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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.