Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Just for fun in newsletter

Hi Friends,
If you are taking part in the "Just for fun" promotion in our newsletter and are emailing to get a gift or entered in the contest...please send the email to:

Happy New Year and keep blogging!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Déjà vu

Posted by Michele Olson

It’s that time of year again, when we begin to make promises to ourselves that if we were being honest, we can’t possibly achieve. I’ve got a “doable” thing you can actually get accomplished and it will broaden your thinking. Purchase a book called Marriage and Caste in America by Kay Hymowitz.

It’s an important read for everyone.


Did you accomplish the goal of reading Kay’s book? What you just read was the beginning of my December 2007 blog…a year ago! It’s still a great resolution and easier than losing 10 pounds and exercising for 2 hours every day!
Here's a great goal for 2009...

Become or increase your role as a Marriage Champion!

If your Marriage Myth Buster Guide is dog eared from use, we can get you a new one! Perhaps you never requested one…that’s a great first step in being a Marriage Champion! It’s as easy as sending us an email with your name and mailing address.

Sign up for our e-newsletter. It will keep you up to date on opportunities and thinkmarriage.org news. Visit our store on our website. Talk about the importance of healthy marriages to the people you know. Start a buzz!

Commit to commenting on this blog. Mark it as one of your "favorites." Even a line or two may spur someone else to a thought which could cause a domino effect that changes the world! (It’s that time of year to think big!)

Write a little reminder in your daily planner…set a goal of encouraging healthy relationships and marriage at least once a month in a way that suits your personality.

Consider investing in thinkmarriage.org, visit the donate page of our website.

What you do really does matter.

Can we count on you in 2009?
Let us hear how you've been a Marriage Champion or how you plan on becoming one in 2009!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Have you heard about Dr. Joshua Coleman?

Posted by Michele Olson
*Article posted with permission from Dr. Coleman

Dr. Joshua Coleman is an internationally known expert in parenting, couples, families, and relationships. He has appeared on ABC's 20/20, Good Morning America, The Today Show (U.S. and Australia), the BBC, and numerous news programs for FOX, ABC, and NBC television.

So, he’s got the credentials.

He’s written many books on marriage and family including a couple with interesting titles:

The Lazy Husband: How to Get Men to Do More Parenting and Housework
The Marriage Makeover: Finding Happiness in Imperfect Harmony

On June 18, 2000 he wrote a Father’s Day article that was published in the San Francisco Chronicle titled; When a Family Man Thinks Twice

This must read article candidly points out something you don’t often hear talked about; the other side of divorce. The loneliness you can’t imagine when all you think about is getting away from this person you married. The pain, the heartaches, the despair that a divorce brings into your life. It’s not about divorce where someone saved themselves from an abusive situation. It’s the 70% that happen that are considered low-conflict when everyone thought they would be better off.

It’s the wondering if it really had to end up like this.

Do yourself a favor and read it. Send it on to the people you know. Here’s where to do that.

What do you think?
Please leave a comment!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

You, Children and President Elect Obama’s Transition Team

Posted by Michele Olson

Do you think the kids “across the pond” are that different from kids here in America?

Probably not. Turns out that kids in England who participated in a poll would like a ban on divorce. If they ruled the world, that would be something they would get in place. It’s an interesting study on what kids are thinking.

Speaking of kids, and families and marriages…you have the opportunity to tell President Elect Obama and his transition team what you think about the social issues that his administration will be directly addressing. Click on this link and then under “Agenda” at the top of the screen, pick a social cause, and click “join the discussion.”

We need your help in letting the new administration know that marriage education is vitally important for our future. Explore our website at www.thinkmarriage.org for more information on the importance of marriage education and then let your voice be heard!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shopping with a Purpose

posted by Michele Olson

Why holiday shop 'till you drop when you can shop with a purpose?
thinkmarriage.org recently added a Store section (It's a cool tab on the left side of the website!) This is an area we want to grow and make very "user friendly" but for right now, we just wanted to get going! 

You can purchase thinkmarriage.org mugs- perfect for coffee, tea or hot coco, details are in the store area of our website.

You can also go to www.zazzle.com/thinkmarriage and purchase a wide variety of items like t-shirts for women and men, plus baby items! How about a thinkmarriage trucker hat or tie?

We'll continually add design options as time goes by, so check back often. Not only are you getting a great product, you're also supporting a great movement...the healthy relationships, healthy marriage movement. Check out the merchandise and let us know if there are some items you would like to see. Get all your holiday shopping done online, and feel great that you've been a marriage champion a long the way!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Long Distance Relationships

posted by Michele Olson

Say the words “Long Distance Relationship” to someone and the reaction will usually be a wince or a grimace. They don’t have a great reputation. From the time a first-time college student really understands the concept of a “hometown honey” to Hollywood’s blatant display of marriages falling apart because couples are never together, LDR’s are definitely not encouraged by many people.

There are many couples in the “real world” who have no choice but to live with long distance relationships over a period of time. The military is a prime example of living apart until Uncle Sam says you’re free to go! The age of internet dating has also opened up the possibility that Mr. or Mrs. Wonderful is across the country. Job transfers, ailing family and even the worsening economy can cause to people who would rather be together to live apart.

Fortunately there is technology, web sites and books that can help you put your best foot forward when it comes to long-distance relationships.

The first thing you have to do in such a relationship is really talk about it. What are your expectations? You need to know that you are on the same page when it comes to what your version of a long distance relationship means.

If one person has the expectation that you will talk every day and the other person thinks you’ll be texting once a week…there are going to be issues.

Speaking of texting…thank goodness for technology! Imagine the day when it would take weeks to get a letter somewhere. (Think Little House on the Prairie or any historical Hallmark Hall of Fame movie!)

If you haven’t already, you need to acquaint yourself with cell phones, texting, Skype (and you even get to see each other!), instant messaging, email and the whole host of options out there which will allow you to stay connected because of technology.

While researching this article, I came across a Separation Inventory you can take that will help prepare you for this unique path. The corresponding website actually says that the founder, Dr. Gregory T. Guldner who wrote the book Long-Distance Relationships: The Complete Guide is unavailable until Feb. 2009 as he’s serving our country in Afghanistan. Now that’s walking the talk!

If a long –distance relationship is a part of your life now or in the future, rest assured that there are many resources for you to help you with more than “making the heart grow fonder.”

The Commuter Marriage: Keep Your Relationship Close While You’re Apart by Tina B. Tessina

The Long-Distance Relationship Survival Guide: Secrets and Strategies from Successful Couples Who Have Gone the Distance by Chris Bell and Kate Brauer-Bell

Long-Distance Relationships: The Complete Guide by Dr. Gregory T. Guldner

Sampling of websites:




Any tips on how you have handled a long distance relationship? Please blog!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Are Moods Catchy?

posted by Michele Olson

You had a great day at work. Every song on the radio is your favorite as you head home for the evening. You pop in the door, put down your things and say hello to your spouse. Your spouse is not in a good mood. Things didn’t go well at work and there was an overdue bill in the mail.

What happens to your mood? According to three professors Elaine Hatfield,
University of Hawaii; John T. Cacioppo, Ohio State University and Richard L. Rapson
University of Hawaii – your emotions are contagious. Technically the term is; emotional contagion. Their study concludes that people do catch the emotions of others.*

The worst thing is; this can happen unconsciously. It may be happening before you know it. This subject has been studied since the 1800’s and practically every decade since. Originally scientists were interested in the idea of “mimicry”. Imagine yourself listening to someone tell you about a very intense experience such as an accident or an operation….if you could look in a mirror at that moment, your face would be reflecting what you think they experienced. Catching someone’s emotions is very similar.

In another study led by John M. Ruiz, Ph.D., assistant professor of clinical psychology at Washington State University, heart bypass patients with neurotic and anxious spouses were much more likely to be depressed 18 months after surgery -- independent of their own personality. This can be problematic because depression is known to put recovering cardiac patients at higher risk of further heart attacks and death.

Kathryn Matthews, a writer for Oprah’s “O” Magazine recently posted an article called
Marital Mood Leak: Feelings May Be Contagious. She points out that if you see that your spouse is anxious or depressed, you literally feel the pain. She does suggest a few ways to prevent “spousal mood infection.”

Make a plan ahead of time on how you will respond to negativity. That could mean leaving the situation by going for a walk. It may mean scheduling more alone time in your relationship or engaging in exercise alone or together. You may need to take the issue up with a counselor.

Find out if the problem is physical
Seasonal affective disorder is a real thing. Is your spouse cheerier when it’s sunny and nice? A special full-spectrum light may be what you need.

Play as a Team
The “O” article suggests couple therapy and of course we would like to suggest marriage education through an organization like thinkmarriage.org

Another great resource is a blog we did Aug. 22, 2007 in our blog archives, What Shamu Taught Me About Marriage.

The good news is that optimism is also catchy! Learning to communicate and resolve conflicts on issues like bad moods can go a long way in keeping your relationship strong.

Tell us your story…have you “caught a mood” from your spouse?

* E. Hatfield, J.T. Cacioppo, and R.L. Rapson, Primitive emotional contagion, Emotions and Social Behavior: Review of Personality and Social Psychology, 14, 151-177. M. S. Clark, Ed. (Sage, Newbury Park, 1992).

Monday, December 08, 2008

Kay Hymowitz and the Obama Era

Posted by Michele Olson

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, or look over at our recommended reading on the right hand column, you will know the name: Kay Hymowitz.

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research has this overview of Kay’s work:

Kay S. Hymowitz is the William E. Simon fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. She writes extensively on education and childhood in America.

Hymowitz is the author of the new book Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age, a compilation of some of her previously published City Journal essays. She examines the breakdown of marriage in the United States and how it threatens the nation's future. The book begins with the proposition that American marriage is designed to further "The Mission"—the shaping of children into self-reliant citizens and workers. Alarmingly, while the children of married parents tend to become married parents themselves eventually, the children of single parents tend not to, fueling a vicious cycle that, Ms. Hymowitz argues, has engendered "two Americas": one marriage-minded, one not; one economically successful, the other perpetually struggling. This is of particular concern to the African American community, in which married parents are increasingly rare. Her previous book, Liberation's Children: Parents and Kids in a Postmodern Age, was widely praised.

Kay also writes for major papers like the Washington Post. She just posted an article reiterating her research and viewpoints in light of President Elect Obama’s step into the White House.
She points out that at this time, Obama has the chance to revive what Lyndon Johnson called “the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights.” She is speaking of the fact that since 1965, through economic recessions and booms, the black family has unraveled in ways that have little parallel in human culture.

Amid all the attention being paid to the economy and the social ills that lay at our doorstep, Kay is a voice reminding us that healthy marriages can be the foundation of the hope that we all so desperately need right now.

Let us hear your thoughts. Add to our blog!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Good Morning America Missed An Important Aspect

posted by Michele Olson

Good Morning America did a story this morning on the subject of marital check-ups…the topic of our November 18th blog. (Scroll back in the archives!) That’s where there is a link to the study.
While it’s great to get this concept on the table, we really wish they would have included marriage education as part of a check-up option, not just counseling. The program compared the idea to check-ups that you don’t neglect in the rest of your life…doctor, dentist...even your car.

A counselor mentions that often by the time people get to counseling, they already have pain or a “cavity” in the works. That’s an important distinction about healthy relationship education. While enhancing communication and conflict resolution skills is helpful when you are having some serious issues, it’s equally as important when things are just fine. The truth is we can all become better at these skills. Marriage is like anything else…easy to take for granted over time. Incorporating a healthy relationship class into your schedule is a good idea. Visit thinkmarriage.org and click on the classes tab to find out about classes in Wisconsin...or the Get Involved section to find out where classes might be around the country.

Feel free to let GMA know they missed an important aspect of the story by commenting on their story. (Hint, that's an excellent way to be a Marriage Champion!)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Marriage on the Radio Every Week Day

posted by Michele Olson

Mark Gungor has announced that as of yesterday his radio show, titled appropriately enough The Mark Gungor Radio Show* will now be broadcasting live every weekday from 10am - 11am Central Time via internet. He, along with co-host Debbie Chavez tackle the tough issues that come up in marriages today.
Here's the link to the live broadcast. The show airs every weekday at 10:00am Central Time. Just click on the "Listen Live" link to tune in. Mark will take your questions during the show by phone at 866-966-MARK (866-966-6275) or you can email your question to radio@laughyourway.com

Mark is the creator of Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage Seminars, and a friend of thinkmarriage.org

Why not listen with your spouse? This would be a great way to introduce new topics of discussion into your own relationship while learning about marriage and healthy relationships.

Call in with a question or comment and tell them that "thinkmarriage.org" sent you!

*Note: The Mark Gungor radio show may contain religious content.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Parenting, Kids and Still Having a Marriage

posted by Michele Olson'

If you’ve ever been married, juggled careers and had kids…you are busy and probably tired!

It’s that simple. Talk about not enough hours in the day!

There’s an article in the Redbook Magazine entitled:
2 jobs, 2 kids – where does our marriage fit in?” that you will find interesting. It explores the lives of Meghan and Jeremy Wilker and their world of two fast paced careers, a toddler, a baby on the way and their marriage. The question becomes, how do they make time for themselves?

I’m sure if you are in a similar situation, you can relate.

In their circumstance, they realize that they are not making time for themselves. Even though there are no major issues right now, they are concerned that they will grow apart if they keep putting everything else ahead of their marriage.
The article explores their hot buttons and then some expert advice follows about what they can do about those issues.

One topic is the fact that they take each other for granted. They acknowledge that they get into a “comparison thing” about who is doing more work in their own estimation - who has more stress. When they first married and didn’t have children, this was not such an issue. There was simply more time. The article takes a realistic look at what this couple can do for their marriage.

You are anonymous on this blog, so tell us your story. How do you make time for your marriage in your busy life?

Monday, November 24, 2008

More Empty Beds

posted by Michele Olson
I had the opportunity recently to do something that I had never done before. Along with our Milwaukee County Program Director, I visited the State of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility. Let me put it in simpler terms; I went into prison to observe a thinkmarriage.org marriage education course being voluntarily taken by inmates.

Going into a prison and seeing the life there was eye opening. It’s a little like watching something happen that you know about, but you’ve never experienced. Like watching a hurricane or earthquake…something we just don’t see firsthand in Wisconsin. When you see it first hand, it takes on a whole new perspective and reality.

What struck me was the willingness of the inmate participants to share with the facilitator their thoughts on relationships. The tenants of the class being taught covered the healthy steps to a healthy relationship. The participants opened up about their upbringing and their current relationships.
It is becoming more and more apparent in this country that there are many people growing up without any exposure to what a healthy relationship or a marriage looks like. There are always cases of people who just make bad choices when they’ve been given every opportunity to act responsibly, but the number of people who truly never had any chance to “know better” is astronomical. They’re simply reflecting what they’ve seen modeled in life. With the idea that knowledge is power, there are a lot of powerless people walking around making poor decisions.

I was also struck by the compassion of the Deputy Warden, Social worker and staff who really had a desire to see these men succeed. They were very thankful for what thinkmarriage.org was providing…basic communication and conflict resolution skills.

It was an eye opening experience, one that I won’t forget. I’ll also remember the looks on the faces of the general population of the prison. Some of these men can be confined for up to a year in this specific facility. I wondered about each of their stories, what led them there, what they had seen and been exposed to as they went through their formative years. I thought about how their lives might have been different if they had seen healthy relationships and marriages modeled along the way, and if they had started taking classes about healthy relationships in their pre-teen years. I wondered if it would have meant less people incarcerated and more empty beds.

We know from social science research that most of society’s ills fall at the doorstep of the breakdown of the family. That’s why it’s so important that healthy relationship and marriage education be given the chance to become a part of every person’s knowledge base. It truly is a way to change the world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's Possible and Is It Time for a Checkup?

posted by Michele Olson

Two recent USA Today articles are worth checking into.

One is titled: Proof's in the brain scan: Romance can last It doesn't always fade over time and the other is called Marriage Checkup Aims to Prevent Problems…both written by USA reporter Sharon Jayson.

The “Proof” article talks about research pointing to the fact the honeymoon doesn't have to be over just because you've been together for years.

New brain scans of people who say they are still in love after decades of marriage are similar to scans of those who have just fallen in love, leading researchers to conclude that long-term relationships can be just as passionate and romantic as new love.

The study, presented Sunday at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, D.C., represents a dramatic shift in thinking. Other research "always suggested romantic love is over by 12 to 15 months. This suggests that may not have to be the case," says Richmond Thompson, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Bowdoin College, who wasn't involved in the study. Read the full article here.

The other article points out that you go to the dentist twice a year and have an annual physical exam, why wouldn’t you protect the health of your union with a Marriage Check up? Sounds a lot like attending a thinkmarriage.org marriage education class at least once a year! Read the full article here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The World’s Easiest Way to Faster Intimacy

posted by Michele Olson

How was your day?”

Seems a simple enough question. According to psychologist Angela Hicks, PhD, of Westminster University it packs a wallop.

She studied 48 couples and found that those who discussed recent positive experiences with each other felt happier the next day, and also had increased feelings of intimacy and connection to their partners. It was also found important to discuss the low points. These types of discussions also made a couple feel closer.

It’s interesting to note that 30% of men say their days’ most positive event involved their wife.
27% of women say their day’s most positive event involved their husband.

So looking for the world’s easiest way to faster intimacy? Just ask a simple question.

You can read the complete study here.

Now it's your turn!

Tell us about your relationship. Do you and your spouse ask each other about "your day" every day?
Do you agree with the author’s findings?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Look At Long Lasting Love in Korea

It seems that a long healthy marriage is like a smile, universal and important in every language and culture.
Korea states that with a staggering divorce rate of 47%, longstanding couples are considered a rarity in today’s Korean society.

This article entitled Two Become One on Journey of Marriage crosses any cultural borders in the advice to spend time communicating and a unique admonition to “love each other’s weaknesses.”

It’s interesting to think about the importance of healthy marriages to every culture, as the foundation for a strong society. Enjoy a look at another country's acknowledgement of the importance of longevity in marriage.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Can A Marriage Survive an Affair?

Posted by Michele Olson

I love television…the medium and all the funny, happy moments it can bring if you watch the right programs. One thing I don’t like is its inability to convey the depth of pain that comes from some real life situations. There is a danger in thinking that real life mirrors the ability to wrap things up in a tidy bow in 60 minutes. Television programs and the movies are filled with people casually having affairs, and making it look exciting, romantic and painless.

In real life affairs are devastating.
Someone along the way gets hurt. Something that was once one way is now changed in some shape or form.

But does that mean it’s RIP and recovery isn’t possible?

Not according to a resource like Beyond Affairs Network (BAN for short)

Ban’s mission statement should be a healing balm of hope for anyone reading this who is feeling the pain of an affair.

Beyond Affairs Network (BAN) Mission Statement

To provide an opportunity for people who are dealing with the devastating impact of a spouse’s affair to come together face-to-face, for strength, insight, and mutual support.

To provide a safe place to share the painful emotions that interfere with recovery and a place to gain perspective and understanding, aimed at thinking more clearly and acting more effectively, in order to proactively move forward, make more informed personal decisions and recover from this experience.

To reinforce people’s own efforts toward recovery, working in conjunction with and not in place of other support they are seeking such as therapy, counseling or marriage healing and strengthening seminars.

To help people reach a point where they are fully healed from the experience and no longer need support.

To become as commonly known about and available worldwide as other major support groups such as Al-Anon, so that no betrayed spouse needs to suffer in isolation.

BAN is one great resource and you can visit their site for more information.

Another resource is Dear Peggy and her Extramarital Affairs Resource Center.

For a great book on the subject read: Staying Together When An Affair Pulls You Apart by Stephan Judah, P.H.D.

The point is: there is help and hope for marriages that will help if your marriage is suffering from an affair. You are not alone. Many couples have survived affairs and gone on to have healthier marriages. In the end, your outcome is between you and your spouse, but rest assured that there can be help along the way.

Let us hear from you. (You are anonymous on this blog)
Has your marriage survived an affair?
Have you and your spouse ever talked about marital affairs?
Do you have an encouraging word to someone because you’ve “walked a mile in their shoes?”

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Devoted to You

Posted by Michele Olson

November 4, 1978

As the main writer of this blog and the Communications Director for thinkmarriage.org, I can't help but share this special day with you, wimarriagechat.org readers. It's the 30th Anniversary of my marriage to my husband Ray.

It was a beautiful fall day in 1978, and we were so young and not sure of what the future held. It's amazing to look back 30 years later and think of all we've experienced together.

We're crazy about our family...our son Ben and his wife Sara, and our daughter Molly and her boyfriend Wim. We can't believe we're here, because we remember thinking how amazing it would be to be married five years! There have been so many good times, many hard times too...but through it all, I think of the song we sang to each other at our wedding; A James Taylor and Carly Simon song - Devoted to You.

"Through the years our love will grow, like a river it will flow. It can't die because I'm so, devoted to you."

We had a very "home made" wedding as we used to do in the 70's and my parents and family made the food for the reception of over 300 people. The main dish was spaghetti and we all wore matching red, white and blue bibs...little did we know what a historic day our 30th anniversary would be for our country. (Don't forget to vote!)

I just want to encourage anyone reading this to keep on going...respecting one another...and taking time to be together. It's really "sweet" when you are in it for the long haul and you have the idea deep in your heart through all the obstacles that life can throw at you that you will be there for each other. You will survive the economy, kids, extended families and life. Just remain committed to doing it together, hand in hand.

I look forward to 35, 40, 50 and more Lord willing...because marriage can be one of the best things you ever decide to do in your life.

As the poet Robert Browning said: Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be.

Monday, November 03, 2008

No Matter Who Wins, Keep Voting for Marriage!

posted by Michele Olson

Tomorrow is a big day in our country. You would have to be living on another planet not to have received the message that it matters that you vote. Long after we know who our next President will be, there is something you need to keep “voting” for so to speak…and that’s marriage!

A new administration will be looking at all the programs and laws regarding families…so you need to stay on top of what’s happening. Make your voice heard when it comes to pro-family and pro-marriage issues. Investigate what’s happening in your community that supports marriage and family. Lend your time and talents to building up marriage and healthy relationships.

Take a marriage or healthy relationship workshop if you have one available in your area. Watch community calendars on newspaper, TV and radio for events you can attend. Attend Representative forums when they come to your area and learn their views on marriage and family.

Every four years we get all excited about issues and they come to the forefront. The real work is often in the “in-between” times so that when our country gets excited …our issue is a part of the conversation.

Healthy relationships and families are at the core of our country’s success. No matter who wins the election tomorrow…let’s keep “voting” for marriage!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Do In-Laws "Scare" You?

Posted by Michele Olson
Do you find the upcoming holidays a “frightening” thought because of in-law issues?

As we are about to finish up Halloween…it’s officially the Holiday season. (I actually saw all the Christmas decorations already up in our downtown area, but that’s another blog!) In-laws can be one more pressure on a couple when it should be a time of celebration and fun.
Here are some pro-active tips to help you keep the “happy” in holidays.

1) First and foremost is the fact that you are a couple. You are now your own family. That doesn’t mean you love your parents, or your spouse’s parents any less, but you do have to make your relationship the number one priority.
2) Decide ahead of time what works for you, and what doesn’t. Talk about the fact that there are areas of potential conflict, and you want this to be a joyous time. Make a plan of where you’re going and when.
3) Understand that your decision may upset someone. It probably will, but the sooner you make it clear in a loving way that you are setting up new traditions are have really talked about what will work best for you, the sooner people can move on with what has been decided.
4) Don’t wait to tell your plans, be the first to bring it up and let people know what’s happening. That way there’s no chance that it really had anything to do with you changing your mind after they proposed a plan.
5) Work together. Never answer on your spouse’s behalf or commit to something until you’ve talked to your spouse.
6) Set up a new tradition of your own and invite your in-laws to participate. If they aren’t available or choose not to participate, that should be OK with you too.
7) Consider a whole new way to celebrate by picking a totally neutral place to spend the holidays…turn it into a family vacation.
8) Have a signal worked out that lets the other know you are getting into dangerous territory, or they are being pushed into a corner by your boisterous Uncle Ned.
9) Stick to the spirit of the season which is peace and love and do your part to keep things calm and comfortable.

Let us hear from you! How have you made the adjustment to having in-laws and holiday celebrations? Any funny stories? Any tips?

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Silent Treatment- Revisited

Posted by Michele Olson

In 2006 we posted a blog on The Silent Treatment and it was viewed frequently. That tells us that people are experiencing this and have an interest level that reaches their day to day lives.

This is the best joke I’ve seen so far on the silent treatment:

A man and his wife were having some problems at home and were giving each other the cold shoulder.

The next week, the man realized that he would need his wife to wake him at 5:00 AM for an early morning business flight to Chicago. Not wanting to be the first to break the silence and lose, he wrote on a piece of paper, "Please wake me at 5:00 a.m."

The next morning the man woke up, only to discover it was 9:00 a.m. and that he had missed his flight. Furious, he was about to go and see why his wife hadn't woken him when he noticed a piece of paper by the bed.

The paper said, "It is 5:00 a.m. Wake up."

Face it. At some point in our life, maybe as a child, we’ve been on the “giving” or “receiving end” of the silent treatment. It’s kind of a no brainer. It comes very naturally to some people. That’s why we should be so wary of it. Basic instincts aren’t always the best way to nurture a relationship.

It’s all about “the power” when it comes to the silent treatment.

You, “Human Being A” have a need for love, respect, approval, understanding and care.

You have done something to tick off “Human Being B”, maybe only in their head, but the bottom line is; you have caused them some kind of discomfort. (Again, this may have no relation to what really happened, but in their mind, it did.) “Human Being B” decides they can get their point across most effectively by withholding every basic element of human interaction from you. No warm and fuzzies for you! The grocery clerk is getting better treatment.

In all fairness, this may be a blessing in disguise if “Human Being B” is about to explode and do some kind of damage, they may just be protecting you from what they are really capable of. Or, they may find the subject so painful that they just can’t talk about it for awhile and they need to sort through everything in their own head in their own way before they can stand to talk about it. “Human Being B” may be so disconnected that they won’t even put the effort in to talk about what you see as monumental and they see as trivial.

The most common reason for the silent treatment usually falls into the category of: Human being B has decided “You must be punished and this is the best legal way I can think of to do it and make my point.”

For human being B, at least in the beginning, this is a delicious, heady almost euphoric feeling.
“I’m King or Queen of the world!”
The problem is, as this goes on it can unravel entire kingdoms, and for what?

Ugly things. Pride. Control. Making yourself more at the expense of another human being.

So, what can you, “Human Being A” do when you are the middle of this unpleasant situation? (Very few people reading this will be giving the silent treatment, they are much more likely to be on the receiving end, if I’m wrong- tell me!)

Here are some tips:

1) When you are not in the middle of a “session” ask your loved one if they would be willing to attend a marriage education workshop with you. They are most likely resorting to this type of behavior because they probably don’t have a “better one” up their sleeve. If you would both take the opportunity to learn how to communicate and resolve conflicts when you feel you have been wronged, you lessen the chances of resorting to the silent treatment.

2) Quit making it so rewarding. First of all (and you really have to put on your maturity hat to pull this off) ask yourself if there is truth in what they are upset about. Try to understand what set off this silence even if the other half of your brain thinks they belong in the Jerks Hall of Fame. Let them know that if something is bothering them you are all ears and willing to hear what it is. During the silent treatment, your temptation will be to withhold acts of love and affection. Resist those temptations and continue to do things like a love note in the lunch box. Actions can speak louder than words.

3) If they won’t discuss or share a reason, ask if they are looking for a certain amount of time to be left alone. Make it known you had no intent to insult or offend them, and you’re willing to talk whenever they are ready. Determine if this is actually just a “cooling off” period, and not a silent treatment.

4) When you have done your best to understand any part you played in your current cold shoulder situation, and you have concluded you can’t do any more, then go about your life as normal. I didn’t say it was easy, but it is necessary. Don’t feel guilty that you can’t read minds. If this has become a way of life in your relationship, you may have to seek outside help to break the pattern.

5) The silent treatment when done repeatedly is destructive behavior that can be seen as emotional abuse, depending on the situation and severity. It’ s mean and it’s no way to live. Don’t buy into it and if your loved one will not go to marriage education classes or seek help, you should still seek help for yourself if this is causing you distress.

6) When you aren’t in the silent treatment, see if you can talk about what you are both feeling during that time. See if you can agree that being right or wrong is not the most important thing, but that loving each other is what’s important.

At the end of the day, effective communication is the key to ending the silent treatment. (Ironic isn’t it?)

Have you been the recipient of the silent treatment?
What have you done when receiving it?
Have you given the silent treatment?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hey Main Street, How is Marriage Your Business?

posted by Michele Olson
You can’t turn on the TV today without hearing about Wall St. vs. Main St. The message is clear…we’re all on Main St. “They”, are Wall St. and they are the villains. We are Main St. and we are the victims.

The truth is probably closer to somewhere in the middle, since most of our retirement futures hinge on a healthy Wall St.
A healthy Wall St. is directly connected to a healthy business sector in our country.
Stick with me! (The knee bones connected to the ankle bone) A healthy business sector is directly connected to a healthy family.

There. Now we are getting somewhere.

If you ask the question, should marriage and divorce be the concern of business owners and executives whether they operate mainly on Main St. or Wall St.? The answer has to be “YES!”
Current research and thinking from the world of economics and social sciences has come to two major conclusions:

1) Happily married employees increase profitability
2) Unhappily married employees decrease profitability

Each of the 1.2 annual U.S. divorces cost society about $25,000 to $30,000 dollars. And we don’t need to look at couples as just married or divorced. Employees within companies are either in succeeding relationships and moving toward happy, satisfying relationships, or they are spiraling downward in an unhappy, hurtful relationship.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who is the more productive employee posed to be contributing at a high level.

That’s why it’s important in these economic times that employers consider marriage and healthy relationship education as a part of their plan to survive this economy. There are countless benefits for companies whose employees are in healthy relationships.

We’d be happy to provide your company with Cost of Divorce worksheets to show you just how much unhealthy relationships are costing your company and to make you aware of an important report called: Marriage and Family Wellness: Corporate America’s Business? put out by Life Innovations, Inc and the Marriage CoMission.

We’d also love to do a lunch and learn for you and your employees if you are in close enough proximity in the state of Wisconsin.

What do you observe in your work place when it comes to healthy relationships?

Let us hear from you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

We're a Long Way from the String and Tin Cans

posted by Michele Olson
Is the internet and cellphones dividing the American family?
That's the interesting question that was posed in a Washington Post article yesterday.
The answer may surprise you. Even though parents and children are rushing through their days in different directions, the American family appears to be as tight knit as the last generation according to a Pew Internet and American Life Project poll. In the poll, 60 percent of adults said the new technologies did not affect the closeness of their family while 25 percent said cellphones and online communication made their families closer. 11 percent said the technology had a negative effect.
Turns out it's easier to keep in touch and actually know what the other is doing on a day-to-day basis because of the internet and cell phones. It didn't cause the amount of "face time" to be cut down, but rather was an addition to the amount of time spent communicating.
Personally, I know the internet and cell phones, especially texting and emails, has allowed me to stay in close contact with my children who are grown and not in the same state...and one not even in the country! My husband and I are about to celebrate our 30th anniversary and instead of a trip to Hawaii or a diamond necklace...we opted for iphones. On the very first day we communicated more because of getting unlimited texting which we didn't have before. I find an instant connection with people for even a moment is a wonderful way to stay in tune.
What about you?
Does technology keep your family connected?
Let us know what you are thinking!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How to Tango Without Moving Your Feet!

posted by Michele Olson
If you’re a newlywed who has been married for less than three years, you can “uTango” and rack up financial rewards !

How so you say?

uTango.com is a program that rewards couples for their loyalty, not just as consumers, but to each other.

Here’s how it works: You register at the program and shop online at major retailers through the uTango site. With each purchase you earn “Tango Bucks.” If you accumulate a minimum of Bucks per year, you can turn them into cash rewards when you reach certain marriage milestones; $10,000 on your 10th anniversary, $100,000 on your 20th, and a whopping $1,000,000 on your 30th!

Be sure and read the rules but the concept is quite amazing. If you are internet shopping major retailers anyway…and you have been married 3 years or less…this may be more of a sure thing than the stock market!

There is also a system to allow singles and dating to accrue points and then convert them once married.
We don't discredit or endorse the program...we have no affiliation...but we do endorse the idea of anyone wanting to recognize the importance of long-term marriages. Visit the site and make your own judgements about how it fits into your life.

Anyone currently using uTango? Anyone about to cash in?

We’d love to hear your story!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Are You Satisfied with Your Marriage?

posted by Michele Olson

There’s a 64 million dollar question to ponder!

We hear about “sticking it out” and “staying together for the kids” but we often hear more about satisfaction from a Rolling Stones song than we do about someone being satisfied in their marriage.

It would be hard to find a married couple who doesn’t want to have a satisfying marriage. It’s a big reason we take the plunge in the first place.

According to John Gottman, a top researcher in the area of marital satisfaction, it’s the “little movements toward our spouse that increase our contentment with each other. It’s the smile, the opening of the door, the back rub, the kiss on the cheek, the kind word, or the gift of their favorite ice cream.”

The question becomes; what can you do to enhance your marital satisfaction?

Often times we aren't working on marital satisfaction because it hasn’t occurred to us.
When talking with many couples who are no longer together, they acknowledge that they weren’t looking for big things…just little every day niceties or being kind would have been grand in their eyes.
We can change that.
Let’s start thinking about it and deciding to do just one thing each day that we know would increase the marital satisfaction of our mate.

So the question isn’t, are you satisfied with your marriage, but rather, what have you done to make your marriage more satisfying?

The Catholic Church has a great video campaign out called: What Have You Done for Your Marriage Today?

You can view their videos here.

So, thinkmarriage blogger, how’s your marital satisfaction?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Marriage Advice from an Ad Man

posted by Michele Olson

Roy Hollister Williams is a marketing consultant who has landed on the best sellers list because of his books known as the Wizard of Ads book trilogy. He puts out a very interesting Monday Morning Memo that normally talks about advertising , but this past week , his topic was different.

It was about cheating husbands.

It’s really about first time fathers and warning them about the “backlash” of having their first child. Roy warns that along with the joy will come a host of unexpected feelings that he was warned about and chooses to warn his young married friends about.

He gives very tangible instructions about what to do with these feelings that will inevitably come along. There’s also a link to his views on why women cheat.

He’s not a marriage guru, but he is a person who will always get you thinking.

Read the memo and see what you think.

We’d love to hear your thoughts! thinkmarriage.org

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Come Laugh With Us Oct. 16th

Posted by Michele Olson

If you live in Wisconsin or upper Michigan, we would love to have you attend our evening of Music, Love and Laughter Thursday October 16th…great refreshments, music and the comedy of national MARRIED comedians Jerry Barnes and Amy Miner. Fresh from appearances on NBC, CBS, Comedy Central and VH-1 to name a few, this funny duo will have us all laughing.
We wanted to get to know them a little better, so I asked some questions about the people behind the comedy.

Tell us a little bit about how you met…was it on a comedy circuit?

- Yes. We met in Seattle at the Comedy Underground. We wouldn't recommend looking there for a partner. You are better off on eHarmony.

Did you know right away that you would combine your act and be married comediennes together?

- The idea never actually occurred to us. We have a producer/friend who asked us to write a show for one of his theaters about the first year of marriage. That went really well and we started getting requests to perform together. It has only really been in the last year that we have been performing together nearly full time.

Let’s hear some “hard luck” stories about how you got started and rose to the place of being on places like NBC, Comedy Central and MTV!

- Most hard luck stories stem from being hired to do comedy in the wrong place. A holiday party for fishermen. Not, let's go to the lake and get a couple bass type fisherman. More like, been at sea for six months eating nothing but spam fisherman. A bachelor party at sea, where the host doesn't tell anyone you're a comedian. So you're at sea, making fun of the groom and no one knows who you are.


A stage surrounded by a chain link fence like a moat so the audience couldn't get to you. A cruise where everyone is 80 and older. Come to think of it, most "hard luck" stories seem to be water related.

How many years have you been married and do you have any kids?

- We have been married 6 years. We have a 3 years old daughter and one on the way.

So is it funny every day at your house?

We may be comedians but we are still married. Every day is funny. but it might not be funny till six months later.

Do you notice that different parts of the country laugh at different parts of your act?

-There are certainly different geographical cultures within this country. In Virginia, we can make fun of West Virginians. No one else really thinks that is funny. When it comes to marriage, there is no difference. Men are men and women are women and we all have the same struggles. Women like to shop the same in Texas as in New Hampshire and men forget their anniversary in Florida and Washington. It might just be the one thing that makes us all Americans.

Be honest, have you ever been in a fight and had to go on stage and act as if you aren’t a little miffed at each other?

-Nope. But once we had to go on stage after one of us - JERRY - had a few too many onions in his dinner.

What have you learned doing marriage comedy that has helped you in your marriage?

It's like a night out for us, plus, someone watches our kid. Tine away form the kid(s) always helps the marriage.

Get your tickets now for this great event. Register online or call (920) 430-7300.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Webisode Your World

by Michele Olson

Do you have 15 seconds?
This could be the best 15 seconds you spend if you visit our webisodes. You'll be entertained, you might have a reflective thought or two and you'll have the opportunity to incite your inner marriage champion by forwarding these webisodes on to your friends.
This is a forward they will actually thank you for.
What are you waiting for?
Start your :15 second adventure right now!
Then come back and let us know how many people you sent it to and what you think!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Applauding This Hollywood Couple

Posted by Michele Olson
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were married for 50 years at the time of his passing on Friday.

One of the best actors of our time, Newman and his wife can also be remembered as a married couple who didn’t let the Hollywood life shake their remarkable 50 years together.

A.E. Hotchner, a lifelong friend and co-developer of Newman’s Own Famous salad dressing has known the couple their entire married lives. He has stated that the Newman’s simply never fell out of love, even during the rocky patches that occur in every marriage. He also said they stayed the course.

During interviews Newman was often asked how he and Joanne managed to stay together when so many other movie stars strayed. Mr. Newman answered :“I have steak at home. Why go out for hamburger?” For her part, Ms. Woodward said she stayed with Mr. Newman because he was able to make her laugh.
Our condolences go out to Mrs. Newman and the whole family.

We hope the Hollywood marriages of today take note.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Economy and Your Marriage

Posted by Michele Olson

There's a timely article in today's Chicago Tribune talking about the stress on couples from the increase in their monthly mortgage payments because of ARM adjustments.

It points out that couples can be experiencing tremendous stress from this issue and the economic downturn taking place.

The article also states that if a relationship is fundamentally sound, money problems aren't likely to lead to divorce. It points out that the best approach is a pro active one to protect your marriage.

One of the first suggestions from the piece tells couples to consider attending a relationship workshop.

You can find them across the country and of course don't forget to check out the classes available from thinkmarriage.org

These are tough times. Be proactive and take a healthy relationship workshop!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Something Old Something New

posted by Michele Olson

How have things changed for marriage in the last 50 years? AARP recently compiled all the differences from 1958 as compared to 2008.

Take a look…this is interesting!

Annual Weddings:
1958: 1.5 million Today: 2.4 million

Most Common Name:
Then: Mary and Robert Now: Jennifer and Michael

The Stereoptype:
Then: Blushing Bride Now: Bridezilla

Then: Princess lace, handmade by Belgian nuns $135.00
Now: Strapless and sexy $1,317.00

Tux Rental:
Then: $5.50 Now: $69.95

Men Then: 22 Now: 28
Women: Then: 20 Now: 26

Life Expectancy:
Men: Then: 57 Now: 70
Women: Then 65 Now: 78

First Dance:
Then: “All I have to do is Dream” Everly Brothers
Now: “No One” Alicia Keys

Postage for invitations:
Then: 3-4 cents
Now: 42 cents

Piece of cake per guest:
Then: 35 cents
Now: $4.52

Honeymoon cost:
Then: $237 Now: $3,680.00
Then: Niagra Falls Now: Hawaii

Number of Children:
Then: 3.6 Now: 2.1

Divorce Rate:
Then: 33% Now: 50%

What kind of conclusions do you draw from the comparison? Were you or your parents, or grandparents married in 1958…or this year?
Let us hear from you!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Happy 80th Anniversary Clyde and Marie!

posted by Michele Olson

Would you like to read more about a happily married couple?

How about a couple who has been married 80 years! You have probably seen a long-time married elderly couple who unfortunately have to be separate and live in a nursing home in extremely ill health by the time something as rare as an 80th anniversary comes along, but that’s not the case with Clyde and Marie Barnes.

Married for 80 years on Sept. 20th, they have so many children, grand, great grand and great-great grand, they have lost track of how many they actually have. Their oldest “child” is now 74 and says they have been great parents.

When asked the secret to their long and happy marriage Marie explains, “We just try to love what the other one does and do it together. If he suggests something, I try to go along with it. And if I suggest something, he seems to do the same.”

They also seem to have a sense of humor, another vital part of a healthy marriage.

This Salt Lake City, Utah couple are truly an inspiration…

View the video of their news story here.

What healthy marriage tips can you share that you believe will help you along the way to your 80th anniversary?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Marriage and Money

posted by Michele Olson

Disagreements over money are the leading cause of divorce.

Makes understanding your marriage and money pretty important, right?

The other causes are kids, religion and in-laws, to name a few, but the almighty dollar tops the list. At the basis of the disagreements about money is vulnerability. When it comes to money, we are forced to share our dreams, priorities, fears and goals. That makes it possible that disagreements about money, aren’t really about money at all!

It’s often not the amount of money that causes the friction, but how the money is handled.

A full 60 percent of married couples surveyed by the Consumer Credit Counseling Service report fighting about money with their spouse. In other research, 57% of divorced couples cited financial problems as the main reason they didn't get along.

Dave Ramsey, author of The Total Money Makeover shares these tips when it comes to couples and money:

1) Opposites Attract. Usually a spender is attracted to a saver. This can work because they can create a balance. He suggests you have to sit down and work out finding the middle but very few couples do that. You need to get rid of “I” and start thinking “we” when it comes to money habits. It can be a power issue, so you have to discuss how you are using it together.

2) Together is Better. Get rid of the negative thoughts about money and realize that two heads are really better than one. Working together on goals and dreams can improve communication. If you can’t sit down and discuss money, then there are larger issues in play.
(Hint; for better marital satisfaction, communication and conflict resolution skills where everyone can reach decisions in a healthy way, take a thinkmarriage.org workshop!)

3) Budget can be a dirty word. Really it’s just a plan of how you will spend your money. It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun anymore. Start to think of it as telling your money what you want it to do so you don’t have to wonder where it went!

4) Lose the Battle but Win the War. Sometimes you each have to let the other win small battles so you can stay on track and reach your mutual financial goals.

5) Stick to the Plan. That means sticking together and sticking to the plan. Think about this; when the debt is gone and you have money in the bank, all that’s left is to enjoy it together. Sticking to your plan is also telling each other that you respect your mutual goals.

Don’t let these tough economic times put a damper on your marital satisfaction. Let them be a catalyst to help you work together and strengthen your relationship.

thinkmarriage.org offers a workshop called “Family Wellness, The Couple, The Strongest Link” which is an excellent resource to help you have healthy discussions about marriage and finances.

Tell us about how money matters influence your marriage.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Marriage in the Later Years

posted by Michele Olson
Are you a younger married person wondering if love can last?
Take heart says author Maggie Scarf, age 77, who has spent more than 30 years studying relationships. Married for 55 years to her husband Herb Scarf, a Yale professor, she has done the research and is living it out.
Her new book, September Songs, contains a U shaped curve. It illustrates how studies over the past 40 years show that contentment is at its highest in the earliest phase of marriage. Then you get to know each others faults and idiosyncrasies. Kids come along, you lose sleep, you want the other person to do more, and life ceases to be as shiny. While raising adolescents your sense of well-being can plummet further.
Next it's the empty nest ...and when embraced... it is possible for your sense of well-being, contentment and time for intimacy to go up. You can rediscover the person you once knew.
Her book is based on interviews with 75 couples, all older than 50 and married 20 years or more. She addresses contentment, sex lives and how people get better with age.
So if you're in those early years and wondering...is it worth it...there are many couples out there who would like you to know, yes, it is.
What stage of marriage are you in?
Tell us your story.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

“The End is in Sight” or “We’ve Only Just Begun”

Fifth blog (scroll down or look in blog archives to read Sarah's past blogs) Welcome to an on-staff guest blogger, Sarah Nass, Brown County Director here at thinkmarriage and someone who is engaged! We thought you would really enjoy following Sarah’s journey from how she and Tim met and all the adventures along the way to their wedding. As a trained healthy relationship facilitator, Sarah is getting first- hand knowledge on putting her education, into practical action. Tune in to this blog often to keep up to date with Sarah and Tim’s story! Sarah writes:

I am finally starting to get excited. These past couple weeks have been filled with finalizing details and reorganizing lists and gathering supplies and rallying the troops. At the time I am writing this, there are currently ten days until our wedding day. Tim has the pergola built and set up in the backyard, Mom and Dad have been tending to the garden and house, and I have been trying to contact and finalize plans with vendors. I have also been learning how to delegate tasks and find a balance between work time and play time and planning time. It is no easy undertaking. I have also been attempting to move some of my belongings down to Tim’s house…and have realized that it is futile to think that I will have everything completely moved before the wedding. There’s just no way. There are still more tasks outstanding than make me comfortable, but hey, what can you do except to keep on plugging away at them. One of my high school teachers once asked the class, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer she gave us was, “One bite at a time.”

One of the other things Tim and I have done in the past weeks that has been of great value to us is take the Prepare-Enrich Inventory. This is a program that can be taken online or with paper and pencil. It can be used for pre-marital as well as married couples. The inventory is designed to help a couple realize their areas of strength as well as their areas of growth. Basically, what areas are you good at and what areas need a little more working out? After we took the inventory, we met with a couple who has been using this program for several years with young couples in their church. They walked us through the evaluation, and explained to us what each indicator meant. We also had a chance to talk through a few of the growth areas that we have. I don’t think either of us was surprised at the feedback we received. I do think that it gave us a great opportunity to discuss some very important matters, before the wedding. Even in the midst of all the craziness and business and planning it is important not to lose sight of what it is you and your fiancé are planning and preparing for. The wedding is one day, one glorious, beautiful, significant day. Your marriage is for a lifetime. It has been a priority for us to continually invest time and energy in that long-term goal and relationship instead of unintentionally neglecting it in favor of wedding hubbub.
Planning this event together has given us opportunity to practice our communication skills, our conflict resolution skills (certainly), having patience and being gracious towards one another, and has also reaffirmed the idea that we are indeed on the same team. That is just the sort of foundation on which to build our marriage.

Sarah and Tim's big day is almost here! Stay tuned for the rest of the story!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

“Why Can’t You See Things My Way?” A Crucial Tip to Overcoming Disagreements and Creating Acceptance in Your Marriage

By guest blogger Larry Bilotta*

Would your marriage improve if your spouse would just do things "your way"? Most of the time, this just isn't the case.

Let's imagine for a moment that you married your complete opposite, your relationship is stressful and the two of you can't even agree what to have for dinner. Does this mean that for the rest of your life you’ll have to endure an endless series of battles over "your way vs. my way" unless one of you gives in?
There is no need to argue over "who does what which way." And most importantly, neither of you need to change who you are.
The first thing you need to do is talk with your spouse about the things you passionately believe in - or feel strongly against. You can start by discussing the little things in life that frustrate you.
For example, my wife absolutely hates when people pop, smack and chew gum with their mouth wide open. While this may sound trivial to you, it absolutely drives my wife crazy.
Now, if I didn't know WHY this little pet peeve drives her mad, I might become annoyed and aggravated whenever she starts to attack the nearest "irritating gum chewer" under her breath. But here’s why that doesn’t happen. Most people don’t know this, but each and every one of your pet peeves, habits or beliefs is created by a memory or event from the past.
Take my wife for example. The reason she becomes so frustrated when people pop and crack their gum is because her mother would do it without any regard for her feelings throughout her entire childhood. My wife hated it then and she still does today. This seemingly trivial issue brings back too many painful memories from the past for her. To my wife, a gum chewer might as well be scratching nails on a chalkboard or screeching a fork against a plate, while to others, it’s not a big deal.

The main idea here is that you need to discuss with your spouse WHY you do things a certain way, WHY certain things frustrate you and WHY you love other things. And don’t be afraid to talk about the "problem areas" in your marriage. That is the point of this discussion after all.
Give your spouse your perspective on "hot topics" in your marriage which could be anything from punctuality, family values, religion, eating habits or even personal privacy. Ask your spouse questions and have your spouse do the same.

Ask questions like:
"Honey, when you were growing up, did your mother or father have a problem with being on time?"
"What happened when you were young that makes you hate clutter and messes so much?"

WARNING: Don't make this sound like an accusation! If you do, your positive discussion will be over! When you ask your spouse these questions, s/he will probably struggle for words or not come up with an immediate explanation for WHY he or she does these things and that's okay. Try to jog your spouse’s memory by recalling your own memories about this subject.
For example:
"The reason I (fill in the blank) is because my parents (fill in the blank) when I was a child."
Remember: you and your spouse were shown how to live by your parents or guardians. They shaped most of what you value and believe in today. The point of this discussion is to understand WHY the two of you disagree on any given topic. This will help the two of you accept each other because you'll no longer feel threatened by your very different values in life.
Use this tip to get to the source of your problems and gain a better understanding of your spouse. If you don't know which values are causing conflict in your marriage, you'll never be able to truly resolve your disagreements.
When I finally understood WHY my wife's values were so different from my own, the stress in my marriage was drastically reduced. I know you'll find the same to be true when you put this marriage saving tip to use in your own marriage. For more information and articles on marriage, visit http://fulfilledcouple.com/blog/*

* References and websites from guest authors do not necessarily constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation, or preference. The views and opinions of guest blog authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect the attitudes and opinions of thinkmarriage.org.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Man of My Own

We think you will enjoy this recollection from a friend of thinkmarriage.org
After reading this story, we'd love to hear your thoughts...and perhaps it will make you think of of some similar situations in your own life.

“A Man of My Own”
By P. Woehrer

We lived on the western edge of the Sherman Park neighborhood in Milwaukee. The single-family houses and duplexes were very modest compared to other homes that Sherman Park was famous for. Our block was ethnically diverse with Caucasian, African American, Hmong, Latino, and mixed-race families. About a quarter of the homes were female single head of households and another quarter was elderly residents who had established that neighborhood in the early1900’s.

Early one summer evening we were sitting outside on the front porch and watching the neighborhood kids play. As my husband Steve moved toward the street to pick up a rolling baseball a little 8 year old girl came running up to him, threw her arms around his leg, hugged him tightly and said “give me a hug!” A bit surprised, my six foot husband bent down and hugged her back. Just as quickly, she withdrew and their eyes locked for moment and both shared huge smiles. Little Shamika* ran back into her vacant yard, arms flailing in joy. Steve had obviously given her what she was looking for and we both chuckled at the sweet scene.

Days later, I was again sitting on my porch. Steve had been there too, but left for a few minutes to tend to something. Shamika walked over and stood before me.

What’s that?” she asked, pointing to my wedding ring.

It’s my wedding ring,” I said.

She sat next to me, and asked where it came from. Somewhat surprised by the question, I responded simply that my husband had given it me. As she gazed at it, the wheels began turning in her young mind. Pointing inside my house, she asked if “the man” in there was my husband. Again I was a bit confused why she would need to ask, but I responded that yes, he was my husband. Then she asked if she could have my ring. My first thought was that she needed some lessons from her mother on what is appropriate to ask an adult, but then it occurred to me that something much deeper was going on inside this little girl.

Young Shamika did not recognize the important symbolism of the wedding ring. In her family, her mother was not married. She only saw a father figure when a man came by from time to time to spend a few minutes with his biological son. There was another man who came to visit Shamika’s mother, but then the children were required to play outside for a while.

I felt bad as I explained that I could not give her my ring. For a moment, she seemed a bit embarrassed for having asked, but then had another idea that might fulfill her desperate inner need.

To my amazement, she asked, “Could I have your man, then?”

The entire conversation seemed surreal despite my own family heritage of divorced parents and my proclaimed appreciation for cultural awareness and sensitivity. I realized then that I didn't have a clue of what this little girl was missing, or needed, or hoped for. It also surprised me that even though I felt our own household was fragile at times due to the hectic pace of life and the adjustments to a marriage relationship; Shamika suspected it was better than what she had in her own home. At least there was a man there – every day. She instinctively seemed to sense that this was something she wanted.

For weeks, Shamika almost “stalked” Steve! She would watch for an opportunity to see him outside so she could charge forward for a spontaneous hug. Steve gladly obliged as a simple ministry to her.

I wish now that we had reached out more intentionally to Shamika’s mother and her family to tell her about my belief of how God has a divine order for relationships. As I reflect on the fact that Shamika would be about 22 years old now, I still have to wonder how she was affected by the pattern of relationships she observed while she was growing up. I have to wonder if she ever did find “a man of her own.”

*A true story but the name has been changed.

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