Saturday, February 4, 2012


When getting ready to return to work after three months of disability I purchased a calendar.  I started updating the calendar with appointments and then started filling in days to spend time with my husband and then time with my family.

Victor and I went to see a program called Living Legends last night with our friends the Martins.  Of course we went to dinner - it's not a date unless you eat.

When our children started having children, Victor and I reminded them that it is important to still spend time as a couple and we offered to babysit the grandbabies.

Today, Victor and I planned a date with our kids.

Schedule the time.  It becomes something to look forward too and everyone gets excited as the date gets closer.

Friday, February 3, 2012


Have you ever had a fantastic day at work or at school?  Have you just experienced a great day at home with wonderful exchanges with your children?  In your mind you think:  "Wow!  What a great day!  All these wonderful things have happened today.  It couldn't get any better..."

Then the unthinkable happens.  Your blissful day is destroyed in a matter of seconds by a few simple words...  or the tone coming from another who is speaking to you...  It could be anything said, or how it was said or it could be what was not said...

For most of us the negatives in life are more salient than the positives.  You understand this in some very basic ways in life.  One critical negative comment from a family member or coworker can wipe out many other good things that have happened that day.  One negative interaction can wipe out the effect of five -- or even as many as twenty -- positive exchanges.  ACID BURNS!!!!

The best option is to never say anything negative.  As it is, we are all human and we are subject to our human nature.  Someone will be negative; you may be negative; your spouse may be negative it could be a friend... it could be any one.

What we do next when confronted with negativity will determine how well we maintain loving connections within our family units.  We should avoid some common destructive responses to negativity:

1.  Escalation
2.  Invalidation
3.  Negative interpretations
4.  Withdrawal and avoidance

Escalation occurs when partners respond back and forth negatively to each other, continually upping the ante so that conditions get worse and worse.  This sounds a lot like what young siblings do to get each other worked up...

Negative comments are hard to take back, and these reckless words do a lot to damage any sense of closeness and intimacy.  Forgiveness is possible and recommended; however it is better to prevent the nasty things from being said in the first place.

Sometimes negativity is represented by painful put-downs - attempts to invalidate another.  Invalidation is a pattern in which one partner subtly or directly puts down the thoughts, feelings, or character of the other. 

A safe relationship allows us to respect our partners individuality.  Each is able to own their feelings.  We can be comfortable in our own skin when we show mutual respect for each other's character.

We all want validation.  When I do something that I think is wonderful I often ask Victor what he thinks.  Is it as wonderful as I thought?  Now, if he doesn't see it the same way I did, it doesn't mean I am less of a person.  It just means he doesn't agree.  When he does see it the same way I am filled with little warm fuzzies.  :)

Now, I know there are a lot of you out there who will see the same thing or hear the same thing but will tell a different story...  Our perceptions of the same event may differ slightly or they may be considerably different.  What happens when our perception of something is worse than the cold hard truth?

Negative interpretations occur when one partner consistently believes that the motives of the other are more negative than is really the case.  This can be a very destructive, negative pattern in a relationship, and it will make any conflict or disagreement harder to deal with constructively.

My interactions with others are very "black and white".  I try to express myself or act exactly in accordance with my motives.  I will provide all the information, plus extra, to make sure that there is a complete understanding.  My father explained to me that this is a very foreign concept for most people.  They expect others to have hidden agendas or that there is something to read between the lines.

My husband only shares what is "necessary"; leaving out what I consider "valuable" information.  Now, I would say that Victor is a very private person and he expects others to accept what he offers.  It took some time for me to get to that understanding.  There was a time that I thought he was just "hiding" the truth from me.  I felt that his motives were less than honourable.

Is it possible for me to truly know the mind of my husband?  I am certain after many year's together I will be so connected to him that it is as if I can read his mind. 

Negative interpretations are a good example of mind reading.  You are mind reading when you assume you know what your partner is thinking or why he or she did something.

Over the years the biggest struggle I have had is avoiding conflict or negativity.  I have a tendancy to withdraw; avoid; and to play an emotional/mental game of hide and seek.  I would rather avoid conflict altogether - hoping that it will take care of itself.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Withdrawal and avoidance are different manifestations of a pattern in which one partner shows an unwilliness to get into or stay with important discussions.  Withdrawal can be as obvious as getting up and leaving the room or as subtle as "turning off" or "shutting down" during an agrument.  The withdrawer often tends to get quiet during an argument or may agree quickly to some suggestion just to end the conversation, with no real intention of following through.  Does this sound familiar?  It does to me... :)

Avoidance reflects the same reluctance to get into certain discussions, with more emphasis on the attmept to not let the conversation happen in the first place.  A person prone to avoidance would prefer that the topic not come up, and if it does, he or she may withdraw.

The best answer is to remembber that you are friends.  It is important to keep the lines of communication open.  Even stating that the topic makes you uncomfortable or that the issue is painful. 

John Gottman, a researcher and expert on relationships, recommends the importance of raising concerns gently.  He calls this a "gentle start-up."  He suggests that the gentle start-up is particularly important for wives when raising concerns with husbands and that it's particularly important for men to respond with attention and concern for what the wife says.  If you rise concerns directly but more gently with your partner, you are far more likely to have a good converation.  If you work to pay serious attention to concerns your partner raises, when he or she raises them, you are going to have better conversations.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


At the deepest level, each of us desires someone to love and someone we can love in return -- someone with whom we can share laughter, friendship, work, caring, and support through the good times as well ass the hard times in life.  People deeply desire this kind of relationship, but we also know that a great many couples don't achieve it.

Now, I'm not writing as an expert of perfect relationships.  I am writing as a wife and a mother who desires to have perfect marriage.  I am willing to fight for my marriage and to make it better.    As a result, I have read a lot of literature.  I have purchased secular books on family relationships; intimacy and continued dating; communication; etc.  I have also sought after guidance and inspiration from the scriptures and church leaders.  There are some basics that I have embraced to improve my relationship with my husband and children:

1.  Be safe at home.
2.  Open the doors to intimacy.
3.  Do your part and be responsible.
4.  Nurture security in your future together.

Everyone wants to be honored and treated nicely -- especially by loved ones and especially by a mate.  The simple reality is that most of us are the least honoring of those we love the most.  We get frustrated, angry, or disappointed, and off we go, talking to this person we love the most in ways that don't seem very loving at all.  Instead of sharing honor and respect, we become mired in painful conflicts that tear at the heart of our relationships.  In order for us to be safe at home, we need to find ways to speak kindly to one another even when we have differences of opinions or major disagreements.  My mother used to quote Thumper's mother:  "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

I have spent the past couple weeks thinking about what I say before I say it.  I have been successful some of the time.  It takes practice.

The other good advise that I have taken to heart is:  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  Be nice.  This will make everyone feel safe at home.

We all know that conflicts are inevitable and need to be handled, but people do not get and stay married to handle conflict together "till death do us part."  We all want to be married for all the great things relationships offer:  deep friendship, companionship, spiritual meaning, fun, passion, parenting, and connection with the core values of life.

The positive side of relationships is often mysterious - delightfully so - but there is little mystery to us about the ways in which the forces of attraction (love, fun, passion, friendship) can be destroyed by damaging types of conflict.

I once read:  "these mysterious forces are like alpine flowers that are beautiful and awe inspiring but also vulnerable to being stepped on and crushed through carelessness and thoughtlessness.  You must nurture these most wonderful aspects of relating if they are to bloom into their full glory."

It is important to make a commitment to keep fun and friendship alive and thriving.  One of my goals for this year is to schedule time for me, time with my husband, and time with my family.  So far, I have been successful with this goal and have spent time participating in activities that cultivate love, fun, passion and friendship.

Another part of working towards a successful marriage is devoting time and responsibility to work as a team.  We each need to contribute to the marriage and should focus on what part we contribute to the relationship rather than what we get out of it.  It is really easy to focus on what we expect from our spouse.  It takes effort and thought to focus on our part.  Some ideas:

1)  Do something nice, selfless, or thoughtful.  You know what to do to please him or her.  So, do it.

2)  Decide to let negative or annoying comments bounce off of you.  This can be difficult if you have a habit of "coming back".  Try extending patience and understanding.  It is liberating.

3)  Be the best person you can be in your relationship.  Take responsibility for your own issues, personal growth, awareness, and mental and physical health.  Have you ever noticed how much better looking some people become after they go through a divorce?  Many people put all kinds of effort into personal improvements when they're "out on the market."  Yes, this is a crass way to say it, but it's the truth.  Why not give that kind of effort to taking good care of yourself now?

Lastly, I want my marriage to last forever.  Do you remember when you first fell in love?  It was amazing!  Some of us have experience love at first sight or knew our forever companion when we first met.  When I saw Victor the first time I remarked to my friend:  "That is my husband."  She replied:  "You don't even know him."  I stated:  "Then I better find a way to get to know him."

These types of experiences are magical and wonderful.  It is like a bit of Heaven.  But even when your love feels like Heaven, you still have to learn to live together on earth.  If you are committed to a forever relationship you need to learn to respect one another and to work together to achieve that goal - no matter what - even in the face of conflict.

Deeply knowing that you can count on your partner brings another very important kind of safety to your relationship.

"Couples can not resolve in any healthy way the universal issues of marriage:  dependency and independence, dominance and submission, freedom and fidelity, for example, without the security of knowing that the act of struggling over these issues will not destroy the relationship" - M Scott Peck, in The Road Less Traveled (1985, p. 141).