Monthly Archives: September 2014

Sep 29

Dealing with ‘The Mistress’: 4 Considerations for Balancing Work and Home

By E.J. Smith | Help

ID-100138621For the last couple of months, we’ve been focusing on the various relationships that can have a negative affect on marriages and send them into the Danger Zone.

We discussed what the “fun” of fielding unsolicited (albeit well intentioned) advice from loved ones, and also how to spot the signs that a friendship might be inching towards fulfilling needs for intimacy rather than platonic connection.

This month, I’d like to about something that impacts my family—and a lot of others out there too–

I’d like to talk to you about mistresses. The truth is that my husband has had one for years now.  And actually, so do I.

They call in the middle of the night—sometimes requiring us to drop everything and attend to them.

They cause us to sometimes stay out well past when we thought we’d be getting home—and even when we are home, sometimes they STILL need our attention.

They’re constantly emailing, texting, calling… putting us up in hotels away from home—and even have the gall to pull us away on birthdays, anniversaries and even holidays!

I hope by now you’ve figured out that I’m not talking about another woman—I’m talking about our careers.

Doctors, nurses, counselors, teachers, a lot of business folks… we just go go go all the time, it seems! And at that break-neck pace, it’s no surprise that often one of the casualties such a consuming professional life is our family life.

How and Why does our Work-related Stress Impact our Relationships?

Families in counseling are sometimes referred to as family systems. The family system is much like any other—it’s a series of parts that interact and relate to one another. More importantly, the health and well-being of each individual part, as well as the health and well-being of the relationship between the parts impact the system as a whole.

Ever notice that when work is particularly stressful, your libido all but goes into hiding? And how many times has that helped your marriage?

Is Your Work Place or Career Toxic to Your Relationship?

This is such a difficult topic to navigate. I mean, what if you say “Yes?”

What do we do? Do we quit our jobs and change careers in favor of more family friendly options? I have to admit, I know a lot of families where at least one partner did just that. And for some it really has seemed to work.

However, I’ve also seen situations where the spouse who made the change ended up resenting his/her spouse and family—having felt forced to make the change– and that created a whole other dilemma.

And let’s be honest—for some people (myself, my husband and many of our friends, included)—a simple and immediate change of careers isn’t particularly realistic or desirable. I love my job as a counselor, and I would be extremely upset if I was asked to give it up.

Besides, isn’t a major career change as a one-sized solution kind of like throwing the baby out with the bath water? Before we get there, let’s consider a few items that might help clarify the issue, and perhaps identify some paths to resolution.

 

Consideration #1: Examine the Health of Your Workplace

Fellow EM.com columnist Kim Hall just wrote a fantastic article on 5 Workplace Lessons for a Healthier Marriage. If you think your work place could be at cause for some undue stress in your marriage, I’ll invite you to read Kim’s article through two lenses.

1) First, read it for what it is—a great lesson on marriage.

2) Go back and read it considering how closely your workplace resembles the one that Kim describes.

The truth is, there are precious few (if any) career fields where there is only one option for where you will work and with whom you will work.   So often the people, rather than the job itself can make or break a work environment.

 

Consideration #2: Consider what “Work” means for You and for your Spouse

(…And Recognize the Two may be Different.) 

ID-100191175Did you know that work doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone? For some, working is a means to fulfill what one considers to be his or her life purpose. Others are driven by the need for achievement. And there’s a whole other group who strive for affiliation. Finally, there are those who simply see work as a means to an end of some sort.

You can place me firmly in the first category. Counseling, and working with others through trauma, is solidly part of my personal identity.

For the second category, of people who become doctors, lawyers and CEO’s—they constantly strive to meet certain “benchmarks”—and often report satisfaction from the chase more so than the catch.

Third, those who strive for affiliation might be those folks who seek to fulfill a “legacy.”  Although there are many examples from which to choose, I always think of how many young people choose to attend certain colleges, join certain fraternities or even certain branches of the military because someone in the family had done so.

Lastly, there are always those people who don’t fall so neatly into those neat little boxes…

The point is, understanding how and why you or your spouse’s career is so important to them can help re-frame the sacrifices both you and they are willing to make.

 

Consideration #3: Your Spouse is Not Trying to “Ruin Your Career” by Expressing Concern.

This type of statement is just begging for someone to come in with a personal story that points to the contrary. And while I do not doubt the existence of some uniquely vindictive people out there, if that is truly the case, then “the problem” really isn’t about you career or work environment being toxic.

If your spouse it taking the time to voice some concern, try to take the time to listen to them. Afterall, you’re in this together, right? So if one of you has a problem with something, then essentially, you both do.

 

Consideration #4: Define Your Version of “Full.”

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by a fellow counselor, Anne Stonebraker. (Anne specializes in working with women, and more specifically—people pleasers!) During her presentation, Anne challenged each attendee to look at our respective ‘plates’ and find what full meant to us. She gently chided us that full meant satisfying—not completely-at-capacity-and-about-to-overflow.

Was that working 40 hours/week or something else? Was that time spent solely doing one particular thing really well? Or were there a few different tasks or roles we enjoyed?

Of course, she was mainly focused on counselors in private practice looking at how many clients or other ventures we’d take on—but as I listened, I starting thinking about what “full” meant in other areas of my life.

How many outside hobbies, interests, or social events could I take on and still enjoy them rather than feeling pressured and even more exhausted?

How much time did I need with my spouse, or family in order to feel fully connected to them?

Finally, what were my priorities? And what was I willing or able to do to modify accordingly?

The Take Away

So what’s the take away from all of this? The take away is that while it’s perhaps normal to feel second-string to our spouses careers every now and then, that doesn’t mean it should be passively tolerated. It also doesn’t mean that all hope is lost.

The best way I can think to navigate a career or work related stressor that is impacting your marriage is to:

a) Come together as a team

b) Examine the facts

c) Get creative when possible

d) And start setting goals. Even if the resolution isn’t immediate, just knowing there’s a game plan in place and a united home front can make a world of difference.

 

Sound off! Let Me Hear You!

What’s been your biggest marriage challenge with respect to work?

Which of my “Considerations” do you think you’ll be pondering?

SHARE your tips and suggestions for future articles. Hands down, my best articles (and some of the best tips) have come from when you—the amazing wonderful readers—have shared your needs.

Relationships are so unique—if these articles aren’t speaking to you, tell me what will! I promise I’m listening!

(photo source)

(photo source)

Sep 26

When Should a Couple Rent vs. Buy a Home?

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Should Couples Rent vs. Buy a HomeNote: This is a guest post from Jennifer Riner of Zillow.com

Most individuals dream of becoming homeowners one day.

Home-ownership is not a reality for everyone, and purchasing property is one of the riskiest and most profitable investments. However, most financiers would agree that buying trumps renting.

Rent can cost more than a fixed-rate mortgage, and lessees don’t hold equity in their rented homes. However, special circumstances can render renting the more economic, practical choice.

Whether looking for a primary residence or a vacation home, consider the benefits of renting before making an offer.

  1. Freedom to Relocate

Most buyers searching for new homes plan to live in one place and hold stable jobs.

Individuals anticipating drastic career switches might want to hold off on property purchases – their future employers could ask them to move halfway across the country. Selling a home isn’t like breaking a lease. The process is much more complicated given equity is on the line.

Breaking a lease can be as easy as paying an extra month’s rent or forgoing a security deposit. In the long run, moving out of an apartment early may be cheaper (and certainly less stressful) than attempting to sell a home.

  1. No Maintenance Fees

Decent landlords take care of just about everything when it comes to their units’ maintenance.

Granted, tenants are liable for avoidable damages, such as purposely punching holes in the walls or breaking furniture and appliances out of spite. Aside from tenant-related issues, property owners are responsible for replacing old or broken appliances, aesthetic modernizations, roof repairs and plumbing leaks, among other assumed expenses.

Homeowners, on the other hand, must pay all of their property and structural costs themselves. Heating, air conditioning, water, electricity, internet, landscaping and general repair bills are monthly realities for homeowners, and should be major elements of a projected budget.

Some renters are required to pay utilities, such as internet and electricity, separately. But, many landlords choose to lump those costs in with monthly rent.

  1. No Down Payments

Renting is the obvious choice for individuals just beginning their careers who haven’t acquired large savings.

Down payments take years to pull together, given most buyers aim to provide 20 percent of the sale price upfront. Those who don’t opt to put 20 percent down have to pay private mortgage insurance fees and may be underwater until they own enough equity in their home to either breakeven or profit at resale.

If 20 percent is unattainable, consider renting on a budget for a while until ready to invest in a home.

  1. No Homeowner Fees

Insurance costs and property taxes can add up quickly. Many new buyers forget to include these in their projected monthly budget after closing.

Use a mortgage calculator to determine potential total monthly home owning costs. Be sure to detail additional homeowners association (HOA) fees, if applicable. HOA fees are typically associated with condominiums, where residents contribute regular payments for the upkeep of their shared communities and complexes, including structures, clubhouses, parking garages and other collective spaces.

  1. Flexible Credit Checks

Financial strains, such as foreclosures and bankruptcies, can wreak havoc on credit scores.

Landlords are slightly more forgiving when it comes to determining if someone is capable of paying their rent on time than banks that require solid financial history before blindly administering home loans. Home purchases involve more risk, so building up credit scores to ensure loan approvals and receive good rates is pivotal for all buyers.

Solid rental history assists in raising damaged credit scores, but requires timely payments to take effect. Those who have been afflicted by recent monetary issues or who lack reputable payment history (i.e. recent graduates or young professionals) can rent within their budgets to build financial profiles.

Buying isn’t the only option, and outlying factors can sway highly affluent individuals to lease homes instead. Use the breakeven horizon, or the point at which renting a home ends up costing more than buying, to supplement the aforementioned deciding factors.

The Atlanta rental market, for instance, has a breakeven horizon of only two years whereas further north in Washington D.C., the median breakeven horizon is higher at 4.2 years.

Location, as always, plays a key role in the affordability of a mortgage versus median rent, and should be seriously considered by renters and owners alike.

Sep 22

Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Have More (and Better) Sex

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

more sexDo you think there will be plenty of time down the road to nurture sex in your marriage?

Maybe. Maybe not.

When my husband and I married, we were 37 and 33, respectively.  And though we had each had sex in previous relationships, we did not have sex with each other until our wedding night.

We had been engaged just under a year and had been together for nearly two years, so to say the sexual tension between us was intense is an understatement of the greatest magnitude.  We wanted each other — in the worst (best?) way.

During our first few years of marriage, we enjoyed an incredible amount of sexual intimacy.  And even now 11 years after we said “I do,” we certainly still enjoy and savor our sexual connection.

But — and here’s the caveat you can’t see at the altar — life has a way of moving along and sabotaging sexual connection.

We started marriage with my 5-year-old son, and then we added another little guy to the picture about a year and half after our vows.  I couldn’t have seen then what I’m living now.

For those of you doing littles, brace yourself.  If you think the newborn, toddler and preschool years are busy, the grade-school, middle school and high school years will push your calendar to a new level of insanity.

And I’m not even talking about those folks who over-schedule their kids in a bazillion activities.

I’m talking about painfully average folks like me and my man, keeping the ship afloat and making sure everyone gets where they need to be with what they need when they need it.

There are things you can’t see at the beginning of marriage (thank God) that then become your reality the more years you log.

For us, in our short 11 years together, it has been the thrilling (and exhausting) ride of raising kids, of caring for an elderly parent, of losing jobs and changing jobs and finding jobs, and of facing a myriad of health struggles and financial hurdles.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am grateful for the life I wake up to each day. Grateful.

But I don’t always like the toll it has taken on the sexual connection in my marriage bed.

Do you think there is plenty of time down the road to nurture sex in your marriage?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Do you know why you shouldn’t wait to to have more (better) sex?

Because if you don’t build now the healthy habit of regularly and intentionally connecting with each other sexually, you will find it almost impossible to do when life gets cumbersome and treacherous.

When I think of how my beloved and I now have to seek with eagle eyes the sliver of margin in our life to make love, I think of how much more difficult it would be if we had not invested in our sexual relationship early in our marriage.

There was a time in our life when sex came easy — when we weren’t neck deep in parenting chaos and we weren’t taking care of an elderly parent and we had the advantage of being a bit younger than we are now.

The reason you shouldn’t wait to have more and better sex is because the elusive “tomorrow” that you think will be an easier time to have sex really doesn’t exist.  In fact, depending on your age and season of life you’re in, the “tomorrow” you wake up to might very well be incredibly harder than your life today.

I’ve long believed that when a husband and wife are taking good care of their sexual intimacy — having sex often and making sure they both are enjoying it — they are better equipped to do life.  Better equipped to savor the good moments.  Better equipped to endure together the painful debilitating parts.

Do you think there is plenty of time down the road to nurture sex in your marriage?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Mark my words. Your sexual connection tomorrow will depend on what you are doing about it today.

Sep 17

4 Tips for Going Back to School…After You’re Married

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Note: This is a guest post from Amanda Brown.

4 tips for going back to school when you are marriedGetting a better education is stressful, and adding marriage into the equation can certainly take the stress level up a notch.

So what’s the best way to handle going back to school when you’re all grown up and married?

Here are four tips to help reduce stress, increase the marriage bond, and enable guilt-free time for your advanced degree and your marriage.

1. Reduce Stress

There is a lot of pressure that married students have to balance, both with school and within their marriage.

TIP: Approach a college degree as a partnership.

No, that does not mean your spouse should do your homework. It means that going to school is not a personal project. It is a goal that will help both you and your spouse in the long run.

A degree means more opportunities for better jobs and higher salaries. That is a benefit you both receive. When you approach this as a team, there is less resentment and less stress. You both make sacrifices toward a better life.

2. Create a Chore Calendar

A strong marriage is full of rewards. Take advantage of every reward by working together. Your spouse is your biggest supporter. Let them be your motivation for doing well in school.

TIP: Create a calendar of everything that demands your time, including chores.

Major study time, projects, and test preparation should all be included on the calendar, as well as housework. The calendar helps you both see how much work needs doing and who will be doing it. If you want to measure equity, then initial who does what. Remember that getting any degree, such as a social worker degree, is a team project.

3. Build Together Time

Plan out your together time. This could include a date night when you are home together for dinner.

TIP: As you plan your school workload, schedule down time.

Use down time as together time, for both you and your spouse. This is an excellent time to build a stronger marriage. Another awesome tool is to do tiny, caring things like packing “I love you” notes in each other’s lunches. Make each note unique. Some suggestions include giving thanks to your spouse for helping with school.

Little reinforcements go a long way in building a strong marriage. The stronger your marriage is, the easier it will be to get through school.

4. Celebrate Achievements

Every semester comes with goals and obstacles. Those include midterms, finals and projects.

TIP: Chart out those obstacles and celebrate their achievements together.

If you approach going to school as a team project, then celebrate each achievement together. Make it part of your together time. Keep the celebrations on the simple and inexpensive side. Make victory cookies together or read poetry to each other.

Whatever you do, make it special. Save the expensive parties for when you graduate. When you are both grateful for an achievement, you erase negative emotions that may occur at stressful times.

Going back to school is a massive change for a married couple to go through, but you can do it. If you focus on being a couple and accomplishing the degree, then the victory that you celebrate is belongs to both of you.

You will each have contributed to the greater good of your marriage and improved your earning potential. 🙂

Note: This is a guest post from Amanda Brown.

Sep 15

The 4 Building Blocks of Intimacy

By Debi Walter | Communication , Romance

IMG_2976

Tom and I have been married for 35 1/2 years, and we’re still building our marriage. It’s a process that should never stop. Just as I will never arrive to the place of perfection in this life, so too, my marriage will always be in need of growth and change. Not realizing this fact causes more marriages to crumble than anything else.

Does that surprise you?

Marriage is like a house. If left to itself it will deteriorate, but if careful attention is given to the needs that come up, the home will last a lifetime.

How do we continue to build our marriage house? It’s simple really, but it’s not easy.

It has been said that anything worth doing is worth doing well. Our marriage is no exception. We have determined four building blocks that when used throughout the years of your marriage, will make it strong and able to withstand any adverse weather conditions that come your way.

Building Block #1 – Spiritual Intimacy

We’ve all heard the saying, “The family that prays together stays together.”

Of course, it takes more than just prayer to build a strong marriage. Prayer is not an end in itself, but is a line of communication to the only One who can truly help our marriage be all it was meant to be.

Prayer is our acknowledgement of our need for God to help us in our weakness. It’s sharing with Him what’s troubling us. It’s humbling ourselves in His presence letting Him know that we realize that without Him we are helpless to change. And when you take the time to pray to God together, it allows your spouse to hear what’s on your heart in a way mere conversation never reveals.

Spiritual Intimacy is learning together more about who God is. It’s Bible reading. It’s growing your faith by being an active part of a local church.

By all means possible, make sure the building block of Spiritual Intimacy is strong in your marriage.

Building Block #2 – Intellectual Intimacy

We should never stop learning and growing. How do you work on this building block? Make it a practice to study current events and talk about what you’ve heard. Learn new things together. Take a class or visit local museums or galleries and read the signs explaining the exhibits. Stimulate your mind by exercising it. A great tool is Lumosity, an on-line daily quiz for your brain that will strengthen your brain in ways you may not realize you need.

By all means possible, make sure the building block of Intellectual Intimacy is strong in your marriage.

Building Block #3 – Emotional Intimacy

Usually one spouse is more emotional than the other and oftentimes it’s the wife, but this isn’t always the case. If you are the one who doesn’t cry much, it takes effort on your part to grow in your understanding of one who cries at the drop of a hat. It would be easy to disregard their emotions as unnecessary, but if you do, you’re missing an important aspect of intimacy.

I remember a time when Tom and I were talking with a friend about an emotionally charged topic. Our friend asked me a question and immediately my eyes began to fill with tears and I couldn’t talk. Tom, who knows and understands me well said, “Give her a minute and she’ll be able to tell you what she’s thinking.” In that moment I felt loved and cared for by Tom. He isn’t nearly as emotional as I am, but he doesn’t make light of the emotions I feel. He listens. He knows me, and most importantly he shows his care by letting me express myself emotionally.

It’s also equally important to not let your emotions rule your heart or the decisions you make. This is why it’s good when one spouse isn’t nearly as subjective in making decisions. It takes the feeling of one spouse and the wisdom of another to consider important decisions on all sides.

Just as the more objective spouse must learn to understand the more subjective spouse, it’s also important for the subjective spouse to listen and trust the more objective spouse. This creates a strong balance in your marriage that isn’t easily shaken.

By all means possible make sure the building block of Emotional Intimacy is strong in your marriage.

Building Block #4 – Sexual Intimacy

This is most likely the first block you thought of when you heard the word “intimacy.” 🙂 It is important, but I placed it last in the list for a reason.

You see if you’re working on the first three building blocks, this one will benefit and grow stronger.

However, it takes a willingness to communicate with your spouse honestly and without fear of being exposed. To be intimate physically with another requires a vulnerability many fear because of past abuse or disappointments. It may be you’re afraid of being rejected.

Before the fall recorded in Genesis, God made them male and female. They were naked and not ashamed. What a gift they had, but didn’t realize until it was gone.

Guilt and shame made them want to hide, and it is the same for us today. It takes patience, love, and care to help a spouse who is suffering under the weight of guilt and shame. It takes unselfish love that is willing to become a safe haven for the one with whom you’ve been joined as one flesh.

The physical intimacy God intends for a husband and wife to enjoy is unlike any other relationship you’ll have. No one else sees you in this way. No one else has access to the core of who you are. It is a privilege and a great responsibility to know only one person in this way.

There is much to learn in regards to sexual intimacy, and much information is available. However, I caution you to know your source, and make sure what you’re reading is Biblically sound.

I recommend the following blogs where I’m confident you’ll receive help and hope that you can trust. Hot, Holy and Humorous, The Marriage Bed, Marriage Missions International, and To Love, Honor and Vacuum.

By all means possible make sure the building block of Sexual Intimacy is strong in your marriage.

What building blocks are in need of attention in your marriage?

Plan a date night to discuss this article and what steps you can take to make your marriage stronger.

Sep 10

The Cure for Boring (or Non-Existent) Date Nights

By Dustin | Romance

Everyone knows that regular date nights between married couples are a super good idea.

We should all do it. The same way we should drink less coffee and get 30 minutes of exercise every day. It’s good for you.

Even better, date night is an enjoyable thing to do together as a couple. Not that you’d know it, the way some people manage to avoid it.

The biggest issue with having regular date nights is that humans crave the coziness of routine. Taking even a small step outside our little regular habits requires some effort. It’s way easier to simply sit on the sofa and stare at the TV than it is to plan and execute a date night with your spouse.

There is nothing wrong with lazing on the couch to watch TV together. It’s great relaxation and switch off time. But engaging in that behavior every single night is hardly going to make your marriage sizzle.

Break the Routine with This One-of-a-Kind Date Night

So what’s a great way to ease into date night that doesn’t require straying too far from your couch, or your TV, but with all the benefits of having some fantastic, one-on-one quality time with your spouse on date night?

I’m so glad you asked. For your consideration: our couples massage videos.

Massage At-Home Date Night

Enjoy a fun, relaxing & unique date night at home – with couples massage!

I am totally biased. I’ll admit that upfront. But if I do say so myself, the product my husband and I have created hits all the right spots for a fantastic stay home date night without the problems of advance preparation, getting out of the house or even coming up with conversation topics together, which can be difficult if you’ve seen your spouse every other night for the week already.

Learning to massage your partner also ticks one very crucial box for any effective date night – novelty.

1. The planning is taken care of

The lifetime membership to our Melt: Massage for Couples video series gives you instant access to three pre-packaged date nights that are fun to repeat whenever you like. The entire series is broken down over three separate stages where you build upon your massage techniques as you go. Each stage finishes with a follow-along massage routine so you can treat your sweetie to a five, 15 and then a 30-minute massage at the end of each respective date night.

The one and only thing you will need to do in advance is get your hands on some massage oil, cheap and readily available at the grocery store or drugstore next time you’re passing through. You won’t need any other special equipment.

2. You get to stay home for this one

No babysitters. No braving the elements, or deciding whether to drive or take a cab…

This massage date night idea can be done from your very own lounge room floor. Stream the courses right to your smart television or laptop, it couldn’t be easier than that.

3. It’s something else to focus on

Massaging each other for date night means you’re not sitting across a table in a restaurant, with the whole date hinging on dazzling conversation. Some days in a marriage, the conversation will naturally flow. Other days, you may find yourselves with not much to say, which is why some people decide on the movies for their date nights instead (a.k.a. The “Look! We left the house!” version of watching TV on the couch).

In my humble (totally biased, remember) opinion, the massage videos are a better option than a movie because although you’re watching the tutorials on the screen, you’re actually engaging with each other at the same time. You quite literally have your hands on each other for the whole date night, which is tons of fun and a little bit sexy.

4. You’re acquiring a new skill

Learning new things together as a couple as well as doing something very novel and different are two ways of sparking the same brain chemistry as when you first fell in love. You’ll feel a rush of dopamine and serotonin, causing tummy-butterflies and happy sighs on your date night. Dreamy.

Get Your Date Night On!

Because we want you to have a chance to try a massage date night at home, we’re offering Engaged Marriage readers a special price for our lifetime memberships to Melt: Massage for Couples. Get instant access to the videos now and get a special deal using the link below:

Click Here to Save BIG on Melt: Massage for Couples & Cure Your Date Night Boredom!

If you do the math, it works out to less than $20 per date night… plus, you’ll have the videos forever so you can load it up and use the follow-along massage routines anytime you feel like pampering your spouse (or sweet-talking them to pamper you!)

Note from Dustin: This lovely post was written by Emma Merkas, your co-host in the Melt: Massage for Couples video series.  Bethany and I LOVE these videos – they seriously make for a fun, intimate and totally relaxing date night.  I encourage you to take Emma and her husband Denis up on their special offer for a great discount on an awesome investment in your marriage.

Sep 08

5 Workplace Lessons for a Healthier Marriage

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

5 Workplace Lessons for a Healthier
Have you ever worked for a dysfunctional company?

Odds are you have, and you probably were very unhappy.

By the same token, if you have been blessed to work for a terrific company, you probably really enjoyed your time there.

As someone who has experienced both, I have learned there are practices that successful companies have in common.

In the years since we said, “I do!” my husband and I found these practices could be applied in our personal lives to keep our marriage strong.

Through our words and our actions, we have modeled these for our daughters to use in their relationships as well.

From our home to yours, here are five lessons from the workplace for a healthier marriage.

1.  Practice good manners.  Being polite, avoiding embarrassing others, and practicing discretion are just a few of the good manners that build trust and gratitude. These go a long way towards forging strong relationships, and are equally important at work and at home.  While this may seem to be a no-brainer, business people often tend to treat one another with more grace and thoughtfulness than they treat their spouses. Take some time this week to check on the manners you use with the person that matters most to you.

2.  Spend time and money on education.  No matter how long you’ve been married, there are always things you can learn to improve your relationship. Likewise, successful companies invest in their employees because they know it will pay dividends down the road. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend lots of time or money to gain this information. For example, if you aren’t a subscriber to Engaged Marriage yet, sign up here to get the very best tips to help you live a married life you love. The resource page is chock-full of great suggestions, too.

You can also attend events, such as those put on by Winshape Marriage or Family Life. My husband and I attended the Family Life Weekend to Remember a few years ago, and also did the Art of Marriage event, and we recommend both enthusiastically, whether you are engaged, fairly newly married, or you’ve been together for decades.

3.  Take time to recharge. This is a simple and powerful principle, whether you are skipping lunches at work or vacations at home. A change of scenery does wonders to clear the mind and refresh the spirit. Plus, a less stressed person is able to think more clearly and respond in more creative and healthy ways. You can take walks around the block, spend a weekend away, or book a luxurious cruise to a warmer climate. For terrific ideas on date nights, check out these suggestions from The Dating Divas.

4.  Have something to look forward to. To stay interested in and engaged with either your job or your marriage, you must have things to look forward to. Author Jeff Goins wrote recently that having something to look forward to keeps the monotony at bay. He recommends having “A common goal, something to anticipate, (that) can bring you together in ways that the daily grind won’t.” Depending on the stage of your marriage—newlyweds, new parents, empty nesters—a weekly coffee date or short walk with just the two of you may be all you can manage, and may be enough for the short term. What’s important is that you look forward to this joint goal with joy.

5.  Make your marriage a priority. As the old saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Thriving businesses understand there’s more to life than work, and they strive to be as flexible and accommodating as possible to help individuals make time for the other important things in their lives. Making your marriage a priority will help you weather life’s storms. That strong bond doesn’t develop, though, without taking regular and intentional steps.

You get to choose daily how to act towards and react to your spouse. When you apply these five lessons from the workplace to your relationship, you will be laying the groundwork for a healthy marriage that will delight you in good times and sustain you through the hard ones.

 Question: What lessons from the workplace for a healthier marriage would you add to this list?