Posts

There are not many feelings worse than when someone puts you down, insults you, or invalidates you. And a put-down from your own spouse is like a straight-up punch to the psyche. It’s amazing how easy it is to hurt the ones we love the most with our words, but what do you do if you are the one on the receiving end of the verbal blows? 

This issue has a certain level of complexity to it, which means we have to approach it with care. Many spouses deliver verbal shots and put-downs to their spouse, unaware of the harm it’s doing. This is Situation A. 

Others are well aware and intentional with the harm. This is Situation B, and this is abuse.  

Let me be clear about Situation B right off the bat: If you are experiencing an abusive situation where someone is physically harming you, you need to seek help. Use the hotline number at the bottom of this article. 

You also need to understand that certain situations of verbal/emotional put-downs may be verbal abuse, and often accompany (or are a precursor to) physical abuse. (See the Power and Control Wheel below.)

Healthline gives some red flags to the characteristics of verbal abuse: 

  • They insult you or attempt to humiliate you, but then they accuse you of being overly-sensitive. 
  • They yell or scream at you frequently. 
  • The person plays the victim while they try to make you feel guilty. (“I wouldn’t have to scream at you if you didn’t…”)
  • They get in your personal space as an act of intimidation or try to block you from moving away.
  • They gaslight you—this means they manipulate you into questioning your own version of events in order to gain more power. For example, they may convince you to doubt your memory of them saying or doing something violent or try to convince you you’re crazy.
  • They hit the wall or throw things.  
  • They want credit for not having hit you. 

Sincerely ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I believe my spouse is putting me down with the intention to harm me, wear me down, or manipulate me?
  • Do I think there is a possibility the verbal attacks could lead to physical violence?
  • If I were to voice my concerns for how they talk to me, is there any fear that they would react with a heated backlash? 

Unless you can answer each of these questions with a confident no, these are strong indicators of verbal/emotional abuse and warning signals for possible physical abuse. Do not confront your spouse. Go somewhere safe and seek help. 

Let’s talk about Situation A.

Your spouse puts you down but they are unaware of how it’s making you feel. They are being careless with the words they use toward you—perhaps in front of the kids. But despite the unintentionality of what they say, you still feel devalued. It’s time to let them know how you feel. 

  • Approach your spouse to talk at a strategic time. Ask them if this is a good time to talk. And if it’s not, arrange a time, preferably within the next 24 hours. Don’t bring up your feelings right after they say something hateful; your emotions will be dialed up, and you want to be calm and able to think clearly when you talk. Choose a time when neither of you are tired or in a bad mood. 
  • Start on a good note. Marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman suggests opening difficult conversations with a positive. Begin the conversation with something you appreciate about your spouse. Say something like, “I know that you love me and the kids and that you’d do anything for your family.” Or, “I appreciate how hard you work to provide and take care of us.” 
  • Be specific about what you hear and how you feel. Make good use of “I” messages. For instance, “There have been many times when I’ve felt really undervalued and unloved when you’ve said certain things to me.” Name your feelings—beforehand, jot down some specific words that describe how it feels when your spouse puts you down. If it happens in front of your kids or other people, point out that it feels embarrassing or shameful. Err on the assumption that your spouse has been unaware of how they’ve made you feel. You may have to give them an example of what they’ve said. Describe the last incident and the effect it had on you. Avoid giving a laundry list of all the past wrongs they’ve done to you, though. 
  • Use a code word or sign. The point of addressing this with your spouse is help them be aware that they are putting you down and the negative effect it has on your feelings. Establishing some kind of code word or a non-verbal signal can subtly express to them, “You’re being degrading and ridiculing right now, and you need to dial it down.” This is especially helpful in front of the kids or in social situations. For instance, whenever you respond with “Oh, honey…” or you nonchalantly touch your earlobe, you can discreetly and calmly express to your spouse how they’re making you feel at the moment. 
  • Set boundaries. Let your spouse know that if they continue to ignore warning signs and keep putting you down, you’ll simply leave the room when they say something disparaging. Don’t threaten your spouse with divorce or the withdrawal of sex (although you probably won’t exactly feel “in the mood” after being put down). You set up boundaries to protect yourself, not punish others. 
  • Check your own thoughts and words. I mention this last step with a great deal of care, and I encourage you to approach it with humility and thoughtfulness. I have talked with many individuals who have felt insulted by others close to them; however, sometimes there was something within their own personality that colored the situation. Many were highly sensitive to remarks that weren’t overtly insulting, but they heard them through the filter of past negative experiences. 

For instance, one person interpreted an invitation to exercise together as an affront to their weight, an issue to which they felt particularly sensitive. Others that I’ve talked to were offended by another’s insults, but had no problem being equally insulting toward that person. Part of the process of working through this is to consider what may be going on inside you that could exacerbate these feelings. Ask yourself: Are the words I hear from my spouse truly insensitive put-downs, or is there something inside me that makes me overly-sensitive to their words? And, are there ways that I put my spouse down without me noticing it? 

Marriage cannot thrive in an environment of disrespect and insults. And no one deserves to be put down by their spouse. The above steps are a process that may take time before you see real change. There’s a chance that other things are going on under the surface of insults and put-downs being hurled your direction. If these problems persist after taking the above steps, ask your spouse to seek help with you through couples counseling. If they resist, seek professional help on your own. ☆ Sometimes it takes one person in the marriage to lead the charge toward getting help and improving the relationship before the other catches on. 

***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.***

Image from Pexels.com

Have you ever made a joke about your spouse and they didn’t think that it was funny?

Has your spouse ever remarked on a “weakness” of yours and you felt some way about it?

Has your spouse ever made fun of you or put you down in front of your kids?

What are some of the common ways that we unwittingly put our spouses down?

1. You talk over or finish their statements when they are speaking.

It can easily become a habit to talk over your spouse or finish their statements for them. When you do this, you are sending the message to your spouse that you don’t respect their perspective and opinion. Additionally, this can minimize them in the eyes of others (family, friends, co-workers, children). 

2. You don’t consider/obtain their opinion or input when making decisions  (i.e., the kids, family vacations, or future plans).

Teamwork is important in marriage. It takes both parts of the couple contributing to make it as strong as possible. When one person makes all the decisions, it can lead to a myopic view of the situation. Having differing options and opinions can strengthen a plan. Like a well-woven tapestry, considering and respecting the input from your spouse creates a better and holistic problem-solving strategy.

3. You MINIMIZE their strengths while you MAXIMIZE their weaknesses.

When couples get together, they often say, “Where I am weak, my spouse is strong and vice versa.” After a time, it can become problematic when the focus changes to, “I really can’t believe that my spouse can’t do that.” For example: you may be very strong at directions while your spouse needs GPS to go anywhere, even places that they have been many times before. Sitting in the car as they set up the GPS, you think, “OMG, I should have just driven. They never know how to get anywhere.” You then share with anyone who will listen that your spouse is seriously DIRECTIONALLY CHALLENGED. From there you only seem to notice their deficiencies rather than their strengths.

4. You tease your spouse too much.

Whether it is about their hair, nose or the way they eat spaghetti, teasing your spouse can be a way to bring humor to your relationship. However, too much of a GOOD THING can become a problem. If you seem to nit-pick everything about your spouse even with a hint of levity, they may feel undervalued. Find ways to build up your spouse, not tear them down—even in JEST.

5. You constantly re-do tasks that your spouse has already done.

For many spouses, there are two ways to do things: MY WAY (THE RIGHT WAY) and your way. Your spouse may feel belittled as you refold the towel, remake the bed or reload the dishwasher. You inadvertently are telling them that their efforts are not wanted, needed, or appreciated. Because only YOU can do it, the RIGHT WAY.

Zig Ziglar said, “The first step to solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist.” Recognizing that you may be putting down your spouse is the initial step. While your spouse does things differently than you or even parents differently than you, it is KEY to respect those differences. Making fun of them or negating the importance of your spouse in your life and in the lives of your children undermines your relationship. Remember that the two of you are a TEAM. 

✦ Each of you has a role to play to make your family the BEST that it CAN BE!

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

Image from Pexels.com

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.***

Image from Pexels.com

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!

“I forgive you.” You desperately want to hear those words, but I want to explain to you why you might not hear those words right away and why you don’t necessarily need to hear those words right away. And that’s totally okay. ☆ What you need right now is to begin understanding forgiveness itself, especially in a marital context.

I’m operating under the assumption that you are not seeking forgiveness for forgetting to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer, but rather for committing some big breach of trust and inflicting deep emotional hurt in your marriage partner. Whatever you did, understanding how forgiveness works is important.

Why you probably won’t hear, “I forgive you,” right away:

  • Most definitions of “forgiveness” describe it as a process. Processes take time.
  • Even though you might truly be sorry and even expressed your sorrow multiple times, your hurt spouse has emotional trauma to work through in order to forgive. This emotional trauma often has physical symptoms, too. None of this can be rushed.
  • Your hurt spouse may need professional help to work through this process.
  • Your hurt spouse may need time to see changes in your behavior, rebuild trust, understand that you are truly sorry (not just sorry you got caught), and see over time that your relationship will be different moving forward. None of this happens overnight.

You’ve got work to do in the meantime…

  • You might be needed for some conversations to help process your spouse’s thoughts and feelings or answer questions. Offer to share as much information as your spouse feels the need to know.  On the other hand, your spouse might need some space to internally process. Respect both.
  • While it might be frustrating and take much longer than you believe it should, be willing to do what it takes to rebuild trust with your spouse, even if it doesn’t make sense to you, makes you uncomfortable, or is a blow to your pride. Transparency, vulnerability, and willingness are your best friends right now. Your phone, laptop, bank account, etc., might all need to be open books. Accounting for your time and whereabouts might be necessary now. Whatever it takes.
  • Your spouse might want you to attend some couple’s therapy sessions or for you to attend some sessions on your own. 
  • Your task is NOT to be the perfect spouse (there’s no such thing) but it is to demonstrate that you are truly sorry, value your spouse and marriage, and prove that you are working to be trustworthy and reliable and are willing to do what it takes to honor your spouse and protect your relationship. (If you were unfaithful with someone you met at the gym, you need to be willing to gladly switch gyms or even work out at home for a while to show that your spouse comes first. Many people have found new jobs to remove themselves from a co-worker they cheated with. Yes, that is the level.)
  • Empathize. Really empathize. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes and feel what they might be feeling. (If you reach a place of, “Well, I wouldn’t expect…” stop empathizing and keep honoring.)

While you’re at it… check your backbone. 

A lot of people have a wishbone where their backbone should have grown. They wish things were different, easier, that they wouldn’t have done this or that—but wishing doesn’t make it so. Marital mistakes, conflict, and difficult seasons don’t have to be terminal. In fact, they often have the opposite effect when people have some backbone and use it to lean into the hard stuff. Broken bones are stronger when they mend. 

You and your marriage can grow from this!

Whatever “this” is, it’s part of your story now. In the best stories, the good guys—the heroes—have had to work to overcome something very, very difficult. You can do this, and you don’t have to do it alone. Get growing!

  1. Learn how to manage conflict and how to communicate your way through it.
  2. Find meaningful ways to say things like “Sorry” and “I forgive you” and live those words out.
  3. Learn that love is an action, not a feeling.
  4. Have friends that are for your marriage.
  5. Have an older couple as mentors.
  6. No keeping score and no looking to “even” it.

This season isn’t easy or fun, but it can bring you and your spouse closer together than ever before. Every scar tells a story. What kind of story do you want this to be?

***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.***

Image from Unsplash.com

We expect things to be different after marriage, and one of the more difficult changes is in our friendships. Often, while we share similar stages of life with our friends, your marital relationship should be the primary relationship. It’s pretty likely that you and your spouse want what is in the best interest of your marriage. 

Many couples bring a variety of things into the relationship—including that comfy couch from your bachelor pad or that well-worn t-shirt or sweatshirt, mismatched plates, cookware, and friends of the opposite sex. While it may be easy for you all to decide what old items to discard, it becomes much more difficult to have the conversation with your spouse about ending and/or adapting long-standing or even newly-established opposite-sex relationships. These innocent friendships often create a rift between spouses, especially when our spouse sees the relationship as no big deal but there is something in your gut that makes you super uncomfortable.

If you find that you and your spouse are having more and more unresolved discussions about these “friendships,” you may be in the “Danger Zone.” In the Danger Zone, you and your spouse may find yourself: 

  • Emotionally disconnected from each other
  • Not communicating well
  • Having unresolved conflicts
  • Decreasing in physical intimacy

If you see, DANGER, DANGER, DANGER, take heed. Dr. Shirley Glass, licensed marriage and family therapist, has found that “82% of the unfaithful partners I’ve treated have had an affair with someone who was, at first, ‘just a friend.’ The new infidelity is between people who unwittingly form deep, passionate connections before realizing that they’ve crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love.”

How should I begin this conversation with my spouse? 

Ask Questions

Internal Questions:

  • Look at the person in the mirror.
  • What really is bothering me? Do I feel ignored? Insecure? Disrespected? Jealous?
  • Am I asking my spouse to look at their opposite-sex friendships while I have not examined my own? 
  • What about this relationship makes me uncomfortable?
  • Does my spouse share a past romantic relationship with this friend?
  • Does this remind me of something from my past relationships?
  • Do I know my spouse’s friend? Are they doing things for the friend that they won’t do at home?

Relational Questions:

  • What is the state of my marriage? Is it healthy? Do we laugh together? Play together? How well do we communicate? Handle conflict? How is our intimate life? 
  • Are we nurturing our marital relationship?
  • Have we talked about boundaries? Does my spouse include me in the friendship? 
  • Am I invited to go hang out together with the friend? 
  • Are we in the “Danger Zone?”

Once you have considered the above questions, find the right time and place to begin the conversation with your spouse. 

  • Use “I statements” (Speak from your own point of view—“I feel, I need, I think…”)
  • Be respectful 
  • Ask questions of your spouse
  • Actively listen to them
  • Being aware prevents you from approaching a slippery slope

Having this conversation is meant to create and establish relational boundaries that you both can agree on as well as be held accountable. Additionally, you should be open about how you feel about it when your spouse has opposite-sex friends, but do so in a controlled and positive way. Avoid opening an accusatory conversation because you’re feeling hurt or slighted. Choose to respond instead of react. Seek to understand your spouse and the situation first, then open the conversation as a way to strengthen your marriage. 

Being aware of the danger zone, paying attention to warning signs and being respectful of your spouse’s perspective will enable you both to be on the same page and do what is best for your relationship. This does not mean that you and your spouse can never have opposite-sex friends. No matter the difficulty, talking and being open about boundaries is necessary to build a strong, lasting relationship.

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

Image from Pexels.com

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! This course includes exclusive access to:

  • 5 downloadable relationship-enhancing PDFs
  • Videos full of easy-to-use communication tools
  • Questions to ask each other to spark a deeper connection
  • Fun activities to guide you through each of the concepts discussed

ADD TO CART

SQUASH goes your dreams, all underneath the foot of the one you love the most.

COVID-19 has made you re-evaluate everything. Maybe you discovered the joys and benefits of homeschooling. Or you want to enroll in school yourself. Perhaps you realized working from home is so much better than tackling rush hour every day. Or, maybe you’ve figured out that you don’t want to work at all. 

And you’ve worked it all out in your head. After all, you’ve had two months to think this through. And now, you’ve shared the good—nay, great—news with your spouse. You explained it to them step by step. I mean, it’s all right there on the slideshow presentation, and you even provided a handout for future reference. The road to success seems seamless

And then, squash. 

I know how you feel. I get a really big, life-goal idea in my mind about every two weeks. And when I drop my best-laid plans on my wife as if it’s a slam-dunk, somehow she just doesn’t see it the way I do. And that’s when things can blow up. 

Let me suggest some things I have learned:

I have learned that letting my mind go too far down the decision-making trail before I make my spouse aware of what I’m thinking is not a good thing. 

In my mind, I’ve often already walked down the road to success. I’ve already imagined how wonderful this decision will be. And I’ve already anticipated that my spouse is going to react by being completely supportive and on board. The issue lies in the already. What I often fail to do is invite my spouse with me on this road before my mind is already made up. And that’s unfair to her. It’s as if I’ve already made the decision for her. 

I have learned that my spouse might have some ideas that change my direction. And that is a good thing

When she gives me reasons as to why something may not work out the way I see it (and dang it, they’re good reasons), it feels like a total disregard for my dreams and aspirations. The truth of the matter is that my spouse (the person who I’ve partnered with to walk down this road of life, I have to remind myself) does indeed support me and wants what’s best for both of us. 

And this is backed up by research. Marriage researcher and author Shaunti Feldhahn found that with couples who labeled themselves as “happy” or “mostly happy,” an extremely high number of partners said they care about their spouse, want the best for them, and are “for” their spouse, even during painful times and arguments.  

✸✸ At the end of the day, decisions such as these aren’t just a me thing; it’s a we thing. And her input to this decision is extremely valuable, sometimes resulting in a better outcome than I had imagined. ✸✸

Finally, I have learned that my relationship with my spouse actually gets stronger when we struggle over a decision together. 

And, the outcome of the decision normally comes out better than what I had originally anticipated. The very act of wrestling through the decision itself brings us closer together and makes us feel more valued, and solidifies us as a team.

So what do you do when you have a big idea and you want your spouse to be supportive? Here are some steps you can take: 

1. Take some time to consider the implications of your idea. Remember that this decision doesn’t affect you alone. It affects both your marriage and your spouse

2. Don’t think of it as a decision made, but an idea to be considered. So you want to change jobs, or go vegan, or cut way back on the kids’ sports schedules? It helps you be more open to the feedback of your spouse when you label this as an idea to be explored rather than a decision that’s already iron-clad in your mind.

3. Reframe how you bring your idea up to your spouse. “I’ve decided I want to change jobs and work from home permanently, and I’m going to start looking next week. Isn’t that exciting?” See how that sounds? Decision already made.

Notice the difference here: “I’ve been thinking of what it would look like to change jobs and work from home. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and I have some ideas. I don’t know what this might look like in the end, and I’d like your help in thinking about this.

Framing your idea so that you are open to feedback makes it more palatable, inviting, and open for discussion. And consequently, it can make a big difference in how supportive your spouse’s response is. 

4. Be prepared to approach the idea at a slower pace. When you’re excited about an idea, it’s difficult to not want to see it happen right now. But when you are bringing your spouse in on the decision-making process, be ready to take some time. It might take more than one discussion. Great decisions are rarely made in a short amount of time. Embrace the process that you and your spouse get to embark on, and allow it to make your connection to each other stronger. 

5. Bring your spouse in on the decision-making process. Invite your spouse in on the discussion. Ask them what they think, if they see better ways of approaching the idea, and what different scenarios may look like. For example, what does it look like to quit your job now versus quitting your job in one year? 

Be ready to approach your idea in ways different than you originally had thought. Your spouse may take it and add caveats, as what if we did this…, or even right out reject the idea as you see it playing out. Keep in mind that you are a team and this is a decision that affects both of you. 

✸✸ Relationship researchers Scott Stanley, Howard Markman, and Susan Blumberg suggest establishing some ground rules for these kinds of discussions, such as allowing one person to speak their full mind without interruption and then clarifying what you think you heard. If the discussion gets heated, take a time-out for 20 minutes and reconvene with calmer emotions. ✸✸ 

And if your spouse is still not supportive…

This is a very real possibility, no matter how well you’ve presented your idea. If that’s the case, take a deep breath. Understand that even though your spouse doesn’t support your idea, it doesn’t mean they don’t support you as their partner or your marriage as a whole. Circumstances also change with time. It’s possible your big life-goal idea may present itself to be a better idea in the future. 

Remember that you are a TEAM. 

  • Don’t let this issue or idea divide you. 
  • Don’t think in terms of who won and who lost.
  • Do not let your relationship become adversarial. 
  • Don’t look at your spouse as the enemy of your idea or dreams. (You might not be on the same page—yet.) 
  • Be on guard that anger and frustration don’t turn into bitterness or resentment—these will wreak havoc on your marriage. 

And one thing you can count on: if you’ve presented your idea in a way that invited open feedback and scrutiny from your spouse, they’ll be much more likely to be supportive of the idea when that future opportunity comes about. 

For more help with your 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 your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Unsplash.com

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.***

Image from AdobeStock.com

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! This course includes exclusive access to:

  • 5 downloadable relationship-enhancing PDFs
  • Videos full of easy-to-use communication tools
  • Questions to ask each other to spark a deeper connection
  • Fun activities to guide you through each of the concepts discussed

ADD TO CART

We had been married for about a year and I was really frustrated. My husband owned his own business and to me, it felt like it was the mistress in our marriage. He worked long hours which meant I spent a lot of time by myself. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends I could spend time with. I did plenty of that, but I really wanted time with him.

I knew Jay wasn’t intentionally trying not to be with me. In reality, he had a demanding job and it revolved around other people’s schedules. In the midst of feeling lonely and frustrated, I knew I needed help. The question I had was, “What do you do when you know your marriage needs help?” At that particular moment, I reached out to a friend who had been married forever. I knew I could count on her to listen and give me sound words of wisdom.

Thirty years of marriage and a career focused on marriage have taught me a lot about what to do when my marriage is in trouble.

Truth be told, it would be unusual to be married for any length of time and not have troubled times. It’s the reality of two people coming together, trying to do life together. It’s often complicated. Unexpected challenges can throw you for a loop. The good news is, although perfectly good marriages get derailed, the right help can often get the marriage back on track and move on down the rails.

Here are 4 things you can do if you find yourself in a marriage that feels like it is in trouble.

1. Surround yourself with people who are in healthy marriages. 

Too often, when things are hard it’s super tempting to hang around people who will “take your side” and offer lots of advice that they sincerely believe is helpful. In reality, their advice isn’t always beneficial. It would be like taking your car to someone who is not a mechanic and asking them what they think is wrong with your car. Then you let them tinker with it when they really have no clue how to fix the problem. What’s most helpful is to have people who are willing to listen, hold you accountable for your part, and help you keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Before we talk about anything else, I think it is important to say that if you find yourself in a marriage where someone is or might be emotionally or physically abusing you, you should seek help immediately by calling the Domestic Violence Hotline. They can help you create a plan to get to a safe place. The number is 1−800−799−7233. Thehotline.org also has lots of helpful information.

2. Counseling is for sure an option. 

Just like you would not put your children in the hands of just anyone, you don’t want to put your marriage into someone’s hands just because they have the title of counselor or marriage and family therapist after their name. Check out reviews online. Also, ask trusted friends if they know of counselors that have been helpful to their marriage or friends’ marriages. 

When you do call a marriage counselor or therapist to make an appointment, ask to have a  10-15 minute conversation with them to find out more about their experience with your particular issue. Tell them what your expectations are and what your end goals are. Do you want them to be directive in their approach or do you want more of an opportunity to process what is going on? All of this will be helpful information to them as they talk with you. 

If you don’t feel like they are relatable or have enough experience with your issue, say “Thanks for your time” and move on. Even if your spouse does not want to go to counseling, it doesn’t mean you can’t work on making your marriage better. It only takes one person to decide to do things differently to change the marriage dance. 

3. Online coaching and experiences.

These can also be helpful for you as an individual or as a couple. One word of caution: many people who have experienced and reached the other side of a crisis together become experts about their own situation, but present themselves as experts who can help others survive similar crises. Be careful to avoid putting your marriage into the hands of well-meaning people who may not have the experience necessary to be helpful to you. 

4. There are many resources (including some outstanding books) you might find helpful.  

In case you are wondering what my friend said, she asked if I had shared my frustrations with Jay. I told her I had not. She encouraged me to talk with him, but to really think about my words carefully. She also reminded me that we’re on the same team and that the goal was to figure out together the best way forward. I took her advice. Although she has left this earth, I can still hear her voice in my head on the hard days reminding me that my marriage is worth fighting for, and asking for help is courageous and wise. 

If you were to ask me now (almost 31 years into marriage) if it’s been worth it, I would say without a doubt. BUT, that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our share of hard times. There have been plenty, but it feels like the hard times were like good seasoning on food. It permeates through and just makes it better. Our marriage is better because of the hard times and being willing to ask for help.

***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.***

Image from Unsplash.com

OMG!! The news is on again! I roll my eyes. My husband is getting his minute-by-minute information about COVID-19. For me, it’s overwhelming and too much. I just want the facts, not everyone’s opinions about the facts. I don’t know about anyone else, but this time and space in history has taught me how different my husband and I are. 

It reminds me of my favorite movie, “Forrest Gump.” Forrest described him and Jenny as Peas and Carrots. Items that can stand alone, but go well together. There are other complementary pairs like peanut butter and chocolate, ham and eggs or fish and grits. (Savannah, GA is my home.)

The key is to remember that each item holds culinary value. They may be different, but their differences do NOT make them deficient when compared to each other. It is important to recognize that our mindset matters. Perspective is vitally important. How we choose to see or experience our differences is key.

The More You Go There, The More You Go There.

Since we are homeschooling and home-working, the differences that we have with our spouse or partner may be MORE pronounced and MORE irritating. Differences in how we set the daily schedule, how and on what items money is spent are a few of the differences that are exacerbated. When you are at your wit’s end with how your spouse washes the dishes or places the toilet paper on the roll, stop. Take a deep breath. Say to yourself, they are trying to help in the way that they know how; Different is Not Deficient. Different is NOT deficient. 

Believe the Best About Your Spouse.

Yes, they do things differently than you. I don’t believe that most spouses wake up daily with the intent of making their spouse miserable. We have to make a conscious effort to train our brain to see the positive efforts they are making during these trying times. 

Boss your feelings around.

It’s important that we acknowledge our feelings, but don’t allow them to dominate how we react. In other words, seek to respond versus react. When my husband folds the towels and I see that they are folded his way rather than “my way,” my first reaction may be to ask, “Why did you fold them that way?” A better response would be, “Thank you for helping with the laundry!

In the midst of COVID-19, I am reminded of a wonderful saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff!” It is important to remember that you and your spouse are a TEAM. Each player on the team has a role to play. For our RELATIONSHIP to be at its best, we must be doing our BEST as individuals. For many, this pandemic can be an opportunity for individual and relationship growth.

Depending on how we intentionally focus on each other determines whether or not we come out better on the side. Take this time of Social Distancing and Self-Quarantine as an opportunity to be BETTER TOGETHER.

For more help with avoiding and managing conflict in your marriage, check out these blogs!

Help! My Spouse And I Can’t Stop Fighting And We’re Stuck In Quarantine!

5 Things I’ve Learned About Marriage During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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

Image from Unsplash.com

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! This course includes exclusive access to:

  • 5 downloadable relationship-enhancing PDFs
  • Videos full of easy-to-use communication tools
  • Questions to ask each other to spark a deeper connection
  • Fun activities to guide you through each of the concepts discussed

ADD TO CART

You said, “I do” and set out on a journey that you thought would last a lifetime. A few years go by and life feels more chaotic than ever. It seems like tyranny of the urgent always takes precedence over spending time together.

“In general, what you get out of something in life is what you are willing to put into it,” says author of Divorce Remedy and marriage expert, Michele Weiner-Davis. “If you think about how fiercely people love their children, part of the reason for this is that they are super cute, but another explanation is how devoted you are to them – waking up at 2 a.m. because they are sick and throwing up, reading bedtime stories when you’re plum out of energy. Your investment results in intense love.”

The same is true of our partners, Weiner-Davis says. Early on in our relationships, we are obsessed with thinking about them and being flirty, attentive and kind. These actions lead to connection. We are enamored with each other.

Over time, however, one person might start taking the other person for granted and stop doing the things that lead to connection.

“When this happens, people say to themselves, ‘I’m not getting my needs met so why should I do anything for you?’” Weiner-Davis says. “That’s when most people start living separate lives. When people resent that their needs aren’t being met, they start to keep score – ‘If you aren’t  kind or attentive, if you don’t initiate date night, I’m not going to have sex with you or invest in quality time.’ That’s when people say they don’t like their spouse anymore.”

Weiner-Davis describes a classic example: 

  • Women often want to feel close and connected emotionally before they are physical. 
  • Men want connection on a physical level before they invest in meaningful conversations or quality time together. 
  • Both people end up going to their respective corners and waiting for the other person to change.

It’s this slow drip of disconnection over time that leads to people questioning their feelings about their spouse. And when this happens, irritability is a by-product. People start focusing on everything they don’t like about their partner. They micromanage how the dishwasher is loaded, how their partner chews their food and how laundry is done.

Even when things seem pretty hopeless, Weiner-Davis says there is a remedy.

Focus on Exceptions

“I encourage people to focus on exceptions,” Weiner-Davis says. “I tell them, ‘Ask, what was different about your relationship when you enjoyed your spouse and your relationship more?’ Some reflect on aspects of their lives that are irretrievable such as spontaneity before they had children. Although spontaneity may no longer be possible, people can plan carefree time together. They can get a babysitter or barter with a friend to watch the kids.

“People often discuss other ‘exceptions’ such as ‘We used to talk more, have more sex, go to the movies more, try new restaurants – most of which is possible to reproduce.”

Be the First

Next, Weiner-Davis tells couples, “If your spouse started paying more attention to you, making suggestions about trips you could go on, new hobbies you could do together, how would you be different in return?” Most say, “I would be nicer.” Then Weiner-Davis asks people to describe the ways in which they would be nicer and start doing that immediately. She always encourages people to be the one to tip the first domino.

“Don’t wait for your partner to be more likable – you be more likable,” Weiner-Davis says. “Ask yourself in what ways have you pulled back from your relationship? Your partner’s distance might be the result of you pulling away, too.”  

Another mistake people make is putting all of their emotional eggs into one basket – assuming their spouse will satisfy every emotional need. And as a result, when their spouse falls short, there’s major disappointment.

Find Healthy Ways to Fill the Void

Find other ways to get your needs met. Be with friends. Get a new hobby. Once people feel more inner peace and happiness without the expectation that their spouse has to do all the heavy lifting, their spouse starts looking better. Consider areas of your marriage that do work and be grateful for them.

“Women will often come to me saying they don’t like their husband anymore,” Weiner-Davis says. “My first response is to assess how happy they are in their own lives. One woman said, ‘I don’t know why I am here, I should be seeing a divorce lawyer.’ She had no plan for her life after divorce. I told her, you can always get out of your marriage, but why not get all your ducks in a row first. She shared that she had an interest in horticulture and that a friend had offered her a job. I suggested she take the job and get herself financially stable.

“She took the job and started feeling better. Then, she didn’t want to divorce her husband at all. Her newfound happiness in her own life created new, more positive feelings about her husband.” 

Instead of blaming your spouse for your unhappiness, find healthy ways to fill the void. This will make your spouse look a lot better to you. If you are lonely, go find something you enjoy doing and avoid the temptation of telling your spouse it’s their fault.

All too often people walk away from perfectly good marriages. If you find yourself in this place, take the time to examine what is really going on. The odds are probably in your favor that making a few changes could actually get your marriage back on track and on the road to thriving.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on March 7, 2020.

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

Image from Pexels.com