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What a Chinese Finger Trap Can Teach You About Marriage

With Valentine’s Day coming up, are you looking for a romantic gift for your husband? I’ve got an unconventional idea for you.

Pick up a Chinese Finger Trap. Remember this tricky little toy from when you were a kid? If you do, chances are you also remember that the way out of the trap is counterintuitive. Once you have your fingers in the trap, pulling hard in opposite directions to get them out won’t work. The trap loosens only when you relax and gently slide your fingers out.

That’s actually a great metaphor for the relationship patterns we can find ourselves stuck in. You know how it goes: One partner habitually does something and the other always has the same knee-jerk reaction. The same old back-and-forth leads to the same old fights.

Just as with the finger trap, the only way to escape relationship traps is to pause before you engage in your familiar, instinctive reactions. Relax and ease into doing something different. Breaking the automatic pattern, gives you the power to make a deliberate choice about what you want to do next.

The Chinese Finger Trap may not seem like the most romantic gift, but it can be a gentle visual reminder of the power of being thoughtful and calm in your relationship, rather than fighting furiously when your buttons are pushed.

Want to learn more about breaking out of relationship traps? You may enjoy my past blog articles on chasing and complaining, two common destructive patterns that can also keep you trapped.

 

 

Esther Perel and ‘The State of Affairs’

If you haven’t experienced Esther Perel’s work yourself yet, you’ve probably heard someone you know talk about it — and likely express some very strong feelings.

Perel is a psychotherapist and a bestselling author. Her 2006 book, Mating in Captivity, touched off a flurry of discussions and debates about eroticism and desire in long-term relationships. Her most recent book, The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity is perhaps even more provocative. In it, she offers insights and advice about infidelity that challenge many of the assumptions of our culture.

So what’s all the fuss about? Here are a few of the key ideas that Perel promotes.

1. Affairs aren’t about What We Think

We tend to assume that extramarital affairs are all about lust — that the straying partner is driven by desire for another person. But Perel believes there’s often something deeper going on: An unfaithful spouse is actually sometimes seeking a lost part of herself or himself. As she said in a recent interview on NPR:

When you pick a partner, you pick a story, and that story becomes the life you live. … And sometimes you realize, after years of living those parts of you, that there are other parts of you that have virtually disappeared. The woman disappeared behind the mother. The man disappeared behind the caregiver. The sensual person disappeared behind the responsible person.

And there is an expression of longing and yearning. Longing for connection, for intensity, for a sense of “aliveness,” which is really the word that many people all over the world would tell me when they are having an affair. They don’t talk about sex and excitement and titillation, actually. … What they say is they feel alive — as in vibrant, vital; as in a reclaiming of something that had gotten lost.

 When the desire for lost or forgotten parts of ourselves collides with social media, infidelity can be the result, Perel says. Facebook and other social networks mean we can stay in touch with people from different eras of our lives — people who remember those “lost selves” we yearn to rediscover.

2. Affairs are More Painful Than Ever

Infidelity has been around as long as marriage has, but it feels even more devastating today because of our contemporary views on relationships, Perel says.

In the past, we had different expectations about marriage, Perel believes. It was more of a pragmatic alliance. But Western couples today want more from their unions. She writes:

We still want everything the traditional family was meant to provide—security, respectability, property, and children—but now we also want our partner to love us, to desire us, to be interested in us. We should be best friends and trusted confidants, and passionate lovers to boot.

 We want our chosen one to offer stability, safety, predictability, and dependability. And we want that very same person to supply awe, mystery, adventure, and risk. We expect comfort and edge, familiarity and novelty, continuity and surprise. We have conjured up a new Olympus, where love will remain unconditional, intimacy enthralling, and sex oh so exciting, with one person, for the long haul. And the long haul keeps getting longer.

Somehow, we’ve gotten the idea that our spouses should be our primary source of validation, community and companionship. We expect one person to provide everything we once got from our extended families, our communities, our houses of worship. As our worlds get smaller, infidelity feels like a larger betrayal.

3. Marriages Can Survive Infidelity

 While she doesn’t downplay the pain of infidelity, Perel doesn’t believe that an affair should automatically lead to the end of a marriage. The crisis of infidelity can drive couples to talk more honestly about who they are and what they need from the relationship. Of course, though, it’s much easier and less painful to have these conversations before cheating happens in a relationship!

Whether you agree with Perel’s ideas or not, consider what you can learn from them. One valuable takeaway is to remember to cultivate yourself and your own interests, both for your own wellbeing and the health of your marriage.

I invite you to explore Perel’s work further through the videos and links I’ve shared in this article. You can also enjoy her TED talk: “Rethinking infidelity…a talk for anyone who has ever loved”:

 

Are You Thinking About a ‘Gray Divorce?’

Among Americans age 50 and older, the divorce rate has roughly doubled since the 1990s. This phenomenon of decades-old marriages dissolving even has a trendy name: “gray divorce.”

In a way, the rise of gray divorce isn’t surprising. We live longer lives than people of generations past. That’s more years to tend to a relationship. Or, as so often happens, to fail to tend to it. Life has a way of handing us other priorities that make it harder to focus on our marriages. As a result, couples grow apart or even become resentful.

If this is something you’re experiencing, maybe you’re wondering what life might be like outside your marriage — and the thought leaves you both nervous and intrigued. There’s a lot to consider, so let’s talk through some of the things that might be on your mind.

Can Your Marriage Be Saved?

Of course, the answer to this question depends on your relationship. But, in general, I would say that if you and your husband still share friendship and a sense of respect, then you have a chance of resurrecting your relationship. As I wrote in a previous article on respect and marriage:

In long-term relationships, it’s quite normal for feelings of love and passion to wax and wane over time. If partners have maintained a deep respect for each other, in time, these feelings can be rekindled. However, when there is a serious breakdown of respect, relationships inevitably end up deeply troubled.

The Fallout

Divorce will affect every aspect of your life. Even though your kids are grown, a divorce will still alter your family dynamics. Then there’s the financial aspect. According to Forbes, gray divorce “deals a heavier financial blow than divorces that happen earlier in life.” That’s especially true for women. Mulling the logistical realities of post-marriage life may or may not prompt you to give your relationship another chance. But whether you stay or go, the possible financial or family challenges of a gray divorce merit your thoughtful attention.

Do You Even Know Each Other Anymore?

You might be mulling a gray divorce if you feel that your husband isn’t the same person you married. And there’s a degree of truth to that. Life has probably changed both of you in some important ways. Do you know why your husband is the person he is today? Does he understand what has made you who you are? Longtime partners can assume they have each other all figured out. Before you write off your marriage, consider engaging each other with more curiosity. Remember, too, that the qualities that initially attracted you to each other are probably still present. You just have to remind yourself to notice and appreciate them.

You’re Craving Change

Another common reason for seeking a gray divorce is feeling stuck or stagnant in your marriage. You may feel that your relationship has no room for growth and adventure. That may indeed be true in some marriages. Before you make any big decisions, though, I believe it’s worth a try to reinvigorate your relationship. It’s natural for passionate love to ebb, especially in long relationships. But you can stoke the fires by adding variety to your relationship. Travel to a new place or learn something new together. If your husband is slow to get on board, go ahead and pursue your own interests. The new energy you bring to the relationship could bring him around.

You Want More Romance

And — let’s be frank — more or better sex. If you lack sizzle with your husband, the idea of new partners can feel tantalizing. But if you haven’t dated in a long time, you may have forgotten that it’s also a lot of work! Chances are you won’t immediately find a magical person with all the passion your husband lacks. Also remember that you may not need to leave your marriage to rekindle the sense of romance in your life. If you follow the advice above to get to know each other again and introduce more novelty into your relationship, passion should also start to reappear. (And if you suspect that health problems have interfered with your sexual connection, seek treatment.)

Can Your History Overcome Your Problems?

One of the most compelling reasons to stay in your marriage might be all of your shared experiences, which might include raising children together, weathering your parents’ illnesses or deaths and coping with your own health crises. Writing your story together can be a powerful exercise that highlights the meaning of the life you’ve shard.

If you decide to stay, remember that your relationship will always need maintenance and tending, no matter how long you’ve been together. You can never just set it to “cruise control”! My book Strong Women, Strong Love has strategies that can help.

Top Marriage Advice Articles of 2017

Thank you for the nearly 40,000 visits to the Strong Women, Strong Love blog this year! I hope that you found resources here to nurture and enhance your marriage.

As 2017 winds down, I wanted to look back on some of the most popular marriage advice articles published this year.

How Attachment Styles Affect Your Marriage
This article looks at attachment styles as a framework for understanding your marriage. Your attachment style was shaped by the family you grew up in, and it continues to influence how you approach relationships. For example, if your early caregivers were loving, responsible and reliable, you’re probably comfortable with emotional intimacy and trusting others. But if your caregivers were unavailable or unresponsive, you may have trouble seeking closeness with others. Knowing your attachment style and your husband’s can be an important first step toward improving your marriage.

Learn more: If you found the article on attachment styles useful, you may also want to read Chasing Doesn’t Work (No Fooling!). Chasing is a common pattern when someone with an ambivalent/anxious attachment style marries a partner with an avoidant attachment style.

Some Key Truths About Honesty in Your Marriage
What does it mean to be honest and authentic with your spouse? You and your husband might have very different answers to this seemingly simple question! Some people have a let-it-all-hang-out philosophy, but their spouses might feel attacked by their bluntness. Again, your feelings about what should — and shouldn’t — be shared in a relationship were probably shaped by your own family. Talk with your husband about how each of you defines honesty so that you can understand and navigate your differences.

Learn more: For some advice on blending honesty with compassion, see my article Strong Women Mistake #2: Brutal Honesty.

How Your Husband Really Feels About Your Miscarriage
A miscarriage is one of the greatest heartbreaks a couple can share together. Sometimes misunderstandings between partners can compound the pain. You may feel hurt and confused if your husband seems unemotional or indifferent after a miscarriage. But he may be acting this way out of a desire to protect you and not add to your burden. It helps to be very clear with him about the kind of support you need.

Learn more: If struggles with infertility have you worried about your marriage, my article Will He Leave If You Can’t Conceive? should be reassuring. In an overwhelming majority of marriages, one spouse’s inability to conceive a child is not a deal-breaker for the other partner. 

Your Husband Wants to Separate — Now What?
The above three articles were the most popular ones published in 2017. But by far, the most-read post on the blog is this article on separation that I wrote in 2015. This post has generated ongoing discussion since it first appeared, with commenters opening up about their own experiences with separation and offering each other support and compassion. If you’re going through a separation now, know that while you can’t do anything to make your husband return to the marriage, you’ll have a better chance of saving your marriage if you can avoid acting from a place of fear.

Learn more: If the advice in my article on separation resonated with you, you may also wish to explore The Last Resort Technique for saving your marriage. Creator Michele Weiner-Davis (a marriage therapist) makes no guarantees that the technique will work, but says “it works often enough for you to be eager to give it a shot.” And, she adds, “even if your marriage doesn’t improve … your mental health will.”

Thank you again for reading the Strong Women, Strong Love blog in 2017. I wish you and your husband much love and joy in 2018. If there are relationship topics you’d like to see me cover on the blog next year, just drop me a note or a comment on Facebook.

What’s Behind Your Husband’s Little Lies?

Here’s a common dynamic I see in marriages: The husband is in the habit of telling fibs – about whether he completed a task his wife asked him to, about what time he’ll be home, stuff like that. He doesn’t see this as a big deal in his marriage.

The wife feels differently. She believes that any kind of lie undermines trust in the relationship.

So what’s going on here? And how can you address this pattern before it becomes a real sticking point in your marriage?

(First, though, my usual disclaimer: This article is not about major betrayals in marriage, like hiding an addiction or another romantic relationship. If you’re going through a situation like this, please seek the help of a qualified professional in your area.)

If you’ve been wondering why your husband lies about seemingly minor things, a good starting point is considering the beliefs and patterns he may have picked up from his family. As we’ve talked about before, in some households, little white lies are simply a routine way to keep the peace. The highest priority in such homes is avoiding conflict. If that’s true of your husband’s family, he may think this is just how relationships operate.

No matter what the patterns were in his family, and in yours, it’s important to talk openly about where you both are coming from. If you were shaped by a family that communicated more directly, even if it created conflict, you may be just as baffling to him as he is to you! When you understand each other’s backgrounds more, both of you will also better understand that you aren’t trying to be malicious to each other when your communication styles differ. And you can more calmly and compassionately work together on a style that fits both of your needs.

Your husband may also be in the habit of little lies because he’s learned that telling the truth gets him “in trouble” or upsets you. If you’re extremely critical when he tells you truth, he may decide that a little white lie is a preferable alternative to feeling shamed. The same may be true if he’s seen that speaking his truth usually provokes a strong emotional reaction from you.

Little lies don’t have to be a deal-breaker, but neither are they something you should tolerate if they leave you feeling hurt and betrayed. You can’t control your husband’s behavior, but you can work to create a space where both of you feel safe telling the truth. Talk about the difficult things, even if that leads to some short-term conflict. When these discussions are handled with respect and compassion, greater openness should naturally follow.

Put Self-Care on Your Holiday To-Do List

The holiday season is here! Are you ready? Our already-long to-do lists get even longer as we add shopping, decorating, cooking, traveling and even burning the midnight oil at the office to prepare for our time off. 

Amid this frenzy of activity, self-care is often the first thing to go. As women, we can be so focused on making everything “perfect” for the special people in our lives that we overlook our own needs.   

I’d like you to think about this in a different way, though. If you aren’t caring for yourself, you can’t really show up for the people you love. You’re more likely to be tired, stressed and critical. On the other hand, if your own needs are met, you can be fully, joyously present with others. And that’s the best gift you can give them. 

So how can you practice self-care when you’re crazy-busy? Here are a few ideas. 

  • Need help with something? Ask. In particular, don’t expect your husband to read your mind about what should be done or how you would like it done.
  • It’s a joyful time of year, but there are also plenty of things that can make you feel stressed or upset – from work deadlines to family tensions. Make a list now of healthy ways to relieve your stress (practicing yoga, doing a mindfulness meditation, reading something inspiring, talking with your friends, etc.) and refer to it often.
  • Nostalgia can be a lovely part of the season. But pay attention if you notice you’re longing for “the way things used to be” – and can’t be again. A family death, divorce, estrangement or even a move can dramatically change your holiday season. Honor your grief, and work toward embracing the present and starting new traditions.
  • You may not have time for your usual workout schedule, but don’t take an “all or nothing” approach. Do something physical every day, even if it’s just a walk around the block.
  • Similarly, don’t totally abandon your healthy eating habits even as you indulge a little. Take the time to fully savor your food, especially your favorite holiday treats.
  • Say no. To social plans when you need some quiet time. To second helpings when you’re already full. To whatever you need to.  If the word “no” makes you uncomfortable, read my past blog article on reclaiming your boundaries.
  • Don’t “soldier on” if you’re sick – all that does is delay your recovery.
  • If your perfectionism can get out of hand this time of year, do a reality check with your family. What’s really important to them? (They might not even notice all those “magazine-perfect” touches you obsess over!)
  • If anything starts to feel like too much – your in-laws, crowded stores, even decorations and music — take a break. You can even plan ahead for some escape time. For example, stay at a hotel instead of with your family or schedule a massage to escape from shopping.

 Enjoy this season of giving – and remember to be generous with yourself, too.

The Real Reason Your Husband Drives You Crazy (And What To Do About It)

We all bring positive and negative qualities to our marriages. But sometimes it might seem easier to make a list of your husband’s faults and mistakes instead of all the good things about him.

So what’s going on here? The answer has to do with a bias in your brain that you’ll have to work around in order to keep your marriage thriving.

Our Brains Like to ‘Go Negative’

Your brain isn’t exactly an unbiased observer and recorder of your husband’s behavior — or, for that matter, of anything else. Instead, it has a negativity bias, according to psychologist and author Rick Hanson. Hanson says our brains are Velcro for negative things and Teflon for positive ones. We tend to overestimate threats and underestimate resources and opportunities.

There’s a good reason we’re wired this way. Being able to learn quickly from threats helped us survive as a species. But now that most of us aren’t fighting for our lives everyday, our brains’ negativity bias can cause problems. In your marriage, it can make you vividly remember the times your husband messed up or did something hurtful, even if the general pattern of your marriage is more positive.

 How to Fight Your Brain Bias

 So how can you maintain positive feelings in your marriage, even though your brain is conspiring against you?

  • First, simply being aware of the negativity bias can help you bring a new attitude to your relationship. Now that you know your brain is better at noticing negative things, make an extra effort to savor all the positives in your marriage. “Talk back” to your negativity bias. One idea: Set a reminder for yourself to note the best moment in your relationship each day.
  • Take time to regularly reflect on all the things your husband brings to your life that you’re grateful for. If you’re having trouble thinking of any right now, look back on all the reasons you first fell in love with him. Chances are those good qualities are still there.
  • Make a collection of items that inspire positive feelings about your marriage — wedding photos, love notes, souvenirs of happy times. Use these to help remind you why you’re still with him.
  • Beyond noticing the positives that are already present in your marriage, you can also create some new positives. For example, if you’re feeling stuck in a rut, try some new, fun activities together.
  • Understand “relationship math.” One positive interaction doesn’t cancel out a negative interaction. That’s according to researcher John Gottman, who studies the differences between the Masters of Marriage (long-married couples who still like each other) vs. the Disasters of Marriage (those headed for divorce). The Masters of Marriage have 20 positive interactions for every negative one. Twenty! Even when they’re in conflict, their ratio is still five positives for every negative. What about the Disasters group? Their typical ratio is 0.8 positives for every negative.

In this season of Thanksgiving, I hope that you’ll try some of these ideas to cultivate gratitude and positivity in your relationship. My book Strong Women, Strong Love has additional strategies that you can explore.

Will He Leave If You Can’t Conceive?

About one out of every 10 couples has problems with infertility. And, unfortunately, not all of them get the happy ending they sought: conceiving a child together. This can be one of the most painful challenges you and your husband face together.

If your infertility is caused by issues with your body, you might be experiencing guilt or shame. Both men and women often go through feelings like these if they believe they’re at fault for infertility.

You may even be worried that your husband will leave you because you can’t give him the child you had both longed for — and that he’ll seek out another woman who can. Again, such feelings are normal, and they happen to both wives and husbands. Sometimes one spouse even offers to let the other go so he or she can pursue parenthood with someone else.

Believe it or not, in an overwhelming majority of marriages, one spouse’s inability to conceive a child is not a deal-breaker for the other partner. In fact, if managed well, this experience can actually bring a couple closer together. The important thing is to keep the lines of communication open. Talk openly about your disappointments, your feelings, your fears. I’m willing to bet that your husband will tell you that his love for you is unchanged no matter what happens. Believe him.

It’s also vital to talk about what’s next for you as a couple. For many people, parenthood is closely tied to their sense of purpose in life. How true is that for the two of you? Are there other family building options you’re open to considering? Be honest. Do you want to explore other paths to creating a family? Or do you want to create a meaningful life in other ways? There’s no one right answer, of course.

I hope it’s heartening to know that others couple have felt the same things that you’re feeling and that their relationships have stayed strong. I encourage you to explore additional resources for coping with infertility and to work with infertility specialists in your community.

What are You Tired of Tolerating in Your Marriage?

Your husband is great. Really. Well, except for a few little things.

But, now that you think about it, these “little” things are actually weighing on you. They might be habits like these:

  • He seems oblivious to housework, and you’re tired and stressed from trying to take care of it all.
  • He overspends, and while you’re not headed for bankruptcy, it’s slowing your progress toward the financial goals you both agreed upon.
  • He habitually runs late, which frustrates you and embarrasses you when you’re going somewhere together.

We can describe these kinds of issues in a marriage as tolerations. They’re somewhere between the minor quirks or annoyances you can easily shrug off and major problems like infidelity or addiction. Because they’re not deal-breakers, sometimes we hesitate to discuss them. Airing your concerns might seem like making a big deal out of a relatively minor issue. In the rest of this article, I’ll explain why the opposite is true, and I’ll tell you the most effective way to approach your tolerations.

Why Do We Tolerate?

First, though, let’s look some of the other reasons we often avoid talking about our tolerations. Which of the following are true for you?

  • You’re a perfectionist. You think should be able to push through or put up with anything. But all of us have physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual limits.
  • You have low self-worth. And you think you must make constant sacrifices to keep your relationship.
  • You’re conflict-averse. You fear conflict, or you think that it doesn’t happen in “good” marriages. Many people cope with difficult, or even merely uncomfortable, situations by avoiding them.
  • You’re tired of trying. In her book Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, Dr. Sue Johnson describes a common pattern in marriage. You criticize and demand connection; he gets defensive and withdraws. Eventually, you give up and withdraw, too, leaving both of you distant and resentful.

The Cost of Toleration

If you’re tolerating in the name of being a “good wife,” know that this mindset isn’t actually helping your marriage. A toleration is like a stone in your shoe. It will annoy you, adding to your stress and depleting your energy – energy that could be going toward making your relationship more alive and authentic.

You may also think that you’re helping your marriage by not making mountains out of molehills. But that’s not what happens. Instead, unaddressed tolerations can spiral into major issues. The scope of the problem might grow. For example, the overspending might worsen so that you’re now missing house payments. Or the feelings you’ve held in might explode, and you end up having the very thing you tried to avoid: a hurtful, relationship-damaging confrontation.

Stop Tolerating and Start Communicating

It’s a lot healthier to address small tolerations before they become big problems. But I know this can feel like a big, scary step if you’re not used to communicating openly and directly. Here are few things to remember that will help make things easier.

  • Conflict is normal. All couples have points of disagreement or annoyance. Despite what it might seem like from your social media feeds, no one has a perfect relationship or is in synch with her partner 100 percent of the time.
  • Conflict is healthy. The amount of conflict in a marriage isn’t an indicator of how healthy it is. It’s all in how the couple handles that conflict. Respectfully working together on addressing tolerations is a way to make your bond stronger.
  • Directness is loving. Believe it or not, many men are unclear on how to please their wives. Your own husband almost certainly wants you to be happy, but he can’t read your mind. You’re helping him by telling him what’s important to you.
  • Timing is key. It’s kinder and more effective to bring up your tolerations when you aren’t irritated, tired or stressed. This is one reason why it’s best to have these discussions before your emotions get unmanageable.
  • Openness doesn’t have to be hurtful. Are you hesitant to talk about your tolerations because you don’t want to hurt your husband’s feelings? Remember to focus on the behavior rather than the person. There’s a big difference between “I’m feeling stressed because you regularly exceed the personal shopping budgets we agreed on for ourselves” and “I can’t believe you went shopping again! You’re so irresponsible!”

This week, think about what you’re ready to stop tolerating and how you can work together with your husband to address what’s bothering you. My book Strong Women, Strong Love can give you some additional strategies on communication and healthy conflict.

Are You Emotionally Checked Out? (Is He?)

What happened to your relationship?

You and your husband rarely focus on each other anymore. Instead, you’re at work, on your phones or wrapped up in the kids’ activities. You aren’t really sure what’s going on in each other’s lives – and you’re not interested enough to ask.

It’s all so different from when you first fell in love and couldn’t get enough of each other.

If one or both of you are emotionally checked out from your marriage, it doesn’t mean that passion and deep connection are gone forever. But it does mean that it’s time to give your relationship some TLC.

What Happened to the Spark?

There are some good reasons you and your husband were so irresistible to each other when your relationship was new. You gave each other your undivided attention, made each other feel important, and did interesting things together. It probably didn’t hurt that you were also at the mercy of powerful hormones that filled you with desire and made you emotionally open.

But in every lasting relationship, those intense feelings eventually subside. Because novelty eventually wears off, all the things that attracted you to each other at first seem routine now.

On top of that natural evolution, unrelenting work and family commitments can pull you away from each other: it’s hard to connect with anyone when you’re distracted, tired, and just need to decompress.

How to Check Back In

But here’s the good news: Even though passion and connection aren’t automatic anymore in your relationship, they can still flower again with some cultivation. Here’s how to do it.

  • Prioritize you marriage. I get it: You have lots of other priorities. It’s hard to find time for your relationship. But it’s imperative that you do. Otherwise, you’re at risk of slipping from distraction into complete disconnection. Investing in your marriage pays off. When your marriage is strong and you feel connected to your partner, it’s easier to face life’s other challenges.
  • Change things up. As I mentioned above, one of the reasons people emotionally check out of their marriages is that everything feels routine. Even a small change — like vacationing somewhere new — can reignite a sense of novelty and intrigue. If your husband isn’t game to explore something different right now, do it yourself. The energy you’ll get from taking a class or pursuing a new hobby should rub off on him and get him onboard.
  • Get curious. False assumptions about each other might be behind your disengagement in the marriage. For example, maybe it seems like your husband works constantly to avoid time with you. You might be right, but it’s also possible there’s something else going on. Maybe he’s putting in extra time because he’s nervous about his job security. Take some time to plug back in and find out the real stories behind each other’s behaviors. My blog post about curiosity can help you get started.
  • Tame your phone addiction. Those little devices can be a huge distraction in a relationship. Your phones make it easy to keep each other at arm’s length. Try some gradual shifts to change your phone habits. For example, make it a point not to glance at your phone when you’re talking with your husband.
  • Seize every moment. You probably checked out of your marriage gradually over time. In the same way, rebuilding your connection is also a process. Even if you have just a few minutes each day to focus on your relationship, they can be powerful if you are truly present for each other.

If you’d like to further explore the ideas from this blog post, check out my book Strong Women, Strong Love. It has many more strategies for maintaining a connection with your partner amid our busy, stressful lives.