Tag Archive for marriage

A Gift Couples Must Share to Enjoy

Some gifts are meant for couples to share. They just aren’t as good when your spouse doesn’t share them with you.  For instance, it’s hard to celebrate a victory when your partner is down in the dumps or a “kill-joy.” Researchers at Florida State University uncovered another gift that is meant for couples to share. Not sharing this gift is a subtle but powerful “kill-joy” for a marriage. The gift meant to be shared is gratitude; and gratitude left unshared, a lack of gratitude, is a powerful “kill-joy” that hinders marriage.

This finding comes from a study of 120 newlywed couple who filled out surveys reporting their happiness and satisfaction in their marriage as well as how much gratitude they felt and expressed. The couples were followed for three years. After the first year, they retook the gratitude survey. And, every four months they retook the survey of happiness and satisfaction in their marriage. 

The results revealed that each individual’s level of gratitude impacted the relationship. Specifically, if both partners express gratitude on a regular basis, the couple was more satisfied with their marriage in three years. However, if one partner was grateful and the other ungrateful, marital satisfaction declined steeply over the three-year period. In fact, their marital satisfaction declined more than it did for couples in which both partners were ungrateful!

Individually, those individuals married to a grateful partner tended to be more satisfied after three years but ONLY IF they were grateful people themselves.  If they were not grateful themselves, they became less satisfied with their marriage to a grateful person.

In other words, when it comes to marriage, it takes two grateful people to benefit from the joys of gratitude. If one partner is ungrateful, it pulls both people and their marriage down. Gratitude is meant to be shared within a couple. So, why not decide, as a couple, to increase the level of gratitude in your home? Sit down as a couple and agree to nurture gratitude in your relationship. Commit to sharing gratitude with one another every day. Here’s a simple plan for doing it.

  • Talk with your spouse about all the work that gets done in your home and for your family—everything from laundry, cleaning, repair work, employment to support the family, shopping, transporting children, etc. The list goes on. Write it all down as you go. Take time to thank your partner for the work he or she does in the home and for the family. Keep the list. Look at it each week and add to it as ideas come to mind. When you do think of another contribution your spouse makes to the family, verbally thank them. 
  • Commit to taking 10 seconds three times a day to write down three things you can thank your spouse for today. At the end of the day, tell your spouse at least one of the things you wrote down. (This is actually part of a Math Equation To Save Your Marriage.)
  • Every day take time to review the day and consider what your spouse has done to contribute to the family and the home. Write it down. Then verbally thank them for that contribution.

It takes a little work, but these practices can build an environment of gratitude in your marriage. Sharing mutual gratitude with your spouse will strengthen your marriage. It will also model gratitude for your children who will naturally begin participating in this environment of gratitude by adding their own thanks to the mix. Give it a 30-day trial and let us know how it goes.

The Maariaage Ruummble

“Let’s get ready to rumble!” Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to this evening’s marital bliss match. It promises to be a classic in every sense of the word.

In the blue corner we have the husband, weighing in 180 pounds.  Known for his silent fighting skills and constant use of humor, he sometimes becomes overwhelmed in the midst of the emotional tension.

His opponent, in the pink corner and weighing in at 135 pounds, his wife. She is known for her agility to maneuver, verbal prowess, and sudden attacks.

As the bell rings, the wife moves quickly to the center of the ring and leads with a jab of criticism followed by a quick uppercut of blame. The husband slides into a defensive position before a launching a lumbering counterattack of blame.

Verbal sparring continues with the wife dancing around the husband. The husband attempts to follow her dancing but is left flooded and confused. He throws wild punches of character assassination. His wife parries and returns with a blow of her own character assassination. The husband is stunned.  

Suddenly, with a name-calling hit below the belt, this disagreement turns into a street brawl. Both are aiming at their spouse’s sensitive areas, their vulnerabilities, those raw spots of pain.

Flooded by the stimuli of emotional punches, the husband covers and silently accepts the blows, seemingly unfazed. The wife grows more furious and throws a flurry of jabs to prove her point and make him understand. He simple covers more and withdraws…still seemingly unfazed.  

It’s difficult to pick out the winner in this match. Each won a battle here and lost a battle there. Both are emotionally bruised and bleeding. Both are angry, bitter, and feeling disconnected from their spouse. Yes, I believe this one is a draw. There is no winner in this match, only losers.

Does that sound familiar? In marriage, we will have disagreements and even arguments. But there is no such thing as a single winner. We either both win or we both lose. In this scenario, both lost.

So, what’s the alternative? Avoid the emotional boxing match altogether. Instead of starting with the idea that you have to win an argument, start with the realization that you and your spouse may both have equally valid perspectives. Accept your spouse’s perspective as valid, even when you disagree. Instead of trying to prove their perspective wrong, strive to understand it. In understanding their perspective, you learn about them. You draw closer to them. You open the door to connection and intimacy. Isn’t that what you want most of all? Don’t you desire connection and intimacy more than a shallow victory that leaves you in a lose-lose scenario? 

Then, muster up the courage to apologize for your own wrongdoing (chances are, both parties have some wrongdoing). Doing so expresses your love for your spouse. Then put your energy into reconnecting. A hug will go a long way in reconnecting. After all, the only winner in a marriage is the couple, not the individual.

Is It Hysterical or Historical? Probably Both!

Have you ever had an experience like this? Your spouse reacts strongly to something that seems insignificant to you. You feel like you made a simple mistake, but your spouse seems to think you were intentionally expressing hate toward them. You didn’t pick up a dirty sock, but your spouse seems to think you don’t value anything they do.

On the other hand, maybe you were the one who react strongly and later wonder, “Why did I get so angry about that?”

If you’ve had either of these experiences (and most of us have), here is a saying that sheds light on your confusion. “When it’s hysterical, it’s historical.” In other words, if you or your spouse have a reaction that seems extreme given the situation that provoked it, the reason behind the reaction may be historical. The reason behind the reaction may come from the past.  Rather than get “hysterical,” it will prove more helpful to become an investigator of the “historical.” Put on your Sherlock Holmes hat, grab your magnifying glass, and do a little detective work. Here are some questions that might help start the investigation.

  • Did you ever have a similar feeling as a child? In previous relationships?
    • When was the first time?
    • How often did you have that feeling?
  • Describe the feeling and the circumstances that led to the feeling in the past?
    • What thoughts go through your mind?
    • Do you see any images or colors?
    • How does your body feel?
  • What have these feelings and their related circumstances come to mean to you now?
    • Objectively, do the circumstances really hold this meaning?
    • Objectively, what meaning do the feelings and circumstances hold?
  • How is this circumstance and my current relationship different than my past experiences?

With the information you gain through this small piece of investigative work into your own life, you can approach your spouse and the frustrating circumstance differently. You can use the circumstances to open up about personal vulnerabilities and ask your spouse for help in responding to those vulnerabilities. You can draw closer to one another and more intimate with one another. Rather than responding “hysterically,” you can respond “vulnerably” and find your relationship growing stronger and more intimate. So, put on your Sherlock Holmes hat, pick up your magnifying glass, and let the investigation begin.

Lack of Gratitude Will Sink Your Marital Ship

An “attitude of gratitude” is a powerful aspect of a happy family life and life in general). Expressing gratitude improves the mood of the one giving thanks and the one thanked. So you can see how expressing gratitude will improve your marriage.

A lack of gratitude, on the other hand, is like a torpedo aimed at sinking your marital ship. Researchers from Florida State University showed this in a study of 120 newlywed couples. They followed these couples for 3 years. At regular intervals the couples completed surveys measuring satisfaction with their marriage and the degree to which they felt and expressed gratitude toward their partner. Based on initial surveys, couples were placed into one of three categories: both partners high in gratitude expression, both partners low in gratitude expression, or a partner high in gratitude expression married to a partner low in gratitude expression.

After three years, the study revealed that individuals did not succumb to their partner’s level of gratitude. Instead, individual remained consistent in their expression of gratitude over the three years. More important for me is what expressed gratitude did for marriages?

  • Marriages in which both partners were high in gratitude expression had happiness levels “well above average.” Their relationship satisfaction was high and remained high over the entire three years of the study.
  • When one or both partners were low in gratitude expression, their marital happiness started off average and declined to below average over the three-year period. Notice, this decline was not confined to marriages in which both partners exhibited low gratitude expression. Having only one partner within the marriage who did not express gratitude led to a decline in happiness. In other words, it only took one ungrateful partner to sink the ship. One ungrateful partner was like a torpedo aimed at sinking the marital ship.

What’s a person to do if their married to an ungrateful spouse? What if you are the ungrateful spouse? How can you keep your marital ship afloat? Here are a few ideas.

  • If you are the grateful spouse, continue to express gratitude. Also, talk to your spouse about the importance of expressing gratitude. Discover what makes it difficult for them to express gratitude. Explore what you can do to help them grow more comfortable expressing gratitude. Lovingly encourage them to practice gratitude more often. Don’t nag. Don’t push. Trust that they will work at becoming more expressive of their gratitude. When you hear them express gratitude, thank them for doing so.
  • If you are the ungrateful spouse, take time to recognize how your lack of gratitude harms your mood and your spouse’s mood. Consider how growing in gratitude wills strengthen your marriage, your family, and your relationships.  Intentionally practice gratitude. Put it on your “to do list” or set an alarm on your phone to get started. Every night write down three things for which you are grateful. Every day look for one thing your spouse or family member does for which you can tell them thank you. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but people, including your family, will respond positively.

An ancient writer once said, “In everything, give thanks” (Paul, 1 Thessalonians 5:18). He knew that giving thanks would lead to greater happiness for you and your family. Giving thanks would lead to a happier, holier world. Don’t be the torpedo that sinks your family ship. Lift it up. Give thanks.

Kiss Your Spouse & Live Longer!

Kissing has a long history. For generations couples have enjoyed the “feel-good” benefits of kissing. But, did you know that for generations people have known kissing adds years to your life as well? In the late 1960’s, Dr. Szabo, a professor from the University of Kiel, collected two years of data from physicians and leading German insurance companies. From the data collected, he found that “kissing husbands” earned 20-35% more income and used less sick time than husbands who did not share a “good-bye kiss.” Ironically, not kissing one’s spouse before leaving for work was also associated with a significant increase in the possibility of a car accident. And, those who kissed their spouses before going to work in the morning lived an average of five years longer than those who did not kiss their spouse before leaving for work. 

Perhaps that sounds crazy to you. But a 2009 study noted a decrease in total cholesterol when couples increased the frequency and duration of their kissing. Dr. Szabo and his associates did not believe kissing in and of itself resulted in these outcomes. Instead, they believed it was part of a “positive attitude” that both contributed to the kissing and was enhanced by the love shared in the kiss. In other words, the strong marital bond that promotes regular kissing, and the regular kissing that enhances a stronger marital bond, helped  create a positive attitude and healthy lifestyle that promoted safety, hard work, and life longevity.

What’s the “take away”? Build a stronger marriage and add years to your life, give your spouse a great big kiss today!

Is Your Marriage a LIVED Priority?

We often get caught up in the seemingly urgent needs in life and so neglect our true priorities. We become overwhelmed by the crises—like broken water heaters, sudden car repairs—and pressing problems—like paying bills or caring for our home. We also become distracted by the daily activities that become all-consuming when we haven’t prepared for them. For instance, our children’s bedtime can become an ordeal when we haven’t developed a healthy bedtime routine. Without a menu, mealtime become a pressing need that requires us to devote thought, time, & energy to it every day…time & energy we could devote to other priorities like our marriages.  

Or, we get carried away with distractions, those things we really don’t care about but “suck up our time” nonetheless. You know what I mean…things like video games, phone games, videos, or binge-watching Netflix. We start off with the goal of relaxing for 5 minutes in front of a screen and suddenly realize we have neglected our families and marriages for the whole evening.

Or, we let lesser priorities squeeze out our most important priorities. For instance, we let work or self-care squeeze out our family time. 

You get the idea. Amidst our crises and distractions, our marriages often get neglected. Arguments over crises and pressing problems begin to form a wedge between us and our spouse. Distractions drive that wedge deeper. We grow distance as more distractions come between us and our spouse. The arguments grow as the distance increases. Lesser priorities push our marriages further out of focus and replace them in our lives. Why does this happen? Because we failed to make our marriages a “daily lived priority.” We did not think to make our marriages a daily lived priority amidst the crises, pressing problems, distractions, and lesser priorities that flood our lives. Healthy marriages require action, intention, investment…even amid life’s distractions.

So, what can you do to make your marriage a “daily lived priority” rather than a “believed priority”?

  1. Put your marriage on your calendar. You can tell a lot about a person’s “daily lived priorities” by what makes the calendar.  Wherever we invest our time is a “daily lived priority.” So, put your marriage on the calendar. Invest time. Go on a date. In fact, whether it’s a weekend trip or a quiet night snuggling on the couch after the kids go to be, enjoy a date night every week.
  2. Hug every day when you go your separate ways. Yes, physical affection is crucial investment in your marriage. Don’t limit your hug to a simple “bro-hug” type. Give one another a big hug, a bear hug, an oxytocin hug. Hug it out big!
  3. Kiss and hug every night before you go to bed. I think it important to enjoy physical affection at the end of the day. No matter your mood. No matter your energy. Take time to wish each other a good night’s rest with a sincere hug and kiss.
  4. Find a way to eat at least one meal a day together. My wife and I enjoy lunch together because we work evenings. Perhaps you and your spouse will enjoy supper or breakfast or even a “brunch.” Whatever meal you can schedule together, do so as often as you can.
  5. Put the kids to bed. In fact, put them to bed early. Get your children on a schedule that allows them to have a good night’s rest and allows you and your spouse alone after they go to bed and before your bedtime. This will be a great time to talk and catch up. (Even your teen needs sleep!)
  6. Spend at least 20 minutes every day talking to one another about your day. Healthy marriages thrive on open communication, the sharing of ideas and plans and the “what-happened-today” interactions. Set aside at least 20 minutes every day to enjoy this conversation with your spouse. Your children will get used to you having this conversation and will “entertain themselves” while you do it. They will also enjoy the security of seeing their parents enjoying conversation with one another. Take 20 minutes and savor your spouse.
  7. Find a hobby to share together. After all, families that play together stay together. Get out there an enjoy a hobby together.

Is There a Hole in Your Marital Roof?

Roofs are important.  More specifically, roofs that don’t leak are important. Roofs with no holes. Roofs that protect. My family and I stayed in a cabin at St. Johns. We liked to eat on the deck. It had no roof, but it really wasn’t a problem until an iguana climbed onto a branch above my daughter and well… “relieved” himself in her cereal. A roof would have been nice.

Or, the time my family and I went camping when I was a kid and it started raining. I mean pouring. It always did when we camped. Of course, we had the tent and a dining canopy to keep us dry. But they were old school and as soon as you touched them, they started leaking. Drip…drip…drip. Drip on my head. Drip on our game. Drip on the table. Yeah, a solid roof would be nice.

Recently my wife and I visited a beautiful location in Cartagena.  They had a nice outdoor dining area. A mango tree grew just outside the walls of the roofless dining area and its branches offered some shade. Nice…until mangoes started dropping off onto peoples’ heads.  Needed to add a roof for protection.

Yes, it’s nice to have a roof…even in your marriage! Paul, a first century Jewish evangelist, tells us that “love bears all things” (I Corinthians 13:7). Interestingly, the Greek word for “bears” (“stego”) means to “cover, to protect.” It’s the verb form of the Greek word for “roof”! In marriage, love is like the roof over our heads. Love takes action to cover, to protect, to preserve. A roof protects the security of our home by keeping weather, animals, and other harmful menaces out of our house. But what does love protect our marriage from? More specifically, what does love protect in your marriage? 

  • Love protects our reputations. Rather than talking trash on a spouse, love lifts a spouse up. Love elevates a spouse to others. Love speaks words of admiration about a spouse. Love does not broadcast a spouse’s shortcomings or mistakes but works first and foremost to resolve them in the private intimacy of their relationship. Love stops the gossip that threatens reputation and seeks the truth that can replace that gossip.
  • Love protects us from hurtful words. Love offers words of blessing rather than words of cursing. It offers words of encouragement rather than words of discouragement. Love does not drown a spouse in impolite, angry words but showers them with words of kindness and love. Rather than criticize and put down, love lifts up and encourages.
  • Love protects from outside forces that interfere with a healthy marriage.  Love keeps those things that do not belong under a marital roof out of the marriage—things like pornography, unhealthy people, and overscheduled lives. Love strives to keep the marriage a safe haven, a place where nothing interferes with a growing love and intimacy.

Yes, a roof protects. It covers. It keeps the unwanted out and enhances safety and security within. It allows us to be vulnerable and grow more intimate without fear of outside factors interfering. Love does the same. Love is the roof over your head.

Marital Warning: Don’t Argue While Hungry

Hangry. The bad-tempered, irritable, agitated state a person experiences when they are hungry. Snickers made a whole series of humorous commercials based on it.

Hangry. It’s a real thing…and it can wreak havoc on your marriage. Just consider this study involving married couples and a “spouse doll.” Researchers gave participants a “spouse doll” for three weeks. Every night during those three weeks they could “jab their spouse doll” with pins. The number of pins used in the “jabbing session” increased as the poker partner’s blood sugar went down. In other words, the hungrier the spouse doing the poking, the more pins they stuck in their spouse doll! The “hangrier” the spouse, the more vengeful they became.   

The same researchers invited these couples to their lab at the end of the three-week period. They put them in two separate rooms and set up a friendly competition. The partners would compete with one another to see who could push a button faster in response to a target turning red. (In reality, they were competing against a computer so the researchers could control the winner.) Whoever “won” had the opportunity to blast their spouse’s headphones with a noise as loud and as long as they wanted. Guess what. The lower the “winner’s” blood sugar, the louder and longer they blasted the noise. Hunger increased the negative actions of the “winning” spouse. Hangry spouses were just plain meaner.

In a different study, people were asked to interpret another person’s body language. They were better able to interpret another person’s body language after having a drink of lemonade with real sugar in it. (The artificial sweeteners did not have the same effect.) In other words, hunger made a person less able to read another person’s body language. Hangry people are less aware of their partner’s body language and, as a result, their partner’s subtle responses and emotions.

These studies reveal a great piece of advice for married couples. Don’t have that argument when one or both of you is hangry. Don’t discuss areas of disagreement when hangry. Hangry is not a good state for marital disagreements. Hangry will just make your marital disagreement worse. So, if you and your spouse have a disagreement, don’t talk it out while hungry. Instead, have a nice dinner and then talk about it over dessert. It’s like food therapy for marriage. Have a disagreement? Go get a snack and talk about it while you eat. Making a big decision in which you have different opinions? Get some dinner and talk about it after ordering dessert. And…don’t get a spouse doll to stick pins in. That’s just crazy!

Kissing for Health? Hmmm…

If you’re looking for a way to have a more intimate relationship with your spouse and a way to promote your spouse’s health, look no more.  A 2009 study completed by researchers at Arizona State University suggests kissing your spouse can do all that…and it’s fun. The study involved 52 couples. Half were asked to increase the frequency and duration of kissing their partner “to a notable degree” for 6 weeks. The other group made no change in their behavior. Both groups completed various surveys as well as having fasting bloodwork taken before and after the six-week testing period.

The couples that increased the frequency and duration of kissing one another reported an increase in verbal affection and overall relationship satisfaction. They also reported less conflict, less difficulty communicating, and less arguing in general. In other words, kissing increased their intimacy as a couple and their satisfaction with their relationship overall.

The couples that increased the frequency and duration of kissing one another also exhibited a decrease in total cholesterol between the bloodwork taken before and after the 6-week “kissing period.”  Kissing actually correlated with a decrease in cholesterol. In other words, kissing promoted health!

Let me say again: if you’re looking for a way to have a more intimate relationship with your spouse and a way to promote your spouse’s health, look no more. Just start enjoying some good old-fashion kissing!

Build-a-Spouse

I’m sure you’ve heard of “Build a Bear.” If you have children (or, if you’re the romantic type), you have probably even visited “Build a Bear” shop and…well, built a teddy bear for the one you love.  Imagine what it would be like to “build a spouse.” You’d have your budget already set as you walk into a store filled with various traits you can purchase. You’d allocate your finances for the traits you desire in a spouse—a large part of the budget toward those traits you desire most, the deal-breakers, and a small part of the budget toward those traits that are nice but simply not necessary. And, poof…out pops a spouse, built to specification.  Sounds crazy, but….

Researchers at Swansea University actually did this (well, metaphorically speaking, without actually “building” a physical spouse). They gave over 2,700 college students from across the globe (Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Norway, the UK, and Australia) a budget and a list of eight qualities they might like in a spouse. Armed with finances and a list of attributes available, these college students “built a spouse.” The eight attributes included: physical attractiveness, good financial prospects, kindness, humor, chastity, religious involvement, the desire for children, and creativity. (I would have added a few other traits, but I wasn’t creative enough to think of the “build a spouse” study.) Each participant had three opportunities to “build a spouse” based on these attributes: one time on a low budget, one time on a medium budget, and (you guessed it) one time on a high budget. Comparing the choices made on various budgets allowed the researchers to determine traits that participants deemed necessary verses traits deemed a luxury.

Overall, across cultures and genders, kindness received the lion’s share of the budget (22-26%). Physical attraction and good financial prospects were the next two most desired traits. Physical attraction, however, was rated as a “necessity” for men more often than women (22% of the budget for men vs. 16% for women). Good financial prospects were deemed an important trait for women more so than men (18% of the budget for women vs. 12% of the budget for men). Still, neither rated as high as kindness. (For an overview read Kindness is a top priority in a long-term partner.)

Kindness was the number one priority to have in a long-term partner in this study. Chances are, you and your spouse put a high priority on kindness in a spouse, too. So, if you want to have a happy, healthy marriage, practice kindness in your marriage and family. To help you get started, here are 31 Acts of Kindness to Strengthen Your Marriage. (Read the Mighty Power of Kindness for Families to consider how kindness will impact not just your marriage but your family and our world.)

I would have added a few other traits to the list of possibilities for purchase—traits like honesty, trustworthiness, and loyalty. I wonder what would get the lion’s share of the budget then? What traits would you add to your “build-a-spouse” project? What are the most important traits to you in a spouse? Why not spend a little time discussing these qualities with your spouse this week—perhaps over a cup of coffee or a dinner date?  

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