I have great memories of spending the holidays with extended family as a kid. Sitting around two ping-pong tables in my grandparents basement with a host of Uncles, Aunts, and cousins eating lots of great food. If your family get togethers are enjoyable, relax and revel in it, but be sure to make time to nurture your marriage this weekend. The best way to do this might be to set aside time to spend ONLY with each other. It doesn't have to be a lot of time, but make it sacred to just the two of you.
A couple ideas:
- Go for a walk together. Be sure to hold hands as you take an active retreat from the family.
- Reminisce about a couple of your favorite Thanksgiving memories. Pick at least two from before you and your spouse met, and at least two from your time together as a couple.
- Carve out some time to cuddle up on the couch and watch a favorite holiday movie together.
When it's not good.
Not all family gatherings are positive though. Because getting with family can be stressful, plan ahead. Ask your spouse how you can help. Stay curious and explore how you can help each other. Common requests I hear in my office?
- "Don't leave me alone with them."
- "Always talk of me with honor, don't pick on me in front of your/my family."
- "Ignore (pick a family member) when they (pick an irritating behavior)."
- "Pretend like you like my family."
- "Let me handle it when someone in my family...."
Remember, your spouse knows the unspoken rules in their family better than you. Allow them to set the pace. Don't try to tell them how to treat their own family. Just do the best job you can in being a support for your spouse. Extend grace for how your spouse might revert a bit when around their family.
Most of all, commit to being supportive of each other. Stay on the same team. Don't let anyone in extended family get between you and your spouse.
Jennifer’s complaint was that the antidepressant her doctor prescribed seemed to be causing problems in her sexual relationship. As many as 96% of women taking an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor - e.g., Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, etc.) or SNRI (Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor - e.g., Effexor, Pristiq, Cymbalta, etc.) experience negative sexual side effects from the medication.
- A lack of sexual desire,
- Problems with arousal (i.e., difficulty feeling aroused or becoming physically aroused evidenced by swelling and/or lubrication), or
- Difficulty achieving orgasm.
These sexual side effects tend to antagonize the depression by lowering overall life satisfaction, increasing feelings of being broken or abnormal, and increasing marital discord and dissatisfaction. If you and your husband are fighting more because you have lost interest in sex and he’s suggesting you’re “broken”, you definitely haven’t lightened the depression load.
Unfortunately, many of the interventions designed to combat the sexual side effects work poorly, making the antidepressant less effective, or causing additional side effects and problems. The result tends to be ongoing sexual frustration or a decrease in medication compliance.
Can sex be a spiritual experience? More often than not, spiritual practices are kept separate from our sexual life. Even when sex is acknowledged as a very good gift from God to be enjoyed in marriage, rarely is sex also seen as a spiritual experience. We may be able to accept that God approves of sex, but, for most of us, being deeply conscious of God during sex seems rather foreign.
One definition of spiritual practice is anything that opens our attention to the presence of God in our lives. This may occur through more traditional types of spiritual practice including praise and worship, Scripture reading, prayer, or devotional studies. Less recognized approaches, such as watching the sunset, discovering scientific truths, or caring for a sick child may also provide just as spiritual an experience. God’s presence can be enjoyed at church and at the grocery store, and whether we are playing softball, washing dishes, or having an intimate encounter with our spouse (Psalm 139:7-12, God’s presence can be found everywhere). All of these activities can be spiritual experiences, if in the midst of them we simply open our awareness to God.
With the post holiday season and dark winter days, you, or your spouse, might be dealing with a common increase in depression symptoms. We have also shown that strain in marriage also contributes to increased depression. Combine all these and you have a mix sure to make any depression worse. As depression goes up, marital discord goes up which causes depression to go up and the cycle accelerates.
While irritability is one of the most common symptoms of depression I see (especially in men), other symptoms apparent in interactions include tearfulness, sighs, looking away, whining, sad facial expression, slow speech, and withdrawal. General (physical) symptoms include feeling sad or blue, loss of interest in activities you did enjoy, trouble making decisions, loss of energy, substantial weight gain or loss, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, and loss of energy (see more here). A quick look at this list and it’s easy to see how depression can aggravate marriage. If you spouse is irritable or withdrawing it is easy to feel unloved and uncared for.
I read an article a few years ago that looked at time management. The authors had calculated the amount of time it would take to complete everything we are told to do. They determined it would take someone over 30 hours to complete all the important daily tasks (sleep, work, brushing teeth, exercise, devotions, etc.).
My "take away" from this article was that we are all choosing to fail. I can't do 30 hours worth of responsibilities in 24 hours. I can't be teaching in another state, counseling a couple in Atlanta, and sitting at my son's soccer game at the same time. So, sometimes I turn down a teaching assignment and fail in that part of my career to spend time with my family. Sometimes I walk away from family dinner to provide an emergency call to a client. While I'm generally proud of the choice I make, I am still choosing to fail in another area of my life. It's just not possible to always succeed everywhere.
The problem I regularly see in my office is that some couples consistently choose to fail in their marriage. Before the wedding, they made each other, and growing their relationship, a high enough priority that they rarely failed in nurturing their relationship. After the wedding, however, they cared for their marriage by focusing on other things: career, setting up the home, having kids, completing education, etc. All are valid and worth pursuing. Like any other organism, if we choose not to feed our marriage for a long enough span of time, it will eventually starve. Tossing crumbs of time and energy to it occasionally will help, but anemia will still set in eventually.
It's ok to choose our children, church, and career. It's just that we need to regularly choose to NOT fail in our marriage. This will mean choosing to fail in another important area of life for a time.
So. Where can you choose to fail this week so your marriage can be the focus of energy and attention?