Category Archives: Happiness

Why Kindness Matters in Marriage

Spring is a time for commencement addresses, and I’ve seen a number of good ones recently. This youtube video of professor and NYT best-seller George Saunders’ address on kindness. Of all the lessons to impart on young people starting life, kindness is probably not the most popular idea. Yet, his approach was powerful, and his message is most needed, for those of us who are married or single.

Still, if we are honest, we will admit that living with someone day after day does not always bring out our kindest selves. And so married peeps may benefit from a reminder of the importance of kindness in daily matters.

“Success is like a mountain in front of you that keeps growing. If you’re not careful, it will take up your whole life.” –George Saunders

Saunders shared that looking back on his life, what he regrets most was failures of kindness—the times he responded sensibly and reservedly, but maybe not wholeheartedly. It wasn’t even unkind behavior he regretted but the failure of being kinder than he had been.

The people you remember best are the ones who are kindest to you, he suggests. Maya Angelou, who died recently, has a similar quote:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Why aren’t we kinder, asks Saunders? For three primary reasons:
1. We believe we are central to the universe and our stories are the most important ones.
2. We believe we are separate from the rest of the universe.
3. We believe we are permanent, that death is real for others but not so much for us.

No, we may not really believe these things, but we act as if we do, and it’s only through growing up that we realize none of them are true. I would add that we also fear we will be depleted if we give too much; however, we are often energized by acts of generosity.

If we want to be less selfish, more present, more open, more loving and kinder, Saunders suggests things like education, art, prayer, meditation, spending time with good friends will help in that regard. He says getting older seems to help most people—when we see the uselessness of selfishness and the benefits of love, when we benefit from the help of others, and when we see loved ones pass away and begin to see we are not permanent.

If your goal is to be kinder throughout your life, start now, suggest Saunders. Fight selfishness, and allow it to be replaced by love. He adds that becoming a parent is generally a boost to diminishing the self, as most parents care much more about benefiting their children than themselves.

Married couples who are constantly dividing the work load into two and counting the costs of helping one another will not make it far. Growing in kindness and love should be a goal for all of us. It will take daily effort.

Minimize your future regrets by responding with overwhelming kindnesses, especially to your spouse. How can you make those you love feel cared for and special? How can you be a little kinder to those who cross your path?

Don’t practice random acts of kindness; instead, practice purposeful, routine acts of kindness on a daily basis without waiting for a reward.

Check out the video:

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for more than 18 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.

How to keep a daily connection in your marriage

canoe morguefile

One of the most common reasons given for marriage failures is that the spouses “drifted apart.” The truth is drifting comes very naturally. As William Doherty describes in his book Take Back Your Marriage, marriage is like launching a canoe in the Mississippi River at St.Paul; if you don’t paddle, it goes south. And if two people are in the canoe, you have to both paddle.

As you’re floating along, chances are that one of you will become concerned about marital drift, he explains. One of you may comment on fewer long talks, less quality time together, or less sex. “For some couples, these complaints are a call to start paddling more vigorously. For other couples, the complaints lead to unpleasant arguments that lead to greater distance. But even when we are inspired to try harder, the extra work on our marriage tends to be short lived—sustained for days or weeks at best—and then we resume our slow drift south.”

While this issue is not due to lack of love or good intentions, couples in this situation often lack a plan for taking back their marriage. Of the plethora of marriage books I have read and/or have on my shelves, Take Back Your Marriage is one of my top picks, because this situation is SO VERY COMMON. If this is your situation, realize this is normal, but solvable.  

To keep your marriage from drifting, make time for it, and give it sustained effort. Remember, if you’re not paddling, you’re going south. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you spending time together? Do you go to church together, have meals together, and talk together? Do you make time for regular dates (it could be a morning walk or lunch date, not just an evening out)? You don’t have to spend all your time together, as long as you are spending some dedicated time and activities you enjoy with one another.
  2. Are you taking your partner for granted? Work is important. Kids are important. Chores have to be done. And on and on. But if you aren’t making time for your partner, they won’t feel appreciated.
  3. Are you absorbed in TV, internet and/or your phone? Media, especially in the bedroom, can come between you. All the research confirms that TVs should be left out of the bedrooms. Take the ipad and computer out while you’re at it. (If you can’t do it, that proves my point.)
  4. Are you focused on what you are getting out of your marriage? This consumer mentality can lead to problems.
  5. Do the people you spend time around support your marriage and family? Outside influences can contribute to drifting. This includes people who are more focused on “your happiness” than on your marriage.
  6. Are you focused on material things rather than relationships? The best things in life are free, but you can lose them by focusing on things instead of people.
  7. Are you making an effort to be kind to your spouse when he or she calls, or make/purchase a food or beverage they enjoy, or offer other gestures of kindness? Read If you want a happier marriage be generous. Do you help make their life easier not because you expect them to return the favor, but because you want them to be happy?
  8. Are you showing affection toward one another? Are you happy to see each other? Do you touch, kiss and enjoy sex together? These are important forms of connection.
  9. Are you dedicating all of your time to your children? Parents need to determine how much time children need, keeping in mind those children also need the stability of the family and the marriage. To read more about this, check out Putting kids first harms families.
  10. Are you sharing your true self with your partner—your hopes, dreams, desires, fears?

Couples may have issues with some of these, but that doesn’t mean your marriage is doomed. The key is to build on your strengths and to soften the impact of your weaknesses, says Doherty, especially times of stress. When marriage counseling is needed, select a qualified therapist that will help you fight for the marriage. “A good therapist, a brave therapist, will be the last one in the room willing to give up on a marriage,” says Doherty. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a counselor to delve into why you’re unhappy or to even recommend a separation or divorce. Choose carefully.

Read: What’s a pro-marriage counselor and how do I find one?

How do you keep a positive daily connection in your marriage? Share your tips, especially for busy couples!

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for more than 18 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

Marriage . . . in retrospect

Thanks to Regi Campbell, author and married for 45 years, for the following guest post:

I read where Ronald Wayne, one of the co-founders of Apple Computer, sold his 10% interest in the company for $800 only a week or so after it was started. What turned out to be worth $5 billion was traded away for what most people pay for a month’s rent. Wayne later said he made “the best decision with the information available to me at the time”.

In retrospect, no one can imagine throwing away a fortune for a mere $800. But in retrospect, a lot of things look different don’t they?

Take marriage for example.

We go into it fueled by infatuation with visions of perfect companions slicing and dicing through the stages of life. We see wonderful sex, lots of money, little kids pretty and perfect with a ton of friends cheering us on.

But sometime in the first few years, reality bites. She’s not as crazy about you as she once was. His kindness has been replaced by an angry tone. Money is tighter than you ever imagined . . . things happen you didn’t plan for and cash is drained away in chunks. Friends feel more like magnets pulling you apart than pushing you together. And if there’s a kid, your joy is joined by the weight of responsibility the first night he’s sick and you don’t know what to do.

In retrospect, you see things you didn’t think about. You didn’t date long enough to see how she responded to stress. You didn’t plan for all these expenses. You didn’t realize how tired she’d be after working all day and how that would affect her interest in you at bedtime. You didn’t think it would be this hard to birth a kid and keep it fed, dry and quiet. And maybe you didn’t think she would show up on your ‘radar screen’. . . the perfect girl who has none of the issues your wife has. You didn’t think he would ever come back into your life and say “I was wrong, we were meant for each other, leave him and let’s pick up where we left off.”

Thousands, no millions, of couples hit one of these ‘walls’ in marriage. After 45 years and hitting most of these at one time or another, I offer three suggestions learned from experience for moving beyond them.

1. Visualize yourself at future points in time and look backward. ‘In retrospect’. In screenwriting, the main character is revealed by what he does, not by what he says. If you’re twenty-eight, visualize yourself at thirty-eight. “Is what I’ll be giving up by divorcing my wife the very thing I’ll want when I’m ten years older? Do I want to be ‘that guy’ at thirty-eight? At forty-eight? At fifty-eight?” Who has divorced his wife and become a better man as a result? Which of my divorced friends has become my hero? Who’s remarried ‘perfection’ and now lives the ‘wrinkle-free’ life?

2. Think with your head, not with your heart. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” says Jeremiah. The word ‘heart’ can be swapped for the word “desires”. Our desires are deceitful. They can be really sick and hard to understand. Our appetites can lead us to decisions that damage our health, wealth and stability. When emotions get involved . . . things like love and lust and acceptance and shame and anger, we can talk ourselves into and out of most anything. Don’t do it. Don’t let your ‘heart’ convince you of things your ‘head’ knows are false. Find a couple of friends you respect. Tell them where you are and where you’re headed. Let them talk you off the ledge.

3. Stress is always derived from deadlines. When we’re patient and not in a hurry, stress is low. But when we want what we want and we want it now, stress goes through the roof. It’s a proven fact that when our emotional level goes up, our functioning level goes down. We make poorer decisions, some of which we’ll regret in retrospect. Visualize future seasons of married life when you’ll have more money, older kids, and less testosterone. Think about how your tenacity will someday inform your kids. Divorcing your husband informs the children a different way. It gives them permission to divorce. Never forget that.

It’s been said that marriage is the full-length mirror where we see our selfishness. None of us want to hear that in the ‘here and now’. But in retrospect, I see my temptations around marriage and divorce were motivated by my selfishness. Don’t give in to it.

4. Think long-term. Give yourself and your wife and your God time. In retrospect, we feel good about ourselves when we do the right thing. I knew the ‘right thing’ was to stick it out, to invest in my marriage even when it was hard. In retrospect, I’m so glad I didn’t ‘sell out’ my marriage early on for what I now know to be ‘chump change’.

Regi Campbell is a serial entrepreneur, one-time Georgia “Entrepreneur of the Year” in Technology and author of three books including most recently What Radical Husbands Do: 12 Steps to Win and Keep Your Wife’s Heart. Campbell has been married for 45 years to Miriam Campbell, is a father of two and grandfather of five. During the last 13 years, he has mentored 104 young business executives to live out the gospel in their marriages and the workplace. You can find his new book at http://www.radicalhusbands.com.

I’ll be giving away one free copy of Regi’s book. If you are interested in learning 12 steps to win and keep your wife’s heart, please leave a brief comment. Have any readers been married for longer than 45 years? Can you imagine your marriage being strong after 45 years? Let’s hope so.

Great news about marriages: 80% are happy

wedding kiss morguefileWhat if I could snap my fingers and make 80 percent of marriages happy? And cut the divorce rate for first time marriages in half? Consider it done.

What if everything you thought you knew about marriage statistics was wrong?

How often have you heard people—journalists and even counselors and pastors—cite the 50 percent failure rate in marriage? The true divorce rate is much lower and always has been. What percentage of marriages do you think are happy?

Harvard researcher Shaunti Feldhahn and her husband Jeff were marriage counselors and authors who used to cite incorrect data that is commonly bandied about. After being unable to support the data, they spent eight years digging through complicated marriage research and revealed the results in their new book, The Good News About Marriage.

They report that between 20 and 25 percent of first marriages end in divorce. While this is more than we would like, it’s better than what most believe. Divorce rates are even lower among active churchgoers, whose chance of divorcing is more likely in the single digits or teens. (Active churchgoers have divorce rates 27 to 50 percent lower than non-churchgoers, they say.)

The 50 percent divorce rate commonly cited came from projections of what researchers thought the divorce rate would be come if they stayed on trend in the 70s and early 80s. However, those numbers were never realized, and the estimates stuck in popular culture.

BIG problems resulted from this false assumption. First, many couples avoid marriage entirely because of their incorrect belief that half (or more) of marriages fail, AND that those who do stay together are mostly unhappy. Why bother? Popular belief is that only 30 percent of marriages are happy. Again…wrong. Four out of five marriages are happy. And even for those who are unhappy, the researchers point out that if they stay married for five years, almost 80 percent of them will be happy five years later.

Second, the high (false) rates of marital failure cause a sense of hopelessness among couples who struggle. If they feel a happy marriage is not attainable, they may throw in the towel.

“That sense of futility itself pulls down marriages,” Feldhahn said. “And the problem is we have this culture-wide feeling of futility about marriage. It’s based on all those discouraging beliefs and many of them just aren’t true.”

She hopes that these new insights will give couples hope that they can be successful. Indeed, they have a good chance at being successful.

Changing the way we think about marriage and talk about marriage is meaningful and helpful. When you hear discouraging comments about marriage, Feldhahn says we need to say, “No, wait. Most
marriages are strong and happy for a lifetime.”

When a friend is struggling in his or her marriage, remind them that the odds are in their favor. Change the conversation in your corner of the world to shed light on these false assumptions.

Source: Divorce Shocker: Most Marriages Do Make It, CBN News

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for more than 18 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

Confidence can impact your marital success

confident woman morguefileA growing body of evidence shows how devastating a lack of confidence can be. “Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence,” say Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of The Confidence Gap, written for The Atlantic’s April edition.

I believe confidence also has a great deal to do with the success of our marriages. That’s one reason why I don’t like to read the (often false or misleading) divorce statistics. It leads young marrieds to thinking they are so unlikely to succeed that they shouldn’t even believe in themselves and their union.

But you know what it means to have someone believe in you, don’t you? Maybe it was a coach or teacher or parent. You know what it’s like to cheer someone else on even in the face of despair or difficulty. You know the difference that it makes to root someone on and to believe they will succeed.

Kay and Shipman have researched and written about the gap in confidence that has been found between men and women in the work world, to the detriment of women’s advancement. They share their own struggles and doubts with professional confidence (despite their impressive experience and credentials). They conclude that confidence can indeed be gained, and that the “confidence gap” can be closed. And they write about how that lack of confidence fails women in the work world, leading them to not go after promotions, new jobs, raises, and other opportunities. It’s not because they lack the skills, they often don’t go for it. Why? Because they don’t believe they will succeed.

Researchers have shown that being overconfident will aid you in your success more than being very competent or skilled in your area of expertise. We don’t want to believe this! “Overconfidence can get you far in life,” concludes researcher Cameron Anderson from the University of California at Berkeley. However, faking confidence just does not work.

Perfectionism is another confidence killer. In fact, striving for perfection hinders our performance and productivity.

What are some of the causes of lack of confidence? The researchers say women tend to ruminate over what has gone and worry about future consequences, whereas men have been more indoctrinated into the male competitive world of action more than overthinking things. I wonder if these contribute to the fact that two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women.

Our brains are fairly plastic, and we can learn to be more confident. We can even boost one another’s confidence. For example, researchers told random individuals in a group that they did very well on a previous test. The individuals who received that feedback scored much higher on the next test, showing that confidence can be self-perpetuating.

The choice not to try was one of the biggest reasons that researchers found people didn’t succeed at various tasks. How about your marriage? Do you have confidence in your marriage and in your abilities to succeed? Do you encourage and lift your spouse up and believe in him or her? If you have children or know children, you can clearly see how confidence can affect their performance in school or sports.

Now for a taste of realism: Being confident doesn’t mean that you believe all your problems will disappear, any more than women ignoring the glass ceiling will make it disappear. But most marriage problems can be overcome, and you can do challenging things. Be confident. Be hopeful. Take positive actions to keep your marriage growing together.

Do you agree or disagree with this premise? Why or why not? I admit I would rather success be based on skills and effort than on something so nebulous as confidence. Are you a confident person or do you struggle with it?

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, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Avoid these 3 hindrances to contentment in marriage

Are you making one of these three common mistakes in your marriage? Most of us do at least some of the time.

A recent article by Simple Marriage’s Corey Allen, PhD, delved into the Art of Contentment, which can be a lifelong process. (Read the full article here.) Three tips to help you aim for contentment are actually three things not to do:

1. Don’t compete.
2. Don’t complain.
3. Don’t compare.

Competing doesn’t refer to the athletic sort, but rather competing for attention or affection from those around you. Are you trying to be better than those around you so you can win more love and affection? Instead, be your genuine self. “I’m going to make a bet that your husband doesn’t want a pseudo or fake version of you—he wants you. After all, he’s likely been with you through life’s experiences thus far,” explains Corey.

Complaining is one of the most common obstacles to contentment, along with its close cousin, nagging. A person who complains frequently becomes more negative, more pessimistic, and often spirals down. Their personality and joy go down the tubes. See if you can go even one day or one week without complaining. An important point Corey makes is that not complaining does not mean you don’t address issues that need to be addressed. It just means you stop complaining about them.

Comparing yourself or your possessions or your opinions with others is another joy-taker. Instead of comparing, be happy with who you are and what you bring to the world.

“Creating a life of contentment, gratification and confidence is the best way possible to discover your passion and share it with the world,” says Corey.

I’ve written past posts to help with cultivating gratitude, which as shown through research to increase happiness in marriage and in life. Read this post about why expressing gratitude can be a big boost for your marriage.

In my next post, I will address the issue of confidence and how that affects success in life and in marriage.

What do you think keeps you from feeling contentment in your life and marriage? Does your immediate response lead you to a complaint or comparison? Are there other issues you struggle with?

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, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Harvard Study: What Makes Men Happy for Life

morguefile walking coupleI do not refer in this article to what women can do to make men happy. Nope, men are responsible for their own happiness, as are women. That being said, a 75-year-long Harvard study provides some great insights into what it takes for men to live a happy life. And not surprisingly, relationships have a great deal to do with this earned happiness.

The study began in 1938 and followed 268 male undergraduates into their old age. Many factors, of course, influence their happiness. Following are some of the more surprising, helpful or interesting findings:

1. Alcohol use is by far the greatest disruptor of health and happiness among the study’s subjects. Alcoholism was also the single strongest cause of divorce between study participants and their wives. Together with cigarette smoking, it was the #1 greatest cause of morbidity and death.
2. While some of the participants successfully recovered from a lousy childhood, memories of a happy childhood were a lifelong source of strength. (This should help parents understand the importance of those early days with our children.)
3. Marriages bring much more contentment after age 70.
4. Habits developed before age 50 were more important to physically aging well than heredity.
5. Having “warm relationships” was critically important to health and happiness in later years. Even more surprising, those who scored the highest on the warm relationships scale earned $141,000 a year more during peak salaries than the men in the lowest scale.
6. Men who had warm childhood relationships with their mothers earned much more than men whose mothers were uncaring. Those who had poor relationships with their moms were much more likely to develop dementia in elder years.
7. Men who had warm relationships with their fathers had lower levels of adult anxiety, enjoyed vacations more, and had increased satisfaction with life after age 75.
8. Men who did well in old age did not necessarily do well in midlife, and visa versa. (There is always time to make a change in your life.)

Study director George Vallant summarized that the $20 million study boiled down to one conclusion: Happiness is love. Vallant details the findings in a book titled Triumphs of Experience. While money and social class did not impact lifelong happiness, the ability to “take love in and metabolize it” certainly did.

You knew that already, right? With so many goals to consider for 2014, a renewed focus on love may be the most important to your happiness.

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 various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Is Self-Marriage a Fluke?

wedding ring The ubiquitous selfies you see on social media are nothing compared to this new level of focusing on the self. Self-marriage is a new trend reported by CNN, a ceremony during which individuals marry themselves.

The definition of marriage is to join or unite intimately. How does one unite with oneself? Aren’t we already intimately united with our own bodies? Has the focus on individualism reached a new low?

Some claim self-marriage is about “lifting up and celebrating the singular awesomeness of yourself”. I have no problem with celebrating singlehood or the fact that you believe you are awesome. But why, oh why, does this have to involve the ceremony of marriage? Is this not just another way of drawing attention to ourselves?

So is this trend just a fluke? After all, the people promoting the idea of self-marriage are selling a “self-wedding in a box” as a way to profit on the idea. They claim, “It’s about acknowledging that you are a lovable, adorable, amazing person with all these fabulous qualities.” I hope that everyone reading this feels they can agree with that sentence, whether they are single or married or dating. You’re a lovable, amazing person. You don’t have to marry yourself to prove it to your friends and family, do you?

I haven’t hidden my opinion on the subject, but do you disagree? Is this an idea that fits in just right with the culture and its focus on individualism? Is it a good way to lift up people’s self-esteem and celebrate their life, or does it move us further away from a loving and sacrificial commitment between two married people?

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 various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com.

Are you or your spouse being taken for granted? Check out these obstacles and keys to gratitude.

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Do you feel taken for granted, at least some of the time? Who appreciates that you get up early to make lunches or do laundry? Who appreciates how hard you work to provide for the family? Who appreciates the dinners, help with homework, paying the bills, doing the chores and the countless things you do each day? Or the fact that you haven’t given up and run off to find an easier life?

Maybe no one.

That’s because we mostly take for granted the good stuff we have. I don’t wake up and give thanks for the fact that my husband didn’t have an affair, or that my kids didn’t throw up in the night, or that my house didn’t burn down. I don’t give thanks that my children’s are not starving or suffering from a debilitating illness. By default, we seem to focus on the negative instead of the positive, to dwell on our problems and concerns. Sure, we often give thanks for our food and our health in a generic sense, but that’s different from noticing how richly we are blessed in all the ways we take for granted.

It stands out when you say thank you to your spouse for the usual things they do, because we are so used to not being thanked.

Most religions have gratitude at their core. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “In everything, give thanks…” We all seem to know the power of giving thanks, and research has demonstrated gratitude is a key element of happiness. Yet, we still grumble more often than not. Why?

“Given its magnetic appeal, it is a wonder that gratitude might be rejected. Yet it is. If we fail to use it, by default we choose ingratitude,” says Psychology Professor Robert Emmons, PhD, in an essay which appeared in Big Questions Online and Greater Good Science Center. He explains that our provision becomes so commonplace that it is easily accepted. “We believe the universe owes us a living.”

At this morning’s church service, I heard again the story of the 10 lepers whom Jesus healed, and only one returned to him to give thanks. Think about the people you know, and you may agree that about 90 percent of of people complain more often than they express gratitude. I’m often guilty of focusing on a problem or crisis, then when it is solved or passes, I rarely think of it again. We are on to the next thing, with little more than a “thanks” or “whew, I’m glad that’s over.”

If you’re with me so far, hang in there for the “ouch” factor and the happy conclusion.

What’s the obstacle to gratitude?

Research shows ungrateful people have a high sense of self-importance, arrogance, vanity, and an unquenchable need for admiration and approval, explains Emmons. This is about a sense of entitlement that says, “Life owes me this,” and “I deserve this.” Being preoccupied with ourselves makes us feel we are owed what we have, or that we have earned it, and it makes us forget the giver of these gifts.

While only one percent of the population meets the criteria for narcissistic disorder, these self-serving characteristics are found in all individuals to varying degrees. It starts in childhood as all children believe the world revolves around them, and we hopefully evolve to understand the importance of other perspectives and needs.

A focus on the self is an obstacle toward being thankful.

Humility Paves the Way

“Humility is a key to gratitude because living humbly is the truest approach to life. Humble people are grounded in the truth that they need others,” says Emmons. “The humble person says that life is a gift to be grateful for, not a right to be claimed.”

The thing is, humility seems to go against everything we are taught will make us successful in life, to take charge, to take credit, to demand the best the world has to offer. The Paradox of Giving, in which the more we give, the more we receive, is just like the Paradox of Gratitude, in which the more you give thanks, the more blessed you will feel. (OK, I made that up, but that’s what I think.)

“Humility is profoundly countercultural. It does not come easily or naturally,” says Emmons, yet “reigning in entitlement and embracing gratitude and humility is spiritually and psychologically liberating. Gratitude is the recognition that life owes me nothing and all the good I have is a gift.”

The truth is I didn’t do anything to deserve my life, my husband, my kids, my job, my parents, my friends—any more than a person suffering in the Philippines deserved to experience a typhoon.

As we approach Thanksgiving in the U.S., let’s shift our focus away from ourselves and toward humility and gratitude for others and toward our Creator. Tell your spouse and all those who are special to you all the ways in which you appreciate them.

Don’t fall back to the default setting of ingratitude. When you think of complaining, try to find five people or things to be thankful for. Please share in the comments three things you are grateful for today!

For the full essay as well as a short video from Robert Emmons, PhD, explaining the following four benefits of gratitude, check out this page.
1. Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present.
2. Gratitude blocks toxic emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret and depression–because they are incompatible with gratitude.
3. Grateful people are more stress-resilient.
4. Gratitude strengthens social ties and self-worth.

Related articles:
4 Proven Secrets to Long Marriage Part III: Express Gratitude
Express Thankfulness to Your Spouse Today
Can Your Mind Change Your World?
Focusing on What’s Missing in Life Can Cause You to Miss What’s There

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 various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com.

Adoring Strangers Remind Us to be Adoring Spouses


“We are probably missing so much about the people around us,” says one subject of a photographer’s project in a touching UpWorthy video. The project, called “Touching Strangers” involved a photographer picking out two or three strangers on the street and posing them like adoring family members.

The photos are quite beautiful, often with stark contrasts, and in most you would never know the people are not close in real life. Check out the short video to see for yourself.

The amazing thing is that the project could have been an experiment to determine how people would feel about one another after posing in that way. Many felt the physical touching and gazing at each other broke down barriers, provided comfort, made them care about the other person (whom they didn’t know at all), and gave them pleasant, lovely feelings. It’s “humanity as it could be” according to the announcer.

If physical closeness and looking into one another’s eyes can create this much caring and feeling in total strangers, what can it do for real family members? A lot. Physical touch is known to release the bonding hormone oxytocin. Hugging, holding, gazing—these actions make you feel close and help you to really see the other person deep down.

In our busy days, it’s important to create these moments in our own homes. That means turning off distractions like electronics and carving out a bit of time and space for real connection. Don’t forget to actually touch, snuggle, kiss, hug, and soak in those pleasant feelings.

Does this mean pretend to be close and loving? No, it means we don’t always feel affectionate and loving, particularly after a long day of challenges. But our actions (demonstrating love and closeness) can lead our heart to where it wants to be.

If it works for perfect strangers, it can work to inspire marriages, too.

For more details on how to incorporate more touch in your relationship, check out Little Touches Make Big Impact on Relationships.

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 various e-book formats here.