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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What Two Things Most Shape our Lives? Love and Attention

Who, being loved, is poor? Oscar WildeOur emotional well being depends hugely on how well we can control our attention

Two fundamental things –  love and attention – shape our lives more than anything else. Without the consistent love of at least one person, children’s brains do not develop properly and their lives are often blighted. Being attended to  – that is, feeling held in another’s mind – is part of being loved and is also crucial for the brain’s development.

Attention is the gatekeeper for how experiences sculpts the child’s brain. Without attention, experiences don’t trigger physical changes in the brain tissue of the sort that attended-to input does. [i]   This means that potentially rich stimulation drains away like water into sand because it is not ‘activated’ by attention.

Our brains have a number of specific general purpose attention networks which help us to select what to attend to (one voice rather than the background conversation), allow us to switch from one thing to another (from the song on the radio to the red traffic light ahead) and to sustain it over time (read this blog to the end without mind wandering).

Loving adults sculpt these attention networks in their young children through joint attention; babies learn to attend a little like they learn to walk, by being held for the first few steps before gradually venturing on their own with just a hand, and finally staggering off with anxious hands braced to catch. Attention is a bit like that – the attentional circuits are like muscles which need to be developed.

Children learn to sustain their attention in this sort of faltering, supported way: the brain finds it hard to keep attention on an unchanging stimulus for more than a few seconds at a time, but that’s exactly what the children have to learn to do they are going to learn to read, think and regulate their emotions.

Love is a specific kind of attention imbued with feeling, and the same is true for hate. When a child struggles through a difficult reading passage in school, it’s not just her brain’s attention network which is keeping her focused – it is also the fact of feeling held in her parent’s attention which helps keeps her on task.

This is why children who are having emotional problems, say during family breakup, can really start to perform badly in school, but this is not just true for young children.

Attention depends a lot on the brain’s prefrontal cortex and this region is not fully ‘wired-up’ to the rest of the brain until the early to mid twenties, particularly in men [ii]. This is why car insurance premiums are so high for people in this age group – even young adults’ ability to focus their attention, consider future risk and inhibit their emotions are underdeveloped.

Attention is not just about thinking and focus – it is hugely important in our emotional life as well. When someone snaps at us, it is our ability to refocus our attention which allows us to remember that he is very stressed, and so with luck we inhibit our natural response to retaliate and provoke more trouble.

Our ability to control our attention seems to be very important for our own emotional balance as well. Left to wander on its own, the mind will quickly revert to unhappy memories or anxious thoughts if these exist –  as they do for many people.  This is why, in the words of one pair of researchers –  ‘a wandering mind is an unhappy mind’: this study showed that people are unhappier when their minds are wandering, even when compared how they feel when focused on routine or tiresome chores.[iii]

The centrality of love and attention to our health mental functioning is becoming starting to become clearer in recent research on the biological and psychological effects of two different types of meditation, each emphasizing one element of the love-attention partnership.

Today’s article was written by Ian H. Robertson, Ph.D. and is shared from the following website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-winner-effect/201306/what-two-things-most-shape-our-lives-love-and-attention

 

 

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Ten Secrets to a Successful Marriage

Love must be as much a light as it is a flame Henry David Thoreau

Successful couples are savvy. They read books, attend seminars, browse Web articles and observe other successful couples. However, successful couples will tell you that they also learn by experience — trial and error.

Here are 10 principles of success I have learned from working with and observing hundreds of couples:

  1. Happiness is not the most important thing. Everyone wants to be happy, but happiness will come and go. Successful couples learn to intentionally do things that will bring happiness back when life pulls it away.
  2. Couples discover the value in just showing up. When things get tough and couples don’t know what to do, they need to hang in there and be there for their spouse. Time has a way of helping couples work things out by providing opportunities to reduce stress and overcome challenges.
  3. If you do what you always do, you will get the same result. Wise couples have learned that you have to approach problems differently to get different results. Often, minor changes in approach, attitude, and actions make the biggest difference in marriage.
  4. Your attitude does matter. Changing behavior is important, but so is changing attitudes. Bad attitudes often drive bad feelings and actions.
  5. Change your mind, change your marriage. How couples think and what they believe about their spouse affects how they perceive the other. What they expect and how they treat their spouse matters greatly.
  6. The grass is greenest where you water it. Successful couples have learned to resist the grass is greener myth — i.e., someone else will make me happy. They have learned to put their energy into making themselves and their marriage better.
  7. You can change your marriage by changing yourself. Veteran couples have learned that trying to change their spouse is like trying to push a rope — almost impossible. Often, the only person we can change in our marriage is ourselves.
  8. Love is a verb, not just a feeling. Everyday life wears away the “feel good side of marriage.” Feelings, like happiness, will fluctuate. But, real love is based on a couple’s vows of commitment: “For better or for worse” — when it feels good and when it doesn’t.
  9. Marriage is often about fighting the battle between your ears. Successful couples have learned to resist holding grudges and bringing up the past. They remember that they married an imperfect person — and so did their spouse.
  10. A crisis doesn’t mean the marriage is over. Crises are like storms: loud, scary and dangerous. But to get through a storm you have to keep driving. A crisis can be a new beginning. It’s out of pain that great people and marriages are produced.

Today’s article was written by Mitch Temple and is shared from the following website: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/daily-living/keeping-romance-alive/ten-secrets-to-a-successful-marriage

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Love is a Choice: 30 Ways to Love in Action

Love is not what you say, love is what you do. Unknown

“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” ~Sam Keen

I recently went with girlfriends to hear one of our favorite beach bands play. Since I turn into a pumpkin at midnight, I talked a friend into taking me home early.

While walking to our car, we witnessed a couple fighting. There was no pushing or shoving.  Fists weren’t involved.  Bizarrely enough, this couple was on opposite sides of the parking lot having their fight over their cell phones.

Due to the volume of their voices, the fight was easy to follow. Apparently, she didn’t give a rip about anyone but herself (his point of view) and he was a control freak (her point of view). There was much discussion back and forth and the words weren’t very nice, so I’ll gloss over that. However, what struck me about that fight was how pointless it seemed.

Did that couple realize how lucky they were to have each other? I wanted to scream at both of them, “What if something tragic happened to one of you on the way home tonight—would this fight have been worth it?”

I see too many couples take their relationships for granted. They forget why they fell in love. They forget the dreams they had and the plans they made. They forget their promises and commitments. The “healthy” of their relationships is based on personal happiness, rather than doing what is best for the both of them.

Love is a choice, not a feeling or an emotion. It’s a decision you make every day of your life. Even when your mate doesn’t take out the trash, or spends too much time at the mall, or when your new haircut or outfit goes unnoticed, or when poor financial decisions set you back—you can still decide to love.

Love is for better or worse. And when you choose not to love, you’ve given up and given in.

It’s a decision you’ll regret.

Take it from a widow that wishes every day that she had her husband at home to leave the toilet seat up, or scatter Popsicle sticks and papers all around the couch, or smoke stinky cigars in the house, or forget to pay the bills or pick up the kids. All those imperfections about your mate are what you will miss the most when they are gone.

Choosing to love isn’t always easy, but it is worth the effort.  Here are some ways you can choose to love on a daily basis:

1. Let go of the little things. If you are truly honest, you’ll realize most of them are little things.

2. Give more than you take in your relationship.

3. Love without strings attached.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

5. Look at the world through your mate’s eyes. Seeing things from their perspective helps you better understand their actions and motivations.

6. Pay attention to your mate. Look at them and focus on what they are saying or doing.

7. Before you blame, examine yourself first.

8. Let it be okay that you don’t see eye-to-eye on everything. Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree.

9. Accept and celebrate your mate’s differences and uniqueness. Face it—you can’t change them, but you can change your attitude about their quirks.

10. Validate your mate’s feelings. Don’t try to “fix” their perspective or contradict them. Accept their feelings without judgment or correction.

11. Hold hands.

12. Work as a team. You are life mates, not roommates.

13. Be flexible with your mate. While consensus is always the goal, sometimes we have to bend to the other’s wishes.

14. Share your vulnerabilities and fears with your mate. A load carried by two is easier than one carried alone.

15. Be faithful to your mate, both emotionally and physically.

16. Don’t hide things from your mate. Trust is fragile—handle with care.

17. Send love notes—a card, text, voicemail, or message on a sticky note or the bathroom mirror will do.

18. Laugh.  A lot.

19. Speak respectfully of your mate. They like to hear you talk about them favorably in front of others, but it means even more when you talk glowingly about them when they aren’t around.

20. Encourage your mate to be the best person they can be. Support their hobbies, learning interests, and passions. Be their biggest fan.

21. Apologize. And mean it.

22. Forgive. And mean it.

23. Develop couple rituals that are known only to you. 

24. Work on goals and dreams together. Planning is half the joy.

25. Public displays of affection!

26. Say “yes” more often than “no.”

27. Appreciate the inner beauty of your mate.

28. Accept and love your mate’s family and friends.

29. Schedule time alone together, even if it’s just a walk around the block or drive in the country.

30. Love yourself. You can’t decide to love another until you can decide to love yourself.

Loving another person isn’t easy, and it can’t be based on feelings or emotions that fluctuate like the weather. Choose actions that show your love, and make the decision to do it every day.

Today’s article was written by Cynthia Hughes Lynch and is shared from the following website: https://tinybuddha.com/blog/love-is-a-choice-30-ways-to-love-in-action/

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The Power of Love

To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides David Viscott

Love is the most powerful weapon for good in the world. However, many husbands and wives think of love as an emotion. In reality, love is an attitude with appropriate behavior. Love is the attitude that says, “I choose to look out for your interests.” Love asks the question, “How may I help you.” Then love is expressed in behavior. The fact that love is action rather than emotion means that I can love my spouse even when I do not have warm feelings toward him or her. If I do or say something that is helpful, my behavior stimulates warm emotions inside my wife. She may not reciprocate immediately, but my loving act has made life better for her. That is what love is all about.

Today’s post was written by Gary Chapman and is shared from the following website: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/2014/03/the-power-of-love/

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