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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.

How To Get Out Of Debt Together

Most couples fight about money, it’s kind of unavoidable. You both have different spending habits and attitudes toward money. One partner may be frugal while the other could be more of a spender. At times, one or both partners may be reckless when it comes to spending and, before you know it, a sizeable amount of debt has been accumulated. Debt affects your financial well-being and your ability to reach goals in your life together. Unless you can get a handle on it, debt can ruin a marriage. Here are tips on getting out of debt as a couple.

Talk It Out Together

When it comes to talks about your financial situation, you need to be 100 percent upfront and honest. You may even have trouble being honest with yourself. But you can’t start moving toward a better future together until you know exactly where you stand, so tackle it together.

As hard as it may sound, you’ll need to lay everything out on the table. Each person should share information about all their debt—whether it’s from credit cards, student loans, medical expenses, or loans from family. This includes what debt you have, the amounts and interest rates, and the repayment plan. It’s also important to express any concerns you have.

Order your credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus. You can order one for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. You’ll emerge with a clearer understanding of what the true state of your finances are and can plot a path forward.

Develop A Plan to Pay It Off Together

If you do decide to tackle the debt together, will you be paying it off jointly, or will each partner be responsible for paying half? Develop a course of action, and figure out a timeline as to when you want to achieve this by. Just make sure that your plan is realistic financially and that you are both on the same page with the plan. You don’t want one partner feeling like they’re the one making all the concessions and compromises on behalf of the other. It’s a joint venture with a shared goal and a mutually beneficial outcome.

Your partner’s debt doesn’t mean you have to turn and run in the other direction. Although talking about money can be a tricky thing to navigate, it’s essential to a healthy long-term relationship. Openly communicating and coming up with a plan to tackle the debt can help you and your partner be more confident about tackling the debt and ultimately building a better life together.

 

Posted 4/24/2018

5 Ways a Budget Can Improve Your Marriage

5 Ways a Budget Can Improve Your Marriage

A marriage is a joining of two lives and most couples welcome the merging of their households, dreams and lives---except when it comes to finances. Shared finances can be a scary endeavor for many couples because it reveals a lot about who you are and can be an emotional subject. If you and your spouse are going to be able to build a life together though, you need to do what it takes to merge your finances so you can take care of your day-to-day needs and plan for your future together. One of the best ways to do this is with a shared budget.

A budget isn’t just a joint bank account ledger or worksheet. It provides a springboard for getting to know each other better, planning your future together and can actually improve your relationship. Here are 5 ways a budget can improve your marriage.

A Budget...

Is a communication tool to strengthen your marriage. A budget is more than just numbers – it allows each of you to understand why you have the habits, feelings, and thoughts you have about money and get a handle on it together. If you have different money goals or ideas of how to create a budget plan, keep talking about it. It will get easier to talk about and come to agreement on if you have open, honest, and frequent conversations about your finances. 

Allows both of you to figure out what it takes to run your household and live within your means.  A budget necessitates that you put down all of the expenditures you make-even the small ones that you are most likely to forget. Once you know what you are spending, it is easy to talk about what are essential expenditures that need to be made each month and what frivolous expenditures you can cut back on. This way there are no surprises and thus, fewer fights about money.

Gets those money skeletons out of the closet. It’s not easy to admit having student loan or credit card debt, or not having a savings account. However, these are just temporary circumstances. Opening your finances up as budget items to discuss provides an opportunity for you to collaborate together on a plan to deal with those skeletons. Two heads are better than one.

Frees up spare cash so you can spend it on things you really want. Once a budget has been established and you have been working the budget for a while, you should both be able to see an improvement in your financial health. More than likely you will see more cash that you can now delegate for things you both really want like that special vacation or a remodeling project etc.

Lets you focus on common saving and investment goals. Every couple needs to put away money for the their future together. What that future will look like depends a lot of your discussion and agreement about what you really want from life and how much it will take to get there. It takes years for a couple to save up monies for big purchases like a home or car, put away monies for children’s education and retirement. Budgeting can help build in regular amounts for savings and investments for your future.

Posted 4/17/2018

3 Ways to Get on the Same Financial Page as Your Spouse

Most couples avoid talking about finances because those conversations often end in big arguments. Keeping the peace often overrules financial decisions so most husbands and wives are not on the same page when it comes to their views on spending, saving, investing etc.

When you get married you lose your right to run off and do your own thing. You’re not independent anymore. No where is that reality reflected more than in how you spend your money. Most financial differences are due to a failure to effectively communicate our needs, fears, and complaints and instead let them accumulate over time. You need to learn to talk openly and calmly about your money issues. It is not very likely that your financial situation will change or that you and your spouse will get on the same financial page without some type of agreement or compromise.

  • Set a budget together

Many people just pay their bills each month and make purchases, as they see fit never really knowing where all the money goes. When a coupe agrees to sit down and make a budget together it can shed a lot of light on where each of you actually spends your money (your priorities) and how much is actually left over to put aside toward your goals (your hopes and dreams). By setting a budget together you are taking responsibility for your spending and deciding together what your common priorities and goals as a couple are. That builds a strong bond in the marriage.

  • Practice the art of compromise

Often times, it is not the actual amount that one spouse spends on an item but rather what the item was. Our spending and saving habits are influenced by the way we were raised and our past experiences. Many women are raised to invest in clothing and beauty products to enhance their attractiveness, while males are often raised to spend their extra money on sporting activities or cars.

A wife’s purchase of a $120 designer outfit may appear outrageous to her spouse, while $200 for center court basketball tickets could appear foolish to his spouse. What is usually missing is communicating in advance about our purchase desires and learning to compromise. 

Some couples implement a purchase threshold where purchases beyond a certain dollar amount require discussion and agreement of both spouses before the purchase is made. That way each spouse gets to weigh in on whether the purchase is in the budget or not and if it will only benefit one spouse, the other spouse should receive something else in return.

  • Discuss your financial goals

Every couple should pend time talking about your dreams and goals for the future. Don’t just talk about what you would love to have or do for yourself, but also what you would love to have or do together. Perhaps you want to save up a down payment for a house or a car, put money aside for your child to go to college and don’t forget about retirement. Once you do discuss your financial goals, you’ll realize that those dreams aren’t going to happen unless a change is made in your spending habits. That change has to be made together.

Working together on your finances is never easy but it can be rewarding and keep you from making some serious financial missteps If you work on it together.

Posted 4/10/2018

Surviving An Affair Involves Forgiveness & Rebuilding Trust

Research studies show that 41% of marriages have been affected by either a physical or emotional affair. Some marriages do end up in divorce but many marriages can overcome and survive an affair.

Most people don’t really go out looking for an affair. It just sort of happens. It could be a co-worker or a friend of the opposite sex that a spouse turns to during a bad patch in his or her own marriage. This new relationship can become so exhilarating that he/she doesn’t seem to be able to stop. They start sneaking off to be together and sharing things together that they don’t share with their spouse or that they used to share with their spouse.

Marriages often become so overwhelmed with kids, career, and household responsibilities that the couple loses that feeling of being in love that they felt before they married. The affair sparks that “being in love” feeling and the adoration that they used to feel from their own marriage partner before the marriage became routine or difficult. Eventually though, something happens that causes the affair to come to light.

The key to a marriage surviving an affair lies in the couples’ good marital history and both spouses willingness to try to make it work. If you marriage is going to survive, both of you must feel that the marriage is worth saving and that there is still some love left. Often times the spouse that cheated will admit that he/she still loves their spouse. The spouse that was not involved in the affair will likely have a difficult time dealing with the feeling of betrayal and loss of trust. It will take time and work to rebuild the trust and respect that a marriage relationship requires.

In order for your marriage to survive an infidelity, it will require forgiveness, rebuilding trust and respect and love. That is a lot of rebuilding, which will not come easily or immediately. Rebuilding means regaining trust. The partner that cheated must show that they clearly understand that they have betrayed their partner’s trust and hurt them deeply and they are willing to change and work to earn back their trust. The partner that has been betrayed will need a lot of proof that the partner that committed the infidelity is reliable and safe to love again before they will be able to trust them.

The affair has to end. There is no way to continue to see or be around the person that you had an affair with and restore your marriage. Cut off the relationship completely. You must take full responsibility for your actions and choices.

Don’t try to do this alone. Find friends, a support group or a counselor that can come alongside of you and that you can open up to and share your feelings with. You need a safe haven to work through your feelings with and that is not your spouse.

Stop recycling the problem. The affair happened. Continuously rehashing the affair will only escalate the hurt and pain and not move you toward a resolution. While neither of you will forget the affair, you don’t need to drag it into the present at every opportunity.

Forgive your partner. Forgiveness does not mean condoning your partner’s infidelity. It means you are not holding it against your partner and holding it over their heads as ammunition for the rest of your relationship.  The partner that committed the infidelity must work hard to rebuild that bond of trust that has been broken. Do not lie, hide anything but be completely open and honest with your partner.

Set and respect Boundaries. For both partners, this will be a long healing journey.

Give your partner time and space to vent their feelings. You have deeply wounded your partner, so it is natural that they react with pain and rage. While they work through that, you need to continue to apologize and be compassionate and understanding with your spouse. Provide them with affection, attention and appreciation every day. In short, love them through the healing process.

Be Dependable and keep your promise. Call when you say you will call. Be home when you say you will be home. Do what you say you are gong to do. NO lies. No excuses. No exceptions.

An affair does not have to be the end of your marriage. Your marriage can survive, the trust can be rebuilt and your bond of love may even grow to be stronger than ever.

Posted 3/30/2018

Are There Trust Issues In Your Marriage?

Trust is essential to a healthy, loving marriage. We tend to trust people who are caring toward us, who have integrity, and whose actions correspond to their words. We trust someone we can count on to consistently do what is “right.” In an intimate relationship, we trust our partner if he or she is predictable, reliable, honest and lives with integrity, according to our values and beliefs.

Trust is built and maintained by many conversations and small actions over time.  If trust is not firmly established between you and your partner, fear can take over, judgment can become clouded and doubt and suspicion may grow.

There may be several reasons why you and/or your partner have developed trust issues:

When two people enter a relationship, they bring with them all of their past experiences and preconceived notions. Someone who has experienced loss or betrayal in a previous relationship-whether that be romantic, family or friendship-may have a difficult time trusting. They can either be reluctant to open up to their partner or become clingy and controlling due their fear of losing heir partner.

Maria’s father left her mother when she was 10 years old. When she married, she began to ask her husband all about his day, his friends and things he did. At first, he thought it was sweet that she was so interested in his day-to-day life. Over time, however, Sandra’s curiosity turned into incessant questioning about every aspect of his day. She started calling and texting frequently and, when she could not get a hold of him, he faced accusations when he came home.

One partner can become insecure if the other is not very open about their whereabouts, their friends, their job, their family etc. Some people may have their own insecurities about their relationships and career. Still others may feel uncomfortable sharing certain details with their spouse because they know their spouse won’t approve.  

Jamaal grew up in poverty and most of his family still lives in welfare housing. Jamaal was smart and worked hard to make a better life for himself and won a scholarship which allowed him to go to college and get a good job. He felt so fortunate when he and Sandra fell in love and got married. While Sandra had met his family and some of his friends, she did not feel comfortable around them. Whenever, Jamaal got together with those friends or family, he did not share those details with Sandra because he felt she would not approve.  

How do Couples Resolve their Trust Issues?

  • Open the Channels of Communication- Don’t hide your feelings. Let your spouse know how you feel about their controlling or evasive behavior and reassure them that you love them and want to build a life with them.
  • Talk about your daily lives on a regular basis. Constant communication creates a connection, builds intimacy and lets your partner know that you care about them.
  • Share your secrets with your spouse. Sharing brings couples closer together and creates a strong bond.
  • Make it a point to include your spouse in activities with friends and family so that they have an opportunity to get to know them anddon’t feel shut out..

The best way to build trust is open, honest Communication and inclusion o all areas of your life.

Posted 3/16/2018

Dishonesty Will Undermine Your Marriage

We all have strengths and weaknesses. But one weakness you cannot afford in a marriage relationship is dishonesty. Dishonesty can take many forms such as lying about something you did, keeping something hidden that you should have brought to your spouse’s attention or even just not providing all the details of an event. People can be dishonest about small things  “little white lies” or about big things “outright deception”. Even in the little things, dishonesty will undermine your marriage.

A lie has a life of its own. It starts by telling a lie to your partner about something small like a purchase you should not have made or an incident at work that was your fault. You may have been unable to admit what you did and wanted to avoid a confrontation with your spouse. Once the lie is out there, you can’t take it back so if your partner questions you about it, you now need to build another lie around the first lie to cover your tracks. Now it has snowballed into something bigger.

Example:  You spent $175 on a pair of top of the line running shoes. When your partner asked you about the new running shoes, you told her they were on sale and you could not pass them up. Eventually the credit card bill is going to show up and she might see the purchase and realize that you lied about the shoes. Then what?

The realization that you have been dishonest with your partner is a painful violation of your marriage.  Dishonesty covers a whole gamut of  indiscretions from a lie about financial issues or work issues to bigger things like cheating or substance abuse problems. While you might tell yourself that it is OK to lie to your spouse because you are sparing their feelings by hiding what you did, eventually the truth will come out. When the truth is revealed, not only will your spouse have to deal with what you did but, also the pain of knowing that you hid it from her through lies. Two problems instead of one making your dishonesty a difficult pill to swallow that may take a long time to forgive. In the case of dishonesty about big things like an affair, it may be impossible to overcome.

Once the trust in a marriage has been broken, it is difficult to repair. Trust is a fragile thing. It is part of the glue that holds a marriage together. A marriage is supposed to be a safe partnership where you can honestly and openly share your hopes, dreams and secrets with your spouse and rely on them to keep them and you safe from harm. Once your partner finds out that you have been dishonest with her-she now realizes that the person she trusted is the very person who has harmed her. That is a painful betrayal. She will not be so likely to believe what you tell her after that. It is very likely that she will start to question what other things you have been dishonest about with her.

If you have been dishonest with your spouse, the best course of action is to put all of your cards on the table and tell her what you did and why you lied about it. Be completely honest and don’t leave out any details. Chances are, if it is something other than having an affair, you and your spouse can work through it and get back to telling the truth and rebuild your marriage on a healthier foundation of honesty. 

Posted 3/13/2018

Do You Know Your Partner’s Love Language?

Our love language is whatever helps us feel loved in our relationships. We need to know our personal love language so we can make specific requests of our partner in order to best have our needs met. We also need to know our partner’s love language so we can help them best meet their needs. Our Love language helps deepen the relationship and create a bond of intimacy that is so essential to a marriage.

No one type of love language is better or worse than another and most people use a combination of love languages rather than just one. Love languages can be broken down into:

Encouragement and appreciation.

People who require affirmation and empathy like to be listened to. They feel validated when their partners take time to listen to their concerns, encourage their endeavors and show appreciate for the things that they do. Criticism and lack of appreciation or being taken for granted will deeply wound this partner in a relationship. Little things like leaving a little love note in their briefcase or on their dresser, sending a random text during the day saying thank you for something they did or sitting down at the end of the day to chat and listen to what went on in their day really touch the heartstrings.

Touch.

Some people require physical touch to know they are loved. They fell that they are a priority in your life when you regularly show some type of physical affection. Lack of intimacy, withholding sex or only brief physical encounters can lead to this partner feeling neglected and questioning your feelings for them. Make it a point to kiss them, hug them or hold their hand. Schedule regular time for sex and physical intimacy to nurture your relationship.

Time.

While some people measure your feeling for them in what they say or do, others measure it in how much time your spend with them. They feel that if you spend time with them exclusively and within group activities, they are a valued part of your life. Ignoring them, tuning them out with other distractions, and/or neglecting to spend quality time with them will lead this partner to feel unloved and devalued. Take time out of your busy schedule to sit and chat, take a walk or just go to the gym or some other activity together. Plan a couples weekend or intimate date together to keep the park alive in your relationship.

Thoughtfulness and acts of kindness.

Many people need to feel they are in a partnership and are “always on your mind”. Kind words and gestures and expressions of gratitude can stir up feelings of longing in this partner. Forgetting special occasions and/or leaving most of the household chores to them will likely stir up anger and resentment. Make a big deal out of romantic occasions with flowers and the works, offer to help out with daily chores or errands or better yet do them together, and let them know you are thinking of them with random texts, cards or notes.

Whatever your partner’s love language is, cater to it and your relationship will blossom. If you are not sure what their love language is, think about what hurts or upsets them the most and that will give you a pretty good idea.

Posted 2/24/2018

How To Bring Back The Passion Back Into Your Sex Life

After a couple has been married for a while, the infatuation can fade and the sex can become routine or ho-hum. When sex becomes boring, it takes away from satisfaction in the marriage. Eventually, each partner loses interest in the other and little to no sex occurs.

Married couples know each other more intimately than singles and thus have the opportunity to have sex more often, put more variety in their sex lives and create a deeper intimacy in their sex lives. When sex is more emotionally and physically passionate, it can increase the satisfaction in the marriage immensely.

People often assume that if the “sexual chemistry” is there then sex is automatically good. Sexual chemistry is not an actual bodily “chemical”; it is a passionate emotion that releases itself physically. To put that passion back into your marital sex life, it will take work as a couple. Here are a few tips to help get things back on track.

Avoid Whining

Many people in a relationship whine and complain. “You never want to have sex anymore!” Trying to guilt your partner into sex is not very likely to have the desired effect. Sex is an act that both partners have to feel excited to participate in. Instead, try enticing your partner into sex gradually by doing something he or she likes and playfully teasing them.

Communicate openly about what you need and desire.

A lot of couples get into trouble when they try to discuss their sex life, or absence of if, because they fall into the habit of blaming. Typically they come to the discussion with both barrels blazing “You don’t love me anymore!" “You think I’m fat and disgusting." These are statements that may not even be true, and it is a mistake to assume you know what he or she is feeling. Instead, start slow and ask specifically for a behavior that you want to happen in a kind, loving tone. “ I would love it if we could cuddle for a few minutes before bed tonight.”

Don’t shoot for something too unrealistic.

You may have heard of some technique that is supposed to make the sex really hot but be careful about trying to “teach” your partner to do new sexual things. It could scare them of before anything gets started. If it’s been awhile since you have had sex, start with something simple and comfortable that you remember that you and they both liked. “I remember you used to love it when I massaged your shoulders. I like that too. Let’s take turns giving each other a massage.”

Set the Mood

Timing is everything in romance. Trying to initiate sex with your partner the minute they walk through the door from a hard day at work is not very likely to meet with much success. Instead, spend some time preparing for their arrival by cleaning up and making yourself look attractive. Greet him/her at the door, offer to get them a snack or drink and give them time to unwind. Then slowly, make them feel at ease by sharing a small sexual fantasy you have about them before you try to initiate sex.

Provide Positive Reinforcement

Just like trying out any new thing, your partner may be unsure of themselves and need positive feedback during and after sex. Talk to your partner during sex by encouraging them. “Yes, I really like when you do that” or “ That hurts a little, can we readjust?”  Tell your partner you love them. After sex, tell your partner something they did that you really liked and say thank you. If you show appreciation for their sexual efforts, it reinforces the behavior and makes it much more likely that they will want to engage in that behavior again.

Posted 2/13/2018

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