Save your marriage over dinner.

Have you heard of the term “dining dead”? In the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Joel asks “Are we like those bored couples you feel sorry for in restaurants?” Joel muses to himself. “Are we the dining dead?”

Can you save your marriage over dinner?

A recent New York Times article described this state as one in which a couple stops talking after many years of marriage finding themselves sitting across the table, wordless, with a vast distance between one another.

save your marriage
Image credit: Andre Slob

How does this happen?

So many couples are bursting with conversational energy when they first meet. There is much to discover; many evenings are spent talking into the wee hours. As time goes on the enthusiasm and excitement lessens and the day to day of life takes hold on conversations. Continue reading Save your marriage over dinner.

Marriage in trouble? Your health may be too.

There is plenty of evidence that a healthy marriage, one in which couples practice good communication, resolve conflict with relationship skills and create an atmosphere of warmth and positivity can have potential health benefits. Those may include, better heart health, lower mortality rates and lower rates of chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer and surgeries. If this is true can it also be true that with a marriage in trouble, health problems may follow?

marriage in trouble
Is chronic martial stress leading you to health problems?

There is evidence that a marriage in trouble, one that carries with it chronic stress, may lead to health problems. Here are some of the potential health problems relating to chronic marital stress.

Depression

Continue reading Marriage in trouble? Your health may be too.

4 resolutions for your marriage in 2016

With the start of a new year, naturally there is an opportunity to think about what changes you want to make and where you want to focus your energy in the coming days and weeks. Whether you are a seasoned couple, having spent many years together or a new couple still awash in the glow of infatuation setting intention for the year ahead will be a boon to your relationship. The work you do now will set the tone for the days ahead.

Here are 4 resolutions for your marriage to tackle in 2016.

resolutions for your marriage
Photo credit: Joao Paulo de Vasconcelos

Put your marriage on the front burner.

Too often intimate relationships, especially your marriage end up on the back burner, if it’s on the stove at all! Jobs, kids, hobbies, spiritual lives, personal free time, tend to come before “working on your marriage.” They shouldn’t! The health of your marriage is a driving factor in how successful you are at all the other ventures you tackle. How satisfying your personal relationships are tends to impact the rest of your life including your physical and mental health. While certainly not the only factor, when your emotional house is in order you free up space and energy to go after your goals and dreams with the support of your partner. Make sure your relationship gets its fair share of your time and energy by making a plan. Beyond the old “regular date night” save all, create a real concrete idea of ways you are going to make your marriage a priority. Try to avoid fuzzy goals like, “spend more time together” or “have more sex.” Instead try, spend 1 hour every evening together or kiss each other every day. Continue reading 4 resolutions for your marriage in 2016

5 Habits of happy couples.

happy couples
Photo credit: Timothy Krause

5 habits happy couples practice.

1. Steer clear of toxic talk. If not careful, toxic talk can easily creep into daily chatter with your spouses.  One of the wonderful things a close relationship affords is lots of information about each other, the good and the ugly.  When you use the intimate information you have about each other to tease, mock or rail against your spouse you undermine the trust and safety critical for an intimate relationship. Happy couples steer clear of harsh words and share encouragement and positivity instead! Continue reading 5 Habits of happy couples.

Your relationship maintenance checklist.

Have you had the gutters cleaned on your house lately?  How about weeding and lawn mowing?  Maybe you have had to fix a leak or repair a crack in the wall. Your house, in order to stay in good working order needs regular maintenance. Failure to take care of those tasks and your house is likely to suffer and eventually fall into disrepair, the same is true for the relationships in your life. Regular relationship maintenance will keep the love alive and the investment in your relationship strong.  So what’s needed to sustain a healthy relationship?

relationship maintenanceRelationship maintenance refers to regular behaviors that are engaged in by partners in an effort to stay together.  The more relational maintenance you engage in as a couple the better your chances of longevity in the relationship. Researchers Laura Stafford and Daniel J. Canary identified a set of five general relationship behaviors that when engaged in regularly increase the quality of the relationship.

Your relationship maintenance checklist…

Continue reading Your relationship maintenance checklist.

Fight with your spouse this week? Blame daylight savings.

fight with your spouse
Daylight savings can wreak havoc on your week.

Did you fight with your spouse this week? Hopefully not. If you did, maybe it is out of the ordinary for you to fight.  You may be wondering why? What’s different? Of course there are many reasons couples fight, and there may not always be a singular cause. One possible cause is your emotional state. The physical environment and choices we make including what we eat and how much exercise we get contribute to both physical health as well as emotional health. Another key factor is sleep.  An article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday argued a link between the Daylight Savings time change and marital discord.  Specifically that when you lose sleep you are more likely to fight with your spouse. “They found that people were more likely to have conflict on days when they slept poorly the night before.”

“If you sleep poorly, you’re prone to being self-centered,” and “You focus on me, me, me, and is it any wonder that you are getting into fights with your partner?”

You many not always be able to avoid having a fight with your spouse. You can however keep in mind the many outside factors that are contributing.

The key here is to pay attention to your physical state.  When you feel yourself falling into those communication traps; snarky comments, negativity and self-centered behaviors or thoughts, STOP, ask yourself… Continue reading Fight with your spouse this week? Blame daylight savings.

How to communicate with your partner: Up the positivity!

how to communicate with your partner

This will be the final installment of our series, how to communicate with your partner. The last topic we are focusing on is positivity. There is no doubt that a positive outlook on life has plenty of rewards. People who maintain a sunny disposition and in general find the brighter side of life enjoy better emotional health. The rewards of positivity go beyond just your own emotional heath, increasing positivity also results in a longer lifespan, reduced risk of cardiovascular complications, increased resistance to illness and more.

The question remains though, is positivity an expression of happiness or can it create more happiness. In her often cited paper on positive thinking, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson says “positive emotions signal optimal functioning, but this is far from their whole story. I argue that positive emotions also produce optimal functioning, not just within the present, pleasant moment, but over the longterm as well.” What if you were to apply this idea to your relationship.  Many couples struggle with where to start when conflict and strife have become the norm in the marriage.  A wonderful place to start is with positivity. When you are struggling with how to communicate with your partner and are stuck wondering how to open the door to conversation, up the positivity.  Not only will up-ing the positivity make the day to day experience of your relationship a bit brighter it will increase the overall health and stability of your marriage.

Positivity is an action you can take to learn how to communicate with your partner.

Here are 5 actions you can take today to shift the positivity meter in the right direction. Continue reading How to communicate with your partner: Up the positivity!

The Power of Two: Why making a relationship last matters.

Over the past weekend I attended a memorial service for my grandfather.  He passed recently in his own home surrounded by loved ones.  He was 84 years old.  The memorial service was a lovely tribute to the man, mostly shared through stories told by his four sons.  He was a hard working man, a funny and kind person who made friends wherever he went.  He was also a devoted husband, married to my my grandmother (who passed in 2007) for 60 years.  After the service ended, hugs and loving embraces were exchanged and we all went home to continue on with our lives.  As I thought about the day and service and my grandfather I was struck by something that stood out to me as we all celebrated the life of a man we loved.  It was these four words: The Power of Two. These words are something I read, write and say often given the work I do.  I do not ponder them deeply as often as I should.

Tom and Irene
My grandparents on the farm in South Dakota

 

Why does making a relationship last matter? As I thought about my grandparents and the legacy they left behind I believe that their marriage and its impact on the lives of the people who sat in that auditorium was their greatest legacy.  60 years of a life shared together, raising four sons was surely no easy life.  My grandfather grew up on a farm in South Dakota, he worked for The Coca Cola company for 25 years. He then went on to own a successful print shop and retired to enjoy his eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Continue reading The Power of Two: Why making a relationship last matters.

Marriage problems and technoference: How to ditch the device for better communication.

marriage problems
Put the phones down to connect with your partner

What does your cell phone have to do with marriage problems? Recently, several prominent news sources have presented surveys and research that point to the problem with cell phones and romantic relationships.  One survey reported that “70 percent of women said smartphones were interfering in their romantic relationship.” That’s a huge number of women! In NPR’s recent story  “technoference” was citied as a serious problem in relationships. Aside from the question of what you are actually doing on the device, the accessibility and pervasiveness of  the devices in our lives is causing several problems.  Cell phones are the worst kind of distraction, the convenience of access to all your email accounts, the camera, the social media accounts, not to mention the thousands of other apps you can fill your device with offer an endless stream of information. This coupled with the dings, ringtones and other alerts that make everyone in the room look at their phone in some sort of pavlovian response to a bell are bound to cause marriage problems.

There are certainly big questions to answer individually and culturally about the influence these devices have on our lives. Technology no doubt has it’s place in daily life.  If we can thoughtfully engage with it it can actually be used for good in the relationship.  Time savings is one instance that can benefit your romantic relationships.  If you are able to take care of a task like paying bills that may have in the past taken up precious evening time at the kitchen table you can use that time you’ve gained to connect with your spouse, but do you? The evidence seems pretty clear that by and large they are causing more marriage problems than they solve. In her research, Sarah Coyne, boiled it down to this, “What I think the most important finding is, the more you let the technology interfere, the more conflict you have with your spouse or partner and that leads to not feeling great about the relationship.” So where is the balance?  Obviously this question is best left to each couple to navigate, provided the right skills are there to actually have a win win outcome!

So here are a few tips for curbing the potential marriage problems caused by technoference… Continue reading Marriage problems and technoference: How to ditch the device for better communication.

Want to have more sex during stressful times? Here are 5 things to try.

A lot of good habits can suffer during stressful times.  Some people overeat, workout routines fall off the map, sleep is often affected. Sex is another piece of the relationship puzzle that gets put on the back burner when stress hits the fan.  Here are a few tips for how to avoid the sexless marriage trap and keep that lovin’ feeling alive even when stress, including holiday stress takes a hold on your life and relationship…

1. Sleep Naked.  Forego the holiday themed, fuzzy footy Pj’s and go to bed in your birthday suit.  Couples who sleep naked have more sex.  Sleeping naked removes one small barrier to getting busy.  In addition, physical touch and close contact increase oxytocin, the love hormone. Climbing into the sheets naked will encourage you to get closer to warm up on cold winter nights. Who knows you might get lucky!

have more sex
Slip into the sheets in your birthday suit.

3. Keep your bedroom a sanctuary.  When it comes to your bedroom, don’t dismiss the power of setting the mood. Too often the clutter of stressful times builds up in your bedroom. Laundry piling up, work to do, stacks of bills, papers or books waiting to be read, shopping bags full of gifts to be wrapped all contribute to the mental clutter aka intimacy killer.  Take some time to de-clutter your bedroom, take the tv out (or at least cover it up or put in in a cabinet) Letting the world in via television and devices can squeeze out special moments to connect with your spouse. Take the stacks of paper out, go through them if you can, if you can’t just put them somewhere else!  The last and probably most difficult task in the bedroom is to GET RID OF THE SMARTPHONE!! A recent article cited the statistic that “70 percent of women in a recent survey said smartphones were interfering in their romantic relationship.”  Now certainly you don’t need to get rid of it all together, just leave it out of the bedroom!

have more sex
Don’t let clutter be a barrier to a roll in the hay.

Continue reading Want to have more sex during stressful times? Here are 5 things to try.