Ah, the cuddle. Whether it be a hug, a snuggle, hand-holding, or a “smooch,” we love ’em all. And why not? Cuddling does wonderful things for us and our relationship. Let me just name a few:
- Cuddling releases a “bonding” hormone (oxytocin). When we cuddle, we bond with the one to whom we cuddle. In other words, we feel closer to one another. So, snuggle up and bond. Enjoy the intimacy. You might even find yourself talking a little more.
- Cuddling increases happiness. Who can stay grumpy when snuggled up with the one you love?
- Cuddling reduces stress and anxiety. There’s just something about snuggling into the arms of our love and feeling the stress melt away.
- Cuddling also lowers blood pressure. Increased happiness, reduced stress, and lowered blood pressure all add up to increased heart health too!
- Cuddling releases oxytocin which helps block pain signals. As a result, cuddling reduces pain.
- Cuddling also helps us fight colds and other infections. When we feel good our body doesn’t want illness to interfere. So, it fights infections even more.
- Cuddling helps us sleep too.
Is it any wonder we like to cuddle? It soothes us and lifts our mood. It melts away the strain and stress of the day. It relieves the pain. All the while it bonds us to the one with whom we snuggle. So, grab your spouse and “cuddle up a little closer.” You know you want to. Sing along with Andy Burrows with full sincerity, “I’d rather have cuddle than a video; I’d rather have cuddle than anything I know. I’d rather have a cuddle than ketchup, chips, or peas. A computer can be lovely, but a cuddle’s what I need!”
Parenting is hard work. I’m probably preaching to the choir with that statement. If you’re a parent you know parenting demands time and energy and money…and often more than we ever knew we had. But, did you know parenting begins in your mind? How we think about our children and our role as parents plays a tremendous impact on how we parent. It can make parenting more difficult or it can make parenting more enjoyable. For instance, do you think of parenting as being a shepherd or guard? Consider the differences.
- A guard mentality thinks of children as prone to bad behavior. They expect children to misbehave and act disrespectfully. Shepherds, on the other hand, believe children desire the security of knowing they are accepted and safe within a caring relationship. They see misbehavior as communication of some need or fear, perhaps a feeling of insecurity within the relationship.
- A guard focuses on maintaining the rules. They fear grave consequences if those rules are broken. As a result, the guard maintains a position of authority over their children. A shepherd focuses on meeting the needs of their children. Although they maintain a position of authority, that authority is based on relationship.
- Guards discipline from a foundation of punishment, often with a harsh tone of voice. Shepherds discipline from a foundation of relationship and concern. Their voice is familiar and welcome in times of enjoyment and times of discipline.
- Guards maintain order through fear of punishment. Shepherds maintain order through loving structure which provides security and safety.
- Guards focus on making sure everyone knows the rules. They know the rules inside out and expect everyone to know them as well. Shepherds focus on knowing the people under their care. They know their interests, vulnerabilities, strengths, and weaknesses.
- Guards expect compliance. When compliance does not happen, they have the philosophy that “they made their beds let them lie in them.” “They get what they deserve.” Shepherds sacrifice for those in their care. They show a grace that teaches better behavior and restores relationship. They focus on the emotional connections that strengthen and sense of belonging that nurtures growth.
- Guards push those under their supervision to complete, unthinking compliance. They demand obedience. Shepherds walk ahead to lead those for whom they care into “paths of righteousness.” Shepherds lead by example.
You can imagine the impact these thinking styles can have on how you interact with and discipline your children. Which style of thinking best describes your parenting?
I remember the story of a boy watching a butterfly slowly free himself from its cocoon. The boy felt pity as he watched the butterfly struggle to get out the cramped wrappings of transformation. He feared the butterfly was not making progress quickly enough. He feared the butterfly might hurt himself in the struggle. So, to be helpful, the boy got some scissors, cut the cocoon open, and freed the butterfly. Unfortunately, the butterfly did not fly away in gratitude. He fell to the ground with small, shriveled wings. The butterfly’s wings never opened up and he never flew. He was confined to crawling on the ground for the rest of his short life. The butterfly needed the struggle to develop his wings for flight and prepare his body for life outside the cocoon. I don’t know if the story is true or even realistic (I did find a rendition of it at Struggle is Good! I Want to Fly!), but it does make an important point. Sometimes we need to struggle and take risks to grow.
Did you know that recent research suggests that one contributor to the increase in children suffering with anxiety is overprotective parenting? In a sense, we have become so protective of our children…so careful to prevent their risk, their frustration, their potential harm…that we have prevented them from the very experience they need to grow confident and independent. I learned many important lessons as a child in somewhat risky situations, lessons that helped me build confidence, know my limits, and exercise healthy caution.
- I learned the limits of speed riding my bicycle.
- I learned the dangers of playing with fire from a paper towel…and making smores.
- I learned important lessons about height while climbing trees and small “cliffs” near my house (btw-these “cliffs” look small when I see them as an adult).
- I learned the need for caution when jumping over things while jumping over fallen trees.
- I learned the potential for hurting someone and being hurt by playing “pick-up games” of football.
- I learned to use caution cutting grass by cutting grass and experiencing some “flying debris.”
We learn our capabilities and the limits of those capabilities when we take small risks during our play as children. Our children need the opportunity to play and engage in some independent activities, even ones that carry risk, so they can grow and learn about their capabilities and limits. Of course, we will provide appropriate levels of protection so those risks are age appropriate and not overly dangerous. Even so, they will get bruises, cuts, and scratches along the way. They may experience frustrations and even cry about some of those frustrations. And, they will learn. They will grow. They will become independent. So…how can you begin to allow your child, your butterfly, to emerge from their cocoon and become more independent over the next week?
Let’s face it. Smartphones (and similar devices) have become integral to our lives. They are like a member of the family. Maybe even more like our right hand than our “right hand man” ever was. We not only call friends and families with our phones, we keep our schedules, monitor our health, watch our favorite programs, expand our knowledge, keep updated on the news, check our homework, play our games, and more with our cell phones. They have become an integral part of our lives. However, they have brought a potential problem as well. We have developed an attachment, a longing even, to the pings, chimes, & vibrations with which our phone calls out to us. Many of our teens and college age people have come to base their self-worth and perceived popularity by the number of “likes” and heart emoji’s given in response to their posts. In this way, the cell phone, our smartphones, have become dangerous. They have taken our moods and our time captive. How many of us have had that moment of disappointment when we don’t “get enough” likes for some post? We have traded in our face-to-face contact, rich with body language and voice inflection, for emoji’s that represent various emotions and comments. How many of us have felt that sudden surge of frustration and anger because my alert is going off again? The constant availability of the texting, snapchat, Instagram world begins to weigh on us, robbing us of the time needed for our bodies and minds to relax and “re-create” our inner peace. All of this combines to shape our moods and our self-concept. In fact, a study from San Francisco State University has shown that college “students who used their phones the most reported high levels of feeling isolated, lonely, depressed, and anxious” (Digital Addiction Increases Loneliness, Anxiety, and Depression).
We need a plan to keep this new member of our family from completely taking over our family and isolating each member of the family. We need a creative plan, one we can stick to. With that in mind, I have gathered a few ideas.
- Turn off as many “push notifications” as you can. We really don’t need “push notification” for the sales at the local stores. I really don’t need a “push notification” for the weather (I can look out the window and get similar info). Take an honest look at your “push notification” and turn off the ones you do not need.
- Designate a social media time each day. Turn off the “push notifications” for all social media and get in the habit of responding to your social media accounts once or twice a day. Schedule time for it. For instance, schedule 30-45 minutes at eight a.m. and 30-45 minutes at 9:30 p.m. Limit your social media use to those scheduled times. The rest of the day you can focus on face-to-face, voice-to-voice contact. You can enjoy the moment and even take some picture to send during your scheduled social media time.
- When you are out with friends or family, put the phones away…out of sight and out of earshot. Focus on the moment to moment interaction. One interesting variation on this involved the college students in the study noted above. When they went out for dinks, everyone put their cell phones in the center of the table. The first one to touch their phone paid for drinks. There’s motivation to put your attention in the current face-to-face interactions rather than the phone.
- Recognize how the pings, sounds, and buzzes create a desire in us and call us to respond. Turn them off. Silence the phone, especially during social times.
- Take a phone holiday. Announce on social media that you are taking a vacation from all social media. Put the phone away except for actual calls and spend a week seeking out face-to-face interactions. Studies have shown that taking a “holiday” from Facebook increases happiness. (Yep, Science Confirms that Quitting Facebook Makes People Happier.)
- Make dinner time and family time a no cellphone time. Enjoy time with your family with no cell-phone interruptions.
- When you are out for a walk or riding the bus, spend time without your headphones on and time not looking at your cell-phone. Instead, look around. Notice the colors. See the scenery. Observe people. You might even try starting up a simple conversation depending on the setting. Notice your world and interact with it.
The smartphone is here to stay. It can serve an excellent purpose and help in many ways…when we learn to manage it well. Let’s take the time to learn how to manage it and teach our families to do the same. We will all be the better for it!
My friend sent me a…well, rather surprising news article from CNN (I spared you this article to avoid pictures of the golfers). How do I describe it? Let me just ask…Did you know the “Wandering Bares” just had a nude golf event in Australia? Well, not completely nude…they did wear shoes to protect their feet and hats to protect their hairline from the sun. If that’s not enough, the 11th Annual “World Naked Bike Ride” was held on June 23 this year (2018). That’s right, 11th annual! I discovered “naturists” promote nude volleyball, tennis, and trail running as well. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to participate in any sport nude…especially in public. There is only one place I want to stand “naked and unafraid.” That is in the presence of my spouse. Only in marriage can we truly stand before one another “naked and unafraid.” Even that proves difficult enough! Maybe I better explain that a little more.
“Naked and unafraid” with our spouse involves an intimacy much deeper than simple physical nudity. Standing before our spouse “naked and unafraid” is not simply standing physically nude but being present with our spouse in complete emotional vulnerability, mental transparency, and spiritual acceptance. The freedom to stand before each other emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically “naked yet unafraid” flows from mutual acceptance, warts and all. It demands a shared commitment to live our lives as one. How do we develop the sense of acceptance, commitment, and intimacy that will allow us to stand with our spouse emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically “naked and unafraid”? Here are some tips.
- Commit to your marriage and your spouse. Assure your spouse that you “only have eyes for” them. Stick with them in the good times and the bad. Share the joys and the sorrows. Also, look to the future you will share together. Do you have infants? Talk about your shared future as parents of teens. Do you have teens? Talk about your future together in the “empty nest.” Do you have young adult children? Talk about how you will grandparent together. Do you have a dream vacation? Plan to take it in the next five years. You get the idea. Look to the future and plan your future together.
- Share your dreams with one another. Even more, support one another’s dreams. Learn about those things that interest your spouse and grow with them in those areas of interest. This also adds to the idea of committing to your spouse “for the long run.”
- Show your spouse unconditional acceptance. Take time to admire the traits you love in your spouse. When you have disagreements, reaffirm your love. When you discuss those little irritations, let your spouse know how much you love them anyway.
- Share your ideas with one another. Talk with your spouse about a book you’re reading. Discuss the politics of the day with your spouse. Share an inspiring verse or a lesson learned. Become mentally transparent before your spouse.
- Share your fears and your joys with your spouse. Become emotionally vulnerable. Talk to your spouse about the movie that “brought tears to your eyes” (yes guys, I’m even talking about us) and the act of kindness from the random stranger that “touched you.” Express your frustration over the injustices you witness or read about in the news. Don’t forget to share stories of joy and inspiration as well—the gift that made you “so happy,” or the love that changed you. In other words, become emotionally vulnerable before your spouse. After all, you know they offer you unconditional acceptance (see #3).
When we do these things, we will find ourselves standing before our spouses emotionally vulnerable, mentally transparent, spiritually united…and unafraid. We will find ourselves “naked and unafraid.” I long for that intimacy with my spouse. Don’t you? BUT, you still won’t find me playing golf (or any other sport for that matter) in the nude…and we’re all glad about that!
Healthy marriages flow from healthy individuals who continue to learn and grow. Sure, each person will make mistakes. But, in the long run, each spouse in a healthy marriage grows and reveals these healthy fruits in their lives. As a result, their marriages flourish. Here are some fruits that nurture a healthy marriage along with some practical ways to enjoy that fruit
- Love. Love is an action. It seeks the best for one’s spouse. It maintains a long-term view of the marriage. So, plan a vacation, a 5-year anniversary, an extra big trip for next year. Spend this year planning a special romantic getaway
for next year. Take time to prepare for it, save for it, and work for it together to make it happen. Love also thinks the best of one’s spouse. So, find a way to compliment your spouse every day. Show your spouse appreciation daily. Tell them how much you admire them for all they do. (If you want to apply this to your whole family, try the 30-Day Family Happiness Challenge!)
- Joy. Healthy marriages share joy. Each spouse shares joyful experiences from their days. Joyful marriages are filled with play. So, play together, laugh together, and share adventures together. Enjoy a card game or a baseball game together. Celebrate an achievement, a milestone, or just the day for no other reason than you enjoy your spouse. Tell a joke. Share your joys.
- Peace. In a healthy marriage each spouse pursues peace, not drama. Mole hills remain mole hills and mountains are excavated to become gentle slopes or terraced hillsides filled with lookouts over awesome vistas. Healthy couples learn to use conflict for grow and so promote peace. (Read The Secret to Family Peace and apply the principles to your marriage.)
- Patience. Those who enjoy a healthy marriage practice patience. Each spouse puts his or her agenda aside and patiently listen to understand their spouse. They are patient with misunderstandings, disagreements, and mistakes. They listen intently and fully. Patience doesn’t mean letting everything slide. It does mean trusting your spouse’s love for you and patiently engaging them to create change.
- Kindness. Who doesn’t want a kind spouse? A spouse who serves in kindness and speaks words of kindness nurtures a healthy marriage. So, serve your spouse. Speak words of kindness, respect, and gratitude to your spouse.
- Sincerity. Healthy marriages put aside sarcasm and left-handed compliments. Instead, offer sincere compliments, honest encouragement, and beneficial words.
- Faithfulness. Healthy marriages focus on truth. They do not hide things from one another. They do not lie to one another. Be truthful and honest. Keep your promises. If you promise to do something, do it as soon as you can. Faithful marriages have an eye on the long-term investment of their relationship. They know they will be together in the future and they work for that end.
- Gentleness. People in healthy marriages tend to be humble. They do not take themselves too seriously. They are humble enough to serve one another. Rather than expect their spouse to bring them a drink, they offer to bring their spouse a drink. Rather than ask “What have you done for me lately?” they ask, “What can I do for you today?” (Check out Today’s Family Question is… for more.)
- Self-control. Spouses who enjoy a healthy marriage practice self-control. They soothe themselves during arguments or disagreements. They are not easily angered and when they become angry they manage that anger. In addition, they practice self-control when they “only have eyes for” their spouse, no one else!
We could talk about each of these traits more, but I think you get the idea…and a few practical ideas on how to put these traits into practice. Now get out there and grow the fruits of a healthy marriage.
Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, Prince William…it seems they’ve been on the news every month this year. I must admit, I don’t know a lot about the royal family. But this year you couldn’t help but see some of the “royal news.” They always look good. They always present well. They smile. They show respect. They interact well with others. It all got me thinking. Maybe we want to raise our children like royalty. Here are a few tips from watching the royal family in the news to help get us started.
- Royalty dresses modestly. They do not dress pretentiously or provocatively. Instead, they dress in a way that reveals respect for themselves and others. We want to teach our children to dress respectfully and modestly as well. We want them to learn that “it’s hard to speak to a person’s heart when all you can see is their parts.” We want them to learn that their dress contributes to how people see them and what people believe about their character. In other words, we want to teach our children to dress like royalty, modestly and respectfully.
- Royalty greets people with a smile. They are polite and gracious in their interactions. They show respectful interest in others. Don’t we want our children to do the same? We look on with pride when our children interact with other people respectfully and politely. We teach them to treat others with grace and respect. We teach them to act like royalty. (Read The Chick-fil-A Family Interaction Model and The Mighty Power of Kindness for Families for more.)
- In this age of social media, royalty posts wisely. It is not befitting for royalty to enter petty disagreements and conflicts. Instead royalty publishes on social media wisely. Let’s teach our children to do the same. (20 Family Rules for Social Media…Straight from God for some practical ideas.)
- Royalty keeps private things private, not just on social media but in all areas of their life. They limit inappropriate public displays of affection and carefully monitor their speech to remain respectful, refined, and mature. Isn’t it important to us to teach our children the same?
Yes. We want to raise royalty…and these four tips will help us do it right! Why not start today?
“Oh lord it’s hard to be humble when your perfect in every way…” or so said Mac Davis in 1980. Maybe it’s even harder today. We live in a world that encourages self-promotion. Teens base their self-worth on the number of “likes” they receive for their most recent selfie…and so work to look “perfect in every way” before posting the “spontaneous” selfie. But, when it comes to creating long-term marital bliss humility is hot! A study published in 2015 explored the role of humility in relationships (Humility and Relationship Outcomes in Couples). They compared how a person perceived their partner’s humility to their relationship satisfaction and forgiveness. They also explored whether commitment played a role. They discovered that as one’s perception of their partner’s humility increased so did forgiveness and satisfaction in the relationship. In other words, a partner’s humility contributes to their partners sense of relational commitment, satisfaction, and willingness to forgive.
This begs the question…what exactly is humility and how do we increase it in our relationship? First, humility involves having an accurate view of ourselves. It means we recognize our strengths and our weaknesses. Second, humility involves having an “other-oriented” perspective rather than a selfish perspective. A humble person does not boast or act prideful. They also show a willingness to sacrifice self-gratification to meet their partner’s needs. They make self-promotion secondary to partner-promotion.
The question remains: how do we develop humility in our marriages? Based on the definition above, here are several ideas to get you started.
- Acknowledge your own strengths AND weaknesses. We all have them…so admit it. If you don’t know what they are, ask your spouse and maybe a few other people who love you and know you well. Put on a tough skin and listen carefully. Don’t think so highly of your strengths that you ignore your weaknesses; don’t obsess over your weaknesses so much you neglect your strengths. Acknowledge both.
- Put your spouse first. In communication your first goal is to understand your spouse because what they have to say is important. In living a healthy life your first goal is to assure your spouse has what they need to live healthy (opportunities for healthy food, rest, exercise). In entertainment your first goal is for your spouse, not yourself. In all areas, put your spouse and their needs first. You can still take care of yourself. After all, your spouse needs a healthy partner. So by all means, take care of yourself because your spouse is of utmost importance and they need a healthy partner.
- Accept your spouse’s influence in your life. Let their needs and vulnerabilities, fears and joys influence your decisions, your words, and your actions. Allow their requests to influence your behavior and daily chores. Allowing your spouse to influence your words and deeds is an amazing expression of humble love.
- Admit your mistakes and ask for forgiveness when necessary. We all make mistakes. A humble person acknowledges their mistakes and seeks forgiveness. They apologize for their wrong doings, even when those wrong doings are unintentional.
- Offer forgiveness. A humble person is gracious in offering forgiveness. They do not demand undue retribution. They recognize that all of us (including me) have “fallen short” and made mistakes. As a result, they do not hold a grudge. They accept the other person’s apology and seek to restore the relationship.
One last thing to remember. Beauty fades over time. Skin sags, body shapes change. But, humility grow and flourishes over time. Outward beauty is hot for the moment, but humility…now that’s hot for a lifetime!