Tag Archives: happy marriage

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

Simple Solutions for Busy Families—Get Back Hours a Day Starting Today!

Even with the school year winding to a close, most of the families I know are struggling with lack of time to do all they would like to do, or even all they feel they must do. It’s such a pervasive issue that affects marriages and families of all ages that it’s worth spending some time to see if there are solutions.

I was prompted to write this from a couple of things I’ve read recently, the most recent of which was a blog post by Kathleen Quiring on “The Importance of Not Being Busy.”  She makes many good cases for striving to be less busy, including the fact that busy people are less likely to give their time to help those in need. (FYI, this isn’t just her opinion; it’s been shown in research.)  Also, busy people are more likely to get into accidents, to sleep and eat poorly, to yell more, and to waste more resources in the name of convenience.

Yes, these are all important reasons. I think even more important is the fact that your family needs you to be present and available, and to do that you need to have time to give. Most of us don’t even have wiggle room in the schedule. When we are rushing from one event to the next, it’s hard to be present and loving—let alone patient and kind. A marriage needs time to be nurtured. We need time to go on dates, or even to watch a movie at home together. We need time to talk and to make love. For those of us with kids, we need time to have real conversations, not just discussions of homework and the schedule of supervised activities or sports. I read a stat today that I seriously hope is wrong that says the average number of minutes per WEEK that parents spend in meaningful conversations with their children is 3.5. I wonder how many minutes per week we spend in meaningful talks with our spouses.

Is there a way out of this busyness trap? Of course. But when I said the solutions were simple, I didn’t say they were easy. They are doable! What would you do with an extra 20 to 30 hours a week? Would it fall through the cracks or would you spend it with your husband, wife, friends, sleeping, or enjoying your hobbies? Could you use the time to better organize your home or family so life doesn’t seem so chaotic? First decide what you would do with that time so you have the motivation you need to make changes.

Today I’ll focus on the absolute biggest time waster for the average American family, then I’ll add some additional tips later in the week.

Your TV May Be Stealing Your Family Life

Nielsen surveys say that say the average American watches four hours of TV per day. That adds up to two months non-stop in a year, or nine years of your life up to age 65. Nine years! The TV is on for six hours and 47 minutes a day in most American homes. And about half of Americans say they think they watch too much TV. Two-thirds watch it while eating dinner.

The average adult male watches 29 hours of TV per week; the average adult female watches even more–34 hours per week. And remember the kids having less than four minutes a week having real talks with their parents? They watch an average of 1,680 minutes of TV a week. When I shared this with my son, he said, if that’s the average, then lots of people watch even more than that! My daughter chimed in, “I’m glad we’re not average.”

I’m not saying TV is terrible in itself. But it’s what we are giving up to have so much of it. What is the opportunity cost for you? What could you accomplish with an extra hour or four extra hours a day? You get to choose what you think is most important in your life. In my experience, TV shows can feel pretty addictive. We get into patterns and they are hard to break. We think of the characters as friends, even as we neglect our own friends. Even the marketing campaigns convince you it’s “must-see” TV. But if you stop watching the new shows, they can’t pull you in.

During the last few years, my husband and I have drastically cut down on TV time. Even when he is traveling on business, he only watches TV if he’s in the exercise room working out. I enjoy a few minutes with Matt Lauer in the mornings, and TV helps me pass the time on the treadmill, but most evenings the TV is not turned on.  I’ve used my extra evening time to write a book (see the end of this post), read many great books, take tennis lessons, and enjoy more time with my family. And I often write this blog in the time that used to be eaten up by TV. I do sometimes miss a show I wish I’d seen. But by the miracle of the Internet, if I really want to see it later, I can watch it commercial- free online. I’m not a fan of TIVO, because I think it encourages more TV watching. My kids watch less than an hour a week and don’t seem harmed by it in the least.

If you and your spouse enjoy the same show, at least you can enjoy it side by side and maybe trade back or foot massages. I cringe when I see that often one spouse watches one TV while the other watches something else in a different room. Every night.

OK, my last point is regarding TV in the bedroom. I’ve said it before, but research shows couples with a TV in the bedroom cut their sex life in half. An Italian study showed having no TV in the bedroom doubles the couple’s sexual frequency.

I can hear people saying, “but TV relaxes me” or “I need to veg out after a long day of work.” But it’s just a habit that’s been formed. You could just as well relax by taking a walk or having a glass of wine with your honey on the porch. What new habits could you form that would be fun for you and would benefit your family?

If you’re not a big TV watcher, first ask yourself if that’s really true or if you just aren’t adding it all up. But if TV isn’t an issue or you aren’t willing to cut back, stay tuned for other solutions this week.

Please share if you have found cutting back on TV helpful for you or your family—as well as other solutions for your busy life.

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 Ambro courtesty of freedigitalphotos.net

How to Boost Your Willpower, Success in Marriage and Life

Happy Life: Happy Marriage

What would you do differently in your life if you had more willpower? Are there efforts related to your personal health or improvements to your marriage and family life you would make if you could stay on target?

Sometimes it’s easier to get inspired to start something new or to make increased efforts, but it’s hard to continue. For instance, if you decide to do something romantic for your spouse once a week, how long will you continue? Or, if you decide to participate in more physical activities (alone or with your partner or kids), does your enthusiasm quickly wane?

The Greater Good newsletter provides 5 tips for boosting willpower that may lead to more success. My favorite was #5: “Remind yourself WHY you are doing what you are doing, and what you will lose if you give up.” Ask yourself, “Why are you trying to start your new habit or quit your old one? Be honest as you do this; remind yourself what you really want, rather than what you think you should want. For example, I could tell myself, or my neighbors, that I’m exercising more because I want to be a good role model for my children (what I should want). But what I really want even more than that is to fit into my jeans and feel healthy. Research suggests that these less moralistic motives tend to be more effective.”

If you’re trying to make an effort in your marriage, such as to increase the number of positive interactions compared to negative (which should be at least 5:1), or to schedule and prioritize time alone, or to work on improving your communication or sex life, etc., remind yourself frequently what your goal is and what you would lose if you give up (i.e., a better, more intimate relationship).

Read the other four tips here for boosting willpower, and if you have others, please share in the comments. Other ideas include getting enough sleep and curbing alcohol, because lack of sleep and alcohol use can decrease your willpower.

I have read that creating a new habit is the key to willpower, and that 15 days of a new habit is all it takes. So, (years ago) I got up for 15 mornings in a row and exercised. But I have to say on the 16th day, I felt no more desire to exercise than the first. So for me, maybe focusing on why I’m doing something would be more effective.

How does your willpower measure up these days? What goal are you working toward that requires a willpower boost?

LINK:
Speaking of increasing your happiness, I enjoyed this article on the 15 powerful things that happy people do differently. It’s a meaningful list; check it out.

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. It’s available  at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com

Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Study: Personality Changes Boost Happiness More than External Factors

Happy Life; Happy Marriage

How many millions of people bought lottery tickets last week, hoping for a chance at the $500 million pot, and dreaming of what kind of happiness that could buy? (My hubby even bought them, and he rarely plays.)  After failing to win the big one (better luck next time), many turned to hopes of a raise or a new job as ways to boost their happiness. However, new research based on a study of more than 8,600 Australians concluded that personality changes were much more meaningful to life satisfaction that other factors, such as financial gain. In fact, personality changes explained nearly double the changes in life satisfaction of all the other characteristics studied.

You may ask whether your personality is fixed—or, at least very difficult to change? It turns out that is isn’t. Our personality shifts much more than we realize. “Compared to shifts in these external circumstances, a personality change is just as likely to occur and contributes much more to improvements in our well-being,” says The Atlantic of the study, which was completed at the University of Manchester and London School of Economics and Political Science.

Participants answered questions on life satisfaction and personality at two different points in time, four years apart. Personality characteristics related to openness to experiences, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism were measured. External factors were also measured: shifts in income, employment, and marital status.

So, if you are looking to boost your happiness, consider making small positive internal changes, and realize that you can alter your personality, hopefully reducing negative aspects and improving positive aspects. These efforts can be rewarded with far greater boosts in happiness than that work bonus you may have been holding out for or other lifestyle factors.  Check out the full study here.

Lori Lowe’s book First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available on Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.  Lori and her husband of 16 years live in Indianapolis with their two children.

Photo by graur razvan ionut courtesty of freedigitalphotos.net.

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.

How to Naturally Increase Oxytocin, and Why This May Help Your Marriage

Oxytocin is the bonding hormone that helps you and your spouse feel bonded together. It has lots of other nice perks, too, like decreasing feelings of pain, reducing anxiety, lowering stress levels, promoting growth and healing, increasing feelings of trust, and stimulating positive interactions.

I read about an interesting study that showed by increasing oxytocin levels with nasal inhalers, participants became 80 percent more generous than the ones who inhaled a placebo. (Read about the study here.) Generosity has been shown in recent studies to be the secret to a strong marriage. It can also lead to increased intimacy, sex and bonding, which leads to higher levels of oxytocin. So, it’s a big, happy cycle.

This oxytocin stuff sound really great, doesn’t it? How can we get more of it? While there has been some talk of medical use of the hormone (in creams, inhalers and pills), there is much debate about its efficacy and its ethical use. Thankfully, lots and lots of natural actions can effectively increase oxytocin in your body. An increase could mean better feeling of wellness along with stronger feelings of bonding with your spouse.

Top Ways to Boost Oxytocin

Intimacy—Oxytocin is probably most well-known for stimulating labor and milk production in nursing mothers. It is also released by men and women at orgasm. It turns out that sex along with an emotional/loving connection provides a much stronger and longer response of oxytocin than does sex alone. More touching and kissing during lovemaking also makes the effect stronger.

Touching—Massage is a surefire way to boost oxytocin levels in the bloodstream. Lots of other kinds of loving touch can have a similar effect, from holding hands to hugging and snuggling.

Daydreaming about your spouse—A study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found happily married women quickly released a dose of oxytocin when asked to think about their husbands.

Pets—The touching benefit also works when petting your dog or cat. Lower your blood pressure and increase your oxytocin levels by petting and cuddling with your pet. (This doesn’t seem to work with my aquatic frogs, FYI.)

Sensory Experiences—Enjoying sights, sounds and smells that bring you comfort can boost oxytocin levels. Smells of foods you enjoyed while growing up, the sounds of the ocean waves or certain lighting can be effective, for example. When senses have a positive emotional connection, that seems to be the point of success.

Activity—Walking, swimming in warm water and physical exercise work well to boost oxytocin levels, says Kerstin Uvas-Moberg, PhD.

Deep interaction—eye contact with intimacy and “deep interaction” are also advised by Dr. Uvas-Mosberg.

Spirituality—Research has not proven this, but Dr. Uvas-Mosberg says prayer, contemplation and meditation may also increase oxytocin levels. Many of us would agree based on personal experience of positive feelings during or after these activities.

Adversity—This one also needs more study, but if you talk to individuals who have experienced a major crisis together, such as a plane crash, being held as POWs, or a natural disaster, they often feel extremely bonded together. Couples I interviewed and wrote about in First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage expressed that instances of adversity—from losing a child, to financial crisis,  overcoming cancer, living with a brain injury, and much more—made them and their spouses feel closer together.

All but the last action items are pleasurable experiences that can boost your oxytocin levels, while the last item is often unavoidable, but it can strengthen your bond if you work together to overcome the adversity.  To read about how a dozen couples used real-life experiences to improve their marriages, you can find First Kiss to Lasting Bliss on Amazon.com or in various e-book formats. The marriages didn’t just survive; they became great love stories of hope and resilience that are great role models for the rest of us.

What do you think about the role of oxytocin in your marriage?  Is it really about feeling good, or is there something scientific that helps you stay bonded?

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.

Photo by photostock courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

3 Tips to Warm Up Your Marriage This Winter

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

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

If one of your goals for 2012 is to give your relationship a shot of inspiration, read my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage , which tells the stories of a dozen amazing couples who used adversity to improve their marriage. Go here for links to Amazon print version or e-books for Kindle, iTunes, Sony, Nook or PDF. If you already have the book, don’t forget to email me for your 7 free marriage improvement gifts, including everything from an e-book to improve your sex life to date night suggestions, an iPhone app with daily marriage tips, a marriage refresher workbook, a video to hone your communication skills, and tips for how to connect on a daily basis with your spouse in just 15 minutes a day.

Photo by Ambro courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Does Your Marriage Have Areas for Improvement?

If you are hoping to improve or even maintain your relationship in 2012, it may help to know what the major sources of conflict are. What do couples fight most about, and can you assess your personal behavior in these areas to ensure you are not contributing to that conflict?

The Science of Relationships provides the Top 15 Sources of Conflict in Relationships with a brief explanation of each that I think is very helpful. It includes everything from being inconsiderate to poor grooming. First, ask yourself what the most common conflict topics are in your relationship, then check the list. Be honest about an area in which you might be able to improve. This isn’t the time to blame your partner, but rather to look a way you might take some responsibility for a bit of self-improvement. Personally, I hope to improve my daily efforts toward generosity this year.

For some additional helpful reading, The Generous Husband’s Paul Byerly has done a good job dissecting The State of Our Unions: Marriage in America 2011—research completed by the National Marriage Project. This is the research I wrote about recently in which generosity in marriage is said to be the best indicator of a very happy marriage. There’s much more to the study. Paul explains the findings on Money and Housework, which show happier husbands and wives are part of couples for which household chores are shared equally. In addition, the study showed that financial pressure and debt decrease our marital happiness. No matter what our income, increased consumer debt is a hindrance to a happy marriage, particularly for women. He also reports on the impact of family and friends in marriage, which reminds us we should be connecting with those who support our marriage, and preferably spend time with others who have strong marriages. Finally, this is an interesting bit about the importance of shared faith within a marriage. If these reports are interesting to you, check out the full study results. (See link at beginning of paragraph.)

What area of your marriage could use some tweaking—or a complete overhaul—this coming year? Perhaps how you communicate, how you manage your finances, how you share your faith, how you share housework or raise your children, how you manage your time or your home, how you show affection, your sexual satisfaction with one another, making time to spend each day with each other? The options are nearly endless, but discuss one area with your partner in which you both will make an effort to improve, will seek out tools for improvement, and will provide honest and productive feedback with each other. If you have particular topics you would like more information about, please message me or leave it in the comments and I will provide expert insights and research-based tips for you.

For all those who celebrate the Christmas holiday this coming week, I wish you all the blessings and joy of the season. I hope for you a holiday with minimal stress and abounding love. And I wish peace and joy to all of you and to your families and friends. Thank you for allowing me into your lives.

NOTE:
My new book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available. 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 by Arvydas Kriuksta courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Take Responsibility for Your Own Relationship Happiness

During this busy holiday season, don’t forget to carve out some time with your spouse. I recommend these three powerful questions spouses ask one another.  Hopefully you are scheduling at least 10 to 20 minutes a day to connect with your spouse, even when you’re busy. These are great discussion questions so that you don’t end up talking about your to-do list, the kids and the unfinished chores.

And now I’d like to share a guest post from relationship coach, speaker and author of Secrets of Happy Couples, Kim Olver. Kim reminds us that even if we are a part of a couple, we need to function independently and be responsible for our own happiness. It’s not our partner’s job to complete us or make us happy.

You Complete Me . . . NOT!

Tom Cruise said it in Jerry McGuire . . . “You complete me.” It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s sad if it’s really true. If you want to create a relationship that works, you want to be a whole, fully functioning person when you enter it. You also want the other person in the relationship to be a whole, fully functioning person, too. When you both bring your fullest, most authentic selves to the relationship, you are stacking the odds in your favor.

So the obvious question is, “How do I figure out who my fullest self is?” You’ll know because you will feel complete all by yourself. When you are alone, you won’t feel lonely. You appreciate being with others and even having a special someone in your life but they aren’t necessary for your happiness. You complete yourself. You are enough. You are special and unique and you don’t need another person to validate your worth. Here are some steps to take when you find yourself in the Alone Stage of Relationships to move you toward your fullest self.

Whenever you are between relationships, it’s important to do some serious introspection. There are many things to consider. First, what part did you play in your past relationship not working out. It’s very easy to blame the other person and certainly they had a part to play. But so did you.

You want to spend some time thinking about why you chose the person. Are you not discriminating enough and settling for partners who do not suit you? Do you use a lot of criticism in your relationships? Do you give and give and give until you have nothing left to give? Do you have so many deal breakers that it is virtually impossible for a person to meet your standards?

Time alone does not mean time to feel sorry for yourself or time to hop from one relationship to another, although these are options many people choose. If you want to have successful relationships, there are lessons for you to learn along way. When you are in between relationships, it’s a great time for self-reflection. Take the time to look at the role you played in your relationship not working out. There are always two people in your relationship and each has a part to play in either the success for failure of the relationship. Look to see what your role was.

Then, the second step to take is to create your list for your ideal mate. What are the qualities, skills and characteristics you are seeking in a life partner? Get very clear about the things you can’t live without. These are your deal breakers. You want to be sure you are spending time with people who can meet your non-negotiables. Deal breakers vary from person to person.

When you don’t know what your deal breakers are, then you will often waste time in relationships that are not good for you. Deal breakers might include infidelity, violence, child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, financial irresponsibility, and level of physical activity. These are usually things that are totally offensive to your value system. Get serious about what they are so you can discriminate when someone has the propensity toward one of your deal breakers and stop wasting your time and theirs.

On the other hand, you don’t want to have so many deal breakers that no one but a fictitious Prince Charming could ever live up to them. In this case, whenever you begin a new relationship, you are looking for the flaws and cracks. And when you look that hard, you are destined to find them! No one will be able to pass the “test.”

You then want to compile a list of the things that are important to you in a relationship. Things like income, intimacy, attractiveness, type of employment, friends, extended family members, hobbies, etc. When you begin a new relationship, you will want to know this person possesses a good percentage of the things you want in a life partner. If you don’t know what those qualities are, then you will settle for anybody, thus setting yourself up for constant dissatisfaction.

You may also create a list of bonus qualities that would be awesome for your partner to possess but it’s not necessary, essential or even important. They are just bonuses.

Once you have your list and you can almost picture your perfect partner, then it’s time to take a long, hard look in the mirror. You need to ask yourself, “Am I the person my perfect partner would be attracted to? Would my perfect partner want me?”

If your answer is yes, then great! You already are your fullest, most authentic self. However, if you are seeking a person who would never be attracted to the person you are now, then you have some self-development ahead of you. Ask yourself who would you be if you were the perfect complement for your perfect partner? What kinds of things would you do and not do? What would you have in your life? What kind of person would you be?

Once you have identified who you want to be, then you want to begin the process of reinventing yourself into the person you want to be so you can attract the mate you want into your life. When you become your fullest, most authentic self, are clear about whom you want to share your life with, and understand you relationship patterns, then you have vastly increased the chances that your next relationship will be your best relationship thus far. Enjoy the journey!

Only a few more days before my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage, is out! It will be available December 8th on Amazon.com and in various e-book formats at  www.LoriDLowe.com.  The book’s Facebook page is www.Facebook.com/LastingBliss. Please help me spread the word. Thank you!

 Photo by David Castillo Dominici courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

The Longer We’re Married, The Better It Gets

It’s been a while since I have read an article as positive about marraige as this one by Jeanine Earnhart at Huffington Post. The article is called “Grow old with me, the best is yet to be.” It began with Earnhart admiring an older married couple, picturing her own marriage at that stage. Earnhart makes her point by sharing her marital experience:

“The longer we’re married, the better it gets and I’d like to think that is a pattern that will continue. Whether you have been married a few years, 25 years or in the planning stages of your wedding, know that there is a future filled with rewards from the work you are putting into your relationship now. The “gold watch” or the “bonus” from years of marriage cannot be seen or worn or spent, but felt by an invisible connection between you and your partner.”

It’s great to hear such a positive sentiment about aging and about staying with the same person. Rather than being stifling, it’s nourishing and fulfilling.

“It is a good feeling to know that your partner will be with you through the best and the worst parts of your life. Here is a friend who is offering unconditional love, appreciating you for who you are and for who you have become. To be able to sit in a room with another person, not saying a word, and not feeling like you should be talking, yet knowing there is an invisible bond between you, is like the safety you feel when coming home.”

I know there are many single readers here, and it’s not my intent to say married life is a better choice for everyone. However, for those who choose married life, I think it’s great to share the positive experiences and comfort you experience.

Read the entire post, and then share with your partner what you think your future will look like together. Spend 10 minutes together and talk about what you imagine growing old together to be like.

Unfortunately, for an increasing number of older adults, marriage isn’t lasting to old age. This article from the U.K. states that a growing number of over 60s are seeking divorce. Divorce rates in England are up 4 percent in two years for this age group, but down for other age groups. “Experts claim that many older couples are drifting apart out of disillusionment in their marriages once their children have flown the nest.”

It’s a good reminder that we can’t expect a close, loving relationship to last for decades without investing time and energy to maintain it, and without keeping it a priority over our kids and our careers.

LINKS:
Read my post at About.com called 7 Lessons for a Stronger Marriage with lessons from my book. Thanks to Cathy Meyer for sharing.

Reminder to vote for your favorite marriage blog by clicking here. It takes just a few seconds. Many thanks!
 
Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.