Building a Strong Marriage

A great marriage is not when the “perfect couple” comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences. Dave MeurerEach year, more than 2 million couples marry in the U.S. While most couples say they are madly in love, some really wonder if they have what it takes to make their marriage last over time.

Whether you’re married now or planning to, you’ll want to know about a Life Innovations survey of 21,501 married couples from every state. It identified not only the top 10 strengths of happy marriages, but also the top 10 problems in marriage.

The top 10 strengths are as follows:

  • Partners are satisfied with communication.
  • Partners handle their differences creatively.
  • They feel very close to each other.
  • Spouses are not controlling.
  • Partners discuss their problems well.
  • They are satisfied with the affection they show and receive.
  • There is a good balance of time alone and together.
  • Family and friends rarely interfere.
  • Partners agree on how to spend money.
  • Partners agree on spiritual beliefs.

Additionally, the research found that the strongest couples have strong communication skills, a clear sense of closeness as a couple, flexibility, personal compatibility and good conflict resolution skills.

Strong marriages have a balance between separateness and togetherness. These couples prioritize togetherness, ask each other for help, enjoy doing things together and spend most of their free time together.

Also, some of the common factors in the relationship roles in strong marriages include both parties:

  • Are equally willing to make necessary adjustments in their roles,
  • Reporting satisfaction with the division of housework,
  • Working hard to have an equal relationship, and
  • Making most decisions jointly.

The happiest couples said they were happy with the way they communicate, it was easy to express their feelings and found their partner to be a good listener. They especially noted that their partner doesn’t use put-downs.

Obviously, conflict management/resolution skills are crucial. In strong marriages, both partners say that their partner understands their positions. They feel free to share their feelings and ideas; they take disagreements seriously and they work cooperatively to resolve conflicts.

According to the survey, the top 10 problems in marriage are:

  • Problems sharing leadership.
  • One partner is too stubborn.
  • Stress created by child-rearing differences.
  • One partner is too negative or critical.
  • Feeling responsible for issues.
  • One partner wishes the other had more time.
  • Avoiding conflict with partner.
  • One partner wishes the other was more willing to share their feelings.
  • Difficulty completing tasks.
  • Differences never get resolved.

For example, some common stumbling blocks are when one person feels most responsible for the problem, avoiding conflict and having serious disputes over minor issues. Sadly, relationships with unresolved differences can get into trouble. As a result, stumbling blocks become walls instead of stepping stones to build up the marriage.

Finally, no matter how in love you feel, bringing two personalities and their families together and learning how to dance can be challenging. So don’t just prepare for your wedding – take time to prepare for your marriage. Learn how to build on your strengths, creatively address differences and work together for the best interests of your marriage. It will probably be the best wedding present you can give to each other.

 

First Things First Chattanooga

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Physical Morality: Our Obligation To Strengthen Our Bodies

“Maintaining and preserving wellness is a duty, a privilege. Few are conscious of this piece of the wellness puzzle called physical morality” Dr. Trent McKittrick, DC

Modern Western culture has witnessed the slow erosion of many values it once held dear. Driven by endless opportunity for mindless consumption, most have stopped contemplating how to best live their lives and find purpose. Narcissism, consumerism, and moral relativism have combined to create a convenience-oriented culture that is typically far more concerned about rights (what I get) than responsibilities (what I do).

The human inclination to justify our own actions has magnified to epic heights only to leave our people alienated and emotionally fractured. The result is a growing mental health crisis. While I’ve often advocated an earnest quest for truth and intentional values as the path to fulfillment, I’ve recently been surprised to read more and more classical texts that profess the value of “physical morality”. Sure, we’ve known that respect for our human biological needs to move and exercise improves both health and happiness. Yet, I’d never made the jump from human need to ethical requirement. Could it really be a moral obligation to respect and train our physical bodies?

A superficial scan of the environment might seem to contradict any concept of physical morality? For many, religion is the primary source of what is right and wrong. The most popular religion of the West is Christianity, where my experience shows very little example of physical duty. Priests and pastors seem to look and eat like the average American. I’ve never heard of a sermon promoting physical morality and I’m fairly certain that most services end with the consumption of donuts, cookies, and sugar-infused drinks.

For the more intellectually inclined, their individual moral concepts might be created with the direction of philosophy, ethics, sociology, and psychology courses. Yet, again, my considerable time sitting in these classes and reading these texts never prompted contemplation about physical morality. Still, others are only socialized through public schools that continue to de-emphasize health and physical education while promoting a daily bouquet of sweets and sitting. One is left to conclude that clearly fitness and ethical responsibility have little to do with each other.

Yet, I believe these are all just symptoms of our time- an era that is more concerned about feelings and safe dogmas than nuanced truth and dialogue. We have forgotten the truth of physical morality and find ourselves in a human spiritual crisis, at least somewhat caused by our neglect of this notion. A scan of most religious and cultural traditions indicates a long history of respect for the principles of physical morality. In all 5 of the world’s dominant religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – there is an extensive history of fasting. The mastery of consumption has always been a prerequisite to human spirituality.

Christianity features verses prompting adherents to “Honor God with your bodies” because they are “temples of the holy spirit.” Sloth and gluttony, 2 out of 7 deadly sins, refer to neglecting responsibilities for physical morality. Likewise, ethical philosophies, like Stoicism, have always promoted periods of voluntary discomfort and physical refinement as necessities to personal growth and actionable moral constitution. And most great cultures, from the Athenians to the 19th century Germans to the early 20th century United States, believed physical fitness and health should be a full third of the educational formula.

Still, the best argument I know of for physical morality comes from British Philosopher Herbert Spencer who wrote:

“We do not yet realize the truth that as … the physical underlies the mental, the mental must not be developed at the expense of the physical…. Perhaps nothing will so much hasten the time when body and mind will both be adequately cared for, as a diffusion of the belief that the preservation of health is a duty. Few seem conscious that there is such a thing as physical morality. Men’s habitual words and acts imply the idea that they are at liberty to treat their bodies as they please. Disorders entailed by disobedience to Nature’s dictates, they regard simply as grievances: not as the effects of a conduct more or less flagitious. Though the evil consequences inflicted on their dependents, and on future generations, are often as great as those caused by crime; yet they do not think themselves in any degree criminal.”

What is morality if not adherence to Nature’s dictates- to our best conceptions of truth? How is it okay to consistently abuse and neglect the vessel from which we experience and operate in the world? Physical morality is a justifiable element of every ethical code because the maintenance of physical health and vigor amplifies the individual’s ability to behave morally and contribute positively in every other realm. Physical morality does not argue that we must attain a certain level of physical ability. It is not an excuse for the strong to humiliate the weak, but rather for all to bond over mutual self-development- that we should respect our individual physical bodies and seek a balanced approach to its nourishment and vitality.

The best defense for physical morality is modern life. The absence of models or socially prioritized development promoting healthy living indoctrinates generations with habits that ensure the pains and limitations of malaise. Society’s lack of intentionality is exploited masterfully by saboteurs of health happy to sell addiction.

When looking at the state of physical and emotional health and the tremendous financial and experiential tolls our future generations face as a consequence of our physical decay, it is hard to argue that the way we are raising kids is unacceptable. A Harvard study on child obesity indicates that of today’s youth, over 57% will be obese by the time they are 35. Actions mean more than words, particularly in the realm of physical morality. Our example shapes the next generation more than any other factor, and right now that is the problem.

Define Values

As I’ve explained in my article on how to define and act on your values, values are concepts of truth we aspire towards and constantly grow towards understanding better. While we may never have a perfect understanding of these targets, by aiming at them we are far better off than just pretending there is no right or wrong.

If anything has hurt humanity on a collective and individual level it is the belief that morals are all relative and it’s just as well to live in an impulsive pursuit of hedonistic pleasure. Hello, depression. Whether intentional or not, we all adopt values and their proximity to truth along with how we live up to them is the best determinant of our fulfillment. For most a set of values has been adopted that is creating the expectations, attitudes, and likelihood of mindless manipulation that are starving the human spirit.

Concepts of morality are not important so that people can feel morally superior, they are essential because they promote the common good. The point of my argument is not for fitness enthusiasts to pat themselves on the back while condemning those less active. The purpose is to acknowledge that our society conditions sedentary, junk food infused lifestyles and that we have a duty to address this.

By fighting to recapture an ethos of physical morality, we can create more successful, fulfilled generations. A society that does not share central values will grow increasingly alienated and hostile. We must share more than space and legal codes. We must define the pursued truths that bind us and collectively work to instill these in future generations. As it stands now, the only major influencers fighting to create values in society are the marketing gurus of our Saboteurs of Health in America. Schools must begin to combat them.

Define Physical Morality

Of all moral concepts, perhaps none is more overlooked and more essential than physical morality. Certainly, all values should be balanced to create a nuanced view of morality that avoids extremes. Physical Morality is only one element of ethical development and I am certainly not claiming to have authority in the realm of ethics.

There are certainly far more moral people than I, many of which don’t necessarily prioritize their health. Furthermore, a capable body cultivated without other ethical domains is susceptible to fascism, religious fundamentalism, or any other tyrannical ethic. Whatsmore, any virtue in the extreme can be a vice. My argument is not that people are immoral if they don’t value health, but simply that physical morality belongs in the pantheon of moral qualities and it is a vital part of the discussion, that most have forgotten.

At the root of human existence is the physical body from which we interpret the world. Just as baby’s minds are developed through physical experience and based upon the physical vehicle, so do the ethics of a strong society. How can we create the highest contribution to those around us, if we do not respect our physical bodies and their needs? At the very least, we have a lower ethical ceiling when we don’t honor physical morality.

Traditional concepts of physical morality are probably not what you’d imagine. Physical morality is not characterized by the locked up meathead who can’t reach back to pull off his shirt, or the narcissistic toned gal snapping gym selfies in her bra each day.

While the 1980’s brought us the bizarre conception of “manliness” as steroid infused hyper-masculinity, physical morality has traditionally abhorred the idea of any fitness extreme. It has always been a balanced image of healthy physical vigor- far more Audi Murphy and John F. Kennedy (two actual American Heroes) than John Cena or Schwarzenegger’s Commando.

In the 1980’s Clint Eastwood and the Marlboro man, with their quiet confidence, were replaced by less adaptable extreme images of what a man should look like. But what about ladies? If classical concepts of physical morality focused on men, perhaps that is where we can take the old and improve.

The pre 5th century BCE Athenian moral code “sought organic harmony and stressed an elementary curriculum in which grace and poise were not subordinate to stamina and physical endurance”. Similarly, notions such as Georges Hebert’s Natural Method had a very strong vision of physical morality’s goals being to “make strong beings, not specialists…, but beings developed physically in a complete and useful manner”.

Physical morality has always harmonized both feminine and masculine qualities. This paradox marks the nuanced balance where truth typically lies. Best expressed in the Daoist Yin-Yang, Eastern philosophies have long understood the harmony of feminine and masculine. We are individuals, and while women may gravitate towards feminine expression more than men, both must honor their authentic selves with complete, complex development.

“Womanhood” and “manliness” both require strong physical vitality and the authentic expression of the individual’s true masculine and feminine nature. Raw power and intensity are useless and damaging without balance, mobility, and restraint, just as patience and compassion without discipline or firm boundaries lead to docile victimhood. Woman and man, alike, thrive when respecting a sense of physical morality.

Spirit and Energy

Physical morality is not only physical training and ability but an ethos that directs this path towards useful inclinations. Hebert’s Natural Method was responding to the decreased physical wellbeing and capability that followed industrialization. He believed, “only the strong will become useful in the difficult circumstances of life…”. Strength, as Hebert uses it, is better conceived as fitness.

We must be fit to be useful- a notion that holds just as much significance today, despite our increased mechanization. In fact, this essential element of human thriving must become even more of a point of emphasis as our world demands less moving. Without it, we are simply less capable, and less human.

Training the body teaches what Hebert would call “moral energy”. Theodore Roosevelt considered a “strenuous life” the only path to moral living. In their minds, physical laziness begets mental laziness. Physical training requires one to explore their own limitations, strategize, adapt, and overcome adversity. It requires one to master their impulses to become the guide of their own lives.

The practice of exercise over time is the discipline of willingly entering discomfort in the short term for a long-term good. Physical morality respects the body and promotes energy over malaise through consistent practice. Coach’s have long preached to teams about “heart”, which seems to be best encapsulated by teammates grinding through physical adversity to find inner strength. While moral strength is possible without physical training, I doubt it is as common in a physically deprived society.

“A soft, easy life is not worth living if it impairs the fiber of brain and heart and muscle. We must dare to be great, and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage… For us is the life of action, of strenuous performance of duty; let us live in the harness, striving mightily; let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

A shared value system must be instilled that clarifies heroism and pushes us towards our heroic capabilities. What is the hero? She is physically capable, mentally resilient, morally inclined, and purposefully brave. Is citizenship at all a goal for our children, today? How can we preach rights without responsibilities?

Bravery, selflessness, and integrity are virtues predicated on activities and experiences. Like cognitive and physical skills, these virtues must be refined through practice and the best practice is rooted in shared physical development- in physical Rites of Passage. The fragility of young-adults’ characteristic of growing up in a world devoid of honesty, constructive criticism, expectations, and consequences do not serve them, long-term.

As Ben Sasse asserts in his book, The Vanishing American Adult, “We should be figuring out how to help build them a menu of really hard tasks to tackle.”

Physical rites of passage are the most powerful way to develop self-actualized, united people with shared values. To teach morality without ever physically demonstrating virtues is like learning to cook from reading a book while never touching food. The idea of a rite of passage itself is rooted in a physical experience that creates understanding.

We live in the physical world and are most inspired by the physical act- the epic heroic story. Nothing unites us like the physical challenge- the proximity and raw vulnerability of shared physical challenge. Picture the team cheering on a teammate as she embarks on arduous training or the chills you feel while watching movie scenes displaying physical heroism.

Let’s shift the conversation from what we want, to what we want to be capable of – what do we want to become. Healthy dialogue is the backbone of strong communities and there has been too little promoting the duties and values that develop great people.

Today’s article was written by Shane Trotter and is shared from the following website” https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/physical-morality-our-obligation-to-strengthen-our-bodies

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You Deserve Your Love…

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and afftection. Buddha A lot has been written about Loving Yourself – also called self-esteem. More should be written. More anxiety, more depression, more sadness and more misery could be overcome just by an increase of loving ourselves.

Too many individuals talk to themselves using words and voices that they would not use on their worst enemy.

God does not want us to beat ourselves up…and loving our self is not the same as conceit.

We each are a divine gift to this world – a gift created by God and shared by him as well.

This weekend, I hope you will look into your heart – identify all of the garbage and have a soul cleaning. You deserve to have joy and you deserve to be loved! Yet, if you don’t truly love yourself, it is next to impossible to have healthy, loving relationships with others!

I hope you will give yourself a hug and a pat on the back for all of your good qualities and have patience with yourself on all of those things you need to work on.

Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy today’s story!

This Uplifting Story Proves You Can CHOOSE Your Mood

This story was originally published on HerAfter.com, a website for women that shares inspiring articles on self-improvement and advice on becoming your best. You can read the original here.

A few hours after my parents told me that I had cancer, I went to the movies.

It sounds strange, but I was 17, and all I could do was keep cancer from taking over my life. That effort would start with keeping it from ruining my afternoon. I had plans. To live, in fact, and I was going to go through with them. Naivety is such a blessing when it offers such unfounded courage.

So this was my 17-year-old logic for why I had no business sitting at home and crying about cancer when the world was waiting. A bright, bold world that I had known I wanted to be part of, and in the light of new risks, I wanted it even more. You can read the full story of my diagnosis here, but for now, let us digest these strange circumstances with open eyes:

First, that the power the mind has to control our mood is unlimited. We forget this when we’re confronted with priorities, stress, time constraints. But if you can tell a clueless 17 year old that her life is in danger, and she refuses to be scared, then I’m quite certain the possibilities for you are endless.

Second, that in these little moments of clarity, when all that truly matters becomes glaringly apparent, and a basis for our most natural and self-aware intentions come to light, we should show a little gratitude. We should be grateful that we have the foresight to remember what truly matters, especially in the face of great adversity. In this story, my clarity continued through the afternoon…

Standing in the mall downtown waiting for the show, I found myself in the center of the theater complex. People bustled from one side to the other, one store to the next. It was Christmas time, and so even more busy and chaotic than usual. Reality might have well been just a portrait in motion: just in front of me, dreamily, and not quite touchable. I stood, feet planted in the marble lobby of this massive building, words and energies swirling around like water colors, moving in currents in every direction. Everyone had wishes on their lips, and wants on their lists, a concern for everyone they loved attached to their wallets. But I couldn’t make out a single thing. It wasn’t that the room spun around me, but still I became the center of it. Or maybe centered by it, the room and the world all around me in every direction.

 

This was the second truly profound moment of stillness — the first being while my parents told me the diagnosis, and I realized I could interject with “No, I’m not going to be scared.” Those little pockets of silence, the energy vibrating in pulses through your bones. The mind unattached and determined.

I know that you know the feeling. It’s waiting just at the moment when your tears take a pause. Or just after you’ve jumped into the lake, free floating just under the surface, and all stands still right before you come gasping up for air. Or right after the words “it’s over“ have left his mouth, and you’re not sure what to say, now that you’ve heard the words you were most afraid to hear…

Have you noticed that little pause? That little quiet moment that the universe gives you, like a hush across all the world. When you can see, even within the deepest pain, that the world still continues to spin around you, but you’re given a moment of total stillness…

This is what 17-year-old me was realizing, brave and hopeful. All a person can do is realize your physical presence, from head to do, and all the space around you that extends endlessly in every direction. Don’t worry about the past, don’t fret about the future. For now, just stand still, and breathe deeply, because THAT is your moment to choose.

In my moment, I’m just a girl, a girl who’s very sick, but a girl who’s right here right now, and is certain of what she’ll attempt to do. Though all this time I thought I understood everything about the world in a manageable way, but in truth all I am is a single entity. Really, I am just standing, pulsating, watching the water colors fly by, and thankfully the world is giving just a brief break in the chaos to help me look outward… Oh what a gift it truly is.

These still moments are just proof life’s endless love for us. A quiet little pocket in which we’re given the power to choose any one direction: fear, anger, hope, bravery, forgiveness, love. These little moments that we experience all alone, whether painful or joyful, are gifts that remind us the power we have to write our life’s story. And of the moment we are living in, a moment always in motion.

So much of our time and energy is absorbed with reaching for what we want to be, or fleeing from what we hope we aren’t. Whenever I’m online pinning for inspiration, I can see it. All the positive messages emblazoned on mugs and t-shirts and Instagram photos. All these words to remind us to work hard and keep focused, and how capable we are of getting to where we want to be! Oh if only it were as easy as a mug on our desk to make us a hero of our own lives!

But silence speaks the truth. It so softly whispers of our power to choose our mood, our action and our reaction. When we listen, listen listen… sometimes only because we’re begging the moment to move faster and end already, but it doesn’t… We realize this moment: Here we are. Right here right now, reading this, sharing my story with yours. And all the happy mug messages of “she believed she could and she did” don’t make any sense anymore. Because all “now” can say to us is “there she is.” And all we can say back is “okay here, right now, that is where I’ll start from…”

It’s ever a journey onward, whether facing backwards or forward. The moment is always moving. But when you get the gift of sudden stillness, or better yet if you can train yourself to stop, take a look around, and put yourself at center again, you’ll open your eyes and hearts to much more than you ever thought possible…

 

Embrace your power to choose your mood in three simple steps:

 

 

  • STOP

Take a breath in. Freeze the thoughts that are coming in — the fears, the anxieties, the worries, the excitements. Just stop and be still and let the breath be your focus.

  • LOOK AROUND

What is really happening right now? Not the fears of what you think might happen, not the worries about the future. What’s really happening? Regardless of the fight you’re in or the situation you’re trying to solve, what is really tangible here, now, with you?

  • LISTEN

What does your heart say? What feels right? What is the reaction your highest self would offer? Give your trust to the wisdom of life, and stop trying to over-plan what happens next too much. Have faith that the answers are presenting themselves even as you try to invent them, and let yourself be a channel for whatever life might have in store for you…

And, most sobering of all, please ask yourself:

What would your entire life look like if you embraced the power to CHOOSE your attitude, your mood, and your reactions, rather than let fear or doubt run your life?

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Giving Service is Like Giving Yourself a Gift!

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose Jim Elliot

Heaven seems to be minimized all too frequently in today’s world. Having made a premature visit there, I know just how wonderful and important heaven is.  🙂

It doesn’t take dollars or possessions to make your way back to heaven…it takes love and goodness!

In heaven, narcissism is out and benevolence is in. No more what’s in it for me. Instead, we love and honor each other and make our decisions based on how can I best serve the whole? God? Mankind? Sound horrible? It’s not – it’s glorious!!!

Heaven is not a place of scarcity – it is a place of abundance. In heaven, we can all have all of our hearts desire, as long as that desire is good and not hurtful to others.

Heaven is a place of honor and it is a place of stewardship. We honor each others gifts whether we have few or many. Each talent or gift that we have is not just a source of pride but an opportunity to serve in a special way.  Therefore, gifts and talents are cherished in heaven and great effort is made to develop them and share them.

I believe that the greater part of mankind wants to love and serve our fellow man. I think that often what gets in our way is that we think that we have to have great wealth or an abundance of extra time to help others out.

The reality is that we each have the ability to contribute in a positive way to the world around us – even if that contribution today can only be a kind word and a smile!

I love today’s story! I hope it will inspire your day and your life!

Christmas Angel

When Delwyn Collins was a kid growing up in the projects of Fort Worth, Texas, he was labeled handicapped with a learning disability and sent to a special education school. His teachers never suspected that Collins was a genius at caring: Today the 52-year-old cafeteria worker at Tampa General Hospital is nothing less than an angel to hundreds of foster children in Hills-borough County, Florida. These children—many with special needs and often moved from home to home—tug hard at Collins’s heart. Christmas 2010 will mark the 21st year he has set up a Foster Angel’s Giving Tree decorated with paper angels bearing the first names, ages, and gender of foster children and the gifts each child would like to receive.

Collins is a man of modest means, but each week he sets aside a portion of his paycheck to buy gifts to put under the tree. “I just want to show these children there is somebody out there in the community who loves them.” His unpretentious example has inspired the doctors, nurses, and administrators he works with to make the Giving Tree a priority. Hospital employees and visitors take an angel off the tree and buy the present the child has requested.

As Christmas nears, bicycles, dolls, clothes, and video games begin to overflow the cafeteria. In recent years, the program has begun to receive presents from donors throughout the county. More than 1,000 kids in foster care in and around Tampa received gifts in 2009. “My job is to help and give to others,” says Collins. “God doesn’t care if we’re rich or poor.”

Story Shared from the following website: http://www.rd.com/true-stories/inspiring/5-stories-that-celebrate-the-spirit-of-giving/2/

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