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Opposites attract. They really do! Then you get married and often opposites repel.

When my wife and I began dating in college, we couldn’t have been more different. Ours was really a case of “opposites attract.” Frankly, the differences were enchanting, fascinating and intriguing. Then we got married. About six to eight months in, those differences were not nearly as charming anymore – they were were just different. I remember thinking, “That thing you do that when we were dating was so beguiling and fascinating? Yeah, well it’s annoying now.” And my wife was feeling the same thing with my differences…

What did we get ourselves into? The rest of our lives seems like a long time to put up with this!

Are you really opposites? Below are some questions to turn this obstacle into an opportunity:

*Is this a problem to be solved or a tension to be managed?

What kind of differences are we talking about here? Is one person laid-back and the other more assertive? That’s a tension to be managed – probably your whole life. Is one person trying to save money while the other person is blowing through it? That’s a problem that is a problem that is gonna have to be solved.

*Is one person taking the moral high ground?

I was fond of saying that all our differences were equal but some were more equal than others. My wife was more assertive, list-driven and task-oriented. I was laid-back and cared more about people. She always had “The Moral High Ground.” My wife would often say, “Well, at least I get things done!” (Aaaand you’re gonna die from a heart attack.) Try not to label the differences good & bad, right & wrong, helpful & unhelpful. They can just be different.

*Is there a duty to validate your spouse and their differences?

Do you have a chance to celebrate your spouse and the unique things that they bring to the relationship and the family? Be sincere and not condescending.

*Is there an opportunity for you to provide each other balance?

My wife and I finally learned that our differences should not be competing with each other, but rather, they could be complimenting each other.

*Is there wisdom in playing to your strengths?

Sadly, there are many “gendered” jobs around the house where we often just expect a certain partner to do it. But what if that is not their skill-set or passion? The other spouse is like, “I LOVE doing that job and I’m awesome at it!” Play to your strengths, not stereotypes.

*Is there a way for your kids to benefit from seeing your differences?

Absolutely – especially if you can show them how you work together through your differences. With an example like that, it’s more likely that your kids will be able to work well with people who are different than them. Plus, if you allow your differences to balance each other out, it’s more likely that your kid will follow suit. So, instead of constantly planning or constantly sleeping, they’ll have a deeper understanding of how to “work hard, play hard,” so to speak.

An important thing to remember is that a relationship with two people wired the exact same way comes with plenty of problems of its own.

***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.***

“Money, money, money. That’s all we seem to argue about.”

“She spends too much money at the grocery store on stuff we don’t need.”

“He always wants to eat out.”

“She’s always buying new clothes.”

“We’re not buying the furniture he wants. It costs too much.”

“He won’t let me loan my sister a few ($500) dollars.”

“She should get a better job.”

“He should get a better job.”

Countless marriage experts have documented that one of the top reasons couples give for divorce is – you guessed it – fighting about money. If that’s the case, why is the world’s richest couple, Jeff Bezos (founder and CEO of Amazon) and his wife, getting a divorce when they have all that money?

I’ve noticed in my 14 years of marriage that although we have had countless discussions, arguments and conflicts about money, wait for it… the issue isn’t really money.  But if it’s not, then why do we fight about money so much? And why do we think it’s about money?

First, let’s recognize that every couple is different and there is no blanket answer. However, we know that our spending habits often reflect what we value. And if we disagree about what we should spend money on, then we disagree about what we value. And what I value is at the core of who I am and no one has the right to tell me what I should or shouldn’t value. Right?

For example, maybe I shop a lot because I value my appearance, because to look good is to feel good. Or maybe I value my independence and freedom and don’t like to feel controlled. Maybe I want to spend as little money as possible because I need to feel secure and if there’s no money in the bank, then I feel insecure. The issue wasn’t money in any of those instances. Instead, it was the symptom of a deeper issue.

If you feel like you’re fighting about money all the time, here are three things that can help:

  • Start with understanding what you value and your attitude toward money. There are tons of resources you can use, but I think Sybil Solomon’s Money Habitudes can really help you gain insight into your own personal habits and attitudes toward money. Check it out, and trust me when I say that your marriage will thank you.
  • Don’t forget to add in a little lightheartedness. Things like this Financial Would You Rather game from Annuity.org can help you get the ball rolling about some important conversations while keeping it fun.
  • Don’t make assumptions. Do ask questions. I’ve learned to ask some simple questions when we discuss money matters in my marriage. When my wife I disagree about a purchase, I may humbly and non-judgmentally ask, “Why is that particular purchase/outing or whatever important to you? Help me understand.” I’ve learned a lot from that question. And it doesn’t mean that we always end up buying it. But now we are communicating and understanding what we value, not just what we want to spend money on.
  • Seek to understand. (Did I mention that being humble really helps?) Perhaps your spouse has already spent money on something you believe was unwise, and you’re really unhappy about it. Before you accuse them and tell them they were irresponsible, inconsiderate or uncaring, check your own attitude first. Take a deep breath and ask why they thought that purchase or expense was so important at the moment. Humility + a non-judgmental attitude = Progress

Being humble and staying out of the judgment zone when it comes to spending can be a major win because the right attitude communicates that we care deeply about our partner, and NOT just about the topic at hand. Plus, moving past the symptom to the deeper issue is a major accomplishment you can both feel good about.

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

When was the last time you and your mate played together? Seriously… can you remember the last time you did something crazy fun together?

In far too many marriages, couples throw play out the window and replace it with serious adult responsibilities like careers, raising children, taking care of elderly parents, household chores and community commitments.

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.

The more you invest in fun, friendship and being there for your partner, the happier the relationship will be over time. The correlation between fun and marital happiness is high and significant.

TAKE THE CHALLENGE!

For the next four weeks, intentionally set aside time every other day to do something fun together. It doesn’t have to be something that will take hours; it could be a 30-minute activity. Watching television together or sitting next to each other while online does not count as play.

In an informal survey, couples say they do these things:

  • Play games like Scrabble, Dominoes, Rook, Wii, Uno, Quiddler, Frisbee or Catchphrase.
  • Take a walk or run together.
  • Play a practical joke on each other.
  • Cook together, try new recipes and enjoy a great meal together.
  • List activities for each letter of the alphabet that cost less than $10, then work your way through the list.
  • Work a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Do an activity together like horseback riding, bowling, fishing or canoeing.

Play isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. So don’t just sit around reminiscing about how playful and adventurous you used to be or lamenting the fact that you never do anything fun anymore. Take the challenge and remember—playful people are a lot of fun to be around!

***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.***

Are there more fireworks going on outside the bedroom than inside? Probably, say marriage experts.

Data collected from the 2014 General Social Survey indicates that married couples have sex approximately 58 times a year. If you are under 30, however, it’s around 111 times. Approximately 15 percent of married couples haven’t made love with their spouse in the last six months to a year.

In a TEDx talk, therapist Michele Weiner-Davis describes this phenomenon as the sex-starved marriage. It’s a marriage where one spouse is longing for more touch and passion and the other is thinking, “What is the big deal, it’s just sex?”

“When disconnect happens in a marriage, intimacy on all levels goes out the window,” says Weiner-Davis, whose life work is to help resurrect flat-lined marriages. “These couples are the ones who have stopped laughing at each other’s jokes, sitting next to each other on the couch, holding hands or looking into each other’s eyes.”

Many people automatically assume that all men think about is sex. But according to Weiner-Davis, low sexual desire is as much an issue for men as it is for women; it’s just a well-kept secret.

Weiner-Davis says it is not uncommon for even long-married couples to never discuss sex. (Here are 10 Things Every Married Couple Should Know About Sex.)

In a session with Weiner-Davis, a husband of 15 years shared that there is only a two-hour window on Friday night when his wife might be interested in sex. He turned to his wife and said, “When I reach out to you in bed and you aren’t there for me, the only thing I think about is, do you find me attractive anymore, do you still love me, do you want to be with me? I lie awake thinking at night that this is the loneliest place to be.”

Surprised, his wife responded that all she ever considered was whether or not she was in the mood. Never had she ever thought about what it must be like to be in his shoes. This was the beginning of a breakthrough in their marriage. But, Weiner-Davis cautions that it doesn’t work this way for all couples.

“It’s interesting that couples share decision-making on so many things. But when it comes to sex, one person makes the decision and expects the other person to accept it, not complain about it, and be monogamous,” Weiner-Davis says.

Weiner-Davis contends that the primary cause of a sex-starved marriage is easy to fix. A few basic changes can help you move from little sparklers to fireworks in the bedroom:

  • Everybody has different ways of feeling connected to one another. You need to become an expert in making your mate feel connected to you.
  • If your spouse wants sex more often than you do, don’t delude yourself into thinking, “It’s just sex.” Sex is a powerful way to connect. (Here’s how to have better sex.)
  • When you understand your spouse’s way of connecting, you don’t have to agree with it or understand it. You just need to do it.
  • Healthy marriages require mutual caretaking. Take care of each other. It is an act of love.

“When we learn to be better caretakers of each other, we will make this world a better place one marriage at a time,” Weiner-Davis says.

 ***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.***