Ultimate Intimacy? Money Talk

money morguefileFinancial experts say some American couples resist financial discussions. They say couples who avoid money talk are avoiding the ultimate form of intimacy. Open financial communication is one way couples can prevent conflict or resentment over finances.

American men and women polled by TD Bank view marital finances differently, with more men calling themselves “breadwinners” and more women viewing the family’s money as “ours” (54%), compared to 48% of men saying the same.

One in three people committed financial infidelity last year, and 40% don’t know how much their partner earned—according to other recent studies.

Talking honestly, early, and regularly about finances helps prevent divisions, say experts, as well as using a joint account for joint expenses.

Who pays the bills, invests the money, and makes the financial goals in your home? Are you both up to date on accounts, debts and activities?

I’ve found using a third party financial expert to review and regularly update finances helps us both stay informed. It also keeps one spouse from having most of the financial responsibility for key decisions on financial planning or investing. We feel strongly that both spouses should be financially prepared and informed–including insurance accounts, bank accounts, etc. Check your beneficiaries to be sure there are no surprises in the event of death or disability.

What’s your strategy for financial transparency in your marriage? Do you need to schedule a money talk?

Source: USA Today

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

Top 15 Sources of Relationship Conflict

back of couple morguefileIt helps to acknowledge a problem before we can begin to address it. And it helps to know where the potential pitfalls are if we hope not to end up in one. The following top 15 sources of conflict in a relationship are a starting point to pinpointing potential relationship problems. Think of your own behavior first, rather than on your spouse’s behavior.

If you need to address one or more of these items with your partner, avoid sentences that begin with “you always” or other blaming words. Consider a friend or counselor to assist with serious concerns.

Researcher Dr. Gary Lewandowski of Science of Relationships cited the following as the most common sources of conflict, from most commonly mentioned to least. He says being aware of trouble spots may help you both attempt to avoid them.

Your partner is…
1) Condescending (i.e., treats you as stupid or inferior, acts like he/she is better than you
2) Possessive, jealous, and/or dependent (i.e., demands too much attention or time; generally acts jealous/possessive/dependent)
3) Neglecting, rejecting, and/or unreliable (i.e., ignores your feelings, doesn’t call, doesn’t say they love you, etc.)
4) Abusive (i.e., slaps, spits, hits, calls names or is verbally abusive)
5) Unfaithful (i.e., had sex with another person, saw someone intimately, or went out with another partner)
6) Inconsiderate (i.e., doesn’t help clean up, burps in your face, leaves toilet seat up or down!, etc.)
7) Physically self¬-absorbed (i.e., worries too much about appearance, focuses too much on hair or face, spends too much on clothes, etc.)
8) Moody (i.e., moody, emotionally unstable, or bitchy)
9) Sexually withholding or rejecting (i.e., refuses to have sex, doesn’t act interested, or is a sexual tease…but not in a playful way)
10) Quick to sexualize others (i.e., talks about attractiveness of others, talks about others as sex objects, idolizes someone on TV, etc.)
11) Abusive with alcohol and/or is emotionally constricted (i.e., drinks too much, smokes too much, or hides emotions in order to appear tough)
12) Disheveled (i.e., doesn’t dress well, doesn’t groom well, and doesn’t take care of his/her appearance)
13) Insulting toward your appearance (i.e., says you’re ugly or insults aspects your appearance)
14) Sexually aggressive (i.e., uses you for sex or forces sex on you)
15) Self-centered (i.e., selfish or always thinks of him/herself first)

What surprised you about the list? I was surprised that condescension was so much more commonly mentioned than self-centeredness, but condescending words or attitudes easily stir up anger and resentment and may come to mind easily.

Read the list again and try to thinking about how you can do or be the opposite of these. For example, how to be considerate, kind, faithful, etc. to your spouse.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

Two common patterns that can lead to divorce

couple talk morguefileAccording to the Gottman Institute, two common patterns often reveal when a couple is likely to end up in an early divorce or late divorce.

Couples who don’t make it more than a few years after their wedding day are those who are stuck in a negative cycle, says John Gottman, University of Washington psychologist and founder of the Gottman institute.

What does it mean to get stuck in a negative cycle? The negative interactions and responses become so common as to be rather automatic, and the partner responds in kind to that negativity with more negativity. The friendship and affection that began in the relationship fades further and further into the background.

“This negativity becomes all-encompassing. They check in but they don’t check out. It’s like the roach hotel model. There’s a rapid deterioration of intimacy and friendship where they become one another’s adversary instead of one another’s friends,” he explains.

It may seem rather obvious that these couples are doomed to fail. However, it is our natural reaction to lash out with negativity when we feel attacked. Either partner can stop this cycle by refusing to participate and by learning to build the friendship and affection back in. Of course, real problems may need to be addressed, but often we over-react to small perceived failings or slights. For instance, if your spouse forgets to run an errand for you, don’t say that is a sign of lack of caring when it may be just forgetfulness or busyness. Responding with kindness or forgiveness can keep the cycle from spinning out of control. We need to have many more positive interactions than negative ones to maintain a healthy relationship.

The couples who are predicted to experience a divorce much later are those who “agree to disagree” says Gottman. Around 16 years after the wedding, at the time many parents have teens, these couples end the marriage because they refused to address their problems. In their decision to withdraw from all conflict, they didn’t resolve any real issues. As the years fly by, then may feel they are in an empty marriage. The marriage can last a long time but are called “hostile detached couples” and are often demonstrated by couples who rarely talk at meal times.

So in deciding not to participate in the negative cycles of the first type of couple, we need to not pretend to have a relationship, but rather work to actually maintain a healthy, loving relationship. Sharing time together, building and maintaining good communication and affection, and working through real problems are all part of what successful couples do.

Have you seen other couples in these cycles? Is it harder to see yourself or others falling into these patterns?
Source: Business Insider

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

Making Father’s Day Memorable for Your Family

hotdogs morguefileWe talk about “honoring fathers” on Father’s Day. What does it mean to honor the fathers in our lives? We mostly celebrate by grilling hamburgers and steaks. Don’t get me wrong, many Dads are pleased with grilled meats, but maybe the concept of honor deserves a second thought.

We honor others through time spent together, words shared, thoughtful acts, and perhaps gifts or symbols of our love and appreciation.

My kids laughed flipping through the Sunday ads showing suggested Father’s Day gifts they knew their Dad would not appreciate—dumb bells, ties, and Beats headphones. They will select a couple of things that are closer to their Dad’s interests. However, research shows most Dads seek respect from the family more than the latest gadgets.

The most heartfelt stories I hear about what Dads/husbands mean to people is unfortunately at a funeral. Even young fathers need to hear how much their role means to the family.

Dads want to hear the stories of how you felt supported and loved by their actions–how you appreciate that his daily efforts at work put you through school, or his quirky personality gives you a positive life outlook, or his moral leadership has helped you create a great life with meaning. Husbands want to know you appreciate their family leadership, their physical presence, their sacrifices, and that you understand the true value of fatherhood in your home.

Time spent doing something Dad enjoys is another way to honor him. My kids used to give me gift certificates for things like “taking a walk with you”. The Generous Husband reminds us that investing in experiences (vacation, going to the movies, seeing a sports event) provides greater enjoyment and memories than purchasing things.

So, along with that pocketknife, burger, or ice cream cake, give the Dad in your life a glimpse of how you really honor him.

Have a happy Father’s Day!

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

Take a Hike—With Your Spouse

boat nature morguefileIf you are looking for ways to increase your happiness level individually or as a couple, getting out into nature may give you a boost. Growing research connects being in nature and wellbeing.

A UK study that tracked more than 20,000 participants with more than a million responses concluded that people were significantly happier in natural environments as compared with urban environments.

Have a picnic in the park, take a hike, go kayaking, watch a sunset, or simply sit in a green space during your workday. These are all ways you could relax your body and mind. Doing them with your partner can help you connect outside of the usual stresses and electronic interruptions. It’s hard to worry about the laundry when you’re taking in an incredible view.

I’ve found even when I resist going on a wooded hike or boat ride, my spirit is boosted by the beauty of nature. The winter hikes this year were memorable as well. If you’re really resistant to the outdoors, bring some flowers and greenery indoors, or sit near a window with a view of nature.

Schedule a nature break; you may find it boosts your productivity as well as your wellbeing.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

Are Society’s Standards Hurting Your Marriage?

cruise ship morguefileI recently read about a family’s decision to leave an expensive city lifestyle and move to a rural, laid back community to reduce stress and have more time together. It was a reminder that our lives are full of choices, and that our lifestyle is not a permanent decision. Societal standards for most Americans are putting an immense strain on families and marriages; many couples are too exhausted for physical and emotional intimacy.

The pressure to live in a large home filled with expensive furniture, to wear fashionable clothes, to send children to the best schools with private lessons, and to take nice vacations and drive new cars contributes to a perceived need to work longer hours and attain promotions. Many couples believe they can’t live on one salary, even when one of the salaries is quite high. High-end desires are promoted by the culture (through advertising, movies, Facebook, etc.) and lead to either debt or the need to earn more. The result: increased stress, and less time.

Families with children have to face additional societal pressures to join artistic, educational, and athletic teams and activities. A generation ago, a baseball team would practice perhaps one day a week in addition to a weekend game. Today’s sports teams often require daily practices and most of the weekend. Many kids I know practice before and after school every day, plus weekends. Ballet, piano, swim, French, band, soccer—the options are endless and costly, and the pressure to join starts very early. Family time suffers, and budgets are strained. Parents often divide on weekends to cover all the activities, making weekends as much work as the weekday.

Where does the marriage fit in when you haven’t had time to connect during the week or the weekend? Resentment can build when one or both spouses feel they are doing more (of the childcare, of the chores, or earning the money).

If only one spouse is working, he or she may feel compelled to focus on work to fulfill the family’s needs and wants. A lack of connection can develop if not enough time is spent with one’s spouse and family, hurting the relationship and getting in the way of a good sex life.

Millennials are starting to pave the way with prioritizing work/life balance above climbing the corporate ladder. Building balance into our lives allows us to nurture our relationships.

There’s nothing wrong with living in a nice home, driving a nice car, and taking your kids to soccer practice. However, if societal pressures are preventing a quality family life, consider what changes could be made. Are you willing to live in a smaller house to have more time together? Could you drop out of some activities and have more free time together?

When my family found ourselves spread too thin and separating for sporting activities on the weekend, we pulled my son out of the travel soccer team. Instead, we found ourselves enjoying relaxing Saturdays as a family, and able to go to church at our regular time on Sunday. We adjusted our lives so that I could work part-time, allowing me to do much of the shopping, laundry and chores during the week.

I don’t think we have won the battle against all of society’s expectations. One struggle we often have is the high volume of homework and studying our kids complete each night, sometimes requiring our support. The pressure to help our kids succeed is high and time consuming. This stress can also bleed into the marriage relationship and keep us from having time to relax as a couple.

We are blessed to have our children at home, and we also look forward to different phases of our lives. To be successful and have a happy marriage once our children are gone, we need to make time and space for one another now. We make frequent changes to try to achieve better balance, and at least question the activities in which we are involved. Balance is a moving target.

If you think your marriage is getting put on the back burner, sit down individually and as a couple to determine what changes are possible to give you more of the life you want.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

Avoid Cognitive Traps for a Happy Life and Marriage

memory morguefileBeing happy in your life and being happy with your life are two different things. The former has to do with the actual experience, and the latter equates to the memory or conclusion of events. For example, most women aren’t happy during childbirth, but they are very happy having given birth.

We can become confused between these “cognitive traps” according to Daniel Kahneman. (Check out his TED Talk here if you like.) He calls confusion between the events and our memories of them a “focusing illusion”. Experiencing 20 minutes of a glorious symphony that ends on a dreadful note can distort our memory of the night.

I can relate to focusing illusion, because a few years ago I had an amazing vacation with the ladies in my family at a resort in Mexico. The week after we returned home, the resort violently exploded from a gas leak, killing many (newlyweds, children, employees, and more) who stood right where we had stood. So, the memory of that trip is now marred for me, but the experience was a good one.

In the same way, we can overlook a good evening with our spouse with a small argument at the end of the night. Our negative emotions are stronger and more likely to overshadow the positive ones. A nice dinner out can be ruined by a sarcastic remark or offhanded comment. Our memory of the event overtakes the experience.

Kahneman explains that the difference between experiencing suffering and the memory of that suffering is how things end. I interviewed a husband who spent years overcoming his drug addiction. He was separated from his wife and son and suffered greatly, as did they. However, after getting clean and rebuilding his marriage he says everything he went through got him to where they are today. So their memory of the suffering is tempered by their happy reconciliation.

Time certainly affects our memory of experiences. We make decisions about the future based on these distorted memories. When we think about the future, we often think in terms of anticipated memories, for example what it will feel like to be retired or have grandchildren.

Conflict can exist between the “remembering self” and the “experiencing self”. I recall having a great time in Rome last summer, but I experienced a great deal of exhaustion and some ill health during my trip. My memories fade the negatives away based on the photos and stories we tell. Kahneman asks, if you were told after a two-week vacation that all of your photos would be destroyed and your memories would be deleted, would you choose a different vacation? Would your spouse? If so then there’s the conflict or rub.

How pleased and satisfied you are with your overall life is much more important than how happy you are during each minute of your daily life—meaning vs. pleasure. People rate their happiness much higher when they have greater meaning in their life.

Other things that affect your happiness:
1. Spend time with the people you love and like. This has a high contributor to happiness according to researchers. Of course, spending more time with your spouse will also help you have a better marriage, and that will help you be happier as well!
2. Climate is not very important to happiness (even though I complain about the cold incessantly). Interestingly, people often move to find a better climate, then recalling the terrible winters where they used to live, they rate their current happiness level higher.
3. More money doesn’t buy more happiness. Incomes below $60,000 are related to lower happiness levels. However, higher income levels don’t equate to higher happiness levels.
4. Recall happy memories with your spouse—your engagement, dating life, wedding day, children’s births, celebrations and holidays. By focusing on these positive emotions, you can balance out those small negative things that can happen in your day, like forgetting to run an errand.
5. Remember the meaning and purpose in your life. Changing diapers may not be fun, but being a parent brings tremendous long-term joy. Sacrificing for your spouse may not be easy, but building a great marriage is very rewarding.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.