Tag Archive for intimacy

Are Gentlemen an Endangered Species?

I work with several young, single women who are convinced that good men are an endangered species. As we discuss their belief I realize they are speaking of “gentlemen.”  I offer them an old definition (1869) of “gentlemen:”

“always truthful and sincere; will not agree for the sake of complaisance or out of weakness; will not pass over that of which he disapproves. He has a clear soul, and a fearless, straight forward tongue. On the other hand, he is not blunt and rude. His truth is courteous, his courtesy, truthful; never a humbug, yet, where he truthfully can, he prefers to say pleasant things.”

Yep, that’s the guy. They believe he is an endangered species if not already extinct.  They support their argument with the fact that I offered a definition from 1869! So, we discuss a more modern definition, one from the Urban Dictionary:

“the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.”

I like that definition better than the old one but, alas…they still insist this man is possibly extinct.  I will not accept such pessimism. I am sure “gentlemen” exist today. The news may highlight those who are not “gentlemen” and sitcoms laugh at men who are not “gentlemen” but I believe “gentlemen” still exist…and in rather large numbers. I’ve seen them and met them on multiple occasions, more numerous than I can count. With that in mind, I think it is time for all true “gentlemen” to make themselves known to the people around them. Of course, this can only be done in the true manner of a “gentlemen” so let me suggest a few methods for making your status as a “gentleman” known.

  • Build a reputation of integrity. Speak the truth but do so politely with kindness. Let your word be your word. Be on time. Keep your promises. Communicate your commitments and your intents clearly. Then let your actions prove your words. Never lead anyone on.
  • Practice chivalry. Hold the door open for others. Offer to get the car rather than assuming the women and others in your life will run through the rain. Be courteous to all. Stand boldly for what is right. Advocate for the vulnerable and underprivileged. Seek justice for all. Never criticize or insult; compliment and encourage instead.
  • Be courteous. Stand when a woman enters a crowded room and offer her your seat if none is available. Never criticize a homemade meal or a gift but show gratitude instead. Walk beside your spouse rather than ahead of her. Offer her the support of your arm on precarious terrain…and the strength of your character in difficult times of life.
  • Listen intently because you know the value of the person speaking and want to know them more intimately. Etiquette tells us that “to be a good listener is indispensable” to be a “gentleman.”
  • Promote other people’s dreams and goals, especially those of your spouse and children. Gentlemen serves others graciously, not only in daily life but in their pursuit of dreams.

I do believe “gentlemen” still exist. In fact, I know they do! I know you are out there. Join me in making the presence of “gentlemen” known in our families and our world today. And let us teach our sons to do the same.

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.

Argument Starters & Enders

Many things can start a couple to arguing. Some issues of argument seem significant like money, sex, who does what chore, or how often to go out. Others seem insignificant in the long run like how to hang the toilet paper, what color car to buy, or what side of the bed to sleep on. There are a multitude of “argument starters,” issues that lead to arguments. However, if you really want to, you can narrow the “argument starters” down to a few key issues.

  1. Insecure emotional connection. When we do not feel emotionally connected to our spouse, we seek ways to reconnect. Unfortunately, we may seek less effective methods of reconnecting. In our fear of losing our attachment to our spouse, we may even go to extremes to reconnect. Sometimes we turn to arguing and fighting to regain a sense of connection. It results in a negative connection but a connection nonetheless. It is in response to fear of emotionally drifting away from our spouse that we sometimes get “snarky,” snap back, and make harsh comments. Like a toddler crying out and reaching for her mother, we will strive to reconnect by acting out of our fear of rejection.
  2. Conditional acceptance. Some marriage experts have called acceptance the “mother of all issues.” We long to feel totally and unconditionally accepted. When we feel our acceptance is based on performance or behavior, we can easily feel abandoned and rejected when our performance does not meet the standard of our partner’s expectation.
  3. Feeling disregarded. Sometimes we feel disregarded, unheard. We believe our spouse “never” listens to us. We feel unimportant in their eyes because they have disregarded our desires or ignored our requests. In anger, we demand to be heard and attended to.

I’m sure there are other issues that lead to arguments, but these three issues underlie many arguments. Arguments about money often come down to feelings of insecurity, emotional distance, and feeling unheard. Our heated disagreements over physical intimacy reflect feeling emotionally disconnected. Argument about dishes in the sink stem from feeling “my wishes always get disregarded.” The list goes on…feeling emotionally disconnected, conditionally accepted, and disregarded fuels many of our arguments. That’s good news because knowing what fuels the arguments and fights gives us insight into how to avoid the arguments and fights. Knowing the “argument starters” shines a light on the “argument enders.”

  1. Connect emotionally. Spend time together. Talk about more than the business of running a household. Talk about your interests, dreams, fears, and joys. Share opinions about current events. Pray together. Learn together. Walk hand in hand. Snuggle up and cuddle to watch TV, the sunset, or the birds in the yard. Seek ways to “touch your spouse” emotionally each day. Take time to connect. (You might even try practicing a Marital Sabbath each week.)
  2. Accept your spouse unconditionally. Acceptance satisfies a deep-seated emotional need in each of us. It promotes a sense of security, confidence, and courage. Put away comparisons, back-handed compliments, and guilt-inducing statements. Practice accepting your spouse and expressing that acceptance in your words and actions. Treat them with the dignity inherent in them as a person. Love them for their differences as those unique traits make your relationship stronger and more beautiful (Read Honoring Variety for more).
  3. Attend to your spouse. Listen to your spouse and respond to their attempts to interact and connect. Let their desires influence you. Keep your spouse in the forefront of your mind and communicate how important they are to you as often as you can. (Here is a simple formula to help you keep your spouse in the forefront of your mind.)

Don’t let this short list of ideas limit you. I’m sure you can find more ways to connect emotionally, practice acceptance, and attend to your spouse. The important aspect is to practice connecting, accepting, and attending on a daily basis. As you do, arguments will decrease in intensity and frequency. You will feel more intimacy and joy in your marriage.

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.

The Music In Your Heart?

Every couple longs for intimacy. They want to share an intimate dance to the music of love in their hearts. But what are the major keys of that musical intimacy? Stop, listen closely, and you’ll hear that music in our heart. Oh who am I kidding?  Just turn on the radio and listen. You’ll hear the major (and minor) keys to which we dance the dance of intimacy.

  • Intimacy begins with knowledge. We have to “become an expert on the subject I like most…Getting to know you, getting to know all about you. Getting to like you and getting to hope you like me.”
  • Intimate knowledge builds trust and trust requires honesty. Every couple fears “honesty is hardly ever heard but mostly what I need from you.” They know that trust is built upon “Truth and honesty—that is what we need to hold on to the good stuff we believe in…we could pull it back together with truth and honesty. Open up your hands, show me your heart.”
  • Intimacy thrives when partners become mutually responsive to one another’s needs, when each one knows their partner will “see you through; I’ll cover you with a love so deep and warm and true. I’ll be there Honey. I’ll be your shelter.”
  • Intimacy grows when we care for one another, when we know “our friendship will never die. You’re gonna see it’s our destiny. You’ve got a friend in me.” Intimacy grows when each person knows their partner will let them “lean on me when you’re not strong. I’ll be your friend. I’ll help you carry on.” Intimacy requires knowing that one’s partner cares enough to become a “bridge over troubled waters, I will ease your mind.”
  • Intimacy involves interdependence, a state in which each person knows “I want you to want me. I need you to need me. I’d love you to love me.” As a couple they proclaim “there’s nowhere in the world that I would rather be than with you, my love. And there’s nothing in the world that I would rather see than you smile, my love. For united we stand.”
  • Intimacy deepens when “me” changes to “we.” Intimate partner proclaim “I’ll be there for you when the rain starts to pour. I’ll be there for you like I’ve been there before. I’ll be there for you ’cause you’re there for me too!
  • Intimacy requires commitment. Intimacy only grows in the soils of commitment. Each partner has to know the other will “fight hell to hold you, no river too deep or mountain high. I’ll fight hell to hold you by my side…till time stands still and worlds collide I’ll fight hell to hold you by my side.” Intimacy grows when we know “you’re never gonna be alone! From this moment on, if you ever feel like letting go, I won’t let you fall, you’re never gonna be alone!

Some of the music of our hearts goes way back…before our time even.  Perhaps you hear some different music, but it all tells you the same thing. Intimacy is experienced when we know one another, trust one another, care for one another, respond to one another, and want to be wanted by one another. Intimacy means we have become a team, a “we,” committed to that team “til death do us part.”

Keep That Spark Alive with a Marital Sabbath Rest

The Journal of Consumer Research published a series of studies drawing participants from Italy and the United States. They discovered that U.S. citizens associated busyness with status. We tend to view people as important when they skip leisure and work all the time, even complaining they “have no life” because of work or desperately “need a vacation” but are too busy to take one (Lack of leisure: Is busyness the new status symbol?). Unfortunately, this mindset is deadly to a healthy marriage and family. In fact, according to a Baylor University study in 2016 the best predictor of happiness within families was spending time together engaged in familiar leisure activities (Pleasant family leisure at home may satisfy families more than fun together elsewhere, study finds). As overwork and busyness have become status symbols, we have become enslaved to the slave driver of our cultural frenzy. But familiar leisure time at home promotes family happiness, not constant running and busyness. This presents a “bit of conundrum,” doesn’t it? Ah, but I have a solution, an ancient solution that we often overlook when considering our marriages. A healthy marriage needs rest, not just any rest but a Marital Sabbath Rest.  A Marital Sabbath Rest will help us experience the rhythm of God in our marriages, a rhythm that invites us to look forward to reigniting our love together, savoring our connection in the moment, and remembering who we are as couples. A Marital Sabbath Rest will restore God’s freedom from the slave drivers that compel us to overwork so we can experience the gift of freedom to worship and rest.  A Marital Sabbath will refocus our perspective on our delight for our spouses. It will allow us the time to “re-create” and revitalize the unity God has given us in marriage. Status will not give a lifetime of joy; a happy marriage will.  We need a Marital Sabbath Rest to restore that knowledge. To incorporate a Martial Sabbath Rest into your marriage:

  1. Set time aside for you and your spouse. Develop a simply ritual to separate your Marital Sabbath Rest from the rest of the week. The ritual can be as simple as lighting a candle or eating a meal together. Just establish the activity as one that signals the change from “regular time” to “Marital Sabbath Rest time.”
  2. Acknowledge, adore, and admire. Begin your Marital Sabbath Rest by acknowledging your spouse. Recognize and thank your spouse for their investment in your marriage and your home. Tell them one or two things you admire about them. Let them know a couple of things you adore about them. This can also serve as part of the ritual separating the Marital Sabbath Rest from the rest of the week.
  3. Enjoy a meal together. During your meal, enjoy conversation. Save conversation you know will lead to heated disagreement for another time and enjoy friendly, fun-filled conversation with one another. Speak to one another as friends and lovers. Recall times of celebrations. Discuss dreams and anticipate future fun. Share your meals.
  4. Play. Stop working to accomplish something and simply enjoy your time together. Don’t worry about time; savor the “eternal moment” of play and love. Forget about productivity and just enjoy God’s gift of your spouse and your marriage.
  5. Rest. Take a walk. Sit on the porch. Listen to some music. Relax. Go to bed a little early and enjoy your spouse. This is a time to relish in your relationship and savor the intimacy that culminates from a day of enjoying one another.

I know enjoying a Marital Sabbath Rest takes a little preparation and effort. However, the dividends are amazing—a greater peace, a growing sense of security, an increasing joy, and a deepening intimacy.

Beach Balls, Chopsticks, & Ping Pong Balls…Oh My!!

What do beach balls, chopsticks, and ping pong balls have in common? They teach us an important lesson about marriage. What? Really? Yes indeed. It’s true. They teach us to bring laughter into our marriages. When spouses laugh together they report feeling more supported and cared for by one another (Couples Who Do This Together are Happier). They also report greater relationship satisfaction and connection. (The Effect of Reminiscing about Laughter on Relationship Satisfaction)  In addition, a review of 230 baseball players revealed genuine smiles could lead to a longer life! (Grinning for a Longer Life)  Wouldn’t that be a wonderful gift to give your spouse—a longer life for both of you? Smiling and laughter can even reduce stress (Smile It’s Good for Your Heart & LOL-On Safari for the Elusive Smile), making it easier to recover from moments of conflict.

So, whether you do a beach ball ballet,

the Tissue Box Bop,

or wisely use chopsticks like the Chinese, bring a little laughter into your marriage. You won’t regret it!

PS-If you missed our couple’s retreat P.L.A.Y. Rx you missed learning more about the joys of play, laughter, adventure, yearning, and rest for your marriage. But, here are some pictures of the times we shared.  Hope to see you next year.

Savor the Odor…er, I Mean…AROMA

Did you know smell is one of our strongest memory inducers? It’s true. Think about it. Have you ever had a scent tickle your olfactory and find yourself transported back to high school in an instant? Or caught the whiff of a passing aroma that reminded you of your spouse…or a grandparent? (Not that your spouse smell like your grandparent…I mean, it’s ok if they do…but…oh, it’s just an example….You know what I mean.) Do you remember the smell of your grandparent’s home? (Whew, good save?) Scents hold our memories securely in their aura. They do more than trigger memories. Scents can also lower stress. A recent study from the University of British Columbia found the scent of our “romantic partner” helps lower stress. They randomly assigned women involved in opposite sex relationships to one of three groups. The women in one group wore a T-shirt previously worn by a stranger. Those in the second group wore a T-shirt previously unworn and those in the third group wore a T-shirt previously worn by their husbands.  None of the women knew which group they were in. All the women then went through a stressful mock interview and completed a stressful mental math task. Results?

  • Those who wore a shirt exuding a stranger’s scent were the most stressed and had the highest levels of cortisol (stress hormone).
  • Those who wore the shirt releasing their husband’s scent had the lowest stress level and lowest cortisol levels.
  • If the women recognized their husband’s scent on the shirt, their cortisol levels were even lower, suggesting that the stress-reducing benefits of their husband’s scent was strongest when they recognized his “aromatic essence.”


With this in mind, you can use the power of smell to enhance your marriage. For instance, the scent of your spouse can trigger positive memories when you wear your spouse’s favorite perfume or after shave on a date.

If your spouse is away on a trip, take a whiff of his/her shirt. It may ease the longings and reduce the stress of missing them. (Just hope you don’t find the same disheartening result as Ty Burrell in the Gain commercial.)

When you have a particularly stressful event, take a moment to recall your spouse…and their aroma.  You might just experience a reduction in stress.

Oh the power of a scent!  Enjoy the aromatic aura of your spouse…and enjoy less stress.

A Devotion on Making All Things New

A couple walked into my office seeking couple’s therapy. They were at their whit’s end. They have a faint memory of loving one another but that love has long since been replaced with frustration, bitterness, and sorrow. Hope was hanging on by a thread. Coming to me was their last ditch effort to restore something they had lost long ago. They were tired of the old marriage they had fallen into and needed something new.

As this couple spoke with me, an image of the resurrected Christ appearing before Thomas came to mind with the words, “Behold, I make all things new” ( I realize this statement does not occur when Jesus appeared to Thomas, but both came to mind…). Later, as I thought about that passing image, I realized how drastically Jesus had changed things, how “He had made all things new.”  He stood before Thomas still recognizable in body and speech. But, everything had changed.

  • He still had the body that everyone recognized as belonging to Jesus, but His body had changed. The old body, the mortal body that had died on a cross was made new. He now had an imperishable body, an immortal body, a resurrected body.
  • He still had the marks of nails in His hands and feet, the pierce of the sword in His side. But these had transformed. They no longer represented pain, torture, and death. They had been made new. They now represent forgiveness, redemption, salvation, and love.
  • Jesus stood in their presence. He ate their food. In this sense, He appeared very similar. But, all things had been made new. He didn’t walk through the door, He simply appeared. And, His very presence transformed hopelessness and fear into hope and anticipation.

Truly, everything had been made new. As time progressed, even the disciples were made new. Those who lacked understanding became wise in the Word of the Lord. Those who lived in fear became courageous. Those who wanted to rain down fire on a village become loving. All things were made new.

I know it sounds simplistic but if you want “all things to be made new” in your life, your marriage, or your family begin with prayer. I’m not saying change is easy. I’m not suggesting suddenly all things will be made new while you do nothing.  Jesus endured shame and humiliation to make all things new. He had to practice radical obedience “even to the point of death” to make all things new. You will have to take some radical action as well…actions that will feel uncomfortable, actions that will challenge you, actions that may even prove painful. The scars will still be there…but they will be made new. The pain will be a memory…but it will be made new. So if you want change get ready to work. Hard. And begin that work with prayer because He makes all things new.

« Older Entries