My Cuddle Bunny

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” 
 Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

I wrote this post back in 2016 for Mr. Beard’s birthday and I wanted to revisit it and share these words out again as I approach our anniversary this week. I’ve shared eleven years of my life with sweet Mr. Beard and it has been glorious and messy and honest and wonderful.

I think it’s important to be honest about long-term relationships. There have been tough days, weeks, and even years in the eleven years we’ve shared. We’ve had times where we were so disconnected that I wondered if we would/should continue to be partners. We’ve had honest moments about if we are really giving one another what we need and what to do if we weren’t able to give the other what they needed. These were terrifying times. What if this doesn’t work anymore? What do we/I do now?

Long-term relationships are never easy and divorce isn’t a failure if we had/do end up in that spot. I suppose it’s weird to talk about these things on a blog post celebrating our anniversary. Or not, I think we need to tell the truth about relationships and how we change and they change over time. How it works until it doesn’t and then sometimes it works even better again. That’s our story. It works so good.

Humans are complicated creatures that change and evolve in the context of a lot of different relationships. The idea that we are supposed to be good all of the time is impossible and makes people believe they are doing something wrong. Life is hard. You will fight with people you love. You will question everything. You should question everything. You should examine all the parts of your relationships and make sure they are still healthy and fulfilling. It’s important to ask and be willing to hear the answers to these questions in relationships. Ignoring these important questions will catch up with you and it might destroy you and the people around you.

Happy Anniversary Sweet and Brave and Brilliant and Wonderful, Mr  Beard. Iloveyou. You are my home. I choose you, always.

“I didn’t fall in love with you. I walked into love with you, with my eyes wide open, choosing to take every step along the way. I do believe in fate and destiny, but I also believe we are only fated to do the things that we’d choose anyway. And I’d choose you; in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d choose you”
― Kiersten WhiteThe Chaos of Stars

The Cuddle Bunny

I read a research study this week and it made me think of my relationship with Mr. Beard. Researchers in the 1970’s were examining how high levels of certain toxins would affect the health of groups of bunnies.

After weeks of injecting the bunnies with various toxins they were confused as to why all but one group of bunnies were getting sick. Under close examination, they found that one researcher was cuddling, petting, and loving the bunnies. The group of bunnies that did not get sick was the group that was getting the cuddles.

I understand that animal research is a necessary evil and that the cuddly researcher probably caused challenges for the study. But, sometimes when we are looking for a certain answer we find something else, something more valuable. In this study they learned, that love can literally save lives, even in the worst circumstances.

Well, Mr. Beard is my sneaky researcher. When life hits me with its best shots he grabs me up and cuddles the toxins right out of me. When waves of depression and anxiety take over he will cuddle me on the bathroom floor until I have the strength to stand on my own. He has always just known that it is not about saying anything in those moments but all about holding me tightly.  I know that his cuddles have saved my life time and time again.

So, Mr. Beard, my sneaky cuddly researcher, I am so happy you were born. Thank you for cuddling me through the hard times. I love you more than you will ever know.

“These are my favourite chords.
I know you like them too.
When I get a new guitar, you can have this one and sing me a lullaby.
Sing me the alphabet.
Sing me a story I haven’t heard yet.” The Weakerthans, My Favourite Chords

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Can You Forgive A Cheater?

“Betrayal is a riddle we want to solve”
Sascha Arango, The Truth and Other Lies

The other night I had a dream that my partner cheated on me. I woke up in a foul mood and a cold shoulder in his direction. When I shared this with a friend, he said I should probably take a break from Beyonce’s Lemonade for a minute. I think he might be right.

It had me thinking, if my partner did cheat on me, what would I do?

I came to the honest conclusion, that if staying in the relationship was still on the table, I would probably do whatever it takes to make it work. I can hear the gasps through the screen. I can also hear those of you that have been through this all to common experience whisper yeah in secret agreement.

Is this a permission slip for my partner to cheat: absolutely not. Believe me, there would be scorched earth for miles in all directions from my rage (I do really need to step away from Lemonade) but I would eventually calm down and make sense of the wreckage.

Forgiving infidelity is incredibly challenging. Trust is like a bank account and when you cheat it’s a lot like filing bankruptcy. The relationship has to start over in the red and it takes time (if ever) to get back in the black. But, it is possible and far more common than people talk about. This is, of course, if both people are willing to work at making the relationship better.

Listen, I am not condoning cheating, lying, or deceit but life is long, if you’re lucky, and a lot of stuff happens in a lifetime. Let me also highlight that I am not referencing serial cheaters and liars. The old adage “once a cheater, always a cheater” is absolutely not true. With that said, past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, so if your partner has pattern of behavior associated with cheating and lying (they’re the same thing) I would never, ever, encourage staying.

There is a clear difference between a lapse in judgement over the course of a long life and a personality defect. If you don’t know the difference, please go talk to a professional. 

Infidelity is packed with shame so we don’t talk about it, even with our closest friends and family. Most people don’t share the infidelity with anyone for fear that it will change how people will view the offending party and the relationship (because they often want to make it work and they don’t want people to hate them).

There is this misconception that when you partner with someone you somehow own them. This is simply untrue. My partner always has the choice to stay or go. I hope he stays but he doesn’t have to unless he wants to. I would never want him to feel forced to stay or obligated to stay against his wishes.

The more complicated and heartbreaking issue is when someone falls in love with someone outside the relationship. When this happens, reconciliation is rarely possible. In my experience, the physical acts of infidelity are seldom the death blow to the relationship. It is when your partner opens themselves up to an emotional connection that they can’t stop reaching out for the other person. Sexual intimacy is important in a relationship but not as important as love.

Nothing ever is.

“Forgiveness is not an event. It is a series of decisions made over and over again.”
Karen Salmansohn

 

Men, You’re Worth More Than A Paycheck

“I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed.”
Jonathan Swift

“… for men, the overarching message is that any weakness is shameful. And since vulnerability is often perceived as weakness, it is especially risky for men to practice vulnerability.”- Brene Brown

Dear Men,

I once had a man tell me he was worth more dead than alive. He stated that his life insurance was a hefty sum of money and that if he died his family would be “all set.” This literally brought me to tears. What’s worse, is I was unable to help this man understand that he was worth so much more than money. He could not hear me say that his kids needed his hugs and kisses more than they needed a tablet. He would not listen when I said that his wife needed his reassurance and love more than a new car. In fact, the only thing stopping him from suicide was that the clause in his life-insurance that stated it would not pay out in the event of suicide.

Men, you are worth so much more than your career and your money. I know so many of you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders at three in the morning. I know you hide your tears behind rage and anger. I know you aren’t allowed to be afraid because being fearful makes you look weak. I’m so sorry that we’ve taught you that you’re only allowed to express your feelings through rage. I’m so sorry that we’ve taught you that you must be strong all the time. We set impossible expectations and then shame you when you don’t meet them.

Men, I know that you’ve experienced shame for expressing needs and emotions. I know you were told to toughen up when you cried as a child. I am so sorry we did this to you. It takes a tough man to cry and we lied to you when we told you it was weak. I am so sorry you were taught that your only value was in the form of zeros on your paycheck. Men, please believe me when I say, you are worth so much more than your title at work.

Men, I am sorry that we never told you that a deep and meaningful partnership is built on vulnerability and openness. I am sorry that you were taught that it was all on you to make it work. I am sorry that we never taught you how to be soft and kind with the people you love. I wish you knew it would be okay if you stayed home with the kids and your wife worked. I wish you knew that you could be a starving artist and still be worthy of love. I wish you knew that the image of masculinity does not capture what it means to be human. I wish you knew that you are lovable even without any money.

Men, you do not have to be rich to be loved. You don’t have to be aggressive (in fact, this will make you lonely and scary and confused). There are so many messages that tell you that the weight of the world is on your shoulders. I know this causes immense shame and feelings of inadequacy. I know you hide your sadness and fear under a coat of rage or distance. I know that leaves you feeling lonely and unloved.

Men, please believe me when I say, you are worth so much more than your paycheck. You don’t have to toughen up or stop crying. And, please try to take better care of yourself. It’s tough out there.

“Men walk this tightrope where any sign of weakness illicits shame, and so they’re afraid to make themselves vulnerable for fear of looking weak”. ~ Brené Brown

Love.

Married With My Maiden Name.

“Two roads diverged in the wood, and I took the one less tweeted about” -@artnotfound

When I married my partner and was handed the package to change my last name, my husband and I pushed those papers into a drawer and never spoke of them again. I was born Ms. Beard and I will die Ms. Beard. Most of my friends and much of my family refer to me as simply Beard. This is who I am. It was not some radical act of feminism, I just like my name.

Naturally, some traditional friends and family wrinkled their noses at this decision. I didn’t find this reaction offensive. I believe tradition is important and sharing the same name is one way to create a family connection. Despite not sharing my husband’s name, I am no less his family. We all have to do what feels right for us. 

This was the best fit for me but is not the best fit for every married person. I think one of the hardest thing for millennials to navigate is how to maintain ME in a WE connection. As a relationship therapist, I know the importance of maintaining the ME in WE in terms of sustaining the WE.

How do I stay Me in the context of We?

1) Be honest, even when it’s scary.

When some people partner they may make it a habit to defer to the other partner to make decisions. This often leads to resentments. Each person in a relationship has an opinion and a voice even if they think they don’t or they shouldn’t. If one person is more agreeable than another, I am suspicious that resentments are building and eroding away at the foundation of the relationship. It is essential to be honest from the beginning of a relationship. For example, if you hate Wheel of Fortune tell her now or you’re going to have to hate watch that show for a long time.

Even the most highly emotionally intelligent among us are not mind readers. Tell your partner the truth about who you are from the beginning. And as you grow and change keep them updated on the things they need to know. Being honest about who you are is the only way to live a happy and fulfilling life. 

2) Trust.

If you ain’t got trust, you ain’t got nothing in a relationship. You never own the other person even if you do get married. So, both of you should feel that it is always a choice to stay in the relationship and a choice you are glad to make everyday. If something comes up that threatens the trust in the relationship, please refer to point 1 and be honest with your partner about what’s going on.

3.) Keep your friends.

One of the worst decisions couples make is to abandon their previous connections and focus all their attention on the romantic relationship. We need someone else to vent to when our partner is driving us bonkers. It’s healthy to call up your friends and blow off some steam once in awhile. However, it’s impossible to do this if you have not maintained your connections. Make time to keep the friends you had before the relationship and make new friends during the relationship. Basically, it can’t just be the two of you (and maybe some kids) living in a bubble. That will get weird and unhealthy quick.

4). Do things separately once and awhile. 

It is true that couples that play together stay together. But, it is essential to spend some quality time apart once in awhile. Take a weekend and spend some time with friends. Go on a day trip by yourself. Just make it a habit to know how it feels to exist without the other from time to time.

5.) Keep learning and keep growing

Some couples and families get stuck in a rut and by the looks of their hairstyles and wind breakers I can see that they’ve been in that rut for at least a decade. This stagnation leads to impulsive and sometimes adulterous decisions. Remember not to take each other for granted and to encourage each other to set individual goals and move towards them on a daily basis. It’s good to have goals as a couple but the couple and family are only as healthy as the individuals involved. 

6.) Remember who you are. 

Finally, remember to focus on yourself. Don’t forget the music you like or the movies you prefer. Don’t lose sight of your individual goals. Take time each day to reflect on where you are in your life and where you want to go. When you partner with someone you don’t get absorbed into some blob of a shared person. Be who you are and keep growing into even better versions of yourself. I see so many people that only identify as a husband, father, wife, or mother. Those are all important roles but who are you when you step out of those roles. This is important information to have at all times.

Love.

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

The Courage To Love Like This.

“What time is it? Can you at this moment look in the mirror and be all right with it?… Are you doing what you want to do right? Have you located your passion as if this was your last night on earth?

I draft some of these posts weeks and/or months before I publish them. I wanted to finish this book before I published this post. In the meantime, a friend of mine started a book review blog and you should check it out here. She’s a brilliant writer and critical thinker. And, her reviews may help you decide what to read next.

I love to read non-fiction (memoirs, psych theory, science, essays, etc.). I do fancy a few fiction novels a year (particularly those written by my friends). But, when I know the writing is real lived experience, it feels different. Not better, not worse, but different. Ultimately, I believe there is a lot of truth and realness found in fiction. We all want to know that good wins over evil, we all want to know that love prevails, and we all want to know that we have a reason to hope.

These themes are found in the Bible, Greek Mythology, Shakespearean Plays, Nicholas Sparks’ Books, The Hunger Games Series, Star Wars, and X-Men. I think one would be hard pressed to tell a unique story. Across time and cultures there are some basic truths related to the human condition.

“Do you see why I miss him? I call out, to no one. Will I remember everything? What am I meant to keep?”

But me? I want to know how real people survive and thrive in the face of struggle. No doubt, my pull to these memoirs is the product of facing my own struggles and professionally helping people manage their life challenges.

“In all marriages there is struggle and ours was no different in that regard. But we always came to the other shore, dusted off, and said, There you are, my love.”

I just finished: The Light of the World: A Memoir by Elizabeth Alexander. This book was on a number of bestseller lists and recommended with the tagline “If you only read one memoir this year this is the one.” I followed these recommendations and now I am knee deep in tissues holding onto my partner for dear life. I am not going to ruin the book for you (save for the excerpts shared in italics throughout this post). I want you to share in the experience. I’m recommending this book because it tells a true love story.

“I think, I will keep mornings free for the rest of my life so I can go back to bed and hope to meet him there.”

This book asked me: Do you have the courage to love your partner wholly and completely. Do you have the courage to be vulnerable and risk being torn apart by the love that sustains you?

“Perhaps tragedies are only tragedies in the presence of love, which confers meaning to loss. Loss is not felt in the absence of love.”

I feel compelled to share the questions that came up for me as I read her story/their story. Are you loving your partner, your friends, your family entirely and completely right now? If this was your last moment with any of these people would it be what you wanted it to be? Do you have the courage to live with that level of awareness? Is it too much pressure to live life this way? Isn’t it true, that this moment could be one of the most important moments of your life and it is impossible to know this until it passes? 

“He was a bottomless boat and the boat that would always hold me.”

Love.

Hang A Different Fly Strip, Yo!

“When we are happy—when our mindset and mood are positive—we are smarter, more motivated, and thus more successful. Happiness is the center, and success revolves around it.”
Shawn Achor

As we’ve talked about on this blog several times, our brains are wired to focus on the negative. This is quite beneficial in terms of survival but extremely detrimental in our relationships.

 

Research indicates that we are bombarded with millions of bits of information every second yet we are only capable of processing about 40 bits of that information. If you are really interested in how this process works, you should read the book Before Happiness by Shawn Achor.

We need to train our brains to focus on the 40 bits of positive information as opposed to its natural inclination to look for the danger or bad bits of information. How do we do this? We hang a different fly strip! Do you remember those nasty old fly strips that would hang in attics or old homes covered in flies? If you don’t, trust me, they are nasty. The purpose of these strips was to attract flies and they would stick to the paper as opposed to buzzing around the house.

“Constantly scanning the world for the negative comes with a great cost. It undercuts our creativity, raises our stress levels, and lowers our motivation and ability to accomplish goals.”
Shawn Achor

Our brains default is essentially a negative story fly strip. This then attracts the 40 bits of information that support that negative story. But, we can hang a positive story fly strip by making it a point to focus on and notice all the positive things about our lives, our partners, our jobs, our children, and so on. We know the magic ratio is 5 positives to 1 negative (Gottman and other researchers). What this means, is that for every ONE negative you must highlight FIVE positives in order to feel good about your life (and relationship and job)

In our relationships this means we need to highlight the five positives about the person to any negatives (because nobody is perfect). In healthy relationships, partners say how much they appreciate the little things as often as they can so that when they have a problem the other partner knows the person is coming from a place of love as opposed to “another complaint” or “I’ll never be enough.”

This is much more possible than most people think. There is so much more good in your life than you probably believe.

So go! Hang a different fly strip! Go out and seek evidence to support that your life is great and your partner is awesome and over time you will notice that those bits of information will more naturally “stick” to you and come your way. Say thank you, I love you, I appreciate you, out loud as often as you can. Take a moment right now and think about all the good things in your life. Start looking for the good flies! They are right there in that warm cup of coffee and that roof over your head.

This approach is solidly rooted in science. You have the ability to change your life right now by changing what you focus on in the life you are already living.


“We become more successful when we are happier and more positive. For example, doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19 percent faster. Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56 percent. Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive.”
Shawn Achor

 

 

You Deserve That Awesome Love.

“If it’s magic
Then why can’t it be everlasting
Like the sun that always shines
Like the poets in this rhyme
Like the galaxies in time
If it’s pleasing
Then why can’t it be never leaving
Like the day that never fails
Like on seashores there are shells
Like the time that always tells
It holds the key to every heart
Throughout the universe
It fills you up without a bite
And quenches every thirst…”

I recently manifested a person into being. I wished, begged, and prayed for one of my favorite people to find awesome love and awesome love presented herself. I know that the idea of manifesting a person into being sounds super crazy, and of course, I know that I did not create a person with my thoughts (but I can’t help but think that it is a little true). There is nothing more important to me than the people I love having love. I want awesome love for my lovelies because I believe that love is everything. Unconditional love is transformative and healing beyond what any of us can comprehend. Love is the magic of the universe. 

What is this post about? It’s about believing you deserve that awesome kind of love. It’s about believing you deserve it. So when it presents itself, you believe it is there for you. This is what happened to one of my favorite people in the world. He struggled for a lifetime to believe he deserved that awesome kind of love. This meant that awesome love passed him by again and again.

Instead, other types of mangled and distorted connections were offered. We attract connections that reflect our own health and well-being. If I believe I’m mangled and distorted, I will attract mangled and distorted. If I believe I am awesome love, awesome love will find its way to me. 

After years of hard work, the awesome love appeared. Even then, the awesome love scared the stuffing out of my person and he pushed it away. However, this time, he realized what he was doing and pulled it back in. He wanted the good love. He was ready for that awesome love. 

“So
If it’s special
Then with it why aren’t we as careful
As making sure we dress in style
Posing pictures with a smile
Keeping danger from a child
It holds the key to every heart
Throughout the universe
It fills you up without a bite
And quenches every thirst…”

That awesome love is not reserved for perfect people (because they don’t exist). It is reserved for people who believe that awesome love is real. It is reserved for people who are willing and ready to be that awesome kind of love for someone else. It is the kind of love that, when you see it between two people you just know it’s real.

It’s not about soul mates (although I have theories about this). It’s about vulnerability. It’s about letting yourself be open. It’s about listening and compassion. This post isn’t about research or theories, love is bigger than that. I know awesome love is real for no other reason than I can feel it in my guts. In my life, that is more than enough evidence.

Anyway, I wanted awesome love for my person more than anything. I wished, prayed, and hoped this for him. I don’t know if those things are real (just kidding, I am certain they are real). Who knows if the awesome love will go the distance. It’s here now and, that my lovelies is magic. 

“So
If it’s magic
Why can’t we make it everlasting
Like the lifetime of the sun
It will leave no heart undone
For there’s enough for everyone”

– Stevie Wonder, If It’s Magic

Love.

Thoughts On Infidelity.

“Soon he was online every night until one or two a.m. Often he would wake up at three of four a.m. and go back online. He would shut down the computer screen when I walked in. In the past, he used to take the laptop to bed with him and we would both be on our laptops, hips touching. He stopped doing that, slipping off to his office instead and closing the door even when I was asleep. He started closing doors behind him. I was steeped in denial, but my body knew.” 
― Suzanne FinnamoreSplit: A Memoir of Divorce

In my over ten years of working with couples I know: Infidelity happens. It happens a lot. It happens for more reasons than can be described in a blog post. It happens for more whys and wherefores than can be captured in books or volumes of books. When I work with people sorting through cheating, betrayal, and lies, they are fervently searching for some place to rest their mind.

Infidelity is a like a tragic car crash. It happens to everyone else until it happens to you. And, it may even happen by your own hand. You may have caused the crash and still be destroyed by your own actions.

“Most people don’t cheat because they’re cheaters. They cheat because they’re people. ” – Cheryl Strayed

Infidelity is disorienting. It can literally cause people to act crazy and do things inconsistent with who they are as a person. It may start gradually and then happen quickly. It happens because people want validation and connection. It happens because people are lonely. It happens because people are selfish. It happens because we are not honest with ourselves and our partners about what we want for our lives.

Good people cheat. Honest people cheat. Because even good and honest people are not good and honest all the time. In addition, infidelity can be honest – it might be the most honest relationship in your life. The relationship that is born from infidelity may evolve into a monogamous, happy, and healthy partnership that goes the distance.

“Fidelity is a living, breathing entity. On wobbly footing, it can wander, becoming something different entirely.” 
― Kay GoodstadtLove and Death Over Tea

Temptation is everywhere. Your partner has most certainly coveted another person. If you do not believe this, you do not understand the human brain.  Some people believe thinking is cheating. I do not ascribe to this logic because we cannot control the thousands of thoughts (sometimes odd, strange and peculiar thoughts) that creep into our heads. However, once a thought moves into action you are culpable.

Often, the line crossing into infidelity happens much earlier than people are willing to admit. It involves verbal intimacies and communications. It involves inside jokes and accidental touch.  It involves sharing details about your lives and hopes for your future. It involves putting yourself in the path of connection with the person that is not your partner. It involves reminiscing about better days and happier times with the other person. It may involve sexual intimacy but not always. I’m not sure the sexual component is the most damaging part of having an affair.

“For a lot of people—men and women—having an affair is an affirmation that I’m really okay. He said about his mistress, “There wasn’t anything special about her. But she listened, was interested, and made me feel special.”  That’s the key, I thought—we all want to feel like we matter to somebody.” – Oprah

Infidelity is not necessarily a death sentence to a relationship. A surprising number of couples survive and thrive after infidelity. Couples come through infidelity all the time because relationships are complex and composed of moving parts. Infidelity can bring to the foreground parts of the relationship that were shuffled to the back or pushed aside. A betrayal can actually save a relationship by forcing the relationship to be a priority for the first time in years. Sometimes, infidelity is a way of communicating (albeit, poorly): DO YOU SEE ME NOW! 

However, in some cases, infidelity is the path out of a relationship. It may be a path that the offending party did not intend to take. Not all relationships are built to last forever.

But an affair is usually a symptom of a dying marriage, not the cause. The end of that marriage could have been predicted long before either spouse strayed.” – John M. Gottman

Of note, if you find that you want to check your partners phone, Facebook, or email for proof to substantiate what your gut is telling you – the relationship is in a bad place and/or you are in a bad place. I think it is a better practice, to try and first, tell your partner that you concerned about the relationship. If don’t believe you can share this with your partner and get an honest answer, you already have the answer you need.

“This isn’t about slipping yourself an extra twenty dollars of Monopoly money. These are our lives. You went and broke our lives. You are so much worse than a cheater. You killed something. And you killed it when its back was turned.”

—David Levithan

How do you prevent infidelity?

There is no wizardry to avoid these things from happening for all the reasons stated above and so many more. The hardest part to understand (and believe and accept) is that you can never entirely know what your partner is thinking and feeling. We all have the capacity to cheat.

What seems to work the best to prevent infidelity? Make every single effort to make your relationship so safe, so fun, so honest, so great, so fantastic, so supportive, so incredible, and so special that to betray your partner would mean you risk losing those wonderful parts of your life.

What else? I suggest you love your partner with all you have, make them a priority every day, tell them you love them and appreciate them, be authentic and honest about your wants and needs, do not be afraid to be vulnerable with your partner because that is where the deepest connections are born. Most importantly: Please tell your partner if you are feeling dismissed, lonely, invalidated, disconnected, unattractive, unappreciated as soon as those feelings crop up. 

By being honest with yourself and your partner about what you need and working together to get your needs met, you are doing the best you can to prevent getting those needs met outside the relationship. 

I think that is the best you can do.

How do you recover from infidelity? Well, that is a different post entirely.

Love.

 

 

My Favorite Love Stories.

“For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth”

-Kahlil Gibran

“I, I should have told you I would be difficult.
I should have shown you the scars on my soul.
I should have told you I wanted you,
I wanted you to take care of me
without allowing you to gain any of my control.”

-Lori McKenna, Beautiful Man

Love can look like a grand gesture played out on a megatron at a baseball game. But, my favorite place to find love is in the nooks and crannies of our daily lives. That is where the best kind of love lives and thrives. That is where the grows. These are my favorite love stories.

My lovelies, let me share with you my favorite love stories.

“One forgives the other”

“One takes the garbage out”

“One smiles at the other when the house is a mess and the kids are screaming”

“One crawls up next to other as they cry on the bathroom floor, and just holds them”

“They catch eyes at a party and just know it’s time to go”

“One grabs the other’s hand while at the grocery store”

“One grabs the other around the waist while making dinner and thanks them”

“One looks at the negative pregnancy test and says to the other, while hugging: We’ll keep trying”

“One remembers that the laundry needs to be folded and does so”

“One remembers that today is going to be a long day for the other and does everything they can to make it a little easier”

“One makes dinner for the other”

“One picks up a bottle of wine on the way home to share with the other”

“One holds the other at a funeral”

“One takes the other to the hospital at 3am”

“One calls the other and can’t wait to tell them the good/funny news”

“One kisses the other when they get home. A good long kiss.”

“One tells a story about the other, proudly, in front of a group of people”

“One walks the dog”

“One gives the kids a bath”

“One loves the other’s friends and family even when it isn’t easy”

“One does something just because it might make the other smile”

“One tells the other that they’re sorry”

“One cuddles up next to the other while they sleep at night and whispers “I Love You” in their ear”

“One endures a rom-com or action movie just to share time with the other”

“One takes the kids to the other room to give the other a moment”

“One cuddles with the kids and the other as they watch a movie and share laughs”

“They have a dance party in the kitchen on a Tuesday night”

“One listens to the other patiently and kindly”

“One asks the other what they need”

“One forgives the other for being selfish or mean”

“One forgives the other for moments of thoughtlessness”

“One forgives the other for forgetting”

“One always, every day, forgives themselves and the other”

“One kills the bat that’s flying around the house while the other hides under the bed”

“One cheers for other while they play a video game”

“One tells the other they’re beautiful or handsome and the other believes it because they can see the truth in the other’s eyes”

You see, love is so simple. We make it hard by forgetting to take care of it. When you love someone the love becomes it’s own thing. Love is like a plant and needs to be watered and fed all day every day or it withers and dies.

The greatest love stories are summarized by: “I didn’t quit when it was hard” and “I forgave them.” I am not impressed by a fairy tale that ends when they marry or involves a handful of dramatic gestures. I want to know what happens when one of the partners royally screws up. I want to know how you love one another in the minutiae of daily life. That is where a love story is created. That is also where a love story can be destroyed.

Do me a favor, look at your beloved today and say: “Sweet, baby, honey, darling, I love you and I am so grateful for you and this life we share.” I hope this makes both of you smile and softens what ever life has placed before you.

If you are unable or unwilling to say those words to your partner, you need to think about what is happening in your relationship. Because, my lovelies, if you can’t say that, your love is dying or already dead. 

“I don’t mind spilling my hot sauce onto my white shirt
I don’t mind the twinge when I walk in that knee that I hurt
I don’t mind if my gums peeling back or my hair getting thin
Long as I’m with you I win, long as I’m with you” Ani DiFranco, Smiling Underneath 

Love.

I Really Need To Talk To You.

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway

The holidays seem to be a time when people are brought together (for better or worse) and communication is part of the game. I want to focus on some strategies related to having challenging conversations.

Without healthy skills, many of us avoid conversations (and get resentful because people can’t read our minds) or we plow through them like a wrecking ball. The biggest problem with communication is this phrase: They should just know this is what I want/need. 

NO! We cannot read each other’s minds.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
George Bernard Shaw

Might I suggest a few strategies related to talking about challenging things (e.g., my feelings are hurt because, what you said upset me, I need more from you, I’m feeling like this because)

  1. Do I need to talk about this now? Sometimes we are grumpy and we pick a fight so that our outside world matches our inside world. If this is the case, allow yourself some space to get into a better place emotionally. Sometimes if you give yourself 24-72 hours you may realize that you don’t need to have the conversation. It is best to be sure of this before starting.
  2. Can the relationship handle the weight of this conversation? Some relationships are not strong enough to handle the pressure of high expectations. Before starting a tough conversation, consider if the relationship can/should bear the weight. Also, some people have different perceptions of relationships. For example, you might think you have a certain type of closeness with someone and they might not realize you feel this way.
  3. Breathe.Take several deep breaths. This tells your brain that the person is not an adversary. The goal is to preserve the relationship, not destroy the person. Pausing and breathing will prevent defensiveness and reactivity.
  4. Ask the person if this is a good time to talk. If the person says no, ask them when a good time might be. It is best to set the conversation up for success and timing is everything. 
  5. Give the person the benefit of the doubt. Most people are not trying to hurt you on purpose.
  6. State your concern as kindly and compassionately as possible. If you are having a serious conversation with someone you care about then act like it.
  7. Listen to what they have to say. Patiently and kindly listen. Take your time with this process.
  8. Remember that what you say and what they hear are often not the same. So, ask questions.
  9. Conflict does not mean fight. Conflict is healthy and normal. Fighting is not healthy and gets you nowhere. The goal is to better understand each other, not to win.
  10. Believe the person if they say they did not know or notice that this was a problem. Remember we are all pretty self-involved and they can’t read your mind. 
  11. If the other person gets defensive, pause to listen to them and breathe. Please do not return with more defensiveness or reactivity. This will lead to a fight and will be detrimental to the relationship.
  12. Let it go. Do not go over it and over it, again and again. When you feel like you’ve expressed yourself the best you can and you feel like the other person heard you the best they could, let it go and move on. Do not hold on to resentments to use later. The process will not be perfect, but if you care about each other it will reach some end.
  13. Accept that some relationships will not survive this process. Let those relationships go. They may come back around and they may not, but don’t force a relationship to be something it is not.

Love.

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
Fred Rogers