Fall has always been my favorite time of year and one full of a lot of happy memories for me. Every day this month when I've viewed my FB memories (seriously one of the first things I do on FB every day), I'm reminded of so many great things that have happened to me in years past. Starting today, those memories are going to start to show all of the things that I posted in the early stages of mine and Joe's relationship. Six years ago today, he sat down next to me and our story began.
It's more than likely that you have been on the receiving end of the silent treatment, or that you, yourself have used it on your spouse. I doubt that there are many relationships where this hasn't occurred whether that is in marriage, other close relationships with family or in the professional environment. This is not surprising, as research has found that it is one of the most commonly used 'tools' in a relationship. However, it can be very destructive and detrimental. The silent treatment can actually cause emotional and physical distress to you and your spouse and has even been linked to poor mental health. It is an incredibly damaging scenario for obvious reasons, if you are not communicating then you are not connecting. Connection is key for a strong marriage. Sometimes in marriage counseling sessions, couples confess they have barely spoken for days, weeks, months and sometimes even years. Don't let this happen to you!
Couples Therapy - Why we use the 'silent treatment'
Let's first look at why we use the silent treatment. The reason we resort to silent treatment is often the result of feeling hurt or dissatisfied about a situation or disagreement. When we do this we are letting our partner know something is wrong without actually telling them what it is. It can seem easier to withdraw rather than try to communicate effectively with your partner. This is a passive-aggressive form of behaviour and will most-likely leave your spouse feeling confused and resentful.
Sometimes it can be seen as part of a demand-withdrawal pattern where the silent treatment occurs due to demands placed by one spouse. I must admit, using the silent treatment was something I used to do as a way of hoping my partner would pick up on my disappointment and change. But it backfired, it left me feeling worse, not better. It brought up all my doubts and insecurities about the relationship.
Often I find in couples therapy that the silent treatment is a reflection of underlying problems in the relationship such as:
- Dissatisfaction within the relationship
- Lack of intimacy and connection
- Poor communication skills
Unfortunately, due to these common marriage problems, an emotional standoff occurs between a husband and wife. A situation where both think they are right.
Interestingly, this type of behavior seems to be more prevalent in couples that have high intelligence. The silence can persist. An intelligent person, generally more articulate and sure of their conviction and position will feel that they can justify their decision to use the silent treatment because they know they are right. They just know it. Look at the excerpt below from an e-mail I received.
I frequently read and follow your blog on Linkedin and wanted to ask a quick question. Me and my husband are in week two of the silent treatment and it's driving me mad. The argument started over something so small. He's a Doctor and I'm a lawyer, so we should know better... I don't want to back down because I know I'm right. How do we move forward?
This is a good example of where; despite the couple being intelligent, they have chosen the wrong tool to deal with their problems. In a courtroom, or in a medical setting, for example, the need for the professional to be right and justify their decision is paramount. In some cases, it can be a life and death decision. However, it's important to remember a marriage is not a professional setting! Being right and being happy are not necessarily compatible. Your relationship is more important than being right!
This case is a typical example of many silent treatment situations, in that it began with something small, something trivial. Many couples wouldn't be able to remember what had started the initial conflict or may even be too ashamed to admit to what it was! It's so often something that has been blown out of proportion! Sadly, this situation can persist for days and weeks if the cycle isn't broken. As the resentment and sadness will continue to escalate if neither of you choose to change the situation. It is imperative to look to a way of breaking the silence and reaching out to your spouse.
So here is what you can do.
Make a heartfelt apology.
Meaningful apologies are vital for a happy married life.
You may think that apologizing is a sign of weakness where you have had to compromise your standpoint. Well in fact, a genuine apology can be immensely powerful and one of the first steps to healing problems within a relationship. Do not underestimate the influence it can have on your marriage if compassion is shown. The problem is unfortunately, we are not always equipped to offer a genuine apology. As children we're often forced to apologize for things, like snatching a toy, or 'misbehaving'. These apologies are meaningless, as usually at such an age we don't have a good understanding of what we are actually apologizing for!
Apologizing in marriage is a sign of strength
What is useful to understand is that apologies show strength in a person. A genuine apology between two people, or even on a greater scale such as between countries, can heal embarrassment and engender compassion. Regrettable, our needs for success and to win can often work in opposition to this. It actually takes humility and the ability to be vulnerable to be able to admit that perhaps you had some part to play in causing the stand off and subsequent silent treatment.
Apologizing is such an important factor in order to move forward and build bridges. As it opens the door and the line of communication for you and your spouse to reconnect. Many positive things can occur following an apology. Even if the consequences of your spouse's action still remain. The act of apologizing and the consequent forgiveness paves the way to overcoming past hurt and achieving harmony in your relationship. It can prevent both of you holding resentment towards one another. Resentment is really repressed anger and not only does it consume a tremendous amount of energy, it destroys passion and love.
Through my marriage counselling work, I find that the more couples insist on being 'right', the more unhappy they generally are. I know this relationship advice I am sharing with you is stating the obvious. It's basic common sense to apologize. However I find in couples therapy and close relationships that what makes sense we often don't do! So I hope this article inspires you to let go of being right and to choose a better and more effective resolution in the future.
Choose love over being right!
Don't think an apology would work for you?
In the couples counseling I get couples to share, how they would love their partner to break them out of the silent treatment. For some it's an apology, for others it is a hug, kiss or back massage. Then there are those that love using humor. Knowing what your partner needs can help you resolve conflicts and become close again.
If you are disconnected right now and you believe an apology won't cut it - take advantage of my FREE Save My Marriage Consultation where we can discuss ways to help you move forward and become close again. Whether that's the Save My Marriage Online Program - a step-by-step system for making and maintaining love in your marriage, one on one support or something entirely different! I promise I won't leave you hanging. You will leave with real actions you can take to move you forward. As actions, not words save a marriage.
From my heart to yours, Nicola
P.S. Looking for more tips to improve your marriage? Get the FREE Report - 7 Secrets to Saving Your Marriage!
This article first appeared on savemymarriageprogram.com and has been republished here with permission.
Date night looks a lot different with two kids, especially because one of them is tiny and new and can't be taken out in public or be around other people much in the coming months. Because we can't take Emmy out on dates with us like we did with Bensen, or go out in public often and bring home germs to expose her to ourselves, we're going to have to get creative with the time that we've set aside for date night over the next few months. While I'm making it a priority to ask grandparents to hang out with our kids once a month while we go on a kid free date night, I've come to terms with the fact that the majority of our dates will take place at home.
At home date nights can easily turn into a routine of take out and a movie every week. It's much easier to think of somewhere you can go, places to eat and things to do when you can get out of your house and explore. But I believe that you can have just as much fun, if not more fun, spending your date nights at home and enjoying time together after the kids are in bed or while they are napping on your day off. I want our date nights to be something out of the ordinary, that we wouldn't think of to do on a regular basis and that helps us step away from our every day routine and the stress so that we can have fun and connect with each other. With a little creative thinking and resourcefulness, you might find that you enjoy staying in together rather than going out.
I know I've talked about Datelivery a lot before, but I'm going to talk about them again. After Emmy was born, I went to their date night box shop and ordered a few dates that I'd had my eye on. With those dates and a couple that we ordered in the past but didn't get a chance to use, we have one Datelivery date night planned each month from now until February. I took a peek inside each of the boxes recently and got so excited to pull them out and use them! The best part is that we don't have to think of ideas, put the date together or leave our house to enjoy it!
Datelivery is a date night in a box service that creates and delivers fun and unique date night activities that allow you to bond, re-connect and have fun with your spouse! I wanted to share a little peek of just a few of the items in some of the boxes that we get to enjoy in the coming months. There is so much more in each of these boxes than just what is shown before. Keep an eye on our Instagram stories over the next few months to see more!
The Fall in Love Date Night box isn't in the Datelivery shop right now. We received this one last year and I loved it so much that I kept some of the unused parts so we could enjoy it again this year. Bensen and I went on a mommy and me date to the pumpkin patch last weekend and got pumpkins so that Joe and I can decorate them next weekend on our date. This date night box came with tons of fun little trinkets to decorate mini pumpkins with. The little mustaches and eyes are my personal favorite! They also included all of the things that we would need to make caramel apples, minus the apples, so I'm going to include that element in our date and make these this year instead. You can't go wrong with chocolate covered fruit, and they're much easier to eat than the entire apple as well.
After opening our boxes, I think that the A Date Night at the Carnival one is going to be my personal favorite! That may or may not be based on the fact that there is cotton candy in it... Those cute little tickets that you see in the picture are used as part of a fun part of the date night. The trick on this date will be getting Joe to paint our faces. But, if he doesn't agree, I have a fun activity to do with Bensen later on so those face paints are a win win for me in either situation! November's a little late in the year for carnivals, but I can't wait for this date next month!
This Las Vegas Date Night box will be perfect for a date night in on New Year's Eve. I think we'll create a buffet of all of our favorite foods and spend the evening learning how to play poker and playing all of the other fun games that are included in this box! I've never played poker before, and probably won't play it much in the future, but I think that learning something new together will be a really fun element for this date night. I'm not sure how late we'll be able to keep our eyes open that night, so we may have to hit some of our Vegas games the next night instead.
I'm sad to say that we received this one over two years ago, the month that we bought our home and started renovations, so we never got the chance to use it. I actually found it last summer when we were unpacking a few things and am finally putting it on our date night schedule! The box as it is in the Datelivery shop now looks like it's even more amazing than the one that I've got and a lot of fun!
We got the Be a Kid Again Date Night box last year but never got the chance to use (I fail at this, I know). There are so many fun things in this box, but my personal favorite is the Playdoh Charades game. You can never go wrong with Playdoh or crayons. There's a fun twist to Jenga and even a dessert idea! This may be the date that I'm most excited for just because it speaks to my five year old heart. You are never too old to play and have fun!
I'm sure not a lot of people will be venturing out on Valentine's day, that's just asking for chaos (and lots of germs). We'll be enjoying our Romantic Picnic Date Night box by candlelight on the floor of our front room. I realized that means that we've already got Valentine's planned, four months in advance, look at us go! My favorite part of this box is that there will be no dishes to clean up afterward so we can enjoy the rest of our evening together.
We have had a few other Datelivery boxes, but the two that are in their shop right now are The Scavenger Hunt date night, perfect for a romantic and fun evening in and the Pizza Challenge Date Night, probably one of my favorite date night memories of ours so far.
You can use prioritized10 to receive 10% off any order or prioritized20 for 20% off any order over $45! Codes do not apply to gift bundles. Coupon code is subject to deactivation without notice. We are also giving away The Scavenger Hunt date night box to one lucky couple over on Instagram today! So head over there to enter!
What are some of your favorite at home date nights? I need all of the ideas that I can get this year!
I think every parent out there can agree that the six weeks following the birth of your child are some of the most chaotic, exhausting and rewarding weeks of your life. They are also the weeks when it is easy to let your marriage take the backseat because there is so much going on and your priorities are elsewhere. If you don't make effort to keep your relationship going, before you know it, your kids will be grown and gone and you won't know the person that you are married to as anything more than your partner in parenting. For this reason, I believe that those weeks after you add a new little one to your family are some of the most crucial for your marriage.
It will be hard to do but if you can find ways to make time for your marriage now, during one of the most busy changes off your life, you will be creating habits that will last for a long time. And when those actions become habits, you will find it easier to make your marriage a priority throughout your life. Those times when it is the hardest to make time for your marriage are the times when it's the most important to. Whether you're new parents or have something else consuming your time, doing these six things will
Have a date night
Date night has become really important in our marriage over the last year. I get excited to plan our date night activities and look forward to date night each week. While we were balancing our time between both kids while Emmy was in the hospital, date night was one of the only times that we got to spend alone together each week. Since we've brought Emmy home, date night is harder because we're busy feeding both kids, putting Bensen to bed and it's our bedtime before we know it.
Your date nights might look a lot different now that you have a little one in the house, but it's still important to make date night happen. If you have family around who can come and watch your kid(s) while you go out or even while you spend some uninterrupted time together at home. When we had Bensen, we'd take him with us and plan our outings for a time when we knew that he would be sleeping. Of course, that only lasted until he stopped sleeping as much. If a longer date isn't possible, you can get creative with your at home dates. I love these date night boxes and have five at home to enjoy with Joe over the next five months because we're more confined to our house with a preemie during cold and flu season. You could also grab takeout or dessert to enjoy while your baby is sleeping, make something together, play games, etc.
Sign up for our newsletter and get a free download of fun seasonal and holiday date night ideas, a lot of which can be done at home or adapted to be done at home!
Cuddle, hold hands and kiss
In the six weeks following the birth of your child, there are certain activities that are off limits. For some people, finding the time and energy to be intimate with their spouse takes a lot longer than that. Those limitations don't mean that you can't increase the intimacy in your marriage during those weeks. Intimacy is so much more than what people often make it out to be. Just from the physical aspect of things, taking the time to hold hands, cuddle and kiss each other daily will help keep the spark alive and help you connect.
Take a bath together
At one of my baby showers, I was given a bag of this epsom salt to use during postpartum recovery. Warm baths with epsom salt was something that was suggested to me by my doctor when I left the hospital after delivery as well. Take advantage of this time while your baby is sleeping, bring the monitor with you, and relax together.
Eat meals together
This was a big thing for us while we were in the hospital because dinner was the only chance that we got to spend quality time alone together each day. Now that we're home, our meals are a little more chaotic because they involve Bensen as well, but we still make that time together a priority.
Some nights we'll wait to eat our dinner until after Bensen is in bed so that we can have more one on one time. Some days Joe will come home for lunch because his break falls right during Bensen's nap and right after I've fed Emmy. It's nice to sit down at the table together and talk. Everyone has to eat, so meals provide a great opportunity to make that time for each other.
Talk every day
It's important to be communicating with your spouse on a regular basis, and not just relaying a run down of your day or discussing the itinerary for the next day. Really take the time to talk and listen to what each other has to say. Talk about the type of parent you want to be and the things that you want to teach your child. Share with your spouse the ways that watching them with your child is making you love them more. This book is one of my favorites for conversation starters that will help you continue to get to know each other and create the kind of connection that you did when you were first dating.
If you will take 15 minutes each day to focus on your spouse and your marriage, you will keep the romance alive and continue to build your relationship, no matter what stage you are currently in. Adjusting to the schedule of your new baby, late night feedings and the exhaustion that comes with being a new parent can bring stress to your relationship. If you really make the effort, the stress and struggles of your situation will make your marriage stronger rather than tearing you apart.
What have you done following the birth of your child to make your marriage stronger?
Each stage of life looks different and brings unique challenges to every couple. My hope is that you will be inspired by the stories of the women in this series. I hope that their experiences will help you find more ways to make your marriage relationship a priority throughout every stage of your own life.
Lisa and I were paired up as part of a blogger mentor program a few years ago and we've been chatting every since. When we first became friends, she was a full time working wife, without kids and now she is a full time stay at home mom with two cute little girls! I admire Tim and Lisa's commitment to their marriage. They've always attended marriage retreats and had a group of friends from their church that they meet with who are just as committed to marriage as they are. I have also appreciated her honest posts about being mother to two little ones as we've made that transition over here. I know she loves her littles and they have a lot of fun together, but she is someone you want to follow if you're looking for someone you can relate to and laugh with when it comes to the tougher parts of motherhood! I'm excited to be sharing this interview with you today!
What does it mean to you to prioritize your marriage?
It means to recognize that marriage is one of the very most important relationships in my life after my relationship with God - even above the relationships I have with my daughters! It means to keep that priority in mind even when there are so many other distractions in life, and messages in life from society that would suggest that marriage is not important.
How have the different stages you've experienced in life affected how you prioritize your relationship with each other?
Well, it's definitely harder to prioritize each other these days! We have a two year old and a 5 month old, so our daughters have a lot of needs every single minute of the day that we find ourselves attending to. Tim and I used to go on weekly date nights, even until Clara was one-year-old, but now with two kids that just doesn't happen anymore. However, we still attempt to prioritize our time together and really check-in with how we're each doing. I love having quality time together to discuss our life. I also still love doing fun things together, but now we usually do things with the kids instead of just by ourselves, which can be distracting. I can honestly say that prioritizing our relationship has gotten harder and harder as we've added more kids and moved across the country, but we continue to learn more things about each other and have definitely grown stronger as a couple while working through these challenges and life phases.
What are some rituals/traditions (big or small) that you have with your spouse?
This is one we're trying to work on because I don't think we're very good at creating traditions - we keep forgetting to do them! I especially want to create some traditions around the holidays. For instance, for the last two years I've bought the whole family matching pajamas, and I can't wait to do that agian this year! I think it's important to have some sort of routine in genearl, so that our girls can see how our family lives consistently. We really try to go to church every single Sunday, and even when the girls were born we didn't miss church for more than a week or two at a time. We also meet with our church group weekly so that we can live life alongside other couples and families in similar life stages. I think it's so important to build those meaningful connections, and I hope our girls learn that through us! Other than that, we travel and find new adventures often, so while it's not a routine, it's a way we live life that I hope is apparent to our girls.
How have the obstacles and challenges that you've faced as a couple made you a stronger team?
Oh gosh, we've had so many challenges! We met, two years later we got married, a year after that we got pregnant, then we had Clara, a year later we got pregnant again and had Isabelle... Our relationship has been a whirlwind! But, we've become a strong team because we've learned a lot about each other, we've learned to communicate better, we've learned the importance of communication and conflict resolution, and mosst importantly we've learned that we work better together than separately. There's no one I'd rather have by my side!
Tell me about something that you hope to be able to do together in the future?
I have no idea at this point! I'm very much living in the present these days. I just want to raise our kids together, show them the world, have some awesome adventures as a couple and as a family, and keep having fun along the way! I know that this stressful time is just a season and eventually we won't have babies anymore, so I want to enjoy this phase of life, but then be able to have a little more freedom later on. I can honestly say that I've done everything I've wanted to do as a person and as a couple, so right now I'm not trying to achieve anything, and instead I want to enjoy life for what it is. But I can't wait to see what the future has in store for us!