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Gary Chapman: Love as a Way of Life Part 1

January 21st, 2010 No comments

loveAs I travel through life, I have had the opportunity to meet and get to know scores of people.  One of the things I have come to believe is that our relationships with other people enrich our lives.  I have known people from every walk of life and every religion.  One thing we all have in common is our need to feel and give love.  We live, and we would die, for those we love.

Each one of us has a need for connections with others.  Some of us are better at making those connections.  Most of the people that I have encountered who seem to have an easy, almost effortless, connection with others have something in common.  They love people.  Not only do they love people, they are loving people.

I am blessed to be married to one of those people.  I can’t express to you how much I have learned from him.  I have watched him interact with people and he treats them with love and care.

I grew up in a home where there was such a disconnection from others. Anger was always present in our home.  Hurt feelings and misunderstands ran deep. My parents always fought loudly.  Broken dishes and angry words seemed to prevail in their marriage.  I grew up wondering how long they could possible stay together.  I always expected them to eventually divorce.  Believe it or not, they are still together after 64 years!  They still don’t get along, but I have come to understand, that is their dance.  They are comfortable with it.

What makes a loving person?  As Gary Chapman would say, “Love is a cluster of traits.”  I believe that is true.  I came across this 2 part video from a speech that Gary Chapman gave about his book, Love as a Way of Life.”  In these 2 videos, he talks about the 7 characteristics of a loving person.

Why should we want to be more loving people?  What would be the point of understanding and incorporating these 7 points into our lives?  In essence, why be a lover?

If we could understand more about how to be a loving person, could we use that to create better relationships?  If we enjoyed better relationships, would we be happier people?  If we understood people, had better connections in our relationships, could we create a better world?  These are questions only you can answer.  As Gary says in these videos, “You are here to enrich the world and you impoverish yourself if you forget that errand.

The first video for today is a little over 7 minutes long. It covers the first 3 traits.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  Feel free to pass it on!

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3 Tips for a Happy Marriage – Part 2

January 7th, 2010 No comments

marriageYesterday in my post called, “3 Tips for a Happy Marriage – Part 1”, I wrote that men and Women communicate differently. Those of you that have been married for any length of time probably said, “well, duh, Nan”. Even though most of us realize this fact, not as many have a handle on this phenomena.

A woman can be more subtle than her man. She expects him to pick up on her hints, such as, “Do you think it’s cold in here?” Men, often times, don’t get it. His response to her “perfectly clear hint” would be “yes, it is cold in here”, but never realize this is a clue for him to get up and turn the heat up.

This leaves frustration from the woman because she feels she is clearly communicating her needs. The man is frustrated because he isn’t picking up on her subtleties and can’t understand why she is frustrated. A man’s response is often, “why can’t she just say what she wants…if she wants the heat turned up she should say, please turn up the heat, I’m cold.” That may be what a man feels he needs to hear, but that is not always the way women communicate.

A good book for understanding communication issues between men and women is the old stand by, “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex by John Gray. This is a very good book which outlines the communication issues, among other things, that separate men and women. My mother-in-law, who recommended the book to me, read the book and highlighted the important parts and gave it to my father-in-law to read. That worked great. He appreciated the “cliff notes”. They both learned a lot about communicating with each other.

Here are a 3 more tips, today, that I believed strengthen our marriage.  Remember, I am not a trained or certified marriage counselor.  I am only giving you tips that worked for us.

1. Don’t take it personally. Many times, we get caught up in over-sensitivity. Our spouse could have had a hard day at work or many other assorted challenges in their day. If we take their mood personally it can be devastating. Early in my married life, I was over-sensitive. My husband could easily take off on a rant (learned behavior from his childhood). I would get my feelings hurt because I felt that his rant was directed at me (learned behavior from my childhood). Even when I knew, good and well, it had nothing to do with me, I could make it about me. As we continued to learn how to communicate how we each felt, he ranted less (because he knew that upset me) and I grew thicker skin. Does that mean he doesn’t rant any more? No, I just don’t take it personally any more.

2. If it is at all possible, express one’s feelings without anger. This can be a challenging one. It is easy to get angry and fly off into an angry rant and hurt the other person. Sometimes, removing oneself from the immediate emotional situation can help. “I’ll be back when I can discuss this without anger”. Then go somewhere to cool off. It is never wise to go somewhere and talk about the situation with “a friend”. Friends have long memories and can bring up things best forgotten. It is, also, very hurtful to your spouse to discuss these topics with others. Never say to friends and family members things about your spouse that you wouldn’t say in front of your spouse. 

If discussing the situation without anger is not possible than stick to the topic. Many people, when they fight, start bringing up all kinds of past grievances. This is very unproductive and foolish! Let the past grievances stay in the past and only discuss the current thing. It is best to make an effort even in anger to not say personally demeaning things to hurt the other person. Disagreements will be more productive this way. My father-in-law motto was always, “keep your words sweet, you never know when you might have to eat them!”

Here’s a link to article about constructive fighting in marriage.

3. It is unrealistic to believe that once you are married you are going to change them. It doesn’t happen. If you can’t accept the things they do before marriage it is best not to wed. The big things that bug you before marriage will become even bigger once you say, “I do”.

If you find yourself “wishing you hadn’t married”, try this exercise. Day one, pick one thing about your spouse that you like. Write it down. The next day, read what you wrote and add one more thing that you like about your spouse. Day three, reread what you wrote the two previous days and add one more thing. Keep doing this for 10 days in a row. In the beginning of this exercise you may struggle with finding that “one thing”. But, if you are persistent and continue, at the end of the 10 days, you might be surprised at how different your attitude is about your spouse. What you choose to focus on will grow, either good or bad.

I found this excellent quote the other day when I was surfing the net on this topic. “Marriage is not a contract, but instead it is a covenant. You can’t keep score and expect your marriage to flourish.”

If you gleaned something of importance from this blog post, feel free to pass it along!

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3 Tips for a Happy Marriage – Part 1

January 6th, 2010 No comments

bride & groomEach of us grow to maturity with certain beliefs about marriage.  Some of us have seen examples of happy marriages, some of us haven’t been so lucky.  Even if your marital role models in life haven’t been examples of healthy, happy marriage, you aren’t doomed to a life of an unhappy marriage or divorce court.

Marriages can be difficult, sometimes down right challenging!  “Leave it to Beaver” or “Father knows best” marriages aren’t a reality.  Those were marriages of a different time, if they ever existed at all.  Today’s marriages have so many more moving parts than the relationships of the 40s, 50s and 60s.  It would be unfair to our own marriage to look at those examples as anything but the fiction of a simpler time.

The marriages in today’s world have so many more things striving to pull them apart.  Separate careers, blended families, child rearing differences, financial issues, just to name a few, tear at the seams of marriages.  It may seem difficult to sustain a long term marriage in the current cultural climate.  For a marriage to grow in love, divorce can never be an option.  If you truly want to have a long term happy marriage, both people have to feel committed to their marriage.  I have a few tips to share that I have learned from my 31 years of marriage to the same remarkable man.

1.  Your partner in marriage should be #1 in your life.  It is easy to let this tip slide and focus on our children as top priority, or our careers.  Many times, blended families are involved and each parent feels that they need to place their children from their previous marriage in the #1 spot.  That is a recipe for another failed marriage.  Our marriage should be the sun in our family’s solar system.  The children are the planets that orbit around that sun.  Some day, if we are successful parents, our children will leave our family solar system to build one of their own.

In many of our wedding vows, we promised to love one another and forsake all others.  This can mean other people that might want to woo us away from our marriage partner, or it might mean the temptation to stay too close to others, such as parents, siblings, friends, careers or anything else that might threaten our partner’s #1 position in our life.  My husband and I have acquaintances that the wife is very close to her family and likes to travel with them often, leaving her husband alone or participating in travel plans he doesn’t want to be involved with.  Their marriage is currently rocky and will remain so until they put each other  #1 in their lives.

2.  Treat your spouse like you would like to be treated.  The ultimate golden rule!  If you want him/her to be more loving, you should be more loving first.  If you want your partner to be less argumentative, you be that way first, etc.  This was a miracle working tip in our marriage.  When I started focusing on treating him like I wanted to be treated, it was amazing how things changed. Maybe, it was because I changed first.

3.  Communication can make or break a marriage.  We all set patterns of communication early in our marriages.  The choice is ours as to what that communication pattern will be.  I am blessed that my husband is not only my love, he is my best friend.  We talk often throughout the day.  But, communication isn’t only about communicating current events.  Many people get stuck in the loop of only communicating about their children. When the children have flown the nest it can be life threatening for a marriage if the only thing in common was the children.

Communication comes in many forms.  It encompasses how we declare and show our love.  A book by Gary Chapman called “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate” is a great book for discovering how you and your partner respond best to love.  Gary Chapman says, “We must be willing to learn our spouse’s primary love language if we are to be effective communicators of love.”

I am not a marriage counselor.  I enjoyed psychology classes in college but that’s as close to being a therapist as I got.  If your marriage needs professional help please seek it out.  It could make all the difference.

If you feel that this blog post is something your network of family, friends or business associates might enjoy, feel free to tweet about it and pass it on!

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