Category Archives: Books

Aim for Meaningful, not Perfect, Holiday

Christmas tree Salvatore Vuono freedigitalphotos.netIf the holiday season makes you jump for joy, you just might be in the minority. I work very hard to get into the “holiday spirit” and keep a positive outlook even as the season becomes busier. However, we should all remember this season is a time of struggle for many.

Following the Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year celebrations, January rings in the highest divorce rates of the year. Could it be too-high expectations that go unmet? Or holding it together so the family can enjoy one last holiday together? Or is overspending in December creating additional stress in the New Year?

Even if your marriage is strong, be aware of setting unrealistic expectations during the holidays. For example, if you are hoping for a certain kind of gift, make sure it is within your family budget and let your spouse know. He or she is not a mind reader. Try not to aim for perfection with decorating, entertaining, gift giving, etc. Instead, focus on the deeper meaning of the holidays to you. For us, religious significance and celebrations are key.

In addition, try to focus on generosity toward individuals in need or charities that help those in need. It’s well known that helping others will give you a boost in happiness. Helping as a couple or a family can give you a collective boost while also doing good. These acts keep us focused less on creating the perfect material holiday and more on what the spirit of the holidays should be about.

Social connections are good for our mental wellbeing, and in general the holidays and their respective gatherings are helpful to those who are isolated or who suffer from depression. (It’s a myth that suicide rates are highest during the holidays.) However, you probably know many people who long for family members who are no longer around to celebrate. Try to include a neighbor or friend in your gathering who doesn’t have family nearby. Listen to those who are grieving and offer a hand to someone who seems overwhelmed.

Many people are struggling financially during the holiday season, either unemployed or underemployed, or simply living beyond their means.  So even if you manage to put together an extravagant holiday, don’t post about in social media. Instead, focus on gratitude not just for the material things you have but for the meaningful relationships with which you have been blessed.

Let your spouse know that just having them nearby makes each holiday a time of joy for you. And may you and your family be blessed this Christmas.

———————————————————————————————-

Lori Lowe 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, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats atwww.LoriDLowe.com.  Great for holiday stocking stuffers! Contact me if you would like one mailed in time for Christmas.

Photo by Salvatore Vuono courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

12 Great Communication Tips from Ronald Reagan to use in Your Marriage

With the U.S. Presidential election only days away, and both parties not shy about bringing up their fondness for Ronald Reagan, it seemed an appropriate time to talk about The Great Communicator. Thankfully, this post has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with marriage.

As we’ve turned the corner into November with the holidays fast approaching, I wanted to share a bit about the treasure that former President Reagan left not to our nation, but to his wife, Nancy. She kept a huge collection of personal love letters that he wrote her over the years of their marriage. She’s shared many artifacts with his national library and along with telling their story, shares many letters in the book “I Love You, Ronnie.”

Ronnie, as she affectionately called him, wore his heart on his sleeve where Nancy was concerned, and wrote almost daily affirmations to her wherever he was. His heartfelt notes are a lasting legacy, especially to his wife. They were a reminder of his love after Alzheimer’s disease prevented him from communicating it as he so eloquently did, and of course are a great remembrance for her after his death in 2004.

In our throwaway era of fast communication, Nancy says it’s “all too easy never to find the time to write letters,” calling this a great pity. She decided to share his letters to allow others to see how wonderful it can be to express what you feel to those you love.

So here are some ideas and excerpts to inspire you. This season, don’t think of the daunting task of writing one perfect love letter. Instead, select at least three different days this season where you write in a card or jot a note, or attach a letter to a gift, expressing love to your spouse.  Here are some techniques he frequently used:

  1. Sometimes he used silly pet names like Nancy Poo, Nancy Pants, Mommie or Career Girl, and other times he used formal names like First Lady or Mrs. Reagan. He signed them also with personal nicknames (Pauvre Petite Papa) or more formal names (The Guv, Mr. President). But he seemed to always view these terms with endearment and a twinkle in his eye. For example, on leaving the Governor’s office, he said, “’Lame duck’ or ‘ex’ you are still my first lady—now more than ever.” Tip: Use personal terms that will make your spouse smile.
  2. He varied the length and format of his letters from writing a note in a greeting card (which he frequently gave) to scribbling a note with a doodle or writing a long note on White House stationery. He often used hotel stationery, and there are examples from The Plaza Hotel in New York to Plankington House in Milwaukee. Tip: As you look back, writing on a postcard or hotel letterhead can convey the memories from trips or places you lived.
  3. His notes were nearly all hand written, except when sent by telegram. Texts and emails written with heart are certainly welcome today, but try to make the three special notes for this season hand written. Tip: Even if your handwriting is messy, write your special notes by hand.
  4. Some letters included literary references. For example, “Browning I’m not, but believe me I do love you to the breadth and depth of all my being…” You might think it sounds cheesy, but I bet Nancy liked it. I was more impressed by his reference to Anne of Green Gables, although he misspelled her name. “Just think:  I’ve discovered I can be fond of Ann Blyth because she and her Dr. seem to have found something of what we have.” Tip: Use songs or books or movies that mean something to the two of you, especially if you have a hard time coming up with romantic language on your own.
  5. He sometimes included a gift, and often included a funny note or explanation. Tip: It can be a small treat or something more extravagant, but a gift accompanied by a note is always fun.
  6. He sometimes included personal memories or stories of their early days.  Tip: Sharing personal memories helps bring back the memories and feelings of those passionate days.
  7. He was constantly telling Nancy how much he loved her, adored her, missed her, and needed her. Do you think she ever got tired of it? Here’s one example: “I’ve always loved and missed you, but never has it been such an actual ache…I’m all hollow without you.” Tip: Don’t be afraid to share your feelings. Work hard to express your love.
  8. He never missed a special note for Valentine’s Day, anniversary, Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day, etc. He sometimes treated ordinary days like a holiday, and holidays like an every day. For example, on their March anniversary in 1963, he wrote, “This is really just an ‘in between’ day. It is a day on which I love you 365 days more than I did a year ago and 365 days less than I will a year from now. But I wonder how I lived at all for all the 365s before I met you. All my love, Your Husband.” Tip: Any day is a great day to give a note. Try to take a little extra care on special days.
  9. He used a letter to make up at least once, although Nancy says they rarely argued. And after reading it, I don’t know many women who could stay mad. Here’s an excerpt:

“A few days ago you told me I was angry with you. I tried to explain I was frustrated with myself. But later on I realized that my frustration might have been a touch of self-pity, because I’d been going around feeling that you are frequently angry with me. No more. We are so much ‘one’ that you are as vital to me as my own heart—with one exception; you could never be replaced with a transplant. Whatever I treasure and enjoy—this home, our ranch, the sight of the sea—all would be without meaning if I didn’t have you. I live in a permanent Christmas because God gave me you.”

    Tip: Sometimes saying I’m sorry in a letter allows your  apology to sink  in. And the other words of love and affirmation can’t hurt.

  1. He often shared with her his daily frustrations of work or being separated, just daily details and things that upset him. Tip: Sharing these frustrations and letting your spouse into your life and thoughts can help keep you feeling close.
  2. He sometimes played with words or used analogies. He referred to their wedding day as the day he received a heart transplant. And he often expressed surprise at how the happy years have flown by. “Others would have you believe we’ve been married 20 years. 20 minutes maybe—but never 20 years. It is a known fact that a human cannot sustain the high level of happiness I feel for more than a few minutes—and my happiness keeps on increasing.” Tip: Use language in different ways, or use a play on words.
  3. He knew best how to keep it simple. One favorite letter on White House stationery Nancy kept framed for many years over her desk read:

I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
And besides that–
I love you.

Instead of roaming the malls for the perfect gift, spend a little time remembering the days when you first fell in love. Share your feelings from the early days and from today.  Repeat regularly.

What tips do you think you will use for your next love letter?

Lori Lowe 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, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo source: Ronald Reagan Library

Book Source: I Love You, Ronnie:  The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan

Are You Focused on Productivity over Warmth in Your Family?

In today’s post, I’m continuing some thoughts on the book The Self-Centered Marriage by Hal Edward Runkel, LMFT. You can read part I here: When a Self-Centered Marriage Isn’t a Bad Thing.

In the last post, I shared several misconceptions about marriage that Runkel debunked. An interesting insight he writes about has to do with the family unit and our American culture’s desire to make our family life as efficient, productive and equitable as our work life. We want the wheels to run smoothly, and if there is a problem, we want to make the repair and get those wheels back on the track of life. So, here’s the problem, written so aptly by Runkel:

“You’re a family, not an office. You can’t operate on skill sets charted out and replace the person who doesn’t fit well. We are not simple machines and gears, working together toward a goal of increased efficiency and productivity. We are men and women, living together as a way to feed one another’s souls and create a warm home that is anything but mechanical and operational.”

I do think we need to be reminded of how our cultural desire toward productivity can get way out of hand. I’m often guilty of this. For instance, after my kids get home from school, the gears/tasks of homework, cooking and serving dinner, cleaning, making lunches and bedtime routines immediately begin. I’m often the productivity driver, constantly assessing progress on each task. When my husband is home, I delegate some of the tasks or supervision to him or he simply jumps in to help. Sharing warmth during the evening is often not a priority, at least until the above items are complete. Sometimes we carve out time for one-on-one discussion with each other or with each of the children, but often we are so concerned with completing tasks that the nurturing and loving feelings in the home can be hidden.

We need to refocus our energy and priority on the things that matter most, which should include accomplishing what we need to do in the midst of a loving home environment.

One couple dynamic which seems fairly common writes Runkel, is that one spouse is focused on productivity and is “over-responsible” to make up for the spouse who is “under-responsible” and does little to help. The overresponsible partner’s actions may help in the short-term by preventing some arguments, in the long term it creates a worse dynamic that pulls the couple apart. So, I appreciated Runkel’s examples and steps that help couples solve this sort of conflict not by changing their partner, but by changing their own actions and responses. (We can’t expect different results without changing our actions, right?) What I also very much appreciated was that these changed actions are done in a very loving, calm, mature, positive manner that doesn’t push the spouse away. No passive-aggressive behavior, no asking for “help” simply apologizing for contributing to the problem and acknowledging the co-responsibilities. Then, moving forward in a new way. (Check out the book for anecdotes.)

The next step is to grow in gratitude, which is something I preach here frequently. Expressing gratitude has been shown in research to be very effective at improving a couple’s bond. Thank your spouse for all the ways big and small that they help you in life. Do this instead of focusing on getting recognition for your own efforts. Waiting for your spouse to change only keeps you stuck. Be responsible for your own actions, and let your spouse be responsible for his/hers.

After focusing on yourself and experiencing personal growth, pursuing your partner with your truest self, then growing in gratitude for your spouse, we can learn to truly love one another.  That means we want the absolute best for that person. It means you will try to be the best spouse for them, even if you feel they won’t reciprocate in the same manner.

When you become a person of integrity, you become more attractive to your spouse, says Runkel. This replaces scorekeeping and resentment and helps you grow together.

Above all, this focus on the self means holding yourself to a higher standard, no matter what is going on around you.

What’s your take? Is it difficult to maintain integrity and commitment when you feel your spouse isn’t pulling his/her weight? Do you agree that changing your own attitude and actions can help transform the relationship?

Lori Lowe 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, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com. Pick up your copy today!

Photo by ddpavumba courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

When a Self-Centered Marriage Isn’t a Bad Thing

When I began to review the book The Self-Centered Marriage by Hal Edward Runkel, LMFT, I will admit to being turned off by the title. What could be worse marriage advice than to be self-centered? I think the author was attempting to provoke the reader into questioning commonly held preconceptions. Also, there’s a big difference between being self-centered in a negative way, and being focused on your own actions and reactions as a way to contribute to a better relationship. Thankfully, the latter seemed to be the intention of the book.

I won’t say I agreed with everything in the book, however. Runkel says the best thing you can do for your marriage is to become more self-centered, learning to focus less on your spouse and more on yourself…for the benefit of you both. However, there are some people I know—often myself included—who need to look outside their personal worlds a little more often. I believe some balance is needed here. However, I do agree with the author that by focusing on understanding yourself well, you can pursue your partner with your truest self.

Questioning commonly held misconceptions about marriage can be valuable, and realizing that you can’t change your partner, just your response to your partner, is also a useful insight. Another misconception Renkel shares is that a strong couple relies on common interests and compatibility. Not true, he says, as this is a foundation for a superficial friendship, whereas “reliance on personal integrity in the midst of constant change is the foundation for a deep, lasting marriage.” This is an excellent point, and one that couples would do well to remember when they feel they are drifting apart or losing touch. Integrity and commitment are much more critical than shared interests at a particular moment in time.

One more misconception is that conflict in a marriage is bad. I agree with the author that “in-your-face conflict is a better path to true intimacy than cold avoidance.” The key in conflict is to learn to keep your cool. Being emotionally reactive and immature doesn’t allow a positive outcome to the conflict. When we are angry and fearful, adrenaline flows. The blood supply to the problem-solving part of the brain is greatly reduced. Memory, concentration and rational thought are reduced. Runkel explains how to live with the “ScreamFree Approach” and pursue your deepest desires. Staying calm and connected can help you curtail arguments, identify and change dysfunctional patterns and improve your relationship.

One of the points I’ve written about frequently is that we can’t expect our spouse to “make us happy” and meet every need. Runkel tried to make this point by explaining that being self-focused rather than other-focused means you don’t expect your spouse to fulfill you and make you happy. Instead, he says each person must take full responsibility for his/her emotional needs. “It’s not your spouse’s job to validate you, to make you feel secure enough, sexy enough, respected enough, or loved enough for you to return the favor.”

That sounds controversial to me, and I question whether we aren’t there to help one another, particularly if we see there is a blind spot or self-esteem concern. However, he does speak of the need to serve one another, which I believe can and should include praising and verbalizing love and respect as well as desire for one another. It also includes acting in a generous way that you know will please your partner.

I’ll share more on this book and the need to focus on the self within marriage in tomorrow’s post.

What do you think? Does being more self-focused or self-centered help or hinder you in your marriage?

Lori Lowe 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, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Young, Perfect Love and New Marriage

With wedding season upon us, so many couples are about to blissfully enter into marriage, hopefully with dreams and ideas of their long and happy lives together. Do you remember those times? Maybe you’re long past your newlywed days. What advice would you give them?

I’m reading one of the reported “best books of all time,” Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Nearly smack dab in the middle of the book, I was struck by a character’s experiences of entering marriage. Levin had adored and loved Kitty for many years and dreamed of marrying her. Finally, the stars aligned and they were engaged. They had an elaborate wedding and went off into the country to begin their lives together. Levin never expected petty annoyances to get in the way of their love, and he was surprised how easily this happened. I want to share a short excerpt from the book, because I think it offers a great image of expectations along with reality.

“He was happy; but on entering upon family life he saw at every step that it was utterly different from what he had imagined. At every step he experienced what a man would experience who, after admiring the smooth, happy course of a little boat on a lake, should get himself into that little boat. He saw that it was not at all sitting still, floating smoothly; that one had to think too, not for an instant to forget where one was floating; and that there was water under one, and that one must row; and that his unaccustomed hands would be sore; and that it was only to look at that was easy; but that doing it, though very delightful, was very difficult.”

Tolstoy goes on to say, “As a bachelor, when he had watched other people’s squabbles, the jealousy, he had only smiled contemptuously in his heart. In his future married life there could be, he was convinced, nothing of the sort…”

I thought the description was fitting for life and for marriage. We often envision a future that is nearly perfect like that little boat floating along. But once we get farther down our path and feel the sun beating down on the rocking boat and realize that it’s work to maneuver the boat, we are surprised. It doesn’t mean it’s not delightful, but that it requires our effort can sometimes be unexpected. Levin sees his life as “suffused with the brilliant light of happiness” so it’s not that he is disappointed in marriage. However, his expectations were simply different from reality, at least at the beginning.

In many ways, we have expectations for our partner that are different from our reality, often not in a bad way, just different.  Keeping perspective on this might help us maneuver through some of the potential conflicts in relationships.  

I’ve often heard young parents make a similar confession, saying that they always imagined what perfect parents they would be until the real child rearing challenges became apparent. It doesn’t mean they don’t love the role of parenting, just that it was far different from their expectations.  Forgiving ourselves from our parenting mistakes becomes just as important as forgiving our partner for their perceived failings.

What expectations do you still carry with you into your marriage? What petty annoyances are you allowing to create division with your mate? How do you dream about and picture your future 10 or 20 years from now? And what advice do you have for those starry-eyed couples about to be wed?

Lori Lowe 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, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available  at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

 Photo by Noomhh courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Acceptance of Interracial Marriage Growing in U.S.

Brandy (left) and Chris (right) Barnes were profiled in First Kiss to Lasting Bliss. Pictured here with their daughter, Summer, in 2007, when they renewed their wedding vows.

Today’s topic is an important marital trend here in the states:  The number of interracial marriages in the U.S. is on the rise, and acceptance of these marriages is also increasing.

CNN reported on a new PEW Study that shows approximately 15 percent of new marriages in the U.S. in 2010 were between spouses of different races or ethnicities. This is double the number from 1980. As a percentage of all marriages, interracial marriages (also called intermarriages) accounted for 8.4 percent in 2010.

About 43 percent of Americans said they believe more intermarriages is a change for the better within society, while only 10 percent believe it is a change for the worse.  More than one-third of American adults reported an immediate family member of close relative is married to someone of a different race. And 63 percent said they would have no problem with a family member marrying outside their racial or ethnic group.  This is in stark contrast to the 1986 study that reported only one-third of the public thought intermarriages were acceptable for everyone.

This issue has some personal significance to me, since my husband is half Chinese (and my children are, therefore, one-quarter Chinese). Thankfully, we haven’t experienced any overt negative comments or hostility during our marriage based on ethnicities. In fact, people tend to be very welcoming of that fact.

However, I interviewed an interracial couple—Chris and Brandy Barnes—for my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage, who faced a great deal of hostility from family, friends, and sometimes strangers. As an African-American man and a fair-skinned, blond Caucasian living in North Carolina, the couple faced criticism from friends prior to their marriage, even though they dated through college and grad school. They also faced a lack of acceptance from his family, which caused stress and conflict in the marriage. They worked through the conflicts and have had to distance themselves from his family as a means of creating boundaries around their new family. They are a happy family, and they have also created standard positive responses they give to individuals (mostly Black women) who make negative comments in public about them or their biracial daughter. Living in the south may contribute to the racism they sometimes see.

Despite negative attitudes that still exit, we have come a long way in this country, where forty-five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a ban in interracial marriages.

The PEW Study shows the number of intermarriages and the approval of such marriages vary by region, educational levels and ethnicities. For instance, in Western states, one in five people married someone of a different race or ethnicity between 2008 and 2010. In the south, that number drops to 14 percent. Even lower numbers are reported in the Northeast (13 percent) and the Midwest (11 percent).  Hawaii had the most intermarriages with 42 percent.

Higher educational status was sometimes linked to higher rates of intermarriages, with White/Asian unions among the most educated and the highest median combined annual earnings.

The study is primarily based on the PEW Center’s analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Service in 2008-2010 and on three nationwide telephone surveys. For more details, see the CNN report.  If you want to read more about Chris and Brandy’s story and how they created their happily ever after, check out the book here.

Lori Lowe’s book First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available on Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.  Lori and her husband of 16 years live in Indianapolis with their two children.

Best Posts of 2011

I encourage you to read Best Marriage Quotes of 2011 from Sheila Wray Gregoire of To Love, Honor & Vaccuum. She pulls insightful quotes and 50 of the best links on the topics of perspective, sex, commitment, acceptance, and marriage tips.  While you are there, you may want to check out her other articles. This site is very helpful, particularly for women who want to improve the intimacy and sexual quality in their marriage.

One of the quotes Sheila mentioned also struck me as very important: “What you do EVERY DAY matters much more than what do ONCE IN A WHILE.” This is from an interesting post at Simple Marriage offering The Secrets of Marriage.

For those of you inclined to set goals, make changes or resolutions for 2012, it’s great to keep this point in mind that it is daily actions that matter most to our marital happiness and our overall happiness. While it’s great to plan an annual family vacation or a monthly chat with a friend, these may not be enough of a stress reliever to deal with the everyday problems we face. On the other hand, if we can adopt (or increase in frequency) some behaviors that help us on a daily basis, we may have a happier year. Think of SMALL, DOABLE actions you can do daily to benefit your marriage this year.

Many of us don’t need to revamp our lives or change our entire lifestyle. But by finding small ways to improve our day, to encourage each other, to reduce stress and to show gratitude and joy, we can make a big difference in an entire year. For example, maybe you can discuss an ideal greeting for each other when you meet at the end of each day–making time for a real hug and kiss. Or perhaps you can share a cup of coffee in the morning or carve out a few minutes daily to connect.

The most popular blog post from Marriage Gems for 2011 was: Why are women less happy then men in marriage? This was an interesting discussion, and you can still add your opinion.

I want to wish you and your family a fabulous year ahead full of love and good health.

If one of your goals for 2012 is to give your relationship a shot of inspiration, I hope you will consider purchasing my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage , which tells the stories of a dozen amazing couples who used adversity to improve their marriage. Go here for links to Amazon print version or e-books for Kindle, iTunes, Sony, Nook or PDF. If you’ve already bought the book, don’t forget to email me for your 7 free marriage improvement gifts, including everything from an e-book to improve your sex life to date night suggestions, an iPhone app with daily marriage tips, a marriage refresher workbook, a video to hone your communication skills, and tips for how to connect on a daily basis with your spouse in just 15 minutes a day.

Photo by Salvatore Vuono courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Great Sources for Marriage Tips

If you haven’t had the chance to check out The Long Haul Project, it’s a great blog for marriage insights. It’s a husband and wife team of Tom (the Brit) and Melissa (the Yank), who are on a journey to save their marriage by meeting married couples in cities around the globe and asking them to share their secrets. Recently, they were kind enough to interview me about First Kiss to Lasting Bliss and the insights I had gained in my research for my own marriage. Read the interview here.

Another great source for marriage insights is Gina Parris of Winning at Romance. Gina doesn’t mince words and shares LOTS of romantic insights to make your marriage sizzling. She recently asked me to write about Making Long-Distance Love Work, something I know a bit about as the wife of a pilot. I share insights from a military couple who was separated during war time. Gina has lots of audio programs, articles and podcasts to improve the intimacy in your marriage, so check it out.

One more link for you, Beverly Willett from Huffington Post recently interviewed me on the topic of “Is Lasting Bliss Really Possible?” With all the year’s headlines about marriage being obsolete, it’s a valid question to ask. Add your opinions, whether you agree with my take or not.

I’ll be sharing more good blogs for you as we enter the new year. There are lots on my blogroll if you’re looking for other great sites to help you keep your marriage solid and growing. If you’re not growing, you’re drifting.

NOTE:
My new book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available. Go here for links to Amazon print version or e-books for Kindle, iTunes, Sony, Nook or PDF. If you’ve already bought the book, don’t forget to email me for your 7 free marriage improvement gifts, including everything from an e-book to improve your sex life to date night suggestions, an iPhone app with daily marriage tips, a marriage refresher workbook, a video to hone your communication skills, and tips for how to connect on a daily basis with your spouse in just 15 minutes a day.

Don’t bother rekindling your marriage … create something new

One of the most common requests from readers is for content on how to keep the spark burning in the marriage or to rekindle romance. Dr. Corey Allan has an excellent response to this age-old issue. Enjoy this guest post by Corey Allan, PhD, from SimpleMarriage.net.
 
There is a popular belief in the marriage and relationship world that when the doldrums hit and you find yourself more numb than really alive, you should look for ways to get back what you once had.

Call it a spark. A zest. A passion. Whatever.

The point is, something’s missing and since you once had it – you can go back and find it again.

Wrong.

Life is not lived backwards.

Our past is important.

Who we once were is what our spouse found attractive (since that person caught the eye of your spouse and reeled them in the rest of the way). But the previous version of you is long gone and trying to go back and find him/her is a path to more frustration.

While you may be able to produce a brief spark by reminiscing about when you were dating, it won’t be a lasting spark.

The main reason – you’re up against the “love drug” in your brain.

When you first met and fell in love with your spouse you both experienced a chemically induced high. Your brain flooded with a chemical called Phenylethylamine (PEA), which remains in your brain from 6 months to 2 years. PEA produces a feeling of euphoria, a sense of belonging, and a feeling of obsession (which is why you want to talk and be with your new found love every moment).

As PEA fades over time (and it will) many people believe that you can recreate the same levels of emotion within the relationship. Problem is, you can’t.

You cannot go back a manufacture PEA in your brain within the same relationship (although I’m sure the pharmaceutical companies are trying to figure out a way).

What you can do, increase the levels of Oxytocin in your system.

Oxytocin is known as the “bonding” chemical. It produces the deep connection to others, the lasting bond that long term relationships create. Oxytocin is released when you bond with another person – the most intense experiences are mother and infant while nursing and during orgasm. But other contacts create this bond as well: massages, eye contact, hugs, holding hands.

On the other end of the spectrum, going through crisis and tragedy together dramatically increases the levels of Oxytocin as well.

This is why it is worth it to work through the rough patches in marriage.

What it produces is a deeper, more lasting bond.

Now that you know what you’re up against when you face the monotonous times in marriage, here’s a couple of ideas to help up the Oxytocin in your life:

1. Catch romance where you can
You can learn to build romance at unexpected times — during your daily commute, while doing laundry — you can even do this through a long, lingering kiss or just holding hands. In other words, the next time you hear find you’ve got a couple of minutes to yourselves, make use of it — give that  Oxytocin a boost.

2. Nurture your separate selves
Having your own hobbies isn’t a sign you are drifting apart. On the contrary, developing individual interests allows for a richer life as a couple. Taking personal responsibility for your own well-being relieves the your spouse of the pressure to “provide” happiness — so go ahead and nurture some solo adventures. That’ll also keep each of you stocked with plenty of adventures to chat about, which also tightens your bond.

3. Take on a project together
Separate interests aside, exploring new ground together is also important since it strengthens your history of shared experiences (Oxytocin boost). Commit to run a 5K together. Create a project for your home or kids. Big projects together offer increases in Oxytocin because they are often filled with highs and lows, but the lows will create a bond as well. Couples who take on adventures together get a sense of daring and accomplishment that can really kick up their chemistry!

4. Touch each other (sexually and non-sexually)
The boost of connection you receive from human touch is huge. And every touch doesn’t have to be sexual in nature. Sure, sexual touch is important and will increase the connection, but so will non-sexual touch. Hold hands, hug, sit close beside one another, cuddle. Each little (or big) gesture can cause a boost of Oxytocin for both of you.

Got any more to add? Share them in the comments.

Thanks so much for the great advice!

Photo by manostphoto courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

What Could Your Marriage Survive?

Imagine you or your spouse experiencing an accident so horrific that you end up in a coma, then later emerge with a brain injury. Everything in your life and family changes. How is your marriage affected?

I wrote a post about just such a couple for The Romantic Vineyard, and I’ve been inspired by the Jerdes and their ability to remain positive. I hope you will check out their story. Debi Walters is doing a series on hindrances to a Merry Christmas. This one is about injury. Check out the others in the series while you are there; they are thoughtfully written. The Jerdes is just one of the couples I profile in First Kiss to Lasting Bliss.

Gifts!
Well, it is the season for giving. If you have purchased my book or plan to this Christmas season for you or someone else whose marriage you wish to encourage, you will receive the following seven gifts as a bonus. (The book is available at Amazon in print format or from your favorite e-book retailer.) 

  • A copy of marriage and family therapist Lisa Brookes Kift’s The Marriage Refresher Course Workbook. The 69- page workbook is for couples to use together and provides a framework for you to strengthen the relationship foundation that supports your marriage. It’s an interactive format with worksheets, and journaling space makes it a great keepsake for you and your spouse – to help you keep sight of what’s important to your marriage. 
  • Free audio download to Five Keys to Really Great Sex Tonight—even if you’re Not in the Mood by Gina Parris of Winning at Romance. (Yowza, who wouldn’t want that?)
  • An e-book from Matthew with Adventure-Some.com called Ready-To-Go Dates. It provides 20 dates that can be done anywhere and take less than 20 minutes of planning/prep.
  • Power of Two, which provides entertaining and thoroughly helpful marriage education online, is giving two flash games with pdf tips. It’s an interactive module to help couples understand how arguments happen and how to avoid miscommunications that lead to arguments. The videos are short and fun, and you learn something along the way. It can give you a taste of all the great resources available at PO2.com. For modern couples who want to learn skills fast—without getting bored!
  • A free iPhone app that includes healthy marriage tips and great date night suggestions from Debi Walter at The Romantic Vineyard. Now you’ll have conversation starters and other tips to help you connect on a deeper level.
  • A copy of The Simple Marriage Manifesto, which profound advice from marital therapist Corey Allan, PhD of Simple Marriage.
  • Two free chapters of The 15-Minute Marriage Makeover by Dustin Riechmann of Engaged Marriage. (A great strategy for busy couples to boost their relationship!)

For details, and links to various ways you can get the book go here.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.