Author, The Secrets of Happy Families (2013)
Other books include NY Times Bestsellers Walking the Bible, Abraham, and Where God was Born
Host of the PBS series Walking the Bible
Award-winning journalist and speaker
Frequent commentator on National Public Radio, CNN and Fox News
Married, twin daughters
Bruce Feiler Shares Secrets of A Happy Family
MARRIAGE AND FAMILY IN THE MODERN WORLD
Like many of us, Bruce Feiler tries to carve out time for his marriage and children while taking care of aging parents and sustaining a successful career. During one family vacation, he received a reality check on the state of his family and saw that the “old rules” of family life that weren't working. Through the vacation, there was whining and arguments over things like doing chores, video games, and texting. Then, everything erupted and Bruce’s father commented that the family was falling apart. Bruce had believed their family was stronger than ever and this made Bruce wonder if indeed the family was slipping into dysfunction, and what were the elements of happy, healthy, functioning families. Instead of researching more about old family techniques and traditions, he set out to find new resources. Bruce sought out today's most cutting-edge techniques from contemporary experts in business, technology, military, sports, and television and found out what they were doing in their marriage and families. As a result, Bruce discovered over 200 new ideas to make the modern marriage and family more fun, functional, and meaningful.
WHERE TO BEGIN
Bruce says we work on everything else (i.e. our job, hobbies, etc.) but we don’t always put the same work into our relationships. One of the main points we need to consider is being mindful of one another. This advice goes for couples as well as with other family members. One of the big issues in marriages and families is that individuals take each other for granted. A great place to start improving this is to make time every week to talk with your spouse and family members. It doesn’t take a lot of time. You can start by talking for 10-15 minutes. Talk about a few things to change in your marriage/family every week. Taking this special time can reduce the time needed to talk extensively about issues, concerns, etc. overall. Bruce says that in the beginning there was resistance in his family when they tried to establish this special weekly time. However, as a result, there have been some positive changes in the family. Having specific family time gives them: 1) A lot of new ideas for the family 2) They are now on the offensive, not the defensive when they talk 3) They are able to create positive memories.
THREE NEW TECHNIQUES
Here are some other specific things that helped Bruce’s marriage and family improve:
- Be smarter about how you fight – Work on specific changes you would like to see in your marriage and family. Also, Bruce says things changed for his family when they had difficult conversations at a better time of day. Experts say it is not good to have hard conversations from 6-8pm because everyone is tired by that time. When the Feiler family now has a difficult conversation, they make sure to sit side by side. Bruce and Linda stopped holding tough conversations in his office where one of them would be standing and the other sitting. Now they have them in a more neutral area and also sit side by side. He learned some of these techniques from a Harvard University course on peace making.
- After receiving expert advice, the Feiler family rearranged their furniture to make it more family friendly (i.e. replace hard chairs for softer chairs)
- For couples, traditional date night doesn’t work – dinner and a movie won’t strengthen the relationship.
- Do something new and fresh to rekindle the feelings you had when you were dating.
- Double date with another couple – this encourages people to share new things.
- Take care of yourself – it is harder to be supportive when someone is successful than during the tough times – One study shows that it is more important to be supportive when someone is successful. It’s not good enough to just say “good job” and leave it at that…
We need to focus more on what families do right. This outweighs the bad when you need it. It creates good memories to draw on during hard times.
THREE THEMES FOR FAMILIES
- Adapt all the time
- Talk all the time (especially the bad times)
- Go out and play
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