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25 Fun Holiday Date Ideas for Couples

Get cozy and grow closer with this merry little list that's guaranteed to make the holidays sweeter!

The holidays are the perfect time for couples to experience closeness and connection in the spirit of the season. Try out a few of these fun holiday date ideas with the one you love most! 

  1. Watch your favorite Christmas movie with some gourmet hot chocolate
  2. Pick up some donuts and coffee and visit neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights.
  3. Bake Christmas cookies together to give to family, friends, neighbors, or first responders. 
  4. Pick out a live tree or wreath at a Christmas tree farm.
  5. Check out a Christmas concert, either live or online. If you’re on a budget, look up local places of faith or high schools having choir or band concerts.
  6. Go Christmas gift shopping in your Christmas pajamas.
  7. Support a local organization such as Toys for Tots by shopping for and delivering gifts for needy families.
  8. Build gingerbread houses together using graham crackers, icing, and an assortment of candies.
  9. Decorate outside of your house with Christmas decorations and add one thing new this year.
  10. Go ice skating.
  11. Create ugly Christmas sweaters together and wear them out to eat.
  12. Have a couple of Christmas photos taken, either by a photographer or yourself using your phone. Be as creative and humorous as you can with locations and poses.
  13. If the weather is right, go sledding, build a snowman, or have a snowball fight. (Or make your own snow!)
  14. Go caroling with other couples or another group.
  15. Do your own photoshoot in matching Christmas pajamas.
  16. Have a backyard fire with hot chocolate and marshmallows.
  17. Dance in your living room to Christmas songs. (Set the playlist on random!)
  18. Have your picture taken with Santa.
  19. Take a holiday cooking class together, either in-person or streaming.
  20. Wrap gifts while playing holiday songs and eating Christmas treats.
  21. Visit your favorite coffee shop and write Christmas cards to families and friends. (Or create a Christmas letter.) 
  22. Watch “A Christmas Story” and give each other a kiss every time the words “Christmas,” “Santa,” or “You’ll shoot your eye out” are said.
  23. Give each other a soothing massage with oil or lotion, candles, soft Christmas music, and nothing but the Christmas tree lights on.
  24. Get a box of assorted chocolates from the store and take turns giving each other a bite and guessing the flavor.
  25. Do holiday karaoke. 

There’s no excuse to not enjoy some special time with your spouse this holiday season. Pick one of these ideas and make a fun holiday date this week. And happy holidays!

What would it look like to be completely stress-free in your marriage? Wouldn’t it be outright, utter marital bliss to wake up next to your spouse, depart for the day, rejoin together, and go to bed at night with the one you love the most without an ounce of stress pervading your relationship? 

Well, unfortunately, you can’t completely eliminate stress from your life. But you can manage stress and become a stronger couple as a result of it. The idea is to manage stress so that it does not manage you… and do harm to your health, your emotions, and most important of all, your relationship. 

What’s a Stressed-Out Couple to Do? 

Here are five ways you and the one you love the most can manage stress well… and grow stronger in your marriage at the same time! 

Come Together.

Perhaps the Beatles knew something about stress management in marriage. Stress research tells us that one of the best tools to manage stress (if not the best tool) is a strong support system. And you have no better support system than each other. Make spending regular time with each other a priority (without the kids). Talk. Do the fun things you love doing together. Reconnect

The Big 3: Sleep, Diet, Activity.

The research also tells us that if you want to manage stress and not have it manage you, you’ve got to get plenty of sleep at night (7-8 hours), eat clean and healthy, and get out and work the bod, whether it’s a heavy-duty workout or simply taking a walk. And hey, the Big 3 can be done together! Why is this good? Because you’re each other’s strong support system (see bullet #1). 

Be Physically Intimate.

Loving touch lowers the brain chemicals at work when stress builds, and increases those that bring joy, euphoria, and the ability to work yourself down the ladder of high stress. Cuddle on the couch. Hug each other daily. Give (and receive) back rubs. Hold hands. Lay your hand on their leg or shoulder. Yes, even those seemingly small non-sexual touches can make a tremendous difference in how well you handle stress. And sex? Yeah, that works, too. Let’s just say that having a strong support system has never been so much fun (see bullet #1)

Ease Up On The Schedule.

If your calendar is filled up from dawn to the wee hours of the night with work, projects, responsibilities, and demands, you probably aren’t leaving much margin for your brain to snap out of fight/flight/freeze. Give yourself space in your schedule just to be, especially at night when you’re winding down. Practice the fine art of saying “NO.” Find joy in writing in your calendar times to connect with your spouse. Or to nap. Or to have sex. Seriously

Make Self-Care a Priority.

The idea of “self-care” has been getting a lot of airplay in blogs, videos, and self-help books, but for good reason: it’s good to take care of yourself. Because here’s the thing: how can you take care of your marriage (and your spouse) if you don’t have anything to give? Self-care includes deliberate actions you take with the express purpose of taking care of your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. So… get some sunshine. Journal. Meditate. Do yoga. Fish. Take a nap. Pray. Read. Cuddle with your pet. Practice positive self-talk (I tell my college students to think about what they would love for people to say to them to lift them up, and then just say it to themselves). Enjoy a piece of chocolate cake (in moderation, of course). The bottom line: do what works for you to rejuvenate and care for yourself. 

One more interesting thing about stress that you and your spouse really need to know

*(Fair warning: this gets a little psycho-babble, but bear with me here!)*

There’s a chemical in your brain called oxytocin. It’s gained popularity, becoming known as the “cuddle hormone.” It’s released when moms give birth, when dads look on their newborn for the first time, when a couple is on a first date, and when two people have sex. It makes you want to get closer to another person, to bond, connect, be intimate. 

Kate McGonigal, a Stanford health psychologist and author of The Upside of Stress, shares the real low-down on oxytocin: it’s a stress hormone. That’s right: it’s released when you experience something that stresses you out. Why? (And this is really cool…) This is your brain’s way of letting you know that you need to connect with someone (like, um, your spouse maybe?) to best manage the stress. 

You may not like stress, but it’s not going anywhere. But stress can be managed to where it doesn’t wreak havoc on your marriage. And you and your spouse have the power to use stress, and the brain with all its many wonderful processes, to draw closer to each other and strengthen 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 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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There’s a lot that happens when a couple has their first baby

Sleepless nights. 

Endless, life-impacting decisions. 

The world being turned upside down.

Re-creating a “new normal.”

A constant fear of things going wrong.

The steep learning curve for both parents.

The list could go on, and on, and on. And I’ve heard it all… The good, the bad, the ugly, the astoundingly beautiful… And it’s all made me a little worried.

Reality Check

First, let me back up for a second. My husband and I have been married a little over a year, and we are not hoping to have kids for another two years or so. That being said, I’m fully convinced that I was brought into this world to be a mother. You can ask any friends or family. That whole “motherly instinct” has always come very naturally to me.

But for my husband… not so much. Although we both want kids someday, the timeframe and the number of kids differ just a little bit (or a lot, depending on the day). Even though we don’t have kids yet, the conversations around our future kids have already caused some division between us. And it’s caused a little bit of fear for the day that we do become parents.

And as we watch friends around us start to have kids and we hear the stories they share about all the challenges that come with starting a family, our fear has only grown…

“Wait, WHAT happens during delivery??”

“Are you SURE you want to go through that?”

“When we have kids, you can’t ________ anymore.”

“Why don’t we wait till we’re 40 and just adopt?”

“We’re cranky enough in the mornings on 8 hours of sleep.”

“There are very few parts of parenting that sound like a good thing…”

These are just a few pieces of conversations we’ve had about our future. The fear is real. And it’s for good reason.

But the desire to have kids is also real. Very real. So how do you balance the fear of parenting, the fear of having kids, the fear for your marriage—with the desire to have kids? Well, I can’t fully answer that for you. That’s something you and your spouse are going to have to work through together. But I can give you a few tips on how to have that conversation!

Here are a few questions to ask each other before having a baby:

  1. What are you most fearful about when it comes to having kids?
  2. In what area do you think having kids will cause us to have the most conflict?
  3. Is there anything we can do now to work on that area before we have kids?
  4. What tendencies do you see in me that might be a problem for you once we have kids?
  5. How will we share responsibilities so that one spouse isn’t totally overwhelmed?
  6. Are you willing to start our routines completely from scratch?
  7. How can we work together as a team and rely on each other’s strengths?
  8. What are your top 3 expectations of me as a parent?
  9. What roles did your mom and dad play in your life growing up? Are there ways you want to be like them? Not be like them?
  10. What are things I can do right now to help us both not fear becoming parents?

Prioritize Your Marriage

Having kids rocks your world. I don’t know that from experience, but I’ve been told that what seems like a bajillion times, so it must be true. Kids are a lot. They come with new responsibilities, new challenges, and new things to argue about.

And if you let it, being a parent might overtake being a spouse. But the key is to always prioritize your marriage first. Yes, kids require a lot. But they grow up. And after they’re grown, you’ll still have your spouse by your side.

So, choose today to strengthen your marriage. Actually, choose every day to strengthen your marriage. And the rest, even babies, will fall into place—a wonderful place.

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One-bedroom apartment.

Two newlyweds working from home now.

Multiple video conference calls (sometimes simultaneously).

Only two options for “getting space”: Bathroom or the balcony.

Lots of uncertainty and anxiety in the air amidst a pandemic.

Time to work on those healthy communication skills.

I’m sitting on the couch with my husband when the phone rings. We pause our movie, he answers and all I hear is “Mhmm, yeah…okay, yeah.”

His family friend has a nice car and is offering it to us before anyone else and for a good price. Hmm…

Mind you, we have been saving for about 10 months now to replace my husband’s car. It’s been on our to-do list before all of these COVID-19 precautions. We both were antsy to check it off.

Now normally, I love a good deal, but I had to ask myself (and him), “Is this good timing?”

To be honest, a lot feels unknown. We don’t know the ramifications COVID-19 will have on the economy and making a big purchase scares me a little bit…a detour from our original plan feels necessary. To him, we’ve had a goal in mind, we’ve worked hard and this is a great opportunity. 

This could be a difficult conversation.

During this pandemic, I’m sure you can relate to having your fair share of challenging conversations, too. There are lots of new, important things to talk about. Money is a touchy subject as it is, and during a time when no one wants to handle money and is quarantined, the irony felt all too coincidental. For us, this was a potential relationship landmine. 

The last thing we need to take up space in our little apartment is tension. There’s not enough room for the distance created by the lack of good communication.

If you create distance because one of you or both of you are pushing away your feelings, rather than pushing through them, then you create an opportunity to have that gap filled by things that only make matters worse. Disappointment, resentment or misunderstandings start filling the gap and then you two have enough tension to fill a guest room that you don’t have. 

You can’t fix a problem you don’t know is there and neither can your spouse. Neither of you is a mind reader. Conflict isn’t comfortable—I won’t sell it to you like it is. But I will be honest—it’s often a chance for growth and a better understanding of each other.

You aren’t doing life on your own anymore. Important decisions are made together. I mean, as the saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.” 

And we had to put our heads together on whether this is a good time to buy a car or not. Who knows how this conversation will go? We often have to work to not get defensive of our own opinions. We agreed that at the end of this difficult conversation, both of us need to feel heard and cared for.

Before we tried to come to a conclusion, we set ourselves up for success.

We made each other feel safe to share opposing opinions and we listened with the intention to hear each other and respond—not just make a rebuttal (as tempting as that can be.)

  1. We made sure we had time to start and hopefully, finish the conversation. 
  2. Both us of put our phones aside, made sure our schedules were clear and we made resolving our conflict a priority.
  3. We chose a spot where we felt comfortable talking. 
  4. We reminded each other before we started making our points that this is our decision to make, no one else’s, and that we are on the same team. Win together and lose together. We replaced the “me” in mentality with “we.” What is best for us?
  5. We actively listened. (Meaning, we “listened” between the lines of each other’s answers and made sure to ask each other clarifying questions. Call us compassionate detectives.) “Are you scared of spending the money we saved for the car because of what’s unknown in the economy or are you really worried about your job?” “Are you not worried about using our savings just because we’ve been saying we would get a car, or because you feel secure in the foundation we laid for ourselves?
  6. We found a solution and made a plan where we both compromised a little while still reaching our goal. We are going to try and sell Tyler’s car before we make the purchase of the new-to-us car. That way we won’t drain our savings during an uncertain time and we are still marking off something we’ve put a lot of time and effort into making happen.

Maybe it’s been a stressful, exhausting week already and you don’t want to add to it. It’s possible you fear what the other person may say or worry they won’t see your point of view.  Maybe it’s as simple as you don’t know where to start.

Make good communication a priority, now more than ever.

Remind yourself to push through and have those difficult conversations rather than push away the emotions. Remember that good communication will help both of you grow and find better ways to love each other.

In marriage, you should be able to rest confidently in the fact that your partner chose you, chooses you and will continue to as you do all the same things for them. If you both put the effort into making your marriage a safe place where you two can fully express and be yourselves, then the rest, even a difficult conversation, becomes easier.

***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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For most Americans life isn’t “business as usual” these days. Smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic, COVID-19 has flipped our normal life on its head and conjured up a mix of panic, anxiety, uncertainty and fear. Every family faces unique struggles and obstacles when it comes to creating a new norm with unfamiliar parameters such as social distancing, quarantine and vigorous personal hygiene. But for those of us who have a spouse at risk working on the front lines, whether they’re physicians, nurses, first responders, childcare workers, truck drivers or the countless other essential workers that keep our country running, the stakes (and consequently, the stress) immediately go up.

My husband Bobby, for example, works as a FedEx Express driver. For him and millions of couriers around the nation, not only is it actually still just business as usual during this pandemic–it’s a crazy whirlwind of employees calling out which creates a shortage of workers. And since we are all at home, ordering our essentials online, there is an increase in packages to deliver as well. For those who take on the extra load, like my husband, it means long hours and late nights. It’s job security at its finest (yay for overtime pay!)… but an awful lot of anxiety for the family he leaves at home every day. 

The Process of Figuring Things Out

I’d like to say we have it figured out, but let’s be honest, it’s week 2 of our social-distancing adventure and things seem to be changing every single day. Currently, I’m working from home and watching my two daughters (who are under 5 yrs old). Oh, and I’m 5 months pregnant. Bobby leaves before any of us get up in the morning and is usually home right as I’m getting the girls to bed. That means my day consists of all meals, diaper changes, snacks, naps, playtime, mediating quarrels, kissing boo-boos, calming meltdowns, baths, bedtime, laundry, dishes, washing hands, cleaning/sanitizing and trying to work the best I can at my kitchen table, on my laptop, in the few minutes my children are occupied by Frozen 2 or when they can actually get along and play nicely together. It makes my head spin just typing it out.  

Suddenly, I feel like a single parent and it’s HARD. (Seriously, single parents are superheroes.) Not only is the sheer exhaustion enough to break me, the effort it takes to not let resentment build up or let the anxiety over whether Bobby will become infected and unknowingly bring home the virus weighs like a ton of bricks on my shoulders every single day. So how can we navigate these murky waters? 

Arm Yourself With Knowledge and Safety

If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a billion times, but the recommendations from the CDC are imperative to follow. In our unique situation, we’ve struggled to know how far to take it. Should Bobby self-quarantine and sleep alone in a separate room? Keep 6 feet away from me and the kids? Wear a mask, even at home? The resounding answer to all of these questions continues to be, “We don’t know.” In times like these, all we can really do is look at the data we do have and factor in our unique preference and comfort level. Ultimately, decisions like these come down to what works best for your family. 

For our family, the stress of trying to do it all on my own was so much greater than the stress of the possibility of contracting the virus and the uncertainty of how it would affect me during pregnancy. Since we do know that stress has a very negative impact on pregnancy and is not good for the baby, we decided to choose the option that created the least amount of stress for me. I have no other health issues, eat a vegan diet and (try to) exercise regularly. Plus, currently there is no data that suggests that pregnant women are more susceptible or even at a higher risk for severe symptoms. There is also no evidence that the virus affects the fetus in utero. (Sources: CDC, NPR, YaleMedicine)

So, after a very long, emotional conversation, Bobby and I decided that we would follow these precautions:

  • At work, he asks permission to sign for anyone he delivers to, in order to eliminate multiple hands touching his power pad screen and uses hand sanitizer frequently.
  • Upon coming home, he strips down in the basement, throws his clothes in the washing machine and comes upstairs to immediately shower.
  • Before he showers, we sanitize ever surface he touches.
  • We continue to diligently wash our hands and try really really hard to not touch our faces.
  • Physical touch is limited. (No kissing and minimal hugging/touching.)

Of course, if he knowingly is exposed to the virus, we will reevaluate and implement a complete self-quarantine for him at that time. But for now, this is our new routine! It means he still gets to help out with the kids and the household, sleep in the same bed as me and enjoy family time when he’s home. The stress of feeling like a single parent is minimized (at least on the weekends and days when he gets home early.)  

Protect Your Marriage (Especially From Resentment) 

It would be easy to slip into resentment during these times. Working from home and taking care of the kids is no joke. All the stress and anxiety of life is quadrupled, and who ends up getting the backlash? Our spouse. Bobby and I have already had our fair share of arguments since this quarantine began, all exasperated by the current circumstances. So we have to intentionally work at keeping our marriage strong and healthy. Some of the easiest ways to do that?

  • Acknowledge each other’s sacrifices. We are both putting forth an extra amount of effort and there isn’t one that is better than the other. We both feel seen and cared about when we’re speaking words of affirmation and appreciation for what we’re doing daily.
  • Communicate your feelings. For some people, talking through their feelings comes easier than it does for others. But it’s so important to have that self-awareness and let your spouse know what’s going on inside your mind. (Remember, none of us are mind-readers!)
  • Actively listen to one another. Part 2 of communicating your feelings means that the other person actively listens to you. Passive listening (when someone is listening without really reacting or interrupting) is really just one-way communication. It doesn’t make the person talking actually feel heard. Actively listening (when someone responds and shows that they genuinely understand the message being conveyed) creates a safe space that allows both people to connect on a deeper level. It builds trust and respect, especially in the midst of tension.
  • Remember, you’re on the same team. Fighting against each other instead of for each other can happen in the blink of an eye. Suddenly your argument turns into subtle (or not so subtle) jabs because you know exactly what buttons to push and where your spouse’s Achilles’ heel is. But remember, your spouse is NOT the enemy. COVID-19 is.  

Connect With Each Other Daily

As you read this, we are currently significantly limiting our physical touch. And yes, it’s tough. Bobby’s primary love language is Physical Touch, so it makes it much more difficult to show that I love and care for him when we are purposefully maintaining our distance. Although it’s not ideal, we both recognize that this isn’t for forever. It’s just a season. We are determined to get through it together. And we will be stronger for it. So, while we may not be able to touch each other… We can still connect through quality time, conversations, little gifts, notes and meeting each other’s needs the best we can right now. 

The Four Points of Connectedness

Our connection has grown tremendously over the past couple of years because of this amazing concept I learned. According to studies done by relationship researcher Dr. Linda Duncan, there are four powerful points of connectedness between couples during the day. When you are intentional about connecting at these times on a regular basis, they can increase the intimacy in your marriage. Yes, please!!

How you wake up.

Figure out a simple, loving way to say “good morning” to each other. It’ll set the tone for how you engage with each other until you part for the day! If coffee is your love language, it’s a no-brainer.

How you part for the day.

Parting is such sweet sorrow these days, but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Take some time to talk about what the day looks like and be sure to leave on a positive note… (“I love you” and “Thank you for working so hard!” are great parting words.)

How you greet each other.

After being apart all day, the way you greet each other when you get home really matters! Even if it can’t be a big hug and kiss, you can still express excitement with a warm smile and a genuine, “I’m so happy you’re home [sappy nickname here]!

How you say goodnight.

When the day is done and you’re ready to call it a night, take some time (just the two of you!) to debrief on the day. Even though you’re probably not going to bed at the same time, getting “tucked in” isn’t just for the kids! These sweet moments before bed can actually impact how well you sleep that night!  

The bottom line is that having a spouse who is still working adds a level of complication and stress into the mix of an already difficult situation. But just remember… this too shall pass. In the meantime, while you’re taking all the necessary precautions, don’t forget about keeping your marriage healthy as well. Eventually, when all the dirt settles and the waters are clear again, it’ll be so refreshing to know that your relationship is even stronger for it!

***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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Want to take date night up a notch?

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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

My husband and I were having a conversation about navigating work, caring for family, grocery shopping and the like. In the midst of trying to figure it all out and all the “what ifs,” I kind of lost it. Actually, not kind of—I lost my cool. My husband just stared at me. It took a minute (or 10) for me to get myself back together.

Actually, I took our dog on a walk and thought about what had just happened. We aren’t normally snippy with each other. But then again, we also aren’t normally in such close proximity for an extended period of time.

Let’s just put it out there: Life is super stressful and unbelievably complicated at the moment. We’re all probably feeling some level of fear about the future. In these very moments when things are trying and we are facing the unknown, we need to be on guard and very self-aware in an effort to avoid hurting ourselves and those we love. 

If you’re wondering how to know whether you’re on edge or not, keep an eye out for these things. The signs could be any or all of the following: 

  • You feel like you’re going to explode.
  • You’re not sleeping.
  • You are indulging more than normal in __________ (eating, sleeping, drinking, online shopping, as in retail therapy).
  • You’re quiet and withdrawn when you are normally not that way.
  • You feel like you’re going to blow up if your spouse leaves their dishes in the sink one. more. time.

All of these are telltale signs that you may be in the danger zone. So, what can you do so you won’t blow up on your spouse?

Your first line of defense is to communicate.

Talk with your spouse or someone who is part of your support system. The opportunity to have someone listen to your fears, frustrations and needs, even if they can do nothing to fix it, can help relieve some of the tension you feel.

Create a communication plan.

Sit down with your spouse and discuss how you will intentionally check in with each other to know how to best support one another. Don’t assume your spouse knows what you need.

Meditate or pray.

Practicing deep breathing, meditation/mindfulness, as well as praying can help relieve some of the pressure you are feeling.

Take a time out for yourself.

Sometimes we just need to time ourselves out for a few minutes. Sit in the bathroom, your bedroom, the balcony, your front porch or some other spot that will allow you to have a few moments of silence to recalibrate. It can be helpful to have regularly-scheduled times when everybody goes to a specific space. That way, everyone in the family has a chance to be apart.

Exercise!

Exercise is key to helping us release toxins, stress and tension in a healthy way versus taking it out on our spouse. Going for a quick run, a brisk walk (yes, even in the rain) a bike ride, doing jumping jacks inside or anything that will get your body moving and cause you to break a sweat is helpful. Walking the dog has been a huge sanity-saver for me.

Get connected with your support team.

Even in the midst of social distancing, relying on your spouse to meet all of your needs will likely lead to even more frustration and tension between the two of you. Create coffee time or social hour through Google Meet, FaceTime, Zoom or some other platform which will allow you to hang out with friends or family.

Take one day at a time.

None of us knows about tomorrow. To keep rehashing the “what ifs” will literally drive you crazy. It will be helpful to you, your spouse and the rest of your family if you can take things one moment at a time. The goal is to navigate today.

Avoiding some things like unrealistic expectations and negativity will also be helpful. 

It is unrealistic to think that you aren’t going to have some meltdown moments. It’s bound to happen with people in such close quarters who are cooped up for an extended period of time. The goal is to avoid reacting. Instead, take a deep breath, count backward from 10 and then respond to the situation at hand.

If you’ve been focusing on the negative, you might want to refocus on a few positives, too.

Stop telling yourself you’re a failure or thinking your spouse is failing big time. Your brain believes what you tell it. If you think negatively about yourself and/or your spouse, it makes it hard to communicate and life becomes more complicated. All of us are trying to figure out how to adapt and adjust—even your spouse. Things are likely to get better as people get into a groove, but it may take some time. We have a real opportunity to look for the good things our spouse is doing instead of focusing on what we see as a negative.

Love Each Other Well

One of the greatest things we can do to not blow up on our spouse and survive life as we know it right now is to love each other well. One way we can do that is by watching how we communicate in the middle of uncertain times. Remember the reasons you fell in love with your mate. Reflect on the good times you’ve had and what it took to make it through the hard times in the past. Be intentional about complimenting and encouraging them. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are a team. Listen to their fears and frustrations. Be willing to compromise when necessary. When all is said and done, hopefully our family relationships will come out stronger because we’re choosing to think before we speak. At the same time, we’re trying to make things right when we lose our cool.

***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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Even after being married for 30 years, I vividly remember our first argument after we got married. It was intense and to be honest, it scared me. In my mind, I thought, “Wait, we are happy and we love each other, but happy couples don’t argue, do they?”

I wish I knew then what I know now: Happy couples do argue.

In fact, they actually argue about the very same things unhappy couples argue about – money, children, in-laws and intimacy.

Amy Rauer, associate professor of child and family studies and director of the Relationships and Development Lab at the University of Tennessee, along with three colleagues—Allen Sabey at Northwestern University, Christine Proulx at University of Missouri and Brenda Volling at University of Michigan—looked at two sets of couples who described themselves as happily married. One group averaged 9 years of marriage and the other group 42 years of marriage on average.

Couples ranked the issues they tended to argue about from most to least serious. Intimacy, leisure, household chores, communication and money were among the most serious, as was health for older couples. Jealousy, religion and family fell on the least serious end of the spectrum.

Researchers saw that these couples focused on the issues with clearer solutions. These solutions included division of household chores or how to spend leisure time. The couples rarely chose to argue about harder-to-resolve issues, which Rauer suggests could be one of the keys to their marital success.

“Focusing on the perpetual, more difficult to solve problems may undermine partners’ confidence in the relationship,” says Rauer.

Longer-married couples reported fewer serious issues and argued less overall, which is consistent with previous research suggesting that older partners’ perceptions of spending less time together may lead them to prioritize their marriage and decide some issues are not worth fighting over.

When it comes to not discussing the more difficult issues such as health and intimacy, researchers said that part of the challenge is when spouses believed talking about it might make the partner believe they were challenging their competence or it would make the spouse feel vulnerable or embarrassed, which might result in more conflict.

“Since these issues tend to be more difficult to resolve, they are more likely to lead to less marital happiness or the dissolution of the relationship, especially if couples have not banked up any previous successes solving other marital issues,” Rauer says. “If couples feel that they can work together to resolve their issues, it may give them the confidence to move on to tackling the more difficult issues.”

There are several really useful takeaways from this study.

  • Learning to choose your battles matters. Early on, it might be a little more difficult to discern what is a mountain and what is a molehill. Some of this can happen through conversation and some will happen through experience. The most important thing? Focus on the issue and don’t point the proverbial finger at your spouse.
  • Differentiate between issues that truly need resolution versus those that you can set aside for the time being. Sometimes timing or taking time to process can make all the difference. Some challenging issues really do require an amount of simmering to figure out what you think before you can even talk about a helpful resolution. Plenty of long-married couples could tell you that sometimes there is no quick fix. It may help to talk and think, then repeat the process over time in order to solve certain problems well.
  • Seek solution-oriented. Clearly, couples who focused on working together to find a solution seem happier in their relationship. Also, working as a team to solve less-challenging issues builds confidence that is helpful when tackling more complicated issues.
  • No matter what stage of marriage you are in, there will always be something to argue about. Remember – your spouse is not the enemy. Choosing the issues you will focus on matters. And making some intentional decisions together about how you will engage around those issues will impact your marital happiness, for better or for worse.

Even after 30 years of marriage, obviously there are issues that still arise.

We have learned over time that many of the issues we spent a lot of time and energy on were molehills. Ultimately, we began asking, “Is this something that will matter a month from now or six months from now?” If the answer was yes, we began to problem-solve together. If the answer was no, we stopped letting it distract us from what really mattered – our 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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Let’s be honest—boundaries can be hard to talk about for everyone. “Can we talk about boundaries with opposite-sex friends?” or “We need to talk about boundaries with social media. Both of those topics can easily be construed as passive-aggressive suspicion or even a flat-out accusation. 

So, let’s change that. Let’s take a look at why we need boundaries in the first place.

For any relationship to be healthy and thrive (and I do mean any relationship– marriage, in-laws, friendships, co-workers, even your relationship with yourself) there need to be some boundaries that are in place and respected.

These boundaries not only help us avoid uncomfortable, hurtful, even relationally destructive things, but they also help us feel safe and secure and allow our relationship to grow and deepen. They define and celebrate our relationship.

Boundaries are both a sign of and a byproduct of emotional and relational health. Boundaries show that we understand and respect where we end and where the people we care about begin. Saying “I do” is by definition saying, “I won’t.” A spouse that thinks they should be able to do whatever they want doesn’t understand marriage. But we’ll get to that…

Now, here’s the good stuff…

Boundaries help us avoid things that could damage our relationship, but they also allow all the good relationship stuff to happen. They help provide an environment where intimacy can grow and thrive. They are what makes us uniquely us. So, if we need to talk about boundaries with our spouse, let’s lead with the positive.

Even if your spouse really does hate boundaries, hopefully, they are down to talk about how your relationship is special, can grow, and how you can achieve deeper levels of intimacy. Try framing the conversation that way and see what happens.

Don’t forget the flip-side. Even if your spouse “hears” negative things when they hear the word “boundaries” rest assured they have their own list of things that help them feel safe and secure in your relationship. That’s just Being Human 101.

This can be a great place to start the conversation!

  • When do you feel the safest and most secure in our relationship?
  • What do I do that makes you feel guarded or uncomfortable?
  • When do you feel the closest to me? What do I do that hinders that?
  • What situations feel like a threat to our relationship being the best it can be?
  • What are your expectations when it comes to _____?
  • What are some healthy goals for us when it comes to _____?

When you start a conversation like this, you are showing how much you value your spouse and your relationship.

The word “boundary” is nowhere in sight. BONUS: you are leading the way with trust, respect, and vulnerability. You are starting with their needs. Also, notice the phrasing here. These aren’t “yes” or “no” questions like, “Do I ever do anything that makes you feel insecure?” You don’t want to stop the conversation before it has a chance to start.

Knowing your relationship goals, expectations, comfort-zones, and well… boundaries show that you are self-aware, emotionally mature, and value your spouse and your relationship with them. Even if your spouse hates talking about boundaries, don’t be afraid of these conversations; navigate them like the positive conversations they should be.

Looking for more marriage resources? Click here!

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

Image from Unsplash.com