Stress… That powerful word that describes so many of the struggles we face each day. We all know the feeling: elevated heart rate, anxiety, tension – and we all know that it can come from many, many different sources. We get stressed out about our jobs, our finances, the ever-growing to do list… And of course, our relationships.

In many ways, it’s just a part of reality. Things aren’t going to be easy all the time, and the adrenaline, flushed feelings, and racing heart are (in part) our bodies’ ways of helping us rise to the challenge of solving problems. Even with that slight “upside” of stress, it still doesn’t feel good – and when we face multiple challenges at once, the feelings can compound and become overwhelming, often preventing us from taking action or tackling the problems causing stress in the first place.

Now, there are all kinds of ways to manage “normal” amounts of stress, but how much stress is too much? Ongoing, unmanaged stress – typically called “chronic stress” – actually does damage to our physical and mental health, and nearly 77% of Americans say they experience the physical symptoms of too much stress.

These symptoms, which we will dig into below, are signs that you may be experiencing too much stress, and your body is suffering because of it. Be on the lookout for these signs that chronic stress is reaching unhealthy levels.

Are you under too much stress?

Are you under too much stress?

1. You Get Sick Often

Excessive stress actually reduces immune system function, making it harder for your body to fight against illness. When under stress, the body produces a stress hormone called cortisol, and over time (and too much cortisol), we start to become immune to its effects. Unfortunately, immunity to cortisol can lead to increased inflammation, and with it, higher risk of cold, flu, strep throat, and so on.

If you’re feeling under the weather regularly, it could be the product of too much stress! Make sure you’re paying attention to nutrition, and explore your options for reducing stress – or at least managing it more productively.

2. Itchy Skin

In something of a vicious cycle, stress can make us unconsciously scratch at our arms, wring our hands, touch our faces, etc. This, in turn, can irritate that skin – making us more likely to scratch and mess with it. When we’re under stress, some of these physical sensations of itchiness and discomfort worsen, which only leads to more scratching, more irritation, more reaction… And so the cycle continues.

Managing stress is the best way to resolve this problem, of course, but even making a point to be aware of your physical habits when stressed can help break the cycle. Try to avoid unconsciously scratching at your arms or face in stressful situations.

3. Aches and Pains

Stress can put the body into a state of “fight or flight” – with a raised pulse, adrenaline production, etc. in preparation for reacting to a challenge or threat (or just a perceived challenge/threat). This also triggers the sympathetic nervous system, which leads to increased muscle tension.

When you’re tense for long periods of time, that leads to stiffness and soreness – and the more ongoing and chronic your stress, the more tension you experience. Stretching and exercise will help, but tackling the root causes of the stress is the only real solution.

4. Perspiration

Because of the adrenaline and elevated heart rate that comes with stress, you’re also more likely to sweat. It’s different than sweating from physical activity, and is caused by glands triggered by your stress-induced adrenaline. If you find yourself perspiring without much physical activity, it’s likely the product of too much stress.

5. Headaches

Related to the body aches mentioned above, too much stress leads to particularly severe tension in the neck and shoulders, as well as frequent jaw clenching. This can happen even while you sleep!

These subconscious actions compound into frequent headaches, which make you feel even more uncomfortable… Which can contribute to feeling even more stressed… Making the whole thing worse and worse over time.

Like the symptom of itchy skin, this can partly be combatted with conscious effort to relax your neck and shoulders, even when facing stress, and even going as far as finding devices that help you stop clenching your teeth in your sleep.

All of these symptoms show the kind of damage and discomfort that stress can cause – and these are only some of the problems! If these are familiar to you, you’re likely among the many people today who face too much stress. Because it’s so common, you may also be one of the millions of stress sufferers who just assume it’s normal!

We don’t have to be victims to stress, though, at least not in such a severe way. There are actions we can take to both reduce the stress we experience, and change the way we react to it when it happens.

Nutrition and exercise go a long way in bolstering your body against these symptoms, engaging in calming practices like yoga, meditation, or just moments of mindful relaxation can help us let go of stressors from the day, and perhaps most remarkably, even changing the way we think about stress can reduce the negative effects.

Instead of letting the problems pile up, allowing yourself to be overwhelmed, getting worked up about things you can’t control – or assume you can’t control – there’s tremendous value in changing your mindset. Look at your stressors as challenges to conquer, things to get excited about, and opportunities to improve your life.

Even just this mental shift will help you use adrenaline and your body’s physical response to your advantage. It takes practice, but it can help!

Additionally – and this will likely apply more to your work and relationship - it’s a good idea to evaluate what’s causing you the most stress, and take steps toward improving the situation. If it’s your workload, then seek ways to increase efficiency, talk to coworkers and managers to find the help you need, and try to improve your environment to make the work less stressful.

In your marriage, reducing stress is often about improving the relationship itself. That could mean developing a budget so you stop arguing about money, working on your sex life so you both feel more satisfied, learning to communicate more effectively so arguments happen less often, and so on. You likely know where your marital stress is coming from, so focus on those issues first.

Stress can take a serious toll on your health and happiness, but it doesn’t have to. Take steps to reduce the stress you face, recognize the symptoms of being overstressed, and change the way you think about challenges – you can beat stress if you try!

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,

This past November, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary. The couple married in 1947, when Elizabeth was 21 and Philip was 26. They met when Elizabeth was just 13, and when they reconnected as young adults, they fell quickly in love.

Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, The Duke of Edinburgh.

Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, The Duke of Edinburgh.

Their marriage has, of course, been in the public eye since its first moments, and that often comes with scrutiny. Elizabeth and Philip have had their lives documented at every turn, and that’s just a small example of the pressures they must face – not just as royalty, but also just as a married couple.

Over the years, they’ve certainly had their ups and downs, and as any public figures would, they’ve also received plenty of criticism. They’re known to argue loudly, even decades into their marriage, and have had some publicized problems with their 4 children. Because of their positions, they also have to spend time apart to keep up with their responsibilities.

How, after 69 years of the highest profile marriage in Britain, is the couple still happily married?

It would seem that their secret is quality time spent together, and keeping their public and private lives as separate as possible. All through Queen Elizabeth’s reign, they’ve traveled together, enjoyed a busy social life, and sleep in the same bed (despite the English tradition of upper class couples having separate bedrooms). After nearly 70 years of marriage, they are said to still take afternoon tea together every day.

Through numerous interviews and observations, it’s clear that the couple shares a great sense of humor as well, and makes a point to laugh with each other as often as possible. Philip has also said that having separate interests, and being able to pursue them, helps strengthen their relationship.

From the Queen’s perspective, Philip is a tremendous source of strength, and she says that he does much more for their family – and their country – than many people realize.

Their marriage is built on mutual respect and a longstanding love that began when they were nearly teenagers! They recognize that they each have a public role to play, and make a point to be supportive of one another’s responsibilities, but at the end of the day, they are also a playful couple that enjoys small pleasures and commits to spending time together every day.

This is a great lesson on what it takes to keep a marriage intact: respect, support, humor, and quality time spent together. These things keep couples together for decade after decade – royalty or not!

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,

When a marriage feels “loveless,” there’s very obviously a problem. Whether that lack of love is marked by hostility or indifference (both are common), it indicates that somewhere along the way, you and your spouse have grown apart, are no longer communicating effectively, and have let the marriage slip into a place that isn’t satisfying for either of you.

…And before we even get into how to resolve such an issue, that’s an essential point to understand: if the marriage feels loveless, it’s almost always because both people aren’t having their needs met.

That doesn’t mean that it’s your fault or your spouses – but rather that the climate of the relationship has changed, and neither of you are getting what you need. Even if your spouse isn’t expressing this sentiment directly, it’s pretty safe to assume that – even if their complaints and problems are different than yours – they aren’t feeling engaged in the relationship either.

You both ultimately want the same thing: to be loved and respected, to feel connected and supported – except you might be looking for these things in different ways, or worse, have barriers from past trouble that prevent you from connecting to your spouse in the way they want (and vice versa).

Are you trapped in a loveless marriage?

Are you trapped in a loveless marriage?

The real trouble comes when you find your marriage in this cycle of disconnection. One of you may feel dissatisfied for whatever reason, and unconsciously pull back from the other… Which in turn makes that person feel neglected. It’s easy to imagine how this can spiral out of control if the problems are never addressed, and over the course of time, you both settle into a pattern of frustration, lack of affection, lack of communication, etc.

This behavior goes on and on, reinforcing itself because you each feel dissatisfaction, which leads to withdrawal, impatience, acting annoyed with one another, indifference toward each other’s feelings, and all of those other “loveless” symptoms that make you feel like disconnected roommates at best – and definitely NOT like a married couple.

So, the important question: what can you do about it?

These tips can help you break the cycle and start moving back toward the marriage you once had – one of connection, communication, and love.

1. Talk About It

You can’t fix the problem if you don’t even bring it up. This doesn’t have to be an accusation or an attack – instead, tell your spouse how you feel, and that you know they must be feeling disconnected too. Let them know you want to work to improve the relationship, and that you’ll need their help and honesty to do it.

2. Total Honesty

This will likely make you both feel quite vulnerable, but it’s essential to breaking the cycle of lovelessness. You have to open up about what you want, what makes you feel connected and loved, and how it has been missing from the relationship. You ALSO need to be honest about how you’ve contributed to the loveless environment – even if it was reactionary or largely unconscious, you have to recognize the role you’ve played in getting the marriage to this point.

3. Try Reconnecting Naturally

This process is going to take work and honesty, and that means serious discussions, personal reflection, and likely some tumultuous emotions… But there’s also some potential for rebuilding your connection through simply spending time together! It might feel strange if you’ve gotten used to your current “loveless” situation – but go on a date!

Get away from distractions, try to put resentment and past hurt out of your mind, and just spend some time together as people. Try to have some fun, laugh together, talk about things that interest you, and think about what made you fall in love with each other in the first place.

This is not the time to dig deep into the problems. Instead, it’s a reminder that the problems are worth solving in the first place.

4. Tackle It Head On

After you’ve opened up about how you’re feeling and gotten honest about all of the factors contributing to the problems (including your own), it’s time to really get to work.

If you’ve recognized that you shut down at any hint of criticism, take steps to change your attitude about it, and talk to your spouse about ways they can offer feedback without making you feel bad about yourself.

If your spouse has trouble being affectionate because of past hurt, dig into why they’re holding a grudge, what you can do to make it up to them, and follow our process on effective apologies and forgiveness.

Whatever the root issues may be (barring some rare extremes), the two of you can take measures to resolve them – often one step at a time. It may mean adjusting your habits or attitude, compromising about things you don’t see eye to eye on, even relearning (or learning for the first time) how your spouse prefers to communicate, what their “buttons” are, and so on. They’ll need to understand that the same is required of them!

So often, “loveless” marriages are simply off course, and have been for so long that the couples don’t quite remember where they were headed in the first place. By spending time together to reconnect, and unpacking the years worth of less-than-loving behavior (and what has really been causing it), you can begin to steer back toward a loving, communicative marriage that you both desire.

Be honest, be open, and rebuild the connection you once had!

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,

The holiday season – that stretch of time from Thanksgiving through Christmas and the New Year – is often seen as a time for family and togetherness. In many cases, this is true! We may have more time off work, family in town for a visit, traditions and gatherings that help us connect with our loved ones, and so on…

But there can also be a downside if you aren’t ready for it. With all the hullaballoo – all of that focus on events and gifts and meals and guests – you can lose sight of connecting with your spouse, and end up neglecting your marriage in one of the most “connected” times of year.

The holidays can be a threatening time for some marriages!

The holidays can be a threatening time for some marriages!

The simple fact that divorce rates spike in the month of January tells us a great deal about how couples fare during the holidays – and it isn’t too tough to imagine the kinds of situations that lead marriages to ruin.

First, this time of year can put a ton of financial pressure on households of all kinds. Gifts, holiday travel, time away from work, and even the increased costs of transportation and home heating in the colder months can all stack up – and arguments about money remain one of the most common reasons couples split up. Worrying about money can also mean more stress in a general way, which may lead to more arguments, more conflict, and pushing further apart.

Money isn’t the only problem couples face this time of year though… Time, especially time together, is also a hot commodity during the holidays. We mention time and time again how important spending time together as a couple is for the health of your relationship, and when holiday plans, school vacations, and all of the holiday logistics are taking up your time and energy, it’s easy to skip date nights…

It’s easy to get so focused on the unique needs of the season, you forget about the ongoing effort needed to keep your marriage its strongest!

There’s even some trouble during the holiday season because of proposed New Year’s resolutions. Couples tell themselves that they’ll start working on the relationship after the first of the year, that next year will be different, that it’s time to start communicating and making time for each other – only to keep putting it off when the new year rolls around. Just like other resolutions, most of us don’t stick with them because we set our sights on some future date – instead of working on our goals right now.

Now, this information doesn’t have to cast a shadow across your holiday season. Instead, it should serve as a reminder to keep your marriage a priority no matter what other holiday plans you have in store. Keep dating. Keep making time for each other. Check in periodically to make sure each other isn’t stressing out or holding back an issue. This is a good practice throughout the year, but could be a “life saver” during the busy and often frantic holiday season.

Knowing the risks before they happen is one of the best ways to avoid unnecessary trouble, so keep these things in mind over the next month or two. If you’re making an active effort to stay connected, to spend quality time together away from distractions, and – because money is so often an issue – sticking to a holiday budget, you won’t become part of the January spike in divorce statistics this year, or any of the years to come!

No matter what your holiday schedule looks like, make room to strengthen your marriage throughout the season.

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 most people, Thanksgiving is already set aside for family and loved ones, but beyond your regularly planned family events, the holiday is also a great chance for some extra closeness with your spouse.

To fit with the Thanksgiving theme, it’s a time to really show your husband or wife how much you appreciate having them in your life. Just taking the opportunity to sit them down, look them in the eyes, and show your gratitude will leave you both feeling connected and full of those warm fuzzies we all love!

Give your spouse the gift of gratitude this Thanksgiving!

Give your spouse the gift of gratitude this Thanksgiving!

If you want to step it up a little, here are a few suggestions for making your spouse feel extra loved this Thanksgiving – all by giving the gift of gratitude.

1. Reminisce (With Some Help)

Dig up some old photos or mementos from your past, and sit down with your spouse to reminisce about happy times. Share stories, conjure up nearly forgotten memories, and laugh over thoughts and pictures of the good old days!

Talk about the great times you’ve shared, and why you love spending those moments together.

2. Make A List

Take a moment to write down five things you love and appreciate about your spouse. When the opportunity is right, sit them down and go through the list! Recognize that these are things to love about your spouse, but also things to be thankful that they’ve shared with you!

3. Step Away for a Quick Heart to Heart

In the midst of all the holiday running around - whether that’s traveling, preparing meals, wrangling the kids, or catching up with family members - take a moment to pull your spouse aside and let them know just how much you love them in that particular moment. Let them know how thankful you are to have them in your life, and be specific about the things you love most!

When we remind our spouses how much they mean to us, it leaves them with a certain glow that can be carried through the rest of the day.

Now, these tips may be directed toward having a special Thanksgiving with your spouse, but the truth is, you can use any of these for any member of your family!

Spend this Thanksgiving strengthening the connections you have, and building the ones you wish you had. It’s all about love, appreciation, and togetherness.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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,

With a new album out and a tour on the horizon, Jon Bon Jovi (and the rest of the band that bears his name) is still a rock star. The band’s sheer statistics are impressive – 13 studio albums and 2 live albums, more than 130 million records sold across the world, and more than 2,700 concerts in over 50 countries.

Through it all, though, Jon has remained faithfully married to his wife Dorothea. The couple met in high school, and remained together through the early stages of Jon’s music career, on through his rise to stardom. They married in 1989, at the height of the band’s success, running off to Las Vegas on a short break after a Los Angeles tour stop.

Jon Bon Jovi and his wife, Dorothea Hurley.

Jon Bon Jovi and his wife, Dorothea Hurley.

27 years later, the couple – both 54 years old – has raised 4 children, contributed (and worked for) numerous charitable causes, and kept their marriage together through Jon’s multitude of tours, film appearances, and otherwise demanding public life.

So, what’s their secret? How can an internationally renowned rock star stay happily married to his high school sweetheart?

In a recent interview with People magazine, Jon opened up about what has helped keep his marriage intact all these years, despite the pressures of Hollywood, fame, and the road. Jon says that he “got it right the first time,” and that the long-standing marriage is the result of a true partnership.

He says, “It’s, you know, mutual respect. It starts with that, right? …And listening. And knowing when to speak up or shut up.”

He makes a good point about respect and listening, making sure his wife has a say in the marriage and that she can always voice her concerns (and so can he). Knowing when to “speak or shut up” is also valuable advice – know when a problem is worth addressing, but also recognize if you’re being moody or getting too worked about something minor.

The couple also enjoys a dynamic that allows each of them to employ their strongest traits. Jon calls Dorothea “the glue” in the marriage. He says, “I’m the crazy visionary with all kinds of things flying, and all the seams are all splitting. She’s the one following me with the glue and the thread and needle, keeping it all together.”

Dorothea also says that keeping their marriage and family somewhat separated from the stardom has helped keep them grounded. They both have to recognize the difference between “Bon Jovi the rock star” and “Jon the husband and father.”

By recognizing their individual strengths, making time to communicate, and keeping their family life separate from the glitz and glamor, Jon and Dorothea have managed to keep their marriage happy and healthy for 27 years. Even if you aren’t a rock star, these are principles you can employ in your own marriage as well.

Know your strengths, focus on each other, and always communicate!

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,

Of all the things that can threaten marriages, unpredictability is one of the worst. It can come in many forms, from mental health problems to addiction, anger issues to basic dishonesty – but they all boil down to inconsistency and unpredictability.

When you don’t know what to expect from day to day or moment to moment, it’s hard to develop the trust and stability necessary for a healthy relationship.

When unpredictable behavior develops later in the marriage, it can be even more concerning. It may feel like you no longer know your spouse, that you have to walk on eggshells whenever you’re together, that anything could set them off… Today, we want to look at a specific way this happens in marriages: mood swings in women.

Are your wife's mood swings out of control?

Are your wife's mood swings out of control?

Now, we don’t mean to single the ladies out here – but there are some factors that may affect women more severely, especially with age, that make women particularly susceptible to developing mood swings. So, that’s where our focus will be for today!

It’s easy to understand how mood swings can cause problems in a marriage. Whether it’s sudden sadness or seemingly unprovoked anger, or any other unpredicted mood or reaction, it’s going to cause some kind of disruption. Anger will lead to arguments, sadness can lead to apathy or drag the marriage into a state of depression, and even manic states of happiness or “highs” can cause trouble because they may be too intense.

But to resolve such problems, it’s important to figure out what’s causing them. Diagnosing some causes are far easier than others, and a wide range of factors can influence mood. It won’t always be easy to tell what’s causing the mood swings, but these are a few good places to start.

One of the most common reasons for mood swings in women is, of course, menopause. The chemical changes that happen in the body and brain during menopause can have a direct effect on mood, leading to feelings of sadness, anxiety, irritability, aggression, and so on. Not every menopausal woman will experience these emotional side effects, but even the physical changes occurring can lead to stress and anxiety – which in turn affects mood.

In a general way, stress can cause moods to fluctuate unpredictably all on its own. It could be work-related, not enough sleep, or even problems in the marriage – and the unmitigated stress is causing uncontrolled mood swings.

In more severe cases, mood swings can also be a sign of some form of mental illness or psychological disorder. Bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and many other disorders are characterized by mood swings or extreme highs and lows – simply as a matter of brain chemistry! This is nothing to be ashamed of, and unfortunately, far too many people allow mental health issues to go undiagnosed, meaning their symptoms remain unchecked, often doing damage to all types of relationships.

So, what can be done?

First and foremost, you have to recognize – together – what’s going on. You have to admit that mood swings are happening, and agree that you want to do something about it. The next step is diagnosis. You can start with your best guess: if you recognize some of the other common symptoms of menopause, tell your doctor you think you’re experiencing menopause related mood swings (or ask your wife to tell her doctor).

With potential mental health problems or psychological disorders, encourage your spouse to seek the help of a professional! It might be tough at first, but allowing yourself to open up, admit what’s going on, and make moves toward treatment can be the determining difference between reducing mood swings and letting the problem consume your marriage.

If you think it’s stress, take steps to help your spouse reduce their stressors each day. Finding time to relax, meditating, getting more exercise, making positive changes to diet, getting more sleep, and a wide range of other techniques are helpful in reducing the effects of stress. Try some out!

It’s also worth considering if the marriage itself is the cause of the stress – and if so, getting on the same page about what needs to improve within the relationship. A stable home life and a loving relationship may be just the right ingredients for overcoming stress and regaining control of mood.

Mood swings and unpredictability can be marriage killers, but if you are willing to take stock of what’s happening, look for some causes, and take steps toward treating the problem for what it is, you don’t have to let your relationship be torn apart by uncertainty and unnecessary conflict.

The only way to resolve these kinds of problems is to face up to them – so don’t just let mood swings push you apart without doing something about it!

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,

As the weather starts to get colder and the holiday season draws near, it’s a great time of year to spend quality time with your spouse. The dates you and your spouse enjoy are your chance to connect as a couple, and making a point to spend this kind of time together is integral to building and maintaining a strong relationship.

To help you connect, here are some ideas for dates specific to the month of November. Now have some fun together!

1. Attend A Football Game

Whether it’s high school, professional, or anything in between, football games can be tons of fun for fans and non-fans alike. Even if you’re not into sports, it’s a social occasion where you can soak up the energy of the crowd, root for the home team (or the opposition), and enjoy some outdoor entertainment before the snow falls.

2. Volunteerism

A big part of the “spirit of the holidays” is giving back to those less fortunate than you. You can do just that (and spent some quality time with your spouse) by volunteering your time for a local charity. Around this time of year, most opportunities involve helping people with Thanksgiving meals. Look to local church groups and charity organizations to find an opportunity that suits you.

There are some great November date ideas!

There are some great November date ideas!

3. Dinner Experiments

Thanksgiving is pretty centered on food, but we usually stick the staples we know and love. Why not spend your date night trying out some recipes together – especially ones you don’t know if you’ll like, or don’t know if you can even pull off! You may just discover your new favorite dish, and at least gets some laughs in the process.

4. Plan A Day In

Instead of planning somewhere special to go, make the day unique by not going anywhere! Stay in your pajamas, turn off the cell phones, and send the kids off to grandma’s house. Spend the day snuggled up on the couch watching your favorite movies, sipping hot cocoa, or basking in front of the fireplace. The point is to be distraction free, cozy, and just the two of you.

5. Find A Local (or Semi-Local) Celebration

We all know about the giant Macy’s parade in New York City, but what about other community celebrations nearby? Get bundled up and explore some local culture. You can join the fun and share the high spirits of the holiday with other families in your area.

6. Horseback Ride

Plenty of people enjoy a “color tour” when the leaves change, but what about enjoying the fall colors up close? You and your spouse can spent part of the afternoon on horseback, winding through the trails and taking in the beautiful sites autumn has to offer.

7. Apple Picking

The crisp air and changing leaves are a perfect time to visit an orchard to pick and sample fresh apples! It’s a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors with your spouse, get some fresh air, and pick up the main ingredient to a delicious dish you can make together later that day! If you’re lucky, there might be some fresh cider to sample too!

8. Find a Place Off the Beaten Path

Sometimes the cool weather can be a little much. If you want to spend your date night inside, try to find some quirky place that you’ve never heard of – it could be a little movie theater, a private art gallery, a diner out on a country road, anything at all that gets you outside of your normal routine, and your normal geography.

9. Get Crafty

Whether it’s making holiday decorations, an idea from Pinterest, or something you came up with on your own, spending an evening making crafts together is a way to spend time together, tap into your creativity, and collaborate toward a common goal.

10. Show Your Thanks

For this date, you just have to show each other how much you appreciate the little things – and do so with some gestures of admiration and thanks. It could be giving backrubs, special favors, talking about your partner’s admirable qualities, etc. This could even be two separate dates, one for each of you to indulge in the appreciation of the other!

Give one (or more) of these date ideas a try this month, and strengthen your marriage through quality time spent together.

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

End The Loneliness and Hurt... Watch This Video Today

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

Time and time again, we come back around to this essential piece of healthy and happy relationships: communication. Being able to effectively communicate with your spouse is the cornerstone of good marriage, but what exactly does that mean?

You can know that communicating is important, but still not quite know how to pull it off… But we’re here to help! These three tips will drastically improve your ability to communicate, and with it, your ability to resolve problems in the marriage, grow closer together, build trust, and achieve greater intimacy.

1. Ask For What You Need

Your spouse is not a mind reader. No matter how intuitive or observant you may feel, you aren’t a mind reader either. That means that if you want each other to know what you’re thinking or feeling – you have to say something! If you have a problem or an unmet need, the very first step to resolving the issue is to bring it up to your spouse.

What Exactly Is Healthy Communication?

What Exactly Is Healthy Communication?

It might be uncomfortable to “rock the boat,” but if problems go unaddressed, they will only grow over time, and when they finally blow up – it will be much worse than if it had been addressed when it first came up.

Even outside of problems or complaints… To communicate effectively, you have to be vocal about what’s on your mind. It could be as simple as speaking up about dinner plans or asking to be left alone to finish a project. This can also include what you like and don’t like in the bedroom, decisions you’d like to be involved in, and on and on…

The point is to not hold your tongue. If you’ve got something to say, say it! Marriages should be built upon trust and mutual understanding. If you don’t speak up – especially when you need something – it’s impossible to build that kind of intimacy.

2. Tell The Truth

Speaking of trust and intimacy, no amount of communication will strengthen your marriage or resolve your problems if you aren’t telling the truth! If you truly love your spouse, you will be honest with them (even when it hurts), and they will do the same for you.

Not only does this apply to the discussions you have about the marriage itself, but everything else as well! That means telling them when you’ve had a rough day, not just saying “it’s fine.” It means letting your spouse know if you’re uncomfortable or agitated – or on the other side, telling them when you’re feeling great!

Open up share your true, authentic self with your spouse – both the good and the bad.

3. Listen More Than You Speak

This can be tough for people, but the most important part of communication isn’t speaking – it’s listening. This doesn’t mean just waiting for your turn to speak or just giving your spouse the space to talk. It means actually paying attention and absorbing what they have to say, “giving them the floor” to talk about what’s going on with them without changing the subject or getting lost in your own thoughts.

It’s easier said than done, but if you think about the importance of truly listening – and how you want to be heard when you speak – you can put this into practice. Part of good listening (and showing that you’re listening) is asking follow up questions. Ask your spouse why they feel the way they feel, what they would have liked to happen, etc. to give you more insight and detail about whatever it is they’re speaking to you about.

This helps keep the conversation on track, helps your spouse feel valued and important, and lets the two of you really dig into the topic at hand - instead of just staying on the surface level of reciting facts or recounting stories. Active listening, combined with the honesty and openness described above, is at the heart of effective communication.

There you have it – these three qualities of communication make all the difference between talking TO each other and talking AT each other. If you can employ all three of these elements in any and every discussion you have, you’ll be growing closer together, getting to know each other on a deeper level, and strengthening your marriage every step of the way.

Speak your mind, be honest, and listen – and your communication will flourish.

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,

It’s no secret that many Americans have a weight problem. I’m not pointing any fingers here, but the data doesn’t lie – the CDC reports that 35.7% of American adults are “obese.”

And while there are plenty of health concerns related to weight (type 2 diabetes, heart disease, etc.), it can also have a serious effect on the quality of your marriage – and many people simply don’t recognize this fact.

In terms of a marriage, weight (and more specifically, being unhealthily overweight) plays an important role in both the physical and psychological components of your relationship. Here’s how:

1. Self-Esteem

Being overweight can certainly have an impact on how you feel about yourself. Body image is an important part of our psychological makeup, and if we aren’t happy with the way we look and feel, it starts to take a toll on other areas of our lives. This isn’t to say that you need to have a perfect body, or that everyone who is even remotely overweight is going to have self-esteem issues – but this is a very real problem for many, many people.

There are unseen ways your weight can affect your marriage!

There are unseen ways your weight can affect your marriage!

When your self-esteem suffers and you don’t think very highly of yourself, it can make it difficult to accept affection from others. Even if you don’t recognize that it’s happening, if you don’t love yourself, you tend to act as though others shouldn’t either.

Needless to say, if you’re rejecting affection and love from your spouse, it can create some troubles in your marriage.

2. Energy

There’s no delicate way to put this: when you’re not in shape, your energy levels suffer, plain and simple. Your body has to work harder, and the systems at work (your muscles, heart, lungs, etc.) probably aren’t the most efficient. The end result is that you get tired more easily, shy away from challenging or strenuous activity, or worse, settle into sedentary lifestyle.

It takes energy and effort to maintain your marriage though. You and your spouse should be having fun! More energy means more interest in activities with your spouse, more gusto for playing with the kids, and simply more vigor for everyday life!

Just the amount of “get up and go” you have on a daily basis has a direct influence on your marriage. When you’re getting things done around the house, excited about going new places, energetic about new projects, and the like, this kind of forward thinking breeds happiness and marital satisfaction.

The opposite of energetic is stagnant – and that’s definitely something you don’t want your marriage to be.

3. Negativity

This is related to #1, but deserves its own entry. Just as low self-esteem can affect the way you react to the affection of others, it can also manifest itself in an outward projection of negativity. In other words, if you’re critical of yourself, you’re more likely to be critical of others.

Projecting that kind of negativity onto your spouse can turn into a vicious cycle, where you both suffer from low self-esteem, project it onto one another, and continually reduce each other’s feelings of confidence (along with your own).

To take it a step further, when you take this negativity out into your daily life, it clouds everything you do, from interactions with strangers to stress at work, which means an even worse mood, damaged relationships, and a landslide of negative backlash – all stemming from personal criticisms you project onto others.

4. Sex Life

Ok, this one’s the doozie. The effect that weight has on sex life is a culmination of the points mentioned above – and more. First and foremost, the issue of self-esteem has everything to do with how sexy you feel, and in turn the level of confidence and sex appeal you show your spouse.

Sure, your outward appearance will have an impact on how your spouse sees you, but the way you feel about yourself (and how that changes the way you present yourself) is a huge component of how attractive you are to your spouse.

Secondly, the relationship between low energy and problems with your sex life should be pretty self-explanatory. If you don’t have the energy, you might not even want to engage – and when you do, you may be less than satisfied if it just seems difficult and tiring.

Now, here’s where it goes even further. Beyond the behavioral and psychological downsides, your physical health has a direct impact on your sex drive. Exercise releases endorphins (feel good chemicals) into your brain, which make you happier and more attractive, but that’s not all. Exercise also boosts the amount of testosterone in your body, which directly affects libido.

So, if exercise has these positive effects, the opposite is also true. Without much physical activity, those levels of testosterone can dwindle – and take your libido down with them. Not only does your health affect the quality of your sex life, it also affects your desire to have a sex life in the first place.

The long and short of the matter is this: the healthier you are, the better you feel, and the better you feel, the better spouse you can be. From damaging your sex life to damaging your perception of yourself and others around you, ignoring your health (and with it, your weight) is irresponsible – and may be causing more trouble in your marriage than you know.

Remember, we’re not saying you need to have a perfect body, or that being a little overweight is going to ruin your marriage or destroy your sex life. Instead, this message is about awareness, to let you know that health and weight issues actually run a lot deeper than most people assume.

Don’t let your marriage fall victim to these problems! Keep an eye on your weight, and make your health (and with it, your marriage) a priority in your life!

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,