Tag Archive for intimacy

Don’t Need No App For That!

Seems today you can find an app for anything. People even feel the need to have an app before they do anything.

  • Don’t want to call certain people in a drunken stupor…”there’s an app for that.” (I think it might be better just to avoid the drunken state, but….)
  • Want to track your bowel movements (related diet, stress, bowel texture) and share “all that crap” with friends…”there’s an app for that.” Perhaps hard to believe, but it’s true.
  • On a slightly different note, want to keep track of every place in the world you have “taken a poop” (or would that be “left a poop,” anyway)…. Yes, “there’s an app for that.”
  • Tired of playing games on your device while your cat sits idly by lounging on the floor…”there’s an app for that.” Your cat can “catch” a digital mouse or fish depending on the app you choose. Now you can play your games without the guilt of your lonely cat staring at you with those big eyes. Hmmmmmm.
  • Find your teen’s behavior irritating? Show them whose boss (or whose best at irritating teen behavior) by irritating them with high frequency sounds…Yes, “there’s an app for that.”
  • Ever had to go to the bathroom in the middle of a movie but you don’t want to miss anything good? Well, you guessed it, “there’s an app for that.” This app will tell you the best times to run to the bathroom during a movie and fills you in on what you’ve missed during your trip.

See what I mean? You name it, “there’s an app for that.” Sesame Street even has a song to help teach its viewers “there’s an app for that.”  By the way, in case anyone out there can help create an app, I have a couple ideas for family apps to help families practice honor, grace, and celebration.  I want in on the act, but I don’t know how to create an app and, I guess there’s no app for that.

In the long run, though, you don’t need an app to build a strong family. In fact, focusing on your phone and internet device to play games and monitor bowel movements can really get in the way of family life.  So, I wanted to share just a few “app-free” ways to build a healthy family. The nice thing about each of these tools is you “don’t need no app for that!”

  • Sit down as a family and play a board game or a card game. While you play, talk. Enjoy one another’s company. Laugh.
  • Go for a walk. Get outside and walk along a creek or through a patch of woods or across the field. Walking in nature has a healing effect and it provides an opportunity to share. Take a walk to the store just to buy a drink. Talk and share as you walk.
  • Prepare a meal together. Then sit down and eat together. (Check out the benefits of this activity.)
  • Get your favorite book and read it out loud to one another.
  • Go fly a kite. You’d be surprised at the benefits of flying a kite.
  • Go for a bike ride.
  • Sit on the porch and watch the birds together (I’m doing that as I write this blog).
  • Have a campfire. Make some s’mores. Enjoy one another’s company and conversation. (A great family fun night.)
  • Go to the zoo…or the museum. Then talk about your favorite parts over some ice cream.
  • For more ideas, read this.

You get the idea. These activities are simple and there are many more. Even though they are simple, they build family togetherness. They increase family intimacy. And, you “don’t need no app for that!”

Your Spouse & Challenges

I live in Pittsburgh, PA. So, any time I see or hear about a study conducted by one of the universities in the area it catches my eye, especially when it deals with family. Recently, a study by Carnegie Mellon University caught my eye.  This study focused on the impact of spousal support and opportunities. The researchers recruited 163 couples and gave one member of each couple a choice. They could either solve a simple puzzle or compete for a prize by giving a speech. Each person then returned to their partner and discussed whether to do the puzzle or compete for a prize. Participants with encouraging partners were more likely to decide to give a speech and compete for the prize. Those with discouraging partners, or partners expressing a lack of confidence, were more likely to choose the simple puzzle. Not real surprising, is it? But, here’s the part I found really interesting. Six months later the partners who had accepted the more challenging speech competition reported more personal growth, greater happiness, more psychological well-being, and better relationship satisfaction than those who chose the simple puzzle! The encouraging, supportive spouse helped their partner embrace an opportunity to “go for it” and grow. They supported their partners’ growth and in doing so supported their partners’ happiness. That, in turn, likely led to a more satisfying marriage as well!

Do you want to see your partner grow and learn? Do you want them to know greater joy? Do you want a more satisfying marital relationship? Encourage your spouse. Learn about your  spouse’s dreams and encourage them to “seize the moment” when opportunities that arise to pursue those dreams. When challenges arise, express confidence in their ability to meet the challenge and support them in growing through the challenge. Express joy in seeing them move toward their dreams. Celebrate every step of the way. Then, thank Carnegie Mellon University, located in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, for revealing how encouraging our spouse makes life better! (Sorry for the commercial….I guess I’m a proud “yinzer.”)

The T.A.P. Garden Could Save Your Marriage

A couple of friends recently went to Haiti with Team Tassy to “Run Across Haiti.” His wife sent beautiful pictures and wonderful descriptions of the work they did while in Haiti. One post in particular caught my attention. I wanted to share it with you. With her permission (thank you Kristen Mauclair), here it is…a gardening metaphor that could save your marriage!

No relationship is easy… including ours. Today, after taking a tour of SAKALA (an educational, community center and beautiful garden in Cite Soleil), I had the honor to teach a lesson of agriculture to Haitian students. Children so eager to learn what it means to make a garden grow.

It came to me that there are really 3 basic principles to cultivating plants 🌱 or crops… fruits 🍉 or vegetables 🥒 … Time, Attention, and Patience.

  • TIME to see the results…
  • ATTENTION to detail: watering, nourishing, harvesting the good…
  • PATIENCE when planting fails; starting over is a must… and patience to wait until the effort shows!

This was something I hoped the kids would take with them after our lesson… because ultimately… these 3 principles apply to life in many ways… developing a garden, excelling in school, growing a business, maintaining relationships… and as I thought after our garden visit… TEN YEARS OF MARRIAGE!

And, as it is, marriage is not easy. It takes TIME, ATTENTION, and PATIENCE. Our ten years have not been easy, but we’ve learned it takes work. Days have come where I’ve worked more than him and days when he’s worked more than me. There have been times when we’re on the same page, and MANY where we aren’t even in the same library. 😉 And… lots of days were spent NOT working at all.

Marriage is incredibly difficult AND rewarding. It’s uncomfortable AND comforting. It’s the best days AND worst days, but if there is NO effort from both parties, the garden will die. Time… with one another. Attention… to who we are together and who we are as individuals.  Patience… in knowing we will FALL, but will not FAIL… because starting over IS an option.

I’ve learned…’I am sorry’… ‘I forgive you’… and ‘I love you’ … are the most powerful 3-word phrases when used wisely. 10 years of marriage… work. I’m proud of myself and proud of us. I’m proud of what we stand for and what we’ve been through.  No relationship is easy… including ours.

I (John from Honor Grace Celebrate) would only add …the marriage that grows from an investment of time, attention, and patience is a joyful garden filled with beautiful plants bearing amazing fruit.

My Cell Phone is Ripping Me Off!!

Let me just give you the quote right here, at the beginning of the blog. “The mere presence of one’s smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity and impairs cognitive functioning, even though people feel they’re giving their full attention and focus to the task at hand.” This is the finding of a study out of the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas, Austin. In this study, participants were assigned to one of three groups while taking a series of tests geared to measure the brain’s ability to hold and process data. One group took the test with their cell phone turned off and left on their desk face down. The second group had their cell phone turned off and in their pocket or a personal bag. The third group had their cell phones turned off and in another room. Those participants who had their phones in another room did significantly better than those who had their cell phone on the desk and slightly better than those who had the cell phone in their pocket or bag. In other words, “the mere presence of one’s smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity and impairs cognitive functioning….” The presence of our cell phone takes up our mental space and “dumbs us down.”

The process of pushing thoughts about who might call, who might text, when might it ring, or “I could look that up” takes up space in our brains and takes our attention and concentration from some other task. When we take our cell phone on a date night, it robs us of the mental space needed to have intimate conversation and enjoyment with our spouse. In other words, our cell phone robs our spouses of the full attention and intimate interaction they deserve.  If we really want to have an intimate date with our spouses, leave the cell phone in the car…or at home.  Give your spouse your full attention. Concentrate on intimate interactions with your spouse. Don’t let your cell phone rob you of a precious date!

Aww, That’s So Cute!!

Did you ever watch and listen to a group of teen women (or any age really) looking at pictures of puppies, bunnies, or babies? Each picture is followed by the unsolicited chorus of “Aww, that’s so cute.” If you’ve never had that experience, stop by my house sometime and watch my daughter looking at pictures.  Anyway, a grant given by the Department of Defense explored similar pictures to help married couples “cope with the stress of separation and deployment.” They recruited 144 couples and showed each spouse a stream of images in which pictures of their spouse were embedded. In one group they embedded images of their spouse within a stream of neutral images like a button. In a second group they embedded images of their spouse within a stream of “positive” pictures like puppies, bunnies, or the word “wonderful.”  Both groups viewed the stream of images every three days for six weeks. The group who saw their spouse’s image among the pictures of puppies, bunnies, and words like “wonderful…”

  • Showed more positive reactions to their spouse over the six week study than the other group, and,
  • The spouses reported greater overall marriage quality. (Read more about this study here.)

So, what does this mean for your marriage? How can you use this information to benefit your marriage? First, remember that “interactions between spouses are actually the most important factor” in building a strong marriage. Even the researchers conducting this study agreed with that statement. Beyond that, you can use begin to incorporate cute objects like “puppies and bunnies” into your pictures to enhance the quality of your marriage. Take pictures of one another with cute puppies, bunnies, stuffed animals, or babies. Superimpose words of admiration on the photos of your spouse. If your spouse has to go out of town, send a picture of you holding the family pet, a favorite stuffed animal, or with a word like “wonderful” written on it. You might even hide pictures like that around the house. This could add a whole new dimension to taking pictures at the zoo. You might pose with a koala bear in the background or stand next to a friendly peacock. The cuteness factor may just enhance your marriage. Have fun with this idea. Be creative. Enjoy combining pictures of your spouse (and pictures of the two of you as a couple) with various cute animals and admiring words. You might just find yourself falling in love even more!  “Aww, that’s so cute!”

4 Tips for Raising a Violent Narcissist…OR NOT!!

Have you ever wondered how to create a self-absorbed, entitled, child who becomes violent when they don’t get their way? Probably not. I mean, who wants their child to become a violent narcissist. But, you might raise an entitled violent child unintentionally, by accident, if you don’t watch out. Dr. Calvete and her team of researchers wondered about a possible link between narcissism and violence in adolescents. To explore that possible link, they interviewed 591 adolescents and identified four elements that contribute to the creation of a violent narcissist (Read a review of this study here). Just to make sure you don’t unintentionally practice any of these four elements in your family, let me briefly describe each one.

  1. A distant relationship between parent and child was linked to narcissism in children. A lack of quality time as well as a lack of affection between parent and child contributes to a distant relationship. If you want to raise a narcissist, keep your parent-child relationships distant.
  2. A lack of positive communication helps keep the relationship between parent and child distant. Children who experience little encouragement, acknowledgement, constructive discipline, or intimate connection have a greater chance of becoming an aggressive narcissist.
  3. Exposure to family violence was linked to adolescent aggression directed toward parents. Children learn and practice what they see modeled in the family.
  4. A permissive parenting style sets the stage for an entitled adolescent, one who thinks he deserves everything he wants right here, right now! When he doesn’t get what he wants, he might just become angry and aggressive.

Nobody wants to raise a violent narcissist. We want to raise loving, caring adolescents. To do that, we have to avoid the four elements above. Better yet, replace them with these four family ideals instead.

  1. Develop an intimate family. Spend quality time together. Eat together. Play together. Worship together. Go places together. Share healthy affection like hugs, high-fives, or fist bumps with one another. Learn about one another’s interests. Ask about one another’s day. You get the idea. Develop an intimate family.
  2. Develop a kind and gentle family. Listen before advising. When problems arise, problem-solve together. Learn how to express anger and hurt in a calm manner. Learn to self-soothe. Do not instigate or provoke. Work together to achieve goals. Accept responsibility for mistakes. Lovingly hold one another accountable.  Be kind and gentle, tenderhearted with each other.
  3. Learn positive communication skills. Season your speech with grace. Speak with kindness. Offer encouragements and praise. Address difficulties politely. Offer constructive criticism in a loving manner with the goal of promoting growth. Enjoy intimate conversations. Compliment. Offer words of affirmation and admiration.
  4. Practice authoritative parenting. Authoritative parenting creates an environment in which love and affection thrive and grow within the loving structure of clearly defined limits and boundaries. Both love and limits, relationships and rules, bonding and boundaries are needed to have a healthy, loving family. Practice both in a loving manner.

Put these four family ideals into practice and you will not raise a self-entitled violent narcissist. Instead, you will be the proud parent of a kind, compassionate, and caring young adult.

The Power of Action

My family likes to tease me…sometimes. It’s all in love and we all have fun…. Nonetheless, they like to mess with me. Don’t feel bad; I do give them reason. For instance, they tease me when I announce “I’m going to bed” but remain seated in the family room talking and watching TV.  After a few minutes, at the next commercial, I say it again, even explaining why I need to go to bed. “I’m tired. I’m going to bed” “or “It’s been a long day. I better hit the hay” or “Getting late. Bedtime.” Still, no movement. They begin to snicker, even make comments like “Tired Dad?” “Going to bed are you?” “Dad, you look tired. You better go to bed.” They laugh; I smile. I might even start to cast some jovial blame back on my family by saying, “Now you’re holding me back. I’m trying to go to bed and you’re keeping me up by talking to me.” It’s all done in jest, just a silly game in which we have some family fun. But, I often hear married couples caught in a vicious cycle that sounds very similar to my bedtime “routine.” They have talked about their struggles. They know what bothers their spouse. They have expressed emotions of sorrow and hurt. They can explain the history of their vulnerabilities and sensitivities. But, nothing seems to change because they do nothing but talk about it. No one has taken the step to get “off their proverbial…eh…couch” and do something different. Making a marriage strong and healthy takes more than talking and hearing the words spoken; it takes action. Moving a struggling marriage from an unhealthy position to a strong and healthy one requires doing something different. Here are four actions you can take to build a strong, healthy marriage:

  1. Let your spouse’s needs and requests influence your actions. If they ask for a drink, get it for them. If they are upset, comfort them. When your spouse asks you to help around the house, help. Do a chore. Wash the dishes. Run the vacuum. If your spouse is worried, support them. If they need to talk about a difficult situation, listen. Give a back rub. You get the idea. Serve one another. (Read Start a Revolution for Valentine’s Day to learn more about accepting influence.)
  2. Engage in daily actions that show honor and build trust with your spouse. Trust in marriage is built on small every day actions. Compliment your spouse. Tell them what you adore about them. Offer words of encouragement, admiration, and love. Express how much you enjoy your spouse’s company. (Read Building Trust in Family Relationships for more.)
  3. Court your spouse. Do what you did when “love was young.” Remember how you worked to “woo” your spouse while dating? Do it again. Write love notes. Dress up for them. Talk with courtesy and kindness. Do little things you know they will enjoy. Sit together. Hold hands. Make small talk. Learn about them, their day, their fears, their dreams. In words and actions express how much you delight in your spouse.
  4. Grow as an individual by engaging in activities that make you more mature and honorable. Keep your promises. Be truthful. Apologize and forgive. Remain faithful. (Read more in  Build 6 Pillars of Trust.)

By practicing these four actions you can build a stronger, healthier marriage.

A Math Equation to Save Your Marriage (& it’s not new math!)

I have a friend who loves math. Me? …Not so much. But, I love this equation. It is practical and user friendly. Anyone can do it and the results are amazing.

Here it is: 10 X 32 + 1 = A More Intimate Marriage!

This formula will do wonders for your marriage. Let me explain each part.

  1. Take 10 seconds
  2. 3 times a day (set an alarm on your phone as a reminder)
  3. Each time write 3 positive things you admire about your spouse
  4. At the end of the day, tell your spouse 1 of the things you wrote.

That’s it, the equation I love: 10 (seconds) X 32 (3 times/day X 3 positive things you admire) + 1 (admiration to tell your spouse).

By practicing this equation, you will keep positive thoughts about your spouse in mind throughout the day. By sharing your thought at the end of the day, you encourage your spouse. You also let your spouse know you admire them; and, you develop a habit of mind that will strengthen your marriage. Overall, you will find yourself in a marriage growing more intimate every day. Now that’s an equation I can love!

31 Acts of Kindness to Strengthen Your Marriage

Marriages thrive when spouses honor one another on a daily basis. In fact, spouses who honor one another exhibit more humor and affection during conflict. They make-up with one another more effectively after negative interactions. They also report more romance, passion, and better sex when they honor and feel honored. I don’t know about you, but I want more humor, affection, easier repair, more romance, and better sex in my marriage. So, how can we honor our spouses? One great way to honor our spouses is to show them kindness. It’s that simple: show them kindness. In case you have difficulty thinking of kind things to do for your spouse I’ve listed 30 below, one for each day of the next month. (I must admit, I did get some help coming up with ideas because I couldn’t think of 30 on my own.) Hopefully, this list will give us all a good start.

  1. Get up early and make breakfast for your spouse.
  2. Go one step further and serve your spouse breakfast in bed.
  3. Clean your spouse’s car, inside and out.
  4. Text your spouse throughout the day just to let him know you’re thinking about him.
  5. Give your spouse a sincere compliment.
  6. Help your spouse with a project she is working on.
  7. Learn about something that interests your spouse (a hobby or special topic) and show your love for him by talk with him about his interest.
  8. Give your spouse a back rub.
  9. Tell your spouse something you admire about her.
  10. Make a list of 10-15 things you love about your spouse and leave it under his pillow.
  11. Do one of your spouse’s chores.
  12. Surprise your spouse with a small gift.
  13. Prepare your spouse’s favorite meal or desert.
  14. Watch your spouse’s favorite show or movie with her.
  15. Call or text your spouse during the day just to say, “I love you” or “I was thinking about you.”
  16. Thank your spouse for something he/she did today.
  17. Tell your spouse some character trait your truly appreciate or admire in him/her.
  18. Plan a date with your spouse and enjoy the time together.
  19. Smile at your spouse.
  20. Give your spouse a long, loving hug.
  21. Hide love notes for your spouse throughout the house for her to find during the week.
  22. Leave a special note of appreciation in your spouse’s car.
  23. Ask your spouse about her day and listen with interest.
  24. Share a favorite memory of your time together.
  25. Get dressed up to greet your spouse at the end of the day.
  26. Hold the door open for your spouse.
  27. Let your spouse control the remote for the evening.
  28. Offer to get your spouse a snack or drink…and bring it to her.
  29. Mail your spouse a card telling him how much you love him. (I know you could just hand it to him, but everyone likes to get mail!)
  30. Hold hands.
  31. And for those months with 31 days…make your spouse laugh.

Give these acts of kindness a go. Maybe do one a day for the next month or double them up for a day.  And, please give us your ideas for kind deeds in the comment section below. We might start a Kindness-in-Marriage-Revolution that could flow from our marriages to our families to our communities to our world.

Old School Romance: The Spectacular Date Night

Date can boost intimacy and fun in a marriage…or it can lead to a cul-de-sac of frustration and loneliness. Consider these statements, four of the many I’ve heard over the years, describing date nights gone awry.

  • “We were having a great date until he got drunk and ruined it all.”
  • “She just can’t go one night focused on us. All she talks about is the kids and the house and the kids and the kids and the house.”
  • “We used to go out and have a blast just hanging out and talking. Now we go to a movie or the bar and neither of us says a word.”
  • We don’t have fun on dates anymore. They just turn into arguments over money, politics, and tattoos, whatever…. All we do is argue.”

Do any of these sound familiar. Maybe you’ve heard similar statements…or even made a few of them yourself. These comments do not reflect dates that helped to boost intimacy and joy. If you do want to boost intimacy and joy with a spectacular date night, remember these 8 tips!

  1. Prepare for your date ahead of time. Don’t wait until date night to ask, “What do you want to do?” Plan ahead. Maybe you want to surprise your spouse. Great. Let them know you’ll plan it all. Or, maybe you want to plan your date night together. Wonderful. Have fun planning it out. Pick the activity. Make the necessary reservations. Then just enjoy the night!
  2. Build anticipation for your date. Start talking about your date before it begins. Talk about it for the day before or even the week before. Flirt with your spouse about the details. Let your spouse know you are excited to spend time alone with them.
  3. When date night arrives, dress up for your spouse. Everyone likes to see their spouse “looking good.” Remember how you dressed and primped to make an impression on your spouse when you were dating? Do it again. Dress to catch their eye. Doing so will let them know how much you value them and your time together. It will also draw your spouse’s attention to you…and that’s always a good thing.
  4. Make time to talk on your date. Whatever activity or venue you choose for your date night, be sure to include time and space for conversation. If you go to a concert or movie, allow for time to talk afterwards. Talk about hopes and dreams, favorite vacations together, or a trip you’d like to take together in the future. Talk about other possible date night activities. Talk like “old friends” who want to nurture their friendships.
  5. Postpone arguments. Avoid talking about areas that might result in arguments and bad feelings. Save those discussions for another time. Date night is to nurture a deeper connection, not create feelings of frustration and distance. So save the sensitive discussions for another time and focus on topics you can both enjoy. If you have trouble coming up with conversation ideas, refer to bullet #4. One other comment. Planning and kids are bound to come up, just don’t let them monopolize your date night. Stick with topics like those discuss in bullet #4.
  6. Stay sober. Nothing wrong with having a drink, but don’t get intoxicated or even buzzed. It’s not safe. Even more, it robs you of the joy of completely clearheaded intimacy. It also increases the chance of experiencing conflict on your date. Stay sober and enjoy your spouse “to the max.”
  7. Enjoy physical touch. Physical touch adds a flare of excitement to your intimacy and anticipation to the joy of your date night. Hold hands. Walk arm in arm. Sit touching shoulders. Play footsies. Put your arm around your spouse. Enjoy physical touch.
  8. Try something new. Don’t get stuck in the “same old date night rut.” Be creative. Try a breakfast date, a picnic date, a night at the museum date, a walk in the woods date…you get the idea. There is no limit to what you might enjoy on a date.

Eight tips to make your date night spectacular. Give them a try. Then share your date night ideas with us so we can all make date night spectacular!

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