Posts Tagged ‘Healthy Relationships’

In Search of a New Word for ‘Married’

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

bigstock_Marriage_394363

By Guest Blogger Steve Cooper of Hitched Media

Who wants to be married? Dying sounds more proactive than being married. The word married, whether used as a noun, verb or adjective sounds past tense and settled. Married comes across as boring and evokes no excitement. Dating, on the other hand, is an action word. Dating sounds like things are happening, you sense a future with endless possibilities and dreams around the corner. Married rolls off the tongue with the thud of dirt clods falling on a casket.

Think about this, when you are single and looking you are dating. When you’ve found that special someone and become exclusive to that one person the two of you are still dating. You don’t consider yourself to be dated. That only happens when you put a ring on your finger and become married.  Of course there’s a middle relationship status where you are engaged (again sounding rather stale and settled), but even in that state you and other soon-to-be wedded couples can tell others you’re marrying that special someone at a future date.

It’s clear that marriage needs a language makeover. It needs a new word to describe the maturing connection that couples can only acquire through years of life’s surprises together. Being married is not the end of dating. Being married is the beginning. Married is putting all your dreams into action. Married is creating a family, a home and career. Married is adventure and laughs.

Could Don Draper come up with a better word for 'married'?

Could Don Draper come up with a better word for ‘married’? – yea probably

I’m not Don Draper so I don’t have a new special word that makes being married sound like an amusement park stuffed into a bottle. This is the hand the quirky English language has dealt us. I suppose we should be thankful that most couples refer to themselves as married rather than wedded—the latter having dead phonetically in its pronunciation.

It’s easy to simply blame the English language, but we’ve perpetuated the point that once you get married everything is over. Think about it, growing up nearly all our fairy tales tell us that once the prince and princess finally slay the dragon they get married and “The End.” That’s it. No more adventure or excitement. In the best-case scenario we were left with “Happily Ever After.” Welcome to Snoozeville. If this part of the story was so dazzling it would have been the main attraction, not the departing footnote.

Maybe the answer is in our voice. The great thing about language is that a single word spoken by multiple people can mean anything with difference in tone and delivery. Did you know that James Bond was once married? I bet if he were having a conversation about his married life, you’d want a slice. Conversely, if Lewis Black were ranting on the institution you’d probably head for the door screaming.

Let’s put it in our voice that being married is sexy, happy, adventurous and fun. Let’s all do our best Sean Connery impression when we describe our married life (even though George Lazenby was the Bond who got married). Remember, being married is the payoff for surviving the land mines of dating. Let’s start our stories with the first kiss instead of ending them there. Married may not be a perfect word, but when you bundle all the thrills you and your spouse share throughout the years, married is the best word to describe your love story.

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Steve Cooper is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Hitched, a service and lifestyle online magazine for married couples. Steve hosts a weekly podcast with experts covering all topics on married life, from sex and money to in-laws and date nights. You can follow Steve on Google+, Twitter or become a fan of Hitched on Facebook.

Do you have ideas for a new word for ‘married’? Is terminology important? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

We Need a Marriage Attitude Check

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Marriage keyword on a cork board

By Steve Cooper of Hitched Media

On my parent’s refrigerator growing up there was a poem that read, “Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

I believe that. So you can imagine the frustration I feel when I hear people down-talk marriage. Sure, I understand that not every marriage is rainbows and unicorns, and I believe individuals have the right to express their dissatisfaction. My problem is the general agreement and the projection of one person’s situation onto others.

I recently had a friend get engaged and I overheard one person say to him, “Good luck with that.” Can you imagine if you announced you were going to have a baby and someone commented, “Good luck with that?” You would hear a needle scratching across a record. Too often when we’re talking about marriage, however, the reaction is a laugh and nod like it’s a relatable joke.

If you don't have anything nice to say about marriage, don't say anything at all.

If you don’t have anything nice to say about marriage, don’t say anything at all.

Why is it so acceptable to talk trash about marriage? Why aren’t people more protective of their relationship as they are with other things? If you were with a group of married men you’d probably get a stronger response if you spoke poorly about their favorite football team than if you talked bad about their marriage. Don’t we realize that our thoughts and words will become our actions? Imagine if you’re out at lunch with friends and talking about how horrible your spouse is and their shortcomings, it’s going to be extremely difficult to arrive home and shower them with love and affection.

When I was a kid, I thought I was awesome! As in, the greatest kid on the planet. Worse, I wasn’t afraid to let others know. Often, my awesome thoughts meant I would put others down, including friends. My parents, in their wisdom, thought this might become a problem down the line and came up with a solution. Every time they heard me say something inappropriate (“Why do I have to play with him, he sucks at football”) my parents would look at me and say, “Attitude check.” This let me know that even when I wasn’t conscious of my thoughts and words, they were coming out and others were being affected.

If I received multiple “attitude checks” in a day or week, I would be grounded, which meant I wouldn’t get to play at all, including football with my friends whom I thought weren’t very good at it. It didn’t take long before I began thinking about my words before saying them. I wonder why, as adults, we seem to have lost this filter.

Being in the marriage industry I get a lot of reaction when I tell people what I do. The reactions are either really positive or jokingly negative. I understand that there are many times when jokes are appropriate and funny, but I can also recognize when those words have become someone’s actions. Research has shown repeatedly that it’s not fights or disagreements in relationships that matter, it’s the manner in which we engage—the words we use and how we use them. Even using the pronoun “we” instead of “you” when discussing problems in marriage is an indicator of less marital happiness, according to a 2006 study, “Pronouns in Marital Interaction” by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill.

So where do we go from here? We could start a cultural revolution saying, “attitude check” every time someone projects their dissatisfied marriage on the entire institution. A more subtle approach, however, would be to lead by example. Let us all be mindful of our own thoughts and words; these will soon become our actions and carry over into who we are.

How many of us say negative things simply because that’s what we hear around us and find it more comfortable? We may not know how to make positive statements about our marriage.

I was recently in a conversation with someone where they said, “That’s what happens when you get married.” (It was said with negative connotation). I replied, “That’s not how my marriage is. We’re really happy.” I try to take the opportunity to turn their negative thoughts and words into positive ones. In the kindest way possible, I let them know they need a marriage “attitude check.”

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Steve Cooper is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Hitched, a service and lifestyle online magazine for married couples. Steve hosts a weekly podcast with experts covering all topics on married life, from sex and money to in-laws and date nights. You can follow Steve on Google+, Twitter or become a fan of Hitched on Facebook.

What are your thoughts when you hear someone talk about marriage in a negative manner? Tell us in the comment section below.

Talk To Your Fiance About Wedding Details

Monday, June 14th, 2010

The Bride and Groom

Remember the Donald Rumsfeld quote about ‘known knowns’ and ‘unknown knowns’ and ‘unknown unknowns?’

The same is true of your wedding. You may think you know what’s going on, but do you really? I recently stumbled on this truth with my own cousin’s wedding. My cousin and I live on opposite sides of the country. When he announced his wedding, my husband and I realized that we’d need to use frequent flier miles to buy the tickets. So, before purchasing tickets for the whole family, we called and asked him of our kids were invited, he said they were. We bought four tickets.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, um, no it turns out that kids aren’t invited. My cousin and his fiancée had never actually discussed the issue, and my cousin assumed he knew the answer. Now, the whole situation has been nicely resolved, but it could have been ugly. Weddings have a lot of moving parts and small details, it’s hard to keep track of it all, so make sure to ask questions before answering them.

Remember what your old gym teacher used to say about assuming and making an ass out of you and me? Don’t let this happen to you. Practice this phrase “I don’t know the answer to that, let me get back to you.” Trust me, it’ll save you pain.


Connect with post author Marta Segal Block on Google+ and Twitter.

Stopping a Spill in Your Marriage

Thursday, May 27th, 2010
Aerial Photo of the Deepwater Oil Spill

Aerial Photo of the Deepwater Oil Spill

By Steve Cooper, Hitched Media

When the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20th, it was a sad occasion where the immediate casualties were evident. What wasn’t clear at the time was a leak about one mile below the surface that would last much longer and cause much greater overall damage than the initial explosion. In marriages and relationships, we often focus on the explosions—the fights that raise our emotions and voices. What we need to look for, however, are the leaks below the surface.

Like the oil that is spreading and sticking to the Gulf Coast (and perhaps beyond), marriage leaks can permeate all facets of your relationship and gum up efforts to move forward. And while there were massive oversight and maintenance failures that contributed to the devastating events taking place in the Gulf Coast—and your marriage can learn a lesson there as well—let’s talk about the leak during and after the explosion.

Marriage expert Dr. John Gottman believes that some level of conflict in marriage is actually good and will help “weed out” the problems that can become issues down the road. So let’s dispel the notion that happy couples don’t have arguments and conflict—hopefully not regularly, though. What’s important is that you address your issues and the manner in which you respond. In fact, research has shown that what you fight about doesn’t really even matter.

I think it’s safe to say that BP and all other parties have not responded to the leak with the proper skills and solutions to prevent widespread damage. Moving forward, this event may perhaps be the catalyst that divorces the United States from the oil dependency we are currently married to. In marriage, while some equate men and women from two completely different planets, our problems are not as difficult to solve as trying to plug a gushing spill in freezing water a mile below the sea level. Couples need to learn how to cap the leak without causing further damage.

Dr. Scott Haltzman, author and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Brown University, wrote an article for Hitched a while back outlining a few rules to follow when capping an argument. Haltzman says couples should avoid starting arguments with finger pointing and instead describe how the issue you’re concerned about is affecting you. He also says couples should avoid getting defensive when your spouse points out a problem. Remember, you’re on the same team and if you don’t understand what their issue is, continue to ask questions until you have a better grasp of their point of contention. Continuing on that theme, don’t fight to be right for the sake of being right. Dr. Haltzman says you need to see the big picture, and if the matter in question is not that important to you, why unnecessarily boost aggravation levels? Lastly—and perhaps most importantly—you need to respect your partner. “Feeling respected is critical in relationships; give your spouse the respect you would want for yourself,” writes Dr. Haltzman. “Be willing to come back after harsh words and patch things up. The old adage: ‘Don’t go to bed mad,’ had been passed down to you for a reason.”

These simple words of advice almost seem too simple. But they work. Putting a box over a leaking pipe or executing a “top kill” maneuver to plug an oil leak with mud, on the other hand, while seeming simple is a feat of prodigious engineering. While being married may sometimes feel like you’re from two different planets, thankfully our problems don’t require rocket science to solve them.

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Steve Cooper is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Hitched, a service and lifestyle online magazine for married couples. Steve hosts a weekly podcast with experts covering all topics on married life, from sex and money to in-laws and date nights. You can follow Steve on Google+, Twitter or become a fan of Hitched on Facebook.

Do you believe that a certain level of conflict in your relationship can be a good thing? Chime in with your thoughts below.

Take a “Marriage Vacation” This Summer

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

bigstockphoto_Love_Having_A_Good_Time_62440

By Steve Cooper, Hitched Media

Have you ever taken a “marriage vacation?” Which is to say, a vacation with just you and your spouse—no kids—where the purpose is to reconnect, rejuvenate and enjoy each other’s company. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of it.

You might be thinking, “Aren’t all vacations a dose of good medicine for your marriage?” The short answer is, maybe. The problem with your typical vacation, often, is that you’re likely distracted by making sure the kids behave, you’re focused on a group itinerary, and so on. Moreover, the intentions behind the escape are often to get away from work and the daily grind, not to find that spark in your marriage.

A few weeks back, Dr. Michelle Gannon, a psychologist specializing in relationships and women’s issues, brought this idea to my attention. She told me a story about how her husband wanted to take her away many years ago without their young children on a marriage vacation. At first she was adamantly opposed to the idea and even consulted her friends who also rejected the idea. She soon changed her mind, though, and has made it an annual tradition every year since.

The impetus behind the marriage vacation came from Gannon’s husband, also a psychologist, who felt the attention of the couple had been focused lopsidedly on their young children. It’s understandable that good parents would want to put great emphasis on their kids, however it’s too often that children begin to suck up all the attention and couples begin to drift apart.

“We have to take care of ourselves and take care of our relationships and that is also being a good parent,” said Gannon. “It really is a good thing for your children too, to see that Mom and Dad have a marriage that’s worthy of spending a vacation together.”

Even after Gannon described to me their marriage vacation, I was still uncertain about its difference from a second honeymoon. I asked Gannon this, who now incorporates the teachings of marriage vacations in her Marriage Prep 101 workshops where she makes a strong distinction between the two.

“When I think of my honeymoon, it was really exotic; and if I think about a second honeymoon that feels like a lot of effort to make that happen,” said Gannon. A marriage vacation, conversely, doesn’t need the tropical thrills and leis. Gannon said a marriage vacation to her is more of a necessity, a tool to sharpen your marital health. She now includes them to her schedule like date nights.

Gannon said the idea is to take a break from reality. Gannon and her husband have done everything from zip lining to attending the theater; while some of the couples Gannon works with have done things like wine tasting and bike rides.

To really reconnect and benefit, Gannon recommends a marriage vacation last at minimum two days to serve its purpose. If money is an issue, Gannon knows couples who have rented a hotel room in their same town or turned their home into a vacation spot when the kids are away for the weekend.

It’s encouraging that many are already taking marriage vacations, but just aren’t calling them by that name. The next step is to make them a part of everyone’s schedule for marital health, as Gannon recommends. For couples whom still aren’t convinced or worry their children might not understand, Gannon shared the following story.

A few years after she and her husband had been taking their marriage vacations, they asked their children if they knew why Mommy and Daddy took their regular Fall trips without them. Their youngest son replied, “Because it is good for your marriage.”

Steve Cooper is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Hitched, a service and lifestyle online magazine for married couples. Steve hosts a weekly podcast with experts covering all topics on married life, from sex and money to in-laws and date nights. You can follow Steve on Google+, Twitter or become a fan of Hitched on Facebook.

Would you ever consider taking a “marriage vacation”? Tell us why or why not below.

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