Archive for Honor

Marriage Advice from Couples Married 40+ Years

Maintaining a healthy, happy marriage can prove challenging in a world focused on self, personal career, instant gratification, and “me.” It actually requires a shift in focus. This begs the question: what is the “secret” of a healthy, happy marriage? That’s what researchers asked 180 couples who had enjoyed a healthy, 40-plus year marriage. Here are the top four answers given…well, actually six with two ties.

  • Tied for the fourth most common answer is compromise and love. Compromise is that “give and take” of a marriage. One person can’t always receive while the other gives. Happy marriages focus on compromise, developing a solution that satisfies “us” instead of “me.” Compromise flows when both partners are more interested in their relational health and their partner’s happiness and well-being than they are about their own wants and desires. Love speaks to the need for each partner to feel valued, respected, and cared for. It involves knowing that your partner cares more deeply and will compromise to promote your happiness. A partner knows their spouse loves them because their spouse turns to them first when celebrating a success of any kind and when mourning a loss of any kind. Love seeks out the one they love first.
  • Number three brings in another tie between communication and shared values. It is not surprising that these two go together. Two people enter a marriage with their own values and learn to negotiate shared values from there. This demands communication, lots of healthy communication (and compromise as noted in #4). Couples forge their shared values through living together, talking together, and talking some more. This level of communication demands that we value the other person enough to believe they have a legitimate point of view, a point of view as worthy as our own and a point of view worthy of deep consideration. With this attitude and with lots of communication, a couple develops a shared sense of values that holds them close to one another.
  • The number two secret of a healthy marriage is practicing unselfish, even sacrificial, giving toward our spouse. This flies in the face of the hyper-individualized society in which we live. An unselfish spouse considers their partner as “more important than themselves.” They do not merely look out for their own personal interests but also for the interests of their spouse” (Philippians 2:3). In seeking to meet the needs of their partner, an unselfish spouse willingly makes sacrifices. Such sacrifices are a lost art today, but an essential ingredient in a long-term, healthy marriage according to those married for 40-plus years.
  • And the number one secret of a healthy marriage? Commitment. Commitment remains essential for a long-term, healthy marriage. Every marriage will experience good times and hard times. Affection and attraction may wax and wane, as will your sense of emotional closeness. However, the commitment to “stay the course,” to “take the long view” and “hold on,” contributes to the rekindling of affection, the deepening of trust and, as a result, intimacy, and a maturing of attraction. Commitment is the glue that keeps all these ingredients in play and growing over time.

There you have it, ingredients for a long-term, healthy, and happy marriage straight from the mouths of those who have over 40-years of healthy marriage. Which ones do you need to improve in your marriage?

Social Media and a Better Body Image

Body image is a growing issue among young women, women like our daughters and our wives. However, a study from York University’s faculty of health showed a way to help improve body image. This study involved freshman college women (first year undergraduates) who were divided into two groups. One group continued to use social media as they always did. The other group took a “one-week vacation” from all social media apps including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and others. The study began with surveys assessing the baseline of self-esteem and body image. The participants completed these surveys again after the on-week intervention.

The results? The young women who took a one-week vacation from social media use exhibited an increase in positive self-esteem and body satisfaction. The increase in positive self-esteem included all areas of self-esteem assessed, including performance, appearance, and social effectiveness. Additionally, those who exhibited the greatest improvement in self-esteem and body satisfaction were the most vulnerable, those most focused on a “thin ideal.”

Why does taking “a week off” social media contribute to an increase in positive self-esteem and body satisfaction? Good question. First, a week off social media means spending less time making comparisons to others. It limits the fear-of-missing-out that grows out of those comparisons. It also means less time viewing filtered images of other people’s bodies. Secondly, less time on social media may mean spending more time socializing face-to-face, sleeping, getting outdoors, getting exercise, or some other healthier activity. In other words, the time spent on social media may get replaced with healthier activities.

What does all this mean for you and your family? That’s the important question for me. If you, or someone in your family, struggle with body image and self-esteem, you might try taking a week off of social media. Maybe you can even take a week off of social media as a family. You might replace the time spent on social media sits with family time playing games, getting outdoors, interacting with actual eye contact. All these activities will contribute to greater family joy and intimacy. I’m checking my summer now so I can include a one-week social media vacation for my family. When will you schedule your family social media vacation?

What Makes a Marriage Healthy?

What makes for a happy marriage? That’s a good question. Many times, I meet couples in which one person thinks the relationship is fine while the other person is ready to end the relationship and leave. One seems happy and completely unaware that their partner is not happy. In our individual-focused culture, you can see how this might happen. One person’s needs are being met and, for them, that’s what marriage is about–their happiness. They enjoy their happiness, focus on their happiness, and never look deeply at their spouse’s happiness. They may even provide their spouse what would they think would make them happy. They provide financial security when their spouse desires quality time sharing important conversation and emotions with one another. They provide service, cleaning the home and doing tasks around the house, when their spouse desires physical affection. But, focused on “my” idea of happiness and “my” own sense of happiness, they miss their spouse’s need for something different.

Overall, individual happiness is not a great indicator of a healthy marriage because a healthy marriage involves two people in relationship. A healthy marriage is about “relational-connectivity”–behaviors and beliefs that focus relationship not individuality. What does that entail? Here are three factors involved in relational-connectivity.

  • Commitment. In healthy marriages, both spouses have a high sense of commitment. They maintain a long-term view of the relationship and nurture the permanence of the relationship. As a result, they turn toward their spouse for emotional support, mental stimulation, and physical affection. They turn to their spouse to celebrate positive happenings in their life and to express sorrow over hardships. They nurture this commitment by:
    • Dreaming about the future together. This may include supporting one another’s dreams as well as developing dreams as a couple.
    • Making future plans together. This may include something as simple as making weekend plans together. It may also include planning yearly vacations and getaways. In addition, it may include planning the trip of your dreams or planning a trip for your anniversary…or planning a trip “just because.”
    • Turning away from other options for intimacy and emotional support and seeking that support only from your spouse.
    • Prioritizing their marriage. We tend to focus on and nurture those things to which we are most committed. We nurture our marriage with kindness, affection, and time when we prioritize it.
  • Practice Being Other-centered. The spouse of a selfish person finds it more difficult to stay in a long-term relationship. On the other hand, having an “other-centered” perspective allows one to see their spouse and their needs as well as respond to meet those needs. An other-centered spouse nurtures their marriage with:
    • Acts of kindness for their spouse.
    • Knowing and “learning to speak” their spouse’s love language.
    • Engaging in behaviors they know brings their spouse joy.
    • Serving their spouse.
    • Making sacrifices, large and small, for their spouse.
  • Compassion. A compassionate spouse is there when their spouse needs them. They recognize times in which their spouse needs extra time, extra rest, or extra affection…and they provide it. A compassionate spouse is also ready to forgive. Ironically, a compassionate spouse is also ready to apologize when they see they’ve hurt their spouse. And they are ready to “bear the fruit” of that apology, to make the necessary change.

Our culture tends to be very individualistic, and this focus on the individual presents a danger for a healthy marriage. A healthy marriage is countercultural. It is relationally focused. It is “other-centered,” committed to relationship, and compassionate.  Open your eyes and become aware of your spouse. Prioritize your marriage. Commit to your marriage. You and your spouse will both be glad you did.

Give a Shout Out for Marriage

Marriage gets a bad rap at times. For instance, reality TV and sitcoms offer a very strange and twisted idea of romantic relationships. Many give marriage gets a bad rap. But marriage is great, even fantastic. I realize that some people fear marriage because they have witnessed marriages that have ended in divorce. However, the divorce rate has gone down. And, when both people in a marriage invest some energy, time, and attention to their marriage, marriage is great. In fact, nothing predicts happiness in America like a good marriage. Neither education, work, money, or sex predict happiness as well as a good marriage. Studies suggest that a good marriage are a “whopping” 545% more likely to be very happy than those who are unmarried or in a poor marriage. That’s a lot of happiness.

In addition, those who are happily married have about 10 times more assets at the age of 50 than their unmarried peers. And it’s more than money. Married people report a greater sense of meaning in life and significantly less loneliness. Might I humbly add, regular date nights with a spouse are also associated with even greater happiness, greater frequency of sex, and greater sexual satisfaction. In fact, happily married couples report the greatest sexual satisfaction.

All in all, a happy marriage improves our lives. That being said, marry wisely and invest in your marriage because an unhappy marriage robs us of everything a happy marriage provides. What do you need to invest in your marriage to keep it thriving and happy so you and your spouse can reap the benefits?

  • Invest time. Spend time with our spouse every day. Talk about your day. Talk about your dreams. Sit together and read. Walk quietly holding hands. Do household chores together. Spend time with your spouse.
  • Invest your attention. Give your spouse your attention. You don’t have to give them attention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but give them attention every day. When your spouse approaches you, respond with your attention. I don’t mean fake attention or half-hearted attention. Invest your whole attention in your spouse when you interact.
  • Invest admiration. Admire your spouse every day. Compliment their appearance, their cleaning, their cooking, their work…. Acknowledge their kindness, their inner and outer beauty, their character. Don’t let a day go by without admiring your spouse.
  • Invest your service. Be an active member of the household. Assist with chores. Participate in family activities. Do something nice for your spouse once in a while, something unexpected and kind.  As a matter of fact, do something kind for your spouse often. For instance, you might serve breakfast in bed, give a back rub, bring home a gift, send a note of love, give a random hug.

As you can see from this short list, investment isn’t a burden. It’s a joy that results in greater intimacy and a happier marriage. And a happier marriage will change your life. It will improve everything from your physical health to your finances to your emotional health to your sexual satisfaction. Go ahead and invest. See if you don’t reap these amazing benefits. Then, like me, you’ll give a shout out for marriage.

5 Practices to Keep Your Marriage Thriving

It’s an older study now (2012) but insightful all the same. It offers five practices that can strengthen your marriage. If you want to build a strong, healthy marriage, make sure you keep these 5 practices in the forefront of your relationship.

  • Have fun together. Make sure you spend time playing together. Laugh together. Tell a joke or two. Laugh at silly cat videos together. Go on some adventures together, whether they be to a local amusement park, a concert, or a beach. Whatever way you choose (and I hope you choose several), have fun! Enjoy one another’s company.
  • Share household chores. Don’t expect your spouse to do all the work around the house. Make sure you participate in the tasks that keep the home running smoothly as well. You might even have some chores that you and your spouse do together. (Men, just so you know, some say that seeing you do household chores will be an aphrodisiac of some sort for your wife…go figure.)
  • Keep your social media accounts transparent. You can have separate accounts if you want, but make sure your spouse has full access to any account you have. Let your spouse know your passwords. Let them see your activity if and when they want to see it. This will prove beneficial to you in terms of accountability and in terms of trust within your relationship.
  • Share your feelings with your spouse. When we share our emotions with our spouses, we open ourselves up to be known by them, we reveal ourselves to them on a deeper level. We allow our spouse to learn about us—our priorities, values, goals, and passions.
  • Assure your spouse that you are committed to our relationship. By practicing the four actions above, you assure your spouse that you are committed to them and your marriage. You can also assure them of your commitment by talking about the future together. What would you like to do as a couple in the next five years? When your children “leave the nest”? Dream together and plan together. Then, have fun making those dreams come true.

These five practices will strengthen your marriage and keep it healthy for a lifetime. If I might, I would like to add one more practice. This one was not mentioned in the study cited above, but other studies have shown how this practice strengthens marriage. Pray for your spouse. Prayer has been shown to strengthen marriages in several ways. Take time each day to say a simple prayer for your spouse’s well-being. 

That’s six practices to strengthen your marriage. Start engaging in these practices today and enjoy a thriving marriage with your spouse for a lifetime.

Nurture Your Child’s “Why”

An old proverb tells us that “curiosity killed the cat.” Fortunately, our children are not cats because they ca ask “why” incessantly. But in actuality, curiosity helps children learn and grow, even survive. It contributes to more positive emotions and less anxiety. It leads to higher achievement as well as stronger, healthier relationships (see Six Surprising Benefits of Curiosity for more). With that in mind, I’d like to nurture my children’s curiosity but I’m curious as to how.  Scott Shigeoka has a suggestion. He suggests teaching our children (and ourselves) to DIVE.

Detach from the assumptions, biases, and certainties you might cling to. Challenge your assumptions with alternative explanations and possibilities. For instance, if your friend shows up late, detach from the assumption that they don’t care or don’t respect your time. Consider the possibility of traffic, a minor emergency, or a previous appoint going longer than expected. Then, when you see them, ask. In other words, don’t jump to conclusions or assume the worst. Don’t become rigid in your assumptions and thoughts. Challenge yourself to think the best of others. Examine your beliefs and thoughts to assure their accuracy and truth. Be curious.

Intend to practice curiosity. Be intentional in your practice of curiosity. Be deliberate. This will involve nurturing a mindset that purposefully practices curiosity.  Think about questions you might ask another person. Visualize how you might interact in a loving, curious manner. If you have a disagreement or conflict, intentionally begin to explore areas of agreement that might exist and how you might express curiosity about the other person’s point of view.

Value other people. We tend to become more curious about those things and people we value. It’s hard to show curiosity about those things we just don’t care about. So intentionally recognize the inherent dignity in people, including yourself. Acknowledge their inherent value. Recognize that people are complex being with families, joys, struggles, personalities, beliefs, likes, and dislikes…just like you. When you recognize another’s complexity and acknowledge their dignity and value, you can more easily choose to understand rather than judge and love rather than ignore.

Embrace your life, especially the hard times. Embracing the hard times reminds us to get curious about those things that arouse our fears, like changes and transitions that happen around us and in us throughout our lives. Too many times we shut down and dig in when changes occur. This can lead to defensiveness, fighting, or shutting down, all of which hinder our relationships. Embrace the change by getting curious about what it means, what possibilities it carries, what you can learn about yourself and others.

The best way to teach your children to DIVE into curiosity is to practice it yourself. DIVE in and begin to get curious. You will discover great benefits for you and your children, like greater connection, deeper intimacy, less anxiety, and more joy. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Go ahead. Get curious and find out if these results really happen.

What Mom Wants from Her Husband

I enjoy a good James Bond movie…or a Mission Impossible adventure. The heroes spark my imagination. They are strong, ingenious problem-solver, attractive to women. They live adventurous lives I only dream about. Surely the mother of my children (my wife) would like me, the father of her children, to have all those “great” qualities. We’d live an adventure-filled life of intrigue and passion. Who wouldn’t want that?

Well, according to a survey of 291 mothers, your wife, the mother of your children, would NOT want that! In fact, that is the type of person a mother wants least as their husband. Know what this survey suggests women want most in a husband and father to their children? A friend–somebody who shows a genuine interest in them and their children, somebody who exhibits kindness toward them and their children. Sounds kind of crazy but think about it.

This kind of husband will notice when his wife seems stressed or needs rest. And he’ll step in to help provide that needed comfort and rest. That’s what friends do. A husband who takes the role of “friend” seriously will take the time to listen, understand, and empathize with his wife rather than jumping in to “fix it.” He will also initiate conversations to learn about his wife’s day with all its joys and sorrows. Overall, he will take responsibility to nurture his relationship with his family (including his wife). That’s what friends do… all this and more.

John Gottman goes so far as to suggest friendship is the core of every healthy marriage. The friendship on which every healthy marriage stands is developed and nurtured through small, daily actions like:

  • Asking open-ended questions to learn about your wife and her life.
  • Developing the habit of responding to your wife with genuine interest and listening intently to her in conversation rather than giving half-hearted attention or faking attention.
  • Communicating appreciation, adoration, and gratitude for her every day.

…After all, that’s what friends do.

Your wife, the mother of your children, doesn’t need a sexy, strong, adventurous husband (although I’m sure you’re all those things). She needs a friend who cares enough and loves her enough to walk by her side and actively participate in family life with her. Will you invest the time and energy to develop that friendship with her? If you do, you’ll reap the amazing rewards of a joyful, healthy marriage.

Six Steps to Unhappiness (AND How to Avoid Them)

A recent study involving 1,230 people and several on-line surveys revealed six small steps that descend into “reduced life satisfaction” or unhappiness. I want to describe them to you so we can protect our families from that descent into “reduced life satisfaction.” The first step involves taking a materialistic approach to life, having a materialistic mindset. Unfortunately, our consumer-oriented society promotes a materialistic mindset. Advertisements encourage our desire for more things, new things, and improved things to keep up with the times.

That materialistic mindset promoted by a consumer-oriented society tempts us to compare ourselves with others. The stronger a person’s materialistic mindset, the greater their tendency to compare themselves with others. Our unconscious thoughts become “I need what makes them happy.” Unhealthy comparisons (are any comparisons healthy?) drive us to the second step on the descent into unhappiness.

Of course, an easy place to compare oneself to others is on social media, which leads to the third step toward unhappiness—passive use of social media. Scrolling through social media and passively looking at content posted by others provides the perfect environment for social comparisons. The scroller sees “all the things” others have that seemingly brings them happiness—material blessings as well as activities and interactions. Suddenly, I need those things to bring me happiness.

Passive scrolling pushes us down to the fourth step on our descent into unhappiness—addictive use of social media. The person begins to spend more time on social media and more time thinking about various social media platforms. With that, they quickly descend to the fifth step—increased stress. The fear of missing out grows. As we fear missing out on experiences and the objects/materials that “make” those experiences enjoyable, we find ourselves at the bottom of the stairs in the basement of unhappiness wondering how we got here.

None of us want to slide down these six steps. Nor do we want to find our spouse or children sliding down these steps. In fact, we would do well to block the stairs altogether so that no one in the family begins the descent into long-term unhappiness. With that in mind, here are five actions you can take to keep your whole family off the stairs to unhappiness.

  • Practice daily gratitude. I know it sounds almost cliché, but we live happier lives when we practice gratitude. Make it a point to look for opportunities to express gratitude to the people in your family, your neighbors, the cashier, the waiter…to everyone you can. A disciplined practice of gratitude will also replace complaints with gratitude. Rather than complain about traffic, express gratitude that you have a mode of transportation. Rather than complaining about the heat, give thanks for cold showers and air conditioning.
  • Focus on experiences rather than material things. Material things begin to weigh on us over time. They accumulate, cluttering space and demanding time for upkeep and cleaning. Experiences, however, allow us the joy of sharing with others, memories of times together, and often result in a sense of awe that inspires greater joy.
  • Focus on relationships rather than material things. We are a social people. It’s wired into our DNA, our essence. Even introverts enjoy time with other people. Whether you enjoy time with just a few people or with whole parties of people, our relationship remains crucial to our mental and emotional health. Studies reveal that those who nurture healthy relationships live longer and healthier. They bring us greater joy. We need relationships.
  • Learn contentment. Our society confronts us with a “paradox of choice” that threatens to leave us with a constant sense of dissatisfaction. We have so many options that we fear we may have chosen poorly, if the one I didn’t get would have been better. If we’re not careful, these choices will rob us of contentment. We have to make a decision to accept what we have, to feel gratitude for what we have. Sharing what we have with others may also increase contentment. Accept what we have. Express gratitude for what we have. Share what we have. It all combines to bring us contentment.
  • Use social media in an active manner rather than a passive manner. There is a difference between mindlessly scrolling through social media platforms (passive use) and searching for information or maintaining contact with friends and family (active use). Passive use will lead us into mindless scrolling for hours, leaving us with a sense of dissatisfaction and sadness in response to time lost, comparisons mindlessly made, and a desire for more. Active use helps us acquire useful information and to maintain social contacts, both of which can bring greater joy. Use caution though because active use can easily slip into passive use before we know it. Be as wise in your consumption of social media as you are in consumption of food. Consume a healthy diet of active use.

These five action steps demand intention and awareness, but they will keep you and your family off the six steps to unhappiness. They will keep you on the path of contentment, joy, and growing intimacy within your family.

I Can’t Say “No,” What Will They Think?

Do you ever begin to feel overwhelmed with the busyness of your schedule? I know I do. In fact, right now I’m feeling a little overwhelmed trying to get everything done amidst the “one too many” commitments I’ve made. During those times, our families suffer. They suffer from our lack of availability and presence in their lives. We also suffer with our family by missing out on a growing sense of intimacy and closeness.

There is one thing you can do to help prevent this from happening. In fact, a well-delivered single word can help prevent the number of times you feel overwhelmed. This one word can help you maintain the time needed to love your family with your full presence—your physical, emotional, and mental presence. What is this powerful word? What word can allow you the time you need to care for yourself and love your family? “NO.” Yes, that’s right. “NO.” Yes, I know it’s hard to say “no” sometimes. We struggle to do so for at least two reasons.

One, we really want to do things. We want to help others. We want to enjoy various activities. We want to travel. We want…. But we can’t do it all. At some point we have to sit down and do the hard work of determining our priorities. We have to decide what is truly most important in our lives. Of course, family will like fall in the top two priorities on our values list (your relationship with God may fall higher) because our children’s future depends on our making them a priority, as does the happiness and longevity of our marriage. Really, our happiness hinges, in great part, on our family happiness. So, keep family within the top two spots of your priority list.

Two, we fear how other people will respond to our “no.” We fear the ramification of our “no” on our relationships. We fear our friends will be angry or disappointed if we say no. We assume they won’t understand and will quit inviting us because of the one time we said “no.” We fear the other person will feel rejected. However, studies suggest we “overestimate the social consequences of saying no.” In fact, other people (like our friends and family) often consider the thoughts we struggle with behind the “no.” You know… thoughts like “I would really like to go but I’m so busy” or “I already made another commitment and I just can’t back out” or “I would really like to do this, but I’m so exhausted I need to rest before I get sick.” In reality, our friends will understand our occasional “no’s” and respect the boundaries of healthy self-care and family care that we establish by saying “no.”  

Overall, a kind and polite “no” will nurture greater self-care, stronger family ties, and even a deeper understanding in friendship. So go ahead and say “no” when you’re feeling it. Friends will understand. Your family will rejoice to have you present with them. Everyone will benefit.

In the Shadow of the Cross

It’s Saturday, the day after Good Friday and the day before Resurrection Sunday. I’m left only with my thoughts as I sit in the silence between the pain of death and the hope of resurrection. I imagine the friends and family of Jesus sitting silently, hopelessly pondering a myriad of questions. What would happen next? Why did He die? What will become of us? Was it all a lie? I join them in confusion as I look at our world and wonder what the cross has to offer. In a world so distraught by greed and pride, conflict and war, what does the cross have to offer? Closer to home, what can our families and communities learn from the cross? Of course, we know the end of the story, so we know the resurrection brings life and hope. But what of today, the day before the resurrection? What do we learn in the silence?

We learn that the cross calls us to give ourselves up in humble submission to one another. Jesus “gave Himself up” for us in humble submission to His Father. For that very reason, He was “highly exalted” and given a “name above every name.” He returned to “the right hand” of His Father, “having become as much better than the angels.” Giving ourselves up in humble submission to one another opens the door to not only returning home but returning to a home filled with greater intimacy and joy. It opens the door to having a “greater reputation” as one who loves deeply enough to “give himself up” for the benefit of his family, his friends, and his community, as one who models true love for the whole family to emulate. Every family will benefit when they give themselves up in humble submission for the benefit of one another.

We learn that the cross points us toward reconciliation. We all make mistakes. We will offend one another, both unintentionally and intentionally. We will say the wrong thing. We will renege on our promises. We will neglect to speak or act in love. How can a marriage, a parent-child relationship, or a friendship continue in light of such offense? There is only one way: by offering forgiveness and so opening the door to reconciliation. Ironically, in following the model of the cross, the offended one, the one who was wronged, will pay the price of that wrong in order to initiate forgiveness and open the door to reconciliation. The cross teaches us to forgive and even bear the burden of pain brought about by the other person’s offense in order to open the door of reconciliation. Take a moment to think about that. Imagine how that type of cross-based forgiveness will impact your family.

Not only does the cross point us to reconciliation, but it also convicts us of our shortcomings. After all, “it was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished….” The cross calls us to “speak the truth in our hearts,” confess our wrongs, and bear the fruit of that repentance. In light of the cross, we cannot hide from our responsibility. We must “speak the truth in our hearts” and acknowledge when we hurt our spouse or children or neighbor or friend. We must apologize and seek forgiveness. We must then “change our ways” and live a life that reveals the depth of our sincere apology. To whom do you need to apologize? Your spouse? Your children? Your parent? Don’t wait. Do it.

Giving ourselves up…forgiving one another to open the door of reconciliation…taking responsibility for our wrongs, apologizing, and living the “fruit of repentance… They’re all found in the shadow of the cross. They’re all necessary for a healthy family. Imagine how such actions would impact your family. Then commit to living out these practices starting today.

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