Written by Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, the Marriage in a Box blog shares insights into common relationship struggles, gives ideas for moving beyond the roadblocks, and helps you find your path to happiness – both individually and within your relationship.
Most American adults (65 percent) have at some point combined their finances with a spouse or partner, according to a recent study by the National Endowment for Financial Education.
Of those couples, one out of every three have lied about or kept secret some of their financial details. For nearly half of the couples surveyed, the deception caused an argument. Thirteen percent ended up separating their finances. For 18 percent of the couples, the financial deception ultimately broke them apart.
Financial infidelity is when couples with combined finances lie to each other about money. Examples of financial infidelity can include hiding existing debts, excessive expenditures without notifying the other partner, and lying about the use of money.
Just 5 percent of people in relationships report having secret bank accounts, but women are 50 percent more likely to do so than men. And women aged 45-54 are more than four times as likely as their male peers to have a secret bank account.
When you’re married, your partner’s debt becomes your debt. It could also impact your credit score. If one of the people in the relationship is not honest about what is happening in your joint financial lives, it’s a huge breach and is difficult to overcome. “It begs the question ‘If you are lying about that, what else are you lying about?’”
How Do You Repair Your Finances and Rebuild Trust in Your Spouse?
Lay it All Out on the Table
The best way to start repairing the damage is to come clean with your partner. Lay out all your assets and your debts. You both need to get on the same page, and to do that, there cannot be any hidden loans or debt or hidden assets or accounts.
Take Responsibility for what you have done.
Apologize for putting your partner in this position and reaffirm your loave for them. Commit to take all necessary steps and measures to work with your partner to get the situation cleared up. Commit to make sure the behavior does not happen again.
Give Your Partner Time to Absorb it All
Your Partner has been wronged. Trust has been broken. He or She will likely feel betrayed or violated. You need to give them time and space to absorb the situation and process their emotions. Don’t offer up excuses or worse lie about how it happened.
Start talking about your feelings about money. Most people have a hard time talking about money. However, if you are going to rebuild your life together, you both need to be able to discuss ALL financial issues. Depending on the amount of Debt or financial Damage that has been done, you may benefit from third-party financial or debt advisors. You should also agree to sit down once monthly and discuss your finances.
Reframe Your ideas about Money
What are your financial goals? Do you want to buy a home, save for your kids’ college, retire early? To reach your goals, you both need to work toward them together. Perhaps a budget would help keep you on track and give you a blueprint to check against. A budget would also help rebuild a sense of safety and togetherness, which strengthens your relationship.
Relinquish control to your spouse.
The partner than financially unfaithful should not oversee paying the bills or keeping the checkbook. Until they can demonstrate that they have a handle on their spending, the other partner should take over those functions.
Don’t neglect the intimate connection with your spouse.
It would be easy to be put off making love or being intimate with your spouse while you are furious with them for damaging your finances and betraying your trust. They feel embarrassed, unworthy, and unloved. You both need to try to reconnect to rekindle the love in the marriage.
Financial infidelity is not uncommon. The key to rebuilding trust in your partner and your marriage is Open Communication, Reconnecting Intimately, and Sharing financial responsibilities.
Infidelity is heartbreaking and devastating. But it doesn’t have to mean the end of your marriage. If you’re both motivated to heal and recover, the odds are 60% that you will. There are a few factors that make a couple more likely to try to work it out. Those factors include whether they have strong commitments to one another like children or a house.
If there is one thing experts agree on when it comes to dealing with infidelity, it’s that while recovery is possible, rebuilding a healthy relationship is hard work. Couples do and can stay together after an affair, but it takes a lot of work to repair broken trust.
- The cheating must stop.
The person who cheated cannot see the person they cheated with again. Don’t buy into the “I need to see him or her to let them know the affair is over.” They should be able to make a phone call, where you can hear the conversation, and tell them it is over. If this was an affair with someone at work, they may need to look for another job.
- Couples need to vent their feelings.
When it is clear the affair is over, each spouse must have time to vent and express their feelings. Both spouses will have wounds, anger
The spouse that was cheated on will likely have questions about what happened. They may feel betrayed, angry, hurt, or resentful. They may also feel like this was somehow their fault.
- How did the affair start?
- What attracted him or her to that person?
- How many times did they meet? Where? When?
- Do they still love you?
The spouse who did the cheating needs time to “tell their story.” They may feel guilt, shame, and remorse. They may also have had feelings for the person they had the affair with. They need to be honest with their spouse if the marriage is to be saved.
- Talk about the elephant in the room.
Often, there were problems in the marriage relationship long before the cheating began. A troubled marriage is not an excuse for cheating! However, couples need to be able to communicate with each other honestly and openly about the issues in their relationship so they can address them.
- Did both spouses ever spend time talking about things that bother them?
- Was their sex life good?
- Did both spouses spend much time together dating or doing leisurely things?
- Do you love each other?
When both spouses can identify the broader areas in their marriage that were weak, they can talk about how to make improvements so cheating is less likely to occur again.
- Take ownership of your own stuff.
Playing the blame game will not repair the marriage. Each person in the relationship must own their own stuff. The person who cheated needs to take full responsibility for breaking their marriage vows and betraying their partner’s trust. The person who was cheated on needs to acknowledge any actions on their part that may have damaged the marriage relationship. Unless both spouses can talk about what is broken in the marriage, they cannot hope to repair it.
At this point in the process, both spouses have a decision to make.
- Do I still love my spouse?
- Am I willing to do whatever it takes to repair the damage and rebuild my marriage?
- Do I want to end this marriage?
- Start over and recreate your marriage relationship.
Couples can emerge from an affair with a better sense of who they each are and what they want from their relationship. The marriage will not be the same as it was before the affair. You can’t un-ring that bell. However, you can get rid of the parts of your relationship which were not working and create a new, stronger dynamic in the relationship.
Both spouses must be able to communicate openly, show patience, have understanding into heal from their actions. It will not happen overnight and could be a long process.
Almost 60% of couples survive infidelity and rebuilt trust. Couples can survive and grow after an affair and go on to have a happy relationship.
Sometimes, couples get stuck in a place where they feel burnt out and disappointed in their marriage. It happens. However, you can get “unstuck” and get your love relationship back on track if you are both willing to put in a little work. Here are three things you need to do to put the spark back in your marriage.
Keep the Expectations of Your Spouse Realistic
While there are expectations that can make a marriage great, there are also unrealistic expectations that can destroy your marriage from the inside out.
Do you set unrealistically high expectations of your spouse?
- Your spouse should understand what you feel and need without you having to tell them.
- You constantly accuse your spouse of not loving or caring about you.
- You regularly place demands on your spouse no matter how sensitive and nurturing they are to you.
If your expectations for your spouse solely define your happiness, you’ll likely create unrepairable cracks in the foundation of your relationship. Unrealistic expectations place immense pressure on your spouse to satisfy your “wants,” even if they don’t actually meet your “needs.” You may unintentionally set your spouse, and your marriage, up for failure. and it sets them up for failure from the start.
How can you develop more healthy expectations?
- Identify your wants vs. your needs.
- Open up and share your fears, emotions, and needs with your spouse.
- Stop criticizing and blaming and focus on the great things about your spouse.
Get in Touch with and Take Care of Yourself
It is very easy to look at other people and your spouse through a microscope, but what about you? Are you focusing on other people, so you don’t have to struggle with your own self-image? If you are not willing to give your spouse your “best self”, you cannot expect them to give theirs. A marriage means each partner providing their spouse with all they need to feel supported, cared for, and loved as you blend your lives together.
Journaling is an excellent way to get in touch with your thoughts and emotions and can help keep you grounded.
Exercise is a great way to “re-charge” and develop a positive self-image.
Pampering is a way to soothe and nurture yourself by doing your nails, hair, soak in the tub, etc.
Taking time to take care of yourself pays off by allowing you to be more present in your marriage and available to your spouse in the best way.
Never Stop Dating Your Spouse
When most couples look back on their time of dating before marriage, what they will remember is the laughter, fun, open communication, flirting, desiring, and the romance. Get back into that dating mode.
With all the stress in our lives from work, children, in-laws, other commitments, it takes more work after you have been married for a while to turn that “dating mode” on. You need to schedule it weekly and plan for it. It can be dinner out and a babysitter or sitting out on the porch with a glass of wine and talking under the stars. Whatever form it takes, taking time out to connect with each other will bring back the things that brought you together in the first place and reignite that spark.
It is difficult to say exactly how many of the 113 million married Americans are too exhausted or too grumpy to get it on, but some psychologists estimate that 15 to 20 percent of couples have sex no more than 10 times a year, which is how the experts define sexless marriage. (Newsweek)
In an American society where sex is in every TV show, movie, novel, magazine, social media, and discussion, it is hard to believe that more couples are not having sex on a regular basis. Is the reason a lack of desire? Lack of time?
Lack of time. Compared to past generations, modern married couples lead more hectic lives. In many marriages, both spouses work full time, share the demands of raising children, and spend more time in physical activity and social commitments. If you value something highly enough, you will make time for it. Skip the gym one night or morning or beg off on a social engagement and spend it with your spouse instead.
Lack of desire. Sex is a human need. It is a desire that must be filled. Sex is necessary to a healthy marriage relationship. Sex helps couples connect physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When one partner is unhappy with your sex life, they may feel minimized or ignored. Unhappiness can turn to anger or distance. When enough anger and alienation has built up, your marriage is headed for infidelity or divorce.
How to pump up your sexual desire
If your sexual relationship is not satisfying for both of you, you need to address it and soon. A low sex drive is not uncommon. Millions of men and women suffer from a lack of desire. A lack of desire does not mean a lack of love. It simply means that it takes a lot of patience, romance, and foreplay to get in the mood for sex. Sex is not something that can conjured up instantaneously or that can be rushed.
Talk about it. If one of you is avoiding having sex because of some unresolved difference or something lacking in your lovemaking, you need to talk about it with your partner. Talking about sex is difficult for most people, however, no resolution will come from keep it a secret. You need to learn to ask for what you want.
Flirt a little with your spouse each day. Remember when you were dating and stole little kisses or whispered in each other’s ear. Out in public, you slipped you hand in his and leaned in a little closer. Across the table at lunch, you caught each other’s eye and stopped to enjoy that lingering gaze. That flirty romance may be exactly what you need.
Create the mood. Dress a little sexy. Share a glass of wine together. Tease each other with tender strokes on the neck and down the back. Let your partner know that you are willing to have sex by not saying a word. Even if you are not yet feeling the desire, go with it and let yourself give in to the sex.
A healthy sex life take work and requires time. If you and your partner devote time and energy to building a healthy sex life, you won’t be disappointed.
Satisfaction and a sense of “US” is contingent upon the respect that spouses have and show toward one another. It is an essential part of the foundation of a healthy marriage. Respect is a recognition that each partner is an individual and has the free will to make independent decisions about what they think, say, and do.
In marriage, respect is the give and take, the willingness to talk things out and listen to each other born out of loving consideration and patience. When both partners feel accepted and respected, they have a more intimate connection to one another.
How Respect Can Break Down in a Marriage
If you or your partner is stressed with your own issues, you may become irritable and negative, and vent your frustrations on your spouse. The venting can easily erode into partners becoming increasingly negative and disrespectful to each other. An inability to resolve or manage conflicts or differences can lead to anger and frustration, which can start the same cycle of negative interactions and result in the loss of respect.
When respect breaks down in the marriage, one partner exerts their dominance of the other with selfish demands and decision making. The result is:
- Poor Communication
- Reduced intimacy and Rejection
- Reduced desire for sex or lovemaking with their spouse.
Once respect has broken down in the marriage How can you get it back?
Eliminate the Negative and Rebuild the Positive.
When couples lack Mutuality, Reciprocity, Accommodation, and Acceptance, there is a power imbalance, a dominant and a submissive spouse, which creates a lack of respect.
- Mutuality. Everything you do as a couple needs to be good for both of you. You need to use collaboration and cooperation in your relationship to make decisions. Consider how your decisions will affect or benefit each other.
- Reciprocity. There are two of you in this marriage so there must be a give and take on both of your parts. Support your partner by pitching in when you know they are having a particularly stressful time. Sacrifice some of your activities to do something with the whole family.
- Accommodation. Let each other know what your expectations are and do your best to adjust to each other. Be more sensitive to each other’s feelings.
- Accept that you married a less than a perfect partner and you are also a less than perfect spouse. Focus on building each other up, not tearing each other down.
The key idea is for each spouse to work on changing their own behavior. Do not police or correct your spouse’s behavior. Follow the Golden Rule: Treat each other how you want to be treated.
Avoid treating each other in rude and disrespectful ways:
- Don’t engage in name calling
- Do not insult or demean your spouse
- Do not ignore or avoid our spouse
- Do not speak to each other sarcastically
Treat each other as a cherished partner:
- Speak thoughtfully and with care.
- Listen to what your partner has to say and view their opinions as worthy of consideration.
- Consult with your spouse before making decisions that affect you both.
- Take an active interest in your spouse’s life
- Negotiate and Compromise with your spouse
Couples who can establish and maintain respect enjoy high degrees of trust, security, and a sense of unity. They are less anxious, more able to express their own wants and needs, and they are more able to resolve differences in a mutually acceptable fashion.
Have you ever wondered how couples end up in divorce? It is not always because someone cheated on someone else. Marriages can become stale. Couples can get stuck repeating the daily procedures of life without interacting. Some parents become so focused on their children that they neglect their marriage in the process. Neglecting to take time to focus on your marriage, your spouse, your connection to each other is the most common reasons for divorce.
Parents need time to alone to recharge, reconnect, communicate, and focus on their romantic relationship which brought them together in the first place. You can be a desirable, interesting marriage partner AND a good parent. You don’t have to choose between being a good parent and a good partner.
Here are 5 ways to help your marriage stay strong by building in couple time.
- Schedule a talk with you kids to let them know that you value your role as a partner and parent. Children look up to their parents as role models for relationships between two people that love each other. It is important that you show your children that relationships require intentional effort to maintain harmony, happiness, and love. It is also essential that children don’t feel that you love them any less when you and your spouse decide to spend time alone together.
- Schedule Alone time with your spouse. A marriage study conducted by the University of Virginia showed that married couples who devote time together at least once per week not only have lower divorce rates, but also increased the quality of their marriage. Couples were happier, more committed to their marriage, and more stable parents.
Put a weekly date night on the calendar. Hire a babysitter for the kids or ask grandparents or relatives to watch them for a while. Take turns planning your date nights.
- Schedule time for romancing your spouse. Few marriages will last without that “spark” of romance that attracted you to each other in the first place. You need time to get your flirt on. Remember the butterflies you felt in the pit of your stomach when you anticipated going out with your “date”? See if you can’t re-create that feeling by teasing your spouse a little, sending naughty text messages, whispering in his ear as he leaves for work, or leaving a note on her bedstand, letting your spouse know how much you are looking forward to you date.
Get a hotel room for the evening or let the kids spend the night at grandma and grandpa’s house. Dress up, even if you are staying in. Take your time building the excitement of exploring every inch of your spouse’s body.
- Schedule time to talk with your spouse out of earshot of the kids. By talking privately to each other and communicating openly about how they are feeling, spouses build strong bonds that solidify their commitment to each other. This is important for the inevitable hard times that hit every marriage. When either of you are at your low point, talking can help you pull each other back up. Open communication on a regular basis will help head off misguided expectations and strengthen your bond.
Get up before the kids and have breakfast together to talk about what’s going on lately. Meet up for lunch while the kids are at school and discuss something on your mind.
- Schedule time to de-stress and recharge as a couple. Life can get stressful in a busy household. You may be working later at work. The kids’ activities may be taking more time than they used to. Keeping up with household chores and routines may be tending to take longer than normal. If married couples do not make regular time to relax and spend some unregulated time together, they will be too burned out to function well as parents.
Take a relaxing shower or bubble bath together. Give each other a massage. Cuddle up and take a nap together.
Getting creative and fostering opportunities to spend some time together as a couple will strengthen your emotional bond and create the climate for a lasting, happy marriage.
In many marriages, one spouse does the lion’s share of the work in parenting the children. Your kids are the most important job you have as a couple. Parents have the responsibility of ensuring their children turn out to be solid, upstanding, productive people.
A wedding ring does not magically make a couple happy, stable, and child ready. Raising a child is not just providing the income to feed and clothe your children. Children require a solid, intact family structure and positive parenting behaviors to have positive impact on their present and future wellbeing. Parenting is a 24-hour endeavor that takes work from both partners.
How is your parenting going?
Are you leaving the heavy lifting to your spouse?
Do you expect your spouse to meet the kids’ physical, emotional, and spiritual needs?
In a marriage, both parents need to pool their time, money and energy and make their children more of the focus of their home. If you are not used to being the one that tends to the children, start by asking your spouse, “How can I help?” When you get home from work, take some time to decompress and then offer to:
- Entertain the kids while dinner cooks, or
- Takeover “bath time” with the kids, or
- Help the kids with homework.
Both parents can bond with each other and the kids by:
- Teaching your kids household chores like making beds, folding laundry, picking up and putting away toys, taking out trash, washing dishes.
- Family yard work like raking leaves, pulling weeds, or planting or watering flowers.
- Playing games, sports, on playgrounds
- Working together in community projects
- Reading stories at bedtime
How much time do you spend with your kids?
Parenting does not come with a handbook. You don’t require special training. However, you may not know where to start. Most parenting behaviors are intuitive. Children do best in a stable family environment where well-adjusted parents have established consistent routines for the home. Think about what you wanted from your parents when you were a child.
- Unconditional Love. Children need to know that you love each other, and you love them no matter what the circumstances are. You children are watching how you treat your spouse and will someday model that same behavior in their relationships. Do openly hug and kiss? Do you speak affectionately to your spouse? Children need frequent hugs, kisses, and words of encouragement also.
- Talk with Your Kids. You can learn a lot about your child by spending time in conversation with them. Ask them questions on their level. What did you do today? How did your day at school go? What is your favorite princess? Who is your favorite superhero? Not only will you learn what your child is interested in, you will likely be entertained. “Dad, did you know they have lions, tigers, and “Pippohotamuses” at the zoo?”
- Teaching basic life skills. Children are not born knowing how to eat properly, clean their clothes, clean up their rooms, do their homework, and help around the house. It is the parent’s job to train and teach their children. Parents model and talk to their children about appropriate life skills. “Hold you fork lie a big boy.” “Hey, come and help me take out the trash.” “I want to show you how to wash dishes so you can start helping out around the house.”
- Get actively involved with your kids. Get involved in community activities such as soccer, cheerleading, gymnastics, or other sports, Take part in academic science fairs, debate clubs, or international days in local schools and other academic institutions. Volunteer for family projects to help the needy in the community. Remember that adage, “the family that plays together, stays together?” It’s true.
Overall, intact families, where both spouses share the parenting, tend to be more stable. Parents tend to be more involved in their children’s lives and are more highly invested in their children’s success.
“Dad, can I go spend the night at Jerry’s house?”, asks your eleven-year-old-son. “I don’t know Jerry or his parents, so I think you need to stay home tonight.” “Oh, honey, I know Jerry’s mother and they don’t live far. I think it would be alright to let him go.”, says your wife.
Does this sound familiar? Does your spouse frequently contradict you in front of the kids? Do you and your spouse argue over parenting decisions often? If you and your spouse constantly disagree on how to parent your children, resort to undermining each other’s authority, and contradicting each other’s words to your children, your marriage is in trouble.
The result of fighting over parenting is that your children end up confused about who to listen to. Each of you become ineffective parents. Your marital relationship suffers. At some point, you have got to get on the same page.
In every marriage, there will be disagreements over parenting. How you handle those disagreements makes all the difference. You need to learn how to resolve disagreements productively, calmly, and out of hearing range of the children.
Here are 5 ways to Avoid Parenting Fights
- Back Each Other Up
You and your spouse need to present yourselves as a unified team to your child, or it will undermine your authority as parents. Make it a rule that if one parent disciplines a child, the other parent must back it up, even if the other parent disagrees with the punishment. Later, you and your spouse can talk about alternate ways to handle discipline.
- Address disagreements with your spouse in private.
Every time you argue with your spouse over parenting, the focus shifts away from your child’s behavior. The more this goes on, the more your child learns that they can get around your decision by playing you against your spouse. Keep the focus on your child whenever your child is present.
- Listen to Your Spouse’s Opinion
This is not a competition. The goal is not to win the argument. The goal is to arrive at the best decision for your child and maintain harmony in your marriage. Say your 15-year-old daughter is invited to a party at a friend’s house. Your spouse is not comfortable with her going because they don’t trust the friend’s parents to supervise the party. You don’t want your daughter to be “labeled” by friends. Your spouse says, “I feel strongly about this, and I need you to support me on this. I don’t want our daughter to be put in harm’s way.” While you may not agree with your spouse, try to see their side of things, and agree to support them.
- Don’t Throw Your Spouse under the Bus
If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement on a parenting issue, do not tell your child that “Your Father says NO” or “Your Mother Does Not Want You to Go.” You are setting your spouse up as the Bad Guy or the Witch, while you appear to be their friend. You are avoiding hostility from your child at the expense of your spouse. Before you say anything to your child regarding a decision, discuss it thoroughly with your spouse and agree that while you don’t agree with their position, you will go along with their decision. Don’t break your rule of unity.
- Discuss Parenting Issues Calmly.
A discussion is two people exchanging ideas and listening to one another calmly and respectfully. If the conversation escalates into sarcasm, put-downs, yelling, or fighting, take a time-out from each other. Ask your spouse if you can discuss this later when you are both calm.
Remember that this is your family. Practice listening to each other’s point of view without interruption or reacting. Just listen. Then ask questions of each other. And talk about why this issue is important. Try to understand each other’s point of view and find common ground. Then ask each other “What can we do to compromise?”