Tag Archives: Communication

The Real Secret to Marriage: Forgiveness

When I was first married I remember people saying “communication is the key to a happy marriage.” Or even, “the three keys to a strong marriage are communication, communication and communication.” At the time, I agreed.

I do not want to discount the importance of effective communication with your spouse. Organizations like PowerofTwoMarriage offer great skill building in this area, and I continue to try to improve my own communication skills. However, I don’t think it’s the most important skill or trait in marriage. After 16 years of being married, I think forgiveness is more important. I say that being blessed to never have had anything huge to forgive. But whether big or small things get under your skin, a lack of forgiveness in marriage has the power to destroy it and lead you closer to divorce.

I wrote of a wonderful couple’s ability to forgive the big stuff in this post for Simple Marriage recently. It’s called: Forgiveness is a gift for the giver and the receiver. Check it out, and then let me know if you agree that forgiveness is one of the keys to your happy relationship. I write about a very difficult thing to forgive, infidelity.  The article also includes tips from Dr. Scott Haltzman on how to effectively seek forgiveness. It’s not easy, but it’s well worth it.

When we learn to seek and give forgiveness, we can have peace and love in our homes. We can be happy to come home and happy to spend time with our spouse. What do you think is the toughest fault to forgive?

NOTE:
My new book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available–just in time for Christmas. Go here for links to Amazon print version or e-books for Kindle, iTunes, Nook or e-book. If you’ve already bought the book, don’t forget to email me for your 7 free marriage improvement gifts, including everything from an e-book to improve your sex-life to date night suggestions, an iPhone app with daily marriage tips, a marriage refresher workbook, a video to hone your communication skills, and tips for how to connect on a daily basis with your spouse in just 15 minutes a day.

Photo courtesy of  freeditigalphotos.net by Savit Keaw Tavee.

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Take Responsibility for Your Own Relationship Happiness

During this busy holiday season, don’t forget to carve out some time with your spouse. I recommend these three powerful questions spouses ask one another.  Hopefully you are scheduling at least 10 to 20 minutes a day to connect with your spouse, even when you’re busy. These are great discussion questions so that you don’t end up talking about your to-do list, the kids and the unfinished chores.

And now I’d like to share a guest post from relationship coach, speaker and author of Secrets of Happy Couples, Kim Olver. Kim reminds us that even if we are a part of a couple, we need to function independently and be responsible for our own happiness. It’s not our partner’s job to complete us or make us happy.

You Complete Me . . . NOT!

Tom Cruise said it in Jerry McGuire . . . “You complete me.” It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s sad if it’s really true. If you want to create a relationship that works, you want to be a whole, fully functioning person when you enter it. You also want the other person in the relationship to be a whole, fully functioning person, too. When you both bring your fullest, most authentic selves to the relationship, you are stacking the odds in your favor.

So the obvious question is, “How do I figure out who my fullest self is?” You’ll know because you will feel complete all by yourself. When you are alone, you won’t feel lonely. You appreciate being with others and even having a special someone in your life but they aren’t necessary for your happiness. You complete yourself. You are enough. You are special and unique and you don’t need another person to validate your worth. Here are some steps to take when you find yourself in the Alone Stage of Relationships to move you toward your fullest self.

Whenever you are between relationships, it’s important to do some serious introspection. There are many things to consider. First, what part did you play in your past relationship not working out. It’s very easy to blame the other person and certainly they had a part to play. But so did you.

You want to spend some time thinking about why you chose the person. Are you not discriminating enough and settling for partners who do not suit you? Do you use a lot of criticism in your relationships? Do you give and give and give until you have nothing left to give? Do you have so many deal breakers that it is virtually impossible for a person to meet your standards?

Time alone does not mean time to feel sorry for yourself or time to hop from one relationship to another, although these are options many people choose. If you want to have successful relationships, there are lessons for you to learn along way. When you are in between relationships, it’s a great time for self-reflection. Take the time to look at the role you played in your relationship not working out. There are always two people in your relationship and each has a part to play in either the success for failure of the relationship. Look to see what your role was.

Then, the second step to take is to create your list for your ideal mate. What are the qualities, skills and characteristics you are seeking in a life partner? Get very clear about the things you can’t live without. These are your deal breakers. You want to be sure you are spending time with people who can meet your non-negotiables. Deal breakers vary from person to person.

When you don’t know what your deal breakers are, then you will often waste time in relationships that are not good for you. Deal breakers might include infidelity, violence, child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, financial irresponsibility, and level of physical activity. These are usually things that are totally offensive to your value system. Get serious about what they are so you can discriminate when someone has the propensity toward one of your deal breakers and stop wasting your time and theirs.

On the other hand, you don’t want to have so many deal breakers that no one but a fictitious Prince Charming could ever live up to them. In this case, whenever you begin a new relationship, you are looking for the flaws and cracks. And when you look that hard, you are destined to find them! No one will be able to pass the “test.”

You then want to compile a list of the things that are important to you in a relationship. Things like income, intimacy, attractiveness, type of employment, friends, extended family members, hobbies, etc. When you begin a new relationship, you will want to know this person possesses a good percentage of the things you want in a life partner. If you don’t know what those qualities are, then you will settle for anybody, thus setting yourself up for constant dissatisfaction.

You may also create a list of bonus qualities that would be awesome for your partner to possess but it’s not necessary, essential or even important. They are just bonuses.

Once you have your list and you can almost picture your perfect partner, then it’s time to take a long, hard look in the mirror. You need to ask yourself, “Am I the person my perfect partner would be attracted to? Would my perfect partner want me?”

If your answer is yes, then great! You already are your fullest, most authentic self. However, if you are seeking a person who would never be attracted to the person you are now, then you have some self-development ahead of you. Ask yourself who would you be if you were the perfect complement for your perfect partner? What kinds of things would you do and not do? What would you have in your life? What kind of person would you be?

Once you have identified who you want to be, then you want to begin the process of reinventing yourself into the person you want to be so you can attract the mate you want into your life. When you become your fullest, most authentic self, are clear about whom you want to share your life with, and understand you relationship patterns, then you have vastly increased the chances that your next relationship will be your best relationship thus far. Enjoy the journey!

Only a few more days before my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage, is out! It will be available December 8th on Amazon.com and in various e-book formats at  www.LoriDLowe.com.  The book’s Facebook page is www.Facebook.com/LastingBliss. Please help me spread the word. Thank you!

 Photo by David Castillo Dominici courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

The Problem with Compromise in Marriage

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

True or False?  Marriage involves plenty of compromise.

Marriage therapist Corey Allen, PhD, explains in this insightful post why compromise isn’t helpful in your marriage. In fact, he says it can be causing a lot of damage in your relationship. This seems counter-intuitive to much of the advice we read and hear about, so I wanted to delve into this further.

The problem with compromise, says Allen, is that it involves both spouses to make concessions, and both parties go away feeling dissatisfied. In addition, there is usually an expected reciprocity when one party gives in. This leads to keeping score and unmet expectations, which we know can cause conflict.

“True compromise can only occur when two equally powerful people both clearly state their needs,” says Allen, adding that only then can they work on a mutually satisfactory solution. The solution may take some creativity or seeking an option that is not already on the table, but often both people can end up happier if they both keep their needs at the forefront.

My husband and I redecorated our family room this spring, and we both had strong feelings about what we wanted. It took months of shopping (which neither of us enjoyed) before we pieced together the elements we were both happy with. It may have been easier for one of us to compromise, but now that it’s done, we are both pleased that we each got what we wanted.

Sometimes the less outspoken spouse has a tendency to go along with what the other person wants. He or she doesn’t want to make waves, and finds it is easier to just give in on something. However, each instance of coming away unhappy can lead to a little bit more resentment and feeling of powerlessness.

 There are a few questions I still have about this issue, and I’m glad to hear Allen will be doing a follow-up post to further explain. There are several points I would make, and I’d really like to get more views on this:

  1. I do think that we still need to be very willing to hear one another out and give each other our influence and encouragement. Sometimes it really helps to hear the other’s reason for wanting something. We may change one another’s perspective before even solving the problem. How we discuss an issue has so much to do with the outcome.
  2. When we are in the midst of a conflict in which both spouses’ heels are dug in, I think sometimes—rarely—one person does need to “give in” or agree to disagree. I’ve interviewed mature couples who are able to do this and respect each other even more for it. It seems I may disagree with the experts on this. If something is not a deal breaker, and it’s gone unresolved after working hard, something’s got to give.
  3. Getting our needs met doesn’t mean we always get what we want. For instance, if one spouse wants a new boat and the other a new car, and there is limited money, we can’t get them both. We can’t use the marriage advice not to compromise as an excuse to be irresponsible and do what we want no matter the consequences.

Let’s hear your viewpoints on this. Do you compromise in your marriage? Do you feel your needs go unmet? Is one person likely to give in regularly? Do you think give and take is a bad or good thing?

Photo courtesy of Stockvault.net by Radu Mihai Onofrei

Happy Couples Give Spouses Their Attention

“Happily married couples respond to one another’s bids for attention 86 percent of the time,” says Dr. Michele Gannon in an article for Hitched Magazine. She continues, “They ask one another questions, communicate understanding and respond positively when their spouse asks them to. They say ‘Yes’ to one another as often as possible. However, research has found that in unhappy marriages, couples respond to one another only 30 percent of the time.”

This finding intrigued me, and made me pause ask myself when my husband and I interrupt one another, how often we offer our full attention. I don’t think I’m nearly up to 86 percent, and frequently ask for a minute to finish what I’m doing. Whether it’s for something fun or something important, I’m going to work on providing my attention when asked. Ask yourself if you might improve in this area with your spouse, and even with your children.

Some other interesting research-proven habits for happy marriages Dr. Gannon shared in the article include showing admiration and fondness for one another, prioritizing affection and sex, making time for one another, helping one another grow, and cultivating forgiveness.

Forgiveness is one of the keys to a happy marriage in my opinion, and an area in which we can all make improvements. So I read with interest Dr. Fred Luskin’s forgiveness steps. In part, he advises:  “Successful forgiveness requires that we allow ourselves to feel deeply our hurt, disappointment and anger. We need to ask ourselves whether the betrayal or disappointment is a deal breaker or not. If we stay in the relationship, we need to allow ourselves to feel our pain, soothe ourselves, and then be willing to widen our hearts, surrender and risk pain and disappointment again. All of this can happen even if our partner is not willing to take responsibility and change.”

The research findings are from the web site Greater Good Science. I found it to be a truly interesting resource with lots of research-based advice on living a more fulfilling life. For instance, “How well do you know your partner?” shares that knowing your partner’s long-term life goals will make your relationship more satisfying in the future.

Another interesting article I read recently is “The line between no expectations and doormat” by Patty Newbold at Assume Love. It’s about how our expectations can get in the way of our love. Here’s an excerpt:

“You are not a doormat if you take out the trash when your husband fails to. If you were not married, there would be trash to deal with. If you take out trash AND have a husband to love you, you are well ahead of the game. Where you shoot yourself in the foot is when you let yourself expect that if your husband loved you, he would do more around the house or be as prompt as you are with chores. Now, you have trash to take out and what looks like an unloving husband, even though it’s the same husband and the same bag of trash. And while you’re stewing over the garbage, you may very well miss out on some great loving. He might have walked in the door ready to kiss you, but turned right around when he sensed your mood. He might have wanted to tell you he sucked it up at work today and did not quit on the spot because of his commitment to your wellbeing.”

In sum, she says, “When I let go of my expectations, I was completely shocked by how much love I could see in my marriage.” I’ll be interterviewing Patty Newbold soon and sharing her incredible story with you.

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Happy Memorial Day and many thanks to our veterans and to their families.

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Memoir Marriage Book Delivers Honesty & Hope

I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy of Project: Happily Ever After—saving your marriage when the fairytale falters, by Alisa Bowman. I interviewed Alisa several months ago here, and many of you expressed interest and excitement about her upcoming book. I’m happy to report the book lives up to the high expectations. Alisa delivers three important factors in this memoir-style marriage book: entertainment, education, and hope.

The premise: Alisa began her marriage with a man who seemed to adore her, but who then appeared to mutate into an apathetic, unhelpful husband and father. Alisa started to dream about his death, because then she wouldn’t have to divorce him, and she and her daughter could go on with their lives.

Suffice it to say the book is honest—much more honest than I would have the courage to be if I were in her shoes. Things get interesting when she is convicted by a friend who asks her what she is doing to save her marriage. When she realizes she hasn’t lifted a finger, and in fact hasn’t even been sharing her feelings of despair with her husband, she starts on a quest to read a pile of marriage books and implement their suggestions. The book includes many of her learnings and how their implementation helped improve their marriage.

I won’t ruin the twists and turns for you, but Alisa promotes that within a few months, she and her husband are renewing their marriage vows and building a solid life together. Somewhere along the line, Alisa realizes that her lack of communication and her negative perceptions were contributing a great deal to her marital failure. Her husband also makes some important changes when he becomes aware of her feelings and struggles. (You see, he couldn’t read her mind, and really didn’t have a clue about what she was going through.)

For couples who may have lost that early spark in their marriage, or even for individuals who are considering divorce or separation, Project: Happily Ever After is an important read. She doesn’t advocate staying in any marriage, but she does give plenty of tips for figuring out whether yours is worth staying in.

Did I mention it’s funny and entertaining? Well, if you read Alisa’s Project: Happily Ever After blog, you won’t be surprised by this fact. She tackles any topic with wit and her trademark honesty.

The book is available for pre-order here and will be coming out next month. Get your copy while it’s hot off the press! Watch Alisa’s sweet video here, and learn about how her falling-out-of-love story turned into a falling-back-in-love story.

Even though I’ve already read a free copy of the book, I plan to buy another copy in hopes of helping another marriage. Alisa even sweetens the deal by offering a free 81-page e-book for anyone who orders by January 31st. Along with the free book, you can enter to win a free Kindle, a romantic get-away, and more. Find the giveaway details here.

I want to congratulate Alisa for succeeding in both the marriage journey, as well as the publishing journey!

How Wives Can Learn to Speak the Language of Men & Get Their Attention!

Of course all men do not speak alike. My brother, for instance, uses sports analogies in business: “This is a slam dunk!” Meanwhile, my husband has minimal interest in or connection to sports. However, there is a common communication thread with most of the men I know, and Scott Haltzman, MD, puts his finger on this commonality in his book The Secrets of Happily Married Women. In the book, he suggests wives need to learn to speak the language of men, which he calls Man-ese. (It’s just one of the interesting secrets I learned about when reading this book.)

Dr. Haltzman says men tend to be very direct and objective. They make their point, then they’re done. Think about a high-level business meeting and how everyone tries to communicate only the key nuggets of information. Women, meanwhile, are more subjective talkers who enjoy discussing feelings and details of daily events, storytelling, context, etc. (Yep, that’s me.) For women, this type of conversation doesn’t lack purpose. However, men who are listening may not be able to remain focused for the entire length of the conversation, even if they try.

Blame it on biology. Dr. Haltzman says the male brain is just not set up for what we are seeking, and that women should not expect their man to talk like a woman. Instead, happy couples should respect their communication differences.  I hear some of you saying, “But my sweetheart used to listen to me for hours and ask me all about my day. Now he doesn’t seem to show the same level of concern.” Again, blame it on biology. During the dating phase, Dr. Haltzman says dopamine and norepinephrine are at their highest levels, making us more talkative and more focused on others’ interests. As the relationship proceeds, the hormone levels fall, along with the constant in-depth communication. (However, you can boost those hormones by participating in new and exciting activities.)

What’s the solution? Wives can usually sense the body language that dear hubby is tired or losing interest. Use the “Talk Less” strategy to get your point across rather than criticizing him for not talking enough or not listening well enough. Here’s how it works:

1. Put your point up front. The average female’s attention span is 15 minutes, while the average male attention is five minutes. Get your point out fast before you lose him, especially if you see his focus wandering. 

“I honestly believe that this small change in your communication style, all by itself, has the power to drastically improve your relationship with your husband, making you both oh so much happier,” says Dr. Haltzman.

2. Use fewer words. Did you ever realize that people who talk less are more closely listened to? The more you talk, the less people listen.

3. Speak in his language. Don’t meander and hint about your point. (They don’t get it.) Be simple and direct. Instead of giving all the reasons you won’t have time to make dinner, ask him to pick up take-out. When you need ice cream, a back rub or a hug, ask for it!

4. Give him time to respond. He may be thinking of the best way to respond.

5. Watch your timing. Remember that while women are natural multi-taskers (there I go generalizing again), men usually do not possess this skill. (Although my dear hubby is amazingly skilled in so many areas, he can only do one task at a time.) If you talk to your guy when he is otherwise engaged, he will probably not be able to hear you or remember your conversation at a later point. Remove distractions (including hunger) when possible.

In short, Dr. Haltzman advises being concise and direct. Then you’ll only have to make your point once.

So, do you agree with this description of Man-ese? Do you sometimes find yourself talking and not being heard? Does your sweetie sometimes miss your point entirely or forget what you asked him to do? Share your feedback if you give this “Talk Less” strategy a try.

Photo ©NiDerLander/PhotoXpress

Use Business Skills to Win in Your Relationship

Tennessee Entrepreneur Louis Upkins Jr. published the following tips in a Business Week article called Manage Your Marriage Like a Business to help successful businesspeople use their work skills to help their marriages. Specifically, he recommends consistent excellent customer service strategies rather than “working at” a great marriage.  

I think he offers excellent advice. He also reminds us that “a wide body of research suggests that the status of our marriages influences our well-being at least as much as the status of our finances.” He says he is amazed by the number of successful executives who on the surface seem to “have it all,” but who fully admit they are anything but happy. Here’s a summary of his ideas; link to his article for more details:

  1. Know your customer. Stay in tune with your spouse’s changing needs, hopes, and concerns. If you’re not sure what they are, ask.
  2. Earn their business every day. Just as you would impress clients with attention and treat them with respect, do the same for your partner.
  3. Don’t make excuses. Customers (and spouses) want solutions, not excuses. When you make a mistake, acknowledge your error, and then fix it.
  4. Work on a win-win strategy. Regularly ask your spouse, “What can I do to help you be successful?” Then follow through with what they need. Use your planning skills to balance the family’s needs, for example if one spouses is putting their career on hold to raise children.
  5. Mix business with pleasure. “We seldom give our spouses the rewarding experiences we give our best customers. Find ways to inject new life into your relationship via activities that have no purpose other than to say, ‘You matter.’”

Upkins reminds professionals that they strive for excellence on the job, and they shouldn’t settle for anything less of themselves at home. In fact, the skills acquired on the job can help you retain your most valuable customer, your spouse.

What other business skills do you think come in handy in your marriage? What necessary skill sets for marriage are very different from what you learn at work?

Photo Credit: ©PhotoXpress.com