Category Archives: Love

Choose To Love

~ Rick Hanson's Wise Brain Blog ~

choose loveWhen we choose to love, we have to set aside the busy-ness in our lives and choose people. I challenge you to create a shared ritual in your own life, if not daily, then at least weekly? Think how it would feel to provide the powerful comfort of your attention to another human being on a regular basis? How would it feel to receive that same attention in return? You and the people you love are worth it. – Terri

What does your heart say? By Dr. Rick Hanson

Many years ago, I was in a significant relationship in which the other person started doing things that surprised and hurt me. I’ll preserve the privacy here so I won’t be concrete, but it was pretty intense. After going through the first wave of reactions – What?! How could you? Are you kidding me?! – I settled down a bit. I had a choice.

This relationship was important to me, and I could see that a lot of what was going through the mind over there was really about the other person and not about me. I began to realize that the freest, strongest, and most self-respecting thing that I could do was both to tell the person that we were on very thin ice . . . and to choose to love meanwhile. To my surprise, instead of turning me into a doormat or punching bag, love actually protected and fueled me. It kept me out of contentiousness and conflict and gave me a feeling of worth. I was interested in what the other person was going to do, but in a weird way, I didn’t care that much. I felt fed and carried by love, and how the other person responded was out of my hands.

I got interested in “loving at will,” in how to go to the upper end of the range of what is authentically available to a person in terms of feeling or expressing compassion, good wishes, and warmth. You shouldn’t falsify what’s truly going on with you, nor let yourself be mistreated. But whatever this range is for you in any moment in any relationship, it’s your choice where you land within it. I became less caught up in how I wanted the other person to think and feel and act, and more focused on my own practice of finding and re-finding some sense of love. It felt kind of like I was strengthening the heart like a muscle. I joked with myself that I was doing love pushups (not the sexual kind!)

If it’s authentically within reach, you can deliberately, even willfully settle yourself in love as a central quality in your mind. This is not phony: the love that’s there in you is genuinely there. In fact, choosing to love is twice loving: it’s a loving act to call up the intention to love, plus there is the love that follows.

Looking back, my shift out of quarreling and into a healthy feeling of lovingness helped things get better with this person. And the relationship taught me a good lesson: Love is more about us being loving than about other people being lovable.

How?

Start with someone that’s easy to feel love around. Relax a bit. Take a breath or two and come home to yourself. Sense into the area of your chest and heart. Be aware of what compassion and kindness feel like; perhaps call up the sense of a time when you felt very loving. Ask yourself, Can I feel loving now? Open to a natural warm-heartedness. Choose to love. Take a dozen seconds to open to feeling as loving as you can in your body. Take in this experience, let it sink into you. This will strengthen the neural trace of the experience – a kind of emotional memory – and make it easier to call up the next time. Also register the sense of deliberateness, of choosing to love.

Then try these methods with someone you feel more neutral about, such as a stranger on the street. Eventually, try this approach with someone who is difficult for you. It could help to be more aware of the other person’s stresses, worries, and longings. Without staring, look closely at him or her for ten seconds or so. Can you let your heart be moved by this face? Get a sense of the different external and internal forces pushing and pulling the other person this way and that – perhaps leading him or her to do things that hurt you or others. Let your eyes relax, and get a sense of the bigger picture. Disentangle from the parts, and open into the whole.

Let love be there alongside whatever else is present in your relationship with the other person. There is love . . . and there is also seeing what is true about the other person, yourself, and circumstances affecting both of you. There is love . . . and there is also taking care of your own needs in the relationship.

Love first. The rest will follow.

The post Choose To Love appeared first on Dr. Rick Hanson.

You Never Have to Put Anyone Out of Your Heart

~ Rick Hanson's Wise Brain Blog ~

never put anyone out of your heartWe all have difficult people in our lives and some of us have more than our fair share. I really appreciated Rick Hanson’s method for coping with this. He asks us to keep our heart open, even in the midst of dealing with difficult people. He doesn’t suggest that we continue getting taken advantage of or to accept abuse, but he does want to encourage us to maintain connections and openness. You never have to put anyone out of your heart. ~ Terri

The post Put No One Out of Your Heart appeared first on Dr. Rick Hanson.

We all know people who are, ah, . . . challenging. It could be a critical parent, a bossy supervisor, a relative who has you walking on eggshells, a nice but flaky friend, a co-worker who just doesn’t like you, a partner who won’t keep his or her agreements, or a politician you dislike. Right now I’m thinking of a neighbor who refused to pay his share of a fence between us.

As Jean-Paul Sartre put it: “Hell is other people.”

Sure, that’s overstated. But still, most of a person’s hurts, disappointments, and irritations typically arise in reactions to other people.

Ironically, in order for good relationships to be so nurturing to us as human beings – who have evolved to be the most intimately relational animals on the planet – you must be so linked to others that some of them can really rattle you!

So what can you do?

Let’s suppose you’ve tried to make things better – such as taking the high road yourself and perhaps also trying to talk things out, pin down reasonable agreements, set boundaries, etc. – but the results have been partial or nonexistent.

At this point, it’s natural to close off to the other person, often accompanied by feelings of apprehension, resentment, or disdain. While the brain definitely evolved to care about “us,” it also evolved to separate from, fear, exploit, and attack “them” – and those ancient, neural mechanisms can quickly grab hold of you.

But what are the results? Closing off doesn’t feel good. It makes your heart heavy and contracted. And it primes your brain to be more tense and reactive, which could get you into trouble, plus trigger the other person to act worse than ever.

Sometimes you do have to hang up the phone, block someone on Facebook, turn the channel on TV, or stay at a motel when visiting relatives. Sometimes you have to put someone out of your business, workgroup, holiday party list – or bed.

In extreme situations such as abuse, it may feel necessary to distance yourself utterly from another person for awhile or forever; take care of yourself in such situations, and listen to that inner knowing about what’s best for you. But in general:

You never have to put anyone out of your heart.

How?

When your heart is open, what’s that feel like? Physically, in your chest – like warmth and relaxation – and in your body altogether. Emotionally – such as empathy, compassion, and an even keel. Mentally – like keeping things in perspective, and wishing others well.

Feel the strength being openhearted, wholehearted. Be not afraid, and be of good heart. Paradoxically, the most open person in a relationship is usually the strongest one.

Get a sense of your heart being expansive and inclusive, like the sky. The sky stays open to all clouds, and it isn’t harmed by even the stormiest ones. Keeping your heart open makes it harder for others to upset you.

Notice that an open heart still allows for clarity about what works for you and what doesn’t, as well as firmness, boundaries, and straight talk. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama are famous for keeping their hearts open while also being very effective.

Seeing all this, make a commitment to an open heart.

In this light, be mindful of what it feels like – physically, emotionally, mentally – to have your heart closed to a particular person. Be aware of the seemingly good reasons the reactive brain/mind throws up to justify this.

Then ask yourself, given the realities of this challenging person, what would have been a better path for you? For example, maybe you should have gotten more support from others or been more self-nurturing, so you wouldn’t have been as affected. Or spoken up sooner to try to prevent things from getting out of hand. Or managed your internal reactions more skillfully. Maybe you’ve done some things yourself to prompt the other person to be difficult. Whatever these lessons are, there’s no praise or blame here, just good learning for you.

And now, if you’re willing, explore opening your heart again to this person. Life’s been hard to him or her, too. Nothing might change in your behavior or in the nature of the relationship. Nonetheless, you’ll feel different – and better.

Last, do not put yourself out of your heart. If you knew you as another person, wouldn’t you want to hold that person in your heart?

Watch Out For These 3 Marriage Myths

~ By Terri Mudge ~

shutterstock_276297347-wRelationships are hard work and when we find out that many of the known “facts” are wrong, it changes your perspective! Here are 3 of the most important myths of marriage that I have found often in my practice and you need to know.

MYTH #1  Conflict Means You Are in a Bad Relationship.

Conflict is a part of all relationships.   It is unrealistic to think that you could have a perfectly, peaceful existence with no conflict. In fact, I am always curious if there’s no conflict, I am looking to see which partner is not speaking their mind, or is being submissive.

There are positive ways to fight fairly, to get your point across while still respecting your partner’s opinions. I recommend setting up rules, similar to having rules in a football game, to allow you to play the game without being seriously injured. Setting up the right system will allow each person to communicate about differences, negotiate and/or compromise, so that you both get your needs met. If you continue to have destructive conflict, you will be continuing to erode your love for each other. There is another way.

 

MYTH #2 All We Need Is Love

Love is a fickle feeling. Love is something that has to be worked at on a regular basis, and most couples aren’t doing the needed work, to keep the love alive. Many of us get into the rut of busy-ness or distraction, and forget to put in the time and energy that’s needed to make a relationship thrive.

Commitment should be a constant, while loving feelings can come and go. I often use the metaphor of parenting, to examine this commitment level. If you are a parent, Do you always  feel like being loving towards your child? When they are cranky, mean, or disrespectful, do you want to sit down and talk to them, or play a game of Monopoly? Or do you, like me, sometimes feel like running away screaming? But, you don’t.  You stick with your children and care for them, even when you don’t feel like it.

It’s the same in our marriages. We don’t have to always feel like it, but we do need to act loving – as much as possible, if we are to maintain overall good feelings and a long-term healthy relationship.

 

MYTH #3 All Conflicts in Relationships Can Be Resolved

Actually, the majority of our relationship problems are recurrent.  John Gottman, who has researched relationships extensively, has found that 69% of conflicts between partners fall into the category of what he calls, perpetual problems.

Even though, this could cause a lot of frustration, I also think it can give us hope. It lets us know that we are not alone in this frustration, of fighting over the same things, over and over again. It’s important to acknowledge, if these “problems” never go away, it’s Okay! We can do better at talking and listening, and we can be better at respecting each other about those issues, and we can even be better at negotiating around those ‘stuck’ places.

Want more of the same?

These myths and more were included in the article:  Debunking 12 Myths About Relationships, by John Gottman, a professor of psychology known for revolutionizing the study of marriage.

The Secret to a Happy Life

By Terri Mudge

When I stumbled upon this Ted Talk, I had to share. After watching this video, I immediately ran to my husband and hugged him!  This video is worth the watch, and it will tell you the secret to happiness!!

Robert Waldinger is the fourth person to lead this research study that has been going on for 75 years! Essentially, since 1938 they compared and tracked 724 men in two groups, and their children, now over 2000 people, to see how their lives turned out. Comparing and contrasting a group from the poorest area in Boston with a group of sophomores in Harvard College.

Robert Waldinger says, “The Harvard Study of Adult Development may be the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done. We’ve tracked the lives of 724 men, year after year, asking about their work, their home lives, their health, and of course asking all along the way without knowing how their life stories were going to turn out.”

“The clearest message that we get from this study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
Robert Waldinger-Video

 

The Expectation Filter

~ Prepare-Enrich.com ~

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Let’s say there’s going to be a party.

Expectation A: You’ve been looking forward to it for weeks, building it up to epic proportions in your mind. All of your friends are going to be there, you’ll get to wear that new outfit, and it’s at that new, trendy place in town so the food, drinks, and ambience will be fantastic!

Let’s say there’s going to be a party.

Expectation B: You’ve been dreading it for weeks, wishing you could come up with a plausible excuse to get out of it. You probably won’t know anyone, you have nothing to wear, and it’s at that new, trendy place in town so it will probably be crowded, expensive, and parking will be terrible.

Reality: So the party was last night. Some of your friends were there, but a few didn’t make it. No one seemed too preoccupied with attire—some people dressed up and some didn’t. You were a few minutes late trying to find a parking spot, but you found one relatively close by. The food and drinks were moderately priced and relatively tasty, but nothing exceptional.

Based on the two sets of expectations above, how do you think you’d feel about the party at the end of the night?

The party was what it was. You couldn’t control how it turned out simply because of what you expected from it, and it didn’t change itself to match or defy your own expectations. Instead, your expectations affected how you perceived the quality of the party and your overall experience.

Now think about your relationship with your partner. Have you ever let unrealistic expectations influence your perception of him/her or of the relationship itself?  Whether they are expectations that we set explicitly or the ones that creep in subconsciously, unrealistic (and/or uncommunicated) expectations not only prevent us from experiencing things as they are, but they also distract us from truly appreciating the good in a situation. You might fail to appreciate the thought and effort your partner put into cooking dinner just because it didn’t turn out perfectly, or overlook the fact that you can still talk late into the night because you still bicker about those certain topics. Perhaps you take for granted the way your partner always remembers to buy your favorite cereal because he/she still leaves the dishes in the sink instead of putting them in the dishwasher.

Many times I have found myself getting angry or upset with my spouse, only to realize that the true reason for my feelings was that the expectations I had created in my mind had not been met. Of course, being that I’d never actually communicated these expectations to my husband, let alone based them in reality, it would be unfair to be angry with him as a result. I’m a person who likes things to go the way I plan, and when that plan is diverged from, I tend to get irritated. But this is on me, not on him. I am definitely not perfect, but I’ve learned to check myself before blurting out a knee-jerk reaction of annoyance. By remembering to remove my “expectation filter,” I can better appreciate my reality.

3 Things You Can Do to Prioritize Your Marriage Today

~ Prepare-Enrich.com ~

priority-01All marriages require work! Your marriage doesn’t reach perfection the moment you tie the knot, and your relationship won’t remain strong unless the two of you team up and make a commitment to work on it continuously. Life is busy, and it can be easy to let your marriage take the backseat when other people or deadlines seem pressing. In these situations, it is important to understand what it really means to make your relationship with your spouse a priority. Prioritizing your marriage doesn’t mean that you have to put all of your energy into your marriage at all times or that there aren’t other things in your life that sometimes need to come first. Prioritizing your marriage means that you do little things to show your spouse that you’re thinking about them and that you find ways to connect with each other on a daily basis. (Taken from Why You NEED to Make Your Spouse a Priority)

The first thing that comes to mind for me when I think about prioritizing time for my marriage relationship is regular date nights and occasional weekends away. Both of those are great, but I also know that it’s important to connect on a daily basis. The daily things don’t have to be extravagant or time consuming, but they are just as important as the bigger gestures. Those simple things will become a habit, and you may find that they become as important to your day as brushing your teeth or washing your hands, and that without them, your daily routine will be completely thrown off.

Talk to each other
Go beyond the “how was your day?” type of conversations. Make time to sit down every day and talk like you did when you were first dating each other. Get to know each other better, tell silly stories, and dream about your future together. This time is for you to connect as a couple and keep the spark alive. Don’t let this time replace your discussions about finances, goals, boundaries, and other more serious topics in marriage, as those are important too.

Enjoy a meal together
Couples (and families) who eat together on a regular basis have more positive relationships. Depending on your stage in life, it may not always be possible to share a meal, just the two of you. You can improvise by sharing dessert after the rest of the family has left the table or getting up early to enjoy breakfast before the rest of the household is awake.

Create a daily ritual
Rituals and traditions strengthen relationships and build connection. It’s just as important to have small, daily rituals in your marriage as it is to create traditions around holidays and special events in your relationship. Your daily rituals can be simple, but they should be meaningful to you and your partner. We enjoy late night walks, curling up on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate, and laughing over YouTube videos together.

As you work to prioritize your marriage every day, remember that it’s important to be fully present. During the time that you have committed to focus on your relationship, set aside your phones, turn off the TV, and make sure the kids are in bed or otherwise occupied. It is possible to maintain a strong and romantic relationship with your spouse, no matter what stage of life you are currently experiencing together. Finding little ways to make your relationship a priority will create the kind of habits that help to build a strong, long-lasting marriage.

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