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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

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

Boundaries For Children Help Build Privacy For Marriage

We adore our children and feel such a sense of responsibility to them that we tend to make them the top priority all the time. As children grow, they understand our nature and often reinforce this by being “squeaky wheels,” demanding our attention. The challenge of parenting is providing structure and love for your children while at the same time carving out time for your marriage. Establishing boundaries can help.

Boundaries help define the line between parenting and time as a couple.

Some couples unconsciously let their children become the central focus of the household to such an extent that the boundaries between parent, spouse and child become blurred.

Helicopter parents do for their children what they can and should do for themselves.

When you become nervous about your child’s success or ability to handle things in school, with friends, in sports, etc. it’s natural to want to jump in and take control instead of letting your child work things out for themselves. We naturally want to make things better for our kids and “fix things.” However, when you don’t let your child work through obstacles on their own, you’re denying them the opportunity to learn how to fight their own battles.

Your job as a parent is to guide, coach, and teach your children. When you begin to do everything for your children, you’ve crossed the parent boundary.

Overindulgent parents give up their parental authority and allow their child to take control of the household.

Parents who strive to be their child’s friend have difficult putting their foot down and saying No to their children. They tend to have few rules, no consequences or punishments for poor behavior. Some substitute things for time with their children. Every parent wants their child’s love but indulging their every whim creates the opposite effect. Children crave and need structure via rules, a set schedule, and consequences for disobeying. The absence of rules and structure is neglect.

Your role as a parent is to be firm but loving to your children. Kids need boundaries. Without them they lose their way. They need clear rules and consistent consequences. But they need them to be delivered with love, understanding and kindness. Talking about the reasons for rules and consequences helps kids understand why they need to follow rules.

How to establish boundaries so you and your spouse parent responsibly but have time for yourselves.

Define your boundaries.

You need to establish physical and time boundaries that establish privacy. 

  1. Your bedroom is a kid-free zone, free from kid clutter and designed for romance and couple time.
  2. If your bedroom door is shut, children need to knock on the door and wait for permission to enter.
  3. If you and your spouse are engaged in conversation, children should say, “excuse me” and wait politely for a chance to enter the conversation.
  4. No means No.

Make your expectations known to your children.

You and your spouse should make a list of what you can and can’t live with. What matters most to you? If respect is high on your list, you may want to implement a consequence for talking back to you or addressing you rudely. If responsibility is important to you than you may want to assign weekly chores and consequences for not doing them.

Praise their successes and follow up on their failures.

When your kids have a great week, make sure you let them know it. When one of your kids crosses a boundary or breaks a rule, follow up with the consequence.

Establishing boundaries with your children will make your household a more peaceful environment and provide clear time for you

Posted 5/26/2021

Simple, Effective Methods for Reducing Stress and Tension in Your Self-Isolating Household

Do you and your closest family members normally get along great, but self-isolation has put your relationships to the test? You’re not alone. Countless households across the U.S. have been spending more time together at home, and this naturally can lead to higher levels of stress and tension. Fortunately, there are some practical steps you can take to improve your situation. Here are a few examples:

Make room for solitude. 

No matter how much you and the members of your household enjoy being around each other (under normal circumstances), everyone needs their space at some point. With this in mind, allow yourself and others the opportunity for solitude. That way, each of you can do whatever relaxing activity you want to do so that you can recharge. 

Hit the trails. 

As you search for healing and healthy answers, don’t overlook the value in spending time in your own backyard. Getting outside can make a big difference in how each of you feels on a daily basis. When you are cooped up all day, it can lead to a number of consequences for your health and well-being. 

One way to have fun outdoors with your family is to go for a bike ride. That way, you can yield the benefits while also abiding by social distancing guidelines. By investing in a few mountain bikes, you can enjoy the trails at your local park. MetalBladeCycles suggests that you just make sure you take necessary precautions for staying safe, like mapping your route in advance and wearing protective gear.

You could also turn your backyard into a safe, fun environment for activities. Or you could pack up and take a weekend trip to the beach or to a campground. There are plenty of things that you can do amid nature as a family, and Thriveworks explains that it can even bolster your family bond.

Pick up gaming. 

Some days you won’t be going outside, whether due to schedules or weather. And when you are self-isolating, boredom is often a cause for tension. More families are addressing this issue by picking up gaming. Playing games like Fortnite, Words with Friends, and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is a great way to have fun together when you’re stuck at home. 

However, in order to play online multiplayer games like these, you will need the right equipment. Along with any necessary devices and gaming consoles, you should have an internet connection that is up to the task so you can quickly download games and have a much smoother gaming experience.

Plan family nights. 

Having an event planned for the end of the day can give you and the members of your household something to look forward to. And it doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. As previously mentioned, gaming can provide each of you with a lot of fun. 

Other things you could plan include a family movie night, a family camping night (inside or in the backyard), and a family cooking night. Any activity that allows you to spend quality time together can reduce stress and tension and be beneficial for your health and well-being.

Emphasize self-care.

Last but not least: Make self-care a priority in your household. Try to ensure that each of you is on a healthy sleep schedule, cook healthy meals, and keep healthy snacks around the house. Find exercise routines that you can do individually and/or together as a group. And be sure to make time for doing relaxing activities, whatever those may be.

Being stuck at home indefinitely is hard, no matter how well you and your loved ones get along. Make a point to give each other space for solitude, spend time together outdoors, and give gaming a try. Also, come up with some fun family night events, and make sure each of you is taking care of your health and well-being. You might be surprised by how much stress and tension is released by incorporating these simple tips into your daily lives.

Are you and your partner dealing with overwhelming problems in your relationship during the pandemic? Work with the licensed professionals at Marriage in a Box to improve communication, rebuild trust, and improve your relationship. 

by Sara Bailey of  | 

Fun Family Vacations During Coronavirus Are Possible

After months of sheltering in place, couples and families need a break from the stress and strain of working and living under COVID-19. It is mid-summer and families everywhere are weighing the risks of taking a family vacation during COViD-19. Crowded beaches are not a wise choice, and traveling by air, especially internationally, has serious restrictions in place.

There are a few types of vacations that offer a safer, more isolated environment and a better chance of avoiding coming in contact with the coronavirus.


  1. Rent a house in an isolated beach or wooded area.

Renting a whole house via platforms like Airbnb and VRBO means you won't be encountering other guests or staff during your stay as you might in a hotel.


Safety tip: Even if the home appears to be clean, wiping down any "high touch" areas with a disinfectant is a good idea. This includes things like counters, light switches, and doorknobs.

If you venture out in public, continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing. 

  1. Plan a camping road trip.

If you need to get out of town, a road trip is a great way to see the sites from the safety of your vehicle. Choose well-known campgrounds that have re-opened and have thoroughly sanitized facilities.

Safety tips:

When you need to make rest stops, choose larger, well known chains or state-run facilities whenever possible, "which have adopted aggressive cleaning and sanitization protocols.”

Wear gloves to pump gas or use the rest room facilities and discard them before getting back in the car.

  1. Rent an RV or camper

Rent an RV or camper, which combines the self-contained lodging of a vacation rental with the sightseeing possibilities of a road trip.

Safety tips: Inspect the RV or camper thoroughly and wipe down all surfaces with a disinfectant wipe. Use your own linens on bed areas.

  1. Take a virtual vacation

If you live in an area with a stay-at-home order in place, or you're just hesitant to be out and about right now, take a getaway from the privacy of your home. World famous sites from London's Tower Bridge to Egypt's pyramids are offering free virtual tours online. Museums, zoos and aquariums are providing virtual guided tours or streaming animal cams.

Posted 7/22/2020

3 Ways To Manage Your Family’s Stress During Covid-19

After months of social distancing for COVID-19, families are still spending less time with others as the pandemic continues. Summer plans like group picnics, family reunions, festivals, long vacations can leave the family feeling disconnected to the world and disappointed. With friends and social outings limited, parents and children can react to stress with bad moods, poor behavior, and bad habits.

Here are three ways to brighten the mood and keep your family happy.

  1. Maintain a daily routine.

It is important to maintain bedtime, bath time, and other routines. Routines create a sense of order to the day that offers reassurance in a very uncertain time.

With the usual routines thrown off due to COVID -19, create new daily schedules. Older children and teens can help create schedules, but they should follow a logical order, such as:

  • Wake-up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and some active play in the morning, followed by quiet play and snack to transition into schoolwork or an activity.
  • Lunch, chores, exercise, online social time with friends, and homework in the afternoon.
  • Family time & reading before bed.
  1. Deal with poor behavior positively.

Everyone in the family is more likely to be anxious and worried during the pandemic. Young children may not have the words to describe their feelings. Older children and teens may be irritable as they miss out on time with friends and special events have been canceled. They are more likely to act out their stress, anxiety, or fear through their behavior. Bad behavior puts stress on the parents and other siblings.

Reinforce good behaviors and discourage bad behavior. Pay attention to good behavior and point it out, praising success and good tries. Redirect bad behavior by finding something else for children or teens to do or removing them for the situation for a while.

  1. Get out of the house.

Just because we are social distancing, doesn’t mean you can’t go outdoors. Sunshine, fresh air, and exercise can brighten everyone’s mood. Try to spend at least an hour outdoors each day. Play outdoor games, do some outdoor yoga, go for a walk, set up the sprinkler or wading pool, or have a family barbecue.

With a little pro-active planning and positive attitudes, you, your spouse, and your family will manage just fine during COVID-19.

Posted 7/14/2020

5 Ways To Say Thank You To Your Spouse

All too often, we assume that our spouse know that we are thankful for him or her and all the things that he or she does for us. Unfortunately, your spouse may not really know how grateful you are for them. Couples who show higher levels of gratitude for their spouse are less likely to seek a divorce. Believing that your partner values you has a big impact on how you feel about your marriage.  

Studies show that there is not one key thing that makes a successful marriage. However, two little words can go a long way to actually strengthen your marriage and make your spouse feel valued.

Here are 5 ways to say “thank you” to your spouse.

  1. Do an errand or chore for them.

We all have chores or errands we don’t like to do. Do something for your spouse that you know they do not like to do. Clean the bathroom, take the car to get it serviced, and weed the flowerbeds.


  1. Give your spouse “gratitude gifts”.

Saying thank you is appreciated but showing your gratitude with a small little gift occasionally speaks volumes.  It is not necessary to go all out with a big, expensive gift. Small gifts like a “thank you” note in his or her briefcase or lunch, or an intimate “thank you” dinner are enough.

  1. Leave little “Thank you for being you” notes.

Don’t just thank your spouse for what they do for you. Thank them for who they are to you. Leave a little note on their pillow or dresser or next to their dinner or breakfast plate thanking them for bringing joy to your life or always being there for you.

  1. Set aside time to listen.

We often get so busy crossing off our to do list that we don’t remember to just spend time with our partner listening to how their day went or a story they tell. Make it a point to make time to sit down and just listen to your spouse.


  1. Show them how you feel.

Sometimes a simple touch or act of intimacy can let your spouse know how much you mean to them. Pamper your spouse with a shoulder or foot massage. Spend time cuddling up on the couch in front of a warm fire. The small acts of touch enhance their well-being and let them know that you are grateful for them.

Posted 11/20/2019

Treat Your Marriage Like A Treasured Pet

Many people have pets that they dote on. They spend endless hours feeding, grooming, praising, talking to, cleaning up after and enjoying the company of their pets. Do we treat our marriages like we would treat a treasured pet?

There are three things that cause trouble and can ultimately kill a marriage.

  1. Selfishness. It affects how we talk to each other, how we divide responsibilities in the home, how we resolve conflicts, and even how we spend our time.
  1. Lack of Forgiveness. Holding on to a past hurt, mistake, or slight becomes a weapon that you can drag out at any time and use to hold your partner hostage.
  1. Expectations. Within your mind you have a picture of how you or your partner should act as a husband or wife, father or mother. And chances are this image is so perfect, so idyllic, that it is completely unattainable.

Even if they’ve taken over your marriage, even if you have decided your marriage is lifeless, It’s never too late to make a decision to change.

How do we break those damaging marriage killers?

Start treating your marriage like a living, breathing pet you are responsible for keeping alive. 

Feed Your Marriage. No matter how hard their day has been dog lovers always give their furry friends a warm hello, a belly rub, and maybe a walk around the block. Think what it would do for your relationship if you always gave your partner a hug and a kiss, and spent a half-hour together after work.

Forgive your partner. Dogs and cats occasionally pee in the house, steal your socks, chew up your favorite pair of shoes, or throw up on the carpet. We don’t withhold love or affection from them. We don’t continuously scold them for the one time they chewed up the slippers. We forgive them because we love them so much. So when your partner makes you mad, tell them calmly why you're upset and address the problem, then forgive them completely, move on and continue to give them your love and affection freely.

Groom Your Partner. Rather than viewing your partner with a critical mindset, groom them with praise. When your husband pitches in and helps with household chores, say “Thank You”. When your wife has had a hard day but cooks a delicious meal anyway, say, “Honey, this meal is delicious.” 

Be kind to your partner. Research has shown that taking more loving actions actually makes you feel more in love and fosters a deeper level of intimacy. In any interaction with your partner, whether it’s personal or practical, try to be kind in how you express yourself. This softens your partner, even in heated moments.

Communicate with your partner. Don’t assume your partner knows what you are thinking or show should know when to do this or that. You need to talk to your partner and let them know what you need. If you do not like something they have done or you want them to do something, you need to talk to them about it.

Spend time with and enjoy your partner. Make time each day to spend with your partner. Plan dates and activities together. The more time you spend together doing things you enjoy and talking, the more intimately you will begin to know your partner.

Posted 9/28/2019

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