Imagine getting called into your boss’s office the moment you walk into work. Hesitantly, you enter her office and sit down. Butterflies flit about in your stomach as your boss, with a very serious look in her eyes, leans forward to say, “I am so pleased with your work that I decided to quadruple your salary.” Relief chases away the butterflies from your stomach and joy spreads a smile across your face. Can you imagine the happiness you’d feel? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Sadly, it will probably never happen. But, what would you say if I told you another way to increase your happiness the same amount as quadrupling your income? Putman, a professor of public policy at Harvard University, knows a way. He quantifies how marriage can impact happiness. “The strongest predictors of happiness by far are our social relationships” and “marriage can cause an increase in happiness equal to a quadrupling salary.” (Read more here.) Isn’t that amazing? Marriage can cause an increase in happiness equal to quadrupling your salary. I agree… with one caveat. Happiness is not increased by any old marriage. Only healthy marriages increase happiness; unhealthy marriages, on the other hand, rob couples of happiness. So, if you want a marriage that increases happiness as much as quadrupling your income, build a healthy marriage. To help you do that, here are ten simple ways to build a healthy marriage.
- Greet each morning with a positive and loving statement like “Good morning. I love you.”
- Share a kiss any time you part during the day.
- Share a hug and a kiss each time you reunite. Make it an intentional 10-second oxytocin hug at least on time each day.
- Express gratitude for your spouse every day. Thank them for something they did, compliment something about their appearance, share a character trait you admire, etc. You get the idea. Express gratitude for your spouse every day.
- Look at your partner and listen when they talk to you. Put down the newspaper, get off the cell phone, look away from the TV, and look at your spouse. Let them know you understand.
- Do one nice thing for your spouse every day. Take out the garbage. Wash the dishes. Make the bed. Wash the car. Clean the kitty litter. Anything. Just do something nice!
- Remain polite toward your spouse, even when you’re angry or tired. Remember to use words like “please” and “thank you.” Hold the door open. Let your spouse go first.
- Touch…in and out of the bedroom.
- Celebrate the good moments of each day together. Take a moment at the end of each day to recall the good and joyous moments of the day.
- Ask your spouse what else you could do to make them feel more secure in your relationships, what you can do to show them how much you love them.
I’m sorry I can’t manage to quadruple your salary, but you’ll find the same increase in happiness by increasing the quality of your marriage. Give those 10 tips a try and enjoy the increase in happiness.
Our youngest daughter moved out of our house and into her college room today. I won’t get to tell her “good night” at the end of each day, hear her come down the stairs in the morning to start her day, or enjoy our “Tuesday Daddy-Daughter Days” now. On the other hand, I won’t have to ask her to put her stuff away every day or work my way through her leftovers in the fridge. I will really miss her daily presence in my life. Still, I have to say, it’s not the first time I’ve had to watch her take a step away from me and toward independence. This is just another step in a series of steps that began many years ago with the words, “No, I do” as she pulled away from me to zip her own coat. Some of her steps have been sure-footed, some hesitant. Most have proven more difficult for me than they were for her. She has learned the pace most comfortable for her in stepping toward independence. She has grown more confident in her abilities. Me…well, I’m just a “therapist with separation anxiety” (her words, by the way). I don’t completely agree with her assessment, but I have to admit…I have experienced some separation anxiety with each step she has taken. Overall, watching my daughter mature and walk toward independence has increased my joy. But, I have experienced some separation anxiety…and, I have learned at least two things from this adventure of letting go.
- I learned the importance of observing my daughter closely. Observation builds a foundation for understanding our children’s strengths and interests. It allows us to learn about their competencies and their developmental abilities. Observation allowed me to see what my daughter had learned, what she already knew, and what she was ready to learn and do. With all this knowledge, I was better able to present opportunities that fit my daughter’s readiness to learn while still challenging her to grow. It allowed me to keep the environment conducive to her abilities. Observe your child closely and you will learn the same things about your children. Even learning all this, you might struggle to learn the second lesson. I know I did.
- I learned to trust my daughter to initiate and explore herself and her world. This meant I had to learn to believe in her competence to learn. Sure, I supported her exploring and learning (just check my pocket book), but I had to trust her enough to let her go, to take a step away, and explore more and more independently. I had to trust her ability to manage the discomfort of trying something new with only my distant watchful eye for support. I had to trust her to learn from her mistakes without rescuing her…or sheltering her from future mistakes. I had to trust her to learn her limitations and strengths. And, as she did, she became more confident. Her judgment improved. And, I could trust her more. Trusting your child to takes steps toward independence throughout life will do the same for you as well.
Observing will increase your ability to trust. As you trust, you will observe all the more and rejoice in the growth you see. All the while, you will find yourself letting go one step at a time and trusting each step of the way…even if it does still remain difficult to watch them grow up and leave home.
Remember the age when your children started asking questions? I don’t mean when they asked one or two questions. I’m talking about the age in which they did nothing but ask questions every waking hour of every day. They asked about everything. They even asked questions about the questions! It was a constant barrage of never ending questions. Even in the midst of all those questions your children probably never asked the questions listed below…not out loud anyway. Sure, they wanted the answers to these questions, they even needed the answers, but they didn’t ask them out loud. They asked these questions through behaviors like hanging around your legs, getting under your feet, pushing limits, and even disobeying a request while looking you straight in the eye. What questions were they asking without using their words? The truly important questions like:
- Will you set clear and fair rules and limits? Will you enforce those limits consistently or can I make you give in? Your consistency answers another question I have…will you really keep me safe? Am I safe to explore the world under your watchful, loving eye?
- Do you delight in me? When I walk in the room, do your eyes light up with joy or do you look bothered and annoyed? Am I lovable and delightful in your eyes…or am I a nuisance?
- Do you realize I’m still a kid? I don’t have the knowledge or experience you have. Will you match your expectations match with my ability or will you expect me to do things I don’t have the ability or knowledge to do yet? Will you teach me and help me experience success so I can grow more confident?
- I hear you and see you. I’m listening to you and watching you very closely every day. I learn from everything you say and do. What will I learn from you?
- Can you hear me? Can you respect my ideas, even if they’re different than your ideas? Can I be my own person or am I trapped being the person you want me to be?
- Do you see me or just my grades? My character or just my sporting ability? My dreams or my achievements?
- Can we play together? I talk best when we’re having fun. So, can we have fun together?
- Will you accept me even when I make mistakes, clumsily spill a drink, act like a 5-year-old, or have a different opinion than you?
- Will you ever give up on me? Will I ever do something so bad that you just get rid of me?
- Do you really love me?
Our children need to know the answers to these questions even though they may never ask them out loud. It doesn’t really matter if they ask out loud because we answer these questions whether we know it or not. Our children discover the answers to these questions in how you look at them, how we talk to them, how we act toward them, and how we interact with them. They hear the answers in our speech and see the answers in our deeds. The answers they receive will shape their identity, their confidence, their desire to learn, their character, their self-concept. So, let me ask one final question: what answers do your children hear from you in response to these questions?
I live in Pittsburgh, PA. So, any time I see or hear about a study conducted by one of the universities in the area it catches my eye, especially when it deals with family. Recently, a study by Carnegie Mellon University caught my eye. This study focused on the impact of spousal support and opportunities. The researchers recruited 163 couples and gave one member of each couple a choice. They could either solve a simple puzzle or compete for a prize by giving a speech. Each person then returned to their partner and discussed whether to do the puzzle or compete for a prize. Participants with encouraging partners were more likely to decide to give a speech and compete for the prize. Those with discouraging partners, or partners expressing a lack of confidence, were more likely to choose the simple puzzle. Not real surprising, is it? But, here’s the part I found really interesting. Six months later the partners who had accepted the more challenging speech competition reported more personal growth, greater happiness, more psychological well-being, and better relationship satisfaction than those who chose the simple puzzle! The encouraging, supportive spouse helped their partner embrace an opportunity to “go for it” and grow. They supported their partners’ growth and in doing so supported their partners’ happiness. That, in turn, likely led to a more satisfying marriage as well!
Do you want to see your partner grow and learn? Do you want them to know greater joy? Do you want a more satisfying marital relationship? Encourage your spouse. Learn about your spouse’s dreams and encourage them to “seize the moment” when opportunities that arise to pursue those dreams. When challenges arise, express confidence in their ability to meet the challenge and support them in growing through the challenge. Express joy in seeing them move toward their dreams. Celebrate every step of the way. Then, thank Carnegie Mellon University, located in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, for revealing how encouraging our spouse makes life better! (Sorry for the commercial….I guess I’m a proud “yinzer.”)
Hello. I am writing to inform you that I have taken your family hostage. Some may consider me a kidnapper but you welcomed me into your home. You allowed me to get a hold on your family and eventually gain the position I now hold…the position of captor. I go by several names: Things, Stuff, Possessions, but my preferred title is Clutter. It’s true. I, Clutter, have taken your family hostage. Don’t believe me? Well…
- I have successfully taken over large sections of your home, confining you to a smaller and smaller area. You no longer keep your car in the garage because I fill it up. You are not alone. Three out of four American families cannot use their garage because I, Clutter, have filled it with my presence(Today’s Families are Prisoners of Their Own Clutter). You have one less bedroom, because I, Clutter, sleep in the spare room. I limit what rooms you use and where you sit. You and your family are my hostage.
- I have also limited your use of time. Remember last week when you spent two hours looking for one piece of paper hidden in me, Clutter? I robbed you of that time. Remember how proud you were of your back yard and deck? But you still don’t use it because you have no time. Your time is taken up accruing money to get more Stuff…Clutter. Once again, you are not alone. I have successfully carried out this time and space limiting plan in myriads of family homes. In a study done by UCLA at the beginning of the 21st Century 50 of 64 adults observed never went outside in the course of a week (Today’s Families are Prisoners of Their Own Clutter). They were too busy. And, when they did have time to go outside, they sat down amidst their stuff to watch TV or “engage” their computer. Basically, I, Clutter, have filled their life and your life. There is no time for the open spaces of outside. No time for family.
- I have captured your children, too. They have “mountains” of toys. In fact, the United States has “3.1% of the world’s children but they own 40% of the Little Tykes Easy Score basketball hoops and other toys” (Today’s Families are Prisoners of Their Own Clutter) Still, I have taught your children to prefer watching TV so I can entice them with more toys they will rarely play with. If not the TV, I prefer they sit amidst their stuff and play video games. Clutter their minds so they can’t enjoy the open spaces of new experiences and adventures that await them in the creative recesses of their mind. I, Clutter, do not allow that creativity to rise and shine.
- I shape your priorities. I keep your mind on all your stuff. I direct your energies toward stuff. I suck up your resources for stuff. I keep your focus on me. No need to have people over and build relationships. Clutter is in the way. No time to go out and enjoy time with family. Clutter calls for you to clean first…and that is too daunting a task. No money to share with others or extra cash to enjoy time as a family. Clutter needs your money to acquire more of the same…Clutter.
As you can see, I, Clutter, have taken your family captive. You are my hostage. You have no time or space for anything but me. I limit your mental resources. I keep you cooped up. I increase your frustration levels. In fact, managing all these possessions has been shown to increase the level of stress hormones in mothers.
So, welcome to the reign of Clutter. Signed,
I wrote back immediately. After finding a pen and paper amidst the clutter of my desk, I penned a very brief letter explaining my plan to escape the clutches of Clutter. I simply wrote, “Time to declutter….” And, I did. Will you do the same?
Remember Aretha Franklin’s song? “All I’m askin’ for is a little respect…R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me….” (Listen to Aretha Franklin explain it.) Our spouse, our children, and our parents are still asking for “a little respect.” They still want us to “find out what it means” for them. In fact, respect is foundational to a healthy family. Magda Gerber (founder of RIE and passionate “educarer” of children and parents) defines respect as accepting, enjoying, and loving family members as they are and not expecting them to perform beyond their ability. Without this mutual respect, families crumble. I realize I’m probably “preaching to the choir” but even the choir falls into subtle disrespect that undermines healthy relationships. Just consider some of these subtle ways we disrespect our fellow family members when we don’t know “what it means” to them.
- Our child falls and scrapes his knee. He starts to cry. We disrespect his feelings when we say, “Oh, you’re ok. Quit crying.” We show more respect by saying, “Ouch, I bet that hurt. Do you need some help?”
- When our spouses do a chore and we redo it because it didn’t meet our standard, we disrespect their competence and ability. (Yes, I know…I apologize for reorganizing the dishes in the dishwasher.) A simple “Thank you” shows much greater respect.
- Our children start a task but, due to inexperience, they take “too long.” We grow impatient and finally say, “Get out of the way. I’ll do that or we’ll be here all day.” Oops, we have disrespected their independence and opportunity to learn. We show respect by patiently waiting or perhaps offering, “I’m glad to help if you want.”
- When our child makes a mistake and in frustration we yell, “You know better than that. What were you thinking?” we disrespect their ability to learn and grow. A respectful response would sound more like, “What did you learn from that experience? What will you do different next time?”
- Sometimes we jump in to fix a problem for our children or spouse. Unfortunately, we disrespect their ability to problem solve. We exhibit respect by observing, waiting to see what they do to solve the problem, and offering help if they ask for it.
- We disrespect our children’s developmental abilities when we expect “too much” of them. For instance, expecting a toddler to sit still for a long period of time…or a teen to never roll their eyes…or a five-year-old to never spill a drink. We can respect their developmental ability by letting them do the part of the task they can do and helping with the rest. We respect their developmental abilities when we patiently deal with difficulties and accidents that arise as a natural part of development. In other words, we show respect when we do not cry over spilled milk.
- “Will you ever grow up?” and “You never help around here” are statements that disrespect our family members’ desire to cooperate. Respect for their desire to cooperate is heard in statements like “Could you help me get dinner together please?” and “Let’s get your room cleaned up together.”
- When we tell our spouse or children “You don’t want that” or “You’re doing this whether you want to or not” we disrespect their desires and ability to choose. We can show respect for their desires and ability to choose with statements like “Would you rather do this or that?” Or, “I didn’t know you liked that. What do you like about it?”
With all the different areas in which we can show disrespect, you can see why we need to “find out what it (respect) means to me” for each family member. Disrespect is subtle. It creeps in quietly if we don’t consistently practice respect. Yet all we really want “is a little respect.” Sing it with me. “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me…” and then give it to everyone in your family. They’ll love you for it and you’ll love the joy it brings to family.
Ever wake up feeling kind of blue and irritated? I have! When someone wakes up in a bad mood, the whole house feels the weight of that mood. Everyone becomes more cautious and quiet, less carefree. Smiles become scarce. The whole house seems heavier, tired,
even more depressed and burdened. When days like this occur in your home, I have a solution. Smile! It’s research supported and fun. So, “if you wake up and don’t want to smile, if it takes just a little while, open your eyes and look at the day. You’ll see things in a different way” (Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac). In fact, research suggests you will see things different. Seeing a 4 millisecond image of a smiling face gives us a “mini emotional high.” We also perceives the world in a more positive & interesting light after catching just a glance of a smiling face (How Smiling Changes Your Brain). Seeing a smiling face can even make bland drinks seem tastier (6 Reasons to Smile Right Now). Smiling helps us manage stress more effectively, too (see the LOL-On Safari for the Elusive Smile). When you smile even though waking up blue and irritated, your family learns “you’ll get by if you smile through your fears and sorrow…” (Michael Jackson/Charlie Chaplin in Smile)…no matter how hard the times might get.
Smiling is contagious too. Research suggests that a smile “migrates two degrees.” In other words, when you smile another person in your family will catch the smile and a second person beyond your family will catch the smile as well ( 6 Reasons to Smile Right Now). When you fill your home with smiles, even those who visit will leave smiling because “when you’re smiling the whole world smiles with you…when your laughing the sun comes shining through” (Sing it with the Leftover Cuties).
So, build a happier family. “Put a smile on your face, make the world a better place” (Put a Smile on Your Face by Vitamin C). Go a step further and work to make your spouse and children smile. You can tell them, “All I want to do is make you smile if it takes just a little while” (Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac). You’ll get more than a little while to make them smile too, because those who show partial smiles live 4.9 years longer than those who don’t’ smile and those who smile broadly live 7 years longer (6 Reasons to Smile Right Now). Go ahead, take the time and make your family smile. You’ll be giving your family the gift of life. “When U smile I smile” (U Smile by Justin Bieber)…and live longer. And “when you smile I can face the world…When you smile, I see a ray of light” (When I See You Smile by Bad English).
Enjoy the benefits of smiling in your family. “Make ’em laugh” (A classic from Singing in the Rain). Share a smile. After all, “you’re never fully dressed without a smile” (You’re Never Fully Dressed in New York).
Happy the family in which all family members recognize their deep need to receive and give love and acceptance. They will experience the true joys of intimate family relationships.
Happy the family who openly shares emotions with one another, embracing one another in times of sorrow and pain, and celebrating one another in times of joy. They will know comfort, intimacy, and freedom to be themselves.
Happy the family filled with humility, willingly submitting their selfish desires to meet one another’s needs while encouraging one another in action and speech. They will know the contentment of an abundant inheritance.
Happy the family who has an appetite for doing kind deeds. They will feast on kindness and compassion.
Happy the family that practices mercy and forgiveness. They will receive mercy and know the freedom of forgiveness.
Happy the family that replaces selfish agendas with a true desire for each family member to grow into the best person they can become. They will see the beauty in one another and themselves.
Happy the family that learns to pursue peace and cooperates to maintain a peaceful home. They will know the safety and security of a strong family unity.
Happy the family that perseveres through struggles and hardships while remaining polite and respectful toward one another. They will know greater depths of love and joy.