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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.

How To Bring Back The Passion Back Into Your Sex Life

After a couple has been married for a while, the infatuation can fade and the sex can become routine or ho-hum. When sex becomes boring, it takes away from satisfaction in the marriage. Eventually, each partner loses interest in the other and little to no sex occurs.

Married couples know each other more intimately than singles and thus have the opportunity to have sex more often, put more variety in their sex lives and create a deeper intimacy in their sex lives. When sex is more emotionally and physically passionate, it can increase the satisfaction in the marriage immensely.

People often assume that if the “sexual chemistry” is there then sex is automatically good. Sexual chemistry is not an actual bodily “chemical”; it is a passionate emotion that releases itself physically. To put that passion back into your marital sex life, it will take work as a couple. Here are a few tips to help get things back on track.

Avoid Whining

Many people in a relationship whine and complain. “You never want to have sex anymore!” Trying to guilt your partner into sex is not very likely to have the desired effect. Sex is an act that both partners have to feel excited to participate in. Instead, try enticing your partner into sex gradually by doing something he or she likes and playfully teasing them.

Communicate openly about what you need and desire.

A lot of couples get into trouble when they try to discuss their sex life, or absence of if, because they fall into the habit of blaming. Typically they come to the discussion with both barrels blazing “You don’t love me anymore!" “You think I’m fat and disgusting." These are statements that may not even be true, and it is a mistake to assume you know what he or she is feeling. Instead, start slow and ask specifically for a behavior that you want to happen in a kind, loving tone. “ I would love it if we could cuddle for a few minutes before bed tonight.”

Don’t shoot for something too unrealistic.

You may have heard of some technique that is supposed to make the sex really hot but be careful about trying to “teach” your partner to do new sexual things. It could scare them of before anything gets started. If it’s been awhile since you have had sex, start with something simple and comfortable that you remember that you and they both liked. “I remember you used to love it when I massaged your shoulders. I like that too. Let’s take turns giving each other a massage.”

Set the Mood

Timing is everything in romance. Trying to initiate sex with your partner the minute they walk through the door from a hard day at work is not very likely to meet with much success. Instead, spend some time preparing for their arrival by cleaning up and making yourself look attractive. Greet him/her at the door, offer to get them a snack or drink and give them time to unwind. Then slowly, make them feel at ease by sharing a small sexual fantasy you have about them before you try to initiate sex.

Provide Positive Reinforcement

Just like trying out any new thing, your partner may be unsure of themselves and need positive feedback during and after sex. Talk to your partner during sex by encouraging them. “Yes, I really like when you do that” or “ That hurts a little, can we readjust?”  Tell your partner you love them. After sex, tell your partner something they did that you really liked and say thank you. If you show appreciation for their sexual efforts, it reinforces the behavior and makes it much more likely that they will want to engage in that behavior again.

Posted 2/13/2018

Communication Is A Two-Way Street In Marriage

 

Often times, the success or failure of a marriage can be traced to the couples’ ability to communicate. A spouse may hold feelings in, creating an emotional distance between they and their partner. Another spouse may shut down conversations by negative interruptions of criticism or anger. In a relationship that isn’t working, both partners need to work on their communication skills. Here are a few suggestions to have more mutually satisfying communication in your marriage.

Don’t Dominate the Conversation

Every marriage is different and not every marriage consists of one dominant partner and one submissive partner. Each partner can be both dominant and submissive depending on the situation. For instance, if one partner is very mechanically inclined they would likely be more vocal or dominant in matters that required buying or repairing a car, appliance or anything mechanical. However, that same partner may not be comfortable with financial matters, so they would likely not be vocal or dominant in financial issues.

While it makes sense to listen to someone with expertise in certain areas, in a marriage, both partners need to weigh on with their opinions. That may mean that even though one spouse does not have expertise in mechanical or financial matters, they still should be allowed to voice their opinion or thoughts on those matters.

Don’t Immediately Shut Down Conversation

Immediate Shut Downs happen when we begin conversations with our spouse with criticism, accusations, or questions that put the other person on the defensive before healthy communication can take place. Example: When her husband walks into the house, a wife’s first words are: “Why didn’t you put the garbage cans out this morning like I asked you to? The garbage truck has already gone and the cans are overflowing. Can’t I rely on you to do anything?”

You can still get your point across by communicating the issue in a more loving, positive manner. Example: “Hi honey, I’m glad you are home. I think we might have missed the garbage pick up this morning because the trash can still some pretty full. Maybe we can think of a way to make sure we don’t miss the pick up.  What do you think?” Stating the issue in a non-confrontational way and asking their input for a solution draws your spouse into the conversation and allows them a chance to participate equally.

No Name Calling

When you introduce name calling in to the conversation, you are attacking a person’s character. When a person feels like they are being attacked, their natural reaction is either to defend themselves or find the quickest way to exit. Example: “You would have to be an idiot not to know that you cannot put just any kind of oil in the car. Did you even take the time to look in the owner’s manual?”

Even though you may be angry with your spouse for what they did, it does not give you a license for verbal abuse. Before you talk to your spouse about an issue that has upset you, take some time to cool down so that you can communicate your concerns in a calm, respectful manner. Remember, you married this person because you love them and you want to continue in this marriage. You can hate what a person did but not hate the person.

Don’t Check Out

Some people have a hard time expressing their emotions or talking freely. They may fear that doing so will bring rejection from their partner, criticism or some other form of penalty. As a result they keep their feelings bottle up and look for ways to avoid confrontation. When one spouse tries to initiate a conversation about an issue, the other spouse may get busy doing something or focus their attention on the TV. In essence, they have checked out of the conversation.

Bottling up feelings is like a pot on the stove. Eventually that pot will boil over. Eventually, your feelings will surface and explode in an unpleasant manner and your spouse will have no idea what happened or why. It is much healthier to deal with issues and feelings when they happen. Whether those issues or feelings are because of your spouse or about something external to your marriage, you need to share them with your spouse.

Marriage is a two-way partnership and the only way that each of you can know what the other is thinking or feeling is to learn to communicate effectively.

Posted 1/30/2018

5 Ways To Speak So Your Spouse Will Listen

How to communicate effectively with your spouse.

A lot of couples run into problems communicating with their spouse because they haven’t taken their spouse’s feelings or time into account before they tried to talk to them about something.

Here are 5 ways to speak so your spouse will actually listen to what you have to say.

  1. Make sure you have their undivided attention.

Trying to discuss a topic with your spouse when they are watching the most exciting part of the football game, the last episode of their favorite show or in the middle of some project they have been working on, is totally ineffective. 

If you want them to listen, choose a time when you can get their undivided attention. For your spouse, try over dinner or after their program is finished or whenever the distractions have reduced. 

  1. Don’t beat around the bush.

Nothing is more aggravating then trying to listen to someone that spends a long time building a story before they get to the point of their conversation. Most people will tune out after 45 seconds if you haven’t made your point.

Before you try to talk to your spouse about an important issue, try thinking through the issue and choosing 3 or 4 points that sum up the issue. Write it down if you have to. After you have made your point, the two of you can discuss the issue better.

  1. It Should Not Be a Lecture

No one likes to be lectured to because then they are not part of the conversation. Make sure to pause periodically while you are talking to be sure your partner has heard what you are saying. Ask some clarifying questions like “Can you tell me what you heard me say?” Ask for their response “ Are you seeing things the same way I am seeing them?

Your spouse is a lot more likely to hear what you have to say if they feel like they are part of the conversation and have a say in the matter.

  1. Respect Their Advice or Feedback

If you have brought a matter to your spouse’s attention in the hopes of eliciting their support and advice, you need to be prepared to listen to what they have to say without judgment. Many people feel shut out when they provide feedback or advice and then their spouse throws it back in their face as being not helpful or wrong.

If you want your spouse to listen to you, you must be willing to listen to them. You don’t have to take their advice or even act on their advice, but if you attack your spouse when they provide you what you asked for, they will not be likely to give it again.

  1. Give Your Spouse a Head’s Up

Sometimes you may just need to vent your feelings. You may not be looking for your partner to solve a problem or provide advice, you just need a listening ear and to know that you are cared for. However, your partner may not know how to interpret this. Do you really have a problem that needs solving or do you just need a sounding board?

Give your spouse a head’s up about what the conversation is going to be about so they know how to respond. Saying something like “Honey, I’m upset about something that happened to day and I just need someone to talk to” lets him or her know that you are not expecting him or her to solve a problem or give advice.

All of these ways of speaking to your spouse are really ways of respecting their time and making your communication a two-way street.

Posted 1/24/2018

15 Ways To Reconnect With Your Spouse Everyday

Many couples end up in counseling because they don’t feel connected to their spouse. Perhaps you no longer talk much or do things together because of work, children, outside obligations or whatever. Maybe you have just fallen into a routine of going about your business. If you are not feeling connected in your marriage it is because you haven’t put any effort into it.

Love can be cultivated during the small moments of everyday life.

Make a commitment to take a small amount of time each day to rebuild and maintain your marriage and emotional connection by showing your spouse that you love them. Here are 15 little ways to connect with your spouse everyday.

  1. Call your spouse in the middle of the day just to say, “I love you.”
  2. Text your partner a sexy, cute or funny selfie.
  3. Give your spouse a long, drawn out kiss rather than just a peck on the check before you or they leave for work.
  4. Put a little love note in your spouse’s coat pocket, briefcase or lunchbox.
  5. Email your spouse a reminder of a happy time you spent together.
  6. Offer to run an errand for your spouse.
  7. Bake or bring home a tasty surprise for your spouse.
  8. Hop in the shower with your spouse.
  9. Offer to babysit while your partner takes some “me” time.
  10. Give your spouse a massage after a long, hard day.
  11. Leave a suggestive voicemail for your spouse.
  12. Ask your spouse to give you advice or instructions on how to handle or do something.
  13. Flirt with your spouse in public.
  14. Plan a romantic date night IN.
  15. Play a sport, exercise or do a hobby together.

You have a choice to turn toward our spouse or away from them. If you want a deep, meaningful relationship with your spouse than you have to work at it everyday. Don’t ignore your spouse’s emotional need for connection.

Posted 1/19/2018

Increase Emotional Intimacy In Your Marriage

Increase Emotional Intimacy In Your Marriage

You and your spouse have a good marriage–great, even–but you’re ready to take it to the next level. Maybe you’re physically intimate, but you want more of that intimacy to extend to your emotional life. 

In today’s post, we’re sharing five tips for increasing the emotional intimacy in your relationship. Each of these tips builds on the next to help you create the deep, fulfilling connection you’re craving.

Nurture Trust

In order for your marriage to be as emotionally intimate as possible, you and your spouse must be able to trust one another implicitly. This means that both of you must commit to always being honest with one another, speaking the truth in love. 

It also means that you should model trustworthiness for your spouse. If your husband or wife observes you being dishonest with a third party–for any reason–you’ve planted a seed of doubt in their heart. It’s very difficult to overcome breaches in trust, so do your best to avoid creating unnecessary problems. 

Ensure Emotional Safety

In addition to being trustworthy, you and your spouse can increase your intimacy by guaranteeing one another emotional safety in your relationship. Lovingly accepting your spouse, warts and all, is the ultimate display of love–and an offering of safety.

If neither of you has to worry about being wrongly judged, criticized, nor cut down, you will both thrive! 

Encourage Vulnerability

Allowing yourselves to be authentic with one another will add a deeper layer of intimacy to your marriage. As you take the time to not only accept your spouse’s vulnerabilities, but also expose your own, your love for one another will grow deeper. 

No one on earth will know you the way your spouse knows you. And no one will know your spouse like you do. The best way to get there is to be who you are with one another–without pretense.

Cultivate Closeness

Spending time together and sharing activities will give you the physical proximity you need to nurture your romance, as well as your friendship. Even if you’re short on free time, make sure to invest at least a few minutes a day face-to-face, enjoying one another’s company. The more connected you feel, the more intimate your marriage will be!

Foster Deep Connection

Feeling profoundly connected to your spouse can positively affect both of you on a spiritual level, in addition to the benefits you’ll feel emotionally and physically. Take time to learn more about one another. If there’s something your spouse feels passionately about, ask questions to learn more. Or if they love or enjoy something deeply, show curiosity about it. 

Connect where you are able, regardless of whether you have the same set of interests. Finding common ground together and reveling in that–instead of focusing on areas where you don’t agree or resonate with one another–will skyrocket your emotional intimacy.

Posted 1/9/2018

Signs You Are Neglecting Your Marriage

Successful marriages don't just happen; they take hard work. When you neglect your relationship, you risk losing it altogether.  Here are five signs that your relationship is in need of some attention.

You and your spouse are rarely intimate.

Intimacy is a significant part of any romantic relationship. If you no longer enjoy intimacy with your partner, this is a sign of neglect in a relationship.

Life gets busy and stressful and being intimate isn’t the fist thing you think about, but connecting with your partner on a physical and emotional level is very essential. Sex is a way for each of you to derive pleasure from each other and deepen your relationship. It shouldn’t be just another thing on our to-do list.  Neglecting intimacy can make a person feel unloved.

You and your spouse no longer talk about your day.

Even if your days tend to be the same every day, sharing what you do with your partner is a way to show that you care. When you stop asking about their day, you send the signal that it doesn’t really matter to you what your spouse does or is interested in. They, in turn, stop bothering to share information about their interests, hobbies, dreams etc. because they assume you have lost interest in them. You should also be asking about your spouse’s day, interests etc. even if they are not your own.

Putting the children before your marriage.

Having a “child-centered” marriage is a mistake. It is true that the kids require a lot of time and energy, but your relationship with your spouse should still be a priority. Your life cannot center on your kid’s lives while your spouse is left ignored. Make sure that you continue to have date nights and quality time with your partner at home. These moments where you can connect without the children being the center of attention will help to keep your relationship strong.

You no longer bother about your appearance.

If you don’t taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else either. If you have stopped caring about your appearance, how you dress, and even how you act, this can negatively impact your relationship. It is easy for a spouse to think you have given up on your relationship if you have given up on yourself. Take some time each day to do your hair and makeup, put on a nice outfit, get some exercise, and take pride in making a healthy meal.

You are stuck in a routine.

Every day is the same as the rest and everything is routine.  You and your spouse have become lazy about your relationship. Remember when you were dating or first married and you went out of your way to come up with new date ideas or surprise for your spouse?  It doesn’t take much to recreate that newness or novelty again. Make a special dinner for him, bring some flowers home to her, and plan an evening out for the two of you.  You would be surprise at how it will add spark and excitement to your marriage. Desire in long-term relationships thrives off of such newness and novelty. Do something to spark that desire again.

Failing to appreciate your spouse and marriage can lead to one or both partners feeling unwanted and possibly unloved. This also puts you at high risk of divorce and both physical and emotional affairs. If you think you might be guilty of not prioritizing your relationship, you can start taking steps to change this and get back on track again.

 

Posted 1/4/2018

6 Free Ways To Spend Quality Time With Your Partner

6 Free Ways To Spend Quality Time With Your Partner

Most couples think spending time with their partner will keep their relationship close. That is only partially true. You must spend  “Quality” time with your partner. Quality means talking, cuddling, doing activities together without the usual outside distractions like cell phones, work, etc.

When you are a parent, spending quality couple time becomes a luxury that seems elusive. Like many couples today, budgets are stretched so a fancy restaurant or weekend getaway might not be doable. Here are 6 great ways to spend some free quality time together.

  1. Get some Exercise Together.

    Play a sport together or just head to the gym. If that’s not possible, put on an exercise program on cable TV and exercise side-by-side. Even running or walking can be a bonding experience. Plus, exercise is a proven positive stimulant for our sex life.
  2. Cozy up at Home with a Movie.

    Remember when you were dating and each of you looked forward to spending a night out together. Pretend you are on you very first date and spend a night “in” together. Reminisce. Hold hands. Make eye contact. Talk. Really listen. Cuddle together and watch a movie. Make this night about focusing on your partner.
  3. Cook a Romantic Meal Together.

    Resolve to feed, bathe and put the kids to bed early one Saturday, then get prepped for a night together in the kitchen. Uncork a bottle and pour each other a glass of your favorite wine. As you sip, he can chop up the vegetables to go in the spaghetti is sauce or stir-fry meal. You can prep the sauce and put the bread in the oven. Set the table with candles and china etc. When the meal is ready, spend a leisurely dinner eating and talking and enjoy each other.
  4. Plan a Secret Rendezvous.

    Make where you’ll meet a secret and, leading up to the big day, leave cute Post-It notes around the house or in his/her briefcase or text messages dropping hints about your illicit get-together. The suspense will build the excitement of the hook-up.
  5. Teach each other your hobby.

    Make your partner happy by offering to be their student and learn their hobby. Your partner will get the thrill of teaching and be happy that you took and interest in what they like to spend time doing. You may have to grin and bear if for some hobbies but the bond you create will be well worth it.  
  6. Set a “bed time”.

    Sometimes television shows, video games and other distractions can get the best of us. Before you know it, a half hour turned into three hours you could’ve used differently. Set a “bed time” with your partner that requires you both to stop what you’re doing to go to bed together. Leave a little time for pillow talk.

You never want to become too busy for the people you love. No matter how busy you are you must make time to make your partner feel important. Don’t allow pursuits or possessions to become bigger priorities than your marriage relationship.

Posted 12/21/2017

Adolescent Anxiety: How You and Your Teen Can Learn to Cope

Adolescent Anxiety

Anxiety is a physical response to fear. It’s the body’s “fight or flight” reaction to a real or perceived threat. When the threat is real, you fight or flee, and your body uses up the chemicals it released. When the threat is not real, your body is flooded with neurochemicals with nowhere to go. You shake, your heart pounds, your breathing gets shallow, etc. Anxiety results from your body burning off these chemicals when there wasn’t physical exertion to do it. Some people perceive threats more easily and more often, leading to anxiety or even panic attacks. However, there are ways to cope with this once you realize what is happening. If your teen is prone to anxiety, here are ways that you and they can cope.

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by Joyce Wilson  | 

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