Protecting Your Marriage from Infidelity

 

Have you ever worried what would happen if you found out your spouse was unfaithful to you?  I think there is always some part of us that wonders how we would react and if our marriage would survive this sort of betrayal and trauma.   Maybe you are on the other end of the spectrum and have had thoughts about engaging in a relationship with someone outside of your marriage.  This should be a red flag and something needs to be done to protect your marriage and prevent these thoughts from turning into actions!

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Greg Smalley, Psy. D. writes about daily decisions you can make to build trust and security to affair-proof your marriage:

  1. Make a Commitment Towards Growth

The more unhappy you or your spouse are in a marriage the more likely you are to find satisfaction outside of the marriage.  Ask yourself “What is something I could do that would cause our relationship to grow?”  Make a list and choose one thing from the list to do weekly.

  1. Becoming Aware of Your Choices

Many times we rationalize behaviors that could lead to infidelity.  For example, maybe there is a co-worker we find ourselves talking to at work and begin feeling an emotional connection to them.  We need to stop asking what is wrong with the choices we make and ask what’s right with them.  As we become aware of our choices we can protect our marriages.

  1. Draw a Line and Then Stay a Safe Distance Behind It!

It is important that you have a line of safety and stay a safe distance behind it.  This line will be different for everyone.  For one person it could mean not working late with a co-worker of the opposite sex and for another it may mean not meeting a certain person for lunch alone.  Whatever you line is draw it and stay behind it!

  1. Become Accountable to Someone

Find someone you can ask these questions to:  “Did you compromise your standards last week?” or “Have you been getting your emotional needs met from someone other than your mate?”  Having someone to be accountable to for the commitments you have made in your marriage will help in affair-proofing your marriage.

Marriage should be a life-long commitment!  We live in culture where we are taught new is always better and if something or someone isn’t meeting our needs than commitment and disloyalty are okay.  This is an individualistic view and not what marriage should be.  Marriage is about “us.”  Take a look at where you are in your own marriage.  Have you had thoughts about straying?  Do you talk to someone at work or when you go to the gym that you have an emotional connection with that may be inappropriate?    Evaluate your marriage and start working on ways to affair-prove it today.  The grass isn’t always greener on the other side!

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Fire Proof Your Marriage: Part 3

“Love Fights Fair”


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I don’t know how it goes for you when you get in an argument with your spouse, but for me it’s usually about having one “winner” and one “loser” at the end of it.  Is this truly the way we should be approaching a “fight”?  Are there healthy ways to resolve our disagreements where you both feel good about the outcome?

In the article “Fighting Fair in A Relationship:  How to Get What You Need and Stay Close While You Do It,” Karen Young talks about 19  “do’s” and “don’ts”  about fight fair:

  1. Don’t Fear Conflict
  •   When you are in a devoted and close relationship conflict will exist.  Conflict is how you are able to learn from and see each other’s side on issues.  Not seeing eye-to-eye is “normal, healthy, and sometimes necessary when there is something important at stake for both of you.”
  1.  Attack the Issue, Not Each Other
  •  In the heat of the moment it can be easy to say things that we can’t take back.  “Don’t name call or bring the other person down to get on top of the argument.”  Sometimes it is good to take a “timeout” from the argument for a few minutes, to regroup and rejoin the conversation when both of you are less emotional and able to think more clearly.
  1.  Stay with the Issue at Hand
  •  How many times have you rehashed old issues in order to win?  I have been guilty of this myself.  This just leads to more contention and less problem solving.  “It’s the quickest way to send an argument off track and land you in a place you forget what you were fighting for.”
  1.  Don’t Confuse the Topics with the Issue
  •  Often times when we begin arguing with our spouse other issues that have been unresolved come up.  You may start arguing about the topic of leaving the toilet seat up and for some reason that leads back in to the unsettled issue of rising credit card debt.   “If you keep fighting over different things but you always seem to end up on the same issue (e.g. money or the night he/you came home late), that issue is actually where your work needs to be…Give what’s needed for the issue to let go of the grip it has on your relationship…”
  1.  Don’t Downplay the Issue
  • Ignoring a problem does not make it go away! “If feelings or needs aren’t resolved, the will come out through other topics.”
  1. Don’t’ Withdraw, or Chase
  • It can be easy to put up our defensive walls when we are feeling attacked and refuse to engage in an argument.  It can also be easy to pursue the argument if we are feeling ignored.  “One way to change that is to name your contribution to the issue… ‘I know I probably haven’t helped things by…’ or, ‘I know I upset you when I…’ This makes it easier for your partner to trust that you aren’t only out for blood.”
  1.  Be Open, Nobody Can Read Your Mind
  • How much easier would it be if we could read minds!?!  How many times have you had a disagreement expecting your spouse to already know what is wrong without being told? Guilty!  “Research has shown that people who expect a partner to mind read are more likely to feel anxious or neglected.”
  1.  Find the Real Emotion beneath the Anger
  •  In my own marriage I find that it is easy to accuse each other of being angry.  That is the “go to” emotion to turn too.  “But anger is a secondary emotion—it never exists on its own and always has another emotion beneath it.”  If you can get to the real emotion being expressed you will have more success in responding to your partners true concern.
  1.  Be Attentive
  • There is nothing worse than feeling like your spouse is not listening to you.  Having the television on during an argument in our house is sure to lead to one of us feeling like the other isn’t listening.  Give your spouse you undivided attention, no matter what!
  1. Don’t Yell
  • “If the argument is at yelling point, nobody is being heard because nobody is listening. At this point, someone needs to be the hero and calm it all down.”
  1.  Stay Away from ‘You Always’ or ‘You Never’
  • “Nobody is ‘always’ or ‘never’ anything and using these words will just inflame.”
  1.  Be Curious
  • If you aren’t asking for details than you are probably trying to come up with a rebuttal.  This type of strategy leads you nowhere fast!  “Slow things down and ask for details. This shows that you’re open to getting things sorted out.”
  1. Honestly Accept that Nobody is Perfect
  •  I have the hardest time accepting criticism but I can be really good at dishing it out.  This may be because of how my spouse is sending the message or because I am unwilling to accept that I have flaws.  “If you are the one with the wise words, say it in a way that can be heard by being generous in the delivery.”
  1.  Watch out for the Passive-Aggressive
  • ‘I’m just being honest …’, or ‘I’m not criticizing you but …’ or ‘You’re probably not going to like hearing this but …’
  1.  If You’re Wrong, Apologize
  2. If You’re Going around in Circles, Stop
  • If you feel like you are on a merry-go-round, saying the same things over and over again “slow things down and communicate to your partner your understanding of their side of things…try finding a different way to say it and check you aren’t too much on the attack.”
  1.  Find Common Ground
  •  Many times my husband and I end an argument with agreeing to disagree.  “Anything that will help to get you both back on the same team is a good thing.”
  1.  Give in or Compromise
  • “Any small concession is the groundwork for bigger ones.”
  1.  Don’t leave it unfinished
  • “Find a resolution, otherwise it will continue to press for closure.”
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The next time you feel like putting on those boxing gloves when you are fighting with your spouse, remember that a house divided against itself does not stand!  Talk with your spouse about setting rules of engagement went it comes to fighting fair and stick to those rules, no matter what!

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Overcoming Hard Times in Marriage: TEENAGERS

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I recently took a Child Development class on Adolescents. I learned so much about teenagers from puberty to friend choices to risky behaviors. Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned was the impact raising teenagers has on the marital relationship.

Research suggests that a dip in marital satisfaction tends to occur around the time children have reached the adolescent stage. Part of this dissatisfaction may actually stem from parents entering their mid-life stage. Although raising teenagers can create changes in the family dynamics too. Teens pull away from family as they try to discover who they are and how they fit into the world. This loss of control from a parental standpoint can cause conflict in the marital relationship. Couples may disagree on the appropriate form of discipline or they may disagree on which parent should set the rules.

Think about this: “Not only does parental divisiveness weaken the marriage, it opens up parenting to adolescent manipulation.” Allowing teenagers to create a wedge between parents can only lead to more trouble.

The number one suggestion to overcome hard times in marriage caused by raising teenagers is to keep a united front. Talk to your spouse about the rules and boundaries that need to be set for your teens. Work together to solve any discipline issues that you can’t agree on; even compromising on a solution based on what is best for your teenager.

Some other good suggestions are:

  1. Hold Family Meetings: Meet with your teen regularly to discuss anything from discipline issues to their excellent performance in school. Doing this together with your spouse will keep the united front going strong.
  2. Meet Privately as a Couple: When decisions come up that you and your spouse don’t agree on, hold a private meeting to discuss it. Finding solutions and making these decisions together will keep you both involved and keep your marriage relationship strong.
  3. Get Professional Help: Sometimes raising a teenager is just too stressful, especially when your teen has major behavioral issues. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you feel like your marriage is at risk.

 

To find my previous posts on Overcoming Hard Times in Marriage, click here: Loss of a Child, Addictions, Chronic Illness, Losing a Job, Empty Nesters, and Becoming a New Parent.

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Overcoming Hard Times in Marriage: BECOMING A NEW PARENT

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I remember being pregnant with my first child and having so many wonderful feelings of anticipation and joy surrounding her birth. I had her tiny clothes washed and folded. I had her crib put together and covered with pink and purple bedding. My husband and I were counting down the days until she joined our family. Everything was perfect!

A new baby is love at first sight. A new baby warms hearts and puts smiles on lips. But a new baby can also cause stress in a marriage. According to a study on The Effect of the Transition to Parenthood on Relationship Quality, it is suggested that “the transition to parenthood constitutes a period of stressful and sometimes maladaptive change.” Although this is not true for all couples as “approximately one third to one half of couples evidence stability or increases in relationship satisfaction or love over the transition to parenthood.” So, the two big questions are: What changes can couples expect to encounter when becoming new parents? and How can couples overcome this period of change to safeguard their marriage?

First, let’s look at the many different changes that new parents may encounter.

Lack of Sleep: Both parents can become exhausted caring for a newborn. Babies often eat many times during the night. Or they may just cry often and refuse to sleep.

Differences in Child Rearing Ideas: The way you were raised most often carries over into how you raise your own children. Because these ideas and practices are most likely going to be different than your spouses, you might find yourself at odds with each other. Tensions may run high until you can both come to an agreement over an acceptable form of child-rearing.

The Husband-Wife Relationship Takes a Back Seat. Taking care of a new baby is a very time consuming job. It is a never-ending cycle of constant feedings, sleep schedules, dirty diapers, extra laundry, and many other ‘new’ demands. It can be hard to have time to work on the relationship with your spouse.

Change of Work/Household Responsibilities. Some new moms decide to cut back their hours in outside work to care for the baby. This places extra financial pressure and burden on the husband. This leads to a greater divide between childcare and housework. Feelings of frustration and guilt start to occur on both sides.

In a study done at the University of Denver, it was found that “marital satisfaction decreases over time. It just decreases faster around the time a baby is born.” But this doesn’t mean that every couple should avoid having children. As a matter of fact, “15 percent of fathers and 7 percent of mothers ended up more satisfied with their marriage after the birth of a child.”

For those couples who do find that having a newborn is causing stress on their marriage, here are a few tips to overcome those hard times:

You Are in this Together. Even with a new baby in the house, take time to work on your relationship. Spend even just a few minutes together to just talk and catch up. Remember to plan time for dates. It doesn’t have to be fancy, perhaps just go on a walk.

Set Clear Lines. Talk through who will handle which tasks. Figure out a good plan for household chores as well as child care. Setting clear lines will help diminish frustrations and misunderstandings.

Ask for Help. Don’t be afraid to call on extended family and friends. Grandparents would love to take over for an evening while you spend some time working on your relationship.

 This quote nicely sums up the wonders of becoming new parents and why overcoming hard times in marriage is all worth it: “Even if marriage isn’t as blissful as it was in the honeymoon phase, new joys arrive – the bliss of a baby’s first steps, the satisfaction of creating a stable, loving home, and the contentment of being together as a family.” (citation)

 

To find my previous posts on Overcoming Hard Times in Marriage, click here: Loss of a Child, Addictions, Chronic Illness, Losing a Job, and Empty Nesters

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Overcoming Hard Times in Marriage: EMPTY NESTERS

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It seems like I spend every day shuttling kids to school, to basketball games, and to dentist appointments. I am always helping somebody with their homework while trying to make dinner. There are piles of laundry heaped on my bed waiting to be sorted through. At the end of the day, I fall into bed exhausted only to be woken at 1 AM by tiny cries. Ah, the life of a mom. I am busy and life is hectic.

Believe it or not, there will come a day when I only have to make dinner for two. The house will be quieter and less chaotic. I will sleep all night long without hearing that tiny voice calling out for mom. While this makes my heart hurt a little bit, there is another concern to consider: Will my marriage be able to survive the Empty Nest stage?

Sadly, many couples push aside their marriage relationship and invest more time and effort into the raising of children. The lack of effort spent on nurturing their relationship has created a void that becomes glaringly obvious when the children leave the home. Over the past few years, there has become an increasing trend of divorces involving spouses over the age of fifty. It is labeled the “Gray Divorce”. One of the most prevalent factors in this trend is the empty-nest syndrome. It can be a very emotional time when your youngest child leaves home. Those emotions combined with the major transition of becoming an empty-nester can lead to the breakdown of a marriage. This is why couples need to safeguard their marriage.

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Here are some ways you can prepare for a smooth transition into the Empty Nest years:

  • Set A Daily Plan. Create a routine that once the kids are in bed, you and your spouse spend time talking, cuddling, or anything else that allows for one-on-one time.
  • Date Your Spouse. This is the key to strengthening your marriage. Plan regular date nights. Try to avoid talking about the kid’s homework, how many poopy diapers you changed that day, or the mile long grocery list. Spend time focusing on each other. Talk about the future or reminisce about things from the past.
  • Talk About It. Communicate your expectations about the empty nest years to your spouse. Perhaps your spouse wants to travel and you want to spend lots of time with the grandkids. Figure out what your spouse considers to be the priority and work together to find common goals and ideals.

If you are currently an Empty Nester, here are some ways to overcome some of the challenges you may encounter:

  • Let Go of the Past. Let go of past disappointments or missed opportunities and forgive each other. Look towards the future, set some goals and look for ways to enjoy this new and exciting time of life.
  • Focus on Each Other. Remove the familiar focus on your children and shift your entire focus towards your marriage. Work on building a closer more personal relationship with each other.
  • Energize Your Love Life. Look for ways to romance your spouse. Many couples experience a more satisfying sex life and greater marital happiness when the children leave the nest. They are finding that more privacy at home and less daily parenting responsibilities are allowing them to reconnect on an intimate level.
  • Connect with Other Empty Nesters. Think about starting an empty nesters group. Spend time with other couples to encourage and inspire each other during this stage of life.

All major transitions in a marriage can be challenging. It is important that you work together as husband and wife to plan for those hard times. Your marriage is worth it!

 

To find my previous posts on Overcoming Hard Times in Marriage, click here: Loss of a Child, Addictions, Chronic Illness, and Losing a Job.

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Overcoming Hard Times in Marriage: LOSING A JOB

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A few years ago, my husband called me from work. This was not unusual as we always checked in with each other during the day. Unfortunately this day turned out to be the exception. Instead of our usual pleasantries, he delivered some shocking news: “Well, the company is laying-off everybody and closing their doors.” I was not prepared to hear those words. So many things raced through my mind. I wondered if he would be able to find another job or how long we could live on my part-time salary and our savings. Some of my thoughts were selfish like how I wouldn’t be able to watch Friends in the middle of the day anymore. Yes, I know, this really is a valid concern!

A research study on unemployment rate and divorce finds that when unemployment rates are high, marriages are subjected to a lot of stress. There are two ways high unemployment can affect a marriage. First, changes can occur in one’s personality in response to losing a job. These changes could be feelings of depression, bitterness, and anger. Persistently feeling this way can create a wedge between spouses which may lead to divorce. Second, financial changes as a result of losing a job can create hardships, misunderstandings, and potentially lead to divorce.

We had some challenging days and months for a few years after my husband was laid off. Although it was difficult, I was able to look back and see how our marriage was strengthened because of those hard times. Losing a job doesn’t need to lead to a divorce. Here are some things that we learned on how to overcome a job loss in a marriage:

  1. Come up with a new financial budget. Talk with each other (and your children) about cutting back unnecessary expenses. Remember that this will only be temporary, but everyone must be willing to sacrifice during this hard time. My biggest sacrifice was cancelling our pest control service. I really hate spiders, but I learned to deal with it (aka: using my vacuum to suck up any poor spider that found its way into my house!).
  2. Formulate a job search plan. Rework your resume together and brainstorm job opportunities. Work together to search for and apply to jobs. I am much faster at typing than my husband, so he would dictate his job skills to me and I would type them up.
  3. Don’t give up – consider going back to school. It can take quite a toll on your self-esteem to be continually rejected from job opportunities. We found that my husband excelled in experience, but lacked in formal education. The solution we came up with was for him to go back to school. That was almost more difficult on our marriage than losing a job!
  4. Communicate. Talk about your concerns and fears for the future. Don’t dwell on the past. Focus on encouraging and supporting each other. Focus on strengthening your marriage. It was quite a change to have my husband home all of the time. We eventually settled into a routine and made the most of our extra time together. We ran errands together and split up chores around the house.
  5. Be patient. The job market can be tough. Finding a job that you are qualified for takes time, but stay with it. Eventually you will find that perfect fit. It took us almost 2 years to find the perfect job. My husband’s decision to go back to school delayed things a bit, but it also opened up way more opportunities along the way. Remember that as a couple, you are in this together.

As always, work to support each other, encourage each other, and love each other. Your marriage is worth it!

 

To find my previous posts on Overcoming Hard Times in Marriage, click here: Loss of a Child, Addictions, and Chronic Illness.

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Tone Up & Tune In with your Other Half: Forgive yourself

This week something happened, I had a setback. But for the first time in a long time…I didn’t beat myself up over it. Many of us believe that “self-forgiveness sounds like excuse-making that will only lead to greater self-indulgence.” We wouldn’t ever get anything done if we weren’t hard on ourselves! Right? We set high standards and harshly criticize ourselves when we fall short. That’s the only way we will develop better self-control, right?

Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. is a health psychologist and an awarding winning instructor at Stanford University. Fortunately for us, she is also an author and seeks to share her knowledge and studies. In her book, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, she discusses the science of willpower and how we can identify goals, strengthen self-control and make lifelong changes.

McGonigal shares that“If you think the key to greater willpower is being harder on yourself, you are not alone. But you are wrong”. So the belief that we need an inner dictator in order to be successful or to have self-control is false. I will pause now so you can take a sigh of relief…

One thing I love about McGonigal’s research is that she shares so many intriguing studies where small interventions are made, yet a big change follows. She shares that “study after study shows that self-criticism is consistently associated with less motivation and worse self-control. It is also one of the single biggest predictors of depression…” No surprise there. In these studies we learn that forgiveness-not guilt helps people get back on track and increases accountability.

We are more readily able to learn from the experience and reflect on how the failure happened and less likely to repeat it when we forgive ourselves. For most of us self-criticism backfires and drives us straight to comfort coping-eating more, shopping more, drinking, lighting that cigarette, you name it! It drives us right to what we are trying to avoid. That is our natural reaction to self-soothe those guilty feelings.

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Consider talking yourself through these steps the next time you fail:

    1. What are you feeling?: Notice the emotions you’re feeling, and why you might be feeling that way. Notice any self-criticism and what you say to yourself. This perspective in being mindful allows you to see how you’re feeling without rushing to escape.
    2. You’re only human (Common humanity): Everyone struggles, and everyone loses control sometimes. This doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. Can you think of others you care for and respect that have experienced similar struggles and setbacks? This perspective can soften the usual voice of self-criticism and self- doubt.
    3. What would you say to a friend?: How would you comfort a close friend who experienced the same setback? What support would you offer? How would you encourage them to continue towards their goal? This perspective will help get you back on track. Encouragement over criticism!

Remember that it’s a process! Next time you fall, whether that be in your marriage or on your weight loss journey consider how you will choose to get back up!

If you have time, listen to Kelly McGonigal briefly explain a self-compassionate message in this short video.

In case you missed last week’s article about quick fixes, CLICK HERE!

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becOming one

Overlooking Imperfections

There are very few things that I feel I need to overlook concerning my husband. He is an amazing man. It’s the little things, however, that can creep into a marriage that can be hard to overlook. For instance, I feel like I am the only one who knows how to change the toilet paper on the empty roll. Sometimes we try so hard to squeeze out the last little bit of toothpaste out of the tube so we don’t have to go get another one. I don’t know if he knows how to do a load of laundry or wash a toilet. If I let it, these little trivial details can fester and ruin our marriage. Now this may seem petty compared to some bigger examples, but either way, we need to overlook imperfections.

Hanging on my wall above our family pictures for all to see is a quote that says, “Life Is What You Make It.” If you were to ask my children they would say that it is my motto. When I die I am sure they will put it on my tombstone. Along that same line of thought I also believe that “Marriage Is What You Make It.” Everything in this life is a choice within. I am not talking about laws or freedom of choice, but more of a personal choice in how we act. We choose how we react to certain situations. It is our choice to see the imperfections in our spouse.

The natural man in us is very easily ready to come out and show his mean head. It is easy to be vindictive and critical and less charitable to others. Criticism will harm a marriage, not make it better. You may think that it is “constructive” criticism, but criticism is criticism. It is our choice whether to show the natural man or act in a kinder way. We need to be less critical and more charitable in our lives and in our marriages.

Marvin J. Ashton said, “Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down.”

No one is perfect and that includes us. We cannot expect our partner to change. We can only change ourselves. When our spouse is starting to get under our skin we need to turn the microscope toward us. We need to ask ourselves, “What can I do to change?” We can choose to see the good. We can choose to appreciate our spouse. We can choose to look for their better qualities. Then in turn they will hopefully see the good in us.

Acceptance….that is what anyone wants, especially in a marriage. John M. Gottman says that acceptance is crucial in any marriage. People need to know that they are understood, respected, and accepted. We need to get past our differences. He reiterates, “For a marriage to go forward happily, you need to pardon each other and give up on past resentments. This can be hard to do, but it is well worth it. When you forgive your spouse, you both benefit.” Let us move forward this week and overlook our spouse’s imperfections, for we all have them.

Click here to see the first post in this series.

Click here to see the second post in this series.

Click here to see the third post in this series.

Click here to see the fourth post in this series.
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Overcoming Hard Times in Marriage: CHRONIC ILLNESS

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“….for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health…” Oh, that all familiar phrase that brings to mind beautiful flowers, diamond rings, a flowy white dress, romantic music, and love. A wedding ceremony marks the beginning of a marriage where the future is bright and the possibilities are endless. Husband and wife envision their new life together as exciting and wonderful.

No one ever plans for a serious, life-altering illness to occur. A chronic illness can affect many aspects of a marriage such as financial strain, inability to go to work, and lack of intimacy. Studies have indicated that a chronic illness may increase the risk for divorce by serving as a large stressor on the marital relationship. A chronic illness creates feelings of anxiety, fear and guilt. Both spouses become physically and emotionally strained. As with any form of stressor in a relationship, one thing is key, Good Communication.

It is suggested that couples sit down and discuss how they will handle specific issues such as: the impact of the illness, dealing with finances, caring for their children, intimacy, and any new changes that the illness brings. Couples should also talk about how to let go of the past when health was good so they can move forward. Communication will help couples work together to find solutions and continue towards building a happy future.

Always support each other, love each other and never give up. Marriage is worth it!

 

To find my previous posts on Overcoming Hard Times in Marriage, click here: Loss of a Child and Addictions

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