Rekindling love, falling in love with the same person over, and over again.

Falling in love with the same person over, and over again. Rekindling love.

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart. Helen Keller

What an honor it is when we celebrate with happy couples declaring their vows to each other. When it’s a couple that finds each other after many years and completes what seems the circle of their lives with I Do it seems more special. Now as they start out as Mr. & Mrs. to the delight of all who have known them through the trials and tribulations of life our hearts are gladdened, and we believe more strongly in the power of love.

Such was our day, yesterday. The officiate said his view of love is we have “natural love” with the families we are born into. We have “unnatural love” with those we chose to love. It is a selfish love when we chose to love someone because it is about how they make us feel. This is the love we have to tend to, we have to continue to do what makes them feel drawn to us, and they will hopefully keep doing what drew us to them. 

This is the love that goes through the cycles of marriage. As a speaker on a Ted Talk said, some of us have many marriages; some of us have these marriages with the same person. As we go through the cycles in marriage we fall in love again, and again, hopefully with the same person.

Yesterday speaking to a friend she said a friend’s parents were in ill health. They didn’t want to live without each other, they couldn’t take care of each other, and they didn’t want to be cared for by others. One had cancer, one had heart problems, they chose to petition for euthanasia. They had a family celebration where everyone came together, said their goodbyes, and a doctor injected them and they peacefully said goodbye to the world lying in their bed, holding hands.

Our love stories must end, it seems like a good ending to me. When we go as far as we can with our love story and both are ready to exit this life, exiting together seems better. An aunt and uncle of mine exited about two weeks apart. Would they have preferred the choice to leave together?

Love always cures people – both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it. Karl Menninger

If we can love each other in the beauty of youth, the challenges that come with raising children or just building a life, the challenges of getting old, the ups and downs life inevitably brings, and the push and pull of romantic attraction. If we enjoy the deeper beauty of our partner as surface beauty fades, we will have lived with all that marriage brings.

Rekindling love after years apart or in a marriage means focusing on each other. Sometimes we need to recognize love is a verb, and actively love each other every day, not just love each other when we feel like it.

If we can respect each other, love each other, and treat each other with kindness and appreciation every day. We may need to learn what respect looks like to each other, we may need to learn each other’s love languages so when we are trying to give them love we do it in a way they respond to. We need to accept and appreciate our partners how they are, not how we may wish they were. We may need to appreciate and accept ourselves. We are good enough to deserve love, our partner is good enough to deserve love, and if we once had a wonderful loving relationship we can probably, if we really want to, have that again.

Are we living in the fullness of love?

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

If you keep giving up on people so quickly, you’re gonna miss out on something great. Robin, from How I Met Your Mother

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

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The 5 Love Languages Paperback – Jan 1 2015

by Gary Chapman (Author) 4.7 out of 5 stars 593 ratings#1 Best Sellerin Marriage

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Are we the South or North Pole to our partner’s South or North Pole? Do we embrace the differences between masculine and feminine? Like complementary colors, we need the contrast to bring out the vibrancy.

Do we embrace the differences between masculine and feminine? Like complementary colors we need the contrast to bring out the vibrancy. Are we the South or North Pole to our partner's South or North Pole?

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Do what you did in the beginning of a relationship and there won’t be an end. Unknown

Yesterday I went to one of my favorite haunts to look at used books. Five books for the price of four and I always seem to be able to find five books that speak to me. Yesterday was no different. Sometimes I’ve even left a book behind that I went back for, sometimes it’s still there, but often it’s gone.

Love is a many splendored thing, and those lucky enough to have love in our lives know how empty it would be without love. Some of us are better with the realities of love than others. We wanted a boyfriend or girlfriend that became our spouse but didn’t want all that came with it. Sparks were flying because we were like the South Pole meeting the North Pole. Their masculinity met our femininity and we couldn’t get enough.

Over the years if we want the sparks to still fly we need to keep our poles polarized. We all have feminine and masculine parts of ourselves, but we need to make sure we don’t become too much the same and become more friends, and buddies instead of husbands and wives where the polarity of masculine and feminine is still strong. This is the nature of attraction even in same-sex relationships.

It seems to me some people want someone else to change for them to be happy. The only people we can change are ourselves. We change things about ourselves for better or worse and then there is a reaction in our relationships. If we want to bring out the masculine in our man maybe we need to bring out the feminine in ourselves. We can be the best man or woman we can be, that is what we can do. We cannot through cajoling, criticizing, or manipulation turn people into who we want them to be.

A great relationship doesn’t happen because of the love you had in the beginning, but how well you continue building love until the end. Unknown

If we are trying to change our partner we are trying to change the wrong person. Al-Anon a self-help group helping spouses of alcoholics tells the partner of alcoholics to quit trying to control others and focus on their own attitudes and behavior. The other person is always the problem in our eyes until one day if we are lucky we realize we are the person who can change things for our self. We have the power and although we may not like the truths we have to face. Once we face the hard truths, and accept that change is ours to make we can take charge of our life. Our attitude is everything.

What we resist persists and grows stronger. When we accept the person we are trying to change warts and all, and love them how they are even if that person is our self we can begin to effect change.

Life can only be how it is this very moment. It cannot be different. We cannot be different and they, whoever they are cannot be different.

Anything we allow to be exactly how it is, completes itself. When we don’t struggle against the reality of life and accept it for what it is it will complete itself. If our heart is broken we need to accept that. Resistance is futile, but acceptance is powerful. It is what it is, and that’s okay and once we deal with what is we can go forward.

Women need to focus more on our feminine energy and men need to focus more on their masculine energy to be the best we can be. We need to find the balance in our lives but balance isn’t more masculine women and more feminine men. Being feminine women and masculine men does not impact social, economic, and political equality. It will help us to give our greatest gifts, at work, in our relationships, and spiritually.

Are we embracing our masculinity or femininity in positive ways? Are we the South or North Pole to our partners South or North Pole?

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in the casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable. To love is to be vulnerable. C.S. Lewis

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A Lifelong Love: How to Have Lasting Intimacy, Friendship, and Purpose in Your Marriage by [Thomas, Gary]
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Is the opposite of love indifference, not hate? Are compassion and empathy the building blocks of love?

Are compassion and empathy the building blocks of love? Is the opposite of love indifference, not hate?

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
― Dalai Lama XIV,  The Art of Happiness

Yesterday we received a wedding invitation from high school friends of my husband who were childhood sweethearts, went different directions and reconnected after forty years. We hear about these kinds of love stories. We have the opportunity to witness and watch them take their vows. Marriage is not for the faint-hearted, but they already know this.

We need to treat each other with compassion and empathy. We can probably all see the wisdom in this. The problem arises when we realize that we aren’t seeing and feeling what our partner is seeing and feeling. Sometimes we can’t even begin to understand where their hurt is coming from. It isn’t that big of a deal in our mind. We need to be willing to look at our partner with compassion and empathy even though it is difficult to see things how they see things. Can we try to see how things might look from their perspective? Instead of just being upset at their reaction what if we try understanding, compassion, and empathy?

In a book I found, How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny they nail the problem between men and women. We don’t see problems the same, because we don’t see the same problem. Talking doesn’t always get us what we want. We want change, not rehashing over and over who was wrong, or more wrong. How do we actually fix things when we have the inevitable issues that rise up in relationships? Even if they aren’t completely fixed can we move towards better?

The authors say yes we can move toward better without involving our partner at all. We can do this because we react to each other’s behavior, mood, body language, tone of voice, etc. We’ve all walked into a room or house in a good mood and been infected by someone else’s foul mood, and it seems we couldn’t help ourselves to not affected by it. This does put the partner in a good mood at a disadvantage. It seems negativity trumps in the mood department.

The authors tell us why we have problems communicating is because men and women don’t feel the same things. Men feel shame, and women feel fear. Women have a hard time understanding men’s shame and men have a hard time understanding women’s fear. When it comes to compassion and empathy will we ever one hundred percent get the other person’s point of view?

At the beginning of our relationships, we were like a violin and a cello playing in harmony. The violin wasn’t trying to be the cello and the cello didn’t think the violin needed to be just like them. Along the way, we lose some of that harmony and we don’t appreciate the differences which attracted us in the first place. We don’t want a mini-me in our relationships. Sometimes we think we can only have harmony if we are the same. We can only have harmony if we play together in harmony.

Too often we underestimate the power of a 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

One of the things this book tells us is when women leave the relationship they’ve often thought long and hard how they can make it work out there alone. Men, on the other hand, often fall in love with their wives again as she walks out the door. All of a sudden they now want to offer all she wanted, but they didn’t offer it when she was still in the relationship willing to work on it.

This may mean some women are giving up too soon on men who they could have a happy life with if they got past whatever the problem or stage is they are going through. Happy, long marriages go through stages and if we don’t get through each stage that isn’t so great, we don’t get to the better stages. Many of us leave during the stage of realizing our partner isn’t as perfect as we thought they were. We may think finding a better partner is the answer. Most of the time it is probably getting through this stage of disappointment to a new stage of seeing our partner again with new eyes and deeper love. Happy long marriages go through these stages again and again. It is easy to get discouraged and think “Is this all there is?”

This might be why second and third marriages don’t have a better track record. Instead of picking a better mate, we realize we have to deal with disappointment not discard the person that disappoints us. We will disappoint them, and they will disappoint us. Isn’t part of life dealing with disappointment?

They will also make us laugh harder than we have ever laughed. We will have some of our best times and some of our worst times. When things happen to us they are there to hold us and comfort us. If we can get through life with a partner and live through all of life, joys, sorrows, and deal with what we fear we can feel good about ourselves and our marriage. We can deal with our insecurities, failures, successes, challenges, and see some of our hopes and dreams come true. Then we can say we’ve lived through the depth and breadth of love. When we can accept our partner’s are not perfect, perhaps we can accept we also are not perfect, and it’s okay. We don’t have to be perfect to love each other; we have to see and love through the imperfections.

I know it’s not the same thing but my little dog is not the perfect dog. She barks too much when someone, even those who live here come to the door. We love her anyway. Our last dog had a doggy odor we didn’t love, but we loved him. Dogs like people are individuals with personalities, each fabulous and flawed in their own way. When we pick our partner we pick the story that comes with them, and they pick our story, and together we create a new story. If we get out at chapter five we never know what the end of that story could have been. What if chapter five was the only bad chapter? What if some people always get hung up on chapter five and instead of one marriage that gets through chapter after chapter they have a few marriages that end at chapter five?

The advice the book gives is for each of us to be true to our core values and then to invoke the four core value inspirations.

Improve – when we inspire ourselves to improve we don’t necessarily have to fix the problem just find a way to make it a little better to feel better our self.

Appreciate – find something about our partner we value and focus on that instead of the problem. We increase the value of our own life when we appreciate our partner in any way.

Connect – genuinely care about our partner’s emotional state. To connect we need to at least on some level intuitively understand his shame or her fear. It also requires an understanding that our emotional well being is tied together. If he feels good – we feel good. If she feels bad – we feel bad.

Protect – helping him relieve his dread of failure as a provider, lover, protector, and father, and helping her relieve her fear of isolation, deprivation, and harm.

Oprah said one of her biggest fears was ending up a bag lady. It is probably one of our biggest fears also. The book says women’s fear of ending up as a bag lady is because they would feel vulnerable, unsafe, and have no security. Men, on the other hand, would feel shame because they ended up on the street.

Why can’t we see why something is such a big thing? We can’t see it because that isn’t what a big thing looks like to us. Women have a hard time understanding men’s shame, and men have a hard time understanding women’s fear.

We can only change ourselves, and we can only control ourselves. Is one of the reasons therapy doesn’t work because we are waiting for someone else to get fixed, and they are waiting for us to get fixed. It’s easier to see our partner’s offenses than our own.

We need to understand that our emotional well-being is important to us, and our emotional well-being is tied to our relationships. If we can accept that our relationship is more important than anything we resent and worthy of appreciation, time, energy and sacrifice. Then we have something to work on. Not something for the other person to work on.

It’s nice to have romantic weekends, intimate dinners and great vacations. If they are not accompanied by a loving routine, they are more likely to have a negative effect because of the physical exhaustion and psychological letdown of getting back to our humdrum routine. To nurture love over a lifetime we have to nurture small moments of connection day by day.

Can we be the change we want to see in our relationship? Can we find some little thing to make it better? Can we appreciate our partner’s good attributes? Can we find some common point of connection? Can we find a way to help him feel less shame and her feel less fear? If we seek to understand more than to be understood, can we make things better.?

 A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.
― Steve Maraboli,  Life, the Truth, and Being Free

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How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It Paperback – Apr 29 2008

by Love Ed.D., Patricia (Author), Stosny PH.D, Steven (Author) 4.3 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Isn’t disappointment inevitable? Dealing with disappointment does that mean dealing with our unrealistic expectations?

Does dealing with disappointment mean dealing with our unrealistic expectations? Isn't disappointment inevitable?

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

No relationship is all sunshine, but two people can share one umbrella and survive the storm together. Unknown

Are we living in an age when we want to blur the boundaries? Why do we want to blur boundaries, is it so we can make people wrong for more things?

We used to have adultery and we knew that adultery was wrong. It was also sometimes overlooked, but there was common agreement it was wrong.

Now we have emotional cheating – and where this boundary is no one knows. Johnathon Bustle, Dating/Relationship Coach and Owner of The Popular Man define emotional cheating as forming a strong and intimate emotional bond with someone other than your partner. In general, if you are deeply connecting with another person emotionally, even for friendship, while simultaneously disconnecting with your partner, you’re crossing into emotional infidelity.

You’ve got to be kidding. We are expecting way too much out of our marriages if it needs to be our everything. It couldn’t fulfill our expectations when our expectations were less, how well do you think it will do going forward?

Johnathon Bustle says it’s okay to vent about our relationship troubles to friends and family – but complaining to a potential love interest about being unhappy in your current relationship is a no go.  All this means to me is you can’t talk to the opposite sex. Who is a potential love interest – that begs definition.

Sharing the big news with someone else before our partner. This might not be a great thing to do, but there is probably a reason for it and it isn’t infidelity.

On a blog post called Good Therapy they say even ignoring a spouse when he or she is talking, is a betrayal. Wow, is it just me?

After that betrayal, your partner must prove to you, in every conceivable way, that he or she has changed.

I could be totally wrong but if we are to have long-lasting marriages we can’t be hypersensitive to everything. We will have to overlook some stuff. Many husbands tune out their wives. That is why they are always saying, “You didn’t tell me that.” They weren’t listening, we may not like it, but do they need to prove in every conceivable way they have changed?

We will have to figure out what we are willing to live with and what we aren’t. We should decide that early, and we can’t expect perfection. If we have a really great person there are still bound to be some things we don’t like about them. Things we loved about them at the beginning that now irk us, or things we thought they would change.

Sometimes we create our own heartbreaks through expectations. Unknown

A post by Angela Guzman lists 6 forms of infidelity in marriage

Secrets – how many of us don’t have something about ourselves or other people we have never told anyone?

Loyalty – how do you prove you are loyal enough?

Threatening to get a divorce – of course, no one should do this but it isn’t infidelity.

Emotional affairs – not comfortable with this one, too open to interpretation. Everyone can be upset over all our relationships if they want to be. This can quite easily turn into no outside relationships, which is not a good thing.

Not being present – how can anyone not have numerous things on their mind during their too busy years?

Commemorative infidelity – I had to figure out what this one means. This occurs when two people are married but one or both parties do not have feelings for each other. I thought these were the phases we lived through as we moved through the stages of marriage.

Not one of those mentions actual adultery; sexual relations with another person. Are spouses being too good, that we need to hold them to higher and higher standards to still have something to complain about?

It could just be me, but having been married for 33 years, in a relationship with my husband for 39 years we can always find something to complain about if we really want to.

If we have a faithful spouse we should be grateful. We shouldn’t be looking for other things to get upset about. We should work to create a better relationship and we also have to know that there will be an ebb and flow in our marriages. I think infidelity is cut and dried. Finding a reason to feel betrayed because we aren’t happy and they must be the problem is what I think the rest of this is all about.

We expect our spouse to make us happy at our peril. We are the only ones that can make us happy. What if happiness isn’t what we should be looking for? What about meaning and purpose?

Disappointment can cast a heavy shadow over our lives, but what if what we need to do is learn to deal with the inevitable disappointment that will happen in relationships, careers, and life in general?

Maybe we should go back to expecting less out of marriage? Maybe unmet expectations are our big problem, and it’s our problem that we expect more out of our partners than they can reasonable give. Do we need to check our expectations?

No one lives happily ever after. Everyone deals with the ups and downs of life. How many marriages would be happier if everyone involved had more reasonable expectations for their marriage, took life one day at a time, and quite comparing what they think is the worst of their relationship to the best of someone else’s?

Women marry men hoping they will change. Men marry women hoping they will not. So each is inevitably disappointed. Albert Einstein

If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment, Henry David Thoreau

Disappointment has ruined more lives than all the diseases known to man. But it’s not disappointment that ruins lives. It is the capacity or the refusal to deal with life after disappointment. Shirley MacLaine

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Dealing with Disappointment: How to know joy when life doesn't feel great (Live Different Book 12) by [Hindley, John]
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Criticism or encouragement it’s our choice and our choice builds our relationships.

Do we build our relationships with criticism or encouragement?

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

We judge ourselves by our intentions and judge others by their actions. Stephen Covey

Do we see through the eyes of understanding or do we look for the worst in others? Do we ascribe meaning to actions, words, mistakes, thoughtlessness that we wouldn’t attribute to our own actions words, mistakes or thoughtless behavior? Can we see where we go wrong and understand it, but make no room for other people’s errors?

We are probably all guilty of this. We know what we meant is not how they took it, but we meant well. In a book, I picked up on the weekend Happily Married for Life 60 Tips for a Fun Growing Relationship by Larry J. Koenig. The author tells us if we take a quiz and we see our partner in more positive ways than negative our relationship is probably pretty good. If we take the quiz and the negatives out-weight the positives we have a very hard road ahead to make it work. Much of this is perception but we can get to the point that even little things annoy us, like breathing. If this is the case how will we take the mistake of walking on our newly washed wet floor, or forgetting something we think is important, or saying something we deem critical?

One of the things the author tells us is we will not remain in a positive relationship with someone who is critical. We may think our insight (criticism) plus their motivation to change should be what our relationship needs. Maybe it should be, but it doesn’t work.

Criticism, like rain should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots. Frank A. Clark

We cannot afford to get into the habit of criticizing each other. Millions of couples have lousy relationships, and many of them got that way through well-intentioned criticism. How have people who have great relationships learned to handle their spouse’s faults? Chances are they aren’t married to better people, they only handle things better.

If criticizing doesn’t work, and I totally get that it doesn’t even as I am guilty of it. The author tells us first we need to decide what we want. This may be a bit of the “would you rather be right or happy.” He says to write down what you want and be very clear that you know what that is, and that your spouse will understand what it is you want. Then with a positive attitude and a positive expectation ask your spouse for it. If we can do this without getting into the why, and how they haven’t done it for twenty years, we can avoid conflict.

The bible tells us to ask and we shall receive. Often our spouse doesn’t know what we want, we expect them to read our mind and that rarely works. Thinking if they love me they would know, do, realize, or understand doesn’t work.

The key to solving all marital conflict according to the author is to identify and satisfy our spouse’s most pressing needs. The problem with this is we often want to get our own needs met. What needs to happen is at least one partner focuses on the other person’s needs.

Good marriages have one cheerleader, but great marriages have two.  Encouragement is a great elixir of love. The more we encourage each other, the more our love will grow. If we are lavish with our encouragement our love will grow accordingly, if we are lavish with our discouragement and criticism our relationships will wither and die. It’s our choice.

How can we encourage someone we love? Can we ask for what we want with a positive attitude and expectation we’ll get it? Can we ask them what they want in a positive way and with a positive expectation we’ll give it?

Can we become an encourager instead of a criticizer?

I have yet to find the man, however, exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism. Charles Schwab

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Happily Married for a Lifetime Paperback – Jan 1 2000

by Larry J. Koenig (Author) 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Gratitude and happiness, seeing the best in others. Accepting and loving ourselves and others.

Accepting and loving ourselves and others. Gratitude and happiness, see the best in others.

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude. It’s gratitude that brings us happiness. Unknown

Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone according to C.S. Lewis. Much of our unhappiness is created by trying to compete with other people instead of creating a life we love.

One of the things about pride is we think we are right in our pride. I am looking at a blog saying some men have trouble finding a wife because they think no woman is good enough for them, the women they marry is the lucky one. I think we women suffer from the same pride.

Instead of believing we are lucky to have found such a good man, we believe he is lucky to have found us. It is our pride that makes us bitter. Is it humility that will help us to make things better? When we have pride we think we have done all we can, what more could we possibly do? I’m guilty of this.

In the post I’m reading Meskerem T. Kifetew is saying finding a wife, not a woman, requires humility. Finding a husband, not a man is the same. We look at the good in us and the faults in our spouse. What if we looked at the good in our spouse and we worked on the faults in our self? We are the only people we can change and when we feel accepted we are more likely to be willing to change and grow.

I’ve always said we take a prince and turn him into a frog, and then we wonder where all the sizzle in our relationship went. Men I think do the same thing, and wonder where that lovely young woman went? We are not at our best when we don’t feel appreciated, or when we are not appreciating our spouse.

Everyone in our lives blooms with appreciation and love; everyone withers under judgment, blame, and contempt. Are we capable of loving others how they are instead of seeing what they aren’t? With love, they may become more, with blame, contempt, and judgment they feel too insecure to try.

The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they make the best of everything. Unknown

If our lives are like a garden is being in our company like having fertile soil, rain, and sunshine, or do we live in a desert? Are we expecting our spouse and children to bloom in a desert?

The only person that can create change in our lives is our self. I was listening to a divorce lawyer on the radio yesterday. She was being asked about older couples getting divorced and how they often don’t realize the financial ramifications, and some of them wish they hadn’t gone for the divorce. They had built separate lives and were co-existing and wished they’d left it at that.  

We all have insecurities, and trying to hide them makes them worse. We need to admit our insecurities because then we can deal with them. When we look at our life and say what is the worst that can happen, really look at it, we can then say, I can deal with that. Once we declare and believe we can deal with what happens we don’t need to feel insecure anymore.

One of the problems we have with pride is we don’t want to deal with our insecurities. What if we built our husband up and then he felt so good about himself he didn’t want us? This may be why we turn our prince into a frog. The problem is we have to live with the frog, and we’ve made ourselves small and insignificant too, and he too has his insecurities so he tells us we aren’t that great either, and downwards we spiral together.

If we can be grateful for what we have, who we are, the people we have in our life, the blessings we do have, the comfort we do have, the health we do have, and the financial situation we do have. If we don’t think it could be worse, it so could be.

Can we go forward accepting our insecurities, feeling grateful, loving, and full of joy for the abundance in our lives? Can we appreciate the people in our lives, and help them bloom, reach their full potential, feel encouraged, loved, and appreciated? Can kind words come out of our mouth? Can we quit comparing ourselves and others, and appreciate who we are, our gifts, our talents, our blessings? Can we learn to live in love, with humility, dignity, and accept ourselves and others how we are?

Home should be an anchor, a port in a storm, a refuge, a happy place in which to dwell, a place where we are loved and where we can love. Marvin J. Ashton

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For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by [Hatmaker, Jen]
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by Jen Hatmaker (Author)

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Is a successful marriage falling in love, again and again, with the same person?

Falling in love, again and again with the same person is what makes a successful marriage.

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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

I wrote this July 29, 2018, as my daughter was preparing to get married.

The secret of a happy marriage is not feeling blissfully in love every day. “And they lived happily ever after” is not a real thing. You go through the ups and downs of life. We run through the five stages of marriage over and over again.

Stage one – we all love this one. Falling in love, we’ve found our prince. Our beloved can do no wrong. They have quirks we love.

Stage two – those quirks become annoyances. We discover even more faults and foibles about them, and they annoy us even more.

Stage three – we decide what to do now that we realize we married a person, not a prince.

Stage four – this is the hard slogging of getting through our no longer romanticized life. We’ve taken off our rose-colored glasses; our Prince is now a frog.

Stage five – the reward for getting through all that hard stuff is somehow at some time we get a glimpse again of why we thought he was a prince. We fall in love all over again at a new level of intensity and commitment.

We are each one of us in one of these stages now. The secret to a long marriage is going through the stages over and over again.

Wouldn’t it be boring if it really was happily ever after? What if a day at the beach lasted for thirty years? No new adventures, no new discoveries, nothing learned, no personal growth. It is hard getting through tough times, it is nice looking back knowing we got through them together.

We can live with them and love it, we can live with them and hate it, or we can leave. What we all want to do, but can’t do is change them. It might be a good thing we can’t change people, we would change them to suit our whim instead of changing ourselves to become better people. There would be no growth for either of us.

Love is patient, love is kind, love is never giving up. Love is easy, love is hard, love makes the hard things better and the good things sweet.

If you are lucky enough in this life to find someone to love, love them, cherish them and be willing to go through the stages of life with them over and over again. How many people look back on a past relationship knowing they could have done more? If you are going to be in a marriage don’t think you get to skip the stages by getting out of one marriage and into another. If you always get out at stage three are you really getting anywhere?

All married couples should learn the art of battle as they should learn the art of making love. Good battle is objective and honest – never vicious or cruel. Good battle is healthy and constructive and brings to a marriage the principles of equal partnership. Ann Landers

Ann Landers is onto something here. We have to be able to talk things out. A silent marriage is a dying marriage. We need to be able to talk about the small things so they don’t become so big we can’t talk about them. Tiptoeing around the elephant, cleaning up its dodo and pretending it isn’t there is not healthy. Sometimes just like ripping off a band-aid, we just need to say what needs to be said. Then we can start anew. Not acknowledging a problem is a problem, you can fix it, you can live with it, you can laugh about it, but you can’t pretend it isn’t there and think it won’t affect your relationship.

I was one of the girls who read in a magazine, “a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” I wasn’t one who was dying to get married. I’ve loved being married; I think my husband is the anchor to my balloon. We are more together than we are apart.

Someone asked me if I would want to renew my vows. I said, ”No, we meant them when we said them.” Renewing vows to me would be if something happened and we separated. Coming together again and renewing our vows would have meaning. To renew vows just to have a party. I’m not the starry-eyed bride, and unless we were to do something really stupid what we said then and meant, stands today. As a matter of fact, when my husband and I see couples renewing their vows over and over again we look at each other expecting a divorce in the future. We aren’t often wrong.

Some people have floated the idea of renewing commitments every five years. I’m horrified at the thought. How could anyone have any security in the marriage? How many marriages would be at one of the hard spots? Get married to the right person, and be the right person. Say what you mean and mean what you say, and say it with as much love and compassion as you can manage.

Marriage is a journey, not a destination. Saying “I do,” is just the beginning. We have to go forward committed to getting through the days, weeks, months, years that follow with as much humor, compassion, and love as possible.

A great marriage is not when the perfect couple comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences. Dave Meurer 

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Love is a Verb: Stories of What Happens When Love Comes Alive by [Chapman, Gary]

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Love is a verb. Marriage is a growth opportunity; we won’t get the growth if we give up when the going gets tough. Everything will be all right in the end, if it is not all right, it shouldn’t yet be the end.

Everything will be all right in the end, if it is not all right, it shouldn't yet be the end. Love is a verb. Marriage is a growth opportunity; we won't get the growth if we give up when the going gets tough.

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

A happy man marries the woman he loves; a happier man loves the woman he married.  Susan Douglas                                     

 I sit here a day before my wedding anniversary thinking of the wonderful husband, and children I have been blessed with. No matter what else in life we accomplish bringing a life into the world at times seems like the smallest and biggest accomplishment.

As mothers, we felt if we worked outside the home we neglected our children. If we stayed inside the home we sometimes felt we neglected our self. We let down the sisterhood who fought for emancipation and women’s rights. At my vantage point, I believe the fight was for choice. We need to find balance in our lives. Balancing our hopes and dreams with responsibilities isn’t always easy. There is a price for everything when we make one choice we eliminate another. Our children and families can’t be the most important thing in our lives if we don’t make time for them. We give our time to what we feel is important.

When my mother was widowed at twenty-five with two children and a new baby she was told to give up the baby and build a life. She said, “My children are my life.” This, the truest statement of motherhood is still true today.

Once our children are grown we may appreciate them even more. Seeing them take their place in the world, get married, and start their own families is bittersweet. We see them as we once were, the young couple with stars in our eyes, hope in our heart, and dreams to make come true. Now we know how a lot of that turned out, often keeping body and soul together, and raising children took up most of our lives, energy, and resources. We were busy, happy, seeing progress in ours and our children’s lives.

When our children get married it really punctuates we have moved into a new role. We don’t love our new role yet. We don’t have grandchildren to love, teach, and see the world through their eyes.  It will be an adventure being grandparents. No pressure kids, but can’t you please hurry up?

My daughter and her husband attended a wedding yesterday in The Dominican Republic. Another family is formed, the hopes and dreams of another couple going forth into the world to build a life, and maybe a family.

We rally around as another family is formed. I smile at the hope and joy shining from the faces of brides and grooms at their weddings.  I say a silent prayer hoping that love will still be shining in the years to come. It’s never about the day, no matter how extravagant and beautiful. It is always about the relationship. It is about bringing our best self to the marriage and bringing out the best in someone else.  The magic of marriage is it transforms two people into a couple. If it is a positive marriage all of society benefits, the chemistry and compatibility evident over the years.

Freud said, “It’s a cornerstone of our humanity; only love protects us enough to grow and change.” Love is a verb and if we think of it as something we do instead of something we find, or fall into it has a better chance of standing the test of time. Building a life together that has meaning, with an ability to laugh at life’s challenges and obstacles, and a willingness to get through the tough times and know this too shall pass is what is required. The highs will pass and the lows will pass, but there is another high coming and another low. We need to learn to surf the highs and lows to enjoy our marriage. It’s a wild ride and if we are in it for the long haul it is both beautiful and the biggest growth opportunity of our life.

Marriage is I believe the cornerstone of society. I can’t imagine how much harder it would have been bringing up our two children without my husband’s love and support. As a shared goal raising children is one of the best. Not a goal that will fix a marriage. Raising children is a stressful endeavor. The accomplishment like any difficult challenge is rewarding. We watch our children take their place in the world, and we know their accomplishments aren’t ours, but we feel pride.

Kalil Gibran said, “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.”

The advice I’ve written in wedding cards over the years is; marry the right person and be the right person. If we want our marriage to work we need to look for the best in each other. If we spend our time looking at our partner’s shortcomings, we will find them, if we look for their good points we will find them also. The lens we look through makes all the difference. It is as easy to recount our partner’s good points as their bad. Expecting better instead of worse often gives us better. We get what we expect.

Nobody knows what goes on in someone else’s marriage. Sometimes we don’t even know what is going on in our own. The reason is that we aren’t always straight forward in our communication. Kalil Gibran said, “Between what is said and not meant and what is meant and not said, all love is lost.” It is easy to fall into this trap, and it can be as hard to take back unsaid things as said things. But, if we truly want better communication sometimes we have to say it. “I don’t think you understand what I meant, or what I said. I apologize for not being a better communicator, I love you, I value you, I don’t understand you but I appreciate you and am happy that we are on this journey together. I’m in for the long haul, the ups, the downs, the good, the bad, the funny, and the sad.”

In our marriages, the two of us may not have the same dreams and aspirations but everything that is good for one of us should be good for both of us. Sometimes it may be time for the wife to shine; sometimes it may be time for the husband to shine. If we have each other’s backs and give each other enduring support and encouragement we can’t help but be in the world feeling lifted up. As Dr. Phil says “Marriage is a safe place to fall.” Relaxing in our husband’s or wife’s arms after a good or bad day feels better than being alone in our joy or sorrow. Some people talk about chemistry as though sex is the most important part of marriage. If we have good sex it’s five percent of the marriage and if we have bad or no sex it might become ninety percent of the marriage. So as Nike says, “just do it.” Then we can get on with building a marriage.

After thirty-three years of marriage, I believe it is not lack of love, but lack of friendship that makes an unhappy marriage. After all, we spend more time talking and being together than anything else. If we can’t ask our husband or wife out for coffee or ice cream and not spend all our time on our cell phone it might not bode well for our marriage. If we want a better marriage we should have more coffee, ice-cream, long walks or drives in the country. Too often we focus on the big things, but if we want a better life we should enjoy more of the little things. That’s where the magic is. I said to my husband the other day as we sat in Second Cup. Even if we travel the world it’s still just the two of us over coffee whether in Milan, Paris, Singapore, or the coffee shop down the street

Where ever we go there we are. If it isn’t good between us it doesn’t matter if it’s a place on our bucket list or Tim Horton’s down the street.

Sometimes I think we forget what marriage is. It’s just two people sharing a life. It’s better when it’s a happy life, but that is where the choice lies. We can be happy or we can be unhappy that is our decision. To make happiness our goal is a good way to be unhappy.  If we make meaning our choice it is much easier to pursue meaning than to pursue happiness.  We might not be happy putting our children’s needs ahead of our own but it’s meaningful and something we will be proud of over the years. Every day we can move forward in pleasure and purpose, there is a lot to savor, food, conversation, laughter, sex, and companionship.

Isn’t marriage worth the time and effort needed to keep it interesting, fun, and progressing?  Do some of us get out of a marriage to look for another one when we probably could have worked on the old one? Is it that different from moving from one house we’ve let run down to a new house, which will eventually run down if we don’t maintain it?

A happy marriage is about three things: memories of togetherness, forgiveness of mistakes, and a promise to never give up on each other. Surabhi Surendra

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Love Is A Verb – 30 Days To Improving Your Relationship Communication: Learn How To Nurture A Deeper Love By Mastering The Art of Heart-To-Heart Relationship Communication Paperback – Sep 28 2014

by Simeon Lindstrom (Author) 4.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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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

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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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