Category Archives: Love

Are there secrets in your partner’s life?

secret lovers sign morguefileMany folks think if you live together, you’re guaranteed to know your partner fully. Not so fast. The New York Post reports more engaged individuals are hiring private investigators to uncover potential secret habits or deal-breakers in their fiancé’s life. Whether you are married or cohabitating, merely living in the same home doesn’t equate to sharing the deepest parts of yourself.

While it may be easier than ever to Google a potential mate or scroll through their social media networks, it’s much more difficult to get to know one another below the surface. The Post reported that many engaged couples hadn’t even discussed financial struggles, debt, or other challenging topics. Only half of couples in interfaith marriages discussed how they planned to raise kids before they married. Many couples who ended up divorced said they didn’t receive honest feedback from their parents about their potential mates; instead they were supported “as long as they were happy.”

One of the downsides to cohabitation, reports clinical psychologist Meg Jay, is that it often gives people the illusion of true intimacy while allowing partners to keep to themselves important pieces of information or parts of themselves. (Isn’t that true in marriage as well?)

“You can chat endlessly about whether they leave dirty laundry on the floor or whether they’ve ever mopped a kitchen floor but having those serious chats about finances or children don’t get any easier just because you both collapse on the same couch at the end of the day,” writes Pamela Paul, author of “The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony.”

Engaged couples can benefit from premarital counseling to ensure they are entering marriage with their eyes wide open, aware of their strengths and challenges.

Whether married or engaged, putting our true selves out there is the only way to achieve intimacy and to feel we are loved for who we are, warts and all. Don’t expect your partner to feel safe about sharing their true selves if you’re unwilling to do it first. Does your partner know your insecurities, current struggles, most difficult choices, regrets, dreams and goals?

Other notes from the article for engaged couples: The more relationships an individual has before marriage, the more likely they are to cheat on a spouse. Having many relationships makes it harder to decide whom to marry. And once married, it can make it harder to be satisfied with the choice of spouse. Read “Marriage-wary singles turning to private eyes before saying ‘I do‘.”

Do you think it’s hard to find the time to really connect with your spouse in the midst of your busy life?

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.

Why this may be the most important week of the year for your marriage

heart of seaweed  morguefileDo you think it’s a coincidence that National Marriage Week (Feb 7-14) and Random Acts of Kindness Week (Feb. 9-15) overlap this year? If it is a coincidence, it’s a happy coincidence and a reminder that daily acts of kindness are essential to a happy marriage.

I prefer the term “deliberate acts of kindness” rather than “random” ones, because if we are not deliberate about acts of kindness, they just don’t happen. Even if you want to turn your acts of kindness toward random people, you still have to be deliberate about it don’t you? Otherwise you’ll get distracted by your busy day and your “top priorities”. Your spouse deserves your special efforts both to be kind and to do kind things for them. Make a list of three small acts of kindness you can do for your sweetheart this week. Then, later brainstorm things you can do on a monthly basis. (Read Researchers say successful marriages come down to kindness.)

While we are on the subject of February holidays, Valentine’s Day is the most obvious. Even if you wanted to forget it, the flood of red and pink hearts at the grocery store will be an overt reminder. But don’t let the singles have all the fun. Remember it’s an opportunity to communicate your love, and it doesn’t have to be celebrated on Feb. 14th.

Rather than thinking about these separate holidays as items to be checked off a list with gifts to buy and actions to take, think of February as a time to take stock of your marriage and determine if romance, kindness and thoughtfulness are a part of your usual week. How were the holidays for your family? Are you spending time together each day, with a larger block of time each week, such as a date night? Is your home a happy place for your family to be? I know I often worry more about getting everything done than making sure I have positive interactions.

Talk about these things with your spouse. Discuss ideas for making things better, but don’t place blame.

If you’re having a night at home for Valentine’s Day, consider reading your marriage vows or looking at your wedding pictures. Similar to a company reviewing their mission statement; it might help you stay on track and recall your promises. (Check out Do you wish Valentine’s Day never existed?)

If you haven’t had much time together, ask yourselves if you could make a marriage retreat or weekend getaway a reality. For those with children at home, is there a family member or close friend who could manage them for a night or two? Offer to do the same for them if they have children.

Be as deliberate and non-random in your marriage as you possibly can, being generous in your time and thoughtfulness throughout the year.

“I didn’t marry you because you were perfect. I didn’t even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them–it was that promise.” –Thornton Wilder, The Skin of Our Teeth

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.

What’s your great love story?

oldtime photo morguefileThe holiday that celebrates love is just around the corner, and I know it stresses many of you out. Instead of stress, I hope it’s a time to remind you and your partner how lucky you are to have found one another and to have made the choice to love each other. Maybe it’s also a good time to share your love story.

Have you told your kids or grandkids the story of how you met, or your first date, or how you proposed? Even if they roll their eyes, they’ll be glad to know. You might even write it down for future generations, or pass along your letters from your dating days. Don’t think that story has to be perfect; every great story has twists and turns.

The genealogy site, Crestleaf, is requesting your great love stories leading up to Valentine’s Day. They asked me to let you know about it, so I’m passing it along. “One of the best things about conducting family history research is recording the incredible stories you get to hear from older family members; what their lives were like back in the day, how they endured the struggles of the Great Depression and how they managed to find (and keep) true love through it all,” says the site. “In this day and age, where divorce is more common than not, our grandparents and other older family members have chosen to keep those unbreakable vows and work through all the hard times resulting in lifetime love with their partners. And those heartwarming stories about how they fell in love with each other are what give the rest of us hope that we will find a love that will last until the very end.” Visit here for the submissions details.

If you don’t feel like telling or sharing your story, consider looking back at old photos with your sweetheart, remembering the days when you fell in love, or when your grown kids were babies. You won’t transport your heart to the feelings you held back then, but you might feel a great appreciation for the life that has come between your falling in love and today.

Let Valentine’s Day be a day to share your love story and your appreciation for each other.

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.

Join your Partner to Achieve Fitness & Health Goals

walker morguefileI admit it, I feel guilty when my husband goes out for a five-mile run and has a healthy dinner. The next day I’m likely to put in a few miles myself. When he skips dessert, I don’t usually order it either. But when he’s indulging in some peanut M&Ms, you can bet I’m right there with him. It turns out my experience is a lot like other couple’s experiences in that our partner’s fitness and health behaviors rub off on us.

A British study published by BBC News explored how big of an effect partners have on negative health behaviors. For four years, researchers tracked 3,700 couples aged 50 and older who had some unhealthy behaviors. They noted if any of them had quit smoking, lost weight or become more active. They found if one partner engaged in healthier behaviors, the other was likely to make the same change. For example, a smoker whose partner quit was 10 times more likely to quit smoking as well. A couch potato partner who became active greatly increased the likelihood that their partner would also be more active.

This may be one of the reasons happily married or cohabiting people have a lower risk of heart disease and better cancer outcomes. Having support from someone close to you appears to help a lot, even if that person is a friend.

The study did not examine whether unhealthy partners can drag you down, but it makes sense that partners would influence us in both directions. This may be a key reason people achieve or fail at New Year’s health resolutions.

So if you are hoping your spouse will make more positive health changes, one of the best things you can do is engage in healthy behaviors yourself. That in itself is a great driver. You can also invite them to participate in an activity together. I might complain when my husband drags me out on a cold Indiana winter walk, but I’m usually glad after we got the exercise and fresh air.

And then we can justify dessert.

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.

This one thing will improve your marriage in 2015

angry-woman morguefileDid you ever notice that TV shows feature the clever wife rescuing the absentminded, not-so-bright husband? To do the opposite would be politically incorrect, but somehow it’s cool to crush on the guys for their ineptitude. They just never seem to do things the way we would.

Unfortunately, this cultural tendency has probably creeped its way into many homes with wives/moms showing our men “how it’s done” when it comes to caring for kids and the home. (There is a right way to fold the towels and load the dishwasher, after all.) That’s why this article called “I wasn’t treating my husband fairly” should be an aha-moment for many of us wives. Check it out; it’s worth the read. In a moment of clarity, this wife realized that a husband bringing home the wrong kind of hamburger was not a great enough sin to deserve her long diatribe. She began to realize that she criticized so many areas that were not critical to the family’s success, and didn’t often notice all the things he was doing right (changing the oil, fixing the computer, being a great dad). It was a hamburger moment to remember.

While nagging and criticizing may be more often female territory, it can easily go both ways. Think about it, when your spouse goes the the store and brings home the wrong brand, are you mad about the mistake or thankful you didn’t have to go to the grocery? If your spouse handles the kids differently, is that a problem or just a difference of opinion? Remember that most men value respect very highly, and criticism can make them feel less respected.

My husband will tell you I’m a little controlling about which cutting boards are used for what purposes (meat vs. veggies) as well as what laundry items are hung versus put in the dryer. We all have our hang-ups! This year, make sure you express gratitude more than nagging. Watch out for over-the-top, unnecessary criticism.

Look for your hamburger moment of clarity. Then turn it around.

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.

Bring deeper touch to your marriage through couples massage

oxytocin massage
Happy New Year! As a gift for the new year, I’m sharing some insights from a massage expert to help you incorporate couples massage into your marriage. Thanks to massage therapist Yasuko Kawamura for these helpful tips!

Do you wish you had more physical touch in your relationship? For those who feel touching is important as an expression of love, lack of touch in marriage can be interpreted as lack of love. How can you avoid this unnecessary misunderstanding?

We express love in different ways, and there are different kinds of intimate touch available for your relationship. From casual touch to intimate touch:
Casual touch is something you can easily do, such as holding hands, hugging, caressing, and putting your hand on your partner’s back when you sit or walk together.
Intimate touch is something you do in your privacy behind closed doors, such as sexual touch.

Deeper Connection through Massage
Learning how to massage your partner is a great way to connect with your partner and be healthy at the same time. Couples massage brings many benefits to your mind and body, and helps to produce pleasure hormones and reduce stress hormones. It relieves tight muscles and knots, reduces aches and pains, and improves range of motion. In fact, massage also helps you digest and sleep better, and causes the production of white blood cells, making your immune system stronger to fend off common diseases.

A gift certificate for a one-hour professional massage at a spa is great, but it lasts only for that session. Learning how to give your partner a good massage, however, makes for an even greater birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s Day, or Christmas gift. Couples massage training is the gift that keeps on giving to your massage-loving partner.

Couples Massage is also a great bridge between casual touch and intimate touch. The loving touch from couples massage causes the production of oxytocin (a.k.a. bonding hormone or cuddling hormone), which makes the person crave even more touch.

Three Essentials to Good Massage
Here are three tips on how to give a good massage:
1. Save your thumbs
The number-one complaint in giving massage is suffering from sore thumbs. If your thumbs are in pain, you’re not doing it the right way. Using the forearm, fist, and heel of the palm are all good alternatives to save your thumbs and deliver pressure. Learn how to use your body weight instead of your finger strength. Massage giving becomes so much easier. Do not hurt yourself to try to give a good massage–it’s just not worth it.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Another popular complaint is that the partner hurts during massage. Communication is the key to a good massage experience. You may think the massage giver is solely responsible to make the couples massage experience great. however, the massage receiver is equally responsible in contributing to the experience. Unless your partner is psychic, you need to communicate clearly what you want and how you want the pressure, location, and speed during the massage.

3. Happy thoughts
Touch is a very powerful communication tool. Your thoughts and feelings can transfer through touch. When you touch your partner, think of at least one thing you love or appreciate about your partner. It’s a good idea to clear the air if necessary so you can be in a pure giving mode.

Couples massage at home doesn’t have to be full hour or even 30 minutes. Leave those long massages for the professionals. It can be just few minutes while you watch TV or as you wind down before you go to bed. Find few minutes a day to give a quick massage to your partner to show your love and appreciation. Your partner will feel your love and love you more.

Here’s more info on how to naturally increase your oxytocin levels from a previous Marriage Gems post!

Yasuko Kawamura is a National Board Certified Licensed Massage Therapist and the author of “You Knead Me: 10 Easy Ways To Massage Your Partner” video book series. Besides giving and receiving massages, she loves to teach couples easy and effective massage techniques to enjoy at home.

How to trade loneliness for connectedness, and how did we get here?

lonely person morguefileWe’ve passed the Stone Age, the Space Age, and the Digital Age. We’ve entered a post-social age our ancestors would have believed impossible. We’ve entered the Age of Loneliness. This is the age in which independence is valued over connectedness, where going it alone is the road more traveled. So argues George Monbiot in his Guardian article “The age of loneliness is killing us”.

During this holiday season, those who are lonely may feel it all the more intensely. This feeling makes us want to retreat, but instead, we need to reach out. We might be the ones offering help, or the ones asking for help. Either way, reaching out can benefit us as individuals and as a society.

Loneliness is an epidemic affecting young adults as well as older people, according to researchers. At times we may feel alone even among our family and friends or with our spouse. American society encourages isolation as a strength. We begin to believe that no one understands us—our deepest selves—and our fears and desires. Social media and the ubiquity of phones, computers, TVs, and ear buds makes true daily interaction much less likely.

The truth is we as human beings thrive on connection and are shaped by social interactions, says Monbiot. We are more alike than we care to admit. Yes we are each unique, but we are eating away at ourselves by pretending to be so different from the rest of humanity. We were not meant to cope alone, so to improve our lives, we need to focus more on truly connecting with those around us. That means putting down the phone, shutting off the TV, and opening our hearts and minds to one another. Sadly, two-fifths of older people report the TV is their principal company.

Individualism has become the American religion. Monbiot says more people less likely to talk to a higher power and more likely to seek the one-eyed TV god. More kids aspire to “become rich” than to engage in careers that serve and help others. He adds that TV encourages competition, hedonism and a drive toward materialism. Those who watch a lot of TV gain less satisfaction on the same income as those who watch a little. Further, acting in a competitive manner doesn’t make us richer. Even if it did, it wouldn’t make us happier.

The richest 1% with average net worth of $78 million reported they were filled with anxiety, dissatisfaction, and yes, loneliness. They even felt financially insecure believing that they needed 25% more to feel secure.

“For this, we have ripped the natural world apart, degraded our conditions of life, surrendered our freedoms and prospects of contentment to a compulsive, atomizing, joyless hedonism, in which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. For this, we have destroyed the essence of humanity: our connectedness,” Monbiot says.

Our efforts to turn inward and away from others has only resulted in extreme loneliness among various income and age levels. It will take strong effort for us to reach out to others in need, to make attempts to connect with our kids, our partners, our siblings, our parents, to not hide out behind our screens. It’s not easy to share your real self.

If you are feeling that no one understands you, that your spouse, your friends and your extended family aren’t connected to you at a high level, that’s a sign that you may be retreating more than reaching out. Check in on your neighbors. Ask questions about your friends’ dreams and passions. Talk to your spouse about their biggest fears and hopes. It’s amazing when we really connect with one another that we find we have more common ground than we thought.

Through your deeper connections, may you find love and joy this season.

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.