Tag Archives: secrets to a happy marriage

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.

New Inspirational Marriage Book Available

After three long years of preparation and work, I’m thrilled to announce that my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available!

Just in time for Christmas, the book is ideal for married couples of all ages and stages who want to achieve a blissful  marriage, but who understand life sometimes gets in the way.

First Kiss to Lasting Bliss features the real-life stories of couples across the U.S. Many of them used adversity to improve their marriages. Couples overcame drug addiction, infidelity, stranger rape, bankruptcy, raising a special needs child, infertility, loss of a child, military separation, opposing religions, differing races, unsupportive families, life-threatening injuries and illnesses, depression, brain injury, and MUCH more. These couples didn’t just survive, they became great love stories that can inspire us all. You will get to know the couples and their often difficult journeys, as well as the keys to their now-strong marriages.

In the book, I also share 12 overarching lessons that these couples taught me while writing the book. These lessons can inspire you to take your marriage to the next level.

The book is offered in print and e-book editions. The print version is $14.95, and e-books range from $7.99 to $9.99 depending on which format you choose. But no matter what format you choose, I’m happy to offer seven free marriage tools/products from other marriage educators and writers who are generously offering them to all those who purchase my book. Visit my web site for the awesome list (and thanks to all the contributors!) and the links to the different book formats. You can also find testimonials, the book introduction and interviews with me on my site www.LoriDLowe.comGo here if you would rather go straight to Amazon.com to buy the book. (You still get the freebies if you email me).

I’ve shared hundreds of research-based marriage tips here at Marriage Gems during the last three years. If you have found this blog helpful, I hope you will check out the book. Please consider sharing it with your friends or family who could use some encouragement.

I thank all of you for your support and for your interactions here, which keep me motivated to research and write about this important topic that has the potential to help so many families. I especially thank my family for their patience during this rather large undertaking.

I wish you bliss in your relationships!

LINKS:
I wrote this guest post for Engaged Marriage called “Love is Sacrificial.”

For Christian readers, check out this guest post for Journey to Surrender called “A Counter-Cultural Pathway to a Stronger Christian Marriage.”

Why are Women Less Happy than Men in Marriage?

Men are generally happier in their marriages than women are. A survey of men taken by the Chicago Sun-Times showed 78 percent of men would remarry their wives. Another survey by Women’s Day Magazine showed only half of women would choose to remarry their husbands.

Why do you there is such a wide disparity? Some may say it’s because women do more of the work at home and increasingly bring in a second income for the family. Some experts believe that men experience fulfillment more easily than women. Women, on the other hand, have high expectations and romantic inclinations.

Mark Gungor, speaker and author of Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage writes that he used to put the blame on men’s shoulders for thoughtless or insensitive. However, he says women file for 80 percent of all divorces and are usually the ones frustrated with the relationship, the disappointed ones. He writes that women’s unrealistic expectations are often responsible for divorce, not inept men.

I’ll say I agree up to a point. Just because a man is happy with the situation doesn’t mean that it’s a positive environment for his wife. However, I will agree that I as a wife have struggled with having unrealistic expectations, and I know other wives do as well. Despite having excellent husbands, we sometimes wish life were a little more romantic. And, truth be told, we wish our husbands could read our minds and know (and fulfill) our deepest longings.

I also agree that women look to their husband to meet too many of their needs, especially with family often living at a distance. While generations ago, women lived and worked together and supported one another, today’s families are much more isolated. So, we expect our husbands to be our confidants, our lovers, our best friends, our emotional supports, and more. We also want them to be good providers and share the workload at home.

Our spouse shouldn’t be expected to meet all of our needs, and he or she cannot be our source of hope or happiness.

“A successful marriage is possible only when two complete and happy people get together for the purpose of building a life together. They do not need the other to be truly happy, complete or emotionally whole,” says Gungor.

This is where I wholeheartedly agree. Yes, men need to feel respected, and women need to feel loved. We need to express our needs and our feelings to our spouse, but we also need to be responsible for creating our own fulfilled and joy-filled lives.

For a better perspective on this, read What if Today Were Your Last Day With Your Spouse; Patty Newbold learns the hard way about dropping unnecessary expectations. Also, check out What Do You Expect From Your Marriage and Mate, especially if you feel life and marriage for you hasn’t been entirely fair lately for you.

LINKS:
Read from the Washington Post about how delaying divorce can save marriages, and how new legislation may be coming to your state. It’s a very interesting proposal by two well-qualified individuals.

Photo by Photostock courtesty of freedigitalphotos.net

Happy Marriages are Not Carefree

This statement published by Judith Wallerstein, PhD, and Sandra Blakeslee gave me pause: Happy marriages are not carefree. That sounds wrong when you are single or newlyweds. We tend to believe if we find the right partner, life will be carefree. Why get married if life is not going to be fun and carefree? But Dr. Wallerstein, who is an internationally recognized authority on marriage, and writer Blakeslee, go on to clarify in Creating a Marriage You’ll Love:

“There are good times and bad times, and certainly partners may face serious crises together or separately. Happily married husbands and wives get depressed, fight, lose jobs, struggle with the demands of the workplace and the crises of infants and teenagers, and confront sexual problems. They cry and yell and get frustrated. They come from sad, abusive, neglectful backgrounds as well as from more stable families; all marriages are haunted by ghosts from the past.”

I was struck by the accuracy of that description of what any marriage might go through. Then again, you might get lucky and have more carefree days than not. We must be constantly adapting to each other and to our situation. Even the economic climate can impact our marriage. Parents or children become ill. Spouses get promoted or fired. So much happens every year of our marriages.

They go on to explain that if newlyweds began their marriage with an understanding of its complexity, they would greatly improve their chances of success. This complexity includes our upbringing and past, our present and our dreams for the future. By understanding “how the past connects with the present, (couples) can build a mutual understanding and love based on true intimacy.” In addition, they should understand how every aspect of marriage affects every other aspect, in particular their sexual relationship and its central importance on the marriage.

“A happy, lasting marriage is challenged and rebuilt every day,” they conclude. It may not be carefree, but with effort, marriage can still be satisfying and happy.

4 Proven Secrets to Long Marriage Part IV: Cultivate Healthy Passion

Wrapping up our 4 secrets to long marriage is maintaining a healthy passion. What’s an unhealthy passion, you ask? Funnily enough, psychologist Robert Vallerand of the University of Quebec says, “Obsessive passion—a type that seems to control you—is as detrimental to the relationship, making it less satisfying sexually and otherwise, as having no passion.”

A healthy passion, on the other hand, means “a voluntary inclination toward an activity or person that we love or value.” It helps us relate better and increases our intimacy while retaining our own identity.

You can cultivate healthy passion by participating in an activity you and your partner both enjoy, says Vallerand. While exhilarating activities are ideal, competitive ones are not. (The object is not winning, it’s bonding.) Go sledding. Share a boat ride. Take a run. Have sex. You get the idea.

Another way to boost passion: write the reasons why you love your spouse and why the relationship is important to you. Bonus points if you read it aloud to him or her.

To summarize the 4 Secrets to a Long Marriage as shared in Scientific American’s article “The Happy Couple”: Share Joy, Stay Positive, Express Gratitude, and Cultivate a Healthy Passion.

So what’s your big secret to a successful marriage? Did any of the four resonate with you as strengths or weaknesses in your relationship?

4 Proven Secrets to Long Marriage Part III: Express Gratitude

The 10 most frequent positive emotions include: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love, according to psychologist and author Barbara L. Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. In her book, Positivity, she says the most important of these emotions to a relationship may be gratitude.

Why? Because expressing gratitude regularly helps us appreciate our partner and not take one another for granted. For example, when you tell your spouse you appreciate the great dinner, it makes you aware that s/he put effort into preparing that dinner for you, and more appreciate of having them in your life. And it makes your partner feel appreciated. So, expressing gratitude benefits both partners in the relationshipthe recipient and the giver.

One researcher found on days when couples felt more gratitude toward their partner, they felt more connected to him or her and more satisfied even the following day. Recipients of gratitude also increased their relationship satisfaction on days when it was expressed. Researchers refer to gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships.

“Each unit of improvement in expressed appreciation decreased by half the odds of the couple breaking up in six months,” according to Scientific American’s December 2009 article, “The Happy Couple: Secrets to a Long Marriage.”

What makes you feel the most gratitude from your spouse? When are you most likely to express it?

Read Part I, Part II and Part IV.

4 Proven Secrets to Long Marriage Part II: Stay Positive

In the Part I, we learned how important it is to respond positively to our partner’s good news. We also learned that individuals in successful, happy relationships each experience a higher ratio of positive to negative emotions than do those in unsuccessful relationships. Positive emotions—even fleeting ones—have the power to help us connect with others.

Having an upbeat outlook enables people to see the big picture and avoid getting hung up on small annoyances,” says psychologist Barbara L. Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. “This wide-angle view often brings to new light new possibilities and offers solutions to difficult problems, making individuals better at handling adversity in relationships and other parts of life. It also tends to dismantle boundaries between “me” and “you,” creating stronger emotional attachments. (Remember the Power of We in Relationships?)

We’ve heard about Dr. Gottman’s 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions in a relationship, but Fredrickson studied positive emotions by each individual and found even when the ratio is 3:1 it helps them become more resilient in life and love.

How can we help boost positive emotions? Try to schedule activities often in places that exude positive energy for you, such as a nature hike or meetings in a restaurant you love. Surround yourself with scents and sounds that make you happy. Keep a collage of photos that make you smile on your desk, next to your bed, or wherever you spend time. Keep upbeat music on your ipod or stereo playing positive lyrics. Spend a few minutes hugging your spouse (and children) at the end of the day. Play with your pet.

Scientific American’s December 2009 article, “The Happy Couple: Secrets to a Long Marriage” provides more details.

What do you do to maintain a positive, upbeat attitude, or is this a struggle for you? I know when I’m not feeling well, or the weather has been cold or dreary for a long time, I struggle to be positive. Music helps change my mood.

Read Part I, Part III and Part IV for the other three secrets.