If you’ve been following me, you know that I love the topic of marriage. I think working on your marriage is one of the most important things we can do.
I want to thank you all for your fabulous questions and insights. I’m looking forward to answering your questions. Let’s jump in.
Q: How long have you been married? A: Seth and I will celebrate 16 years on September 3, 2021.
Q: Why do 50% of marriages end up in divorce? What’s the major reason? A: The top reasons are lack of commitment, infidelity and high conflict.
Q: The state government has proven it is wrecking family lives through the family court system and there is no recourse for wrong and harmful rulings by the judges. Why would I want to invite the state government into my sacred relationship with my lover? Why do we need to get married and have a marriage license?
A: This is a very interesting perspective. I totally understand what you are saying. I have never thought about it this way. I also understand wanting to keep the government out of your life in certain ways as I can feel like they get too involved in my personal manners. I do have an answer for you. First, I want to start with my opinion and then I want to give you some facts. My opinion is that it made my marriage official. You do not need a piece of paper to make it official. I do believe in your minds you can make it official. However, I would guess that it is much easier to throw in the towel and leave a marriage if you are not legally connected. I personally think it increases your commitment to each other. I also know there are a lot of legal reasons to get officially married. You get a marital tax deduction, you can file taxes jointly, social security benefits, prenuptial agreement benefits, IRA benefits, legal decision making benefits (at a hospital for example), inheritance benefits, health insurance benefits, paternity child benefits, leave benefits, and emotional benefits. The research shows that couples live longer in a committed marriage. You are also less prone to depression if you are married. I feel blessed to be legally tied to my wonderful husband. However, I do see your points and you are of course entitled to your own life and your own opinion.
Q: My question is how do I convince my husband when I ask a question, it’s for my own new knowledge? I’m considered to be a nerd! I’m ok with the term, however, when he is the home project manager, he doesn’t want me asking questions … “school is never out” our household motto. I realize he has an overachieving heart to please me, I just don’t like the mean answers he gives.
A: I think that whenever something isn’t working in your marriage it is time for some clear and calm communication. Sit down with your husband when he is in a resourceful state. If my husband is cranky, I do not bring up conversations. Tell him nicely what is upsetting you using “I” language. “I feel sad when you don’t want to answer my questions. What could work better for you when I have a question? How can we make this work better for both of us?” I recommend discussing whatever isn’t working for you whenever things come up. Be specific, calm and clear in your communication. I also recommend a weekly marital meeting. Sit down and evaluate what’s working and what isn’t working each week. That gives you the ability to tweak things and make them even better. Maybe he needs fewer questions at one time? Maybe he needs you to trust certain things that he has under control? Maybe he needs you to ask at better times? I hope that you can figure out with your husband how you can ask questions and get a nicer response.
Q: Is there a best time to address conflict (When, where, what, how)?
A: If things are too heated, I strongly recommend a communicated time out. “Let’s take some time to calm down and collect our thoughts and then let’s discuss further.” If both parties are calm, sit down together and use “I” language to communicate how you are feeling. The goal is not to win. Winning is both parties being happy with the resolution. The calmer you can be the more your partner can hear what you are saying. When we are angry, they get distracted by the feeling and don’t necessarily hear the words we are saying. Try to be as specific as possible. Identify the problem. Brainstorm solutions together. Try to come up with something that will work for both of you. Evaluate how it is going.
Q: How do you talk about the difficult subject matter in a relationship? Especially if it’s something that has caused conflict in the past? When do you know/can you say the issue has been truly resolved? If you aren’t going to find a resolve soon, how can you be respectful still of the other person?
A: Start with taking away any blaming language. Remember that it takes two to tango. Look at yourself first. What are you doing to contribute to the problem? What can you do better? Remember that you only have control over yourself. Also, if you make changes your partner tends to follow. I see that my husband tends to mirror my emotions. If I get angry, he follows me and gets angry. Focus on keeping yourself in check. Bring it up in a respectful manner. “I feel X, when X,” tends to be good language to use. “I feel sad when you come home late. I feel sad when you don’t want to have sex. I feel nervous when you drive fast.” Those are just a few examples I have heard. It’s important to talk about things and not stuff your feelings. If you can’t come to a resolution on your own it’s always good to get outside help. You know an issue is resolved when both parties are truly happy. Sometimes something is more important to your partner and you see that and let them have their way and are okay with that. Sometimes something is more important to you. Sometimes you come up with something that works for both of you. If you can respect each other in the process that will help.
Q: How do you address the difference of opinion over conflicts? Is it necessary to totally resolve differences of opinion? How do you agree to disagree and still respect one another?
A: This is an individual couple situation. For example, a husband is Jewish, and a wife is Catholic. Neither wants to give up their faith so they come up with a way to respect what each other believes. A husband is a republican and a wife is a democrat. Neither party can convince each other to come to the “other side.” Are you able to respect the difference and understand where they are coming from? One couple will say that is totally fine while another couple will say that they will only be with someone who is X political party. We can’t expect to agree on everything. It depends on how much you value something and if you need your partner to agree. What are you able to live with? Can you live daily with this unresolved conflict and not have it bother you or is it so important that you have to come to an agreement? My husband and I definitely don’t agree on everything.
Q: Is there a must-have list that you suggest people work from when looking for a life partner/spouse?
A: I had a wonderful education from my ex boyfriend of what I didn’t want in a spouse. It gave me fuel to begin a list. I started a list of what I was looking for in a husband. Start to think about what you are looking for and develop a list. Think about what is important to you. You can keep altering the list as you think of more things. I wrote out a list and looked at it a lot and my husband showed up. I couldn’t believe that he was everything that I wrote down and more. For example, I wanted to have children. I wouldn’t have married someone who didn’t want children. What are your deal breakers? I love my dog and cats. I don’t know if I could have married someone who didn’t like having pets. My husband had two cats and was so good with them when I met him. That’s part of what attracted me to him. What are you looking for and think hard about deal breakers?
Q: What are some key things that people should/must talk through before making a commitment to one another?
A: Where do you want to live? Do you want to have children? What are your career plans? How are you going to handle finances? For example, we keep our money together. Some couples want separate accounts. What are your religious beliefs? How will you handle arguments? Do you have good conflict resolution skills together? What are your deal breakers?
Q: How do you address differences of interests between spouses? If one really doesn’t like to do something the other one loves to do?
A: Marriage is a lot of compromise. I recommend finding something that you both enjoy doing together for recreational companionship. If something is important to your spouse and they want you to do it with them then I think giving that to them is a wonderful thing to do for your marriage. You can encourage them to find a friend or family member to go with but if it’s important to them then I would put in the effort. Sometimes it’s just about being together. I would also work on brainstorming what you would enjoy doing together.
Q: How do you address communication style differences between spouses? (ie. One spouse wants to talk things through right now. The other spouse is conflict-averse in general and does everything to get out of talking about issues that arise. Hoping that you’ll just forget and move on). They never seem to want to talk either because they are afraid or because they don’t want to take ownership of their part in the dysfunction or because they might need to change and they don’t want to.
A: Ask your spouse what would make them feel more comfortable to talk about conflict with you? Are you getting too heated? Are you being too pushy? What can you do differently to help them feel more comfortable? If we put things on ourselves, we tend to get further. Show some small successes to help them get more comfortable discussing conflict. Give them good experiences when you discuss conflict, so they start to see it’s not so scary. Show your willingness to change and ask what you can both do differently to make things better.
Q: Since covid quarantine, my husband and I seem to have different schedules. He stays up late, watching tv, and can sleep in. His work doesn’t start til noon, while I have to get up early to work at home and supervise the kids’ schooling. So, I go to bed earlier than he does, and get up earlier, too. It seems like the only time we spend together is when we are sleeping! I hate going to sleep alone! And I feel like I’m doing all the work, too. He won’t even talk about it.
How can I get him to talk to me, and make some changes in his schedule so we can spend more time together?
A: I would put on some sexy lingerie and ask him to come to bed. I’m being silly but that could definitely work. My husband tends to not want to talk about something if I’m angry. Will he talk about it if you come to him in a calm way? “Honey, I really miss you. What do you think about coming to bed with me and spending some time together before I go to sleep? I would love some time with you to cuddle and talk before I go to bed. I know you want to go hang out and watch tv, but can you please spend some time with me first.” Communicate your needs calmly, clearly and specifically. Think about what would work for you so you can communicate it. If he doesn’t like your idea, does he have any other thoughts? Sit down and look at your schedules together and carve out time to be together. A married couple needs time together. If work schedules aren’t allowing for that at all, things may need to change.
Q: What is your perspective on both genders when one is interested in making whoopie and the other is not?
A: This question comes up a lot. It is rare that couples agree on how often to have sex. Have you asked your partner what their ideal number is during a week? I think compromising here is the best solution. If your partner wants to have sex three times a week and you don’t want it at all then it’s time for a compromise. Sex is an important part of a marriage. If someone isn’t interested, then what could make them more interested? I would encourage thinking about it and foreplay that works for you/your partner. Foreplay for me begins in the morning when my husband is sweet to me before he goes to work.
Q: Most marriages start at the same place, just like buying a new plant with enthusiasm. What are things must do to invest every day for it to blossom? What are some pitfalls to avoid? We definitely need to tend to our marriage every day.
A: Put in as many deposits as you can. Think about giving to your spouse (not taking). Also find out what means the most to your partner. They may not want you to touch them they may want to hear how much you love and appreciate them. What is their love language? What makes them feel the most loved?
The four horsemen that John Gottman discusses are pitfalls to avoid. This includes criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Criticism is an attack on your partner’s character. Contempt is mean and disrespectful. Defensiveness tends to be a response to criticism. Stonewalling is withdrawing, shutting down and refusing to talk.
Think of your marriage as a bank account and make daily deposits. We want our deposits to majorly outweigh our withdrawals.
Q: Any business partnership has key performance indicators that we measure and influence. What are key performance indicators any couple must look at closely, measure and influence in journey together.
Q: Do you accept your partner and their imperfections? I love that line that “Marriage is two imperfect people who never give up on each other.” Are you interested in your partner? Do you feel comfortable communicating with your partner? Do you feel supported by your partner? Do you share responsibilities? Is there emotional and physical intimacy? Do you trust your partner? Do you have fun together? Do you prioritize your partner? Are they number one to you? Do you both work on yourselves and try to improve and do better? Do you handle conflict well together? Do you give to each other and make an effort? Do you have finances handled in a way that makes you both happy? How do you get through traumas/hard situations together? Are you both 100% committed to the relationship?
Those are great questions to evaluate your marriage. Just like in a business, having weekly meetings is a great idea to discuss your marriage. What is going well that you want to keep doing? What isn’t going well that needs to be addressed? How are you going to improve your marriage this week? You can evaluate changes each week and keep working towards improving your marriage.
Q: As an independent contractor, I seem to always be thinking about some aspect of my practice/ business. Whether it’s about marketing, work colleagues, patients/customers etc. It seems to be affecting my relationship with my wife and son. I find that even when I am home, or we are at the park, I am still thinking about work. And my wife has taken notice and is quite unhappy about the whole situation. I try to schedule enough time for ‘work’ and ‘life’, but they still seem to be blending together. I have a strong passion for what I do, but I do work to create the life I/we want, not just for works sake. I believe Jim Rohn said something along the lines of working when you’re at work, and be at home when you are at home. But I’m finding it difficult to do. How can I better separate the two, and be more present at home?
A: I love that you are asking this question. It shows how much you care about your family and want to do better. Boundaries are so good for us and our family. What are your wife’s expectations? I would start there, and I would have a conversation with her in regards to what would work for both of you. Does she expect you not to work at all when you are home? It helps me to communicate with my husband what I need when he is home. He works at work and he works at home too. I will say that I want to go on a walk with Seth and my dog Tanner, but that I don’t want him to work at all on our walk and I want him to be present with me. I will ask him when he can stop working and come sit with me on the couch? I don’t expect him to never work at home, but I need time with him when he isn’t working. I want you to evaluate what works for you? Is it working for you constantly thinking about work? Do you have a planner where you can work out your day to make yourself feel like you have family time and work time? When you have family time put the work away and know that you can work at X time. For example, if I am going on a thirty minute walk with Seth I want thirty minutes with him of quality time. I don’t expect quality time with him not working the entire time he’s home. That doesn’t mean that works for your wife. Have a conversation about what she wants and think about what you want. For your mental health do you need to put work to bed when you get home or is that not possible? If your desired outcome is to put work away when you get home here is my suggestion. Before you leave work make a list of stuff that you would do at home so that you remember to do it the next day. I hope you and your wife can work this out so that it works for both of you.
Q: Is it okay to fight in front of the children?
A: This is a question that comes up often. The answer to this question is yes. You don’t need to hide your fighting (unless you are fighting about the kids). A regular martial conflict is okay to have in front of the children if it’s an appropriate topic. However, remember that little eyes are watching you and learning how to fight. I want you to have good conflict resolution skills in your marriage for your marriage and for your children.
I hope that you found these answers helpful to your marriages and relationships. Marriage is something that we want to put daily effort into. Neither person will ever achieve perfection. You can keep learning and growing together. Be willing to give and to put in the effort. Marriage is about giving it isn’t about taking. Go have a happy marriage.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R
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