Myth: “Having had a happy childhood is a prerequisite to having a great relationship as an adult.”

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.


Believing Eyes

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


No Holding Pattern

"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.


The Gifts of Giving

 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.”


Raise the Heat in Your Relationship This Summer

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.


You Can Take It with You But You Might Not Want To.

Samuel Johnson once said that there is something about facing the end of life that tends to focus one's attention, particularly on those aspects of life that we may previously have ignored, denied, or put off. Inevitably there comes a time when the debts from all of this procrastination come due; and the piper must be paid, with interest and penalty fees. The cost of deferring our concerns and true feelings until "later" can be excruciatingly high: deep remorse, guilt, despair, profound loneliness, isolation, and unrelenting regret over what we wish we had done differently.

Bonnie Ware learned about this from dozens of dying people whom she served in her years as a professional caregiver in Australia. Her experiences taught her first hand about the extent to which end of life regret plagues many of the dying as well as their families and friends. Her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying illuminates the lessons she learned from working closely and intimately with people in the end stages of their lives. Many of them lost in a quest for material success or approval realized too late that the only thing that they could take with them in the end was regret that they didn't live life differently.


Not Enough Time? Don’t Take It Personally

The Hidden Causes of the Work/Family Conflict
Laura: “Now that I am back to work full time, I get up at 5:00 A.M. to get the kid’s lunches ready. I often find myself doing laundry at 10:00 P.M. Last week I was picking up groceries at the supermarket at 11:00 P.M., and my stomach is churning while driving to the day care center because I don’t want to be charged the late pick-up fee. I’m so exhausted at night when I got to bed, I can hardly talk to my husband, no less make love with him. I don’t like living this way, but I’m not seeing a way out.”

Jack: “I don’t like it either; but if we want to continue to enjoy our standard of living, we need both incomes. It’s really stressful when one of the kids gets sick and can’t go to day-care. We get into a big argument every time about who will stay home with them, because it may put each of our jobs in jeopardy to not come in. I’m sure we’re working much harder and longer than our parents did, with less to show for it.”


The Break That Can Save Your Marriage

Jesse, our first born, was three years old before I was willing to leave him for a vacation with my husband, Charlie. To say that I had been an obsessed, overprotective, neurotic, overwhelmed mother was... well, just about right. My parents, who lived over four hundred miles away, were the only other people with whom I would entrust my baby. I wasn't totally wacko, but pretty close.

Our destination was Martha's Vineyard. On our first night, we stayed in a bed-and-breakfast inn by the beach that had an antique claw-foot bathtub. I filled it with the hottest water we could stand, and we both got in. After relaxing for several minutes in the steaming heat, Charlie silently picked up a soft washcloth and began gently washing my face with a sweet-smelling soap. I suddenly found myself beginning to weep. I was the baby now, being nurtured by someone who dearly loved me. Ours had been a difficult transition into parenthood, with both of us working, earning graduate degrees, and having a baby who had been more demanding than I had expected him to be. I was bone tired. We knew that our honeymoon was over, and that we were much more overdue for some serious R & R than either of us realized.


Four Tips For Dealing With Marital Boredom

Yes, it can be a real problem to be bored with one's spouse. It's a frequently voiced complaint that therapists hear from their clients. Fortunately, this condition can usually be easily fixed. Unfortunately, the source of the problem is generally in the last place that you want to look. That would be at yourself. The very things that initially attracted us to our partner can sometimes later on be a source of irritation. For example those wonderful qualities of predictability, stability, solidity, dependability, or reliability they bring into our fragmented and tumultuous life, in time can leave us bored and irritated. That which at one point in a relationship feels like security, at another point feels oppressive and tedious. Your partner probably hasn't changed, and neither have you. Those qualities in him or her that you initially found so attractive are still there; it's just that they are less evident to you because your focus is on those aspects of your relationship that you find dissatisfying.