Friday, November 29, 2013

The Wife List: 10 Qualities

Recently, my wife posted The Husband List: 12 Non-Negotiables, which has received many comments from readers wondering what the wife list looks like. 

Attachment-1 (2)

Well, I can sum up most of my friends’ lists right here: 1. Blonde, 2. Skinny, 3. Hot. A few others might include: she likes football, she drinks beer with my buds, and she’s at least a full C. No matter what I write below, that list isn’t going away for some of you guys. We’re all stubborn, but we can also be authentic. Sometimes we have to learn the hard way.

Earlier this week, I wrote the article An Uncrafty Guy’s Guide to Making a Vision Board about keeping you visually focused on your dreams. Should we be specific about the woman we want to marry? Absolutely. However, make a list with long-term vision. Most of the characteristics we think we want in a wife aren’t ones that make for a good, lifelong relationship. They are characteristics of a woman we want for one night.

Just like character is the most important characteristic of a good guy, the woman you’re going to marry should have good character as well. When you find her, she is more valuable than anything. Here are 10 qualities of good future wife material:

1. She shares your beliefs

When it comes to finding your wife, I’ve heard “equally yoked.” It has nothing to do with weightlifting. Your potential wife should have the same beliefs you have. Now, you may think you can do some missionary dating, and turn that situation around. More often than not, you’re going to be disappointed with some bad side effects. If you don’t have the same core beliefs….good luck.

2. She makes you a better man

If everyday is hell with her, that should be a red flag. Your potential wife should elevate you to Yourself 2.0. You can get a good idea from your friends and family. Do they say you act differently in a bad way when you are around her? Not a good sign. She should bring out the best in you, not bring out heartache and frayed nerves.

3. She’s trustworthy

In fact, she should inspire trustworthiness within you. If you don’t trust her, you’re probably making her as bitter as you’re making yourself. Not worth it. If you can’t trust her, maybe you’re not ready to date her or maybe you need to work on confidence issues within yourself. If there’s good reason not to trust her, don’t even go there.

4. She has ambition

She should have strength in character and carry herself with confidence. As a man, you should be the leader in the relationship, but that doesn’t mean she’s the consummate follower. She should have plans too. In fact, she should be a hard worker just like you. That doesn’t mean having a job is a requirement. One of my friends is a stay-at-home wife with three kids, and she works harder than any of my friends with careers.

5. She’s selfless

She should care about others. Look at the way she treats her family and her friends. If she’s not close with her family, and doesn’t have any good friends, that’s not a good sign. If you start dating her, much less marry her, you will discover why. Some questions to ask your self: Does she care about causes? Does she go out and volunteer? These are important characteristics to consider.

6. She’s attractive

In your eyes, she should be a “10.” When my wife walks in the room, I’m awestruck by her every time. She’s beautiful from the inside out. However, I’ve dated “hot” girls who ended up being downright ugly by the time we broke up. Personality plays into attractiveness big-time. Just remember, “charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting.” She should be beautiful down to her soul because that kind of beauty lasts forever.

7. She’s smart

You’re going to be spending a lot of time with her, so she should be able to hold a good conversation. She should be wise, smart, and give you good advice. Her women’s intuition should be strong. I look to my wife all the time for advice. She’s collected all sorts of wisdom from her mom. She remembers everything. Yes, everything….maybe too much.

8. She loves you unconditionally

If she’s trying to change you to be another person, it’s time to move on. Your future wife should love you just as you are, regardless of anything you’ve done in your past. There will be minor adjustments along the way, but if she nags you about your core characteristics, it won’t get any better in marriage.

9. She’s responsible

Does she remember appointments and meetings? Does she flake all of the time? She should already do a good job of managing her own life. If she’s got loads of debt and doesn’t work, you’re going to be taking all of that on. Ultimately, she will have some part in your financial well-being, and guess what? Finances remain one of the leading causes of divorce.

10. She gets along with your family and friends

If she doesn’t even try to connect with your family and/or friends, it’s probably time to move on. She shouldn’t be critical of the people who have been loyal to you throughout your life. There might be cases where your mom doesn’t like your future wife, and that may require your intervention. But in general, she should be a good fit with the people in your life. Marriage is a joining of two lives that existed prior to meeting the other person.

When it comes down to it, you know what you can handle. Love can overwrite many of the qualities above, but having these qualities will certainly make your lives easier once you are married. No one’s perfect. Even with this list, both of you are still going to bring some kind of baggage into the relationship. Make sure premarital counseling is a huge priority once you find her. My wife and I did a relationship bootcamp in addition to premarital counseling. One session just doesn’t cut it. Throw everything but the kitchen sink at the most important decision you will ever make.

The Husband List: 12 Non-Negotiables

The Husband List
Many people use the fact that God already knows the desires of our hearts as an excuse not to pray. Although, he does know them, he still commands us to, “in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6. In the book of Mark, a blind man had his friends take him to Jesus to be healed for his eyesight. Yet when he got in front of Jesus, even though it was obvious what the blind man wanted, Jesus still asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Therefore, even if you have a vision or idea of what your future husband will be like, it is important that you define the specific traits in your life partner. I was in a bible study where we were required to make a “husband list” for homework. It couldn’t just be a short list of the basics. We had to be specific. An example would be, “A man who has a calm temperament and handles stress well.” This may sound silly, but the reason it is important to put the important qualities you desire into writing is to hold you accountable. It also gives you heightened discernment in dating situations.

Let’s be honest ladies, it can be easy to let something slide or dismiss a red flag when a cute guy tells us yummy, fluttery words we want to hear. But is it an ugly situation when we let our hearts get too wrapped up into someone who ultimately doesn’t take care of it. The list keeps your standards in check and can help you quickly discern whether or not that guy gets a second date. It protects your heart against unnecessary wear and tear. In fact, your heart is so important to God that He says, “Above all else, guard your heart for from it flows the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23

I encourage each of you to make a husband list too. After I made mine, I met my husband 2 months later and not only was he every single character trait on that list, he was more. But I shouldn’t have been too surprised because, “God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20.

Now, each one of your lists is going to have unique things according to who you are, your quirks, likes and dislikes. But there are some fundamental traits that God wants to be non-negotiables. Choosing who you will partner the rest of your life with is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. Too many young women are settling for less than God’s best because they don’t know exactly how He expects His daughters to be treated. Based on scripture, here is a list of non-negotiables for you so you don’t have to second guess anymore.

1. He is a practicing believer.

“Do not be yoked together with an unbeliever…For what agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?” 2 Corinthians 6:14-16. Issues and conflict are bound to rise in marriage, so it is crucial that there is a common foundation on which to hold the marriage accountable. The last thing you want to be fighting about is your faith, whether or not to pray and your viewpoints on religion. Believe me, I’ve been there before. It is exhausting.

2. God is the center of his life.

He seeks God’s wisdom in all the decisions he makes.
“With wisdom are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity. My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver.” Proverbs 8:18-19

3. He has integrity and does not put himself in tempting situations.

He guards you against harm and protects the relationship. “Keep to a path far from evil, do not go near the door of that house, lest you give your best strength to others.” Proverbs 5:8-9

4. Seeks mentorship and counsel.

It is important that your man is wise in realizing he can’t carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. When he is surrounded by men who are older than him who can offer advice, prayer and mentorship, he can be a better husband to you. “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” Proverbs 12:15

5. He is slow to anger.

There is peace in knowing your man holds an even temperament even when he is provoked. A man who allows his feelings, emotions and anger to determine his actions typically has tarnished relationships and is not a healthy place for you or a family. “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” Proverbs 15:18

6. He holds strong conviction on the sacredness of fidelity.

A man is wise when he understand that infidelity and looking for pleasure outside of the marriage only brings strife. God actually calls him to rejoice over you all of his days. “May your fountain be blessed and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth…May you be ever captivated by her love. Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress?” Proverbs 5:18-20.

7. He is honorable of your heart and emotional well-being.

I hated when a guy I was dating exposed my embarrassing moments or the private matters of our relationship with his friends. Picking on you may seem cute and funny at first, but it will get old after a while. You should feel honored and safe knowing you can always trust your husband to cover and speak well of you. “Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers,” Proverbs 5:17.
“Love each other deeply because love covers all wrongs.” 1 Peter 4:8.

8. He is disciplined in living a life of integrity.

Watch how he handles temptation or sticky situations that test his character. Does he choose to do what’s right even when no one is watching? It is imperative to observe these things because it will indicate if you can trust his decision making. When you’re married, almost all of his decisions impact you. “He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.” Proverbs 5:23

9. Has solid work ethic.

“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest- and poverty will come upon you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.” Proverbs 6:10-11.

10. He pursues and loves you passionately.

The man you marry should make you feel loved like you’ve never felt before. Safe, accepted, desired, nurtured, protected and comforted. Jesus loves us deeply, he loves us so fiercely, that he willingly gave up his life to save us.
Pursues: “So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.” Genesis 29:20.
Loves: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Ephesians 5:25.

11. Romances you.

I know women who feel guilty or wrong for desiring romance in their relationship, as if they don’t deserve it. But God desires for your heart to be romanced, just as He longs to romance us. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth— for your love is more delightful than wine.” Song of Solomon 1:2

“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.” Song of Solomon 8:6.

12. He is humble and can admit when he is wrong.

There is nothing worse than a petty conflict blowing out of porportion because your partner refuses to admit they were wrong. Taking responsibility for his actions and apologizing for his mistakes is the sign of a real man. “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18

The purpose of this list is not to suggest any person is perfect, but to give you a framework of what to look for or recognize if there is a desire for growth. Of course, use common sense when someone amazing walks in to your life but wasn’t exactly what you dreamed up. God surprises us, but always gives us what we need.

“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband…” 2 Corinthians 11:2.
Ultimately, your divine Father wants you to be treated in a way that it is compared with how Christ cares for us. It is up to us though to believe we are worthy, set the standard, to stay firm, and have the faith that God works in perfect timing to introduce you to your husband.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Ultimate Sex Advice for Newlyweds

Finally, alone at last! Top experts offer their best tips for keeping your relationship hot and exciting long after the honeymoon.

By: Michele Bender
One of the fabulous things about marrying your soul mate is experiencing a unique connection and level of familiarity. But when things are too comfortable in the bedroom, it can cause problems. “Before you’re married, your sex life has little competition in your relationship,” explains Debra Macleod, coauthor of Lube Jobs: A Woman’s Guide to Great Maintenance Sex. “But after you’re married, sex has to compete with conflicting schedules, money concerns, in-laws and eventually children. It takes a toll on your sex life, especially when compounded by the increase in sexual familiarity and the decrease in honeymoon hormones flowing through your veins!”
Though it’s important to recognize that your love life will change over time, there’s a lot you can do to maintain that spark. Here, tips for keeping things hot long past the honeymoon.

1. Reach Out & Touch Someone

Several studies show that the simple act of hugging for between 30 and 60 seconds increases levels of oxytocin, a hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain and contributes to a sense of attachment, notes Ian Kerner, Ph.D., a sex therapist and author of Passionista: The Empowered Woman’s Guide to Pleasuring a Man. Kissing and holding hands reap those same unique benefits.

2. Let's Talk About Sex

Though you’d think a sex expert as famous as Dr. Ruth would give advice that was, well, sexier, she says communication is the key to bedroom bliss throughout your marriage. “If you keep your needs and desires inside your heads, then the likelihood is that your sex life will slowly diminish in strength and intensity,” says Dr. Ruth. “But if you explain your likes and dislikes, then together you can create a very good, long-lasting sex life.” No one’s saying this is a topic that’s easy to discuss– even with someone as close to you as your mate—but doing so today is like an insurance policy for the future. “With a solid foundation, even if there are valleys in your sex life, such as during the years when small babies are around, you can climb back toward those peaks,” says Dr. Ruth.

3. Hold on Tight

Sex therapist Ian Kerner emphasizes the importance of having as much physical contact as possible on a daily basis. “It may sound obvious, but once you’re married you tend to become less lovey-dovey and more complacent as you sit side by side, tapping away on your laptops, rather than holding hands or hugging.”

4. Prioritize It

After that walk down the aisle, life gets busy with daily routines and your To Do list gets more crowded, sending sex tumbling to the bottom. Worse, once you’re living together it’s easy to assume that you can have sex whenever you want, and thus you don’t make time for it. But if you don’t prioritize your love life at the beginning of your marriage, it’ll be harder to do so in the future. Kerner advises consciously making sex part of your daily schedule. For example, take a shower together each morning or go to bed half an hour earlier. If the thought of scheduling sex makes you cringe, you still should leave enough room for sparks to fly. “After all, sex can’t happen if you’re on Facebook for hours and finally collapse into bed at midnight,” says Kerner.

5. Do Some Self Discovery

"Sometimes getting married takes away the thrill of feeling desperately sought after,” says sex therapist Aline Zoldbrod, Ph.D., author of Sex Smart. “And it’s not uncommon for women to find that their desire goes down at this point.” To keep your libido going strong, learn about your sexuality. Figure out how and where you like to be touched and how to communicate that to your partner. “Now that the ‘chase’ is over, you need to learn your own recipe for desire and arousal,” says Zoldbrod. “Because the more pleasurable sex is for you, the more you’ll want it.”

6. Shake Things Up

“Add excitement by introducing new elements,” says Macleod, who suggests sex toys, erotica, role-playing and new positions. “If you keep sex new and interesting, it will naturally rise to the top of your priority list.”

7. Go for the Novelty

Keeping mental tabs on when, where and how you have sex can help keep the passion alive. “Ask yourself: Is it too predictable? Do you always do the same things in bed?” says Macleod. If the answer is yes, spice things up. Surprise your mate with sexy lingerie or get romantic somewhere other than the bedroom.”

8. Hang Your "Do Not Disturb Sign"

Day-to-day life can get so hectic that it’s easy to live as if you’re ships passing in the night. Romantic weekend getaways can remedy this. “Before you’re married, every weekend is romantic,” notes Macleod. “Tag on a few years of marriage, however, and intimate couple time becomes harder to find than a pair of perfectly fitting jeans.” If an out-of-town adventure is too pricey, transform your bedroom into a romantic love nest with candelight and flowers. Or else, book a night at a local hotel, B&B or campground, or make it a “stay-cation” and pitch a cozy tent in your backyard. P.S. Be sure to leave those BlackBerrys and cell phones behind!

9. Stay Healthy and Fit

“Exhaustion is the number-one reason long-term couples become less sexually active. In fact, many couples claim that it’s fatigue, more than familiarity, that most often extinguishes their libido,” says Macleod. It becomes easier just to switch off the lights and drop off to sleep. Before you know it, you’re wondering what happened to your formerly hot sex life. Ward off this all-too-common situation and give your energy level a big boost by eating a healthy diet that limits sugar and fat and contains fresh produce, lean protein and good-for-you carbs and fats. Also, make sure to exercise regularly. “As mundane as it sounds, being active during the day will give you the stamina to stay up late at night,” says Macleod. “And what’s great about being in the early years of marriage is that the healthy habits you make now will set the pace for the rest of your life together.” Many couples find that trying to schedule exercise time together helps with motivation—you can keep each other going even during those inevitable times when you both feel too tired. It’s worth it!

10. Go Beyond the Bedroom

Pump up the passion under the covers by doing other fun things together. “Part of what bonds people and creates sexual energy is that sense of play and newness,” says Zoldbrod. In fact, research shows that novelty stimulates the transmission of a brain chemical called dopamine, which is important for arousal and excitement, adds Kerner. Sure, you can get that feeling of novelty by trying out new positions in the bedroom, but you can also get it from watching an athletic event together, going to a play, traveling to a destination that you both decide on, spending time with friends or anything else in which the two of you share a new experience.

11. Be High Maintenance

“It’s far easier—and more enjoyable—to keep a love life working than it is to try and fix it after it’s broken,” says Macleod, who stresses the importance and effectiveness of “maintenance sex” in long-term marriages. This is a tried-and-true way to deal with disparate sex drives and differing levels of sexual interest that occur naturally at different times, say, if one of you is feeling preoccupied by problems at work. “The less interested partner may simply agree to have sex, just to keep things going,” says Macleod. If performed with affection and received with respect and love, this kind of sex can help maintain your sexual and emotional bonds, which strengthens your marriage as a whole. Adds Macleod: “Sexual intimacy is one of the primary things that distinguishes your married relationship from all your other relationships and it deserves the attention of both partners to be sure that it stays well maintained.”

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

12 Lessons From The First Year Of Marriage

marriage advice

Whether your first year of marriage was a walk in the park or a test of your relationship, there is no doubt that those first 12 months were a learning experience.

Over the weekend, we asked our readers to tell us the most important thing they learned during their first year of marriage. Check out what they had to say below.
That even the smallest, most everyday moments can feel celebratory because they're shared together in your own home. - @MissWedTips
Sometimes you need to bite your tongue! Words that come out of your mouth in a fit of anger can't be taken back - Valerie Hashim
He still loves me, even though I am not perfect. And even on days when I am VERY far from it. - Torri Vetere Regiani
Going from starstruck engaged to the real life of a newlywed isn't as magical as all the wedding magazines lead you to believe. - @Kate_WthAHitch
The first year isn't all of your years and it isn't necessarily the best of them either. - @steelandheels
That saying "sorry" goes a long way. Even if you don't think it's your fault. - Stacy Sweets McClain
Commitment to the relationship is vital in the good times and the tough times. - Julie Munz Baumgardner
Change your mindset from "I hope this lasts forever" to "this IS forever." It feels great! - Mary Barnes
Compromise. And have a good sense of humor -- it makes everything easier and fun! - Aimee Carlson Barousse
The most important thing I learned is that my husband really is a kindhearted, genuinely good, honest man. Oh, and also that it's OK to feel like you want to strangle him sometimes, just as long as you don't actually do it. - Ebony Leeloominai
That as much as you may think you know your partner inside and out beforehand, the depth of that knowledge after being married will surprise you. - Kelli Rosebrock-Eads
That he always has my back, and I will have his. He's my best friend. - Brooke Johnson Delk

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What to Do When You and a Vendor Don't Get Along

Working with my wedding vendors has been an enlightening experience — I never expected how invested Jason and I would become in them. They took my wedding vision, however intangible, and turned it into something that I could actually see, feel, hear, and touch; but more importantly, they connected with us on a personal level. We don’t have a wedding planner, so their feedback has been even more invaluable to us.

Everything was going so smoothly when bam...I hit a huge planning pothole. What happened: My florist promised to make a centerpiece sample in December, yet as of March, I still hadn’t seen a single petal, despite repeated phone calls, apologies, and promises. In a last-ditch effort to salvage our relationship, I stopped by the office to express my dissatisfaction, and the florist’s assistant waved me off with her hand: "Email us again and we’ll do it." Shocked, I went to a birthday party later that afternoon and everyone asked what was wrong when they saw my crushed expression. When I brought up the vendor’s name, one abysmal review after another rolled in — whatever faith I had left in them was blown to pieces.

I knew I had no choice but to terminate our contract, or risk spending a sizeable chunk of change on flowers I might hate. Even as the Web Producer at Bridal Guide, I didn’t know how to handle the situation. After a tearful phone call with my fiancé, he decided to drive by their office and break the news to them. The same assistant that I had spoken with earlier in the day took the envelope containing our deposit and threw at him across the counter. Her unprofessional reaction solidified my belief that we had done the right thing — but at the time, I was enraged.
upset groom

Our reaction...
Photo Credit: IQ Photo

Afterwards, I realized that other brides might also be in the dark about how to handle disagreements with a vendor, so I reached out to photographer Stuart Rosenthal for advice. In addition to having over two decades of experience working on weddings, he’s also the President of the National Association of Wedding Professionals. NAWP has seven chapters and 700 member companies around the country. Their goal is to educate brides and grooms on how to have the perfect wedding and connect them with accredited vendors who are required to meet professional standards. (Visit for more info).

Watch out for signs that there might be trouble down the road.
When you first meet with a vendor, be aware of the following red flags: you’re given a price that’s too good to be true compared to the industry standard (there’s always room for a discount, but beware of anyone who gives away their services at rock-bottom fees), a vendor bad-mouths clients, or you have a nagging feeling that something just isn’t right.

Already booked them, like I did?
Rosenthal stressed that honest communication is key: You don’t want to deal with issues, and neither does your florist/baker/planner/whomever, but don’t just ignore the situation and hope for the best. "Most wedding vendors who have been working in the field for a number of years have heard it all and learned to tune out the complaints or problems. Approach the matter with an open mind and friendly disposition, and an answer most likely can be found," he said.
Also, keep in mind that some things might be out of the vendor’s control; for instance, florists rely on their suppliers, so if a supplier is late, then the florist will be tardy. Of course, any good vendor should always have a back-up plan, though.

What to say:
"I understand that unexpected things can happen, but I'm just a little concerned about this issue. If we can’t get things resolved, I’m going to have no choice but to cancel our contract. Honestly, this is the last thing that I want to happen. I know you work hard for your living and don’t want any problems either, so what can we do to make sure that we get back on track?"

pinky swear

The pinky promise part is optional.
Photo Credit: Amber Engfer Photography

Try a second attempt if no progress is made:
"Hi (Insert Vendor Name Here). During our last conversation about the (Describe Issue Here), you promised that you would (Describe Obligation Here) by (Insert Deadline Here). However, it is two weeks past the deadline and still, I don't see any progress. Please understand that I am under a time restraint and need to move forward with this project. I love the work done by your company and don’t want to have to cancel my contract with you. If you cannot provide what was promised by (Insert New Deadline Here) please let us know so that we can decide how to proceed."

Final notice if they haven’t met their obligations:
"Hello (Insert Vendor Name Here). During our first conversation, you promised to have (Describe Obligation Here) done by (Insert Old Deadline Here). Two weeks past that deadline, we still hadn't seen any progress. We contacted you at that point and asked for an amended date. It is now one week past the amended date that you promised. At this point, we have no choice but to cancel our contract for your services. Please remit our refund immediately. Thank you."

The thousand-dollar question: Will we get our money back?
The answer to this varies widely from vendor to vendor; some contracts state that the deposit is non-refundable under any circumstance, while others have a time stipulation by which you will receive a full (or partial) refund based on a sliding scale of time until the wedding day. Read your contract carefully so that you know what to expect if you do decide to cancel.

If it’s too late to back out, prevent the situation from escalating on both sides.
First, Rosenthal recommends asking if there is another staff member or back-up vendor that can be provided for your wedding. If that doesn’t work, then you can appoint a bridal party or family member to be your contact with them, allowing you to keep a comfortable distance. "Remember — if you’re feeling stress with a vendor, chances are that they're also experiencing that same stress, too. It’s OK, not everyone gets along," he said.
bridal party

My bridesmaids kept me from going over the edge!
Photo Credit: Fletcher & Fletcher Photography

Keep written records of all correspondence.
You'll need to be able to go back and track commitments and dates. "Get it in writing – it doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with your best friend!" Rosenthal said. Speaking with them in person is fine too, as long as you recap the conversation through email later on as well.

For every "you won’t believe what they did…" story you have, vendors have a crazy client tale to match.
For example, in Rosenthal’s original photography contract, he didn’t have a stipulation as to how much time brides and grooms had to finalize their album after the wedding date. In a span of three months, 10 clients came to him two or three years after their big day to select their photos. "In a small business, this can put a serious financial bind on your vendor. Always be fair and treat your vendors the way you would want to be treated if you were the business owner."

grouchy irritable mean sign

Now here's a rule we should all follow.
Photo Credit: pattisprimitives on Etsy

— Stefania Sainato

Monday, November 25, 2013

5 Ways To Fall In Love With Your Spouse All Over Again

long term relationship secrets

By Linda Bernstein

Last month my daughter got married. During the ceremony, she and her husband gazed at each other adoringly and joy seemed to exude from every pore in their bodies. I found myself wondering, Have any two people ever been so in love?

Even as I squeezed the hand of my darling husband of 32 years, I felt as if I could never have been as much in love with him as my daughter was with her man on their wedding day.

Or maybe, I mused, love just looks more radiant on young faces. Could love possibly have a shelf life? Does it have “planned obsolescence,” like modern technology?

So I did a little research.

What I learned boils down to this: Even a marriage that’s about to smash up against the rocks (barring physical or emotional abuse or criminal acts) can tack its way back into calm and pleasant waters.

We’re not just talking about doing damage control. “It’s almost never too late to start the process of falling in love all over again,” says James Córdova, Ph.D., chair of Clark University's psychology department and head of Clark’s Center for Couples & Family Research.
Taking Too Much for Granted

“One of the things that happens in long-term marriages is that the demands of everyday life steal our attention away from our partners — and paying attention to the other is crucial for happy relationships,” Córdova says. This lack of focus on your spouse slowly unravels the fabric of a solid relationship.

Sometimes the disintegration happens over a number of years, during which the couple exist in a kind of emotional limbo. Córdova notes that, statistically, it takes couples up to six years to seek help or advice after they’ve reached a tipping point. And that, he says, only increases the impact on the marriage.

Fritz Galette, Ph.D., a family therapist who hosts the weekly “Ask Dr. Fritz” on New York City’s WWRL, agrees. “By the time I see couples, they’re often in crisis,” he says. “The discontent has been festering for years.”

And yet experts believe that even in cases where the discontent has been on a low boil, there are still ways to revive the old passion.

5 Ways to Restoke the Fires of Love

Gallete and Córdova both recommend that couples in crisis seek professional help, whether from clergy or family/marriage therapists. On top of that, the following steps — first discussed and then put into practice — can help salvage a troubled marriage.

1. Act like you’re in a new relationship. Gallete recommends that couples ask each other the kinds of questions typical of new daters’ “getting to know each other” conversations.

Jill Kaplan*, whose 28-year-old marriage had been feeling flat, realized that she and her husband, Todd (names have been changed), had fallen so out of sync that the things she was doing to please him were actually annoying him. “I thought he wanted me to watch sports on TV with him," she says. "I really didn’t always want to, but I kept it up for him.”

It took a close friend, who observed the tension in the family room, to get Jill to ask Todd if he really wanted her company. She got a surprising answer. “It turned out that he preferred not to have me there if I wasn’t into the game!” Jill says.

“That was just the first question,” she adds. “Now we’re on to which family we want to spend holidays with and what clothes the other wears that we really like. It’s like he’s my new boyfriend. It's like I’ve discovered a favorite old outfit in my closet: Todd looks good to me and yet our relationship has the spark of something new and special.”

2. Pay attention to your spouse. One of the biggest complaints Gallete hears is that couples feel ignored by their mates. Spouses get used to one another and, over time, don’t really notice what they’re each going through.

“Sometimes people think they’re paying attention to their spouses but they really aren’t,” he says. “I advise couples to look into the other’s eyes when they’re having a conversation. It’s much easier to concentrate on someone’s words and share when your partner is looking right at you.”

Gallete also promotes an effective technique called active listening. “When one person speaks, the other can’t interrupt. He must listen completely before he says anything — and then he has to respond.”

3. Share new experiences. For years, relationship experts (and every women’s magazine) have been advising couples to set aside time for “date night.” Córdova says that going out and doing things together on a regular basis and creating romantic rituals is good for a relationship. But it's even better to try something out of the ordinary. Get creative and step outside your comfort zone.
Gallete agrees. “Doing something new and different together, like taking tennis lessons — which is what my wife and I did recently — enhances your sense of intimacy.”

Karen and Bob Callahan, a couple who had thought their next step was divorce, breathed new life into their marriage when they reluctantly took a kayaking course together. “Neither one of us is particularly athletic, so when our pastor [whom they had seen for counseling] showed us a brochure, we both thought, Why not?” Bob says.

“Actually," Karen adds with a laugh, "my first thought was, 'If we both drown, it couldn’t feel as bad as how miserable I am now.'”

It turned out that kayaking didn’t take too much athletic prowess, and the two had a terrific time paddling around a local lake. “We started making up stories about the fancy houses we saw and soon we were laughing so hard we almost tipped,” Karen says. The weekend after they received their “certificate,” they booked a B&B on the lake, where they spent less time kayaking and more time just enjoying being together.

4. Be affectionate — physically and verbally. Research has established that touch communicates a wider range of emotions than mere gestures. “The science of touch suggests that a pat on the back, a squeeze of the hand, a hug or an arm around the shoulder can save a so-so marriage,” writes Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. “Introducing more (nonsexual) touching and affection on a daily basis will go a long way in rekindling the warmth and tenderness.”

According to Córdova, however, this prescription for tenderness must also include loving language — and it needs to be heartfelt. “I love you” should be more than a reflexive recitation of syllables at the end of a phone call. Instead, say something affectionate and sweet at unexpected times.

Loving phrases can — and should — be sprinkled generously throughout your interactions. Tell your spouse he’s amazing while you’re eating dinner. Compliment your wife’s problem-solving abilities while trouble-shooting a plumbing problem.

5. Always be kind. “It’s not important whether your partner is ‘succeeding’ or ‘failing’ when your goal is to have a genuinely loving relationship,” says Córdova. “If your partner shows up late, no matter how annoyed you are, you can still respond with kindness.”

“When Bob and I began paying true attention to how we were communicating," says Karen, "we realized that we were [venting] when we could have easily let the issue roll off our backs.”

So they tried an experiment. One Saturday they left a recorder running. “We were shocked when we listened to it later," says Bob. "The way we were responding to each other made us cringe. It was exactly the kind of negative communication that makes people uncomfortable when they see it in others.”

To find a remedy for that habitual behavior, Bob and Karen made lists of 10 things the other did that bugged them and wrote down their usual responses. “Then we looked at each other’s lists and discussed how we could communicate our feelings without being hurtful,” says Karen.

Once you start being intentionally kind, says Córdova, “the interaction goes to a new place — the kind you would prefer in a happy marriage.”

But, he cautions, “Being kind when you’re not feeling that way takes practice. It doesn’t come naturally at first, but it can turn into a habit.”

What’s Old Is New Again

While we can’t realistically expect our long-term partner to be the exact same person we married, Córdova says, that may be a positive thing. “It’s like you have a whole new person there beside you — someone you can date, with all the benefits of already being married.” Ultimately, he adds, it’s not so much about going back to what you had before. It’s more about going forward and building something new and better suited to who you’ve each become.

Wife's Hand-Drawn Comics Bring Sick Husband To Tears

Marriage may have its ups and downs, but one Reddit user has reminded us of the real meaning of companionship.

After catching a virus from a bad lunch at the office, Ryan Robson was sent to the emergency room. Robson, 30, suffers from Autoimmune Polyglandular Syndrome, a condition that weakens his immune system.

"It should have just been a 24-hour kind of bug, but my system doesn't handle these things like a normal person's does," he told The Huffington Post. Because of his condition, the trip quickly turned into a scary, week-long hospital stay.

"At one point I lost it. I tore off the monitoring cables and started panicking, then went to the bathroom and completely broke down," he said. "It feels silly, knowing that some people spend months in the hospital, but at the time I felt the closest to losing my sanity that I've ever been."
But frequent visits from his wife, Elizabeth, and a "mini date" in the hospital cafeteria brought him back from the brink.

"Her positivity throughout the entire situation was what helped me get through it, and knowing that I wasn't completely disconnected from my normal life was huge," he said. "Getting to disconnect my IVs for an evening and have a date with my wife in the hospital cafeteria was the greatest thing ever, and made me come to my senses about the situation."

When Robson finally returned home, his wife had a special surprise for him -- a series of illustrations welcoming him home:

elizabeth robson
elizabeth robson
elizabeth robson
elizabeth robson
elizabeth robson
elizabeth robson
elizabeth robson
elizabeth robson
elizabeth robson
elizabeth robson
elizabeth robson
elizabeth robson
elizabeth robson

Robson posted the story to Reddit and it quickly went viral. He later admitted to HuffPost that coming home to his wife's illustrations was an emotional moment.

"I said I 'just about teared up' in the Reddit post, and that's a lie. I had to walk away before I started bawling once I got to the end," he told HuffPost. "It was a big deal, to me, just to come home that Friday and have the kids give me a big hug, the animals jumping on my legs and to have my wife show me what she had been working on while I was away. She's the best thing ever, and I'm glad that people had a chance to see that too."

Friday, November 22, 2013

Avoid These 5 Don'ts After Getting Engaged

From promises you shouldn't make to things you shouldn't buy, learn the most common (and costly) mistakes newly-engaged brides make.
By: Sharon Naylor

Photo Credit: iStockphoto
The big moment finally came and you’re in a newly-engaged bliss bubble, admiring the look and feel of a brand-new sparkler on your hand and bouncing off the walls with excitement. It's time to celebrate, but not too fast—avoid these common (and costly) mistakes from acting in the moment.

1. DON'T start inviting everyone to your wedding

Once you do, you can’t un-invite them, and you have no idea what your wedding plans are yet, and how much they will cost. You also don’t know how many people will be on your groom's side of the guest list. Hold off until your wedding picture and budget start to take shape and it's time for your save-the-dates. You'll thank us then!

2. DON'T tell your bridal party you’ll pay for all of their expenses

This is a huge mistake made by brides and grooms who have the best intentions but no real way to know how their wedding expenses are going to add up. If, say, a bridesmaid agrees to be in your bridal party because you told her you’d pay for her dress, shoes, hair, makeup, travel and lodging, but then you later say you can’t swing those things, she’s going to be really upset and angry.

3. DON'T tell parents they can help plan whatever they want

Your engagement euphoria may blind you to the fact that parents can turn into steamrollers (e.g. inviting all of their friends, pressuring you to marry in the church where they married). It’s far wiser to hold off on promises and talk with your groom about what your top priorities are as a couple. Then, you can both decide which tasks can be delegated to the 'rents.

4. DON'T promise everything to your people

Imagine how sad your groom and his relatives would be if you assigned "the good stuff" to all of your family members and friends, leaving his side to pick through whichever tasks are left. This doesn't necessarily imply that you are trying to shun his family—it's just easy to get caught up in the excitement of wedding plans.
Instead, be sure to ask your groom what his mom, dad and siblings would like to join in on, and you’ll set the stage for a close, loving relationship with the in-laws because you valued them enough to invite them into your planning circle.

5. DON'T fall in love with the first dress you see

Yes, we all know brides who bought the first dress they tried on, but this isn’t a task to rush through. Give yourself the opportunity to have magical dress-shopping experiences with your mom or MOH. You can certainly keep that first dress you saw in the running, but there's no need to mark this task "complete" on your checklist before you've even had a chance to announce your engagement to loved ones.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

10 Reasons You Should Definitely Invite Kids To Your Wedding

By Kellee Khalil for

Having a kid-free wedding is becoming the norm among young couples who want to trim their guest list and avoid potential disasters. Sure, you can't predict what a toddler might do if left unattended near the dessert table or how they'll behave during your carefully planned ceremony, but can't the same thing be said for your drunk college buddies and some of your rowdy cousins? Before you cross your littlest friends and family members off your guest list, take a look at these photos of tiny guests completely stealing the show with their cuteness. Here are ten reasons you should definitely invite kids to your wedding.

1. Because they will act like a mini couple and it will be adorable.

A Suffolk Virginia Real Wedding at The Historic Obici House / Echard Wheeler Photography / via Style
Photo by: Echard Wheeler Photography on Style Unveiled via

2. Because they will totally adore everything you do just because you're the bride.

yosemite wedding, bird cage wedding veil, Wawona Hotel wedding, Yosemite California wedding, Cameron
Photo by: Cameron Ingalls on Inspired By This via

3. Because their fits are so often funny.

Photo By Christa Elyse on Bridal Musings via

4. Because they look like this at the end of the night.

Photo by: Craig Paulson Photography on Craig Paulson Photography via

5. Because they liven up the dance floor.

Photo by: Craig Paulson Photography on Craig Paulson Photography via

6. Because unlike your bridesmaids, they'll wear crazy outfits.

cheetah and green flowergirl cape
Photo by: JJ Horton Photography on Wedding Chicks via

7. Because you get to dress them up in what you secretly wish you could wear.

pink tulle flower girl dress
Photo by: Diana Elizabeth on Wedding Chicks via

8. Because they look better in adult clothing than a lot of adults do.

Photo by: Craig Paulson Photography on Craig Paulson Photography via

9. Because they'll hold those adorable signs you made.

Southern wedding - here comes the bride sign
Photo by: Michelle March on Southern Weddings via

10. Because unlike your jaded friends, they still love weddings.

Photo by: Meg Smith on Snippet and Ink via

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

7 Things I Learned About Life from Romance Novels

by guest blogger Maya Rodale, writer of historical tales of true love and adventure

In days of yore, there was a tremendous fear that young, impressionable youths would be corrupted by what they read in novels. An 18th-century conduct book warned against reading novels because they "raise expectations of extraordinary adventures and cause readers to admire extravagant passions, and lead to unacceptable conduct." After all, books were meant to educate, and novels were awfully realistic...except for the inclusion of occasional flights of romantic fantasy. One could easily be deluded into thinking that remarkable changes of fortune happened, or that class barriers were no obstacle to love, or that happily-ever-after was a real-life thing.

Fortunately, these days reading is encouraged and we've realized there's a lot to be learned from novels. Here's what I myself have learned about life from romance novels:

1. Believe in hate at first sight. Some of my favorite stories to read and write involve a hero and heroine who can't stand each other at the beginning. Their interactions are snappy, not sappy. And is there any obstacle greater than admitting you were wrong? Here's the other thing about hate at first sight: Few things elicit strong immediate reactions (be it hate or love), and it's worth paying attention whenever it happens. For example, I used to hate romance novels and now I write them; when I first heard about Twitter I thought it would never take off; and I was certain that Pirates of the Caribbean would bomb as a movie. Long story short, don't just dismiss something (or someone!) because you don't immediately love it.

2. Speak up. There's a rule romance writers are taught: If the conflict of a book can be resolved by a simple conversation, then it's not conflict, it's just annoying. Similarly, "outspoken" heroines are much more fun to read and write than those characters who sulk and mutter, "I'm fine" when they're not. Likewise, there's nothing worse than a hero who won't open up from time to time. Dialogue moves a story forward in an engaging and interesting way, in real life or on the page. So speak up and ask questions.

3. Just say YES. It can be tricky to justify why characters or real people embark on outrageous schemes, but let's all agree right now that "because it makes for a better story" is a perfectly acceptable reason. In my newest novel, The Wicked Wallflower, a betrothal announcement for Lady Emma and the Duke of Ashbrooke appears in the newspaper--but they've never met! They could print a retraction. Or they could play along.... In the words of Tina Fey (who is the inspiration for Lady Emma): "'Say yes and you'll figure it out afterward'--it's a notion that has helped me be more adventurous. It has definitely helped me be less afraid." Less fear, more adventures--how can you say no to that?

4. Everyone has a backstory. The best villains have motivations that anyone can relate to. That party guest in Chapter Four might be the main character of another book. Information dumps about people's life story are boring, but the slow reveal is what keeps us reading, understanding, reevaluating, and even falling in love. Don't be afraid to share a few paragraphs of your own backstory. And even when you don't know someone's history, it's worth remembering that you never know what happened in that person's preceding chapter or how you might move his or her story forward.

5. There is no perfect. Some heroines are slender, some are plump; some are plain, some are pretty. Some are good at math, or have their nose in a book, or are too busy running the household. And every once in a while, you find a hero who isn't tall, dark, handsome, unfathomably wealthy, or powerful. (Even the tall, dark, handsome, rich, and powerful guys often have serious issues.) The point is: A really good romance depends on two imperfect characters fitting together. A really successful genre depends on a variety of character combinations. We often hold ourselves back by comparing ourselves to someone else or some abstract "standard." Instead, we should just look for the person who fits us.

6. It ain't over 'til it's over. In romance, just because everyone thinks a character is dead doesn't mean he or she actually is--don't believe it until you've seen the body. And similarly, when all seems lost, don't despair as long as there are a few pages (or percentages) left to go. In every story, there are highs and lows, romantic moments and dark moments before there's a happily-ever-after. What might seem like THE END might only be a cliffhanging ending before a new chapter.

7. Real love does not diminish you. There's a difference between compromising and changing or hiding fundamental aspects of your character to please someone. A real hero or heroine won't ask you to change the things that make you you. Nor does real love ask you to "put your light under a bushel." That leads to frustrated characters who say no to adventures they'd like to say yes to, and who mutter "I'm fine" when they're not (ugh). Remember, there is no perfect. But if you give yourself and others the chance, there might be a happy ending.

Here's the moment when I speak up about my new book: The Wicked Wallflower, features an imperfect hero and heroine who hate each other at first sight before saying yes to adventure and eventually living happily ever after. Visit for more details about the book.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What I've Learned From Fighting With My Husband

The first two years of marriage are a tricky time for most couples. The high of the wedding is over and real life sets in. You both go back to work (or don't... whatever your thing is) and do chores. There are so many firsts and so much to adjust to. In our first year and a half of marriage we had more than our share of arguments, and none of them were pretty. Over time, here is what I learned about fighting in marriage.

Assume positive intent.

Sometimes my husband says things that hurt me. He manages to push buttons I didn't even realize I have. I know two things about him. One, he doesn't have my flair for words. And two, he would never intentionally say something to hurt me. You have to listen to his heart and not his words. If I can't find the intent behind what he's saying, I have to ask him calmly to elaborate. There have been several big arguments that could have been avoided if I had just asked a question without getting in my feelings right away.

Pick your battles.

There are things that I do that drive my husband nuts. If God gave him a chance to change three things about me I don't think it would take him long to come up with his list. That being said, not all of my quirks are worth a discussion. And vice versa. I have to ask myself before I address something, "How big a deal is this?" If I realize it isn't a big deal, I give him a pass. If he leaves his socks on the couch, it's easier for me to put them away. If you bring up every little thing it turns into nagging. By the time something serious happens, he can't hear the big thing because it comes across as just another thing.

Think before you speak.

You cannot take your words back once they're out. You don't want to say anything that is demoralizing or demeaning. Remember you vowed to love, honor, and respect your husband. And if your words don't reflect love, honor, or respect then you need to not use them. There are things that my husband has said to me in the heat of an argument years ago that still sting me to this day when I think about them. When your conversation is over you want to both leave feeling valued and whole.

Pick your time.

Right when he comes in from work isn't the best time to discuss an issue. Neither is when he's hungry or tired or had a bad day. It is wise to try to wait for optimal conditions. You should also not approach a discussion at the height of your anger. I know that it normally takes me a day or two to get past my anger enough to be able to talk to him without potentially snapping at him.

Remember what you want to accomplish.

Sometimes in a discussion you want an apology, sometimes a change in behavior, and sometimes both. No matter what you want, your ultimate goal is to be happier and still married. When I tell him what's bothering me, I need to be clear about what happened, how it made me feel, and what I would like to have happen.

Stay on topic.

There have been times where we have started off on one thing and veered off on so many tangents that neither of us can remember what we started off talking about. When I see that we're starting to get off track, I say, "That is an issue and we'll talk about that too but I want to resolve this first."

Keep it brief.

For the first year and a half of our marriage we would have these marathon discussions where we went off on tangent after tangent and discussed every little issue we had with one another. Three or four hours later we would be physically exhausted and mentally drained. Eventually we realized that none of that was necessary! If we stick to the point and don't talk about it for more than 15 minutes, we can normally both walk away feeling good and understanding each other.

Be prepared to walk away.

Communication breaks down sometimes. Sometimes I can't get my words to convey what I'm thinking and we get frustrated. I'm frustrated because he doesn't get it and he's frustrated because I'm not making any sense. In order to keep things from getting too intense, one of us has to walk away from this conversation, gather our thoughts, and come back to it.

You may have to agree to disagree.

One big mistake I made in the beginning was expecting my husband to agree with me. It is so unlikely for him to agree with me on a lot of things, especially things regarding my feelings. I'm a woman and he can't relate to my thought processes and my experiences. So to expect him to agree with me at the end of the discussion is a tall order. The goal should not be to win him over to my side but rather to get him to understand where I'm coming from.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Wedding Tools for the Tech Savvy Bride

Today there are many tech tools that "brides to be" can use to enhance their wedding planning experience. Being a bride in this day and age means being more tech savvy than ever before. Apps and digital tools can greatly cut down stress and help keep you organized. For all those who want to see what can help make your wedding planning process seamless, check out some of our favorite apps and tech tools:

WedPics -- The number one wedding photo sharing app! Keep all your wedding images from friends and family in one place. Plus, you can easily make your digital album into a printed album through -- Browse hundreds of thousands of images from the top wedding blogs all in one place. Search keywords, colors and styles. Search, shop and save all your favorite wedding ideas in one place.

Gracious Eloise -- Use this site to type handwritten letters. Perfect for sending your thank you notes after the wedding. Quick, but still personal.

Ustream -- Stream your wedding live online so guests that can't attend can still watch the ceremony and be a part of the special day.

Feedly -- Use this online reader to subscribe to and organize your favorite wedding and design blogs.

Evernote -- Use this app to keep you and your fiancé on the same page. Take notes, snap images and make to do lists. Keep your devices synced so the notes you make on the go are ready at your home computer that night.

Cozi -- The days leading up to your wedding are going to be filled with appointments -- dress fittings, suit tailoring, hair and makeup trial, personal trainer sessions, manicure, etc. Cozi will keep track of everything for you and keep you synced with whomever you add to your Cozi family.
These apps can help you plan on the go and will make your event an unforgettable one!

Outrageous wedding dresses from the runway

MarkZunino/"Outrageous Wedding Dresses"/Photo: Kurt Wilberding

SarahJassir/"Outrageous Wedding Dresses"/Photo: MCV Photo

HaileyPaige/"Outrageous Wedding Dresses"/Photo: MCV Photo

TemperleyLondon/"Outrageous Wedding Dresses"/Photo: MCV Photo

VeraWang/"Outrageous Wedding Dresses"/Photo: MCV Photo

YumiKatsura/"Outrageous Wedding Dresses"/Photo: Kurt Wilberding

PninaTornai/"Outrageous Wedding Dresses"/Photo: Kurt Wilberding

Lazaro/"Outrageous Wedding Dresses"/Photo: Kurt Wilberding

Friday, November 15, 2013

Couple Performs 'Dirty Dancing' Scene At Wedding, All Signs Point To Awesome Marriage Ahead

It's pretty much impossible to hate anything "Dirty Dancing" related, and this video is no exception.
Terra and Drake Otto tied the knot earlier this year. During the reception, the newlywed couple performed a surprise dance from the iconic 1987 film "Dirty Dancing" for all of their guests. And yes, it was that dance, Baby and Johnny's triumphant performance -- heroic lift and all.

Video of the reception was posted on YouTube and has been making the rounds on the Internet ever since.

In the video above, you'll see that the couple didn't just go through the motions. They also dressed the part, got the whole wedding party involved and basically had an awesome time. So if you're a fan of watching videos that make you happy, watch this.

Just Knowing These 8 Facts Will Make You Way More Productive

Whether trying to conquer Mount Everest or just pick up your laundry, learning these quick facts will make it easier to be super productive -- or at least understand why you're not.

And if you're the type of person who is likely procrastinate instead of reading the rest of this article, then you should at least read the first point.

1. Simply starting a task will make it much easier to finish.


According to the Zeigarnik Effect, your brain will send signals that effectively nag your conscious mind when you've started, but not finished, an objective. Bluma Zeigarnik was a Soviet psychologist who first developed the theory that humans are naturally driven to finish what they've started, due to a dissonance they feel when tasks are begun and then left incomplete.
In 1992, a pair of psychologists proved this theory in a study on task interruption. They saw that the feeling of uneasiness unleashed in the brain could only be quelled by completing the started task. In other words, although the process might be a bit uncomfortable, our brains are naturally wired to root us along to the end.

2. Multitasking is actually impossible and you should probably stop trying to do it.


"Humans don't really multitask," concluded Eyal Ophir, the primary researcher on a groundbreaking Stanford Multitasking study released back in 2009. True multitasking -- that is, doing more than one thing simultaneously -- is a myth, as our brains are actually switching between tasks extremely quickly. Although some people seem to have become decently good at this bouncing around of focus, Ophir explains that these people are often working toward a different goal of juggling focus to make sure they don't miss anything.

"Where you might say traditionally we value the ability to focus through distractions, they are willing to sacrifice focus in order to make sure they don't miss an unexpected, but rewarding, surprise," Ophir said.

So if you want to get a specific task done quickly, you should stop trying to multi-task and keep your brain tuned on the most important work at hand.

3. Your willpower is a finite resource that can be used up more quickly than you realize.

TK TK gifs

"Ego depletion," a specific kind of mental fatigue identified by psychologist Roy Baumeister, refers to our mind's inability to simply will ourselves through an endless number of disciplined tasks. In what must have been pretty a delicious experiment, Baumeister instructed subjects to either eat or resist eating freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies before completing rigorous mental tasks. The ones who were forced to resist had used up so much willpower by not eating the cookies, that they performed significantly more poorly on the tests. So, if you're trying to push yourself through task after task, just remember that you'll likely become less and less productive as you keep going on.

4. Small mindless tasks, like checking Facebook, can trick your brain into thinking it's accomplished something worthwhile.

TK TK gifs

John Bargh, a social psychologist currently working at Yale, released a study in 2001 that got to the heart of procrastination. He claimed our brains attempt to simulate "real work" by re-focusing on completing mindless tasks, like cleaning your room or checking your Facebook notifications. These distractions can trick your brain into releasing the euphoria of "accomplishment" that should be saved for the goal you'd really like to complete. Your brain is no fool and it knows that completing these simple tasks will give you the same brain boost that completing a more arduous task will. Fight the urge and stick to the activity that's most important to you.

5. Shorter, more focused bursts of work will make sure you aren't diluting your energy.


The most effective workers are ones who attempt tasks in short bursts of concentration, rather than long bouts of meandering, according to a study published in Psychology Review. As the New York Times reported in 2012, the amount of time put into completing a task doesn't necessarily mean more will get done, as breaks and resets are extremely important in making sure the time devoted to work is most effective.

Remember, you don't have an endless supply of will power. So don't put yourself in a position where you're stuck spending all day writing an essay or learning a song, when a focused burst could have made getting the job done a quicker and more fruitful experience.

6. Writing a realistic to-do list of goals and deadlines in the morning can keep you focused.

TK TK gifs

The "to-do" list is a staple of many, many "how to be productive" lists, but it isn't quite as simple as just writing down every lofty goal that comes to mind. It is absolutely essential that the tasks written down in the list will actually be completed or at the very least serve as ongoing notes to complete over a short time period. Feeling like a failure for never completing a "to-do" list can simply be changed by removing the loftiest goals and starting with manageably small tasks that build toward something bigger.

7. Sleep allows you to recharge and enables ideas to materialize in your head naturally.


According to a 2011 Harvard Medical School Study, an entire third of the American population isn't sleeping enough to work at peak function. This costs the economy an estimated $63 billion a year in lost productivity.

Beyond all of this, just the act of sleeping can "reactivate and reorganize recently learned material, which would help improve memory and boost performance," as Harvey B. Simon, M.D., the Editor of Harvard Health summarizes from the work from his colleagues. Rest and relaxation boost your productivity and allow for you to carry out the shorter, concentrated, and highly effective work bursts mentioned above.

8. Good, old-fashioned practice is still the most effective path to becoming more productive. There are no perfect shortcuts!

TK TK gifs

Practice isn't just for athletes and musicians. All sorts of life tasks can benefit from determined rehearsal. If you can succeed in making the simple, everyday tasks automatic (hopefully you've already mastered breathing), you can free your brain to focus on loftier and more complex goals.
American Scientist's publication of Herbert Simon and William Chase's "10,000 Hour Rule" in 1973, and later Malcolm Gladwell's further popularization of the theory in "Outliers" has certainly promoted the value of practice in achieving our goals. Many people read how famously successful people such as The Beatles only became truly brilliant after putting in over 10,000 hours of practice. But these same ideas really should be applied to mastering all the smaller things in your life as well. No task is too small to practice if it's part of your everyday routine. Just remember those 10,000 hours better have a lot of quick breaks and naps in between!