3 Valuable Lessons Breastfeeding Taught Me about Marriage

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.

7 Tips for Fighting Pornography’s Harms in Your Home

When my son was about 8 years old, he quietly knocked on the door of our bedroom one night. We invited him in, and I could sense his unease. “Mommy, I think I did something bad.” The tears began to flow as we scooped him up and inquired over his supposed misdeed. “I was watching a music video and I saw a man’s bum. It was naked. I’m so sorry”. He believed he had viewed pornography. He was a sobbing mess, but my mommy-heart melted over the admission because we have always been honest in our home about the damaging effects of pornography. This meant it had sunk into his little mind and heart. Even a naked bum sent his conscience reeling. He believed he had viewed pornography. And he was right, accidental as it was. 

The Problem with Pornography

While this event might seem minor in the grand scheme of what could have been available to my son in the world of pornography, it’s still no small matter. It’s a rare occasion that users of pornography jump straight to “hard-core porn”. It usually starts inadvertently and small: a naked rear, for example. Most exposure happens early, with the average first age of exposure at 8 years old. One Australian study reports that by age 14, nearly 94% of youth have seen pornography. This is troublesome on many levels. This is a crucial developmental period when an under-developed prefrontal cortex makes children and youth less capable of making rational decisions. My son fit the demographics to a tee, and we count ourselves blessed that he had the good sense to look away and come talk to us. 

Many of you, like me, are parents with unsuspecting, innocent children. You love them, care for them, and want what’s best for them. You’d do anything to protect them. But the pornography industry is crafty. They don’t care about protecting your children. Your children are seen as potential consumers for their product. And they will do anything to hook them. Pornography is nicely packaged these days. A popular magazine, lyrics of a catchy song, popup ads, or a music video. It’s easier than ever for your child to be exposed and hooked. 

Some argue the benefits of porn. Such benefits include sexual education, sexual satisfaction, and sexual release. But the other side of the coin speaks volumes when correlations are linked to rape, aggression, sex-trafficking, infidelity, divorce, among others.

Think it would never happen in your home or that your child has never been exposed? Think again. A recent report by the BBFC reports that while 75% of parents believe their children have never seen porn, 53% of those children actually have. Your children could be among those. 

How You Can Protect Your Family

While those numbers can be discouraging, it doesn’t mean that we can’t do something about it. And it doesn’t mean that accidental exposure inevitably leads to a pornography addiction. My son is proof that with the right kind of education and action, we can feel secure that our children will make the right decisions in those moments. We can take charge in our homes today to protect our children against pornography exposure and its damaging effects. Here are seven things that have worked for our family:

1. Do the talking before someone else does. 

The pornography industry is eager to get to your children before you do. Don’t give them the satisfaction. If pornography exposure starts early, then talking needs to start early.

2. Make home a safe space to talk.

Our kids know that they can ask us anything without unfair reaction or judgement. Children need to know that they can have their questions answered lovingly and honestly. If your child has a question, let them ask and then do your best to answer. If you don’t know, say so, and schedule a time to talk again once you’ve found answers. Keep your word and follow up. Parent-child communication is key to opening up about these hard issues. 

3. The discussion about pornography must be ongoing. 

I cringe when I hear parents say that they’ve successfully given their children “the talk.” This is not a “one and done” event. Discussing important things like sex and pornography must be ongoing. Your children are growing and developing. This includes their understanding of and curiosity about pornography. Keep talking.

4. Set rules as a family. 

We found that our children are more likely to keep rules that they help make. We also found that they are more willing to make rules when they understand the why behind needing them. Tell them how damaging pornography can be. Then trust them to help you make rules to keep the family safe. They will surprise you!

5. Have a healthy dialogue about dating, marriage, love, and sex. 

Pornography distorts a child’s view of what real love is. Pornography teaches a child to objectify another person. When parents talk positively and honestly about dating, marriage, love, and sex, we teach them that people are for loving in real ways. Sex is an expression of that love and is most satisfying within a devoted relationship. There is no room for pornography in a healthy relationship because it teaches us that people are to be used instead of loved. 

6. Talk about your body and the bodies of others in uplifting, positive ways. 

Pornography will challenge the self-esteem of a person because of its ability to distort the reality of the human body. Let them know how beautiful and amazing the human body is and that it should be treated with respect. Bodies are not perfect and come in all shapes and sizes. Speak kindly about your body and the bodies of others.  

7. Watch for warning signs. 

Is your child unusually stressed, tired, depressed, secretive, and removed? While this might indicate many different types of problems, it might also be time to ask about and reevaluate their digital habits. They may be struggling with pornography. Be supportive and ready to help.

Keeping Kids Safe 

I know these steps have helped in our home. My son, now 13, is a happy and healthy teenager. He uses his devices in the family room because this is a rule he helped make. He knows it keeps him safe. He knows that if something does happen, he can always come talk to my husband or I because our home is a safe space. My son knows that his body is a gift and that it should be respected. He knows that the bodies of others should be respected. He knows that real relationships are built on love and trust. Above all, he knows that we love him and that we’re proud of the person he’s becoming. He knows that pornography holds no place in becoming the man he wants to be. While we can’t safeguard our children completely, these small steps can help continue the battle against pornography. 

Guest Blogger: Sarah Fairbanks

Guest Blogger: Sarah Fairbanks

Sarah Fairbanks is a student at Brigham Young University-Idaho. She is majoring in Marriage and Family Studies with an emphasis in Human Services. She will graduate in December 2021. She lives in Northern California with her husband and three children. 

 

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.

5 Benefits of Intimacy in Marriage + How to Increase It

happy couple

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.

3 Keys to Having the Best Date Night Ever!

date night

 

What was once the best day of the week while you were dating can easily become mundane, boring, or even forgotten about once you’ve been married. Date nights have an incredibly important role within marriages. Unfortunately, the plethora of responsibility we each possess relating to roles in school, work, church, and community often make it difficult to prioritize date night like we should.

A few fancy dates per year on special occasions aren’t enough, either. Research has shown that couples who have weekly date nights are 3.5 times more likely to report being “very happy” in their marriages, 3.5 times more likely to report sexual satisfaction within their marriage, and almost 3.5 more likely to report above-average communication satisfaction. Plus, there is a direct correlation between the amount of times that couples spend together and the probability
of divorce.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that date nights are crucial to marital success, the majority of couples report that they “hardly ever” have it. For the sake of our marriages, it’s time to break the status quo and recommit to regular date nights, and we have a few suggestions on how to make them the best they can be.

 

1. Try Something New Together

 

If your date nights are feeling so stale that they aren’t worth it anymore, why not try reinventing them? While it’s fun to have a location or restaurant that’s “yours” as a couple, it’s also important to switch things up every once and a while. Social psychology professor Arthur Aron suggested, “Rather than visiting the same familiar haunts and dining with the same old friends, couples need to tailor their date nights around new and different activities that they both enjoy.”

Research suggests that when you do something new with your spouse, brain circuits are ignited. These brain circuits are the same ones that were ignited when you first fell in love, so trying a new activity together can truly take you back to the most thrilling stage of your relationship, helping you remember what made you first fall in love with your spouse. It doesn’t have to be anything major, either. You can try a new restaurant, swap the time of your date and plan a sunrise or breakfast, visit a landmark that you’ve never been to, or take advantage of community arts classes, like pottery or social dance. With a little planning, it’ll be easy to plan a novel, economical, and totally memorable date night this week.

 

2. Put Your Phone Away

 

Having your phone out during a first date is considered rude and taboo, yet phones often work their way into marital date nights. If you want to plan the best date night ever, phones can’t be anywhere on the itinerary.

Dr. Emma Seppälä, author The Happiness Track, stated, “Intimacy comes from being able to share authentically with another person. If you are looking at your phone rather than in your partner’s eyes, there can be no intimacy.”

A study completed by the University of Chicago proved that simply having a cell phone in the room causes decreased cognitive capacity and focus. Your spouse deserves the focus and attention that you gave them on your first date. Turn your phones on silent, put them away, and if possible, just leave them at home. If you want date night to be special, you need to treat it differently than the other nights of the week, and that means leaving social media, the news, and entertainment apps out of it.

 

3. Take Turns Asking Each Other Out

 

While considering how date night was different now that my husband and I are married, I realized that perhaps the most exciting aspect of our date nights had been entirely lost. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how genuinely ecstatic I felt when I was asked out on the first date with my now-husband, and the second, and the third, and the fourth, and so on. Every time he called to ask me out on another date, I truly felt over-the- moon excited. So why was that practice now lost?

We decided to experiment with this. We took turns planning weekly date nights and made the rule that the respective spouse had to formally ask the other, just like we had when we were first dating. I’ll admit that initially the formality seemed a little silly, but then something happened. I began finding myself looking forward to getting asked out by my husband and wondering when the invitation was coming, and when it did, some of those exact same over-the- moon feelings came back. I found myself taking extra time to get ready for the date night and documenting the date nights with photos and videos, just like we had early in our relationship. Date nights quickly became more like a special event, and less like a necessary weekly formality.

If you wish date nights felt as exciting as they used to while you were dating, why not make them more like when you were dating? Whether it’s formal invitations or something else entirely, examine some of the aspects of your former date nights that have since been forgotten and commit to incorporating them once again in your relationship.

If you aren’t currently having regular date nights and the idea of working a weekly date night into your schedule seems overwhelming and unrealistic, strive initially for some sort of progress and work your way up. Start where you are now, and as you prioritize increasing the frequency and quality of our date nights, you’ll also be prioritizing your family, your marriage, and your spouse.

 

Miriam Merrill has a Bachelor of Science in Marriage and Family Studies with an emphasis in Family Advocacy and Policy. She recently interned with both The Sutherland Institute and Family Policy Resource and 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.