Dating, Romance, Sex

5 Dating Resolutions I am Going to Keep in 2016

January 5th, 2016 → 3:10 pm @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

My latest for eHarmony: 5 Dating Resolutions!

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New year resolutions about to get healthy on the wooden background

“Tomorrow is the first blank page in a 365-page book. Write a good one.”

Happy New Year! You rang in the new year and resolved that this will be the year that your dating life changes … for the better! Now what!? Here are 5 resolutions you may want to consider as you look ahead at the next 365 days.

1. I am going to put myself out there. No potential dates are going to find me sitting at home waiting for the “right” person to come along and wondering why “all the good ones are taken.” This year, I am going to be more proactive and see what happens. I am going to utilize online dating. I am going to become more involved in activities where I could meet others. In other words, I am going to put myself out there. I’m going to volunteer in my community, join a wine tasting club, learn how to cook, join a Saturday morning running group. I am going to put a little more effort into my online profile. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but I’m going to accept the idea and take responsibility for the fact that I won’t meet any new people sitting at home.

2. I am going to recognize that I am important too. I speak with countless divorced women who would love to be in a relationship, and who have so much love to give, but they feel guilty about dating while their kids are still at home. I hear, “The kids are my priority. I’ve decided I am going to wait to date until the kids head off to college.” In theory, how unselfish…but their kids are ages 5 and 7! Seriously. Two thoughts. One, you deserve to have a fulfilled life too. Contrary to popular belief, life is not just about catering to your kids, and they need to see that. Two, responsible dating can be a great thing to role model to your children, and it will set them up for success as they mature.

3. I am going to start dating when I “fill in the blank” (e.g., lose 10 pounds, or get a new job, or finish my masters degree). If you reflect back on your life, don’t the great things seem to happen when you don’t feel you are ready for them? We can’t always plan and control our own timing. Waiting for one “event” to happen before we allow ourselves to think about the next thing tends to put us in a perpetual cycle of waiting (and those 10 pounds may not come off as quickly as you would like, which is totally OK but it shouldn’t be the excuse that holds you back from other things). Let life happen.

4. I am going to put out the “available” vibe. I recall several friends telling me that there is an “available” vibe that a person puts out when they are truly ready to start dating. I wasn’t sure what this “beacon” or “signal” looked like, but they were right, and I’ve seen it play out several times over the years. It’s invisible, but there is something different about you when you are truly ready and open to meeting someone new. It’s not a vibe of desperation manifested in heading out to the bars every Saturday night in stilettos and fishnet stockings. Instead, it’s more of a subtle beacon that draws people into conversations with you. I can’t explain it, but it’s worth asking yourself what vibe are you putting out to the universe? Are you displaying negative energy with a chip on your shoulder, or are you a light of positivity open to new people, new ideas, and new situations?

5. I am going to be open to dating a different “type” than I normally do. We all have an idea of what our “perfect” type is, right? It may be a build, an education level, a profession, a personality type, but curtailing our potential dates because someone doesn’t fit our preconceived mold is just plain silly. What’s the worst that can happen if you go out with someone who on first glance isn’t your “type”? One, you may learn otherwise. Two, you may make a new friend. I have seen this one prove out over and over again. Friend A got asked out by a guy who was very short. “Not my type,” she said, “I like tall men.” I encouraged her to go out with him. “It’s just dinner for heaven’s sake. You’re not marrying the guy.” Within a year, they were married! Friend B was asked out by a guy she knew from a distance. She always considered him to be a wallflower with very little personality. As she lamented whether or not she should go out with him, I reminded her that she didn’t have anything else on her calendar for Saturday night. Turns out, he’s just a bit shy, but in fact he is a great guy who knows how to truly carry on a deep and meaningful conversation. Yup, still dating – very seriously!

What else? Any other dating resolutions you would add to this list?

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Dating, Romance, Sex

Taking Care of Yourself

Thankful …

November 26th, 2015 → 9:06 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

My latest for eHarmony … Thankful …

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Autumn leaves in girl hands, instagram toned

Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts. ~ Henri Frederic Amiel, Swiss Philosopher

It’s Thanksgiving. It’s that time of year when we put a bit more focus and attention on what we are thankful for in our lives. I love the quote above by Swiss philosopher Amiel. He distinguishes between “thankfulness” and “gratefulness.” I love the distinction. Thankfulness is words; gratefulness is acts. Gratefulness is what we do when we are thankful for who and what we have in our lives.

As I reflect at Thanksgiving, here’s my stream of consciousness as to what I am thankful for this year …

I am thankful for my faith and the comfort it brings me, my wonderful husband and all the love, laughter, and adventures he has brought to our lives, my teenage children and the lessons they teach me daily, my amazing mother and the strength and fortitude she has modeled for me, my church and the welcoming environment it provides to our community each week, my extended family and the fact that while we may not see each other frequently we are still always there for each other, our good emotional and physical health which should never be taken for granted, my two rescue dogs and the unconditional love they show us every day, the school my kids attend and the many teachers who have played such an important role in helping me to raise kids with good values, my life-long friends and new friends who remind me daily that no matter how busy life gets, we all need our ‘girlfriend’ time to restore our hearts, minds, and souls.

There’s more … I am thankful for moving this summer and reducing the number of hours I spend sitting in traffic each day, for a positive relationship with my ex, for fall football, for the amazing experiences and life changing awareness I am gaining through participating in my community leadership program, the love of reading, my phenomenal business partners, my iPhone, the ability to give back to others and to role model that for my kids, the impact of “The High Road Has Less Traffic,” traveling to places I’ve never been, looking through photo albums and revisiting happy memories, testing my comfort with being uncomfortable and stretching outside my comfort zone, soft blankets, and hot soup on a cold day, Starbucks, the beach, talks and walks with friends, Lake Oconee, my kids’ baby books, hot summer days, blue skies, big smiles, belly laughs, Survivor, high heels, pedicures, new adventures, comfortable routines, the power of prayer, and the beauty of forgiveness.

What I love about this kind of reflection is that it makes us aware of the big things and the little things for which we are thankful. Yes, of course, I am incredibly thankful for my health and my family. I don’t want to take any of that for granted. But, it also forces me to take time and reflect on the “little” things for which I am thankful like soft blankets and long walks.  The list could go and on and on … and reading (and re-reading it) makes me smile.

I demonstrate my gratefulness by waking up each and every day with the intent to treat others with kindness and make a difference in the lives of the people I meet. It becomes a personal challenge each day to impact at least one person. Kindness rocks!

It is not happy people who are thankful; it is thankful people who are happy.

I encourage you to put your own list together. Stream of consciousness! Where does it take you? What are you thankful for, and more importantly, how are you demonstrating your gratefulness?

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Blogtalk &Taking Care of Yourself

Danger Zone!Dating, Romance, SexTaking Care of Yourself

Microwave or Crock Pot?

September 22nd, 2015 → 9:25 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

Microwave!

My latest for eHarmony! Bon appetit!

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relationship tips

“Don’t you hate it when you are hoping for microwave timing and God seems to have your situation in the crock pot?”

This one hits close to home! And goodness, I can certainly relate. It drives me crazy when I’m ready for something to be “over and done” and it’s still simmering away, taking it’s time before it’s completed. We live in a microwave world. We want things fast. We’re in a hurry. We don’t like waiting. Instant gratification is our desire.

We apply this same microwave thinking to our personal lives and our relationships.

I have a friend going through a tough time with her daughter. She just “wants the whole thing to be over with” so they can “move on.” She wants the healing to be complete, not giving full credit to the healing that takes place only through the passage of time. “Why can’t I just snap my fingers and make all of this go away,” she asks rhetorically. She knows that isn’t possible, but recognizes that it sure would be easier.

Another friend is reeling from the sudden loss of her father. It was totally unexpected. She doesn’t want to endure all the “firsts” that are occurring in this year following his death. She simply wants this year to pass by quickly so that all the firsts are avoided. She wants to “microwave” time so what should take a full 365 days feels like it takes less time. Dealing with each special day is just difficult and emotionally taxing.

Then there is my other friend who is in year three post-divorce. She feels like she has given time to her healing. She believes she’s “done her time.” She’s seen her ex-husband move on. He started dating. Then (gasp!) he remarried. The thing is that she also wants to be in a relationship. She wants to fall in love with the right guy. She doesn’t want to have to date. She’s tired of going on bad first dates. She’s tired of not feeling the chemistry. This dating stuff is hard work and, frankly, can be exhausting. Why does it take so much work to weed through the Mr. Not-Rights in search of Mr. Right? She just wants to have Mr. Right presented to her on a microwave-safe plate.

The thing is that anything worth having usually takes time to develop. Healing takes time. Surviving challenging experiences takes time. Building really strong foundational relationships takes time. Most things in life need to simmer. We need to allow the gift of time to be just that – a gift.

I cautioned my friend who has the situation with her daughter to not “wish her time away.” Yes, it would make the “stressful” things disappear faster, but it also means rushing through another year of her daughter’s life (oh by the way, her last one at home before heading to college). Does she really want to do that?

I try to help my friend who doesn’t want to face the firsts after her dad’s death to welcome those firsts by remembering in intricate detail all of those good times because as the years pass those memories dissipate. I know that my memories of my dad have faded as I now find myself reflecting back on our time together, which unbelievably was over 16 years ago.

I try to find humor with my friend who is in the midst of the dating scene. I tell her she has the best stories to share of her dating debacles, and that she, too, will find Mr. Right when the time is right! She needs to understand and accept that while she would like to microwave the near-instantaneous creation of Mr. Right, it might just be that the crock pot is simmering away and that, when done and ready, the final product will be absolutely perfect.

They say, “Time heals all wounds.” I’m not sure I agree. I don’t know that time can heal all wounds but I do believe that the passage of time serves to make those wounds more manageable and more palatable.

What do you think? Are there situations in your life where you are hoping for microwave-fast results, when you know deep down that this one really requires the long-term simmering of a slow cooking crock pot?

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Danger Zone! &Dating, Romance, Sex &Taking Care of Yourself

Dating, Romance, Sex

Is Anyone Out There Having Sex?

September 17th, 2015 → 9:15 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

Here’s my latest for Huffington Post  … a bit edgy for me! :) Had fun writing it! Sex?

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Sex is as important as eating or drinking and we ought to allow the one appetite to be satisfied with as little restraint or false modesty as the other. Marquis de Sade

I find that I speak with many men and women about the state of their relationships. Friends, acquaintances, colleagues, people behind me in line at the mall, strangers sitting next to me on airplanes – they are all fair game! Lately, a theme has emerged which is very disturbing to me. At first I thought it could be the age of my subjects, but then I realized I have spoken with a cross-section of people of different ages. Then I thought it might be the stage of life they are in, but then I realized I have spoken with a cross-section of people at various stages in their lives and relationships. I’m puzzled. What is going on? Why are married people, seemingly committed spouses, both men and women, sharing with me that their love lives are nearly non-existent? Why am I hearing things like, “We haven’t been intimate in weeks (months!)”

Here’s what I heard about why this dearth of intimacy is going on in America!

We’re stressed. (Yes, life is hard. That’s a perfect reason for other things to be too!)

To succeed with the opposite sex, tell her you’re impotent. She can’t wait to disprove it (Cary Grant).
Being too stressed can lead to other “problems” and based on the ads I see on TV with handsome men talking about ED and gorgeous women talking about having a low libido, this appears to be a valid issue in our country. Engaging in sex should be a stress reliever! Doctors should be prescribing this instead of drugs for high blood pressure. Don’t you feel better after you and spouse have had a healthy sex session? The stress may still be there, but I bet you have forgotten about whatever was stressing you out at least temporarily!

We’re tired. (yawn!)

Skiing is better than sex actually, because for me a good round of sex might be seven minutes. Skiing you can do for seven hours (Spalding Gray).
Yes, I get it. We are overworked. Up at dawn, hitting the gym, off to work for a long day of meetings, home for family dinner, before heading off to coach little league, and finally home at 10PM. Don’t . Touch. Me. I. Just. Want. To. Sleep. What? This isn’t like you are signing up for an evening course to learn the art of Tai Chi (to reduce all that stress, of course). Tai Chi class meets every Monday evening from 6-9PM. Sex doesn’t need 3 hours. Damn! Don’t worry, you will be sound asleep in about 5-10 minutes.

We’re bored. (um, hello. Seriously? Make it fun! Sex isn’t supposed to be boring.)

Sex is not the answer. Sex is the question. “Yes” is the answer (Swami X).
Make it fun. There are lots of ways. If the two of you really can’t figure out how to make it fun, I understand there are stores which will help you by selling you toys designed to make it more fun. Remember how much you used to love going to the toy store when you were little? Perhaps it’s time for a visit! The answer is “Yes!”

We’re afraid the kids will hear us. (That’s not the worst thing ever!)

Kids. They’re not easy. But there has to be some penalty for sex (Bill Maher).
I get this point about not wanting to have your kids hear you and think you are passing a large kidney stone, but c’mon. I grew up thinking my parents only did it twice (once for my brother, and once for me!). Instead, wouldn’t it be nice for kids to be taught the importance and value of intimacy when it exists in the context of marriage? Mommy and Daddy need their special time too!

We aren’t feeling the love. (Yes, sometimes people need a reason to get fired up!).

Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place (Billy Crystal).
Up until now, my comments have really been aimed at both the men and the women, but this one is more targeted. Rightly or wrongly, many women seem to need a “reason” to make love to their husbands. Many women articulated an inability to feel romantic towards their husbands when they aren’t feeling appreciated and valued. Without opening a whole can of worms, I suggest this. Men, give her a reason to have sex. Empty the dishwasher. Give the kids their bath. Trust me. This is sexy … and a really good “reason.” Women want to feel appreciated and a little “act of service” goes a long way. Don’t get all bent out of shape on this topic. Remember, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar!

What do you think? Any reasons I may have missed?

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Dating, Romance, Sex

Danger Zone!

Don’t Worry … I was Only Looking!

September 16th, 2015 → 6:06 pm @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

My latest for eHarmony! Only Looking!

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cheating issues

“Cheating doesn’t mean you have to kiss, or meet up with someone else … Once you find yourself deleting messages or hiding your internet activity so your partner will not see it, then you are already there.”

I was in bed the other night, surfing the web, and, as is not unusual for me, I ended up looking at yellow labs available on PetFinder.com. I have two dogs. I really don’t need a third. Crazy people have three dogs. Or people who live on farms. Not people in suburbia that live on small parcels of land. Anyway, I clicked on the links and looked at so many beautiful yellow labs looking for friendship, companionship, and love. I read their stories. I looked at their photos. I imagined bringing them home with me. Then, I shut my computer and put it away.

My dog, Cedar, who we thought was a yellow lab (she clearly isn’t … she’s more like dachshund with yellow lab coloring!) when we rescued her as a puppy five years ago was snuggled up next to me the whole time. As soon as I shut my laptop, she climbed right on top of me and starting cuddling and licking my face. I said, “Don’t worry, Cedar, I was ONLY looking … I’m not going to actually follow through with it.”

My husband burst out laughing, saying, “I’m sure those exact words have been uttered all across America this week!” Ah, yes! I’m sure they have too as tens of thousand of husbands and wives have had to explain themselves to their spouses. “Don’t worry honey, I was ONLY looking … I was never actually going to follow through with it.” The hack of the Ashley Madison website for married people looking to have affairs, and the subsequent release of emails of those who perused the site, is going to have ripple effects for years to come.

I don’t buy it. The act of simply looking at a site like Ashley Madison means you are curious and perhaps open to the idea of engaging in an affair. Curiosity, in this case can be dangerous.

I tell myself that I’m not planning to get a third dog. I tell myself that I’m “just looking“ to see what’s out there. I tell myself that there is no harm in taking a look at the photos and reading the bios. But, I KNOW, with all my heart, that when I find that yellow lab who I make that instant connection with (yes, based on a photo over the internet) that I will be scrambling quickly to make arrangements to meet him! There is a certain “look” that I fall for every time. I know that it is just a matter of time before my curiosity and innocent “looking” turns into action.

Temptation is a dangerous thing. We start to make excuses. We go from, “I’m just looking” to “What’s the harm if I just send one text” to “What harm can come from a cup of coffee” to “It was just a kiss” and before you know it, you are in over your head, hurting your loved ones. The ripple effect is tremendous.

Would love to know your thoughts on this one! Innocent “looking” or a dangerous level of “curiosity?”

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Danger Zone!

The Joy of Purging!

August 13th, 2015 → 8:11 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

My latest from eHarmony: Purging!

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get rid of baggage

“If you want to improve your life immediately, go clean out a closet.  Often it’s what we hold onto that holds us back.”

Purging! I’m not referring to an eating disorder. I’m referring to the amazing experience of getting rid of “clutter” in our lives. My family and I recently moved. It wasn’t a huge move. We simply moved 8.6 miles down the road, but oh my goodness, it was still a move!

As humans, isn’t it our nature to fill up our space? We tend to keep things far longer than we should (I said keep, not use). Or we buy new things before the old ones have worn out so we keep both. We shove things into cupboards and closets. We buy storage boxes, fill them, and stack them in the basement. We keep things that we really don’t need to keep. We don’t like to get rid of things, even though we know we will never use them again. Why do we let this clutter build up in our lives?

Our purge started innocently enough. We realized we needed to get rid of some items in our home as we downsized. It quickly turned into an addiction of sorts. One thing led to another and we started giving away, donating, and selling items from all over our house. I would find myself walking around the house grabbing things that we hadn’t used in a while and clearly didn’t “need” and would gleefully add them to the “time to go” pile growing daily in our garage. The extra baggage, the items that had no emotional or utilitarian value, were destined for a better future in someone else’s home.

When it came to the clothes in my closet, my mantra became, “If Justin hasn’t seen this on me, it’s time for it to go!” You see, Justin and I have been married for 6 years. If he hasn’t seen me wear something by now, then obviously I’m not wearing it for a good reason. And with challenge being the hurdle to overcome, out went my favorite chunky sweater from college. Out went my “skinny” pants that I hang onto for some unknown reason! Out went the cute (and by cute I really mean “frumpy”) dress that I wore to church when my daughter was 3 (does the fact that she is now a senior in high school tell you anything?).

This purging was cathartic. I felt freer and lighter with everything that walked out of our home. I started thinking about how cathartic it is when we purge ourselves of all the extra baggage that accumulates in our lives. And when I say baggage, I don’t mean just the extra sheets, shoes, and candles that I seemed to collect. By baggage I mean the people, the circumstances, or the emotions that weigh us down unnecessarily.

“The next time you decide to unclutter your life and clean up your space, start with the things that are truly useless: like regrets, shame, and anger.” Sandra Kring

I spend a significant amount of time talking with women who are divorced. So many of these women are weighed down by clutter in their lives. I encourage them to purge themselves of this clutter of anger, shame, and self-doubt.

Forgiving people removes that negative movie reel of anger from playing over and over in your head and taking up space. Removing toxic friends from your social circle who want nothing more than to see you continue to wallow in misery and self-pity only because misery loves company will free you up to add positive friends into your mix.

Purging regrets from your viewpoint and spending all of your time asking “what if” and looking backwards will free you up to ask “now what” and look forward at new horizons ahead. Give back the anger and shame that you picked up along the way. You don’t need them in your life anymore. Donate the feeling that you aren’t enough and accept that you are completely enough. Work on adding to who you are, not what you have!

What do you think? Have you uncluttered and purged your life? Are you happy with the results?

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Blogtalk

Taking Care of Yourself

Rule #7: Be On the Same Team

May 31st, 2015 → 10:04 pm @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

My latest for eHarmony: Rule #7

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marital advice

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” ~ Babe Ruth

Those of you have been following this series know that it began when I read an article with a great headline that said something to the effect of, “Follow these 7 marriage rules from divorce attorneys … and never end up in their offices!”  What married person wouldn’t continue to read that article?

I decided to write an article about each of the 7 rules, and we wrap up today with #7. If you missed the rest, you can find them here: Rule 1, Rule 2,  Rule 3, Rule 4, Rule #5, and Rule #6.

Today we find ourselves at the final rule. Drum roll please …

Rule #7 – Be on the same team. Being on the same team means that we don’t hold grudges against each other. It means that we are working towards the same goal, not pulling in opposite directions! It means that even when we are upset with each other, we are still rowing in the same direction. In my opinion, the cornerstone of being on the same team means you forgive one another.

Forgiveness is a huge point for me. I love to write and speak about forgiveness, and the quote by Gandhi referenced below is one of my favorites. We are going to be wronged by people in our lives. That is inevitable. How we respond to being wronged says a whole lot about our character.

Rule #7 says we always have to be on the same team. It’s all about moving forward. More importantly, it’s about moving forward together. Rule #7 says that even when we get upset with each other, as we inevitably will in our relationships, that we stay on the same team.

Remember, this article series is all about the 7 rules for marriage that will keep you out of a divorce attorney’s office. It seems fitting to end with a rule that brings in forgiveness. Relationships are hard work. Marriage is hard work. Things are going to happen that require us to offer forgiveness. Choosing to offer that forgiveness is huge. Offering forgiveness when we have been wronged doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to hold the person accountable for whatever he or she did. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be consequences. It does mean that when we offer forgiveness, that we aren’t going to play the movie reel over and over again in our head of how that person wronged us. It means we are going to release ourselves from that pain. That is exactly why it takes a really strong person to find forgiveness. Anyone can hold a grudge. It takes a strong person to forgive and truly desire to still play on the same team.

Many people who are reading this article series are looking to get back into a relationship. They want to find that person who is destined to be their life partner. For many of those people, they are back in the dating game after a prior failed relationship. Perhaps that prior relationship ended on a bad note – something happened that requires forgiveness – and you aren’t quite ready to forgive yet. Here’s what I will say: Rule #7 says that one of the ways to stay solid in your relationship is to stay on the same team, and practice forgiveness. I will apply this to the world of dating and take it one step further. One way to find a solid new relationship is to make sure that you aren’t carrying any baggage from a prior relationship. No one wants to deal with your ongoing anger and angst over something that happened in your past.

Forgiveness is an amazing thing. I don’t think I would have had a chance at meeting the man who is my husband today if I was still angry and bitter at my ex. I was able to honestly embrace the power of forgiveness, and I wholeheartedly believe that is what opened the path for me to meet the man to whom I am now married.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

What do you think? Is forgiveness an essential part of being on the same team?

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Taking Care of Yourself

Danger Zone!Taking Care of Yourself

Rule #6: Know That You Won’t Always be Happy

May 21st, 2015 → 8:51 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

My latest for eH! – Rule #6

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rules of marriage

“Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” ~ Helen Keller

I recently read an article with a great headline that said something to the effect of, “Follow these 7 marriage rules from divorce attorneys … and never end up in their offices!”  What married person wouldn’t continue to read that article? Who wants to end up in the office of a divorce attorney? Been there; done that. No more, thank you very much!

As I read through their list of the 7 “rules,” I found myself nodding my head up and down. I agreed with the list. I decided that the 7 “rules” would make 7 really great articles and here we are already at #6. If you missed the rest you can find them here: Rule 1, Rule 2,  Rule 3, Rule 4, and Rule #5.

Rule #6 – Know that you won’t always be happy. Anyone who enters into a serious relationship thinking that everything will always be sunshine and roses is going to be very disappointed. Life happens. There are highs and there are lows, peaks and valleys, ups and downs! To falsely believe that you will always be happy is to set yourself up for tremendous disappointment, and frankly, an inability to handle the downs of a relationship when they do happen.

Sometimes the happiness disappears in a relationship because of relationship issues themselves. Other times, the happiness can disappear because of issues not in the relationship per se, but because of issues that impact the dynamic of the relationship and the intrinsic happiness of the individuals in the relationship. This could be one person losing his or her job. It could be one person dealing with a serious injury. It could be the stress of dealing with a child who is ill.

Regardless of the source of the stress or the unhappiness, how it is dealt with is of utmost importance. Recognizing and accepting that things will happen in our relationships that bring us sadness, or at least reduce our happiness, means that when these things happen, we are better prepared to skate through that season until we find contentment again.

When unhappiness finds you, do you retreat inside of yourselves and try to survive on your own, or do you lean on each other for support? Do you shut down, or do you open up? Do you batten down the hatches in your own survival mode, or do you recognize that two can be stronger than one?

Many people think that having to deal with unhappiness isn’t good. Most of us try to avoid being unhappy. The reality is that dealing with stressors in our lives, and dealing with periods of unhappiness, can actually serve to bring us closer to those who are important to us. When we are unhappy, we tend to be more vulnerable. That makes us more “human” and people respond to being needed and want to be helpful. When we are unhappy, we rely more on others. No longer are we invincible by ourselves, but rather we find we need to rely on others for support. This can actually serve to make our relationships stronger.

Think about it! Two parents dealing with a troubled teen. They can choose to shut down and fold into their own angst, or they can become partners and talk about how they are going to handle it together. Two lovers dealing with an unexpected bump in their road. They can choose to ignore each other and feign independence, or they can decide together how best to deal with this “issue” as a duo. Two spouses dealing with an unexpected financial crisis. They can process their stress and grief independently, or they can turn to each other for emotional support.

Most people don’t want to be operating in a cloud of unhappiness for extended periods of time. Those couples who recognize that stress is part of the natural cycle of life are going to be the stronger couples who survive that stress, and not the ones who are crushed under it’s weight. Those are the couples who choose to incorporate those moments as part of their story. They focus on what happened, and how they got through it together. Maybe it’s not about the happy ending. Maybe it’s about the story in between!

“The happiest people do not have the best of everything. They make the best of everything they have.”

What do you do think? When unhappiness comes along, how do you react? Turn in, or reflect out?

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Danger Zone! &Taking Care of Yourself

Rule #5: Don’t Expect Perfection

May 13th, 2015 → 4:43 pm @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

Here’s my latest for eHarmony – Rule #5

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illusion of perfection

“Life is better when you stop criticizing the faults, instead look for the beauty in the flaws.”

I recently read an article with a great headline that said something to the effect of, “Follow these 7 marriage rules from divorce attorneys … and never end up in their offices!”  What married person wouldn’t continue to read that article? Who wants to end up in the office of a divorce attorney? Been there; done that. No more, thank you very much!

I decided to write an article about each of the 7 rules. We are coming into the home stretch and today we are on Rule #5. If you have missed any of the others, you can catch up here: Rule 1, Rule 2,  Rule 3 and Rule 4.

Don’t expect perfection. Remember what our parents used to tell us? Nobody is perfect. They were right. We aren’t perfect. Our parents aren’t perfect. And, our partner isn’t perfect. We have to learn to accept them for who they are.

It’s interesting. We are usually willing to overlook “flaws” or things that bother us early in relationships. Some things are cute, and we find we can overlook them easily. They aren’t a big deal, and we ignore them. Or, we are so in love that we are willing to overlook them because all the great traits overshadow these few “annoying habits.” Or, we lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that these “flaws” – these cracks in perfection – aren’t a big deal and we will get used to them. Or, and this is a dangerous one, we believe we will be able to “change” them and “fix” them once we have some time to work on them. These are all reasons why we are willing to overlook perceived “flaws” and move forward with a relationship.

Most of the time, as these relationships progress, all the reasons and excuses we gave ourselves about the “flaws” we find in our spouses suddenly dim in their importance, and the “flaw” itself seems to become magnified. Sure, we told ourselves that it was a cute “flaw,” or that that we would get used to it, or that we could change them, but the reality is that “flaw” isn’t going anywhere.

You will also go crazy trying to change someone to make them perfect. Too often I’ve spoken with divorced people who tell me, “I thought I could change him (or her) … and when I realized I couldn’t, things got really bad.”

So now what? I’ve seen “flaws” that have gone on to create giant wedges between couples who could no longer see all of the great qualities that attracted them to each other in the first place. Suddenly all of those wonderful traits that you fell in love with – his wacky sense of humor, the way she wants to adopt every stray pet she sees, his special way with your kids – take a back seat to the fact that he leaves the toilet seat up or that she throws clothes on the floor in the closet.

We need to accept “flaws” for what they are: inevitable parts of every one of us.

Remember, nobody is perfect. And, if you married someone to begin with, it’s likely that their list of wonderful attributes far outweighed their list of “flaws.” It might be time to revisit what it was that you initially fell in love with, and then decide how important those “flaws” really are in the grand scheme of things. I’m guessing those “flaws” will turn out to rank pretty low on the totem pole in comparison with other wonderful qualities.

“Vulnerability is the essence of romance. It’s the art of being uncalculated, the willingness to look foolish, the courage to say, ‘This is me, and I’m interested in you enough to show you my flaws with the hope that you may embrace me for all that I am but, more important, all that I am not.’ ” ~ Ashton Kutcher

What do you think? Have you let “flaws” become more important than they deserve to be? Are you aware of your own “flaws?”

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Blogtalk

Danger Zone!

Rule #4: Be a Good Conversation Partner

May 2nd, 2015 → 8:14 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

Have you been following the rules? Here’s my latest for eHarmony! Rule #4

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communication and couples

“Communication is the fuel that keeps the fire of your relationship burning; without it, your relationship goes cold.”  – William Paisley

I recently read an article with a great headline that said something to the effect of, “Follow these 7 marriage rules from divorce attorneys … and never end up in their offices!”  What married person wouldn’t continue to read that article? Who wants to end up in the office of a divorce attorney? Been there; done that. No more, thank you very much!

Welcome to this series. I decided to write an article on each of the 7 rules, what each one means, and how we can apply it! If you are just joining in, we are at the mid-point! You can catch up on the prior 3 rules here: Rule 1, Rule 2, and Rule 3.

Today we are on Rule #4. Be a good conversation partner. Many a couple has blamed “communication breakdowns” on the failure of their marriages. What does that even mean? I don’t think it is communication breakdowns that are the issue. If there are breakdowns, it means you are still communicating in some way, shape or form. Rather, I think the problems start when communication stops altogether.

Think back to the early days of your past relationships. You talked on the phone multiples times a day. You texted quick little updates or quirky little messages that had no real meaning. You couldn’t wait to share every mundane detail of your day. You could talk for hours and hours about your history, your stories, and those moments that made you who you are.

If you had so much to talk about then, how come you have so little to talk about now? The multiple phones calls a day started to dwindle. The little text messages dissipated. Over time you became too tired, or too busy doing other things to share those mundane details of your day. You feel your partner has heard all the stories that have shaped and molded who you are. Suddenly, there is no breakdown in communication; there is simply no communication.

One place for us to start being communicative again is to stop what we are doing and focus on our partners and really talk with them. Engage in a two-way dialogue. Be interested in what he or she is saying. Respond. React. Reply. In other words, turn off the TV and put down your smart phone. Replying to the emails that are chiming in, keeping up with the latest game stats, playing Candy Crush, and checking on the weather can all wait.

My husband and I have a couple of sets of cards called “Table Topics” that we keep around the house. We have a “couples” edition and a “family” edition. Every now and then we’ll get them out and pull a card and all have to answer the question. It’s a great way to get dialogue going. It was fun when we first started dating to ask each other questions that we might not think about and to hear the answers. We usually couldn’t get past more than a few questions at a time because they led to such great conversations. With two teenagers in the house now, we love the “family” edition. We recently had a great conversation amongst the four of us in response to the question, “Would you rather be the best player on a mediocre team, or a mediocre player on a great team?” The dialogue that ensues is always interesting, and I hope we are raising our “wired” kids to become good conversationalists!

The point is this: Talk. Share. Listen. Don’t let communication disappear from your relationships. It’s far too important. We are all going to have those days where we are just too tired to talk, and that’s OK. When I have those days, I simply tell my husband that I need some quiet time, and that I’m “talked out” from my day. I just don’t have it in me to talk more. He knows to give me time and I’ll recharge. The important thing is that I can’t have too many of those days in a row.

One closing thought. As this rule states, it is important to be a good conversation partner. And, it’s appropriate to recognize that being a good conversationalist means you are just as good at listening as you are at talking. It means actively listening and acknowledging appropriately. It means showing empathy and compassion. It means providing advice (if it is wanted), or just listening and soaking it in (when advice isn’t needed or wanted). It’s not a very healthy or productive conversation if one person is doing all of the talking. That’s not a conversation; it’s a speech!

“Communication to a relationship is like Oxygen to life. Without it … it dies.”  – Tony Gaskins

What do you think? Are communication breakdowns the problem, or is it when communication stops altogether?

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Danger Zone!