Archive for May 30, 2015

A Triangle of Love

I invite you to participate in a love triangle…Oh wait. That sounds bad. Step back. Take a breath. It’s not what it sounds like. I’m talking about Robert Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory of Love. Let me rephrase. I invite you to experience all three components of Sternberg’s theory of love with your spouse…and only your spouse! (That sound’s better. Sorry about that.) Sternberg believed love consisted of three components:

  • hearts in the sandIntimacy, which includes our feelings of closeness and connectedness.
  • Passion, which describes our sexual attraction and physical desires as well as those romantic moments of holding hands and “googly eyed” staring, and
  • Commitment, which involves our decision to remain in our relationship and invest in its growth.

You can imagine various types of relationship based on the three components of this model. Best friends have intimacy (feelings of connection) and commitment, but no romantic passion. Many affairs have passion and intimacy, but no commitment. On the Bachelor or Bachelorette, we watch passion grow and provide a false sense of intimacy that will likely fade over the next year as real life struggles bursts through the door of unscripted life.

I have talked with people who say they “love” their spouse but are not “in love” with them. I think they have felt intimacy and passion in the past but have allowed them both (intimacy and passion) to wane over the years. Unfortunately, they want to base their commitment on their sense of passion and intimacy; so, in the midst of drifting intimacy and passion, they forfeit commitment. Unfortunately, this is backwards (can a triangle be backwards?). Let me explain.

Passion and intimacy naturally ebbs and flows in a long-term relationship. An active commitment, on the other hand, lays a secure foundation that maintains and increases passion and intimacy. Ironically, a couple’s long term commitment leads to daily investments in one another and their relationship. The daily investments of a long term commitment lead to an overall growth curve in intimacy and passion over time. Let me share some examples:

  • Couples committed to their relationship invest in learning about their partners on a daily basis, increasing a sense of intimacy.
  • Couples committed to their relationship invest in putting what they learn about their partners into action. They learn what pleases their partner and then commit to doing those things on a regular basis, increasing intimacy and passion.
  • Couples committed to their relationship learn what their partner finds romantic and sexually satisfying; and they act on that knowledge, increasing a sense of passion.
  • Couples committed to their relationship invest in a long term view of their relationship. They share hopes and dreams of future times together. They actively plan and prepare for that future together. This increases commitment, intimacy, and passion in a relationship.
  • Couples committed to their relationship respond to one another on a daily basis. They invest in their friendship with one another. They intentionally have fun together. They comfort one another and rejoice with one another. All on a daily basis, building intimacy and passion.

You can see how a couple’s daily commitment maintains and improves intimacy and passion. Interestingly, as intimacy and passion grow, commitment increases as well. After all, it’s easier to be committed to someone with whom you share growing intimacy and passion. Thus, the love triangle of commitment, intimacy, and passion forms an upward cycle of more commitment, intimacy, and passion. I invite you to share all three components of this love triangle with your spouse. No, I urge you to intentionally and actively invest in all three components of love in your marriage and soar on the wings of the upward cycle of the love triangle into new heights of love.

12 Inexpensive & Fun Family Summer Ideas

The countdown to summer is coming to an end. School will soon “let out” and summer will begin. Do you have any fun family summer plans? I often find it difficult to come up with summer ideas due to financial constraints and time limitations. If you find yourself with the same struggle, try a couple of these ideas.

  • African American Family Parents and ChildrenVisit a local amusement park or water park.
  • The pools and beaches are opened. Go swimming.
  • Take a hike through the woods, in the mountains, along the lake…wherever you find the most enjoyment.
  • Turn on the sprinkler in your back yard, don some shorts, and run through the water. This is a great way to cool off on a hot day without even leaving home.
  • Fly a kite. (Check out A Family Activity that Does All That for more about the benefits and joys of kite flying).
  • Attend an outdoor concert in the park. In Pittsburgh, you might enjoy a concert in Katz Plaza, one of the local county parks, or on the Point (especially during the Arts Festival). Do a little research on the internet and you will find plenty of free, outdoor concerts to attend.
  • Enjoy a picnic or cookout with your family. You might picnic in your back yard or take it to a local park. You can eat hamburgers and hot dogs or grill fish and steak. Whatever your preference, be sure to enjoy your time together. And, don’t forget the s’mores.
  • Enjoy some bird watching. We have a growing number of hawks that I enjoy watching in our area. You can also find eagles’ nests in several places now. Or, simply put a bird feeder in your back yard and enjoy watching the sparrows, blue birds, cardinals, and finches come to eat. You can also put up a hummingbird feeder and watch the hummingbirds buzz in and out to grab a snack. All the birds are amazing to watch.
  • Do some back yard camping. Set up a tent in your back yard and spend the night. Throw in some stargazing while you’re out there.
  • Watch an outdoor movie or two. Several local parks schedule “movies in the park.” It’s free and fun. So, pack up your snack and head to the park on a cool night to watch a movie.
  • Catching fireflies is always a fun activity for the family. Get a jar and poke some “breathing holes” in the lid. Put your fireflies in the jar and watch them light up. Let them go before daybreak so you can catch them another time.
  • Go for a family bike ride. Hit the Rails to Trails for a great time riding together. Enjoy the beautiful scenery while you enjoy your ride. Be sure to pack plenty of water and some snacks. If you really want to splurge, stop for ice cream on the way home.
  • Most important, have fun with your family this summer!


What ideas do you have for fun family activities?

The Marriage I Want My Kids to See

I have two daughters, both in transition from the late teen years into young adulthood. I have some mixed feelings about this. They are wonderful young ladies and I love spending time with them; but they will soon leave home. Eventually, they will marry and begin their own families. Someone else will become the “man in their life.” This prospect excites me and frightens me at the same time. I have seen enough marriages to know that marriage African American Couple Laughing On The Floorcan either give us a taste of heaven or drag us through the dregs of hell. It may sound extreme, but it’s true. A healthy marriage produces a happiness, confidence, and joy that will bring out the very best in both partners. An unhealthy marriage brings devastating pain and resentment. It eventually leads to the death of a family. Many couples come to my office experiencing the pain of an unhealthy marriage. An unbelievable number of these couples cannot even identify one couple they have witnessed as having a good marriage. They have no example of a healthy marriage in their life! I want my daughters to witness a good marriage. I want them to see a relationship between their mother (my wife) and me that reminds them of heaven. Specifically, I want my daughters to see and witness that…

  • A husband makes sacrifices for his wife. He makes those sacrifices joyfully from a heart of love and a true desire to bring goodness into his wife’s life.
  • A husband “only has eyes” for his wife. He has put aside all other women and made his wife the only woman for him. He is a “one-woman-man.”
  • A husband serves his wife. He loves to do things for her. Whether he cooks dinner, washes clothes, cleans toilets, or mows the grass, a husband loves to serve his wife.
  • A husband affirms his wife. He notices what she does for him and their family. He acknowledges and verbally appreciates all she does. He recognizes what a wonderful mother she is and tells her so.
  • A husband admires his wife. His eyes light up when she enters the room. He speaks words of his admiration directly to her and about her in public places. He defends his wife when their children disobey her.
  • A husband has deep affection for his wife. He hugs and kisses his wife. He walks with his wife, side by side and holding hands. He enjoys his time with her so much that he intentionally puts aside other tasks to spend time alone with her.
  • A husband supports his wife in reaching for her dreams. He encourages her every step of the way toward her dream. He rejoices in her achievements and accomplishments.
  • A husband share achievements and successes with his wife. She is the first person he turns to in his joy. He recognizes that his accomplishments are her accomplishments. He realizes that he could not have done what he did without her support, encouragement, and love. He also rejoices in her accomplishments. He takes pride in her achievements.
  • A husband turns toward his wife in sorrows and disappointments. He knows that she provides a comfort no one else can provide. He also provides comfort to her in her sorrows. Together they navigate the storms of this life by taking shelter in the comfort and support of one another.
  • A husband treats his wife with kindness and politeness. He speaks words of kindness and gratitude to her. His behavior is filled with deeds of kindness toward her.
  • A husband knows his wife. He listens intently to her words and actions to gain a better understanding of her interests, fears, and desires. Out of that knowledge, he adjusts his life to bring her greater happiness and security.
  • A husband has fun with his wife and family. He laughs with his wife. He enjoys playful interactions with his wife. He also knows when to stop a playful interaction because she is getting frustrated for whatever reason.

I hope my daughters have witnessed at least glimpses of these twelve traits in my marriage to their mother.  I pray that someday they will experience these twelve traits in their own marriage. I pray all our sons and daughters will one day experience the bliss of a truly healthy marriage. And, I know the answer to that prayer begins with you and me, their parents and the marriage we live in full view of their ever inquisitive eyes.

Prime Your Children for Success

Many skills can boost your children’s success, but the ability to communicate well is one of the most important. Effective communication will boost your children’s chance of success in personal life and vocational life.

  • couple talking with can telephoneClear communication will enable your children to effectively express their needs and ideas.
  • Effective communication will empower your children to manage their emotions, harnessing the energy of emotion to work toward a goal they can clearly express.
  • Effective communication involves listening. Good listeners gain a better understanding of other people’s needs and ideas. They respond to those needs and ideas in a practical and useful manner. This decreases conflict.
  • Effective communicators listen in a way that builds relationship and leads to greater intimacy.
  • Effective communicators learn better. They listen well and know how to clearly and politely ask for clarification when needed.


Knowing effective communication is essential to your children’s success is one thing; but, how can we teach them to listen well and express thoughts clearly? As with most skills we want our children to learn, the most efficient way to teach them is through every day activities and games. Let me share some examples.

  • The next time you take your children to the park or a local ice cream shop, let them give you the directions to your destination. Follow their directions to the letter, encouraging them to clarify as needed.
  • Play telephone. You know the game. Everyone stands in a circle. The first person whispers a message into the ear of another person, who whispers it in the ear of the next person, and so on around the circle until the message is whispered one final time into the ear of the person who started the process. Will the message remain the same? Depends on how well we listen and how clearly we repeat a message.
  • Simon Says is another game that promotes good listening.
  • Take turns telling stories during dinner. You can tell stories about “a day in our life” or share stories you have read, watched on TV, or heard from others.
  • Play games based on the development and acting out of stories. Playing dolls, dress up, teacher, princess, or mom offer wonderful opportunities to develop communication skills. Encouraging your children to put on a play is another example of activities with a strong theme of communication.
  • Allow your children to blindfold you and your spouse. After you are sufficiently blindfolded, they can give each of you a bowl of ice cream. Then, your children can verbally direct you in feeding one another. You might want to start with something less messy…like popcorn.
  • Encourage your child to speak politely and clearly when ordering in a restaurant. This includes making good eye contact and enunciating while remaining polite.
  • Role play approaching a clerk or teacher with a concern or complaint. You play the clerk or teacher and coach your children in voicing their concern and complaint. Then, accompany them to meet with this person. Let them do the speaking. Your presence merely offers support.


As you can see, these ideas represent every day activities and games. I’ve listed only a few ideas; I’m sure you can think of many more. When you do these activities, you will have fun learning to communicate. You will have provided your child with practical experience in effective communication. You have primed them for success.

Welcome to the Dead Zone

Cell phones, computers, and other technology have many benefits when we carefully manage their use. However, technology devices seem to be taking over our lives. Check out  Modern mobile phonesthese mobile device statistics I recently read (7 Important Reasons to Unplug):
• 84% of cell phone users claim they could not go a single day without their phone.
• Mobile device owners check their devices as often every 6.5 minutes…and 67% do so even if they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.
• 88% of US consumers use mobile devices as a second screen while watching TV.
• Some researchers have begun labeling “cell phone checking” as the new yawn because of its contagious nature!
• This simple pictorial, Your Brain on Screen Time, explains other cell phone statistics.

Technology has become a part of our world. It has crept into every moment of our life, even our sex lives (20% of 18-34-year-olds have admitted to using their phone during sex according to this CBS News report!).

This all sounds overwhelming to me. However, we have an amazing power…a power that allows us to control the impact of technology in our lives; and we possess this amazing power in a single finger. That’s right; we can use the power of a single finger to turn our cell phones off. I know it sounds silly, but it really is powerful. By turning our electric devices off, we can create technology dead zones, times in which all technology is off and we simply interact with one another. I would suggest creating several technological dead zones in your family life. For instance, make bedtime and the hour before bed time a technological dead zone, as well as dinner time. Agree that vacations and family outings will be technological dead zones and power down. When you commit to technological dead zones at strategic times in our family life, you and your family will experience several benefits.

  • You will experience greater stillness and solitude, a time to refresh and re-create a sense of peace. Your mind can rest for the moment in the quietness of nature. In so doing, you can experience the awe of nature–the beautiful colors, the singing of birds, the warmth of the sun, the softness of grass. And, you can share this enjoyment with your family.
    • You will experience better communication within the family. You will learn to respond appropriately to subtle facial expressions and you can teach your children to do the same. You can learn how to make comments without using a litany of abbreviations like LOL, OMG, etc.
    • You will experience the joy of the here and now with your family (Read about it here). Studies have shown that having a cell phone nearby raises our fear of missing out. We feel the need to answer the cell phone buzz and respond to notifications so we don’t miss out on some “important” message, news item, or one of our friends’ multiple posts about going shopping. As a result, we miss the joy of experiencing the present moment with our family. Power down. Enjoy the moment with those you love. Smell the roses with your family.
    • You will increase a sense of appreciation and gratitude to share with your family. When we look at Facebook and other social media accounts, we see pictures posted of everyone’s special, happy moments. We might begin to question ourselves. We might feel jealous of their joy or just plain lonely. Turn off the social media and enjoy a dead zone. In the dead zone you can reset your focus to realize all the blessings you have. Share your gratitude and appreciation in person with your family.
    • You and your family will sleep better. Having a technology dead zone before bed has been shown to improve sleep.

I invite you to enjoy the technology dead zone with your family—a place of peace, improved communication, increased gratitude and appreciation, better sleep, and the joyous experience of the present. Be careful though. You and your family may find you like the dead zone so much you never want to leave!

A Dozen Phrases Every Child Needs to Hear

What parents say is powerful in the life of their children. Children hang their life, their very identity, on their parents’ words. Even the words said in passing have an impact on children. If children constantly hear their parents call them “stupid” or “a disappointment,” they will come to believe they are “stupid” and “disappointment.” If, on the other hand, children hear their parents say “I love you” and “good work,” they will come to see themselves as lovable and hardworking. So, what do you want your children hanging their hat on? What words do you want them to shape their identity? I like these words.

  • Parents kissing their cute little babyI love you.
  • You make me proud.
  • I see you really put some hard work into that…and your hard work has paid off.
  • You have made great improvement. You must be proud of your hard work.
  • You look nice (beautiful, handsome, lovely) tonight.
  • That was a very kind thing I saw you do.
  • Thank you for….
  • I’m sorry I….
  • I appreciate….
  • I am so glad to be your parent.
  • I enjoy watching you (play your sport, sing in the choir, play in the band, do you part in the play, etc.).
  • What would you like me to do for you today?
  • I’m sorry that happened to you. What can I do to help?


This is just a baker’s dozen of phrases every would child love to hear. What else would you have liked to hear from your parents growing up? Why not tell your child that very thing?!

15 Phrase Your Spouse Needs to Hear

In the rush of family life, we often neglect to communicate our love to our spouse. We forget to make those verbal deposits of admiration and affection into our family bank of African American Couple Laughing On The Floorhonor. Sometimes we might even begin to replace verbal deposits of admiration with withdrawals of criticism or complaint. We need to take a moment and think about how we can verbally express our love for our spouse every day. Of course, we need to express our love verbally and nonverbally; but, some phrases of love are worth repeating often. Here is a short list of several phrases I find most important in sharing my love with my spouse.


  • I love you.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I’d marry you in a heartbeat.
  • You are still just as beautiful (handsome) as the day we met.
  • You are a great mother (father).
  • I respect you and your opinion.
  • I love your hugs and kisses.
  • I am so lucky to have you as my wife/husband.
  • I love spending time with you.
  • You are my best friend.
  • You make me proud.
  • Thank you for….
  • I appreciate….
  • What can I do for you today?
  • You make me so happy.
  • Let me do that for you.


What phrases would you add to this list? How have you expressed your love to your spouse today?

A Family Activity that “Does All That”?

Would you like a great family activity filled with fun? One that gives you and your family lots of fresh air and a little fun exercise? An

The family outdoors flying kite in the skyactivity that can help your family grow more intimate and your children more mature? An afternoon activity to bring a smile to everyone’s faces and give each person a sense of pride in accomplishment? Then go fly a kite. That’s right. Flying a kite does all that…and more. Just look at these benefits of flying kites with your family.

  • Flying a kite is easy on the budget. Whether you purchase a kite or the materials to make one, flying a kite is an inexpensive activity. It also allows you to build family relationships while you look for a kite or build a kite. A family project like building a kite will always enhance family intimacy.
  • Flying a kite gets the family outside. Breathe the fresh air. Soak up some vitamin D from the sunlight. Move around and enjoy a little exercise. Being outside brings peace and calm to many who struggle with anxiety as well.
  • Flying a kite increases concentration. Visually following the kite increases your ability to focus. It also helps adults practice shifting their visual focusing between something near and something far away, a practice that can slow the progression of “old age sight.” In addition, everyone will focus on the here and now of family time as you fly a kite together.
  • Flying a kite increases the opportunities for family interaction and socialization. You can talk to one another while flying kites.
  • Flying a kite is fun. Everyone enjoys flying a kite. It adds to your family’s playfulness, creativity, and joy as you fly kites together. And, who doesn’t like to watch the pride and joy on the faces of their children holding the string of a dancing kite? (To read more about these and other benefits, check out Kite Flying for Health and Happiness or My Best

Whether you make your own kite or buy one from the store, flying kites is a great opportunity for family bonding and plain old-fashioned fun. What are you waiting for? Get out there. Go fly a kite!

We Have a New Cat…

My family just got a new kitten. My wife loves kittens so we have had a cat (or two) most of our married life. My daughters also love kittens. They laugh, giggle, “ooh,” and “aww” as the cats play or snuggle up. I don’t tell them, but I kind of like cats too. I don’t “ooh” and “aww” or sit around watching them play; but it is relaxing to pet a cat and listen to him purr. Actually, owning a pet of any kind brings great benefit to your family. Let me share a few.

  • catsPet ownership actually has medical benefits for your family. University of Pennsylvania conducted a study showing that owning a pet had benefits similar to health-promoting behaviors like eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, not smoking, and having close ties with family and friends for those with heart disease. Other studies have shown that petting a dog or cat lowers blood pressure. One study showed that 5- to 11-year-olds who had a pet in the home took fewer sick days off school. And children who had a pet in the home during their first year of life had fewer allergies and less asthma when they were between 7-13 years old. Pet owners also live longer. (Read more about these benefits in Medical Self-Care: Health Benefits of Pet Ownership)
  • Pet ownership reduces stress. Whether you watch a cat chase a red dot, receive a rambunctious welcome from your puppy, or simply watch fish in an aquarium, pets help us laugh and relax.
  • Pet ownership teaches responsibility. Your children can have the chore of feeding, scooping, cleaning, or bathing. They learn responsibility by taking ownership of such a meaningful chore, a chore that promotes life and relationship. You can also participate in these jobs with them to enhance your own parent-child relationship.
  • Pet ownership promotes learning. It may seem strange, but you have seen it if you have pets-your child sitting with their pet curled up beside them reading a book or doing homework. A pet offers a non-judgmental ear for children’s learning. In one study, children who owned dogs were given the choice of reading with a peer, an adult, or their pet dog. Forty percent chose to read with their dog. They felt most relaxed practicing this skill with their pet. (Learn more about how pets help kids learn at The Benefits of Pets).
  • Pet ownership can provide comfort to family members. One study asked children what they would give less popular children to help them make friends. The number one answer: a pet! Pets teach us how to show empathy. They also provide a great starting point for relationship, a common ground to talk about with many other children. Another study asked a group of five-year-old pet owners what they did when they felt sad, angry, or afraid. Forty percent mentioned their pets. Pets provided them comfort, a non-judgmental ear, and affection when they needed it. I have met several children who note they feel safer at home with a pet to keep them company or a dog to offer extra protection.
  • Pet ownership increases family bonding and fun. Families come together to share in grooming, feeding, walking, and cleaning pets. They play together with their pets. They watch them together, laughing at “pet antics.” In one instance, 70% of families surveyed reported an increase in family happiness and fun after acquiring a pet. In a study of one hundred children 13 years old or younger, 80% of those who owned cats got along better with friends and family. (For more on these and other benefits read The Positive Effects of Pet Ownership for Kids).
  • Pet ownership encourages everyone’s ability to care for others. Caring for a pet can plant the seeds of compassion. In particular, caring for a pet allows boys the opportunity to engage in a caring activity that does not appear “too girly.”

There you have it-7 benefits of pet ownership for your family…and mine. I admit it. I enjoy our cats. Perhaps these two quotes sum up the benefits of pet ownership. I hope you like them.

“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to get home each day. It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.” (John Grogan, Marley and Me)

“Pets devour loneliness. They give us purpose, responsibility, a reason for getting up in the morning, and a reason to look to the future.” (Nick Trout, Tell Me Where It Hurts: A Day of Humor, Healing and Hope in My Life as an Animal Surgeon)