The Almost-Perfect Marriage

The Almost-Perfect Marriage

by Stephanie Dowrick

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781741751352
Publisher: Allen & Unwin Pty., Limited
Publication date: 10/01/2007
Pages: 154
Product dimensions: 4.30(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author


Stephanie Dowrick is the author of Choosing Happiness, Creative Journal Writing, Free Thinking, and Intimacy and Solitude.

Read an Excerpt

The Almost-Perfect Marriage

One-Minute Relationship Skills


By Stephanie Dowrick

Allen & Unwin

Copyright © 2007 wise Angels pty Ltd
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-74176-152-8


CHAPTER 1

An almost-perfect commitment of love is perfect.


The moments you might not have chosen, the habits you've only just discovered, the differences in opinion and experience – these all add depth to your relationship.


The wonderful moments are precious too. And they can be increased.


What counts most though is saying 'Yes!' to it all, loving and accepting your partner wholeheartedly, and allowing yourself to be loved and accepted also.


Love is completely natural.


It's the skills that bring love to life that often need to be polished or learned.


You have the power to lift your partner's spirits or to dash them.


Take this power seriously.

The choices you make will profoundly affect your partner, your relationship – and yourself.

Love teaches you to care for others.

It also gives you your best chance to grow up.

It's not age, sexuality, wealth, religion or culture that will determine the success of your relationship.

It is your willingness to discover what love means.

When you fall in love, you see and experience the perfection in the other person.

You also experience your own best self.

That vision of perfection is deeply sacred.

As life becomes more complicated, maintain that vision.

Let it live alongside your more complex knowledge of who you both are.


Self-respect and feeling good about yourself live or die on how you treat other people – especially those closest to you.

It's like an unbroken circle: the better you treat other people, the better you will feel about yourself.

The better you feel about yourself (and the less obsessed about yourself you are), the easier it will be to behave thoughtfully with others.


Look at one another.

Especially on busy days, take a moment to be truly present.

It is so easy to rush by the partner you adore.

Pausing, looking and connecting, love comes alive.

Regard love as the key reference point for all your actions.

If you are in any doubt about the way you are behaving, ask yourself, 'Is this kind?'

There is no more powerful balm for old wounds than a deeply shared experience of love.

If you have been hurt in the past, trust yourself to get over that.

In this relationship, assume the best always.

Build your relationship on confidence as well as love.

If your partner does something that upsets or alarms you, recognise that your own reactions may be getting in the way.


Learning to live lovingly, use your partner's reactions as a guide.

Do more of what lifts their spirits.

Stop whatever lowers their spirits.

Could love be that easy?


How do you receive loving words or gestures?

If you routinely push them away, joke or belittle them, you diminish yourself and your relationship.

You will also be hurting your partner's feelings.

Practise letting love in. Say, and mean:

'How lovely.'

'Thank you so much.'

'I love you too.'


Mutual trust is crucial to intimacy.

'I trust that you will do your best by me – always.'

'You can trust that I will do my best by you – always.'


Your partner may not always want what you want.

This is a challenge to your agenda and perhaps to your ego.

It need not be a challenge to your relationship.


Don't postpone love.

Express what you feel now, while you have the chance.

The old rules remain golden: never leave the house without an affectionate goodbye; always greet one another lovingly; speak courteously; never go to bed angry; be grateful.


Having fun together is essential.

Check where it comes in your priorities.

Take charge!


Everything can be survived when you trust your commitment. 'We are in this together.'


Make it easy for your partner to love you.

Easy to love means being good-humoured, interested, appreciative, encouraging, optimistic and forgiving.

Easy to love means being consistently loving, whether or not you 'feel like it'.

Easy to love also means apologising immediately when something does go wrong.

Easy to love means learning from mistakes and moving on.


When there is a gap between what you say and how you behave, this will also create distance between you and your partner.

Think, speak and act lovingly.

Value consistency.


Good humour may well be the most valuable currency in your relationship.

This means:

• Being reliable in your moods.

• Interpreting events positively.

• Tolerating differences in opinion.

• Keeping an eye on the big picture: 'I love this person'.

• Managing tension and stress.

• Accepting with grace when things don't go your way.

• Assuming that sometimes you will misunderstand one another – and can get over it.

• Doing what's needed for the sake of someone else.

• Taking pleasure in your relationship and in one another.


In intimacy, the little things are the big things.


Assumptions about gender play a big part in many relationships.

'Women should ...'; 'Men always ...'

Talk openly about gender and what it means to you.

Discover what stereotypes live inside your own mind.

• Notice when you are slipping into unhelpful generalisations.

• Notice when your partner's expectations feel unrealistic or unfair.

Regard yourselves as two people shaped by gender but not limited by it.

Share out the responsibilities in your lives according to your talents and interests, not your gender.


Whatever you practise you will become skilled at.

Practise being a loving partner.

Watch other people who are already doing it well.

Notice what works. Try that.

Observe what lifts your partner's spirits. Do much more of that.


When it comes to love, think like a poet not an accountant.

Don't keep a ledger of who has done what and what you are owed.

Nor how often you are right and your partner is wrong.

Being loving matters much more than being right.


A healthy relationship nourishes you.

It doesn't solve all your human problems.


Empathy is vital to intimacy.

Empathy doesn't mean feeling the emotions someone else is experiencing.

It means understanding and validating those feelings. 'I am not in your shoes, but I do care about what you are experiencing.'


In intimacy you risk being changed: mind, body, spirit, heart, everything.


If you are not happy within yourself, the most loving partner cannot 'make you happy' on a lasting basis.

Take responsibility for your own emotional health and wellbeing.

This will profoundly benefit your partner and your relationship.


Silence those complaints about yourself.

Stop beating yourself up – privately or publicly.

The way you treat yourself will affect all your relationships, especially the most intimate.

Accept who you are.

Open your eyes to the strengths you can develop and share.


It is extremely tempting to 'dump' your negativity on someone else – especially your loved one.

Dumping doesn't relieve your tension.

Nor can it possibly support your relationship.

Own your own feelings.

Do something about them.

Notice how your moods colour your interpretations.

Trust that when other people seem especially annoying, you yourself are out of sorts.


When a change in attitude or behaviour is needed, let love inspire you.

No need to wait until you 'feel like it' to create positive change.

When you behave differently, your emotions will follow.


Share the responsibility for emotional caretaking.

This includes thinking about the other person's wellbeing; remembering what's important to them; making allowances for their vulnerabilities; actively encouraging their strengths.

It means treating one another well, always.


The darker side of love?

Often the shadow side of what attracts you is exactly what will drive you crazy.

The 'bold adventurousness' that comes to be seen as irresponsibility.

The 'fun-loving' that demands constant attention.

The 'passion' that becomes obsessiveness.

The 'devotion' that becomes jealousy.

The 'serenity' that can be experienced as passivity.

The 'solidness' that becomes predictability.

The 'brilliance' that's the other side of arrogance.

The 'commitment' that feels controlling.

Accepting your own complexity, it becomes easier to accept the complexity of your partner, and to be far less judgemental and reactive.


Monitor your need for reassurance.

Learn to reassure yourself.

Remind yourself: 'I am lovable and loved. And I am a loving person.'

Demanding constant reassurance feeds your insecurities.

It undermines your relationship.

And it's irritating.


Actions matter.

They really do matter more than words.

Behave lovingly.

Speak and act courteously.

Practise kindness.

Bite your tongue when sharp words feel tempting.

Learn to soothe yourself when you are anxious or agitated.

Find creative ways to express your appreciation.


The more 'in love' you are, the more essential it is that you also maintain and value your own identity.

What helps most is:

• Consciously appreciating your partner's individuality as well as your own.

• Resisting all temptation to put one another into a role.

• Communicating enthusiastically.

• Welcoming differences without feeling threatened.

• Enjoying some things separately as well as together.

• Offering your trust unconditionally.

• Monitoring your own emotional needs.

• Taking responsibility for your emotional health and wellbeing.

Always assuming there is more to know.


Check out your unspoken assumptions about what a loving relationship 'ought to' provide.

Is this humanly possible? Or would it need to be an angel?

Keep your attention on what you have and what you can give. Grow that.


Accept the power of temperament.

Be clear about your own and your partner's temperaments: easygoing, creative, anxious, defensive, attentive, impulsive, outgoing, risk-taking, high-strung, intense, placid.

Talk about how you see both your strengths and vulnerabilities.

Know what your 'issues' are. (We all have them.)

Making allowances for temperament and vulnerabilities can make tense situations far less personal. ('He's always loud when he's with his friends.' 'She is often tense on the days before she has a big presentation.')


Think about yourself as someone who is fortunate or blessed.

Let your attitudes and choices reflect that.

Do something 'extra' for your partner every day for a month without discussing it or expecting praise or thanks.

You are choosing to express love.

At the end of the month, renew your contract with yourself.


Do you know what your partner regards as most lovable about you?


Doing the same 'dumb' thing repeatedly, even when it isn't getting you what you want?

Identify what you do want. ('I want us to feel closer.')

Then ask yourself if what you have been doing could possibly achieve that. ('Fighting, criticising? Maybe not.')

Ask yourself if a change of direction is worth considering.

Support yourself compassionately and with good humour.

Talk about what you want and brainstorm together how to achieve it.


Love is the ultimate 'rescue'.


However, that doesn't mean that in our relationships we should be rushing to rescue or demanding that someone else rescues us.

To avoid rescuing, you need to offer your partner confidence that you trust their resilience and capacity to learn from mistakes.

To avoid being rescued, you need to take responsibility for your own attitudes and actions – and who you are becoming.


At tough moments, get back to the facts.

You are loving and loved.

Let that crucial awareness guide how you are behaving.


Look coolly at the way you treat your friends, family, colleagues – and your partner.

Your partner will always be more, not less, vulnerable to your attitudes and behaviour than anyone else.

Don't expect your partner to make allowances that you would not assume from other people.

Give your partner the very best of yourself. Always.


Children, family, friends, colleagues and pets all matter.

But keep your partner at the centre of your life.

Let the love you create together benefit all those other relationships.


Love is not love when it isn't generous.


Is home a place of rest for both of you?

Take a careful look at who is doing what, and why.

Discover exactly what's involved in the chores that you are not doing.


Notice:
Who sets the agenda.
Who gives in.
Whose needs and wants take priority.
Whose emotions dominate your time together.
Whose plans can 'never' be changed.
Who decides what's important.
Who 'makes things better'.
Who needs reassurance and who gives it.

Couples can be together for a lifetime without noticing these essential dynamics.

Until you notice, you can't choose.


In a healthy relationship, power is shared between equals.

Differences in age, gender or wealth should not be barriers to a basic belief that your partner's life, opinions, choices, experiences, actions and decisions are of equal value to your own.


'I can't live without you,' is not a compliment.

No one should be required to bring meaning to an empty life.

The more secure you feel inwardly, the more secure your relationship can also be.

Inner security is something you must give yourself.

It will absolutely transform what you can then give to other people and receive from them.


Your moods and emotions affect everyone around you, regardless of how powerless you feel.

Take total responsibility for the emotional atmosphere you are creating.

Behave cheerfully and courteously.

Your feelings will follow.


Finding your partner unbearably annoying?

This is the moment to ask, 'What's going on with me?'

Rather than projecting your negativity onto someone else, those bleak moments are a priceless chance to grow in insight.

Be aware how dramatically your own moods determine whether you are critical or appreciative.


A guilty conscience can make many people behave aggressively or coldly.

You may make your partner 'wrong' or 'bad' to avoid your own fears, shame or confusion.

This always makes a difficult situation worse.

What clears the air is facing up to what you have done – admitting it to your own self.

Then taking charge of your attitude and actions.


Intimacy offers an extraordinary opportunity to see the world through someone else's eyes.

Take pleasure in your differences in experience and outlook, even and perhaps especially when those differences inconvenience or challenge you.


The world doesn't end at your front door.

Caring about people beyond your immediate circle profoundly affects the wellbeing of your relationship.

The happiest people are always the most generous and inclusive.


If you are leaving one aspect of the relationship entirely to your partner (cooking, paying the bills, keeping the house tidy, thinking about the children's needs), you are not entitled to complain about how it is done.

Tasks that other people do can seem trivial.

Tasks that we do ourselves can seem huge.

Be vigilant about what you regard as important only when it isn't done.


Think about what your partner routinely does.

Do it for them.


Praise, encourage, admire and validate.

Do this explicitly, lavishly and imaginatively.

This has three great benefits:

• It lets your partner know that you love and appreciate them.

• It reminds you of what's wonderful about your partner.

• It is the best possible defence against taking one another for granted.


Never spoil your partner's pleasure.

Learn to be pleased for their sake.

You don't feel pleased?

Act pleased. Amazingly soon it will become completely genuine.

Even when your partner has what you want (a new opportunity, admiration, more friends, an easier family, financial success), be happy for them.

Being happy for one another makes you both more confident.

It also brilliantly supports your relationship.


Deadly arrows are created by critical words, sour looks and sulky glances.

Ban them from your home.


'Having problems' is not a problem.

Having problems becomes a problem only when you don't know how to talk, listen and work things out.


When a problem arises, share the responsibility for moving forward.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Almost-Perfect Marriage by Stephanie Dowrick. Copyright © 2007 wise Angels pty Ltd. Excerpted by permission of Allen & Unwin.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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