Avoid these 3 hindrances to contentment in marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

A Children’s Secret Desire: An Unbroken Home

ainsley's prayerMy friend opened her daughter’s prayer necklace on Easter Sunday and found this shred of paper that read “I pray that my family will never fall apart.”

It may surprise you to learn that this child’s parents have a loving marriage and that she has a secure and strong family unit. But her aunt and uncle are going through a divorce, and she sees how traumatic it is for them and for her cousins. Even this glimpse of divorce is enough to make her fear for her own family.

Given the prevalence of divorce today, most children have seen a glimpse (or more) of its sorrow and pain. Due to this eye-opening experience, they may have insecurity about divorce. Your own children may be more insecure than you realize.

Imagine that your child wrote this note (pictured). Would it motivate you to work harder to ensure your marriage is strong and your family is secure? It did motivate me to think about whether I am doing all I can to maintain a strong family. What would you say to the child to reassure her? Do your children need to be reassured? The mother who found it reassured her by telling her that just because her parents argue doesn’t mean they are breaking up and that they made the decision to get married as a “forever” decision.

If you have been thinking about giving up on your marriage, please realize the shock and sorrow that children go through in a family breakup. That sorrow is not a transition that goes away. Children are not as resilient as we give them credit for being.

Choose to love your spouse, even when you don’t feel particularly loving. You will have ups and downs, but over time individuals are happier when they stay together through the rough periods. The odds are better for you to find love and happiness in the marriage you are in than if you look for happiness after a divorce. And children are better off being reared in an intact family—emotionally, physically, financially and educationally.

What is your secret desire for your family? Do you know if your children are secure in their family? Have you asked them?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Why does your spouse think about sex so much more/less than you do?

candles by Christ Sharp at freedigitalphotos.netMany couples blame vastly different libidos for a variety of marriage problems. Some who have higher levels of desire use it to excuse the use of pornography or straying from their marriage vows. Others have an underlying current of conflict due to this difference. It is more than possible to live happily in marriage with a difference in levels of desire.

In The Passion Principles, author Shannon Ethridge shared some helpful insights and suggestions on the issue. Often, it is the man with the higher desire, but sometimes it is the wife, so she is careful not to stereotype. The mismatched sex drive is the issue, not which spouse is higher or lower.

First, related to why this difference in libido frequently occurs, both spouses may find their libido goes up and down depending on stage of life, level of health, hormones, focus on work or kids, and many other factors.

They key to surviving the fluctuating seasons and pendulum swings from one extreme to the other, says Ethridge is NOT to take it personally. “If you are the one feeling the sting of rejection, it is most likely not about you at all. And if you are the one experiencing a temporary lull in your libido, it is not a sign that your relationship is sinking like the Titanic. Most likely, these difference in sexual thought patterns have more to do with hormone production than anything else, and hormone production is not always something we are able to control,” she says.

Ethridge cites brain research by Dr. Louann Brizendine to explain some biological reasons men generally have higher levels of desire. These include:
1. The sex-related centers of the male brain are twice as large as those of the female brain (explaining why men think about sex more frequently).
2. Testosterone is the hormone responsible for fueling sexual thoughts, and men produce between 10 times and 100 times more of it than do females.
3. Men’s response to stress leads them to think about sex more often. Women’s response to stress is to produce more cortisol, which shuts down their desire for sex and physical touch.

This third point should be very important to both men who want their wives to desire sex more, and to women who wish their libido was higher. The woman needs to have the house, the kids, and the work stress under control to be able to relax and have the cortisol levels come down. That is likely why women frequently say they could enjoy sex more if their husbands helped more in the home. It’s not just a quid pro quo sort of comment, it’s an explanation of how she functions. If the husband can’t or won’t help out in the areas causing too much stress, it may be worthwhile to hire some help if it is financially feasible. It may be a good investment in your love life.

In addition to these differences, our hormone levels change after we have been together for a while. During the passion phase (lasting maybe 6 months or as long as two years), we have high levels of bonding hormones dopamine and oxytocin. Eventually those fall to lower levels as our relationship matures. We simply can’t expect the passionate feelings to be as high as during the honeymoon phase, but that doesn’t mean sex isn’t an important part of the marriage.

Ethridge shares advice from her personal experience that couples don’t need to only have sex when they both have high levels of desire. Instead, she says it’s great to use sex as a way to de-stress from a difficult workday, to use it to recharge your batteries when feeling lethargic, to help celebrate all good news (from a promotion to answered prayer), to provide sexual intimacy when one spouse or both are feeling blue, to bring one another comfort, and of course as a release from sexual desire.

“Thinking of sex has become a way of bonding ourselves together in a very intimate, powerful way—through both the good times and bad,” says Ethridge.

Many people who comment here on the blog say have great difficulty understanding their spouse’s way of thinking about sex. Do you feel that understanding the biological difference helps you understand your partner’s viewpoint? Has differing sexual desire been a frequent conversation or conflict in your marriage? Marriage therapists can help couples understand one another’s needs and feelings about the issue if it is causing considerable trouble for you. Do you have similar levels of desire? Do you find that is unusual? Whatever your situation, don’t give up hope in finding common ground on this issue.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.
Photo courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

12 marriage pitfalls husbands can fall into

hold hands couple freeditigalphotos.net by photostockThe following dozen “don’ts” for husbands are excerpted from Turn Your Relationship into a Lifelong Love Affair by Bill Syrios. Read the pitfalls for wives here. What do you think of his advice? What important don’ts are missing in your opinion?

I would suggest you look at both lists, because there may be some crossover. For instance, both lists suggests it is the man who is working and who may need some down time, but in our society this is likely true of both spouses. Plan ways to spend your time together, and plan ways for each spouse to decompress and get some relaxation time alone when needed. In addition, both lists comment on the wife’s appearance, but keeping up one’s appearance can be important to both partners. That being said, I think both lists are useful reminders and focus on what are often the most important complaints of husbands and of wives. What do you think?

1. Don’t invalidate her feelings or patronize her.
2. Don’t intimidate her with your anger, ever.
3. Don’t stop listening even if she has a lot to say.
4. Don’t forget to pamper her or to touch her often in non-sexual ways.
5. Don’t neglect to tell her what you are feeling.
6. Don’t avoid saying, “I’m sorry; please forgive me.”
7. Don’t assume she knows you love her unless you tell her so.
8. Don’t tell her how to “fix it” as if her feelings don’t count.
9. Don’t neglect taking pride in how she makes everything look, especially herself.
10. Don’t come home from work thinking your job is done.
11. Don’t ignore your role as father in the family.
12. Don’t assume sex works for her or means the same to her as it does to you.

Do any of these areas need more of your attention? Are any points missing or wrong in your opinion?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net. Turn Your Relationship Into a Lifelong Love Affair was published by Crossover Press.

12 marriage pitfalls wives can fall into

hold hands couple freeditigalphotos.net by photostockThe following dozen “don’ts” for wives relating to their husbands are excerpted from Turn Your Relationship into a Lifelong Love Affair by Bill Syrios. What do you think of this advice for wives? I think #2 is an important reminder that your spouse can’t be your source of happiness, #3 is a must in my opinion, and #10 suggests that even if you feel your marriage is the higher priority, your husband may not feel that way. Which items do you feel are most important for husbands to feel secure in your relationship?

1. Don’t nag, put or whine at him.
2. Don’t be impossible to please or fail to be happy.
3. Don’t embarrass him in public or ridicule him ever.
4. Don’t think he doesn’t love words of praise or your affirmations.
5. Don’t think unkind words won’t wound him.
6. Don’t stop cheering him on.
7. Don’t think he doesn’t need decompression time (such as time with buddies after work).
8. Don’t assume his work aspirations aren’t your business.
9. Don’t think your appearance makes no difference to him.
10. Don’t fall in love with your kids more than him.
11. Don’t think he doesn’t appreciate your touch.
12. Don’t underestimate how important sex is to him.

Do any of these areas need more of your attention? Tomorrow I will share the pitfalls for husbands.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

How to be a better marriage helper

friends talkingAlmost three-fourths of adults have been marriage confidants, according to a USA Today survey of 1,000 adults aged 25 to 70. More women (78%) than men (69%) have had a friend or family member confide in them about their marriage or long-term relationship struggles.

In fact, most people (64%) would rather confide in a trusted friend or family member than in a professional. Less than half would talk to a professional counselor (47%) and still fewer would confide in a member of the clergy (37%).

With this being the case, a program was unveiled a few months ago to help individuals gain the skills and knowledge to best support marriages around them. Because, honestly, it’s not always easy to know what to say or do when someone comes to you with a marital issue that is bothering them.

The program, called Marital First Responders, was developed by William Doherty, a longtime marriage and family therapist. He says that while not everyone is “qualified” to help someone through a rough patch in the marriage, even basic skills can be helpful. In addition, the training helps the “helper” to know where to set boundaries and direct the person or couple to a professional. Doherty says he called it first responder as a reminder to not get in over your head. (A first responder helps stabilize a situation then refers someone for professional treatment.)

You are a marital responder if:
-Friends, family members, and coworkers confide in you about their marital struggles.
-You enjoy the role of confidant, though it may be stressful or frustrating at times.
-You are sympathetic to the ordinary struggles of married life.
-You don’t run the other way then a problem comes up.
-You know you aren’t a marriage counselor, but would love to be more helpful to married people in your life.

Here are a few tips to be a better confidant if a friend or family member talks to you about a marriage issue:
1. Listen for feelings, not just complaints.
2. Empathize without taking sides.
3. Affirm strengths in the confider and in the marriage/relationship.
4. Offer perspective as someone who cares about them and their marriage.
5. Challenge with gentleness and firmness.
6. Offer resources when more help is needed.
Source: William Doherty, psychologist, marriage and family therapist

There are risks associated with getting family or friends involved in marital discord. One problem is that the couple may not receive effective assistance in a timely manner. Another risk is that the confidant takes the side of their loved one (instead of the marriage) and by doing so may worsen the situation by adding to the divide. So, if someone does confide in you (particularly an adult child, sibling or close friend), be careful not to take their side; instead, try to remain objective and supportive.

The top 5 marital issues that are brought up to a confidant (from the USA Today survey):
Growing apart—68%
Not enough attention—63%
Money—60%
Not able to talk together—60%
Spouse’s personal habits—59%

If you have marriage issues of your own you want to discuss, choose carefully whom you decide to confide in, and ask yourself if it wouldn’t be safer to talk to a professional than risk making that person jaded against your spouse in the future.

If you are interested in training in the Marital First Responders Course, Doherty is making some in-person classes available in different cities—the next one is in April in St. Paul, Minn.—and interactive online webinars are available.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

The Pope’s Advice for Living Together in Love

Pope Francis addressed the fear of getting married and the secrets to living together happily when 10,000 engaged couples gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Valentine’s Day. The leader of the world’s largest Christian church had some interest advice for these young lovers.

First addressing the fear of “forever,” he said, “It is important to ask ourselves if it is possible to love one another forever. He continued, “Today many people are afraid of making definitive decisions that affect them for all their lives, because it seems impossible…and this mentality leads many who are preparing for marriage to say, ‘We will stay together for as long as our love lasts’.”

If love were merely an emotion, it would likely not last, but if instead it is a relationship, then it is a growing reality, that can be built together just as a house is built, he explained. “You would not wish to build it on the shifting sands of emotions, but on the rock of true love, the love that comes from God,” the Pope said. “We must not allow ourselves to be conquered by a ‘throwaway culture’.”

In answering a question about how to live together in love, the Pope responded that “living together is an art, a patient and beautiful and fascinating journey…which can be summarized in three words: please, thanks and sorry.” Please will reflect the kindness and care with which spouses treat one another. “True love does not impose itself with hardness and aggression.” Gratitude is an important sentiment, he explained, both toward one another as well as toward the God who provided the gift of your spouse. And sorry will be needed for the many mistakes we all make. He warned the engaged couples that the perfect family does not exist, nor the perfect husband, nor the perfect wife (nor even the perfect mother-in-law). However, learning to apologize, offer forgiveness and make peace each day (and not ending the day angry) will allow the marriage to last.

He tweeted on the same day this message: Dear young people, don’t be afraid to marry. A faithful and fruitful marriage will bring you happiness.

Read the Pope’s full remarks here. What do you think allows couples to maintain their love over a lifetime of marriage?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.