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It was a picture-worthy moment. She snapped a pic and promptly posted it to Instagram with the words, “My love! #alwaysandforever #makesmehappy”

Then the unexpected happened. Her “love” turned to her and said, “Did you post that?” Enthusiastically, she said “Yes!” He said, “You didn’t even ask.” A bit puzzled, she said, “It’s a great picture of you, what’s the problem?” The problem was, he didn’t want his picture posted on social media.

What seemed like an innocent post was suddenly creating angst in their relationship.

Interestingly, this couple’s experience with social media isn’t uncommon. In plenty of relationships, one spouse uses social media as a way to express themselves and their political views, and they love sharing about life in general while their partner really limits what they post for the world to see. Maybe they aren’t on social media at all and they wrestle with their spouse being so out there.

The Pros and Cons of Social Media

Social media has so many positives. It allows you to stay in touch with people you might not otherwise see or hear from. It has saved the lives of countless missing children because of people sharing information quickly, and in the midst of being quarantined, couples have been able to attend live date nights and do other fun things together. But, there are also the potential potholes and even sinkholes you can fall into that are difficult to climb out of and can have a real negative impact on your marriage.

It’s one thing to have a conversation with friends about politics live and in person. It’s a whole different level when you put your views out there and invite the world into your conversation, especially if your spouse doesn’t agree with your perspective or it could be potentially harmful to either of your careers.

Without some understanding and agreement about what social media engagement looks like, this has the potential to be an ongoing area of conflict for any couple. The question for most couples is: How do you get to a place that is mutually agreeable?

Decide What Works for You as a Couple

It’s helpful to start out talking about what really matters. The ultimate goal would be for those who like to be on social media to be out there, but not at the expense of their marriage relationship. So, it’s helpful to think through what respect looks like when it comes to posting on social media. Have a conversation about what kind of boundaries you want to have with posts on social media. For example:

  • How do you make sure that what you post doesn’t reflect badly on your spouse or embarrass them? 
  • If you want to post a picture of the person who isn’t on social, do you agree to ask permission first?
  • When it comes to sharing political views, are there certain things you agree to stay away from?
  • What about personal family information? How much is too much? 
  • What topics are totally off limits to post about?
  • How much time will you spend on social? It’s easy to get lost in time scrolling at the expense of your spouse feeling ignored.
  • If you are having a disagreement with your spouse, is putting it out there for everybody to see ok? What if you are “asking for a friend?”
  • How will you guard against the comparison game—comparing everyone else’s marriage highlight reel to your real life?

Social media is well-entrenched part of our culture. In your efforts to keep your marriage healthy, perhaps the best thing you can do is pause for a minute and just ask yourself, “Is what I am about to post potentially harmful to my marriage?” If the answer is yes, hit cancel and move on. It’s pretty unlikely that any post is more important than being on the same page with the one you love.

How do you know how strong and healthy your marriage is? Doctors help us to know whether our bodies are strong and healthy. 

I love getting a good report from the doctor after a check-up:

Mr. Ownby, your lab work shows your cholesterol is at a very healthy level. 

Mr. Ownby, your heart rate is strong and your blood pressure is perfectly normal. 

Mr. Ownby, our tests show you have the abs of a Greek warrior. 

(I haven’t actually heard that last piece of news yet, but I’m working on it…) 

How do you get a marriage check-up?

In her book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Couples, Harvard-educated researcher Shaunti Feldhahn uncovered a number of things that highly-happy, healthy couples do. Here are four of those signs from her research that you can use right now in your marriage: 

Couples in healthy marriages remember that little things go a long way.

It’s easy to think the big, overarching gestures we give our spouses (like expensive gifts or a surprise trip) keep the marriage glue strong. In fact, while there’s nothing wrong with these big gestures, Feldhahn’s research indicates regular, small actions of love are really what keeps the relationship robust. 

More specifically, Feldhahn pinpoints five of these “little things” that each person in the marriage can do to help their spouse feel more cared for: 

What the wife can do for him:

  • Notice his efforts and sincerely thank him.
  • Make it clear you desire him sexually.
  • Let him know that he makes you happy. 
  • Say, “You did a great job at _________.
  • Affirm him in front of others.

What the husband can do for her: 

  • Reach out and hold her hand. 
  • Leave her messages during the day to let her know you are thinking about her. 
  • Pull yourself out of a funk/bad mood (rather than withdrawing).
  • Put your arm around her in public
  • Sincerely tell her, “You are beautiful.” 

Couples in healthy marriages spend time alone with each other.

Two keywords here are meaningful and regular. Happy couples talk or share an activity when they are alone together. And these couples report doing this at least weekly

One goal you may shoot for is having a weekly “date time.” This is an intentional time you plan for just the two of you, and it can be any time of the day that’s convenient. You don’t necessarily have to leave the house or even spend a lot of money on a fancy dinner. Take a walk around the neighborhood. Play a card game. Send the kids to their rooms, turn the lights down low, and enjoy your favorite TV show over a box of Oreos. Simplicity often makes for the most meaningful times together. The idea is to have meaningful alone time with the one you love most on a regular basis

Couples in healthy marriages believe the other person is the reason their marriage is so happy.

Most people in a “highly-happy” relationship said that what their partner contributes to the relationship is why they are highly-happy. Conversely, a majority of the individuals in “so-so” happy relationships indicated they were the reason for their (so-so) happiness. Developing a sense of gratitude for the value your spouse gives to your marriage is fundamental. Recognize the great things they do for your relationship and show them your appreciation

Couples in healthy marriages believe the best of each other and don’t let negative thoughts get the best of them.

Even in the midst of disagreements, couples from healthy, happy marriages still knew that they were both on the same team and that their partner deeply cared for them. When negative thoughts about their spouse began to creep in, couples were quick to intentionally change their thinking around. They realized the power they had over these feelings and trained their brain to think the best of their partner. When you feel these kinds of negative feelings coming on, don’t let them boss you around; decide to believe the best about your spouse

Keeping your marriage strong and healthy takes intentionality on a daily basis. But with these four keys, you can be sure that your marriage check-up will merit a clean bill of health. 

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

We are now weeks into Coronavirus social distancing. That’s just long enough for everybody to get some extra shuteye, accomplish some things around the house and admit they are 100 percent ready for this to be over.

Even the couples and families who usually get along just fine are reaching their tolerance limit for being around each other 24/7.

I’ve been thinking about the fact that there are really a lot of positives that could come out of having what feels like the rug ripped out from underneath us. Yet at the same time, we are going to have to be on our guard for the ways social distancing has the potential to negatively impact our relationships in at least five ways:

If you are an introvert married to an extrovert. You, the introvert, are probably livin’ the dream thinking you just died and went to heaven, being forced to hole up in your house until further notice. Meanwhile, your extroverted spouse feels like they have just been sentenced to the ultimate punishment – not being allowed to be around others which is what energizes them. That face-to-face human interaction is their lifeline. We all know that opposites attract, but this may be a moment when you aren’t feelin’ the love so much.   

The amount of time everybody now has on their hands could also have a negative impact on the relationships in your home. Some children and adults who are used to having a packed schedule are suddenly trying to figure out what to do with themselves. This right here will test the best of families when it comes to patience, adaptability and willingness to take it one day at a time.

Expectations of how things will go in the coming weeks is also a thing, for real. If spouses aren’t on the same page about social distancing, finances, family schedules, help with household chores and such, it can create a lot of angst not only between the two of you, but with your family as a whole. 

No matter how much space you have in your home, so much togetherness can make it feel claustrophobic, not to mention the fact that differences become magnified. What seemed like “not a big deal” before manages to get on your last nerve at the moment. 

 Spending so much time and energy on the relationships in your home that you don’t have time to connect with relationships outside your home can, unfortunately, make you resentful of the people in your home. 

So how can you counter these potential relationship toxins?

A great place to start might be to ask some questions such as: What does my spouse need? What do I need? What do my family members need? This could actually be a conversation between you and your spouse and/or your children with the goal being for everybody to understand that each person is probably coming to this COVID-19 experience from a different perspective. All your introverted family members who may not be too hyped up about having to be closed off from the rest of the world are struggling to understand their extroverted family members who are feeling the significant loss of being physically present with others. Seeking to understand each other’s perspective can go a long way toward creating calm and peace in your home.

When it comes to time, I think it might be helpful to talk about how frustrating all of this is and then make some decisions as a couple or family about how you will actively plan to deal with it. I know in my home, we constantly talk about, if we had more time we would do this project or that project. My husband actually started painting a room we have said we needed to paint for forever. I have been going through photographs from two decades ago in preparation for our daughter’s wedding that might not go as planned. 

If your children say they are bored, it might be good to make a list together of things they can do – both fun and the helpful things – like spring cleaning. Some family members might want to start a new hobby like reading, an exercise plan, baking bread or learning how to play new games like checkers or chess. This could be the perfect time to go through those fall/winter clothes or purge the garage in hopes of having a yard sale sometime in the future or donating to charity. 

This break is also an opportunity to realize that it’s really ok to be bored and do absolutely nothing sometimes. If schedules are usually packed so much that rest gets thrown out the window, don’t feel pressured to fill all of the time with activity. Give yourself and others in your home time to do absolutely nothing. And be willing to overlook things that get on your nerves from time to time.

Now is a great time to connect with extended family members and friends by phone call, text, video chat or a letter. It’s also an opportunity to help others out from a distance by assisting them in placing a grocery order or making sure they have what they need during this time. Older people who live alone would probably really appreciate hearing from you – and the extroverts in your home will probably be all-in on making those connections.

When it comes to expectations, getting creative about things could save the day. Instead of one person doing all the cooking, you can have a cooking competition with what you have on hand. Each family member could be responsible for creating a menu and either preparing or helping to prepare the meal. Divvy up the chores that need to be done. Have a poetry contest. Put “dress-up” or theme days on the family calendar. Try to make things FUN. Focus on the positives. For example, every time you think a negative thought about your situation, think of something positive related to it.

One last thought. Many of us, including our children, wonder how long this will last, are we going to have enough money, what happens if one of us gets sick, etc. I wish I had the answers, but I don’t. I can tell you this: You’re not alone and I’m rooting for you – and for all of us – to come out stronger.

After multiple weeks of being told we need to stay home, a lot of folks’ nerves are frayed (parents in particular). Life might have been complicated before – keeping up with schedules, work and home. Now, things seem 10 times more complicated. Everybody is under the same roof all the time with nowhere to go for a break. Many parents are silently asking how long they can actually survive this COVID-19 crisis with their family (and their sanity) intact. 

It is true that most of us are not accustomed to spending so much time together. Things that you didn’t even know got on your nerves, well, now you know. And, some of them are seemingly little things. Maybe it’s the way someone chews their food, the amount of dirty laundry, or the constant questions without answers. Or maybe it’s the way your perfectly capable kids seem so totally dependent on you to do everything.

Honestly, it’s enough to make a parent ask, “Where do I go to resign?”

Before you turn in your notice, here are some things that might be helpful for all of us to consider. 

Emotions are running high for everyone. There is tension in the air and we feel it even if we don’t acknowledge it. It has its way of oozing out of people through petty bickering, short fuses, tears and an abundance of energy. The close proximity to others in your home may feel like someone has you in a stranglehold. 

Even if you are in pretty close quarters, there are some things you can do to help your family avoid unhealthy behavior.

Recognize that your children are taking their cues from you. If you are really struggling with all that is going on, find ways to process your thoughts and best next steps. Even if things are upside down, when you know the next steps you will take, your children will follow your lead. Your children need to know that you are working to ensure they are well cared for. This provides comfort and security, especially in times of uncertainty. It’s ok if you don’t know all the answers. Having rules, rituals, consistency and structure in place helps everyone to know what to expect and provides freedom within healthy boundaries.

Speaking of boundaries, establishing boundaries is helpful. It lets people know where the fence lines are for your family. If you haven’t had a family meeting to discuss what this looks like, now is a really good time to do that. Items up for discussion include:

  • How will household chores get done?
  • With whom outside of immediate family will we engage during this time of social distancing?
  • What time is quiet time in the house? (could be until a certain time in the morning, a period of time in the middle of the day or a time at the end of the day)
  • Where and for how long are people using screens? (for work and for leisure)
  • Is there unlimited access to the kitchen and food?

Getting in the groove of functioning as a team will help your family now. Plus, it will serve them well in the future.

Even though your family is all together, don’t assume they will automatically talk about the thoughts and feelings that are rolling around in their head. This is a scary time for everybody. Establishing a quick daily check-in makes it possible for you to share information and answer questions. It’s also a good chance to talk about the flow of this particular day and address concerns or misinformation anyone may have.

With everyone under one roof, establishing times when you expect people to be in their own space away from everybody else can help. If your children share a bedroom, perhaps there is another location one of them could be. The goal is for people to have a break from being on top of each other. It can be as simple as going outdoors when the weather is nice. Maybe it means taking a long, hot shower or a walk in the rain. It may even help to get up earlier or stay up a little later to have time alone.

What Each Person in Your Family Needs to Know

According to the authors of the Survival Skills for Healthy Families program, each person in the family needs to know:

  • How to speak up and say what they need. The ability to say what you want helps others to know what you are thinking and feeling. It also opens the door for understanding.
  • How to listen. As a listener, we can choose to seek connection, be respectful and look for understanding. Or, we can react, fight and argue. 
  • How to cooperate. Teach your children how to find balance between their needs and the needs of other family members.

Realize that there is a time to talk and time to listen. Everyone wants to feel heard when they speak, so ensure that your home is a safe place for family members to express themselves and discuss things without dismissing them. Acknowledge your feelings, and really listen to work through the emotions you are experiencing. Show empathy and remember that if all this is hard to process as an adult, it can be even more challenging for younger family members to understand or express what they’re dealing with on the inside. Those things will probably show up in how they behave, so it will take some wisdom to dig deeper as you handle misbehavior while helping them understand their emotions.

It is highly likely you will encounter challenges while you are in close quarters. By looking for solutions together, you are modeling how to find answers to other sticky situations down the road. In order for your family to come out stronger on the other side of this pandemic, these are a few safeguards you can put in place now to help keep the peace in your home.

“Every day that passes, I have more respect for you working mamas. I mean, I already had respect… but lawdy. Doing this and then waking up to go work a job for 8 hours and then come home to take care of baby and do it all over again… you guys are heroes. And with more than one kid, Tam! I love you and am in awe of how you do it all.”

I received this text on a random Thursday from my best friend Steph, a new mom on an extended maternity leave. Over the past couple months the texts between us have shifted to a flurry of questions about all things baby. But this text wasn’t unusual or out of the ordinary, in fact, it is pretty normal for us. Because, as cheesy as it sounds, our friendship is rooted in a mutual love and respect for one another, and we openly encourage and appreciate each other as often as we can. 

Steph and I have been best friends for 19 years. (The average friendship only lasts 7 years, according to a 2009 Dutch study.) We’ve been through the angsty high school days, the “wild” college parties, toxic boyfriends, first jobs, devastating funerals, marrying the loves of our lives, unexpected job losses and the great transition into motherhood. In other words, we’ve had our share of ups and downs. Throughout it all, our friendship has been to the brink of extinction and back. So what’s made it last this long and allowed us both to thrive as individuals?

In high school, before texting was really even a thing, we used to keep a notebook that we’d trade between each other, writing our deepest thoughts and secrets, spilling our hopes and fears and questions about life and love. We’d reply to each other with encouragement or advice, and then proceed to talk about our own problems again and again. It’s no wonder that the sentiment continued for years and years. Our friendship started off with honest and open vulnerability from the second we met.

One summer in college, we were both experiencing heart-wrenching breakups. Together, we channeled our despair into hope by creating a collage of encouragement. We scribbled quotes, phrases and advice we wished we could tell ourselves before things went so wrong. Like, “Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” We worked together piecing scraps of magazines photos and letters onto a black mounting board that I had leftover from an art project. When it was all done, the closeness we felt experiencing mutual heartbreak but also mutual empowerment that we would be okay bonded us together even more.  

As life threatened to get in the way of our friendship by bringing jobs, husbands and kids, we made a decision to be intentional about keeping our communication alive. In fact, we text each other almost every day. Sometimes we need an outlet to vent our frustrations, sometimes we need advice and sometimes we need to share the embarrassing thing that just happened to us. The level of trust between us is off the charts. We have and will always allow each other to be our true, authentic selves with no judgment. 

The strong foundation we built in the beginning has allowed us to grow and change as individuals while still maintaining our relationship. Over the years, we’ve actually brought out the best in one another. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not perfect. We’ve had arguments and said or done hurtful things to each other, but really, what relationship doesn’t go through rough patches? We’ve apologized, forgiven and grown from those obstacles. We’ve become each other’s biggest fan, confident and “person.”  

“When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.” This Japanese proverb rings so true. Your friends shape who you are. They have tremendous influence over the person you are becoming. So, want to thrive in life? Build up your friendships that are positive, authentic and inspiring. Surround yourself with people who pour love, time, energy, and acceptance into you. And do the same for them. 

Thousands of Saints fans have been very vocal about the Saints’ loss in the playoffs. They say they were robbed of an opportunity to play in the Super Bowl due to a game-changing missed call by a referee.

Football fans around the world have seen the response from players who were impacted by such a huge loss: sullen faces, tears and a painful press conference where the magnitude of the loss got drilled down even further.

So after Drew Brees’ loss to the Rams in the playoff game, one might expect him to be off somewhere alone, licking his wounds; that is, if you don’t know Drew Brees.

Facebook user John McGovern, who was actually at the game, posted the following statement, along with a picture.

“This has been on my mind all day… I don’t know who took this picture but I am in the group of people up against the wall to the right of the goal post. A couple hours after the game was over and the cameras were all gone, I stood and watched a man who was without a doubt THE most affected by the inexcusably ignored event that changed an entire season put everything aside and take care of what is most important. Most people would have wanted to go home and not even speak to anyone. Instead, he laughed and played with his kids and as seen here even held a football for his son to kick a field goal. If kids are looking for a professional athlete to look up to, they can find no one better than this man. Drew Brees makes me very proud to be a New Orleans Saints fan.”

Perhaps his children knew how big this loss was for their father, but it’s quite possible they had no clue because of how Brees handled the situation. In fact, Brees has been quoted before reminding people that at the end of the day, it’s a game.

The true character of a man reveals itself in the most challenging and difficult moments. Children young and old pay attention and take Dad’s lead.

Sometimes it’s hard to separate one’s identity from these situations or to not take it personally, but what we do in the face of adversity teaches children important lessons like how to deal with disappointment, placing value on what matters and how to handle failure. 

Here are three takeaways from watching Drew Brees interact with his kids after the controversial ending to the football game.

  • Deal with extreme disappointment in a healthy way. Disappointment is inevitable. When dads model how to walk through disappointment, talk about it, work through it and move forward, they are showing their children how to encounter and deal with hard situations.
  • Place value on the things that really matter. How Dad deals with his relationships when he experiences disappointment sends a powerful message about what he values most. The fact that Brees was out on the field playing and laughing with his children after such a huge loss lets his kids know they are more important than a game. Whether they innately understand that today or figure it out a few years from now, it is a powerful play for sure.
  • Don’t allow failure (real or imagined) to define you. Sometimes it’s really tempting to allow failure to invade your DNA and define who you are as a person. The most important lesson about failure is that it is not final. It is a moment in time where one has an opportunity to glean important and helpful life lessons for the future.

Whether it’s a disagreement with their spouse, a toxic work situation, a car that breaks down, a financial setback or the loss of a championship game that was seemingly stripped right out of his hands, how Dad responds sends a powerful message to his children about what matters most in life.

Photo Credit: Heather Cohen

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on February 3, 2019.

Have you ever had one of those moments where everything seemed to be going right and suddenly, for some unexplained reason, a meltdown occurs?

It could be your 4-year-old, your 14-year-old, or even yourself. A perfectly fine moment ripped to shreds in seconds and you ask yourself, “Why me? I don’t recall signing up for all this drama.”

This is one of those “good news, bad news” moments. The bad news is meltdowns come with the territory. Any parent who has walked the road will tell you even with the “easy child” there were trying moments.

The good news is you’re not alone. If you compared notes with families everywhere, you would find that everybody deals with drama; some of them just have less of it. And that’s what people want: less drama, more fun and adventure as a family.

Experts examined the qualities of healthy, happy families and found that there are specific things families can do to decrease drama and increase family well-being. Here they are in order of importance. 

  • Problem-solve. Couples and families who are able to identify a problem and agree on a solution tend to do better over time.
  • Affirm. Families who verbally express high regard for one another and show interest in other family members and what is happening in their lives tend to be healthier.
  • Openly communicate. Weekly family meetings where schedules, chores, and issues are discussed teach children how to express their feelings appropriately, how to listen to others and how to problem solve.
  • Have well-defined boundaries and organization in the family provide security for children which helps them feel in control and safe.
  • Establish family rituals and traditions. Studies show that family meals, no matter when they occur, can improve educational performance, lower depression rates in girls and boys, decrease the risk of alcohol and drug abuse and help children feel more connected. Family traditions connect children with family history, giving them a foundation upon which to build future generations.
  • Build trust. Children and adults in a healthy family environment experience high levels of trust. Spouses place trust in each other and model what it means to be trustworthy in a relationship. Children learn they can count on their parents to meet their needs.
  • Discuss sexuality. Age-appropriate, ongoing conversations about body image, the opposite sex and healthy relationships are common in healthy families.
  • Develop family history. Children who are loved and nurtured typically grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults.
  • Share religion, faith and values. Sharing the same faith beliefs and values plays a significant role in family health.
  • Support community connectedness. Families who are well-connected in the community and know where to find help in times of need appear to be healthier than those who are disconnected.

The more of these characteristics a family has, the more likely they are to be resilient in difficult times. Healthy families find ways to adapt, adjust and stick together as a team no matter what life hands them.

Are there days when you feel like you never left the office or you just don’t have the energy to deal with the many demands of home life? Without even knowing it, many people are living life on the edge these days. They have this feeling that something isn’t exactly right, but they can’t quite put their finger on what would make it right. 

Commitments, deadlines, long work hours, endless carpooling, sports teams, being “driven,” corporate goals looming with emphasis on the bottom line, trying to be actively involved in the community and raising a family are all things people expect at work and at home. 

At a time when there is a lot of push for being more efficient and using less people-power to get the job done, people seem to be on the verge of becoming just another “machine” for meeting the bottom line. According to experts like Dr. Richard Swenson, author of “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives,” this way of thinking is putting a strain on us and on our society.

So many employees live for the weekend, but actually never get a break because they are tethered to technology. Not responding to emails over the weekend can make us feel guilty, and then Sunday rolls around and it feels like we never disconnected.

 One executive’s workday begins at 7:30 a.m. and ends somewhere between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. In order to deal with family needs, she leaves her job around 5 to take care of the immediate family needs, grabs something to eat and heads to her home office for another couple of hours of work. 

It doesn’t matter whether you are a super-organized person or not; plenty of people feel like they just can’t get ahead. There’s no rest for the weary and certainly no margin in so many people’s lives.

More and more workplaces are developing family-friendly policies, and that’s good for families. But if your company’s policies aren’t meeting your particular needs, it may be time to reevaluate your situation. If you are thinking about creating more margin in your life, ask yourself what changes you need to make. It may take a while to implement your plan, and you may even have to take a pay cut, but realize that those changes could lead to less stress and more overall happiness.

“Many times these types of changes occur only after experiencing a trauma such as a death in the family or a serious illness,” states leadership development consultant, Dr. Zelma Lansford. “People get so caught up in what they are doing because they think what they are doing is important. Then something happens that causes them to ask, ‘Is what I am doing getting me what I want?’ Often the answer is no. 

“The key is getting people to ask the question, ‘Is what I am doing important and essential in my life based on everything I believe?’ before a traumatic experience comes along. People have to ask themselves, ‘If my life were going to end in the next two months, what would I be doing differently?’ We need to frequently revisit our priority list and focus on what really matters. What used to be so important can often become insignificant. An alignment of our values with work and activities can give meaning and satisfaction to our lives. A realignment moves us to a solid approach to life – which tends to create more margin.”

When it comes right down to it, most people will not look back on life and celebrate the time they spent at work. Instead, they will celebrate the relationships they have had and their positive impact on generations to come. Before taking on any additional commitments, consider asking yourself, “In two months, two years, or 10 years, will I be glad that I did this?” Often we don’t think one more thing is going to make that big of a difference, when in reality it may be the very thing that sends us over the edge.

In Dr. Phil Zimbardo’s TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) talk about the demise of guys, he states that boys are flaming out academically and wiping out socially with girls and sexually with women.

In response to Zimbardo’s talk, Dr. Gary Wilson explains why guys are flaming out and what we can do about it. He bases his reasoning on years of research concerning the neuroscience of reward, sex and bonding.

According to Wilson, most boys seek porn by age 10. At that age, a brain that is suddenly fascinated by sex drives the boys. Thanks to high-speed internet, boys have access to unending novelty. The boy’s brain releases dopamine with each new image, and he will keep going as long as he can keep clicking.

Eventually, the brain wires itself to everything associated with porn such as: being alone, constant clicking, voyeurism, shock and surprise – instead of learning about real sex, which involves interaction with a real person, courtship, commitment, touching, being touched and emotional connection.

Porn Is A Serious Addiction

In 2009, a Canadian researcher attempting to study the impact of porn could not find any college males who weren’t using porn, so he had no control group for his research. He asked 20 male students who had been using porn for at least a decade if they thought porn was affecting them or their relationships with women. All of them said they didn’t think so. However, many of these males were dealing with social anxiety, performance anxiety, depression and concentration problems.

“Of all the activities on the internet, porn has the most potential to be addictive,” says Wilson. “Everything in the porn user’s life is boring except porn.”

Interestingly, there are thousands of men, young and old, who are giving up porn. Why? Because it is killing their sexual performance.

A guy in his 20s reports, “I have been to psychologists and psychiatrists off and on for the last eight years. I was diagnosed with depression, social anxiety, severe memory impairment, tried numerous medications, dropped out of college twice, have been fired twice, used pot to calm my nerves, and have been approached by women but they quickly left because of my weirdness.

“I have been a hardcore porn addict since age 14,” he says. “I stopped porn completely two months ago. It has been hard. I have quit all of the medication I was taking. My anxiety is nonexistent… My memory and focus are sharper than they have ever been and my erectile dysfunction is gone. I feel like I have a second chance at life.”

“Widespread youthful erectile dysfunction has never been seen before,” Wilson says. “This is the only symptom that gets their attention.”

The high-speed internet has taken porn to a new level and it is messing with our children. Watching porn digitally rewires boys’ brains in a totally new way for change, constant arousal, novelty and excitement. This creates real issues when it comes to romantic relationships that grow gradually and subtly.

Do your children know what healthy relationships look like? Have you taught them about the perils of the internet? Are you paying attention to their computer use?

It’s time to take back our boys. Their health and future relationships are hanging in the balance.

Dads don’t matter. Seriously, dads don’t make a difference – unless it matters that children are physically and emotionally healthy and achieve educational success. If those things matter for your children, then fathers DO make a difference.

Dr. Alma Golden, pediatrician and former member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on the Family, has a lot to say about marriage and children.

“As Baby Boomers we were told these things:

  • Marriage is old-fashioned and confining;

  • Open relationships are healthier and more conducive to personal development;

  • Fathers are nice but not necessary;

  • It is better to live with a divorced mother than two unhappy parents;

  • The kids will be OK, they are flexible; and

  • Financial disparities are the reason for the differences in health and educational achievement.

“What we believed changed our world and started driving personal decisions. People started getting married later. Women are having fewer children and having them later. Single mothers are giving birth to more children. Fewer children are living with their married biological parents,” says Golden.

So how do these changes affect children?

A study of 294,000 families released in 2010 by the Centers for Disease Control indicates family structure makes a huge difference for children. 

The CDC study indicates that when children grow up with their two married biological parents, they have a lower rate of delayed medical care. They’re also less likely to have ADHD regardless of income, education, poverty status, place of residence or region.

Additionally, an earlier study found that in sixth through 12th graders, the strongest predictor of getting a diploma and going to college is having a father who attends PTA meetings.

“When dads show a clear commitment to their children, encouraging them in their educational endeavors, children do better,” Golden says. “The research also indicated that a married daddy at home doubles the chances that a child learns self-management.

“Conversely, non-nuclear families seem to struggle with a lot of issues. For example, cohabiting fathers have less than half the income of married fathers. They tend to bring less commitment to the family as a general rule. The implications for the children are they have fewer resources available to them. Additionally, seven in 10 children of cohabiting couples will experience parental separation.”

Findings from the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force in 2003 showed that:

  • Married men and women are physically and emotionally healthier. They are less likely to participate in risky behavior such as alcohol and drug abuse.

  • Married men and women live longer. 

  • People behave differently when they are married. They live healthier lifestyles and monitor each other’s health. And, the increased social support also increases the family’s chances of success.

“If we look back at the baby boomer list, what we now know is that marriage is actually beneficial for men, women and children,” Golden says. “Cohabitation is often of low-trust, stressful and more prone to violence and dissolution. Fathers are a necessity. Good enough marriages produce better outcomes than divorce. The kids are NOT flexible and may not be OK and family structure and stability are more important predictors of outcomes than finances.”

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***