The ball may have dropped on Times Square and next time you write a check, remember it’s 2017 now, yet it is certainly not too late to usher in the best possible for 2017. Reading about New Year’s traditions the world around started me thinking about how much they teach about how to move forwards from challenges, especially if those challenges come in the form of relationship issues or marriage problems.
Here are a few particularly striking cross-cultural New Years traditions, and for each a few thoughts on what they can teach about making a new era for a relationship – whether it’s New Year’s Day or any of the other 364 days of the year.
The tradition: One Scottish tradition is “first-footing.” In the early moments of the New Year Scott’s visit their neighbors with gifts of coal for the fire or yummy shortbread.
The advice: When you want to put a relationship on new footing, a simple warm, nourishing gift or gesture can really help. That said, a loving note or a bouquet of flowers might be more appropriate than coal.
The tradition: A silver or gold coin is baked into St. Basil’s cake. Whoever finds the gold coin will be especially lucky in the upcoming year.
The advice: When eating your figurative cake (that would be gong through life in your relationship), look for the gold coin that might be hidden within. Keeping your focus on the positive moments or hidden treasures helps everyone to feel more appreciated!
The tradition: At midnight Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108 time to try to expel 108 kinds of human weaknesses.
The advice: Everyone has weaknesses. At the same time, learning about common relationship mistakes and then calling out loudly to yourself each time you slip into an “oops” will help you bring in skills and strengths in place of those weaknesses.
What does your cell phone have to do with marriage problems? Recently, several prominent news sources have presented surveys and research that point to the problem with cell phones and romantic relationships. One survey reported that “70 percent of women said smartphones were interfering in their romantic relationship.” That’s a huge number of women! In NPR’s recent story “technoference” was citied as a serious problem in relationships. Aside from the question of what you are actually doing on the device, the accessibility and pervasiveness of the devices in our lives is causing several problems. Cell phones are the worst kind of distraction, the convenience of access to all your email accounts, the camera, the social media accounts, not to mention the thousands of other apps you can fill your device with offer an endless stream of information. This coupled with the dings, ringtones and other alerts that make everyone in the room look at their phone in some sort of pavlovian response to a bell are bound to cause marriage problems.
There are certainly big questions to answer individually and culturally about the influence these devices have on our lives. Technology no doubt has it’s place in daily life. If we can thoughtfully engage with it it can actually be used for good in the relationship. Time savings is one instance that can benefit your romantic relationships. If you are able to take care of a task like paying bills that may have in the past taken up precious evening time at the kitchen table you can use that time you’ve gained to connect with your spouse, but do you? The evidence seems pretty clear that by and large they are causing more marriage problems than they solve. In her research, Sarah Coyne, boiled it down to this, “What I think the most important finding is, the more you let the technology interfere, the more conflict you have with your spouse or partner and that leads to not feeling great about the relationship.” So where is the balance? Obviously this question is best left to each couple to navigate, provided the right skills are there to actually have a win win outcome!
A lot of good habits can suffer during stressful times. Some people overeat, workout routines fall off the map, sleep is often affected. Sex is another piece of the relationship puzzle that gets put on the back burner when stress hits the fan. Here are a few tips for how to avoid the sexless marriage trap and keep that lovin’ feeling alive even when stress, including holiday stress takes a hold on your life and relationship…
1. Sleep Naked. Forego the holiday themed, fuzzy footy Pj’s and go to bed in your birthday suit. Couples who sleep naked have more sex. Sleeping naked removes one small barrier to getting busy. In addition, physical touch and close contact increase oxytocin, the love hormone. Climbing into the sheets naked will encourage you to get closer to warm up on cold winter nights. Who knows you might get lucky!
3. Keep your bedroom a sanctuary. When it comes to your bedroom, don’t dismiss the power of setting the mood. Too often the clutter of stressful times builds up in your bedroom. Laundry piling up, work to do, stacks of bills, papers or books waiting to be read, shopping bags full of gifts to be wrapped all contribute to the mental clutter aka intimacy killer. Take some time to de-clutter your bedroom, take the tv out (or at least cover it up or put in in a cabinet) Letting the world in via television and devices can squeeze out special moments to connect with your spouse. Take the stacks of paper out, go through them if you can, if you can’t just put them somewhere else! The last and probably most difficult task in the bedroom is to GET RID OF THE SMARTPHONE!! A recent article cited the statistic that “70 percent of women in a recent survey said smartphones were interfering in their romantic relationship.” Now certainly you don’t need to get rid of it all together, just leave it out of the bedroom!
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 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.
Of course, everyone wants a happier marriage — even if one’s marriage is pretty darn good!
So, the punch line on a recently released study is that the less realistic you are the better it is for your marriage. They key, is to be unrealistically positive about your spouse. Love their flaws. Idolize their strengths. Go ahead, put em’ on a pedestal.
Here’s the link to the article — http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/04/19/want-a-happier-marriage-unrealistically-idealize-your-partner/.
And here’s a link to a great way to get less realistic. This activity is a five message text or e-mail (choose when you sign up) that will help get you thinking positive thoughts about your mate! http://poweroftwomarriage.com/actions/action/unit_overview-marriage_booster_1/
Hard as it can be. . . happy, happy and happier.
— Dr. Hirsch
ps Just want to add that, of course, when a spouse is totally out-of-bounds a more realistic approach is most certainly called for!