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I WAS MAD! Furious, in fact. Bitter and fed up. Totally resenting my husband. This was like the gazillionth Saturday in a row my husband got up and left the house to go do a job for someone. And I definitely felt like he left me with all the laundry and housework. Both of us had full-time jobs and paying someone else to do it was not an option.

This particular Saturday I decided I’d had enough. So, when he walked back through the door late that afternoon, I let him have it. I had rehearsed all day what I was going to say and how I was going to say it to make sure he didn’t miss a thing. The “deer-in-the-headlights” look I got in return let me know he was 100% clueless. He had no idea that resentment had been building up in me for a while. How in the heck could he NOT know?

That happened about three decades ago, but I remember like it was yesterday. That was the day I realized resenting my husband was more dangerous than his cluelessness.

So, here’s what this resentful spouse learned about how to stop resenting her husband.

Ultimately, I had to ask myself, “Are there any ways I am contributing to the resentment I feel?”

I learned that I was following behind everything he attempted to do like folding the towels, vacuuming, or even putting the dishes in the dishwasher and criticizing how he did it. I finally figured out that criticizing him made him shut down, so I decided to stop.

Instead of thinking he could read my mind or SEE what needed to be done, like the laundry basket I intentionally left sitting in the middle of the family room, I started telling him that I needed help with certain things. AND I didn’t tell him “the right way” (i.e. “my way”) to do whatever I asked him to do. 

If I am always at odds with my husband, I’m not very pleasant to be around.

I honestly don’t want to resent my husband. What I really want is for us to enjoy time together. I decided when I felt myself getting irritated and resentful, I would literally stop what I was doing, take a walk around the block, and ask myself: “What is really at the crux of the matter?” 

Sometimes, I actually noticed, I just needed someone to be irritated with and he was an easy target. Other times, something didn’t go like I thought it should—date night, dinner plans, or his arrival time home. Or maybe he didn’t do what he said he was going to do because he forgot or whatever and I felt justified in my resentment. Now what? 

One time when I was ranting about all of my husband’s shortcomings, a very wise woman asked me, “So, I guess he never experiences any of this from you, right?” The fact that she was 90 and I was 30 kept me from losing it. The truth was, she had a great point. I forget, not often, but I do. There are plenty of things I do that get on his nerves that he could resent about me.

Then she said to me, “In the end, what is it you want? I mean, what is your resentment going to accomplish in your relationship? At the very best you will be two people who figure out how to co-exist in the same house. At the very worst, you won’t stay together. Is that how you want to live?” The answer was an emphatic NO! At that moment, I decided I was going to kick ongoing resentment out of our house and relationship.

When I feel resentment trying to creep in, I figure out where it is coming from and if it is worthy of a conversation.

If I believe that it is conversation-worthy, I ask my husband for a good time to talk. PRO-TIP: We have learned that if you are tired, hungry, or angry, that is not the time to try and have a conversation. When I can calmly explain, “I am exhausted and need help with our daughter,” or “I really need time with you—I am missing us,” it is a much better conversation than, “You never help with anything around here,” or “I think you don’t love me because you never want to spend time with me.” Trust me with this.

✭ Let me be straight up with you: if you are experiencing resentment because you are in a physically, emotionally, or sexually abusive relationship, seek help.Abuse is serious and unacceptable. It will be difficult to navigate change in your relationship on your own.

To Be Resentful or Not to Be Resentful?

If I were having coffee with my 29-year-old self, I would have no shortage of lessons learned to share, that’s for sure. Maybe one of the most important lessons I’ve learned when it comes to resentment is this: I have a choice. I can choose to be resentful or I can choose not to be resentful. When I can see clearly, what I know about my husband is, he is trustworthy, hardworking, funny, respectful, honest, a good father, reliable and he really does care about me and us. When I think about those things, often what I am resentful about pales in comparison.

What kind of guy is your husband? Have you trained your brain to only see his shortcomings? Here’s a challenge: for the next 30 days, focus on your husband’s positive character qualities instead of his “flaws.” Appreciation goes a long way when it comes to relationship restoration. How you feel about him at the end of the challenge might surprise you, and how he responds to you just might surprise you as well. 😉

Perhaps you’ve decided to wait around for him to realize that he’s the problem and he needs to change. If that’s the case, I am pretty confident you will be disappointed. It just takes one person doing something different to bring about change in your marriage. The question is, how badly do you want something to be different?


***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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I have good news and bad news if you disagree about parenting. First, the bad news. Marriage researcher, therapist, and author, Dr. John Gottman has found that there are several issues couples will NEVER 100% agree on. Parenting is one of them. One of you is probably all about tough love while the other is more permissive. Maybe one of you is all about the bedtime while the other is a little more lax in that area. Or perhaps one of you makes them eat everything on their plate while the other gives them more options on what they eat. 

It’s been that way since you’ve had kids and it’s probably not going to change.

Now, for the good news. Your child needs both of you—differences and all. When a couple learns how to work together through their differences, the marriage is stronger. Just as importantly, your children are better off for it. Kids need stable, loving parents—not perfect ones that agree on everything.

I know that sounds good and all. But how does that work? Let me say that I understand your challenges. My wife and I are the proud parents of seven kids and we couldn’t be more different in our approach to parenting. She’s more black and white when it comes to discipline. Actions lead to consequences. I’m the, “Let’s talk this through and understand it better” parent. She’s the parent who wants the four oldest kids to clean the kitchen together so they learn how to work with each other. I’m the divide and conquer. Two of you clean today and two of you clean tomorrow because I don’t want to hear fussing and arguing.

When my oldest daughter doesn’t tell the truth about something (I’m sure that’s a surprise that a 13-year-old doesn’t always tell the truth), often our instinctive approach is very different from one another. 

Why is it so important that you recognize the differences?

  • Marital Tension: Your different approaches, at times, cause dissension within your marriage. You can feel like your spouse is either too hard, too lenient, too strict, too passive, too trusting, or too controlling. Tension also may grow when you feel like your spouse is not supportive of your parenting efforts.
  • Leads to children manipulating parents: Children can pick up on division. And they will feed off of it to get their way. (We’ve seen that happen a few times.)
  • Division: Families are meant to be a unit. When couples do not learn how to work together as parents, it can lead to division within the family—and that is unhealthy for everyone.
  • Poor Training of Children and Confusion: Kids don’t know boundaries, expectations, or structure. It becomes more difficult for them to learn right from wrong.

How do couples manage parenting when they disagree?

Discuss differences behind closed doors: Children don’t need to hear you disagree about parenting, how to discipline, what activities to participate in, where to allow the kids to go, etc. Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, says that 95% of issues don’t have to be solved on the spot. Don’t feel pressured to solve everything immediately. Become adept at saying, “Your (mother) and I will discuss this and let you know.

Don’t throw the other parent under the bus: Avoid statements like, “I think that’s a good idea. Let me check with your mother.” Now she’s the bad guy if in fact you decide it’s not a good idea. “We would, but your father doesn’t like that kind of thing.” Or, “You know your mom wouldn’t go for that.

Sincerely talk with one another from a team perspective: Figuring out how to work together is powerful. Listen and understand one another. Often you can meet in the middle. Sometimes you may lean more toward one spouse’s perspective or the other. Sometimes you can end up doing both. My wife and I have learned that I can generally get my children to acknowledge where they’ve gone wrong and how to correct it. And I’ve learned that without the consequences that she’s encouraging us to enforce, they are more likely to repeat the same behavior. We’ve often gotten the best of both worlds.

Present a united front: Once the two of you can agree on a parenting choice about an issue, then be on board with the plan, even if it wasn’t exactly the one you wanted. Make it your goal that the kids never know whose idea it was in the first place. I love it when my kids think a consequence was their mom’s idea, but really it was mine, not because I want them to think she’s the bad guy. Our goal is to show them we’re a team, not a team against the kids, but a parenting team working in the best interest of our family.

Don’t be afraid of making a “wrong” decision: It happens. There’ve been times we’ve come down too hard and times we were too lenient. There were times where we allowed them to participate in something that in hindsight was not the best decision. And what’s worse is that my wife and I disagreed on the front end and we chose the wrong path. Our children were not ruined for life because of our bad decision. Don’t forget, the best gift we can give them is a stable, committed relationship. Perfection is not part of the definition

Seek input from parents you trust: Find couples with similar values whose children are in the next phase your children are moving toward and pick their brain. Ask them about their parenting differences and how they’ve made it work. 

Support your spouse in their absence: Michele Weiner-Davis, best selling author and marriage therapist tells a story of undermining her husband’s parenting authority by disciplining and parenting her children over the phone when their father was home with them and she did not think he was doing what she thought was right. She learned that this was not healthy for her children, their father, or their marriage. She realized that it was healthier for her to truly trust and leave the parenting to her husband when she was out of town and to support his decisions. When she came to that realization, the next time a child called her for parenting when dad was home with them, she let them know that she supported whatever decision dad chose

➤➤There are parenting decisions that your spouse will have to make that are different than what you’d do. 🔎 Before criticizing your spouse’s decision, ask yourself this question: “Do I believe he wants what is best for our children?” More times than not, the answer is yes. Show your spouse you believe in them as a parent.

✰ Conclusion: Different is not deficient.

It’s just different. What I hope you both do agree about is that you both love your children and want the best for them. The relationship skills your child learns from watching the two of you parent in the midst of disagreements may just be more powerful than if you agreed on every single thing. 

Yes, your kids will pick up on the parental differences regardless of how united a front you present. The strength in the marriage is that the differences do not divide you. The security for your children that you provide by parenting them through the differences will serve them well years after they are grown and gone, living out the principles you’ve taught them.

**Please note that this article is NOT about an abusive or neglectful parent. The physical and emotional safety of a child is not a difference in parenting styles. Anyone who knows of child abuse happening should call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).**

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It’s nothing new to disagree with the ones you love, whether it’s about current events, 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’s 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’re 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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Have you ever compared your marriage to someone else’s and wondered if your marriage was in trouble? 

Or, you come home from work and things are pleasant enough between the two of you, but you just don’t seem to have that connection you used to have? Maybe the laughter doesn’t come as easily. Or perhaps there isn’t much to talk about or you don’t seem to have a lot in common. 

It may even seem that your relationship feels like you are just going through the motions and you actually entertain the idea that your marriage might be in the danger zone.

Sex? What’s that? I mean, who has time and energy for that with kids around? Plus, lately your spouse just doesn’t seem that attractive to you. Thoughts of discontentment are more frequent. This little voice deep inside you believes trouble might be on the horizon.

If you’ve ever had these thoughts, you aren’t alone. And, your marriage may be in trouble, but not necessarily. It might just need some tuning up.

Before we dig into the why and all that, I want to be clear that if you are dealing with infidelity, abuse of any kind, or addiction, these are red flags blowing in the wind. They are signifying that your marriage is in trouble—and you need to seek help from trained professionals who can help you navigate through these waters. 

Is My Marriage in Trouble?

The truth is, every marriage experiences times of trouble. Some of those periods of time last longer than others. It’s what you do when you believe your marriage is in the danger zone that will determine what happens next.

Not that marriage is exactly like a car, but cars aren’t exactly inexpensive or easy to replace so we’ll roll with this because marriages aren’t either. When our car is running rough or the check engine light comes on, we will sometimes wait a couple of days to see if it straightens itself out. If it doesn’t, we usually see if a mechanic can diagnose the problem. It typically doesn’t cross our minds to just dump the car and go get a new one. I mean, who can afford that? Once you know what you are dealing with your car, you set about trying to get it fixed.

★ Here’s the thing: It would be highly unusual for you not to run into troubled times in your marriage. Think about it: Two people raised in two different homes with different rules, vibes, communication styles and expectations when it comes to handling conflict. You bring those two people together, they say “I do” and then we tell them to have a happy life. Nobody tells you it’s gonna be a little complicated trying to work out the kinks.

If you think your marriage might be in trouble, here are some things you might consider trying to get your marriage back on solid ground: 

How much time do you spend intentionally trying to connect with each other without the kids and not talking about work or the bills?

I’m talking about “us” time where you do something fun together. Happy, stable couples have hundreds of ways they connect throughout the day. It’s the way they look at each other. And the way they listen and consider the other person’s feelings creates opportunities for intentional connection. It’s that connection that feeds the relationship. And, believe it or not, they had to be creative in figuring out those connection points.

Think of it as a game. Even if you are in a hard place now, intentionality can help you move from disconnected to connected. 

Feeling like you’ve lost the romance, passion and excitement in your relationship also isn’t that uncommon.

The world has a sneaky way of creeping into our relationships and taking over. Who’s got time or energy for passion when you are trying to keep your head above water at work and you’re the taxi to all of your kids’ activities? Nevermind household chores that need to be done! It’s exhausting just thinking about the “have tos.” Why would you add anything else onto your plate? 

Well, let me tell you—intimacy in your relationship functions kind of like rebar in a house. It reinforces the foundation and it’s really important. A house built without rebar will not stand for long. A marriage without intimacy will struggle to last very long, too. The older our daughter got, the harder it was to find time to be together where we wouldn’t be interrupted or she wouldn’t hear us (her bedroom was right across from ours). We started scheduling middle-of-the-day rendezvous in order to spend time together. Even figuring out how and where we would meet created anticipation and made our time together even better.

But what if we are just so totally opposite on everything? We have nothing in common anymore.

You and a bunch of other couples are in the same boat. Remember when you were dating and you both loved that you were so totally opposite?  You probably even said something like, “They bring out the best in me because we are different.” And, that made you happy. BUT, not anymore. Here’s a tip for you—the angst you feel isn’t really about you being opposites as much as it is letting that get in the way of learning ways to enjoy being with each other. 

Happy couples who are opposites figure out ways to look past the differences in order to find ways to spend time together.  One woman didn’t really enjoy golf, but her husband did. She decided to learn to play golf, but it wasn’t one-sided. He also spent time doing things she enjoyed so it was a win for both of them. I know I’m meddling here, but did you ever really have a ton in common? Or were you just willing to do anything because it allowed you to spend time with your love?

Last but not least, is it possible that it feels like your marriage is in trouble because you have trained your brain to see the worst in your spouse?

I’m a stacker. I could care less if my car is clean on the inside or outside for that matter. I go to bed at 9PM because I’m toast at that point. I’m perfectly fine with leaving dishes in the sink overnight. I’m a list-maker and I can accomplish a lot in a day. I could go on.

Here’s the thing, over 31 years I am 100% positive more than one of these things drives my spouse crazy. It would be really easy for either one of us to start making notches in the wood for the things that drive each of us crazy—BUT—a wise person once told me, “You know you train your brain about how to think about your husband right?” I looked at her like, say what? She said, “Seriously, you train your brain what to believe about your spouse and the more you go there, the more you go there.” 

The more I thought about that, the more I realized she was totally right. That day I decided to start thinking differently. 

How have you trained your brain?

If you have been solely focusing on all the things your spouse does that irritate you and all their inadequacies compared to everybody else’s spouse, one way to get your marriage back on track is to train your brain differently.  Even if you can only find one or two positive things, that’s a start. You might be surprised how you feel 30 days from now.

In over three decades of marriage, we have for sure had our challenges. Both of us have probably wondered more than once if our marriage was in trouble (especially the time my husband walked through the door and I said, “Divorce is absolutely not an option, but we need to talk”). Fortunately, we had some people speaking into our marriage who would remind us that we were creative and smart enough to navigate through whatever the moment was. Asking for help from people who are further down the road than we were was a good move for sure. And, deciding early on that throwing in the towel wasn’t an option helped us focus on getting to the other side of whatever we were experiencing.

Researcher and marriage expert, Pat Love, shared with me one time that 80% of couples who divorce say they still love each other. What I have found in my own marriage and in working with couples over time is that it usually isn’t the big stuff that causes a marriage to be in trouble. It’s normal things that happen in many marriages, but they go unchecked for extended periods of time. 

Back to the car—because you value your car, you won’t let a rattle go on forever without being checked. The same should be true for 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 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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Want to take date night up a notch?

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

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

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

My Spouse Wants Sex More Than I Do

These insights can help you understand what may be going on.

If your spouse wants sex more than you do, here are a few words of wisdom. I probably drive a little faster than my wife is sometimes comfortable with (and she’s not afraid to let me know). On the other hand, she is more cautious on the road (and I don’t dare say anything from the passenger seat). My wife is definitely a beach person. I’m much more of a woods-and-lake kind of person. I binge on books. My wife binges on NetflixDifferences are often what makes marriage interesting. But there’s one difference that often shows up in marriages that causes all kinds of awkwardness, quarrels, and misunderstandings. 

That’s right: pizza toppings. 

Just kidding. The answer is sex. And more specifically, sex drives. More often than not, one person wants it more than the other. And many couples struggle to find an answer to this marital difference that seems to be as old as time. 

What do you do when your sex drives aren’t in sync? 

Marriage therapist and author Dr. Pat Love (yes, that’s her real name!) provides some insight into this question in her book Hot Monogamy. 

She introduces the concept of people who are either “sexy body” or “sexy brain” kind of people. Chances are, if there is a difference in sex drive in a relationship, then one person is more of a “sexy brain” while the other is more of a “sexy body.” 

“Sexy Body”/”Sexy Brain”

“Sexy body” people have a body that’s always ready for sex. They typically desire sex on a daily basis. Even when stressed out, they can easily be aroused, and sex even makes them feel better when in a state of stress or anxiety. “Sexy body” folks can even desire sex with their spouse in the middle of being upset with them. 

This is all a complete mystery to “sexy brain” people. And it’s easy to label those “sexy body” people as horn-dogs. But before we begin throwing labels around, it’s important to remember that, for “sexy body” people, sex is a way they feel the closest to their spouse. It’s how they connect on both a physical and emotional level. It’s a major pathway through which they experience love. 

“Sexy brain” people, obviously, are a bit different. It’s difficult for them to be sexually aroused if they are feeling stress, anxiety, or fatigue. And for many people, this equals the majority of the time. And if they are upset at their spouse, well, chances are nil that anyone is going to experience any kind of hanky-panky. 

“Sexy body” people often don’t understand this at all, and quickly jump to the conclusion that their spouse is prudish, frigid, or just plain abnormal. But not so fast. “Sexy brain” people simply have to feel a sense of connection, security, and calm in order to be more open to physical intimacy. Emotional engagement with their spouse is a prerequisite for desiring sex. 

This does not mean that “sexy brain” people don’t enjoy sex. In fact, they do. However, clearing the to-do list, getting enough rest, and feeling an emotional attachment to their spouse makes sex easier to desire and more enjoyable. “Sexy brain” people are still, well, sexy

What “sexy body” people need to remember

  • Understand that your “sexy brain” spouse is perfectly normal in how they think about sex; it’s just different from you, and differences aren’t bad. 
  • Be reasonable with your expectations. Let’s be real: you could be up for sex every time your spouse changes their socks. But this simply isn’t how your spouse operates, nor should they be pressured to operate that way. (As a matter of fact, the more “sexy brain” people are pressured to have sex, the less they want to have sex. The pressure equals stress, and stress equals no sex.
  • Learn about your spouse’s preconditions for being in the mood. How can you connect with your spouse emotionally? How can you help alleviate stress for them? And can you do these things in a way that’s sincere and not because you want to have more sex?

What “sexy brain” people need to remember

  • You have to make time for sex. Physical intimacy is an important part of the marriage relationship. Therefore, taking care of yourself means not allowing stress to become an overwhelming factor in your life. You maybe even ask for help in order to alleviate some stress and be sure you get sufficient rest. This helps in making sex more enjoyable for you. 
  • Understand that if you consistently say no to your “sexy body” spouse, it causes them to wonder if they are unattractive to you. A “sexy body” person needs to know that their spouse still thinks they’re hot stuff. And when you show them they are (at least to you), then it makes a huge difference in their esteem and confidence. Not to mention, it makes the connection between you as a couple stronger. 
  • Ask yourself, what is it your partner does that is a real turn-on? Sometimes the stress and fatigue you feel blur the attraction you actually have for your spouse. They are blockades to getting turned on. Asking this question can bring what it is about your spouse that gets your blood pumping back into clarity. 

Finally, think about this: the needs of “sexy brain” and “sexy body” people actually can work together to become more in sync with each other’s sex drives. 

Here’s what I mean. When a “sexy brain” person lets their “sexy body” spouse know they are desirable, attractive, and sexy (either by telling them or showing them by being more open to having sex), they might find the pressure to have sex is toned down.

And when the “sexy body” person is sincerely intentional about connecting on an emotional level frequently, they may find that their “sexy brain” mate is more easily aroused and able enjoy sex more. 

Wins all around. 

The key is to talk.

Communicate about your differences. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Seek to understand what makes them a “sexy brain” or a “sexy body” kind of person. Become a student of your spouse. You just may find that your differences bring you closer together, and you can begin to work on other marital questions like what toppings you’re going to order on your pizza. 

***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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People are trying to have genuine conversations with people that don’t look like them more than ever before in the wake of the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Cooper, and Ahmaud Arbery. Some of these conversations are happening between long time friends of different races and ethnicities where one person did not realize the magnitude of their different shared experiences. Here are 10 things you should know before talking with your friend about your racial differences. 

  1. Regardless of whether this is your first conversation or your 1,000th conversation, there’s a lot you don’t know about the person you’re talking to. You don’t know what you don’t know. Even if you’ve been watching the news, following social media, participated in protests, and visited museums, there’s a lot you don’t know about your friend and their experiences. Humility goes a long way.
  1. Relationships aren’t so much fixed, as they are built. It takes time to build trust and gain understanding. It even takes time to process our racial differences in our own minds. Setting an expectation of learning about your friend and even yourself is a process, not a one-time conversation. The more you build trust, the more vulnerable people may become, and the more likely they may be willing to share.  
  1. Acceptance and respect are a free gift. The goal in conversation is not to come to an agreement or to win one of you over to the other’s side. Acceptance means accepting the other person for who they are and respecting their very being, experiences, and realities. 
  1. You may hear some things that make you uncomfortable. You may hear about things you’ve done, what your family has done, or what the race you identify with has done. It can be difficult not to feel attacked. And on some things, even after thinking it through, you may still disagree. If you want to build a relationship, this isn’t the time to defend or justify. It’s time to be uncomfortable and seek understanding about racial differences. 
  1. Asking questions shows that you’re interested in the person and their story. Often, we spend the majority of our energy on seeking to win the discussion, prove our point, or show how much we know. When you ask questions from a place of curiosity and a desire to understand, you demonstrate an interest in your friend. This shows that you value them.
  1. Having a genuine relationship means genuinely acknowledging your friend’s realities. Their realities may contain experiences that seem totally foreign and impossible to you. Don’t deny their realities just because they seem unimaginable today. Hear them. Show empathy. Allow yourself into their world no matter how different it may be.
  1. Be willing to acknowledge messages shared through the media and how others may perceive those messages very differently. How two people receive media messaging may be completely different. What you see as just “news,” another may view as racism. Be open to seeing this through someone else’s eyes.
  1. People of any given race may have many shared experiences. However, they are still individuals with their own stories, beliefs, and personality. No one person can truly speak for an entire race (though some try). Yes, there are shared experiences that a black person experiences because they are black. Remember that your friend is an individual. How racial tension affects them may be different than what you see on social media or read in a book. 
  1. Be open to educating yourself about various cultures through research, books, documentaries, and museums. This can help you know questions to ask and things to be curious about. Don’t be surprised when they have not read or looked at the same material. Reading about your history can be difficult when you feel like you’re living the history. This doesn’t mean that you are now an expert. If anything, it should build your resolve to have more diverse interactions and meaningful relationships to further your understanding and enrich your life.
  1. Friendships work when both people feel valued, seen, and heard. This is a basic human need we all share. For too long, blacks and many others have felt unwanted, devalued, and marginalized. The civil unrest across the globe right now, at its core, is a scream to be valued as equals. Talking to your friend is about being part of the solution. Know that being part of the solution starts with valuing your friend enough so that they can be fully known by the people they are in relationships with.

Perfection is not the goal when it comes to relationships. When perfection and getting it absolutely right becomes a priority, then the fear of failure can keep us from taking the first step. Building and strengthening our relationships is at its best when we are able to share experiences and learn from each other to become better people ourselves.

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No matter what your experience or lack of experience has been when it comes to race, there is no denying that your personal experience impacts what you believe and how you behave. As adults, it also affects what and how you teach your children about race. Additionally, it informs how you respond to others who may not look or act like your children do.

Lots of people are speaking out about injustice, specifically toward black people. If you havent already, now is a really good time to develop a plan of action for intentionally teaching your children that every black person has value and dignity. In a perfect world, we would know that all are created equal. At this moment in time however, there is a major focus on how black people are treated.

A great place to start is with yourself.

Even if you never actually say what you think, how you think about black people will be the basis for how you teach your children to think about and treat them. They are taking in your conversations and watching your every move—even when you think they aren’t paying any attention. If you are comfortable around black people, they will most likely be comfortable. If you are uncomfortable, they will follow suit.

Ideally, teaching your kids about race starts when they are young, although it is never too late. Here are 8 things you can do to teach your children about race.

  1. Be intentional about creating opportunities for your children to be around and befriend children who are different from them. For example, one mother was looking for a preschool for her son, and she realized that her son would be the only black child there. At her second choice, no white children were present. In her mind, neither of these preschools were viable options because there was no diversity. She wanted her son to see at an early age that not all people are alike and that even though they look different, they can still be friends.
  2. Teach your child about character and respect. Make sure they understand how to behave respectfully toward those who are respectful and how to respond kindly to those who are not. 
  3. Model what it looks like to be treated with respect and hold them accountable for treating others in that manner to reinforce what you are trying to teach.
  4. Make it a point to be friends with families of different ethnicities. At the heart of understanding others is being in relationship with them. Engaging in someone’s world that is different than yours can help your child understand what it is like to walk in another person’s shoes. Having empathy for others is powerful.
  5. Don’t tolerate prejudice. When you see it, say and do something to address it. Teach your children how to productively use their voice when they see injustice.
  6. Be an askable parent. So often, we don’t talk about racial issues because we are afraid or it’s uncomfortable. Silence and assumptions are not helpful in the effort to end racism.
  7. Watch movies like “Remember the Titans” or read books that open the door for discussion about racism.
  8. Instead of trying to convince your child that we are all alike, celebrate how we are different, and how those differences contribute unique things to our world. A young white boy asked his black friend about getting a perm to make his hair curly. The black boy told him he didn’t get a perm, that his hair was that way when he was born. While their moms got a good laugh, it was also a teachable moment.

To end racism, we must have a continuous conversation and a commitment to be part of the solution. In doing so, we have the potential to leave a legacy that future generations can appreciate.

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VIDEO: Watch as Julie Baumgardner and Reggie Madison talk about the 9 keys to having great conversations with your children about race.

I grew up in a time when having a disagreement with a friend was a harmless and fun part of the landscape:

McDonald’s vs. Burger King

Classic Coke vs. New Coke

Grunge vs. 80s Hair Bands

Backstreet Boys vs. NSYNC

Britney vs. Christina

Alabama vs. Auburn

Even now, the boisterous disagreement between the Chick-Fil-A sandwich vs. Popeye’s spicy sandwich was fodder for social media. It was funny seeing videos by fans of both sides extolling the virtues of their favorite sandwich. I, too, became a part of the conversation as I was incredulous that a co-worker had never eaten Popeye’s Chicken. “Never eaten’ Popeye’s?!” 

For many of us, we have been able to have these fun yet inconsequential disagreements or debates with our friends. Now, our disagreements have more weight and can result in a change in our relationship with our friends. We are no longer disagreeing about boy bands and colas, but about politics, climate change, parenting styles, and how we deal other major issues of the day.

As a result, those relationships that have sustained and supported us throughout our lives are being tested due to our differences of opinion and differences in actions & reactions.

How do we keep disagreements from derailing our friendships?

1. Take a step back to reassess the relationship.

I take my role as a “friend” seriously. Consequently, I often see my friends as extensions of my family. In this phase of my life, I have chosen to reevaluate, realign, and prioritize the friendships that mean the most to me.  

In order to do that, I asked myself the following questions:

  • Can we as friends agree to disagree without being disagreeable?
  • Is this a mutual relationship or is it one-sided?
  • Is this friendship feeding me or draining me?
  • What is the depth of this friendship?
  • What kind of friend am I?
  • Was I overbearing? Did I overshare?

2. Accept that they have different experiences and opinions.

In order to maintain friendships, I realized that I can’t control the actions, thoughts, and opinions of my friends. I can only control my actions, thoughts, and reactions. As a result, I take pride in the fact that I have many friends who are different from me.  They are older and younger than I am. Some have children; others do not. We are from different cultures and different ethnicities. The differences that we have make me a more well-rounded person because I learn from my friends’ diverse experiences and backgrounds.

For many of us, our friends are our backbones and support systems.  It can be painful to recognize that you are not on the same page regarding an important issue, but it doesn’t have to end a friendship. I love the way St. Francis of Assisi put it, “Seek to Understand rather than to be Understood.” On the other hand, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”

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