Oct 112012
 

Writing your own wedding vows is one of the best ways to personalize your ceremony. If you are a little nervous about doing this, here are some suggestions and ideas to help make the process fulfilling and successful. The exercise of writing your feelings down about your future mate can be a wonderful, emotional, and meaningful experience and a way to gain more insight into your relationship.

 

1. CHECK WITH YOUR OFFICIANT

It is good idea make sure the Officiant you have chosen will actually allow personalized vows. If writing your own vows is really important to you, then this is a good question to ask when choosing an Officiant. Some celebrants and houses of worship may require you to recite a specific set of traditional vows. Once written, it is a good idea to give a copy of your vows to the Officiant prior to the ceremony, so he or she can understanding the timing and perhaps make some helpful suggestions.

 2. GET INSPIRED

Start by reading both traditional and non-denominational examples of wedding vows to see what speaks to you. Borrow freely from poetry, books, religious and spiritual texts — even from romantic movies or lyrics to songs. Jot down words and phrases that capture your feelings. You can incorporate what you find into your own words or simply use them as a way to get inspired.

3. DON’T PROCRASTINATE

 This is SO IMPORTANT: Don’t leave writing your vows until the day before your wedding! You’ll most likely be too nervous, excited and distracted to give them the time and thought they deserve. Give yourselves at least a month and try to have them finished at least a a week prior. It is best to write your vows in a relaxed, not rushed, state of mind.

4. DECIDE ON A TONE

Before you start writing, decide what overall tone you want to achieve: Lighthearted, Touching, Poetic, Romantic? It’s up to you — the most important thing is that your vows speak to who the two of you are as individuals and together as a couple. Whatever tone you pick, the vows should, in some way, acknowledge the importance of the commitment you’re getting ready to make. One way to do this is to weave an inside joke into you’re your vows (for example: “I promise to love you, cherish you and always watch football/surfing/mud wrestling with you”).

5. COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE

Make sure you and your fiance are both on the same page. Are you each going to write your own vows, or will you write them together? If you’re writing them separately, do you want to run them by each other before the wedding or leave them as a surprise? (The latter can a nice way of keeping a spontaneous feeling at the actual moment.) If you’re writing them together, will they be completely different for each of you, or will you recite some of the same words and make the same promises to each other, as you would with traditional vows? Either way, make sure you send a copy of what you’ve written to your Officiant so he/she can familiarize him/herself and have a backup copy in case you need it.

6. SCHEDULE A CONFERENCE

Here is a great excuse to get together, have a date, go out to dinner or set aside an evening at home to be together. Look at this as an opportunity to talk about your relationship and what marriage means to you both. What do you hope for from each other and the relationship? What are you most looking forward to about married life? Why did you decide to get married? What hard times have you gone through together? What have you supported each other through? What challenges might you face together in the future? What do you want to accomplish together? Answering these questions will not only help you make and keep the promises you can incorporate into your vows, but can be a great tradition to continue to keep your relationship and marriage healthy and happy.

 7.  GO TO YOUR MAN OR WOMAN CAVE

After chatting with your fiance, it is important to spend some time alone to reflect on how you feel about your partner. What did you feel when you first saw them? When did you realize you were in love? What do you most love and respect about your partner? How has your life gotten better since meeting your mate? What about them makes you a better person? What qualities do you most admire in each other? What do you have now that you didn’t have before you met? You may be surprised how the answers lead you to the perfect words.

8. CREATE AN OUTLINE

An outline can get you started by helping to establish a clear structure. For example, plan to first talk about your fiancé special qualities and then about how you work well together as a couple, then quote your favorite words from a song and then go into your promises to each other.

9. PLAY TO THE AUDIENCE

Don’t make your vows so personal that they’re meaningless to those listening. If you’ve invited your family and friends to witness your vows they are there in order to publicly acknowledge your bond. So it is thoughtful to be sure everyone feels included in the moment. That means putting a limit on inside jokes, deeply personal anecdotes, anything embarrassing, and obscure nicknames.

10. KEEP IT SHORT AND SWEET

Don’t make your vows too long — aim for a few minutes or so each, five minutes max (really, it’s longer than it sounds!). Get at the heart of what marrying this person means to you; focus on the most important points. You don’t need to say everything. You have the rest of your lives!

11. PRACTICE OUT LOUD

Reading words to yourself and saying them out loud can be two very different things. It is important to make sure your vows flow well when spoken. Watch out for tongue twisters and super-long sentences — you don’t want to get out of breath or stumble.

 12. DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE

When the big day arrives, just before you say your vows, take a moment to feel your feet on the floor (or sand if you are in Hawaii) and take a deep breath. Don’t rush. This is your special moment. Soak it in and enjoy it. You will remember the feelings for the rest of your lives.

Dec 242011
 

By Kathleen Doheny, WebMD

Relationship experts say much more than luck is needed to stay together and beat the odds of a divorce, now estimated to end half of today’s marriages. Here, relationship experts consulted by WebMD offer their best marriage tips for how to stay lucky in love. And they go way beyond the usual tips to buy her flowers, cook his favorite meal, and remember to schedule date night.

Marriage Tip No. 1: Purge the “D'” word.

With the taste of wedding cake barely off their lips, divorce is the last thought — or word — on newlyweds’ minds. But as the honeymoon period wanes, and day-to-day difficulties crop up, the word can come up frequently during arguments for some couples, say relationship counselors.

“Just don’t go there,” suggests Steve Brody, PhD, a psychologist in Cambria, Calif., who counsels couples. “Some people pull that out much too early, and much too often in a relationship. It raises a whole level of anxiety [in the person hearing it].”

Divorce is also considered a dirty word by the more than 200 “marriage masters” interviewed for the book, Project Everlasting. Co-authors Mat Boggs and Jason Miller, bachelors and childhood buddies from Portland, Ore., traveled the country to interview the couples, married 40 or more years, and ask for their best marriage tips.

“Don’t use the D word” was one oft-repeated suggestion for keeping a happy marriage, Boggs says. These marriage masters told him, “You need all your energy to find the solution to a problem and work it out. If you are even giving any consideration to a divorce, you lessen your ability to solve the problem.”

Of course, Boggs says, the marriage masters acknowledged that some situations are deal breakers, such as addiction, adultery, or abuse. But when the problem is less severe, many of the marriage masters told him they create a “ledger of life.” They get out a piece of paper and write down everything they love about their spouse. Eventually, they shift gears and begin to focus on what is right, not what’s wrong.

Marriage Tip No. 2: Replace the 7 deadly habits in a marriage with the 7 caring habits.

Learning the seven bad habits and the seven good ones is the easy part, admit William Glasser, MD, a Los Angeles psychiatrist, and his wife, Carleen Glasser, MA, who co-authored Eight Lessons for a HappierMarriage and include this idea in their book and counseling sessions. Putting them into practice takes effort, of course.

The seven deadly habits are criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and bribing.

The seven caring habits include supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting, and negotiating your differences.

Marriage Tip No. 3: Take care of yourself.

This marriage tip is short and sweet: “Take care of yourself physically and spiritually,” Brody tells couples.

That way, your stress will be down and your tolerance will be up. You’ll be less likely to get on each other’s nerves — and to squabble. You’re more likely to have a happy marriage.

Marriage Tip No. 4: Discuss outside friendships.

While some married couples consider activities such as workplace friendships with members of the opposite sex acceptable, some relationship experts disagree.

“I’m not big on cross-gender friendships for married people,” Brody says. “It’s playing with fire.” One exception, in his book: If a wife has a friendship with a gay man or a husband has a friendship with a gay woman, he’s fine with that, since the romance potential is nonexistent.

Otherwise, he says, the line is too easy and tempting to cross.

Marriage Tip No. 5: Stop trying to control your partner.

It’s another one of those easier-said-than done marriage tips, of course. But trying to control each other — using a technique psychologists call “external control” — is the main source of marital unhappiness, according to the Glassers. In a happy marriage, partners know they cannot control each other.

You have practiced this “external control” if you have ever told your partner they need to behave the way you want them to or that you know what is right.

Learning not to control a partner can be a long process, but the Glassers offer some tips on educating yourself. “Think first,” Carleen Glasser says. Ask yourself: “If I can only control my own behavior, what can I do to help the marriage?” Then think of what you can change to make the problem better, she suggests.

Marriage Tip No. 6: Honor and respect your partner.

“Be honoring all the time,” says Thomas Merrill. That means no “my old lady” stories, he says. And it also means a wife shouldn’t be flirting with male co-workers or other men.

Respect was also a marriage tip that came up often from the marriage masters, Boggs says. “The No. 1 principle that almost everyone talked about is respect,” he says. “You can have respect without love, but you cannot have love without respect.”

Respect, say those with a happy marriage, means not undermining your partner in front of the children. “And don’t go outside the marriage when you are having a problem,” Boggs says they advised. “Discuss it with your partner.”

Respect also means not criticizing your mate in front of others, Miller and Boggs were often told by the marriage masters. To make this marriage tip easier to practice, consider the input of one marriage master on the topic, Boggs says. “One man told me, ‘Let’s say someone is walking by when you are criticizing your mate. That is the only opinion they have of you.'”

Marriage Tip No. 7: If you’re the wife, lower your expectations. If you’re the husband, step up to the plate.

When Steve Brody and his wife, Cathy Brody, MFT, a marriage and family counselor, toured the country to promote their book, Renew Your Marriage at Midlife, they asked audiences what they wanted from marriage.

“Women expected to be loved, cherished, listened to, cared for, and courted,” Steve Brody says. They had a long list of wants and expectations, he recalls. The men joked that their expectations were more basic: Their typical answers, Brody says: “Bring food and show up naked.”

While the men were half joking, the gaps in expectations are a good lesson. To close the gap, Brody says, women need to lower their expectations — to not expect 24/7 romance, for instance, especially if their mate has just worked an unbelievably long week.

Men need to do some of the things the woman wants, such as prioritize their relationship and listen more, he says. In a nutshell, Brody says, “Men need to do the same things at home that they do at work.” He tells the husbands he counsels to think of it this way: “Your wife is the million-dollar client. If she walks out the door, the business is closed.”

Dec 132011
 

Sex or generosity? Study finds what counts most in marriage

By Rachael Rettner, My Health News Daily

Generosity between spouses is a key element to a happy marriage, a new study says.

In essence, generosity is the amount of giving that goes on within a relationship, which can mean anything from making your spouse a cup of coffee, to ordering flowers or providing a back rub.

In the study, couples who reported a high amount of generosity in their relationship were five times more likely to say their marriage was “very happy,” compared with those who reported a low amount of generosity. All couples in the report had children.

When a person is generous to his or her spouse, “The underlying message is, you’re valuable, you’re important,” said Dr. Anthony Castro, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study.

However, generosity was not as important as sex, researchers found. In the study, married men and women who reported above-average sexual satisfaction in their relationshipwere 10 to 13 times more likely to describe their marriage as “very happy,” compared with those who reported below average sexual satisfaction.

But factors such as generosity may make sex better, according to the study. Couples who reported high levels of generosity, commitment and quality time together also reported high levels of sexual satisfaction. And wives were more likely to be sexually satisfied if they shared household chores with their husbands.

“What happens outside of the bedroom seems to matter a great deal in predicting how happy husbands and wives are with what happens in the bedroom,” said study researcher W. Bradford Wilcox, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia.

Predictors of a happy marriage
The study, part of the National Marriage Project,surveyed more than 1,400 heterosexual couples between the ages of 18 and 46.

Fifty percent of women and 46 percent of men who reported above-average generosity in their relationships described their marriages as “very happy.” On the other hand, just 14 percent of each sex with below-average generosity in their relationship described their marriage as “very happy.”

Generosity works best if you give your spouse something he or she likes, Wilcox said. “[It’s] signaling to your spouse that you know them, and are trying to do things for them that are consistent with your understanding of them,” Wilcox said. But if, for example, your spouse delights in almond mochas, and you get her black coffee instead, it might not be very helpful, Wilcox said.

Based on the responses, the researchers compiled a list of the top five predictors of a very happy marriage. For men and women, sexual satisfaction ranked first, followed by level of commitment (a sense of “we-ness”), generosity and a positive attitude toward raising children. For women, the fifth factor was above-average social support from friends and family, and for men, the fifth factor was spirituality within a marriage.

Each relationship is unique
While the factors identified in this study may be a guide to a good relationship, they are based on responses from a large population and don’t necessarily apply to individual couples, Castro said.

“Every individual situation is different,” Castro said. For instance, a couple may find themselves falling into the 14 percent of couples who are very happy without a high level of generosity.

“Each specific relationship needs to be thought about individually, depending on both individual and partners’ needs,” Castro said.

The new study was conducted in partnership with the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase the proportion of U.S. children growing up with their two married parents.