Tag Archives: better relationship

Adoring Strangers Remind Us to be Adoring Spouses


“We are probably missing so much about the people around us,” says one subject of a photographer’s project in a touching UpWorthy video. The project, called “Touching Strangers” involved a photographer picking out two or three strangers on the street and posing them like adoring family members.

The photos are quite beautiful, often with stark contrasts, and in most you would never know the people are not close in real life. Check out the short video to see for yourself.

The amazing thing is that the project could have been an experiment to determine how people would feel about one another after posing in that way. Many felt the physical touching and gazing at each other broke down barriers, provided comfort, made them care about the other person (whom they didn’t know at all), and gave them pleasant, lovely feelings. It’s “humanity as it could be” according to the announcer.

If physical closeness and looking into one another’s eyes can create this much caring and feeling in total strangers, what can it do for real family members? A lot. Physical touch is known to release the bonding hormone oxytocin. Hugging, holding, gazing—these actions make you feel close and help you to really see the other person deep down.

In our busy days, it’s important to create these moments in our own homes. That means turning off distractions like electronics and carving out a bit of time and space for real connection. Don’t forget to actually touch, snuggle, kiss, hug, and soak in those pleasant feelings.

Does this mean pretend to be close and loving? No, it means we don’t always feel affectionate and loving, particularly after a long day of challenges. But our actions (demonstrating love and closeness) can lead our heart to where it wants to be.

If it works for perfect strangers, it can work to inspire marriages, too.

For more details on how to incorporate more touch in your relationship, check out Little Touches Make Big Impact on Relationships.

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.

Is Low Body Image Harming Your Marriage?

Most of you do not like your bodies, according to a new poll that surveyed men and women. Is your dislike getting in the way of intimacy with your spouse?

Fitness Magazine and Yahoo! surveyed 1,500 American men and women aged 18 to 64 and found 57 percent of women think they look fat naked, and 81 percent of adults have a body part they hate.

It may not be surprising given that approximately 68 percent of adults are overweight (with men being more likely to be overweight than women). However, women’s body confidence issues were more likely to be with certain body parts rather than their overall weight.

Thighs were the “most hated body party” among women and men (14 percent), followed by arms rears, with 11 percent each.

Men appear to have a higher body confidence, with 48 percent of the men reporting that they think they look good when they glance in the mirror. The full results are in Fitness Magazine’s February issue.

I’ve written about body image before (see Improve Sexual Sparks with Better Body Image) but this new research is a reminder that our self-image related to our bodies is not getting any better. In fact, advertising is well known for using editing software to make models look thinner and to change features to fit with a “cultural ideal.” What we look at we begin to see as normal and acceptable. For this reason, be careful about the media you consume and the images that get entrenched in your mind. The cultural ideal changes with the fashion and the time. We can’t all be expected to fit a random ideal, nor would we want to have everyone looking the same. (I just saw on CNN that one of the current top models for female fashion is actually a tall, thin male with no curves. If you don’t believe me, here are his runway looks.)

Boost Body Image

Men and women need to compliment their spouse’s physical attractiveness on a regular basis. Be honest, but find features that you love and be vocal about your appreciation. It’s important for both men and women to hear compliments. However, for women it may be more important to have a positive body image if they are to relax and enjoy sexual intimacy with their husbands. It may even be a reason why the wife doesn’t initiate more if she is embarrassed to be naked, or if she spends her mental energy worried about how she looks.

Remember that confidence is one of the most attractive features we have. Men are visual and appreciate the female body.  I have heard from a few readers about husbands who denigrate or put down their wives for their bodies, which is so harmful to self-esteem and only creates a downward cycle. Never put down your spouse, even if you are trying to encourage a positive change.

If weight loss is a goal, try to work as a family and adopt healthier eating and lifestyle habits. Go for a walk instead of watching TV, or make small lifestyle changes that you can continue. Be encouraging and complimentary of progress your partner makes. I find that even if my body stays the same, I feel more confident and energetic when I’m on a regular exercise program. My husband also feels better about himself when he’s eating right and exercising. (He needs fewer reminders than I do.)

On the whole, though, I hear from men who say they love their wife’s body as it is, even if it has changed over time or after childbirth. They wish they could convince their wife of this. Women should appreciate more the power of their body’s capabilities and accentuate their strengths. Find clothing and lingerie you feel good in. Wives should be willing to hear their husbands out and let their message of love sink into their hearts and under their skin.

Your homework:

  1. Compliment your spouse’s body at some point today. “You look great in those jeans,” or “I love the way you take care of your body,” or “I love to see you naked” are a few examples.
  2. Compliment yourself. Don’t let negative self-talk bring you down. Focus on your positive features, and celebrate your strength.

With spring break around the corner, many of you are thinking about whether to plan a vacation or where to go. This post from Simple Marriage offers great insights into Why Vacations Make the Best Dates!

To read about 12 inspiring couples who used adversity to improve their marriage, check out First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. Details at www.LoriDLowe.com. Or, go to Amazon.com or your favorite e-reader site.

Photo by imagerymajestic 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.

Two Words That Have Improved My Marriage

Early in my marriage, my husband and I were not as focused on gratitude as we are today. Back then I did not thank him for mowing the lawn, and he did not thank me for cleaning the house. As a result, deep down, I think we both felt less appreciated than we should have. It’s not that we didn’t appreciate each other, but we had the mindset of “that’s just her job” or “that’s just his job.”

Now that we understand the impact that gratitude can have on a marriage, we make every effort to say “thank you” many times a day. It’s more second nature than an extraordinary effort, but when I make dinner, he always says, “Thank you for dinner,” (and encourages the kids to do the same). And when he’s been out collecting leaves for the tenth time this fall, I always compliment him on how nice the yard looks and how hard he worked. We say thanks for everyday things, like going to the grocery store, emptying the dishwasher, doing the laundry, or taking the kids to tennis lessons. He thanks me for holding down the fort while he’s traveling, and I thank him for helping me with a computer problem.

Expressing gratitude doesn’t just make the recipient feel good, it makes the giver more aware of all the actions and efforts that the spouse is doing. It makes you both feel better about your relationship, and it adds more positivity to your interactions.  (Remember, Dr. John Gottman says it takes five positive for every one negative interaction to keep marriage strong. Read about the 5:1 ratio.)

Don’t wait for your spouse to start thanking you for all the great stuff you do. Just start thanking your spouse for all the little things that often go unnoticed, and the important stuff, too: for being a good provider, for taking good care of the kids, for getting the car oil changed, for making sure you have clean underwear in your drawer, for making you feel loved, for keeping the house organized…Surely you can think of a few things to thank your spouse for today.

A special “thanks” and “happy birthday!” to my dear hubby who has been especially helpful to me recently as I’ve been more busy than usual with my book coming out.  It’s hard to believe we’ve now been together for half of our lives. (Well, almost for me.) Read about the power of gratitude in reducing rates of breakups.

With Thanksgiving coming up this week in America, you might even consider writing a thank-you toast to publicly honor your spouse and/or other family members for how they have encouraged you or made your life brighter. I know we have many readers outside the U.S. who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving; don’t wait for a holiday to express your thankfulness.

Send a text or e-mail, leave a note, or just tell your sweetheart “thank you.” Share one thing in the comments that you are thankful for today from your spouse.

Photo by Felixco, Inc. courtesy of freeditigalphotos.net

How to Make Everyday Marriage Feel More Romantic

I’m the first to admit everyday marriage can lose its luster. Monday mornings are particularly difficult for most families. We have all our “have-to-dos” running through our minds. We’re lucky to spare a second for a brief peck on the cheek.

Here are a six ways to make your week feel more romantic.

  1. Leave a small note for your spouse somewhere they will find it during the work day (in their brief case, on the washing machine door, on the bathroom mirror). You can just say, “Love you” or you can say you enjoyed the weekend, or thank them for any small thing. Or, go the extra mile and make or buy a card and either mail it to your honey or leave it for them. If you’re very short on time, at least send a text or email.
  2. Make plans to have some time to connect during the week. Can you have a short lunch together? Or have a drink on the patio after the kids are in bed? Fit something into your schedule to talk about something other than how to manage your schedules.
  3. Ask for what would please you. Even though we often perceive that our spouse knows what we are thinking after all this time together, it’s not true. If you want to go out more, or if you need a little down time after you come home for work, or if you’d like to be surprised more, or have him bring home chocolate, share this gently with your partner while you’re having quiet time. (Don’t snap about it after getting into an argument over who was supposed to empty the dishwasher.)
  4. Touch more. The U.S. is very unaffectionate compared to other cultures. Many families are also very non-touchy. But research shows couples (or even friends or sports teams) are strengthened by more touching. Make an extra effort to give a touch, a hug, a kiss, a pat or any kind of affection throughout the day, not just as a precursor to making love. How many times did you touch yesterday?
  5. Plan something soon you can both look forward to—a visit to a new museum or restaurant, snuggling to watch football on Sunday, or going on a bike ride together after work one evening. It’s great if you also have something more long-term, like a vacation getaway, to look forward to. Having something positive on the agenda helps you on those Monday mornings when things are feeling way too hectic.
  6. Think positive, grateful thoughts about your spouse even when you can’t be together. When you’re stuck in an endless meeting, or driving carpool, or waiting at the doctor’s office, think positive thoughts or say a prayer for your spouse. Positivity and gratefulness (as well as prayer) have all been shown in research to benefit relationships.

It’s so easy to let the busyness of life push the priority of our marriage down. But tiny investments in time and attention can pay dividends.

Photo by photostock courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net.

The Antidote to the Poison in Your Marriage

Author Betsy Hart calls negative emotions like hatred, bitterness and jealousy “poison of the heart,” and she advises parents to teach their children to steer clear of these thoughts. (In other words, she teaches that we have a say in how we choose to feel.)  Resentment and unforgiveness are certainly poisons within a marriage. The effects of negative emotions can be very damaging—to our emotional as well as physical health.

Forgiveness research by sociologist Greg Easterbrook and discussed in his book The Progress Paradox concludes that “people who do not forgive the wrongs committed against them tend to have negative indicators of well-being, more stress-related disorders, lower immune system function, and worse rates of cardiovascular disease than the population as a whole.”  In short, these emotions poison us from the inside out.

We inherently know that these emotions are bad for us. We feel it when we allow ourselves to be taken away by these feelings. Think about the stomach ache or headache that often occurs during a conflict. But do we work to rid ourselves of these emotions?

While we don’t want to become doormats or become taken advantage of, most of us know that we could be more graceful toward those around us—especially our partners—when they make a mistake. Sometimes a spouse doesn’t even know when he or she has done something wrong, and we are busy holding a grudge, stewing all evening.

We might even have a list of “unforgiveable offenses” that we decide upon before marriage. Things like infidelity and drug abuse are placed high on this list. I’ve seen dedicated couples overcome these and many difficult scenarios with a valuable antidote called forgiveness. But the day-to-day poison of resentment is almost more difficult to overcome.

If you or your partner are regularly resentful, rolling eyes, making snide comments, holding grudges or acting negatively, you are poisoning the relationship. All the small doses of poison can be as dangerous as one nearly lethal dose.

It may require getting some help, but clear the air and learn how to forgive and move on. We can lead ourselves through positive actions rather than allowing our fears, frustrations, anger and resentment to lead us. This week, when you’re feeling less than loving, try to act kindly and calmly. Take a deep breath. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. Offer to help them if they’re stressed. Show affection. Forgive. You’ll find you will be improving your own health as well as the health of your relationship.

How much poison can your relationship handle? Are you willing to find out?

Photo courtesy of Stockvault.net by Jake Wood.

How Important is Love to Happiness?

Four in five adults of all ages rate love as important to their happiness. And it turns out those in loving relationships do enjoy greater wellbeing than those who are single. (This despite our culture glorifying the endless positives of remaining unattached.) Fewer than 25 percent of unmarried adults say they are “very happy” but 40 percent of married adults say they are.

David Myers, PhD, in The Pursuit of Happiness, cites the above research and says even more important than being married is the marriage’s quality.  While women suffer more emotional disturbances in a stressed marriage than do their husbands, wives also report slightly greater happiness across all marriages. Researchers suspect this is because women find more joy in positive, close relationships than men do.

Further, most married people say their marriages are happy. Myers says three out of four in the U.S. say their spouse is their best friend. (This seems high to me, but I’d agree with it in my marriage.) And this relationship happiness carries over into their overall life happiness.

Why are married people happier? Marriage is likely to provide an enduring supportive relationship, and married people are less likely to suffer loneliness. Those who parent together may experience additional stresses, yet also receive additional rewards from their roles as parents.

While I completely agree that my marriage has made me a happier person, I also strongly believe that we as individuals control most of our happiness. When we are happy on our own, that happiness tends to bleed into our relationship. We’re more interesting to be with, more supportive and more engaging when we have a life we enjoy.

A National Opinion Research Center study found that nearly six in ten Americans who rate their marriage as very happy also rate their life as very happy.  And among those NOT in a happy marriage, only one in ten say their overall life is very happy. A bad marriage is worse than no marriage, and loneliness within marriage can be the loneliest feeling of all.

 When we are unhappy as individuals, we tend to project on our partners that they aren’t supportive enough or don’t understand our needs. But the truth may be that we are in a life transition, or have lost a loved one, or in one way or another are struggling with our life or identity. Our marriage or spouse shouldn’t have the burden of “making us happy”. Instead, we can enrich and enjoy our lives more fully because of the close, intimate relationship we share.

If you think you are unhappy in your relationship, consider that you may need to make improvements in your own individual life to improve happiness. For example, a person who feels overworked and underappreciated in their job may bring those feelings into their home and feel taken advantage of across the board.

Myers says to avoid two mistakes in thinking if you aim to have a happy marriage. First, even if you’re newlyweds, don’t take a successful marriage for granted. “Unless nurtured carefully, the relationship you counted on for love and happiness may leave you crushed, lonely, feeling like a failure, or trudging hopelessly along, resigned to your despair.” (Ouch.) Conversely, don’t be overly pessimistic saying marriages seldom last, so why should I commit, invest and work on my marriage? A positive attitude channeled by a wariness of real dangers offers the best chance at a happy relationship, he concludes.

So, is this a chicken and the egg question? “Which comes first personal or marital happiness?” I think they feed on each other, but the personal happiness ideally comes first. What do you think?

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com

Detecting a Virus in Your Marriage

Last weekend, my computer succumbed to a nasty virus picked up at a rogue recipe web site. (That’s what I get for baking.) When the fake security pop-up appeared, I immediately knew I was in trouble, but it was too late. The more I tried to rid myself of it, the worse the problem became, as the virus duplicated itself and became more entrenched. I disconnected the tower and gave it to a professional, because winning the war against the evil virus developers (and they are evil) wasn’t as critical as preserving what was important to me.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we received blatant pop-ups in our lives every time our marriage faced risk? Sometimes one or both partners is sadly unaware of the drifting that is going on in a marriage. One of them is surprised months or years later to be served with divorce papers. The fact is, if we’re not working to improve our marriages, we are all drifting southward.

It might help if warning lights blared over our heads when we were in trouble; for example:

  • When we haven’t made time for a date night in six months, and one or both partners is feeling bored in the marriage.
  • If a wife meets an attractive new coworker for lunch, then doesn’t even share that with her spouse because she felt a spark and doesn’t want her husband to be jealous.
  • When a husband feels neglected because his wife focuses all his or her attention on the children.
  • You argue regularly about money, or the decision-making power that money represents.
  • If one or both partners is feeling sexually dissatisfied, but isn’t willing to discuss the issues honestly, because they doubt things can be improved.
  • A spouse doesn’t feel loved or respected in the marriage (even if the partner thinks he or she is showing love/respect).
  • One partner believes the other isn’t trustworthy. It’s just a feeling.
  • A wife daydreams about an ex, then connects with him on Facebook.
  • Someone your spouse says is “just a friend” seems to be overly friendly to your mate—and not to you.
  • A husband invests all his energy at work then is too tired to engage with his wife.
  • Either partner wonders, “What if I had made another choice?”

If warning signs were going off, would you understand the urgency to disconnect and focus on the problem? Would you turn to a professional if the problem was just getting worse instead of better? Would you be able to communicate the urgency to your partner?

We have to rely on our own instincts (until someone develops an app for identifying marital risk). It seems when things start going south, problems often gain momentum. Maybe one partner starts complaining to family or coworkers. He or she spends more time with friends outside the marriage or on the Internet looking for escape. The spouses go to bed at different times, avoiding even the chance of intimacy. They pour themselves into work or the kids. It’s the virus duplicating itself, becoming more entrenched in the marriage. If you don’t give it your full attention, it can eradicate even the good parts of the marriage.

The best defense is a good offense. Do the regular virus checks, in the form of very open communication. Make time daily to connect with your spouse about topics other than children, chores and errands. Speak up if there’s someone you aren’t comfortable being around your partner or family. Respect your spouse’s feelings on perceived risks, because s/he is your life partner. Invest in having fun and building memories and experiences together—because you have to build something worth protecting.

What are the biggest marital viruses you see? Do you ever see any warning signs? Is it easier to see the warning signs in other people’s marriages?

Photo credit:  ©Aloysius Patrimonio/PhotoXpress.com

For a Happier Marriage, Date Your Spouse

With the stress of daily life, work and family responsibilities weighing on you, Lindsey Rietzsch, author of How to Date Your Spouse, suggests changing your lifestyle will make your marriage more fulfilled.

Thinking back to before you married your spouse, there was a period of courtship. Each of you presented your best selves, groomed and dressed as attractively as you could muster. Chances are, you each listened more intently, tried to be funny, and in general were enjoyable to be around. Rietzsch says keeping these behaviors going is how you date your spouse. She breaks it down to seven factors:

  1. “E” for Effort—Arranging a special date night or focusing your attention fully on your partner shows effort. So does making sure the car is tidy, your legs are shaved, and you look your best.
  2. Earn Interest—Ask interesting questions; listen as if you are hearing your spouse for the first time. Look at things from his/her perspective. Appreciate your partner for who they are now. Be interested in your partner’s hobbies, job or interests.
  3. Ignite the Romance—Think about activities for your dates that allow you to be physically close, such as dancing, ice skating, swimming, taking a walk or getting a massage. A woman needs to be romanced and made to feel special. Hold hands, compliment your partner, and make time for intimacy.
  4. Dress to Impress—Make sure you smell good and look good, especially when you go out on dates. Maintain a healthy exercise regimen to give you self-confidence and energy. Wear something attractive to bed.
  5. Build Mystery—Plan some large or small surprises to keep your spouse wondering what’s next. Also, give yourself alone time, time for hobbies or friends, so you are rejuvenated and building interests.
  6. Fuel Excitement—Plan some new and exciting activities together to keep things from getting mundane. Take a trip, go kayaking, sailing, hot air ballooning or something that gets your adrenaline pumping. Even an amusement park or game of football can trigger youthful feelings.
  7. Flirt—Touch your partner throughout the day, say or text sexy things. Praise your spouse publicly and privately.

Rather than making date night a once a month or once a week ordeal, make dating your spouse a lifestyle decision.

What do you find most challenging about maintaining a dating lifestyle, versus getting caught up in the busyness of life and its challenges? For me, it’s making my marriage a priority and carving out regular time to invest in it.