Sometimes It’s Really Simple.

 

Yesterday I ran into a friend who had just celebrated her 20th wedding anniversary.  She was bubbly and excited about how happy they now were.  “The first 15 years were really rough but now we get along great!”  I knew that they had difficulty during the first years of her marriage so I asked, “What changed?”

 

She grinned and said, “I just quit looking for all the things I didn’t like about him.”

 

Focus

 

 

Isn’t it sometimes tempting to inventory all the things ‘wrong’ about the person we love?  It helps to remember that they are probably doing the same about us.  We get what we focus upon, and what we focus upon, grows.  Why not ‘grow’ what you love about someone?   Choosing to do that is truly Love Applied.

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Getting Trashy

One of the things I love about my Sweetheart is that he likes to do little things for me. What’s not to like, right? Since we’ve been together, a year on Valentines Day, I haven’t taken out the trash not once. We don’t even live together and he takes out my trash. Lucky me!

I remember seeing a couple fight on Dr. Phil a bunch of years ago about the trash. The wife complained that “He always wants me to thank him for taking out the trash. That’s his job and he wants me to cheer like he just won a football game!” Then she went on to complain that he never told her he loved her. His defense was that he showed her and that should be enough.

Argh. Great example of two people each needing to be right, and neither one understanding that the other person wasn’t wrong for wanting what they wanted. My Sweetheart explained to me that he takes out my trash out of love for me. I get that loud and clear. When I asked him what he wanted in return he just said, “Appreciation.”

Don’t we all want to be appreciated for our efforts in our relationships? A simple “Thank you for doing what you do” keeps your relationship from being trashed!

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.

How not to take the bait

What do you do when other people ask intrusive questions? This can apply to anyone, but it often happens with the people we love the most. They ask a question that we feel is none of their business, and we are often left with a feeling that not answering is rude—but what to do?

A young friend told me of the following conversation she had with her mother, and how frustrated she was at not knowing how to stand up for herself. Her mother regularly inquires about her sex life, and makes comments like, “You’re still a virgin, aren’t you?” Which might be understandable if my friend were 16—but she is 26 years old. Not knowing how else to respond, my friend takes the bait and starts defending the time she spends with her boyfriend, and feeling like a small child instead of the young woman she is.

So, what could she do instead of getting hooked in? A question I always ask myself is, “To what purpose does the speaker speak?” Conversation has different purposes at different times: to influence, to manipulate, to make wrong, to inform, to show off, and on and on. So a good place to start is to ask, “Why would her daughter being a virgin be important to her?” Some possibilities might include, fear of raising a grandchild; fear of judgment from her friends/church if her daughter ends up pregnant; having a self-image that says something like, ‘You must be a wonderful parent if you’ve taught your daughter to remain a virgin until marriage.’ There is really no way of knowing…unless we ask. So my friend might simply adopt a position of curiosity and say in a neutral tone, “Mom, you’ve brought this up on several occasions and I’d like to understand why my being a virgin is so important to you.” When someone repeats themselves it is often because they think they are not being heard—and to many, ‘being heard’ is a euphemism for ‘I want you to agree with me and do what I want you to do.’ One way to interrupt the repetition is to ask them to explain and then no matter what they answer is (“It’s something you should do, or you’d be a slut if you weren’t”) just say, “Okay thanks” and then move on to something else.

For years the part of me that wants to please and be liked thought I had to answer every question someone asked of me. Now I use this conversational tactic to listen for the possible underlying purpose and speak to that instead of the surface question that was asked—which could keep me right in a loop I don’t want to be in, and for which there is no way to ‘win’. By taking a position of curiosity and asking for more information or clarification, I’ve often ended up learning something that I might not have known if I hadn’t asked. And remember, taking the time to listen to someone is not the same as agreeing with them.

What’s Your Wonderful?

Let’s face it: sometimes Life can get in the way of a Good Time. Often, after a tough day at work, it is challenging to be the sweetest sweetheart you can be. I have noticed that when I am stressed in one area of my life, suddenly my Sweetheart takes on all sorts of negative habits that he doesn’t ordinarily have. Did he suddenly turn into someone who should enroll in Tool Academy? No, perhaps the issue lies within me, and what I choose to focus on.

What we focus on, we find. And what we focus on and find, grows. So it makes sense to remember to focus on positive things instead of the things we dislike. My Sweetheart and I have a regular practice called, “What’s Your Wonderful?” where at the end of the day we share the highlight of our day, the “Wonderful”. Sometimes it’s as simple as a conversation we had that went well, a thoughtful gesture from a friend, or keeping a promise we made to ourselves to work out instead of putting it off that day.

By focusing on the things we are grateful for, we also see that we have a lot to be grateful for. And while the negative things in our lives may always be there, by focusing on the wonderful things we are grateful for, the impact of the negative things lessens. Our day becomes different when we know that we are looking for something wonderful that we will then share in the evening with someone. And the sharing of joy and gratitude helps us stay connected to what’s important in the other person’s life. And that’s pretty darned Wonderful.