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If You Loved Me You Would….

Wednesday, 13. November 2013 22:36

Have you ever said those words?  Or heard those words?  How did it feel?
I’ve heard them, and thought them, and neither one felt good.  Underneath the words, there was a demand.

 

Like many of us, I’ve been betrayed, disappointed, verbally and emotionally abused, misunderstood, unseen and disrespected by people who vowed they loved me even while speaking and acting in ways that might be interpreted as terribly unkind.  And I still believe  those people loved me.

In their bodies, in their hearts, in their minds, they felt that inexplicable warmth that opened their heart with a longing for connection that only love can answer.  They loved me viscerally – and perhaps, I loved them too.

But that is not important, because feeling an emotion does not require the participation of the other person.  In fact, their love had little to do with me.  I may have been the stimulus, but the feelings lived in them.  WHAT? Well, think about it.  If I could cause someone to love me, Clive Owen and I would have been an item long ago.

The point I am trying to make is that for the most part, the love we feel is generated inside of ourselves, by ourselves.  We feel it in our own hearts and minds, whether or not the other person loves us back, or is even still alive.

The most beautiful time is when that feeling happens at the same time with someone else and the two of you can say, “We are in love with each other.” Or, perhaps in the case of a parent, or a friend, we simply say we love each other.

What sweetness!

And then it gets tricky.  What happens when one of us wants or needs something different from the other person in the relationship?  How do you resolve it?

When you utter the words, “If you loved me you would _____________________,” (either silently to yourself, or aloud to the other) – love is transformed from a feeling inside of yourself to a contract with a physical manifestation.  And how that contract gets navigated can empower the relationship or destroy it.

The contract is usually not about love itself, but about other needs we may have that helps us to feel loved.  For example, one partner may need a great deal of companionship while the other needs solitude; perhaps one is very sexually driven, and the other prefers cuddling.  Perhaps one is very communicative while the other is not.  Do these people love each other less because they each have different needs?  This is where we get very confused in relationships and often where things fall apart. When we forget to talk these issues out, we often begin to have negative thoughts about what and why our loved one is doing what they do.  Our relationships become burdened by heavy baggage filled with miscommunication and misunderstanding.

I believe that when two people who care for one another can openly, honestly and kindly work through their needs together, there is more potential for a love relationship that works. We often make a lot of assumptions about what our loved one should do for us and vice versa and we have may have unexpressed expectations about how the other should behave.  Is that loving, or is that judgment?

It’s a relationship.  There is interdependence.  It is essential for us to discuss our expectations and to agree on our agreements. For me, the love happens not because we agree, but in how we work together to negotiate ”the terms of the deal.”  Are we open enough, accepting enough, awake enough to express ourselves without blaming or shaming or demanding – while also listening tenderly to the needs of the other?  If so, perhaps we can find creative ways to meet most of our needs satisfactorily (or decide not to!) while holding our selves and our loved ones with care.

Most importantly, I’ve learned to own and to express my own needs.  At the same time, I accept my loved ones as individuals with their own set of needs that are equal to mine. Not more important or less.  And none of us are obligated to, (or even capable of) meeting all the needs of the other!

Yes, I believe in love.  I know that I may feel love, and yet be unable to negotiate a contract that works well enough to support a thriving relationship.  On the other hand, I also believe it is possible to have both.  I’ve learned a new way to speak to, and a new way to listen to those for whom I feel love.  Through the practice of compassionate nonviolent communication, I find I am more skillful at interacting with my loved ones, and for that, I am grateful, and filled with hope.

My wish for you is that you also find a way to successfully embrace the love in your life in a satisfying and sustainable way.  Here’s a list of some books that have helped me on my path, should you find them useful:

The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

Codependent No More by Melody Beattie

Loving What Is, by Byron Katie

I leave you with the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”

 

 

 

 

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Love – It’s Not All Hearts and Flowers

Thursday, 9. February 2012 19:26

Guess what? The “seven year itch” isn’t just a myth!   Renowned authors and TV personalities, Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen say there is a biological component to love!  In summary, when we fall in love, our emotions trigger hormones like dopamine and oxytocin. For the first four years of a love relationship, we get a dosage of hormones that helps keep us close and bonding.  However, somewhere between five to seven years, these chemical levels drop off.  After that, couples really need to work to keep the love and sex fresh.  Check out the Roizen-Oz video The Biology of Attraction to learn more practical tips to keep the love light glowing.

Another terrific resource, Dr. John Gottman, researcher, author and Ph.D. psychologist known for his work on marital stability and relationship analysis, wrote a book called The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work  that suggest  how to keep the marriage going during the tough times. Although I admit I haven’t read the book, I summarized a terrific list from his website:

  • Seek help early. The average couple waits six years before seeking help for marital problems (and keep in mind, half of all marriages that end do so in the first seven years). This means the average couple lives with unhappiness for far too long.
  • Edit yourself. Couples who avoid saying every critical thought when discussing touchy topics are consistently the happiest.
  • Soften your “start-up.” Bring up problems gently and without blame. Arguments first “start-up” because a spouse sometimes escalates the conflict from the get-go by making a critical or contemptuous remark in a confrontational tone.
  • Accept influence. Because research shows women are already well-practiced at accepting influence from men, and a true partnership only occurs when a husband can do so as well.  A marriage succeeds to the extent that the husband can accept influence from his wife. A husband’s ability to be influenced by his wife (rather than vice-versa) is crucial.
  • Have high standards. The most successful couples are those who, even as newlyweds, refused to accept hurtful behavior from one another. Happy couples have high standards for each other. The lower the level of tolerance for bad behavior in the beginning of a relationship, the happier the couple is down the road.
  • Learn to repair and exit the argument. Successful couples know how to exit an argument. Successful repair and exit include: changing the topic to something completely unrelated; using humor; stroking your partner with a caring remark (“I understand that this is hard for you”); making it clear you’re on common ground (“This is our problem”); backing down; and, in general, offering signs of appreciation for your partner and his or her feelings along the way (“I really appreciate and want to thank you for.…”). If an argument gets too heated, take a 20-minute break, and agree to approach the topic again when you are both calm.
  • Focus on the bright side. In a happy marriage, while discussing problems, couples make at least five times as many positive statements to and about each other and their relationship as negative ones.  A good marriage must have a rich climate of positivity.

Last but not least, Michael J. Formica, MS, MA, psychotherapist, social scientist, and educator in Westport CT  posted a blog entry called Ten Elements of Effective Relationships. His post is worth a look, and for me, his conclusion says it all:

 ”Spend time together, speak your truths, respect each other, take care of each other, laugh with — and at — one another…”

Love to hear what has worked for you!

P.S.  In honor of full disclosure,  I wrote this post about a year ago, but  it seemed worth repeating! 

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How to Find and Keep True Love

Monday, 14. February 2011 17:14

Relationship Coach, Marquita Thompson

Married or single, if you’re looking for true love, Master Life and Relationship Coach, Marquita Thompson, has some interesting  thoughts to share with you. As far as relationships, she went to the school of hard knocks. After experiencing her fair share of failed partnerings, she is now happily married and posts a blog called “How to Love a Nice Guy.” 

My interview with her is posted below – and it’s filled with lots of juicy stories and insights. I picked a few highlights to share in this summary, but check out the interview to learn about soul mates, getting through the loss of a love, and solid tips for making love last.




As a relationship coach, Marquita offers tools and guidance, usually not straight-up advice.  When I asked her about true love, she suggested that it means giving true love to yourself first. When you know who you are, what you want and you can accept and love yourself, then you can choose to love someone else in the same way, and you will be well on your way.  In a truly loving relationship, both you and your mate feel free to be who you are and at the same time, you can also enjoy time together.

As you feel solid in who you are, get really clear about what you want in a mate. Thompson says to make a list of all your “must haves “and your “deal breakers”. Then go out and live your life. Meet people, date them, and check your list.  Don’t compromise on the deal breakers but, if the person is a good match to your list, give the relationship time if physical attraction isn’t immediately obvious.

Why? Thompson  finds that once you work on yourself  and you know what you really want, your list doesn’t always lead you to the same kind of people you historically have been attracted to. If you’re not used to picking the right kind of guy or gal, you may need to be patient and be willing to explore.  So, while you may not feel that same “love at first sight” (but you might) feeling when you meet the mate who matches your list, it doesn’t mean that he or she is not “the one.”  Even if you do feel the electricity immediately, Thompson warns not to be in a hurry.  If it’s a good match, then the relationship will stand the test of time.

Another great tip for spotting your perfect mate:  pay more attention to what the person does versus what the person says. We can all talk the talk, but can we walk the walk?  Behavior is an excellent indicator of true character.  Don’t ignore it.

If you’re already in a relationship and it isn’t going well, Thompson once again recommends that you focus on yourself to get back on the right path.   If you are waiting, hoping or prodding for change in your significant other, you may not get the outcome you desire.  After all, can you really change someone else?  When you know who you are, and what you want, the rest of your life usually falls into place, and you’ll be able to deal with your situation better, whether you decide to stay or go.

Find out more about Marquita at her site, Stellar Coaching Solutions at www.stellarcoachingsolutions.com and her blog www.howtoloveaniceguy.blogspot.com.  She also has a book of blog postings called Practical Magic for Love that can be found at www.stellarcoachingsolutions.com/products.html

In the meantime, much love to you!

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Fair Fighting with Your Lover

Thursday, 5. August 2010 17:06

The two things I’ve learned after 25 years of marriage is that conflict in a relationship is inevitable and that if you don’t learn to fight fair – you can really do some damage. Good news: You can learn some guidelines. The key thing to remember in an intimate relationship is that resolving a disagreement is not about winning, it’s about creating a satisfactory solution to an issue that is acceptable to both partners.  (Actually, I found this to be a good strategy for the workplace as well – but that’s another topic!)  Most of the time, you and your partner just want to be understood and acknowledged. To avoid overlooking or overruling each other, try “empathetic reflection.” It’s a terrific tool for respectful listening.

 Here’s how it works. Fully listen to what your partner is saying and then reflect back to them what you think they are saying about what they feel and need. For example,   “It sounds like you are concerned about the deal and need more information.  Did I get that right?” It’s not important that you guess correctly about the need or the feeling, your partner will correct you if you are wrong.

 Once you listen, understand and acknowledge what your partner feels and needs, it can be your turn to express your needs and feelings.  With all the issues on the table, the two of you can work to close any gaps between what each of you want.  Since you and your partner both have a right to have needs and feelings, no one can be “wrong.” When blaming is absent, you can focus your energy on creating a satisfactory solution.

 It’s work, but it can be worthwhile. For more information, check out Nonviolent Communication  or visit my April post.

 Also, Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D posted the best “tips” article   I’ve ever read on fair fighting.  The Empathetic Reflection tool mentioned above works with her Item 3: Listen Respectfully.   Here’s my synopsis of her 10 tips:

Ten rules for friendly fighting that can strengthen your relationship, not harm it.

  1. Embrace conflict. Conflict is normal. Differences mean that there are things you can learn from each other and shows us where we can grow.
  2. Go after the issue, not each other. Friendly fighting sticks with the issue. Avoid name-calling and character assassination. It’s better to deal with the problem without of hurting each other’s feelings.
  3. Listen respectfully. When people feel strongly about something, it’s only fair to hear them out. Respectful listening means acknowledging their feelings, either verbally or through focused attention. It means never telling someone that he or she “shouldn’t” feel that way. It means saving your point of view until after you’ve let the other person know you understand that they feel intensely about the subject, even if you don’t quite get it. (Note: Here’s where you can try EMPATHETIC REFLECTION.)
  4. Talk softly. Yelling makes it less likely you will be heard. Even if your partner yells, there’s no need to yell back. You want to focus on issues instead of reacting to noise.
  5. Get curious, not defensive. Defending yourself, either by proclaiming your innocence or rightness or by attacking and blaming your partner escalates the fight. Instead of upping the ante, ask for more information, details, and examples. There is usually some basis for the other person’s complaint. When you meet a complaint with curiosity, you make room for understanding.
  6. Ask for specifics. Statements that include the words “always” and “never” aren’t too helpful for resolving issues.  When you or your partner has complaints, ask for or give specific examples so you can understand exactly what he or she is talking about.
  7. Find points of agreement. Usually, there are parts of a conflict that can be points of agreement. Finding common ground, even if it’s just agreeing that there is a problem, will help you find a solution.
  8. Look for options. Fighting ends when cooperation begins. Ask politely for suggestions or alternatives to invite collaboration. Carefully consider those suggestions to show respect. You may also offer alternatives; it shows that you are willing to try something new.
  9. Make concessions. Small concessions can turn a situation around and may lead to larger compromises. If you give a little, it makes room for the other person to make concessions too. Compromise doesn’t necessarily mean you’re meeting each other exactly 50-50. Sometimes the agreement is 60-40 or 80-20. This isn’t about score-keeping. It’s about finding a solution that works for both of you.
  10. Make peace. You know the old rule: never go to bed angry. Agree that the relationship is more important than winning arguments. When your partner does give in, show appreciation and make a peace offering of your own.

Fight the good fight and much love to you! Read the Hartwell-Walker article here.

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Love – Gotta Work It!

Thursday, 18. February 2010 18:06

Guess what? The “seven year itch” isn’t just a myth!   Renowned authors and TV personalities, Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen say there is biology to love!  In summary, when we fall in love, our emotions trigger hormones like dopamine and oxytocin.   For the first four years of a love relationship, we get a dosage of hormones that helps keep us close and bonding.  However, somewhere between five to seven years, these chemical levels drop off.  After that, couples really need to work to keep the love and sex fresh.  Check out the Roizen-Oz video The Biology of Attraction to learn more practical tips to keep the love light glowing.

Another terrific resource, Dr. John Gottman, researcher, author and Ph.D. psychologist known for his work on marital stability and relationship analysis, wrote a book called The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work  that suggest  how to keep the marriage going during the tough times. Although I admit I haven’t read the book, I summarized a terrific list from his website:  

  • Seek help early. The average couple waits six years before seeking help for marital problems (and keep in mind, half of all marriages that end do so in the first seven years). This means the average couple lives with unhappiness for far too long.
  • Edit yourself. Couples who avoid saying every critical thought when discussing touchy topics are consistently the happiest.
  • Soften your “start-up.” Bring up problems gently and without blame.  Arguments first “start-up” because a spouse sometimes escalates the conflict from the get-go by making a critical or contemptuous remark in a confrontational tone.
  • Accept influence. Because research shows women are already well-practiced at accepting influence from men, and a true partnership only occurs when a husband can do so as well.  A marriage succeeds to the extent that the husband can accept influence from his wife. A husband’s ability to be influenced by his wife (rather than vice-versa) is crucial.
  •  Have high standards. The most successful couples are those who, even as newlyweds, refused to accept hurtful behavior from one another. Happy couples have high standards for each other. The lower the level of tolerance for bad behavior in the beginning of a relationship, the happier the couple is down the road.
  • Learn to repair and exit the argument. Successful couples know how to exit an argument. Successful repair and exit include: changing the topic to something completely unrelated; using humor; stroking your partner with a caring remark (“I understand that this is hard for you”); making it clear you’re on common ground (“This is our problem”); backing down; and, in general, offering signs of appreciation for your partner and his or her feelings along the way (“I really appreciate and want to thank you for.…”). If an argument gets too heated, take a 20-minute break, and agree to approach the topic again when you are both calm.
  • Focus on the bright side. In a happy marriage, while discussing problems, couples make at least five times as many positive statements to and about each other and their relationship as negative ones.  A good marriage must have a rich climate of positivity.

Last but not least, Michael J. Formica, MS, MA, psychotherapist, social scientist, and educator in Westport CT recently posted a blog entry called Ten Elements of Effective Relationships. His post is worth a look, and for me, his conclusion says it all:

 “Spend time together, speak your truths, respect each other, take care of each other, laugh with — and at — one another…”

Love to hear what has worked for you!

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Bring Back that Lovin' Feeling

Friday, 12. February 2010 3:15

If you haven’t read your latest issue of Scientific American, you may miss out on practical exercises for building intimacy.  Robert Epstein, article author, longtime researcher, professor and PhD, has created dozens of exercises based on a distillation of scientific studies of how people learn to love each other. 

The basic concept is that when you increase vulnerability between two people you increase intimacy.  So if you are working on strengthening your love bond with someone close to you, here is a summary of the eight exercises from the article for your consideration  (and don’t worry, you keep your clothes on):

1)      Two as one:  Embrace each other gently and gradually try to synchronize your breathing for a few minutes.  Eventually, you may feel that you are breathing as one person.

2)      Soul Gazing:  Stand or sit about two feet away from each other and look deeply into each other’s eyes for two minutes.  Then talk about what you saw.

3)      Monkey Love: Stand or sit fairly close. One partner should start moving their hands, arms and legs any which way, while the other perfectly imitates the other partner’s movements. 

4)      Falling In Love: This is a trust exercise.  From a standing position, simply let yourself fall backward into the arms of your partner, (make sure that he or she knows what you are doing before you fall!) Then, Trade places several times. Talk about your feelings after you’re done. 

5)      Secret Swap:  Both partners should write a deep secret on a piece of paper.  Then trade papers and talk about what you read.   You can repeat this process over several days until there are no more secrets to tell.

6)      Mind-Reading Game: Write down a thought that you want to convey to your partner.  Then spend a few minutes wordlessly trying to communicate that thought (with your mind) while your partner guesses at what the thought is. If your partner can’t guess, reveal the thought and then switch roles.

7)      Let Me Inside:  Focus on each other while standing about four feet away from one another. Every 10 seconds or so, move a bit close until you are as close as you can get without touching.  (Warning, this exercise might lead to kissing)

8)      Love Aura: Place the palm of your hand as close as possible to your partner’s palm without actually touching. Do this for several minutes to feel heat, and sometimes, other kinds of energy.

 If you want to read more, you will need to get the magazine or visit the makinglovebook site below and look for the link to the article.  Epstein also has a book that looks interesting, called Making Love: How People Learn to Love and How You Can Too (www.makinglovebook.com ). 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Desire to Improve Valentine's Day?

Monday, 8. February 2010 17:53

For many people, Valentine’s Day is simply a reminder of what they don’t have – the soul mate or partner they’ve been searching for, but who never appears.  Or they may lament being stuck in a “bad” or unsatisfying relationship.  So they pine and they long for something else.  Sadly, focusing on what you “lack” and feeling badly about the situation does nothing to make a good partnership or a better life become a reality. So what can you do instead?

I suggest you focus on possibility. You can begin to change your life by knowing what you really want.  When you have a vision of what you want, you can empower yourself to take inspired action. Here are a few fun exercises you can do to get on the road to knowing and manifesting what you desire. To create these, I borrowed from a concept called Law of Attraction.

My quick and dirty explanation of this Law is that if you can feel the feeling of already having your heart’s desire, you can begin to make it real.  No, it’s not a magic wand, but it’s more energizing (and more fun) than focusing on what you lack.   The exercises below will allow you to try it for yourself.  What do you have to lose?

Start by answering some suggested questions: 

1)    What qualities do I want my perfect mate to have?

  • What do I enjoy about being with my lover?
  • What are his or her qualities and characteristics?
  • How does my partner treat me?
  • What values do we share?
  • What is most important to them?
  • What do they want to achieve before they leave this world?
  • What do they really love about their life?

2)    What qualities do I want to have in a relationship with my perfect mate?

  • What does my lover enjoy about being with me?
  • What qualities and characteristics do I have that my lover especially appreciates?
  • How do I treat my perfect mate?
  • What fun things do we do together?
  • What values are non-negotiable for me?
  • What do I love about my life?
  • What is most important to me in the world?
  • What do I want to achieve before I leave this world?
  • What would a perfect week be like when we are together?
  • How do I feel when we are together? Can I feel that way right now?

Notice, if you have trouble answering some of these questions about yourself.  If so, you may find it worthwhile to spend some more time being in love with yourself and your life to feel shiny in your own skin. Have you ever noticed how attractive people are when they are living a life they are truly excited about?    

If instead, you are hoping your mate will complete you by filling in your missing blanks –even though it’s okay to feel that way, your life will probably be a lot more fun if you know and love who you are first.   In that way, you can have a fabulous life with or without a partner.  And when you do join your partner, you will have lots of joy to share!

3) To wrap the exercise up

  • Write yourself a love letter as if it were from your lover and/or 
  • Write your lover a love letter as if he or she lives and breathes and their presence is imminent!
  • Once one or more letters are complete, read them to yourself and feel the feelings you wrote about, as if you had it all now: love, joy and passion.  Then, put them away in a safe place.  Feel free to take them out and read them again whenever you want to – or not! And if you do take them out, allow yourself to feel the feelings as if they were happening right now.
  • As often as you want, visit what it feels like to have someone in your life to write that kind of letter to.  Feel the presence of your soul mate, not their absence.  

4) Take inspired action

To start to realize your vision about yourself and your lover, what feels good to do next? Did you learn something about yourself that would be beneficial to pursue right now?  If not, no worries; just know and believe that love for yourself and others is always available to you – and then go out and spread some!

How?  Here’s one idea:  To honor the joy of Valentine’s Day, send a message of love and appreciation to everyone you care about.  It’s a great time to share – and you may brighten  someone else’s day who is struggling with this event.

So if it’s appropriate for you, feel free to redefine Valentine’s Day as a time of empowerment: take action to honor and know yourself and what you want, and take action to share your love with others. 

Now that, for me, is a fabulous holiday!

Read more about the Law of Attraction http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Attraction

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