Tag Archives: Family

Are Society’s Standards Hurting Your Marriage?

cruise ship morguefileI recently read about a family’s decision to leave an expensive city lifestyle and move to a rural, laid back community to reduce stress and have more time together. It was a reminder that our lives are full of choices, and that our lifestyle is not a permanent decision. Societal standards for most Americans are putting an immense strain on families and marriages; many couples are too exhausted for physical and emotional intimacy.

The pressure to live in a large home filled with expensive furniture, to wear fashionable clothes, to send children to the best schools with private lessons, and to take nice vacations and drive new cars contributes to a perceived need to work longer hours and attain promotions. Many couples believe they can’t live on one salary, even when one of the salaries is quite high. High-end desires are promoted by the culture (through advertising, movies, Facebook, etc.) and lead to either debt or the need to earn more. The result: increased stress, and less time.

Families with children have to face additional societal pressures to join artistic, educational, and athletic teams and activities. A generation ago, a baseball team would practice perhaps one day a week in addition to a weekend game. Today’s sports teams often require daily practices and most of the weekend. Many kids I know practice before and after school every day, plus weekends. Ballet, piano, swim, French, band, soccer—the options are endless and costly, and the pressure to join starts very early. Family time suffers, and budgets are strained. Parents often divide on weekends to cover all the activities, making weekends as much work as the weekday.

Where does the marriage fit in when you haven’t had time to connect during the week or the weekend? Resentment can build when one or both spouses feel they are doing more (of the childcare, of the chores, or earning the money).

If only one spouse is working, he or she may feel compelled to focus on work to fulfill the family’s needs and wants. A lack of connection can develop if not enough time is spent with one’s spouse and family, hurting the relationship and getting in the way of a good sex life.

Millennials are starting to pave the way with prioritizing work/life balance above climbing the corporate ladder. Building balance into our lives allows us to nurture our relationships.

There’s nothing wrong with living in a nice home, driving a nice car, and taking your kids to soccer practice. However, if societal pressures are preventing a quality family life, consider what changes could be made. Are you willing to live in a smaller house to have more time together? Could you drop out of some activities and have more free time together?

When my family found ourselves spread too thin and separating for sporting activities on the weekend, we pulled my son out of the travel soccer team. Instead, we found ourselves enjoying relaxing Saturdays as a family, and able to go to church at our regular time on Sunday. We adjusted our lives so that I could work part-time, allowing me to do much of the shopping, laundry and chores during the week.

I don’t think we have won the battle against all of society’s expectations. One struggle we often have is the high volume of homework and studying our kids complete each night, sometimes requiring our support. The pressure to help our kids succeed is high and time consuming. This stress can also bleed into the marriage relationship and keep us from having time to relax as a couple.

We are blessed to have our children at home, and we also look forward to different phases of our lives. To be successful and have a happy marriage once our children are gone, we need to make time and space for one another now. We make frequent changes to try to achieve better balance, and at least question the activities in which we are involved. Balance is a moving target.

If you think your marriage is getting put on the back burner, sit down individually and as a couple to determine what changes are possible to give you more of the life you want.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 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.

Researchers find a huge advantage to friendship in marriage

happy young couple morguefileMore benefits to being married have been revealed, especially if you’re married to your best friend. The National Bureau of Economic Research has found more reasons to get and stay married—and they don’t all have to do with economics.

Their findings suggest that marrying your best friend can give you greater life satisfaction and help you navigate the stresses of life, cushioning the difficult periods. The economists controlled for pre-marriage happiness levels to separate the issues of whether marrying actually makes people happier or whether happier people are more likely to marry. They found the former was true.

People who are married are happier and more satisfied with their lives on average than are people who stay single. This is especially true during times of stress, such as during a midlife crisis.

They confirmed that college educated individuals with higher incomes are more likely to get and stay married (we knew that). Researchers further added that married couples gain family stability, financial stability, higher happiness levels and lower stress.

Happiness levels were maintained long-term, not just immediately after the marriage, particularly when couples found friendship as well as love in their marriage. As marriage has changed in recent decades, spouses have broadened their roles from merely economic and social partnerships and have become friends and companions as well as lovers. The researchers found the benefits of marital friendship were greatest during middle age, when demands of career and family are high and life satisfaction tends to ebb.

Some interesting conclusions:
*Individuals who consider their spouse to be their best friend get about twice as much life satisfaction from marriage as others.

*Women benefit more from being married to their best friend, but men are more likely to call their wife their best friend.

Being married to your best friend may be a wonderful way to keep life’s stressors at bay for the long haul. Positive long-term relationships, especially marriage, can help buoy us in troubled times. Unfortunately those for whom marriage seems out of reach (financially or culturally) may be at an even greater disadvantage in life, making the bumps in the road feel that much harder. The economists wrote that those whose lives are the most difficult would benefit the most from marriage.

Read more in the New York Times: “Study Finds More Reasons to Get and Stay Married.”

Cultivate not just the love in your marriage, but also your friendship with your spouse as you grow older together. And if you’re married to your best friend, count yourself fortunate and give your spouse a big thank-you today.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 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.

How to trade loneliness for connectedness, and how did we get here?

lonely person morguefileWe’ve passed the Stone Age, the Space Age, and the Digital Age. We’ve entered a post-social age our ancestors would have believed impossible. We’ve entered the Age of Loneliness. This is the age in which independence is valued over connectedness, where going it alone is the road more traveled. So argues George Monbiot in his Guardian article “The age of loneliness is killing us”.

During this holiday season, those who are lonely may feel it all the more intensely. This feeling makes us want to retreat, but instead, we need to reach out. We might be the ones offering help, or the ones asking for help. Either way, reaching out can benefit us as individuals and as a society.

Loneliness is an epidemic affecting young adults as well as older people, according to researchers. At times we may feel alone even among our family and friends or with our spouse. American society encourages isolation as a strength. We begin to believe that no one understands us—our deepest selves—and our fears and desires. Social media and the ubiquity of phones, computers, TVs, and ear buds makes true daily interaction much less likely.

The truth is we as human beings thrive on connection and are shaped by social interactions, says Monbiot. We are more alike than we care to admit. Yes we are each unique, but we are eating away at ourselves by pretending to be so different from the rest of humanity. We were not meant to cope alone, so to improve our lives, we need to focus more on truly connecting with those around us. That means putting down the phone, shutting off the TV, and opening our hearts and minds to one another. Sadly, two-fifths of older people report the TV is their principal company.

Individualism has become the American religion. Monbiot says more people less likely to talk to a higher power and more likely to seek the one-eyed TV god. More kids aspire to “become rich” than to engage in careers that serve and help others. He adds that TV encourages competition, hedonism and a drive toward materialism. Those who watch a lot of TV gain less satisfaction on the same income as those who watch a little. Further, acting in a competitive manner doesn’t make us richer. Even if it did, it wouldn’t make us happier.

The richest 1% with average net worth of $78 million reported they were filled with anxiety, dissatisfaction, and yes, loneliness. They even felt financially insecure believing that they needed 25% more to feel secure.

“For this, we have ripped the natural world apart, degraded our conditions of life, surrendered our freedoms and prospects of contentment to a compulsive, atomizing, joyless hedonism, in which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. For this, we have destroyed the essence of humanity: our connectedness,” Monbiot says.

Our efforts to turn inward and away from others has only resulted in extreme loneliness among various income and age levels. It will take strong effort for us to reach out to others in need, to make attempts to connect with our kids, our partners, our siblings, our parents, to not hide out behind our screens. It’s not easy to share your real self.

If you are feeling that no one understands you, that your spouse, your friends and your extended family aren’t connected to you at a high level, that’s a sign that you may be retreating more than reaching out. Check in on your neighbors. Ask questions about your friends’ dreams and passions. Talk to your spouse about their biggest fears and hopes. It’s amazing when we really connect with one another that we find we have more common ground than we thought.

Through your deeper connections, may you find love and joy this season.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 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.

Looking for happiness in all the wrong places

dancing couple morguefileWhat are you looking for in your life and marriage to make you happy? Researchers have done a lot of work analyzing particular kinds of goals and whether they led people to happiness. They found that those with “intrinsic goals” (i.e. deep relationships, personal growth) tended to be happier than those with “extrinsic goals” (i.e. wealth, fame). It appears Americans are looking for happiness in all the wrong places.

Arthur Brooks detailed multiple studies in his article for the New York Times called “Love People, Not Pleasure.” For example, psychologists have concluded through many studies that people who rate materialistic goals like wealth as a top priority are significantly more likely to be anxious, more depressed, and frequent drug users, as well as to have more physical ailments than those who are seeking intrinsic goals.

A 2009 study by the University of Rochester looked at 147 graduates’ success in reaching their stated goals. They found graduates who were pursuing extrinsic goals experienced more negative emotions, such as shame and fear, as well as more physical maladies. Whether it’s popularity on social media, or to become famous or rich, their goals ended up making the subjects less happy rather than making them feel fulfilled. Career success, power, or self-promotion are other common extrinsic goals. Graduates who were seeking intrinsic goals were associated with happier lives.

After finding that neither fame nor materialistic success fulfilled people and made them happy, Brooks assessed whether lust might do the trick. Does experiencing a variety of sexual pleasure make people happy? Brooks cites a 2004 study in which economists analyzed whether more sexual variety led to greater well-being. Data included 16,000 Americans who were asked confidentially how many sex partners they had in the previous year, as well as their happiness levels. For both women and men, researchers concluded the optimal number of partners to experience happiness is one. In other words, the happiest people had only one sex partner in the previous year. (This is certainly contrary to our culture’s and media’s messages.)

So why do we as a society pursue lust, materialism, power and fame if they don’t lead to happiness? Brooks suggests that just because something feels good doesn’t mean it will fulfill you. Many of those instincts may only be residual desires based on our need to pass on DNA. “If you conflate intergenerational survival with well-being, that’s your problem,” he says.

“If it feels good, do it,” is bad advice from idiots in society, he adds. It may lead you to pass on your genetic material, but it won’t lead to a feeling of long-term well-being.

But there’s more to our longings. We are dissatisfied; want more from life. We aren’t sure what the problem or the solution may be. “Without a great deal of reflection and spiritual hard work, the likely candidates seem to be material things, physical pleasures or favor among friends and strangers,” says Brooks. But it is never enough.

This leads us to Brooks’ formulas for life: To love things and use people—this is a deadly formula too often attempted in the search for happiness. “You know in your heart that it is morally disordered and a likely road to misery,” says Brooks. An example is using people to find a better job, a bigger house, or greater influence.

Invert that advice to find the virtuous formula: Love people, use things. This means placing love above pride, only denying love to things that are actually objects; condemning materialism; and being skeptical of our own desires. It means using things to express your love rather than to fill an emptiness. It means seeking spiritual and emotional maturity so that we can have mature, meaningful relationships.

Apply this formula to your marriage and your life to find deeper fulfillment.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 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

How to keep a daily connection in your marriage

canoe morguefile

One of the most common reasons given for marriage failures is that the spouses “drifted apart.” The truth is drifting comes very naturally. As William Doherty describes in his book Take Back Your Marriage, marriage is like launching a canoe in the Mississippi River at St.Paul; if you don’t paddle, it goes south. And if two people are in the canoe, you have to both paddle.

As you’re floating along, chances are that one of you will become concerned about marital drift, he explains. One of you may comment on fewer long talks, less quality time together, or less sex. “For some couples, these complaints are a call to start paddling more vigorously. For other couples, the complaints lead to unpleasant arguments that lead to greater distance. But even when we are inspired to try harder, the extra work on our marriage tends to be short lived—sustained for days or weeks at best—and then we resume our slow drift south.”

While this issue is not due to lack of love or good intentions, couples in this situation often lack a plan for taking back their marriage. Of the plethora of marriage books I have read and/or have on my shelves, Take Back Your Marriage is one of my top picks, because this situation is SO VERY COMMON. If this is your situation, realize this is normal, but solvable.  

To keep your marriage from drifting, make time for it, and give it sustained effort. Remember, if you’re not paddling, you’re going south. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you spending time together? Do you go to church together, have meals together, and talk together? Do you make time for regular dates (it could be a morning walk or lunch date, not just an evening out)? You don’t have to spend all your time together, as long as you are spending some dedicated time and activities you enjoy with one another.
  2. Are you taking your partner for granted? Work is important. Kids are important. Chores have to be done. And on and on. But if you aren’t making time for your partner, they won’t feel appreciated.
  3. Are you absorbed in TV, internet and/or your phone? Media, especially in the bedroom, can come between you. All the research confirms that TVs should be left out of the bedrooms. Take the ipad and computer out while you’re at it. (If you can’t do it, that proves my point.)
  4. Are you focused on what you are getting out of your marriage? This consumer mentality can lead to problems.
  5. Do the people you spend time around support your marriage and family? Outside influences can contribute to drifting. This includes people who are more focused on “your happiness” than on your marriage.
  6. Are you focused on material things rather than relationships? The best things in life are free, but you can lose them by focusing on things instead of people.
  7. Are you making an effort to be kind to your spouse when he or she calls, or make/purchase a food or beverage they enjoy, or offer other gestures of kindness? Read If you want a happier marriage be generous. Do you help make their life easier not because you expect them to return the favor, but because you want them to be happy?
  8. Are you showing affection toward one another? Are you happy to see each other? Do you touch, kiss and enjoy sex together? These are important forms of connection.
  9. Are you dedicating all of your time to your children? Parents need to determine how much time children need, keeping in mind those children also need the stability of the family and the marriage. To read more about this, check out Putting kids first harms families.
  10. Are you sharing your true self with your partner—your hopes, dreams, desires, fears?

Couples may have issues with some of these, but that doesn’t mean your marriage is doomed. The key is to build on your strengths and to soften the impact of your weaknesses, says Doherty, especially times of stress. When marriage counseling is needed, select a qualified therapist that will help you fight for the marriage. “A good therapist, a brave therapist, will be the last one in the room willing to give up on a marriage,” says Doherty. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a counselor to delve into why you’re unhappy or to even recommend a separation or divorce. Choose carefully.

Read: What’s a pro-marriage counselor and how do I find one?

How do you keep a positive daily connection in your marriage? Share your tips, especially for busy couples!

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

Marriage . . . in retrospect

Thanks to Regi Campbell, author and married for 45 years, for the following guest post:

I read where Ronald Wayne, one of the co-founders of Apple Computer, sold his 10% interest in the company for $800 only a week or so after it was started. What turned out to be worth $5 billion was traded away for what most people pay for a month’s rent. Wayne later said he made “the best decision with the information available to me at the time”.

In retrospect, no one can imagine throwing away a fortune for a mere $800. But in retrospect, a lot of things look different don’t they?

Take marriage for example.

We go into it fueled by infatuation with visions of perfect companions slicing and dicing through the stages of life. We see wonderful sex, lots of money, little kids pretty and perfect with a ton of friends cheering us on.

But sometime in the first few years, reality bites. She’s not as crazy about you as she once was. His kindness has been replaced by an angry tone. Money is tighter than you ever imagined . . . things happen you didn’t plan for and cash is drained away in chunks. Friends feel more like magnets pulling you apart than pushing you together. And if there’s a kid, your joy is joined by the weight of responsibility the first night he’s sick and you don’t know what to do.

In retrospect, you see things you didn’t think about. You didn’t date long enough to see how she responded to stress. You didn’t plan for all these expenses. You didn’t realize how tired she’d be after working all day and how that would affect her interest in you at bedtime. You didn’t think it would be this hard to birth a kid and keep it fed, dry and quiet. And maybe you didn’t think she would show up on your ‘radar screen’. . . the perfect girl who has none of the issues your wife has. You didn’t think he would ever come back into your life and say “I was wrong, we were meant for each other, leave him and let’s pick up where we left off.”

Thousands, no millions, of couples hit one of these ‘walls’ in marriage. After 45 years and hitting most of these at one time or another, I offer three suggestions learned from experience for moving beyond them.

1. Visualize yourself at future points in time and look backward. ‘In retrospect’. In screenwriting, the main character is revealed by what he does, not by what he says. If you’re twenty-eight, visualize yourself at thirty-eight. “Is what I’ll be giving up by divorcing my wife the very thing I’ll want when I’m ten years older? Do I want to be ‘that guy’ at thirty-eight? At forty-eight? At fifty-eight?” Who has divorced his wife and become a better man as a result? Which of my divorced friends has become my hero? Who’s remarried ‘perfection’ and now lives the ‘wrinkle-free’ life?

2. Think with your head, not with your heart. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” says Jeremiah. The word ‘heart’ can be swapped for the word “desires”. Our desires are deceitful. They can be really sick and hard to understand. Our appetites can lead us to decisions that damage our health, wealth and stability. When emotions get involved . . . things like love and lust and acceptance and shame and anger, we can talk ourselves into and out of most anything. Don’t do it. Don’t let your ‘heart’ convince you of things your ‘head’ knows are false. Find a couple of friends you respect. Tell them where you are and where you’re headed. Let them talk you off the ledge.

3. Stress is always derived from deadlines. When we’re patient and not in a hurry, stress is low. But when we want what we want and we want it now, stress goes through the roof. It’s a proven fact that when our emotional level goes up, our functioning level goes down. We make poorer decisions, some of which we’ll regret in retrospect. Visualize future seasons of married life when you’ll have more money, older kids, and less testosterone. Think about how your tenacity will someday inform your kids. Divorcing your husband informs the children a different way. It gives them permission to divorce. Never forget that.

It’s been said that marriage is the full-length mirror where we see our selfishness. None of us want to hear that in the ‘here and now’. But in retrospect, I see my temptations around marriage and divorce were motivated by my selfishness. Don’t give in to it.

4. Think long-term. Give yourself and your wife and your God time. In retrospect, we feel good about ourselves when we do the right thing. I knew the ‘right thing’ was to stick it out, to invest in my marriage even when it was hard. In retrospect, I’m so glad I didn’t ‘sell out’ my marriage early on for what I now know to be ‘chump change’.

Regi Campbell is a serial entrepreneur, one-time Georgia “Entrepreneur of the Year” in Technology and author of three books including most recently What Radical Husbands Do: 12 Steps to Win and Keep Your Wife’s Heart. Campbell has been married for 45 years to Miriam Campbell, is a father of two and grandfather of five. During the last 13 years, he has mentored 104 young business executives to live out the gospel in their marriages and the workplace. You can find his new book at http://www.radicalhusbands.com.

I’ll be giving away one free copy of Regi’s book. If you are interested in learning 12 steps to win and keep your wife’s heart, please leave a brief comment. Have any readers been married for longer than 45 years? Can you imagine your marriage being strong after 45 years? Let’s hope so.

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.