Holiday Traditions: Blessed or Stressed?

Remember the opening lines of Fiddler on the Roof?  Tevya singing, “TRADITION!  TRADITION!”

Traditions serve such a valuable service to our cultures and our families.  They provide something to depend on when other things in life may be shaky.  The repetition of them somehow reassures us that there are some things that will never change, when so much seems to be changing at an alarming rate of speed.

This past year while creating my online course, Millionaire Marriage Club, (http://nancylandrum.com/the-clubI’ve had to dive into the scary waters of technology.  I’ve learned procedures and programs that I never in a million years expected to need to know—or be able to conquer!

When I’m overwhelmed, I fall back on simple traditions, like watering the potted plants, picking a bouquet of roses, trimming an overgrown bush, feeding the chickens.  Although simple and homey, these, too, are valuable traditions that ground and settle me.

I’ve found, however, that it’s important for me to evaluate traditions to make sure they are serving my desire for a more peaceful life, especially around the holidays.  Will attending a local musical extravaganza enhance my holiday experience, or exhaust me?  Is making seven or eight batches of Gingies something that gives me joy? Or causes me extra stress?  Is decorating the house with lights something that gives me pleasure? Or am I doing it because it’s expected?

Some of these questions come up for me due to my age.  I am more choosey about my activities and output of energy these days.  But I was much younger when I first made the decision—a courageous decision for me—to only do what gave me joy and avoid doing anything that created resentment or exhaustion. 

That decision forever altered my experience of the holidays.  I now just enjoy them…participate in whatever I choose, and choose to not participate when it won’t harvest more joy.

Is it time to evaluate some of your traditions?  To keep the ones that are truly important to you or your family but discard the ones that only add more stress to your holiday?

This week’s free download may help you look at the traditions that give you energy and joy vs those that may need to be downsized or eliminated.  If you are feeling courageous, take a peek!

Free Download: Blessed or Stressed?

Our Dirty, Ugly Secret…

“To others we look good.  We have good jobs.  Our children are reasonably well behaved.  We live in a decent neighborhood.  We even attend church regularly.  We are clean, hair styled, clothes presentable.  We look like–and have even been told–we are one of the lucky ones.

But we have a secret that is eating away at this perfect picture.  We fight.  We sometimes treat each other and our children with painful disrespect.  We feel disconnected, angry and unsure of what the future may hold for us.  We rarely have sex, and when we do, it can’t be called “making love.”

“We are each quietly desperate.  Wanting help but are too embarrassed to ask for it.  We’re dying inside, and don’t know how to treat this cancer that is eroding our lives.”

Could you have written this? Is this what is behind the face of your marriage?

At one time this description was true about my marriage to my late husband, Jim.  We hung on for years, trying to fix the dis-ease that was eroding our marriage and family.

Yet the last seventeen years of our life together was blissfully happy.  We treated each other with affection and respect.  The circumstances weren’t always perfect, but our ability to stay centered in our love for each other was amazingly, consistently fulfilling.

What made the difference? How did we move from our ugly secret to being passionate about sharing our great marriage with hundreds of other couples?

We learned new communication and conflict management skills…and we practiced them!  We practiced until they became as habitual as our old ways of reacting to each other.  We practiced until the air between us was full of our loving for each other.  We practiced until any little upset could be resolved in moments instead of days or weeks.

A great marriage is sometimes an accident of fate.  But most marriages require commitment to learning and then using simple, yet powerful communication skills… skills that are proven to work miracles in unhappy relationships.

We came out of our closet of ugly secrets into the light of a loving marriage! You can, too, by downloading and following:  10 Steps to End Our Dirty, Ugly Secret

 

 

#2 in Series: Let’s Face It!

Our culture is full of marriages that are less than inspiring!  Precious few of us were reared by parents who were obviously in love and stayed in love over time.  When I ask new clients if they know anyone in their circle of friends that has a marriage they admire, so far, all have said, “No.”

And yet K. Daniel O’Leary of Stony Brook University recently published the results of interviews of couples married for ten years and discovered that 40% of them were “very intensely in love,” the highest rating offered.  And 15% of those interviewed chose the next highest rating.  The biggest surprise came when the couples who had been married 30 years or more chose the highest rating of love!

It’s clear that some couples know how to create a happy, loving marriage…or learn how to over time.  What do these couples practice that is missing from many of our parents’ or friends’ marriages?

A few of the qualities isolated by this study are: thinking consistently positive thoughts about your partner, enjoying activities together, spending lots of time together, expressing affection daily, making love regularly.  John Gottman’s studies added other aspects:  being able to resolve conflict while maintaining respect and affection for each other and being willing to be influenced by your partner.

Based on these research results, having a marriage that is, and stays intensely in love IS POSSIBLE!

But how?  The high rates of divorce indicate that a lot of folks think the only way to have an intensely loving marriage is to find a new partner.  One of my friends did just that.  Then five years later admitted that he and his “better” wife were dealing with the same issues he thought he’d left behind when he divorced his first wife!  Meanwhile the daughter from the first marriage had to grow up with the nasty job of learning to navigate between two bitterly enmeshed parents…hardly a skill that would prepare her for a happy, loving marriage of her own!

Many parents, like my friend, believe that the children would be better off without the conflict being experienced between their parents and use that as a valid reason for divorcing.  Children living in an environment of physical violence and/or sexual abuse do need the relief provided by separating the abusive parent/s.  But occasional arguments, drifting apart, the love has gone, possibly the silent treatment still give children the basic level of stability that every child deserves.  The most long-term damage to children occurs when divorce doesn’t seem to make sense to them.

Those relatively low-conflict, not intensely in love marriages are the ones that are the best candidates for learning skills that will up-level their relationship from unhappy, or tolerable to intensely loving!

Does your marriage fall into that category?  Just unhappy? Far from what you hoped for when you married?

We are “in love” or “out of love” based on how we treat each other.  So join the growing ranks of couples who fell in love all over again by practicing new communication and conflict management skills.

The link to a FREE DOWNLOAD is a Marriage Wheel…a simple way for you and your spouse to each evaluate the areas of your marriage that work well and those that need some added attention.  Print two copies. After you each record what is true for you, share the information with each other…not as a way to criticize, but as a simple way to say “Here’s is where we are.”  And, “I’d like us to find ways to improve in these areas.”

The Wheel of Marriage

You won’t want to miss information about a simple and cost-effective program that will teach you transformative skills that will help you both reach a  10 in all areas of your marriage!

 

#1 in Series: It’s Not Your Fault!

Unhappy with your marriage?  Have the same fight over and over again?  Has romance become more of a dry business arrangement?  It’s not your fault!

For centuries whether or not a marriage was “good” for both partners (meaning loving) was largely a matter of luck.  If a marriage became “bad,” or either partner was unhappy, the only solutions were to stick it out or leave…and until no-fault divorce laws were passed, leaving was often impossible.  AND the long-term fall-out from most divorces means that often that solution creates more problems than it solves.

It’s only been the last hundred years or so that our expectations for every marriage have included ongoing romance, sexual fulfillment and emotional connection.

Beginning in the early 1900’s, researchers began to study the difference between marriages that were happy, vs. those that weren’t.  What elements are consistently found in happy marriages that are absent in unhappy ones?  What methods of communicating are found in happy vs. unhappy marriages?  How are problems resolved in each?

GOOD NEWS:  The combined results of multiple research studies have found the same answers.  Great marriages that last have certain consistent patterns of behavior.  Marriages that fail or are unhappy also have consistent patterns of behavior.

And better yet, those who are unhappy with their quality of their marriage can learn to duplicate the behaviors found in great marriages in order to turn an inadequate or struggling marriage into a great one!

From my colleague, Diane Sollee (www.smartmarriages.com) “Marriage is skill-based. Like football.  The way we have it set up now a couple gets married, and we send them out there to win based on love and commitment.  That’s like asking a football team to win on team spirit, but not letting them learn any plays or signals.  The basis for a smart marriage is exciting research that finds that what is different about marriages that make it—that go the distance and stay happy—are behaviors or skills.  And even more exiting, they are simple skills that any fool can learn!”

But how were you to know this?  Research studies are buried in university libraries.  The classes that teach these winning skills, although good, are still not well known.  Most therapists are not trained to teach couples these skills.  There are only a few private coaches, like me, that specialize in training couples in the behaviors that will transform their marriage from mediocre or “bad” to great. 

NO MORE SEARCHING FOR HELP!  Soon you can learn how to duplicate the practices consistently found in great marriages from the privacy of your own home computer!

Watch for my next post… good news is coming!  

Click on this link to accept my gift to you, “What Our Parents Didn’t Know,”  a chapter from my book How to Stay Married & Love It! 

Only One Soul Mate?

There seems to be a popular myth/belief being propagated by movies and other media that there is only one soul mate on the earth per person.  If I were to believe this, I would feel very tentative about developing a relationship with anyone, let alone someone with flaws.

If I “fell in love” and committed to a relationship that later ran into conflicts, rather than knowing this is normal and we’ll work it out, I’d tend to believe that I jumped the gun and married the wrong person.  I’d leave that relationship and go back to hunting for Mr/Mrs Right.

Sometimes it’s true that in our inexperience, or from our own level of dysfunction, we choose a person who is poor commitment material.  Over time addictions or patterns of abuse show up that make a healthy relationship unattainable.  But most problems/conflicts are only a call to personal and couple growth.

In choosing a life-time partner it’s certainly important to find someone who shares one’s values, who exhibits a significant level of responsibility and who demonstrates the capacity to be caring and, at times, selfless in their relationships.  Hopefully you’d attend a marriage prep class or a relationship skills class to be sure you had the communication, conflict management and problem solving skills needed in any lifetime relationship.

With those items checked off the essentials list and assuming there’s a level of chemistry that makes commitment desirable, you can know that your chances of a satisfying marriage and life together are very good.

Are you allowing a cultural fad to create fear around finding a suitable mate?  Are you looking for a way out of a relationship because you have unrealistic expectations that a soul mate relationship wouldn’t have challenges?

How to Stay Married & Love It! Describes how to create the SoulMate marriage of your dreams even if your marriage is currently unhappy! (LINK)  This book is a must read for ideas about how to choose a partner that will go the distance with you: Smart Marriage, Using your Head as Well as Your Heart to Find Wedded Bliss. By Allen Parkman, Ph.D., J.D. eBook on Amazon. (LINK)