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.
Marriage takes a lot of hard work to keep it working. There will always be some topics of conversation that are more difficult to address with your spouse than others. Issues like sex, finances, and in-laws are hot buttons for many couples. Many people try their best to avoid these topics because they fear that it can escalate into a fight. At some point though, you need to develop the skill of talking about your concerns together as a couple. Without communication and discussion, you cannot share the same vision.
Topics you cannot avoid talking about:
When you are first married, you look for every opportunity to have sex. However, as the marriage progresses, sex becomes less frequent as jobs and life commitments begin to take up time. You and your spouse need to be able to talk about how often, when, and what type of sex you like in order to keep the flames of love burning.
Financial stress is a primary cause of divorce. Money can be a very sensitive topic for many couples as each spouse likely handles their money differently. One spouse may have been raised in a frugal family and taught how to mange money, while the other spouse may have been raised in an affluent setting where money was usually available but rarely discussed. As you pool your finances together, you and your spouse need to be able to discuss how much money you have and how you will budget, invest, take on debt, and spend your money. It may require getting some advice or education about money together to be able to make these decisions
In many marriages, one family can dominate spending time with you and your spouse, especially around special occasions, when a child is born holidays etc. You and your spouse need to be able to talk and set some boundaries so that you both can enjoy each other’s families and say no when you need to.
3 Tips to make talking about sensitive topics easier
Start the conversation on a positive note. Pay your partner a compliment like “Thank you for taking time to sit down and talk about our finances.” State the issue calmly and don’t assign blame. “Somehow we seem to have gotten off track with our finances and I am hoping we can get back on track together. “
Keep the conversation centered on the topic. Try not to let the conversation veer off into your relationship’s past or other issues. Stick to the topic at hand. If you attack the problem rather than the person bringing it up, you’ll create an environment that is conducive to sharing your feelings and opinions.
Throughout the conversation, respect your partner. Don’t interrupt. Stop and listen when they begin to talk. Don’t be so intent on getting your point across that you don’t allow your spouse a chance to voice their thoughts on the issue. Your relationship should always take priority over the issue.
Having a conversation with your spouse, even the most sensitive topics of conversation, bring you and your spouse closer together. You are more likely to be on the same page and share the same visions for your future.
Why do people remember such classic movies as “An Affair to Remember”, “Titanic”, “The Notebook”, “The Vow”, “If Beale Street Could Talk”, or “A Star is Born”?
Those movies make you feel the butterflies in your stomach when two made-for-each-other people meet, the yearning for that first kiss, an obstacle that pushes them apart, and a rescue or chance encounter that sends them back into each other’s arms for a passionate embrace.
Sure, it never happens in real life, but most people want it to. There is no reason you cannot stir up the butterflies, the yearning, and the passionate embrace in your own marriage. Try out one of these 25 Romantic “I Love You’s” on your spouse this Valentines Day and feel the heat rise.
- Say it in a note and slip it inside their briefcase, lunch tote or purse.
- Say it in French in a text message je t’aime.
- Say it on a Skype call to them wherever they are.
- Say it with a bouquet of favorite flowers delivered to their house, office or in person.
- Say it in a love letter you mailed to them days before.
- Say it with a homemade cake with “I Love You” spelled out in the frosting.
- Say it with chocolates in a big heart shaped box.
- Say it with a pre-arranged baby sitter and dinner out.
- Say it with a lipstick kiss and message on the bathroom mirror.
- Say it with nothing but your underwear or nightie on.
- Say it with tickets to a sports event.
- Say it with his favorite home cooked meal.
- Say it with music and drinks or coffee.
- Say it in a sexy phone call.
- Say it in a Facebook post all about him or her.
- Say it with a massage.
- Say it with showers of compliments.
- Say it in a hot tub.
- Say it with a picture trip down memory lane.
- Say it with his or her favorite movie and popcorn.
- Say it with a favorite treat and a corny love saying.
- Say it with perfume or cologne.
- Say it with a night of dancing,
- Say it with a recreation of your first date.
- Say it with a hot, steamy shower together.
No matter how you choose to choose to tell your spouse “I Love You”, you really can’t go wrong. Say it expecting nothing in return and straight from your heart. He or she will be over the moon for you.
We measure our physical health by our body temperature. If the temperature rises above OR below 97.8, it is time to see a doctor and determine what is wrong. When our temperature is 97.8, all is well. The same thing is true of our marriage. If you and your spouse spend most of your time engaged in heated verbal exchanges, there might be a problem. When you spend more of your time in frigid silence than in loving, happy conversation, there may be a problem. How do you change the temperature of your marriage?
Research shows that the number one reason for divorce is lack of or poor communication. Here are six tips to improve your communication.
Don’t Nag…Gently Remind. “ I can’t remember..did I ask you to take a look at the tires on my car? It seems to be pulling a little to the left.”
Don’t Complain.., Request a Change. “Would you try to put the toilet seat down after using the bathroom?” You catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. Asking nicely lets your spouse know that you love them but need them to change a habit.
Don’t Blame.. Assume the best. “ I’m not sure what happened but I saved some dinner for you in the microwave if you are hungry.” Taking an understanding tone with your spouse lets them feel free to open up to you about whatever happened.
Do Express Appreciation. Try to find one thing that your spouse does for you each day to say Thank you for. “ Thank you for taking out the trash. That is a huge help.” Showing Appreciation for something done lets your spouse know that you do notice what they do for you.
Do Apologize. If you do something to hurt your spouse’s feelings or make some type of mistake, be sincere and honest in asking for forgiveness. “I’m sorry I snapped at you this evening.” Apologizing immediately lets your spouse know that you are aware of their feelings and care about making it right.
Do Share. Remember when you were dating and would spend hours sharing your hopes, dreams, feelings and opinions. You did so in a happy, conversational manner. Continue that. “ I’m excited about our vacation to the mountains.” Sharing is what bonds you together and creates intimacy.
The goal in your marriage is to learn to communicate in an environment of understanding and intimate fellowship.
We have all known married couples that seem to have powerful marriages. Both spouses seem to always be in sync with each other. They spend quality time with each other frequently. They are people that others want to be around. Powerful couples have some type of superpower that other married couples want to emulate. How can you determine your marriage’s superpower?
What makes superheroes so revered is that they have some kind of superpower. Superman and Supergirl can fly. Antman and Wasp Woman can shrink. Batman and Batgirl have really cool technological gadgets. Captain America and Captain Marvel are really strong. While we may not be able to fly, or have superhuman strength or ability, every marriage should have at least one superpower.
What is the one thing you both excel at in a unique way?
- Some couples are just a lot of fun to be with. They know how to converse with people and can make you laugh.
- Others may be foodies that always dish up a good meal or can recommend the best restaurants.
- Still others are very organized and are good at planning events or getting a group together.
What is the one thing you and your significant other do well?
- Some couples resolve disagreements really well. They make time for each other and make it a high priority to keep the peace and unity in their marriage, even when it’s challenging.
- Others are very handy and can repair broken things or renovate old things.
- Still others are great parents because they are good with kids.
Spend some time talking with your spouse and determine your superpower. It can bring you closer together and bond you in a positive way.
Every newlywed hopes for a strong, loving marriage. After years of marriage, couples can fall into routines that focus more on taking care of the household than building a strong connection you’re your spouse.
Building a strong marriage does not happen overnight. It takes a daily commitment to let your spouse know how much they mean to you. Here are five habits that will make your marriage stronger.
Say I Love you several times a day.
It’s a little thing that costs nothing but speaks volumes. Human beings are creatures that need to feel loved and cared for. Telling your spouse that you love them reassures them of your commitment to them. It also makes you feel good to express how much you care for your spouse. In a marriage, you cannot say “I Love You” too many times, so find an
occasion each day to tell your spouse you love them.
Spend Quality time together daily.
Take time each day to enjoy each other’s company. Quality time requires interacting with your spouse in actions and words. At the end of the day, you may be tired from work. Rather than sit in front of the TV or computer, snuggle on the couch with your spouse. Sit and talk about the high points of your day. The time you spend with your spouse should be a time of
loving and caring that bonds you together as a couple.
Make a Physical Romantic Connection every chance you get.
When spouses go too long without a sexual physical connection, they lose that connection. Not every connection has to be a long evening of lovemaking. Have a quickie in the morning or the shower. Give your spouse a deep loving kiss before bed. Ten minutes of focused intimacy can reignite your physical connection and desire for each other.
Thank your spouse-even for the little things.
All too often, we take what our spouses do for us for granted. He mowed the law, took out the trash, or did the dishes. She dusted the furniture, cooked a meal, or ran the errands. Slip a “thank you” note into his briefcase or her purse or tell thank you for a specific thing they did. Acknowledging even the smallest things your spouse does makes them feel appreciated.
Laugh together every day.
Laughter really is the best medicine for boredom. Share a text of something funny you heard or read. Send a funny YouTube video or picture to your spouse. Tell each other about some funny incident that happened during your day. Keeping the humor in your marriage keeps the playfulness alive.
The Christmas holiday is over. Another year has come and gone and the New Year is upon us. New Year’s Eve can be a very romantic evening as you reminisce about good times together and dream about the good times to come and top it off with a midnight kiss.
If you are like most couples, you don’t want to spend a fortune on reservations to a lavish New Year’s party but you do want to do something to celebrate the New Year together. Here are 5 great ways to ring in the New Year.
1. Go out on a real date. Get dressed up and go to a nice restaurant. Linger over dinner with good conversation and enjoy your time together.
2. Sexy Night In. Put some champagne on ice and strawberries in a bowl. Make fire in the fireplace to set the mood. Spend the night cuddling and romancing.
3. Family New Year’s Countdown. Make some countdown bags ahead of time (one for each hour leading up to 12:00) In the bag have pieces of paper that have either some type of task to
complete or a dare to do or story they need to make up. Have one family member open a bag each hour. Everybody can earn prizes like noisemakers, crowns, toys etc. for completing a bag.
4. Resolution Party. Invite the neighbors or friends over for a Resolution Party. Get some blank colored birthday party hats. Each person writes their New Year’s Resolution on their party hat and wears it throughout the evening.
5. New Year’s Game Night. You can play with friends, family or just you two. Just like the game show “Minute to Win It” come up with 6 games to play that only take a minute to play.
Example: Put a cookie on someone’s forehead and they have to get it into their mouth without using their hands.
What to get your spouse for Christmas is one of the hardest things for people to think of. Interestingly enough, many people wait until the week of Christmas to get their spouse a gift because they are not sure what to get them or they don’t know how much to spend on their spouse.
What if you get your spouse the wrong present? We’ve all heard stories of husbands who got their wife a vacuum cleaner or blender for Christmas, which was meet with disappointment. What about the wife who got her husband a weed eater? Whether the present is a practical present, an elegant present or something in between doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you give your spouse a present because you love them.
What if you spend a reasonable amount of money for your spouse’s present and find out later that your spouse spent a lot for your present? It is not about how much money you spend on the present that counts. What is important is that you gave your spouse a present because you wanted to not because you were expected to.
Some couples don’t give each other presents. They decide instead to do something together that they would both enjoy. A few ideas:
1. Take a trip somewhere you both have always wanted to go. A cruise to Alaska. A week at an all-inclusive beach, golf, or tennis resort. A hiking trip through a rainforest. A couple’s spa experience.
2. Get tickets to a play, a musical, a concert, or some other type of performance and go and enjoy.
3. Check in to a really nice area hotel for the weekend, go to a nice
dinner and sleep in late.
4. Volunteer at a local mission, shelter, or charity and enjoy the gift of
Other couple give each other presents but with some type of restriction. Agree not to go above a certain dollar amount on each other. Only give each other handmade gifts.
Whatever you decide to do regarding gift giving for each other, remember that it is not about the actual gift. It is about celebrating the love you have for each other and your marriage.
Holidays put an excessive amount of financial stress on couples. Buying gifts for the children, gifts for each other, gifts for each other’s families can add up in a hurry. In addition, Christmas time outings and festivities get expensive as well. Add in outfits for Christmas parties, baking etc. and you have a big bill come the New Year. Here are 5 ways to keep the holiday spending in check.
- Decide your budget for the holidays ahead of the spending and stick to it. Allocates certain amounts for gifts, for outfits, for food, for decorations and put that amount in separate envelopes. When the money is gone-so is the buying.
- Talk to other members of the extended family and work out agreements on gift giving. In our family, we decided that we would give adult sisters and brothers “Family gifts” – 1 item or handmade gift for the whole family.
- Eliminate unnecessary gifts like Friends and co-workers and give a card instead.
- Decide who will do the shopping for gifts so you don’t duplicate or overspend.
- Limit the amount of gifts you give to the kids. Your love for your children is not measured in how much money you spend on them. They would much rather have your presence, time and attention. Do things together as a family such as go out caroling at a local nursing home. Build a fire and roast marshmallows and tell holiday stories. Volunteer as a family at a community event.