Category: Relationships



That’s right, I’m blogging Saturday instead if Friday! That’s because my husband swept me away up the grand river yesterday to go canoeing for a fun birthday event before taking me out to dinner to celebrate my birthday (which was the 23rd of August!) the night before that we checked out the busker festival downtown TO. (Toronto for those not local to the Toronto area!)

So, I thought this would be a great segue to today’s topic: how to keep the romance alive by coming up with some great date ideas!

I mean there’s always room for the traditional dinner and a movie out! But sometimes it’s nice to mix it up and check out new restaurants you’ve never been to, and expand your palate by trying new foods… Something very easy to do when you live in a melting pot of many cultures with all the verying types of food to try.

We are lucky in Toronto to have everything from Jamaican, Chinese, French, Italian, vietnamese, Indian, Greek, Thai, Israeli, only to name a few!
So mix it up!

You can also try different types of clubs or lounges with different atmospheres in each, whether it be a jazz club, to a salsa dance club, to anywhere they play live music.

Check out the local festivals in your city or town as well! Anything to get out of doors and experience the culture in your town!

How about going for a long walk on a beach nearby (or make it a day trip if the beach is far away) or walking hand in hand in a beautiful garden?

Dancing in the rain? Finding your favorite song together?

Renewing your vows?

Indoor picnics on a rainy day?

How about a blast from the past and check out a nearby carnival and indulge in cotton candy or a candy apple as if you were just kids again? Check our the rides while you are there too!

What about checking out the nearest local zoo or museum, or check out a water park for the day or go to a horse race or a casino for the day?

Make plans for short weekend getaways, not so far from home, somewhere you’ve never been, in between your big annual or bi-annual vacation plans?

Check out Montreal or Quebec city or manhattan, Vegas, Florida or LA?

Cruises can be fun, or sunny beach destinations as a vacation idea.

How about rainy day fun? Plan an indoor picnic! Go all out! Put your blanket on the floor, food in your picnic basket and enjoy some creative fun picnic food!

Create your own holiday and come up with fun ways to celebrate!

Here’s a fun one: book a couples massage!!! Or spend a day at the spa!!

Hot tub dates?

What about a random birthday or anniversary idea?

A romantic stroll in a romantic town. If you happen to be anywhere in Europe, Paris perhaps? Or anywhere really in France or Italy! In Ontario, check out Grand Bend, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Stratford… Or locally, a nice park, walking hand in hand, stopping only to kiss under the biggest tree you can find!

What about waking up early together to catch the sunrise quietly together in a beautiful part of town. (or for the not so early risers… Check out a sunset together instead!)

How about romantic notes for each other or a special card? Emotionally flood your partner with a list of the 12 most important things about your partner that make you smile or that you love the most!

Breakfast in bed is a traditional and wonderful way to wake up in the morning! Turn up the charm! If you haven’t been romantic in a long time, things like this are great to soften a heart that feels hardened by emotional distance between the both of you?

Sexy lingerie?? Or how about offering a simple foot massage, or a sensual full body massage?

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about sporting events! Check out your favorite teams and sport and book tickets for the both of you to go together!

Or the ballet, catch a show like the blue man group, or a live play like Les Mis, or whatever is currently playing near you in the theatre!

Play your spouse’s favorite love songs by the fireplace to get the mood going!

A home cooked meal for the person who usually does most of the cooking!

A bottle of champagne for a special occasion!

Buy gifts for your partner that symbolize things they are passionate about to show thence you notice their passions and care!

Don’t forget some of the basic things: give your heart, not just gifts!

Write poetry for your spouse!

Make a little loving gesture each day for a whole year – discuss with each other what they consider loving gifts or gestures!

Buy her or him books by their favorite authors!

Buy their favorite movie!

Buy her shoes and purses, and jewelry! She will love that!

Fun sexy games to try:
Anything that involves stripping! Like poker, or chess…. Twister??

Basically, get creative, to keep things from feeling stale! All creative efforts show you are interested, and are usually appreciated! Timing is everything!

Know your spouse… This will help you better come up with great ideas they be sure to enjoy!

Be careful not to let fear of failing or things not going as perfectly as you planned kill the moment! Improvise or try again! It will get better with practice!

Don’t worry about feeling like you are not creative enough, or that you lack self confidence, try to stop worrying about the cost. These things can kill the moment!

Here’s another thought: write a list of the 50 reasons why you married them!

Dud I mention flowers and chocolate? Or whatever the favorite dessert is in your relationship?

Leave secret love notes tucked away somewhere for them to find randomly!

Get a babysitter for the night so you have uninterrupted quality time together to invest in your relationship! Set rules that date night is NOT the time to bring up issues in the relationship or even to discuss projects you’re working on, anything work related, or even the kids. This is a chance to re-connect and get away from the normal busy schedule!

Have fun creating your own fun ideas! May I recommend the book: ‘10,000 ways to say I love’ you by Gregory Godek for a whole bunch of ideas to get your creative juices flowing!

Finally, get ideas from your friends and some of the romantic things they have tried in their relationships!

Go ahead! Put some fun and spontaneity into your relationship and get the romance going again!

Schedule a date night now, and start planning… And never forget how romantic a secret surprise is that is unexpected and random!

Have a great weekend!

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Forgiveness


To start off today’s blog on forgiveness, I am simply going to give a couple of short definitions of some commonly misunderstood terms. Contrary to popular opinion, not everyone shares the same definitions we are about to define. Some people think forgiveness is an automatic process, others think it takes time, still other’s think it is impossible to truly forgive. Just to name a few. The same app,is to conflict or confrontation. Some people think it is simply ‘bad’ or even wrong to confront another person. Some people think confrontation has to be aggressive, with a defensive posture, and using anger as a defense mechanisms, while others believe confrontation can be not only healthy, but can be done while respecting and valuing the other person, gently and in love, from a perspective of having dealt with their anger privately, coming at confrontation when they can be level headed and empathetic of the other person, and prepared to listen to the other’s viewpoint without making assumptions of the other party involved, prepared to ask questions if necessary to clarify the other person’s perspective. So here are some simple definitions:

Conflict: To come into collision or disagreement; be contradictory, in opposition, at variance. To clash. To fight or contend; do battle. Struggle, strife.

Forgiveness: To grant pardon for or remission of an offense, debt, etc. Absolve. To give up all claim on account of, remit an obligation, to grant pardon to a person.

Confront: To face in hostility or defiance. Oppose. To stand or meet face to face to acknowledge contradiction.

From Conflict to Forgiveness:

Conflict is inevitable in every relationship, simply because each of us has individual beliefs, values, ideas, preferences and the freedom of choice. When we ‘clash’ with another person’s perspective, we have conflict. Conflict can arise for any number of reasons, From misunderstanding or abuse, or power or control that one person asserts over another, to differing points of view, or values with an unyielding stance that one’s own opinion is always correct. As this is a loaded and very deep subject, we will not get too heavily in depth on either the subject of conflict or forgiveness, but we will stay on a high level looking at the concepts as an overview, with real practical assignments to help get you started in the right direction to dealing with conflict and forgiveness and effective ways to confront each other when differences arise, or when we have been hurt, or angered by the actions of another person. We will look at confronting more in the next session. Today we will touch on how to move from a place of conflict towards forgiveness.

First of all, conflict often arises when we feel or legitimately have been ‘hurt’ by another’s words, actions or behavior. Often the first emotion we feel is anger, or blame. Anger is a protector. It protects against hurt. It is a powerful emotion that enhances one’s sense of power when they feel injured by another party. We tend to see things in an all or nothing perspective when angry by seeing the other as the attacker, exploiter, or invader, while we see ourselves as the innocent victim. While this may be true in a small number of cases, (in which both parties will often know only one person is at fault), more often than not, as the saying goes: “It takes two to tango”. Although the level of responsibility for an offense may not always be equal, in most situations, especially close relationships with spouse, family, or friends, some of the responsibility lays with each party involved in the conflict. It is hard to see this when angered. A helpful tool for dealing with anger is to remember this acronym: F-E-E-L.

The next time you feel yourself getting angry or critical, try the following:
F – Focus – on yourself instead of your partner’s offense and remind yourself of what each letter means. Then remember to focus on what you are feeling beneath the anger.
E – Emotion – Determine what the emotions are that you are experiencing beneath the anger, for example, hurt, rejection, fear. This may help dismantle some of your anger.
E – Empathy – Remember to express empathy for the person you are in conflict with. Remember that they are not perfect and neither are you. When you are able to see you are not perfect either, you get of the judge’s bench and can now see your partner/friend, etc. as an equal participant who also hurts and feels. Try to understand where they are coming from, and feel empathy or compassion for them, to remember that you have basic good will toward each other.
L – Leave – If none of the above is working, leave the situation. It is probably best to discuss this with the person prior to an angry outburst as to how you will address conflict when you are angry. A good rule of thumb if you need to leave the situation because you feel you are losing control of your anger is to determine a length of time for a time-out from the confrontation. Ie. 20-30 minutes to cool down, so that you can address the issue when you are not as heated. Make arrangements to check in with each other every 20-30 minutes (or whatever time frame you set) to see if both of you are ready to resume facing the conflict without blowing up at each other.

We forgive by reaffirming love for each other, by releasing the past, by renewing repentance through enduring the issues of justice, integrity, and self righteousness by resolving and restructuring into a restored relationship so we are free to love and live and risk again with each other. We forgive also by re-establishing basic goodwill and community with each other by understanding the other person, accepting the other person as they are, and where there is broken trust, community is sustained through forgiveness.

There are false paths of forgiveness we can take as well through the path of denial, bitterness, shame revenge, seeking re-payment, etc. These paths do not work towards forgiveness. There is a saying that says unforgiveness is like drinking a poison that you want someone else to drink. Basically, it only hurts you to stay in unforgiveness.

Forgiveness places blame appropriately. Forgiveness grieves. Forgiveness considers reconciling. Forgiveness learns to trust again. Forgiveness is a choice, and forgiveness takes time. It is not often a once and done event, especially for major wounds. For smaller offenses, forgiveness can be a quicker process most often, but for the bigger, deeper, more profound and close to your heart matters, forgiveness most often takes time! For major offenses, forgiveness also may not require reconciliation with the offending party -depending on their willingness to own up to their part in the problem, or to repent to you – meaning a turning around and turning towards you to resolve the situation. Repentance does not mean: I’m sorry I got caught, or I’m sorry you got hurt, without any intention of changing behavior. Repentance always requires a change in behavior. Reconciliation also requires that the situation is ‘safe’ again. If it is not safe, it is unwise to make attempts to reconcile and open yourself up to further injury or potential harm. For more info on safety, check out my blog from a few months back on how to find safe people!

For a quick recap:

1. How do you currently define conflict?

2. How do you currently define confrontation?

3. How do you define forgiveness?

4. Do you feel that forgiveness is important and necessary? Even if reconciliation with the other person never takes place? Why or why not? I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

I’m considering writing a short e-book on forgiveness, simply because in one short blog, I cannot possibly cover all the matters involved with the importance of forgiveness, or the best ways to confront well, and work through those issues effectively! Stay tuned to my http://website at http://www.freedomlifelove.com for updates! I will be releasing an e-book shortly on abuse as well. Keep checking in from time to time! And if you need some additional coaching on relationship issues you are facing, feel free to check out my 6 month relationship coaching program, and be sure to sign up for a complimentary personal freedom stately session with me for further inquiries on any of the subjects I blog about on Fridays!

Take care, and have a great weekend!


Before I get started on today’s subject, I would like to point out that today is my husband and I’s 16th anniversary – and I’m only 34! We got married young! Lol! We celebrated last weekend with a picnic dinner and movies under the stars, and will be going out for dinner tonight and a full day at the scandinave spa in Collingwood Ontario on Sunday to celebrate. For our 15th anniversary, we went on a cruise to Europe! So beautiful! I will likely blog more about it next Wednesday!

Telling you this is an important segue into today’s topic on love and respect, touching on the differing needs of men and women. Why is it important to mention my 16th wedding anniversary, you might ask, other than the obvious reason to share a special occasion with you? Because, even after 16 years of marriage, there is still much to learn, and new ‘aha’ moments about each other, as we journey together through life, watching and participating in the areas of change and personal growth in each other’s lives. An anniversary is a perfect time to reflect on the successes, growth together as a couple and as individuals, as we look back through the years from where we started to where we are now. And there is still much to learn.

For instance, I picked up this book a couple of months ago, called “Love and Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs and as I read it, I realized I was very much unaware of how desperately men need to feel respected. Before all the women raise their defenses and women’s lib ideas of ancient traditional perspectives of men ruling their wives, often involving suppression or control, and take a modest look – let us put our biases off to the side for the moment and consider what Eggerichs has to say, and take away from it what you will.

I personally felt that hesitation myself as I am very much an advocate of women’s rights, and equality, and quite liberal myself when it comes to very traditional and limiting perspectives of women. So bear with me because I think the author does a good job of addressing both women’s and men’s needs quite equally.

Having said that, here is a synopsis of what he suggests women need. I will start with that first, so the women readers are more open to hear what their men need! And if you have a great relationship and equal status with each other, this will serve as another great tool to understand each other better.

The author of the book suggests that most women desire closeness, openness, understanding, peacemaking, loyalty and esteem. She fears respecting him because her deeper fear is being a doormat. He suggests that even in conflict, women confront to connect. We are seeking a peaceful resolution to restore the closeness and the connection. If the conflict is left unsettled, she feels a ‘gulf’ between the two and will continue to confront until it is resolved. Oftentimes Dr. Eggerichs suggests that in these confrontational moments that men feel that she is trying to control her man, but disagrees with this common perspective and suggests to men “your wife is confronting you to connect”. When a couple gets this, it remarkably improves their interaction with each other.

On the subject of a woman’s need to feel close, he suggests women feel close when her partner holds her hand, hugs her, is affectionate without sexual intentions, spends alone time together focusing on each other, pillow talk after sex, and I might add to that, feeling connected heart to heart in conversation that promotes emotional intimacy.

The author suggests she wants her spouse to open up and shares his struggles with her. She wants to be understood and not to be viewed as a problem to be fixed. She needs to be listened to, to be heard.

When there is conflict, she wants her man to own up to his contribution in the matter and say he’s sorry instead of blaming and not taking ownership. It takes two to tango. Usually there is fault on both sides, even though percentages of ownership may vary from conflict to conflict. She just wants him to own up to, or should I say “man up” to his part in the problem area.

She desperately needs to know you are committed to the relationship and to be honored and valued and treasured. This is her version of being respected. She will feel respected and esteemed when you speak highly of her in front of others, telling her you are proud of her accomplishments, giving her affirmation and praise, and value her opinion.

Keep in mind, this is a synopsis of the book, if you want a more in depth understanding, you will need to buy the book!

Now that the women are softened and are feeling a little more understood, we are a little more prepared to hear about his needs. What does your man need? How do we understand him?

The author uses the acronym C-H-A-I-R-S to describe his needs. By the way, the acronym he uses to describe her needs is C-O-U-P-L-E.

His needs are: conquest, hierarchy, authority, insight, relationship, and sexuality. How many of you women cringed at a few of those words? Especially hierarchy maybe?

He explains that conquest has to do with appreciating his desire to work and achieve. He feels it is his duty to provide for his family and he wants to do it well. He will feel you appreciate his desire to work when you listen to his work stories, you tell him verbally that you value his work efforts, allow him to dream bigger and encourage him to reach toward accomplishing those dreams. If you criticize his work he feels disrespected.

Hierarchy has more to do with his desire to protect and provide than to lord it over you. Women who are reading this will appreciate this quote from the book: “women hear (the word hierarchy) and think immediately of the chauvinist mind-set: ‘The male dominates the female’…’It’s a man’s world’…’Men are superior and women are inferior’… And on and on. I can’t really blame these women,” he says, “because over the centuries men have…justified all kinds of terrible treatment of women” but disagrees wholeheartedly against such abusive treatment of women. Rather, he suggests that if a man is “good-willed”, his wife’s respect and his hierarchical position will not cause him to abuse, because that is not his nature. He will not use his position as “chair” of the family against those he is to love and protect” and provide for. He wants to be responsible. This is one of the ways he wants to show you love, by providing and protecting.

As for authority, the author suggests that a man needs appreciation of his desire to serve and to lead. Another hard concept for women to swallow! Authority comes with responsibility, and is not to be given irresponsibly. Mutual submission to each other is necessary, but a responsible man knows this, and when he leads with authority, he is serving his family, by preferring her needs above his own. Eggerichs suggests that your husband wants “your acknowledgment that he is the leader, the one in authority. This is not to grind you under or treat you as inferior.” He suggests it is because your man wants to be responsible. “Appreciating and respecting his desire to serve you and lead the family takes faith, courage, and strength on your part” he tells women. He will feel you appreciate his authority and leadership when you tell him you are thankful for his strength and enjoy being able to lean on him for support, he will also feel this way if you support his self-image, or praise his good decisions and show grace towards his bad decisions. If you disagree, tell him in private and not publicly in order to honor him.

I know women need him to ‘just listen’ and not problem solve, but he needs to feel as though his insight is appreciated, as well as his desire to analyze and counsel. He will feel this way if you thank him for his advice, let him problem solve occasionally, and recognize that problem solving for him is his “male brand of empathy”.

As for relationship, he appreciates “shoulder to shoulder friendship”. Sometimes he just wants to be in your company, not to talk, but just be in the same room, or doing the same activity together, as he would do with his male buddies. He just wants companionship sometimes.

Last but not least, which really needs no further discussion as we all know a mans desire for sexual intimacy!!! He needs you to understand he needs sexual release just as you need emotional release. He needs you to respond to his sexual advances and wants you to initiate too!

In closing, I will add that the author suggests that these aren’t universal principles across the board, and rigid concepts. Some women may have needs that the author suggests a typical male to have, and some men may relate to the needs mentioned in the C-O-U-P-L-E acronym suggested as typical female needs. That is normal as each of us has differing needs regardless of gender. Dr. Eggerichs is merely pointing out some common themes he has seen within his counseling practice throughout the years.

For what it’s worth, it is a riveting look at how we relate to each other, and the foreign needs of the opposite gender and how we can learn to both love and respect each other better in a marriage relationship between man and wife.

Happy anniversary honey! I pray I can better understand and meet your needs, even the ones I cringe at and wrestle with!

I look forward to engaging in your comments, questions and opinions on this subject. I’m curious about the responses of those reading this blog!

If you’d like to look at another great resource, check out my one-on-one or couples Relationship Coaching Program which will equip your relationship with the tools it needs to grow!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your no charge Personal Freedom Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Relationship Life Coach


Couple Romantic HoldingThis month I am primarily going to be talking about marriage relationships, but these tools are great for anyone in a committed relationship to keep in mind to have a thriving, healthy relationship!

Over the course of the next few weeks, I will touch on how to love and respect each other, forgiveness, keeping the romance alive, and some basic marriage 101 things to keep in mind that everyone should know about marriage.

Today is more of an introduction, but an important place to start, as we lay down some ground rules about building and maintaining healthy boundaries in marriage. You may think… Boundaries? In Marriage? Why should there be any boundaries in a marriage? Hear me out, and determine for yourself if the following 7 ideas are important safeguards for your relationship.

happy romantic couple hugging1. Love

Ok, we’ll start with an easy one… Or perhaps this is the most difficult one of all. Hmmm. Food for thought! Love is perhaps the most important value in a relationship to sustain the relationship. Because love is not just the mushy, romantic moments together in a relationship. Neither should love be confused with sex. But sex is definitely an important part of keeping a bond between each other that reassures the other that they are loved! But love is more than this. A good goal is to discover unconditional love. Unconditional love is committed love. It is love that always maintains basic goodwill toward each other, even in moments of great conflict. Unconditional love is defined by doing what is best for the other, not necessarily giving them everything they want, but doing what is best as deemed by the one loving. It involves preferring the other above yourself, it involves protecting the other from thongs that may prove harmful or not beneficial to them. It involves compassion. It involves commitment to love even when the going gets tough, and the ‘loving feelings’ aren’t always there. It keeps it’s promise to love not only the good parts of the other, but to accept the ‘whole self’ of the other, which includes the less than perfect characteristics that annoy you from time to time, or the areas where they still need to grow in. As they are loving you the same way, this allows for mutual growth and benefit for both people, as true intimacy can be attained this way, and self esteem is nurtured as you learn that you are not merely loved for how well you perform, but you are loved unconditionally. This is a great boundary to set… To make a promise to love in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, in plenty or in want. Love is the glue that holds the relationship together. Don’t take it for granted. Keep the love alive!

Another passing thought before I move on… Couples who have a strong, mutual connection to God also tend to have a stronger commitment to love, as unconditional love is a strong commandment among many faiths. It is always esteemed as the most important value.

2. Honesty

Honesty is critical to having a ‘real’ and authentic, and trustworthy relationship. Dishonesty is one of the primary ways to break down both communication and the foundation of the entire relationship. Honesty is like one of the 4 pillars to build a relationship on. Without it, it breeds suspicion, lack of trust and safety in the relationship, and can single handedly destroy the relationship altogether.

Ask yourself this: why is it I don’t want to be completely honest with the person I love? Why do I feel I have to hide things about myself, or my bad habits, or whatever the case may be. What are you afraid of? What are you afraid will happen if you reveal what you are being dishonest about? What is the likelihood that when you reveal your secrets, what you expect to happen will actually happen? Not only will answering these questions reveal something about your own sense of integrity, or your weaknesses you struggle with, it may also reveal the weak points in your relationship. It may mean the person you are with is not loving unconditionally, it may mean you or your partner have an opportunity for growth. It could be your partner wrestles with grace for your flaws, or is looking for an ideal, perfect relationship, rather than a real relationship. It may be a perfect opportunity for growth. Intimacy is always blocked when truth and honesty are absent. Think of this as an opportunity for deeper growth in the area of intimacy. It may be an opportunity for growth for the one hiding things from the other. Is there a root issue there? Have you been rejected before and fear it again, event though it may not happen in this relationship? Are you blocking the other person in the relationship the ability to really come through and show you you are loved regardless? Examining Dishonesty reveals what is hidden. Honesty brings what is hidden to the light so there is an opportunity for repair.

Couple Holding Hands3. Faithfulness

It’s integral for a long term, committed, till death do us part kind of marriage. A commitment to faithfulness is a way to foster safety and trust within the relationship. It fosters protection, and paves the way for a deep and abiding trusting relationship. It guards the marriage from outside influences that could bring potential harm. It sets limits on outside relationships to preserve the bond between the couple. It brings assurance that this relationship is safe, nurturing, committed, and always ‘there’. It allows each other to rest in the reliability of the relationship. It nurtures love, and guards against fear. It holds each other in high esteem and treasures each others hearts, assuring each other “you are safe here”. It always protects, and preserves the bond between the both of you.

Couple Hugging4. Forgiveness

I will not go into great detail today as I’m dedicating a whole blog to it in a couple of weeks…. That is how important this issue is!!! Make your promises of how you will work through forgiveness. Remember basic goodwill toward each other even in conflict. Try to empathize with the other person and where they are coming from, or what they have endured. Evaluate what is beneath your anger to work on the root issues, rather than simply using the strength of anger as your protective barrier against the other. Remember that your job is to protect each other always, rather than protecting yourselves from each other. Remember to prefer each other, and this will help diminish the areas of conflict. If we are both looking out or the best interests of the other, we will have less to forgive. Stay tuned for my forgiveness blog in a couple weeks as I go into more details and practical tools to work through forgiveness. Forgiveness is hard work. But essential to keep the toxins out of the relationship!

5. Protection against intruders

I briefly touched on this when I talked about faithfulness. Theses two go hand in hand. You will need to set limits and boundaries on how close and connected you allow yourselves to become with outsiders to the relationship. Determine together how close is too close to outsiders to the relationship. This helps to guard against infidelity, affairs, deep emotional connections with others that tears away at the intimacy between the couple. If you find yourself able to be closet to someone outside the relationship that could potentially break down the strength of your committed marriage relationships, ask yourself why this is. Discuss it with your spouse first. This is where the values of honesty and faithfulness and love come in, to undergird and protect the safety of your relationship. Perhaps it is an indication of something that needs to change or grow in your relationship or that something has grown stale and needs to be revitalized. Guard against flattery from others. This is a commitment you need to make together that you want this to be an exclusive relationship. Say what you will about ‘open’ relationships, or friends with benefits or free love, but none of those things help build trust, safety, intimacy or assurance that you are truly loved… Which is a basic need and desire we all have whether we admit it or not. If you want to keep your marriage safe from intruders you need to come up with a strong plan of action, and your own values and boundaries to ensure the safety of your most important relationship to each other! This is a perfect segue to the next boundary:

6. Good communication

If you are able to clearly, honestly and openly be able to articulate your needs, desires, expectations, assumptions, beliefs, concerns, fears, etc than you are well on your way toward making your relationship great! Communication is important. Not just talking about the weather or what you did at work that day, but to connect heart to heart and share your real self with each other, this is the glue that holds it together. If one or both of you struggle with knowing what your concerns are, or how to confront and voice your needs, or to identify your needs, this will affect your ability to communicate effectively. Make it a goal to learn together effective communication skills. In fact, I will recommend a book for you to check out which identifies a lot of the problem areas in communication. I’m talking not just about what is said, but how it is said, or understood, or clarified. I’m also thinking of what is unsaid, and the verbal body language we make assumptions on and don’t ask clarifying questions to ensure we have received the right message. I’m talking about assumptions we make, which often turn into beliefs whether accurate or not. If you find you have trouble in the area of communication, and are committed to making it work – check out this book called “Love is never enough” by Aaron T. Beck, MD.Working Together

7. Working Together

Finally, make it a point to work together to resolve the conflicts, problem areas, weak areas, in order to foster growth and healthy, mature, deep and committed relationships that will endure the test of time. If only one of you is committed to making it work, one of your pillars has broken down. If you are both invested in making it work, you both have work to do. One person cannot carry the entire relationship. If you are the person not investing in making it work, why is that? Have you given up on love or basic goodwill towards your spouse? Is there a communication blockage that has caused you to give up? Are you open to outside help to give it another shot? Perhaps there is some piece missing that you have not yet identified.

Working together is incredibly important. If one of you gives up, it can be detrimental to the future security of your relationship. If you find that you don’t care about the future of your relationship, you desperately need to seek professional help outside of the relationship to see if the relationship is salvageable and whether or not you are invested enough to try and save it.

With a little work, your relationship will have the best chance for survival, healing, repair and the ability to thrive. Hopefully some of these tips help.

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Need some extra help?

Check out my one-on-one Relationship Coaching Program and get started today!

Katie Meilleur – Certified Relationship Life Coach


One might imagine in a fairy tale world that giving love and receiving love are actually quite normal, straightforward, and even… Simple? Yet, why is it that it is not always so in the real world? What is it that crosses the wires somehow and there is a malfunction, or a ‘short circuit in some relationships where receiving love is actually quite difficult?

First of all, let’s take a quick look at some basics. Everyone of us has different ways we ‘feel’ loved. According to Gary Chapman, author of “The Five Love Languages”, he narrows these love languages down to five categories: words of affirmation, touch, acts of service, gifts, and quality time. For those of you unaware of this book, you may already be having an ‘aha’ moment as an example floods your mind why you never feel loved by your husband when he doesn’t buy you roses, but if he spends lots of quality time with you and that’s not your primary love language, you barely notice his attention. Or on the other hand, if she’s always buying you gifts, but rarely massages your back, or runs into your arms for an embrace, if touch is your love language, you may feel unwanted or even unattractive to your wife.

And then there’s the gender differences of course. His needs, her needs, right? She needs to feel close (and yet her definition of closeness is different than yours, most likely!). He needs sexual intimacy. Her ideas of intimacy are slightly different. Yes, she wants sex, but she wants to bond in an emotional way, involving openness and communication, and he rarely understands what she means by that. He needs to feel respected, she needs to feel cherished and valued, like she is a treasure, not an object. She wants loyalty, faithfulness and commitment, he likes to provide and protect, and be valued for it. He likes to ‘fix’ the problem, to be valued for his insights, she wants him to just be a sounding board… He wants to counsel, she says “just listen!”.

With all of that going on, is it any wonder we ever have good working relationships at all. Especially with the opposite gender… Or a completely different personality type. Don’t let me even bring that into the equation! With all the differing personality types out there, it takes a lot of work and a lot of ‘preferring’ each other, a lot of asking clarifying questions to determine just how someone not only wants… But needs to be loved.

But that’s just the intro. Then you get into the baggage you are bringing with you from past relationships, and even your primary parental relationships might come with some set expectations of how things are to be, how one should love, etc. So we have individual love languages, gender differences in needs, bad breakups, and past experiences, what we were brought up with re: family values, ideas, etc, let alone coming from a family past that was abusive, or where there was a failure to thrive, neglect, etc. and then add on top of all of that, the ideal romantic chick flick of the fairy tale happy ever after story, with all the social requirements of perfect body image, the culturally defined expectations of what a man is to be, and what a woman is to be, some too good to be true, and others simply superficial, with no real guidance in learning how to give and really receive love.
Keep in mind, I am not bashing anyone, nor am I jaded by life, I simply see the facts and contributing factors that there are a lot of pressures and demands and ideals and expectations and assumptions… And don’t forget baggage- that we drag into every relationship we enter.

Phew. Tough stuff, and yet somehow, there are massive success stories and happily ever after tales after all. But they are HARD work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But when it comes to receiving love… There is a certain part of the population that generally has a real hard time with it. Giving may come a lot more naturally. When someone offers to pay for your dinner, is it easy or difficult to accept? Have you ever stopped to wonder why?

Are you reluctant, or feel incapable of asking for what you need or want? Can you express what you like or dislike in the relationship openly? Even in the sexual department? When you get what you want, are you satisfied, or is there still a hole inside? Like you are detached and disconnected from the happy emotions that usually accompany receiving an emotional need you have?

If so, there may be some of that ‘baggage’ we were just discussing going on beneath the surface.
If you lack the ability to truly bond and feel connected with another person, you may not have bonded with a primary caregiver in your early development years, or have undergone abuse of any kind. Neglect can cause a person to feel very isolated in their soul. Addictions can cause isolation, especially sex addiction, as it tends to rip apart the ability to really connect in an intimate way heart to heart, soul to soul, with your partner. Why? Because often deep shame accompanies it, which no one is comfortable to admit, and shame rips apart self-esteem. Low self esteem is a major player for sure, and can be for any number of reasons and begin at any time in life, usually accompanying some traumatic event. Rejection can tear at our sense of worth and esteem. On and on the list goes on. If you live with a split sense of self, like you can only project the ‘good’ or capable side of yourself, performing your way through life, you likely don’t connect very deeply with others as you wrestle to risk enough to let someone see the less than perfect parts of yourself.

I would highly recommend reading the book “Receiving Love” by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D & Helen Lakely Hunt, Ph.D for some great insights. Even if you are not the psychology nerd that I am and are not as much interested in “why” you feel you cannot receive love, there are some great exercises at the end of the book that you can practice with your partner if you really want to try and overcome the inability to receive love.

I will leave you with a couple of starter ideas that my husband and I have tried that really work.

One of the exercises we tried was to tell each other 5 things we were grateful for each day that the other person had done that we felt was loving.

Another idea is to create a gift list. Write down the things you want on your list (if you are working with a modest budget, keep that in mind while writing your list. Don’t make it unattainable. When you are finished, you swap lists and the other person is responsible to randomly give you that gift. If you both purpose to do this, it can be a very beneficial practice in allowing yourself to receive. It doesn’t even have to cost money. It could be “I would feel like it was a gift if you picked up after yourself and put your dirty clothes in the hamper!” or perhaps, dancing in the rain or some cities have the movies under the stars idea where they show free movies in a park that could serve as a free romantic night… The sky is the limit. The purpose is practice!!

Emotional flooding is another great exercise where you sit down with each other and just tell each other all the wonderful things you love about them, their natural abilities and talents, appearance, character qualities you admire, etc.

The book I just mentioned contains the above examples (I believe there is more to each assignment though) and many more.

Just remember this, if you forget everything else that I have said: you were created with divine purpose, in the image of God, loved by God, and were created to be loved, to be able to give and receive love, and no matter what anyone else says or thinks about you: you are worthy to be loved. Let go of that self critical voice affirming all the reasons you can’t be loved, and start changing the message: write a list of why you should be loved, why you are lovable right now, and have some compassion for yourself! The bible actually puts it quite well when it says to love others as you love yourself. In fact, most faiths share this golden rule. It is difficult to love others truly if you cannot see enough value in yourself to love yourself. If that seems too difficult, start with this: ask yourself “what do I like about myself?” and begin repeating those messages as affirmations regularly. You may be surprised how quickly you begin to see value in yourself. You are doing the work of building your self esteem. Don’t sabotage it by the self criticism. Pay attention to its voice as it creeps in, and let the sentence end midair as you breathe in an affirmation about your worth and intrinsic value!

Have a great weekend!


I’m starting a new series for the next couple of months on relationships and marriage. Over the next several weeks, I will discuss such concerns as how to effective deal with confrontation, forgiveness, receiving love, some marriage basic ‘need to know’ tools, differences in gender needs and love languages, etc. Today I want to start the series off right by addressing some essential characteristics of healthy relationships. I will address more of the same in subsequent blogs.

Relationships can be difficult even for the best of relationships, and even though those relationships you look to as examples of how to get it right, that seem so streamlined and perfect while you watch them in admiration from a distance – those couples know a very important secret: Healthy relationships take work! While there are many contributing factors to making a relationship great, I am going to touch on some key elements to getting you started on making your relationships great!!

First of all there is commitment. It must be paramount in your relationship with your spouse or potential future life partner (for those of you not married yet).

What is commitment and how sincere is your commitment to each other? We live in an age where commitment is a word not really understood. With high divorce rates looming, we seem to as a generation lack a clear understanding of what commitment means. The marriage vows we read on our wedding day, in sickness and in health, till death do us part, give way to the wedding plans and the excitement of the day itself. And many traditional wedding vows are no longer being used.

Just what are we committing to? And when you’ve been down the road of marriage for many years, just how fresh in your mind do those early vows remain? There are reasons why the book of proverbs tells us so clearly to guard our hearts and even our eyes, to keep us from the temptation of greener pastures elsewhere when you are doing the real hard work of marriage -being truly know and loved for your flaws and all. Commitment certainly is something we need to newly re-evaluate and determine once again: till death do us part.

Honesty is integral. If you cannot be honest with the person you are spending the rest of your life with, you will have major problems down the road. Your secrets will not stay hidden, even if you have been successful for years. All that is hidden comes to the light. Once it is exposed, often the damage is so severe that many relationships fall apart. Without honesty, you cannot have a real relationship. You cannot be fully known. If you are not really known, you cannot truly experience intimacy. To be known requires openness. if you cannot be open, you are putting on a show. This is called ‘performance’, or even people pleasing. Eventually, resentment will settle in your heart because you are not being up front. What is not expressed is your responsibility. You are responsible to own your own needs, your own flaws, failures and weaknesses. It is ok to have weaknesses. It is important that they be brought into the light of relationship so that grace can cover over your failures and weaknesses, and that the other person can offer their strength, support or skill to help you become better in some of your weaker areas. This is how it is meant to be. Two imperfect people in a partnership, helping each other along to become all that God meant for them to become.

Connectedness is also necessary. If you do not have common ground, common interests, or understand how each other needs to bond and connect, one or both of you will experience great lack. It is important however, for me to uncover a great misconception here: your partner is not meant to meet ALL your needs. There are varying relationships in your life, as it was meant to be, for you to find fulfillment and be well balanced in your life. Women need women friends. Men just don’t understand the finer details that another woman ‘gets’ quite naturally. The same is true for men. Guys bond in ways in which women cannot understand, or compete with. But at the same time, there must be a connection in your primary relationship with each other. It is a good idea to sit down and determine how you need to bond and attach, figure out what ways make you feel the most loved or respected. How do you feel heard and understood? What do you need? Figure out what these things are and sit down and communicate to each other so that you can both work diligently at preferring each other in order to connect and attach in ways the other person will feel most loved and connected with you.

Effective communication. This is a very critical element required to sustain a healthy bond with your partner. This is also where most relationships break down. Effective communication involves active listening, affirmation of what the other is saying, and though this might sound silly, sometimes even simply acknowledging the other person’s point of view before jumping in with your own can de-escalate an evolving crisis! Make sure you clarify what you have heard the other person say, and ensure you understand his or her viewpoint before running on your own assumptions of the other person’s motives. Remember, we don’t EVER know another person’s motives unless we ask questions to clarify. Try and avoid ‘Always’ and ‘Never’ statements, blaming, and only seeing from an all or nothing perspective fixating your attention on every flaw in the other person. Try and remember to be merciful and gracious towards each other, believe the best of each other and have basic goodwill towards each other. There are many more tips I can offer on this most difficult part of relationship, but these are some great tips to get you started!

Separateness & respect are not often addressed when looking at relationship tools, but are definitely not to be dismissed. Oftentimes, initially in the early stages of a relationship, both people feel like they are ‘the same’ as each other, that you both like the same things, hold the same moral or tradition or religious beliefs, but can be sadly mistaken down the road to realize ‘I am not the same as my spouse’. I hold different ideas on how to raise a family, or how many kids you want, or different vacation preferences. These things can extend into very deep areas as well. You may hold different theological perspectives on life, or even just enjoy differing leisure activities. The more we can learn to both respect and appreciate the differences in each other, the closer we come to a place of the desired intimacy you both want. No one wants to be controlled. No one wants to feel manipulated into doing something you are opposed to. We need to respect each other’s individuality, encourage it, come along and support each other in the areas of difference. In this way, we are respecting each other and loving the ‘whole’ person rather than accepting only what adheres to our own perspective, sending a message of rejection to the other person that who they truly are is not good enough.

Dealing with conflict well. Here is where your effective communication skills need to be used meticulously! Do not get sloppy in this area! Remember in your anger that you love the other person enough to treat them respectfully and with dignity and grace. I will address this subject in further detail in a subsequent blog as I believe it deserves fuller attention than the scope of today’s overview.

And above all, love. Speaking of which, the most important element in healthy relationships is love. Sadly, love is a word thrown around so easily, and taken away so quickly when the going gets tough. We misunderstand love immensely in this culture where we love everything from our favorite television program to our Gucci handbag, to our favorite car or pair of shoes. We love our iPhones, our favorite dessert, to most any kind of food really. We use the word so carelessly that it has lost its meaning. And love in these terms has a limit. We take it back when we don’t mean it anymore, when we no longer ‘feel’ loving towards someone. This kind of love is not real love at all. Real love never fails. It never gives up, it never quits, it never stops hoping or believing for good to come about. Real love is unconditional. It does not seek its own agenda first, but prefers others above oneself. It never gives up. This is the kind of love we need to learn to emulate.

Stay tuned for next Friday as I unpack healthy confrontation tips further!

Hope you all have a great weekend!

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