Stay Close and Connected with Laughter

On November 19, 2014, in Celebrity Relationships, by Dr. Dana Fillmore

With her movie Tammy making headlines across the country, Melissa McCarthy is something of a household name, though for many people, the comedienne has been a fan favorite since her days of stand up, through her role on TV’s Gilmore Girls, and numerous television and film appearances.

Melissa McCarthy

Melissa McCarthy

Her husband Ben Falcone (who is also the director of Tammy) has shared the screen with her on several occasions, been in a handful of funny movies, and appeared in numerous comedic roles on TV.

Beyond their on-screen roles though, the two share a wonderfully strong marriage – nearly ten years strong – and they owe it, in their words, to simply not being “very Hollywood” and having “a lot of fun.”

At the Tammy premier, Melissa told an Entertainment Tonight reporter:

“We're not very Hollywood. We have little kids, we stay in our little area. [If we weren't here] we would be sitting in our backyard."

Not only do they keep their family unit tight by spending time together, it’s pretty clear to see from the couple’s interactions (on and off screen) that their talents as comedians keep one another entertained.

And maybe that’s the most valuable lesson here – that being silly, taking the time to have some fun, and making an effort to make your spouse laugh can have a huge impact on your marriage.

We can’t all be movie star funny people, but it’s pretty safe to assume that most of us know how to crack a joke or give our spouse a good laugh – so remember the importance of humor in your day to day!

Even if you’re not the “funny type,” you can still use this a reminder to loosen up a little bit, and least keep yourself open to the idea of a good belly laugh, and even just seeing the humor in every day life.

Laughter has all kinds of physical, mental, and emotional benefits – and enjoying a good laugh together will undoubtedly draw your closer as a couple.

For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!

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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders,

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Is Your Marriage Immature?

On November 17, 2014, in Relationship Problems, by Dr. Dana Fillmore

To maintain a truly successful and happy marriage, you both have to be grown ups about it…

Unfortunately though, a lot of us might not be as grown up as we think we are, especially when the chips are down. When fights are happening, when you feel defensive, when you’re struggling with stress, when you’re hungry or over-tired – how mature is your behavior really?

The roughest situations can bring out our worst behavior, but like anything else, it is something that can be improved upon. We’ve put together a list of damaging ways to approach the problems you may encounter, and hopefully you’ll be able to recognize if you’re slipping into these less than “grown up” ways of dealing with marital challenges.

Now, these are not accusations – and we may all be guilty of falling into this kind of behavior from time to time – but here are a few notoriously immature behaviors to watch out for:

1. Absolutes

If you find yourself saying things like, “you ALWAYS…” or “you NEVER…” – stop it!

These kinds of absolutes simply aren’t true, and only serve to make the issue at hand into something much larger, and much more difficult to resolve. When you start throwing around words like “always” and “never,” you’re no longer talking about an individual issue, but a source of frustration that is much larger – and still can’t really be resolved unless you start talking about the specifics.

Broad generalizations and absolutes take the position that things can’t change, that they are permanent and fixed as they currently are. The more mature approach is to talk bring up an “ongoing” problem, and discuss ways to develop new habits. Or, conversely, bringing up a “never” topic as “I’d appreciate if you started…”

Focus on solutions, not just accusations without any room for resolution.

Does your marriage need to mature?

Does your marriage need to mature?

2. Stubbornness

This is the classic “well that’s not the way I learned how to do it…” mentality.

Change and adaptation is a constant part of our lives, and if we’re trying to dig in our heels instead of expanding and growing into a given situation, we’re only adding unnecessary difficulty and resistance. It’s amazing how many simple little things people resist, just because it’s not the way their parents did it, or because they are familiar with a different process.

The mature approach to disagreeing on a process, whether it’s how to cook dinner or what to do about a child who won’t behave, is to discuss the pros and cons of each approach, let go of your one-track way of thinking, and find a solution that you can both agree on.

Crossing your arms and refusing to collaborate is totally counterproductive, adds tension to any situation, frustrates your spouse, and prevents you from learning new things.

3. Finger Pointing

If disagreements happen in your marriage, and they surely will at one point or another, a sure sign of immaturity is trying to deflect all blame away from yourself.

This might mean lashing out at your spouse, making excuses about stress from work, blaming factors other than your own decisions, and basically looking for anything to shift the focus away from your own mistakes.

Now, this isn’t to say that every argument is your fault, or that you have to bear the burden of ALL the blame for every problem. However, it’s important to understand the role you play in pretty much any disagreement you have with your spouse. Even if you feel like you’re in the right, your spouse doesn’t, and trying to understand where they are coming from (instead of deflecting any criticism) will help you get to the bottom of the issue.

Even if you aren’t to blame, you’ll never really know for sure if you don’t face the problems head on. Accepting responsibility for your own actions and decisions is a sign of maturity, and shifting the focus away from criticism shows your spouse that you’re running away from opportunities for self-improvement.

There are plenty of other examples of immature behavior that can lead to unnecessary conflict, but these are some of the biggest problem-causers. So many arguments spiral out of control because people don’t want to accept responsibility for the role they play, and don’t want to be flexible enough to find a solution.

Instead of worrying about who’s right or wrong, worry about resolving the problem.

For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!

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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders,

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So much of the information we present here on this blog – and in our system, videos, newsletter, etc. – is focused on ways to improve your marriage and strengthen the relationship you have with your spouse. We talk about working on communication, having better sex, finding ways to avoid arguments about money or household responsibilities, and a host of other ways to resolve problems and stay away from trouble.

But for all of this focus on improvement, there’s something else that’s essential to a happy, successful marriage – and that’s an understanding that things will never be perfect.

You see, a major component of the problems we experience has to do with our own reactions. This isn’t to say that other people don’t make mistakes, or that our thoughts and feelings aren’t justified sometimes – but it’s important to understand that the way we handle a particular irritation plays a part in how it affects our lives.

If, for example, your spouse has a bad habit of being late to events or family functions, letting them know it irks you might help them try harder, but blowing up every time they are late only adds tension to the situation, gets you worked up, and won’t do anything to help your spouse improve their behavior.

Did you have high expectations when you got married?

Did you have high expectations when you got married?

Now, with that said – how major of an issue is lateness anyway? Are you upset because they are late, or because you have to wait for them? Are you upset because you tend to be punctual, and are putting an expectation on them to do the same?

And that’s the point here: expectations.

There’s a difference between what people actually do and what we expect them to do – and if we’re setting unrealistic expectations for the people around us (especially a spouse), we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment and conflict.

Expectations themselves are okay, and we can’t help but have them for all of the people in our lives, but making an effort to keep these expectations rooted in reality will save a lot of heartache in the long run.

In fact, this idea of expectations can be applied to the overall concept of marriage – not just the behaviors that exist within it. We have to accept that you won’t always agree on everything, that you won’t always be on the same page in the bedroom, that you may run into challenging times financially, or most importantly, that you will both grow and change as individuals over the course of your marriage together.

Unfortunately, so many people have this expectation that marriage is all sunshine and rainbows – and in the moments when it isn’t, they feel like they’ve failed somehow.

When expectations are more realistic, though, couples can roll with the punches, deal with problems as they arise, and not beat themselves up when reality doesn’t live up to the expectations they’ve created for themselves.

You can certainly look for consistency from your spouse, and the two of you can talk about what behaviors may be causing trouble or changes you would like to see, but imposing your own ideals on the behavior of others – or even for life itself – is little more than an exercise in futility.

You can look to what you want out of your life and your marriage in the future, but it doesn’t wash away the way things are in the present. You can keep your hopes and dreams, but temper them with a sense of realism.

Far too many couples build up these ideas of what they think marriage is supposed to be like, or what an ideal spouse is supposed to act like, and this mostly hot air! It can come from our parents, from friends, from self help books, from Hollywood, or from any number of sources, but the idea that marriages have to be a specific way or that there are rigid components that make a good husband or wife is just ridiculous!

Just as an example of how absurd this kind of material can be, there’s a marriage “manual” from the 1950s that’s all about a rating system for husbands and wives, with a system of “demerits” for behaviors that supposedly make for bad marriage partners. Some of the more ridiculous demerits for wives include “walks around the house in stocking feet,” “eats onions, radishes, or garlic before a date or going to bed,” and “wears pajamas while cooking.”

Can you imagine actually getting upset about these things? Or worse, having your spouse get mad at you for something so miniscule as walking around in your socks?

This is a dramatic example, but just goes to show how unrealistic someone else’s ideas of a marriage can be when you apply it to your own. Your marriage belongs to you and your spouse, and finding common ground that makes you both happy is far more important than anyone’s idea of what marriage is supposed to be like.

Keep your expectations rooted in reality, and build the marriage that works for you – not in the image of someone else’s version of what marriage should be.

For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!

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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders,

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Is She Having an Emotional Affair?

On November 10, 2014, in Uncategorized, by Dr. Dana Fillmore

As we’ve discussed in the past, sometimes emotional affairs can be more devastating to a marriage than physical affairs. Not only are the two often linked, but we also tend to see emotional affairs as a more serious breach of intimacy and trust – not that solely physical affairs aren’t breaches of trust, but people can sometimes take even greater offense to emotional and psychological intimacy.

That said, emotional affairs are a lot more difficult to identify than physical affairs. Unlike physical intimacy, which has some pretty clear lines, emotional affairs usually develop very slowly, and we don’t always have a clear definition of what constitutes friendship and what becomes and inappropriate level of emotional intimacy.

And because we don’t always know where a newly formed friendship may be leading, or if we (or our spouse) are wandering into the territory of an emotional affair, there are some important warning signs to be aware of.

Is your spouse having an emotional affair?

Is your spouse having an emotional affair?

Now, these can certainly be used to help identify if your spouse is having an emotional affair, but perhaps more importantly, you can keep these things in mind for your own interactions and make sure you aren’t participating in behavior that could jeopardize your marriage.

Here are some signs to look for:

1. Discussing Marital Problems

It’s one thing to seek comfort from friends and family, it’s another thing entirely to commiserate with someone outside of the relationship who isn’t going to offer any perspective or help you solve your problems. What can seem like seeking a shoulder to lean on can actually be opening yourself up to doubting the marriage. If the source of “advice” only knows half the story, they will “side” with the person they know, and that usually means reaffirming the other half of the couple’s errors and minimizing the wrongdoing of the person they know.

If there are problems in the marriage, talking to a person of the opposite sex – if there’s even a slight amount of attraction involved – can fill our heads with fantasies of different relationships, getting out of the marriage, and worse, cheating on our spouses. None of these fantasies are realistic, or even begin to address the problems you may be experiencing. It’s simply asking for trouble.

These are the issues you should be discussing with your spouse first.

2. Puppy Love Nerves

No matter how long you’ve been married, you likely remember those first feelings of falling in love, especially as a young person. You might feel nervous or flustered, giddy to see that special someone, even hyper-conscious of your clothing, behavior, and choice of words around that person. If you notice any of those feelings for someone other than your spouse, or see that your spouse may be feeling some of those things in relation to someone else, this is a HUGE red flag.

We can’t necessarily control our feelings, but we can control the scenarios we put ourselves in. Even if tiny inklings of those feelings are beginning to surface, it’s imperative to change something immediately – before they develop into something more and pose an even greater threat to your marriage.

3. Too Much Communication

If your spouse would rather text their “friend” than speak with you, if you’d rather take lunch with your coworker than swing home to meet your spouse, if there’s late night Facebook messaging going on, meetings that seem to run long, or just a little bit too much “friendly” conversation of any kind – this can pose a pretty serious problem.

Like we mentioned in #1, developing relationships (even platonic friendships) usually involve some amount of opening up, sharing personal history, talking about stresses or problems in life etc., but when you’re doing this with someone other than your spouse, you’re not only building a connection with this other person, you’re also “wasting” communication that could be had with the person you’re married to!

Identifying an emotional affair is difficult, and when confronted with the possibility, most people will brush it off as “just friends.” Those friendships, however, can quickly become much more if we aren’t careful. Know the signs to keep yourself in check, and talk to your spouse if you have suspicions. None of us are immune to temptation, and connecting with others is generally a pleasant experience – we just have to be aware of how those connections can hurt the relationships we already have.

For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!

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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders,


For all the advice and information we provide, not every couple makes a diligent effort to practice the principles that will strengthen their marriage. Even for some couples who do put our advice into practice, they still face obstacles they can’t conquer, have trouble forming new habits, or simply can’t find it in themselves to rebuild lost trust or affection.

Even when couples work on their marriages, that dreaded moment can still happen – when one of you asks for a divorce.

But if you truly want to save your marriage, such obstacles – even the prospect of divorce – can’t stop you. See, even if you still have problems in your marriage after working out others, or are struggling to work your way through our system, still fighting after counseling, still having trouble in the bedroom, etc., you ARE making progress simply by virtue of effort and awareness.

If your spouse tells you they want a divorce, it doesn’t mean that the battle to save your marriage is over – it means that the time to make big strides in improving the relationship is RIGHT NOW.

Does your spouse want a divorce?

Does your spouse want a divorce?

Even if you’re partner is totally checked out, you can still work on the marriage on your own, and communicate with them in ways that will help them see the importance of the marriage – and the possibility of getting it back on track.

Before we get into some of these methods, it’s important to remember not to cling, beg, or beat your spouse over the head with your efforts to improve the marriage.

Include them by all means, but by clinging, we generally end up pushing people further away. We like to describe the ideal approach as “standing still with your arms open.” You aren’t chasing them, you are simply welcoming them back with a ready embrace. You aren’t forcing the marriage on them (forcing leads to resistance), you are letting them know that you are present and available, ready to forgive and move forward with a new and improved marriage with the one you already married!

If you’re working on the marriage on your own, your top priority is working on yourself. What can you do to be the ideal spouse? Do you have bad habits you could be working to resolve? Could you be in better shape? Could you make more time for family? Could you find ways to manage stress and mood to be happier? Could you contribute more around the house?

Take a good look at what you might be doing to contribute to the problems in the marriage, and tackle those things first! If you’re being the best “you” you can be, it builds confidence, makes you more attractive, and let’s you be free of self-blame, knowing that you’re putting in the effort to uphold your half of the relationship.

Once you’ve begun your own path of self-improvement, try to spend some time together on neutral ground, without delving into your relationship’s problems – just spending causal, enjoyable time together. Get a sense for why you fell in love in the first place. Enjoy each other’s company without all the pressures of your past problems, without expectations, without dredging up the past.

And here’s the most important part: you have to agree with your spouse that you don’t want your existing marriage either…

Agree with your spouse that things are not going the way you want them to, and that you aren’t happy either. Agree that your current marriage isn’t a relationship you want to be a part of, but explain to them that you DO want to build a new marriage with the person you’re already married to.

When you can agree that the marriage of the past wasn’t healthy for either of you, you can put it behind you and begin to focus on the future – a new marriage where you don’t make the same mistakes, where you’re both committed to each other and the relationship, and focused on building the marriage you’ve always wanted.

Even in the face of divorce, you CAN bring your marriage back on track. Don’t lose hope.

For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!

Check Out Our Video: How To Regain the Love, Rekindle Passion and Save Your Marriage

Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders,

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Unpredictable and inconsistent behavior is difficult to deal with, especially in a romantic relationship. It feels like an emotional rollercoaster, where you never know how your words will be taken or what might upset your spouse, and can make you feel like you’re having mood swings of your own – where conversations turn hostile on a dime.

Drastic mood swings can be caused by many, many factors, some of them more easily diagnosed than others. The main biological components behind mood swings are hormones and neurotransmitters (and the two are often related). The triggers for these hormonal or neurological “imbalances,” however, can come from a broad range of sources.

For some women, menopause can bring on mood swings because of the hormonal changes involved. The chemical changes happening in a woman’s body can lead to feelings of sadness, anxiety, irritability, and aggression – as well as unpredictable and sometimes unprovoked changes from one of those emotions to the next. Many menopausal women will experience these problems to some degree, but for some, the affect on emotional state and mood will be very drastic.

Other fairly common causes also include stress, substance abuse, and lack of sleep.

Do your spouse's mood swings drive you crazy?

Do your spouse's mood swings drive you crazy?

For menopause induced mood swings, a healthy diet and exercise can help minimize symptoms, as well as seeking the comfort and support of others, practicing calming and relaxation exercises, and avoiding intoxicants that may further alter mood.

For the other common causes, the solutions are fairly self-explanatory – if stress is the issue (or seems to be), finding coping mechanisms or ways to reduce stress will help. Obviously the solution for substance abuse is trying to get clean, whether through personal abstinence or with the help of a counselor or rehabilitation program, and getting more sleep will happen as a combination of better habits, diet, exercise, and in some cases, employing techniques and treatments for sleep difficulty and insomnia.

Now, the mood swing causes we’ve been talking about are fairly common, and “mood swings” is an awfully broad term that describes some emotional ups and downs, all the way to full-blown unpredictability and sometimes even threatening behavior.

But there are other causes of severe mood changes that need to be addressed in a very different way: psychological disorders.

First and foremost, it’s critical to understand that many people use the names of serious mental health problems as passing adjectives. Terms like bipolar, depression, anxiety, and names of other psychological conditions are sometimes used to describe people who have not been diagnosed, and this can minimize the weight we give the real thing. It’s easy to ascribe a term to someone’s behavior – it’s much more difficult to determine a true clinical diagnosis.

With that in mind, though, psychological disorders are a major cause of severe mood swings. You don’t want to jump to conclusions and assume that your spouse may have a mental health issue, but if you think they are displaying symptoms (mood swings included), it may be time to talk to them about seeking out medical or psychiatric help.

All of these potential reasons aside, it’s also possible that the drastic changes in mood are not the product of an outside reason, but a product of the stress of the marriage itself! If this is the case, then now is the perfect time to start getting your marriage back on track, and asking that your spouse make an effort to keep their anger and irritability in check so the two of you can focus on how to make the relationship better.

Minor or severe, unwarranted or unexpected changes in mood do have a root cause, and getting to the source of the issue is the way to resolve the problem. It may be difficult, but try to approach your spouse about the problem calmly. Let them know that you are on their side, and that while the mood swings may be hard on you, you also understand how hard it must be on them.

The two of you can look for the source together, seek help together, and with each other’s support, find ways to reduce the mood swings and better deal with the tensions they cause.

For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!

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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders,

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Debt is Killing our Marriage

On October 29, 2014, in Handling Money Issues, Relationship Problems, by Dr. Dana Fillmore

Disagreements about money are one of the most common reasons couples fight. It can be about different views of wants versus needs, contention about the price one person is willing to pay for something frivolous, accurately planning finances so all the bills are paid on time, or simply the difficulties of trying to manage a joint income and joint expenses.

Kids cost money, groceries and utilities cost money, going out together, entertainment, basic necessities around the house, gas, school supplies, clothes, hobbies – all of these things cost our hard earned dollars, and deciding how to divide up monthly income is an ongoing challenge for, well, just about everyone!

To make matters even more stressful, many couples are also saddled with some kind of debt, and that puts an even tighter squeeze on their finances. This could be debt from buying a home, credit cards, student loans, car payments, backed taxes, or anything else. No matter where the debt comes from, it’s a burden on your current finances.

Making monthly payments (especially more than one) simply reduces the amount of money you have to make the rest of the ends meet, and that pressure can cause stress and arguments, or worse, can lead to real financial hardship that threatens your family’s stability and quality of life.

Is debt killing your marriage?

Is debt killing your marriage?

So, what can you do?

Direct solutions will ultimately depend on the kind of debt you have. Options for consolidation or refinancing exist for some types of debt, and others may be eligible for forgiveness, forbearance, or deferment programs. Your personal financial profile (as well as a number of other factors) will determine whether or not you qualify for assistance from your bank or lender – but if debt is causing problems in your life, these are certainly worth exploring!

Contact your lender, your bank, your loan servicer, whoever you need to, and ask about your options for reducing payments, locking in interest rates, consolidating debts, or any other options that may ease the pressure a little.

Beyond dealing with the debt holders specifically, there are a few tactics you and your family can employ to help survive the all too common burden of debt.

First, develop a budget and stick to it!

If you know your general expenses each month (debt payments included), and you know your average monthly income, you can develop a budget based on your most important needs, when certain payments are due, and the hardest part – what you can do without.

Being able to afford debt payments is sometimes a matter reprioritizing your spending habits (and this is something both you and your spouse will have to stay on top of). Every little bit helps, from being more frugal about electricity usage to downgrading cable or internet services, from carpooling or riding a bike to save on gas, all the way to taking the most expensive items off your grocery list.

There ARE ways to save money if we really want to – the key is being diligent about your practices, and keeping the habits up month after month.

Now, it’s possible that some of these frugal, budget-conscious methods may also cause some contention in your marriage, but if the troubles arise, remember that it’s what’s best for you and your family. You don’t want your house to be foreclosed on, or for your loans to go to a collections agency. The consequences are far greater than a little discomfort or willpower to save money.

Debt is an unfortunate reality of many, many people’s lives, and we all have to figure out how to deal with these financial responsibilities in our own way. No matter how you deal with it, remember that your marriage is a partnership – you’re in this together. No matter who accrued the debt, or what the reason was, the plain truth is that the responsibility belongs to both of you, and it will take collaboration and cooperation the make the best of the situation.

With each other’s support for managing stress, and each other’s reinforcement for developing better financial habits, debt doesn’t have to cause trouble at all – in fact, solving the problem might just bring you closer together!

For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!

You Really Can Live Happily Ever After. Watch This Video Now

Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders,

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I Don’t Think My Husband is a Good Dad

On October 27, 2014, in Parenting, Relationship Problems, by Dr. Dana Fillmore

It’s hard to predict what kind of parent a person is going to be. No matter what kind of assumptions or projections you make, when it comes to actually raising a child, your spouse may not handle things the way you expected at all!

Many couples run into these kinds of disagreements shortly after they have their first child – when they finally start to get used to parenthood, they start critiquing each other’s approach. In most cases (but certainly not all), women have had a little more experience – or at least some informal education – with childcare than men.

When these arguments happen, the common dynamic is the new mother criticizing her husband’s “parenting style.” This doesn’t describe every scenario, of course, but it’s certainly the most common version of this problem

So, what are the arguments actually about? Usually, it comes down to difference of opinion – one parent thinks the child needs all organic food, the other parent doesn’t seem so worried about it; one parent strictly limits the amount of television the child is exposed to, the other uses the TV as a temporary babysitter… or any of a long list of examples.

Do you disagree with your spouse's parenting style?

Do you disagree with your spouse's parenting style?

But little arguments can happen about anything – a lot of this stuff is just opinion, or reflects different ways of growing up - and that’s exactly where we have to begin if we want to resolve these disagreements. The first step is recognizing what parental approaches are simply different, and what practices are actually wrong.

If the child is in danger, being neglected, or if a parent’s decisions are preventing them from living a happy, healthy life – those are the wrong decisions. But if it’s simply a matter of one meal over another, a negligible amount of TV time, a choice of clothes, or something equally innocuous, it’s not wrong – it’s just different.

Failing to recognize this distinction, and confronting your spouse about their parenting can come across as criticism of their intelligence and an attack on their character. And because many people feel some self-doubt and fear about being a new parent already, they can really take this kind of criticism to heart.

It’s a sensitive issue, where the person on the receiving end of the criticism can feel inadequate, and the person criticizing can skew their own perspective of the person they love. Combine these with the stresses of being a new parent, and it becomes a dangerous mixture of feelings that can severely damage the marriage. Unchecked, this will lead to resentment on both sides.

First, learn to recognize the difference between “different” and “wrong,” and when it comes time to talk about your differences of opinion, remind yourself (and each other that it isn’t a personal attack), it’s concern for the wellbeing of the child.

Even if you continue to disagree, that’s ok! As long as you’re taking care of critical elements like health and safety, a little variation in parenting style isn’t going to hurt anyone.

Sticking with the “typical” version of these issue, some moms will simply have to relax their hold on parenting style, and let dad do things his own way a little bit. And the dads out there will just have to be open to some education and expertise from their wives, their mothers, and the other people in their lives that will likely have some advice to impart.

There’s no absolute, 100% “right” way to raise your children, but letting disagreements create a rift in your marriage is NOT the way to maintain the happy, supportive home that all kids deserve. If you disagree about an element of one another’s parenting, talk about it calmly, and keep the discussion to the activity or attitude in question – don’t let it seep into personal attacks or other criticisms.

For both of you, parenting should be a team effort – so if one of you isn’t thrilled with the other’s approach, it’s up to both of you to resolve the issue. This could be taking classes together, doing some research, consulting with other parents, or anything else that is going to expand your understanding and get the two of you collaborating instead of disagreeing.

There’s one thing you can always count on as the right decision for your child: maintaining a strong, stable relationship that teaches them the importance of love, support, and compromise.

For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!

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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders,

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It’s nearly Halloween, and among all the kid’s parties, costume shops, and kitschy decorations, there’s one aspect that can really give your relationship a boost – haunted houses!

You might be asking yourself what a haunted house has to do with marriage at all, and while it might not be immediately obvious, the answer is quite simple! Getting spooked brings you closer together!

Scary Halloween fun can spice up your sex life!

Scary Halloween fun can spice up your sex life!

From a simple “fear response” standpoint, feeling a little scared will actually make you huddle closer together. Even if there’s no real danger, your automatic response is to cling to one another for “safety.” This physical touch and closeness alone has its own merits – on a very basic level, a trusted touch makes our brains produce oxytocin (the “love hormone”) that can help us feel more connected to our partners.

Beyond that, there are some other subtle ways that haunted houses can give your marriage a push in the right direction, particularly when it comes to your sex life. First off, your brain’s “fight or flight response” – that panicky, on edge feeling you get when you’re not sure what’s about to happen, the feeling that haunted houses thrive upon – activate the same parts of the brain responsible for sexual arousal and sex drive.

There are also some sexual feelings tied to protecting or feeling protected – and the scares of a haunted house usually spur one of the members of a couple to take some kind of “protective” role (even if it’s just with their body language) in the face of perceived or imagined danger – even when we know it’s not real. It can trick us into adopting some semi-primal behavior, and well, that tends to excite our primal sensibilities (like sex drive).

It may seem stereotypical, but there is some truth to this: many women feel more attracted to their male partner after he shows signs of protection, and men feel more virile and powerful when doing the protecting. Every couple is different, of course, but those behaviors are biologically hardwired into our brains.

When it comes to bravery, simply having the guts to go through the haunted house – to face fears and make it through – tends to make people feel empowered and indestructible, and those are pretty sexy feelings to have. It bolsters confidence, makes posture more commanding and attractive, and the excitement primes both mind and body for more action!

Try it out! Take a trip through a local haunted house with your spouse (or maybe try a few), and see how it makes you feel. If you go in looking for a little excitement, stay close together, and take those bubbly, frisky feelings with you back home to the bedroom. Most of all, have fun with it!

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Identifying and addressing a drinking problem can be an extremely touchy subject. Not only can it be tough to determine if someone’s drinking is truly a problem (and how severe that problem is), it can be even more challenging to try to approach him or her with that problem. People tend to be resistant to accusation or criticism, and can react unfavorably to the suggestion that they might have a problem. In fact, denial and resistance are extremely common components of alcohol dependence.

But before we get too far, let’s get a few things out in the open.

First, a “drinking problem” is a very broad definition. There are some established criteria for identifying “alcohol dependence” (which we’ll get to in a moment), but defining a “problem” is going to be a little more unique to your marriage. Only the two of you can determine what’s problematic for your relationship. Even if it doesn’t meet the textbook descriptions of alcoholism or alcohol dependence, if drinking is causing issues in your marriage in any way – it’s a problem that needs addressing.

Next, alcohol dependence has less to do with quantity than many people think, and is instead determined more by people’s behavior surrounding alcohol, as well as the physical toll it has taken on their bodies. The two physical signs to look for are:

  1. 1. Tolerance – if the person has developed a high tolerance for alcohol, meaning that they are having more drinks than they used to, or more than other people to achieve the same effect.
  2. 2. Withdrawal Symptoms – If a person is experiencing withdrawal symptoms, it means that their body is becoming more and more accustomed to imbibing alcohol on a regular basis, and when they don’t, their body reacts negatively. Symptoms include nausea, sweating, shaking, and anxiety. These symptoms tend to get worse over the course of the day (and are different than a typical hangover). Withdrawal symptoms are an extremely telltale sign of addiction.

Other behavioral factors also indicate when excessive drinking is becoming a true addiction. If people are drinking more than they intend to on a regular basis, or if they are talking about drinking less or quitting, yet continue to fail to change their behaviors, these are indications that they have trouble with self-control.

The third phase of factors that indicate alcohol dependency has to do with how alcohol affects an individual’s ability to participate in other factors of their lives. If your spouse is arranging their social life around places they can drink, avoiding events or places without alcohol, or is choosing to stay home and drink instead of attending family or social functions, drinking has become a lifestyle choice – and that likely indicates problems and addiction.

This can go even further, when people are seeking to cover up the amount they drink, are overly concerned with how and when they are going to acquire alcohol, or if they’ve been approached about the problem but continue to drink anyway. If it’s beginning to affect work and day-to-day function, things have certainly become a serious problem.

Does your spouse have a drinking problem?

Does your spouse have a drinking problem?

Now, even if you can readily identify your spouse’s behavior as alcohol dependency, approaching them about the issue can still be very difficult. Again, denial and resistance are common components of addiction.

It’s going to be a tough road no matter what, but if your spouse is struggling with alcohol dependence, they need your help. Here are a few tips to help you approach this difficult conversation:

1. Outside Counseling

Marriage counselors, couples counseling, addiction recovery groups, substance abuse counselors, etc., have the tools and expertise to help you and your spouse navigate this difficulty. Even if you haven’t approached your spouse about their problem, contacting organizations that specialize in alcohol dependence and addiction recovery can help equip you to deal with the challenges ahead.

2. No Cover Ups

Stop covering for your spouse in terms of their job or questions from the family. Don’t lie for them or minimize their behavior. This may seem harsh, but you can’t let them rely on you to cover up their addiction. In some ways, you’re facilitating their bad habits, and allowing yourself to protect them from the consequences of alcohol dependency.

Don’t say they’re sick or make up excuses why they couldn’t attend a function. Be honest and transparent, and also, allow your spouse to explain themselves (instead of covering for them by default).

3. Throw Away The Generalities

When you do approach them about the problem, don’t talk about broad things that alcohol addiction does, talk specifically about what your spouse is doing. This is usually best when they are sober, and perhaps feeling guilty or sheepish about their behavior. They need to understand exactly the damage they are causing specifically.

4. Support

You don’t have to face this problem alone. Recruit friends and family members to help you. There is strength in numbers, and showing your spouse that there are other people concerned for their wellbeing will resonate with them – and hopefully make them admit to their problem. You can approach the person individually, or come together for a more “intervention” style sit down. Be sure to include people that love and care about your spouse – the primary message is that you want what’s best for them.

5. Line In The Sand

After you’ve talked about the problems at hand, sought counseling, etc., it’s important to let your spouse know how badly they are hurting the relationship, and let them know in clear terms that you can’t stay if they don’t change their ways. This isn’t meant to be a threat or to scare tactic – it has to be true, you have to stick to your guns, and they have to understand exactly what they are doing if they choose not to find help with their alcohol dependency.

This is an extremely sensitive subject, and there’s a certainly a wide range of specifics that are going to make every case unique, but hopefully this information and these tips can help you understand the severity of your spouse’s problem, and give you some confidence when approaching them about the tough topic alcohol dependency.

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