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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.

Ditch those Grudges and Forgive Your Spouse

Ditch those Grudges and Forgive Your Spouse

Life is full of ups and downs. As often as life brings happy moments, it can deal out disappointments. Everyone is wired differently. Some people are flexible and open. They can “go with the flow” and maintain healthy relationships. Others can be somewhat rigid and closed. They may have difficulty navigating fluctuating circumstances.

In most relationships, especially ones that are longstanding or close, there are going to be differences, arguments and hurt feelings. Most times, people try to work through the rough patches, apologize and forgive, and then move past the issue.  But sometimes a relationship gets stuck in a hurtful place and a grudge develops.

A grudge is a longstanding feeling of disappointment, resentment or anger toward another person which interferes with trust and openness in a relationship. Most grudges stem from an inability to express anger directly to a person who has been hurtful or unkind.

How to Handle a Grudge

If you have done something to hurt your spouse, you need to apologize sincerely. Try to understand why what you did was hurtful to your spouse. Acknowledge that you hurt them and ask for their forgiveness. This lets your spouse know that you are taking ownership of what you did and acknowledging your regret for causing them pain.

When you have hurt your spouse, you need to reassure them of your love for them. If you do not understand why they were hurt by what you said or did, you need to gently reassure your spouse that you love them and never meant to hurt them. Ask them to talk to you about their feelings and give them a chance to talk through their hurt.

Don’t expect forgiveness. Depending on what was said or done, you may have to be patient and give your spouse time to work through their pain. Forgiveness often takes time. Be patient and gently remind them that you care.

How to let go of a Grudge

In a marriage, when your spouse does something that hurts you deeply, you must eventually make a choice. Either turn inward and away from your spouse and hold on to that anger and hurt or find a way to move past it and forgive your spouse.

Holding a grudge does not hurt your spouse. It hurts you. Holding a grudge does not make you strong, it makes you bitter. By holding onto your anger at being hurt or betrayed, you are choosing to play the victim.

Holding a grudge is unhealthy and stands between you and intimacy with your spouse. You are choosing to shut your spouse out of your life. If you choose to continue to hold the grudge, you risk losing a deeply meaningful relationship in your life—your marriage.

Try to remember all the reasons you married your spouse and forgive them.

Forgiveness does not mean what happened was OK. The process of forgiveness is learning to let it go and move on.

Forgiveness is not given because your spouse deserves forgiveness. Forgiveness simply means that you are putting your grudge against the other person to rest.

Forgiveness does not make you weak, it sets you free.

Forgiveness is not for the benefit of your spouse. Forgiveness is for you because you deserve peace. Forgiveness frees you from negative thoughts about your spouse and makes room in your life for happiness.

Your marriage is tested when you go through a rough patch and come out the other side. Because you choose to work it out together rather than just give up, your marriage will likely be stronger, and you will regain the love and happiness that brought you together in the first place.

Posted 1/19/2022

10 Health Habits of Happily Married Couples

10 Health Habits of Happily Married Couples

Did you know that the divorce rate is highest in January? Too often couples think it’s the holidays, big events, and vacations that make marriage work. It is not the big events, special occasions, or vacations that make a relationship strong or happy. Those things are fleeting. When the holidays or special events are over, you get back from the get-away, and things fall back into the same ole routine. Soon frustration sets in and the marriage begins to deteriorate……again.

If you leave you the dishes in the sink every day, the kitchen will begin to smell. Don’t mow the lawn or weed the yard for a month and you’ll soon see grass and weeds taking over your yard. To keep anything in strong working order requires maintenance. The same is true of your marriage relationship. Here are 10 healthy habits of happily married couples that will change your relationship…permanently.

  1. Talking is giving each other your undivided attention and being truly interested in what your spouse has to say. It’s not about the information; it’s about the connection.
  2. Kisses are sometimes more revealing than words. A kiss has a familiarity, an intimacy, and a connection that says, “you are my love.”
  3. Compliments are the flirtations of married couples. They let you know you are still attractive to your spouse. They let you know you are appreciated by your spouse.
  4. When we share intimacy with someone, when we tell them secrets, share values and passions with them, we connect on a deeper level. We “know them.”
  5. When you sweat together, there is an animal magnetism that is released. The exertion releases adrenalin that energizes you both.
  6. When you do things that you both enjoy together, you relax, enjoy each other’s company, and bond from a simple sharing of life.
  7. Work Together. When you work on projects or home chores or errands together, you learn to value each other more. The shared purpose and comradery can build an emotional connection.
  8. Touch often. When you have a headache, rubbing your temples can ease the pain. A backache is often relieved with a muscle massage. Touch has a relaxing, healing affect that belies trust. So, hold hands, gently touch your spouse’s face or arm.
  9. Laughter can diffuse tension, soothe arguments, fill an awkward silence. When you can laugh with your spouse, you can approach difficult situations from a better angle. Laughter is the best medicine.
  10. Show them you Care. Caring means letting someone know that you see them and value them. Say hello in the morning and give them a hug to let them know you want their presence. Say goodbye and wave when they leave to let them know you will miss them.

Start building these health habits unto your marriage daily and watch the positive changes in your relationship flourish.

Posted 1/5/2022

Make the Holiday Special for Your Spouse.

Tis the week before Christmas and the cookie baking is done, and most of the holiday parties are over. This is the week that most people focus on family and spending time with loved ones. Have you gotten that special something for your spouse yet? Have you and your spouse carved out any time to spend together?

So often, most of use become so busy in the traditions, rituals, parties, and decorations of the holidays that we forget to make time for “us”. It’s not too late to deliberately connect to your spouse and make the holiday special.

Set the Scene for Cuddling.

Put the kids to bed and build a warm, crackling fire in the fireplace. Turn the TV off and put some music on low. Light a few candles and sit down with some steaming mugs of hot chocolate or tea and snuggle up together. There is something comforting about just relaxing, decompressing, and snuggling up in the arms of your sweetie.

Get Out Together.

Who doesn’t love the twinkling Christmas lights, wreaths, nativity, Santa, and his reindeers, and all the other decorations that reminds us that it is Holiday time? Go take a walk through a Nativity or drive through a Holiday light display and enjoy strolling hand in hand with your spouse. If you are feeling more ambitious, go ice skating together.

Go shopping together.

Perhaps you still have more items to get on your Holiday shopping list.  Enlist your partner’s help and go have lunch at a sweet little café, spend some time just talking and the go shopping together.

Have a wrapping party.

Pour two glasses of sparkling cider or wine. Get out all the wrapping paper, boxes, ribbon, tags, scissors, and tape. Put on Mariah Carey or Michael Bublé’s Christmas album. Then, have fun wrapping the presents together and putting them under the tree.

Give each other a massage.

After all the stress of working and trying to get ready for the holidays, a relaxing, sensual massage sounds heavenly. Get a jar of coconut oil at a local health food store. Go in the bedroom and lock the door. Put few scented candles around and play some soft music.

Give your spouse a slow massage with the coconut oil first working deep into the muscles and then gradually getting softer. Next, it is your turn to get a massage from your spouse. Who knows where this could lead to?

Don’t forget the romance.

Have a quiet dinner together and lean in as you talk to each other.

Turn on some music and slow dance in the living room.

Put on provocative lingerie and seduce your spouse.

It doesn’t really matter what you decide to do together, as long as you are doing it together and connecting without distractions. Take some time this holiday season to tune out the worldly noise and to-do lists and spend some quality time with your spouse. It will do wonders for your marriage and make your holiday spirits bright.

Posted 12/22/2021

Stay Connected to Your Spouse and Avoid Holiday Fights.

The holidays bring out both the best and the worst in people. It is a time for thinking of others, reaching out to family, and spreading good cheer. Unfortunately, it can also be a time of focusing on what you don’t have, grudges you have against friends or family members, and all the work you must do. Don’t spend the holiday fighting with your spouse! Plan together on how to avoid holiday fights, so you make the holidays a time of togetherness, fun, and getting closer in your marriage.

How to handle those holiday fights

With a little planning and compromise, you can make sure that the holiday stress won’t have you screaming at each other for no good reason.

You love to get in the holiday spirit with all the decorations, activities, baking and wrapping that goes along with Christmas but your spouse could care less.

Spend some time together talking about what the holidays mean to you both. Your spouse may not have had a good holiday experience as a child. Tell them about how doing things together as a family creates memories that you want to be important to you both. Your Spouse may be more likely to participate if they feel that it is a way to build a deeper connection.

Every year, you do all the buying of Christmas gifts, and your spouse complains about the money you spend.

Sit down and make a gift list and a detailed budget together. Set a shopping date you can go and buy the gifts together. This way, your spouse can feel like they have a say in what gifts are bought and how much is spent. It’s also a good way to get in the holiday spirit together and get some “together time.”


All the stress of holiday events and parties leaves no time for the two of you.

It is essential that you and your spouse spend quality time together during the holidays. You both must make time for your marriage. Go to a holiday party but leave early so you two can have a little date night. It’s okay to say no to a holiday invite so that you and your spouse can spend a quiet night in relaxing and cuddling. You need to work together to reconnect and take a break from all the stress.

Your spouse loves spending time with his family at the holidays, but your family wasn’t very close, so you are a little resentful.

Build in escape time where the two of you can go for coffee, talk, repair, and clear the air. That way, when you say something inappropriate to your brother-in-law that irritates your spouse, you'll have a time to talk it out. Escape time will help you get through the holidays without letting things build up, so you end up fighting with your spouse.

You dread having the in-laws for holiday dinner because your mother-in-law always manages to push your buttons and your spouse gets irritated with you for not getting along.

Before you host the in-laws, talk to your spouse about how their mother-in-law treats you and ask them to help you keep a calm gathering this year. Agree that when you had all you can take of his mother-on-law, you will give a signal -like sneezing twice-and your spouse will respond by asking you to help them in the kitchen. Having your spouse remove you from the situation avoids a confrontation with his family and brings you closer together as a couple. You are the damsel in distress, and he is the knight in shining armor. 

The best ways to avoid a conflict or quickly end an argument is planning and communicating. 

Posted 12/15/2021

Manage These 5 Unrealistic Expectations For A Happy Family Holiday

Everyone remembers that scene in the movie “The Santa Clause” where Tim Allen is watching a TV video of how to cook a delicious turkey dinner and then the camera pans to Tim’s actual kitchen where the turkey is on fire in the oven, and he is spraying it with a fire extinguisher.  Often, that is how it turns out in real life when we try to live up to unrealistic expectations for the holidays.

When our dreams and expectations of the holidays don’t turn out like we plan, we are disappointed, depressed, stressed out and feeling anything but festive. Those family and friends that are spending holiday time with you don’t get to enjoy the real you. Avoid setting yourself up for disappointment by getting rid of these five unrealistic expectations for the holidays.

  1. Creating the perfect Holiday. This year, you are going to create the perfect holiday by inviting all the relatives for Christmas dinner and choosing the perfect gift to fit everyone’s tastes.

Everyone has one or two relatives they don’t really get along with. There is no rule that says you have to buy a gift for every relative in the family. No family is perfect, so there are no perfect holidays. Ask everyone to bring a dish and make Christmas dinner a potluck. Don’t serve alcohol so drunken behavior will not be a problem. Take a group photo and let that be the gift for every relative.

  1. Expecting people to change because it is the holiday. We are programmed by TV and movies to expect people to be cheerful and have a giving spirit at holiday time.

Unfortunately, a leopard does not change its spots. If someone is usually grumpy or sees the glass as half empty, they will likely continue to do so through the holidays. There are people that are tight with their money and somewhat selfish, so don’t expect them to open their wallets and go out of their way for others during the holidays. You cannot change other people, so focus on your own behavior and hope it will be a model for others.

  1. Expecting to be Super Woman. When you try to do too much, you end up stressed out and exhausted. Then you don’t have time to spend with your family. Don’t forget the reason for the season. Determine what’s really important! You don’t have to do or get everything single-handedly.

Most of the fun of the holidays is getting everyone in the family involved in the baking, decorating, shopping, wrapping, etc. Many hands make light work and happier spouses.

  1. Becoming Martha Stewart. TV and magazines blow up holiday expectations by showing videos and pictures of perfectly decorated cookies and beautifully dressed Christmas trees and mantles.

You do not have to bake the perfect cookies. Choose one or two recipes that everyone will like. Stop trying to be the decorator on the front page of the magazines. Look through what you have and do enough to be festive. Forget about the rest.

  1. Unlimited finances for Holidays. During the holiday season, too many couples spend like there is no tomorrow to create a magical holiday. When January comes, many find themselves buried under a mountain of debt.

Money does not grow on trees. Just because it is Christmas, does not mean your finances suddenly improved. Set a holiday budget with your spouse and stick to it. You don’t want sticker shock when the bills come due in January.

Before the Holiday season gets too far along, sit down with your spouse, and decide what you can realistically do for the Holidays, determine the cost, and stick to it. Make this holiday happy, stress-free, and affordable by focusing on what counts—being together with family and friends.

Posted 12/8/2021

Rebuild Your Marriage After Financial Infidelity

Most American adults (65 percent) have at some point combined their finances with a spouse or partner, according to a recent study by the National Endowment for Financial Education.

Of those couples, one out of every three have lied about or kept secret some of their financial details. For nearly half of the couples surveyed, the deception caused an argument. Thirteen percent ended up separating their finances. For 18 percent of the couples, the financial deception ultimately broke them apart.

Financial infidelity is when couples with combined finances lie to each other about money. Examples of financial infidelity can include hiding existing debts, excessive expenditures without notifying the other partner, and lying about the use of money.

Just 5 percent of people in relationships report having secret bank accounts, but women are 50 percent more likely to do so than men. And women aged 45-54 are more than four times as likely as their male peers to have a secret bank account.

When you’re married, your partner’s debt becomes your debt. It could also impact your credit score. If one of the people in the relationship is not honest about what is happening in your joint financial lives, it’s a huge breach and is difficult to overcome. “It begs the question ‘If you are lying about that, what else are you lying about?’

How Do You Repair Your Finances and Rebuild Trust in Your Spouse?

Lay it All Out on the Table

The best way to start repairing the damage is to come clean with your partner. Lay out all your assets and your debts. You both need to get on the same page, and to do that, there cannot be any hidden loans or debt or hidden assets or accounts.

Take Responsibility for what you have done.

Apologize for putting your partner in this position and reaffirm your loave for them. Commit to take all necessary steps and measures to work with your partner to get the situation cleared up. Commit to make sure the behavior does not happen again.

Give Your Partner Time to Absorb it All

Your Partner has been wronged. Trust has been broken. He or She will likely feel betrayed or violated. You need to give them time and space to absorb the situation and process their emotions. Don’t offer up excuses or worse lie about how it happened.

Communicate Regularly

Start talking about your feelings about money. Most people have a hard time talking about money. However, if you are going to rebuild your life together, you both need to be able to discuss ALL financial issues. Depending on the amount of Debt or financial Damage that has been done, you may benefit from third-party financial or debt advisors. You should also agree to sit down once monthly and discuss your finances.

Reframe Your ideas about Money

What are your financial goals? Do you want to buy a home, save for your kids’ college, retire early? To reach your goals, you both need to work toward them together. Perhaps a budget would help keep you on track and give you a blueprint to check against. A budget would also help rebuild a sense of safety and togetherness, which strengthens your relationship.

Relinquish control to your spouse.

The partner than financially unfaithful should not oversee paying the bills or keeping the checkbook. Until they can demonstrate that they have a handle on their spending, the other partner should take over those functions.

Don’t neglect the intimate connection with your spouse.

It would be easy to be put off making love or being intimate with your spouse while you are furious with them for damaging your finances and betraying your trust. They feel embarrassed, unworthy, and unloved. You both need to try to reconnect to rekindle the love in the marriage.

Financial infidelity is not uncommon. The key to rebuilding trust in your partner and your marriage is Open Communication, Reconnecting Intimately, and Sharing financial responsibilities.

Posted 11/17/2021

How Your Marriage Can Survive an Affair

Infidelity is heartbreaking and devastating. But it doesn’t have to mean the end of your marriage. If you’re both motivated to heal and recover, the odds are 60% that you will. There are a few factors that make a couple more likely to try to work it out. Those factors include whether they have strong commitments to one another like children or a house.

If there is one thing experts agree on when it comes to dealing with infidelity, it’s that while recovery is possible, rebuilding a healthy relationship is hard work. Couples do and can stay together after an affair, but it takes a lot of work to repair broken trust.

  1. The cheating must stop.

The person who cheated cannot see the person they cheated with again. Don’t buy into the “I need to see him or her to let them know the affair is over.”  They should be able to make a phone call, where you can hear the conversation, and tell them it is over. If this was an affair with someone at work, they may need to look for another job. 

  1. Couples need to vent their feelings.

When it is clear the affair is over, each spouse must have time to vent and express their feelings. Both spouses will have wounds, anger

The spouse that was cheated on will likely have questions about what happened. They may feel betrayed, angry, hurt, or resentful. They may also feel like this was somehow their fault.

  • How did the affair start?
  • What attracted him or her to that person?
  • How many times did they meet? Where? When?
  • Do they still love you?

The spouse who did the cheating needs time to “tell their story.” They may feel guilt, shame, and remorse. They may also have had feelings for the person they had the affair with. They need to be honest with their spouse if the marriage is to be saved.

  1. Talk about the elephant in the room.

Often, there were problems in the marriage relationship long before the cheating began. A troubled marriage is not an excuse for cheating! However, couples need to be able to communicate with each other honestly and openly about the issues in their relationship so they can address them.

  • Did both spouses ever spend time talking about things that bother them?
  • Was their sex life good?
  • Did both spouses spend much time together dating or doing leisurely things?
  • Do you love each other?

When both spouses can identify the broader areas in their marriage that were weak, they can talk about how to make improvements so cheating is less likely to occur again.

  1. Take ownership of your own stuff.

Playing the blame game will not repair the marriage. Each person in the relationship must own their own stuff. The person who cheated needs to take full responsibility for breaking their marriage vows and betraying their partner’s trust. The person who was cheated on needs to acknowledge any actions on their part that may have damaged the marriage relationship.  Unless both spouses can talk about what is broken in the marriage, they cannot hope to repair it.

At this point in the process, both spouses have a decision to make.

  • Do I still love my spouse?
  • Am I willing to do whatever it takes to repair the damage and rebuild my marriage?
  • Do I want to end this marriage?
  1. Start over and recreate your marriage relationship.

Couples can emerge from an affair with a better sense of who they each are and what they want from their relationship. The marriage will not be the same as it was before the affair. You can’t un-ring that bell. However, you can get rid of the parts of your relationship which were not working and create a new, stronger dynamic in the relationship.

Both spouses must be able to communicate openly, show patience, have understanding into heal from their actions. It will not happen overnight and could be a long process.

Almost 60% of couples survive infidelity and rebuilt trust. Couples can survive and grow after an affair and go on to have a happy relationship.

Posted 11/10/2021

3 Things You Need to Do To Put That Spark Back in Your Marriage

Sometimes, couples get stuck in a place where they feel burnt out and disappointed in their marriage. It happens. However, you can get “unstuck” and get your love relationship back on track if you are both willing to put in a little work. Here are three things you need to do to put the spark back in your marriage.

Keep the Expectations of Your Spouse Realistic

While there are expectations that can make a marriage great, there are also unrealistic expectations that can destroy your marriage from the inside out.

Do you set unrealistically high expectations of your spouse?

  • Your spouse should understand what you feel and need without you having to tell them.
  • You constantly accuse your spouse of not loving or caring about you.
  • You regularly place demands on your spouse no matter how sensitive and nurturing they are to you.

If your expectations for your spouse solely define your happiness, you’ll likely create unrepairable cracks in the foundation of your relationship. Unrealistic expectations place immense pressure on your spouse to satisfy your “wants,” even if they don’t actually meet your “needs.” You may unintentionally set your spouse, and your marriage, up for failure. and it sets them up for failure from the start.

How can you develop more healthy expectations?

  1. Identify your wants vs. your needs.
  2. Open up and share your fears, emotions, and needs with your spouse.
  3. Stop criticizing and blaming and focus on the great things about your spouse.

Get in Touch with and Take Care of Yourself

It is very easy to look at other people and your spouse through a microscope, but what about you? Are you focusing on other people, so you don’t have to struggle with your own self-image?  If you are not willing to give your spouse your “best self”, you cannot expect them to give theirs.  A marriage means each partner providing their spouse with all they need to feel supported, cared for, and loved as you blend your lives together.

Journaling is an excellent way to get in touch with your thoughts and emotions and can help keep you grounded.

Exercise is a great way to “re-charge” and develop a positive self-image.

Pampering is a way to soothe and nurture yourself by doing your nails, hair, soak in the tub, etc.

Taking time to take care of yourself pays off by allowing you to be more present in your marriage and available to your spouse in the best way.

Never Stop Dating Your Spouse

When most couples look back on their time of dating before marriage, what they will remember is the laughter, fun, open communication, flirting, desiring, and the romance. Get back into that dating mode.

With all the stress in our lives from work, children, in-laws, other commitments, it takes more work after you have been married for a while to turn that “dating mode” on. You need to schedule it weekly and plan for it. It can be dinner out and a babysitter or sitting out on the porch with a glass of wine and talking under the stars. Whatever form it takes, taking time out to connect with each other will bring back the things that brought you together in the first place and reignite that spark.

Posted 10/27/2021

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