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Respect matters in marriage. 

Maybe more than anything else. 

And I’m going to tell you why. 

Respect may best be defined as the way you show true appreciation for another person. Respect is an action, not just a feeling. It’s a declaration of value for someone. We demonstrate respect by how we behave toward another person. 

And it’s fairly easy to recognize when someone respects (or disrespects) another person. 

The show of respect is usually thought of as coming from a place of inferiority. Pictures come to mind of soldiers standing at attention when high-ranking officers enter the room, or of hard-working employees speaking highly of their boss. 

Respect in a healthy marriage is different, though. It’s a two-way street. Both parties in the relationship crave and deserve equal respect from the other, and rightly so. Respect is shown in marriage not because one person is more superior than the other, but because each person recognizes the value of the other. 

In marriage, mutual respect matters. 

But why? Why does mutual respect play such a critical part in a healthy marriage? 

Here are four reasons: 

  • Mutual respect eliminates the fear of being different. Let me explain. In your marriage, you and your partner each come to the relationship as individuals. You have your own personality traits, talents, quirks, past experiences, and interests. Showing mutual respect demonstrates an appreciation for each other—differences and all. Your respect toward your spouse gives value to the differences they bring to the relationship. When mutual respect is given, it opens up a vulnerability for each person to be who they are without the fear of being devalued or judged unfairly
  • Mutual respect upholds healthy boundaries in the relationship. Even the healthiest marriages reinforce proper boundaries. When you show respect—appreciation for your spouse, you recognize certain needs. For example, I’m the kind of person who really has to have some time alone each day just to recharge. My wife respects that (even though she doesn’t have the same need), and so she knows when to give me some space. It’s important to my wife that there’s no name-calling between us, even if it’s in jest (because often things can go too far or easily be misinterpreted). I try to respect that, even though playful name-calling was a part of my upbringing. Mutual respect gives strength to uphold these boundaries. 
  • Mutual respect compels you to “check your jersey” when you have disagreements. I love this phrase (which I borrowed from Kyle Benson, a blogger for The Gottman Institute). In the heat of a conflict, it can be easy to fall into the false notion that your spouse is working against you in this team effort called marriage. Respect doesn’t take away the chances that disagreements will happen; they will, even in the best of marriages. But when you practice mutual respect in marriage—and practice it often—you are more confident that, despite the conflict, you know you and your spouse are on the same team and working toward the same thing. You can see more clearly that you’re wearing the same jersey. 
  • Mutual respect strengthens the friendship between you and your spouse. Relationship researcher John Gottman says that long-term vitality and connection is grown through intentional friendship in your marriage. In other words, marriage is healthy when you and your spouse deepen your friendship. Because it shows appreciation and value for your partner, showing mutual respect provides the space for friendship to grow. Why? Because it takes the fear of vulnerability out of the equation. My wife is my best friend because it’s with her that I can be the most vulnerable. That can’t happen without mutual respect. 

But wait… there’s more! 

BONUS REASON why mutual respect matters in marriage!

  • Mutual respect needs to be modeled to children. If you and your spouse are parents, no doubt you want to raise them to be respectful adults. A child’s primary source for lessons on respect come from watching how their parents behave toward each other. My wife and I have two daughters, and I think it’s important for them to understand how husbands and wives should treat each other—with warmth, care and respect. Hopefully, they can see that in us. Mutual respect in a marriage is essential for teaching kids to be respectful

Mutual respect matters in your marriage.  🔎 Find the ways to appreciate your spouse—differences and all—and show that appreciation on a daily basis. Declare your spouse’s value in your actions. You’ll be better friends, better parents, and better teammates

***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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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.***

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What if I told you that there was a number—a magical number—that defined the exact rate you and your spouse should have sex each and every week so both of you experience wonderful, marital, sensuous bliss that will last over the entire span of your marriage, “until death do you part?” 

Well, do I have news for you… You won’t find that magic number recorded anywhere! 

While research does suggest that couples that have sex at least once per week are happier than those who have sex less than that, it still doesn’t provide a solid answer to the question of how often a couple should have sex. All we know is that once a week is the average rate for couples who are happy. 

But before you click the X and stomp off in frustration, hear me out. Because while determining the magic number is about as elusive as Bigfoot riding a unicorn, there may still be a number that produces a little magic. 

If you do some research, what you will find are experts who say that there is no prescribed, scientific, formulaic number of times a couple should be having sex, but the magic number is what you make it. Raffi Bilek, a couples’ counselor and the director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, tells Health, “The truth is that whatever is comfortable for you and your partner is your normal. You don’t need to be having sex any more or less than you’d like.” 

This is all well and good, unless, of course, you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement on what is “comfortable” and “normal.” (Which probably describes a majority of couples out there.) 

So then, how do you move forward with this touchy subject? 

The truth of the matter is that the magic number is one that you and your spouse have to determine for yourselves. It’s your magic number. And here are some steps to move toward that: 

You’ve got to talk about it.

Start the conversation, and approach it with a great deal of respect for the other person’s feelings and opinions. Discuss with each other: 

  • Are you someone who can get turned on before you have sex or do you have to be well into the foreplay before you are actually in the mood?
  • Do you need to have sex to feel emotionally connected to your spouse, or do you need to feel emotionally connected to your spouse to have sex?
  • How does stress affect your desire for sex? 

What turns you on about the other person? Is seeing particular behaviors or attitudes more likely to get your motor running? (E.g. I love it when she is in a good mood, I’m really attracted to him when I see him being an active father, She really steams up the room when we watch a great football game together…)

More than likely, you’re not going to hammer this out in one sitting. It’s an ongoing process and conversation to find a mutually satisfying rhythm to your sex life.

Determine an actual, magical number for your relationship.

This is your mission, should you choose to accept it. Why is this important? It gives you a goal and informs each person in the marriage  what they can expect. 

You may need to compromise and meet in the middle.

Now, the person who wants sex more may get it less. And the person who wants sex less may get it more than they want. But let’s be honest: no one has ever died from not getting as much sex as they wanted. And if you are the one who wants sex less, you may need to be willing to give in a little more than you’d like (with healthy, reasonable expectations, of course). However, you both may find your comfort level increasing with the magic number, especially if you…

Pay close attention to each other’s intimacy needs.

Some people need to feel emotionally secure and close before they’re willing to even think about sex. If that’s your spouse, you have a job to do—find ways to meet their emotional needs (and not just because you want to have sex). 

Other people feel emotionally secure by being physically intimate. If that’s your spouse, you may need to spice things up a little more than you’re used to. If you keep each other’s pathways to connection in your sights, finding that magic number can come more easily than you expect. 

One more thing to keep in mind: Magic numbers can change. Life goes through seasons. Children come into the picture. Or they leave the house. Health issues arise. People take medication. Temporary periods of stress or exhaustion come into the picture. All these things can affect how often the magic happens. The key here is to continue to be sensitive to each other’s needs and feelings and to continue to communicate. 

Magic numbers don’t have to be as mythical as unicorns, and it’s possible for things to be magical in the bedroom for both of you 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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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

How do you know how strong and healthy your marriage is? Doctors help us to know whether our bodies are strong and healthy. 

I love getting a good report from the doctor after a check-up:

Mr. Ownby, your lab work shows your cholesterol is at a very healthy level. 

Mr. Ownby, your heart rate is strong and your blood pressure is perfectly normal. 

Mr. Ownby, our tests show you have the abs of a Greek warrior. 

(I haven’t actually heard that last piece of news yet, but I’m working on it…) 

How do you get a marriage check-up?

In her book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Couples, Harvard-educated researcher Shaunti Feldhahn uncovered a number of things that highly-happy, healthy couples do. Here are four of those signs from her research that you can use right now in your marriage: 

Couples in healthy marriages remember that little things go a long way.

It’s easy to think the big, overarching gestures we give our spouses (like expensive gifts or a surprise trip) keep the marriage glue strong. In fact, while there’s nothing wrong with these big gestures, Feldhahn’s research indicates regular, small actions of love are really what keeps the relationship robust. 

More specifically, Feldhahn pinpoints five of these “little things” that each person in the marriage can do to help their spouse feel more cared for: 

What the wife can do for him:

  • Notice his efforts and sincerely thank him.
  • Make it clear you desire him sexually.
  • Let him know that he makes you happy. 
  • Say, “You did a great job at _________.
  • Affirm him in front of others.

What the husband can do for her: 

  • Reach out and hold her hand. 
  • Leave her messages during the day to let her know you are thinking about her. 
  • Pull yourself out of a funk/bad mood (rather than withdrawing).
  • Put your arm around her in public
  • Sincerely tell her, “You are beautiful.” 

Couples in healthy marriages spend time alone with each other.

Two keywords here are meaningful and regular. Happy couples talk or share an activity when they are alone together. And these couples report doing this at least weekly

One goal you may shoot for is having a weekly “date time.” This is an intentional time you plan for just the two of you, and it can be any time of the day that’s convenient. You don’t necessarily have to leave the house or even spend a lot of money on a fancy dinner. Take a walk around the neighborhood. Play a card game. Send the kids to their rooms, turn the lights down low, and enjoy your favorite TV show over a box of Oreos. Simplicity often makes for the most meaningful times together. The idea is to have meaningful alone time with the one you love most on a regular basis

Couples in healthy marriages believe the other person is the reason their marriage is so happy.

Most people in a “highly-happy” relationship said that what their partner contributes to the relationship is why they are highly-happy. Conversely, a majority of the individuals in “so-so” happy relationships indicated they were the reason for their (so-so) happiness. Developing a sense of gratitude for the value your spouse gives to your marriage is fundamental. Recognize the great things they do for your relationship and show them your appreciation

Couples in healthy marriages believe the best of each other and don’t let negative thoughts get the best of them.

Even in the midst of disagreements, couples from healthy, happy marriages still knew that they were both on the same team and that their partner deeply cared for them. When negative thoughts about their spouse began to creep in, couples were quick to intentionally change their thinking around. They realized the power they had over these feelings and trained their brain to think the best of their partner. When you feel these kinds of negative feelings coming on, don’t let them boss you around; decide to believe the best about your spouse

Keeping your marriage strong and healthy takes intentionality on a daily basis. But with these four keys, you can be sure that your marriage check-up will merit a clean bill of health. 

 ***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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Have you ever had someone apologize in front of a group of people and one person thought the apology was sincere while you thought it was not? If so, you are not alone. 

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages and The Five Languages of Apology, people speak different love languages and they also speak different languages of apology. Even when someone says they are sorry, in many instances the other person may not hear it as a sincere apology for a number of reasons.

“Most people are looking for specifics in an apology—and unless they hear it or recognize it, they don’t trust it,” says Chapman. “The person who has been hurt needs to know for certain that the apology is genuine. But how do we communicate such sincerity? Therein lies the problem. What one person considers a sincere apology may not sound, or actually be, sincere to another person.” 

Apology is about validating the other person’s feelings when they have been hurt or wronged. When you start the process of forgiveness, you’re on your way to reconnecting.

The five languages of apology are:

  • Expressing regret – This is the emotional aspect of an apology. People who speak this language believe it is important to acknowledge that you offended them and to express your own sense of guilt, shame and pain that your behavior has hurt them deeply. Actually being able to say “I am sorry” is very important to a person who speaks this language. 
  • Accepting responsibility – In this instance an apology means accepting responsibility for one’s actions and being willing to say “I was wrong.” This is often very difficult because admitting you are wrong can be perceived as weakness. 
  • Making restitution – For an apology to be genuine, it isn’t just about saying “I am sorry.” Instead, it’s all about making things right for a person who speaks this language. They want acknowledgment of the wrongdoing and they want to know what you are going to do to make it right.
  • Genuinely repenting – The word repentance means “to turn around” or to change one’s mind. If a person speaks this language of apology they are expecting that you not only apologize, but that you will seek not to repeat the offense again in the future.
  • Requesting forgiveness – A person who speaks this language believes that an apology not only includes “I am sorry,” but also a request for forgiveness. Requesting forgiveness indicates to some that you want to see the relationship fully restored.

“A husband shared with me that as soon as he read the book he understood what had been going on in his marriage,” Chapman says. “He explained that his language of apology is expressing regret. If his wife said that, he considered the situation put to rest. But if he said ‘I’m sorry’ to her, she had trouble forgiving him. He even lectured her about being able to let go of things once an apology had been offered. He didn’t understand why she would want to hold on to these things. After reading the book, he realized her language of apology is making restitution. He never thought about what he needed to do to make it up to her. She would say to him, ‘Well, you think you can just say ‘I’m sorry’ and things will be just fine, but things aren’t just fine.’ He really needed to ask what he needed to do to make this up to her.”

When someone apologizes, they accept responsibility for their behavior and seek to make amends with the offended person. A genuine apology opens the door to the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation so the relationship can continue to grow. Without an apology, the offense sits as a barrier, diminishing the quality of the relationship.

Chapman encourages people to determine their language of apology and share it with their spouse, family members and co-workers. 

“I encourage people to make a little cheat sheet so that when an offense occurs toward a spouse, child, family member or co-worker, they know what language of apology to speak to that particular person,” Chapman says. “Good relationships are always marked by a willingness to apologize, forgive and reconcile.”

 ***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.***

Tired of the so-so communication in your marriage? 

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

Inside, you’ll find:

  • How and why you and your spouse communicate differently, and what to do about it
  • 5 proven listening techniques that will pump up the intimacy in your relationship
  • 4 ways to start and end difficult conversations well
  • 5 ways you may be hindering communication with your spouse without realizing it
  • AND MORE!

PLUS! Every section has an easy, no-stress discussion guide created for you and your partner to build the communication you want in your marriage.

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

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

The University of Denver’s Center for Marital and Family Studies research finds that the amount of fun couples have together is the strongest factor in understanding overall marital happiness.

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

TAKE THE CHALLENGE!

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

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

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

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

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

My parents had 2 main ways to communicate with the outside world: a landline phone and a television. When they wanted to communicate with someone, they either called them, stepped outside and talked to them in the front yard, or got in the car and drove to see them. They’d talk for hours about everything and nothing.

Fast forward to my time of adulthood, and I’ve got a cell phone, tablet, laptop and a television all synced together to make my life “easier.” If I want to communicate with someone, I never actually call them: I text, email, Instagram, use Facebook Messenger, FaceTime or Google Hangouts, all created in part so that I could have more “meaningful” and better connected relationships. But, I could talk with people all day through these platforms and never know them as well as my parents knew the neighbor they’d talk to once a month for a couple of hours.

I’ve noticed a trend in romantic relationships, too. Everywhere I go I run into an old married couple who started dating when they were in high school or who met in their first year of college. The majority of my friends and colleagues had 6 or 7 girlfriends by the time they finished college, married someone they met near the end of college or at their first real job, and are now divorced. I can’t help but wonder if the ability to constantly communicate with anyone we choose is such a distraction to us, we’ve forgotten how to truly know someone and work through a relationship with them.

Mom and dad made adulthood look easy. With all the technology and access we have today, why does it feel so much harder?

Should we go back to the “good ole days?” I’m not saying we should give up our cell phones, shut down our tablets and trade Netflix for NBC or CBS. I mean, there are good things about technology. It has the ability to help us out when we’re in danger, and remind us of important dates like birthdays and anniversaries, plus we can connect with people around the world that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to talk to.

I wonder what would happen if we slowed down and developed relational depth with those we care about. Doing this requires a few things like:

  • Prioritizing meaningful conversations and interactions with one person instead of constantly engaging in a group text message with 10 people. In other words, instead of trying to keep up with what EVERYONE is doing, we can have conversations and find out what’s really important to the people we care about most.
  • Support people in real life, not just through a like or follow on social media. For example, offer to take a friend dinner when they buy a new house instead of just liking their “We bought a new house!” picture on social media.
  • Re-evaluate and trim the list of who is most important to you. Make some difficult adult decisions to simplify your life when it comes to relationships. Just because you’re friends on social media, or text occasionally, doesn’t mean you’re really truly friends. Find those folks you want to go deeper with and be intentional about taking time to make it happen.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about relationships, it’s this: It’s not about how often you talk to someone you care about, it’s about really being present with them in the moments you’re with them.

-Reggie Madison, FTF Educator

I cannot tell you how many times my wife has been bothered by something I did or said that stayed on her mind all day long. Over and over it plays in her mind…

Why did he say that? What was he thinking? He made me feel like this…What he did bothered me because… He must’ve meant something different… How does this affect our children? and on and on.

At the end of the day, I get home from work having no idea what she’s been internally processing all day and then she asks, “Can we talk?” Very early in the conversation I realize that: a) I had no idea that she was bothered by something I did or said and b) she’s obviously been thinking about this all day. So, I do what any unsuspecting spouse would do. I say, “Can we talk about this later?”

There’s a whole lot behind this question that I believe some spouses, usually ladies, do not understand. Research suggests that ladies naturally process their feelings, thoughts and emotions out loud and on the fly. And that’s a good thing. That’s why when I ask my wife, “Can we talk?” she generally embraces it because it means we are about to connect. She doesn’t mind chatting with me about feelings, even if she doesn’t initially know the direction the conversation is headed.

Research also suggests that men do not do as well processing thoughts, feelings and emotions out loud in the midst of the conversation, especially without being forewarned. We need space and time to understand our own place in any given issue. That’s why my “Can we talk about this later?” question was meant to be interpreted as, “I need some time to mentally revisit what caused the issue, think through why I may have done or said it, and gather my thoughts so that we can have a conversation that is truly reflective of the type of relationship we desire to have.”

Ladies, I know it’s hard, but give him a little space to process before you talk. Then, choose a time the two of you agree on (within 24 hours, but the quicker the better), and revisit the conversation so that no issue becomes bigger than your 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.***

I love music. I can’t sing well or play an instrument but I find peace and comfort in songs. My wife and I were headed to Birmingham for Thanksgiving and “Fresh Eyes” by Andy Grammer came on. I had heard this song but never really listened to it. He talks about how his relationship had gotten mundane, to the point of feeling like roommates.

This struck me because my wife and I went through this stage. Early in our marriage as we both chased careers, we fell into a period of feeling like roommates. The fire we had as we were dating fizzled and we weren’t being intentional with our relationship. This can be a danger to married couples. We have to intentionally focus on one another, connect and communicate.

I have had several moments throughout our almost 13 years of marriage where I see my wife through fresh eyes. It’s like falling in love all over again, every time. I feel like that 16-year-old kid.

If you want to keep the fire sizzling, be intentional about connecting with your spouse. It’s all about the little things. Hold her hand, genuinely tell her you love her, tell her how beautiful she is…always. Pursue her like you did when you were trying to make her your girlfriend.

The fire will never sizzle when I see my bride as my 16-year-old self did.