07 April, 2011

Creating an Enduring Relationship

During my Christmas vacation this past year, I was engaged in a conversation with my oldest niece. In the course of that conversation she informed me that she was not going to get married. When I asked why, she told me that it was because “fifty percent of all marriages (in America) end in divorce” and went on to explain that she had no interest in becoming part of the divorce-rate statistic. I shared with her my perspective that she could get married and not add to the divorce statistic. Implying that I didn’t understand her point-of-view, she asserted the significance of the statistics previously cited.

It may be of help for you to know that she and I entered this conversation with very different personal backgrounds. My parents have been married almost fifty years and remain happily together. But my niece’s parents divorced several years ago and she has been subject to, and a witness of, the pain, emotional turmoil, and heartache that this decision has had on her parents, her sister, and herself.

Since that original conversation, I’ve replayed it many times over in my head. And I’ve wondered how this (statistic) could be viewed differently and how I might be able to make a difference for her. Is there another, possibly more powerful, point-of-view from which we might view these astounding statistics?

Over this past weekend, I awoke to a thought that I now view as the answer to this question. And I believe that this concept holds a powerful perspective from which we can all learn so that we might make better choices in those we choose as significant others and even as friends. The thought to which I awakened was to “marry someone whom you don’t want to change.” The concept sounds simple enough and it’s certainly easy to say. But I believe that we all fall prey, at one time or another, to this hazardous, slippery-slope.

When I awoke with this thought, I began to think back over my partnership. Next month I will be celebrating my 13-year anniversary with my significant other. Most couples experience their first major difficulties around the two-year mark of being together. The first year or two of relationships are often referred to as “the honeymoon phase” because partners are generally still enchanted with one another during this time. However, around the two-year mark, partners generally begin to view each other from a more realistic point-of-view.

Behavior or habits once viewed as cute or entertaining, many times becomes annoying to us. We begin to start recommending “small” changes to the other and suggesting how he could better himself! Your girlfriend’s consistent behavior of being 15 minutes late is no longer viewed as her taking care of herself or wanting to look good for you. Instead, it now takes on new meaning, such as a lack of respect for you and your time or a lack of time-management skills. Your husband’s behavior of leaving his clothes wherever they fall when he removes them from his body may have once been viewed as carefree. Now, the same behavior becomes an anathema to you who likes to have a tidy home and feels the responsibility to clean up after him.

To borrow a popular American colloquial phrase, this is where the “rubber meets the road.” The hard work of a relationship only starts when you begin to see what you may view as flaws in your partner. After all, no one has a difficult time relating to another when the two are in total agreement. It’s only in discord, or in differing points-of-view that we find we need to walk in grace with one another. Only when we can find the grace to allow another to be who he is without requesting, or even desiring, that he change behaviors or habits will we find that we have the capacity to love another unconditionally. This is what it takes to stay together for “the long haul.”

Of course I’m not suggesting that anyone stay in a relationship where there is physical or emotional abuse or where another’s actions threaten our well-being in any way. However, outside of these types of circumstances, the ability to create a lasting relationship that works comes down to our individual abilities to accept another exactly as he is, and exactly as he isn’t. This requires that we adopt a new perspective for our relationships—one where we view nothing as missing or in disrepair.
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Copyright ©2011.  All rights reserved.

28 January, 2011

Part II: Obtaining Your Goals (Meeting Your Resolutions)

In last week’s blog, I wrote about obtaining your goals/meeting your resolutions by putting structures in place to support you in the areas where you find yourself to be weakest in respect to will power and motivation. In this week’s blog, I’m continuing to write about obtaining your goals, but doing so by applying another method, reframing, on top of the structures you’ve already put in place.

The idea of reframing is not new to many. In fact, it’s used quite a bit by psychologists, therapists, and those who practice neuro-linguistic programming. And, the concept of reframing is simple enough for anyone to use in everyday life. Here, of course, I will be writing about using it for the purpose of obtaining your goals.

The simplest way to break down the concept of reframing is to look at it as “putting a new spin on a familiar concept.” We automatically reframe certain things in our lives – like changing our concept about someone whom we thought we would not like and then coming to find out that we have a lot in common with that individual. When we have the new realization, we naturally place that individual into a different category in our minds – a category that includes people we like. As we grow up, many of us reframe ideas about the foods we like and dislike, altering our perceptions to coincide with the altering of our tastebuds. So, the process of reframing is not new to any of us, and in fact, is used by all of us – albeit not always as a conscious act.

However, you can utilize this process consciously to help in obtaining your goals. For example, if you were working on developing a new habit of exercising every day, at some point (or at several points), you might be tempted to not go to the gym and your mind may automatically begin to think about all of the things you’re giving up in order to workout. You may think about how nice it would be to just be able to sit and relax in front of the T.V., to sit down and read a good book, or even to be able to run errands during that time rather than losing your personal down-time. This is where you can use reframing to your advantage. To reframe this, you can simply turn your thinking around to look at what you’re gaining instead of what you’re giving up.

When you think about all of the things you’re giving up, you’re fighting an up-hill mental battle that’s going to be difficult for you to win. Giving in to that mentality for even one day isn’t an option when you’re creating a new habit. You must be successful for 21-30 days consecutively in order to instill your new habit. Therefore, you need to change your thinking, choosing to concentrate your thoughts on what you are achieving, or what you’ll obtain, by continuing to exercise. Look at what you’ve visualized as the end-result of you obtaining that goal, whether it’s a healthier body, a slimmer body, or a body that’s capable of doing more than it has in the past.

Instill in yourself the habit of thinking about your goal, or its benefits, first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. And instill the same habit as the last thing you think about at night before you go to bed. Reward yourself, mentally, each night by complementing yourself for achieving your goal that day and adding another successful day to your new habit. Before long, with the proper structures in place and a bit of reframing to remind yourself of what you’re getting vs. what you’re giving up, you’ll find that you’ve successfully instilled, as a habit, your new resolution.
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Copyright ©2011.  All rights reserved.

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