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Dr. Gottman, marriage and relationship researcher, has a phrase he frequently uses in his couples counseling sessions. He encourages the idea of “small things often.” This means it’s not the big gestures that make a successful relationship. Rather, it’s actually all the small things you do on a daily basis that contribute to a happy marriage, such as paying attention to your partner when he needs it, giving him a compliment, or noticing when he needs extra support.

Seahorses have this idea down pat. Most species of seahorses studied in the wild appear to remain faithful to one partner, forming pair bonds throughout a breeding season and perhaps even over multiple seasons. Pair bonds reinforce their relationship with a daily greeting–they dance together every morning before they part ways. This morning ritual is the perfect example of “small things often.”

You can practice “small things often” by leaving a note thanking your husband for making coffee and wishing him a nice day at work. Or you can send a quick text expressing appreciation for picking groceries up after a long day at work. It can be as simple as letting your partner know what you admire about him. Giving a compliment goes a long way–64 percent of unhappy couples struggle with putting each other down, while only 8 percent of happy couples have that issue, according to a survey by Ron Deal, author of The Smart Stepfamily Marriage.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time on your partner, but you do need to make a conscious effort to set aside time for him every day. (For ideas on how to maximize quality time, click HERE.) As you start putting this practice into place, you’ll probably notice that your partner reciprocates by thanking you for what you do on a daily basis, giving you a compliment, or showing that he cares by leaving a note for you. Who knows, maybe you’ll even decide to start the morning with a dance!

The post What Seahorses Can Teach Us About Relationships appeared first on The Stepmom Project.

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Do you feel like drama comes along with your stepchildren? Do you ever think to yourself: if my stepkids weren’t here, I wouldn’t have to deal with their mother? If you’re dealing with a high conflict biological mom, you might have trouble separating those negative feelings you have for bio mom from the feelings you have for your stepchildren. You could have difficulty connecting with the children because you feel like they are an extension of her. However, don’t let those negative feelings taint your relationship with your stepchildren. Try this simple exercise to reframe how you look at your stepchildren.

  • Focus on the traits your stepchildren share with their dad. Get a notebook and write down at least three traits, either physical traits or personality characteristics.
  • Add to the list periodically. When you notice something, write it down, so you can return to it later. My stepdaughter has been watching her dad cook for years, so when she got the opportunity to cook one night, she made the meal exactly like her dad makes it. She even used the same expressions. “How hungry are you?” she asked me earnestly, as she prepared to fill my plate. I found it endearing that she was emulating her dad so closely. She obviously looks up to him, and she has acquired his talent for cooking.
  • Return to the list. The next time you’re feeling like you’re lumping your stepchildren in with their mother, take a look at the list that you’ve cultivated in your notebook. This will help you let go of negativity and focus on their positive traits.

Overall, looking at your stepchildren’s positive attributes will help you appreciate them for who they are. You’ll be better able to connect with your stepchildren, and this will help you form your own relationship with them. How do you connect with your stepchildren? Which traits do they share with their dad? Share in the comments!

The post Quick Tip: Reframe How You Look at Your Stepchildren appeared first on The Stepmom Project.

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Stepmoms, bring your kids and stepkids to check out The Artisan Fest at Odysea in the Desert!

The Artisan Fest features a Kids Art Zone with new projects every month, and I will be leading the Kids Art Zone on November 10th! Join us to experience a special stepfamily activity centered around gratitude. My stepdaughter and I designed a series of fun, interactive bookmarks for you and your stepchildren to color. This will be a nice stepfamily activity, and a great way for you to meet other stepfamilies! Copies of “The Stepmom Project” will be available for purchase.

You can also visit with nearly 50 of the top local artists, designers, and creators. Enjoy live music from some of the best local musicians. Free Yoga classes will be offered by top valley instructors at each event. Watch live cooking and juicing demos, live art and performances. Once you work up an appetite, there are plenty of delicious dining options on-site and numerous fun-family attractions and retail to enjoy!

For more details and to RSVP, click HERE. Hope to see you there!

The post Stepfamily Activity at The Artisan Fest appeared first on The Stepmom Project.

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A recent study found that reading reduces stress. In fact, reading just six minutes per day reduces stress levels by 68 percent, according to a study by the University of Sussex in England. As an avid reader, I love finding facts like this that prove the benefits of reading. Now, if I need justification for spending the afternoon reading, I can just tell my husband that I’m working on lowering my stress levels. Since I love to read, I’m always on the hunt for a good book. So when a friend recently told me, “You have to read The Happiness Project. I think you would really relate to it!” I rushed to the used bookstore and got the only copy in stock. My friend was right—I loved The Happiness Project because it has down-to-earth ideas on how to boost your happiness. Gretchen Rubin, the author, shares her own experiences with trying out different strategies based on scientific research as well as tips from popular culture on how to be happier. Each month Rubin works on a specific theme, broken down into resolutions. She tackles things like marriage, parenthood, and personal growth, to name a few.

As I was reading The Happiness Project, I was thinking about how it could help other stepmoms. As stepmoms, so many outside factors can slowly cause our happiness to dim or dull our sparkle—custody battles, bitter fights involving bio mom, and disrespectful stepchildren, to name a few. After a while, all of this can begin to take a toll on our happiness.

But you know what?

You’re in control of your happiness and you get to choose who you’re going to spend time with and how you’re going to spend your money.

You get to choose what you’re going to focus on and who or what will dominate your thoughts.

Reading The Happiness Project reinforces all of these ideas and reminds us of how important it is to be intentional when it comes to our own happiness.

Important lessons from The Happiness Project:

  1. It’s not selfish to focus on your own happiness.

No, really! Your happiness affects those around you. Drastically. “A 30 percent increase in one spouse’s happiness boosts the other spouse’s happiness, while a drop in one spouse’s happiness drags the other one down,” according to Rubin. So this means that the happier you are, the happier your spouse will be, and vice versa. Since your marriage is the foundation of the stepfamily, it’s essential to have a strong, healthy, and happy relationship.

  1. Lighten up!

When was the last time you had a good laugh? Stepmommin’ doesn’t have to be such a serious gig. Some researchers claim that a child laughs about 400 times a day, while the average adult laughs just 17 times a day. What?! Why not engage in more activities that bring you joy and laughter? It can be something as silly as dancing with your dog or singing in the morning. (OR maybe you need to try goat yoga! Click HERE for more details.) Caution: your laughter may be contagious!

  1. Make time for friends.

Studies have shown if you have five or more friends with whom you could discuss an important issue, you’re more likely to describe yourself as “very happy.” This is crucial to us as stepmoms. With the everyday stressors that we’re experiencing, it’s important to have close friends or a support group to confide in. Making time for these friends or this support group should be a top priority for our own happiness.

Start Your Own Happiness Project

These are just a few of the lessons that I learned! Reading The Happiness Project is a great way to get inspired to start your own happiness project. Rubin even includes a guide to help you get started! Not only will you reduce your stress simply by reading it, but you will also become more aware of your own happiness and how much control you have over it. Happy reading!

The post The Happiness Project for Stepmoms appeared first on The Stepmom Project.

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