10 Ways to Improve Your Marriage While in Quarantine

Can you resonate with being too busy? Overwhelmed? Stressed? Running to the store, going to work, cleaning the house, cooking, laundry, dishes, setting aside time with the kids, setting aside time to spend with the spouse, cutting the grass, etc. It seems to never end. Right? We all feel like we are on never ending treadmills. How many items on our list of tasks did we not complete today, and how many tomorrow and the next day will be left incomplete? What are we chasing after? If you are on that chase, and it is hurting your relationship or just causing you to not succeed, maybe it’s time to sit down, relax and allow yourself to assess and rework your day to day life.

Relaxation is important, as well as work is. Sometimes we get so caught up in what seems important to us that we do not take time to relax and take a break. When we are busy and do not take time to slow down and relax, we may find ourselves worse off than we thought we would be. Have you ever forgotten something or did poor work? Maybe it was because you overworked or overbooked yourself. Sometimes when we get too busy, we actually get less done and the quality of our work suffers.

These same concerns can come into marriage when life gets busy. Kids involved in every sport, racing to get to the next event, trying to just keep up with life and do it all. Are the mistakes and incomplete tasks piling up? Slowing down and taking things off your plate can be helpful. Taking the time to EXPERIENCE the moment instead of RUSH through it, can do wonders for increasing quality workmanship and relationships. Are we sacrificing depth for quantity?

Anxiety tends to be more prevalent in our world than in history. Why? Many leaders in the world believe it is due to the constant need to complete and compete to keep up. We don’t want to fall behind. What are we sacrificing just to keep up? Might this contribute to the divorce rate being 50% in America? Are we too busy and too overwhelmed to enjoy what we have right in front of us?

Here’s what you can do: Slow Down! Cut something out of your life. Take the time to see, smell, taste, hear and touch what is right in front of you. Experience your life! It will be well worth it. I have had clients that after working with them for a while, we come to realize their problem is that they see each day as a list of tasks to complete, but never really become fulfilled. Humans were not meant to be fulfilled by tasks, drugs, sex, or anything else that is finite. Experiences are not finite! God made us to enjoy Him and His creation. Do you enjoy your life? Even the tough times? Have you ever thought, “Wow, so this is what this feels like?” If you don’t know that quote, go watch Sweet Home Alabama and fast forward to the end. At the wedding, the main character stops the wedding and tells the groom he does not want to marry her. He is stunned. However, he does not react how most of us would. He was supposed to be angry. Instead, he marveled at the feeling of rejection. Whether we fail or succeed, is it possible to slow down and experience either outcome so we can know what REAL LIFE FEELS LIKE.

When you slow down in marriage and take the time to relax and experience each moment, your spouse will see a person who is genuine and real. Connection will be possible. Listening will be possible. Empathy will be possible. Love will be possible. Having a true life will be possible. You want your marriage to improve? Slow down and take the time to attend to each moment so that you don’t make mistakes and you go into every moment fulfilling your full potential in that moment. Surface level interaction never goes deep. We can talk about a lot of subjects, but until you take the time to stop, and focus on one subject deeply, you will never truly get anything out of anything. I can do a lot of things in a short amount of time, but it may not be quality work. I can do one thing in the same time and it will be quality and well done! How well do you want to do life? How well do you want to do marriage? Choose to slow down and do the simple things in marriage well!

Want to read the rest of the blog series? START HERE

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Next Post In Series – Teamwork

10 Ways to Improve Your Marriage While in Quarantine

One of the best ways to improve your relationship is to have fun together. The more diverse the activities you experience together, the more you learn about each other and grow your admiration for one another. When you are stuck at home, one way to expand your activities is to get creative OUTSIDE. Obviously we all have different places we live, but being in quarantine does not necessarily mean you have to stay in your house, at least in Georgia where I live. Getting outside provide you Vitamin D from the sun that will help boost your mood. It will provide you fresh air and room to move. Also, it gets you away from those screens that we all have our eyes glued to. When you get away from screen time you invite activities that help to release energy and stress.

Here is my list of 10 activities that everyone of us can do outdoors:

  1. Exercise: Running, walking, push-ups, squats, dancing, jumping, and many other exercises can help with releasing that pent up stress. It also allows you to release endorphins that help you to feel good. Think about how productive you will feel. Can you imagine how awesome you would feel if you used your free time to get back into that exercise routine that you failed at after New Year’s? It’s fortunately warming up and all exercise can be done, OUTSIDE! Another benefit is a boost in self-esteem when you achieve that “beach body” we all desire.
  2. Throwing a ball or a frisbee: My wife and I every now and then will find a place to throw a ball of some sort or a frisbee. I love it! I enjoy the competition we create, and I love the thrill on her face when I don’t throw so well and she still catches it. But wait, isn’t this exercise too? YES SIR! All the benefits from exercise still exists.
  3. Water activities: Wash your car, create a slip and slide, get a little mini pool or just douse each other with water balloons or buckets of water. Water makes summer fun, so who says we can’t go ahead and bring it out of hibernation. It’s warm enough, and even if it’s not, remember that exercise we talked about? If you do some of that first, you will be warm enough to play in water.
  4. Sidewalk Chalk: My kids love this! Since my son was old enough to draw, we have been chalking up our driveway. He likes to draw roads, houses and football stadiums. Remember Hop Scotch? I like these new “stain glass” chalk drawings that people are doing too. Art is a great way to use your mind and creativity. It also gets you our of the house.
  5. Garden: Now for some people this might be hard if you are in an apartment. However, you probably can still garden in some way. If you go out in the parking lot with a bucket, dirt, seeds and water, you can plant you a small plant, or flowers. Others of you who have even a small yard can create a garden or plant flowers. We bought some small wild flower seeds and a planter from Walmart and are now watching them grow.
  6. People Watch: It’s an old past time that none of us do much anymore. We don’t take the time to slow down and just sit. I know all of us are at home, but I bet if you find some green space, there will be people to watch. Go sit on a bench or lay a mat out and take the time to be curious about people and behavior.
  7. Picnics: Along with the people watching, bring along a lunch. Eat out side on your back porch. My kids love it when I say we can “have a picnic.” This activity combines sunshine, fresh air, food and people watching.
  8. Bird Watching: This is for the curious at heart. Find a bird book and go see how many different types of birds you can find together. You will be amazed at the thrill you will feel when you both spot a bird and can name it. I know I sound like a nerd, but it is fun and stimulating.
  9. Talk to your neighbors: Who ever said we couldn’t get out and see people? If you are standing outside, 6 feet, 10 feet, 20 feet away, it is probably unlikely you will catch COVID-19. And when was the last time you spoke to your neighbor, or even met them? Humans are social beings. Say hello, be curious and start up a conversation. Ask them how they are fairing and how their life has changed since all this started. Get to know them and you may have just made new friends with another couple.
  10. Prayer Walk: I know, this one is probably not one you were expecting. Out of so much more I could talk about. There are so many activities you could do and I would love to list them all, but walking and praying together is a great way to experience deeper understanding and connection with each other. Even if you don’t believe in God, maybe their is a way you do this differently. Couples are meant to connect on a deeper level to grow their relationship, and during this time, we need to believe in something more than ourselves.

I hope these 10 suggestions help. I know their are a lot more and if you think of more, share them with others. I just want to jog your thoughts to help you be open to the many outdoor activities that we can experience together, even when our world is turned upside down. I even encourage you to find some that you will continue when or if everything returns to normal. It’s more about connecting with each other than it is about the actual activity.

 

If you want to check out the original blog post for this series GO HERE!

If you have questions or have concerns about your relationship, please call me at 706-955-0230 or EMAIL ME from my CONTACT page.

Next Post In Series – Be playful

10 Ways to Improve Your Marriage While in Quarantine

Many of us who are home at this time find that our duties are actually increasing. Children being home from school and more people in the household creating messes means more clean up and monitoring of the homestead. If you are still working, especially from home, you might be pulling double duty. This increases the stress that spouses are facing compared to the usual life of going to work. Few breaks are available. At least, if I am at work I get away from the home environment for some amount of time. If I am working from home and the kids are there, it all runs together. I fortunately have a remote place I can work from, but I have taken the time to go home for lunch or in the middle of the day for an hour or so. By doing this, I believe I am giving my wife a break and breaking up my own day.

Sharing duties and giving time to reboot can help with this increased strain on the household and the marriage. Communication is the key here. If you are feeling stressed and need some help with certain duties or just time to yourself, it is important to verbalize your needs. I unfortunately do not have the ability to hear my wife’s thoughts, so I bet your spouse does not have that ability either.

There are some keys to verbalizing your needs though.

First, understand that your expectations to get what you need may not be met. By lowering your expectations, you may help to keep from creating conflict with your partner. So, how does verbalizing my needs help? The more information provided to your spouse, the more likely they will be able to meet your needs or help you get what you need. I am sure you have heard the phrase, “If it is not documented, it didn’t happen.” In this case, if it was not verbalized, then it is not a problem to be resolved.

The second thing to remember when verbalizing your needs is TIMING. Please make sure you don’t just verbalize your needs because you are emotional. Emotions are never a good clock to tell you when you should communicate about something. God gave us brains for a reason. If your partner is busy, stressed or upset at that time, maybe it is not the best TIME to express needs.

Third, figure out how to express your needs in the best way possible. Check out my thoughts about communication in relationships. Finding the right way to say something is important. Some tips are to watch your tone, check your volume and monitor your attitude. Men, soften your voice like you are speaking to your beloved grandmother. A booming, commanding voice is not necessarily “assertive.”  Women, a high pitch, screechy voice will not get your husband to hear you. Try getting close to him, gently placing your hand on his arm and speaking him name in a regular, loving tone (Directed at both genders).   Ask your partner how they would like you to speak to them. Then, ask them to help you practice. Practice makes perfect.

By communicating well, you are able to help your spouse to understand your needs. Now that you are able to do that, partners need to be selfless. As you learn what your spouse needs, offer to help them with those needs. That’s where sharing duties comes in. If your husband is working from home and now finds himself pulling double duty with the kids and work, but usually cleans the bathrooms and takes out the trash too, maybe as a wife you can pick up one of those tasks to lighten his load. If you are a husband who’s wife is home all day with the kids (2 months before they were supposed to be home all day), tell your wife to go take a bath when you get home and enjoy some alone time while you make dinner, wash the dishes and get the kids ready for bed (Giving your wife a reboot). It is understandable that stress had increased along with possibly your duties at home. A little teamwork, sharing duties, and serving each other will go a long ways. It’s definitely not time to dig your hills in. It’s not time to fight. It’s time to communicate your needs and work as a team. Serving one another is loving one another. You finally have a chance to do that. Don’t waste time being mad at each other. Good Luck!

Check out the original post to this series HERE.

Next Post In Series – Learn about grace and forgiveness

10 Ways to Improve Your Marriage While in Quarantine

Staying home due to COVID-19? Are you finding it hard to manage your relationship, the children or working from home? The combination of those three can increase stress if you don’t know how to manage them well. It’s like the movie, The Perfect Storm. Please forgive me if I get this wrong, but if I remember correctly, in that movie 3 different storms come together and create a super storm. Sound familiar?

Having to work from home while the kids are home schooling and trying to keep from getting bored, and your spouse is home all day everyday, sounds like 3 stressful “storms” coming together to create a super storm. What are you going to do? How are you going to juggle it all?

Unfortunately, there may be more storms. If you are like me, I get cravings. The usual ability to get out and have fun or see different scenery than your own familiar walls is a very missed luxury during this time. Humans need newness, excitement and experiences outside the norm. I heard one person say recently, “There is a reason they use solitary confinement in jails and prisons.” We may not be totally isolated, but the combination of the changes that have come upon us so suddenly can cause intense amount of stress, especially when combined with the anxiety around COVID-19.

So, I want to try to help. Hopefully, this series of posts will provide some ideas on how to keep your relationship on track while working through the changes. Here are my 10 tips to improving your marriage during quarantine.

  1. Practice patience and kindness
  2. Bring back your creative side
  3. Share duties and give each other time to reboot
  4. Learn about grace and forgiveness
  5. Get outside
  6. Be playful
  7. Practice listening and understanding
  8. Rest
  9. Relax
  10. Focus on teamwork

These 10 tips are almost self explanatory, but I will expound on them in the next few blog posts. They may not seem like they are ways to improve your relationship, but if you are practicing each of these daily or weekly, I can assure you they will help. Please stay tuned. If you are having trouble in your relationship, please don’t wait to call me or email me so we can talk about how I can help you. Sometimes people just get temporarily stuck. Sometimes there are deeper things going on. Sometimes we just need someone to listen to us. Whatever it is, let me help!

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Next Post In Series – Practice Patience and Kindness

 

Tips to not fighting in marriage communication

Last time I talked about how the instinct to fight or flight affects marriage communication. Today, I want to discuss  ways to keep from “fighting” back when that fight instinct wants to rise up in you. When I ask clients how they deal with their frustration or anger when communicating with their spouse, many them say, “Well, I just try not to say anything or react.” Does this help? Maybe once in a while it does. Most of the time, your emotions will get the best of you, especially the longer you go without a solution. Couples who struggle with arguing and can’t seem to change their pattern of avoider/distancer or fight or flight, need help. So, I want to give you 5 tips to try to keep this instinct from ruining your conversations.

 

Know thyself!

Do you really know yourself? Are you aware of your tendencies, triggers or emotions? Do you know what makes you upset? Do you know what your “buttons” are? If not, you need to grow awareness of yourself. Most of us think we know ourselves, but I wonder how many of us could give details to the questions above.

I encourage you to sit down with these questions and brainstorm. Think about when you have gotten upset, anxious, scared, sad, angry or irritable. Think about the situation around that emotions. What was going on? Who was there? What time of day was it? What location were you in? What was said? Write all of this down. For every emotion above, go through these same questions for a scenario or two.

Why do I ask you to do this? Because the more you know about yourself and why you do what you do, the more you can control your reactions and make a plan for when you are triggered. Instincts like fight or flight tend to be triggered. By knowing possible triggers, especially ones that make you angry enough to fight back, you can make a plan to stay calm or manage your choices when those triggers arise.

 

Use active listening

Listening seems so easy. We think we listen well, but most of us are terrible listeners. I tell my clients that I can repeat verbatim example what my wife says, but I am not very good at understanding what she is saying at times. Each of us are so different, that we often interpret what others are saying through our own thoughts, beliefs and experiences when what they are actually thinking about is very different.

Some authors call this our “glasses.” Some marriage experts have even referred to a metaphor that says men wear blue colored glasses and women wear pink colored glasses. They are trying to show that we see thing so differently that we may not be able to know what the other person is thinking, even if we heard their words or saw their actions. The lesson here is to not assume anything.

So active listening is a way to take off the blue or pink glasses and try to understand how the other person sees things (ie, putting on their glasses). This can obviously help with not “fighting” back because you can be mindful of the other person’s viewpoint which keeps you from becoming defensive. You now are in an understanding stance and not a defensive stance, ready to attack back. This is not easy, but if you want to learn more about active listening, go HERE.

 

Take a timeout

Have you ever needed a break when you got tired of working, running or cleaning? I do! We take timeouts all the time when we are doing physically active things. So, does it not make sense to take a timeout when your brain gets overworked? Sometimes in stressful conversations, a person may become “flooded” per Dr. John Gottman in his book The 7 Principles for Making Your Marriage Work. Our brains get tired and need a rest sometimes. We can become confused and overwhelmed, especially in arguments. Sometimes conversations just go in circles making us metaphorically “dizzy” in our heads and keep us from figuring out why we are arguing.

Taking a timeout can help to reset, reorganize and clarify a situation or conflict when it is going no where or gets out of control. Timeouts can be easy as long as you set up a structure and both people respect it. Sometimes one person feels like they are about to explode. Well, instead of “fighting” back, take a timeout and cool off.

               

Slow Down!

Literally, slow down! Slow your breathing. Slow your speech. Slow your movement. Slow your everything! Sit down if you need to. If you need to slow down to a stop, then STOP.

Why slow down? As you become increasingly more angry, upset, anxious or irritable, your heart rate and blood pressure rises and stress hormones begin to be released. Other chemical reactions also happen in your body that are signaling you to prepare for a…you guessed it…FIGHT! Slow yourself by actively PRACTICING slowing down through breathing and relaxation. If you can effectively calm the body, you are telling the body to stop preparing to defend itself.

 

Ask questions, don’t assume

As mentioned in the first tip, we don’t want to assume anything. Asking a question of your partner allows you to gather more information. Think about how many times, based off of the information you have, that you assume you know what your spouse is thinking or saying and it upsets you, to find out later that they did not mean it in that way?

I usually call these questions to gather more information, clarifying questions. You want to have the best understanding you can have and the exact information you need to make the best choices. Many of us react negatively and “fight” or “attack” our spouse when we are triggered by what they are saying, especially when we don’t take the time to get enough information to understand the message. Stop assuming you know what your spouse is saying. Slow down, as we said above. Take the time to make sure you know exactly what your partner is saying. This again may take structure and practice. But you can do it!

 

These five tips are just a few of the ways you can keep the instinct to fight from ruining your marriage or relationships. Just using one of them may make a drastic difference in your ability to communicate, listen and connect with your spouse. Take the time to think about how you might implement each one of these, and develop your BEST way of communicating in your marriage. If you need further information or help, please don’t hesitate to CALL ME TODAY.

I read something interesting the other day. It was about how stress affects the body. At one of the places I have worked, I continuously help people manage stress, but one of the things I am always looking for is how to become more aware intense stress that we are holding onto in our lives. I have found it incredibly hard to manage stress or any negative emotion if awareness of the intensity or existence of that emotion is available.

We all have negative emotions. Stress, anxiety, anger, and fear are all present at some point within each one of us. Each person deals with those emotions differently. Yet, most people don’t practice emotion management on a daily basis because they don’t know that they need to. How many times have you become angry or over reacted and later regretted how you dealt with the situation? I can’t pass judgement on you, because I am guilty of this too!

If we could only determine ahead of our reaction that our emotions have become too intense. Well, I read an article about how stress effects the temperature of your hands.

The Concept: When we become stressed in any way, the temperature of our hands become cooler.  Examples of stress: Driving a car in heavy traffic, Taking a test, Talking to a superior, etc.

Hmm, it seems funny to me, because I would assume our pulse would increase and our blood would move faster through the body, thus, warming the whole body with the blood. HOWEVER, it is suggested that when a person becomes stressed, the blood flow actually travels more to the brain and away from the hands and, POOF, cooler hands. The reason it travels to the brain and away from extremities is to allow for greater ability to think through the issue.

If you want to know more about the why, google “stress and cold hands.”

I do not want to dwell too much on the fact that stress can cause hands and feet to cool, but I do think its important to have multiple ways to identify when your emotions are getting the best of you. I think knowing your body and how it responds to your emotions is a very important tool to managing your emotions and reactions. If I can become so in tune with these bodily reactions, then I will be one step closer to having better relationships and a better life.

The tools to managing stress are many, but recognizing when your hands are abnormally cool can be a possible sign that the stress and anxiety of life may be getting to you.