Tag Archives: forgiveness

6 Habits for Happy Lives & Marriages

Happy Life: Happy Marriage Series

I came across this awesome visual from the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) on 6 Habits of Happiness Worth Cultivating, and I think it has great applications for marriage as well. Cultivate these 6 habits for a happier life and a happier marriage.

  1. Practice Kindness. Yes, it’s an important life habit, but it also makes you feel good. “Altrustic acts light up the same pleasure centers in the brain as food and sex,” according to GGSC. Many people stop there, but they end up being kinder to the checker at the grocery store than to their spouse at home. Or at least we would never say things to our friends that we are willing to say in anger to our spouse. Ouch. Kindness will pay great dividends in the long run. Say “please” and “thank you” for starters. Offer to help, especially when your spouse is stressed. Give an extra hug and kiss, just because.
  2. Drop Grudges. As I wrote in First Kiss to Lasting Bliss, forgiveness is just as much a gift for the giver as the receiver. Offering forgiveness to those who have wronged us takes away the bitterness that can rob us of health and wellbeing. This goes double in a marriage, when grudges are very detrimental. If a past hurt from our spouse is important, discuss how you feel hurt and explain what would make you feel better. But figure out how to get past it.
  3. Get Moving. GGSC reports that “regular exercise increases self-esteem, reduces anxiety and stress, and may well be the most effective instant happiness booster of all.” Why not do something active with your spouse? You’ll both benefit from the increased oxytocin release, you’ll both be doing something good for your health, and you’ll be spending quality time together.
  4. Give Thanks. Lots of research has shown the benefits of living with gratitude, and I’ve written a good deal about it. “Regular expressions of gratitude promote optimism, better health, and greater satisfaction with life,” says GGSC. Research also shows that couples who express gratitude toward one another and who spending time being thankful for their spouse and thinking positively about him or her are also more satisfied with their relationship. Read “Two words that have improved my marriage.”
  5. Keep Friends Close. “Make time for those closest to you,” says GGSC. That means regular, dedicated, uninterrupted face time with your spouse. No excuses. Remember that your spouse can’t meet all your emotional needs, so spend time with close friends as a way to boost your happiness and bring a brighter you to your marriage.
  6. Pay Attention. The idea of being more mindful as a means of boosting immunity and reducing anxiety is not one commonly discussed. But in our world of multitasking and ubiquitous social media, it’s so key. How many minutes a day to we spend completely engaged with our spouse, listening or discussing meaningful issues in our lives?

What are the most important habits you feel cultivates your personal happiness and your relationship happiness?

Order in time for Valentine’s Day: 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.

The Real Secret to Marriage: Forgiveness

When I was first married I remember people saying “communication is the key to a happy marriage.” Or even, “the three keys to a strong marriage are communication, communication and communication.” At the time, I agreed.

I do not want to discount the importance of effective communication with your spouse. Organizations like PowerofTwoMarriage offer great skill building in this area, and I continue to try to improve my own communication skills. However, I don’t think it’s the most important skill or trait in marriage. After 16 years of being married, I think forgiveness is more important. I say that being blessed to never have had anything huge to forgive. But whether big or small things get under your skin, a lack of forgiveness in marriage has the power to destroy it and lead you closer to divorce.

I wrote of a wonderful couple’s ability to forgive the big stuff in this post for Simple Marriage recently. It’s called: Forgiveness is a gift for the giver and the receiver. Check it out, and then let me know if you agree that forgiveness is one of the keys to your happy relationship. I write about a very difficult thing to forgive, infidelity.  The article also includes tips from Dr. Scott Haltzman on how to effectively seek forgiveness. It’s not easy, but it’s well worth it.

When we learn to seek and give forgiveness, we can have peace and love in our homes. We can be happy to come home and happy to spend time with our spouse. What do you think is the toughest fault to forgive?

NOTE:
My new book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available–just in time for Christmas. Go here for links to Amazon print version or e-books for Kindle, iTunes, Nook or e-book. 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 courtesy of  freeditigalphotos.net by Savit Keaw Tavee.

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.

Two Dozen Experts Share Keys to Lifelong Marriage

More than 15 relationship experts have teamed up to share their personal and professional advice for marriage in Creating a Marriage You’ll Love: Secrets for Building a Rich and Full Life Together. Some of the contributors, such as John Gray, PhD, are rather well known, and others have been researching marriage behind the scenes for decades to determine what works in real life. The book’s royalties will be donated to organizations dedicated to helping domestic violence victims.

With marriage failure rates between 45 and 50 percent, and when one out of every three children in this country can expect their parents to divorce, such compilations of best research and advice can be helpful to couples serious about success. The advice is presented in an easy-to-understand manner, along with personal illustrations, some from the researchers’ own marriages. Following are just a few nuggets I appreciated:

Terri Orbuch, PhD, writes about how today’s economy is forcing couples to spend more time making ends meet and concerned about jobs, health and children—and less time focused on each other. She followed 373 couples for 22 years and developed recommendations from her research.

Orbuch says it’s the small annoyances and irritations—rather than the big events and problems in life—that often lead to unhappiness and instability in a marriage. In fact, the larger events, such as unemployment or a death in the family, often cause a couple to rely on one another for support and love. Tough times can bring us closer together, while failure to listen to and acknowledge your spouse on a day-to-day basis can be deadly to a relationship.

She also offers the great advice for couples going through a rough patch to focus on what is working well in the marriage instead of dissecting what is wrong with the marriage and trying to fix it. “I have found that the most effective way to boost happiness, commitment, harmony, fun, and passion in a marriage that is basically sound is to add new elements to the marriage, and to focus on how to support and strengthen what’s already working well,” says Orbuch.

She adds that in her long-term study, loving couples shared four characteristics: having realistic expectations, regularly reconnecting with one’s spouse (i.e. taking a bike ride or sharing some laughs), sharing trust, and affirming and validating each other (especially important for men).

One piece of advice from Gray: “To fully open our hearts together and enjoy a lifetime of love, the most important skill of all is forgiveness.” This means forgiving your partner as well as yourself for not being perfect, allowing you to give and receive love again. Anyone who has been married more than a few years will acknowledge the importance of forgiveness in being able to reestablish true intimacy after a conflict.

Creating a Marriage You’ll Love offers many other studies and insights you may find valuable. (I receive no compensation for reviewing the book or for resulting sales.)

If you have a satisfying marriage, what do you think is the secret to your success? Or, if you struggle in your relationship, what is the one thing you desire most? Do you agree with the above advice from Orbuch and Gray?