Posts Tagged ‘improve marriage’

Happiness Tip: Cultivate Love

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

by Christine Carter, PhD

A buddy recently stopped by for tea and was telling me in a sweet moment how much he loves his wife. This is someone who has written books about relationships, a guy who has actually figured out how to make a marriage great. He said something that really struck me.
“I text her three things every day:

“I love you.

“You are beautiful.

“And thank you.”

(A side confession: After I heard this, my go-to reaction was an envious wish that my guy would send me texts like this throughout the day, NOT that I could start texting him. So much easier to wish others would change than to take action ourselves.)


Anyhoo, here’s the happiness tip: We can increase our own feelings of being in love by expressing gratitude for our partners. Or even just by THINKING about what we are grateful for.


When my friend texts his wife, he is cultivating his own feelings of gratitude, as well as expressing them. Research suggests that when we cultivate feelings of gratitude towards our sweethearts, we feel more satisfied with our relationship, and our partners feel more connected to us and more satisfied with the relationship, too.


Expressing gratitude (rather than just fostering the feeling) to a romantic partner can also make us feel more satisfied with the relationship and increase our sense of responsibility for our partner’s well-being.

Take Action: Reflect on what you are grateful for in your honey right now. (And maybe even send a text!)

On Valentine’s Day

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

by Val McKinley
Val is a professional member of Better Marriages
On Valentine’s Day two years ago, my husband surprised me by taking me to the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) here in Scottsdale, AZ. Romancing Arizona was the theme of the evening and it was a treat from start to finish. Towards the end of the evening, as we sat and enjoyed watching couples dancing to the wonderful band that was playing, I was struck by all of the sizes and shapes of love! The dance floor was a study in happiness and affection.
Those couples in motion seemed to embody the qualities of what happy long-term couples do. In unions that thrive, couples are positive towards one another, are affectionate, and have sex.
Since then, I have been drawn to several articles depicting happy couples. The same trend I observed at the MIM was also reflected in famous couples as well! I’d like to share a few quick quotes that have grabbed my attention.
(The late British prime minister) Margaret Thatcher: (“I was a better politician because of Denis.”) “If you’ve got security and certainty behind you, if you come home to total loyalty and affection, then your basic worries in life are gone.”
(Decathlete) Dan O’Brien: “…I’m a good husband, a good uncle. I once thought those were things that just happen. Now, I understand that you make them happen.”
(Debilitated wrestling coach) Mike Powell: “You can be a macho man and love your wife. You can be a macho man and be sensitive.” Mike tells wrestlers that he loves them and then, when they blush, he says there’s no shame in expression. (Sports Illustrated, Feb. 13, 2012) “You don’t have to say it back,” he says. “Just know it’s OK to say it.”
(Astronaut) John Glenn and his wife Annie: Asked in a People February 20, 2012 article: What’s the secret of staying together for so long? They answered:

JG: “On April 6 it will be 69 years! We’ve never known a time when we didn’t know each other. Our parents were good friends and visited back and forth. They used to kid us after we were married that they had us together in the playpen. And they did.

AG: “You know, growing up together as we did, all I can say is that we just enjoyed each other. And even now we like to be together. Every now and then we’ll have an argument – everybody has arguments. But never in 69 years have we had a fight.”
(Businessman and author) Harvey Mackay: “As I like to say, little things don’t mean a lot – they mean everything.”
So while our relationships may look different, whether you are an astronaut or a schoolteacher, loving healthy relationships have the same foundation of everyday love, respect, and affection. May those of us in committed, happy relationships pay attention to the shared wisdom noted above and continue to show our significant other our love as if every day was Valentine’s Day!
Small Things Often
What You Do and Say Every Day Matters
Respect always; Repair Often
Remember to keep the happy in your ever-afters!

Replay of Virtual Marriage Enrichment Groups (MEGs) – Audio and Slides

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Our Sexual Relationship Part 2 – April 2, 2014 – Facilitators: McConahey
Caring Behaviors – March 19, 2014 – Facilitators: Yarbrough
Our Sexual Relationship Part 1 – March 4, 2014 – Facilitators: McConahey
Commitment – February 19, 2014 – Facilitators: Yarbrough
Stress in Marriage – February 4, 2014 – Facilitators: McConahey
Our Relationship Beginnings – January 15, 2014 – Facilitators: Yarbrough
Conflict Resolution Part 2 – January 7, 2014 – Facilitators: McConahey
Conflict Resolution Part 1 – December 3, 2013 – Facilitators: McConahey
Differences and Similarities – November 5, 2013 – Facilitators: McConahey
Family of Origin – October 1, 2013 – Facilitators: McConahey
Communication (Listening Skills) – September 3, 2013 – Facilitators: McConahey
Communication (Talking Skills) – August 6, 2013 – Facilitators: McConahey
Love Languages – July 2, 2013 – Facilitators: McConahey
Commitment – May 7, 2013 – Facilitators: McConahey


Life is Short, But I’m Not!

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Self Perception

by Priscilla Hunt

Sometimes when I see a photo of Greg and me, I exclaim “You look so tall!”
He chuckles at one of his ongoing amusements. . . that I seem to be the only one among my family and friends that doesn’t notice that I generally am the shortest one in photos.
One of my favorite cards from Greg is one that has a tiny kitten looking into a mirror. Looking back is the reflection of a full-grown lion, King of the Jungle. That’s me.
Imagine my surprise over the holidays to discover that I actually have some vulnerabilities. I’ve always taken for granted my good health, my physical strength (I am, after all King of the Jungle), and my ability to bounce back from any challenge.
On Christmas Day I experienced a pulmonary embolism – a blood clot in my lung – that landed me in the hospital for 3 days. When I received the diagnosis, I felt like a tiny kitten, in need of protection, nurture and care.
For the first time in our 37 years of marriage, I experienced my need for Greg at a new depth. I needed his strength and his steadiness. I needed his wisdom and encouragement. I needed his concern and care. He readily gave all those things, before I could ask.
With his tender care, I’ve bounced back and am feeling great! But now I think twice before climbing up on the kitchen counter to reach the highest shelf. Or dashing across an icy street to check the mail. Or not-quite-running a red light when the yellow light is almost past.
Somewhere between a tiny kitten and the King of the Jungle am I. I don’t want to lose my lionesque attitude. But I am now faced with accepting the fact that I have limitations. I always have had, but I’ve been loath to acknowledge that reality.
Life is short. Life is a journey. And I’m more than thankful to be living it hand-in-hand with my sweetheart, in sickness and in health.

St. Louis (Better Marriages Conference 2015) Receives Awards

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Looking for a good reason to “Meet Me in St. Louis” for the Better Marriages Conference July 9-12, 2015? Look no further!
St. Louis has received several awards from AAA Midwest Traveler Magazine. It has been named the “Best Large City for a Weekend Getaway” in the Midwest! Come early and stay late to experience all St. Louis and the Midwest have to offer!
This is What was Written:
Readers have named St. Louis as the best large city in the Midwest, followed by Kansas City and Chicago.
Visitors to St. Louis can enjoy many attractions and activities that are either free or have reasonable fees. While the city is a year-round destination, it especially shines in summer. The city’s jewel – Forest Park – and its many cultural attractions buzz with activity. The St. Louis Art Museum just added 30% more exhibit space. In addition, a free outdoor film series will be on Friday nights in front of the museum on Art Hill Plaza.
Add into summer’s mix the big Fair St. Louis over July 4th weekend, the summer concerts at Soldiers Memorial downtown baseball action at Busch Stadium, festivals, restaurants, nightlife that includes several area casinos – wait a minute; you’re going to need more than a weekend!

Other Noteworthy Awards
Best Small City: #1 Branson, MO – #2 St. Charles, MO – #3 Hermann, MO
Best City for Live Music: #1 Kansas City, MO – #2 St. Louis, MO
Best City for Romance: #1 Eureka Springs, AK – #2 St. Charles, MO – #3 French Lick, IN
Best Day Trip from St. Louis: St. Charles, MO
Here’s What Was Written:
St. Charles, MO! Proof that everything old is new again, this lovely city on the Missouri River, located an hour from St. Louis, has all the makings for a great day tour. Shop or dine along Main Street near the river, Missouri’s largest and oldest historical district. See the state’s first capitol. Bike or hike the popular Katy Trail State Park. Immerse yourself in Lewis and Clark history. Summer and fall bring plentiful festivals and outdoor concerts or events.
Distances from St. Louis
St. Charles, MO: 1/2 hour
Hermann, MO: 1 1/2 hours
Kansas City, MO: 4 hours
Branson, MO: 4 hours
French Lick, IN: 4 hours
Chicago, IL: 5 hours
Eureka Springs, AK: 5 hours

Where Did Our Love Go?

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

by Linda A. Marshall
Courtesy of Partners in Life

  • Do you question if your partner loves you anymore?
  • Have you started to take each other for granted?
  • Is the zing you felt when you first fell in love gone?
  • Do your attempts to care for your partner go unnoticed?
  • Are you asking yourself, “What’s wrong with us?”
  • Are you longing for the pleasure you felt in each other’s company when you first fell in love?

Never fear … you are normal human beings. Our brain and nervous system are designed in such a way that this is our predictable, almost certain future. We want the stimulation and pleasure we felt during the time we were falling in love and the endorphins were coursing through our bodies to last forever. We crave reliable comfort and pleasure. However, for all of us, reliability eventually loses its allure.
At first when we get the love we want, we experience exhilaration. After a period of regularly getting what we want, we come to expect it and that initial high begins to even out and plateau. Our challenge is to trick our neural system so that the sensation of getting the love we want is stimulated and kept alive in our partnership! Valentine’s Day was probably created to provide such stimulation, but as several of our coaches have pointed out, it takes more than one “expected” day of the year to keep our love spiking. Love needs to be tended regularly. So, how do we do that?
See section three for Suggestions to Keep Your Love Alive. Be creative and make these suggestions fit the two of you. Learn your partner’s love language. Your predictable, almost certain future does not have to be your inevitable, unavoidable future! Have fun!!

Authentic Happiness

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

by Alice Vliestra, Ph.D.
Over the last 30 years, a big change impacting relationships, has been a need to be ‘happy.’ With this, has come a new positive psychology that focuses on positive emotion, strengths, and virtue. But how does this lead to relationship success? Does it really lead to a good life?
When one is going on a trip, one needs a map. A map gives a picture of where one is going and helps keep track of the progress that has been made. It provides a vision for the journey.
In the same way, it is hard to experience relationship success without a vision to guide it. One way to envision success is to look at what you might do on one ‘ideal’ happy day.
On an ‘Ideal’ happy day what would you and your partner most enjoy? Would it include buying things to feel happy, pampering yourself, and eating chocolates?
Or, would it include moments of appreciating beauty, generosity, humor, teamwork, and participating with something bigger than yourselves?
What about the obstacles? Would they be experienced as frustration or moments to use strengths and rise to the occasion?
In the search for contentment, researchers have found that once basic needs are met, further health, wealth, good looks, and status contribute little to ‘subjective well being.’
In contrast, Martin Seligman (2002) argues in his new book, ‘Authentic Happiness,’ that to be truly and authentically happy, one has to move beyond simple pleasure. In a truly happy day, life also needs to be productive, have meaning, and utilize our strengths.
He explains, positive emotion without character leads to emptiness and depression. We want to feel we deserve the positive feelings.
Beyond pleasure and how we feel lies ‘gratification’ — the enduring fulfillment that comes from developing our strengths and putting them to use.
According to Seligman, we are gratified when we have opportunities to be our ‘ideal self,’ that is, the best of us, in small ways, in our daily life. Then we feel we are living up to the ideals that we hold most dear. Continuing to exercise strengths produces a deep inner satisfaction. When others see this as well, we feel validated and work harder not to disappoint others’ faith in us (Seligman, 2002).
He cites how this principle underlies one of the most astonishing discoveries in the research literature on romance. New couples frequently have ‘romantic illusions.’ They fixate on strengths and ignore obvious faults. These perceptions, however, often change over time. For example, what originally was seen as ‘strong beliefs’ can later be seen as stubbornness.
It is often thought that the happiest couples avoid the romantic illusions, sparing them from false expectations.
Dr. Sandra Murray found the opposite result. She had volunteers rate their romantic partners on various strengths and failings. Once the partner rated the person, Murray invited the person’s friends to do the same ratings. Then Murray compared the discrepancy between what the partner believed as strengths and what the friends believed as strengths. The greater the discrepancy, the greater the illusion.
In Murray’s studies, the happiest couples were not the most realistic. Instead, the happiest couples were those that were the most positive. The larger the romantic illusion, the better the odds. Why?
Seligman argues that the positive illusions challenged the couples to live up to their ideals and became self-fulfilling. They provided buffers against hassles and allowed for more forgiveness of small transgressions.
While dramatically evidenced in couples, there is an underlying principle that applies to other relationships as well. We experience more happiness and joy by rising to the occasion, using our strengths, and bringing out the best of ourselves and others, than by continuing to focus on correcting weaknesses.
So what makes for a truly great day? I’d say enough of life’s pleasures to meet basic needs spiced with opportunities and support to bring out best of us.
Reference: Seligman, M. Authentic Happiness:
New York: Free Press, 2002

What is Romantic? An e-mail Exchange

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

by Greg and Priscilla Hunt


Greg and Priscilla Hunt are speaking at the Better Marriages Conference: Educating Couples, Building Relationships July 11-14, 2013 in Raleigh, NC.


From: Greg  
To: Priscilla
Sent: 1/9/2012 7:15:29 PM
Subject: Romance

Pris, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner I was thinking about romance and wondering, what does being romantic mean to you?


From: Priscilla
To: Greg
Sent: 1/9/2012 7:25:04 PM
Subject: RE: Romance

Romantic to me is anything that makes me feel loved, feel special. . . feel cherished. It’s really anything that causes me to feel more connected to you.


From: Greg
To: Priscilla
Sent: 1/9/2012 7:30:44 PM
Subject: RE: Romance

This last weekend was romantic to me. We woke up on Friday, suddenly realized we had a rare, free weekend, and conspired to go out of town together to a small town in south Louisiana we’d both heard a lot about. We had fun searching the internet to find a bed and breakfast inn. We worked in the kitchen together to make a to-go lunch to eat in the car. We chose music for the ride that we both enjoyed. We ended up in a historic, old village with a lot of character, settled into our B&B and then relaxed over an elegant dinner. We focused our dinner conversation on our relationship and what we love about each other. Later, we walked to a local hangout to listen to Cajun Zydeco music. Saturday continued the theme of relaxed conversation, walking hand in hand, enjoying the sights and sounds of the region, and generally feeling pampered. Everything was unhurried, warm, and intimate.


From: Priscilla
To: Greg
Sent: 1/9/2012 7:42:23 PM
Subject: RE: Romance

Yes – it included several elements we both value but don’t always incorporate into our daily life together: creativity, spontaneity, candlelight dinner, playfulness, gettin’ the heck out of Dodge!

You know, I love it when you open the car door for me – I feel just like I did when we were first dating. And you still do it! And I love it when I walk into a crowded room and your eyes light up when you see me. And when I overhear you bragging about me to someone else. These things make me want to break my glass slipper running into your arms, my knight in shining armor!


From: Greg
To: Priscilla
Sent: 1/9/2012 7:45:19 PM
Subject: RE: Romance

I love making you feel special, and I love all the ways you make me feel special, too. My heart still races to see the joy in your eyes when I get home or to feel you take my hand in yours. There’s romance in something as simple as the smile on your face and the lightness in your voice this morning when you said, “We’ve got an evening together at home tonight. Let’s make the most of it!”


From: Priscilla
To: Greg
Sent: 1/9/2012 7:51:18 PM
Subject: RE: Romance

And we did! We’ve been so busy lately and I think we both were thrilled to be able to experience a quiet evening at home. It was fun to change into our jeans, throw some steaks on the grill, use a marriage enrichment exercise to guide our dinner conversation and snuggle on the sofa to watch a movie. What could have been an ordinary evening felt like an adventure because we threw ourselves into it and experienced it together!


From: Greg
To: Priscilla
Sent: 1/9/2012 7:57:37 PM
Subject: RE: Romance

I love that even after 35 years together, we’re resisting the temptation to put our relationship on autopilot! And I love that even though I know you better than anyone else in the world, you’re still a mystery to me that I get to explore!


From: Priscilla
To: Greg
Sent: 1/9/2012 8:05:18 PM
Subject: RE: Romance

Let the exploration begin!




Talking About the Holidays

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

by Greg and Priscilla Hunt

Here are a few conversation starters for you and your partner to explore how you can truly have happy holidays – together.

Begin with your own self awareness. Get in touch with your thoughts, feelings and desires. Write them down. After self-reflection, share your perceptions with your partner (see #3 below). Keep this list handy and refer to it often during the holidays. Enjoy a stress-free holiday season that will keep you close to the person(s) you love the most.

1. List the things that would make this a positive holiday experience for you.

2. List the things that would make it harder for you to enjoy the holidays.

3. Take turns sharing with each other your answers to #1 and #2.

4. List the things you’re personally willing to do to make this a positive holiday experience.

Read Survival Guide for Couples: Home for the Holidays here.

Keep reading. Keep learning. Keep growing!


Happy Holidays – for Both of You

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

by Priscilla and Greg Hunt, PhD


See Jane planning for the holidays. Planning menus, dinner parties, shopping excursions. Planning gift-giving, card-sending, trips to visit family. Planning volunteer work and end-of-year giving. See Jane stress.
What Jane has forgotten to plan is quality time with Dick. And including Dick in the planning. See Dick feel left out, ignored, angry and hurt.
This scenario can only create more stress than there already is this time of year. Take these tips to heart and you’ll be more likely to experience happy holidays.
Practice Good Communication
Remember to include your partner at the discussion stage of holiday planning. Resist the temptation to map everything out and simply inform your partner. We all want to be taken seriously and we each have preferences and desires related to how the holidays will be spent.
Create Quality Time
Remember to build into the busy schedule quiet, down time with your mate. Sit in front of the fire and sip hot chocolate together. Listen to and sing along with holiday music. Play board games. Go for a walk. All these shared activities are important to ensure you emerge from the holidays with your relationship connection intact.
Make Room for Affection and Intimacy
When your hands are busy wrapping gifts and baking cookies they can’t be, well, doing other things. Your mate needs to experience your physical closeness – hand-holding, hugs, sex – and these can easily go by the wayside when you’re focused on other things. Cuddle on the sofa. Rub each other’s backs. Scoot your chair just a little bit closer.
Cut Each Other Some Slack
When we’re stressed there’s lots of opportunity for misunderstandings. You can choose to become irritated with your spouse or you can choose to let it go. Now is a good time to give each other a break. Practice taking deep breaths and calming yourself before responding.
Take Care of Yourself
Are you getting 7-8 hours of sleep at night? Taking multivitamins? Exercising? Drinking plenty of water? All these things can help you feel stronger and ready for whatever the day brings. The holidays aren’t just about others – they are also about you.
Moderate Your Spending
It’s easy to go overboard with holiday spending. This alone can cause conflict and friction in your relationship. Is one of you a saver and one of you a spender? Lots of room here for negative feelings toward the other. And it’s no fun when the bills come due in January! Think of non-material or homemade gifts, particularly for friends and co-workers. Perhaps a mini banana nut bread loaf or a tin filled with candy. How about a heart-felt note printed on your computer in calligraphy and placed in a small frame? Gifts don’t need to be extravagant to express your love and well wishes. It truly is the thought that counts when it’s evident that you’re putting thought into your gift-giving.
Happy holidays can be a reality. But only if you’re willing to give it some thought and follow up with action.
Happy holidays to you – and to your special other!

More reading: Survival Guide for Couples: Home for the Holidays.