I spoke with a couple about making deposits into the Family Bank of Honor several weeks ago. They went home and put the discussion into practice. They made loving deposits of honor and grace into their Family Bank of Honor. Much to their surprise, these deposits resulted in a major improvement in their relationship. As we talked about their experience, they realized another important aspect of the Family Bank of Honor. When we think of making deposits, we often try to make big deposits…the bigger the better. However, in the Family Bank of Honor even small deposits carry tremendous value. Small deposits are of great value. In the economy of the Family Bank of Honor, even a deposit of one cent is worth a million bucks! Consider a few examples.
- Greeting one another with a smile seems like a minor thing. But it communicates the joy you feel in the presence of your spouse. It reveals the affection and admiration you have for your spouse. It tells your spouse how much you desire their presence in your life. That’s worth a million bucks.
- Holding the door for your spouse seems like another penny deposit. But, by arriving at the door first we have established the right to enter first. By holding the door for our spouse, we give up our right and allow them to enter ahead of us. We have placed them ahead of us; we have made them “as more important than ourselves.” That is worth a million bucks.
- Offering to get your spouse a drink as you get your own drink seems like a minor penny deposit. But that penny deposit informs your spouse that they are on your mind. You are concerned about their needs and their desires. By offering to get them a drink, you have proclaimed that their needs and desires are important to you. You have voiced a willingness to meet those needs and desires. And that is worth a million bucks!
- Letting your spouse pick the activity or the movie for a night seems like a slightly bigger deposit than those listed above, but still only a nickel deposit. However, this nickel deposit represents a personal sacrifice, a giving up of your desires so you can satisfy the desires of your spouse. It communicates that you value your spouse’s interests as much as (and at times more than) your own. You care so much about your spouse that you are willing to give up your own interests and desires to satisfy your spouse’s interests and desires. That is definitely worth a million bucks.
You get the idea. A simple, inexpensive, penny deposit in the Family Bank of Honor is actually worth a million bucks to your relationship. The more you make these deposits, the richer your marriage will grow in intimacy and health. Now that’s worth a million bucks!
Ah, the cuddle. Whether it be a hug, a snuggle, hand-holding, or a “smooch,” we love ’em all. And why not? Cuddling does wonderful things for us and our relationship. Let me just name a few:
- Cuddling releases a “bonding” hormone (oxytocin). When we cuddle, we bond with the one to whom we cuddle. In other words, we feel closer to one another. So, snuggle up and bond. Enjoy the intimacy. You might even find yourself talking a little more.
- Cuddling increases happiness. Who can stay grumpy when snuggled up with the one you love?
- Cuddling reduces stress and anxiety. There’s just something about snuggling into the arms of our love and feeling the stress melt away.
- Cuddling also lowers blood pressure. Increased happiness, reduced stress, and lowered blood pressure all add up to increased heart health too!
- Cuddling releases oxytocin which helps block pain signals. As a result, cuddling reduces pain.
- Cuddling also helps us fight colds and other infections. When we feel good our body doesn’t want illness to interfere. So, it fights infections even more.
- Cuddling helps us sleep too.
Is it any wonder we like to cuddle? It soothes us and lifts our mood. It melts away the strain and stress of the day. It relieves the pain. All the while it bonds us to the one with whom we snuggle. So, grab your spouse and “cuddle up a little closer.” You know you want to. Sing along with Andy Burrows with full sincerity, “I’d rather have cuddle than a video; I’d rather have cuddle than anything I know. I’d rather have a cuddle than ketchup, chips, or peas. A computer can be lovely, but a cuddle’s what I need!”
If you feel like “I love you” is getting stale, try a couple of other phrases to express your love. Here are a dozen ideas from which you can choose.
- You are important to me.
- I’ll make sacrifices for you. I’ll give that up for you.
- I forgive you.
- I need you.
- I think about you all the time.
- If I had it all to do over again, I’d still choose you.
- You get more beautiful every day.
- What can I do for you today?
- Let me help you with that.
- I think about you all the time.
- I am committed to you for life.
- I’m sorry.
And to make it a baker’s dozen:
- I love you more today than the day we got married.
Every marriage needs refreshing. Busyness, everyday frustrations, little irritations, arguments…they all serve to clutter our marriage and slow our loving response. When that happens, we need to refresh our marriage, reaffirm our love and reestablish our connection. Here are some simple, yet effective ways to refresh your marriage in 10-seconds.
- Give your spouse a 10-second hug. Wrap your arms around your spouse and hold on tight. A 10-second hug will release oxytocin, a hormone affectionately nicknamed the “cuddle hormone.”
- Think about the traits and strengths you admire in your spouse. Write down as many as you can in 10 seconds. Go ahead, set the timer and go…. You can even set an alarm to do this two or three times a day.
- Take 10 seconds to think about the past few days and write down things your spouse has said or done for which you are grateful.
- After you have done numbers 2 and 3, spend 10 seconds sending your spouse a text telling them one thing you admire about them or thanking them for something they’ve done…or both!
- Kiss for 10-seconds. I don’t mean a little peck on the cheek. Walk up to your spouse, take your spouse into your arms and give your spouse a big kiss…right on the lips! You’ll hear your kids say, “Ewwwww” but you’ll know you have just enjoyed a marriage refresher.
- Write your spouse a love note or an encouraging note on a post-it and stick it on the mirror for them to find. The note can be simple: “I love you” or “You’re in my heart” or “Good luck at your meeting” or…. You get the idea. A simple note in a place where your spouse will find it and you’ve just refreshed your marriage.
Practice these six 10-second marriage refreshers every day. They will help declutter your marriage and keep your love flowing strong. Why not take 10-seconds right now—pick one of these options and refresh your marriage?
Darcia Narvaez, professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, suggests children thrive in an environment shaped by certain parenting practices (Learn More Here). Children who grow up in that environment become adults who experience less depression and anxiety, display a greater ability to take another person’s perspective, and exhibit an orientation toward compassion. In other words, these parenting practices not only help a person thrive in childhood, they also nurture mature adults who contribute to a healthy community that will provide a nurturing environment for the next generation of children. What are these crucial parenting behaviors?
- Responsiveness. Responsive parents become students of their children. They learn about, and become sensitive to, their children’s cues and signals. They recognize their children’s emerging emotions and respond to the underlying need before they reach a disquieting level of stress. Research suggests this level of parental responsiveness contributes to greater empathy and a greater ability to meet their personal needs and anxieties. Responsiveness also nurtures a positive self-concept, decreasing the chances of experiencing depression.
- Affectionate Touch. Touch helps soothe and calm children, nurturing their ability to soothe themselves. Touch also expresses love, building a sense of “lovability,” self-worth, and competence. Affectionate, loving touch helps children develop healthy personal boundaries that promote safety as well. Touch requires a parent’s physical presence…and children need lots of touch. So, spend lots of time with your children and fill it with loving touch.
- Play. Free and imaginative play with parents and other loving community members benefits children. Play is interactive, enhancing social skills. Free play, unlike adult supervised play, requires negotiation and compromise, building healthy conflict resolution skills. Imaginative play also builds perspective taking which is so important to empathy and compassion. In addition, play provides the opportunity to create social supports. Play helps children “stand a head taller than themselves” (Read Make Your Child a Head Taller than Himself).
- Community of Affectionate Caregivers. It’s true: It really does take a village to raise a child. We need our primary caregivers—our mother and father. Still, a community of affectionate people who engage in loving interactions and provide loving guidance empowers a parent to become even more responsive and affectionate. The loving community provides support in times of physical and emotional distress as well as a greater sense of security and trust. Healthy community nurtures empathy and compassion, kindness, and even a greater sense of justice.
When parents implement these four practices, children thrive. They mature into responsible adults who support a healthy community which, in turn, encourages parents who implement these four basic practices with a new generation of children. In other words, implementing these four parenting practices can initiate a revolution of growing health in our communities. Sounds like a great reason to start using these parenting practices today.
I like Pooh…that sounds bad. Let me rephrase and start again.
I like Winnie the Pooh. He brings us a great deal of wisdom. For instance, consider the wisdom in this sketch and Piglet’s request to “be sure of you.” Very wise, especially when it comes to family. Sometimes we just need to know our loved ones are there.
Our spouses need to be sure of us. They need to know our ears are attuned to their whispered needs. They need assurance that we will respond to their subtle requests by turning toward them in love. They need to feel our touch reminding them of our presence and involvement in their lives, assuring them that we yearn to walk hand in hand with them through life.
Our children need to be sure of us. They want to be heard and acknowledged by us no matter how quiet and inept their voice might sound. They need to know we are available to them. They seek assurance that we delight in them and rejoice when they approach us. They long for us to take their hand and gently guide them through the dark woods.
Assure your spouse and children of your presence in their lives. Remind them of your desire to respond to even their subtle needs and desires. Constantly communicate your unending love and delight in them. All it takes is a smile, a hug, or a word of affection…but the joy and comfort it gives will last a lifetime.
I have two daughters, both in transition from the late teen years into young adulthood. I have some mixed feelings about this. They are wonderful young ladies and I love spending time with them; but they will soon leave home. Eventually, they will marry and begin their own families. Someone else will become the “man in their life.” This prospect excites me and frightens me at the same time. I have seen enough marriages to know that marriage can either give us a taste of heaven or drag us through the dregs of hell. It may sound extreme, but it’s true. A healthy marriage produces a happiness, confidence, and joy that will bring out the very best in both partners. An unhealthy marriage brings devastating pain and resentment. It eventually leads to the death of a family. Many couples come to my office experiencing the pain of an unhealthy marriage. An unbelievable number of these couples cannot even identify one couple they have witnessed as having a good marriage. They have no example of a healthy marriage in their life! I want my daughters to witness a good marriage. I want them to see a relationship between their mother (my wife) and me that reminds them of heaven. Specifically, I want my daughters to see and witness that…
- A husband makes sacrifices for his wife. He makes those sacrifices joyfully from a heart of love and a true desire to bring goodness into his wife’s life.
- A husband “only has eyes” for his wife. He has put aside all other women and made his wife the only woman for him. He is a “one-woman-man.”
- A husband serves his wife. He loves to do things for her. Whether he cooks dinner, washes clothes, cleans toilets, or mows the grass, a husband loves to serve his wife.
- A husband affirms his wife. He notices what she does for him and their family. He acknowledges and verbally appreciates all she does. He recognizes what a wonderful mother she is and tells her so.
- A husband admires his wife. His eyes light up when she enters the room. He speaks words of his admiration directly to her and about her in public places. He defends his wife when their children disobey her.
- A husband has deep affection for his wife. He hugs and kisses his wife. He walks with his wife, side by side and holding hands. He enjoys his time with her so much that he intentionally puts aside other tasks to spend time alone with her.
- A husband supports his wife in reaching for her dreams. He encourages her every step of the way toward her dream. He rejoices in her achievements and accomplishments.
- A husband share achievements and successes with his wife. She is the first person he turns to in his joy. He recognizes that his accomplishments are her accomplishments. He realizes that he could not have done what he did without her support, encouragement, and love. He also rejoices in her accomplishments. He takes pride in her achievements.
- A husband turns toward his wife in sorrows and disappointments. He knows that she provides a comfort no one else can provide. He also provides comfort to her in her sorrows. Together they navigate the storms of this life by taking shelter in the comfort and support of one another.
- A husband treats his wife with kindness and politeness. He speaks words of kindness and gratitude to her. His behavior is filled with deeds of kindness toward her.
- A husband knows his wife. He listens intently to her words and actions to gain a better understanding of her interests, fears, and desires. Out of that knowledge, he adjusts his life to bring her greater happiness and security.
- A husband has fun with his wife and family. He laughs with his wife. He enjoys playful interactions with his wife. He also knows when to stop a playful interaction because she is getting frustrated for whatever reason.
I hope my daughters have witnessed at least glimpses of these twelve traits in my marriage to their mother. I pray that someday they will experience these twelve traits in their own marriage. I pray all our sons and daughters will one day experience the bliss of a truly healthy marriage. And, I know the answer to that prayer begins with you and me, their parents and the marriage we live in full view of their ever inquisitive eyes.
A study recently published in the National Academy of Sciences reveals how to raise a narcissist, a person who believes they are better than everyone else. This study suggests several things that can contribute to the raising of a narcissist; however, one contributor is completely in our control. Every parent needs to know about this one contributor so they can avoid it. Specifically, this study suggests that parents help “turn their children into little narcissists by overvaluing them.” Really? Yes, children believe it when parents tell them they are more special than others and entitled to special privileges. Over time, they internalize that belief. They begin to treat others as less special than themselves. They act as though they deserve special privileges and entitlements. They become little narcissists. Parents might overvalue their children in subtle ways or very obvious ways. Consider just these three ways that parents can overvalue their children and communicate that they have special value or deserve special privileges.
- Parents overvalue their children when they claim their children have special knowledge of many different topics, even one’s that don’t exist. In a study by the same authors, parents were asked if their children knew about “Queen Alberta” or “The Tale of the Benson Bunny.” Some parents claimed their children knew all about them. Ironically, the researchers made the topics up. When we claim our children know more than they actually know, we overvalue them. We risk creating a narcissist.
- Parents contribute to the creation of a narcissist when they protect their children from consequences. When children are accused of wrongdoing and our immediate, adamant response is to defend their integrity, we may do them an injustice. Perhaps we need to do a little investigation first. We need to assure our children are innocent before we defend. Consider their track record. Get more information. Gather the evidence. Then determine a course of action. If we defend our children in spite of a poor track record and in the face of evidence to the contrary, we are teaching our children to overvalue themselves. We are helping to create a narcissist.
- Parents help raise a narcissist by treating their children as though the world revolves around them. You know what I mean: letting them get out of helping around the house because they are special; encouraging their coach to give them special treatment because they are so much better than the other players; pushing teachers to let a grade slide because our little angel tried so hard or had other obligation; demanding others treat your child special because of their position or the position of your family; or, giving your child special treatment because they are so sensitive. These actions only help create a child who believes they are more special than others, a narcissist, entitled to special privileges.
Instead of treating your child as extra special, express realistic affection and warmth. Allow them to fail and grieve that failure, get back up, and try again. Let them experience the consequences of misbehavior. Appreciate the talents they have but teach them to appreciate talent in others as well. Encourage them to humbly accept what the coach tells them, even if they do have a better record than the guy who starts before them. In fact, teach them to encourage that other player rather than begrudge them. Teach them to listen to and respect their teachers and other adults in their life, even if they disagree with them or dislike them.
The choice is yours. You can treat your child as extra special, deserving of special privileges and entitlements and raise a little narcissist. Or, you can show your child affection, let them experience consequences, and teach them to be considerate of others. Then you can watch your child grow into a humble caring young adult.
Michael Kraus (a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California in 2008) discovered a surprising way to gauge the potential success of your favorite NBA team. He tested many possibilities. Higher paid players did not predict success. Neither did preseason expectations or early season performance. The greatest predictor of a successful season for a NBA team was the number of times the players reached out and touched one another during the first games of the season. The higher the number of touches, the greater the chance of success. Touch somehow communicated trust and enhanced cooperation among the players. As a result, the team was free to focus on the game, free to pass the ball rather than take “an ill-advised shot,” free to work together. So, if you want to predict a winner in the NBA, count the number of times players slap one another on the back, chest bump, high five, fist bump, head slap, hug, huddle, or somehow engage in touch on the court.
Don’t we want an environment of trust and cooperation in our family? Don’t we desire a family environment that frees each family member to seek input rather than make “ill-advised” decisions? Maybe we can take a hint from the NBA play book and add some healthy touch into our family life. Give a fist bump, a high five, a hug, a loving slap on the back, or some other kind of creative healthy touch. That touch will build affection and trust. It will enhance cooperation. It may even predict a successful family season this year!
I constantly search for secrets to a better marriage and family life. I need all the help I can get. Recently, I rediscovered a profound lesson for creating a life-long marriage. I had heard this advice as a child, even learned it in the car with my family; but, I did not realize the wisdom behind the words until I was married. Of all the places, I learned this lesson singing along with the radio…and Charlie Pride was my teacher. You may have learned this song as well. He called it “the secret to his happiness.” It goes like this:
“You’ve got to…kiss an angel good morning
And let her know you think about her when you’re gone.
Kiss an angel good morning
And love her like the devil when you get back home.”
(Click here to listen to Charlie Pride sing the whole song)
This little chorus offers four secrets to life-long marriage bliss. Here they are:
- “KISS…” Show physical affection. Kiss your spouse in the morning. Kiss your spouse to greet her when you get back home. Kiss your spouse goodnight. In John Gottman’s “Magic Five Hours,” he recommends giving your spouse physical affection for at least five minutes per day. Kiss, hold, grab, and touch. Show some physical affection to your angel (AKA-spouse).
- “Kiss an ANGEL….” View your spouse as an angel. In other words, nurture your admiration for your spouse. Take time to recall what attracts you to your spouse. Think about those traits you admire in your spouse, those unique characteristics you adore. Then communicate that admiration to your spouse on a daily basis.
- “…let her know you think about her when you’re gone.” Keep your spouse in mind, even when you are apart. Text you spouse a message or two (“I love you,” “What are you doing?” etc.) just to let her know she is on your mind. If you see something your spouse likes that is small enough to buy, get it for her. If it is too big to take home (a sunset, a bird she likes), take a picture and text it to her. Little things like this can let her know she is “always on my mind…” (Oops, wrong song).
- “Love her like the devil when you get back home.” Don’t come home, sit in your chair, and vegetate. Let your actions reveal your love. Spend time with your spouse. Share what happened in your day. Help her with a project around the house. Watch a show together. Interact. Communicate. Serve. Oh yeah, show some physical affection. “Love her…when you get back home.”
When husbands and wives both practice these four tips, you can enjoy an intimate life-long marriage…and thank Charlie Pride for the advice!