5 Secrets to Living Happily Ever After | By Susan Seliger
"We've all read the statistics: Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. Are the lucky couples who continue to love and lust and live in relative harmony just that -- people whom the fates have blessed? Over Cupid's dead body! Love isn't a present that gets handed to you; it's a special kind of learned behavior. WebMD consulted the marriage and relationship experts to learn the best advice for a good marriage - five secrets to long-lasting love.
"We're born with the capacity to have a happy marriage, but we still have to work to develop it," says Howard Markham, PhD, co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver and co-author of Fighting for Your Marriage. "Having a good marriage takes education," Markham says. "We have to unlearn some bad habits and acquire other good ones.
Other experts WebMD consulted agree. The couples who remain close and content are the pioneer-spirited among us who share the same secret formula: When problems crop up, they don't give up. They use the following five basic pieces of advice for a good marriage that can help every couple live (more) happily ever after.
1. Listen Up!
"Everybody has the need to be listened to and fully understood," says Jack Rosenblum, PhD, co-founder (with his wife of 29 years) of "Loveworks" couples' workshops and co-author of Five Secrets of Marriage from the Heart. You need to make your partner feel heard, even if that means pushing aside some anxiety or sitting on your hands rather than offering advice when your partner needs to talk. Sometimes "mirroring," or simply repeating what your spouse has said, is enough to let him or her know that you've been listening. For example, say something like, "I understand you're upset because I didn't take out the trash." Or "I hear that you want to talk about what happened at the office today." Provide evidence that you're paying attention to your partner's concerns.
2. Set aside regular couple time.
"Early on in a relationship couples talk as friends, they do fun things," says Markham. "But over time, those ways of connecting change." Work, family, financial woes, all have a way of overtaking daily life and eroding the sense of fun that brought you two together in the first place. Bring the fun back - even if you have to schedule it in the calendar once every week. Sharing a physical activity, like a bike ride or a walk around the block, is especially good for lifting your spirits along with your heart rate. Activities like going out for an intimate dinner, staying at home and playing music from your college days, or watching a favorite movie (will help you both remember why you chose each other. If cash is in short supply, trade off babysitting with a friend and plan a picnic in the park. There are 168 hours in a week: make a commitment to devote at least two of those hours to your marriage every week.
3. Don't throw things.
Of course, you and your partner are not going to agree about everything. But in expressing disagreement to your partner, playground rules apply -- no insults, name calling, or throwing things. "If you disagree, do it in a civil way," says Jack Rosenblum. "Don't make the other person wrong, don't say he's stupid. Instead, say, 'You think we ought to do this. I have another thought about it.'" If your disagreement seems to be escalating, call a mutually agreed upon time-out, and make a plan to continue the discussion after a cooling-off period. Keeping things on a calm, even keel is better for your blood pressure and your marriage. When in doubt, follow Ogden Nash's sage advice for resolving conflicts:
To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the marriage cup,
Whenever you're wrong, admit it,
Whenever you're right, shut up.
4. Turn up the heat.
"If your sex life is diminishing or you're not having sex as often as one partner in the relationship would like, then you have to make getting your intimate life back on track a priority," says Markham. "It's ironic that when we're wooing our partners, we make this tremendous effort, and after we get into a relationship, we put that on the back burner." Think about your partner as someone you want - and someone you want to entice to fall in love with you over and over again. "Pay attention to your grooming, be romantic, don't take your partner for granted," advises Markham. "Think about your mate as someone you want to end up in bed with at the end of the evening."
By: Gary W. Lewandowski Jr. Ph.D. | July 14, 2021
"Decisions are a part of life. You may need to choose the best vacation spot, job candidate, babysitter, or place to live. However, your most important decision may be identifying your best romantic partner. Relationships matter – a lot. They have implications for your health, your reactions to stress and even how you look at the world. How can you determine if your current partner is the best of the best? It’s hard to know what factors truly matter and what to ignore.
Gut Reactions Add Nuance
There are two general ways to make assessments: data and your gut feeling. As Malcolm Gladwell famously observed in his book Blink, snap judgments can have surprising accuracy. As a psychology professor myself, one example that always amazes me is that student assessments of a professor based on a 30-second silent video clip matches students’ evaluations based on the entire semester.
Relying on gut feelings isn’t perfect. But intuition is an important component of decisions, especially social ones. Clearly, people rely on instincts in a variety of situations, such as deciding which job to take, which daycare is best, and who to date. Trusting your own feelings is sometimes necessary because expert information is hard to access – published research articles are often locked behind paywalls, for example, and not typically written in a way that aids comprehension. And of course, the very nature of science and statistics is to focus on what is most typical in a population, not what’s best for any one individual.
Experts also aren’t perfect and research shows that people have a sense of when to value nonexpert opinions over experts. In fact, some experts admit to using intuition themselves: A study revealed that marriage therapists acknowledge using their intuition and consider it a valuable tool in clinical settings.
Is Your Relationship Hall of Fame Worthy?
Perhaps with the value of instinctive evaluation in mind, famous baseball statistician Bill James created the “Keltner List.” The list is a way to assess a baseball player’s Hall of Fame viability, and it's named for a seven-time All-Star with borderline qualifications. To be truly Hall-worthy, numbers may not tell the whole story; the judgment should be almost visceral. A true Hall of Famer would be clear based on a few key questions. While James is a statistician, his Keltner List is intentionally nonscientific. It’s a collection of 15 questions anyone can quickly answer to help guide an overall assessment of a player’s worthiness for the Hall. (Example: “Was he the best player on his team?”) The answers are not meant to provide a definitive conclusion, but rather to force a careful consideration of the most important information.
Back to relationships. A similar process can help you determine whether your current romantic partner is Hall-worthy for you. Inspired by the Keltner List, I’ve put together a list of 15 questions to highlight what matters most. Like James's list, my assessment is intentionally not scientific and has not been tested empirically (though that isn’t a bad idea for future research). That said, I consulted the existing research to ground each question in the science of what contributes to a healthy relationship. Note that this list isn’t about helping you pick the best Tinder date, hookup, or short-term fling. The questions focus on what matters for serious, long-term, sustainable love. To benefit from this exercise, you need to be honest. If you lie to yourself, you won’t gain any insight — or as computer scientists say, “garbage in, garbage out.”
A Keltner List for Relationships
Consider each question and answer truthfully with a simple yes or no:
BY KIRA M. NEWMAN | AUGUST 17, 2016
"Mothers-to-be don’t spend their entire 40 weeks of pregnancy glowing radiantly; there are also midnight worries, endless shopping lists, and swollen feet. Somewhere around 18 percent of women are depressed during pregnancy, and 21 percent have serious anxiety.
Research is starting to suggest that mindfulness could help. Not only does cultivating moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts and surroundings seem to help pregnant women keep their stress down and their spirits up—benefits that are well-documented among other groups of people—it may also lead to healthier newborns with fewer developmental problems down the line.
The research is still in its infancy (pun intended), but researchers are hopeful that this low-cost, accessible, and positive practice could have transformational effects. Here are four benefits for pregnant women.
1. Mindfulness reduces stress
Jen, an entrepreneur friend of mine who recently had her first child, was put on bed rest and couldn’t even exercise to keep her stress down. “I had so much anxiety,” she recalls. “Meditation really helped me stay calm and sane.”
She isn’t alone. In a small pilot study in 2008, 31 women in the second half of their pregnancy participated in an eight-week mindfulness program called Mindful Motherhood, which included breathing meditation, body scan meditation, and hatha yoga. In two hours of class per week, participants also learned how to cultivate attention and awareness, particularly in relation to aspects of their pregnancy: the feeling of their belly, the aches and pains, and their anxiety about labor.
Compared with women waiting to enter the program, participants saw reductions in their reports of anxiety and negative feelings like distress, hostility, and shame. These were all women who had sought therapy or counseling for mood issues in the past, but the program seemed to be helping them avoid similar difficulties during a chaotic and transformative time of their lives.
A 2012 study of another eight-week mindfulness program found similar reductions in depression, stress, and anxiety compared with a control group, though only 19 pregnant women participated. In interviews, participants talked about learning to stop struggling and accept things as they are; they remembered to stop and breathe, and then take conscious action rather than acting out of anger or frustration.
“I’ve learned to take a step back and just breathe and think about what I’m going to say before I open my mouth,” one participant said.
These stress-busting and mood-lifting effects mirror those found in mindfulness programs for the general public, but can mindfulness help with the specific anxieties and fears that go along with pregnancy? Many pregnant women have a loop of worries that easily gets triggered: Will my baby be healthy? I’m scared of labor. Something doesn’t feel right—do I need to go to the doctor?
A 2014 study looked specifically at these feelings, called pregnancy anxiety. Forty-seven pregnant women in their first or second trimesters, who had particularly high stress or pregnancy anxiety, took a mindfulness class at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. For six weeks, they learned how to work with pain, negative emotions, and difficult social situations. Compared with a control group who read a pregnancy book, participants who took the class saw bigger decreases in their reports of pregnancy anxiety during the duration of the experiment.
Mindfulness, perhaps, gave them the tools to navigate complex emotions that wouldn’t budge, even in the face of the most reassuring reading material.
“It is inspiring to witness a mother with extreme fear of childbirth cancel an elective caesarian because she now feels confident enough in her own strength to go through the birthing process,” said one mindfulness teacher. “It is humbling to hear how the couple whose first baby died during labour were able to stay present during the birth of their second, observing their fear without getting lost in it.”
2. Mindfulness boosts positive feelings
Not all mindfulness involves meditation; you can also become more mindful by noticing the way moods and bodily sensations fluctuate throughout the day. This type of mindfulness can counter our tendency to be “mindless,” when we assume things will be the way we expect them to be—the way they were in the past—and we don’t notice new experiences. For example, pregnant women might expect pregnancy to be exhausting and painful, so they pay less attention to the happy and peaceful moments.
In a 2016 study, a small group of Israeli women in their second and third trimesters received a half-hour training in this type of mindfulness. Then, for two weeks, they wrote diary entries twice daily about how they felt physically and mentally, a way of helping them realize how much things change.
Compared with groups of women who simply read about other women’s positive and negative experiences during pregnancy, or did nothing specific at all, women in the mindfulness group saw greater increases in their reports of well-being and positive feelings like enthusiasm and determination across the duration of the exercise. Also, the more mindful they were after the experiment (as measured by questionnaire), the higher their well-being, life satisfaction, self-esteem, and positive feelings one month after the birth—a time when women need all the resources they can get.
Nurse-midwife Nancy Bardacke developed the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) program after training in and teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a widely researched program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. MBCP takes principles from MBSR and applies them to pregnancy, teaching mindfulness practices alongside insights about labor and breastfeeding. It includes three hours of class per week for nine weeks, as well as a daylong silent retreat.
In a small 2010 pilot study, 27 women in their third trimester of pregnancy participated in the MBCP program with their partners. In addition to improvements in pregnancy anxiety and stress, participants also reported experiencing stronger and more frequent positive feelings—such as enjoyment, gratitude, and hope—after the program.
“I definitely am aware of trying to be in the moment and that each moment, good or bad, will pass,” said one participant. “When I got really worried about the birth, I would just breathe to stop my mind from going all sorts of bad places.”
3. Mindfulness may help prevent premature birth
Among pregnant women’s worries, the possibility of a premature birth looms large. “Preemies” (babies born before 37 weeks) are at risk of breathing problems, vision and hearing issues, and developmental delays. And mothers of preemies have high rates of anxiety, depression, and stress, which often go unacknowledged in the face of the baby’s needs.
Here, too, mindfulness may have a role to play. In a 2005 study of 335 pregnant women in Bangalore, India, half were assigned to practice yoga and meditation while the other half walked for an hour per day, starting in their second trimester and continuing until delivery. The yoga group, who took yoga classes for a week and then practiced at home, had fewer premature births and fewer babies with low birthweight.
Another indicator of newborn health is the Apgar score, usually measured minutes after birth, which takes into account the newborn’s complexion, pulse, reflexes, activity level, and respiration. In the 2016 Israeli study mentioned above, women’s reported levels of mindfulness after the experiment were linked to their babies’ Apgar scores, even after controlling for socioeconomic status.
One 2011 study found that a mindfulness program reduced premature births, but not birthweight or Apgar scores. Here, a group of 199 second-trimester pregnant women in Northern Thailand either got typical prenatal care or participated in a mindfulness program. Two hours a week for five weeks, the mindfulness group learned different meditations and how to cultivate awareness and acceptance of their thoughts and emotions. During and afterward, they were encouraged to meditate for over an hour daily across several different sessions. In the end, only six percent of women in the meditation group delivered their babies prematurely, compared with 16 percent in the care-as-usual group.
Could mindfulness help reduce premature births in women who are most at risk for them, including low-income and older women? That’s a question for future research to address."
By: American Pregnancy Association
"Loving your body image before pregnancy can help you get through the physical and emotional changes during pregnancy. Having a positive body image of yourself is not about what you look like, but how you feel about yourself. This is crucial in pregnancy since there will be body changes that you cannot control. It is also helpful to understand why your body is going through these changes.
According to Ann Douglas, author of The Unofficial Guide to Having a Baby, “A woman who feels good about herself will celebrate the changes that her body experiences during pregnancy, look forward to the challenge of giving birth, and willingly accept the physical and emotional changes of the postpartum period.”
Loving Your Body When You Are Pregnant:
Knowing that your body’s changes are essential to your developing baby is reason enough to embrace these changes!
Understanding what your body is doing for your baby:
As soon as your egg is fertilized and implanted in your uterus, your body begins to go through changes. These changes are a result of your baby’s growth and development. Your baby has a fetal life-support system that consists of the placenta, umbilical cord, and amniotic sac. The placenta produces hormones that are necessary to support a healthy pregnancy and baby.
These hormones help prepare your breasts for lactation and are responsible for many changes in your body. You will have an increase in blood circulation that is needed to support the placenta. This increase in blood is responsible for that wonderful “pregnancy glow” that you may have.
Your metabolism will increase, so you may have food cravings and the desire to eat more. Your body is requiring more nutrients to feed both you and your baby. Your uterus will enlarge and the amniotic sac will be filled with amniotic fluid. The amniotic fluid is there to protect your baby from any bumps or falls.
Here are a few things you can do to love your body image during pregnancy:
Exercise during pregnancy can help you feel fit, strong, and sexy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women are encouraged to exercise at least 30 minutes a day throughout pregnancy, unless your health care provider instructs differently.
Before starting any exercise program, ALWAYS check with your health care provider. For more information on exercise throughout pregnancy, check out the Nutrition & Exercise section.
Treat yourself to a body massage or a makeover. Go shopping, take a warm bubble bath, or go for a walk outside. Focus on activities that make you feel healthy, and make the most of these wonderful 9 months!"