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.

The Loving Touch 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.

It's The Little Things 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


Love is kind. Love is encouraging.

Choose Love by Being Loving photo of coral rose by Belynda Wilson Thomas

There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved. George Sand

Love makes requests, not demands. Love doesn’t keep a score of wrongs. Love doesn’t bring up our failures.

Gary Chapman the author of The Five Love Languages was sitting in his airplane seat when his seatmate said. “What happens to love after the wedding?” His seatmate had been married three times, each time he was in love.

Keeping love alive according to Gary Chapman is serious business. We speak different love languages. The wife of an alcoholic picks up the pieces and calls it love, the psychologist calls it co-dependence. The parents indulge their children calling it love; the family therapist calls it irresponsible parenting. The Politician calls his affair love, the minister calls it sin. I did it for love is given for all kinds of actions.

Child psychologists tell us children have basic emotional needs. They have a love tank that needs to be filled. When the love tank is empty the child will misbehave.  The problem seems to be we want to love people the way we want to be loved, not necessarily the way that makes them feel loved.

In every deeply hurting person, could there be a love tank on empty?

The five love languages are:

Words of affirmation: You look good. Thank you for… You can always make me laugh. Verbal compliments are better motivators than nagging words. We should use kind words, encouraging words, humble words.

Quality Time spent together: If you feel people or your husband or wife doesn’t spend enough time with you, this could be your love language. Focused attention, quality conversation, learning to talk, learning to listen, quality activities are examples of time spent together.

Receiving gifts: Visual symbols of love are more important to some people than others. It is a reminder of love. Some people especially women whose love language is gifts are being called grabilicious. Men sometimes feel these women only see them as a wallet. It is possible to give someone gifts without breaking the bank. I think of the song “I’ll Give You a Daisy a Day.”

Acts of service: Doing things for others that pleases them, makes them comfortable. Cooking, cleaning, and washing the dishes, folding laundry, fixing the car, shoveling the snow before someone goes to work. Many people say “what do I have to do to make you happy?” The partners love language is probably not acts of service.

Physical touch: I’m not sure if this includes sex. I worked with a guy years ago he was very touchy-feely, not in a gross way. He was young and handsome then, now it might be taken a completely different way. We see couples holding hands; it is especially sweet when it’s an older couple. Back rubs are a way to offer touch, hugs, and holding hands.

If we are lucky and we have a partner or child that has the same love language as us life is probably pretty easy. We give what we want and they give what they want, we are as happy as can be.

Some of us have no clue what would make our partner or children happy, we don’t even know what makes our self, happy. One way to figure it out is to figure out what makes us unhappy.

Immature love says: I love you because I need you. Mature love says: I need you because I love you. Erich Fromm

According to Gary Chapman, we fall in love and that lasts a certain period of time. If we are adept at keeping each other’s love tanks full we don’t notice the euphoric “in love stage” has passed. If we don’t keep each other’s love tanks full we run on empty, and we can only do that for so long before the relationship falls apart. Many times when people feel they will never get the love they need at home, they give themselves permission to look elsewhere. An affair often ensues.

Compatibility may actually mean we speak the same love language; we easily fulfill each other’s needs. Even if this is true we may need a tune-up in our marriage as children, finances, responsibilities, and aging take their toll. If we can’t or don’t do the things we used to do that filled our love tanks, what can we replace it with that will fill the tanks again?

As our children become adults I believe is an especially sensitive time for couples. Our lives are changing and we are reaching new stages, but not stages we necessarily want to be entering. Our children are now living the life we enjoyed the most. It is easy to think that love is one of those things behind us too. When we look around there are happy couples that have enduring happy marriages. We can make an effort to be one of them by filling our own and our spouses love tanks.

Little kids know the importance of small gifts. Every year they pick my flowers on their way home from school to give to their mothers. I smile as I watch them do it. I remember picking Queen Anne ’s lace to give to mine.

Whatever the quality of our marriage, it can probably be better. If we hone in on the ways our spouse feels special, we can make our efforts count. If they would feel better if we sat down and had a conversation or held their hand instead of slaving in the kitchen we might both be happier. We can relax, they feel loved. There is nothing worse than feeling we are slaving away and feeling unappreciated. We need to get off the treadmill and figure out what our partner wants and find ways to give it to them.

Many of us keep doing more of what we think we should do and don’t see any improvement. Try something from each category and see what works. Life is an experiment. If the first thing we try doesn’t work we should try something else. We may feel we are risking further pain and rejection if we try. We are guaranteed more pain if we don’t. Be brave, be courageous, even be a fool for love. In six months we might be in a completely different relationship because we dared to take a chance on love.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu

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Choose the right person. Respect your husband and make yourself happy.

Choose The Right Man stock photo

The secret to a happy marriage is finding the right person. You know they’re right if you love to be with them all the time. Julia Child

Yesterday my husband played me a Youtube video. It was a man making fun of a woman who is a relationship coach. He was tearing down her ideas but I think they are brilliant.

She says women are moaning to her, “where are all the good men?” She says women say they like good men but go after the not so good men. Good men, she compares to avocados and players to bananas. We go to the store and the banana display is overwhelming. We forget we even wanted an avocado.

We can’t make guacamole with a banana. If we want guacamole we have to choose the avocado, and that means we have to cast our eyes, heart, and everything else away from the banana. We are only fooling ourselves when we choose bananas and say we want to make the best guacamole ever!

We end up having both the bananas and the avocadoes laugh at us. If we want an avocado then pick an avocado. Why is this so hard the avocado says? The avocado has a chip on his shoulder because he’s what women say they want, but they keep picking bananas. The bananas laugh because they know they aren’t capable of making guacamole. They know the women want guacamole but the women can’t stay away from the banana, even though she wants guacamole she can only make with an avocado.

Those bananas are working hard to make themselves irresistible, they work out at the gym. They drive the fast, look at me cars. They have fancy clothes and fancy haircuts and a don’t give a damn attitude. We feel so good when they look our way, we tell our self he’s offering more than what he offered the last fifteen girls he was with.

So I think you have to marry for the right reasons, and marry the right person. Anne Bancroft

We are in “groundhog day” again. Many women who picked the avocado and made guacamole can still get caught up in the siren call of the banana. He has nothing to offer you. Your avocado isn’t driving the fancy car, or wearing the fancy duds, or getting the expensive haircuts because he’s making guacamole with you and spending his resources on you and little avocados.

When we choose the avocado, in the beginning, he may not look flashy next to the banana. Over time the avocado can be the one who grows and develops into the man some other woman wants to make guacamole with.  She’s overlooking both the bananas and the avocados to go for your guacamole. After all, he’s a proven entity. He’s proven he can make really, really good guacamole. Why choose your own avocado when you can jump right into someone else’s guacamole.

We as women need to appreciate the man we have. Husbands need love and respect, we are stingy with our love and respect at our peril. All the marriage coaches, councilors and therapists say what men really; really want is to make their wife happy. When they have a happy wife they feel they have accomplished their job of being a good husband.

This is why one of the coaches Laura Doyle says our job is to make our self happy. We do this by doing three things for our self daily. If we can make our self happier, we can improve the mood of the home. Everyone is happier when the woman is happy. I hear it from my husband, “I want to see that smile back on your face.” It seems like a huge responsibility if I’m in a mood, but when I’m not it seems like the best deal ever. My job, my big responsibility is to make myself happy, so I can spread happiness to the rest of the family.

My husband supports this, encourages it even. By knowing we can be happy our husbands feel they can be more effective husbands. Rejoice and be happy, smile and your husband smiles with you. Hug your avocado and enjoy your guacamole.

If we are still single leave the bananas alone. We need to completely cut our self off from bananas so we can look at the avocados and pick the best one. If we’ve picked an avocado then love and respect him. Quit comparing avocados to bananas.

It sounds like a cliché but I also learnt that you’re not going to fall for the right person until you really love yourself and feel good about how you are. Emma Watson

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Surrendered Wives Empowered Women: The Inspiring, True Stories of Real Women who Revitalized the Intimacy, Passion and Peace in Their Relationships Paperback – Sep 17 2015

3.9 out of 5 stars   20 reviews from Amazon.com |

Approach, avoid, attack. More talking isn’t always the answer.

Be Approachable photo by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:23-25

We talk, and talk, rehash, go over the same old stuff. It’s often things we cannot change. Someone is hurt, someone is defensive, going over it makes more hurt and more defensiveness. We heard something they say they didn’t say. They think we meant something we say we didn’t mean. They can’t believe they said it, we can’t believe we heard wrong. We are in “groundhog day” mode. We can’t seem to get past something.

There comes a time when we have to agree to disagree. We need to get on with the parts of our lives that work. We need to start doing little things to bridge the gap because words are not doing it.

We may think how do we still talk and keep a wide birth when this thing we can’t resolve seems to encompass everything? Sometimes we think we are saying things in a reasonable non confrontational manner. It may not be taken that way.

We can use our “kind” voice and still be in attack mode. We can do things in avoid mode that are passive aggressive. Getting to and living in approach mode is our goal. Approach means going toward someone or something with positive energy. In approach mode we want to get more of something, experience more, discover more, learn more, and appreciate more. We are in approach mode as we watch a sunset, try to solve a problem or get interested in something. We can ask our self a question, do we want our partner to feel that way or do we want them to get defensive?

Avoid means giving no energy at all. In avoid we want to get away from something. Whether it is purposeful or not, avoiding our partner or shutting them out will have a negative effect. When we are avoiding or feel our partner is avoiding we could make some small gesture of connection, even if it is only to hold a positive thought about them in our mind.

Love one another and help others to rise to the higher levels, simply by pouring out love. Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy. Sai Baba

Attack means turning negative energy against someone. When we are in attack mode we want to devalue, harm, incapacitate and destroy. Attack mode includes coercion and manipulation. We are in attack mode when we have the impulse unconscious or not to “put someone in their place”, or show we are superior in knowledge, skill, talent, sensitivity, character, or morals. Attack mode lowers other people’s value by dismissing their perspective or undermining their confidence. We can be in attack mode even when we use our kind voice, we don’t even have to say anything we can exude the attitude of attack.

As a general rule approach reduces fear and shame. Avoid and attack increase fear and shame.

Motivation differs from goals and intentions in important ways. Our goal may be to get our partner to understand. If we are not in approach mode we will ignore or blow off our partner’s perspective. Feeling disregarded our partner becomes defensive. We are then likely to imply any intelligent person would see it our way.

We respond to our partner’s motivation and not to their goals and intentions. We respond to the emotional tone of the interaction. What does it feel like on the receiving end? Avoid and attack feel devaluing. Our effort to clarify our goals and intentions will always fail unless we change our motivation to approach, to want to understand and appreciate their perspective rather than influence, control or manipulate it.

In How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It the author says. As a general rule, talking to a woman puts her in approach mode, but when a woman starts talking to a man, he can easily slip into avoid mode even if he wasn’t in it when she started. It seems this has to do with the man’s dread of failure and feeling he will hear what he has done wrong. Wow, this explains so much.

I think this is why another marriage coach I’ve been listening to says women should just say “ouch” when something hurtful is said. I’ve found the more I say the worse it gets. Defensiveness on both sides ramps up.

How do we switch into approach mode when we have negative feelings toward our partner? We do it by making a decision. We do it by deciding what is more important to us, ignoring or devaluing our partner or appreciating, connecting and being approachable. Punishment of our loved one may make us feel more powerful but not more valuable.

When we feel devalued we need to raise our self value, not indulge the revenge motivation of anger and punishment. Sometimes we want things from our partner but we make it difficult for them to give them to us. If we don’t hold an attitude of approach in our mind it is difficult even when we use our kind voice to get closer to each other.

It may be hard but we control our attitude. We can change it. We can be the change we want to see in our relationships. Too many of us know our partner needs to see things differently, act differently, and change. It is only when we change, adjust our attitude, become the person we are to be that progress is made. Our attitude is our choice, often a hard choice. It is the easiest thing to be judgmental, to avoid and attack.

Being open, approachable, vulnerable, loving, accepting, encouraging, and kind is hard. What is the alternative? Do we want more hostility, negativity, avoiding and attacking in our relationships?

I’m trying an experiment. I’ve written “approach mode” on an elastic I’m wearing on my wrist to remind me to consciously choose to be approachable. To consciously think loving thoughts, do loving things, and become healer of the breach.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou

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Love Is A Verb: How To Stop Analyzing Your Relationship And Start Making It Great Hardcover – Feb 7 1995


Honesty in our relationships. Healing the breach.

Christianity Made the Modern World Photo of red roses by Belynda Wilson Thomas Sept 3 2018

A loving relationship is one in which the loved one is free to be himself – to laugh with me, but never at me; to cry with me, but never because of me; to love life, to love himself, to love being loved. Such a relationship is based upon freedom and can never grow in a jealous heart. Leo F. Buscaglia

Yesterday I talked to my husband about “turning away” or “turning toward” in relationships. He didn’t know what it meant either. Last night I was at a friend’s house, she’s writing her story and wanted my help. I read what she wrote; she doesn’t need my help, only encouragement. What she has written is honest, moving and in her voice. It takes a lot of courage to tell our story, really honestly own our story. It is a path to healing. When someone reads her story they will be moved by what she lived through and is on the other side of. They may believe they can do it too. I admire her courage.

I talked to her about “turning away” and turning toward” our partners. She has heard of the Gottman Institute but didn’t know about “turning away” in relationships.

It makes sense we hurt each other in little ways. We were hurt in little ways and when we are hurt we want to hurt back. We might not admit even to ourselves this is what we are doing. I can think of times when I wanted to hurt back. We have the tools, we know the soft spots, and no one knows how to hurt our partner as much as we do. Over the years we’ve learned all the weaknesses, insecurities, unfulfilled dreams, missed opportunities, failures, and missteps.

We trusted each other to never use what they know against us. We break that trust when we use it against the ones we love the most. The more we accept our self, warts and all, the less we can be hurt. When we embrace our imperfections and realize life is still great, we are still loved, we can still do what we want to do even though we aren’t perfect. We are strong enough to deal with what is and what is coming.

If we can look at our lives honestly and see that it is a great life, not a perfect one, we are halfway there. Accepting our self is a big part of the equation. When we accept we are not perfect, we can accept our partner is not perfect. Making allowances for each other’s imperfections is part of growing together. We don’t just love the best parts of them; we love the quirks that make them unique.

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed. Carl Jung

I hope my husband gets that sometimes what he thinks is a sign I couldn’t miss I’m completely oblivious to. I don’t mean to “turn away” I didn’t get the signal. “We don’t have a mind meld,” I tell him. “You should get me”, he says.

I should, but I don’t always. He doesn’t always get me. When our relationship is open and honest it seems to me we get each other more. When we move into less close periods it is easier for miscommunication to occur. It is easier to feel misunderstood, taken for granted, attacked, unappreciated, disrespected.

“Turning away” according to Dr. John Gottman is related to both suppressed negativity (sadness, whining, stonewalling) and being in the attack-defend mode (anger, criticism, contempt, defensiveness, belligerence). Playful bids and enthusiastic efforts to turn toward each other result in heightened levels of positivity during conflict discussions. These positive moments build up our emotional bank account, maintain a strong and healthy bond, and bring back the fire in our romance. Nothing will bring back the love and fire in our relationship until we connect emotionally.

We think candle-lit dinners, soft music, lovely drives in the country, picnics, moonlit walks, or a trip to a warm sunny isle will do it. Until we make the effort to create an emotional connection by showing them our commitment and attention throughout the day nothing happens.

How do we show them we are emotionally connected and committed? What does giving positive attention throughout the day look like?

Dr. John Gottman has a list of things we should do:

You have just woken up and your partner is lying next to you. Roll over, put your arm around them, and tell them how thankful you are that you get to wake up next to them every day.

You are reading the paper over breakfast and your partner makes a passing comment about a meeting they have at work that day. Follow up on what they said (put down that paper!) and give them your attention for a minute.

You are walking together and you see that your partner looks cold. Stop into the nearest coffee shop and get them a warm beverage!

Your partner is leaving to go somewhere. Tell them to come see you before they go. When they come to see you, give them a six-second kiss.

You see that your partner looks stressed. Let them know you’ve noticed, and ask them if they’d like to talk about what they are feeling.

Your partner sends you a text message about something, anything. Send them one back that lets them know how irresistible they are to you.

Compliment your partner about something they did. Compliment your partner about their appearance. Thank them for something they’ve recently done that you appreciate.

Your partner is back from their errand and is doing some housework. Without saying a word, join in and start helping them.

Your partner tells you that they are getting hungry. You tell them that you are too and that you are going to take them out for dinner.

Your partner and you are talking after dinner, and they say how much they miss going out and dancing like you used to back in the day. Agree and recommend that you go out right now and dance.

Your partner is looking tired, but you are still having fun. You know that they have to be up early tomorrow to prepare for a meeting. Recommend that you go home so that they can get some rest.

You are in the bedroom and things are getting hot. Light some candles, and tell them that you want to re-discover their body for an hour.

When relationships aren’t working as well as they should, the ease is gone for whatever reason. Someone has to make the first move. We often think why should I have to make the first move? We can wait forever for someone else to make the move, or we can make it. We can heal the breach many times by making a gesture that shows we care. It should be a big enough gesture that our partner not expecting anything but the stonewalling coldness they’ve been getting will recognize as a gesture. We might offer an invitation to coffee, an invitation to go for a walk, an offer to give them a back rub, or make them a coffee and take it to them with a smile with no expectation other than doing something nice.

We have to be careful when we start making these small gestures that we don’t feel hurt when they aren’t received how we thought they would be, or they don’t heal the breach as much as we thought they might. When we decide to heal the breach it may take longer, but like a beaver building, a dam one small gesture upon another gesture starts to heal the breach.

We need to be careful when they make a small gesture we notice it as well. Most of us want a better relationship. Who wants a worse one? We don’t want to be more hurt than we are? We don’t want to give our partner more ammunition than they have? We don’t want to be judged harshly for our mistakes.

One of the relationship coaches whose blog posts I’ve been reading says, “just say ouch” when our partner says something hurtful. Don’t get defensive, when we get defensive we don’t heal the breach, we sometimes make it bigger. This is hard. Fixing, maintaining and building relationships isn’t always easy. If it was easy we would all do it. Would we file for divorce if we knew how to fix it?

Someone has to make the first move; someone has to be vulnerable first. It has always seemed to me that giving first is the way forward. It doesn’t mean we give more, it means we start the relationship moving in the right direction. We make our partner feel safe in being vulnerable and asking for what they need or offering what they think we need.

Where people lose hope in a relationship is when the future looks bleak. If we believe we are just going through a rough patch we can get through that. If all we see is a bigger rough patch for the rest of our life it is easy to feel that cutting our losses is the best thing. When we believe going forward together is better than going forward alone we have something to work on. If our partner believes going forward with us is better than going forward without us they will be willing to work on the relationship.

When all we see is a bleak future it is easy to give up on a relationship.

Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude. William James

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Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love Hardcover – Feb 5 2019


 

Bids for attention.Turning away or towards our partner.

Ask and It Shall Be Given - Photo of two swans by Belynda Wilson Thomas

If all hearts were open and all desires known – as they would be if people showed their souls – how many gapings, sighings, clenched fists, knotted brows, broad grins, and red eyes would we see in the market place. Thomas Hardy

What is a bid for attention? What does it mean to turn towards our partner or away from our partner?

John Gottman conducted a study of newlyweds and followed up with them six years later. The couples who were still married turned towards one another 86% of the time. Divorced couples turned towards each other only 33% of the time.

This is great news; there is something we can do that is more likely to produce a happy, lasting marriage. What does turning towards each other look like?

A bid for attention is an attempt from one partner to get attention, affirmation, affection or any other positive connection from their partner.

This is where it gets tricky to miss a bid for attention is to “turn away”. It seems missing the bid “turning away” is even more devastating than “turning against” rejecting the bid. When we reject the bid at least we acknowledge there was a bid. Then we can reschedule, make alternate plans, take a rain check, etc.

When we completely miss the bid it makes our partner feel rejected, results in diminished bids, and can make our partner make their bids for attention, enjoyment, and affection somewhere else.

Turning towards our partner starts with paying attention. Now I can see how my husband and I missed some bids while we were in Jamaica. I thought we were just not communicating what we wanted, but upon reflection, I think we were oblivious to the bids the other was making. I was probably the more oblivious of the two of us.

Don’t keep your heart safe… be vulnerable. John Mayer

Looking back I can see how I should have read things differently. At the time what I can now see as bids for attention, closeness, and affirmation I completely missed. Part of it was the trip was all about the wedding. It was too much about the wedding and not enough about us.

Now reading what the Gottman Institute says about “turning away”I get why things got to be such a big deal. If I had gotten the bid but refused the bid because I didn’t have time, that would be one situation. Not getting the bid is the “turning away” which is so damaging. Bids for attention, closeness, intimacy, and understanding can be so subtle they are easy to miss. The couples who didn’t see these bids at the beginning of their marriages probably didn’t mean to turn away from their partners. I’m sure they would feel blindsided if they were in a marriage counselors office being told the problem with their marriage is they “turned away” instead of towards their spouse.

I am going to have to be very mindful of what bids are being made and my response.  Am I closer to the 86% turning towards or the 33% turning towards?

We can always work to make our relationship better.  The Gottman Institute says most relationships end not because of the big things but because of the hurts of not having our bids acknowledged. Over time this builds up resentment. If we turn towards our partner most of the time we build trust, intimacy, share our vulnerabilities, and share moments that when we don’t get the bid we miss.

This is the relationship secret that can be one of the biggest deal breakers in marriage. How did I get to this age, married for thirty-two years and not know this? According to the Gottman Institute, this is the difference they see in the marriages that fizzle and the marriages that thrive.

No matter how long we’ve been married we need to be open to our partner’s bids for attention. It is easy to get self-involved. It is easy to miss the bid, but we do so at our peril. If we miss too many bids, we can be blindsided by a relationship meltdown.

What happens when people open their hearts? They get better. Haruki Murakami

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Honesty and openness. Listen without being defensive.

Christianity Made the Modern World - photo of pink rose taken by Belynda Wilson Thomas

You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time. M. Scott Peck

Am I the only one that gets asked how are you feeling and don’t know what to say. “Okay I guess.”

I look online and this is the one question being recommended to create a better relationship.

As I sit here thinking does my husband ask me how I’m feeling, or am I okay? It doesn’t really matter I never know what to say, but I do realize he’s making an effort.

The important thing in relationships is we make an effort. When we quit making the effort to communicate, to connect, to have fun, to experience new things, to talk, to laugh, the relationship has nowhere to go. However awkward the attempts we should accept them as gifts, as what they are, an attempt to connect with us.

How are you feeling, how can I help you, what would you like to do, where would you like to go, what do you want? The who, what, where, why, when of our relationships is what we have to build on. If we are with someone, we have the who.

Those of us in relationships sometimes don’t realize how big of a thing it is to have a “WHO”. As we go through life and have arguments, disagreements, disappointments, misunderstandings, we can begin to turn our “Prince” into a frog. If we look too closely at every encounter, every action, every response, we can find fault.

They didn’t respond quickly enough when we asked them a question. They are upset over seemingly ridiculous things “to us.” Each person is affected by what they are affected by. It may seem like a big deal over a seemingly small thing. Even a small thing that doesn’t mean what they think it means, can trigger insecurities and fears. It doesn’t mean their fears aren’t warranted. They are their fears. We have to deal with what is.

When we are hurt we can say hurtful things. We may innocently trigger insecurities, and questions surrounding our relationship may come. We feel hurt, we didn’t do anything really wrong, but the insecurities have been raised. Those insecurities bring questions to our loved ones mind they don’t know how to deal with. It is hard not to get defensive when we feel things are blown out of proportion.

It is hard to understand how someone feels about what we did, but it is something we have to help them deal with even when we don’t think what we did should create such a strong reaction.

We need to understand there isn’t a right or wrong way to feel. We feel what we feel, we have a right to feel what we feel. We need to work through what we feel to get to a better place. If we are to help our partner get through their feelings we can’t get defensive when they try to work through it.

You can have the perfect message, but it may fall on deaf ears when the listener is not prepared or open to listening. Susan C. Young

We often interrupt with “that wasn’t my intention, you’re misunderstanding,” before our partner is done speaking. Listening without getting defensive is a hard skill to master. We as listeners learn to self soothe ourselves by finding a way to not take our partners speech personally. We may tell our self. “In this relationship we do not ignore one another’s pain. I have to understand this hurt.”

Conflict is a catalyst for understanding. It is also a vehicle for personal growth. Oysters don’t intend to make pearls, pearls are the by product of the oyster reducing irritation caused by grains of sand.

We can build our relationship by dealing with conflict, not avoiding it. By dealing with conflict as nondefensively as we are capable we turn our conflicts into conversations that eventually heal the breach. There will always be conflict in relationships. We will always have an opportunity to grow through conflict to a stronger, better relationship if we are willing to work through the hurt, misunderstandings, and miscommunications.

When you talk you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new. Dalai Lama

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Taking the War Out of Our Words

Dec 1, 2016

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Fight fair for love. With love, you have everything.

Choose Love by Being Loving photo of coral rose by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Forgive the past. It is over. Learn from it and let go. People are constantly changing and growing. Do not cling to a limited, disconnected, negative image of a person in the past. See that person now. Your relationship is always alive and changing. Brian L. Weiss

When we have someone in our life we love and who loves us we are blessed. We have what poems, stories, legends, movies are about.  We have something we should protect, nurture, cherish, and fight for.

The effects of divorce are huge and how often was that marriage salvageable? How often does someone who got a divorce and now adrift and alone wishes they’d found a way to work through and fight for love? We can’t do anything about our loved one being taken from us? If we did the best we could we are left with regret they are gone, but not regret we didn’t do the best we could.

We aren’t perfect and we don’t love perfect people. We need to accept our self and them warts and all. We need to learn to fight fair, not take everything said to heart, not become defensive, not give up too soon. If a trust issue occurs in our relationship through intentional or non intentional activities we have to understand the hurt the other person feels. It will take time to heal the breach. We need to give them time, we also need to go forward in the relationship creating memories and moments that continue tieing us together.

We may end up rekindling a marriage by working through issues because getting to the brink of loss and destruction of the marriage brings into focus how important and fragile love and trust are. We were taking each other for granted but now we cannot. We need to be careful if one of us is teetering on the brink of wondering what has all this meant, have we been wearing blinders, have other people been laughing at us waiting for us to see the reality of the situation? We need to be careful we don’t push the other person away or let them push us away.

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. Socrates

We need to be careful to find the common ground. We need to rebuild our relationship, we need to be willing to do the work it takes, give it the time it takes, we need to be willing to have a relationship we can’t take for granted but one we are grateful for to rebuild, reconnect, and reconstruct.

We may have lost something we can never get back. An innocence we felt that the other person would never hurt us, never make us feel vulnerable to loss, never feel they might choose someone else.

If we work through the hard stuff, deal with the long standing issues that have accumulated as life went on and we took each other for granted. We didn’t question everything, but now we do. We don’t know another’s motivations, but as we take a microscope to our life we may put meaning on things where it doesn’t belong.

We will have to forgive each other for our imperfections, inconsiderations, selfishness, lack of effort, and taking each other for granted. With heightened senses and a willingness to rebuild we can turn to each other and with deep conversations, setting aside pride, really hear our partners concerns, really understand their pain, really feel compassion for them, not just think it is overblown in their mind.

We don’t know our own insecurities until they rise up. We don’t know someone else’s and what can trigger them. Once they are triggered we can’t ignore them, we need to understand, address them and rebuild the connection.

Our insecurities are triggered because we are afraid of losing the other person. We hate to feel insecure; sometimes we put on bravado of not caring instead of feeling and working through the insecurity to make our relationship stronger.

If strong reactions are triggered we have something to work with. We care, the other person cares, we can rebuild, rekindle. Chances are just before the rift happened was not the closest time for us. There was a distance between us; this is why the feelings of insecurity were raised. It already seemed something was missing, not quite right, dying.

Our chain has been jerked, we are hyper aware again. We can use this to rebuild, reconnect, and reconstruct something stronger. Marriages change as we go through life’s stages. We need to be willing to embrace change and each other with open hearts, compassionate spirits, and a willingness to forge ahead and experience what is possible now. Fight fair for love, if it isn’t win/win it’s lose/lose.

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

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