A week ago I asked all of you on instagram what things you struggle with most in your marriage/relationships. I had such great feedback from all of you and I started to notice a common theme. You all wanted to know how to overcome certain issues and become more intimate. OBVI. Now, I’m not a marriage counselor or an expert by any means. However, I did study family and relationships in college, and after 7 years of marriage, my husband and I have learned a lot about making our relationship stronger over time. These are principles that have helped us, and I want to help you improve your relationships, too! Let’s get to it!!! Here are some examples of the questions that were sent to me:
How can I let go of the everyday annoyances and quirks?
How do I stay content when there are disappointments?
How do I handle addictions, such as pornography?
How to decide how we discipline children?
How do we make time for date nights and sexual intimacy?
How do we overcome disagreements?
How do we decide when to start or stop having children?
And so on…
Now, I want to validate you and let you know that we have asked ourselves questions just like these! Anyone in a relationship has had to overcome annoyances, disagreements, and interferences! No matter how perfect a relationship may seem, we all have bad days. We lose our temper at times, we say things we don’t mean, and we forget to make our relationship a priority. It happens!! You can overcome it and strengthen your relationship by learning a few important skills.
QUICK REMINDER: Abuse of any kind is not okay. Physical, verbal, or sexual. A lot can be overcome, but when it involves your safety and/or the safety of your children, you need to get out.
Okay. Are you ready for the one thing that can help solve all of these issues? I don’t know if you’re ready. Alright, here it is.
- POSITIVE COMMUNICATION -
You probably feel like you’ve been duped, but wait! Let me teach you HOW to have positive communication in your relationships to overcome these issues. As a preface, when Matthew and I were dating we started off on a base of honesty. We both knew a lot about the personal struggles and past of the other person. Those were openly communicated and talked about before we made the commitment to spend our lives, and eternity, together. We knew it would take time, work, and healing to overcome them, and we were ready to take them on together. The continuation of that honesty has played a huge role in our success as a couple. Here are some key skills we’ve acquired that have allowed us to continue to fortify our relationship.
Having a steady state of vulnerability can be the hardest part of any relationship, but if you want to have trust in your relationship it’s something you both need to give. It takes a lot of courage at times, I know. Still, it’s an essential part of positive communication! Open up and be honest with each other! Being vulnerable about your feelings and struggles will allow the other person to feel validated and more safe to share themselves. Plus, this will give you both an opportunity to serve and help one another.
USE “I” STATEMENTS
This is one that we still need to work at, but it’s so important when addressing annoyances, disagreements, and hurt feelings. If you use you statements when working through issues, it sounds like blame and initiates defensiveness in the other person. When you use I statements it allows the other person to understand how their actions made you feel and how they can try to improve. Here’s an example using both statements concerning a small issue. For these examples we’ll say that someone agreed to clean up a certain area of the house, and they didn’t.
You Statement: “Seriously? You didn’t clean up that area like I asked! You never follow through with your promises. I have to do everything around here!.” (dramatic I know, but all too familiar.)
I Statement: “I feel upset when I come home and see that area is messy because it seems like my ask for help was not a priority to you. I would like it if you could make it a priority to help me when asked in the future.” (feel the difference?)
It may seem like a no brainer, right?
Even starting with an “I feel” can turn into a “you keep forgetting to do the dishes” Or something different altogether, like my personal signature, “Someone hasn’t been doing _______ like they said they would.”
I am the queen of guilt trips and saying things are okay when I really feel otherwise. I’m also really skilled at the silent treatment. Not knowing how to properly structure my feelings to express them is what usually stops me from doing just that. Looking up the I Statement format always helps me remember how to say what I really feel and tell my husband what I’d like him to do. Instead of just getting upset, not telling him what’s wrong, and expecting him to understand why/how to fix it. That’s why I created this “I” statement worksheet for you guys! Print it out, or print 4, and write out something you’d like to communicate positively! It can be used in all relationships, (at work, at school, with your kids, extended family members, etc;) not just the super intimate ones!
TALK TALK TALK
When in doubt, talk it out. Now that we know how to properly express our feelings, it’s time to practice it! If you have something bugging you or a concern on your mind, tell them you need time to talk to them about it. We often say things like, “Remind me to tell you something that’s been on my mind when I get home” or “Can I tell you something personal once the kids go to bed?” Make your time to talk a priority. Both participants need to be willing to make communicating positively a consistent effort. If this is a struggle for you, you may need to actually schedule it into your day. Turn off the TV, put your phones in a box, go to a place where there’s less distractions and talk for at least 15-30 minutes every single day. The more you talk the easier it is to be vulnerable and communicate your feelings in a positive way.
Okay, now let’s give more DIRECT answers to your questions:
Q: How can I let go of the everyday annoyances and quirks?
A: Tell them in a positive way how those things make you feel.
Example: I feel annoyed when you leave your clothes laying on the floor because it makes it hard for me to focus when the room is a mess in the morning. I would appreciate it if you could put them away in the hamper or closet instead.
Q: How do I stay content when there are disappointments?
A: Make sure to voice your disappointments to your significant other so they know how you feel and can try to improve.
Example: I feel disappointed when you break your promises to me because it seems like I’m not very important to you. I would like it if you would keep your promises from now on. (broad example, but hopefully you get the idea!)
Q: How do I handle addictions, such as pornography?
A: This one is so hard because it’s the addiction that causes all of the issues. Talking about the addiction openly and working through it is the only way to overcome it! There are addiction recovery programs and support groups that are great for both partners to attend! Counseling and therapy are also a great way to talk about these issues and get additional help. Pornography specifically is scientifically proven to have damaging effects on intimacy because of the chemical disconnect it causes in the brain. Again, this is a deeper issue that can’t necessarily be solved by communication only. There are feelings of betrayal and broken trust. If not approached in a positive way it can make things worse. Here are a few examples to help move things towards a positive direction.
Example as addict: (after opening up about addiction) I feel frustrated when I give in to my addiction because I know it’s wrong and I forget how it might affect those around me. I would hope you can come to forgive me and be patient with me as we start learning how to help me overcome it.
Example as partner of addict: I feel deeply hurt when your addiction grabs a hold of you because it makes me feel like I’m not good enough and you’re not happy with our life together. I would like it if the next time you feel the need to turn to your addiction, you’ll come talk to me instead.
Q: How to decide how we discipline children?
A: This is such a personal thing. I feel like most problems occur when disciplinary styles don’t match up. Read more about parenting styles here. What matters most when it comes to discipline is that both parents are on the same page. Talk about your children’s needs and how you want to discipline that when situations arise. This will allow you to handle it as a united front, and that consistency will help them learn to improve their choices and behaviors. “I” statements are a great way to communicate with your kids when disciplining.
Example: I feel upset when you use that language while talking to me because it seems like you don’t respect and love me. I would like it if you could think about how it would feel to have someone talk to you that way.
Q; How do we make time for date nights and sexual intimacy?
A: Date Nights: Since taking my marriage class in college, I have learned that continuing to date and get to know each other as you age together is key. We change as we grow into adulthood, once we have kids, we change jobs, move to a new city, or gain new friends. The best way to get to know the person your partner is becoming is to date them! You guessed it, have a conversation!!! Learn about the things they’re interested in, what new things they want to try, what happens in their daily life, etc; Show up for them in their lives and be a part of the process! Find things to enjoy together that will keep you grounded and connected as a couple.
Sexual Intimacy: Same thing as dating. Make it a priority! Try new things together. Experiment together. Tell your partner when your in the mood! If the mood is the problem you may need to have a Sexy Month. If you’ve read, Girl, Wash Your Face then you know what I’m talking about. Rachel Hollis talks about doing a Sexy September (or whatever month you want) and scheduling to have sexy time every day of the month. It seems like a lot, I know. But surprisingly, having lots of sex makes you want it more. Plus, the skills of both parties improve. Practice makes perfect! You just have to make the time for it!
Q: How do we overcome disagreements?
A: TALK ABOUT IT. Say how you feel in a positive way. Beating a dead horse now, I know. Haha!
Here’s an example: I feel sad when we disagree over ______ because it’s important to me that we are on the same page. I would like it if we could brainstorm how to overcome this disagreement or come to a compromise.
Q: How do we decide when to start or stop having children?
A: Again this is such a personal decision between you and your spouse/SO. Make sure you voice your feelings using an I statement. If your partner isn’t ready, then it’s out of your control! The more you talk about it in a positive way without blame, the more likely they are to open up and come around to the idea. A lot of deeper fears are involved when it comes to the decision of how many children you want to bring into the world. Be patient with them, and keep the conversation open so they can come to you when they’re ready!
Example: I feel frustrated when you tell me you’re not ready to have kids because I want nothing more than to start a family with you. I would like it if you could think about it, let me know any concerns you may have and tell me when you’re ready.
That’s a wrap my friends! I hope you found this helpful and gained some insight as to how to handle the inevitable bumps on the road of your relationships. If you have any other questions you’d like answered, leave them in the comments and my husband and I will do our best to address them! Lots of love from us to all of you!