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You and your spouse are arguing constantly. Maybe there’s a never-ending tension-filled silence at home when you’re around your partner. Or you feel like you can’t ever believe anything your significant other says. 

You’ve heard that marriages can be hard work. But you’re not sure if this is “good” hard work, if you just have problems to work through, or if your marriage is truly a toxic marriage

Here are 10 signs that are often present in a toxic marriage and what you can do about it… 

Destructive communication.

You react to each other most often with criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or withdrawal/stonewalling. Dr. John Gottman, marriage researcher and therapist, calls these The 4 Horsemen. Each of these communication styles do a lot more to drive you apart than they do to bring you together. Healthy couples respond to each other as equals and approach conflict with respect for one another. They also take responsibility for their role in a conflict. 

Conflict is never resolved or managed. It just grows.

It’s true that there are some things the two of you will never totally agree on. In fact, Dr. Gottman has identified 10 common differences within marriage that couples may not agree on for the duration of their marriage. Issues surrounding parenting, family and in-laws, work/life balance, and sex are all areas you may never see the same way. A marriage isn’t toxic because of these differences. When the relationship is unable to manage the differences and learn how to respect and work with one another, resentment and bitterness creeps in and creates high levels of toxicity. Being different doesn’t mean one of you is deficient. The world and your family needs the differences you both exhibit. 

Intimacy is non-existent.

There’s little to no connection physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It breaks my heart to hear a spouse say, “I’m lonely.” Living with someone you love and feeling unable to feel seen, heard, or valued can leave one feeling lonely. Sharing intimate moments, whether they are times of deep, relational, and emotional connection or sexual experiences may be difficult when the marriage is toxic. 

Secrecy.

It’s not that you should share every detail and every interaction you have with your spouse. However, purposely withholding information, financial information, or heavily censoring interactions you have with other people is a sign that there’s some potentially serious disconnect within your marriage. This can destroy trust and lead to betrayal. A healthy marriage works to build trust. It also works to understand why you’d risk the trust of your spouse for self-gratification. 

Constant criticism.

We can always find something wrong with our spouse. But, if you are constantly criticizing or constantly being criticized, your relationship is not in a good place. The tone of voice and nonverbal communication are significant indicators as to how you communicate and how it will be received.

You consistently seem to bring out the worst in each other.

Whether enabling negative behaviors or provoking one another, a toxic relationship encourages you to be your worst self. You may constantly react to one another with anger, hostility, jealousy or any number of emotions. You may find yourself being manipulative, deceitful, or controlling. In healthy relationships, people look for ways to humbly help one another be their best selves, not from a place of superiority, but one of love and care.

Never fighting the right fight.

This isn’t about being physical. Sometimes couples argue so much they never actually discuss the real issue. She’s frustrated he won’t help with the dishes after eating. He’s always complaining that the family is rushing to this and that event. She wants more sex. He wants more peace and quiet. They’ve argued about the same thing for years and never actually talked about the real issue. The issue may be about valuing family time or lack of intimacy. Sometimes digging into the roots and understanding the real issue takes time and the help of a professional counselor. You want to fight the right fight, the right issue, the real issue.

Control and isolation.

Controlling or being controlled can have severe consequences to one’s mental and emotional health. Dictating where the other goes, what they do, how much money they can spend, what they say and who they spend time with are strong indicators of a toxic marriage or relationship. This is unhealthy behavior. Seek professional help. 

Disrespect and disregard for each other.

This may look like a total lack of care or interest in one another. Dismissing and neglecting one another’s being in the marriage is a deep sign of trouble. Stepping back and appreciating the strengths of your spouse and their contributions to both you as a person and the marriage is a sign of a vibrant relationship.

Neither of you is becoming a better version of yourself.

The relationship is having a negative impact on your character. You’re becoming deceitful, manipulative, or more self-centered. While this may not always be attributed to the marriage, it’s important to look at marriage and determine what type of character the marriage is feeding

★ So, What Can You Do?

Self-Care.

You’re not expected to be perfect, but you can work to take care of yourself, mentally, physically and emotionally. Eating well, getting plenty of rest, setting aside time to meditate/pray and be mindful are all proven ways to help you think better. These things can also help you respond to stress in a productive way. Research by The Institute for Family Studies indicates couples who cultivate mindfulness through activities such as meditation “may experience a feeling of greater connection within their romantic and sexual relationships.” 

Focusing on the friendship within the marriage is focusing on the marriage.

Separating the marital expectations from the growth of a friendship can help the two of you focus on getting to know one another again. Friends talk, listen, support and share. When the marriage itself feels toxic, focus on being a good friend to one another. You’ll be strengthening your marriage.

Communicate.

Numerous studies confirm the number one issue couples experience in marriage is poor communication. Have honest, non-judgmental conversation with your spouse about your concerns. Don’t blame. Don’t speak to your partner with contempt as though you have all the answers. There’s no guarantee your spouse will receive it well or even reciprocate. We can hope, but not expect. Part of being a healthy you is sharing your honest thoughts and emotions.

Schedule your fights.

Many toxic relationships are characterized by incessant arguing. Your mind has become trained to only communicate conflict, disagreement and strong, negative emotions. Set aside a time where you will discuss your disagreements and conflicts. This may give one spouse the security of knowing that issues will not be avoided while giving the other person the space to get their thoughts together. As you develop a pattern of dealing with your issues in a healthy, productive way at a given time, it will become easier to coexist. It will also be easier for you enjoy one another at other times because there’s no fear that you’re ignoring your issues.

Seek Counseling.

As stated earlier, sometimes counseling is necessary. If your spouse isn’t willing, you may choose to seek counseling on your own to help understand the root issues of the toxicity. You may also find out what, if any, contributions you have made to the relationship’s toxic nature. 

Find ways to express gratitude.

There’s something good about your spouse. Otherwise, you would have never been attracted to them. Relationship expert Dr. Jack Ito says, “little acts of love and kindness go a long way (in marriage).” Help your brain see the good in your spouse by showing and expressing gratitude for the good, regardless of how big or small it is.

Talk with healthy couples. Limit interaction with toxic couples.

You can expect to be contaminated with more poison when you continually interact with other toxic couples. During this season when you’re trying to eliminate toxicity, it’s crucial that you interact with couples who are relatively healthy—not perfect, but healthy. You won’t find any perfect couples.

***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.***

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Can You Really Prevent Divorce?

Put these protective measures in place.

Whether you are thinking about getting married or you have already jumped in with both feet, you may be wondering if it’s really possible to prevent divorce. Or, to put it another way, is it just wishful thinking to believe this is forever?

  • If you have lived through your parents’ divorce, you might be wondering if you have what it takes to prevent a divorce in your own marriage.
  • If you have ever heard the statistic that half of all first time marriages end in divorce, you might be questioning whether or not you will make it is just luck of the draw.
  • Perhaps you have read about or know couples who have been married for 50 years, and you might be asking, “What’s their secret?”

Regardless of your responses, I’m going to give you some good news, straight up. The answer (based on research) is YES! You really can prevent divorce, and the even better news is, it isn’t rocket science.

First, the reasons people cite for wanting to get a divorce:

The National Fatherhood Initiative conducted a national survey on Marriage in America and found that the most common reason couples gave for divorce was “lack of commitment” (73% said this was a major reason). Other significant reasons included too much arguing (56%), infidelity (55%), marrying too young (46%), unrealistic expectations (45%), lack of equality in the relationship (44%), lack of preparation for marriage (41%), and abuse (29%). (People often give more than one reason, so the percentages add up to more than 100%.) Other more recent surveys of adults have come up with similar findings.

Keys to Prevent Divorce

Clearly, there are some valid reasons people divorce. However, a huge percentage of couples are divorcing for reasons that are preventable with some intentional focus. So, if you are considering marriage or you’re already married and you want it to last forever, here are some things you can do to increase your chances of staying together:

1. Communicate!

Keep in mind that just because you love someone doesn’t mean you communicate well with each other. Be intentional about making time to talk with each other not just about intense things, but life in general. Pay attention to how you listen—or actually don’t listen. So often, people are more interested in what they have to say than what their partner has to say. As a result, they only halfway listen because they are preparing for what they want to say next. Practice being in the moment and really listening to your partner. This seems to come easier when you are dating than after you get married.

2. Pay attention to how you handle conflict.

Every great relationship has conflict, but it’s the way people engage each other in the midst of it that matters. If the win for either of you is to get the last word or to be right, your relationship loses. The goal with conflict is to actually increase intimacy in your relationship, not create disconnect between the two of you.

3. Commit.

This might be the super secret sauce for marriages. If you enter into marriage with the idea that if the going gets tough you can always leave, it will be hard to build a strong relationship over time because in the back of your mind you are always entertaining the notion of leaving. The thing about marriage is that it is challenging at times. It’s impossible to bring two people together and not experience some strenuous moments. However, healthy marriages aren’t challenging all the time and they take advantage of the challenges to bring them closer—as in, “Look what we just came through/survived together!” This makes you stronger as a team and also builds confidence that whatever the next challenge is, you can work together to get to the other side.

*To be clear, if you are experiencing abuse, addiction or affairs in your marriage, this is different and you need to seek professional help to determine your best next steps. These are unhealthy and potentially dangerous behaviors. You can be committed to your marriage and love your spouse and also know the relationship cannot continue along the same path with these unhealthy behaviors.

4. Be intentional about connecting.

When couples talk about lack of commitment, a lot of this centers around feeling disconnected. They are committed to the relationship, but slowly over time, children come along, careers get more intense, parents struggle with illness—all things that require your time, energy and emotional bandwidth. Before you know it, instead of feeling like a team, you feel distant from one another. When one or both people in a marriage start feeling disconnected, they consciously or unconsciously begin to look for connection elsewhere. And you know, the grass is always greener in the yard that gets attention. Take inventory of your activities. Every couple should have activities they do together and apart, but if you find you are doing more activities separately from your spouse, you may want to evaluate the impact it is having on your relationship connectedness.

5. Make time to play together.

Being playful together releases dopamine—the feel-good hormone. When you do things with your spouse that make you feel good, you create powerful positive memories and you associate those feelings with being with your spouse. The University of Denver’s Center for Marital and Family Studies research finds that the amount of fun couples have together is the strongest factor in understanding overall marital happiness.

6. Train your brain.

It is true that we teach our brains to think a certain way. If you start feeling negative toward your spouse and you avoid letting them know how you feel, you will probably start to notice the things they do that bother you even more often. Before long, you have built your case for why they are no longer the right person for you. On the other hand, if you look for the good in your spouse, it’s not that you never see their faults, you just don’t let them take up residence in your brain and impact how you see the one you love.

7. Look to the future.

Dream about things you want to do or accomplish together. Write them down and revisit them annually to see if there are things you want to add or delete. This gives you a future focus together. It also provides a focal point for when you face challenging times and need something to keep you motivated and forward-facing in your marriage. It’s kind of a reminder that in the midst of hard, it’s not always going to be like this. Kids get potty trained and sleep through the night. Teens eventually become adults. Illnesses go away or you learn how to manage them.

No marriage is 100% risk-free of divorce. However, there are definitely protective measures you can put in place to significantly decrease your risk for divorce, both before and after marriage. Guard against putting your marriage on auto-pilot. Be intentional about the choices you make on a daily basis. Avoid comparing your marriage to someone else’s, as you never know what’s going on behind closed doors. Think of your marriage as a never ending adventure. It’s going to have some insanely crazy times you don’t wish to repeat and some wildly exhilarating moments that you won’t want to end. But consider this—if you quit in the middle of a perfectly good marriage, you will have no idea what you missed out on.

Other blogs you might find helpful:

7 Ways to Reduce Your Risk for Divorce

Couples Who Play Together

10 Things Every Married Couple Needs to Know About Sex

Help! My Spouse Hates to Talk About Boundaries!

***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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Fighting with your fiancé all the time, aka, the person you are planning on spending forever with, can feel just exhausting. The uncertainty from COVID-19, the potential for rescheduling your wedding, fear of job loss, or navigating unemployment while trying to secure a future together, spending what may feel like too much time together, and so many unknowns right now can definitely stir the dust in the air. Just when you think the dust is going to settle, one of you kicks it back up again! 

I have seen far too many people fall into the trap of marrying a person thinking that they knew them, but in reality, they only knew about them,” says Dr. John Van Epp, relationship expert, and author. 

So, for starters, if you find yourself in constant conflict with your fiancé, what exactly are you fighting about?  

  • Finances around the wedding?
  • When you will actually get married?  
  • What the celebration will look like in the midst of “RONA?”
  • One of you is messy and the other is a neat freak?
  • Your mother?
  • Quarantining during the Pandemic?
  • The dishes in the sink overnight?
  • Money in general?

Fighting about things that matter is one thing, but if you find yourself fighting with your fiancé about Every. Little. Thing, that’s a whole new ballgame. It might be a good time to take inventory of your relationship and see if it’s unhealthy. 

An important thing to consider—if you are fighting about everyday things that you will for sure continue to encounter, and you are thinking that once you marry things will simmer down and those issues won’t be such a big deal or you will be able to “work on your spouse” to get them to change… Do not be fooled. If you see things that you need to work on individually or as a couple, the chances of change happening before the wedding are far greater than after the ring is on your finger

The hopeful news is that conflict is inescapable for any relationship, AND some of the best news is that conflict handled well actually brings you closer instead of pulling you apart. 

You for sure are not alone in this. Psychologist Dan Wile says it best in his book After the Honeymoon: “When choosing a long-term partner, you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unresolvable problems.” It’s true.  Every couple has around 10 things they will not necessarily agree on for the duration of their marriage. Despite this, relationship expert Dr. Gottman, who has studied couples for the last 40 years, has found that about ⅓ of conflicts can be resolved with the right approach. Even for those things that you might disagree on for forever, Gottman found that how you approach each other is the key.

Dr. Gottman’s Approach:

  • Step 1: Soften Your Start-Up. Are you beginning the conversation where you left off in your head? When your fiancé gets to your apartment you say, “Why should I ever be ready on time? You’re always late.” They respond with, “I got stuck behind an accident. I’m working on my timing.” Then maybe you go on to say, “It’ll be something else next time.” Soft Start-Ups don’t include the Four Horsemen (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling). Instead, you and your partner start the conversation gently and with intentions of understanding each other and coming to a resolution.
  • Step 2: Learn to Send and Receive Repair Attempts. Think of a repair attempt as slamming on the brakes when you see a red light. You do this to avoid a collision that could harm your marriage,” says Kyle Benson from the Gottman Institute. In the example above, acknowledging that your fiancé is working on their time management could have de-escalated the situation. Practicing sending and receiving repair attempts can help improve the quality of your relationship.
  • Step 3: Soothe Yourself and Each Other. If you know you’re too upset to have a conversation at the moment, take a 20-30 minute break and try and “focus on the positives of your relationship by yourself.” When you’re “Flooded, ” as Dr. John Gottman refers to it, your brain is flooded with stress hormones and chemicals that make it nearly impossible for your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain responsible for complex problem-solving, to function. As a result, you can’t physiologically function as you normally would. You can’t communicate as you normally should. Acknowledge what makes you feel flooded, talk about the best way and time to bring up issues to each other, how your partner can soothe you and what signals you can give each other to clue the other into how you’re feeling.
  • Step 4: Compromise. When you negotiate, you accept each other’s imperfections while recognizing your relationship is more important than the argument and being right.
  • Step 5: Address Emotional Injuries. Sometimes how you fight is what hurts more than what you were fighting about. Be open to talking it out and processing what you two went through. Accept responsibility and learn from your fights.

Fighting with your fiancé doesn’t have to be all bad—it can be an area for growth and an opportunity to understand each other’s differences better. A great way to fight for your relationship is by preparing for marriage. Consider premarital education or counseling to set yourselves up with the tools you need to thrive in your relationship.

Some other blogs you might find helpful!

10 RULES TO “FIGHT NICE” WITH YOUR SPOUSE

TOP 10 POTENTIAL MARRIAGE PITFALLS

10 GREAT DATES BEFORE YOU SAY “I DO”

10 RED FLAGS IN A DATING RELATIONSHIP

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear 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 AdobeStock.com

Weddings are time-consuming, expensive, and stressful.

We totally get it. There’s hardly any time to breathe, let alone enjoy this season with your soon-to-be spouse! But that’s why we created Preparing for Marriage Online. This online class will guide you both through the answers to these questions and MORE! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME – and right now, it’s all for FREE!

During this class, you’ll cover topics like…

  • Clear & effective communication skills,
  • How to handle the in-laws,
  • Conflict management,
  • The importance of dating your spouse,
  • Planning, budgeting, and finances,
  • What to expect your first year,
  • And more!

I just can’t handle it anymore. I’m overwhelmed by bitterness, I feel let down, and I just don’t get how this isn’t obvious to anyone else. 

Does it look like I want to do extra work all the time? 

Do I have to be the one to initiate each conversation?  

Why am I always staying late to clean up after my co-workers?

If you’re my friend, shouldn’t you know why I felt left out?

Why do I have to remind you three times before you do something?

Since when is my job being in charge of remembering every important date?

Who decided to make me the default solution to “if no one else will do it she/he will?”

You’re just over it. 

Feeling overworked and underappreciated is a lethal combination. It doesn’t motivate you to be the best version of yourself. And why would it?

What is Resentment?

There’s a word for this heavy feeling of disappointment, bitterness from unfair treatment, and anger. It’s resentment. Resentment feels so individual and deeply personal, but it can actually be something that comes between you and the people you want to be personal with. Resentment and contempt can walk hand in hand. Contempt can be lethal and destructive for relationships according to Dr. John Gottman, marriage researcher, therapist, and co-founder of The Gottman Institute, which uses research to help people improve their relationships. Though resentment is a common emotion, when it becomes persistent and something that holds you back from forgiving or being able to move forward, it must come to a resolution so you can go on with your life.

If you can relate to any of those questions or feelings above, consider doing two things before we move any further.

  • Acknowledge your self-awareness. You bravely admitted that there is something getting in your way of you moving forward or holding back a relationship that you either care about or you can’t avoid.
  • Acknowledge you’re capable of moving forward. Since you’re self-aware, you have a heightened understanding of how you relate to yourself and others. You’ve got this and you’re going to reconcile the resentment you may be experiencing in your relationship(s).

In many instances, to be free of resentment means forgiving, according to GoodTherapy, a resource for those searching for therapists, counselors, rehab, residential treatment, and care for mental health issues. “Some individuals find that making peace with something that happened and moving on works better for them. Regardless of how someone chooses to get rid of resentment, it most likely means adjusting one’s frame of mind or emotional responses.

How to Stop Resentment in a Relationship: 

Identify the root issue, irritation, or problem.

Are you mad there are dishes in the sink or are you mad there’s an expectation you’ll do them if they sit long enough? Are you upset your idea in the meeting wasn’t used or tired of feeling unheard? Is it possible you are mad that you’re using gas to drive to your friend’s house again? Or maybe frustrated that you are the one who initiates hanging out each time?

Be honest with yourself about what makes it difficult to let go.

Are there emotions that flood to the surface whenever you try dealing with it? Where do you think they are coming from?  Does it remind you of someone you had a bad relationship with?  Acknowledging the answers to the questions above can help you determine the best next steps. Is this something you need to deal with on your own or is there something you need to communicate to the person you are resenting? How you express these thoughts is critical.

Communicate your expectations.

If a conversation needs to take place, it will most likely be an ongoing conversation. Relationships grow and change over time. Sometimes expectations shift—both spoken and unspoken. It’s the things that go unspoken that can really create resentment and chaos. 

Be realistic with your expectations.

Don’t expect something from someone else you wouldn’t expect of yourself. Be flexible and willing to meet halfway. When you reach a compromise, your worth is acknowledged, your voice is heard and you practice empathy.

Don’t underestimate the power of empathy.

Perhaps the resentment you’ve been living with came from a misunderstanding or from someone who has a different perspective of what happened or interpretation of a situation. To alleviate the tension between you and the other person, consider talking about it with them. (It may not feel natural, but it may provide the peace you need to move forward.) Now, if you’re in a situation where a conversation with the other person isn’t an option, consider processing what their perspective could be with a trusted friend or family member.

Invite gratitude into your life.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships,” according to Harvard Health Publishing for Harvard’s medical school.

Without remedy, resentment can consume your thoughts and impact how you may carry yourself. These tips can equip you to face the problems of the past and propel your relationships into a healthier and more fulfilling future. You’ve got 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 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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Ahhhh, it finally happened. You and your spouse sat down to eat and… dead silence. In fact, this has happened a lot lately: while lying in bed, riding in the car, sitting on the couch, deciding what to do for fun. You realize that the two of you have absolutely nothing in common to talk about. If you aren’t talking about the kids, work, responsibilities, or bills—there’s nothing.

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

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

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

1. Accept that it’s NORMAL.

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

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

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

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

3. Curiosity is key.

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

4. Focus on loving the differences.

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

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

5. Plan and do some everyday things together.

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

6. Shared experiences create great memories.

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

7. Explore new things.

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

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

8. Support your spouse’s strengths.

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

9. Turn toward, not away.

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

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

Other Related Blogs: 

I’m Bored With My Spouse in Quarantine

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

What To Do When You and Your Spouse Really Are Opposites

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

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YOU CAN BE DEEPLY KNOWN AND DEEPLY KNOW YOUR SPOUSE!

Do you feel like your marriage is in the shallows? Listening well, vulnerability, and mutual respect are some of the hardest parts of marriage. But without them, your relationship may never thrive in the deep end. This online course will guide you and your spouse through the 5 simple steps to taking your marriage to the deep end – and help you stay there!

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INSIDE EACH MODULE YOU’LL FIND…

  • An Instructional Video hosted by marriage experts – Gena Ellis and Reggie Madison
  • 3-5 Couple Activities you can do on your own time, at your own pace
  • 3-5 Questions to Answer about your marriage together
  • A Downloadable Couple’s Guide filled with tips, insights, and ideas you can use to get to the deep end and stay there
  • PLUS, purchasing this course will give you exclusive access to Gena Ellis and Reggie Madison, so you can ask them your questions and reach out for any help you may need along the way!

It’s nothing new to disagree with the ones you love, whether it’s about COVID-19, quarantine, religion, guns, racism, politics, football or something else. In fact, chances are pretty good that you completely disagree on certain topics with someone you care deeply about. The disagreements may be so intense you wonder how you can actually co-exist. 

The level of intensity might feel more so at this moment in time in our culture. In fact, many people can hardly believe that the people they love have such different perspectives from their own. The ongoing stress from trying to navigate these issues can take a massive toll on our relationships. FOR REAL.

What do you do when you strongly disagree with the ones you love?

Although you might be tempted to confront them and tell them they are just plain wrong, you might want to reconsider. That plan probably won’t go very well for you because it’s likely your loved one will feel attacked. Nobody wants to feel attacked, right?

Instead, start by asking yourself a few questions.

What is the goal of my conversation with this person?

Do I just want to share information?

Am I trying to understand their perspective?

Do I feel the need to convince them they are wrong?

Am I trying to prove that I have a valid point?

Do I have to WIN?

Taking the time to think about your ultimate goal can help you prepare to constructively engage with them.

It may help to remember that no matter how hard you try, you cannot change someone else or make them see something the very same way that you do. Yelling at them, belittling them, coming across as condescending, stomping out of the room or being sarcastic will only fuel the fire. And it will take you further away from your intended goal.

Plenty of married couples, extended family,, siblings and roommates have vehemently disagreed about things, yet their love and respect for each other was never in question. How you have the discussion matters.

Here are some tips you can use to make your conversations productive:

  1. Look for things you do agree on. It is likely that you agree on far more than you disagree about. 
  2. Kindness and respect goes a long way when trying to discuss difficult topics. Be aware of your tone of voice and body language.
  3. Avoid imagining how you think the conversation will go or how it has gone in the past. Playing negative scenarios in your head will actually increase your stress. It could also steer the conversation downhill straight out of the gates.
  4. Be prepared to genuinely listen to their perspective—even if you already believe you don’t agree with them and can’t fathom how they could believe what they believe. When people feel heard, you are more likely to keep the conversation going and avoid damaging your relationship. **PRO-TIP: Paraphrase what you hear and avoid using the word, “but.” Using “but” negates everything that the other person just said. Try using “and” instead.**
  5. If it feels like the conversation is becoming heated, remember that getting louder will escalate the situation for sure. Plus, it actually makes it harder to hear what is being said. If you are struggling to think clearly or keep your cool, take a break. Say you need to go to the bathroom or you need to get a drink of water—anything to take a break in the action and allow yourselves time to breathe. Pausing is powerful.
  6. Avoid using “You always, you never,” and “You should.” Instead, focus on yourself and share your perspective while using “I” statements (I feel, I believe, I want, I need, etc.).

These are particularly stressful times, and when you disagree with the ones you love, IT’S HARD.

This means that many of us are experiencing extended periods of heightened anxiety and are constantly in a fight or flight mode—which is totally not normal. Fuses are shorter and we are probably more easily irritated. And, we may react more quickly, especially if we’ve been thinking or dwelling on the topic at hand. Acknowledge this and think through the fact that how we handle difficult conversations can impact the quality of our relationships. 

It’s vital to remember that this is a process. If over time the conversation seems to go nowhere, you may need to set boundaries around this topic in an effort to keep from destroying the relationship. Keep in mind that if you choose to walk away from the relationship, you will no longer have the opportunity to present a different perspective.

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“I forgive you.” You desperately want to hear those words, but I want to explain to you why you might not hear those words right away and why you don’t necessarily need to hear those words right away. And that’s totally okay. ☆ What you need right now is to begin understanding forgiveness itself, especially in a marital context.

I’m operating under the assumption that you are not seeking forgiveness for forgetting to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer, but rather for committing some big breach of trust and inflicting deep emotional hurt in your marriage partner. Whatever you did, understanding how forgiveness works is important.

Why you probably won’t hear, “I forgive you,” right away:

  • Most definitions of “forgiveness” describe it as a process. Processes take time.
  • Even though you might truly be sorry and even expressed your sorrow multiple times, your hurt spouse has emotional trauma to work through in order to forgive. This emotional trauma often has physical symptoms, too. None of this can be rushed.
  • Your hurt spouse may need professional help to work through this process.
  • Your hurt spouse may need time to see changes in your behavior, rebuild trust, understand that you are truly sorry (not just sorry you got caught), and see over time that your relationship will be different moving forward. None of this happens overnight.

You’ve got work to do in the meantime…

  • You might be needed for some conversations to help process your spouse’s thoughts and feelings or answer questions. Offer to share as much information as your spouse feels the need to know.  On the other hand, your spouse might need some space to internally process. Respect both.
  • While it might be frustrating and take much longer than you believe it should, be willing to do what it takes to rebuild trust with your spouse, even if it doesn’t make sense to you, makes you uncomfortable, or is a blow to your pride. Transparency, vulnerability, and willingness are your best friends right now. Your phone, laptop, bank account, etc., might all need to be open books. Accounting for your time and whereabouts might be necessary now. Whatever it takes.
  • Your spouse might want you to attend some couple’s therapy sessions or for you to attend some sessions on your own. 
  • Your task is NOT to be the perfect spouse (there’s no such thing) but it is to demonstrate that you are truly sorry, value your spouse and marriage, and prove that you are working to be trustworthy and reliable and are willing to do what it takes to honor your spouse and protect your relationship. (If you were unfaithful with someone you met at the gym, you need to be willing to gladly switch gyms or even work out at home for a while to show that your spouse comes first. Many people have found new jobs to remove themselves from a co-worker they cheated with. Yes, that is the level.)
  • Empathize. Really empathize. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes and feel what they might be feeling. (If you reach a place of, “Well, I wouldn’t expect…” stop empathizing and keep honoring.)

While you’re at it… check your backbone. 

A lot of people have a wishbone where their backbone should have grown. They wish things were different, easier, that they wouldn’t have done this or that—but wishing doesn’t make it so. Marital mistakes, conflict, and difficult seasons don’t have to be terminal. In fact, they often have the opposite effect when people have some backbone and use it to lean into the hard stuff. Broken bones are stronger when they mend. 

You and your marriage can grow from this!

Whatever “this” is, it’s part of your story now. In the best stories, the good guys—the heroes—have had to work to overcome something very, very difficult. You can do this, and you don’t have to do it alone. Get growing!

  1. Learn how to manage conflict and how to communicate your way through it.
  2. Find meaningful ways to say things like “Sorry” and “I forgive you” and live those words out.
  3. Learn that love is an action, not a feeling.
  4. Have friends that are for your marriage.
  5. Have an older couple as mentors.
  6. No keeping score and no looking to “even” it.

This season isn’t easy or fun, but it can bring you and your spouse closer together than ever before. Every scar tells a story. What kind of story do you want this to 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 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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How Often Should We Have Sex?

The "magic number" may rise or fall in different seasons.

What if I told you that there was a number—a magical number—that defined the exact rate you and your spouse should have sex each and every week so both of you experience wonderful, marital, sensuous bliss that will last over the entire span of your marriage, “until death do you part?” 

Well, do I have news for you… You won’t find that magic number recorded anywhere! 

While research does suggest that couples that have sex at least once per week are happier than those who have sex less than that, it still doesn’t provide a solid answer to the question of how often a couple should have sex. All we know is that once a week is the average rate for couples who are happy. 

But before you click the X and stomp off in frustration, hear me out. Because while determining the magic number is about as elusive as Bigfoot riding a unicorn, there may still be a number that produces a little magic. 

If you do some research, what you will find are experts who say that there is no prescribed, scientific, formulaic number of times a couple should be having sex, but the magic number is what you make it. Raffi Bilek, a couples’ counselor and the director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, tells Health, “The truth is that whatever is comfortable for you and your partner is your normal. You don’t need to be having sex any more or less than you’d like.” 

This is all well and good, unless, of course, you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement on what is “comfortable” and “normal.” (Which probably describes a majority of couples out there.) 

So then, how do you move forward with this touchy subject? 

The truth of the matter is that the magic number is one that you and your spouse have to determine for yourselves. It’s your magic number. And here are some steps to move toward that: 

You’ve got to talk about it.

Start the conversation, and approach it with a great deal of respect for the other person’s feelings and opinions. Discuss with each other: 

  • Are you someone who can get turned on before you have sex or do you have to be well into the foreplay before you are actually in the mood?
  • Do you need to have sex to feel emotionally connected to your spouse, or do you need to feel emotionally connected to your spouse to have sex?
  • How does stress affect your desire for sex? 

What turns you on about the other person? Is seeing particular behaviors or attitudes more likely to get your motor running? (E.g. I love it when she is in a good mood, I’m really attracted to him when I see him being an active father, She really steams up the room when we watch a great football game together…)

More than likely, you’re not going to hammer this out in one sitting. It’s an ongoing process and conversation to find a mutually satisfying rhythm to your sex life.

Determine an actual, magical number for your relationship.

This is your mission, should you choose to accept it. Why is this important? It gives you a goal and informs each person in the marriage  what they can expect. 

You may need to compromise and meet in the middle.

Now, the person who wants sex more may get it less. And the person who wants sex less may get it more than they want. But let’s be honest: no one has ever died from not getting as much sex as they wanted. And if you are the one who wants sex less, you may need to be willing to give in a little more than you’d like (with healthy, reasonable expectations, of course). However, you both may find your comfort level increasing with the magic number, especially if you…

Pay close attention to each other’s intimacy needs.

Some people need to feel emotionally secure and close before they’re willing to even think about sex. If that’s your spouse, you have a job to do—find ways to meet their emotional needs (and not just because you want to have sex). 

Other people feel emotionally secure by being physically intimate. If that’s your spouse, you may need to spice things up a little more than you’re used to. If you keep each other’s pathways to connection in your sights, finding that magic number can come more easily than you expect. 

One more thing to keep in mind: Magic numbers can change. Life goes through seasons. Children come into the picture. Or they leave the house. Health issues arise. People take medication. Temporary periods of stress or exhaustion come into the picture. All these things can affect how often the magic happens. The key here is to continue to be sensitive to each other’s needs and feelings and to continue to communicate. 

Magic numbers don’t have to be as mythical as unicorns, and it’s possible for things to be magical in the bedroom for both of you in your 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.***

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