Tag Archives: spouse

What It Means to be a Supportive Husband

Today we have a guest post from Jordan Mendys, who wanted to talk about the challenges of being a supportive husband in today’s modern world. Thanks to Jordan for sharing his personal experience with us!

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I am a young man, so when I say that I was raised in a traditional home, it’s not necessarily referring to a home with 1920 ethics and values, but it’s still a system that I have had trouble adhering to. It’s not that I reject traditional values, but as I have grown and matured, I have seen flaws in the roles that I am supposed to play as son, brother, man, (now) husband, and (to be) father. I was brought up thinking that being a supportive husband relied on something largely rooted in economics. I was to be a breadwinner, which I suppose left my wife as breadmaker.

I rejected this ideal from an early age, and this rejection was cemented when I met my wife. Melanie was smart, individual, motivated, and had goals that I admired. As we dated, we spoke on these topics, and I knew that this was someone I wanted to be with. The longer I was with her I knew that in many ways, her professional potential was greater than mine. That never bothered me, but it once again brought up this idea of what my role as a man was in a marriage.

Recently, we celebrated our first year of marriage, and the lessons that I learned about being a supportive husband were turned on their head more than I thought. My wife started her first year of law school, putting me in a position to finish my grad degree remotely from school. It was tough. I drove 10 hours once a week to get to my school and back home. Money was tight, and that doubt crept in, “Why am I not supporting my wife better?” I was back again on the track of viewing money as the fix, losing sight of what was important.

I learned that being a supportive husband transcends your income. What it means is making tough decisions for you and your spouse. What was important was reassuring my wife that we made the right decision to go back to school. It was something that I always thought, but she would doubt when time–and funds–got tight. But I knew that was something that both of would take care of and be responsible for, and right now allowing her to achieve lifelong goals trumped any other immediate need. What my wife needed wasn’t nicer things or more money, but the reassurance that she was doing the right thing. It was my duty to provide that reassurance, and make sure she felt fulfilled and capable of great things. As I learned from her and her law classmates, this can be daunting task.

At times being supportive is allowing yourself to be supported. I was raised to think that men are stoic creatures that should never need emotional tending to. At times I do fall into this category, pushing away people close to me to deal with my issues alone. This first year was tough for me. I did feel a duty to be an economic staple for my wife and I, and being largely unemployed for half the year took its toll on me. Pushing her away to protect myself and feelings was not fair to her. I had to open up about my doubts and fears. This didn’t fix the immediate problem, but it got us talking, and on a road to healing our doubts.

I learned that the first year of marriage isn’t always glamorous, but the takeaway for both of us was remarkable. I always had an idea of what it meant to truly be a supportive husband, but when those lessons are put to practice it can be difficult. In the end, love trumps all if you let it. If you instead allow for your fears to take over, they certainly will as well. Being a supportive man and husband doesn’t have a set definition, and at times seems to be fluid based on the situation, but you have to be patient, full of love and understanding, and ready to take on obstacles together.

Jordan Mendys lives with his wife in North Carolina. He is still finishing his M.A., but has found a job as a media professional, and helps blog for DX3. He and Melanie celebrated one year of marriage on July 23rd.

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Thanks again, Jordan. These are great lessons to learn early in marriage. This got me thinking about ways I feel supported by my husband. So, I’ll write about  this topic soon. I welcome your suggestions to me about ways you feel supported by your husband, or ways you as a husband feel you best support your spouse and family. Feel free to email me or leave a note in the comments.

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 Photostock courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Focus on Loving Communication with Spouse

Marriage is not about keeping score. However, the positive and negative comments we make certainly do add up. Even if you compliment your spouse once or twice a day (thinking you are doing SUCH a good job), a criticism or complaint can negate those positives.

Remember that experts say successful marriages have five positive interactions for every one negative interaction. (Read Avoid Divorce with 5:1 Ratio.) And a ratio like that takes effort. The negative interaction may be addressing a concern one of you has, but it should still be communicated with love.

Remember that game of “s/he loves me, s/he loves me not” where you remove petals to decide if someone loves you? It reminded me of a similar analogy. Envision that you give some daisies to your sweetheart at the end of the day. Each time you roll your eyes, complain, criticize, ignore, lecture, or tease, you’re removing a few more of those petals. Each time you praise, act lovingly, hug/kiss/touch, speak respectfully, cherish, adore, appreciate you preserve those petals. At the end of the day if your bouquet is dismal at best, your spouse may not feel very affectionate or welcoming of you. When you’ve had many loving interactions during the day, this communicates care, concern and love.

Especially harmful to men are comments that leave them feeling disrespected or unappreciated, while those that are especially harmful to most women cause them to feel unloved or unattractive.

Loving communication is not about being right or wrong. It is about being considerate and aware of your partner’s feelings, even when you have to address problems.

When you are preparing to react negatively, give your spouse the benefit of the doubt that their motives are good. Instead of being defensive, try to understand where they are coming from.

Surprise your spouse with honest compliments, positive text messages or emails, notes of appreciation, and hugs or kisses for no reason. You can focus on the love language that your partner most enjoys, but expand to other areas as well. (Read What is Your Love Language?) For example, if they like acts of service best, they may also enjoy words of affirmation.

How can you communicate your love today?

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 Dan with freedigitalphotos.net

How Does Food Affect Your Marriage?

A new study is analyzing the impact of fatty foods on marital stress, hypothesizing that following a fatty meal, your marital interactions may be more stressful.

That got me to thinking about food in general and its impact on our daily lives. While I do think we need to be thinking about eating more healthfully, in my marriage, I think more arguments occur due to being hungry, and thus cranky, than for the type of meal that is prepared. (If my blood sugar gets too low, I’m not very pleasant!) Conflict can occur more easily when our basic needs aren’t being met.

At times, one of us is displeased because we expected the other to have dinner ready, but we didn’t communicate those expectations. Living in a two-cook home has many positives, but one downside is that we need to discuss meal plans and not assume the other person has it covered. Since he travels often, meals are usually my responsibility during the week. When he is home, especially on weekends, he enjoys cooking.

As a whole, I think my family celebrates and appreciates food as the gift it can be. For example, my kids have great appreciation for different cheeses, herbs, fruits and veggies. Dumpling soup and seaweed salad are favorites.  Others refer to them as little “foodies”, and according to this survey, they meet the criteria. The challenge is providing new and unique flavors daily.

Planning helps prevent grumbling and conflict

One of the most helpful things I have found to keep our day from crashing between after-school activities and bedtime is to have ingredients on hand for a healthy dinner and at least a rough idea of how and when it will come together. In addition, having some decent snacks around helps bridge the gap before meals.

My favorite go-to recipe sites are simplyrecipes.com and epicurious.com. One of my family’s favorite recipes is this meatloaf recipe from Alton Brown. (Triple the sauce!) The crock pot and rice cooker are also a big help when you won’t be home to cook and will need a quick meal. Crockpot recipes online are plentiful.

Whether we are having grilled cheese sandwiches and soup or something a little more fancy like the pictured fish en croute we made at a recent cooking club (WOW for presentation!) having food in our bellies puts us in a happier place. Often the best meals are thrown together with ingredients we have already on hand, like the pineapple chicken rice I made last night.

Compared with grabbing a pizza or take-out, cooking a quick meal with healthier ingredients shows love and concern. And having control over meal times diffuses a good deal of stress. Our family meal times are an important time for all of us to connect.

Researchers will soon reveal whether fatty meals or low-fat meals impact our marital stress. In the mean time, keep the hunger pangs away to avoid certain disaster. What is your sweetie’s favorite meal, snack or dessert? Can you work it into your grocery list and plans for the week? It’s just another way of communicating your love.

Note: Thanks for your patience with my break in blog posts. I took a wonderful trip to The Netherlands to visit my brother and sister-in-law. I’m now back in the good old USA, where bathrooms are always free. ;-)

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages. It’s available  at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com

Photo by Lori Lowe.

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.

6 Habits for Happy Lives & Marriages

Happy Life: Happy Marriage Series

I came across this awesome visual from the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) on 6 Habits of Happiness Worth Cultivating, and I think it has great applications for marriage as well. Cultivate these 6 habits for a happier life and a happier marriage.

  1. Practice Kindness. Yes, it’s an important life habit, but it also makes you feel good. “Altrustic acts light up the same pleasure centers in the brain as food and sex,” according to GGSC. Many people stop there, but they end up being kinder to the checker at the grocery store than to their spouse at home. Or at least we would never say things to our friends that we are willing to say in anger to our spouse. Ouch. Kindness will pay great dividends in the long run. Say “please” and “thank you” for starters. Offer to help, especially when your spouse is stressed. Give an extra hug and kiss, just because.
  2. Drop Grudges. As I wrote in First Kiss to Lasting Bliss, forgiveness is just as much a gift for the giver as the receiver. Offering forgiveness to those who have wronged us takes away the bitterness that can rob us of health and wellbeing. This goes double in a marriage, when grudges are very detrimental. If a past hurt from our spouse is important, discuss how you feel hurt and explain what would make you feel better. But figure out how to get past it.
  3. Get Moving. GGSC reports that “regular exercise increases self-esteem, reduces anxiety and stress, and may well be the most effective instant happiness booster of all.” Why not do something active with your spouse? You’ll both benefit from the increased oxytocin release, you’ll both be doing something good for your health, and you’ll be spending quality time together.
  4. Give Thanks. Lots of research has shown the benefits of living with gratitude, and I’ve written a good deal about it. “Regular expressions of gratitude promote optimism, better health, and greater satisfaction with life,” says GGSC. Research also shows that couples who express gratitude toward one another and who spending time being thankful for their spouse and thinking positively about him or her are also more satisfied with their relationship. Read “Two words that have improved my marriage.”
  5. Keep Friends Close. “Make time for those closest to you,” says GGSC. That means regular, dedicated, uninterrupted face time with your spouse. No excuses. Remember that your spouse can’t meet all your emotional needs, so spend time with close friends as a way to boost your happiness and bring a brighter you to your marriage.
  6. Pay Attention. The idea of being more mindful as a means of boosting immunity and reducing anxiety is not one commonly discussed. But in our world of multitasking and ubiquitous social media, it’s so key. How many minutes a day to we spend completely engaged with our spouse, listening or discussing meaningful issues in our lives?

What are the most important habits you feel cultivates your personal happiness and your relationship happiness?

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

What Could Your Marriage Survive?

Imagine you or your spouse experiencing an accident so horrific that you end up in a coma, then later emerge with a brain injury. Everything in your life and family changes. How is your marriage affected?

I wrote a post about just such a couple for The Romantic Vineyard, and I’ve been inspired by the Jerdes and their ability to remain positive. I hope you will check out their story. Debi Walters is doing a series on hindrances to a Merry Christmas. This one is about injury. Check out the others in the series while you are there; they are thoughtfully written. The Jerdes is just one of the couples I profile in First Kiss to Lasting Bliss.

Gifts!
Well, it is the season for giving. If you have purchased my book or plan to this Christmas season for you or someone else whose marriage you wish to encourage, you will receive the following seven gifts as a bonus. (The book is available at Amazon in print format or from your favorite e-book retailer.) 

  • A copy of marriage and family therapist Lisa Brookes Kift’s The Marriage Refresher Course Workbook. The 69- page workbook is for couples to use together and provides a framework for you to strengthen the relationship foundation that supports your marriage. It’s an interactive format with worksheets, and journaling space makes it a great keepsake for you and your spouse – to help you keep sight of what’s important to your marriage. 
  • Free audio download to Five Keys to Really Great Sex Tonight—even if you’re Not in the Mood by Gina Parris of Winning at Romance. (Yowza, who wouldn’t want that?)
  • An e-book from Matthew with Adventure-Some.com called Ready-To-Go Dates. It provides 20 dates that can be done anywhere and take less than 20 minutes of planning/prep.
  • Power of Two, which provides entertaining and thoroughly helpful marriage education online, is giving two flash games with pdf tips. It’s an interactive module to help couples understand how arguments happen and how to avoid miscommunications that lead to arguments. The videos are short and fun, and you learn something along the way. It can give you a taste of all the great resources available at PO2.com. For modern couples who want to learn skills fast—without getting bored!
  • A free iPhone app that includes healthy marriage tips and great date night suggestions from Debi Walter at The Romantic Vineyard. Now you’ll have conversation starters and other tips to help you connect on a deeper level.
  • A copy of The Simple Marriage Manifesto, which profound advice from marital therapist Corey Allan, PhD of Simple Marriage.
  • Two free chapters of The 15-Minute Marriage Makeover by Dustin Riechmann of Engaged Marriage. (A great strategy for busy couples to boost their relationship!)

For details, and links to various ways you can get the book go here.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Love Between Men, Women Can Be Like Apples and Oranges

Men may feel love more strongly but be less able to express that love.

I’ve read studies about how men tend to fall in love faster and have more emotional difficulties managing a breakup. To add to this line of thinking, a recent Rutgers University study of 5,000 American adults found that men are becoming more interested in commitment and attachment, while more women are seeking relationships with a degree of independence.  So, the stereotypes of women having stronger emotional ties may not be true, at least in present day.

But even when a man feels the emotions of love very strongly, he often expresses himself much differently than a woman.  Generally, he expresses much less of himself. One reason is that our brains are simply wired differently. Women generally have more developed language and communication centers. That’s because the corpus collosum (the communication strip between the two cerebral hemispheres) is more developed in women, allowing women to integrate data and experience subtleties. 

Knowing all of this, why do we women push our men to communicate as we do? We want more intimate talk, more complete understanding, and more communication of all kinds. Are we asking too much? Maybe, at least for some men.

In addition, men may be more private with their deepest feelings, says author and Huffington Post writer Peggy Drexler. She suggests when you have a man who is reliable, kind, and attentive, it makes sense for a woman to stop pushing against the “boulder of biology” to try to make him communicate like you.  Can we appreciate that love is present, and be grateful for our mate’s positive qualities? Can we recognize and even embrace that our man is built much differently than we are?

I think it’s tough sometimes for us to realize when our expectations may be out of line.  I do think that husbands should do their best to communicate effectively and not shut their wives out. On the other hand, wives should probably learn how to speak more succinctly if we hope to keep our partner’s attention.

The bottom line is even if your hubby isn’t writing you poetry each week or professing his undying love before he hits the pillow every night, it doesn’t mean that your marriage doesn’t mean the world to him. Husbands:  Please take a brief minute and tell your wives that her love means the world to you, and that you know you should tell her more. Wives:  Don’t make it into a marathon conversation. Just kiss him, smile and tell him thanks.

Men:  Consider taking this to the next level to other important female relationships. Tell your daughters you love them and you’re proud of them. Tell your mothers you appreciate all they ever did for you. Unlike men, women tend to look for these important expressions as a barometer of the quality of your relationship.

What do you wish your mate would tell you today? Have you asked for what you need?

Photo by photostock courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.