Tag Archive for admiration

Put on Your C.A.P.P. to Build Trust in Marriage (or, Kindness in the Prison of Mistrust)

I recently asked a couple what daily acts of kindness they could share with one another. Sadly, they could not think of any. After a few minutes of silent thought, one of them said, “It’s hard to think of kind things to do when you don’t trust the other person.”

That is sad, but true.  A lack of trust in our spouse locks our marriage in a prison of insecurities. It binds us behind bars of despair and shackles us with the fear that our vulnerable offers of kindness will be rejected or, worse, used to manipulate us.

Lack of trust also blinds us to any kind acts our spouse does share. It causes us to misperceive those acts of kindness as an attempt to exploit us.

If you find your marriage in a prison of mistrust, how can you begin to build trust? Try the CAPP method.

  • Commit to building trust in your relationship. Trust grows through small daily moments of connection with your spouse. Commit to looking for and initiating those moments. Trust grows when we follow through on our word so commit to following through.  Show yourself
    trustworthy in making daily connections and in keeping your word.
  • Admire and appreciate your spouse. Resentment or anger may have blinded you to those things you admire in your spouse. In this case, you will need to expand your view of your spouse beyond your resentment by intentionally looking for those things you can admire and appreciate in them. A lack of trust may also keep you from voicing what you appreciate. It will demand courage to risk voicing your admiration and appreciation. Commit to diligently searching for those things you truly admire and appreciate about your spouse. Every day, courageously express genuine admiration and appreciation to them.
  • Practice small positive moments. We already noted that trust is built on small, daily moments of connection. Practice making those connections. Practice doing kind things for your spouse—things like washing their dish, getting them a drink, offering a compliment, opening a door. Practice noticing when your spouse does a kind deed for you and practice thanking them for that kindness.
  • Prove your devotion. Let your spouse know you “got their back.” Don’t laugh at your spouse’s expense. Encourage them instead.  Take your spouse’s side. Even if you disagree, don’t disagree in public. Instead, talk in private and search for an intent or motive with which you do agree. Start with the agreement. You and your spouse are a team. Don’t let anyone or anything come between you. Prove your devotion.

These four actions will begin to build trust as you practice them over time. As trust grows, kindness will become easier to share. As kindness to shared more often, trust will grow. (For more on building trust read Building Trust in Family Relationships.)

Top 5 Ways to Know Your Partner Feels Unappreciated

Number 5: You notice your partner leaving things they usually do undone. Yes, this is a little passive aggressive. But it sends a message loud and clear. “I’m tired of being unappreciated for all I do around here…so I’m just not doing it anymore.”

Number 4: Your spouse withdraws into a quiet shell. Sometimes a person will become quiet and sullen when they feel unappreciated. They look angry or unhappy in their quietness around you but perk up around others. If you see that, maybe you’re seeing a spouse that feels unappreciated.

Number 3: Your spouse begins to sound like a martyr. When your partner begins to act and talk like they are the martyr or say things about feeling taken advantage of, you may be living with a spouse that feels unappreciated.

Number 2: Your partner begins to complain. “Do I have to do everything around here?”  “Can’t you help out a little? I’m tired of doing everything.” “Why do you just sit around while I do all the work?” If you are hearing statements like this, your spouse likely feels unappreciated. (And, you may show your appreciation by helping “around here.”)

Number 1: Your spouse tells you directly. They may say it kindly. “I’m feeling a little underappreciated, honey?” Or they may say it in anger. “You don’t appreciate anything I do around here.” Either way, the easiest way to know your spouse feels unappreciated is when they tell you so.

More importantly, what can you do about this? The answer is simple. Begin appreciating your spouse. Look for opportunities to thank your spouse for things they do for you, your family, and your home. When you see something they have done, thank them. Don’t just smile or acknowledge what they’ve done in your head. Verbally tell them, “Thank you.”

Don’t stop there. Don’t just respond to things they do. Respond to who they are. Voice your admiration and adoration for them. Acknowledge their beauty, their hard work, their kindness, their wisdom. Whatever you admire and adore in your partner, let them know. (Here are 6 great things you can say to show appreciation to your spouse.)

Finally, get involved. Help around the house. Serve your family. Ask how you can help…then do it. Nothing makes a person feel more appreciated than a partner who is actively involved in working together.

Taming the Dragon in Your Marriage…Together

There is a dragon in your house. He rests right between you and your spouse. Don’t worry. It’s not a bad thing. He’s perfectly safe and can even protect your marriage. This dragon has rested between spouses since the beginning of time. Couples used to honor their dragon. They believed love could not live unless their dragon protected it. It was a badge of honor for a married couple to tame the dragon and keep him healthy in the home they built together. Scripture even tells us God owns this pet dragon. It was not until the 19th century that this dragon fell out of vogue. People began to fear it. They began to believe this dragon represented danger to the subdued, secretive emotional life of the family. What if the dragon wasn’t so tame? What if it suddenly went wild, triggered by some threat? After all, there had been incidents in which the docile dragon suddenly went wild, dangerously thrashing about in an uncontrolled fit of anger. Still, these incidents only occurred when something or someone threatened the dragon’s owners or if the owners did not protect the dragon’s sense of safety and security. If the couple cares for the dragon’s home, assuring his sense of security, he remains perfectly safe to have in the house.

This dragon’s name is Jealousy. Jealousy exists when we have a special relationship with someone. He reveals the priority we place on commitment, honesty, and security within our most intimate relationship. In that sense, jealousy remains a sleeping dragon until we experience some threat to our relationship. Something that arouses doubt in our partner’s commitment or honesty or threatens our sense of security in the relationship can make the dragon go wild. At that point, jealousy can feel uncontrollable and inescapable. It can even be tyrannical. “Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy” made insecure (Proverbs 27:4). Here’s the thing. Jealousy resides in all our homes. The question becomes: how do we tame jealousy in marriage?  Jealousy remains tame when living in an environment in which he feels safe and secure. So, create an environment of security by doing the following.

  • Learn about your own insecurities. Each of us has our own insecurities that we can cast onto the relationship from time to time. If we view ourselves as unlovable, too fat, not smart enough, not good enough or some other negative epitaph, we are setting the stage for jealousy to go wild. Begin to work on yourself. Unload your own baggage.  Learn to see yourself through the eyes of God. Learn to accept yourself as having many good, lovable traits. Accept that there are areas of growth for all of us and then begin to grow.
  • Build an environment of trust. Follow through on promises. Develop a mindset that seeks to honor your spouse. Focus on and admire those qualities that endear you to your spouse. Verbalize your admiration and gratitude often.
  • Celebrate your love. Create a daily ritual in which you sit down with your spouse to share your daily joys, successes, sorrows, and shortcomings.  Create a weekly ritual in which you share a date with your spouse. You can go out or can stay in for this date. Either way, dedicate the time of the date to your spouse—no cell-phone, no interruptions…just you and your spouse.

These three practices will help you tame the dragon together…and enjoy your love.

One Key Factor Promotes Lasting Relationships

One key factor promotes lasting relationships. What? At first I was surprised then curious…so I read on. They key factor promoting lasting relationships was confirmed by a team of researchers from the University of British Columbia. They had analyzed the data on “thousands of couples” involved in two large British surveys and the Gallup World Poll.  After accounting the couples’ ages, gender, income, and health conditions, they “found” one key factor promoted lasting happiness marriages and relationships. One key factor! Specifically, happiest couples all said their significant other was their closest friend. In other words, having a deep friendship with your spouse increased happiness and life satisfaction (Read Science says lasting relationships rely on a key factor for more).

Other researchers have confirmed this finding. In particular, Dr. Gottman noted that the “determining factor in whether wives and husbands feel satisfied with sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is, by 70%, the quality of the couple’s friendship!” That’s right, friendship in marriage even improves sex life! (Read Improve Your Sex Life…BEFORE You Hit the Sheets) Gottman even identifies the building blocks of friendship in marriage: building love maps, sharing fondness and admiration, and turning toward one another to work as a team. So, if you want your spouse as a best friend and if you want happiness in a lasting marriage…

  1. Enhance your love maps. A love map contains all the relevant information about our partner’s lives, from birthdays and anniversaries to greatest fears and dreams. It represents what we know about our spouse’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual life. Of course, love maps needs constant updating as the experiences and feelings that make up our maps change as we go through life. So take time to talk with your spouse every day. Find out about their day, their challenges, their joys, their sorrows. Learn about them. If you’re stuck on how to do this, try the “20 question game” in this short article on love maps.
  2. Sharing fondness and admiration builds friendship as well. Sharing fondness and admiration is a habit of mind in which a person identifies and verbalizes appreciation for their spouse on a daily basis. This may be as simple as saying “thank you” for what your spouse did during the day or as intimate as noting character traits that you admire in your spouse. You can make fondness and admiration a part of your marriage with a simple math equation (Don’t worry, it’s not new math!).
  3. Turning toward your spouse rather than away involves responding positively to their requests for attention, affirmation, affection, or connection. Of course friendship grows when spouses respond to one another’s bids for connection on a regular basis rather than turning away. Gottman actually found that couples who turned toward one another 86% of the time remained married after a six year period whereas couples who divorced in that time period only turned toward one another 33% of the time. Responding to our spouse’s builds friendship. Turning away because of preoccupation, lack of concern, or just putting our energy elsewhere destroys friendship (Read RSVP for Intimacy in Your Family for more info on turning toward).

The one key factor in a happy, lasting marriage is friendship. If you want a happy, lasting marriage, keep nurturing the friendship you have with your spouse. Build that friendship by enhancing your love maps, sharing fondness and admiration, and turning toward one another every day…starting today!

A Provocative Secret for a More Satisfying Sex Life

I am amazed at society’s obsessive search for a satisfying sex life. Well…I’m not surprised people want a great sex life; but I am surprised about the focus of that search for a great sex life. The main thrust of society’s search for a satisfying sex life remains focused on the physical aspects of sex—the technique, physical prowess, and self-awareness. Sure, these can help, but without a firm foundation to build upon, these superficial answers merely build a house of cards on shifting sand.  In reality, research suggests a satisfying sex life is stimulated by aspects much deeper than physical prowess, techniques, or ability. The most satisfying sex life erupts from an intimate, emotional connection between two people committed to one another. In fact, a study out of George Mason University revealed that the more spouses appreciate each other’s strengths, the more satisfied they were with their relationship overall and their sex life in particular. They were also more committed and invested in their relationship. They experienced greater intimacy. Even more alluring, valuing a spouse’s strengths led the appreciated spouse to experience a greater sense of personal growth. Let me summarize these exciting results in a format that might more readily stimulate your appreciation of their implications. Appreciating your spouse’s strengths:

  1. Leads to a more satisfying relationship overall,
  2. Greater intimacy in general,
  3. A greater commitment to and investment in the relationship,
  4. A spouse who experiences the joy of personal growth, and yes,
  5. A more satisfying sex life!

Hopefully, the provocative findings of this study arouse your latent desire to acknowledge and admire your spouse’s strengths. By doing so, you lay a firm foundation of intimacy and appreciation that will stimulate your sex life to blossom into a satisfying experience.

A Math Equation to Save Your Marriage (& it’s not new math!)

I have a friend who loves math. Me? …Not so much. But, I love this equation. It is practical and user friendly. Anyone can do it and the results are amazing.

Here it is: 10 X 32 + 1 = A More Intimate Marriage!

This formula will do wonders for your marriage. Let me explain each part.

  1. Take 10 seconds
  2. 3 times a day (set an alarm on your phone as a reminder)
  3. Each time write 3 positive things you admire about your spouse
  4. At the end of the day, tell your spouse 1 of the things you wrote.

That’s it, the equation I love: 10 (seconds) X 32 (3 times/day X 3 positive things you admire) + 1 (admiration to tell your spouse).

By practicing this equation, you will keep positive thoughts about your spouse in mind throughout the day. By sharing your thought at the end of the day, you encourage your spouse. You also let your spouse know you admire them; and, you develop a habit of mind that will strengthen your marriage. Overall, you will find yourself in a marriage growing more intimate every day. Now that’s an equation I can love!

Are You Naked and Unafraid?

Healthy marriages provide an opportunity for us to return to the Garden of Eden and stand like Adam and Eve: naked and unafraid. I don’t mean just physically naked. I mean completely open and exposed to our partner—emotional, spiritually, and mentally naked before our partner and still unafraid. That is a vulnerable position; but, in a completely healthy marriage, we can stand before one another in this vulnerable open state and remain completely unafraid. This type of open relationship begins with a very important ingredient: RADICAL ACCEPTANCE. Radical acceptance stands in direct opposition to conditional acceptance. Radical acceptance communicates a complete willingness to love our spouse no matter what. Imagine with me what can happen if we add just a small condition to our willingness to accept our spouse.

  1. This one condition raises doubt in our spouse’s mind. They will no longer feel completely safe to tell all and show all. A little bit of fear will enter the relationship—the fear that “I might do something to make my spouse love me less or even reject me.”
  2. Your spouse will no longer feel completely secure in their relationship to you. Feelings of insecurity will arise.
  3. Rather than risk rejection, your spouse will hide perceived faults and mistakes from you. After all, they don’t want to risk falling short of the conditions for acceptance. It becomes safer to keep faults and shortcomings secret.
  4. That secret grows into a wall of secrecy. The only way your spouse can keep you from discovering their faults is to create a wall of secrecy to hide behind. You will no longer get to see your spouse completely. You will see and experience only those parts they feel safe exposing.
  5. Your spouse will guard their heart. They will keep certain parts of themselves guarded, protected from possible rejection. There will be no full disclosure.
  6. You will sense this change. Trust will decrease. Your spouse’s trust will decrease for fear of rejection. Your trust will decrease due to suspicions of some secrets.

The only way to remedy this downward spiral is RADICAL ACCEPTANCE. Radical acceptance accepts our spouse warts and all. Radical acceptance continues to love in spite of mistakes. Radical acceptance loves in the face of shortcomings. And, radical acceptance opens the door for change. You and your spouse can invest more energy in growing and becoming better people when you no longer have to invest energy in building a wall of secrecy and guarding your heart. You and your spouse will also desire to spend more energy in pleasing one another when you know you will receive radical acceptance…even when you make a mistake. How can you practice radical acceptance?

  • See your spouse through the eyes of God. Realize they are God’s workmanship, designed for His purpose. Any non-acceptance of your spouse is a non-acceptance of God and His work of art. Focus on your spouse’s God-given strengths and abilities.
  • Keep open lines of communication. Speak the truth in love. When must deal with difficult issues (and you will), do so in love. Speak only about one concern at a time rather than generalizing and throwing in the kitchen sink. This will be easier to do when you resolve differences quickly and keep no record of wrongs. Share the concern without accusation and offer a way to resolve it as well.
  • Focus on what you admire about your spouse. Admire and bless. Show gratitude and speak words of encouragement…every day!

Radical acceptance is a gift of grace we give our spouses and our spouses give to us.  Radical acceptance is also a gift that keeps on giving. It gives a tremendous return of security, trust, and intimacy…the chance to stand before our spouse completely naked and completely unafraid!

Strengthen Your Marriage…Old School

Sometimes the best way to get something done is to go “old school on it.”  Throw out the newfangled gadgets and just go old school. Drop the gizmos, the 140 letter limit, the memes, and the gif’s…just go old school. In fact, I think going old school could really strengthen your marriage. For instance, go old school and write your spouse a hand-written love letter.  I know you could just send a text. But, a text is so short…and easy. It doesn’t send the send as meaningful of a message as a hand-written letter. A hand-written letter involves effort. You have to get the paper or pick out the perfect card. You have to spend the time to put pen to paper and write out your thoughts. Since it’s handwritten, you can’t rely on spellcheck to correct mistakes or edit mistakes with the simple tap of a back key. No, you have to think, write slowly and mindfully, and possibly even rewrite to refine your expression of emotion…to make it sound just right, the perfect confession of your love. Then you have to find an envelope and address it. You even have to put a stamp on it (yes, the post office still produces stamps). Then you have to walk it to the mail box and drop it in the mail. It takes time. But, doesn’t the investment of time better express the love you feel for your spouse?

Imagine your partner’s curiosity when she receives an envelope with a hand-written address on it. As she open it, the seed of curiosity sprouts into anticipation. Anticipation grows a bud of wonder as she sees a hand-written letter inside. Wonder blooms into joy and love as she reads a letter in your hand-writing that describes your undying love for her. Gratitude swells in her heart. “Awww…he’s so sweet.” The words slip from her lips as she holds the letter close to her chest and considers where she will keep it for all posterity (which you can’t do with a text, btw). You might even find a hug and your favorite dish waiting for you later that day.

There you have it. Intimacy nurtured and marital bliss enhanced…all because of the time and effort invested in a simple, old school, hand-written love letter. I have to say, that’s definitely a bigger bang than you can get for any 140-character text you might send!

PS—Of course the love letter can strengthen your marriage; but, did you know it could also help lower your cholesterol? That’s right. A study published in 2007 found that expressing affection for your loved ones in writing actually contributes to a decrease in cholesterol levels. In this study, participants wrote for 20 minutes on three occasions over a five week period to express affection and gratitude for their loved ones.  The results: participants experienced a “statistically significant decrease in cholesterol levels” after only a five-week experience! Hand-writing a love letter will not only increase the love and intimacy in your marriage, but it may also improve your health so you can enjoy that intimate marriage even longer!

Improve Your Sex Life…BEFORE You Hit the Sheets

Kevin Leman published a book entitled Sex Begins in the Kitchen. (Read the review here.) It’s not really a book about sex. But, it does make an important point about sex—if you want to enjoy sexual intimacy with your spouse, start preparing outside the bedroom. I mean way outside the bedroom. In fact, the most enjoyable and satisfying sex life is firmly established on factors that, on first glance, seem totally unrelated to sex and the bedroom. Let me give a few examples.African American Couple Laughing On The Floor

  1. A satisfying sex life is premised on responsiveness to your spouse’s needs and requests OUTSIDE the bedroom. This responsiveness will result in you serving your spouse. Taking out the garbage, washing the dishes, running the vacuum, and even cleaning the toilet become ways to respond to your spouse’s need for help and cleanliness. Responsiveness will also lead you to honor your spouse and her need for a break, his need to develop friendships, or her need to go out “with the girls.” You can learn more about the impact of this type of responsiveness on the quality of your intimacy by reading Increase Your Spouse’s Sexual Desire.
  2. A high quality sex life is built upon communicating admiration and fondness for your spouse on a daily basis. You don’t have to plan some extravagant show of admiration, just simple statements like “you look nice,” “thanks for dinner…you’re a great cook,” “you do a nice job on the yard,” or “thank you, I like working by your side” show fondness and admiration. Simple shows of affection (like a hug, holding hands, or a kiss with no expectation of anything more) are nonverbal ways to show admiration for your spouse. These simple shows of fondness and admiration communicate love. They build trust. They let our spouse know we desire him or her. They create an atmosphere conducive to intimate sharing and abandoned trust.
  3. An intimate sex life is enjoyed when we learn to accept invitations from our spouse to connect throughout the day. We offer up invitations of connection all the time. Some invitations are explicit; others are implicit. Questions like “Want to go for a walk” or “can we talk” are explicit, direct invitations to connect. But the day is filled with indirect, implicit invitations as well…like, “nice day, isn’t it?” or a gentle touch on the shoulder, a smile, or a sigh. Each of these statements, questions, or actions invite us to connect with our spouse. Each time we respond with genuine interest we stoke the fires of intimacy and open the doors for deeper relationships.
  4. Take #3 a step further by connecting emotionally to really boost your sex life. We all want to “feel” understood. We want to be known at the deepest level, to be heard in the silence of our hearts. When we acknowledge our spouse’s emotions and let their emotions impact us, we connect more deeply. When we respond to our spouses based on their emotions they feel heard, valued, connected. Sharing emotional connection builds an intimacy outside the bedroom that carries over into the bedroom.

At first glance, these four factors may not seem directly related to our sex life. But, our sex life is built upon and premised on our daily words, actions, and interactions. It is an outgrowth of our intentional responsiveness, communications of admiration, and connections throughout the day.

Are You a Straight “A” Family?

Do you want to have a family filled with celebration and joyful intimacy? Start by becoming a straight “A” family. I’m not talking about grades. I’m talking about attitude. A truly happy

high school graduates tossing up hats over blue sky.

and healthy family exhibits four “A’s” in their attitude: Acceptance, Admiration, Appreciation, and Accountability. Don’t jump to any conclusions about your standing in these four “A’s.”  Instead, take a moment to review the brief questions below to think about each of “A” and your family standing in relation to each one. You might find your family strong in each area. You might also find various areas where you would like to grow (I know I did).

Acceptance:

  • Do you accept each other’s different taste in music, food, clothing, TV shows, etc.?
  • Do you take the time to learn about your spouse’s/children’s/parents’ interests, even if they are different than your own?
  • Do you allow your five-year-old to leave home after dressing themselves in non-matching clothes or do you have to re-dress them? How about allowing your teen to get the haircut or hair color they desire?
  • How do you let your spouse/children know you love them when you are angry or disappointed with their behavior or decision?
  • Do you avoid comparisons?

Admiration:

  • Name three things you admire about each of your parents.
  • Name three things you admire about your spouse.
  • Name three things you admire about each of your siblings.
  • What attribute have you most recently admired in your spouse/children/parent?
  • When did you last tell your spouse/children one thing you admire about them—today, yesterday, last week, last month? If it was last week or longer, better do it again.

Appreciation:

  • How often do you say “thank you” when you ask your spouse or children to do something?
  • How do you mark the milestones and achievements of your spouse and children?
  • How do you acknowledge the strengths of your spouse/children?
  • Write down three different ways you can communicate appreciation to each family member?

Accountability:

  • How did you teach your children to do their currently assigned chores?
  • Do you practice the behaviors and values you want your family to emulate in areas of anger management, accepting responsibility for mistakes, apologizing, forgiving, politeness, etc.?
  • Name two consequences you have used in the last month with your children. How did these consequences specifically teach the values you want to pass on to your family?

I see some areas of personal need as I write these questions. Although I’m not too upset (after all, family is a place of constant growth), I better get to work in order to improve. That will set a good example of accountability for my family as well. I also see areas in which I believe I do fairly well. How about you?

« Older Entries