Category Archives: Marriage

Fifty Shades of Grey: Sexual & Pornography Addictions Hurt Everyone

50-shades
Thanks to Danielle Adams of Lifestar Therapy for this guest post, which explains from a therapist’s perspective how this popular book/movie series affects the larger society.

We’ve probably all heard of Fifty Shades of Grey by now, the popular erotica book series and its accompanying films. The story follows the two main characters, Ana and Christian, and their unhealthy relationship revolving around Christian’s obsession with BDSM. And so it goes.

People’s opinions swing back and forth between extremes: it’s trashy – it’s just dirty fun –  it empowers women – it objectifies women. From a purely objective standpoint, the books are not great. The writing is sophomoric, the sex scenes are ridiculous, and the message is a fairly unhealthy one.

So why is it so popular? We could debate the question for hours and still not reach a consensus, but the fact of the matter remains: Ana and Christian’s abnormal relationship feeds into the idea that sexual addictions are easily overcome with merely the right motivation (i.e., the right partner), and millions of women are eating this up.

The Problem

Sexual addictions are primarily thought to develop because of a chemical imbalance in the brain, much like depression or other mental disorders, and the fact that antidepressants make a difference for some sex addicts suggests that this is correct. Studies have shown that food, drugs, and sexual interests share a common location within the brain’s circuitry. So in the same way that food sounds good when we’re hungry, abnormal sexual activity sounds good to a sex addict when they feel that urge. The addicted brain tricks the body with powerful chemical rewards when the sexual urge is fulfilled. In this way, self-destructive behavior is rewarded and therefore continued, even though the rational mind knows that it’s a problem.

This brain chemistry explanation especially helps to make sense of why accomplished, successful, rational people, men and women, can be just as susceptible to sex addictions as anyone else. A chemical imbalance in your brain is every bit as real as a broken arm or a gash in your leg.

There are many negative consequences of sexual addictions, including greater risk of STDs, low self-esteem, lack of intimacy, inability to maintain healthy relationships, and sometimes even legal trouble. And the harm doesn’t stop with the addicted person; there is often collateral damage. Partners discover the affairs and feel betrayed, family members become aware of the lying and sneaking around and find themselves overwhelmingly disillusioned.

The Fifty Shades Effect

One of the problems with Fifty Shades of Grey is the happy ending. Sexual addictions take years of struggle to overcome. Much of the time they are never really cured; coping mechanisms are put in place and practiced, the behaviors may stop, and the person can resume normal life and pursue healthy relationships, but sometimes it’s a lifelong battle.

Christian and Ana are able to work through his issues and emerge stronger for it, but in the real world, addictions are not resolved so neatly.

Oftentimes, the addict will not get the help he or she needs, or the relationship cannot survive the effects of the betrayal.

If you have someone with a sexual addiction in your life, try to remember that it has nothing to do with you. There is nothing you did or could do to cause it, and it is not your responsibility to “cure” them. Be supportive and encouraging as they seek help, but don’t neglect to look after yourself. For spouses of sex addicts, it can be helpful to attend a support group. It takes immense commitment and consistent hard work every day, but with the right tools, relationships can be repaired and addictions can become a thing of the past.

About the Author: Danielle Adams is a freelance writer who works with Lifestar Therapy. She is committed to helping people practice open communication and build healthy relationships.

 

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Invest in experiences, not more stuff

They like signposts at Rum Point!

Find your next adventure.

Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays and other gift-giving holidays often have us wondering, “What would our spouse most want to receive?” At least within our budget. Sadly, most of us can’t recall the vast majority of gifts we have given or received. Ads bombard us with the message that the more we buy, the happier we will be. But there’s a better way. Research shows that spending on experiences rather than on things brings the most happiness.

The gift of travel is a great way to make lasting memories. My memories of fancy dinners in expensive restaurants pale in comparison to a long-ago simple Parisian picnic with my husband featuring baguettes, cheese and wine. Beach memories are another favorite. Having toes in the sand seems to lower stress levels and increase playfulness. I smile when I think of our beach rental houses with kids and not much on the agenda. Although it was more than 20 years ago, lounging in a hammock in Hawaii is the image I conjure when I need to relax.

Many people think they can’t afford to travel. Yet they spend hundreds of dollars each holiday on gifts that are soon forgotten. Many airlines offer credit cards that allow you to gain frequent flyer miles for spending a minimum amount. We have used them to take two overseas adventures for four people. Adventures can also be found much closer to home, such as in state parks where lodging and camping are very reasonable.

Travel allows us to try new things together—food, cultures, activities, adventures. Experiencing new things has been shown in research to be good for keeping our marriages strong.Whether your idea of fun is a pub crawl or foodie tour, learning to surf, reading a new book together, or taking dance classes, find something you’re willing to try.

Things don’t always go as planned when traveling, but these hiccups create challenges we can overcome together and become part of the memories we can laugh at later, like the very “rustic” lodge we stayed in while white water rafting with friends, or the seafood beach picnic that attracted hundreds of seagulls. Vacations (with kids or as a couple) allow us to have large chunks of time to focus on one another and away from our many screens and devices. Travel helps us experience nature in new ways and relax our minds and bodies away from the daily stresses of life.

Planning a trip takes time and effort, but from looking forward to the trip to the positive memories left behind, it’s worth the effort and creates more lasting happiness than buying more things. Forbes magazine suggests investing in experiences, such as dining out, a trip to the spa, or buying things for other people are a better investment in long-term happiness than buying things for ourselves.  Going to a concert instead of buying a new outfit, or choosing to rent a boat instead of buying one are examples of investing well in experiences.

“Nine times out of 10 you’re much better spending money on experiences and other people than on yourself. You’re much more likely to have genuine, fulfilling happiness as a result.”–Forbes contributor Ilya Pozin

What are the trips or experiences do you remember most with your spouse? What is your favorite travel memory?

This bracelet helps me remember my trip to Maui with sand from the Hawaiian island!
bracelet

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 20 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

Can a math formula offer secret to lasting love?

I’m a “word person” more than a “math person”, so I was surprised that a mathematical formula can help us be successful in love.

The brains behind the formula is mathematician Dr. Hannah Fry who works at the UCL Center for Advanced Spacial Analysis in London. She used her unique expertise to explain in a TED Talk and book of the same name “The Mathematics of Love.” In short, Fry explains that the best predictor of long-lasting relationships is the level of positive and negative experiences with one another. She analyzed data from psychologist marriage expert John Gottman, who observed couples for many years in conversations with their partners.

As many of us know through our own experiences, happier couples have more positive interactions with one another. Couples who are less happy and at higher risk of breakup have fewer positive interactions. But there’s more to it. One of the reasons how they deal with negative situations is important is that couples with lots of positivity give one another the benefit of the doubt when their partner is negative. They dismiss a negative comment or action as unusual and may attribute it to fatigue or stress at work. Those in more negative relationships tend to do the reverse. A negative comment is considered “typical” or “normal” and the actions are attributed to the person. For example, a grumpy comment may reinforce the thought that the partner is selfish or unkind. The negativity then can spiral downward.

We may not realize our daily reactions and interactions with our spouse can influence our relationship so much. A spouse who agrees or encourages in response to a comment is likely to receive a positive response back. A spouse who interrupts, dismisses or ignores is likely to receive a negative response back, and perhaps start a spiral down to more frustration or anger. One of the largest predictors of divorce was therefore related to positive or negative reactions, with more positive couples having a low risk of divorce and more negative couples having a high risk of divorce.

The surprising twist is that Fry surmised that the best relationships would have a “high negativity threshold” bringing up issues only if they were very important. The opposite was true. “The most successful relationships are the ones with really low negativity threshold,” Fry writes. They constantly repair the tiny issues between them, not allowing any to grow and fester. So while they have more positive interactions, they are not afraid to have a negative interaction if it means repairing part of the relationship that needs to be fixed. Perhaps they have a more positive or gentler way of addressing those issues if positivity is their more frequent pattern.

Fry’s formula also factors in the wife’s or husband’s mood when alone and with their spouse. If you want the formula and its explanation, check out her Ted Talk. It’s in the last third of the talk, following math tips for online dating and how to pick the perfect partner. Incidentally, she says the formula works the same for two spouses as it does for two countries in an arms race.

Divorce Booms in January

shadow couple morguefile
The holidays can be a stressful time for marriages that are already  having difficulties. In fact, January is the month when most divorces are filed. The following post has some interesting thoughts and advice for those who may find themselves considering what you once thought was unthinkable. Are you 100% certain that you have thought about every angle of this decision? Read “Thinking of filing for divorce in January? Read this first.” I highly recommend it.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 20 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

Monthly Date Night May be Marriage-Saving

1401775545unb46 A new study indicates regular date nights can have a significant impact on making your marriage last. The time commitment isn’t terribly difficult to achieve; monthly dates lowered the odds of splitting up by 14 percent over 10 years. Because date nights can be boring or hard to schedule, I’ll include links to plenty of ideas to refresh your regular dates.

Interestingly, the monthly date night effect only applied to married couples in the study. The University of Lincoln’s Professor Steve McKay used data from 10,000 mothers in the UK who were either married or cohabitating. Cohabiting couples who dated did no better than those who did not go on dates.

The researchers suggest regular date nights reinforce the importance of the relationship. Because their relationship is founded on a public commitment, the date night reinforces this commitment. “The date has a meaning and a purpose,” they say. For cohabitating couples who may have an element of ambiguity in their relationship, “a night out is a night out.”

The bottom line is that occasional date nights “bring added stability to the relationship between new parents.” While married couples without children were not included in the study, researchers say it is plausible that the result will reinforce commitment at any stage of marriage.

Schedule those monthly date nights, and consider trying a new activity or location for your dates. Are there seasonal activities you enjoy, such as apple picking, apple pie eating, or pumpkin carving for the fall, decorating your Christmas tree or going sledding/skiing in the winter? Taking a walk or bike ride may help those who don’t want to spend money or splurge on calories for big dinners. Cooking a themed dinner at home can help you manage budget and healthfulness.

The following list of 50 date ideas was so popular that the author wrote 50 more date night ideas. So, I’ll include links to all 100 date ideas. If none of them suits you, make your own list to choose from. The important thing is to spend time together (not staring at a screen). Read The Benefits of Monthly Date Nights for Married Couples for more info.

50 Things to Do (Other than Movies)

50 More Things to Do Together

What are your favorite date ideas with your spouse? Do you prefer going to your favorite restaurant or trying something new? Whatever your preferences, put it on the calendar for a long-lasting marriage.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 20 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

5 Reasons to Affirm Your Spouse

confident woman morguefile

A leadership blog by Michael Hyatt shared why speaking well of our spouses in public is key. He shared two personal examples of leaders he knew. One (a pastor) frequently made disparaging, although sometimes humorous or kidding, remarks about his spouse, while the other spoke only positively and affectionately. You can guess which one ended in affairs and divorce, and which one survived 60 years and counting.

Isn’t it easy to share when our spouse does something wrong or makes a mistake? Our brain naturally focuses on the negative. On the other hand, praising one’s spouse in public is rare, but effective for 5 reasons, he says.

  1. You get more of what you affirm—notice the good stuff, reinforce that behavior, and get more of what you appreciate.
  2. Affirmation shifts your attitude—most people align their words with their attitudes, helping them feel more positively about their spouse as they speak well of him/her.
  3. Affirmation strengthens their best qualities—your spouse can perceive areas in which he or she is being praised or appreciated, helping them realize and increase their areas of strength.
  4. Affirmation wards off temptation—as you speak well of your spouse, others recognize you are happily married. It’s “like a hedge that protects your marriage from would-be predators. It will keep you out of compromising positions. Talk about your spouse publicly, positively, and often. It’s adultery repellent,” says Hyatt.
  5. Affirmation provides a model for those around you—at work and in your community, you are modeling how to speak well of your spouse. For those in leadership positions, it’s a demonstration of how you treat the people you value most.

Examples of what you may want to praise in public are character attributes (kindness, generosity, hard-working) or actions (he really came through when I needed a hand today). Some people I know just have a way of referring to their spouse (my beautiful bride) that lets others know their feelings up front.

Give affirmation a try today, then make it a daily habit.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 20 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

How Does Media Use Affect Your Marriage?

LADY HOLDING PHONE morguefile
Does gaming or social media use affect marriage satisfaction? Sometimes.

A study by Utah State University researchers assessed how social media, television watching and gaming affects marital conflict, perceived instability and marital satisfaction. Researchers Jeffrey Dew and Sarah Tulane surveyed 3,455 people for this study. There were some interesting gender differences and similarities depending on which area of media was studied. TV use did not appear to have much of an effect of marriage quality. However, they found some interesting correlations with social media and gaming.

Social Media

They found wives often used social media more than their husbands, but that this difference didn’t correlate with more marital dissatisfaction. However, when husbands spent more time on social networking than their wives, they and their wives were more likely to report marital conflict.

The researchers surmised that husbands who perceived their marriage to be unstable might have been using social media to strengthen other relationships or develop new relationships (including romantic ones).

Gaming

When both partners spent the same amount of time gaming, it did not appear to affect marriage quality. However, if either the wife or the husband spent more time playing, this was associated with higher conflict, lower satisfaction and higher perceived instability for their marriage. Researchers were surprised there were not more gender differences with gaming.

Bottom Line

The researchers warn that it is difficult to draw clear cause-and-effect conclusions from their data, but they advise talking to your spouse about expectations as a couple, including how much media use is acceptable for you both.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 20 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.