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

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

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

The Why Behind How You May Feel

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

  • There is some truth to the saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Everybody needs time to themselves, so make sure you are finding ways to be separate AND together.

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

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

  • Take good care of yourself and help your spouse to do the same. Not getting enough exercise or rest and not eating right can make you not even want to be around yourself—much less anybody else. 

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

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

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

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

If one of the top issues couples fight about is money, then a worldwide pandemic where uncertainty fills the air is certain to magnify financial disagreements. It’s to be expected.

Stimulus checks

Job uncertainty

Job layoffs and unemployment

Food and grocery shortages

Kids at home 24/7

Whether you were in a financial rhythm or not, the changes or potential changes can cause significant conflict. And it’s not because there’s too much or not enough money. It’s because you both have an opinion on what should or shouldn’t be done with the money. And there’s a good chance that you’re both certain that you’re right. 

There’s some frivolous things that people can spend money on that are not helpful for the current situation. However, that’s not what I’m trying to address. The question is: How can we come together and make financial decisions for our family in the midst of the changes brought on by COVID-19?

Have Priorities Changed?

There’s an old saying, “If you want to know what’s important to someone, look at their bank statement.” It may be time for a discussion between the two of you regarding what is most important during this time of change and uncertainty. Prior to this quarantine, education, being debt-free, creating memorable experiences and family togetherness were tops on our list. We often tried to take advantage of several educational opportunities, feverishly paid down debts and would go all out to celebrate birthdays and holidays to create memorable experiences.

That’s changed—at least temporarily. Financial security, home improvement and family togetherness are top priorities now. We’re saving as much as possible and working on repairs as if we’re preparing to sell our home. 

Family togetherness is in both lists, but it’s interesting how they look different when you are trying to save money instead of focusing on creating memorable experiences. 

Couples that can come to an agreement on the current priorities take a huge step into making financial decisions together. Before deciding what to do with money, first agree with what’s important to the family.

As a Team, Assess Where You Are. 

Basic questions to answer: 

  • Do we have enough money for all of our current and necessary expenses? 
  • Do we need to cut spending? 
  • Is it possible to increase our income? 

The ability to answer these questions together helps couples lay a framework for working together. Notice, we haven’t made any financial decisions or judgments yet about what those changes should be. We’ve simply identified our priorities and our current situation.

We’re Not Making Enough Money. What Needs to Change?

First, look at each other and agree that you’re going to make it through this together. There may not be enough money because of a pay cut, a layoff, increased medical expenses or you’re subjected to a natural disaster. This may be the first time that one or both of you has ever been in this situation. Fear, panic and anxiety can begin to grab hold. Being in a marriage means being on the same TEAM. Not having to face new challenges alone. Hugs, Kisses, and Affirmation are priceless when the money is tight. Turn toward one another, not away from one another.

Looking at your bank statement and financial decisions for the last month or two is really helpful in knowing where the money went—especially when trying to eliminate spending on things that aren’t priorities. Discussing payment options and deferments is something that many companies are willing to do during this time of quarantine. Check out this great blog my colleague wrote about getting help when the money isn’t there.

The key is to look at all options with an open mind and be creative. It’s easy to be attached to certain practices. We can get trapped in the mentality that if we don’t do this thing we do every year, then we’ll ruin little Johnny’s life. Is that really true?

Phrases to Avoid When Working Together to Cut Spending

  • We can’t cut that. This statement stifles creativity. You may ultimately land on some things that can’t be cut, but before using this phrase, you must exhaust all options.
  • That’ll make them so mad. Changes often evoke emotional responses that we must learn to deal with.
  • There’s nowhere to cut. This statement also stifles creativity. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. 

Have an Open Mind. Be Creative. Work Together. Be Willing to Compromise. 

Your preferences can’t always be more important than your partner’s preferences. If you’re constantly fighting about what to cut, you may choose to focus on increasing your income. You also may develop a system to alternate who chooses what to cut. This is probably going to be painful for all involved. But that’s OK, you’re doing it together.

Is Increasing Income an Option?

You may be surprised at all the industries that are hiring during this season: cleaning services, delivery services (both food and packages), grocery stores, and landscaping, just to name a few. You may be good at tutoring or making specialty items of value. This may be the time to market your services. They may not fully replace your income. However, it may be better than nothing. 

Agreeing on the Assistance You Receive

Whether it’s the stimulus check, unemployment or any other infusion of cash, it’s important that the two of you agree about it before you spend it. You may likely have two different opinions on what to do with the money. Do we catch up on bills? Save it? Fix the car? Resubscribe to Netflix? 

Don’t feel like you have to make the decision the moment you get the money. Just be sure to work together. My wife and I have made an agreement that any infusion of cash cannot be spent until we come to an agreement together. Look at your necessities and priorities and work from there. 

Work Together—Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.

This can be an anxious time. We can be susceptible to scams, quick fix payday loans, predatory loan sharks, and addictions. Committing to connect with one another to talk about money, to talk about life and to talk about your emotions can heighten your emotional security and peace when you’re not sure if you can pay the light bill this month. 

However, with the right attitude toward one another and a commitment to working together as a team, the two of you can navigate through anything and be stronger for it.

***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.***

One-bedroom apartment.

Two newlyweds working from home now.

Multiple video conference calls (sometimes simultaneously).

Only two options for “getting space”: Bathroom or the balcony.

Lots of uncertainty and anxiety in the air amidst a pandemic.

Time to work on those healthy communication skills.

I’m sitting on the couch with my husband when the phone rings. We pause our movie, he answers and all I hear is “Mhmm, yeah…okay, yeah.”

His family friend has a nice car and is offering it to us before anyone else and for a good price. Hmm…

Mind you, we have been saving for about 10 months now to replace my husband’s car. It’s been on our to-do list before all of these COVID-19 precautions. We both were antsy to check it off.

Now normally, I love a good deal, but I had to ask myself (and him), “Is this good timing?”

To be honest, a lot feels unknown. We don’t know the ramifications COVID-19 will have on the economy and making a big purchase scares me a little bit…a detour from our original plan feels necessary. To him, we’ve had a goal in mind, we’ve worked hard and this is a great opportunity. 

This could be a hard conversation. During this pandemic, I’m sure you can relate to having your fair share of challenging conversations, too. There are lots of new, important things to talk about. Money is a touchy subject as it is, and during a time when no one wants to handle money and is quarantined, the irony felt all too coincidental. For us, this was a potential relationship landmine. 

The last thing we need to take up space in our little apartment is tension. There’s not enough room for the distance created by the lack of good communication.

If you create distance because one of you or both of you are pushing away your feelings, rather than pushing through them, then you create an opportunity to have that gap filled by things that only make matters worse. Disappointment, resentment or misunderstandings start filling the gap and then you two have enough tension to fill a guest room that you don’t have. 

You can’t fix a problem you don’t know is there and neither can your spouse. Neither of you is a mind reader. Conflict isn’t comfortable – I won’t sell it to you like it is. But I will be honest – it’s often a chance for growth and a better understanding of each other.

You aren’t doing life on your own anymore. Important decisions are made together. I mean, as the saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.” 

And we had to put our heads together on whether this is a good time to buy a car or not. Who knows how this conversation will go? We often have to work to not get defensive of our own opinions. We agreed that at the end of this conversation, both of us need to feel heard and cared for.

Before we tried to come to a conclusion, we set ourselves up for success. We made each other feel safe to share opposing opinions and we listened with the intention to hear each other and respond – not just make a rebuttal (as tempting as that can be.)

  1. We made sure we had time to start and hopefully, finish the conversation. 
  2. We put our phones aside, made sure our schedules were clear and we made resolving our conflict a priority.
  3. We chose a spot where we felt comfortable talking. 
  4. We reminded each other before we started making our points that this is our decision to make, no one else’s, and that we are on the same team. Win together and lose together. We replaced the “me” in mentality with “we.” What is best for us?
  5. We actively listened. (We “listened” between the lines of each other’s answers and made sure to ask each other clarifying questions. Call us compassionate detectives.) “Are you scared of spending the money we saved for the car because of what’s unknown in the economy or are you really worried about your job?” “Are you not worried about using our savings just because we’ve been saying we would get a car, or because you feel secure in the foundation we laid for ourselves?
  6. We found a solution and made a plan where we both compromised a little while still reaching our goal. We are going to try and sell Tyler’s car before we make the purchase of the new-to-us car. That way we won’t drain our savings during an uncertain time and we are still marking off something we’ve put a lot of time and effort into making happen.

Maybe it’s been a stressful, exhausting week already and you don’t want to add to it. It’s possible you fear what the other person may say or worry they won’t see your point of view.  Maybe it’s as simple as you don’t know where to start. Make good communication a priority, now more than ever.

Remind yourself to push through and have those conversations rather than push away the emotions. Remember that good communication will help both of you grow and find better ways to love each other.

In marriage, you should be able to rest confidently in the fact that your partner chose you, chooses you and will continue to as you do all the same things for them. If you both put the effort into making your marriage a safe place where you two can fully express and be yourselves, then the rest, even difficult conversations, becomes easier.

***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.***

For most Americans life isn’t “business as usual” these days. Smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic, COVID-19 has flipped our normal life on its head and conjured up a mix of panic, anxiety, uncertainty and fear. Every family faces unique struggles and obstacles when it comes to creating a new norm with unfamiliar parameters such as social distancing, quarantine and vigorous personal hygiene. But those who have a spouse or loved one working on the front lines, whether they’re physicians, nurses, first responders, childcare workers, truck drivers or the countless other essential workers that keep our country running, the stakes (and consequently, the stress) immediately go up.

My husband Bobby, for example, works as a FedEx Express driver. For him and millions of couriers around the nation, not only is it actually still just business as usual during this pandemic–it’s a crazy whirlwind of employees calling out which creates a shortage of workers. And since we are all at home, ordering our essentials online, there is an increase in packages to deliver as well. For those who take on the extra load, like my husband, it means long hours and late nights. It’s job security at its finest (yay for overtime pay!)… but an awful lot of anxiety for the family he leaves at home every day. 

I’d like to say we have it figured out, but let’s be honest, it’s week 2 of our social-distancing adventure and things seem to be changing every single day. Currently, I’m working from home and watching my two daughters (who are under 5 yrs old). Oh, and I’m 5 months pregnant. Bobby leaves before any of us get up in the morning and is usually home right as I’m getting the girls to bed. That means my day consists of all meals, diaper changes, snacks, naps, playtime, mediating quarrels, kissing boo-boos, calming meltdowns, baths, bedtime, laundry, dishes, washing hands, cleaning/sanitizing and trying to work the best I can at my kitchen table, on my laptop, in the few minutes my children are occupied by Frozen 2 or when they can actually get along and play nicely together. It makes my head spin just typing it out.  

Suddenly, I feel like a single parent and it’s HARD. (Seriously, single parents are superheroes.) Not only is the sheer exhaustion enough to break me, the effort it takes to not let resentment build up or let the anxiety over whether Bobby will become infected and unknowingly bring home the virus weighs like a ton of bricks on my shoulders every single day. So how can we navigate these murky waters? 

Arm Yourself With Knowledge and Safety

If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a billion times, but the recommendations from the CDC are imperative to follow. In our unique situation, we’ve struggled to know how far to take it. Should Bobby self-quarantine and sleep alone in a separate room? Should he keep 6 feet away from me and the kids? Should he wear a mask? The resounding answer to all of these questions continues to be, “We don’t know.” In times like these, all we can really do is look at the data we do have and factor in our unique preference and comfort level. Ultimately, decisions like these come down to what works best for your family. 

For our family, the stress of trying to do it all on my own was so much greater than the stress of the possibility of contracting the virus and the uncertainty of how it would affect me during pregnancy. Since we do know that stress has a very negative impact on pregnancy and is not good for the baby, we decided to choose the option that created the least amount of stress for me. I have no other health issues, eat a vegan diet and (try to) exercise regularly. Plus, currently there is no data that suggests that pregnant women are more susceptible or even at a higher risk for severe symptoms if they are diagnosed with the virus. There is also no evidence that the virus affects the fetus in utero. (Sources: CDC, NPR, YaleMedicine)

So, after a very long, emotional conversation, Bobby and I decided that we would follow these precautions:

  • At work, he asks permission to sign for anyone he delivers to, in order to eliminate multiple hands touching his power pad screen and uses hand sanitizer frequently.
  • Upon coming home, he strips down in the basement, throws his clothes in the washing machine and comes upstairs to immediately shower.
  • We sanitize surfaces he’s touched before he showered. 
  • We continue to diligently wash our hands and try really really hard to not touch our faces.
  • We limit physical touch. (No kissing and minimal hugging/touching.)

Of course, if he knowingly is exposed to the virus, we will reevaluate and implement a complete self-quarantine for him at that time. But for now, this is our new routine! It means he still gets to help out with the kids and the household, sleep in the same bed as me and enjoy family time when he’s home. The stress of feeling like a single parent is minimized (at least on the weekends and days when he gets home early.)  

Protect Your Marriage (Especially From Resentment) 

It would be easy to slip into resentment during these times. Working from home and taking care of the kids is no joke. All the stress and anxiety of life is quadrupled and who ends up getting the backlash? Our spouse. Bobby and I have already had our fair share of arguments since this quarantine began, all exasperated by the current circumstances. So we have to intentionally work at keeping our marriage strong and healthy. Some of the easiest ways to do that?

  • Acknowledge each other’s sacrifices: We are both putting forth an extra amount of effort and there isn’t one that is better than the other. Speaking words of affirmation and appreciation for what each of us is doing on a daily basis helps both of us feel seen and cared about.
  • Communicate your feelings: For some people, talking through their feelings comes easier than it does for others, but it’s so important to have that self-awareness and let your spouse know what’s going on inside your mind. (Remember, none of us are mind-readers!)
  • Actively listen to one another: Part 2 of communicating your feelings means that the other person actively listens to you. Passive listening (when someone is listening without really reacting or interrupting) is really just one-way communication and doesn’t make the person talking actually feel heard. Actively listening (when someone responds and shows that they genuinely understand the message being conveyed) creates a safe space that allows both people to connect on a deeper level. It builds trust and respect, especially in the midst of tension. 
  • Remember, you’re on the same team: Fighting against each other instead of for each other can happen in the blink of an eye. Suddenly your argument turns into subtle (or not so subtle) jabs because you know exactly what buttons to push and where your spouse’s Achilles’ heel is. But remember, your spouse is NOT the enemy. COVID-19 is.  

Connect With Each Other Daily

As you read this, we are currently significantly limiting our physical touch. And yes, it’s tough. Bobby’s primary love language is Physical Touch, so it makes it all the more difficult to show that I love and care for him when we are purposefully maintaining our distance. Although it’s not ideal, we both recognize that this isn’t for forever. It’s just a season. And we are determined to get through it together and be stronger for it. So, while we may not be able to touch each other… We can still connect through quality time, conversations, little gifts, notes and meeting each other’s needs the best we can right now. 

The Four Points of Connectedness

There’s this amazing concept I learned and it’s helped our connection tremendously over the past couple of years. According to studies done by relationship researcher Dr. Linda Duncan, there are four powerful points of connectedness between couples during the day. When you are intentional about connecting at these essential times on a regular basis, they can significantly increase the intimacy in your marriage. Yes, please!!

How you wake up.

Figure out a simple, loving way to say “good morning” to each other (it’ll set the tone for how you engage with each other until you part for the day)! If coffee is your love language, it’s a no-brainer.

How you part for the day.

Parting is such sweet sorrow these days, but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Take some time to talk about what the day looks like and be sure to leave on a positive note… (“I love you” and “Thank you for working so hard!” are great parting words.)

How you greet each other.

After being apart all day, the way you greet each other when you get home really matters! Even if it can’t be a big hug and kiss, you can still express excitement with a warm smile and a genuine, “I’m so happy you’re home [sappy nickname here]!

How you say goodnight.

When the day is done and you’re ready to call it a night, be sure to first take some time (just the two of you!) to debrief on the day. And even if you aren’t going to bed at the same time, getting “tucked in” isn’t just for the kids! These sweet moments before bed can actually impact how well you sleep that night!  


The bottom line is that having a spouse who is still working during the COVID-19 outbreak adds an additional level of complication and stress into the mix of an already difficult situation. But just remember… this too shall pass. In the meantime, while you’re taking all the necessary precautions to keep your body and house safe, don’t forget about keeping your marriage healthy as well. Eventually, when all the dirt settles and the waters are clear again, it’ll be so refreshing to know that your relationship is even stronger for it!

***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.***

The “Great Blackout” in New York City in 1965 did not result in a “Baby Boom” nine months later. This is the stuff of Urban Legends. People think that in times of national crisis or natural disaster, couples suddenly realize how much they love and need each other and then, boom, nine months later, maternity wards are filled up with the babies that represent that wonderful romance. The Disaster Theory Baby Boom isn’t true. Sadly, it’s just the opposite.

It’s nice to think that in extreme circumstances or with newfound time on their hands, couples romantically turn to each other for comfort, security, and well, you know. The reality is that instead of turning toward each other, they often turn on each other. Research shows more evidence of “Break Up Booms” than “Baby Booms.” 

It makes sense if you think about it. The stress of adapting to radically new schedules and routines, the pressures from the economic impact of these unexpected disruptions, not to mention the understandable worry and anxiety caused by things like, say, a global pandemic, together can form a perfect storm that pushes even the best relationships to their limits.

So here we are. Wow, right?

Everything is canceled. Many couples will be staying home and working from home and spending time together 24/7. What kind of “boom” can we look forward to?

Someone said that we are like sponges. When we get “squeezed,” what’s inside of us will come out! Times like these will bring out the best in us and the worst.

That old relationship copout, “we don’t get a ton of ‘quantity’ time together, but, hey, we get ‘quality time’ together” has just been thrown out the window. The world has a “Sorry, We’re Closed” sign hanging on it. Looks like the quantity time is here now. Will it be quality time too? 

Will this result in couples lovingly “rediscovering” each other and taking their relationships to deeper levels of intimacy? That is the ideal. But that will not be the Default Response. That will only happen if you are intentional and work toward strengthening your relationship.

The reality is, times of crisis can result in people who are already on edge and cooped up with each other taking all their stress out on each other. Domestic violence increases during these times. Sadly, people often tear each other and their relationship apart. The divorce lawyers are already talking about how their caseloads are about to get crazy.

In times like these, how do you fortify your relationship and not just your home?

  1. Understand that these stressful situations will put stress on your relationship. Sometimes just knowing it will happen, knowing that is what’s going on, knowing the dynamics in play, is incredibly helpful. Remember how under different, normal circumstances, you chose to spend the rest of our life with your spouse? Recall your reasons why.
  2. Understand that you and your partner may respond to and process the stress differently. We all have different stressors and respond to stress in different ways, so agree to have a conversation about how you each relate to stress. Ask each other how you are feeling and work to really listen and understand each other. Ask each other about what you need right now. One of you might need time alone and one of you may need more “face time” to de-stress and feel connected. How will you navigate those differences?
  3. According to research, stress often acts as a magnifier in people’s lives and relationships. Quiet people may get quieter. Talkative people might become totally hyper-verbal. Relationships characterized by a lot of conflict will feel that conflict multiplied. You and your partner’s good and not-so-good qualities are going to be amplified. This may be an opportunity to identify and work on some of those relational things.
  4. Attitude is everything. Do you “get to” spend more time together or do you “have to?”
  5. Commit to facing these “strange days” together as a team. It’s Us Against the World.
  6. Even though you may be spending tons of time together, you still need “Me Time” and self-care. You might be used to going to the gym and blowing off some steam. The gym is closed now. What are some healthy ways to deal with your stress? Maybe it is working in the yard or walking around the neighborhood. “Me Time” may be a long hot bath. It might be watching television in separate rooms for an hour and then getting together to talk about what you watched.
  7. Do not make any big, important decisions during this time! Do not draw any definitive conclusions about your relationship or your spouse. This isn’t the real anything.

Sometimes when we are trying to change our circumstances the most, we realize that our circumstances are trying to change us. This time might be an opportunity, not an obstacle.

Do not forget to have fun! I know it is hard right now. Get creative. Get silly. Be intentional about romance. Have a candlelit dinner and a slow dance in the living room. If you have children, let them see how much Mommy and Daddy love each other and are having fun!

The world might be closed, but you can control if your heart stays open.

***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.***

What people believe about marriage may surprise you.

At the 2019 NARME Summit in Nashville, Dr. Scott Stanley shared what people really think about marriage using the latest marriage and cohabitation research.

If you’ve heard that married couples have a 50% chance of eventually divorcing, did you know that this statistic pertains specifically to Baby Boomers – the most divorcing generation ever in U.S. history? The news is better for those marrying today – their lifetime risk for divorce is only around 38%.

Read more

When asked, “What do couples fight about?” most people usually say money, sex, kids and in-laws straight out of the gates.

In romantic relationships, couples can have all kinds of major and minor disagreements that impact the quality of their relationship. If you’re wondering what the research says about what couples are most likely to fight about, you’ll be interested in the results of a 2019 study by psychologists Guilherme Lopes, Todd Shakelford, David Buss and Mohaned Abed.

They conducted a three-stage study with recently-married heterosexual couples looking at all of their areas of discord, and what they found was pretty interesting. Out of 83 reasons for couple conflict, they found 30 core areas of conflict which they placed into six component groups.

The component groups were:

  1. Inadequate Attention or Affection: This would include things like not showing enough love and affection, lack of communication, one not paying enough attention to the other, not being appreciated and feelings.
  2. Jealousy and Infidelity: This would affected by real or perceived risk to the relationship from things like talking to an ex, possessiveness, past relationships and differing opinions on whose friends couples hang around more.
  3. Chores and Responsibilities: Think about everyday tasks that couples may share. The housekeeping, chores, who does more work, not showing up when expected and sharing responsibilities would fit here.
  4. Sex: One may want sex and the other doesn’t, frequency of sex, sexual acts and telling private information about the relationship to others – and the list goes on.
  5. Control and Dominance: This would refer to events in which one partner tries to manipulate or control the other in some way.
  6. Future Plans and MoneyThings like goals for the future, children and the ability and willingness to invest resources in the relationship would fall into this category.

Utilizing these areas of discord, the psychologists created the Reasons for Disagreements in Romantic Relationships Scale (RDRRS).

Key Findings

  • Jealousy and infidelity seemed to decrease after several years of marriage
  • A husband’s higher income contributed to control and dominance issues.
  • Men who were more religious mentioned less disagreement over jealousy and infidelity elements.
  • Relationship satisfaction improved over time even though the frequency of differences did not change significantly during the three years of marriage.
  • Females were less satisfied when there was more disagreement about control and dominance, and as women grew older there was more disagreement about infidelity and jealousy.
  • Women reported that sexual satisfaction was lower when there was greater disagreement about chores and responsibilities.
  • Women were more likely to guess they would have an affair in five years when there was greater disagreement around inadequate attention and affection.

Whether you’re considering marriage, engaged or already married, this information can provide a great foundation for conversation when it comes to potential disagreements in marriage. While there is some relief in knowing that lots of people struggle with the same types of issues, it might be a bit disconcerting to find that the one you love and thought you would be on the same page with about most things doesn’t exactly see things the same way you do. In reality, it is pretty much impossible for two people from two different upbringings to come together and not have any differences of opinion about certain things.

Either way, if you know you have these differences or areas of conflict, it is possible to have constructive conversation to determine how you will navigate dealing with them so your relationship can thrive in the process. How do you do that? Thanks for asking.

Find a time when you both can talk for 30 minutes or so without distraction. Choose one of the topics you differ on and begin sharing. Keep in mind, your best bet is for each of you to seek information and to remain curious. There is no rule that says at the end of 30 minutes you are done with this topic. This is also not a time to try and convince your partner about why they are wrong and should for sure see things your way.

Couples often find that when they seek to understand their partner it begins to make sense why they think the way they think. It doesn’t mean you have to agree. You can still disagree on certain things and have a healthy marriage, but it will require some effort on each person’s part. If you are dating or engaged, you may realize that your differences are significant enough that you need to evaluate whether marrying each other is the best next step. It really boils down to respecting your partner and doing what is in the best interest of your relationship.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on January 11, 2020.

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

In 30-plus years of working with couples and listening to why they have decided to divorce, the reasons include things you would expect to hear such as infidelity, lack of commitment, financial issues, too much conflict, the stress of caring for children with special needs, the impact of the death of a child, substance abuse and physical abuse.*

Reasons that might catch you off guard are health issues. Sometimes the spouse is too overwhelmed by the health issues of their partner. In other situations, the couple is still very much in love, but the medical bills are draining their life savings. Divorcing makes it possible for them to manage the financial burden. In-laws without boundaries is another reason couples cite for making the decision to divorce.

Many couples say they just can’t keep living like they have been living and they have done all they know to do. Statistics indicate that only 30% of divorces are due to affairs, addiction or abuse. In 70% of divorces, couples cite disconnectedness even though they love but are not “in love” with their spouse anymore.

If you find yourself considering divorce, there are some important things for you to think about. Even though you have tried everything you know and nothing has worked to change your relationship, that doesn’t mean you have tried everything. Marriage intensives, one-day experiences specifically designed for couples experiencing distress, and phone coaching are all available and have excellent success rates.

After trying everything they knew to try and change their relationship, one couple went to tell their pastor they were calling it quits, but he asked them if they would be willing to try just one more thing: a one-day class specifically for couples in distress. They reluctantly agreed, but as a result, they tore up their divorce papers and haven’t looked back. They are now empty-nesters and their marriage is thriving. What they know now is they needed information, tools and a different perspective on how to get out of the ditch they were in. They have no regrets.

Keep in mind that just because someone has “marriage and family therapist” or “counselor” behind their name does not mean they are for your marriage. Most marital therapists are specifically trained to be nondirective or neutral. The following suggestions can help you choose a counselor whose goal is to keep your marriage intact, if possible:

  • Before setting up the first appointment, ask certain questions to make sure the counselor will help you accomplish your goals of making the marriage mutually fulfilling.
  • Ask to schedule a 10-15 minute phone interview. If the counselor is unwilling to have an initial phone conversation, eliminate that counselor from consideration.
  • During the interview, ask:
  1. What is your goal for our marriage? (Answer: To help you both achieve marital fulfillment, and save your marriage).
  2. What are your credentials and years of experience in marriage counseling? (Answer: a graduate degree in mental health (Master’s or Doctorate in Psychology or Social Work, with clinical supervision in marriage counseling).
  3. Briefly explain your problem, then ask if they have experience helping couples overcome that problem, and ask for their success rate in dealing with your particular issue. (Answer: Experience helping couples overcome that particular problem with more than 75% success).

After both spouses speak to a few potential counselors, choose the one you both feel most comfortable with and set up your first appointment.

Every marriage goes through challenging seasons. If you are unhappy in your marriage, you might want to pay attention to who you are spending time around and exercise caution in who you allow to speak into your marriage. People can be sincere in what they say, but sincerely wrong in the advice they give. Hanging out with people who are recently divorced, dissatisfied in their marriage or unhappy with life in general can place you at higher risk for becoming more dissatisfied and ultimately lead you to believe divorce is your only/best option when it really isn’t.

*If abuse is an issue in your marriage, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or visit thehotline.org.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on October 25, 2019.

***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.***

Cheating is the ultimate violation of marital trust. It can destroy families and ruin lives. The bottom line is that if you are even wondering about your spouse’s faithfulness, at minimum, there is some important relationship work to be done!

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If you are 50 or older and have been married for 30 years or more, the latest headlines might have you wondering if your marriage is in trouble and you don’t even know it.

Articles from Pew Research Center, the Wall Street Journal and other publications with titles like, Led by Baby Boomers, Divorce Rates Climb for America’s 50+ Population, and The Divorce Rate is at a 40-Year-Low, Unless You’re 55 or Older, seem to be painting a grim picture. Should people be worried?

Professors Naomi Cahn at the George Washington University Law School and June Carbone at the University of Minnesota Law School, looked at the latest research on this topic. They say the divorce rate is still not all that high for those over the age of 50.

In 1990, five out of every 1,000 married people divorced. In 2010, 10 out of every 1,000 married people divorced. Although the rate has risen more dramatically for those over the age of 50, Cahn and Carbone say it is still half the rate of those younger than 50.

One might older couples are divorcing because children have finally left the nest or that people are living longer and just getting bored in marriage. That doesn’t appear to be the case, however.

According to research from the National Center for Family and Marriage at Bowling Green State University:

  • Couples who own property together and couples with over $250,000 in assets were less likely to divorce.
  • Couples married 40 years or more were the least likely to end up divorced.
  • Gray divorce was almost three times higher for remarried couples compared to first-time married couples.

While property, wealth and the absence of previous marriage may be protective factors, couples can do other things to help their marriage last.

  • Friendship matters. No matter how many years you have been married, continue to grow the friendship between the two of you.
  • Be nice. People often are nicer to those on the outside than the ones they say they care about most. Pay attention to how you treat the one you love.
  • Seek to navigate the tough times together. A job loss, death of a parent or some other transition can be really hard. Instead of trying to navigate it on your own, talking about what you need during a rough patch can help your spouse know the most helpful ways to offer support.
  • Be adventurous. When you’ve been together a long time, it’s easy to find yourselves in a comfortable, yet unfulfilling rut. Look for opportunities to do something out of the ordinary.
  • Keep the conversations going. Some people who have been married for decades complete each other’s sentences and know what the other needs without having to ask. Plenty of research indicates that long-term, happily-married couples know that part of the “happily-married” secret is to keep talking about a variety of topics that interest them.

It is true that more people are throwing in the towel on marriage later in life. However, those who understand that just because you have traveled the road for a long time doesn’t mean you can put it on cruise control or take your hands off the wheel are much more likely to reach the end of their journey together.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on July 5, 2019.

***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.***