Tag Archives: Happier Relationships

6 Tips to Save Family Time and Have More Fun

If you read the time-saving solutions in Parts I and II that help you save hours a day, they are mostly technology related. In this last column about saving time for your family (yes, I’ll move on after just one more post) I’ll focus on making choices that allow to have more fun. That is, what decisions are you making about how your family spends time? Are you consciously making decisions about it, or do you get sucked into the wind tunnel of activity and wonder how you go there?

Following are 6 tips to be more deliberate and happy with how your time is spent:

  1. What’s your dream day/week?Prioritize with your spouse about how you would MOST like to spend your time together as a couple and as a family. What are your favorite pastimes? Do you love to go hiking or boating, attend concerts, cook elaborate meals, garden, volunteer, go on dinner dates, ride bikes, read books, take family walks, travel, etc.? Do you currently have time for these activities (and not just on sporadic vacations)? If so, stop reading this and go enjoy your life. Congrats. If you’re still reading, hang in there…
  2. Learn to say, “No.”  The best way I’ve found to do this is to be non-committal when you’re invited to attend an event or asked to fulfill a new task or role. Just say,  “Thanks for thinking of me. I will seriously consider it and will get back to you.” Don’t feel obligated to attend every wedding, birthday party, and social obligation to which you or your kids are invited. Don’t feel like you are the parent who needs to bake cupcakes each time there’s a fund raiser. EVEN IF YOU DON’T HAVE SOMETHING ON THE CALENDAR, it’s more than OK just to have down time to do the things you enjoy most.
  3. Assess your time commitments. For many families, this has to do with commitments to sports and extracurricular clubs. For adults, it may include social groups, sports, church or volunteerism.  Are you booked up every evening with obligations? Do you rarely have time for family dinners? Is your schedule carefully planned with activities with little to no down time built in? Every couple’s needs or family’s needs are different, but assess and discuss the time commitments you have to make sure you are in agreement. Your volunteer time may be very fulfilling and worth every minute.
  4. Schedule your fun stuff first. Then, when you check your calendar on things that come up, you will have to choose between that weekend away or day of biking and the new “obligation.” Maybe you’ll make more time for fun.  When you schedule activities for the two of you, make sure to also get sitters lined up. Once you lock it in, you can honestly say, “I’m sorry we have plans that day.”
  5. Is your job your life? Is the majority of your identity tied up into your career? Do you have little or no free time for life outside of work? Do you get home and then start checking email and text messages from work?  If work is taking up more than a full-time job and you’re not happy with that, consider whether lifestyle changes are in order. Don’t feel like you have to take every career opportunity or promotion if you think your life will be less enjoyable as a result. For example, if 20 more hours a week are required for a small raise, does it really make sense for your family? Is there a similar job you could do with better hours? Discuss with your spouse wither you could downsize expenses, maybe live in a smaller home or share a car. This might allow you to travel more or work in a job you enjoy more.  Another option for some people is to work at home and cut out travel time, or to find more efficient ways to work (i.e., focus on priority tasks and only check email after those are complete) and get home sooner.
  6. Is lack of organization to blame? Do you have a shared family calendar? Do you have a routine for meal planning and cooking? Do you get carry out or fast food more than once a week? Does your family have assigned chores with time allotted to complete them? Do you spend time looking for lost items or important papers? Does everyone in the family help out with age-appropriate tasks? Is your home relatively uncluttered? Being organized most definitely saves tons of time and frustration.

What other tips do you have for saving time? Share in the comments if you have thoughts about lack of time for fun or tips on how to get more enjoyment from family time.

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 all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by photostock courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

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.

New Inspirational Marriage Book Available

After three long years of preparation and work, I’m thrilled to announce that my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available!

Just in time for Christmas, the book is ideal for married couples of all ages and stages who want to achieve a blissful  marriage, but who understand life sometimes gets in the way.

First Kiss to Lasting Bliss features the real-life stories of couples across the U.S. Many of them used adversity to improve their marriages. Couples overcame drug addiction, infidelity, stranger rape, bankruptcy, raising a special needs child, infertility, loss of a child, military separation, opposing religions, differing races, unsupportive families, life-threatening injuries and illnesses, depression, brain injury, and MUCH more. These couples didn’t just survive, they became great love stories that can inspire us all. You will get to know the couples and their often difficult journeys, as well as the keys to their now-strong marriages.

In the book, I also share 12 overarching lessons that these couples taught me while writing the book. These lessons can inspire you to take your marriage to the next level.

The book is offered in print and e-book editions. The print version is $14.95, and e-books range from $7.99 to $9.99 depending on which format you choose. But no matter what format you choose, I’m happy to offer seven free marriage tools/products from other marriage educators and writers who are generously offering them to all those who purchase my book. Visit my web site for the awesome list (and thanks to all the contributors!) and the links to the different book formats. You can also find testimonials, the book introduction and interviews with me on my site www.LoriDLowe.comGo here if you would rather go straight to Amazon.com to buy the book. (You still get the freebies if you email me).

I’ve shared hundreds of research-based marriage tips here at Marriage Gems during the last three years. If you have found this blog helpful, I hope you will check out the book. Please consider sharing it with your friends or family who could use some encouragement.

I thank all of you for your support and for your interactions here, which keep me motivated to research and write about this important topic that has the potential to help so many families. I especially thank my family for their patience during this rather large undertaking.

I wish you bliss in your relationships!

LINKS:
I wrote this guest post for Engaged Marriage called “Love is Sacrificial.”

For Christian readers, check out this guest post for Journey to Surrender called “A Counter-Cultural Pathway to a Stronger Christian Marriage.”

First Kiss to Lasting Bliss Interview

Thanks to Mrs. Levine of Whispered Between Women for interviewing me about my upcoming book, FIRST KISS TO LASTING BLISS: Hope & Inspiration for Your  Marriage. You can visit her lovely site and read the full interview here. I am re-posting the highlights here at her suggestion, with a link to the full interview:

Mrs. Levine: I’ve been following Lori Lowe’s blog Marriage Gems for a couple of years and find her advice on marriage truly wonderful and inspiring. I took the opportunity to ask her some of my burning questions on how to help a marriage last a lifetime.

Mrs. Levine: Is avoiding lifestyle traps one of the best ways of helping a marriage flourish over decades?

Lori Lowe: I do think avoiding today’s lifestyle traps can help a marriage flourish. For example, the ever-changing desires for more material goods, nicer cars, bigger houses, great vacations, and the like, can cause financial stress. Research shows couples who are more focused on material goods have less strong marriages. The truth is that material goods never really satisfy our deepest longings. If we spent the time and effort focusing on trying to please each other and doing something great in the world that is bigger than ourselves, we find much greater happiness.

 
Mrs. Levine: When illness or an accident changes the marriage so that one spouse is a care provider and the other is a care receiver, how does a couple maintain an equal emotional balance in the relationship?

Lori Lowe: One couple in the book experienced a brain injury at a young age, and the wife has become a caregiver. Due to his slow awakening from a coma, it’s almost as if he fell in love with his wife a second time. He asked her to marry him before he understood that he was already married to her. She remained at his side and committed to his recovery, and works daily to help him regain his mobility. Just because one person has physical limitations doesn’t mean that any part of the love dies away. At some point (hopefully much later in life), most of us as couples will face some physical limits either in ourselves or in our spouse. While it’s not pleasant to think about, it may help you prepare for the future.

Mrs. Levine: What is your best piece of advice to couples for a marriage that lasts a lifetime?

Lori Lowe: If I have to limit the advice to one thing, I’d say focus on pleasing each other. It creates a virtuous cycle of giving and loving. If you are willing to go first and be the one who acts in love and generosity, you can start that cycle. What is something that would please your spouse today? More sex or touching during the day? Grocery shopping or cooking dinner? Spending time together? Saying thank you instead of complaining?  Do what you know will please your spouse, and if you don’t know, be sure to ask.

If I can add one other thing, I’d say don’t expect your spouse to fill your every need. If we each learn to be interesting and fulfilled people individually, we bring more to the marriage, and we hopefully won’t have as many unrealistic expectations of each other.

Read More for the rest of the Q&A.

Receive book information at www.LoriDLowe.com, and check out the Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/LastingBliss. First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage will be available Dec. 8, 2011.

The Problem with Compromise in Marriage

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

True or False?  Marriage involves plenty of compromise.

Marriage therapist Corey Allen, PhD, explains in this insightful post why compromise isn’t helpful in your marriage. In fact, he says it can be causing a lot of damage in your relationship. This seems counter-intuitive to much of the advice we read and hear about, so I wanted to delve into this further.

The problem with compromise, says Allen, is that it involves both spouses to make concessions, and both parties go away feeling dissatisfied. In addition, there is usually an expected reciprocity when one party gives in. This leads to keeping score and unmet expectations, which we know can cause conflict.

“True compromise can only occur when two equally powerful people both clearly state their needs,” says Allen, adding that only then can they work on a mutually satisfactory solution. The solution may take some creativity or seeking an option that is not already on the table, but often both people can end up happier if they both keep their needs at the forefront.

My husband and I redecorated our family room this spring, and we both had strong feelings about what we wanted. It took months of shopping (which neither of us enjoyed) before we pieced together the elements we were both happy with. It may have been easier for one of us to compromise, but now that it’s done, we are both pleased that we each got what we wanted.

Sometimes the less outspoken spouse has a tendency to go along with what the other person wants. He or she doesn’t want to make waves, and finds it is easier to just give in on something. However, each instance of coming away unhappy can lead to a little bit more resentment and feeling of powerlessness.

 There are a few questions I still have about this issue, and I’m glad to hear Allen will be doing a follow-up post to further explain. There are several points I would make, and I’d really like to get more views on this:

  1. I do think that we still need to be very willing to hear one another out and give each other our influence and encouragement. Sometimes it really helps to hear the other’s reason for wanting something. We may change one another’s perspective before even solving the problem. How we discuss an issue has so much to do with the outcome.
  2. When we are in the midst of a conflict in which both spouses’ heels are dug in, I think sometimes—rarely—one person does need to “give in” or agree to disagree. I’ve interviewed mature couples who are able to do this and respect each other even more for it. It seems I may disagree with the experts on this. If something is not a deal breaker, and it’s gone unresolved after working hard, something’s got to give.
  3. Getting our needs met doesn’t mean we always get what we want. For instance, if one spouse wants a new boat and the other a new car, and there is limited money, we can’t get them both. We can’t use the marriage advice not to compromise as an excuse to be irresponsible and do what we want no matter the consequences.

Let’s hear your viewpoints on this. Do you compromise in your marriage? Do you feel your needs go unmet? Is one person likely to give in regularly? Do you think give and take is a bad or good thing?

Photo courtesy of Stockvault.net by Radu Mihai Onofrei

Is Your Relationship Better than Your Friends’ Relationships?

Happy Life, Happy Marriage Series

In the last happy life happy marriage post, we talked about how we humans are naturally dissatisfied with our lives and our mates. We’re not even satisfied in a “perfect” marriage with the “perfect” spouse. Because perfect for us today means tomorrow our expectations change. If we are dissatisfied or unhappy with some aspect of our marriage today, there’s a good chance that there is nothing seriously wrong with our relationship.

Another way in which we doom our chances for happiness in relationships is by comparing our marriages (as well as other aspects of our lives) to other couple’s marriages. On the outside, most everyone’s marriage looks happy and problem-free. We all smile when we’re out with friends. We think we can determine how happy we are by comparing with how happy others appear to be.

This would not be a problem, says Dennis Prager in Happiness is a Serious Problem, if we compared ourselves with most other people.  However, we don’t do this. We compare ourselves with the very few who appear happier than we are. We’re always looking one notch above where we perceive ourselves to be, even if we know very little about their lives. When we think about it, we realize that we can’t know how our lives compare with others behind closed doors. When I was young, I used to look around our church and think “if they only knew how we lived when we weren’t on display.” But to the outside world, I’m sure we appeared to be a well-adjusted family of seven.

“The less we know about the people with whom we compare ourselves, the more dramatic the difference in assumed happiness,” says Prager. “If all of us realized that the people with whom we negatively compare our happiness are plagued by pains and demons of which we know little or nothing, we would stop comparing our happiness with others’.”

It’s similar to that saying you may have heard: If everyone could throw their problems out in a box, and you could choose to take any of them back, most of us would take our own. People seem fairly happy-go-lucky, attractive and successful to many of those around them, but deep down, they and their relationships may be deeply suffering from serious problems. Few people answer truthfully when a casual acquaintance asks how they are.

Prager says this situation would be improved if our close friends and confidants began opening up when things aren’t so perfect. (However, one needs to be very careful about sharing marital problems, particularly with family members.) For example, if you have a good friend whom you can share that you had a disagreement with your husband over which restaurant to go out to, or which route to take, or even that you can hardly tolerate his family, maybe she will offer some positive encouragement and realize you aren’t the perfect couple. She may share that her husband watches sports incessantly and thinks that it’s her job to do all the laundry. It’s not that you don’t respect one another’s marriages, but you also don’t pretend to be imperfect.

In life and in marriage, we are not helped by comparing ourselves with others whom we imagine to have more fun, money, more passion, more talent, more romance, more togetherness, fewer problems, fewer worries. In fact, we can significantly improve our happiness in life and in marriage if we would stop these meaningless comparisons.

This is a tough one. You go first, and let me know how it goes.

Related Links:
Read 10 Tips to Living a Mindful Marriage, by Sean Marshall of Family Rocketship, in a guest post for Simple Marriage. I just found Sean’s cool blog, dedicated to actively chooseing to live the perfect life. He and his wife are starting at home, seeking adventure, and hoping to change the world.

Photo credit: ©Dmitri Mlkitenko/PhotoXpress.com