15 Quick recipes for better communication

15 Quick recipes for better communication

There is a good reason why experts often list communication as one of the most important ingredients for a successful marriage. It is like eggs or baking powder – without it, a cake will flop completely.

I recently had to bake a cake for a fundraising project at my child’s school. I got everything ready. First, the two chocolate-flavored box-cakes (because they are easy to make, pretty much flop-resistant and no one tastes the difference!). Then, the icing sugar, butter, cherries and golden glitter – because glitter makes everything beautiful!

So, I started baking, with some music in the background and the kitchen windows wide open. I was in a good mood and everything pointed to it being a raging success. I was reading the recipe when an incoming text message briefly interrupted me. An irrelevant, promotional message that tried to convince me that some company will lower my monthly car insurance premium…

I returned to my baking station but I have lost my place. Then I found it again, or at least I thought I did. What actually happened is that I had skipped a very necessary step: adding three eggs. Unfortunately, I only realized my mistake when I took out the pathetic brown pancake out of the oven and saw the three lousy eggs still lying on the counter… a flop that no amount of glitter could save.

In the same way, your marriage could be plain sailing. You went for premarital counselling and have put everything in place for a marriage that will last more than 50 years. But then you forget the eggs. Or you remembered to take them out, but forgot to add them in the mix…

15 Quick recipes for blunder-free communication:

  1. Make time to talk. From discussing trivial topics to debating tough issues. Some couples can talk non-stop from their wedding day until the day they die. But others have to work a bit harder. When you notice that your conversations are becoming less frequent, schedule time for communication, without allowing technology or the children to interrupt you. Chat over a cup of coffee. And if you have something important to discuss, do it when the kids are asleep.
  2. Choose the right time and place. When it comes to effective communication, timing is crucial. If you voice your disgruntlement about your financial situation while he/she is watching a movie or busy brushing teeth before bed time, a frustrating outcome is almost guaranteed. Neither should you confront your partner in a public setting or when you are between friends or family. It is unfair to the “spectators” and it will prevent you from speaking freely and honestly.
  3. Reconsider your words – again and again. When you and your partner talk to each other, carefully consider your words – as if you are handling glass. When a conversation becomes heated, it is easy to say something that you will regret later on. Remember, once it has been said, you can’t take it back. And if it so happens that you are arguing over text messages (never a good idea), avoid capital letters!
  4. Don’t interrupt your partner. Don’t stereotype your partner. Don’t generalize. These are three rules that, should you break them, will mean that you are playing dirty. When you interrupt someone, it makes that person feel angry and helpless. And to say something like: “You men are…” or “You always do this…” is unfair.
  5. Avoid misunderstandings by double-checking. Some of the biggest fights are the result of misunderstandings. Misunderstandings that arise from making assumptions. So, before you make your own conclusions, ask your partner: “Do I understand correctly if you say that I…”.
  6. Be aware of your body language and tone of voice. You might be saying the right words, but with so much sarcasm that no one can miss it. Or you might invite your partner to talk, but then challenge him or her with aggressive body language – arms folded.
  7. Remember that you are in control. Conflict is not escalated by the person initiating it, but by the person who responds. And yes, sometimes it seems unfair when your partner keeps taunting you, but you still have the ability to control the situation. Will you react and start a fight, or will you dismiss the challenge?
  8. Develop good listening skills. Listening properly, while paying attention, is one of the most important skills that you can learn to the benefit of your marriage. Look your partner in the eye, put your smartphone aside and make a conscious effort to understand what he/she is saying.
  9. Touch each other. When you and your partner tackle a serious topic, make sure that there is some intimacy between you. Do this by sitting next to your partner and holding his/her hand. There are several reasons for this: Firstly, it creates trust and makes your partner feel more comfortable to open up to you. Secondly, it is very difficult to have a bad fight while there is that kind of intimacy between you
  10. Be an attentive communicator. Whether you are simply communicating or arguing, read between the lines. People don’t only communicate with their words, but also with their eyes, body language and silences. You probably know your partner by now, so use your knowledge to the benefit of you both. When your spouse’s body language reveals that something is wrong, try to find out what it is. When your partner says one thing, but the body language shows something else, investigate further.
  11. Design a communication style that works for you both. When you’re not fighting, make some time to discuss your communication styles. You will soon realize why you rub each other the wrong way. Then talk about ways to avoid this. If you know your different love languages, it can also make things easier. If your love language is words of affirmation, you can explain to your partner that you need kind words to feel closer to him/her. If your love language is physical touch, point 9 will be extra important. Tell your partner which words (when you are fighting) really upsets you and where you think you can improve your conflict management skills.
  12. Don’t sweep things under the carpet. Sometimes you might just be too tired to argue or things are going so well that you don’t want to rock the marriage boat. But sweeping things that bother you under the carpet, has a negative effect on your marriage. If you continue to bury things to avoid a potential conflict situation, the tension will build until an explosion becomes inevitable. This doesn’t mean that you have to have a huge argument about every small disagreement, but rather that you should be open about the things that bother you in order to deal with it as soon as possible.
  13. Respect each other and sometimes agree to disagree. No couple can always agree on everything. They can also not solve every conceivable problem. Sometimes it better to just accept that you have different opinions and to respect each other’s views.
  14. Sometimes it is a good idea to ask help from a third party. There are times when it is beneficial to get the opinion of a close friend or a family member to help with an important decision. They can provide a new perspective. However, there are couples who don’t like it if someone chooses a side other than theirs so if you want to avoid getting angry at the person who are trying to help you solve the problem, rather get professional help from a person you don’t know at all – thereby ensuring that the person is completely impartial. An expert can also assist you with better conflict management techniques.
  15. Don’t try to win. You are not in competition with each other, instead, you are a team. Communicate with the goal to establish a connection between you, not to determine who is right and who is wrong. We often think that the purpose of communication is to let inform our partners of our needs and desires. But that is missing the point! The purpose of communication is to better understand each other…

Effective communication is essential for a healthy marriage – a marriage that “rises” as it should, just like a cake. So, gather as much information as you can about this topic and increase the chances for your marriage cake to be flop-resistant!

Additional sources: www.psychalive.org; www.relate.org.uk; www.elitedaily.com; www.familylife.com; www.goodtherapy.org.

7 Important questions to ask your partner

7 Important questions to ask your partner

There are seven questions that you should ask your partner on a regular basis. These are questions that will change your marriage for the better…

“How was your day?” This is the common backup question – the one you depend on out of habit. The one you use when you want to show that you are interested (even when you’re not) and the one you dig out when you don’t know what to say. Worst of all, if you ask this question regularly, your partner doesn’t really hear it anymore and just answers automatically, without really paying attention themselves.

What you ask and the way you ask it, however, is very important for a healthy marriage. By asking good questions, you keep conversations going, you open communication lines and you get to know your partner on a deeper level.

On the website www.bustle.com, New York etiquette expert, April Masini, writes that she believes a good communicator is someone who knows how to articulate their needs and someone who listens out for misunderstandings and concepts that needs to be explained. “When all people in the communication transaction understand what is being said and expected, there has been effective communication,” April says. Specific questions can help you and your partner to start a successful dialogue so that you can both effectively communicate your feelings, fears and concerns.

Here are some questions to ask your partner:

QUESTION #1: What can I do to help you?

Guys, listen up, because this is an important question to ask. If you are the kind of person who wants to fix things (a doer), you may mean well when you jump right in, without getting the desired response. Why? Because your partner doesn’t always want you to fix the problem. However, he/she wants to know that you care enough to want to do it. If you jump right into action mode, ready to help, your partner may feel like you just want him/her to shut up, but when you ask how you can help, it shows your partner that you care, that you are really listening and that you are willing to do what your he/she needs.

QUESTION #2 What can I do to make you feel more loved?

Everyone wants to feel loved and sometimes the way you feel has nothing to do with your partner, but rather with what happened in your childhood or with things that you are currently trying to sort out in your life. However, you can do a lot to make your partner feel better about him or herself. You may just not always know how. You might think that running a bath for her will show her how much you love her, but meanwhile all she wants is for you to sit right next to her on the couch watching This is Us.

QUESTION #3: Do I understand correctly when you say…?

So many quarrels arise as a result of misunderstandings. Misunderstanding that happen when two people are talking past each other, when they are not listening carefully or are making assumptions. Before you get hot under the collar, take a step back and first ask: “Do I understand correctly when you say…?” Also count to ten before you respond and ask as many questions as necessary for you to get clarity about the situation.

QUESTION #4: What can we do together to achieve that goal?

We are often in such a hurry on the way to achieve our own goals, dreams and future plans that we forget how important it is to work on a shared future dream. Do you really know what your partner is dreaming about? Strategize together and make plans to get there. This one conversation will take you to a much deeper level of intimacy than where you were before this important question.

QUESTION #5: Would you like us to talk about it again?

There are very few serious issues that can be sorted out in one brief debate. Most arguments will need another conversation, and perhaps yet another one. And it is not just arguments, but also conversations about where to move to or which school to choose for the children. These issues need several discussions… and follow-up discussions to make sure that you are both still moving in the same direction or whether it is time to go through everything again. Follow up to make sure that you both have certainty and peace about a matter, and that you are still on the same page after you’ve had time to think about it separately.

QUESTION #6: What is your most beautify memory of us?

This question is super important and you can ask it every now and then, or you can make it an annual event to ask this question on your wedding anniversary. According to research published in Motivation and Emotion, couples who cherish memories of their best times together, reported greater satisfaction with their relationships.

QUESTION #7: Do you think we spend enough time together?

Whether your love language is quality time or not, it is important for any couple to ask this question. According to therapist and author, Tina B. Tessina, it is important not to get so caught up in your role as parents (for example) that you forget how to be friends. Ask your partner regularly if he/she thinks that you spend enough time together, so that the romance doesn’t get lost completely.

There are many other questions that you should ask frequently. Keep some of them light and ask things like: “What on earth freaks you out the most?”, but do not forget about the serious questions, for example: “What is your biggest dream for our children?”. Read magazines and note the questions that celebrities answer. Try to remember things that stood out for you during your childhood and ask your partner about it, for example: “Did you ever eat Catawba grapes as a child?”.

What it actually comes down to is that you should never stop asking your partner questions. While certain things won’t ever change, such as your partner’s past, there are always variables. In ten year’s time she might not feel the same about adoption or university studies, because she is a dynamic being. Keep this in mind, always stay curious and ask as much as you can.

Additional sources: www.bestlifeonline.com; www.bustle.com;  The Effect of Reminiscing about Laughter on Relationship Satisfaction, published in Motivation and Emotion and written by Doris G. Bazzini, Elizabeth R. Stack, Penny D. Marincin and Carmen P. Davis.

Date night is non-negotiable!

Date night is non-negotiable!

Our time is limited and we have a whole lot of excuses! We can’t find a babysitter, our schedules are way too busy and our budget is tight. Still, date nights are not negotiable, says those who know.

Do you feel like you are always busy? Guess what – everyone does. Life is hectic! There is not even enough time to meet all our daily obligations, not to mention the pleasures of romantic evenings out or late morning sex… And if you think you are busy, can you imagine a Hollywood celebrity’s diary? But Chrissy Teigen and her husband, John Legend, make time to ensure that they have date nights. And if they can do it… well…

When was the last time you had a real date night? When last did you switch of your cell phones and tablets to spend time with each other?

“Date night is so important. In fact, it is critical,” says psychologist and relationship expert, Melanie Schilling in Australia’s The Huffington Post.

She believes that couples who have one screen-free evening just once every two weeks, are happy. It doesn’t have to be a fancy affair and it doesn’t have to include any of the romantic cliches. But it is so easy to take your partner for granted – one of the most dangerous territories for a relationship.

According to a study by The Marriage Foundation, couples who have a monthly date night, have a 14% smaller chance of breaking up than couples who don’t.

When you leave date night for “when we get time” or say “we will plan something closer to the time”, the chance that it will realize is very small. There is a saying: “You don’t succeed to the level of your goals, you fail to the level of your systems.”

Therefore, make date night part of a system. Put a solid plan and structure in place to ensure that date night happens – no matter what! To achieve a goal the goal must meet five requirements:

  • It must be specific.
  • It must be measurable.
  • It must be agreed upon.
  • It must be realistic.
  • It must be time-based.

Avoid phrases like: “We’ll have a date night later this week.” Rather say: “Let’s go to Burger King on Wednesday at six-o-clock and go and watch a movie at the Mall afterwards.” Make sure that you are on the same page and if it feels like you are aiming to high, adjust your plans to be more feasible.

4 Reasons why you should do date night

  1. It enhances communication.

There are so many things that demand your attention every day, that date night becomes essential. You have to keep getting to know each other. However, keep date night as light-hearted and positive as possible.

  1. It is an opportunity to relax and take a break from daily stress.

Couples often feel guilty when putting their own needs above those of the children, but every couple deserves to take a night off every now and then, without worrying about household chores. It is good to sometimes put the bills and difficult decisions aside and just have fun.

  1. It is a reminder of why you fell in love with each other.

If you don’t go on a regular date night, you might forget to focus on each other’s good qualities. One-on-one time can serve as a reminder of how things were before the kids arrived.

  1. It builds commitment.

The more good memories you create, the stronger foundation you have when going through a difficult time. Date nights are a good way to create “love reserves”. Being serious about date night shows your partner that you are serious about your relationship.

4 Types of date nights

  1. Combine a common interest.

If you both love history, plan an evening to research your family history together. If you both like exercise, go jogging together at least once a week.

  1. Be adventurous.

Do something that neither of you have ever done before. Move outside your comfort zone and do something that falls outside your normal framework. If you normally prefer a traditional home-cooked meal, then maybe it is time to try out Japanese cuisine.

  1. Have another “first date”.

The longer you are married, the more you become used to each other. Later on, it doesn’t feel like there is anything you don’t know about each other – but there is! Make this date night one where you get to know each other again. Do it interview-style, complete a questionnaire or do a personality test.

  1. Be romantic.

When planning a date night, think about all the facets that you desire in your marriage. Every date night doesn’t have to be romantic, but it is important to focus on romance every now and then to bring the butterflies back.

4 Systems to get in place every month

  1. The calendar.

Date nights are non-negotiable. View them as very important meetings that happen after hours. Get together and schedule time in your diaries for date night once a week. These dates can only be moved in extreme circumstances.

  1. A plan for the kids.

If you have kids, planning their care is a priority. Get someone that you can trust with your kids. If you have to use the neighbor’s sixteen-year-old out of desperation at the last minute, you might be so worried that you won’t enjoy your night out anyway.

  1. Who will plan the details?

If there isn’t a designated person responsible for planning date night, it won’t happen. If both wait for the other partner to do the planning, it will result in misunderstandings, half-baked plans and date nights that simply do not happen. For each date night scheduled, the planner’s name must be noted. Take turns, otherwise the one partner will feel as if the initiative is just coming from one side.

  1. The budget.

Date nights do not have to cost a fortune – it is, however, super important that you consider it a priority – so much so that you don’t neglect it. Set up a budget at the beginning of the month and decide how much can be spent on each respective date night. You can either divide it up equally, or plan for two cheaper and two more expensive date nights.

4 Places of inspiration

  1. Something old.

Borrow inspiration from earlier times. Older people didn’t have Pinterest and had to think creatively. They focused on old world charm and manners (such as opening the car door for a lady). If you don’t know much about this, ask people that are older than you.

  1. Something new.

This is where Pinterest comes in handy. Use the available technology to your advantage and don’t underestimate the value of Über, Booking.com and Cheapfligths.

  1. Something borrowed.

Chat to your friends or colleagues to get original ideas for date night. Borrow ideas from movies. Use phrases from songs and poems to woo your partner and google for ideas on chat sites.

  1. Something NOT blue.

Think red! Think passion! Think romance! Think sexy!

4 Don’ts for the planner

  1. DON’T plan a date night only one of you will enjoy.

Yes, it might happen that your date is scheduled on a day when “Your Team” plays rugby, but your wife might not appreciate a night out at the local rugby stadium just because you don’t want to miss the game.

  1. DON’T just go out for dinner.

Dinner can be part of date night, but there must be something extra. Dinner is the easy part. If, however, you choose this as the main event, then opt for an exotic restaurant.

  1. DON’T underestimate the value of catching a hint.

If you listen carefully to your partner’s comments, those will tell you exactly what he/she would like. Especially when they mention: “We must definitely do that someday!”. When you hear something like that, make a note on your phone’s Notes app.

  1. DON’T choose a child-friendly venue.

This is the one chance you have to go to a place without an age restriction. Watch the movie with the highest age restriction, sleep in hotels where children aren’t allowed and eat at restaurants with real white linen napkins (and without the waiters singing Happy Birthday).

4 Rules for date night

  1. You’re not allowed to talk about the kids.

Yes, we know you want to discuss little Ben’s new tooth (it is after all what your life at home revolve around at the moment), but restrain yourself. You had a life before little Ben and will have one after he leaves home one day.

  1. Tough issues are off the table.

Date night is not the time for serious discussions or marriage therapy. It is not the time to raise your frustration or to dig up old dirt. It is a time to get to know each other intimately and have fun together.

  1. Date night is only for you two.

It doesn’t include anyone else. Not even your best friends who are also having a date night and happen to arrive at the same restaurant. Date night is your time exclusively and other people aren’t welcome.

  1. Don’t put too much pressure on your partner.

Don’t expect too much but keep it realistic. Don’t expect your spouse to go into debt so that you can have a spectacular date night. And don’t get angry if your partner is not emotionally in the same place as you are that night.

Additional sources: www.gq.com; www.thechaosandtheclutter.com; www.nestingstory.ca

A Marriage filled with Gratitude

A Marriage filled with Gratitude

Live a grateful marriage. This is how…

Some experts believe that there is immense value in keeping a “gratitude” journal. Not only can this enrich your life, but it can change your mindset in such a way that your whole being benefits from it. Did you know that living a life of gratitude within your marriage can also bless you abundantly?

“I am so tired of his impulsiveness,” Elaine complained. Her husband, John, was one of the most exciting and unpredictable people in others’ eyes, but one could see that she was tired – emotionally utterly exhausted.

Early in their relationship, on a random Tuesday, he decided that he wanted to go and show Elaine the Eiffel Tower – and the next day, they were on their way. Another time, during his lunch hour, he walked past a jewelry shop where he saw a very beautiful ring, which he bought on the spot and that very same night, he asked Elaine to marry him. Even their wedding day was an impromptu affair – just three weeks after he asked the big question, they got married on the beach… barefoot. To outsiders, it looked like one of the most romantic marriages ever.

But John’s impulsivity was taking its toll on Elaine, whose nature is not impulsive at all. That morning, things just became too much for her to bear.  “Our finances worry me – he makes impulsive purchases and then the items just gather dust in our garage. In addition, last night he decided to quit his job and start building a 3D printer. I never know what crazy idea he will have next.”

Elaine’s concern was justified, but one thing was certain – she would never change John. Deep down, she knew that, and one day, a close friend reminded her about something very important: “Elaine, do you remember that day when you and Gerald (her former boyfriend) were together for about a year? You came to me, being very unhappy, and you opened your heart. You told me at the time that that you know Gerald was your parents’ ideal son-in-law, but that you could never marry him. He was a perfectionist and his entire life was planned to the finest detail. John knocked your feet out from under you…”

And that is when Elaine had a light-bulb moment. She was focused on the bad instead of the good.

The value of gratitude

Gratitude is one of the most important ingredients for a successful marriage. In the early days of your relationship, you appreciated each other with gratitude, but over time, it is easy to start taking each other for granted. We then become blind to our partner’s good traits and only focus on the things that bother us.

A recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, entitled “Have You Thanked Your Spouse Today? – Felt and Expressed Gratitude Among Married Couples” involved couples that were married on average twenty years. It was found that if one partner is deeply grateful for the positive aspects regarding their spouse, or their marriage, they also experienced higher satisfaction within their marriage. Individuals that had higher levels of gratitude was also happier with their marriages. And where one partner actually expressed their gratitude, the other partner also showed more gratitude, without even being aware of the other partner’s specific opinion.

Dr Cameron Gordon, lead researcher of this study, labels gratitude as a positive characteristic, saying: “To create something positive in a marriage is very different from removing something negative. Negativity in marriage leads to the relationship eroding, but we actually know little about the effect of positivity on the maintenance of a marriage.”

This is true, and gratitude indeed leads to laughter, fun, grace and a better understanding of each other.

In another study, published in the journal Personal Relationships, researchers from the University of George interviewed a total of 468 married couples and questioned them about finance, communication strategies and how they expressed gratitude towards their partners. Again, it was found that gratitude remarkably indicated marriage quality. Couples who showed gratitude towards one another was also less likely to divorce. Feeling appreciated has a huge impact on how a person feels about his/her marriage and the individual’s dedication to make it work.

Co-author of the study, Ted Futris, says that all couples disagree and argue. “What distinguishes the marriages that last, from those that don’t, is not how much the spouses argue, but rather HOW they argue and how they treat each other on a daily basis.”

The study also found that financial stress can negatively affect marriages, but that, just by expressing appreciation for one another, this stress can be relieved. “When couples are worried about how to make ends meet, they are more likely to act in negative ways – they are more critical and defensive towards each other and can even stop talking to each other and withdraw, which then results in a lower quality marriage,” says Ted. “Gratitude, however, can break this cycle and help couples overcome negative communication patterns in their relationship, patterns which could be the result of current stress factors.”

It is not always easy to live with gratitude. Sometimes we simply don’t feel grateful and other times life is just moving too fast to focus on gratitude. But in a New York Times article, entitled Choose to be Grateful. It will Make You Happier, Arthur C. Brooks wrote that choosing gratitude can make us feel even more thankful. This is due to the fact that when we express gratitude, our brains release chemicals that reduces our stress, and make us more grateful.

In his research center, marriage expert, Dr John Gottman, also discovered that successful couples have created a culture of kindness and deliberately strive to view each other in a good light.

Habits of gratitude can start small, and in his article, Arthur writes that one should practice internal gratitude, external gratitude and then finally, gratitude for trivial things. The latter is the easiest. Being thankful for his smile, for the coffee that she woke you up with, gratitude for his warm breath in your neck on a cold night…

How do you do it?

  1. Be intentionally grateful.

Become more aware of the things that you appreciate about your partner and change your mindset. Instead of thinking that it is your partner’s job to do something wonderful so that you can feel grateful about it, rather see it as your responsibility to look out for something to be grateful for.

  1. Be generous and selfless.

Do something for your partner without them having to ask and without making a fuss about it. Have new tires fitted to her car, but don’t expect her to praise you for it. Pull the weeds out of his favorite flower bed without expecting thanks.

  1. Recognize and appreciate the intention and effort.

Sometimes things just don’t work out. He might have tried his best to prepare a “MasterChef” meal for your, but it had failed miserably. Respond kindly, for example by saying: “Don’t worry at all. I really appreciate what you did for me.”

  1. Be creative when you express gratitude.

Don’t just use the words “thank you” every time. Learn how say it in different ways. For example, say “I appreciate you”, or “I am so grateful for…” or “May you be blessed for this…”.

  1. Show your appreciation.

Use your body language and reaction to show your partner how much you value him/her. In the study led by Dr Cameron Gordon, it clearly emerged that couples who appreciate each other, apply active listening. When one partner is talking, the other one is clearly listening and processing what is being said (this is a way of showing your partner that you value his/her opinion).

  1. Make a conscious effort.

Set aside some time every day during which you pay specific attention to what is going on in your spouse’s life. Listen attentively when you ask him/her about their day.

  1. Focus every day on things that make your marriage work.

We are so inclined to complain about things that does not work. Make it a daily habit to move your focus to the positives and over time it will become easier to maintain this habit.

  1. Occasionally, express your gratitude in public.

Sometimes even the most confident of people feel insecure in public. Firstly, at home, make sure that your partner knows how grateful you are. But also make sure that he/she knows this when you are among other people.

  1. Keep a gratitude journal.

Write something in your journal every day and devote a specific section, for example the top right block on each page, to your marriage. In that block, write one thing about your partner that you are grateful for every day.

  1. The 60 Second Blessing.

Think about what you can tell your partner every day to encourage him/her. Then take one full minute (without any distractions), look your partner in the eyes and speak life. It is amazing what a simple compliment can do to make love grow. On the blog “marriage363.org”, Heather Christy wrote about one of the turning points in her marriage –  when she and her partner learned about the power of speaking words of encouragement over each other.

If something as simple as a mindset, words of encouragement or gratitude can make such a big difference in your marriage, why not seize the opportunity immediately? Live a marriage of gratitude and experience change in your relationship from today onward.

Additional sources: www.foryourmarriage.org; www.psychologytoday.com; www.bustle.com; www.relatable.com; www.gottman.com; www.soundvision.com

Are you spouses or just roommates?

Are you spouses or just roommates?

Are you roommates?

Every great marriage is rooted in a deep friendship, but what happens when you and your partner suddenly realise that you’re living as roommates instead of a married couple?

“Anton and I were always the best of friends. We could talk about anything under the sun for hours and we loved having a good conversation over a bottle of red wine. I used to think this was one of our marriage’s strengths, until I was watching a TV episode about roommates and realised that Anton and I were exactly the same as the roommates! The problem was that they shared an apartment and not much else,” says Danielle about her marriage.

“To my shock and dismay, I realised that I had been so focused on our friendship that our relationship was faltering. The romance and passion was gone – it was like it had somehow disappeared overnight.”

Danielle spoke to Anton about it and learned that the situation had been bothering him for quite some time, too. They decided they need to turn the situation around immediately and they were able to succesfully transform their roommate status back to one of husband and wife.

How does it happen?

Children arrive on the scene and bills pile up. So much time and energy gets dedicated to other responsibilities that intimacy falls to the wayside. Couples start taking their marriages for granted and believe that love will be enough to sustain the partnership in the long run. When this happens, partners stop really communicating with each other – they just tick the most important items off their to-do list. Sooner rather than later, they stop connecting emotionally.

Sometimes a marriage can seem so “normal” on the surface level that a couple thinks they’re in a good place because there’s no obvious drama or conflict. A rude awakening can happen when one (or both) partners wake up one morning and realise that they’re bored! According to Pepper Schwartz, a professor is sociology and psychology as well as author of Prime: Adventures and advice about sex, love and the sensual years, this can create a lot of distance between partners.

A couple in this situation can be the envy of their colleagues and friends because from the outside, it looks like a highly functional relationship. However, while the partners accept the responsibilities that go along with being married, they don’t get to experience any of the benefits. They don’t feel loved and the emotional intimacy is gone. So many couples start out as soul mates and best friends, only to turn into roommates who are consciously or subconsciously resentful towards each other.

How do you know you are moving into the danger zone?

  1. You use the kids as an excuse. There’s never any time for your husband because you have children and their needs and activities come first. You’re crumbling under all the kids’ responsibilities but you believe that you will be able to divert your attention back onto your husband again one day, probably when the kids have left the nest.
  2. You don’t spend time together anymore. Roommates don’t feel it’s necessary to spend quality time together because they see each other at home. This leads you to take turns babysitting so that you can attend your book club and so hubby can have a boys’ night out.
  3. You keep your hands to yourself. Roommates don’t touch each other. They don’t hug, kiss or hold hands. Maybe you feel like the kids are on top of you all day and you need a bit of personal space once they are in bed.
  4. You’ve forgotten how to flirt! There simply isn’t time for flirting. You don’t even laugh when he tells his old Dad Jokes… you’ve heard it so many times!
  5. You don’t sleep in the same bed. Maybe you’re sharing the bed with your little princess. Or your husband sleeps with Fido. Roommates don’t sleep together and regardless of the reason (he snores, it’s too hot), this forespells danger.
  6. You don’t make an effort. Due to all the abovementioned reasons, you’re not really in the mood for sex so you’ve decided your husband doesn’t need it, either. You wear your oldest sweatpants to bed and parade around in a green face mask in front of him.
  7. You keep your wallets to yourselves. Roommates don’t share money and you don’t want someone checking up on you when you want to splurge on that new bottle of perfume. Each of you has a separate bank account and credit card. For some couples, this financial strategy works well. For others, it creates a divide.

 

What do you do?

  • Be realistic. You can have great sex again, but all nighters might be a bit unrealistic if your youngest pops into your bedroom three times a night and your husband has to give a big presentation the following morning.
  • Schedule sex. Discuss your schedules and needs, then set time aside for sex. It might not be the hanging-from-the-chandeliers type of sex, but don’t stop doing it. Sex isn’t optional.
  • Create intimacy. Save information to share with your partner exclusively. Marriage is about the union between a husband and wife. If one or both of you shares your most private thoughts and dreams with someone outside of the marriage, then the intimacy between the two of you isn’t being valued highly enough.
  • Do something exciting. Don’t let boredom get you down. Take a cooking class or a surfing lesson together. Make sure there is at least one hobby that the both of you share. Embarking on a new adventure together will give you focus (and it’s good for your sex life!)
  • Discuss things that matter. Forget about shallow conversations topics for a while (“How was your day?”, “Do you want a cup of coffee?”) and focus on having deeper conversations. Create a ritual for the two of you, such as taking a 20-minute walk together in the afternoons when you can chat. Ask each other a meaningful question during those 20 minutes, like: “If you had to pick one goal to achieve before you turn 60, what would it be?”

You can be the best of friends and super comfortable around each other, but what sets your marriage apart from the relationships you have with friends is the type of intimacy that is shared between two people who are married. Be conscious about these issues and make sure that your partner feels like more than just a roommate!

Additional sources: www.thrivingcouples.com, www.webmd.com, www.jennyschermerhorn.com, www.yourtango.com, www.newspring.cc, www.marriedandyoung.com.

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