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10 Fun Winter Things to Do with Your Spouse

  • Make hot cocoa and look at picture albums.
  • Bundle up and take a short walk.
  • Go window shopping at a local mall or town.
  • Buy a plant.
  • Bake cookies together (clean up together, too).
  • Read Song of Solomon out loud.
  • Have an indoor picnic—and don't forget the marshmallows.
  • Spend the night at a motel or inn.
  • Play a favorite board game.
  • Make love by candlelight.

Excerpted from Lists to Live By for Every Married Couple, ©2001, compiled by Alice Gray, Steve Stephens, John VanDiest. Used by permission of Multnomah Publishers Inc.

Truth and Consequences

"We've been having this same conversation for the past two years," my wife, Jana, said, having listened to my frustrations about my father who had turned down our request for a loan. "Every time you talk about your family, your face gets red and you pound the table. I don't know what to say any more. I think you need to see a counselor."

I felt hurt, even betrayed. But my wife's truth-telling launched me on a journey that invited the presence of Christ into a back corner of my soul. She had exercised an unpleasant kindness; she had served me by telling the truth. And it cost her something. She had to endure my angry response and then my sullenness. But Jana's insistence that I had a problem with my anger was a beautiful expression of her love to me, no matter how difficult it was for me to accept.

There isn't a pain-free way to tell the truth, but the alternative is a marriage built around a series of covert compromises. Truth may initially douse the fires of passion, but over time it creates new possibilities for genuine intimacy—the intimacy that comes with being fully known by another. The gust of God's grace now blowing through our marriage is experienced in a little more transparency, a little more honesty, and, consequently, a little more intimacy.

By Dave L. Goetz, from The Couples' Devotional Bible (Zondervan).

Lend Him Your Left Ear

Want to get on her good side? Whisper sweet nothings into her left ear, suggests researcher Teow-Chong Sim of Sam Houston State University. His study found that emotional words get through to people better when spoken through the left ear, not the right. The findings are consistent with the brain's right hemisphere's ability to perceive emotions. Also, the study showed that emotional words were remembered better when spoken into the left ear. When study participants were asked to recall words, there was a 64 percent recall rate when emotional words were heard in the left ear, compared with 58 percent in the right. So, go left and you won't soon forget the rest!

Fighting Hurts

In more ways than one. Studies at Ohio State University College of Medicine show that poorly handled marital conflicts "have negative effects on the cardiovascular (heart), endocrine (hormones), and immune systems functioning" in both men and women. But the latest research shows that women take a greater hit than men when it comes to bodily stress reactions due to marital stress and arguments. The bottom line: be sure to take good care of your mate—and spend more time making up.

Money Talks—Do You?

Money is consistently one of the greatest causes of marital stress. Consider a serious talk with your mate about your views on money and how you spend it to reduce tension and build unity. Here are a few questions to get you going from Delores Histand Friesen's Living More with Less (Alternatives).

Share some of the following recollections:

  • What is your happiest memory in connection with money? Your unhappiest?
  • What role did money have in your childhood?
  • What attitude did/does your father have about money?
  • What attitude did/does your mother have about money?
  • Do you think of you and your family as rich? Poor? Something in between?
  • Do you worry about money?

Discuss how your family gives to others—through church, charities, non-profits, and so forth.
Do you give of your time as well as your money?
Discuss how you might be able to increase giving, and write to various organizations for information about programs you'd like to give money to.

Imagine that you've each received $15,000.
Make a list of how you'd spend it if you were required to spend it all in two weeks. Discuss your lists with the rest of the family and talk about the values that your spending decisions reflect.

Reach Out and Touch Your Spouse

Need another reason to cuddle, massage, or hold hands? Rutgers University researcher, Helen E. Fisher, Ph.D., in her book, The First Sex (Balantine, 2000), says that as you touch, you alter your brain chemistry to make yourself feel calmer. She credits this effect to oxytocin, a hormone produced in the brain, which is also released during orgasm and is thought to make couples feel more connected. She also mentions that scientists have found that touch can reduce tension, elevate mood, enhance self-esteem, and perhaps even strengthen the immune system. So, what are you waiting for? Start fighting stress—together!

MarriagePartnership.com Surveys:

Where's your favorite place to vacation together?

Here's what you said:

the beach: 32%
a theme park: 4%
the mountains: 21%
camping grounds: 8%
a resort or hotel: 20%
family's house: 3%
historic sites: 6%
big cities: 2%

This question was answered by 669 readers.

Visit our new online poll. Every other week at www.marriagepartnership.com, we'll be posting a new question—and we want to hear from you. After you've placed your vote, you'll see instant results. Then, you'll get to read about your answers in upcoming issues. See you there.

The Sniff Test

Your key to careful family planning may be right under your husband's nose. According to a new study from the University of Texas, Austin, his schnozz can tell you when you're fertile. Researchers gave men two T-shirts to sniff, and then asked which belonged to an attractive and sexy woman. The shirts had actually been worn by the same woman—one shirt while she was ovulating, the other when she wasn't. Three out of four men selected the fertile-phase shirt over the other. So next time he gets "that look" before you even get the perfume, don't bother with it. His nose already knows.

Wonderful Trends of the 20th Century

Need some more blessings to count over coffee? Talk about the trends you're enjoying together.

1900-1920 1995-1998
Life expectancy (years) 47 77
Length of work week (hours) 50 35
Homeownership (% households) 46 66
Cars for transportation (% households) 1 91
High school completion (% adults) 22 88

—from Policy Analysis (Cato Institute, December 1999)

You said it!

Love is blind, but marriage restores its sight.

G.C. Lichtenberg

Married couples who love each other tell each other a thousand things without talking.

Chinese proverb

Only two things are necessary to keep one's wife happy. One is to let her think she is having her own way, and the other, to let her have it.

Lyndon B. Johnson

Between whom there is hearty truth, there is love.

Henry David Thoreau

Between the Covers

Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti

By Bill and Pam Farrell

We've all heard the various analogies for what men and women are like and where they're from—Mars and Venus being favorite answers. But you have to ask, "Who's ever been to those places to find out?" Bill and Pam Farrell, knowing the answer to that question, give couples new ways to think about and relate to each other in their book, Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti (Harvest House). Their humorous approach and practical insights leave lasting impressions that help spouses get to the bottom of their most common problems. Happy dining!

Why waffles and spaghetti?

Everyone's familiar with waffles and spaghetti, and we wanted to help couples understand their differences in a very practical way. If we diagram the way a man processes life it's like a waffle: there are a bunch of boxes with walls around them, separating each box from the others. Men spend time in one box at a time. And that's an advantage because there are some things that need a single focus. Women, on the other hand, are like plates of spaghetti, where each strand of spaghetti touches every other noodle on the plate. Translation: women are great at multi-tasking, since they see everything connected. They can write lists for their kids, make dinner, and do laundry all at the same time. And there are times when we really need a person who can keep all the meatballs in the air.

Okay. So how do problems start?

The problems start when men and women fail to recognize that they are different and expect their spouse to be just like them. For example, there are a few boxes on every man's waffle that are totally blank. Men park in these sometimes and just sit. When this happens, a wife usually asks her husband what he's thinking. That's when he starts looking for a box with words. While the wife may feel that her husband is withholding from her, a lot of times he feels inadequate as a communicator because he doesn't have something to say. Women, on the other hand, look for a listening ear and may feel neglected if a husband doesn't have patience for a multi-subjected conversation.

How can couples use differences to their advantage?

Husbands and wives should take turns serving one another in love. If a husband really wants to serve his wife, he'll just pack up his bags and go on a listening journey and let her take the conversation anywhere she wants to go. And if a woman wants to give a gift to her husband she'll stay on subject and let him work all the way down through one box until he taps into his emotions, way at the bottom of each one of those waffle boxes. Each spouse needs to learn to appreciate their mate's individual communication gifts.

—Janine Petry

Lean on Your Man to Live Longer

Looking for a fountain of youth? Hubby's support may be the answer. A six-year Yale Medical School study suggests that marriage partners live longest when a wife has a strong man to lean on emotionally. But wives don't need to return the favor. In cases when spouses named each other as main emotional supports or if he leaned on her and she didn't lean on him both partners had increased chances of dying. The couples who lived the longest were those in which the wife relied on her husband, while he didn't lean of her. Researchers believe that the scenario could be dependent on relational roles that create the least stress in a marriage.

Since those in this study were raised traditionally, where men were expected to be stronger, that style of relationship may have created the least amount of stress for both parties. So, discover your stress-free roles and enjoy them longer together.

The Good News About Cheating

There's fewer people doing it than you may think! According to a 1998 University of Chicago report, 90 percent of women and 75 percent of men remain faithful throughout their marriages. But because of the results of poorly conducted surveys with a lot of publicity, many people think that every other husband or wife is being unfaithful. "There are probably more scientifically worthless 'facts' on extramarital relations than on any other facet of human behavior," the report lamented. Now that's good news.

Snapshot

Erin and Brad O'Donnell

Musicians Erin and Brad O'Donnell worked side by side for years, sharing their passion for music. But after losing their jobs and learning they were expecting their first child, they had to make some adjustments. Transitioning into new positions, schedules, and parenthood, Erin and Brad rode out the stressful season together and learned how to make their lives blend again. Here's what they shared with us.

How did you react to losing jobs, changing jobs, and becoming parents virtually all at the same time?

Erin: Finding out we were going to be parents while dealing with the stresses of losing our jobs was hard. Brad started to receive some work offers, but we were unsure of what we were supposed to do at the time. I was also praying about whether or not to transition into full-time mothering, or continue my work as a singer. Everything just seemed so uncertain.

Brad: We had to make transitions, though. After praying together, Erin and I felt that God was opening up a new position for me. But we wouldn't be spending as much time together as we were used to. I would be starting my first office job—very different from what I had been doing before. About a year after I started, Erin was asked to record with Word, and we accepted.

How did you deal with these relationship stressors?

Erin: My whole life changed. I was alone a lot, but I got used to it. Instead of focusing on the things we miss, we focus on the positive things that our new situation has brought. I am so excited to see Brad using gifts that he wasn't using in his last job. And our transition has brought us closer, because we know we have to support each other as a team.

Brad: The stresses in our lives helped us to look at the things we used to do that weren't necessary. Anything that I do now, I have to think whether or not it's worth the time. With our lives as busy as they are, we've weeded out stuff that was inconsequential.

How do you handle a busy life and still make your relationship a priority?

Erin: We see it as a season of life right now. God led us where we are, and we'll continue to be involved in our ministries until God shows us something else. And while we're busy, we plan ahead to keep our marriage and family a priority.

Brad: It's all about planning ahead. Our lifestyles before didn't require advanced planning. Now we have to be willing to say no to things, and look ahead for time for each other. We're not sure that our lives will always be like this, but for now, we're in this season. So we take our lives one day at a time and keep considering where the Lord is leading us.

—Janine Petry

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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