When It’s Okay Not to Have Sex

Have you ever asked for a sex break?

How do you tell a married couple to abstain from sex when there is no health or physical challenge in the way? It sounds suicidal and so wrong, right? After all, sex is a key aspect of the beauty of the union.

In fact, marriage is the only place that sex is legally and morally allowed without the familiar backlash of society. So what could make anyone counsel a married couple to abstain from sex? It sounds like a ridiculous suggestion.

There are times when married couples practice impromptu abstinence due to health or spiritual reasons. Not having regular sex in marriage could also be caused by long distance, that is, when your spouse is away from home for a long period of time. This type of waiting game has its resultant effect -good or bad- on marriage depending on the duration.

As bizarre and ridiculous it sounds, the practice of abstinence in marriage in this sex-crazed world is important. It is important that couples stay away from under-the-sheets for a period. The Bible has already given spiritual reasons for abstinence from sex but more than that, abstinence helps to build a deeper intimacy with your spouse.

There is so much emphasis on sex in marriage that couples have relegated other forms of intimacy to the background. Sex is seen as the ultimate way of having a lasting relationship but this concept is so wrong. While sex is important, it is not the bedrock of relationship. Too much concentration on sex could leave cracks in a marriage.

For example, some people cannot communicate with their partner unless sex is involved. When this becomes a ritual in marriage, then the value of sex is abused. Instead of a bonding, there is bondage. Sex becomes a manipulative tool in the marriage, a bargaining chip to get your spouse to do as you desire.

An extreme fall-out of too much sex in marriage is when your partner is addicted to porn and uses you as his tool of release.
If you find yourself in such scenarios, then you need to practice abstinence in your marriage. Abstinence comes with its advantages and disadvantages but if well informed, it yields the desirable results. Before you embark on this journey, it is important to know the following facts:

1: Abstinence is a mutual agreement: Couples who intend to use the abstinence therapy must be willing to do it. The decision should not be one-sided. Both parties have to talk about it and see it as a means to a healthy relationship. If one party is in disagreement, then it is no longer abstinence. There must be clear understanding by both parties on the necessity for such a practice in their relationship.

Modern Marriage Part 1: Why I Eloped

Don’t freak out or anything. But I have some news. I got married. And to tell you the truth, not much has changed.

We are all living in a new world now. Priorities are shifting. Spending $30k to feel like a rich princess for a day in what is effectively a quinceanera for grownups, may not be your bag, and it wasn’t ours either.

Most of our close friends are spread across various cities, states and other countries; and the idea of something very private between us made public, rendered by my boyfriend extremely uncomfortable. While I am a little more comfortable with receiving attention, I would rather spend that time and money going out to visit them; or hosting them when it’s convenient for them and we can spend time together individually.

Here’s the other thing; eloping is fun. It is easy. And most importantly, it is about the two people getting married. There is no other time in a relationship when other people are invited in; no funeral for the end of one, no party for electing to stay single. No one cares about your anniversaries. When you elope, you get to do things the way you want to, on your own terms, without having to worry about keeping other people happy.

For us, as an international couple in our early 30s; in a relationship for nearly two years, and living together for half of that time, being married allows us to start making long term plans. I can actually start seeing myself staying with him long term and developing our lives together in one place like real grown ups.

A wedding wasn’t our focus, it was simply solidifying our existence as a team. I like to compare it to signing the mortgage on our love. The event itself was an afterthought; a whim, really. Something we discussed in pragmatic terms for some time and when the stars aligned, we went for it. We were never officially engaged, and ‘fiance’ was a term I never coveted nor used. In the weeks leading up to our shotgun love mortgage, I contacted close friends and family to invite them down, but when I saw my husband-to-be’s visible discomfort with any form of attention, I reeled it back in.

Once we get settled, we do plan on having a party with close friends and some family, maybe even several of them, in different places, as a kind of honeymoon/reception double feature. With a healthy distance between being married this sounds like our kind of adventure. One where any feelings of pressure surrounding being put on display, or entertaining others with our private feelings and plans together, grow rapidly smaller in our rear-view.

On our wedding day, my boyfriend brought his father who was visiting from out of town. I brought my friend to officiate and double as my emotional touchstone. We spoke to our other close ones on the phone.

My mother was ready to hop on a plane, but wouldn’t make it in time. I really wanted her to be there, but she has always been one to offer immediate and unflinching support, without holding on too tightly. I’ve always been a wanderlust out on some other part of the world as soon as I could get my hands on it, and she knew this was on the horizon for us, so this was no surprise and we were okay.  My recently estranged brother was crestfallen not to be there, but took the opportunity to break his silence with some very kind things that opened up our relationship in a lovely way.

My mother-in-law to be, however, made her objections known over the phone. I can imagine this sort of thing is hard for a lot of family members, and especially a mother, protective of her son.  She and I have very different ideas about marriage, which I completely understood. She kindly, firmly and respectfully filibustered our plan over the phone. As soon as he caught wind of this, my future father in law swiftly instructed his son to get me off the phone and be there for me while he started the car.

The sincere care I heard for both of us (though, obviously mostly for him) came through amidst her reservations, and the warmth and eager support I received immediately from his father solidified a profound love and appreciation for a family I barely knew. I saw a lot of my husband in him. As I sat in the back seat of the car heading to the chapel,  I watched them both for a moment and took in how fortunate I was to be in their company.

We arrived at the very friendly little chapel, expecting to sign the papers and be on our way, when they happened to have a room open up at the end of the day. I think it might have helped that they liked us, as they let us go inside and make up our own ceremony. It was silly and fun and just for us.

In the aftermath, despite being alternately nervous about taking the leap, and dismissive of the whole idea of traditional marriage, I have been pleasantly surprised with how relaxed things have felt since we pulled the trigger. It feels like a weight’s been lifted and married life is actually a lot fun so far. That honeymoon period is real, y’all.

One thing that I’ve found interesting, has been how much everyone else freaks out about it all; both eloping and our marriage in general. It’s like there is something in us that needs to explode a little bit  and let that Bridget Jones out of her diary for a second, and I sympathize. I get excited for my friends when they are excited about their love.  We have all been encouraged to get excited about the pomp and circumstance of it all, practically since birth.

I love sentiment and I do like jewelry; but tradition isn’t the right fit for us. I don’t like the idea of having a dress I will never wear again collecting space in my closet. The idea of an overpriced rock on my hand to mark someone’s claim on me isn’t appealing either.

With that said, I will most definitely accept a ring, or a necklace, or earrings (wait no, I’ll probably lose those, maybe a bracelet) just for the hell of it. My grandmother instilled this in me with her very glamourous collection of baubles. As wonderful and beautiful as those things are, however, we don’t have that kind of money right now. The way he routinely plugs my phone in for me when I forget, or how he kisses my head before he leaves for work early in the morning while I sleep, are the kinds of things that squeeze my heart more than trying to get him to fit into a box of things he is prescribed to do.

Here is our To Do list, while we chip away at our hefty collection of debt and pull ourselves into an improved financial situation:

  • Adopt a dog and a cat to grow up together (his idea, I’m fine with it)
  • Sell our cars and get one slightly shinier one to share (my idea, he is fine with it)
  • Find an affordable apartment of our own, with enough space for our friends or parents to visit (an idea we share equally); ideally with a room that can also double as our solitude from each other’s farts– or an office…

Even if we wanted it, traditional stuff doesn’t have much room to fit on that list.

In another relationship, at another time in my life, with a different person, perhaps all of this would be different. Perhaps an extravagant affair or someone I call “fiance” for a year would make sense. As we have grown together, I have learned that anniversaries, birthdays and other forced gift-events are not going to work for us. But, every month he dutifully budgets taking me out to whatever new restaurant he’s discovered which has at least four stars and 200 yelp reviews, and to every single movie theatre in a 15 mile radius, as long as we can get there before the trailers start. That is what works for us, and I am kind of proud of that.

What is your idea of a modern wedding?

7 Things I Learned From Marriage That I Couldn’t Learn Anywhere Else

Marriage: It’s two people really digging deep, getting to know each other and share each other’s lives, to give and take strength from each other as needed. 

In my standup comedy act, I sometimes ask the audience “Who’s married?” and a lot of hands go up.  Then I ask them, “Who USED to be married?” and feign amazement when lots of the same hands go up.  I berate them for making the same mistake twice-

“Who ARE you people?  Who on earth says, well, that sucked- let me try it again with some other asshole?”

I only sort of mean this.

But I don’t entirely not mean it.

I was married for eight years.  That’s right, in a row, because anyone can take breaks, Janice!

My marriage ended badly, but that doesn’t mean that it was all bad.  I learned a lot about what marriage is.

The first thing I learned about marriage is that it’s not about the engagement or the parties or the wedding, those public, social media things.

It’s the opposite of that.  It’s the ultimate private thing.  It is two people making a life together, alone.  It doesn’t have anything to do with looking pretty in a dress or if your mom enjoyed the profiteroles at the reception.  There is a whole industry geared up to tell you that marriage is about paying 100% more for shoes because they are white, and if you don’t have the right diamond ring, it means he doesn’t love you enough.  It’s not about that.  I learned a lot of things about what marriage isn’t, or wasn’t for me.  It’s not an endless meet cute.  It’s not (necessarily) about pleasing God or childrearing.  It’s two people really digging deep, getting to know each other and share each other’s lives, to give and take strength from each other as needed.  If you primary motivator to get married is not the desire to make and share a life with that person, you should look at what it is you really want.

The second thing I learned about marriage is that you could be so proud and excited about spending the rest of your life with another person one second…

like the time I came home and found that my spouse had spent the day spontaneously putting up shelves for me, and just as aggravated the next day, when that same spouse had totaled his car doing something stupid.  It’s the same person.  “I’m so lucky, I can’t believe I’m married to you!” is the flip side of “OH MY GOD I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M MARRIED TO YOU.”  They’ll feel the same way about you sometimes!

They WILL do stupid things, and you will too.  Committing to the rest of your life together means that you’re going to have moments of strength and weakness, days when you can take on the world and days when you can’t get out of bed.  If we were all paragons of virtue and strength every day, we wouldn’t need other people, we’d just be constantly having sex with celebrities.  I think.  And we’d never be sick or tired or unemployed or lonely, because we’d be so busy kicking the universe’s ass every single day.

The third thing I learned about marriage is that it can transform you.

The support of another person, plus all the time you save from online dating, means that each of you can really figure out what you want your life to look like, and make that life.  Sure, you’ll probably stop matching your bra and panty sets and you’ll start eating more bread, but you can become a more fulfilled person.

The things your partner does will reflect on you in a way they never have before, both good and bad.  If they spout off at a party, fail to keep their promises, or behave antisocially, that’s your problem too.  Of course, if your spouse is a Nobel-prize winning doctor, some of that rubs off on you, as well.

I also learned that your spouse is who they are.

People can change behaviors but they can’t really change their identities.  When I met my husband, he was leaving a marriage that ended in infidelity.  Ours ended the same way.  He’s married again and I suspect it’ll end with another woman’s number in his phone.

One good thing about being united with another human being is that you can learn more about who you are, by contrast.  “That’s his thing.  That’s my thing.”  You can find out more about where you overlap and don’t overlap.

 Sex will get really good.

Really, really good.  Having sex with one person who is committed to having good sex with you, having years to figure each other out, means married sex, although the phrase lacks luster, can be incredible.

Your spouse will know you better than anyone.

I regret that my marriage ended badly, because there are things I want to tell him sometimes that only he’ll get.  The person who was closest to you for ten years is hard to lose.

The thing I learned when my marriage ended was that all endings are sad.

Every person who tells you they are divorcing deserves your sympathy and condolences.  Even when the marriage was bad, had been bad for years, there is a sadness in ending something that you hoped would last forever.

The last thing I learned is that other people like being married, and when they’re healed and feeling strong, they’ll seek it out again, and I won’t.  And that’s OK, too.

What are the things you learned from your marriage?

10 Ways to Make Your Significant Other Feel Like They’re the Only One

“I had an opportunity to have a long discussion with her fiance the day before he proposed”

My daughter recently became engaged, and I had an opportunity to have a long discussion with her fiance the day before he proposed about her, marriage, and living life together. The topic of how hard he wants to work to make his fiancee, and soon to be wife, feel special and loved came up repeatedly in our conversation.

What can a husband do to help his wife feel special and know that she is loved?

This list, built after years of observation and experience, will help stimulate ideas of your own for helping your wife feel special.

Send her a love note

Handwriting notes and letters is becoming a lost art in an era of instant communications and technology. A love note, written by hand, is an expression that communicates love, caring, and giving of one’s time and self.

A short note sharing your love, your admiration of her, your appreciation of her special traits, and your commitment to her speaks volumes about how special she is.

Learn to speak her love language

Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages has been a true revelation in many relationships. Chapman makes the case that most people receive messages of love in one (or more) of five different ways. The way we receive love is our “love language.” The five languages are:

  • Words of affirmation
  • Quality time
  • Physical touch
  • Receiving gifts
  • Acts of service

My primary love language is words of affirmation; my wife’s is quality time. So hearing from her how wonderful I am communicates love to me, but that love language doesn’t work for her.

I need to give her undivided attention and lots of it for her to feel love. Take time to determine which love language works for your wife or partner, and then speak love in her love language.

Get ‘er done

Do you have a “honey-do” list a mile long? I know that with my hectic schedule, my list never seems to end.

Doing things that are on her list is a good way to show how special she is to you. If she sees you doing the things that are important to her, she will feel love and devotion. Painting the family room, cleaning up the garage, or following through on a commitment to the kids will make a big difference in how she feels about you and about her worth to you.

Call her on the phone

A phone call in the middle of the day lets her know that you are thinking about her. Consider calling at a random time, when she will least expect it, and just tell her that you are thinking about her, wanting to know how her day is going and to communicate love. It is easy to get caught up in all the business of the day, and she knows it. So taking time to call and let hew know she is important will make a big positive difference in her day.

Send sweet text messages

If you have the ability to communicate via text message, consider sending texts that communicate love, and maybe even flirt occasionally. Here are a few suggestions to get your ideas flowing about what might work for your partner.

  • If I could rearrange the alphabet, I would put U and I together!
  • Thinking of you makes me smile.
  • Did the sun come out or did you just smile at me?
  • I just moved you up to the top of my TO DO list

Plan a romantic getaway

Find someone responsible to take the kids and make plans for a weekend away. Plan everything out, choosing things that she likes to do. For example, make dinner reservations and get tickets for a play, a movie or an event she would enjoy. Reserve a hotel room, pack her bags, and make sure her calendar is clear. Some quality time with things she loves to do is an awesome way to communicate how special your wife is to you.

Make it physical

Lots of dads will read this and think sex. But remember, our partners want to be touched in more ways than we like to be touched. Consider an extra long hug in the morning, or a kiss hello or goodbye that lasts about 15 seconds. A back rub, foot rub, or a tender massage communicates worlds about your feelings for her. Physical touch is important in a relationship, and while it often leads to sexual touching, your wife will love the extra attention and the feeling of being touched without it having to lead to something else.

Listen fully engaged

With our busy and demanding world where work tends to invade every moment of life, it is easy to be distracted at home. Even the kids can create significant distractions from meaningful communication. One habit my partner and I picked up long ago is setting aside 30 minutes each evening to just talk. No television, no kids, no telephone or computer, no friends. Having half and hour for just us has really helped with our communications patterns and allows me to be fully engaged in the conversation.Active listening, where you listen with all your senses for intent and feeling, is a big communicator of love and affection.

Cook for her

There is something a bit romantic and something that communicates love and caring when a man cooks for his woman. Plan ahead for a meal she likes. Find a recipe, get the ingredients, and the follow the recipe to create a great meal for her. A little pampering like being able to eat a meal that she didn’t have to plan for or prepare goes a long way in letting her know how much you care.

Give her a break

One things our partners don’t usually get at home is a break. From the time she gets up until the time she crashes into bed, it is usually one very long day with more demands on her time that she can fill. This is especially true if she is a stay-at-home mom where she is likely starved for adult human contact. And moms who work outside the home also tend to carry with them all day their responsibility as a mother. Giving her a break from the stresses of the day can really communicate love. A hot bath with some music she enjoys while you clean up, go through the bedtime routine with the kids and get things ready for the next day will really help her feel your love and your specific concern for her and her needs.

Whatever you do, make sure that you regularly communicate how special your wife is to you. Little things are big things, and it is important to identify how she receives your communication of love and to make time to make these little expressions happen.

Curated by Erbe
Original Article

Holiday Couple’s Issues and How to Deal

It’s not unusual for us to fall in love with people who are quite different from us.

Once the initial infatuation evaporates, those differences will not only become annoying and difficult — they won’t go away. When this happens, “Why aren’t you me?” is the question that underlies our annoyance. “You don’t see things the way I do; therefore, you’re wrong. You don’t like the people I like or value the experiences I care about. Even worse, you fall asleep at football games or at concerts.”

Add holiday stresses to that tension, and the situation can play out dramatically. The way we feel outside the relationship will affect the way we feel within it, and vice versa. Whether you’ve been together since last year or for decades, high-stress periods can cause you to be more reactive and defensive. We give our partner less of a break at just the time when we really need to cut them some slack.

Generosity is key here — that, and a willingness to find ways to tolerate our differences. These efforts are what will fortify a relationship, and keep yours from falling victim to holiday anxieties. Here are a few of the major points of conflict couples face this time of year, and my strategies to handle them healthily:

1. Problem: Money and Gifts

Say you’re the type of person who wants to show your love to everyone in your family by buying thoughtful and beautiful gifts. Your partner, however, thinks Christmas is a marketing scam and is already stressed out about next year’s taxes. You want two parties: one for friends and colleagues, then a festive dinner for the extended family. He, on the other hand, wants one small potluck.

Or maybe he sees gifts as objects of love, while you see them as an unnecessary strain on an already tight budget, or a surrender to commercialism. He plans on getting you a MacBook Air, while you ask, “Do you really want a present this year? You just got some new fishing equipment this summer.”

Solution: No Surprises

That’s the first essential here. Plan in advance and come up with a budget you both can agree on. Factor in gifts, travel, and entertaining, and come up with a sum that lands in the middle: It might be more than one of you wants to spend but still less than the other would like.

Your spending limit will be a difficult decision, but it will be the only one you face on this topic. Once you settle on a dollar amount, you’re done. Agree not to complain, blame, or bring up the issue again.

One of the most common reasons people don’t like giving gifts is that they don’t feel they’re good at choosing something their partner will like. Let’s not view a gift as a measure of our partner’s love. Gift giving is an art. Some people are good at it; some aren’t. Or else they’ve developed so much anxiety about perfecting the selection process, they seldom get it right.

Reminder: Gifts Can Mean Everything to One Partner and Nothing to the Other

The solution is not to try to make your partner see it your way. It’s to see beyond your different points of view to the source of the pleasures that brought you together in the first place.

2. Problem: Family — His, Hers, Ours

A client of mine loves to invite over his big, expressive extended family, with five cousins and four siblings, for a New Year’s Eve spread. His wife tells me she feels like hiding under the table when they start telling bad jokes and seeing who can burp the loudest. For one partner, the happiest moment in the holiday season is when the doorbell rings and family and friends come in to make merry. For another, it’s when the last person leaves, and she can finally breathe.

Solution: Alternate Your Preferences

This is a fair way to accommodate your conflicting desires. When the calendar calls for “the more the merrier,” the more introverted of the two of you should feel free to take breaks, walk the dog, or spend a few minutes outside looking at the stars. At some point during the festivities, the two of you should meet alone for a five-minute connection, just to check in with each other on how it’s going. The one-on-one connection, even if it’s a hug and not a conversation, can give the quieter partner a morale boost as he or she copes with the social whirlwind.

Then alternate the following year and host only a small family gathering. This time the extroverted mate should be encouraged to go out and enjoy other social events during the season with friends or other family members.

Reminder: Nobody Is Wrong

To have these kinds of temperamental differences is fine and normal. The challenge is to make the effort to accommodate each other’s feelings and needs.

3. Problem: Traditions

Let’s say you want to keep the traditions of your family, or of your religious or cultural history, which are meaningful to you at this time of year. Your partner, however, would rather watch movies all day or play games with the kids. You love the music of the season and a big tree dressed with ornaments — the kind you decorated throughout your childhood. He remembers holidays as miserable and just wants to get through them with as little acknowledgement as possible. Or maybe he loves Christmas carols, Solstice parties, or Hanukkah candles, while you find these customs all a pointless hassle.

Solution: Take the Time to Hear Each Other

Then ask yourself this question: “What could I do to make my partner happy?” Empathy and kindness are important here, because this is the way to make room for both of you.

Reminder: Your Differences Are an Opportunity to Create New Traditions

You can combine the things you love to build memories designed by and for the two of you. You might even agree to adopt some elements from the season’s varied festivities to build a holiday celebration of your own. Take a walk in the snow, visit the zoo, have a candlelit dinner, just the two of you, and exchange cards.

Every couple has intractable differences. Most couples face conflict on a host of universal issues: money, sex, holidays, gifts, families, housework, etc. The most effective response is to decide that your partner isn’t wrong simply because he or she is different from you. Instead, look for ways to collaborate. Care more about meeting their needs than your own.

This attitude of goodwill is guaranteed to put you far along the road toward a deeply happy marriage and partnership. The holidays are an opportunity to practice strategies and skills that will help your relationship thrive all year. The difference between couples who fail and those who succeed is less about the quality or number of conflicts they face and more about how they respond to them.

Curated by Erbe
Original Article

10 Sex Secrets to a Happy Marriage

Writer Brian Orme says, “I’m 41 years old, and have been married to the same beautiful woman for almost two decades. Over the years I’ve had to work through some myths and misconceptions about sex.

Many of these misconceptions started early, before I was married, and they’ve taken years to straighten out. If I could send 10 sex and intimacy tips to myself before I was married, this is exactly what I’d say.

Sexual intimacy doesn’t happen like it does on TV or in the movies

Much of what you know about sex comes from advertising, TV and the movies. In other words, sex looks like a spontaneous, flawless connection of love-making filled with romance, music and candles in windowsills. Sexual intimacy does not work like that. Don’t be disappointed — real sexual intimacy is different than the movies, but it’s much better in the long run.

A note on frequency. Brace yourself.

Right now you’re thinking marriage is filled with sex almost every second of the day and thousands of times a week. You should live in this dream world for as long as you can and ride your trusty unicorn into the Skittle-stained sunset where you pet your wild Ewok and cross the Bridge to Terabithia. Stay there. As long as you can. That is all.

Sex is like fine wine — it gets better with age

Sexual intimacy is something you get better and better at. It takes communication, practice and time. Right now you think your sex IQ is at a genius level, but you really don’t know everything.

Sex is not just about getting, but giving

Are you laughing? I’m serious. Sex is something that requires both of you to give. And it’s good to give. Don’t be a taker all the time. Sexual intimacy is a great place to model sacrifice and service. If you get that into your head now, the getting will be even better. There’s great beauty and mystery in the giving. Be generous.

Men and women don’t think about sex the same way

For you, sex is wrapped up in physical attraction and it’s very visual and instantaneous. However, you might want to sit down for this one. Women think about sex in terms of the relationship, their security and how much they feel loved and pursued. For you, sex is like a light switch without a dimmer — you’re totally ready at any moment. For her, sex is like a crockpot that takes a good part of the day to come to a simmer. You will both be frustrated by this. That’s okay; it’s part of God’s wiring to bring you together on a deeper level.

Sex doesn’t complete you

Right now, you are putting a ton of stock in the power, importance and value of sex. Let’s be honest, you think about it constantly. You need to know sexual intimacy is fantastic and satisfying and incredible in so many ways, but it’s not meant to be an idol. You will need to fight this and work to keep sex in proper perspective — as a gift from God to be enjoyed in marriage.

Sex can be fun and funny and playful

There are many angles of sexual intimacy, and some of them you’re totally unaware of right now. You think of sex in one dimension — serious pleasure. However, sexual intimacy done right is a form of vulnerability and authenticity, and when you totally love someone and have nothing to hide — and I mean nothing — you are free to be your truest self.

Be romantic and pursue her

Make sure she knows you want her in more ways than just the physical. Pursue her mind. Pursue her heart. Pursue her in every way possible. Remember, she doesn’t think about sex like you do — you’re all skin and eyeballs, and she’s all heart and soul.

It’s more mysterious than you think

Again, right now your thoughts about sex are pretty simple. You’re stuck in the physical, but God designed sexual intimacy to be way more complex than two bodies finding their way together. It’s hard to explain and I don’t fully understand it, but something magical happens in the act of sex, something cosmic that links you to her in a way that’s soul deep.

Sex in marriage is a form of worship

Most of your thoughts about worship are confined to religious places. So, when I say sex is worship, you probably think I’m nuts. But soon you’ll get a bigger picture. It’s a fun point in our spiritual journey. You can have unashamed, unabashed, unadulterated sex as often as you want with your partner.

Curated by Erbe
Original Article

5 Surefire Tips for a Successful Marriage from Real-Life Couples

Marriage can be both a source of joy and sorrows. Through ups and downs, couples can bolster their happiness by following these five tips that real life couples find work for them.

Share the housework

Research finds that couples that split household duties, including cooking, cleaning and child rearing, enjoy more sex and are happier than couples where the woman tackles “feminine” tasks and the man tackles “manly” tasks.

Lamar and Ronnie agree.

“We do everything as a team. We’re a team at work but also at home, you know with raising the kids. So teamwork has been instrumental in our marriage,” says Ronnie.

All you need is love

A majority of couples say love makes their marriages successful. Saying it to each other and remembering it can help strengthen relationships. Joel and Michael realize the importance that love plays in their marriage and celebrate it.

“I really don’t think there’s any difference between gay and straight marriage. It’s just two people who love each other and are going through life together. Marriage is marriage. Love is love,” says Joel.

Pack your bags, but not the kids

While parenting feels fulfilling, sometimes taking a break from the kids and focusing on the each other is greatly needed. It helps couples re-join and allows kids to gain some independence. Trina and George knew they needed some kid-free time away.

“We decided to start taking vacations without the kids because we knew almost immediately that it was important for us to stay connected,” George said.

Trina says the couple goes away mostly for weekend trips and the location doesn’t matter much.

“It really is about being together being exclusively together,” she says.

I want to hold your hand

Couples who hold hands with their spouses show the world that they love each other. They also provide strength, comfort, and affection to each other.

“It’s very much a sign of or a silent way of saying I love you,” says Lee, who has been married to Harry for 67 years.

Have fun together

Laugh together. Go on adventures. Play games. Share new experiences and have fun together to boost your marriage.

“I think the secret to our marriage is to be honest and open and laugh whenever we can and spend time with each other,” says Michael, who has been married to Joel for two years.

Curated by Erbe
Original Article

How to Fight and Stay Together

When you’re in a long-term relationship, fighting with your partner is inevitable. Whether it’s a small one about laundry or big, reoccurring one about money, every couple fights.

relationship difficulties: young couple having a fightBut there are healthy ways to argue with your partner that may actually lead to stronger bonds. Then, there are also unhealthy ways to argue that will damage the relationship and may lead to the end.

After all is said and done after a fight with your partner, it’s hard to not think about the words you should’ve said, or worse, the words you shouldn’t have said. But what makes some couples survive after blowout arguments and some break up? A new study found, the key to fighting with your partner is not in what you said or should not have said, but how you approach the conflict.

In a 14-year study of 79 married couples from the Midwest, John Gottman, founder of the Gottman Institute and University of California, Berkeley psychologist, Robert Levensen explored the predictability of divorce in early and later marriages. While 21 couples ended up divorcing over the course of their study, Gottman and Levensen noticed some key behaviors among couples who fought but managed to stay together in the end. Here’s what they found:

They Tackled Their Problems Immediately

Couples who ended up splitting took a lot longer to address arguments than couples who stayed together. In fact, those who separated let their partners “stew” for hours or days post-fight, while those who stayed together addressed their conflict immediately. As Gotten told Business Insider, think of it like you and your partner are in a boat. The emotions and feelings from your fight represent the sea. While a small argument “stirs the waters a bit and gets the boat rocking,” quickly stabilizing the boat via an open discussion can easily bring you back to smooth sailing. Furthermore, stalling can only strengthen the waves, thus causing bigger problems.
This actually keeps in line with a study published last year in the Journal of Counseling Psychology. In a study of 145 couples who received conflict management training, those who immediately addressed their conflict felt happier in their relationships in the long run than those who didn’t receive any sort of training.

They Allowed Each Other To Be Heard

Young woman crying while husband soothing her.Among those couples who got divorced, it was found that frequently cutting each other off during arguments were a common occurrence. In many cases, partners would throw out unhelpful or insensitive comments, which only served to make matters worse. Couples who were identified as “strong” on the other hand, approached the situation with an open mind. Most importantly, they took responsibility for their actions and listened to their partners.

n a 16-year study of 373 married couples published in 2010 in the Journal of Marriage and Family, it was found that when both partners “engaged positively during an argument” they were less likely to divorce than couples who didn’t have positive engagement or only had one partner put in any effort.

Generally, fights can be hard on a couple. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to do what you can to minimize damage. If you want to successfully come out of a fight stronger than ever, do what the couples in the study did. Tackle your problems immediately, keep an open mind, and make sure to listen to what they have to say. Don’t try to make yourself the “winner.” Because, let’s face it, when you’re fighting with your partner, there are no winners.

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Managing Your Money Together as a Millennial Couple

Love is grand. Love and money — eh, that’s a little less grand. Hell, most of the time it’s super complicated.

Talking about your finances with your partner — whether you’re quibbling over who paid for dinner last or deciding to make a big purchase — can be super stressful. And things get even more complicated when you start living together. When, how, and why you choose to combine your money is a tough decision, and every couple handles it differently.

While your friends and family will offer you plenty of dating advice, we tend to be less forthcoming with information about money management. And it’s not so simple as just copying our parents. We’re coming of age in a very different time: We’re the first group in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than our parents and grandparents had at the same stage of their lives. But it’s not all bad news. With more women working than ever before, 80% of millennials report being part of a dual-income couple. And we’ve found new ways to cobble together a living wage, with 38% of people under 35 relying on freelance work to contribute to their income.

So if you’re not using your parents model for managing money, and you probably shouldn’t demand to see your friends’ bank statements or 401(k) contributions, where do you go for real info? Well, we did the legwork for you, rounding up four young couples* — all somewhere between marriage and kids — who were willing to share the details of how they make their money work, individually, and as a unit. To help make the conversation as educational as possible, we asked Priya Malani, a financial planner and founder of Stash Wealth, to provide advice for each pair that’s also widely applicable.

Peter & Kelly

Peter, 30, works as an editor for a major sports website, and he does some freelance sports writing for other high profile sites. Kelly, 29, is a full-time bath designer, who also does some kitchen and bedroom design on the side. She has aspirations of starting her own company one day. Kelly and Peter recently married and own a condo in Jersey City, NJ. Together, they make about $80,000 annually.

The couple moved in together after a year of dating, immediately opened a joint checking account, and got a shared credit card. From the beginning, they have contributed the majority of their paychecks to the joint account — putting about 60% of their individual incomes into the joint account and keeping 40% separate.

Peter is the nervous one about their finances, admitting money was tight when they first started dating. “I was probably over-anxious, he says. “But we didn’t spend outside our means in the early days, and we both made a conscious effort to not fight over finances.”

Living within their means worked well for them, and they’ve managed to put down financial roots, even in New York’s insane real estate market. In February 2014, Peter and Kelly bought a condo in Jersey City. It’s a long-term investment they hope to rent one day, to help offset the cost of a home large enough to accommodate a growing family.

Peter and Kelly don’t have too many immediate money concerns. “The only thing that would worry me is if one of us died, because we don’t have life insurance,” Kelly says. “Otherwise, we have health insurance, we have savings, and we’re okay.”

As their careers have evolved, so have their money management skills. Although a majority of their income still goes to the shared account, they’ve also opened individual credit cards. This allows Kelly to cover business expenses like design materials, without bogging down their joint credit limit. They’ve also been able to grow their side gigs: Peter’s freelance writing and Kelly’s interior design work. In the future, they’d like to be able to focus even more on these professional pursuits, but both are concerned about financial security.

“At the end of the day, we want to do what is best for ourselves — as that will lead us to what is best for our family,” Peter says. “Kelly has thought about trying to build her own business, but the stress of an uncertain financial future, particularly when we are preparing for a bigger space and kids, is enough to keep us doing what we are doing.”

Financial Feedback:

Priya Malani was super impressed that Peter and Kelly are able to live within their means in such an expensive city. But, she urged them to open a Roth IRA as soon as possible.

“Saving for retirement when you’re young is much easier than when you’re older — each dollar counts a lot more,” she says.

Regarding Kelly’s concern about not having life insurance, Malani recommends looking into a term policy versus a whole life policy.

“As long as you keep up with your savings goals, you will do much better in the long run not to invest in a whole life policy,” Malani says.

For more information of the difference between term and whole life insurance, check out this story on Stash Wealth.

Wait Before Tying the Knot

Helen Fisher says that if you wait about two years before getting married, it could boost your chances of leading a happy, life-long marriage.

In some ways marriage has taken on a terrifying role in today’s society because of what can come after: divorce. It’s not an unreasonable fear considering an estimated 40 to 50% of married couples in the US have divorced.

But, anthropologist and human behavior expert at Indiana University who’s spent decades studying different aspect of love, Helen Fisher says that if you wait about two years before getting married, it could boost your chances of leading a happy, life-long marriage.

“There was a recent study in which they asked a lot of [dating] people who were living together … why have they not yet married and 67% were terrified of divorce,” Fisher said on Big Think.

“Terrified of not only the legal and the financial and the economic but the personal and social fall out of divorce.”

Interestingly, this fear of divorce is actually giving way to healthier marriages, overall, because people are taking more time getting to know each other before tying the knot, Fisher said.

And time is the only one way to reactivate a part of the brain — responsible for logical decision making and planning — that shuts down when you first fall in love with someone new, which can explain the irrational behavior of two people who are madly in love:

“One of the problems with early stage intense feelings of romantic love is that it’s part of the oldest part of the brain that become activated — brain regions linked with drive, with craving, with obsession, with motivation,” Fisher, who has studied the brain on love, said. “In fact some cognitive regions up in the prefrontal cortex [shown below in red] that have evolved more recently begin to shut down — brain regions linked with decision making [and] planning ahead.”

This intense feeling of love can cloud your ability to think logically or rationally about the person you’re with. Therefore, by allowing time for the brain to adjust to the new situation and feelings you’re experiencing, you can recognize whether who you’re dating is actually right for you.

“I think … this slow love process of getting to know somebody very carefully over a long period of time is going to help the brain readjust some of these brain regions for decision making,” Fisher said. “You’re going to get to know how this person handles your parents at Christmas … how they handle your friends, how they handle their money, how they handle an argument … etc.”

Ultimately, you want to get a good sense of your partner’s behavior during these real life situations, which is why Fisher suggests to wait at least two years. That way, you’ve been around the annual treadmill of life twice with your partner, and, therefore, should have a good sense of how they handle themselves under different circumstances.

“I think people should marry when they feel like marrying but from what I know about the brain if it were me I’d wait at least two years.”

Curated by Timothy
Original Article

The Married Millennial – Are We Too Young?

A mistake is only a failure if you don’t learn from it. Marriage and divorce shouldn’t be any different.

I got married at 21. By today’s standards, that makes me a unicorn.

When I show up with a new tattoo, nobody bats an eye. But the second I say I’m married? I might as well have joined a cult.

“How old are you, again?” my yoga teacher asked.

I answered honestly. “I’m 21.”

Her face must have gone through fifty shades of pity. “Are you sure?”

In our early twenties, we are expected to make adult decisions. Finishing college, choosing our careers, voting in elections – these are not tasks for children. As an adult, I’m allowed to make choices for myself. I’m allowed to make mistakes.

If we can smoke cigarettes in our twenties (risking cancer), own a credit card (and a lifetime of student loan debt), or joining the military (at 18, mind you) – why is marriage such a scary concept to us?

Traditional marriage goes against what many of us have come to know.

How long have you been together? Because when I was in my twenties…”

This is a trick question. It doesn’t matter how long we have been together – her mind is made up that I am too young. Her conclusion is probably drawn from her own experiences at 21 – and that’s not a bad thing.

A year before, I would have agreed with her. I’ve had every reason to not believe in marriage. My experiences with long-term relationships began much younger than most, and nearly all of them ended in heartbreak. I know what it’s like to think you’ll spend forever with someone, only to leave – or be left. My own parents divorced. My friends’ parents divorced. I’ve been to more divorce dinners than actual weddings…and that’s because I don’t like weddings.

Before my husband came along, I swore off the possibility of long-term relationships completely. Monogamy was a lie. Marriage was an outdated system. Why would a strong, career-minded feminist like myself willingly give herself legally to another person?

I argued this point whenever marriage was mentioned. I questioning my friends’ life choices and cut my own relationships short when things got too serious. I was content to spend the rest of my life as a happily single woman. Now, here I am, with a ring on my finger.

Is it scary? Yes. Do I question my decision? No.

A mistake is only a failure if you don’t learn from it. Marriage and divorce shouldn’t be any different. I can’t predict the next ten, twenty, thirty years. But no matter how my life turns out, I will be grateful for having shared it with him.

Nobody can predict the future, and that’s what makes marriage so huge.

I know a couple that dated for ten years before getting married. They divorced after one year. I also know a couple that got married six months after they met. They’ve been married for thirty years, and counting.

There is no guarantee that any relationship will survive. Our generation has been raised to value reward over risk. We want results, now. To many of us, marriage just sounds like a really expensive mistake. It’s easier to live together and have children together, without the hassle of expensive paperwork.

“Why invest in a marriage when you can have all the perks without it?” asked basically everyone.

As soon as our engagement announcement went live on social media, my inbox overflowed with congratulations…and concern.

“Have you been with him long enough to be sure?”

“Does this mean you giving up your career?”

“Are you pregnant?”

“I know it’s not my business, but…”

Sixty years ago, getting married in your twenties was totally normal. But then again, more of us had stable jobs in those days. People weren’t as afraid of the future then as we are now.

Nobody knows where – or who – we’ll be in five, ten, or twenty years. For many, this is why being “tied down” to any one person is terrifying. But for some, this is all the more reason to commit to something – or someone.

We’ve now been married for one year. So far, so good. We know that marriage is hard work. And it’s more than likely that we won’t be the same people in ten years. That’s not a bad thing. It means we’re growing – and hopefully, we’ll grow together.

Maybe you are also in your twenties, and you were hoping this article might help you decide whether to get married or not. My question for you, is – why?

Do your life choices reflect what you want, or what other people want? This applies to everything, not just marriage. Self-sabotage occurs by comparing ourselves to others and waiting for outer validation.

When my lover got down on one knee, he didn’t say, “Hey, friends and family, should she marry me?”

And I didn’t say, “Hold on a second,” and then get out my phone to Google national divorce statistics.

He simply asked, “Will you marry me?”

And I said, “Yes.”

Marriage is a choice between two people, to be made every day for the rest of life. I feel ready, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Love is all that matters. Embrace the way it lives for you.

Are we TOO young?

Here’s How a Happy Marriage Can Be Simpler Than You Think

According to a new study published in the journal Personal Relationships, the key to improving a marriage is to show a little gratitude.

It seems like every other day, another study comes out promising to give us the key to a successful marriage. Why not? After all, those of us who want to be married want to stay married. In fact, a 2011 Pew Research survey found that 36 percent of adults believe that having a successful marriage is “one of the most important things” in life. While I don’t really believe that relationship success is dependent on one major “key,” and that it’s more of the right combination of the little things, a new study shows saying two small words can actually strengthen your marriage. Ready for them?

“Thank you.”

According to a new study published in the journal Personal Relationships, the key to improving a marriage is to show a little gratitude. Researchers from the University of Georgia conducted a telephone survey of 468 married individuals and asked them questions about their finances, their communication tactics, and how they express gratitude to their spouses. As the study found, expressions of spousal gratitude were a significant predictor of marital quality.

“It goes to show the power of ‘thank you,’” said Allen Barton, a postdoctoral research associate at UGA’s Center for Family Research and lead author of the study. “Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other areas, gratitude in the relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes.”

The study also found that couples who showed higher levels of spousal gratitude were less prone to seek divorce. When couples express gratitude or show appreciation for each other, it can counteract or buffer the negative effects of conflicts. According to researchers, feeling appreciated and believing that your partner values you have a great impact on how you feel about your marriage and your commitment to making it last.

“All couples have disagreements and argue,” the study’s co-author Ted Futris said. “What distinguishes the marriages that last from those that don’t is not how often they argue, but how they argue and how they treat each other on a daily basis.”

In short, it’s the little things that matter.

Saying those two small words can do your relationship a bunch of good. But sometimes, expressing gratitude can go beyond a simple “Thank you.” Because of that, I talked to Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, on how you can express gratitude to your partner each and every day.

1. Reach Out

Set aside time each day to reach out to your partner and listen to them talk about their day. As Dr. Ramani tells Bustle, “They may not be able to respond, but it becomes a touchstone, and lets them feel heard.”

2. Take Initiative

“Do something for them that they do not like to do without asking,” Dr. Ramani says. “But do it without making lots of noise about it. For example, take the car in for an oil change, clean the toilets, or weed the garden.”

3. Surprise Them

“This does not need to be big. It can be dinner on the table, making the plans and just whisking them away to something you know they like. Even try giving them a small gift that shows up in a briefcase at work,” Dr. Ramani says.

4. Compliment Them

“I know it seems small, and likely should be happening every day. But we often forget that those little words about your partner’s work, a new dress, or their smile put a swing in our step when we get them from strangers,” Dr. Ramani says. “But they can be profoundly impactful from our partners.”

5. Ask About Stuff

Don’t just listen, but engage in conversation. If your partner tells you something that happened at work, ask a follow up question the next day (i.e. “Whatever happened with that guy at work you told me about yesterday?”).

As Dr. Ramani says, “It shows not only that you were listening initially but that it is sustained. Few of us are heard any more in such a distracted world. To hear someone listening to us is a fantastic way to show gratitude.”

6. Again, The Little Things Count

Don’t be afraid to say “Thank you” or “I’m grateful” or “I noticed what you did.” According to Dr. Ramani, while those words are simple enough, they show that we notice the effort that our partner puts into the relationship and that we’re grateful for them.

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Original Article

Why to be Selfish in Your Marriage

A couple sat on my couch the other day telling me how bland and stale their marriage had become. Neither of them could understand how their marriage had gotten this way. They both talked about how in love they were at the beginning of their marriage and how they would do so many different and fun things together. Lately, though, things were just … boring. Even their sex life had become passionless.

As we talked more in depth, they felt like they were doing everything right. They were doing a date night whenever they would get a free night together; they spent lots of time together as a family going to the kids’ plays, soccer games, etc.; and they both still enjoyed making love with each other (though, they admitted it didn’t happen as often or as enthusiastically as they’d like). Things were going well. They couldn’t understand why things didn’t feel like they were going so great, though.

Sound familiar?

This couple isn’t any more uncommon than most couples that sit on my couch for marriage counseling. In fact, this couple isn’t more uncommon than most of my friends, either. Even my wife and I sound like this sometimes.

But, the truth is, the reason their relationship had become bland and boring was because they weren’t doing things for themselves anymore. While they talked about doing things together as a family and even things together as a couple, they didn’t say anything about stuff they liked to do individually for themselves. Any hobbies, interests or pastimes they liked to do for themselves had completely stopped.
Yes, you may have children and a spouse now, and your priorities have had to change. But when you stop doing things you love for the sake of your marriage, you’re going to see problems in your marriage.

If Your Dad Wanted to Pay a Man to Marry You…

What would you do?

Fathers can be so embarrassing right? How they’re always making hokey dad jokes to the waitresses at dinner, dancing like idiots at weddings, and making public offers to pay a guy millions of dollars to marry you. Uh, come again?

Dads, am I right?

Going way beyond the usual “Oh Dad” groaner, a property developer in Hong Kong with way too much money on his hands has offered the equivalent of $64 million to any man who will marry his daughter, Gigi Chao. And I thought the time my grandma offered my boyfriend a diamond ring to give me was bad! Sheesh.

To be fair, Cecil Chao Sze-tsung did say that his only requirement for potential suitors is that he “loves my daughter, and she loves him,” so maybe his heart is sort of in the right place?

Or maybe not exactly. Adding to the drama, there are reports that the marriage offer is timed to a significant development in Chao’s life. Last week, she may have eloped via civil ceremony in France with her longtime female companion, Sean Eav (a union which would not be recognized in Hong Kong). Ouch. Chao has tactfully declined to talk about her personal life, saying “I’m not afraid to admit anything. But I do want to respect my parents.” She says his proposal to the men of the world is “quite entertaining.”

Well, she sounds like a classy lady who deserves love from any man or woman she chooses, without a multi-million dollar incentive. I’ll choose to follow her dignified path and refrain from any comments except to say how thankful I am for my own dad for never trying to interfere in my love life.

Do you find this dad’s move to marry off his daughter to a man totally horrifying? Or is he just looking out for her happiness? Has your dad ever done anything to interfere in your love life?

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Original Article

Through Thick and Thin …Your Biggest Argument Before and After the Wedding

There is one fight that all couples have before they tie the knot.

Mike reared his wide eyes toward Julie. “That is NOT the reception budget that we agreed on last week!”

Julie, dumbfounded, blinked back at her red-faced betrothed. “We’ve discussed this at least three times already. You always go back on your word about these things.”

Lacy: “Which color do you like better for the boutonnieres, pink or teal?”
Robert: “Sure. Whichever. I really don’t care.”
Lacy: “Why can’t you act like you care about this wedding for five seconds??”
Robert: [Blank stare]
Lacy: “Pick your own colors. I’m done.”

Jake: “You do realize that once we’re married, you can’t go to your parents every single night for dinner.”
Josh: “Um, dear, you knew you were marrying my whole family when you said yes.”

It is the fight for control

Although this fight is usually subdued, it can be emotionally reactive and masked by the denial of both partners. Engaged couples are especially at risk of mishandling this pattern because greater issues are often disguised as wedding planning stress, or the conflict is avoided altogether because of the myth that premarital couples shouldn’t fight.

Behaving in controlling ways – either overtly or covertly – gives a person a semblance of certainty and comfort, usually as a way to manage their own insecurities about the relationship or their own self-worth. In the moment when we should team up with our partner and share our vulnerabilities with them most, we wall ourselves off to emotionally protect ourselves.

Marriage is about bringing two completely different worlds together to create a shared experience of life and love. It makes sense, then, that this transition often consists of friction, disagreements, and a normal resistance to change – like a “my way or the highway” mentality.

Underneath all fights for control are deeper questions of:

“Can I really trust that we are a team? That you will stand up for me to the rest of the world above all else? Do you really, truly GET me? Will you still love me, even if I completely disagree?”
Dr. John Gottman’s research revealed that couples wait an average of six years before seeking help. So, what can you do to tackle the pattern of control before it starts?

Do not wait until things get worse to address them. Learn how to manage these patterns in a healthy way for your relationship right now.

Here are some ways to avoid getting caught in the fight for control:

1. Don’t sweep it under the rug

Avoidance will only prolong conflict and make it messier and harder to deal with the next time. When you are experiencing frustration, resistance, or insecurity with your partner about something, bring it up by using a softened startup. A trap that couples often struggle with is the “I was waiting for you to bring it up first” paradox. Be assertive, be brave, and be respectful of your partner’s otherness when it comes to conflict and differences.

Control is about winning. If 69% of the things couples fight about are completely unsolvable, then the goal should be less about being right and more about understanding, validating one another’s point of view, and maintaining respect.

2. Know yourself

Become aware of how you tend to fight for control. Do you put others down, shame your partner, or shame yourself? Do you play the victim role or manipulate through blame or entitlement? Do you hide your emotions from your partner but feel lonely, disconnected, or anxious about certain aspects of marriage?

Self-awareness takes mindfulness, vulnerability, and a willingness to accept responsibility for your part in the conflict. It is not your partner’s job to uncover your tactics. Accountability will allow you to be more assertive and honest in those moments when you want to shut down or lash out the most.

3. Check your connection

How are you doing at staying connected to each other? Feeling validated by your partner through the thick and thin of wedding planning holds so much value. Dr. John Gottman’s research has shown the importance of maintaining intentional connection by creating shared meaning and responding to your partner’s bids for connection. Prioritize date nights and quality time together with no wedding talk allowed.

As marriage and family therapist Terry Real, author of The New Rules of Marriage, says: “control is just an illusion.” You will never be able to control, change, or know with complete certainty that your partner will be there for you and show up for the relationship at all times. There is no guarantee that your marriage will last. This is the risk of being in a relationship.

What you can guarantee is your own willingness to show up, to resist the need to be right or to control your partner, and to turn towards the opportunities to address your differences in order to build a strong foundation toward lasting marital vitality and success.

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Original Article