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.

Do you wish Valentine’s Day never existed?

100_0323aEvery year I hear from people who find the pressure of Valentine’s Day can make it a negative holiday. Others choose to ignore it because it’s a “Hallmark holiday.” Whether you go all out with dinner reservations and chocolate, or stay at home and don’t even share cards, there is no correct way for couples to celebrate.

I’ll give you an example. A friend of mine was robbed in her home on Valentine’s Day many years ago. Her husband knows that she detests any mention of the holiday and wants no gifts or celebration of any kind. It is simply a reminder of the worst kind. Her husband is welcome to choose another day to bring her flowers, but this is not the right day.

Others I know would find it offensive if their spouse did not make at least an effort to be romantic or buy a gift. They may or may not spell out their expectations, but they are there nonetheless. (Please don’t expect your spouse to read your mind.)

Frequently, wives seem to act as if Valentine’s Day is a day for them—they should be showered with spa days, chocolate and flowers, and an ornate card, perhaps with dinner waiting for them. Yet these women aren’t making the same effort for their husbands, perhaps because he doesn’t care about the day. It should be a day for both partners to enjoy.

If you are wondering what to do, think about your spouse’s true preferences. Would he or she rather have dinner at home, or choose a different day to celebrate? Would she rather have you write a love letter or poem instead of getting a gift? Would he rather go to the movies than have a complicated dress-up date? If your wishes are different from your spouse’s, consider celebrating the way your spouse wants to celebrate this week and then pick another day to celebrate the way you wish.

The most important aspect of celebrating is that neither is doing it out of obligation. If there is negativity or a sense of obligation, it’s not a benefit to your relationship. Just look at it as a reminder to look at each other the way you did when you first fell in love and to keep those fires burning.

For more, read Tried-and-true Valentine’s Gift Ideas, or How to have a special Valentine’s Day.

It’s also National Marriage Week, so please give your marriage some extra love and attention, and help support married couples around you.

Movie ticket Giveaway!
Fandango Movie Crush contacted me and offered to give a pair of tickets to one lucky reader. Leave a comment if you want to qualify for the drawing, which I will hold on Feb. 13th. This may help you plan the perfect Valentine’s movie night. As an added bonus, you’ll get a pair of love songs from Amazon MP3 with Fandango tickets purchased between January 28 – February 18 – talk about feeling the love! For more information on the latest movies, along with the latest trailers and ticketing options nationwide, please visit Fandango’s “Movie Crush” at http://www.fandango.com/moviecrush.

Relationships & Personality Study
Dr. Amani Elalayli, a social psychology professor at Eastern Washington University is conducting research on the factors associated with more satisfying relationships. They are looking for adults currently in a committed relationship. At the end of the study, he will tell you some of the results of our studies thus far so that you can learn something new about the psychology of relationships! This online survey should only take roughly 15 minutes. If you are willing to do our anonymous survey, please click on this study link. By clicking the link, you are confirming that you are at least 18 years old. Please be sure you have some privacy when completing the study, and that your relationship partner is not present. https://qtrial.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_1NCYgul2jANExeJ

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

Tell your wife she is beautiful

file0001696146113I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Your wife doesn’t think she’s beautiful. How can she? The world is busy pointing out all of her flaws.

Particularly at the beginning of the year, I have noticed many women feeling insecure about their appearance. Maybe it’s a few pounds they put on during the holidays, or even if they have maintained their weight, feeling like they are not fit enough. But in general women are not as happy as men are with their appearance.

Magazines, TV shows and print ads are pointing out the tiny wrinkles and the need for more radiant skin, shinier and thicker hair, and a perfectly made up youthful face. Media accentuates and celebrates long, slender legs, tiny waists and ample, perky breasts. Fashion dictates that anything in our closets is just not trendy enough.

What does that have to do with your wife? She probably thinks more about her appearance (and her perceived flaws) much more than you realize. You may have told her she is beautiful, but she has heard 100 times more frequently through subtle messages that she is not. So when she hears you say it, she may at first not believe you. She may even argue with you.

Don’t give up. Tell her she is your one-of-a-kind woman and that in your eyes she is the most beautiful woman. Tell her what you love about her, and give her sincere compliments often. If she wears a flattering outfit, tell her she looks great. And if the clothes and the makeup and the special hairdos don’t matter to you, tell her that as well.

I’m not suggesting husbands don’t require compliments, but I’d be willing to bet men spend less energy, money, and brain power worrying about how they look.

Ladies, if your husband tells you that you’re beautiful, smile, say thank you. Know that he sees you with his own eyes and heart, and he means it. You might even start to believe it.

If body image or self-confidence is an issue in your marriage, read Is Low Body Image Harming Your Marriage? and Improve Sexual Sparks with a Better Body Image.

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

How well do you know your spouse?

flight map morguefileDo you really know what’s going on inside your spouse’s thought world? What he or she is most concerned about day to day? What most worries them or causes fear or anxiety?

Couples who understand their partner’s inner world have emotional intimacy—knowledge about one another’s deep feelings. The Gottman Institute calls this skill “Enhancing your love map” and names it one of the principals on the road to happy marriages. (Stay tuned for more principals in future posts.)

We probably think we know more than we do about what is going on in the mind of our spouse. That’s why it’s important to have regular time together to discuss things other than the to-do list or the kids’ challenges.

Remember your dating days, when hours could be spent sharing who you were, and listening intensely to learn everything you could about your date? We need to carve out regular time to maintain that connection.

One challenge is that most couples spend the majority of their days apart, seemingly living in different “worlds”. Whether one or both spouses work, invite your partner to understand your work world by sharing your challenges, successes and concerns, your annoying coworkers or what you really think of your boss. If you work at home, share your feelings, joys and challenges as a homemaker.

In addition to the day to day, discuss life goals, fears, and wishes. Be sensitive to insights you receive. If your wife is fearful of being compared to her mother, don’t use this information in an argument. If your husband is worried he is not a “good enough” provider, build him up in this area. If you both have always wanted to see the Grand Canyon or spend time in wine country, talk about how to make your dreams a reality.

Talk about what you hope the future looks like—for you, for your children, for something you’re passionate about. Consider what you learn to be privileged and private, part of your intimacy. Keep in mind that goals and dreams can and probably will change.

How will you enhance your love map this year? What part of the day or week would be most convenient for you to connect with your spouse?

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

Harvard Study: What Makes Men Happy for Life

morguefile walking coupleI do not refer in this article to what women can do to make men happy. Nope, men are responsible for their own happiness, as are women. That being said, a 75-year-long Harvard study provides some great insights into what it takes for men to live a happy life. And not surprisingly, relationships have a great deal to do with this earned happiness.

The study began in 1938 and followed 268 male undergraduates into their old age. Many factors, of course, influence their happiness. Following are some of the more surprising, helpful or interesting findings:

1. Alcohol use is by far the greatest disruptor of health and happiness among the study’s subjects. Alcoholism was also the single strongest cause of divorce between study participants and their wives. Together with cigarette smoking, it was the #1 greatest cause of morbidity and death.
2. While some of the participants successfully recovered from a lousy childhood, memories of a happy childhood were a lifelong source of strength. (This should help parents understand the importance of those early days with our children.)
3. Marriages bring much more contentment after age 70.
4. Habits developed before age 50 were more important to physically aging well than heredity.
5. Having “warm relationships” was critically important to health and happiness in later years. Even more surprising, those who scored the highest on the warm relationships scale earned $141,000 a year more during peak salaries than the men in the lowest scale.
6. Men who had warm childhood relationships with their mothers earned much more than men whose mothers were uncaring. Those who had poor relationships with their moms were much more likely to develop dementia in elder years.
7. Men who had warm relationships with their fathers had lower levels of adult anxiety, enjoyed vacations more, and had increased satisfaction with life after age 75.
8. Men who did well in old age did not necessarily do well in midlife, and visa versa. (There is always time to make a change in your life.)

Study director George Vallant summarized that the $20 million study boiled down to one conclusion: Happiness is love. Vallant details the findings in a book titled Triumphs of Experience. While money and social class did not impact lifelong happiness, the ability to “take love in and metabolize it” certainly did.

You knew that already, right? With so many goals to consider for 2014, a renewed focus on love may be the most important to your happiness.

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

6 Ways to be a Perfect Partner in Tennis and Marriage

tennis morguefileI took up tennis a few years ago. I’m a slow learner, but it’s a great hobby for exercise and stress relief, not to mention relationship tips. This week our instructor taught us how to be the perfect doubles partner. Some of us remarked that many of the same attributes on the court are critical in marriage.

So, here’s how to be a better tennis or marriage partner:
1. Communicate more—On the court, it’s easy to let a ball whiz between you while wondering which of you is going to get it. Any hesitation or confusion, and you’ve lost the point. In marriage, we often assume we know who should do what and when. We assume we know how our partner feels or what their preferences are. We are probably wrong far more often than we realize.

2. Back each other up—Sometimes I think I can get to a high ball, but when my partner backs me up, there’s reassurance that if I can’t reach it, my partner will save us. In marriage, we often have to cover for one another, to be supportive and to catch the things that get dropped.

3. Help clean up the other’s messes—When I hit a ball to the volley player instead of deep and cross court to my opponent at the baseline, I put my partner at risk on the court. But if she moves to a defensive position when she sees my mistake, she may be able to clean up the mess and get us on track. If I apologize, she acts as if it’s no big deal. A partner who constantly gripes about how I put her in a bad position and made things hard for her wouldn’t be fun to play with. In marriage, let’s face it, we often have to clean up each other’s messes, both literally and figuratively. We should do so without resentment and griping, because, hey, we’re a team.

4. Move together—When I run to the edge of the court to reach a ball, my partner moves with me to cover the middle of the court, and I do the same for her. We are instructed to move together “like we are on a string.” In marriage, we also need to move together, grow together, stick together. When we get too far apart, each going on separate tangents and not inviting the other along, the marriage gets distant. Intimacy is lost. It’s more fun to share the journey, and it protects the relationship when we are connected.

5. Build one another up—When we’re losing a match, it’s easy to get down on ourselves. Negative self-talk occurs audibly on the court. But a good partner helps you shake it off, gets you refocused, helps you take a deep breath and start again. Same goes for marriage. There are really, really bad days we have to get through. And sometimes we screw up or feel as if we failed. We need that personal cheerleader who comes to our side, even if just to share in our sadness if things don’t go as we had hoped.

6. Love-Love—Remember each game starts this way, with a score of zero (love) to zero (love). Let each day start and end with love-love from each of you.
Now, if anyone could help improve my serve, I would be most obliged.

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.

Is Self-Marriage a Fluke?

wedding ring The ubiquitous selfies you see on social media are nothing compared to this new level of focusing on the self. Self-marriage is a new trend reported by CNN, a ceremony during which individuals marry themselves.

The definition of marriage is to join or unite intimately. How does one unite with oneself? Aren’t we already intimately united with our own bodies? Has the focus on individualism reached a new low?

Some claim self-marriage is about “lifting up and celebrating the singular awesomeness of yourself”. I have no problem with celebrating singlehood or the fact that you believe you are awesome. But why, oh why, does this have to involve the ceremony of marriage? Is this not just another way of drawing attention to ourselves?

So is this trend just a fluke? After all, the people promoting the idea of self-marriage are selling a “self-wedding in a box” as a way to profit on the idea. They claim, “It’s about acknowledging that you are a lovable, adorable, amazing person with all these fabulous qualities.” I hope that everyone reading this feels they can agree with that sentence, whether they are single or married or dating. You’re a lovable, amazing person. You don’t have to marry yourself to prove it to your friends and family, do you?

I haven’t hidden my opinion on the subject, but do you disagree? Is this an idea that fits in just right with the culture and its focus on individualism? Is it a good way to lift up people’s self-esteem and celebrate their life, or does it move us further away from a loving and sacrificial commitment between two married people?

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.