We were made for, and we long for, intimate connection. In fact, our attachment with other human beings is crucial, even necessary, for a healthy life. Marriage is one place we hope to find such an enduring connection. Unfortunately, many people find themselves feeling disconnected and isolated in marriage. This disconnected marriage brings pain and misery to everyone involved. A connected marriage brings joy. To get this connected marriage requires a few traits that are often overlooked when we speak about happy marriages. Let me explain a few.
To have an intimate marriage we need to be trustworthy. Our spouse needs to know we will keep our commitments and follow through on our promises. Our spouse will see our trustworthiness in our actions toward them and our actions toward others. If we want an intimate and enduring marriage, we need to become trustworthy people, people worthy of receiving honor and trust. (Read 6 Pillars of Trust to learn how to develop trust.)
To have an intimate marriage we must learn to trust. I realize that trusting another person leaves us vulnerable, especially if we have experienced hurt at the hands of those we loved in the past. But, without trust in a relationship both parties feel the need to protect themselves. They struggle to be completely open with one another. A wedge of secrecy and self-protection comes between them and drives them apart. We can avoid this wedge of secrecy and self-protection by becoming trustworthy people and people who trust one another.
An intimate relationship is built on the gift of empathy. We need to realize our spouse has a valid perspective and opinion even if they disagree with us. Empathy goes a step beyond that realization and demands we strive to understand our spouse’s perspective, to see the world through their eyes. We must work to understand their world so well we can understand the basis of their perspective even if we disagree with it. (Quit Taking Your Spouse’s Perspective may sound like a contradiction, but it really explains how to do this most effectively!)
A person nurtures intimacy when they remain attentive and available to their spouse. Spouses can make up to 100 bids for connection during any 10 minutes spent together (link). You can attend to these bids for connection or turn away from them, accept them or reject them. Of course, if you reject them you will experience disconnection, isolation, and anger. When we accept and respond to them we enjoy a growing sense of connection, love, and intimacy. (Learn how to respond to those bids for connection in RSVP for Intimacy)
Spouses who enjoy intimate marriages remain teachable. A teachable person loves their spouse enough to learn about them and from them. They can admit their own mistakes and apologize. A teachable person continues to learn about their spouse. They remain a student of their spouse’s interests, strengths, vulnerabilities, fears, and a myriad other things. Remaining teachable and learning about your spouse provides the necessary tools for building intimacy with your spouse.
Those who enjoy an intimate marriage exhibit humility. They are humble and learn from mistakes. They change in response to their spouse’s legitimate concerns. Humble people support one another. Humble people allow their spouse to influence them. Humble people enjoy intimacy in their marriages. (For a challenge in humility, become A Leader in Submission in your marriage.)
I learned in the study of human developmental that men often become more willing to express emotions as they age. I guess this has happened to me…or, is happening as I move through my fifties. Actually, I would not say I have developed a greater willingness to express emotions but I have developed a more difficult time holding emotions back, especially tears. I find tears arising more and more often, not the tears of sorrow but the tears of overwhelming emotion.
The tears of seeing the magnificence of the mountains stretching out across the horizon along with the tears of gratitude that I have the opportunity to witness such majesty and beauty.
The tears of witnessing kindness shared between people who differ in so many ways, a glimpse of grace in this segregated world.
The tears of sorrow when a loved one passes combined with the tears of celebrating their life and the contribution of their life to the world in which I live.
The tears of intimacy that arise when sharing laughter with family.
The tears of sorrow as my children “leave the nest” combined with the tears of excited anticipation for what they will experience and accomplish.
The tears of longing as I pray both daughters find like-minded people with whom they can share their life’s dreams.
The tears of pure joy as I watch my children do what brings them joy and see the positive impact they have on their friends and the world around them.
The tears of gratitude and appreciation as I watch my daughter and her fiance admire one another, dreaming and loving together.
Like I said, tears just seem to surface more easily. Who would have thought that tears represent so much more than mere sorrow or pain? They represent love, beauty, anticipation, inspiration, and even overwhelming joy and laughter. Of course, I still hold them back. I make attempts to hide them. I’m not sure why. After all, tears seem to water the seeds of emotions that produce the fruit of intimate relationships. So, if you happen to see a tear roll down my cheek, don’t worry. It only means I care enough about you to share that tear with you. In the meantime, don’t tell anyone; it will ruin my reputation.
“School’s out for summer!” I hear this familiar refrain from almost every student I meet. But, I also know from experience that many will begin to say the all-too-familiar phrase, “I’m bored,” in a matter of weeks. If you hear that phrase in your house, here are some summer boredom stoppers you might want to stock up on.
Art supplies. Make sure to keep a large supply of crayons, coloring books, paper, colored pencils, and water paints to get your children’s creative juices flowing. You might even like to get some clay and, for the super creative group, some “edible jello finger paints” for a snacky art supply.
Crafts and hobby supplies. This may include anything from magazines and newspapers for collages to Lego’s to model airplanes. Some children might enjoy a rainbow loom or perler beads. My daughter enjoys knitting. My niece photography. Help your children find the craft or hobby they enjoy. Then encourage their active pursuit of that hobby.
Passive toys.Passive toys are simple toys that require active engagement from your children. They often require imagination and some level of planning. For instance, Lego’s and building blocks are passive toys. So are packing boxes which can be made into a fort, a tunnel, a car, or an airplane depending on your children’s imagination and need. Matchbox cars and dolls are also passive toys. These toys encourage imagination, problem-solving, and learning. Keep many such passive toys in your home to beat summer boredom.
Books. Books are always a great option for beating boredom. They open doors to new worlds. They encourage empathy. They teach and heal (Books That Heal). Keep a variety of books on hand for your children.
Kitchen Band Instruments.Musical instruments are a great boredom buster. You can use empty tupperware filled with rice for shakers, pots and pans for drums, and spoons for rhythms. You might also try a “straw-boe” or simply purchase some fun percussion instruments from a local toy store. Of course, you can always give your children the opportunity to learn guitar, piano, ukulele, trumpet, clarinet, violin, or any other instrument of their choice. They are all wonderful boredom busters.
Imagination supplies. Imaginative play will “help your child be a head taller than himself.” Keep a supply of dress-up clothes, toy crowns, fake money, and other such supplies available for imaginative role playing. Your children might play teacher, superhero’s, prince and princess, or family. They might even write, produce, and perform their own play for you.
With these supplies your children will have a great time. All the while they will beat the boredom of the long days of summer.
You can strengthen your pre-teen’s brain (11-to 13-years-old) and decrease the chances of them abusing food, alcohol, and drugs by engaging in this one behavior. This one behavior strengthens connections in areas of the brain associated with less harmful alcohol use, drug use, and emotional eating at the age of 25! Not to be too repetitive but engaging in this one behavior with your pre-teen can decrease the chances of them abusing drugs, alcohol, or food in their mid-twenties. What behavior could do all that? Greater parent-child communication. Simply keeping the lines of communication open with your children as they move into and through the teen years strengthens connections in the anterior salience network (ASN) of the brain. Connections in this area of the brain are associated with less alcohol and drug abuse and less overeating in the mid-twenties. These results were revealed in a 14-year longitudinal study conducted through the University of Georgia’s Center for Family Research. How can you maintain a robust communication with your child as they move into and through adolescence?
1.Listen. The most effective way to keep communication with your children and teens strong, start by listening. Listen to their words and listen to their body language. Listen to their facial expression. Listen to understand their world, their motives, their intent.
2.Engage your children in conversation and activity. Provide time for conversation. This will require you to spend time, lots of time, with your children. Enjoy time in fun activities with your children. Enjoy time taking them shopping, fishing, playing catch, watching movies, eating. Enjoy time with your children and engage your children every day.
3.Go deeper than a “because I said so” when explaining limits and life. Talk about the important things of life. Don’t shy away from controversial issues. Enjoy the discussion. One caveat: don’t expect full agreement on all issues with your teen. Instead, allow for differences. Teach your teens to think through their ideas and beliefs.
4.Listen. Did I say that before? It’s worth saying again. Begin and end your interactions with your children and teens by listening.
All couples experience disagreements, even arguments and conflict. But, did you know you can build a more intimate relationship with your spouse before, during, and after the disagreements and conflicts? Let me count the ways (well, at least five for before, five for during, and five for after).
Make daily deposits of honor and grace into your Family Bank of Honor by sharing polite words, expressions of affection, and loving touch. (Read The Tongue in the Family Bank of Honor for verbal daily deposits.)
Become a student of spouse. Learn about their likes, interests, vulnerabilities, and fears.
Express gratitude to your spouse every day.
Tell your spouse about the traits you admire in them. Let them know what they do and say that you admire and appreciate.
Show kindness to your spouse every day.
Take a breath and remember all the traits you love and adore about your spouse.
Remain calm. Take a breath and maintain the use of polite words.
Listen to understand. Then listen some more to make sure you understand.
Do not threaten, blame, criticize, or show contempt. Instead, be brutally honest with yourself. Humbly take responsibility for any way your actions and words contribute to the argument.
Seek a solution, a third alternative that can show love and the priority of your relationship. (Assume Love explains the third alternative.)
Reaffirm your love for your spouse. Let them know how much you love them.
Apologize. Chances are you did something during the disagreement that requires an apology. So, apologize.
Give your spouse a big hug and a sincere kiss.
Review your contribution to the argument and change your behavior accordingly.
I’m sure there are many more ways to build intimacy before, during, and after an argument, but these 15 ideas will give you a start. What ideas would you add to the list? Let us know in the comment section below.
A study completed in 2014 revealed a type of food that impacts children’s intelligence. This study obtained data on 11,740 US students, their consumption of fast food and their academic testing. They discovered that 10% of adolescents ate fast food almost every day. Over half the children ate fast food 1-3 times per week. Those adolescents who ate a lot of fast food performed 20% worse on standard tests of reading, math, and science as compared to those who did not eat any. In addition, the more frequently children at fast food around the age of 10-years, the worse their test scores were three years later. These results are thought to result from a lack of nutrients that enhance cognitive development and too much fat and sugar that have proven detrimental to memory and cognitive development.
I share this information with you because we all want our children to experience success in school, work, and life. Too much fast food can hinder their academic success. On the other hand, enjoying home-cooked meals at home with family has many benefits including:
Young love floods the brain with a cocktail of neurotransmitters that enhance attraction, pleasure, and commitment. In young love, this cocktail can prove dangerous, blinding young lovers to the red flags and flaws of their partner. They are too “drunk on love” to truly discern what everyone around them already knows. But, as time goes on, this cocktail loses its potency. Neurotransmitter levels return to normal and feelings begin to level out. The love shared by young lovers becomes tested and their true level of commitment becomes apparent. Mature love, a love that transcends mere passion to incorporate commitment and investment into the relationship, can develop at this time. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the feelings and passion of young love does not play a role in mature love. It just becomes supported by a foundation of commitment and investment. In fact, I really think it’s a great idea for every marriage to add an emotional, passionate cocktail of neurotransmitters to their foundation of commitment and investment. Not only do I think it a good idea, I have a recipe. It is composed of three ingredients (Taken from The Neurochemistry of Love).
Dopamine is the first ingredient in this perfect love cocktail. Dopamine is a feel-good neurotransmitter. We experience pleasure when it is released. One author notes that dopamine is released in response to “the chase,” the pursuit of love. Dopamine also alerts us that our needs are about to be met. For instance, the smell of the charcoal grill alerts us that our hunger will soon be satisfied by grilled burgers or steak. Ahh, the joy…. Anyway, you can see how dopamine adds to the cocktail of love. You can add it into your love potion by continuing to pursue your spouse. Learn about your spouse and what entices them, excites them, or makes them feel loved ( Discover Your Love Language here). Then pursue your spouse by romancing them with your knowledge of their likes and interests. Put on the perfume he enjoys. Bring the gift that you know she likes. Say the words that “make their heart swoon.” Every time you do, you give them a shot of dopamine. They feel good. You feel good. The pursuit is on. Soon, your spouse will get a little shot of dopamine when you walk in the room with that smile on your face that says something good is on the way.
Oxytocin, the “love hormone” itself, adds the second component in this cocktail of love. Oxytocin is triggered by touch. Something as simple as holding hands or a hug releases oxytocin. When you invest in repeatedly holding hands or hugging your spouse over years of committed relationship, you build an “oxytocin quick release system.” It is more easily released, which is good since oxytocin also promotes trust. Who doesn’t want trust in their marriage? So, bring on the touch and add a shot of oxytocin into your marital cocktail of love. Hold hands. Hug. Sit with arms touching. Put your hand on your spouse’s leg. Enjoy physical touch. (Read An Easy Way to Get in Sync for more.)
Serotonin is the third ingredient in this love cocktail. Serotonin is stimulated by associating with a person of status. You can add this into your love cocktail by building a reputation of keeping your promises. Build a reputation as a kind person, a compassionate person, a patient person. Become known among your friends and community as a person of honor and integrity. As you grow in a reputation of a good person, you spouse will get a shot of serotonin to enhance your marital love cocktail. (More for men.)
These three ingredients will make a cocktail of love to keep your marriage young. Added to commitment, this cocktail can enhance your marriage and your love. Adding them in is simple: 1) learn about your spouse and continue to pursue them with romance; 2) engage in loving touch every day, and 3) build a reputation of honor and integrity.
Cigna made a surprising discovery when they utilized questions from the UCLA Loneliness Scale to create a survey taken by 20,000 people 18-years-old and older. ( Read about the survey here.) The surprising discovery? Young people are lonelier than elderly people. Even more disturbing, those between 18- and 22-years-old (those tied into social media connections) noted more feelings of social isolation than older people. It seems that even though social media offers digital connections, people still long for face-to-face conversation and interactions. Without this face-to-face connection, people feel lonely.
“So what?” you ask. “I’m sorry young people feel lonelier than elderly but what does it matter?” Good question. Here’s the concern. Loneliness is deadly. Studies suggest that loneliness has the same effect on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or drinking more than 6 alcoholic drinks a day! (Social Relationships & Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review). Loneliness is comparable to obesity and physical inactivity in its impact on the longevity and quality of life. Lonely young people can translate into less quality of life, less joy, even shorter lives! Families can help prevent this type of deadly social isolation and loneliness. Here are five tips to help:
Engage in meaningful family activities like eating meals together, playing games together, going on vacations, making day trips. Enjoy time with your family every day. Build positive relationships with your children, spouse, parents, and siblings.
Get involved. Involve your children in various community activities. Whether you involve them in sporting activities, theatre and the arts, or debate clubs, find a way for your children to become involved in positive activities with other people in the community. Don’t just involve your children. Involve yourself in positive community activities as well. Join a reading club or the booster club. Become involved in a positive group of peers in your community.
Involve your family in a local church. Churches encourage us to worship as a family and as a community. They provide us opportunities to find our place in “something bigger than ourselves” and become part of a supportive, loving community and reducing loneliness.
Volunteer as a family. You might even make your volunteer efforts a weekly, monthly, or quarterly ritual. You will strengthen family bonds and provide the opportunity to meet other people outside the family, decreasing loneliness.
Turn off the technology and play some games face-to-face. Nothing beats loneliness like gathering with other people and engaging in some plain-old-fashioned fun. You can get together to play cards, a pick-up game of ball, a picnic, or a board game. Whatever it is, face-to-face interaction and fun beats loneliness every time!
If you follow these tips, you’ll discover great joy in relationship. Your supportive community will grow. Your family will become more close-knit. And, as Cigna found out, your health and the health of your children will improve. You will live longer…and that means you can enjoy one another’s company and love even longer!
Researchers from the University of Arizona surveyed young adults (average 21-years-old) about the frequency with which they engaged in activities such as listening to music, attending concerts, or playing instruments with their parents between 8- and 14-years-old. The survey also assessed the 21-year-olds’ current relationship with their parent. They discovered that shared musical experiences, especially in early adolescence, led to a better parent-child relationship when the child moved into young adulthood. The researchers explain that sharing musical experiences causes the participants to coordinate their actions and even their biology (Learn more in What Do “Twinkle Twinkle,” Oxytocin, & the Saccuus Have in Common…?). This synchronizing leads to better relationship quality. Music also elicits shared emotion. When you listen to music together you share emotions with those listening with you. Sharing emotions brings us closer together. Synchronizing our actions and sharing emotions help us develop a long-term connection with our children that extends into young adulthood. In other words, sharing musical experiences with your children can enhance your relationship with them when they become young adults! (You can even turn sharing music into a family fun night.)
If you don’t play an instrument, don’t worry. Shared musical experiences can be as simple as listening to music together. So, if you want to have a strong relationship with your children as they move into young adulthood, listening to music together as they grow up can help. Turn on the radio. Listen to music in the car and in the house. Dance in the living room. Go to concerts together. Enjoy all kinds of music, especially the music your children enjoy. Introduce music of various genres (classical, jazz, pop, R&B, metal, punk, rap, etc.). You and your children may learn something new about each genre…and enjoy learning about music together. Talk about the different types of music as you listen. Pick out your favorites. Sing along. Whistle along. Clap your hands to the rhythm. A little shared music will build harmonies of love between you and your children that will last a lifetime!