A strong marriage and a caring family will provide a refuge from the stresses of daily life. But even the best relationships take time, patience, and commitment.
ENRICHING YOUR MARRIAGE
Don’t keep your feelings to yourself. Say “I love you” to your partner often.
Make physical gestures part of your relationship. When you sit on the couch together, exchange hugs, hold hands and enjoy the closeness.
Surprise your spouse with little gifts that say “l was thinking of you today,”
Compliment your partner’s looks.
Make your spouse feel appreciated. Say “Thank you” for the little things he or she does for you.
Carry a photograph of your spouse in your wallet or purse. It will help you feel connected when you’re apart.
LISTEN TO EACH OTHER
Your tone of voice when speaking to your spouse or any family member sets the tone for the relationship. Civility begins at home and is the single most potent peacemaking element in a
When you arrive home with all the freight of a hard day at the office or a frustrating drive in heavy traffic, don’t take it out on the family. Try to shift gears for them.
Couples are often advised to set aside time to talk, but this isn’t always practical. A better plan is to have conversations while you are working around the house or getting ready to go out-in short, at every opportunity.
When your spouse has something on his or her mind, Listen attentively. Nothing encourages communication more-or encourages a sense of closeness to a greater degree-than a sympathetic ear.
Talk about your future and pay attention to each other’s ideas. What goals would you
like to achieve? Keep in mind that your marriage changes with time and experience, and
so will your objectives.
Everyone needs personal time and space. Make sure you and your spouse respect
each other’s need to read, to take a solitary walk, to pursue special interests and hobbies.
The early evening hours are important ln many famllles; It’s when everybody ls home and together. Make lt “prime tlme” don’t try to iron out problems until dlnner ls over and everyone has time to unwind.
Don’t wait for the fun to happen by chance: plan picnics, supper parties, outings of all kinds. And keep a deck of playing cards and assorted board games handy.
Laugh together. Merriment can recharge relationships. Rent your favorite film comedies to view on a VCR; take turns choosing the movie.
Call a time-out for a few hours if the burdens of cleaning, shopping, working, and caring for children seem to dominate your relationship. Sit down and relax or relieve the tension by telling jokes.
When you are out for the evening with your spouse, try to leave family issues at home. Talk about current events, books, movies, TV programs, even sex, but don’t discuss the children or
problems at work.
Change your routines. Take turns driving the car, making dinner, paying bills, and planning vacations. It will help to make your marriage a little less predictable.
HEALTHY SEX LIFE
Always make some time for intimacy. Teach your kids to respect your time alone when
you are in your bedroom. Install a lock on the door if needed. Frequent sex may not be absolutely essential for a healthy marriage, but emotional intimacy is.
Be realistic. Too often people think that in a good relationship sexual desire should be as strong after several years as it was at the beginning. Even among happily married couples, desire wiII
wane occasionally. But this needn’t be a problem. In fact, many happily married couples
find greater emotional depth and satisfaction in sex as time goes on.
If your lovemaking begins to get routine, try new approaches. Indulge in sexual fantasies. Or use such techniques as sensual massage.
Alternate which partner initiates sex.
Keep all of your battles out of the bedroom.
A certain amount of conflict is normal in a healthy marriage. However, if you find that fighting has become the only way out and your partner communicate, take a closer look.
When you are angry attempt to define the issue, stay focused on the topic of discussion, and try to understand each other’s positions.
Fight fair. Because you know each other so well, it’s all too easy to dredge up something hurtful from the past. Stick to the present.
When you argue, avoid phrases like “You always” and “you never,” which put your spouse on the defensive. A-lso avoid such psychological words as paranoid and projecting. A layman’s use of
these terms usually makes things worse.
When you criticize, offer a possible solution. For example, if you believe your spouse is playing favorites with one child over another, suggest an action or activity that may redress the balance.
Before you get worked up at your partner for, say, being disorganized or messy, ask yourself what you really can expect. In all probability, he or she was messy when you first met and will continue to be messy for life. Maybe it’s time to accept at least some of it. Or work around it.
Figure out what time of day is best for a discussion with your spouse. Many people are
decidedly morning types (larks) or night people (owls). Larks rise early, do their best work in the morning, and prefer to go to bed early. For owls, the pattern is reversed. If you and your spouse are opposites, take this into account. Don’t initiate a serious discussion when he or she is not yet
fully awake or is ready to go to sleep.
Don’t be afraid to tell your spouse that you are having a problem-either within yourself or within the relationship. No one, not even a loving husband or wife, is a mind reader.
MAKE TIME FOR UNITY
Most of us are inundated with demands from the outside world but don’t let this become an excuse for neglecting your family-and yourself. With a bit of creative tinkering, even the busiest schedules can yield a little more family time.
East your evening meal together as a family as often as possible-at Ieast four times a week. And make it convivial. Save any gripes for later.
Keep one big calendar where everyone can pencil in individual activities for the days and weeks ahead. Mark an X on blocks of time reserved for family activities.
If family time seems to get crowded off the calendar all too often, juggle schedules or shave
time off other commitments.
Collect ideas for family activities on a bulletin board. Post announcements of upcoming events. When a family day approaches, you will have a lot to choose from-auctions, fairs, exhibitions, bike
races, and so forth.
Use the bulletin board as a family information center: pinup cartoons, clips from magazines and newspapers, and recent photographs.
Household chores are less bothersome and are finished sooner when they are done as a team. Have the children fix a salad while you cook dinner; sort clothes or fold laundry together as a family.
Post a chores chart so that everyone knows what’s expected of him or her.
It’s unrealistic to expect your family to agree all the time and never argue.
Encourage family members to write down problems as they arise. Children too young to write can make drawings. Toss the notes and sketches, if any, into a cookie jar. Hold a weekly meeting to brainstorm solutions. If a suggestion doesn’t resolve a problem within a week or so, try something else.
Hold your meeting at the kitchen table or on the living room floor, where grown-ups won’t loom over kids. Children open up more when an adult’s head is level with theirs.
Limit these meetings to a half hour or less if your children are young.
How to hold down the shouting at your family councils? Make your own version of a Native American sacred stick, which is passed from speaker to speaker. Whoever holds the stick has the right to speak, and no one else may talk. A small hourglass can set the amount of time for each
RITUALS WORK MAGIC
Create your own family rituals. Families with the most rituals-major and minor, serious and silly-generally have the strongest ties.
Plan special events and seasonal outings to enjoy every year a fishing trip in the spring, berry-picking in the summer, visiting a pumpkin patch in the fall to choose your Halloween pumpkin and reading aloud A Childs Christmas in December.
Establish weekly activities, such as baking bread together on Saturday mornings and playeng board games on Sunday nights.
Make special foods to mark special occasions, for example, chocolate-chip cookies for celebrating the last day of the school year.
On each child’s birthday, plant a shrub or perennial that the child has chosen.
Keep a family journal in which you record milestones as they happen.
Tell your kid’s stories about the people they know-how Mom and Dad met, how Grandpa and Grandma started their own business, what happened when Uncle HaI tried to teach Dad to drive.
A homemade calendar makes a great stocking stuffer for every member of the family. Each
month pinpoints important dates-birthdays, anniversaries, special events, and upcoming family outings. Decorate the calendars with family photos and write in amusing family anecdotes.
THE EXTENDED FAMILY
For many of us, grandparents are a source of special affection and reassurance. They tend to love their grandchildren unconditionally, and they know fascinating things about the past—for example, how well Mom or Dad did in school when they were kids. Grandparents (and in these long-lived days, great-grandparents as well) often have stories to tell about faraway places, wars, and adventures.
Encouraging a close relationship with grandparents—and aunts, uncles, and cousins—will give your kids an enhanced sense of their own identity.
Because grandparents are usually more lenient with kids than parents are, it’s important to establish a few ground rules. If a child asks Grandma to intervene in an argument between himself or herself and the parents, Grandma should gently decline. Instead, she should listen to the child and suggest ways for the child to present his or her own case: to the parents.
Consider maintaining two sets of standards, such as allowing children to stay up later when visiting grandparents but adhering to the regular bedtime at home.
Grandparents can stay close while far away by tel phoning frequently and by making audio- or videotape for the kids—perhaps rea a favorite children’s story.
Remind grandchildren to write back and send photos.
Celebrate birthdays and holidays with cards or letters. You can make up your own red-letter days, such as celebrating the day a grandchild got his or her driver’s license.
Visit whenever you can.
For many couples, marital fights focus more often on money than any other issue. To get a marriage off to a solid start, it’s best to discuss the subject candidly from the outset. But there’s no time like the present to halt spats over family fi.nances.
Speak up. This is the key to all healthy financial relationships. Without open discussion, small differences over the handling of finances can turn into major problems.
Respect how your partner feels about money. Accepting differences is the first step toward finding common ground.
Go shopping together so that both partners know what things cost. Ignorance of prices may create unrealistic expectations.
Starting in the first year of marriage-or as soon as possible-have planning sessions. Schedule them at least once a year. Ask your partner about his or her needs.
Get the facts. Sit down and review the household bills jointly every month.
Prepare a budget. Treat it as a spending plan to help you achieve your goals. Once decisions have been made, the budget should be firmly adhered to. However, it should be reviewed periodically and adjusted as circumstances change.
In addition to budgeting for food, rent or mortgage, utilities, and other essentials, each spouse-and children old enough to handle money should have a set amount to spend as he or she pleases.
Discuss only the subject at hand. Don’t let a finance session escalate into a free-for-all about the kids, the dog, or the in-laws.
Tackle one financial chore at a time. Don’t try to establish a budget and make investment decisions all at once.
Consider what-if scenarios: What would you do if you iost your job? What if a family member piled up huge medical bills? By planning ahead, you’ll feel less anxious.
Have regular dream-sharing conversations: “If I had an extra $10,000, I would…” “If I could be anywhere I wanted to be, I would go to . . .” Then, if you have a sudden windfall, you will know what to do with it.
Recognize the breadwinners as well as those who do unpaid work. A husband in school or a
wife raising children at home shonld feel that these contributions are just as vital as a salary.
It may be a truism, but it’s worth reminding yourself that money can’t buy happiness. To feel really free, secure, Ioving and powerful requires emotional maturity, not dollars in the bank.
If you find that money battles threaten your relationship with your spouse, consider hiring a professional financial planner. Getting advice from a reliable, neutral outsider can defuse tension, smooth out financial hurdles, and maybe boost your net worth.
For newlyweds: Vow not only to love and honor each other but to salt away the extra cash you get with each pay raise. Put it into a savings account or other money-building resource. For re-married couples: Keep checking and savings accounts separate until you adiust to each other’s money-management style.