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: Stories of What Happens When Love Comes Alive Kindle Edition

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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

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

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, joy, and love.

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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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Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage: America’s Love Lab Experts Share Their Strategies for Strengthening Your Relationship Kindle Edition

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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