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8 Things Your Kids Should See You and Your Spouse Doing Together

kissing couple with kid


Modeling a healthy marriage is a vital part of parenting. Showing your children how to negotiate a marriage relationship is your primary responsibility. Well, feeding them is pretty important too, but teaching them healthy relationships is definitely toward the top of the responsible parenting list.

To model healthy relationships make sure your kids can see you:

Spending time together.

Life is hectic especially with kids. Time together is at a premium and it’s tempting to save it for after you put the kids to bed. However, demonstrating you like to spend time together shows your children quality time matters in relationships.

Talking.

Good relationships utilize good communication. If your kids only see you taking to your phone they won’t understand the importance of face-to-face communication.

Listening.

Good communication involves more than talking. Demonstrate appropriate listening skills by actively listening to your spouse. Active listening looks like looking at your spouse, asking clarifying questions, and even leaning toward them.

Disagreeing and problem solving.

Disagreeing is fine but please don’t intentionally fight in front of your kids. Some parents believe it’s important for kids to see “reality” including your fights. I disagree. Children cannot understand all the dynamics involved in your argument and feel less secure when their parents fight. Keep your arguments as private as you can. Your children will pick up on the tension well enough anyway. When you and your spouse disagree, make sure your kids see how you solve the problem by negotiating a solution.

Making up.

Fight in private but make-up where your kids can see you ask for forgiveness and offer forgiveness.

Laughing.

Good relationships are fun. Show your kids it’s fun to be in relationship with one another. If you have lost the ability to have fun ask your kids for how-to-be-silly tips.

Interacting with friends.

We are designed for community. Good marriage relationships don’t isolate. It’s fine to get a babysitter for date night but make sure to include times when you and your spouse hang out with other couples to show your kids what community feels like.

Kissing.

Physical affection is a wonderful part of a great relationship. Your kids may hide their eyes depending on their age but they love it. They’ll feel the love.

Children are observant and master imitators. They may not do what you say but they will always do what you do.

What would you add to this list?


Parenting is hard and takes a more dramatic turn during the holiday season. My ebook, The Best Holiday Ever: How to move from conflict to connection this holiday season discusses how to navigate the wilds of parenting during the Christmas season. It’s easy to read it now.

The Hidden Killer: How to Save Your Marriage from Financial Infidelity

financial infographic

I love this Infographic from CreditRepair.com, it illustrates the remarkable stats related to financial infidelity in marriage. Amazingly, 58 percent of couples who are divorced or separated admit to lying to their spouse about money. The part that didn’t surprise me is 60 percent said they kept their spending secret to avoid problems at home.

Avoiding conflict is a tempting marriage improvement strategy. Conflict is no fun and often really painful. But avoiding conflict only last a short time and lying always makes conflict worse. Dishonesty in any area but especially about money, kills trust and intimacy. Every time.

The infographic also points out, when compared to a number of other issues, financial disagreements last longer and generate more negative communication techniques like defensiveness and yelling.

You may be surprised to know 60 percent of divorced or separated couples believe financial infidelity is as destructive as sexual infidelity.

I’m not sure which is more destructive. Certainly both financial and sexual infidelity have destroyed many marriages. In each form of infidelity, trust is demolished and lying fuels the destructive fire.

Financial infidelity could be secretly destroying your marriage. Rotting your marriage from the inside out. Protect your marriage and make some wonderful in your marriage by committing to financial transparency.

1. Work on finances together.

CreditRepair.com ends the infographic by recommending “GET OUT OF DEBT AND STAY OUT OF DEBT” Good advice. Couples who operate separate accounts and responsibilities experience more difficulty reaching financial goals like getting out of debt. The easiest way to guard against financial infidelity is to work on finances together. Partner with your spouse, align your financial goals and share the tasks of managing your money.

Action Point: Discuss with your spouse how you feel your current money management arrangement is working and respectfully negotiate how you can better share the work of managing your money together.

2. Have honest conversations.

To prevent pain and divorce, I recommend “STOP LYING AND NEVER LIE AGAIN.” I understand it’s not easy, especially when you know tough financial conversations are necessary in your relationship. Stop avoiding difficult conversations by lying. It may be tempting but lying never helps relationships thrive. Your lie will always be found out and the longer you lie the more destruction it will cause in your marriage.

Action Point: Come clean and tell your spouse about spending or debt you’ve been hiding. Take responsibility and don’t blame your spouse for your inappropriate behavior. Also apologize for your dishonesty or for withholding information from them.

3. Focus on communicating love.

It’s easy when talking about money to get hyper-focused on the details of the numbers and forget you’re in relationship. The more you focus on communicating love to your spouse the better you will negotiate finances. Personal finances are intimately personal. You must address your emotions related to money in a way that strengthens rather than tears down your connection in marriage.

Action Point: Tell your spouse why you care about them and your desire for intimate connection in every area of life, even finances.

4. Get help and use professional resources.

If you’re not sure how to start a conversation with your spouse about money or you know any conversation will lead to a dangerous fight, get help. Securing counsel is wisdom in action. Find a relationship counselor to help keep the conversation safe and on track. Use resources like Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey to give you and your spouse a shared understanding of money management.

Action Point: Identify together what resources would benefit your situation. You may need credit counseling, accounting or tax advice. Then commit to following through with professional recommendations.


 

The Best Movie of the Year (and How it Can Transform Your Marriage)


inside out on blue


Movies magically transport viewers into stories. The best stories create powerful emotion in those who experience them. You know a good movie when you feel it. My favorite movies leave me feeling a strong emotion. Braveheart and Gladiator leave me feeling strong and courageous. Marly and Me leaves me feeling sadly reminiscent. The Sound of Music leaves me feeling content. I avoid scary movies because I don’t like to feel afraid. Rudy leaves me feeling capable and proud.

How we feel after watching a movie is the real measure of it’s greatness. If the story can go beyond entertainment and touch your emotions you’ve really experienced the story.

Emotions not only impact our experience of watching a movie, they also color our entire life. The greatest experiences of life impact us deeply because of emotion. Think about the most meaningful parts of your life; birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, your wedding day, the birth of your children. These moments are significant because you experienced strong emotion.

Inside Out by Disney’s Pixar (now available on DVD) is the best movie of the year. Watch the trailer.

Inside Out not only left me with a strong emotion like all great movies, but it’s also about emotion. The emotions of Riley, the story’s main character, take center stage. As Riley faces a series of changes in her life joy, sadness, disgust, anger and fear get to work. The movie brilliantly animates the abstract experience of emotion with a revealing look inside our minds.

Inside Out can transform your marriage if you apply these 3 lessons well.

Emotions matter deeply. They run the show and profoundly impact our lives. For a wonderful marriage identify your own emotion and then seek to understand the emotion of your spouse.

Our experiences and most importantly, our memory of these experiences hold emotion. Inside Out illustrates well how memories are intertwined with emotion. Get to know the experiences of your spouse. Their childhood experiences can be powerful as well as how they feel about their experiences of today.

Every emotion is needed. At first in the movie, Joy doesn’t understand why Sadness is around, but by the end, Sadness plays an important role. Don’t run from emotion in your marriage no matter how uncomfortable you feel. Respond to your spouse with love through all their emotions to build a strong connection.

I love emotion. Helping couples identify and use emotion to build a strong connection in their marriage is my favorite part of my job as a counselor. When you pay attention to emotion in your marriage your relational intimacy deepens. The same happens in your relationship with your children. The more you pay attention to your child’s core emotions, the deeper your connection. Your children learn the most about emotion by watching you and experiencing emotion through their relationship with you. Gather your kids, get some popcorn and watch Inside Out together. You’ll have fun, build lasting memories with good emotions, and perhaps it will spark new conversations about emotions. Pay attention to emotion and you’ll not only deepen your relationship with your spouse but with your children as well.

inside out color

The Worst Season

sick


I’m sorry to tell you but It’s fall and that means the start of the “flu season.”

I’m scheduled to get a flu shot this week which is supposed to help but I’ve found it’s not exactly the perfect force field the flu shot marketers would have you think.

No matter the superpowers you think you have, you’ll get sick eventually. Times of sickness come in all marriages, often unexpected and always inconvenient. The “in sickness” part of marriage will inevitably invade your life and put your happy day in the toilet.

I remember the last time I got sick. It was the stomach bug type of sick and it rendered me useless. The fever made summer feel like the arctic even in my warm bed and extreme energy reserves were needed just to shuffle to the bathroom. I’ll spare you the other unattractive details of the “flu like symptoms” but I was totally out of it. Then as soon as I was starting to feel life creep back into my body, the kids got sick, and then my wife. The rolling tide of family sickness is a special type of terrible.

Physical illness is not only a medical problem, it easily becomes a relationship problem if not handled well. Strangely enough the time your spouse is sick can actually provide relational connection if you know what to do.

1. Provide comfort.

Comfort can be provided in a number of ways. You can make chicken noodle soup, provide a cool washcloth, or another blanket. Comfort can also include sympathetic and soothing words. Ask how you can help them feel more comfortable and be extra understanding and polite if they give you a half-awake grumble in response.

2. Give space.

When your spouse is feeling sick, provide them space to rest. This means give them actual physical distance from people and set up their environment for rest. For example: dim the lights, play soft music, avoid cooking deep fried catfish, and entertain the kids as far away as possible. Giving space can also mean giving them a break from intense conversations like talking about the bills or the next holiday with the in-laws.

3. Hold down the fort.

When your spouse is sick, you have to understand they will not be doing their normal routine. Step it up and get things done. It will mean the world to your spouse if you can keep the house reasonably clean and take care of the kids. If this means you need to feed the kids, Chuck-E-Cheese is a good option, besides, it’s likely far enough away to provide your spouse needed space.

The amount of comfort, space, and household tasks you need to provide depends on the personality and desires of your spouse. The important part is to be responsive to what they want. When your spouse is sick it’s a great time to show them your love. The “in sickness” part of your marriage vow is put in there to remind you to love and to cherish, not only because you have to endure their sickness, but because your marriage connection can deepen when their needs are met.

4. Celebrate health.

When you and your spouse are back to full health again, celebrate! It’s amazing how good it feels to feel good again. After feeling sick, even the simple things like eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and keeping it down is worth celebrating. If sickness is a reminder of how fragile health is, returning to health is a great reason to celebrate.

What do you want from your spouse when you are sick? What does your spouse want when they are sick?

1 Unexpected Way for Your Marriage to Survive Christmas This Year

surprised christmas guy


*Please note: I know it’s October and thinking about Christmas now either makes you nervous or makes you roll your eyes. Keep reading, you’ll gain needed perspective and practical tips. Besides aren’t you curious what the 1 unexpected thing is?

No matter the idealized version of the holiday season you like to imagine, the Christmas season will dogpile you with stress.

It happens every year, couples expect quiet evenings by the fireplace but end up blasted by the cold reality of holiday stress. For example during the holidays, you and your spouse have to debate:

How much do we spend on gifts?

Do we get a fresh or artificial Christmas tree?

How many $4 pumpkin spice lattes are too many?

Which church services do we attend?

What to do we do with the kids?

Which Christmas parties do we attend?

What is an appropriately inappropriate white elephant gift?

How do we tell your well meaning relatives we don’t want fruitcake?

Which set of demanding in-laws do we visit first?

How many family traditions do we have time for?

The list goes on and on.

No wonder the joy of the season is lost in conflict.

The great news is, your marriage doesn’t have to feel disconnected during the holidays. You can actually enjoy each other.

The guaranteed solution to holiday conflict is to fight with your spouse.

Yep a marriage counselor is telling you to fight with your spouse.

The more you discuss, argue, and decide the details of the holidays now, before they’ve even started, the less explosive connection killing conflict you’ll experience later.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to pre-argue every detail of the next three months of your life. Addressing the top two sources of conflict will get you started well.

Discuss your budget for Christmas including gifts, travel, and parties.

Finalize your budget in October for the months of November and December. No one likes the dreaded January Credit card bill. Avoid the January emotional eruption and discuss your holiday budget now. It’s ok to fight. You’ll prevent much bigger fights later. You’ll discover it’s much more pleasant to be proactive than reactive.

Discuss who you will visit and when you will visit them.

Decide now and you won’t have to debate it later in a more pressured setting. Making a decision together ahead of time will help you develop appropriate boundaries for your family and unify you and your spouse.

Simply talking about budget and travel plans can reduce conflict slightly but I challenge you to actually make real decisions. Have the conflict now and make the hard decisions now. Leaving your discussion vague with no decision is as pointless as a decapitated Christmas tree. See what I did there? a Christmas tree with no top? Pointless. Ok, I promise no more cheesy jokes. Get the holiday arguments going in your marriage in October rather than late December.


buy ebook


My eBook The Best Holidays Ever: How to move from conflict to connection this holiday season addresses the 6 major sources of conflict in marriage and how to turn them into points of connection during the holidays. Get it now for only $5. It’s really an awesome deal considering it will save you hundreds of dollars, your sanity, and your marriage this holiday season.