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Bust the Myths to Build a Great Relationship
According to bestselling authors and relationship counselors Linda and Charlie Bloom, accepting common myths such as “couples with great relationships don’t fight” or “little things aren’t worth getting upset over” can prevent you from building the strong relationship you hope for. This book offers compelling stories and valuable suggestions for replacing myths with realistic expectations, equipping you with behavior and communication guidelines that will enhance and strengthen your intimate relationship. With the Blooms’ strong yet flexible approach to love, you’ll discover a new openness in which mutual understanding can thrive.
|Publisher:||New World Library|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Linda Bloom, LCSW, and Charlie Bloom, MSW, are bestselling authors and the founders and codirectors of Bloomwork. They have lectured and taught seminars on relationships throughout the United States and the world. They have been married since 1972.
Read an Excerpt
Happily Ever After ... and 39 Other Myths About Love
Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams
By Linda Bloom, Charlie Bloom
New World LibraryCopyright © 2016 Linda and Charlie Bloom
All rights reserved.
And they lived happily ever after.
Who would have ever thought that six harmless words could lead to so much disappointment? How many stories and fairy tales end with this phrase? Each time we hear it, it promises that two lovers — after rising above many hardships and ordeals — have finally merged their hearts as one and will ride off into the sunset together to live forever in the splendor of love's eternal bliss.
Many of us may be desperately hoping to be rescued from our insecurities. We long for a relationship that will redeem us, so that we will live (how else?) happily ever after. It can be hard to give up the idea that a relationship will save us from our solitary struggles.
Many of us may also believe that when we enter into a committed partnership, that's the end of the story. Whatever we might be looking for — security, fulfillment, acceptance, unconditional love, support, friendship, intimacy, sex, or any number of other experiences — this valuable thing will be ours forever, we believe, now that we are sharing a life together with this other person. It's no wonder that when the honeymoon ends, as sooner or later it inevitably does, we experience a letdown. Perhaps we even feel real doubt about having chosen the "right" partner.
Most of us believe that marriage will enhance the quality of our lives. Otherwise, why bother? And if it doesn't add what we expect it to, or if it adds something that we don't want it to, we may think one of three things:
1. We're not the "marrying type."
2. We picked the wrong person to marry.
3. Marriage is just a bad idea.
These are understandable thoughts if one believes that marriage is static, a fixed ending, and not a continuation of the story.
But consider the possibility that marriage is not a noun or thing, but a verb, a process. When we get married, we exchange "vows" to act in ways that enhance the quality of each person's life. It's an agreement to take on a set of commitments. The hopes and dreams that we hold for our marriage depend on our willingness to honor the commitments that we have made — not just in our wedding vows, but in our day-to-day agreements as well. A more realistic perspective is to consider marriage as a verb. It is a constantly shifting dynamic process, not a fixed model or concept.
Our ability to cocreate intimacy, trust, and commitment will largely determine what we can accomplish together. This raises the questions: Why do so many marriages end in divorce? Why do so many people live in unhappy marriages? Why don't we see more examples of truly fulfilling relationships?
In part, this is because many people have adopted, at least partially, Western culture's myths about marriage. To most people, "happily ever after" means: If you love each other, you shouldn't fight. A relationship will be consistently blissful forever. You never have to say you're sorry...about anything. You'll never be lonely again, and about a thousand other things that turn out to be untrue. The word for these beliefs is "illusions."
In truth, in any relationship, there will be fights. You will have doubts and moments of uncertainty. You will periodically feel lonely. And when you experience remorse or regrets over something you've done, you will need to apologize. It is in our nature as human beings to have these experiences, whether we are single or partnered, and regardless of who the other person is. It is inherent in the package of being a human being. It's who we are. There isn't any perfect person or perfect relationship. Nobody can fulfill the promise of providing someone else with a permanently blissful life.
Where does this leave us? If we let go of the dream of permanent bliss, and accept the reality of our humanness, we will be less predisposed to experience disappointment, feelings of betrayal, and the grief of disillusionment when our unrealistic expectations are not fulfilled. We are then better able to create a future based upon realistic expectations, ones that are attainable. When we do this, we might enjoy more fully the fruits that truly are available in a committed partnership.
When we see through our illusions, marriage can become the way to experience our heart breaking with sorrow and sometimes cracking open with joy. It is where we can discover how much more of life is available when we become as committed to our partner's well-being as we are to the fulfillment of our own. It is heaven, and it is hell. It is, as Zorba the Greek said, "the full catastrophe."
How much can we open? How many of the illusions that keep our hearts closed can we let go of? How many of our fears can we release in learning to trust another? Can we risk giving up the "security" of our beliefs to gain the experience of our heart's deepest desires? The real question is not "Are we able to see the real challenge of partnership through eyes undistorted by illusion?" Rather: "Are we willing to risk being wrong about some of our cherished hopes and beliefs? Are we willing to risk having to challenge, and possibly reassess, what we have held to be true? Are we willing to risk accepting responsibility for the future of our relationship rather than resting in the comfort of our expectations?" When we risk these things, we become a more loving partner rather than a critical judge. It takes lots of patience to do the work of creating deep and lasting trust in a relationship. It also takes time and persistence. We have to be able to persevere, even when we are discouraged and afraid, which from time to time we probably will be.
We don't arrive at an exquisite joining of innermost hearts merely by becoming partners. There is work to do to reap these benefits. Some of those times are not so happy. They contain struggle and ordeals. Going through periods of disappointment and pain is part of the price that we pay for the joys of long-term connection. These difficulties not only provide important lessons, but amplify our appreciation of the joys in our relationship.
If we could experience for one moment what is available to two people who share a pure love, we would gladly undergo any sacrifice that is necessary to achieve it. The Chinese Book of Changes, or the I Ching, stated over two thousand years ago: "When two people are at one in their inmost hearts, / They shatter even the strength of iron or of bronze. / And when two people understand each other in their inmost hearts, / their words are sweet and strong, like the fragrance of orchids." These words are as true today as they ever were.CHAPTER 2
People expect too much from relationships.
Charlie: Although it's popular to accuse couples of setting themselves up for disaster by expecting too much from marriage, for many people the problem is exactly the opposite. Many of us don't set our sights high enough. In keeping our expectations low, we may hope to prevent disappointment, but this strategy holds some serious dangers. Limited expectations generate a modest vision of what is possible, and they can easily become self-fulfilling prophecies. The greater the possibilities that we envision, the higher we are likely to set our goals. Where we aim has less to do with what we are actually capable of achieving than with what we believe to be attainable.
Prior to Roger Bannister's breaking of the four-minute mile in 1954, it was deemed impossible for a human being to achieve that feat. Almost immediately after his accomplishment, other runners joined the sub-four-minute-mile club. Within a decade, several hundred runners had done what ten years previously had been believed impossible. Such is the power of expectations.
When Linda and I got married in 1972, I deliberately set my sights low, all the better to avoid disappointment. I was afraid to hope for anything more than a comfortable arrangement in which we got along reasonably well and didn't fight very much. Talk about low expectations!
Having observed very few examples of thriving long-term relationships, I approached marriage somewhat unenthusiastically. Truth be told, from my perspective, the idea of a happy marriage was an oxymoron. What did appeal to me about marriage was that I saw it as an opportunity to create the kind of family experience that I did not have in my original family. While I hoped to achieve a "corrective experience," I was pessimistic about that happening.
To resolve this contradiction, I developed a strategy of limited engagement. Unfortunately, my strategy not only failed to prevent disappointment, but it left me frequently feeling resentful and frustrated. What I hadn't factored into the equation was the fact that my head wasn't the only part of me that was engaged. As French philosopher Blaise Pascal famously said, "The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing," and my heart had its own agenda. Ultimately, it insisted on having its say.
In my case, the inevitable breakdown took the form of complaints that both Linda and I directed at each other with increasing frequency and intensity until things got to the breaking point. I minimized the amount of time that we spent together and maximized the amount of time that I spent on other "more important" things, namely work. In so doing, I reasoned that there would be minimal danger of conflict, and we could maintain an adequate degree of connection. Translation: Just enough connection to prevent a divorce. Unfortunately, while this was my preferred method, it didn't work for Linda. And she made it a point to let me know. Repeatedly.
Since my idea of minimalism flew directly in the face of Linda's desire for wholehearted intimacy as well as my own denied desire for the same thing, I had a conflict not only with her but within myself. In trying to settle for what was inherently an unsatisfying relationship, I was both living a lie and trying to force this same thing on Linda, who fortunately was unwilling to compromise her dream of a deeply loving marriage, regardless of the emotional risks that this entailed. The truth was that I was afraid that I was unfit for a truly fulfilling relationship and that it made no sense to even try for it. I believed that to hope for more would be naïve and unrealistic, since it seemed that no one has that kind of marriage anyway, except in the movies. These beliefs were all basically rationalizations to avoid the risk of genuine emotional intimacy.
When Linda and I finally did reach the brink of divorce, my desire to maintain our connection overrode my commitment to avoiding disappointment. That was when things began to change. This transition, which occurred over twenty-five years ago, has been ongoing and has transformed our relationship in ways that have had lasting effects on us both.
It was only because Linda refused to settle for the kind of mediocrity that I was willing to accept that I finally chose to jump in with both feet. Had she been unwilling to put our marriage on the line as she did, there is no question in my mind that we would not be together today.
Without Linda's vision of what was possible for us, and her insistence that we owe it to ourselves and each other to go for the gold, rather than the tin medal, I would never have chosen to join her in her vision.
I learned from Linda that marriage takes more than time and effort. It takes vision, courage, commitment, determination, and patience, lots of patience. I didn't have much of these when I opted out of my game and into hers. But with Linda's help and support, I came to join her in what became our vision.
What we have come to enjoy together is infinitely more than I had believed possible for us, and it has exceeded Linda's hopes as well.
These days, I'm not so afraid of being disappointed. I've grown to appreciate disappointments and to trust that I no longer really need the protection of minimal hopes. Linda and I take turns challenging ourselves to find out what's truly possible as we work together. It's not only for us, but also for the many people whom we touch and are touched by.
We have found that while the mind seeks a comfortable and easy relationship, the heart has other concerns. The heart could care less about risk management, control, safety, and security. Its desires have to do with passion, connection, truthfulness, intimacy, aliveness, and joyfulness — experiences that exist outside of the bounds of pragmatic considerations. The desires of the heart need to be met and included in the equation. To the degree they are not, we will be unfulfilled, regardless of how much security, status, or economic success we achieve. As the saying goes, "You can't ever get enough of what you really don't need."
In the words of Bob Dylan, "He who isn't busy being born is busy dying." This applies not only to individuals but to marriages as well. The notion that we can put things on cruise control and sail through life together with a minimum of engagement and still experience a high quality of life exists in the domain of fantasy, not reality. To be busy being born requires the willingness to show up, to risk, to tell the truth to others and to ourselves about what we truly desire, what we fear, what we long for, and what brings passion into our lives.
Marriage, to quote Stephen Levine, is "the ultimate danger sport." It is not for the faint of heart. It is the path that tends to provoke the most resistance, since we tend to attract and marry people who are our counterparts.
With Linda's help, I have discovered that this path can also be the path of greatest fulfillment, of greatest joy, and of greatest possibility. It is the path that insists not only that we awaken to our deepest desires but that we engage others in that same challenge: the pursuit of the fulfillment of what truly matters to us and the fulfillment of who we are as human beings. Having low expectations can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we raise our expectations and link them to a powerful intention and a clear commitment, and we create a strong alliance with our partner, it becomes possible not only to override our fears and concerns but to achieve greatness together beyond anything we had previously imagined.CHAPTER 3
If we fight, it means we're not meant for each other.
When does the honeymoon end? Is it the first time you realize that your mate isn't all you had hoped for? Or maybe it is when you discover that sometimes their cheerful optimism can turn to resentment or depression for no apparent reason. Do you remember your first fight? Have you ever wondered whether you made a mistake in your selection of a partner? Do you experience anger, frustration, hostility, or resentment toward your partner, perhaps more times than you care to admit? Many people can take these feelings as an indication that something is seriously out of line in their marriage or relationship. If you're human, you've also probably attempted to influence your partner's feelings, attitudes, or behaviors, only to discover that this just creates a new problem.
Most of us spend between twelve and twenty years of our lives in school, yet nowhere are we really taught how to sustain and enhance the quality of our relationships. We hope and pray that despite our ignorance we can make it work anyway. And when the inevitable conflicts arise, we may find ourselves entrenched or embattled with our partner.
Excerpted from Happily Ever After ... and 39 Other Myths About Love by Linda Bloom, Charlie Bloom. Copyright © 2016 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.
Table of Contents
ContentsForeword by Susan Campbell,
Myth 1 And they lived happily ever after.,
Myth 2 People expect too much from relationships.,
Myth 3 If we fight, it means we're not meant for each other.,
Myth 4 A happy childhood is a prerequisite to a great relationship.,
Myth 5 Marriages inevitably get flat, stale, and boring over time.,
Myth 6 Once a cheater, always a cheater.,
Myth 7 All you need is love.,
Myth 8 When you've lost that loving feeling, it's gone, gone, gone.,
Myth 9 All differences need to be reconciled.,
Myth 10 Time heals all wounds.,
Myth 11 You need to disclose all your past experiences in order to build trust.,
Myth 12 Commitment and freedom are mutually exclusive.,
Myth 13 Little things aren't worth getting upset about.,
Myth 14 Relationships shouldn't have to be this hard.,
Myth 15 All the good men/women are taken.,
Myth 16 Nothing good can come from conflict.,
Myth 17 True lovers feel love for each other all the time.,
Myth 18 If you really loved me, I wouldn't have to ask.,
Myth 19 Love will heal my past emotional pain.,
Myth 20 You can be right and have a good relationship.,
Myth 21 After I'm married, I won't ever be lonely again.,
Myth 22 Commitment means staying together no matter what.,
Myth 23 Telling the truth means getting it all off your chest.,
Myth 24 Love means never having to say you're sorry.,
Myth 25 There's just not enough time.,
Myth 26 When it comes to togetherness in relationships, more is always better.,
Myth 27 If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all.,
Myth 28 It's too late to bring it up now.,
Myth 29 Love and good sex will make your relationship affair-proof.,
Myth 30 Marriage is a fifty-fifty proposition.,
Myth 31 People don't change.,
Myth 32 Independence is strength, dependence is weakness.,
Myth 33 Some people have all the luck.,
Myth 34 Relationships require a lot of sacrifice.,
Myth 35 Play is for kids.,
Myth 36 It's possible to divorce-proof your marriage.,
Myth 37 Once I attract my ideal mate, my life will be perfect.,
Myth 38 When it comes to relationships, security is always better.,
Myth 39 Married couples don't date.,
Myth 40 Good relationships require more effort than they're worth.,
About the Authors,