Tag Archives: successful relationships

Show Love by Making Your Mate Feel Safer

Snow and ice blanked much of the U.S. last week, but I felt protected during an ice storm even when my husband was traveling across the country. He showed acts of love by making sure we had contingency plans in place in case the power went out, which it frequently does where we live. He made sure to review with me how to manually open the garage door, how to start the generator, which essentials to run, and where to plug them in. He even made a last-minute trip the grocery for extra supplies. These actions helped me to stay calm and know that I could care for my children and myself even in the worst scenarios.

Even if you live in a warm and cozy climate, there are ways you can make your spouse feel secure and protected. Many husbands don’t realize how unsafe their wives may feel when traveling alone or even when alone at home. Showing concern for her safety helps demonstrate your love.

Here are a few ideas:

*Buy her a glass-breaking tool for the car that allows you to break the window if the car becomes submerged under water.

*Install solid doors, deadbolts and/or an alarm system in the home.

*Offer to pick her up if she is arriving late at the airport.

*Make sure the car is filled with gas, has the oil changed and is in good working order.

*Check to make sure she reached her destination if she’s traveling a long way.

*Add an emergency supply kit to her car, along with bags of salt or sand.

*Put a GPS in the car if she frequently gets lost.

What wife wouldn’t swoon over a guy who checks her tires and oil before she has to take a trip? It’s the loving gesture as much as it is the act of ensuring her safety.

I think most men are more concerned with feeling safe in being themselves than they are with their physical safety. Some may be reluctant to share their feelings or experiences due to fear of criticism or feeling judged. A happy husband is one who can be honest about his feelings and knows his wife will be supportive and loving. A husband who walks on egg shells when he arrives home or tries to stay clear of the nagging and complaining is not one who will feel safe enough to share what is deep in his heart.

How are you making your mate feel safe today? What other ideas do you have for improving feelings of security—both physical and emotional?

Useful Links:

Are You Doing all the Heavy Lifting in Your Relationship? Alisa Bowman wrote a great post called How to Swallow Your Pride to respond to questions about whether it’s fair when one mate does most of the marriage improvement work.

Trends in Modern Manhood. Tom Matlock writes about porn addiction, the media and modern manhood in this Huffington Post article. Tom interviewed men from all walks of life–the rich and famous to the laborers–and found one thing again and again: the struggle to stay true to themselves as men.

Do You Not Relate to Sex Studies? Paul Byerly explains in this post that many sex-related studies are not about married couples like you, so take them with a grain of salt.

Deterioration of Traditional Marriage. Article written by David Blankenhorn, Sr., the father of the president of the Institute for American Values. His perspective on the generational shifts and trends in traditional marriage.

Photo credit: ©Andreys Pidjass/PhotoXpress.com

Super Bowl or Sex—Which Would You Choose?

If you’re feeling down that you can’t send your sports-fanatic husband to the Super Bowl this year, there’s a 65% chance he would enjoy something else even better—one night of mind-blowing sex, says a recent survey. Which would you choose?

Mary Jo Rapini details some other interesting facts about sports fans here, including that 38% of respondents have better sex when their favorite sports team wins, and 9% have withheld sex after their favorite team lost. (That’s some serious pouting.)

Some of you are outside the U.S. and may  not share Americans’ obsession with the Super Bowl. But you can compare it to your biggest sporting event or public event in your country.

The point is that a lot of people take their sports very seriously, and even if you’re not such a sports fan, at least for the Super Bowl, join in the excitement. Host a party. Fix some great snacks. Watch the entertaining commercials. Cheer on your sweetheart’s favorite team. And even if they lose, a private after-party may make you both feel better.

Speaking of mind-blowing sex, Rapini says an even better idea is to build mind-blowing intimacy in your marriage. This means being present to one another inside and outside of the bedroom and learning how to truly connect.

You only have a few days to plan for the Super Bowl fun. How will you celebrate? While I usually like to have a small party and a big pot of chili, we will be celebrating my grandmother’s 90th birthday this year with extended family. Sometimes football isn’t as important as life.

Another event that is just around the corner is Valentine’s Day. Are you celebrating? Do you shun the holiday because it’s overly commercial? Make sure your sweetheart agrees, or there may be hurt feelings. If you want to send your mate a thoughtful card on February 11th instead, be my guest, but don’t miss out on an opportunity to celebrate this year! Read Celebrate in Your Own Way. I find most of us need reminders and deadlines, or we forget to go out and find a meaningful gift or write a note of gratitude. If you say “we celebrate every day together,” make sure you’re being honest. Each month, continue to look for opportunities to celebrate in your unique way.

Special Offer from Power of Two Online: Remember reading about Power of Two online tools to boost your marriage? (Read Web-Based Marriage Training Tool is Affordable and Private.) You might have planned to join, but then forgot. Well, PO2 has a special pre-Valentine’s Day challenge. Join before Friday, try it out, and they will buy you and your sweetie two tickets to the movies if you choose to keep the account after your free trial period. Read the details here

 Photo credit: Petar Ishmeriev/PhotoXpress.com

Choose Exciting over Pleasant Activities to Boost Marriage

Exciting activities improve marital satisfaction much more than pleasant activities. A new study by the Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory of New York State University showed that a group of couples who spent two hours each week engaging in a new, exciting activity gave a dramatic boost to their marital satisfaction. A second group who engaged in highly pleasant, but only moderately exciting, activities, showed no significant change in their perceived marriage quality.

I found the results interesting, because I would have expected at least some reported improvement in both groups. However, I’m not surprised the first group with their novel experiences created stronger results. This is because previous research has focused on the hormone oxytocin that is released when a couple falls in love, has sex, or shares novel, exciting experiences together. This hormone helps a couple bond and feel all lovey-dovey. In addition, if you are learning about or experiencing something new together, you are united in your goal of accomplishment. It can be exhilarating to enjoy a new experience or learn something challenging together.

As many married couples find it difficult to keep their passion alive, the study is a great reminder to focus at least some of our attention on how to keep things exciting. It can be a bit daunting, however, for those of us who don’t spend much time climbing mountains or exploring underwater caves. So, it’s important to find something you both would find enjoyable, new and exciting.

The study authors had couples make a list of things they would like to do that are exciting. This is a perfect starting point for you. Make a list, and rate each activity 1-10 for pleasantness and excitement. Find something that you both find moderately pleasant but high on the excitement scale.

You might consider:
• Travel to a new, exciting destination
• Learning a new language together
• An outdoor activity, such as zip lining, biking in a challenging terrain, training together for a mini marathon.
• Taking a cooking or dancing class
• Getting a couples massage
• Talking about, and experimenting with new techniques in the bedroom (or buying an enticing, sexy new garment)
• Going to a rock concert or venue you wouldn’t normally attend
• Surprise each other occasionally with a gift or a date night
• Go on a marriage retreat or a weekend getaway
• Brainstorm ideas that fit your interests and area of the world—scuba diving, hiking in the mountains, skiing, camping—but only activities that are NEW for you, not what you find yourself doing over and over again.
• Learning a new skill together—photography, pottery making (remember that scene in Ghost?!), a musical instrument, race car driving, flying an airplane

Married life doesn’t have to be dull. What makes affairs exciting is the notion of getting to know someone attractive and new, going to new places, trying new activities, and having new sexual experiences. Have an affair with your own spouse, and experience these exhilarating feelings in the safety of your own marriage. Maybe you do your hair differently, or put at attractive outfit together. Then, go do something really fun together, and enjoy the boost in your marriage. There’s no excuse for saying married life is boring.

What’s the most exciting thing you have done lately as a couple?

Interesting Links:

Bikinis or briefs? Read a new study that proves bad underwear can ruin your day. Really. So, choose your panties carefully, and it may improve your life and make you feel sexier and more confident. Your hubby may also appreciate this.

Divorce’s Impact on Teens. More than half of American teens (55%) do NOT live with their married mother and father. Using United States Census Bureau data from 2008, a study revealed that 62 percent of Asian-American teens live in two-parent households, compared to 54 percent of whites, 41 percent of multiracial background, 40 percent of Hispanics, 24 percent of American Indians or Alaskan Natives, and 17 percent of African-Americans.

Walk through effects of Divorce. A new program in Britain—the country with the highest divorce rates in Europe—suggests that couples on the brink of divorce confront the realities how divorce would impact their family before taking the next step. It’s based on an educational program in Norway that has been effective at keeping families together.

Do you believe in soul mates? This marital therapist at Psychology Today does not, and says the idea alone contributes to relationship failures. She says too many people leave their marriage then they decide they have finally met their “true” soul mate, who ends up not being so ideal in the end.

Photo credit: © Maxim Petrichuk/PhotoXpress.com

Three Steps to Great Sex

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

 

Thanks to Julie Sibert for today’s fabulous Guest Post:

My husband and I learned early in our relationship two vital pieces of information – he doesn’t like to be hungry and I don’t like to be cold.

Armed with these tidbits of wisdom, we have dodged more discord than I can recount. I would never initiate a lengthy conversation 45 minutes before dinner, when insanity from low blood sugar has settled into my husband’s brain.  Likewise, my beloved knows full well that if we were ever to buy a new car, I would look at no other option beyond the seat warmer.  Literally, this is what the salesperson’s voice would sound like to me: “Blah, blah, blah. Seat warmer. Blah, blah, blah.”

Obviously, it wasn’t too hard for us to weave this information into our marital fabric.  But not all pertinent information comes so easy, does it? Like how to have great sex.

When we were first married, we were pretty clueless as to how to sexually satisfy each other (naked and in love, mind you, but clueless nonetheless). It’s not that we didn’t know what sex was.  We both had had sex before we met each other.  We just had never had sex with each other until our wedding night.

We weren’t naïve about this lack of knowledge.  On our wedding night, we closed the door of our hotel room well aware that we were about to embark on some awkwardness.  Not all couples, though, have such an “eyes wide open” approach.

I am convinced that one of the most perpetuated fallacies ever to befall married couples is that amazing sexual intimacy is natural – that it won’t take effort, time, communication, and lots of trial and error (with a fair amount of humor as well).

So many couples journey years (and even decades) of married life never really experiencing great sex.  Some of you reading this right now are well acquainted with that scenario. It drapes across your marriage bed with heaviness. For you, sexual intimacy has been boring at best, and mere obligation at worse. Maybe it’s even caused overwhelming tension in your marriage.

By “great” sex, I’m not just talking about orgasm, fun and passion.  All very nice elements, I might add.  I’m referring instead to really knowing each other sexually – knowing how to turn each other on and experience mysterious oneness. It’s about more than intercourse. It is instead about the little nuances, touches, techniques, intentions and words that add up to sacred sexual knowledge about each other.

Do you genuinely know what it takes to bring your spouse to the edge of intense pleasure, and then lovingly and powerfully push them right over that edge into unabashed ecstasy?   Do you know how to allow your spouse the privilege of doing this to you? Both are essential sides to the same coin.

While the reasons that thwart great sex are many (and some quite serious), for some couples it is more of a matter of indifference. Sex just fell by the wayside, lost beneath the responsibilities of paying the Visa bill, keeping milk in the fridge and washing soccer uniforms. Life happened, and sex disappeared faster than baby socks in a clothes dryer. Or maybe you never nurtured intimacy in the first place. Hot newlywed sex? Pure myth for many people.

If you can identify with any of this, you’re not alone. It’s not that you don’t love your spouse or value your marriage.  It’s not that you’re opposed to sex.  It’s just that sex falls way down on the list (somewhere between organize your 7,000 digital photos and clean the basement floor drain).  In other words, you never get to it. Or you make love so rarely that the likelihood of really knowing each other is…well… highly unlikely.

Are you ready to change those patterns in your sexual intimacy?

Here are three tips to move sex out of the “ho-hum” category and into the “wow!” category:

1. Call it like it is. If your intimacy has stalled or is non-existent (or is just plain boring), then get courageous and draw this into the light. A conversation starter can be as simple as this: “I know sex hasn’t been the greatest for us, and I am wondering what together we can do about that.”  If it causes you too much anxiety to start a verbal conversation, consider writing your spouse a note. At any rate, take a step to lovingly express that you want sex to be a priority.

2. Start with your hands.  For all the focus put on our genital regions, I think there is a lot to be said for the role our hands play.  Touch is powerful.  If you and your spouse have just been going through the motions – quickly getting to the main attraction of intercourse – you are missing out on a full-body experience.  Learn to caress each other. Vary the firmness of your touch, and take your time.  Some areas of particular arousal can be the neck, ears, head, upper arms, inner thighs, chest, behind the knees and across the lower back. Extreme sexual pleasure is built upon a foundation of being aroused.  Touch isn’t just the opening act; touch is the headliner, too.

3.  Try at least one new thing. I’ve never been a big fan of “variety for variety’s sake.” I am, though, a fervent champion of variety that endears a husband and wife to each other sexually.  A married couple is afforded tremendous freedom to pleasure each other sexually, so break out of routines and learn new ways to please each other.  Try at least one new thing (new position, oral sex, making love in a different room, etc.)  Sure, it will feel awkward at first, but together you can discover depths of pleasure you may have never known.

My last suggestion is this: resist the urge to give up too soon. Within sexual intimacy, we are at our most vulnerable emotionally, physically and spiritually. When we feel vulnerable, we are more likely to retreat if things start to feel difficult.  If you do that, though, you won’t break through to information that could significantly improve your marriage. You do want that kind of breakthrough, right?

Sure, my husband knows I don’t like to be cold. And I know he doesn’t like to be hungry. As beneficial as that information has been, it pales to what we know about each other sexually.

I’d love to write more.  But I need to go push a certain someone over an edge.  If you know what I mean.

Julie Sibert writes and speaks about sexual intimacy in marriage.  You can follow her blog at www.IntimacyInMarriage.com. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, their two boys and one rambunctious German Shorthair Pointer puppy. © 2011 by Julie Sibert. 

Photo Credit: @PhotoXpress.com

How Can We Be Happy with Tragedy & Evil in the World?

Happy Life: Happy Marriage Series

How can we hope to live happy lives when we hear about shootings in grocery stores and schools? Or read about women and children attacked or killed in their homes? This is a troubling question for me.

How can we be happy in our families and in our relationships when we can’t figure out how to get these terrible events out of our minds? I personally think this issue is a larger concern for women, particularly those who, like me, have a great deal of empathy. We can literally picture ourselves in random situations across the world, and become plagued by the images or thoughts. Our husbands may not even understand why we are so troubled by these happenings.

So, what does Dennis Prager, author of Happiness is a Serious Problem, have to say about this conundrum of being happy despite tragedy? He says he believes in evil, that suffering is real, and that everything is not “all for the best.” (Please don’t tell people everything is for the best, especially when they are grieving.) He also says he is constantly amazed by his good fortune, as am I. “Given how much unjust suffering and unhappiness there are, I am deeply grateful for, sometimes even perplexed by, how much misery I have been spared,” says Prager.

Given that tragedy will always be present in life, he says he aims to be happy unless something happens to make him unhappy, rather than vice versa. If you are waiting for something to make you happy—for your husband to send you flowers or for your child to get a perfect score on his or her math test—your happy days may be few and far between. But if you are happy and thankful that you are not directly affected by tragedy today, it leads you to a better place in your mind. It requires you to begin each day with a new mindset.

Constant complaining about how badly your day is going—difficult customers, rowdy children, a less-than-perfect spouse—only exacerbates your negative feelings. Prager has little patience for those who have so much in life but in this modern world find so much about which to complain. Each time you begin to complain or say something negative, consider those who really have a horror in their lives at that very moment.

We can’t avoid pain and sorrow, though, at least not for long. “Life has much pain built into it, even for people who lead inordinately blessed lives. Even in the best instance (i.e., a long and healthy life), we all experience the awful sadness of death—whether ours or that of loved ones,” says Prager. He goes on to express even “necessary losses” such as being joyful to have your children grow up, but experiencing bittersweet loss at realizing those childhood years are gone forever.

I think Prager’s take on this is well considered. However, putting the ideals into practice certainly will take ongoing effort. For starters, we should consider our media consumption. It’s fine to acknowledge the evil and pain in the world without immersing ourselves into the events as on cable TV. We can also admit that while it (the tragedy of the day) could have happened in our neighborhood, it didn’t, and we should be grateful for the day we are given.

We should strive to mentally focus on positive aspects of our lives, and even verbally comment on those things to our spouse and children. This can even apply to minor complaints. “I’m sick and tired of this snow,” can become “I’m sure glad we have a working furnace and the funds to keep our home reasonably warm. Although I am looking forward to spring.”

I know I will get struck by sadness when horrific events occur, and I believe we should assist or pray for victims. But we don’t serve our families well when we begin to believe the world is more awful than it is. The world has a lot of beauty going for it. Even those awful, cold snowflakes that pile onto my driveway incessantly are incredibly unique and lovely on their own. And even when a Congresswoman is shot down by a mentally unstable man, she can inspire hope in a city and in a nation.

Related Link:

Overcoming Negative Thinking—Alisa Bowman shares advice on how to change your negative thoughts for the better. “When you see the world through a positive lens, you smile more. You are warmer. You embrace people. You are more giving. You are more considerate and selfless,” says Alisa. How can that not help your life and your marriage?

Photo credit: ©iMAGINE/PhotoXpress.com

Alcohol Use Related to Shorter and Later Marriages

It’s not just alcoholics whose relationships may be affected by drinking. A new study by the Indiana University School of Education found that individuals who frequently drink alcohol are more likely to marry later in life and are less likely to have a successful, long-lasting marriage.

Researchers recruited more than 4,000 Australian twins in the early 1980s and followed their alcohol use and marriages or separations. They found a strong association between alcohol dependence and delayed marriage, as well as between alcohol dependence and early marital separation.

The study’s author made a surprisingly strong statement to young people about the consequences of alcohol in their lives:

“Young adults who drink alcohol may want to consider the longer-term consequences for marriage,” says Mary Waldron, assistant professor at IU. “If drinking continues or increases to levels of problem use, likelihood of marriage, or of having a lasting marriage, may decrease.”

The results were reported in Science Daily and are to be released in the April 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Early drinking is one of the best predictors of later alcohol dependence, according to researchers. They also found genetic influences contributed to the associations between alcohol dependence and delayed marriage or early separation.

The results aren’t terribly surprising when you consider how significant alcohol use could cause a great deal of conflict in a relationship and deaden one’s ability to become intimate with a partner. But the articles I’ve seen don’t specify an amount of alcohol. I’d be curious whether “frequent drinking” includes a nightly glass of wine, or if heavier drinking was involved in these associations.

Do you know any frequent drinkers who delayed marriage to continue their partying lifestyle? Are you surprised at the associations made with alcohol use? Do you think those living the lifestyle of frequent drinking will even care about this research?

Interesting links:

Understanding Your Relationship’s Problems–Michele Weiner-Davis, author of the book and blog Divorce Busting, provides a fascinating analogy to help couples understand the interdependence of their actions and reactions on their relationships. There’s a circular causality that is hard for individuals to see, particularly when they believe their mate is to blame for the marriage’s problems. Read The Foxes and the Rabbits for some great explanation and examples that can open your eyes to new solutions in conflict resolution.

Financial Fidelity–We’ve talked about financial infidelity here before, and why it’s important to be trustworthy with one another about money. Nearly 1/3 of spouses admit to deceiving their partner about financial matters. Thanks to Paul Byerly for pointing me to an excellent article in Forbes, Is Your Partner Cheating on You Financially. There’s also a link to signs your spouse is lying about money. It serves as a reminder to have open, honest discussions about finances.

Photo credit: ©Galina Barshaya/PhotoXpress.com

Researchers Share How to Improve Sex Life

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series Post 3

Most of the readers of this blog already have the top two ingredients for good sex (according to researchers)—love and commitment.

The Archives of Sexual Behavior released the findings, based on a study of 544 sexually active college students. (So, we’re not talking about married couples here.) Read a summary in Discovery News. The motivations for having sex that were most highly correlated with sexual satisfaction were love and commitment. So, if you and your mate have those two things, consider yourself fortunate.

OK, maybe you have love and commitment, but you still see room for improvement in your sex life. The Journal of Sexual Medicine has some advice for you, which was shared in USA Weekend. (Is it me, or are there a lot of scientific journals focused on sex? It’s apparently a popular field of study.) Scientists reviewed the results of a clinical trial in which women were given erectile-dysfunction pills or a placebo. While the pill was deemed ineffective, more than one-third of the placebo group said their sex lives significantly improved after taking what they thought was medication. The placebo, it turns out, was quite effective. Why?

First, participants were all highly motivated to improve their sex lives. Second, they were asked to have sex at least three times a month during the study and fill out questionnaires. Perhaps placing their attention on their sex lives, along with their desire to improve that area of their lives was responsible for the improvement, suggest researchers. The bottom line is that if you want to improve your sex life, give it your attention and focus.

I’m sure some readers are saying, “I want a better sex life, but my partner doesn’t give it the same priority.” This is a sensitive subject to be sure, and one about which we could have experts commenting for many months. The Generous Husband offered some New Year’s suggestions for men who are hoping to have “more sex in 2011” with their wives. Paul Byerly suggests that making too big a deal out of it may imply that all you care about is sex—and may appear manipulative. Instead, he suggests discussing your sex lives at a carefully chosen time—not when your mate is tired or busy. Approach it in a gentle and positive manner, such as, “I want sex to be even better for both of us.” Getting the topic out there may help open the door for future discussions. You might offer a few suggestions if your partner is open to discuss, but work on the issue gradually, so as not to overwhelm your partner. Focus on helping your spouse enjoy sex more, and you will likely improve their interest in it, he says. Ask your partner what would make sex more enjoyable for them, what would make the bedroom more pleasant, etc.

In addition–and this should not be an after-thought–women (and many men) want to feel loved, touched and appreciated outside the bedroom to encourage more romantic thoughts and ideas. A spouse who is not feeling the love during the day will probably not be “in the mood” that evening.

Whether you’re both in the mood or not, sometimes you need to prioritize sex to keep your marriage strong. In addition, there are many physical health benefits to sex, including stress relief, burning calories, promoting cardiovascular health and reducing prostate cancer risk. Read the details here.

Do you think this research gives you any new, useful information, or is it just confirming what you already knew?

Related Links:

If you find your life is just so busy and chaotic, you don’t have much time for a sex life, consider this Wall Street Journal article in which a woman describes taking time away from her job not for her children or aging parents, but to “extend the honeymoon period” in her marriage. It also suggests some less-dramatic solutions, such as coming home 15 minutes early each day to gain 1.25 hours with your spouse a week.

Interesting quote from sexpert Ian Kerner on CNN this week: “I don’t care what anybody says, real sex with a real person is better than porn any day of the week.  At Good in Bed, we believe that porn is the equivalent of professional wrestling: phony and superficial. It’s like subsisting on a junk-food diet of Gummi bears and Gatorade when you could be having a gourmet meal.” Kerner says the increasing prevalence of porn has created a phenomenon called Sexual Attention Deficit Disorder, in which men become bored or unable to focus on real sex with a real woman. Hmmm, that is SADD.

Photo credit: ©Dmitri  Mlkitenko/PhotoXpress.com