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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.

When Arguing Becomes Nagging the Marriage Suffers

Psychological research tells us that women are more likely to be nags than men. It is possible for husbands to nag, and wives to resent them for nagging. But women are more likely to nag, experts say, largely because they are conditioned to feel more responsible for managing home and family life.

Have you ever thought about what nagging is?

Nagging is finding fault with someone and criticizing them. It could be nitpicking every little thing your spouse does, like how he folds the laundry or how he eats soup. Often times nagging takes the form of commanding or demanding that your spouse do things and repeating it over and over again until they do it. In addition to words, nagging can include non-verbal body language such as eye rolls folded arms and angry stances.

Why Nagging Doesn't Work

  • Even though your gripes may be valid, nagging makes your spouse resentful.
  • Nagging makes your spouse defensive.
  • Nagging puts you in the parent role and your spouse in the child role. This isn't healthy for your marriage relationship.
  • Nagging is disrespectful.
  • Nagging is often perceived as criticism, so your spouse may tune out making what you are saying ineffective.
  • When your spouse is being nagged, he/she probably feels attacked personally.
  • Nagging can make your spouse feel inadequate.

Three Ways to End Nagging

  1. Gratitude. Instead of worrying that your spouse did not do something they way you expected, thank them for what they did do. Chances are they will be more likely to want to do things when you ask them to.
  1. Ask Lovingly. Instead of telling our spouse to do something 5 times in the same encounter, we need to kindly ask him/her for what we need.  Then, we ask him/her for an approximate time frame that he/she thinks he/she can complete the task–if our spouse says he/she can do it at all.  And, then we wait. This shows our spouse that we trust him other to follow through on the task. 
  1. Sit down with your spouse and tell them how you feel and what you need.

One person, no matter how much you love and trust them, can never meet all your expectations and needs. People will not change for you — and more importantly, you should not ask them to. Love, unconditional or otherwise, should never require supplication or submission, no matter how compelling the reason. 

Nagging can make you lose track of who you are: two people who love each other and struggle with an ineffective communication habit. Think about changing your habit before you dream about changing your partner.

Posted 4/12/2019

Spice Up A Stale Sex Life

It was only about a hundred years ago that people married for a specific purpose such as to fulfill a financial arrangement, political alliance, social expectation or to procreate. I was not about emotion. However, in this century, marriage is based on passion, happiness, and fulfillment. Despite the change, many married couples are currently living sexually unfulfilling lives, In a recent survey conducted regarding couple’s sex lives, 46% of the couples surveyed stated that their sex life had flatlined.

Many modern couples see their sex life crowded out by the relentless demands of children, work pressures, not enough time alone -- and just not enough time. Allowing your physical relationship to fall to the bottom of a frantic "to-do list," experts say, can lead to dissatisfaction, loneliness, separation, and even divorce. 

Sex is a powerful tie that binds and a pleasurable act for both partners. It should be an intimate connection to your partner that makes you feel alive and valued. It defines their relationship physically, emotionally and spiritually.

What can you do to get that spark back?

Focus your communication on what you want in bed

Many couples find it difficult to talk to each other about sensitive topics, so years go by with both of them skirting around issues until something breaks and the bitterness spills out.

Communicate well with your partner is essential. Think about what has aroused you in the past or about the things you wish your husband would do when the two of you are under the covers. Do you hear yourself thinking, "I wish he'd touch my neck or breasts?" If so, fill him in the next time you are getting snuggly. Don’t be too embarrassed to speak up about what you don’t like. Faking it encourages your partner to keep doing it wrong and cheats you out of being satisfied. Try saying “ I like it when you gently massage and kiss my breasts instead of squeezing them.”

  1. Sit and talk through your feelings about sex to prevent him/her from feeling rejected or hurt and to gain support.
  2. Have conversations that discuss what each partner would like from their sex life.
  3. What one thing, if it were eliminated from your sex life, would improve your sex life?.

Reinstate Daily Touching

Remember when, early in your relationship, just brushing your partner’s hand could send an electrifying spark through you. As the years go by, physical contact can become less and less or more routine. Make it a point to sneak up and hug your partner, hold hands while watching TV, rub your partner’s shoulders after a hard day, etc. Kiss your partner before heading out the door for the day.

As you starting reaching out to each other more, the connection will re-establish, and you will feel more loved and more inclined toward intimacy.

Create the right setting

An excellent sexual approach made appropriately and in a healthy environment has the best prospect of succeeding. Spruce up your room and reduce the clutter so you are not distracted and can focus on other things. Try dressing a little sexy. Put scented or perfumed candles in the room as your sense of smell plays an important part when it comes to sexual arousal. A warm bedroom -- with soft lights, if possible and low music -- makes for a good and healthy sexual environment.

Try something new

Rather than doing the same old things between the sheets, try something a little different and unique. Try new sexual positions or merely change the order of your routine. If you find that you are always too tired for sex before going to sleep, start having sex in the morning.

More foreplay during sex will stimulate orgasms.

Either in a warm bath, using soap or oil, or in a warm bed using lotion to make your hands glide smoothly, massage each others' bodies all over.

People have different attitudes towards sex toys and games, but most are sure to find a few sex aids with which they are comfortable. Aphrodisiacs -- asparagus, oysters, champagne, and chocolates -- may help get you in the mood.

In serious long term relationship, sexual intimacy thrives on the overall connection of the couple. So get busy addressing the issues that are damaging your connection and consciously build positive experiences with each other, and you will boost your sex drive.

Posted 3/30/2019

Sex Should Leave Both Partners Satisfied

According to a marriage study conducted by the University of Georgia, approximately 15% of married couples are sexless: Spouses haven’t had sex with each other in the past six months to one year. If a couple doesn’t have sex, but they both feel satisfied, then there is no problem. The issue is when there’s a mismatch in desire.

Sex drive can be affected by a number of things, including depression, medication, stress, health, affairs, previous sexual trauma, pornography, and pain with sex, medical issues such as erectile dysfunction, and relationship dissatisfaction.

Each partner deserves to be happy in the relationship, and to have his or her needs met. People are not naturally made to be celibate. If a partner is not getting what they need sexually from the relationship, it opens the door to adultery, divorce etc.

Why would someone stay in a sexless marriage?

  1. Too embarrassed to talk about it.

Many people are embarrassed about sex and have difficulty talking about it –even with their partner. So they just go along pretending that things will get better over time.

If a problem is never acknowledged, it is not very likely that it will get better with time. There is nothing embarrassing about having sex, enjoying sex or wanting better and more sex. Sex is an important aspect of a marital relationship. If you love the person you’re with, then the sooner you speak up, the better. You can’t expect the other person to read your mind.

  1. Fear that you are not doing something right.

Good sex is something that can be learned or in some instances taught. If you have an open and honest relationship with your partner, it should be fairly easy and even enjoyable teaching each other what feels good and what doesn't. Exploring each other’s body is sensual and most importantly, it bonds you both in an intimate, deeply meaningful way.

When a marriage is sexless because one partner simply does not want sex, it can lead to deep hurt for the other partner. They can feel unattractive, unwanted, and ultimately unloved. Most people assume it is the wife who does not want sex, but in 35% of marriages, it is the man who does not want to engage in sex.

You don’t have to settle for a sexless marriage.

The first step is to understand why your relationship is sexless.

You may no longer feel physically attracted to your partner or vice-versa. You may just not set aside time to be intimate because you and your partner have numerous commitments and responsibilities. You may find sex boring because it doesn’t feel good to you.

No matter what the reason, you and your partner need to communicate with each other to determine the reason.

Spend time together and do things together.  Over time, many couples drift apart and, although they live together under the same roof, they live separate lives. Start taking an interest in something your spouse does and join in. As you spend time together, you will talk and your friendship and relationship will build. The rest will come naturally.

The third step is to take it slow with your partner. While many men can get aroused immediately, it usually takes a woman several minutes of foreplay to begin to get aroused. Cuddle, touch, kiss and whisper things you love about your partner into their ear. Often times, affection and caring can arouse your partner into sex.

Every part of a successful relationship takes work and attention. Sex is no different. It’s as important as keeping good communication going and showing one another care and affection. They are all interconnected. As you work on your relationship, you will find your feelings will develop and grow and sex will become an enjoyable and natural part of your marriage again.

Posted 3/15/2019

Are You Smothering Your Spouse?

Space issues plague just about every couple at one time or another. For many, it's an ongoing source of contention. Perhaps you spend too much time together or the amount of physical affection lavished on you by your partner makes you uncomfortable. Regardless of the details of the dispute, the same question is at the core of most of these conflicts: Where does the "us" end and the "I" begin? Experts agree that couples need to find a balance between togetherness and individuality.

How do you know if you are smothering your spouse?

  1. You expect your partner to spend all of their time with you. You should spend quality time with your partner but when you isolate them from family and friends, there’s a problem. A healthy marriage includes spending time with people that matter to you both such as friends and family. There needs to be a balance.
  1. You require excessive physical contact with your spouse. Every marriage requires physical closeness, but if you are constantly draping yourself all over your partner, it is a sign that you may be insecure. If your partner begins to pull away physically, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. They may just need some breathing room.
  1. You call your spouse frequently during the day to see what they are doing or check their phone to see whom they have been talking to. This is an obsessive, controlling behavior that tells your partner that you do not trust them.

There's a fine line between being affectionate and being needy. Neediness actually pushes people away. Neediness smothers your partner. Smothering is driven by insecurity and selfishness. Loving is driven by confidence and generosity.

How can you eliminate smothering behavior?

Develop friendships outside of the marriage with people you have some common interests with. This will give you an outlet for conversation and help build self-esteem.

Participate in a variety of activities. This will make you both well rounded, and give you more to talk about.

Be open and honest with your partner. Communicate your needs in a cool, calm manner. Reassure your partner that you are not rejecting them but you need time to do things for yourself.  Be specific about your needs and goals.

When you do spend time together, give your partner the undivided attention they crave.

Posted 3/1/2019

Selfishness Will Destroy Your Marriage

Selfishness is one of the major enemies of married love and of love within the family. It affects how we talk to each other, how we divide responsibilities in the home, how we resolve conflicts, and even how we spend our time. It prevents a couple from growing together in marriage. Selfishness is all about getting. 

Selfishness is one of the major obstacles to marital communication and thereby harms the marital friendship.  This personality conflict results in a spouse manifesting many weaknesses including:

 Failing to listen

We don’t necessarily have to agree on everything, but deciding to have differing opinions means more than just not thinking the same. It means listening to the other person and being willing to compromise.

 Failing to respect and appreciate the views of one's spouse,

It’s easy for us to focus more on what we want or think we are due than our spouse’s side of things—whether that’s a desire for more frequent physical intimacy or greater understanding about the challenges I am facing at work.

 Difficulty communicating with your spouse

Many couples each have an unspoken list of how they think life should be, with their quiet resentment building each time things don’t go their way. But if you don’t tell your spouse what your expectations are and discuss together how reasonable they are, you can’t blame them for not meeting them. Maybe once you’ve talked together, you’ll realize you need to adjust.

 Controlling and manipulative behavior

We don’t have to do everything I want when I want, and the way I want. It’s amazing how little things—what you want for dinner, the way you load the dishwasher, what temperature to run the AC at—can become significant sources of conflict.

 How to Become less Selfish

  1. Recognize your Selfishness.
  2. Become a good listener. Listen to what your spouse is saying.
  3. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Think about how your spouse would feel under the circumstances.
  4. Try putting your needs lasts. Support your husband or wife even if it means giving up something you really want to do.
  5. Be open and honest with your spouse. Don’t hide your thoughts or actions
  6. Avoid criticizing and blaming your spouse. Blame cause the attacked partner to put up walls of protection, and these walls keep love out.
  7. Engage in some give and take. Take turns making decisions.

 Marriage is “WE” not “I.” Always think of what is the best choice for your marriage. Putting your marriage before your desires is a sign of emotional maturity and creates a strong marriage.

Posted 2/23/2019

Making Marriage Work Through Thick or Thin

When each of us gets married, we take a vow. How many of us actually analyzed what that vow truly meant? If you are like countless others, your thoughts were more on planning the perfect wedding than on the promises you were making to each other. Most vows went something like this:

I take this Man/Woman to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, forsaking all others, till death us do part."

 To Have and To Hold 

…what exactly does this mean? BE AVAILABLE. To have and to hold encompasses the emotional, spiritual and physical connection we are to share with our spouse. We are promising to make ourselves available to our spouse–not only sexually, but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually as well.  And our spouse promises to the same for us.

For Better or Worse. 

TAKE THE GOOD WITH THE BAD. This promise couldn’t be clearer.  It means just what it says. If we are married long enough, we will most likely experience the death of someone we love, the loss of a job, an empty nest or any number of other challenges.  There is a comfort found in knowing we have a partner to share life’s struggles. We do not have to go them alone. Give thanks in the good times and hold tight to each other when the seas are the roughest.

In sickness and in health.   

TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER. Can you be counted on to be there for your spouse when they are sick?  What if they are suffering with an addiction, depression, chronic fatigue or Alzheimer’s?  As individuals we can take steps to stay healthy, but we are not invincible, and any type of illness can stress a relationship.  Sickness can raise fear and insecurity, causing some to withdraw emotionally. 

To Love and to Cherish

NOURISH AND PROTECT YOUR MARRIAGE. Infidelity is on the rise among couples, and the “I” centered worldly message is all but undermining the message of “love one another.”  It doesn’t mean to love each other until we feel bored, unheard, misunderstood, or are let down. We are to love, cherish, and be faithful always. 

Till Death Us Do Part.   

DON’T TAKE YOUR MARRIAGE FOR GRANTED. Once you or your spouse has been called home, there will be no more chances to make amends, make love, hold hands, or cherish one another. 

 Those relationships that make it through the tests of time, that make it through the ups and down of life, from arguments, loss of jobs, money problems, teenagers, midlife crisis, health issues, and mothers-in-laws, to boot, are built on an integral strength that is based on real connection.

Real connection, is an authentic, undeniable, mutual connection built on real appreciation and respect for each other. Real connection is when we instinctively turn to each other, rather than to someone else. It is not a compromise or a settling. And, it's not that "I can't live without you," it's rather, "I don't want to live without you." 

The real reality of marriage is work. It’s developing a real connection and working through the hard times to figure out how to get to the good ones. 

Posted 2/1/2019

Best Way Make Marriage Decisions

Successful marriages are those where the husband and wife function together and utilize each others’ strength. Perhaps one of you is better at finances than the other. Then that spouse is in charge of the marital budget. The other spouse may be better at planning, so they map out family outings, vacations, and family devotions. As on a sports team, each player uses his or her talents to work with the others for the benefit of the entire team. Usually, if one player tries to do it all themselves, the team suffers. If one player insists on playing a position he or she is not gifted for, the same thing happens.

As a couple, you need to talk about how you will make decisions together as a team.

Important Decisions Should Be Made Together

Every decision does not need to be made together, but those that importantly impact your marriage, do. You and your spouse need to discuss. What are the essential decisions that you should make together? Many couples consider these decisions to be ones that need to be discussed and agreed upon.

  • Where you will live
  • Whether to have children or not
  • Who would work/stay home after having the children
  • Parenting styles
  • How to spend and to save money
  • How to spend free time
  • The amount of time you will spend with extended family/in-laws
  • Household chores
  • Decisions regarding a crisis
  • When to take vacations and where to go
  • Future plans

Discuss how you will handle making decisions together.

If either of you attempts to dominate the decision making, your marriage will undoubtedly suffer. Unity is the key to successful decision-making in marriage.  You need to respect your spouse’s opinion enough to include their valuable input in decisions by openly sharing thoughts and opinions and respecting each others’ point of view.

What about when you strongly disagree or can't find a compromise?

Here are a few tips for when you can't seem to agree about an important decision.

  1. If things begin to escalate, take a breather and agree to discuss at a later time.
  1. Talk out your concerns on each side. It’s essential for each spouse to be heard and understood. Share with your spouse the underlying reasons for your hesitancies, so that they can be addressed, and you can get a second perspective.
  1. Ask yourself if you making a decision based on emotion. There may be something from your early years or history that is causing you to become reactionary or dig your heels in.
  1. Brainstorm solution ideas for the decision you are making. Propose several solutions and write them all down to look at. Evaluate each one together.
  1. Try out one of the solution ideas and re-evaluate as needed.
  1. Ask yourselves if you are you coming together to review the pros/cons and potential outcomes of the decision logically. Sometimes this is necessary to come to a proper choice that is the best for both of you. 

Decision making together may be difficult, but it can also bring you closer together if you handle it effectively. 

Posted 1/23/2019

Marriage Improves When You Share The Load

There was a time men and women entered into matrimony with specific ideas about how the division of chores would be handled: he would go off to work and "bring home the bacon;" she would stay home, cook, clean, and raise the children. Things are different now.  Roles in the marriage are no longer gender-based, as may have been the case in your parent’s generation.

It is more common today for both spouses to work full-time jobs.

Marriage has changed from a union in which two opposites worked together to make up for each other’s weak spots, into a union based on shared interests, activities and emotions. Sharing chores is one of the keys to a thriving modern relationship.

How Do You Divide Up the Chores?

 Couples don’t need to divide chores exactly equally in order feel happy. It doesn’t matter who does what, but how satisfied both spouse are with the division of labor. Every couple is different. In one marriage, the wife may be the better cook while the husband may be better at yard work. In another relationship, the reverse might be the case. In the most successful marriages, when wives are doing work together with their husbands, they are more satisfied with the division of labor.

There are a many ways to divvy up chores. Take dishwashing for example. You wash, I'll dry. You do the plates; I'll scrub the pots and pans. You load the dishwasher; I'll unload the dishwasher. You do the dishes on Monday; I'll do them on Tuesday.

Talk About It. Talk about what chores need to get done regularly and who should do what. Take into account each other’s gifts and talents.

Agree on a system. Once you have discussed what and who, it’s time to agree on how and when. How will each of the chores get done? One spouse will do these sets of tasks, while the other spouse will do a different set of chores. Some chores you may decide to both do on alternating days, and both spouses should do some tasks together.  Example: Tammy is a bit of a neat freak, so she does the dusting, wiping down of counters and bathrooms. Reggie is more of a big area kind of guy, so he sweeps and mops the floors and vacuums. Neither one of them likes to do yard work very much, so they both pick a day to go out and prune bushes and do yard clean up.

Decide which chores or services you can hire out. If both spouses work full time, you don’t want to spend all of your free time doing chores. In a Harvard study, researchers found that couples that paid for services to free up their time had happier relationships. Think about tasks eat up a lot of time like mowing the lawn, washing windows, weeding the bushes and flower beds. Hire those chores out and watch your relationship blossom.

If you are not spending your time on big, time-consuming chores or fighting about who needs to do what tasks, what else could you be doing together?  In a published study in the Journal of Marriage and Family, couples that shared chores more evenly, reported having more intimacy and time for sex.

Posted 1/20/2019

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