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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.

Fun Family Vacations During Coronavirus Are Possible

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.

 

  1. 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. 

  1. 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.

Safety tips:

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Posted 7/22/2020

3 Ways To Manage Your Family’s Stress During Covid-19

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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Posted 7/14/2020

5 Tips To Help Your Marriage Survive 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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. 
  1. 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. 
  1. 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.

Posted 7/8/2020

A Mini-Vacation Can Do Wonders For Your Marriage

Over 71% of couples say reconnecting is an important reason to vacation together. It allows you to allocate time to be together that would usually be spent doing other things in your daily life. You can use the time to have conversations that can help evaluate what’s going on in your relationship. Without the kids and stress of daily life, you can relax and unwind. Take a mini-vacation or a long weekend and see what it can do for your marriage.

Take a Spa Retreat

If you're burnt out or on edge from your work or home life, it can be hard to be a good partner. Going on a short luxury vacation that includes a massage or a spa can release the tension that is holding you back from being your best. If you and your partner both feel more refreshed and at ease, it can be easier to open up to each other and rekindle the romance.

Plan a trip with your partner to family-owned Blackberry Farms, an intimate. Lush hotel situated on 4,200 serene acres in the Tennessee foothills of the Smoky Mountains. The farm boasts a Wellhouse, inclusive of a luxe fitness facility, yoga studio, and spa. Participate in daily yoga, barre, Zumba, or fitness training. Relax with a couples massage and lavender and vanilla bourbon body drench in the spa. Dine on true farm-to-table cuisine and an impressive wine list sourced from the Farm’s own gardens.

Red Mountain Resort in St. George, Utah offers the ultimate combination of unexpected adventure and wellness. Every retreat package includes three healthy meals per day, guided hiking and biking, and yoga and fitness classes. Serious nature lovers can also book customized adventures to Zion or Bryce Canyon National Parks or simply walk a quarter-mile down the round to Snow Canyon State Park. The resort will customize massages for you and your partner

Find a Secluded Get Away

Without the added distraction of children present, the two of you can spend much needed alone time with each other. Get away from it all and focus on just the two of you. It may remind you of what things were like early in your relationship and allow you to appreciate your partner more.

Set your sights on Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, where outdoor pursuits include hiking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, bird watching, and fishing. Booking a cabin in the woods may be the best way to experience the Poconos and to bask in each other’s company with minimal distractions. After a day of exploring the mountains, you can enjoy a relaxing soak in the hot tub or snuggle by the roaring fireplace.

Little Palm Island Resort on Little Torch Key, Florida, is a five-acre islet off the Lower Keys that has everything you could wish for in a romantic Florida getaway: thatched-roof bungalows (like you see in Fiji brochures), exquisite dining by the sea (with your feet in the sand if you like), remarkable ocean views, wandering key deer, lush trails that meander, oodles of privacy and unmatched five-star dining and service. The only way to get here is either by boat or seaplane. No phones, No TVs. No distractions.

Go sight seeing

Just visiting a new place and exploring the sights can open the lines of communication and rejuvenate your relationship as you create new memories together.

Savannah, the oldest city in Georgia, is often named one of the best places for couples to vacation in the US. You can head to Forsyth Park for an intimate picnic under moss-covered oak trees, enjoy quiet strolls in the Savannah Botanical Gardens, or take a ghost tour through the Bonaventure Cemetery. Shop along River Street, tour the historic district with its cobblestone streets, or wake up at the crack of dawn and make the 20-minute drive to Tybee Island to watch the sunrise and enjoy some beach time.

You can fill your weekend in New York City with visits to landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Or you can take it easy with leisurely brunches in one of New York’s many excellent restaurants, followed by arm-in-arm strolls on the High Line and afternoon picnics in Central Park. Take in a Broadway show and dine at one of many fantastic restaurants.

Posted 6/25/2020

3 Ways To Reconnect With Your Spouse

All relationships go through their rough patches. When life struggles and demands from work and home collide, couples can drift apart. Before your marriage becomes too disconnected, you need to put in some work to reconnect with your partner and get back in the groove.

Here are some things you can do to breathe some life into your relationship and learn how to reconnect with your partner. 

Spend time experiencing things together

When you experience something together, you retain impressions and memories of the experience. You remember whom you were with, the situational humor, or how it made you feel. Experiencing things together is a great way to freshen old bonds.

  • Cook a new dish.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Take a class.
  • Enjoy a concert.
  • Share a candlelight dinner.
  • Make a bucket list.
  • Watch a movie or sporting event.
  • Go to a beer or wine tasting.
  • Go dancing or take dance lessons.
  • Play a Board game, video game or build a puzzle.

Rebuild your emotional bond.

You can touch each other in ways that are intimate, but not necessarily sexual. You can touch each other with your understanding and vulnerability. Any part of yourself you share with your partner has the potential to deepen the emotional connection you have. Whenever you open yourself up and reach for your partner, you build an emotional bond.

  • Send each other a card or note.
  • Text him or her a naughty message.
  • Pay him or her a compliment in front of friends and family.
  • Tell your spouse you love them.
  • Whisper sweet nothings in his or her ear.
  • Flirt with your spouse.
  • Play with his or her hair.
  • Talk about your dreams.
  • Share your hardest struggles.
  • Ask about his or her day.

Rekindle physical intimacy

When your love life goes stale, part of your life has gone stale. Start slowly finding ways to reconnect with one another physically. Ask your partner what he/she would like and dedicate some time together. Start small with cuddling before bed, a back rub, or plan an intimate night together. It helps you connect on many levels.

  • Hold hands.
  • Share a lingering kiss.
  • Welcome your spouse home with a hug.
  • Give each other a massage.
  • Take a shower together.
  • Share breakfast in bed.
  • Cuddle on the couch.
  • Play a bedroom game.
  • Caress each other gently.
  • Make love slowly.

Reconnecting will take work on the part of both spouses, but the rewards will be well worth it.

Posted 6/17/2020

Do You Enjoy Spending Time With Your Spouse?

When people get married, they marry because they love each other and they want to be together. Often though, they don’t necessarily have a good friendship. They don’t necessarily have things that they enjoy doing together. Once you’re married, it’s easy to start to drift apart because you don’t have many things that you do together. Soon commitments at work, children, and household errands take the place of spending time together. Before long, communication breaks down and you find you are living separate lives together.

True love develops over time as we come to know another person and choose to love them. Time is required for love to grow. A couple that never spends any time together no longer feels a deep emotional connection and love for one another.

You don’t have to spend time together every day, but you do have to spend time together on a regular basis. 

Unless a couple intentionally makes an effort to have meaningful time together, it will not happen. 

4 Ways to Spend Quality Time with Each Other

  1. Make a daily Two-minute Connection. At some point during your day, send a text, make a phone call, or make a comment that lets your spouse know that you are thinking about them.

 

  1. Plan a Weekly Date Night. Relationships begin with dating. Two people who may or may not have a romantic interest in another go on dates. This allows them to spend time with one another, to get to know each other, and to determine if they will choose to love or not.
  1. Do a little digging. Remember when you were dating? You wanted to know everything about your spouse. What are their favorite foods? What things do they enjoy doing? Time to do some homework. What sort of things does your spouse like to do that you could do with them? Do they like to go to the gym? Go to the gym with them. Do they like to walk? Walk with them. Do they like to go to the theatre? Go to the theatre with them.
  1. Vacation together once a year- without the kids. Planning a vacation together is a way of dreaming together. Where would you like to go? Where to stay? What activities would you like to do there? A getaway just for the two of you can do wonders to help you reconnect and find the joy in spending time with your spouse again.

Posted 6/10/2020

Tips for a Financially Happy Marriage

Dealing with the finances in marriage is dull, frustrating, and something no one looks forward to. However, you cannot just leave your finances to chance or live paycheck to paycheck and expect to achieve your dreams as a couple. Most marital arguments are finance related. Instead of wasting your breath and your marriage arguing, team up and plan your financial future together. Your marriage will be happier for it.

Complete Transparency

Keeping secrets in your marriage about your finances is never okay. In order for you to work together to not only manage your finances, but also to reach your goal of financial freedom, you have to be transparent when it comes to your finances. One of the most common reasons that many married couples are not completely transparent in regards to their finances is because they are scared of what their spouse might say when they find out the truth. We should trust our husbands or wives with the truth about our debt, spending, savings, or whatever. You cannot work together on something that you are both not aware is there.

  1. Schedule a block of time where your focus, attention, and mental resources are maximized to talk bout your finances. 

 

  1. Make the conversation a judgment-free zone, where you can share willingly and honestly.

Opening up in this way is difficult, even for those married for years. Allow your spouse to be heard, make sure that you understand, and communicate that you understand.

Set Up an Agreed upon Budget

Creating a budget and sticking to it can help relieve some of the stress that finances can put on a marriage. Be proactive about saving money, earmarking either a certain amount or a specific percentage of your earnings every month to be put into a savings account and left alone. Budget for expenses like mortgage, food, gas and other necessities, leaving room for some fun money. That fun money can also serve as a cushion that you can draw from when unexpected expenses come up.

Share Financial Responsibility

Share roles and regularly discuss the household finances. It’s okay if one of you is better at the day-to-day finances than the other. If one of you does take the lead, make sure the other is kept in the loop. Look at short-term goals and your income versus expenditure and your total net worth every month or every quarter.

 

Dream About Your Future Together

You now have the groundwork to put actionable items in place for your money in your marriage to be put to use for long-term goals.

There should be more to life than 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for your entire lives.

  • Do you want to save for that dream house?
  • Do you want to take a few years off while the children are young?
  • Would you like to scale back the work hours and still preserve your retirement savings?
  • Do you want to travel?

Make time to discuss your dreams and start putting a plan in place to make those dreams happen.

Review your financial plan regularly

Nothing's set in stone. "All the plans you make can be quickly upended by new jobs, new expenses and new babies," From time to time at least annually, it makes sense to take a look at your financial position and goals. You'll probably want to make a few changes along the way

Posted 5/30/2020

Should You and Your Spouse have Separate Finances?

The American Dream is to find the love of your life, marry, pool everything you own as the two become one and live happily ever after. Alas, every marriage is not the American Dream. The love of you life may be a terrible money manager, owe a mountain of debt, or be a financial control freak. More and more couples are deciding that, while they love each other, joint accounts and finances are not for them.

Why Separate Finances Makes Sense for Some Couples

The rate of dual-income households has been steadily on the rise and the absence of a dedicated homemaker relieves the need to merge finances since both partners have personal streams of income. 

More people are getting married later in life, meaning by the time many settle down with a spouse, their spending habits are deeply seated and individualized. Separate accounts eliminates have to seek permission for purchases and allows for independent choice.

Many previously divorced couples opt for keeping their finances separate because they may have been burned in their previous relationship. Their Ex may have left them with no money and a pile of debt. Maintaining separate accounts provides a sense of security and harmony in the relationship.

How to Make Separate Accounts Work in a Relationship

  1. Define Responsibilities. Divvy up expenses so everyone involved is aware of what they need to take care of. For example, one person may make the mortgage payment, while the other takes care of all the utilities and childcare bills.
  1. Create a Bill Paying system. Agree upon an administrative system for paying joint bills. This could include, for example, picking a particular date each month to transfer a set amount into a joint account that the couple subsequently uses for those monthly joint expenses like rent, groceries, utilities, and childcare.
  1. Account for differences in income. One spouse may make more money than the other, so it would be more equitable to divide your shared expenses according to a percentage of your incomes. So if one partner makes twice as much as the other, one would pay 1/3 of the shared costs while the other pays 2/3.”
  1. Communication is Essential. Having separate bank accounts doesn’t mean you should feel free to buy whatever or hide financial difficulties. Don’t keep financial secrets from your spouse. Talk about any personal situations that may cause you not to be able to meet your share of the expenses. Agree to discuss any major purchase over a certain amount.
  1. Monthly Check In. As a couple you will still have goals to save or invest for certain things such as a house, a big vacation etc. Additionally, you both will want the peace of mind knowing that all of the bills are paid. Sit down once a month and go over where you are in your bills and financial goals to make sure you on track.

Separate finances might provide each spouse some financial independence and may eliminate most financial arguments. Joint finances may allow each partner compete transparency and commitment to do it together. However you decide to manager you r finances, it takes a lot of up front planning and communication to get it right. The important thing is to find a system that both of you agreed upon, works for both of you, and supports a harmonious relationship.

Posted 5/15/2020

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