Read an Excerpt
Being part of a couple, in a committed relationship, is one of life's greatest treasures. That is, if it's a good one! All kidding aside, being a couple is a true gift. It provides the opportunity for love, companionship, friendship, family, and security. But, no matter how great your relationship may be, there is probably going to be at least some stress associated with it. The very fact that two people are together lends itself to some inherent issues the need to compromise, forgive, accept differences, and sacrifice. Sometimes you disagree or have different wants, needs, and desires. You may have different goals and priorities, and must deal with each other's issues and moods.
The editors of Don't Sweat Press have done a beautiful job in creating a guide to overcome much of the stress usually associated with being a couple. The Don't Sweat Guide for Couples is a simple, practical collection of strategies designed to give you and your partner tools to work together better, let go of things easier, and focus your attention on the love you have for each other. Often in our relationships, we use our minds in self-defeating or negative ways that encourage our love to drift away. Becoming aware of this tendency and the power of our own thinking is a magical tool for enhancing the love we have for our partners. It helps us eliminate any negative habits that may have crept into our relationships.
I encourage you to read this book alone, or side by side with your partner. Either way, I'm guessing you're going to learn some very helpful tools.
My relationship with my wife, Kris, is such an important part of my life. The two of us are committed to doing all we can to enhance the quality of our own relationship. Many of the ideas in this book resonated in our hearts, as I hope they will in yours.
Thank you for being committed to the quality of your relationship. I hope this book is of tremendous service to you and to your partner.
Treasure the Gift of Love,
Pleasant Hill, CA, June 2001
Remember the One That You Fell For
There is a period close to the beginning of most long-term relationships when we're so swept up in the excitement of the chemistry of being in love that we don't mind the things in our partners that will later become ingredients for stress. Most of us eventually get over this rosy view. But in the process of descending from the heights of infatuation, we can sometimes move too far in the opposite direction. We are no longer blinded by love, and have to grapple with the reality of another flesh-and-blood person. It's a natural, necessary, and healthy part of love, but it feels like a loss, and it causes pain.
There's no easy cure for the stresses of life as a couple. But your view of the person with whom you share those stresses can go a long way toward affecting how important you allow the stresses to become. When you remember the hows, whys, and wherefores of falling in love with your partner, you maintain a sympathetic, appreciative perspective of that person.
The process of remembering the one that you fell for starts within you. Think back to your first glimpse of your partner. Remember the details of your partner's personality, appearance, preferences, and habits. Think about how those aspects affected you when they were all new to you, and remember what you found attractive.
Remembering the one that you fell for can also be a two-way street. Take walks with your partner down "Memory Lane." In the early days of romance, you shared some powerful emotions and exciting times. Recalling them together can bring them back into focus and even spark new life in the here and now. Celebrate special occasions by returning to old haunts that have significance for you as a couple. Pull out old photographs, laugh about happy times, and plan activities that you used to enjoy doing together. Don't seek to recreate the past, but let it feed a richer experience in the present.
In short, make your shared history a powerful tool for a happier, more satisfying life with your partner. In the process, you'll free up room for a love that continues to grow and deepen.
Read the Same Book
It takes time for people to grow apart. It is the culmination of hundreds of separate choices made without reference to the health of the relationship. The partners go their own ways in activities that are most engaging, and save the mundane things for togetherness. The relationship can become associated with boredom and tedium.
In the same way, it takes time for people to build a strong foundation of mutual growth and vitality. This is meaningful time that a couple chooses to spend together in pursuits that are stimulating and challenging. Growing together instead of apart requires that you share life's learning curves with your partner, day after day, in a variety of ways.
Perhaps your partner plays golf, runs, skis, or boats. You may not have any background in these activities, but you can certainly learn. You may not have the physical ability or find that an activity doesn't grow on you. But you can appreciate what it takes, and be an active supporter in a variety of ways. Your partner's area of strength may be intellectual; it may be artistic; it may lie in home maintenance. Just participating alongside your partner gives you the opportunity to learn new skills and appreciate more about your loved one.
By the same token, share your own strengths. It may seem easier and more efficient to avoid the explanations and coaching time involved in sharing your strengths with your partner, but ease and efficiency don't necessarily feed mutual growth.
If you're both readers, read the same book, either separately or aloud to one another. Talk about your reactions to it. The content of the book becomes a shared experience that draws you together. Take up a new activity that neither of you has tried or mastered already. Sign up for dancing lessons or join a bicycling group. If you enjoy travel and have the means, plan trips to places neither of you have visited. If you're social types, make new friends in common.
With each choice to learn and grow together, you build a history of mutual support and an inventory of engaging activities that bond you and make you interesting to one another. By comparison, the things that lead to stress and friction will be boring. You won't want to expend any energy on them.
Be a Friend
Life partners do not necessarily treat one another as the friends they could or should be. There can be many reasons for this, but the net result is that these people have better friendships outside of their relationship than they do with their loved one.
It need not be this way. You can change an unsatisfying status quo. To begin, be the kind of friend to your partner that you would like to have. Stand close in support when times are tough, lend a shoulder to cry on in circumstances of sorrow, and offer a sympathetic ear when life is confusing. Congratulate your partner on success, and extend the benefit of a doubt when you don't understand what's going on. Maintain and express your confidence in your partner. In the act of being a friend, you will earn the right to have a friend in your partner.
You must also teach your partner how to be your friend in romance. Find a non-accusatory a way of communicating. Rather than expressing yourself in terms of "You never . . . " or "I wish you would . . ." focus on "It would mean a lot to me if . . ." or "One of the needs I have is . . ." In this way, you acknowledge that the needs are yours, and you allow your partner to make a gift of friendship to you.
When you extend friendship to your partner and you are rebuffed, you may want to take another look at your act of friendship. Are you focusing on what is important to your partner, or are you stubbornly offering only what you feel like offering? Are you treating your partner the way that you treat other close friends? Finally, have you taken into consideration any anger or pain that may be getting in the way? Sometimes the forward motion of a friendship is stalled because some necessary apologies were never made.
There's little in life that adds as much joy as a solid, supportive friendship with the person you've chosen as a partner. If you express what friendship means to you and pursue it explicitly in the context of friendship, you can move past the petty reactions that have grown out of wishing for it. Concentrate on attacking the problem at the source of the trouble, and the symptoms will take care of themselves.
Copyright © 2001 Carlson, LLC