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Articles from July 2012

July 29, 2012

If You Want a Healthier Husband or Wife

Lots of married folks try in vain to get their spouse or life partner to eat better, exercise more, or take their meds. It would surely be wonderful if you succeeded, but what's happening while you're waiting for this to happen?

  • Your spouse, unable to do what seems so logical and healthy to do, feels he or she is not just failing at something important but simultaneously letting you down.
  • You stand always on guard, unable to enjoy sharing an ice cream treat or a day in bed.
  • You complain, holding yourself out as knowing more or being of higher character than the person who loves you, which makes it harder to love you.
  • You worry, focusing on the threat to how long your spouse will be with you while another threat, of failing to use and enjoy those days fully, casts a huge shadow over your marriage.
  • You set yourself up to be disappointed by your lack of influence and to miss the many ways in which you are loved.
  • You set your spouse up to be disappointed by the lack of a partner with whom to celebrate living when dying circles overhead as a possibility, especially if a health risk has already put him or her in jeopardy.

Health is just one factor in how long we live. And how long we live is just one aspect of a great life. Don't let health fears keep you from being fully present in your marriage or from opening yourself up to be loved in whatever way your beloved can best love you. Expect Love. All your other expectations of your mate are premeditated resentments. If you don't like the resentment, let go of the expectation.

July 27, 2012

Two Great Reads

I loved these. I think you might, too.

Grace Full Mama blogger Joy wrote a post about her missionary pilot husband recently that just warmed my heart. He actually said he would rather his wife assume love than bake fresh bread for his sandwiches or clean the house! [Thanks to Lori, The Generous Wife for linking to both of us in the same blog post, because I had never seen Joy's blog.

Also, Harriet Lerner, author of The Dance of Anger (and a bunch of other books, but this is her best, in my opinion), wrote a blog post recently on why demanding an apology might not help your marriage or your mood. Her explanation might come in handy if you ever need to Assume Love after your spouse's misdeed.

Comments on either of them?

July 25, 2012

Breathe Out for a Calmer Marriage?

Please ignore this blog post if you live with a violent partner or one who has ever tried to control you by harming you physically, financially, or emotionally and has not successfully treated the problem underlying this behavior. If this is you, please seek help from others capable of controlling that behavior or keeping it at a safe distance from you and your children.

For the rest of us, here is an interesting area of research to tell you about. It may come in handy when you fear your spouse may throw a temper tantrum, cut off your allowance, move out, earn too little, or ask too much. It may keep you from reacting angrily when compassion would bring you closer or from distancing yourself when what you want is a tighter relationship.

And it is so simple. Deric Bownds' Mindblog (always a wonderful read) says in a blog post this week:

Whether we are breathing in or breathing out can have a pronounced effect on our threat detection threshold. Meditation regimes and stress performance training (as for Navy Seals) emphasize prolongation of exhalation as a calming technique. During exhalation, measurements have shown a relative increase in parasympathetic and vagal activity, a relative decrease in amygdala reactivity, and lower reactivity to possible threats.

The rest of his post talks about research that shows we get the same effect when our heart is pumping out. Not much we can do to increase the time we spend on that. But we can prolong our exhalation and reduce our reactions to whatever scares us.

I suppose it would be great to breathe out slowly all the time, yet even Bownds says he doesn't do all the stuff he knows would improve his state of mind. But how about doing it right after delivering possibly upsetting news to our mates? Or as we enter a room that often holds unpleasant surprises? Or as our beloveds tell us about their day?

Let's give it a try, do our own little experiment. Tell us all what you find in a comment. Does it make it easier to Assume Love? Does it make it easier to recognize we're expecting something other than love? Does it make it easier to propose finding a Third Alternative instead of freaking out over the one we're offered? Breathe out, and we'll all find out together.

July 22, 2012

How to Avoid Getting Sucked into Your Mate's Depression

Depression happens. Unless you're Amish, it very likely you know someone in its grip right now. You may even know firsthand what a major depressive episode or chronic depression feels like.

When it hits the person you love and pledged your life to, it can be so very frustrating. You want to help, but to date no one has demonstrated that cajoling or entertaining reduces the duration or depth of depression or that spousal whining increases motivation to do something about a depression. Even if you're trained in treating this miserable mental illness, the shift in roles is likely to screw up your marriage.

So don't focus on the illness.

What you can do instead is to take extra care of your marriage while your husband, wife, or life partner deals with the depression. Make a list of the valuable things you get from your marriage and work on ways to keep getting them while your spouse is unable to provide them.

For example, if your spouse temporarily has no enthusiasm for being your tennis partner, movie date, idea person, or editor, find others to fill in. Make it clear to them and your spouse that they are temporary, and don't choose anyone with whom your mate might feel competitive. But by all means, keep doing what fills you up and makes you smile.

Or bring a favorite shared activity home. Invite friends over to watch rented movies or rehearse a performance. Let your spouse join you or retreat to a quiet part of the house. Worry about enjoying yourself. Your smiles, energy, and laughter are a welcoming beacon back to the world of the non-depressed.

If your spouse stops cooking, buy ready-made meals or start doing the cooking. Just be sure they are good, nourishing meals you will enjoy. If your mate stops mowing the lawn or cleaning the living room, hire someone to help you keep up with the work well before your resentment sets in.

Take care of your needs. If your spouse stops collecting bonus and overtime pay, supplement your income well before becoming fearful of having too little money. It's your job to protect hope, as depressed people lose their grip on it.

Protect pleasure, too. Be the one to initiate sex and get creative in building up to it more slowly and deliciously than usual.

And Expect Love. Let go of all your usual expectations about how it might appear. Instead, watch your suffering spouse for every sign of love for you. Celebrate it. Amplify it. Return it fivefold. Protect your relationship and you protect your mate's most important resource.

July 20, 2012

How to Start a Discussion About a Change

"I want to do this a way that keeps you happy, but the current one isn't working for me. Let's brainstorm some other possibilities." That is one very good way to start a discussion about something you want to change.

For example, he likes to leave his chair where it lands when he leaves the table, but your "this is wrong" alarm goes off when he does.

You might say, "I want you to keep on pushing your chair away from the table after dinner, but the current outcome of doing this isn't working for me. Would you be willing to brainstorm some other possibilities with me?"

Here are a few to get you started (the odder the better because you'll laugh together, and that's worth 37 bonus points right there):

  • Bolt the chairs to the floor, the way fast food places do.

  • Sit on giant exercise balls instead of chairs. You surely don't have a ball placement alarm, too.

  • Put a cozy restaurant booth in your kitchen, just for the two of you.

  • When you get up, push the table to his chair and your chair under it. Eat in a different part of the kitchen every night.

  • Attach bungee cords to his chair.

  • Make it a practice to kiss him as he gets up. Back him and his chair to the table while you kiss.

  • Wash the floor after dinner, so it seems perfectly normal to put the chairs up on the table.

  • Serve dinner on a tablecloth on the floor and forget the table.

  • Attach a ticket counter to his chair and click it when you push the chair in for him. Once a month, give yourself a $1 reward for each click. See if he doesn't start giving you extra clicks.

  • Paint targets on the floor under the table for each chair leg. Some folks cannot resist aiming for a target. You might be married to one of them.

  • Add casters to your chairs. It could turn out he loves to give a chair a good shove if it will roll into place.

  • Buy soda fountain swivel stools and put your table up on blocks.

This method has been known to work a whole lot better than the "You know, civilized men push their chairs back under the table after eating, and it creeps me out that you still don't after 17 years of being married to me" approach.

July 17, 2012

Love is Patient and Kind

There is no religious theme to Assume Love. While many of you who read it regularly are Christians, many are also Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, and atheists. We all need and value loving relationships.

I seldom link to other marriage blogs, because so many base their advice on scripture. I feel bad about this, because many link often to Assume Love and because social and experimental psychology have shown quite a bit of scripture from all religions to be right about the value of marriage and about what works.

So today, I am going to recommend you read Paul Byerly, The Generous Husband's piece on 1 Corinthians 13:4&5, a bit of scripture that appears in many Christian weddings. Paul's post is a great story, well told.

If only he could post just these words and wait for something to happen. And if only I could post these three lessons from the shocking end to my first marriage and wait for something to happen:

  • Assume Love

  • Expect Love

  • Find Third Alternatives

We would be saying the same things in our own ways.

  • Assume Love - be patient and kind, do not envy or boast of your own strengths, because your spouse probably did whatever he or she did to upset you with love and his or her own strengths, and you may just be looking at it the wrong way to see this.
  • Expect Love - do not be irritable or resentful because this is not what you expect if you expect anything other than love as your mate best shows it. Each expectation is a premeditated resentment, you making you unhappy despite the love in your life.
  • Find Third Alternatives - do not be arrogant or rude or insist on your own way. The world is full of other ways that could please both of you. Look for them, because happy together really beats happy by your lonesome.
Christian or not, you can find almost everything you need for a great marriage in just a few words.

July 15, 2012

Why Be Married? To Fight Inequality

Today's NY Times has a great analysis of the greatly increasing role marriage plays in class inequality in the U.S.

Forty years ago, the top and middle income thirds had virtually identical family patterns: more than 95 percent of households with children in either tier had two parents in the home.

I grew up very near the bottom of that middle income third, but I grew up with both my parents in a house they owned. We moved a lot, because they would buy run-down homes, fix them up in their spare time, and move to another run-down home in a better neighborhood. As a result, I had some pretty good teachers in high school, and I went off to MIT on a needs-based scholarship.

Forty years ago, at MIT, I met my first husband. Ninety-five percent of children in the top two-thirds of the nation economically lived with both their parents then. Five years later, I became a mother, and our son was one of the lucky 95%. Nine years after that, when we had probably reached that upper third of incomes, his father died, and he got to experience the lot of the other 5%, but with a great running start. We owned a house. I had had plenty of support advancing in my professional career and getting more education. And we were entitled to his father's life insurance and Social Security surviving child benefits, which exceeded what most children of divorced parents received from their living non-custodial parent.

Since then the groups have diverged, according to Mr. Western and Ms. Shollenberger: 88 percent at the top have two parents, but just 71 percent do in the middle.

The article contrasts two mothers who work together:

The secret to their success resides in part in old-fashioned math: strength in numbers. Together, the Faulkners earn nearly three times as much as what Ms. Faulkner earns alone. Their high five-figure income ranks them near the 75th percentile -- hardly rich, but better off than nearly three of four families with children.

For Ms. Schairer, the logic works in reverse. Her individual income of $24,500 puts her at the 49th percentile among parents: smack in the middle. But with only one paycheck, her family income falls to the 19th percentile, lagging more than four out of five.

And it's not just money. It's time. When my husband died, I had to work harder to deal with the income loss. At the same time, our son needed twice as much of my time for attending baseball games and school events, and household chores needed twice as much, too.

It's wisdom, too. Without a second adult watching his back, our son was stuck with my best guess about how to handle every situation that arose. And with my time-pressed, sleep-deprived temper. And with my need for intelligent conversation about something other than my job.

And it's character strengths: creativity, kindness, gratitude, leadership, courage, etc. We all excel in four or five. With two parents, a child gets first-hand training from a master in up to ten different strengths.

How did Ms. Schairer end up a single mom? She got pregnant in college.

Abortion crossed her mind, but her boyfriend...said they should start a family. They agreed that marriage should wait until they could afford a big reception and a long gown.

If you have kids, you probably know how long that will take.

Their odds were not particularly good: nearly half the unmarried parents living together at a child's birth split up within five years, according to Child Trends.

Should she have married him when they were pregnant with the first of their three children? Probably not. He did not turn out to be very responsible or good with kids. And I am guessing she could tell this before they ever had sex together, and certainly before they conceived their second and third kids.

But please, let us get the word out to our current crop of high school and college students that marriage matters to your kids' future chances. Date as if you're choosing someone to turn 60 with. Protect your future kids against single parenthood. And if you did not observe how to sustain a great marriage during your childhood, learn how now. Fight the rising inequality among America's children.

July 13, 2012

Flow and Your Marriage

I never saw it this way before. Maybe you didn't either.

Have you heard of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's research into the state he calls flow? It's a wonderful state, reached by artists as they create, rock climbers as they climb, writers as they write, mothers as they play with their babies, even by wallpaperers as they transform a room.

Jeremy Dean gave a great summary of flow (in under 300 words) in PsyBlog recently. As he describes how we feel when we're in flow, I thought, "That's exactly how I felt as we were falling in love."

Jeremy writes:

"When you're in a flow state:
  • an hour can pass in the blink of an eye,

  • you feel what you are doing is important,

  • you're not self-conscious,

  • action and awareness merges,

  • you feel in full control,

  • and the experience is intrinsically rewarding."

If that fifth one, "in full control" doesn't sound quite right, it refers to your ability to choose your next step, not your ability to dictate the outcome of it. And the rest? Don't they sound like the hours you two spent together once you got past the awkward "getting to know you" phase?

Weren't they wonderful? You probably did not even need words to feel totally in tune with your new person.

If the feeling of falling in love is a series of flow states, is it possible that the difference between couples who long to return to the falling-in-love stage and the ones who still feel "in love" with each other twenty years later has to do with finding other ways to join each other in flow?

The four ingredients for creating flow have been well researched. Flow happens when you are internally motivated (expecting no reward beyond the fun of the task), stretching almost to the limits of your skills (but not so far that you get anxious), with short-term goals (like getting from one rock to the next or returning each ball as it comes your way) and immediate feedback on your progress toward them (like solid contact on the next rock or a slip of the foot).

How do they apply in a marriage or lifelong relationship?

Think of your sex life. Sex between life partners usually meets the flow criterion of being done for its own sake. And short-term goals? Arousal and orgasm definitely count. But the other two may make the difference between sex in flow and ordinary sex. Are you providing your partner with immediate feedback? And do you keep stretching your skills almost to the limit, or are you phoning it in?

When you cook together, do you choose tasks that will stretch each of you almost to your limits? Do you each have clear, short-term goals? Are you doing it (at least some of the time) for its own reward rather than out of obligation to feed your family?

When you get out for some exercise on your bikes, skates, or windsurfers, is one of you pulling the other past their current ability into the anxiety zone? That's going to kill flow. Do you have goals you can meet every few minutes or every hour, like getting up this hill or tacking at the best moment to keep up your speed? Can you tell from moment to moment how close you are to achieving these goals, or do you need to choose ones easier to evaluate?

Do you have flow-inducing hobbies you can do side-by-side, like writing while your partner paints or drawing while your partner fishes? Could you seek out new ones, like learning to dance together or starting a garden?

When your spouse is in flow, totally involved in some activity and unaware of time flying by, do you interrupt or do you start something within eye-catching distance that will take you to the same delicious place? When you are in flow, just catching a glimpse of your loved one's face, also in flow, can be heart-melting.

And since you are reading this and obviously have an interest in becoming better at relationship skills, have you tried finding flow when you use them? Could you find yourself totally absorbed in trying to guide a conversation away from a battle no one wins and into a Third Alternative? Could you be so present in your coming-home encounters that you get five minutes of flow from them?

So, am I onto something? Is there a connection between feeling "in love" and being in flow? I would love to hear what you think.

July 12, 2012

Finding Sense

"Why doesn't he lend a hand when I'm obviously overwhelmed?"

"How could she spend money on this when we're trying to save for a house?"

"Why can't he see the consequences of putting this off?"

"What is she thinking when she leaves these here instead of putting them away?"

In every marriage, good or bad, and quite frequently, questions like these arrive. Often they come with rising rage or with a great sinking feeling about the relationship.

Don't run with those feelings.

Your brain is designed to protect you from some really huge threats, and it's doing its job. When it sees something that makes no sense and doesn't fit your picture of the way things should be, it aims to make sure you focus on the possibility of an immediate threat.

That's great news if your life partner is flinging the TV set your way or about to drive off and leave you and your young children alone in a tent far from civilization. It could save your life.

But the chemicals that create those feelings get released before you have time to assess whether this mysterious behavior poses a real threat or not. And they serve to keep you vividly focused on assessing the magnitude of the threat instead of finding sense in what happened.

To counter this, I have learned to Assume Love. This does not mean to act as if you know you are loved well, but to think as if you knew it, to help you find the sense behind what happened.

Let me give you an example.

"How could she spend money on a giant coffeemaker when we're trying to save for a house?"

Until you find the sense, it seems like she's (a) selfish, (b) sabotaging the effort to buy a house, or (c) practicing wishful thinking that will get in the way of every goal you might set together.

So, you change the question to this: "What might make a truly loving life partner of good character spend money on a giant coffeemaker when trying to save for a house?"

This does not rule out any of the first three explanations, but it tells your brain it's OK not to act on them just yet. You start to calm down as soon as you silently ask it.

Then pair up the words and see what memories this jogs:

  • Is money the only way to get a coffeemaker? Did she actually spend money on the coffeemaker? Could it be borrowed or a gift?

  • Was it money available for the house, or Is there a chance she spent money already allocated for it, e.g., as a gift to someone with whom you always exchange gifts?

  • Is there any way a coffeemaker could help buy a house?

  • Is money the only way to get a house?

Next, check the date:

  • Is anything coming up on her calendar that might relate to a coffeemaker purchase, maybe a shower or a church event?

  • Is the date or month she bought it linked to a childhood event that might be connected to coffee or a coffeemaker?

  • Is anything coming up on your calendar that might be made better with a giant coffeemaker?

These may seem like silly questions. They are not. Some of the biggest Aha! moments I have seen in teaching people to Assume Love have come from checking the date something happened or began. But even if the date questions do not help, they get you tapped into a lot more memories that might relate.

Consider the payoffs next:

  • What is she likely to do with a coffeemaker? How would this benefit her?

  • Is there a possibility it is a conspicuous purchase to draw you back into a discussion of the house-buying goal?

  • Is it a revenge expenditure? Have you done anything recently that might have seemed selfish or ill-advised to her?

  • Is there someone who matters to her who will admire or be envious about this coffeemaker?

  • Will she be one step closer to a dream of hers with this pot?

If you still do not see an explanation that makes sense here, reach out:

  • Ask people you know to tell you about coffeemaker purchases and what they led to, what made them feel good.

  • Ask your wife, with love and with the expectation she offers you only love in return, what led to the coffermaker purchase. Then listen well and confirm what you think you heard.

Finding sense can be an enormous relief and the start of greater intimacy and love.

July 8, 2012

Got an Unhappy Spouse?

I have noticed a lot of marriage advice for unhappy couples encourages them to reduce each other's unhappiness. Personally, I never found this model very helpful.

There is a time for helping reduce your spouse's unhappiness, but it's not while you're seeing him or her as the cause of your own unhappiness. It's when you're happy. It's when love frees up your generosity and kindness and delights in doing whatever you can for the wonderful person you married.

That happiness is within your reach. In fact, while your spouse could help you become less unhappy, happiness is something you can only give yourself. But that's not the subject of today's post. This one is about what you can do, once you rediscover the happiness in your relationship, to reduce your mate's unhappiness.

  1. Look for reasons to be grateful to have this man or woman in your life. Try to find at least three new ones every day.

  2. Express your gratitude often and in as many ways as you can come up with: love letters, favorite foods, thank you gifts, small favors, public declarations, notes to be found unexpectedly, welcome home kisses with a thank you for whatever happened while you were apart.

  3. When you cannot or will not do what your spouse asks of you, instead of "no," say, "Tell me more about what you're looking for, and not just how to get there. I want you to have it, and I am willing to help come up with a better way to get there."

  4. Set aside time in your day for being present with your spouse, even when he or she is not necessarily ready to be present with you. Turn off your phone and email. Put down whatever you are reading. Turn off the TV. If your spouse is willing to talk, listen actively and reflect back what you are learning about what your mate feels or believes, whether you agree with it or not. Just feeling understood makes a huge difference. If he or she is willing to have sex, take your time and give it your full attention. Or cook a meal together, take a walk together, or play a game of tennis.

  5. Don't walk away from a complaint or a jab. Try something like, "Thanks for being married to me in spite of my shortcomings. What else could I do to make our relationship better?"

  6. When your spouse has good news, respond positively ("that's wonderful!" or "fantastic") and constructively ("what a great reward for your hard work on the project" or "sounds like your extraordinary social skills paid off again"). The way you handle good news is even more important than how sympathetic you are to bad news.

  7. Watch that you do not expect anything in return. When you give to get, you don't give at all.

Nothing in return means this is not how you fix your marriage. It is how you celebrate it. If you are not yet ready to celebrate it, first Assume Love, Expect Love, and Find Third Alternatives every chance you get. That is how you enjoy being married.

July 6, 2012

When to Leave

Yesterday, I wrote about how to handle the annoying things your husband does. For two of them, ones that put you in danger, I suggested leaving.

Leaving is different from divorcing. Leaving is putting yourself out of harm's way. It also puts your spouse out of harm's way, preventing them from injuring or killing their spouse before they regain control over their mind and morals.

Husbands are not the only ones who can become dangerous. Wives can, too.

Bravo to 20-year-old Gabriel Burklund. reports:

Gabriel said that he had asked his father to walk away from the marriage as the fighting worsened, telling him that "it might end up with someone dying." His dad refused to go, he told the judge.

Whether you're refusing out of stubbornness, anger, or concern, not going is unlikely to lead to a good outcome. Gabriel was so right to encourage his father to stop his battle with a woman who was losing a grip on herself.

Gabriel's father, Michael, was described by his mother and siblings as a loving husband who "tried everything he could to save his marriage." Everything, that is, except stepping out of the line of fire.

Now, Michael is dead, killed by his wife Dorleen with five bullets and three more in the back after she reloaded and he lay on the floor. Dorleen was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison plus one to five years for her weapon. She came across as delusional and "twisted" but guilty of a cold, calculated murder despite her claim of self-defense.

As Gabriel said:

"This didn't happen because of one act. This happened because two people were in a war for years," he said. "It could have been solved if they'd just separated. But neither, neither of them backed down."

July 5, 2012

Why Your Husband Does Those Annoying Things He Does

Here are seven reasons why your husband does those annoying things he does:

  1. He has no idea it annoys you. It's never occurred to him that burping during a meal or tossing underwear off with abandon or using baby talk to express affection could possibly even be seen as annoying. If he knew (well, if he knew and did not feel attacked for failing to read your mind or intuit social norms), he would change.
  2. He has no idea it annoys you. You told him long ago, but he's forgotten. Tell him again, with compassion for a less than perfect memory and different manners training than you received.
  3. He knows it annoys you, but he's pretty sure it won't harm you. He's got a bone to pick with you and either you're ducking the issue or he believes tracking mud through the living room is a better means of getting your attention than telling you he's upset. Ask if anything's bugging him.
  4. He knows it annoys you, but it feels so good he can't imagine why you won't let him have the simple pleasure of watching TV with his pants unzipped or taking his time getting ready for a visit to your parents. Propose looking for a Third Alternative that gives him his pleasure without robbing you of yours.
  5. He knows it annoys you, but he thinks you will be a better person when you get over being annoyed by things like friends dropping by unannounced for something to eat or toilet seats left in whatever position they end up in. Become that better person. Let go of being annoyed, whether it takes creating a space in your home with a mini refrigerator full of salami for those guests or adding a big, pink handle to your toilet seat for lowering it. Is there really any point killing off any of your love for this man over a difference in opinion?
  6. He knows it annoys you. He knows it costs you significant time or money, causes you pain, or frightens you. And he apologizes or spins an explanation for doing what he did not intend. He may have lost control of his behavior through addiction, mental illness, brain tumor, or football injury, in which case you are the only person who can protect the two of you. If so, get help from a support group like AlAnon and live apart or with others who can control him until he gets treatment. He may instead have a furious anger. If it's because you hurt him, appeal to his compassion, work hard on regaining his trust, and separate temporarily if necessary, because revenge does not bring marriages back together. If he's angry over something else and taking it out on you, look for professional help for both of you.
  7. He knows it annoys you. He knows it costs you significant time or money, causes you pain, or frightens you. And he has no remorse, whether for raping you, gambling away the rent money, or ripping down your redecorating job. Get out. Get yourself and your children to safety today. Do not stay, even to protect your assets, as you will be losing something far more valuable, your ability to love and possibly your life.
If you, in an earlier marriage, before your husband's rehab, or during your childhood, dealt with the sixth or seventh of these, be especially careful to start with the first as you try to understand now.

July 4, 2012

Significant Other

Happy Fourth of July!!

Folks in the US celebrate Independence Day today. This has me thinking about the phrase "significant other." Give me a moment to make the connection.

Independence is a big deal here, and we're well into yet another upswing in its importance. Americans do not like to be told what to do.

In World War II, most folks gave up a whole bunch of personal independence to secure their collective independence. Today, though, personal independence is on an upswing. The internet (an incredibly interdependent bit of infrastructure) has given us all more opportunities to assert our independence.

Managers are advised to give a lot more autonomy to their employees or lose the best ones. People in droves are seeking self-employment, risking (and in most cases losing) large chunks of their previous incomes. And it is not just the ones made suddenly independent by an employer who could no longer afford their services.

The more we seek independence, the more we resent obligation. Even our commitments chafe against our independent streaks and threaten our ability to do as we please.

And this is how we arrive at significant others: our husbands, wives, and life partners. What makes them significant? Is it what they can do for us? Or is it what we are willing to obligate or commit ourselves to do for them, harnessing our independence in service to something bigger than ourselves to create soul-satisfying meaning?

The Author

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

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