Healthy Benefits of Sex in Marriage

We are constantly hearing that we need to eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep,  but what kind of benefits do we reap by getting intimate with our spouse?  Yes, sex in a marriage improves your health!  I have felt the benefits of love-making with my spouse throughout my marriage including some of the benefits Woman’s Day shares in “8 Surprising Health Benefits of Sex”:

  1. It May Make You Thinner
  • Sex burns between 75 and 150 calories per hour
  • It counts as exercise and is equivalent to yoga, dancing, or walking for 30 minutes
  1. It May Improve Your Heart Health
  • Researchers found that having sex twice or more a week reduced the risk of fatal heart attack by half
  • It raises heart rate and blood flow
  1. It Can Help You Get a Better Night’s Sleep
  • People who have frequent sex often report handling stress better
  • Many say they sleep more deeply and restfully after satisfying lovemaking
  1. It Can Boost Your Immune System
  • Researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found that individuals who have sex once or twice a week show 30 percent higher immunoglobulin A, which is known to boost the immune system
  • During cold and flu season wash your hands and make a bedroom date with your spouse—often!

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  1. It Can Improve Your Mental Health
  • Psychologically, sex improves one’s mental health by building intimacy and reducing stress
  • Sex reduces cortisol which lowers the chances of increased blood pressure, hyperglycemia and increased acidity in the abdomen
  1. It Can Help Relieve Pain
  • Sexual arousal and orgasm allows oxytocin to be secreted into the body which releases pain relieving endorphins
  • The next time you have a headache…sex may be the remedy you are looking for
  1. It Can Help You with Bladder Control
  • Doing Kegel exercises during sex helps strengthen the muscle associated with incontinence
  1. It May Give You Healthier Skin
  • During sex, your body produces a hormone called DHEA which can boost the immune system and give you healthier skin and decrease depression
  • Throw away that expensive face cream and increase intimacy with your spouse instead

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Making intimacy a priority in your marriage not only has health benefits but it brings you closer together in mind, body and spirit.  If you find yourself having difficulty sleeping at night or tend to get stressed easily, don’t take a Tylenol P.M., turn to your spouse for a remedy that only he or she can give you and have fun in the process!

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Text Messages Your Spouse Would Love

 

From the article “How to improve your marriage by texting…” Gordon Brewer found that “97% of smart phone users use texting.  And as of 2015, nearly two-thirds of Americans own smart phones.  So it is very likely that you communicate with your spouse via text messages.”

Let’s face it!  If we own a cell phone it rarely leaves our side and we are constantly using it to communicate with others.  How often do we use it to create closeness and intimacy in our relationship with our spouse?  How often do we use texting when we are trying to solve a conflict with our spouse?

Brewer believes trying to solve conflicts through texting “sets a couple up for failure” and he lists some simple guidelines on the “do’s” and “don’ts” of texting your spouse:

The Do’s:

1. Text your spouse love notes often!
2. Only use texting for non-crucial conversations.
3. Texting is great for grocery lists, when you will be home, when to get the kids or what’s for dinner…
4. Sending each other pictures of fun stuff (only appropriate stuff!).
5. Sending affirmations, “warm-fuzzes” and “just thinking of you” are always okay and encouraged.
6. Only handle conflicts face to face; take texting off the table when it comes to disagreements about things.

The Don’ts:

1. Never use texting to settle the argument from the night before, or anytime for that matter.
2. Never send criticisms, jabs or hateful messages.
3. If it takes more than a sentence or two to say what you want to say, you should probably call or wait until you are face to face.
4. Never complain about your spouse to others in a text message or pull someone else in to help you “win” the argument.
5. If you have saved text messages from past arguments, never use those as future ammunition. That is just not fighting fair! Delete them.
6. Never use texting to have deep or intimate conversations. Save it for when you are face to face.

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 One of my favorite things to receive is a screen shot of a meme or cute quote from my sweetie.  Although this act is simple and takes only a few seconds to do, it always brings a smile to my face.   I am amazed at how much one little text message can help me to feel more emotionally connected to my husband.

Katie Secretary shares “14+ text messages to send your hubby” (or your wife) that she sent her husband in celebration of her 14th Wedding anniversary.  I loved the idea of sending the same number of text messages to your sweetheart as the years you’ve been married, to celebrate your wedding anniversary!  Here are some of the messages Katie shared:

  • “You are AMAZING. Just thought you should know”.
  • “How did I get so lucky to have you?”
  • Being with you…is the best!”
  • “Your boss is lucky to have you. I’m proud of how hard you work.”
  • “I LOVE being your wife.” (You could switch “wife” for “husband”)
  • “I love you to the moon and back.”
  • “You’re my hero!”
  • “I’m having one of those days that make me realize how lost I’d be without you…Just wanted to let you know.”
  • “I had a dream about you and I woke up smiling…”
  • “I thought about you and it made me smile.”
  • “Our kids are so blessed to have a dad like you.” (replace “dad” with “mom”)
  • “I feel safe with you.”
  • “I thought about you and it made me smile.”
  • Tell your spouse 3 reasons you appreciate them today

One app that I enjoy using is Bitmoji.  This app allows you to design an avatar that looks like you, which makes the text message you send that much more personal.

Here are a few I’ve sent to my husband:

                              

If you avoid the “don’ts” of texting and follow the “do’s” you can find creative and exciting ways of improving your communication with your spouse through the wonderful world of technology.  The next time you are checking your e-mail or Facebook page on your phone, take a few moments to send your spouse a message, letting them know you are thinking about them and how much you love them.

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Finding the Magic: Affection

It’s a Saturday night and Mark and I are sitting on the couch preparing to watch a movie. Mark loads the movie while I grab a blanket from the back of the couch. I cover us both and then lean into Mark. He lifts his arm in a natural move to allow me in closer. I find the perfect spot in the nook of his arm and settle down for the next couple hours. Mark puts his arm around my shoulders and rests his hand on my arm. He leans his head down and kisses the top of my forehead. I smile and snuggled in closer.

These are some of my favorite times. There is nothing momentous happening, just the two of us snuggling together watching a movie.  So why do I feel so safe and loved?  Personally, I think it is all about the simple physical affection.  Sharing affection reminds us we are important to each other.  We are reminded that we still cherish our relationship and time we have to spend together. We have learned to anticipate each other’s need for affection.  The connection we feel is a blessing to both of us.

In Dr. Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages, he discusses the importance of understanding the different ways that your spouse expresses and receives love. He breaks down common traits into five different “Love Languages”:  words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Regarding physical touch, Chapman discusses many studies that have demonstrated the value of physical touch to new born babies. Babies who are held and physically touched in loving ways develop healthier emotional lives than babies who lack this contact. This desire for touch is powerful and is the primary love language for many individuals. No matter where it falls in your love language priorities, open and honest discussions about physical touch and small efforts to improve the quality of touch in your relationship can pay big dividends.

Seven Reasons for Increasing Physical Affection

Dr. Kory Floyd compiled a list of seven reasons to increase physical affection in your marriage. First, physical affection elevates oxytocin levels. I like to think of oxytocin as the hormone of love. This hormone often increases our desire to participate in activities where we feel its presence. Simple acts such as holding hands and hugging can increase oxytocin levels.

Second, physical affection is a predictor of marital love. Regular affection tends to bring higher feelings of love in a relationship. Many couples go to great lengths to celebrate holidays such as Valentine’s Day.  Some couples do this because they feel a lack of regular romance in their relationship and they are trying to play catch-up. The happiest couples don’t wait for a holiday to remind them to be affectionate. They take the time on a daily basis to hold hands, snuggle, kiss, participate in PDA (public displays of affection), and offer massages.  When affection is part of your daily relationship, the love you experience with your partner will strengthen.

Floyd’s third reason to increase physical affection in marriage is because greater physical affection has been linked to lower blood pressure. In a study published by Biological Psychology in 2005, premenopausal women who receive hugs regularly have been found to have increased levels of oxytocin (our love hormone) and also have lower blood pressure. Because high blood pressure runs in my family, I love the idea that a few more hugs or toe snuggles may replace my need for regular medication.

Fourth, one study shows that affectionate people are perceived as more trustworthy. When we are affectionate with our spouse, we communicate our openness to them. We are willing to be vulnerable, which welcomes the same level of vulnerability from our partner. As couples navigate to find their own comfort zone with affection, they increase their overall satisfaction of the relationship. When couples share a common perspective of affection, tension in the physical relationship can be either prevented or overcome.

Fifth, physical affection has been shown to reduce stress hormones. Perhaps this is why we are often drawn to hug our partners when they are sad, or reach out and touch their hand in order to show support after a particularly hard day. When we see stress rising in someone we love, we often desire to be able to help. Affection can be our body’s natural way of offering the best help we can give.

Sixth, physical affection is associated with higher degrees of marital satisfaction. In a national survey including 50,379 married couples from all 50 states, couples who rated their marriage as “Happy” were completely satisfied with the affection from their partner 68% of the time. These couples also rated their partners higher in their sexual relationship and had less concerns about their relationship when their partner is not interested in them sexually.

The seventh and final reason Floyd gives to increase physical affection is that the benefits last for more than just today. Sharing physical affection today can also predict a better mood for the following day. The feeling of closeness created through touch is powerful. Physical affection is often accompanied by more open communication. These combined connections fill our hearts with love and security that can last for as long as we nourish them.

What more reasons do married couples need?  Make an effort to improve your physical relationship with your spouse. It strengthen your connection and heighten your pleasure. So take Dr. John Gottman’s advice and invest at least 5 minutes a day over a seven day period until you feel like Plato said, “At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.”

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Finding the Magic: Appreciation and Admiration

I recently read an article where a woman who lost her husband in a car accident was asked what she would share with couples about marriage. Her response was surprising. She said, “I was haunted by the idea of gratitude. I wanted to thank my husband for all his hard work – to really thank him.” She went on to advise, “Slow down and look at all your spouse does for you, and say thank you. You think you’ll always have time to do that, but you might not. You cannot say ‘thank you’ too much.”

Appreciation / Gratitude: In October of 2015, the University of Georgia released research findings which stated that gratitude is a key ingredient to improving marital quality. Their survey of 468 married individuals found that gratitude was the most common predictor of marital satisfaction. Showing gratitude often takes the form of appreciation.  Couples who regularly show appreciation ease some of the burdens in life. They tell each other “I am in your corner” and “I notice and appreciate all that you do”.

Not only does gratitude help those who hear such kind words, but a study conducted by Jeffrey Dew and Bradford W. Wilcox found that when participants worked to show their partners more gratitude their efforts increased their own marital bliss. Gratitude, therefore, benefits both the giver and the receiver.

Gratitude even has the power to overcome some of what Dr. John Gottman calls the most powerful predictors of divorce. When couples are faced with conflict, it is often easy to fall into a demand/withdrawal scenario. One spouse begins with a criticizing personal attack attached to a demanding statement, which causes a withdrawal in their partner. The University of Georgia’s research shows that gratitude can interrupt this cycle.

Couples need to regularly show appreciation if they want to be happy in their relationship, and there are many simple ways to do it. Take time to write a note of appreciation to your partner. Give a kiss and lace it will words of affection. Take the time to notice your partner’s positive traits and actions and it will bless you both with more love and devotion.

Admiration: Admiration is often misunderstood.  Perhaps this is because seeking admiration can be associated with selfish acts.  Dr. Gottman sees admiration from a different perspective. He believes admiration combined with fondness is a predictor of a couple’s ability to combat contempt and build a relationship which focuses on positive qualities. Gottman states that fondness and admiration are essential to making marriage work.

Couples can show admiration through taking time to seek their spouse’s advice. They can show they value their partner’s opinion on topics about their shared home and life together. Couples can listen when partners speak to them and be respectful. Even when there is a difference of opinion, listening and respect can help couples to find common ground while maintaining positive feelings about each other. Couple can avoid being overly critical, especially in public. Instead, couples can complement their spouse in front of others. Allowing spouses to hear their partner speak kindly of them builds their self-worth and the marital connection. Couples can support their spouse’s goals. If one spouse is training for a marathon, the other can offer to help track their times, attend pre-races and make signs of encouragement.

Gottman’s Proven Techniques: Gottman offers a list of ideas to help couples feel more appreciation and admiration. First, couples should take the time to list three positive qualities about their spouse. Some examples might be intelligent, athletic, loving, kind, or funny. Each spouse should write these qualities down and then include an example of a time their spouse showed this characteristic.

Second, couples should talk about their shared history with each other. Discussing their courtship and sharing how they felt when they realized they were in love makes for a great connection point. Couples who share a fondness for their shared history have the ability to focus on the reasons they fell in love in the first place. Often it is through sharing this history that romance is rekindled.

Third, couples need to practice positive thinking. Couples should take the time in the mornings to think of one reason they love their spouse. One option is to write this down and focus on it throughout the day. If their mind starts to slip into negative thoughts, couples can pull out their morning note and remind themselves why they chose their spouse in the first place.

Gottman has found that asking couples to focus just 5 minutes a day on appreciation and admiration leads them to long lasting relationships where love and marital bliss can be found. Taking the time to try out a few of these ideas is a good investment in their relationship. It’s amazing the power just a few minutes a day can have on marital satisfaction.

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Finding the Magic: Daily Rituals of Partings and Reunions

When I think on the courtship my husband and I shared, I have memories of sweet notes, flowers, long walks while holding hands, and many, many conversations as we shared what was most important to each of us. When my children ask what made me fall in love their dad, it doesn’t take me long to come up with an answer. “He made me feel loved and important. He listened to me and remembered the things I shared.” The longer we dated, the more I longed to be with him and he with me. We wanted to enjoy these feelings every day forever.

Marriage was supposed to be the key to keeping this intense love alive, but not long after our wedding we found ourselves moving in different directions. Mark was still in school. I was working two jobs. We worried about bills, transportation, in-laws, holiday traditions and more. I had moved to a new city and knew few people. Mark went from school to work coming home after 12 to 15 hour days. It was hard to feel and remember the connection we both loved about our relationship.

Married couples across the country are struggling just as we did, being pulled between kids, school, work and other responsibilities. Dual earning homes have become the norm for many families, with over one fourth of these couples having at least one spouse working a nonstandard shift. Having such different schedules often results in couples speaking only in passing with just enough time to rundown the “chores of the day” and almost no time for the spousal relationship.

Authors Francine and Byron Pirola call this situation the “Auto-Pilot Marriage.” Married couples today often experience this auto-pilot lifestyle shortly after saying their marital vows. This is not a sign that there is no longer love in the marriage, but rather the normal progression of the modern marriage, if couples don’t actively work towards an alternative.

The alternative to the auto-pilot marriage is to be an intentional couple. An intentional couple creates and shares daily rituals of a significant nature with each other. Dr. John Gottman shares in his book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” what research has shown makes the most effective rituals.  For the majority of couples, it can start with just a few minutes each day.

Partings: Unlike the marital relationships of our forefathers, rarely do modern couples work side-by-side throughout the day. Therefore parting happens at some point. Gottman suggests couples dedicate 2 minutes each day to share something that will happen while they are apart. These two minutes begin a domino effect of connection. For example, in our home it often plays out something like this…

Mark: I will be conducting interviews for half of the day today. I’m not sure my partner and I are looking for the same qualities in a candidate. I hate to waste time interviewing people I feel are under qualified.

Me: That must be frustrating. I know you have a lot on your plate right now.

Me: (Later on sent in a text): I’ve been thinking about you today. I hope your interviews are going alright.

Mark: (texted in reply): I love you. I think we may have found someone we both can agree on. Hallelujah!

Me: That’s wonderful news! I love you too!

When we invest in the lives of our partner, we invest in our marital relationship. Taking the time to learn about each other’s plans, hopes, and fears shows we are partners. We demonstrate that we care about our partner and that we desire to be connected even while we are apart.

One last note on parting:  kiss your partner goodbye. Not just any kiss, but a full six second kiss. Make the kids squirm a little!  Gottman calls this a “kiss with potential.” A six second kiss is a kiss full of love, longing and commitment. Saying goodbye with such a kiss helps you leave with what I refer to as tingly toes. It lightens the day before it has even really begun and reminds us where our heart lies. So set aside just 2 minutes to listen to each other’s plans for the day and then share a kiss worth remembering.

Reunions: The second ritual that intentional couples do well is reunions. Reunions are my favorite part of the day. I often find myself waiting for the text telling me Mark is on his way home and smile when he walks through the door. Home is not home until he is there. Plus, Gottman suggests we reunite with another six second kiss. That’s two toe-tinging kisses a day. What a way to say hello!

Gottman then suggests that couples engage in a stress-reducing conversation at the end of the day. This conversation need only be about 20 minutes and can take place at any point in the evening.  Just find a time that works for you and stick with it! I find it easier to talk once the kids are in bed. We snuggle up together in bed and share the events of the day with each other. If you have teenagers, consider going for a walk together in the evening. Teens are often up later hours and leaving the house gives couples that uninterrupted time. Most importantly, remember this 20 minutes is for connection. Problem solving and logistics can be worked out later.

Try these changes this week. Choose to be an intentional couple every day. Enjoy your six second kisses and connecting conversations. It’s amazing the power these small investments of time can add to your marriage.

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Spice it Up!

It is so important to keep that spark alive in your marriage.  It is so easy to get caught up with kids, work, school, homework, and endless day to day tasks of running a household and managing a family.  But, even with all of these responsibilities, it is important to take a breath, and take a break, and make time for your spouse.  So, what are some ways that you can make your relationship a priority and make time for each other?

Hold Hands – When my husband and I were first married, we had a car with a 5-speed.  My husband drove almost all of the time and I loved holding his hand.  He would rest his hand on the stick shift and I would rest my hand on his.  It was such a great feeling and reminded me of how much I loved him.  It reminded me of when we were first married, and holding his hand was new and exciting.  This is an easy way to be closer to your spouse.

Have romantic time at home – Romantic time at home doesn’t necessarily mean sex.  It means closeness and it is time alone, away from all of the chaos of life.  Get a babysitter for the kids, make a fire and sit in front of the fire and talk.  Make a romantic dinner, light candles and enjoy the time together.  When you spend romantic time together, it is a sweet reminder of why you fell in love.

Sex – Sex is important in any marriage to make a connection.  It is the ultimate way to be close to your partner.  Make sex a priority in your marriage.  Even if sex isn’t important to you, it is most likely important to your partner.  Try something new in the bedroom and change it up a little bit.  That is exciting for both of you.  Dr. Phil says, “Sex is not the foundation of a healthy relationship; it is a natural extension of a relationship in which giving and receiving mutual support and comfort are common.  If you want a good sexual relationship, it needs to be embedded in a good overall relationship.”

Be Spontaneous – Jump in the car and go for a drive.  My husband and I did this a few months ago.  We got in the car on a Saturday morning and we took off.  We didn’t know where we were going to go; we didn’t have it all planned out.  We ended up about 4 hours away from home.  We got a hotel, went out for a nice dinner, did a little shopping, and then turned around and went home the next day.  We talked, we laughed and we had fun.  We had a great time, and it was nice to be able to spend quality time with my honey.  It’s OK to give flowers just because, or write sweet notes or sweet texts.  It lets your partner know that you are important and that you were thinking about them.

Get away – Take small weekend trips, and go somewhere new.  You always forget about your stressful life when it feels like you are on vacation.  And if you can financially, take a vacation away where you can reconnect and have fun with each other.

Date nights – Set aside one day of the week, where you plan a date with your sweetheart.  My parents were great daters.  Friday night was their night.  They wouldn’t babysit and we knew not to ask.  They always went out.  It was often not anything fancy.  Sometimes they went to grab a burger.  Sometimes they went to a movie.  Sometimes they went for a drive.  But, they always went out.  It was a great example to me that my parents loved each other, and they loved spending time together.  They were married 35 years when my dad passed.  It was a great love affair and a great gift to me and my sisters.

Spend time together –  Remind yourself why you fell in love with your partner.  Take time to make your spouse feel important, and learn to do things that you know the other one would appreciate.  These ideas and suggestions will spice up your marriage and you will realize that your partner is your partner for life!!

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