Womantalk E-zine > Your Relationships > Marriage
31 Days to a Great Marriage



Hi everyone,


Nesting Place held its "31 Days" challenge, and my contribution was "31 Days to a Great Marriage," and I'd like to share it with all of our WOMANTalk girlfriends.

After many years of marriage my husband, Duane and I, have learned a few things about what can not only make marriage a life-long blessing, but help a husband and wife get through some of the greatest challenges, greatest adventures, greatest heartaches, and just plain life experiences we all go through, and have them work together for good. This has been the case for us, and I'd love to share some of them with you.

So, let's begin today with...

DAY 1: TO A GREAT MARRIAGE - Start at the Beginning & Make a List

No, not a list of what needs to change - but a list of (31) wonderful things about your husband that made you fall in love with him in the first place.

And then, beginning today, and every day this month, tell him one of them from your list (either text it, call him, write a note and leave it where he drops his keys when he gets home from work, etc....be creative).

It might sound or read something like this...

Honey, just wanted to let you know that I was thinking about you and how much I appreciate_____________________about you. I'm so glad we got married ___ years ago! xoxox Love, Me

No matter where your marriage is now on the scale of 'great,' this will not only remind you why you fell in love with your husband; but it will be a balm to his day. Who doesn't feel better after hearing that they are appreciated and loved? It will jog his own memories, and start you both on the path to remembering why you chose to go through life together, and recapturing afresh that first love.

Who knows where this, and the next 30 days, will lead. For sure, it will be good.

GO HERE TO THE ENTIRE 31 Days to a Great Marriage, for free.




What Women Want

 

 

What do women want? Men ask this question all the time, (even if just to themselves), because they don’t understand the women in their lives – wives, daughters, mothers, sisters.

The fact that men don’t naturally have a clue to what women want, is proof enough to debate those who say that there are no differences between men and women. It has to be learned

Gary Smalley of Smalley Relationship Center is one of my favorite marriage counselor/speakers. His DNA of Relationships series is fantastic. He talks openly about the differences between men and women in a transparent and humorous atmosphere, which helps men ‘get it’ and women take a deep breathe of relief!

In his book, Men’s Relational Toolbox he says,

Too often, we guys reach for the closest tool-not the right tool. It seems like a good idea at first. But then the nail refuses to budge or we refuse to look for the right tool. We treat relationships the same way, especially with the women in our lives. The problem is we reach for the tools that work well for us in our work world, but find they are often disastrous in our relationships.”

What do women want? They want to be understood...and to that end, I highly recommend his books and other resources to young and old, for those about to be married, and those who have been together for decades. You will laugh together and cry together, and come away understanding each other in greater ways.

And ladies, you will come to understand your man in greater ways, too. What do men want? If you don’t know, you need to find out, too.

Gary Smalley's website and books

Whoa! Love Indicator Found in Brain?

Did you see the Associated Press article a few years back that reported about a doctoral student at University College London, Andreas Bartels, now Ph.D and research scientist, who presented his research at the Society for Neuroscience? The subtitle read, "MRI discovers four tiny bits get lit up when people are shown picture of sweetheart"?

He used an MRI brain scan to examine 17 students whose statements that they were 'truly in love' were backed up by psychological tests. Bartels' research claims that when the students were shown pictures of their sweethearts, anywhere from 6 to 20 areas of the brain lit up (indicating higher blood flow) than when they were shown pictures of other people they knew, including friends. And 3 larger areas of the brain that have to do with when people get upset or depressed, showed reduced activity.

How many of us, though, need to know our brain lights up when we think about, see or are with the one we love? And not just our brain, but our eyes, our faces and, most certainly our hearts! This is a different experience than feelings caused by sexual arousal, or emotional feelings that come from needing/finding attention. It's the 'feelings' of love, for lack of a better phrase.

The test of 'true' love comes when life 'happens.' You know, financial pressure, in-law stress, the responsibilities of raising children, when illness strikes and just plain time...when age begins to show its signs. One of the major keys to a long-lasting relationship, despite what life throws at you, is...commitment.

Commitment to fidelity. Did you know that despite a culture inundated with sex, most married partners are faithful to each other? That's right. A survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicato found that 85% of women and 75% of men are faithful to their spouses. The big word here is, married.

In marriages where trust is strong, the union is strong and will tend to last longer and be happier than strained relationships where one or both spouses have been unfaithful. The other big word is, trust.

And I'll bet you, couples whose brains would have lit up had they been a part of Bartel's research, would still light up 10 or 25 or 50 years later.

Seven Ways to Prime the Pump

What makes some marriages last so long? Love. But what does that really mean?

You have to work at marriage. It doesn't grow deeper automatically. Some couples can be together for years and still relate on the 'pass the salt and pepper' surface level.

Marriage has the capacity to be the most intimate human relationship you can experience, but like all relationships it takes work, dedication, and deliberate action. For just as sure as the sun will set at the end of the day, the 'honeymoon period,' where words and deeds and expressions of affection are so automatic, will begin to settle down and your commitment will begin to be proven...not just for fidelity, but for the rest of what you vowed on your wedding day...to love, honor, cherish, in sickness and in health, for better and for worse. If the 'honeymoon period' experience lasted forever then we would not grow in our ability to love another no matter what...'til death do us part.

I know this kind of talk is getting to be more like a foreign language in our culture these days, where marriage is under attack and commitment has lost it's meaning. But, all the more reason to talk about what healthy relationships look like.

In counseling courses we learn that feelings follow behavior. Doing a kind act, or initiating an expression of love, can make you feel good, even if there isn't the response you had in mind...if you have the right attitude. And depending on the condition of the relationship, kind acts will return to you. The question is, are you willing to prime the pump? Are you willing to initiate? If you are, here are a few simple suggestions, that you can try:

1. Leave a note telling your husband something you appreciate about him, in his briefcase, lunch bag, sock drawer, taped on his rear view mirror...
2. Do something he loves to do even if it doesn't interest you, like watching his favorite sport or type of movie on TV, or go with him bowling, fishing...
3. Take a walk together and only talk about what's on his mind. (You may have to get the ball rolling on this one).
4. Cook his favorite meal or dessert for him.
5. Dream together: if money were no object where would you like to travel? What would you both like in your dream home? What would you like to do together to make the world a better place? What charities would you like to give huge amounts to?
6. Go for a ride in the country, or just explore a new part of town. Play his favorite music in the car. Or listen to the baseball game or news he likes.
7. Walk downtown window-shopping together, and go in the stores he shows an interest in. Watch him as he tries out the newest computer or television or tool...can you see him with new eyes?

If you aren't already doing these kinds of things I believe you will be surprised to see the results. It may take time especially if things have been dry for a while...but don't give up. It is well worth the investment.

NOTE: For those who are experiencing difficulty in your marriage, or you have been hurt so deeply you can't bring yourself to the above suggestions, please seek help from a counselor or pastor, especially if there's been abuse. Things can change because people can change, but sometimes we need help.

 

Vacation Fun Together

The economy has hit the vacation savings of Americans. And if you are wondering if you will be able to afford a vacation this year or not, remember you don't have to go somewhere exotic to rest and enjoy yourselves.

During 'slim times' for us when we've had to put on our creative hats of what to do for vacation, doing everything from going camping, to staying home and doing 'day trips' to fund places nearby, one of the things we've enjoyed doing is to go through pictures albums of vacations past. Reality is, while the places and activities may have been nice, the thing we remember the most is the time together with each other and family.

So, this year we will be remembering the exotic places we've been, rather than visiting them, like...Hawaii has got to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. The weather, the beaches, the water life, the fragrance in the air, the atmosphere, the food ...

It has been the choice of destination for our 'special' anniversary years. And when we go we make the most of it. Being married to what Myers-Briggs describes as 'the most adventurous personality,' my husband, Duane, sees to that! And I love it.

The picture above is of one such adventure. After a couple of days of snorkeling Duane thought of a way we could feed the fish, by purchasing raw bait at the local market, putting it in plastic bags and stuffing them in our bathing suits, keeping our hands free to swim and feed the fish. We would simply each pull out our bag, unseal it, grab a few small pieces of bait, reseal the bag and put it back in our suit.

The fish were not shy and were quick to take our offerings. As you can see I made friends with a puffer fish which repeatedly swam up to me, taking the small fish from my hands, until it let me touch, and then hold, it as it ate. What fun!

I'm so glad Duane got my encounter with the puffer on film in order to convince our friends and family who had a little trouble believing my story. There's another picture he took that others had trouble believing when they saw it. At one point there got to be so many fish swarming around us, that I could hardly see Duane, and it was all we could do to keep up with their appetites.

There's another picture that I wish Duane could have caught...and that was of when he and I realized the plastics bags had broken and the remaining raw fish was loose in our suits! It was hilarious as we tried to empty our suits in the water, me being less than happy with what was loose in my suit! Both of us laughing and laughing, and trying to keep our heads above water. Needless to say, it is one adventure we will continue to talk about for years to come.

There's something about having fun together as couples that almost mysteriously draws you back to the honeymoon days of your marriage, when there was just the two of you, before the responsibilities of family, growing careers and life came your way. Any stresses and burdens you carry seem to be more quickly lifted off as well.

Don't let summer end without having at least one fun adventure with just you and your husband. It is the time of year for re-creation after all, no matter where you go.

And don't forget to take some pictures!

Show Your Love

You have to work at marriage. It doesn't grow deeper automatically. Some couples can be married for years and still relate on the surface. Marriage has the capacity to be the most intimate human relationship you can experience. But like all relationships it takes work, dedication, and deliberate action. For just as sure as the sun will set at the end of the day, the 'honeymoon period,' where words and deeds and expressions of affection are so automatic, will begin to settle down and your commitment begins to be proven. Not just for fidelity, but the rest of what you vowed on your wedding day...to love, honor, cherish, in sickness and in health, for better and for worse.

If the 'honeymoon period' experience lasted forever then we would not grow in our ability to love another no matter what, 'til death do us part. (I'm not talking about abusive situations). I know this kind of talk is getting to be like a foreign language in our culture, where marriage is under attack and commitment has lost it's meaning. But does that mean we should cease to talk about it? No, just the opposite. We need to talk about what healthy relationships look like all the more.

In counseling courses we learn that feelings follow behavior. Doing a kind act, or initiating an expression of love, can make you feel good, even if there isn't the response you had in mind... if you have the right attitude. And depending on the condition of the relationship, kind acts will return to you. The question is, are you willing to prime the pump? Are you willing to initiate? If you are, here are a few simple suggestions, l for every day of the week, that you can try:

1. Leave a note telling your husband something you appreciate about him, in his briefcase, lunch bag, sock drawer, taped on his rear view mirror...

2. Do something he loves to do even if it doesn't interest you, like watching his favorite sport or type of movie on TV, or go with him bowling, fishing...

3. Take a walk together and only talk about what's on his mind. (You may have to get the ball rolling on this one).

4. Cook his favorite meal or dessert for him and serve it with a kiss.

5. Dream together: if money were no object where would you like to travel? What would you both like in your dream home? What would you like to do together to make the world a better place? What charities would you like to give huge amounts to?

6. Go for a ride in the country, or just explore a new part of town. Play his favorite music in the car. Or listen to the baseball game or news he likes...

7. Walk downtown window-shopping together, and go in the stores he shows an interest in. Watch him as he tries out the newest computer or television or tool...can you see him with new eyes

If you aren't already doing these kinds of things I think you'll be surprised to see that you enjoy doing them yourself.

It's Important Who You Marry!

An old illustration about real people my husband, Duane, likes to use when speaking to groups about the importance of family and the very real consequences, good or bad, of who you marry…

Family #1
The Family of Max Jukes

A man of no principle
Married a girl of like character in 1677

Among his known descendents, 1200 were studied:
310 were professional beggars
440 had lives physically wrecked by debauchery and uncleanliness
130 were sent to prison for an average of 13 years each
7 were murderers
100 were alcoholics
60 were habitual thieves
190 were prostitutes

Only 20 out of the 1200 had ever gainful employment (the rest were either criminals or lived on state aid.

This notorious clan cost the state of New York a total of $1,200,000 in welfare and custodial charges – back then.


Family #2
The Family of Jonathan Edwards

A man from a good Christian family
Married a girl of like character

From among his traceable 1400 descendants came:
13 college presidents
65 college professors
100 lawyers and a dean of an outstanding law school
30 judges
66 physicians and a dean of a medical school
300 clergymen, missionaries and theological professors

80 holders of public office:
Mayors of large cities
3 U.S. Senators
3 Governors
1 Controller of the U.S. Treasury
1 Vice-President of the United States

The family wrote 135 books.

Speaks for itself, doesn't it?

Celebrating The Man & His Life

When something happens to your man it affects you. Like the incident my husband Duane had with his heart on the Saturday before Christmas (See what happened here). Well, I wrote this article when we celebrated his birthday a year ago and thought I’d share it with you to remind you to celebrate your man…now.

This is Duane. We just celebrated his birthday with a surprise party. And boy was he surprised! (Stay with me, this is not just a feel good piece, I have an important point to make). I was able to locate some of his old buddies from years ago, one he hasn't seen in 15 years. Our son, David, put together an awesome power-point/video 'This is your Life, Dad' presentation, and friends from the various 'arenas' of Duane's life 'roasted' him. Although, most chose to talk about what Duane has meant to their lives.

We had to be pretty creative to pull this off because Duane doesn't miss a thing! We started two weeks earlier by celebrating with our sons and their families, first with Johnny and Joi, Zack and Jesse at their home and then the following week at David and Jean's with Micah and Tyler. (Did I tell you we have 4 beautiful grandsons - 4 babies in the last 5 years!)

Then I told Duane I had something special planned in San Francisco just for he and I, and that he was to meet me at 2:30 that day because I had to help out with something in the morning, and then we'd take off from there. So he was not expecting a thing other than what I had planned for the two of us.

When he arrived at the party he didn’t expect, and everyone yelled, "Surprise!" all he did was keep saying, "Oh, my gosh...oh, my gosh" as he saw everyone who had come. We had so much fun and those who were there still talk about it, both because of the fun of surprising him, and the impact David's presentation and the comments by friends had on them personally.

It was also a very touching time. Even some of the men cried along with the women. Why? Well, I think because not only was it truly touching, but because men seldom are recognized for what their lives have meant to us...which is a very important value to men.

When was the last time you told your husband (or the other men in your life, your brother, father) the impact their life has had on you? How much you appreciate their contribution to your life? As a matter of fact, I think we need a new holiday just to tell those close to us while they're still alive how much they mean to us (rather than waiting until their funeral to tell others).

One phrase that kept coming up from those who spoke about Duane (can I brag on him a little?) was that he is a man of honor, and faithfulness, and a model to young men who need to know what it means to be a man. I think you can see why the men were emotionally moved along with Duane.,,they would like to hear the same kind of genuinely heart-felt things not only said, but thought, about them as well.

So, why am I sharing all this with you? Because I want to encourage you to celebrate your man, now. Do something special for him in this regards. Don't wait to celebrate his life.

Building a Marriage that Lasts a Lifetime

One day while at the radio studio, I was talking with two young, single men who were producing a show, and the subject of marriage came up. When they found out how long my husband and I have been married…and that we are still sincerely in love…their response was noteworthy.

They were at the same time genuinely congratulatory and really surprised.

Congratulatory because…marriages that have lasted as long as ours is not the norm.

Surprised…because we were still in love…romantically in love…after all these years.

There is a universal recognition of the accomplishment it takes to have a long, successful marriage. Accomplishment, not just because of longevity, but because of quality.

I believe that most couples get married with the conviction that their love will last forever.

Unfortunately, for way too many couples, this is not the case. Not only do half of all marriages end in divorce today, but according to a recent poll, half of the women who are now married would like to get out of their marriages. Why would that be?

Well, for some women abusive relationships qualify their desire to be out of their marriages, but for the majority of those who want out I believe it has to do with something else. That something else I would venture to say has to do with unrealized or unrealistic expectations…and cultural conditioning.

A good question to ask is which came first? Unrealistic expectations or cultural conditioning? In other words…have the ‘desperate housewives’ or ‘sex in the city’ or other unhealthy-for-marriage modern models had a major effect on couples today, or were marriages entered in to with expectations that were unrealistic?

We’ll explore this question more in future articles, but since February is the month of Valentines, let’s reverse the order and give some suggestions of proven solutions for building a healthy, long and satisfying marriage first.

There is no better gift you can give your marriage than to decide to rediscover the mutual love and commitment you had when you said “I do.”  Remember, a successful marriage not only takes love, it takes work…the work of overlooking weaknesses, of forgiving, of respecting, of sacrificing, of making the effort to keep the romance alive…everyday.

Here are a few resources I can highly recommend to get you started:

The Marriage Course – internationally

The Marriage Course – SF Bay Area

Gary Smalley Marriage Seminar

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