Divorce Isn’t the Worst Thing That Can Happen to Your Child

Divorce Isn't the Worst Thing That Can Happen to Your Child

 

50% of all children in the United States will witness a divorce between their parents. While it would be wonderful if every child could grow up in a home with two loving parents, that’s sadly not reality today. However, divorce doesn’t immediately result in the end of a child’s happiness or success. 

Divorce is not a decision that should be taken lightly. No matter the situation, divorce will have an impact on both the parents and their children. Nevertheless, in some cases kids are actually better off because of how the marital relationship affected them prior to the parental split. And as parents, there are multiple ways you can help your child adjust to make the transition smoother. 

 

Staying Together Isn’t Always the Best Solution 

Many parents who consider getting a divorce worry that this decision will completely ruin their children and their future. And their fears are somewhat justified when one considers the research showing the negative effects that divorce can have on children. Because of this fear, some parents might think that for the kids, it’ll be better if mom and dad just “tough it out.” However, choosing to stay together no matter what may actually do more harm than good. 

If divorce is on the table, parents will need to juggle the financial and emotional effects the decision will have on the family. Mild depression, anxiety, and anger are common responses among children with divorced parents. On the other hand, divorce is an important option to protect a spouse or kids from toxic relationships.

Because of the toll that divorce can take on the spouses involved, let alone a whole family, many parents just drop the idea completely. Of course, when marital problems arise and divorce is coming into the picture, it doesn’t mean that divorce has to be the answer. 

 

Divorce Alternatives

Marriage therapy, personal counseling, and honest conversations about what the actual problems are (e.g. pride and self-centeredness) rather than the symptoms (e.g. communication style or personality differences) can be incredibly beneficial. 

Before making the huge decision of whether or not you should get divorced, one should first do some very honest self-reflection — especially with the help of a licensed therapist. Dr. William J. Doherty, a marriage and family therapist and professor of family social science, explains that licensed therapists can “challenge both you and your spouse about your contributions to the problems and your capacity to make individual changes to resolve the problems.” Reflecting on your personal contributions to the relationship will not only benefit you as an individual, but it will benefit your relationship as a whole. 

While getting professional help is an important step, it’s also important to remember that you can’t change someone else. True change can only happen if it originates from within. If a relationship isn’t evolving because changes are not being made, divorce may be the result.

 

Choosing To Divorce

Now, let’s suppose that you end up choosing to get a divorce. The change is going to hurt no matter what the situation is, because you and your children now have to adapt to a new normal. 

However, this huge change doesn’t have to ruin your kids. In fact, according to one study, “there is some evidence to suggest that the majority of children whose parents divorced are not indistinguishable from their peers whose parents remained married.” 

Scores of studies have found that children form habits quickly by watching and observing those around them. If a child’s parents are displaying a verbally or physically abusive relationship, that child won’t know the difference between the parental relationship they witnessed and a healthy relationship. 

While a divorce will be difficult for the children, the changes that children experience aren’t all negative. For example, children who are no longer exposed to constant arguing, verbal or physical abuse, or unstable communication between their parents will be relieved and greatly benefited in their future. Additionally, according to child development experts, children have a built in “resiliency mechanism” that helps them to learn and bounce back from difficult circumstances with the right kind of help.

 

Emily’s Story

One of my best friends had an experience in which her parents got divorced when she was seven years old. I was curious about how the divorce impacted her and her family. So, I reached out to her for an interview. 

Me: Looking back now, what do you think influenced the decision to get a divorce?

Emily: Growing up my father was very neglectful towards me, my mother, and my brother. Because of this, my mother decided that she wanted a divorce.

Me: At the time, how did your family process the divorce? What decisions did your parents make in hopes of making it a reasonable decision?

Emily: My mom allowed my brother and I to choose the amount of involvement we had with my dad. At the beginning of the divorce I spent weekends and every other Wednesday with him and then we rotated holidays. So if I spent Thanksgiving with my mom I spent Christmas with my dad, and vice versa. I wanted to see my dad as often as I could because I wanted to still have a relationship with him, but there were multiple times when he wouldn’t show up or he’d bail before I came. So, then I started reducing my visits to once a week. Unfortunately my dad could never move past his neglectful habits, and eventually I stopped doing in-person visits all together and instead we did phone calls and emails. However, about seven years ago my father just stopped replying all together, so now I’ve completely lost all contact with him.

Me: Lastly, how has your parents’ divorce influenced both you and your brother?

Emily: It allowed both of us to have complete control and it helped me to establish my self worth not only as a daughter, but as a person. If they hadn’t divorced, I would’ve been forced to suffer my dad’s neglect and I believe it would have greatly damaged my self esteem and my idea of what healthy love looks like. 

 

How Can I Help My Child?

If you and your spouse decide that divorce is the answer, it’s possible to help your child(ren) through every step to make the new situation sustainable. Here are a few ways you can make it easier for your kids:

  • Provide emotional support
  • Have open and honest conversations about how your child is feeling
  • Prepare yourself for tough conversations 
  • Ask your child how they’re doing on a regular basis 

By doing this, you will create an appropriate outlet that allows your children to express their emotions in a healthy way. Many adolescents seek out alcohol and drugs if their emotional needs aren’t being met, so building a loving and healthy relationship between you and your child is key. 

 

Although most divorce is avoidable and unnecessary, at times it can be the best option. In some cases divorce may be better for the entire family if things are beyond repair and the family climate is incredibly toxic. Every child deserves to dwell in a home where healthy relationships are present so that in the future, they can develop healthy relationships of their own.  

 

 

Makayla Whetsel is a sophomore at Brigham Young University-Idaho studying Marriage and Family Studies. She will be serving an LDS mission before returning to school to receive her degree and certificates. In the coming years, she plans to focus in the field of social work to assist both children and adults.

How to Protect Your Kids from Sexual Assault

child smiling

No one likes to have “the talk” with their kids. You know, the sex talk. Conversations about sex can be uncomfortable for most people. But these types of conversations are critical. And talking about uncomfortable topics can be key to protecting your kids. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of four girls and one out of 13 boys in the U.S. experience sexual abuse at some point in their childhood. While we may not be able to protect our kids from every bad experience, we can teach them safety and prevention measures to minimize the risk of sexual assault. It starts with having uncomfortable, critical conversations.

I truly hope your child never has to experience sexual assault. I wish it wasn’t something we need to keep on our radar. But if we pretend like it doesn’t exist, how will that teach our children to protect themselves?

What is Sexual Assault? 

According to the United States Department of Justice, sexual assault is “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” If you want to learn more about what can be classified as sexual assault click here.

Sexual predators can come from any demographic, race, or religion. There is no such thing as a stereotypical profile of a sexual predator. Regardless of your socioeconomic background, we all need to be on guard. 

In my 26 years, I’ve learned that non-consensual sexual encounters are so much more common than we might realize. I grew up in a highly religious and middle-class home. My family was still affected. My parents did their absolute best to protect my siblings and I from predators. But predators can be in the most unexpected places. According to RAINN, “Most victims know their assailants: 80 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone the survivor knows, such as a neighbor, family member, or romantic partner.”  

When I was very young, I was assaulted by a member of a family playgroup. Another time I was assaulted by someone who I thought was a friend at church. After having these experiences, I want to do everything in my power to protect my daughter and future children against these types of encounters.

Knowledge is power. Teaching our children how to take precautions empowers them to protect themselves from danger – especially when we are not around. 

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips

The following are preventive measures that encourage sexual safety. While there is no sure way to avoid sexual assault, following these tips can cultivate open communication, help children identify wrong behavior, and create boundaries for future relationships.

Let’s teach our children to how to be safe:

1. Teach children the anatomical terms of their body.

This will let them know that talking about our bodies is not taboo and is a safe topic between the two of you. According to developmental psychologist Dr. Donna Matthews, when kids know and are comfortable using the standard terms for their private body parts, they will have one more protection against sexual abuse. Having open communication about our bodies and sexuality will encourage your child to turn to you when they are in need of advice or someone to trust and confide in. 

2. Teach children to know how to identify appropriate versus inappropriate behavior.

Tell them if someone touches your “________” (any body part as discussed above) – that is unacceptable. If someone asks to see your “______” (any body part as discussed above) – that is wrong. Dr. Mary L. Pulido, executive director of The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, recommends sharing ideas of appropriate versus inappropriate touch. Some ideas of appropriate touch include (but are not limited to) giving a toddler a bath, changing a baby’s diaper, and getting vaccinations. An idea of inappropriate touch you may share is if someone puts their hand down your shirt or pants, that is wrong and unsafe. 

3. Teach children to say (or yell), “NO!”, “STOP!”, or “STOP THAT!”

If anyone touches them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, tell your child to put a stop to it immediately. No matter who the perpetrator is, it’s still wrong. If they don’t feel comfortable saying “stop” or “no,” they can always say “I have to leave” and RUN AWAY. The San Diego California Police Department encourages parents to teach their children how to react in the event of a sexual assault with the following, “If avoidance is not possible tell them to make a big scene by screaming, yelling, kicking, and resisting. Their safety is more important than being polite.” 

4. Clearly define boundaries.

Set boundaries with friends and family. For example, when I had friends over as a kid, I wasn’t allowed to close bedroom doors. I was also not allowed to have sleepovers with anyone who was not family. Teach your child the boundaries of privacy even within your family. When and if they refuse to give affection to friends or family members when asked, support them in that and tell them they can say ”no thank you.” This can empower them to take ownership of their bodies, fosters body autonomy, and helps them know they are not obligated to touch someone when they are asked or pressured to.

5. Urge your child to be extremely selective with their friends.

This is especially important in their tweens, teens, and young adult years when you have less of an influence on their social circle. Encourage your child to date in group settings. Invite your child and their friends to hang out at your home so you can get to know their social circle. When I was a teen, I thought group dates were a way for my parents to control me and keep me from a fun make-out sesh. Little did I know that group dates are actually the safe route for unfamiliar company, which can prevent unwanted encounters. So my parents were looking out for my best interest, as good parents do.

6. Encourage your children to trust their instincts.

If something feels “off,” it usually is. According to the Specialized Alternatives for Families & Youth (SAFY) organization, trusting your instincts is a personal right. Teach them how to identify those feelings. This may not be a very scientific prevention, but how many times has trusting your instincts lead you in the wrong direction? 

Talk with Your Kids Today

Assure your child that you are a safe adult to talk to and help them identify other trusted adults they can turn to when they are feeling confused, scared, or unsafe. Why include other adults? Because even if you have built trust with your child, there’s still a chance you may not be the first person they tell if they actually do get assaulted. According to Robin Sax, a former Los Angeles prosecutor who specialized in sex crimes against children, “many children cannot bring themselves to disclose sexual abuse directly to parents,” so it’s important for them to have other trusted adults to turn to if they get assaulted (as devastating as that would be). 

When should we start these conversations with our child? While each child is different, earlier is usually better. Jill Starishevsky, a child abuse and sex crimes prosecutor in New York City, encourages parents to start these conversations as early as age three. Keep in mind that young children and adolescents are a target for predators because they are more vulnerable at this stage. Start these critical conversations early so there’s more prevention than damage control.

Is there a way to spot a predator before anything happens? Unfortunately, no. It depends on the situation. There is literally so much we can worry about for our children as parents. However, these recommendations are some ways to give you peace of mind and provide tools to help your child protect themselves. 

Thanks for surviving the realness. I encourage you to have these conversations ASAP, so you’re doing everything in your power to protect your precious little ones. You’ve got this! 

 

 

Elise Blaser has a Bachelor of Business Management with an emphasis in Human Resources. She has a wonderful husband, Zach, and a beautiful one-year-old daughter, Violet. Before becoming a mom, she was a Program Developer for FIELDS, a nonprofit organization for Native American education and economic development, where she created and implemented a values-based, life-skills curriculum for underserved youth. She is passionate about health and wellness and sharing her life experiences to help uplift others.

How Post-Partum Depression and Bliss Can Coexist

mom dad baby

I had a beautiful baby girl, a husband who was ecstatic to be a dad, and all of my physical needs met. I should have been so happy.

But I just wanted to run.

I couldn’t be comfortable in the same room with my baby. Nursing was extremely difficult. She cried incessantly. I struggled to bond with my baby. I thought it was just the “baby blues” that most women experience within the first two weeks after delivery. But as time went on, I continued to feel despair and inadequacy.

What is PPD?

As I quickly learned, Post-partum Depression (PPD) is no joke. New motherhood is itself an emotional roller coaster, but one out of seven new mothers also experience PPD. PPD is the most common complication of childbirth and is significantly underdiagnosed. And PPD can affect any postpartum mom, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.

You may feel like the early, blissful moments you anticipated with your sweet new baby have been stolen away. That was my experience, and this is my story. 

Self-Prescribed Treatment

I thought maybe I could fix it myself, but the heavy cloud of hopelessness lingered well after the “baby blues” period. I tried exercising daily to lighten my moods. I took violin lessons thinking it might bring me happiness. I tried positive thinking and expressing gratitude, but none of these tactics were very effective. I thought maybe it was something marriage and family counselling could resolve. That was unsuccessful too. I couldn’t think of anything else. I was stuck.

A Relieving Solution 

Approximately three months postpartum, I realized that this “haze” might be PPD. I remembered what I learned in my birthing class about PPD – that there were resources at my obstetrician’s office to get help. I set an appointment and met with the clinic’s PPD specialist for a screening. She was so understanding and nonjudgmental as I voiced my struggle. She reassured me, prescribed me medication, and kick-started my healing.

After a few weeks of treatment, I was able to build a stronger bond with my baby. I felt more energized and motivated to take care of myself, my baby, and everything else. I was finally able to feel the joy of motherhood! I loved her all along, yes, but I now had a weight lifted off of my shoulders.

Self-Love: An Added Bonus

In the months that followed, I focused on loving myself, particularly my changed body. It’s all too easy to get caught up in society’s expectations and influences to “get your body back,” and I found myself buying into it.

I had to change my perspective, or else I would never love and accept my newly abundant stretch marks and six-inch C-section scar. It was a challenge, but ultimately, I realized that I sacrificed my body to create a human life. My imperfections are proof of it, a beautiful reminder of that miracle.

My husband often reassures me how much he loves this new version of me, which definitely helps. However, I still have to actively put forth the effort to love myself, regardless of what other people think. I need my own love more than anyone else’s (sorry to break it to you, hubby 😉). I’ve come to understand that, yes, it is essential to be comfortable in my own skin, but my worth does not derive from my appearance or the amount of space I fill.

My journey of self-love has only just begun, but it has been an important component of getting to where I am today – 13 months postpartum. I now feel capable of becoming the best version of myself because I got the treatment I needed and have been cultivating self-love.    

Normalizing Postpartum Depression 

Having PPD is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s simply a chemical imbalance that is treatable, thanks to modern medicine. And as I mentioned earlier, it’s something that many moms experience. So know that you are not alone! This is not your fault, nor are you to blame. 

If you are struggling in the same way that I was, there is no shame in taking care of yourself. Get help! If your symptoms linger past two weeks postpartum or returns anytime within one year after delivery, consider seeking medical attention.

Treating PPD may look a little different for each person. My choice of treatment doesn’t have to be yours. So explore your options!

Why PPD Matters to Everyone

If PPD has never been your issue but you have a loved one in the postpartum period, genuinely ask them how they are doing. Be a safe person for them to talk to. Help them seek treatment if necessary.

If nothing else, I hope sharing my story will foster increased compassion and understanding for the many women who experience PPD. 

You deserve happiness as much as anyone else. I’m no expert, but I truly believe that PPD and bliss can coexist, because I’m experiencing it.  

Let’s normalize PPD, seek and embrace healing, and end the stigma.

Resources

The following helpline and number to text are available from Postpartum Support International to help you (or a loved one) get started in the healing journey: 

Helpline: 1.800.944.4773

Textline: 503.894.9453 

 

Elise Blaser has a Bachelor of Business Management with an emphasis in Human Resources. She has a wonderful husband, Zach, and a beautiful one-year-old daughter, Violet. Before becoming a mom, she was a Program Developer for FIELDS, a nonprofit organization for Native American education and economic development, where she created and implemented a values-based, life-skills curriculum for underserved youth. She is passionate about health and wellness and sharing her life experiences to help uplift others.

Three Ways Instagram is Ruining Your Marriage

social media ruins marriage
By guest blogger Miriam Merrill

Your Instagram account may be ruining your marriage.

With the number of active monthly users reaching 1 billion, Instagram is more popular than ever. While there are millions of users in every age category, approximately 64% of users are unsurprisingly between 18-34. It seems innocent enough, but with the average age of marriage for men and women hitting 28, this puts the most trying years of marital relationships right inside the bracket of the most loyal Instagram users. Some of the most crucial years of relationship development in a marriage are likely to be spent trying to obtain “likes” and “follows,” which has been proven to be damaging to relationships.

But why is it so damaging? Keep reading to find out three ways that Instagram is hurting your relationship with your spouse.

1. It gives you unrealistic marital expectations and sets you up for failure.

One of the biggest threats to marriage in general is having unrealistic expectations. On their own, these false ideals are consistently linked to lower relationship satisfaction and less investment in the marriage. But when you add social media to the picture? It just gets worse.

There is nothing like having a disagreement with your spouse and then getting on Instagram just in time to see a new post with a caption like “He is so perfect,” “He meets all of my needs,” or “He is my soulmate.” While the posters may have acted innocently, all those reading the captions are likely to assume that it’s normal to feel like that. They then discouragingly conclude their marriage must be a bad one.

This of course couldn’t be further from the truth. No one is perfect. It’s impossible for a single person to meet all of your needs, and unhealthy and unfair to ask someone to. The notion that there’s only one perfect person meant for you in the world just isn’t true. And ironically, research suggests that the couples who post the most are actually the most insecure about their marriage. So you shouldn’t believe everything you see on Instagram anyway!

Regardless, the more you see perfectly curated lives on Instagram and assume it is the norm, the more your own marriages seem unexciting and unromantic, and you become less committed to each other and the marriage.

2. It adds anxiety and distrust to your relationship.

Relationships are difficult enough without adding breeding grounds for anxiety and distrust. Worry about online affairs and looking good on social media is enough to make any spouse sensitively jealous. It’s a proven fact that the use of technology in relationships distances partners, causes trust issues and misunderstandings, and distracts couples from sharing intimate moments.  

The latter is such a big deal that a term was even recently invented for snubbing someone while using your phone: phubbing. Fifty percent of people report being “phubbed” by a significant other. That’s a pretty big deal considering the fact that the act has been linked to spousal depression and lower marital satisfaction. While none of us like being ignored while our partner uses their phone, we’re all probably also guilty of it.

Even on a personal level, Instagram has been associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, and bullying. You may feel that social media is not negatively impacting your relationship. But because it’s affecting you, it prevents you from being your best self for your spouse.

3. It increases your chances of having an affair.

With the ever-increasing popularity of social media, it’s easy to find old friends and re-connect. While this is certainly one of the most advantageous aspects of Instagram, it can also be one of the most dangerous. In fact, one in three divorces start as online affairs.

With a few clicks, it’s easy to look up profiles of exes. Seeing pictures of them can easily stir up the old feelings you used to have. It may promote romantic longing as you see what your life may have looked like if you were still with them. And if you make the decision to reach out, you’ve entered a seriously dangerous zone.

Licensed marriage and family therapist George James illustrates this: “The initial intent [can be] to reconnect as friends. As time progresses, the conversations become secretive, and the married person starts to think that the old flame is there for them more than their spouse.”

Author Kelly Chicas adds, “When you’re at home with your partner, you have all the problems of day-to-day life, and it’s easy to want to forget all the responsibilities of today. It becomes easy to romanticize this ‘other life’ with someone on social media.”

Even if you don’t have an affair, this study found that the more frequently someone contacted their ex, the less satisfied they felt in their current relationship. So why take the risk?

What Can You Do?

While I don’t think anyone would disagree that social media complicates your relationships, its use doesn’t exactly seem avoidable in this technology-driven world, either. So, what can you do? Here are a few ideas.

Establish Boundaries

Work together as a couple to decide on boundaries regarding social media use. You could pick a technology-free time before bed to allow yourselves time to reconnect. Maybe you create a “no cell phones on date night”-type rule. You might combine social media profiles. Or you may even delete them altogether. The boundaries themselves don’t matter as much as the commitment to communication and dedication to marital fidelity.

Watch What You Post on Social Media

Make sure that what you are posting isn’t building someone else’s unrealistic expectations. Commit to genuineness on social media. And next time you envy someone’s life on Instagram, just remember that couples who endure challenges in marriage are actually stronger than those who don’t.

Recommit to Date Night

With so much working against couples, recommitting to date night is a great step in strengthening your marriage. Research has shown that couples who have weekly date night are 3.5 times more likely to report being “very happy” in their marriage and 3.5 times more likely to report “above-average” communication. Read more about how date night can help your marriage and how to make it successful here.

With the world of social media constantly surrounding us, your marriages can take a hit if you aren’t careful. But as you take steps to set boundaries and reconnect with your spouse, you can make sure that your Instagram account doesn’t ruin your marriage after all.

Miriam Merrill has a Bachelor of Science in Marriage and Family Studies with an emphasis in Family Advocacy and Policy. She interned with both The Sutherland Institute and Family Policy Resource. She also attended the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. When she isn’t writing or researching, you can find her performing, singing, and making happy memories with her husband, Sam, and puppy, Jimmy Stewart.

The Perfect Last-Minute Valentine’s Gift

Perfect Valentine's Gift

Valentine’s day is upon us, which means, among other things, overpriced chocolate and roses. For struggling relationships, it may provide a disappointing reminder of the love that you don’t feel.  For others, it’s an exciting day to celebrate your love. And for some, it’s an opportunity to try to get your relationship back on track.

No matter what the current state of your marriage, I’ve got the best and most simple Valentine’s gift you could give to yourself and your spouse. When I say best, I don’t mean most expensive or even most creative. When I say simple, I don’t mean easy. But what I do mean is that this gift could do more for your marriage than perhaps anything else.

The Gift

For the rest of this year, until December 31st, your gift is a non-negotiable commitment to do something (which I will describe below) every day. This means that you refuse to go to bed without doing this thing. This means that you are committed to do this even if you are tired, don’t feel like it, or even if your spouse is acting like a jerk. This isn’t their gift to you, it is your gift to them. So, give it no matter what. And if you forget, it is a commitment to make it up by doing two things the next day. Here is your daily objective: 

Every day, do ONE thing that sends a clear message to your spouse that you love them. Don’t do the same thing every day. Mix it up a bit. Spend a few moments contemplating the needs and desires of your spouse, and then respond to their needs or desires in a thoughtful and loving way. Do this without telling your spouse that this is your gift.

Where to Start

For those who don’t know where to start, here are a few ideas: 

  • Write a love note and hide it in a place you know they’ll find it 
  • Do a household task that your spouse normally would do, expecting nothing in return 
  • Offer to give your spouse a back or foot rub, whichever they would prefer 
  • Pick up their favorite treat while you’re at the store 
  • Look your spouse in the eye and tell them one thing about them that you are truly grateful for 
  • Initiate some form of physical touch: a kiss, a hug, a hold, or even sexual intimacy (you should be able to guess whichever they would prefer) 
  • Suggest that you watch a movie that they would like to watch, even if it’s not something you would ever want to watch 
  • Surprise your spouse with a breakfast or lunch date 
  • Send a quick mid-day text to your spouse asking them how their day is going to just to say, “I’m thinking about you. I love you.” 
  • Offer to watch the kids or finish some household tasks while your spouse does something that he or she would like to do

Commit to Love

Buying flowers or chocolate would be a lot easier and even more flashy. But chocolate and flowers won’t produce the effect on your marriage that you really want. You want to feel in love and feel joy in marriage. You want your spouse to know that you really do love them, even though you sometimes don’t act like it (and maybe sometimes don’t feel like it). And you want to set a powerful example to your children that love can be constant in marriage and that there really is love at home.

This is what you really do want, so make a commitment on Valentine’s Day to go get it — even if you think that some of these things are not possible for you. Research shows that you can maintain a strong romantic connection throughout your marriage — if you really want it. What does it look like to really want it? The type of daily, non-negotiable commitment I’ve described.

Why You Should Give This Gift

If you are in a struggling marriage, this type of gift may seem too difficult or even pointless. I promise it’s not. Here is why this activity is not too difficult or pointless and is good for all marriages, even in very difficult circumstances: 

  1. It is one simple thing a day. Anybody can do that every day. It’s a small price to pay for a significant improvement in your quality of life.
  2. You increase the chances that loving feelings will return to your marriage (if they’ve been lost) to both you and your spouse. Loving feelings are the fruit of loving thoughts, words, and actions. If loving feelings are already there, this gift will help you maintain those feelings even when life gets hard.
  3. Your perspective on your spouse and your marriage can improve significantly because every day you are placing more effort and focus on the positive (in thought, word, or deed). For those who already have positive views of their spouse, this gift can protect those views. For those who are struggling, this can help you break out of destructive thought cycles.
  4. You will become a better person and develop a critical life skill: You will learn that you can choose to act certain ways even though you may not feel like it. This is a critical life skill for any successful marriage. This is also a life skill that is required if we are to find joy in any circumstance.

For Valentine’s Day, this is the gift your marriage needs. (Because you are not going to tell them that this is your gift, it might also be a good idea to provide some chocolate or flowers. 😉 ) However, over time, your real gift will taste better than chocolate and smell better than roses.

This article was originally published at www.byuido.org titled “Need a Last-Minute Valentine’s Gift? Here’s the Best Valentine’s Gift You Could Give“.

Dr. Cole Ratcliffe has a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy from Kansas State University. He currently practices marriage and family therapy and teaches at Brigham Young University- Idaho. He also heads a team of Certified Relationship Educators in sharing their knowledge with those who want to strengthen their relationships.