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During the Yamadas’ adventurous marriage, there haven’t been many dull moments.

“I wouldn’t describe either of us as risk-takers, but we are definitely not afraid to try new things,” says Mrs. Yamada. “We enjoy ballroom dancing, mountain biking and scuba diving, but I couldn’t see either of us bungee jumping.”

Several years ago, the Yamadas tried taking up a new hobby together — flying.

“I have always had a love for aviation,” says Mr. Yamada. “I used to build model airplanes as a kid. Learning to fly has been a lifelong dream. My wife loves to travel so getting our pilot’s license greatly expanded our travel options, which makes her very happy.”

Getting their pilots’ licenses would not be without its marital challenges. While Mr. Yamada seemed to innately know about spark plugs, electrical systems and mechanics, his wife would definitely not describe them as second nature. She had to work hard to keep up.

“We are both very competitive people,” Mrs. Yamada says. “There were moments while we were taking lessons that the tension was elevated in our relationship. My husband might get ahead of me in an area and I would work extra hard to catch up.”

A real sticking point for Mrs. Yamada was when she was flying the plane and he would give her instructions. “Don’t forget to make your ten mile radio call,” or “Don’t forget your carb heat.” That unsolicited advice would get under her skin. Mr. Yamada agreed that he has that tendency, but has found that this experience has motivated him to improve in that area and enjoy the ride while his wife flies the plane.

It usually takes six to 12 months to get a pilot’s license. The Yamadas got theirs in 90 days. They would tell you it was a great experience and ultimately a good thing for their marriage.

“This forced us to learn how to manage our personalities,” Mr. Yamada says. “I can be bossy and a know-it-all at times. However, that doesn’t work well in the cockpit. We also came to the realization that when we are flying the plane is not the time for an argument. Taking flying lessons together has taught us how to work better together as a couple team.”

If you’re interested in taking up a new hobby together, here are some valuable lessons the Yamadas learned that may be helpful:

  • Make the ground rules ahead of time. There will be conflicts and disagreements. How will you handle them when they arise?
  • Be patient. It is easy to get impatient with each other if you aren’t moving forward at the same pace. Keep the end goal in mind!
  • Guard against being critical. There are some things that each of you do better than the other. Take advantage of this by learning from each other instead of criticizing.
  • Apologize when you are wrong. This did not come easily for Mr. Yamada, but over the years he has learned he is not always right.

“Getting our pilots’ licenses actually improved our marriage,” Mrs. Yamada says. “We had to learn how to communicate better, trust each other’s decisions and manage conflict. We have been on several trips already. It has been awesome to be in the cockpit with my best friend!”

***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.***

Read Mad About Us, Part 1 here.

Almost daily, unhealthy anger causes some kind of devastation. It could be anything from child abuse or domestic violence to road rage, or to children methodically preparing to harm their teacher. The emotion of anger in and of itself isn’t the problem, though. When people allow themselves to be controlled by this powerful emotion, it can become unhealthy and cause harm to others.

“We have to continually remind ourselves that anger is energy and energy is neutral,” says Gary Oliver, clinical psychologist and co-author of Mad About Us: Moving From Anger to Intimacy with Your Spouse, with his wife, Carrie. “We have total control over how we choose to express our anger, so we can choose to express this emotion in unhealthy or in healthy and constructive ways. Plus, we can choose to spend the anger-energy by expressing it in ways that hurt ourselves and others. Or, we can choose to invest the anger-energy in building a healthier relationship.”

The Olivers believe that anger can be an alarm or warning sign that we need to look at some aspect of our lives or relationship. It can serve as a powerful source of motivation. Healthy anger provides the power to protect loved ones, and healthy anger can lead to more intimate relationships.

“Disagreements usually involve the emotions of fear and/or hurt and/or frustration. These are the primary emotions that lead to the secondary emotion of anger,” Oliver says. “Anger sets most people up for conflict – and most couples don’t know how to do conflict well. Couples can choose to spend their anger-energy by dumping, blaming, attacking or walking out. Or they can choose to acknowledge the fear, hurt or frustration and invest their anger-energy in seizing the opportunity to better understand their spouse.”

For example, Oliver spoke with a couple in the middle of a serious conflict. The husband made a comment at a party, and his wife responded with a joke about it. Her response embarrassed him in front of their friends. He was making a serious point and, she spoke without thinking about how it would impact the situation. Since this was not the first time she had done something like this, her husband was hurt, embarrassed, marginalized and frustrated.

When they headed home, the wife asked him what was wrong. Although he initially denied being upset, he releases his frustration after several questions.

In working through Oliver’s seven conflict management steps, they discovered that the wife had no idea he was being serious. The husband realized that his wife didn’t intend to make him look bad, but his friends started laughing and he felt naked, exposed and embarrassed in front of them. As they talked, the wife truly felt bad and apologized. This was a landmark conversation for them because they were actually able to talk through what had taken place and understand each other. Then they set a new direction for how to manage their conflict.

Couples who develop the healthy habit of working through differences often find that listening, asking questions, listening again and asking more questions leads to understanding. Additionally, it provides a window into each other’s hearts and a pathway to greater intimacy.

“When you know someone loves you enough to take the time to understand you rather than take a walk out the door, you know that person’s love is not a shallow, superficial, conditional love,” Oliver says. “That type of love makes a person feel safe and secure. This type of security leads to an increase in trust, which creates the perfect environment for deep levels of intimacy to grow.”

If you’re seeking to more effectively manage the conflicts in your marriage, try these seven steps:

  • Define the issue. Listen and seek understanding. Whose issue is it? Is there more than one issue involved? What is my spouse’s core concern? What is my core concern?
  • How important is it? On a scale from 1 to 10, with one being low-ticket and 10 being high-ticket, how important is this?
  • Ask yourself, “What is MY contribution to the problem?”
  • Do I need to apologize or ask for forgiveness?
  • Choose radical responsibility. Don’t wait for your partner to reach out and seek understanding—be willing to take the first step.
  • Choose what both of you can do differently.
  • Make changes and review them.

“Healthy conflict is good,” Oliver says. “When a couple has a disagreement and one person takes the time to listen even if they think the other person is wrong, that says to their spouse, ‘I value you and you are important to me.’”

It isn’t always about agreeing on something. When you know your spouse is trying to understand what is going on, it increases your sense of value and safety.

One of the best ways to go from being mad at each other to “mad about us” isn’t reading books on new sexual positions. Instead, it’s about creating a sense of trust and safety within your marriage. A spouse who feels understood will feel safe and be willing to trust. Consequently, that trust leads to the deeper levels of intimacy every person longs for. Guaranteed!

***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.***

Is date night dead? Date night may need some serious resuscitation. Redbook magazine found that 45 percent of couples rarely have date nights, while only 18 percent said they go out once a month.

This is sad news, since marriage experts say you can keep your marriage strong, healthy and adventuresome by spending regular time together doing something you both enjoy. Couples who intentionally spend time together often marvel at the positive impact it has on their marriage and family.

An astonishing 80 percent of marriages crumble, but it’s not because of something huge. It’s because they say they have become disconnected.

According to The Date Night Opportunity, a report by the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project, couples who devote time specifically to one another at least once a week are way more likely to enjoy high-quality relationships and lower divorce rates.

How can a simple date actually help a marriage? 

Researchers say date nights provide opportunities to talk that may help couples deepen their understanding of one another and the relationship. Couples who engage in new activities that are fun, active or otherwise arousing — from hiking to dancing to travel to card games — enjoy higher levels of relationship quality. They also counteract the tendency to take each other for granted. Regular date nights may especially benefit couples who do more than the old standby of dinner and a movie.

Date nights may also:

  • Strengthen or rekindle that romantic spark in order to sustain the fires of love.
  • Strengthen a couple’s sense of commitment to one another. Partners who put each other first, steer clear of other romantic opportunities and cultivate a strong sense of “we-ness” or togetherness are happier than less-committed couples.
  • Relieve stress. They allow a couple to enjoy time away from the pressing concerns of their ordinary life.
  • Give couples an opportunity to support one another emotionally in trying times.

The report found that couples who spend time together at least weekly:

  • Are about three times more likely to say they are “very happy” in their marriages;
  • Report higher levels of communication and commitment;
  • Express higher satisfaction with their sexual relationship than couples who spend less couple time together.

If you haven’t been planning date nights, maybe you could try it out for the next six weeks. Consider setting aside an hour or two each week for a little adventure. If you don’t have a clue where to start or just need some fresh ideas, here are some tips.

Agree not to talk about the kids, your job or the in-laws. You don’t have to spend a ton of money – just play together! At the end of the six weeks, discuss any changes you have experienced in your relationship.

“Couple time” can make a serious difference in your relationship. Try it and see for yourself.

***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.***

It isn’t unusual for people to make time to attend training to increase their job productivity, improve their golf swing or even enhance their cooking or gardening skills, but when was the last time you took time away to invest in your marriage relationship?

Imagine getting away for a week with your spouse and a few other couples with no worries about what time it is or who needs to be at what practice. No kids yelling, “Mommy” or bosses calling. No cell phones, computers, or television and no clue about the news of the day. In fact, you really have no need to know what day it is or what your next meal will be. The focus of the week is just to enjoy each other’s company and to spend time with your mate.

If you feel totally disconnected from your spouse, this could sound like torture or a total impossibility.

Additionally, the thought of leaving technology behind can send chills up the spine. For others, this seems like something that would only happen in their dreams.

One group of couples took some friends up on the challenge of getting away for a week – on a sailboat. They were a bit apprehensive about how things would go but by day two, they loved not having a clue about what time it was, and it really didn’t matter.

At one point the couples were chatting after dinner. It was dark and people were yawning so everybody decided it must be very late. When they discovered it was only 8:30, everybody got a good laugh. A thoughtful discussion followed about how hard we live life and yet often forget to nurture the things that matter most to us because we are just too busy, stressed, selfish or just plain worn out.

Throughout the week people napped, read books, chatted about their children and other things that were just silly. They also soaked in the sun, played in the water, ate together and spent time learning from each another.

Here are a few lessons they learned about how to invest in marriage while on the boat:

  • It’s good to get away. We think we can’t afford to take the time, but we really can’t afford not to take the time.
  • Play is a good thing. Laughter and playing hard rejuvenates the soul and relationships.
  • Fasting from technology and the news of the day can be a very good thing. Spending time away from it made them realize how much time can be wasted just sitting in front of the television or answering emails instead of focusing on their spouse and family.
  • The kids can survive without parents for a few days. Time away from the kids can be a beautiful thing for everyone!
  • You don’t have to spend a ton of money on a fancy vacation to reconnect with your spouse. Camping, sailing or even staying at home while the kids visit the grandparents will work.

At the end of the week no one was disappointed in their adventure. In fact, spouses felt closer to each other and re-energized.

Consider how you can reconnect with your spouse and be intentional about making it happen.

 

***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.***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you want an awesome, amazing, mind-blowing marriage?

The answer to that question is usually a resounding YES! But, it’s quickly followed with something like, “I could only hope for that,” or “Only in my dreams.”

“Based on my experience as a counselor, I think a lot of people feel like they are sentenced to a life of boredom when they marry,” says Darlene Karst, counselor, marriage educator, and wife. “The reality is that could not be further from the truth … if you are willing to put effort into making your marriage fun, romantic, passionate, and intimate.”

It would be unusual for someone to be an exceptional mechanic, golfer, artist, or chef without training and a lot of practice. Yet people often expect to be excellent lovers and great at marriage overnight.

“The truth is, if you want to have an awesome, amazing, mind-blowing marriage, you have to set your mind to it and work to make it happen,” Karst says. “We might be in the middle of hard economic times, but that doesn’t mean it has to be tough on your marriage. You don’t need a lot of money to make your relationship more romantic and intimate.”

Karst suggests that there are certain things couples need to guard against because they are passion-killers in a marriage. When people think about passion and romance they often don’t consider how certain things can rob you of those feelings while others can set the tone. Consider the color of your room and the textures you have in your bedroom. Do they inspire romance?

“I always ask couples if they have a television in their bedroom,” Karst says. “If they do, I tell them to get rid of it. The bedroom should be a sanctuary where you can be together without distractions. Other things that can rob you of romantic moments include old worn-out nightgowns and underclothing, sports memorabilia, and other things that clutter up the bedroom as well as fighting in your bedroom.”

With busy careers, children, and outside commitments there is no question that life is hectic. Unfortunately, even the best-laid plans can end up out the window when a child gets sick, the boss hands out an urgent deadline or a disagreement comes along.

“More often than not, those things are exceptions to the rule and not the rule,” Karst says. “Therefore, I encourage couples to make a plan. Make sure you set aside time during the week to talk about children, bills, meetings, etc. Just as you set aside time for these things, set aside time to be together.”

If you’re lacking in the creativity department, try these suggestions for a mind-blowing marriage:

  • Take turns planning a special evening of pampering for your spouse. Think about what’s important to your partner and plan an evening to indulge him or her. Be intentional about being with your partner physically and emotionally. Because men are so visual, one wife wore one of her husband’s favorite outfits and did things he really liked. On another night, he drew a bath for her and gave her a massage.
  • Do things differently. If you always make love the same way, change that so it doesn’t become routine. Consider these questions to help spice up your love life: What brings you the most sexual fulfillment? How often would you like to make love? What changes do you need to make to keep sex fresh and growing? (Read 10 Things Every Married Couple Should Know About Sex)
  • Teach the kids that your bedroom is your bedroom. When the door is closed, it means that mom and dad want a timeout. While this may sound totally unrealistic, it might surprise you how well it works once they get the idea.

Perhaps now is a great time to kick off an ongoing celebration of your marriage. To learn more about having an awesome, amazing, mind-blowing marriage, 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 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.***

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.***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what do you do?

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

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

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

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