May 18, 2015

A Life Well Lived?

Imagine yourself in the distant future. You are 102 years old, reviewing your memories of a long life. What thoughts are going through your mind?


a)I wish I'd spent more time watching my favorite TV shows.
b)I'm so glad I turned off the TV and got involved in life.
c)Why did I spend so much time sitting on the couch staring at a screen? There were so many other things I could have done.
  
a)I should have fought even harder to get everyone to do things my way.
b)I'm glad I was able to relax and let others do things in ways that worked best for them.
c)I realize that I made myself and everyone around me miserable with my petty insistence on unimportant details.
  
a)I always pointed out every mistake in great detail. That was the best way to get my spouse to be a better person.
b)I offered encouragement by emphasizing my spouse's strengths and successes. I tried to keep criticism to a minimum.
c)My constant complaints and put-downs alienated my spouse and family. I wish I had been more positive.
  
a)I didn't waste time thanking my loved ones for their services. After, all, they just did what they were supposed to do.
b)I appreciated everything my loved ones did for me, and it meant a lot to them when I told them how I felt.
c)I wish I had told them how grateful I was for all the big and little things they did.
  
a)Thank goodness, my demanding job gave me a great excuse to avoid most of my kids' activities.
b)Fortunately, I took the time to participate in my kids' lives and watch them grow up.
c)I missed so much. Childhood is over in an instant, and I wasn't there to share it.
  
a)I got tremendous satisfaction from turning away from my spouse and minimizing our sex life.
b)The sexual connection with my spouse brought great joy and pleasure to both of us.
c)How I wish we had made love more.
  
a)I was wise to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself. Letting people get too close is risky.
b)There is no greater joy than the intimacy my love and I experienced when we shared our deepest selves.
c)I missed so much by not allowing myself to be vulnerable and open with the one I loved.
  
a)It was smart to manage my life so that I always catered to other people's expectations.
b)It's a good thing I didn't care much about what others thought. Going my own way and making my own choices made my life fulfilling.
c)What a fool I was to worry about how others might judge me. I suppressed my true nature and never accomplished what I really wanted.
  
Will your future self be grateful to you for the way you are living your life today?

It's not too late to change the choices you make.
 

May 10, 2015

Marriage Advice From Someone Who Blew It

Conventional wisdom tells us to look closely at those who offer marriage advice. How long have they been married? Are they happy? Do they have the kind of marriage we would like to have? As in many areas of life, we tend to believe we should seek advice only from those who are successful. They know what they are doing, and if we emulate them, we'll succeed, too.

It makes sense. If someone is doing something right, that is the person I want for a role model.

Of course, no marriage is perfect. Nearly every couple will go through some difficult times. Getting advice from those who have done the hard work, figured it out, and solved the problems may mean that we can save time and avoid a lot of grief by applying what they have already figured out. Not only can we learn from what they did right, but we can learn from what they did wrong, and possibly avoid making the same mistakes.

While we are learning from others' mistakes, what about those whose marriages failed? Some never get past anger and blame. They aren't likely to have much wisdom to pass on. But those who are able to move beyond the negative feelings and apply some introspection have the opportunity to gain a great deal of insight into the processes that caused their marriages to fall apart. Where happy couples usually have a list of "dos", divorced couples are likely to have an equally (or perhaps even more) useful list of "don'ts".

One such person is Dan Pearce, who blogs at Single Dad Laughing. His list of "16 Ways I Blew My Marriage" is a wonderful, cautionary tale. He is honest about his role in the destructive behaviors that undermined two marriages. He describes what went wrong clearly and concisely, and then talks about what he would do differently. In addition to the first 16 items, a second post adds 15 more.

With any luck, most couples (at least most of those who are still married) probably aren't doing most of the things on these lists. But I would bet that nearly everyone does, or has done, at least a couple of them.

This is like a map showing where some of the landmines are. Avoid those places! If you see yourself doing anything here, it's time to take a big step back. Before it blows up in your face.



U.S. Department of Energy photograph
 

April 29, 2015

Jack Sprat

by guest contributor Lynda Chalmers

Jack Sprat could eat no fat....

Today's post is about differences and how to handle them in long-term relationships. At first, most differences in our partner are delightful. Those we don't find so delightful we are able to put aside. It may not be long, however, before those differences loom up in a negative way and we start to let them separate us. Or perhaps we begin a long campaign to change the other person, creating difficult dynamics in the relationship.

When I am talking about differences here, I am not talking about issues such as drugs alcohol, affairs, violence, or other issues that will threaten or betray the attachment that you have. I am talking about everyday differences that can be irritating. One of the best ways to think about differences between you is to decide to honor them and to make sure they do not play a part in disconnecting you.

Let's take an example that can certainly become disconnecting for some couples. John is a meat lover and Jen is a vegetarian. At first, they managed by each making their own dinner and doing their own grocery shopping. It was disconnecting in that they were not a team while doing this. Soon, Jen started making disparaging remarks of disgust when John's meal was being prepared (gagging over the smell of the food). John came back with as good as he got, and they each became more isolated and hurt. They were now preparing their meals at different times, not eating together, and eating out a lot.

What would honoring their differences look like?
  • Accepting what is important to each of you. In this case, John and Jen would need to accept each other's values around food. Part of that acceptance is to know that your opinion is not superior to your partner's. Many different bodies need different nutrition, and over many millennia people have had different preferences.
  • Become a team in your differences. Shop together or shop for each other. Watch out for special foods your partner might like. This act says, "I accept you and care about what you like."
  • Cook together. Chop and dice for each other. Try out recipes that can have meat or vegetables added to the dish so that you are sharing some tastes together. Have an attitude of curiosity about the other's preferences. This says, "We are in this together."
  • Be grateful for the many parts of the food that you are sharing. For the farmers, the soil, the animals - all that goes into your meal together. Gratitude and criticism cannot share the same space.

This example (although very difficult for some couples) is just one that you can use to find ways to honor each other's differences. Remember the example of Jack Sprat:

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean
And so betwixt them both you see
They licked the platter clean

A great metaphor for making your differences work for you in a relationship where as a couple you become greater then the sum of your parts. Go forth and be wonderful!


My name is Lynda Chalmers. My pleasure has been to work with couples for the last 20 years. I love to facilitate and strengthen relationship attachments between partners and be a part of their ongoing transformation toward being the loving partners they have the potential to be. You can find more about me at my blog Healthier Marriages or my website, www.lyndachalmers.com.
 

April 20, 2015

Aurora Borealis Creates Beauty From the Atmosphere

by guest contributor Lynda Chalmers

An atmosphere creates the beautiful aurora borealis in the north - what does your relationship atmosphere create?

The aurora borealis is a result of a collision of charged particles from the atmosphere of the Sun's intense heat and the gaseous particles in the atmosphere at the northern hemisphere of the Earth (one could think of a few metaphors for your relationship in this)! I have had the privilege of seeing the aurora borealis, and the colors and waves of color are beautiful. It brought to mind some atmospheres that were the opposite of that, as I was hearing from couples that were having much difficulty in their relationship.

The atmosphere between them was extremely toxic and they were in a loop that kept creating intense animosity between them. They felt hopeless and had thoughts of just leaving the relationship. Really quite the opposite of the beauty and majesty of the aurora borealis. The reality is both of them longed for that breathtaking beauty in their relationship but had lost their way and were in a spiraling pattern downward. If you relate to this - what are some things you can do about it?
  • Give up trying to do the same thing over and over and hoping for a different result. If you keep doing the same thing but just do it more and harder, it just does not work. It adds to your story of being a victim and it adds to a dark atmosphere in your relationship.
  • Choose to see your partner in a positive light first. Couples who are successful look at their partner in this way. Couples who are not making it are looking at each other in an automatically negative way. They are often mind reading their partner (if we could only mind read!) from intense feelings of dissatisfaction and in the absence of truth. This form of negativity lowers your mood, fuels your anger and adds to a dark atmosphere.
  • Choose to take responsibility for having at least five positive transactions for every one negative in your relationship (as recommended by Gottman and others). Count them and find ways to do this. It will make a huge difference. This means that you will leave your grumpy mindset from work at the door and that you will bring up issues that need to be resolved between you in a judicious way. Couples who are not making it are arguing constantly about the little things as well as the big things. This adds to a dark atmosphere between you.
  • Look at the characteristics that represent your best self. Let them show up in your relationship daily. Learn to love your partner well. Look at your behaviour and who you are in relationship while you are in a spiral downward. These negative characteristics that your friends don't often see add to a dark atmosphere in your relationship.
These ideas will help you to begin to create an aurora borealis atmosphere in your relationship. A better atmosphere helps you both to have hope and to be your better selves. It is a great beginning. However, you would need to see a therapist if your current poor atmosphere in your relationship is more then just a bump in the road. Go forth and be wonderful!

My name is Lynda Chalmers. My pleasure has been to work with couples for the last 20 years. I love to facilitate and strengthen relationship attachments between partners and be a part of their ongoing transformation toward being the loving partners they have the potential to be. You can find more about me at my blog Healthier Marriages or my website, www.lyndachalmers.com.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick and Freedigitalphotos.net.

March 13, 2015

The Love Fight: Review

“Will you fight for the relationship or against each other?” that is the question posed by doctors Tony Ferretti and Peter J. Weiss in their book, The Love Fight: How Achievers and Connectors Can Build a Marriage That Lasts.

The authors describe the problems and conflicts that arise in relationships between two distinct personality types, Achievers and Connectors. Achievers are focused on success and power. Competitive and controlling, they feel driven to work hard, often prioritizing their careers and accomplishments over relationships with spouses, family, and friends. They may achieve great success in business or politics, yet fail (often repeatedly) at marriage.

Connectors focus on the relationships in their lives. They find the greatest meaning in life through their deep bonds with family and friends. Connectors are open about their feelings and empathetic with others. These traits support physical and emotional health. However, Connectors run the risk of becoming overly dependent on others for their self-esteem.

When Achievers marry Connectors, as they often do, the stage is set for conflict and disappointment. Despite all their efforts, the Connectors find that they cannot form the kind of deep, meaningful bond they need with their partners. Eventually, they turn away, seeking satisfaction in other kinds of relationships and social activities with their children, family, and friends. The Achievers begin to feel ignored and unappreciated. They are likely to spend even more time pursuing status and recognition, and may end up having affairs in order to soothe their egos.

In writing The Love Fight, the authors’ main goal is to reach out to Achievers, helping them to understand why their relationships have fallen apart, and how they can make the necessary changes that will allow them to enjoy the benefits of a healthy marriage. They also speak to Connectors, who also need to understand their mates and address their own contributions to their marital issues.

The book uses case studies, self-assessment tools, informative discussions, as well as the authors’ own experiences to systematically and compassionately explain the thinking behind each person’s behavior. They describe how childhood experiences shape our view of ourselves and create our expectations for relationships. Much of the information would be useful, not just for couples in Achiever/Connector relationships, but for any who have experienced conflict and loss of connection in their marriages.

Each chapter’s lessons are summarized in a “bottom line” list and a one-line reminder or inspiration. There are guides to falling in love again, rebuilding trust, and moving forward with a new commitment. The authors also acknowledge that not every marriage can be saved, but that it is possible to heal and create a good life after a marriage has ended.

All in all, this is an optimistic book that encourages readers to fight for a good marriage and a good life. The authors remind us to ask the important questions about what really matters most to us, and what it takes to have a meaningful existence. They sum it up by saying, “Life begins and ends with relationships.”

The Love Fight is available from Amazon and other online retailers. For additional information, visit the publisher, Florida Hospital Publishing.