10 of Your Burning Questions About Marriage ANSWERED!

Today I want to extend a special welcome to new readers. Many of you discovered my blog through my free online training “5 Critical Shifts You Need to Make NOW to Reconnect with Your Husband and Get Your Relationship Back on Track.” I’m so glad that you’re here, and I hope that my content can be an ongoing resource for strengthening your marriage.

To help you start exploring, I’m answering 10 of the most common questions that women ask about marriage. In each answer, you’ll find links to past blog articles where you can get more in-depth information.

1. Do My Husband and I Fight Too Much?

How often you argue with your husband is much less important than the way you fight. The goal isn’t having a conflict-free marriage. Instead, it’s moving through these bumps in the road in a constructive way that clears the air and strengthens your bond. So if you argue frequently, but you still behave lovingly and respectfully with each other when you do, then your conflicts probably are not a problem.

2. What Should I Do If I Want Sex More (or Less) Than My Husband Does?

There’s no right, or wrong, answer to the amount of sex you should be having in your marriage. It’s all about finding the frequency that meets both of your needs. If you’re not in sync in the bedroom, look for possible causes. For example, maybe one of you is having a physical issue or is feeling particularly stressed lately.

3. Why Is Marriage So Hard After Having Kids?

If your marriage went downhill after you became parents, it’s likely because life got a lot busier and more hectic. When you’re constantly stressed and exhausted, it’s hard to feel connected to your partner.

Our lives often revolve around our kids. We do this because we want what’s best for them. But making them the center of the universe really isn’t best for them or for you.

More than endless activities, kids need parents who are relaxed, emotionally attuned to them and involved in a loving, respectful marriage. So think about some ways you can free up more time for your relationship. This might mean simplifying life or asking for extra support.

4. Can I Put the Spark Back in My Boring Marriage?

Absolutely! If you’re feeling bored with your husband, the underlying reason might be that you have lost touch with important parts of yourself. As busy partners and parents, it’s all too easy to neglect all the other things that used to light us up.

Think about some ways to rediscover your old passions. This doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Revive your yoga practice. Take an online class. Reconnect with a friend you love spending time with. Whatever you choose, you’ll bring new energy into your relationship. 

5. Why Has My Husband Changed So Much?

What happened to the great guy you fell in love with? He’s still there — trust me. When it seems like your husband has changed, what’s probably actually happening is that the stress of your day-to-day life is making it harder to see his good qualities. This is just how our brains are wired. To bring your “good” husband back, tackle some of your top sources of stress (like overscheduling). Soon you’ll be seeing him through different eyes.

6. How Can I Get My Husband to Help More Around the House?

If you feel that your husband isn’t doing his fair share of housework, don’t just stew silently. That’s a recipe for resentment. Let your husband know you feel overburdened and ask directly for him to do specific tasks. Then give him a chance to step up.

I can hear what you’re saying: I shouldn’t have to ask! And I understand your frustration. But keep in mind that you are two unique people who came into the marriage with different life experiences, priorities and skills. It’s unrealistic to expect you to coordinate your complicated lives without clear, direct and respectful communication.

7. My Husband Is Cheating  — Can Our Marriage Be Saved?

It’s not easy to heal your marriage after an affair, but it can be done. If you want to try to repair your relationship, he must be willing to admit what he has done, acknowledge the hurt it has caused and help you work through that pain.

At the same time, you have to be open to these repair attempts. And both of you must look at what made your relationship vulnerable to the affair.

8. What Should I Do If My Husband Wants to Separate?

If your husband has asked for a separation, it’s perfectly normal to feel lost and panicky. But resist the urge to tearfully plead for him to stay. Instead, deal with him from a place of confidence. You want your message to be more like this: “If you want to leave, I can’t stop you. I’m still committed to this marriage and would like for you to stay so we fix it. But you’re an adult, and I know I can’t tie you here.”

Don’t pressure him to come back. Allow him to experience the reality of what divorce would mean. Give him space to understand your importance in his life. It’s possible he will eventually want a divorce. It’s also possible that he’ll start missing you and the life you have built together.

9. Should I  (Gulp) Leave My Husband?

Ending your marriage is a wrenching decision — and a deeply personal one. To guide your choice, ask yourself these questions:

  • Did I ask for what I need?
  • Did I address any serious issues present (like addiction or abuse)?
  • What went wrong?
  • And what role did each of you play?
10. Will My Marriage Last?

The best way to predict the future of your marriage is to take a look at what’s going on in your relationship right now. Do you both fight fair? Manage your ongoing issues? Know how to apologize? Then it’s likely that your marriage will last. (Learn more signs of a great marriage.)

On the other hand, your behaviors can also reveal whether your marriage is headed for trouble. Researcher John Gottman identified the four behaviors that predict divorce: defensiveness, criticism, stonewalling and contempt. If you and your husband engage in these behaviors frequently, it’s time to get serious about saving your marriage.

Got a question about marriage that I didn’t cover here? Join me in the private Strong Women, Strong Love private Facebook group for exclusive content. Or pick up a copy of my book.

Flooding: The State That Ruins Relationships

Getting on each other’s nerves during COVID-19 lockdown? Here’s a great article about how to manage those feelings of irritation and overwhelm.

Do you lose your temper often only to say or do things you regret?

We’ve all been there. One moment you are fine, but then someone or something triggers you. You “lose your mind” and can’t control yourself. You are “flooded.” You find yourself yelling at your partner, giving disproportionate punishment to your kids, slamming doors, threatening to quit your job, and spiraling downwards.

Several minutes or hours later, you calm down and realize, with regret, the damage that you have done.

During the coronavirus epidemic lockdown, anxiety, uncertainty, and conflicts are especially increased in relationships. These conditions make emotional “flooding” more common and harder to control than in other, more normal times.

The good news is that you can help minimize such flooding. The first step to minimizing flooding is to understand how our brain is hardwired.

CONTINUE READING

An Affair Isn’t the Only Betrayal That Can Hurt Your Marriage

When we find out that someone’s marriage is on the rocks or ending, our first instinct is often to wonder whether one of them was cheating.

Infidelity is indeed a devastating betrayal. But, unfortunately, it’s far from the only betrayal that can do lasting damage to a marriage.

If you were having a physical affair, or even an emotional affair, you would certainly realize that you were putting your relationship at risk. (At least I hope you would!)

But when we engage in other betrayals, we tend to be less aware of what we’re doing and the impact it could have.

This list of five betrayals in marriage that aren’t infidelity was inspired by the work of marriage researcher John Gottman and by “Ten Commandments for Relationship Essentials” by Stan Tatkin.

1. Speaking Negatively About Your Spouse

Sometimes venting to your friends about your husband’s little quirks crosses the line from joking to betrayal. Consider these questions:

  • How would your husband feel if he heard what you were saying? Would he laugh along or feel hurt?
  • How would you feel if he were saying something similar about you to his friends?

Gossiping about your husband can also becomes a betrayal if you’re talking to others about issues in your marriage instead of working on them directly with him.

2. Ignoring Your Spouse’s Intimacy Needs

It’s not a betrayal to have a sex drive that’s out of sync with your partner’s. But it does become one if you don’t communicate about what’s going on with you or if you stop caring about his needs as well as your own.

Being sexually rebuffed without explanation can cut especially deep for your husband if he isn’t big on intimate conversation and mainly shares how he feels about you through the sexual connection. 

3. Showing Disrespect

Your marriage doesn’t always have to be full of romance and passion. But it does consistently require the two of you to respect each other.

When respect breaks down, that sets the stage for deeper trouble in a relationship. The problem is that it’s easy to become so busy and stressed that we forget to treat our spouses with common courtesy.

It’s tempting to think “Well, that’s just how it is when life is so hectic.” But even little acts of disrespect can deeply damage a relationship over time.

4. Not Being Present Emotionally

This is another everyday betrayal that stems from busyness and stress. We all need to be seen, to be affirmed, to be valued — especially by our spouses. But sometimes we are so engrossed in all the other demands on our time (our phones, the kids and on and on) that we stop noticing each other.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that if you can claim even a few minutes a day to focus just on each other you can make your marriage stronger.

5. Failing to Share the Load

It takes work to maintain a marriage, a family, and a household. There’s no one right way to divide all these responsibilities. Different strategies work for different couples.

The important thing is that the way you are handling things feels equitable to you both. If one of you feels like you’re on your own (as women often do when it comes to emotional labor), resentment starts building.

Do any items on this list hit a little too close to home for you? You and your husband can find ways to strengthen your intimacy and teamwork using the concepts in my book Strong Women, Strong Love.

Stressed About Coronavirus? Make These 4 Mental Shifts

cornovirus

It seems like every few minutes there’s another alarming headline about coronavirus. Perhaps, worries about the virus have you constantly reaching for hand sanitizer and steering clear of anyone you hear coughing or sneezing in public.

While it makes sense to follow precautions recommended by the CDC and other trusted organizations, did you know that there are some other potent ways to stay healthy? I’m talking about taking steps to boost your mental health.

Normally, I discuss these steps in the context of improving your marriage. But the same strategies that benefit your relationship will also boost your physical health. And in stressful times like these, we could all use a boost! The mind-body connection is powerful. Here are four mental practices that will enhance your physical wellness.

1. Lower Your Stress

There’s really nothing in your life that reducing your stress levels won’t improve. Stress takes a toll on relationships. But it also damages your health in myriad ways, including weakening your immune system.

Chances are you were pretty stressed out even before this global crisis. If coronavirus has you even more anxious than usual, it might be time to put some limits on your news and social media consumption. When you do seek information, turn to sources that are reliably accurate and that take a calm and measured tone instead of a sensationalistic one.

You can also bolster your immune system by making sure you are getting enough sleep and eating healthful foods, especially those that feed the gut bacteria that protect your body. Meditation, yoga and qigong can help turn the volume down on your body’s stress response.

2. Make a Point to Connect

Just like stress, loneliness is bad for your immune system. And it’s an epidemic in its own right. Almost half of all Americans report feeling lonely and left out.

As coronavirus spreads, we hear a lot about keeping up our physical distance from others. Universities are canceling classes. Companies are telling employees to work at home. And members of vulnerable groups are being urged to self-isolate.

At the same time, though, we should be making an extra effort not to be emotionally distant. Get in touch with people you don’t see regularly. If virus precautions have changed your routines, don’t let important people fall off of your radar.

When you are stressed and sad, share your feelings with someone you trust instead of just soldiering on. Even spending time with your pet helps. We are all social beings who need a rich network of relationships.

 3. Keep a Positive Mindset

Decide right now that you are in good health and that you are going to stay that way. Constantly call to mind mental images of yourself as strong and healthy. Positive emotions and visualization improve physical wellbeing in a very real way.

Regularly remind yourself of everything that you are grateful for. Gratitude is a powerful weapon against the negativity bias in our brains. We do a good job of remembering dangers and threats, but we have to intentionally focus on and savor positive things in order for them to register.

4. Let Go of Negativity

Elsa from “Frozen” was really onto something. Letting go and forgiving improves our health. If you are carrying around grudges and resentment, you are making it harder to keep yourself healthy and to heal from any illness. If everyday annoyances are really setting you off lately, that can affect your heart rate, blood pressure and immune response.

These four tips will help you bolster your health amid the anxiety about coronavirus. And, as a bonus “side effect,” they will also improve your marriage and other relationships. Please care for yourself well, both during this challenging time and well beyond.

What Meghan and Harry Teach Us About Marriage

As Valentine’s Day gets closer, no love story has the world’s attention right now more than the one between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Of course, the Sussexes have been a magnet for headlines ever since they were dating. But the fascination with them jumped up to a new level after the two announced they would “step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family” and divide their time between England and North America.

Everyone seems to have an opinion about “Sussexit.” Some are critical; some are supportive. As a psychologist who’s worked with countless clients on their marriage issues, I see two people that are making choices to protect their relationship. Although it might not seem like Harry and Meghan have much in common with the rest of us, they’re actually experiencing the same things, in their own way, that many other couples do.

They’re Under Pressure — But So Are You

As Meghan and Harry know all too well, outside factors can have a huge effect on your marriage.

Those factors can include societal pressures. Meghan and Harry have broken tradition for how they are “supposed” to behave as royals. For that, they’ve faced a lot of criticism.

You and I don’t know what that’s like, of course. But I bet you and your husband have defied expectations in other ways and caught flak — in ways large or small — from others. For example, maybe you make more money than he does, and your friends and family make passive-aggressive remarks.

Some pressures that Harry and Meghan have faced will feel more familiar to other couples.  They’re still new parents: Baby Archie was born last May. They have had (or are rumored to have had) difficult times with both sides of their family. And talk about work pressures! How would you like media attention on every aspect of how you did your job?

There’s also a compelling case to be made that scrutiny of Meghan has a racist element. And, as anyone who’s experienced racism knows, it’s a profound source of stress that damages our physical and emotional health.

How Stress Hurts Your Marriage

Meghan and Harry move in a different world than we do. But stress is the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter how wealthy or famous you are. Constant, intense stress will take a toll on your relationship. That’s just how our brains are wired.

When you are under great stress, your brain goes into fight-or-flight mode. You are definitely not in “let me connect with my partner” mode! Under stress, you might …

  • Have trouble processing information.
  • Not really hear what your husband is saying.
  • Lack empathy.
  • Become defensive and have difficulty being open
  • Get “stuck in your story” and keep repeating your position.
  • Experience tunnel vision.
  • Have trouble solving problems.

When you and your husband are constantly stressed, you will regularly behave in these destructive ways. And that will alienate you from each other. Your relationship will get stuck in a negativity spiral.

What If You Stepped Back, Too?

Based on Harry and Meghan’s public statements, it’s clear that their stress has been building and that they felt their unprecedented move was necessary to protect themselves and their son.

I believe that we can all learn something from that. If outside pressures are causing extreme stress in your marriage, you have to make easing those pressures a top priority. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Even if it feels like you’re breaking a norm. Even if other people don’t like what you’re doing.

So what would create the space for less stress and more connection in your own marriage?

  • Can you take some things off of your jam-packed schedule so that you have more breathing room and time for each other?
  • What if you stopped trying to match your friends’ lavish lifestyles so that you could finally pay off that debt that’s been stressing you out?
  • Do you need to start limiting time around people who don’t support your marriage (even if they’re family) and find a new community that will validate and celebrate you?

Meghan and Harry show us that real love is very different from what we learned from fairy tales, even for a prince and a duchess. But they also show us we must take a stand for our own happily ever after.

If you’re ready to prioritize your relationship, I invite you to pick up a copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love. It has lots of practical advice for busy couples who want to maintain their bond amid all of today’s stresses and outside pressures.