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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.

Respect Your Spouse’s Differences

All men and women are not created equal. We each have a unique personality, are endowed with unique qualities and have individual strengths and weaknesses. When couples are dating and falling in love, they tend to overlook the differences between them or they love each other for those differences. However, after years of being in a relationship, those differences that you may once have admired in your spouse may now tend to grate on your nerves.

Focusing on your spouse’s differences can create difficulties in your souse relating to you emotionally and tear at the bond in your marriage. Change your point of view and embrace those differences in order to rekindle the intimacy in your marriage.

Do not focus on things about your spouse’s differences that bother you, try to find the strengths in those individual qualities. View your spouse as an asset, not a liability. Perhaps your husband is not really very handy but he is very willing to help with any chores or tasks. Focus on how you love that he is always ready to lend a hand and hire out the handy jobs to a contractor.

Be ready to make some compromises in your relationship. You may be very athletic and outgoing but your wife is more of a quiet introvert. Try to make an effort to slow down and spend quiet time with her and encourage her to occasionally join in an athletic activity with you.

Work to find Common Ground. When your Differences seem to outweigh your similarities, it’s time to reconnect with the common ground you share. Try to recreate moments when you both were extremely happy in your relationship. Spend time reminiscing about things you did together when you were falling in love.

Respect your spouse’s individuality and value them for who they are.

Posted 11/27/2018

Are You Grateful For Your Spouse?

Often times we get so caught up in our daily routines that we forget to take time to show our spouses how grateful we re to have them in our lives. Here are 10 great way to show your gratitude to your spouse.

Send your spouse a little love note.

Jot down something you love about your spouse and tuck it in their jacket pocket for them to find later or send them a private text message. It will brighten their day and show them that you are grateful for their love.

 Pay your spouse a compliment.

Nothing bolsters a marriage like showing your spouse that you pay attention to them. Compliments are a simple way to show your spouse you care.

Say Thank You.

Every one wants to be acknowledged for their efforts, no matter how small. However, we often forget to thank our spouses for what they do. Don’t assume that they know. Tell them you appreciate their efforts by saying thank you.

Get sexy.

Plan a night of intimacy for you and your spouse. Make an effort to make it special like wearing clothing your spouse loves you in, setting the mood with an intimate dinner etc. Show them you are grateful for the intimacy you share in your marriage.

Cuddle with or hug your spouse.

Human beings crave human touch and closeness in a relationship. Make it a point to hug or spend time cuddling with your spouse frequently.

Take time to Listen.

Take time out from your busy schedule to sit down and connect with your spouse. Tune out the distractions and give them your full attention when they want to talk about their day or share something.

Encourage your spouse.

In marriage, you want to feel that your partner will always have your back and help you through the rough spots. Hearing your spouse tell you “I know you can do this, honey” or “ whatever your decision is I’m behind you” can give them just the encouragement they need.

Brag about your spouse.

Occasionally letting other people know how much your spouse means to you in your spouse’s presence can give them a sense of pride. It also shows them that you are proud of who they are.

Share in the responsibilities.

Marriage is a team effort, not a one-sided affair. Pitch in and take out the trash or help with laundry or yard work.

Treat them with kindness.

Speaking positively to your spouse and doing small acts of kindness such as forgiving small mistakes or doing something you were not asked to do for them, can work wonders.  It lets your spouse know that you value them.

Infusing gratitude into your relationship on a regular basis will strengthen your marriage.

Posted 11/20/2018

Real Love Is Not A Fairytale Love

Who doesn’t love a good fairytale? Princes and Princesses fall in love at first sight. The Prince conquers some evil witch or stepmother or other evil does bent on doing the princess harm and wins the hand of the princess. They get married and live happily ever after. Real life love between two people is not that simple.

Love does not just happen.

In fairytales, people fall in love at first sight. In real life, however, people rarely fall in love at first sight. You may be attracted to one another at first sight but real love is when you know someone’s weaknesses and don’t take advantage of them. It means knowing that we all have flaws in our personality but we are willing to accept and love a person for who they are.

Love isn’t just physical attraction.

Over time, physical attraction can dim but that doesn’t mean the relationship is over. As you grow as a couple, you learn more about each other’s likes and dislikes. You go out of your way to keep the spark of love alive in your relationship. Do little things everyday for each other that endear you to one other like sending a text, email or calling to let them know you are thinking of them. It’s the efforts that you put in to the relationship to make each other happy.

Love isn’t one partner fighting the battle.

Life will often throw surprises, obstacles and challenges into your path. You cannot expect your partner to solve the problems and issues by themselves. Walking through the hard times together, communicating honestly and openly, and participating in the decision making process is what makes your love stronger.

 Don’t strive for a fairy tale love. Instead, both partners must be willing to accept one another, work together in both good times and bad, and make an effort every day to show each other how much you care. That is what makes happily-ever-after love.

Posted 11/16/2018

Hobbies for Kids That Won’t Wreck Your Budget

You know hobbies can help you relieve stress, but did you know hobbies can be beneficial for your kids as well? In addition to calming anxiety, hobbies can teach children important lessons when it comes to communication, creativity, and self-esteem. They can even spark an interest in a future career. However, fitting hobbies into the family budget isn’t always easy. Keep reading for some hobbies that have the most benefits for your children and ideas on getting started without wiping out all of your savings in the process.

Craft Some Science Experiments        

The future of the world depends on science, technology, engineering, and math. This means your child’s career future may well depend on them developing an interest in one of these STEM subjects. Children who choose a STEM career may develop the next medical breakthrough or even be part of the first manned mission to reach Mars. Begin the interest in STEM at home by encouraging your children to practice some educational experiments in their spare time, such as making magic milk. To further encourage your little Einsteins, check online retailers to score STEM gear, like microscopes and building supplies, and save money. You can get cash back for shopping online with retailers like Walmart, to get everything for your kids’ experiments.

Create Works of Arts   

Art can be another majorly beneficial hobby for kids to get into. Creating art aids in the development of problem-solving and social skills for young children. Just be sure to allow your little artists to express themselves freely. Painting and drawing can get fairly messy, so think about setting up a dedicated art room for your little ones. If you need to pick up art supplies, look online for starter kits filled with everything you need to get your kids started with painting or sculpting. Buying everything separately can add up, and these kits can cut costs. Amazon is a great place to find art kits to add to your hobby room. Look for cashback opportunities for Amazon or online coupons for stores like Michaels when you shop for art supplies.

Learn a Musical Instrument        

For kids who are developing language and reading skills, learning an instrument can have some pretty major benefits. Studies show that picking up a new instrument impacts the brain’s ability to recall information and helps develop communication skills, among other mental and physical health benefits. Music can even help students develop better skills with math and boost their concentration in school. If you want your kids to give music a shot, it’s important to find an instrument they will love to play. Try out a few different options at local music stores before you settle on a final choice. For younger children, you can pick up inexpensive kid guitars, drums and keyboards to get them started. Once your child is older, you can rent instruments to use in lessons and school bands, as opposed to spending a lot of money to purchase one.

Pick Up Some Cooking Skills

When you think of hobbies for kids, you may not think of cooking. But baking and cooking are essential skills for children to learn, and there are many reasons to teach them how. Aside from learning how to properly prepare healthy meals, following recipes teaches kids reading skills, comprehension, and even math. Baking is based in science, with exact measurements and reactions between ingredients, while exploring different cuisines helps children learn about other cultures. If you decide to let your kids take up cooking as a hobby, be sure to teach them all about kitchen and food safety. Try searching online retailers for the supplies you need to keep your little chefs safe and having fun. Target has a ton of inexpensive kitchen supplies to fit your needs, and you can use rebates and coupons to save yourself some money.

Helping your kids benefit from productive hobbies doesn’t have to break the bank. You can find budget-friendly supplies by shopping with your favorite retailers online, and stock up on serious savings in the process. Let your kids explore their passions without sacrificing your budget!

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Posted 9/30/2018

You Can Manage A Household And Still Keep The Romance Alive

You Can Manage A Household And Still Keep The Romance Alive

It doesn’t take long for any married couple with a family to realize that career, children, personal commitments, managing the finances, household chores and responsibilities, can overshadow any alone time you may have as a couple. However, it is important that both of you work together to manage the household and still make time for yourselves as a couple in order to avoid conflicts in your marriage and keep the romance alive. Here are 3 key tips to help you do just that.

Work together to create a money Management System & Plan

Married couples use many methods to manage their money. Some keep their income separate and divvy up the bills as they would with a roommate. Others place all income into a shared account from which all expenses are paid. Meanwhile, a hybrid method involves using a joint account for household bills and setting up individual accounts for personal spending for each spouse. The important thing is to discuss and agree on a money management system, create a budget and stick to it.

Planning your financial future as a couple means taking bills, family, emergencies, and luxury purchases into consideration when making a budget. Just because you have created a marriage budget doesn’t mean it will stay the same forever. As your lives change and your family grows, be sure to revisit your financial situation to see if any adjustments need to be made.

Determine a Healthy Division of Household Task Responsibilities

There’s no right or wrong way to figure out who does what. The important thing is for you and your spouse to have a mutual understanding of one another’s roles as you work through the responsibilities of your household together. At a time when you’re both relaxed and comfortable, discuss what a healthy balance of responsibilities would be in your home. Decide what each of you can do to support your marriage. And discuss the proper running of your household. Work together to divide the load as best you can.

If both of you are employed, you’ll have to work harder to find a healthy balance between you. Consider each other’s time and workload expended outside the home. Look for solutions to make your life together less stressful. If possible, pay someone else to do a chore, so that your time and energy can go into activities that you need to do yourself.

Make Time for One Another

First, you need to schedule time together. But besides dates, plan brief "meetings," where you can bring up household and child-care issues such as an upcoming doctor's appointment, children’s activities, or children’s items you need to buy. This way your dates won't be overtaken by talk about the kids and you can share the stuff you both are interested in.

Intimacy is also a critical component of romantic relationships. Some busy couples find it helpful to schedule sex by putting it on the calendar. It may not be spontaneous to have it written in red ink, but setting aside time for an intimate encounter helps ensure that your physical and emotional needs are met. 

The easiest way to manage your household and keep the romance fresh is to discuss ways to make your lives easier, make decisions together, and carve out time to be alone together.

Posted 5/30/2018

Don’t Let Monster-In-Laws Dictate Your Parenting Style

Don’t Let Monster-In-Laws Dictate Your Parenting Style

In-laws usually want to be helpful to their children when parenting their own children. While many times their advice is valuable, often times well meaning mother-in-laws can put a lot of stress on a marriage with their advice or scrutiny about your parenting style.

You know it is not good to let the baby have a pacifier too often.

 “He really needs to start eating table food about now.

We never gave our children choices. We told them what they needed to do and they did it.

While you want to have a good relationship with your mother-in-law, you and your husband also want the freedom to bring up and discipline your children according to your beliefs and values, not your mother-in-laws.

Here are a few strategies to gracefully deal with in-laws when they interfere in your parenting style.

  1. Don’t take it personally. As hard as this may be, remember that her constant advice giving says more about her than it does about you. What’s fueling her behavior is a strong need to give advice, which has nothing at all to do with whether or not you actually need it! 
  2. Change the subject. When your mother-in-law brings something up, just laugh and then change the subject.
  3. Turn the tables. Ask her if the advice she just shared is what she did with your husband when he was a child. Draw her into a discussion about what she did as a parent. This shifts the focus away from you and your parenting. Then, when you’ve finished discussing her parenting stories, just change the subject. She’ll feel great because she will feel heard and you’ll feel great because you won’t have to listen to any more of her advice!
  4. Go silent. When your mother-in-law makes a comment, stop what you’re doing and then look at her without saying anything. Let the silence linger for a few minutes, and then change the subject.
  5. Stand together. You and your husband can approach his mother together and let her know that although you appreciate her insights and suggestions, the two of you have determined what parenting style works best for the both of you.

You need to talk to your spouse about your feelings first. They are the reason that you have a relationship with your in-laws and strategizing and discussing ways of coping with that relationship can prove to be useful in two ways. Firstly, it will provide some insight into the best ways to handle your in-laws. Secondly, and most importantly, it will help in separating your own relationship with your spouse from the one you have with your in laws.

It's important that you and your spouse are in agreement about how you parent your kids. You both need to let your in-laws know that you appreciate their care and concern, but you might have a different way of doing things and the decisions regarding parenting your children are yours to make.

Posted 5/25/2018

Create A Culture Of Appreciation In Your Marriage & Family

No matter how long you have been married, it can be easy to take your spouse and family for granted. The busyness of life-work, children, school, social obligations etc. – can cause you to overlook the little kindnesses and efforts that your spouse and children make and result in them feeling unappreciated by you and taken for granted.

Most happy marriages and family relationships are built on a foundation of mutual appreciation. Building a culture of appreciation involves using the things you know about your partner and your children to show that you care about them and want them to be happy.  Here are 3 great ways to show your appreciation.

Connect regularly with your spouse and family.

Many marriages and families fall apart because couples drift away from each other and become absorbed in their own interests. They don’t make an effort to connect with and do things together. Making an effort to be interested in what your spouse and your children are interested in is a way of showing your appreciation for them. Perhaps one spouse likes to exercise and stay in shape. Rather than go to the gym by themselves, they may want to invite their spouse to go to the gym too or take the family out for a family walk or outdoor game of softball at a nearby park. This inclusiveness is a way of saying “You are important to me and I appreciate you enough to want to spend time with you.”

Express affection openly and frequently.

Couples can easily drift apart when they neglect to express their affection for each other. Showing your affection openly does not require large lavish gifts or vacations. Simple exchanges of affection and appreciation go a long way toward reminding your spouse that you love them. Bring your wife a cup of coffee when she wakes up. When your spouse has had a stressful day, take their hand or hug them and tell them how proud you are of what they do. Simple little gestures and words can make your spouse feel appreciated and loved. The same is true for the rest of the family. Celebrating a special accomplishment with a favorite dessert or giving affectionate hugs periodically lets your children know how important they are to you.

Look for positives even in when your expectations aren’t met.

Rather than criticizing and complaining when your partner goofs up and does not do something according to your expectations, thank them for their effort and time. Maybe your spouse forgets to get an item from a long list at the store or does not do the best job with a home repair project. Thank them for the time they put into it and the effort they made. The same is true for your children. Provide them gentle guidance on how to complete the task but don’t criticize if it does not get done perfectly. It is important for them to know that your love is not conditional of their performance; so let them know that you appreciate their time and efforts.

When you build appreciation into your marriage and family relationship, other people notice it because your relationship is happy. It has a beneficial effect on the rest of the family as well. It is important for your children to see you take time to tell your partner how much you appreciate what they do and mean to you. It models a healthy, loving relationship behavior. 

Posted 5/17/2018

Healthy Ways To Handle Parenting Disagreements

When kids come along, there are more issues to fight about and more day-to-day stress to complicate them. That can put a strain on even the healthiest of marriages. It’s not about who is right and who is wrong. If disagreements are frequent and they escalate regularly, it can harm our marriage and ultimately your children. It's the intensity of the disagreement and how you deal with it that matters. Here are some healthy ways to handle parenting disagreements.

Don’t Criticize Your Spouse’s Parenting Methods

In many families, a majority of the parenting responsibilities fall to the mothers. Mothers must make a conscious effort to include their mates more in the day-to-day responsibilities of parenting and try to resist the impulse to criticize the way they do things. There is more than one way to go about getting a child to eat at the table or pick up their toys etc. You can make gentle suggestions on how to handle things to your spouse if they look like they need help but resist the urge to criticize their efforts. It takes both parents involvement to raise healthy children.

Take Time Out to Cool Off

Parents aren't always going to see things the same way. Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree. If you are having a heated argument about a parenting issue, you may have to stop and agree that you aren’t coming to any resolution on the issue and agree to take a time out to cool off and continue the conversation at a later time. Letting the argument escalate while the kids are watching and listening is not healthy for you or the children. Don’t just leave the issue unresolved however. Plan a time when you both can sit down out of earshot of the kids to discuss the issue.

Always Apologize

Try as you might to remain calm, some parenting issues such as discipline can trigger some hot buttons and one or both of you will end up saying things that are hurtful or escalating the argument into a yelling match. When you do have an argument that gets out of control in front of the kids, make sure you apologize to each other. You both need to reconcile your argument so the anger does not fester and the children need to see that arguments can end happily if you apologize for your behavior.

Parenting is one of the greatest joys in a marriage and can create deep, intimate bonds, but it can also be stressful. Employing healthy methods to handle parenting disagreements will bring harmony to your marriage and family. 

Posted 5/1/2018

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