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.
Do you and your closest family members normally get along great, but self-isolation has put your relationships to the test? You’re not alone. Countless households across the U.S. have been spending more time together at home, and this naturally can lead to higher levels of stress and tension. Fortunately, there are some practical steps you can take to improve your situation. Here are a few examples:
Make room for solitude.
No matter how much you and the members of your household enjoy being around each other (under normal circumstances), everyone needs their space at some point. With this in mind, allow yourself and others the opportunity for solitude. That way, each of you can do whatever relaxing activity you want to do so that you can recharge.
Hit the trails.
As you search for healing and healthy answers, don’t overlook the value in spending time in your own backyard. Getting outside can make a big difference in how each of you feels on a daily basis. When you are cooped up all day, it can lead to a number of consequences for your health and well-being.
One way to have fun outdoors with your family is to go for a bike ride. That way, you can yield the benefits while also abiding by social distancing guidelines. By investing in a few mountain bikes, you can enjoy the trails at your local park. MetalBladeCycles suggests that you just make sure you take necessary precautions for staying safe, like mapping your route in advance and wearing protective gear.
You could also turn your backyard into a safe, fun environment for activities. Or you could pack up and take a weekend trip to the beach or to a campground. There are plenty of things that you can do amid nature as a family, and Thriveworks explains that it can even bolster your family bond.
Pick up gaming.
Some days you won’t be going outside, whether due to schedules or weather. And when you are self-isolating, boredom is often a cause for tension. More families are addressing this issue by picking up gaming. Playing games like Fortnite, Words with Friends, and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is a great way to have fun together when you’re stuck at home.
However, in order to play online multiplayer games like these, you will need the right equipment. Along with any necessary devices and gaming consoles, you should have an internet connection that is up to the task so you can quickly download games and have a much smoother gaming experience.
Plan family nights.
Having an event planned for the end of the day can give you and the members of your household something to look forward to. And it doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. As previously mentioned, gaming can provide each of you with a lot of fun.
Other things you could plan include a family movie night, a family camping night (inside or in the backyard), and a family cooking night. Any activity that allows you to spend quality time together can reduce stress and tension and be beneficial for your health and well-being.
Last but not least: Make self-care a priority in your household. Try to ensure that each of you is on a healthy sleep schedule, cook healthy meals, and keep healthy snacks around the house. Find exercise routines that you can do individually and/or together as a group. And be sure to make time for doing relaxing activities, whatever those may be.
Being stuck at home indefinitely is hard, no matter how well you and your loved ones get along. Make a point to give each other space for solitude, spend time together outdoors, and give gaming a try. Also, come up with some fun family night events, and make sure each of you is taking care of your health and well-being. You might be surprised by how much stress and tension is released by incorporating these simple tips into your daily lives.
Are you and your partner dealing with overwhelming problems in your relationship during the pandemic? Work with the licensed professionals at Marriage in a Box to improve communication, rebuild trust, and improve your relationship.
Some couples look at being romantic as a difficult task. It doesn't have to be difficult at all. Romance has no specific guidelines. You don’t need to follow a specific formula when it comes to being romantic in marriage. There are no specific "rules" to romance. Most people have forgotten what romance really is.
Romance is the act of wooing one another. It’s a longing to be with someone and acting in such a way that makes that person desire to be with you. Longing and desire are the key to romance. You and your spouse need to want to be with each other at every opportunity.
Do you remember when you were dating, and you couldn’t wait to see each other? Before you were married, romance was easier because you had fewer distractions. Everything about your spouse was new and exciting to you. After marriage, you have gotten to know your spouse and maybe your spouse’s annoying habits start to get on your nerves. Pressures over finances, work, and children start to eat away at your thoughts, and that initial desire to be with your spouse becomes a distant memory.
Romance may be gone right now, but it is not forgotten. You and your spouse still likely remember being romantic with each other. You may have grown distant in your relationship. You might be spending more time with friends or co-workers than you do with each other. You may have gotten into a routine of giving your attention to TV or smartphones or computers rather than each other. So, romance seems like something that you want but don’t know how to get back to doing.
Romance is necessary to keep your marriage alive. When romance is dead, so is your marriage. Here are 3 ways to get that romance back.
The biggest contributor to active romance in marriage is good communication.
We are not talking about discussing what’s going on at work or going through what needs to be done at home. You need to really communicate with each other about each other. Turn off the television or put down that magazine and look into each other’s eyes while you converse. Really listen and understand. dream together, share your thoughts, expose your feelings instead of keeping them to yourself.
Romance is not always about sex; but it is always about love.
The most sexual organ in the body is not what you’d expect- it is the mind. If your mind isn’t in the mood for romance, then nothing will be. The cure is to control your thought processes. Instead of dwelling on all of the ways your spouse regularly disappoints you or what he or she isn’t, start seeing them for who they really are and look for their positive attributes. Very few of us are the Hollywood images of fantasies. But you originally feel in love with your spouse for a reason. Do you remember what it was?
Take the opportunity to express your appreciation for who they are and what they do for you. “ Honey, I love how you always manage to know the right thing to say when I am feeling down,” By giving a little praise regularly, more of your mate’s good qualities will stand out, and you’ll connect with that person you fell in love with all over again. In
addition, you will find your spouse’s heart growing closer to you as he or she feels more appreciated and adored.
Romance is needed every day in marriage
When couples are talking with each other often and listening to the desires of each other, it makes romantic moments more possible. One of the most important things that helps build a happy and loving marriage is the affection that is shared between the two of you. Affection makes the both of you feel loved and secure and it shows that you are both there for each other. Snuggle and hug each other often. Tell each other “ I Love You” every day. A romantic marriage can only come to be if both husband and wife are 100% committed every day to the marriage journey.
Romance helps nurture your relationship and creates strong bonds within marriage.
When both spouses tame their thoughts and really communicate, they understand romance and it's easier to plan moments of romance that both parties can truly appreciate.
Sex is a difficult subject for many people. It is hard for someone to talk about what their expectations of marital intimacy are because they may fear your judgement or rejection.
As a result, some people stay quiet and assume their partner knows what to do and when. Others will just do what they want to do and assume their partner is fine with it.
The result is a selfish sexual experience rather than the give and take of marital intimacy.
You might be selfish in your sex life if:
You Don't Pay Attention to Your Partner’s Pleasure.
Your spouse gives you a long romantic massage. Do you return the favor or roll over and fall asleep? Most of us don’t want to be with a partner who takes but gives nothing in return. That is the very definition of selfishness.
Does your partner's pleasure and satisfaction matter to you? Start taking the time to focus on your partner and communicate with them about their experience. If you truly love your partner, you should always want to ensure that your partner is enjoying themselves as much as you are enjoying yourself.
You Always Expect Your Partner to Initiate Sex
Some partners don’t want to put themselves in the vulnerable position of initiating sex, or they enjoy the thrill of being the one to say “yes” or “no”. It’s not fair to put all of the burden of your sex life on your partner’s shoulders. That is selfish.
Switch it up a little. Why don’t you play out a fantasy where you are the one to initiate intimacy? Set the mood with some low lights and wine. Dress provocatively. Start by caressing you partner’s chest and move on from there. When you see how good it feels to take turns initiating sex, your relationship should open up a little more.
You expect partner to do all the work.
Who takes charge during sex in your relationship? Some partners have insecurities or hang-ups that make it difficult for them to do or ask for what they want during sex. Others may just enjoy not having to do any of the work. Making your partner take the lead all the time is selfish.
Sex is meant to be a reciprocal act where you come together as one. If one person is doing all the work while the other just lies there, there is not much togetherness.
Before you have sex, both of you should take some time to explore each other’s bodies. As you explore, ask your partner “Do you like this…” and be sure to tell your partner “Yes, I like that..” Good sex takes two active partners, so have fun exploring.
You get mad when your partner doesn’t give you what you need.
Do you find yourself getting mad at your partner because he or she doesn’t do what you need? Have you talked to our partner about your needs? No one can read your mind and know what you need in the way of intimate contact or sex. Getting mad at your partner because you don’t have the courage to speak up and ask for what you want is selfish.
Your partner may not be giving you what you need because they don’t know. You need to speak up and ask. Better yet, guide them gently, in how to pleasure you. Chances are, they will be grateful for the help.
If you see yourself in any of these situations, it’s worth taking some time to think about ways you might be able to be more considerate of your partner. When both partners participate openly in sex, sex is more exciting, and your relationship becomes more intimate.
Valentine’s Day is a challenge. While you should show your love and appreciation for your partner every day, Valentine’s Day ramps up expectations of something really romantic. This year brings even more of a challenge because of COVID. Long week-end getaways, hotel and restaurant reservations are not really an option. You’ve already been spending every day working from home, sharing household chores, taking turns entertaining the kids. How can you create a sensual Valentine’s day for your sweetie?
Since we are still sheltering in place, make the most of it and get sensual. Here are our favorite Valentine’s Day ideas to spice things up.
Make a sensuous meal together.
Feed the kids and put them to bed. Light some candles, put on some music you both love and make a meal together. This is an especially wonderful way to make your significant other feel loved if money is tight or if kids are preventing you from getting out of the house for the evening. Cooking together puts you in close contact, and there is something very sensuous about smelling and tasting delicious food and enjoying each other’s company.
Write Your Love a Love letter
People are so ingrained in emailing, and texting, that it seems old-fashioned to write a letter. Writing a love letter to your partner can actually be quite romantic. A love letter is a beautiful way to show the love of your life that you truly care. Give it a special touch by lightly spraying perfume or cologne on the letter. Put your letter in a bottle on their bathroom counter or on their pillow for your loved one to discover.
Share a bottle of wine and a trip down memory lane
There's nothing quite as romantic as looking back on your relationship and remembering all the good times. This Valentine's Day, get out old photo albums, look through your Instagram and Facebook feeds, and share your favorites with your spouse over a good bottle of wine. Nothing stirs up romance like a trip down memory lane.
Couples who sweat together stay together. While it might not sound all that romantic to spend Valentine's Day working out, it helps release built up tension. You'd be surprised how much fun you can have sweating with your partner to a workout video. Not into a strenuous workout? Try Yoga instead and have fun learning the positions.
Pamper each other with homemade spa treatments
Create a spa experience for you and your partner to relax and pamper yourselves. Give each other a facial, do your nails, and then relax in a tub filled with sensuous bubbles. Sip some cleansing cucumber and lemon water during your spa treatments.
Use this Valentine’s Day to create a deeper connection to your spouse and share some intimate moments.
When couples start out in marriage, both partners work together to make the relationship work. As life gets busy, sometimes the burden falls on one person to take care of the household chores, meals, remember important dates, juggle to-do lists, while their partner tends to their own needs.
Ask for help. Neither partner should feel like they are doing all the work required to maintain your life and relationship. When things feel like too much to handle, open up about your feelings to your partner. Your partner may have no idea they are being unfair.
Use "I" statements. Don't say: "You don't do anything around here!" Do say: "This leaves me feeling overwhelmed and sometimes resentful and angry."
Develop a plan. Have some ideas about how you’d like the responsibilities to be divided, but be open to your partner’s input.
It may be worth it to sit down and figure out how to distribute responsibilities more evenly, so your partner doesn't always expect you to get things done.
Set a reasonable goal. "I'd like us to start talking about how we can both be aware of what needs to get done, so I don't feel like it's all falling on me." Explain what's in it for everyone. "My goal is to feel closer to you and more like a team. I love you, and I don't want to be angry and overwhelmed."
Don’t Criticize. You may expect things to be done a certain way, but don’t criticize your partner when they start pitching in to help you. Your criticism will only cause things to go back to the way they were. Accept their help and don’t judge.
Express appreciation. When your partner shows more initiative, let them know how much you appreciate it. Why thank someone for something they should be doing? By recognizing their effort, it can reinforce their cooperation and encourage them.
Changing a long ingrained habit takes time, so it will take persistence and patience on both of your parts to make a joint effort and work as a team.
Finances are one the three reasons married couples call it quits. Most money issues in marriage come down to one main factor: both partners have different core values about money. Many of these monetary values started early in life and are tough to change. One spouse might have been raised to value saving and investing. The other might have been taught to indulge his or her whims, even if it means living paycheck to paycheck.
It’s tough for partners who view money, saving, and spending in fundamentally conflicting ways to manage household finances successfully as a team. Here are four ways to get started talking about your money.
Avoid playing the Blame Game.
Rather than working together, some partners start to place blame on the other person. This blaming creates conflict and resentment. The financial strain creates stress. Worries over how the bills will get paid, collectors, repossessions, and evictions overshadow positive aspects of your marriage.
Avoiding the blame game won’t fix all of your problems, but it’ll be impossible to fix anything if you’re at each other’s throats.
Talk openly about money.
Communication is the most critical part of any relationship. Communicating about money is one of the most important kinds of communication, even if it might be one of the most awkward.
Money issues add stress to your marriage. To minimize and prevent those issues, it is essential to start with a conversation about your financial values. Understanding each other’s priorities and the how and whys before significant expenses are made can help you plan for them as a team.
Sharing everything from your assets down to your debts.
Start by tallying up what each of you owns and what you owe. Assets include things like your savings and retirement accounts. Your liabilities may consist of student debt, a car or business loan, credit card balances, and even mortgages. When you marry, you're combining your assets, but that also means you take on each other's debts.
Whether you have been married ten months or ten years, you both need to know where you stand.
Start budgeting for your dreams
After everything's been laid on the table, start talking about where the two of you want to go from here. When you start with a positive goal in mind, it is easier to make a budget and stick to it. Make a list of your monthly expenses- fixed and variable. After costs are taken out of your monthly paychecks, what is left over? That leftover is what you have to invest and grow. If your expenses are more than your monthly paychecks, you need to look hard at your expenses and find areas to cut back.
Many couples have a hard time talking about money, but there’ll only be more trouble down the line if you don’t. It’s better to speak early and often, and enjoy the priceless treasure that is your marriage. You can receive more marriage strengthening tips at Marriage in a Box.
Communicating with others, especially in an intimate relationship, is a slippery slope that many couples struggle with. It is delicate dance between what you want, what your partner wants, how you express yourself, how well you listen….and on and on it goes. Communication involves effective listening, and clear, respectful, and open discussion.
What it all boils down to is intimate diplomacy. You both want to be heard and understood. Here are seven simple steps to use for effective communication in your marriage.
Give your partner your full attention. Turn off or put down any distracting technology. Lean in towards your partner a little bit. Let your body language send a message of connection–especially if you are concerned that topic may create distance, at first.
Open up with an “I feel..statement” that takes the pressure off your partner. This doesn’t mean something like “I need you to change,” either! Own your own feelings and use language that indicates your awareness that each of us is responsible for our own thoughts and behavior.
Invite your partner to share their perceptions and listen carefully. Practice using wait time to allow your partner to respond to you.
Don’t interrupt! Stay focused, attentive, and connected. Even if you particularly like or simply don’t agree with what is being said. Hang in there and keep your focus.
Reframe what you heard your partner say, “What I hear you saying is…” or “If I understand you correctly, then I think you feel…” This lets your partner know that you really care about the message being conveyed and that you are invested in making sure you heard it accurately.
Communicate your ideas for solutions with collaborative words. Maybe something like, “Well, perhaps we could try…” Or, “What if I did ... and you did ..." Or, “I’m stuck. What do you think we need to do next?”
Be prepared to continue the conversation at another time. Sometimes, issues or decisions cannot be resolved right away. You and your partner need to be willing to take a time out to process the information and think about possible solutions.
Working on your communication skills with your partner will result in mores satisfying conversations, harmony more productive decisions, and a deeper intimate relationship with your partner.
It isthe week after New Years and the official end of the holiday season. Like many other couples, you and your spouse have likely made New Year’s resolutions to get organized, get healthier, and pay more attention to your marriage. The only two things standing in your way is COVID-19 and winter.
Winter combined with COVID sheltering in place can be a depressing time for many people as cold days drag on. Time to reinvigorate your mindset and your marriage with some healthy winter date ideas.
Embrace the cold. Get out early and enjoy the cool, fresh winter air. Take your spouse for a morning walk in the neighborhood and release those pent up endorphins. If you have snow, take in the winter wonderland. Even if you don’t have snow, you can enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery as you and your sweetie stroll the streets of your neighborhood.
Learn Yoga. Yoga is a perfect way for a couple to get re-centered, do some deep breathing and stretch those aching muscles out. There are several Beginner Yoga classes on YouTube and many Yoga studios offer online classes. Practice a few yoga poses in the comfort of your home and draw closer to your spouse through deep breathing and meditation.
Spa Night. Put the kids to bed and have a spa night together. Create a soothing atmosphere with some aromatherapy or essential oil diffuser and spend some time pampering your spouse with a manicure and pedicure and wash their hair. Let them do the same for you. After all of that pampering, who knows where things will go?
Wok Together! No, that’s not a typo. Wok is the pan that the Chinese cook their delicious dishes in. Plan a Chinese night with your spouse. Spend some time before dinner finding some Chinese proverbs to share during your date. Make your own Chinese dinner or order in. Be sure to ask them to include chopsticks to add a little challenge into the meal. Start with a pot of oolong tea and an egg roll. Take your time savoring various Chinese dishes and don’t forget the fortune cookies. After dinner, go online and find a page of Chinese horoscopes and have fun finding out which year you were born in.
Healthy Picnic. Put together a picnic basket with healthy lunch ideas like turkey roll ups, cheese cubes, fruit, pita chips with hummus, and iced green tea. Put a blanket down on the family room or bedroom floor and enjoy a mid day picnic with your honey.
Try out a few of theses healthy date ideas and try to keep it going throughout the year.
Long-term solutions to the most common relationship struggles.