Love is a decision. Love fully, truly, deeply.

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The human race is like a bunch of porcupines huddling together on a cold winters night. “The colder it gets outside, the more we huddle together for warmth; but the closer we get to one another, the more we hurt one another with our sharp quills. And in the lonely night of earth’s winter eventually, we begin to drift apart and wander out on our own and freeze to death in our loneliness.” Arthur Schopenhauer

Does anyone want conditional love? Is anyone capable of unconditional love?

Do we feel capable of loving absolutely unconditionally? People who are religious feel they have unconditional love. Sometimes they pull away from God because they feel too unlovable. Do we feel unlovable and pull away from those who love us. Do we make it almost impossible for them to love us?

Even porcupines huddle together for warmth but they must be careful to not get too close or they prick each other. Do they do a dance like we humans, drifting too close and then too far from each other? Do they find a happy medium, do we?

A study from Princeton University tells us four out of ten infants born in the United States do not form a strong bond with either parent. The main problem according to the Princeton study is forty percent of infants in the US ‘live in fear or distrust of their parents’, and this will translate into aggressiveness, defiance, and hyperactivity as they grow into adults.

I was reading that parents of newborns that are not compatible with life, who do not bond with them. Have a harder time accepting the loss than those parents who loved without caution the little time they had. We may think we are inoculating our self from pain by guarding our heart. It doesn’t seem to work that way, the more we love, truly, fully, deeply, the more at peace we are with the inevitable. This also seems to play a part with the death of a spouse. The better the relationship the easier it is for the remaining spouse to deal with the loss.  When everything was said, that needed to be said there are no regrets for what could have been or should have been. When Dad died I don’t think any of us had anything left unsaid.

A husband and wife may disagree on many things but they must absolutely agree on this, to never, ever give up. Unknown

Marriage is on the upswing it seems for the over sixty-five-year-olds. Dr. Kate Davidson co-author of Intimacy in Later Life says older men and women said: “they never thought they would feel like that again, and it was lovely.” It seems men want someone to come home to, and women want someone to go out with. Widows tend to marry widowers. Widowed men marry women, single, widowed and divorced. Davidson tells a story about a wealthy man of 75 who married a divorced woman in her early 60s. “She used Botox, went to the gym twice a week, a real dish. “How did you get someone so scrumptious?’ his friends asked. ‘I lied about my age’,” he replied. ‘I told her I was 90.’

Couples in their sixties-plus see a much longer term future for themselves; it’s another adventure to be had in life. Older couples have more time, some have more money, they no longer have childcare commitments, and they are free of stress from work. There are boulders to be dealt with, grown children are not always ecstatic for their parents. The children sometimes worry about inheritance, sometimes rightly, sometimes not.

Love at every age is a minefield. If we worry too much about what could happen, we miss what is happening. We need to love fully, truly, deeply, knowing what will happen, will happen, and we will deal with it when it does. Worrying about what might happen doesn’t change it; all it does is keep us from enjoying what is to be enjoyed now.

We don’t need to wonder if pain will find us. It will, but we won’t feel less pain by loving less, we will feel more pain because we will look back with regret at what we can no longer change. Can we live without regret, and  love without caution? We can only do our best, but when we know we’ve truly done the best we could, gave all there was, we feel the loss but not the regret for what we could of, should of, but didn’t.

Love is a decision, we make it every day. Sometimes it is like loving a porcupine, sometimes it is like loving a puppy. We don’t get to love during the good times if we can’t love through the cold, dark, winter of our lives. As they say in Game of Thrones, winter is coming, but then again so is spring. If we give up when it is cold, windy, stormy, then the spring sun will not smile on us.

This may be why widows tend to marry widowers, they know about getting through the stages of marriage and they feel divorcees do not.

Whatever stage we are in, another stage is coming. We may be looking forward to the next stage or enjoying the stage we are in. If change is the only constant? Can we hold on for the wild ride?

My husband has made me laugh. Wiped my tears. Hugged me tight. Watched me succeed. Seen me fail. Kept me strong. My husband is a promise that I will have a friend forever. Unknown

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Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs Hardcover – Sep 5 2004

Issues from our childhood affects our present and future.

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A good marriage requires time. It requires effort. You have to work at it. You have to cultivate it. You have to forgive and forget. You have to be absolutely loyal. Gordon B. Hinckley

On this journey of self-discovery, it is easy to get preachy. It is easy to think we are farther along the journey than we are. Life has a way of giving us our comeuppance.

I was looking at financial blogs and quite a few of them admitted to getting back into debt after writing about how they got out of debt.

One of my favorite writers is Sarah Ban Breathnach who wrote Simple Abundance. I bought that book and gave it to numerous people. When I bought her next book she and her husband were split up. I was shocked. What if her success as a writer changed the dynamic of her marriage? As a writer, she was home, as a successful writer she was away promoting her book.

Marriages can be more fragile than we think. They can look strong but like an egg, they have the weak part that breaks easily. What if we are strong in the struggle but success is our weak point? We’re supportive of our husband’s attempts to be a musician but what if he became a star? What if he had groupies everywhere he went? Would it take a superman to not take up any of the offers he was presented with? What if he turned “most” of them down?

We think of our “real” lives as mundane and boring. The excitement of playing before thousands, being on a big talk show, going to award ceremonies call out to us.

How can we get our fifteen hours of undivided attention with our spouse if we are on the road? It gets really hard, and we see how hard it is in the public failed marriages of the famous.

Great relationships don’t happen because our eyes locked across a crowded room. That is only the invitation to start a great relationship. The rest is up to us. We don’t know if we will have our challenges, in the beginning, middle, or in the later stages of our relationship. We don’t know if we will find worldly success, financial success, familial success, or always be climbing toward success that seems just out of reach.

You can’t just give up on someone because the situation’s not ideal. Great relationships aren’t great because they have no problems. They’re great because both people care enough about the other person to find a way to make it work. Unknown

We don’t even know if it will be better if we get what we want, or if we are better if we never quite reach the pinnacle of success. Is always having one more mountain to climb, one more goal to set, one more hurdle to cross part of the “good life?” No matter what we accomplish do we need to feel there is something else out there to challenge us?

It is easy to look at couples who have been in long marriages and wonder why would they split up now? Why couldn’t they work it out after all they’ve been through together?

Years ago I met a woman she said, “I lost 185 pounds.”

“Wow, how did you do that?”

“I got a divorce.”

Maybe some people feel they are carrying the dead weight of their partner. They feel the partner is holding them back from the great success they could of, should of, or would have had. I think about her sometimes, I wonder if she ended up happier. Or, did they just have stuff they needed to work on, stuff she’ll find popping up in every relationship she has.

Marriage therapists say we fight about the same issue over and over again. This issue has its root in “our” childhood, and until we understand what it is, and make peace with it, it keeps rearing its ugly head. We will have the same fight over, and over, and over again. The stated issue may seem different but the underlying one will be the same.

An example is a marriage counselor had a couple come into her office. They fought about how messy the house was. The husband was a neat freak and the wife was messy. The counselor told them instead of fighting this week to figure out what the issue was behind their fighting that was rooted in their childhood.

The wife thought about her single mother, and how when she saw her mother clean up the house, she knew “a man” was coming over.

The husband started thinking about his chaotic and alcoholic home and how the only time he felt safe and secure was when everything was tidy and in its place.

As they began to understand themselves and each other they began to change. He became more relaxed, and she became less messy.

Is there a childhood issue in our life we need to make peace with that keeps rearing its ugly head in our relationship? Are we having the same argument over and over again?

There is no challenge strong enough to destroy your marriage as long as both of you are willing to stop fighting against each other and start fighting for each other. Dave Willis

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Arguing isn’t the problem. How we handle it is.

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Explain your anger, don’t express it, and you will immediately open the door to solutions instead of arguments. Unknown

Talking things out is a pathway to growth and problem-solving. It can also descend into arguments. It is not good to avoid conflict by withdrawal and stonewalling, it is not good if every discussion turns into an angry argument. We all argue, are there ways to do it more constructively?

The answer according to Barton Goldsmith is yes, and he gives his tips to argue correctly creating a pathway to growth and problem-solving.

  1. Understand that anger itself is not destructive. There is a vast difference between anger and rage. When someone is angry they need to state their feelings, they don’t break things or relationships – that is rageful behavior.
  2. Talk about your feelings before you get angry. When you or your partner can approach the situation as it happens and deal with it in a safe way, it may not get to the point of being an argument. Sometimes things just need to be verbalized and most arguments can be avoided if your partner understands how you feel.
  3. Don’t raise your voice. It’s amazing how issues of hurt feelings or differences can be resolved with a whisper. I counsel couples who are yellers to only communicate with a whisper and it greatly reduces the anger factor in their relationships.
  4. Don’t threaten your relationship. And don’t take every argument as a threat to your relationship. This type of emotional blackmail puts the other partner in a panic/flight or flight mode. While you’re telling them you want to leave, they may be making plans to find a roommate. In addition, they may be so devastated by the thought of losing their family they can go into a deep depression and be unable to give you what it is you need.
  5. Don’t stockpile. This is where you bring up issues from the past to use as a hammer against whatever problem your partner has asked for help with. Deal with their issue first and if you really have unresolved feelings from past problems talk about them at another time.
  6. Don’t avoid your anger. If you stuff your feelings long enough you will explode and say or do things that you will regret. Anger does not diminish love, you can be angry with those you love. In fact the ones we love hurt us the most because we love them the most.
  7. Create a process for resolving problems without anger. Start by each of you taking five minutes to state your feelings, then take a twenty-minute break to think about things and come back to the table for another ten minutes to discuss how you think you can best deal with the problem. Also, know that it’s okay if the problem doesn’t get solved right away.
  8. Abuse is NEVER allowed. This includes verbal abuse, any type of violence including slamming doors, breaking plates or hitting. If your arguments escalate to this level you need to leave the house. If one partner ever hits another a police report needs to be made and an appointment with a therapist is mandatory.
  9. Don’t engage. Remember that negative attention is still attention. If your partner tries to goad you into an argument, simply don’t go there. Some people actually like to argue because it gives them a temporary feeling of power and gratification. Avoid being sucked into their need for attention.
  10. Listen to your body. When you are angry your body releases chemicals that may cause you to react in ways that can be destructive to you, your partner and your relationship. Learn to understand your feelings and how the process of anger affects you physically and emotionally.

Research has shown that couples who argue more than twenty percent of the time are probably not going to survive.

Most couples don’t have hundreds of arguments; they have the same argument hundreds of times. It’s not always about trying to fix something that’s broken; maybe it’s about starting over and creating something better. You can’t have a relationship without any fights, but you can make your relationship worth the fight… Unknown

How an argument unfolds is important. We need enough balance in our relationship that both partners feel they can talk about anything and everything. It isn’t good when one partner rants and raves and bullies, and the other partner shuts down. It is even worse if both partners shut down and stop bringing up problems altogether. When this happens we walk on eggshells and stay distant to avoid conflict.

We need to contain our arguments where they don’t turn into open warfare, and where we don’t bring up the past to fan the flames of our emotional fire. When we do this, hurtful things get said, sometimes arguments even get physical, and emotional and physical scars can be created that don’t go away, they just create more fear, resentment, and fuel for future arguments.

When the argument is over we need to make up. We can make mistakes at this point too.

One mistake is to pretend the argument didn’t happen. We get up, pour our coffee, and sweep everything under our already full rug.

Another mistake is we continue to punish our partner. We give them the silent treatment. We use passive-aggressive behaviors to rub salt in our partners wound.

Even if it isn’t about punishment but anxiety and awkwardness we should avoid the deep-freeze treatment because it creates a negative climate in the relationship as we create a who will give in the first environment. It is even worse if children are forced to endure this untenable situation and negative environment. They sometimes believe they are the problem.

Another mistake we make is not apologizing. We often don’t apologize because we believe we are saying their ridiculous accusations are correct and we are wrong. An apology is simply acknowledging that we hurt our partner’s feelings. We are taking responsibility for our part in the argument and maybe even for our part in the situation that created it. We did play a part even if all we did is get defensive and escalate the argument

How can we make our relationship better after an argument?

First, we need to cool off and get our rational brain back in control. If we talk too soon we may trigger another argument. Men it seems often take longer to cool down. We can acknowledge the other person by simply saying, “I’m still upset; I’m not trying to ignore you, I just need more time to cool off.”

Apologize.

Solve the problem that started the argument if that is possible. Many of us fall down at this point. We don’t solve the problem because we are worried discussing it will turn into another argument. Our challenge is to talk about it and solve the problem. We need to stay sane, move forward, and figure out a way to deal with the problem. Do we need to go through this loop a few times because of the situation?

We need to figure out what is the moral of the story of our argument. We want to fix the problem but we also want to learn what the argument can teach us about communication, and what’s the underlying source of the problem. We may be fighting about dishes in the sink, kids bedtimes and other sundry items but the underlying problem may be something else entirely, money, not spending enough time and attention with each other, old hurts we haven’t let go of.

What is the deeper issue underlying the problem? The dishes are not about the dishes but about feeling criticized, feeling we are doing more than our share, and our requests for help are dismissed. We need to do real soul searching to figure out the larger pattern, why did this trigger that argument, and what needs does our partner have we are not meeting? How empty is their love tanks?

Were we holding things in and something finally burst the damn and we finally blew up? Were we feeling disconnected from each other and developed the habit of picking fights to feel connected and energized? Our challenge is having the courage to be honest with our self and each other about what is really going on. What aren’t we discussing? What aren’t we fixing? What are we regretting? What emptiness are we feeling? How have we let our self or our partner down? How have they let us down? We need to deal with our anxiety and the reality of the situation instead of avoiding it. When we deal with it, we can make it better. It might not be better in the short time, it may take a while, but if we are both committed to figuring out the problems, fixing the problems, and meeting each other needs we can build a better marriage and relationship.

Is an argument an opportunity to analyze a problem, fix it, strengthen our marriage, and be closer to our partner?

Relationships include fights, jealousy, arguments, faith, tears, disagreements, but a real relationship fights through all that with love. Unknown

Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy

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The givers and takers.

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The world gives to the givers and takes from the takers. Unknown

Psychologist Adam Grant divides the world into three personality types givers, takers, and matchers.

Takers are self-focused and put their own interests above other’s needs. They try to gain as much as possible from their interactions with other people while contributing as little as they can in return.

Matchers like to preserve an equal balance of giving and taking. Their mindset is: “if you take from me, I’ll take from you. If you give to me, I’ll give to you. Tit for tat.

Givers are other-focused and tend to provide support to others with no strings attached. They ask, “How can I help? What can I contribute?”

It seems most of us are somewhere in the middle, “the matchers”. We make sure what goes around, comes around. Matchers reciprocate, we give value for value. We expect to do for someone and have them do to us. Matchers reward generous behavior and seek revenge when others are mistreated.

So who is most successful at work?

The givers turn out to be the worst performers because they sometimes sacrifice their own success to help others succeed according to research. It is the givers who are also the best performers at work. The takers and the matchers tend to land in the middle.

It seems like the takers would be the successful ones, but the matchers tend to try and knock them down because of their selfish me first attitude. The takers rarely succeed in building strong relationships and networks.

The givers succeed because their giving leads to quality relationships. With quality relationships gives are happier people than the takers.

Whoa if being a giver is so great, why do they end up at both ends of the success ladder, the bottom and the top?

There are two types of givers: the ‘selfless’ giver and ‘otherish’ givers. The ‘selfless’ giver drops everything to help others. This means they often aren’t looking after their own business, interests, etc.

The ‘otherish’ givers are more pragmatic, strategic, and smart about their giving. They’ve learned to successfully navigate the world with matchers and takers, and they don’t allow themselves to be taken advantage of.

How can we be a successful giver?

Do five-minute favors for people. These are small impactful favors we can do that don’t take much time. We can introduce them to someone, give feedback, offer advice, and lend a listening ear.

Ask for help. This doesn’t sound right! When we ask someone for help we allow them to be a giver, feel good, smart, and helpful. One of the best ways to build relationships is to seek advice, in this way someone can contribute to our life and feel fulfilled by it.

Give all at once. We can give by sprinkling random acts of kindness throughout our week, or we can do all our giving in one day. When we give it all at once we are left with a bigger psychological boost of feeling appreciated and meaningful which motivates us to continue giving.

Specialize in favors. Successful people tend to pick one or two ways they enjoy and excel at helping others. They gain a reputation as someone with particular expertise they are willing to share instead of just being a ‘nice’ person.

Keep an eye out for takers. We need to be able to spot the takers, who are always looking for something for nothing. We need to tell the takers, “sure, I’ll help you if you do this for me in return.”

Have you ever wondered if you are a giver, taker or matcher? Even if we are givers or matchers, in certain circumstances we can act like takers. One of these situations is in marriage.

According to W. F. Harley’s website Marriage Builders, the giver is the part of us that does whatever we can to make the other person happy and avoid anything that makes the other person unhappy, even if it makes us unhappy.  The taker is when we do whatever we can to make ourselves happy and avoid anything that makes us unhappy, even if it makes our partner unhappy.

He says in marriage either the giver is in charge or the taker is in charge. When the giver is in charge we are giving and considerate. When the taker is in charge we are rude, demanding, and inconsiderate.

He says this is normal behavior in marriage. We might think we are married to a crazy person, or we might think we are crazy our self. He says marriage is one of the few situations that bring out the pure giver and taker in each of us.

Surprise, surprise, it isn’t the giver that ruins marriages – it’s the taker. When we give, give, give, the taker rises up to balance things out. “Now it’s your turn to give.” This sounds fair, right? All it does is rouse the taker in our spouse to rear its head. The taker in us makes us argue instead of negotiating.

Our marriage is in one of three states, intimacy when everything is going well and we are both givers. Conflict when both spouses are in taker mode. Withdrawal is when we’ve given up arguing and live in a cold no combat zone.

We may think staying in the state of intimacy is where we want to be. The problem with the state of intimacy is we don’t learn to negotiate and we can develop very bad habits, we don’t ask for what we need, we don’t negotiate how we will spend our money or other important negotiations. Not negotiating what we want in our marriage moves us to a state of conflict.

There’s no road map on how to raise a family: it’s always an enormous negotiation. Meryl Streep

Conflict can be temporary if the spouse still in a giving mood apologizes for the error (whether or not it’s their fault) and promises to be more thoughtful in the future or make a better effort to meet an unmet need. Then the taker is satisfied and goes back to sleep. The giver comes back and we are back in a state of intimacy.

What if there are no apologies? What if the damage is not repaired quickly? What if one spouse continues to be thoughtless or unwilling to meet an emotional need, or they aren’t willing to take responsibility for what they don’t agree is their fault?

Now we are in conflict and conversations tend to be disrespectful, resentful, and even hateful. Mutual care and concern have been replaced by mutual self-centeredness. Fairness is viewed by our takers as getting their way at all costs. We are taking love units out of our love bank at a fast rate. It isn’t long and we are bankrupt of love units. We would rather fight than try to make our spouse happy.

If we can’t find our way out of conflict the resentment and disillusionment we experience eventually convinces our takers it’s not working. We withdraw, we quit trying to force our spouse to meet our needs. In withdrawal spouses no longer feel emotionally bonded or in love. As soon as one spouse enters withdrawal the other usually follows.

Usually, one spouse realizes something has to change to break the negative cycle. It is possible to lead our spouse or for them to lead us back to intimacy. To get back to the intimacy we have to go back into conflict. In conflict, we are willing to have our needs met by our partner. If we just argue and fight instead of negotiating we will eventually end up back in withdrawal. The state of withdrawal may seem like peace, but it is actually the shut down of the marriage

To move from conflict back to the intimacy we must resist the urge to fight. It takes two to argue, and if one spouse makes an effort to avoid making demands and judgmental statements and tries to meet the other’s needs, the other spouse will usually calm down and do the same thing.

Once we start caring and sharing we rebuild our love tank bank accounts and reenter the intimacy stage. The irony that trips some of us up is the spouse making the effort gets their needs met last, and their Taker isn’t happy with this arrangement. If their Taker rears their ugly head we go round and round again. If we want to return to the intimacy we must override this instinct of how unfair it is that our needs are not being met yet.

It is easier if we work together to restore intimacy and negotiation is the way through the slippery slope of intimacy, conflict, and withdrawal.

We are always in one of these stages. What do we need to negotiate in our marriage or relationships to make them better?

Everything is a negotiation. Everything is a little bit of give and take. Lamman Rucker

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The importance of pillow talk.

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Pillow talk is the strongest conversation on the planet. Unknown

Isn’t it sometimes one of the best times of the day when we lay in bed with our partner in a drowsy, open state, cuddling, and sharing something funny, and touching. We share an intimate conversation for a couple of minutes or longer.

A study among Oregon couples shows that pillow talk helps couples relationships and health.

I’ve always loved conversation in bed. When my cousins used to visit we would lay in bed and talk. In summer Dad would set up the tent and all us kids would sleep in it talking and talking.

So many of us have trouble sleeping, we can’t seem to shut our brains off. When we lay down and our brains keep whirling away, one way to calm our brain is pillow talk. We can get out our thoughts and feelings. This is a way we can help each other unwind. We can connect on an emotional level. This is a time we let our defenses down and can be really honest with each other. If we do it consistently over time we are creating a positive environment for our relationship and health to thrive. It is a way to end our day on a positive note, one more way to build a positive life and relationship.

In movies, we see there is a cold marriage because we watch the couple get into bed but have no interaction. One of the things marriage therapist John Gottman tells us we need to pick up on the little bids for attention, affirmation, and affection our partner makes. A good place to make a bid for connection, attention, and affirmation is pillow talk before falling asleep. It is the small things done often that make the biggest difference in our relationship.

We think it is big things that cause relationship rifts, not just between couples but between friends, coworkers, and family members. I spoke with a friend who told me about a moment that changed a friendship for the worse. I’m still shaking my head about it. She thought the person should have said something but didn’t, and had a smirk on her face. It wasn’t a big thing she was supposed to say. Just something like, “yeah, we always joke and make fun of each other like that.”

I’ve watched rifts happen in my family and shake my head over the cause. When we’ve hurt someone, how do we repair it? Maybe the problem is that something happens, and then neither person makes a bid to repair the situation, ease the awkwardness, or heal the rift. Or if one person makes a bid the other person ignores or doesn’t notice.

It’s no use of talking unless people understand what you say. Zora Neale Hurston

Pillow talk is a way to make a bid when there is no competition for our time, attention or energy. When we go to bed, we want to unwind and a little positive conversation with the one we love empties our brain and allows us to drift off into a peaceful sleep.

If we are smart we use the time just before bed and sleep to reconnect. It is a time to let the stress of the day fall away. Marriage therapists share ten bedtime behaviors that wreak havoc on our relationships.

Going to bed at different times. Especially if we hit a rough patch we can use this as a way to avoid emotional and physical intimacy.

Expecting to have sex. One or both partners may find the expectation difficult when they feel dead tired, not in the mood, or physically incapable. This expectation can ruin the chance for emotional and physical intimacy.

You bring your phone to bed. Having a TV in our bedrooms might be contributing to less pillow talk.

You focus on the kids the whole night.

You sleep in separate beds or too large of a bed.

You talk about your to-do list. I think talking about anything is probably better than not talking. We need to start the conversation; we don’t just dive into intimate conversations, we ease into them. Can we accept the bid and not be too judgmental on how someone starts a conversation?

You tell your partner to sleep on the couch. Do I have to ask who owns the bed?

You drink without your spouse.

You bring up heavy conversations in bed. Once again I think this is not good advice. Sometimes the only way back to intimacy is with some hard conversations, it is best if we can let our partner talk without getting defensive. Conversation is better than no conversation; this may be the time we can just murmur encouragement at their sharing without confronting them, just because we listen to their point of view doesn’t mean we agree with it. We should listen to their point of view, and they should listen to ours. If we let our partner talk, and say all they have to say we may understand their point of view, even if we don’t agree with it. We need to listen to understand. Not feeling understood is a huge problem in marriages.

It isn’t part of their list but I think turning away quickly without touching our partner or saying anything that could ignite a little light pillow talk may give them the idea we are not open to touch, talk, or intimacy. Someone has to initiate pillow talk when coldness is starting to chill the relationship.

Someone has to be open and vulnerable first. When we make the bid we hope our partner responds lovingly when they make a bid we should respond positively. The worst thing to do is ignore the bid making them feel like they are invisible and of no consequence. A quiet murmur as we are drifting off to sleep is a response. Unless we are actually asleep we should at least acknowledge the bid.

Is enough pillow talk happening in our relationship? Could this be the habit that puts our relationship on a new plane? Could this be what is missing, why our relationship seems colder and less connected? Is this the little thing that will make a big difference? Did we somehow think this was just for new relationships?

Never leave the person who understands you more than anyone else. Someone who you can talk to about everything and will stand next to you even with your unwanted attitudes. Treasure the one that accepts and loves every bit of you. Unknown

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Loving and forgiving each other.

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When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future. Bernard Meltzer

My son and I were talking last night. “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the second best time is now,” he said.

This is true of so many things, starting a blog, business, healing a wound in our family, and healing a breach in our society.

Some things are so big how do we heal them, how do we make amends? On the weekend we were watching how some of the great monuments have been destroyed by people, some deliberately, some not. One – the only tree in the desert for two hundred miles was hit and destroyed by a motorist. We think – how could you hit the only tree in a two hundred mile radius? The driver thinks – where did that tree come from? How can amends be made for that?

My husband and I were listening to some YouTube videos as we worked yesterday and one came on by Gary Chapman about forgiveness. He is the author of The Five Love Languages. He says, “Many marriages are in the winter phase of their relationship because husbands and wives who love each other and try to show this to their partner aren’t doing it in a way that speaks love to their partner. It doesn’t have to be an old relationship to be in this phase. Some marriages enter this phase after the honeymoon.

He gave an example of a husband and wife that came into his office. “We don’t have money problems,” the wife said, “and we don’t argue.”

“I do everything I can to make my wife happy,” the husband said. “I start dinner because I’m home before she is, I vacuum, I cut the grass, I wash the car, I walk the dog, I do everything I can to make her happy.”

“He never talks to me,” the wife said tears streaming down her face. “He’s so busy cooking, cutting the grass, walking the dog, and vacuuming, he has no time to talk to me. We haven’t had a conversation in thirty years.”

Here this man was doing everything he could think of to make his wife happy. The more he did the less happy she was. When they learned about the five love languages they got out of the winter marriage and into a spring/summer marriage.

Everyone says that love hurts, but that’s not true. Loneliness hurts. Rejection hurts. Losing someone hurts. Everyone confuses these things with love, but in reality, love is the only thing in this world that covers up all the pain and makes us feel wonderful again. Unknown

The five love languages are:

Spending quality time with each other. Would you like to go for coffee? Do you want to watch a movie? Can we go out for dinner tonight? Let’s go for a picnic. A drive in the country. A walk. A shared project.

Words of affirmation. You look great, thank you, that was very thoughtful of you, I couldn’t have managed without you, you’re right, you’re the best husband/wife ever.

Acts of service, doing the dishes, walking the dog, putting gas in the car, vacuuming, cooking dinner, etc.

Physical touch, hugs, a touch on the shoulder, holding hands, a kiss on the cheek.

Gifts, these don’t need to be expensive. Flowers are free much of the year in our own garden.

We can be doing what that man was doing, everything we can think of to make our spouse happy but unless it is in the way that fills their love tank they may feel starved for love and attention when everyone else thinks I’d kill for a spouse like that.

One wife when Gary Chapman pointed out to her that her spouses love language was words of affirmation said, “I can’t think of one good word to say about the man.”

“Does he take a shower?”

“Yes, he takes one every day.”

“Well that’s something to be grateful for,” Gary Chapman said. “There is good in everyone if we look for it.” If we didn’t come from a family that gave compliments and words of affirmation, and they didn’t say I love you this may be a hard language to give to our spouse. We may have come from a family where like the husband above acts of service means I love you.

It may be a real stretch to love our spouse in their love language. If we want to take a winter marriage into a spring/summer marriage it will be worth it.

Gary Chapman found when he looked over his notes after fifteen years of marriage counseling the problems with communication and lack of love fell into five categories. One of the things he noticed is couples rarely had the same love language. They usually tried to do things for their spouse in the love language they spoke; not realizing their spouse had a different language.

He also found when it came to saying we are sorry for something we’ve done there are five different ways people expect to hear an apology. If they don’t hear the apology in their apology language it is as if we haven’t given it. Don’t we sometimes think we’ve said we are sorry over and over and it isn’t good enough? Here’s why.

The five apology languages:

Expressing regret, saying we’re sorry.

Accepting responsibility.

Offering to make restitution.

Genuine repentance – expressing desire to change.

Requesting forgiveness.

In many cases he suggests to be safe we use all five languages to make our apology. How this might look.

I’m sorry for mistakes I made, what I did, said, forgot, how I acted, and the way it made you feel. I take full responsibility for this situation. What can I do to make this up to you? How can I make it better? I will do my very best to see this is not repeated. Will you please forgive me?

Communication is the most important skill we can develop. To be effective we must communicate in the way that is recognizable to the person we are communicating with. These love languages or communication languages can be used in all areas of our life. They can be used with our children, friends, at work, and in social situations. The better our communication skills, the more people feel heard, understood, loved, appreciated, and accepted. If we learn how to communicate in the language others recognize can we heal the relationships in our personal life, workplace, society, and the world?

Don’t wait for other people to be loving, giving, compassionate, grateful, forgiving, generous, or friendly… lead the way. Steve Maraboli

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Happy wife, happy life. Be the change.

Photo of pink daylilly by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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Marriage is not a noun, it’s a verb. It isn’t something you get. It’s something you do. It’s the way you love your partner every day. Barbara De Angelis

Wives happiness is more important to their husband’s state of mind than the reverse. It seems a happy wife makes a husband feel he is doing a good job of being a good husband.

The Happy Wives Club has 8 essential keys to being a happy wife.

Here are 8 Essential Keys to Being a Happy Wife

  1. A happy wife knows how to FLY (First Love Yourself). I know this is not the first time you’re hearing it, but it’s really important: you cannot be happy or love someone else in any relationship if you are unhappy and unloving to yourself. It all starts from within.
  2. A happy wife expresses love to her spouse. She shows her spouse love by having an attitude of gratitude. She tells him how much she appreciates even the smallest of contributions and support.
  3. A happy wife respects her spouse. Regardless of differences of opinions, she never engages in name calling or disrespectful behavior towards her spouse.
  4. A happy wife surrounds herself with other happy wives. And she’s not ashamed of distancing herself from unhappy or bitter wives. She knows she can lean on other happy wives for prayer and support.
  5. A happy wife treats her marriage as a ministry. Regardless of your religious affiliation, marriage is a ministry. It’s designed for you to serve your spouse. When you focus on making your husband happy, he will naturally do the same for you.
  6. A happy wife knows which battles are worth picking. Is it really worth the nagging that turns into fussing if you know he’s never going to remember to put the toilet seat down? Hanging on to the smaller idiosyncrasies can prohibit you from seeing that he did the dishes without asking, or took out the trash without the daily reminder.
  7. A happy wife is okay admitting when she’s wrong. This was a tough one for me early on because I was one who really hated to be wrong and still do at times. But the difference now is that I can own up to my faults and I can admit when I’m wrong. Humility goes a long way. Learn to laugh at your own mistakes.
  8. A happy wife knows when it’s time to let go. I interviewed my parents recently as they celebrated 47 years of marriage and this was one of their tips for reaching this milestone: They have the understanding that nobody is perfect, and they don’t expect each other to be. But nothing is more important than the sustainability of their union.

Are you a happy wife? What key would you add to this list?

Marriages are always in flux. There are ways we can act and conduct our self that is more conducive to a happy union.

We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather recognizing and appreciating what we do have. Frederick Keonig

Placing blame in a marriage is like saying, “your side of the boat is sinking.” Hank Smith

The Huffington Post gives us 11 ways to make our long-term marriage happier, starting today.

Remind our partner and our self we appreciate them.

Say thank you for the little things.

Practice honesty, even when we are ashamed. This means honesty about everything, money, our relationship, what we expect from each other, and what we want in life.

Take care of our appearance.

Foster relationships outside of our marriage. Our spouse can’t meet all our needs and interacting with other people makes us more interesting. Being part of groups or clubs brings joy to our life.

Watch our words. You always… or you never… Would you instead of could you… Thank you instead of nothing or a dismissive… No eye rolls!

Look after the little things. Put away the jumper cables our self. It’s a small thing, but it is the small annoyances that left unaddressed do us in.

Relish the silence. Sometimes we need to let some things slide; when we get pulled into an argument by getting defensive we make things worse. Let go, forgive, and focus on the positive. Don’t stay silent and harbor bad thoughts, you really have to let it go.

Recognize the ebb and flow. We go through periods in our marriage we are in an up or a down or on our way to an up or a down. Learn to go with the flow. We can go from thinking about them with tears in our eyes, to hardly being able to stand to listen to them breathe. Know this is normal and there is always a new up and a new down coming. Enjoy the ride.

Be kind. It is easy to take each other for granted. We can start the day off by asking our self “what can we do today to make our partner happy?” Would they love it if we sat through a soccer, baseball, or hockey game? When traveling is there something we know they’d love to see we could suggest? We all love to know someone is thinking about us.

Maintain intimacy and passion, both inside and outside the bedroom. Intimacy isn’t just sex, and passion isn’t just when we can’t keep our hands off each other. Romance may happen in the ordinary moments of our day with a moonlit walk that ends in a kiss, being there for our spouse in their most difficult time or standing up and being there for our partner. Don’t let other people define what is a normal or healthy amount of sex for our marriage. Know things change, but that doesn’t mean they are less exciting or fun. Intimacy comes in many shapes, including conversation and cuddling.

Relationship coach Laura Doyle recommends the number one thing we can do to improve our marriage is to make our self happy. If we talked on the phone and laughed with a sister, brother, mother, or friend, took a walk in the sunshine, or did something else that filled us up we are less likely to be irritated by something.

When we’ve made our self happy by investing the time and energy to delight our self we are more likely to laugh at a situation than scream. We set the tone in our marriages. Actively replenishing our spirit by doing at least three things for our own happiness is like insurance. It protects us from feeling so frayed that something snippy or sarcastic comes out of our mouth, or we roll our eyes.

When we are happy we get a better response. Everyone in the house feeds off our energy. It’s a big responsibility to be happy for the whole family. What three things can we do today to feed our spirit? Can these small doable things change our life and our marriage? Can we be the change we want to see in our marriage?

New love is the brightest and long love is the greatest, but revived love is the tenderest thing known on earth. Thomas Hardy

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Be Happy Paperback – Mar 1 2019


Missing the mark in life, relationships, goals.

Missing The Mark photo of Daniela's orchid by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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It’s all about the one who calms the storm. It’s your dancing partner, drinking buddy, lover, adventure buddy, stare at the stars and talk about life, and best friend in one. Unknown

We miss the mark many times in life. Can we accept this, forgive ourselves and others, be grateful for the good and build the best life we can?

Yesterday I turned left to go south and to my surprise found I was going north. I’m still not sure how this happened. My son was with me we were both surprised to be going north.

This can happen in life as well, we think we are doing something, and voila we realize we are not who we think we are, and we are not going in the direction we thought we were. A U-turn is called for, a makeover, a tune-up, it’s time to regroup, rethink, figure out how to get what we say we want, or just figure out what we want.

In our relationship, we need to agree to disagree. We absolutely know we’ve rehashed whatever it is a thousand times. There is no resolving only getting past and on with life. Every disagreement over points of view cannot be resolved. We grew up with different family cultures. We grew up with different values, we might all agree we shouldn’t cheat, steal, or kill. That leaves a lot to disagree about.

We think we are asking our partner to do us a favor. They decline and then later tell us we are manipulative. Years ago I read about how many men hate being asked “could they” instead of “would they.” Of course “I could”, but “I won’t”. This is the mistake I made asking if my husband was busy before I asked for the favor. I thought I was being considerate, if he was busy I wouldn’t ask for the favor. He thought I was being manipulative because if he wasn’t busy how could he decline the favor?

He said, she said arguments are like a feedback loop, we don’t remember the same things, we don’t perceive things the same way, we don’t have the same sensitivities, and the same things don’t raise red flags. We will never convince another person what they believe they heard, saw, experienced, perceived is not the way it was. That the truth is somewhere in the middle of what we both saw, experienced, heard, perceived is lost on both of us.

Every couple needs to argue now and then. Just to prove that the relationship is strong enough to survive. Long-term relationships, the ones that matter, are all about weathering the peaks and the valleys. Nicholas Sparks

The answer is to drop our end of the rope. As soon as we realize we just jumped in the loop we need to stop talking. The conversation just took a wrong turn; if we were driving we would stop and turn around. We need to do the same in our conversations.

These conversations stir up feelings on both sides. These are what we need to deal with. What is it we or our partner is feeling, fears, and can’t get past? Is there a way we could help them get through what they are going through without arguing, without telling them they are wrong for how they feel?

Why is it so important to be right? Whatever happened, happened, arguing about it endlessly is making it worse, not better. They may never see our side, and we may never see theirs, but unless this is a real deal breaker it is doing more damage fighting about it than the actual thing we are fighting over. If we have to be right, our partner has to be wrong. We have different perspectives. When we both accept we have different perspectives we can move into finding a resolution.

Some people feel we should just swallow our feelings instead of dealing with them. I doubt this is a good way to keep the peace. We need to deal with the feelings underneath the anger. Anger, like sadness, hurt, joy, disrespect, etc. are meant to tell us something about our environment. When we are emotionally upset we cannot have a conversation, we can only have a fight. We can’t take in any more information, our senses are already flooded.

We need to do some self-reflection. Why are we getting so angry? What is causing the anger is it hurt, fear, frustration or some combination? What is the expectation we have that is not being met?

Figuring out what expectations we had, and where those expectations come from and learning how to deal with our unmet expectations is important to our wellbeing and the wellbeing of our relationship.

Is it our partner’s responsibility to meet our unmet expectations? Expectations they didn’t know they were expected to meet? We need to learn to manage our expectations and instead of expecting someone to know what we want, expect, require, we need to communicate our wants, needs, desires. Through good communication, both partners are likely to get more wants, needs, and desires met.

Most of us would do anything to make our partner happy. We don’t, because we don’t know what would make them happy. They feel unloved because we don’t do it, we feel unappreciated, and so an unhappy, misunderstood, angry loop of unmet expectations is created.

We need to be vulnerable and honest about what we want in life, and our relationship. What are the disappointments we have? What do we want to change? We need to be open to hear what they want, the changes they want to see, the needs that aren’t being met, the goals that never make it on the list.

Affection is when you see someone’s strengths; love is when you accept someone’s flaws. Unknown

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[(He Said, She Said : Eight Powerful Phrases That Will Strengthen Your Marriage)] [By (author) Jay Laffoon ] published on (February, 2010) Paperback – Feb 1 2010


 

 

 

Reach out and touch someone.

Photo of Peach Day Lillies by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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The hardest of all is learning to be a well of affection, and not a fountain, to show them that we love them not when we feel like it, but when they do. Nan Fairbrother

Cuddling comes up as one of the best ways to make someone feel loved. It not only boosts loving feelings, but it also lowers stress and boosts immunity.

Babies do not do well if they are not touched. Infant monkeys that had direct contact with their mothers grew up to be friendly, patient, social, happy and physically healthier than baby monkeys who were provided with indirect sustenance such as bottled milk but no direct physical affection and comfort from their mothers.

Too often we underestimate the power of touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

Our need for touch doesn’t go away as we become adults. Touch is nonverbal communication which can communicate tenderness, compassion, anger, love, gratitude, happiness and fear within seconds.

Touch can be influential. Studies show individuals who have been touched are more likely to agree to participate in mall interviews. Waitresses get bigger tips if they slightly touch the patrons, bus drivers are more likely to give a free ride if the passenger touches them while making the request.

The physical act of a kind and warm touch lowers one’s blood pressure and releases the “love hormone” oxytocin. We get the same benefit if we give or receive hugs.

Studies show the most successful married couples touch often. Touch outranks sex in the characteristics of a successful marriage. Touch comes in many forms, cuddling, backrubs, hand holding, hugs, foot massages, nuzzling, stroking hair, side of face, and ears.

Tips to bring more touch into your relationship:

Hug at least once a day more is preferable. Six is given as the magic number to increase intimacy in How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking about it.

When in a low-level disagreement add some kind of physical touch to potentially diffuse the situation and connect with each other.

Flirt with your partner. Give a peck on the cheek, tousle your partner’s hair, caress their shoulders, touch their arm, tickle them in a light and playful way, or reach for their hand. Sit close together on the couch while you watch TV.

Be willing to make the first move after a disagreement. It is easy to let coldness descend into our marriage. Coldness begets coldness. We need to be vulnerable and reach for our partner. Touch is a part of new relationships we need to keep it part of our relationship as we go forward. We use the healing power of touch to remind each other how much we care and are cared for. Without touch, we may feel we are not loved or cared for. Reach out and touch someone.

Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language, and the last, and it always tells the truth. Margaret Atwood

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Lasting Love, Healing Touch Paperback – Oct 17 2014


It’s the little things. Happily ever after, doesn’t just happen.

Photo of African Violet by Belynda Wilson Thomas

We are sun and moon, dear friend; we are sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other’s opposite and complement. Hermann Hesse

“I went from Baby Duck to Dom Perignon”. Wouldn’t you like that to be how your spouse describes their relationship with you? A fellow Toastmaster said he heard an older gentleman describe his relationship with his late wife this way. They had forty-three years together.

I’m assuming from the story this gentleman didn’t meet her in his youth. It is a great thing to be lucky in love. To love and be loved is what we search for. The songs, poems, and stories are about finding and sometimes keeping love. The happy ever after is promised but no one tells us how to do it.

Women’s deepest fundamental desire is to feel secure. Men’s deepest fundamental desire is to feel respected. In How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It the author tells us the worst thing a man does to a woman is leave her alone but married. The worst thing a woman does to a man is to shame him.

Research author, Jo Robinson of Hot Monogamy interviewed fifteen hundred couples she found surprising pieces of information.

Most women do not understand how much it pleases a man to please a woman. Women see the threat of physical abuse from men but not their ability to evoke shame in men. Women often interpret withdrawn men as uncaring when the men are overwhelmed by the criticism and unhappiness of their partners.

What do you think brings out the best in your man? Do you think it’s encouraging, uplifting, complimenting, appreciating, being grateful and happy, or criticizing, finding fault, and nagging him? It is much easier to cause shame than we think. Tearing down someone is easy, building them up is what we need to do if we want them to become what we and they know, they should be.

Men don’t realize when they leave women out of important decisions she feels alone and isolated. An example in the book is a man comes home from work one day and says, “that’s it, I’m opening up a distributorship with Jim.” He thought he was just making a business decision, one that would be good for his family, wife, everyone. His wife felt this was the beginning of the end. Her input was not important. He risked everything without talking to her. His wife was left alone in her dreams, instead of being part of their dreams.

The truest form of love is how you behave toward someone, not how you feel about them. Steve Hall

Relationship expert John Gottman says when he was trying to get a book deal the man he was talking to said: “give me your best advice in one minute”. John Gottman said, “talk to your wife about her dreams.” The man hurried out of the office, to talk to his wife about her dreams and John Gottman got the book deal.

My mother said, “it’s the little things.” I’ve reflected on that a lot since she said it. It applies to everything. If we look after the little things the big things look after themselves. Every marriage breakdown can probably be traced back to some little thing that wasn’t dealt with, that grew, morphed and became the elephant in the room. It takes courage to deal with things.

We may feel attacked when our partner wants to deal with a “little thing” which quickly morphs into a bigger thing until once resolved becomes a “little thing” again. A marriage that works will have many of these. We may look back and see a defining moment, it could have gone either way. Not dealing with it doesn’t make it better. Dealing with things as they arise, in our marriage, with our children, with the tax man is the only way through. We pull the covers over our head at our peril.

I’m betting the gentleman that said his relationships went from Baby Duck to Dom Perignon had a few things to deal with in forty-three years. Part of happily ever after is dealing with things as they come up, meeting each other’s fundamental needs, and keeping each other’s love tanks full. Loving someone fully is not for the faint of heart, it isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it.

“When you find a guy who calls you beautiful instead of hot, who calls you back when you hang up on him, who will stand in front of you when other’s cast stones, or will stay awake just to watch you sleep, who wants to show you off to the world when you are in sweats, who will hold your hand when your sick, who thinks your pretty without makeup, the one who turns to his friends and say, ‘that’s her’, the one that would bear your rejection because losing you means losing his will to live, who kisses you when you screw up, watches the stars and names one for you and will hold and rock that baby for hours so you can sleep…..you marry him all over again.”
― Shannon Alder

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Hot Monogamy: Essential Steps to More Passionate, Intimate Lovemaking Paperback – Large Print, Jun 6 2012