Health and Wellness Habits for a Better Marriage

Couple doing push-ups in home gym

How often do you and your partner plan your week of workouts, wellness and healthcare needs like meals, massages, walks, meditation completely separately from one another?  It's great to have individual space and needs met, but imagine of instead of going this alone, we planned, worked out with and generally practiced wellness TOGETHER with our spouse, side by side.  Wouldn't it cut out about half the work and ensure that each of you made it to your workouts 50% more often? In this post, I want to provide some ideas for structuring a couples' wellness plan that is sustainable and actionable.

Mornings:

Try to get up before the kids and practice yoga and meditation together.  Take turns figuring out your routines or picking out videos you'd like to use.  I suggest at least 15 minutes of yoga and 15 minutes of meditation.  After your couples' practice, take turns getting up and caring for the kids, taking showers, eating breakfast.  As a family, plan for 2o minutes to practice a kid friendly yoga stretch and mindfulness meditation for a total of about 15-20 minutes so the kids also start their day off feeling confident, relaxed and connected to themselves.

At breakfast, try adding in a smoothie or fresh juice that the whole family will like.  Many parents report that kids will eat veggies when they're whipped into a fun smoothie that looks and smells great and is fun to eat!  My kids are even bigger fans of green juice than I am!  It is soo healthy and soo yummy.

Afternoons:

If you work near each other, how bout meeting to take a walk or have lunch and catch up with no kids scrambling around you?  Most couples find that even one hour per week of no-kid conversation can really strengthen their bond.

Evenings:

After the kids are in bed, you can do a workout video together one night, the next night, take a bath and exchange couples' massage to wind down from your day.  Alternating exercise nights with wellness nights can be a great rhythm to get into.

You can make soups in the winter which are nourishing and comforting.  If you are trying to eat mostly paleo, plan to make the same meal you eat for your kids.  They love to eat just like you and will be setting up some great life habits.

Date Night In

Parenting Coach in Palo Alto Date night in

So often as couples with kids we hear the general wisdom that we have to have "date nights" to keep our marriages exciting, to protect against the inevitable marital strain of constant child care and sleeplessness. To this advice I respond, how bout once the kids are in bed you stay in and connect on a depper level?  Run a bath, pop the cork on your favorite bottle, sit and eat dinner together, be together, sharing about your day?

These days what couples occupy themselves with once the work day and kid day are done is getting on their lap tops or sitting in front of the television and chugging away with endless screen time.

What if one or two nights a week, you discipline yourselves to not turn on any screens - not even Game of Thrones or House of Cards! - and instead (once the drought is under control :-) ) run a bath or just sit on the couch, facing one another, spending some good time making eye contact, making out, and talking about what is really going on for each other.

Remember the good ole days when just sitting together and making out was nearly magical?  How long does it take to start making out and just enjoying that?  Somebody's gotta get the ball rolling, how bout trying it tonight?

And then it doesn't have to turn into some giant dramatic night of fancy sex, either.  If it does, congratulations - cha ching!  But if that's not in the cards, how bout just sitting together and taking turns really sharing how you've been feeling, what's been on your mind... and not about the kids! In your own lives, in your own work, with your own friends, in your own creative spaces.  Just taking some time to go there and really share something deeper with each other.

The best, longest lasting, happiest marriages have intimacy in tact - and surprisingly, that is not exclusively about sex.  It's about emotional closeness and TAKING THE TIME to actually connect, share, know each other deeply, and be there for each other in a connected way.

So the next time you're feeling a bit frustrated by the state of your marriage and the impact kids have had on it, try simplifying by staying in, connecting, talking and see how much better you feel!

Really Listening: One Simple Tool to Try Today!

Parenting Coach in Palo ALto
Parenting Coach in Palo ALto

As a coach, I often reflect on what listening really is, how simple it is, and unfortunately, how rare true, present listening really is.  If you stop and think about your last interaction with your spouse, was each of you listening? I define real listening as putting aside your own agenda to be present, hear and understand another person and to be able to engage in that person's world without projecting your own thoughts, feelings, fears, experiences.  In our fast-paced lives with so many juggled tasks and responsibilities, true listening can be hard to come by.  But its benefits are beyond measure.

I teach parents how to truly listen to one another in my Parenting by Connection classes and we are always amazed by the vulnerable sharing and truth that surfaces in true listening's gentle presence.

For couples, one simple practice can improve listening tremendously and it is used commonly in couples counseling and workshops.  Try it and see if it helps to bring you and your spouse closer together and to help you feel more heard and present.

Each spouse gets a turn, start with 5 minutes.  Set a timer.  The person who is speaking is the only one who gets to speak during that 5 minutes of time.  The listener must clear his or her mind of thought and simply listen to the spouse who is speaking.  When the timer goes off, the listening spouse must explain to the speaking spouse what they heard them share.  The spouse who spoke gets to respond to the listener to let them know if their most salient points were heard and communicated back accurately and if there were any main takeaways that were missed.  Then the partners switch.

It's that simple!  Try it and I guarantee you will feel more heard, more connected and more able to start joining together to improve your marriage rather than working at odds against each other.

Here's to feeling like a team and to deepening your marriage each day.

Non-Violent Communication Can Save Your Marriage!

The Connected Family Parenting Family NVC
The Connected Family Parenting Family NVC

Do you find yourself having yelling matches with your spouse, in front of or within earshot of your kids, frequently enough that you and your spouse know it’s time for a change? Most of the time when couples yell in fights, it’s because either one or both of the people in the couple have strong feelings which arise because a deep-seated need is not being met.

For instance, let’s say that a woman asks her spouse daily that before he go watch television after dinner, he clean up the counter and dishes there after she has done the cooking.  The cooking partner has to ask several times, nagging, and the frustration builds up.   More often than not, the evening erupts into a yelling match over dishes.  But we all know it’s not about dishes.  What it is about is the fact that the irritated partner feels ignored, disrespected, unheard, dismissed, unloved, and has needs for cooperation, consideration and equality that are not being met.

This is how Non-Violent Communication (NVC) works:  first off, the person who wants to communicate her feelings starts off by identifying the moment/behavior/action of the person she is communicating with which most causes her to feel these strong feelings, in an objective way.  In this case, it’s the moment when her partner gets up from the table and goes to the couch instead of spending some time clearing and cleaning up after dinner.

In NVC, you start off a conversation with this identifying action.  You say, “When I see you get up from the table to watch television without clearing dishes or cleaning up…”  This wording has the feel of looking through a camera lens.  You simply communicate what you see, without judgment or hard criticism.

The next step is to clearly identify how this behavior/action makes you feel, and to be specific.  Rather than saying it makes you mad, say it makes me feel dismissed, ignored and disrespected – much stronger and more specific feelings which land with more clarity and emotional strength for the person listening.

Then you add to the statement of communication:  “When I see you get up from the table to watch television without clearing dishes or cleaning up, I feel ignored, disrespected and dismissed…”

Then you identify the underlying need that is not being met, and which is causing the strong feelings to erupt:  “When I see you get up from the table without clearing dishes or cleaning up, I feel ignored, disrespected and dismissed because I need cooperation, equality and consideration…”

The last part of the statement is a request.  After you explain what happened and how it makes you feel, what needs are underlying the strong feelings, you request if the person would be willing to act in a new way to correct course and prevent this hurt in future.

A final NVC statement would look like this:  “When you get up from the table and start watching television without clearing dishes or cleaning up, I feel ignored, disrespected and dismissed because I need cooperation, equality and consideration.  In future, would you be willing to help me to clear the table and clean the dishes and countertops before you turn on the television?”

This is very clear, it is not accusatory, it is not said while yelling.  It is straightforward, specific and proactive in what it communicates and requests gently a new action/behavior which is supportive and appropriate.

So the next time you and your spouse are veering towards a yelling match, stop, take a deep breath, and try this NVC methodology out:  describe the action objectively, state the feelings that arise when this action occurs, what the underlying unmet need is, and what if he or she would be willing to act differently in future so this hurt/feelings can be avoided.

You may be surprised at your spouse’s willingness to change when you approach him/her with calm, clarity, specificity, vulnerability, proactivity and gentleness.

Wishing you all the best as you consider using NVC to redesign your marital communication!