couples Posts

Creating Roots to Keep Your Commitment Strong

Our families today are often scattered around the country and are not easily accessed. Our friends from childhood and the memories of our childhood are often distant too. It is important to our health as a couple that we find a way to touch our roots and to make new roots when we need to. When we are not connected and try to be everything to each other, it does not work well. Marriages need a social circle with rituals that we can count on. We need to keep in touch with our families by phone or skype. Make trips both ways to connect with each other. Taking this seriously affects our mental health in every way. It affects our chemistry. Research shows that touching someone you love reduces pain. With married couples, the stronger the marriage, the more powerful the positive effects on all variables. Five hugs a day for four weeks increases our happiness – do you remember that old song about 4 hugs a day? – turns out it was right. Give this a try in your relationship – be sure you are present when you are hugging. Research shows that when you put people in a stressful situation and then let them visit loved ones or talk to them on the phone or in person, they felt supported and their bodies respond at a cellular level as they reported that they felt better. And if you think that texting works, apparently not. In this research, they also had people texting their loved ones. If they texted, their bodies responded biologically as if they had no support at all. As I have blogged about before, emotionally connecting has huge health benefits all around.

Now remember that I am talking about the best case scenario. What if you come from a very dysfunctional background and after much trying you are mostly disconnected from your family? In that case, you must make as many connections with others as is possible. According to research, it seems as if you need to each have a least four good friends to have the kind of health benefits that are important. It probably holds true for the health of your marital connection as well. Having good friends that you are not biologically connected to takes time. Building the kind of memories and trust where you have a certainty that the other will be there for you – takes time. Put it in your calendar. You need to see it there and bring it about. Continue to have balance, however. Your time with your partner needs to be on the calendar as a number one priority too. Make this positive change. Go forth and be wonderful!

Happy Happiness Day!

Wow, we actually have an international happiness day to help remind us of the importance of being involved with our own and our communities’ happiness. The General Assembly of the United Nations commissioned a Day of Happiness, to raise awareness that happiness, human flourishing and wellbeing are fundamental to all life. We know that flourishing people tend to be happier, healthier and smarter. They are more grateful, generous, creative, productive and open minded.

As always, the small and simple things can have a great impact for someone today. Smile more today and say hello. Put some coins in a metered parking space for someone else. Give a hug (if I were with you I would give you a hug – I am sending you one virtually!). Listen for understanding. Share a kind word with your kids or your partner. Lend a helping hand – hold the door for someone. Think warm thoughts for those you see. Let your imagination go wild as to how you could impact others.

Canada (where I am) ends up some where in the middle of the happiest people in the world. Many of our assumptions about what would make us happy are not true. For instance, wealth. After our basic needs are met, wealth is not a variable that makes us happy. Happiness is more an inside job, or an intrinsic characteristic such as gratitude rather then an outside variable, an extrinsic variable, such as wealth. Use this day as a great opportunity for discussion between you and your partner regarding what you are working for in your life to create happiness. The variables that make a difference world wide are also important to your partnership such as family and friend connections, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices and generosity are some of the variables world wide. Also take this day to reinforce your connections with each other and family and friends.

When you do this, it makes a difference with your children and also your networks. Your gestures of goodness, kindness and happiness can spread like a contagion. In some innovative research Cacioppo, Christakis, and Fowler (December 2009) have shown that happiness, loneliness, altruism, and whether people cheat all spread through networks. If people cooperate, it is more likely that strangers, three degrees removed, will also cooperate. Like an event cone, one act, whether it adds happiness or unhappiness, changes and alters unrelated events. We need to celebrate and promote happiness to help with the brokenness in the world as well as ourselves. Happy Happiness Day! – Celebrate today well.

Posted by Lynda in Healthier Marriages and tagged with , ,

The Balcony People for your Partnership

Who are the people who lift you up when you are down about your relationship and life? They are the ones who reassure you this is just a season in your relationship life. They say that others have been there and worked it through. They tell you to have patience. They notice that the other is trying. They notice that you are trying. They tell you that they have faith in your relationship. They tell you that they have faith in you and your partner to have the necessary strengths to make it all work. They remind you of the good times and help you to focus on those. They give you hope for the future. They take you out and make you smile. Cultivate these people in your life. You and your relationship need them!

Posted by Lynda in Healthier Marriages and tagged with , , , ,

Having a Vision for the New Year of 2012

New years can be exciting – I know they are for me. It is like I have a whole book of blank pages that I get to fill in new and interesting ways. I get to decide some chapter titles that I would like to focus on and I get to fill in some blanks on the calendar to reflect those chapter titles. I can even write the story ending for the year leaving room for some wonderful surprises. How fun is that?? I find that couples really need to take the time to have a shared vision of their year ahead and yet few do this. They each have some unspoken and yet hardly formed ideas for what they would like for the year and yet they remain unspoken and undefined and therefore do not get realized. I recommend that couples find a night to go away (better yet a weekend) and make a vision for their year. Make sure you take the facts of your finances with you. Take a calendar with big squares (I know – pretty old fashioned – an actual paper calendar). Talk together about your individual dreams for yourselves, as well as how you would like to spend your year as a couple. Perhaps make titles for each of the parts of your lives individually and together. Then look at your dreams for your family and each individual child. While you are going through this process, endeavour to use this time to support each other in your wishes and dreams. Understand the layer beneath the words to your partners longings. Look at your time together and apart. Look at relationship time and family time and individual time. How would you like to balance those? How do you want to be together? How do you want to spend your money this year? What kind of experiences do you want your family to have? What kind of vacations do you want together? How do you want to reach out to your social circle? What would you like to contribute to your community or world as a couple or family? How will you develop the spiritual part of who you are as an individual and as a family? You get the picture. So many challenges could be avoided  and so much more meaning could be realized if you knew that you and your partner were on the same page, creating your year as a team, supporting each other in your individual goals and dreams as well as those you share. Write the story ending of the year now. In the year 2012, we were like this together, we did this etc etc. Many blessings to all the couples who read this blog this year!

Posted by Lynda in Healthier Marriages and tagged with ,