Three Steps to a Low-Stress High-Joy Holiday Season

November 25th, 2014

 
by Christine Carter
www.Christine Carter.com
 
Today
 
 
This morning on the way to school, the kids turned on the radio hoping to hear Christmas carols on the station known for holiday music. It’s the holidays! they exclaimed with excitement. This is, at least to the kids, the most wonderful time of the year.
 
Many adults love the idea of the holidays more than their actual experience of them–mostly because their list of holiday-related tasks and obligations outweighs the joy of it all. So that I can actually enjoy the holidays, I’ve devised the three-part plan below.
 
Step One: Prioritize connection. ‘Tis the season for reconnecting. We reconnect with our friends and neighbors through a handful of annual parties. We reconnect with our more distant friends through cards and photos. And we reconnect with our extended family consistently throughout the season–our holiday rituals are what help make our family truly our family.
 
For example, the weekend before Christmas my cousins always fly in from Massachusetts and Washington and Florida for a big family Christmas party, complete with a funny “white elephant” gift exchange. A few days before Christmas, my mom always makes spritz cookies with the kids, a tradition started in Germany with her mother. We light the candles of the menorah and say prayers each night during Hanukkah, something my husband’s Jewish family has been teaching me and my kids.
 
All of this is about renewing our sense that we are a part of something larger than ourselves. Let me not mince words here: This sense that we are connected and part of a larger whole is the single strongest predictor of happiness that we have. It is true that the holidays have become depressingly commercial in our culture, with a massive focus what each individual will get and what kids want in terms of material gifts. Soon every news report will include something about how the economy is responding to this year’s wave of massive collective consumption.

 But we can choose to focus on relationships instead of individual gift lists this holiday season. Not surprisingly, people who focus on family or religion during the holidays report higher happiness than those who don’t.
 
Step Two: Schedule the fun, the tasks — and the necessary downtime. There is so much going on at this time of the year, I know that I have to sit down with my calendar and block out time to get a Christmas tree, shop for our Hanukkah meals, take a holiday card photo, etc.
 
First, I make a simple list of all the things I need and want to do in the next two months. Second, I block off time on our family calendar to actually do those things–including the not-so-obvious things, like scheduling time to update my address book so that our holiday cards make it to where they’re supposed to. (Research suggests that telling your brain when you will do something reduces stress.) Third, I actually schedule downtime on my calendar, like weekend mornings when we commit to not going anywhere or doing anything.
 
Once I do that, I realize that I’m not going to have enough time to do everything on my list. But I can’t skip my downtime, or I won’t actually enjoy the holidays. And so I have to decide: What are the most important things for me to do and events for me to attend?
 
That leads me back to Step One: Where do we get the most bang for our relationship buck? Everything that doesn’t serve to connect us to each other or something larger than ourselves gets nixed.
 
It is never easy to stick to the plan. Inevitably, someone will call to see if we can go ice skating on a weekend morning when we’ve scheduled downtime, and we’ll all want to go. But if we can’t easily reschedule the downtime for the next day, we’ll say no.
 
I’ll get a lot of pushback on this decision from my family, but I’ll remind them that more is not necessarily better, and that I’m actually not that fun to be around when I’m exhausted.
 
Step Three: Trade in expectations for appreciation. Most of us suffer from what I think of as an abundance paradox: Because we have so much, it becomes easy to take our good fortune for granted; as a result, we are more likely to feel disappointed when we don’t get what we want than to feel grateful when we do.
 
This tendency can be especially pronounced during the holidays–but we can overcome it by consciously cultivating gratitude.
 
We can do so in three ways. First, we can create holiday gratitude traditions (see this post for ideas how). Second, we can intentionally expose ourselves to other people’s suffering, and make a real effort to help. An afternoon spent serving the homeless can make most anyone feel instantly, and deeply, grateful. Finally, we can make an effort to notice when our expectations are leading us to desire something different than what we have–a recipe for disappointment.
 
One of the best happiness tips I know of: find something to love in the moment you are in right now.
 
As the holidays approach, we will likely feel stressed and exhausted, but we need not feel like victims to this time of year. Our exhaustion is not inevitable; how tired or stressed we get is often a result of the choices we make (or fail to make) ahead of time. So while I think it is too early for holiday music, it is not too early to start making the choices that will lead us to a low-stress, high-joy holiday season.

The 4 Best Cities for Newlyweds

November 23rd, 2014

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You’re young, head over heels in love and excited to embark on your future together as man and wife. There’s also a good chance you’re looking for a new place to begin that future, with nearly 40 percent of newlyweds preferring to live in a different city than their families, according to online housing site Rent.com. The question is, where?

These four cities are some of the best options to consider.

Austin, Texas

The Texas capital with a population of roughly 850,000 is also known as the live music capital of the world. A great city that also tends to be more progressive compared to others throughout the Lone Star State, is adjacent to Hill Country, where you’ll find lots of opportunity for outdoor recreation and 228 sunny days per year to enjoy.

Austin was also ranked as the top market for millennials, according to a Nielsen 2014 study. The city has just a 4.2 percent unemployment rate, significantly lower than the national unemployment rate, currently at 5.9 percent. If you want to continue your education, you’ll find eight colleges and universities to choose from. Additionally, there is no state income tax, and with a median home price of under $200,000, the average young couple has a good chance of being able to afford to buy their own home.

Boise, Idaho

Boise has been ranked as one of the best cities in the U.S. for raising a family. It’s one of the safest in the nation and offers easy access to all kinds of recreational opportunities, including hiking, boating and skiing.

With a median household income of about $51,000, lower taxes than the national average and an unemployment rate of just 4.1 percent as of September 2014, it offers a lot of security too. The median home value is $165,100, making home ownership more than just a pipe dream.

Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capitol was ranked as one of the best places for young newlyweds to live by Rent.com, highlighting its rich culture and history along with an average annual income of $63,750. With such a high income, not only can you enjoy all of the outstanding cultural opportunities, like visiting the Smithsonian or taking a romantic stroll through history, you’ll also have a much better chance to afford your own home, and even remodel it to create your dream house for happily ever after.

Seattle, Washington

In the Emerald City, you’ll find a wide range of housing options and an average mean income of $64,850. Seattle is more than just rain and an abundance of coffee houses. It’s one of the most educated areas in the country, which fuels the city’s consistent growth. Jobs have been added at a level not seen since 2005. In April 2014, there were 7,700 new jobs added, many of those right in the Seattle metro area, according to The Seattle Times.

Seattle is often on lists of the most bike-friendly cities, and residents also enjoy the spectacular scenery by taking part in all sorts of fun outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking and skiing. If you’re concerned about the rain, consider that it’s actually drier here than its reputation belies. On average, it rains just 9.4 percent of the time. And even on those days it’s typically more of a heavy mist rather than a downpour, according to Seattle-based meteorologist Steve Sistek.

Holiday Stress ‘Flu Shot’?

November 22nd, 2014

By Alan Ray, Marriage Team
www.marriageteam.org
Alan Ray is a professional member of Better Marriage
 
Holiday StressThe holiday season is fast approaching as evidenced by an early cold snap and snowfall. I suspect that many of us have holiday plans that involve family or travel or a combination of both family and travel. Holidays are a great time for creating wonderful memories as we share with family and friends and celebrate all that we have to be thankful for. Holidays are also a great time for creating stress with holiday decorations, hanging lights, travel, shopping, gift wrapping, sending Christmas cards, special church services, food preparation, and the confusion associated with large gatherings of family and friends in cramped quarters.
 
No one wants to get stressed, yet it seems to happen more often during the Holidays. Little things can become big things, and pretty soon we are frustrated and showing it. From there, it seems to snowball as one family member gets stressed and shows it and before long others are reacting and adding to the stress. It is almost like stress is the flu and one sick person can infect the entire family. So what is the stress equivalent of a flu shot?
 
Here are some simple tips that come straight from MarriageTeam’s coaching approach to healthy communication:
 
Set realistic expectations. Realize that holidays are a “team event” and that working together will help insure a positive outcome.
 
Ask family and friends about their expectations for the day and find ways to help them meet them.
 
Communicate with family and friends about your expectations for the day.
 
Remember to use a “I statement” when you are feeling stressed and own what is going on with you.
 
Actively listen to those around you who appear to be getting stressed. Once you understand what is going on in their minds, you will be in a much better position to respond effectively.
 
Develop a new play with your teammate in advance about likely scenarios that you can foresee might be stressful. Potential situations that come to my mind include food preparation, meal clean-up, travel arrangements, criticism from in-laws, etc. If you work together, you will be in a much better position to reduce each other’s stress.
 
So let’s make this the best holiday season ever as we prepare to celebrate all the blessings we have.

10 Ways to Shower Your Spouse with Appreciation

November 21st, 2014

By SoundVision.com Staff Writer
 
Whether you are married for just a month or for a decade, you often take your spouse for granted. Courtesy, gratitude, and care for each other wears off. The same person whom, once upon a time, you would thank for little things, now feels unappreciated by you for all that they do for you every day.
 
Why is it that today if some “stranger” offers you a drink or holds the door for you, you jump to thank them even before their act of kindness is completed, and yet, you show no gratitude to your husband or wife’s hard work all day long?
 
What we fail to realize is that expressing gratitude benefits both partners in the relationship—the recipient and the giver. When you give appreciation, you often receive even more in return.
 
One researcher found on days when spouses felt more gratitude toward their partner, they felt more attached to him or her and more pleased even the following day. Recipients of gratitude also increased their satisfaction on days when it was expressed.
 
Researchers refer to gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships. Moreover, each unit of improvement in expressed appreciation decreased by half the odds of the couple breaking up in six months, based on Scientific American’s December 2009 article, “The Happy Couple: Secrets to a Long Marriage.”
 
Every day is filled with wonderful opportunities to tell the special person in your life, how grateful you are for this relationship. Here are some simple ways to shower your husband or wife with well-deserved appreciation everyday:
  Holding Flowers
1.Thank your spouse because they care, not because it’s their job. When your spouse helps with a chore, whether it’s doing dishes, taking out garbage, feeding the baby, or doing groceries, don’t think it’s their job. Moreover, don’t take their work for granted just because you do your share of chores also. Appreciate the care and thoughtfulness that your husband or wife invests in this day-to-day grunt work.
2.Tell them why you appreciate their act of kindness. Your spouse would be delighted to know why you are grateful. Moreover, specifying what makes you thankful shows you are sincere in your appreciation. Say: “Thank you for cleaning the snow. It gave me some time to relax!” or “It was nice of you to take kids to play outside as I was able to work on my assignment in peace.”
3.Be creative in expressing thanks. Learn and use different phrases every time. If you keep using “Thank you” all the time, it loses its charm and meaning after a while. Try more personalized phrases: “I appreciate it”, “I love it when you….”, “I am grateful for…”, “What would I do without your help”…etc.
4.Appreciate the time and thoughtfulness, not only the results. Even when your partner goofs up and is unable to deliver up to your expectations, thank them for their effort and time. If your spouse forgets to buy an item from the long list of groceries, or if he or she burns the dinner, don’t make them feel all their work was wasted. “It’s not a big deal, honey. Thank you for your effort.”
5.Look for positives to appreciate even in negative circumstances. How often you get upset when your husband or wife tells you: “Honey, I have to work extra hours next weekend to meet a project deadline,” or “I am running late tonight,” or “My mom is feeling ill and she will need my help this week.” Instead of whining, thank them for calling you and informing about the situation. This way, your spouse will do their best to reciprocate and make up for the inconvenience.
6.Write and leave surprise “Thank You” notes. You would be surprised, how powerful these little acts of gratitude can be in making your husband or wife feel special. These can make their day. You can hide a note somewhere for your partner to discover, or send a quick text message on your way to work, or shoot a heartfelt email, to simply say “Thank You!”
7.Let them know how important they are to your success. Count your blessings and accomplishments in life, and inform your husband or wife about the impact they have in your success. Whether it’s your career, academic pursuits, parenting, community work, or spiritual growth, appreciate how your spouse contributes to the achievement of your goals. Thank You
8.Praise and thank them in private and public. Many a times a husband or wife feels appreciated at home, but feel they are worthless when they step out in public domain. Some couples don’t think there is a need to thank their special ones in public. On the other extreme, some spouses only thank each other in public to show people how well-mannered they are, while they are abusive at home. When your gratitude is consistent and sincere in all spheres of your married life, you will see the positive impact of it in your relationship.
9.Go out of your way when they need help. The true test of a grateful attitude is when you take initiative to make someone feel special and serve them when they need your care the most. If your wife or husband feels down or drained one day, be more thoughtful. Offer to do the chores rather than waiting to be asked. Let them take a nap, give them a message, or given them a break from children.
10. Use the time-tested method to thank. Say thank you with a gift. Doesn’t have to be fancy. Flowers, or a box of chocolates, or a dinner out at a restaurant, or a gift certificate to a spa.

The Holidays: A Time for Creating Shared Meaning

November 19th, 2014

by Michael Brown, MSC, LMFT, dba Happy Couples Healthy Communities
 
The Thanksgiving meal, decorating the Christmas tree, the Nativity creche, lighting the menorah candles, the exchange of gifts, the meals, worship, gatherings of family and friends, New Year’s Eve traditions, etc.: the holiday season is rich in symbols, rituals, and meaning that are both universal and particular to each marriage and family. These symbols and rituals are part and parcel of the shared meaning of a marriage and family. Creating shared meaning is the attic of a sound relationship where our important dreams, narratives, myths, and metaphors about our relationship and family find a home.
 
John Gottman, Ph.D., the pre-eminent researcher on relationship stability and divorce prediction in our times, has identified Create Shared Meaning as the last of his “Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” and as the attic of the Sound Relationship House, a theory and model for making marriage work based on his over 40 years of multi-dimensional and extensive research with over 3000 couples. The Sound Relationship House begins with friendship and moves through managing conflict to the higher goals of making each other’s life dreams come true and creating shared meaning. The supporting walls of the House are Trust and Commitment.
 
According to Gottman, marriage has a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together:
 
• “Marriage isn’t about just raising kids, splitting chores, and making love. It can also have a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together–a culture rich with symbols and rituals, and an appreciation of your roles and goals that link you, that you to understand what it means to be part of the family you have become.” (Gottman & Silver, 1999).
 
How do we create shared meaning in a marriage and family? The “Masters of Relationship,” who John Gottman identified as two people who stay together, who report high relational satisfaction and who like and enjoy one another, create shared meaning by intentionally talking about:
 
1. Rituals of Connection (formal and informal),
2. Shared goals,
3. Supporting each other’s life roles, and
4. Agreeing about basic symbols, such as what a home means (Gottman & Schwartz Gottman, 2013).
 
Rituals of Connection include how we eat together, how we part at the beginning of the day and how we greet each other at the end of the day, how we say goodnight, how we spend our weekends and vacations, how we celebrate holidays, etc. Shared goals include our goals as a couple and a family. Our life roles include our roles as husband and wife, father and mother, professional roles, etc. Our basic symbols include photographs or objects that show who we are as a family, our family histories, the meaning of a home, and objects and activities that symbolize our philosophy of life.
 
We are each philosophers trying to make some sense out of this brief journey through life and every committed relationship is a cross-cultural experience in which we blend together each partner’s legacy, culture, values, and beliefs to entirely new culture (Gottman & Schwartz Gottman, 2013). This holiday season, take time to create shared meaning in your relationship and family by celebrating and talking about the symbols and rituals in your marriage and family.
 
References
 
Gottman, J., & Schwartz Gottman, J. (2013). The Art & Science of Love: A Weekend Workshop for Couples. Seattle, WA: The Gottman Institute.
 
Gottman, J., & Silver, N. (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York, NY: Three Rivers.

4 Tips for Recovering After Infidelity

November 15th, 2014

RingsAaron Anderson, FamilyShare

Do you worry that your marriage will never completely heal because of an affair? Not only can your relationship recover, but it can be better than before.

 

If you’ve been cheated on, you often wonder how you can be certain it’ll never happen again. You wonder how you can ever trust your spouse again. After all, your spouse has been such a believable liar in the past, so you don’t know if you’ll be able to see through future lies.


 

Despite all the questions and betrayal that you feel, there are ways that you and your spouse can recover from an affair and come out stronger for it.  

1) Create accountability. Whenever there is an affair, there’s almost always two vulnerabilities going on: 1) something in the relationship that made it vulnerable to an affair, and 2) a vulnerability in one of the partners to act out and have an affair. Because of this, there is accountability for both partners to take. You can take accountability by looking inside the relationship to see what made the relationship vulnerable to the affair, and you can work to fix that vulnerability now and in the future.

 

This doesn’t mean it’s your fault that your partner cheated on you. Many relationships go through low points, and most people are able to make it through without having an affair. The fact that your spouse acted on the vulnerability in the relationship by having an affair is 100 percent his or her responsibility — and your spouse needs to take ownership for what it was inside of him or her that acted out.

 

2) Create new boundaries. Boundaries not only protect you, but they also send messages to others about how to treat you. As a couple, you need to identify ways to repair broken boundaries and protect your relationship from outside influences. This means the partner who was having the affair needs to show that he or she is willing to put the relationship first. This means stopping communication with the affair partner, dedicating more time to the marriage and discovering the many ways your spouse has allowed outside influences to come before your marriage.

You also need to create new boundaries. You need to make it clear to your partner what you will and won’t accept in the relationship, and you need to make it clear what your expectations in the relationship are moving forward.

3) Find your inner voice. No one expects his or her spouse to have an affair. But in all my years of practice, I can probably count on one hand the times when a spouse has been completely surprised that his or her partner was having an affair. Most of the time, spouses say they saw signs but ignored them, or they’ll say that they had their suspicions but didn’t think it was really possible.

 

The truth is, if you really think about it, you’ve had an inner voice all along that was telling you something wasn’t quite right. It might not have been very loud or it might have been easy to ignore, but if you look back, you’ll see that it really was there all along. And listening to that same inner voice will give you the confidence moving forward to trust yourself and see for certain whether your spouse is doing the work necessary to protect your relationship from another affair.

 

4) Learn to love again. After creating accountability, setting boundaries and letting your inner voice shine through, it’s time to learn to love again. This means it’s time to soften those places that have become guarded or calloused as a result of the affair. If your partner has been taking ownership and protecting the relationship by setting boundaries, it’s normally safe to let yourself love again — which means you can trust your spouse with your heart again and begin to build a new relationship.

 

Remember, your old relationship with your spouse was vulnerable, so you don’t want that one back again. You need to make a new relationship that builds on the strengths you’ve learned through the healing process. In a very real way, you’ve become different people and are learning to love each other again. Both you and your relationship are all the better for it because you’ve addressed and overcome the vulnerabilities within the relationship and within yourself.

Adventurous Activities for Husband and Wife

November 12th, 2014

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As time goes by and you both settle into your daily routines, sometimes it gets harder to think of new and exciting things to do together.

There are always new restaurants to try or new places to visit and explore, but it seems like the things you still do together have become all too familiar.

Try something together that can be your very own. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Motorcycling in Matrimony

Whether you’re cruising along a coastal highway or zipping through country terrain, taking a ride on a motorcycle with your loved one can be an almost magical experience.

Before you strap on your helmet and fuel up your machine, you’ll need to do some pre-planning. You will either need a permit, an endorsement on a regular driver’s license, or a motorcycle license. As for insurance, check the minimum insurance requirements and look for discounts. For registration, you’ll need the basic paperwork like you do for a car—emissions, proof of insurance, proof of title and your permit or license. Check your state DMV for a detailed list.

You’ll be out in all kinds of weather and you need to dress for it appropriately. Motorcycle apparel like leather jackets are standard wear, as well as gloves and pants. And don’t forget the boots.

Popular motorcycle riding destinations include Michigan’s Tunnel of Trees, Beartooth Pass, Wyoming and San Juan Mountain Skyway in Colorado.

Kayaking Couples

Kayaking is a great way to connect with nature. You can go fishing or relax and watch the sun set right from the seat of the kayak.

There are SINK (sit inside kayaks) and SOT (sit on top) kayaks. Both styles can be purchased or rented. Talk it over with your partner as to which you would prefer.

As far as safety, you will need a PFD (a personal flotation device). Do not go kayaking without a good one and wear it at all times. Take a kayaking lesson with a certified instructor to learn the basics. A first-aid and CPR lesson can be taken as an added measure of precaution.

Remember to stay hydrated and pack a gallon of water. Also recommended is a first aid or supply kit that contains band aids, anti-acids, energy bars, lotion, sunscreen and aspirin. Seal it in an air-tight container. Some kayakers place the container in a ziplock bag to ensure it won’t get wet.

Wear bright colored clothing when you kayak such as orange or yellow. This way you can be seen by other boats and won’t encounter any accidents.

Add a Touch of Spontaneity

If you don’t want to do something strenuous, there are many other things that you two can start together that don’t take much planning.

Get season tickets for your favorite sports teams, the opera or the symphony. A spontaneous night out can be fun for the both of you.

Take swing-dancing lessons. Let the music be your guide and let-loose!

Pick a day or weekend and have a movie marathon. Make sure you have popcorn, soda and candy and then make a bed on the floor and watch movies. Just like you did when you were young.

Protecting Your Relationship from Emotional Infidelity

November 4th, 2014

Protecting Your Relationship
By Denise J. Charles
 
We have to exercise clear controls for ensuring that our relationships do not cross the emotional boundaries which could harm our primary relationship.
 
As human beings we all have an overpowering need for human connection. We want to feel as though we matter. It is important that we are affirmed and that our worth is validated. Most of us therefore enter marriage expecting that our spouse will meet our deep need for love and acceptance. In an ideal world where we all came from well-adjusted families, this would probably be true. Since, however, we enter marriage with our own individual, often flawed emotional life-scripts; sometimes we are not exactly poised to meet someone else’s emotional needs. This is especially so, if when growing up ours were not met.
 
In other words, inadequate parenting or abuse, can affect our ability to reach out to someone else. So while our spouse may have a valid need, we may not be in an emotionally healthy place to either recognize or meet that need. Additionally, unmatched marital expectations, different socialization, poor communication, even gender-influenced ways of relating, can contribute to emotional disconnection in marriage or other committed relationships.
 
This leads us to the issue of emotional infidelity. In the same way that we pursue extra-marital sex because we need to have specific needs met, we also pursue extra-marital, emotional attachments because a basic need may not be met in our marriage. In the same way that sexual exclusivity defines marriage, there should also be a peculiar or distinctive quality to the emotional intimacy which should characterize our marriage or committed relationship.
 
Does this mean that we should not have meaningful friendships outside of our primary relationship or marriage? I don’t think so necessarily, but when such friendships are with the opposite sex, we have to exercise clear controls for ensuring that such relationships do not cross the emotional boundaries which could harm our primary relationship.
 
So what exactly does an inappropriate emotional attachment look like and is it always dangerous? Deep, opposite sex, emotional friendships are indicated and become lethal in a number of scenarios. These include when:
 
1. The relationship replaces the deep, meaningful communication which should take place between a couple
 
2. The friendship causes divided loyalty in the marriage or primary relationship, where the partner prefers to spend time sharing with his/her friend as opposed to sharing with his/her spouse or partner
 
3. The connection fosters sexual attraction. It is known that the more we open up to someone we feel emotionally connected to, the more vulnerable we are to becoming sexually involved with that person; in this way emotional infidelity becomes a precursor to sexual infidelity
 
4. The spouse feels uncomfortable or threatened by the friendship and perceives that the intimacy of the marriage or relationship is under threat
 
5. The emotional tie is accompanied by flirting, touching, or sexual innuendo but stops short of actual intercourse. This can encourage the guilty spouse to be misguided into thinking that nothing wrong is being done while the marriage is actually being steadily eroded.
 
Guarding Against Emotional Infidelity
 
Preserving the emotional sanctity of the marriage may not be a big deal for couples who have solid relationships and connect regularly. For those with communication challenges, or for relationships with tensions or unmet needs, greater vigilance may be required. Whatever the state of the relationship, however, some thought and discipline is needed if the uniqueness of the marriage or committed relationship is to be preserved. The following tips should be helpful.
 
1. Be open and honest with your partner about your expectations in the relationship; share your feelings about the issue of your emotional needs and please make them known in detail.
 
2. Cultivate a close relationship by spending more time together. If you are tending your relationship, then it will be very difficult for your relationship to be intruded upon by any outside source.
 
3. Set rules with respect to boundaries with friends of the opposite sex. Insist that any close friend also becomes a friend of the couple.
 
4. As a couple, agree not to have secret liaisons like lunches or after-work dinners with someone either of you feel emotionally attracted to.
 
5. Practice disclosure when appropriate, if you feel yourself drawn to someone other than your spouse or partner. Being open about extra-marital attraction, dis-empowers it and encourages accountability in the relationship.
 
6. Don’t expect your partner to meet your every need. Seeking ways to develop yourself or to enjoy your own company lifts some of the responsibility and weight from your partner and makes you less emotionally vulnerable to others.

Good marriages rest on hearing, listening

October 30th, 2014

Hearing ListeningBy Gina Barreca/Hartford Courant, October 20, 2014
 
Here’s what I’ve learned in 23 years of marriage: Love isn’t blind, but it can be hard of hearing.
 
At the beginning of a relationship, you hang onto each other’s every word the way you hang onto each other’s arms: more to display affection than to satisfy a real need. You laugh at every story and gasp in delight at every exaggerated tale.
 
Every conversation begins a new pathway.
 
Your heart beats faster when you hear your name or an endearment murmured by your beloved. You spend hours wondering whether you should repeat how much you care or if that would be overdoing it. Your sweetheart probably heard it the first time, but it might be worth repeating.
 
Then familiarity sets in and, like the foundation to a house, you settle into each other for better and worse.
 
You’ve learned every pause for comic effect and quirky inflection of the well-worn funny story. You know when an exaggeration is close to a fib and when a fib is close to a lie. Your heart beats faster when you hear your name or an endearment because it often precedes a request or a rebuke. If there’s no answer when you shout, you wonder whether you should shout again or if that would be overdoing it.
 
You realize how important it is to be heard and how even more important it is to listen. Listening can’t be overdone.
 
So you each listen, and you both learn your cues.
 
In a good relationship, the dialogue always changes slightly, even when you’re more or less rehearsing other conversations. If you’re lucky, you’re rarely playing to an empty house.
 
And at the best of times, in the most fortunate of lives, in the most hard-won, fiercely protected and carefully cultivated relationships, there can come a time when you go beyond listening with your ears and know it in your bones.
 
It’s not only about finishing each other’s sentences, although that’s part of it. It’s knowing that the ground on which the foundation is built is unyielding; it’s understanding that there are pathways to each other that rest beneath both of you like power lines, buried under the earth, unseen and silent.
 
There’s an old joke about an aging couple. He wants to prove that his poor wife is losing her hearing. He decides to collect hard data to take to their family doctor. While she’s cooking, he starts the test. Approaching her from the doorway without being seen, he asks, “What are we having for dinner tonight, honey?” No response. He moves 10 feet closer and speaks louder. “What are we having for dinner tonight, honey?” Still nothing. She doesn’t even turn around. He feels bad, but she needs to admit she has a problem. Finally, now standing no more than two feet behind her, he makes his final attempt. “WHAT ARE WE HAVING FOR DINNER TONIGHT, HONEY?” he yells. “FOR THE THIRD TIME ALREADY,” she yells back, “WE’RE HAVING CHICKEN.”
 
My husband has tinnitus, which used to be known as having “ringing in your ears” but is now defined as the perception of sound when no external sound is present. If you live with me, according to Michael, there is no such thing as having “no external sound present,” but we’re managing.
 
Sure, there are some odd conversations: On a recent holiday, he stopped to ask for driving directions. A local woman told him to take the “roundabout.” Only Michael heard what she said as “banana boat.” She was pointing in the direction of a yellow building and he assumed that’s what she meant. “Is that the banana boat?” he asked. She kept pointing to the traffic circle, trying to override his comment. “Roundabout! Go toward the roundabout!” “Banana boat? Is that the banana boat?” Finally she just smiled and walked away.
 
As he told me the story, when he returned to the car, we laughed so hard we were wiping tears from our eyes.
 
After 23 years, it turns out that conversations can become epic journeys (with some roundabouts).
 
And the best parts are worth repeating — with bells on.
 
 

Help Your Marriage Thrive With These 4 Unconventional Tips

October 22nd, 2014

Thriving Marriage

There’s no doubt that it it takes work to maintain a strong, loving, meaningful marriage, but it’s that work combined with compromise that can also make a successful marriage so fulfilling. If you’re looking for ways to strengthen your marriage and make sure it withstands the test of time, hone in on the fundamentals of marriage such as communication, honesty and romance—and think a little creatively, too. Here are a few unconventional ways to ensure that love keeps burning strong.

Play Games

According to Science-Based Life, there are three components to romantic love: intimacy, passion and commitment. Intimacy requires the sharing of inner emotions, fun and fear. Many confuse intimacy with either sex or emotional meltdowns. Though you can be intimate during these events, many day-to-day activities can also inspire intimacy, such as playing games together.

Play video games together. They don’t require special weather conditions like outdoor sports do, and they enable couples to communicate and work together while playing. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun. Pick up a PlayStation 4 and use it for gaming, watching videos or exercising together. These daily bonding activities are the basis of a truly intimate lifelong relationship.

Evaluate TV in the Bedroom

For years, marriage experts have advised against TV in the bedroom, saying that the room should be reserved for sleeping and passionate endeavors. “Many couples with televisions in their bedroom use it as a distraction from connecting and to avoid intimacy, which can be thwarting to your sex life,” says Emily Morse, Ph.D., sex and relationship expert and co-founder of Emily & Tony. However, this depends on the couple, she advises. “If couples are setting ‘date nights’ around their favorite TV shows or watching erotic movies together and this inspires them to cuddle and have sex, the benefits for this type of situation are clear.”

Consider how watching TV in your bedroom affects you and your partner—is it something that distracts from your relationship, or is it something that brings you and your partner closer? Aim for the latter.

Vacation Often

Because of work demands and finances, many couples do not take vacation. Because of this, they miss out on the opportunity to rekindle passion, explore intimacy and develop another component of love: commitment.

Make vacations a priority. They don’t need to be long to be effective—even a weekend getaway can help to break the routine of everyday life. Focus on making memories together and getting out of your comfort zone, even if it’s a staycation for just a day or two. By re-prioritizing your relationship, you’re taking your passion and intimacy and recommitting it into the marriage.

Take Up a Hobby

Adopt a new hobby and learn something new together. Whether it’s ballroom dancing, ice hockey, playing the guitar or photography, you’ll forge a new bond by exploring something new together. Make your new interest a priority by scheduling time for it on a regular basis. As you discover new layers within your hobby, you’ll also learn more about your partner.