What does romance have to do with breast cancer? According to research published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, there is a definite relationship. Researchers from Ohio State University found a “clear trend” between romance and breast cancer after reviewing the data obtained through questionnaires and three separate blood samples taken from 139 women diagnosed with breast cancer. A “clear trend”? Yes. The more satisfied a woman felt about her romantic relationship, the lower her perceived stress and the lower her inflammation. Elevated levels of inflammation are associated with cancer recurrence and other illness such as arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. In fact, women’s inflammation markers were even lower at individual visits in which they reported satisfaction with their partner than during individual visits in which the same women reported less satisfaction. In other words, this research suggests a “clear trend” that a strong, healthy marriage reduces the chances of breast cancer recurrence and promotes positive overall health by reducing a woman’s perceived stress and inflammation markers in the blood.
Of course, this “clear trend” is not a cure-all. But it does provide us with important information. A healthy marriage can promote your spouse’s physical health. With that in mind, here are a dozen ways to build a healthy marriage, to keep your marriage strong and intimate.
Share time together. Intimacy and health within any relationship, especially marital relationships, are built upon time spent together.
Dream together. What do you want to do in five years? Ten years? What dreams do you want to fulfill with one another? For one another?
Express gratitude. Even if you think your spouse simply did what they are supposed to do, thank them anyway. Gratitude builds relationship.
Expand your “love maps” of one another. Learn about one another’s world of ideas, friends, and activities.
Express adoration and admiration for one another. Keep the adorable parts of your spouse in mind and make it a habit to compliment them often. (Here is an adoring Math Equation to Strengthen Your Marriage.)
The “stay-at-home” orders are slowly starting to shift as we move from “red” to “yellow” to “green.” Still, it remains challenging to eat out or go someplace for a date night. Even before the current crisis you may have felt the challenge of going out for a date night due to financial constraints. But, no fear. You can have a date night without even leaving home. In fact, you can have a date night in every room of your house. Here are a few date night ideas for each room.
The Dining Room Date. Of course, you could have a dinner date in the dining room. Make it interesting though. Have a candlelight dinner with romantic music playing. Order your food through DoorDash or UberEATS.
The Living Room or Family Room Date. Pull out the cards and board games to enjoy a game night date. Or, rent a movie and have a movie date night. Don’t forget the popcorn, chips, and drinks for game dates or movie dates.
The Kitchen Date. The kitchen date involves cooking together. Think about a food you have always wanted to try or a food you really liked when you ate it in a restaurant. It might be a main dish, a dessert, or an appetizer…or one of each. Look up the recipes and have a kitchen date making it. You can even find a cooking class with expert chefs on YouTube to enjoy as a cooking class date night.
The Bedroom Date. You can go all kinds of directions for the bedroom date. You could simply enjoy a breakfast-in-bed date. Or, you could enjoy a candlelight-romantic-massage date night. Or, do the breakfast-in-bed date in the morning and the candlelight-romantic-massage date at night. You can use your imagination for other bedroom date ideas.
The Back Porch. For the more casual date, enjoy an evening on the porch with a just hanging out date night. Simply sit together, cuddle up, and enjoy conversation remember fun times from the past and fun times you look forward to in the future.
The Yard Date. Pack a picnic and go into your back yard for a picnic date. Then, lay out the blanket and lay down to watch clouds go by. Or, do it later in the evening and stargaze. Listen the concert of birds and watch the firework of the stars with your spouse. It’s a nature’s concert date night.
If you want to have an even more unique date night, make it a progressive room date night. Order your favorite meal through DoorDash and then start your date in the kitchen while you wait for the food to arrive. In the kitchen, make your favorite appetizer or dessert together. When the food arrives, enjoy a candlelight dinner in the dining room that includes the appetizer you made. Then move to the family room for a movie. Afterward, enjoy your dessert in the living room. By this time, the sun will have set and the stars come out. Lay on your blanket in the back yard to enjoy God’s light show of stars for a time. Finally, end your date in the bedroom with a romantic massage.
What are your ideas for a date in every room of the house?
Passion and intimacy are important
aspects of a healthy marriage. One theorist even developed a “Triarchic
Theory of Love” that included passion, intimacy, and commitment. Like a
3-legged stool, this theory held that the seat of love rested on three
components: Commitment, Intimacy, & Passion. Missing one or two of these
components meant an unstable love. No one wants to sit on a 2-legged stool or, worse,
a 1-legged stool. We need a stable love with all three components on which to
rest. Of course, passion and intimacy
can wane, but commitment contributes to their waxing strong again. In fact, committing
to these six activities can help keep passion and intimacy alive and growing.
Keep on dating. Dating is the opportunity to give one another the kind of attention you shared in the early days of your relationship. It is an opportunity to give your undivided attention to your spouse for an extended period of time. With that in mind, you can have a “date” at home as well as in the community. Take time every week to put the kids to bed or get a babysitter and spend one-on-one quality time in which you give one another your undivided attention. Remember, you can Make Date Night Spectacular with just a few simple actions.
While we’re on the idea of full, undivided attention, unplug. When you go on a date, unplug. Schedule daily tech-free periods of time with one another, times in which you can be together with no interruptions from technology. Two excellent times to create “a couple’s tech-free time” include mealtimes and the last 15-30 minutes before going to bed.
Practice eye contact. I know it sounds gushy, but stare at one another with those high school googly eyes of love. When you talk, look one another in the eye. Notice the beauty of your spouse’s eyes. Let them know how much you admire their beauty. It may be somewhat uncomfortable at first but allow yourself to enjoy the connection of eye-to-eye contact.
Hide a love note…or five…or ten…. Write a few simple love notes to your spouse and hide them in their clothes, their lunch box, their car, under their pillow…whatever creative place you can imagine. The note doesn’t have to be extravagant. They can be as simple as “I love you,” “You’re beautiful,” or “Thanks for being mine.”
Put on some music and dance. You can dance in the kitchen, the living room, the dining room, the bedroom…wherever you want. Even if you don’t like dancing in public, a little private dancing can sure ignite your passion and intimacy as a couple.
Give a massage; receive a massage. Sharing massages is a great way to relax and share romance. You don’t need any special training. Just pay attention to your spouse and give them a massage. If you want some hints, consider these simple instructions from wikiHow.
Don’t let your spouse sit on an
unstable 2-legged stool. Commit to keeping keep the stool of love stable so you
can both rest comfortably and securely on your passionate, intimate, committed
Traditional marriage vows included the phrases “to have and to hold” and “to love and to cherish.” After reading the abstract and a short review of a study on cherishing, I think we need to add another phrase, “to have and to savor” (To Have and to Savor: Examining the Associations Between Savoring and Relationship Satisfaction). The authors of this study defined savoring as the “tendency to attend to and enjoy previous, current, and future positive events.” They also noted that savoring consisted of three facets: savoring in anticipation of an event (future), savoring in the present moment (present), and savoring in reminiscence of an event (past). Based on the results of this study of 122 undergraduate students in monogamous dating relationships, all three facets of savoring were associated with relationship satisfaction. Anticipatory savoring, however, had the strongest association to relationship satisfaction. In other words, attending to and enjoying (savoring) positive events and activities with your spouse leads to a happier marriage. No surprise there, right?
How can you savor times with your
spouse in the moment, in reminiscing, and most importantly, in
anticipation? Here’s a few ideas.
Savoring your marriage in the
Get a babysitter to watch your children and go on a date with your spouse.
Put the cell phone away and focus solely on your spouse. (For sure, Do NOT Text and Date.) Enjoy conversation with your spouse. Flirt. Stare into one another’s eyes. Enjoy the romance.
While enjoying a date with your spouse, leave the planning, disagreements, and heated discussions for another time. Focus on those things you enjoy together and the moment of being in one another’s presence. (This will help you Make Date Night Spectacular!)
Hold hands. Sit arm in arm. Cuddle. Physical contact can help you remain focused in the present and savor the moment.
Take some pictures during your event. These can be used when you “savor your marriage by reminiscing.”
Savoring your marriage by
Open the photo album or pull up the pics you took while on previous outings (remember the pictures you took while savoring the moment?) or during previous times in your life as a couple. Look at the pictures of the past events and activities you shared with your spouse and enjoy retelling the stories of those events.
Even without pictures, talk about your favorite vacations, your favorite dates, your times of joy and pleasure. Retell the stories of obstacles you have overcome and joys you have experienced together.
Enjoy reminiscing about the beautiful story of your life together with all the ups and downs that have brought you closer together. (And enjoy sharing that story with your family…it’s The Story That Will Change Your Family Life.)
Savoring in anticipation (the
savoring with the greatest impact on marital satisfaction):
Plan an outing for you and your spouse several days in advance. Let it be a surprise. Do not tell them what it is but give daily hints as the event approaches.
Plan an outing with your spouse. Talk about your anticipation for the outing.
Plan a vacation with your spouse. As a couple, learn some about the history and culture of the place you plan to visit on your vacation. Look up some restaurants and points of interest to visit. Talk about various activities you would like to engage in as a couple during the vacation.
Talk about where you’d like to be in 5 or 10 years. What do you want to be like as a couple? Where would you like to visit as a couple? What would you like to do together…as a couple?
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.
I discovered an amazingly impactful prep school for young adulthood romance, aka, young love. Notice I said “impactful” not “effective.” This prep school can effectively promote healthy romance in young adulthood, but it can also effectively promote problematic, drama-filled and even violent romance in young adulthood. Makes you wonder if we even want our children to attend this prep school, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, you have no choice about whether your children attend. They will and do attend this prep school. Fortunately, you have total control over staffing and curriculum! The prep school is your home. The staff are the parents of your children (that’s you). The curriculum is your marriage and your parenting strategies.
Researchers at Penn state recruited 974 adolescents to assess this prep school (Read about it in Parents May Help Prep Kids for Healthier, Less Violent Relationships.) They met with the young people three times between sixth and ninth grade to gather information about how their families got along, how consistent and harsh punishment was in their home, and how they interacted with their parents. Then, when the children were around 19.5-years-old, the researchers asked them about their romantic relationships including their feelings of love, their problem-solving abilities, and whether they ever engaged in physical or verbal violence with their romantic partner. They discovered three curriculum and staffing guidelines for the most positive and effective prep school for young love.
A prep school that produced young adults who engaged in better problem solving within their romantic relationships utilized staff (parents) who created a supportive home and practiced positive parenting (Dunkin’ Donuts & A Better Behaved Child tells more). Supportive home and positive parenting practices strike a balance between rules and relationship. Parents in such home lead in love, promote values built on a foundation of love, and discipline from a position of love. (Where are you On the Parenting See-Saw )
A prep school that produced young adults who felt more love and connection in their romantic relationships promoted a positive engagement between children and staff (parents). Work to create a close bond with your children. This will involve investing time in their lives, following through on promises, and learning about their interests and hobbies. Engage with your children in daily routines, play, and activities that promote connection. (Here are 3 Simple Ways to Bond With Your Child)
A prep school associated with a lower risk of violence in young adults’ romantic relationships was one which built a more “cohesive and organized family climate.” In other words, the family prep school provided enough structure and love to promote a sense of security and safety. It provides the structure of a predictable daily life that allows each person to have a fair understanding of the “next event” as well as their role in the home. It also provides the love that undergirds each person’s sense of inherent worth and value while guiding them toward a healthier, independent life. This combination of structure that flows from love promotes cohesion and stability. In this balance of structure and love, curriculum includes validation and problem-solving, learning to persist, acceptance of temporary failures as learning experiences.
If you are a parent, you currently run a Young Adulthood Romance (YAR) Preparatory School for your children. I propose you implement these three curriculum and staffing guidelines for your children today. You will be so happy you did when they bring home their boyfriends or girlfriends in the future!
Marriages thrive when spouses honor one another on a daily basis. In fact, spouses who honor one another exhibit more humor and affection during conflict. They make-up with one another more effectively after negative interactions. They also report more romance, passion, and better sex when they honor and feel honored. I don’t know about you, but I want more humor, affection, easier repair, more romance, and better sex in my marriage. So, how can we honor our spouses? One great way to honor our spouses is to show them kindness. It’s that simple: show them kindness. In case you have difficulty thinking of kind things to do for your spouse I’ve listed 30 below, one for each day of the next month. (I must admit, I did get some help coming up with ideas because I couldn’t think of 30 on my own.) Hopefully, this list will give us all a good start.
Get up early and make breakfast for your spouse.
Go one step further and serve your spouse breakfast in bed.
Clean your spouse’s car, inside and out.
Text your spouse throughout the day just to let him know you’re thinking about him.
Give your spouse a sincere compliment.
Help your spouse with a project she is working on.
Learn about something that interests your spouse (a hobby or special topic) and show your love for him by talk with him about his interest.
Give your spouse a back rub.
Tell your spouse something you admire about her.
Make a list of 10-15 things you love about your spouse and leave it under his pillow.
Do one of your spouse’s chores.
Surprise your spouse with a small gift.
Prepare your spouse’s favorite meal or desert.
Watch your spouse’s favorite show or movie with her.
Call or text your spouse during the day just to say, “I love you” or “I was thinking about you.”
Thank your spouse for something he/she did today.
Tell your spouse some character trait your truly appreciate or admire in him/her.
Plan a date with your spouse and enjoy the time together.
Smile at your spouse.
Give your spouse a long, loving hug.
Hide love notes for your spouse throughout the house for her to find during the week.
Leave a special note of appreciation in your spouse’s car.
Ask your spouse about her day and listen with interest.
Share a favorite memory of your time together.
Get dressed up to greet your spouse at the end of the day.
Hold the door open for your spouse.
Let your spouse control the remote for the evening.
Offer to get your spouse a snack or drink…and bring it to her.
Mail your spouse a card telling him how much you love him. (I know you could just hand it to him, but everyone likes to get mail!)
And for those months with 31 days…make your spouse laugh.
Give these acts of kindness a go. Maybe do one a day for the next month or double them up for a day. And, please give us your ideas for kind deeds in the comment section below. We might start a Kindness-in-Marriage-Revolution that could flow from our marriages to our families to our communities to our world.
Don’t have a lot of money? Wonder how to put a little romance in your marriage when you can’t afford a dozen roses, a fancy dinner out, or a movie and popcorn? Well, go “old school.” “Old school” romance often costs very little and still packs a punch! In fact, this “old school” romance tip will only cost you time and attention; but, in spite of the low cash expenditure, the dividends are amazing. It’s really simple, too. What is it? Go for a walk. Hold hands and go for a walk. Seriously…check out these surprising ways in which going for a walk can benefit your marriage.
Going for a walk will increase symptoms of physiological arousal, symptoms like a slightly racing pulse, a subtle shortness of breath, and, if you walk up a hill or at a brisk pace, a minor case of the sweaty palms. These symptoms mirror the symptoms of romantic attraction. At least one classic study (Read the abstract here) suggests we attribute symptoms of physiological arousal to romantic attraction under the right circumstances. Walking with your spouse presents those “right circumstances.” So, going for a walk can make you “fall in love” all over again.
Walking together helps increase the bond you share with your spouse. You and your spouse have to match pace to walk together. Couples tend to subconsciously mimic their partner’s steps and pace. In doing so, you increase your sense of attunement with your spouse (See Mimicry in Social Interactions for more). More attuned leads to a deeper bond; a deeper bond leads to greater intimacy in your marriage.
If you decide to increase your walk to a more challenging run or ballroom dance, you may find even more romantic benefits. Researchers discovered the physiological arousal of “invigorating activities” engaged in together led to greater feelings of satisfaction and romantic attraction (For more click here). In other words, your marriage becomes more satisfying and more intimate. Sounds good to me!
You will also get in better shape. Exercise is good for us. And, let’s face it; we are attracted to those who take the time to increase their physical health.
Don’t forget…you also increase your intimacy by interacting with one another as you walk. Talking to one another. Tell one another about your day. Share your thoughts and feelings. Talk about the news. Talk about your dreams. Each discussion increases your feelings of love and connection.
See what I mean. That “old school” romance got it going on! You can renew your sense of romance, build a closer bond, get in shape, and share intimate conversation all with this one “old school” romance activity. So, grab your spouse by the hand and get on out there and take a walk. Oh, but before you do, enjoy this “old school” song that talks about the joys of “walking” together.
Revlon commissioned a study in 2015 and partnered with Fordham University to complete it. This study recruited 710 women to follow a “daily beauty ritual” and report its impact on their love life. The “daily beauty ritual” included looking into a mirror while applying a fragrance, applying eye make-up, enjoying a chocolate, applying lipstick, taking a deep breath, and smiling. (My favorite parts are enjoying a chocolate and smiling.) After four days:
97% of the women felt a positive change in themselves
77% of the women felt more outgoing and social
74% of the women were more likely to flirt
71% of the women reported wanting more romance
65% of the women noticed an increase in compliments from their partner
60% of the women said their partner was more affectionate toward them
58% of the women said their partner was more romantic
56% of the women felt that others, including their partner, flirted with them more
Overall, this study seems to suggest that a daily beauty ritual charges their internal and external environment in a way that increases the likelihood of romance and intimacy. I have to admit, I have reservations (and questions) about this study and its validity; but, it does make a good point. You can deepen intimacy and heighten romance in your marriage by intentionally taking care of yourself and “looking your best” for your spouse. Taking care of your self—dabbing on some make-up, enjoying a small treat, putting on nice clothes, exercise—enhances feelings of confidence and competence. It makes us feel better about ourselves and we express that confidence in our actions and our interactions. Even more, when we take care of ourselves for our partner—putting on clothes to look nice for them, looking our best with them in mind—we also express how much we value them and their attention. Let’s face it…that is romantic! We find it romantic when our spouse thinks about our desires and our ideas. So, if you want to deepen intimacy with your spouse, take care of yourself. If you want to heighten the romance, take care of yourself with the tastes of your spouse in mind. And, most important, enjoy the romance.
According to research, practicing gratitude can benefits your marriage and family in numerous ways. Let me share 7 of the benefits I think all families need to know.
Gratitude “vaccinates” against impulsiveness and poor self-control. Of course, this is not a one-time vaccine. We need to practice “gratitude boosters” on a daily basis to get the best results. In fact, research suggests that the more regularly a person experiences gratitude, the more self-control they seem to have. Want your children and spouse to be less impulsive and exhibit better self-control, model and teach gratitude!
Teaching teens to be grateful decreases problem behavior. A four year study in New York found that grateful teens had a greater sense of meaning in their life, were more satisfied with their overall life, and were more hopeful about their lives. Grateful teens also showed less of a tendency to abuse drugs and alcohol. They were less likely to have behavior problems in school.
Gratitude increases patience, especially when it comes to financial decisions. A study from the Northeastern University’s College of Science assessed the impact of a number of positive emotions on patience when making financial decisions. Gratitude increased patience more than happiness or neutral emotions. In other words, grateful teens are less likely to make that impulsive purchase.
Gratitude increases happiness in life. Kent State University published a study in which college students wrote letters of gratitude to people who had positively impacted their lives. They wrote one letter every two weeks for a six week period. Each letter had to be “positively expressive, required some insight and reflection, were nontrivial and contained a high level of appreciation or gratitude.” After each letter, students completed a survey to assess their mood, satisfaction with life, and feelings of happiness. Not surprisingly, happiness increased with each letter! Why not write a letter of gratitude to someone who has impacted your life?
Gratitude strengthens marital relationships.Researchers from University of Georgia asked 468 married individuals about their financial well-being, communication styles, and expressions of spousal gratitude. Results of the survey indicated that expression of gratitude was the most consistent and significant predictor of marital quality. It protected couples from the negative effects of poor communication during conflict and was more important than financial status in producing happiness in the marriage. In other words, grateful spouse, happy spouse!
Gratitude strengthens romantic relationships. Sara Algoe, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, found that expressing gratitude in conversations led to stronger relationships, a greater adaptability to change, and a more positive relationship in general. A simple “thank you” can increase the romance in your marriage.
Gratitude helps us achieve and maintain satisfaction with our spouse. Sara Algoe, in another study, found that expressions of gratitude gave a boost to romantic relationships. In fact, the positive effects of gratitude on a marital relationship were still felt the day after it was expressed. Her research suggests that everyday gratitude serves an important function in maintaining happy, intimate relationships. In other words, if you want an ongoing happy marriage, practice gratitude every day.
Oh, the power of gratitude. A sincere “thank you” carries amazing power. Power you hold on the tip of your tongue! Start improving your family life today by wielding this power. Simply inject some gratitude into your everyday conversation. Keep it up and watch your family follow suit. In a month’s time you may have a new family to enjoy…thanks to the power of gratitude!