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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.

Are You on the Same Page With Your Spouse?

Humans develop and evolve daily, and our values and needs can change over time. Therefore, it's not a surprise that staying on the same page with our partners is a challenge. Being on the same page involves being aligned on the things that matter to you and your future, such as lifestyle, kids, money, and friends. Needs in a healthy marriage involve trust, shared values, and a respectful connection. To avoid conflict, ensure your list matches your partner as closely as possible. 

Six Reasons Partners May Not Get What They Need from Their Marriage

1. They Don't Know What We Want.

Try making a list of your wants and write why they are essential. Clarity means you clearly understand what you desire from your relationship so that you can move forward. 

2. They Don't Know How to Ask for Help

It might seem overwhelming to find the right words to express our feelings. Knowing the exact words is less important than the attitude we present when making our needs known.

3. They Aren't Sure It Will Change Anything

Many couples sabotage their marriage by failing to push through barriers and open the conversation. Knowing our partner hears our needs is the thing that keeps the conversation moving forward. When that is gone, it strips us of the desire to try.

4. They Are Afraid of What Their Spouse Will Think

Fearing rejection keeps us from opening our hearts and meeting our needs to move our relationship forward as a couple. Marriage should be the safety zone where we can freely express our needs, desires, and wishes. When this freedom is not there, it is a sign of trust issues that can affect every aspect of married life.

5. They Feel Guilty for Wanting What We Want

If feeling guilty keeps us from expressing our needs, a negative cycle can form that keeps us in a downward spiral of unfulfilled desires and unmet needs. Part of the beauty of a marriage partnership is that our needs are known, and our partner responds positively.


6. They Want Their Spouse to Be Genuine in Meeting Their Needs

We don't want the meeting their needs to be a burden or obligation, so we withhold asking for what we need and want. It is not fair to expect our spouse to read our minds. Being clear about our needs and desires allows them to love us well.

Wants vs. Needs in a Relationship

A need in a marriage is something you must have, whereas a want is something you desire. A relationship feels safer and more secure when needs, boundaries, and expectations are known. Wants are desires, but things will still be good if they aren't present.

The Danger of Unmet Needs in Your Marriage

Your brain pursues romantic love with long-term intentions. Being in love benefits your physical and mental well-being, self-esteem, and relationship satisfaction. We know that effective relationship communication is essential for happiness and longevity in the marriage. Healthy relationships meet the basic needs of each partner involved by supporting, sharing, and giving to one another.

How to Talk to Your Spouse About What You Need & Want.

  • Figure out your priorities so you know what you want.

It will help if your needs are listed and prioritized so you can talk to your partner about               what you want and need and have clarity.

  • Practice the talk. 

  • Choose the right time and place

  • Learn how to communicate assertively.

  • Be specific and clear.

  • Ask for one thing at a time to avoid overload.

  • Let your partner know your boundaries. 

  • Avoid blame. Use" I "statements.

Marriage is a Two-way Street. Discuss Your and Their Needs and Wants.

When your partner responds to your wants and needs, hearing and responding to what they need is crucial. Listen to what your partner says with an open mind and respectful attitude and give as well as take.

Lovingly State What You Need and Listen for their Feedback.

Expressing your needs and wants with love and affection motivates your spouse to continue doing the same for you. In this way, you demonstrate your commitment and loyalty to them. 

What Happens When We Share our Wants and Needs with Our Spouses?

Loving your partner allows you to open yourself to them and discover your inner capacity for unconditional love, which can inspire your partner to do the same. For both partners to be and stay on the same page, they must understand and respond to each other's needs. Staying on the same page with our partners is demanding and requires constant communication and checking in with each other because humans can change over time.

Trying to be on the same page with your spouse is very important. Maintaining your marriage and family bond requires good communication techniques and a lot of openness. Consider using Marriage in a Box if you need helpful advice and suggestions on working through this.

Marriage In a Box is a great resource that gives you access to the simple tools, techniques, and solutions that professional marriage counselors use for typical relationship issues. Marriage coaching is also available on the site. You can set goals and earn rewards. Feel free to check out the available kit and sources of information online

Posted 3/17/2023

Fifteen Endearing Rituals That Will Strengthen Your Marriage

A long-lasting and secure relationship is about helping you and your partner know that they are the most important part of your life. Your partner needs to feel more important to you than anyone else. Spending time and energy on the relationship and making your words and actions consistent is necessary for your partner to feel loved. Relationship rituals become habits of the heart for romantic couples. Even the tiniest routine you develop carries a special meaning.  

What are relationship rituals?

Relationship rituals' definition includes dedicating a specific time, tradition, or holiday to the person you love. It could be as simple as meeting after work on Mondays to celebrate getting through the day. It makes that day more pleasant instead of the struggle typical of the first day of the week. Then, of course, you have traditional birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations, or any special event. Plus, couples develop their holiday routines apart from extended families. That includes spiritual rituals for couples, particularly during religious holidays. 

Why does every marriage need relationship rituals?

Rituals are essential to a relationship because they increase a couple's intimacy by strengthening the bond the mates have established. Keep these relationship rituals fresh and exciting by changing the small routines instead of continuing them. For instance, if you have a regular coffee date every Thursday, change it a little to stay fresh over time. Change the coffee date to a different day and make it frozen yogurt sundaes or iced lattes in the park.

 No one wants their long-term commitment to become predictable, dull, or grow into a slump. The idea is to look forward to fun activities in your relationship. Rituals involve specific actions that become crucial to the union. For most couples, it feels like a threat to the relationship when they don't occur. Traditions can quickly give warmth and good feelings, releasing a chemical in the brain known as the cuddle hormone. We become addicted and want more of this, making us feel more attached and connected. 

Fifteen Relationship Rituals

Maintaining rituals helps couples establish strong, healthy, and thriving partnerships that will grow stronger. Routines provide couples security, offer continuity of intimacy, and deepen the connection. Mutually creating a list of rituals helps couples establish those that will satisfy each mate to consider everyone's needs and wants.

  1. Quality Pillow Talk- Talk daily about future hopes and dreams, vacations, fantasies, secrets, and vulnerabilities without judgment.

  2. No digital electronics time- This is a good time for bonding rituals such as:

  • Cook dinner together.

  • Have an intimate evening of conversation and a beverage of choice.

  • Sit around the fire.

  • Enjoy a car ride in the country. 

  1. Time for exercise-Walk, jog, or hike, or go to the gym together.

  2. News sharing- When there is news, your mate should be the first you tell, not friends or family. 

  3. Daily say goodbye and hello- Use a hug/ kiss or soft words to start the day with affection.

  4. Small everyday gestures of caring-Give back rubs for relaxation, ask about your partner's day, and offer appreciation and encouragement. 

  5. Date Night-Keep things memorable, fresh, and fun. Use discounts like Groupon.

  6. Flirty Notes and Texts- A surprise note in your partner's lunch or on a mirror will let your mate know how special they are to you. The little things we do can do more for a relationship than buying an expensive gift. 

  7. Time to talk-Set aside time to chat. Let the kids know it's adult time. Take time to establish rules, such as no phones or electronic devices and limits on non-controversial or contentious subjects.

  8. Do something new together- take a dance class, boat, golf, share a hobby or take a college class.

  9. Celebrations- Holiday rituals and find other reasons to celebrate to keep positive energy flowing.

  10. Volunteer together-Give back to the community. (food bank, homeless shelter)

  11.  Non-sexual Affection- The focus is on the time you are spending and being affectionate with one another; non-sexual touch is essential such as cuddling and holding hands. Letting each other know how important you are to one another in physical ways is necessary. 

  12. Couples retreats or vacations-Small weekend excursions can refresh you.

  13. Sexual Intimacy. Keep intimate times fresh by trying new things periodically.

Consistent rituals strongly influence the warmth of your marriage and family bond. If you need helpful advice and suggestions on establishing them, consider Marriage in a Box.

Marriage In a Box is a great resource that gives you access to the simple tools, techniques, and solutions that professional marriage counselors use for typical relationship issues. Marriage coaching is also available on the site. You can set goals and earn rewards. Feel free to check out the available kit and sources of information online.

Posted 2/24/2023

Reignite the Passion in Your Marriage

Over time in a marriage, it is easy for things to become routine and for that spark to be lost that was there in the beginning. It is vital to keep the emotional and physical connection alive and work at keeping the passion from diminishing in a marriage. Studies have shown that sexual desire and satisfaction were higher among people who had intercourse frequently, and incorporated more variety, set the mood, and communicated about lovemaking. 

Sexual Intimacy Thrives on the Connection between Partners. 

One of the most obvious links between sex and emotional connection is that sexual desire has a chemical effect on our bodies and emotions. The release of a bonding hormone called oxytocin, occurs with positive touch and during sex. The release of oxytocin and other bonding and pleasure hormones can make casual sex fun, but it doesn't mean that love or affection will occur. However, in long-term romantic relationships, sex and emotional connection are entirely bound together.

Timing is Everything when it comes to Romance.

Timing is everything in relationships. It's essential to be in the right relationship at the right time. Our maturity level changes our wants and needs and determines our readiness for a relationship. It's important to be with someone who understands what you want and allows you to strive for it. Research shows that timing is vital to boost or undermine a relationship's commitment. A higher degree of readiness is associated with higher commitment to the relationship.

Put some Sexy in it to Create the Mood.

Making an effort to set the mood is vital. Setting the mood may mean keeping phones silent, and coordinating schedules. It's essential to have some calm, relaxing moments and enjoy ourselves and our partner. Setting the mood with candles, music, touching, kissing, and snuggling go a long way toward fueling passion. Open communication and soft affirmations with your partner also help set the mood. 

Communicate Openly about What you Need and Desire.

Openly communicate with your partner about what you desire so you're on the same page. If you wish to revitalize your sexual relationship, communication is critical. It is not the amount or quality of sexual relations that makes or breaks the marriage, but rather the degree of fit between partners' sexual needs and priorities. It may feel awkward initially, but such mutuality comes only with communication.

Provide Positive Encouragement with Whispered Affirmations.

All spouses want to be loved as a whole package and built up by their partners.

Sex positivity is a shame-free, empowering perspective that views consensual sexuality as a healthy, important part of our human experience. Being sexually positive includes being open-minded about gender identity or orientation, nudity, body positivity, medical issues, disabilities, etc. It doesn't matter what your sexual preferences are; the point is to embrace your sexual playfulness, wants, and needs without judging yourself or others. Sex positivity can help a person feel affirmed in a sexually marginalized group in that it promotes feeling comfortable about one's sexuality. To increase your mate's confidence, consider sending a sincere, sweet text, note, or whispering affirmations in their ear. Here are some examples: 

  • You look sexy.

  • I love it when you…

  • I love your kisses.

  • You make me smile when you…

  • I feel safe in your arms and next to you.

  • I am having the best time with you right now.

  • I love all of you.

  • I accept you exactly as you are without changing a thing.

Feel free to try something new-like role-playing.

Movie sex scenes are so sexy because of the acting. Ordinary people can get that same feeling with just a little role-playing. Role-playing with your partner can feel intimidating, weird, and awkward if you're new to it, but with practice and communication comes more naturally. Knowing what each of you hopes to get from the experience is essential. Your partner might want to add this to your usual rotation. Some people like to use role-playing to act out fantasies. Whatever you decide, make sure it fits both of you. Communication with your partner about sex is necessary. You may not change your look or name but act a little differently (dominant or submissive) in the bedroom. Pretend it's your first date all over again. 

It's important to reignite the passion in your marriage to keep your romance alive. To find helpful advice and solutions, consider Marriage in a Box.

Marriage In a Box is a great resource that gives you access to the simple tools, techniques, and solutions that professional marriage counselors use for typical relationship issues. Marriage coaching is also available on the site. You can set goals and earn rewards. Feel free to check out the available kit and sources of information online.

Posted 2/22/2023

Ten Ways to Make Your Partner Feel Special.

With the rising number of couples filing for divorce, it seems more challenging than ever to make a marriage last until death do you part. What do those couples whose unions last for decades know about love that others don't? Here are some of the best marriage tips from those who've stuck it out for half a century. These are some keys to marital success. 

  1. Make your Partner feel wanted.

Knowing and regularly hearing that your spouse loves you is crucial and can make your marriage last a lifetime.

If you want your partner to feel desired:

Let them know they are on your mind often.

Let your partner know you are putting them first.

Accept their unique strengths and weaknesses and that you love them for that.

  1. Be Physically Affectionate every day.

To make your spouse feel loved means listening to their wants and needs and giving physical affection. Physical affection, like hugs, kisses, and holding hands, makes your partner feel appreciated and loved. Try to make the most of each moment with your partner and kiss each other goodnight. 

  1. Show Appreciation for the Little things they do. 

You are starting your day right with a genuine compliment about something you admire about your partner (their appearance, personality, or accomplishments). Acknowledge and show appreciation to your partner for the small gestures and everyday acts of kindness that your partner does to keep the fire burning. Things like picking up groceries on the way home from work or cooking dinner one night make a difference.

"Relationships are built on love, trust, and mutual appreciation. Making your partner feel special daily is vital to maintaining a robust and healthy relationship. 

  1. Ditch your Devices and Give them your Undivided Attention.

Give your undivided attention to your partner by putting away your devices, staying off the cell phone, and being genuinely interested in doing something together. Activities that foster closeness, like watching their favorite movie, snuggling together on the couch when reading, or just asking about their day, will deepen your relationship.

  1. Try to improve your Bad Habits.

Improve as a partner by putting forth some effort to get out of bad habits and avoid arguments, such as picking up after yourself or cleaning up the kitchen after cooking. Ask how you could be a better partner and put your love into action to show you value your partner's concerns and needs.

  1. Give them Frequent Compliments.

When you tell your partner things like you think they look beautiful, you serve as your beloved's best mirror. Just as you need to feel desired and wanted, so does your partner. When you verbalize their best qualities, you affirm them and remind yourself why you married them. 

  1. Do Small Acts of Kindness.

Little gestures that improve your partner's life show how much you care. Whether you make your partner a lunch for work, pick up dinner for them on the way home, or place a quick call to help them schedule an appointment. Many kinds of actions non-verbally reflect your investment in the relationship. These simple gestures are a friendly reminder you are in their corner.

  1. Be your Partner's Best Friend and biggest Cheerleader. 

Constant criticism and negativity are relationship killers. Encourage and support your partner in their endeavors. Compliment them in front of your family, and tell them how proud you are. Try to stand up for your partner when someone puts them down, and always be on and by their side through the rough times of life.

  1. Spend Time With them. 

Time together is essential; even if you're just couch surfing. There is no substitute. If they're watching sports, cuddle next to them to release the feel-good hormones. When they're washing the car, grab a sponge and help, bring them a cold drink, or stand nearby and chat while scrubbing. It is nice just to be close together. Getting active together is one of the things you can do to make your marriage happier.

  1. Tell them "I Love You" often.

You can never express the three words "I Love You" enough, and no one gets tired of hearing them. Say these heartfelt words meaningfully while giving your partner your full attention. Slip in an "I love you" as you wake up, drift off to sleep, and in other aspects of your daily life to help build a better relationship.

Knowing and hearing that your spouse loves and wants you can make your marriage last a lifetime. Be vocal and express how much you love them. Show your partner they are loved and appreciated by regularly telling them how much they mean to you. Be quick to forgive and avoid going to bed angry.

The success of your marriage hinges on learning to practice these behaviors to achieve stability and repair any damages. If you need helpful advice and solutions on how to deal with them, consider Marriage in a Box.

Marriage In a Box is a great resource that gives you access to the simple tools, techniques, and solutions that professional marriage counselors use for typical relationship issues. Marriage coaching is also available on the site. You can set goals and earn rewards. Feel free to check out the available kit and sources of information online.

Posted 2/15/2023

Your Guide to Smoothly Navigating Major Life Changes

Everyone experiences major life changes at some point in their lives. Whether you’re starting a new career, ending a relationship, or simply figuring out your next steps after a stressful event, navigating significant transitions can be stressful. However, with the right strategies and adequate support, you can take these major life changes in stride. Here are some tips for navigating major life changes smoothly, from the experts at Marriage In A Box.

Let Off Some Steam

Sometimes, when going through big changes, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with pent-up emotions, so it’s important to find healthy ways to let off steam. Exercise is great for managing anxiety, as well as creative pursuits like writing or painting, if that helps you process emotions more effectively. You can also talk with friends and family members who are supportive of your transition if you need emotional support during this time.


Relaxation techniques are essential for making it through a major life change with ease. Use deep breathing exercises or mindfulness meditation when you feel stressed or anxious. You can also practice progressive muscle relaxation by tensing and releasing each muscle group in your body one by one. These techniques will help you stay grounded during times of stress so that you can think more clearly.

Stay Positive

It can be tempting to focus on the difficult parts of a major life change, but staying optimistic is essential for navigating transitions smoothly. Remind yourself of the positive aspects of this new situation, such as potential growth opportunities that come with taking on something new or the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a challenging task. Staying focused on what excites you about this change will give you the motivation to keep going even when things get tough.

Try a New Hobby

Making time for hobbies is an effective way to relax and recharge. You might look for one that allows you to spend time outdoors, such as hiking, biking, or gardening. Gardening is especially beneficial because studies have shown that spending time outdoors increases mental well-being, reduces stress levels, and improves mood. Not only that, gardening itself requires patience and dedication, which can prove helpful during major transitions. Take a look at for expert tips on starting a garden and reviews of the products you'll need.

Re-Evaluate Your Goals

When making any kind of big life change, it’s important to set achievable goals for yourself so that you don’t become overwhelmed by the process. Break down your goals into smaller tasks so that they seem less intimidating. This will also help you keep track of your progress. Don't give up if your initial attempts don't go as expected. Instead, view each difficulty as a chance to gain new knowledge that may help you in the future.

Contemplate a Career Change

If changing careers is on the menu, consider using an online resume builder to create a stunning, impressive document that will highlight your skills and accomplishments. This tool lets you customize professional-looking templates, so you don't have to build your own from scratch. Not only that, you can save massively by using a resume generator, both in terms of time and money.

Making it through major life changes doesn't have to be such a difficult challenge — there are always ways in which you can make transitions manageable. With these guidelines, anyone can traverse any potentially thorny terrain without stress. Whether you want to make a career change, focus on your mental health with a hobby like gardening, or learn to set more realistic goals, remember that you can take charge of your own path.

Posted 2/11/2023

Tips for Finding Time With Your Partner If You’re New Parents

Welcoming a child into the world is something you will never ever forget. What makes this even more special is sharing this journey with your partner as you provide each other with love and support along the way. Here's how to make sure you make time for each other during this special phase of life.

If you are the parents of a newborn and are finding it challenging to balance parenthood and your marriage, visit Marriage In A Box for customized relationship plans that will help you and your partner see eye to eye.

Share duties

Sharing the responsibilities of caring for a new baby will help you stay cool, calm, and collected as you tend to your newborn around the clock. Making sure you each handle a portion of diaper duty, cooking dinner, or washing laundry can also give you the time you need as an individual to take time out when you need to.

Go to bed early

As tempting as it is to want to maximize your day and make the most of it as you savor those sweet newborn moments, making sure you go to bed at an acceptable hour should ensure you feel well-rested the next day. If you are getting up multiple times during the night to feed the baby, then those extra minutes of precious sleep will make a world of difference in those first few months of sleep deprivation. 

Also, if you are putting your newborn to sleep at a relatively early hour, this will allow you and your partner the time to catch up and spend time with each other before the day is done. Spending time with one another, even if it's just watching a movie or having a romantic dinner at home, will help keep the spark alive. Wearing something flirty and fun to bed at night should help too. A nightgown that also functions as a nursing gown is sure to help with spontaneous feeds during the night as well.

Keep things in perspective

As joyous as this time is with your precious bundle of love, it can also be a physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding time in one's life, which, if left unchecked, can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety if you are left feeling overwhelmed most of the time. This is where keeping things in perspective will help you get through this phase. Remembering that your newborn will be oh so little for a very short period of time should encourage you to make the most of every moment with your baby as well as your partner so you can look back on this time with loving memories.

Working from home and caring for a newborn

 Caring for a newborn is hard enough; if you work from home, this can be even more of a challenge if there is little separation between home and work life. To ensure you get the rest and rejuvenation you need, taking breaks, even if it's just for half an hour, can give you the mental and physical break your body needs to make it through a tiring day — and an even more tiring night. This is where having a partner available and on standby to assist you when you need to step out for a bit can be the saving grace you need not experience total burnout. Alternatively, you can get additional help from a trusted au pair or babysitter to watch over your child while you work.

 Remember — don't feel guilty about taking time for yourself, and as a couple — you're going to need it to help you be an even better parent and partner to your new family.

Author bio:

Leslie Campos is the creator of, an online resource for busy parents who want to make their health a priority. With tips, tools, and resources to meet the needs of both body and mind, Leslie's site provides practical guidance on how to live a healthier life without sacrificing quality time with family. From nutrition advice to stress-management techniques, aims to support exhausted parents from around the world as they strive for greater well-being.

by Leslie Campos  | 

Love Means Learning To Say Sorry

Even the healthiest of happy couples argue and sometimes fight despite the hard work put into their relationship. People with the most loving intentions are human, won't always handle relationship conflict well, and mess up sometimes. We occasionally cause harm to our partners and wound them with words requiring a sincere apology and a do-over. It can be seen as a well-learned lesson to do better moving forward. Overall, saying sorry in a relationship indicates that you want to get along and continue with the other person. Apologizing shows that you are upset about making them feel disrespected or hurt. It's important to say you are sorry in a marriage.

Five Steps to Say You're Sorry to Your Spouse

1. Own your mistake and Take Responsibility for Your Actions.

  • When you've broken a rule of social conduct, apologizing can re-establish that you know the "rules" and should uphold them, making others feel safe.

  • Apologizing shows the injured party that you know the incident was your fault and can help them feel better and save face and dignity.

  • Apologizing gets people talking again, makes people feel comfortable with each other, and conveys the value you place on the relationship.

  • A sincere apology allows you to mend trust with people and lets them know you're not proud of what you did and are generally careful not to hurt others. It pulls the focus on your virtues, not your mistakes.

2. Remember to pay attention to your mistakes. Acknowledge Their Feelings.

Don't ignore or make light of the situation, but respect your partner's feelings and show empathy. They only want to be understood, accepted for their feelings, and cared for by you. Taking responsibility for the hurtful things you said or did and being sincere in your apology will go a long way. Own up to precisely what you did wrong and identify it.

 It's necessary to follow through with actions that reflect why you apologize. Be patient, showing you're sorry can take time. You may find it hard not to become defensive when your partner expresses discontent with something you did or said.  Continue to show that you learned from the incident and are taking steps to prevent the same thing from happening repeatedly.  

Put yourself in your partner's shoes and be flexible with how you think about the situation. Your partner will need your empathy to work through the conflict so that it doesn't linger and be detrimental to your relationship.

3. Repair the Damage & Mend Trust

Apologizing shows that you value your union. It can help heal by getting people to talk and be at ease again. A sincere apology lets your partner know you're not proud of what you did and do not want to repeat the behavior. An apology can let people know you don't like to hurt others and put the focus on your virtues rather than on your mistakes.

4. State You Will Do Better and Look to make Changes.

If you want to do better and save your relationship:

  1. Start by saying sorry and showing remorse, specifically by admitting to the wrong sincerely.

  2. Avoid excuses for your words and actions, and let the person know you recognize the results of your actions.

  3. Empathize with what they are going through due to what you said or did.

  4. Make an effort to repair the relationship and offer strategies to make things right, or ask if there's anything you can do. 

Seek ways to repair and restore the relationship and demonstrate that it won't happen again. Try to emphasize that no one is perfect and we all fail, but we can change and stop repeating mistakes. For example, promise to manage time better if you're always late.

5. Let It Go and Begin Again

When issues are overlooked they can accumulate and cause resentment. So it's a good practice to let go of minor slights and big wounds as they happen so that you can begin again without the baggage. Begin again" rituals are helpful such as a mindful apology, a hug, a kiss, or a high-five, then taking active steps to improve in that area.This is a reliable way to turn lemons into lemonade. 

People in relationships are human and will need to apologize for their missteps at times in relationships. So it is crucial to be willing to say sorry and make changes quickly to save your marriage. If you need helpful advice and solutions on how to deal with these times, consider Marriage in a Box.

Marriage In a Box is a great resource that gives you access to the simple tools, techniques, and solutions that professional marriage counselors use for typical relationship issues. Marriage coaching is also available on the site. You can set goals and earn rewards. Feel free to check out the available kit and sources of information online.

Posted 1/18/2023

Five Behaviors that Undermine Your Marriage

There are healthy communication habits that build up a relationship and those that are unhealthy and can tear down a relationship. Research has shown that when couples utilize criticism, defensiveness, dishonesty, stonewalling, and contempt during difficult moments, they will turn toward each other less and grow distant, and the likelihood of divorce increases. Constant put-downs are a form of emotional abuse and can cause self-esteem problems with those on the receiving end and destroy relationships. This article will discuss these five toxic behaviors and their antidotes.


Negative criticism is very toxic to relationships and can feel like an attack. It has the effect of tearing down rather than building up, affecting self-esteem, and causing stress, anger, and resentment. When someone experiences an attack, the hurt causes an escalation of negative feelings and behaviors and may compel retaliation. A complaint focuses on the problem, while a criticism focuses on character trait flaws. Criticism uses the words "always" or "never" to describe something your partner does or doesn't do. Criticism is different from a complaint. Complaints are a normal and healthy aspect of a relationship and are a way to bring problems to light. A complaint focuses on the issue, and criticism sees the partner's character, personality, or looks at the problem.

 Antidote: Bring up the same topic gently, which is a better way to resolve it.

 A gentle startup sounds like this:

  • Expressing what you noticed.
  • Sharing your feelings.
  • Stating your need.

For example:

"When I come home from work and see dirty dishes piled in the sink (what you noticed), I feel tired and frustrated (sharing your feelings). I need to walk into a peaceful environment.”


Contempt is the most dangerous of all behaviors because it undermines all reconciling efforts. At a minimum, it is very mean and becomes emotional abuse. It is a significant indicator of divorce. Contempt is supercharged criticism because it takes on a position of superiority, and the interaction becomes uncaring, demeaning, and affectionless. When people have contempt, they can be cynical and express their discontent using shame and mean-spirited sarcasm to put someone down. Some examples of complaint vs. criticism vs. contempt are:

  • Complaint: It is frustrating to walk into a sink full of dishes when I'm tired after working all day."
  • Criticism: You always leave the dishes in the sink because you don't care.
  • Contempt: I don't know why I would expect you to clean up the dishes; you're lazy, just like your family.

Antidote: Regularly express appreciation, gratitude, affection, and respect in your relationship.


Defensiveness occurs when someone regularly receives criticism and contempt to try and protect themselves. A defensive person is uncomfortable admitting mistakes and shortcomings and may become rigid about their stand. They may turn around to become critical and contemptuous of their partner (give back as they get), or they may try to make excuses for their mistakes to downplay them. The argument is then deflected by changing the topic to the partner's shortcomings and becomes a cycle of never addressed accusations.

Antidote: Take responsibility, even if only for part of the conflict, and try to reach a solution.


Being lied to repeatedly is a red flag that can make it difficult to trust and build a solid foundation in a relationship. Honesty regarding spending, internet or other relationships, and substance use can create cracks in a marriage. Fostering secrecy regarding these issues can create secret lives that keep our partners out.

Lack of emotional honesty involves withholding, denying, or lying about how we feel about our partner, marriage, or ourselves. It is best to be upfront and honest with our partners rather than cover up how we feel.

Antidote: The antidote is to be honest with ourselves and others.

Withdrawal or Stonewalling

Stonewalling is when someone in the conversation shuts down, goes silent, blocks, and refuses to acknowledge the other person. With stonewalling, it seems like their partner doesn't care about them. The person who uses stonewalling is likely in a state of fight or flight. Stress hormones are then released when the body detects a threat. In conflict, sometimes our bodies will see it as any other threat and release stress hormones, and we will experience a racing heart. The parts of our brain responsible for relational behaviors like problem-solving, humor, and affection shut down.

Antidote: It is impossible to have a productive conversation when someone is in a stress response, so both people in the exchange need to agree to take a break and self-soothe.

  • Use deep breathing.
  • Take a walk or exercise.
  • Relaxing activities, such as reading, painting, etc.

Stress hormones will take about twenty minutes to clear out of the bloodstream, and after taking a break, return to the conversation when calm. This return builds trust within the relationship.

Most people will use these negative behaviors at times in relationships. It is crucial to recognize their use and make repairs quickly to work toward utilizing them less and less. If these behaviors become chronic, they can break down a marriage. If you need helpful advice and solutions on how to deal with them, consider Marriage in a Box.

Marriage In a Box is a great resource that gives you access to the simple tools, techniques, and solutions that professional marriage counselors use for typical relationship issues. Marriage coaching is also available on the site. You can set goals and earn rewards. Feel free to check out the available kit and sources of information.

Posted 1/11/2023

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