Tag Archives: tips for better marriage

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.”

Blogger Educates Men on Getting Lucky with Wives

Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

When eight women get together to talk openly about love, sex, and marriage, it can be a very eye-opening experience. Sarah Barton (not her real name) found such value in these discussions with her friends that she opted to make those talks public with the blog, Anonymous8, on the condition that they all keep their identities a secret. Why? For one, they want to be as honest as possible, and for two, many of the women have children old enough to be completely embarrassed by their moms’ candor. The resulting discussions are “smart discussions on taboo topics” on everything involved with love and marriage. Check out the discussions here at Anonymous8 from date night ideas to tips from a woman who needs no sex advice.

Initially designed to be a womens-only forum, Sarah found that quite a few men enjoyed lurking around to hear what women really had to say. The more she heard from men, the more she realized how frustrated some of them are about their love lives, particularly after kids come and their wife’s sex drive and available time falls. As a result, Sarah penned Getting Lucky with the Wife to help men keep their relationships fresh and to learn to communicate effectively with their wives in a way that is respectful and not nagging. This book is aimed at couples in which the husband has a higher sex drive than the wife, and it’s written for husbands who would like to increase the amount of quality sex in their marriage.

Sarah has a background in her “real life” in strategic planning, so the 60-page e-book is more than a quick read; it’s a business book about your most personal business. By following the steps, husbands end up with an action plan they can immediately begin to put into practice.

Starting by providing a knowledge base of a woman’s body, it begins with some education about why a woman’s sex drive can be different and why it doesn’t mean she isn’t attracted to her mate. He can start to understand what’s going on with his wife and then help her understand the importance of sex in his life.

Sarah then helps husbands understand what has worked in the past, whether that’s date nights, helping out at home, increasing romance, etc. There are plenty of ideas on how to change the patterns that occur in many marriages. I think the most important aspect of the book includes tips on how best to communicate with the wife about these matters in a way that isn’t blaming, demeaning or disrespectful. In fact, the husband is invited to tell the wife about the book and the steps he is taking rather than using it as a secret strategy to get into bed more often. It’s about both partners getting more of what they want and nurturing the relationship.

Sarah says if sex is important to you, fight for it. She adds that there are many ideas in the book worth trying, and even if only one idea is effective for you to improve your long-term love life, it would certainly be worth the $18 cost of the book. I think the book is an excellent tool for men and women who want to help bridge the gap between the differences in their sex drives and who wish to understand each other better. If this sounds like you, check out Getting Lucky with the Wife (affiliate link). Sarah even offers a 30-day moneyback guarantee if you think it wasn’t effective.

LINKS:
So Cute, So Hard on a Marriagea good post from the Wall Street Journal about the effects of children in a marriage and pre-emptive steps that can help.

Keys to thriving in marriage and how happily married couples can help build and support marriages from StrengtheningMarriage.com.

Considering bariatric surgery? Read about how marriage rules may change after bariatric surgery.

7 Ways to Create Sparks Every Day

Keeping the Romantic Flames Alive Series

Guest post by Lisa Shoreman

We’d all love to sustain that same feeling of butterflies in the stomach and excitement that we feel when we first start dating throughout our married years. Unfortunately, constancy and routine have a way of dulling those feelings, and other responsibilities can get in the way of making time for our partner.

Fortunately, with a few of these tips and a little time and effort, you can help revive those romantic sparks.

1. Start “Dating”

Take it all back to the beginning and start setting aside time to spend with your spouse – alone. Without the kids. Without the computers. Without the Blackberries. Do something fun and relaxing. Don’t use the time to talk about household matters or to take care of errands. Focus on each other. Go to a fancy restaurant for a romantic dinner. Take dance lessons together. Take a bike ride around the park.

Whatever you choose, be sure that you are not trying to make the time double for something else – such as exercise or taking care of chores. You can make your dates part of a regular “date night,” but be careful not to let those become something else that you have to schedule. You don’t want your dating to become another part of your routine.

2. Do Something Unexpected

Nothing kills romance faster than the same old routine. Part of what makes dating so thrilling is the unexpected – both in what you do and in the person you are with.  Break out of the dinner-and-a-movie routine and try something new. If you’re adventurous, maybe you can go parasailing or even bungee jumping. If you’re creative, try make-your-own pottery or go to karaoke. Mix it up with different types of activities.

Be unexpected in your daily lives as well. Flash your husband as he walks out of the kitchen. Surprise your wife by greeting her with dinner – wearing nothing but an apron. It doesn’t have to be sexy, just surprising. You can show up at your spouse’s office with lunch. Or come home with a movie you know your spouse will like. Even the little things can help break up the monotony.

3. Do Nice Things for No Reason

Wives have come to expect a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day – and maybe on your anniversary or her birthday. But what about sending roses when you know she’s having a bad week? Or just because you wanted to say you think she looks pretty today? Nice gestures don’t have to come with a price tag. Offer to cook dinner if you don’t usually do the cooking. Take the kids to a movie so your spouse can have a few hours alone. These gestures foster intimacy and goodwill – all of which will help you keep feeling romantic and loving towards your spouse.

4. Be Hands On

Foster physical affection through small gestures – such as a foot massage, or stroking your spouse’s hair while you lounge on the couch watching TV, or even just holding hands when you’re out in public. You don’t have to be groping one another constantly, but small gestures such as these can help foster intimacy.

5. Outlaw “Comfortable” Clothes

You don’t have to dress up every day you wake up, but it is a good idea to get rid of those clothes you’re still wearing that have holes, stains, and stretched elastic that you throw on to feel comfortable, but just make you look schleppy and maybe a little unwashed. Remember those days when you took care with your appearance and tried to look good for your girlfriend? Or when you always took care to put on your makeup for your boyfriend? Revive a little of that spirit and take care with your appearance. You don’t always have to look like you’re ready for your first date, but taking time to look nice will help keep your partner interested and keep the romance alive.

6. Create Sexy Games

Perhaps you like to role play in the bedroom. Or maybe you would enjoy exchanging naughty coupons. These fun games can bring a little sass back into your intimate relationship. Try creating a “code word” game: Think of a word that you can say, and whenever one of you says it, you have to kiss, or touch in some way, or make out. You decide the rules. Maybe you like to explore. Make it your “mission” to make out in every French restaurant in the city. Or every wine bar. Or every hiking trail. Mix it up according to your interests.

7. Laugh Together

Laughter is the best medicine in almost any scenario. Couples that laugh together have fun together and are able to be more intimate together. Even First Lady Michelle Obama said that the secret to the success of her 19-year marriage is that she and her husband can still make each other laugh. Remember to take time for one another, to not take yourselves so seriously, and to play.

Lisa Shoreland is currently a resident blogger at Go College, where recently she’s been researching types of scholarships as well as engineering scholarships. In her spare time, she enjoys creative writing, practicing martial arts, and taking weekend trips.

 Related Links:

Is Sex More Work for Women? How to get more participation, support and caring from your spouse. This article is from Psychology Today and says, “Giving to your partner what your partner needs is not an act of selflessness. It is enlightened self-interest.”

Especially for men–Can you learn The Art of the Throw Down from romance novelists?

New fact I read: Social Media has overtaken pornography as the #1 activity on the Web.

Photo Credit: ©SabrinaK/PhotoXpress.com

Can Excessive Work Outs Give Your Marriage a Beating?

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

We’re constantly being told to exercise for good health and good relationships. I think it’s true to a point, but a recent article about excessive exercising reminded me that just because something is good for you does not mean more of it is better for you. The explosion of endurance sports, such as marathons and triathlons, is placing a strain on more marriages these days.

A Workout Ate My Marriage” by Kevin Helliker of the Wall Street Journal features the wife of an endurance athlete who awakens alone every day including holidays, with her husband gone before dawn to exercise for hours. He wished her a Happy Mother’s Day from a triathlon in another state, while she stayed home to care for their three children.

In their mid-40s, they both recognize the constant training impedes their intimacy. The husband even acknowledges it’s selfish for him to take so much time away from family, in addition to his work as a banking executive. The article calls the woman an exercise widow. (Many couples joke about the golf widow left at home when the husband spends excessive nights and weekends on the golf course.)  He rises and leaves before anyone in the house. He arrives home from work after the family has had dinner, and falls asleep before the children because of his exhaustion from exercise and early hours.

A marriage counselor quoted in the article says this is a new trend — that more couples are coming into her office with an excessive focus on fitness. I admit I’ve known others who have fallen prey to the obsession. One woman I know became so obsessed with her body that her husband believed she cared more about her long morning run than caring for her children. Then, plastic surgery helped her “perfect” her body, only for her to have an affair with another man. Nothing her husband said could dissuade her from the desire for fitness above all else. The marriage ultimately fell apart.

Indeed, some individuals who have success with losing weight and becoming fit realize they are attractive to the opposite sex. This can fuel a new sense of sexiness than can be good for the marriage, or it can lead to temptation to stray.

As I write this, my dear hubby is taking a long training run at a nearby park. He competes in occasional sprint triathlons and goes through phases of increased dedication to exercise. However, he has never put the gods of fitness above the needs of family. Much of his training takes place when he is traveling for work and keeps him from mindless TV watching.

I have great friends without children who regularly run marathons together. And she cheers him on during sprint triathlons. Their long hours of training work fine for their marriage because they do it together and because they have no children competing for their attention. This situation is ideal for them.

I have another friend whose marriage thrives on her husband taking long—very long—bike rides. She says it’s good for their marriage because it clears his head and makes him a happier husband.

If I’m being honest, most people, like me, need more of a kick in the pants to exercise more, not less. However, an obsession with anything, even a good thing, can kill the sparks in your marriage. Even healthy habits or fun hobbies can take over one’s life. If you’re traveling every weekend to go to car shows, and your wife hates them, it’s the same problem. If your spouse frequently complains that you spend more time and adoration on something besides the marriage and family, there’s a problem.

Arizona psychologist, triathlon coach and blogger warns of “Divorce by Triathlon” and wonders aloud at the number of lonely husbands, wives and children of triathletes who are waiting for the “insanity to end.”

Whatever you’re obsessed with, keep your sanity. Don’t go over the deep end and leave your family behind. Keep the sparks in your marriage by reminding your spouse that no sport or hobby is more important than him or her.

Has fitness ever come between your marriage? Do you wish your spouse would be more dedicated to fitness? Does your partner spend too much time on a sport, hobby or other obsession?

Photo Credit: ©JimCox40/PhotoXpress.com

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

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