E.J. Smith, Author at Engaged Marriage | Page 3 of 5

All Posts by E.J. Smith

About the Author

E.J. Smith is a Nationally Certified Counselor, motivational speaker, writer and advocate for survivors of sexual abuse. She is also the face (and mouth) behind SimplyEJ.com. Born in New Jersey, and transplanted to Texas, this self-professed holistic health nut enjoys a wide variety of athletics, reading, and cooking. Raised Catholic and the wife of an active duty Marine, E.J. uses introspection and pragmatism to help readers create loving, fulfilling relationships from the inside out. Follow EJ on Twitter @SimplyEJS

Marriage Not Perfect? Not a Problem.

By E.J. Smith | Help

ID-100157103While I’m not exactly sure where I’ll be when this article is published, I want you to know its being written the morning after one of my dearest friend’s wedding. And I’m writing it in one of the café areas in La Guardia airport. For those who might be curious—the wedding was beautiful; the bride—exquisite; the groom – breathless for the first moment he saw her walk down the aisle. If weddings were any indication of a couple’s likelihood of obtaining a true happily ever after, these two would be set! Everything seemed perfect.

 

The Illusion of Perfection.

Of course nothing is ever perfect—especially at weddings. Even at the one I just attended, I’m sure some small behind the scenes detail was amiss (not that guests would’ve ever had any idea—it’s just the way these things go). Heck, at the wedding in Cana something went wrong—they ran out of wine! (John 2:1-11) And if you are one of those rare lucky few who manage to pull of a truly flawless nuptial gala, the marriage to follow is bound to have a few hiccups. But that’s life, right?

 

Where’s the Focus?

I have to admit, however, that I do find it curious that the effort some couples are willing to put into the actual marriages can sometimes pale in comparison to hoops they willingly jump through to pull off a fabulous one day affair. Don’t get me wrong– I love a great wedding, but shouldn’t a great marriage be the real focus?

 

Building a Great, but Not Perfect Marriage

Trust and believe that a great marriage is not necessarily a perfect one. There are tons of couples out there who’ve weathered some serious rough patches, and come out better and stronger. Mistakes themselves don’t necessarily break a marriage. Each one is a learning opportunity. 

Personally, I think Greg and I navigate life’s curveballs like champs. Sometimes we tackle challenges like first round knockouts, and other times we look like champs that have endured a few rounds in the ring—but champs nonetheless.

 

So here are 3 things we do right when things are going wrong. And like any ‘tip’ on the internet, one size most definitely does not fit all. Hopefully, however, you’ll find one that does—or maybe one that inspires one of your own.

 

1)    When a crisis occurs it doesn’t matter whose fault it was…

My mother used to tell me growing up that panic is a luxury—if you have time to panic, it’s not all that bad. When it comes to marriage, I think the same can possibly be said for blame.

Greg and I have already navigated our fair share of crises (lucky us!), and that mentality  has served us well. A flooded living room, a surprise deployment (well, almost), car troubles, surgery and a lost wedding ring… 

In the moment, I think each of us at one point or another could’ve thrown some blame. However, setting that aside and working as a team helped bring us so much closer together that in the end—there was no anger, no tears and no blame to be found.

 

2)    We don’t keep score…anymore.

This is one that my husband taught me, because I used to keep score. It wasn’t an issue as long as I was “pulling my weight”. I used to be obsessed with equality. However, because I’ve always made significantly less money, the great equalizer I relied on was my domestic utility. 

This calculus worked until I left my job to complete my graduate internship. I made $0 and had zero time. I wasn’t around to do anything even close to my “fair share”. I felt horrible and came home crying about what a horrible wife I was for having slacked on what I thought were my “wifely duties”. I was tired and overwhelmed. 

Instead of agreeing with me, Greg reminded me that we are a team for better or worse. Moreover, there had been and would be plenty of times where the burden largely fell/will fall to me. He showed me it wasn’t about keep score; it was about living the life we wanted together.  

 

3)    We take our relationship’s temperature 

There’s two important parts to this one. The first part is that we check in with each other. Nothing is ever a sure thing. And if the saying is true that Rome wasn’t built in a day, the same could be said for its epic collapse. That didn’t occur in a day either.

I’ll never forget the time Greg picked me up from the bookstore when I started researching topics on healthy marriages and relationships in grad school. He found me with a stack of books—6 or 7 high—of titles like, Fighting for your Marriage, Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage, The Relationship Cure and others.

“Uhh… Are we okay?” he asked with a tone that was equal parts of concern and confusion.

“Yeah,” I remarked casually, “Why?”

He pointed at the books. As soon as I looked up and saw his face, I understood.

“Oh God–” I started, “Oh no, no, no… these are for class, love—not us!”

I’m pretty sure I saw the 1000 lb. weight leave his shoulders.

 

That is easily a favorite story of mine, but there have been other times when both of us have checked in and the answers have been less jovial:

“I feel really far away from you.”

I feel as though I need to walk on egg shells because I don’t know how to help—and what I’m trying isn’t working.”

“I miss you, and you’re standing right here… that’s not right.”

 

These conversations are tough to have. And they are worth it. As I’ve written before, as long as couples are dealing with the truth, it’s my belief that two people can surmount some daunting odds. Regular conversations keep little problems from growing into big ones.

Want More? 

Want more tips? Check out 6 Tips to Boost Your Relationship’s Immune System and Grammar for Marriages

What are your best tips for navigating life’s bumps in the road?  

Tell me in the comments below!  Every relationship is different– so feel free to get original!

(photo)

  

 

 

Opinionated and Happy: Why You’ll Never Hear Me Say “We Never Argue” with Pride.  

By E.J. Smith | Help

ID-10090765I thought after last month’s admittedly “heavy” topic, I’d change things up a little bit. This month, I’d like to take the ‘counselor’ hat off, and speak with you simply as “EJ—a 30-something modern woman navigating life, career and a marriage.”

So here’s something I’ve heard used as a measuring stick for healthy relationships on several occasions that I absolutely cannot stand:

“I know I have a good marriage—we’ve been married ‘x’ years and have never once argued.”

In my own experience, I’ve never seen a marriage where this measuring stick was actually a true indicator of health. And for what its worth, Dr. Sarkis at Psychology Today hasn’t either.

Sidenote from Dustin: My good friend Fawn from The Happy Wives Club recently wrote this very popular post sharing this very thing – how she and her husband have never argued.  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

In My House, We Debate. And Occasionally We Argue.

Anyone who knows my husband and I can tell you that each one of us came into this relationship with a lot of our own thoughts, beliefs, and feelings on a wide variety of topics. And we do not agree on everything. And some times that disagreement is passionate.

*Gasp*

Of course I am taking a little license with the definition.  As a passionate conversationalist and self-proclaimed opinionated person, I should probably clarify that when I say “argument” I’m referring more to the philosophical definition of stating one’s opinions and laying out  plausible conditions to substantiate one’s claims in an effort to persuade — not verbally taking shots at the other person.  Dr. Sarkis and Fawn from The Happy Wives Club seem to be talking about ‘arguing’ in the sense of a quarrel or what I typically refer as a “fight”.

That being said, every now and then we hit a hot button issue for the other. Sometimes that occurs on a day where everything has gone wrong, nerves are raw and tempers are short. Oops!

Regardless, it makes for some really interesting conversation about just about anything—and believe me—nothing is off the table. We talk about taboo topics—often those things that surface in the news, or even things that we hear about at our respective jobs.

The Benefit

The really useful part about this ritual is that we both get to explore our own beliefs about things with a depth that I really just haven’t been able to find since leaving my beloved Philosophy department in undergrad. Sometimes I find myself surprised, even shocked about where I truly stand on a given topic when it’s given the time and space it needs to be fully flushed out.

The Cost

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that something else that’s also true—sometimes I’ve been shocked, and even disappointed at some of the opinions my husband has shared. On the flip side, my husband has learned some things about me he’s not completely thrilled about too.

It’s not a common occurrence, but there are some issues where we just fundamentally disagree. And yes, I suppose there is an element of risk— “What if I say something and s/he’s just so completely horrified that our relationship is damaged?” (But no more risky than blending your life with another person, and people do that all the time!)

Why We’ll Never Stop:

Well, first off—we held debates with one another from the minute (literally, the minute) we started dating so a lot of BIG topics were covered long before we said “I do.” (Our first debate was over whether or not medication was an appropriate treatment for PTSD.)

Second, if Greg and I aspire to one rule and one rule only—it’s that as long as we’re dealing with the truth, we can handle anything life throws at us. Opinions are neither good nor bad—it’s the actions that flow from those opinions that matter. Oh, and some times that truth includes, “I really don’t feel like doing this [debating] right now.”

Side note: An unwritten rule of our volleys is that we keep the argument focused on the topic, not on each other. The second you make a personal attack on the other person, you’re not arguing any more—you’re fighting. The difference being that in arguments the goal is to effectively present your side, and in fighting the goal is to tear down your opponent. If you’re trying to tear down your spouse—there’s a larger problem at hand.

Third, even though there have been times when debates turned into arguments, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

 Why?

 We’ve become so good at 1) communicating our thoughts, 2) exploring the “why” behind the way we think/feel that fighting rarely happens anymore.

By choosing to “step into the ring” over and over again, we practice healthy discussion with opposing views.   We don’t have to downshift into throwing barbs because our thoughts and feelings aren’t completely dissociated from each other. Just like exercising, thinking and communicating get easier the more you do them.

Fourth, we love each other—and that love includes those very VERY strong opinions!!!

A Word of Caution

Now let me offer you a word of caution: Every relationship is different, and you really need to know who your partner is before you decide to intellectually “throw down” with them. If it hasn’t been made abundantly clear, Greg and I are both hard-hitting, competitive, straight-off-the-shoulder people.

If your spouse isn’t someone who is comfortable with friction—even the healthy debating kind—please understand that an ‘enthusiastic volley’ can feel overly aggressive and hurtful. Accept and respect that it might be very difficult for your spouse to share or put words to a belief about a given topic. Allow them the safety to be who they are. Allow them time to gather their thoughts too.

So tell me…

Do you and your spouse debate? Or does debating almost always lead to unhealthy arguments or fighting?

 

Image Source

Hanging on by a Thread: Sexual Trauma and Marriages

By E.J. Smith | Help , Sex & Family Planning

9fce6acf-af11-47dc-85c4-2e3769731b14Trigger Warning: If the topic of sexual assault or sexualized violence is one that is deeply troubling to you, please do what you need to take care of yourself in this moment. Some of the material in this article could be triggering to you.

 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Sexual violence and the trauma it creates isn’t something we talk about a lot in the context of marriages, and yet these experiences can have a devastating impact on the health of our closest relationships.

It’s not something that is openly discussed.  What I’ve learned over the course of my time as an Advocate for survivors, and as a therapist, is that the aftermath of sexual assault — be it that of a spouse or even of another family member can have a devastating impact on the family as a whole.

There are many resources available to survivors (I’ve listed several here), however, I wanted to take a special opportunity to dispel some myths and also offer several simple considerations that readers can do to help their families and loved ones get through these extremely challenging times.

By the Numbers

First and foremost, we need to lay out some facts regarding the prevalence of sexual assault in the US.

Currently,  1 in 6 women, 1 in 10 men, and 1 in 4 college-age women will experience sexual assault in their lifetimes. Of these survivors, approximately 15% were under age 12 at the time of their assault.

Statistically speaking, most of us know a survivor. And assuming for the moment this rate is accurate, that means of the 2,118,000 marriages reported by the CDC (2013), over 350,000 marriages involve a female partner who has experienced sexualized violence.

However, that number is not accurate due to the fact that nearly 60% of sexual assault goes unreported each year (RAINN, 2013). Suffice it to say the numbers alone make it worth discussing.

So How Can You Help?

This topic is admittedly broad.

Factors like how recent the assault was, age at time of assault, if the person was married, whether or not the perpetrator was known to the survivor or not (roughly 85% are, by the way) will largely determine the way your loved one (the survivor) responds.

Every situation is unique. That being said, my intention here is simply to give you some basic tools to support your spouse as you go through this challenging time.

And please let me reiterate that while I’m writing this with the example of the spouse being the survivor, these are generally good guidelines to apply for whenever someone (a friend, colleague, child, or any one else) discloses this to you.

1. Believe Them.

Yes, it really is that simple.

Evidence suggests that if a person is willing to disclose a sexual assault, the odds are (roughly 92-96%) that it was real. Hopefully believing your spouse isn’t a challenge to begin with, but even it is—I would strongly recommend erring on this side of caution.

The #1 fear that keeps survivors silent is not being believed.

2. Accept that there are no easy solutions.

This just isn’t one of those issues where someone can simply identify, address and clean up the problem in 1-2-3.

There are no easy solutions. And while therapy is often a fantastic avenue for healing from trauma, everyone involved needs to understand that sometimes the work that we do makes things seem worse before they get better.

I find this is especially true with people who have kept their stories hidden from their families. Old coping strategies that kept the “secret” contained crumble.

Ultimately, this is a good thing. In the mean time, it’s often quite painful and can really shake things up in the relationship and at home.

3. Get “Ok” with not knowing the full story.

One of the first things I try to do when working with survivors is to aid them in restoring their dignity and autonomy through healthy boundary setting.

This always includes an open invitation to share their story, if they feel comfortable, but not pressing the matter.

There are plenty of people out there whose job it is to ask the really uncomfortable and invasive questions, like the Police for example, or a nurse getting the medical history before a forensic exam.  Leave the “investigating” up to them.  You knowing every gritty detail won’t make the story any better– believe me.

Allowing a survivor to tell his or her story on their own time, and respecting those boundaries is much more important in your loved one’s healing journey than any Q&A.

4. Recognize that Trauma may result in a temporary loss of intimacy.

I’ll never forget the woman who came in devastated that she had “ruined her relationship” because every time she tried to be intimate with her spouse, she would have a flashback to her assault.

The lack of sexual intimacy was taking a toll on their relationship. When her husband asked what had changed and she explained the flashbacks, he (understandably) became hurt over the idea that he would be in any way, shape or form connected to that horrible event in her mind. Of course it wasn’t him. She knew that.

The body and the mind needed time to heal, however.  Healing from this kind of trauma–like any trauma– cannot be forced.

If you can, commit to being a patient, supportive and understanding partner.  Illustrate this commitment by allowing your spouse to set the boundaries, and try to keep an open flow of communication. (Yes, I know– again with the boundaries).

Think of it this way, sexual assualt is (for many) the ultimate violation of one’s personal space and autonomy.  Restoration of that autonomy is of critical importance.

As frustrating, hurtful, and even as lonely as the interim might feel, in the long run, these messages of acceptance and patience will help intimacy to return.

4. Re-educate Yourself and Others

This one is, in my opinion, by far the most important piece.

Something I always include in my presentations is a segment on myths and facts surrounding sexual violence. There is a ton of misinformation out there.

To separate fact from fiction, seek out reliable sources of information, like RAINN. Many, if not all, States have their own organizations as well. TAASA is the State organization for Texas.

You can also look up your local rape crisis center, and ask to speak with a staff person or advocate who can speak with you regarding your particular situation and give you the warmth and support you need to not only survive this nightmare yourself, but also to help you support your loved one—wherever they are in their healing journey.

Please be forewarned: We can read a pamphlets and flyers all day long about how its not what the person was wearing that made them more of a target, but it takes on a whole new context when your loved one is hurting.

These high stress situations expose our personal biases, and deep-seated beliefs. If you learn nothing else, please remember that the only person who is capable to stopping a sexual assault from occurring is the perpetrator.

To help keep the blame game in check, ask yourself: “If the perpetrator hadn’t been there, would this have happened?”

Why is it Relevant?

Let’s say that you are reading this article and thinking, “Yes, I (or my spouse) has experienced sexual violence… but that has nothing to do with what’s wrong in our marriage.”

What can I say? Maybe that’s true. You and your spouse are the experts on your relationship. Nevertheless, I would invite you to consider the fact that as people, we are constantly living, learning and (hopefully) growing by way of our experiences.

If someone you or someone you love has endured the living nightmare that is sexual assault— I’m willing to believe it had an impact. Every survivor story is different, so there isn’t a one-sized conclusion to be found. Many times, however, I do find that we carry our pain forward with us (consciously or otherwise). Either way, I think it’s worth examining.

Who knows, it could save your marriage.

 

Note: If you need assistance locating your nearest rape crisis center or have questions about sexual assault, please do not hesitate to connect with me via email or in the comments. You can also try looking up your area on the Sexual Assault Legal Services & Assistance (SALSA) website.

Image Source

Letting Go of The Jones’: Finding Relief from the “Supposed To’s” of Financial Goals

By E.J. Smith | Finances & Careers

Letting Go of The Jones': Finding Relief from the Supposed To's of Financial GoalsIf you ask me what my least favorite topic to write, talk or counsel others about in the entire world is—I will tell you right now, it’s money.

Which is terribly inconvenient for several reasons, not the least of which being that finances are still touted as being close to, if not #1 on the list of common reasons why couples divorce.

In many ways, it makes perfect sense.

Money is a part of our daily lives.  You either learn how to deal with it, or eventually it railroads you.

Although theoretically for much of the population, money should be a fairly straightforward topic.  The exchange of a valued item (money, shells, a camel or two) for a good or service is practically as old as civilization.  And figuring out whether you have enough money to pay for that item doesn’t change very much whether you’re using Quickbooks or an abacus.

The fact that we still haven’t really come to grips with how to manage it is both impressive (in a morbid sense) and raises the question: 

Have we been trying to keep up with the Jones’ since the dawn of civilization? And more importantly, how do we keep our relationships healthy in the midst of it all?

Before I share more about this effort to keep up with those pesky Jones’, I want to take a minute to highlight some of the resources already available to the Engaged Marriage community: Married Money Management (a multi-step guide to rewriting your financial future as a couple), as well as this fantastic piece on Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps that is definitely worth checking out.

And finally, from around the web here’s a quick listing of Do’s and Don’t’s that seem pretty spot-on from an communication/therapy perspective as well.

I’ll encourage you to read all of these pieces, and to do so with 2 things:

1) An open, creative mind – not everything is going to true for you.

(Have you read the comments on the Joint-or-Separate Accounts article?!) so you’re going to have to be prepared to tweak things here and there to get them to work for you.

2) A healthy sense of humility –  let go of the expectation that you need to have all the answers right now.  You can’t learn anything if you’re too busy justifying how perfect your system is right now.  No one’s system is perfect. Everyone can learn something.

So beyond the articles I mentioned, what can I invite you to consider regarding relationships and money?  The most important concept that I’ve found—and to be honest, something that my husband does much better than I—is letting go of the “supposed to’s” that often accompany our struggle to keep pace with Jones. 

Letting Go of “Supposed to…”

Tell me, do any of these ring true?

  • “You’re supposed to take care of the house, you’re my wife.”
  • “I have a college degree, I’m supposed to be able to find a job!”
  • “You’re supposed to take a luxury vacation every year.”
  •  “You’re supposed to get married/have kids/finish school/buy a house by ___ age.”
  • “I’m supposed to have acquired _____________ by now.”

The “supposed to” conversation is a common one in its many and varied forms.  What I would like to know, however, is who is writing these rules? Who said that you had to get married by a certain age?  Who said that you were supposed to have a 2 story 2,000+ sq ft house in the suburbs? Who said those things?

Now don’t mistake my message—getting married, buying a house, taking a vacation are in and of themselves good things. It’s great to have goals, and typically I tend to think that our friends and family give us advice that comes from a place of love and caring.

However, anyone can get married by 25. And as the housing market collapse, and $16,000 in credit card debt carried by the Average American illustrate, the financial powers that be are more than happy to exploit our feelings of “supposed to.”

The invention of credit has allowed folks to fake their way into luxury homes and cars on par with their personal Jones’ expectations.

But again, who is setting this standard?

Of course there’s the somewhat commonplace answers: we can look at friends, families, coworkers and celebrities—even people we genuinely dislike and want to be “better than.”

But what if – and this is a very real possibility – that your spouse is the one who keeps setting the socioeconomic benchmarks higher and higher with little or no concern for your bottom line? What if the worst financial decision you ever made was linking your bank account and your credit score to the person you love?

The truth is being irresponsible with your finances and disregarding your spouse’s financial goals in marriage can be equally as poisonous to the health of that relationship than if you slept with your financial planner.

Trust, security, and safety are foundational to a healthy relationship—ANY relationship.  Wondering whether or not you’re going to be able to pay your mortgage next month while your husband rides around in a new sports car or your wife is doubling her shoe collection is not only unfair—one could make the case that it’s downright abusive!

Now of course I’m not talking about that one month where you accidentally went a teensy overboard.  I’m talking about a month upon month, year upon year, failed promise to “cut back.”

To be honest, I’m really not sure how we start healing this issue as a culture.  I think one place to start is recognizing where our “supposed to” traps are hidden and make conscious efforts to release them.

We need to remove the shame that some how got associated with living within our means and silence the “They” and “Jones’” that would have us think otherwise.  Keeping up with the Jones’ and the endless list of “supposed to’s” is exhausting and expensive.

So what are the “supposed to’s” that you find yourself or your family struggling with?  Is it having the latest technology? A new car? Taking an annual family vacation or paying for extravagant Christmas presents all on a credit card?

Better yet—what are you going to do TODAY to address it?

 

(photo source)

6 Tips to Boost Your Relationship’s Immune System NOW!

By E.J. Smith | Help

In case you missed the memo, it’s flu season. 90d008a8-409c-46ef-bc53-5dc34b29f06c

I’m not sure what it’s like in your little corner of the internet, but I cannot seem to step out of my house without running into a handful of people who are getting sick, currently sick, have a family member who’s sick, or just go over being sick. While I try to live a healthy lifestyle year round, it’s around this time of year that I really focus on basic preventative measures to keep illness at bay.  I do not have time to be sick.  I’m sure you can commiserate.

Everyone seems to have their favorite prevention methods such as:  getting a flu shot, paying extra attention to hand washing, eating tons of fruits and veggies, and drinking warm teas and soups.

I find the same is true for relationships.  Everyone has their special tips and tricks for keeping their relationships healthy.  So when I started preparing to write for this month’s article, I asked my social media networks to share their best marriage/relationship advice.  I am blessed in the fact that it didn’t take long for the comments and emails to start flowing in.

After reading through every single response, and doing some reflection of my own, I am happy to share with you:

EJ’s Top 6 Tips to Boost Your Relationship’s Immune System NOW. 

 

6. Get rid of the “dog house” mindset.  How many of us have heard the phrase, “He’s in the dog house,” or  “You’re sleeping on the couch tonight!” in pop culture, media, or even from the mouths of friends and family? I’m sure you have.

So here’s the deal… as angry as you might be at your spouse, punishing them is always going to be at odds with cultivating a healthy marriage.  Why, you ask?  Because the ability to inflict punishment, implies the relationship is hierarchical.  Superiors can punish their subordinates.  True equals can’t punish each other.

I can almost hear the person reading this and thinking, “Yeah well what they did to me wasn’t exactly in alignment with a healthy relationship either!” Maybe that’s true.  But the only person you can control right now is you.

And an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.  Are you in this for revenge or are you in this because your relationship is worth saving?  (Keep reading… the offending spouse has one directed at them next).

 

5. Stop acting like your spouse has no other choice but to stay with you.  I’m sure we’ve all heard that marriage is supposed to be for life.  And despite the staggering divorce rates, I still believe that a majority of folks enter into the sacrament of marriage with that lifelong intention in their hearts.  In fact, just from reading the comments on EM.com and other faith-based/marriage websites, I know that there are still a decent amount of folks who don’t even believe in divorce.

Nevertheless, your spouse did not cash out his/her free-will when s/he said, “I do.”  So it would be really nice if we could cherish and appreciate them for holding on to such beliefs and commitment, rather than seeing it as an invitation to do whatever we like with no fear of the consequences.  Your spouse has a choice.  It would be nice if they didn’t have to feel like an idiot for holding true to their values.

 

4. Stop listening so much to how other people say things should be in your marriage.  Listen more to each other.  Guess which two people know your marriage best?  Not your mother, not your priest/pastor, and definitely not your best friend, and not even your therapist (we only know what you tell us anyway)!  You and your spouse know your relationship better than anyone else.  Moreover, you know your needs and your spouse knows theirs.

As my friend and fellow therapist, Deanna put it, “Listen to your relationship. If something feels out of whack—speak up!”  Not sure how to speak your truth?  EngagedMarriage.com has tons of articles to help you find your voice in their Communication section.

 

3. Family is family.  And your spouse is your family.

No one has to tell me twice that family is important.  I get it.  The piece that I’m also so surprised that people miss is that when you marry someone, they become your family.

I frequently hear “horror stories” from clients about “monster-in-laws” and the tension such toxic relationships create.  I hear stories of spouses standing silently by while their husband or wife endures verbal and emotional abuse at the hand of in-laws or other family members.

I understand respecting one’s elders, and the importance of extended family.  But to whom did you promise your love, your fidelity, and your devotion?  I would not accept abuse from my husband’s family, and I certainly would never expect him to endure it from mine.  FYI:  This also includes not allowing family to bad-mouth your spouse to you.

 

2. Vacuum Naked.  Well that certainly got your attention, didn’t it?  I cannot even begin to take credit for this one.  I got this fantastic and “original” piece of marriage advice from a Chaplain’s wife, who’s been happily married to her husband for 20+ years.

Essentially, don’t forget to be husband and wife for each other just because you are “Mom” and “Dad” to your kids, “Coach” to the local soccer team, and “CEO” to your company.   More importantly, have fun with your relationship! Marriage can be fun, remember?!  Recapture those newlywed days!

 

1. Watch how you speak to and about your spouse: An anecdote.

Once upon a time, I worked as an administrative assistant.  In addition to filing paperwork and typing memos, I could also rattle off a long laundry list of grievances and missteps my boss’ husband had made in the course of their marriage.  I’m pretty sure everyone in our office had their own tally sheet. Looking back, none of the “sins” were overt deal breakers (i.e. physical abuse, infidelity, etc…), but taken together, very few of us could see her staying.  When she would talk about leaving, I easily recall actively supporting her choice.  It sounded miserable.  (They’re still married).

Everyone needs to vent.  And from time to time everyone is going to be frustrated with his/her spouse.  However, if you want to boost your marriage immunity – blasting your spouses grievances to every 3rd person you meet—especially those who have no reason or context to see the situation in an unbiased light—is the equivalent of letting someone sneeze in your face and then wondering how in the world you got sick!  Vent prudently.  Also recognize that choosing to focus on your spouses’ negative attributes or characteristics more frequently will lead you into a spiral of negativity very quickly.  The more you look for the flaws, and mistakes, the more you will see them.

So there are my 6 Tips for boosting your relationship’s immune system now.  What are some of your own tips?

Share them with me and the EngagedMarriage community by leaving a comment!

6 Tips to Boost Your Relationship’s Immune System .001