Our fathers trusted in You; They trusted, and You delivered them. Psalm 22:4 (NKJV)

Alysse ElHage[i] writes about how marriagesmakes for better fathers.  According to her, one study by researchers at the University of Maryland and the University of Oklahoma concluded that “marriage per se confers advantage in terms of father involvement above and beyond the characteristics of the fathers themselves, whereas biology does not.” Interestingly, University of Maryland professor Sandra Hofferth, concluded that “cohabiting partners, even if they are biological father to the child, do not invest the same amount of time with children as married biological fathers, and they are less warm than the married biological fathers.”

In other words, cohabiting fathers are not as invested even in their own children as married fathers are.  One of the reasons is because cohabiting relationships are less secure than married relationships. One study[ii] found that children born to cohabiting parents in their twenties are three times more likely to experience parental breakup than the children of married parents.  Sadly, the large-scale Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study[iii] found that “father involvement drops sharply after relationships between unmarried parents end.”

What really makes the difference is the team effort with your wife and how both of you partner to raise your children.  Researchers have referred to this as the “package deal”[iv] of fathering, where a man’s relationship status with his child’s mother predicts his level of involvement in that child’s life.  According to the Mother Bodies, Father Bodies report,[v] “Fathers tend to parent in triads with mothers.  “Especially with their young children, fathers defer to mothers, look to them for permission and guidance, and are more apt to exit the lives of their children when the primary relationship with the mother ends.”

Finally, a 2008 study[vi] found that “the combination of a supportive co-parenting relationship and an encouraging partner is one in which involved, competent fathering behavior is likely.”  So, partner with your wife and commit together to the well-being of your children.

Father God, strengthen our marital team effort to raise our children.

[i] http://family-studies.org/how-marriage-makes-men-better-fathers/?utm_source=IFS+Main+List&utm_campaign=732930c1fb-Newsletter_86&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c06b05f1ff-732930c1fb-104541745

[ii] http://twentysomethingmarriage.org/in-brief/

[iii] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3000012/

[iv] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3000012/

[v] http://www.americanvalues.org/search/item.php?id=2508

[vi] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18540767

How lonely sits the city That was full of people! How like a widow is she, Who was great among the nations! The princess among the provinces Has become a slave! Lamentations 1:1 (NKJV)

According to Elizabeth Bernstein,[i] two studies by John and Stephanie Cacioppo, psychologists at the University of Chicago and leading authorities on the psychology and neuroscience of loneliness, show that people’s brains operate differently when they are lonely.  They found that the electrical activity in the brains of lonely people occurred faster and was more extreme than that of non-lonely people when shown negative social cues. This means that lonely people are constantly and subconsciously guarding against social threats.

Dr. Cacioppo suggests four steps to combat loneliness, which he describes by the acronym EASE:

Extend Yourself.  Isolating yourself or only connecting online where people do not present an authentic self is not helpful.  Instead, accept social invitations, even if you don’t feel like going out.

Develop an action plan. Don’t just rely on random invitations.  As Bernstein writes, “Get your calendar out and map out your social life. Make sure your week is scattered with social activities. If you don’t have any, take the initiative to plan something and invite others to join you.”

Share good times with people who have similar interests. If you don’t have people in your life with whom you can share your values, interests, or activities, make a plan to meet more.  That will require going to the right place. Love to read? Join a book club. Love to run? Join a runner’s group. Of course, go to church.

Expect the best. Sometimes when you get lonely you may read other people’s actions wrong. Did your friend really blow you off? Or perhaps she was overwhelmed with work and children and truly too busy to call? Give others the benefit of the doubt.  As Dr. Cacioppo says. “Friends don’t mean their actions as negative as they sometimes appear.”

Father God, help me to find ways to not be lonely.  I know you are my faithful friend and companion, but I need human company too.

[i] http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-research-on-overcoming-loneliness-1442854148

Oh, that you were like my brother, Who nursed at my mother’s breasts! If I should find you outside, I would kiss you; I would not be despised. Song of Songs 8:1 (NKJV)

In addition to reviewing the ABD’s of your relationship, you should also keep in mind the 1-2-3’s of it.  As with the ABC’s, Ann Malmberg[i] says these are not some deep, life-changing tips, but rather a fun, easy way to bring that back-to-school feeling of excitement and anticipation into your relationship:

1 date per week –or at least 1 per month. You probably have heard often how important it is to prioritize a date.  And yet, as much and as often as we hear about it many of us still fail to do it.  When we were dating, one date a week did not seem enough, but now that we’re married we just don’t think it is important; but it is. Don’t think about in terms of expensive dinners or events.  It’s not really about how much money you spend or how dressed up you get (although that can be fun!).  Rather, it is about carving out some time to focus on, renew, and sustain your relationship and the sense of being a team, which existed before the kids were born, bills came every month, housework that needs to be done, and everything else that tends to crowd our lives after the honeymoon period is over.

2 gives for every take.  Be considerate, unselfish, and thoughtful of your spouse and his/her needs.  Remember how when making friends it helped to be kind, and you likely put extra effort into being considerate and thoughtful? Your spouse deserves this same consideration and courtesy.  You will score many more points that way than by being demanding, selfish, and unkind.

3 kisses (at least!) each day. Kiss each other good morning, goodbye, and good night. Kissing helps us maintain closeness and intimacy.  At the same time, some research showed that a quick, passing kiss may not be enough, and they recommend at least a 10 second kiss.  You don’t have to be in a hurry if you want to reconnect with your spouse.

Father God, while we may not be able to implement every one of these tips, help us to start with one as we strive to strengthen our marriage.

[i] https://blog.prepare-enrich.com/2015/09/abcs-123s/

You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. Psalm 139:2 (NKJV)

Now that school has begun, it’s a good time to examine your marriage and review the ABC’s of your relationship.  Ann Malmberg[i] suggests that these are not some deep, life-changing tips, but rather a fun, easy way to bring that back-to-school feeling of excitement and anticipation into your relationship.

Act like kids. Sometimes we’re so busy with our daily responsibilities and living like adults, that we don’t have time to have some fun.  Of course, this can be hard, especially if you have children of your own.  We would not suggest you abandon your responsibilities or neglect your family, but once in a while you may want to sneak in some time to laugh and be less than serious together.  A simple thing like that can help you to keep things in perspective.  Watch your diet, yes, but every so often you may make sundaes for dinner.  Watch some of those old shows you watched as a kid.  Tease each other, in a good and respectful manner, not intended to hurt or put down the other.  Go out of your way to make each other laugh. Sometimes we just need a reprieve, even for just a few minutes, from the day-to-day seriousness and responsibility.

Be excited to see each other.  Sometimes we’re so busy being adults that we take each other for granted.  Remember the time when the thought of seeing the other person was what got you through the day, and everything else was secondary?  Try to recall that feeling, and hold it close to you throughout the day. Anticipate the reunion, and prepare to make it memorable for both of you.

Check in. Take time every day to check in with your spouse about his/her day.  Sit down for a few minutes and talk about the important things as well as the minor details, but perhaps more importantly, his/her mental/physical/emotional state. You may find out that you’re both feeling stressed or overextended. If that’s the case, please see letter A!

Father God, sometimes we are so rushed in our life that we forget to stop and smell the roses.  Help us to make the time to renew our relationship each day.

[i] https://blog.prepare-enrich.com/2015/09/abcs-123s/

A man who is in honor, yet does not understand, Is like the beasts that perish. Psalm 49:20 (NKJV)

Meghan Holohan[i] speaks of research to learn the relational effects of “Phubbing.” The authors wanted to determine how much people use or get distracted by their cellphones when with they’re with their significant others.  What they found is that when people perceive their partners to be phubbers it created conflict in the relationship.  Yesterday we posted the first five items.  Today, continue to answer the rest of the nine questions and then add up the score:

  1. During leisure time that my partner and I are able to spend together, my partner uses his/her cell phone.
  2. My partner does not use his or her phone when we are talking .
  3. My partner uses his or her cell phone when we are out together.
  4. If there is a lull in our conversation, my partner will check his cell phone.

According to the researchers, 46.3 percent of respondents said their partners phubbed them, and 22.6 percent said it caused issues in their relationship. Evidently, even momentary cell phone distractions add up. If one partner is repeatedly distracted by his or her phone, chances are the other partner begins to feel less and less satisfied with the relationship.  They also concluded that even if couples don’t show signs of problematic phubbing, people still feel rejected when loved ones pay more attention to their phones.

So, what could/should you do to combat phubbing?  Holohan recommends you have empathy, and speak up.  As she says, “partners should be able to tell each other not to bring phones out during a date or special events. If someone’s expecting an important call, she should let her partner know. She may even consider rescheduling the date for a night when she’s less distracted.”  You may also gently state that it makes you feel bad and ask please to desist that practice.

Father God, help us to not allow electronic distractions to interfere in our relationship but to focus on each other through good communication, eye contact, and active listening.

[i] http://www.today.com/health/does-he-love-his-cellphone-more-you-survey-t47046

When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me– Psalm 73:16 (NKJV)

You and your spouse are finally taking some time to be together and go out to your favorite restaurant.  Just as you sit down to look over the menu his/her phone vibrates and he/she takes it out to answer.  When the server brings your meal he/she takes his/her phone out to take a picture, and then posts it on Facebook.  As he/she checks to make sure it was posted, he/she begins to scroll down checking on any status changes from his/her friends.  All through the meal, and what could have been most enjoyable conversation, he/she looks to see who’s texting, the latest scores, the news feed, etc.

Does this sound like you?  If you or your spouse do this, you are “phubbing,” or phone snubbing each other, and that could mean bad news for your relationship.  Meghan Holohan[i] speaks of research to learn the relational effects of “Phubbing.” The authors wanted to determine how much people use or get distracted by their cellphones when with they’re with their significant others.  What they found is that when people perceive their partners to be phubbers it created conflict in the relationship.  To get a sense of how often you and your partner phub each other, answer each item on a scale from 1 (never) to 5 (all the time):

  1. During a typical mealtime that my partner and I spend together, my partner pulls out and checks his/her cell phone.
  2. My partner places his or her cell phone where they can see it when we are together.
  3. My partner keeps his or her cell phone in their hand when he or she is with me.
  4. When my partner’s cell phone rings or beeps, he/she pulls it out even if we are in the middle of a conversation.
  5. My partner glances at his/her cell phone when talking to me. (will continue tomorrow)

Father God, help me to be respectful of my spouse by not allowing anything to interrupt our time together.  Instead, Father, help us to invest all the time we can to build a stronger relationship.

[i] http://www.today.com/health/does-he-love-his-cellphone-more-you-survey-t47046

Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 1 Corinthians 7:10 (NKJV)

As we see so many representations of marriage both in print and on the screens, we may ask ourselves how our marriage compares to them; we may even become a bit discouraged.  Laura Waldvogel,[i] suggests we remember three more things:

Your marriage is your marriage. It does not help you to compare your marriage to your parents’, your friends’, or your favorite celebrity’s marriage. What works for their marriage isn’t necessarily the same for yours any more than what they did not do will cause you the same problems.  If you wish to compare your marriage to anything, compare it against itself.  Talk to your spouse about where your marriage was a year ago and where it is today.  An annual marriage checkup is a healthy way to see progress and growth.

The grass is always greener on the other side. We all have the tendency to want what we don’t have.  In social media we often see our friends’ vacation photos, their posts of love, fun, and excitement and somehow we grow dissatisfied with our life or family because we don’t enjoy all those wonderful things they are.  But those same friends are probably not posting status updates about their constant money squabbles or the fact that her husband is not a great listener or the challenges they have with their children.  Remember, we all have areas of strength in our relationships, and we all have areas where we could improve.  You’d do better to acknowledge both, and take any challenges and imperfections as opportunities for growth.

Real relationships have ups, downs, and lots of in-betweens. Everyone has issues, challenges and problems as well as moments worth celebrating and sharing, whether they are posted to Facebook or not.  We need to be able to ignore a lot of the stories of celebrity couples as intended to grab people’s attention and thus sell their story, and not compare our relationship to theirs or anybody else’s.   Thank God for all the good times, ask for His help during the hard times, and commit yourself and your marriage for all times.

Father God, thank you for our marriage.  Keep us together for a lifetime of love and happiness.

[i] https://blog.prepare-enrich.com/2015/09/marriage-media-5-things-to-remember/


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