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Love is the most exhilarating emotion, until it’s the most frustrating because you’re dealing with COVID-19 and quarantine and you aren’t sure your spouse loves you anymore.

When you fell head over heels in love with your spouse, nobody gave you the heads up that you would endure a pandemic where you were together 24/7 for months on end. 

There are no books on how to navigate the economy, homeschooling, anxiety over aging parents and kids coming home from college, politics, social injustice, and general uncertainty all at one time. These are just some of the things that have most of us on edge, much more so than usual. There’s a lot that preoccupies our thoughts and attention these days, which could easily leave someone wondering if their spouse still loves them. 

Have they lost that lovin’ feeling?

First, are you questioning your spouse’s feelings for you because they are no longer doing the things they did before that made you feel loved? Have current life circumstances just gotten in the way of you feeling loved by your spouse? Or maybe you’ve spent so much time together lately that your relationship feels a bit stale or boring—like the fireworks just aren’t there? 

How do you receive love?

People have various ways of expressing and receiving love. It is not unusual for love to look different in the midst of a crisis. Some people just don’t feel loveable at the moment.

Some people think saying “I love you” is enough to express their feelings and make someone feel their affection. Working hard and providing could be a way of showing love, but if that person is never home, it may not feel like love to the other spouse. Another spouse might show love by keeping the car clean and full of gas, but a clean car isn’t really a big deal to their spouse. You get the idea. My point is, how someone feels love is different from person to person.

If you are wondering if your spouse still loves you, there’s one sure way to find out: ASK!

Let’s Talk!

Find a good time to have an honest conversation with them. Let them know what their affection means to you and share that you are struggling a bit with knowing they still care. If there are ways they expressed love to you in the past that they aren’t currently doing, perhaps you could let them know you miss those things.

You also might ask if there is something bothering your spouse that the two of you need to discuss and work through. Maybe something is creating a disconnect between the two of you that you have no clue about. 

Communication is the key.

If you avoid talking about how you are feeling, you could end up operating out of a lot of assumptions, none of which may be true. Your spouse may love you very much and it may surprise them that you are questioning their love for you. 

Do they know what speaks love to you? Everybody has a different love language. If they ask you for specific ways they can help you feel their love, be prepared to give them some specifics.

It is totally possible that your spouse loves you deeply, but doesn’t love who they are very much at the moment. Stress and high anxiety have a way of making us feel prickly, and you know how that goes—the ones we love the most and are the closest to get the brunt of it when we are struggling.

Ask for help.

If in having the conversation with your spouse, you find that there are issues between the two of you, don’t be afraid to seek help. There are plenty of excellent counselors who can help you work through whatever has come between you. 

Don’t underestimate the toll COVID-19 can be having on your marriage. There are so many things hitting on your marriage at the same time, it magnifies our feelings, our thoughts, and our responses. Now is not the time to make any hasty decisions concerning your marriage. Now is the time to be patient, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and trust that COVID-19 will not go on forever.

***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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COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD BE FULFILLING, NOT FRUSTRATING.

With the right tools, you and your spouse can have the best communication ever!

This easy-to-use virtual 5-day course guides you and your spouse to have the best communication you’ve ever had! Through this course, you will learn:

  • How to establish healthy communication habits
  • The secrets to creating a deep connection through communication
  • Skills to help you (and your spouse) be a better speaker and listener
  • How to celebrate and understand your different communication styles
  • And so much more!

Of course my child knows I love them!” But do they? Really? To be clear, I’m not questioning whether you love your child; I’m questioning whether your child knows that you love them. Do they know how broad, wide, and deep your love is for them? There’s more to your child feeling loved than saying, “I love you! Goodnight!” every night.

Google Autocomplete can be illuminating. For those unfamiliar with it, as you begin typing a search into Google, Google begins to finish it for you with the most popular searches put into its search engine. So, typing, “How do I get my parents to” will autocomplete with the most popular searches that begin with the same phrase. This particular example is as heartbreaking as it is illuminating. 

The number one autocomplete is: How do I get my parents to love me?

★ What would lead kids, tweens, and teens to google ways to get their parents to love them? Is there a disconnect somewhere? Are we overestimating how much affection our kids feel? Are we not communicating love in ways that resonate with our kids? Some kids don’t even think their parents like them, let alone love them. Even if you feel confident that your child knows they are loved, there’s always room to learn more ways to deepen it.

Here’s How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them

1. Understand Your Child’s Heart

  • Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a great book, The Five Love Languages of Children, that suggests we all communicate and receive love uniquely. Sometimes the way we communicate love doesn’t match up with how our kids “hear” love and we love right past them. We might be providing tons of loving, affirming words, but our child might really feel loved the most when we spend quality time with them. His website is really helpful and has great resources!
  • What do they ask of you? This can provide insights into how they receive affection. 
    • Do they ask you to come and play with them? (Love = Quality Time.) 
    • Do they ask if you think the picture they drew is pretty or if you are proud of their report card? (Love = Affirming Words.) 
    • Do they ask for help with homework or their hair? (Love = Helping Them.)
  • How do they express love and affection to you? This also provides insight into their heart and what says, “I love you” to them. 
    • Do they want to sit in your lap and give you hugs? (Love = Physical Connection.) 
    • Do they like to make things for you like drawing you a picture or bring you things like a dandelion? (Love = Gifts, Tokens of Affection.) 

2. Spend Time With Them.

  • We can kid ourselves by saying things like, “I don’t spend a lot of time with my kids, but when I do, I make it count.” It’s great to “make it count” (quality time) but our kids need “a lot” of time, too (quantity time). There really is no substitute. Kids spell “love,” T – I – M – E. 
  • Be intentional. Routines, rituals, and structure provide predictability and ultimately help kids feel safe. When children feel safe, they feel loved and can thrive. Regular parent/child dates. Dinner together as a family. Friday Night Game Nights. Appropriate  and consistent expectations communicate, “I love you and care about your wellbeing.” 

Look for and even plan for informal time together. Get on the floor and play with their toys with them. Watch them play video games. Take them with you to run errands or hang out with you while you’re working on the car. Lots of bonding happens organically just being together.

3. Expand The Bandwidth Of Your Communication

  • Your words are powerful. Not just what you say but how you say it. Remember, your body isn’t on mute. An angry “Because I said so!” could be a calm “Here’s why this is important…” Don’t underestimate the power of your words in forming your child’s perception of how you feel about them
  • Listen. Really listen. So many kids say their parents talk at them, not with them. You can’t make your child talk to you, but you can be present and create an atmosphere and relational environment where talking is much more likely to take place. Don’t be quick to jump in with a judgment or lecture.
  • Say, “I love you.” Not just at bedtime, but say it at times when they don’t expect to hear it—when they’ve done something wrong and had to be corrected, when they are down on themselves and don’t feel lovable, random times like car rides or when they are just walking across the room. It is important that children understand that there is nothing that they can do to make you love them more or love them less.
    • Other phrases that say “I love you” without saying “I love you.”
    • I believe in you.
    • I’m proud of you.
    • I’m always here for you.
    • I was wrong. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.

Whether you know it or not, you are always sending messages revealing how you feel about your kids—and they are paying attention. Think about that for a second. If you think it’s possible that your children might wonder how much you love them, you don’t have to let them wonder. Be intentional and talk with them about it. With loving your kids, make sure it’s a show AND tell.

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For forever both of you have lamented about how busy you are and how you wished you had more time just to be together and enjoy each other’s company. Then Corona hit the scene and BOOM! Just like that, you are together 24/7. As a result, romantic dinners, at-home date nights and long conversations are now on the table again. So, why is it that just when opportunity presents itself, one or both of you feel like you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’? 

I mean, isn’t sex at the top of your list in the midst of worrying about your jobs, money, aging parents or trying to help your kids finish school? Or dealing with your graduate’s disappointment over no graduation ceremony or celebration, your college student who isn’t happy about being home and you aren’t particularly excited about them being home? 

Was that an emphatic, “No!” I heard? Well, you aren’t alone for sure. And, truth be told, there’s a really good explanation. Simply put, most of us are in survival mode.

The Why Behind How You May Feel

When we experience stress and anxiety for an extended period of time, it is exhausting. COVID-19 has tossed all of us into the land of the unknown at breakneck speed. Stress, anxiety, and fatigue often result in a decrease in your sex drive. The good news is, it is unlikely that you’ve permanently lost that loving feeling. Plus, there are some things you can do to help get you through quarantine.

There is some truth to the saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Everybody needs time to themselves, so make sure you are finding ways to be separate AND together.

It’s hard to be together all the time. There are probably plenty of things your spouse does that under normal circumstances would go unnoticed or just wouldn’t be that big a deal. Throw in the level of intensity we have all been experiencing and all of a sudden, these things are annoying idiosyncrasies that sound like fingernails on a chalkboard—it’s true. See it for what it is and do your best to not get revved up about it. It’s a pretty sure thing that you do stuff that gets on their nerves as well. Cutting each other some slack will most likely serve you well.

Be intentional about finding ways to be playful with each other that don’t take much effort. Take a walk or leave a clue on the bathroom mirror for something fun they have to find (like their favorite candy or you)! Dance to your favorite songs, do something unexpected that they will appreciate, or play Spin the Bottle Strip Poker. Anything that has the potential to make you smile or laugh will release hormones in your brain that make you feel good. Doing this with your spouse makes you feel good about being around them, even when things are Coronavirus challenging.

Take good care of yourself and help your spouse to do the same.

Not getting enough exercise or rest and not eating right can make you not even want to be around yourself—much less anybody else. 

When we are stressed out, tense and anxious, it is easy to allow the one we love the most to experience our wrath. That doesn’t exactly help that lovin’ feelin’ show up. They may know you best and understand that it’s your stress speaking and not you. However, over time your spouse may feel like you are using them as a punching bag—and that gets old fast. Instead of taking your feelings out on them, try talking through how each of you is feeling about your present circumstance. It is highly likely that the two of you aren’t going through the COVID-19 experience feeling the same emotions. 

Believe it or not, working through a really hard thing together can make you feel more intimate toward one another. 

So, in the midst of and beyond the quarantine experience, try not to do anything that would damage your relationship and your love for each other. You may not feel overly excited about sex at the moment. However, as stress and anxiety decrease and the tension melts away, you will probably find that lovin’ feelin’ again.

***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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How can you be sure your child will know that you love them? When I was 6, I was shopping with my mom when my eyes landed on what I thought was very cool Christmas tape. I told my mom I needed that tape. She said no. I took matters into my own hands and slipped two tape rolls into my jacket pocket.

When we got home, I went straight to my room and started playing with the tape. It didn’t take long for Mom to notice the silence. I vividly remember her knocking on the door and asking me what I was doing. At that moment sheer panic set in because I knew I would be in trouble. I tried to take up as much of the tape as possible before she actually opened the door.

She walked in the room, saw the tape and asked me where I got it, knowing full well where it came from. She didn’t say much more, except these words: “Get in the car.” I knew for sure I was in big trouble. I thought maybe she was taking me to the police station, but we actually returned to the store. We walked in and she asked for the manager. 

She asked me to tell him what I had done. Through tears I explained that I thought the tape was beautiful and when my mom wouldn’t buy it for me, I just took it. I told him I knew it was wrong and apologized. My mom paid him for the tape and then I paid my mom back for the tape with my measly allowance over a period of weeks.

Back then I thought my mom was the meanest mom on the planet, but I have never forgotten that day. 

Fast forward to middle school when I “knew” how smart I was. I wanted to decide for myself when to go to bed, how long I talked on the phone, what chores I would or would not do. They didn’t buy it, not for one second. Again, I knew I had the most unloving parents on the planet, because if they really loved me they would let me do what I wanted to do.

What I didn’t know then, but know now, is they really were loving me.

If you have raised children or you are in the midst of raising children, you know that children, especially the strong-willed ones, will challenge you at every turn. You will hear things come out of their mouths you thought you would never hear: 

“I hate you.” 

“You’re a terrible excuse for a parent.” 

“Who died and made you the boss?” 

“Why do you have to make my life so miserable?” 

“Why couldn’t I be so and so’s child? They really know how to parent.” 

Those words can be painful and cause you to question your parenting skills and whether or not you really are loving them well. But how do your children really know that you love them? Maybe a better question is, what do children need from their parents in order to thrive?

First, children need routines, rituals, consistency and structure. 

We aren’t talking bootcamp, but we are talking about a routine that children can count on – consistent rules and structure in which they can safely operate.

Kids also need loving accountability. 

I 100% knew I was going to be in trouble when my mom found out I took that tape because telling the truth and not taking things that don’t belong to us had been drilled into my head for as long as I could remember, but that didn’t stop me from doing the wrong thing. Holding me accountable, standing with me as I told the manager what I had done, and requiring me to pay her back were actually all ways of loving me. She didn’t remind me of my transgression throughout my life. In fact, I really don’t remember her bringing it up again, but I assure you, I have never stolen another thing. It was a safe place to make mistakes and to learn and grow.

Additionally, your child needs you to have the right perspective and know that you are steady. 

With age, children typically become smarter than their parents, or so they believe. There is an age and stage where you could say the sky is blue and they would tell you it’s not. They know how to navigate the latest and greatest technology and they’re growing like crazy. If you didn’t know their age, you would swear some of them were much older. As parents, remembering exactly how old they are and no matter how smart they seem, recognizing that they only know what a 12 or 14-year-old would know helps you keep perspective and stay the course as the parent.

Many tweens, when left to their own devices (literally), would play video games all night, eat whatever whenever, forget studying and blame everybody else as their life is falling apart. 

My point is this: They don’t know what they don’t know. 

It really isn’t their job to like us at this point. They are in the process of figuring out how to do life, but they aren’t quite mature enough to do it on their own. Being the parent that doesn’t get incredibly emotional, yet is steady, consistent and supportive during this maturation process is powerful and loving.

In all of these things, holding your child accountable and requiring them to be responsible for their actions is sometimes one of the most painful ways you show love. For them, it doesn’t usually feel very loving in the moment or even after the moment. Sometimes it even takes years for them to realize how loving and painful it was for you as the parent. 

As a parent, you hurt when your child hurts. But ultimately you know that letting them experience what it looks and feels like to be held accountable and take responsibility ultimately builds their self-confidence and helps them learn for the future when they are navigating life on their own.

Keep them safe. 

When your toddler wants to put their finger in an electrical socket and they throw a huge tantrum when you move them away, it wouldn’t matter how much they cried and carried on, you would be confident in your efforts to keep them safe. As they get older, they throw tantrums in different ways and sometimes we become less confident in our parenting skills and we may wonder whether or not we are loving them well. 

One of the best things you can do to make sure your child knows you love them is not to look to them for affirmation that you are loving them well, because it may not seem that way to them. Know this: The parenting journey is full of adventure and sometimes insecurity. Find some people who are ahead of you on the journey who can encourage you and support you in the good and challenging times.  

Last, but definitely not least, tell your child you love them. When things are going great, when things are hard, when they are least lovable or when all they want to do is sit in your lap, tell them you love them. 

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on February 29, 2020.

For more parenting resources, 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.***

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Need some guidance in creating good, strong boundaries for your marriage? 

Check out this hefty DIGITAL E-BOOK by Marriage Researchers & Therapists

Inside, you’ll find:

  • How to talk to your spouse about opposite-sex friends
  • What a good boundary for your marriage looks like
  • Practical ways to build trust between you and your spouse
  • 4 ways to connect well with your spouse & strengthen your relationship well
  • How to create boundaries with the parents and the in-laws
  • The 4 main thefts of intimacy and how to protect your marriage from them
  • AND MORE!

Cheating. Pretty much universally denounced as the worst thing you could do in a relationship (maybe just a tiny bit behind murdering your partner). We can all agree that cheating is wrong and definitely nobody wants to be cheated on, but…

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Let’s be real, there aren’t too many people in this world that would choose to actually be lonely. We as human beings thrive off our interactions and connections with other people. We are usually our best selves when we have people who care about us in our lives.

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Why should you date?

Wow! That’s an incredibly personal question that has different answers depending on many different factors. Are you divorced? In your 20s fresh out of school and never married? In your 30s and hoping to be married? Looking for someone to have loads of fun with?

Answer This Question First…

“Why do I want to date?” And therein lies the first question that a person must answer for themselves. This must be answered honestly. To answer the question is to come to terms with the expectations and desires which I have from the process of dating. (The easy answer is that I may be looking for companionship in a romantic way. But who’s going for easy?)

Desire, by definition, is a strong feeling of wanting to have something. Do I desire to be married? Desire a committed relationship? Want someone to hang out with? Have the desire to be totally free and intimate with someone?

Many of us get into relationships with the desire to be our full, authentic selves with the other person. However, that involves a level of trust and vulnerability that the dating process is often designed to reveal over time. It doesn’t happen quickly or automatically. Can I be my truest self with you?

A large part of the dating process should help you learn about yourself. Do I change who I am when I’m around people that I’m romantically interested in?  Do I lose parts of myself trying to win the heart of my partner? Is there anything that prevents me from being myself? How do I respond when I, or strong facets of who I am, aren’t accepted? At the same time, am I willing to grow as an individual as I am learning more and more about myself? Do I compromise in ways that are unhealthy for me? Dating requires you to be vulnerable in a way that most other relationships don’t. One of the reasons that we date is to learn more about ourselves and what it means to let someone get to know us.”

Then Answer This Second Question…

Secondly, and closely related, is to answer the question, “As I am getting to know who I am, am I truly learning  who my partner is and their unique journey?” Let’s face it, just because I’m able to be me with someone does not mean we’re romantically a good match for one another. While I am not a supporter of “finding the one person out there who was meant for me,” I do recognize that there are those that I am romantically attracted to while others I’m not.

But What If It’s This Question?

What if part of dating is simply to answer the question, “Are we compatible?” Can we talk about things that matter to us? Is he/she an emotionally safe person to be with? We both know that relationships can accelerate a wide array of emotions. Are they able to deal with the emotional baggage that comes with me into the relationship? Do our values and belief system mesh with one another? Are we able to support one another?

We begin our dating relationships not knowing if we are compatible. We don’t know if this is a person who truly wants to get to know me. Let’s not assume that we do know. Starting with the pure knowledge that I am interested in getting to know this person and finding out if we’re a good fit is a lot less pressure. There are fewer expectations to meet or not meet.

Time, talk and being together during the dating process is no longer about us proving that we’re compatible. It’s not about you proving to me that you like who I am or worse, me being the person you want me to be.

For more resources, visit our Dating and Engaged Page here.

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Being engaged is a season of anticipation! You feel all kinds of excitement, right? You can’t wait! Before the wedding arrives, that and the honeymoon are all you can think about! (Plus, you can’t wait for all those wedding questions to stop!)

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You love your spouse, but maybe you don’t really like in-laws.

You heard but didn’t heed the warning: “Remember, whoever you marry, you also marry their family.”

After a few years of marriage (or less), you soon realize saying “yes” to forever with your spouse really did mean saying “yes” to forever with their family, as well as uncomfortable holidays and long weekends filled with awkward situations and tension for as long as you both shall live.

So, what do you do? How do you get along with people you don’t really like?

First of all, did you notice I said “get along with” and not “like?” The truth is, you may never like your in-laws. And that’s totally fine. You don’t have to. It’s just important to keep the drama and the tension to a minimum as much as you can for the sake of your spouse and your children (if you have them). Even though you formed a new family when you were married, your in-laws are the reason you have your spouse and new family to begin with. If nothing else, try to respect them for giving you your spouse. 

Secondly, be as empathetic as possible. Maybe your mother-in-law is mega passive-aggressive and a little odd, and your father-in-law is just kind of a jerk all the time. TRY (keyword here) to look past their glaring flaws and put yourself in their shoes. For instance, your mother-in-law may be passive-aggressive because she really just wants to spend more time with you but doesn’t know how to say it. Maybe she’s even a little intimidated by you. (Note: If you’re the daughter-in-law, this is NOT uncommon.. I mean, you did take her place as the prioritized woman in her son’s life, forever.) 

And, maybe your father-in-law is a little unhappy with himself or unfulfilled in his life. Maybe they’re both a little off because their marriage and relationships aren’t as healthy as they used to be and they have some resentment and anger to work through. Being empathetic doesn’t mean you excuse their behavior. It just means you take a different approach to understanding their motives and actions.

Third, tell your spouse about your uneasy feelings, but remember you’re talking about their parents.  Be vulnerable and open with your spouse every chance you get. But, when it comes to talking about their parents, keep in mind that there’s a fine line between stating your feelings and being critical of their family. It’s okay to say, “I felt sad when I heard your dad talk to your mom in that tone of voice.” It’s not okay to say, “Your dad is a total jerkface. I can’t believe your mom has stayed with him this long.” 

Be sensitive. The truth is your spouse more than likely already knows there are some odd bits about their parents. They did live with them during their most formative years. 

Fourth, set those boundaries with a smile. You and your spouse want to start a new tradition around the holidays, but your in-laws insist that you come visit them. Kindly and firmly say, “no.” If you want your in-laws to call before dropping by, tell them! Maybe you would prefer that your father-in-law not watch certain shows around your children. Let. Him. Know. Setting boundaries keeps things nice and tidy and leaves the guesswork off the table. ALSO, and this is very important, each spouse should set boundaries with their own family. So, you talk to your family and your spouse talks to their family. It’s much easier for a parent to have a potentially dicey conversation with their child than with their in-law.

IF your in-laws don’t like one of your boundaries, and they throw a big fit, let them. You do you and what’s best for your family. If they get so mad that they never want to see you or speak to you again, then that boundary worked out more in your favor than you ever imagined it could. Jk. Jk. But, seriously. You can’t change or control their reaction. If they act immature about it, it’s not your fault. That’s their issue.

Fifth, different doesn’t mean wrong. Everyone’s family has a certain way of doing things. It’s totally natural and normal for your in-laws to do things differently than what you’re used to, but it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. And it also doesn’t mean you’re wrong. It just means you’re different. For example, you grew up having a big feast on Thanksgiving. Your mom made awesome cinnamon rolls, a giant fruit tray and your dad made the best omelets you’ve ever tasted. But, your in-laws go to McDonald’s and grab Egg McMuffins. It may seem weird to you, and not as fun or exciting, but it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. It’s just their way of doing things. Accept them for who they are and try not to look down on them for not living up to your standards or expectations.

Last but not least, texts go both ways. Pursue your in-laws. That’s right. You heard me. Be friendly to them. Make an effort. They’re your family, too. Sending a text every now and again to check in won’t hurt you, and you know it’ll make them feel loved (even if you don’t like them). Send them cards on their birthdays, invite them to big celebrations in your life. Let them learn more about you and your life. Who knows, you may just influence them to be a little more likable.

Marriage is hard and family is complicated. Both take a lot of work, but the reward of deep meaningful connection is so worth it in the end. While you may never reach a level of relational bliss with your in-laws, these six guidelines should keep the drama to a minimum and maintain the peace in your marriage.

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

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