Thursday, June 28, 2007

Changing Civilization

This morning, someone I know really well told me a dream about her mother. Her mother, you might want to know, died many years ago. As she related the dream I realized she was re-evaluating the relationship she had with her mother. She was looking at the way she and her mother protected her father from all emotionally troubling information.

She and her mother thought of that as 'being kind' or 'being considerate' of the father who happened to be a busy professional man. As she talked she grew increasingly emotional. She was seeing the many ways she protects people of importance in her life. She was realizing too, that the protection wasn't really needed by those people and didn't help them or her at all. In fact, it hindered their ability to know her.

She was quickly moving into a much deeper realization. "If I stop protecting everyone from the things I know," she said, "I'll soon be living in a reality that I didn't create and cannot control. I'll be changing the entire premise of my life."

"You are changing civilization," I said. The civilization we know best is the one we grew up in and our most intimate knowledge of that civilization came from the interactions, emotion, spiritual orientation and physical presence of the two most powerful people in our lives - our parents.

You can look at history, your own, that way. You can begin to evalute the spoken and unspoken attitudes, beliefs, and expectations that your mother and father, their brothers and sisters and parents - the entire pantheon of ancestors that you bring into your living room, kitchen and bedroom.

In letting yourself 'see' your psychological/ emotional/ spiritual history you open the door to seeing your relationship more clearly. It just may be the beginning of the end of judging, criticizing, diagnosing and blaming your partner for all that's missing in your marriage.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

When I Fall in Love..

"when I fall in love
it will be forever
or I'll never fall in love.

In a restless world like this is
love is ended before its begun
And too many moonlight kisses
seem to cool in the warmth of the sun

When I give my heart
it will be completely
or I'll never give my heart

And the moment that I feel that
you feel that way too
Is when I'll fall in love
with you....

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Tipping Point in your Marriage

Many marriages slide relentlessly into a sort of flat lined, vacant, humorless existence. But if you're reading this I have reason to believe you want something better. You might want a marriage that fulfills the promise of your enthusiasm the day you agreed to marry. You might imagine a relationship that works where conflict is an asset, intimacy is a felt need and frequently available, and where conversation is intriguing, challenging and meaningful.

You might want to realize the vision we've shared with you in the recently published With These Rings, Vol. I. We see marriage as full of promise. It is often unrealized and that explains the flat lined existence many couples live in.

Marriage is really three journeys within one journey. Each journey is legitimate in its own right and each journey is realized by your courage to embrace its challenges. You can't talk about these journeys in the usual way. They are not "linear," reasonable, sequential or predicable. We think the journeys can only be talked about in something approaching mythical language.

Stories serve us well here. Like the teachings of Jesus, our stories carry meaning far beyond the details. We look for milestones. And we look for turning points. Turning points?

A good marriage will build a base that is founded on what each individual in the marriage already knows. They'll work something through or out - like the purchase of a house, or an agreement on child care. But there will come a time when what you believe is challenged by your partner. It needs to be. New information has been accrued. New understanding of needs has surfaced. Times change. We grow.

The opportunity for your relationship has "tipped" into bigger and deeper possibilities. It is at this point that some seek therapy. The story/ stories surrounding this time will hold lots of drama. Some think their relationship is over. Some believe they no longer love. But if you can stay the course, the discoveries are life altering. This is why we call most divorces abortions.

The tipping point may be as simple as the surrender to a new way of seeing. It may involve the discovery of deep empathy. It may mean you are discovering a new level of your own authority.

We say, trust it. Don't run. Don't diagnose your partner. Don't judge, theorize, speculate. Instead, Stop. Look. And Listen to what's going on. You may be on the edge of a whole new way to relate, expand, and enjoy your choice of partner.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Kludging the Marriage Conversation

Kludging the Marriage Conversation

We’ve often referred to divorce as the abortion of a promise, a miscarriage of hope. We see that many couples who divorce do so because they lack a truly compelling marriage paradigm. ‘What? I thought it was because they were ‘incompatible’ or didn’t love each other any more.’

It’s not that simple. Without a viable and relevant model to inform their thinking about the journey of marriage, they will mistakenly focus on diagnosis of each other.

They may dumb down conversation, reducing their complaints to “we’d have a good relationship if it weren’t for you.” (that, by the way, is the title of an interesting book by Dr. Bruce Derman)

Focusing on what’s wrong with our partners, or indulging in fantasies such as ‘we just don’t have anything in common,’ or ‘love doesn’t last forever,’ or ‘she’s just not the woman I (thought) I married’ – seduce into a rationale that justifies our relational incompetence.

Some of us kludge. I’ll tell you a story about a recent conversation with one of my sons regarding computers, software and solutions to challenges. He described a ‘work around’ which, as I understood it, was a temporary solution to a difficult problem.
“Like divorce” I said. No, he said. “I think of divorce more as giving up on an engineering project – deciding not to engineer rather than actually trying to do the work. A kludge is still work. It’s just a quick solution to get the thing up and running with the knowledge that you will need to come back later and re-engineer it…If you get a divorce, you are deciding to abort the relationship. There may be more work to do with your kids etc. But the couple divorcing is quitting the work (and challenges) of marriage – an engineering project left undone.”

So, I said, maybe we could call an affair a kludge. Or, maybe coldness, distance, abuse, superiority, diagnosis… would qualify to be called kludging. All quick ‘solutions’ to present challenges that do not last.
But the analogy breaks down there. Because in the case of marriage these “solutions” are not only temporary – they get you out of working on the problem or challenge – they are also harmful, toxic and lead towards patterns that ultimately destroy.

But kludge isn’t thought of as a bad temporary solution. It is only a temporary but necessary one. So are there good kludges in relationship?

The recently released With These Rings Vol.I offers long and short term solutions to relationship challenges that actually work. Couples that have given up hope, couples who chronically argue or no longer communicate, couples whose intimate conversations have steadily decreased in frequency find good information and solid coaching in this book. I’m Stephen Frueh, the author, and I promise you you’ll get a great deal of useful information from With These Rings. If you don’t, mail it back to me and I’ll refund your money.

As my wife walked in the front door, arms full of groceries, I said, ‘need help?’ “I need a whole lot more than help with the groceries,” she said as she put the bags on the table. “Wow” I thought. “That’s a loaded response. Should I ‘go there’ or let it go?”

We talked of the demands on her time and energy, of both of our busy schedules, of how little time we had with each other. Later I got some take out and set the table in the RV, put on some classical music, opened a bottle of Sake and we sat and talked. I kludged her.

That brief moment didn’t solve any of our bigger (and long term) challenges, but it did address the immediate need for a course correction. It did keep our marriage going even with all the built in challenges and it reminded us that bigger solutions to busyness had to be addressed.

The many dynamics of successful relationships can overwhelm us. Or we can take a proactive approach, embrace challenge and the conflict that comes with it and intentionally look for lasting solutions to relationship destroyers. Kludge when you have to but don’t forget to come back and create new pathways to intimacy.

If we don’t, every day will look a lot like yesterday.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Why don't you just admit it?

I discovered some time ago that when it came to actually loving another human being I was short in skills. Relationally incompetent is what I called myself. Oh, I knew how to 'fall in love,' I knew how to sentimentally attach to another, and I was expert in creating a need to be needed.

One night I told my wife "I have no idea how to love you." She soon admitted she was challenged there as well. Could it be we made a mistake? I thought that there must be other possibilities.

Soon we were openly talking about our own fears, insecurities and just plain lack of information. We had assumed that because we loved each other we would know how to love each other. Wrong. They are not at all the same. In fact, it may be the easiest thing in the world to feel love for another. We feel love for puppies too and we easily fall in love with entertainers whose performances touch us. We sometimes 'love' teachers and we tell ourselves we love our children.

But loving our children like loving our partners is altogether a different matter. We saw that we had a lot of growing up to do. We also saw we would need to ask a lot of questions. In the Russian poet, Anna Akmatova's poem The Guest, there is this line "tell me how they kiss you. Tell me how you kiss."

Loving may simply be intelligent listening, genuine questioning, and non possessive caring of two human beings who are deeply interested in each other.

We welcome your thoughts on loving and love.