I love the Gottman Institute. Dr.’s John and Julie Gottman have made a lifetime study of marriage, and developed an approach that supports and repairs troubled relationships and strengthens happy ones. Their blog is always informative.
In a recent post, they listed 10 things to try before giving up on your marriage. The first and last three have to do with handling conflict in constructive rather than destructive ways. Numbers 4 – 7 are:
This is what we teach at Pleasure Evolution. We believe that a strong intimate connection strengthens your relationship. Not only that, the lack of good sex can be the underlying cause of conflict. Victor Baranco of Lafayette Morehouse used to say couples were either “f*$#ing or fighting.” Energy that gets stirred up in us through plain old daily living, has to go somewhere. Sexual intimacy is a key issue that often gets relegated to the back burner. Even when a couple is communicating about other things, our bedroom life seems either too big or too small to mention. Our erotic identities are so often shamed by cultural and religious upbringing. It can feel super vulnerable to let our partner know what arouses us. Especially if that something is new to us. Honestly, there is nothing new about sex in all its forms. If you are isolated, it’s easy to feel that you are the ONLY one who likes something. Believe us when we tell you, you aren’t.
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Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I am committed to personal transparency. I think failure to practice today’s skill – Honoring Feelings and Ideas, I recognize your right to feel and think as you do, led to the demise of my second marriage. I frequently disagreed with how he thought and felt, and had a judgment that life would be better if he came around to my point of view. I thought I was recognizing his right to think and feel as he did, but secretly, I thought he was crazy. And I never felt like my husband got me. I always got the impression that if I didn’t agree with his view of the world, and his strategies for dealing with it, there was something wrong with me, some flaw in my thinking. And If you want to enrage me in an instant, tell me I make no sense.
It’s easy to love people who agree with us. These people take no work at all, it comes naturally. The ones who have viewpoints we disagree with? Now they are the ones who require an act of will. Here is where the rubber hits the road on Love as an Intention. Honoring someone’s right to think as they do does not mean we have to agree with them. It just means recognizing that if you were raised under the exact same conditions and encountered the exact same life experiences, you might think the way they do. Their thoughts and feelings are valid.
I have to put in a little something about rights here. The dictionary defines rights as “a just claim or title, whether legal, prescriptive, or moral.” (dictionary.com) When I lived in the Yonkers Morehouse, I was taught that if something can be taken away from you, it is no longer a right. Do we really have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Someone can kill us, or kidnap us, so that invalidates the first two. The pursuit of happiness, is sovereign. As Victor Frankel said, even a prisoner has free will. He can decide whether or not to enjoy his captivity. I believe we do have the right to think and feel as we do. Although outside powers may try to change our minds or invalidate our beliefs, only we can change them. This idea that we have rights often gets us into trouble in relationship, though. When I start acting as if I have a right to someone else behaving a certain way, or taking actions, now I am in entitlement. The truth is Love is a Gift, and Love is Response to Need. The other person can give it or not, that’s their free will. What you do about it is yours.
Why is this so hard?
Last night, I gave a presentation to my friend’s class at a community college. They were learning Public Speaking, and my talk was about the value of improving one’s speaking skills. One of the things that came out during my talk surprised me and it is relevant not only to giving a good speech, but having good relationships too.
Several people asked what to do when you’re nervous, or forget your lines. And my answer was, tell the truth. Two things happen when we’re nervous. First, we have the feeling, and then we spend a bunch of energy trying to suppress or hide the feeling. This actually makes you more anxious, takes you out of flow. But if you are honest, name what’s going on with you; your audience gets the chance to connect with you as a person, you get to relax and stop covering up, and suddenly, you remember your words.
People “buy” from you, whether what you are selling is a product, or your information, because they like you. And you want them to see the real you, just like in a relationship.
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