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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.

Ten Ways To Erase Marriage Boredom

When couples first get married, everything is new, and you spend every waking hour together. It’s fun to go shopping hand in hand, spend hours over coffee and breakfast talking, etc.  Everything about your partner is new and you want to spend time getting to know all about them. Over time, however, life gets busy and soon you both drift into a daily routine. If you forget to focus on your marriage, boredom can easily set in.

Boredom can lead to bad decisions. Arguments. Resentment. Infidelity. If you find yourself bored in marriage, the key, then, is to take time for each other, even if it’s only small pockets here and there. The key is to recognize boredom and take measures to prevent it. Here's ten ways to keep boredom at bay.

  1. Take a few minutes every day to share what you appreciate about each other and your marriage and why. It will do wonders for your relationship.
  1. Do something that completely surprises your partner like surprise them at work for lunch or a cup of coffee. Sometimes that unexpectedness can create the thrill that once swept you off your feet.
  1. Get out of town occasionally. When you’re living your day-to-day life as a married couple, the scenery rarely changes. The lack of new places and new surroundings can rob a marriage of its excitement and sense of adventure.
  1. Go visit places you used to frequent when you were dating. By returning to that place and remembering those positive experiences, you can rekindle the attraction to your partner.
  1. Kiss your partner every day to keep the marriage bond strong. If you make it a point to keep kissing one another, your hormones will pretty much do the bonding work for you.
  1. Tease your partner frequently. Make a sexual inuendo by provocatively touching, whispering in their ear, or texting a sexy message
  1. Make a sex date once a week. With a sex date on the calendar, you are more likely to plan out what you can do to make it fun, different, and exciting.
  1. Try something new together. Trying new things together like a sport, hobby, or class, can keep your relationship alive.
  1. Add more laughter into your marriage. Tell each other jokes or funny stories, watch comedies, laugh about funny things in your past.
  1. Talk with your spouse every day. Carve out time to really talk and listen to your spouse daily.

Boredom is often due to disconnection between partners in the marriage. Do something daily to connect and reconnect with each other to keep your marriage strong and alive

Posted 7/28/2021

Build A Deep Friendship With Your Spouse

If you analyze long-lasting, happy marriages, you will see a solid friendship at the root of each one.  While a marriage is much more than a friendship, the characteristics that we look for in a friend are what we hope to find with our marital partners. Research has shown that couples that have a great friendship have a higher percentage overall of marital satisfaction.

When I call my best friend to talk, we are sharing our life, thoughts, and feelings with each other. We treat each other with respect and support each other through good and bad times. Friends look forward to spending time together and genuinely enjoy each other’s company.

A marital friendship is a deeper connection. The emotional connection that married couples share can be five times more important than their physical intimacy. Building friendship in your marriage can build emotional and physical intimacy. Deep marital friendship allows you to trust and feel safe with one another.

Building and growing a deep friendship in your marriage will take time, patience, and work. Here are a few skills that will help build that friendship.

Commitment: The marriage vows of “for better or worse” are literal. Marriage is a lifelong commitment. This person shouldn’t just know you, accept you, and laugh at your jokes. They are obligated to you financially, legally, and personally.

You are committed to the life you are building together. That means supporting each other emotionally, physically, and financially.

Commonality: Find common interests that you can both become engaged in. Learn to play a sport together like golf or tennis. Take a cooking or gardening class. Take up exercise or hiking. The point is to create some common ground that will keep you connected.

Communication: Establish time each day to spend time together talking and sharing. Our lives get busy, and we sometimes neglect each other. Every marriage needs “connect time” to check in with each other and see how things are going. Communication builds a friendship that will help you weather the bad times.

Interest: Take an interest in the things your spouse is interested in. You need to make the effort to join your spouse in some of their interests. Go to a sporting event together, spend time talking about their latest interests.

Respect: Remember that your spouse is human and appreciate them for who they are and what they do. Treat each other equally and be considerate.

Support: Be each other’s biggest fan. Celebrate each other’s successes and forgiving of each other’s failures. Lean on each other in bad times.

Togetherness: Choose to spend your free time together. If you spend all your free time doing things with other people or pursuing individual interests, you can slowly drift away for your spouse. Plan time together to have fun and stay connected.

Trust: Always be transparent with your spouse. Be honest, even when you mess up.

Building a friendship takes a lot of work. You don’t develop a strong friendship overnight. It is a gradual relationship that is cultivating by spending time together, sharing, supporting, and taking an interest in each other’s lives.

Posted 7/21/2021

Vacations To Reconnect With Your Spouse

Despite your best intentions to keep your romance alive, the business of running a life together often gets in the way. Most of your time together is spent in maintenance mode. You are going to work, cleaning, running errands, and spending time with family. How can you give your marriage a little jolt to revive that spark and help us reconnect on a more intimate level?

Taking a vacation with your partner may be the exact remedy you and your spouse need to reignite that connection and spark.

Here are a few tips to make this vacation more intimate.

  1. Plan together. Make choosing a vacation and creating an itinerary part of the fun, kind of like vacation foreplay. Spend some time together as a couple discussing potential travel destinations and lodging possibilities.
  2. Forget the itinerary. Make your vacation a relaxing experience with your spouse. Don’t schedule a packed itinerary or you will be too tired from all the activities to focus on each other.
  3. Ease into sex. On vacation, there’s a lot of pressure to have the "perfect sex”. Such high expectations can lead to internalized pressure and disappointment. Spend a lot of time cuddling, making out and just enjoying each other’s company. The sex will take care of itself.
  4. Keep it light and positive. A vacation is a time to relax and enjoy each other without the day-to-day distractions. Keep it light and positive.

 Our Best Ideas for vacation destinations

An Inn & Spa at Fearrington House

Choose the perfect place to unwind alongside your spouse at this classic, elegant inn with signature wraps, facials, and massages. Enjoy gourmet meals at their AAA Five Diamond restaurant prepared with healthy ingredients.

A Cozy Wooded Cabin at Anaway Place

Get away from it all! Unplug and leave all the distractions behind in a cozy cabin surrounded by 80 acres of nature. Restore your souls in a gentle wooded surrounding, cuddled together by a slow burning fire.

A Historic Harborside Resort at Rosario Resort

Treat yourselves to elegant accommodations in this early 1900’s historic resort with private terraces overlooking Cascade Bay on Orcas Island. Whale watch from your Harborside room or charter a sailboat. Refresh your body and soul in the historic indoor therapeutic quiet pool.

A secluded private island beach cottage at South Seas Island Resort

Located in a 330-acre nature preserve, with two-and-a half miles of beautiful beach, this private island escape is just what you need. Long walks on the beach, dolphin and manatee watch tours, golf, tennis, or nature activities combine with fine dining and spa comforts.

Posted 7/14/2021

Your Marriage Can Benefit From A Relationship Checkup

Your relationship, just like your house or your car, needs regular maintenance to stay in good working order.  Do you take your car in for regular oil changes and checkups?  Do you have a HVAC company service and check up on your furnace and air conditioner? Failure to take care of those tasks and your car or house will eventually fall into disrepair and stop working, The same is true for your marriage.

Regular relationship maintenance will keep the love alive and the investment in your relationship strong. Relationship maintenance is the regular behaviors that partners engage in to stay together in a happy marriage.   Researchers Laura Stafford and Daniel J. Canary identified a set of five general relationship behaviors that, when engaged in regularly, increase the quality of the relationship.

Positivity.

A 10:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions is ideal. The more positivity you can share the better.   Positivity is not simply a happy disposition all the time. It is more about how you approach your spouse.

  • If you disagree, are you able to listen for what makes sense in what your spouse shared?
  • Do you know to change toxic talk into fix-it talk? 
  • When you see your spouse are you able to share a positive thought about your day rather than a negative one?  

A kiss, hug or loving physical contact all increase the positivity ratio and help maintain a warm and loving climate in your marriage.

Openness.

Most couples spend a good deal of time together which, if you are not careful, can create an atmosphere of dismissal when your spouse is sharing.

  • Are you receptive to your partner?  
  • When your partner needs to share something about their day or air a grievance, are you open to hearing what they share?

Successful couples listen skillfully and ask good questions to create an engaging conversation.

Listening

Being a supportive partner requires solid listening skills.

  • Do you feel you can count on your partner to lend an ear when times get tough?
  • Are you able to support your partner when they need a shoulder to lean on

Knowing your partner’s love language and making sure you are filling their “love tank” is good relationship maintenance.

Social interaction

Engaging in meaningful social interactions together is a relationship building activity.  It is especially true if you spend time with other successful couples. Spending time with other couples help you remember why you fell in love in the first place.  It is also an opportunity to see how other couples navigate their relationship so you can fine tune yours.

Sharing tasks and responsibilities.

This kind of relationship maintenance requires solid decision-making skills. Most married couples share a household, which in turn means they share a great many responsibilities.  Successful couples make decisions and work through the to-do list gracefully. These kinds of skills take practice. The nature of sharing a life together affords many opportunities for that sort of thing.

At least once every season, couples should schedule a regular marriage checkup. Take a walk, go on a mini-retreat, or whatever you can do that gets you out of your regular routine.  You need a place where you can both discuss what’s working, what areas needs tending to, and what you both need to do to improve things moving forward. Having these talks and knowing they are firmly on the schedule creates a sense that the partnership matters and is being cared for.

For many couples, marriage is work, or at least a work in progress. Make sure you are doing the necessary relationship maintenance to keep your foundation rock solid.

Posted 7/7/2021

Do You And Your Spouse Agree On Parenting Decisions?

When we were growing up, Mom and Dad held more traditional roles. Mom was typically a housewife and Dad the breadwinner and stern disciplinarian. Times have changed.

Moms have entered the workplace in record numbers, and Dads have become much more involved in parenting. Both Mom and Dad hold strong opinions about discipline, nutrition and diet, and safety.  When they disagree about these issues, an ugly marital and family fight can erupt. 

All parents disagree over parenting issues, but if parenting styles continually clash or result in extreme conflicts, marriages, and children's healthy development fall by the wayside. Now more than ever, a united parenting front is necessary.

How to Get Into Agreement on Parenting Issues

Communicate Frequently

Your child has asked if they can watch one more TV show before bedtime. Your spouse comes in and turns off the TV and tells the child to go in and brush their teeth and get to bed. Tears and screaming bring you running into the room to find that each of you has confused and upset the child by giving them conflicting directions. It all could have been avoided by telling your child “ let me talk to your dad about it.”

Make a Disciple Plan together.

You can't anticipate every situation, but you and your spouse can sit down and discuss and agree on basic or essential disciplinary issues. Discuss with your partner how you both will handle your child's temper tantrums or bad behavior. Make sure each of you holds your child to similar rules and uses complementary styles of discipline.

Respect Your Partner's Point of View
Even if you think your partner's suggestion is ridiculous, he or she may have a good reason for making it. Listen and be respectful rather than becoming condescending and assume that you know what is best. Discuss some options that you both can buy into before making a decision.

Be Willing to Compromise

If you can't agree on a standard rule for everything, be willing to compromise once in a while. Take your husband's suggestion on an issue that you don't feel strongly about in return for him taking your idea the next time. Like everything else in your marriage, talking and compromising is vital.

Remember You are a United Front
Even if it took you and your spouse two hours to agree on a strategy; don't let your child know. Let them see that you are both on the same page. They will be less likely to play you against each other or argue with you.

Posted 6/30/2021

10 Tips To Protect Your Marriage On Vacation With In-Laws

Most people think of vacations as a great way to get away from it all, relax and unwind. However, not all family vacations are idyllic trips to paradise. Many family vacations are trips to visit in-laws, extended family or big family reunions that can bring both happiness and stress for your marriage. Here are ten tips to protect your marriage as you vacation with in-laws or extended family.

  1. Adjust your mindset. Whether the extended family is yours or your spouses or both, keep in mind that you or your spouse grew up with them. Having extended family come with you on vacation is way to support and love your spouse.
  1. Choose a place with enough space for everyone. Crowding lots of people into a small home or condo is just invitation for trouble. Everyone needs their own space to do what they like to do and take a moment for themselves. If your home is not large enough to accommodate your extended family, suggest renting hotel rooms on the same floor, two condos, or hotels near your home.
  1. Involve in-laws or extended family in the planning. Planning a vacation for a large group of people is takes a lot of time and can be stressful. Let everyone else help with the planning. Divide up the responsibilities like planning meals, grocery lists, renting rooms or houses, transportation, a few group activities, etc. This way, everybody is part of the vacation plan, and no one should have to do it all themselves.
  2. Set a welcoming tone. Just as you are not used to being with in-laws and extended family 24/7, they are not used to it either. Make your extended family feel welcome and wanted. Kindness and laughter can go a long way to ease the awkwardness and stress.
  1. Prepare to set some boundaries. You know your family better than your extended family does. If they are early risers and you are not, plan how to let them know how to get the coffee going and grab some quick breakfast snacks so they don’t expect you to prepare a large family breakfast at 6 a.m. If the kids need a nap after lunch so they don’t get cranky, let extended family know that the hour after lunch is “quiet time”.
  1. Accept help. Many in-laws and extended family members will welcome the opportunity to pitch in and help prepare meals, straighten up the condo or home, and spend extra time with their grandchildren. Let them! Accepting help will give you and your spouse some time for yourselves.
  1. Share the costs. Few married couples can afford the costs of taking 6 to 10 people on vacation. Most extended family members will be glad to help with the financial costs by paying for meals out, groceries, lodging, activities. etc.
  1. Don’t overschedule Activities. Even though schedules and routines work well for your home life, scheduling every moment of everyone’s day on vacation isn’t a good idea. It’s stressful to follow someone else’s schedule with no time for yourself. Your idea of fun might not be what everyone else thinks is fun.
  1. Don’t overwhelm in-laws with kids. Kids often love time with grandparents, cousins etc. and want to spend 24/7 playing and doing. That can be exhausting for your in-laws. Speak up and suggest a time-out to give everyone time to regain their energy.
  1. Be Flexible and Enjoy the vacation. Whenever a group of relatives get together, there are bound to be instances where arguments or disagreements flare up. This person wants to go to this restaurant, someone does not want to join in an activity, etc. Do what you can to cool down the situation. Suggest a Plan B or some time apart.

Remember that it’s not about what you do or where, it is who you are vacationing with. It’s all about spend time together and making memories to talk about for years to come.

Posted 6/23/2021

4 Ways To Include Romance In The Family Vacation

Traveling with the kids has its challenges. Packing and carrying all the extra gear for little ones like strollers, toys, diapers, etc. does not exactly put you in the mood for romance. However, a family vacation is not just for the kids. Mom & Dad need vacation time too and some time for each other. It’s important for your children to see that you love each other in order for them to feel secure. You are also providing a picture of a healthy marital relationship for your kids. So, how can you sneak a little romance into that family vacation?

Plan ahead to include some romance in your Family vacation. Consider sleeping arrangements, such as adjoining hotel rooms or a hotel suite. If you cannot afford another hotel room or a suite, wait until the children are asleep and head down to the hotel bar. Some vacation hotels have supervised kid clubs where you can drop the kids off for a few hours for a fee and go off on your own for a little romance.

Incorporate small little “love winks” into your day with the family. As you spend time on the beach with the family, chase your spouse into the water for a quick embrace. If you are hiking in a national park, hold hands as you walk or give your spouse a love peck on the cheek. Take some time while you inch your way through the lines at the amusement park to put your arms around your spouse’s shoulders and hug.  Little “love winks” let your partner know that you are thinking about them, wanting them, and loving them.

Go ahead and flirt with your spouse. When you were dating, there was a lot of flirting going on before any physical romance took place. Time to drag that flirt out of the closet and spring it on your spouse. Whisper something sexy in their ear as you brush past them in the hotel room. Snuggle up against them on the beach as you watch the kids play. Say something suggestive in front of the kids and listen to your kids giggle as your spouse blushes. Flirting is a way of romancing your partner and showing them that you still have that “spark” for them.

Use your imagination and get creative. Wherever you are staying, even if it is a one room motel room, you can create a little romance. Put the kids down to sleep and grab a bottle of wine or a cocktail and a candle and slip out of the room to the balcony. Light the candle, open the wine and enjoy gazing at the stars and cuddling together.  If your room is near the motel pool, take a late-night dip in the pool and watch the temperature rise.

Stolen romantic moments that belong just to the two of you are the memories you carry for a lifetime. So go ahead and put some spice in your family vacation.

Posted 6/16/2021

Build Up Your Marriage as you Plan the Family Vacation

Most couples dread planning a summer vacation. There are so many options it is difficult to settle on just one.  A vacation requires careful planning because there are so many details to manage to avoid potential conflict and overspending. While many spouses let one handle the vacation details, it is a much better idea to plan the vacation together.

Here are some ground rules for planning the vacation with your spouse.

  • Don’t take over the decision making. You both should discuss what things you want from your vacation and any concerns you have about the vacation. You both want to be on the same page about where you are going, what you are going to do there, and how much you have to spend.
  • Be prepared to compromise. Each of you has unique tastes and preferences, but you want to make sure that everyone will be happy with the vacation arrangements. Respect your spouse’s opinion and be willing to give a little to make it work.
  • Don’t argue or fight over the small things. If you cannot agree on something about the vacation plan, agree to discuss that item at a later time and keep planning the vacation.

As you plan, remember that the more decisions you make ahead of vacation time, the fewer conflicts you will have to deal with on vacation.

  1. Take time to Dream.

Choosing a destination is the starting point for any vacation plan, because it determines everything else. Use your imagination as you discuss memories of places you went as a child, places you always wanted to go, or the type of vacation.  Do you want to rent a house, a hotel room, a condo and plan your own activities? Perhaps you would like a cruise or vacation club where everything is included.

  1. Decide your vacation budget and stick to it. You and your spouse can decide how much you have available to spend for vacation. Have some fun researching and sharing what you find on the internet for transportation, places to stay, restaurants, can’t miss things to see and do. Sit down together and develop a budget and don’t forget to include “mad money” for must have kid toys etc.
  1. Identify possible argument hot buttons ahead of time and make a plan to avoid them.
  • Don’t expect mom to cook every meal while on vacation. If you rent a house or condo, plan to shop for or bring food that you know everyone will eat and keep it simple. If you plan to stay in a hotel, chose one with breakfast included so everyone will have a variety to choose from. Scout out restaurants with a variety of food for everyone in your budget range in the area of your vacation destination. Decide where to eat each day or night before you get there.
  • Keep in mind the ages of your children when planning vacation activities. You may really want to go water skiing, however, if your children are all under the age of 8, you may want to take a babysitter or grandparents along so they can watch the little ones while you go do some “grown up” activities. On the flip side, older children are easily bored, so plan to keep them busy with sightseeing or adventure activities.
  • Space and Downtime. Whenever is crammed into a tiny hotel room together, tempers can flare. Get adjoining rooms or rent something with some extra space. It’s tempting to want to go-go-go while one vacation, everyone gets cranky when they miss a nap or don’t get enough sleep. Build time in the vacation schedule each day for downtime.

The simple act of planning a vacation with your spouse can bring you closer together and you can enjoy it as much as the vacation itself.

Posted 6/9/2021

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