After the Sparkly Phase….Then What?

One question I hear over and over is “How do we make love last once the sparkly phase is over?”  The initial attraction is referred to as “limerance”, where your partner can do no wrong, and their every quirk is incredibly charming.  Sooner or later, one of you will get the flu, have a bad day at work, and the aspects of your partner that you couldn’t get enough of now drive you crazy.  What follows next is crucial to the longevity of your relationship.  Either you break it off in favor of finding the next New Thing, or you buckle down and find some deeper, lasting ways to connect.

In an article entitled, “That Loving Feeling Takes A Lot of Work”, author Jane Brody reports that studies show that: “… the happiness boost that occurs with marriage lasts only about two years, after which people revert to their former levels of happiness — or unhappiness.

She goes on to write that “Infatuation and passion have even shorter life spans, and must evolve into “companionate love, composed more of deep affection, connection and liking,” according to Sonya Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside.

My Sweetheart and I are coming up on our second anniversary (we first met on Valentine’s Day…could that be any more romantic?) and this topic has been on our minds lately.  What are some practices that we can do to keep our relationship healthy and stay connected over time?

Here’s what we came up with, and now I’ll share them with you.  We call them The Five Habits of Happy Sweethearts.

1. The Habit of Appreciation and Gratitude

2. The Habit of Variety

3. The Habit of Keeping Things Clean

4. The Habit of Commitment

5. The Habit of Affection

Here’s how we practice these Habits.

1.  The Habit of Appreciation and Gratitude.  It’s a very human trait to become habituated over time to the things that make us feel good, leading us to take the things our Sweetheart does for us for granted.  A loving relationship is composed of many actions and interactions, and the five-year old inside of us likes to be appreciated for the efforts we make on behalf of others.  In other words, if your Sweetheart does things you like for them to do, make darn sure you thank them in whatever way you choose.  In a story of how powerful this is, a friend who is in a happy 18 year marriage told me that she mended a time of marital stress by shifting from what bugged her about her husband’s then current behavior, and focused on writing down each day the things he did for her that she was grateful for.  “I thought when I started that I would only have one or two things to write down”, she said.  “Each day my list got longer and longer and after only a few days, I wasn’t mad at him any more.”  The lesson here is that you can consciously shift your focus, and that the things you love about them are always present if you look for them.

2.  The Habit of Variety.  No, this doesn’t mean cheating on them!  What it means is that couples who seek out new experiences together get the benefit and thrill that comes from shared growth.  What this means is to try something that neither of you have done before.  Salsa lessons?  Skydiving?  Traveling to a new city?  Trying a new cuisine?  The actual event isn’t as important is that it is new to both of you and that you do it together.

3.  The Habit of Keeping Things Clean.  My Sweetheart and I make a point of resolving issues as soon as we can, rather than letting them linger.  We find that addressing uncomfortable topics early on keeps them from growing into deep-seated resentments and gives us more mental space to just have fun with each other.  “Under-the-rug” issues put distance between us and we have found that life just feels better when we stay emotionally connected.

4.  The Habit of Commitment.  In any long term relationship there are times when one of you ‘works at it’ more than the other.  There are many reasons, family or work obligations, health circumstances, you name it.   At some point one of the people mentally ‘leave’ the relationship and once that happens, it can be pretty much over.  So this habit is designed to be a preventive measure.  Put your relationship on the top of your To Do list, and even if you don’t practice our Habits, I’m sure you have your own that keep your relationship fresh.  Neither party wants to think that they are the ones doing all the work.

5.  The Habit of Affection.  Babies (both human and animal) fail to thrive when deprived of physical touch, and I believe that relationships fail as well in the absence of physical affection.  A non-sexual touch sends a message of love, of support, of comfort, of reassurance, and is a powerful connector.  Make hugs a regular part of your relationship.

 

That’s Love Applied!

Advertisements

The Secrets of Wildly Successful Women

Hey! Here’s a reminder for you to plan on coming to my workshop, The Secrets of Wildly Successful Women that I’ll be giving on Saturday, September 29, 2012 from 10:00AM-11:00AM at the Neuromedical Center in Perkins Rowe, Baton Rouge. It’s free and you’ll build self-confidence while you learn how to identify and use your strengths to become a more conscious participant in your life! Hope to see you there…shoot me an email or post if you plan on coming….

Click here for more details.

Ethics, Aisle Three.

My Sweetheart is awesome.  A while back I had asked him to update my outdoor lighting and today was the day for that project.  Off we went to Lowe’s and we spent a good 45 minutes evaluating all our choices and making decisions.  Walkway lighting?  Solar?  Low voltage?  New transformer?  Timer?  Spotlights?  I felt like an episode of DIY Backyard but finally we were ready for checkout.

The cashier was very friendly, and we all chatted as my Sweetheart unloaded items to be scanned and then back in the cart.  The cashier told us the total, we paid, and then headed out to the car.  As we were driving away he said, “That didn’t sound like it was enough.”  “I know,” I replied, “I was wondering that too.  Wasn’t the transformer alone $120?” I pulled out the receipt and sure enough, somehow we had missed having that scanned.  “Oh my gosh, we stole a transformer!” I said.

A whole bunch of thoughts came up as we drove to our next errand, a store right around the corner.   I knew the right thing to do was to ‘fess up and go back and pay for the transformer and yet there was a part of me that wanted something for nothing.  Don’t we all?  “Ethics really get in the way sometimes,” I said to my Sweetheart.  “What would you do in this case?” I asked.  “I’ve done both ways, kept some and returned others.”

I knew all along I was going to return it but it was interesting to consider the consequences of keeping the transformer.  Most likely we would not be caught, but I wondered if our cashier might ultimately be held responsible at the end of her shift.  I would hate for someone else to pay for an action of mine.  But the biggest question for me would be, “With our commitment to being honest in our relationship, would my Sweetheart lose respect for me if I chose a dishonest action of keeping the transformer?”  Sooner or later that would impact our relationship.  Maybe not directly, but it would cause a little blemish.  I wasn’t willing to risk that, nor was I willing to risk losing respect for myself.  If I’m committed to living in integrity then back the transformer must go.  And so we returned it.

So, what would you have done in that case?  Would it have made a difference if you were by yourself or with someone?  What would you advise your teenage child to do?

Ten Things I Wish I Knew At 18

Some of you asked for Ten Things I Wish I Knew At 18 all in one place. Thanks for following that series. Here you go!

One of my cousins just graduated high school and I had been wondering what to get her as a gift. Of course, the usual things like money, or a nice piece of jewelry went through my mind. I wanted to do those things, but also wanted to write something to her that let her know how special it was to me to watch her grow up through the years.

I remember how I felt at age 18, feeling mature in certain areas but not in others. And trying desperately to pretend that I knew what was going on and fooling nobody. I didn’t yet realize that at 18, you’re only partially baked and that’s just the way you are supposed to be at that age. I decided to share with my Lil Cousine what I would have wanted to know when I was 18. And now I’m sharing it with you.

1. YOU ARE A STAR

The first thing I wish I had realized – just how wonderful I was. Not in an arrogant “look at me, I’m so cool/smart” but that I was wonderful just because I was wonderful. I kept thinking there was always something to fix. Boy was I wrong! There is always something to learn, but there was nothing wrong with me, nothing that needed ‘fixing’. I wasn’t broken just because I didn’t always do things perfectly. Part of being young and human is making mistakes. Part of being older and human is making mistakes too We are born magnificent and somehow, through all the criticisms we receive while growing up we begin to lose sight of that. So, here is your reminder from me. You are wonderful and magnificent.

What would you have wanted your 18 year old self to know?

2. OWN YOUR VALUES

Don’t compromise your values in order to get someone to like you. Everyone has a different personality style, I’m a bit of a people-pleaser myself, but I think we all sometimes sacrifice our integrity in order to get approval. It took me longer to learn this one than I want to admit but eventually I did.

This applies particularly in romantic relationships. At some point you will be asked to do something you either aren’t ready for, comfortable with, or just isn’t the right thing to do. And by ‘right thing’ I don’t mean morally right, I mean a decision that you will feel good about tomorrow and the next day and the next.

It was hard to learn to say no, to challenge someone, to risk conflict. But a funny thing happened to me as I learned to do this: I earned respect. Respect that came for standing up for my values in a firm yet gentle way. And best of all, I got my own approval, instead of needing it from others.

3. PERSPECTIVE – THERE IS MORE THAN ONE!

Give up the need to be right. I wasted so much time with this one. In short form, every one of us sees ourselves as right. And usually if someone’s opinion differs, we tend to see them as wrong. They are not. From their perspective, they are just as right as you are.

When two people need to be right, this is how conflict starts that may have difficulty being resolved. The flip side of this is don’t let someone make you wrong for believing the way you do. Instead, respect their point of view and ask them to respect yours.

4. WE’RE ALL INNOCENT BEGINNERS!

People pretend they have it all together when they really don’t. I remember feeling as if I was the only one who was clueless about certain things: what that word really means; how to do something my boss asked me to do; how to handle a difficult conversation with someone I cared about.

Don’t buy into someone’s act, realize they feel just as insecure or unconfident as you do. There isn’t a situation where everyone else gets the keys to Life and you missed it. It’s okay to sometimes not know what’s going on. Don’t let that shake your confidence, it’s just a part of being a beginner at things.

5. YOU DECIDE

Take the time to define your own values and beliefs instead of what you think you ‘should’ be doing. Doing this is what defines you as a person, as You!

As children, we get a lot of (appropriate) messages to conform, and this is what protects us while we are learning to look out for ourselves. I’ve seen so many people who didn’t take the time to learn what they really wanted out of life; to reflect on what they really believed, only to ‘wake up’ one day in their 40’s miserable and yet they did everything they ‘should’ have done.

We all have an inner compass that unfailingly directs us—we just have to take the time to learn how to listen to it.

6. CONSCIOUS CREATION

Your thoughts create your reality.

Our thoughts, repeated and habitual, drive our life experience and form our beliefs, which then become our story. I’m not talking ‘positive thinking here’, but what you deeply believe and the repetitive thoughts you have about that. For example, if you are afraid of taking tests based upon an unexpected bad grade a few years ago, you might imagine yourself looking at an upcoming test score and being disappointed. That helps bring that about!

What I’m suggesting is to get into the habit of picturing and imagining the best possible outcomes that you can. Your imagination is the fuel of life. You are ALREADY creating your life, you’re just doing it unconsciously and haphazardly.

7. LOVE IS [NOT] ONLY A FEELING

Love is an action, not just a feeling. I thought for years love was just about how I felt about someone. Then I came across the concept of love as an action and it really blew me away. Any time you do a kindness, or go out of your way for someone it’s love. Speaking kindly to someone you care about is love.

Make it a daily practice to do something loving toward someone in your life; to make a choice toward them that says, “What can I do for you?” instead of “What can I get from you?”. I promise this will be hugely rewarding for you!

8. THE POWER IS YOURS!

Every single thing we do in life is a choice. You choose to get up in the morning. You choose what to wear; where to go; who to hang with and on and on. We pretend that we ‘don’t’ have a choice’ when in reality we don’t like the choices that we see. We ALWAYS have a choice, even when we can’t see effective possibilities.

Not understanding this concept creates what I call this the ‘Myth of Victimhood’. Any time you feel powerless or helpless or find yourself saying things like “It’s not fair!” in an attempt to get someone to ease up on you, you are in the Myth of Victimhood.

Realizing that we choose our lives is the first step toward empowerment and release from powerlessness and fear. It may take a while to incorporate this sense of choice in everything you do (even your thoughts and what you tell yourself!) but it’s worth it in the long run to give you a sense of mastery of Life.

9. PLAY WITH YOUR NARRATIVE

We make up a story about Life and our place in it, and that story determines our thoughts, actions, behaviors and choices. The stories we hear turn to stories in our heads. Once you realize that you make up the story (the power lies within you, not from a source outside yourself), then you may learn to create a new story for yourself that is more to your liking.

We are influenced by what we hear and what we experience…and the conclusions we draw about that experience. The key to change is to listen to yourself talking to yourself. Your story can be reframed! How exciting!

10. CHOOSE JOY

Finally, don’t take yourself and life too seriously! Play, have fun, choose joy any time and any way you can. This doesn’t mean abandoning your responsibilities, it just means to stay in balance with the fun things in life.

I wish for you to be happy; to have creative and fulfilling work; to have loving and joyful relationships; and to create wealth, abundance and health.

Show Your Love With A Surprise

My Sister called me yesterday over the top excited.

“You’re not going to believe what Brandon did! “ Brandon is her son and I refer to him as “Favorite Nephew.” (“I’m your only nephew”, he says. “Lucky for you,” I reply.) I’ve had a couple of calls from her that started out this way through the years and they were followed by comments like, “He’s in the emergency room” or “He’s at the police station”. Fortunately for all of us, he managed to survive his early testosterone-crazy twenties and has made special effort over the last few years to get his act together. We’ve seen him transform from someone who made excuses and avoided family gatherings to being the one who suggests getting together.

It was sweet news this time. Favorite Nephew surprised my Sister with a gift certificate for a massage—just because. She was so touched that he had made the effort and they ended up having a two-hour catch-up phone call that cleared the air over old misunderstandings that happened when he was a teenager. I could tell how good it felt to her as a mom that her son thinks she’s great.

It’s making me think about how impactful it is when someone goes out of their way to do something for you and how sweet that unexpected gesture can be. Don’t you know what it’s like to think of someone you care about but not pick up the phone to call or text them? I know for me it’s easy to get distracted and not reach out to connect.

So, two questions for you. What do you do for someone you care about to let them know that you care? And what has someone done for you that showed they care and were thinking of you?

Remember, Love is not just an action….we’re talking about Love Applied.

Keep Those Cards and Letters Coming, Folks!

My parent’s 62nd wedding anniversary was July 21, 2012 and my sister and I wanted to do something special for them this year. Dad is 90 and mom is 82, and Dad’s health won’t allow him to hold up for a big event so we knew we’d have to keep it simple.

July 21, 1950. Mom at 19, Dad a WW2 Navy vet at 28. They got married at Amite Baptist Church in Denham Springs and headed to Biloxi for a honeymoon after a home reception. They still have the clothes and the cake topper.

What to do? We decided to enroll our Facebook friends and ask them to send anniversary cards—we were hoping for at least 62 for the 62nd! Neither parent is online so we knew we could keep it a secret, and so we made a request at the beginning of July asking for help from our friends.

The response was great! We were blown away by how many people took the time to choose a card for them, and most wrote a little note of appreciation if they knew them or told how they knew one of us if they didn’t. The best part was when one friend jumped the gun by a couple of weeks and Mom called me to tell me of the ‘sweet card they sent’. “Oh, if you only knew what’s coming!,” I thought.

The cards started trickling in. First one or two, then five or six, then one day ten. By this time Mom had caught on that we had arranged a surprise and she called every day after to read us the names and the cards. “We can’t wait til the postman comes!” she said.

The tally totaled 67! From 18 states and two countries. Many were from people they had known but hadn’t heard from in a while, and others were from friends of mine and my sisters. What touched them most of all is that so many people took the time to select and send a card just for them.

My parents have both done a lot for others in their lifetimes. We grew up being a part of a community where everyone helps everyone else. And like so many who are used to helping, my parents weren’t used to being on the receiving end. Their delight was evident with every card they received.

Taking time to do for someone in an unexpected way is Love Applied. And I am grateful for my two wonderful teachers 🙂

Allez Cuisine!

The Challenge

 

So, about a week ago, my friend Meredith and I decided that it would be fun for her and her SweetHeart Paul, to have a date night with me and my SweetHeart.  What to do?  We ran through the usual, “Dinner/movie/music” ideas and then it hit both of us around the same time.  We all like to cook so why not have a Chopped-type challenge?  Sharpen your knives, Sistah, game is ON!

So here are the rules.  Each couple prepares a basket for the other with anywhere from 4-10 ingredients in it.  Meredith took Entrée and I took Appetizer, Side Dish and Salad.  Once we swapped baskets, we could then go to the grocery store to pick up any additional ingredients we needed to make the dish.  All ingredients must be used somehow.

She and I gleefully smacktalked all week, threatening to include exotic ingredients like screwpine leaves  or guava.  Thankfully, our respective Sweethearts reminded us that ‘Hey, remember, we’re gonna have to eat this stuff!’ so we reined it in and prepared our basket to give the others the best options we could while still making it a challenge.

 

The Reveal

 

Friday night comes and we manage to control our curiosity and excitement long enough to crack open a bottle of prosecco and toast our cooking skills.  Finally, it was time to open our baskets!  I was nervous, what if I couldn’t think of anything to make?  What if I didn’t give Meredith enough to work with?

No worries.  Here are the ingredients.

 

Appetizer/Salad/Side Dish basket:  (Meredith and Paul gave to us)

  • Orecchiette pasta
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • Fresh basil
  • Dried cherries
  • Loaf of French bread
  • 1 bunch carrots

Whew!  I was so relieved we didn’t get something I couldn’t pronounce!

Entrée Basket (We gave to Meredith and Paul)

  • Fresh ginger root
  • Fresh figs from my backyard
  • Small jar grained mustard
  • Potato chips
  • Mushrooms

After some intense consultation between teams this is the menu we came up with—which was a surprise to the other until it was served.

Appetizer: Bruschetta with heirloom tomato, chopped basil, kalamata olives and buffalo mozzarella

Salad:  Grated carrot and beet salad, with chopped cherries and a lemon mayo dressing

Side Dish:  pasta with chiffonaded spinach, sautéed garlic in butter, sundried tomatoes, spiced pecans and grated romano cheese

Entrée: Grilled butterflied pork chops stuffed with a fig and mushroom reduction, sautéed with celery and onion and dusted with potato chips.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most Creative Ingredient Use went to Meredith and Paul for soaking the string  that tied the pork chops together in ginger water.  Although we did get Random Creativity Points for using beets along with carrots in the salad.

 

The Winner

 

Who won?  We all did.  We learned things about each other that we didn’t know before, and I have a warm appreciation for how well our Sweethearts helped us and each other.

Friendships need to be nourished just like romantic relationships do.  Doing something like this together not only makes for a good time but provides a bit of a creative stretch.  It’s easy when life gets busy to not always take the time to nurture our friendships.  And that’s Love Applied.

What are your favorite couples date activities?

Don’t aim that staple gun at me!

Sooner or later, you and your Sweetheart (or anyone else) will tackle a project together. This is a great way to find out exactly where your control issues are. It becomes even more fun when you are both holding pointy objects like upholstery tacks and scissors.

The Project: replace the chair seat fabric on this really cool chair I call The Throne. I bought it at auction a few years ago and when I bought my new couch, the old fabric on the seat didn’t match any more. So, I decided to recover it.

He had to work late and I decided to help him out by taking the old cover off one.nail.at.a.time. The chair was an antique – the construction was old school and there were a million nails in there. Finally, I had the old cover off and used it for a pattern to cut a new one.

 

 

 

 

When he comes in from work the project is all ready to go. He arms himself with a staple gun while I start cleaning up our work area. I make a suggestion that he might want to place a staple in the center of each side first, instead of stapling one side completely across before moving on to the next side. This is to help keep the fabric smooth instead of pulling unevenly and causing lumps. It worked the last time I had recovered my chairs and hey, all those DIY sites backed me up.

 

He ignored me. This is a man who built an entire log cabin by himself when his kids were little, so who am I to tell him how to cover a chair seat??? I just couldn’t help myself. “Hey, it really does work better when you tack each side into place first” I said as sweetly as I could manage. By this time he had stapled an entire side into place. He looked at me and said, “I got this.”

 Me: “I’m sure you do but I find myself having a strong need to tell you what to do.” I had to own it, which is a great way to keep your Control Freak under control—just admit that you want to direct the entire situation and suddenly the urge isn’t quite as strong because now you’re spending all your energy feeling sheepish.

I had a choice in that moment, to keep pushing to get him to do it my way (and cause resentment), or to be grateful that I no longer have to do tasks like this by myself. I can sometimes (“Sometimes???” he says) be particular about things. I was single for a long time, and my biggest challenge has been to learn to accept help, and that his expertise and way of doing things is just as valid as mine. Having a partner in life is what I used to yearn for, and surprisingly to me, it was a little tough to get used to.

I took a deep breath, and just let him be. He stapled and stapled and of course, it turned out beautifully. And I got to enjoy how lucky I am to have a Sweetheart who likes to help me out.

Have a seat!

Love In Every Bite

For the past three weeks I’ve done an experiment in mindful eating.  To be as consciously aware of every bite of food I’ve put in my mouth.  To savor the sensation and flavors of what I am eating.  As opposed to looking down at an empty plate and wondering where all my food went, or picking at the rest of my food, not really being hungry, but just eating for something to do.

At first it was really strange, I thought of all sorts of things.  Like I’m about to be scolded by one of the voices in my head:  “Is THAT all you’re going to eat?  How many calories was that?  Are you REALLY full when there still more tasty food to eat?  How long can you keep this up, you’ll backslide, you know yourself.” A wise friend told me to ignore advice like this as you would from a bad, dumb, friend:-)

What I observe is that eating mindfully feels very loving toward myself.  Oddly, that’s a little unfamiliar and almost a little scary.

My body feels good.  I feel good about myself.  I haven’t passed out from hunger, and if I leave food on my plate, there is always food that was available later. I was uncomfortable yesterday at lunch when I had about a 1/4 of a chicken salad and left the rest there instead of taking it home.  (Egad, the WASTE!)

It requires attention.  I have to pay attention.  I have to REMEMBER to pay attention.

Love Applied can take many forms.  And right now, Love is in every bite.