Marriage problem #1: How can I get my husband to appreciate me more?
It’s easy to stop appreciating each other and focus on our irritations instead. But appreciation is energising and powerful. When we feel appreciated, we’re more likely to appreciate other people. But someone has to take the initiative . . . and it may as well be you. If you want to change someone’s behaviour, appreciating what they are doing well is far more effective than nagging them when they make a mistake. Another unexpected side effect of appreciating other people is that you are less likely to argue with people who appreciate you.
Make a list of 30 things you appreciate about your partner. Keep going, even if it’s challenging. Then find creative ways to express your appreciation. Pop a note in their lunchbox, appreciating how hard they work to support the family financially. Stick a note on their steering wheel, thanking them for looking after the car. Write a quick message on a treat and hide it in their bag, drawer or pocket.
It’s also useful for the parent who’s most away from home during the day to spend a day at home occasionally, while the other parent has a day off. During this day, they need to care for the children, do a load of washing, make dinner and aim to have a tidy home by 6 pm. Stepping into the other person’s shoes can help them to appreciate the challenge of managing a busy home filled with children.
Try having a daily or weekly appreciation time in your family where each person thanks everyone else for something they’ve done during the week. Starting a tradition of appreciation can help to change the atmosphere in the whole family.
Marriage problem #2: I still love my husband deeply, but I just can’t find the interest or energy to be intimate.
Being a mum is like being a vending machine. All day long we’re churning out hugs, meals, wet wipes, mini life lessons, Band-Aids, clean clothes, kisses, stories, energy, compassion, sunscreen and bubble baths. We have to keep on giving just to get through the day. But often there’s very little being put back into the machine and we soon find ourselves running on empty.
Resentment is one of the biggest barriers to healthy intimacy. Mums are resentful because they are struggling to juggle so many things alone, and dads are often resentful because the children’s needs seem to be more important than theirs. Harry Benson, author of What Mums Want (and Dads Need to Know), has discovered that the secret to protecting your marriage during the “baby years” is for dads to be as kind as possible to the mums, to help them, to listen to their needs and meet them, and to do a healthy share of the parenting and household tasks together. Kindness, understanding and support warm a mum’s hearts like nothing else, and they can be far more seductive than flowers and chocolate.
When dads are being as kind and supportive as possible, mums are much more likely to feel close and sexually responsive. And the more available she becomes sexually, the more he wants to be kind. But the kindness circle needs to start with dad.
Marriage problem #3: My husband and I have become so focused on our children that we’ve forgotten who we are!
Managing children’s needs, behaviours and routines can completely take over your life. It’s important to protect your relationship as a couple, too, because when you’re happy together, it makes a huge difference to your children’s behaviour.
Learning together is vital. Read a good book about parenting or look for a local parenting course you can attend together. When you’re both on the same page about the needs of your children, supporting them emotionally, showing them love and responding consistently to their behaviour, you’ll save hours of time negotiating the best way to respond, or arguing about your different parenting approaches.
Try the 10:60 experiment. Dr Peter Fraenkl is a relationship counsellor in New York, USA, and many of his clients are super busy. But he noticed if they had 10 60-second intentional and caring encounters throughout the day, they were able to stay close even when things were crazy.
Marriage problem #4: We’ve been married for more than 10 years now, and our marriage is stagnating.
It’s normal for relationships to become stuck and boring from time to time. Suddenly we wake up and feel a million miles away from our partner, even though we’re in the same bed.
Find ways to reconnect again and learn how to have a stronger marriage. If it’s hard to get away for a marriage retreat, invite some other friends in the same life stage as you to share pizza and watch a good video marriage series. These series usually come with useful discussion questions. Or try out the Toucan Together app (toucantogether.com), filled with short videos, fun quizzes and great tips.
Take a couple check-up at couplecheckup.com. You can do this online for less than the cost of a counselling session and receive instant feedback on your relationship, useful topics to discuss and ideas for growing closer again.
Always have something on the calendar that you’re both looking forward to. Check out hundreds of low-cost ideas, complete with fun printables, on thedatingdivas.com. You can download a year of dates, put them all into a big folder or print off discussion cards to kickstart your relationship.
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