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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

You get married to stay married!

This is going to be a sad one so I'll keep it short.

In the seven years that my wife and I have been married there has not been a single time that I have wondered if we should continue our marriage. 

We started out making a covenant with each other to love, care for, and support one another. Have there been times where I could have wondered, maybe, but I won't allow myself.

Instead of wasting energy wondering if "we're compatible" anymore or worrying that "we're different people now than when we got married" I invest my time and energy into making sure that we are still in love, have shared interests, and that we grow together not apart.

I just do not understand the flawed thinking about marriage that is so prevalent in today's society.

You get married to stay married not so that you can file your taxes together. 


When I read this question that a reader posed to a Boston Globe columnist on Monday about whether after five years of marriage she should throw in the towel I was shocked. The reasons she listed for wanting to end her marriage were so incredibly selfish. I agree that we do need to take care of ourselves and our needs but only in a way that builds the relationship.

The thing that redeemed this experience for me was the comments from the readers. Many of them were as surprised as I was and counseled her to exercise a little maturity.

That's something we should all do, exercise a little more maturity in our relationships. 


Today I challenge you to identify one thing about which you are being selfish that causes conflict in your relationship. Think about whether it is worth the conflict and discuss it with your spouse.

Even if the two of you decide it doesn't need to change you'll have grown just a little bit closer together. (okay, this ended up being longer than I planned)

Does seeing things like this question in the Boston Globe bother you? What suggestions do you have for growing together or avoiding growing apart?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Love Until They Can Hurt You

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I was trolling for articles and blog posts about love, marriage, and happiness yesterday (I do this regularly) and stumbled across an article by Tani Brown about love. It is well written and makes some interesting observations about loved based on the movie Good Will Hunting. I was disappointed at its conclusion though, not because it was a poor conclusion, because the author stated that she has yet to experience what she had described in the article as true love. I commented on the article encouraging her not to give up and to keep looking for real love (what we call uplifting love). I hope that she takes my advice and keeps looking. My love for Cami and her love for me (coupled with our shared faith in God) has brought me more happiness than anything else. It would be wonderful if everyone could feel the way we do about each other.
The description that Ms. Brown provided about love, taken from Good Will Hunting, was:

And if I asked you about love, you'll probably quote me a sonnet. But you've never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone could level you with her eyes... You don't know about real loss, because that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself. I doubt you've ever dared to love anybody that much.

I think that pretty much sums it up. Real and lasting happiness in marriage only comes when we choose to love our spouse more than ourselves and they do the same. It isn't one sided, both have to love the other more than themselves. Yes, you are vulnerable if you care more about your spouse than yourself but the trust required for this to happen is the foundation on which uplifting love is built. Then by applying the practices discussed on this site we can acheive Uplifting Love.

What do you think? Am I right? What has your experience been?

Monday, February 25, 2013

What do you mean you got the children ready?

Yesterday ended up being a good day. I am often very busy on Sunday's fulfilling responsibilities in my local religious congregation (I serve in a volunteer capacity as do others in the congregation but it still takes up quite a bit of time). Yesterday I didn't have anything that I needed to do other than attend our regular services. I had been looking forward to yesterday and spending a relaxing Sunday with my family for several weeks. We all slept in a little later than normal, ate breakfast together, and enjoyed a laid back morning. Then I went to take a shower.

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When I am asked for advice on marriage I often remark that the one thing that has caused more contention and disagreement in my marriage is our children. We both love them immensely but our approach to parenting is different and this sometimes results in "heated discussions." The frequency of these discussions has decreased as time has gone on and we've learned how to work with each other and the children but when they do happen their intensity is just as strong. If you don't have children yet know that these disagreements will happen and that's okay. Just don't forget that you love your spouse more than anything and even the children and parenting should not be allowed to come between you.

So I went to take a shower. My wife had really been looking forward to yesterday as well because she anticipated that I would help get the children ready for church (I'm not usually home when they are getting ready), and I had planned to. The problem was a lack of communication between the two of us. She expected me to help get the children dressed BEFORE I took a shower. I had planned to help AFTER my shower. The result: my wonderful wife got the children ready by herself WHILE I was in the shower. There was some tension between us when my shower finished. We successfully discussed what happened, apologized, and made up after our church services but once again the children and a failure to communicate caused problems. In the future we will both do a better job helping one another understand our expectations.

I love my sweetheart and am grateful for all that she does. Our family would simply not function without her. Next time I have a Sunday "off" I plan to get the children ready BEFORE I take a shower. :)

MORAL OF THE STORY: help each other understand your expectations. It will prevent a lot of conflict.

I would love to hear about a time when you and your spouse successfully navigated conflict and your tips for how others can do it too. Leave a comment, send me an email (tysontcooper@gmail.com), or use the "Share" page. I look forward to hearing from you!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Skewed Perceptions

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My wife is at a church meeting tonight and I stayed home to put the children in bed so that she could go. I hate being away from her but that's part of being a parent of small children.

So while she's been gone I found a note that she wrote me about a week ago just after Valentine's Day. The note had glowing remarks about our Valentine's Day date and she just thanked me for making the day so special and the best Valentine's yet. I laughed when I read this. Here's what actually happened: she sent me to the store the night before to buy groceries and so that I could get her a gift and flowers (although she didn't say that) because I hadn't made it enough of a priority before that. Then, on Valentine's morning, I left her a little box of chocolates on her pillow as I left to go workout. When I came home from work I gave her a dozen pink roses (they were pretty) and a large box of chocolates (she LOVES chocolate). We went to a restaurant and ordered out because she didn't feel like being around people and ate in the car. Then we bought a cake at Wal-mart, picked up her teenage sister at her house, relieved the babysitter early (my brother-in-law), and watched a really cheesy chick-flick. In the note it sounds like the most romantic evening ever. Obviously, it wasn't, however, I just appreciated and enjoyed spending time with my sweet and beautiful wife.

The lesson I learned from this: my wife has a skewed perception of reality. And I am grateful.

p.s. The reason her perception is skewed is because she loves me. Love has a way of making normal things seem amazing when we do them with the one we love. That's the way I feel when I'm around my sweetheart, amazing, even if it's been just an average day. Yes, she's really that great.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What can doing the dishes do for you?


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The other day I was talking with some of the members of my team at work and mentioned that I had this website dedicated to helping good marriages become great ones. The team member that has been married the longest (20+ years) commented: "That's easy. Do the dishes." We all laughed and went back to work but that comment has stayed with me. "That's easy. Do the dishes."

When was the last time you SHOWED your spouse that you are grateful for them? How did you show it?  Gratitude is critical in a relationship (I've mentioned this before here and here). The doing the dishes comment reminded me that while I tell my wife I am grateful for her I really need to show her. And it's not necessarily always easy to do. The best gestures of gratitude are the ones that require us to actually know our spouse. What does he love? What does she hate to do? In my team member's marriage for her it is the dishes. When her husband does the dishes he is showing his love for her, his understanding of her, and his gratitude for her. 
TIP: don't always do the same thing to show your gratitude. Find several ways and rotate through them while always being on the lookout for new ways to express your thanks.

According to research, showing gratitude strengthens marriages in many ways some of which are:
  • Helps your spouse feel more grateful for you and increases their desire (and yours) to hold onto the relationship
  • Promotes intimacy because of the trust it builds
  • Helps each spouse to feel more appreciated and valued
  • When your spouse feels more appreciated and valued they will reciprocate causing a vicious upward spiral of gratitude and happiness in the marriage
How are you going to show your gratitude for your spouse this week?
 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Male Pattern Baldness

Picture me standing in front of the mirror tying my tie as I get ready for work one morning recently.

Me: "Is my hair getting thinner? Is my hairline receding?"
Cami: "Yeah it is. Especially in the back."
Me: Silence. Standing in front of the mirror, dumbfounded.

Honesty in relationships...It has a time and a place. This was not the time.

I love you Sweetheart!

Cami Wants to go Skydiving

Having fun is important to keep relationships happy and the more fun the happier you can be. It also happens to be the second suggestion in the "Harvard blog" mentioned yesterday.  The article references an article in the Berkeley Science Review, couples who play together stay together (also the title of the article), that reports that couples who have fun together "feel closer, experience more positive emotions, and as a result are happier together."
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My wife has wanted to go skydiving for years now. Two things have prevented us from "taking the plunge." First, money. It's kind of expensive to go skydiving, usually a couple hundred dollars a person. Second, the children. She's afraid we'll die and the children will be orphans. My argument is that if we jump now rather than later they will be young enough that they won't remember us (just kidding. Seriously, I'm just kidding).

According to the Berkeley Science Review we should do it. The trick, according to the article, is that having fun and doing new and novel things as a couple staves off boredom, which, according to experts, is a relationship killer. It also serves a second purpose of connecting positive, exciting feelings to your spouse because you did the activity with them reinforcing positive feelings of love and excitement within your marriage.

Finally, these fun and exciting things don't have to be skydiving or bungee jumping. It could be as simple as spending time getting to know another couple. The key is to do the activity together and have fun. If Scrabble does it for you then by all means spell away!

I would love to hear about the fun and exciting things that you and your spouse do. Have you ever gone skydiving? Can you recommend a good place?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Are your glasses dirty?

Each day I spend some time scouring the web looking for interesting information to share and new perspectives and insights into love and marriage. Yesterday I stumbled upon a blog hosted by Harvard's Extension School that had a post titled "5 Tips for Healthy, Loving Relationships" written by Holly Parker. It was a good post and reinforced some of the suggestions that we've covered here in the past. It was so good that I want to spend some time over the next few days going over some of the 5 tips.
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The first tip is to see the best in your partner and in your relationship. Which is easier: to find the good or the bad in a situation? For me, it's much easier finding the bad. But if I make an effort, it's gets easier to see good things. It's like an example I heard recently of looking through dirty glasses.  It is much easier to blame the "dirt" we see on who we see through it but if we'll clean the dirt off (negative thoughts) we can see more clearly. Because I am prone to focusing on the negative I made it a personal goal when Cami and got married to only see the good things about her. I could now write a several volume series of books about her wonderfulness (maybe I will someday, huh...). When I was 17 I heard one of the leaders of my religious congregation say "Your dad knows your mother's flaws and weaknesses better than anyone else but when he talks about her you know that he truly believes that she is perfect." I want someone to say that about me someday.

Here's the trick I use: when I am tempted or begin to think negatively about my beautiful wife I immediately stop and think about one of the many things I love and appreciate about her. Some of the things that regularly come to mind are her kindness, her laugh, her eyes (I love her eyes! They are like little suns because of the way that they are colored), her physical appearance (I am quite attracted to her), the wonderful mother of our sons she is, her generosity with her time and willingness to help others, I could go on and on but this is just to give you an idea.

Today's challenge is to identify 5 things that you LOVE about your spouse. Write them down on a notecard you can keep in your pocket or write them down on your phone or something. Then the next time you are tempted to think ill of your spouse pull out the list and slowly review it. The negative thoughts will scurry away and you'll feel "the love."

Friday, February 15, 2013

Everyday is Valentine's

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As I was perusing what's "out there" about relationships, love, and marriage I stumbled across a heading "Make Everyday Valentine's Day". I clicked on it. I found it to be pretty good and now that this year's Valentine's Day has passed I think it serves as an important reminder to us all. The article's author provides four suggestions to fill every day, not just Valentine's Day, with a little bit more love.
  • Reflect on just how important your relationship is to you
  • Remember good times that you have had with your spouse or significant other
  • Ponder your spouses good qualities and the things that you love about him/her
  • Consider what makes your spouse happy, then do it
The main point of the article is that while Valentine's Day is a great opportunity to show your love it shouldn't be the only day that we do so. Challenge yourself to make everyday a celebration of your love.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day...by the Numbers

Cool Valentine's Day information. I thought you might find it interesting too.  Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tweet, Tweet. What the heck?!

My next social media adventure: Twitter.  I have resisted for years participating in Twitter as I really don't understand this.  If Pinterest is foreign to me Twitter is an entirely different universe.  As far as I understand it I am supposed to randomly tweet things that I am doing, thinking, saying or might say, as well as interesting and fun pictures and videos so that my followers are aware of what would otherwise be my personal thoughts and activities.  If you would like to follow me on Twitter look for @tysontcooper (I think that's right, hopefully you can find me).  I will admit that most of what I tweet will probably be about my wife and maybe a little bit about our kids but that's because they are my life.  Much of my thoughts, words, effort, and actions revolve around them.  Even when I'm at work they regularly come to my mind (in part because of the post-it notes that they leave around my office for me with pictures on them each time they visit.  My favorites are when Cami draws family portraits for me).  So, hopefully I have something important to share and things that will be of benefit to you.  But I am left wondering the same thing as I did with Pinterest: what's the objective?

Loving Acts Say "I Love You"

According to an article I read in the Wall Street Journal today saying "I love you" through your deeds leads to greater satisfaction in marriage and relationships. I believe we all know this is true. The article reports on a study conducted by Dr. Harry T. Reis, a professor pyschology at the University of Rochester, of 175 newlywed couples since 2009. The findings thus far indicate that couples who regularly come up with ways to show their spouses they are loved have happier marriages. The article shares stories from subjects in the study, suggestions on how to show your spouse you love them, and concludes with the suggestion to give being kind a try. The graphic below is taken from the article and is a good reminder of how small and simple gestures help develop "big love." (I talk about this in a prior post as well, check it out).

 
I agree with Dr. Reis' findings; it is important to show your love. I also want to stress that it is just as important to tell others that you love them too. Do both and you will be surprised how quickly your love with grow and uplift your relationship.
 
With Valentine's Day tomorrow I challenge you to share your love with your spouse both in word and in deed (then tell me about it!).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pinterest Pity and Pools

So my wife finally convinced me that if I want to be anyone and get my message of Uplifting Love "out there" I needed to join Pinterest.  So I did.  Wow.  It is a different world.  I spent nearly an hour yesterday trying to understand what I was looking at, how it works, and why it was important. I'm still not really clear on the whole thing.  But the thing that bothers me the most is that I don't get it.  I just don't understand why Pinterest is so important or so popular, however, I will admit that there are some pretty cool things on there like this video that she sent me today.  Pretty awesome!




But back to Pinterest.  I love my wife and trust her judgment; she is the wisest person I know.  So I am embarking on this Pinterest pursuit, but what exactly am I doing?  Is it supposed to be a big waste of time or is there an objective?  Any help would be greatly appreciated...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Serious Cycling

My wife and I were watching "Last Man Standing" (the new Tim Allen sitcom) on hulu.com on Saturday and saw this ad.



At the end we both laughed and thought that it was one of the cutest ads we've seen in a long time.  What a sweet way to say "I love you."

How will you say "I love you" this Valentine's Day?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Broken, Mending, Full, Overjoyed, Happy, Cheerful…

 
As Valentine’s Day approaches I have been thinking about hearts. Weird, I know. But I’ve always wondered why the heart is the symbol of love and emotion. It is in the middle of your chest. It is actually pretty ugly; nothing like the cute things we cut out of construction paper and decorated our second grade classrooms with. It is reddish but it also has deep blue veins that run around it as well… I don’t know. Maybe because it’s in the middle of our chest and protected by our rib cage and someone thought “hey, this is a really well protected part of my body. Maybe my feelings are kept there because they are so special.” Whatever the reason (I’m probably going to have to research this now) I have done some thinking I think I know why the heart it the symbol of my love for my wife and family.

The heart is a work horse. It never stops. It’s always beating away tirelessly. If it stops, you die. It’s that simple. If it takes just a short break, you’re in serious trouble. If it hiccups, you’ve got a problem. Your body can even be “alive” when you’re brain dead as long as your heart is still beating. It’s critical to a happy existence, well, any existence at all. I think love is the same way. I have never felt as alive as I do when I am with my beautiful wife and family. My heart even beats faster when Cami comes close. That love of family and the love they have for me is what powers my life. Without it I wouldn’t amount to much. That love provides me motivation to succeed in my career and strive to become the best person I can be. It performs the same function for my life as my heart provides for my body: it gives me a life.

This February as I see hearts everywhere I will reflect on what love means to me and what those I love mean to me. What will you do?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Rain, Rain Go Away!

 
Two days ago we had a wonderful storm blow through our part of the country. For hours we experienced high winds and LOTS of rain. Unfortunately in other areas homes and property were damaged and some people were even injured. Thankfully, we came away almost unscathed.

We have a finished basement that we set up as an apartment. Currently we have a wonderful couple living there and last night, as Cami and I were winding down our evening they let us know that there was water on their floor in a couple of different places. I will admit I was pretty frustrated. We’ve been having issue after issue with the house and our car for about a year now and I’m getting worn out. Anyway, we immediately went downstairs to assess the situation and decided that the water was seeping through the wall and traveling under the carpet to a few different spots. Now, in three years of owning the home this has never happened before so we had to try to figure out what might be happening. We decided it was a faulty downspout from our gutters directly above the part of the basement wall from which the water appeared to be originating so we put our shoes on and went to see what could be done. Forty minutes later we had dismantled much of the downspout and redesigned it, dug a new trench across our front yard, and were soaked. Thankfully it was still relatively warm (mid-50’s). As we finished, it was now 11pm, I decided that we should spend a few minutes playing in the rain. So we frolicked. That’s right, we frolicked around the yard.

For those that have never frolicked it’s easy. Simply jump around waving your arms in a controlled yet unpredictable manner. Cami and I frolicked in the rain. It was great. We’ve done this on a number of occasions over the years and fondly remember each one. Our frolicking redeemed the evening. Sure we looked like fools but it was worth it. You can’t remain frustrated after frolicking.

I am grateful that we needed to work together last night to stop the leak in the basement. It was one of the best evenings I’ve spent with my wife in recent memory. I dare you to try frolicking with your spouse.

The moral of the story: find a way to have fun and laugh no matter what the situation is.
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