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Articles from August 2020

August 25, 2020

Healthy Marriages Need Novelty

A big part of why people feel the desire to get married and remain married is the very pleasant boost of the neurotransmitter dopamine. New experiences, different from those we've previously experienced, and the anticipation of such new experiences both cause the release of dopamine in our brains. Over time, even an enjoyable activity loses its ability to produce dopamine. This is why healthy, long-lasting, happy marriages require novelty.

Novelty can come from trying new hobbies or foods or experiences as a couple, but they can also come from one of you seeking out new experiences and sharing stories of them with your spouse. Your new stories become your spouse's new experiences.

During a period like this pandemic we're living through, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for novelty or anticipation of novelty. So, let's get to work and create some!

If neither of you is an opera fan, find an opera on demand on cable TV, Hulu, Netflix, Prime Video, or YouTube and take time to watch and listen together. Not sure you're like it? Good! As a friend of mine once said when his wife offered an odd new way to spend a weekend, "I win either way. Either I discover something unexpectedly wonderful, or I have a great story to share at parties for the next couple of years."

How about buying a couple of Hula Hoops or Slinky toys to play with? Anything playful has lots of opportunity for boosting your dopamine levels and feeling closer.

Or maybe one or both of you would like to try your hand at crochet or wood carving or watercolor painting? Just remember to share the activity or your stories of how gratifying or amusing you found your new activity.

Or how about a progressive dinner, pandemic-style? Find a few other couples on your street. Each one is assigned a course of a meal and a time to deliver it. The first might be wine, the next an appetizer, the one after a salad, then an entree, followed by a dessert, and perhaps followed by coffee or an after-dinner drink. At your designated time, instead of the group coming to your home for the next course, as usually happens in a progressive dinner, you deliver your course to each of your fellow diners' front door. They'll know when to expect it. No need for contact. But you might also want to use video conferencing to chat with each other throughout this multi-course meal.

Want to make your progressive dinner even more fun? When you deliver your course to each of your neighbors, attach a note saying what makes them a great couple.

I would love it if you share more ideas for putting a little novelty into a marriage in the comments on the Assume Love website,

August 21, 2020

5 Reasons Not to Check Your Spouse's Cellphone

The other day, someone mentioned checking a spouse's phone, and my hair stood up. What a terrible idea. Let me share some reasons to avoid checking what's on there unless your husband or wife invites you to do so.

Reason 1: Nothing Good Can Possibly Come from This

If you're wondering whether your spouse is cheating on you, and you find no evidence of it on the phone, you know you'll just start listing all the other ways to communicate: Facebook Messenger on a computer, a second cellphone, in person at work or on the golf course, love letters by mail, private messages in an online discussion forum. It's an endless list. You cannot quell your fears by checking a phone.

Reason 2: You Could Paint Yourself Into a Corner

Perhaps you will find that your spouse is a relationship with someone else. Or engaged in illegal activity. Or booking an escort service. Or working for one. Now what? If you want to stop the activity and save the relationship, it's not a great idea to open with, "While I was violating your privacy and snooping through your phone calls and messages..."

Reason 3: You Might Destroy a Perfectly Fine Marriage

What if you find nothing to confirm your fears or incite new ones, but your snooping is discovered? Trust is vital to a marriage. What will it take for your wife or your husband to begin to trust you again?

Reason 4: You Might Misread the Clues and Act Like a Jerk

Check your own text messages with your friends or siblings. Do you ever say anything that could be misinterpreted out of context? Do you ever use code words that your friend or sibling will understand but others might not? Does autocorrect ever turn an innocent phrase into a horrifying one? Check your outgoing and incoming calls? Have you ever received a series of phone calls from someone consistently misdialing your number, thinking they are dialing a friend? Or from the hospital, trying repeatedly to catch you for their customer service followup survey? Have you ever repeatedly called a number not in your contacts list, just to get information or order a pizza? Do you realize that your brain behaves differently when you're fearful? That it will find the worst possible interpretation of sketchy information, oblivious to all the other possibilities because our brains evolved to protect us from predators, not our mate's phone calls and texts? The danger of being a total jerk is huge once you're into that phone.

Reason 5: You Could Ruin a Good Surprise

Marriages thrive on novelty, on new stuff happening. They thrive on spouses feeling great about what they do for each other. What if you stumble onto plans for a delightful surprise for you? Now you'll need to feign surprise, which is about as convincing as faking an orgasm. And you'll need to watch every word you say until the surprise drops, to make sure you don't give yourself away as already in the know or as a distrustful, snooping spouse.

Please, do not even consider taking advantage of that unexpected opportunity to see who your wife or husband has been communicating with by inspecting their cellphone. Instead, ask. Ask directly. Ask lovingly. Ask as if you care about preserving the love you two have for each other.

The Author

Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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