Feel like your marriage needs a big change?

woman walking morguefileOne prominent family law firm reports the third Monday of January is the busiest day for divorce lawyers. However, they say that many couples see a lawyer in hopes of trying to salvage the relationship.

I’d rather see those people marching off to marriage counselors, but it begs the question: Why the end of January?

Things have settled down after the holidays. Expectations for those holidays may not have been met. Many people drink more during the holiday season. Cold weather may create cabin fever or winter blues. Visits with extended family can add additional stress. The New Year causes us to reevaluate our lives and ask if we are achieving or receiving all that we could be. (It’s a rather consumer-oriented perspective, but we often can’t help ourselves.)

All of these factors and more can contribute to a feeling of malaise. Many of these factors cause stress but are not directly related to a “bad marriage.” It’s just hard to have a good marriage if one or more of the spouses are depressed or stressed out. A spouse may get the blame for not “doing enough” to help us out or to make us happy.

Still, even people who visit a marriage counselor, or worse, a divorce lawyer, often don’t want a divorce. They just want a change. There are many possible solutions or changes that can improve one’s outlook on life while keeping the marriage intact.

Do you want more time with your spouse? Do you despise your job or the city you live in? Do you need firmer boundaries with your in-laws, or wish for a quick getaway to a warm climate? Or are there deeper issues that a therapist might help you overcome?

Feeling like your marriage needs a complete overhaul? Check the calendar, and realize it might be time to seriously consider a number of changes. But keep your spouse.

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.

Ultimate Intimacy? Money Talk

money morguefileFinancial experts say some American couples resist financial discussions. They say couples who avoid money talk are avoiding the ultimate form of intimacy. Open financial communication is one way couples can prevent conflict or resentment over finances.

American men and women polled by TD Bank view marital finances differently, with more men calling themselves “breadwinners” and more women viewing the family’s money as “ours” (54%), compared to 48% of men saying the same.

One in three people committed financial infidelity last year, and 40% don’t know how much their partner earned—according to other recent studies.

Talking honestly, early, and regularly about finances helps prevent divisions, say experts, as well as using a joint account for joint expenses.

Who pays the bills, invests the money, and makes the financial goals in your home? Are you both up to date on accounts, debts and activities?

I’ve found using a third party financial expert to review and regularly update finances helps us both stay informed. It also keeps one spouse from having most of the financial responsibility for key decisions on financial planning or investing. We feel strongly that both spouses should be financially prepared and informed–including insurance accounts, bank accounts, etc. Check your beneficiaries to be sure there are no surprises in the event of death or disability.

What’s your strategy for financial transparency in your marriage? Do you need to schedule a money talk?

Source: USA Today

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 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.

Top 15 Sources of Relationship Conflict

back of couple morguefileIt helps to acknowledge a problem before we can begin to address it. And it helps to know where the potential pitfalls are if we hope not to end up in one. The following top 15 sources of conflict in a relationship are a starting point to pinpointing potential relationship problems. Think of your own behavior first, rather than on your spouse’s behavior.

If you need to address one or more of these items with your partner, avoid sentences that begin with “you always” or other blaming words. Consider a friend or counselor to assist with serious concerns.

Researcher Dr. Gary Lewandowski of Science of Relationships cited the following as the most common sources of conflict, from most commonly mentioned to least. He says being aware of trouble spots may help you both attempt to avoid them.

Your partner is…
1) Condescending (i.e., treats you as stupid or inferior, acts like he/she is better than you
2) Possessive, jealous, and/or dependent (i.e., demands too much attention or time; generally acts jealous/possessive/dependent)
3) Neglecting, rejecting, and/or unreliable (i.e., ignores your feelings, doesn’t call, doesn’t say they love you, etc.)
4) Abusive (i.e., slaps, spits, hits, calls names or is verbally abusive)
5) Unfaithful (i.e., had sex with another person, saw someone intimately, or went out with another partner)
6) Inconsiderate (i.e., doesn’t help clean up, burps in your face, leaves toilet seat up or down!, etc.)
7) Physically self¬-absorbed (i.e., worries too much about appearance, focuses too much on hair or face, spends too much on clothes, etc.)
8) Moody (i.e., moody, emotionally unstable, or bitchy)
9) Sexually withholding or rejecting (i.e., refuses to have sex, doesn’t act interested, or is a sexual tease…but not in a playful way)
10) Quick to sexualize others (i.e., talks about attractiveness of others, talks about others as sex objects, idolizes someone on TV, etc.)
11) Abusive with alcohol and/or is emotionally constricted (i.e., drinks too much, smokes too much, or hides emotions in order to appear tough)
12) Disheveled (i.e., doesn’t dress well, doesn’t groom well, and doesn’t take care of his/her appearance)
13) Insulting toward your appearance (i.e., says you’re ugly or insults aspects your appearance)
14) Sexually aggressive (i.e., uses you for sex or forces sex on you)
15) Self-centered (i.e., selfish or always thinks of him/herself first)

What surprised you about the list? I was surprised that condescension was so much more commonly mentioned than self-centeredness, but condescending words or attitudes easily stir up anger and resentment and may come to mind easily.

Read the list again and try to thinking about how you can do or be the opposite of these. For example, how to be considerate, kind, faithful, etc. to your spouse.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 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.

Two common patterns that can lead to divorce

couple talk morguefileAccording to the Gottman Institute, two common patterns often reveal when a couple is likely to end up in an early divorce or late divorce.

Couples who don’t make it more than a few years after their wedding day are those who are stuck in a negative cycle, says John Gottman, University of Washington psychologist and founder of the Gottman institute.

What does it mean to get stuck in a negative cycle? The negative interactions and responses become so common as to be rather automatic, and the partner responds in kind to that negativity with more negativity. The friendship and affection that began in the relationship fades further and further into the background.

“This negativity becomes all-encompassing. They check in but they don’t check out. It’s like the roach hotel model. There’s a rapid deterioration of intimacy and friendship where they become one another’s adversary instead of one another’s friends,” he explains.

It may seem rather obvious that these couples are doomed to fail. However, it is our natural reaction to lash out with negativity when we feel attacked. Either partner can stop this cycle by refusing to participate and by learning to build the friendship and affection back in. Of course, real problems may need to be addressed, but often we over-react to small perceived failings or slights. For instance, if your spouse forgets to run an errand for you, don’t say that is a sign of lack of caring when it may be just forgetfulness or busyness. Responding with kindness or forgiveness can keep the cycle from spinning out of control. We need to have many more positive interactions than negative ones to maintain a healthy relationship.

The couples who are predicted to experience a divorce much later are those who “agree to disagree” says Gottman. Around 16 years after the wedding, at the time many parents have teens, these couples end the marriage because they refused to address their problems. In their decision to withdraw from all conflict, they didn’t resolve any real issues. As the years fly by, then may feel they are in an empty marriage. The marriage can last a long time but are called “hostile detached couples” and are often demonstrated by couples who rarely talk at meal times.

So in deciding not to participate in the negative cycles of the first type of couple, we need to not pretend to have a relationship, but rather work to actually maintain a healthy, loving relationship. Sharing time together, building and maintaining good communication and affection, and working through real problems are all part of what successful couples do.

Have you seen other couples in these cycles? Is it harder to see yourself or others falling into these patterns?
Source: Business Insider

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 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.

Making Father’s Day Memorable for Your Family

hotdogs morguefileWe talk about “honoring fathers” on Father’s Day. What does it mean to honor the fathers in our lives? We mostly celebrate by grilling hamburgers and steaks. Don’t get me wrong, many Dads are pleased with grilled meats, but maybe the concept of honor deserves a second thought.

We honor others through time spent together, words shared, thoughtful acts, and perhaps gifts or symbols of our love and appreciation.

My kids laughed flipping through the Sunday ads showing suggested Father’s Day gifts they knew their Dad would not appreciate—dumb bells, ties, and Beats headphones. They will select a couple of things that are closer to their Dad’s interests. However, research shows most Dads seek respect from the family more than the latest gadgets.

The most heartfelt stories I hear about what Dads/husbands mean to people is unfortunately at a funeral. Even young fathers need to hear how much their role means to the family.

Dads want to hear the stories of how you felt supported and loved by their actions–how you appreciate that his daily efforts at work put you through school, or his quirky personality gives you a positive life outlook, or his moral leadership has helped you create a great life with meaning. Husbands want to know you appreciate their family leadership, their physical presence, their sacrifices, and that you understand the true value of fatherhood in your home.

Time spent doing something Dad enjoys is another way to honor him. My kids used to give me gift certificates for things like “taking a walk with you”. The Generous Husband reminds us that investing in experiences (vacation, going to the movies, seeing a sports event) provides greater enjoyment and memories than purchasing things.

So, along with that pocketknife, burger, or ice cream cake, give the Dad in your life a glimpse of how you really honor him.

Have a happy Father’s Day!

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 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.

Take a Hike—With Your Spouse

boat nature morguefileIf you are looking for ways to increase your happiness level individually or as a couple, getting out into nature may give you a boost. Growing research connects being in nature and wellbeing.

A UK study that tracked more than 20,000 participants with more than a million responses concluded that people were significantly happier in natural environments as compared with urban environments.

Have a picnic in the park, take a hike, go kayaking, watch a sunset, or simply sit in a green space during your workday. These are all ways you could relax your body and mind. Doing them with your partner can help you connect outside of the usual stresses and electronic interruptions. It’s hard to worry about the laundry when you’re taking in an incredible view.

I’ve found even when I resist going on a wooded hike or boat ride, my spirit is boosted by the beauty of nature. The winter hikes this year were memorable as well. If you’re really resistant to the outdoors, bring some flowers and greenery indoors, or sit near a window with a view of nature.

Schedule a nature break; you may find it boosts your productivity as well as your wellbeing.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 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.

Are Society’s Standards Hurting Your Marriage?

cruise ship morguefileI recently read about a family’s decision to leave an expensive city lifestyle and move to a rural, laid back community to reduce stress and have more time together. It was a reminder that our lives are full of choices, and that our lifestyle is not a permanent decision. Societal standards for most Americans are putting an immense strain on families and marriages; many couples are too exhausted for physical and emotional intimacy.

The pressure to live in a large home filled with expensive furniture, to wear fashionable clothes, to send children to the best schools with private lessons, and to take nice vacations and drive new cars contributes to a perceived need to work longer hours and attain promotions. Many couples believe they can’t live on one salary, even when one of the salaries is quite high. High-end desires are promoted by the culture (through advertising, movies, Facebook, etc.) and lead to either debt or the need to earn more. The result: increased stress, and less time.

Families with children have to face additional societal pressures to join artistic, educational, and athletic teams and activities. A generation ago, a baseball team would practice perhaps one day a week in addition to a weekend game. Today’s sports teams often require daily practices and most of the weekend. Many kids I know practice before and after school every day, plus weekends. Ballet, piano, swim, French, band, soccer—the options are endless and costly, and the pressure to join starts very early. Family time suffers, and budgets are strained. Parents often divide on weekends to cover all the activities, making weekends as much work as the weekday.

Where does the marriage fit in when you haven’t had time to connect during the week or the weekend? Resentment can build when one or both spouses feel they are doing more (of the childcare, of the chores, or earning the money).

If only one spouse is working, he or she may feel compelled to focus on work to fulfill the family’s needs and wants. A lack of connection can develop if not enough time is spent with one’s spouse and family, hurting the relationship and getting in the way of a good sex life.

Millennials are starting to pave the way with prioritizing work/life balance above climbing the corporate ladder. Building balance into our lives allows us to nurture our relationships.

There’s nothing wrong with living in a nice home, driving a nice car, and taking your kids to soccer practice. However, if societal pressures are preventing a quality family life, consider what changes could be made. Are you willing to live in a smaller house to have more time together? Could you drop out of some activities and have more free time together?

When my family found ourselves spread too thin and separating for sporting activities on the weekend, we pulled my son out of the travel soccer team. Instead, we found ourselves enjoying relaxing Saturdays as a family, and able to go to church at our regular time on Sunday. We adjusted our lives so that I could work part-time, allowing me to do much of the shopping, laundry and chores during the week.

I don’t think we have won the battle against all of society’s expectations. One struggle we often have is the high volume of homework and studying our kids complete each night, sometimes requiring our support. The pressure to help our kids succeed is high and time consuming. This stress can also bleed into the marriage relationship and keep us from having time to relax as a couple.

We are blessed to have our children at home, and we also look forward to different phases of our lives. To be successful and have a happy marriage once our children are gone, we need to make time and space for one another now. We make frequent changes to try to achieve better balance, and at least question the activities in which we are involved. Balance is a moving target.

If you think your marriage is getting put on the back burner, sit down individually and as a couple to determine what changes are possible to give you more of the life you want.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 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.