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!)
Marriage Missions posted a blog describing a wonderful way to build intimacy with your spouse. In it they described the “22-minute date.” Couples agreed to spend 22-minutes each day talking with one another. In other words, they gave up one sitcom so they could sit down and talk with one another. They agreed to do several things while talking with one another for 22-minutes.
- They agreed to make eye contact as they talked.
- They agreed to have no children in the room. This necessitated some planning so they could talk after the children went to bed, during the day while children were in school, on a walk after dinner while their children did homework, or some other creative way to get alone.
- They agreed to turn the TV off while talking.
- They agreed to turn off answering machines (or leave all cell phones in another room).
- They agreed to focus on positive aspects of their lives. They also agreed to not bring up past hurts and save any arguments for another time.
- They agreed to not do dishes or other household chores while talking. This 22-minute segment of the day was for nothing but conversation with their spouse. No other duties would split their attention.
- They agreed to do this for one month.
Couples who completed this challenge noted they felt awkward at first but soon found themselves enjoying their time together, even looking forward to their time together. They “admitted it was a more rewarding time than they’d ever dreamed possible!”
Why not take this 30-day challenge today? Give up one sitcom and commit to spending 22-minutes a day talking with your spouse—no interruptions, no distractions, no split attention, just 22 quality minutes of face-to-face, full-eye-contact conversation with your spouse. Then, let us know how it impacts your relationship. We’d love to hear.
PS—if you have trouble getting the conversation going, try using questions in Remember When, a pamphlet taken from 10 Great Dates. And don’t forget, have fun!
Research from Northwestern University (Read the research here) suggests engaging in a simple 7-minute exercise following conflict can help couples “keep that loving feeling” alive. In this two-year study, couples who completed three-seven minute writing exercises in the second year of the study were less distressed by disagreements and maintained a higher level of marital satisfaction than those who did not do the exercise. Think about it. A simple seven-minute exercise helped couples stop ruminating about the conflict, reduce conflict related stress, maintain a high level of marital satisfaction, and preserve marital quality. I don’t know about you, but taking 21 minutes a year to keep the quality of my marriage high and the stress in my marriage low sounds like a great investment! So, if you want to keep your marriage strong, do this simple 7-minute exercise.
- Think about and write a brief summary of a specific disagreement you had with your spouse. Write this summary from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for all involved (you, your spouse, and your family). How might this person think about the disagreement? How might he or she find the good that could come from it?
- Almost everybody finds it challenging to keep this third-party perspective at all times. In your relationship with your spouse, what obstacles do you face in trying to take this third-party perspective, especially when you’re having a disagreement with your partner? Write down the obstacles.
- Despite the obstacles to taking a third-party perspective, people can still successfully do it. Over the next week, please do your best to take this third-party perspective during interactions with your partner, especially during disagreements. How might you be most successful in taking this perspective in your interactions with your partner over the next week? How might taking this perspective help you make the best of disagreements in your relationship? Write down your ideas.
In the Northwestern study, couples only completed this exercise three times in one year and found it helpful. I would suggest doing it more often so you can make it a mental habit. After all, it only takes 7-minutes. Why not complete this simple 7-minute exercise two times per month? That’s 14-minutes a month to preserve the quality of your marriage. By the way, quality in your marriage translates into greater happiness, more satisfying interactions, and a higher quality of sexual intimacy. 14-minutes a month can help with all that? Come one! That’s an investment well worth the time!
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
A study out of Baylor University suggests that married couples can damage their marriage and romance by “phubbing” their partner. Specifically, a survey of 145 people found that “phubbing” your partner creates conflict and leads to lower marital satisfaction. So, quit “phubbing” your spouse!
If you’re like me, you have no idea whether you phub your partner or not because you have no idea what “phubbing” is. I know what you mean. I’m the same way. So, let me share what I found out. “Phubbing” is “snubbing your partner in order to look at your phone”…phubbing. (I know. Where do people come up with this stuff? But, I like it!) Anyway, this study found partners feel “phubbed” if, and I quote:
- “My partner places his/her cellphone where they can see it when we are together.
- My partner uses his/her cellphone when we are out together.
- My partner uses his/her cellphone during leisure time we could spend together.
- My partner keeps his/her cellphone in their hand when he or she is with me.
- My partner glances at his/her cellphone when talking to me.
- My partner checks his/ her cellphone in the midst of conversation.
- My partner checks his/her cellphone if there is a lull in our conversation.”
In this survey 46% of the respondents had been “phubbed” by their partners. A full 23% said “phubbing” caused conflict in their relationship and 37% felt depressed about it! Think about that, one in four said “phubbing” caused conflict and one in three said it depressed them. So you can see how “phubbing” lowers marital satisfaction for the one being “phubbed.”
Perhaps we need to add a warning label to all cellphones: “Warning. Use with caution. Phubbing is harmful to your marriage and relationships, creating a 23% chance of conflict with your partner.” Or, perhaps I go to far…just quit “phubbing up” your marriage. (For more on the impact of cellphones on relational intimacy read Family Date Night Tip: Don’t Text & Date.)
Did you know you possess a “mini-toolkit” for building a happy marriage? You received it free of charge a long time ago. The tools in this kit may have sat dormant for years, but each one can help your marriage grow. When you start to effectively use these tools, you will build years of security, intimacy, and joy into your marriage. Review them carefully and use them often.
- Respectful words tighten up loose connections with your spouse. Polite saying like “thank you,” “please,” and “I’m sorry” will bring a level of closeness to your marriage you never imagined possible. Add in respectful actions like holding a door open for your spouse, accepting your spouse’s opinion, or speaking well of your spouse in public will bring even tighter connections.
- Forgiveness, on the other hand, loosens bolts of resentment. Every spouse needs to practice forgiveness to let go of the hurt of accidental miscommunications and misunderstandings, statements made in anger, and insensitive actions. The wrench of forgiveness has freed many a marriage from the rusted “bolt-grip” of resentment and anger. Use this tool often.
- Active involvement allows each spouse to drill into “the thick of things” and fully participate in a growing marriage. Your active involvement in your relationship will help you know your spouse more intimately and enable you to show your spouse the depth of your love. No one wants a giant paperweight, a slug, for a spouse. We want a spouse who jumps in, gets involved, participates in decisions, and helps with the tasks of growing a marriage and family. Pull out that drill and drill into “the thick” of your relationship.
- Blessings act like a vice to secure your individual lives into an intimate bond. When you bless instead of curse your spouse’s heart will soften. You will experience a growing intimacy in response to blessing. You can bless your spouse with compliments, encouraging words, gratitude, and affirmations. Each time you offer a blessing, you strengthen the intimacy of your relationship.
These four tools—respect, forgiveness, involvement, and blessing–will tighten connections, loosen resentments, reveal deeper love, and strengthen secure intimacy in your marriage. The greatest news—you already possess each of these tools. All you have to do is start using them. So, pull out that toolkit and start working on your relationship today!
“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 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!
I constantly search for secrets to a better marriage and family life. I need all the help I can get. Recently, I rediscovered a profound lesson for creating a life-long marriage. I had heard this advice as a child, even learned it in the car with my family; but, I did not realize the wisdom behind the words until I was married. Of all the places, I learned this lesson singing along with the radio…and Charlie Pride was my teacher. You may have learned this song as well. He called it “the secret to his happiness.” It goes like this:
“You’ve got to…kiss an angel good morning
And let her know you think about her when you’re gone.
Kiss an angel good morning
And love her like the devil when you get back home.”
(Click here to listen to Charlie Pride sing the whole song)
This little chorus offers four secrets to life-long marriage bliss. Here they are:
- “KISS…” Show physical affection. Kiss your spouse in the morning. Kiss your spouse to greet her when you get back home. Kiss your spouse goodnight. In John Gottman’s “Magic Five Hours,” he recommends giving your spouse physical affection for at least five minutes per day. Kiss, hold, grab, and touch. Show some physical affection to your angel (AKA-spouse).
- “Kiss an ANGEL….” View your spouse as an angel. In other words, nurture your admiration for your spouse. Take time to recall what attracts you to your spouse. Think about those traits you admire in your spouse, those unique characteristics you adore. Then communicate that admiration to your spouse on a daily basis.
- “…let her know you think about her when you’re gone.” Keep your spouse in mind, even when you are apart. Text you spouse a message or two (“I love you,” “What are you doing?” etc.) just to let her know she is on your mind. If you see something your spouse likes that is small enough to buy, get it for her. If it is too big to take home (a sunset, a bird she likes), take a picture and text it to her. Little things like this can let her know she is “always on my mind…” (Oops, wrong song).
- “Love her like the devil when you get back home.” Don’t come home, sit in your chair, and vegetate. Let your actions reveal your love. Spend time with your spouse. Share what happened in your day. Help her with a project around the house. Watch a show together. Interact. Communicate. Serve. Oh yeah, show some physical affection. “Love her…when you get back home.”
When husbands and wives both practice these four tips, you can enjoy an intimate life-long marriage…and thank Charlie Pride for the advice!
I recently read a blog on Greater Good (All You Need is Love, Oxytocin, and Gratitude) that revealed an interesting secret for building a stronger, more passionate marriage. I will give you the secret if you promise to try it out for several weeks. It works…even though it is not that hard! Here’s the secret. You’re going to love it! In order to have a more intimate, passionate marriage, express gratitude for your spouse. Wait a second. Don’t quit yet. When I say gratitude I do not mean a simple thank you. Gratitude is more than appreciating what your spouse does. Gratitude is appreciating who your spouse is…not just appreciating that they brought you home a gift or emptied the dishwasher but appreciating that they are thoughtful enough to know that such a simple act would mean something to you. When we express that kind of gratitude (thus the secret) to our spouse, our marriage will grow more passionate. Research shows that sharing this type of gratitude increases joy and enthusiasm for both partners as well as the overall quality of the relationship. Couples that express and receive this type of gratitude from one another are also more peaceful, confident, and amused. Both partners perceive the other as more understanding, validating, caring, and responsive. These “feel good results” arise because of the oxytocin released into each person’s system in response to this type of gratitude. Interestingly, sharing a personal positive event with your spouse does not produce all these great results. Instead, sharing a personal positive event simply increases joy and enthusiasm. It seems that focusing on the other person with an attitude of gratitude has a special effect…an effect that goes beyond merely telling my spouse about the good events of my life. So, go ahead and talk about the fun events you experienced while apart from your spouse for the day. Share the positive experiences you enjoyed as an individual. That will increase joy and enthusiasm in you and your relationship. But, if you want a really intimate and passionate marriage, get beyond your own experiences and start to express how much you appreciate your spouse’s actions and, even more important, the person behind those actions.
We all long for acceptance. We want to be an integral part of a group, especially our family. Feeling accepted creates a sense of safety and security. Knowing others accept us gives us a sense of personal value. It helps us realize that “I am loved no matter what.” If we do not feel accepted, we do not feel valued. Instead, we feel abandoned and rejected. We become driven to find acceptance; we may fight for acceptance…or just give up and believe ourselves unacceptable. Many teens who struggle with drugs, a lack of motivation, self-injurious behaviors, or unhealthy relationships are longing for acceptance but looking
for it in “all the wrong places.” When I ask them to explain what compels them to engage in these negative behaviors, they often describe the acceptance they find among others who engage in similar behaviors or a sense that “nobody cares so why should I.”
Let me state the obvious: Acceptance begins in the family! Children need acceptance from their parents and one another. Wives need acceptance from their husbands. Husbands need acceptance from their wives. And, when you get right down to it, parents desire to have the acceptance of their children, especially as their children move toward adulthood. Acceptance begins in the home. How can we practice acceptance in the family?
- Be tolerant of differences among your family. A family blossoms into full beauty when they not only tolerate individual differences but cherish those differences. Take time to learn about your children’s interests. Find a way to enjoy your spouse’s hobby. Learn to appreciate your parents’ talents. Encourage the unique characteristics of each family member and even help provide opportunities for them in those areas.
- Rather than nag your spouse or children to change, consider the possibility of humbly changing yourself. Accept that your spouse or children might have a different opinion than you, an opinion that is still valid. Quit nagging, change your perspective, and, when necessary, change your actions. Of course there are some things that you cannot accept. I’m not talking about those things. But, take an honest look and make sure the issue really is worth the nagging. If not (and it probably is not), practice acceptance. Replacing nagging with acceptance is an act of grace and an expression of love.
- Be aware of developmental abilities. I know this sounds basic, but many people forget to practice acceptance in this area. We yell at our four-year-old for being “immature.” We complain about our six-year-old son constantly fidgeting. We demand our eight-year-old remember to “play her position” on the soccer field. But, in each instance, the child is just not developmentally ready to meet that demand; and, complaining about it only sends a message that they “are not good enough.” Rather than demand more “mature” behavior, accept family member’s at the developmental level they have achieved. Let kids be kids.
- Be aware and accepting of personality differences. Maybe your meek husband does not push to get ahead or your gregarious wife loves to talk. Accept those unique personality traits. Remember how that unique personality initially attracted you to your spouse.
- Quit comparing. Comparing communicates “you’re not quite good enough.” Instead of comparing, recognize and talk about the strengths your spouse and children possess. Talk about the aspects you admire and appreciate in your spouse and children.
- Express your love, admiration, and encouragement as energetically as you express disappointment in unwise decisions, anger at disobedience, or fear of failure.
When you practice these six practical ways to communicate acceptance in your family, you make your family feel valued, significant, and confident. More importantly, you express a deep love for your family. So why wait? Start practicing today!