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Tag: marriage

When Personalities Clash

When Personalities Clash

[This article contains affiliate links, meaning we earn a commission for purchases made through those links.]

Ryan and I are so different. We disagree on so many things. Our interests aren't even in the same realm. We are total opposites.

We don't agree about politics.

We don't agree about parenting.

We don't agree about ice cream flavors.

How on earth have we managed to stay happily married for twenty years?

The answer to that question is simple: We learned about personality differences, and we use them to our advantage.

You see, those differences that sometimes annoy the heck out of us can be used to strengthen our marriage.

Where I am weak, Ryan is strong. And vice versa.

Ryan loves details. He likes to have things all planned out, and he's skilled at making sure all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed. I'm more spontaneous and would rather fly by the seat of my pants. Sometimes when I have to sit down and work through too many details I get overwhelmed and feel panicky. So when we need something planned, it's wise for me to just turn it over to Ryan and let him run with it. Everything gets planned thoroughly, and I don't have to do it. It's a win-win. 

Early on in our marriage, before I understood personality differences, it drove me insane when Ryan wanted every detail planned out. It drove him crazy that I wouldn't plan the details (or I'd plan them badly). One book made all the difference for us: Personality Plus, by Florence Littauer.

In her book, Florence includes a personality test. Ryan and I both took the test and laughed our heads off at the accuracy. We then delved into the chapters of the book to understand our strengths and weaknesses. That helped us learn to work together as a team and to utilize each other's strengths, overlook annoyances, and fill in the gaps for each other's weaknesses.

That book revolutionized our marriage.

Once we had kids, that book helped us understand our children in a way we could not have otherwise.

Personality Plus is the book we recommend most often in our communication coaching business. Our clients need to understand the people around them in order to communicate effectively. So many personality tests do a great job describing personalities, but they don't go far enough in explaining what to do with that information.

That's where Personality Plus excels. It digs deep, gets real, and tells exactly how to relate to each personality type.

Ryan says this information has helped him to be a better salesman as well because he quickly recognizes a client's personality and can give them what they need based on that information.

If you're baffled by your spouse or kids, this book is for you. If you're annoyed by the quirks of those around you, this book is for you. If you just want to understand and relate to people better, this book is for you.

It's an absolute must-read.

Get yours here (affiliate link): 

5 Steps to Resolving Conflict Without Killing Anyone

5 Steps to Resolving Conflict Without Killing Anyone

Conflict happens. It’s inevitable. It will happen between you and a spouse, friend, family member, or colleague. When conflict arises, it can make or break the relationship depending on how it’s handled by both parties. To resolve the conflict without killing anyone, follow these five steps:

  1. Listen carefully. Stop talking, and truly hear what the other person is saying. Don’t filter their statements through your own preconceived ideas. Simply listen. Lean forward, use good eye contact, and don’t interrupt. Give the other person a chance to get everything off of his or her chest.
  2. Avoid judging. The other person will feel comfortable being honest with you if they feel like you are not judging them. If they feel judged, they’ll walk on eggshells with you and not tell you the whole story. They’ll remain guarded. If you want the other person to feel comfortable sharing their heart with you, don’t judge. Simply try to understand their point of view.
  3. Ask questions. My Business Law professor in college always told us, “Do not assume anything.” It was great advice then, and it’s great advice now. Assumptions lead to misunderstandings. Instead, ask questions. Seek to understand. Get clarification.
  4. Work together. You’re a team, so act like one. You are not on opposing sides. Focus on your common goals in your relationship, and work together to find a way through the conflict at hand. Remind yourselves that there doesn’t have to be a winner or loser. In conflict, you either win together or you both lose.
  5. Agree to disagree. It’s okay if you don’t ever reach total agreement. Honestly, that would be boring anyway. Disagreement doesn’t have to signal the demise of a relationship. Disagreement doesn’t necessarily mean your relationship is doomed or that you’ve failed. It just means you and the other person involved are different. Different is good, as long as you respect the differences.

Conflict happens. Whether it’s big or small, it can be resolved in a peaceful manner and doesn’t have to end in a knock-down-drag-out. Follow the five steps outlined above, and practice them often. Soon, resolving conflict will be a skill you easily implement. Your relationships will be stronger because of it.

5 Steps to Resolving Conflict without Killing Anyone
How to Handle Disagreements with Your Spouse

How to Handle Disagreements with Your Spouse

Ryan and I haven't always handled disagreements properly. We had a few ugly knock-down-drag-outs in the beginning of our marriage. One in particular was absolutely horrendous and ultimately lasted for a month. I detail it in this Live show I did on our Facebook page, and I also tell how we handle disagreements now. Watch here:

Disagreements in marriage can be healthy, and even a benefit, in your marriage. I talked about that in the show, and I explained how to make it happen. Be sure to watch, and then leave me a comment about how you and your spouse handle disagreements. I'd love to hear from you!

3 Steps to Stay Out of Communication Chaos

3 Steps to Stay Out of Communication Chaos

By Julie Ford

Communication chaos – it’s happened to us all.

Disconnected

You have an appointment with Jane. A conflict arises preventing this meeting at the original time. You reach out via phone and leave Jane a voicemail, “I need to change the time of our meeting.”

Jane never get the voicemail. Not that the voicemail fails to record, but because Jane just isn’t into listening to voicemails and answering a ringing phone isn’t her thing either. You find this out only after you and she don’t connect for your meeting and Jane texts, “It’s 10am – am I in the wrong place?” You apologize for the mix-up and reschedule the meeting via text, and follow up with an Outlook calendar invite.

The day before the new meeting, seeing that you have no reply to your invite, you try texting Jane to confirm the appointment. Crickets. Nothing, no response.

In desperation, you remember that you’ve once communicated via Facebook Messenger, so you try that.  “Are we still on for tomorrow at 10 a.m. at the Gathering Grounds, or would you rather meet at the Coffee Mill?”

This time, Jane responds, “Yep. 😊

Umm?

Sea of Communication Modes

These days we can communicate in person, on the phone, via video chat, text, voicemail, snail mail, email, and social media IM. Even with this sea of choices quite literally at arms-length, instead of effectively and leisurely floating along, we’re drowning.

In his article, Communicating Across Differences, John Gilio notes that 75% of each workday is consumed with talking and listening and yet 70% of that communication fails. When communication fails at work, we lose customers, money, opportunities, and face.

When we don’t communicate well at home, we are running to grab chocolate chips at midnight, we contribute bake sale items a week late, we drop the ball entirely on attending our kid’s MVP ceremony, and we forget date night altogether. 

This assumes that we even get the chance to connect in the first place, unlike our “Jane” situation above. What gives? How can we turn this around so we can have more intentional and effective communication?

Back to the Sandbox

Somewhere between the invention of the answering machine and auto-correct, we forgot about why we communicate. We want at least a two-way connection, sometimes more. We have talkers and listeners. And after listening, most of us expect a response.

Seems simple, but with the giant sea of choice in how to accomplish what used to take a string and two cans, we need a refresh. Let’s talk about it, shall we?

Communicate About Communicating

Duh. Sounds too elementary, right? When was the last time you sat with a colleague, prospect, teacher, coach, or family member and actually asked them how they’d like to hear from you? Here are the not-so-secret but oh-so-magical steps to beating communication chaos:

  1. Know your communication profile
  2. Know the profile of the person on the other side of the can.
  3. Practice flexible connection

1. Know Your Communication Profile

How do you prefer to communicate? What are your favorite modes given your work and life style? Does IM annoy you? Is your voicemail a pain? Is your email not connected to your mobile device causing disruptive delays to your response times?

Choose what works best for you, and where/when appropriate, ask to be communicated with in that form. However, be aware of which side of the communication your sitting (see step 3.)

2. Know the Profile of the Other Side

How do THEY like to communicate? When you’re communicating with others, it can be tempting to exert what I call communication arrogance.  You pick your preferred mode of communication, say, texting -  and if they can’t accommodate, they lose. The trouble with that is that you lose, too. You lose connection, opportunities, and often credibility.

He’s not a good communicator – he leaves me guessing.

She never gets back with me.

So how do you uncover someone else’s communication profile, especially if they’re a prospect or stranger? Here are three ways to try and I’d use them in this order.

Observe – It might be obvious. If someone contacts you out of the blue via email, mirror their action. Email them back. Easy. Is Grandpa all of a sudden tickled to be texting? Fab, then get those thumbs rockin and rollin! Are you getting responses from social media via IM, continue the conversation with that prospect there. Meet people where they are, and then check in from there. “Is this how you prefer to communicate?” Which leads me to the second (and most effective) way to learn a communication profile.

Ask – If you have the chance to contact them, like at a networking meeting, just ask using two modes of communication you most prefer, “how would you like me to follow up, via phone or email?” If you can’t ask the person with whom you’re communicating, ask someone who knows them better than you do. “Hey, does Sam prefer face to face meetings or could we get away with a video call?”

Assume – this is reserved for the totally blind contact or mass communication, like newsletters or announcements for a school fundraiser. Truly, don’t go here unless you’ve exhausted other options. Using the “norms” that go generation by generation can get you in trouble. I know 85-year-olds who love email and a 12-year-old who is over the moon about a posted letter in the real mailbox at the curb.

3. Practice Flexible Connection

Consider the connection you’re trying to create. Is it for business? If so, are you the client or the seller? Are you networking with a referral partner or colleague? Are you the mentor or mentee? Is this a family/friend connection? What do you hope to accomplish with the connection? Gain information from your child about an upcoming event? Set up a dinner date with friends? Are you the one asking for a favor or are you the one in need?

Your approach to communication will vary depending upon which side of the string you’re on and what your intentions are for the connection. If you’re the one asking for something (information, unpaid mentoring, a favor, referrals, business), you’ll want to make the transaction as simple and painless as possible.

If the collaboration is mutual, you have a bit more leeway to stick to your preferences. You can ask to meet half-way between your locations or via video rather than in person to honor your time.

If you’re the one providing the favor, paying for a service, or giving guidance to another person without expecting payment, you are holding the communication preference cards and can feel okay about choosing the time, place, mode and length of the connection.

Common Courtesy

It seems elementary, but we’ve lost a bit of common courtesy somewhere in the evolution of telephony. If you want to set yourself apart and keep your connections, it’s well worth spending a few extra minutes communicating about communicating with family, friends and colleagues.

If you’d like to work through your profile and go over tips to learn the profile of others, email me at Julie@julzoflife.com and we’ll set up a Cool the Chaos call (on me!) to get you reconnected!



Julie FordJulie Ford
 
is a certified life coach, speaker, trainer, and author of Creating Time and Energy. She helps moms and dads through parenting chaos. Individuals hire her to help them trade their "badges of busy" for intentionally full lives. Organizations hire her because they value the next generation and when things are running smoothly at home, amazing things can happen at work! With one-on-one and group coaching, she helps her clients to define what matters most in their lives, and to realize what is and isn’t working. Collaboratively, they move through a customized plan to implement habits that serve rather than sabotage their intentions. Her clients find more joy and less chaos in every stage one habit at a time. Connect with Julie on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

We Boycott Valentine's Day

We Boycott Valentine's Day

We're boycotting Valentine's Day.

Well, kind of.

When we were first dating, Ryan and I bought into all the typical Valentine's Day hooplah... we gave gifts, shelled out cash for overpriced mushy cards, and even made each other mixed tapes (yes, that ages us... I know).

Somewhere along the way, Valentine's Day became annoying to us. We didn't like being told that we HAVE to celebrate love on a certain day. Can't we just celebrate our love when we WANT to? What if the 15th is a better day than the 14th to go out to eat? Doesn't it mean more to celebrate our love spontaneously?

And what about people who don't have someone to celebrate the day with? Valentine's Day can be especially difficult.

So this year we've decided to boycott Valentine's Day. We're taking a stand. Call it a picket. Maybe even a riot (as long as it doesn't cause a mess in my house). Want to join us?

This Valentine's Day, let's do things a little differently.

Instead of store-bought cards, fattening candy, and wilting flowers, let's focus on what really matters:

Relationships.

Let's do what it takes to make our relationships strong, healthy, and productive.

How do we do that?

Start by telling the people who matter to you that they matter to you. Tell them you love them and want to build stronger relationships. This Valentine's Day, celebrate the day in a way that will last a lifetime: by building your relationships and making them stronger. Make a true difference. 

5 Tips for Communicating Without Getting Angry

5 Tips for Communicating Without Getting Angry

Do you get angry? Do you find yourself infuriated and lashing out? We all feel that way at times. Certain things set us off, and we react in anger. We can curtail the anger, however, and it's important to do that so we can maintain our relationships.

Here are five tips for communicating without getting angry:

1. Talk often. Don't let things fester; deal with stuff right away. It's easiest to do that when we're having regular conversations. My husband, Ryan, and I have (almost) nightly coffee hour which really facilitates consistent communication. Because we are talking to each other so often, we are usually able to resolve issues when they are still small instead of trying to tackle issues when they've piled up and snowballed.

2. Ask questions. Seek to understand the situation from the other person's point of view. Listen without interrupting. Instead of making statements or accusations, it's important to allow the other person to express his or her ideas, thoughts, and feelings. Ask open-ended questions to gain a more thorough understanding of the situation. Don't pass judgment or assume anything.

3. Kindly and respectfully share your viewpoint. Be honest but nice. Yelling is not okay. Be direct and say what you need to say, but be kind. If you bite the other person's head off, it will be very difficult for that person to resolve the issue with you. Speak to that person in the way you'd like to be spoken to. Make sure you share everything you need to share. Don't hold back, but be nice about it.

4. Be okay with not agreeing. You don't have to agree about everything. Compromise. Many people believe that a relationship is "okay" only if there are no disagreements. That is false. Ryan and I disagree often, and we're fine with that. Seeing something from another perspective is valuable. We don't need to debate something to the death. We just need to be able to move forward with understanding. Neither of us needs to "be right" or "win" the argument because we're on the same team. We appreciate each other's viewpoints.

5. Speak to the other person the same way you'd like to be spoken to. Be kind and respectful. I've said this throughout, but it's worth reiterating here. Screaming never helps a situation. Ever. Take time to cool off before speaking if you need to. Be humble, and use the golden rule.

 

We talk about this and other communication topics in our Speaking Society. Click here to join the community that accelerates your communication, connection, and confidence!

Put Your Spouse Ahead of Your Kids

Put Your Spouse Ahead of Your Kids

When I was first dating Ryan, he was my whole world. I thought about him all day long. I would count down the minutes until our next date or phone call. We got engaged and later married, and he was my first priority. I wanted to spend all my time with him, do nice things for him, and make sure he felt important (because he was). He did the same for me.

Then we had kids.

I knew nothing about babies. As a teenager I hadn't done much babysitting for kids younger than 3, and I was pretty young when my own sister was born, so I really had no experience with newborns or babies. To say I was a mess when our first baby arrived would be quite an understatement. I had no clue what I was doing. I felt like a disaster and a failure.

When our baby was born, my OBGYN told us that when we came for our 6-week postpartum checkup he would ask if we had gone on a Date Night during that time. He told us that was our assignment. At some point in those first 6 weeks, we needed to go on a Date Night without the baby.

I laughed at him. I really did. Date Night had never been a problem for us. In fact, almost every night was Date Night before we had a baby! 

But the truth is we struggled to get that Date Night in before that 6-week checkup. Rather, I struggled to get that Date Night in. I didn't understand the importance of making sure my husband was getting my time. I didn't realize then that I needed to purposefully position him and our marriage as my #1 priority, even over our children.

I learned my lesson when we finally went on that Date Night. It felt so good to laugh together and focus on each other. It was a huge relief to get a break from a baby crying. We reconnected, and I remembered why I love being married to him. 

Since then, Date Night has been an important part of our marriage success. Yes, there are times that the children need us, and their needs at times must come first. Yes, there are times when too many days go by between Date Nights. But, getting time alone with each other, without children, is a vital part of our marriage. We make each other our #1 priority. We have five children now, and after they all leave home one day, we'll be left with just each other. I don't want to wake up after the kids are gone and realize I don't even know my husband. I want to prioritize him every day to keep our marriage strong.

I spoke about this topic on a podcast episode with Modern Twin Mom, Sunit Suchdev. I'd love for you to listen in as we discuss the importance of prioritizing your marriage over kids. Click here to tune in. It's Episode 3.

Ryan and Carrie Sharpe
3 Reasons Your Marriage Needs a Break

3 Reasons Your Marriage Needs a Break

The daily grind and never-ending family activities can really take a toll on your marriage. Days and weeks can fly by in a blur of grocery shopping, house cleaning, work, and parental taxi service. Before you know it, you look over at that person you married and can't remember the last time you talked about anything that didn't involve responsibilities, obligations, or the family calendar.

Your marriage needs a break.

Taking a break together is absolutely essential to a strong, healthy marriage. You need regularly scheduled Date Nights, but you need an overnight (or better yet-- an entire weekend) getaway to take the break that you both need. You may think you don't have the time or money to take that kind of break, but you seriously can't afford not to take a break. Here's why:

1. You need to unwind. Getting away alone together gives you time to de-stress without the dirty dishes, TVs, and Facebook newsfeed calling your name. When you get away alone together, you can hear yourself think. You can focus on each other instead of work and bills. You can shut your brain off for a little while and recharge. You need to. You both do.

2. You need to talk without interruptions. Child chatter and ringing phones do not make perfect atmosphere for adult conversations. You and your spouse need to be able to finish a complete sentence without a child interrupting to have his butt wiped. You need to be able to have an entire conversation without looking at an electronic device. Taking a break together sets the stage for reconnecting and communicating effectively. Whether you need to discuss how to tackle a challenge you face or you just want to talk about ice cream flavors, taking a break together will provide the opportunity to do that without interruption.

3. You need to laugh and have fun together. It's hard to enjoy each other if all you ever do is work (career, house, and otherwise). You need to get out of your usual surroundings and be able to let loose a little. Having fun together reminds you why you fell in love in the first place and encourages you to make enjoyable new memories together. Laughter is good for your soul and for your health, so do a few activities that are fun for you both. 

Taking a break doesn't have to be a huge production or an expensive venture. Cash in your hotel points, utilize family and friends for babysitting, and take a couple days for yourself. Go hiking. Go camping. Visit a museum. Check out a new coffee shop. Whatever. Just get our of your normal routine, and leave your worries behind for a couple days. Just focus on each other. Have fun. Talk and laugh. Fall in love all over again.

Your marriage needs that break.

3 Reasons Your Marriage Needs a Break
Some Things Just Don't Matter

Some Things Just Don't Matter

All it takes is a death in the family (or a bad medical diagnosis, or some other crisis) to remind us that some things matter, and some things don't. 

What doesn't matter is differing opinions. Preferences. Unachieved expectations. Unrealistic standards. What doesn't matter is all the little things we fuss over on any given day.

It doesn't matter what kind of car we drive. It doesn't matter whether we have the brand-name labels for our kids to wear to school. It doesn't matter which way the toilet paper goes on the roll, or whether a spouse leaves clothes on the floor. It doesn't matter if your to-do list is finished. It doesn't matter if everyone agrees about what kind of TV show is acceptable or what movie you let your kids watch. It doesn't matter if you have one pair of shoes, no shoes, or a million designer shoes.

It doesn't matter if your sister had a bad day and said something rude. It doesn't matter if your parents drive you crazy. It doesn't matter if your brother handles a situation differently than you would. It doesn't matter if your friend visits as often as you think he should. It doesn't matter if your coworker has annoying habits at the office or doesn't call you back as quickly as you'd like.

It doesn't matter whether you think leggings aren't pants. Or are.

It doesn't matter if you like this year's candidates. Or not.

It doesn't matter if you love the music at church. Or can't stand it.

Some things just don't matter.

What matters is our relationships. What matters is whether those we love know how much we love them. Are we on good terms? Have we resolved conflict? Have we said the things that need to be said? Have we opened our hearts and met the needs of others?

Do we appreciate each other? 

Did we make a real effort?

Do we accept responsibility?

Have we forgiven each other?

It's amazing how much we celebrate someone after they die. Obituaries are full of praise! We focus on someone's good points and minimize their flaws. We remember their positive contributions. Imagine if we did those things with the people we love while they're still alive? Forgive, focus on the good, speak positively.

Life is short, and some things matter... like your marriage, your relationships with your children and family, and your friendships.

Make your relationships right.

Communicate.

Connect.

Appreciate each other, forgive each other, and dish out grace in huge portions while you can.

If you have a less-than-stellar relationship with someone, make it right TODAY. Tomorrow is not promised, and at the end of it all, some things matter and some things don't. Move past the things that don't.

Say what needs to be said.

Right the wrongs.

We only get one chance at this life. Focus on what matters.

Staying Connected with Your Spouse with Small Children in the Home

Staying Connected with Your Spouse with Small Children in the Home

Staying connected with your spouse while having small children in the home can be a major challenge for many couples. Often one or both of you is working full-time, or staying at home with the kids (which is tons of work), and the sheer physical exhaustion from caring for the home and kids can leave you feeling disconnected from your spouse.

So how does a couple with young children in the home stay connected?

First, you need to have the right mindset.

Accept the phase of life you are in, and realize that it is a phase.

Often I have become very frustrated about the challenges of staying connected with my husband during this time in our marriage. What has helped me, though, is to recognize that this is a phase, and that it does get easier over time.

    Now that our daughter is slightly older, it is easier to do some of the things that were more difficult when she was an infant and toddler.

    So keep in mind, first of all, that this phase of life will change. And recognize that there may be things you WANT to do as a married couple that are just not possible right now. Instead of wishing the time away, do your best to enjoy the phase you are in currently, and try not to become resentful of the demands that young children place on you and your spouse.

    Prioritize your marriage.

    Although the phase of having young children in the house may mean that life will look different than at other times in your marriage, it also is a very good idea to prioritize your marriage.

      As a couple, you need to decide that you will make your marriage a priority. It is often said that many divorces take place once the children are grown and moved out the house. Why? Because the married couple didn’t stay connected while the kids were living at home. They focused so much on the children and their needs that they lost their identity as a married couple.

      If you want to avoid this, then you must mentally make the decision that your marriage will come first-- before your relationship with your children.

      Once you’ve accepted the phase of life you are in, and you’ve made a decision to prioritize your marriage, it’s time to begin putting into action some steps to stay connected as a couple.

      Here are a few strategies that have worked really well for me and my husband:

      1. Date Nights. I am a firm believer that having a regular date night--even when the children are young--is absolutely essential to staying connected and maintaining your communication.

        My husband and I often attempt to have conversations around the house. I say attempt because we are inevitably interrupted by our 7-year-old, who loves to talk non-stop. We have learned that it’s basically pointless to try and discuss anything of importance when she is awake.

        I'm sure we're not alone in this situation. That's why date nights are so essential. Having a specific time when you go out together allows you to have a full conversation without being constantly interrupted or having to run and change a diaper, get someone a drink, or clean up puke.

        In our marriage, Saturday nights are reserved for each other. Once a month we go out, and the other Saturday nights we do something together at home. After our daughter is in bed, we make an effort to talk, play a game, watch a movie, or do something else that helps us stay connected.

        Having this time reserved for date night--whether at home or out and about--allows us to look forward to that time together where we are not dealing with other responsibilities. 

        2. Weekly Meeting. Okay, this one is not as exciting or sexy as date nights. But it can be very beneficial.

          My husband and I have often run into challenges over our schedules. He works part-time as a pastor at our church and runs his own business. I homeschool our daughter and run my own business as well.

          So, very often, there are events, plans, and situations that arise on one of our schedules that affects the other person. However, sometimes we do not communicate about these things until the last minute. For me, last minute communication about events equals stress.

          So this year, we began touching base once a week about our upcoming events and schedules. Our goal is to sit down once a week and review the next week’s schedule. We discuss any changes outside of the normal routine. We talk about whether either one of us will be doing an activity with friends, or if there is a date night to plan, or a church activity going on.

          This also is a time when we often discuss how we are doing in terms of our own needs and our needs as a couple. These conversations have helped us to stay connected and stay on the same page about our marriage and our family life.

          3. Show Appreciation. The years of raising young children are incredibly demanding on both parents. There are sleepless nights, loads and loads of laundry, bills to pay, and mouths to feed. Especially when the kids are too young to really help out, and all they do is make a mess-- this can be emotionally and physically exhausting.

            That’s why it is SO important, during these years, to show appreciation to your spouse for what they do.

            It is very easy to become overwhelmed with everything you have to do that you neglect to notice what your spouse is doing. This happened with me and my husband after our daughter was born, and we both ended up feeling unappreciated and unloved.

            It took a couple years of feeling very frustrated in our marriage and finally going to therapy to realize that lack of appreciation was a major cause of our unhappiness.

            I also realized that I needed to change my attitude towards my husband in order to improve our marriage. I needed to begin recognizing what he WAS doing for our marriage instead of focusing on what he wasn't doing.

            So taking the time to notice, and appreciate, the little things your spouse does is vitally important to staying connected. When you feel appreciated, you are more likely to feel connected to your spouse.

            4. Schedule Sex. Often, in the midst of raising young children, your physical intimacy as a married couple can suffer. In the busyness of life, sometimes having sex becomes an item on your long list of “to-dos” instead of an important aspect of your relationship.

              But maintaining your physical intimacy is vital to the health of your marriage. It may seem strange, but scheduling sex can truly help to keep that connection healthy. Rather than just waiting for the right moment to happen--which, let’s face it, with kids around, is unlikely to take place--you can take control of this as a couple and actually plan it.

              I first heard of this idea at a marriage retreat that my husband and I attended, and then I’ve heard it a few other times from other couples and on podcasts. My husband and I have implemented this practice and it has helped us to stay connected even during challenging times in our lives.

              5. Have fun together. Humor and laughter in a relationship is truly beneficial to maintaining a strong connection.

                During the times that have been the most difficult in my marriage, I have noticed that we have not had very much fun together. On the other hand, when we are doing things we enjoy together and having fun, we tend to be more connected emotionally as well.

                So make an effort to do fun things that you both enjoy! Sometimes these can be the simplest of activities, but they can produce great amounts of joy.

                A few ideas: Play a board game together, either as a couple or as a family. Play a sport outside together-- kick a soccer ball around, play a game of toss, or badmiton, or go for a bike ride. These activities often result in laughter and fun naturally.

                Allow yourselves to be silly. Some of me and my husband’s funniest moments are late at night, when we are both exhausted, but we just start laughing and making crazy jokes. It can be a fun way to end a day if you are able to laugh together.

                Staying connected as a couple while you have small children running about is challenging, but not impossible. If you have the right mindset, and you put some simple habits into place, you are likely to see improvements in your relationship.


                 

                Esther LittlefieldEsther Littlefield is a feisty pastor’s wife to her husband, Scott, and mom to her spirited daughter, KJ. They live in Maine where they enjoy as many outdoor adventures as possible in the midst of homeschooling, business, and church life. In her free time, you’d probably find her with a cup of coffee, a good friend, and a sink full of dishes. Esther is the founder of WellnessMomLife, helping moms balance marriage, motherhood, and ministry by caring for their personal, physical, spiritual, and relational wellness. Please visit her blog at www.wellnessmomlife.com, and join her FREE 5-Day Better Attitude Marriage Challenge. Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.