As we get closer to Thanksgiving, you are
probably starting to kick your holiday preparations into high gear.
But amid your shopping, decorating and
travel planning, I want you to steal a few moments for one simple activity that
will set the stage for a more meaningful season.
Now is a great time to watch or rewatch Brene Brown’s seminal TEDX talk “The Power of Vulnerability.” It will take you only about 20 minutes.
The holidays can stir up all sorts of
feelings and expectations that make you feel more vulnerable this time of year.
You may already be feeling some anxiety and stress in anticipation of all that needs
to be done before year’s end. Of course, looking cheerful while trying to tame
your perfectionism over every detail makes this a much harder task!
Some of you are anticipating sadness and
heartbreak about loved ones who will not be with you this holiday. All these emotions
can be so powerful that it can be tempting to hide from them through
overeating, overdrinking or overspending.
The gift we all really want is to be able to share our vulnerable feelings with others and still feel safe and loved. Unfortunately, many of us — even kids — have had experiences that make us feel unsafe being vulnerable.
Making Space for Vulnerability
You can’t make people be vulnerable with
you. But you can create an atmosphere of love and security that encourages
vulnerability. What might that look like during the holiday season?
Deciding to skip a party you had planned to attend because your husband is at the end of his rope with end-of-year work stress.
Not telling your shy kid they “shouldn’t feel that way” if they voice nervousness about seeing their raucous cousins.
Taking a timeout from holiday activities to be with a friend who’s grieving or going through a crisis like divorce or a family illness.
Giving your aging parents some one-on-one time to just talk to you instead of getting lost in the busyness of the season.
When you show up for others in ways like these, you build trust and intimacy in your relationships which is necessary for anyone to be vulnerable.
Of course, you also need relationships where you can be vulnerable yourself. Before things get too stressful, think about who gives you a sense of safety and acceptance. Who can handle it when you’re not feeling merry and bright? Who would take it in stride if you need to express sadness that your budget is smaller this year or that your parents are having some health troubles?
If you feel that you and your husband are not open and vulnerable enough with each other, think about some small steps that might help bring you closer. You can’t just go from closed off to totally vulnerable overnight — and neither can he. Instead, think about a low-risk way you can test the waters. Maybe that’s something as simple as asking for his help wrapping gifts when you would usually handle the job yourself. You could use that opportunity to connect and find out how he’s really doing. Slowing down your flurry of activity and engaging creates opportunities to share any vulnerability either of you are experiencing.
I hope that this holiday season brings you closer to everyone you care about, especially your husband. To keep strengthening your relationship together, pick up a copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love.
You love your husband. But, if you’re being real, you have to admit he drives you crazy sometimes. He has all these annoying quirks and bad habits. The longer you’re with him, the more irritating he is to be around.
Nothing like you, right?
You’re so much easier to be around. Or are you?
Seriously, stop for just a second ask yourself what you’re like to live with. Is it possible you might be hard to live with, too?
The truth is that it can genuinely be hard to recognize ways you might be driving your partner crazy. After all, how often do any of us step back and analyze what we’re doing?
How you behave as a wife and as a parent has probably been heavily shaped by what you observed in your own family. That’s what you consider to be “normal.” But your husband came into your marriage with a different idea of what normal looks like.
For example, maybe it was routine in your family to always be running a few minutes behind. But in your husband’s family, “on time” meant “get there early.”
Differences in promptness are not as big a deal as having different ideas about handling conflict or loyalty in the marriage. But how your husband interprets your actions is always important. In this case, your habitual tardiness is a big deal if he views it as disrespect.
It’s good to take a step back and reflect on your own behavior in your marriage sometimes. Now, admittedly, this is a little harder than just focusing on all the stuff he does! But it’s really good for your marriage to look in the mirror occasionally.
Neither of you is ever going to be perfect. But both of you should be aware of how you affect each other. You may be surprised by how much the things you do bother him. For example, maybe you’re already aware that your perfectionism doesn’t serve you well, but you didn’t know that it’s also really stressing him out.
When there are obvious differences, it’s helpful to explain where you’re coming from: “I’m not late because I don’t care about you. I just never developed the habit of being on time. It’s something I’m working on now, though.”
That last part is the key. Maturity
means being aware of what you bring to your marriage, taking ownership of it
and making an effort to change anything that’s detrimental to your
Couples tend to underestimate how much what’s going in our society
as a whole affects their marriage. Cultural norms and expectations about men,
women and families play into our relationships, whether we agree with them or
And sometimes those norms and expectations change more slowly than
the realities of our lives — which gives today’s busy couples yet one more
thing to navigate.
Take family income, for example. In 2017, Pew Research Center found that in almost one-third of U.S. cohabitating couples, women brought home at least half of the earnings. That’s a big leap from 1981, when that figure was just 13%. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about 38% of wives earn more than their husbands.
While women’s earning power has increased over the years, there’s
been less change in our perceptions of who “should” be the
The Pew Center also reports that 71% of adults believe that a good husband or partner should support his family financially. Only 32% say the same of women. On top of that, a study by a Harvard professor found that couples are at a nearly 33% greater risk of divorce when the husband doesn’t work full time.
All of this is important information to be aware of if you make
more money than your husband does. The two of you could face criticism (veiled
or otherwise) from friends and family, especially if your husband stays home
with the kids — which means the two of you are breaking another norm.
You might also discover that the income disparity brings up some
surprising feelings for both of you. In theory, both of you may have always
supported the idea that it doesn’t matter which spouse makes more money. But,
in practice, you might run up against some ideas about men and women left over
from the way you were raised — ideas that you weren’t even aware affected you
None of this means that there’s anything wrong with how your
family’s income breaks down. It’s up to you and your husband to decide together
how much money you need and what you both want from your careers and your
work-life balance. The important thing is just to understand the power of these
entrenched expectations, how they might play out in your relationship and how
you can manage these challenges together.
For more tips on negotiating all of the expectations and pressures
of marriage today, check out my book Strong Women, Strong
If your husband has had an affair,
you’re hurt, you’re angry and you have some big decisions to make. Should you
try to repair your marriage? Or should you end your relationship because of his
There’s no decision that’s right for every person. Today I
want to give you some questions to consider that will help you make the best
choice for your marriage.
How Badly Did He Mess
How long was he unfaithful? Has he had multiple affairs? Were his infidelity physical, emotional or both? How emotionally entangled is he with his affair partner? A one-time slip might feel less daunting to work through than an ongoing pattern of cheating.
How Much Do You Have
How long have you been married? Do you have children? Are you deeply involved in each other’s families? While infidelity is devastating in any relationship, you may feel more motivated to stay and work it out if you lives have been deeply interwoven for years and you still have kids at home.
How Is Your Marriage
What else isn’t working? What is working? Do the positives of your relationship give you a strong
enough foundation to rebuild your marriage? For example, do you share values,
parent well together and still have a friendship? Or have you been feeling
disconnected from each other for years?
Are Other Issues
Is he experiencing addiction or mental illness? Is there a
history of infidelity in his family? All of those factors can make repairing
your relationship more difficult.
Did He Learn His
Does he understand the pain he caused you? Has he apologized sincerely? Is he showing you with his actions that he’s willing to do the work needed to save your marriage and to be faithful going forward?
If You Decide to Stay
See a therapist. Healing after an affair is possible. But it isn’t easy. If at all possible, get counseling as a couple.
Set boundaries. If you tell people close to you about your husband’s infidelity, their first reaction might be to urge you to leave him. That’s understandable. They’re hurt and angry on your behalf. But they can also become a barrier to your reconciliation. Remember, it’s your decision whether or not to stay with your husband. And you’re under no obligation to reveal all the details about what’s happening in your marriage to anyone.
Realize that things are different now. Even if you stay together, the marriage that you had before is gone. Going forward, you’re building a new relationship. The good news is that, while neither of you will forget this painful chapter, you can create a healthier and more honest marriage than the one you had before. As you do, I invite you to use my book Strong Women, Strong Love as a resource.
It seemed like it would never end. You got your kid through all the rigors of college applications (and maybe a few rejections along the way). You helped them make lots of memories during their senior year. You made sure they packed everything they needed for school and then carried it up all those flights of stairs in their dorm. You tried to hide your tears when you had to leave them on campus. And then you came back home — without them.
So now what?
Many parents experience Empty Nest Syndrome after their kids leave for college. According to “Psychology Today,” the symptoms include sadness, loss, depression, loneliness, distress and a loss of meaning and purpose. Moms who don’t work outside the home can be hit especially hard.
Empty Nest Syndrome is painful, but part of a very normal transition in life. Your child is starting college and you are now entering a new stage in life. You’ve probably strongly identified with being a “mom” for a long time. But now it’s time to reconnect with the other aspects of your life as well. Here are a few questions to help you move through Empty Nest Syndrome and spread your wings again.
What’s Going On With You and Your Husband?
Do the two of you still feel connected? Or have things been so busy that you are more like strangers? If that’s the case, now is a great time to rebuild your intimate friendship. You probably have more time to spend together, and you may even have a little extra cash for some fun weekend trips or other new experiences. If you want to refocus on your relationship now that you are empty nesters, my book Strong Women, Strong Love is a great resource.
Could Your Other Relationships Use Some Attention, Too?
Just as you might have neglected your marriage due to your focus on parenting, you may also have let some of the other relationships in your life fall off the radar. If your “social life” used to revolve your kid’s activities, think about the other options you have now. Perhaps you can hang out with the old friends you never seemed to have time to connect with before. Or maybe you could get to know your colleagues better by taking part in the after-work activities you used to skip. However you choose to expand your “relationship portfolio,” doing so will help with the feelings of loneliness that Empty Nest Syndrome can bring.
What Are YOU Interested In?
This can be the hardest question for many women to answer! You may have lost touch with your dreams, ambitions, passions and hobbies as you raised your kids. Now, just as you reconnect with others, it’s also time to reconnect with yourself. What activities would enrich your life? What would be just plain fun? (There’s a bonus here, too. When you pursue your own interests, it often spices up your marriage.)
What’s Meaningful to You Now?
According to the famous psychologist and psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, you are now in stage of life called generativity vs. stagnation. At this stage, we feel compelled to create something meaningful that will outlive us. We start thinking a lot about making a difference and leaving a legacy. If we feel like we are failing at these things, then we have a sense of stagnation and disconnection.
Of course, you’ve already done something incredibly meaningful: nurturing a child who is now thriving at college. But as you’re remaking your life, look for other projects and relationships that enable you to make a contribution and feel connected something bigger.
With your child in college, there’s no denying that a part of your life is over. But an exciting new part is beginning. Enjoy your marriage, your other relationships, your passions and, yes, your grown-up kids!
We tend to joke about how marriage gets boring after a few years.
But it’s actually no laughing matter.
Researchers have found that boredom may be even more damaging to a marriage than conflict is. Psychotherapist and a bestselling author Esther Perel even sees a link between boredom and infidelity:
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
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.
And what is boredom if not the opposite of aliveness?
You Feel Alive?
If you have kids, I bet you invested in classes, camps or other
activities for them this summer — and not just to keep them supervised while
you were at work. You wanted them to learn, to try new things, to have
experiences that would enrich who they are.
As good parents, we do this for our kids. But we often neglect to
do the same thing for ourselves. But, just like your kids, you need to stretch,
grow and have new experiences. And your marriage will be better when you do.
So now that the kids are back in school, what’s one thing you can do that makes you feel more alive? This doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Revive your yoga practice. Take an online class. Make a list of things you’ve never done in your town, and start doing them. Reconnect with a friend you love spending time with. Whether you do something as a couple or on your own, you’ll be bring some new energy into your relationship. Over time, that energy multiplies, and boredom vanishes.
Are you looking for more ways to keep the spark in your
relationship even after you’ve been married for years? Pick up a copy of my
book Strong Women, Strong
You’re the kind of person who avoids conflict. Your husband, on the other hand, seems to relish picking fights. It’s driving you crazy, but is it a serious problem in your marriage?
The answer is “it depends.” Let’s look at some reasons he may argue with you.
#1: He Just Likes to Debate
Some people just love to spar over politics, which “Avengers” movie was the best, where to order pizza … and on and on. For others, this is exhausting. That being said, very few people actually enjoy aggressively stirring up real arguments.
If he’s a debater and you’re not, the important thing is realizing that the two of you have different styles, and that you must learn to peacefully coexist.
“Respect” is really the key word here. If it suddenly feels like he’s talking about you, instead of, say, politics, pay attention. There’s a big difference between “I disagree with your candidate” and “You’ve got to be an idiot to vote for that guy.” And the latter statement is a sign of a deeper trouble in your marriage.
#2: He Wants to Talk EVERYTHING Out
You and your husband may be different in how much you feel a need to discuss things. Maybe you usually shrug off little annoyances, but he tends to make everything “a thing.”
You grit your teeth and put up with his family. He doesn’t hesitate to tell you how much your mom drives him nuts. You don’t say a word when he’s binge watching his favorite show. He lets you know he’s unhappy with the amount of time you spend on Instagram. Why can’t he chill out?
Maybe he came from a family where everyone expressed themselves openly, and your family was more reserved. Or, perhaps you were taught to let little things go, and he wasn’t.
Whatever the case, there isn’t necessarily a “right” approach. Some people with great marriages don’t express conflict openly. Others bicker all the time. The frequency of your arguments isn’t nearly as important as what’s going on in them. As long as you remain respectful, you’re on solid ground. (See “The Right Way to Fight With Your Husband.”)
Possibility #3: It’s Really About His Unmet Needs
Unmet needs can sometimes also be the source of intense conflict. The influential psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, creator of Nonviolent Communication, noted:
criticism, judgment, diagnosis, and expression of anger is the tragic
expression of an unmet need.
Could this be true of your husband? Is it possible his agitation is really about a need that’s not being met? Maybe he wants more time with you? More appreciation? Consider listening deeper for that unmet need rather than joining him in the fight. How would your response change?
Now this doesn’t mean that he has license to yell or throw tantrums and to expect you to read his mind. He has some responsibility to ask for what he needs. You have every right to ask that he be calm and constructive.
No matter which one of these scenarios applies to your marriage, please know that you and your husband can manage it together. Understanding the reason for the disagreement is important in helping you determine how to respond. Next time he picks a fight, I hope you’ll start by asking yourself, “Why is he arguing with me?”
Women will often say that they want more intimacy in their
marriage. If you’ve had feelings like this, I want to give you something to
Typically, when a wife complains about a lack of intimacy, she means that she and her husband are not having deep and candid conversations about things like each other’s true feelings, thoughts, and dreams.
However, intimacy can take different forms in a marriage. Some men — especially those with a more traditional upbringing— have an easier time with nonverbal intimacy than with building intimacy through conversation.
Paths and Roadblocks to Intimacy
When your husband seeks intimacy more physically than verbally, it’s easy to misunderstand his motivations. You may think things like, “It’s all about sex for him” and assume he’s only seeking you out to fulfill his own desires. Usually, the truth is more nuanced. Yes, he’s probably enjoying sex. However, he’s also seeking connection and intimacy with you in a way that just feels more comfortable for him.
When you seek intimacy through conversation and he seeks it through physical connection, neither of you is wrong. You just need to see that these are two different paths to feeling closer, and find a way to honor both.
To set the stage for more intimate conversations with your husband, make sure there’s an atmosphere of safety and respect in your marriage. Listen when he talks. (Put down your phone!) Be curious about what’s going on with him. And don’t micromanage or criticize him — would you want to open up to someone who is constantly getting after you?
Enhancing Nonverbal Intimacy
In addition to deepening your connection through conversation, appreciate the various forms of nonverbal intimacy in your marriage and look for ways to increase that too. I’m not just talking about sex. You could also…
Offer physical comfort.
Reassure or encourage with a squeeze of the shoulder or a gentle touch.
Hold eye contact.
Hold each other.
Wink and smile.
Gently caress his face, hair, or arm in a cherishing way.
Sit close to each other.
Speak quietly and lovingly.
Lean on each other.
Reach out and hold hands.
Give him a pat on the butt.
Walk arm-in-arm, holding hands, or arm-over-shoulder.
On their own, these gestures will bring the two of you closer together. They could also make it feel safer for your husband to risk opening up to the intimate conversations you’ve been longing for.
A Minute of Silence
I want to leave you with one of the most vivid reminders of the power of nonverbal intimacy that I know of. Perhaps you’ve heard of Marina Abramovic’s work “The Artist is Present” in which she sat across from strangers and shared a minute of silence with them. That’s intimate enough itself! But when Abramovic’s ex-love sits down, look at how much passes between them before they even speak a single word.
As Abramovic shows us, there’s nothing more powerful than the connection between people. Make it a priority to constantly build your connection with your husband, whatever form that intimacy takes. My book, Strong Women, Strong Love, can give you more ideas on how to stay close no matter how busy and hectic your lives are.
You’re so controlling!
Can you just get off my back?
If your husband has ever hurled words like these at you during an argument, you no doubt remember their sting. But besides feeling hurt, you were probably also confused. Me? Controlling? Where’s he coming up with this?
conflict can cause real damage in your relationship if it continues unchecked.
Today, I want to help you get to the root of the issue and to suggest some
shifts that both you and your husband
can make to strengthen your marriage.
Are You Really Controlling?
If your husband has told you that you’re controlling, you’re far from alone. This is one of the most common points of tension in marriages. But I don’t believe that most wives are out there secretly scheming to find new ways to boss their husbands around.
What’s actually happening? As you know firsthand, we women have a lot on our plates. In addition to going to work, women still spend more time on household chores and childcare than men do. And then there’s the emotional labor that goes along with having a family, which also disproportionately falls on women.
so much going on, we have to be very good at getting things done. To keep all
the balls we’re juggling in the air, we’re relentlessly focused and efficient.
Why He Thinks You’re Too Controlling
where issues of control come in. When you’re driving so hard to check off all
the things on your list, sometimes it can feel like your husband is slowing you
down or getting in your way. So you end up doing things like this:
Telling him how to do a
Jumping in and taking
over if he’s doing it “wrong” or taking too long.
Constantly reminding him
about something you asked him to do because you’re worried he’ll forget.
You know that you’re just trying to get everything done because you care about your family. But he’s taking away a very different message from your behavior. If he complains that you are too controlling, he isn’t just saying that he feels micromanaged. The deeper meaning behind his words is that he doesn’t think you trust him or respect him which makes him feel demoralized and unmotivated.
I know these aren’t the messages you’re trying to communicate to him. But
they’re the ones he’s taking away.
Step Back So He Can Step
marriage doesn’t have to stay stuck in this destructive pattern, though. Here’s
how to change the dynamic between you and your husband.
As we’ve discussed, the
behaviors that he perceives as controlling are probably happening because you
have too much to do and you feel stressed and overwhelmed. That means it’s time
for an open and honest discussion about household responsibilities — chores,
childcare, emotional labor — and how the two of you can divide things more
Once you agree that a
task or responsibility is his to manage, back
off. Don’t jump in and sideline him, even when you know that you would do a
better job. Yes, taking over might be easier right now, but giving him some
space to grow is better for you both in the long run. He might make some
mistakes, but he’ll grow from them.
Remember “the friend test.” Our spouses are so close to us that sometimes we take them for granted and don’t show them the same respect and consideration we would show a friend. When you’re tempted to tell your husband how to do something, or to jump in and start doing it for him, ask yourself whether you would behave the same way with a dear friend.
Persist Through Discomfort
Shifts like these may feel uncomfortable at first because things will take longer to get done, and they might not be done according to your high standards. But I believe the closeness you’ll gain in your marriage more than makes up for any efficiency you lose. He’ll feel less controlled, you’ll feel less burdened, and you’ll both enjoy a more collaborative partnership that gives you more freedom and flexibility.
For more marriage tips like the ones in this article, pick up copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love. In it, you’ll find many more strategies for maintaining a strong relationship amid our busy, stressful lives.
Don’t forget to subscribe to receive new blog posts HERE and get a free report, “10 Easy Ways to Get Him to Listen.”
are some of the most alarming and confusing words you can hear in your
marriage. Today I want to help you decode them.
What Is He Really
your husband says that he needs space, or if you notice that he’s been
distancing himself lately, a lot of thoughts might race through your mind:
He doesn’t love me anymore.
He’s keeping a dark secret.
He’s having an affair.
what does “I need space” really
let you in on a secret: It means he needs space. Yep, guys are pretty literal
most of the time. And this need for space is not necessarily a signal that
something is wrong in your marriage.
Why Does He Need Space?
Speaking very generally, “space” is a more confusing word for women than it is for men. As a result, when your husband doesn’t want to collaborate, you might quickly assume the worst.
However, men in the U.S. are usually socialized very differently than we are. They’re taught to be stoic and deal with problems and issues on their own. So when he says he needs space, here a few things that might be going on with him:
He’s working through a
challenge or a problem, like a tough time at work.
He’s exhausted. Men will
more readily take some time to themselves to recharge. This is one area where
we should follow their example!
He’s experiencing a difficult emotion, such as grief, that he needs time to process.
I’m not saying that taking some space is the best way to handle any of these situations. But it’s his way, and it probably doesn’t reflect on his feelings for you.
When the Need for Space
Is a Red Flag
however, “I need some space” really does translate to “There’s a
problem in our marriage.” This is especially true if you typically have a
very close and collaborative relationship and he suddenly wants more space.
Don’t rush to conclusions, but do realize it’s time to open a discussion about
what’s happening with him.
This is just one example of how navigating the differences between your husband’s emotional needs and communication style and your own can be tricky. For more proven strategies that can help, pick up a copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love.
Don’t forget to subscribe to receive new blog posts HERE and get a free report, “10 Easy Ways to Get Him to Listen.”