Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Serving others as a team



Dear Friend,
It’s no secret that when you bring joy to others, you also bring joy to yourself! By serving others, you infuse happiness into your own life and relationships.
The notion of kindness leading to happiness is not new. Research through the years has revealed that being generous and considerate makes people happy. And when you are able to do this as a couple, it increases your relational “happiness meter” as well. This week, we are sharing ways you can add value to others, and in turn boost the happiness in your own relationship. You don't want to miss this!

See you there,



Related Resource
Making Happy explores the science, the art, and the practice of happiness in marriage. Drawing from real-life examples, Drs. Les and Leslie offer insights into how your brain and relationship affect each other as you make happiness in your marriage a conscious, delightful habit.

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Friday, July 26, 2019

The Sex-Starved Marriage


The Sex-Starved Marriage

By Michele Weiner-Davis
January/February 2016

I was trained, like most therapists, to believe that when a marriage is rocky and the couple’s sex life stinks, you have to solve the emotional problems and the rest will fall into place. But I discovered that doesn’t always work, so I needed a new way to work with couples, especially when one person was more interested in having sex than the other—a sex-starved marriage.
When I talk about a sex-starved marriage, it’s not about the number of times per week or per month people are actually having sex. After all, unlike vitamins, there’s no daily or weekly minimum requirement to ensure a healthy sex life. Instead, the sex-starved marriage is one in which one spouse is longing for more touch, more physical closeness, more sex, and—here’s the rub—the other spouse is thinking, “What’s the big deal? It’s just sex.” But it’s a huge deal because it’s really about feeling wanted, loved, and connected. Couples who experience this kind of sex–desire gap stop spending time together, stop watching TV together, don’t laugh at each other’s jokes, and quit being friends. It places the marriage at risk of infidelity and of divorce.
There’s a misconception that what I’m talking about is the typical scenario of a man who has a permanent erection and is more interested in sex than his wife is. Often it’s the woman who has the higher drive. Another misconception is that sex-starved couples present their sex life as their primary issue when they come into couples therapy. The reality is that it’s typical for these couples first to come in talking about differences in parenting styles, in how they handle money, or in how they take on chores around the house. But if they give me any clue—maybe because their body language seems cold and distant—to suggest they’re leading parallel and separate lives, I’ve learned to just jump right in and say, “So tell me about your sex life. How’s that going?” I’m very direct about it these days. In fact, more often than not, I ask about it in the first session.
It’s common for the lower-desire spouse to feel that it’s okay to make a unilateral decision about whether or not the couple connects sexually, thinking, Why in the world would my partner be interested in sex if we’re not feeling close? But when the higher-desire spouse is either directly or indirectly rejected sexually, he or she can shift rapidly into anger. It may be focused on the wet towel on the floor, or the beer in the den, or the tricycle left in the driveway. But I’ve never seen a relationship where anger is an aphrodisiac. It usually pushes the other spouse even further away.
One of the things I’m doing early on is to get the higher-desire spouse to share openly what it’s been like to be sexually disconnected. It’s usually poignant, and there’s always a deep expression of a sense of rejection and hurt. Then I turn to the low-desire spouse and ask that person, “What’s it like for you to hear this?”
I’m hoping for some empathy, but if it doesn’t come, I have a story that I tell people about a couple I’ll call John and Mary. John was a laid-back guy, who rarely complained about anything. Toward the end of one session, he said, “There’s something I’d like to talk about. In our relationship, there’s only a two-hour window of opportunity on Friday nights between 10:00 and 12:00 when my wife might be interested in sex. If we miss one Friday night, I know not to ask until next Friday night.”
As John said this, Mary started to chuckle because she recognized it as true. But when I glanced over at John, he wasn’t chuckling at all. With some encouragement from me, John said to Mary, “When I reach out for you and you’re not there for me, I think to myself, Is she still attracted to me? Does she love me anymore? Then, when you go to sleep and I’m staring up at the ceiling, lying next to you in bed is the loneliest feeling in the world.”
Mary’s eyes filled up with tears, and to her credit, she grabbed John’s hand and said, “When you touch me, all I ever think about is Am I in the mood? Am I not in the mood? I never, not once, have thought about what it’s like to be you. I’m so, so sorry. I promise I’ll try harder.”
I remember how incredibly touched I was by that moment, and it’s a story I tell almost every couple. It immediately helps the higher-desire spouse feel that I just spoke their story, and it opens a chance to connect with the lower-desire spouse. Getting the lower-desire spouse to feel a bit more empathy is the first step, but it’s not enough to just feel sorry or sad or remorseful: it’s essential that you get that person to take action.
So I explain that the conventional way of thinking about the human sexual response cycle is that first comes desire, which is followed by the stage of being physical. When your body’s working correctly, the third stage is orgasm, and the fourth is resolution, where your body goes back to its normal resting state. However, it’s estimated that for about 50 percent of the population, stages one and two are actually reversed. They have to be sexually aroused before their brains register that they have desire. I wish I had a dollar for each person in my practice who’s said to me, “When my husband approached me for sex, I really wasn’t in the mood. But once I got into it, I really enjoyed myself. I had an orgasm, and we got along so much better afterward.” In fact, I once had a guy in my practice say to me, “I wish my wife would just write ‘I like sex’ on her hand so she remembers it for the next time.”
Part of my approach with sex-starved couples is to coach low-desire spouses about being receptive to their partners’ advances from a neutral starting place. They don’t have to feel really excited. If they just allow themselves to get into it, it’s amazing how many people actually have an enjoyable experience, and the relationship benefits are plentiful.
Of course, there are many situations where people don’t want to have sex because they’ve been sexually abused, or they’ve gotten bad messages growing up about sexuality, or they hate their body. But for the average therapist who’s dealing with a couple with a sexual-desire gap, the underlying problem is that one person needs to feel connected emotionally before he or she can be physical, and the other person needs to feel connected physically before he or she can invest in the emotional aspects of the relationship. Each person is waiting for the other to make the first move. It’s job security for marriage therapists, because when both partners are waiting for the other person to change, marriages fall through the cracks.
A major part of how I try to jump-start things in these couples is to encourage them to adopt the Nike philosophy—Just Do It! I tell them that people tend to give to one another in the way they like to receive, and that’s not real giving. Real giving is when you give to your partner the things your partner wants and needs. Whether you understand it completely or not, whether you like it or not, whether you agree with it or not, is completely irrelevant.
That leads me into a discussion and actually an exercise that I do with people around Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages. Chapman’s idea is that people typically express love in their own love languages but not their partners’ love languages. According to Chapman, there are five of them.
The first one is spending time together. If you’re really busy and you take time out of your busy schedule to spend time with me, I feel important, I feel like I’m a priority, I feel love. The second language is touch, physical affection, sex, walking down the street arm in arm. If you’re married to somebody whose love language is touch, you can spend hours and hours of time with them and it’ll be nice, but it’s not going hit the mark unless you touch them. Another language is words of affirmation, usually heart-to-heart conversations that are acknowledging and validating and appreciating. Another one is acts of service, including cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids, going out on a wintry day and turning the heat on in the car so your spouse can get into a warm car, bringing your spouse a cup of coffee. The last language is one of material gifts, both large and small.
I explain these five love languages to couples and ask them to silently identify the languages that make them feel loved. Then I have the spouses guess what each other’s top two love languages are. Afterward, we find out whether the guesses are accurate. The next step is for me to ask them to grade themselves on how well have they’ve been showing love in their partner’s preferred love language. In sex-starved marriages, people usually give themselves a low grade, and for many people, it’s the first time they actually admit that they haven’t stepped outside their comfort zone to really show their partner that they care in the language that their partner can hear, feel, and see. For a lot of couples, that’s a turning point.
Here I’ve focused on helping the lower-desire spouse feel more empathy. This isn’t to say that I don’t nudge the higher-desire spouse to feel empathy for his or her partner. In general, therapists are fairly skilled at doing the latter; it’s almost a therapeutic given. The key to working with sex-starved couples, or any other kind, is that you have to join with them in significant ways. Both partners have to feel like you completely understand how they’re feeling, why they’re feeling it, and why they’ve been doing what they’ve been doing. As I always say, the art of doing really good marital therapy is having both people leave the room thinking you’re on their side.
Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW, LCSW, is director of The Divorce Busting Center and author of several books, includingThe Sex-Starved Marriage.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Warning signs you're missing in your marriage



Hey, guys. 
Marriage is only as good as the investment people make in it, and just like other elements of our life, this bond between two people was constructed so that we are either going forward into the growth process or backing away from it. We can’t stay the same, and marriage reflects that reality. The connection either deepens, opening both spouses up to the hearts of each other, or it starts to deteriorate, closing them off from each other.

Problems aren’t something that just occur “out of the blue.” So many times a spouse will say, “Everything was fine until I found out he was abusive,” or, “I thought we were ok until I found out about the affair.” This would not be possible if the marriage was a place for continual emotional investment, risk, vulnerability and honesty. And in hindsight, many couples will say, “We now see the signs we missed before,” and they usually have to do with things, such as:
  • Increasing withdraw of need
  • Unresolved differences the couple simply walks away from in resignation.
  • Preferences for others for needs that the marriage used to meet
  • Interests and relationships that are not talked about with the spouse. 
Marriage is an investment, and for an investment to work for you, it takes an ongoing commitment to nurturing its growth. Watch this. 

Until tomorrow ...

Cheers,

Henry 

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Quality Family Time In The Digital Age

By Dr. John Townsend
Family is the context in which we learn to love, connect, become ourselves, grow and recharge.  But we can’t assume it’s a totally protected and safe place. We have to guard our homes against everything from toxic influences to time distractions.  If your family includes kids, it’s even more important, because they need our help and advocacy. Our culture is well into the digital age now. It is here to stay, and I believe it’s overall a very good thing.  At the same time, the digital age can bring in influences you don’t want, and it can certainly bring in time distractions. So here are some ideas to help you keep your family experiencing the quality time it needs, while still living in the reality of an online world.
Set clear “non-pixellated times”:  A friend gave me this phrase, and I love it.  The digital world is easily accessible 24/7 and will be for the rest of our lives.  So don’t wait for things to change to preserve family health. Set time periods where there is no digital access, including online, mobile phones, tablets, etc.  Hey, Bill and Melinda Gates did this with their kids WWW.INDEPENDENT.CO.UK
Put intentional thought into what “quality time” means.   It’s one thing to set limits on digital time.  It’s another to fill that void with great conversations and activities.  Don’t substitute this with TV, movies and video games. Neuroscience research  has shown that these activities have some value to mental growth in terms of some information and learning, but a lot of use ends up being at best “empty calories” for your family (basically just marking time until they grow up and leave home) and at worst, creating passivity and a lack of initiative.  So be the parent who researches and comes up with structured fun activities, interactions, conversations, excursions, games and service projects. Fill that void. Your kids need it, and it will be over sooner than you think.
Love is free, freedom is earned.  Your kids need your love and emotional attunement to their experiences and feelings.  That is a basic need and a requirement for good parenting. But their freedom to choose how they spend their time must be earned by their good behavior.  Laptops, mobile phones, tablets, TV, and gaming are not a right. They are a privilege. So if your kids are responsible in life, especially in their use of digital time, let them have age-appropriate access.  If they choose to overdo things and aren’t responsible, then they are sending you a signal saying, “Help! I’m not yet mature enough to manage all this, I’m overwhelmed, please step in and be the structure I need!”  Well, they won’t say that to you, but it’s still a message of what they need.
I hope this helps.  You can make a difference here.  For more in-depth info on this subject, read BOUNDARIES:  Updated and Expanded Edition by myself and Dr. Henry Cloud (Zondervan Publishing, 2017).  The book is a New York Times bestseller and includes a chapter about having great boundaries in the digital age.  Best to you!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Can Words Really Hurt Me?

Shantel Patu,  5/29/2019,  The Gottman Relationship Blog

Emotional abuse is real. In my line of work, I’ve watched women of all different backgrounds live through the pain it can cause, and I’ve seen it haunt them. I’ve seen them suffer the trauma of someone dominating, berating, criticizing, and chastising them. 
It brings unanswered questions. Questions like whether the very act of breathing is allowed. I’ve witnessed their agony of hoping that someone, anyone, will finally notice their torment.
Although emotional abuse has many forms, it’s still wildly taboo and often considered something people should just get over or simply live through. It can leave victims completely unaware that they’re even being oppressed. 
They feel that it’s not as nearly as “bad” as physical violence or that they aren’t in the same situation. And in some cases, they feel they simply aren’t worthy enough to call themselves violated.
Whether pain from abuse stems psychologically, verbally, physically, emotionally, or sexually—abuse is abuse. And it needs to be stopped before another person has to suffer in silence. 
I’m reminded of the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But in all truth, words do hurt.

How emotional abuse feels

I stop short of the door and hold my hand against the frame. I just want to leave so bad. I know somewhere inside that I don’t have to take this. I am free to simply walk out of the door. But I am frozen. Transfixed by the threshold, unsure of how to cross while keenly aware of how many steps there are toward freedom. Gripped by courage, I take a step forward.
“Where do you think you’re going?” I freeze again, feeling the hairs stand up on my neck.
Hearing his voice so close, I want to scream. Subliminally I bolt, not physically but emotionally, running freely. I watch my imaginary self run away, stationary. I stare ahead, watching, oh how I envy her. 
Psychologically, I can feel my overwhelming desire to just get away—to run and find a way to completely disappear. He speaks again and the echo of his hate hangs in the air, unsettled, like a rancid stench. I feel smothered by the scent and I grapple with the meaning of words that he speaks at me. The ruthless force of his weapon of words, aimed at my jugular, he wields indifferently. It is dehumanizing.
I wonder how many times I would let the effects of such an attack be a part of my life. How long would I stay put and continue to just endure? How long would I allow the steady stream of vulgarities and disparities to fill space in the vulnerable recesses of my self-esteem, or what was left of it? I can’t explain away why this hurts so badly, why the memories stay etched in the fibers of my muscles as if I were being physically struck every single time he opens his mouth.
I bruise in the form of a blush as my cheeks fill with heat from the harassment and embarrassment of the steady barrage of animosity that spews from his mouth when he directs his anger at me. I flinch and attempt to speak up. Raising my voice, I pretend to find courage. 
Every time he is triggered, I fleetingly try to defend myself. I imagine standing my ground while weakly defending my principles as I am annihilated by the sheer brute force of his words. He speaks and his power shuts off my reasoning and takes seize of my oration. In stunned silence, his assault leaves me inundated with fear and has literally forced my words to recoil back into my throat, extinguishing the very air from my chest.  
Defenseless and silent, I again attempt to summon my deserted courage, finding none. So many times, tears spill from once dry places, saturating my hot cheeks. And I take it. All of it. The full force of his revulsion, saying nothing in return.  
How often I just take every verbal blow, every strike against the temple of my ego. I find myself listening hungrily, gobbling up every detail of what is wrong with my person. My sullied thoughts can no longer comprehend my ability to try and defend myself. I recognize that I don’t have any of the ammunition needed for this battle. 
I wait, pitiful and exhausted, as his abusive tirade doesn’t show signs of ending.  My attacker screams poison and I’m paralyzed as his vitriol intensifies, relentlessly pointing out fallacy after fallacy. I find that I cannot stand, so I finally sit down.
This only seems to reinforce my vulnerability and inferiority. Now he is standing over me, conquering me. His spittle flies from the hate-filled spaces in his mouth as he covers me in his blatant and unforgiving verbal attack. His speech never falters. He’s dramatic and animated, as if giving an audition to an unseen crowd. Forced to listen to his words, as he calls me a “slut and a whore,” I try to drive the unyielding impressions from my mind. Nevertheless, I can feel myself recording him, pervasively, into the deep and unprotected crevices of my hearing, defining me.  
He waits only for silent applause from his own spirit. Enjoying his speech, he smiles at my deprivation as he goes for the kill. “Your stupidity knows no bounds,” he yells, “your incompetence is at an all-time high.” He screams more hate, “You’re fat, ugly, and useless. No one wants you, you’re unlovable, undeserving, undesirable,” and he ends with the booming, “You’re nothing.”
Again, I take it all in, memorizing every detail from the jarring baritone of his voice to the sadistic way he crafts his words. Every time I survive this experience, I still die, just a little, on the inside.  I can’t help but seek the sweet and silent solace of death, feeling like this has to be the only way out.

Emotional abuse is just as damaging

This is just one example of how emotional abuse is experienced. It makes the recipient think there’s no way out, and no way to overcome all that they have gone through. The unhealthy tethers to their abuser are simply a coping mechanism and make it so much easier to believe the lies—like verbal abuse isn’t “real” abuse. 
Most people don’t recognize that emotional abuse is just as damaging and traumatizing as physical abuse, sometimes even more so. While physical bruises will fade over time, emotional bruising leaves an invisible disfigurement that materializes as soon as the wound is reopened.  
So many people suffer in an unacceptable silence, dealing with the emotional scars as if they were never there. No amount of makeup can cover the unseen evidence and as a result, many women try to pretend it never happened.
The heartless onslaught of pain that is created by verbal manipulation and abuse takes the battered to a place of hopelessness and introduces them to a type of emotional suicide. They never know how to accept what they are surviving. People around them tend to admonish them or minimalize their trauma.  
“All he does is yell at you. You got it easy.” 
These statements make abused women feel like they shouldn’t even try to escape. That they should be accepting and even appreciative that their abuser doesn’t physically assault them. No one sees the patterns of self-defeat and destruction that come from these types of assault.
I want women, and men, to recognize their worthiness. Everyone is worthy of being treated with respect. Your opinions and your desire to have autonomy over your life does not give someone the right to hurt you or your feelings. You deserve to find someone who truly loves you for who you are. Someone who understands what you need and doesn’t feel threatened by you offering your opinion.  
Real freedom means “free at heart and free in mind.” You have to begin to realize that you are worthy and to remind yourself of this every day. You have to rebuild the positive levels of self-preservation that your self-esteem needs to heal. 
You can do this. You deserve this and you have to see it first for yourself. You have to un-believe the lies and trust that there is hope for you.  
It’s this way of thinking that will lead you towards the path of healing, and in the process, you’ll recognize that you don’t have to pretend not to hurt, you can recognize that your pain is real and that your voice deserves to be heard. 
So speak up and acknowledge that words hurt, too.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Four Communication Barriers and How to Spot Them


By Drs. Les and Leslie ParrottMay 29, 2019
Silence is a powerful communicator. Whenever we see a marriage that is slowly disintegrating, it’s usually followed by the couple concluding “they can’t communicate” or “they don’t talk anymore.” These couples believe that their non-talking is a lack of communication. When in fact it’s the opposite. When you don’t talk, silence sends a surplus of negative messages. Silence is powerful in its own way.
Silence is not the cause of poor communication – the fear of pain is. It’s human nature to seek pleasure and avoid pain. The truth is people actually avoid pain first, then seek pleasure. And under painful circumstances communication goes awry and silence can set in.
There are four styles of miscommunication that result when a person feels threatened. Placating, Blaming, Computing and Distracting. By understanding these styles and recognizing when they occur, you can ease your tension (or your partner’s) and get to the root of the cause before your communication breaks down and the silence sets in.

1. PLACATING

The placater is a “yes” person. This person is eager to please and apologetic. You’ll frequently hear placaters say things like: “Whatever you want!” or “Don’t worry about me, it’s ok.” They want to keep the peace at any price, including feeling worthless.
Studies show that placaters have difficulties expressing anger and hold so many feelings in they often become depressed. As a placater, you should remind yourself that it is ok to disagree! If your spouse if a placater, try to recognize these actions so you can help them express their feelings when they are holding back.

2. BLAMING

The blamer is a fault finder who criticizes relentlessly and speaks in generalizations. You’ll often hear blamers saying things such as “You never do anything right!” or “You’re just like your mother.” Deep inside, blamers usually feel unworthy or unlovable and can get angry at the anticipation that they won’t get what they want. Blamers tend to find that the best defense is a good defense.
If you (or your spouse) are a blamer try to recognize when you feel the need to be defensive. You likely fear dealing with expression or pain – try to let this go. Once you recognize these behaviors, learn to speak on your own behalf, without indicting others in the process.

3. COMPUTING

The computer is a reasonable, calm and collected person. This person usually never admits mistakes and expects people to conform and perform. You’ll often hear the computer saying: “Upset? I’m not upset. Why do you think I am upset?” Computers fear emotion and prefer facts and stats.
If you or your spouse often find yourself computing, then it’s time to open up the communication doors and express your real feelings. Computers need someone to ask them how they feel about certain things. If you recognize this trait in your spouse, having an intentional conversation with them may help.

4. DISTRACTING

The distracter resorts to irrelevancies under stress and avoids direct eye contact and direct answers. Distracters are also quick to change the subject. You’ll often hear them saying something along the lines of: “What problem? Let’s go shopping.” Distracters fear fighting, and confrontation can bring this on.
The solution? Distracters need to know they are safe, not helpless. Problems can be solved and conflicts can be resolved. Encourage yourself (or your spouse) to confront problems head-on with productive conversation, rather than burying them.
The next time you find yourself communicating with your partner by placating, blaming, computing or distracting, remember that this is likely the result of feeling stressed or hurt about something. And vice versa, if you find your partner has resulted to one of these methods, ease their tension by being sensitive and trying to get to the root of the issue.
By opening up the communication walls before they completely close, you will be well on your way to a solid and productive conversation.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Solving Six Common Saboteurs in Marriage

By Drs. Les and Leslie ParrottMay 8, 2019

Have you ever wondered to yourself, if this marriage is supposed to be so good, why do I sometimes feel so bad? If so, your marriage has probably fallen victim to one of several predictable sneak attacks. These sneaky saboteurs creep up on us and slowly drift into our relationship without so much as a whisper. And before we know it, we have fallen victim.
In our series, we are exposing six common saboteurs in marriage and how to combat them. We want to dive in on how you and your partner can solve these common, yet sneaky, issues.

SABOTEUR ONE: BUSYNESS

So much of marriage is consumed with “doing life.” We check off to-do items on (unromantic) lists that reappear over and over. Quality time as a couple is often spent together in front of the TV, or exhausted on the couch after kids have gone to bed. Did you know that nearly a third of us take work home at least once each week? And more than 70% of us do work related tasks during the weekend? These numbers speak for themselves when it comes to reasons why busyness is on our list of saboteurs.
Regardless of the reasons, most husbands and wives agree that they are too busy. The good news is: we can change. In fact, out of all of the problems that sneak up on us in marriage, busyness is one that can be changed most easily.
The solution? Strip away nonessential “urgent” demands until your schedules reflect the value of marriage. Marriage rarely makes it to the urgent list and ends up a low priority. Rearranging your priorities is an essential step. Once you have made time for each other, be sure to spend that time constructively – don’t surf the internet or read in isolation. Try to develop a hobby together, or a shared activity you both enjoy.
Once you have come up with a solution, remember that busyness is not a problem that is instantly solved. It’s an ongoing challenge. Commit yourselves to battle the busyness monster indefinitely, as a team.

SABOTEUR TWO: IRRITATION

With our current pace of life, and the busyness monster we just discussed, this often leads to a character most of us would rather not acknowledge – irritability. When we are busy and stressed we can become cranky and grouchy with our partner. Likely, you didn’t start out this way in your relationship. When couples first marry they are usually the epitome of kindness and sensitivity. But somewhere down the line this changes. This happens without any effort on our part – a side of us is revealed that is testy, touchy, and downright irritable.
Most of us convince ourselves that grouchiness is a temporary condition that will go away as soon as we pay that big bill, finish our chores, meet that deadline at work, or throw the party we’ve been stressing over…etc. You get the point. But, over time we realize our rationale is wearing thin, we gradually learn we can’t even convince ourselves, let alone our spouse, that it’s temporary. So what can we do?
It begins – and ends – with paying special attention to how we treat our partner. Imagine if your home is bugged and on camera for 48 hours. Every conversation and action you have is recorded. Feeling nervous? And worse, you now have to sit down and watch yourself – and see how you spoke and reacted to your partner over this time period. It’s a frightening thought for most of us!
Luckily, you won’t have to endure this. But in order to change your grouchy ways you need a method of monitoring your interactions. We need this because awareness is curative. Recognizing what you are doing, when you are doing it, and how it makes your partner feel is enough to curb a grouchy attitude.
Work on increasing your awareness by keeping a journal for a week and record the things you say. You may realize that certain circumstances will make you more irritable. You can also invite your partner to give you feedback. However you go about it, raising awareness is the key to keeping irritability under control.

SABOTEUR THREE: BOREDOM

Boredom is one of the most silent of all marital saboteurs and sneaks up on many. Walking through the motions of our daily lives can become routine, and let’s face it, can be downright boring. Passion levels can drop off, and vitality and enthusiasm dissipate. Every marriage passes through these doldrums, but there are ways to stop it.
When couples stop and take a look at why they are bored, they tend to find that their relationship is one-dimensional. It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault, but generally over time you will find that your boredom is because the most interesting parts of your marriage, and your partner, are asleep.
You can find a solution in waking those sleeping parts of your partner and yourself. What did you and your partner love to do that you no longer do? Whatever it is, schedule some time together to do it. This can be sports, adventures, taking up an old hobby, or cooking a meal together.
By waking up and rediscovering the parts of each other that make you connect, you will be well on your way to curbing boredom. And when you break through the boredom barrier, you will discover you are more capable than you thought, and will spark a vitality in your marriage that you never knew was there.

SABOTEUR FOUR: DRIFT

Many couples complain, and even quit marriage, because they have drifted apart. These unions don’t break because of a single, cataclysmic event. They break after years of slow erosion. Do you find yourself looking for alternatives to being with your spouse, or do you depend less on them? Have you quit sharing details of your life or has your sexual interest waned? If you are answering yes, it’s time to get vigilant.
  • First: Begin by reordering your priorities. If your work, your church, or even your child’s needs are taking precedence over your spouse it’s time to set new standards and put your relationship on the top of your list.
  • Second: Make specific requests of your partner for help in some area, even if you don’t need help. It can be grocery shopping, or yard work. The goal is to work on something together.
  • Third: Reverse your drift by sharing more information about your daily routine. Even mundane experiences. When you share, you become closer.
  • Last: We urge you to save up and schedule a weekend away from home together. Go someplace special that you loved early in your relationship. If you can’t go away for a night, try an all-day outing.

Most couples who have drifted apart still care deeply for each other, yet they often feel so different. You don’t have to let the increasing gap grow wider. Pull your partner closer to you and be intentional about enjoying meaningful connection again. You will be surprised at how quickly you can close that gap.

SABOTEUR FIVE: DEBT

If your marriage is feeling the strain of trying to carry increasing accumulations of debt, you can begin lightening your load starting today. The first step is to recognize how much money you owe. Once you get a solid number, you can take one of two avenues: increase your income, or reduce your spending. For most couples it’s easier to do the latter.
Sit down with your partner and make a plan on where you can reduce your spending. We learned a valuable lesson early in marriage when we discovered we spent less by simply not using our credit card. When you pay with a credit card you don’t register the pain of actually letting go of cash. Whether it’s eating out less, buying less “wants” or simply putting a pause on impulse purchases, you need to find a specific way to spend less and pay down your debt.
Another suggestion is to become accountable to someone who not in your relationship. This may seem somewhat embarrassing, but by having someone step in that you both respect, you will likely stay on track. Getting out of debt will be one of the most rewarding things you will accomplish as a couple. So stick with your plan.

SABOTEUR SIX: PAIN FROM THE PAST

One of the hardest things that can sneak up on a marriage is pain from the past. Many of us have old wounds from a painful past that we carry. This can be anything from abusive past relationships, abuse in any form, trauma as a child, and beyond. Sooner or later this pain will impact your marriage if it is not dealt with.
Emotions may be buried, but they are still alive and lurking below the surface. This can negatively impact your current relationship. Research reveals that spouses who had a negative bonding experience with parents often have difficulty or may even avoid getting intimate in their marriage for fear of failure. This is only one example of many ways pain from the past can affect your current marriage.
If you are suffering from any pain from your past that is hurting you or your marriage, the road to recovery requires healing; healing for you and likely your relationship, too. We cannot begin to do justice to the steps you will need to take in this direction; there are too many personal variables. We strongly encourage you to seek the help of a competent counselor who can walk you through a healing journey.
Saboteurs in marriage can sneak up on any of us. The key is to be vigilant and stop them in their tracks before they leave a permanent impression. If you’d like to learn more about the saboteurs in marriage and how to stop them, check out our book I Love You More.