When tension dominates your marriage, no one is happy. Even if the problem (or problems) aren’t at the center of every conversation, there’s still a cloud hanging over the relationship that prevents couples from moving forward into healthier, happier territory.

Whether it’s an issue large or small, unresolved disputes are little worms that eat away at your marital bliss. Whether you’re ignoring them on purpose, can’t get on the same page when you talk about them, or simply haven’t gotten around to addressing problems directly, the longer they stay under the surface, the more damage they cause.

You might not even think the issue is a big deal, but if your spouse does – then it IS a big enough deal to address directly, patiently, and immediately.

Check out these steps for an effective apology!

Check out these steps for an effective apology!

And here’s the most important part – even if you don’t think it’s a big deal, your spouse isn’t going to “just get over it” with time. If feelings have been hurt, trust betrayed, or if an ongoing issue is causing tension, ignoring it is not going to make things better.

If you want your spouse to “get over it” (and you should), you have to apologize.

Now, any old apology won’t do – it has to be a heartfelt message that shows your spouse that you recognize what happened, regret it, and are making efforts not to repeat the behavior.

We break it down into these 7 Steps For An Effective Apology:

1. Figure Out What Happened

First you have to know exactly what happened. Try to look at the issue – whatever it may be – as objectively as possible. What was said? Who did what?

This isn’t the time to place blame or defend yourself. Simply try to get an accurate picture of the problem as it really is. This may mean asking your spouse’s opinion of the scenario as well – but do your best to avoid conflict here.

Let them know you are evaluating the situation so you can understand it thoroughly.

2. Figure Out Why

Once you know WHAT happened, you can get to work on understanding WHY. This is where you critically evaluate the factors that led to the problem in question. Is it a communication issue? Were you stressed about work and taking it out on your spouse? Are dissatisfied about something but haven’t found a way to bring it up? Are you feeling neglected?

The answer will be different for every situation, but by exploring the “why” of the matter, you can understand all the factors in play – and through that understanding, avoid repeating the problem.

3. Express Regret

Even if you don’t think you’re in the wrong, whatever happened still caused a problem in the marriage – and that alone should be cause for regret.

For your apology to truly work, your spouse needs to know that you sincerely regret causing them emotional distress. This part isn’t about who did what or whose fault it is – it’s about showing your spouse that you care about their happiness and emotional wellbeing.

This is particularly effective if you use “I” statements like, “I’m sorry I made you feel like you couldn’t trust me,” or “I’m sorry I wasn’t paying attention to you.”

Be direct and express your regret for the part you played in the problem.

4. Accept Responsibility

Now that you know the “why” – and have expressed regret for causing your spouse to feel upset – it’s time to fully accept responsibility for your words and actions. This isn’t the time to make excuses or deflect blame. Own your part.

Again, even if you maintain a position that you weren’t entirely in the wrong, or if your spouse was also contributing to the problems, you certainly had a part to play – and you won’t be able to move forward as a couple until you fess up to it directly, and in no uncertain terms.

5. Don’t Repeat The Problem

While we might not be able to guarantee that an issue will 100% never happen again, we can go to every effort to make sure that it doesn’t. This goes back to understanding the “what” and “why” in thorough detail.

If you know the factors that lead to a problem, then you have some warning signs to go on. Promise your spouse that you will do everything in your power to avoid the problem in the future, and take steps to change your habits and behaviors to keep this promise.

If it stays at the front of your mind, you can keep yourself in check.

6. Make Amends

In this step, you do what you can to “make it right” for your spouse. That may mean letting them vent some frustrations, it could mean seeing a counselor for anger or substance abuse, it could mean committing to spending together or helping more with household responsibilities – again, this will depend on your unique situation!

The point is to show your dedication to making things better.

7. Ask For Forgiveness

As the final portion of an effective apology, after you’ve expressed your regret, begun your new and improved behaviors, understand the “what” and “why” of the problems, and put forth the effort to make amends, NOW you can ask your spouse for forgiveness.

It may take time to reach this point, but once you do, you and your spouse have to understand that if you agree to forgiveness, you have to put the issue behind you. No more dredging it up during other arguments, no more holding grudges…

If your spouse truly agrees to forgive you, they have to stick to it! That is why these steps are so important – if you don’t take care of the “prerequisites” for forgiveness, it’s that much harder for your spouse to genuinely forgive.

Without going through these steps, they may have doubts about your commitment to improving, have doubts that you truly understand how your actions made them feel, etc.

Forgiveness is the very last part of the apology for good reason – it takes all those other pieces, each with its own importance, to get to a place where forgiveness can be genuine and lasting.

So, with all of this in mind, you can understand how “just get over it” is a totally unrealistic request. It’s going to take a lot more than that to truly move beyond a problem, but once you do, it will be well worth it. Otherwise, the pain and resentment from your problems will fester, slowly chipping away at the strength of your marriage the longer it goes unaddressed.

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, StrongMarriageNow.com

Jennifer Aniston, recently named People Magazine’s “Most Beautiful Woman” of 2016, is known for her role on the TV show Friends, roles in many hit films, and unfortunately… A very high-profile marriage and divorce with superstar Brad Pitt.

With her past marriage behind her, though, Aniston was recently remarried to actor Justin Theroux – and it seems to have given her a fresh perspective on life and love!

They only wed recently, but Jennifer told Harper’s Bazaar that she and Justin “felt married for so long.” She says that even as newlyweds, life is normal and fun, and owes much of their happiness to a good sense of humor, saying that, “laughter is one of the great keys to staying youthful.”

Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux

Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux

And that may very well be another secret of Jennifer’s – staying as youthful as possible! The now 47-year old actress is looking (and feeling) in top form these days, partly due to taking care of herself with a healthy diet and regular exercise. The other major component, though, is in her head.

“I feel better in my 40s,” she said, “Not only do you feel better in your body physically, but you’re mentally better.”

With age, she’s become more comfortable in her own skin, less self-conscious, and more aware of who she is as a person. Such mental maturity likely makes her more prepared (and more confident) to speak up about what she wants and needs in her marriage, more prepared to discuss problems when they arise, and just all around more at ease with the world.

The real lesson here is twofold.

First, taking care of your personal health will help you feeling and looking young, which plays into all kinds of important parts of marriage – from sex drive to daily energy levels, the ability to manage stress to looking and feeling attractive for your partner.

Second, Jennifer shows us that we can age gracefully, embracing the mental growth that comes with the simple experience of living longer. She notes that in your 20s, you don’t know much (despite, perhaps, thinking the opposite), in your 30s you’re trying to figure it out – and still struggling – and by the time you’re in your 40s, you really start to have a handle on how life works, who you are, and what you want from the world.

Let Jennifer be an example of how to take care of yourself physically and mentally, and use that health to make your marriage the best it can be!

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, StrongMarriageNow.com

Divorce is, to many people, a “bad” word. When news breaks that a couple is getting divorced, friends and family may just assume that someone cheated, or at the very least, a very specific, singular problem as at the heart of the breakup.

The real nature of divorces, however, is never so cut and dry. Huge problems aren’t always at the center, and couples may split up for any number of reasons… or overcome any number of obstacles (including an affair) to stay together!

This brings up two big questions – first, why do people think this way? Second, what really causes divorce?

One big reason people make such assumptions about divorce is, well, fear. If they see divorce as something that happens only as a product of infidelity (or another singular issue), then they can put all of their focus on avoiding that specific problem.

Find out what really causes divorce!

Find out what really causes divorce!

If there’s no affair, they’ll never get divorced – this, or something similar, is just delusional thinking. Marriage is far more complicated than that, but when people oversimplify these kinds of things, they can feel like less of a threat…

It may not be reasonable, but putting divorce in a narrowly defined box is a way of denying that it could happen to you. With this thinking, we tell ourselves over and over: even if things are bad, as long as we don’t do X, we won’t get divorced.

But why do divorces happen really?

The ugly truth is that divorce is the final stage of the gradual collapse of a marriage.
Marriages fail over time as the connection between a couple withers, as they drift away from each other, as they continue bad habits and neglect the important parts of maintaining a relationship. All of this happens as part of the marriage – and no matter how bad it gets, divorce is ultimately a choice.

Divorces don’t just “happen.” A couple has to throw in the towel and decide that the marriage is not worth saving.

There’s no single event that makes them happen, and they are by no means inevitable. We can always decide to break the cycles of negativity, to build better habits, to change the way we treat each other and the way we approach the marriage.

Just as divorce is a choice, so is building a strong, healthy, happy marriage!

In both cases, it’s a combination of many factors that coalesce into the overall state of the relationship – for better or worse.

Divorce is the last straw of a slowly crumbling marriage, but it’s the details that really do the damage – not spending time together, forgetting to compliment and flirt with one another, taking each other for granted, negativity, putting each other down, letting your sex life fall by the wayside… and on and on. The damage is done incrementally, maybe unnoticed, but chipping away at the quality of the marriage all along.

The actual decision to divorce comes later. The harm is often done over a long period of time, and even if a divorce is preceded by an affair, what led to the affair? These things don’t “just happen” without circumstances that develop over time.

But there’s some good news!

All of these same elements, the little things that break marriages apart over time, are exactly what can protect your marriage from divorce.

By spending time together, complimenting and flirting with each other, appreciating each other’s contributions to the household, staying positive, working together to solve problems, maintaining a healthy sex life… and so on, you can build up the strength of your marriage to make an affair less likely, to keep fights and conflict to a minimum, to drastically reduce your chances of even considering a divorce – and above all, to make your marriage happy and fulfilling!

It’s truly the little things that count – both for AND against the quality of your marriage - so be aware of how you approach your relationship over the course of each day, not just when it’s “date night” or you disagree with your spouse.

How you treat each other - and the amount of effort you put into the relationship - are the biggest factors that lead to divorce, or prevent it from happening!

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, StrongMarriageNow.com

Every year, people across the globe celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd. On this day, activists and concerned citizens spread awareness about the importance of preserving our natural environment, protecting the earth from pollution and damage, and the little things we can all do to help keep the planet in good shape!

Small efforts can have a big impact, too – especially when they become habits. Things like recycling, walking/biking instead of driving, using reusable shopping bags, being mindful of water usage, and even fitting your home with energy efficient and resource saving light bulbs, windows, etc.

Help the planet and your marriage this Earth Day!

Help the planet and your marriage this Earth Day!

Earth day is wonderful for awareness and large-scale events, but to really make a positive impact, we have to make efforts to both maintain and improve the planet in an ongoing way. We can’t just think about this stuff on Earth Day…

This is actually a pretty amazing metaphor for maintaining a marriage as well!

Just think about it – we can “recycle” our happy memories to remind ourselves why we first fell in love (and why it’s worth it to stay connected), we can “plant” beautiful new experiences by getting out and enjoying life together, and just like the small efforts we can make around the house to reduce our carbon footprints, we can build small habits that keep our marriages healthy and happy over the course of each year.

Giving each other compliments, spending quality time together (away from distractions), making sure to hug, kiss, and otherwise engage in regular physical contact, communicating honestly and openly, and simply making the effort to keep your marriage a daily priority – all of these are practices you can develop to “insulate” your marriage against growing apart or unnecessary conflict.

And like Earth Day, we have holidays, anniversaries, or birthdays that give us extra reasons to celebrate or remind us of the importance of connecting to our spouses, but to really make a difference, it takes a little bit of effort every day!

This planet is our home, and it’s the only one we’ve got. Taking good care of it ensures our long-term happiness (not to mention survival). Your marriage has some parallels. It IS a defining part of your life, and taking care of it is the only way to make sure it survives and thrives!

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

Fall Back In Love, Watch This Entire Video Today

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

In the wake of his death at the beginning of this year, the inimitable David Bowie has left behind a legacy of incredible music, films, and the larger-than-life, fearless personality that fans came to know and love. But for all of his work as a singer, songwriter, record producer, actor, fashionista, and so on, he also managed to maintain a happy marriage to supermodel Iman for more than 24 years.

Where so many others in the spotlight of fame have rocky, highly publicized relationships that fall apart in full view of the cameras, David and Iman – both superstars – managed to stay together through ups and downs, big changes in their respective careers, parenthood, and of course, the watchful eye of the media!

What was their secret?

David Bowie and his spouse, Iman.

David Bowie and his spouse, Iman.

In a recent interview with Oprah, Iman opened up about what helped keep their marriage on track over the years, and it stems – first and foremost – from an approach that may seem uncharacteristic of the stylish couple…

“We both understood the difference between person and persona. When we are home, we are just Iman and David. We’re not anybody else.” Iman said – and this is a HUGE lesson we can all take something away from. While their public lives may have been very glamorous, they made a point to check their egos and “personas” at the door - and just be themselves.

Even for those of us that aren’t celebrities, this is a reminder that we don’t need to put on a show or be anyone but our authentic selves. We can leave or jobs, our stresses, any posturing or “character” you might play throughout the day, any “persona” you’ve adopted… We can leave it all behind when we get home, and just be ourselves with our spouses. That’s where true connection comes from.

Additionally, Iman spoke to Oprah about priorities, saying that, “You have to be at the right time in your life that you’re ready for an ever-lasting relationship, that it becomes first, a priority in your life.”

They understood that, even with extremely busy careers, a child, traveling the world, and so on, that if they wanted their relationship to last, they had to put time and effort into it – and the same is true for you. It simply has to be a priority if it’s going to stand the test of time.

Even a legendary entertainer like David Bowie, a man of many talents and seemingly unlimited “cool,” had to put the same time and energy into maintaining his marriage as any of us do, and just like the rest of us, he had to keep his sense of “persona” in check to be vulnerable and open enough to built a meaningful connection with his wife.

Let this be a lesson that you can do the same!

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, StrongMarriageNow.com

Let’s face a simple truth: men and women often have very different communication styles. From the words they choose to the details they find most important, the inflection they choose to the sheer amount of words spoken – there’s a divide between the sexes that, well, most of us are probably painfully aware of.

…And because of this problem, many women complain that they don’t have meaningful conversations with their husbands (or at least fewer than they would like). This feels like a lack of good communication, of course, which can leave spouses feeling disconnected and worrying about the state of the marriage.

Now, before we get too far into this, it’s important to note that these are broadly stated, common behaviors that many women engage in. Every person is different, and so is every marriage. Take these tips in stride (and not too personally), and use this information to improve your marriage.

So, with that said – here are a few of the key reasons your husband is so close-mouthed:

1. You’re Too Stuck On Your Own Point

A conversation is supposed to be a two-way street, but many women have a bad habit – especially in contentious conversations – of getting so focused on their point, their point of view, that they steamroll their husband’s attempts to share “his side” or contribute his opinions.

There are some specific reasons your husband isn't talking to you.

There are some specific reasons your husband isn't talking to you.

It may be because they think that if their husband’s are talking, they won’t get their point across. Or worse, they’ll leap at a tiny piece of what he has to say, and jump right in with their take before he’s gotten a chance to finish. This, coupled with a need to “always be right,” makes for some pretty unpleasant and unfulfilling dialogue.

For many men, this kind of behavior just makes them shut down. If you’re only focused on your thoughts, your solution, your opinion – and ignoring his – eventually he’ll just stop sharing it with you… And just do things his way anyway.

It’s not really about who’s right or who’s wrong - it’s about having the patience and compassion to truly listen to what he has to say before leaping in with your own thoughts, as well as recognizing that “your way” is not synonymous with “the only way.”

2. You Don’t Know What To Talk About

This goes back to some very basic differences between men and women. We aren’t all going to share the same interests, or even be interested in the same details of a given situation.

When it’s not about solving an issue or something SHE is interested in, plenty of wives simply don’t know how to engage their husbands – or when they try to, they don’t talk about things that interest him, or know how to respond when he talks about the things he likes.

To help overcome this, you can take two “tactics” into account. First – practice! Talk about music or movies, ask him questions, tell each other childhood stories, just get used to chitchatting when you don’t have a particular point to make or problem to solve. Pay attention to pacing and rhythm and give him ample time to speak.

This will help you get used to a healthier dynamic of conversation.

Second, take an active interest in his hobbies and passions! The more you know about what he’s into, the more you can engage with him about it (and actually know what he’s talking about if you get him going on a subject).

This goes both ways, of course, but men are more likely to just keep their mouths shut if you don’t seem interested or engaged by what they have to say. The more you can get to know their interests, the more likely they will be to share with you!

3. You Don’t Listen

So many of us, male or female, are guilty of this – and it has a way of stopping a good conversation dead in its tracks. Instead of truly listening, focusing our attention on the other person with the intent to understand and absorb what they have to say, we just sort of wait for our turn to respond.

It’s a bad habit, and many of don’t even know we’re doing it. We’ll be listening, but as our minds wander, as something said triggers a thought or memory, we stop listening attentively and start getting lost in our own heads. Then, as there’s a break in the conversation, we can’t help but “respond” with what we were just thinking about.

From the other person’s perspective, though, you’ve derailed the conversation. They were trying to share something with you, and instead of responding with concern for what they had to say, you hijacked the discussion with your own thoughts and intentions. This is not listening.

It feels demoralizing to make the effort to share something, and be responded to with something largely unrelated. Similarly, if your husband is trying to share some concern of his, and you respond with something focused on you (instead of on HIM, where the conversation started), it makes him feel unimportant.

Practice active listening. Try to quiet some of your own thoughts or desire to interject. Above all, try to stay on topic if he’s willing to open up to you.

4. You Talk Too Much

This one is going to be hard for many women to hear… but it’s likely true – and it’s not your fault! On average, women say nearly twice as many words as men in a given day. It’s a simple difference in communication styles. This isn’t to say that you talk too much all the time – but it can have a negative impact on your marriage.

If your husband feels like he can’t get a word in edgewise, if the time you do spent talking to each other is about your issues, your day, your friends, your interests, your ideas… He may very well be “talked out” by the time you get around to asking about his day!

This also manifests itself in social situations where, for example, someone asks your husband about a given topic that you also know about, and you dive right in – offering your opinion AND your version of his opinion, what’s going on his life, etc.

Like some of the points above, this might just cause your husband to shut down. If he never gets a chance to speak, why should he even try?

You don’t have to hold your tongue all the time, but maybe it’s a good idea to be aware of how much of the “conversational space” you’re taking up, and if your tromping all over your husbands attempts to be part of the conversation (with you or when you’re both in a group).

Again, don’t take these recommendations too personally! Instead, remember that the point is to improve communication with your husband, do your best to look at your own behaviors objectively, and do what you can to help get him to open up and talk to you more!

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, StrongMarriageNow.com

State of mind is important. We’ve covered time and time again that we are each responsible for our own moods, that the attitude we put out to others is likely the kind of attitude we’re going to receive, that simply how we think about the world affects how interact with it…

What about expectation? In a way, it’s related – it’s a state of mind that helps inform how we see and deal with everyone and everything around us…

But can expectations hurt us too?

According to a recent study from Florida State University – they just might! In looking at a 135 sets of newlyweds over the course of 4 years, the people conducting the study, led by professor James McNulty, found some interesting results.

The asked the basic question: do high expectations of marriage quality actually help or hurt marriages? By asking participating couples questions through a series of surveys over the course of the study, a fairly surprising trend emerged…

Unrealistic expectations can really hurt your marriage!

Unrealistic expectations can really hurt your marriage!

For couples that communicated openly and directly, who were less likely to participate in destructive behavior, and who – as a couple – were quick to address what was upsetting them about the relationship, high expectations were associated with marital satisfaction.

These couples reported that they were more likely to see high expectations as a reason to rise to the challenge, to put forth the extra effort to turn those expectations into reality.

Now, on the other end of the spectrum, the results of the study are a little disturbing…

For couples more likely to engage in destructive behavior, to approach problems with indirect hostility, to avoid communicating openly about problems or leave issues unsaid, high expectations had the opposite effect.

For these types of couples, high expectations were unrealistic, and instead of inspiring increased motivation or commitment, they instead made people feel hopeless and disappointed in their marriages.

These couples held unrealistically high expectations, but didn’t employ the behaviors required for meeting them – that is, open and honest communication, dedication to the relationship, making time for one another, etc. – and it becomes a cycle. Their marriages are already troubled, and the high expectations don’t match their reality – which makes them further disappointed, makes a happy marriage seem even further away, and leads to even more stress, arguing, and other problems (with which they aren’t likely to deal with in a healthy way).

So, what can couples do with this information?

First, this is a reminder to take a good look at how you and your spouse deal with problems when they arise – are you like the first type of couple, or the second? Do you deal with issues head on, or have a hard time communicating directly?

You can take action in a couple of different ways. If you recognize that you’re the “second type” of couple, then you know what you need to work on! If these are the couples more often facing problems – as well as the negative effects of unrealistic expectations – then it only makes sense that working together to improve the way you handle conflict will have long-term benefits for your marriage.

The other lesson here is one of balance. Every couple is different, of course, and the experiences of the people in the study might not fit you and your spouse exactly. So, perhaps the best takeaway is to split the difference…

Understand that overly high expectations (coupled with inaction) are a path to disappointment, and that realistic goals for improvement can serve as inspiration and an invitation to “rise to the challenge.”

Ultimately, it’s about aligning your expectations with the realities of your relationship. If you look too far, you’ll feel disappointed and overwhelmed, but if you look to attainable goals and realistic expectations for you marriage, you can be constantly improving – and as you do, you can continue to raise the bar higher and higher!

You can create the marriage you’ve always wanted, but it won’t happen without your effort. Keep your eyes on realistic goals and move toward them each and every day!

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, StrongMarriageNow.com

Many marital problems stem from one member of the couple “checking out” of the relationship. This is sometimes referred to as “falling out of love,” and it can go unnoticed or unaddressed all too easily.

It may be related to specific issues within the marriage, but it can also be a byproduct of not putting the time and energy into maintaining the health of the relationship. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of growing apart gradually over time.

The good news is that this problem can be resolved through quality time spent together, open communication, and a commitment to making the marriage the best it can be.

Here are five warning signs that you and your spouse have “fallen out of love” – and big red flags that say it’s time to reevaluate the state of the marriage, make some changes, and begin the process of rebuilding the relationship you already have.

1. They’re Critical of Friends and Family

While your spouse might not have a perfect relationship with your friends, your siblings, your parents, etc. – that doesn’t mean they should leap at the opportunity to badmouth them at every turn.

Here are some signs that your spouse is no longer in love with you.

Here are some signs that your spouse is no longer in love with you.

If nothing else, it shows a lack of concern for your feelings, and may be masked criticism of you. If your spouse seems unnecessarily critical of your friends and family, it’s worth asking them why they feel so negatively – and digging deep to find out if they may be using “your people” as a scapegoat for negative feelings about you.

If it never gets addressed, it can’t be solved.

2. Lack of Sexual Interest

One of the most telltale signs of a checked out member of the marriage is disappearing sexual enthusiasm. For a married couple, sex is a way of sharing intimacy and vulnerability, and connecting on both a physical and emotional level.

It’s something of a cycle though – having an active sex life helps couples stay attracted to each other physically and emotionally, and being attracted to each other leads to a better, more fulfilling sex life…

So when it starts to unravel – for whatever reason – it also compounds on itself. The less sex you’re having, the less you want to… and the further apart you grow.

This is a great big red flag. If your sex life is all but absent, talk to your spouse about why!

There are plenty of potential factors here (from health to personal issues and beyond), but if you don’t ask, you’ll never get to the bottom of it – and that could mean a nonexistent sex life, and ultimately, a nonexistent physical connection to one another.

3. You Spend Time With You, But Not With You

If you’re spending time in the same room, but not interacting… Sharing a home but barely acknowledging each other… Sitting side by side but lost in your phones or the computer…

You’re not spending time together at all. In many cases, this can be an indicator of unspoken problems. Your spouse could be using entertainment or social media as an escape – something they can do to avoid addressing their feelings or the problems they have with the relationship.

It may also be a way of mitigating boredom in the relationship without bringing it up. Talk to them about it!

A good approach is to also plan fun and exciting things your spouse will likely enjoy. This is a great first step to breaking them out of their habits and reengaging in the time you spend as a couple.

4. You Go To Bed At Different Times

Now, if you have particular work responsibilities or drastically different schedules, don’t read too far into this one – but if you’re both home in the evenings and still heading to bed separately, it could be a sign that one of you is checking out.

It’s a way of avoiding intimacy sometimes – saying things like, “you go on to bed, I’ll be in a little later” disrupts any ritual of snuggling up to fall asleep together, an evening recap of the day, and so on.

Like many of the other entries in this list, it could be a sign that there are larger problems going on beneath the surface.

5. They Never Include You In Weekend or After-Work Plans

Much like going to bed separately, avoiding sex, or being distracted by TV or smartphones, this is a sign that your spouse isn’t actively interested in spending time with you – and that may be a byproduct of being checked out of the relationship, or some underlying problems they haven’t been willing (or able) to bring up.

Spending time apart with friends or cultivating hobbies is just fine – in fact, it’s healthy for you to each have your own lives and identities. However, too much of this becomes the same problem of avoidance and disconnection we’ve mentioned above.

Your spouse might not even be aware that they’re doing it, so approach the topic gently. Don’t just accuse them of avoiding you. Find out what they’re doing and why it feels important to them to do it. Listen calmly and explain that you’re feeling neglected. You don’t have to get your spouse to give up their hobby or time with friends – just ask that they make some time for you too!

Unfortunately, gradual disconnection harms as many (or more) marriages as big fights, infidelity, or other humongous issues. The difference is that many couples don’t notice while it’s happening, and only realize the state of disrepair when they’ve already fallen into it.

If these warning signs hit home, don’t wait to deal with them! Don’t wait for them to get worse. These issues ARE solvable if you’re willing to face them head on, speak openly and honestly to one another, and put in the effort to reconnect.

You can do it!

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

Fall Back In Love, Watch This Entire Video Today

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

For all of the movies out there, from fantasy to action, buddy comedies to crime thrillers, there just aren’t too many feature films about marriage!

Or, when there are, it’s drama related to affairs, some unrealistic, star-crossed story that usually involves some love triangle or the main character’s true love showing up at the altar just in the nick of time…

But most movies don’t ever deal with some of the realities of marriage – even exaggerated for the silver screen. An exception though, is the recently released My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 – and because of it’s overall message (and hilarity), it makes a great movie for date night!

The flick deals with struggles that many couples face – grown children, in-laws, nosy family members, and maybe the biggest struggle of all, finding the time and privacy to keep the intimate side of your relationship alive and well!

This movie will help you laugh off some of the stresses you might be facing – and probably feel relieved that they aren’t as intense as the ones on screen! You’ll get a good laugh, and hopefully come away feeling connected with a new view of affectionate and fulfilling your marriage can be!

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is currently showing in theaters around the country. Check out the trailer below!

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, StrongMarriageNow.com

Coming into an existing family dynamic can be extremely tough – as you surely know if you’ve gone through it. Becoming a step-parent, or having your spouse become the step-parent of your children, isn’t as simple as just getting married – it takes time and effort to develop a relationship with your spouse’s kids, and vice-versa.

In fact, developing a solid relationship with stepchildren is critical to the success and strength of your marriage. Parents are obviously going to feel a strong bond with their biological children, and if those kids and a new step-parent aren’t able to get along, it’s going to be an ongoing point of stress for that spouse/parent “stuck in the middle.”

It’s also important, especially if the kids are young, that both parent and step-parent can be seen as respected authority figures of some kind, able to effectively offer both support and discipline.

The end goal is to develop a relationship that at least resembles that of a biological parent. You’re not out to replace anyone, but building a strong relationship with your spouse’s children (or, in turn, helping your children and spouse develop a relationship with one another) is going to have a long-term impact on the dynamic of your marriage.

Protect Your Marriage by Becoming a Good Step-Parent.

Protect Your Marriage by Becoming a Good Step-Parent.

So… How do you do it?

Every family is going to be a little bit different, but here are a few key points for becoming a good step-parent – and strengthening your marriage in the process:

1. Time

First and foremost, understand that this is going to take time. This means that you’re in it for the long haul (as you should be), and that you can’t expect overnight transformations.

You can think about the growing relationship in stages to help you better understand the kind of “authority” you have:

1. Babysitter – Early in the marriage, you’re more like a babysitter than a step- parent. Just like someone you’d hire, your only real “authority” is that given by the kids’ biological parent. You’re in charge – but it’s only while mom or dad is away.

2. Aunt/Uncle – As time goes on, you’ll get to know the kids better (and they’ll know you as well). Once you’ve really started to develop a rapport, you move into a role similar to an aunt or uncle – where there’s a bond that feels familial, but definitely isn’t the same as the parent-child connection.

This role carries some innate authority and is built on a real relationship – not just temporary “power” like that bestowed on a babysitter.

There may still be some resistance from the kids, or some hesitation on the part of the step-parent, but this is progress!

3. Parent/Step-Parent – It’s only after time and experience has passed that you’ll transition from that “aunt/uncle” role into a step-parent. You might not even be able to mark the moment of change, but once it happens, you’ll know!

The difference is authority simply because of the nature of your relationship to the child. You’ve been around long enough. You’ve proven yourself trustworthy. You’ve shared enough scenarios in the previous two roles to become a regular, ongoing part of the children’s lives.

2. Trust

To become a good step-parent, the kids need to trust you. For that to happen, you need to be an active part of their lives!

Now, don’t overdo it in the beginning, because as we all know, small children can be finicky, and if you press them too hard about being buddy-buddy… They may just recoil. A big part of building this connection is simply being there! If they engage you, talk to them!

You have to remember that you’re the “new” person for them, and they may be skeptical. You can be warm and friendly, but it’s usually not a good idea to jump directly into parenting in a disciplinary or authoritative way.

Like the stages mentioned above, trust takes time and ongoing interaction to develop. Be kind and present, and the relationship will grow.

3. Empathize With The Kids

One factor many new step-parents overlook is how hard the whole scenario is on the kids. They may have lost a parent, been through a divorce, changed schools, or any number of situations that can accompany (or be a precursor to) their parent getting married/remarried.

With this in mind, understand that you, as the “new” person, might have to deal with resentment, mistrust, or just projected feelings of disruption and frustration. Kids suffer heavy emotional stress as the family dynamic changes, and you owe it to them to be sensitive to this difficult transition.

Leave it up to them whether or not they want to talk about it directly – and if they do, don’t shy away! Let them know how much you love their parent and how important it is to build a family. Let them know that you’re there for them if they need you, but don’t force your “help” upon them.

Again, this is a very difficult transition for them as well (probably even more than it is for you). Don’t lose sight of their struggle if you’re feeling frustrated with how the blended family is coming together.

4. Focus On The Marriage

One of the best things you can do for the kids is to have a happy, healthy, strong marriage full of love and trust. The stability this creates at home (as well as the lessons it teaches them about how to interact with people respectfully and affectionately) is truly invaluable.

The unfortunate reality is that when problems arise, blended families tend to split along biological lines. People often “take the side” of their blood relative first, and this can get messy with step-kids – especially if you BOTH are now a biological parent and a step-parent.

And because this can be a stressful time for the kids, they are going to demand a good amount of parental attention – but don’t let this keep you apart! Of course give the kids the attention and support they need, but also make time for each other.

It might seem like a lot to juggle, but with the right attitude, it’s all just a natural part of the day to day!

Think about how important the family unit is for everyone involved, and spend the effort to make it the best it can be – whether that’s connecting with your new step-kids, helping your own children get comfortable with their new step-parent, or making sure that your marriage stays strong throughout the process… It all counts!

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, StrongMarriageNow.com