Tag Archive for: Relationships

My family dances together regularly. Cooking dinner? We’re jamming to Usher or Queen. Have twenty minutes to spare before bathtime? We’re grooving around the house to Lecrae or Justin Bieber. It’s a holiday? You can bet at least half of my 32-member family is gathered in the kitchen, singing and moving to yacht rock or 2000s pop.

A few years ago, my sister posted a video of one of our dance fests on social media. The next day, I received a long text from someone sharing how they wished their family could be more like my family… having fun together, laughing, dancing, and making memories. At first, I felt sad for this person. They clearly had a desire for a family environment they had never been able to experience before. Then, I realized they were making an assumption based on one 15-second video. They didn’t see the years of heartache and loss my family navigated through, the arguments we’ve had over politics, religion and parenting, or the moments of frustration and miscommunication that inevitably led to heated conversations and boundaries. It’s true we have fun together, but there’s also a long list of challenges and trials we’ve endured.

Relationship envy is a tricky yet common issue to navigate.

From the gorgeous married couple who travels the world to the family who dances in the kitchen, social media and misplaced assumptions can create a deep-seated game of comparison.

Here’s a truth to remember: Seeing a moment doesn’t reveal the full picture.

In other words, seeing a husband and wife who are caring, considerate, and affectionate towards each other at a dinner party doesn’t mean they haven’t had their fair share of ups and downs. Study after study reveals couples who stick together through hard seasons will inevitably come out stronger and more connected on the other side. Still, we experience relationship envy because we so desperately desire a deep connection with those we love. So often, we don’t know how to build that connection. Then when we see snapshots of others holding hands, laughing, dancing, etc., we assume their relationship is amazing and ours are lacking in some way.

More than eight in ten U.S. adults (83%) say spending time with family provides them a great deal or quite a bit of meaning and fulfillment, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2022. However, a similar survey concluded that Americans only see extended family once a year, typically around a holiday. Likewise, a different survey of 6,000 married couples revealed that 90% of couples enjoy spending time together and find it beneficial for their relationship, but they only go on dates an average of 3 times per year.

What if relationship envy isn’t bred from a lack in our own relationships, but misplaced priorities?

If we desire to have closer, more connected, and “fun” relationships, we have to invest our time, energy, and resources into making those things happen. You can’t enjoy life together if you don’t spend time together. The more time and energy you give to the people you care about, the more memories and experiences you’ll share with them – good and bad.

Likewise, taking the “grass is always greener” approach limits your capacity to see and expand on the positives in your relationships.

Justin Buckingham, a psychology professor at Towson University, and the researcher Lavonia Smith LeBeau developed the “relationship social comparison scale.” They found that people who frequently compared their relationships to others were more likely to experience “low relationship satisfaction, feelings of commitment, and feelings of intimacy.” On a larger scale, French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called this “positional suffering,” or the notion that our pain is created not so much by what we have, but by what we have in relation to others. Practicing envy creates feelings of pain, doubt, and dissatisfaction.

What’s the antidote to envy?

Practicing gratitude and self-awareness. Being thankful for what you do have instead of focusing on what you don’t will shift your mindset and point of view over time. Self-awareness allows you to focus on what you do have control over instead of what you can’t control.

To my friend who longs for her family to dance in the kitchen: turn on the music and let loose. If no one joins you, so be it. You can’t control what your family members do or don’t do, but you can be the one to start something new. You can choose to focus on the things your family does to enjoy each other’s company: telling stories, reading, sharing life, eating meals – there’s no right or wrong way to be together. Prioritizing your own relationships will give you less time and capacity to envy others.

Lauren Hall is the President and CEO of First Things First and can be contacted at [email protected].

Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

We are all guilty of phubbing whether we’re aware of it or not.

Answered a text during family dinner? You phubbed. Checked your notifications during a meeting your colleague was leading? Phubbed again. Decided to scroll through social media during your downtime instead of calling your close friend or family member? Major phub.

Phubbing is the act of ignoring your companions or relationships to give attention to your phone or device. In other words, you are snubbing others for your phone. 

While many parents complain of feeling snubbed by their teens for technology, it’s clear adults are also struggling with the distracting screens.

Researchers now have a clear picture of how phubbing impacts adult relationships. A recent tech report released by the Institute for Family Studies found that 1 in 7 parents of teens (15%) use their phones or other digital devices “almost constantly” during conversations, meals, or family events. Also, using a sample of 145 adults, researchers James Roberts and Meredith David found that regular phubbing between romantic partners leads to relationship dissatisfaction.

A new report from the Wheatley Institute surveyed 2,000 married couples. It found that 37% of married Americans (roughly one-third) feel their spouse is often focused on a device in place of having a conversation or spending time together. Interestingly enough, this statistic varies greatly between socioeconomic status. Phubbing is worse among lower-income couples, with 44% reporting their spouse is distracted by their phone compared to only 31% of higher-income couples.

It makes sense that phone usage would create frustration in a marriage, but this study reveals even more.

Couples who experience excessive phone use are less happy about their marriage than others.

Only about 6 in 10 married adults whose spouse is often on the phone (59%) say they are “very happy” with their marriage, compared with 81% of those who don’t struggle with this issue. More so, 1 in 5 married adults (21%) with a spouse who overuses a phone say they are not happy with their marriage, compared with only 8% of couples who do not report the phone as an issue.

Of course, the question has to be asked: Is phubbing the real issue?

Or are there other factors in the marriage that increase the phubbing behavior? According to the Wheatley report, infrequent sex and fewer date nights may be contributing to lower marital satisfaction among couples who have a phone problem. Fewer than half of these couples (44%) have sex at least once a week, and about 1 in 5 of these couples (23%) report that either they haven’t had sex at all in the past 12 months (11%) or only once or twice (12%).

In contrast, couples with greater control over their phones are more likely to report more frequent sex and date nights.

Smartphones get a lot of blame for relationship and mental health issues. There’s no doubt that correlations exist between relationship dissatisfaction, loneliness, anxiety, and smartphone usage. But smartphones themselves aren’t the real issue–phubbing is. Whether couples find themselves using their devices to avoid spending time together or they slowly slide into prioritizing their phones over each other, phubbing is a choice. It’s something to be aware of and practice against for the health of ourselves and our relationships.

Lauren Hall is the President and CEO of First Things First and can be contacted at [email protected].

Photo by Kev Costello on Unsplash

I gave a presentation to a local community group last week. At the end, someone in the audience raised their hand and asked, “I keep hearing all this stuff about how lonely we are. Is it really true? And what do we do about it?”

A few days later, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an advisory statement. The headline read: New Surgeon General Advisory Raises Alarm about the Devastating Impact of the Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation in the United States.

Awareness of the rise in loneliness and isolation in our country is the first step to finding a solution. The next steps are to understand why it’s happening and what to do about it. Let’s break it down.

Why is loneliness increasing in our country? Here are a few potential causes:

1: Children have not received emotional connections from parents and caregivers.

A meta-analysis of decades of research on the average American’s “attachment style” reveals today’s adults are more likely to have an insecure attachment style than a secure one. This means we desire relationships, but we are also fearful of them. 

 (Konrath, S. H., Chopik, W. J., Hsing, C. K., & O’Brien, E. (2014))

2: Concerns about societal issues create distrust.

One psychologist who dove deep into Americans’ insecure-attachment trend found a list of fears that people may be wrestling with, such as: war in Europe, trends in technology, school shootings in the news, and the national debt. When society feels scary, that fear can seep into your closest relationships.

3: Technology produces fake intimacy.

It’s no secret–  technology hinders us from creating deep emotional connections. There’s a large body of research revealing the impact of technology on relationships. Staying up-to-date with someone on social media is not the same as having them over for dinner or being a regular part of their life. Technology helps us form digital communities that can hinder us from forming more tangible relationships.

Faith Hill, a reporter and contributor to The Atlantic draws this conclusion in her recent article America’s Intimacy Problem: “All in all, we can’t determine why people are putting up walls, growing further and further away from one another… The good news is that if humans have the capacity to lose trust in one another, they can also work to build it back up.”

What do we do to build connection and trust back up?

Here are a few potential solutions suggested by the Surgeon General and mental health experts alike:

1: Create and use more community spaces.

Playgrounds, libraries, and community centers provide opportunities for human interaction and connection for children and adults. Creating these spaces is half the battle. To experience connection and reverse isolation, we must be willing to use them in our everyday lives.

2: Use connection as a healing remedy.

Because loneliness and isolation are risk factors for several major health conditions, healthcare professionals are well-positioned to assess their patients’ loneliness and isolation and suggest connection and relationship-building remedies.

3: Enable public policies that ensure connection.

At every level, the government can play a role in creating more avenues for connection. Increasing free and easy access to public transportation and providing family leave are a few ways to discourage loneliness and isolation from a systemic level. 

4: Consistently gauge your use of technology.

Only you can prevent fake intimacy from forming in your relationships. How often are you “liking” a picture rather than inviting a friend to coffee? Or scrolling on your phone rather than having a conversation with your spouse?

At its core, the loneliness epidemic has one cure: deep, meaningful relationships. While this ideal has many obstacles, prioritizing relationships is the first step forward. 

Lauren Hall is the President and CEO of First Things First and can be contacted at [email protected].

Photo by Alex Ivashenko on Unsplash

It’s no secret that poor communication habits are the silent killers of many relationships.

Spouses, parents, children, and siblings often fail to connect, express, and respond to expectations and effectively work through conflict. In all relationships, it’s easy for individuals to misunderstand each other, not actively listen before responding, and miss verbal cues for connection.

As much as clear communication plays an important role in relationships, one method suggests the Most Generous Interpretation (MGI) of people and their behavior plays an even bigger role in family health.

Dr. Becky Kennedy, author of the New York Times bestselling parenting book Good Inside, suggests that you can separate a person from their behavior. “Finding the MGI teaches [us] to attend to what is going on inside… (feelings, worries, urges, sensations) rather than what is going on outside (words or actions).”

Here’s a parenting example:

We had a few families over for dinner last week. My 4-year-old son enjoyed playing with all of his friends. When the night ended and everyone went home, I told my son it was time to take a bath. “No! I won’t take a bath. I’m not going to do it right now, and you can’t make me,” he yelled at the top of his lungs.

At that moment, I had a few response options:

1) Yell back with something like, “Don’t talk to me like that or you’ll be punished!”

2) Lay the guilt trip on with a statement like, “I just gave you a fun night with friends. You’re ungrateful.”

3) Make it about my emotions, saying, “It makes me really sad when you talk to me like that. I don’t deserve that.”

4) Use my Most Generous Interpretation by separating his behavior from who he is and following up with curiosity. “Wow, I hear how upset you are. Tell me more.”

I chose option four.

My son then told me he didn’t think it was fair for everyone to go home. He missed them and felt sad that they were gone. He started crying and told me he was extremely tired and didn’t think he had the energy to take a bath. So, I responded, “I get it. I’m tired, too. If we don’t take a bath before bed right now, then we have to wake up a little early in the morning to take one before school. It’s your choice. Bath tonight or in the morning?” He chose the morning option and was asleep in about 5 minutes. He woke up the next morning refreshed and ready to take a bath before school.

Some may interpret this method as “being too easy” on kids, but Dr. Kennedy suggests it’s actually framing their behavior in a way that will help them build critical emotion regulation skills for their future, and parents are preserving their connection and close relationship along the way.

“I often remind myself that kids respond to the version of themselves that parents reflect back to them and act accordingly,” Dr. Kennedy shares. “When we tell our kids they are selfish, they act in their own interest… but the opposite is true as well. When we tell our kids, ‘You’re a good kid having a hard time… I’m right here with you,’ they are more likely to have empathy for their own struggles, which helps them regulate and make better decisions.”

So, how does this method work in a marriage?

The next time your spouse snaps at you, ignores you, or does something to make you feel unseen or unheard, use the MGI rather than yelling, sulking, or blaming. Let them know you see them and want to know what’s going on inside, beyond their behavior outside.

Say something like, “You seem upset. Would you like to talk about it?” or “You seem distracted. Can we talk about what’s on your mind? I’m here with you.”

Choosing the Most Generous Interpretation isn’t easy. At the end of the day, it forces you to respond instead of react and to be curious rather than make assumptions. The connection and depth the MGI can bring to your family is worth the challenge.

Lauren Hall is the President and CEO of First Things First and can be contacted at [email protected].

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

The well-known statistic still rings true: about half of all first-time marriages in the United States end in divorce.

This stat increases in likelihood of subsequent marriages, reaching 70% for third-time marriages, according to a research-based article released by Forbes earlier this year. 61% of dissolved marriages involve children under the age of 18 living in the home.

What happens to the children whose parents choose to part ways?

For many years, the kids almost always ended up living with just one parent, typically the mom. But recent studies reveal a new trend is dramatically on the rise in the U.S.–joint physical custody. This means a child resides with each parent for an equal or significant amount of time.

A 2022 study released by Demographic Research revealed that the number of divorces ending in physical joint custody rose from 13% in 1985 to 34% in 2010. “Although the increase is steepest among high-income couples, it’s happening across the socioeconomic spectrum,” says Daniel Meyer, a social work professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who studies child custody.

How do the children fair who spend an equal or significant amount of time between two households?

A 2018 study released by the Family Process Journal reveals on average, children in shared arrangements tend to fare slightly better than those in sole custody on a variety of metrics, including life satisfaction, stress levels, and self-esteem. That being said, the majority of couples who share custody are usually better off financially, have higher levels of education, and have a more amicable relationship. This makes sense, considering it takes money to provide for a child and have consistent means of transportation.

While there are many advocates for joint physical custody and research shows the scenario is beneficial for children overall, it’s important to note in some situations—like if one parent is abusive or unstable, for example—sole custody is in fact what’s best for the child. 

Since the 19th century, full custody has been generally granted to the mom. However, in America’s earlier days, fathers were automatically given custody of their children because they were seen more as property. As women began to take on a more domestic role, these social dynamics shifted. Today, custody battles rage on for years, even as joint custody becomes more common. The reason? America is built on the premise there can be two parents, but only one household. Therefore, joint custody is difficult to measure and researchers are confident children in joint custody homes are often reported twice- because they are living in two households. Benefits, such as tax returns and medical insurance, can only be granted per household, which assumes all children are part of only one.

What does this mean for the future of families in America?

Here are three things to consider around this new “two household child” reality.

  1. Policies, procedures, and systems need to change for joint custody children and parents to receive the support and benefits they need. While a two-parent household is supported as the most beneficial for children and communities long-term, separation and divorce will inevitably continue. With a better understanding of joint custody and the value it can provide for children, it’s in our nation’s best interest to reevaluate the current workings around child custody and divorce proceedings. 
  2. Increased access to marriage education, therapy, and support could prevent some marriages from ending in the first place. Of course, custody wouldn’t be a topic of conversation if marriages were healthier. Supporting families begins with seeking to better understand what’s causing marriages to dissolve and providing assistance when possible. PewResearch and Forbes recently reported the number one reason for divorce was due to a lack of commitment in the relationship, with 75% of individuals saying they could no longer fulfill their wedding vows due to lack of desire and compatibility. Lack of commitment significantly surpassed infidelity and domestic abuse as reasons for divorce. 
  3. Joint custody may provide a sort of remedy to the “fatherlessness” crisis our country has faced for the last century. According to 2023 data released by the Census, the proportion of children growing up with a resident dad is at its highest since 1989. Slightly more than three-quarters of children today (75.9%), or 54.5 million of our nation’s 72.3 million, can count a resident dad as a housemate. Decades of research show children who grow up with their dads being consistently present in their lives are more likely to thrive physically, emotionally, and socially than children who grow up without their dads. 

There’s no point in ignoring the reality of two household children. While the complexities are obvious, it’s time to figure out a new path to support them. The answers will undoubtedly be complicated, but necessary nevertheless. 

Lauren Hall is the President and CEO of First Things First and can be contacted at [email protected].

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

It’s been twenty-five years since my grandfather was killed in a tragic car accident.

He was sixty-two and the true patriarch of our family. His joy for life was infectious, and his love for his family and friends was intoxicating. As a child, I adored my grandfather, and his death left a gaping hole. Luckily, he left many traditions and values to aid us through the grieving process and carry on his legacy – the most important of which happens around Thanksgiving.

For twenty-eight years, the Swafford Family has spent a week together around the Thanksgiving holiday. Our family has grown to thirty-two members, so finding a place to accommodate us certainly has its challenges, and not everyone can stay the whole time due to work and travel issues. But everyone tries. It’s what we do.

During our time together, we dance, sing, play games, eat a ton of food, and most importantly, we hold each other accountable and support one another. Over the years, we’ve sat around the kitchen table and cried over the death of loved ones, shared our fears and frustrations with work, school, or relationships, and opened up about challenges in our marriages, parenting, and faith. Our Thanksgiving tradition sets the tone for what my grandfather wanted our family to be – something we’re proud to be a part of, something we rely on for support and belonging.

I recently read a 50-year review about family traditions in the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Journal of Family Psychology.

As it turns out, family routines and rituals are alive and well. They are associated with marital satisfaction, adolescents’ sense of personal identity, children’s health, academic achievement, and stronger family relationships. Psychologist Barbara H. Fiese, Ph.D., and colleagues at Syracuse University began their review by distinguishing the difference between a family routine and a family ritual.

“Routines involve instrumental communication conveying information that ‘this is what needs to be done’ and involve a momentary time commitment so that once the act is completed, there is little, if any, afterthought,” says Dr. Fiese. “Rituals, on the other hand, involve symbolic communication and convey ‘this is who we are’ as a group and provide continuity in meaning across generations.”

Dr. Fiese goes on to say that rituals create memories through evoking emotional imprints. Rituals are often looked back on with fondness or looked forward to with anticipation. On the other hand, routines are expected, planned, and implemented. They leave little to no room for building values or creating environments.

As you find yourself making plans with the ones you love around holidays or other special occasions, ask yourself these questions to determine if your family traditions are built on ritual or routine:

  1. Are we making plans simply because it’s a holiday and there’s an expectation for us to get together? Are we intentional about connecting or deepening our relationships outside of the holiday as well?
  2. What are our family values? What type of environment do we want to create in our family, and how will we make sure it’s consistent in every gathering, life event, or interaction we have?
  3. Do I want my family to remember what we did year after year? Or how it made them feel when we were together? 

The year my grandfather died, he had prepaid for us to stay together in a cabin in Gatlinburg, TN. We almost didn’t go because it was so painful, but we knew it was what he wanted, and that we ultimately wanted to be together. We decided then and there that we would continue the tradition he set, not out of expectation, but because it’s part of who we are. Now, it’s a ritual.

If building family traditions around rituals feels a bit overwhelming for you, start by opening the conversation to other family members.

Talk about what values your family already shares and what values you may want to implement and why. Think about the future generations–what legacy will they remember and want to pass on? How do your traditions mirror your answers? Traditions based on rituals should help people feel connected, appreciated, and like they’re a part of something bigger – a family.

Lauren Hall is the President and CEO of First Things First and can be contacted at [email protected].

Photo by Rajiv Perera on Unsplash

I just turned 33 years old. I married my husband when I was 23, which means we’re approaching our 10-year anniversary. My husband was 30 when we married, which means he’s approaching the big 4-0 in just a few short months. (If you know him, please remind him of this. He loves it.)

I won’t bore you with all the details of how we met, but it started with a college research project I was working on. My goal was to write a journalistic research paper on why the average age of marriage was quickly on the rise. In 1990, the average age to marry was 20 for women and 23 for men. By 2010, the average age had risen to 29 for women and 30 for men. My project guidelines required me to find three unbiased interviewees. So, I asked a 29-year-old barista from Starbucks, whom I barely knew, if I could ask him a few questions about his views on romantic relationships and marriage. 

What I Learned About My Husband

During that interview my husband really admired marriage and saw it as a future goal. He had a history of mismatched relationships that consisted of rivaling ideals and misaligned commitments. However, he revered marriage and was consistently in pursuit of finding “the right person.” This surprised me. He drove a motorcycle, had tattoos, played guitar, and categorized himself as an artist. I made an unfair assumption that he was probably just “playing the field” or “having fun.” To my surprise, we were married 16 months later.

According to a Pew Research study released this June, America has reached the highest number of never-married individuals on record. Currently, 25% of 40-year-olds or older have never been married. This is a significant increase from 20% in 2010, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. With the rise in cohabitation, it’s tempting to assume the majority of these individuals are living with someone. However, only 22% reported they are currently cohabitating. 

While these findings alone may lead us to believe that marriage is dead in our country, there’s another side to the story. This 2023 study also revealed 63% of Americans believe it is important for couples to get married if they intend to spend the rest of their lives together. A similar study released by Pew in 2014 reported only 53% of Americans felt this way, revealing a marked increase in this viewpoint over the last decade. 

Here’s Why This Matters

While fewer people are getting married overall, it’s not because they don’t have the desire to do so or, like my husband, revere marriage itself as a major step in commitment. In general, individuals want to be more cautious with making commitments and “test their relationship” by living together or staying together for longer lengths of time before saying, “I do.” Not to mention the cultural trend to obtain a degree and build a career before considering marriage at all. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing, but it does play a major role in establishing priorities for how we measure “success” and “fulfillment” in life.

This theory holds true across race, ethnicity, and socio-economic divides as well. A 2021 study published by the National Library of Medicine found that low-income individuals desired marriage for themselves and saw it as a standard for living a fulfilling life. However, a multitude of factors kept them from pursuing and committing to relationships, including money problems, substance abuse, and generational trauma.

Marriage Rate

While the marriage rate is certainly decreasing across our nation, I’d like to propose a different interpretation. It’s not because we don’t desire it; it’s because we’ve slowly shifted its priority. While the reasons why are myriad, and every situation and relationship has its own story to tell, marriage isn’t dead. 

(But it has become the houseplant in the corner we forget to care for. We know having the houseplant has many benefits for our overall health, including better air quality in our home and an overall mental health boost. But there are a million other things on our to-do lists that can keep us from prioritizing those sad, drooping leaves).

What can we do to help marriage become more of a priority again in our nation? Does it matter in the long run? In next week’s column, we’ll take a look at building a better understanding of commitment and the key elements of healthy relationships. We’ll also take a fresh look at the influence of generational cycles.


Karney. (2020). Socioeconomic Status and Intimate Relationships


Managing Expectations for Mother’s Day

Break down these 3 barriers so you can all win and feel the love!

Have you ever asked your spouse what they plan on doing for you on Mother’s Day? Raise your hand if they’ve replied:

Shoot… Is that THIS weekend? 


Whatever you want to do, Babe.


Umm… nothing. You’re not my mom. 

All wrong answers. That sinking feeling of being unappreciated, taken for granted and forgotten drowns out any last-minute plans they may try to scramble together. The damage has been done. 

Your expectations to be thought of and celebrated have been shattered to dust. And if this isn’t the first, second, or third offense, you may even feel numb to it now. Disappointment is inevitable. No point in getting your hopes up, right?

You’ve probably figured out by now that motherhood is a thankless job. It’s not just what you do – it becomes who you are. It’s like breathing… and it’s natural, instinctual, automatic. But it’s also grueling, emotional and exhausting. So having your family acknowledge all that hard work AND celebrate it one day out of the entire year is not asking for too much. 

But what trips up most couples is actually that – the ASKING part. “What are you going to do for me?” is a loaded question if you already have unspoken expectations of what you want.

But shouldn’t my spouse care enough to look at a calendar and plan ahead? Shouldn’t they know me well enough to know what I’d want to do/how I’d like to be celebrated? Shouldn’t they realize that even though I’m not THEIR mother, I’m a mother, and that’s what this holiday is all about?!

First, that’s a lot of shoulding… So let’s break down some expectation barriers together so we can all win on Mother’s Day.

Barrier #1: You expect your spouse to think and act like you.

It’s easy to believe that everyone (including your spouse) sees the world the way you do. This sets you up for some pretty unrealistic expectations and 

disappointment. You want your spouse to magically know and do exactly what you would do (and probably are doing for your own mother). Maybe you expect them to…

  • Speak the same love language as you. For example: Your spouse may think a signed card shows they care, while you long for a handwritten, thoughtful love letter. Or they may think flowers are the universal language of love, but you find them impractical and a waste of money. Or they may tell you to take the “day-off” and go get a massage or do your nails or whatever you want… but your love language is Quality Time, and you want to celebrate with your family (without any of the normal responsibilities of motherhood…)
  • Have the same skills as you. For example: Your spouse is a spontaneous, in-the-moment kind of person. They don’t enjoy planning. So they wait ‘til the last minute to figure out what to do. But this seems lazy or unthoughtful to you (a planner) when really, it’s their natural temperament. Or they are very logical, and thinking of creative ways to show love is like speaking a foreign language to them. So they get you a super practical gift like new towels or a car charger when you want something meaningful.

Break down the barrier by realizing that your spouse is a unique individual.

They are not YOU. And that’s a good thing! Our differences make us stronger. Talk about your differences. You most likely are speaking different love languages, so discover what each other’s love language is and try to speak it fluently and frequently. If you already know each other’s love languages, a simple reminder can go a long way! 

Barrier #2: You expect your spouse to read your mind.

Whether you’ve been together for 3 years or 30… your spouse cannot read your mind. We joke about this – but when was the last time you’ve thought or said, “You should know what I like! I’ve only told you 1 million times!”? Been there, said that way too often.

The real issue here is that you long to feel seen, understood, and known deeply. This requires intentionally working on your emotional intimacy, which is an ongoing process of growing in your understanding of each other’s feelings, hopes, dreams, fears, motivations, etc. You know what you want and need. But it changes over time and throughout different seasons of life. 

Break down the barrier by telling your spouse exactly what you’d like for Mother’s Day and why it’s so important to you.

Sharing what would make you feel the most acknowledged, valued and celebrated doesn’t diminish your spouse’s effort; it encourages it. The more you tell your spouse how you feel loved the most and why, the more your spouse has the chance to love you in that way… and the deeper your emotional intimacy will grow.1 This doesn’t mean you have to plan the whole day. You just have to clearly communicate what you want or need. Leave the little details up to your spouse! 

Barrier #3: You expect your spouse to be perfect.

No matter how hard your spouse tries, they’ll never be perfect. Expecting perfection sets unrealistic standards that will make them believe they aren’t good enough. It’ll push them away, and you’ll end up experiencing the opposite of what you wanted to feel.

Break down the barrier by realizing that your expectations may be unrealistic.

Take a moment. See if maybe you’re setting the bar too high so that it feels out of reach to your spouse. Have you criticized their efforts in the past? If you have, there’s a good chance they don’t want to fail again (and maybe they think they can’t fail if they don’t even try…). Think about what your spouse is good at and enjoys doing – that still fills your love tank. Telling them exactly how you’d feel loved and appreciated will set them up for success and set your expectations at a realistic level. 

So this year, instead of asking what your spouse will do, try telling them what you’d like to do first. 

Take the pressure off of them to decode your side-eye sighs and do your spouse a favor:

  1. Spell it out.
  2. Be clear and specific before any resentment starts to build. If you’re a planner, talk about it a couple of weeks in advance.
  3. If you like surprises, give your spouse a few options for things you’d like to do and let them choose!  

You DESERVE to be celebrated, Mama. Mother’s Day is a great opportunity for your husband and family to do that. So be honest and open about what would make you feel appreciated and loved. 


1McNulty, J.K., et al. (2004). Positive Expectations in the Early Years of Marriage: Should Couples Expect the Best or Brace for the Worst?