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Articles from April 2007

April 30, 2007

The Hard Work of Marriage?

Lots of folks say a good marriage requires a lot of hard work. I disagree.

The hard work comes in when we struggle to provide a spouse with more love by stretching our abilitiies at loving and going beyond what we feel like giving. I applaud the effort, and it's saved lots of marriages, but I think there's an easier route.

Those newly in love also stretch to do more, learn new ways to love, find a few extra hours a week to outdo themselves at loving, but they never describe it as hard work. What's the difference?

The difference is the flip side of love, our ability to be loved. We're not open vessels, into which our beloved can pour the sweet elixir of love. No, some of us have very narrow openings. Some have a bottomless vessel that never registers as even half-full. Others offer a moving target.

Loving more is hard work when we feel unloved. When we feel loved, though, it's a joy, almost a compulsion. And when we feel loved, we don't keep score, like we do when it feels like hard work.

We can learn to open wide and drink love in, to lean in and catch every precious drop. We can get better at being loved. And one very easy way to do that is to assume love.

Save your hard work for something else, like pursuing a dream together.

April 23, 2007

Broken Promises

Thanks again to Tammy from Creating Success Stories for this great question.

When we were married, my husband and I agreed that I would take care of the inside of the house and he would take care of the outsideā€¦he is lazy and does nothing and I want you to help me do something about it! What should I do to make him do what he promised to?


Keeping promises is a personal thing. People do or they don't. You can fail to keep your own promises in retaliation, but you're not likely to feel very good about yourself when you do.

Assume Love

So what happens if you assume love here? You didn't marry a man lacking integrity. You didn't marry a lazy bum. What would lead a man who loves you completely and intends to keep his promises to fail to take care of the outside of the house?

You know your husband much better than I do. I'll speak of spouses in general. You choose the explanation which fits your circumstances.

A person might fail to keep such a promise to someone he loves if:

  • His health or physical fitness changed since he made the promise, requiring more effort to keep it than he expected.

  • He's retaliating against you for failing to keep some other promise to him.

  • He's delivering a lot more than he promised in another area, such as working more hours or doing more inside the house than he'd expected, and he believes it compensates for what he's not doing outdoors.

  • The thought of doing the outside chores triggers unconscious resistance -- he's dealing with some earlier wound and not the actual weeding or painting, and he hasn't yet figured out how to get past the feelings these chores stir up in him.

  • He's already doing all the outside work he ever expected to do when he made the promise, and he's content with the results of his efforts.

  • His addiction or mental disease has rendered him incapable of acting in accordance with his intentions. (If this is the case, deal with this first, then the yardwork.

If it's possible he's skipping those outdoor chores for a reason that has nothing to do with his love for you or the sort of man he is, don't make the mistake of using it as a measure of him or his love for you.

Fair or Unfair?

When you feel you are keeping a promise, but he's not, life can seem unfair. But is it? How much would you be doing, inside and out, if he were never in the picture? The grass would still grow. The dandelions would still sprout. The fence would still lean. Whatever you would do about them single, short of exchanging sex for chores, you are free to do while married. You might even have more resources and free time available for them while married, if your husband has an income or even occasionally cooks dinner.

If you choose to feel put-upon by your husband instead of Mother Nature when outdoor work needs doing, you're actively pushing away love with your resentment. You're cutting off your nose to spite your face. Do whatever you can to end this resentment, even stopping everything you're doing indoors, if it takes such an extreme measure. Better to let your house get messy and your porch light stay broken than to push away the love of a good man who has promised you a lifetime of love.

April 16, 2007

Meeting Your Own Needs

Here's my reply to another question posed by my friend Tammy from Creating Success Stories.

Do adults who practice assumed love live separate lives (since they are meeting all of their own needs, bar one : -}), other than in the bedroom?

That's a great question. I encourage all husbands and wives to take responsibility for their own needs. If you want to get out more, get out more, and don't sit there calling your spouse a couch potato. If you want a financial safety cushion, earn more and spend less, and don't browbeat your spouse into changing jobs or asking for a raise.

But does taking responsibility for your own needs mean both of you will be meeting all of your own needs? Not likely.

When we choose someone to marry, it's generally for the pleasure of giving love as well as receiving it. It feels great to please a spouse. It's marvelous to feel needed and important.

What stinks is feeling incapable of providing what we know a spouse wants from us. When we can't provide this, there's not much joy to be found in providing other things.

When you assume love, assume a loving spouse will do everything possible to make your life better. Hence, if your spouse does not meet one of your needs, it's very likely not possible to do so at this time. Why not? Maybe too many competing responsibilities. Maybe paralyzing fear. Maybe too many unmet personal needs. Maybe concern that what you want would ultimately harm one of you. Or maybe something as simple as not noticing what you need.

Ask for what you need or want, but don't tell yourself or your spouse that awful lie, "If you loved me, you would do this for me." It's not true. What is true is that while you're waiting for your spouse to provide the one thing you've decided a loving spouse must do, you're blinding yourself to the love you're being offered and you're frustrating your spouse's natural desire to please you.

Own your needs, because it frees your spouse to do so much more for you.

April 12, 2007

I've Apologized Enough

Don Imus says he's "apologized enough" for his sexist, racist comment about the Rutgers Womens Basketball team. How many husbands and wives have you heard say the same thing?

Imus will have apologized enough when the state of his relationship is acceptable to him. And he hasn't yet tried the step most likely to rebuild it.

A husband or wife is fortunate to have just one relationship to repair after a particularly hurtful act. Don Imus has many. Here's how he might go about mending those relationships instead of bitterly accepting their end.

A More Effective Apology

To the politicians and newsmakers he's offended, he might say, "I value your contribution to my show. You are a huge part of my brand, what makes me famous and what makes me money. I need you. I am so sorry to have hurt your careers with my mistake. What can I do to make our relationship right again?"

To the sponsors of his show, he might say, "It takes a lot of money to put this show on the air. Sometimes, I slip into thinking I make that money, but I don't. You make the money, and you pay the bills. We are partners in this show. I am so sorry to have let you down in this way. What can I do to make our relationship right again?"

To MSNBC, who has broadcast his radio show on TV, he might say, "You have brought me so many more listeners. You've made it so much easier for a radio jock to compete with the morning TV shows. I'm sorry I've created this divide in your viewers, and I know it will cost you viewers for other shows and income from mine. You must feel like I've stabbed you in the back. I'm so sorry. What can I do to make our relationship right again?"

To CBS Radio, who produces his radio show, he might say, "We are a team, and I've let you down. You allowed me to express my opinions and walk very close to the line of what you as a broadcaster can get away with. I have overstepped the line this time, and I am responsible for the huge mess it's brought you, including the effects on your other shows. I am so sorry for this. What can I do to make our relationship right again?"

To his listeners, who are the only reason CBS, MSNBC, his sponsors, and all those politicians and newsmakers have anything to do with him, he might say, "I stepped over the line when talking about the Rutgers team. I offended many of you. I embarrassed you with a racist, sexist, and insulting comment that your friends and family might think you are OK with just because you are a loyal listener of mine. I'm not OK with that comment, either. These were not public figures, used to being poked fun of and even thankful sometimes for the publicity of my biting comments. These are young women at the pinnacle of their athletic careers, brand new to public attention, and the comment went well beyond biting. It was insulting, to them and to many others. I am so sorry for what I've done to you. What can I do to make our relationship right again?"

And to the Rutgers Womens Basketball team, he might say, "Until I stepped over the line of decency, you and I never had a relationship, but we do now, and it's not one I'm proud of. You have risen to fame fairly. You have just suffered what must be a very difficult defeat to accept. At the worst possible moment, I made the horrible mistake of suggesting to millions of people that you are not strong women of remarkable athletic ability and drive, but members of some group of people I implied are common and beneath me. You most definitely are not, but the harm I've done to you is very real. I am so sorry. What can I do to make our relationship right?"

The Alternative

Unfortunately, Don Imus isn't working to make any of his relationships right again. He's not leaving it to those he's harmed to name the steps he needs to take to make things right again. He's done all he cares to do by speaking to the media and making a date to talk to the team. The politicians and newsmakers have filed for divorce. Some of his sponsors have filed for divorce or begun an indefinite separation. MSNBC has filed for divorce. CBS has asked for a two-seek separation. Many of his listeners have filed for divorce. The team has no good reason not to dump him before the relationship goes any further.

And that's quite often what happens when anyone says, "I've apologized enough" instead of "What can I do to make our relationship right again?"

April 8, 2007

When Only One Partner Assumes Love

My friend Tammy from Creating Success Stories sent me some questions this week about my advice to Assume Love. I'm going to answer one at a time.

What do you suggest for a couple where only one partner is willing to "assume love"?

This is the marvelous thing about assuming love -- it doesn't take two. One person can change the marriage. And this approach most benefits the one who assumes love.

Let me explain why this is true, because so many approaches to a better marriage really do require both partners to make it work.

Imagine you come home one night and walk directly into the kitchen. The two of you have somewhere to be an hour from now. You hit unexpected traffic and spent twenty minutes stopping and starting, moving forward one car length at a time. Now you've got to eat and hit the road as fast as you can.

Is there a dinner already prepared and waiting for you? No, your spouse is in the other room, answering emails.

How do you feel?

How's your mood?

How do you act toward your mate?

How does your mate feel now?

What's your mate's mood now?

The doorbell rings. It's a cab driver, carrying in a bag of styrofoam containers with your favorite meal from a restaurant the two of you love.

How does your dinner go? How's the trip after dinner? Well, if you assumed love and tried to think of a loving reason why your spouse might be in the other room answering emails when you're both in such a rush, it probably goes pretty well. You were probably in a hopeful mood and greeted your mate with a hug and a kiss.

If you didn't assume love, if you stuck with an assumption that it's uncaring, lazy, even disrespectful to sit and answer emails when a quick dinner is needed, you've probably already made a sarcastic comment to your spouse, who felt it was undeserved and is now in a sour mood, too. You're eating your favorite dinner, but you might as well be gulping down bologna sandwiches.

Now, as it happens, the meal was provided by your brother, after you called and fumed about the traffic on the interstate. Your spouse was racing against the clock to fix a brewing disaster at work in time to get out to wherever you two needed to be, expecting to skip dinner unless you got home in time to solve the food problem.

But your thoughts about the situation, not the situation itself, decided how you and your spouse would feel. Assuming love is a method for checking whether your thoughts are coming from some random association made in your childhood or an earlier relationship or if they're coming from what you know about your spouse.

My approach focuses on how much love we allow in, while most relationship-based approaches focus on how much love we give each other. If you two had been to a marriage counselor who advised you two to communicate more, you might have added anger about your spouse's silence to your mix of thoughts as you arrived home, unless you stopped to assume love and let your imperfect spouse's love in.

When you stop and assume love, unless your partner is behaving in ways a loving person cannot behave, you'll feel better and open your heart to whatever love you are being offered. There's a good chance this change in you will lead to better treatment of your spouse, but that's just an incidental benefit. You do not need to do anything more for your spouse, and your spouse does not need to assume love, too, for you to reap the benefits of assuming love.

The Author

Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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