Therapists offer advice for long-lasting relationships

Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 @ 5:57 PM
Updated: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 @ 5:57 PM

If you’re hoping to celebrate eons of Valentine’s Days with your significant other, you may want to pay attention to Linda and Charlie Bloom.

The two marriage counselors, wed for more than 38 years to one another, have co-authored books on the subject, including “101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married” and their latest, “Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth From Real Couples About Lasting Love.”

For the recent book, the Blooms, both psychotherapists, interviewed 44 happy couples and chatted informally with many more. Their goal was to come up with practical advice that might aid others in maintaining long-term, loving unions.

“They had all been together an average of 30 years,” says Charlie, who said couples represented a range of races, religions and ethnicities. They were both gay and straight. Most were formally married.

It turns out happy doesn’t necessarily mean tranquil. Charlie says many of the “happy” couples were quite opinionated and could be volatile at times.

“We expected that people who felt really happy and fulfilled wouldn’t have many differences and would have very infrequent conflict,” he says. “Although it was true that overall there wasn’t much conflict, there were profound differences. What distinguished these couples was that they were able to relate to their differences with appreciation and gratitude rather than merely tolerating them or judging and being in resistance. They believed their differences added something rich to their relationship.”

Linda Bloom says it’s important to find out what your partner wants, then help him or her get it.

“If you have any doubts about what it is they might like as an ongoing gift through the next year, just ask: ‘How may I best love you?’ If you’re the one being asked, be honest.”

Here’s more advice from the Blooms based on their conversations with “happy” couples:

Pay attention! More marriages die of neglect than of irreconcilable differences. Relationships require on-going maintenance in order to thrive. Many of us take better care of our cars than we do our marriages. And although we wouldn’t think of driving 50,000 miles without changing the oil, we go months without saying “I love you,” going on a romantic getaway, or simply taking a few hours to be alone together.

Address problems when they come up; don’t wait until later. Problems generally don’t get easier to deal with over time; they get harder and more entrenched. While upsets and disappointments are inevitable in all relationships, they are best dealt with sooner, rather than later. Pain denied is pain prolonged.

Take care of yourself. The best gift that you can give your partner is your own well being. The more healthy, happy and fulfilled you are, the more you have to offer others. Taking care of yourself involves more than what you eat and how much you exercise, it includes the responsibility to know what nourishes your soul and spirit and seeing to it that you bring those experiences into your life.

Learn to appreciate the differences. There’s a reason that opposites attract. It’s because they each have something to offer that the other is lacking. Yet the differences can evolve into conflict when we try to coerce others to agree with us.

Take time to make love. One of the first expectations of a distressed marriage can be a diminishment in the frequency of sexual activity. Great sex is more than just an experience of sensual pleasure. It’s a means through which we delight in each other’s bodies, give expression to our desires, show our love and share the joy of losing ourselves in bliss. If the flame of sexuality is neglected too long, the spark may go out. Don’t wait until the embers are cold; talk about what you want and what’s missing and keep playing.

Don’t take your relationship for granted. There’s no such thing as a divorce-proof marriage. If you think your marriage is so perfect that divorce isn’t even a possibility, think again. This belief can lead to a kind of complacency. While this may not always lead to divorce, it can lead to something equally dangerous: a flat or stagnant marriage. Staying together isn’t the goal of a great marriage, thriving is. Thriving means never taking each other for granted and continually expanding our capacity for joy, love and growth. It’s a lifetime process, and the more you do it the easier it gets.

Don’t let disappointments turn into resentments. In an effort to avoid conflict many of us try to get over feelings of anger or disappointment. There is no problem with doing this when we can genuinely and completely let these feelings go. If we can’t, they are likely to turn into resentment and become a toxic presence in our relationship.

Don’t wait too long to get help. The average couple that enters marriage counseling has been troubled for six years. By this time, it’s likely that workable difficulties have disintegrated into entrenched patterns. By all means, do everything that you can to handle challenges on your own, but be willing to recognize when your best efforts aren’t doing the trick.

Remember to play. When work and play get out of balance in a marriage a correction needs to be made. Those times that we think that we don’t have the time to relax and play with each other are when we most need to. It doesn’t require a long tropical vacation to reinvigorate a relationship. Sometimes a short break from a life of ongoing responsibilities can be enough to remind us of why we wanted to be together in the first place.

Learn to forgive. Nothing erodes the foundation of a marriage faster than grudge-holding. It’s poison that over time is highly destructive. Although feelings of disappointment, hurt or irritation are inevitable in all close relationships, they can dissolve when there is a willingness to forgive and let go of resentment. Forgiveness isn’t a one-time event; it’s a process that occurs gradually and incrementally over time. It isn’t always easy and sometimes it doesn’t even seem possible, but with an intention to heal, steps in the right direction can be taken even in the most strained of circumstances. Don’t wait too long to learn to forgive. Do it now.

Linda Bloom says long-term happy couples continue to learn and grow.

“They are curious and have a sense of wonder, like kids,” she says. “They don’t suffer from hardening of the attitudes.”

5 things you should know about Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 8:00 AM

Muslims around the globe are gearing up for the holy month of Ramadan, which begins this weekend.

Throughout the holiday, observers fast from sunrise to sunset and partake in nightly feasts.

» RELATED: Muslims in America, by the numbers

Here are five things to know about Islam’s sacred month:

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is the holy month of fasting, spiritual reflection and prayer for Muslims.

It is believed to be the month in which the Prophet Muhammad revealed the holy book — Quran — to Muslims.

The word “Ramadan” itself is taken from the Arabic word, “ramad,” an adjective describing something scorchingly dry or intensely heated by the sun.

» RELATED: Mahershala Ali makes history as first Muslim to win an Academy Award 

When is Ramadan?

The Islamic calendar is based on the moon’s cycle and not the sun’s (what the Western world uses), so the dates vary year to year.

By the Gregorian solar calendar, Ramadan is 10 to 12 days earlier every year.

In 2017, Ramadan is expected to start on May 27 and last through June 24.

Last year, the first day of Ramadan was June 6, 2016.

To determine when exactly the holy month will begin, Muslim-majority countries look to local moon sighters, according to Al Jazeera.

The lunar months last between 29 and 30 days, depending on the sighting of the moon on the 29th night of each month. If the moon is not visible, the month will last 30 days.

» RELATED: 5 inspiring quotes from iconic Muslim women to celebrate #MuslimWomensDay 

What do Muslims do during Ramadan and why?

Ramadan is known as the holy month of fasting, with Muslims abstaining from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset.

Fasting during the holiday is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, along with the daily prayer, declaration of faith, charity and performing the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Last year, according to Al Jazeera, fasting hours around the globe ranged between 11 and 22 hours and in the US, 16 to 18 hours.


The fast is intended to remind Muslims of the suffering of those less fortunate and bring believers closer to God (Allah, in Arabic). 

During the month, Muslims also abstain from habits such as smoking, caffeine, sex, and gossip; this is seen as a way to both physically and spiritually purify oneself while practicing self-restraint.

Here’s what a day of fasting during Ramadan is like:

  • Muslims have a predawn meal called the “suhoor.”
  • Then, they fast all day until sunset.
  • At sunset, Muslims break their fast with a sip of water and some dates, the way they believe the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast more than a thousand years ago.
  • After sunset prayers, they gather at event halls, mosques or at home with family and friends in a large feast called “iftar."

» RELATED: Photos of famous Muslim Americans

How is the end of Ramadan celebrated?

Toward the end of the month, Muslims celebrate Laylat al-Qadr or “the Night of Power/Destiny” — a day observers believe Allah sent the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad to reveal the Quran’s first verses.

On this night, which falls on one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan, Muslims practice intense worship as they pray for answers and seek forgiveness for any sins.

To mark the end of Ramadan, determined by the sighting of the moon on the 29th, a 3-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr brings families and friends together in early morning prayers followed by picnics, feasts and fun.

Does every Muslim fast during Ramadan?

According to most interpreters of the Quran, children, the elderly, the ill, pregnant women, women who are nursing or menstruating, and travelers are exempt from fasting.

Some interpreters also consider intense hunger and thirst as well as compulsion (someone threatening another to do something) exceptions.

But as an entirety, whether Muslims fast or not often depends on their ethnicity and country.

Many Muslims in Muslim-majority countries, for example, observe the monthlong fast during Ramadan, according to 2012 data from the Pew Research Center.

In fact, in Saudi Arabia, Muslims and non-Muslims can be fined or jailed for eating in public during the day, according to the Associated Press.

But in the United States and in Europe, many Muslims are accepting of non-observers.

Related

How not to celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Published: Tuesday, May 02, 2017 @ 11:28 AM

Cinco de Mayo is Friday, and before everyone gets ready for happy hours and parties, it helps to go in with a plan.

>> Read more trending stories

There are plenty of ways to celebrate the day, which commemorates Mexico’s victory over France in the Battle of Puebla on May 5 1862, during the French-Mexican war.

Make sure you do not do any of the following:

Dress up in sombreros and fake mustaches

There is no need to "dress up" for this day, but if you do, do not wear a sombrero, mariachi suit, serape, fake mustache or anything of the sort if you are not a member of that culture. Those things have historical and cultural significance, and donning them just for a day caricatures and stereotypes people. That's not fun.

Go out and get drunk

There is nothing wrong with drinking in moderation and doing it socially, but responsibility is key. What is the use in celebrating a day if you get sick or can't remember it?

Make English words Spanish by adding an "o" on the end

Not only does it not make any sense, but by doing this, it makes fun of another language and turns it into a joke. The same goes for plays on the holiday name, so no parties or themes like "Cinco de Drinko."

You can make a margarita cupcake or a fun cocktail, or have dinner at a family-owned Mexican restaurant. There are plenty of ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo without doing any of the three above.

Woman turns son's hospital bed into giant Easter basket

Published: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 @ 5:14 PM



Marine2844/Getty Images/iStockphoto

A woman turned her son’s hospital bed at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, into a giant Easter basket, and social media loved it.

>> Read more trending news

The hospital posted the image on its Facebook page on Monday. Within 24 hours, the post has nearly 2,000 likes and nearly 400 shares.
“The lengths great parents will go to for their precious children,” one commenter wrote. 

The family is showing support for the post and have commented that they hope this becomes a trend for patients at the hospital every Easter.

Why is it called Good Friday and what’s so good about it?

Published: Friday, April 14, 2017 @ 12:14 PM

Pictured is a mosaic of Jesus Christ inside Messina Cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo in Messina, Sicily.
Eye Ubiquitous/UIG via Getty Images

Christians believe Jesus was mocked publicly and crucified on a solemn Friday two thousand years ago. Today, the calamitous day is celebrated as Good Friday.

But what’s so good about that?

>> Read more trending news

One answer is that at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, “good” may have referred to “holy” in Old English, a linguistic theory supported by many language experts.

According to Slate, the Oxford English Dictionary notes the Wednesday before Easter was once called “Good Wednesday.” Today, it’s more commonly known as Holy Wednesday.

And Anatoly Liberman, a University of Minnesota professor who studies the origins of English words, told Slate if we consider the alternative names for Good Friday, such as “Sacred Friday” (romance languages) or “Passion Friday” (Russian), this theory makes a lot of sense.

Another possible reason for its moniker — a theory supported by both linguists and historical evidence — refers to the holiday’s ties to Easter Sunday, which celebrates the resurrection of Christ.

Because Jesus couldn’t have been resurrected without dying, the day of his death is, in a sense, “good.”

“That terrible Friday has been called Good Friday because it led to the Resurrection of Jesus and his victory over death and sin and the celebration of Easter, the very pinnacle of Christian celebrations,” the Huffington Post reported.

A third answer, some believe, is that the “good” in Good Friday was derived from "God” or “God’s Friday” — the way the term “goodbye” comes from a contraction of the phrase “God Be With You.”

Still, not everyone refers to this day as Good Friday. For example, 

The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions that, in the Greek Church, the holiday is known as "the Holy and Great Friday." In German, it's referred to as "Sorrowful Friday."

And as aforementioned, “Sacred Friday” and “Passion Friday” are also used.

In addition, because the holiday is also commemorated with a long fast, Good Friday was also referred to as “Long Friday” by the Anglo-Saxons.