Living in the now. Marriage is a dance. Following and holding our own. Following is not being dragged along. Following is being engaged, together, and accepting the call to adventure.

Following and holding our own. Following is not being dragged along. Following is being engaged, together, and accepting the call to adventure. Marriage is a dance. Living in the now.

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Marriage, families, all relationships are more a process of learning the dance rather than finding the right dancer. Paul Pearsall

What happens when we don’t live in the now? Right now we can choose to be happy, grateful, and filled with joy. Why aren’t we? Often we are carrying something around that happened long ago into our now. Something we can’t change, something was said, something was done, and it’s over. But, it isn’t over in our mind, we keep going over it, we keep making worse scenarios, we keep blaming, and reading things into what was said or what was done.

It isn’t nice when people say things to us we don’t think are nice, true, and fair, etc. Could there be a kernel of truth in what they said? That makes it worse, doesn’t it? I’ve been told I’m a black and white thinker. This doesn’t seem like it should carry the weight I’ve given it.

I don’t think I look at things as all good or all bad, all or nothing, friend or foe, love or hate, right or wrong. I do think I take things that don’t seem like problems and can see where they become problems. I’ve always thought of that as positive. One more drink is too many. Not, no drinks are too many, even though I know for some people none is the right amount.

At Toastmasters when I was still a new member we did a roast at the Christmas party. The Toastmaster who roasted me said he could see me as the leader of a small country giving orders. My way or the highway might be where I have a little black and white thinking. Is this what the person who mentioned my black and white thinking was talking about?

When I’m right, I’m right. Is that a bad way to think? It’s worked for me all my life, maybe not as good as another way of thinking but it would be hard to change now. We are what we are, and certain characteristics are almost set in stone. What would not being stubborn look like? Would it actually be better? Don’t the people in our lives have to love us warts and all?

Not to say we can’t try and improve ourselves, but what is an improvement to us may not be an improvement to them. I would like to become more disciplined, more knowing what I think since I write about it every day.

We shouldn’t want to become an egomaniac where only what we want counts. Nor do we want to be I want whatever you want. It may seem like we’ve changed when all our energy was put into shared work, family, and our relationship. Those things needed all of us. There comes a time when our children no longer need us, our work life may ease up a bit, this gives space for us to develop interests, passions, and goals we had no time for earlier.

A long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time. Anne Taylor Fleming

This doesn’t mean our partner is not just as important as they’ve always been. We are filling some other love tanks, finding meaning and purpose in other pursuits. Bringing a more fulfilled us to the relationship.

It can be scary as we think what if they find someone else, more interesting, successful, adventurous, attractive? We could always go looking for someone at any age. It is a chance we take in relationships; they will end at some point, through death, divorce, or separation. Thinking our partner can’t or shouldn’t grow and develop and become who they think they should be outside of marriage, jobs, and parenthood is stifling.

We had to learn to let our children take faltering steps out into the world. Our partners get to take their steps out into the world too.  Kahlil Gibran tells us, “Let there be space in your togetherness. For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow”.

Some think Kahlil Gibran is telling people to hedge their bets, to not give too much, to guard their possessions and them self, to keep a clear boundary between themselves and their spouse. That individualism is greater than the unit created in marriage.

This isn’t what it says to me. It may be sweet when one spouse says, “You are the cream to my coffee.” Is it so great if individuals do not develop their own interests, gifts, creativity, and find the things that feed their soul? We are expecting too much from one person to be our “everything”.

I believe we can eat from the same loaf, drink from separate cups, have our own interests, grow together in love and understanding, support each other in our endeavors, be there for each other in sickness and in health, be there for richer or poorer, as long as we both shall live.

Marriage is a dance, and if the man leads, the woman must choose to follow. We can’t be dragged into following. We can’t make someone follow. We must lead in a way that the two can dance and both enjoy them self. There is a responsibility on both parties to contribute to the dance. A woman at toastmasters spoke about taking dance lessons, she was told, “She had to hold her own”, so her partner could lead and they could dance beautifully. They gave a demonstration dancing beautifully she was holding her own, he was leading. She was not being dragged along, she was not the lesser of the two, she was a full partner in the dance and they were on an adventure of dancing. We need to do the same if we want adventure in our marriage. We can’t be a lump they just shuffle from pillar to post, we must hold our own and contribute to the happiness of ourselves and our relationship.

Can we dance in the now, grow in the now, laugh in the now, plan for the future while living in the now, living as if today is our last day but planning as if we’ll live forever? What a great life we can have?

Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it be rather a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Kahlil Gibran

Thank you for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you will come back and read some more. Have a blessed day filled with gratitude, living in the now, and love.

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The Dance of Intimacy Paperback – Mar 28 1997

by Harriet G. Lerner (Author) 3.9 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews


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Why bother? Haven’t we all thought why make the effort?

Haven't we all thought why make the effort? Why bother?

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Our life is like a garden, our thoughts are the seeds, we can grow flowers, or we can grow weeds. Unknown.

As I walked my dog this morning, I looked at the blooming trees, flowers, the mowed and unmowed lawns. Some homes are lovingly tended, some are left completely alone, no plantings, and no flowers. The builder put in a tree and the City has planted trees, so it is not as bare as it could be.

In the park, there’s a baseball diamond and a soccer field, a play area for kids, and a new area of small trees have been planted.  The City is bothering to make a nice park and it gets used a lot. Most any night of the week in the summer we can walk and see a baseball game, soccer game, and children playing. Someone has to bother for all this to happen.

Someone has to bother to coach soccer and baseball. Parents have to bother to take their children to the park. We even have to bother to walk our dogs. When trees, flowers, shrubs get planted someone has to do it.

If we want to get more out of life, we have to put more into it, seems to be a truth. We can’t reap what we didn’t sow.  The spring and summer bulbs that didn’t get planted last fall were popped into the earth this spring. I think they will only be fertilizer. They don’t appear to be growing.

By not bothering to plant my bulbs last year I wasted money buying them, and they won’t add to my garden. If I don’t get any vegetables planted I won’t be reaping any later on.

I was listening to a talk on Sunday. The speaker was saying his mother always planted impatiens, and one year she called him saying something else was growing where she planted her impatiens. He looked at what he was pretty sure were corn plants in his mother’s flower pots. “I think you have corn growing. Tell me exactly what you did.”

“Well,” his mother said, “I didn’t have any vermiculite so I popped popcorn and used it in my pots.

“So mom, you planted corn. You must have had some unpopped corn and it grew. You got what you planted.”

Even when we don’t want to believe we planted it, a lot of times we get what we planted. We’ve sown the seeds of discontent, jealousy, strife, envy, greed. We might not have known it was what we were doing, but we did it, and we need to be careful that we plant what we want to reap. We can start by sowing kindness, forgiveness, understanding, encouragement, health, and fitness.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? If we sow strife, we will reap strife, and if we sow kindness we will reap kindness. If things aren’t working out in our relationships we need to take a better look at what we’ve been sowing. We may have told our self we were being kind, understanding, and empathetic but we were instead controlling. We may have thought we were sowing seeds of health and fitness but really we were belittling and criticizing. We may have thought we were encouraging but we might have made people feel small and insignificant because of our unrealistic expectations.

Once we figured out that we could not change the other, we became free to celebrate ourselves as we are. H. Dean Rutherford

We don’t always realize what seeds we are sowing. If we aren’t happy with the results we are getting we better take a closer look at what we are planting. Are we sarcastic, do our eyes roll sometimes, are we critical, are we defensive, or do we stonewall (emotionally withdraw from our partner)?

These seeds of criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling are the number one predictor of divorce according to John Gottman from the Gottman Institute. These actions are what John Gottman calls “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.”

If we take a good hard look at our marriage and realize some of these have grown in our own marriage, we need to start pulling these weeds before they take over.

Seven things we can to do to keep contempt in check.

Realize delivery is everything. It isn’t what we say; it’s how we say it. Contempt often comes in the form of eye-rolling, snickering, name calling, laughing at instead of with our partner. It erodes the trust and safety in our relationships and is like a slow death or water torture, drip, drip, drip. We need to be cognizant of the message we are delivering by what we say and what we do.

Ban the word “whatever” from our vocabulary. When we say “whatever” we are basically saying we are not going to listen to them. We are telling them they are not important enough to listen to. This isn’t the message we want or should want to send.

We need to stay clear of sarcasm and mean-spirited jokes. When we make jokes at our partner’s expense we are tearing them down instead of building them up.

Don’t live in the past. Acknowledge valid complaints our partner has about us. Often we start showing contempt because we have let little things build up. We need to deal with our issues, some of which we will never be able to solve. Sometimes we will have to agree to disagree.

Watch our body language. Rolling our eyes and smirking is a signal our relationship could be headed for trouble. We may need to take a break and then focus on the things we like, love, and respect about our partner.

Don’t ever tell our spouse they are overreacting. When we do, we are telling them their feelings aren’t important to us. We need to try and understand where they are coming from, they have those feelings for a reason and we need to find out what the reason is.

When we find our self becoming contemptuous we need to recognize it and stop it. We can take a deep breath. We can make it our goal to be aware of what contempt is, find out specifically what it looks like when we do it, and quit doing it. We can find another way to make our point. Contempt is a bad habit, a bad habit we need to break. If we are aware of it when we see it and when we are doing it, we can change it.

Can we sow the seeds we want to grow, and pull out the weeds we don’t want to spread?

Marriage is a mosaic you build with your spouse. Millions of tiny moments that create your love story. Jennifer Smith

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Growing Hope: Sowing Seeds Of Positive Change In Your Life And In The World by [Thoele, Sue Patton]
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You Be You: Detox Your Life, Crush Your Limitations, and Own Your Awesome by [Canole, Drew]
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If we only love through the good times, it isn’t really love. Love is a verb.

Love is a verb. If we only love through the good times, it is't really love.

You’re going to go through tough times – that’s life. But I say, “Nothing happens to you, it happens for you.” See the positive in negative events. Joel Osteen

We thought we were soul mates. We thought we would always see things the same way. When we were young maybe we thought true equality was actually possible. Before we saw that people starting at the exact same place in their life, with the same opportunities, advantages, and circumstances made different life choices and reaped different harvests. Those life choices made a difference in their lives. Then if you throw luck in there, walking away from a car crash that kills most people, or investing early in the one company that became the success of the decade.

Life is about choices. What we learn, who we build our life with, where we build it. Some people get together and they become more than what they each were. Other couples become less than they each were. Some people stay and get through the ups and downs of life; other people only stay for the ups.

If we can’t stay through the tough times, and there will be tough times, we don’t reap the rewards of getting to the best times. We may think that people in long term marriages had it easier, but it is probably better to think they dealt with things better. It is dealing with, not the things themselves that determine where we’ll be.

Getting through marriage if we are critical, contemptuous, stonewalling and defensive will be much harder than if we can try and see our partner’s point of view, understand their fears, and get into the situation with them. We may think we can do it; of course, we’ll do that. When it actually comes time to see things from their point of view, when it is a point of view we can’t wrap our head around we are at loggerheads. They may think, how can you not see what I see, we may think how can you see that?

In tough times, we all hope for knights in shining armor, or the cavalry, to show up and effect change. Dean Devlin

At these times we may have to agree to disagree. We may feel we are betraying everything we believe to take their side. We may have so much of our self, and our identity wrapped up in what we are thinking it feels like a defining moment in our lives. It becomes an “If we don’t stand up for what we believe, what kind of person would that make us,” moment.

We can’t understand why they don’t understand us anymore, why they could think such things of us, how we have come to look at the world completely differently. We somehow have to reassure our self that our partner has a right to their thoughts, feelings, fears, insecurities, values, goals, and seeing things differently from us is not a threat.

When you come from a large family you know everyone saw things differently. It is like every one of us has a different take on the same story. We can only see things from our point of view; somehow we think our partner doesn’t have their own point of view. We think we have “our joint” point of view. That somehow our coupledom should make us one, we should automatically know what the other wants, needs, expects, requires, and is dealing with.

We got together because of the things we were attracted to; sometimes those same attributes begin to rub us the wrong way. Their sense of humor we so loved, seems so inappropriate, childish, etc. Their outgoing nature seems scary as people are attracted to them, and we worry they could get interested in someone else.

Everyone can always do what we fear they will do. We can’t make people stay with us, love us, be faithful, be kind, be considerate, not get ill, or die before us. We can make it so we are easy to love, kind, considerate, loving, supportive, encouraging, understanding, respectful, likable, and warm.

The only person we can change is our self. If we see things about our partner that needs to change, perhaps we should look at our self and see if we are being our best self for them. The power of our life is when we realize we are the change we need to see. When we change the way we look at things when we become the best we can be, when we focus on what we can do, when we deal with what is. We may not like what we have to go through to learn the lessons we need to learn, but we can be better, or we can be bitter.

A great relationship is about two things. First, appreciating the similarities, and second, respecting the differences. Unknown

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Love is a Verb: Stories of What Happens When Love Comes Alive by [Chapman, Gary]
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Rekindling, lighting a fire. Bringing passion back into our lives.

Bringing passion back into our lives. Rekindling, lighting a fire.

The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in. Morrie Schwartz

Is there something in our life we’d like to rekindle? Are we beginning a new stage of life we didn’t really want? This can be anything. Most of us aren’t excited as we have the “big” birthdays. The “big” anniversaries are the same. How do we keep the fire in a twenty-five, thirty-five, or fifty-year-old marriage? What do we mean by fire?

That is the question, isn’t it? Now, I don’t mean rekindling an old flame while you still live with your current partner. I mean rekindling with your current partner.

We had dreams, even hazy ones which we have not fulfilled. Our partner had dreams too. At some point some of those dreams intersect and where they intersect is where we can start. Did we have dreams of performing? It has never been so easy to put our self out there as a speaker, writer, performer, comedian, or artist.

We turn on the TV and we see couples buying old houses and renovating them. It can all start with wouldn’t it be fun, interesting if we… Maybe travel is our thing, the two of us have places we’ve always wanted to see, planning a trip is fun, we have to discuss what we want to do and see.

Maybe we have an artistic bent. Recently someone asked if I sell my art. I asked my husband to be my agent if anything comes of it. It will make it a shared project and he’s a better negotiator than I am. We can use each other’s strengths to create a win, win opportunity. We can take solitary activities and make them shared activities in some way.

Maybe you are no longer in a relationship, maybe it’s time to find a new relationship. Is it time to look around? Maybe look up an old flame? Adventure is out there.

Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time. Maya Angelou

It all starts with what if? What if we take the chance to let our partner know what we want? We may find they want the same thing, but no one says anything, and no one does anything, and nothing happens. We worry, what if he or she doesn’t want what we want. Then we know and then we can deal with it. Chances are if we want more passion and purpose in our life our partner does too. If we want more closeness, fun, someone has to make the first move. We also need to recognize the move when it is made.

One of the big reasons relationships fail is we don’t acknowledge our partners bid for affection. What bids we might ask. There lies the problem. “Do you want to come to Home Depot with me?” is a bid for affection. “Do you want to watch a movie later?” is a bid for affection.

People make bids for connection all the time, in all different relationships. Those relationships with our children, friends, and partners only grow when we acknowledge those bids. We need to turn towards the people in our life, instead of away.

Our partner may come up with what seems like unrealistic proposals, they may be, but maybe they are something to start a conversation, an exploration of things we can do together. We can cut them off, or we can accept the invitation. When we accept the invitation we don’t know where it will lead, even if it leads nowhere but more connection it’s worth it.

When we see couples shopping together, that’s shared time. It doesn’t take two people to shop for groceries, but while in the store we might discuss our preferences for dinner. We might see something we’ve never tried before, an adventure begins. A conversation with someone at the checkout might spark more conversation.

We can accept the invitation to go for a walk. We can propose a walk. Wherever we are, there we are, but we have choices, opportunity and it is what we make of our opportunities that determine our life.

Do we recognize bids for attention? Do we make our bids big enough so our partner knows we made one?

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. Mignon McLaughlin

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

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Shouldn’t we be grateful if we have someone in our lives to complain about?

Shouldn't we be grateful if we have someone in our lives to complain about?

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Gratitude and complaining cannot co-exist simultaneously, you must choose the one that best serves you. Hal Elrod

Is it our contact with other people that give our lives joy, purpose, and meaning? Some may agree, some may disagree but our relationships affect our lives in immense ways.

Research tells us that for every complaint about someone whether thought or spoken, we need ten blessings to overcome that one complaint if the relationship is to flourish. Any less than ten blessings and the relationship will deteriorate, and if that relationship is a marriage…

Words are very powerful and we are told our complaints about others harm our own life. Whatever we think about another person we bring into our own life.  If we want someone to overlook our shortcomings, failings, mistakes, inconsiderate actions, human failings, we have to be able to overlook theirs. We have to be able to love them as they are.

Isn’t that what we all want? We want to be accepted. If we truly love and are grateful for another person we are thankful for who they are, we don’t want to change them because then they won’t be who they are. Is this even possible? To us the things they need to change are so glaring, how do you give thanks for a critical spirit? Give thanks for someone who is judgmental?

We need to focus on the good points, and there are good points. They may be critical and judgmental, but they are also kind, loving, helpful, funny, willing to go the extra mile, generous, strong, dependable, hard-working, and they love us with all our faults, foibles, shortcomings, criticisms, and judgment.

When we look at someone’s shortcomings they become magnified in our mind. When we look at their strengths, gifts, talents, they begin to take center stage. If we get more of what we focus on, then focusing on someone’s strengths instead of their weaknesses is more likely to make them and us happy.

But, we do have valid complaints. We can’t just ignore the reality of what is going on as we focus on the positive and sweep around the elephant that has taken up most of the living room.

Happiness comes when we stop complaining about the troubles we have and say thanks to God for the troubles we don’t have. Unknown

We should complain but we should do it in a way that is effective. Dr. John Gottman has a three-part complaint formula so we can discuss our issues without hurting each other.

Express how we feel.

We need to express how we feel. We should begin with a soft start-up, stating how we feel. A feeling is an emotion like anger, fear, or a physical state like pain or tiredness.

A soft-startup is in contrast to what we usually do. You always, you never, you don’t etc. that usually accompanies criticism, anger, and judgment.

Talk about a very specific situation.

We need to state our feeling, describe the situation or behavior that caused the feeling.

The reality is the complaints many couples have about each other will never go away. The good news is complaints don’t need to drive relationships toward bitterness. If we can keep our complaints from becoming criticism, complaints can be a minor nuisance in comparison to the destructive power of criticism.

State a positive need.

We need to state a positive action we want our spouse to take to resolve the complaint.

We are not guaranteed we will get a resolution using this formula. It does mean we can engage in conflict and achieve resolutions that put criticism out of reach. If it is not a fixable or resolvable situation that does not mean the relationship has to end or suck out all of the joy or happiness from it.

Many couples build thriving relationships in spite of enduring, unresolved issues and conflicts. What if one person is a saver and one person feels if we haven’t used it we should donate it to charity. Minimalist and hoarder tendencies are bound to collide. Clean freaks and messier people are bound to have conflict. Social people and more introvert types are bound to have differences of opinions on going out and engaging with others socially. Some of us like to engage in deep discussions with one person, while others want to keep it light and move on and talk to someone else.

We don’t lack things to complain about. Don’t we need to learn how to complain without criticizing? Can we keep our complaints in perspective, and see the humor in situations? A dose of humor can go along way when we see the inevitable conflict arising. If we can learn to laugh with each other, and not at each other, shouldn’t we get bonus points?

Shouldn’t we be grateful if we have someone in our lives? Even if that person isn’t perfect, we know we aren’t, don’t we?

In the blink of an eye, it could be taken away, be grateful always. Unknown

Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage: America's Love Lab Experts Share Their Strategies for Strengthening Your Relationship by [Gottman Ph.D., John, Julie Schwartz Gottman, Joan Declaire]
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Rules for love. Play by the rules and reap the rewards.

Rules for love. Play by the rules and reap the rewards.

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Success in marriage is the sum of small efforts, focused on showing love and appreciation, repeated every day. Unknown

On Saturday I found a little book called The Rules of Love. Authors need to find a niche and Richard Templar found his in looking at the world and figuring out what successful people do in different areas of life and setting these practices down as rules. The idea is if we follow these rules we will get what the people following those rules have.

Chekov said, “all happy families are the same, all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way.” This lends credence to the rules idea. He isn’t telling us anything new, it is more reminding us we haven’t been doing things as well as we should.

Rule 65  We make a choice every day. He is reminding us we are responsible for being where we are now. We are choosing to be in our relationship and if it isn’t going as well as it should, we are choosing to not fix it. Or perhaps we are choosing to stay even though the relationship can’t be fixed. There are things in life we cannot fix, we must live with and make the best of. If we are choosing to stay and make the best of it, then make the best of it, is his advice. Be happy with your choice because you could make another choice and you wouldn’t necessarily be happier with that choice because you still have to choose to be happy.

We can live with them and love it, we can live with them and hate it, we can leave, what we can’t do, and what we want to do, is change them.

We are responsible for our choices and our happiness. We may think it is circumstances that will make us happy but it is really a choice to be happy in whatever circumstances we find our self.

Rule 16  Don’t tar new partners with old brushes. If we have been hurt by someone, we may be waiting for our current partner to hurt us. How does our partner feel when they realize the worst is always expected from them? If they haven’t hurt us yet, we are still waiting for it to happen. They may make some small misstep and we assume this is it, it’s finally going to happen, I knew they were too good to be true. We can create all kinds of problems in our mind that aren’t there. By expecting the worst we can end up getting it, our partner may get sick of having the worst expected of them. They may get tired of proving themselves over and over again but never being good enough. We may lose what we are so afraid of losing because we couldn’t just accept them for what they were and know we could deal with whatever comes, but not be forever expecting our partner to hurt us. Don’t we need to love, appreciate, trust and build a life where we have our partners back and believe they have ours? If we are always expecting to be stabbed in the back how will we or our partner feel?

The happiest marriages have a husband who feels admired by his wife and a wife who feels adored by her husband. Dave Willis

Rule 36  Don’t put them on a pedestal and expect them to stay there. This rule is very close to rule 16 except we expect them to be more perfect than human beings can be and disappointment will inevitably be the result. Expectations of perfection or betrayal leave our partner in a no-win situation. We all have to accept we will make missteps, fumbles, be inconsiderate, be too tired to put someone else’s interests above our own. We will at some point in our life together become selfish; we might not even think we are being selfish. We begin to think, this is my time. We may be on vacation and we each have different interests. We are so busy with what needs to be done, we don’t think about what is happening with our relationship.

Rule 23  Put each other first. We know we should put each other first. In the reality of life, we get caught up in the urgent and sometimes leave the important behind. We believe if we don’t do something it won’t get done. By taking on so much, we don’t have time to relax and enjoy time with our partner. In hindsight, we realize it could have and should have been different. At the moment we were doing what needed to be done. We were being the parent, employee, provider, son or daughter, brother or sister, friend. Our partner knows we love them, we are strong, we are needed, we’ll have time for them later. In our busyness, we may make them think they really aren’t that important in our life. We laugh and joke, make small talk, have conversations with others we aren’t having with them. We think we are just being social, they may feel they are not important in our life, and easily replaced. We can afford to ignore our own wants and needs because our partner will be giving them priority. When we forget to give our partners wants and needs priority we can hurt them deeply.

Rule 68  We both don’t have to have the same rules. This seems like an odd rule. Don’t we want tit for tat, what’s good for you is good for me? We aren’t all the same, we don’t need, want, expect, or do the same things. If for instance, a phone call upon arriving somewhere makes our partner who isn’t with us feel better. Make the phone call, it’s a small thing but if it gives them peace of mind to know we are safe and sound we can make the effort. This is giving and taking, and not about control. We are noticing and accommodating our partner whenever we can to make their life better, and they are doing the same for us. If we know something irritates them it may be something we can change, or it may be something they have to learn to live with. We are in a dance and we both have to make it work, we have to give and take, adjust and readjust. The object is to put our partner first and make them feel loved and cared for.

Rule 45  Don’t dump responsibility on our partner. We often have expectations that are not discussed. This can cause problems especially when our partners don’t know what we expect them to do. Not discussing what we need, expect, anticipate, or would like in the future can cause big problems. When life happens we often want a scapegoat. If you didn’t, we wouldn’t, whatever the situation is we find ourselves in. Many times we are in the situation together. We both should have done things differently, anticipated this situation that has arisen because we bought something we wanted, went on a vacation we couldn’t really afford, bought a new vehicle, renovated our house, it can be anything but now money is tight. It’s their entire fault. We only blame them to deflect criticism from our self. We are in this together. Deep down we know we contributed as much as they did. We need to step up and accept our share of the blame, with a sense of humor and own that we both messed up, and figure out what to do about it.

He has 107 thought-provoking rules, and a few at the back thrown in about other areas of life. Life is what we make it and so is marriage. Everyone getting their needs met and most of their wants is challenging. If we aren’t letting our partner know they are the most important person in our life, what are we doing?

Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Corinthians 13:4-7

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The Rules of Love (3rd Edition) Paperback – Dec 22 2015


 

 

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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