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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.

Shared Chores Strengthen Your Parenting & Marriage

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.

Posted 8/25/2020

No Boundaries For Children Disrupts Your Marriage

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.

Posted 8/21/2020

Has Covid-19 Magnified The Rocks In Your Marriage?

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?

Pebbles: Annoyances

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.

Rocks: Disagreements

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.

Posted 7/30/2020

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

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