension to build. Instead of saying the same things over and over, you choose to remain silent.

Giving attention to make sure you’re addressing the real issue and not just the symptoms may be the first step in removing the roadblock to your communication.

4. You live separate lives.

You work, exercise, talk to your set of friends, and golf. Your partner works, is a wine-tasting connoisseur, talks to their set of friends, and plays video games. You’re not sharing time, experiences, or interests.

Begin doing something together: cooking, hiking, puzzles, learning a new skill together, etc. It sparks conversations, creates memories, and cultivates curiosity in your relationship..  

5. There’s a lack of emotional safety in your relationship.

You don’t feel cared for or like you matter. When you do share, you feel judged, misunderstood, criticized, or dismissed. To prevent experiencing the sense of rejection, you shut down.

Have an open, honest conversation about how you’re made to feel when you share. Gently give specifics about comments made or expressions that hurt. Share with your spouse what an emotionally safe space feels like.

6. No one is taking the first step.

Neither of you wants the responsibility of initiating a conversation about what may be causing the lack of communication.

Choose to take the lead in meaningful conversation. Just like leading a dance, when one person leads, the other typically falls into rhythm and follows along.

7. Technology has taken over.

Distracted by the phone, social media, and all the technology trappings? 

Consider phone-free and tech-free time just for the two of you to connect.

8. You’re ignoring the elephant in the room.

There’s a topic that needs to be brought out in the open, and it’s causing the potential for any other point of connection to be shut down. 

There’s only one solution for this: have the hard conversation; but, make a commitment to discuss it in a healthy,  respectful way. Remember to affirm each other’s opinions and feelings. 

9. One of you is an introvert and the other is an extrovert.

If an extroverted partner doesn’t leave room for the introvert to talk… pretty soon, the introvert just gives up.

Discuss each other’s communication styles and how you can ensure that both of you have your thoughts and feelings heard and understood. 

10. There is anger or unresolved conflict present.

Something has happened in the past which causes you or your spouse pain. And this pain short-circuits any kind of meaningful conversation you could have with your spouse. 

Whatever has happened needs to be addressed in a safe environment. Each person’s pain needs to be validated. Seeking professional help may be the best option. 

There are lots of reasons why couples stop talking, but you don’t want this to become the norm. You are always in the process of either connecting or disconnecting in marriage; there’s no such thing as maintaining the status quo. Reflect back on why you married your spouse in the first place and become a student of your spouse; there is always more to learn about them, and therefore, always more to talk about. 

Understanding the reason you stopped talking in the first place can be the first step to reconnecting again. Ironically, talking together about why you aren’t talking can be the start of a beautiful dance. The goal to reconnect on a deeper level just might be, at the moment, the one thing both of you can talk about.

***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 Unsplash.com

Have you ever been in the presence of someone who was supposed to be listening to you and even though they’re looking you straight in the eyes, you 100% knew they were not really present with you? Not a very good feeling is it?

There is really an art to being present and engaged with someone. We all want it from others, but sometimes we aren’t great at doing it for them. 

Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh once said: “The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence.” So, when we are asked if we are listening or paying attention to our spouse, children, friends, or co-workers, it’s a serious question. Think about that a second.

Want to be successful and valued at work and at home—really anywhere? Be present with who you are with and who you are talking to. I know you’re gonna say, “But I am present—I’m standing right next to them!” That’s the easy part of being present. The hard part is being mentally present

It’s impossible to be mentally present with someone when we are full of our own thoughts. Our minds are usually rethinking the past or wondering about the future. A study by Harvard University psychologists concluded that we spend 46.9% of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re doing. In conversations, we are often waiting for our chance to speak, thinking of something interesting to say, or thinking about our appearance and the impression we are making. 

We aren’t listening. We aren’t present. Be mindful of the moment you’re in.

Here are five ways to be more present when talking to someone:

1. Listening.

I used to think of listening as just hearing. Then I thought of listening as a skill. Now, I realize listening is a skill and a choice. Listening is choosing to block out distractions, choosing to empty my mind of clutter, choosing to focus on the speaker, and choosing to let them know they are heard. 

Putting It Into Practice: Put your phone away. Stop thinking about what is going on around the speaker. Don’t think about what you want to say. Ask questions like, “Tell me more about that.” “Are you saying…” “How did that make you feel?

2. Body Language.

Do you look like you are present? Do you look like you’re listening? Your body is sending signals about how engaged you are and even how much you care about what is being said.

Putting It Into Practice: Face the speaker. Make eye contact. Avoid crossing your arms, slouching, and sighing. And of course, keep that phone away.

3. WAIT (Why Am I Talking?)

Our own self-talk or mental dialogue is the biggest enemy of being present and listening. “What am I going to say next?” “Do I have a thought or story as good as that one?” “That can’t be right because…” In the meantime, we have mentally disengaged from the conversation. Be attuned to the ebb and flow of conversations. Listen for the right time to ask questions or take your turn speaking.

Putting It Into Practice: Be interested—not concerned about being interesting. Don’t interrupt or talk over someone. Take turns speaking and listening. This may sound kind of crazy, but since my mind has a tendency to wander, I try to write down words or statements while they are talking that I don’t want to forget so I can fully focus on what the person is saying without getting distracted trying to remember a point that was made. It has made a huge difference in my ability to be present.

4. Multitasking.

I know research says we aren’t good at multitasking, but I really am!No, you’re not. At least not when it comes to being present and listening. Multitasking causes us to miss so many moments. The truth is we cannot do multiple things effectively—so pick one thing and do it with gusto. Being present with the people in our lives—what is more important than that? 

Putting It Into Practice: Close the laptop. Put the mixing spoon down. Get out from under the hood of the car. Pause the TV show or video game. It’s okay to say, “Give Daddy two minutes to finish this email, and then I’ll be able to give you my complete full attention.” Exception: It’s been shown that for hard conversations, doing an activity together like walking or golf or even riding in a car actually helps facilitate a difficult talk.

5. Mindfulness.

This isn’t anything fancy. It’s just self-awareness. Minding your mind. Minding your body. Being aware of what you’re thinking and doing. Being aware of your breathing. This is really the foundation of being present with people and in the moment with them. It takes practice and patience, but you’ll learn to be present.

Putting It Into Practice: Learn to ask yourself questions: What am I thinking and why? What is my body saying? Is my breathing telling me I’ve slowed down to listen? Where is my focus? Am I present in this moment?

Being present requires a great deal of humility and self-control. I think that’s why we’re so rarely actually present with others. We can’t get out of our own way. We’re always thinking about what we’re about to say or what we need to get done. Many people get stuck thinking about their past or their future. Think about the present. Be in the moment. Practice a few of these tips to be more present with people and see the difference it makes. You can do it!

All the kids have gone to sleep. You and your spouse are lying in the bed and…

Silence. 

You can’t think of anything you want to say, though there’s probably a lot of things you’d like to say. This is happening quite often. There are more and more moments where you and your spouse are together and there’s just silence—while you’re in the car together, eating a meal, or even on the phone when you’re apart. You feel disconnected from one another.

How do you break the silence and start talking to your spouse again?

1. Do something together.

Shared experiences can provide great conversation starters. Hiking, playing tennis, taking a dance class, and attending events together create shared interests and experiences that lead to discussions about what each of you saw, heard, and think about what you’re encountering. Dr. Howard Markman, co-director of the University of Denver’s Center for Marital and Family Studies, says their research indicates the more you invest in fun, friendship, and being there for your partner, the happier the relationship will get over time. Getting out, having fun, and investing in your marriage has shown to help increase communication within marriage. 

2. Put your marriage before the children.

You can get so busy tending to the needs of your children, work, and community that the connection in your marriage suffers. Next thing you know, the only time you talk is to discuss administrative tasks like who’s taking who where and what time they need to be picked up. According to Dr. Paul Pearsall, author of Super Marital Sex, The marriage comes first. All other people and events come after the marriage. Children, parents, work, and play all benefit most by marital priority instead of marital sacrifice because the marriage is the central unit to all other processes.” 

3. Be curious about your spouse.

Take an interest and ask them about their dreams, goals, and future desires. Ask them about the most impactful experiences in their childhood they believe frame who they are today. When you focus on learning and getting to know your spouse, you may hear about their secret fears and struggles. Look for those moments where you find yourself saying, “We’ve been married all this time and I never knew that about you!

4. Put questions in a hat and pull out one or two each day.

Look through the internet for questions to ask your spouse. Write them down on a slip of paper and put them in a hat. Each night before bed, pick one or two. Have a real discussion about the question. Some questions can take you down memory lane while others may cause you to reflect on yourself or the marriage. 

5. Listen to your spouse.

We all have a desire to be known, respected, valued, and understood. If we don’t feel like we are being heard so that we can be known, then your solution may be to shut down and withdraw. Be to your spouse what you’d like them to be to you. Help your spouse realize that you want to know and understand them.

6. Use daily points of connection.

Dr. Linda Duncan, researcher and Professor Emeritus at Tarleton State University, reveals four powerful points of connectedness between couples. Paying attention to how you connect when you wake up, how you depart for work/school for the day, how you reconnect after being apart, and when you go to sleep can affect how you engage one another in conversation. Making this part of your routine provides a consistent opportunity for the two of you to connect. 

7. Seek help.

Are there unresolved issues you continue to rehash with no solution? Maybe you keep having the same conversation over and over? Talking to a trusted couple or seeking out a good marriage counselor may help you work through the unresolved issues that are stifling communication in your marriage.

Many couples experience times within a marriage where they seem to have nothing to say to one another. This is not necessarily a sign that you’ve run out of things to talk about or that the marriage is falling apart. Being intentional about pushing through those times can launch your marriage into new levels of intimacy and connectedness. Now that’s something to talk about.

***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 do you increase communication in your home and make sure everyone’s connected?

When healthy communication is happening in the family, everyone feels connected and part of the same team. All the gears are synched up, your family is firing on all cylinders and is headed in the same direction. There are regular check-ins to make sure balls don’t get dropped and you aren’t surprised about projects or performances. If there are issues that need to be addressed with the whole family, you are able to get everyone together and effectively address them. You and your spouse have plenty of time to express needs and concerns and feel heard and also have time to chat and stay connected.  

There are two parts to getting connected and bonded together and building those strong relationships. The first is being intentional about one-on-one communication with each member of the family and the other is having good consistent communication together as a whole family. It would be nice to want this, snap your fingers and BOOM, life is golden. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. You’ll need to be intentional in your efforts and it will probably take some time to turn the ship. But the payoff can be life-changing for your family. This is so totally doable! You just have to tweak a few things.

1. One-On-One Communication.

Start here. Make time to hang out. Watch your kids play some video games, ask them to go run an errand with you, or take them out for ice cream. Car rides are magical communication times—the ride to school, practice, a friend’s house—these are all primo talking opportunities. (Some family members are extroverted and will be talking your ears off. Don’t forget your more quiet, introverted family members. You might have to make an extra effort to connect with them.) Some parents make the ride to school a tech-free zone to promote conversation in the car.

The basics of communication are speaking and listening, and there are ways to get better at both of them. They are learned skills you can improve on, but before we even get into that—communication usually happens organically when you are together

2. Family Communication at Home.

Same rules apply. Communication usually happens organically when you are together—it’s just a matter of how do you get everyone together? I know everyone is super busy (maybe that has to be addressed) but try to carve out at least a few times a week when you eat together with phones turned off. (I’m gonna give you some conversation starters so it isn’t just awkward silence.)

Family game nights, family movie nights, family outings to a park—these usually lead to some good ole’ fashioned chit-chat. Check out this Parenting Toolkit: A Family Guide To The Best Summer Ever! It’s filled with ideas for activities, conversation-starters, plus each activity is geared toward learning an important relationship skill. Check out other family resources HERE.

If your family is going in a lot of different directions, weekly family meetings can decrease drama and encourage open communication as you talk about the family calendar, who needs to be where, when projects are due and require parental assistance, etc. Family meetings are also a way to empower your kids and encourage open communication. Anybody can request a family meeting if there is an urgent issue they believe needs to be discussed. In general, family meetings should be fun, short, and involve everyone. You want two-way communication, not a lecture. You are looking for feedback from everyone. Follow it up with a fun activity.

How do you get better at communication in general?

Here’s the insider info to get you communicating like a pro. We covered the need to be together, but now what? (If you have teens, check this out.)

The Speaking Part of Communication in Your Home

So how was your day?

Okay.” 

[Conversation over.]

Here are five things you can ask instead of, “How was your day?” You don’t want to be a criminal interrogator; you want to be a conversation initiator. Big difference. This means open-ended questions, asking “what makes you think that?” or saying “tell me more” quite a bit. It means sometimes answering questions with questions, then listening for what is hiding underneath a question or statement and following up on it. The goal is to understand where your child is coming from. When they feel like you “get” them, they are much more likely to open up to you.

Work on being more observant. Notice I didn’t say, “private investigator.” You want to be a conversation instigator. What are your family members (including your spouse) into? What makes them light up? How do they spend their free time? Where do they put their energy? If you have younger ones, get on the floor and play with them. Step into the world of your family members with sincere questions. Then really listen.

The Listening Part of Communication in Your Home.

Be available for when your family members want to talk to you. Avoid distractions and interruptions. Give your full attention. (Put yourself in their shoes. Ask clarifying questions. Ask questions that take the conversation deeper. Model the kind of communication you want to have. (Check out this article on active listening skills—especially the Six Levels of Listening.) People love talking to a good listener.

There are books filled with conversation starters and the internet is filled with lists of questions for kids of every age and for couples. Invest in a few books or click around for some lists. They’re great for road trips and pillow talk. Just when you think you know all there is to know about somebody, one of these questions will take you into new territory and they are tons of fun.

27 Family Conversation Starters

  1. If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go and why?
  2. If I could do one thing to be a better parent to you, what would it be?
  3. What do you worry about the most? Why?
  4. What will you do when you graduate high school?
  5. When was a time that you were kind to someone else?
  6. What is the best thing about our family?
  7. Who is someone you admire right now? Why?
  8. What is the “lesson” or “takeaway” from your favorite book or movie?  
  9. What do you think about tattoos and piercings?
  10. How common do you think cheating is at school? What do you think about cheating?
  11. What is the biggest factor in being successful at school?
  12. Is it better to be optimistic or realistic? Why?
  13. What do you like about you?
  14. Have I ever not noticed when you were sad?
  15. What makes someone popular?
  16. What is one thing you would try if you were completely fearless?
  17. How do you react when your feelings are hurt? Does it help?
  18. What do you think about the drinking age?
  19. Who gets bullied or teased at school? Why?
  20. How should someone handle it if they are bullied?
  21. What do you like best about your friends?
  22. Is there anything you don’t like about your friends?
  23. What is the hardest part about being a kid?
  24. How is love/marriage different in real life than in the movies?
  25. What is the hardest thing about being a girl? Being a boy?
  26. Do you have friends with different religious beliefs?
  27. What do you think about that? How will you know if you’ve had a successful life?

★ Good communication in your home doesn’t happen by accident. But you can absolutely increase the quality AND quantity of communication in your family. You got this!

Image from Freepik.com

Have you ever thought about how poor communication could be affecting your marriage? To be honest, for the first five years of our marriage, I don’t think I really thought much about communication in our marriage because I thought I was a decent communicator… until several “situations” occurred, the biggest of which was the time I expected my husband to read my mind.

I know. I know. It’s not possible, but hey, I was young and we were just getting started. The deal was, we made some pretty hefty purchases one year so I told my husband I didn’t think we should buy each other anything for Christmas. He agreed.

Now, when I made that suggestion, in my mind what I really meant was, you don’t need to get me anything, but it would be nice if you got me a little something. So, you know the rest of the story. Christmas day arrived, I pulled out a little something for him and he looked at me like, “Wait, what?” (Let’s just say my response was not my finest moment.) 

My poor communication created a totally unnecessary rift between the two of us.

Can you relate?

There are plenty of ways poor communication has the potential to affect your marriage. Just so I’m not leaving it up to your imagination what poor communication looks like, here are a few examples:

  1. Holding your spouse accountable for unspoken expectations you have about your relationship.
  2. Giving your spouse the silent treatment when there is an issue between the two of you.
  3. Multitasking when your spouse is trying to tell you something.
  4. Interrupting them, talking over them, or finishing their sentences for them.
  5. Listening only to respond versus listening to understand.
  6. Expecting your spouse to read your mind.

★ Let’s flip these and look at how they can impact your marriage.

  1. When you don’t share relationship expectations with your spouse it almost always leads to disappointment and disconnection, not to mention resentment and bitterness.
  1. Staying silent when you are upset sets your spouse up to play the guessing game about what is bothering you. This typically leads to wrong assumptions and makes it practically impossible for your relationship to grow.
  1. If we are being totally honest here, we all know that even if we think we are great multitaskers, it’s impossible to really focus on what someone is saying while we’re doing anything else (unless, of course, you’re taking notes on what they’re saying). When we try to multitask and listen, chances are great we will miss something important they said, a facial expression or the tone of voice they used, which are all important pieces of information.
  1. Some spouses talk about being able to finish their spouse’s sentences as if it were a sign of “we have finally arrived.” But if you asked the spouse whose sentences are always being finished for them, they probably wouldn’t say they consider this a term of endearment. It doesn’t feel good to have people talk over you, finish your sentence, or interrupt you when you are trying to communicate.
  1. Too many of us have experienced a spouse who only listens to respond. Meaning, they aren’t really listening to understand the issue at hand. Instead, they are preparing their case in their head for how they will respond when you finally stop talking. When this happens in a relationship, it leads to people shutting down, walking on eggshells, and feeling like the relationship is adversarial versus being on the same team.
  1. Back to my Christmas story. I expected my spouse to read my mind and know what I was thinking. When that didn’t happen it led to disappointment, frustration, a boatload of unnecessary drama, and me being angry at him when I really should have turned the mirror on myself. Let me just put it out there: nobody can read our minds and they shouldn’t have to. Making our spouse guess what we need is swimming in dangerous relationship waters.

Here’s the deal, nobody’s perfect and anybody can find themselves slipping into poor communication tactics that affect their marriage.

But, if you know what the landmines are, it makes it easier to either avoid them or catch yourself if you start down that road so you can do something different. 🔎 Even if some of these are things you do frequently, you can definitely learn new communication strategies. Pick one to work on this week!

***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

With everything couples have been having to focus on lately, it’s no surprise that communication might be a bit lacking. I mean, who has time to sit down and have meaningful conversation about anything besides work, school decisions, masks and hand sanitizer?

That being said, what if we get creative for you and give you some fun date nights that set the mood for some lighthearted fun along with the chance to enhance communication in your marriage? Good idea? Great, glad you like it! Let’s get this party started. 

Date Night #1 – Party Under the Stars

Grab some snacks, a candle or two (gotta set the mood for romance right?!), a quilt, change into some comfy clothes (depending on where you live, clothing could be optional ;-)), one smartphone with a stargazing app (Skyview and Star Gazer have great reviews), make sure the kids are tucked into bed, and head on outside for a date under the stars. This is especially fun if you are in the midst of a meteor shower.

While you are searching the night sky for the different constellations, play a variation of the game Never Have I Ever… One person starts by saying, “Never have I ever…” and then finishes the sentence with something they have never done. If neither of you have ever done it, give each other a smooch. Then it is the other person’s turn to say it and complete the sentence. If the other person has done it, no kissy face for you! Unless of course you decide to cheat a bit.

After you’ve played a few rounds, spend some time sharing the answers to these questions:

  • What I love most about us is…
  • One of my favorite memories about us as a couple is…
  • Something I would like for us to do more of as a couple is…

The goal here is not to create a major production, but just something simple that will give you some time to yourselves. Believe it or not, even 30 minutes (we hope you will take longer… just sayin’…) to just be together, playful with each other and talk about lighthearted things will help you feel more connected to one another. Part of what makes a date night great is the anticipation of knowing it’s coming, so grab your calendar and make it a date! Oh, and don’t forget, this is your time to reconnect—so no talking about the kids, bills, work, the in-laws or anything else that could create space between the two of you.

Date Night #2 – Shut the door and turn the lights down low… Spa Night

Talk about a great way to de-stress and create conversation. This date starts earlier in the day as you send text messages to each other creating anticipation about the experience. It’s all about pampering each other. Oh yeah! 

Grab some towels, scented candles (lavender, lemon, or jasmine scents all promote calm), massage oils, bath salts or bubble bath, cucumber slices, and face masks (No, not that kind, silly—the kind you rub on your face and peel off later :-). Create or select a romantic playlist (check out this Warm Fuzzy Playlist on Spotify). Oh, and don’t forget some yummy snacks you can feed to each other. Lock the door and let the fun begin.

To get things started, turn the lights down low, hit play and light the candles.

Next, draw a warm bath and include a bath bomb or bubble bath (hopefully there’s room for two for a nice long soak). If a bath isn’t an option, there’s nothing wrong with a nice steamy shower or just a simple soak for your sore feet. It’s all about washing away the stress and tension of the day and focusing on your love.

Now that you’re a bit more relaxed, it’s time for a couple’s massage. What? You aren’t a professional masseuse? No problem. Actually, massaging each other builds intimacy, creates opportunity for bonding and opens the door for conversation. Don’t underestimate the power of your touch. Oil up the areas you want to massage and teach each other what you like. Try massaging different parts of the body—feet, hands, neck, shoulders, back, etc.

As you continue on your journey to relaxation, you may find putting cucumber slices over your eyes after slathering on a face mask refreshing. If you’re not into the whole face mask thing, maybe just cuddling is your next move, or… well, I’m sure you guys will figure it out. 

If you are looking for a few conversation starters to enhance communication in your marriage…

  • What’s one thing you love about our sex life?
  • If I could have more of one thing from you it would be…
  • One thing I would love for us to do more of together is…

Date Night #3 – Dinner and a trip around the world—virtually

a staycation of sorts. This date starts with the two of you dreaming about the places you would like to go, but can’t right now. Once you have made your list of places, narrow it down to your top three. Based on your top three choices, decide on a food theme, where you will eat your meal (at the table, on the patio, in bed or somewhere else). What kind of environment do you want based on the places you will visit? Music? Candles? What’s the appropriate attire for your date? Do you want to cook the meal or will you order it from somewhere? Cooking together can add to the fun… or not. That’s for you to decide. 

Now that you have all of that decided, once dinner is ready and you are eating, you can either take a trip around the world visiting the places you would like to go some day OR you can take a trip down memory lane and go through pictures from previous trips to the places you love and want to visit again.

Here are some conversation starters for the trip you decide to take:

  • What makes our marriage adventurous?
  • One of the things I look forward to most about taking this trip with you is… OR My favorite memory of us on a trip was when…
  • One day, I would love for the two of us to…

★ Now, you may be wondering how in the world any of these dates will enhance communication in your marriage. Glad you asked.

For communication to flow easily between spouses, people need to feel cared for, connected, a bond, safe, valued, and a sense of closeness. 

When you are intentional about dating, especially dates where you take the time to open up to each other, check in, where you can be playful with each other, and dream together about the future, you are laying the foundation to enhance communication in your marriage.

Wait, what? You’ve had so much fun with these three dates, you want more?! Well okay. 

How about this? FTF has created a special couple toolkit—5 Days to Better Communication in Your Marriage. Don’t worry. It’s not intense— just filled with practical strategies for helping you get to where you want to be as a couple when it comes to communication. Go ahead, check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

***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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There are not many feelings worse than when someone puts you down, insults you, or invalidates you. And a put-down from your own spouse is like a straight-up punch to the psyche. It’s amazing how easy it is to hurt the ones we love the most with our words, but what do you do if you are the one on the receiving end of the verbal blows? 

This issue has a certain level of complexity to it, which means we have to approach it with care. Many spouses deliver verbal shots and put-downs to their spouse, unaware of the harm it’s doing. This is Situation A. 

Others are well aware and intentional with the harm. This is Situation B, and this is abuse.  

Let me be clear about Situation B right off the bat: If you are experiencing an abusive situation where someone is physically harming you, you need to seek help. Use the hotline number at the bottom of this article. 

You also need to understand that certain situations of verbal/emotional put-downs may be verbal abuse, and often accompany (or are a precursor to) physical abuse. (See the Power and Control Wheel below.)

Healthline gives some red flags to the characteristics of verbal abuse: 

  • They insult you or attempt to humiliate you, but then they accuse you of being overly-sensitive. 
  • They yell or scream at you frequently. 
  • The person plays the victim while they try to make you feel guilty. (“I wouldn’t have to scream at you if you didn’t…”)
  • They get in your personal space as an act of intimidation or try to block you from moving away.
  • They gaslight you—this means they manipulate you into questioning your own version of events in order to gain more power. For example, they may convince you to doubt your memory of them saying or doing something violent or try to convince you you’re crazy.
  • They hit the wall or throw things.  
  • They want credit for not having hit you. 

Sincerely ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I believe my spouse is putting me down with the intention to harm me, wear me down, or manipulate me?
  • Do I think there is a possibility the verbal attacks could lead to physical violence?
  • If I were to voice my concerns for how they talk to me, is there any fear that they would react with a heated backlash? 

Unless you can answer each of these questions with a confident no, these are strong indicators of verbal/emotional abuse and warning signals for possible physical abuse. Do not confront your spouse. Go somewhere safe and seek help. 

Let’s talk about Situation A.

Your spouse puts you down but they are unaware of how it’s making you feel. They are being careless with the words they use toward you—perhaps in front of the kids. But despite the unintentionality of what they say, you still feel devalued. It’s time to let them know how you feel. 

  • Approach your spouse to talk at a strategic time. Ask them if this is a good time to talk. And if it’s not, arrange a time, preferably within the next 24 hours. Don’t bring up your feelings right after they say something hateful; your emotions will be dialed up, and you want to be calm and able to think clearly when you talk. Choose a time when neither of you are tired or in a bad mood. 
  • Start on a good note. Marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman suggests opening difficult conversations with a positive. Begin the conversation with something you appreciate about your spouse. Say something like, “I know that you love me and the kids and that you’d do anything for your family.” Or, “I appreciate how hard you work to provide and take care of us.” 
  • Be specific about what you hear and how you feel. Make good use of “I” messages. For instance, “There have been many times when I’ve felt really undervalued and unloved when you’ve said certain things to me.” Name your feelings—beforehand, jot down some specific words that describe how it feels when your spouse puts you down. If it happens in front of your kids or other people, point out that it feels embarrassing or shameful. Err on the assumption that your spouse has been unaware of how they’ve made you feel. You may have to give them an example of what they’ve said. Describe the last incident and the effect it had on you. Avoid giving a laundry list of all the past wrongs they’ve done to you, though. 
  • Use a code word or sign. The point of addressing this with your spouse is help them be aware that they are putting you down and the negative effect it has on your feelings. Establishing some kind of code word or a non-verbal signal can subtly express to them, “You’re being degrading and ridiculing right now, and you need to dial it down.” This is especially helpful in front of the kids or in social situations. For instance, whenever you respond with “Oh, honey…” or you nonchalantly touch your earlobe, you can discreetly and calmly express to your spouse how they’re making you feel at the moment. 
  • Set boundaries. Let your spouse know that if they continue to ignore warning signs and keep putting you down, you’ll simply leave the room when they say something disparaging. Don’t threaten your spouse with divorce or the withdrawal of sex (although you probably won’t exactly feel “in the mood” after being put down). You set up boundaries to protect yourself, not punish others. 
  • Check your own thoughts and words. I mention this last step with a great deal of care, and I encourage you to approach it with humility and thoughtfulness. I have talked with many individuals who have felt insulted by others close to them; however, sometimes there was something within their own personality that colored the situation. Many were highly sensitive to remarks that weren’t overtly insulting, but they heard them through the filter of past negative experiences. 

For instance, one person interpreted an invitation to exercise together as an affront to their weight, an issue to which they felt particularly sensitive. Others that I’ve talked to were offended by another’s insults, but had no problem being equally insulting toward that person. Part of the process of working through this is to consider what may be going on inside you that could exacerbate these feelings. Ask yourself: Are the words I hear from my spouse truly insensitive put-downs, or is there something inside me that makes me overly-sensitive to their words? And, are there ways that I put my spouse down without me noticing it? 

Marriage cannot thrive in an environment of disrespect and insults. And no one deserves to be put down by their spouse. The above steps are a process that may take time before you see real change. There’s a chance that other things are going on under the surface of insults and put-downs being hurled your direction. If these problems persist after taking the above steps, ask your spouse to seek help with you through couples counseling. If they resist, seek professional help on your own. ☆ Sometimes it takes one person in the marriage to lead the charge toward getting help and improving the relationship before the other catches on. 

***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.***

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Have you ever made a joke about your spouse and they didn’t think that it was funny?

Has your spouse ever remarked on a “weakness” of yours and you felt some way about it?

Has your spouse ever made fun of you or put you down in front of your kids?

What are some of the common ways that we unwittingly put our spouses down?

1. You talk over or finish their statements when they are speaking.

It can easily become a habit to talk over your spouse or finish their statements for them. When you do this, you are sending the message to your spouse that you don’t respect their perspective and opinion. Additionally, this can minimize them in the eyes of others (family, friends, co-workers, children). 

2. You don’t consider/obtain their opinion or input when making decisions  (i.e., the kids, family vacations, or future plans).

Teamwork is important in marriage. It takes both parts of the couple contributing to make it as strong as possible. When one person makes all the decisions, it can lead to a myopic view of the situation. Having differing options and opinions can strengthen a plan. Like a well-woven tapestry, considering and respecting the input from your spouse creates a better and holistic problem-solving strategy.

3. You MINIMIZE their strengths while you MAXIMIZE their weaknesses.

When couples get together, they often say, “Where I am weak, my spouse is strong and vice versa.” After a time, it can become problematic when the focus changes to, “I really can’t believe that my spouse can’t do that.” For example: you may be very strong at directions while your spouse needs GPS to go anywhere, even places that they have been many times before. Sitting in the car as they set up the GPS, you think, “OMG, I should have just driven. They never know how to get anywhere.” You then share with anyone who will listen that your spouse is seriously DIRECTIONALLY CHALLENGED. From there you only seem to notice their deficiencies rather than their strengths.

4. You tease your spouse too much.

Whether it is about their hair, nose or the way they eat spaghetti, teasing your spouse can be a way to bring humor to your relationship. However, too much of a GOOD THING can become a problem. If you seem to nit-pick everything about your spouse even with a hint of levity, they may feel undervalued. Find ways to build up your spouse, not tear them down—even in JEST.

5. You constantly re-do tasks that your spouse has already done.

For many spouses, there are two ways to do things: MY WAY (THE RIGHT WAY) and your way. Your spouse may feel belittled as you refold the towel, remake the bed or reload the dishwasher. You inadvertently are telling them that their efforts are not wanted, needed, or appreciated. Because only YOU can do it, the RIGHT WAY.

Zig Ziglar said, “The first step to solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist.” Recognizing that you may be putting down your spouse is the initial step. While your spouse does things differently than you or even parents differently than you, it is KEY to respect those differences. Making fun of them or negating the importance of your spouse in your life and in the lives of your children undermines your relationship. Remember that the two of you are a TEAM. 

✦ Each of you has a role to play to make your family the BEST that it CAN BE!

***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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I have good news for you: an exciting sex life is salvageable and well within your reach for you and your spouse. 

Here are three ways you and your spouse can take your sexual relationship from mundane to mind-blowing:

1. Don’t make fun the point of sex.

Wait, what? Did he just say that? Isn’t fun the problem? Yes, I did, and no, it isn’t! It seems counterintuitive and requires a change in your thinking. Zack Brittle, certified therapist and blogger for the Gottman Institute, says sex isn’t just about the act itself (or at least it’s not all about the act), but rather it’s about sharing the body, mind, and soul as a couple. Sex is about connecting, bolstering intimacy, and exercising vulnerability with the one you’ve chosen to love the most. It’s a part of your relationship that’s meant to strengthen your relationship.

If the attention to your sex life with your spouse is centered merely on fun, you forget the overall essential role sex plays in your marriage, and the irony is that fun becomes a casualty. Focusing on connecting with your spouse in your sex life goes beyond the fun; it makes sex better

And here’s where it becomes even more ironic: when you do focus on connection, sex becomes a lot more fun, adventuresome, and playful!

2. Dedicate to communicate.

Say it with me: Communication affects the sex. (Doesn’t that rhyme nicely?) Couples who struggle with communication struggle with other areas of their marriage, including their sex life; it’s all connected. But those who work on better, healthier ways to communicate thoughts, feelings, and needs with each other experience more connection, friendship, and intimacy. And this, as we’ve learned, is directly correlated with healthy (and fun) sex!

There are many resources out there for improving marital communication (see the links below for some great advice), but what I would emphasize to you here is frequency and depth of communication. Strive to communicate on a daily basis with your spouse, and aim for deeper levels of conversation than simply small talk. Work on communicating your opinions, dreams, ideas, needs, and emotions with each other—and listening to those of your spouse without value judgment. Simply listen to understand and draw closer to the one you love the most.

One more thing needs to be said about communication and sex.

Working on your marital communication is vital; however, marital sex is even better when you work on talking about sex. According to marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman, only 91% of couples who can’t comfortably talk about sex with one another report sexual dissatisfaction. (So, Salt-N-Pepa had it right when they rapped “Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby…” back in the 90s.)

Talking with your spouse about what turns you on, your interests and preferences, vulnerabilities, and sexual playfulness can be uncomfortable for many. But the good news is that it’s a learned skill that can greatly increase your comfort level. In her book, The Sex-Starved Marriage, therapist Michele Weiner-Davis says the right way to approach conversations about sex with your spouse is very much akin to approaching healthy conversation all around: Pick a time you both feel ready to talk; don’t talk when you’re tired, angry, or in a bad mood; pick a safe, comfortable environment; use “I” messages and talk about what you want rather than criticize. The more you wade into the discomfort of talking about sex, the more comfortable and natural it quickly becomes.

3. Super-glue your marriage—including your sex life—to the top of the priority scale.

This is crucial, especially if you have children (of any age) running around your house. Life is busy, schedules are hectic, money is tight. Attention to your marriage and your spouse must supersede these potential speed bumps. A wise person once said, “Show me your calendar and your checkbook, and I’ll show you what’s important to you.” 

Set reminders on your phone to leave love notes. Schedule date times. Adjust your monthly budget to include some funds—even if it’s a small amount—toward nicer dinners (alone) or romantic gifts. ☆ Pay attention to your spouse’s love language—how is it that they feel most loved? Work out childcare with family or neighbors so you can get two hours alone with your spouse. Trade babysitting services with another parent—you’ll watch their kids one night and they’ll watch yours another. 

Prioritizing your marriage doesn’t take doing anything elaborate.

It’s the small things that build and grow a marriage. But it has a direct and powerful impact on your sexual relationship. Foreplay doesn’t begin in the bedroom; rather, the turn-ons, attractions, and mood-making happen during continual moments of boosting your spouse to the top of your priority list.  

Fun, playful sex is within the reach of you and your spouse, and you can bounce boredom out the window with some simple, intentional strategies. So here’s your assignment: Pursue your spouse. (No, not in a creepy, follow-them-around-all-day kind of way.) 

  • Remember when you were first dating, and there was nothing in your focus except this person? 
  • Remember how things were fun, but that wasn’t the point—you were just wanting to be together and get to know them better? 
  • Do you remember how you talked and talked, and actually listened with interest? 
  • And remember how you set the time and energy to be with that person, and it didn’t matter that you had to wake up early the next morning, or that you were tired from the work day, or that you barely had any cash in the account? 

Pursue your spouse like this, and watch your marriage—including your sex life—be rejuvenated and energized. 

Great articles for improving your marital communication:

Also: 

10 Things Every Couple Needs to Know About Sex

***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.***