Tag Archive for appreciation

The Sacred Moment In Every Conversation

Our families, our marriage, and our children are flooded with information today. TV’s, computers, smart phones, Ipads, social media, 24-hour news…they all throw information our direction faster than…you fill in the blank. With so much information spoken “at us,” it’s hard to get a word in edgewise.  In fact, we jump into conversation with our spouse and family midsentence with a “yeah, but….” Or, we talk over one another, each one talking louder than the last in an attempt to be heard. Once we have the floor, we don’t stop speaking…no breath, no pause, just tell all as quickly as possible and keep it going in an unending filibuster. Throughout the process, each person becomes defensive. The initial topic often gets lost in our ever more emphatic arguments. Each person grows more possessive of “my time” to speak. And…we lose the sacred moment every conversation needs to bring connection between those involved. The sacred moment in every conversation is the pause, that moment of silence between two speakers. The sacred moment means one person has finished speaking for the moment and the other person has received the opportunity to speak. There is no “yeah, but,” no interruption, no filibuster in the sacred moment…just a sacred moment of silence between speakers. Still, the sacred moment provides so much more than mere silence between speakers.

  1. The sacred moment confers appreciation to the listener for patiently waiting their turn to speak.
  2. The sacred moment means the speaker respects the listener enough to pass them the baton of speech, the opportunity to talk.
  3. The sacred moment also respects the speaker by providing an occasion for the listener to think about what was said, to really consider the speaker’s point of view.
  4. The sacred moment allows both parties to confirm mutual understanding about what was already spoken.
  5. The sacred moment grants the time needed to consider areas of agreement before jumping into a defensive posture.
  6. The sacred moment allows all parties to remain calm, to breathe life into themselves and the conversation, to maintain composure and an attitude of affection.

Appreciation, respect, mutual understanding, agreement, composure, and affection all in a single sacred moment. Amazingly, that moment remains very short, a simple pause between two people engaged in mutual understanding as the baton of speech is handed from one person to another. But that sacred moment can save a conversation and a relationship! Don’t you think it’s time we start practicing the sacred moment, the most important moment in any conversation, today?

Powerful Hints to Build a Happy Marriage

Linda and Charlie Bloom recently wrote an article in Psychology Today describing essential qualities of happy marriages. They came up with seven qualities by interviewing “50 of the happiest couples” they could find. Their conclusions are very insightful…and I wanted to share a short summary of them with you.

  1. Happy couples appreciate the differences between them and their partner. In fact, many of the happy couples managed and enjoyed profound differences between them and their partner. They saw those differences as adding richness to their relationship. As a result, they could appreciate and express gratitude for their differences. (Appreciating your spouse holds other benefits as well. Read A Provocative Secret for a More Satisfying Sex Life to learn of one.)
  2. Happy couples found delight in bringing greater fulfillment and joy into their partner’s life. They did not consider it a sacrifice to promote their partner’s success and joy. Instead, they found it a pleasure to see their partner find fulfillment and success. (Discover how this attitude helps the family in The Lost Art of Sacrifice in the Family.)
  3. Happy couples kept short accounts of wrongs committed. They practiced quick apologies and forgiveness. They effectively and quickly dealt with any disappointments that occurred.
  4. Individuals in a happy marriage take responsibility for their part in any conflict. They do not blame, become defensive, or scapegoat. Instead, they take responsibility for the impact of their actions and words upon their partner. They acknowledge their responsibility and make amends as needed. (Taking responsibility for our actions may involve saying The Hardest Word.)
  5. Happy couples practice honesty. But, rather than practicing “brutal honesty,” they practice sensitive, loving honesty. They remained sensitive to their partner’s feelings and vulnerabilities when expressing their honest thoughts and feelings.
  6. Happy couples maintained a healthy balance between self-care and marital care. Happy couples saw each partner’s health and well-being as inextricably tied to the health and well-being of their marriage. So, they practiced healthy self-care and encouraged their spouse to practice healthy self-care.
  7. Finally, happy couples practiced gratitude on a daily basis. Gratitude seemed to contribute to an optimistic view of their partner and their marriage. Ironically, this optimistic view of their partner and marriage contributed to even more gratitude.

These seven points are excellent ways to keep your marriage strong. Read them over and talk about them with your spouse.  Discuss how you can begin to practice each one in your marriage. Start today. Your partner will love you for it, your marriage will be stronger for it, and you’ll both discover a growing happiness in one another. Who could ask for more?

This Pattern Will Kill Your Marriage

Every marriage relationship develops patterns of interaction. Some patterns help marriages grow. Some can kill marriage. An analysis of 74 separate studies that included over 14,000 people discovered one pattern that can kill our marriages! This negative relationship pattern lowers relationship satisfaction, decreases intimacy, and contributes to poorer communication. It is often lovingly referred to as the demand-withdraw pattern. In this pattern one partner makes criticisms, complaints, and requests while the other withdraws and gives the silent treatment (The Most Toxic Relationship Pattern). Knowing this pattern can destroy your marriage is a start. Learning what you can do to replace it is even better. That’s the real solution. Here are a couple of ideas.

  1. Instead of criticizing, use what Gottman calls a “gentle startup.” Rather than verbally attacking your partner’s personality, stick to describing the situation causing the stress. Find a way to explain the positive need inherent in your complaint rather than “harping” on what your partner’s doing wrong. Coming up with a positive need opens the door to discovering a solution and building intimacy.
  2. Rather than creating an environment of abuse in which you insult your partner or show contempt for your partner, create an environment of appreciation. Maintain your awareness of your partner’s positive qualities. Speak words of affirmation and adoration to your partner every day.
  3. Rather than making excessive demands and requests on your partner, practice serving one another. Build a culture of service, a culture in which both partners serve one another.
  4. It’s easy to begin taking a “tit-for-tat” position when you feel like your partner blames you for something. Our first instinct is often to return blame for blame, attack for attack. Rather than do so, take responsibility for your own mistakes. Own up to your shortcomings. Admit your wrongdoings and seek forgiveness for your mistakes.
  5. Rather than shutting down, practice calming yourself and your partner. Don’t push buttons. Breath. Take a break. Distract yourself. Then, after you have soothed yourself, return to #2 and tell your partner what you love about them.

The demand-withdraw pattern could destroy your marriage. But you can end it. You can replace it with something better by beginning to practice the 5 actions above. Why not start today!

You Can Help Prevent Teen Suicide with These Simple Actions

I have bad news. Teen suicide rates are on the rise. In fact, suicide rates for teen girls hit a 40-year high in 2017 (Suicide Rate for Teen Girls Hits 40 Year High). Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens 12- to 19-years-old in 2006 (CDC: Mortality Among Teens Age 12-19 Years Old) and the second leading cause of death for those 10- to 24-years-old in 2015 (National Vital Statistics Report-see page 10 for figure). Many times depression or other mood disorders can be involved (Teen Suicide Statistics).  Overall, this is devastating information. Our young people are crying out in need of something.  But what do they need? A study presented at the 2017 American Public Health Association conference gives us a hint and tells us how we might stem the rising tide of teen suicide. They presented three conclusions from a 2012 US national Study of Parental Behaviors and Suicidal Feelings Among Adolescents that can cut suicide risk by up to 7 times (These Parenting Behaviours Cut Suicide Risk 7 Times).

  1. Tell your children and teens you are proud of them. Adolescents were five times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, seven times more likely to have a suicidal plan, and seven times more likely to attempt suicide when their parents rarely or never expressed pride in them. Adolescents need to know we take pride in their actions and their efforts. They need to know we take pride in them!
  2. Tell your children they have done a good job. This simple action was associated with a similar level of suicidal risk noted above. When we acknowledge a job well done we communicate our teen’s value. We inform them that we notice their and appreciate their work. We express the importance of their place and work in our home and world. We acknowledge their power to do things and the importance of that power in our lives.
  3. Help your children with their homework. Once again, helping with homework was associated with a similar level of suicidal risk noted in bullet #1. Helping our children and teens with homework communicates love. It lets them know we are interested in their world and committed to their growth. It gives us the opportunity to learn and grow with them, sharing in tasks together. It expresses how much we love them…enough to help them in the work of their daily world.

Once again, these three simple actions significantly reduce the risk of suicide in teens. Unfortunately, many teens do not receive these simple blessings from their parents. Make sure your teen does.

I would add two other important actions we can take to protect our teens from suicide.

  1. Get to know your teen. Learn about their world of friends and activities. Observe their moods and behaviors. If you see some change in their mood, if they appear depressed or isolated, seek help. Many teens who commit suicide have some type of mood disorder or change in peer relationships (Teen Suicide Statistics). Know you teen well enough to recognize the signs…and get help if they need it.
  2. Limit the use of electronic devices and encourage face-to-face interactions. In recent studies, Jean Twenge and colleagues identified that teens who spend five or more hours per day on devices are 71% more likely to have a risk factor for suicide. (The Risk of Teen Depression and Suicide is Linked to Smartphone Use) At the same time, getting rid of all devices did not help. Instead, the option resulting in the best mental health limited time on devices while encouraging face-to-face interactions.  (Read Just So You Know: Screen Time & Teen Happiness for more on this.)

Overall, these five actions are not hard. They do take time. They mean investing in the lives of our youth.  And that’s a great investment…after all they are amazing people with exciting futures who will build the tomorrow in which you and I grow!

Why Thank Your Spouse for Doing Chores?

I’ve heard it a thousand times (well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I have heard it a lot!): “Why should I thank her for doing what she’s supposed to do?” Or, “I’m not going to thank him for doing what a man’s supposed to do!” Or, “Why should I thank him for taking out the garbage when I cook the meals, clean the house, and do the dishes!” The short answer is because it’s polite and it will encourage them to do more.  But, that answer is incomplete and short-sighted. Let me explain what I feel is a more compelling answer.

We all want to feel appreciated, especially by our family. Thanking our spouse for doing some routine, expected chores gives them the gift of feeling appreciated. Appreciation is a gift of love you give your spouse. But wait…that’s not all. There are even BETTER REASONS to appreciate your spouse!

A series of studies from the University of Massachusetts (click here to read the studies) explored the impact of appreciation in romantic relationships. They looked at two types of behaviors, each involving an expenditure of time, effort, and resources to meet the needs of a one’s partner or home. One type of behavior involved “partner favors,” behaviors engaged in directly for your spouse. The second type of behavior involved “family chores,” the mundane, tedious tasks not done directly for your spouse but still needing done. “Family chores” included activities like cleaning the bathroom, paying the bills, or taking out the garbage. In a series of studies and questionnaires, the researchers asked couples how often the engaged in specific “partner favors” and “family chores,” how appreciated they felt, and how satisfied they were in their marriage. The couples’ answers revealed some surprising results.

  1. When a person felt appreciated for doing the mundane, tedious “family chores,” the chore became more of a “want to do” activity rather than a “should do” activity. People crave appreciation so much that even mundane tasks become more desirable when we know our spouse will appreciate them. Chores become a positive investment in the relationship, not just another tedious job. As a result, the appreciated person is more likely to keep doing chores…and to do them happily!
  2. Appreciation for “family chores” led to greater relationship satisfaction. When “family chores” were appreciated, couples described their relationship as more satisfying and intimate.

Put these two points together and you find that appreciating our spouse sets a positive cycle in motion. The doer feels appreciated and the chore takes on new meaning. It becomes a positive investment in the relationship. Rather than another tedious task, it is an expression of love sown into the relationship. The doer then desires to do more chores, to sow more love into the relationship of appreciation. The appreciator delights in a helpful spouse. They enjoy a spouse who participates in maintaining the household and becomes even more appreciative as a result. When both spouses become doers and appreciators, you create a cyclone of appreciation pulling your marriage toward greater levels of mutual appreciation and joyous service.

So, why thank your spouse for doing chores? To create a cyclone of appreciation, an environment of joyous service and mutual gratitude! Sounds like a pretty sweet spot, doesn’t it? Get the cyclone of appreciation started today by simply voicing your appreciation for the chores your spouse has done.

A Lesson for Graduates from Blind Bartimeaus

My youngest daughter graduated from high school this year. She and several of her classmates have encountered many painful obstacles on their journey toward graduation. They have comforted one another through an unusually high number of struggles and deep losses. But, this year they received their diplomas and set their sights on higher Overcomehopes, greater dreams, and richer visions of conquest. As I watched them graduate, my mind wandered to the story of a man name Bartimeaus. Bartimeaus was blind. Like you, he faced many obstacles trying to get by each day. One day, he heard that a great Teacher, a Merciful Healer, was passing by amidst a crowd of people. Bartimeaus cried out to the Teacher for help. The Teacher didn’t respond, so Bartimeaus yelled louder. The people around the Teacher told Bartimeaus to give it up. Stop yelling. Just sit back and stay where you are, a blind man begging on the side of the road.  But blind Bartimeaus had a greater vision than those around him. He knew the Teacher was a Merciful Healer. Even though physically blind, Bartimeaus saw beyond the moment to greater possibilities. He had higher hopes. He brushed aside the naysayers and those who wanted to keep him down. He cried out above those who tried to silence him. He pursued is dream of gaining the Teacher’s attention. When everyone else told him to stop and give up, he persisted. He bet everything he had on the hope of being healed by the Merciful Healer. Then, it happened. The Teacher called for Bartimeaus. Bartimeaus threw aside his cloak and jumped up. He left everything he owned. He threw off every encumbrance to answer the Teacher’s call. He approached the Merciful Healer only to find one more hurdle. The Teacher presented one final obstacle. He asked Bartimeaus a question: “What do you want Me to do for you?” Without hesitation, Bartimeaus announced his deepest desire—to see. The Teacher granted him that desire and gave Bartimeaus his sight. His dogged determination had paid off. Having obtained the sight he had only dreamed of, Bartimeaus discovered yet another, even greater, reward. He saw the face of the Teacher who had given him his sight.

To my daughter and those who graduated with her, I know you have encountered several obstacles and struggles in your high school career. You will encounter many more as you continue your journey through life. Like Bartimeaus, don’t give up. You will encounter naysayers and people who want to keep you down. Call out for your dreams all the louder. People will try to deter you from reaching toward your dreams. They will try to convince you settle. They will tell you to sit back and stay where you are. Don’t do it; become yet more determined. They will try to silence you. Don’t let them. Persist more doggedly. When others try to dissuade you from Teacher’s dream in your life, pursue that vision even more vigorously. The Teacher will hear you. He will call for you. When He does, throw aside every encumbrance. Let nothing hold you back. He will likely ask you what you want (even though He already knows). Let your excitement overflow as you share your dream with Him. Proclaim the vision He has planted in your heart. Your steadfast pursuit, your tenacious persistence, and your resilient determination will pay off when you realize your deepest desire. And, you will gain an even greater reward when that happens. You will see the face of the One who has given you the strength to achieve the dream He planted in your heart. Keep your eyes on Him and never give up!

The #1 Action for Improving Your Marriage

If you want a stronger, healthier marriage take this simple action every day: express gratitude to your spouse! That’s right. Expressing gratitude is the most consistent predictor of marital quality according to research completed by the University of Georgia. Researchers African American Couple Laughing On The Floorinterviewed 468 married individuals about financial stress, communication style, and expressions of gratitude for this study. They discovered that the practice of saying “thank you” and expressing gratitude promoted a higher quality marriage. Such expressions of gratitude interrupted negative communication patterns. They decreased the “proneness to divorce.” They protected a woman’s marital commitment in the face of negative communication styles. In other words, expressing your appreciation for your spouse—showing gratitude and acknowledging the nice things they do, and saying “thank you”—carries great power in your relationship. So, start today. Improve the quality of your marriage by saying “thank you.” Protect your marriage by intentionally expressing gratitude for something your spouse does every day.

A Fact & A Challenge for Your Marriage

Writing thank you on a blackboard.FACT: Researchers at the University of Georgia recently published the results of a study involving 468 married individuals. The study looked at the impact of financial stress, the demand/withdrawal communication pattern, and the expression of gratitude on marriage. They found expression of gratitude toward one’s spouse was the “most consistent significant predictor of marital quality” among those involved in the study. The more gratitude spouses express toward  one another, the less they used the negative communication pattern in which one partner demands and the other withdraws, and the greater their commitment to their marriage. In other words, feeling and perceiving gratitude from one’s spouse increases commitment to marriage and each spouse’s willingness to communicate about the “difficult topics” in their relationship. There is power in the simple expression of gratitude. (Learn more about the power of gratitude by reading Intentional Gratitude and 4 Tools for a Happy Marriage.) That leads me to the “challenge.”

CHALLENGE: Make a commitment to express gratitude to your spouse on a daily basis. Doing so will increase positive communication, buffer your relationship against various relational stresses, and protect your marriage from divorce. Here are three ways to help you meet this challenge.

  1. At the end of each day reflect back on how many times you expressed gratitude to your spouse…and how many things your spouse did for which you did not express gratitude. Commit to increase your expression of gratitude tomorrow.
  2. Keep a daily gratitude journal by writing 3-5 things you could thank your spouse for doing that day. Share your list with your spouse at the end of the week.
  3. Set a reminder on your cell phone to prompt you to stop three times a day (morning, noon, evening) and think about things you appreciate about your spouse. Each time, write down 1-2 things you appreciate about your spouse. At the end of the day, share two of the things you have listed.

A fact and a challenge that can strengthen your marriage. FACT: There is great power in gratitude.  CHALLENGE: Show gratitude daily! Your marriage will thank you for it.

The Key to Love…or Disdain

“A man falls in love through his eyes, a woman through her ears.”–Woodrow Wyatt

If Woodrow Wyatt is right, men and women have different keys when it comes to love. A key and heartkey to a man’s love begins with his eyes. If this is true, you can use this key to increase intimacy with your husband. Dress nicely now and again rather than always slumping around in your “comfy clothes.” When you go on a date, pick out clothes that you know appeal to your husband. You likely did this while dating. Why not keep it up after you’re married? Make an effort to put on nice clothes, fix your hair, and smile admiringly at your husband on a regular basis. It will go a long way in unlocking his love.

A key to a woman’s love begins in her ears. Use this key to gain intimacy with your wife. Speak words of appreciation and adoration for your wife. Encourage her often. Verbalize your feelings of love on a regular basis. Let your words reveal your fondness and admiration for your wife. Speak words of love and affection, appreciation and adoration, fondness and admiration daily. This will unlock her love for you in amazing ways.

These keys have a flipside. They can create intimacy when used properly; but, on the flipside, they will create disdain if misused or ignored. Wives, if you make no attempt to look nice for your husband, he may begin to think you don’t care. He will feel unimportant because you “dress up for work, but never for him.” He will feel as though you rate him second to all those activities and places for which you dress up. He may even begin to feel disrespected. He may feel cheated and deceived because you “dressed up when we were dating but now you don’t care enough about me.” A man who feels disrespected will begin to drift to those places where he feels more respect. Don’t let this happen in your marriage. Use the key of his eyes to keep him close.

Men, if you neglect to speak words of affirmation and admiration to your wife, she will begin to doubt your love. She will feel unappreciated and unloved. She may even begin to feel worse about herself, inadequate and filled with self-doubt. If you call her names or call her character into question through the words you speak, she will begin to despise you. Her disdain for you will grow with every negative comment you make. Eventually, love will die. Don’t let this happen in your marriage. Speak words of love and tenderness. Use the key of her ears to keep her close.

Of course the eyes and ears are not the only keys to love. But, they do provide one key you can use to deepen the intimacy with your spouse and strengthen your marriage. The nice thing is…you hold the key!

Family Honor & Respect in a Card Trick

Did you ever see “The Colour Changing Card Trick” on YouTube?  It is a cool card trick…and so much more. In fact, the “so much more” makes the trick astounding and teaches us an important lesson about family. Take a short 2 minutes and 43 seconds to watch “The Colour Changing Card Trick” in the video below. You won’t be disappointed. Then read what this trick taught me about family.

People learn and grow; they mature and change. More to the point, your spouse, children, and parents learn and grow. They mature and change.  Taking the time to recognize and acknowledge how they learn, grow, and change honors them. Adjusting our response in accordance with their growth also honors them and communicates respect for them. Unfortunately, we often miss the real changes, the significant growth, because we focus on some small aspect of their life or behavior that has irritated us. We focus on the “cards” and miss the all the changing shirts, table cloths, and back drops. Let me give some examples.

  • We recall the time a family member was late in picking us up and tell that story for years, but never acknowledge how many times they were there for us when we needed them…or how they have grown more responsible over the years.
  • We focus on a family member’s angry reaction to some pet peeve and neglect to recognize how patient they have become in the last year or how patient they have always been in so many other areas.
  • We constantly talk about our children’s messy room while ignoring how well they clean their dishes, the car they drive, or the desk they study at.
  • We bring up the time a family member said something obviously wrong (“Is this chicken…or is this fish? I know its tuna, but it says ‘Chicken of the Sea.’) while neglecting to acknowledge how intelligent they are and how much more knowledgeable they have grown.

I’m not saying we need to let inappropriate behavior run amok in our families. Inappropriate behavior needs addressed. But, we show respect and honor when we recognize how our family members have changed and matured. Take a look at the “big picture,” the whole picture. Notice the changes your spouse and children have made. Admire their maturing character. Acknowledge new behaviors and attitudes they have developed in response to lessons learned. Notice the changing colors of their life as it grows ever more mature. It’s a great way to show honor and respect.

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