101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Lastby Charlie Bloom
With the divorce rate soaring at a dizzying 60 percent, young couples and experienced partners may lack the skills and understanding to sustain a committed relationship. Linda and Charlie Bloom present 101 nuggets of wisdom that deliver practical guidance and make it clear that regardless of past experience anyone can develop the basic strengths, skills, and capacities needed for a great relationship. Each lesson is presented as a simple, one-sentence thought followed by an explanation using real-life examples. This book demonstrates how couples can enrich their own relationships by working through love's challenges.
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101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married
Simple Lessons to Make Love Last
By Linda Bloom, Charlie Bloom, Kristen Cashman
New World LibraryCopyright © 2004 Linda and Charlie Bloom
All rights reserved.
Great relationships don't just happen; they are created.
The exemplary marriages we know of have been earned. These relationships are true partnerships, built on foundations of hard-won trust that accrues over time. The struggles and efforts to reconcile what can often appear to be impossible differences create the groundwork for these marriages. While compatibility and shared interests bring us together initially, they are not enough to keep us together over time. If there are no breakdowns, there is not enough friction and agitation to prompt development. We don't need to seek stress; life brings it right to us. Invariably, obstacles arise that lovers have to overcome. Challenges vary from a family's disapproval of the union to health problems or financial difficulties to differing styles, values, and belief systems. As the committed couple meets these challenges with their combined resources, the relationship becomes stronger and more resilient.
Meaningful events link together and accumulate over the years: a gentle touch to comfort us when we are agitated, an intimate conversation, shared laughter, a cup of tea when we are exhausted, a bowl of soup when we are sick, special care to make the sexual experience extra thrilling, a show of pride in our partner's achievements, acts of forgiveness, and all the precious moments of connection, insight, compassion, and understanding. These interactions are the building blocks of a great love erected over time.
One of the most important things we can do to keep our relationship strong and healthy is build the bond of affection. It starts as a thin cord and grows ever thicker and stronger. When the inevitable stresses of life befall us in the form of differences and disappointments, the cord can become frayed. Gradually, with conscious choice, commitment, and intention, we can repair the connective cord with sincere acts of consideration, generosity, and kindness on a daily basis.
Creating a storehouse of goodwill in the relationship is like putting money in the bank. These deposits can take many forms — a conversation, an episode of working out differences, a lingering gaze, or a sincere expression of gratitude — but they all have the common end of reaffirming our love and commitment, and they accumulate into a big tally. When there is an abundant account, you can make withdrawals when times are hard, and you live life with peace of mind, relishing a growing emotional wealth.CHAPTER 2
Vulnerability is disarming.
LINDA: Arguments don't end when one person overpowers another. Bringing out the big guns — threats, name calling, insults, loud yelling — always exacts a painfully high price. We may intimidate our partner into submission, thus winning the battle for momentary dominance, but this does not win us the war. It's a temporary truce, which creates tension because the conflict has merely been driven underground. The cost is a loss of trust, goodwill, caring, and respect.
For years, I reacted to Charlie's unsolicited criticism of me with counter- criticism. This reactive pattern never resulted in either of us feeling accepted or understood. So what if we were both right? It didn't matter. It wasn't until I stopped saying, "You never listen to me," and, "You always have to be right," that the impasse between us began to dissolve. Instead, I said, "I really want us to understand each other, and it's so painful for me when we don't connect." When I revealed my own frustration and pain rather than "correcting" Charlie's responses, the tension between us softened and we were better able to hear each other.
To move toward resolution during times of distress, we need to do what we desire most to avoid — find the courage to be vulnerable. The peace of understanding will not result from efforts to get our partner to back down, stop fighting, and listen to us. It will instead result from the openness that arises when we are willing to disarm ourselves of our verbal defenses. Personal disarmament is the act of standing undefended and speaking the heart's truth even in the face of fear.
The more I practiced, the less fearful I felt, and the more natural it became for me to drop my guard. I found that courageous honesty almost always brings forth the same from the other person. But regardless of how our partner responds to us, undefended communication is itself a transformative gift to ourselves as well as to our relationship. In honoring our truth, we deepen the development of self-trust, self-worth, and self-respect, while simultaneously bringing greater honesty and integrity into our marriage. When we give what we desire to receive, the process always becomes its own reward.
Vulnerability provides us with greater integrity and greater access to our own heart and the deeper truth of our own experience. Speaking from vulnerability connects us with ourselves and creates a safe climate for our mutual love and tenderness to blossom. That's a success in itself. The gift to our partner is our openheartedness — the access to our sweet, kind, warm feelings that lie just beneath the surface of the criticisms and conflict.CHAPTER 3
If your job gets your best energy, your marriage will wither.
Phillip's parents divorced when he was four. His mother and two sisters raised him. His mother never remarried, and the family struggled financially throughout Phillip's childhood. While growing up he continually vowed that he would never be poor again and that his children would never lack any material thing they wanted. He married Eileen, who recognized in Phillip a man of not only great ambition, but also kindness and compassion. However, she also saw that his childhood experience had left him with unhealed emotional wounds. She loved him deeply and felt certain that her love would mend the insecurity that drove him to strive so relentlessly to succeed.
When her efforts failed to neutralize Phillip's hyper-ambition, Eileen became resentful and frustrated, often accusing him of caring more about his business than their family. "That's not true," he would insist, "I'm committed to the family, and I don't want the kids to go through what I went through growing up. You don't appreciate what I'm doing for you. You're ungrateful."
Phillip's defensiveness and Eileen's frustration created a stalemate that seemed unbreakable. But the real problem was that they had polarized one another, taking opposing positions that made it seem as though Phillip had to choose between favoring work over family, or vice versa. It was as though both Eileen and Phillip were hypnotized into seeing things as either/or. This view made it impossible for either of them to hear each other's true perspectives.
The impasse broke one day when Eileen decided to stop criticizing Phillip. She refrained from calling him an uncaring workaholic and instead began speaking from the pain of her own broken heart. She told him how much she missed him and how sad she was that the children were growing up without the presence of a loving dad, just as he had. She didn't want him to give up his work, only to open up more time to include the family. She replaced the sting of her anger with the softness of her love. As a result, Phillip gradually became more able to hear her without becoming defensive or angry. For the first time, he was able to see the possibility that he could have both his work and his family. From that point on, Eileen and Phillip worked as partners in cocreating a life that worked for all of the family. Although there were occasional setbacks and difficulties, they never again reverted to the antagonistic pattern that nearly destroyed their marriage.CHAPTER 4
One of the greates tgifts you can give your partner is your own happiness.
CHARLIE: Like many of us, I grew up with the notion that marriage requires self-sacrifice. I believed that successful couples put each other's needs ahead of their own and forego pleasures that their mate doesn't share. It's no wonder I wasn't exactly jumping out of my skin to settle down. In the shadow of my independent, commitment-averse self was the side of me that craved connection, affection, and (let's be honest) regular sex. So, at the age of twenty-five I got married. Given my beliefs, it's not surprising that my feelings were somewhat mixed when Linda and I tied the knot. In one candid wedding photo, my look of consternation exposes this ambivalence.
For me, the hard part of marriage was deconstructing the beliefs that I had been caught up in and creating a life in which I could experience real happiness. With time, effort, and support, this intention has been, for the most part, fulfilled, largely due to the help I've received from Linda. She gave me the encouragement and trust that I was often unable to give myself along the way. Linda helped me to see that I didn't have to become a martyr and sacrifice myself in order to make our marriage work. She showed me that my responsibility to create a fulfilling, joyful life for myself was as important as anything that I could do for her or the kids. "The greatest gift you can give us is your own happiness," she said. "We don't want a husband and a dad who feels unhappy and burdened, no matter what else you're bringing home." I had to hear that message many times and in many ways before I finally understood it.
I learned that my inner responsibilities to myself were as important as my outer responsibilities to others. I came to trust that the quality of my own life is no less important than the quality of my family members'. It is my job, not Linda's or anyone else's, to see to it that my needs are met and that I experience fulfillment in my life. This has probably been the most valuable lesson I've ever learned, and it's one that I keep relearning at deeper levels. I've come to see that responsibility, in the truest sense of the word — responsibility for oneself — isn't an obligation or burden, but a gift and a blessing.
Most of us come into a marriage looking for what we can get from the arrangement. Love, attention, security, pleasure, companionship, and distraction from unpleasant feelings or thoughts are some of the things that compel us into partnership. When we no longer hold our partner responsible for the fulfillment of our needs, everything changes. This is easier said than done, but it is perhaps the single most important thing we can do to ensure that our relationship will be mutually satisfying. Taking care of ourselves isn't selfish; it's the most generous and responsible thing we can do.CHAPTER 5
There's a difference between judging and being judgmental.
Conscious living requires us to make assessments. We assess risk level, cost benefits, and appropriateness of behaviors in specific situations. We have to make certain judgment calls every day. We make judgments in our relationships too, but we sometimes forget that they are personal, temporary evaluations, instead viewing them as objectively, permanently true. Being judgmental in a relationship is usually disastrous because once we attach ourselves to a fixed characterization of our partner, we have a very hard time letting go of that assessment and seeing them differently.
Paul made up his mind to improve his relationship. He ordered self-help tapes and books and immersed himself in them. He took on the challenge of waking up each day with a total commitment to his marriage. What he was learning began to show up in his relationship with Cookie. He brought her flowers, he stopped watching TV after work to ask about her day, he stopped expecting her to wait on him, he was attentive to their grandchild when she came to visit. But no matter what he did, Cookie continued to view him from her old perspective. It was as if she had taken a snapshot of Paul years ago and glued it into the photo album of her mind. She couldn't turn the page but still had it open to the same old picture and kept staring at it. Cookie was lying in wait for evidence that Paul couldn't be trusted. Since no one is perfect, of course, she found it. One day, when Paul slipped and told her to bring his coffee, Cookie confronted him with the accusation that he really hadn't changed.
After a while Paul began to feel like there wasn't any point in trying because he knew that sooner or later he was bound to lapse into an old behavior and Cookie would condemn him once again. Although he initially began to change his behavior for the sake of the marriage, he was now doing it for himself. He realized he had no control over how Cookie viewed him. Her intractable view of Paul made her the bigger loser. Being attached to her judgments prevented her from appreciating the changes Paul was making. She couldn't see that their relationship had actually improved. Her attachment to her judgments was so strong that it prevented her from seeing the part she was playing in their relationship being stuck.
When Paul eventually told Cookie that he was no longer willing to keep trying to prove his love, Cookie took this as another piece of evidence that he didn't really care and had been pretending all along. Shortly thereafter, Paul made the judgment call that he was unable to persuade Cookie to recognize his love for her as sincere. Cookie's judgments of Paul kept her expectations of him to a minimum, thus protecting her from the pain of disappointment. This couple did stay married, but they were never really happy together. Ultimately, Cookie's attachment to her judgments prevented them both from experiencing a satisfying and fulfilling connection.CHAPTER 6
It's possible to hate and love some one at the same time.
LINDA: Loving someone doesn't mean that we always have warm and wonderful feelings toward them. Love is a stew flavored by a variety of ingredients — sometimes sweetness, spice, bitterness, or saltiness, and sometimes "the works." Our ever-changing feelings, whether they are pleasurable or painful, do not reflect the underlying nature of our relationship. In a marriage, strong emotions are inevitable. If we can accept them without judgment of our partner or ourselves, they can float freely and open us to yet unawakened parts of ourselves. The presence of so-called negative feelings is not the problem. It is how we respond to them within ourselves and in reaction to each other that determines whether they will deepen or diminish our love. Accepting all of the feelings that arise in a committed partnership allows us to learn to love more fully and deeply.
I remember a time in our relationship when Charlie broke an agreement that was very important to me. At the time, our children were small and we had agreed to share in their care. Charlie's new job required that he be out of town more than he was home. I had supported him in accepting the job, but his absences had become longer and more frequent than either of us had expected. I found myself in the position of being our children's sole caregiver. I was furious! How could he be so selfish and inconsiderate? What kind of a jerk had I gotten involved with, anyway? Did I really want to stay with him? This was more than simple anger; it was hatred. At least that's how I felt at the time. And yet even in the midst of my "in-burst" (in those days I kept most of my angry feelings to myself), I remember distinctly hearing another voice within me saying, "and you love this guy." I can remember the confusion I felt when I realized that right along with the burning hatred was the very same love I was familiar with. My customary simplistic thinking — good/bad, right/wrong, black/white, either/or — was challenged. Somehow it seemed wrong for hate and love to occur simultaneously, but there they both were. I was challenged to learn how to hold the tension of the opposites.
Although my mind couldn't make sense of this paradox, my heart knew that it was reality. While in this moment of extreme anger, even rage, toward Charlie, I knew that the intensity of my emotions was due to the depth of my love and passion for him. Although I still get angry at Charlie sometimes, it usually moves through me very quickly, and then once again I'm assured of the vast love that underlies all of my feelings.
Excerpted from 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married by Linda Bloom, Charlie Bloom, Kristen Cashman. Copyright © 2004 Linda and Charlie Bloom. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Charlie and Linda Bloom are both psychotherapists with more than fifty-five years of combined experience in relationship counseling. Both have taught at various psychotherapy training facilities, including the Esalen Institute, Omega Institute, The California Institute for Integral Studies, The Institute for Transpersonal Psychology, JFK University, and University of California-Berkeley. In 1987 they founded the Empowerment Network, an organization offering seminars to individuals and couples on improving relationships. They currently offer fifty different workshops on various relationship issues and their work has improved the lives of thousands of people around the world. In spite of their professional success, Charlie and Linda both agree that their greatest achievement has been a fulfilling marriage of thirty-one years. The Blooms live in Northern California and their website is www.bloomwork.com.
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Before I bought this book, I believed I was marrying the wrong man. We argued all the time, blow out fights were our middle names. This book has completely changed my mind by with the short relatable lessons it provides. I now understand that not only am I marrying the right man, but we both have the power an ability to create a long lasting, loving and respectful relationship, flaws and all. We will still argue, but now, we're strapped with the tools and knowledge to react differently. GREAT book.
This is an amazing book for any type of marrige. I love the fact that every chapter is short making it great for quick reference. It's written to make anyone feel like it's written about them. It's really helped me understand and appreciate my marriage. I would suggest this book to any and every couple.
The Bloom's first book (I hope they write more) is made up of 101 short but profound chapters each of which contains an anecdote taken from their own marriage or a couple they've worked with. It's like getting advice from a wise old couple that has been though it all, and learned what works and what doesn't. They have helped clients in difficult situations and they themselves been through periods of closeness and distance, infidelity, breast cancer, deaths of parents and a beloved child, and have come out with a passionate, and intimate connection that gets better with time. No easy answers but lots of wise compassionate help.
This book gives us simple straight forward strategies for building the kind of intimate relationship most of us can only imagine - regardless of whether or not you are in a traditional marriage, living together, straight or gay. Imagine a relationship in which you can be yourself... a partnership in which you can speak your truth without causing harm...imagine sharing a level of intimacy that allows you to grow in love - for yourself, for your partner, for your world. A relationship that actually raises you and your partner to a higher level of counsciousness. There is no psycho-babble or magic bullet in this book - rather Linda and Charlie Bloom give us concrete examples of how to do partnership better. They present us with ways to share, show us how to increase trust, how to lean into each others differences, how to disagree without leaving each other bloody. These examples, while simple, are often not easy. It becomes clear that improving a relationship requires both commitment and work. By sharing their personal relationship issues, as well as their clients', we can see that the Blooms have practiced what they preach - so we don't ever feel like we're being lectured - it becomes more a case of -- look, we made these mistakes and we'd like to offer you some ways to do it better. Linda and Charlie Bloom have raised the bar on the concept of what a marriage can be - but in their book they've given us the tools to help us begin to up-level our most intimate relationship and turn it into the kind of partnership that most of us deeply desire.