Friday, February 28, 2014

Cherish - turn it inside out!

Squeaking in under the wire, right before the end of the month of February, the therapist comes in with a blog on the final component of how to build a lifetime relationship.
Photo by digitalart
Our friend Merriam Webster says that Cherish means "to keep or cultivate with care and affection."  That sounds like something you do inside your head, and to a certain extent, it is.  Cherish is that warm feeling you can get when you're nowhere near your partner.  It's the feeling you get when you hear that song on the radio that reminds you of that time . . . you get the picture. 
And you get ZERO points for it in a relationship when it's inside your head.  Zero.
How do you cherish someone out loud?  First off, you SAY THANK YOU.  You recognize when your partner is doing something that's outside their realm of normal behavior JUST because they're loving you.  As in "I get that you went to my company dinner just because it was important to me even though you'd rather be getting a root canal.  Thank you."  Bonus points for "I understand that what I said to you last night was hurtful and mean.  I appreciate that you didn't react.  THANK YOU."
Next, KNOW YOUR PARTNER.  Love every quirky, idiosyncratic thing about them.  Is their definition of being "on time" being 15 minutes early?  Be early.  They like their cheese grated and on the side of their hamburger?  Remember to order it that way for them.  If you know that leaving the dishes in the sink bugs them to death, and you leave the dishes in the sink, smile when they look irritated.  Say "I know that bugs you sweetie.  I'm sorry." 

Photo by Photostock
Cherish is TAKING RESPONSIBILITY for your foibles and not blaming your partner for them.  Ideally, this is the person you know best, who knows you best.  You know every button to push.  Don't push.  When they're driving you crazy.  When they're acting out in all of the worst ways they know how, give them the benefit of the doubt and take the high road. 
Cherish is giving the BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT.  It's looking for a reason for your partner's reaction that is something other than "they're a jerk."  It's saying "I know you're scared . . . I'm here for you."  Instead of getting after them for their tone of voice or their over-reaction.  Switch from process to content, meaning the dishes in the sink no longer matter.  It's all about preserving the relationship.  Say "Hey - hold on . . . we're in this together," not "What's your problem?  So I didn't clean up the dishes, SO WHAT??"  Cherish is about taking the high road, and doing it lovingly, without resentment. 
Cherish is about having the other person's back for the sake of the relationship.  It's recognizing that by giving your partner what THEY need, you allow them to give you what YOU need.  That's different than demanding what you want.  It's about saying "let me do this for you" when your partner is at their worst, not their best.  And waiting until they get their wits about them again and can pick up the slack. 

Love, Honor and Cherish make or break it.  It's about YOUR behavior, not theirs.  Yes, there's a point at which the balance is off and the relationship doesn't work.  But that's way down the line.  Be sure you've put in YOUR best effort before pointing your finger at your partner and demanding theirs. 

Make Valentine's day last all year round.  And yes.  It can happen.  :)

“So it's not gonna be easy. It's going to be really hard; we're gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me... everyday.”
Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Honor spelled backward is "Ronoh." (or ... I couldn't come up with a catchy title for this post)

When is the last time you looked deeply into your partner's eyes and said "Darling, I honor you?"  Never?  Probably not.  What the heck would that mean anyway??

Bluntly, honor is about not being a jerk, and it's something that mostly happens INSIDE your head.

These days, Honor is nearly a lost art form.  It's hard to find anyone with honor in the media, in politics, even in literature.  Honor is about doing the right thing whether you feel like it or not.  It's about saying NO to the 5 year old in your head who wants what he/she wants when she/he wants it because you realize you're not a 5 year old, you're a partner in a relationship, and relationships don't work when one person (or both) is a 5 year old.  That's why we make jokes about our kids saying things like "I WON'T BE YOUR BEST FRIEND ANYMORE ..." because we realize that 5 year olds are impulsive, and short sighted, lacking in good judgment and frankly, they're fickle. 

A few basic guidelines come to mind when I think about how to honor your partner:
photo by Stuart Miles
  • DON'T LIE.  Read that again.  DON'T LIE.  EVER.  Lying is a double whammy.  In one breath you can tell someone "I don't care about you" AND "I think you're stupid."  Just don't.  If you can't tell the truth about it, don't do it.  It's that simple.  That's lies of COMISSION (an out and out bold faced lie) and lies of OMISSION (leaving out that OOOOONEEEEEE little detail . . .) as well.  That also includes shading the truth and trying to make someone think they're crazy when you know you're busted.  See below.  
  • ACCEPT CONSEQUENCES when you blow it.  One couple when asked what they needed from each other, responded with the following:  She went on and on about his lack of responsibility, how she needed him to step up and help around the house, follow through on what he said he would do, not lie, etc . . . he said that what he needed from her was "when I don't do it - she can't get mad!"  How's that for a double bind?  They didn't make it.  If you trip and fall and act like a jerk (that's MEN AND WOMEN), don't get mad at the other person for having feelings about it.  Give them a moment to react.  Sit with the fact that you hurt them.  Let that feeling sink in.  That is called guilt.  It's there for a reason.  It's supposed to keep you from doing it again.  Now.  Once you've fully experienced the depth of the consequences, hold yourself in warm regard, take a deep breath, and admit it.  APOLOGIZE.   It doesn't make you a bad person, it makes you a good person who blew it.  Move on from there.  (PS if you're not sorry at the very least that your behavior caused your partner pain, you have a much bigger problem) 
  • BE RESPONSIBLE.  If you say you're going to do something, do it.  If you are somehow unavoidably kept from living up to your commitment as a result of alien abduction or being trapped under a heavy object, go back to your partner and let them know BEFORE they find out on their own.  In this realm, surprise is never a good thing.  In the same vein, don't do things that you know will negatively impact the other person just because you feel like it.  Don't buy a new pair of oh-so-super-cute-won't-these-look-great boots and then not be able to meet your financial obligations.  It's called "impulse control." Grownups have it.  5 year olds don't.
  • BE A CHAMPION.  Safeguard your partner's character to the public.  Don't bitch to your friends about things you ought to be discussing with your partner.  It leaves a bad impression that will remain long after your tiff is over.  If the topic does come up, don't throw your partner under the bus.  Accept responsibility for your own failings and foibles, while keeping your self-esteem about you.  No one expects you to be perfect, but at least be fair.  And don't lie to make yourself look blameless, or like a victim.  That's the opposite of honor.
  • KNOW WHO YOUR PARTNER IS, and show respect for that even if it's different than you.  They're religious and you're not?   You will not die if you go to a church service now and the, even if it's not Christmas or Easter.  They don't like mushrooms and you do?  Add the mushrooms at the end, after separating out a portion.  Pay for a concert with music you don't like and have a ball watching them enjoy it.  Support them in their hobbies, encourage them in pursuit of their passions, and never EVER confuse "I don't like doing _______ " with "you shouldn't do that."  Know the three things they would NEVER say to the kids, and don't say them either.  Your partner's preference for having the carpet vacuumed in diagonal lines is just as important as your feeling like they're lucky you know where the switch is and are willing to shove the vaccuum around for a while.  Compromise.  Figure it out.  Make agreements on when the dishes are to get done that are agreeable to both parties and STICK TO THEM.  Even if you don't feel like it. 

Honoring someone is about doing these things lovingly and without resentment. You honor someone because you love them, and because honor breeds trust.  Be someone your partner can brag about.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

L - Is For the Way You Look at Me ...

 WOO HOO I DID IT!!!!  Welcome to my SERIES on what makes relationships last.  I promised you the big 3, and here they are.  Lifetime partnerships are based in LOVE, HONOR and CHERISH.
The first thing that makes a relationship run is LOVE. 
I'm not 80.  I promise.  But Nat King Cole had it right in his famous spelling-bee hit.  We are all familiar with the hearts and flowers part, right?  L - is for the way you LOOK at me, O - is for the only ONE I see .... you get the picture.  If you don't, listen to the above link.  That is LOVE from one angle.  I love how you make me feel, how I feel when I'm with you . . . all about MEEE!!  That's courtship.  The initial Zing! Went the strings of my heart attraction.  We need that.  Attraction is what makes our eyes meet across a crowded room and think:  "YOU.  I bet YOU could bring home the antelope/pop out a dozen kids."  Love the noun is something that happens INSIDE your head.  It's a thing.  You HAVE it.  You're IN it.  Love the noun is about phermones and hormones and a bunch of other ... um ... MONES, if you know what I mean.  That lasts about 6 months.  Love the noun is the key turning in the ignition. 

And then there's LOVE the verb - the doing word -  the fuel for this thing to run. 

What I see over and over in my little office is people who have a great foundation of love for each other, but have stopped DOING anything about it.  Now this is a generalization so nobody get offended, but one partner (typically men) go to work and think about their significant others.  They look at the picture on their desks and smile, they wonder what amazing thing she is doing with the 2.3 children that day, they might have a conversation at the water cooler with a co-worker and express how lucky they are, drive home anticipating seeing the Norman Rockwell moment that awaits them at home .... and then they walk in the door and get clobbered for not being loving enough, being checked out, self-centered and just plain rotten.  In my experience, these guys don't even know where it's coming from because from their perspective, they've been in love all day. 

 Love becomes a verb when you do something about it OUTSIDE your head.  You gotta re-fuel that machine if it's going to keep running.  And not just on Valentine's Day, though that's a start if you're way behind.  Love is taking the time to write a sticky note and put it in your partner's daytimer (yeah I know I'm the only person who has one of those anymore ... work with me) or on the screen of their tablet.  It's folding socks and underwear the way someone likes them folded even if you're a throw them all in the drawer kind of person yourself, or remembering to push the little button on the bathtub spout so they don't get blasted in the back of the head when they turn the water on even though you would never push that button even once if you lived alone.  Love the verb is about trying to make your partner's life better. Love is recognizing when your person is in need and being there whether you feel like it or not.  It's taking the high road and not snapping back when you get snapped at.  And sometimes love is setting a firm limit and not letting someone act out in negative ways to avoid having to deal with a problem.  It's speaking up in an assertive way instead of picking a passive-aggressive fight.  It's calling someone on their bad habits.  It's bringing up a sore subject to get it resolved once and for all instead of letting resentment grow.  Sometimes, love the verb really sucks.

Still, love the verb is putting your money where your mouth is, relationship-wise.  It's the grease-monkey, nuts and bolts of making a relationship work.  How boring. 

Love that lasts is the noun and the verb working together.  It takes work to keep the excitement of that first 6 months going, but it can be done!  It takes planning and anticipation, and the absence of resentment because you've been keeping up with love the verb.  LOVE someone actively in exciting and creative ways.  Don't wait till you feel like it.  Pick a day and make it exciting.  Hey!  How about TODAY!!!  Leave love notes.  Plan a date.  Be creative.  Leave a trail of rose petals, or bread crumbs . . . or whatever.  Send an email with a link to a favorite song.  Come up with your "thing," like a secret phrase or way you hold hands.  Give a massage  Entice.  Enjoy.  Think about what lights THEIR fire, and give it to them.  That's when LOVE is FUN!
I can't get the photo captions to work.  Dangit.
Tree And Root Of Red Heart by Archipoch
Heart By koko-tewan
And my favorite Stock Photo couple is still going strong ... Photo by imagerymajestic. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Where were we??

AAAAAAND . . . It's Valentine's Day again. Remember what I'm always saying about my reticence to promise a series?

When last we left our fearless blogger, she was waxing philosophical about what it takes to make a modern marriage work. She promised a series (she'll never learn) about the three things that ring the bell of relationship.

Gonna try and get it done this time . . . in the meantime, read last year's posts about heartsand
flowers day and get ready!!