Tag Archives: better wife

Is your spouse different from the person you married?

wedding ring moreguefileYou’ve seen it in the movies, and maybe even felt it in real life. “S/he is not the person I married,” which is supposed to excuse you from your wedding vows and cause you to go in search of some one more “in sync” with you. I think that is why my blog post “We all married the wrong person” is still the most popular post to date with many thousands of readers. It’s because at some point, most married people wonder if they chose the right partner.

But unless you married a goldfish, the person you married is a distant reflection of the individual who is living and breathing and changing before you each day. Hopefully you are both growing and changing together, rather than living stagnant lives. It should keep things more interesting knowing you are not coming home to the same person year after year, but a person who is developing new interests, changing roles through various life stages, and adapting to changing circumstances. Even if you are not doing it purposefully, you are both indeed changing, and are different from those younger versions of yourselves that expressed your wedding vows.

Matt Walsh captured these thoughts beautifully in his recent blog post My wife is not the same woman that I married.

We’re still young and we’re still growing, and our experiences might very well pale in comparison to yours, but I have learned at least one thing from all of this: that guy was right — my wife isn’t the same person that I married. When I met her she was a 22-year-old college student. Now she’s a 27-year-old mother of two. Sure she still has the same DNA, the same biological identity, and she’s still the kind of girl who can appreciate a good beer and a fart joke. But she’s not the same. That’s because I married a human being, not a mannequin. I said my vows to a person, not a computer program.

Check out the rest of Matt’s poignant post, and reflect on how your marriage has changed over the years, whether it’s been only a few years or decades down the line. When I think of the naive young lady I was when I married my college sweetheart, I shake my head a little. However, I’m confident that I did make the right choice nearly 20 years ago. The other thing I’m confident about is that we will be quite different in 10 or 20 more years, as our children grow into young adults and leave the nest. Rather than dreaming about a better life with someone different, we dream about our future life together.

Are you sharing your hopes and dreams, reminiscing about your past, and laughing together about the mistakes you made along the way? What is something you were surprised to learn about your spouse?

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for more than 18 years. She 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.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

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

3 Tips to Warm Up Your Marriage This Winter

Women’s Health Magazine had some good suggestions in its September 2011 issue that I thought I’d share. These cold winter months are the perfect time for giving your spouse some extra attention.

  1. Pretend you just met. Author and psychologist Terri Orbuch, PhD, says couples often stop asking “get to know you” questions, because they think they already know each other. However, since we all change and develop, we need to be constantly checking in to keep the daily connection growing. So, instead of chatting about your daily agenda, spend some time pretending like you just started dating. Ask what he would do if he won the lottery or what her favorite book is. Or, ask about positive family memories or what the best ball game was he ever watched. Anything that would spark a good conversation. Don’t assume you know all your partner’s responses even if you’ve been married a long time.
  2. Tweet responsibly. Avid tweeters tend to have shorter relationships—10 percent shorter, on average. If you’re big into social media, learn how to disconnect from technology and truly connect with your spouse. (Based on a survey of 100,000 people from OKCupid.com) Be sure the time you tweet isn’t time taken away from being one-on-one with your spouse.
  3. Be intimate at least weekly. Frequency of sex is a marker for successful relationships. The average American couple gets busy two or three times a month. But increasing this to once a week generates as much bliss as earning an additional $50,000 in annual income, according to researchers from Dartmouth College and the University of Warwick in England. They even explain the reasoning behind the statistic. “Couples who like each other end up in bed more often, says the study author. “And it’s the liking-each-other part that increases joy.

If one of your goals for 2012 is to give your relationship a shot of inspiration, read 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 already have 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 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.

Happy Couples Give Spouses Their Attention

“Happily married couples respond to one another’s bids for attention 86 percent of the time,” says Dr. Michele Gannon in an article for Hitched Magazine. She continues, “They ask one another questions, communicate understanding and respond positively when their spouse asks them to. They say ‘Yes’ to one another as often as possible. However, research has found that in unhappy marriages, couples respond to one another only 30 percent of the time.”

This finding intrigued me, and made me pause ask myself when my husband and I interrupt one another, how often we offer our full attention. I don’t think I’m nearly up to 86 percent, and frequently ask for a minute to finish what I’m doing. Whether it’s for something fun or something important, I’m going to work on providing my attention when asked. Ask yourself if you might improve in this area with your spouse, and even with your children.

Some other interesting research-proven habits for happy marriages Dr. Gannon shared in the article include showing admiration and fondness for one another, prioritizing affection and sex, making time for one another, helping one another grow, and cultivating forgiveness.

Forgiveness is one of the keys to a happy marriage in my opinion, and an area in which we can all make improvements. So I read with interest Dr. Fred Luskin’s forgiveness steps. In part, he advises:  “Successful forgiveness requires that we allow ourselves to feel deeply our hurt, disappointment and anger. We need to ask ourselves whether the betrayal or disappointment is a deal breaker or not. If we stay in the relationship, we need to allow ourselves to feel our pain, soothe ourselves, and then be willing to widen our hearts, surrender and risk pain and disappointment again. All of this can happen even if our partner is not willing to take responsibility and change.”

The research findings are from the web site Greater Good Science. I found it to be a truly interesting resource with lots of research-based advice on living a more fulfilling life. For instance, “How well do you know your partner?” shares that knowing your partner’s long-term life goals will make your relationship more satisfying in the future.

Another interesting article I read recently is “The line between no expectations and doormat” by Patty Newbold at Assume Love. It’s about how our expectations can get in the way of our love. Here’s an excerpt:

“You are not a doormat if you take out the trash when your husband fails to. If you were not married, there would be trash to deal with. If you take out trash AND have a husband to love you, you are well ahead of the game. Where you shoot yourself in the foot is when you let yourself expect that if your husband loved you, he would do more around the house or be as prompt as you are with chores. Now, you have trash to take out and what looks like an unloving husband, even though it’s the same husband and the same bag of trash. And while you’re stewing over the garbage, you may very well miss out on some great loving. He might have walked in the door ready to kiss you, but turned right around when he sensed your mood. He might have wanted to tell you he sucked it up at work today and did not quit on the spot because of his commitment to your wellbeing.”

In sum, she says, “When I let go of my expectations, I was completely shocked by how much love I could see in my marriage.” I’ll be interterviewing Patty Newbold soon and sharing her incredible story with you.

Sign Up or Suggest to a Friend
If you’re a regular reader here, thanks so much for hanging out and keeping me company. Consider sending a link to a post you like to one or two friends who might enjoy, or post it on your Facebook feed. If you haven’t signed up, you can receive free research-based marriage tips at no cost, and you can unsubscribe with one click if you decide later that it’s not for you. Sign up for email updates or get your updates in a reader.

Happy Memorial Day and many thanks to our veterans and to their families.

Photo by Edward Bartel/Dreamstime

Don’t Expect Your Spouse to Meet All Your Needs

How many close friends do you confide in? Half of Americans have just one person with whom they discuss important matters. For many married people, that person is their partner. In recent decades, the number of people we truly connect with and count on has dwindled. The problem is that one person—even your “soul-mate”—can’t be expected to meet all your needs.

In a Times of London article titled “How to Stay Married,” correspondent Stephanie Coontz argues that a strong network of friends is the best way to keep a marriage strong. She says that it is only in modern times have we expected so much from the marital relationship and so little from everyone else. This article was a reminder to me to rekindle some of my friendships, not just for my own benefit, but as a possible benefit to my marriage. Just because I consider my husband my best friend doesn’t mean he wants to go purse shopping with me or discuss hair styles. (I’ve asked my poor hubby to do both. He declined.)

Common advice tells couples not to let other relationships interfere with time together with our spouse. We are urged to “deepen” and “strengthen” our bonds. “But trying to be everything to one another is part of the problem, not part of the solution, to the tensions of modern marriage,” says Coontz.

She explains that until the middle of the 19th century, the word “love” was more often used to describe feelings for friends and neighbors than for spouses. Both women and men often had extremely strong bonds with friends and family members. It was during the postwar “Golden Age of Marriage,” when spouses began to expect their partner to meet more of their needs, Coontz says. However, she says housewives soon found “they could not find complete fulfillment in domesticity” while men also felt diminished in their less social roles.

In the modern era, we often see “happily ever after” as living in marital bliss and perfect harmony while meeting one another’s emotional and physical needs. Perhaps we are expecting a little too much from each other?

In addition, we are likely neglecting other relationships. Modern married couples are less likely to visit, call or offer support to their parents and siblings than are single individuals, according to a U.S. study from 1992 to 2004. When our children are young, we may spend time with other young families. However, with the exception of that time period married, people are less likely to socialize with friends and neighbors. This isolation can be unhealthy to the couple, and it also doesn’t allow us to reach out and help our neighbors when they need us.

Women and men today often have careers and hobbies, so why are we so weak at having multiple strong relationships? Coontz explains that “our speeded-up global economy has made balance harder and harder to attain, leading us to seek ever more meaning and satisfaction in love and marriage.” Sadly, that makes sense to me. We’re so busy rushing around seeking accomplishment that “obtain a great marriage” becomes yet something else on our to-do list.

I was relieved that Coontz does not recommend we try to lower our expectations of intimacy and friendship within marriage. Instead, she suggests we raise our expectations of other relationships and invest in those relationships. “The happiest couples are those who have interests, confidants and support networks extending beyond the twosome,” she says.

Stephanie Coontz is the author of Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage. She is also the director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families.

How much do you rely on your spouse for friendship, problem solving and socialization? How strong are your relationships with friends, coworkers, neighbors and family members?

What Have You Done For Your Marriage Today?

The Catholic Church is running public service messages and billboards in different parts of the country asking, “What have you done for your marriage today?” The campaign is aimed at encouraging people to make small investments of time and love in their marriage. Last post, we discussed how it’s so easy to give children all of our time and attention in “Who Gets More of Your Attention—Your Spouse or Your Children?”

Today, we’re looking for solutions and ways to show we care. I’m providing a couple of options—one for the busy slackers like me who often feel overwhelmed with just one additional task, and two other levels for those who want to go the extra mile. For example, one man said after reading about how many women view their bodies, he would post a note on his wife’s mirror saying, “My husband loves my body.” That’s the extra mile.

Try to focus on your spouses’ love language. I’d love for you to contribute your own ideas to these suggestions.

Show Appreciation

Level 1: Before going to sleep, thank your spouse for something he or she regularly does for you or the family. For some people, words of affirmation mean a great deal. You can even send a text or email if that is how you regularly communicate.

Level 2: Buy a card and add a note of appreciation. Leave it under his pillow.

Level 3: Write a note expressing a sincere appreciation for your spouse’s contributions and support. Mail it to work her at work or home.

Give a Gift

Level 1: Pick up a book, movie or other item your honey would enjoy. For those whose love language is gifts, this will make them feel loved. Wrap it lovingly.

Level 2: Add some fun: Plan a scavenger hunt with clues around the house from one point to another until they find the gift. Or fill balloons with cute notes that have hints.

Level 3: Buy something nice for your spouse he wouldn’t buy on his own. Present it at a special time like on a lunch date out.

Show Care

Level 1: Stock up on her favorite beverage and offer one when she is working or relaxing.

Level 2: Prepare his coffee or tea each morning as a sign of care and love.

Level 3: Clean or organize an area of the home that has been driving your spouse crazy (a closet, area of the garage, basement, etc.)

Involve the Senses

Level 1: Bring home some lovely, fragrant flowers or a scented candle or lotion. Or have them delivered to home or work.

Level 2: Bring home her FAVORITE flowers or perfume or his favorite lotion or cologne.

Level 3: Plant some pretty flowers in the yard to enjoy for months and surprise him/her.

Involve Touch

Level 1: Give frequent hugs, back scratches or loving pats/touches during the day.

Level 2: Give a foot or shoulder rub at the end of the day.

Level 2: Offer a full-body massage at your spouse’s chosen time.

Make Plans

Level 1: Hire a sitter if needed and plan a night out. Play his/her favorite song while you are out or request that it be played. (Music is emotionally bonding even when you are having some conflict.)

Level 2: Do something unusual or new like seeing a live concert or show, or participating in a new activity. (This creates excitement and closeness.)

Level 3: Plan a weekend or vacation away with just the two of you.

Commune with Nature

Level 1: Take a leisurely stroll in a nearby park or garden.

Level 2: Visit a state park together for a hike.

Level 3: Plan a surprise picnic with delicious food near uplifting natural surroundings.

Or, ignore all of these ideas and just come up with one small thing you will do today to show love—make her favorite dinner or his favorite dessert. Take care of one extra errand he had on his list. Buy some lingerie he would enjoy. Draw her a bubble bath and play her favorite tunes. Whatever makes your sweetie smile and lets them know you have been thinking of them. I think one small thing each day or week is better than a bigger act of kindness every few months. Don’t complain when your spouse doesn’t immediately reciprocate. You are doing this as an act of love, not so you can get something in return. In general, couples who are doted on do begin to think more about expressing their love in return. Some couples even find they are competitive with which spouse can come up with spontaneous or creative ways to show their love.

What are your easy or fast ideas to express kindness, love, or appreciation to your spouse?