Tag Archives: prevent divorce

Words that can make or break your marriage

brain morguefileWhich words do you use in communicating with your spouse that make the discussion worse, and which words cause you both to calm down? Researchers have the answers.

Some words increase your stress level, and can even heighten your risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems. Other words and phrases can actually reduce your stress and calm your body down, allowing your brain to think more rationally instead of in anger.

One study revealed that couples who used the words “think,” “reason,” “because,” “understand,” “why” and other analytical words during an argument lowered the body’s stress. When using these words, they experienced lower levels of proteins that help aid the body’s immune system. Research led by Jennifer Graham, PhD, from Penn State University was published in Health Psychology.

Men experienced a greater benefit than women, but women tended to use more of these analytical words and phrases. (Isn’t that interesting, when women are thought to be the more emotive gender?)

The reason these words can help reduce stress and diffuse anger, is they cause us to think rather than relying on our anger or first response, often the fight-or-flight response.

Experts suggest two other phrases to use during a discussion/argument. The first is “I wonder…” which allows you both to consider the issue or problem rather than placing blame. The second is simply “Hmmm…” which allows you both to be uncritical in that moment. It can often shift the energy to a more positive one, helping you consider possibilities and solutions.

Trigger words to AVOID include: “You always…” or “Your never…” and “There you go again.”

In addition to words, consider your non-verbal communication. Are your arms crossed, are you glaring? Do you use sarcasm or express contempt, or roll your eyes? Do you have aggressive gestures, such as arm waving or raised voice? Or are you calm, sitting next to, maybe touching gently?

When you feel the disagreement escalating, breathe deeply and slowly from your belly. Quicker breaths from the chest are more common when we are upset, and this helps calm you down. And practice better communication. These are skills that can be learned.

Each day, practice gratitude and try to avoid complaining. “Thanks” is always a welcome word to express your spouse.

Are there words you have learned to avoid with your spouse? Or words that help you calm down?

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

How to keep a daily connection in your marriage

canoe morguefile

One of the most common reasons given for marriage failures is that the spouses “drifted apart.” The truth is drifting comes very naturally. As William Doherty describes in his book Take Back Your Marriage, marriage is like launching a canoe in the Mississippi River at St.Paul; if you don’t paddle, it goes south. And if two people are in the canoe, you have to both paddle.

As you’re floating along, chances are that one of you will become concerned about marital drift, he explains. One of you may comment on fewer long talks, less quality time together, or less sex. “For some couples, these complaints are a call to start paddling more vigorously. For other couples, the complaints lead to unpleasant arguments that lead to greater distance. But even when we are inspired to try harder, the extra work on our marriage tends to be short lived—sustained for days or weeks at best—and then we resume our slow drift south.”

While this issue is not due to lack of love or good intentions, couples in this situation often lack a plan for taking back their marriage. Of the plethora of marriage books I have read and/or have on my shelves, Take Back Your Marriage is one of my top picks, because this situation is SO VERY COMMON. If this is your situation, realize this is normal, but solvable.  

To keep your marriage from drifting, make time for it, and give it sustained effort. Remember, if you’re not paddling, you’re going south. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you spending time together? Do you go to church together, have meals together, and talk together? Do you make time for regular dates (it could be a morning walk or lunch date, not just an evening out)? You don’t have to spend all your time together, as long as you are spending some dedicated time and activities you enjoy with one another.
  2. Are you taking your partner for granted? Work is important. Kids are important. Chores have to be done. And on and on. But if you aren’t making time for your partner, they won’t feel appreciated.
  3. Are you absorbed in TV, internet and/or your phone? Media, especially in the bedroom, can come between you. All the research confirms that TVs should be left out of the bedrooms. Take the ipad and computer out while you’re at it. (If you can’t do it, that proves my point.)
  4. Are you focused on what you are getting out of your marriage? This consumer mentality can lead to problems.
  5. Do the people you spend time around support your marriage and family? Outside influences can contribute to drifting. This includes people who are more focused on “your happiness” than on your marriage.
  6. Are you focused on material things rather than relationships? The best things in life are free, but you can lose them by focusing on things instead of people.
  7. Are you making an effort to be kind to your spouse when he or she calls, or make/purchase a food or beverage they enjoy, or offer other gestures of kindness? Read If you want a happier marriage be generous. Do you help make their life easier not because you expect them to return the favor, but because you want them to be happy?
  8. Are you showing affection toward one another? Are you happy to see each other? Do you touch, kiss and enjoy sex together? These are important forms of connection.
  9. Are you dedicating all of your time to your children? Parents need to determine how much time children need, keeping in mind those children also need the stability of the family and the marriage. To read more about this, check out Putting kids first harms families.
  10. Are you sharing your true self with your partner—your hopes, dreams, desires, fears?

Couples may have issues with some of these, but that doesn’t mean your marriage is doomed. The key is to build on your strengths and to soften the impact of your weaknesses, says Doherty, especially times of stress. When marriage counseling is needed, select a qualified therapist that will help you fight for the marriage. “A good therapist, a brave therapist, will be the last one in the room willing to give up on a marriage,” says Doherty. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a counselor to delve into why you’re unhappy or to even recommend a separation or divorce. Choose carefully.

Read: What’s a pro-marriage counselor and how do I find one?

How do you keep a positive daily connection in your marriage? Share your tips, especially for busy couples!

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for more than 18 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

How Stress Can Help Your Marriage

stress morguefile While it was not a stress-free summer for my marriage, it wasn’t a bad time either. I’ve seen several reports that indicate some stress can actually be good for us and for our marriages, and I have to say I agree in some respects.

In my case, the stressors were outside the marriage, and I think that makes a big difference in staying positive. My husband was in training in another city for several months, meaning date nights were out of the question, and even 15-minute phone calls a day were usually not available. Instead, the kids and I made the best with one or two day visits, or longer when that was possible. I think we viewed it more of a family challenge to handle the circumstances in the best way we could, knowing it would be best for the family in the long run.
Now, three months is much different than an 18-month deployment by a soldier. And unfortunately, a recent RAND Corp. study showed long and frequent deployments hurt military marriages, often leaving them feeling disillusioned. The longer the deployment, the greater the risk of divorce, it said. Often, it had to do with unmet expectations. “Couples who married before 9/11 just didn’t expect that deployments were going to be amped up,” said the study author. Read the study details here. Thankfully, resources are available to help support military marriages, as well as help from family and friends.

Other stressful events that can impact marriages may have to do with traumatic life-events, which 75 percent of us face at one time in our lives. In fact, in a given year, 20 percent of people are likely to experience some kind of a trauma in their life, according to The Greater Good Science Company. So, the odds are not in favor us living free of pain and suffering.

How can we either insulate our marriage from the negative effects of stress, or somehow extract some positive from the experience?

Be a Team
As much as I hate sports analogies, teaming up with your spouse against the problems you face is critical. None of us wants to feel alone, particularly when things are difficult. We went to be heard and have our feelings validated. We want to be encouraged and cheered on. During my husband’s stressful training, we sent him a barrage of encouraging cards and notes to let him know we were behind him. If financial stress is a problem, the couple must work together to attack it bit by bit. “We will get through this together,” is the message that is expressed, whether “this” means a serious illness, a loss of a loved one, a robbery, a job loss, etc.

One couple I interviewed who grew close after being very argumentative early in their marriage describe the shift as moving from opposite sides of the tennis net to playing side by side against an opponent. We as married people have to feel like our spouse is on our side in life.

Even if you can’t physically be together, you can feel like you’re a team, each playing an important family role, and each respected and valued.

Look for Growth Opportunities
“Our success and happiness depend on our ability not just to cope with (stress) but to actually grow because of it,” says Christine Carter from The Greater Good. She explains that the stress we experience as a result of adversity—and how we respond to that stress—tends to predict how much we will benefit from it. The individuals who benefit and grow the most are NOT the ones who are able to avoid the stress. Those who grow the most are the ones who may be shaken up, and then grow as a result.

In my experience, I would agree that people I have known who have overcome cancer or faced dire circumstances often have a unique perspective and wisdom about what is truly important.

And many of the couples I interviewed for First Kiss to Lasting Bliss experienced a great amount of adversity but grew together as a result. That is not to say your spouse must be your only support system in times of stress and need—certainly not. Friends, family, pastors, doctors, neighbors and others in your life often want to help when you are facing a tough time, and they can be part of the learning and growth process when we are ready to make those advances.

It kind of stinks that it takes tough times to truly grow and appreciate the good times, but isn’t that truly the case?

If day-to-day stress is affecting your marriage due to over-scheduling, family conflict, household disorganization, etc., then take action to address the issues. This kind of stress will deplete health reserves and will rarely offer growth opportunities.

What has caused the most growth in your marriage?

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.

Resources for Couples Impacted by Infidelity

No one knows precisely how many couples are affected by marital infidelity. I have seen marital infidelity rates quoted from as low as 15 percent to as high as 80 percent. Peggy Vaughan, a marriage writer who experienced a cheating husband but later rebuilt her marriage, reported an estimated 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women have extramarital affairs.

The truth is that none of us is immune to the risk of an affair. Even people with “good marriages” have affairs for various reasons. We can, however, prepare ourselves with education and tools to help strengthen our marriages and reduce the likelihood of cheating. And we should know that there can be healing after infidelity, even though the road is not an easy one.

Peggy recently passed away after battling cancer. As her legacy, she asked that her resources to help couples deal with and heal after infidelity be available free to the public. She shares her personal story as well as articles on who has affairs and why, tips to avoid them and information on rebuilding trust. The information can be found at DearPeggy.com.

Peggy calls honesty a prevention tool for affairs. “Couples can’t avoid affairs by assuming monogamy or even by promising monogamy without discussing the issue. And they can’t avoid affairs by making threats as to what they would do if it happened. Either of these paths create a cycle of dishonesty.” Instead, she suggests spouses be willing to admit attractions and temptations to one another, because if they won’t admit to being attracted or tempted, they certainly won’t admit it if and when they act on the attraction. And if you admit to an attraction, it kind of takes the secret excitement out of your feelings.

If you do have an attraction, by all means, don’t place yourself in tempting situations, especially when you are alone with that person. Don’t share personal details or try to get to know them better. Better yet, run.

Hopefully you have not experienced infidelity first-hand. If you have, maybe these resources can help your marriage heal. If you have not, give thanks, then educate yourself about keeping your marriage strong and infused with honesty and behaviors that benefit you both.

It’s a myth that your spouse won’t be hurt if you cheat on him or her but you are not caught. There’s you, your spouse, and the marriage. And the marriage always knows.

Have you experienced infidelity? Did your marriage survive? If so, what tools were useful to you?

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 atwww.LoriDLowe.com.  Great for holiday stocking stuffers! 

Image by Simon Howden courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Keep Choosing Right for Your Marriage

The truth is you already know most of what your marriage needs. You probably come here for inspiration or reminders, but deep down you know what keeps your family thriving. The hard part is making the effort, making the time and keeping your priorities straight.

So, today is a day for some simple reminders that aren’t so simple to keep in practice. I’m going to include two links—the first is from a divorced man named Dan Pearce who learned the hard way what he should have been doing all along to save his two failed marriages. It’s humorous and entertaining, yet husbands and wives alike are praising his advice as the ticket to more bliss and fewer divorces.

His feedback on what he would do with a do-over is here at 16 Ways I Blew My Marriage. Sometimes a good laugh will help us remember the message. From the serious, “Tell her what she is doing right,” to the not-so-serious, “I’d wait to fart until I was in the bathroom whenever possible,” Dan covers a lot of ground.

For other useful reminders, check out: 10 habits to keep marriages strong from Redbook Magazine with advice from David Wilk, a couples therapist in Vancouver. I think his #10 tip spoke to me loudest—remember it’s the little, everyday behaviors that mean the most.

“When it comes to relationship satisfaction, you can’t just ride on the big things like, ‘I don’t drink, I pay the bills, I don’t beat you, we went to Hawaii last year,'” says Wilk. “This stuff is not really what keeps couples happy in their daily lives.” What really matters is all the small stuff that adds up, such as being there for each other when one needs to vent, or noticing when he needs a hug, or making him his favorite meal just because. “It’s also giving up on the idea that you have to feel in love all the time. Marriage is about trust and commitment and knowing each other,” says Wilk. “That’s what love is.”

From my own perspective, I know that family dinners and family walks help us connect, and that carving 15 minutes a day to talk to my husband is important. I also regularly have to remind myself to say out loud the things he is doing well, to express gratitude and praise. It’s all too easy to become too ships passing in the night, especially when he is traveling or working the night shift, and sometimes we have to work harder to be affectionate partners not just parents, workers and homeowners. Some days, all it takes is a longer-than-usual hug and kiss to get us back on the same page. Other days, actually scheduling a date night out is needed.

Take the reminders that help you most, and put them to use today and tomorrow, next week and next year. When you’re on the right path, surprisingly good things can happen. If you get off the right path, do what it takes to get back.

Which of these reminders speaks most to you? What do you do to keep your marriage moving on the right track on a daily basis?

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 credit: Lori Lowe

Marriage Education Shows 55% Increase in Marital Satisfaction

In the nation’s largest study on the immediate and long-term impact of marriage education, surprisingly strong improvements in marital satisfaction have been shown.

Healthy Relationships California studied more than 17,000 marriage participants who took a skills-based marriage education course. Before the course, only 44 percent of the married individuals considered themselves happy with their relationship, and 56 percent were moderately or highly distressed in their marriage.

Six months following the course, 32 percent were distressed, and more than 68 percent were satisfied in their relationship. This equates to a 55 percent increase in the number of people who were satisfied in their marriage.

I believe this should convey to the average couple that learning marriage skills can be dramatically helpful in their marriage. Skills like conflict management, communication, financial skills, or any area that is difficult for you can be learned and improved. Learning how to appropriately communicate your concerns, your desires, your dreams and wishes in a way that doesn’t put your spouse on the defensive—these are important skills that can be learned even if it seems like much of your communication is filled with conflict.

You don’t have to succumb to the popular belief that all marriages decline, and that it’s all but impossible to have a successful long-term marriage. Nearly every state offers marriage education courses. Many churches and other organizations also offer classes or retreats. What skill would you and your spouse benefit from improving?

You can read more of the details here at Healthy Relationships California’s web site by Jason Krafsky.

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

Top 15 Reasons Romantic Partners Fight

The following list from Science of Relationships shows the top sources of conflict in order of the most common themes. Only about 100 people were surveyed for the results, so it’s not a large sampling. However, I found several things interesting. For instance, being overly self-absorbed about your appearance causes more conflict than being disheveled in your appearance.  And being condescending is number one on the list, something you would think most romantic partners would be above. I was also surprised that being jealous, possessive or dependent ranked so high on the list at number two. Read the rest of the 15 hot-button conflict issues for couples here.

Keep in mind that the degree of conflict can vary greatly on the list. For example, not factoring in your partner’s feelings is a much smaller slight than being sexually aggressive or forceful. As you read the list, think about whether there are any areas in which you have been guilty or less than loving. If so, ask yourself what the underlying reasons for your behavior might be and how you can change and improve. Then, go to your spouse and ask for forgiveness along with sharing your decision to improve that behavior. Ask for their input. If your spouse needs some time to think about your actions before discussing it or forgiving you, try not to be defensive. Sometimes it takes longer to get over slights and emotional wounds than you think. Often, your loving actions will speak louder than your promises to do better.

I don’t advise you to use the list to point out all the ways in which your partner could be a better spouse. The most effective way to improve your relationship is to focus on what you can control–your own actions and responses. Be the spouse you would like to have. Act with love and respect. Even in cases where your spouse is in the wrong, you can address the situation in a loving manner and stand up for yourself. That means loving and respecting yourself, too.  

Do you feel as if you have good conflict management skills, or that conversations quickly turn into arguments, which get heated and don’t usually get resolved? Remember that conflict management and communication are easily learned skills that are taught both online and with skills trainers at retreats or with coaches/counselors. If conflict is bringing your relationship down, invest in learning these skills. One inexpensive place to learn relationship skills online while retaining your privacy and using as much or little time as you wish is PO2.com, or Power of Two Marriage. (I don’t receive any compensation for mentioning them, I merely think they offer an innovative service.) The organization provides entertaining videos and tips to help you practice and improve various skills.

Which areas of conflict are most frequent for you?  I noticed many of the commonly mentioned topics are not on the list, such as financial conflict and conflict having to do with extended family or friends. I was also surprised that chores/childcare/division of labor wasn’t on the list. Are these biggies for you?

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 David Castillo Dominici courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.