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Some things in marriage are inevitable, like conflict. 

But wait. Isn’t the point of marriage to avoid conflict? To live in marital bliss and peace, happily ever after? 

It’s commonly thought the less you fight, the healthier your marriage. As a matter of fact, both researchers and counselors seem to agree some conflict is not only inevitable, it’s normal. And it could even be good for your marriage.

That word: conflict; it’s tricky. Some might be tempted to picture marital conflict as a knock-down, drag-out, throwdown of debate and insults in the effort to “win.” 

But if we’re to thrive in our marriage, it’s necessary to reframe how we think about marital conflict. 

Conflict is simply disagreement. It’s a temporary inability to see eye-to-eye. Sometimes it involves strong feelings. But in no way is conflict some kind of omen for dysfunction. It’s just gonna happen, even in the healthiest of marriages. It’s, well, inevitable. 

Side note here: There’s something to be said about the frequency of conflict in your marriage. If you find yourselves constantly at odds with each other, this could spell trouble. And it’s a possible sign that either: A. You aren’t handling conflict in a healthy way, or  B. Other dynamics are eating away at your marriage. If this is the case, it may be a good time to consider seeking help from a professional marriage counselor. 

So when it does come around (and it will), every married couple is tasked with handling conflict in healthy ways. 

But how do you get there? Keep these ideas in mind: 

  • You and your spouse wear the same jersey. You’re on the same team. Even teammates have different ideas of how to get the ball down the field. But at the end of the day, you both share the same goal: Resolve the issue at hand and keep your marriage strong. 
  • Attack the problem instead of each other. In other words, keep the goal the goal. Nothing gets accomplished when you go after each other’s character. Avoid those four nasty responses to conflict described by researcher John Gottman: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.1 They kill communication and suck the life out of your marriage. 
  • Be aware of how you speak in a conflict. Avoid using harsh start-ups, launching into a tirade with your emotions driving the boat. Don’t start sentences with “You…” Instead, use “I” statements to own your feelings and opinions. 
  • This is going to require some listening on both your parts. Listening is key to working toward a resolution.2 Since you share the goal, you share in the solution. Listen to seek to understand the other person’s view, even if it doesn’t align with your own thinking. 
  • Know when to forgive, and perhaps more importantly, when to ask for forgiveness. It deters the lingering effects of a conflict, even when a solution is found.3 Forgive and leave the offense there.  

If you and your spouse experience conflict in your marriage, don’t fret. It doesn’t mean you’re doomed. It’s just a part of life and a part of the marriage journey. And evidence even suggests that conflict can be positive for your marriage.4 

Although conflict is inevitable, it provides an opportunity for making change where it needs to be made. And working through an issue to find a solution creates a stronger sense of connection and intimacy between couples. 

Don’t let conflict throw your marriage off track. Maximize it to find solutions and strengthen your marriage. 

Other blogs:

How to Find a Counselor Who Will Fight for Your Marriage

4 Tips for Becoming a Team in Marriage

Sources:

1Gottman, J., Coan, J., Carrere, S., & Swanson, C. (1998). Predicting Marital Happiness and Stability from Newlywed Interactions. Journal of Marriage and Family, 60(1), 5–22. https://doi.org/10.2307/353438

2Lachica, N., Stockwell, A., & Gamba, J. (2021). What did I just say? An individualized behavior skills training for listening behaviors of adult participants in romantic relationships. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 1–24. https://doi.org/10.1080/14681994.2021.1922664

3Fincham, F. D., Beach, S. R. H., & Davila, J. (2004). Forgiveness and Conflict Resolution in Marriage. Journal of Family Psychology, 18(1), 72–81. https://doi.org/10.1037/0893-3200.18.1.72

4Deutsch, M., & Coleman, P. T. (2000). The handbook of conflict resolution : theory and practice  (1st ed.). Jossey-Bass.

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5 Tips for Distancing From Your In-Laws

Getting along may take time, effort, and patience.

As a newlywed, establishing and navigating relationships with in-laws can be filled with tension and pitfalls. I recall the first significant conversation with my in-laws when I felt disrespected and disconnected. The conversation went something like this: “Hey, you never call. You never come by. Do you not like us?” I remember trying to gather my thoughts. My first reaction was, “OMG! I want nothing to do with them!” From there, I had to stop and consider what they were asking for, not what I was hearing. They wanted to be part of our lives but were pushing too hard to make that happen.

You may be saying, “There is nothing to consider! They said something I don’t like, and there is nothing to think about and nothing we need to talk about, ever.” I get it. I really do. 

And please hear me say this: If your in-laws are verbally or physically abusive*, this blog is not for you!

Nevertheless, for me, there were things to consider, like:

  1. Relationship with my sisters-in-law (They had nothing to do with that conversation.)
  2. My husband loves his parents and wants to continue to have interactions with them.
  3. How will our future children be impacted by this distant relationship?
  4. What about other family gatherings? 

So before I chose to destroy (sever) the relationship, I sought to find healthy boundaries* and create appropriate distance between my in-laws and me. 

Here are some things to keep in mind if you need some distance from your in-laws, too. 

1. Understand that their family dynamics or interactions are different from yours.

I struggled with needing distance because my in-laws expected the same thing from me that they expected from their children. They expected me to call every morning and have dinner with them on Sundays. It took me a while to recognize that they didn’t have unrealistic expectations; their expectations were just different from the ones my parents had. Once I set a boundary of once a week calls and dinners once per month, things calmed down.

2. Be willing to create a relationship with the in-laws.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re just getting to know them or if you had a long-term relationship before your marriage. Now that you’re married, you are establishing a new and different relationship. As such, you’re still getting to know each other. Be open to a fresh start. 

3. Their behavior probably comes from a place of care.

Usually, in-laws desire to feel close and connected. To you, it may feel like they’re smothering you and your relationship. Try to see the good in their actions. 

4. Living away from them can provide natural boundaries.

I remember watching “Everybody Loves Raymond.” The main characters, Deborah and Ray, lived directly across the street from Ray’s parents, Marie and Frank. Deborah and Marie had issues. One of the main ones was proximity. Marie and Frank constantly barged into Deborah and Ray’s house without advance notice or invitation. I would tell my husband, “Couldn’t be me.” Gratefully, it wasn’t. Within six months of our marriage, my husband and I moved 12 hours away from our families. Truthfully, it was easier to deal with or even ignore behaviors because I would only be around them for short periods.

5. You and your spouse are a FAMILY.

It may be hard for one or both of you to set boundaries with family. Remember this, though: Once you’re married, your spouse becomes your primary family member. In my case, I do respect my mother-in-law as his mother. Yet, I know my PLACE as his WIFE. I am confident and don’t feel the need to compete with my mother-in-law. Your primary allegiance is to the family you created with your spouse. Standing up for them with your family or supporting them as they stand up to their family for you is crucial. 

When you and your spouse said, “I do,” you united your families as well. Learning the rules of engagement for each family requires time, effort, and patience. You may have heard the old saying: “Good fences make good neighbors.” That saying also applies to families. When you have healthy boundaries, it can prevent in-laws from being outlaws.

*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.*

Other blogs:

What to Do When You Don’t Really Like Your In-Laws

So, You Need to Talk to Your In-Laws About Boundaries

What to Do When You Aren’t Crazy About Your Future In-Laws

How to Validate Your Spouse’s Feelings

You can show them you value their emotions with these tips.

Your spouse: “I can’t believe you got lunch with Tim and Stacey without me. You know I would have liked to come, but instead, I was home alone with the kids. I wish you had told me.”

You: “It was just a last-minute thing. I’m sure we’ll see them again soon. You’re overreacting.”

Time out! Let’s press pause on this conversation. You know where this is going. Let’s be honest: We’ve all been there. We’ve probably all been on both sides of this conversation. I’ll be the first to step up; my emotions have been downplayed, and I’ve been the husband who downplayed my wife’s emotions. 

Remember, the key to healthy communication is listening. Often, our spouse just needs someone to listen and validate their feelings. 

Wait a second – my spouse wants me to validate their feelings? What do you mean by validating my spouse? 

I’m so glad you asked. Let’s dive into what validation means.

Validation is the act of helping someone feel heard and understood. When your spouse comes to you to share their feelings, it’s genuinely listening and experiencing the moment with them. It’s showing interest in what they have to say and valuing their emotions, words, and thoughts. Often when we share our feelings, we aren’t seeking advice; we’re seeking validation. We want to know that what we feel is valid and our thoughts have worth. Researchers have found that validation is critical to our relational, physical, and emotional health.

Here are some thoughts on how to validate your spouse’s feelings:

Remember, you’re validating feelings and everyone’s feelings are valid. Why they feel the way they do isn’t as important as addressing the emotions they are expressing. 

“Once you are able to let go of the content (which you may not agree with) and focus on how they are feeling (which is always valid), you will be able to support them,” advises Tamara Thompson, licensed marriage and family therapist.

What can you do to validate your spouse? 

Thompson offers some steps to show validation:

1. Listen, listen, listen.

Listen to understand the other person’s feelings. This isn’t about you. Don’t try to fix or solve the issue.

2. Empathy goes a long way.

You may disagree with the issue, but you can empathize with their emotions.

3. Repeat what they share.

Show you are paying attention and understand. Ask questions. 

4. Normalize their feelings.

Many people would probably feel the way they feel in that situation. Say that!

5. See it through their eyes.

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” It’s so true. Try to see the experience through your spouse’s eyes.

6. Touch them.

(Ask if they want to be touched first). Hold their hand, rub their back, or offer a hug. Physical touch is powerful. For some, this is their primary love language and it shows you are connecting with them.

Side note: If things are heated, it may not be the best time to make contact.

7. Use your body.

Make facial expressions, shake your head, lean in, make eye contact. Don’t stand there with your arms crossed or staring off in the distance. Be engaged.

Let’s rewind back to you and your spouse. 

Instead of saying, “You’re overreacting,” try saying, “I understand why you’re frustrated,” or “You’re right, you have every right to be upset.” Look for replies that validate the feelings your spouse has expressed. You may disagree with them (and that’s ok), but their feelings have value. If you don’t think you do this well, now’s the time to start validating your spouse. 

Other blogs: 

Should You Apologize to Your Spouse for Something You Didn’t Do?

7 Ways to Increase Trust in Marriage

The Art of Communication

Sources:

The Impact of Validating and Invalidating Responses on Emotional Reactivity

Validation Do’s and Don’ts for Couples: An Essential Component to Finally Feeling Understood!

3 Reasons We’re Getting Married After Living Together

There are many factors to consider about marriage.

I’m a man who didn’t want to get married. I’ve lived with the mother of my children for 15 years. Fifteen years. Now, I realize the importance of marriage and wish I had gotten married years ago.

Reasons I Avoided Marriage

  • I grew up around people that didn’t value marriage.
  • My parents never got married.
  • I saw so many marriages end in divorce.
  • I was scared of commitment. 

Can you identify with any of these reasons? Maybe yours are different, but for me, I think it really came down to fear. Some parts of marriage seemed practical, but other parts didn’t. I saw a lot of cheating going on, which was scary too. I didn’t want any part of that.

Sometimes our real intentions are hidden a few layers deep. At times, we just need someone to lovingly shake the ground we walk on to bring maturity to the surface. I’ve always been a leader, even though I never really followed the rules of life. Sometimes I tried to make it without what some say: “It’s all his plan for being successful.” I’ve seen the ups and downs of life and marriage, so I was a little terrified. 

I’ve racked my brain on how I would explain in my own words about my experience without fear. I didn’t want to bore you about what I’ve been through in a short blog. But in my mind, I know this is going to be a journey for you too. 

Like I said, we’ve lived together for many years. So, what has changed? Why am I ready for marriage now?

Here are a few reasons we’re getting married after living together all this time:

1. For me, getting married is about growth and seeing how life goes when you do what’s right by each other.

The years of pain and hurt come at a cost that only you and the person you’re doing life with know about. My fiancé and I have been through a lot. A lot of pain and a lot of hurt. But at the end of the day, my goal is to grow. I’ve seen what can happen when you do what’s right by each other. And even after everything we’ve been through, there’s something better for our relationship in the future. We just have to put in the work to get there. 

2. I really feel ready now more than ever.

People often ask me, “Why are you not married yet?” The thing is, I knew I wasn’t ready mentally. But for me, life has shown me that it’s always been about timing. When getting your dream job and trying to climb the ladder to success, the right person pushes you to become better. So many great things are happening in our lives that make me want to get to the next step in life.

3. My support system has grown over the years, and I see what it takes to succeed in life and marriage.

Just being around my family and friends that support me no matter what life throws at me inspires me to never give up and to keep going spiritually and mentally. It goes back to what I’ve been trying to get my fellow fathers to understand. It’s a process in life that we have to be willing to take – to right our wrongs and focus on becoming better. So for me again, I say getting married after living together is part of me trusting and showing and believing. 

I feel that it’s important to show my kids that marriage can be a great thing if you both believe in it and lead by example. And I’m looking forward to showing my family that I am committed to being there for the long haul.

Other blogs:

How to Prepare Yourself for Marriage

Prepare for Marriage, Not Just the Wedding

Discover the 8 Essential Lessons to Build an Unbreakable Marriage Right from the Start! 

Preparing for Marriage is a self-guided online course that will guide you and your bae on a journey to build a solid foundation for your marriage! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME. All the essential tools to create a thriving marriage are jam-packed into 8 fun and fast-paced lessons guided by relationship experts.

How you’ll build an unbreakable marriage:

✅ You’ll get 8 essential lessons that you can work on when you want & where you want.

✅ Each lesson is divided into 3 parts, “Past You,” “Present You,” and “Future You.” Each part has a brief video led by marriage experts, Reggie & Lauren. You’ll have questions to talk through together and a handout to dive deeper. 

✅ After watching the videos and completing the lesson, there will be a quick pop-quiz* to make sure you’re getting the information you need! (And remembering it!)

✅ BONUS: You’ll have access to Reggie & Lauren by email every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement!

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What to Do When Friends Are Hurting Your Marriage

While friends are a good thing, how they impact your marriage matters.

So, your wife has that one friend you think she always wants to talk about your problems with? Or your husband has a buddy that you think he wants to spend more time with than you? Have you ever felt that friends get in the way of your marriage? Friendships are essential, but they can interfere with your marriage if you’re not careful. By the way, your marriage is a friendship that should always come first.

But what do you do if friends are hurting your marriage? Do you demand that your spouse ditch the friends? Do you isolate your marriage from your friends? Let’s not get too drastic yet. 

In the Early Years of Marriage Project, researchers found an interesting relationship between friendships and the success of a marriage. Friends have a powerful influence on romantic relationships, both directly – by providing or withholding approval or support, and indirectly – by acting as a sounding board for marital problems. The approval of friends and family members is a strong predictor of a relationship’s quality and stability.

So, what can you do when you don’t like your spouse’s friend? Here’s some advice from experts.

Acknowledge that friends are influential on your relationship, in both positive and negative ways. 

Identify the real issues and talk about them. If you don’t like your spouse’s friends, ask why? Do you miss your spouse? Do you feel betrayed because they are confiding in someone else? Are you jealous? Your issue with your spouse’s friends may be the result of a more significant, underlying issue.

Do an intimacy inventory on your marriage. Maybe your spouse isn’t feeling emotionally connected in your relationship, so they seek it through a friendship.

Reframe your feelings. Don’t get stuck on the negative. Focus on the positive. What does the friendship add to your spouse and your marriage that’s positive?

Don’t issue ultimatums. If you don’t like your spouse’s friends, you don’t have to spend time with them. If you are confident that a friend is hurting your marriage, you should have a thoughtful discussion with your spouse. Issuing ultimatums without discussion puts your spouse in a challenging position. Open up to them about the issues you see.

A little caveat here regarding opposite-sex friendships: You and your spouse should definitely discuss boundaries when it comes to these. This can take the above advice to a deeper level. Opposite-sex friendships can cause the most damage to a marriage. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have them; I’m advising you to exercise extreme caution – and that’s a conversation with your spouse.

But, what if your friends are the issue? Here are some thoughts from the experts.

Come clean with your friend. If you’ve been complaining about your spouse to your friend, you need to let them know they are only getting one side of the story. Commit to refocusing the conversation with your spouse. Own that you’ve been confiding in a friend when you should be coming to your spouse with issues you see.

Ask yourself, “Is my spouse right about this friend?” If your spouse wants what is best for you and is looking out for your best interests, take the time to consider their concerns. Maybe your friend is divisive or a bad influence. Maybe your friend doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

Reassure your spouse that they are your first priority. Your relationship is your most significant friendship. Make sure your spouse knows you feel that way.

Friends should have a positive impact on you and your relationship.

It’s essential to nurture your marriage and ditch friends that hurt your marriage, but if you need to remove friends to have a healthier relationship, it’s best to make that decision together.

Other resources:

How To Talk To Your Spouse About Opposite Sex Friends E-book

I Don’t Like That My Spouse Has Opposite-Sex Friends

Are Opposite-Sex Friends OK?

Sources: 

Are Your Spouse’s Friends Interfering in Your Marriage?

“I Love You, Not Your Friends”: Links between partners’ early disapproval of friends and divorce across 16 years

Social Contexts Influencing Marital Quality

Social Networks and Change in Personal Relationships

The Art of Communication

Try these steps to prevent miscommunication in your relationships!

Have you ever gotten frustrated with your spouse because they didn’t listen to you? Misunderstood someone? Been misunderstood? I have. We’ve all miscommunicated and misunderstood. As the poet said, “To err is human.” 

At the heart of most relationship issues lies miscommunication. Whether it is parent to child, husband to wife, spouse to an in-law, or friend to friend, missteps in communication have the potential to devastate a relationship. Big time.

Communication is an art. But, how do we improve it? How do we lessen the misunderstandings in our relationships?

In his book, Happily Ever After, Gary Chapman suggests that we can master the art of communication with these three tools:

The Art of Listening

If you haven’t already figured it out, you can’t read minds. And no one can read yours. That’s really a good thing. (Flashback to Mel Gibson becoming overwhelmed when he can hear the thoughts of every woman around him in What Women Want.

We can observe behavior, though. That starts with listening.

Dr. Chapman breaks down listening into five steps:

1. Ask questions.

Asking questions that show you’re sincerely interested in someone’s answers is far more effective than simply assuming you know why they do what they do.

2. Don’t interrupt.

We’re all tempted to jump in and finish someone else’s thoughts, but doing that is harmful to the conversation. Chapman writes, “The purpose of listening is to understand, not make a point.”

3. Clarify meaning.

We often listen from our perspective. Take the time to ask additional questions and understand exactly what they’re saying. Repeat it back to them if necessary. You can always say, “Let me make sure I understand what you’re saying.” Then tell them what you heard. 

4. Express appreciation.

Thank them for sharing. You don’t have to affirm what they said if you disagree. “You are affirming their humanity, the right to think and feel differently from other people,” Chapman explains. 

Now, this is important: You must complete these four steps to earn the right to move on to number five.

5. Share your perspective.

“Because you listened, you are far more likely to be listened to,” Chapman stresses. You haven’t interrupted, you’ve clarified what they said, and you affirmed that they have value. Now you may share your viewpoint.

The Art of Speaking for Yourself

A crucial practice when communicating is to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. 

“When we begin a sentence with you, we are speaking as though we have ultimate knowledge of a person. In reality, we have only a perception,” Chapman shares. 

“You” statements can come across as accusatory and may lead to arguments. They are based on assumptions. Assuming is dangerous when it comes to relationships.

Beginning a thought with “I” shows you are revealing your feelings and your thoughts. You’re indicating a problem without condemning the other person. 

Instead of saying something like “You never listen to me,” try saying, “I don’t always feel heard.”

The Art of Negotiating

If you’ve been in any type of relationship, you know compromise is king. We all think differently and have different experiences.

When you learn how to effectively negotiate, you can build bridges with others. 

“Making a proposal is the first step in the process of negotiating. The second step is listening carefully to counterproposals,” Chapman notes. “Remember, negotiating has to do with two people trying to understand each other and reach an agreement that both of them will feel good about.”

“A proposal opens the opportunity for dialogue,” he continues. “The process of listening, understanding, and seeking to find an agreement is the process of negotiation.” When negotiating, it’s essential to get into the habit of making requests, not demands. 

Your relationships are worth the effort to master the art of communication. We’ll all make mistakes and miscommunicate from time to time, for sure. But you have value, and the people you are in a relationship with also have value. Take the time to communicate effectively and show lots of grace. Remember, to err is human.

Sources

Happily Ever After by Dr. Gary Chapman

The Importance of Communication in a Relationship 

What Great Listeners Actually Do

Working Through Resentment With Your Spouse

Here are tips to guide your discussions.

I have been a resentful spouse. My spouse has also resented me. Coming up on 28 years of marriage, my wife and I have five children, and we’ve seen it all. From socks that never made it to the hamper, to financially disastrous decisions, to weaponized sex, to disagreements about parenting, to not getting simple tasks done around the house, to navigating personality quirks. And did I mention infidelity? Yup, infidelity.

There are tons more examples, big and little. It’s not a contest. Whatever brought you to this blog is the biggest thing in your world. Nobody is dealing with resentment exactly the same way you are. But no matter why or how you arrived at this blog, resentment is a tumor in your marriage, and without proper treatment, it will keep growing.

Tumor?! Why would I refer to resentment with your spouse as a tumor? Resentment is a negative emotion that builds up over time. If you don’t deal with it, it will poison more and more of your relationship. It will come to dominate your marriage, making romance, compassion, and intimacy all but impossible. And the sooner you catch it, the easier it will be to treat.

Resentment cannot be taken lightly, but it does have a relatively straightforward solution. Each spouse will have to communicate – probably in a series of conversations. Each will have to express themselves appropriately and honestly. And each will have to listen to the other in good faith. The goal is to compromise and implement a plan. The plan will no doubt be revisited and modified. Resentment should yield resilience

Compromise and a Plan

The beauty of compromise and a plan is that they’re tangible and measurable. Ideally, as you see your spouse working toward compromise and following the plan, you can be confident. Perhaps confident enough to let go of some resentment and rekindle that spark you once felt. And when your spouse feels that spark, it’ll feed their efforts. Watch that positive cycle go!

So how can you put together a plan and work toward compromise? Here’s a 6-step process you can use as a guide. This isn’t an end-all-be-all on how to stop resentment. But instead, use these steps to help guide you and your spouse toward a compromise and a plan you both agree on that works for your relationship.

A Plan for Working Through Resentment With Your Spouse

1. Catch it early.

It’s much easier to manage and process through resentment before it builds.

2. Communication is everything.

This assumes you feel safe communicating in your marriage. You might need an older, wiser mentor couple. You might need a therapist or counselor. And you might need to establish some rules:

  • Each person gets to speak uninterrupted for 10 minutes. 
  • Try to separate the person from the behavior. 
  • Use “I” statements: I feel, I need, I’m hurting. 
  • Don’t escalate with volume, tone, sarcasm, or words meant to just inflict hurt.
  • Focus on being a good listener. Remember your body language.

3. The source of the resentment in your marriage needs to be front and center.

  • “When you do _____ it makes me feel _____.”
  • “I’m having a hard time moving past _____.”
  • “I don’t think you understand how much _____ hurt me.”
  • “We’ve talked about changing _____, but it hasn’t changed.”

4. Compromise is the goal. Both spouses need to win so the marriage wins.

5. Develop a plan for handling the situation(s) in the future. Write it down.

  • Think through different scenarios and have a plan for them.
  • Set goals.
  • The plan is the accountability and enforcement, not the spouse.
  • You can always revisit the plan and modify it where necessary.

6. Last but not least, start again with a clean slate. In good faith, you move forward.

The clean slate is going to be the hardest part. You’re hurt and you’re defensive. You’re in survival mode. Trust may have been broken. But if you really want to deal with resentment in your marriage, you have to move forward in good faith, with patience, believing the best, and extending grace. And hopefully, you will watch the downward spiral of resentment slowly stop as the positive emotions pick up some momentum.

For my wife and I, we’ve gone so far as to say, “THAT marriage is over. We start a new marriage TODAY.”

Other blogs:

6 Tips for a “Til Death Do Us Part” Marriage

Infidelity and Forgiveness

How to Divide Household Chores Fairly in Marriage

Is It Good To Fight In Marriage?

Do My Spouse and I Need Common Interests?

Marriage is about more than just doing things together.

You and your spouse are making plans for the weekend. You want to spend Sunday afternoon watching sports, your spouse wants to go hiking. Neither of you has any interest in the other activity. Should you compromise? Should you just do what you want? What does this mean for your relationship? Are you even compatible?

Have you been there? Don’t worry, your relationship isn’t in trouble. Many couples don’t have EVERYTHING in common. The reality is you don’t have to share all the same interests. It’s ok to care about different things. What matters is that you care about each other!

Marriage isn’t just about doing things together.

Healthy, vibrant marriages happen when two people help each other become the best version of themselves. That means allowing your spouse to be fully them, enjoying and participating in what brings them joy and life.

It’s essential to have certain interests or goals in common with your spouse, but don’t worry if you don’t have everything in common. Goals, values, and boundaries are just a few areas where it’s vital to be on the same page as your spouse. Couples who share core values and beliefs are more likely to maintain healthy, long-term relationships.

There are inevitably areas of life where your interests will differ. What’s important is that you care about your spouse’s interests because you care about your spouse. Hear me out; you don’t have to share their interests, though. I bought my wife a Cricut for Christmas last year because she loves crafts. She’s wanted one for a couple of years, and she loves it. She likes to create and design cards and stickers. I love that she loves it; I enjoy what she makes. Plus, I recognize creating brings her joy, and that brings me joy. Do I want to learn how to use it? Nope, not at all. And that’s ok. I support her in it, and we budget for her to expand her tools. The same applies to some of my interests. She supports me but doesn’t desire to do them with me. 

Showing you care about your spouse’s interests is critical to maintain connection in your marriage.

According to Dr. John Gottman, “The important thing is not what you do together; it’s how you interact while doing it.” You should show respect and support for your spouse’s hobbies. When there’s a lack of respect or support, there’s an opportunity for resentment to grow. You may begin to resent the time they spend working on their interest. They may start to resent your lack of support. Don’t let your differences divide you, though. Embrace them and support your spouse. 

“A stronger predictor of compatibility than shared interests is the ratio of positive to negative interactions, which should be 20-to-1 in everyday situations, whether a couple is doing something they both enjoy or not,” says Gottman. 

So you don’t have to share common interests, but the way you interact about those interests has more benefit for your relationship. When engaging in an activity together, choose to be positive and uplifting. You are strengthening your connection and intimacy by spending time together enjoying one another. Stephanie Coontz, a historian who’s spent decades researching and writing about marriage, puts it this way: “It is essential to be interested in your partner, to experience joy in their joy.”

So, on Sunday afternoon, when you both want to do something different, there’s no need to give your spouse grief for not wanting to do what you want to do. Maybe you can compromise to watch sports one Sunday and go hike the next. But don’t do it begrudgingly. Look at it as a way to support what your spouse loves. 

Sources:

Why Conventional Marriage Wisdom is Wrong

8 Facts About Love and Marriage

The Magic Relationship Ratio, According to Science

What predicts change in marital interaction over time? A study of alternative models. 

Other blogs:

Why It’s Important to Care About Your Spouse’s Interests

How To Find Common Interests With Your Spouse

5 Things You Should Have In Common With Your Spouse

5 Things You Don’t Need to Have in Common With Your Spouse