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Steps to a Productive Marriage Check-In

Connect, grow, and course-correct. Your marriage will thank you!

In your marriage, have you ever:

  • Let an issue fester to the point it felt impossible to talk about?
  • Left the kids somewhere because you thought your spouse would get them?
  • Worked late and forgot an important family event?
  • Been disappointed about something but never stopped to work through it?

Staying on the same page with your spouse doesn’t happen by accident. 

Businesses have staff meetings. 

Sports have team meetings. 

And marriages need marriage meetings. We’ll call these Marriage Check-Ins.

A Marriage Check-In is when you and your spouse meet to talk about marriage and family stuff.

A Productive Marriage Check-In helps you to:

Be on one page about money, direction, schedules, concerns, expectations, etc.

This can help you avoid assuming, overscheduling, overspending, or leaving your 5-year-old daughter at home to babysit her 3-year-old brother. (I will neither confirm nor deny this occurrence.)

Address issues before they fester and become major.

Things often bother you before they make you mad. Check-ins offer regular opportunities to deal with those things when they’re (hopefully) at the “bother you” stage.

Specify a time to deal with marriage business.

Ever caught yourself discussing plans or concerns during a date? Don’t use precious date nights for marriage business. (At least not that kind of business. ; ) )

Strengthen your couple connection.

Let’s face it. You feel more like a team when you effectively communicate about the important stuff. (Read How to Communicate Better With Your Spouse for some tips.)

Hear and understand each other.

Undivided attention is GOLD in marriage. When you focus on listening and understanding each other, that’s 24-karat magic right there. (Read 3 Ways to Be a Better Listener.)

Remember the important things.

Who hasn’t forgotten a simple social engagement before? 

Steps to a Productive Marriage Check-In

Set a Time

Saturday mornings before kids need you and Sunday evenings after kids’ bedtimes are two great times. Put it on your calendar. Set the notifications. If you have to miss it, you can reschedule it right then. Weekly or every other week is a good idea, and 30 minutes is a reasonable length of time. As you get consistent with the check-ins, you may decide to do them monthly.

Parameters/Boundaries

No kids allowed. No technology except when it’s obviously adding to the value of the meeting, e.g., using your calendar or planning a date and looking up attractions. 

Environment

You’ll probably have a routine. You may discuss on Saturday mornings over coffee or sit on the couch after the kids are in bed. Occasionally, change it up. Check-in while strolling through the neighborhood or a park, driving around town, or while you’re out for breakfast. Enjoy the environment with the one you love.

Always start by Appreciating Your Spouse

Your spouse will look forward to the check-ins because they know they’ll hear something positive about themselves. Start with something like…

  • You know what I like about you? I’m gonna tell you. ___________
  • I liked when you ___________ earlier this week.
  • I noticed your ___________ yesterday.
  • When you ____________, I appreciated it. That was helpful.
  • Thank you for _______________.

Discuss upcoming schedules

Work schedule/changes, community meetings or activities, kids’ events, and social calendar all fall into this category.

Answer the questions:

  • Who’s going?
  • What’s the cost?
  • What’s the time commitment?
  • What needs to be done to prepare?
  • Are there any conflicts?

If you need to make reservations, sign forms, or contact people, clarify who will do it. 

Listen to Your Spouse’s Emotional, Mental, and Physical Needs

Generally, save this for last because it’s the most open-ended. These 3 questions are good starters. And if you use them every time, you may both start thinking about the answers beforehand.

  • How are you doing and feeling?
  • How do you feel like we are doing as a couple?
  • Are there any issues or concerns you’d like us to talk about?

What To Call It

Some of you will call it a Marriage Check-In and be good with that. More adventurous people may want a name with more personality. (Let us know what you come up with!)

Keep in mind: a productive Marriage Check-In isn’t like those never-ending staff meetings, which are a necessary evil. This is with the one you love. It’s a chance to connect, grow, and course-correct so you’ll enjoy your marriage to the fullest. 

Other helpful blogs:

What Does It Mean to Put Your Spouse First?

It starts with a desire to see them happy, at peace, and connected.

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. The Puzzled Look on my daughter’s face turned to a smile, and then came the proverbial rolling of the eyes (and that’s a good thing).

Here’s the conversation:

Daughter: You’re really not going to be at our basketball game Saturday? (Said with disbelief).

Me: Nope. I’m taking my wife (who happens to be your mother) on a marriage retreat.

Daughter. Can’t y’all go anytime?

Me: Doesn’t matter. We’re going this weekend. What you worried about? 

Daughter: Nothing. I just… (Shrugs her shoulders.)

Me: If anyone asks where your parents are, just say, “At a marriage retreat acting married.”

Daughter: (Rolls the eyes)

Me: Don’t worry. We love you, and we hope you play well. But I love that fine-looking queen of mine more.

Daughter: (Walks away smiling, rolling her eyes, and I’m guessing, processing what’s just happened.)

She’s witnessing me putting her mother, a.k.a. my spouse, ahead of her. 

What does it mean to put your spouse first? 

It doesn’t mean that you miss every sporting event, never hang out with friends, or never work overtime. It starts with the heart. And your actions and thoughts will reflect the contents of your heart.

A priority is something we treat or rank as more important. Putting your spouse first above work, children, hobbies, birth family, or other responsibilities means prioritizing your spouse. It doesn’t mean we neglect work, abandon our children or don’t do the things we love. It means that we make sure our spouse knows that we value them more than we value all those other “good” things. 

Here are some ways you can demonstrate that you prioritize your spouse.

Ask Before You Make Plans

When making plans and decisions (particularly ones that affect where you spend your time, money, and energy), ask your spouse for their thoughts and opinions. This shows that you don’t want to do things that may negatively affect your spouse or marriage.

Example: Your co-workers are going out for drinks after work. You want to go. 

Prioritizing Your Spouse:

  1. Call to tell your spouse the situation.
  2. Ask how they feel about it. “What are your thoughts?”
  3. Ask how it will affect the rest of the day. “Anything happening that this will change?”
  4. Understand that turning down the offer may be the best move for your marriage.

Message Sent: Asking shows your spouse that he or she matters. Their feelings matter. How your decisions or plans affect them matters.

Pay Attention to Your Spouse’s Needs

Your husband’s or wife’s needs come first. That’s where your strongest commitment is. Be aware of how easy it is to want to help everyone else and think your spouse can handle everything themselves.

Example: It’s nearing your kids’ bedtime. They’re fussy, whiny, and being difficult. You’re having a deep, meaningful phone conversation, helping a friend.

Prioritizing Your Spouse: 

Tell your friend, “I know this is important, but it’s bedtime, and I need to jump in and help get these kids down. Let me call you back.”

Message Sent: You have your spouse’s back. Even though your friend has a pressing issue, so did your mate. You just demonstrated where your priorities lie. Jumping to help fix everyone’s problem and only helping your spouse when it’s convenient shows they aren’t the priority. We want our spouse to be the first one we support, not the last.

Consider the Impact on Your Spouse

After marriage, your life isn’t just about you. Significant changes affect you both. Be upfront with your spouse about changes and let them prepare for how it will affect them.

Example: A major project will require you to work overtime and use a lot of mental energy.

Prioritizing Your Spouse: 

Address it head-on from the moment you sense this is a major time-consuming project. Tell your spouse about the overtime and potential stress. You might say, “I don’t want you to feel neglected. As soon as it’s over, we can make up for some lost time, if you know what I mean.”

Message Sent: You’ve considered the impact on your spouse and shown some vulnerability. You’ve recognized what you will lose and indicated a desire to gain it back because you’d rather be with your spouse than work all those extra hours. 

Couples experience different seasons. You may both have heavy work seasons and superactive kids’ seasons where you feel like taxicabs. Dealing with sick family members can also pull lots of time away. 

Putting your spouse first starts with a desire to see them happy, at peace, and connected. 

That’s what my daughter took away from us missing her basketball game. 

Interestingly, research shows that putting your spouse first provides the security, comfort, and stability that helps children thrive. And, when couples put each other first, it sets the stage for a fantastic relationship where each person feels loved, supported, and secure.

OTHER HELPFUL BLOGS:

We all have expectations. We expect the sun to rise and seasons to change (all in one day for those of us in Tennessee). Perhaps we expect our spouse to put their dirty clothes in the hamper. We expect the post office to deliver our mail. 

We base our expectations on personal experiences and understanding, often beginning in childhood. They are birthed from how we believe the world works. They may be rational or irrational, realistic or unrealistic. Grounded in truth or fantasy. Based on facts or opinions. Stem from our experiences and decisions.

If we aren’t careful, expectations can negatively impact our marriage. In the National Survey on Marriage in America, the National Fatherhood Initiative reported that 45% of divorced respondents said unrealistic expectations contributed to their marriage ending. That’s almost half of all divorcees surveyed.

Marriage is a partnership, and healthy couples desire what is best for each other. To know what each person needs, you’ll want to communicate often about what you expect. It won’t be a one-time conversation because expectations change with the seasons of marriage.

The first step is to identify what our expectations are. The next step is to recognize what is realistic and what isn’t.

So, what are realistic expectations?

Realistic expectations are those that can be met. You can discuss them and agree about them. Some realistic expectations require compromise. These could be expectations around household chores, sex, and finances, among others. 

Here are some examples of realistic expectations:

  • Sharing responsibilities around the house. Remember, marriage is a partnership.
  • Showing respect to each other. This is crucial and foundational.
  • Speaking kindly. Words have power. Uplift each other with words of life.
  • Saying “I love you” often. You just can’t say this too much.
  • Trusting each other. Trust is essential. If trust is broken, work to repair and heal.
  • Honoring each other’s dreams. Our dreams are often different. That’s ok. Encourage each other to chase those dreams.

What about those unrealistic expectations?

Unrealistic expectations are the ones we may not say out loud. They’re the unspoken ones. We somehow expect our spouse to read our minds and know what we want and how we want it done. (Like knowing exactly how to fold towels. Or is that just my marriage?) Sorry to burst your bubble; they can’t read your mind. As much as that would be great, it doesn’t happen. 

How do we resolve unspoken expectations? You’ve probably heard this before – communication. 

So, we can solve some unrealistic expectations by simply discussing what we each expect in our marriage. Write it down, talk about it, resolve any issues and make a plan to move forward together. Don’t miss that “together” piece. Remember, you’re on the same team. 

Let’s be honest. Some expectations are just plain unrealistic and unhealthy. 

Here are examples of some unrealistic expectations:

  • Your spouse is responsible for your happiness. You alone are responsible for your happiness. You can’t put that responsibility on anyone else; it’s unattainable.
  • Your spouse will complete you. Your spouse may complement you, but they don’t complete you. They can’t.
  • The person you married will never change. We all change and grow. Hopefully, we grow in healthy ways together. But change is inevitable.
  • Your spouse’s life should revolve around you. Each of you is an individual. A marriage is made up of two individuals, loving and caring for one another. 
  • All of your time should be spent together. We all have different interests, and that’s ok. Your spouse shouldn’t completely ignore you and not spend any time with you. But it’s ok to have other interests and hobbies.
  • Your way is the right way. Marriage requires compromise from two different people with different backgrounds and experiences. Compromise in marriage is a beautiful thing.

We all have expectations, but they don’t have to derail a marriage. Come together as partners and communicate what you expect. Keep the conversation going. If one of you is unwilling to compromise or maintains unrealistic expectations, you may need professional help. A counselor who wants to see your marriage succeed can help you work through the tough stuff.

Other helpful blogs:

***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.***

When you dreamed about marriage, you probably had some things on your perfect partner ABC list. Things like attraction, brilliance, compassion, does anything I ask, etc. The letter “L” would have included stuff like loving or long kisses. Let me tell you what probably didn’t come to mind: Lazy spouse.

Realizing that your spouse is L-A-Z-Y stinks.

It can be painful and downright frustrating to feel like you’re putting in most of the effort. It can lead to anger and resentment for the one you promised to love, honor, and cherish for a lifetime. These bad feelings are not helpful for your marriage. 

There is a chance that what you think is laziness might be something else. You can read about that here.

But let’s say your spouse is truly lazy. And you’re over it.

You want more for your marriage. You want to know your spouse cares. And you want to feel heard, seen, and appreciated. But you’re tired.

I feel for you. 

And while there are no guarantees, there may be some things you can do to get your lazy spouse off the couch and by your side.

Here’s what to do.

Talk about what you need. 

According to one report, 61% of participants said that sharing household chores is very important for a successful marriage. (Although that percentage seems low to me.) And many couples are struggling to make ends meet, too.

Your mate can’t see what you think, and they probably didn’t take Mindreading 101, so you’re gonna need to lay it all out (without nagging). Say, over a non-threatening cup of coffee.

  • Talk about the budget. 
  • Write down all those unseen things you do and what needs to be done. Let them know you want a fully-invested partner in your marriage and home life. 
  • Ask how you both can make that happen, financially and emotionally. 
  • Talk about what your spouse does well, find ways to use their unique skills to make your lives more fulfilling, and make sure you both have time to rest and recharge. 
  • If you have kids, discuss how you both want to model the kind of mate your kids should look for.
  • Provide options. Delegate tasks. 
  • Set a start and stop time. 
  • Divide and conquer together.

ASK for what you need.

Motivate your mate. 

Make a big deal when they do helpful things. 

  • Tell them you appreciate the things you think they should just do, like taking out the trash. Tell ’em nobody could take that trash out any better than they do. 
  • Brag on them, even over small things. Make them feel like a hero.
  • Mention how close working as a team makes you feel. And how great it is to cross things off the to-do list.

Remember, if it’s fun, it will probably get done!

Be willing to do things their way.

Early in our marriage, my husband washed the towels. With the clothes. Leaving fuzz EVERYWHERE. Of course, since I was the “laundry expert,” I let him know about it. 

Not the best move for my marriage or my dreams of laundry bliss. Learn from my mistake.

Any chance you’re expecting too much or that your standards are too high? Ever re-do what your honey does? Or complain about how they do it? (Guilty.) If your spouse is afraid of doing something wrong or being criticized, they may just give up or resist because they don’t want to fail or because it hurts.

There’s more than one way to do things, and how you respond can encourage or stop the help you want. 

Seek Support.

Maybe you’ve tried these things already, and you feel stuck. That’s super hard. Talking to a professional counselor, either on your own or as a couple, may help. You might even have to hire someone to do some bigger or specialized things that need to get done.

I’ve heard that insanity is continually doing the same thing while expecting different results. If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else. A change in you may lead to a change in your lazy spouse, and ultimately, a change in your marriage.

I don’t have all the answers, but I can tell you that you won’t know if you don’t try. And I wish you the best.

Other helpful blogs:

***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.***

Practical Ways to Practice Generosity in Marriage

These things can get you on the road to a more fulfilling marriage.

Do you want to knock your spouse off their feet? Want your spouse to want more sex without even saying the word “sex”? Wanna keep a smile on your spouse’s face and have them bragging about you to others? The secret (drumroll, please): Generosity. Overwhelm them with generosity

Generosity in marriage is quite underrated. But researchers have shown that when couples focus on generosity instead of fairness, their marriages tend to be more fulfilling.

Here are some practical ways to show generosity to your partner.

Ask what makes them feel special. 

Don’t assume you know. Ask questions like: When do you feel most loved? What makes you feel appreciated? What challenges are you facing right now? How they answer will help you show generosity in ways that say you know them. These aren’t one-time questions. You might ask every few months. Situations and circumstances change—challenges and needs for appreciation change. 

Observe and Do. Listen and Follow Through

Study your spouse to find ways they like to feel appreciated or ways to help relieve stress. Look for things causing stress. Observe what’s pulling at their time and energy. Listen to what they’re complaining about. Don’t think about what your spouse can do for you. Focus on learning what you can do for your spouse. We can give you great ideas. Your spouse can give you better ones without even realizing it.

Keep Score. 

Researcher Shaunti Feldhahn says, “Trade a sense of entitlement for a sense of indebtedness.” She suggests that you can cultivate generosity in your marriage by keeping track of your spouse’s needs and doing those things for them. Make it your mission to outdo your spouse with generosity. How many needs can you notice and meet? Make a game out of it. See who can do the most little things to show generosity. 

Get Your Marriage Degree in the Little Things. 

It’s the little things that make the difference. 

  • Brew a cup of coffee and set it next to them so they smell it when they wake up. 
  • Give spontaneous compliments without expecting anything in return. 
  • Buy them their favorite little treat when you run in the store. 
  • Be their biggest cheerleader for work and extracurricular projects. 
  • Give them the night off while you put the kids to bed. Have the kids give your spouse a hug and kiss and then go quietly to bed themselves. 
  • Drop a surprise note on their driver’s seat so they’ll see it when leaving for work.
  • Text them before a work presentation.

Develop Unending T.E.A. Time (Tirelessly Expressing Appreciation). Make a habit of saying, 

  • “Thank you for…” 
  • “I appreciate you for doing…” 
  • “I’m proud of you.” 
  • “You were great when…”

Initiate discussion on sharing household chores. 

Admittedly, this is better for those who may naturally do fewer tasks at home. Anyway, being generous with your time in areas that aren’t necessarily as “enjoyable” for you is always good for your relationship

Be generous with a smile. 

Let your joy come from your spouse being loved and having needs met, not from what you are doing for them. Doing freely for your spouse without expecting anything in return is the essence of generosity in marriage.

Forgive.

It’s pretty hard to be generous when you’re holding on to resentment or unforgiveness. Forgiveness helps you to love as much as it helps your spouse to feel loved by you.

Perhaps you have some more ideas on ways to be generous in your marriage. If you do, please send them to us! We’d love to spread the word and help other couples increase their marital happiness through abundant generosity. 

In the meantime, keep giving generously and watch what happens in 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 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.***

7 Ways to Increase Trust in Marriage

Strengthen the foundation of your relationship with these tips.

Trust is the foundation of a healthy marriage. It’s like oil in a car engine, heat in an oven, Beyoncé in Destiny’s Child. Without it, things just don’t work well. 

Ideally, marital trust should grow with time. It’s a glue in your relationship that ought to get stronger, even though it isn’t always the case. Trust can rust. 

The good news is you can strengthen that glue. 

We all have the power to value or devalue a marriage, to help or hurt our spouse’s well-being. Think about it: the next words I choose to say to my wife can either make her smile or cry or make her just plain mad. I’ve got that power. (So does she.) And my words will make me look more or less trustworthy in her eyes.

A big part of increasing trust in marriage is channeling that power to be beneficial and to do that often. 

Want to increase trust in your marriage? Here are 7 ways to amp it up!

1. Extend Forgiveness

Forgiveness goes a long way. It means you’ve decided to work through negative emotions, that you’ve let go of the need to “get even.” Forgiving your spouse shows you’re willing to recognize they are human. Which, in turn, takes the pressure off having to be perfect for you. And it shows you can be trusted to not keep score of wrongdoings and that you are committed to trust again after a fallout. 

2. Uphold Boundaries

Maybe the idea of boundaries seems limiting to you. But when it comes to building trust, it’s quite the opposite. Healthy boundaries can keep you both on the same page. How you decide to navigate social media. What you view online. Friendships (particularly with the opposite sex). Resolving conflict. Spending leisure time. Dividing up chores. Handling these and other issues well can increase trust.

3. Express Humility

Humility is simply an accurate view of the self, both the good and the bad. You express humility when you use your power to build your spouse up instead of yourself or ask for forgiveness. And research suggests that humility is associated with greater trust and marriage satisfaction. 

4. Exercise Vulnerability

Brené Brown says vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and exposure. It’s being fully seen, warts and all. Research says trust arises when risk is involved. In other words, you’ve got the power to either affirm or attack each other’s vulnerable spots. The more you show vulnerability in your marriage and affirm your spouse’s openness, the stronger the trust. 

5. Practice Reliability

Your trustworthiness is also affected by how well your spouse perceives your follow-through. Do you follow up with people, complete projects, see your goals to the end? Keep your commitments? Have you ever given your spouse cause to doubt your reliability? When your spouse sees you as reliable, it builds more trust. 

6. Show Self-Control

The same idea goes for your spouse’s perception of your self-control. Do you typically keep your cool? Choose your words calmly and carefully? Keep your moral integrity intact? Do you try to respond in helpful ways, even if it’s tough or costly? These are all signs of self-control that build trustworthiness between you two.

7. Develop Confidence in Your Spouse

Author and researcher Shaunti Feldhahn says that couples who believe the best about each other have high marital satisfaction. Even during conflict, both acknowledge they’re on the same team. And no matter what, their spouse has their back. This kind of confidence boosts the marital trust factor.

The bottom line is, powerful trust makes for a powerful marriage. Share your intentions with your spouse. Begin working on one or two of these tried-and-true trust practices this week. Trust is key. 

***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.***

Why Generosity Matters in Your Marriage

Hint: It impacts how you feel about each other.

You know that couple. The one who has been married for many years and seems just as madly in love today as when they said, “I do.” You know who I’m talking about. Do you ever sit back and ask yourself how they do it? I do. If you could sit down and talk to them, you might be surprised if they told you that it takes more than love. That kind of love takes effort. It takes intentionality. But there is one other component present… generosity. 

What is generosity in marriage?

The National Marriage Project defines marital generosity as “the virtue of giving good things to one’s spouse freely and abundantly.” It’s giving without expecting anything in return. Giving with no strings attached. Their survey of 1,365 married couples explains that generosity is small acts of kindness, displays of respect and affection, and a willingness to forgive each other’s faults.

This doesn’t mean we view marriage as 50/50. If you’re married, you know you have to give way more than 50%. You’re all in. 

It means that we give generously, not to receive. It’s giving without expectation. Maybe that means you go above and beyond with the household chores. When your spouse has a rough day or a work deadline, you take on more responsibility around the house. You don’t expect them to repay you. Your actions are genuinely rooted in love.

According to Brad Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project, generosity in marriage is “signaling to your spouse that you know them, and are trying to do things for them that are consistent with your understanding of them.” 

Why generosity matters in marriage…

In an interview with the New York Times, Wilcox frames it this way: 

“In marriage, we are expected to do our fair share when it comes to housework, childcare and being faithful, but generosity is going above and beyond the ordinary expectations with small acts of service and making an extra effort to be affectionate. Living that spirit of generosity in a marriage does foster a virtuous cycle that leads to both spouses on average being happier in the marriage.”

Researchers found that spouses who show generosity view their marriage as more satisfying. These spouses were the ones who gave, not received, the acts of kindness and appreciation. When we shower our spouse with selfless acts, we’re more satisfied with our relationship. 

Does this mean that more generous spouses have a happier, more satisfying marriage? Is the secret being more generous? Maybe. It sure doesn’t hurt! 

Researchers did find a correlation between generosity and marital satisfaction, but they couldn’t pinpoint which came first. Does being more generous lead to more satisfaction? Or is it the other way around? 

I can’t answer that question (and they couldn’t either), but both are a good thing. What matters is that these spouses genuinely love and care for each other.

So, where do you go from here? 

You can express radical generosity toward your spouse. You don’t have to shower them with gifts or a trip to a tropical island. (Although, who doesn’t love both of those?) You can start today with small gestures. In marriage, it’s the little things that mean the most. Make their coffee. Send a text to show your appreciation. Show genuine affection. Forgive them. 

Ready to get started? Ask your spouse to finish this phrase: “I feel loved when you…” Then find ways to be generous in making them feel more loved than ever.

Great articles to help you be more generous with your spouse:

***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.***

What Britney Spears Has to Teach Us About Alone Time in Marriage

Turns out, taking care of yourself helps you take care of each other.

Want a healthy, lasting marriage? Be prepared to be alone and focus on yourself. Totally. Backed. By. Research. “Alone Time” is part of what is frequently referred to as “Self-Care.” You and your spouse need it. You both probably work and stuff, so free time is couple time, right? And it should be. That’s why you got married. 

But not all free time should be couple time. You both need some alone time to recharge and recalibrate. This is part of you working to grow into the best possible version of yourself. No worries, the “self” in “self-care” isn’t self-ish. You and your spouse plan and prioritize alone time so couple time can be more meaningful. (And more fun!)

How much alone time in marriage do I need?

What do I do with it?

What if my spouse wants or needs more or less time?

How do we talk about it?

You’re asking all the right questions. Here’s why we need to answer them…

This month, the new unauthorized Britney Spears documentary, The New York Times Presents “Framing Britney Spears” premiered on FX and Hulu. It generated over a million tweets the first night. The premiere coincides with the growing #FreeBritney movement as lawyers convene to debate if the 39-year-old pop icon is competent to manage her own life.

Since 2008, Britney Spears has been placed under a “conservatorship” managed by her father and various lawyers. (You remember why. Head-shaving and whatnot.) This is a legal arrangement usually reserved for people in a coma, those who suffer from mental illness, and the elderly. Under these circumstances, Spears has not been allowed to:

  • Vote.
  • Drive.
  • Manage her money.
  • Make career decisions.
  • Get married.
  • Have children.
  • Have custody of her children.
  • Speak publicly about the conservatorship. (Kuhn-sur-vuh-ter-ship. Takes a few tries.)
  • Testify on behalf of herself regarding her mental, emotional, physical competency.

For over 12 freakin’ years! Imagine living like this! 

During this time, “she” has released three successful albums and one… um… not. (Sorry, Britney Jean.) “She” has completed world tours and a four-year, $140 million Las Vegas gig. “She” has launched fragrance and clothing lines. So, “she” has been busy. But other people manage her life. 

★ If you aren’t actively and mindfully managing yourself, who or what is? Imagine living like this! Just because you’re busy doing all the things, even the successful things, it doesn’t mean you’re taking care of yourself. In fact, busyness is the biggest enemy of healthy, constructive alone time.

So, those questions about alone time in marriage:

How much alone time do I need?

There’s no formula for calculating the ratio of couple time to alone time. Well, actually, there is. Research says 70/30, but I don’t want you looking at your watch. I’d rather you listen

Listen to:

  • Your spouse. 
  • Trusted friends. 
  • Your body. 

Any signs you’re not your usual self? Drifting away from your goals? Feelings building up? Body breaking down? Time for some alone time. NOTE: Ideally, you plan some alone time into your day and week to avoid getting some sorta way. Just sayin’.

What do I do with it?

Journal. Meditate. Exercise. Origami. Whatever helps you be healthy and “competent.” Mentally, emotionally, and physically. And hey, alone time doesn’t have to be a lonely time. Build friendships and socialize with people that encourage and energize you.

What if my spouse wants or needs more or less time?

It’s all good! Everyone is different. You’ll have seasons when you want or need more or less.

How do we talk about alone time?

This is important. It’s not just blurting it out. (Okay, it kinda might be sometimes.) You want to cultivate communication and a relationship where you and your spouse can speak to each other honestly and vulnerably. And hear each other with your hearts. Not just about your needs for alone time, but everything else in your marriage.

I’m gonna leave you alone now. Marriage is two individuals becoming a team for life. You owe it to yourself and your spouse to be a healthy, growing individual. Remember, if you don’t take care of you, something else will. You manage you.

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