Healthier Marriages Posts

What Will Your Legacy Say About You?

Remember the story of Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”? For a brief time, he was able to see the end of his life and see the consequences of his living. And then he miraculously was able to come back to his present and make changes in his today, in order to make the ending of his life what he wanted it to be. Although we may not be able to do that, it is important for us to consider what we want to have done in our lives and who we want to have been at the end of our lives. How we live in those small daily increments makes the ending happen one way or another. Doing this exercise helps to provide a compass point to where we are going at all times. This is not only important to do as individuals but also as a couple.  As a couple, it is good to look at who you want to have been at the end of your lives. Some possible questions to tease out 2 or 3 words that might represent your words to live by might be the following. What do you want to be able to say about how you were with each other? What do you want to say about how well you loved each other? What do you want to say about how you treated others that you connected with as a couple? How were you with your family? How did you honour your differences? What do you want to say about your legacy or your service to others as a couple? What do you want to say about how you lived each day? Take some couple time to choose 2 or 3 words that represent how you will live your life together this year. If your words are different, find a way to incorporate both because as you know, through synergy, you are better together then apart. Put your words in a prominent place and commit to looking at them daily and checking in with each other. It is the way to transform your life as Scrooge did. Go forth and be wonderful!

Posted by Lynda in Healthier Marriages and tagged with ,

Gift suggestions

In my family we are looking at gift lists for Christmas 2018. I just got one today. You might look at this list of meaningful gifts that will open your heart to being a better partner!

Christmas Gift suggestions:

To your Partner: renewed commitment to love well.    
To a Child: Good modelling
To a Friend – your heart
To your Enemy – forgiveness
To God – gratitude
To Yourself- respect

Today’s Challenge:

How can you show a renewed commitment to loving your partner? What actions will show this? How will you feel differently because of these actions?

How can you be a good example this day for your child or another (Teach, have more patience, be a good model, love well)? How will you feel after taking action?

How can you show your heart in words or actions to a friend (send a supportive text, buy a small gift that says you were thinking of them – take some time to connect with where they are in their life)? How will you feel after taking these actions?

Who do you need to forgive and let go of the baggage of 2018 as we move into 2019? Look at a previous blog about forgiveness and how to let go well. How will you feel when you have forgiven?

How can you put the habit of gratitude in your life in 2018 and moving forward into 2019? How do you feel when you are grateful?

How can you respect yourself (self care, more sleep time, meeting your goals…). How will you make the change in your calendar to do this self care? How will you feel when you do this?

Enjoy this exercise. Go forth and be wonderful!

Book Review of The 5 Languages of Love by Gary Chapman

What are the Five Love Languages? This is a quick summary of the book, The 5 Languages of Love, by Gary Chapman. The information in this book is important to everyone who loves and from my perspective, the book needs to be purchased and put on your bookshelf to reread over time. It is a simple read and a skinny book, which works well for busy couples. I cannot recommend it enough.

Dr. Chapman explains how important it is for couples to understand how they each both give and receive love. I have found that couples have come to my office who actually love each other but one or the others “feels” unloved. Dr. Chapman’s research showed that this occurs when couples are missing the mark with each others language of love. They do not think the same or feel the same about giving and receiving love. One part of the couple might be quite astounded at the information that their partner feels unloved, believing that they have been doing this and doing that consistently in the name of love. Unfortunately, although their partner likely felt appreciation, they did not feel loved by these actions. You can see that knowing your partner’s language of love is important information to be able to love your partner well and have a solid foundation for the partnership to go forward and to keep each other’s “love tank” filled.


The Book Describes the Following Five Love Languages:

1. Words of Affirmation

If this is your primary love language, you feel well loved when your partner uses words of affirmation, love, and appreciation consistently in your relationship.

2. Acts of Service

If this is your primary love language, you feel well loved when your partner takes the time and effort to do something for you. Whatever your regular role is in the relationship does not count in the same way. So if your partner normally cooks and you normally clean the kitchen and dishes, that is not it. But if you offer to watch the kids while your partner goes to the gym or you fill up the gas in your partner’s car or other acts that are not part of your role, that feels like love to you.

3. Affection

If this is your primary love language, you feel well loved when your partner uses affectionate touching on a consistent basis. Snuggling on the couch, Holding hands and connecting in every way physically reassures you that you are loved.

4. Quality Time

If this is your primary love language, you feel most loved when you are spending time together, connecting. Your partner is fully present and engaged with you in whatever activity you are sharing, no matter how trivial. This confirms your connection and you feel especially loved.

5. Gifts

If this is your primary love language, you feel most loved when your partner gives you a gift. It is not about the size of the gift. It could be as simple as a card or your favorite chocolate bar. The meaning is that while you were away from me, you were thinking of me and that makes me feel especially loved.

It is important that if you do not have the book edition that has the test within it, that you go online and take the test at www.5lovelanguages.com/profile. It is sometimes hard for us to decipher our partner’s language of love as well as our own and so this assessment is helpful. Remember that we often appreciate all the gestures of love but we will often have a primary language with a secondary language that goes straight to our heart and says, “you are loved”. Remember too that your partner’s language of love might be quite foreign to your language of love and you may need to program your phone to remember to use that language of love until it becomes a habit.

If your relationship is in trouble, this information is one of the most important pieces of information to help repair the relationship and restore the security of the love relationship. It also helps a relationship that is pretty good to become great. Get the book, read it and apply it in all kinds of places in your life. But in the meantime, you can start to practice being a great lover with the brief information offered here. Go Forth and BE Wonderful!

Overwhelmed by the Challeges in Your Relationship?

I sometimes get couples in my office that have gone a long way down the road towards practicing the predictors of divorce. They are discouraged and maybe one person in the partnership has got their foot out the door. It can seem overwhelming to consider what would need to be done in order to put things back together so that they can connect and be a couple. I want to give you hope today. It is not over until it is over. Slow everything down. There is so much at stake for now and in the future riding on this decision. I like the illustration that John Gottman gives when asked whether these couples can really change and put things back on track. He likens it to sending a rocket to the moon. If you are off by just a minute amount in the trajectory, you will miss the moon. By correcting just a small amount, you will hit the moon. That is why he wrote, “The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work” (if you have not read it – it would be a good place to start). You do not have to overhaul the whole relationship but just use some correction tools that are meaningful. Sue Johnson’s research shows that you do not have to be perfect in your relationship but you do have to connect enough to have a secure attachment. By this time, you likely have viewed not just the present but have revised the whole relationship history to be negative. You believe you have “tried” everything. You believe your problems are severe – you are a total mismatch. You may experience loneliness. At this point do not try to solve things on your own. Go and see a marriage counsellor. Find a way inside yourself to make this a total necessity in your life to make the changes needed. Anytime we have a circumstance in our lives, we need to see it as an opportunity to upgrade ourselves and make the necessary changes inside of us.
While you are waiting for professional help, you can get ready by:
1. Looking at memories that were positive in your relationship. Be willing to see the positive.
2. Talk together about what it has been like for each of you, focussing on yourself in the telling (not blaming) and focussing on the other in the listening (empathetic understanding). Share your heart. This is not for the feint – it takes courage. Find it within. It is there.
3. Apologize for what you are able to apologize for.
4. Commit to your partner to do what it takes to make things work between you. Not just for today but a new way of being together.
5. Read Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, and start practicing this to bring the walls down.
6. Read Sue Johnson’s book, “Hold Me Tight” or “Love Sense”. This helps you to know what is at stake for you and helps to give you permission to want more from your relationship.
7. Read John Gottman’s book, “Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”
Attend your marriage Counselling with an open heart and mind and do the changes necessary to course correct. Part of being a healthy human being is being able to pivot in life when necessary without ditching everything. Go forth and be wonderful today!

Letting Go

“I think of the trees and how simply they let go…” Hafiz
One of the challenges of relationships is the necessity of being quick to forgive. Some of us have more difficulty with this then others. It is sometimes helpful to notice what our beliefs are about others and ourselves in this regard. Do we believe that humans make mistakes, are sometimes thoughtless or do we believe that people should be more perfect? Do we believe that we deserve to always be treated as we want to be treated? These different beliefs will cause us to have different reactions inside. Other tendencies such as taking things personally when others are reacting can cause us to feel more offended then others. This means that a comment made in passing by someone is taken as meant for us and we feel hurt, offended and angered. Our pack sack begins to get bigger and we become more embittered and less free to respond with our best self.
Related to this, I often meet clients who are unable to trust people. It is often because of past hurts they feel unable to let go of. They feel a sense of betrayal by others. Their memories that they often rehearse are emotionally loaded.
They They continue to suffer even though these events occurred many years ago. Again, a reminder that what we focus on gets amplified. When we focus on our negative experiences in order to confirm our negative beliefs about people it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. I like the book, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”. It challenges us to do as Hafiz suggests and to simply let go. We often do not think about the consequences of dwelling on slights and the suffering it causes us, not the other person. I am not talking about the “big stuff” here like traumatic events. I am talking about all the human experiences we go through that we could let go of, if we made that choice. Examine your beliefs- could they do with an update? Sometimes they come from our childhood of origin and are no longer useful to the way we want to live and be in the world today. Let go – make room for more joy! Journal your way through this.

 

Posted by Lynda in Healthier Marriages and tagged with , ,

Creating We-ness

It is important to your partnership that you pay attention to the level of your we-ness. Some couples have difficulty with differentiation and others have difficulty with we-ness. If you have difficulty with we-ness, it is important to attend to this in your partnership. There are always transitions in relationships and when you are having a transition and you are distant with each other, your relationship can become troubled. So if you do not naturally have interests in common, what do you do? You create interests that you can both connect with. You may need to be sacrificial in this when your partner is into something that is very important to him or her and you are not interested in the least in that area. Couples who do not pay attention to this can find themselves separating and then the person who is not wanting the separation suddenly understands that they needed to attend to what was important to their partner. Many times it is too late for their relationship. Do whatever it takes to be interested in things together.

Remember that being known is akin to being loved. When a friend is interested in what we love, it makes us feel cared for. If you have been a parent, you may have watched many a baseball game or other game that you did not necessarily enjoy. I am a grandmother and I am on my second round of baseball, knowing that when I go, it is important to my grandson and my love for him, that I am there. There is a child in all of us that needs the validation of what we do and the knowledge that our interests are important to our partner just because they are important to us. Cheering us on, telling others how great we are at whatever it is, cements our partnership at any age.
Then if we are fortunate enough to genuinely love things together, we are blessed. Rather then looking at the circumstances that suggest that we are so opposite, look at all the things that you do enjoy together. For instance, a good roasted coffee, enjoying a sunset, having dinner out. Sometimes it will be necessary to compromise. For instance, when one person is an active outdoor bike person and the other is a walker, planning a holiday can be a challenge. One has to get creative. Perhaps a walking European holiday with bike rentals when you stop at a town or village you take time to ride around exploring on your bike. You can think of lots of possibilities if you never give up. The couples who have lost their we-ness have given up looking for possibilities. Remember I am not saying that you must convert to being your partner, just that you find ways to increase the we-ness in your relationship. Choose something today to move towards we-ness. Go forth and be wonderful!

Thanksgiving – An Opportunity to be Grateful for Your Partner

One of the hallmarks of those who are living fully and experiencing happiness is that they are able to be present to opportunities to be grateful. Thanksgiving is such a great reminder to look at the many blessings we all have and to be thankful to God for them. I remember reading Victor Frankl’s book about his time in a concentration camp in the war and the impact it had on me. He talked about having very little to eat except broth. Some people were able to be grateful for the little they had and others were fearful and not able to be grateful and what a big difference this meant regarding their very survival over time. We know now that the brain reacts to gratitude in a positive way towards happiness and our biology follows suit. We know that our sense of spirituality is affected by our ability to notice and be grateful. As we are present and noticing we become more connected to Love. Your relationships with your partner and your family is one of the greatest blessings that you have. Take this day to remember past good memories together – they often get lost in the challenges of life. Bring them to mind and be thankful for them. Look at the characteristics that your partner has that you appreciate. There are many. Look at their values, their good intentions, their care for you and your family. Be grateful that they are willing to share their life with you.  Express your gratitude out loud. Notice that the child in this picture looks filled with joy in every part of him at his experience of a found pumpkin – we can learn from him. I hope you are able to find gratitude today amidst the wonderful traditions you may have (my turkey is beginning to smell great as I write this) as well as the challenges in your family that may bring sadness in your life. Our lives are not necessarily all easily felt blessings but sometimes take some work to find the blessings within the challenge. Sometimes families and health issues are a part of our lives that stretch us to find the places of gratitude but it is worth the effort to do so! My challenge to you today is to keep the gratitude expressions going for the next 2 weeks and see the difference that it makes for you and your relationship. Go forth and live fully!

Opening your Mind to New Thoughts About Your Relationship

One of the interesting parts of our lives is the way we use our brain and how it effects how we live. In essence, we create our lives in how we think about things. When we have a very narrow criteria for something, we often make poor decisions. For instance, I find that the opinions of many people on the criteria for a good marriage is very poor. They look at their personal happiness as a criteria. They look at their challenges in the relationship as severe. They look at their differences together as insurmountable. They look at their negative feelings as proof. They “try” to talk things over and are unsuccessful and therefore they are doomed. When their partner tries to improve they say – they are only doing it for me. In fact, everything in the relationship has this double bind that in effect, their partner has no way to make the relationship better.
Think about your criteria for your partnership. How do you think about long term committed relationships? For instance, happiness is important to our health and well being as is being in a committed relationship. But happiness is a byproduct of what we are personally doing as well as what we are sharing with one another as a couple. You are responsible for your happiness. Gratitude leads to happiness. Are you grateful in your relationship? The meaning you find in your work leads to your happiness. Are you taking care of those things that are outside your relationship? Such as the balance of your life and your self care? Your challenges in your relationship are an opportunity to grow. This is the way the world of relationships works. You have parts of you that are underdeveloped and your relationship provides the opportunity to recognize those and to upgrade your life. Be open. Walk through a new door of beliefs. Differences are rarely insurmountable. Love is not about your partner being a reflection of you but about your ability to appreciate your partner’s differences and honor them. Get real about negative feelings. Oh my goodness, somehow people don’t realize that their negative feelings are a reflection of their negative thoughts and where they are focussing. I am not saying disregard your negative feelings but use that information to know what is going on inside for you. Take them as a signal to make some changes on the outside. Your feelings and thoughts come from a past that is unexamined as well as from your present circumstances. Find out what the hurts and the fears represent and make positive changes in your life towards that. When talking things over with your partner and repair attempts do not work, do not assume it is about incompatibility but it is most likely about the state of the friendship in the relationship. How have you been working on that part of the foundation of the relationship? Have you been neglecting that for busyness of children or work or? Repairing and managing conflict depends on a solid friendship. And finally (there are so many more crazy beliefs but this is it for now), let your partner do things for you out of love. When you are doing this for your children, you see this as normal. You may visit your parent in a home out of love. Acceptance of your partner’s attempts at loving you and keeping the relationship alive is part of YOUR obligation in the commitment. When couples are in a bad place they will often further sabotage their relationship by not accepting loving gestures from their partner, believing they are just doing it because it is expected or some other reason that is not helpful. Be open to the positives in your relationship and create some yourself today.  Go forth and be wonderful!

Maintaining Your Passion for Your Realtionship

“Passion is the thing that will help you to create and exhibit the highest expression of your best self in your relationship long term.” Lynda Chalmers

Without the continual renewal of your passion to your relationship, it is difficult for your best self to show up in your relationship. There is a consistent need to keep growing in your long term relationship and to take each negative experience as an opportunity for that growth. If you let your negativity outweigh your passion, you are on a downturn. Things like negative sentiment over ride, criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling begin to show up and effect your relationship negatively.

So how do people maintain passion for their relationship? It starts with their beliefs about marriage and its positive effects on them personally. Their beliefs extend to the modelling of a healthy relationship as important to their families, friendships and to the rest of the world. They have a strong belief in their personal efforts and their partner’s efforts towards the marriage as worth it, not only for the influence of others, but because it directly effects their health, happiness and longevity. These beliefs become a part of their compass point in life and determine their emotional investment and passion for their relationship. They believe in their power to change things for the better in the relationship. They believe that they have influence over the health of their relationship. They have a strong emotional drive to make the relationship succeed. Robert Greene in his book, Mastery, says that “our levels of desire, patience, persistence and confidence end up playing a much larger role in success then sheer reasoning powers. Feeling motivated and energized, we can overcome almost anything”. This set of people understand that motivation and energy are generated inside and are not
dependent on our partner or our circumstances. The passion you generate for your relationship will lead you to mastery of your relationship if you allow it to.

This is in direct contrast to those whom I see who have not made things happen in their relationship for good but have passively stood by while their relationship with their partner has become disconnected. They will have a variety of reasons for this, such as having no time because of having young kids or building a business but the reality is that whatever situations we find ourselves in in our lives, we have not maintained passion for the relationship. Some will come to know when separating that they took the relationship for granted. That they did not bring their best self to the relationship.

So be inspired by these thoughts. Rate yourself. Does your passion to succeed in your relationship need an upgrade? Do you need an influx of desire, patience, persistence and motivation to do the work – do you need a personal upgrade? Do something about it – if necessary, see a professional for these skills and renewed hope. Go forth and be wonderful in your relationship today.

The Relationship Gift of an Upgrade

In the journey of our lives together, it is important to really understand that things don’t stay the same. For some of us change is more difficult. We need to be resilient to meet the challenges of change. You may know some people who spend a lot of time focussing on their negative circumstances and they get stuck there. Sometimes it is because they have limited thinking and possibilities. They focus on their personal sense of justice and fairness and believe that their partner or their partner’s children should change as the only avenue for change in the relationship. What I have learned over time is that when people focus on their circumstances they miss the upgrade that they need in their own lives. When you look at your journey in the big perspective, you can see that some circumstances get repeated. When that happens and we are focussing on our circumstances, we can become less hopeful, and feel embittered about life. We can even feel victimized. If we stay there, our partners can certainly find it difficult to be attracted to that. Let me give you an example that is simple. For instance, someone may have experienced a divorce that they were not planning for. When they continue to focus on that circumstance, the unfairness of it, the fact that it was not in their plan for life, the evils of their former partner, the years pass and they are stuck. When they look at the circumstances year in and year out, they are not able to get out of their stuckness. They need to ask the deep part of themselves, what is it that I need to change or learn that upgrades me as a person because of these circumstances? One thing may be to learn to let go. Another may be to trust in the future for their lives. Another may be to practice forgiveness. Another may be to develop the skills of resilience in their lives. This makes life positive, encouraging, and hopeful as they change themselves at the invitation of the circumstances of their lives. What circumstances are you currently in that has an invitation for an upgrade in you? Get unstuck by making a needed change in you. Go forth and be wonderful today!