Nov. 20, 2011

Notes on FIRST KISS TO LASTING BLISS

1950s Wedding Kiss

I’ve been following Lori Lowe’s blog Marriage Gems for a couple of years and find her advice on marriage truly wonderful and inspiring. She’s not a marriage counselor, just a marriage student and writer like me, but she has researched lasting marriage and interviewed happily married couples from all walks of life. Now Lori has a new book coming out—First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage—and I took the opportunity to ask her some of my burning questions on how to help a marriage last a lifetime.

Below are a few of the highlights. Follow the link at the bottom of this post to read the full interview.

Mrs. Levine: Is avoiding lifestyle traps one of the best ways of helping a marriage flourish over decades?

Lori Lowe: I do think avoiding today’s lifestyle traps can help a marriage flourish. For example, the ever-changing desires for more material goods, nicer cars, bigger houses, great vacations, and the like, can cause financial stress. Research shows couples who are more focused on material goods have less strong marriages. The truth is that material goods never really satisfy our deepest longings. If we spent the time and effort focusing on trying to please each other and doing something great in the world that is bigger than ourselves, we find much greater happiness.


Mrs. Levine: When illness or an accident changes the marriage so that one spouse is a care provider and the other is a care receiver, how does a couple maintain an equal emotional balance in the relationship?

Lori Lowe: One couple in the book experienced a brain injury at a young age, and the wife has become a caregiver. Due to his slow awakening from a coma, it’s almost as if he fell in love with his wife a second time. He asked her to marry him before he understood that he was already married to her. She remained at his side and committed to his recovery, and works daily to help him regain his mobility. Just because one person has physical limitations doesn’t mean that any part of the love dies away. At some point (hopefully much later in life), most of us as couples will face some physical limits either in ourselves or in our spouse. While it’s not pleasant to think about, it may help you prepare for the future.

Mrs. Levine: What is your best piece of advice to couples for a marriage that lasts a lifetime?

Lori Lowe: If I have to limit the advice to one thing, I’d say focus on pleasing each other. It creates a virtuous cycle of giving and loving. If you are willing to go first and be the one who acts in love and generosity, you can start that cycle. What is something that would please your spouse today? More sex or touching during the day? Grocery shopping or cooking dinner? Spending time together? Saying thank you instead of complaining?  Do what you know will please your spouse, and if you don’t know, be sure to ask.

If I can add one other thing, I’d say don’t expect your spouse to fill your every need. If we each learn to be interesting and fulfilled people individually, we bring more to the marriage, and we hopefully won’t have as many unrealistic expectations of each other.

Connect with Lori: Receive book information at www.LoriDLowe.com, read her blog at www.MarriageGems.com, and check out the Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/LastingBliss. First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage will be available Dec. 8, 2011.

Mrs. Levine: Can marriages endure through addictions—of any kind—if the spouse with the disease is not open to change?

Lori Lowe: No, I doubt many marriages could (or should) survive if the addicted spouse is not open to change. However, an addiction is not always an insurmountable obstacle. In First Kiss to Lasting Bliss, I write about a husband who had a hidden cocaine addiction. He had started freebasing cocaine, which leaves no tell-tale signs or smell. His personality had started to change, though; he was always late and on edge. His wife knew something was coming between them. Marriage counseling was not effective, because he didn’t admit to the core problem. The wife, who had started off as understanding, was now threatening to leave, along with their toddler son.

When events came to a head, the husband was forced to confess his addiction, and the wife threw him out, justifiably angry, especially with a toddler in the house. To add to the conflict, the husband had used up savings and taken out lines of credit to pay for his habit, placing them at risk of losing their home.

The anger and pain caused by the addiction was enormous, yet the husband was indeed very motivated to change. It was only after becoming clean and sober that he was able to repair the damage done to his relationship. The wife was eventually able to view the addiction as an illness, and see that her underlying love for her husband was buried underneath the anger.  Their story walks through the anger and pain to the forgiveness and healing.

What I respected about the wife is that she never enabled his poor decisions, and she always protected herself and her son. Her actions caused her husband to make a choice about saving his own life, and then doing what needed to be done to accept responsibility for his actions. He knew there was only a small chance he could rebuild his family, yet he was successful because he took his failures so seriously. This couple didn’t just survive. They became rock solid, raising two children and battling through a dangerous fight with breast cancer. They are playful, supporting and loving with each other and appreciate the history they have.

Each situation is unique, but addictions can be dangerous for the individual and for the marriage. While this is an extreme example, I’ve seen how other addictions, such as smoking or drinking, can interfere with the intimacy in a marriage. Even “good” habits, such as exercise, hard work, shopping or golf can become obsessive and interfere in a strong marriage when given more attention and devotion than one’s spouse.  Our treasure becomes what we devote ourselves to. 

Mrs. Levine: What do you think the key factors are for couples who manage to turn the corner together after tragic events instead of splitting apart?

Lori Lowe: Through my interviews, I think the couples who are able to turn the corner are the ones who communicate openly about their feelings and accept that they will each experience grief or trauma in different ways. Yet, they turn toward each other instead of away from one another.  Many of them received outside help when needed, such as after a brutal assault or after losing a child.

Mrs. Levine: Is it possible for full trust to return to a marriage after infidelity?

Lori Lowe: Absolutely. It seems impossible, but one couple I interviewed walked me through their entire story, including the wife’s infidelity. She had even left her husband with plans to divorce and marry her lover.

I can’t share their entire story here, but I will say that the husband and wife both realized they had made huge mistakes in their marriage. Both accepted responsibility for their relationship’s failings, and both were able to fully trust and completely forgive the other. Rebuilding their marriage took about five years of work. Some of that is due to the fact they had very poor communication skills as they began their marriage.

However, the couple has been married more than 30 years and absolutely adores one another. They have been through many hardships, including raising an autistic son, losing a child at birth, financial crises and more. Yet the marriage has gotten stronger as they passed each event. They offer some very useful advice in the book.

Mrs. Levine: How can depression impact a marriage, and what are some possible solutions?

Lori Lowe: Depression is more common than we probably realize. Often fear or shame are accompanied with depression, leading people to not seek treatment. Depression is very difficult for both spouses to experience, but it needs to be brought into the light.

One of the stories in First Kiss to Lasting Bliss includes a couple who each suffered from depression at different times in the marriage. The wife’s depression was related to a debilitating chronic illness. Eventually, she found a medical treatment that improved her condition, and the depression was also relieved.

For the husband, a dead-end job, a lack of connection with his wife, the loss of his father, and his only daughter preparing for college were all factors that contributed to his depression. He didn’t see the signs and tried to end his marriage by saying he no longer loved his wife they way a husband should. However, a long separation with individual and couples therapy provided insight for them and taught them how to work through conflict rather than avoid it, as they had always done. Also, he suffered from a medical condition that he wasn’t aware of, which contributed greatly to the depression: sleep apnea. Following his diagnosis and treatment, he was able to reconcile with his wife.

Talk therapy can be useful for many patients with depression, to help get to the root cause of the illness. For others, medication has been a life saver.  My hope is that people would bring the illness into the open and discuss with their doctor and their spouse.


Mrs. Levine: What have you found helps couples the most to stay calm in the midst of long term stressful situations?

Lori Lowe: In my interviews, most couples who had a strong faith found it very helpful in the midst of long-term stressful situations. In addition, focusing on gratitude instead of fear or worry helped couples immensely. Interestingly, research has shown that both prayer and focus on gratitude are proven to help couples grow closer together.

Mrs. Levine: How do couples find the balance between respecting their families but being true to their marriage?

Lori Lowe: Married couples who understand that their marriage relationship must be primary to their families of origin are able to create boundaries. In other words, you are a wife or husband first, then you are a daughter or son second. We can respect our extended family, but we have to have our priorities.

One couple in the book is an interracial couple. The husband’s African-American family ended up not supporting the marriage or his Caucasian wife, but didn’t voice their displeasure before the wedding. Instead, they tried to divide the union by disrespecting their son’s wife over time. Mean-spirited comments created ill will, and years of trying to be the “better person” didn’t improve the situation. The husband tried to stick up for his family (thinking they couldn’t be racist) rather than backing his wife, and the result was almost a marital breakdown.

However, when the couple had their own daughter, the wife decided she needed to demand respect and model self-respect for her child. They learned how to set boundaries and to protect their family unit from those who would wish to break them up. Unfortunately, some members of the family never got on board, and the couple had to cut communication with them. However, they learned to be a team, to protect and serve one another’s needs, and how to build love and trust in their marriage. They renewed their vows and are much stronger today.

For most of us, family conflict isn’t that dramatic. But ask yourself if you are listening to your spouse’s wishes for the holidays or doing what your parents want you to do. Do you have clear boundaries around your family? Do you talk negatively about your spouse to your family members? More than likely, they will take your side, rather than supporting the marriage union. Instead, choose friends who will tell you the truth and who support your relationship.


Mrs. Levine: What helps couples to accept large differences in ideology?

That’s a broad question, but I’ll share my thoughts. When couples are dating, they are focused on their love and all the things they have in common. They can talk for hours; they feel so connected. Sometimes religion or faith isn’t even much of an issue, especially if the couple is young. In generations past, couples were more likely to come from the same geographic area and faith-based traditions. With our mix of cultures today, it’s easy to fall in love with someone who is very different.

Once a couple is married, and in particular after children, their differences become much sharper and noticeable. The “lovey dovey” feelings may have subdued, and now they are questioning. Often, faith differences will lead to conflict, especially when it comes to how to raise the children and in what faith traditions.

The couple I interviewed for the book are similar to what I describe in that they had underlying faith differences before the marriage, but they didn’t surface until after a daughter was born. Then, the wife decided she wanted to return to the faith of her childhood (which she had not been actively practicing), while her husband was firm in his lack of any faith. Many years of conflict ensued, with her trying to “save him” from his unbelief, and him questioning her and becoming defensive.

The wife finally came to understand that she could not change her husband, and she decided God did not need her help with regard to her husband’s heart. Her lack of pressure softened his heart, and allowed him to consider her viewpoints. He even attends church with her sometimes and is supportive of her faith.

The wife advises that couples with different faiths not marry but adds if they are already married, they can learn to focus on their love rather than their differences. For her part, she has come to understand that her source of joy does not come from her husband, but she truly loves him. The husband advises that any couple with faith differences must fully work through them before marriage, including how they will raise children. Doing so would have prevented years of conflict for them, he adds.

Mrs. Levine: What helps couples facing infertility grow together through the experience?

Lori Lowe: Communicating about their feelings and having support systems is helpful to those I spoke to, in addition to appreciating the marriage and the love you share whether or not you have children. Couples I interviewed and wrote about struggled for many years and were able to grow their families through adoption and through IVF. It’s a tough road that can cause a great deal of stress on a marriage.

Mrs. Levine: Is avoiding lifestyle traps one of the best ways of helping a marriage flourish over decades?

Lori Lowe: I do think avoiding today’s lifestyle traps can help a marriage flourish. For example, the ever-changing desires for more material goods, nicer cars, bigger houses, great vacations, and the like, can cause financial stress. Research shows couples who are more focused on material goods have less strong marriages. The truth is that material goods never really satisfy our deepest longings. If we spent the time and effort focusing on trying to please each other and doing something great in the world that is bigger than ourselves, we find much greater happiness.

Mrs. Levine: How have couples learned to rebuild their own sexual intimacy after the loss of a child?

Lori Lowe: The loss of a child is so real and so great, that some people think they are losing their mind and can never be happy again. This is one of my biggest fears, so I can relate to that description but thankfully have never come close to feeling the depth of the grief. From my interviews, I’d say that realizing your partner is the only one who truly knows how you feel is a help to the marriage. They would say share your feelings and allow yourself to grieve in your own way. And they would say time really does soften the pain, though it never goes away. A couple who goes through this process can turn toward one another and build their intimacy, including sexual intimacy, which can be bonding and healing.


Mrs. Levine: When illness or an accident changes the marriage so that one spouse is a care provider and the other is a care receiver, how does a couple maintain an equal emotional balance in the relationship?

Lori Lowe: One couple in the book experienced a brain injury at a young age, and the wife has become a caregiver. She says they are still able to maintain a partnership in marriage, and she says the experience has actually made them closer and given them an extraordinary life together. Theirs is a remarkable story. Although he has difficulty communicating and uses technological aids, they still do communicate. I wonder if we would be more thoughtful in our communication if we were forced to slow it down like that.

They are blessed with a great deal of support in their family and community.  Due to his slow awakening from a coma, it’s almost as if he fell in love with his wife a second time. He asked her to marry him before he understood that he was already married to her. She remained at his side and committed to his recovery, and works daily to help him regain his mobility. Just because one person has physical limitations doesn’t mean that any part of the love dies away. At some point (hopefully much later in life), most of us as couples will face some physical limits either in ourselves or in our spouse. While it’s not pleasant to think about, it may help you prepare for the future.

Mrs. Levine: What is your best piece of advice to couples for a marriage that lasts a lifetime?

Lori Lowe: If I have to limit the advice to one thing, I’d say focus on pleasing each other. It creates a virtuous cycle of giving and loving. If you are willing to go first and be the one who acts in love and generosity, you can start that cycle. What is something that would please your spouse today? More sex or touching during the day? Grocery shopping or cooking dinner? Spending time together? Saying thank you instead of complaining?  Do what you know will please your spouse, and if you don’t know, be sure to ask.

If I can add one other thing, I’d say don’t expect your spouse to fill your every need. If we each learn to be interesting and fulfilled people individually, we bring more to the marriage, and we hopefully won’t have as many unrealistic expectations of each other.




notes
  1. piggyvonninja reblogged this from whisperedbetweenwomen and added:
    "If I can add one other thing, I’d say don’t expect your spouse to fill your every need. If we each learn to be...
  2. whisperedbetweenwomen posted this
Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
  before     after  
 
  Whispered Between Women  
about
This is a blog about the secrets married women keep and a place to whisper among friends. To whisper to me directly, simply send your memo to mrs.levines.blog(at) gmail(dot)com.

 

 

 

 

My Love Story
template
platform