Are Your Husband and Kids Now Your Coworkers?

Are you struggling because your work situation has changed dramatically with COVID-19? If you’re home with your spouse and kids during this pandemic, you’re not alone.  

The Struggle is Real

So many parents working from home, especially those with elementary-age kids, are worn out. Without childcare or summer camp, home has become a pressure cooker of stress for lots of people.

Those with older kids face different challenges. Adolescents, especially, may be frustrated with limits on social contact with friends and challenge rules you’ve implemented for their well-being.

The Immediate Future Offers No Relief

And, as we head into the fall, it’s understandable you’re worried about how to juggle the demands of work and teaching.

This is especially true if your employer is not very sympathetic about all you are trying to balance.

Work Together to Get Through

You may already be struggling with a sense of feeling trapped and pushed to your limits as this pandemic drags on with no clear end in sight.

Remember that this situation really is temporary. Simply do your best to protect what is most important: your health and your relationships.

Work with your spouse to see what you can do to ease the strain in the months ahead. Here are a few tips to help you:

  1. Sit down with your spouse and identify what each of you needs on a daily basis to feel positive. Problem solve how to support each other and your kids as you work from home.
  2. Take breaks from multitasking. If it’s possible, negotiate with your spouse to have chunks of time when you can focus on work without interruption. If you are more flexible than your spouse during the work day, then make sure you get a solid break when his work day ends. Everyone needs some time without demands on them!
  3. Make things more convenient and less work for you. Stock up on meals your kids can prepare very easily or consider meal prep services that deliver ready-made food. Set up a snack station for your kids. If you can have a person who safely comes to your house to care for the kids while you work, that’s even better!
  4. If it’s safe to do so, expand your bubble of safety to include other family members or close friends who are being as cautious as you are during the pandemic. Having more people in the mix may allow all of you to come up with some creative solutions for supporting each other.
  5. Structure can really help decrease everyone’s stress. With little ones, writing the schedule down, planning activities ahead of time, and sticking to a routine can help. You can also brainstorm what kids can do if they are bored, or simply let them find creative ways to manage their boredom.
  6. Expand your definition of learning to include skills kids pick up at home, as well as what they are taught at school. Although academic skills are important and you prefer they be in school with their teachers, kids can learn some very important life skills right now. Teach them to clean the house, do laundry, take care of pets, or fix a snack or small meal. There is an opportunity to help your kids gain more independence and self-confidence if you can come up with age-appropriate tasks. They will feel proud being able to contribute to the household if you ask them to do things to help you and don’t expect them to be perfect.
  7. Give kids brief periods of focused attention. Tank them up emotionally and they will be more likely to do things on their own for a while.
  8. Get your children outside. A walk in the early morning. A sprinkler to run through. Watering the plants. Maybe dance time. Movement will help burn off some energy and improve behavior.
  9. Adjust your expectations. You can’t do it all. Just accept that now. Your kids may spend more time on screens that you like. They may not have all the academic support you wish they had. They may walk in during a Zoom call. It’s okay. Just do your best and know there’s nothing else you can do.
  10. Take note of the opportunity to create a saner lifestyle by paying attention to how good it feels to have fewer outside demands and more family time outside work. It will be easy to lose this important perspective once things get back to normal.

Protect Each Other and Your Relationship

Keeping your stress managed is an important part of protecting your relationship too.

This pandemic can bring your and your husband closer if you can work together to deal with the challenges this situation presents.

Hold onto each other and walk through this difficult time together. If you do this, your relationship will actually be stronger when the pandemic is behind us.

Think You Married Mr. Wrong?

You’ve been with your husband a while, and some of the things he does drive you so crazy that you wonder if you possibly married the wrong man. He falls short of so many of your expectations. How do you know whether you made a mistake or whether it’s just normal to feel this way in a marriage?

So, let me start by asking you a really important question: Who did you marry?

Notice, I did NOT say: Who do you wish you had married?

Who Is This Man You Married?

Take a really close look at your husband and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is he lazy or a hard worker?
  • Is he easy going or inflexible?
  • Does he have your back when things are rough, or does he leave you to fend for yourself?
  • Is he generally kind or mean?
  • Is he a good dad or uncaring with the kids?
  • Does he know how to nurture, or is he clueless about how to take care of someone?
  • Is he messy or a neat freak?
  • What are his best qualities?
  • What are his worst ones?
  • Are his good qualities ones that really matter to you?
  • Are his worse qualities deal breakers?
  • How well do the two of you work as a team?
  • Why did you marry him in the first place?

Can You Accept Him?

Very often, the frustration you feel toward your spouse simply comes from a failure to accept the person you actually married. Women often go into a marriage with the mentality that they will “fix up” the guy they married. When attempts to change him fail, the challenge is to accept reality.

Your husband may never be the man in your dreams, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a great marriage partner. He cannot compete with the idealized image in your mind. So, the challenge then is for you to love him as is, without any upgrades.

What Old Married Couples Know

Couples who have been married for years and are still happy have inevitably come to understand the importance of deeply loving and accepting their partner, even with all their quirks and foibles.

It’s when you step into a place of deeper acceptance, that your real marriage actually begins.

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.

Following up with Your Husband is NOT Nagging!

It’s happened to any woman who is married. You ask your husband to do something — for example, take care of a leaky faucet — and he says he will. You wait for it to happen. And wait. And…

Nothing.

That dripping faucet is still driving you crazy. And now your husband is too.

You could handle the problem yourself. However, that adds one more thing to your already-long task list, and you know you’ll feel resentful. Or, you could remind him and maybe get accused of nagging.

Neither option feels like a good one.

OK, let’s set one thing straight. If the two of you had a discussion and came to an agreement that he would do something, it’s not nagging to check in if it didn’t get done. It’s simply “following up.” You follow up effectively with people at work all the time. And it’s possible to do the same with your husband. Here’s how.

Decide Whether to Follow Up

First, decide whether this is a conversation you really want to have. There’s no right or wrong decision here. Think about how important the request is in the big picture. Is following up on it the way you want to spend your energy right now? If it is, that’s fine. You can use the rest of the strategies in this article. But if it’s not, are you OK just letting this one go? I mean truly letting it go without being mad.

Give Him the Benefit of the Doubt

If you do decide to follow up with your husband, here’s how NOT to lead off:

You said you would fix the faucet, but you still haven’t! Why can’t you just get things done without my having to ask you AGAIN AND AGAIN to take care of them?!!!

No doubt, he’ll probably get defensive if you come at him that way.

Instead, you want to take an approach more like this:

Honey, I know you’ve been busy, so it may have slipped you mind, but the faucet is still dripping. I know you told me you were intending to take care of it by last Friday.

Use a neutral tone of voice, not a blaming one and just state the facts. Remember, you’re just checking in, like you would with someone at work.

Listen to his response and then make another specific request, making sure you highlight the importance to you:

It’s really important to me. Would you please take care of it today?

Now please know that this is not some magic formula that will keep your husband from getting irritable or defensive. Some guys will still be reactive no matter how you follow up with them. But others will mirror your respect and courtesy.

Increasing the Odds of being Heard

There are a few ways to increase the odds that your requests will not be overlooked:

1. Connect the Request to Your Needs

One thing that can keep your request on his radar is to clearly connect it to a need you have. Sometimes husbands don’t follow through on requests because they don’t see why they’re important. Maybe he’s not as concerned about the water bill or conservation as you are, so that faucet isn’t bothering him. But it would bother him if he understood how much it was stressing you out. So try saying something like this:

I’m kind of at the end of my rope right now with Mom being sick and work being crazy. So that leaky faucet is just adding to my stress.

2. Treat Him Like an Adult

You don’t belittle or disrespect your colleagues and friends. (At least I hope you don’t!) So don’t treat your husband this way. Give him the respect you would any other adult.

But while you’re both entitled to respect in the relationship, you’re also both entitled to some degree of accountability too. That’s part of being an adult, too. Adults do the things they say they will do.

If the request you made was important to you, stand your ground. Just always do so respectfully and kindly.

3. Show Appreciation

If your husband regularly ignores your requests, make sure you’re not committing this common mistake. One of the reasons men say they stop stepping up in their marriage is because they truly believe no matter what they do, their wife will never be happy. So they just stop trying.

If that’s the case in your relationship, the easy fix is to consistently thank your spouse just like you would a friend or coworker if they did the same task.

Start changing the atmosphere in your relationship by looking for opportunities to show more respect and appreciation. More often than not, your spouse will do the same.

Got more questions about communication in marriage? Pick up a copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love

Best Marriage Advice from 2019

Over the past year, I’ve covered a lot of advice about keeping your marriage strong even when life is busy and stressful. Some of my marriage advice has delved into tough topics. In other articles, I’ve aimed more to provide inspiration for improving your relationship.

If you’ve missed any of my marriage articles from 2019, you can catch up by reading this roundup of the year’s most popular posts.

He Cheated — Should You Leave Him?’ and

Is It Time to Leave Your Husband?

Both of these articles were about the most serious juncture you can experience in a marriage: whether to continue it. In the first article, I looked at whether you should leave a partner who cheated. Of course, there’s no single right answer about whether you should stay with or leave a cheating spouse. But in this article, you’ll find a list of questions that can help you make the right decision for you if you’re ever in this painful situation.

The second article can help you figure out whether your marriage is irretrievably broken or whether it can be saved. Again, everyone’s situation is different. But whatever your decision is, this article can help you be at peace with it.

‘If He “Needs Space,” What Should You Do?

It isn’t just women who are seeking some distance in relationships. That’s demonstrated by another one of my most popular marriage articles from last year. “I need some space” can be an alarming thing to hear from your husband. And you might spend a lot of time wondering what he really means by that statement. But, as I explain in the article, there can be any number of reasons behind your husband’s need for space, and it’s usually not a red flag in your relationship.

How to Cope When You Love Him But Hate His Politics‘ and

‘How to Respond If Your Husband Likes to Argue

If anything, political divisions in our country have only gotten deeper since the first article was published. So I have the feeling it will remain relevant for a long time to come! If you haven’t read the article yet, I offer some tips to keep your marriage from feeling like one of those cable news shows where ideological rivals just keep shouting over each other.

And if your husband seemingly loves to pick fights about politics or other subjects, you’ll want to check out the second article as well. In it, you’ll find some tips to help you decode what his argumentative behavior is really about.

How to Make Date Night Better With One Easy Shift

But you weren’t just thinking about disagreements in your marriage in 2019. You were also looking for ways to make the most of your time together. To that end, I went below the surface of a familiar piece of marriage advice: Have regular date nights. Unfortunately, that advice can do more harm than good if it becomes just another area where you are putting pressure on yourself to do things perfectly. As I wrote in the original article: “The point of having a date night isn’t to do something you can brag about on Instagram. It’s to connect with each other.”

How to Stop Being Too Controlling of Your Husband‘ and

How to Make Friends With Your Anger

Speaking of pressure, these next two articles speak to some feelings and issues that emerge because of all the responsibilities and expectations on us as women.

If your husband has said you are controlling, or if this is something you’ve noticed about yourself, I’m willing to bet it’s because you have so much on your plate, and sometimes it feels like your husband is slowing down your efforts to get all those things done. The best way forward is to have an open and honest discussion about household responsibilities — chores, childcare, emotional labor — and how the two of you can divide things more equitably.

Meanwhile, anger is an emotion we are often uncomfortable with as women. We may worry that anger makes us a bad person or believe that we shouldn’t get angry at all. When you can’t process anger in a healthy way, that can lead to destructive behaviors in your marriage, like complaining or withdrawing. But when you listen to your anger, it can guide you toward positive change in your marriage.

The Four Agreements in Marriage

I want to conclude with an article that is great to revisit (or read for the first time) as you think about what you want for your marriage in 2020.

The personal development classic The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is a surprisingly effective guide to a good marriage. How can you apply each agreement in your marriage next year?

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

Thank you again for reading in 2019! I’ll be back in January with more insight and advice to make your marriage stronger than ever.

One Small Shift That Will Improve Your Marriage

If you’re looking for ways to make your marriage better, there’s a strategy you may have never considered. It’s surprisingly simple, and it addresses a common point of tension. Yet very few women use it.

Ready? Here it is: Give partial credit.

That’s it.

What do I mean by partial credit? Let me explain by giving you an example I hear about all the time. A wife asks her husband to take care of some things around the house while she is out. He accomplishes almost everything she wanted him to do. But maybe he doesn’t do the job exactly as she would have.

What do you think she focuses on? That’s right: the fact that the task is not finished in the way she defines it. She’s only giving credit if everything is done and done right according to her standards— which doesn’t help anyone. The husband loses his motivation to do more around the house, and the wife loses out on the work he could be doing.

Giving partial credit works out a whole lot better for everyone. Let’s look at why that is.

Why We ‘Grade’ So Harshly

I don’t think women intentionally avoid giving partial credit. It’s just a function of how we are used to doing things and the stress we are under.

Women are taught to look for ways to be helpful without being asked and to go the extra mile. If one woman is doing a task, another will typically jump in and try to help if she can. Men, on the other hand, won’t usually insert themselves into a task another man is doing unless he is asked to do so. Men consider that being respectful.

In general, men also approach delegated tasks a little differently. They will usually strive to do exactly what is asked, and only that. So, if you’re mad at him for not doing more, he’s not really going to understand that. For example, if you asked him to run the dishwasher and he did that, he might be frustrated when you’re upset he didn’t also clean the kitchen counters because it was so “obvious” they were dirty.

Women are often multitasking and juggling more than men, thereby carrying a larger mental load. We want tasks to be completely done, with nothing left to address or worry about, so they can be totally off of our minds. There’s a psychological phenomenon at play here: the Zeigarnik Effect. Our brains remember incomplete tasks more readily than those that have been completed. Having too many loose ends can literally create mental stress by nagging at us.

What’s the Real Issue?

Shouldn’t he just know that the rest of the kitchen needed cleaning? Well, yes, but is that what you specifically asked him to do? If the only thing you did in response to the work he completed is to complain about what he didn’t do, he’s going to feel discouraged and micromanaged. He’s also going to eventually feel like nothing makes you happy.

Instead, try giving partial credit. Just say, “Thanks so much for loading the dishwasher.” This doesn’t mean you are giving up on his helping to clean the rest of the kitchen. But instead of implying he “failed” at the task you asked him to complete, make a more specific request next time: “Would you mind loading the dishwasher, cleaning the countertops and emptying the dishrack please?” Trust me, he’s not going to be offended by this level of detail.

The other important thing you can do moving forward is having a farther-reaching discussion about how the mental load of the household is distributed. This is especially important if you’re the one with a to-do list a mile long. At the end of the day, the problem isn’t really that he didn’t clean the rest of the kitchen, it’s that you are managing far too many details in your household, and that’s exhausting. Open his eyes to this so that the two of you can work out a better division of both physical and emotional labor.

Extend More Credit

Especially this time of year, partial credit is a useful concept to remember in your other relationships too. The holiday season brings a lot of expectations — and hurt feelings when those expectations don’t get met. How would it feel to give partial credit to your sister for at least waiting until after dessert to start complaining about her ex? Or to your in-laws for not overspending as wildly as they used to on the kids’ gifts even though they didn’t follow your wishes exactly?

I’m wishing you lots of peace and joy in all your relationships this holiday season. For more advice on better communication in marriage, pick up a copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love.