Tag Archive for affection

Is Your Marriage Like Chocolate Cake Without Icing?

Research published from Binghamton University has verified a secret ingredient of a stronger marriage. Well…it not really such a secret. Many people know about it without ever reading the research. They would consider it common sense, a “given.” So, maybe it’s not such a secret but…well, let me just tell you about the study and what it suggests.

The researchers of this study included 184 same-sex couples over the age of 18 years in an exploration of the connection between attachment style, touch satisfaction, and marital satisfaction. Not surprisingly, they found a strong association between non-sexual physical affection and a satisfying, strong marriage. Non-sexual physical affection included things like cuddling, holding hands, and hugging.

As always, there was a caveat and I found it extremely interesting. Non-sexual physical affection had a different meaning and impact for men and women. For men, the presence of non-sexual physical affection was associated with an increase in marital satisfaction. In other words, physical affection was a positive contribution to the marriage, “the icing on the cake.”

For women, however, the lack of non-sexual physical affection was associated with relationship dissatisfaction. Its presence did not necessary create greater satisfaction. Non-sexual physical affection was an essential, expected ingredient for marital satisfaction. The lack of it was a negative and resulted in a less satisfying relationship. In other words, women want non-sexual physical affection as a basic ingredient for creating a satisfying relationship.  

As I said, non-sexual physical affection is a “not-so-surprising ingredient of a solid marriage.” What is surprising is how many couples leave this ingredient out of their marriage and so never enjoy a fully satisfying relationship. According to this research, leaving the snuggle and the hug out of your marriage is like enjoying a chocolate cake without the icing (my favorite part by the way) for men.

For women, having a marriage without the snuggles, hugs, or holding of hands is like trying to eat a chocolate cake made without any sugar or sweetener; you can’t even enjoy it.

So, reach out and hold your spouse’s hand while you drive down the road or walk around the block. Cuddle up on the couch to talk, watch TV, or listen to the radio. Give several random hugs throughout the day. Fill your day with acts of non-sexual physical affection. It is a crucial ingredient to your happy marriage. (For more on the benefit of physical touch in your marriage read Six Reasons to Hug Your Family.)

Rather Than Building a Bully, Try This…

None of us want our children to become a bully. That’s why I really like the study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. The researchers of that study followed 1,409 children from 7th through 9th grade to explore how parenting style impacts a teen’s ability to manage emotions such as anger. This study revealed the negative impact of a parenting style that expressed criticism, sarcasm, put-downs, and hostility toward children while using emotional and physical coercion to gain compliance from children. They called this a “derisive parenting style.”

This “derisive style” of parenting contributed to children who had poorly regulated or poorly controlled anger. In the peer interactions, poorly controlled anger led to more negative emotions, greater verbal and physical aggression, and hostility. The poorly controlled anger put teens at greater risk for bullying AND victimization AND for becoming a bully who is also victimized by other bullies.

I don’t know any parent who wants their child to becomes a bully, a victim, or a bully-victim. So, rather than using “derisive parenting style” let me suggest a kinder, more loving kind style.

  • Rather than criticism offer sincere appreciation for what’s done well, constructive appraisals around areas of potential improvement, and acceptance for differing ideas.
  • Rather than sarcasm offer playful banter, respectful limits, and loving boundaries.
  • Rather than put-downs offer much needed encouragement, admiration of positive effort, and compliments on personal growth.
  • Rather than verbal hostility offer verbal affection, loving and firm boundaries, and light-hearted opportunities for laughter.
  • Rather than physical coercion offer healthy physical affection, physical assistance, and gentle guidance.
  • Rather than emotional coercion like shame and guilt offer the emotional support, acceptance of different ideas and methods, and assurance of love.

Ironically, replacing a “derisive parenting style” with a more loving, supportive parenting style results in greater compliance as well as a more independent, confident, and self-controlled child. Step away from building a bully with “derisive parenting;” build a strong, confident child by using a kinder, more loving parenting style instead.

What “Master Parents” Do

Do you want to be a “Master Parent”? No parent is perfect. In fact, the most perfect thing about a “perfect parent” is their imperfection (blog).  Still, don’t you want to become a “master parent,” one that creates an environment most likely to produce growth and health for your children? If so, let me briefly describe seven ingredients that go in to becoming a “master parent.”

  1. A “master parent” is warm and affectionate. They prioritize developing a relationship with their children. Of course, they are the parent and their children will get mad at them sometimes. In fact, almost every “master parent” has experienced their children saying, “I hate you” in one way or another. Still, “master parents” focus on relationship. This means maintaining a respectful tone of voice and using respectful words with their children, even when angry. It means giving regular, healthy physical affection like a hug, a good-bye kiss, an arm around the shoulder, or relaxed wrestling. (The NBA Playbook will give you hints on doing this well!)
  2. A “master parent” gives time to their children. Relationships require time, lots of it. Spend time having fun, doing projects, talking, or just hanging out. Make sure your children know you are present and available. (Here’s some tips on How to Spend Quality Time with Your Children.)
  3. A “master parent” works with their children’s other parent. They do not put the other parent down nor do they allow their children to put their parent down. Instead, “master parents” support their children’s other parent. They encourage them. They build them up in front of their children. Most important, “master parents” work to build a positive relationship with their children’s other parent, ideally modeling a positive marital relationship for their children to emulate.
  4. A “master parent” establishes clear rules. Rules are geared toward safety and respect for others. Rather than have a rule for every possible scenario, “master parents” teach their children the “spirit of the rule” so they can think through any given situation and act accordingly. (Family Rules are the Guardrails of Safety.)
  5. A “master parent” established appropriate and enforceable consequences for misbehavior. Consequences are age appropriate, clear, concise, and enforceable. They are geared toward teaching appropriate behavior rather than simply punishing misbehavior.
  6. A “master parent” focuses on behavior rather than criticism. Criticism contributes to children feeling bad, inadequate, or incapable. Mocking, sarcasm, and name calling ultimately result in more misbehavior.  Effective correction is aimed at correcting the misbehavior and replacing it with more thoughtful, appropriate behavior. It involves teaching.
  7. A “master parent” maintains a sense of humor. “Master parents” smile, laugh, joke, and play with their children. This helps build a more positive relationship. And, families that laugh together grow closer to one another.

Seven ingredients of “master parents.” How many do you already practice in your role as parent?

Help Your Children Flourish

Parenting is like trying to balance a multi-dimensional see-saw. On one end of the see-saw sits discipline and structure. On the other end is warmth and affection. How we balance these two ingredients contributes to four possible types of parenting:

  • Neglectful parenting, which is low in both discipline and warmth,
  • Permissive parenting, which is high in warmth but low in discipline,
  • Authoritarian parenting, which is high in discipline but low in warmth, and
  • Authoritative parenting, which is high in both discipline and warmth.

The Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University published two studies in early 2019 that explored these parenting styles and their impact on flourishing later in life. Not surprisingly, parenting high in both warmth and discipline (authoritative parenting) proved most beneficial in promoting a flourishing life, even as a person matured into adulthood.  Somewhat surprising, permissive parenting—low in discipline but high in warmth—proved the second most beneficial parenting style for promoting a flourishing life. Falling to a distant third was authoritarian (low in warmth but high in discipline).  Of course, a neglectful style of parenting was least effective.

With further study, it appears that warmth (which authoritative and permissive parenting exhibit) is the most important aspect of parenting when it comes to helping our children flourish later in life. Specifically, parental warmth and affection was associated with the following benefits in later life:

  • A 46% reduction in depression
  • A 39% reduction in anxiety
  • A 68% reduction in eating disorders
  • Higher levels of emotional processing and expression
  • Lower levels of cigarette and marijuana use.

Providing warmth and affection to our children tops the list of important ingredients in parenting. When we provide an environment of warmth and affection to our children, they have a better chance of flourishing later in life. With that in mind, here are six simple ways to show your children warmth and affection…and promote their ability to flourish.

Making Deposits in a Topsy-Turvy Bank

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!

Cuddle Up A Little Closer

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!”

“I Love You” Getting Stale? Try These

If you feel like “I love you” is getting stale, try a couple of other phrases to express your Senior Couple - Kiss on the Cheeklove. 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.

Six 10-Second Marriage Refreshers

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.

  1. Senior Couple - Kiss on the CheekGive 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.”
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. 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?

Children Thrive Under These 4 Parenting Practices

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?

  • A father helps his daughter on the playgroundResponsiveness. 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.

What Piglet (& family) Needs to Know

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.

poohPresent

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.

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