Tag Archives: raising children

What Have You Done For Your Marriage Today?

The Catholic Church is running public service messages and billboards in different parts of the country asking, “What have you done for your marriage today?” The campaign is aimed at encouraging people to make small investments of time and love in their marriage. Last post, we discussed how it’s so easy to give children all of our time and attention in “Who Gets More of Your Attention—Your Spouse or Your Children?”

Today, we’re looking for solutions and ways to show we care. I’m providing a couple of options—one for the busy slackers like me who often feel overwhelmed with just one additional task, and two other levels for those who want to go the extra mile. For example, one man said after reading about how many women view their bodies, he would post a note on his wife’s mirror saying, “My husband loves my body.” That’s the extra mile.

Try to focus on your spouses’ love language. I’d love for you to contribute your own ideas to these suggestions.

Show Appreciation

Level 1: Before going to sleep, thank your spouse for something he or she regularly does for you or the family. For some people, words of affirmation mean a great deal. You can even send a text or email if that is how you regularly communicate.

Level 2: Buy a card and add a note of appreciation. Leave it under his pillow.

Level 3: Write a note expressing a sincere appreciation for your spouse’s contributions and support. Mail it to work her at work or home.

Give a Gift

Level 1: Pick up a book, movie or other item your honey would enjoy. For those whose love language is gifts, this will make them feel loved. Wrap it lovingly.

Level 2: Add some fun: Plan a scavenger hunt with clues around the house from one point to another until they find the gift. Or fill balloons with cute notes that have hints.

Level 3: Buy something nice for your spouse he wouldn’t buy on his own. Present it at a special time like on a lunch date out.

Show Care

Level 1: Stock up on her favorite beverage and offer one when she is working or relaxing.

Level 2: Prepare his coffee or tea each morning as a sign of care and love.

Level 3: Clean or organize an area of the home that has been driving your spouse crazy (a closet, area of the garage, basement, etc.)

Involve the Senses

Level 1: Bring home some lovely, fragrant flowers or a scented candle or lotion. Or have them delivered to home or work.

Level 2: Bring home her FAVORITE flowers or perfume or his favorite lotion or cologne.

Level 3: Plant some pretty flowers in the yard to enjoy for months and surprise him/her.

Involve Touch

Level 1: Give frequent hugs, back scratches or loving pats/touches during the day.

Level 2: Give a foot or shoulder rub at the end of the day.

Level 2: Offer a full-body massage at your spouse’s chosen time.

Make Plans

Level 1: Hire a sitter if needed and plan a night out. Play his/her favorite song while you are out or request that it be played. (Music is emotionally bonding even when you are having some conflict.)

Level 2: Do something unusual or new like seeing a live concert or show, or participating in a new activity. (This creates excitement and closeness.)

Level 3: Plan a weekend or vacation away with just the two of you.

Commune with Nature

Level 1: Take a leisurely stroll in a nearby park or garden.

Level 2: Visit a state park together for a hike.

Level 3: Plan a surprise picnic with delicious food near uplifting natural surroundings.

Or, ignore all of these ideas and just come up with one small thing you will do today to show love—make her favorite dinner or his favorite dessert. Take care of one extra errand he had on his list. Buy some lingerie he would enjoy. Draw her a bubble bath and play her favorite tunes. Whatever makes your sweetie smile and lets them know you have been thinking of them. I think one small thing each day or week is better than a bigger act of kindness every few months. Don’t complain when your spouse doesn’t immediately reciprocate. You are doing this as an act of love, not so you can get something in return. In general, couples who are doted on do begin to think more about expressing their love in return. Some couples even find they are competitive with which spouse can come up with spontaneous or creative ways to show their love.

What are your easy or fast ideas to express kindness, love, or appreciation to your spouse?

Who Gets More of Your Attention—Your Children or Your Spouse?

I’ve often heard the advice, “The best gift you can give your children is a strong marriage.” While I strongly agree, I don’t often live it out as I should. In fact, I think we often unconsciously reverse the statement and feel that we are giving our spouse the greatest gift by loving their children. This is the hard part, because I think it’s true that loving one’s children is also a gift to our spouses. There’s nothing wrong in loving our children—except when we have nothing left for our spouses. I’ve heard too many marriages fail because the mother refocused all of her attention and energies from the husband she adored to the children to whom she now devotes every waking moment.

It is so easy to get caught up with everything kids need and want that you have little or nothing left at the end of the day for your spouse. (This can be true of childless or empty nesting couples who fill their lives with positive pursuits of work, volunteerism or time with friends.) On an average day, most of us have our jobs, laundry, cooking, shopping, bill paying, and cleaning. If you have school-aged kids like me, you are also shuttling them to and from school and various activities. With the few minutes you have in between these, you will frequently hear requests from the children for more of your time and attention. Mine often ask to read together, sit together, cook together, build something together or play pretend together. Then, of course, there’s the morning routine, the bedtime routine, the mealtime routine. At the end of the day there are lunches to make and laundry to finish.

Meanwhile, your spouse is probably not asking you for your time and attention. Either he is working or trying to help out with the various household activities and is also busy, or he has learned that asking for your attention when you are focused on the kids is a losing proposition, particularly when the children are very young. Perhaps this is why for parents who do not regularly nurture their relationship, there can be a large dip in marital satisfaction after kids arrive.

Don’t get me wrong, I think children are a great blessing—but I also think they will take all the time you give them and still ask for more. Yet, they can still thrive on maybe 90 percent of the energy you give them, allowing you to carve out some time and energy to replenish your own needs and to feed your marriage. We must better manage our time and energy so there is something left for the person we married. This is something I have to regularly remind myself to do.

Todd Sellick wrote a great post at the blog Simple Marriage recently about giving 1 percent  of your week to your spouse. Just 1 percent! (That’s about an hour and a half of together time.) Yet that one percent can make a huge difference. During that 1 percent, you are not using your  smart phone or computer. You are not watching television. You are not talking about work or the kids. You are focused on each other—having a cup of tea, taking a walk or cuddling on the couch. Read about true connectivity. That connection time will help your relationship flourish and will help fill your own love tank. You may even have more to give those around you.

Start thinking about ways you might provide a bit more attention and love toward your spouse this week. Next post, I’ll share some quick and easy ways to do just that.

How much time do you think you spend truly connecting with your spouse in a week? How much time do you spend on childcare activities? What ideas do you have for regularly feeding your marriage’s love tank?

What’s Your Love Language?

I heard author Gary Chapman on the radio today, and it reminded me of a book he wrote years ago I found very useful. You may have heard of The Five Love Languages. The book recommends identifying your primary love language, and that of your spouse and children.

We all have a primary love language through which we feel most loved. Here are the five primary love languages:
1. Words of affirmation—compliments, praise, appreciation
2. Spending quality time together—while focusing all your energy on your partner
3. Receiving gifts—Inexpensive or valuable, it’s the thought that counts
4. Acts of service—help with chores, errands, childcare, etc.
5. Physical touch—from a simple hug to lovemaking

When your spouse or your children feel loved, they are more productive and happy, Chapman says. When they don’t feel loved, they may seek love in inappropriate ways.

I remember talking to my husband about his love language after reading the book, and I was surprised at his response. So, don’t take it for granted that you know your spouse so well you don’t need to ask. Find out how he or she feels most loved, and share the way you feel most loved. Frequently, couples have different styles. If your language is acts of service, and you frequently help your spouse in this way, you may feel you are very loving. On the other hand, if your loved one longs to have a night alone, he or she may not feel very loved.

The book of course provides more details into how to determine one’s love language and how to make your loved ones feel most loved. However, just having a conversation is a good first step. Remember that your actions may not have the same impact you intend. Knowing your loved ones’ primary love languages can make you a more effective parent and lover.

So, ask your partner tonight: What’s your love language?

One of the Best Gifts You Can Give Your Children

It’s been shown to help you create greater wealth and better health. Studies show it leads to longer life, healthier children and increased happiness. It doesn’t come in a bottle, and you can’t buy it on credit. But a happy marriage is one of the best gifts you can give yourself—and your children.

Close your eyes, and imagine a marriage that you would like for your daughter. How does her husband show her affection? How does he care for her? And picture your son with his wife of 10 years. What kind of respect is he given? What does their interaction look like? How is he as a father?

Now open your eyes, and look at your own life. If what you are modeling for your children is a little less rosy than what you are envisioning for them, then you are not doing yourself—or them—justice. I once heard someone say, “Don’t accept a life for yourself that you wouldn’t want for your own child.” If you can’t show how to have a good balance in life, they may not find it either. If you work too much and don’t take time for family vacations, don’t be surprised if they grow up and don’t have time to spend with you or even their own children. If you don’t model how to show affection, they probably won’t be comfortable with showing affection in their own families. If you don’t treat one another with respect and devotion, they won’t know that those are important in a marriage.

Even if you don’t have children, realize you are also modeling for all those around you.

Do you want all the gifts that come from a happy marriage? How are you working to strengthen yours?

Is Brad Pitt right?

This morning on the Today Show, Brad Pitt briefly discussed his family, including long-time girlfriend Angelina Jolie and their six adoptive children. When asked if he planned to marry Angie, he said if they determine it would benefit their children, they would do so. Well, here’s some evidence that could change the mind of people wondering if long-term cohabitation is as good a choice as marriage for families with children.

Hopefully, most Americans aren’t modeling their lives after Hollywood celebrities, but cohabitation is becoming more common, so the issue is worth discussing. Marriage is not just a financial decision; it is not just a decision of the heart. It involves these things of course, but when children are involved, they should also be considered.  So, today’s post is dedicated to studies showing how children are affected by marriage—emotionally, behaviorially, sexually, mentally, and physically. I would be happy to send you more details on any of these studies.

Research shows that in the U.S. cohabitators resemble singles more than they resemble married couples. Their unions are much less stable. One study showed that half of the children born to a cohabitating couple saw their parents split by the time they were five. The number was even higher for Latino or African-Americans. For married couples, 15% split in the same time period.

Another study found that even after controlling for socioeconomic and parenting factors, teenagers who lived in cohabiting households experienced more behavioral and emotional difficulties than those in intact, married families.

A study found married parents devote more of their financial resources to childrearing and education than do cohabiting parents, whereas cohabiting parents spent a larger percentage of their income on alcohol and tobacco. In the study, cohabiting couples had lower incomes and education levels. They also reported more conflict and violence and lower satisfaction levels.

Marriage has not only social effects on children, but also biosocial consequences. For example, girls appear to have their sexual development affected by male pheromones, which either accelerate or decelerate their development, depending on their family situation. Studies have shown that adolescent girls who do not grow up in an intact married home are more likely to menstruate early. On the other hand, girls “who have close, engaged relationships with their fathers” begin menstruation at a later age. Girls who live with an unrelated male menstruate even earlier than those living with single mothers. Researchers believe the father’s pheromones appear to inhibit sexual development, while an unrelated male accelerates her development. When a girl has earlier sexual development, she is more likely to become sexually active earlier and is at higher risk of teen pregnancies.

Boys also benefit from married parents. Boys in unmarried families carry out more delinquent acts. Boys in single-parent homes are about twice as likely, and boys in stepfamilies are 2½ times more likely, to commit a crime leading to jail time by their 30s. Boys in cohabiting families have been found to be more likely to be involved in delinquent behavior, cheating, and have more school suspensions. When a boy lives with his mother and her boyfriend, the boyfriend is more likely to be abusive than his own father. This leads to additional problems.

Additional research has suggested children with two married parents have better health and a longer life expectancy than other children.  This benefit starts in infancy, and remains a lifelong benefit.

It is tempting to suggest the difference is due to socioeconomic status or education levels. But many studies account for these factors. One such study followed academically gifted, middle-class children for 70 years. Researchers controlled for family background and childhood health status, and even personality characteristics. They found children of divorce had life expectancy reduced by four years. They also found that 40-year-old men whose parents had divorced were three times more likely to die in the next 40 years than were 40-year-old men whose parents remained married.

Even babies have a lower risk of mortality when born to married parents than if they are born to unmarried parents. The average increase in infant mortality is 50% for unmarried women. After controlling for age, race and education, infants with unwed mothers still have a higher mortality rate, even through early childhood years.

Sweden has a national health care system for all its citizens. But a study of the entire Swedish population showed boys who lived in single-parent homes were more than 50% more likely to die of various causes (i.e. suicide, accidents, addiction) than those in a married, two-parent home. Boys and girls in single-parent families were more than twice as likely to have problems with drug or alcohol abuse, psychiatric diseases, suicide attempts. They were also more likely to experience poisonings, traffic injuries or falls than teens in two-parent families.

Yet another U.S. study shows teens who live with their married parents are less likely to experiment to drugs alcohol or tobacco than other teens—even after controlling for age, race, gender, and family income.

Mental health of children was also affected when parents split up. Children of divorce have double the risk of serious psychological problems later in life than children with parents who stay married. They are more likely to suffer from depression, drug and alcohol abuse, or suicidal thoughts.  The exception is when a marriage has “high and sustained” conflict levels, children benefit psychologically if the parents divorce.

I could write many more examples, but I imagine you get the picture that marriage has been shown in lots of research to protect children in myriad ways. Let me just share the most shocking statistics for those of you still with me. It is hard to imagine for parents who love their children (and stepchildren), but children who do not live with their own two parents are at much higher risk of child abuse. Living with a stepparent is the most significant factor in severe child abuse. Children are more than 50 times more likely to be murdered by a stepparent (usually a stepfather) than by a biological parent. A different study showed children were 40 times more likely to be sexually abused than one living with both of his biological parents. A national study found that 7% of children who lived with one parent had been sexually abused, compared to 4% of children who live with both parents.

With this research in mind, do you believe marriage has a social benefit for children?


Information on these studies can be found in “Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition” by Institute for American Values, or send a request to me and I will send you details on the individual study.

4 Habits of Highly Effective Relationships

There are four basic habits a person must demonstrate to be successful in relationships, says Dr. Noah Kersey (a licensed psychologist in Indiana) in his recent blog post. I found this post insightful and useful not only to be be reminded of four important traits we should all be working on to improve our relationships, but also those to instill in our children to enable them to later have positive relationships. Read the full article at this link:


You can also visit his website at www.LifeCareCounselingServices.com