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Great Gift Ideas and What to Never Buy Your Wife

gift box by master images freedigitalphotos.netThere’s no shortage of suggestions out there for items to buy, but still some dear husbands make some huge mistakes in the gift-giving arena. So, as a courtesy, I just wanted to share a few warnings of what NOT to buy your wife for you Christmas, Hanukkah, your anniversary, her birthday, Valentine’s or other holidays you celebrate. (This post is adapted from one I wrote in 2010.)

Particularly if your spouse’s love language is gift giving, the present you choose may be seen as an expression of how you value him or her. In our culture, women tend to value romantic gifts from their husbands. Don’t get her the following:

1.  Anything related to your wife’s weight. One friend bought his wife a digital scale with a fat measurement tool. In his defense, his wife had been talking about getting one. However, she was not impressed with the unromantic gesture. The same goes for workout tapes, weights, and even gym memberships (unless she specifically asks for it) .Women are just too body conscious in this country, and a gift from their husband suggesting they need to get in shape can bring out her insecurities.

2.  Any appliance. If your wife needs a new vacuum, please help her pick one out. But not for her anniversary! Again, this is not a good expression of your love and appreciation. Crock pots, washers/dryers, and anything else that is needed to run your home falls into the same category. I suppose a possible exception would be if she tells you what she really, really wants is a gourmet coffee maker, or something like that. My sister once asked for a kitchen mixer, so there are exceptions.

3.  An empty box, a piece of coal or other “joke” gifts. Seriously, I’ve heard of men (OK, my husband) doing this. They all have their reasons why it was funny to them, but trust me: Don’t.

4.  Skip it. If your wife says to skip the gifts this year, because you’re saving for a deck or home improvement, you can only half believe her. I’ve heard some wives or fiancées say this but not mean it. (I am a fan of honesty, since men can’t be expected to read minds.) A small, romantic gesture is much preferred over just skipping the event. Just tell her you couldn’t let the day pass without reminding her how much she means to you.

5.  Something you can’t afford. If you’re in debt or have upcoming financial obligations, there’s no reason to spend too much to show your love. Debt causes marital stress, increased arguments, and can lead to breakups.

Keeping the above list of no no’s will keep you out of the dog house most of the time. A few top gift suggestions for any occasion include:

1.  A love letter. Find tips here on writing a love letter. It’s a free gift, and most appreciated.

2. Flowers or treats delivered to her. I recently received chocolate covered strawberries for my birthday, and enjoyed it so much I have delivered them to two others this year.

3.  Jewelry. This can be anything from costume jewelry to fine jewelry, and you can meet any budget. Be sure to check her style and perhaps ask her friends if she would enjoy what you’re considering. Some women don’t enjoy jewelry, so know your wife.

4.  Pampering. You can splurge for spa certificates, or you can make up a coupon book offering your own massages or special services, a day to herself, or other activity she enjoys.

5.  Cards or notes. Leave notes around the house for her to find. One friend was going to be out of town on his first anniversary, so he had friends go to his house each day of the week to hide a love note for his wife to find. The great thing about writing a poem or note is it truly means speaking from your heart, and your spouse will really appreciate this.

6.  Travel or getaways. One of my favorite gift ideas is to secretly plan a get-away (including babysitting if needed). It can be for one night or a week away, depending on availability and budget. Consider it an investment in your relationship. While you’re together try not to let cell phones and other technology get in the way of your sharing time.

7.  Ask, or listen. Your spouse may be giving you hints or telling you what he or she would like.

8.  If she enjoys sexy lingerie or perfume, by all means, indulge. But be sensitive to her preferences.

9. Something to keep her comfortable. Is there an area at home she likes to hang out? Does she have a throw blanket, slippers or a favorite mug to keep her cozy? How about a luxurious robe, bubble bath, and candles for the bath?

Read more ideas to show love in What have you done for your marriage today? Also, 7 free gift ideas.

Have you ever given a gift you regretted, or received a gift you couldn’t believe your spouse gave you? Share your experience, so others can avoid the same mistakes.

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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.comGreat for holiday stocking stuffers! Contact me if you would like one mailed in time for Christmas.

Picture by Master isolated images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Americans Marrying Later in Life—When is the Right Time?

Americans are marrying at a later age than ever before, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The median age of a first marriage is at its highest ever, about 28 years for men and 27 years for women.  A growing number of Americans are marrying for the first time over age 40; this has helped push the median age of first marriages to its new heights.

The number of women marrying for the first time in their teens has dropped significantly—from 42 percent in 1970 down to 18 percent in 1988 and 7 percent in 2009. And while 88 percent of women were married by age 24 back in 1970, only 38 percent of women were married by that age in 2009. Not only are fewer women marrying at that age, there is more societal acceptance of being single much longer.

Various reasons have been suggested—young adults wanting to finish college and/or start careers, wider use of contraception to delay childbearing, personal preference, or changing societal norms are some of the more commonly mentioned. And sometimes individuals just don’t find a partner they really want to be with until they are older. Because there is less pressure to marry than there used to be, many are willing (and happy) to live single, but may decide to marry when they meet someone they consider an ideal mate.

Experts suggest some benefits to marrying later are having a better sense of self and a better understanding of what you want in a partner. On the other hand, people who marry much older may be very “stuck in their ways” with lifestyle and household habits, and will need to be flexible and considerate to live happily with a mate.

There is no perfect age at which marriage can be guaranteed a success. However, the rates of teen marriage failures are very high, so the reduction in teen marriages will likely be helpful at reducing divorce rates. Still, many young couples feel very confident in their decision to marry young and have gone on to have long and happy marriages.

I was 24 when I married, which was close to the average at the time. I had known my (now) husband for five years by then. How old where you when you married? Do you think your age had any bearing on your marital success or failure? When do you think is the ideal age at which to marry?

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and 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. Note: Amazon has First Kiss to Lasting Bliss currently discounted at $13.95 for a hard copy and $8.19 for the Kindle edition! A pdf is available for $7.99.

Photo by Jomphong courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

How Important Is Romance In Your Marriage?

Thanks to Grace Pamer for today’s Guest Post!

For those unromantic souls out there who see marriage as a social contract, something that makes society work and nothing more, romance is clearly not an issue. But for most of us who fell in love with a wonderful person, then married him or her as a pledge of commitment and fidelity to that person, romance in a marriage is extremely important. It can be the rock on which the marriage is based, and it can sustain a long marriage through trials and dry spots when the natural and normal difficulties arise. When two people live a life together, they will inevitably have problems that come from being in that situation, and romance can help to solve those kinds of problems.

PROBLEM: BOREDOM

Depending on how long you have been married, or how tolerant you can be, familiarity will definitely set in, and the result can be boredom. Getting bored is a human condition, and if you find your formerly charming and entertaining mate is becoming stale and all too familiar, you need some romance in your lives. When this happened to a couple I know, they decided to take a weekend off from normal life every other month or so and do something completely new, something that would put them in an unfamiliar but romantic setting. By going to an opera together and spending the night in a downtown hotel, or spending a weekend hiking and camping, they found that they each became more interesting people to each other. The key is to find a romantic activity that is outside of your zone of familiarity, and to make sure that it is as romantic for both of you as it can possibly be. If you make the effort, it can turn that boredom around.

PROBLEM: POOR COMMUNICATION

Habits are hard to break, but even worse is when they slowly grow into common behaviors and you have no idea how it happened. Most married couples in the early years of their lives together communicate in a healthy way, because that’s how they got to know each other and to be able to stay together. But as time goes by, communication can slip, and the partners take each other for granted. They forget how to talk and how to express their needs, so their needs go unmet and resentment grows. To stop this, my wife and I decided to do some research on how to communicate better, after admitting that it was a problem, of course. We found that a simple book of romantic conversation starters was a very good way to let romance fix the problem. By talking more and learning how to really communicate, our romance level skyrocketed – and that was a very good thing.

PROBLEM: STRESS

There is not enough time in modern life to take care of everything that needs to be taken care of, romance and marriage included. When time is an issue, stress is the result, and a couple who are overstressed are going to be under-passionate and romantic. By making a conscious effort to reduce the stress in your lives in a romantic way, a major problem can be addressed and solved. Most of the standard stress-reduction methods can be turned into chances for romance with a bit of imagination. Take a yoga or meditation class, and then practice together, making it a quiet but romantic date. Set aside a time to listen to calming romantic music with some candles and cushions, and let the stress fade while your passion flows.

MARRIAGE NEEDS ROMANCE

Sustaining a marriage is something that requires work, cooperation, and commitment. But a married couple is already accustomed to those things; it’s what a successful marriage is about, after all. When you decide to use romance to sustain your marriage, you also decide that it is worth the effort, and your partnership will be stronger and last longer.

About today’s guest poster: Grace Pamer is the author of Romance Never Dies, a blog which gives insights into the art of putting together great marriage proposal ideas.

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Thanks again, Grace, for those great tips. Readers, please feel free to share your ideas in the comments for infusing romance into your marriage!

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and 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 Photostock courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Are you or your spouse out of work? Participants needed for survey.

Researcher Andrew Bland asked me to share this request for research participants with you:

I am seeking married people from a variety of backgrounds to complete a brief online questionnaire on how unemployment impacts their quality of life and marriage in the current economy. It should take about 20 minutes for you to complete.  Your participation and your responses will be kept confidential.

Interested in Participating? Please go to www.tinyurl.com/survey-unemployment

Have Questions? Please contact Andrew Bland, M.A.: abland3@sycamores.indstate.edu

Thank you. Hopefully this research will be helpful to couples in the future.

How Does Food Affect Your Marriage?

A new study is analyzing the impact of fatty foods on marital stress, hypothesizing that following a fatty meal, your marital interactions may be more stressful.

That got me to thinking about food in general and its impact on our daily lives. While I do think we need to be thinking about eating more healthfully, in my marriage, I think more arguments occur due to being hungry, and thus cranky, than for the type of meal that is prepared. (If my blood sugar gets too low, I’m not very pleasant!) Conflict can occur more easily when our basic needs aren’t being met.

At times, one of us is displeased because we expected the other to have dinner ready, but we didn’t communicate those expectations. Living in a two-cook home has many positives, but one downside is that we need to discuss meal plans and not assume the other person has it covered. Since he travels often, meals are usually my responsibility during the week. When he is home, especially on weekends, he enjoys cooking.

As a whole, I think my family celebrates and appreciates food as the gift it can be. For example, my kids have great appreciation for different cheeses, herbs, fruits and veggies. Dumpling soup and seaweed salad are favorites.  Others refer to them as little “foodies”, and according to this survey, they meet the criteria. The challenge is providing new and unique flavors daily.

Planning helps prevent grumbling and conflict

One of the most helpful things I have found to keep our day from crashing between after-school activities and bedtime is to have ingredients on hand for a healthy dinner and at least a rough idea of how and when it will come together. In addition, having some decent snacks around helps bridge the gap before meals.

My favorite go-to recipe sites are simplyrecipes.com and epicurious.com. One of my family’s favorite recipes is this meatloaf recipe from Alton Brown. (Triple the sauce!) The crock pot and rice cooker are also a big help when you won’t be home to cook and will need a quick meal. Crockpot recipes online are plentiful.

Whether we are having grilled cheese sandwiches and soup or something a little more fancy like the pictured fish en croute we made at a recent cooking club (WOW for presentation!) having food in our bellies puts us in a happier place. Often the best meals are thrown together with ingredients we have already on hand, like the pineapple chicken rice I made last night.

Compared with grabbing a pizza or take-out, cooking a quick meal with healthier ingredients shows love and concern. And having control over meal times diffuses a good deal of stress. Our family meal times are an important time for all of us to connect.

Researchers will soon reveal whether fatty meals or low-fat meals impact our marital stress. In the mean time, keep the hunger pangs away to avoid certain disaster. What is your sweetie’s favorite meal, snack or dessert? Can you work it into your grocery list and plans for the week? It’s just another way of communicating your love.

Note: Thanks for your patience with my break in blog posts. I took a wonderful trip to The Netherlands to visit my brother and sister-in-law. I’m now back in the good old USA, where bathrooms are always free. ;-)

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. It’s available  at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com

Photo by Lori Lowe.

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.

The Power of Vulnerability in Finding Lasting Love

Do you have a sense of love and belonging?

Brené Brown’s TEDx Talk on The Power of Vulnerability explains the difference between people who have a sense of love and belonging and those who don’t:  Those who have it believe that they are worthy of it. It’s that simple. One thing that keeps us out of connection with loved ones is our fear that we aren’t worthy of that connection.

Brown conducted a great deal of research about people who live “wholeheartedly” and studied what they have in common. She found they have:

  1. The courage to be imperfect.
  2. The compassion to be kind to themselves and to others.
  3. Connection as a result of authenticity—in other words, they were true to themselves.
  4. They fully embraced vulnerability, and they believed that which made them vulnerable also made them beautiful.

Of course, many of us know what a challenge it is to be vulnerable. There are no guarantees that when we put ourselves “out there”, we will be loved in return. Brown herself struggled tremendously in her effort to be vulnerable, preferring to be in control at all times.

She also suggests we often numb ourselves from life—with credit cards, medication, drugs or alcohol.  But then we numb the good AND bad parts of our lives. “We numb joy, gratitude and happiness. We try to perfect ourselves, our lives and our children,” she says. “Instead, we need to affirm ourselves and others as imperfect but worthy of love and belonging.”

To be vulnerable, we have to love with our whole hearts, knowing there is no guarantee, but believing that we are enough, Brown says. “Practice gratitude, and lean into joy.”

I agree with Brown that showing our deepest, truest selves can be difficult, even downright scary at times. We wonder if we open ourselves up with such honesty and vulnerability if we will be seen as worthy of love. It’s a leap of faith that, according to Brown’s research, is essential to make. Check out Brown’s full talk. It’s entertaining and well worth your time.

Do you believe you are worthy of love and belonging? Do you communicate that kind of loving message to your spouse, especially when he or she opens up to you? Do you struggle with vulnerability, or do you embrace the concept?

Links to Enjoy:

10 Truths about Happy Marriages—Read these helpful tips!

50 Ways to Show Your Husband You Love Him by Busy Bliss blog—You don’t have to do all of them, but pick one or two today as a way to communicate your love.

Lori Lowe is a marriage blogger at MarriageGems.com. Her 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.

Photo by graur razvan ionut courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.