Tag Archives: secrets of happy marriages

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.

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Traits of Happy (and Happily Married) People

Happy Life: Happy Marriage Series

Unhappy people are less happy after marriage than happy people who marry. It’s not marriage that makes us happy or unhappy. What inner traits lead to increased happiness?

David Myers, PhD, author of The Pursuit of Happiness, says there are four inner traits (based on dozens of studies) that predispose positive mental attitudes and lead to more happiness and feelings of wellbeing. These traits are self-esteem, sense of personal control, optimism, and extraversion.

  1. Self-Esteem. Prisons are full of individuals who have high self-esteem, as the saying goes, and many of us have focused too much on building self-esteem in children at the expense of helping them build character. However, one’s level of self-esteem is important to wellbeing. Importantly, having low self-esteem is linked with psychological disorders, such as depression. Individuals with low self-esteem may feel unlovable, untalented, or unworthy of a great life. Clearly these feelings will not assist us on our road to happy lives and happy marriages. Having high self-esteem is linked with wellbeing. A University of Michigan study showed “the best predictor of general life satisfaction is not satisfaction with family life, or income, but satisfaction with self.

Too much self-esteem or self-bias can be a problem. Myers says experiments show must of us accept more responsibility for our good deeds than for bad, and for successes more than failures. We credit outside forces to our failures and our own merits for our successes. This is also true for marital successes and failures. “Compared to happily married people, unhappy couples exhibit far greater self-serving bias by blaming the partner when problems arise.” Divorcing people are 10 times more likely to blame the spouse for the breakup than to blame themselves.

We all have insecurities. As spouses, we have great power to either build our partners up or make them feel weak and insecure. Still, most people have a reasonably high opinion of themselves. The healthiest self-esteem is “positive, yet realistic” and includes feeling accepted.

  1. Personal Control. When people feel more in control of their destiny, they tend to be happier and more satisfied with life, and vice versa. Those who feel they influence the direction of their lives tend to achieve more in school, cope better with stress, and live more happily. Increasing people’s control, for example, making decisions about health care, environment or personal decisions, can improve their health and wellbeing, says Myers.  

Within our marriages, it’s important that both spouses understand we influence the relationship quality through how we act and react. It’s when people decide they have no power to make things better that they give up on the marriage. Setting personal and professional goals and using our time effectively helps give us a sense of control and accomplishment.

  1. Optimism. Optimists are healthier and have stronger immune defenses. They are happier, too. If we internalize bad events and display pessimism, we are more prone to illness. Studies have shown that those who are most pessimistic are more prone to colds, sore throats and flu, and that optimists recover more quickly from cancer and heart surgery.

When optimists have setbacks, they try another approach to find success. I would guess that married optimists are more successful, then, if they are using new approaches rather than blaming themselves or their partner. Optimistic people have hope that things will improve. However, with too-high expectations, optimists can be disappointed while pessimists with too-low expectations can be pleasantly surprised. Complicated? Not really.

Pollyannaish optimism goes too far, with people feeling invulnerable and taking too many risks. In addition, we must avoid blaming people for getting sick or having failures “because they weren’t thinking positively enough.” The best combination, says Myers, is to have “ample optimism to provide hope, with a dash of pessimism to prevent complacency, and enough realism to discriminate those things we can control from those we cannot.” (Think: Serenity Prayer)

  1. Extraversion. As an introverted person married to an extrovert, I wanted to learn more about this one. Studies show sociable, outgoing people report greater happiness and satisfaction with life. They are more likely to get married, find good jobs, make close friends, and have more social ties.

I know from reading other research that social ties are a key to wellness as we age. So whether we are married or single, outgoing or introverted, we need improve and increase our ties to others if we want to be happier and healthier. Joining a book club or a church group or socializing with other married people can improve our personal and marital happiness.

You may be wondering if you can control these four internal traits or if you are primarily born the way you are. Researchers find we do tend to have basic dispositions that we carry through our lives. Angry children are more likely to become angry adults, for example. But there are plenty of examples of unhappy, troubled children who grow into successful, conscientious, happy adults.

“We may be products of our past, but we also are architects of our future,” says Myers, who adds that personality is NOT programmed like eye color. We can even use behavior to help change our attitudes if we are proactive and thoughtful. “Don’t worry that you don’t feel like it. Fake it. Pretend self-esteem. Feign optimism. Simulate outgoingness,” he says. It sounds like being phony, but research shows the phoniness subsides and the new behaviors and attitudes become more comfortable and internalized.

When you’re in a sour mood and the phone rings, you often fake a cheerful greeting and talk to your friend. After the call, you actually feel better. Act as if you’re wildly in love with your spouse, and you just might start feeling that way.

Which of these traits do you possess? Do you think they influence your happiness level?

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com