Marriage after kids is often left on the back burner. Your time and energy shifts from each other to the kids. So, what can you do to save your marriage? It’s not what you think. It’s not meeting each other’s needs or scheduling a weekly date night. Instead, it’s learning marriage skills to help you change the marrital dance you’re in.

In this episode, you’ll get 10 tools to help you increase intimacy and connection in your marriage. All it takes is one, and that one is YOU!

Tune in to get a completely fresh perspective on how to change your marriage, with real practical tools you can get started using today. 

If you’re a mom, you’re in the right place. This is a space designed to help you overcome challenges and live your best life. I’d love for you to join me inside the Mom On Purpose Membership where we take this work to the next level.

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Welcome to Mom On Purpose, where it’s all about helping moms overcome challenges and live their best lives. My hope is by being here, you are more inspired to become the mom you are made to be. I’m Natalie, your host, a wife, boy, mom, dog, mama, Chicagoan, and former lawyer turned professionally certified coach. If you’re here to grow, I can help. Let’s go.

Hello, my beautiful friend. Today we are talking about marriage. How is your marriage going? The way that you answer that question is a summary, is the story is your mindset about your marriage and the way that you think about your marriage. The mindset that you have about your marriage determines the quality of your marriage, and there are going to be different seasons in your marriage that are easier and harder than others and that’s okay. What I want to equip you with are tools and skills that can really help you create the marriage that you want.

And for some of you, that’s going to look different than for others of you based on who you’re married to, based on the season of life you’re in, just based on what you want for your future. So there is no one size fits all, but there are skills and tools that you can learn that can truly transform your marriage. I cannot tell you how many people have told me you’ve saved my marriage. This has been the most transformative experience when it comes to my marriage. This is better than marriage therapy and couples counseling, and that is because coaching and these tools are so different, they only require you as the wife to use them, and that means it just takes one person. I like to think of marriage being a dance between two people and you’re used to engaging in this dance together. There’s a certain type of music on, let’s say it’s jazz and you’re dancing jazz together and you know what comes next because you’ve had this music on repeat for maybe a decade, you know, maybe less than that, maybe it’s just been this past month.

But either way, you’re very familiar with how to relate to each other because you’re dancing to jazz when you work on yourself and when you apply these tools and you get into changing the way that you show up, you’re turning off the jazz music and you’re turning on different music. So maybe now you’re going to dance hip hop, and you turn on hip hop music, or maybe you’re going to dance classical or some other type of music you turn on and you’re dancing differently. It would be very odd for your spouse to continue to dance to the old music said differently, when you change yourself, when you apply these skills and tools to your life, then your marriage changes and that includes your spouse changing in so far as how they relate to you. And that’s a beautiful thing. It really just does just take you turning off the music and changing the music, changing it for your sake.

That’s what I want to talk with you about today, how to change the music in your marriage so that you really can create the marriage that you want. So I can always tell how someone’s marriage is going by the way they answer the question, how is your marriage going? If someone asked you that right now, how would you respond? What would be the first few things out of your mouth? That tells me generally whether you are experiencing the marriage that you want or you’re not? It tells me whether your marriage is going well or whether it’s not. And I’m not saying that you shouldn’t describe it in that way, but it’s a good check-in with yourself to decide how you talk about your marriage intentionally. There are ways that you can talk about your marriage that really honor what’s true for you without going to doomsday.

So for example, if I asked you how your marriage is going and the first thing that comes to your mind is it’s headed for disaster, that’s a mindset. That doesn’t mean that I want you to or would even encourage you to think my marriage is going amazing, but you could have come up with a different way to describe it. Like my marriage is in a hard season right now, but we’re working through it. That probably feels a lot more helpful to you. And that’s always my aim, is to help you create a mindset that empowers you to create the life and in this case, the marriage that you want. So if you’re thinking and you have the mindset, my marriage is a disaster, or if you have the mindset, my marriage is in a hard season, but we’re working on it, the difference in how you feel is enormous.

One feels very stuck and it’s heading in a bad direction, and then the other feels very confident and empowered and it’s just in changing the way that you think about it. It is that powerful when you do mindset work in your marriage. So right now, decide how you want to answer that question. How is your marriage going? I don’t want you to lie to yourself. I don’t want you to um, think something that you don’t believe is true, but I want you to come up with the most helpful way to answer that question for your sake, not for your spouse’s sake, not for other people’s sake and what they think about you or your marriage for your sake. This will help you have a better story, a more helpful empowering story in your mind about your marriage. Now I want to dive in to 10 things that are really unhelpful for your marriage and then the opposite to each of those 10 things that will be very helpful for connection and intimacy and all of the things that we want in our marriages.

So let’s dive in with number one, focusing on the negative. When you tell your brain that your husband is lazy and he doesn’t contribute, that is what your brain will look for because what you focus on is what your brain pays attention to. This doesn’t mean it’s not true. I’m sure it is true. There is just this filter that your brain will automatically participate in and kinda think of it as like glasses. It will filter out whatever doesn’t fall into those glasses, into that frame. So you want to take off the negativity focused glasses and put on the positive glasses. And this doesn’t mean you’re going to ignore the negative, it just means that you’re looking for the positive. So it’s the difference between writing down all of the things that irritate you about your spouse versus the difference between writing down all of the things you love about your spouse. You can do both of those exercises and at the end you will feel completely different. And it’s because your focus is different. It doesn’t mean that one is true and one is not true. It just means that what you’re focusing on is positive or negative. So notice if you’re really focused on the negative and if you are just set an intention to focus on the positive, it is really that simple and it really does work. Number two, comparing your marriage to other people’s marriages. This is a recipe for disaster mostly because we don’t know what it’s like inside someone’s marriage. All we see is the public display of that marriage. I cannot tell you how many women I have had the privilege of coaching who you would never guess are having marital challenges, and that’s because to everyone on social media or in their public lives, they’re not sharing that information.

So I just want you to know that when you look at someone else’s marriage, you’re only seeing the public part of it and you have no idea what’s really going on in their marriage. So when your brain focuses on someone else’s marriage, just redirect it back to your marriage. I like to tell myself their marriage is none of my business. I don’t mean that it’s not something I should care about, I just mean that whatever I am thinking about their marriage is about them and it really doesn’t concern me. So if I just shift it back to myself and my marriage, that’s what’s important. That’s what I should spend my time thinking about and focusing on. Number three, what is the main story you tell about your spouse, specifically them as a person, not necessarily like how your marriage is going. That’s the question I asked in the beginning, but this is specifically about your spouse.

If someone asked you about your spouse, what story do you have about him? If you’re telling a negative story, just like I teach, when we talk about our kids, when we say you are disrespectful, that is what we expect from them. It doesn’t mean that we negate or ignore what they’ve done, it just means that we tell a story that is most helpful for us. So when you separate out their identity from their actions, this is much easier to do. So it might sound like a more positive story if you can just separate out, you know, the mistakes that they’ve made or their imperfections or their weaknesses from who they are as a person inside. If you think I have a really amazing husband as a spouse and he’s a human husband, which means of course he falls short, that is going to feel like a much more connecting story than if you are looking to all of his actions and labeling them together as bad and part of who he is.

Number four, judgment. This is a really tricky one because I think for a lot of us, particularly if you are a type A woman and you have any kind of background in education or you’ve um, trained your mind to look for the negative. So for example, I have a lot of clients who are physicians and lawyers, and I can relate to this myself as a former lawyer, where we are trained to look for what’s wrong. We are trained to judge, I want my doctor to look at my body or look at the report or look at the labs and find what’s wrong. That is really useful. The same thing with my lawyer. I want them to have a really critical eye on the brief. The problem is when we take that amazing strength of ours and we apply it to the people who we love, in this case our spouse, when we judge our spouse and we can notice so quickly where they’re falling short, what they’re doing wrong, that judgment creates so much disconnection in our marriage.

And thankfully the solution to judgment is very simple and it is curiosity. When you wonder about what’s going on for someone, you really create detachment. So you don’t make it so personal like they did this to me, right? You, you take that out of it and you flip it and you wonder about them, oh, this isn’t about me, this is about what’s going on for them. How do I know? Because their actions are a reflection of what’s happening underneath the actions, their thoughts and their feelings. So that’s really interesting. They’re angry or they’re stressed or they’re, you know, avoidant or short-tempered or whatever it is. If you flip it to being really curious about them, you will feel so much more connected to them. So whenever you find yourself in judgment and I judgment is often reflected in, I know, I know you did this to me, I know you’re wrong.

I know, I know, I know. Shift to I wonder. Instead of I know it’s curiosity, I wonder, I wonder what’s going on with him. I wonder why he’s like this right now. I really wonder if something else is going on that I have no idea about. And wonder really creates connection because there’s this warmth to it. Number five, relying on your spouse to meet your needs. This one I think is just rooted in how we’ve all grown up with the fairytale thinking that our spouse is supposed to meet all of our needs. And this is one of the huge distinctions between what we do inside the Mom On Purpose membership, and with marriage coaching versus what you’re going to find in traditional couples counseling or couples therapy. We do not teach you to hand over your needs to your spouse and direct your spouse to meet your needs. Instead, coaching is about you meeting your own needs, identifying what your needs are and meeting them. And you might meet them literally yourself, or you might meet them through other people. So for example, if you have a need to have deep conversations and your spouse doesn’t meet that need, you might notice, oh, this is something I really desire and I can get that need met with other friends, friends who really enjoy deep conversations.

So this is really about you identifying what your needs are and finding ways to meet them, whether it’s through yourself or through other relationships that you have. This one has been such a game changer for my clients because instead of kind of delegating your needs and thinking that it’s your spouse’s job to make you happy, you take it on yourself to make your job happy. Total game changer. Number six, mirroring your spouse’s emotions. This is huge, my friends. What do I mean by mirroring? On default, the human brain will mirror. So if your spouse comes home really stressed about work on default, the human brain will take on that stress and feel stressed about husband’s stress. But you don’t have to do this. The solution is life changing. You can create your own emotions and allow your spouse to feel however they want to feel. This doesn’t mean that you don’t care.

So a lot of my clients at first when they learn this, they think, okay, Natalie, so if I’m not stressed about my spouse’s stress, are you saying that I should just be happy? Well, yes and no. I’m not saying that you should just say, I don’t care about your stress. I’m happy over here and create disconnection in a different way. I think that’s really kind of all or nothing thinking either I have to be stressed about their stress or I don’t care at all about their stress and I sort of ignore it and just feel happy. And instead in the middle I think is where you can create a lot of connection for yourself and for your marriage. And the way that you do this is you notice their stress, you have compassion for their stress, and you don’t take it on yourself. So a really useful question to answer is how do you want to feel when your spouse is feeling stress?

The answer might be connected, compassionate, loving, maybe something else. You get to decide how you want to feel and you can create that emotion and you can validate their feelings. I’m so sorry you are feeling so stressed. I can tell I’ve been there before. That is hard to be stressed. I get it, I hear you. You can respect your spouse, you can validate their feelings and at the same time feel good inside. You do not have to feel how they’re feeling when you understand how to not mirror their emotions and how to create your own emotions. Your marriage completely changes because what can happen when you don’t understand this is you create stress by mirroring your spouse’s stress. And then maybe there’s a fight and then you’re not talking and it sort of snowballs. This disconnection snowball. Instead, when you know about mirroring and you create your own emotions, instead you allow them space, you give them space to feel stress and you feel how you want to feel and you show up as a compassionate, loving spouse and they’re just a human being feeling stressed. Just like sometimes you feel stress and there’s no fight and there’s no disconnection snowball. And it is just two people doing their best supporting each other when one of them is feeling negative emotion.

It’s such a game changer in your marriage. You have to try this one if you haven’t before, give it a try. Come get coaching on it as well inside the membership and I’ll help you take it even further. Number seven, living in uncertainty about what you want. Now this is really one that applies to those of you who are either separated or really going through a challenging season in your marriage and you’re not even sure if you want to stay married. I think one of the worst mindsets to have is you thinking, I don’t know what I want in the future. I’m not saying you have to know what you want for the rest of your life, but when you create that uncertainty for yourself by looking outward, by expecting your spouse to change, by wanting them to do things differently, it just isn’t helpful for you.

Uncertainty that you create doesn’t help you create more connection and confidence and intimacy in your marriage. So the solution to that is deciding what you want. And it doesn’t have to be that you decide what you want for or for next year. It might just be today, for today I want to be married to my spouse, or it might be forever. I know I want to stay married to my spouse. The reason that this is really powerful is because when you just think about your marriage and think about being married to someone and you don’t use active verbiage, it can feel a little bit stuck when you say something like, I’m married to my husband and we’re going through this hard season. And then you start talking about all the things in the past, it can feel very stuck. Contrast that with if you say, I want to be married to my husband, there’s momentum about what you want for the future.

So decide on purpose if you want to be married, and this honestly can be really helpful for those of you who are happily married, but you find yourself bickering or just you know, having those moments of disconnection in your marriage. When you tell yourself, I want to be married to him, you will feel so much more connection. There’s something about thinking about what I want today and tomorrow and for the future. So just tell yourself, I want to be married to this man. I promise you, you’ll feel really good to think that. Number eight, there are always expectations in a marriage that aren’t met. And when that happens, how you respond is the most important thing. So you have had expectations about what it would be like to be married and at some point your spouse has fallen short of that, what do you do in those instances?

Do you criticize? Do you yell, do you blame? Do you shame? If you do any of those, it’s not going to be helpful for your marriage. And really the work here is not to then criticize or blame or shame yourself. That’s a lot of times what we do, right? We go back and forth. Either there’re to blame or I’m to blame. That is not what I’m suggesting at all. What I’m suggesting is to just bring awareness to whether you do this. So bring attention to if you criticize, judge blame, shame your spouse when your expectations aren’t met, have compassion for yourself and then choose to give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. I had a reel that went viral on Instagram, I think it has like 2 million views or something like that. And it was about this one. The happiest married couples give each other the benefit of the doubt when their expectations aren’t met.

So for example, if your spouse shows up late, what is your first thought? Oh, there they go again. They’re always late, they’re always prioritizing work. I can’t trust them to be on time. Are those your thoughts or do you have thoughts that give your spouse the benefit of the doubt? Something like, yeah, they’re late. I bet you that something came up at work and I’m so grateful that my spouse has a job or my spouse is late sometimes and that’s okay. I love him. It might not be one of his strengths. That’s okay. I’ve got lots of weaknesses too, or something else. You might have to get creative and really brainstorm with how you want to give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. But the more you practice this as a skill, the better your marriage will be. Practice giving your spouse the benefit of the doubt. Number nine, trying to change your spouse. If you try to change them, it will feel very disconnecting. And just think about when someone wants you to change. We hold on tighter to who we are. We like to change on our own terms because we want to change, not because someone else is telling us you should really change.

I think that the solution to this one is just communicating your desires without even trying to solve them. This one is something that I think most people aren’t talking about that can have a really profound impact on your marriage. So you can just state something that you desire without trying to come up with a solution just because this is who you want to be to communicate your desires. So for example, let’s say that you have a desire to go out and have new experiences more often as a couple. And typically in the past your spouse has been more of a homebody and hasn’t really enjoyed that. Instead of trying to change your spouse, you might just say, I have this desire to go out and have new experiences more often, and I just want to tell you that without there needing to be this kind of problem that we’re trying to solve.

Instead it’s just me openly communicating my desire to my spouse and just letting it be just so that they know what a desire is of yours. It actually is really connecting to do this. And number 10, when you make demands of your spouse, it is disrespectful. And this was such a game changer in my marriage. I realized I did this all of the time. When you order someone to do something, and I don’t mean you’re saying I’m ordering you, but you’re, you’re commanding them, you’re making a demand. Hey, do this thing for me. That’s a demand. It’s really saying like, I think that you should use your actions right now to do what I want you to do instead of what you are going to do. It’s sort of saying that I think what I want is more important than what you want. And of course this isn’t what we mean, but it is how it comes off when we make demands.

The solution is so simple, truly a game changer, and it’s just making requests. So instead of, I need you to pick up the kids at 3:00 PM tomorrow, it’s, Hey, tomorrow I have a work meeting that’s going to run late. Could you pick up the kids at 3:00 PM? Now I hear some of you, you might be saying, okay, well what if they say no? Well, this is a dialogue. This is a conversation between you and your spouse. So you can have a collaborative conversation where you go back and forth, but the quality of your relationship will really change when you just do this little tweak. And it is a tweak, but it comes up everywhere. Instead of, you know, making a a command or a demand and saying, I need you to do this, you just ask, Hey, could you do this? Would you be willing to do this?

It’s opening up space for them to say, this is what I want to do with my time and it’s so much more respectful. So those are the 10 unhelpful and helpful things that you can apply to your marriage. And I’m going to run through the helpful things again because I think just listing them out will be helpful. Number one, focus on the positive. Number two, keep your eyes on your marriage, not anyone else’s marriage. I like to remind myself my marriage isn’t supposed to look like her marriage. Number three, tell a positive story that is believable to you about your spouse. Number four, use curiosity. Number five, meet your own needs, whether that’s personally or through other relationships. Number six, decide how you want to feel and create your own emotions without mirroring your spouses. Number seven, repeat the mantra: I want to be married to this man.

Number eight, when expectations fall short, give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. Number nine, communicate your desires. And number 10, make respectful requests. These 10 things are going to be really helpful for you in kind of your marriage tool belt to increase connection and intimacy. If you want to apply any of these tools, give them a try in your personal life. Let me know how it’s going for you. If you have any questions about each of these tools, just email me at the [email protected] and I will have my team forward that email to me and I will directly reply to you with any feedback on how you are implementing these because I really think that just simple, doable shifts in your marriage make a huge difference. It changes the music and it is life changing. Alright, my friend, have a beautiful week. I will talk with you next week. Take care.

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