From day one of being a mom, I was so excited to nurture my little girl. I wanted to give her the world! I thought the least I could do would be to give her the food she needed to develop well. And I knew my “liquid gold” would be the best thing to help my baby girl grow healthy and strong.
Breastfeeding has so many benefits, both for baby and for mom. But what people don’t usually talk about is the fact that it can be really, really hard.
Now after nursing two kids, I’ve realized that it’s not all that different from marriage. Here are a few things I’ve learned.
1. It’s hard.
Yes, breastfeeding is natural and good. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy! There are all sorts of things to adjust to, especially at the beginning. Breastfeeding can bring sore nipples, engorged breasts, a crazy feeding schedule, and more. And just when you think you’ve figured it out, more challenges come!
Similarly, marriage is natural and good. We want to be with someone we love in a secure relationship. But just like breastfeeding, marriage can be hard too! Marriage means there’s someone else to coordinate with, and odds are there will sometimes be misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Like breastfeeding, there are difficulties and things to adjust to in married life, both at the beginning and all along the way.
2. It’s good for you.*
Pediatricians agree that breastfeeding is so good for a baby’s development. Breast milk naturally has the nutrients, calories, and antibodies your baby needs to be healthy! It also creates a healthy bond, probably in part because mom and baby have to work together to figure it out.
Marriage, like breastfeeding, definitely has its benefits! People who are married are more likely to live longer and be happier. And like breastfeeding, being married allows you to grow closer to the one you love as you work through the difficulties that naturally arise.
3. It’s individual.
Every new mom has different challenges, because her body and baby’s body are unique. Not only that, but those challenges will likely change over time. For example, my baby girl used to fall asleep all the time while eating. When she got older, she stayed awake but got distracted easily. These individual challenges, however, gave us great opportunities to work together and grow.
Just like every mom and baby is different, each marriage has both unique challenges and solutions. Basic principles can help both with breastfeeding and marriage, but ultimately, the two of you have to figure it out. So work together to find what helps you get through the hard times and really enjoy the sweet blessings that come.
Don’t give up!
With my first child especially, there were days when I was tempted to give up on breastfeeding, to throw in the towel and give her formula instead. But I’m so grateful my little girl and I were able to learn and grow together.
Maybe there are times when you want to give up on your marriage, when you think it’s just not worth the effort anymore. But don’t give up! Don’t give in! You may find that it is working through those difficulties that makes your marriage even sweeter.
*Disclaimer: For various reasons, some moms or babies may not be able or choose not to breastfeed. The same is true for marriage. This article is in no way trying to put down those who don’t breastfeed, or those who get divorced/don’t marry. Everyone’s situation is different.
Author’s note: I originally wrote this article while I was breastfeeding my first child. Nursing child number two was a lot easier (partly because he was easier, partly because of what I’d already learned). But I found that these principles still hold true for both breastfeeding and marriage.
Elizabeth Warner, Content Manager
Elizabeth Warner graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marriage and Family Studies from Brigham Young University-Idaho. She is married to a wonderful man, and together they have two delightful kids. When she’s not busy changing diapers or teaching her daughter to read, she enjoys exercise & nutrition, hand lettering, and writing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As human beings, we’re hard wired to connect. In other words, we have a biological need to build close bonds with people! Even as a baby, we connect to our parents for warmth, food, security, and love. When parents meet those needs, bonds of closeness form called attachment. On the other hand, when a parent isn’t there to meet the child’s physical and emotional needs, the child may feel anxious and insecure about seeking help.
These same patterns follow us into our adult romantic relationships as well. When spouses respond with love and make themselves available for each other, they grow closer together. Not only this, but having a close relationship allows you to share intimate details and experiences with the one you love. This can be a big help during stressful times.
When people hear the word intimacy, they often think of sexual relationships. But intimacy is more than just physical! True intimacy includes emotional closeness too. Being close emotionally and physically are important and healthy aspects of any good relationship. And what’s more, this intimacy can lead to several health benefits.
Here are just five of the benefits of intimacy in marriage:
1. Intimacy Helps Reduce Stress.
Studies have shown that chronic stress can have a huge negative effect on the body, including insomnia, muscle pain, cardiac events, a weakened immune system, and irritable bowel syndrome. Thankfully, intimate relationships help reduce stress by allowing spouses to act as a buffer for stressful events.
2. Intimacy Counters Loneliness to Reduce Risk of Mortality.
Recent health studies have linked social isolation (essentially a lack of intimacy) with increased morbidity and mortality. And some studies have found that in addition to higher mortality, loneliness can also affect our thinking, sleeping, and mental and physical well-being. But staying close to your spouse can help reduce your social isolation and feelings of loneliness.
3. Intimacy Fuels a Better Sex Life.
Emotional intimacy can lead better sex in your marriage, which has health benefits in and of itself. Being authentic, open, and willing to listen to each other’s needs will really improve your sexual intimacy experience. Sexual intimacy also releases oxytocin (aka “the cuddle hormone”), which in turn brings you closer to your spouse.
4. Intimacy Helps Reduce Feelings of Anxiety and Depression.
Being sexually intimate with your spouse releases a burst of hormones that will improve mental well-being. But sex isn’t the only thing that releases the feel-good hormone of oxytocin! Studies have found that sharing an intimate act of decision-making or even a simple touch from our loved one changes our brain chemistry and our oxytocin levels. Then those increases help defend against the negative effects of stress.
5. Intimacy and Emotional Support Strengthens You.
Discussing issues with a close, empathetic spouse can be really comforting in times of stress. Your attachment bonds can act as emotional barriers to stress and provide you with security when you’re feeling vulnerable. On the other hand, when emotional insensitivity occurs in a relationship, this can often exacerbate pain.
How to Increase Intimacy in our Relationships
Clearly, being emotionally and physically close to your spouse does a whole lot of good. But just how can you increase that intimacy in your relationship? Here are a few ideas:
Be open and honest with each other. Close relationships are built on a foundation of trust and openness. It’s important to share with your spouse the details of your life, both the good and the bad. As you’re authentic in sharing these details, you’ll be able to connect in ways that bring you closer as a couple.
Remember that intimacy takes time. You have to spend time together and get to know each other if you want to be close. So spend time getting to know each other’s wants, needs, hopes, and goals. Put down your digital device and actually share with each other face-to-face. Spending electronics-free, quality time with each other will be worth it!
Be accepting of your spouse and open to learning. Dr. John Gottman, a nationally recognized marriage therapist, says it’s important to be a friend to your spouse and accept them with their mistakes and weaknesses. Also, as you’re open to learning from your spouse, you can show more empathy and understanding. This will really increase that emotional intimacy with your spouse.
Accept your spouse’s bids for connection. Gottman also talks about how important it is to turn toward your spouse as an anchor, which reinforces those bonds of closeness. When you respond to your partner with interest and enthusiasm in small, everyday moments, you build up an “emotional bank account” that helps the relationship weather conflicts. These bids for connection are powerful opportunities to connect with our spouse both emotionally and physically.
Having an intimate and close relationship with our spouse or loved brings many physical and emotional benefits. Reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, increasing our sex life, and countering loneliness are just some of the benefits. Connecting with others can be a huge health benefit and comfort, so start working on your intimacy today!
Dr. Kevin M. Green is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE). He is a full-time professor at BYU Idaho and specializes in human connection and intimacy. He loves baking, reading, and spending time with family and friends. He has been married to his wife Mallory for 21 years and has four amazing children.