Archive for Celebration

Mealtime and the “Picky Eater”

Do you have a “picky eater”? Oops, I made my first mistake in helping that child learn to eat better. I might have greater success teaching my child to eat a healthy diet by calling him or her a “learning eater” rather than a “picky eater.” Just this small change in label opens greater possibilities for growth and change. “Picky” implies an unchanging global trait whereas “learning” implies room for growth. “Learning” implies the child can learn to like a broader array of foods and styles of cooking. “Learning” suggests there is something more out there to find out about as opposed to an enduring trait of “picky.” So, if you want your child to be less picky and more of a learner when it comes to food, start using the phrase “learning eater.” While we’re at it, here are five other tips to help your “learning eater” to eat better.

  1. Involve your child in food shopping, cooking, and even growing the food if possible. Let them experience the whole process of farm to table food. This will increase your child’s understanding, appreciation, and respect for food.
  2. Make meal time enjoyable. Keep demands and anger away from the dinner table. Do not nag your child about eating or doing chores while at the dinner table. Instead, make meal time enjoyable. Celebrate your relationships. Encourage your children. Tell them what you admire and adore about them. Inform them about what they do that makes them proud.
  3. Quit using dessert for a reward or a bribe.
  4. Include a couple of vegetables with each meal. Don’t push the veggies or nag them to eat the veggies. Just provide a couple of veggies and let them choose one to eat.
  5. Keep snacking to a minimum. Provide healthy snacks as well.

What other tips do you have for helping your children learn to eat a healthy diet?

A Sense of Belonging “Phubbed” & the Power of Your Thumb

We all desire to have a sense of belonging, the feeling we have when we find unconditional acceptance in relationship to others. A sense of belonging is a crucial aspect in healthy relationships. It leads to greater happiness in family relationships. Children flourish when they grow up with a sense of belonging in their families. It is also foundational for healthy romantic relationships.  Marriages thrive when both spouses have a sense of belonging in their relationship. But, a Contender has arisen to rival our sense of belonging, especially within the family. This Contender challenges our efforts to build a sense of belonging among our family members. Amazingly, we have welcomed the Contender into our living rooms and our bedrooms. We have invited the Contender to our meals and our activities. In each area, the Contender seeks to spoil the sense of belonging between husband and wife, parent and child, brother and sister. And, the Contender will defeat our sense of belonging unless we battle wisely. Let me introduce the Contender: YOUR cellphone. Research completed by Kent’s School of Psychology explored how “phubbing” (snubbing someone by ignoring them to respond to your cell phone) impacts relationships. They found that “phubbing” a person threatened their sense of belonging. They greater the “phubbing,” the greater the threat to one’s sense of belonging. (Read “Phubbing” Can Threaten Our Basic Human Needs, Research Shows for more.)

In other words, when you reach for your phone during time with your spouse, you threaten your spouse’s sense of belonging. Do this often enough and your spouse begins to question how much your value them or if you even accept them at all. Romance will dwindle. Marital happiness will drift.  Pick up your phone while engaging with your children and their sense of belonging gets called into question. “Am I more important than that call or text?” Your children may even begin to resent your relationship to your phone just as you might grow to resent their relationship to their phone.

I must admit…the Contender is strong. It exerts a mighty pull. It can hold great power over you. But, there is good news. Every one of your family members (including you) have a secret weapon to defeat the power of the Contender. It’s true. In fact, you have two secret weapons that the Contender cannot defeat. The secret weapon is YOUR thumb! You can silence your cell phone.  You can put it on “do not disturb.” You can even turn it off with the power of your thumb! When you do, the Contender’s power dwindles to off (literally and figuratively).  It cannot disturb your interactions. It cannot intrude upon our conversations. It will do nothing but sit silently…preferably in another room and out of sight. Even more, you are free to look your spouse in the eye and talk. You are free to engage your children with no distraction. You are free to celebrate your relationships and build a stronger sense of belonging!

What’s Love In Your Marriage?

Love…we have a lot of confusion around love in our society.

  • From Tina Turner telling us, somewhat cynically about love, you “must understand though the touch of your hand makes my pulse react, that it’s only the thrill of boy meeting girl. Opposites attract. It’s physical, only logical. You must try to ignore that it means more than that. What’s love got to do, got to do with it?”
  • To John Legend, who speaks of throwing his all into love “cause all of me loves all of you. Love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfection…. You’re my end and my beginning; even when I lose I’m winning ’cause I give you all, all of me…and you give me all, all of you.”
  • To Blake Shelton speaking of needing the one he loves “Cause God gave me you for the ups and downs. God gave me you for the days of doubt. For when I think I’ve lost my way there are no words here left to say, it’s true…God gave me you.”
  • To the J. Geils Band telling us “…this thing they call love, it’s gonna make you cry…Love stinks.”

All in all, we get a montage of love that leaves us confused and unsure of what true love really is.

In wedding ceremonies, I often hear another description of love, an ancient description written by Paul, a follower of Christ, to the church in Corinth. It begins with “Love is patient” and continues to offer a wonderful, inclusive definition of love. 

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous;

 

Love does not brag and is not arrogant,

 

Does not at unbecomingly;

 

It does not seek its own, is not provoked,

 

Does not take into account a wrong suffered,

 

Does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

 

Bears all things, believes all things,

 

Does all things, endures all things.

 

Love never fails…

But now faith, hope, and love, abide these three;

 

But the greatest of these is love.”

Love as described in this passage can make or break your marriage. It lays the foundation for a intimate marriage filled with joy. It’s a beautiful passage, but if fear we don’t take the time to really explore what it tells us about love. For instance, consider the first word: love.  The word for love in the original language of this passage is “agape.”  The author could have chosen “eros,” “phileo,” or “storge,” all Greek words for love; but he didn’t. He chose to use “agape,” a word that speaks of a higher love, the love of God. “Agape” is more than a feeling and more than an action based on feelings. “Agape” takes great pleasure in the person it loves and is willing to pay a personal price to continue seeking that person’s good. It sets aside pride, self-interest, and personal possessions to benefit the one loved. Although “agape” can include physical love, emotions, and natural connection, it goes…

  • beyond passion to commitment,
  • beyond the physical to intentional self-giving,
  • beyond feelings to an act of will,
  • beyond natural connection to a connection that requires self-sacrificing development.

As we implement this type of love in our marriages, our marriages will grow stronger and more intimate.

PS: Stay tuned as we explore more about this type of love in future blogs.

Tears? Who Would Have Thought?

I learned in the study of human developmental that men often become more willing to express emotions as they age. I guess this has happened to me…or, is happening as I move through my fifties.  Actually, I would not say I have developed a greater willingness to express emotions but I have developed a more difficult time holding emotions back, especially tears.  I find tears arising more and more often, not the tears of sorrow but the tears of overwhelming emotion.

  • The tears of seeing the magnificence of the mountains stretching out across the horizon along with the tears of gratitude that I have the opportunity to witness such majesty and beauty.
  • The tears of witnessing kindness shared between people who differ in so many ways, a glimpse of grace in this segregated world.
  • The tears of sorrow when a loved one passes combined with the tears of celebrating their life and the contribution of their life to the world in which I live.
  • The tears of intimacy that arise when sharing laughter with family.
  • The tears of sorrow as my children “leave the nest” combined with the tears of excited anticipation for what they will experience and accomplish.
  • The tears of longing as I pray both daughters find like-minded people with whom they can share their life’s dreams.
  • The tears of pure joy as I watch my children do what brings them joy and see the positive impact they have on their friends and the world around them.
  • The tears of gratitude and appreciation as I watch my daughter and her fiance admire one another, dreaming and loving together.

Like I said, tears just seem to surface more easily. Who would have thought that tears represent so much more than mere sorrow or pain?  They represent love, beauty, anticipation, inspiration, and even overwhelming joy and laughter. Of course, I still hold them back. I make attempts to hide them. I’m not sure why. After all, tears seem to water the seeds of emotions that produce the fruit of intimate relationships.  So, if you happen to see a tear roll down my cheek, don’t worry. It only means I care enough about you to share that tear with you. In the meantime, don’t tell anyone; it will ruin my reputation.

The Perfect Cocktail for Love

Young love floods the brain with a cocktail of neurotransmitters that enhance attraction, pleasure, and commitment. In young love, this cocktail can prove dangerous, blinding young lovers to the red flags and flaws of their partner. They are too “drunk on love” to truly discern what everyone around them already knows. But, as time goes on, this cocktail loses its potency.  Neurotransmitter levels return to normal and feelings begin to level out. The love shared by young lovers becomes tested and their true level of commitment becomes apparent.  Mature love, a love that transcends mere passion to incorporate commitment and investment into the relationship, can develop at this time. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the feelings and passion of young love does not play a role in mature love. It just becomes supported by a foundation of commitment and investment. In fact, I really think it’s a great idea for every marriage to add an emotional, passionate cocktail of neurotransmitters to their foundation of commitment and investment.   Not only do I think it a good idea, I have a recipe. It is composed of three ingredients (Taken from The Neurochemistry of Love).

  1. Dopamine is the first ingredient in this perfect love cocktail. Dopamine is a feel-good neurotransmitter. We experience pleasure when it is released. One author notes that dopamine is released in response to “the chase,” the pursuit of love. Dopamine also alerts us that our needs are about to be met. For instance, the smell of the charcoal grill alerts us that our hunger will soon be satisfied by grilled burgers or steak. Ahh, the joy…. Anyway, you can see how dopamine adds to the cocktail of love. You can add it into your love potion by continuing to pursue your spouse. Learn about your spouse and what entices them, excites them, or makes them feel loved ( Discover Your Love Language here). Then pursue your spouse by romancing them with your knowledge of their likes and interests. Put on the perfume he enjoys. Bring the gift that you know she likes. Say the words that “make their heart swoon.” Every time you do, you give them a shot of dopamine. They feel good. You feel good. The pursuit is on. Soon, your spouse will get a little shot of dopamine when you walk in the room with that smile on your face that says something good is on the way.
  2. Oxytocin, the “love hormone” itself, adds the second component in this cocktail of love. Oxytocin is triggered by touch. Something as simple as holding hands or a hug releases oxytocin. When you invest in repeatedly holding hands or hugging your spouse over years of committed relationship, you build an “oxytocin quick release system.” It is more easily released, which is good since oxytocin also promotes trust. Who doesn’t want trust in their marriage? So, bring on the touch and add a shot of oxytocin into your marital cocktail of love. Hold hands. Hug. Sit with arms touching. Put your hand on your spouse’s leg. Enjoy physical touch. (Read An Easy Way to Get in Sync for more.)
  3. Serotonin is the third ingredient in this love cocktail. Serotonin is stimulated by associating with a person of status. You can add this into your love cocktail by building a reputation of keeping your promises. Build a reputation as a kind person, a compassionate person, a patient person. Become known among your friends and community as a person of honor and integrity. As you grow in a reputation of a good person, you spouse will get a shot of serotonin to enhance your marital love cocktail. (More for men.)

These three ingredients will make a cocktail of love to keep your marriage young. Added to commitment, this cocktail can enhance your marriage and your love. Adding them in is simple: 1) learn about your spouse and continue to pursue them with romance; 2) engage in loving touch every day, and 3) build a reputation of honor and integrity.

Glimpses of Romance

Ever felt like you don’t have enough time in the day to enjoy romance with your spouse? I know the feeling! What we need are actions that can provide glimpses of romance anytime & anywhere. Actions that promote feelings of connection and adoration. Actions that fill the heart with romantic feelings.  Actions that make deposits into the romantic bank of the heart. Oh man, getting carried away. Let me just share a few actions that will give you and your spouse a “glimpse of romance” even in the busiest of times.

  1. Respond to your spouse. Sounds simple, but sooo romantic. When your spouse says something, stop what you’re doing and respond. Even when they say something in a grumpy tone, respond with interest and concern. Let them know you hear them.
  2. Smile. There is nothing more romantic than walking into a room to see your spouse smiling at you! (Smile for a Happier Family shares more about the benefits of a smile.)
  3. Share a kiss. In fact, make it a six-second kiss for that extra romantic burst. I know I said these are good for even the busiest of times. But think about it…six seconds. Count them: 1…2…3…4…5…6. It has taken you longer to read this paragraph than it will take to share a six-second glimpse of romance!
  4. Share a hug. Now don’t just give a timid side to side hug or a glancing walk-by-hug, although they do give a glimpse of romance. Once in awhile give a bold hug. Pull your spouse in and give them a great big hug. Rest for a few seconds in one another’s arms and enjoy the feel of being entwined with your spouse in a hug.
  5. Hold hands in the car, walking through the store, watching TV, or whenever you want. Hand holding gives a glimpse of romance and has surprising super power (Read An Easy Way to Get in Sync for more).
  6. Share an inside joke. You and your spouse likely have many inside stories and jokes. When you share your inside stories and jokes it takes you to another place and time, one which only the two of you have experienced and now understand. You’re sharing a time and place with only you and your spouse, no one else …how romantic!
  7. Recall the story of how you met. It’s very romantic, even if it’s funny. Your kids will love it. More importantly, your heart will soar with romance. (The Story That Will Change Your Family Life explains more about the power of story for your family!)

Well, that’s seven “glimpses of romance” you can share with your spouse. What are some of the ways you like to share glimpses of romance with your true love?

The Beatles Knew It!!

“Say you don’t need no diamond ring and I’ll be satisfied. Tell me that you want the kind of thing that money just can’t buy. I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love…. Can’t buy me love…” The Beatles sang those words in 1964.  Over 50 years later science is telling us why those words ring true. Jason Carroll, a Brigham Young University professor of marriage and family studies, and his team of researchers surveyed 1,310 married individuals to gather data on the relationship between materialism, perception of marriage importance, and marital satisfaction (read review of study here). They confirmed the Beatles’ words, “Money can’t buy me love.” Specifically, the more highly a person valued money, the less they seemed to value relationships including marriage. Materialism was “possession-oriented” rather than “relationship-oriented” when pursuing happiness. In other words, the more a person held to the priorities associated with materialism the less they held to the priority of marriage. Materialism crowded out marital priorities, creating a shortage of time for communication, conflict resolution, and intimacy—the stuff of happy marriages. Materialistic people sought happiness in possessions rather than people; they invested time and energy into getting things rather than investing time and energy into nurturing a healthy marriage.

If you find materialism creeping into your marriage, “buy it out” with these tips:

  • Do an honest self-appraisal. Confirm your own priorities. Sometimes people are not aware of how the pursuit of money has unbalanced their lives. They really “believe” marriage is of greater importance than money. But, their investment of time and energy reveals a different story. It reveals they have slipped into a pattern of materialistic pursuits. Take a hard look at how you spend your time, the activities in which you invest, and the focus of your energy. Do you spend more time pursuing material gain or family closeness? Your actions reveal your lived values. Make sure your lived values are the values you truly hold.
  • Reinvest in what is really important. Family and relationships bring greater happiness than material gain. Things break, rust, fall apart, and quit working. Relationships in which we properly invest will grow, support, and strengthen both us as individuals and couples. Invest in your family. (Read The Meaning of Our Lives for more.)
  • Prioritize generosity as a family. Studies reveal that generosity is linked with increased happiness. Generosity teaches us to let go of our pursuit of materialistic gain and focus on how we can invest in people. Practice generosity toward others in your family. Practice generosity as a family toward those outside the family. Teach Your Children to Live Happy will provide several ideas for practicing generosity as a family. By practicing generosity you shift the focus from “things” to people, from possessions to relationships…and find yourself and your family happier.

One Key Factor Promotes Lasting Relationships

One key factor promotes lasting relationships. What? At first I was surprised then curious…so I read on. They key factor promoting lasting relationships was confirmed by a team of researchers from the University of British Columbia. They had analyzed the data on “thousands of couples” involved in two large British surveys and the Gallup World Poll.  After accounting the couples’ ages, gender, income, and health conditions, they “found” one key factor promoted lasting happiness marriages and relationships. One key factor! Specifically, happiest couples all said their significant other was their closest friend. In other words, having a deep friendship with your spouse increased happiness and life satisfaction (Read Science says lasting relationships rely on a key factor for more).

Other researchers have confirmed this finding. In particular, Dr. Gottman noted that the “determining factor in whether wives and husbands feel satisfied with sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is, by 70%, the quality of the couple’s friendship!” That’s right, friendship in marriage even improves sex life! (Read Improve Your Sex Life…BEFORE You Hit the Sheets) Gottman even identifies the building blocks of friendship in marriage: building love maps, sharing fondness and admiration, and turning toward one another to work as a team. So, if you want your spouse as a best friend and if you want happiness in a lasting marriage…

  1. Enhance your love maps. A love map contains all the relevant information about our partner’s lives, from birthdays and anniversaries to greatest fears and dreams. It represents what we know about our spouse’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual life. Of course, love maps needs constant updating as the experiences and feelings that make up our maps change as we go through life. So take time to talk with your spouse every day. Find out about their day, their challenges, their joys, their sorrows. Learn about them. If you’re stuck on how to do this, try the “20 question game” in this short article on love maps.
  2. Sharing fondness and admiration builds friendship as well. Sharing fondness and admiration is a habit of mind in which a person identifies and verbalizes appreciation for their spouse on a daily basis. This may be as simple as saying “thank you” for what your spouse did during the day or as intimate as noting character traits that you admire in your spouse. You can make fondness and admiration a part of your marriage with a simple math equation (Don’t worry, it’s not new math!).
  3. Turning toward your spouse rather than away involves responding positively to their requests for attention, affirmation, affection, or connection. Of course friendship grows when spouses respond to one another’s bids for connection on a regular basis rather than turning away. Gottman actually found that couples who turned toward one another 86% of the time remained married after a six year period whereas couples who divorced in that time period only turned toward one another 33% of the time. Responding to our spouse’s builds friendship. Turning away because of preoccupation, lack of concern, or just putting our energy elsewhere destroys friendship (Read RSVP for Intimacy in Your Family for more info on turning toward).

The one key factor in a happy, lasting marriage is friendship. If you want a happy, lasting marriage, keep nurturing the friendship you have with your spouse. Build that friendship by enhancing your love maps, sharing fondness and admiration, and turning toward one another every day…starting today!

An Easy Way to Get In Sync

I have a confession. Sometimes I feel out-of-sync with my wife. Sometimes for no identifiable reason we feel disconnected, distant from one another. Have you ever felt disconnected or out-of-sync in your marriage? If you have, I have great news! A study completed by researchers from the University of Colorado and the University of Haifa found a way to get more in sync. This simple activity synchronizes breathing, heart rate, and even brain waves when a couple engages in it. The researchers confirmed what I consider an additional bonus for this activity as well. When a woman felt pain and an empathetic spouse engaged in this simple activity, the synchronicity increased and the pain decreased! In other words, this activity activated “pain-killing reward mechanisms in the brain.” Nice bonus, right?

 

What is this powerful activity you ask? Holding hands! If you feel out-of-sync with your loved one, hold hands. If you feel disconnected, hold hands. Your heart, your breath, and even your brain waves will sync up. You’ll feel more in-sync and connected. As an added bonus, if you’re experiencing any pain, it will likely decrease as well. So reach out your hand and touch your spouse. Grab your spouse’s hand and hold it. Get in sync today. (P.S.—I think I’ll practice now!)

“A Real & Detectable Benefit” Easy to Get!

I love to eat. So, I wish I had been a participant in this study. (Read about it in Not
Enjoying Your Dinner Out?). The researchers of this study invited participants to go out for dinner…in a restaurant…with their friends or family!  I definitely would have volunteered for this one. I would have gone to a nice restaurant with my wife. Alas, there was a catch. The people involved in the study were randomly assigned to one of two groups. In one group, participants kept their phones on the table. In the other group, participants put their phones away. The researchers found that those who kept their phones on the table felt more distracted and experienced less enjoyment with their dinner companions than those who put their cell phones away. (I hope I was assigned to the “cell-phones-away group.” Wait, what am I saying? I can make a decision to do whatever I want because I’m not in the study.  I’ll definitely put my phone away and enjoy dinner with my wife without phone distraction. No “phubbing” here! Read Don’t Phub Up Your Marriage to learn more.)

In a second study, 100 participants received a survey on their smartphones (ironically) five times a day for one week. The surveys asked about their mood and what they had been doing over the last 15 minutes. Guess who reported the greatest feelings of enjoyment. You guessed it. In-person social interactions produced more enjoyment and feelings of happiness. Guess what times produced the greatest feelings of enjoyments. That’s right, times in which the participant engaged in more face-to-face interactions and less phone use led to greater enjoyment. (Perhaps because My Cell Phone is Ripping Me Off and yours is ripping you off too!)

Want to enjoy time with your spouse? Want to make family time more enjoyable and fun? Try putting the phone away and enjoying face-to-face, in-person interactions with your family. As this study’s senior author noted, “there is a real and detectable benefit from putting your phone away when you’re spending time with friends and family.” Take advantage of that benefit. Put your phone away.

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