I love cheesecake, especially my
wife’s cheesecake. However, it is a process to make…and very rich. So, I eat it
slowly. I savor each bite to make it last as long as I can. As I linger in the
moment of enjoying the creamy taste of the cheesecake, I learn to appreciate
and enjoy it even more.
I also love to savor a sunset…to sit
quietly and watch the sun slowly sink into the horizon as it casts hues of
reds, yellows, and oranges across the sky. To recognize and soak in as much
beauty as I can relaxes me and fills me with peace.
I also love to savor my spouse and our times together.
I savor the moments when we have an
engaged conversation in which we open our lives and honestly share our
innermost selves with one another.
I savor the moments when we reaffirm
our love through words, actions, touches, or a simple smile. Those moments when
the glint in her eye communicates the joy she takes in our shared love.
I savor those times when she
appreciates me in front of our children or publicly acknowledges her affection
and love for me.
I savor the times when we experience
and share something unique and special, like driving through the vastness of
Iceland or watching the beauty of a sunset together or walking down a street
filled with color and vendors after a nice dinner or…the list goes on.
Each of these moments helps me
recognize and appreciate my wife and the life we have together. Each one helps
me slow down, relax, and savor the joy of our marriage. Each moment of savoring
builds a stronger love and nurtures a greater intimacy. And, each one builds
anticipation for the next moment of savoring.
Yes, I love to savor my wife. In fact, I’m going to make some time this week to sit down with my wife and recall some of these wonderful moments. As we share our memories, we can savor them all over again. Won’t you take the time this week to do the same with your spouse? Believe me, you won’t regret it!
Remember the old Burger King commercials? I used to sing their moto, “Have It Your Way…,” such a catchy tune.
Unfortunately, some people think they’re married to Burger King. They want to always “have it their way” in marriage, treating their spouse like Burger King. They want their “Burger King spouse” to accept their way and agree with it, or at least act as though they do. They always believe their way “is right” and will argue their point in an effort to make their “Burger King spouse” toes the line and complies with their way. They do this by insisting on “their way” with vigor and passion, often overwhelming their spouse with their energy. They persist in this persuasion until their “Burger King spouse” accepts their conclusion as the right conclusion. What they don’t admit to themselves is “their Burger King spouse” often does this just to end the conflict and not have to talk about it anymore. As soon as the “Burger King spouse” gives in, a wedge (not a pickle wedge or a lettuce wedge but a solid, distancing wedge) is forced between them. That wedge will grow and fester, hindering intimacy and even leading to more conflict in the future.
“Having it your way” doesn’t work in marriage because none of us are married to Burger King. (Well, accept maybe Mrs. Burger King.) Our spouse has their own opinions, perspectives, and ideas. Maybe you “hold the lettuce” and she piles it on…or you “hold the pickles” while he asks for extra pickles. More significantly, maybe she wants a minivan and you want an SUV…or you want to spend some money on a few weekend vacations each year, but he wants to skip the weekend getaways and save all the money for retirement. I won’t list possible differences you and your spouse may hold. I’m sure you can think of a few on your own. The point is, when we insist on always being right, when we demand to “have it our way,” we push our spouse away. In the words of a more marriage friendly moto, “You can be right…or you can be in relationship.” “Being in relationship” requires that we accept our spouse’s point of view as valid, just like our point of view. It means we don’t demand to “have it our way,” but honor our differences by listening and compromising instead. It means having the grace to “have it their way” now and again instead of “our way.” In short, you’re not married to Burger King so don’t expect to “have it your way” all the time. Learn to listen, compromise, and turn toward one another in discovering a third alternative that can satisfy each of you. After all, isn’t it more important to have a satisfying marriage than to “have it your way.”
Ah, the cuddle. Whether it be a hug, a snuggle, hand-holding, or a “smooch,” we love ’em all. And why not? Cuddling does wonderful things for us and our relationship. Let me just name a few:
Cuddling releases a “bonding” hormone (oxytocin). When we cuddle, we bond with the one to whom we cuddle. In other words, we feel closer to one another. So, snuggle up and bond. Enjoy the intimacy. You might even find yourself talking a little more.
Cuddling increases happiness. Who can stay grumpy when snuggled up with the one you love?
Cuddling reduces stress and anxiety. There’s just something about snuggling into the arms of our love and feeling the stress melt away.
Cuddling also lowers blood pressure. Increased happiness, reduced stress, and lowered blood pressure all add up to increased heart health too!
Cuddling releases oxytocin which helps block pain signals. As a result, cuddling reduces pain.
Cuddling also helps us fight colds and other infections. When we feel good our body doesn’t want illness to interfere. So, it fights infections even more.
Cuddling helps us sleep too.
Is it any wonder we like to cuddle? It soothes us and lifts our mood. It melts away the strain and stress of the day. It relieves the pain. All the while it bonds us to the one with whom we snuggle. So, grab your spouse and “cuddle up a little closer.” You know you want to. Sing along with Andy Burrows with full sincerity, “I’d rather have cuddle than a video; I’d rather have cuddle than anything I know. I’d rather have a cuddle than ketchup, chips, or peas. A computer can be lovely, but a cuddle’s what I need!”
I have a confession. Sometimes I feel out-of-sync with my wife. Sometimes for no identifiable reason we feel disconnected, distant from one another. Have you ever felt disconnected or out-of-sync in your marriage? If you have, I have great news! A study completed by researchers from the University of Colorado and the University of Haifa found a way to get more in sync. This simple activity synchronizes breathing, heart rate, and even brain waves when a couple engages in it. The researchers confirmed what I consider an additional bonus for this activity as well. When a woman felt pain and an empathetic spouse engaged in this simple activity, the synchronicity increased and the pain decreased! In other words, this activity activated “pain-killing reward mechanisms in the brain.” Nice bonus, right?
What is this powerful activity you ask? Holding hands! If you feel out-of-sync with your loved one, hold hands. If you feel disconnected, hold hands. Your heart, your breath, and even your brain waves will sync up. You’ll feel more in-sync and connected. As an added bonus, if you’re experiencing any pain, it will likely decrease as well. So reach out your hand and touch your spouse. Grab your spouse’s hand and hold it. Get in sync today. (P.S.—I think I’ll practice now!)
Marriage Missions posted a blog describing a wonderful way to build intimacy with your spouse. In it they described the “22-minute date.” Couples agreed to spend 22-minutes each day talking with one another. In other words, they gave up one sitcom so they could sit down and talk with one another. They agreed to do several things while talking with one another for 22-minutes.
They agreed to make eye contact as they talked.
They agreed to have no children in the room. This necessitated some planning so they could talk after the children went to bed, during the day while children were in school, on a walk after dinner while their children did homework, or some other creative way to get alone.
They agreed to turn the TV off while talking.
They agreed to turn off answering machines (or leave all cell phones in another room).
They agreed to focus on positive aspects of their lives. They also agreed to not bring up past hurts and save any arguments for another time.
They agreed to not do dishes or other household chores while talking. This 22-minute segment of the day was for nothing but conversation with their spouse. No other duties would split their attention.
They agreed to do this for one month.
Couples who completed this challenge noted they felt awkward at first but soon found themselves enjoying their time together, even looking forward to their time together. They “admitted it was a more rewarding time than they’d ever dreamed possible!”
Why not take this 30-day challenge today? Give up one sitcom and commit to spending 22-minutes a day talking with your spouse—no interruptions, no distractions, no split attention, just 22 quality minutes of face-to-face, full-eye-contact conversation with your spouse. Then, let us know how it impacts your relationship. We’d love to hear.
PS—if you have trouble getting the conversation going, try using questions in Remember When, a pamphlet taken from 10 Great Dates. And don’t forget, have fun!
Research from Northwestern University (Read the research here) suggests engaging in a simple 7-minute exercise following conflict can help couples “keep that loving feeling” alive. In this two-year study, couples who completed three-seven minute writing exercises in the second year of the study were less distressed by disagreements and maintained a higher level of marital satisfaction than those who did not do the exercise. Think about it. A simple seven-minute exercise helped couples stop ruminating about the conflict, reduce conflict related stress, maintain a high level of marital satisfaction, and preserve marital quality. I don’t know about you, but taking 21 minutes a year to keep the quality of my marriage high and the stress in my marriage low sounds like a great investment! So, if you want to keep your marriage strong, do this simple 7-minute exercise.
Think about and write a brief summary of a specific disagreement you had with your spouse. Write this summary from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for all involved (you, your spouse, and your family). How might this person think about the disagreement? How might he or she find the good that could come from it?
Almost everybody finds it challenging to keep this third-party perspective at all times. In your relationship with your spouse, what obstacles do you face in trying to take this third-party perspective, especially when you’re having a disagreement with your partner? Write down the obstacles.
Despite the obstacles to taking a third-party perspective, people can still successfully do it. Over the next week, please do your best to take this third-party perspective during interactions with your partner, especially during disagreements. How might you be most successful in taking this perspective in your interactions with your partner over the next week? How might taking this perspective help you make the best of disagreements in your relationship? Write down your ideas.
In the Northwestern study, couples only completed this exercise three times in one year and found it helpful. I would suggest doing it more often so you can make it a mental habit. After all, it only takes 7-minutes. Why not complete this simple 7-minute exercise two times per month? That’s 14-minutes a month to preserve the quality of your marriage. By the way, quality in your marriage translates into greater happiness, more satisfying interactions, and a higher quality of sexual intimacy. 14-minutes a month can help with all that? Come one! That’s an investment well worth the time!
FACT: Researchers at the University of Georgia recently published the results of a study involving 468 married individuals. The study looked at the impact of financial stress, the demand/withdrawal communication pattern, and the expression of gratitude on marriage. They found expression of gratitude toward one’s spouse was the “most consistent significant predictor of marital quality” among those involved in the study. The more gratitude spouses express toward one another, the less they used the negative communication pattern in which one partner demands and the other withdraws, and the greater their commitment to their marriage. In other words, feeling and perceiving gratitude from one’s spouse increases commitment to marriage and each spouse’s willingness to communicate about the “difficult topics” in their relationship. There is power in the simple expression of gratitude. (Learn more about the power of gratitude by reading Intentional Gratitude and 4 Tools for a Happy Marriage.) That leads me to the “challenge.”
CHALLENGE: Make a commitment to express gratitude to your spouse on a daily basis. Doing so will increase positive communication, buffer your relationship against various relational stresses, and protect your marriage from divorce. Here are three ways to help you meet this challenge.
At the end of each day reflect back on how many times you expressed gratitude to your spouse…and how many things your spouse did for which you did not express gratitude. Commit to increase your expression of gratitude tomorrow.
Keep a daily gratitude journal by writing 3-5 things you could thank your spouse for doing that day. Share your list with your spouse at the end of the week.
Set a reminder on your cell phone to prompt you to stop three times a day (morning, noon, evening) and think about things you appreciate about your spouse. Each time, write down 1-2 things you appreciate about your spouse. At the end of the day, share two of the things you have listed.
A fact and a challenge that can strengthen your marriage. FACT: There is great power in gratitude. CHALLENGE: Show gratitude daily! Your marriage will thank you for it.
A study out of Baylor University suggests that married couples can damage their marriage and romance by “phubbing” their partner. Specifically, a survey of 145 people found that “phubbing” your partner creates conflict and leads to lower marital satisfaction. So, quit “phubbing” your spouse!
If you’re like me, you have no idea whether you phub your partner or not because you have no idea what “phubbing” is. I know what you mean. I’m the same way. So, let me share what I found out. “Phubbing” is “snubbing your partner in order to look at your phone”…phubbing. (I know. Where do people come up with this stuff? But, I like it!) Anyway, this study found partners feel “phubbed” if, and I quote:
“My partner places his/her cellphone where they can see it when we are together.
My partner uses his/her cellphone when we are out together.
My partner uses his/her cellphone during leisure time we could spend together.
My partner keeps his/her cellphone in their hand when he or she is with me.
My partner glances at his/her cellphone when talking to me.
My partner checks his/ her cellphone in the midst of conversation.
My partner checks his/her cellphone if there is a lull in our conversation.”
In this survey 46% of the respondents had been “phubbed” by their partners. A full 23% said “phubbing” caused conflict in their relationship and 37% felt depressed about it! Think about that, one in four said “phubbing” caused conflict and one in three said it depressed them. So you can see how “phubbing” lowers marital satisfaction for the one being “phubbed.”
Perhaps we need to add a warning label to all cellphones: “Warning. Use with caution. Phubbing is harmful to your marriage and relationships, creating a 23% chance of conflict with your partner.” Or, perhaps I go to far…just quit “phubbing up” your marriage. (For more on the impact of cellphones on relational intimacy read Family Date Night Tip: Don’t Text & Date.)
Did you know you possess a “mini-toolkit” for building a happy marriage? You received it free of charge a long time ago. The tools in this kit may have sat dormant for years, but each one can help your marriage grow. When you start to effectively use these tools, you will build years of security, intimacy, and joy into your marriage. Review them carefully and use them often.
Respectful words tighten up loose connections with your spouse. Polite saying like “thank you,” “please,” and “I’m sorry” will bring a level of closeness to your marriage you never imagined possible. Add in respectful actions like holding a door open for your spouse, accepting your spouse’s opinion, or speaking well of your spouse in public will bring even tighter connections.
Forgiveness, on the other hand, loosens bolts of resentment. Every spouse needs to practice forgiveness to let go of the hurt of accidental miscommunications and misunderstandings, statements made in anger, and insensitive actions. The wrench of forgiveness has freed many a marriage from the rusted “bolt-grip” of resentment and anger. Use this tool often.
Active involvement allows each spouse to drill into “the thick of things” and fully participate in a growing marriage. Your active involvement in your relationship will help you know your spouse more intimately and enable you to show your spouse the depth of your love. No one wants a giant paperweight, a slug, for a spouse. We want a spouse who jumps in, gets involved, participates in decisions, and helps with the tasks of growing a marriage and family. Pull out that drill and drill into “the thick” of your relationship.
Blessings act like a vice to secure your individual lives into an intimate bond. When you bless instead of curse your spouse’s heart will soften. You will experience a growing intimacy in response to blessing. You can bless your spouse with compliments, encouraging words, gratitude, and affirmations. Each time you offer a blessing, you strengthen the intimacy of your relationship.
These four tools—respect, forgiveness, involvement, and blessing–will tighten connections, loosen resentments, reveal deeper love, and strengthen secure intimacy in your marriage. The greatest news—you already possess each of these tools. All you have to do is start using them. So, pull out that toolkit and start working on your relationship today!
“A man falls in love through his eyes, a woman through her ears.”–Woodrow Wyatt
If Woodrow Wyatt is right, men and women have different keys when it comes to love. A key to a man’s love begins with his eyes. If this is true, you can use this key to increase intimacy with your husband. Dress nicely now and again rather than always slumping around in your “comfy clothes.” When you go on a date, pick out clothes that you know appeal to your husband. You likely did this while dating. Why not keep it up after you’re married? Make an effort to put on nice clothes, fix your hair, and smile admiringly at your husband on a regular basis. It will go a long way in unlocking his love.
A key to a woman’s love begins in her ears. Use this key to gain intimacy with your wife. Speak words of appreciation and adoration for your wife. Encourage her often. Verbalize your feelings of love on a regular basis. Let your words reveal your fondness and admiration for your wife. Speak words of love and affection, appreciation and adoration, fondness and admiration daily. This will unlock her love for you in amazing ways.
These keys have a flipside. They can create intimacy when used properly; but, on the flipside, they will create disdain if misused or ignored. Wives, if you make no attempt to look nice for your husband, he may begin to think you don’t care. He will feel unimportant because you “dress up for work, but never for him.” He will feel as though you rate him second to all those activities and places for which you dress up. He may even begin to feel disrespected. He may feel cheated and deceived because you “dressed up when we were dating but now you don’t care enough about me.” A man who feels disrespected will begin to drift to those places where he feels more respect. Don’t let this happen in your marriage. Use the key of his eyes to keep him close.
Men, if you neglect to speak words of affirmation and admiration to your wife, she will begin to doubt your love. She will feel unappreciated and unloved. She may even begin to feel worse about herself, inadequate and filled with self-doubt. If you call her names or call her character into question through the words you speak, she will begin to despise you. Her disdain for you will grow with every negative comment you make. Eventually, love will die. Don’t let this happen in your marriage. Speak words of love and tenderness. Use the key of her ears to keep her close.
Of course the eyes and ears are not the only keys to love. But, they do provide one key you can use to deepen the intimacy with your spouse and strengthen your marriage. The nice thing is…you hold the key!