75 Habits for a Happy Marriage: a peak inside the book

Learn simple tips + tricks to keep your marriage happy from Ashley Davis Bush, licensed psychotherapist

75 Habits for a Happy Marriage: a peak inside the book

Happiness Habits

What’s a habit? It’s something you do regularly, something that becomes, after a while, almost unconscious.

Think about some of the habits you already have:

for example, your morning routine. You get out of bed and proceed through

a series of mindless tasks: make your bed, use the bathroom, brush your teeth,

take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast. These are habits you learned, many

of them when you were a child, some of them later in life. By sheer practice,

they’ve become automatic. They help get your day off to the right start.

It’s quite possible as well that you’ve got some bad habits. For instance,

maybe you check your e-mails first thing in the morning rather than take a

moment to center yourself. Or perhaps you eat a pastry every morning rather

than a nutritious breakfast.

The habits for a healthy, happy marriage aren’t fundamentally different from

other kinds of habits. They’ve got to be learned and practiced. Sometimes, in

doing that, you’ve got to break bad habits that are injuring your relationship.

A Foundation of Healthy Habits

Habits—whether healthy or otherwise—create neural pathways or “grooves”

in your brain. You want a brain grooved for emotional safety, compassion,

and joyful connection. Repetitive healthy habits are the way to get this. Love

might be the reason you got married, but a brain wired for intimacy is what

will sustain your marriage over the long haul.

Can small moments of daily intimacy really make that much of a difference? Yes!

While traditionally recommended intimacy activities—such

as weekends away, vacations, weekly sex, and hobbies together—are good for

the health of your relationship, they are not enough. Without healthy habits

practiced every single day, your relationship will suffer.

3 Sample Habits

Picture This

Prompt: When you’re at work, during a coffee break

Habit: Look at a photograph of your beloved (on your desk, on your computer, on

your phone, in your wallet). As you look at the picture, place your right hand over your

heart and breathe deeply. Notice the details and recall the circumstances involved

in the photograph: the event, the sweater, the mood, the weather. Remember the

love that you have for this special person. Hold this loving feeling in your heart for

up to twenty seconds, letting the feeling expand within you.

Purpose: When you intentionally summon a positive feeling into your awareness

and then heighten and expand that feeling, you begin to create new neural

pathways in the brain. Research shows that heightening a feeling for twenty or

more seconds turns explicit memory (the recollection of an event) into implicit

memory (a felt sense rooted in brain structure).

Puppy Love

Prompt: When you reunite at the end of the day

Habit: Greet each other with enthusiasm. Be excited and grateful that your beloved

has come home. Stop what you’re doing, engage in a full body hug (stomach to

stomach), and hold the pose for twenty or more seconds. Feel your bodies relax

into each other and say, “I’m so glad you’re home.” (Feel free to use whatever

words and phrases best express your love.) If you’re the one coming home, go up

to your spouse, engage in the extended hug and say, “I’m so glad to be home.”

Purpose: This reunion hug will feel unusually long at first. However, it takes twenty

seconds to stimulate the flow of oxytocin, the bonding hormone. When you activate

the release of this hormone, you start to feel closer and more connected right


Thanks for the Memories

Prompt: When you’re getting ready for bed

Habit: Mentally review your day and then thank your beloved for some action,

word, or experience. If you’re getting ready together, tell her or him in that moment.

If you’re the first to bed, tell your partner before you retire, along with a goodnight

kiss. If you’re the last to bed, write it down for your spouse to find in the morning.

Purpose: We all have a negativity bias. This means that we naturally tend to

notice what’s going wrong in our world. This was selectively advantageous for

much of human history. Our ability to scan for problems allowed us to avoid mortal

danger—say, saber-toothed tigers lurking outside our cave—and thus pass on our

genes. Our anxious ancestors avoided the tigers, whereas the blissed out navelgazers

became lunch, thus leaving no descendants!

We may be wired to survive but that doesn’t mean we’re wired to be happy. While developing a habit of appreciation might not have kept you alive on the plains of prehistoric Africa, today it will make you more happily coupled.

Habitually demonstrating gratitude for your mate’s recent behavior does

several things. First, your partner feels appreciated. And when your partner feels

appreciated, he or she opens up to love and warmth. Second, as you focus on

what in your world is going well, you begin to see more and more circumstances,

actions, and sweet moments for which to be grateful.

Dealing with life’s challenges is largely a matter of where you direct your

attention. When you shine a flashlight on problems, often you will see more

problems. But when you shine the flashlight on all the things you appreciate about

your partner, you increase your own satisfaction with the relationship.

Gratitude is habit forming.

Ashley Davis Bush, LICSW is a licensed psychotherapist specializing in couples therapy, grief counseling, and trauma recovery. She has written six self-help books including “75 Habits for a Happy Marriage.” Ashley felt a calling early on in her life to help people live richer, deeper, more fulfilled lives. Her work for the past 25 years –both as a therapist and as a writer – is designed to inspire others toward whole-hearted living. Read more about Ashley on her website.

We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!

A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.


A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.


A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.


A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.


A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.


A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.


A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.


A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.


An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.


A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.


And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


The 6 biggest lies I believed before having kids

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves.

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves. Some of these ideas might have been based on our own ideas of how we would absolutely do things differently than everyone else. Others, we believed what everyone else told us would happen would apply to our littles, too. But, that's not always the case, mama.

Below are six of the biggest lies I believed before having kids—and the reality of what actually happened for me.

1. Put your baby down drowsy, but awake

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