Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

A Few Love Links

It is not our spouse’s job to make us happy, and as I’ve said before, marriage is not intended to “make us happy.” Here are a few links to posts from other bloggers who make this point in various ways:

Black and Married with Kids recently posted: Marriage Was Not Designed to Make You Happy and What Marriage was Designed For.

And check out Paul Byerly with The Generous Husband’s great message called I Choose Love, with an important reminder that love is a choice. Read his take on how falling out of love is incompatible with this philosophy.

Have a safe and loving weekend, everyone!

Avoid these 5 regrets by living and loving to the fullest

As you set plans and goals for this year, perhaps you seek inspiration about the kind of life you hope to live—one filled with passion and purpose. Let’s hope that life includes a life with awesome relationships to boot.

A palliative care nurse named Bronnie Ware recently wrote about the top five regrets people make on their deathbeds. (See her post here.) They are keen reminders of what’s important, and they have great applications to marriage.

  1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected.” Bronnie says this was the most common regret. Have you been honest with yourself about the life you want to lead and the dreams you want to pursue? Talk to your spouse about these dreams, including your dreams for your marriage and family life. Live out your personal values, not those of the culture around you. For example, if travel is important to you, figure out how to scale back your lifestyle to provide more funds and time for adventures, or look for a job abroad so you can travel while getting paid. Follow your dreams while you are still healthy enough to do so.
  2. “I wish I didn’t work so hard.” Bronnie says all the older men spoke of missing their children’s youth, and men and women also talked of missing their partner’s companionship due to work. We often fall into the trap that work is what we have to do, and family life gets squeezed into the space that is left. But Bronnie suggests, “By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do…you become happier and more open to new opportunities.

 I would add that in addition to simplifying, learning to say no to some things (or even most things) opens doors for the important things. I watched a short interview today by John Acuff (while I was “wasting time” on Facebook) in which he explains why it’s important to let some people down in order to not let down the important ones in our lives. If you don’t have time to pursue all the great things you want to in live, I strongly encourage you to watch it on ABC News.

  1. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.” The way to have true and meaningful relationships is to be ourselves.
  2. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.” Married and single people can benefit greatly by keeping strong friendships. Research says social interactions increase our happiness and longevity. Caroline says many of the dying didn’t realize the value in their friendships until their dying weeks when the friendships were lost. What friendships are important for you to cultivate? How do you invest your time and energy into these relationships?  All that remains in the final weeks is love and relationships, says Caroline.
  3. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.” While she explains many people on their deathbeds realized too late that happiness was a choice, I think that is equally true for marriage. We can focus on our partner’s great qualities or the things that annoy us. We can think about unmet needs or express gratitude for what we receive in love. We can choose to be happy together, or we can focus on the imperfections that are always a part of human life and love.

What are the choices you are making with your time and your attitude this year? I’ve always thought regrets are the worst possible emotion. What do you hope to feel as you look back on your life, and what are the regrets you hope to avoid?

If you enjoyed this post, sign up for free updates at MarriageGems.com. For information about Lori’s book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage, visit Amazon.com or LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Best Posts of 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Salvatore Vuono courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Celebrate Each Day With Your Loved Ones

I want to wish a Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate. As we reach the holiday season again, I’m reminded that I haven’t lived up to my aim to celebrate each day of 2011 in my own way. Many days, I was caught up with the to-do list and didn’t have my heart leaning into celebration. I’m re-reading those tips and trying to take them more to heart. I hope you will, too.

My friend Debi Walter recently wrote about the famous Jim Croce song, Time in a Bottle here at The Romantic Vineyard. The lyrics that struck me were: “But there never seems to be enough time to do the things we want to do once you find them. I’ve looked around enough to know that you’re the one I want to go through time with.” Listen to the song, and let it remind you that we can’t save time in a bottle and spend them again with those we love. We just get the one shot, and before we know it, another year has passed. 

When I was young, my mother and I used to watch the soap opera, Days of our Lives, which always began, “Like sand through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” Thankfully, I gave up soaps long ago! But I think of those words as I look at the hourglass in my son’s room. Please share your ideas for making each day really count, both as we finish up 2011 and as we make plans for 2012. Blessings to you.

Online florists offer flower delivery to help people show loved ones they care.

Vote for Top 10 Marriage Blogs of 2011

A whopping 48 finalist blogs have been nominated for the Top 10 Marriage Blogs of 2011 at Stupendous Marriage. If you are a Marriage Gems fan, I’d appreciate your vote, as it really does help bring new readers to our blogging family. Voting runs only until midnight on December 4th. Place your vote here.

Stu Gray created this list in 2009 when he couldn’t find an official list for marriage blogs, and the list has helped thousands of people find helpful content to improve their marriages.

Each person has only one vote. Select your favorite blog from the drop down menu, and hit send. Link to Stupendous Marriage to vote before you forget. ;-)

Materialistic Marriages are Unhappier, say Researchers

No matter what your income level is, if you love money and the pursuit and accumulation of goods, your marriage will be less happy and less stable. In addition, if your spouse shares these interests, you may be doubly hit, say researchers.

They originally theorized that couples with one saver and one spender might be most at risk, because of the amount of conflict the difference in behavior can cause. However, researchers found that two spenders further dooms a relationship. When both spouses have high levels of materialism, the marriages struggle the most. (As my husband most aptly puts it, these couples argue about how broke they are.)

Researcher Jason Carroll, a professor of family life at Brigham Young University conducted online questionnaires with 1,734 married couples and used a commonly used relationship assessment tool. The couples answered questions about marital satisfaction, conflict and communication. They also rated their agreement with the sentence, “Having money and lots of things has never been important to me.” Those who agreed with the phrase were deemed non-materialistic, and those who disagreed were categorized as materialistic.

Among couples who had at least one materialistic spouse (either the husband or the wife), their marriages were worse off on all measures as compared to couples in which neither was materialistic. Couples who were deemed non-materialistic had 10 to 15 percent higher responses in terms of marital satisfaction and stability, and lower levels of conflict. On the flip side, when couples shared the value of materialism, it compounded problems.

While the study didn’t get to the bottom of why this correlation occurs, Carroll reports two theories. First, materialism leads to poor financial decisions, resulting in debt and higher stress levels. Second, materialistic individuals spend less time nurturing their relationships with people and more time acquiring things, while non-materialistic people place a higher priority on relationships.

I think both theories sound very reasonable. Do you agree with either of these theories, or do you think another reason could be attributed to the link?

Carroll suggests couples take an inventory of their values and determine what is really important to them, then ask if their ambitions for certain things may be getting in the way of what they say is important. While couples think they can pursue things and relationships, “they may not realize how much their ambitions are hurting their loved ones,” says Carroll.

So, are you a spender or a saver? Is your spouse a spender or a saver? If either one of you is a spender, it may be time to have a chat about your values and priorities.

For details, read Love of Money May Mess Up Your  Marriage.

LINKS:
Read Smart Ways to Keep Your Marriage Healthy, from CNN.

Photo by Photostock courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Have an Affair with Your Spouse

As a follow up to Are You Jealous of Your Friend’s Divorce?, I said I would offer some research-based advice to make your marriage exciting and satisfying so that you wouldn’t be tempted by other options outside your marriage. So here are some tips with further reading:

Plan New, Exciting Activities
I’ve said it before, married life isn’t dull, or at least it doesn’t need to be. Two interesting people will lead and interesting life together. It may take a nudge to get us out of our comfort zones on occasion, but don’t be afraid to make a change, try something new, learn a new skill, volunteer together, etc. Read Choose Exciting Over Pleasant Activities to Boost Marriage, then along with your spouse make a list of things you would each like to do that are exciting. Rate each activity 1-10 for pleasantness and excitement. Find something that you both find moderately pleasant but high on the excitement scale. Then, put it on the calendar and make it happen.

Shun Boredom Both In and Out of the Bedroom
Read Banish Boredom from the Bedroom with 7 useful tips from the author of Hot Monogamy, Patricia Love. Boredom outside of the bedroom can be just as deadly. Research shows conflict isn’t the only cause of divorce; boredom can kill a marriage. Being bored reduces closeness and slowly decreases marital satisfaction. Find shared fun activities and new adventures to keep your relationship exciting. Research shows that if partners experience excitement from other sources (such as participating in new, challenging activities together), this shared experience can reignite the passion in your marriage!

Keep Romance Alive
Read 7 Ways to Create Sparks Every Day for tips on keeping those romantic flames burning.

Bottom Line
If you can only focus on one thing, spend more dedicated, quality time with your spouse. Remember why you fell in love and focus on those positive attributes.

What are your biggest challenges in keeping your relationship fun, interesting and exciting? Most people will say time is their biggest challenge. Make your marriage a top priority if you would like to increase your happiness in love and life.

Photo by savit keaw tavee courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.