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

A Quick Fix for Relationship Blahs!

Is life beginning to seem like an unending list of obligations?  Is your relationship somewhere on the to-do list?  When the primary relationship of your life begins to feel like an obligation, or a habit, you may get forgetful…forgetting why you love this person…forgetting that you have fun together…forgetting what it’s like to just be with your best friend.

Valentine’s Day comes only once a year.  It may be nice to get roses or chocolates or a romantic card, but your relationship can’t survive on a once per year gesture!

There’s an easy fix.  Begin courting each other again!

But, first, there’s one must-have rule.  When you go out for relaxation and fun, you must not bring up a problem that needs resolving.  If you do, your fun date will immediately be something neither of you want to repeat…defeating the purpose.    Issues that need discussing must be scheduled for a different, separate time.  And then keep that date!

Problem solving dates and Fun dates both need regular but separate commitments from both of you!  (I’ll share how to have a problem-solving date in a future blog.)

So, here’s some great date ideas straight out of my marriage to Jim.  (We enjoyed a loving, fun relationship until his passing a few years ago.  We had regular problem-solving dates as needed to keep our accounts with each other clear so that our fun dates were really FUN!)

Being financially stressed is no excuse to skip fun dates! When you’re under financial or any other kind of ongoing stress, you need the relief of breaks to leave the stress behind and just enjoy each other.   $25 can create a great date.   Look for two-for-one coupons for a meal.  It could be breakfast at a diner, or a spaghetti or burger dinner. Add a matinee movie and you’ve got a great 3-4 hour escape to remember that you’re a team and, together, you will eventually pull out of the financial pits.

Do you enjoy table games?  Take one of your grocery totes and fill it with games that can be played by two persons.  Gin rummy, tile rummy, Yahtzee, a travel sized game of Scrabble, etc.  Throw in an old tablecloth to cover the picnic table at your local park.  On rainy days, game tables can be found in a mall food court or your local library.

One of our favorites was a Mystery Date.  We each kept a file on the other where we collected newspaper clippings or ads about places we thought the other would enjoy.  One time, Jim let me know that our next date was a surprise.  He told me to wear casual clothes, but to take a dressy outfit to change into.  We drove to an ocean side restaurant where we enjoyed breakfast on their deck.  Then he took me to a quilting store with instructions to take my time.  (He relaxed in the car with a newspaper and crossword puzzle book.)  We wandered around a huge outdoor food court in West Hollywood choosing diverse, unusual food items for lunch, ducked into rest rooms at a coffee shop to change into dressier clothes and ended the day at a live performance in Hollywood.

Regular dates were once per week.  These Mystery Dates happened perhaps every four-six months.  They were very special occasions!  The things chosen to do were not nearly as important as the effort and planning that went into delivering the day as a love-gift.

Now that Jim has passed on, these memories are a few of my favorites!

Can you imagine how loved your partner will feel after having an entire day planned around his or her interests?  Are you ready to start collecting ideas for a Mystery Date?

Regular dates restore the love balance to a relationship that may be dragging from too much responsibility.  Regular dates cure or prevent the blahs.  Mystery Dates infuse a giant dose of loving directly into your partner’s heart.  So, get your calendars out and plan a date!

Nancy Landrum has been teaching relationship skills to couples for more than 25 years.  Her signature book, How to Stay Married & Love It! Solving the Puzzle of a SoulMate Marriage is full of practical strategies to create and sustain a loving, lasting relationship.  Click Here to Order

If you’d like a phone call from Nancy, click here to schedule it on her calendar:  https://meetme.so/SpeakWithNancy

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.

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!

Holiday Traditions: A Year-End Gift

There are many post-holiday traditions: the after-Christmas sales, returning items that don’t fit or don’t suit, football games, taking down the tree and house decorations, cleaning up the trash, finding a place for the unusual gift, eating the last of the goodies, moaning over weight gained, enjoying the holiday photos, savoring the memories, or recovering from the unpleasant incident with a relative…

Moving from this year to the beginning of another brings up all kinds of feelings in me.  I sincerely hope that by this time next year my knee injury will be fully healed so I can enjoy walks with my dogs again, and ride on my elliptical without pain.

I’ve been stretched to the max by the course I set out on a year ago to create an online communication skills course.  It is completed, I think.  And ready for students.  But I find I’ve only climbed one mountain to discover another bigger mountain ahead of me…marketing.

However, I have learned a lot this year.  It’s OK to ask for help.  It’s just fine that I can’t do everything myself.  There are people out there who LOVE to do what I don’t want to do, or don’t know how to do.  The building of an online business is a process of ups and downs.  I don’t expect to get it all right the first time.

For the past few months I’ve been longing for someone to take my hand and guide me through steps one through ten, cheering me on all the way.  I don’t remember if my longing ever took the form of a prayer, but an answer has come…I think.  I’ll have to wait and see, but I’m hoping I’ve found the experienced guide for whom I’ve been longing to take me through this marketing, course-building maze.

Whenever I’ve felt discouraged—out of my league—challenged by programs like Camtasia, Kajabi, and GotoWebinar, I’ve taken a deep breath, sometimes just left it alone for a few days, and then cajoling myself like I might a young child learning to ride a bike, promised myself I would go slow, call tech support when I got stuck and conquer this giant!

You may have heard me refer to Helga, the negative voice in my head.  She loves to remind me of my age.  “You’re too old to start doing this!”  But I’ve learned to say back to her, “If I wasn’t doing this, what would I be doing?”  Silence.

My dream for 2018 is two-fold:  To create an online relationship skills course, (or courses) that adequately support me, (yes!) but also to help hundreds (or dare I say thousands!) of couples learn skills and concepts that will enable them to create and enjoy the marriage of their dreams!

For the past twenty-five years I’ve taught classes and privately coached couples, many of whom have transformed their relationships from highly conflicted into consistently loving and respectful.  Every time I see that transformation begin to happen, I feel energized! Joyful! Sure that I am exactly where I’m meant to be, doing exactly what I’m meant to do!

This is my New Year’s Gift to You:  A free coaching appointment either in person (Murrieta, CA) or via Zoom.com.  We can spend some time together, get acquainted, and see what I can do to help further your 2018 dreams for your marriage.  Click on the link below to set up an appointment!

Wishing you the Best Year of your life and your marriage!

Schedule Your Free Appointment!

Nancy

Holiday Traditions: Saying Grace

Our family always says “grace” before a meal.  You and I probably won’t be sitting at the same table, but I’d really like to “grace” you with a few blessings from my heart to yours:

Bless you for finding value in my blog… (I assume you wouldn’t read it otherwise.)

Many thanks to those of you who have left encouraging comments…

Thank you for being on this journey of Life with me…

I ADMIRE you for caring about your relationships…

May your celebrations of this Season be filled with Joy, Love and Peace…

May your relationships be mutual expressions of Love…

May the food on your table be scrumptious

May you navigate the holidays in such a way that you feel blessed, rather than stressed…

May you complete whatever journey you are on with Ease…

I so value all the ways you are blessing me!

Sending you a BIG HUG across the ether!

Best wishes, 

Free Download: TRADITIONS: Saying Grace

Holiday Traditions: Taste…Yum!

One of my family’s favorite Christmas traditions was begun when my father-in-law was a student at Gerard College for Boys in Philadelphia, PA.  It was a live-in school for boys from 9-17 who were orphaned.  He hated being separated from his older brothers who were too old to be accepted to this institution, but in later years realized that he benefited from the great education he received there.

The first several years after marrying his son, Jim Gavitte, I heard stories about “Gingies.”  Gingies were a huge gingerbread cookie that was served with all the milk they could drink every Sunday evening.  They were meant to keep the boys “regular.” (smile) The boys loved them, and Pop talked about them often.

One year I was wondering what to get him for his birthday.  I decided to make a variety of cookies that could be kept in their freezer for him to snack on anytime he wanted.  I opened my old Betty Crocker Cookbook (a wedding gift) and found “Gingies from Gerard College in Philadelphia PA!” 

You guessed it! I made Pop a huge batch and promised that whenever he ran out to just let me know and I’d bake more.  I kept him supplied in Gingies for the rest of his life.

In addition, Gingies became a big part of our family’s holiday tradition.  Isn’t it amazing how a particular taste or recipe can become so embedded in our memory that a certain occasion just doesn’t work unless that food is included?

A few years ago when I asked my son, Peter, what he wanted for Christmas, all he wanted was plenty of  Gingies.

So this week I went to Smart & Final, a discount grocery store, to buy molasses by the gallon plus brown sugar, shortening, flour and spices in quantities that are cost-effective for the number of Gingies I make every year.

Food traditions are part of what makes a great holiday for many of us.  It’s like that certain food reassures us that life is good, some things are unchangeable, and that taste brings back many memories of family and friends that give us a sense of ongoing security.

Next week I’ll bring up the question of traditions that may need to be changed…or at least adjusted…in order to give you and your family a more relaxed, peaceful holiday!

Meanwhile, If your mouth is watering for yummy gingerbread spices, you can download my recipe and tips about making Gingies (or multiple batches of any holiday recipe!)

Holiday Traditions Free Download: Gingies Recipe

Radical Gratitude Challenge: Week #6

Radical Gratitude Challenge #6 – Ultimate Gratitude

Perhaps nothing leaves us feeling more helpless and vulnerable than watching a child suffer.  Whether it’s from illness, or injury, or from crazy, bad choices that kid is making, we are cut to the core.

My elder son, Steve, began sliding down the sleep, slippery slope of drug addiction when he was fifteen.  Poor grades.  Being expelled.  Arrested for fencing stolen property.  Counselors. Court appointed therapists. Being awakened at 2 a.m. (when I thought Steve was asleep in his room) and told to come bail him out of jail.  Cash missing.  Blame heaped on myself and by others for being a “bad” parent.  The nightmare seemed unending.

Although I wouldn’t wish this story on anyone, some of you have experienced this.  We could exchange horror stories.  If enough time has gone by, maybe we could even laugh together about the dreams surrendered…the lessons learned.

I’m not sure I was very grateful during those years.  I think it may have been all I could do to just hang on for the wild ride.  

Eventually Steve was hospitalized with congestive heart failure due to 15 years of “speed” and anything else he could get his hands on.  At first he was not expected to live through the night.  He lived. He came home to stay with us.  For two and one half years, I cared for a person still thinking crazy druggie thoughts.  I knew every day could be his last.  What good could come out of this, dear God?

And then a miracle.  He accepted that he was dying.  He decided the only way he could die with self-respect, was to die “clean.”  He quit everything.  Cold turkey.  And the Steve I once knew as kind and sweet returned to me.  We had almost four months of regaining the loving we had lost in the chaos before he died.  We each let go of things we couldn’t control and couldn’t change.  We surrendered judgment of ourselves and each other.

Without my recognizing it at the time, Steve was one of my most profound teachers. It may seem a small gift in exchange for his life, but my gift from Steve was a lifetime of lessons that are briefly shared in my book, Pungent Boundaries.   I learned what I had to do to disconnect from codependent behaviors.  I learned how to take care of myself, rather than always running to take care of him.  I learned a level of humility that was painful, and infinitely valuable as I coach others in similar circumstances.

Is there something so painful happening to you right now that you can barely breathe?  Does gratitude seem impossible to conjure up?  Is the tunnel so dark that even the thought of possible light ahead seems unrealistic?  This is when Gratitude can begin to work its magic in your soul.  Even just saying the words, while pounding a pillow, can open up space inside for a miracle…if not in the circumstances, then in you.  If you are blessed with a traditional Thanksgiving meal, or if you are not, I invite you to join me as I set aside that day to practice gratitude.  You can say, “Thank you, even though I hate this, thank you.”  I’ll say it with you… and send you my love as you stretch beyond what seems possible.

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Radical Gratitude Challenge: Week #5

Radical Gratitude Challenge #5 – The Harvest of Gratitude

My first husband died when I was twenty-three years old.  We had two baby boys.  I was not very thankful.  It took about five years to pull out of the pit of depression and readjust my life around this new reality.

I wanted to remarry.  I didn’t want to be alone forever.  I heard a special speaker talk about being thankful for what we have even before it arrives…especially before it arrives!  So I made myself a lacy nightie and hung it in the closet, waiting for that special Someone who would be my lover and partner in life.

Years went by.  I occasionally thought of giving that nightie to the GoodWill with other items no longer of use to me.  But I just couldn’t let go of the dream. 

I met Jim.  We fell in love.  That magical night came when I told Jim the story of my Belief Nightie and wore it for him.

The perfect dream became a nightmare of conflict.  I speak a lot of this in other places, but it’s enough to say that I thought, at times, I’d made a terrible mistake.  Whenever I could, I summoned up the grit to be grateful for whatever good might come out of our pain.

We eventually found the help we needed.  We learned and practiced new communication skills.  We resolved our conflicts.  Our love returned.  And then we really FELT THANKFUL!

A few years later Jim suggested that we begin teaching classes to other couples who needed to know what we had learned.  How to Stay Married & Love It! was born!

And the rest, as is said, is history.  The dream of my childhood to have a happy, loving marriage was fulfilled.  The dreams of speaking and writing books to help others have happy, loving marriages has been, and is still being fulfilled.  

What circumstance are you experiencing right now that seems impossible for which to be thankful?  What really stinks about your marriage, your family, your health, your finances?  What if an amazing chapter is being written in your future that you can’t see right now?  Can you be grateful now, as an act of faith?  I believe you can…

Get Your Free Radical Gratitude Handout Week #5 Handout

Radical Gratitude Challenge: Week #4

Radical Gratitude Challenge: Week #4 – Where the Rubber Meets the Road!

It’s not hard to be grateful when something is going well.  This week while planning this challenge, many lost their homes to California wild fires.  I was grateful my son’s home in northern CA was spared.

He is a helicopter pilot.  I was especially grateful that he came home safely after finishing his all night shift rescuing people during 70 mph winds.

These are easy things for which to be thankful.  But can we stretch into gratitude for a home and all belongings burned in that fire? Or a child who has become drug addicted? Or a struggling marriage? Or a spouse who dies before his time? Or an illness that places harsh limits on your life?

This is where the rubber meets the road.

You may be asking, “What is the advantage to being thankful about hard, painful things?  Why should I?

Because gratitude opens the heart.  Being thankful for the hard stuff is the ultimate expression of faith.  You may not share my faith.  That’s no problem.  Whether you talk to your God, or the Universe, it hears you.  It responds to your open heart.

An open heart says, “I’m open to whatever good can come from this pain.  I’m open to see new opportunities brought to me by this disaster.  I’m open to learning new lessons that will benefit me in ways I can’t predict right now.  I’m open to a Wisdom that is beyond my limited vision.

And then you persevere.  You put one foot in front of the other. You ask for help.  You do your best to be grateful even while in pain, and waiting for the Grand Plan to reveal itself.  You find joy in small gifts…the companionship of a loyal animal, a neighbor who awkwardly expresses their sympathy, the hug of your spouse, a lost keepsake returned to you.

You may think, “Now she’s gone too far.  I don’t want to hear her preaching!”  This is not preaching.  It’s teaching a universal life lesson!  It’s expanding your consciousness of what may be possible!

Next week I’ll share a few of the hard, painful stuff for which I have been thankful, sometimes while pounding a pillow and screaming my pain…

Are you ready to try out this road with me?  To accept the challenge where the rubber meets the road?  I’d love to hear from you!

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