The Cost of a Committed Relationship

There are several categories of a committed relationship.  The first one I think of is 1) a marriage.  But there are others, like 2) a business partnership, and 3) the relationship of a parent and child.

There are several categories of costs:  1) Staying in the relationship during the rough times, 2) Being willing to be self-reflective…examine what you are contributing to the health of the relationship, 3) Sacrificing, at times, your own preference for the desire of your partner…and then there is 4) the financial cost if you need help to make the relationship to work well for both parties.

In the mid-nineteen eighties my late husband Jim and I spent what, for us, was a lot of money getting the help we needed to save our marriage.  We paid our coach $50/hour, an average of twice a week.

She taught us a few simple skills that, as we practiced them, enabled us to communicate with mutual respect, handle our respective anger without attacking each other with it, and eventually resolve our BIG ISSUE in a way we could both support long-term.

That was 30 years ago.  An app called Dollar Times says that $50 in 1988 is the same as $106.81 today.  Twice a week for about six months added up to almost $3000 in today’s money.  It wasn’t easy.  Part of that time he was out of a job.  We were scraping by.  I remember a conversation about not paying the water bill one month because things were so “tight.”

But, we really, really wanted to find our way back to the love that brought us together.  We were committed to doing whatever it took to resolve our issue and stay together-happily-until death parted us.

At first we just noticed moments that were better…and then we broke through into this wide, lovely, peaceful place with each other.  We kept our agreements.  We continued to immaculately used the skills we’d learned.  Neither of us would ever do anything to jeopardize the amazing relationship we’d worked so hard to achieve.

We lived in bliss with each other for seventeen more years before Jim died.

If it had cost us a dozen times what we paid it would have been worth it. Everyone of our children have thanked us for “making it.”…for giving them the model of a couple who was willing to do the work and pay the price to save their marriage.

Today I am a Relationship Repair Coach.  I have taught dozens of classes. Written six books and one curriculum for stepfamilies.  Spoken several times at a national conference of relationship educators.  Taught two classes to therapists, helping them learn how to work with step-couples.

Couples come to me in the same desperate, deeply painful condition that Jim and I once experienced.  I give them a Complimentary Consultation where they experience the power of the skills I can teach them.  I know how to help them get from where they are to where they want to be…at peace and in love again!

I see hope blossom in their faces.  And then I present the cost of my coaching package. My $3000 package provides the same level of intense coaching that Jim and I were blessed to receive.  It includes a LOT extra support that our coach didn’t have.

Some couples that I can’t imagine being able to pay, find a way to come up with the fee because they want the results badly enough.

And others who hear that number immediately start to shut down.  They say they’ll talk about it and get back to me.  Sometimes they do.  But many times they disappear.

I wonder about the costs they will pay without skills and support from me, or from someone like me. How much of their life energy is drained away in stressful conflict and unmet needs?  How do you measure the cost of being unhappy with your life-partner, often the other parent of your children?

What does it cost to separate, supporting two living arrangements?  What does a divorce cost?  Where does that money come from?  Divorce usually means a drastic reduction in style of living for all parties.

What do your children pay for losing a model of a loving, committed marriage?  What does it cost them to be divided between two adults they are dependent on and who’s love they need?

What emotional and financial costs are involved in a business partnership being severed?  What is the emotional cost of a ruptured relationship between a parent and child? (In addition to couples, I’ve also helped repair the broken relationship of two business partners, and a few parent-child relationships.)

My coaching is cheap in comparison.  I am through feeling apologetic about my fee.  From now on I am being up-front and clear about the cost of my fee.  I can help a couple, business partnership or parent-child relationship, if they are committed to the process, transform their relationship in about three months.  When the bill is paid, and the work done, they are equipped with the skills to handle any issue that may challenge them in the future.

Gradually, over three months, they get to experience the magic of hope reborn, love reignited and painful conflicts resolved.  They, like Jim and me, get to relax into the safe, trustworthy comfort of a committed relationship that has been tested and come out like gold.

I doubt it would go over very well to say all of these things to a potential client/couple.  So I’m saying here, where perhaps you can hear me in a more neutral environment.  My coaching package is a bargain!  Call me for a first, free consultation!

Wanting only the best for you,

Book a Complimentary Consultation with me by clicking on the link.

 

Are You or Someone You Know Considering Divorce?

For a few agonizing moments, that option was on the table for my late husband Jim and me.  It felt like a bottomless chasm had opened up in front of us…one that if we didn’t find a way over, would swallow us and our family whole.

The fighting was endless.  The pain unbearable.  The conflict seemed irreconcilable.  Words like hopeless, helpless, desperate described our feelings.  In addition, we were each full of anger and self-righteous confidence, saying by our behaviors, “My solution is the right one!  Why don’t you understand that?!”

After exploring several possibilities, without success, we finally found a coach who taught us a few simple skills that turned our marriage around.  And in a relatively short period of time.

I so believe in the transformative power of the stories of us and other couples who used these skills to safely reach the other side of the chasm.  If you are struggling like we were, or even just dissatisfied with some aspects of your marriage, I want you to know there are simple changes you can make that will enable you to experience the marriage of your dreams.

Recently I offered you a free audio copy of my book, “How to Stay Married & Love It! Solving the Puzzle of a Soul-Mate Marriage.”  Some of you have not yet taken advantage of this gift.

So here’s a sneak preview to give you a taste of what you are missing…the first three chapters are linked here.  You can listen with your computer or download them to your phone.

Can you listen to these chapters without getting hooked and ordering the entire audio copy from Audible.com?  I dare you to try!

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

There’s treasure here…don’t miss it!  Click this link to order your free, complete audio copy of “How to Stay Married & Love It!” Order Book Now

PS: If you want to confidentially discuss your marriage issues with me, schedule a phone appointment by clicking on this link to my calendar:  https://meetme.so/SpeakwithNancy

Audio-Book Give-Away!

Could you relate to the last blog about my lead-footed driving?  Even driving the speed limit, there are always cars passing me up!  Is one of them yours?

Here’s a great fix for speeding tickets, higher insurance rates, excessive wear and tear on your car, and guiltily watching out for lurking CHP cars:

In exchange for trying Audible.com for one FREE month, you can download a FREE copy of my book, “How to Stay Married & Love It! Solving the Puzzle of a SoulMate Marriage.”

Click here to order my audio-book.  “How to Stay Married & Love It!” audio book  When you get to check out, there will be a zero balance!  If Audible.com is not for you, cancel it before the next month begins and keep the book!

Discover how to have a conversation about a touchy issue that results in resolution and deeper loving.  Listen to the true story of a man who discovered his fields were full of diamonds.  Hear the stories of multiple couples who have found rich treasure in their relationship.  Find out why every point of view is right.  Learn how to have a fight-free marriage.  Be inspired to “close the back door” and experience the magic when you do.

Where else can you find a way to be a law-abiding driver and improve your relationships at the same time?

Order Book Now

And if you have questions about what you hear, schedule a complimentary appointment to explore how a peaceful, loving, lasting marriage can be yours, as well:

https://meetme.so/SpeakwithNancy  

Here’s to safe driving and a happy marriage!

Confessions of a Lead-Footed Driver

Yes, that’s me.  I constantly battle my impulse to drive too fast.  I’m supposed to enjoy the journey…but I just want to get there!

I think it started after my young husband unexpectedly died.  I was twenty-three years old with two baby boys.  I just wanted to escape my life.

The cure came when my youngest refused to get in the car with me.  I was mortified to realize my driving frightened him.  I made a deal with him.  “You’re in charge of the speed.  If you’re scared and want me to slow down, just say so and I will.”  He did.  And I did.

In the years since then I’ve used other tools to curb my need for speed.  As soon as I owned a car with cruise control, with relief I turned control over to that amazing gizmo that would automatically maintain the speed.  All I had to do was summon that moment of responsibility and set the cruise control to match the posted speed for that highway.

And then I discovered books-on-tape (and then books-on-cd!)  I LOVE stories.  I LOVE books.  Now I could be occupied and entertained while maintaining a legal speed limit!  Wonderful!  And my local library had hundreds of books from which to choose!  For free!

Next I found Audible.com…a limitless treasure trove of authors and titles from which to choose for only $14.99/month.  I’m totally hooked.

Sometimes the books are favorite mysteries by authors like C.J. Box and his Joe Pickett series (a game warden in Montana that solves all kinds of interesting crimes.)  And sometimes the books are inspirational like Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver (encouraging total dependence on the grace and generosity of God to direct my life) or Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo (inspiring creative thinking as applied to my business.)

  • In 2017, thanks to the generosity of a local radio station’s recording booth and my neighbor Reena’s editing talent, my signature book, How to Stay Married & Love It! Solving the Puzzle of a SoulMate Marriage was added to Audible.com’s library!

If you’re ready to hear a great story and learn helpful relationship skills while you resist driving too fast, or endure grid lock with more grace, or be educated and entertained while cleaning the house or mowing the lawn, click this link to download one of the best relationship resources you’ll ever hear PLUS get one month’s free membership to Audible.com!

“How to Stay Married & Love It!” audio book

When you download this book you will have me personally sharing with you the priceless lessons that my late husband Jim and I learned while transforming our marriage from daily fights to consistently peaceful loving!

OK…I guess I must report that I still tend to drive with a lead foot, but I manage my predilection for speed by faithfully employing the cruise control…and listening to a fabulous assortment of books to make driving time entertaining and productive.  Ready to join me?

Order Book Now

A Step-Couple Back from the Brink

This is one of the most inspiring step-couple stories I know of.  Although it’s long, the drama of their experience will grip you and not let you go until you get to the end…

Gavin and Pamela first met in the 5th grade in 1980 and quickly became best friends. Even when they went to different high schools they made time to hang out together on weekends. When they graduated from a Mastering the Mysteries of Stepfamilies class in March 2010, they had been married for four years. They each had two children from previous marriages. This interview was conducted about six months following the beginning of their implementation of stepfamily guidelines.

Pamela: Gavin (with his then girlfriend who became his first wife) came to my first wedding when I was 23 years old. Although several family members and friends expressed their concerns about my choice, I went through with my marriage to Tom (name fictitious). Abusive behaviors began only two weeks after the wedding. It began with name calling and throwing things, graduated to breaking things, then to hitting me, pulling the telephone cord out so I couldn’t call police.

It continued with financial tyranny and infidelity with my best friend. He made sure we only owned one car and prevented me from attending school. He wanted total control. Our son, Dakota, was born in ‘93 and Amanda in ‘95. They were three and five years old when I left with a police escort after he’d chased me around with a buck knife.

I met Cole (fictitious) on line, a firefighter from Alabama. He seemed very kind. He came to Missouri to visit me and the kids. He and my parents really liked each other. My Dad suggested to me that I marry him on a Friday. We married on the following Monday, packed up our belongings and drove away in a U-Haul. My Ex surrendered his parental rights to avoid child support payments. My dad convinced Cole to adopt Dakota and Amanda because the court wouldn’t allow me (the mother!) to have sole custody!

My marriage to Cole was never very intimate. He liked that I was raising his kids for him, even home schooling them. He brought a check home and spent every night he was home drinking in the garage. He eventually reunited with a high school girlfriend and said he didn’t want to be married to me anymore. He just moved out. Neither of us was sorry. He gave me 6 ½ years of safety. It helped me regain my balance after being afraid for my life with Tom.

Gavin: In my early twenties I was not living according the faith that was important to my family. I made decisions based on how I felt and what I wanted. I met Carol (fictitious) at Cal State Bakersfield and married her in spite of her noticeable problem with drinking. During our first few years she attempted suicide several times. We split before our son Terry was a year old. One night about 10 p.m. I was sitting in my apartment when I got an urgent, sick feeling in stomach.

I drove straight to where Carol was living. I could hear the car running in the garage. When I opened the door, she was unconscious. I turned the engine off, called 911 and found Terry in his crib with a suicide note. I took custody of Terry at that time. I thought I had it all together but was really immature. I was making great money and changing diapers but was a dad on the fly.

I met Cali at an escrow company while I was making good money in the mortgage business. There had been no real change in me. My family was telling me I was out of my mind. Even Pam tried to warn me. Cali quickly became verbally and emotionally abusive to two-year-old Terry. One time he dropped a piece of rice on the table and she freaked out. She’d throw his toys in the trash. She repeatedly said, “He’s not part of our family.”

Meanwhile Terry’s mom had gone through counseling and re-hab. She wanted to spend time with Terry—reconnect. I wanted Terry to know his mom, so I shared time with her even though I had custody. Cali was so rejecting and abusive with Terry that when he was with me I’d take him to my dad’s or a hotel.

Cali and I were expecting. The birth was difficult—a C-section—so I was very active in taking care of Anisha during the first several weeks while Cali was recovering. I felt very bonded with her. Cali became even more abusive to Terry saying, “Now we have our family.”

Things got pretty crazy. She wouldn’t allow any photos of Terry in the house. If we were in conflict when I had to leave for a business appointment, she’d lay on the hood of my car so I couldn’t leave. If she got off and I drove away she would call my phone hundreds of times in 20 minutes. One time I smashed my phone in frustration. The court would not allow her to be present during any time I spent with Terry.

She convinced me to let her drive up to Lompoc to pick up Terry. I gave in. We picked him up. On our way home she began to be angry. She wanted a reaction from me and I wouldn’t give engage. She turned on Terry and began screaming at him. “I wish you were dead! You’re the reason we’re in so much trouble!” I reached back to calm Terry. When we got home I packed a few things and left. I was so tired. I began praying, “God, please help me!”

Anisha was only 3-4 months old when I left with Terry. I was so bonded with her, but because of her age, the judge only allowed me two hours per week. I left the courtroom sick to my stomach. It took a week or two to regain some focus. I knew that as she got older I’d get more time. I was a single dad uninterested in another relationship. I was just doing my job, spending some weekends without kids and some with kids. I was just plodding along. I became more stable, returning to my faith.

About three years went by. I was not looking for another partner. I was resigned to being a single dad. Three years went by. There was not one person I could imagine wanting to see until Pamela emailed me out of the blue. We had not been in touch for six or seven years.

Pamela: A friend saw Gavin being interviewed on television for his mortgage business. I looked up his company’s website. I had no idea whether he was still married, so I just sent a general, “How are you?” email, not even sure if he would answer.

Gavin: I was sitting at my desk at work. It was a shock to open Pamela’s email. I replied, “I’d like to come see you and see how you’re doing.”

Pamela: We hugged and cried and had a great visit. He came out again….and again. I knew he was serious because he’s afraid of flying and I was still in Missouri.

Nancy: Why did either of you think you could have a sane marriage after these horrendous relationships?

Pamela: The only thing that sounded familiar and comforting was our friendship. Gavin was the only person I knew for sure loved me in the whole world and I knew I loved him. We both thought we were finally going to do it right!

Nancy: How long did it take to realize it wasn’t going to be easy?

Gavin: When we returned from our honeymoon I was facing two court battles, one each for Terry and Anisha. Terry’s mom was drinking again. She was neglecting him. Once he called me crying. She ripped the phone from him. I was trying to get him protected. Cali took us to court for everything about Anisha. One thing would get resolved then the next week I’d get court papers regarding something else.

Pamela: Add conflict between Gavin and me to the mix. We were fighting over the parenting of our children. Gavin is very structured in the way he parents. I am far more relaxed. Gavin’s family told him to leave me. When he refused, they broke off all contact with us. We were spiraling downward. Very little could be discussed. We had fights in front of the kids, about the kids. We had no dates, no time for us. Everything had become a competition. My kids had had no contact with their adoptive or biological father since 2005.

Gavin: In 2007 after my last court appearance with Terry’s mom she won back the right to share custody. Two weeks later she was diagnosed with brain cancer. A court mediator was appointed to watch over him. I was given full custody of Terry because his mother’s health had deteriorated. He moved in with us in 2008. Carole and her parents cut off all contact with us. We’ve tried through many different channels to find out how Carole is. We don’t know if she’s alive or dead.

Cali tried to move Anisha to New Jersey—precipitating a court battle which we won. Thousands and thousands of dollars had gone into court battles—paying attorneys right and left. Meanwhile the economy tanked and I lost my mortgage business, two rentals and a million-dollar home. My car was repossessed. We couldn’t afford to put gas in our family car. We moved twice.

Pamela: We knew we still loved each other underneath all the chaos, but we’d lost trust in each other. Both of us had been in insane relationships for so long. Yet, we both believed that God was with us individually and still had a good plan for our lives. We also had our memory of our very solid friendship as children. Even though we’d lost each other for a while, Gavin was the only one I’d shared deeply with. He was a safest place I’d ever known.

Gavin had been going to church before we reconnected. We got involved in a Sunday School class. Nobody knew what going on in our home, but, thankfully, we were there when things got really bad in the Fall of 2009. One couple came over the night of our biggest fight around Thanksgiving when the kids called the police. They recommended we see Pastor Dave Carder. Two days later we saw him, but he said, “There are no classes for you until early February.”

Gavin: In January the church had a preview of all the marriage classes offered for Spring. On the way there we had a big fight and Pamela said to turn the car around and take her home.

Pamela: I heard a strong voice inside saying, “Turn around and get back there!” We did. At the preview, we heard a woman talking about her experience in a stepfamily. She (Nancy Landrum) was promoting Mastering the Mysteries of Stepfamilies class. We related to everything she said. The minute the meeting was over we went to her and poured out how desperate we were for help.

Gavin: Although the class didn’t start for four more weeks, Nancy had experienced the desperation of hanging on by her fingernails, hoping for help. She agreed to see us a few days later. After listening to each of us describe what was happening from our respective points of view, she asked if we were ready to take steps for immediate relief. We would have done anything at that point! We loved each other and were heart-broken that we couldn’t seem to make our marriage work. Without doing something differently, we were teetering on the brink of another separation.

Pamela: She described the guideline recommended for stepfamilies who have conflicts over parenting. We would go back to single parenting our respective children. The step-parent would not comment or criticize the bio-parent’s children or parenting methods. We would agree on a few simple house rules by which everyone in the family would abide. It hit me hard. When I told Nancy that I just wanted a man who would love my children, she replied, “It’s too late to have a nuclear family. That time is gone. You’re in a stepfamily now and most stepfamilies only succeed by functioning with different dynamics than first families.”

Gavin: But we were so desperate we’d do anything to stop the fights, so we agreed. No commenting or criticizing of each other’s children or parenting decisions. We’d focus on rebuilding relationships with our own children.

Pamela: Over the next few days it was like a magic pill had been dropped into our home. The fighting immediately stopped! The calm was like a breath of fresh, cleansing air after being in a smoke-filled room! But I also grieved the loss of my first-family dream. I grieved the loss of a loving father for my children. I cried off and on for two weeks.

Gavin: A few weeks later we took the class. The first full Saturday of class went by so quickly! We were learning how to hear from each other’s point of view. We heard each other with deep empathy, learning to Show Understanding. It was transformational! (Showing Understanding is the listening skill for the Mastering the Mysteries of Stepfamilies curricula.)

Pamela: I learned why my communication methods were creating and escalating conflict. I learned how to say, “I feel hurt when you….” rather than “You are so thoughtless!” That day and in the evenings to follow we grabbed and used every skill and concept that was presented in class. We were so determined to have peace and save our marriage and family that we practiced constantly. We put into practice the Problem Solving Skill with issues that had been hot topics for four years, such as how much money we spent on our respective children.

Gavin: We’d have to call time outs sometimes, but we were successfully talking about things that we’d tip-toed around in our efforts to avoid more fights. Decisions were being made that satisfied both of us. We’ve been successful in following through with our plans. Every successful Skilled Discussion is a miracle that we celebrate!

Pamela: The love we knew was buried under everything all along has returned in force. We’ve gone on romantic dates! We have rediscovered why we’ve been friends through all of these years. The kids have calmed down. The whole family had been divided in half, but now relationships between the kids are healing. There is laughter in our house again!

It felt like the solution to change back to single-parenting was a bomb that dropped in the middle of our family. Everything flew in all directions. Our expectations had been so unrealistic. Now we know that stepfamilies often require thinking outside the nuclear family box. We’re slowly figuring out how to put our family back together in ways that work for us and our children.

Gavin: Right after the class we thought everything was fixed, but in the months since then we’ve realized that a lot of damage was done during all the chaotic years. Now we are taking things one step at a time. As we and the children feel more secure, layers of issues are surfacing that require us to continue using our skills and stepfamily guidelines. We’re doing a better job of listening to our children. Now that we’re not busy being defensive with each other about our parenting, we’re becoming more attentive to the needs of our children. We’re more realistic about the fact that our stepfamily issues will continue to be a challenge, probably for the rest of our lives. Our children will continue to need our love and support as they move into adulthood with the wounds from their childhoods. We hope that they will follow our lead by learning these skills to make their first and only marriage succeed. We pray that they will stop the legacy of divorce with all its pain and chaos that Pamela and I have handed them.

Pamela: The great news is that the kids are living with a model of a healthy marriage for the first time in their lives! Gavin and I are absolutely sure now that we will stay together and love each other until parted by death! It feels indescribably safe to have that security!

Gavin: We are committed to helping other stepfamilies find the miracle we are experiencing. We recently co-taught a class with Nancy where couples thanked us for sharing our story! We are sharing our story anywhere asked and with anyone who will listen. Even relationships with our extended families are being healed. Finally we are seeing some positive purpose for all the years of pain and misery. We are not only giving our children a safe, loving, respectful home environment but are helping other hurting stepfamilies find what they were searching for when they married. We are richly and truly blessed.

Nancy Landrum has been teaching communication and stepfamily skills for many years.  If you would like a no-obligation appointment with Nancy, set it up by using this link to her calendar:  https://meetme.so/SpeakwithNancy

Are You Having a Marriage Groundhog Day?

The movie starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell has made the term, Groundhog Day, a metaphor for anything that happens over and over again with confusing, agonizing dependability.

Could this be true of your marriage?  Are you having the same argument over and over again?  Feeling the same frustrations with each other? Unable to communicate effectively?  Bored with the same-old, same-old routines?

Having nothing but Marriage Groundhog Days gradually drains the energy out of your love.

Murray’s character was bewildered and frustrated because nothing changed…not the calendar, the activities, the people, until he got the message that he needed to change! He did, and then life began to be fresh and fun again.

To expect things to get better without any positive changes being made by either partner is crazy-making. 

When my marriage to Jim was desperately unhappy I sincerely believed that Jim was the only one who needed to change. But I was finally in enough pain to seek help for me.   I began to see what only I could change…my way of handling anger, for one.

Fortunately, Jim eventually got on board so we could, together, learn better communication and conflict management habits.  We resolved our differences and began enjoying each other again!

Have you been waiting until your partner was willing to seek help with you?  Are you convinced that nothing can get better until he/she changes?

In my twenty-five years of coaching, I’ve noticed that one partner is often the initiator…the one to say, “We need help!” and to look for help even if the spouse isn’t willing to go along with it.  Is that person you?  Are you willing to initiate change?

Schedule a call with me. No charge. No obligation. I’ll help you explore where to start…with or without your partner’s participation.   https:meetme.so/SpeakWithNancy

Have the courage to “Be the change that you wish to see in the world marriage.” -Mahatma Gandhi

Is Your Inner Two-Year-Old in Charge of Your Marriage?

When my marriage to my late husband Jim was in jeopardy, at some level I knew that my sarcastic put-downs and yelling were not helping resolve our conflict.  But it wasn’t until a great coach began to teach us some basic communication and anger management skills that I saw hope for the future.

Even then, it was like pulling teeth to make myself turn a sarcastic put-down into an “I statement,” (I think, I feel, I’m concerned about…)  When my anger was triggered, it required massive self-control to call a “time out” on myself and go vent in my journal or pull weeds until I calmed down and could speak to Jim respectfully.

Now that I had learned better communication skills, why was it such a struggle to use them?  Especially when I could immediately notice more receptivity in Jim to hear my message when “I messages” were used instead of yelling at him?

Because a two-year-old lives inside me that just wants to do it her way and the consequences be d**med!  My two-year-old thought Jim should just overlook the delivery method (sarcasm, yelling) and understand the superiority of my opinion about how to resolve our issues!

Blaming him for not “getting it” and expecting him to agree with my position is so much more satisfying to a two-year-old!  Two-year-olds just want their own way!  And will do almost anything to mold the world to suit their desires.  I had to strengthen the adult me who understood that I needed to change in order for the marriage to improve.  It was like strengthening a weak muscle by repetition.

(Please understand that I was a responsible grownup in other areas.  This just happened to be a very immature, undeveloped part of me that was wonderfully exposed by conflict in our marriage!)

I’ve noticed that whenever I begin a big change, my two-year-old is activated.  I’ve been carrying some extra weight around for a long time.  It’s affecting my knees and energy level and ultimately limiting my quality and perhaps length of life.  So recently I thought, “OK, I’m ready to take action to lose the weight.”  When a few days go by and I’ve only dropped a pound or two, my two-year-old wants to quit.  She’s disappointed that the excess weight isn’t just magically melting off!  I decided didn’t I?  Why isn’t that enough?

And my two-year-old doesn’t like giving up or limiting anything I love…like sweets.  What do I mean that I must do something else to soothe myself other than eating more cookies!  Why can’t I indulge in all the carrot cake I want?  Bummer.  In this example regaining a healthy weight requires the sacrifice of eating everything I want in any quantity.

Two-year-olds aren’t good at follow through or sacrifice.  I’ve discovered that the “follow through” part of change is most likely to be engaged when I am in enough pain to take control away from the two-year-old!  KNOWING I need to change is not enough.  I must be ready to COMMIT to changed behaviors!

It’s helpful at this point to understand the nature of habit in the brain.   The brain is designed to LOVE habits, nurture habits, and maintain habits.  Habits mean that I don’t have to relearn daily tasks like brushing my teeth, or tying my shoe laces, or safely boiling water.  Habits make efficient use of my energy.  Most tasks can be on auto pilot so I have energy to deal with my job, or learn new skills.

The problem comes when I want to change a habit…such as using “I messages” rather than sarcasm.  Or doing deep breathing to calm myself down rather than eating a handful of chocolate chip cookies.

Each habit creates a particular pattern of firing neurons that, the longer the habit has been operating, attracts a rich supply of blood.  This is like a well-worn path through the forest.  Very clear and obvious.

When I want to replace an old habit with a new one, it’s like hacking my way through the forest with a machete.  It is purposeful.  It requires energy, conscious effort and strong commitment to making a new path through the brain.  It can be tiring.   It’s so easy to slide back into the old habit, the old path through the brain, to do what I’ve done for so long.

So the commitment to change…to the new habit…has to be chosen over and over again.

UNTIL, the new habit has been practiced long enough that the blood supply moves from the old pattern of firing neurons to the new pattern!  THEN the new behavior has truly become a habit.  There’s no guarantee that you’ll never resort to sarcasm or eating too many cookies again, but when you do, it will feel uncomfortable.  You’ll be eager to resume the new habit and reap the rewards of the new consequences!

That happened in our marriage.  For three to four months it took so much effort to make all my communication respectful.  It felt like I was wearing a communication straight-jacket!  Before opening my mouth I had to ask myself:  “How can I respectfully say what I need to say?  What is my tone of voice?  How loud will it sound to Jim? Do I need a time out?”

But then it got easier…and easier.  Finally, it became actually hard to think of sarcastic put-downs!

To Jim’s credit, he was making the same kinds of changes.  The fighting stopped.  On the rare occasions when we had an upset, we engaged our great skills immediately and resolved the problem within a few minutes.

We enjoyed seventeen years of blissful, disrespect-free years of loving marriage before he passed away.  I am deeply grateful for the hard work I did to exchange some very poor communication habits for habits that served my goal of a happy, loving marriage.

I’m looking forward to the time when the changes I’m making in my food choices have become new habits that give me the quality of physicality that I desire!  I know it’s coming.  My two-year-old is no longer in control of food choices…at least, not all of the time!

If you’d like a brief phone conversation with Nancy, click here:  https://meetme.so/SpeakWithNancy

Nancy Landrum has been helping couples achieve the lasting, loving marriage of their dreams for twenty-five years.  Visit her website to see how her Millionaire Marriage Club and Stepping TwoGether: Building a Strong Stepfamily courses or her coaching can support the changes you want to make.  www.NancyLandrum.com

Four Skills That Create a Loving, Lasting Marriage

Valentine’s Day is coming.  Our attention is drawn to loving relationships, especially romantic ones.  Everyone I’ve ever asked wants a happy, loving, intimate relationship with the love of his or her life.  That dream seems to be loaded into our DNA, tattooed on our brains, instinctively coded into our emotional make-up.

But is it enough to long for a loving, lasting, happy marriage?  Even though the longing is universal?  No, it’s not enough.  Is it enough to be madly in love when you marry?  No, it’s not enough.

Then what does it take?  There are four key areas where skills can be improved or developed that create a loving, lasting marriage.  Here they are:

  1. It takes a dream powerful enough to see you through the rough spots combined with willingness to grow into that dream by making hard choices. To exchange blaming the other for choosing new behaviors for yourself.  To let go of old patterns.  To sacrifice the immature, dysfunctional and hurtful ways in service to achieving the dream.

I ask every couple I’ve coached, “Do you have family members or friends who have a marriage you’d like to emulate?”  So far, I’ve only heard, “No.”  When you don’t see a loving, lasting marriage in operation, how can you trust that the dream is doable? And worth the effort to achieve it?

When you don’t have a healthy model to follow, use books written by those who’ve achieved the dream, like my How to Stay Married & Love It! Solving the Puzzle of a SoulMate Marriage.  (LINK) Or testimonials like those on my website.  These couples have done the work to have a happy, lasting marriage.  www.nancylandrum.com

  1. Good Communication Skills come next. Methods of speaking and listening that create connection, rather than driving more and more distance between you.  (Communication That Connects)

Without instruction, few of us realize how our delivery of messages may be triggering a reactive response…or escalating an argument.  It isn’t easy to change how we speak and listen.  Those patterns were begun in infancy by what we heard or what helped us get our own way.  But exchanging distancing methods of communication is necessary if you want a lasting, loving marriage.

Sue said to me, “When we were first married we fought viciously, yelling and name calling.  But it didn’t take long for us to realize that if we wanted our marriage to last, we had to stop doing that.  We changed.  We’ve now been married forty-five years and are still in love!”

  1. Respectful Conflict Management is essential. Every close relationship has conflict.  When two human beings throw in themselves and the welfare of their futures together, there is a lot at stake.  And, face it, we all love to be “right” and will sometimes fight for the winning position.

Researchers Markman and Notarius state unequivocally in their book We Can Work it Out, Making Sense Out of Marital Conflict ,  “Love is needed to get a relationship off the ground, but it doesn’t provide enough fuel to keep a marriage flying toward success over time…nor does commitment.  It’s how couples manage conflict that makes the difference.  The key to marital success is to teach couples how to talk without fighting.”

John Gottman’s research validated this when he observed couples having a disagreement in his lab.  After years of observation, he could predict within 93.7% which couples would divorce within six years based on how they fought.  He labels criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stone-walling the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse…the fighting methods that eventually destroy the relationship.   The Gottman institute blog.

It’s often necessary to make a date to discuss an issue that needs resolving.  Set a time when you are free from other distractions and the kids are asleep or out of the house.  Making a date to resolve a conflict says, “I care enough about you and our relationship to set aside time to work this out.”

If it isn’t resolved in one try, then before closing that session down, set another date to pick it up again…and do this until you find a resolution that suites both of you.

Fighting badly was one of the habits that my late husband and I had to change in order to save our floundering marriage.  Our story of learning to safely vent anger away from each other is told in Chapters 12-16 in How to Stay Married & Love It!  LINK  The day we committed to always treat each other with respect…and then practiced doing that…was the day the fighting stopped and the marriage began to heal.  It took us six months of two-three Conflict Dates per week before we finally found a solution that worked for both of us.

  1. Regular FUN Dating is a must! Who says the courtship is over when you marry?  Frequent courting needs to be included in every loving, lasting marriage plan!

There are a couple of rules to continued courting dates.  1) Never discuss a “hot topic” while on a fun date!  Dating is meant to remind you of why you fell in love, and to keep the flames of love alive.  That won’t happen if every date is used as a time you’re finally away from the kids and so “let’s talk about…”

And, 2) Do something that is fun for both of you.  Jim loved going to a baseball game.  I didn’t, but I loved being with him.  I took a book to read, or a knitting project and just enjoyed hearing his pleasure about the plays or the players.

During a financially stressed time, we were on a strict, tight budget, but allowed $25/week for our date.  I saved two-for-one coupons for a burger dinner and we’d go to a matinee movie.  It wasn’t a spectacular date, but it gave us time away from the stress and a chance to just enjoy being together.

How long has it been since you’ve had a fun date?  Make it a weekly commitment, even if it’s just a quiet stroll around the block or an ice cream cone.

SUMMARY: These new skills are easy.  Children pick them up quickly when adults are modeling them.  But by the time we are in a marriage, or a second or third marriage, we’ve been using poor methods of handling stress and poor communication habits for many years.  Changing the ways we interact with another or handle our emotions when stressed is like hacking our way through the jungle, forming a new path in the brain which is highly resistant to change.

Not everyone will do that.  I think it’s because the dream isn’t vivid enough…isn’t believed possible. Stressful conflict combined with an ego that says, “I’ll change after you do,” or, “You’re the one who needs to change!” makes achieving the dream impossible.  The old patterns are replayed over and over again until the relationship dies, or you give up the dream and just make do with what is.

Many couples see divorce as the only way out of this relationship vise.  Others, many others, just settle for the status quo.  They become so accustomed to a certain level of emotional distance and stress in the relationship that it feels normal…as good as it can be.  The dream must have been a fantasy, unachievable, so it’s useless to try for more.

As a coach, it’s a heartbreak for me to see couples get amazing results from the skills I teach, and then hear that they’ve gone back to the old ways that give them the same old, painful results.

Do you want the dream badly enough?  Are you willing to do the hard work of exchanging old patterns for the four main new ones that will produce the loving relationship for which you long?  Have you known you needed to do something different, but just haven’t known what “different” looks like?

Schedule a call with me. I can help!  https//meetme.so/SpeakWithNancy

Nancy Landrum, M.A. has been teaching couples these transformational skills for twenty-five years. She has written six books on the subject and recently launched an online program where these skills can be learned from your computer.  Explore the Millionaire Marriage Club on her website: www.NancyLandrum.com

P.S.  Download the Free Communication That Connects.

Death of Our Dream Became Resurrection of Our Love

Sometimes the most painful, agonizing experiences of our lives happen to us.  Not that we asked for them, or even caused them, but a new, unwanted life is dropped on us like a ton of bricks.

That happened to me when my first husband died unexpectedly.  I was twenty-three years old with two baby boys.  It was five long years before life began to feel good again.

I wanted to remarry, but remained a single mom for a total of thirteen years before a mutual friend introduced Jim and me.  He lost his wife after a prolonged illness.  He had two teenage daughters and an eight-year-old son.

We fell in love…and I dreamed big!  LOVE AGAIN!  A man to share my bed!  Daughters!  I’d always wanted five children!  He had such a wonderful sense of humor.  He was fun to be with!  He was affectionate and called me his “sweet baby!”  We were adults. We’d been through a lot. We were mature. We would work out anything that might arise in our precious new family.

Like many couples married after great loss from death or divorce, we had absolutely no understanding of the unique dynamics of a stepfamily.  We made the classic assumption that we would form a new family that would look, act and function like a first family. NOT!

A conflict over parenting differences soon arose.  For the first year or so, we’d talk it out, agree on a solution, then kiss and make up.  But solutions fell apart.  The conflict reignited…over and over again.  The more frustrated we got, the worse our methods of communication became.  I adopted sarcastic put downs. (After all, I’m good with words!)  He verbally attacked with accusations…or walked out the door hoping I’d calm down by the time he returned. (It didn’t work!)

We desperately wanted the loving, sweet relationship of our dreams, but were on the verge of separating.  We went to therapists. (They didn’t know what to do with us.) We saw pastor friends.  (They were kind, but had nothing except platitudes like “never go to bed angry.” (I wanted to scream, “How do we do that when I’m so angry I wish he would die in his sleep!”)

We finally found a coach who began to teach us functional anger management skills.  We learned how to speak without attacking, and tried to really understand each other’s point of view.

The fighting stopped.  A few months later we agreed on a solution to our conflict that saved our marriage.  Within a short time we had the loving, peaceful marriage we’d dreamed of in the beginning.

The dream wasn’t idealistic or unreal.  It wasn’t a fairytale that many today believe marriage to be.  The dream kept us going through the hard work of growing into the reality of a loving marriage that both of us wanted until death parted us.

Is this story familiar to you?  Would you like a coach who can teach you great skills and help you implement those skills until you can live the dream?  Click on this link to set up a phone appointment with me at your convenience.  You can do this!  We did!  https://meetme.com/SpeakWithNancy

P.S. Download the complete Landrum Stepfamily Story here:  Click Here.

But I Hate Conflict!

Rather than seeing conflict as part of growing the relationship, we tend to blame the person with whom we’re in conflict.  “If he wouldn’t _____, then I wouldn’t ______.  If she would just _____, then we’d be happy.”

Blame, not conflict, is relationship cancer.  Conflict is just the vehicle sent to deliver an opportunity for growth. (Sometimes I hate knowing this!)

There are relationships where conflict is so extreme and abusive, or the partner’s habits so hurtful without any hope of change, that growing means you finally say, “I’m not willing to stay in this relationship.”  There are some marriages that are so soul-killing that they must be abandoned.

It is my belief, however, that the vast majority of conflicted marriages are capable of growing into the “happily ever after” of your dreams.  The difference between the troubled marriages that end, and the troubled marriages that go the distance to fulfill the dream, is the willingness of one or, preferably, both partners to grow.

Growing means you are willing to look at what behaviors or attitudes you are contributing to the conflict.  Growing means you actively search for help to learn new skills, develop new points of view, that make space in the relationship for positive change.

James and Kim are such a couple.  Kim was on the brink of calling it quits.  She agreed to come with James to work with me for a “last ditch effort” to see if the marriage could be salvaged.

They evaluated their ways of speaking to each other, finding many fed the smoldering fire of resentment.  They began practicing more respectful ways of speaking.

They began to really listen to what the other was saying…not just the thoughts, but feelings, concerns and desires.  They incorporated a skill that made sure they were hearing each other accurately, avoiding misunderstandings.  They learned to address conflict openly but respectfully, speaking and listening until both were understood and a solution could be adopted.

Today they are moving closer and closer to the dream that falling in love promised.  Now there is no danger of this marriage failing.  Why in the world would either leave a relationship that is bringing such joy and pleasure to both partners?  NO WAY!

The debilitating conflicts you are experiencing can be transformed into the peace and loving enjoyed by James and Kim.  Call me to start the transformation!  https;//meetme.so/SpeakWithNancy

P.S. Could there really be a positive purpose for Conflict?  Click Here to Find Out!