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“You don’t really listen to me and my opinion doesn’t really matter. I mean, you’re just gonna do what you want to do anyway,” my wife would say, never looking me in the eye. Of course, every time she said it, I would try to make an adjustment and correct what I thought was the issue. Then one night, the tension overwhelmed us. We sat down and had a serious talk, heart-to-heart. We needed something that would change our marriage.

I’m not gonna lie, this conversation was hard, really hard. But, it made me realize that I had absolutely no clue what the real problem was.

In short, I discovered that my wife did not feel valued by me. She didn’t feel as though I valued her perspective, her intelligence or her input. She didn’t feel like I needed her.

This really bothered me, and I felt like her feelings came completely out of the blue. They didn’t reflect how I really felt about her at all.

I decided to ask other guys if their wives ever said things like that to them. The answer was “YES” time and time again.

I even asked some wives from our circle of friends, “Do you feel valued and needed by your husband?” The response was “NO” almost every single time.

So, I decided to ask my own wife a question that I never expected would have changed our marriage,

“What makes you feel valued and needed?”

She told me right away, and I didn’t have to guess, offer my own solutions or inaccurately try to value her in the same way I want to be valued.

Now, the challenge isn’t to understand my wife, but to show her how much I value her in the way that she needs.

Last night, I heard her tell one of her girlfriends on the phone about how great our marriage has been lately. So, I’d say it’s working.

 

***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.***

Do I Really Want To Marry This Person?

Don't let the idea of being alone make you ignore red flags.

Dating. Is. Hard. There’s no way around it. On the bright side, you meet a variety of people. You learn more about yourself and have some good (and often laughable), awkward stories. So, when you find yourself thinking about forever with that very special someone, it may be tempting to trudge forward with emotions and skip the inner-reflective monologue. But, there is one question every dating person should ask themselves: “Do I really want to marry this person, or do I just want to be married?”

Before you start psychoanalyzing every nook and cranny of your current relationship, be aware that it will take time to answer this question. Let’s talk it through a bit.

The desire to marry often comes from an overarching desire for companionship. We all know life can be pretty heavy due to bills, stress, family issues, health concerns, career disappointments, etc. There are some nights that bar-hopping, movie-binging, or venting to a listening ear just doesn’t sweeten the bitterness of life. Marriage can look like a really good, long-term way to have a sturdy hand to hold from day to day. And even though you may not see eye-to-eye on your faith, finances, priorities, or the hopes and dreams you have for your future family, marriage may appear better than the alternative… being alone FOREVER.

The desire to marry can create a monster. This monster will give you blinders. It will allow you to look past the red flags and all you thought you would never settle for.

This post shouldn’t negate marriage. I think marriage is a wonderful thing. It’s supposed to be a sense of support, security and unconditional love. But a successful marriage requires a lot of work on the front end. You need patience and discernment so that you can find a person who inspires you, cares for you and truly helps you be even more like yourself.

When you can look at your relationship and see how it benefits both people, you’re probably on the right track. And, maybe you really do want to marry this person.

Image from Unsplash.com

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Plus you’ll have access to healthy relationship experts, Reggie & Lauren, by email every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement!


*Must live in a qualifying state where a discount is offered on your marriage license for completing premarital education or counseling.

For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. Starry-eyed in love, couples stand before friends and family and recite these vows with total commitment to each other. Then they come home from the honeymoon and reality hits. Is it possible to keep the “honey” in honeymoon?

“Many people believe that if they have found their soulmate and are deeply in love, they won’t have disagreements or bad things happen in their marriage. If they do, they think something must be wrong with their relationship,” says Diane Sollee, founder of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education.

“I believe one of the biggest disservices we do to newlywed couples is not giving them expectations about how things are going to be when two lives come crashing together. They get married, go on a honeymoon and then come home thinking things are going to be great, only to find that there are these little things that keep coming up that are wreaking havoc in their relationship.”

For example, one newlywed couple lived close to the husband’s family and saw them all the time. Since they lived close to his parents, the wife thought they should go visit her family for Christmas and Thanksgiving. He thought that was totally unfair. She thought it was so fair it made her extremely angry and upset. He didn’t see the logic between where you live and splitting up the holidays. This was an issue in their first three years of marriage.

Studies indicate that every happily married couple usually has approximately 10 irreconcilable differences.

“Learning how to live with your spouse is a constant adventure that requires advance planning,” Sollee says. “I think the first years should be called the ‘clash of civilizations stage’ instead of the honeymoon. This stage is when two people actually get to set up a new civilization determining how they are going to do everything from eat, sleep, work, raise children, deal with in-laws, make love, keep house, pay bills, etc. Couples who believe that because you love each other you will simply agree about how all of this should work are in for great disappointment. Instead of seeing these differences as part of the marriage adventure, this is the very thing that sends what could be a great marriage over time into a tailspin.”

It might come as a surprise to know that noted marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, found that happily-married couples disagree the same amount as couples who divorce. Studies show that all couples fight about money, sex, kids, others and time. Couples who understand that these disagreements are normal and learn to manage those areas do better.

“Finding these areas of disagreement is part of the adventure. It shouldn’t scare couples if they prepare for the journey,” Sollee suggests. “Entering into marriage without preparation would be like planning to climb Mount Everest and only hoping you have what it takes. When people first started climbing that mountain, many people did not make it because they did not know what to expect. Now the success rate is much better because people know how to prepare and often do so for years before they actually climb the mountain. The same is true with marriage. We know the tools couples need to be successful.”

If you’re marrying soon or are a newlywed, think of it as if you were preparing to climb Mount Everest.

It’s a great adventure with potential danger at every turn. You want to be as knowledgeable as possible about what to expect. That way, even the simple things don’t pose a threat to your relationship. There are ways you can know what to expect from marriage—including how to navigate those annoying disagreements that keep rising to the surface. And knowing what to expect can help you keep the “honey” long after the honeymoon is over.

For instance, you can take a premarital or marriage education class where you can practice handling the hard stuff.

“You can do almost anything in life if you know what to expect,” Sollee shares. “If you don’t know what to expect, you can fall in a crevasse and blame it on all the wrong things—your spouse, your mother-in-law, etc.”

 ***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 after you said the vows “til death do us part”?

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 upfront 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: “til 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.***

Want to take date night up a notch?

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

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

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

Is your marriage unexciting and dull? Have the feelings you had for each other on your wedding day become a distant memory? Do you ever look at other people and envy the spontaneity and freedom they seem to have? If so, you aren’t alone.

According to marriage experts, many couples enter into marriage with the expectation that it will always be exciting and romantic.

Then careers, children, in-laws, and other demands come along and often throw couples for a loop. They begin asking themselves questions like, “Did I marry the wrong person? Why should I stay in a relationship when I am not happy? Did I marry for all the wrong reasons?”

“Love is an interesting emotion,” says Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages. “It begins with what I refer to as the ‘tingles.’ You are emotionally obsessed with someone. You go to bed and wake up thinking about him, and have a hard time getting anything done because you can’t get him off your mind. This is accompanied by irrational thinking, believing that this person is perfect and there is nothing more important in life than being with him/her. Some people tell themselves that they will never be happy without this person in their life.

“This is accompanied by an illusion of intimacy. When you encourage couples to attend a marriage education class, they look at you like you are crazy to suggest working on the relationship since they believe their relationship doesn’t need any work. The illusion of intimacy blinds people to their differences in things like taste, values, music, priorities, etc.”

Emotional obsession, irrational thinking and illusion of intimacy lead to faulty conclusions such as, “I will never be happy unless we are married.” According to research, these feelings are not always permanent. The average lifespan of an obsession is two years—then people come off their high.

How does this relate to a ho-hum stage in marriage, you might ask?

When the “in-love obsession” subsides in marriage, people begin to see what they didn’t see before. All those things that were so cute when you were dating now get on your last nerve.

“Many couples are shocked by their loss of feelings for each other and are traumatized by conflicts,” Chapman says. “In many instances, they have no idea how to deal with the conflicts. The conflicts lead to fights. Then they think things like, ‘I wish I had married the other person.’ Walls go up and there is a loss of intimacy. Each person can give volumes of evidence as to why their spouse is at fault for the failing marriage.”

Then it happens. In the midst of your marital struggles, someone else comes along. The person is funny, spontaneous, full of life, neat, etc. He/she seems much more exciting than your current spouse. This person seems to have all the qualities you love in a person and you get the tingles all over again.

“This is when people start thinking ‘I never did love her’ or ‘I got married for all the wrong reasons,’ to convince themselves that their marriage was not right from the beginning and to somehow justify divorce,” Chapman says. “The problem is, they don’t understand that in two years they could potentially be in the very same place. Some people marry multiple times because every time they get the tingles they think they’ve finally found the right person.”

So, what do you do?

  • Recognize the tingles for what they are—they aren’t always trustworthy.
  • Keep your guard up—when there are troubles at home, you are vulnerable to misinterpreting the attention of others.
  • Seek out professional help from someone who is marriage-friendly.
  • Be leery of those who want to give you advice—even people with the best intentions can give you BAD advice.

Understand that it is normal to experience ho-hum stages in your marriage. Even the healthiest of marriages go through this. The key is to recognize it and do something about it. The ho-hum phase should be temporary. You really can feel the tingles again for your spouse.

Looking for more? Watch this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

***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.***

If you’re married, you’ve probably had a spirited discussion or two with your spouse. Chances are, it’s been about money, sex, jealousy over time spent outside the marriage, in-laws, child-rearing, or spirituality/faith.

“Based on research, we have learned that these are six of the most common toxic subjects for couples,” says Beverly Rodgers, marriage and family therapist and co-author of Soul Healing Love. “These topics cause the greatest amount of conflict in a marital relationship. Every couple has at least three, and the average couple has five of these that they argue about or discuss on a regular basis.”

“Couples know that they are dealing with a toxic subject when it triggers conflict and they can’t find a way to resolve it,” Rodgers asserts. “They either avoid the topic at all costs or jump in with both feet and later wished they hadn’t.”

Toxic subjects often bring relationships to the breaking point. How couples handle those toxic subjects is important.

The reaction to one of these issues usually falls into one of four categories:

  • Withdrawal or stonewalling,
  • Criticism,
  • Defensiveness, and/or
  • Contempt.

Take heart, though. Rodgers believes that you can learn how to keep these toxins from poisoning your marriage by identifying and dealing with the root issue.

“We encourage couples to dig deeper to get to the heart of the matter so they aren’t just coping with the issue, but extinguishing it,” Rodgers shares. “We ask couples to answer some basic questions.”

  • What does my mate do that triggers my anger?
  • When my mate does _____, I feel ________.
  • What is the root of my anger? Guilt, Inferiority/Inadequacy, Fear or Trauma/Pain?
  • When have I ever felt this before?
  • When I feel this feeling, what do I do? How do I behave?
  • What do I really need?

“After literally seeing hundreds of couples who were stuck in a marital rut, we recognized that a great deal of what couples are in conflict about goes back to their childhood,” Rodgers continues. “We also recognized that guilt, inferiority/inadequacy, fear and trauma/pain are usually emotions underlying the feeling of anger. Identifying these emotions uncovers what is really going on inside when you are angry at your spouse.”

Take this couple for instance.

A husband expects his wife to have the house clean and dinner on the table when he gets home. Despite her best efforts, it is next to impossible to get everything done with two young children underfoot. Every evening he walks through the door and gives her a look of disappointment. She feels guilty and inadequate. On the other hand, he feels inferior. Both get defensive and the evening goes downhill from there.

Through the digging deeper exercise, the husband realizes that throughout his childhood, his mother did everything for him. He interpreted that as a subtle message that he was incompetent or incapable of doing things for himself. This resulted in unrealistic and unfair expectations of his wife.

His wife, on the other hand, is the oldest of four. She kept up with her younger siblings, and her parents criticized her whenever she didn’t do things quite right. This made her feel inferior and hurt (trauma). Her husband’s disdainful look echoes the disappointment she felt from her parents as a child. In response, she distances herself from him and pulls away, which is exactly what this relationship does not need. She really needs to know that her husband loves her unconditionally.

“Rather than getting locked into a power struggle over cooking supper or cleaning the house, the couple will fare better if they understand the deeper meaning of what is really going on,” Rodgers says. “As couples begin to dig deeper, instead of fighting over often ultimately silly issues, they move away from being locked into a negative perception of each other.

“In our example, the wife thought her husband was a control freak. The husband thought she was inefficient and lazy. Through this exercise, they saw each other on a deeper level and realized that wounds and needs were behind those requests. The deeper understanding gave them motivation to meet each other’s needs rather than locking horns. Now there is empathy and desire, which can grow passion. What once was a lifeless relationship on the brink is now a relationship with new life.”

***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.***

YOU CAN BE HAPPILY MARRIED.

And no, that’s not just a fairytale. Sometimes we settle, we coexist, we go along to get along, or we just try to keep the damage to a minimum. There are no perfect marriages. There are also no unicorns. So what? You can always Maximize Your Marriage. You know what’s NOT a mythical creature? Your marriage being BETTER than you could ever imagine.

To help you write the next chapter of your marriage story, each module features…

  • A simple, easy-to-understand video lead by marriage experts,
  • A download to help you personalize the key concepts for your marriage, and
  • Action items to transform your marriage as you go through the course.

You’ll have access to two marriage experts every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement. (THIS is what makes Maximize Your Marriage customized & personalized!)

Secrets of Long-Term Marital Bliss

Committing to lifelong learning may be the key.

In this culture of throw-away everything, many young people are shocked to meet a couple who has been married for more than 20 years. They often claim to have never met someone who has been married that long. Then they ask, “How did you do that, and why?”

What helps couples experience long-term marriage?

Lead researcher Dr. Robert Levenson at the University of California, Berkeley, along with Drs. John Gottman and Laura Carstensen, launched a longitudinal study of 156 middle-aged and older couples to gain a better understanding of the emotional quality of long-term marriages. Every five years, the couples came to the Berkeley campus to talk about their marriage. They specifically focused on areas of conflict in their relationship.

Twenty-five years later, Levenson believes the research shows some significant findings.

  • The first 15 years of marriage can be challenging. But, the next stage of marriage gets better. Couples stop trying to do extreme makeovers on each other. They take pride in each other’s accomplishments. And, they learn to value and genuinely respect each other.
  • Many couples believe the absence of conflict is a positive thing for marriage. However, the research showed the best indicator of enjoying a long marriage isn’t the absence of conflict, but the way couples handle it.
  • Believe it or not, the wife’s ability to calm down quickly after an intense argument positively impacted long-term happiness in the marriage. Interestingly, the husband calming down quickly did not have the same impact. The research revealed that couples who say “we” stand a greater chance of resolving conflict.

What about the major sources of conflict in marriage?

The research demonstrated that communication or lack thereof often is the culprit. Husbands believe their wives don’t think they can do anything right and wives often feel emotionally alone. The other big bone of contention is children.

Couples typically spend a lot of time taking childbirth classes and preparing the nursery. But, they usually spend little time preparing their marriage for parenthood. Issues arise concerning how to raise the child, division of the home workload and the husband feeling neglected.

Here’s another interesting find: Some portion of a happy, long-term marriage has to do with our DNA.

A gene that helps to regulate serotonin can predict how much our emotions affect our relationships. All humans inherit a copy of this gene variant. Some have a long version and others have a short version. Those with the short variant were more prone to unhappiness in marriage when negativity was present and happier when more positive emotions were present. Conversely, the marital satisfaction of those with the long variant was less impacted by the emotional state of their marriage.

The findings of this study give great information for couples. It’s useful whether you’re preparing for marriage, already in the midst of the first 15 or leaping into the second half of marriage. Even though people can’t change their DNA, everyone can learn communication and conflict management skills. With that said, the key to building a healthy long-term marriage is committing to be a lifelong learner.

***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.***