6 Ways of Keeping the Spark Alive in Your Marriage

A gorgeous young client of mine, who is dear to my heart, got married this weekend. I felt very honoured that she invited us in the small and intimate but truly beautiful celebration. It was such a pleasure to meet her family and friends, and to watch the couple step into this level of commitment. She and the groom, who are both very conscious people, had clearly put a lot of thought into meaningful traditions they wanted to include.

One beautiful custom they incorporated was the wedding sand ceremony. They both took turns pouring different coloured sand into one clear glass, forming a layered effect, expressing the coming together of their two souls into one new family. Then they shook the glass to mix the sand, symbolizing the strength of their relationship. Just as the sand cannot be parted neither can they. They are filled with optimism, love and joy as they are beginning their journey together as a new family.

wedding-sand-ceremony

Prior to this special day of hers, I was searching for some words of wisdom to share with her. I have seen her grow over the last few years, change into a powerful “manifestor” and attract the partner who is perfect for her. I have no doubt that their bond will increase with each passing day and that they will create a full and exciting life together. What advice is there that is actually useful when starting out as a married couple?

North Americans today have higher expectations than they historically ever did. We expect marriage to offer a route to self-discovery and personal growth. Time magazine author Belinda Luscombe, in the special edition on happiness, quotes Lisa Grunwald (who together with her husband Stephen Adler put together “The Marriage Book”), “The promise you make is not just to be faithful and true and to stay married, but to try and bring out the best in each other”. Couples can indeed “achieve an unprecedentedly high level of marital quality, but only if they are able to invest a great deal of time and energy into their partnership” (Eli Finkel).

The ones who know how to go about investing into their relationship would be couples who have been married for decades and have found ways to keep the love going. Karl Pillemer, a Cornell professor, interviewed 700 elderly people and recorded their wisdom in his book “30 Lessons for Loving”. The most important lessons about keeping the spark alive are

  1. Think Small (and Positive)

What keeps the love flame burning are the unexpected kind gestures, successfully long-term married couples say. Make a habit out of doing small, positive things for your partner. In other words, “turning towards” each other as Drs John and Julie Gottman advise, and having an accurate “Love Map” of your partner. That Love Map is a clear guideline to knowing what makes your partner happy or relieves their stress, and doing it often and unexpectedly. According to Pillemer’s interviews, three types of gestures when used frequently have a great impact on the relationship: surprises, chores and compliments. In the words of Gary Chapman, you are speaking these three out of five love languages of “doing services”, “words of affirmation” and potentially “giving gifts”.

Keeping the Spark Alive PIC 2

 

2. Become Friends

The importance of physical attraction to each other is a given. However, physical and sexual attraction are not enough to keep a relationship going over the long term. We grow older, our physical appearance changes, and friendship must become as much a part of the relationship as romantic love. The interviewed elders were also completely on board with Dr. John Gottman’s research on friendship among couples. Friends know how to have fun together and be good company for each other, no matter how long they have been together. Friends are also open to one another’s interests. The advice that these couples provided was to learn to enjoy your partner’s interests.

Keeping the Spark Alive PIC 3b

 

3. Expect An Active Sex Life

The elders describe their intimacy being as good or better than when they were younger. They have learned what their partner likes and they felt more secure and more comfortable with each other. The sexual spark changes and deepens, they say. “There is a kind of quietness there that’s quite deep. It’s very fulfilling. You feel a peaceful intimacy that’s in a way really more meaningful than the frenetic thing”, shares one of the men Pillemer talked to.

Keeping the Spark Alive PIC 4

 

4. Give up Grudges

Sometimes you hear the piece of advice “Don’t go to bed angry”. I have always felt that that was a bit of a cliché which worked for some people but not for others. What is a better and more useful piece of advice is “Don’t Hold Grudges”. When we keep resentment smouldering instead of resolving issues and letting go of the past, our relationship is in trouble. Most things we disagree about are not worth a long-term fight. Let hurts and conflicts truly go. Be quick to apologize and forgive. In fact, make forgiveness of your partner a regular practice.

Keeping the Spark Alive PIC 5

 

5. Get Help

If the spark feels like it’s dying, get help through counselling. Make a genuine and wholehearted attempt at working on the relationship. Relationships go through difficult periods. We might need to learn more successful communication skills, learn to forgive, or learn how to build a stronger relationship. The elders believe—and I wholeheartedly agree—that counselling or coaching is not just for overcoming a crisis but an important tune-up to keep the spark alive and to create a successful marriage or long-term relationship.

Keeping the Spark Alive PIC 6

 

6. Other “Secrets”

Some other “trade secrets” for keeping your marriage fresh, vibrant and exciting for a lifetime that the elders shared were: Take care of your physical appearance, travel more, reach out and engage together—for example in volunteer services—as a natural extension of your affection, embrace change, and last but not least, the beautiful advice to treat your relationship as if it was a “life-time date”.

Keeping the Spark Alive PIC 7

Would you like to make your marriage a “life-time date”? Does your relationship need a tune-up? You can take a workshop or book individual coaching sessions.

Contact

Belief Change and Relationship Coach Angelika,

905-286-9466,

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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The Dance of Our Parts in Relationships – PART 2 Bonding Patterns

To understand how we interact with our spouse or partner, we need to know about our inner children and about bonding patterns.

BONDING PATTERNS

Bonding patterns are basic units of interaction between people. The primary bonding pattern emerges at birth between the child needing nurturing and the mother giving nurturing. Our primary bonding patterns with our parents or primary care givers become recreated in all our relationships as adults. We are able to solve the issues from our original families in those new relationships.

The mother parts of the woman are bonded into the son parts of the man, and visa versa, the father parts of the man are bonded into the daughter parts of the woman. Bonding patterns represent the interactions between our sub-personalities or selves.

Our Aware Ego allows us to become aware of the bonding patterns, for example to realize that we are in our inner child part in an interaction, or our parent part in another interaction. Through this awareness, I can separate from this bonding pattern. The bonding pattern itself won’t disappear but I am able to meet my partner from the place of my Aware Ego. It gives us choices in our interactions as opposed to interacting automatically.

Hal & Sidra 5

Hal and Sidra Stone

Hal and Sidra Stone are very clear that there is nothing wrong with the parent-child bonding pattern. It is a basic unit of interaction. It is always present in our love relationships. It happens automatically and allows us to be intimate and close. When we love somebody we are protective and want to take care of them. Judging these bonding patterns as “co-dependency” is not helpful. As human beings, we are naturally inter-dependent. The key is to become aware of the bonding dynamics in our relationships, enjoy them when they have a positive impact, but also separate from them when they cause problems.

The positive bonding pattern can tip over into a negative bonding pattern. When the negative bonding pattern is activated because our vulnerability is triggered, we might switch from “good parent” to “judgmental parent”, and that’s when we realize we are in a bonding pattern.

Let’s take an example. Mark makes more money than Barbara and enjoys buying gifts for her or surprising her with get-aways or other special activities. Barbara feels good about having things bought for her as it reminds her of her father who had a similar love language to show his affection. Over time, she is getting used to those gifts and might ask Mark for something more expensive, for example a bigger house. At that point, Mark’s vulnerability is triggered and his fear that he is unable to keep up these expenses. If he is not aware of his fear—and most of us aren’t—he will move from the loving caring father who fulfilled Barbara’s desires into the judgmental father. Barbara is stunned to hear him say, “You are really ungrateful and spoiled. Why do you need an even bigger house? Who do you think you are married to? A millionaire?”

Barbara’s inner child is surprised and hurt and she might in turn judge Mark now as being controlling with money or cheap. With awareness, they are able to realize they are in a parent-child bonding pattern. Mark can then from his Aware Ego explain to Barbara, “My fear was triggered by you asking for the bigger house. I am worried we won’t be able to carry a higher mortgage. Several people have been laid off at my company and I am afraid this might happen to me as well down the road.” Instead of having to protect her inner child by going into a primary personality part to defend herself, Barbara can now respond with love and understanding from her own vulnerable part.

We have to be kind to each other and ourselves when it comes to these bonding patterns. They are natural and we spend a lot of time living in these bonding patterns. Most bonding patterns exist in a positive form. They are not causing trouble. As long as Mark is behaving like a good father and Barbara is the pleasing compliant grateful daughter they might not even realize they are in a bonding pattern. However, the moment Mark becomes the negative father to the frightened little girl inside Barbara, it lets them discover that Mark was taking on the role of responsible father and Barbara was letting him take all the financial responsibility.

This bonding pattern also exists the other way round. When our inner child isn’t taken care of by us, our inner child will hook into our partner and expect them to take care of him (or her). When real physical children come along, and the woman is all focussed on nurturing the little baby, the little boy in the man can become triggered. He might unconsciously drift into a more passive role and let the good mother in the woman run the show. He most likely is not even aware that the only way he feels he can get her attention is by being a little boy himself. That can quickly tip over into a negative bonding pattern when the woman refuses to mother her partner as well because she feels overwhelmed and vulnerable with her new role already.

A bonding pattern tips over when our vulnerability is triggered. That could be because we are frightened, hungry, tired, abandoned, lonely or feeling misunderstood, unappreciated or unloved. When our needs aren’t met, a primary self comes in and takes over. We might get angry or judgmental. These conflicts can go on for a long time or be re-activated over and over again, especially if we are not aware of the mirrors and our disowned selves.

When I have disowned certain things in myself which my partner carries for me, I might get angry at what I don’t like in myself. If Susan is over-identified with being productive and her partner is able to relax and do nothing, she might begin to criticize and judge him for being “lazy” or a “procrastinator”. If John is more serious and his partner is more playful, he might over time judge her as being “immature” and “childish”. If Rita is thrifty and her partner is less concerned with saving money, she might judge him as “irresponsible” and “wasteful”. The ability to relax, be playful or be generous which each of them originally loved in their partner is later on the trigger for judgments.

They might express these judgmental opinions either in words or with looks and in turn their partner will flip into judgmental parent judging them for the opposite. At that point, love “goes out the window”. What once was dear and fascinating to them about their partner is what they now hate. The partner’s inner child feels betrayed and is quite confused, “Wasn’t this the wonderful person who at the beginning loved me for who I am?”

Our disowned selves which we are so ready to criticize in the other person become the bats we are beating each other up with. We forget that what our partner mirrors for us is what we need to embrace and heal inside ourselves. We need to stop when we find ourselves being judgmental and examine how our vulnerability was triggered. How do I really feel underneath this judgmental voice?

We also need to realize that no energy is bad. Energy exists in polar opposites when we have not fully integrated an energy. What if Susan allowed herself to relax more and just be in the moment without the pressure to be productive? What if John took life less seriously and allowed himself to be more playful and laugh more? What if Rita realized her fear is triggered around money but that she can allow herself to be more generous without ending in poverty or debt?

It’s the job of the Aware Ego, not your partner’s responsibility, to properly parent your own inner child. Like a real parent, the Aware Ego has to learn to be a parent to the primary selves and to the vulnerable child. That parent voice is not critical or harsh like the inner critic or a primary self can sound. The parent voice is encouraging, loving and takes care of the inner child’s needs.

If I consciously take care of my own inner child, I won’t expect my partner to do it for me. That prevents these negative bonding patterns from continuing and opens up opportunities to communicate openly about our true feelings and our vulnerability. By taking care of my own inner child, I give myself the gift to have deep, intimate, mutually supportive and honest relationships.

 

If you want to listen to Hall & Sidra Stone’s “The Dance of Our Parts in Relationships”, go to http://www.voicedialogueinternational.com/bookshop.php

Hal & Sidra 4

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Relationship Coaching

Angelika wide picture for blogs smaller

Angelika, 905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

The Dance of Our Parts in Relationships – PART ONE Primary Personality Parts

“Relationships don’t die a natural death.

They are murdered by either

ego, attitude or ignorance

or all of the above.”

 Rose

(Rose Saroyan, Karmic DNA)

My friend Rose Saroyan couldn’t have said it better. My own marriage to the father of my daughters died the death of ignorance and a good portion of ego—mostly my ego—ten years ago. What I mean by that is, we could have made it work, knowing what I know today. Less ignorance and less ego would have allowed us to heal what was greatly strained after 13 years of marriage. We fostered a little girl for several years, and had two daughters of our own. We moved from Germany to Malaysia, back to Germany and then to Canada, starting all over each time. We went through a lot together without ever really knowing ourselves and the dynamic in our relationship.

After the death of our marriage, we created the second best thing: we build a respectful friendship as co-parents of two wonderful children. Yet, the fact remains that the love relationship died—like so many others—because we were not taught about our shadows. Our partners—just as our parents and children—are our mirrors. They bring out all our challenges, not so we can run away from them, but so that we can face them.

For quite a while now, I have been meaning to write about Hal and Sidra Stone’s insights on partnering and relationships. To do their extensive teachings justice, I will need to lay the foundations first. I have decided to write a series of two blogs on relationships, rather than leaving something important out.

Relationships are remarkable teachers for all of us and offer huge personal and spiritual growth opportunities. It usually is so easy to fall in love with each other and be fascinated by the ways in which the other person is different from us but complements us so beautifully. Then a few years down the road, we might find ourselves feeling irritated by exactly what we originally fell in love with in the other person. Why is that?

A relationship is not between two people but between two groups of people. Any relationship involves a multitude of selves in each person interacting with similar or opposite selves in the other person. To explain this further, let me elaborate on the idea of parts of selves.

 

PRIMARY PERSONALITY PARTS

We come into this world vulnerable, and our primary personality parts—which we develop growing up—protect that vulnerability. The objective of our primary selves is to protect the vulnerable inner child. Those could be power selves which allow us to protect our vulnerability by being angry or aggressive; or they could be ambitious selves which help us to make money and be successful; or they could be pleasing selves or gentle selves which make us lovable to the people around us.

The primary selves can take many different forms. It is hard to know what our primary selves are because we tend to identify with them. We see them as “that’s just how I am,” instead of realizing that they are just one energy we have inside us and that we have the freedom to step into another completely different energy. We tend to think we have a fixed unchanging personality, for example, “I am hard working, tough and aggressive”, or “I am sweet, loving, gentle and giving” or “I am passionate, dramatic and emotional”.

On the other side of every primary self, there is an equal and opposite energy. If I grew up identified with power and aggression, on the other side of that energy, there is somebody within me who is vulnerable and weak. If I grew up learning to always put others first and be selfless, on the other side of that energy, there is somebody who puts him or herself first.

Whatever it is that we have disowned in ourselves, that is exactly what the Universe is going to bring to us. The opposite and equal energy which we have disowned will be lived out through our children, our friends, our acquaintances, our business associates, even our animals, and most of all our husband or wife.

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Hall and Sidra Stone

Sidra, for example, when she first met Hal, was a very rational planner; organized, solution-oriented and careful with money. Hal was more of a dreamer, a visionary, trusting the Universe rather than carefully planning, able to sit in the discomfort of a problem rather than solving it in the fastest way, and a spender.

When we first fall in love with somebody, the vulnerable child feels safe, feels unconditionally loved and accepted. The primary selves can relax and sit back and stop protecting. We are more able to act from the opposites of our primary selves which are also available to us. If my primary self is, for example, serious and mature, I might be able to be more playful and light-hearted. Or, perhaps, I am a very busy person, always productive, using my time efficiently, making sure I never waste any time. When I fall in love and feel absolutely accepted the way I am, I don’t have to be busy to prove I am lovable. I don’t have to accomplish anything. My primary pusher self can relax. Suddenly, I discover I have time to just be in the moment, to take a walk, or to just talk to somebody.

Another thing that happens when we fall in love is that our inner critic, which always finds something to criticize and correct in us, disappears for a while. All of a sudden, I feel perfect; I feel lovable the way I am.

After a while, stress enters into the relationship and the vulnerable inner child feels threatened again. To protect that vulnerable part, our primary selves come back to fight for us.

TO BE CONTINUED

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For relationship coaching contact Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca