Category Archives: Relationships

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.

Is Marital Harmony Possible with High-Achieving Spouse?

The Love FightA new book called “The Love Fight” tackles the unique challenges of high-achieving individuals who are often married to relationship-oriented “connectors”. This Achiever/Connector marriage is at high risk of failure, because the partners may become codependent (unhealthy) rather than interdependent (the ideal).

The co-authors both fall into the category of high achievers who struggled to be emotionally present, and they aim to share their lessons. One important lesson they teach is not to measure success merely by professional achievements. More importantly, they encourage Achievers to also measure the success of their relationships.

Co-authors psychiatrist Tony Ferretti and practicing physician Peter Weiss, M.D., were both driven, high-achieving married men who weren’t always aware of how they put their jobs above their families and relied too heavily on their wives to maintain family relationships. However, they learned to create more fulfilling marriages and greater life balance.

The authors write to both the connectors and the high achievers with stories and examples from their own practices. They challenge the reader to view their perpetual issues with a new perspective. For instance, a spouse who provides well for his or her family may feel they don’t need to contribute as much emotionally, but would be wrong. Equally wrong would be a spouse who has not insisted that their partner grow up and be responsible for their own relationships, thereby enabling irresponsibility.

Often the high-achieving spouse thrives on the praise and appreciation he or she receives in the workplace. The supportive spouse may initially be attracted by these skills, but without regular marital connection, these constant work demands can cause resentment. Both spouses need to fully appreciate their partner’s talents and contributions. And both spouses need to prioritize the marriage and family.

The book goes on to explain characteristics and tendencies of Achievers and Connectors and how to help these couples make the best of their marriages. They explain how to change if unsuccessful patterns or resentments have come up. And they encourage couples that they can in fact change their marital destiny if they do the hard work that may be needed.

If you or a friend finds yourself in an Achiever/Connector marriage, and you hope to improve the trust, intimacy, and connection in the marriage, “The Love Fight” may help you see things in a new light.

Please note I receive no compensation for this review. The Love Fight can be found at Amazon or other retailers.

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.

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.

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.

Researchers say successful marriages come down to this trait

rose morguefileSocial scientists and marriage experts have been gathering data since the ‘70s on what separates successful marriages from unsuccessful ones. John and Julie Gottman, both psychologists with The Gottman Institute were forerunners of this work and continue to help couples learn how to have stable, loving relationships. By observing certain interactions, they can predict with up to 94 percent certainty whether couples will be broken up, together, happy or unhappy years down the road.

How we are predisposed toward one another, how we respond to requests, and how good we are at kindness and generosity all play a part in a marriage’s success.

Physiology
A recent article in The Atlantic called “Masters of Love” divulges the differences between the masters of marriage and the disasters. Couples associated with the disasters were markedly different down to their very physiology. When they talked, their heart rates were quick. Their sweat glands were active. They were in fight-or-flight mode all the time, waiting for the next argument. They were more aggressive and defensive. The physiology demonstrated how they were negatively predisposed toward one another.

Couples who were masters of marriage felt calm and connected, had slower heart rates, and warm behavior and language toward one another. It’s not their physical make-up that changed things, says John Gottman. Instead, they created a climate of trust and intimacy that made them both feel at ease. The way in which they created this positive climate was through kindness, generosity and responding positively to bids for attention.

Responding to Bids/Requests for Attention
How you respond to subtle requests for attention or “bids” throughout the day from your spouse is another major factor for marital success. Whether one person shares a funny story from work or asks the other to join them on the couch, we respond in different ways depending on our mood and activities. Maybe we share a laugh, or we may say (or show) that we are busy reading. Even small actions add up, particularly if they are rebuffed or ignored. Couples who divorced after six years only responded favorably to their partner one-third of the time, while couples married after six years met these bids 9 out of 10 times. By ignoring your partner’s requests for attention, you can make them feel worthless or ignored, eventually killing the love they feel.

Types of Kindness
Kindness is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in marriage, say the Gottmans. It makes each spouse feel loved, validated, understood and important. Some people are naturally kind, but kindness is a muscle that can grow stronger with practice. Kindness can have many meanings.

Kindness can mean responding in a pleasing way to your partner’s bids for attention. For example, if you’re watching a show (even a big game), reading the news or busy with a hobby when your spouse comes in the door or asks you a question, do you give them your attention or act annoyed? How do you respond to bids for intimacy?

Kindness can mean how you act during a disagreement or fight. Avoid words of contempt, rolling the eyes, raising your voice, acting aggressively. The way we express our anger or feelings is critical, as is the type of language we choose.

Kindness can mean small acts of generosity—a cup of tea, a backrub, an offer to go to the store or clean up.

Kindness can mean assuming the best intentions for your partner. If he forgot to pick up the dry cleaning, left his towel on the floor, or was late to a date, we don’t assume the worst.

Kindness can mean celebrating life’s joys and good news together—being genuinely excited for the other person when things go well (and of course being there when things don’t go so well).

More than all these, kindness in marriage means how you interact on a daily basis, the affection you share, the feeling that you’re in life together and happy about it.

Relationships fail for a variety of reasons, but the breakdown of kindness drives the unraveling of many of them. “As the normal stresses of life together pile up—with children, career, friend, in-laws, and other distractions crowding out the time for romance and intimacy—couples may put less effort into their relationship and let the petty grievances they hold against one another tear them apart,” says Emily Esfahani Smith, author of The Atlantic article.

Master or Disaster?
Taking this research into account, are your behaviors more in line with the masters or disasters of marriage? What attributes are bringing you down or holding you up?

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

Romantic commercial aims to end divorce

Proctor & Gamble has a big hit in a shampoo commercial aimed to reduce divorce in China. The romantic spot (which doesn’t mention Rejoice shampoo) has reportedly been viewed 40 million times per month in that country. You can watch it below with subtitles. There are between 3 to 3.5 million Chinese divorces annually, but the commercial offers hope by sharing that 100,000 of these couples decide to remarry one another.

Critics say the strategy is insulting or overly sentimental, but you can’t argue with the numbers of fans. They may have hit on a brilliant strategy. What do you think of this style and message, which seems to say, “It ain’t over til it’s over. You can start again. You can love again.” One thing I liked was that the actors conveyed the hurt and anger at the beginning, and then through physical touch were able to move beyond those. Is it too cheesy or overly commercial, or does it work? How about the tagline #believeinloveagain?