Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

couple-1719666_1920We hear a lot about couples who are not happy and end up divorcing, especially couples in the celebrity world. But there are many happy couples who have learned the secrets to a happy marriage. We all know romantic relationships can be challenging, also rewarding, sometimes confusing and even down right difficult at times.  When it comes to marital satisfaction and happiness, science can tell us a few things. Here are

Fight in person, not over text:  You get in a fight, but do it over text messaging. Not a good idea because couples who argue over text, apologize over text and attempt to make decisions over text, do not end up happy. An emoji just isn’t the same as your face. Nor is the personal contact of working through a disagreement. So if you want to build a happy relationship, face to face is best.

Socialize with couples who have happy marriages: A Brown University study found that if you are around a friend or relative that is divorced, you are 75% more likely to get divorced. The company you keep matters. Even your friends who divorce influence your thinking in terms of staying married. The take away here is find happy couples to be your friends and in your inner circle. Their commitment to stay together and work through problems will influence you to do the same. The more negative the couple is regarding their marriage, the more it rubs off on you!

Work through problems early on in marriage: Psychologist, Dr Herb Goldberg wants us to rethink our ideas about fighting. He says that at the beginning of marriage, we think things should go smoothly and problems should come later. However,  couples who have a rough beginning, but work things out are happier in the long run. So work through your problems early on in marriage. The more you commit to dealing with your differences and conflicts in a positive way, you can actually strengthen the relationship.

Do housework together: If you share chores at home, you tend to be happier. And you are even happier if you define responsibilities –know what to do and what is expected.  A study at UCLA says you tend to be happier with yourself and with your spouse if you sit down and work through the workload. The idea here is that you are working together on dividing the load and supporting each other.

Spend time in the bedroom:  Regular intimacy in the bedroom improves happiness. It’s that simple. And here is a fun fact from a study— upping your intimacy in the bedroom from once a month to once a week can cause happiness levels to jump by as much as if you made an extra $50,000 a year. So there you go! Give your spouse a pay raise! Sounds like an enjoyable way to make your marriage happy!

Keep the friendship going: The National Bureau of Economic Research conducted a study that concluded that marriage leads to increased levels of happiness People said they were twice as satisfied as others though when their spouse was their best friend. This is essential to a happy marriage. You have to have a build a foundation of friendship and keep that friendship going. And if you let the friendship wane because of busyness or stress, you will feel it later when the kids are gone. Or in the worst case, you might look for friendship somewhere else—that is one of the reasons people have affairs. They are looking for companionship and emotional support. So don’t ignore your spouse when it comes to maintaining friendship. Take time for date nights and sharing interests.

Share your faith: In 1999, David and Amy Olsen conducted a national survey with over 21,000 couples. In that survey, they included questions about spiritual life as it relates to couple relationships. They found that if you share a spiritual life with your spouse, it goes along with a happy marriage. Shared beliefs bring meaning and closeness to a couple, especially during difficult times. And faith helps you focus on the positives aspects of each other and respect each other. So share your faith as you do life together.

 

abdominal-pain-2821941_640When Aldous Huxley wrote the novel Brave New World in 1932, people thought he was describing a totalitarian nightmare. However today, we might align more with the notion of wanting an ideal pleasure drug so as not to experience any unpleasant emotion. Modern America likes to medicate away chronic pain, but is this a good idea? And why do we do it?

Pain is unpleasant by definition. It’s purpose is to alert us to do something such as protect our body. Pain is an important survival mechanism. And we now know that pain is created in the brain. No brain, no pain! When a part of your body is injured, nerve endings send signals to the brain. Many parts of the brain are involved in signaling pain. And the severity of the pain feeling is not tied to the severity of injury. Pain is in the brain and there are times the brain thinks the body is in danger and it is not.

And here is the kicker, pain breeds pain. In other words, the more times your brain activates a neural pathway for pain, the easier it is to activate that pathway over and over. This is how chronic pain is born. The pain pathway is learned and used over and over. And the triggers around the pain become associated with that pain and remembered in the brain as well. For example, you sit at your desk and feel pain. The  brain remembers the desk as triggering pain. The next time you sit at the desk, the brain remembers and you feel pain. This conditioned association is why we feel pain at certain times and places long after the injury has healed.

Finally, our emotional states can turn the volume of pain up or down. Feelings and thoughts associated with pain can bring on those pain feelings and even amplify them. So the issue is, if your pain continues for a long time, long after the tissue damage is healed, there is more maintaining that pain than your physical state.  It is the processing of that pain that needs to be addressed, not the physical issues in the body.  And medication doesn’t fix that processing. Thus, the medicating of this type of chronic pain isn’t effective.

Different approaches to chronic pain are needed such as learning to turn down the dial on pain through regulating emotions and using pain helping behaviors. Taking a pill won’t stop your pain when the pain is chronic and tissue damaged is healed. So why do we do? It may be all we know what to do to stop the pain. It may be we want an easy fix. Or it may be, we aren’t aware of the complexities of pain treatment that require a different mindset to dealing with chronic pain.

 

 

men-2425121_1280Ahhh love! This time of year you stroll down store aisles surrounded by red hearts and candy. There are cards expressing love and couples plotting a romantic Valentine’s Day. But being in love involves more than a feeling of romance. In fact,  a group of Australian researchers found that couples going the distance had more than loving feelings going for them.

Age: Age matters.  According to the Australian study, couples in which the husband is nine or more years older than his wife, are twice as likely to divorce. And men who marry before the age of 25 are also at a higher risk for divorce. Perhaps this speaks to maturity and life stage. Someone in a similar stage shares more of the same cultural history and markers. Now, this doesn’t mean age differences can’t work for some couples, but in general, maturity and age sameness reduce risk of divorce.

Children: When couples have children prior to marriage or from a previous marriage, the risk of separation or divorce rises. The take-away, wait until you are married to start a family. It brings stability for children, but also for the couple. And the wife and husband should be on the same page with the desire to have children because when a wife wants children more than a husband does, this becomes a risk factor for divorce.

Extended family (parents). One of my books is entitled, I Married You, Not Your Family. This title points to a marital myth. When you marry, you get the person’s family as well. And if you marry into a family in which the parents are separated or divorced, your risk for divorce is higher than those whose parents stayed together.

Married Before: Here is a startling statistic, If you marry someone who is on their second or third marriage, the risk of separation shoots up to 90% compared to those married for the first time. My advice, have some major premarital therapy before you tie the knot.

Money: Money is always a stressor and issue with couples. Being poor or unemployed ups the risk for divorce. So get a good job, stay at it and build a financial future.

Lifestyle: If one partner smokes and the other doesn’t, this lifestyle habit can contribute to relationship failure. Smoking cessation is good for anyone, but it really matters when you marry a nonsmoker.

None of these factors mean a marriage is going to fail, but be aware that they each pose a risk and should be discussed and addressed before you make the move to marry. Love is wonderful, but real life kicks in and the reality of the relationship is influenced by lots of things that make a lifelong commitment doable, but sometimes challenging.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resource: The study was jointly written by Dr Rebecca Kippen and Professor Bruce Chapman from The Australian National University, and Dr Peng Yu from the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

 

weight-loss-2036969_1280Most of you reading this have been on so many diets in the past, you could write best-sellers about your experiences! I understand as I have heard your stories about diets and failures through the years.

You are probably wondering if this time will be any different from your past efforts to lose weight. You may be thinking, “Can I really lose weight for life?”

When answering such a question, you need to weigh the pros and cons of embarking on such a journey. If you really desire in your heart to do this, God will empower you along the way. But you have to commit to the process. This means you have to be willing to make lifestyle changes.

Read through this list of questions and answer each question honestly:

  • Do I have realistic expectations? Am I willing to lose weight steadily, slowly and sensibly? Am I willing to examine other areas of my life that may need to change in order to support weight loss?
  • Will I change the focus of my efforts to health and lifestyle and not diet and weight?
  • Am I willing to cut back on unhealthy eating habits and develop new ones?
  • Am I willing to increase exercise and movement?
  • Am I willing to resolve emotional issues related to food and eating?
  • Will I monitor my progress and deal with health issues?
  • Will I go deeper in my spiritual life, renewing my mind daily and allowing God to give me a heart of flesh for a heart of stone?
  • Will I eat at regular times and give my body a chance to maximize its metabolism?
  • Will I build community and support, both necessary for long term maintenance of gains?
  • Will I develop a lifestyle of balance and moderation?
  • Will I accept the grace of God and lose the shame and humiliation associated with weight loss efforts and past defeats?

If you can answer, “Yes” to these questions, you are ready to begin. If not, reassess why you answered, “No” and work on changing your attitude and surrendering more to God and His good plan for your life.