I’ll lose weight.
I’ll stop smoking.
I’ll spend more time with my partner, or with my children.
I will save money.
I will be less stressed out.
Then, somewhere around the second week of January, those promises go the way of all the other promises. Some of us may not fall off the wagon until a few months later, but by year’s end most of us will not have made it through as we had indented. We start snacking, smoking, or spending more time at the office. We swipe the credit card impunitively. And most of us have found out the hard way that we cannot simply wish our stress away…
The holidays can be particularly difficult for people to cope with. Some will want an escape from the memories of past holidays. Others will be looking for activities that will provide them with the opportunities to create new memories. Holidays also generate obligations, which can appear to occur in a continuous stream with no breaks.
Whatever your experience, many people encounter a great deal of stress during the holidays. Many have even come to expect the agitation and the disagreements. When thinking about changing this yearly pattern of stress, so many of us have said, “Why bother? The holidays are to be endured, not enjoyed.”
We have all known times when our romantic life seems to just “click” on all cylinders. Oh how wonderful it can be! At other times however, it feels as if we are running a romantic fever and cannot seem to get it right.
When relationships are experiencing poor romantic health, partners are not likely to view each other as valuable. Our tendency during times of “soul sickness” is to see the flaws in our partner’s character. Those flaws can seem glaring! Our partner’s behavior will become increasingly less tolerable and our attention will be drawn to the ways in which it seems that our partner detracts from the quality of our life.
The same is true of the satisfaction we feel in our romantic life. It is very difficult to maintain a heathy romance with a bad attitude, and it will be just as difficult to have a bad romance with a positive attitude.
There are two easy steps you can take to develop a more positive attitude in your romance. These steps will help you to become a more grateful partner in your relationship.
Mindfulness. It means living in the moment. By now, most of us are well aware of the great emotional and spiritual promises of living mindfully. It is believed to lower high blood pressure, heal trauma, and enhance our problem-solving abilities. Studies show that mindful people may be happier1.
Many traditional philosophies however, stress the importance of purposefully going back in time and exploring our past experiences. We revisit where we have been and how we have become the people we are. Those of us who are members of 12 Step recovery groups are asked to complete a comprehensive 4th Step inventory on all the hurtful memories we may have endured.
Some people think that these two philosophies are opposites. We are either focused on the past, they insist, or the present, but we cannot to both. We disagree. We believe that going back and exploring our past is a prerequisite for true mindfulness.
At some point in our romance we recognize that a successful love life is going to take more work that we thought. The infatuation we felt when we were head-over-heals about each other in those starstruck early days was simply the effects of heavy chemical reactions firing in our brains. Those drug-like reactions do not last forever, they die down quickly, and then we face the task of putting in the hard work and time necessary to kindle a happy and lasting romance.
True tolerance of others, especially of those we love, is a virtue that all romantic partners enter into their coupleship hoping to achieve. The actual attainment of this virtue however, proves to be a most difficult and challenging feat for many of us to accomplish.
It is very challenging at times to truly tolerate the limitations and differences of others, especially when their limitations and differences impact us directly. It can become very easy to slip into an external show of tolerance on our outsides while secretly harboring and building resentment and intolerance on our insides. The good news is that we can learn how to show true tolerance to others, not just on our outsides but inside as well.
It is true that people can be hurtful and it is important to acknowledge when we are feeling that way. Denying our emotions will only make things worse, not better. But did someone really “make me angry” or are we feeling the anger in us getting kicked up in response to the way someone behaved towards us? The difference between the two is in who the responsible party is for the way we feel. If we blame others for our feelings we will eventually feel justified at whatever our retaliation may be, and we will rationalize that it was their fault, not ours. “They were driving me nuts!”
Still, many of us choose to hide behind a façade of who we aren’t because we are so afraid to let our partner know who we really are. We are sure that if he or she would get to know the real us, they would reject us.
What we have learned in our own relationship, and in the last few decades of providing relationship counseling to the couples we work with, is how damaging it is when a partner masquerades through the romance wearing an emotional suit of armor. It may feel safe to the partner locked up in there, but we cannot get in to love them, nor have we been able to figure out a way to receive any love from them either.
Have you ever been told to just “let it go”? Many of us hear that from well meaning friends or family members trying to calm us down when we are upset or concerned. Heck, they may even sing you a song about it! We have often wondered what “let it go” really means (yes, we were wondering about this expression even before the song came out).
In a romantic relationship, partners often interpret “letting go” to mean that they should ignore or avoid addressing the problems that they are seeing in each other. We think otherwise. We do not believe it is beneficial to our own emotional wellbeing, nor for the good of our relationship be turning a blind eye to the problems that we see loved ones struggling with.