Category Archives: Communication

5 Daily acts that will remind your spouse you love her (or him)

With the pressures and speed of daily life, it is easy to forget that our marriages need to be nurtured in the same way we would nurture a small plant in our kitchen window.  With our plant, we need to give it sunlight and water on a regular basis.  It doesn’t take much, just a small amount of water and a little sun will keep the plant growing and over time you will see a beautiful bloom of color and life.

Our marriages need the same attention.  It doesn’t require much, just a loving glance here, and an affectionate touch there, but that small amount of nurturing will keep the love between you blooming and full of color and life.

Here are 5 small acts you can do each day to ensure your loved one knows you still care:

1) Kiss her goodbye before leaving for work.

2) Send him a text saying “Hi”

3) Find one thing to complement her on.

4) Ask him how his day was and then listen to him tell you.

5) Hold her hand while watching TV.

Arguing in front of the kids…. Could it actually be good for them?

It seems intuitive that if parents continually argue in front of their children, the children will be affected. However, there is a new study that has found that the affect does not always have to be negative.

According to a recent report by the University of Notre Dame, which has been conducting an ongoing study for the past 20 years, kids can actually learn conflict resolution skills if they witness their own parents working through a conflict.

“Children actually are not disturbed by (witnessing a conflict) if there are sincere efforts to problem-solve,” explains Mark Cummings, a professor of psychology and the lead researcher on the ongoing study. “They actually are happy about it, which surprised us to find that kids would actually say they’re happy to see the parents work it out.”

The study was quite elaborate in it’s design. Psychology researchers at the University of Notre Dame set up a home-like environment with cameras to record the children and to monitor their reactions. They then hired actors to play the parts of married adults that would argue in front of the children. Researchers tested around 500 children between the ages of 5 and 18 over the course of 20 years. They monitored their reactions to different argument scenarios and even took saliva samples from some of the children to study their levels of cortisol, which is the primary hormone produced by stress.

Different scenarios were portrayed. Sometimes the adults started an argument and then worked through a positive resolution. Researchers discovered that the children learned from these experiences and could recall details of the experience as well as the resolutions.

In other scenarios, the adults would initiate an argument, then pause and leave the room. The children never knew whether or not the disagreement was resolved. In other scenarios, the argument would end with one parent storming out of the room in anger.

Additional findings reported in the study included the fact that, on average, typical married couples have about eight disputes a day. These can be simple disagreements about who should pick up the dry cleaning, or who will do the dishes and can range to much more heated exchanges. But, as hard as we try to shelter our children, the report found that children witnessed their parents arguing about 45 percent of the time.

Po Bronson, co-author of the book NurtureShock, explains that if parents pause mid-argument to take their conflict elsewhere, they should tell their children afterward that the argument was resolved. “In the study, children who don’t see the entire argument, or who see just the beginning but not the resolution, can become overly dramatic in their conflicts. They may become more erratic in their behavior, and their relationships may suffer” says Bronson.

“Boys and girls react differently to parental conflicts,” he added. “Boys show more anxiety in the short term and rebound faster, yet while girls may not seem as affected initially, the conflict depresses them for at least a couple of weeks,” he said.

According to Cummings “The lesson is that if children see grown-ups fighting and making up, those children learn that disagreements can be stepping stones to solutions.”

No secrets: Couples share email addresses to keep things open

Over the past couple of years there has been a new trend developing in online communications.  No, it’s not the use of Twitter or Facebook, although those two technologies are a huge trend that is sweeping the country.

The new trend actually has more to do with using an old technology in a new way.  Electronic mail (e-mail) has been around for a long time and it would be hard to find anybody nowadays under the age of 65 who doesn’t have at least one email account.

Email has fundamentally changed our world, both in our personal lives as well as in our businesses.  However, as is often the case with technology, it can be a double-edged sword.  Because of the inherent privacy built into having your own personal email account, a new type of “affair” has evolved.  By traditional definition, an affair has meant an intimate physical relationship with another who is not your spouse.

However, email, and the Internet in general, has created a new type of affair.  This type of affair could happen between two people who live thousands of miles apart and maybe haven’t even actually met, yet they have grown emotionally attached through intimate conversation and the sharing of very personal information.

There are those who will argue that this is simply a form of friendship, there has been no betrayal.  Yet, if the act of having sex with someone who is not your spouse is bad, but a highly intimate and emotional relationship with someone who is not your spouse is OK, then I think the bigger point is being missed.

I submit that by definition the act of having sex is as much an emotional and intimate experience as it is a physical one, and I would also argue that it is this intimacy and emotional connection of sex that is the root of the feeling of betrayal.

Therefore, if someone has an intimate, emotional relationship with someone other than his or her spouse, even if sex is not involved, it is still the same type of betrayal.

This brings us back to the new trend in email accounts.

In an effort to show total confidence in the online communications between spouses and their friends, couples are starting to share email accounts.

Many couples have started sharing accounts simply as a way to consolidate all electronic bills or online statement communications, however over time they have grown to appreciate the “built-in safety net” of the idea.

The temptation of an online affair with someone over the internet still exists, and someone who is determined to cheat will still cheat, but sometimes the simple knowledge that someone else might easily see the communication you are sending out helps keep honest people honest.  But the real value seems to be just the confidence that there doesn’t appear to be any secrets.

James Furrow, a professor of marital and family therapy at Fuller Theological Seminary, an evangelical school in California, said sharing an account can be helpful if the goal is promoting openness. But he said the practice can hurt a relationship if it’s meant “as an act of deterrence.”

“We can take steps to manage our behavior, but then the problem with that is it begins to become the emphasis rather than the trust of giving the other the benefit of the doubt,” Furrow said. “What you end up with is the doubt.”

While this approach to openness in marriage may seem trivial and ineffective to some, for others who are proactively looking for ways to strengthen their marriage relationships, the idea is one that is starting to spread throughout marriage support groups like Focus on the Family and the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education (CMFCE).

Communication: Sometimes it’s about what we don’t say

We always hear about how important communication is in our marriages. I do agree that the way we communicate with each other is of utmost importance. However, what does it mean to communicate?

I think that sometimes we confuse communicating with talking. I don’t think to communicate always means to talk. I think that sometimes the best communication might be what we choose not to say.

When my wife and I first got married, someone gave us a quote that we thought was pretty funny at the time… “Go into marriage with both eyes wide open, and once your married keep at least one eye shut.”

We have come to more deeply understand and appreciate this concept the longer we are married. I believe that most of us understand intellectually the idea that we go into marriage blinded by love and that we can’t expect perfection in each other. But, knowing that and actually living that is not always the same thing.

Our emotions and feelings often overpower our logic and reason and with time we may find ourselves feeling resentment towards our spouse because of some of their habits or personal traits. This can cause a rift to develop with your spouse that you need to address.

As is most often the case, the way we communicate with each other has a huge impact on how we deal with these unmet expectations, or disappointments. While I am definitely a firm believer that you need to be able to communicate clearly and openly with your spouse about what is happening within your marriage, I don’t believe that everything you think or feel actually needs to be said.

For example, if I attempt to leave the house with socks that don’t match, I would hope that my wife would point that out to me, but I’m pretty sure that if she continually told me that she wished I’d consider a toupee, or hair plugs, to help “cure” my baldness, eventually it would start bothering me and I would begin to wonder if my lack of hair was really a problem. She’s not wrong; I am losing my hair, but will continually pointing that out to me help me somehow? What if I don’t mind being bald?

The same would go for a husband who continually “reminds” his wife that she’s put on a few pounds since the baby. He may technically be right, since most women do put on a few pounds when they have a baby, but is it actually helpful to her, or to the marriage relationship to keep pointing that out to her?

Sometimes I hear people actually justifying these type of comments as being “constructive criticism” or trying to be helpful and loving. But if the only result to this type of statement is that someone’s feelings are hurt, I don’t believe it has anything to do with being helpful, or loving, as much as it has to do with being selfish and having unrealistic expectations.

I believe that communication is critical in strengthening any marriage relationship, however communication does not always mean speaking what is on our mind. Sometimes communication is not saying things that would only make someone feel bad, and would not actually provide any positive value. It’s sometimes about what we don’t say.

The Gift of Apology

In an earlier post, I wrote about the difference between a present and a gift. I submit that a present is something that is purchased or given simply because it is expected that you will give something. We send our kids to birthday parties with presents and sometimes our own children don’t even know what’s inside the wrapping paper. No real thought given to the present, we just have to give something.

A gift can be purchased, but it also comes with some level of meaning attached to it. Some time has been spent thinking about what would be the perfect gift for a particular individual. A ring is a lovely present for a wife on Valentine’s Day, but a Mother’s ring with a stone representing each of your children is a well-thought-out gift.

Could we apply that same concept to an apology? Should an apology be a present, or a gift? Do you sometimes say, “I’m sorry” even though you don’t really believe you were at fault? Or do you say you are sorry, but then spend several moments explaining why you were justified in your behavior. Why would you even bother apologizing in that case, you obviously don’t really mean it?

The power of an apology is profound, if given as a gift. Think about the last time you and your spouse had a disagreement. Voices may have been raised, hurtful things may have been spoken, and at the end of the incident both of you are feeling angry and misunderstood. Both of you have hastily built up a defensive barrier that neither of you is eager to cross.

Now you have an important decision to make. How do you knock down that barrier? How do you open up the lines of communication again? It doesn’t really even matter if you were at fault; you still have a stake in trying to fix things.

This is the power of a sincere apology. Once it is offered, those barriers seem to come down quickly. It may not be instantly, and your spouse may still need some additional time to process his/her feelings, but you have provided the opening that they can take hold of when they are ready.

However, if an apology is given simply as another way to re-introduce your points of the argument (“I’m sorry that we argued, but if you would only…”) then the apology is negated and the opportunity to diffuse the situation is wasted.

We need to stop trying to justify ourselves through our apologies. If you’re going to say it, mean it. And then stop talking.

Let’s treat the apology as a real gift that we put some time and thought into and give it sincerely. Don’t treat it as a present that we just picked up on our way through the checkout stand because it was within reach and didn’t cost much.