Tag Archives: happy marriage

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.

What is the Happiest Year of Your Marriage?

DSC06526 I sincerely hope that the happiest year of your marriage is THIS year, but a recent British survey* of 2,000 married people suggests that year three was the happiest year in their marriage.

In the study, the first year of marriage followed year three as the next happiest, with the couple basking in the newlywed glow, while year two was spent getting to know one another better. The study suggests year three marks the success of learning to deal with one another’s imperfections, as well as some occasional doubts. By year three, discussions of having children often occur, helping to solidify the relationship.

What was the toughest year in their marriage? According to the study, the fifth year was the most difficult due to feelings of exhaustion, financial worries, stress of caring for children, and conflict over division of work/chores.

The good news is that the couples who continued to work on the marriage found year seven to be the point at which, when obstacles are overcome—such as unbalanced sex drives, different hobbies or social preferences—it paves the way for a long-term and happy marriage. Half of respondents say their wedding day was the happiest day of their life.

All that being said, the data should not be seen as exactly relating to every marriage, but rather a trend. Frequently, it appears, once we settle into marriage and get to know one another, marriage can be blissfully happy (yay!). Then, when differing expectations, family demands and workloads collide with the romantic side of the relationship, it takes some effort to overcome problems and remain committed. Marriage has ups and downs, and often after going through troubled times or crises, couples gain a stronger bond.

For couples who decide they “Married the Wrong Person” and move on to someone new, they may become blissfully happy for another very brief period, but they will end up in the same place a few years down the road with a new person. However, for the majority of couples who get past this stage, marriage can become a long and happy union.

Whatever stage you are in, work to stick together. We may blame our spouse for stress that is external to the relationship. Instead of thinking your spouse has changed, realize your situation may be very different from the days of dating. Work to keep communication open and positive.

So, what was your happiest year of marriage, and what was your toughest period to get through?

*The study was commissioned by Slater & Gordon, a UK-based law firm.
Photo courtesy of morguefile.com.

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.

What You Focus on Will Appear Larger

magnif glass morguefile public
In my marriage presentations, I have often discussed the tendency for what we focus on to seem larger and more important.  So the individual who focuses on a fault of their spouse will see it gaining prominence and importance. And a couple that is constantly analyzing their relationship’s problems may start to see the marriage as a big failure.

The Generous Husband’s recent post on this topic rang true for me. In Change Your Focus, Change your Marriage, the post reminds readers that when they buy a new car, they seem to see that car everywhere, but the number of those cars on the roads hasn’t changed. In the same way, focusing on pet peeve of your  husband’s can begin to drive you crazy, while focusing on a good quality or characteristic can help you notice the positive trait more often.

Changing your perceptions can change your reality. Many issues in marriage are what are called perpetual issues that won’t go away given more attention. They tend to be differences in temperament (driven personality vs. laid back) or preferences (I like things very neat vs. I will get to the dishes later). Whether you are a planner or more spontaneous in nature, nagging from your spouse probably won’t change that tendency. While we don’t want to ignore major issues, these minor issues shouldn’t eat up all of our emotional energies.

Instead, we can devote time to having fun and doing things together that we enjoy. We can give our spouse the benefit of the doubt and try to recall loving actions and positive qualities that they have.

Consider whether certain things in your marriage are unnecessarily taking your attention away from the important stuff. Is there an area that is getting too much of your focus? Is there an area you would like to grow that is not getting enough attention?

Read more on Dr. John Gottman’s solution to handling perpetual issues causing gridlock.

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.

Why More Americans are Happy, Yet Unsatisfied

winter by Michal  Marcol freedigitalphotos.netAccording to recent Gallup polls, American levels of happiness are at a four-year high, with 60 percent of all Americans reporting they feel happy without a lot of stress or worry. Books about happiness are selling in record numbers. So why don’t Americans seem more satisfied?

One reason is, as I have written in a previous post, “There’s more to life and marriage than happiness.” Another reason is that 40 percent of Americans have not discovered a satisfying life purpose. Having a clear purpose and meaning for your life has been shown in research to increase your life satisfaction, improve your physical and mental health, and decrease the chances of depression. It is very possible to be both relatively happy and yet still live an unsatisfied life.

“It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness,” conclude researchers. Yes, pursuing happiness and pleasure can actually hinder you from having a meaningful, satisfying life as an individual and as a married couple.

A new study to be published in the Journal of Positive Psychology examined the attitudes of 400 Americans over a month and found that while a meaningful life and a happy life overlap in some ways, they were very different. Researchers determined that leading a “happy life” was associated with being a “taker” who at times appeared shallow, selfish or self-absorbed, but with satisfied demands. These happy individuals might be healthy and have plenty of income for what they needed or wanted, as well as few worries.

A meaningful life, on the other hand, was associated with being a “giver.” The participants in this category derived meaning from sacrifices. They actively looked for meaning in their activities, even when they knew the action might decrease their happiness or require them to give something up for themselves. Examples might be a parent who takes time to care for their children, a person who buys a present for a friend to cheer her up, or a spouse who offers to help around the house.

Finding meaning can even involve extreme sacrifices, such as the one made by the Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor Frankl in Vienna in September 1942. Read about his fascinating story and more about the research in this article from The Atlantic called “There’s more to life than being happy.” Frankl, who survived the Nazi concentration camps, later wrote the best-selling book Man’s Search for Meaning. After working on suicide prevention for teens earlier in his career, he helped two suicidal inmates in the camps find meaning for their lives and gave them something to live for. Don’t we all need something to live for?

“Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy,’” wrote Frankl. He also wrote the enduring words: “Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself—be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself—by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love—the more human he is.”

This last quote brings me to the point of this post. To find meaning in life and certainly in our marriages, we need to direct our attention away from our desire for happiness of the moment and toward others. By loving our spouse and family more fully, we can find greater fulfillment and satisfaction.

Researchers say happy people derive joy from receiving benefits from others, while people leading more meaningful lives derive a great deal of joy from giving to others.

Why is finding a deeper meaning for your life and marriage more important than seeking happiness for your family? Because it affects every choice you will make.  When one spouse reaches a turning point in their life, such as a mid-life crisis, someone focused on personal happiness might assess what they are getting from others and who is making them happy. They may say things like “life is short” and “you only live once” to justify behavior focused on personal pleasure. On the contrary, someone focused on meaning might assess what memories and values they are giving to their loved ones and how they have improved the lives of others. They will wonder what legacy they are leaving and how they can strengthen that legacy.

The idea that we are responsible for something greater than ourselves is contrary to the value of freedom above all.  Are these values at odds in your mind?

Please share how you find meaning in your life and in your marriage.

If you are interested in more on this topic, here are other happiness-related posts:

Is your family seeking pleasure, happiness, or joy?

Happiness comes before success in life, not after

The formula for unhappiness is revealed

Are too many choices leading to unhappiness?

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.

5 Questions to Ask about Marriage Readiness

engaged by Surachi freedigitalphotos.netIf you ask 10 people about what issues are most important in being ready for marriage, you will get 10 answers. That being said, some issues/questions will come up more frequently. Analyzing your motivations and timing for marriage is definitely worth your time and attention. Author Grace Pamer was nice enough to offer her take on 5 questions you should ask yourself if you are considering marriage (below). I would suggest there are other issues which you already know are key to marriage–things like similar values, discussing whether you want to have children, determining if you have a similar vision for life, and things of this sort.

While some couples want to be more settled before marriage (in career, education, financially, etc.), others are more willing to figure out the journey together. My husband was hoping to have his ideal job before we got engaged, but after five years of dating I was ready for commitment. He decided to take a “leap of faith” as he called it, which paid off when he received an offer for his perfect job while we were on our honeymoon.

While some of these issues depend on your situation, many of Grace’s questions I would say are mandatory–things like monogamy and readiness for commitment. But I don’t want to give away all the secrets, so without further ado, here is Grace’s guest post:

5 Questions to Ask Yourself if You are Considering Marriage

by Grace Pamer

It’s a sad fact, but today too many people are no longer strangers to the concept of divorce. For some, it could have been their own parents who divorced when they were young. Others may have stood up at a best friend’s wedding, only to see the relationship dissolve a few years later. The point is that dissolution of marriage is not a rare occurrence today – it can leave many individuals questioning if they are truly ready for this commitment, even when deeply in love with their partners.

The first step to warming those cold feet is to recognize that getting married has nothing to do with statistics or the relationship health of your friends and family. Being ready for marriage comes down to only one thing – you. It is an inward journey you must take, having nothing to do with the external world or experiences of others.

The following points are five ways I believe you will know if you are ready for marriage:

1. Are You Ready For A Monogamous Relationship?

One thing that is expected from marriage is monogamy. Many people don’t commit, at least not until later in life, because they feel they aren’t ready to make such a commitment for the rest of their lives.

People who are ready for marriage want a special someone to share their lives with. They don’t view monogamy as a sacrifice – they are happy and secure with the idea of having a perfect lover and a friend, all in one person, until death do they part.

2. Are Large Ambitions And Goals Met?

Loving couples can happily endure anything, so this doesn’t imply that life stops once you are married. But if you have a large list of desires you wish to accomplish before saying “I do” it is important to acknowledge that.

Examples would be going through medical school, spending a year abroad or any other large time commitment that could start a marriage off on the wrong foot. Again, couples can accomplish any of these things together. But if you have a large list of independent goals you wish to accomplish solo, then take time to be certain now is the right time to be married.

3. Are You Ready For Commitment?

Healthy couples aren’t threatened when one partner spends time with other friends and family, as long as time is also devoted to the relationship as well. But being married does involve more time with one person. Never being home, coming home late after your spouse is in bed each night – these things will take a toll.

Commitment isn’t a bad word. It is about love and respect for your lover and friend. Building a life together, sharing a home – these are good things with the right person. However, if you find it hard to imagine not being out every evening, spending weekends with friends or being accountable to another person, then this might not be the right time to consider marriage.

4. Do You Feel External Pressure?

When you think of marriage, if there is any hint of pressure to say, “I do,” you need to take time and acknowledge that feeling. When considering marriage, pressure can come in many forms. One in particular could be media’s influence, as we are constantly bombarded with marriage proposal stories and news of the latest Hollywood engagement.

Your own age might make you feel like a clock is ticking and time is running out. Family or friends might be pressuring you to walk down the aisle. You may have been with your lover a very long time, feeling obligated to move on to the next step. None of the above should be considered reasons to get married. There shouldn’t be any feeling of pressure involved in your decision, only enthusiasm and excitement about marrying your best friend.

5. Is It Based On Love Or Need?

The final step in analyzing if you are ready for marriage is the most difficult one – being brutally honest with yourself. Many people get married for the wrong reasons, those reasons being buried deep inside their own personalities and underlying fears.

If your self-esteem is low, you fear being alone later in life, seek validation and self-worth from others or cannot stand spending time with just yourself, these issues must be addressed before you can be ready for marriage. A healthy relationship requires two healthy individuals, ones who both contribute to the marriage. Depending on another to validate your worth cannot sustain a relationship over time.

Being ready for marriage entails wanting to share your life with someone you love – it isn’t about needing someone to give your life merit.

About the author:

Grace Pamer is a work from home mom and author of Romance Never Dies, which provides a resource for all those seeking romantic ideas and inspiration whether for a date, a marriage proposal or in a long term relationship. As featured in Cosmopolitan.com, CanadianLiving.com, FoxNews.com, YourTango.com and many more.


Thanks, Grace, for the guest post. Readers, what question do you feel are most important to ask yourself before getting married?

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 Surachai courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Independence and Marriage are Not Opposites

A few years ago I met a couple married more than 50 years and asked them the secret to their happy union. “He goes his way, and I go mine,” was their response.  They were not saying that all their time was spent apart, but rather that they each have their “own time” and aren’t dependent on continual togetherness for their happiness. It’s not the only time I’ve heard a variation of that response. “We each have our own interests,” is another common answer.

Some couples, particularly newlyweds, might question that advice and think they do want to spend all their time together; isn’t that why they got married?  Other couples spend their workdays, weekends, and even their vacations apart. Who is right? Multiple marriage expert advice from which I have read says it can strengthen the relationship to have individual interests and activities. Each person needs to be able to stand on his or her own two feet and not be dependent on another for their happiness. However, leading separate lives or being dishonest about how your time apart is spent can be a recipe for divorce.

When one partner feels smothered or simply needs time apart, he or she might be afraid to say so.  This New York Times article titled “Needs Space in a Relationship? Just Don’t Say It That Way” sheds light on the topic with some solid advice. As you might guess with the article topic, columnist Elizabeth Bernstein says the phrase “I need space” sends confusing signals. Instead, she recommends saying something like, “I need the afternoon to myself.” What if your spouse is upset but this revelation? Explain how this time helps you recharge or makes you feel at peace. If your spouse is worried or jealous about small amounts of time apart, then you may have serious trust issues that need attention.

I remember when my children were very young I especially craved alone time. Even an hour at the mall or soaking in my own tub for 30 minutes alone were divine gifts that allowed me to relax and think straight again. My husband was smart enough to know, even when I didn’t ask for it, that I needed a break to recharge. Other people regularly have Girls’ Night Out or guys’ fishing trips based on the same idea.  The important point is not to make these things more important than family demands, and not to take it to the extreme that they are impeding on your family or couple time.

Many of my friends are pilot’s wives (as am I) and suggest that the space apart during trips doesn’t strain their relationships as many people believe.  “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” they say. And having a break from the routine can be refreshing. We learn to have a network of friends and activities apart from our husbands that makes us independent.  Do things that interest you, and you become more interesting to be with, more attractive to your mate. And when your spouse can join you, great! Celebrate your time together as well.

In fact, I would hasten to add that more couples probably need to be concerned about adding in fun time as a couple into their calendar first. But don’t be afraid to schedule time with friends (doing things your spouse approves of) or time alone to help you feel grounded and give yourself time to think. Isn’t it easier to feel in love and happy when you’ve given yourself what you need, instead of building up resentment because you never have time to yourself?

Other tips from WSJ’s Bernstein:

  1. Enjoy the time to yourself without guilt or it defeats the purpose. (Moms of young children, re-read that.)
  2. No secrets. Tell your spouse what you did and with whom. This is critical to maintaining trust.
  3. Don’t take this space idea too far; too much space can weaken your marital connection.
  4. Schedule time together and as a family so that your partner feels they are a priority to you.

How do you strike a balance with togetherness and time apart? Do you find time apart strengthens or weakens your marriage bond?

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and 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 Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

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