Posts

Are you and your husband arguing more?

Does it seem like you are on opposite sides of EVERY issue?

Do you feel unappreciated, unheard and undervalued in your marriage?

Are you all super busy and seem to spend no time together at all?

Do you find yourself asking the question, “Does my husband love me?”

Ways We Experience Love

As individuals, we all experience love in different ways. Dr. Gary Chapman, in his best-selling book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, discusses the 5 ways people receive love. Below is a listing of the 5 Love Languages and how you can be loved the way that you need.

  1. Words of Affirmation—Notes, cards, spoken words, text messages.
  2. Acts of Service—Actions that make your spouse’s life easier. (i.e., wash dishes, dust, vacuum, etc.)
  3. Gifts—Giving your spouse small or large tokens that have meaning to them. 
  4. Quality Time—Spending concentrated and focused time with your spouse.
  5. Physical Touch—Hand-holding, hugging, kissing, etc. 

In addition to the 5 Love Languages, understanding the definition of love can place the picture into better focus.

The dictionary definition of love is “an intense feeling of deep affection.” In other words, love is what one feels. In the article, We Are Defining Love The Wrong Way, Rabbi David Wolpe expands the definition to be “an enacted emotion.Love requires action. If you need more love from your husband, the following questions may help with a conversation. 

How can my husband best show love to me?

How do I feel cherished and valued?

What does loving me look like from my perspective?

Am I not loveable right now?

What do I need from my husband?

Am I struggling with issues of the day? (COVID-19, social unrest, etc.)

How can I talk to my husband about what I am feeling? 

How do I get him to understand what is going on inside of me?

Share your emotions with him. 

Our husbands are not mind readers. Being clear and concise about feeling lonely or disconnected is the way to go. It takes vulnerability to share your insecurities and fears with him, but it can be a bridge to a better and closer relationship.

Recognize that you each receive love differently.

Most husbands have a different love language than their wives. We most often seek to love our spouse in the language we know rather than the love language they speak. Additionally, husbands often want to make sure they provide for their wives and families. This may mean working overtime to get that special gift or go on that special trip for YOU, while you would be fine with him being at home with him. There is nothing wrong with either way. It is JUST different. 

Understand his need to fix it.

We often communicate to share details or process what we think or feel about a situation. While we are processing, he is thinking of a way to fix it in order to make your life easier. His intention is to help what he perceives as a problem, while you see him as not hearing or listening to you. When you share with him how you are feeling, try telling him you just want him to listen and when you feel like he “gets you,” then you can talk about possible solutions.

In the midst of the chaos and distractions of today’s society, it seems easy to get off-kilter in our marriages. Frustration and mixed signals can lead us down a path of feeling unloved, insecure and disconnected. Remembering that how we feel/give love looks different for each of us will allow us to ask for and receive the love that we need. 

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

Image from Unsplash.com

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.***

Image from Unsplash.com

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 decisions and 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.***

Image from Unsplash.com

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 difficult 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 difficult 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. Both us of 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. (Meaning, 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 difficult 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 a difficult conversation, 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.***

Image from Unsplash.com

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 for those of us who have a spouse at risk 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. 

The Process of Figuring Things Out

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? Keep 6 feet away from me and the kids? Wear a mask, even at home? 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. 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.
  • Before he showers, we sanitize ever surface he touches.
  • We continue to diligently wash our hands and try really really hard to not touch our faces.
  • Physical touch is limited. (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. We both feel seen and cared about when we’re speaking words of affirmation and appreciation for what we’re doing daily.
  • 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. It 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 much 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. We are determined to get through it together. And we will 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

Our connection has grown tremendously over the past couple of years because of this amazing concept I learned. 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 times on a regular basis, they can 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, take some time (just the two of you!) to debrief on the day. Even though you’re probably not 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 adds a 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, 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.***

Image from Pexels.com

COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD BE FULFILLING, NOT FRUSTRATING.

With the right tools, you and your spouse can have the best communication ever!

This easy-to-use virtual 5-day course guides you and your spouse to have the best communication you’ve ever had! This course includes exclusive access to:

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

ADD TO CART

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?

Here Are 7 Ways You Can Help Your Marriage Survive the Stress of COVID-19…

  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 of 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. Don’t 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.

Don’t forget to have fun! I know it’s 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 whether 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 someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Pexels.com

What people believe about marriage may surprise you.

At the 2019 NARME Summit in Nashville, Dr. Scott Stanley shared what people are thinking 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

Why do couples fight? And what do they usually fight about?

Most people say they fight about money, sex, kids, and in-laws straight out of the gates.

In romantic relationships, all kinds of major and minor disagreements can impact the quality of a couple’s relationship. If you’re wondering what couples are most likely to fight about, check out this 2019 study by psychologists Guilherme Lopes, Todd Shakelford, David Buss, and Mohaned Abed.

They conducted the study in three stages with newly-married heterosexual couples. They looked 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.

Component Groups:

  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 was 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, although 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. 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 info can provide a great foundation for a conversation about potential disagreements. There’s some relief in knowing that lots of people struggle with the same types of issues. However, it might be a bit disconcerting to find that the one you love doesn’t see things the same way you do. It’s 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, knowing you have these differences or areas of conflict can help you talk about how you’ll navigate them so your relationship can thrive in the process.

How Do You Talk About It?

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’s no rule that says at the end of 30 minutes you’re done with this topic. This also isn’t the time to try and convince your partner they’re wrong and should for sure see things your way.

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

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.***

Image from Unsplash.com

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.***

Image from Unsplash.com

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!

In general, is there a lot of cheating going on? Is there a “cheating type?” Despite numerous studies, there isn’t a dependable predictor of infidelity. It is also very difficult to find reliable statistics related to just how much cheating is going on for two main reasons: (1.) Cheating is by definition very secretive and most surveys rely on self-reporting; and more importantly, (2.) People define “cheating” in a variety of ways. So, let’s begin by asking what you mean by “cheating?” 

  • You are uncomfortable with how close your spouse is with a friend or co-worker.
  • You believe your spouse is involved in an “emotional affair.” They are getting their emotional needs met by someone other than you.
  • Cyber Cheating – Inappropriate, often sexual, texts, pictures, and videos being exchanged electronically with someone.
  • Social Media Cheating – They are connecting with exes and others on social media and sharing things that should only be shared with you.
  • Full-blown secretive sexual relationships.

If you suspect your spouse is cheating on you, here are a few things to think through:

  • Sometimes a spouse IS NOT cheating and the issue is our own insecurities. This requires some introspection and a healthy conversation, not a bold accusation. (Be careful with click-bait nonsense on the internet. “Is he hitting the gym and dressing nicer? THEN HE MUST BE CHEATING!” Um, not necessarily.)
  • Is it possible that you have never discussed healthy boundaries in your marriage? (For example, have you and your spouse talked about being friends with exes on social media and what is appropriate to share? They may have no clue that you consider that cheating.)
  • There is so much misinformation out there about infidelity. Be careful. Having said that, and this might seem contradictory, sometimes, you just know.
  • If you are convinced you are with a cheater, DO NOT confront them immediately and DO NOT confront them without rock-solid evidence. (At best, accusations will just be met with denial and arguing. At worst, you will have just taught them to cover their tracks better.)
  • If at all possible, and I can’t stress this enough, KNOW the correct answers to questions BEFORE you ask them. This is not a “trick” or a “trap.” This is gauging their level of honesty. You might find out that they are willing to be completely honest with you. That’s a good sign! Along those same lines, your spouse DOES NOT need to know everything that you know at this point.

Here Are Some Practical Tips On How To Deal

Keep track of everything and begin gathering information immediately.

  • Phones, laptops, iPads. (There almost always is an electronic trail left by an affair. Smartphones are the best way for cheaters to cheat but also the best way for cheaters to be caught. Cheaters are often very possessive of their phones, but you can begin looking closely at your phone records (Use your phone carrier app.) which are often very detailed. Is there a number that you don’t recognize that appears a lot or at strange times? Note that. Do you see data [photos/videos/social media] exchanged frequently and at odd times? Note that. Did they text/call to change plans with you or tell you they had to work late? Note time and date. What is the next number that they text/call?
  • Begin being very aware of time and money. Affairs have to take place somewhere, sometime and they have to be paid for. Has there been a change in how s/he spends their time? Their money? Your bank records are your best friend here. Compare them with where s/he says they are and what they say they are doing. Have there suddenly been a lot of late meetings at work? Does your spouse suddenly have to travel a lot more? Check the bank records! Have they suddenly taken up a new hobby that keeps them out for hours? (REMEMBER: This could be the truth and it could confirm that there isn’t anything going on!)
  • Sometimes you need to bring in the Big Guns. Cheating is a big problem, but catching cheaters is a big business. Just Google it. You have tons of resources at your disposal! Options range from reverse phone number lookups to programs and apps that monitor and report a variety of digital activities. Some of these options obviously raise privacy issues and you need to check the laws in your state. But, yeah, you have options and you don’t have to be super tech-savvy to use them.

Again, be careful with drawing conclusions based on the internet articles you find!

I recently saw a “Top 10 Signs Your Spouse Is Cheating!” list online that contained this gem: “Significantly less, or more, or different sex in your relationship.” Less, more or different? Um, okay. Well, that can mean a lot of things!

Let’s say that you’ve absolutely confirmed the affair. I am truly sorry. Please take care of yourself. Look up Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder. It’s real.

So, what does this mean for your marriage?

  • Is the cheating spouse willing to apologize, seek forgiveness, and completely break off the relationship? (I have heard of cheating spouses that quit jobs to distance themselves from a co-worker they were involved with. What a bold gesture to rebuild trust!)
  • What was the nature of the infidelity? (Strictly emotional, a “one-night stand,” or a two-year illicit relationship? Each can present very different challenges, BUT marriages can and do survive ALL types of infidelity.)
  • What is the general health of the marriage? How long have you been married? Do you have children?
  • How do each of you individually and both of you as a couple choose to deal with and heal from this? That’s right, choose. Are you BOTH* willing to be honest about your marital relationship? BOTH willing to make changes and set healthy boundaries? Are BOTH willing to get professional help? BOTH willing to be patient and allow the time and do the work for healing to take place? Do you BOTH have accountability partners and a support system? All of this is critical.

*Maybe you don’t like my use of the word “both” here, after all, it is your spouse having the affair, not you. I understand, but please don’t play the Insurance Adjuster Blame Game. It isn’t about finding whether the marital fault is 60/40, 80/20, 90/10 or whatever. (And it rarely, if ever, is 100/0.) If you want your marriage to grow through this unbelievably tough time, BOTH of you have changes to make and work to do! But you can do it!

There is hope! Check this out, there is a large body of research that indicates that it is usually NOT the actual infidelity that destroys the marriage; it is how each spouse responds to the infidelity that determines if the marriage will survive and even thrive! 

If you don’t want to hear this now, I get it, but I have heard so many couples report that infidelity actually saved their marriage, yes saved it by forcing them to realize that they had to make significant personal changes and relate to each other in healthier ways. You absolutely deserve honesty and faithfulness! Do not settle for less. But please realize that broken bones, when healed, are twice as strong.

For more resources, see our Married Couples page here.

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

Image from Unsplash.com