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HAPPY COUPLE CREED

Love is an action. To our beloved daughter, Visa. We promise to do everything in our power to make your world a happy and safe place to live and grow in.
Copyright 2013 Rickard and Alana Newman. All rights reserved. For reprint or permission information, contact the authors at rickard@happycoupleworkout.com ISBN: 978-1-300-84020-6

INTRODUCTION
You were put on this earth to love and be loved. People thrive when their existence is witnessed and appreciated by someone that cares. A lifelong marriage can provide that. But you have to earn it. And no one is born knowing how to earn love or give love. These things must be taught. I dont want to be sick, tired, and weak anymore. Its common knowledge now that one in three Americans is obese. Nearly 10 percent of all medical spending is a direct cost from obesity$147 billion per year. This is not sustainable. Were all going to have to raise the bar and take responsibility for the health of our communities, beginning with our families and ourselves. That is why we created the Happy Couple Workout, our fitness and health program. Find out more at www.happycoupleworkout.com. I dont want my relationships to fail. Another startling figure is that 40 percent (and growing) of American children are born to unwed mothers and into vulnerable home situations without the protection and support of both parents. Many couples have such a hard time cooperating that they fail to work things out despite the tremendous benefits to their children. And the responsibility for the well-being of these children may transfer to societywhere taxpayers now pay at least $112 billion a year in costs related to family breakdown. Healthy relationships are important for both our spirit and our purse strings. And our kids are profoundly invested in the success of their parents partnerships. This is why we created Happy Couple Creed, a guidebook filled with principles and ideas on how to effectively practice love in your relationship. Neither set of our parents succeeded in their relationship, and neither of us grew up with both our mother and father in the same home. We both view these separations as failures that bore negative consequences for us; therefore, we are committed to staying together and being the best we possibly can as partners and parents for our daughter and any future children we may be blessed with. But staying together can be hard. With both men and women typically working full-time juggling the job, the kids, and the relationshipsucceeding at the gamut can feel overwhelming, even impossible. Relationships take effort, but theres only so much time in the day. Often relationships are attended to last (just as health, diet, and exercise are often neglected). We have to start attacking multiple birds with one stone, or else a range of virtues that characterize human thriving and well-being will prove ever elusive and out of reach. Hopefully both Happy Couple Creed and our Happy Couple Workout will serve you and your partner as helpful tools in your journey for love, peace, and health. Who We Are RICKARD NEWMAN is a certified personal trainer with the International Sports Sciences Association. Originally from Sweden, he dreams big and sets high standards in everything he

does. He is an Ironman, has skied the longest cross-country ski race in the world, and once climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and ran a marathon back-to-back. ALANA NEWMAN is an author, screenwriter, and musician with a pointed interest in social studies and gender relations. She is involved in the Fatherhood Movement. Originally from San Francisco, California, Alana loves frugal traveling and has hitchhiked and hopped trains all over America. She has a special place in her heart for literature set in the Deep South and music made in Scandinavia. Rickard and Alana are married and live together in Brooklyn, New York.

HOW TWO BECOME ONE


Mahatma Gandhi said, Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as selfsufficiency. Man is a social being. Without interrelation with society he cannot realize his oneness with the universe or suppress his egotism. His social interdependence enables him to test his faith and to prove himself on the touchstone of reality.1 Imagine a marriage and partnership as two redwood trees. Initially, the two trees grow as individuals, with ample space between their branches and untangled roots. This pronounced independence works for a while, but eventually, in order to reach their true potential and most stunning heights, the two redwood trees will have to negotiate to share spaceboth airspace with their enormous branches and soil space with their massive roots. The two trees must frequently yield to one another as they grow. They must give, and they must take. They must orchestrate a multimillennial tangobowing, stretching, and cradling their neighbor again and again throughout their long lives consigned to each other in the forest. The two trees learn to adjust as a team, coordinate their efforts, and work toward a common goal: getting as close to heaven as possible. Similarly you and your partner must find ebb and flow, learn when to take and when to give, and develop common goals you both work in synchronicity to accomplish. Achieving greatness as a couplefinding the road to beauty and longevitywill rest on your ability to intertwine your roots (cultivate a solid foundation) and intertwine your airspace (develop common dreams and goals). The visible material that makes up two individuals will then only be an illusion. Over time, the two redwood trees will sacrifice their ability to stand alone and cannot be said to be individuals. They become aggregates to a wholebetter identified as a family unit. This is how you and your partner become a family, a community. Strengthen your foundation by cultivating common experiences, sharing values and principles, and spending a lot of time together. Secure your future by identifying common goals and dreams and kindly choreographing pathways to get therewhere both partners have opportunities to spread their branches, strengthen their roots, and experience the invigorating energy of growth. What characteristics, values, and history do you share with your partner? Identify some dreams and goals that you wish to pursue. Which of these can you blend and share with your partners?

SIMPLICITY
You make better decisions when you limit the number of decisions youre forced to make. As it turns out, cognizant control is a depleting resource, according to an important 1999 study. The scientists worked with two groups of people. One group was asked to remember a random twodigit number, walk down a hall, and dictate the number to a researcher. The second group was asked to remember a random seven-digit number, walk down the hall, and recite it to a researcher.

But as an afterthought, both groups were told that there was a snack cart in the hall and that they could help themselves to a snack. On the cart were two options: fruit salad and chocolate cake. Of the subjects who were given the two digits to remember, fruit salad and chocolate cake were taken in equal numbers. But the subjects who were given the seven-digit number overwhelmingly chose chocolate cake. The conclusion was that our cognizant capacityour ability to reason and make good decisionsis a depleting resource. If we overload ourselves with too many other cognitive tasks, we risk not having what it takes to make the right choice when temptations present themselves. What does this have to do with relationships you ask? Its possible that the depleting nature of cognizant control affects our ability to keep our promises of fidelity and loyalty. In other words, a woman who juggles ambitious career goals and is dedicated to shattering the glass ceiling, while also trying to be the worlds best mom to a kid or two or three, while also feeling the pressure to maintain a put-together, competitively beautiful exterior, while also trying to figure out how shes going to pay off her $100k in student loansmay be dwindling away her decision-making resources to a point where she cannot resist opportunities to cheat on her husband, lie, steal, eat chocolate cake. . . . You get the picture. Our takeaway advice would be this: simplify and delegate. Focus your life; edit out and say no to things that dont advance your real goals. Perhaps you can have everythingbut not everything at the same time. Delegate the tasks that overwhelm you and present too much of a cognizant burden. Give your tax work to a CPA. Hire a real-estate agent when you move rather than trying to do it yourself. Sell your second car and join a car pool. Seek out therapists, spiritual leaders, and organizations that help you take the guesswork out of moral dilemmas. When you simplify your life and maintain a full tank of gas in your cognizant chambers, you are ensuring that the best of you is available in service to your partner and family. And when you do choose to eat the chocolate cake, it will be because its what your heart really desires, and youll spare yourself the bitter aftertaste of regret. How could you simplify your life? Are there things you could outsource today? What in your life could you benefit from editing out completely? Discuss your ideas with your partner.

ADDRESS YOUR CHILDHOOD ISSUES


It is impossible to fully succeed in romance and marriage until you have addressed what was missing fromor painfully present inyour childhood. It is during adolescence that we learn social cues, gender roles and dynamics, and a number of other critical dimensions of relationships. Often, then, our pathologies in love are reflective of what our parents taught us, or didnt teach us, when we were children. What is it that you lacked growing up? Below, were sharing with you a list of fourteen providences, or forms of care that every human requires, especially when were young and developing. We came across these in an excellent book, Intimate Encounters: A Practical Guide to Discovering the Secrets of a Really Great Marriage.2 Here they are, with the authors permission. As youre reading them, ask yourself, Did I get this as a child? Is this what is currently missing from my partnership? ACCEPTANCE: Receiving another person willingly and unconditionally when the others behavior has been imperfect; being willing to continue loving another in spite of offences. AFFECTION: Expressing care and closeness through physical touch; saying I love you. APPRECIATION: Expressing thanks, praise, or commendation; recognizing accomplishment or effort.

APPROVAL (BLESSING): Building up or affirming another; affirming both the fact of and the importance of a relationship. ATTENTION: Conveying appropriate interest, concern, and care; taking thought of another; entering anothers world. COMFORT: Responding to a hurting person with words, feelings, and touch; to hurt with and for anothers grief or pain. DEFERENCE: Yielding or deferring to another for that persons benefit. DEVOTION: A firm and dependable foundation of committed care. EDIFICATION: Positively promoting the growth and development of another. ENCOURAGEMENT: Urging another to persist and persevere toward a goal; stimulating toward love and good deeds. RESPECT: Valuing and regarding another highly; treating another as important; honoring another. SECURITY (PEACE): Harmony in relationships; freedom from fear or threat of harm. SUPPORT: Coming alongside and gently helping with a problem or struggle; providing appropriate assistance. TOLERANCE: Patient endurance of anothers humanness. You may identify additional concepts that affected your relational development during childhood. Being aware of what went wrong and how, and naming the problem, is a critical piece of therapy. It creates an emotional pivot that allows you to be with your spouse without suspicion, projected anger, or vestiges of childhood hurt. Were any of the above providences lacking in your childhood? If so, how do you think that lack affects your current romantic partnership?

THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES


Everybody responds differently to different forms of expressed love, and everybody expresses love differently using one or more of the five love languagesan idea coined by Gary Chapman in his book of the same title. Sometimes we miss the mark when we are trying to show our partner love, simply because we are not reaching out in the right way, through the right channel. We can experience fuller satisfaction with our relationships if we understand how our partner loves to be loved. By doing this, we can avoid leaving our partner cold and feeling unappreciated ourselves. Heres the five love languages, according to Gary Chapman: Quality Time Physical Touch Receiving Gifts Words of Affirmation Acts of Service You can take a quiz to find out what your preferred languages of love are at www.5lovelanguages.com.

Perhaps a pair of cowboy boots autographed by Chuck Norris is the ultimate loving action toward a spouse who loves awesomenessand receiving gifts. Or maybe an offer to do all laundry for a month sends another appreciative spouse directly into her partners lemon-scented arms. Know how your partner likes to receive love. If your spouse is extremely frugal or thinks talk is cheap, then buying him fancy cuff links or constantly complimenting her hair may actually be antagonizing. If you find you or your partner saying something like, I did X for you, and you didnt even say thank you! you might want to take a look at the five love languages quiz. Guess your partners chief love language. Then both of you take the quiz. What did the results show? Were they a surprise? Can you recall any situations where you have misunderstood or not appreciated an act of love due to different love languages? In what ways will you change your way of giving and receiving love now?

FINANCES AND THE GOOD LIFE


The number one reason for divorce in America is not infidelity or growing apart. It is financial problems. Lots of couples marry or share their lives together without being honest and upfront about their spending habits, saving habits, and general attitude about money and who should be earning it. While there probably are some couples out there whose big problem is that theyre too cheapwe recognize that for the majority of us, what we really need to learn is how to scale down and live within our means. For many, better money management will determine the success or failure of our marriages. Here are some tips: Thrift and Generosity Thrift is defined as the quality of using money and other resources carefully and not wastefully. It is an attractive skill that can protect and sustain whole economies. Those who embrace thrift also work to sustain the most fundamental unit of human society: the family. The problem with thrift is that it doesnt sound like very much funbut compared to debt, thrift is a tickle party. Here are the essentials of thrift in the context of a relationship: Tell the truth about how much money you earn. Create a budget based off that amount of money. Keep within that budget by decreasing your expenditures and increasing your earnings. Use the money you save to exercise generosity toward your family, friends, and fellow citizens. This is essentially the virtue of diligence. Diligent people will have financial peace of mind. They will enjoy higher academic achievement and career success. They will be better stewards of property and natural resources. They will be more self-sufficient and happier. And their more substantial savings and cheerful generosity will lead to social and emotional rewards as they share their resources to improve their communities. Thrift is a philosophy that helps people make financially smarter decisions while avoiding debt and all the anxiety and stress that goes along with itlike family breakdown.3 Create vs. Consume If thrift is a technology for a better financial situation, creativity is the frosting that makes the sacrifices of scaling down more tasty. Find ways of spending time together where you can build instead of buy. Before industrialism, husbands and wives earned their livelihood through working the farm togethergrowing produce, making cheeses and leather goods, nurturing livestockand selling their wares at

market. Our current economy, where husbands and wives spend separate lives at separate offices, makes it much more difficult to create together. Do you and your partner have any talents that you can combine to create? In our home, we built our own canopy bed and dining-room table. In doing so, we saved over $2,000 compared to if we had bought similar items from a retailer. When money is tight, we cook all of our own meals. We love the movies, but sometimes a good podcast can satisfy our desire for entertainmentand it saves us $40 every time. Being thrifty can be fun. Challenge each other to spend less as you do more. Evaluate what brings you joy, and edit those activities so that your happiness isnt chained to spending loads of money. Then go make some money. After that, exercise the virtue of charity and generously give it back to your community. How much money did you spend last month? If you dont know, consider tracking your expenses and forging a monthly budget. Discuss with your partner to find three new ways to save money this month. Remember, there are no savings that are too small. What have you and your partner built, crafted, or created together that you could have bought instead? How did that make you feel?

TRUST AND VIRTUE


Trust is vital for the health of your relationship. And you have to trust yourself before youll ever be able to trust someone else. Discipline, self-control, and an effective and loud conscience will help you avoid temptations and do the right thing when moral dilemmas arise, or when the devil perches on one of your shoulders. Sometimes peoples inability to trust themselves can even lead them to sabotage a relationship in anticipation of being hurt or of hurting the other person. A lack of trust and self-trust are evidenced by emotional signs, including these: JEALOUSY: Some people say they want a partner who gets jealous because it means the person cares; but what they might not realize is that jealous romantic partners might not trust themselves. Such a partner projects and anticipates misconduct. SUSPICION: Are you or your partner suspicious of each other? Do the frightful scenarios teeming in your imagination stem from recognition that you yourself are capable of such actions? CONSTANT EVALUATION: Do one or both of you check in with the other just a little too frequently? If a partner asks Are you okay? twenty times a day, it might better be interpreted as Are we okay? So how do you learn to trust yourself? The only way to earn trust is through virtue. Okay, what is a virtue? Sounds archaic, but listen carefullyits the secret sauce. Virtue is moral excellence. It is embracing and conforming to ethical principles. You must enthusiastically eat, breathe, live, love, and cover yourself in virtue. To make it more clear, heres a run-through of the seven traditional virtues: CHARITY: The opposite of greed, it is generosity and sacrificethe willing action of helping those in need. The couple who cares for their children alongside their aging parents, while also donating 10 percent of their income to local scholarship programs would be considered notably charitable.

CHASTITY: The opposite of lust, it is purity and cleanlinessthe ability to refrain from being distracted or influenced by intoxicants, temptation, or corruption. If youve ever gotten drunk, cheated on your partner, and then contracted an STD, you have a big problem with chastity. DILIGENCE: The opposite of sloth, it is persistence and efforta strong work ethic and skillful management of, and respect for, time. Diligence is the college student who rarely does her hair or wears makeup and sells her class notes online, all while dutifully contributing to her Roth IRA. HUMILITY: The opposite of pride, it is not about thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. It is the courage to admit that youre wrong or dont have all the answers. Humility is the stuff youll need when life melts down and the only things stopping your family from falling apart are a therapist, the downsizing of your home and entire lifestyle, and the reconsideration of your belief system. KINDNESS: The opposite of envy, it is friendship and empathy for its own sakewithout resentment, without advertisement. Kindness is the cheerful candy striper who sings to her elderly patients and bears witness to their lives, even though they rarely, if ever, gift her anything of tangible value. PATIENCE: The opposite of wrath, it is showing mercy to those who cross youoffering forgiveness and creating a sense of peace and stability rather than suffering and antagonism. Patience is not a speed-racing road rager who weaves viciously in and out of traffic at 90 mph, throwing the bird at law abiders. TEMPERANCE: The opposite of gluttony, it is self-control and justicethe ability to defer gratification and balance self-interest with public interest. It is mindful of the needs of others. A vegetarian nurse who sacrifices his marathon dreams to spend more time with his kids could be said to be very temperate. This principle of virtue applies to all important relationships in life, not just the romantic. Professionally, people wont hire you or buy from you if they dont trust you or your product or service. Personally, no flame or friend will invest time or care into you if the person anticipates being backstabbed, betrayed, or bullied. Wealth and love are contingent upon your actions and reputation. If you have failed in the past with virtue, there is always hope for redemption. Its easy to find virtue if you search for it. Remember, love needs trust, and trust needs virtue. Have you ever sabotaged a relationship in anticipation of being hurt or from fear of hurting the other person? Be honest with yourself: Have you ever displayed behaviors that indicate a lack of trust? What experiences led up to your mistrust or insecurities? Which of the virtues are you embracing today, and which of them could you do a better job on?

PARADOX OF CHOICE
Choice is a good thing. Choice is something to be celebrated. But could it be that with so many options to choose from, people have a hard time making any choice at all? Is there such a thing as too much choice? Apparently, there is. From jeans and salad dressings to careers and romantic partners, having too many options can paralyze us, or leave us miserable.

Author Barry Schwartz offers insights into modern life in his book The Paradox of Choice. Below are four of his key culprits, in our own words: Regret and Anticipated Regret With so many fish in the sea, so many eligible bachelors and maidens out there looking for love (in all the right places), even when we have a mate, its easy for us to imagine that someone out there could have been a better choiceor could still be better, should we leave our current partner. This fantasy mate that we could have had makes us regret the partner we currently have, and this regret subtracts from our satisfactioneven if the mate we have is amazing and our relationship is perfectly healthy. The more choices of mates there are, the easier it is to regret the one we chose. Opportunity Costs There are opportunity costs when we commit. By choosing one person, for a lifetime, we are also not choosing a number of other people. Couples often move in together, test out the waters, and see if they can live with the other person before getting married. But quite often, the two partners are in a mindset that is constantly looking outward for something better. They have adopted a worldview and strategy that says, If this winds up not working, I can always leave and go somewhere else. They expect to one day find the perfect fit, and they can leave a good relationship, because theyre convinced that with all the options out there, they can find their dream guy or gal, as long as they look hard enough. Escalation of Expectations As it turns out, the key to happiness may be lowering your expectations. Were too often taught by marketers and advertisers to never settle. They tell us that excellent people only consume excellent things. And dont we all want to be perceived as excellent? With this massive raising of expectations, we are doomed for disappointment. In what world other than the market society weve developed could something like speed dating ever take off? We scan people like we scan labels on a shelf. We give them two minutes to show us how smart, funny, and eligible they are and why we should buy/commit to them. We consume each other, let ourselves be consumed, and let this mutual utility be the foundation of our relationships. Then we sincerely wonder why none of our relationships ever work out. Self-blame When we date a lot of people without finding the right one or go from relationship to relationship never truly committing, we start thinking, There must be something wrong with me. Either Ive done something to not deserve love, or there is something in my character that consistently messes up or disappoints. As singles on the prowl, we become disappointed again and again, with every failed relationship. We imagine that we are to blamenot the process. We tell ourselves that if we had only looked harder, spent more time on dating sites, spent more money on looking attractive, we could have found the perfect mate. Dont fall into the trap of spending years, even decades, trying to find the perfect mate or sabotaging potentially strong and healthy relationships because you perceive someone new to be better. Youll end up miserable, either because through paralysis you forfeit a decent partner altogether, or because through so much trading and swapping, you become filled with regret, buyers remorse, messy family structures, and a ton of self-blame. Have you ever experienced regret, anxiety from missing out on someone, heightened expectations, or self-blame regarding a relationship? Explain in your own words how that felt and how you were reasoning at the time. What are some strategies for finding peace with the person you chose?

ORGANIC ELEMENTS
Most people these days live in cities, or at least suburbs. In these places, we dont interact with plants, animals, and natural landscapes like we used toto put it mildly. Were disconnected from the circle of lifethe process of birth, early growth, maturation, death, and decomposition. Few of us really know where our food comes from, let alone our clothes, furniture, personal-care products, etc. We used to be in relationship with the land and the food it produced. We planted seeds and bred animals, nurturing each through infancy and early growth. Once our source of nourishment reached maturity, we responsibly took what we needed for survival and then made sure to labor and give back to ensure the next generation of cows, or corn, or chicken, or peas was planted and nurtured. We were surrounded by organic things, and we understood that if we wanted nutrition for ourselves, we had to nurture our relationship with the creatures that provided it. Today we buy property, and then its done. We buy milk, and then we consume it. Done. Everything is on demand. We want it now, and we have no obligation to do anything in order to get anythingexcept sign the credit-card receipt. We expect quick access to ready-made goods, and this has transformed our perception of everything, including our partners. Your partner is not a consumer good. This person is not a list of features compiled only for your enjoyment. You must nurture your relationship with each other. You must give of yourselves in order to receive nourishment and mutual support. By reconnecting with organic things, you can remind yourself about how to treat your partner. You dont have to sell your downtown flat or move to the countryside. Plant some herbs, start a rose garden, take care of a pet, or start making frequent trips to natural places where you can witness how living things develop and thrive. Be mindful that living things need to be nurtured, observed, and tended to. Otherwise theyll fail to develop, or whither and die. Our partners are flowers, and we will enjoy the beauty of them blooming as soon as we start focusing on the quality of soil, seed, water, and sun we give them. Name three organic elements that you would want to introduce into your life. Discuss them with your partner, and decide to incorporate at least one thing today.

TOUCH + EXERCISE = HAPPINESS


We created the Happy Couple Workout based on the understanding that nothing creates a more powerful cocktail of bonding hormones than touch and exercise. Close couples share everything, including stress. And stress is toxic. The logistical nightmares of having children, juggling demanding careers, and paying bills can balloon stress levels to overwhelming proportions. Unfortunately, our partners often bear the fallout of our unchecked negativity. Over time, we can start to develop negative associations with home and family. A stressed-out spouse might seek stimulations elsewhere. Touch Skin is our largest organ, and positive touch improves our overall well-being. Just holding hands results in a decrease of the stress hormone cortisol. A simple hug can decrease cortisol levels and increase cuddle chemicals like oxytocin, which not only reduces anxiety but makes us feel safe and bonded with our partner. Positive touch is very effective in reducing stress and increasing contentment. Exercise When you work out or play a sport, your body releases other feel good hormones like endorphins, testosterone, and serotonin. These chemicals reduce stress, dull the perception of

pain, and work to raise your energy levels. Dopamine is also released during exercisethe very same hormone that helps you reach orgasm during sex. So, imagine a soccer-enthusiast husband who enjoys playing in an amateur league. At practice and in games, he gets his exercise hormones and blood pumping from running, kicking, and jumping. When he or a team member scores, positive touch such as hugs and high-fives are passed around, together with affirming words of praise. Playing soccer gives him all the hormonal benefits described above, in a light-hearted, friendly atmosphere that takes his mind off of anything negative. This is all healthy, but what if this husband is escaping to his Saturday games because he dreads being home? What if he is spending more time with his soccer buddies than with his own wife and kids? It is important to develop strategies to relieve toxic stress and share positive touch and physical activity together with your partner. Otherwise, we risk poisoning the very relationship that could strengthen us. Too many couples grow apart because they unknowingly deprive themselves of all the happy hormones that come with touch and exercise. Sex, of course, is the most obvious activity to satisfy these basic human needs. But why limit these great feelings to just one intimate activity that requires privacy and, often for parents, some creative scheduling? We need other forms of touch and exercise to keep us bonded and feeling good about our partnership. This is one of the reasons we believe so much in the Happy Couple Workout as a relationship-strengthening activity. With whom are you sharing the most touch and exercise? What are some ways you and your partner could touch more or exercise more together? What classes or sports are available in your community that welcome or cater to couples?

HEALTH AS A HUMAN COURTESY


Why might one hesitate to marry a clumsy, suicidal drug addict with a passion for driving blindfolded and a tendency to eat expired, moldy foods? Sounds like a jokeexcept for the fact that so many people are neglecting their health in serious ways that undermine the well-being of their family. A big part of being a good, considerate spouse is staying alive and healthy. Many forms of illness are entirely preventable. And many causes for relationship breakdown are preventable. So lets prevent them! If you let your health and body go, it becomes impossible for you to execute your duties as a spouse. Its hard to be a good partner if youre not present. Its hard to be a loving father or mother if youre preoccupied, sick, or gone entirely. One major idea that inspired us to create and share our Happy Couple Workout is our observation that irritability and rude behavior is always at its worst when were uncomfortable in our bodies. Think of when youve been the cruelest. Chances are it was when you were feeling pain, sickness, or fatigue. We are absolutely not blaming the sick, but we want to recognize the negative consequences of illness and fatigue. We want people to demand health as an essential component of providing for their family. We want doctors and health-industry professionals to focus more on keeping people healthy rather than just on managing their symptoms. This outlook isnt just of consequence to individuals, but also to their spouses, their children, their employees or employers, and the communities they live in and contribute to (or dont). As a courtesy to your family, we encourage you to obtain health insurance, visit the doctor regularly, and check yourself and your partner for breast lumps or irregular skin marks. Eat lots of plants, avoid processed food, and incorporate healthy activities into your lifestyle. Challenge each other to races, bike rides, and stretching competitions.

Also, try to find out as much as possible about your biological familys health history. You may be at risk of acquiring certain diseases due to genetic susceptibilitysuch as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and asthma. With the right lifestyle adjustments, you can lessen your potential of acquiring such ailments. Make sure that you share your findings with your kids so they too can make informed decisions later on in their lives. When do you and your partner argue? Can you detect a pattern related to how you feel in your body before, during, and after these times? What are some common health struggles in your family? Have you talked to a doctor about what you can do to avoid them? What could you do to improve your and your partners health? See if you can come up with at least three things you can start this week.

MARRIAGE IS A MARATHON
If you ask couples who have been married for fifty-plus years the secret of their success, they will tell you to fix things when theyre broken, not replace them. You dont quit one marathon and start on a new one just because youre getting winded. The answer is to run the one youre in better. Till death do us part is not a pleasantry; its a promise. But I dont want to be in a loveless marriage. Right. No one does. But sour feelings will emerge no matter whom youre married to, and they inevitably must be managed. Its part of the territory. For some reason, we get freaked out when our relationships arent fun anymore. People erroneously think that if it doesnt feel great and comfortable all the time, then it must not be true love. But trials and trip-ups are a part of the human experience. Theyre how we learn and grow. Marriage is an endurance event, just like a marathon, and if you lack strategies for getting through the tough bits, you will likely fail to finish. Here are some tools to help you endure through tough times, whether it is a marathon or a marriage: Visualize obstacles. Engage in mind preparation. You have to imagine how it will feel when you find yourself struggling. What is your strategy if you find yourself attracted to someone else? Do you allow yourself to see where the attraction goes? Or do you stop it in its tracksavoiding bad decisions that lead to infidelity, like seemingly harmless phone calls, emails, coffee dates. . . . When you find yourself in questionable circumstances, you want to have visualized the scenario so that it feels like dj vu and you know exactly what to do to avoid hurting your marriage. Seek help from experts. Ask yourself, if you were preparing to run a marathon, would you take running advice from a sedentary person or a long-distance Olympic champion? Listen and talk to people who have succeeded in accomplishing what it is you want. Dont ask advice from friends with a history of bad relationships. There are lots of successful couples out there and a lot of resources and allies for couples who want to strengthen their bonds and improve family functioning. Know the science. When running, a human can only store glycogen in the body for about nineteen miles; after that, the body starts using fat as energy. This transition is what is known as hitting the wall, and it can be painful. If you dont anticipate it, youre in for a very unpleasant surprise that most likely will make you forfeit. But if you do know this, youll be able to recognize that youre going through a transition, the pain will be temporary, and you can push through without injury. Likewise, its important to know the physiology and chemistry behind our gendered bodies and how that relates to major life events that affect relationships. Our bodies and brains change during puberty, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopausecausing us to behave differently and relate in

different ways to other people. The presence of higher levels of testosterone means men will behave in unique waysoften, for instance, showcasing more depression and identity struggles when faced with a job loss, because of their competitive nature. Biology and evolutionary psychology are facets of science that can illuminate the human condition and help us get more out of our partnerships. Practice. Use small crises and struggles as mental exercises that help you manage larger crises. Find teaching moments and learning opportunities through little dilemmas and vicarious scenarios. Youll figure out your style and weaknesses before the stakes are high. After a small argument, take time to evaluate the facts, your motivations, and your relationships challenges so you can tweak your behavior accordingly. Have cheerleaders. Energy and support from your community is necessary in order to succeed. Surround yourself with people who encourage you, who are honest with you, and who help you push through tough times. Whom do you seek out for relationship advice? How successful have these people been in their own relationships? What kind of support are you getting? Do you surround yourself with people who respect your spouse as well as your promises and commitments to your spouse? Have you ever envisioned or discussed how you would respond in a crisis situation like infidelity, judgment lapse, or financial setback?

IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS


Imagine someone you care for decides he wants to climb the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest. Awesome! you say encouragingly. What kind of equipment are you bringing with you? I dont know, he replies, just the shirt on my back and whatevers in my pocket, I guess. Do you have a guide? you ask. Eh, no. . . . Okay. Have you read any books by people who have successfully climbed it before? No, he responds, I thought Id figure it out on the way up and hope for the best. Unfortunately, that is how many of us treat the Mount Everest of relationshipsa lifelong marriage. We hear people all the time who expect a successful marriage and partnership to just happen to them. They may even go so far as to tie the knot, yet they are not prepared in the slightest for the journey ahead of them. They buy their ticket to the Himalayas before even learning how to read a compass or map. A life-long marriage is quite possibly the most difficult and enduring challenge people are inspired to pursue. And yet so many are given literally no education on how to achieve the dream of a monogamous, rich, loving marriage that thrives into old age. They definitely dont teach marriage skills in high school. So from whom are we supposed to learn relationship skills? Our inexperienced peers? Our divorced parents? Reality shows? There is a reason that a climber passes over two hundred dead bodies on her way to the summit of Mount Everest. How do we avoid their fate? We must be as informed and prepared as possible. Its incredibly helpful to understand a few key principles about men and women, including the differences in our physiology and psychology. Just like a mountaineer should familiarize herself with the terrain of a mountain, knowing about our unique gendered bodies and styles helps us meet the long-term romantic needs of the opposite sex and can actually make us more attractive as marriage partners.

We like www.smartmarriages.com. There, you can join a promarriage community that will help direct you to literature and events that will build your skills as a husband, wife, and parent. Another great organization is the International Federation for Family Development: www.iffd.org. What are you doing to actively learn more about being a good spouse? How can you improve your knowledge and skills in order to strengthen your relationship?

SYNCHRONIZATION
Synchronization is the coordination of events to operate a system in unison. Being a couple, you can no longer just think of yourselves as two individuals. In order to experience the benefits of the partnership, you must sacrifice portions of your individuality, choice, and flexibility. Not all of it, just portions. You may be a man or woman with special interests and talents, but more importantly, you are a partner with obligations and responsibilities. You must move togetherlike two ballroom dancers. But sometimes we have a tendency to think about our relationships in mathematical terms. I will do 50 percent of the work, my partner will do 50 percent, and well end up with 100 percent. It seems right in the world of economics. But love is not mathematics or economy. Love is overflowing and abundant. Perhaps there are imbalances in the relationship and you need to communicate them, but never think in economical terms. You should always do everything you can, and love means trusting and knowing that your partner is doing the same. If you are constantly evaluating whether youre winning or losing, you have a market-like mindset, and your relationship is already in trouble. If youre sitting down considering the worth of your marriage with a pros-and-cons list, then youre not doing it right. You need to totally change your mindset. During a whole lifetime, there will be discrepancies in the balance of who does more or who does less. But marriage is not a competition, so you dont need to (and actually should not) keep score. Youre on the same team. Try to let go of notions that everything you do and experience must be the same to be equal. Instead, think of your partnership as a way of mutually enhancing each others life. Figure out how to survive and then thrive acting as a team, with contributions that are equal in dignity and valueeven if they are different in form and executed on inconsistent timelines. Do you sometimes measure the amount of chores you and your partner are doing? If you feel cheated, how can you lovingly ask for help? What consequences does a zero-sum-game kind of mindset have on a relationship? In what areas of your partnership can you be better at giving?

SHARING IS CARING
Beware of the person who compares a spouse to consumer goods. Youre inviting a mess when you marry someone for that persons features. People are dynamic animals that live and breath and change their mind and grow old. They are not consumer goods to be tossed out when they stop performing the functions you bought them for. To marry is to weave your life together with another; it is to invite a teammate in the adventure of life and build a secure relationshipmore specifically, a family. Heres four ideas to keep your bond strong for decades: To complement is not to clone. Dont try to turn the person youre with into who you are. By doing this, youre violating your partners uniqueness and compromising his or her integrity and dignity as an individual. Ask

yourself, Are my criticisms motivated by a desire to push my partner into being a better version of herself [or himself], or a more accurate version of me? Combine your interests. The world is abundant. There are a million different ways to combine interests these days and find hybrid activities that satisfy our ever complicated needs and wants. And guess what? If youre having a hard time finding that product or service or club or cult that suits the two of you, maybe you can invent one. The creative process is incredibly bonding. Support what you cant share. One spouse can support another spouses interest and show pride in that persons accomplishments without necessarily being into it too. Its good to remember that were different people with different goals and strengths. Sharing interests is awesome, but its not always possible. Support can be just as nice. Share a social life. Find a common community. Do you and your partner love a specific TV show? Thats great except watching the show likely doesnt make you any new friends. That requires other real-life human beings. Its important to have a social life that introduces you to interesting new people and ideas, just as its important for your lungs to regularly breathe new oxygen. Relationship getting dull? Avoid growing apart and losing touch with each other by exploring the world around you as a team. Are there interests and hobbies that you could be better at sharing, merging, or supporting? What kinds of clubs or organizations can the two of you join to cultivate a more rich social life together?

TEND TO SMALL WOUNDS


Small conflicts that are left unsettledlike wounds left untendedoften fester and sour until theyre toxic. This is the fight about the unwashed dishes that balloons into one spouses conviction that the other is a lazy no-good parasite. You must train yourself to identify sources of frustration and then maturely react to them in constructive ways, before things get out of control. There is something about the female brain that makes women masters of avoiding conflict. Evolution compensated for smaller body frames with higher abilities to foresee and negate trouble. But some have developed the bad habit of biting their tongues when they are upset over something, thus allowing small problems to grow and grow until they become big and unmanageable. In relationships, this often means that a woman submits her needs and desires for the sake of peace. But long-term, continual forfeiting of whats important to her in an unbalanced sacrifice to the unit can undermine her whole relationship. Women, after all, initiate a majority of divorces. They bite their tongues for so long that the toxic energy builds up until they explode and can no longer stand being with their partners. But if they are bold enough to resolve these grievances before they expand like cancerous tumors, women can prevent a lot of relationship deterioration. Men and women, do not let the poison ferment. Remedy hard feelings immediately, and take quick action against upsetting events. It should be said, though: there is a fine line between attentiveness to small wounds and calling 91-1 for every scrape. If one spouse struggles with nagging, then that should be addressed, too. Compromise is a two-way street, and sometimes its best to just let little things go. When there is disagreement, it may help to get a professionals opinion. One good place to start is www.marriagefriendlytherapists.com. How do you deal with conflicts? Do you typically wait to bring things up?

How does your partner react to the way and the timing of when you want to discuss a problem? Try to remember the last time you waited to bring something up and it escalated into a big fight. What should you have done differently?

TORCH AWAY SMALL FLAMES


Dont let small attractions grow into devastating wildfires. Attack the first small flame, and put it out before it burns you both so deep there is no recovering from it. If you find yourself being attracted to someone else, such as a coworker, find ways of avoiding that person, like taking your lunch at a different time or place. If you dont avoid your vices like a recovering alcoholic must avoid bars, your small problems will develop into big ones. If an old flame wants to reconnect, politely refuse. Your first priority is to show your partner you can be trustednot that you are mature enough to still be friends with past lovers. There are three stages of lust that occur before a betrayal: SPONTANEOUS, SENSUAL REACTION: this is a feeling or experience that happens without your consent and is an inevitable part of being human. There is no need to be ashamed of experiencing attraction. Youre committing no crime here. SEXUAL DESIRE: this is lust that looms in the imagination. You havent consented to the thoughts; they just happen. You havent betrayed your partner, but its dangerous. CARNAL DESIRE: this is a deliberate and willing act of using someone as an object of lust. Any resistance is taken over by lust and you decide to pursue the attraction, either by letting your imagination continue to run wild or by actually pursuing a real-life affair. Pay attention to these three stages, and stop sexual desire from developing into carnal desire. Some people think they can steep their imagination in lust and fantasy and take their thoughts to the edge of betrayal, veering back to safety at the last moment. Thats a bad strategy. Thats how homes burn and families fall apart. If you are particularly attracted to someone because of a certain personality trait that person exhibitsbeing a good listener, making considerate decisions, showing a sweet dispositionthen think about how you can nurture these kinds of responses in your partner. What actions might encourage the person you are committed to in that direction? Look for the trait that you desire in your partner, and reinforce it by showing your pleasure and appreciation. Most of all, model it yourself. What are some examples of situations in which you might find yourself attracted to someone besides your partner? When faced with sexual desire, what should you do to avoid stepping into the next stage, carnal desire? How do you think your relationship would change if you were certain of both your partners and your own ability to stop a sensual reaction from developing into desire?

MAGIC IN MICRO
Today we find ourselves in a society with an abundance of opportunities and material wealth. Swedish professor Micael Dahln describes our modern world as a Nextopia. In our Nextopia, we are constantly looking for the next thing, something betterwhether its a new job, an upgraded product, or a new partner. This evolutionary drive toward the novel has helped mankind develop and improve, but when you can get anything, anywhere, at any time, short-term satisfaction may be easy to find, but long-term contentment will prove much more difficult.

We must remember that life quality, magic moments, and the good life do not just exist in the far away or exotic next thing. You can experience richness, excitement, surprise, and happiness locally, close by, right now, within your relationship, within your town, within a very accessible space. You do not need to spend thousands of dollars on new gadgets, travel thousands of miles vacationing, change jobs, or tread promiscuously in order to feel alive. There is a toy called the Eye Clops Bionic Eye. It is essentially a digital camera that magnifies objects and connects the image with your television so you can see the microsurfaces of fibers, skin cells, insects, newsprint, etc.up close and in hyperdetail. Its a gadget that transforms everyday objects into wonderworlds of mystery and surprise. We see this device as a metaphor for how we often disrespect our homes, families, and environments by convincing ourselves that theyre boring, or holding us back. We believe that if you can learn to appreciate what you have by changing your perspective, youre more likely to not only experience more personal joy, but to be that pillar for your family and community that they need you to be. If you find yourself unsatisfied, thinking that only an exotic adventure will make you happier, perhaps these words by the philanthropist and former tennis pro Andre Agassi can help you. He answers the question, How do you find the will to succeed at something youre not passionate about? By making it part of a larger project for which you do feel passion. When I realized that I wasn't born to play tennis, that I was made to play tennis, I searched for other things to which I felt more deeply and emotionally connected. Like education. I then made tennis part of that work. Anyone can do this with any job. If you don't love the task at hand per se, make it about your family, make it about serving others, make it about simply being conscientious. Make it about something other than your own fleeting wants and needs, work at it with everything you've got, and then stand backthe results will be magic.4 In other words, to find magic in micro, ask not what your family can do for you, but what you can do for your family. Learn how to breathe new life into the environment youve been gifted, and turn it into something beautiful. Do you live in Nextopiaoften finding yourself dreaming for a different life, longing for new gadgets, or counting the days until the next vacation? Remind yourself and each other of three things in or around your home that you appreciate a lot. Go online and discover three activities youve never done that are close to home, you would like to experience, and you can do together.

THE POWER OF WORDS


Words carry incredible impact. They frame our universe and create our reality. They put everything in context and help us understand how we relate to other objects and ideas. The more precise we are with our language, the richer our relationships will be. For example, when your partner makes you a meal, do you say, Thank you, it was good? Thats a fine and normal response, but use the occasion as an opportunity to do even better. Search for what it is about the meal that made it good. Was the sauce exquisite? The seasoning inspired? The presentation delightful? The ambiance captivating? Practicing precision with your words will help you to pinpoint the truth and express yourself more effectively in all sorts of situations. This skill is very useful when youre having an argument. If you cant put words on what it is specifically that is bothering you, then you will suffer from a mess of emotions. Its very difficult

to move forward if you cant accurately describe your feelings and get to the real problem. Are you truly angry or disappointed? Hurt or afraid? Jealous or confused? Pick your dominant emotion, and communicate it clearly. Adding words to your vocabulary will help you develop a higher emotional intelligence, which is the most important key to understanding and empathizing with your partner and working to resolve your issues. How many times have we used words in an argument that we regretted the moment they came out of our mouth? There are certain things that you should never say, because they can cause extensive hurt and even instill an irreversible fear in your partner. I want a divorce is one of them. Other examples include hurtful labels, summary judgments, and revengeful threats. Set your boundaries against these long before you end up in that heated argument. Everyone has a unique communication style, and its up to you to find and improve yours. Some of us were not raised to speak considerately, and we must work extra hard to build this skill. Graceful delivery will come with time if you keep practicing. Make a list of words and phrases that you know could cause hurtand promise each other to never use them. Describe what you love regarding your partner, using specific language and no sarcasm. Pick another subject and practice describing what you enjoy about it (sports, food, books, etc.). Answer the question Why? two consecutive times. First, keep it simple. Then, go into depth, and be precise in your language. Example: I like sushi. Why? Because its healthy and yummy. Why? Raw salmon is good for your heart, and in combination with the spicy kick of wasabi and the natural saltiness in soy sauce, it makes for a delicious taste sensation.

RESPONDING PROPORTIONALLY
One of the most important tasks in raising children is teaching them to manage their emotions. Giggles, cries, kicks, and screams dont impress most bosses and coworkers. Being able to control your impulses, think straight, and form judgments through reason and logic are the marked characteristics of a true adult. And its only the true adult who can keep a family together for a lifetime. Do you allow yourself to be consumed by your emotions? Do you ever view yourself as a celebrity in the feature of your life? Do your emotional reactions alienate you from people who want to avoid chaos? We believe people can learn to control their emotions by addressing two modes of consumption: diet and media. Diet We have as a rule in our family to never argue when were hungry. We cant reliably be kind or considerate when our blood sugar and energy reserves are low. Our responses to antagonism are often overly emotional just because were so uncomfortable in our bodies. Ask yourself, are you really mad at your spouse or kids, or is the real problem that youre hungry, or overly full, or you didnt eat the right kind of food? How is the status of your body influencing the way youre treating your family? Do you have an alcohol problem? Are you addicted to sugar? Nicotine? Caffeine? How are the substances you consume affecting your mood? Your reactions? Your tone? Speak to a nutritionist about your diet and how you can use healthy foods and supplements as tools to improve the way you relate to your spouse and family.

Media Its important to manage the type of culture and media you consume. The average American watches over thirty-four hours of TV per week.5 Regulating the quality and volume of your media intake can and will improve your overall well-being, just like a healthy diet. You can truly learn how to be more reasonable by choosing your media wisely. TV shows build on highs and lows, tears and laughter, shock and awe. They overexpose emotional parts of the human condition to get a reaction. The reason you must regulate how much of this kind of media you consume is because of how natural it is for humans to imitate the company we keep. Our caveman brains cant differentiate between 3D motion-picture images and reality. Our favorite TV characters become the most important members of our social circle. Their experiences influence our expectations for our own lives, and we begin to imitate their behaviors and values. Dont be a drama queen. Addressing these two modes of consumption will help temper your reactions so that you respond more proportionally to whatever dilemma or circumstance youre facing. And that will stabilize your relationship in very beneficial ways. In what ways do your food habits affect your mood? Make sure to ask your partner, who probably knows better than you. What are your TV habits? How many hours a week do you watch TV? Are the characters you watch on screen people you would want to imitate?

FORGIVENESS
When were attacked, our natural instinct is to fight or flee. Just like animals. If your wife comes home and shes irritable and rude, its quite possible that you see that as an attack and either bark back or recoil to another room to escape. Thats our instinct speaking, but as humans, we have the ability to train ourselves out of that first gut reaction. Start by asking yourself why this person is attacking. What happened in my partners life (either recently or long ago) that is proving so upsetting? Ask your partner, How are you feeling? Perhaps what the person really needs is a hug, and what he or she really doesnt need is a fight or cold avoidance. And then, your partner needs forgiveness. As they say, refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Partnerships are a lot about trust, but they also require forgiveness, being strong, and bearing a load and a burden when the other person has demonstrated a lapse in judgment or displayed weakness or vulnerability. When someone is falling, thats when the person is most in need of anothers strength. Sometimes this also means learning how to forgive yourself and move on from your own indiscretions and mistakes. We are all human. We all bare loads and come with baggage. We all make mistakes. When your partner is experiencing a downward perioddepression, an indiscretion, whatever the offense that may be the moment you need to muster all your strength and rescue the one you love (and thus rescue your relationship). If your partner insults you, ask, You didnt really mean that, did you? And begin working to find the questions and answers for your partner to express what the real problem is. One book that really helped us is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. In it, Ruiz teaches us several wise actions:

BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip (disrespect others). Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love. DONT TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream of how the world should be. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you wont be the victim of needless suffering. DONT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret. Part of forgiving others is learning to forgive yourself. When someone we love hurts us, we often punish them with our chastising words. But when we hurt or disappoint ourselves, we do the same thing inwardly. These words may repeat in our conscience over and over again. They dig a trench of regret and negativity that is deep and easy to get stuck in. So be mindful of negative self-talk. Avoid and redirect your energy toward something more constructive and helpful. And then do the same thing in your relationship with your partner. Move on. Save your family from disrepair. Be solution oriented, and learn to forgive. How do you usually react if your partner is in a bad mood and lets it out on you? Who are youthe animal that fights or flees? What are different possible reactions when faced with antagonism? Which would result in the most positive outcome for all parties? Why is it important for your relationship that you forgive yourself?

HIGHER STANDARDS
Many people resent virtues. They meet hardworking, honest people who take good care of themselves, and they feel jealousy or contempt. But virtue and high standards should be inspiring! These people tear down morality and try to lower general standards to their own level, because raising the bar and editing their own behavior to strive for the ideal requires too much effort. They may even ridicule or openly attack those with high standards because these snobby people remind them of their own laziness or failures. Most of us can admit to behaving in such a way at some point in our lives. For example, two women go to lunch; one has a salad, and the other has a stuffed-crust pizza. The woman with the pizza is slightly humiliated and feels resentment toward her salad-eating companion. The first womans healthy decision works to draw attention to the second womans indulgence. The woman with the pizza doesnt enjoy looking bad in comparison, but shes also not willing to eat salad instead. She may mentally reason that her salad-eating colleague just doesnt understand how hard it would be for her to eat salad. So even if her friend is actually making a difficult choice herself, she gets little credit for it. You will not achieve health, physically or in your relationships, by minimizing and masking the benefits of goodness, or by making excuses for your own bad behavior. This collective lowering of standards does nothing to improve life quality for the whole culture and those within it. Societies flounder by a combination of low standards and fear of being ridiculed.

There are other ways of raising the bar besides showcasing discipline over temptation. Pursuing quality is another modality of holding high standards. You can pursue quality in what you consume and also in what you create. You can raise the bar for yourself at work, in your love life, and how you interact with your children. We should encourage our partners to improve their standards and welcome them to vocally reciprocate and help to improve ours. What you do matters. How you respond to challenge matters. When you raise the bar for what you do and how you act in daily matters that seem small, making good decisions on exceptionally strenuous occasions will be easier. Low standards make you ill. You dont want to be ill; you want to thrive. You want to feel great in your skin. You want to experience friendship and trust and surround yourself with people you like and admire. This means doing the right thing, taking the high road, tapping into the last of your energy reserves so you can find kind words when cruelty bubbles first. It means taking an extra tenthirty minutes to cook real food for yourself and your family when fast food would be easier. Figure out what is good for you and your family, and do those things until you are thrilled to be alive. Are you surrounding yourself with people who inspire you to do and be better? How can we learn to be inspired by people with high standards instead of feeling irritated or threatened? What excuses are you using to avoid raising the standards and taking more responsibility over your life and health?

BE EXCEPTIONAL: FOLLOW PATTERNS


Many people believe that the way to be successful is to defy gravity, break rules, and bend logic. And sometimes, once in a while, they will be right. Experimentation can be a great thing, but just as recipes help you make your dream meal come true (by saving time and valuable ingredients), patterns and rules help us navigate our social world gracefully and efficiently. When it comes to your relationships, as with so many other important things in life, you do not need to reinvent the wheel and experiment clumsily. Some people consider themselves noble underdogs when they take the road less traveled. They reject convention and view themselves as the unlikely hero in their own personal drama series. Unfortunately, a lot of them are ignoring all rational data and virtually expecting to wind up a great success in their ambitious endeavors. This can end in great disappointment. Are you expecting to find your faithful and devoted dream partner by plowing through your local dating scene promiscuously? Are you waiting to start trying to have kids despite knowing that female fertility rapidly declines after age thirty? Are you hoping your kids will become the next Roger Federer by feeding them Lucky Charms and Red Bull? Are you not saving for retirement because you expect to win the lottery? Exceptional stories can make our world shine brighter, but it isnt smart to make important life decisions based on rare occurrences of heroic opportunity or dumb luck. If you know someone who knows someone who lived one hundred years and smoked a pack per day for eighty of them, its best to bask in the wonderment of how it happened than view it as a green light to start smoking yourself. Experimentation and defying convention is a wonderful thing when it comes to entrepreneurship and the creative process. Testing rules and throwing out laws in these realms can move us

forward. But biology, social sciences, and mathematics are more consistent. Take pleasure in their reliability, and apply the wisdom of those who have come before you and saved you from the burden of having to figure it all out on your own. In what situations in your life have you been displaying unrealistic expectations? When thinking of your goals, whom do you know that has accomplished that goal? What did that person do to achieve it? Are there any changes you need to make in your current strategy to better mimic what the person did?

HABITS OF LOVE
Love and positivity neutralize pain. When your posture and mind are love-oriented, there is no room for negativity. Light destroys darkness; love destroys vindication and indifference. As humans, we enjoy free will; we can choose to be in a posture of love and elbow out our negative behaviors and thoughts. This comes in handy for marriages and partnerships, because we need that free will to combat the various antagonisms that are sure to come our way. Here are some common behaviors of couples who succeed in lifelong love. Rituals Nations are made from rituals and ceremonies. People are united through common histories, stories, and ideas. Part of keeping a good morale and building a relationship that survives rough times is emphasizing that which you have in common, creating rituals and ceremonies that you look forward to and share together. You can draw inspiration and parallels between your lives and characters from literature, broader culture, or your past or present social network. Its not enough to sit and stare in each others eyes all the time. Before long, youll want to do stuff together. Rituals like Ramadan, Lent, and Yom Kippur actively unite millions of people. You can also light peace candles, have a family game night, or attend reunions to actively unite the most important people in your life, your family. We recommend Dr. William Dohertys book, The Intentional Family: Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties. Dr. Doherty gives rich examples and case studies of families that struggle to stay connected in a balanced way, as well as real solutions for a variety of common family struggles. Repetition If you repeat something enough, you will start believing it. This is why ideas are so powerful and you have to be careful from which sources you gather information. But if you force positivity enough, the repetition of love and beauty will improve your relationship and your confidence in your own ability to love well. Find an everyday routine or ritual where you can incorporate some forced positivity. Pray before taking a bite of your food, conjure peace, practice mindfulness, speak gracious words to your spouse. If youre not religious, perhaps you can make it a habit to vocalize something about each other that youre grateful for before you say good night to each other. Forced Romance Sometimes good things must be forced. Sketch out time to be romantic. Put it on your calendar if you have to. We spend so much time during the day trying to do well, make money, and change the world. Life can be stressful. If you and your partner can just clock out from that world and be with each other in an engaged romantic moment where both of you are focused on giving and receiving love, it will lower your blood pressure, relieve your stress, and maybe even renew your faith in humanity. Sanctuaries You need a sanctuary. You need a place to go where negativity is not allowed. You literally need a safety zone. For religious couples, this may be church. For couples who work at home or spend

the majority of their time together, maybe youll want to declare your bed a negativity-free zone. When you venture under the covers every night, let there be no more talk about work, or the unpleasant clerk at the post office, or general griping. Regard your sanctuary as holy and sacred. What rituals or activities do you and your partner have that you share, that are positive, and that you look forward to? How frequent are they? Can you add any? When was the last time you did something romantic? Why can it be a good idea to plan romantic activities? Where do you both find time and space to relax? How can you rearrange your home or property to serve as a retreat?

THE ULTIMATE COMMITMENT


We want you and your partner to live long, healthy, happy lives together. It is also our desire that you will, if you havent already, make the ultimate commitmentto get married. Healthy marriages (emphasis on healthy) provide safe, stable homes for adults and children to thrive. The greatest gift you can give your child is to love and commit to the other parent. But why is marriage so important? Isnt love enough? We often hear people referring to marriage as just a piece of paper. Where this particular phrase came from, we have no idea. But it needs to be removed from the zeitgeist immediately. Marriage is a club that comes with conventions and guidelines that are tried and proven to foster well-being. For us, life improved dramatically when we started to think of marriage in much the same way we think of computers or cell phonesa technology that makes our lives better, with framework we accept and have faith in, even though we dont understand everything about how it works. Were grateful that wise people before us created and diligently edited the features and expectations of marriage so we could jump on and enjoy the ride. From what weve learned together, here are the most substantial reasons why marriage makes life better:6 Membership Matters Its one thing to say that you could run a marathon in 3:30 if you wanted to; its a totally different matter to actually do it. Actions speak. Promising each other lifelong love and commitment in front of your family, your friends, and God, and signing up to support each other forever under the law, is one of the most courageous actions you will ever take. And membership in the marriage club has many benefits. It has a rich history of traditions and norms that help guide members to success. There are even job descriptions for family members that teach us how to behave in proven ways to get the most out of our membership. The club offers support from a substantial network of other members. And because it isnt easy to get and stay marriedfinding a mate, convincing that person to marry you, organizing the wedding, staying faithfulthere is respect and recognition for those who manage all the associated feats. But take heart; you will be standing on the shoulders of giants. Walk in the footsteps of generations of those men and women who succeeded before you. Health Did you know that married people have longer life expectancies than their nonmarried peers? Married men experience improved health through a reduction in likeliness to quarrel and proneness to addiction. Fidelity secures their sexual health and 100 percent STD prevention. And married couples are reported to have more satisfying sexual relationships than unmarried couples who are living together. Married men get health checkups more regularly. Married women report less domestic violence than women who are in unmarried partnerships, and for men in particular,

marriage seems to have profound psychological benefitsreducing depression and suicide (which is currently the tenth most common cause of death in America). Wealth If the health benefits alone arent persuading you to get and stay married, maybe the fact that married people are more productive, have higher incomes, and enjoy more leisure time will sound good to you. Married women (without children) have higher incomes than do their unmarried peers of similar socioeconomic backgrounds. And married mothers are at a dramatically reduced risk of living in poverty. Married men earn 1040 percent more than do their unmarried counterparts. When we commit to each other and are bound both legally and in the eyes of our community, we make more efficient use of our time and talents through specialized contributions to the family. More gets done because tasks are divided, resources are shared, and everybody trusts each other. Stronger Kids and Communities As if reducing poverty and helping us live longer, healthier lives wasnt enough to strengthen a community, marriage also enhances the well-being of our people and neighborhoods by its service to children. Most people who come from broken homes dont become criminals, but its shocking how many criminals come from broken homes. Eighty-five percent of all youth criminals grew up in homes without their married moms and dads. There is something precious to a child in the formation of his character and identity when he knows that the two people who made him, the two people he sees in his daily reflection, will always love and support each otherand will always love and support him, the offspring. It helps men become better fathers by giving them purpose and principles to live by. And the mother and children benefit when the energy, finances, and strength of the father are channeled to serve and protect the family rather than, say, seducing new romances or satisfying addictions. Healthy, wealthy people with strong community bonds tend to put down roots and invest in the communities where they land. Governments know this; thats why we privilege marriage. Having rules, laws, obligations, and special privileges that are recognized by the state in addition to our private promises make marriage a truly identity-changing club that can fortify a couples bond. For what reasons did you get married? If youre not married, is there anything specifically holding you back? What is and has been your perception of marriage? How do you think people in general change once they realize they are responsible for the wellbeing of new family members like a spouse or children?
1. Mahatma Gandhi, Young India, March 21, 1929, 93. 2. David Ferguson, Teresa Ferguson, and Terri Ferguson Snead, Intimate Encounters: A Practical Guide to Discovering the Secrets of a Really Great Marriage (Austin, TX: Relationship Press, 1997). A few of the providences (needs) we list here are from an earlier edition. 3. For more information, see www.newthrift.org. 4. Rana Florida, Your Start-up Life with Andre Agassi: Playing Big, Your Start-up Life (business advice column), Huffington Post, September 10, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rana-florida/your-startup-life-withan_b_1866970.html. 5. See David Hinckley, Americans Spend 34 Hours a Week Watching TV, According to Nielsen Numbers, New York Daily News, September 19, 2012, http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/americans-spend-34-hoursweek-watching-tv-nielsen-numbers-article-1.1162285. 6. Here are just a few sources that discuss the many benefits of marriage: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Why is Marriage Good for Men and Women? http://old.usccb.org/laity/marriage/menwomeneng.shtml; Institute for American Values, Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition: Twenty-Six Conclusions from the Social Sciences (New York: Institute for American Values, 2005); Physicians for Life, Cohabitation vs. Marriage: 26

Research Findings, www.physiciansforlife.org/content/view/242/27/; Random Facts and Interesting Trivia for the Curious Mind, fact number 39, http://facts.randomhistory.com/interesting-facts-about-marriage.html; Sari Harrar and Rita DeMaria, The 7 Stages of Marriage: Laughter, Intimacy, and Passion Today, Tomorrow, Forever (Pleasantville, NY: Readers Digest Books, 2007); SuicideMarital Status and the Family, http://family.jrank.org/pages/1659/Suicide-Marital-Status-Family.html; Mary Mederios Kent, In U.S., Who Is at Greatest Risk for Suicides? November 2010, http://www.prb.org/Articles/2010/suicides.aspx; HealthDay, Married Women More Likely to Have Positive Pregnancies: Study, January 3, 2013, http://health.usnews.com/healthnews/news/articles/2013/01/03/married-women-more-likely-to-have-positive-pregnancies-study; Robert Rector, Patrick F. Fagan, and Kirk A. Johnson, Marriage: Still the Safest Place for Women and Children, March 9, 2004, www.heritage.org/research/reports/2004/03/marriage-still-the-safest-place-for-women-and-children; Harvard Medical School, Marriage and Mens Health, July 2010, www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mens_Health_Watch/2010/July/marriage-and-mens-health; Clare Wyllie, Stephen Platt, Julie Brownlie, et al., Men, Suicide, and Society: Why Disadvantaged Men in Mid-life Die by Suicide, September 2012, www.samaritans.org/sites/default/files/kcfinder/files/Men%20and%20Suicide%20Research%20Report%20210912.pdf; Suicide Prevention Resource Center, About Suicide, 2012, http://www.sprc.org/basics/about-suicide; The Witherspoon Institute, Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles, August 2008, http://www.winst.org/family_marriage_and_democracy/WI_Marriage.pdf; The Fatherless Generation, http://thefatherlessgeneration.wordpress.com/statistics/.