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Posts Tagged ‘change’

For the “solution driven” individual it can be frustrating to face something you can’t change.

In a long-term relationship, focusing on such areas develops points of contention or disappointment rather quickly. However, that same focus put in the right place can be a vital key to breakthrough and change. The choice, really, is between contention and disappointment or real and significant change. You just have to know where to focus. As it is commonly said, it’s better to go through life with a key than a crowbar.

To get you thinking, here’s a mini-list of things you can’t fix, complete with better targets for your focus:

You can’t fix what’s already happened but you can nurture something beautiful from what you have. Find the good in your spouse in every situation, and find ways to affirm it with your words and acceptance.

You can’t fix a person’s past but you can help them “become” the best version of themselves. You are your spouse’s greatest fan or critic! Encouraging them will inspire much more change than condemnation.

You can’t fix a another’s opinion but you can study your own perspective in the light of their ideas. Be willing to take correction from your spouse, just like you wish they would from you. They understand you better than anyone, so their perspective is valuable to you.

You can’t fix anger in someone else but you can see past it to their wounds. Understand “hurt people hurt people.” In such times look for their hurt instead of reacting to their anger, and you’ll find you can respond to their need instead of distancing yourself with defensiveness.

You can’t fix a spouse’s weakness, but you can lead in improving yourself. It’s your responsibility to love your spouse, and improve yourself, and not the other way around!

You can’t fix what a person gives you, but you can serve them more generously still. You’ll find whatever you give your spouse (eg. encouragement, criticism, time, acts of service, affirmation, silence) your spouse will naturally be inclined to reciprocate. It’s almost guaranteed!

Lovers would do well to put their focus on what they can fix: themselves.

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Sometimes we don’t realize it, but what drives the success of a happily dating couple is the tension between who they are as individuals and what they share of themselves. Their lives are characterized by the movement from what’s unknown about each other to what’s becoming known, from what has been discovered to what’s about to be.

When a relationship is new, there is much more focus on learning more about the other person. However as it matures, focus is also required on the development of who you are becoming as an individual.

A common mistake is to stop focusing on the discovery of yourself and your spouse over time. You’ve seen those couples that seem so disinterested in each other – he certainly isn’t getting any admiration from her, and his affections aren’t towards her either. It’s sad and so opposite from how they likely began: in love with the discovery of each other. At some point they stopped discovering each other, or stopped developing who they were becoming as individuals. Sometimes both.

We’re sure you’ve seen couples that have been married for quite a while and yet are still madly in love too. You’ve seen the evident love and zeal they have for each other and you’ve wondered what they did to make love last.

Under the surface of such a love you will find that they allow each other space for and celebrate self-discovery, and they continue to learn more and more of who it is that they’re with – in every season of life, and in the light of the challenges and opportunities they face together.

Both man and woman, if they want their love to last, must take responsibility for and intentionally focus on this discovery. If they do, the same emotion and adventure that drives a new relationship will characterize theirs as well – only with the added treasure of the trust and safety of a more mature relationship.

How could you show more interest in your mate? Do you need to develop yourself more or allow room in life for them to “become” more of who they are? How is this tension is playing out in your relationship? We invite your comments below.

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[We are delighted to have been nominated as a finalist in the Top Ten Marriage Blogs, a great list generated yearly based on nominations and votes and founded by Stupendous Marriage. If you haven’t voted yet, you have until December 4th, 2011 to cast your vote for the best marriage blog you know. If you like this CoupleThings Blog and want to vote for it, please do so! Thanks for reading, Rowan and Mara]

What’s in the Bag?

None of us are perfect. We all have our own “stuff” that we deal with. When it comes to marriage, sometimes that set of character weaknesses, lack of skills, and other personal areas needing improvement negatively affects our spouse. What is yours and what can you do about it?

I know this isn’t a pleasant question, but on the plus side, I’m not talking about ALL of your “stuff,” just the stuff that directly and adversely affects your partner. (It can be a relatively small subset.)

Imagine it this way: When your spouse embarked on this journey with you in life they willingly picked up and started carrying a bag. In it was the stuff about you that they didn’t like (yes there were some things), or things about you that weren’t ideal for them. Because of their love for you they didn’t mind and maybe barely noticed the weight.

The assumption of course is that they still don’t mind and still barely notice the weight. More useful than assuming this, however, is finding out what your spouse is carrying on your behalf, and devising a plan to deal with it.

The first of these is easier said than done, because chances are what’s in the bag is not what you expect. That is, what you beat yourself up over is rarely the flaw that your spouse has the least tolerance for. Make a list of your guesses as to what’s in the bag he/she is carrying and then ask them for their perspective. See if you’re right.

Once you’ve got clarity here, begin to make a plan to deal with what’s in the bag. Some things will be easy to fix by yourself, and for others, start with a great book on the topic, or talking with a close friend who has conquered the same weakness.

You’ll find, pleasantly enough, that the mere act of identifying and starting to deal with things in the bag lightens his/her load and their pleasure becomes great fuel for the discipline required ahead.

None of us are perfect, but we can have an eye on what’s in that bag, and what we can actually do about it.

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Chances are, you’re reading this blog, and others like it, because you want the best your relationship has to offer.

Sometimes, however, what we want and what we believe don’t quite align. This disconnect matters a great deal because what you believe about your spouse and relationship dictates how you will approach it. This approach in turn sets patterns in place that will result in outcomes mimicking your beliefs. In other words, what you are believing produces what you end up experiencing.

A great question to ask is, “Do I believe the best?”

Example: If you believe he’s often late from work because he doesn’t care about you or your schedule you’ll likely show some of your feelings when he arrives. This will cause him to feel unappreciated and distant and will deflate his motivation to be more punctual, resulting in less than the best for the two of you as the cycle of negative feelings continues.

Example: You’re convinced she doesn’t initiate sex very much because she has lost affection for you. As a result you begin to subtly look for other forms of fulfillment in your life which causes her to feel less pursued. Again, a pattern that certainly doesn’t bring out the best.

The answer to these and a myriad of similar circumstances is to infuse them with a determination to believe the best about your spouse. This means to tell a different story.

Instead of believing he doesn’t care about your plans, believe he’s working hard for the family’s provision and loses track of time. Instead of believing she’s lost affection for you, believe her schedule has just gotten busy, and she’s waiting for you to invite her into an intimacy beyond her wildest dreams.

I know what you’re thinking, “Believing naive about things like that is what causes people to get hurt. Life just doesn’t reward that.” Herein is the problem: you have more faith in a negative explanation than in one that offers hope.

The fact is, those that believe the best about their partner’s weaknesses or character flaws, show love consistently and have the best marriages.

What about the risk? Know this: to believe something positive but perhaps slightly optimistic will produce far more of the best in your relationship than believing something negative – true or not.

When it comes to the person who’s vowed to live with you forever, a belief in the “best” is usually more accurate than a belief in the “worst.” So make a list of the things that bug you, and figure out how to to believe something better. This way you’ll be uncovering the best your relationship has to offer.

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One of dating’s greatest aspects is the anticipation of something new.

The thrill of not quite knowing what’s in your immediate future and yet looking forward to it because it’s with that special someone is an amazing place to be. Anticipation creates moments of powerful connection, moments that are noticed and from which your heart drinks deeply.

Conversely, it’s the unnoticed ruts of a relationship that sap this potential. Not talking here about the comfortable routines that bring safety and familiarity (you might not want to change those ones), but rather when and where you spend time that is not consciously chosen anymore: the night squandered in front of the TV, the mundane goodnight routine, the Saturday spent in different corners of the house. The most unfortunate ruts, and easiest to change, are the ones neither of you really notices anymore.

Every couple has them, and yours are waiting for you. It’s time for some adrenaline. It’s time to harness the power of anticipation.

The first step is to find these unnoticed opportunities. Take a week and create a place on your phone, journal or on a notepad on the fridge and write down whenever you notice this kind of rut. It’ll take a few days before they start to stand out, but by the end of a week you’ll have a little list and you’ll be able to see patterns.

Step two will be to dream up ways of filling these “unnoticeable” time-slots with activities you can anticipate: a walk in the woods, a card or board game, some quality time dreaming about your future together, even a great love-making session – whatever strikes you as a great idea. Write them down.

Step three (pick the right timing for this) present your list to your spouse.  Explain that you want to begin to fill the unnoticeable time-slots with activities you can anticipate. He/she may want to modify or add to your list, but make a plan together to begin to create these changes. Perhaps make a private list you can both access for these boredom-busting opportunities. The only stipulation is that the activities inspire anticipation.

Learn to experience the power of anticipation. The components are all there: you, your spouse, moments of time, and endless possibilities. The choice is yours, and your future awaits. What future can you anticipate?

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You might have read our last two posts on Vacation Sex (Making Love Happen and Your Turn) and found yourself wishing things were better between the two of you. Perhaps you’d like to employ the ideas of making specific time for your sexuality together, and taking turns focusing your sexual attention on each other, but things aren’t good and you don’t know how to “get there.”

Please remember this: while the quality of your sex-life is an indicator of the quality of your relationship, it can also be a driving force. That is, your sex-life can help LEAD and CHANGE the quality of your relationship, not just follow along helplessly. (For more on this here check out our post: Sex it Up to Live it Up).

This means, then, that you have more control than you think you do. It means that good things can happen when you reach past the resistance to prioritizing sex and do it anyway.

The best thing for a hurting or fighting family to do is to reach past all the angst and go on holidays anyway, purposing to leave the frustrations aside to reconnect around some fun and closeness. The best for a strained friendship is for the friends to go accomplish something together, face a challenge, go have some fun. They must reach past the struggle in the relationship to find the fuel and impetus to resolve the conflict.

It’s the nature of all relationships that what you focus on gets magnified. Most often, to focus on the fun, or camaraderie, or opportunity, is to magnify the connection to the point that the contention is seen for what it really is.

So reach past the angst. The unforgiveness. The issues. And determine to connect sexually with your spouse regardless of what he or she could’ve or should’ve done or even needs to do.

Purpose to put your frustrations aside for a time. Reach past the struggles in your relationship to find the fuel and impetus to help you resolve your issues. Make some agreed upon rules for your time together: no fighting, no bringing up x-y-z issue, no manipulation – just two lovers enjoying each other in order to bring perspective to everything else they face out there.

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It doesn’t take a genius to agree with the statement that doing the same things generates the same results. However, in long-term relationships we fall prey to this dynamic all the time. Humans are creatures of habit. Habits are comfortable, they support our current lifestyle, and they are easy. However, get excited about the fact that one ingredient can change everything.

You and I wouldn’t want a diet which never changes – just “okay” food served repeatedly. Rather we cherish great food as one of the joys of living. We like food that makes us stop and savor the moment, or the opportunities we get to try food from a different culture, or looking forward to the meal at home that’s been a few days in the making.

This dynamic is also true of your marriage, which is a thrilling thought. Again, repeating the same things generates the same results, but doing something different changes outcomes enough so you can stop and savour a new moment, or look forward to a great relationship habit or lifestyle in the making.

So, make today a time for a change. Not in “who” you’re with (!) but rather in “what” you do when you’re with them. The ingredient to change today is the choice and follow-through to do something different in your relationship, the fuel for generating different results in your relationship.

Why not add the ingredient of change to your sex-life? Think for a moment, really apply it. That could work, right? What about changing how the two of you handle money? Or date? Or have family times?

Be the genius that actually does something with this post and do something different for different results in your marriage.

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