Tag Archives: relationship advice

Tell your wife she is beautiful

file0001696146113I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Your wife doesn’t think she’s beautiful. How can she? The world is busy pointing out all of her flaws.

Particularly at the beginning of the year, I have noticed many women feeling insecure about their appearance. Maybe it’s a few pounds they put on during the holidays, or even if they have maintained their weight, feeling like they are not fit enough. But in general women are not as happy as men are with their appearance.

Magazines, TV shows and print ads are pointing out the tiny wrinkles and the need for more radiant skin, shinier and thicker hair, and a perfectly made up youthful face. Media accentuates and celebrates long, slender legs, tiny waists and ample, perky breasts. Fashion dictates that anything in our closets is just not trendy enough.

What does that have to do with your wife? She probably thinks more about her appearance (and her perceived flaws) much more than you realize. You may have told her she is beautiful, but she has heard 100 times more frequently through subtle messages that she is not. So when she hears you say it, she may at first not believe you. She may even argue with you.

Don’t give up. Tell her she is your one-of-a-kind woman and that in your eyes she is the most beautiful woman. Tell her what you love about her, and give her sincere compliments often. If she wears a flattering outfit, tell her she looks great. And if the clothes and the makeup and the special hairdos don’t matter to you, tell her that as well.

I’m not suggesting husbands don’t require compliments, but I’d be willing to bet men spend less energy, money, and brain power worrying about how they look.

Ladies, if your husband tells you that you’re beautiful, smile, say thank you. Know that he sees you with his own eyes and heart, and he means it. You might even start to believe it.

If body image or self-confidence is an issue in your marriage, read Is Low Body Image Harming Your Marriage? and Improve Sexual Sparks with a Better Body Image.

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.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

8 Tips Behind the Perfect Apology

In a marriage, every conflict point is an opportunity to learn about yourself and your relationship, says Relationship Coach Nancy Pina. But in many relationships, our reaction to conflict often means either quickly apologizing to smooth over the tension, or holding onto the hurt and stewing about it. Neither strategy allows the kind of reconciliation that can enhance the marriage.

In an article for Hitched Magazine (see it here), Pina says other common apology pitfalls include:

  • Not apologizing because you feel you haven’t done anything wrong.
  • Not looking at the deeper meaning behind the argument.
  • Blurting out a quick apology out of obligation to gloss over blowups.

She explains the method of making an apology that leads to emotional healing and allows the offended partner to hear it and accept it includes the following:

  1. Be compassionate. Don’t base the need for apology on your own feelings. Just because YOU wouldn’t be offended doesn’t mean your partner doesn’t have the right to be offended.
  2. Don’t be defensive and try to wiggle out of the conflict.
  3. Express regret. Say, “I am sorry that my behavior/words/tone hurt you. “Communicate your understanding of what caused the conflict, and say you regret it,” says Pina.
  4. No Buts. Saying “but” after an apology negates it.
  5. Ask for forgiveness. This can be hard when you feel you haven’t done anything wrong, but if that’s the way you feel it communicates a lack of respect for your partner’s feelings.
  6. Still hot with conflict after you apologized? Try a cooling off period or writing out your apology to allow it to sink in.
  7. Learn your spouse’s emotional trigger points and learn his/her perspective as a way to improve your relationship in the future.
  8. Honestly assess your spouse’s accusations or feedback. Use it as a teachable moment about your own behavior. Being hope and honest can help you enrich your marriage and your commitment.

Once you’ve made the perfect apology, don’t forget to adjust your words/behavior so that you don’t cause the same hurt again.

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, infertility, among many others. It’s available  at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by jscreationzs courtesy

Photo by imagerymajestic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Which Kind of Commitment Do You Have in Your Marriage?

A group of UCLA psychologists went about determining what it means to be committed to your marriage. They found there are two kinds of commitment spouses tend to have, and only one of them predicts lower divorce rates and slower rates of deterioration in the relationship. Which type do you have?

This long-term study assessed 172 couples during the first 11 years of their marriages. After 11 years, 78.5 percent remained married, and 21.5 percent divorced. How they defined commitment early in their relationship helped predict whether the marriage lasted.

Study co-author Benjamin Karney, co-director of the Relationship Institute at UCLA, reports two definitions of relationship commitment. The first level of commitment means to the partners, “I really like this relationship and want it to continue.”  It’s easier to be committed when things are going well, and this is the first kind of commitment.

However, the psychologists said there was a deeper level of commitment that predicted fewer marital problems and lower divorce rates. The deeper level of commitment relates to when the relationship is not going as well or is experiencing problems. It is defined more like, “I’m committed to this relationship, but it’s not going very well—I need to have some resolve, make some sacrifices and take the steps I need to take to keep this relationship moving forward.” In other words, the partner is willing to take active steps to maintain the relationship, even if sacrifices are needed. He or she says, “I’m committed to making this relationship work.”

Study co-author Thomas Bradbury says this second level means that when you are struggling, you are willing to do what is difficult, even when you don’t want to. These more sacrificial spouses are more effective in solving problems, have lower divorce rates, and slower rates of relationship deterioration, say the psychologists.

This is consistent with the results of interviews I have done with happily married couples, many of whom have experience very difficult periods. In fact, one of the 12 key lessons shared in my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss, by couples who have overcome adversity, is that love is sacrificial. I address how to create a cycle of giving in which both partners look out for the other’s needs, and both are rewarded.

When both partners were willing to make sacrifices for the marriage, they were significantly more likely to have lasting and happy marriages, say the researchers, who studied the couples as newlyweds then followed up with them every six months for four years, then later in their marriages.

Bradbury says relationships are vulnerable when under a great deal of stress or when there’s a “high-stakes decision” about which you disagree. “Those are the defining moments in a relationship,” he says. “What our data indicate is that committing to the relationship rather than committing to your own agenda and your own immediate needs is a far better strategy. We’re not saying it’s easy.”  He adds that successful couples are able to shift the focus away from who is “winning” to how to keep the relationship preserved. Read more about the study in this article, “Here is What Real Commitment to Your Marriage Means.”

Another strategy the psychologists recommend against is “bank-account relationships” in which each person keeps score of how often they compromise or get their way. This is not effective in lasting, happy relationships, they say. If you’re keeping score, your focus is still on winning, not on strengthening the relationship.

So, how would you define your level of commitment to your marriage on the day you married? And how would you define it today? Are you willing to communicate effectively, to sacrifice for the good of the relationship when necessary, and to not keep score when things are tough?

If you missed the previous post, read other findings in the study about the hidden forces in your marriage–genes that may affect how you interact with your spouse.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. The book tells the true stories that demonstrate that marriage can thrive even in the most difficult circumstances. Learn from 12 inspiring couples who experienced child loss, infidelity, drug addiction, cancer, financial crises, brain injury, stranger rape, military service, infertility, opposing religions, unsupportive families, interracial relationships, raising special-needs children, and much more. These couples found the pressures of life didn’t destroy them; instead, they crystallized their commitment to each other.

Photo by salvatore vuony courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Genes May Contribute to Relationship Empathy

A new study out just this month that appeared in the online journal Emotion, published by the American Psychological Association, suggests that our genes may determine how inclined we are toward empathy. This means that the level of connection we have toward our spouse’s negative emotional state may have more to do with their biological makeup than with how much they care.

Researchers suggest that our genetic makeup may make some people more responsive to their partner’s emotional states and others less so. Their theory is that the serotonin transporter gene 5-HTTLPR might play a role in making us either less or more responsive to our spouses’ emotions.

The study involved data from 172 couples who remained married after 11 years. Researchers found some people have one variant of the gene, while others have a second variant. Depending on which variant you or your spouse has, your emotions may be more or less connected to your partner’s emotions. The gene appears to control how long your reaction lasts, and how responsive you are to your spouse’s emotional cues.

While we can’t blame our actions on our biology, Bradbury says we do need to realize that who we are is in large part a makeup of our biology, and that our reactions are sometimes outside our control. However, researcher Tom Bradbury says, “It’s much more complex than a single gene.”

The reason this understanding is important, say the psychologists, is not so that we can explain away our own behavior, but instead that we learn to be more forgiving of our spouse. “This research may imply that we should be forgiving of the behavior of a loved one and not demand that a spouse change her or his behavior,” said the psychologists.

  “Who you are and how you respond to me has a lot to do with things that are totally outside your control,” said Bradbury. “My partner’s biology is invisible to me; I have no clue about that. The more I can appreciate that the connection between who I am and who my partner is may be biologically mediated leads me to be much more appreciative of invisible forces that constrain our behavior,” he added.

Researchers believe multiple genes are at play in helping to contribute to our reactions. They say that if you realize how hard it is to change yourself, you may see that your partner can’t control this aspect of him or herself either.

There’s much more to the full research study that I’ll write about later, but this biological component is important to helping understand why we need to have a forgiving bent within marriage. It’s difficult at times to see things the way our spouse seems them, and at times we would like them to be more emotionally understanding of where we are. However, this may be harder than you realize for your partner to accomplish.

From my own experience, I believe my husband to be very empathic with others, but I don’t believe we are always emotionally on the same page. So, this research helps remind me that we have a different makeup and that he can’t always choose to be where I am emotionally. It doesn’t mean that he can’t understand my emotions, but rather that we may have to work harder to maintain emotional connection and understanding.

Do you find these results interesting or enlightening—or dull and unhelpful? Does it help you view your spouse’s reactions in a new light? Or, do you think individuals can exercise much more control and choice over the way they respond, and shouldn’t rely on biological excuses?

Photo by Photostock courtesty of freedigitalphotos.net.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. The book tells the true stories that demonstrate that marriage can thrive even in the most difficult circumstances. Learn from 12 inspiring couples who experienced child loss, infidelity, drug addiction, cancer, financial crises, brain injury, stranger rape, military service, infertility, opposing religions, unsupportive families, interracial relationships, raising special-needs children, and much more. These couples found the pressures of life didn’t destroy them; instead, they crystallized their commitment to each other.

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.

Great Sources for Marriage Tips

If you haven’t had the chance to check out The Long Haul Project, it’s a great blog for marriage insights. It’s a husband and wife team of Tom (the Brit) and Melissa (the Yank), who are on a journey to save their marriage by meeting married couples in cities around the globe and asking them to share their secrets. Recently, they were kind enough to interview me about First Kiss to Lasting Bliss and the insights I had gained in my research for my own marriage. Read the interview here.

Another great source for marriage insights is Gina Parris of Winning at Romance. Gina doesn’t mince words and shares LOTS of romantic insights to make your marriage sizzling. She recently asked me to write about Making Long-Distance Love Work, something I know a bit about as the wife of a pilot. I share insights from a military couple who was separated during war time. Gina has lots of audio programs, articles and podcasts to improve the intimacy in your marriage, so check it out.

One more link for you, Beverly Willett from Huffington Post recently interviewed me on the topic of “Is Lasting Bliss Really Possible?” With all the year’s headlines about marriage being obsolete, it’s a valid question to ask. Add your opinions, whether you agree with my take or not.

I’ll be sharing more good blogs for you as we enter the new year. There are lots on my blogroll if you’re looking for other great sites to help you keep your marriage solid and growing. If you’re not growing, you’re drifting.

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, Sony, Nook or PDF. 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.

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.