7 Relationship Resolutions for 2018. It’s Not Too Late.

2018 is here and we are already approaching the end of January. Whew!! That was fast. As many of us approach the second month of the year you must ask yourself “Am I staying true to my resolutions?” Well if you are in a relationship or marriage I hope you made some resolutions that focus on them. If you didn’t…don’t fret it is not too late.

Here are 7 resolutions to make 2018 the best year yet for your relationship:

1. Thank Each Other MORE Often

Easy, right? You would be surprised how saying “Thank You” more often can have a big effect on your relationship. Take time to thank your partner for all the things they do for you, the house, the kids, etc. It is about recognizing them for their efforts. Now… be careful to not go overboard, but rather see them with thankful eyes. You would be surprised how couples that have been together for years simply fall out of the habit of verbalizing their gratitude. This will make them feel “seen.” You will thank me later.

2. Prioritize Your Quality Time Together

When you wake up in the morning I want you to do one simple thing. That is to think about your partner and prioritize when both of you can spend quality time (QT) together. The truth is you likely wait until you both get home to think about QT, but then you run the risk of simply being too tired, and the only thing you want to spend QT with… is the bed. Instead, leave your electronics in the other room, go to the bedroom when your schedule permits, and spend the time you have been thinking about since that morning together. Plan… then DO!

3. Encourage Common Interest

It is so easy to do things YOU like to do, but when was the last time you learned new hobbies with your significant other? This year, find some common interest that BOTH of you would enjoy. There may be a few trial and error attempts, but once you find an interest you must do it often. If you want to learn more about your partner, then what better way than to have fun with them.

4. Fight Fair

This means refraining from things like attacking each other’s personality or character traits, name calling, criticism, and bringing up past issues into a current tussle. You want to fight about the topic that lead to the argument, and talk about it until there is a feeling agreement or disagreement.

Here is how I recommend stating your issue: “I am sad/annoyed/frustrated/angry about ________. In the future I think it would help if you could ________.”

5. Be Affectionate… Non-Sexually

This one is actually super simple. Are you ready to hear it? Okay… here it is: Sit next to each other more on the couch, at a friend’s house, in a waiting room, etc.

This increases the probability of affection, a commodity often seen far too little in long-term relationships.

6. Have an Honest Conversation About Sex

Ask yourself when was the last time you talked about your sex life openly with each other or have you ever? There are so many assumptions that we carry about sexual intimacy with our partners, and the worst part is that we assume that they know what we want in the bedroom? Resolve by start communicating about sex in 2018. It will take some courage and discomfort to bring this up with each other, so make sure you start with questions that stem from positivity, like, “what do you like the most about our sex life?” and what are your favorite sexual memories with me?”

7. Make Investments in Your Relationship

Your relationship warrants your time, energy, and resources.

Book a couples therapy or a sex therapy session. Read sex and relationship books together simultaneously. Go to marriage and relationship workshops and retreats. The best unions could still benefit from these investments.

It is never too early or too late to start working on your relationship and building a happier, healthier future together.

*Post written by Dr. Angela Jones

(This blog was inspired and referenced several resources: http://www.brides.com, Vanessa Marin, LMFT, and http://www.happywivesclub.com)

5 (Psychologically Beneficial) Reasons to Make Love to Your Husband Tonight

We have all been there – it has been THE longest day at work and you came home to cook dinner, give baths, do homework with the kids, and clean up.  You are utterly exhausted and you finally get your head on the pillow fully expecting to go into a sleep coma for the next 8 hours when you feel your husband curl up next to you with his signature “let’s get it on” move. You respond in the same way your husband has heard so many times before, “Honey, I’m so tired, later, I promise.” Your husband rolls over, disappointed.

This scenario is so common place in many marriages and relationships.  I hear this story in my office with struggling couples all of the time.  Despite the overwhelming research about the benefits of sex in a marriage and how healthy marriages require intimacy, over and over again we choose to forego sex because we are tired.  The truth is-we ARE tired.  More and more we add to our plates in order to keep up with the pace of today’s society.  We prioritize the children and work and church and friends and family but don’t prioritize our sexual relationships with our spouses.  Genetically our husbands are more likely to be ready to “go” despite how overworked they may have been that day.  So what is the difference? Why is it so much easier for us, as women, to put it off? Well, we are built differently than men are.  For many of us it takes much more intentionality than it does for our husbands.

So, why? You’re clearly worn out, burned out, and have another full day of the same tomorrow! Why choose sex over sleep tonight? Here are some good reasons to give in and enjoy rather than call it a night, even for the busiest of us.

  1. Ladies, when your husband is getting sex on a regular basis he is like a well-oiled machine. He can literally see the world more clearly.  He will be more willing to help out and he will take on the world with a new attitude.  Men feel like they can take on any obstacle when they know that their wife finds them sexually attractive and “wants” them.  A positive outlook on life can be life changing for the both of you.
  2. Sex improves your libido. When you have sex with your husband you will eventually begin to desire sex more often.  Remind yourself how good it feels to make love to your husband regularly by starting somewhere, tonight.
  3. If you are tired, having sex will assist in getting you a better night’s sleep. It is easy to lay in bed and start thinking about the day you had and all of the things that you have to do the next day, these anxious thoughts are very likely to keep you up at night and disturb your sleep.  Sex has the opposite effect on you – it relaxes your body and therefore allows for better sleep.
  4. It reduces your stress level. Studies show that having sex lowers stress related blood pressure.  So a bit of fun under the sheets may actually help you deal with that busy next day better than if you skipped it.
  5. Sex makes you feel better about yourself. Some psychologists say that regular sex even improves your self-esteem.  Naturally, feeling wanted and desired by somebody you love and care for improves positive feelings about yourself.

So go ahead, give it a roll in the sheets tonight and take a look at the benefits it will have on you and your marriage.

Psst…….Is it just me or is marriage REALLY HARD????

(Spoiler: It’s not just me)

Do you ever feel like you are the only one out there that is having issues in your marriage? We can all look to other couples and say, “So and so has the PERFECT marriage! They are always happy in front of others and they never have anything negative to say about their marriage when just us girls or guys get together”. We all know that marriage can be hard for others, but…..what does it mean when it turns out that is true for us? Does it mean that we are failing? Does it mean that we married the wrong person? Does it mean that we are the problem? Does it mean we should call it quits? While of course there is no black and white answer to any of those questions, the reality is that we ALL experience hardships in our marriages.

Marriage IS hard, as is life. There is no perfect marriage, as there is no perfect human. We are constantly changing and evolving and as we do so, we are asking the person we are sharing our lives with to come along for the ride and change and evolve with us!! That is NOT a simple process nor is it a simple request of our partner! This request comes with MANY expectations and fantasies of what “should” happen and unfortunately unrealistic expectations often land us in a place of hurt, anger, and resentment. So if it is true that life AND marriage are hard, that we are not perfect, and that we as humans all suffer from setting unrealistic expectations….why don’t we talk more openly about how hard marriage can be? Admitting that marriage is hard does NOT mean that you are not happily married. Admitting you both have things you would like to work on does NOT mean that you do not have a solid foundation. Admitting you are in counseling to seek guidance on how to improve your marriage DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE FAILING!!!! I would counter those explanations with an alternative idea that perhaps it means that you are willing and motivated to claim a stronger, more connected state of being which takes strength, courage, and honesty! So the next time you find yourself beating up on yourself and your marriage because it feels so hard and you feel you cannot communicate this to others, please try to remember a few things:

  • Take it easy on yourself and your marriage. You are not perfect nor is your marriage, and it just frankly wasn’t designed to be that way. Having problems (as we all do!) may create an opportunity for you and your partner to grow.
  • Try not to compare your marriage to others. As grandmother use to say, “We all have dirty laundry, and I don’t want yours and you don’t want mine”. Even though others may appear to have it better than you or claim their marriage to be “better than ever”, that does not mean they are without problems and it does not mean that because you do have problem that you are failing. We are all very reluctant to admit when marriage is hard, perhaps due to the fairytales we all grew up believing or perhaps because we aren’t quite sure what it means when it is hard.
  • Manage your expectations. Because we all did grow up watching the fairytales where marriages end up “happily ever after”, we often have expectations that are not realistic of ourselves and our partners. It can be helpful to identify what expectations you have and look at whether or not these are realistic or just based on some unrealistic “should”, “ought” or “must” that someone somewhere said was what defined marriage and happiness. We can then start to differentiate between fantasy and reality, which can help us to not set ourselves or our partners up for failure.
  • Seek guidance from a trusted source BEFORE you feel you have no alternatives. Asking for help does not mean you have failed. It means you have the courage, strength, and honesty to admit you are not perfect nor is your marriage BUT you would like to learn ways to improve. Too often we wait until we feel like giving up to ask for help. While help certainly can be rendered at this point, why not start BEFORE that so we don’t feel our goal is so far away? Renowned marriage researcher John M. Gottman claims that the average couple entering marriage counseling has experienced marital difficulties for over six years. Experiencing serious problems for an extended period of time without seeking guidance can mean you unintentionally incur and inflict many unnecessary traumas on each other and the marriage. Why not avoid this damage to yourself and your partner? You, your partner, and your marriage are worth it! If we could shift the concept of “marriage counseling” from asking for a life raft to asking for ways to enhance our love and commitment, wouldn’t that make it easier to ask for help?

Healthy Marriage = Happy Kids

I have heard some very well-intentioned parents say that they want their primary focus to be on their children for the 18-ish years that their children will live in their home. Though I can identify with parents wanting to do their absolute best to love their children well, I disagree with this strategy. Instead, I believe that a primary focus on creating a healthy marriage is the cornerstone to helping our kids feel as happy and loved as possible.

When children grow up in a home with adults who model a healthy relationship based on love and respect, the children learn that there is safety and security within their family. The safety and security comes from knowing that their home base is built on a solid foundation. When Mom and Dad truly enjoy seeing one another and have frequent positive interactions, the children feel the love in the relationship. When children experience this love, commitment, companionship, and mutuality between their primary care-givers, it frees them from worry and allows them to concentrate on being children; playing, running, laughing, and learning.

It is important to keep in mind that a healthy marriage will include arguments and disagreements. Unless one marries their clone, marriages are made up of two very different people. Therefore, part of navigating a marriage includes being able to communicate about and resolve differences. In a healthy marriage these arguments are maneuvered in a way that honors each person involved. There is not always a “winner” or a “loser” in the disagreement. Sometimes a healthy couple can resolve a disagreement by agreeing to disagree, rather than finding a compromise or acquiescing. No matter what the resolution, the most important aspect is that each person feels heard, respected, and validated so that the fight doesn’t lead to injury or resentment within the couple. When your children witness a positive resolution to an argument, they are learning conflict resolution skills that will last a lifetime.

Tips for resolving marital conflict:

  • Learn to register specific complaints and requests (when X happened, I felt Y, I would prefer Z).
  • Conscious communication – Speaking the unarguable truth & listening generously.
  • Claim responsibility – “What can I learn from this?” and “What can I do about it?”
  • Validate your partner – Let your partner know what makes sense to you about what they are saying; let them know you understand what they are feeling, do your best to see through their eyes.
  • Re-write your inner script – Replace thoughts of righteous indignation or innocent victimization with thoughts of appreciation and responsibility that are soothing and validating.
  • Shift to appreciation – Strive for 5 times as much positive feeling and interaction as negative.
  • Practice getting undefended – Allow your partner’s utterances to be what they really are (just thoughts and puffs of air) and let go of the stories that you are making up.
  • Focus on your marital friendship.
  • Continue to work on your relationship, ALWAYS!

(Information based on Gottman, John, 1999 The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work)

The best way to focus on expanding your children’s sense of safety and security is through focusing on the health of your marriage. Remember, we learn best though modeling; so do your best to be a healthy role model to your children. Cultivating a healthy marriage is a gift to our children that lasts significantly longer than the 18-ish years that they live in our homes!