Read an Excerpt
The Magical Countdown
When a couple stands at the altar and vows to love each other "till death do us part," they take for granted that they will stay intimately connected forever. The kiss at the end of the ceremony is symbolic of that connection, and throughout the relationship the kiss remains at the core. The kiss is the most intimate connection possible between two people--even more intimate than sexual intercourse, as I'll explain later in this chapter.
Sadly, as the years pass, staying connected with our mate gradually takes a back seat to all the mundane duties and chores that exist in a marriage. In reality, everything else should take a back seat to our love for each other.
Jennifer and Ron could not remember when their relationship changed. All they knew was with two young children, two careers, and too little time, their marriage was in jeopardy. They had become working partners instead of loving partners. It was their thirteenth anniversary and Jennifer's mother had offered to baby-sit so they could have a special weekend, but instead of a romantic resort they chose to come to my lecture, hoping for a miracle.
I had asked for a volunteer couple from the audience to tell me what they believed was the biggest problem in their relationship. Jennifer and Ron came up on the stage at my urging and began to explain. "We have no time for each other. We're both so busy that at the end of the day, we just give each other a quick peck on the cheek, mumble good night, and we're off to sleep," said Jennifer. "Sometimes--often, actually--we don't even bother with the kiss."
Egging them on a little, I asked Ron how it was that they couldn't findthe time to invest in the most important aspect of their lives.
"Well," he responded, "we both have demanding jobs, which sometimes require travel away from home. Jennifer travels more than I do, at least once a month, but when I'm gone it's for a longer period of time. Usually a week or two. And, of course, there're the kids. They have to be driven to school each morning and picked up from day-care each evening. Then there's grocery shopping, meal preparation and cleanup--Jennifer does that while I help the kids with their homework. You wouldn't believe how much homework kids are given these days. After dinner and homework are over, we try to spend some quality time with the kids before we put them to bed. When one of us is gone on a business trip, it all falls on the other's shoulders."
"On the weekends," Jennifer piped in, "we have the house to clean, the yard to tend, errands to run, home-repair chores, shopping for clothes and school supplies for the kids, and Ron's parents are elderly, so they require some of our time too. And, we do try to keep up some semblance of a social life, but it isn't easy."
I replied that I could see they were certainly very busy people. Then I asked them, "Do you think you could find just ten seconds in your busy day to devote to your relationship?"
At first they just laughed. They thought I was joking. When they realized it was a serious question, they both replied "yes" in unison.
At this point, I turned to the five thousand people seated in the auditorium and, gesturing with my hands, I asked them all to stand up. Anxious for a stretch break, they complied willingly. But when I said, "Now, I want you all to face your partner and give him or her a ten-second kiss," there was an uproar of groans and sighs. Ignoring it, I added, "I'm going to time you, so no cheating or letting up before I say "stop'!" Somebody in the crowd asked, "Do we have to?" in a loud voice.
"Come on," I said. "You can do it. This is not torture. It will be fun and it's part of the lecture. Yes, you have to do it!"
This part of my lecture usually takes more time than I'd like, but I always stand my ground and continue to coax them until every single person is ready to participate. Then the magical ten-second countdown begins as they start to kiss: One thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three, one thousand and four, on up to one thousand and ten, and then . . . "STOP!"
The crowd was wild with enthusiasm as I directed them back to their seats. I could actually feel the mood of the entire room change. It was filled with excitement, warmth, and electricity. "Now, that wasn't so awful, was it?" I asked, smiling. Loud clapping, whistling, and cheering signaled their approval. Turning to Jennifer and Ron, I asked them what the ten-second kiss had been like for them.
"I was really uncomfortable," Jennifer replied. "Not just because of being in front of so many people. We just aren't in the habit of kissing like that anymore, except when we make love. But I think I could get used to it," she added with a laugh.
Thanking them for their openness and courage for coming up on stage, I told them they could return to their seats.
Then I went on to explain to the audience that sometimes what starts out as a passionate relationship, over time, winds up as a friendship. We are so caught up in our daily routine that we forget all about keeping closeness and passion alive. Many times we're not even aware that this change has occurred, but one day we wake up and realize with a shock that we are living as roommates instead of lovers.
Living with a good friend means there's mutual respect, common interests, companionship, and security, but no passion. It may not be the worst thing that can happen, but I'm here to tell you that you can keep your best friend and get your lover back too.
Engaging in a ten-second kiss every day declares that you are lovers--not just roommates. It helps you stay connected. Even though you may tell your mate you love them every day, giving them a ten-second kiss tells them, "I'm still in love with you."
The ten-second kiss has a more immediate and dramatic effect on a relationship than any other homework I've ever assigned. Given in the morning, it sets the tone for the rest of the day. Given early in the evening, it sets the mood for the rest of the night. No matter what time of day you kiss, you'll feel warm, close, and connected. The casual kiss, the peck on the cheek are ways of saying our relationship is comfortable, platonic. In order to go from pleasant to passionate, you have to feel how delicious and meaningful a ten-second kiss really is.
I use this exercise in all of my seminars because I want to demonstrate to people that it doesn't matter whether they feel like kissing each other or not: the result of the ten-second kiss is the same. They may feel distant, annoyed, embarrassed, humiliated, or uncomfortable before the kiss. But when they do it anyway, the result of their action is a feeling of connection, warmth, safety, tenderness, and even passion. Usually, the ones who resist it the most are the ones who enjoy it so much they refuse to stop even when the time is up.
Act "As If"
Some of us believe that we must feel a certain way before we can act a certain way. As one procrastinator I know is fond of saying, "I'm waiting for the spirit to move me." Quite frankly, if I waited to do things until I felt like it, I'd never do anything!
I am proposing a different point of view: You can create love every day by acting in a loving way and not worrying about whether you are feeling loving!
How many times have you said, "I'm not in the mood to . . . ," "I don't want to . . . ," or "I don't feel like it . . . ," then not done whatever it was and as a result felt badly all day?
For example, I do not like to exercise. Given a chance, I'd much rather read. I know, however, that exercise is good for me, and now that I'm older, I really feel that it's important for me to engage in some form of exercise every day. But each morning when I wake up my first thought is always, "I'm not in the mood today," "It's too hot," or "It's too cold." Never do I wake up and think, "Oh, goody. I get to exercise now." Still, I get up, brush my teeth, comb my hair, put on my walking shoes and my warm-up suit, and begin exercising anyway. Ten minutes of stretching, ten minutes of floor exercises, and a brisk one-mile walk every day, rain or shine, tired or not. The amazing thing about this ritual is that, no matter how I felt before I exercised, I always feel great afterward. I'm proud of myself and I'm energized and ready to face the day.
Here's the point. If I waited until I was in the mood, I'd stay in bed all day, because that's what I feel like doing when I wake up every morning. Can you imagine how miserable I'd be if I acted on how I felt, instead of what I knew was good for me?
Here's another example. I don't want to clean my house. I hate housework. I've done it for so long. What's the expression? "Been there, done that!" But I've learned that if I simply begin to clean, even though I'm thinking, "I'd rather be at the beach" or "Someday I'll get live-in help!" nevertheless I'm soon done, I feel a sense of accomplishment, and I'm in a better mood.
Believe it or not, shopping is right up there with housecleaning on my list of things I don't like to do. Since I've been involved in so many creative projects--writing, speaking engagements, and television appearances--I don't even like to shop for clothes anymore. And I've never been fond of grocery shopping. But if I waited until I was in the mood, I'd probably be naked and starving to death! So regardless of how I feel, I do buy a new outfit for a television appearance or a speaking engagement and I do go to the supermarket for my weekly groceries. And although I may not want to at the time, I'm sure glad I did when I open my refrigerator and see food in there.
I'm not saying we shouldn't be in touch with our feelings, but it's often possible to change our feelings by changing our actions. I remember when I first began teaching my classes, I decided to participate in Orange County's first Women's Conference. I presented two seminars during the day, and rented exhibit space to promote my classes.
Finished with my afternoon presentation, I was packing up all of my materials when the program coordinator spotted me as she walked out of the main ballroom. She approached me, and in a desperate voice said, "Ellen, I'm so glad you're still here. We have a problem. Our keynote speaker hasn't shown up and we have a thousand people expecting to hear a presentation. Would you take her place?"
Dumbfounded, I said, "Are you crazy? You scheduled the most popular newscaster in the city as the keynote speaker. People are waiting to hear about her life and accomplishments. I'd stand up for forty-five minutes and talk about relationships!"
Beginning to panic, I looked around to find that all the other presenters had packed up their materials and were already inside the ballroom waiting for the closing speech. At that moment, I felt like running out the nearest exit and never looking back. But instead I heard myself say, "Okay. I guess I can do it."
When I stepped up to the podium, I looked into the sea of faces and felt sheer terror. I was used to speaking to a group of twenty-five students. There were over one thousand women out there. My hands trembled as I adjusted the microphone and my voice cracked as I said, "I'm not the person you came to hear today . . ."
I went on to tell them of my background and ways they could improve their relationships. As I made my points and shared anecdotes, I was energized by the enthusiasm and laughter from the audience. By the end of the forty-five minutes, I was loving it. Evidently, the audience was too, because they gave me a standing ovation.
For the first time, I realized I could speak in front of a large group. But I would never have found out if I had given in to my fear. By accepting the challenge in spite of my insecurity, I gained the confidence I needed to expand my horizons and bring my message to other large groups.
Whether it's exercising, cleaning the house, or doing the filing, I'm sure you can think of something you don't feel like doing, but once you've done it, you're glad you did.