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Posts Tagged ‘improvement’

I’ve developed a hobby over the last two winters. Since it is cold most of the winter months here, I’ve caved to my love of running and purchased a gym membership. Although surrounded by a wide variety of interesting machines, over ninety percent of my time at the gym I spend not going anywhere, yet getting completely exhausted. Yes, the dreaded treadmill.

Outside running has the advantages of a changing landscape, non-programmed hills, and the anticipation of arriving at a destination (not to mention the air smells way better, too). Inside running gets you nowhere. Outside, there’s much to enjoy on the journey and the free flow of thought inspired by your surroundings and progress is rewarding in itself. Inside, running seems repetitive and exhausting.

As I was nearing the end of my treadmill run the other day, it dawned on me that the ONLY reason one would run on a treadmill is if they were aware of the unseen benefits: the increased circulation, the increasing fitness of heart and body, and the many and varied benefits of physical exercise. And I can’t forget to mention the increased stamina and enthusiasm you develop for running again outside when the seasons shift. (I can’t wait!)

Treadmill running is exactly like enduring the difficult days, months or seasons in a marriage. Doing the right things, choosing the right attitudes, forgiving repeat offenses – these are the steps and strides of life where there’s no immediate sense of accomplishment or joy in the journey, where the benefits are internal and won’t be realized until the season changes. If you’re in tricky times in your relationship, this is happening NOW.

Interestingly, perhaps unlike other avid outdoor runners, I’ve started to love running on a treadmill. Instead of the landscape, I have numbers to help me see my growth: miles run, calories burned, inclines conquered. These readings reveal what’s going on in the unseen, and my choice to keep going and embrace the workout spurs the numbers higher. Winning the unseen is indeed an invigorating challenge and a joy. What’s more, spring time is coming, and I’ll be ready to pick up where I left off at the end of last fall.

In your marriage, embrace the opportunities to build character in every season. And when it’s a “winter” season for you, keep on “running.” You can even start to enjoy winning the unseen, for you will guarantee a shift in your seasons to something better.

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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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What would you say to a person that was so consumed by the issues of their own life that they had no space in it for anyone else, a person for whom giving anything to anyone (even a smile) was out of the question because of how overwhelmed they were?

Hopefully you’d confront them and say, “Take a break,” “You need to get out more,” or, “Think about something else for a change.” I think most of us would coach such a person to step out of their own lives and help somebody else. Not only would this radically change their present life, in retrospect they might say it was the greatest lever of personal change they could have pulled.

What you focus on grows. So, unfortunately, if you keep focusing on your own problems, they grow. Doing something for someone else helps to break us out of our self-focus. Ironically, looking beyond ourselves can often help fix our own problems, without any additional effort.

This is also true of relationships. If you have been super-focused on what to do in your own marriage, try looking beyond yourselves to someone else’s relationship. Find something you can do together to encourage someone else:
– Find a couple and send them to a marriage seminar.
– Take a couple out grocery or clothes shopping.
– Send a meaningful card, or take a couple out for coffee and tell them face to face why you appreciate their friendship.
– Do some baby-sitting for a couple that can’t seem to get away.

Do something that costs you, even if you “don’t have it to give.” Take the focus off your own relationship issues, and watch the dramatic results in your own lives as you begin to see your own issues for what they actually are.

What you don’t focus on can’t grow.

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Perhaps your love-life has issues. Maybe you just read our Warning Signs post, and are now asking, “But where did we go wrong? What do we need to do?”

Our first post of trouble-shooting tips dealt with issues of the heart, how to identify them and how to choose to improve your relationship. In this post, we’ll look at three practical ways to give traction to your choice:

1. Stop Complaining. A relationship thrives on both parties expressing happiness with the relationship. For guys, a happy spouse is a sign of success in our love-lives. For girls, it brings a feeling of acceptance to know your man is happy with you in life. The absence of this expression of happiness signals to guys, incompetence, and to girls, rejection. When we’re not happy in a relationship it’s easy to fall into complaining as a permanent tone in our interactions with each other. Our friends hear it, and our spouses cringe at it.

So express what you ARE happy about. Don’t be fooled into thinking there isn’t anything, or that your complaining is needed in order for things to change. The reverse is actually true. Look for the seeds of something beautiful in your relationship and water those with your words, then step back and watch them bloom!

2. Show Respect. A relationship thrives on both parties showing honor and esteeming each other. When there is disrespect shown in words and actions, no matter how subtle, it fosters an unsafe and defensive environment, making healthy communication almost impossible. And note that sarcasm, complaining, and the silent treatment can be big carriers of disrespect even when disrespect isn’t intended.

So show honor and respect regardless of current realities. The amazing thing about respect is that it produces a response of respect in its recipient. But someone has to start the cycle.

3. Let Go of Disappointment. A relationship thrives on both parties buying in to a mutual dream. This is what is so central to the engagement and honeymoon phases of marriage. Then “life” deals its blows, often breaking hopes and dreams of what things could and should be like in a marriage. The truth is, because you now have some experience with each other and with life in general, you are better equipped to reach the dreams of your future than when you were first married!

So buy-in again to the dream you started with. This means having conversations around where you’re going in life together, big picture. Leave the day-to-day details and problems for another time and communicate again about what’s ahead. When you put aside disappointments and arguments about how things have been, or how they are presently, and talk about where you want to go, you’ll likely find yourselves in complete agreement.

When you see the serenity and happiness of a good marriage, you don’t see its history, or the work that went into it. However, if that relationship had been at one time the very opposite, know this: the transformation would have been characterized by the disciplined replacement of complaining by an expression of satisfaction, disrespect by showing honor, and disappointment, by dreaming together again.

As we stated in our first trouble-shooting post, if you’re reading this post and your relationship has seen better days, what you need to do NEXT is the item above that creates the most resistance in you. Focus your efforts, your courage and your willpower there.

It takes a tremendous amount of determination to serve your spouse, especially when you’re feeling that they don’t deserve it, or if you’re doing this marriage improvement gig alone. However, it is being done already in every healthy relationship, and you can choose to do it, too. Your marriage is worth it!

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Have you ever noticed how the quality of your sex-life is directly related to the quality of your relationship? Bickering together = no sex. Low communication = boring sex. Fun day = well, you know.

It’s true: sex in marriage is a barometer of the overall condition of the relationship. Generally speaking, for a couple to have a robust sex-life indicates a healthy relationship, and, conversely, a somewhat sporadic or boring sex-life in marriage points to an unsatisfying relationship.

This realization can come as negative news (as in, “yep, I’m bored,” or, “we must have issues then”). But actually, no matter how dull or dynamic your sex-life is currently, it’s great news. How so?

Consider this: not only is sex an indicator, it can be a “leader” in the quality of your overall relationship. Meaning this: to input time and energy into the bedroom has a very direct and pretty much immediate result on the overall condition of your marriage. It doesn’t only indicate quality, it can lead quality!

This is great news because it gives us all something we can do! We can spice it up and get things moving in a different and interesting direction in our sex-life! Shift the focus from working on problem areas, misunderstandings and the character flaws in your spouse (within reason!) and instead put effort into what will go on in the bedroom. (This can make a difference in the overall quality of your marriage even if you’re the only one interested in improving it.)

Need some ideas? Get a good book on the topic to explore together. Renovate the bedroom with sex in mind. Plan a special evening or weekend getaway just for the purpose of increasing your sexual intimacy (that’s right, put sex into your schedule). Or, begin a conversation about the blockages to great sex you might be experiencing (fatigue, feeling misunderstood, privacy, inhibitions, etc., etc.) and systematically work together to remove them. Remember, the only “rule” in developing your sex-life, is that whatever you do must be within the confines of your marriage, and be mutually enjoyable. That’s it! Imagine the possibilities!

The point is to DO something (and TALKING about sex is a great first step) to enhance your sex-lives together and, thereby, improve your overall relationship. Make sex a leader in the quality of your marriage. Put it to work and the other areas of your relationship will be more easily seduced into following suit.

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