How to Love Well Posts

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!

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!

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.

Reducing Conflict by Telling Like it Really Is

Telling it like it is… used to be a saying that let us speak exactly what we were thinking, despite the consequences it might have in our relationships. It was worn like a badge of honesty. But when we are angry (mostly a secondary emotion), frustrated or blaming we are engaging in secondary emotions and this is only a part of the truth, if the truth at all. The real you is underneath in our primary emotions. When we communicate these emotions, we are really telling it like it is.
What are our primary emotions and how does this work? Researchers have found that we only have 6 primary emotions. They are sadness, surprise/excitement, disgust/shame, fear, joy and occasionally anger. Our first response when something triggers an emotion, is our primary emotion. The trigger, primary response and secondary emotion happens lightening fast. We will often find our primary emotions a place of vulnerability and openness. Our emotions are in a constant state of reappraisal and we will often cover our primary emotions over with our secondary emotions. You will notice this when you remember the last time you felt something intensely with your partner. As you think about your unmet expectation, or whatever your wound was in that moment, you will notice your emotions changing towards secondary emotions such as anger or blaming or victimization or a myriad of other emotions. You will notice that your secondary emotions close you up and you can sometimes feel more powerful but disconnected from communicating in a healthy way from your partner. This may be the conflict pattern that you and your partner have that may last a few days or weeks, where you do not communicate. You may be a person that has struggled with anger in a relationship. If that is the case, you are familiar with your defensiveness and often blaming which is disconnecting in your relationship. If you looked at your primary emotion that lies below your anger, you might find some fear or sadness. When you share your fear, sadness or shame with your partner, your partner is able to hear and connect with those emotions and your vulnerability that goes with that. They will find you open and it will be a connecting experience in your relationship rather then more fuel for conflict.

When you are learning this new way of communicating, sometimes it is difficult to get to your primary emotions. One way to begin is to guess at what might be underneath. Once you have some practice, you will find it easier to understand yourself in this regard. At first you may not do this well each time. If you don’t do this well in the moment and regret your secondary emotional response, make sure your repair with your partner includes sharing what was really going on. If you are the hearer of these emotions, you will likely relate to these deep emotions. Your response is important. Make sure you honour the gift of your partners sharing by creating emotional safety and treat the gift with a gentle and reassuring response. This creates continuing attachment security in your relationship which is what we all long for.

Still Trying to Change Your Partner?

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”
― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

What a great truth! Loving well can be difficult for us to do. I notice that in sitting with couples that one or both partners want their partner to change in some way and have let their partners know over and over regarding this change. I am not talking about major issues such as violence or addictions which must change in order to have a marriage. I am talking about the everyday issues that can add up and distance us if we let them. A small example might be that one partner believes that the shoes belong in the closet where they do not trip over them when they walk in the door or that when their partner has finished with their tea, they need to put their cup in the dishwasher. This may happen for years as it becomes a power struggle between the couple and interferes with their view of their partner and their love connection. We forget that our partner is not us and that they do not necessarily share our values about shoes and cups in dishwashers etc. Yes, we do need to work some of these issues out satisfactorily but they cannot come between us in a way that we are trying to have our partner become who we are. Spending constant time trying to change our partner over years begins to erode the love that we have together. Spending time problem solving over these issues or getting some of what we may want can be helpful. For instance, purchasing a basket by the door that your partner can throw his or her shoes in might be a partial solution. Picking them up yourself in a spirit of love can work. Acceptance of your partner’s differences is the key. These issues become even more difficult when there are kids from another relationship and you are trying to set some boundaries that they are not used to. Spending more time affirming and enjoying who are partner is (or our partner’s kids) helps to cement attachment. Changing the way we frame our partner and enjoying their quirks and differences as separate from the way we are, increases the satisfaction in our relationships. It creates the kind of safety that over time, helps our partner want to change those very small details of our lives together. Write out the above quote and see where you might make a difference in this area of your loving.

Restorative Vacations

Lots of families are heading out on vacations over the next month or so. Sometimes these vacations turn out well and sometimes they don’t. Most of the challenges are about hidden expectations. One person wants to have mostly a relaxing time, with unplanned adventures. The other person wants a planned vacation where the most is made of the time available. Unfortunately, they do not voice their expectations to each other in a way and at a time that they can hear each other. Set aside the time to talk together and don’t just talk about the logistics of the vacation, when you are leaving and returning etc. – we are good at that. At the minimum explore what each of you are thinking and feeling in the following ways.

  • What do you want from this vacation that is very important to you?
  • How do you want to feel when you return home?
  • How much alone time do you want – how much connection time do you want?
  • How much effort do you want to put out? Ie. How often to eat out or eat in or?
  • How much money do you want to spend?

If you have kids:

  • What were you thinking might be good for the kids?
  • How much travelling time at once?
  • How can we make the vacation a time that meets their needs as well?
  • How will we help each other with the kids?


The other part of vacation time is your relationship. Decide together:

  • Will we set aside some time to talk about issues we have difficulty making time for in our regular life? If so, how can we block that time out and make sure any negativity does not bleed into the rest of the holiday?
  • Will we commit together to make all efforts to be positive on the holiday in order to create a wonderful holiday memory? For instance, don’t sweat the small stuff, let things go.
  • Will we commit to not becoming the Bickerson’s on the holiday and leaving arguments for another time?
  • Will we make efforts to connect with each other? Touching, handholding, checking in, meeting each other’s eyes while listening, making love etc.
  • Will we commit to sharing our gratitude for what our day holds every day?
  • Will we create moments of shared laughter together?


You can think of lots more. Planning for success means you are much more likely to have it! Talk about these things together and more that pertain to who you are on holidays. Have fun, take time to nurture your soul. Go forth and be wonderful!

Sending you love and encouragement – Lynda

Becoming a Great Partner

In this blog, I am usually talking about concrete skills to create a healthier marriage. These are based on research and if you learn them and practice them, I am confident your marital relationship will become one that works well for both you and your partner. Today I want to write a short note about the softer parts of what makes a great partner. I find these show up in my counselling office and create some great moments between couples. What are some of them?

1. Let me know I am your hero/ heroine. I want to be that for you and when you let me know in those moments that I am that for you, I feel great about myself and us.
2. Let me know that I am attractive to you sexually. Not just when we are going to make love but during the day when you are thinking of me. When you do this, I feel connected to you biologically, emotionally and in every way.
3. Let me know you are thinking about me during the day when we are apart. Give me a quick call to connect. I will put you on a special ring on my phone and answering your call will be a priority for me.
4. Let me see that I am on your calendar as you are on mine for our special times in the year together. Making us a priority in this concrete way raises my sense of being important to you and my sense of security in the relationship.
5. Let me know that my thoughts and feelings are honoured by you, by turning towards me and looking at me when I talk to you. When I feel listened to in this way, I feel loved.
6. Let me know that I am important and that we are is important to you by remembering our special occasions together and marking them with celebration. As a way to help you remember, having them programmed into your iPhone is okay with me. When you do this, it draws me towards you and makes the we in our relationship more intimate.
7. Let me know that you remember the good times when we are having a rough patch in the context of our lives or in our relationship. Hearing my partner remembering when… in a positive way, reduces my sense of loneliness in those times and reinforces my sense of belonging to you and my hope for the future.
8. Let me see that you are working on yourself and our relationship in an ongoing way. We are not perfect but our changing provides a great model for our family and gives me ongoing hope that 2 imperfect people can create an amazing loving life together.
9. Let me know often when I am doing something right. I want to be a good partner and when you reinforce me by telling me I am doing something right it makes me want to strive for more.
10. Let me see the softer side of you, not just your anger but the hurt that lies below. Not just your assertiveness or aggression but your uncertainty and your vulnerability. This really draws me to you and meets my longing to know the whole of you.

These are just a few, but a powerful few when you put them into practice. If you need any of these attributes in your relationship, put each on a sticky until you have practiced it well and then move on to the next. Go forth and be Wonderful!

Sending you my love and encouragement! Lynda


Becoming a Great Team in Your Marriage


We have just come out of one of the busiest months for families – the month of June. I wanted to write a bit about what I am finding couples struggling with recently. Couples are so amazingly busy with so many obligations and roles today. It is hard to stay connected and to find a way to work as a team. Fortunately, I have so many examples of couples who have been succesful at this in their lives to make me keep my own hope up. I wish I could have them give their wisdom in person to my suffering couples. Suffering couples have more feelings of frustration and feeling victimized by their partner and feeling as if they are doing more of the load then their partner. They feel alone in the life they are trying to create. They feel either unsupported or engulfed by the other person. So how do these successful couples create team in their relationship?
First is their mindset. You have to start here. You know you have personal vulnerabilities and patterns from your past and your present mindset. You are operating on beliefs that won’t get you what you want. So start here. What are some examples of vulnerabities that get in the way of team?

Here is a small collection of vulnerabilities that get in the way:
*you believe that you always need to feel in control or in charge
*you believe that at any moment your partner is going to abandon you
*you believe that you must assert your rights or you will lose, you must say no first, you must defend
*you believe that if your partner is not meeting your immediate need that they do not love or support you
*you operate on your feelings; you FEEL alone, therefore it must be true
*you believe that your partner is the problem so you spend time analyzing and blaming them, having thoughts of  “if they didn’t”
*lots more… know your own

So first you need to make a decision. Do you want to live like a successful team together where you each know the other has their back? Where you know your partner is with you in the day to day challenges? Where you know you can do more together then you can apart? That you feel safe when you are together, knowing you will both support your mutual goals? That you feel securely loved?

If so, you will need to make a decision to challenge your vulnerabilities. How will you manage your automatic response when it is bubbling up quickly in response to a pattern in your relationship?

1. Stop -notice your response, both the feelings and what you are saying to yourself.
2. Grey out the emotional reasoning, the black and white thinking and the defensiveness. No -your partner does not always do that (black and white thinking) and no that is not what your partner said, that you don’t know how to take the garbage out, I can’t do anything right (emotional reasoning) but what he/she actually said was, could you pick up the pieces of garbage that fell out under the sink?
3. Believe your partner has good intentions towards you.
4. Self sooth. Replace your negative self talk with talk that reminds you that this is just an issue, that you will come through this, that everything will be okay.
5. Let your partner know about your feelings in a non-blaming way. Ask your partner for reassurance that you can work this out together.

Try this out together. Partners can do this. If you continue to struggle, go get some therapy so that you can begin a new pattern together!

Go forth and be wonderful!

Bids for Connection Re-Visited

Bids for connection are so important for couples
to understand and attend to in their relationship. I have written about this before and it is well described in John Gottman’s book, “the Relationship Cure”. I am drawn to write about this again for 2 reasons. One is not just because of the importance of the habit but the amount that I notice couples making disconnections in this regard. Second is the newer research by John Gottman’s student who sets out a hierarchy of bids that I think are also important to know. First, let’s review what bids for connection are. As people who want to connect, we are continuously making bids for connection that are actually “trust tests”, according to Gottman. We respond to these bids either by turning towards our partner, thereby making connection, or turning away from our partner by ignoring, or against our partners by anger or other negative responses, thereby losing the connection. This loss of connection has great meaning in the overall status of the health of our human need for secure attachment as well as the health of our everyday lives together. Apparently, Janice Driver, using the Gottman study research (remember the love labs that gave us the great information found in the book, Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work?) found that  couples who had divorced 6 years after their marriage had turned towards each other 33% of the time versus those who were not divorced after 6 years turned towards each other 86% of the time. A big difference and such crucial information if you care about your relationship. So how does the hierarchy of bids work? At the bottom of the hierarchy are the little trust tests, a small bid for attention, for instance. They are not so costly for us and just need a nod, a touch or some kind of acknowledgement. Another couple of examples are a bid for help at 3 and  sharing events of the day is an 8 on the scale. Halfway is problem solving at a 10. The last 4 up to 20 (the end of the scale) are the ones that couples  can have difficulties with. They are intimate conversation, emotional support, understanding (compassion, empathy) and sexual intimacy.  As couples are successful at lower levels where there is less risk, they are willing to move higher up the ladder to more vulnerability where the benefits get bigger. Another huge benefit was found by another student (Kim Ryan) who studied conflict and bids for connection. It was found that changing to more turning towards causes positive affect during conflict (the ability to have humor and affection – right in the middle of conflict!). This kind of positive affect in turn causes stability in relationship. I say learning the skill of meeting your partner’s bids for connection is worth doing! Go forth and Be Wonderful in your Relationship!