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 one partner cheats on another in a marriage, it is an intimate betrayal of their marriage vows. A sacred trust is broken and that results in a lot of anger, hurt, and self doubt. Infidelity is a deep wound that will take a lot of time to heal. Repairing the broken trust in a marriage after an affair takes a lot of work. However, couples that have rebuilt their marriage and recovered from an affair claim that their marriage is now stronger than it was before the affair.
Statistically, it is difficult to know how many couples stay together after infidelity has occurred. A lot depends upon how strong the commitment to one another is. If a couple has been married for a while, have children, and own a house together, they have a big incentive to go through the work of rebuilding their marriage.
The cheating or affair must end.
Whether it was a one-time thing that did not mean anything or a long-term affair where there were feelings involved, the spouse that cheated cannot continue to see those other people or any new people. They need to end those relationships forever. You cannot repair broken trust in you marriage if you are still breaking that trust.
Clear the air.
The spouse who was cheated on deserves the truth. The person who cheated needs to take full responsibility for cheating. You need to allow a period of time where he or she should be able to ask as many questions as they want to about the affair and share how it has made them feel. In turn, if you are the one that cheated, you need to commit to being completely honest with your partner about what happened. Some people need to hear the details. Others may not want to know so much about the details. In order for forgiveness to begin, you and your partner need to clear the air about what happened in the affair and why.
Address the issues.
Spouses cheat for many different reasons, but it almost always leads back to some type of issue in the marriage relationship.
- Lack of communication
- Infrequent sex
- Not spending time together
- Feeling taken for granted
Having problems in the marriage relationship is not an excuse for cheating. However, if a couple can start talking about issues that exist in their marriage outside of the cheating, and start taking steps to address those issues, it can help each spouse feel more comfortable that cheating in the future will be less likely to occur.
Take time to recreate your relationship
Whoever did the cheating in the relationship, needs to understand that healing from their actions will require patience. They will need to work at rebuilding trust in the relationship. Both partners will have to understand that their relationship will not ever go back to the way it was, but a new and happy relationship can be built if they are willing to work at it. The couple will need to eliminate the things in their relationship that were not working and replace them with new, healthier habits.
Couples that realize that they still love each other and are willing to work at it, can recreate a relationship built on honesty and trust can grow stronger, gain a better insight into each other, and define what they want from their marriage.
Unemployment can be a root of many problems such as lack of money, time management, and self-control. Often times, problems that existed in the marriage before the job loss can get magnified when unemployment hits.
If you are going to weather through this job loss, you can’t afford to tear each other down or apart. Now is the time when you need to be able to reassure your spouse that things are going to be okay and he or she needs to reassure you that you that you important and have value.
Four things will get you and your spouse through this job loss: Understanding, Communication, Trust, and Affection.
Ask for understanding.
Own up to poor job performance, poor reviews, or a specific incident at work that led to your being let go. Support in a marriage includes being truthful when it hurts. Yes, it is painful at the time, but it is the beginning of healing. Be honest with your spouse about what caused your job loss and ask for understanding.
Remain calm and treat your job search as if it is your job.
Panicking and getting angry will cause the entire family to do the same. Calmly talk about your job loss with your spouse and reassure her or him that you will find another job. Talk about options such as looking in your field, networking with friends and others in the industry, and actively shoring up our skills so your will be more marketable. Involving your souse in the planning will help put a positive spin on things.
Keep up your work hours and stay the course
You are not on vacation because you lost your job. This is not your time to sleep late, start doing those extra projects around the house you have been wanting to get to, etc. You need to maintain your work ethic and be aggressively researching, networking and pursuing job leads. It is important that your spouse and family see you working hard to land a new job.
Be affectionate and open with your spouse.
This is a time when you both need to lean in towards each other and lean on each other for support, encouragement and love. You and your spouse are going through this job loss together. You will need to talk about ways to tighten your belts, cut back on unnecessary expenditures, do without luxuries and make do with less until things turn around.
Share small victories
Let your spouse read through your updated resume and accept her corrections positively. Did you land an interview? Celebrate that with your spouse. Frequent sharing of job hunting victories will show transparency, build trust, and release stress.
Unemployment could last a while but it will not last forever. Your marriage will survive a job loss if you lean into one another and work together to keep you love alive.
Now that school is back in session and many businesses have reopened, it is more important than ever to divide the household chores and responsibilities so that all family members share the workload. Children should be given regular chores.
Unfortunately children can be pros at procrastination, excuses, resistance and refusal when it comes to chores. This cause a lot of conflict between parents and children.
“I promise I’ll do it after this programs is over.”
“ Bobbie doesn’t have to do this; why do I always have to?”
“I’m not going to do that and you can’t make me!”
Children are self-absorbed and often do not consider the needs of others. They have no idea how much work is involved in running a household. When kids refuse to do the chores and you have to resort to nagging and imposing consequences it can seem like it would be easier just to do them yourself. DON’T!
Chores teach children important life skills
Chores teach children responsibility, accountability, time management, and honesty. Holding them accountable for their chores can increase their sense responsibility and actually make them more responsible. Kids who have regular chores begin to see themselves as important contributors to the family. They feel a connection to the family.
You and your spouse need to set the tone to encourage participation by our children.
If parents do chores with a sense of commitment, patience and humor, children will have a model to do likewise. Send the message that these are the tasks that need to be completed in order for your household to run smoothly and that everyone in the family is encouraged and expected to participate.
Make a list
Make a list of all the tasks that need to be done each week. Now estimate how much time it takes to complete each task and write that next to the task.
Determine who can do what
You and your spouse need to determine which tasks the children can do and which ones require an adult. Kids can start taking on household chores and small tasks as early as two years old.
- 2-3 year old children can put toys in a bin and sort clothes in the laundry by color-darks and lights. They can wash vegetables are part of preparing the meal.
- 3-4 year old children can help set the table, dust baseboards and low shelves, and help unpack groceries and put them away. They can also make their own bed and pick up toys and put them away.
- 5-6 year old children can put on their own clothes, brush their teeth and get ready for bed. They can feed the pet or water the plants.
- 7-9 year old children can set the table, help cook dinner, clean the dishes, and wipe down the table. They can dust furniture in their room and put their clothes and toys away.
- 10-12 year old children can wash the car, wash clothes, dry and fold clothes, put dishes in the dishwasher and help cook dinner.
- Teenagers can mow the lawn, rake leaves, take inventory of the refrigerator and make grocery lists, plan and cook meals, and learn to pay bills.
Hold a Family meeting
Discuss chores, when and how they will be starting, how often they will be done and ask for input from each child. Such times together can build morale, improve relationships, and facilitate creative problem solving.
With everyone pitching in, no one spouse is burdened with an unfair share of the workload. You are also instilling a “work ethic” in your children that will be necessary throughout their lives.
Children are a blessing, until they’re not. In today’s society, many parents have overindulged their children to the detriment of their own marriage. We have all seen the parents in the restaurant with the child throwing a tantrum because they don’t get their way.
Why do parents spoil their children? Some do it temporarily to placate them into behaving. “If you are a good girl while we are in the stores, Mommy will buy you a toy.” Often, both parents work and are riddled with guilt at not being able to spend enough time with their children. They overcompensate by spending most of their free time taking their children to sports and activities. Then there are those parents that indulge their children because thy do not want to lose their friendship, so they don’t discipline or set boundaries for their children.
As these children grow up, they believe that everything should be “ all about them”. Parents have sent the message that the children are “in charge”. It is not long before your precious children are mean, uncaring, selfish, “brats”, who will have trouble making friends, having a meaningful relationship with others, and negotiating with or deferring to others.
It is not too late for parents to protect their relationships with each other while also caring for a child with challenging behavior?
Change your priorities. Prioritize your partner and your marriage over the children. Stop downgrading your needs. Make sure you and your partner make time for each other daily. Show your spouse how important they are to you by greeting them with a smile and a kiss when they walk through the door. A happy marriage produces happy, healthy children.
Protect your time together as a couple. Every couple needs time for intimate conversations and sex. Hire a babysitter, send the kids to the grandparents for the night, or put a lock on your bedroom door if you have to, but give yourselves some privacy as a couple. Don’t permit children to barge in on you. Don’t let children interrupt you when you and your spouse are talking. It will take some training on how to be respectful, but it will be worth the effort in the long run.
Stop pretending to be the perfect parent. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Every parent makes mistakes. You do not have to give your child everything they ask for, or provide them the newest and latest stuff. Provide your children love, food, care, and family time. Just be a good parent.
Don’t cater to your children, involve them. Make every member of the family responsible for specific household tasks, including the children. Even small children can pick up their toys and straighten their room. Make a game of it. If everyone pitches in, there is more time for fun family activities.
Parent as a team by setting boundaries. You and your spouse need to spend some time talking about establishing daily routines for our children and what things you will not permit your children to do. Children need boundaries to help them feel safe and teach them right from wrong. A specific daily routine lets them know what to expect each day. Anticipating bad behavior and setting consequences for that behavior helps parents establish a united front for the children and discipline with love.
You and your spouse have to work to establish and maintain boundaries with your children that allow you to connect to each other one-on-one and keep your marriage happy.
Quarantine has probably magnified and intensified things that you were already struggling with in your marriage. You’re not alone. Many couples are discovering difficulties with quarantine. You and your spouse’s fuses are shorter now and you are stuck together with more to stress about and get angry about. You are stuck in between a hard place and a rock.
Every marriage is a rocky road. The question is how big are the rocks?
You are two individuals with unique personalities, needs and habits. Don’t be surprised that your spouse does little talcum things that annoy you.
If you let annoyances accumulate, if you give them power, eventually, they will take on a life of their own and escalate.
You can overlook them or you can address them. Overlooking them requires you to exercise patience, grace, empathy and humility. Addressing them is going to require conversation.
You can choose NOT to give things the power to annoy you. You can accept your spouse the way they are, warts and all.
For most couples, it is only after you get married and start having to discuss the bigger issues in life that you figure what you see eye-to-eye on an what you don’t. Disagreements on things like sex, parenting, and finances can become a big pebble between you and your spouse that rips you up every time the subject comes up.
You can respond or you can react. Responding to a disagreement may require a “time out” to get your emotions under control before you answer your partner. Reacting is going to require active listening and asking clarifying questions so you don’t react in anger. You can stop, listen to what your partner is saying, put what you heard into your own words and ask your partner if that is what they meant. You are turning the disagreement into a conversation.
Marriage is work. The question is are you both willing to put in the effort?
Stones: Open conflict
In most marriages, there is a time when you or your partner crosses a boundary or makes a mistake that causes your marriage to veer off course. Intimacy wanes, communication becomes all about the business end of marriage and you both feel like you are living separate lives.
You can try to navigate the stones together or let the stones divide you. Navigation will require attacking the problem but not the person. Learning to communicate using “ I feel that…” rather than “ You did…” help diffuse the big fights. Intentionally making an effort to stay connected by positive emotional expressions and physical touch. Division only ends one way.
Remember the rock you started your marriage with – that beautiful diamond ring? Think about why you married your partner and make the choice to put in the effort to work on your marriage together.
After months of sheltering in place, couples and families need a break from the stress and strain of working and living under COVID-19. It is mid-summer and families everywhere are weighing the risks of taking a family vacation during COViD-19. Crowded beaches are not a wise choice, and traveling by air, especially internationally, has serious restrictions in place.
There are a few types of vacations that offer a safer, more isolated environment and a better chance of avoiding coming in contact with the coronavirus.
- Rent a house in an isolated beach or wooded area.
Renting a whole house via platforms like Airbnb and VRBO means you won't be encountering other guests or staff during your stay as you might in a hotel.
Safety tip: Even if the home appears to be clean, wiping down any "high touch" areas with a disinfectant is a good idea. This includes things like counters, light switches, and doorknobs.
If you venture out in public, continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing.
- Plan a camping road trip.
If you need to get out of town, a road trip is a great way to see the sites from the safety of your vehicle. Choose well-known campgrounds that have re-opened and have thoroughly sanitized facilities.
When you need to make rest stops, choose larger, well known chains or state-run facilities whenever possible, "which have adopted aggressive cleaning and sanitization protocols.”
Wear gloves to pump gas or use the rest room facilities and discard them before getting back in the car.
- Rent an RV or camper
Rent an RV or camper, which combines the self-contained lodging of a vacation rental with the sightseeing possibilities of a road trip.
Safety tips: Inspect the RV or camper thoroughly and wipe down all surfaces with a disinfectant wipe. Use your own linens on bed areas.
- Take a virtual vacation
If you live in an area with a stay-at-home order in place, or you're just hesitant to be out and about right now, take a getaway from the privacy of your home. World famous sites from London's Tower Bridge to Egypt's pyramids are offering free virtual tours online. Museums, zoos and aquariums are providing virtual guided tours or streaming animal cams.
After months of social distancing for COVID-19, families are still spending less time with others as the pandemic continues. Summer plans like group picnics, family reunions, festivals, long vacations can leave the family feeling disconnected to the world and disappointed. With friends and social outings limited, parents and children can react to stress with bad moods, poor behavior, and bad habits.
Here are three ways to brighten the mood and keep your family happy.
- Maintain a daily routine.
It is important to maintain bedtime, bath time, and other routines. Routines create a sense of order to the day that offers reassurance in a very uncertain time.
With the usual routines thrown off due to COVID -19, create new daily schedules. Older children and teens can help create schedules, but they should follow a logical order, such as:
- Wake-up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and some active play in the morning, followed by quiet play and snack to transition into schoolwork or an activity.
- Lunch, chores, exercise, online social time with friends, and homework in the afternoon.
- Family time & reading before bed.
- Deal with poor behavior positively.
Everyone in the family is more likely to be anxious and worried during the pandemic. Young children may not have the words to describe their feelings. Older children and teens may be irritable as they miss out on time with friends and special events have been canceled. They are more likely to act out their stress, anxiety, or fear through their behavior. Bad behavior puts stress on the parents and other siblings.
Reinforce good behaviors and discourage bad behavior. Pay attention to good behavior and point it out, praising success and good tries. Redirect bad behavior by finding something else for children or teens to do or removing them for the situation for a while.
- Get out of the house.
Just because we are social distancing, doesn’t mean you can’t go outdoors. Sunshine, fresh air, and exercise can brighten everyone’s mood. Try to spend at least an hour outdoors each day. Play outdoor games, do some outdoor yoga, go for a walk, set up the sprinkler or wading pool, or have a family barbecue.
With a little pro-active planning and positive attitudes, you, your spouse, and your family will manage just fine during COVID-19.
We are five months into the coronavirus pandemic, and the number of cases is still rising. What started as what was expected to be a short, temporary crisis has been extended indefinitely. During this time tensions will rise, tempers can flare, and you’ll get on each other’s last nerve. The time together initially seemed like a blessing, but the extra time has created more opportunities for misunderstanding and dysfunctional interaction. For husbands and wives with previous relational struggles, those issues may become magnified.
While we can’t control the coronavirus and our current circumstances, we can take control and change our response to what’s happening around us. Here are five tips to help your marriage survive and thrive during COVID-19 and beyond.
- Positive Self-Talk. Change the self-talk in your head and the way you think about your marriage. If you think your marriage is good with some challenges, you will be more likely to believe you can survive this crisis together.
- Don’t take your spouse for granted. Take ten minutes each day to checkup with your spouse. Asking and responding validates and supports each partner and sends a message of caring.
- Make time for affection. Social distancing doesn’t apply to your marriage unless you have tested positive for the virus. Make time to connect and be warm and affectionate. Hug and kiss each other in the morning when you wake up. Do it again before you go to sleep at night or even in the middle of the day. This habit will help relieve tension and connect you emotionally.
- Carve out some personal time each day. Take 20 to 30 minutes of “me” time every day for your relationship’s health and well-being.
- Pause & Choose. When tension rise, pause and breathe deep. Taking deep breaths will slow the heart rate, relax the body, and allow the brain to think more clearly. Choose a response to an issue or remark that will create a safe space and foster harmony in your relationship.