February 8, 2016

Top o' the Tweets

Twitter gives me statistics on what they consider my "top tweets". For this top ten list, I have not included those that link back to a post on my own blog.
  • The person you have children with will be a member of your family for the rest of your life. Choose wisely.
  • "I love you, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you." Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  • The things you did to woo your spouse way back then just might be effective now.
  • Someone chose you. How amazing is that?
  • Winter chill? Cuddle up with your sweetie.
  • Make sure your nickname for your spouse has only positive associations.
  • "Sober or not, I am ever yours." Richard Steele
  • Tip: If you wouldn't want your spouse to see your behavior on video -- don't behave that way!
  • Remember that anger originates in pain. Instead of reacting to your sweetheart's anger, find a way to ease her pain.
  • Do you remember to make your spouse your top priority?

February 5, 2016

Husband Or Child?

A while back I read an online complaint by a guy whose wife yelled at him for leaving his dirty socks and underwear on the floor.

He pointed out that the dog had recently thrown up on the carpet. His wife didn't get mad and yell at the dog, she just cleaned up the mess. He also noticed that their toddler habitually left toys scattered about. She didn't get mad and yell at the baby, either. She just picked up the toys.

Why, the writer wanted to know, did his wife treat the dog and the baby better than she treated him?

I don't know these people, and I have only the husband's description of the situation. Even so, I think I know why this woman is upset. It can be summed up in one word: Expectations.

The wife expects the dog to act like a dog. She expects the baby to act like a baby. They meet her expectations, and she deals with it.

She knows that her husband is neither a household pet nor an infant. He is an adult, and she expects him to act like an adult. In her mind, that includes being responsible for cleaning up after himself. He is not meeting that expectation.

Most likely, when they married, she thought she was getting a life partner. Her expectation was that he would share life's burdens with her -- or, at the very least, not make her life harder than it already is. He is not meeting that expectation.

I wonder if he behaves this way at work. Does he toss trash on the floor instead of into the wastebasket, expecting others to pick it up for him? Does he drop tools on the ground, expecting others to put them away for him? Probably not. His wife might well ask, why does he treat his coworkers better than he treats her?

Again, the answer is probably expectations. Maybe when this man is at home he expects to revert to toddlerhood and have his wife pick up after him the way Mommy once did. Or maybe his mother also nagged and yelled about his sloppy habits. Maybe this is a familiar pattern for him, and therefore comfortable on some level, even though he complains about it.

In any case, creating a parent-child dynamic with one's spouse is not a good long-term strategy for a happy relationship. It is just as easy to drop the socks into a basket as it is to drop them on the floor. It's a small gesture, but it will make a big difference.
Image courtesy of "varandah" at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

January 25, 2016

Don’t Confuse Shared Interests With Shared Values

At the beginning of a relationship, similar interests can draw two people together. Meeting someone who likes the same music or the same outdoor activities creates a sense of comfort and connection. Having similar interests immediately gives us something to talk about without having to search for conversation topics. When we enjoy most of the same activities, we naturally want to spend time together.

When two people are in the early infatuation stage of love, they are thrilled to discover that they have many mutual interests. It isn't unusual to hear someone exclaim with delight, "We have the same favorite movie, we both like Italian food, and we are both into mountain biking. We are so much alike, it's amazing!"

The more interests we share, especially if they are very specific or uncommon, the more likely we are to feel that we have found our soulmate. It seems impossible that anyone else in the world could be such an ideal match.

All too often, this ecstatic feeling of being perfectly attuned to each other is gradually replaced by disappointment and misery. As time goes on, the once-happy couple is likely to find themselves in serious conflict over one or more fundamental issues. They may be stunned by each other's attitudes and behaviors. How could the person who was everything I wanted have turned into someone who is just the opposite?

Interests and values are not the same

The problem is that we often confuse shared interests with shared values. If someone likes the same books that we do, attends the same kinds of events, and spends time on similar hobbies, we tend to take it for granted that this person also has the same world view and attitudes that we do. But the truth is that people’s likes and dislikes and the ways they choose to spend their time do not tell us the full story about their character.

Because we invest so much time in our interests, and because they are important to us, it is easy to think they represent our values. In fact, people who have identical interests very often have completely different character traits. A person who volunteers to help at an animal shelter may be motivated by compassion for the animals, while another person doing the same work does so primarily as a way to meet nice people. A person who enjoys science fiction, art museums, and tennis may be kind, honest and loyal. It is entirely possible that another person who enjoys the same things is a bully or a narcissist. We cannot assume someone thinks the way we do, simply because that person likes what we like.

What are core values?

Our core values are a set of principles and beliefs that guide us through life. They give us a sense of right and wrong, direct the major decisions we make, and govern how we treat others. Values provide us with a set of rules for living. Two people who live by different rules will soon find themselves in conflict.

There are many ways in which mismatched values undermine a relationship. A man who values career achievement and financial success needs to spend long hours at the office and in work-related activities on weekends. His wife, who values family and friendship, wants him to come home earlier, and spend the weekends involved with her and the children's activities. They cannot compromise, and end up living virtually separate lives.

A wife who values comfort and immediate gratification wants to spend the couple's money on luxury vacations, fine dining, and the latest gadgets. Her husband, who values organization and security, wants to live modestly while saving for retirement and putting money aside for their children's education. They argue about money constantly.

Interests are likely to change

There is no doubt that spending time with someone who enjoys the same things can be a great pleasure. Shared experiences help us stay connected. They create an environment in which it is easy to be supportive and develop a sense of togetherness.

But shared interests are not essential to developing a satisfying and successful relationship. Over the course of a lifetime, our interests may change. We may give up a hobby or turn to a new kind of music. A physical activity that was great fun in our twenties may not be such a good fit when we reach our fifties. We find other things to do.

One benefit of a long term relationship is that we can take advantage of the opportunity to have our partners introduce us to their interests. This is a good way to deepen our appreciation and understanding of each other. We may also decide to try new, interesting things together, thus developing more interests in common.

It is fairly easy to experiment with and adopt new interests. As important as they are to us, they are external activities that do not really reflect character. But unlike interests, core values are not replaceable. While we may modify them somewhat with maturity, as a general rule our deepest and most strongly held values remain the same. They determine the direction of our lives, and are at the foundation of who we truly are as human beings. We cannot compromise our values without compromising our souls.

When two people find themselves in opposition over the issues that truly matter, they are unable to connect on a deeper level. They cannot build a life together when they do not agree on what kind of life it will be.

For lasting love, focus on values

Having shared interests is important to a relationship. The good news is that interests can be cultivated. Discovering new ideas and activities together brings pleasure into a relationship and keeps it fresh. But the real key to long-term compatibility is choosing a partner with the same core values. These values will determine the major decisions we make about family, finances, and lifestyle. Sharing the same values means that we can rely on each other's judgment and trust that we will not disappoint each other.

When we are ready to make a commitment to a life partner, having interests in common need not be a major concern. We can learn to share new interests with each other. Our most important concern should be whether or not we have the same core values. Only then can we be true life partners who live by the same rules and have a shared vision of what our life should be.

January 19, 2016

Valentine's Day Is Coming - Yikes!

You can't miss it. The sea of red and pink cards filling half an aisle in the grocery store. The heart-shaped chocolate boxes that popped up everywhere the day after Christmas. Your favorite restaurant's advice to make your February 14th dinner reservation now. The red lingerie and silk boxer shorts. Even everyday items like socks, pens, and toilet paper have joined the party.

Valentine's Day is clearly big business. And for many, it's also big emotion.

If you and your partner have conflicting ideas about what this day means and what to do about it, please read my post from 2013 about whether or not Valentine's Day is special.

If you're in a new relationship and aren't sure how to handle V-Day, take a look the article I wrote last year about how to reduce Valentine's Day pressure. Although this article was written for men, the tips really apply to both men and women.

If you are planning to celebrate by going out to dinner with your loved one, don't forget that many restaurants have "special" holiday menus that are much more expensive than their usual fare. My solution is to enjoy a Valentine dinner on a different night. I also suggest saving money on overpriced Valentine's roses by shopping for an alternative. You need to know your partner very well to do this, though. Just as with Thanksgiving and many other holidays, some people don't feel right without the traditional items.

Many years ago, Hubby and I made the mistake of trying to go out to dinner on Valentine's Day without reservations. It looked as though we were out of luck, until a surprise solution saved the day.

Whatever you end up doing this Valentine's Day, don't forget that it's about love and kindness. Be gentle and understanding with the ones you love.

January 12, 2016

Top Five For 2015

At the end of each year, it's fun to look back and see which posts were the most popular. Here are my top five from 2015.
  1. Thinking About Divorce?
    If your marriage has become difficult, contentious, distant, frustrating, or just plain boring, and you have begun to think that divorce may be the only way to get relief, think again.
  2. Does Your Spouse Make Mistakes?
    A negligent, thoughtless spouse can be infuriating. But maybe something else is going on.
  3. Things I Do That Annoy My Husband
    Yes, we all have eccentricities and quirks.
  4. Valentine's Dinner Costs Too Much!
    There are ways to get the romance without breaking the bank.
  5. A Life Well Lived?
    Imagine yourself years in the future, looking back on the best and worst of your life. Would you like to change some of your choices?

Older posts continue to be read, so their popularity numbers keep rising. Here are my all-time (so far) top five.
  1. 13 Ways to Keep Snoring From Ruining Your Relationship
    I shouldn't have been surprised that this was at the top of the list. Snoring is a universal problem.
  2. Things My Husband Said
    Just a few quotes from Hubby that will make you smile.
  3. Nag Me Some More
    Being nagged can be infuriating, but there is another way to look at it.
  4. Jealousy is Not Romantic
    This is another theme that seems to touch almost everyone.
  5. Are You Trying to Drive Me Crazy?
    Does your partner insist on doing those annoying, inconvenient things that make you want to scream?

Thanks to all my readers, guest contributors, and fellow bloggers for a great year. I wish you all a happy and successful 2016. Let us all renew our commitment to relationships that are satisfying, meaningful, and filled with love.