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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why Live an Unhurried Life?

The concept of living an unhurried life is proposed in many magazines, books - - - even from pulpits and it brings great rewards. The balance found in living at a less frenetic pace brings back time - - time to experience, time to listen, time to think, and time to embrace a moment. We must choose to slow down, eat slowly, walk slowly, and speak slowly. Living at a fast pace makes it difficult to care for and respect the other people in our family and community. Loving and respectful relationships demand that we slow down

It is difficult to live an unhurried life in our fast paced world, especially when being busy and productive is viewed by society as praiseworthy. Too many experience feelings of guilt when not constantly being occupied and productive. A common yet misguided modern attitude is that if I can speed myself up, I can be more competitive and successful. No wonder amphetamines are so popular! However, being in a constant hurry does not allow love to be felt to its fullest, which is the goal of healthy parenting and family life.

An unhurried parent takes the time to explain to their child where they are going. Hurried parents tell their children to get in the car. Unhurried people take time to chat with a sales clerk, while the hurried is impatient and possibly rude in their need to be finished and move to the next thing. The unhurried think about how to show love to others – with encouragement, the right gift, and a kindness. The unhurried are less vulnerable to frustrations, irritations and angers of daily life.

Our children – especially teens – find pressure to live in an ever increasing pace so that they can compete successfully. The student who is able to obtain information quickly often gets better grades and is more successful. It is a sad reality that a student without success in Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes will not be accepted into the most respected colleges. Years ago success in high school did not have to include having college credits at the time of graduation. It is important we stop pushing our teens to rush through each season in life.

A first step in slowing down is to establish priorities. While most verbalize that family relationships are central, often our daily decisions do not reflect this. Television, cell phones and the computer can create convenient paths to avoid interactions with others. The addictive quality of information technology steals time from family life. Technology is not bad. However, the role technology plays in our lives needs examination. Checking email and answering messages, preoccupations with chat rooms, and focus on computer-based relationships fostered by My Space and Face Book, sometimes take priority over interactions with family.

Native people teach insulating from the stress of modern life by slowing down the pace of living. One technique is described in the principle that “if the sun catches you out of bed you will have a long life”. Learning to slow down by getting up early helps with stress because there is time to reflect and get centered before others and the demands of the day are awakened. Having the silence of the morning to ourselves before the rush of school and work makes us more kind and patient with children, spouses, fellow commuters, and coworkers. It is also helpful to identify the most rushed part of your day and find one or two changes that can ease the stress, and allow you to slow down.

Love demands that we cultivate the ability to slow down, to set priorities that encourage health, creativity and to learn beneficial ways to reduce the stress of modern life. Leading an unhurried life and slowing the day down are ways of improving the quality of life.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Does Love Mean Cleaning the Toilet?

Valentine’s Day encourages thoughts of what are important issues in having a good marital relationship. According to a Pew Research Center survey of more than 2000 American adults on what are the most important factors in a happy marriage, Sharing Household Chores (62%) ranked only behind Faithfulness (93%) and Happy Sexual Relationship (70%).

Numerous surveys have found that even though many women work outside the home, they still tend to do most of the household chores. Conflict over domestic duties around the house is second only to conflict over money in causing marital disharmony. When either partner in a marriage is unhappy about the allocation of household chores, the stress level in a home will increase tremendously.

Although many women complain about their husbands not doing their share, they may actually be inhibiting their spouse’s involvement by a subtle sabotage known as maternal gate keeping. Maternal gate keeping is defined as having three dimensions: 1) Discouraging a husband’s involvement by redoing tasks, criticizing and acting as household managers. The husband, then acts as a helper by doing only what is requested. 2) When a women’s identity is tied to how well she thinks others view her homemaking and nurturing skills, she may be more likely to resist her husband’s involvement since it would diminish her value. 3) Some women cherish AND resent being the primary care-giver, feeling both relieved and displaced with a husband’s involvement due to struggles with the ideas about traditional family roles.

Of course, men also have responsibility when there is a discrepancy in the distribution of household tasks. 1) Some men also struggle with changes in the traditional family roles and are resistant to “doing more than my father did”.
2) Some men have feelings of inadequacy in both household and child care skills. 3) At times there are significant differences in the tolerance level for housekeeping. For some, a sink full of dishes or a dirty toilet may not cause concern or come with any sense of urgency while it may be highly distressing to their spouse.

Accomplishing a true sense of sharing in the business of running a household requires communication, motivation, and respect. These basic guidelines are helpful in this process:

• List out every job that has to be done in the house. Set your priorities as a couple. It may not be possible to accomplish EVERYTHING.
• Identify the chores that each of you hates to do. What one hates, the other may be able to tolerate.
• Don’t ask for help!! Asking for help implies that the responsibility for the chores belongs to one person and others agree to assist.
• Timing is important – pushing another to complete a task when they really aren’t ready to do it only creates tension.
• Don’t nag. Even though your complaints may be valid, nagging makes your spouse resentful, defensive, and feeling attacked. Nagging is a vicious cycle. The more you nag, the more a spouse will avoid and withdraw.
• Be flexible and allow your spouse to accomplish a task in his/her own way. If you give up responsibility for a chore, you have to give up control over it too.
• Train your kids. Make sure your children, boys as well as girls, grow up believing that sharing chores at home is just what considerate people do.
• You can’t change your spouse. If there is an absolute refusal to equally share household responsibilities it is necessary to look for outside help or perhaps to stop doing some things.

There is greater efficiency and happiness in a home where family members share household responsibilities. When a couple can divide chores in a way that both spouses feel satisfied with the outcome, they are showing mutual respect for one another.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Romance in Marriage

With apologies for stating the obvious – keeping the romance alive in a marriage is not like when dating! When you think about the courtship days you may remember holding hands, quiet candlelight dinners, walks in the moonlight, sharing private laughs, and feelings of being safe, valued, appreciated and truly loved. Those initial passions and sparks dim over time if not kept alive with deliberate focus and intention. It is an important marital challenge to find the ways to be together long term without losing the romance.

Too often spouses come to feel like “business partners” committed to raising children and keeping the household smoothly functioning. The “romantic love” of courtship and early marriage may be replaced with a life that is dominated by the demands of parenting, careers, and financial concerns. Unfortunately, many couples get into a groove where they just become comfortable in a routine of daily life. This can lead to not holding hands anymore, not kissing, or even talking about the day. A significant priority shift from the couple identity to other concerns is problematic as ongoing romance strengthens and enlivens the marriage relationship.

By focusing on your spouse and looking for opportunities to encourage romance, couples keep a closer more satisfying bond. Romance can be facilitated in many ways. By pampering and spoiling your spouse, writing love letters or sending cards, spending time together, or arranging little surprises; the importance of the marital relationship is reinforced. Romance is alive when the marital relationship needs such as respect, appreciation, companionship, support, and affection are met.

Romance springs from friendship and intimacy. Cultivate a friendship with your spouse. Making time to be alone with each other should be a priority. Compliment and flirt with your husband or wife. Take a genuine interest in your spouse’s activities or hobbies. Even when life is hectic and crazy – carve out time for each other!

Don’t expect your spouse to read your mind and make you happy. Each person is individually responsible to communicate needs and desires. Good and effective communication includes being a good listener, paying attention to the words, tone and nonverbal communication to get a complete understanding. If the marital relationship is neglected or ignored, it may be difficult to have an open conversation with your spouse about your relationship. If honest efforts don’t improve things, your marriage may benefit from professional help.

While the marriage relationship should not be superficial or based on physical appearance, it is important to put effort into looking good. Maintaining attraction is important. Consider minimizing wearing the comfortable over-sized grunge-wear. It rarely is an attractive look. Be sexy. Not only can taking care of yourself and your body help your relationship, but it also helps you feel good about yourself.

A very obvious sign of a couple who has lost romance is when physical and affectionate touch has disappeared. Even if the sex drive has changed, couples can maintain touch with hugging, kissing, cuddling, back rubs or foot massages. These non-sexual gestures are independently valuable and may foster a passion spark leading to sexual activity. However, romance and sex are not the same thing and if you expect to be rewarded for physical affection with sex, your spouse will see this motive and the romantic value of the affection can be diminished. It is normal for sexual feelings to ebb and flow during a marriage, but with effort and commitment affection and romance can be kept alive throughout the relationship.

It is important to make every effort to keep the romance and fun in your marriage. Plan regular dates and create opportunities for enjoying each other. Keep focus on what is most important in your marriage; the two of you.