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10 Romantic Fall Dates To Enjoy With Your Spouse

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10 Romantic Fall Dates To Enjoy With Your Spouse

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Fall is a beautiful and exciting time of year, with changing leaves, football season in full swing, and holidays right around the corner. Take advantage of the cooler weather and the wide variety of seasonal activities to go on some creative and romantic dates with your spouse.

There are plenty of ways to fully enjoy the autumn, so we’ve created a list of 10 ideas to get you started. Have fun!

1. GO ON A COFFEE DATE

There’s never a wrong time to get coffee, but there’s something about fall that makes a hot drink seem more appealing. Cooler temperatures are a great excuse to have a date at your favorite coffee shop—and fall is pumpkin spice season, which makes it extra special.

2. HAVE A BONFIRE AND MAKE S’MORES

There’s something romantic about snuggling in front of the bonfire in the chilly night air, roasting marshmallows and making s’mores. If either of you (or both!) plays an instrument, like guitar, banjo, or mandolin, bring it to the fireside and liven things up with a little music.

3. GO TO A FOOTBALL GAME

High school and college football games are always a blast. You and your spouse could plan a trip to your respective alma maters’ homecoming festivities and share memories from your college days. Even better, relive your own memories together if you both attended the same school.

4. GO ON A HIKE

A hike is a great way to see the gorgeous fall foliage in all its glory. Choose your favorite scenic trail and spend the day talking, taking pictures, and enjoying each other’s company. Take a picnic with you and savor the day together…and the view.

5. CAMP OUT

Fall weather is perfect for camping, so pick a favorite campground or state park and pack up for the weekend. You can unplug and spend time together fishing, biking, hiking, and rejuvenating in nature. If you’d rather have a staycation, pitch a tent in your backyard and spend the night under the stars.

6. BAKE A PIE TOGETHER

Autumn is definitely pie season! Apple pies, pumpkin pies, and sweet potato pies are all seasonal favorites, so pick your favorite to bake together and make an afternoon of it. When it’s done, make some apple cider or hot chocolate to wash it down.

7. PLAY IN THE LEAVES

Not much connects you to your inner child during fall quite like raking up a huge pile of leaves, then diving into them. Make your autumn yard clean-up a little more interesting this year by playing together while you work.

8. GO TO THE PUMPKIN PATCH

Take a day trip to the pumpkin patch to pick out your pumpkins for this year’s porch decorations. While you’re at it, take a hayride and play with the baby animals on the farm.

9. GET COZY BY THE FIRE

Chilly nights are the perfect excuse to put on some fuzzy socks, grab a comfy blanket, and snuggle up together by a roaring fire. Put on some relaxing music or watch your favorite scary movie (or fun, if you don’t like scary!) with your sweetie, and enjoy a date night in.

10. ATTEND A CARNIVAL OR FALL FESTIVAL

Fall festivals are a ton of fun, and the perfect setting for a date night. Get in on the cake walk, grab a candy apple or some cotton candy, play horseshoes or ring toss, and ride the rides like you’re a couple of kids again.

 

If you would like help with your relationship, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Sexual Frequency in Marriage: 3 Common Questions

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Sexual Frequency in Marriage: 3 Common Questions

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

At some point in every couple’s marriage—often in the early years—the question of sexual frequency comes up. They might find themselves wondering how often they “should” be having sex, how to agree on frequency, or whether they’re normal.

Today, we’re tackling three common questions about sexual frequency, and what you and your spouse can do to ensure the highest level of satisfaction and fulfillment for your marriage.

MY SPOUSE AND I HAVE VERY DIFFERENT SEXUAL NEEDS. HOW DO WE GET ON THE SAME PAGE?

Finding a healthy compromise between two different sex drives is a delicate, difficult subject for many couples. How do both of you meet each other’s needs and still get your needs met when the two of you are on such different pages?

Getting on the same page about sex requires give and take, and a generous spirit from both of you. It’s easy to fall into a rut of thinking, “I guess this is just the way it is; there’s nothing we can do about it.” There is absolutely something you can do for a more fulfilling sex life: start an ongoing dialogue about what you need from each other.

Don’t just have one conversation about sex and abandon the subject. Keep talking about it as often as you need to in order to meet each other’s needs, and get your own met. Neglecting this critical conversation can lead to one or both of you developing unhealthy sexual behaviors and attitudes surrounding sex.

We know of at least one couple that has a weekly sex talk to check in on their love life. They ask each other questions like, “Where are you at this week? What can we do to make sure sex is the best it can be?”

When you set aside time to talk about this, remember you’re both doing your best. You both have needs that may or may not be getting met at any given time, but it’s important not to make one another feel guilty about how things are going in your love life. This topic is already loaded and heavy; be careful not to add any unnecessary heaviness to the conversation.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet or particular solution that settles this issue, but if you keep that open dialogue, you’re much more likely to find fulfillment together. Simply talking to each other about it and being honest about your needs—and being willing to meet needs in your spouse that you may not share—is the key to reaching a happy medium.

WE ONLY HAVE SEX A FEW TIMES A MONTH, BUT IT’S GREAT! ARE WE NORMAL?

We hear this question so often, especially from newlywed couples. No matter how often you have sex, what matters is whether you’re both satisfied and fulfilled. What’s “normal” isn’t the issue—it’s about what works for you!

Studies have shown that sexual frequency in married couples ranged from four times to 45 times per month after two years of marriage. That’s a wide range! And chances are, your frequency is impacted by the season of life you’re in. Do you have a baby or young kids at home? Does one of you work a shift that isn’t conducive to frequent lovemaking? Are you helping to care for elderly parents or in-laws?

One thing we’ve found with many of the couples we’ve worked with over the years is that often, life circumstances may lower the frequency of sex. BUT, even when quantity goes down, the quality goes up. These couples’ emotional intimacy and understanding of one another’s needs leads to a fulfilling sex life despite the lower frequency.

Every couple has their own individual set of intimacy needs. If you’re having sex a frequency that feels low to you, check in with each other. Are you both happy with your sex life? This is a great way to learn whether you’re in sync, and whether you need to work together to make adjustments.

The key is not to reach a certain level of “normalcy;” instead, the key is to be satisfied. That’s a much easier—and more enjoyable!—goal to work toward.

WE USED TO MAKE LOVE ALL THE TIME, BUT LATELY, MY SPOUSE ISN’T AS INTERESTED. WHAT CAN I DO?

It’s true that frequency of sex can be an indicator of how your relationship is doing, especially if your spouse has experienced a sudden drop in interest. And, it’s easy to feel rejected when they don’t show the same level of sexual desire as they did in the past. But desire depends on so many factors, and often, they have more to do with your spouse personally than they have to do with you as a couple.

Sleep deprivation, emotional distress, preoccupation, and underlying health problems are just a few of the issues that can impact your spouse’s desire. To get to the bottom of this, one of the most important things you can do is talk to your spouse. Find a time to talk when you can both feel emotionally safe. In other words, don’t bring up the issue during lovemaking—it’s much too vulnerable of a time to talk about the problems you’ve perceived in your sex life, and it won’t work.

Don’t accuse your spouse or make them feel bad; instead, communicate openly until you get to the bottom of what’s going on, and be honest about what you want—and what you miss in your relationship. Most of all, be patient and let your spouse know you love them and you’re there for them. Remember, like most seasons, this one will most likely run its course, and you’ll move into a healthier season of lovemaking soon.

If you would like help in your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Finances: How to Get on the Same Page With Your Spouse

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Finances: How to Get on the Same Page With Your Spouse

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Money is a loaded issue in most marriages because it represents the ability to get the things we need and want. It tends to become an issue of power, dictating who makes the decisions and whose dreams get fulfilled. Needless to say, discussions about money, bills, and budgeting can generate some powerful emotions.

It’s not always easy to navigate money matters, especially in the early years of your marriage. In today’s post, we’re going to explore some ways you and your spouse can get on the same page about your finances–and stay there.

WHICH ONE OF US SHOULD HANDLE THE FINANCES?

When it comes to handling the finances, the best decision is what works best for you as a couple. This could look like one spouse primarily handling all the finances (which is often the case in many marriages) or you could split responsibilities according to what each of you is most comfortable with handling. The most important thing is to generate positive discussion around the subject and avoid putting unnecessary pressure on each other as you hash it all out.

If you’re going to be handling the finances together, make a checklist of all the financial details that you and your spouse need to manage every month, then decide who handles each item. Create calendar reminders to keep up with payment due dates and be diligent to check in with each other to make sure all the bases are covered.

If just one of you is going to take on the bulk of the money management in your household, make sure you both agree to this arrangement and feel comfortable with it. One spouse taking the reins doesn’t mean he or she is going to be controlling your finances. Rather, the person who handles the majority of the bill-paying should primarily be taking care of recurring monthly payments and keeping an eye on where you stand financially.

However you decide to handle money in your marriage, agree together on the parameters surrounding it. It’s important to set a budget that will give each of you freedom, but also accountability; for example, you might want to decide how much spending money you each get every month that doesn’t require you to report back to each other or share every single receipt.

HOW DO WE PREVENT THE MONTHLY FIGHTS OVER BILLS AND BUDGETS?

If your regular financial check-ins tend to dissolve into ugly fights, take a step back to see how you can work together to prevent those unnecessary conflicts. Do you have different spending or saving styles? Does one or both of you hate dealing with financial matters? Does budgeting stress you out?

One easy way to prevent the monthly money fight is to make decisions about how your money gets dispersed before you ever sit down with the books. Then, figure out the non-negotiables for each of you; what items do you need every month (or every two months), and what do they cost? As we mentioned above, you might want to agree on a finite amount of money that each of you gets every month to avoid excessive check-ins surrounding purchases.

Automating some of your monthly bills can reduce the amount of work you have to do when you sit down with the finances. If one of you hates handling finances and wants to be hands-off, delegate the remaining bill-paying tasks to the other.

We all have different styles when it comes to money, so it’s important to know where you both stand and what’s going on with your money so you can make the best choices possible going forward. Some people like to spend; some like to save. Others are skilled at handling administrative tasks, while others are money-avoiders. Wherever you stand, don’t run from the subject of finances. Both of you really need to know what’s going on, whether one or both of you is ultimately handling the bills.

WHAT IF MY SPOUSE GETS DEFENSIVE EVERY TIME I BRING UP MONEY?

What do you do when you can barely broach the subject of money with your spouse? Does he or she become defensive when you attempt to discuss enacting a budget or reevaluating your finances?

A lot of people equate how much they make with how valuable they are to their spouses and families. It’s an identifiable, results-oriented way of defining themselves. If your spouse is feeling insecure about the amount of money they make, it’s possible that they could be mistakenly reading messages of disapproval from you when you bring up the topic.

It’s important to communicate to your spouse that you’re not evaluating their value as a person or a provider when you bring up financial matters. Tell them you respect them, you love the work they do for your family, and you want to strategize together so that you can both steward your money well.

If your spouse responds in a reactive or defensive way when you talk to them about money, it’s important to work together to find out where it’s coming from. Explore these issues in a natural course of conversation. How did their parents approach finances and make decisions regarding money? What were some differences between their family and yours? Maybe there are some deeply embedded beliefs in their mind that get triggered when you bring up the topic, and talking these things through could help you unravel them.

No matter what, remember that finances are an emotional issue for most couples–but don’t run from the conversation. It’s important to get on the same page with one another to create a shared vision for your future together.

If you would like help communicating about finances with your loved one, please give CornerStone Family Services a call at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

 

3 Reasons Why Tender Touch Cultivates Deeper Intimacy

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3 Reasons Why Tender Touch Cultivates Deeper Intimacy

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

When our oldest son was born, we learned more about the unbelievable power of human touch than we ever thought possible. He was born 3 months premature and weighed one pound–and our touch was life-sustaining to him.

Over the months we spent with him in the hospital, we began to talk more about what tender touch does for us in our marriage–not the kind of touch that leads to something more in the bedroom, but the kind of touch that connects and reassures.

Not only does touch cultivate deeper intimacy; it helps us communicate with each other on another level. It sustains and strengthens our connection. And it’s an essential part of a healthy, happy marriage.

1. TOUCH HELPS US FEEL SECURE, KNOWN, AND LOVED

Tender touch conveys our love for one another, and creates a level of emotional safety that opens the door for deeper intimacy. It’s this deep kind of emotional security that leads to more physical desire for one another in the long run. Although we all want to experience a healthy sex life with our spouse, it’s critical to build that foundation.

When we feel valued, we’re more likely to show vulnerability to one another. Affectionate touch doesn’t shut us down; instead, it opens us to that intimacy we’re craving from one another–on multiple levels.

To feel seen, heard, and truly known by your spouse is a powerful component in the health of your marriage. Little daily moments and habits that are meaningful build upon each other and lead to something amazing in our marriages. Use touch to show your spouse that you’re watching, listening to, and valuing him or her.

Like our tiny infant son, touch is essential to our well-being in our marriages; without that daily contact, we can’t thrive.

2. TOUCH KEEPS US CONNECTED

Tender touch awakens us and reminds us of why we fell in love in the first place. It’s a way to tell one another, “I’m for you.” It’s a reminder that we’re not enemies–we’re on the same team.

Some ways you can stay connected with tender touch are:

  • A massage after a long day at work
  • Comforting hugs when your spouse is down
  • Touching your spouse when you’re talking or laughing
  • Holding hands in town
  • Putting an arm around your spouse during worship

Tender touch is particularly important when you’re going through a difficult time in your life or marriage. If you’ve been experiencing a lot of conflict, problems with your children or extended family, health issues, etc., stay connected by making physical contact daily–two to three minutes total, at minimum. You’ll be surprised how much you accomplish emotionally by intentionally touching one another every day.

3. TOUCH COMMUNICATES AFFECTION WITHOUT AGENDA

Tender touch isn’t meant to lead directly to the bedroom; instead, it’s meant to convey affection without an agenda attached. It’s meant to be a selfless, supportive act instead of a means to an end.

We touch our spouses because we love them and cherish them; if we only touch them when we have an agenda, they might start to feel resentful of the fact that you only make physical contact when you want something.

Practice tender touch without expecting sex in return. Be playful and affectionate. Passion is an important component of marriage, but it’s not the only form of physical affection you and your spouse need to share.

(As an added bonus, the more physical affection you share without an agenda attached, the more you and your spouse will desire one another in that passionate way! And you’ll find that you inevitably build anticipation for those private moments while you’re showing one another affection.)

If you would like help in the area of intimacy and relationships, please give CornerStone Family Services a call at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Stuck in a Rut? 3 Ways to Revive the Excitement in Your Marriage

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Stuck in a Rut? 3 Ways to Revive the Excitement in Your Marriage

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

From time to time, every married couple gets stuck in a rut. It can happen for many different reasons, but the results are similar: ruts leave us feeling like life has just become “blah.”

Fortunately, this is totally normal–and you two can work together to break out of your rut if you’re willing to put in the effort. Today, we’ve put together 3 ways to revive the excitement in your marriage.

It’s important that you and your spouse work together to shake things up. Even though you might feel like you’re in a rut, your spouse might not; the important thing here is that you don’t make this personal, because it happens to everyone.

This rut isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault; it’s about some routines in your life you’d like to liven up. It’s not necessarily about your spouse, about you, or about your children. Communication is key here, so treat one another with kindness, understanding, and love as you move forward.

1. TAKE STOCK OF YOUR CURRENT ROUTINE.

If you feel like your life is on autopilot, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time stewing over it already. So, hash things out with your spouse. Whether you need to make a list together or just talk it through, get clear on the areas of your life where you’d like to have more variety.

Here are some common areas that can fall into a slump:

  • Date nights
  • Meals
  • Shared activities
  • Outings with friends
  • Sex
  • Daily routines
  • Family time

If the two of you mutually agree that certain parts of your life feel like they’re in a rut, prioritize those areas first and start making changes at whatever pace works best for your family. If you can only take baby steps, that’s fine–but start taking them now.

If you disagree, see if you can find a happy medium that will work for both of you. Is there something you can both compromise on? For example, let’s say your spouse has a cooking routine that he or she follows for meal prep every week and you want to shake it up–but your spouse is resistant. Work together to land on a few meal ideas that could fit into the existing routine instead of changing it completely.

Breaking out of a rut takes work, but it’s well worth the effort. Ready to liven things up?

2. BREAK YOUR ROUTINE…ON PURPOSE.

Once you and your spouse have decided on what areas in your life need a little extra spark, it’s time for action. Here are a few ideas for the areas we listed above:

  • Date nights – Too comfortable going out to the same places over and over? For an entire month, commit to trying out new destinations for your romantic date nights.
  • Meals – Try at least one new meal at home every week. It’ll allow you to hold onto the stability of your existing routine, while throwing something and exciting into the mix.
  • Shared activities – Instead of going to the tennis court for your daily exercise, why not try biking together? Make a list of a few new activities you’d like to try, pick one, and go for it.
  • Outings with friends – If your outings with other married couples have fallen into too predictable of a routine, suggest something new. For example, if your weekly get-together has always involved playing cards, ask if your friends might be up for a different game instead.
  • Sex – It’s not uncommon to let outside responsibilities reduce our sex lives to a predictable pattern. Set aside some extra time alone together and break that routine!
  • Daily routines – If you feel like you’re just going through the motions everyday, find ways to make your routine more pleasant when you’re starting your day. Maybe you’ve got it down to a science, but it just feels boring; why not play some new, upbeat music to make it feel more exciting?
  • Family time – Not feeling very creative when it’s time to go out with the spouse and kids? Ask the kids for ideas!

Once you’ve begun changing your usual pattern around–even if it’s just in a small way–you’ll start to feel reinvigorated and more excited about life.

3. PLAN TO BE MORE SPONTANEOUS.

We know, we know–it sounds crazy. But if you and your spouse plan to be deliberately spontaneous more often, spontaneity will actually happen! (And, it won’t feel contrived.) Set yourself a reminder on your calendar every week to do something out-of-the-blue that will be fun, romantic, or exciting for you and your spouse.

Most of us crave some measure of spontaneity in our marriages, but when it’s not happening, we don’t know how to address it. Even though it can feel strange to set an intention or make plans to be more spontaneous, it’ll pay dividends–we promise!

Life is busy and things can get mundane; sometimes, the only way to combat that is to decide you’re not going to let it stay the same. Don’t wait for one another to liven things up; talk about it, and then take action.

If you would like help with your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

How to Intentionally Pursue Joy With Your Spouse

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How to Intentionally Pursue Joy With Your Spouse

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Keeping your marriage infused with joy is one of the greatest challenges–but can also be one of the biggest adventures–in your life as a couple. After the honeymoon, life can get bogged down by day-to-day drudgery and less-than-ideal circumstances that are beyond your control. And while it’s a little too easy to let these things drown your happiness, it’s important for the two of you to stay focused on finding the joy that keeps you moving forward, no matter what.

Today, we’re sharing some tips on how to intentionally pursue joy together, so that when the going gets tough, the hard times won’t destroy your happiness.

1. GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER AGAIN.

In the early part of your relationship, you two seemed to know everything about each other, right? You knew your spouse’s favorite movies, foods, songs, colors, and bands. You knew what made him or her tick, and you knew the perfect ways to make one another happy.

But how long have you been married? Even if you’ve only been married for a few years, some of those details may have changed. The longer we’re together, the more changes we’ll experience over time. So if it’s been awhile since you asked, it might be time to get to know your husband or wife all over again.

What matters most to your spouse? Are their favorite things still their favorites now, or have they moved on to new and different interests? If you haven’t been paying attention, now’s the perfect time to get caught up. Share your new favorites with your spouse, too.

Another great way to reconnect is to tell each other stories about your childhood that you might not know about each other. This will deepen your sense of connection and give one another insight into parts of your lives that you may not have shared before.

When you get back in touch with the core of who your spouse is, not only will you feel closer to one another–you’ll feel more joyful and more in love than ever.

2. STAY POSITIVE.

The world is full of enough bad news as it is, right? On top of that, most couples are dealing with near-constant crises of one kind of another. It’s just part of life. But if you want to pursue joy in your marriage, it’s critical to minimize the voices of negativity in your life and keep things as positive as you can.

We can’t avoid talking about and dealing with heavy topics; it’s totally fine, normal, and healthy to address the issues in your life. But don’t dwell on the negative all the time. If you’re going through a hard time in your life (or someone close to you is), it won’t be easy to shift your communication into positive messages, but making the effort to do so will pay dividends for your marriage.

When you come together after a long work day or finally go out on that date night you’ve been looking forward to, tell each other about the good things that have been going on at work, at home, or in your activities. Tell your spouse something good that happened to you that day. On the flipside, ask your spouse what the best part of his or her day was.

It’s also inspiring and effective to keep a journal of the things you’re thankful for and the things you love about each other. When you’re having a “down” day, just add to or refer to your existing list and the gratitude will help lift your spirits.

If you’ve allowed negativity to rule your life, it might take some time to shift the polarity. But stick with it, because it can be done–and you’ll thank yourselves when you realize how much more joy you have in your life as a result.

3. MAKE ‘EM LAUGH!

For an instant shot of joy, find a way to make your spouse laugh. Better yet, look for little ways every day to bring a smile to your spouse’s face.

You know your spouse better than anyone else, so you most likely “get” their sense of humor and know what’s going to make them laugh. Actively seek out ways to tickle their funny bone, because laughter is medicine.

Here are a few quick ways to get a chuckle out of your husband or wife:

  • Utilize social media to find memes or videos that they’ll appreciate
  • Throw out a silly quote or two from a funny movie or show they like
  • Look up jokes in their particular “flavor” of humor to share
  • Impersonate a character or celebrity for them
  • Settle down for a date night in with a funny movie, show, or stand-up comedy routine
  • Go see a new funny movie or attend an event that you know will make your spouse laugh

You’re creative and you know what your spouse likes, so use our handy list or an idea of your own, and get to laughing!

If you would like help pursuing joy with your spouse, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Help! My Spouse Wants Me to Make More Money!

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Help! My Spouse Wants Me to Make More Money!

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

You’ve weighed your career decisions, filtered your values and what’s most important to you, and decided on a job that will help you not only bring in a good income, but also balance those values and pursuits in the best possible way for your family–or so you thought. Suddenly, you’re getting outside pressure from your spouse to up your game…and you’re not sure where it’s coming from.

Money is a hot-button issue in most marriages, but the it tends to really hit a nerve where individual income is concerned. Whether one or both spouses is working, it’s not uncommon for at least one person in a marriage to feel like the other should be bringing in more money. If your spouse wants you to earn a better salary, there are probably multiple reasons for this–and you might need to dig deep to pinpoint some of them.

Today, we’ll explore some of the motivations for one spouse pressuring the other to raise their income, and a few ways you can approach the issue together. Chances are, you and your spouse share more common ground than you realize when it comes to your dreams for the future and your desires for your family’s security.

WHAT’S YOUR ANGLE?

It’s painful to realize that your and your spouse’s life dreams are out of sync. A great place to start exploring your differing viewpoints is to try to understand where your spouse is coming from. Did your spouse come from a family of origin that placed a high value on material possessions, job security, or a certain income level? Does he or she want a higher level of income for more freedom, more opportunities, or the chance to travel and have experiences that require extra money? Is he or she hoping to spend more time at home with the children? Or does your spouse want to pursue a degree that requires him or her to work fewer hours in the meantime?

Understanding your spouse’s motivations will give you empathy as you attempt to approach the situation in a constructive way. Most likely, your spouse isn’t trying to be destructive by asking for more money, but their emotions around the subject might prevent them from seeing your side of the coin. Now that you know where his or her mind is, you can make your case more effectively.

Does your spouse realize what you’d be saying “no” to if you said “yes” to a more demanding job? Maybe you work a job that affords you plenty of time with your spouse or your children, and you don’t want to give that up in favor of overtime or a more demanding position. Or you might have chosen your current job because it’s a means to an end that allows you to pursue your true passion on the side–a job that, if you gave it up, would prevent you from pursuing your dream.

Explain to your spouse what he or she (or your family) stands to lose if you take a higher-paying job. Maybe you currently provide them with quality time you’d be giving up, or you might have responsibilities at home you’ll no longer be able to maintain.

WEIGHING THE PROS AND CONS

Work together to identify and weigh the pros and cons of you bringing in a larger income. You can get everything in front of you by dividing a piece of paper into “Pro” and “Con” columns, then making notes on each of your stances. Remember to value your relationships with one another and your children over financial resources, and check in with yourselves to make sure your priorities are in order.

More importantly, don’t assume your spouse has his or her priorities mixed up; he or she might want more money for the family to take adventure trips or have special experiences together that you currently can’t afford. It’s important to remember you might just have different ideas of what you can accomplish together, based on your income.

As you make your list of pros and cons, you’ll probably find that you have many more dreams and desires in common than you realized before, even though this issue feels highly polarized. And your spouse may bring motivations to light that he or she didn’t know how to put into words before. If you can both get to the crux of why raising your income is so important, you’ll stand a better chance of pursuing a constructive solution.

FINDING A MUTUALLY-BENEFICIAL SOLUTION

Once the two of you have hashed out your motivations and dreams for your family’s finances, you can land on a solution that works for you both.

If your spouse is craving a sense of financial security–perhaps because of fears stemming from a financially insecure childhood–work together to create a plan that provides more emotional safety. This might involve finding a way to get extra money into savings, or having a solid fallback plan if your current career is uncertain. Your spouse also needs to be willing to become a part of meeting those security needs in a way that works for your family so all the burden isn’t resting on your shoulders. Taking ownership of that fear of financial crisis will, ultimately, make your spouse feel more confident and peaceful about the family’s finances.

If your spouse’s motivations tend to be more material in nature, consider whether your values line up enough to pursue a higher-paying job–but don’t get into the frenzy of trying to achieve a lifestyle that doesn’t fit what you deeply value. If the idea of a weightier job doesn’t work for you, the two of you might agree instead on a contained amount of overtime that will help you achieve specific financial goals, like taking that vacation you’ve been talking about. And if your spouse simply can’t let go of that higher-income dream, you can offer to commit more time to responsibilities at home to allow him or her to take on earning that extra money.

You both have good reasons for choosing the stances you’ve taken regarding earnings and career pursuits. And it’s always possible that your spouse is making a legitimate case for you to pursue a higher income. As the two of you explore your individual situation, we encourage you to each take an honest, objective evaluation of yourself, your career, and your family’s income and material needs to determine your next steps.

If you would like help with your marriage, relationship, or to have premarital counseling, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or life-coach.

7 Ways to Seek Peace First in Your Marriage

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7 Ways to Seek Peace First in Your Marriage

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18 (NIV)

Being a peacemaker isn’t easy. It’s not the passive existence of “keeping the peace,” or keeping your mouth shut to avoid confrontation. Instead, it’s an intentional, active state of existence that requires you to make careful–and sometimes difficult–decisions regarding the state of your relationship. Seeking and creating peace requires courage and fortitude.

Resolving conflict is marriage is difficult; because it can be so tricky to navigate, many couples find that unresolved issues and hurts begin to accumulate over time. In many cases, this leads to resentment and more frequent conflict. One way to combat this issue is to intentionally work to create peace in your marriage by uncovering and facing your issues head-on.

Today, we’re sharing 7 things you and your spouse can to do “seek peace and pursue it” in your marriage.

1. BE THE FIRST TO APOLOGIZE.

Whether or not your spouse is in the wrong alongside you doesn’t matter–what matters is whether you’re willing to step up and say you’re sorry first. Don’t wait around for your spouse to come to you; if you have something you need to apologize for, go ahead and do it. This will open the door for your spouse to respond in kind if he or she has been holding out. (Just be sure to only apologize if you actually have something to apologize for!)

2. OWN YOUR MISTAKES.

Avoiding responsibility for bad decisions you make or hurtful things you say to your spouse will only make wounds fester and grow worse over time. Even though you might not want to admit to any wrongdoing, it’s best to bite the bullet and admit you made a mistake. Your spouse will be more likely to extend forgiveness sooner if you’re willing to own your part when you apologize.

3. DON’T SWEEP THINGS UNDER THE RUG.

If you’ve got unresolved conflict under the surface of your marriage, sooner or later, it’s going to get bigger and bigger until you can’t handle it anymore. Don’t sweep issues under the rug, hide from them, or send them down the road; face them head-on, and acknowledge their presence so they’ll be less likely to keep growing.

4. ENCOURAGE YOUR SPOUSE TO FACE ISSUES TOGETHER.

You and your spouse can create peace together by facing down your conflicts, challenges, and issues as a team. The two of you are stronger together than you are apart, and if only one of you is fighting your battles, that could lead to resentment and conflict between the two of you. Put your heads together to create solutions and ideas that will lead you away from strife and toward a happy, peaceful existence together.

5. SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE.

Sometimes, you have to say things your spouse doesn’t want to hear. And you know it’s going to hurt you, too, when your spouse responds in pain or anger. Approach him or her in a loving way and lay all your cards on the table; if he or she has an issue that is hurting your marriage or family–or is even just harmful to them in some way–you have to put it out there. It could be addiction, hurtful behavior, or any number of things. Your spouse’s well being may depend on you speaking up. And if he or she goes down a destructive path, your marriage goes down, too.

6. BITE YOUR TONGUE.

On the flipside, sometimes you have to check yourself to keep the peace. Do you tend to speak before you think, saying hurtful things in the process? Is it sometimes hard to rein in your temper when the going gets rough? If you want to seek peace first, it will pay dividends to learn when to hold your tongue and think about what you’re about to say before it comes out of your mouth.

7. ASK FOR HELP.

If your marriage is in trouble and you can’t seem to achieve peace on your own, it’s healthy and wise to ask for help. A trusted friend, pastor, mentor, or counselor can help you determine your next steps toward establishing peace in your marriage. Do your best to get your spouse on board, and work together with that trusted person in order to get on solid ground.

If you would like help with your marriage or relationship, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

5 Ways Empathy Can Neutralize Conflict With Your Spouse

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5 Ways Empathy Can Neutralize Conflict With Your Spouse

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Empathy is defined as the identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives. It’s a critical component to success in all types of relationships, but it’s particularly valuable in marriage, a place where peace and harmony are paramount to success.

Practicing empathy can effectively neutralize conflict and restore peace to your marriage. Here are 5 ways being empathic toward your spouse can benefit you both and nurture lifelong love.

1. EMPATHY OPENS YOUR EYES TO ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW.

When you empathize with a person, you put yourself in their shoes. You’re able to view things from their perspective. Empathy gets you out of your own head and gives you a chance to consider situations from a variety of angles. This is especially helpful when you’re working through conflict with your husband or wife.

When you’re in defense mode during a fight, you’re invested in protecting and promoting your own opinion on the issue at hand. It can be difficult to hear your spouse out when you’re passionate about making your point. But when you put empathy into practice, it can help you step out of that defensive stance and into a more open mindset.

2. EMPATHY HELPS YOU UNDERSTAND HOW YOUR SPOUSE FEELS.

Emotions run high when you’re working through conflict together, and it’s difficult to handle your own feelings, much less identify with your spouse’s. Practicing empathy will help you understand your spouse’s feelings, whether or not you agree with them.

Having a greater understanding of both of your emotions gives you a big-picture view of what you’re both dealing with. If you can get inside your spouse’s feelings, like fear or anxiety, you’ll be able to suss out ways to calm those emotions–or even make space for positive feelings to take their place. Empathy creates emotional safety, which will help both of you come to a resolution with as little pain as possible.

3. EMPATHY REVEALS YOUR SPOUSE’S MOTIVATIONS.

When you’re in the heat of battle (or just a simple misunderstanding), it’s all too easy to make assumptions about your spouse’s motives. Often, we decide–without actually asking our spouse–why they’re taking a certain position on a contested topic. Without empathy, it’s easy to fill in the blanks for our spouse. And unfortunately, we tend to assume that their motives are not in our best interests.

While you might not understand why your spouse disagrees with you, or why he or she made a decision you’re not happy about, that doesn’t mean they’re trying to hurt you. And when you step outside your own assumptions and leverage empathy instead, you’ll be able to see that more clearly.

4. EMPATHY KEEPS CONFLICT FROM ESCALATING INTO IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE.

When you don’t have empathy for one another, a simple fight can descend into an all-out war. If you don’t check your reactions to one another, you could easily start hurling insults, calling names, and assassinating each other’s character. And these kinds of damaging reactions don’t do anything except run your marriage into the ground.

Being intentionally empathic will help you bite your tongue when you’re aching to scream at your spouse; it will keep your anger in check and help you think about what you say before you say it. If you’re in touch with your spouse’s emotions, you’re not going to want to say or do things to cause them more pain. Using empathy to guide your actions and reactions will never fail either of you.

5. EMPATHY CAN HELP REDUCE THE FREQUENCY OF YOUR FIGHTS.

Empathy is its own special brand of preventive medicine. While conflict in marriage is inevitable, showing empathy toward one another could actually help you to avoid unnecessary arguments in the future. And when you do butt heads, you’ll be less likely to let your conflicts escalate into a full-out fight.

If you would like help with empathy and conflict with your spouse, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

For Better of For Worse: Dealing With Tough Times in Marriage

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For Better of For Worse: Dealing With Tough Times in Marriage

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

“More marriages might survive if the partners realized that sometimes the better comes after the worse.”
– Anonymous

If you and your spouse know how to navigate the tough times in your marriage, you’ll come out on the other side closer than ever before. Hard times and conflict are inevitable–they’re just a part of life. When you overcome those times together, that can really deepen your sense of partnership.

Whether you’re dealing with internal conflicts (disagreement or stalemate, infidelity, health crises, mental illness, etc.) or external conflicts (loss, tragedy, job stress or loss, family or in-law issues, etc.), you’re going to come up against some mix of these challenges over the course of your marriage. The trick is knowing how to stick together through it all.

REMEMBER, YOU’RE TEAMMATES

Difficulties in your life can throw your entire marriage off kilter. While each situation must be assessed and approached in its own unique way, a good overarching idea is to remember that you’re on the same team; you aren’t enemies.

When you function as teammates, it’s easier to tackle life’s problems together–and less likely that you’ll turn on one another. Here are some tips for sticking together:

Face your conflict head-on together; don’t bury or avoid it!
Don’t assassinate one another’s character or belittle each other.
Communicate openly about what you’re going through, and listen to one another.
Be present for each other; no checking out allowed.

If you’re finding it increasingly difficult to work together as partners through this season, consider getting outside, objective help from a trusted counselor or pastor. This can help you get focused on your primary objective: sticking together and coming out of this stronger.

CULTIVATE INTIMACY

In general, every relationship has seasons; love has its own natural ebb and flow. But it’s almost a guarantee that most marriages will experience dry spells in the midst of hard times. Tough situations are very consuming, and that can drain all your energy before you’re able to give your marriage the attention it needs.

It’s pretty typical, at some point in most marriages, for spouses to express, “We were soulmates, but now we’re roommates.” When you’ve been dealing with difficult issues, you might come out of it feeling like this.

If you’ve managed to hold onto each other and get through your unique situation together, you’re one step ahead of the pack already. Clearly, your commitment to each other is still there–but it has been tested, and emotionally, it might feel pretty empty.

Just because your relationship doesn’t feel fulfilling in this season doesn’t mean it’s dead. It just needs to be revived. You’re not going to feel emotionally connected to each other 100% of the time, and that’s just how life is. The trick is getting connected again, and you can do this by cultivating intimacy.

To ignite more intimacy in your marriage:

  • Revisit things you have in common.
  • Reminisce together.
  • Invest in the interests or activities that excite your spouse.
  • Laugh together!

We can’t emphasize this enough: laughing together will help you revive the connection you’ve been lacking. Tough times can take a lot out of you, including simple things like laughter. Bring that back to life, and you’ll be amazed at what it does for your marriage.

TAKE ONE DAY AT A TIME

Hard seasons in marriage make time feel like it’s dragging by. We know how hard it is to wait for a particular season to pass. Grief, heartbreak, job loss, disconnection, illness, and similar issues all have to run their course, and sometimes it feels like the pain will never end. Just take one day at a time, keep holding onto one another, and you’ll come out on the other side stronger than ever.

If you would like help with the better or for worse of your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.