Tag Archives: Marriage

Top 15 Sources of Relationship Conflict

back of couple morguefileIt helps to acknowledge a problem before we can begin to address it. And it helps to know where the potential pitfalls are if we hope not to end up in one. The following top 15 sources of conflict in a relationship are a starting point to pinpointing potential relationship problems. Think of your own behavior first, rather than on your spouse’s behavior.

If you need to address one or more of these items with your partner, avoid sentences that begin with “you always” or other blaming words. Consider a friend or counselor to assist with serious concerns.

Researcher Dr. Gary Lewandowski of Science of Relationships cited the following as the most common sources of conflict, from most commonly mentioned to least. He says being aware of trouble spots may help you both attempt to avoid them.

Your partner is…
1) Condescending (i.e., treats you as stupid or inferior, acts like he/she is better than you
2) Possessive, jealous, and/or dependent (i.e., demands too much attention or time; generally acts jealous/possessive/dependent)
3) Neglecting, rejecting, and/or unreliable (i.e., ignores your feelings, doesn’t call, doesn’t say they love you, etc.)
4) Abusive (i.e., slaps, spits, hits, calls names or is verbally abusive)
5) Unfaithful (i.e., had sex with another person, saw someone intimately, or went out with another partner)
6) Inconsiderate (i.e., doesn’t help clean up, burps in your face, leaves toilet seat up or down!, etc.)
7) Physically self¬-absorbed (i.e., worries too much about appearance, focuses too much on hair or face, spends too much on clothes, etc.)
8) Moody (i.e., moody, emotionally unstable, or bitchy)
9) Sexually withholding or rejecting (i.e., refuses to have sex, doesn’t act interested, or is a sexual tease…but not in a playful way)
10) Quick to sexualize others (i.e., talks about attractiveness of others, talks about others as sex objects, idolizes someone on TV, etc.)
11) Abusive with alcohol and/or is emotionally constricted (i.e., drinks too much, smokes too much, or hides emotions in order to appear tough)
12) Disheveled (i.e., doesn’t dress well, doesn’t groom well, and doesn’t take care of his/her appearance)
13) Insulting toward your appearance (i.e., says you’re ugly or insults aspects your appearance)
14) Sexually aggressive (i.e., uses you for sex or forces sex on you)
15) Self-centered (i.e., selfish or always thinks of him/herself first)

What surprised you about the list? I was surprised that condescension was so much more commonly mentioned than self-centeredness, but condescending words or attitudes easily stir up anger and resentment and may come to mind easily.

Read the list again and try to thinking about how you can do or be the opposite of these. For example, how to be considerate, kind, faithful, etc. to your spouse.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

Two common patterns that can lead to divorce

couple talk morguefileAccording to the Gottman Institute, two common patterns often reveal when a couple is likely to end up in an early divorce or late divorce.

Couples who don’t make it more than a few years after their wedding day are those who are stuck in a negative cycle, says John Gottman, University of Washington psychologist and founder of the Gottman institute.

What does it mean to get stuck in a negative cycle? The negative interactions and responses become so common as to be rather automatic, and the partner responds in kind to that negativity with more negativity. The friendship and affection that began in the relationship fades further and further into the background.

“This negativity becomes all-encompassing. They check in but they don’t check out. It’s like the roach hotel model. There’s a rapid deterioration of intimacy and friendship where they become one another’s adversary instead of one another’s friends,” he explains.

It may seem rather obvious that these couples are doomed to fail. However, it is our natural reaction to lash out with negativity when we feel attacked. Either partner can stop this cycle by refusing to participate and by learning to build the friendship and affection back in. Of course, real problems may need to be addressed, but often we over-react to small perceived failings or slights. For instance, if your spouse forgets to run an errand for you, don’t say that is a sign of lack of caring when it may be just forgetfulness or busyness. Responding with kindness or forgiveness can keep the cycle from spinning out of control. We need to have many more positive interactions than negative ones to maintain a healthy relationship.

The couples who are predicted to experience a divorce much later are those who “agree to disagree” says Gottman. Around 16 years after the wedding, at the time many parents have teens, these couples end the marriage because they refused to address their problems. In their decision to withdraw from all conflict, they didn’t resolve any real issues. As the years fly by, then may feel they are in an empty marriage. The marriage can last a long time but are called “hostile detached couples” and are often demonstrated by couples who rarely talk at meal times.

So in deciding not to participate in the negative cycles of the first type of couple, we need to not pretend to have a relationship, but rather work to actually maintain a healthy, loving relationship. Sharing time together, building and maintaining good communication and affection, and working through real problems are all part of what successful couples do.

Have you seen other couples in these cycles? Is it harder to see yourself or others falling into these patterns?
Source: Business Insider

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

Are Society’s Standards Hurting Your Marriage?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

Avoid Cognitive Traps for a Happy Life and Marriage

memory morguefileBeing happy in your life and being happy with your life are two different things. The former has to do with the actual experience, and the latter equates to the memory or conclusion of events. For example, most women aren’t happy during childbirth, but they are very happy having given birth.

We can become confused between these “cognitive traps” according to Daniel Kahneman. (Check out his TED Talk here if you like.) He calls confusion between the events and our memories of them a “focusing illusion”. Experiencing 20 minutes of a glorious symphony that ends on a dreadful note can distort our memory of the night.

I can relate to focusing illusion, because a few years ago I had an amazing vacation with the ladies in my family at a resort in Mexico. The week after we returned home, the resort violently exploded from a gas leak, killing many (newlyweds, children, employees, and more) who stood right where we had stood. So, the memory of that trip is now marred for me, but the experience was a good one.

In the same way, we can overlook a good evening with our spouse with a small argument at the end of the night. Our negative emotions are stronger and more likely to overshadow the positive ones. A nice dinner out can be ruined by a sarcastic remark or offhanded comment. Our memory of the event overtakes the experience.

Kahneman explains that the difference between experiencing suffering and the memory of that suffering is how things end. I interviewed a husband who spent years overcoming his drug addiction. He was separated from his wife and son and suffered greatly, as did they. However, after getting clean and rebuilding his marriage he says everything he went through got him to where they are today. So their memory of the suffering is tempered by their happy reconciliation.

Time certainly affects our memory of experiences. We make decisions about the future based on these distorted memories. When we think about the future, we often think in terms of anticipated memories, for example what it will feel like to be retired or have grandchildren.

Conflict can exist between the “remembering self” and the “experiencing self”. I recall having a great time in Rome last summer, but I experienced a great deal of exhaustion and some ill health during my trip. My memories fade the negatives away based on the photos and stories we tell. Kahneman asks, if you were told after a two-week vacation that all of your photos would be destroyed and your memories would be deleted, would you choose a different vacation? Would your spouse? If so then there’s the conflict or rub.

How pleased and satisfied you are with your overall life is much more important than how happy you are during each minute of your daily life—meaning vs. pleasure. People rate their happiness much higher when they have greater meaning in their life.

Other things that affect your happiness:
1. Spend time with the people you love and like. This has a high contributor to happiness according to researchers. Of course, spending more time with your spouse will also help you have a better marriage, and that will help you be happier as well!
2. Climate is not very important to happiness (even though I complain about the cold incessantly). Interestingly, people often move to find a better climate, then recalling the terrible winters where they used to live, they rate their current happiness level higher.
3. More money doesn’t buy more happiness. Incomes below $60,000 are related to lower happiness levels. However, higher income levels don’t equate to higher happiness levels.
4. Recall happy memories with your spouse—your engagement, dating life, wedding day, children’s births, celebrations and holidays. By focusing on these positive emotions, you can balance out those small negative things that can happen in your day, like forgetting to run an errand.
5. Remember the meaning and purpose in your life. Changing diapers may not be fun, but being a parent brings tremendous long-term joy. Sacrificing for your spouse may not be easy, but building a great marriage is very rewarding.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

What’s your great love story?

oldtime photo morguefileThe holiday that celebrates love is just around the corner, and I know it stresses many of you out. Instead of stress, I hope it’s a time to remind you and your partner how lucky you are to have found one another and to have made the choice to love each other. Maybe it’s also a good time to share your love story.

Have you told your kids or grandkids the story of how you met, or your first date, or how you proposed? Even if they roll their eyes, they’ll be glad to know. You might even write it down for future generations, or pass along your letters from your dating days. Don’t think that story has to be perfect; every great story has twists and turns.

The genealogy site, Crestleaf, is requesting your great love stories leading up to Valentine’s Day. They asked me to let you know about it, so I’m passing it along. “One of the best things about conducting family history research is recording the incredible stories you get to hear from older family members; what their lives were like back in the day, how they endured the struggles of the Great Depression and how they managed to find (and keep) true love through it all,” says the site. “In this day and age, where divorce is more common than not, our grandparents and other older family members have chosen to keep those unbreakable vows and work through all the hard times resulting in lifetime love with their partners. And those heartwarming stories about how they fell in love with each other are what give the rest of us hope that we will find a love that will last until the very end.” Visit here for the submissions details.

If you don’t feel like telling or sharing your story, consider looking back at old photos with your sweetheart, remembering the days when you fell in love, or when your grown kids were babies. You won’t transport your heart to the feelings you held back then, but you might feel a great appreciation for the life that has come between your falling in love and today.

Let Valentine’s Day be a day to share your love story and your appreciation for each other.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

Join your Partner to Achieve Fitness & Health Goals

walker morguefileI admit it, I feel guilty when my husband goes out for a five-mile run and has a healthy dinner. The next day I’m likely to put in a few miles myself. When he skips dessert, I don’t usually order it either. But when he’s indulging in some peanut M&Ms, you can bet I’m right there with him. It turns out my experience is a lot like other couple’s experiences in that our partner’s fitness and health behaviors rub off on us.

A British study published by BBC News explored how big of an effect partners have on negative health behaviors. For four years, researchers tracked 3,700 couples aged 50 and older who had some unhealthy behaviors. They noted if any of them had quit smoking, lost weight or become more active. They found if one partner engaged in healthier behaviors, the other was likely to make the same change. For example, a smoker whose partner quit was 10 times more likely to quit smoking as well. A couch potato partner who became active greatly increased the likelihood that their partner would also be more active.

This may be one of the reasons happily married or cohabiting people have a lower risk of heart disease and better cancer outcomes. Having support from someone close to you appears to help a lot, even if that person is a friend.

The study did not examine whether unhealthy partners can drag you down, but it makes sense that partners would influence us in both directions. This may be a key reason people achieve or fail at New Year’s health resolutions.

So if you are hoping your spouse will make more positive health changes, one of the best things you can do is engage in healthy behaviors yourself. That in itself is a great driver. You can also invite them to participate in an activity together. I might complain when my husband drags me out on a cold Indiana winter walk, but I’m usually glad after we got the exercise and fresh air.

And then we can justify dessert.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com.

Bring deeper touch to your marriage through couples massage

oxytocin massage
Happy New Year! As a gift for the new year, I’m sharing some insights from a massage expert to help you incorporate couples massage into your marriage. Thanks to massage therapist Yasuko Kawamura for these helpful tips!

Do you wish you had more physical touch in your relationship? For those who feel touching is important as an expression of love, lack of touch in marriage can be interpreted as lack of love. How can you avoid this unnecessary misunderstanding?

We express love in different ways, and there are different kinds of intimate touch available for your relationship. From casual touch to intimate touch:
Casual touch is something you can easily do, such as holding hands, hugging, caressing, and putting your hand on your partner’s back when you sit or walk together.
Intimate touch is something you do in your privacy behind closed doors, such as sexual touch.

Deeper Connection through Massage
Learning how to massage your partner is a great way to connect with your partner and be healthy at the same time. Couples massage brings many benefits to your mind and body, and helps to produce pleasure hormones and reduce stress hormones. It relieves tight muscles and knots, reduces aches and pains, and improves range of motion. In fact, massage also helps you digest and sleep better, and causes the production of white blood cells, making your immune system stronger to fend off common diseases.

A gift certificate for a one-hour professional massage at a spa is great, but it lasts only for that session. Learning how to give your partner a good massage, however, makes for an even greater birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s Day, or Christmas gift. Couples massage training is the gift that keeps on giving to your massage-loving partner.

Couples Massage is also a great bridge between casual touch and intimate touch. The loving touch from couples massage causes the production of oxytocin (a.k.a. bonding hormone or cuddling hormone), which makes the person crave even more touch.

Three Essentials to Good Massage
Here are three tips on how to give a good massage:
1. Save your thumbs
The number-one complaint in giving massage is suffering from sore thumbs. If your thumbs are in pain, you’re not doing it the right way. Using the forearm, fist, and heel of the palm are all good alternatives to save your thumbs and deliver pressure. Learn how to use your body weight instead of your finger strength. Massage giving becomes so much easier. Do not hurt yourself to try to give a good massage–it’s just not worth it.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Another popular complaint is that the partner hurts during massage. Communication is the key to a good massage experience. You may think the massage giver is solely responsible to make the couples massage experience great. however, the massage receiver is equally responsible in contributing to the experience. Unless your partner is psychic, you need to communicate clearly what you want and how you want the pressure, location, and speed during the massage.

3. Happy thoughts
Touch is a very powerful communication tool. Your thoughts and feelings can transfer through touch. When you touch your partner, think of at least one thing you love or appreciate about your partner. It’s a good idea to clear the air if necessary so you can be in a pure giving mode.

Couples massage at home doesn’t have to be full hour or even 30 minutes. Leave those long massages for the professionals. It can be just few minutes while you watch TV or as you wind down before you go to bed. Find few minutes a day to give a quick massage to your partner to show your love and appreciation. Your partner will feel your love and love you more.

Here’s more info on how to naturally increase your oxytocin levels from a previous Marriage Gems post!

Yasuko Kawamura is a National Board Certified Licensed Massage Therapist and the author of “You Knead Me: 10 Easy Ways To Massage Your Partner” video book series. Besides giving and receiving massages, she loves to teach couples easy and effective massage techniques to enjoy at home.