Have you ever found yourself constantly irritated with your teen? It just seems that everything they do is done to agitate us and push us away. We begin to wonder where our sweet little girl who cuddled up with us has gone or what happened to our little boy who loved to play games with us. Unfortunately, we seem to notice more and more negative behaviors that reinforce and increase our agitation and worry. Those small but negative behaviors begin to form a filter through which we see every action and hear every word. We begin to hear simple replies as replies filled with attitude. Gestures and faces take on significant and negative meaning. Disrespect grows in our minds while our teens attempt to assure us they do not intend disrespect. Even this seems disrespectful. Part of the problem we are experiencing was explained over 100 years ago by William James when he said, “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” In the mid-1900’s we learned that the brain only has a limited attentional capacity. We can only attend to so many things at a time (psychologists tell us we only have the capacity to attend to 7+2 chunks of information at a time). In other words, we cannot attend to every aspect of our teens’ behaviors. We are going to attend to and remember only those behaviors we “agree to attend to,” those behaviors we focus on. If we focus on all the things we don’t like, we will begin to see only cause for worry and concern when we see our teens. If, on the other hand, we focus on those things we can admire and be proud of, we will see those things that create further admiration and pride. Don’t worry, we’ll still see behaviors that need corrected. But, we will also increase the joy of having an intimate relationship with our teen. How can you keep the positive aspects of your teen in mind when their hormones and argumentative behaviors seem to overwhelm us? Here are a few ideas.
- Remember, your teen is growing up. Their argumentativeness is preparing them to take a firm stand for their values in the world. Their risk taking behaviors are preparing them to take the risk of leaving home for college or vocational training. Rather than see these as negative aspects of their behavior, see them as training opportunities. Help them learn to channel those behaviors in a positive direction. (Read The ESSENCE of Adolescence for more)
- Hug your teen as often as you can each day. Virginia Satir, a highly respected family therapist, once said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” Aim to promote growth for your teen by sharing as many hugs as they’ll accept each day.
- Set an alarm on your watch or phone to remind you to stop three times every day for 10 seconds. During those 10 seconds write down three positive thoughts about each of your teens. At the end of the day, tell them at least one of the things you wrote down.
- Think of a gesture, picture, phrase, or object that reminds you of your teen. Each day briefly look at the picture or object, repeat the phrase, or make the gesture three to four times. You might do it when you wake up, eat lunch, return home, or before you go to bed. Each time you do, let positive, adoring memories of your teen come to mind.
- Pray for your teen daily. Prayer really does change things. Ironically, the change often begins with the changed attitude of the one praying.
As you put these five bullets into practice, you will find your image of your teen changes. You will notice more positive behaviors. You will find yourself in a more satisfying relationship with them. You will enjoy their company more and admire their accomplishments. You will have improved your relationship with your teen!
I am amazed at society’s obsessive search for a satisfying sex life. Well…I’m not surprised people want a great sex life; but I am surprised about the focus of that search for a great sex life. The main thrust of society’s search for a satisfying sex life remains focused on the physical aspects of sex—the technique, physical prowess, and self-awareness. Sure, these can help, but without a firm foundation to build upon, these superficial answers merely build a house of cards on shifting sand. In reality, research suggests a satisfying sex life is stimulated by aspects much deeper than physical prowess, techniques, or ability. The most satisfying sex life erupts from an intimate, emotional connection between two people committed to one another. In fact, a study out of George Mason University revealed that the more spouses appreciate each other’s strengths, the more satisfied they were with their relationship overall and their sex life in particular. They were also more committed and invested in their relationship. They experienced greater intimacy. Even more alluring, valuing a spouse’s strengths led the appreciated spouse to experience a greater sense of personal growth. Let me summarize these exciting results in a format that might more readily stimulate your appreciation of their implications. Appreciating your spouse’s strengths:
- Leads to a more satisfying relationship overall,
- Greater intimacy in general,
- A greater commitment to and investment in the relationship,
- A spouse who experiences the joy of personal growth, and yes,
- A more satisfying sex life!
Hopefully, the provocative findings of this study arouse your latent desire to acknowledge and admire your spouse’s strengths. By doing so, you lay a firm foundation of intimacy and appreciation that will stimulate your sex life to blossom into a satisfying experience.
I have a friend who loves math. Me? …Not so much. But, I love this equation. It is practical and user friendly. Anyone can do it and the results are amazing.
Here it is: 10 X 32 + 1 = A More Intimate Marriage!
This formula will do wonders for your marriage. Let me explain each part.
- Take 10 seconds
- 3 times a day (set an alarm on your phone as a reminder)
- Each time write 3 positive things you admire about your spouse
- At the end of the day, tell your spouse 1 of the things you wrote.
That’s it, the equation I love: 10 (seconds) X 32 (3 times/day X 3 positive things you admire) + 1 (admiration to tell your spouse).
By practicing this equation, you will keep positive thoughts about your spouse in mind throughout the day. By sharing your thought at the end of the day, you encourage your spouse. You also let your spouse know you admire them; and, you develop a habit of mind that will strengthen your marriage. Overall, you will find yourself in a marriage growing more intimate every day. Now that’s an equation I can love!
Sometimes the best way to get something done is to go “old school on it.” Throw out the newfangled gadgets and just go old school. Drop the gizmos, the 140 letter limit, the memes, and the gif’s…just go old school. In fact, I think going old school could really strengthen your marriage. For instance, go old school and write your spouse a hand-written love letter. I know you could just send a text. But, a text is so short…and easy. It doesn’t send the send as meaningful of a message as a hand-written letter. A hand-written letter involves effort. You have to get the paper or pick out the perfect card. You have to spend the time to put pen to paper and write out your thoughts. Since it’s handwritten, you can’t rely on spellcheck to correct mistakes or edit mistakes with the simple tap of a back key. No, you have to think, write slowly and mindfully, and possibly even rewrite to refine your expression of emotion…to make it sound just right, the perfect confession of your love. Then you have to find an envelope and address it. You even have to put a stamp on it (yes, the post office still produces stamps). Then you have to walk it to the mail box and drop it in the mail. It takes time. But, doesn’t the investment of time better express the love you feel for your spouse?
Imagine your partner’s curiosity when she receives an envelope with a hand-written address on it. As she open it, the seed of curiosity sprouts into anticipation. Anticipation grows a bud of wonder as she sees a hand-written letter inside. Wonder blooms into joy and love as she reads a letter in your hand-writing that describes your undying love for her. Gratitude swells in her heart. “Awww…he’s so sweet.” The words slip from her lips as she holds the letter close to her chest and considers where she will keep it for all posterity (which you can’t do with a text, btw). You might even find a hug and your favorite dish waiting for you later that day.
There you have it. Intimacy nurtured and marital bliss enhanced…all because of the time and effort invested in a simple, old school, hand-written love letter. I have to say, that’s definitely a bigger bang than you can get for any 140-character text you might send!
PS—Of course the love letter can strengthen your marriage; but, did you know it could also help lower your cholesterol? That’s right. A study published in 2007 found that expressing affection for your loved ones in writing actually contributes to a decrease in cholesterol levels. In this study, participants wrote for 20 minutes on three occasions over a five week period to express affection and gratitude for their loved ones. The results: participants experienced a “statistically significant decrease in cholesterol levels” after only a five-week experience! Hand-writing a love letter will not only increase the love and intimacy in your marriage, but it may also improve your health so you can enjoy that intimate marriage even longer!