Sometimes it Doesn’t Pay to be Right“You’re being defensive!” If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of these words, you know that the last thing that you feel like doing upon hearing them is to drop your guard and open your heart. Ironically, that’s probably exactly what the person delivering these words is trying to get you to do. If you weren’t being defensive before you heard this accusation (and it is usually spoken accusatorially), you almost surely will be after hearing it. Defensiveness is a natural response to the perception of a physical or emotional threat. We can’t help but feel the impulse to protect ourselves under such circumstances.
“And they lived happily ever after.”Who would have ever thought that six harmless words could lead to so much disappointment? Just think of the number of times that you were told stores that involved two lovers who after rising above many hardships and ordeals, finally merging their hearts as one and riding off into the sunset together to live in the splendor of love’s eternal bliss. Yeah, right. Time and experience makes us all wiser, or hopefully at least less naïve, and it doesn’t take too long to realize that the stuff that constitutes fairy tales is not necessarily that which makes up our daily lives. The “real world” comes crashing down on all of us sooner or later and when it does it often leaves us disillusioned. The process of dissolving illusions is never much fun but it seems to be an inherent aspect of the process of growing up. Some illusions dissolve more easily than others but whether it is the shock of finding daddy dressing up as Santa Claus or the death of our pet kitten who was supposed to live forever, the process of letting go of erroneous beliefs always contains some degree of suffering.
Myths not to live byTrue or false: Couples with great relationships don’t fight Most people expect too much from marriage All the good men/women are already taken Love can heal all wounds If my partner were more like me we’d have a better relationship These are some examples of beliefs that are commonly-held held by many people. When a belief is held by a sizable portion of the population, it may be said to be a myth. Webster defines “myth” as “an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution or worldview.”When a belief reaches the scale of myth, it is no longer merely personal. At that point it possesses the power to influenc e the perceptions and views of a significant portion of the population. Myths may or may not contain some truth, but whether or not they do, when they are held as true, there is no longer any motivation to question them and they become accepted as “reality”.
The best predictor of the future is not necessarily the past.If this myth were true, most of us would be doomed to relationship hell. Fortunately, it’s not, and we’re not. It turns out that it is possible, even for people who have lived in difficult, abusive, even horrible circumstances to create loving and healthy relationships. Many of the couples we know who are living deeply fulfilling lives grew up in situations that were far from ideal and some were downright wretched. We also know people who grew up in families in which there was an abundance of happiness, love and security who have terrible track records regarding their relationships. This is not to say that it is not preferable and advantageous to have grown up in a happy family, but simply to underscore that it is not an essential factor in creating a successful relationship as an adult. So, you might ask, what then are the critical factors that determine the likelihood of relationship success? We’ll get to that in a minute.
One of the things that I notice about successful couples is that nearly all of them demonstrate a capacity to not only see the beauty and goodness in each other, but to reflect it back to one another on an ongoing basis. Like the rest of us, these people have their share of "imperfections" but they tend not to focus or dwell upon flaws, and instead, give their attention to the aspects of their partner that they especially appreciate and value. And strangely, this exchange seems to continually grow. Many of them report a shift in their individual self-perception, and they develop a more positive sense of themselves as a result of their partner's feedback. We all tend to internalize our partner's positive perceptions, which often may enable us to override negative self-judgments. Over time and with many repetitions, this process can result in a gradual transformation of one's self-image. Although happy couples don't necessarily practice counseling with each other, the outcome of this process is similar to the outcome of a successful psychotherapeutic experience. Their feedback isn't limited to only positive qualities but also include areas that are problematic. This feedback is delivered with sensitivity and care, without judgment or condemnation, and is only given when it is requested or solicited. We refer to this process as "believing eyes".
"He who isn’t busy being born is busy dying.” Bob DylanLinda: There’s a story (it may be apocryphal but it’s a great story anyway) about a frog being put in a beaker of boiling water. Not surprisingly, he jumps out instantly and survives. When that same frog was placed in a beaker of room temperature water in which the temperature was slowly increased over time, he stayed in the beaker as the temperature slowly rose to the boiling point and he was cooked to death. Human beings, as well as frogs, have remarkable powers of adaptation. And this is a good thing. We can adapt to an incredibly wide range of conditions as the circumstances of our environment change, as they often do. If these changes come about gradually, our powers of adaptation can work much more effectively than if the changes are more sudden. There is, however, a downside to this ability to adjust to changing circumstances, and that is that we may inadvertently adapt to conditions that are dangerous and even life-threatening when the changes are so subtle that we don’t realize that we’re being overcooked. It’s better after all to avoid or jump out of some things rather than to tolerate them.
Giving of ourselves is giving to ourselves.“Conscious perfect love is when you love someone so completely that you wish only for your beloved’s self realization. That they are given the space and the wherewithal to discover who they are without thought of reciprocation or reward for oneself.” A.E. Orage The greatest strength that we possess does not come from money, from fame from influence, from glory, or from any of the trappings of power that most of us spend vast amounts of time and energy pursuing. It is the power to give our full attention to the presence of life in any give moment and to make our choices from that awareness. The key to this process is the word “give” which is what we must do with our attention, to direct it to our immediate given experience in order to be fully present. It is in the act of giving, whether it’s of our attention, our care, our possessions, our awareness, or anything else that we possess or value, that our experience of ourselves and our world is transformed. It’s often those times in which we feel that we can least afford to give of ourselves that giving is what we most need to do. In giving we challenge the underlying belief that we do not have enough, be it time, money, love, friends, or whatever else it is that shows up to us as the “deficiency du jour.”
5 Guidelines to Handling Differences Effectively The factor that is most likely to predispose a couple to have an enduring successful relationship is: Shared interests in common Ability to avoid or prevent intense emotional conflict Ability to manage differences effectively Shared political views Strong bonds of affection established early in the relationship. If you chose “C,” congratulations. You’re one of a minority of people who recognize the necessity, even in the best of relationships to have highly developed conflict management skills. All too many couples, especially those whose relationship has been characterized, particularly in the early stages, by strong feelings of mutual affection, can’t imagine how such a need could ever arise. In the early stages of infatuation, (literally meaning “a state of delusion”) it can seem unlikely even impossible that the need to learn how to engage in responsible arguing or “conscious combat” could ever even arise between two people who are so much in love.
Every year, Charlie and I take two summer vacations-one with our kids and grandchildren, and one just with each other. They don't have to be real long, just long enough to get a clean break from our day-to-day lives. These vacations each provide us with very different experiences, and we love them both. But it's the one we take by ourselves that gives us the time to reflect together on where we are and where we're going over the coming year. This also allows us the luxury of taking as much time as we need to relax into the love that we are often too busy to really enjoy and savor. Sleeping late and staying in bed cuddling or making love, or just hanging out together with no agenda, no cell phones, no computers, no responsibilities, it's as close to heaven as I've ever been. When I describe this scenario to friends, however, they sigh in envy and tell me they wish they had the time to do the same thing. I hear them. We used to feel that way too that is, until we realized that we did have the time, we just hadn't prioritized it correctly.