I love leftovers. I love Thanksgiving dinners: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and all the other special foods and recipes brought out for our traditional dinners.
But I enjoy the leftovers almost as much: warmed in the microwave, I continue to savor that turkey, stuffing and warm gravy.
However, there is more than just the food leftovers that I want to take home with me. I want to take the camaraderie, the moments of laughter when the past wasn’t remembered and the moment was simply enjoyed.
As we stopped and listened to each other for a moment longer than usual, took time to thank and appreciate all the work and effort of our host and hostess it left a glow of togetherness, friendship and closeness.
We all want to be happy. And we want our marriages to not only last, but grow better over time. While some relationships will fail for a variety of reasons, being willing to identify and work on the problems we face is the first major step to a meaningful relationship.
The first years of a marriage tend to be the most vulnerable and statistics reveal that reality. When we are passionately in love, we believe it will last forever.
However, work schedules, babies, chores and home maintenance soon become the focus and we can quickly get mired in daily problems. Add in personal careers and the stresses increase and the relationship begins to suffer.
It is easier than ever to get a divorce and people often hold the mistaken belief that if they get out of their current relationship, the next one would be the one that will make them happy. However, again, the statistics reveal a different picture.
I’ve tried the communication model, but it seems no matter what I do, we still end up arguing. Our conversations keep breaking down.
When I bring up a point of disagreement or conflict, it is interpreted as a criticism and is countered with a negative jab at me. I am reminded of when I did this and that and pretty soon we don’t even remember what the current problem is because we are too busy trying to resolve past issues that are not relevant today.
Why isn’t all this communication stuff working?
Like any skill we develop, communication is an aptitude that needs to be practiced over time to gain competence.
But like any habit we put in place, it is easy to get discouraged and we go back to old ways of doing things.
Have you ever had such a conversation with your children or your spouse? You were sure you said what you believed would be easily understood. And yet, that is not what the other person heard.
When we talk to one another, communication is traveling both ways. Messages we send and the messages we hear are colored and often distorted by the filters we have. What sounded clear to us was not heard the same way by another..
Because messages are being loaded on each side of the interaction, by both the speaker and the listener, communication can become unclear and misleading.
Communication is about sharing our thoughts and feelings. It involves some kind of interchange or conversation. We send and receive messages as we talk about our wants and needs.
Many times, however, our conversations with loved ones end up in misunderstandings and ongoing fights or disagreements.
Why can’t she or he listen? Why do we end up struggling to be heard and understood? It’s as though the words we speak aren’t registering or are constantly being misinterpreted.
In today’s world there are so many ways to communicate. Yet, it seems, our every day discussions with loved ones often break down and our exchanges create misunderstanding and division.
Ineffective communication creates on-going irritation and stress. We begin to see the other in less than loving ways. When communication breaks down between those we love, our relationships begin to unravel.
We need people. We need to share ideas and perspectives – our joys and laughter – our pain and sorrows. We need effective communication to solve problems, share different points of view, meet today’s challenges, hear a different narrative and seek understanding.
We hear a lot these days about climate change. Climates have been cyclic for years. Do we influence the weather patterns? I don’t know – and neither do many scientists.
But I do know that we have a huge influence on the climate of our relationships. This is especially important for our marriages.
Years ago Aaron Beck, founder of CBT, helped us understand cognitive distortions, the distorted thinking that gets us into so much trouble. They include All or Nothing Thinking, Overgeneralization, Mental Filtering, and Mind Reading among others.
When we identify and alter these thinking and communication errors, we can change the climate of our relationships.
Let’s take a closer look at these 4 distorted thinking patterns
All or Nothing Thinking
Everything is either black or white. No shades of grey. It is either/or thinking. You are either a saint or a sinner – good guy or bad guy.
This kind of thinking dehumanizes individuals because no one is either all good or all bad. When we have programmed ourselves to see things in such a rigid way, we miss all the wonderful parts of who we are.
“For I will pour water on the thirsty ground and send streams coursing through the parched earth. I will pour my spirit into your descendants and my blessing on your children. They shall sprout like grass on the prairie, like willows alongside creeks.”
There are two trees in my backyard. Their trunks touching, roots entwining, they reach high into the sky, together yet separate. They symbolize the life I shared with my husband.
The love we shared was as deep and connected as the entwining and supporting roots of these two trees. We nurtured each other while allowing the other the independence to grow in their own ways.
The tree that was Le Roy has been cut down, and the love that flowed through those roots that nourished each other now seeps into barren soil.
This was a journal entry I made after the death of my husband that reflected the life we shared. It is included in my new book, From Winter to Spring, currently being edited for publication that gives helpful information to individuals moving from losses to creating a new reality.
We bring to the marriage altar a truckload of expectations, myths, wants and wishes hoping that now I will be loved unconditionally and all my needs will be met. The problem is that the other person is bringing their own bag of history with them.
In March of this year I wrote this about a friend of mine:
“My sister – not by blood, but by a bond forged over the years.
Sometimes we are fortunate in that God gives two people a heritage that goes beyond blood, and we can truly call ourselves sisters.
Through thick and thin – good times and bad – I know I can depend on her to be there – for support – for physical assistance – someone who never thought twice to fly all the way from England to be with me when my husband was dying.”
And in the same way, she knows I will be there for her, whatever the situation she may be challenged with. It’s not keeping score.
When you want to make your money grow, you check out investment options. What amount do you need to invest and what will be your return over time.
When I was growing up, I was taught to save 10% of everything I earned. From the berry fields to my first job after high school, there was little left to put into savings after expenses.
But it was a principle I took seriously, abided by and was always amazed at how those little deposits added up over time.
When my husband and I got married, we started out barely able to make ends meet and pay the bills. In fact the first six months of our marriage we lived with his parents.
But over the years, we continued that same principle of putting away whatever we could, investing for future years. It required discipline, self-regulation, sacrifice and commitment. But it was a diligence that paid off in huge dividends.
Investing wisely took a while to learn. Some stocks were too risky, others gave no return for an investment; but after a short period of time we learned how to invest wisely and prudently, maximizing our return while minimizing the risks.
As we continue our series in relationships, we want to know how we can make our current relationships more meaningful and satisfying.
Exploring our past gives us information about what we bring with us into our present day relationships. We may not always find the answers we want, but we find enough clues to help re-direct, fix or change courses today.
Patterns are repeated from generation to generation.
Children growing up with an alcoholic parent are only too aware of how destructive addictions can have on the family. They swear they won’t repeat the same mistakes. Yet, more times than we want to recognize, children growing up in alcoholic families end up marrying an alcoholic or someone with an addictive personality.
We repeat what we are familiar with. It is what we know. To keep from repeating them, we need to have new information to work with.
Remembering those good times
We often forget the positive experiences we had growing up. There were those times when we knew we were loved and appreciated, complimented or encouraged. Who were involved in these affirming experiences?