How to cultivate gratitude in your marriage this holiday season.

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

The holiday season and particularly Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to take stock in your marriage.  These few weeks from Thanksgiving to New Years can get really crazy, it’s also a wonderful time to cultivate gratitude in your marriage and make sure your relationship is getting a piece of the pie! Gratitude is more than just being thankful for something you have.  It is a state of being that can bring more love, positivity and peace and health into your life. Gratitude is an intentional act, gratitude in your marriage as in all things opens the door to deeper and more fulfilling relationship and holiday season.

gratitude in your marriage

Gratitude is the antidote to desire.  How is it that as a culture we have created the story that Thursday is the day to slow down, celebrate all that we already have and experience gratitude. Then comes black Friday where we are encouraged to hurry up, get to the store and compete with each other to satisfy our never ending need for things. Cultivating true gratitude will alleviate the need for the latest, greatest, cheapest goods and will allow love, respect and joy to be elevated in your marriage and beyond.

Here are a few ways to keep the focus on gratitude and kindness this holiday season… Continue reading How to cultivate gratitude in your marriage this holiday season.

Healthy Marriage. What does that look like?

What is a healthy marriage?  This is an important question to answer in light of all the information we see and read (including on this blog) about a “healthy marriage.”  Benefits touted often include, better physical health, less depression, better outcomes for children and so much more.  How wonderful these benefits are, so how can we know what a healthy marriage is and how to achieve that standard in our own lives?

healthy marriage

Research done on this topic (see Moore et al., 2004, and NHMRC website http://www.healthymarriageinfo.org) resulted in this list…

• commitment to each other over the long haul
• positive communication
• ability to resolve disagreements and handle conflicts nonviolently
• emotional and physical safety in interaction
• sexual and psychological fidelity
• mutual respect
• spending enjoyable time together
• providing emotional support and companionship
• parents’ mutual commitment to their children

Let’s take a look at these one by one… Continue reading Healthy Marriage. What does that look like?

Wondering how to make a relationship last?

Pay attention to the details.

When it comes to the causes of divorce there are the biggies…

Infidelity, physical emotional or otherwise.
Addiction and substance abuse.
Excessive anger or abuse.

And then there is the slow buildup of resentment, the everyday moments that turn from loving and attentive to bitter, angry, sour, mean or otherwise ignored. Over time these feelings can turn what was once a loving relationship into an unhappy disconnect that can lead couples to look for a way out. So here’s one way to start to turn things around today. Pay attention to the details!

Each day, moment after moment you have a choice about how to respond to and engage with your spouse or partner. Use each moment to make a change towards a more positive future. It is the compounding of these small moments that will make a relationship last.

make a relationship last

Here are a few steps you can take to stay focused on the moment in front of you and make it a positive one…

See your partner for who they are today. It is so easy to carry around with us the past hurts or failings of our loved ones.  Try to look past the fact that he didn’t pick up the dry cleaning last week, or the fact that she didn’t call when she said she would.  Instead try seeing your spouse for who they are today, right in front of you.  Give them the benefit of a new day to surprise you!

Forgive yourself and each other for slip-ups. Even the most skilled communicators and the most thoughtful people have bad days.  Try to take a more forgiving standpoint and say to yourself “oh he meant to say…” and look for what makes sense in what s/he said. Rather than reacting in an equally un-skilled way turn the conversation back in a positive direction.

Be a good listener. A marriage is hopefully a lasting pursuit.  Being in a relationship necessarily means you will be spending a good deal of time together.  It can be very easy to fall into the trap of not giving your full attention to a spouse or partner.  You may thing you’ve heard this story 10 times, or maybe you just get so accustomed to the day to day chatter.  Next time you are having a conversation stop, really listen to what is being shared.  You might be surprised at what you learn!

Express gratitude and appreciation for your partner. Couples who are struggling to make a relationship last will often share that they just don’t feel appreciated.  Days are busy, filled with work, social obligations, for some couples children. Remembering to appreciate your spouse if often left off the to do list.  Studies show that couples who continually express gratitude and appreciation for on another have deeper and more loving connections.  The good news is that you can increase the positivity today. Start with yourself, show genuine appreciation for your spouse and watch the love come back to you.

The bottom line is that small things add up.  They are the bricks that create a solid foundation.  Start paying attention to the details today and feel the warmth fill the room!

 

10 ways to rekindle love in your relationship

Time flies, days are busy, filled with work, school, play, family, community and so much more.  How much time is left for your marriage?  The answer to this question will certainly vary as lives change, families grow or other hurdles come along.  Remembering some (seriously) simple ideas to rekindle love in your marriage will shift the trend in the right direction!

1. Declare your love!

2. Agree with something your spouse has said.

3. Pitch in and help with something you don’t usually do in the household. Continue reading 10 ways to rekindle love in your relationship

4 Essential Wisdoms to Keep in Mind when Traveling with Your Spouse

Traveling is an incredibly challenging experience. Whether a road trip upstate or a three month journey to a foreign country, traveling puts the same stresses on individuals. Add to that a travel partner and you have the potential for your marital bonds to be tested. Our editor, Naomi, travels frequently with her partner and shares some hard-earned lessons for keeping cool and loving while traveling with your spouse.

Repeat after me: Traveling is hard

At home your brain can put on autopilot all the knowledge that you are familiar with, for instance, where the supermarket is, what time dinner needs to be started, how long it takes to go to the bank, etc. This frees up brain power for focusing on the changeable aspects of your life that require attention, such as work, new social engagements, and putting extra effort into your marriage.

During travel both your brain and body are working twice as hard. Gone is that comfortable ability to put on autopilot. Every cell is responding to new stimuli and new challenges. You’ll be sleeping in unfamiliar beds, driving new roads, your things will be arranged in suitcases, and you won’t know where or what you are having for dinner. These simple changes result in an enormous amount of stress on your bodies systems as well as your mental state.

Stressed gives our bad habits a chance to flare up. You and your spouse may bicker or snap at each other. Keep in mind that this is an exceptional situation you are in. Refrain from making any conclusions or big decisions about your relationship while on the road. After all, most of your time together isn’t traveling. However, if issues you notice on the trip continue months into resuming normal life, then you might have a problem that needs addressing.

It’s not about you

Again, traveling is hard. When your spouse seems exhausted, agitated, or upset, don’t jump to the conclusion that it is because of you. Most likely the negative mood is a result of the trip. If it’s not explicitly about you, don’t make it about you. That’s needlessly creating an argument. Let you spouse self sooth and don’t bring up marriage problems when you are both at the end of your ropes already.

traveling with your spouse
Traveling with your spouse doesn’t have to be stressful…but it probably will be.

Practice infinite compassion and empathy

You and your spouse’s moods will fluctuate up and down. One day when you are exhausted and crabby, your spouse may be ready to paint the town. The next day your moods might be reversed. On one hand, this opposition can be frustrating. It’s best when you are both on the same energy level. Still, keep in mind how terrible you feel when you just can’t handle the trip and need a break. Hold this understanding dear and use it to ignite compassion when it’s your spouse’s turn to feel low rather than being annoyed or angry for his lack of enthusiasm. You were just there yourself!

Don’t be afraid to split up

The best solution for all the ails of traveling together is to spend some time apart. A good half-day at the minimum. Take time to see sights that you are interested in but your spouse isn’t. Or just sleep all day, or spend the afternoon reading a book in the park, or visiting friends on your own. Never hesitate to split up for the day. You don’t have to, and probably shouldn’t, do everything together.

 

Think of traveling as a bootcamp, a time to practice all the marriage skills that you learn at Power of Two. At the same time, it’s a extra challenging period so cut both of you some slack. Be prepared, overall, to practice forgiveness.

Bon Voyage!

Expressing gratitude boosts your sex life

One of the earliest polite conventions we teach our children is to say thank you. These seem to be the two magic words for lifetime well-being. Gratitude has been shown to have numerous benefits in marriage. (Check out my past article on gratitude). Here’s even more encouraging news: a new study in “The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology” by Dr. Amie Gordon of U.C. Berkeley found that couples who express gratitude and appreciation for one another tend to be more committed, have more sex, and be less likely to break up. More and more, it seems that gratitude is a cornerstone of a healthy, happy marriage. Continue reading Expressing gratitude boosts your sex life

Trust in relationships: New research reveals its unique importance

It may not be surprising to hear that trust is a key factor in successful partnerships. In fact, an entire branch of relationship psychology called “attachment theory” argues that trust is really the primary experience we seek in a relationship. A romantic relationship, like a mother-child relationship, is based on being able to place complete trust in another person. Trusting your spouse to follow through with their promises, to support you, to be faithful…on the whole, to not hurt or abandon you. We long for someone to trust. Continue reading Trust in relationships: New research reveals its unique importance

Want a good marriage? Don’t call your spouse a “Ball and Chain”

Thanks to Stu and Lisa Gray of the Stupendous Marriage Show for turning me on to this topic! Check out their podcast for some smart commentary.

Negative stereotypes about marriage are so pervasive in our society that it is almost impossible to escape them. Name almost any TV show with married couples and you’ll find at least one example of the “ball and chain” metaphor. Marriage is the end of fun. It is the end of sex. It means constant bickering and being tied to someone who you can’t stand for the rest of your life.

Media and popular culture certainly perpetuate these damaging stereotypes, and, at the same time, we are all just as guilty ourselves. Every time we complain about or badmouth our spouses to others, we perpetuate marriage stereotypes and hurt our own marriages. Continue reading Want a good marriage? Don’t call your spouse a “Ball and Chain”

Tips for dealing with difficult people

Dealing with difficult people is something we all have to face. Luckily, many of the skills we us to make our marriages run smoothly and diffuse tension can also be used for dealing with difficult people. Here are the top 5 Power of Two golden rules for conflict and communication in marriage that will help you in any situation, whether at work, with friends, or family members.

  1. Remember: it’s not about you. Only we control our emotions–no one can “make” someone else angry, upset, or irritated. So while you may have made a mistake that was regrettable and caused problems (and if so, recognize and acknowledge it), if someone becomes angry, guilts you, or treats you poorly, that is their problem. If they are angry, that is their problem.  Continue reading Tips for dealing with difficult people

10 sure-fire date night ideas

Post-holiday winter: the time of year when everything falls into a rut and feels uninspired. Well  it’s about time to start brainstorming date night ideas! Date nights are a tried-and-true way to connect with your partner and keep the romance alive, especially from the chaos of busy work lives and raising children.

At the same time, date nights can be their own kind of trap. Going out to dinner every weekend can start to seem like drudgery and lead to frustration and resentment. It can also be, well, boring. The key to a successful date night is to make you feel like you are really on a date. It should leave you excited about each other, having learned something or seen a new side of your spouse, and of course, having had fun. Here are 10 quirky and sure-fire date night ideas for this chilly January. Continue reading 10 sure-fire date night ideas