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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

You Can Not Love Without Giving

"You can give without loving," says Robert Louis Stevenson, "but you can not love without giving."  Giving includes touch, a smile, listening, compliments, noticing what someone does right. Saying, "I love you" nurtures the relationship. Gifts come in many forms. Attention to exits and entrances (good-byes and welcome home) can make those we love feel special and cared about.

As children mature they discover that they get more joy from giving than they do from receiving. In the same way as love matures people find that giving brings more pleasure and fun than receiving. Giving does not belong exclusively to Christmas. For love to thrive giving continues all year. It increases the adventure and joy of the relationship. How have you gifted the one you love today? Try increasing those gifts each day in 2012.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ideas for Gifts That Don't Take Money

No money for Christmas happened often while I was growing up. As a child, I began making presents weeks before Christmas. I turned worn out bed sheets into squares. Hemmed and decorated they became attractive handkerchiefs. At least I thought so. Once my parents dressed two of my dolls alike, glued cheap look alike wigs on their heads, and gave me the "twins" for Christmas. We made games for each other from scraps of cardboard. My dad made spinners for the games he created. My husband says he and his brothers made toys for each other out of sticks and rubber bands. He had some great sling shots and toy airplanes his brother made for him.

One year our family all made cards with gifts of time or service. "Good for 5 days of telling you a bedtime story of your choice"; "Two weeks of doing your chores"; "An hour of my time to do what you want"; "Good for a movie of your choice". Use your imagination to think of what your recipients might like. If the gift is for your special person, you can give things like a date night every week for the month of January; thirty minutes of talking time every night before we go to bed; read and discuss 2 pages of "Becoming Soul Mates" with you every day for a week.

Creative gifts take thought and planning but they can be more fun and thoughtful than anything money can buy. To give your lover an hour a day of listening time or a night out together benefits you both in ways you cannot measure. There is no limit to what you can think of to gift your lover.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No Money for Christmas and Relationship

In a time when Christmas sales of electronic gadgets and toys are soaring, how do you show love and generosity to the ones you love when you cannot buy expensive gifts? My first thought is to go back to the simple "Little House on the Prairie" days. To see the children excited over gifts of barrettes and ribbons makes us realize how much commercialism has influenced our way of equating the money value of a gift to the the measure of love we have for each other.

The T.V. commercial, "Every kiss begins with Kay" implies that the cost of the gift tells how much the giver loves the recipient. Some of our best Christmases have been when we had little money. One year each person was to give the person whose name they drew something they owned that they valued. The gifts brought tears and hugs.

Our daughter gave her brother the seven books of Narnia she treasured and had collected one by one. He knew how much she valued those books.  From her rock collection one of our daughters gave me a beautiful green malachite which I knew was her favorite rock. Love filled our living room as we exchanged gifts.

Feel free to click comment and share some of your Christmas stories of love when money was not the measure. I will post them.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Celebrating Christmas with Christmas Cards

Are you dreading writing Christmas cards, wondering when you will find time? We have turned that tradition into one of the best Christmas celebrations of the Christmas season. We began writing the cards on getaways. The first year we wrote our cards at a timeshare at Lake Tahoe. No interruptions and a great incentive to finish them quickly. Unfortunately, we found that snow in December makes traveling to the mountains unpredictable.

Instead we found a condo at Sea Ranch to rent for three days. Winter rates make it a bargain. We sit at the dining room table and watch the surf crashing against the rocks. Sometimes deer feed in the front yard. We take breaks to walk on the ocean trail. At Black Point the ocean roars ferociously as large waves slap the beach and gradually erode the bluffs carving out a little bigger bay each year. Flowers, eager for spring, bloom proudly in the sunshine ignoring the fact that winter has not officially begun. Yellows. reds, purples dot the greenery pushing aside the weeds.

Yesterday Everett spotted a lone crane sitting like a statue on the edge of the cliff. "Maybe if I zoom in on him, I can get him on film," he said. Captured on film, the crane still looked far away. We have looked forward to our Christmas card writing getaways for at least ten years. It has become one of our favorite Christmas celebrations.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

To Have Children or Not to Have Children

My children and granddaughter having fun.

Last week I was eating lunch with a couple of guys who also write. One of them talked about how glad he felt that his children had grown up and gone. The other one talked about how lucky he felt because he never had children.

I listened in wonder. Investing in relationship with my children has brought the greatest payoff of anything I have ever done. I have learned things I didn't know I didn't know.

Once a therapist with whom I worked sought my advice. "My wife and I are trying to decide whether to have another baby. You know we already have boy and a girl." I didn't hesitate to encourage him. My husband had said, "We have a boy and a girl. What else is there?" Then we had Carla and we can't imagine life without her. Next week we will celebrate the birth of our Christmas baby forty plus years ago--the best Christmas gift ever!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Evelyn and Leonard Lauder Give Advice

Katherine Rosman wrote a column titled, "Lessons Learned From an Epic Marriage." I read it in the Sacramento Bee dated 11/20/11. Evelyn and Leonard Lauder lived and worked together as they did for Estee' Lauder, the cosmetic company founded by Mr. Lauder's mother in 1946. The Lauders had been married 52 years.

"Mr. Lauder sat down with me first," writes Rosman. "When Mrs. Lauder walked into the den in a pink boat-neck dress, he stopped what he was saying to me, turned to his wife and said, 'Don't you look pretty.'"

The Lauders gave some good advice. One rule, never ever threaten divorce in jest or in anger. Another key to a great marriage is to learn each other's rhythms, and how to read them. Another way of saying, stay open to learning about each other. The Lauders agreed they were hardly ever on the same emotional wave length, but they were smart in taking turns between willfulness and acquiescence.

Mrs. Lauder died at 75 November 12th. Rosman noted, "There is an inherent sadness in the fact that the more epic a marriage, the more devastating the loss must feel." That is true, but soul mates will have accumulated an abundance of great memories to help them deal with the loneliness.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Demon Dialogue 3--Freeze and Flee

Dr. Sue Johnson's third demon dialogue she calls "Freeze and Flee." It usually happens after the Protest Polka has been going on a very long time. With the couple I described in my last post freeze and flee happened when the wife became more involved in her church. Her husband would have nothing to do with her church. He buried himself in his work often staying longer than necessary. Both of them seemed to have given up any hope of connection. Their daughters were graduating high school.

It was at this point the couple came to me for counseling. The wife was very angry. The husband disliked her intensely and wanted to get away. He had lost his sense of humor and shut down. Counseling became focused on how to get through the hurt and rebuild confidence and hope.

Eight years have passed and neither of them has gotten involved in another serious relationship. Both seem happy to have ended a relationship that kept them feeling alone and deeply disappointed. Could they have learned to communicate differently?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dr. Sue Johnson's Second Demon Dialogue

The second of Dr. Sue Johnson's demon dialogues is what she calls "demand-withdraw" or "criticize-defend". She also calls it "The Protest Polka". It is more subtle than the attack-attack pattern of "Find the Bad Guy". She describes it this way in her book,"Hold Me Tight". "One partner is demanding, actively protesting the disconnections; the other is withdrawing, quietly protesting the implied criticism."

The Protest Polka is clearly illustrated in the graphic, "The Male/Female 9 Step Emotional Confrontation Cycle" in my book, "Becoming Soul Mates". In this case my male client actually created the graphic trying to illustrate what happens between him and his wife. He confessed he often worked late because of his fear of coming home and facing confrontation by his wife for something of which he was unaware.

The wife, unaware of her fear of abandonment and disconnection, did what she knew how to do best. Get him in the bedroom at night and close the door. Then she would angrily confront him about what he had done or not done. The guy, unaware of his fear of her anger and criticism and disconnection, withdrew, spaced out, and responded as little as possible.

As you can see, this behavior does not lead to connection which both people desired. Instead, they both felt frustrated, unloved, and failure. They were unable to get past years of disconnection. They made it official and divorced.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Understanding Love--Key to Good Relationship

Couples impact each other at a neuropsychological level. They do an emotional dance with each other. I believe the underlying cause of disconnection comes from expectations that there has to be a right and wrong. If I am feeling unloved and unimportant to my mate, it must be his fault. Then I ask in an accusing tone, "Do you love me?"

When he feels blamed, he becomes defensive. "Of course, I do. What's the matter with you?" It goes downhill from there. People don't understand love, emotions, needs. They don't understand how they trigger primal fears in each other. Everyone needs to examine themselves. How do you protect yourself in relationships? Do you withdraw, freeze up, avoid? Do you pursue, yell, blame?

Be willing to tune in, open up, share fears and needs. Be aware of your own early experiences with attachment. Avoid blame and take responsibility for your part in this dance. Stay accessible. Forgive if necessary. Provide safety to each other. Touch. Comfort. Reassure. Be patient, kind, non-judgmental. This is the key to love and feeling loved.

Causes for Disconnection in Love

Dr. Sue Johnson in her book, "Hold Me Tight" describes three types of disconnection. The first is what she calls "Find the Bad Guy". She says this could just as easily be called, "It's not me, it's you." I believe most people grow up learning to blame and defend. This process fuels disconnection and makes understanding impossible. Until you can begin to recognize this pattern in relationship, connection becomes less frequent and love ceases to grow. Only by staying open to listening can understanding and acceptance be achieved and love grow.

Couples get so locked into their grievances and fears they often do not realize their automatic response to disagreements is to blame and defend. If you feel disconnected from your partner, try to increase your awareness of your response to disagreements. For most of us blame and defend worked well when we were children. Many of us often heard adults blame politicians, news reporters, ethnic groups, the weather and many other things for what they perceived to be the unpleasantness in their lives. We have learned well what Dr. Johnson calls "Demon Dialogue". If you want love to grow, you must learn a new way to respond.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Connection--Essential in Love

How accessible is your partner? Can you get his/her attention easily? Do you have dreams of being unable to get anyone to hear you? I once had a ten year old boy in counseling who drew a picture of himself in a house that was on fire. He was yelling for his mother. His picture of his mother showed her talking on the telephone. He told me, "She is always on the telephone and can't hear me."

To feel loved you need to know your partner is accessible. He/she will be there for you when you need him/her. You don't feel lonely or shut out in the relationship. You can share your deepest feelings with your partner. You can disagree without risk of being shut out and your partner will be open to find a way to compromise or accept disagreement. Your partner does not walk away or pick up a newspaper when you talk about feelings. Connection is essential to love.

How about you? Do you make yourself accessible to your partner? Do you honor his/her preference for what time to talk? Do you listen carefully to what he/she has to say or are you thinking about what you want to say while he/she is talking? Listen to your partner the way you want your partner to listen to you. Listening skills make connection possible.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kona Coast Resort

Located on the magnificent Keauhou Bay south of Kona, Kona Coast Resort has attracted guests for many years. In 1993 a friend had reserved his timeshare there for his son's honeymoon. When his son cancelled his wedding, our friend offered the week to us. Enchanted by the island, we bought a one-bedroom timeshare on alternate years.

At first, we spent every day exploring the smorgasbord of differences found on the island. Our first year there, we flew in a biplane over the waterfalls along the east coast and into the still active Kilauea Volcano and west over the small village buried in lava. Cars in front of houses mired in lava looked like they only needed to be dug out. From white and also black sand beaches to lush valleys and tropical forests the Big Island has a little bit of everything plus a lot of lava.

As we grow older, our Kona Coast week has been our place to relax and let go of tension. We eat breakfast on our balcony overlooking the golf course. We share our cheerios with the birds who become less timid as the week progresses. We sit by the ocean and read our books at the nearby Sheraton Hotel waiting for Happy Hour when food and drinks are more affordable.

On our last day we took our books and went to the Sheraton at 3:30 to listen to the sea, feel its cool breeze, smell the fresh sea smell and watch the day come to a close. We had had another great week--a ranch hoedown, new friends, a beautiful dinner by the sea on the North Coast, taking in the excitement of the Iron Man race. We felt centered and ready to face the challenges waiting when we got home.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hawaii--The Island of Love

Ah....Hawaii where love comes naturally. Hawaiians love easily and well. We have just returned from a week at our timeshare at Kona on the big island of Hawaii. Even the maintenance and housekeeping people at our timeshare wave, smile and say "Aloha" to visitors. Tourists are not always highly regarded in other parts of the world! I can't remember any other place where I feel so welcome everywhere we go.

One day we drove up the north coast of the Big Island stopping at the spectacular hotels along the way. At the Fairmont Orchid Hotel I was looking for a rest room as one of the employees walked by. I asked where it was. She laughed and said, "Look. You're standing right by it." She seemed happy to see me as if I were a long missed aunt or grandmother. She began to tell me a story about her own family. She told it so well she could have qualified for the Story Telling circuit at the Nevada County Old Schoolhouse. She seemed to enjoy the telling, laughing often. By the time she turned and went back to work I felt like I had known her for years and could give her a hug.

No wonder honeymooners and long-time lovers, like us, come here to celebrate love.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Provide Safety for Love to Grow

People base reality on their own thoughts and perceptions. We cannot change the world or another person. We can change how we see the world and another person. For love to grow, you must provide safety to the person you love.

Good self-talk can help you let go of judgment. Here are examples from my book, "Becoming Soul Mates--How to Create the Relationship You Always Dreamed Of".

  • People behave in ways that make sense to them.
  • My partner and I are different--gender, personality, background, values, perceptions, fears, etc.
  • We are together to learn from each other. What can I learn from this?
  • I don't have to be right to feel okay.
  • I am free to decide to see my partner and what he/she does or says with love rather than fear.
  • I am responsible for my own happiness.
  • Many things are not wrong or right. They are just different. We can agree to disagree.
  • I choose to move from reactive to healing dialogue.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Understanding Love--Key to Good Relationships

Couples impact each other at a neuro-psychological level. They do an emotional dance with each other. I believe the underlying cause of disconnection comes from expectations that there has to be a right and wrong. If I am feeling unloved and unimportant to my mate, it must be his fault. Then I ask in an accusing tone, "Do you love me?"

When he feels blamed, he becomes defensive, "Of course, I do. What's the matter with you?" It goes downhill from there. People don't understand love, emotions, needs. They don't understand how they trigger primal fear in each other. Everyone needs to examine themselves. How do you protect yourself in relationships? Do you withdraw, freeze up, avoid, building resentment? Do you pursue, yell, blame?

Be willing to tune in, open up, share fears and needs. Be aware of your own early experiences with attachments. Avoid blame and take responsibility for your part in this dance. Stay accessible. Forgive if necessary. Provide safety to each other. Touch. Comfort. Reassure. Be patient, kind, non-judgmental. This is the key to love and feeling loved.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Love Creates Love

Sometimes families come for counseling because children's sibling rivalry has become a problem. One way I illustrate the nature of love is to darken the room and give each parent a lighted candle. Then from oldest to youngest each child is given a candle to light from the parents' candles.
The lesson, of course, is that just as the light increases as more candles are lit, love increases as each child joins the family. Love grows. You cannot use it up. The more you love, the more love you have to give.

In my book, "How to Get Kids to Help at Home," the last chapter is about teaching values. Here are a couple of paragraphs from that book:

One Sunday school teacher taught a lesson on forgiveness. "Forgiveness," said one youngster, "is when you leave your dad's saw out in the rain, and he says it was rusty anyway." "Or," said another, "when you spill a brand new carton of milk all over the kitchen floor, and your mom says accidents will happen."

The New Testament describes love as "patient, kind, envies no one, is never boastful nor conceited, nor rude, never selfish, not quick to take offense. Love keeps no score of wrongs, does not gloat over others' mistakes." Children learn how to love from parents who love each other and then their family. Loving families bring their light to the world.

Friday, September 9, 2011

More About Love and Sex

In last week's post I quoted Aldous Huxley who said, "You learn to love by loving." Today I want to expand on that. In his book, "The Little Prince" Antoine de Saint Exupery gives his readers a beautiful illustration of how love develops. The story is about a little prince who comes to the earth from another world and meets a fox in the desert. The point of the story is he couldn't care about the fox until he tamed him and spent time with him. The fox's secret was, "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly: what is essential is invisible to the eye."

Perhaps soul mate relationships elude some couples because they pick partners with their eyes and not with their hearts. They may be unconsciously looking for sex partners so the looking never stops Some one else looks better the next month or year. They "fall in and out of love" regularly. I do not believe people actually "fall in and out of love". People choose to love and they choose to no longer love. It is a matter of seeing with the heart, not with the eyes.

If couples marry only because of looks and sex, their relationship is always at risk. No wonder people in such relationships fear aging and can't enjoy and grow through the best decades of their lives. There is no hope of becoming soul mates if the only connection is great sex.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What Is Love?

Did people in ancient times have a word for love? Are we all looking for the same thing? When people say with authority, "There is no such thing as unconditional love", is it because they have never experienced it? The New Testament portrays God as love and teaches that love is the greatest virtue in life. So what is love?

Aldous Huxley said, "You learn to love by loving." "Love doesn't make the world go 'round," said Franklin P. Jones. "Love is what makes the ride worthwhile." Kamila said, "Love is like an eternal flame, once it is lit, it will continue to burn for all time." Benjamin Disraeli said, "We are all born for love. It is the principle of existence and its only end." The title of an international best selling book by Gerald Jampolsky is, "Love is Letting Go of Fear".

What do you think love is? Feel free to share by leaving comments. Maybe love is different for everyone. Those of you who are soul mates should have some interesting thoughts to share.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Columbia, Sonora, and Highway 108

An invitation to the wedding of my cousin's grandson arrived in late July. "Karen and Michael are getting married in Sonora, the heart of Gold Country," I told my husband. "That will be a great August get-away. We can see family and explore the gold country towns of Angels Camp, Columbia, and Sonora. We can top it off by crossing the Sierras on Highway 108 the next day." Highway 108 was the only California highway crossing the Sierras that we had not been on.

Columbia - Old Gold Town

What a wonderful weekend it turned out to be! The wedding at a country inn was fun. The couple even included their dog in the ceremony. After the minister pronounced the couple man and wife, they put their hands behind their backs and the minister handcuffed them together. They skipped out of the building. The dog didn't want to wake up. He lumbered reluctantly out behind them. We had a good time visiting with family at the reception.

The dog slept through the ceremony.
The next morning we headed east across the Sierras on Highway 108. The highway climbed 10,000 feet before descending to Highway 395. Snow still covered the ground at higher elevations. Lush green with lots of swiftly flowing streams and even some waterfalls kept us exclaiming our appreciation. We imagined how gorgeous it must be in the fall when the quaking aspen show off their brilliance.

It was a great weekend exploring Columbia, an old mining town, Angel's Camp where the frog jump has become world famous, and the interesting shops in the quaint towns along Highway 49. We can't wait to go back some day with our granddaughters.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Carolyn Hax Gives Advice

"One of the most important things we can do for the people we love," writes Carolyn Hax in her newspaper column, "is love them as a package, conflicting opinions and all. That means trusting the relationship to be bigger than their dissent."

When we can achieve this, we have gone a long way toward learning how to become soul mates. In my book, "Becoming Soul Mates" is this quote from Dinah Maria Mulock Craik (1826-1887).

"Oh, the comfort, the irrepressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Listen With Your Heart

To manage yourself use your head. To relate to your lover use your heart. Lovers can slip into a pattern of blaming that becomes an invisible infection eating away the closeness, love, and intimacy. Always listen to your lover with your heart.

Nothing will cause distancing as quickly as feeling blamed whenever unpleasant things happen or mistakes are made. Listen to your mate without jumping into a defensive response. Reflect to him/her what you think they wanted you to hear. Be willing to say,"That hurt" when you feel harshness or blame.

When you open your hearts to each other focusing on what he/she does right, your love will grow. Your defensiveness will weaken and you will feel gratitude that your mistakes and weaknesses are minimized. Soul mates accept each other just the way you are. No changes required!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Differences--Racial, Gender, Personality, and More

"A great marriage is not when the 'perfect couple' comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences." This quote comes from Dave Meurer in "Daze of Our Wives."

In my book, "Becoming Soul Mates--How to Create the Lifelong Relationship You Always Dreamed Of" you will find a chapter on how to make differences work for you. A difference can lead to conflict, but it doesn't trigger conflict. Your attitude and feelings about the difference triggers the conflict. When you stop defending and start thinking, you can ask yourself, "What is going on for me? What can I learn from this about myself and about the other person?"

People behave in ways that make sense to them. Why does it make sense to your lover to talk, believe, or behave in this way? Agree to disagree and stay in each other's corner, not blaming, but accepting and working toward understanding.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Recognize Times to Keep Your Mouth Shut

  While in the Authors' Booth at the State Fair, a visitor asked me, "What is the most important thing you have learned about making relationship work?" Tough question. I think my answer was, "Prioritize the relationship."

The question lingered in my mind. Maybe the most important thing I continue to learn is when to keep my mouth shut. Some people would say, pick your battles, but I have found many battles can be avoided by keeping my mouth shut.

"You didn't turn off the lights, air conditioner, water; close the door, drawer, curtain; why do you have to drip across the floor; slow down; you eat too fast; you spend too much money." These are the kinds of things that waste your energy and irritate your mate. Give it up. If there is a serious problem, it won't be resolved this way.

Your mate may not notice when you stop complaining. He or she will feel the difference but may not know why he or she is feeling warmer and closer to you.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

New Survey Reaffirms Old Values / Dating at California State Fair

Couples searching for soul mate relationships rejoice! A new survey reaffirms old values for getting what you want in relationship. Most adults are monogamous. Lots of teenagers are having sex, but lots are also practicing abstinence. These findings and more came from interviews with 13,495 men and women in the latest round of the National Survey of Family Growth.

Talking to couples at the California State Fair made me realize people are "figuring it out." Niesha Lofing, Sacramento Bee family editor, started her column last week: "It was one of our best--and hottest--dates. Last year, my husband and I had a date night at the California State Fair."

She went on to recommend the State Fair as "a great place for a date, and not just for teenagers," She shared stories of other couples who have discovered the joy of date nights at the Fair. Her last story was about Dominic, 65, and Laura,61, who have never missed a fair in nearly 43 years of marriage. "We're still in love," Laura told Niesha. "We've got gray hairs and grandkids, but we still have our date night at the State Fair."

If you are working on a soul mate relationship, date nights pay off. Enjoying the State Fair could be one of your favorite dates.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Soul Mates at the State Fair

I spent a couple of eight hour time slots in the California Authors' booth at the State Fair last week. Many happy couples walking hand in hand stopped by to chat. I knew by the way they looked at and talked to each other that they were soul mates even before they told me.

Seeing my book, "Becoming Soul Mates" inspired some couples to share. "We have been married 25 years, 46 years, 32 years", always with a look at each other confirming a valued connection. Some of the couples claimed to have been soul mates from the beginning, but they all agreed it took work, commitment, and willingness to learn to keep the relationship evolving. One lady said sadly, "It's too bad so many couples give up too soon. I wish they knew how good it gets if you hang in there and learn to understand and accept each other."

One man said, "This is the second time around for both of us, but I think we've figured it out this time." The look they gave each other made me believe he is right.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Autonomy versus Connection in Relationship

When women rate intimacy as their number one desire in a relationship, they intuitively know that it is the answer to their yearning for connection. Men feel the same separateness and need for connection, but they tend not to think about it. Some experts believe that men's drive is toward autonomy and women's drive is toward connection. I do not believe that. Everyone needs both autonomy and connection, but fear makes us believe we cannot have both.

To be able to be who we are in a relationship and allow the other person to do the same empowers, pleasures, affirms, excites and gives the ultimate joy of loving and feeling loved. This is absolutely essential to create a soul mate relationship.

This is taken from my book, "Becoming Soul Mates." To achieve this, begin with you. Explore what makes you afraid to open up to learning, curiosity, encouragement, support, fun, playfulness, freedom, creativity, discovery, and ultimately change. At first, you risk opening the door just a crack, but eventually you may learn to keep the door open longer, because love overcomes fear. The longer evolving relationships last, the more frequently they include times of intimacy.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Celebrating Our 56th At Sea Ranch

You probably could not find a place better suited for getting to know your mate than Sea Ranch. Eight miles of walking trails beside the ocean, redwoods accessible across Highway l, sandy beaches, and rustic lodge rooms with ocean views provide the perfect setting for love making, sharing stories, and having fun.

We have celebrated many wedding anniversaries doing those things and more. We discovered Sea Ranch decades ago while on a camping trip to the California North Coast. We camped at Bodega Bay the first night, but it began to rain. The next day about an hour north we passed the Sea Ranch Lodge. On an impulse we decided to stop and find out what they charged to rent a room. In those days it was a little more affordable. We were hooked.

One year we visited Sea Ranch every month but two. There was no television, no telephones and the lighting was poor. We would sit and watch the sun set. We didn't turn on lights as we shared stories, thoughts, and dreams until the stars appeared and it was time for bed.

This year our anniversary was on a Thursday just as our wedding had been. Sea Ranch was the perfect place to celebrate. A half bottle of rose' brut was chilling in our room when we arrived. We didn't make it the two and a half miles to our favorite log beside the ocean, but we did walk to many favorite places.

The rythmic music of the waves welcomed us back. The yellows, reds, and oranges of the thousands of wild flowers invited us to record their beauty with our camera. The cool ocean breeze caressed us as it moderated the warmth of the sun. At this place, at this time, life is good as we celebrate being together for 56 years.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Include Friends on a Get-Away

To add a little fun to some of your get-aways, invite friends to go along sometimes. Last Friday we took Paul and Jean Strom to a pasta lunch in the foothills an hour's drive from our home. We caught up on what they have been doing and enjoyed sharing our stories. They took us on roads we had not yet explored. Flowers covered acres that climbed up a hill to vineyards beyond. Beautiful oak trees seemed to be painted into the background.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

More Dating Wisdom

The subtitle in Dr. Kenneth Ryan's book, "Finding Your Prince In a Sea of Toads" is "How to Find a Quality Guy Without Getting Your Heart Shredded." The book offers 86 short chapters full of wisdom for people who are looking for satisfying life-long relationships.

An example is Chapter 31, "Men Are Microwaves, Women Are Crockpots". Dr. Ryan uses this analogy to explain the fundamental difference between men and women's sexuality. If men want to learn to be good lovers "they must learn to be slow subtle, and nuanced." There are many chapters giving excellent advice on the role of sex in relationship. Section Three of the book warns "Don't Sleep with Him--Why Not". Section Four: "Don't Sleep with Him--How Not".

Dr. Ryan offers important advice on relationship at a time when our culture has legitimized dating practices that are not likely to lead to satisfying life long soul mate relationships. It is especially helpful for young women who struggle with blending their values with their need for love.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dr. Kenneth Ryan Gives Dating Advice

"Finding Your Prince In a Sea of Toads" struck me as a very clever title. Author of the book by that title, Dr. Kenneth Ryan, and his wife have been counseling engaged couples for years. He has written a book of advice for women on dating.

He focuses on the top five mistakes he believes women make. Here are his five top mistakes:
Don't be too passive.
Don't be too aggressive.
Don't be naive about men.
Don't panic.
Don't sleep with the boy friend.

"Dr. Ryan started writing for his three daughters--everything that they need to know about the truth of relationships and sex so they will be two steps ahead of any guy they might date," according to his publicist. Does anyone know everything they need to know about the truth of relationships and sex? We think we know, but a life time isn't long enough to really know. That's what makes relationships intriguing and challenging.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Edward and Alisha's Story

We met in 2002. The course of our lives had already been set. We knew we loved each other from the moment we met. However, our relationship was filled with challenges that we were ill equipped to deal with.

My relationships with women began when I was 21 when my first child was born.. I proceeded to have six children with three other women. I would keep thinking I was making the right choice. They were not the women who were right for me. The differences between us were so great and we were horribly unskilled. Each one of these relationships created great pain for all of us.

When I met Alisha she already had a three year old and was two months pregnant with another man's child.I knew she was the right woman for me. We have had three children together for a total of eleven children. You may wonder how we got into this mess. We wonder also. The answer comes from our families.

My parents never married. They were never with anyone for long. My mother raised eight children with seven different dads. She raised them all by herself. To have this many kids with this many men means that there were always men coming and going in my life and family. Once a week my dad would pick me up and drop me off at my Grannie's house. I never had any time with him. After my Grannie died when I was 13, my dad picked me up once a year on my birthday and took me around to the clubs where he played. He would feed me drinks and drugs. No wonder I did not have a clue on how to form a family. I never felt like I belonged to anyone.

Alisha did not fare much better. Her mom was in love with alcohol and men. When Alisha would ask about her father, her mother said, "I don't know who your father is. It could be one of two men." Alisha never learned who her father was. In this situation she felt absolutely unlovable.

We now know that we knew very little about how to form a family. We both believed we were right and we were out to prove it. This system made us and our children very unhappy. We ended up yelling at each other nightly.

Through the Relationship Skills Center we heard about the Flourishing Families Program from Birth and Beyond. Alisha was very excited about the program and we both decided to go. I had no idea what a difference a class like this would have on me, our relationship and our family. We have stopped arguing and can now talk about our differences. We learned how to create a dialogue. We can communicate and take the time to see each other's point of view. The best part of all is what is happening with our children. They are doing better in school and getting into less trouble. We are breaking the cycle of abandonment and neglect in our family. We are getting married and we will be together forever!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Relationship Skills Center Offers Hope

The Relationship Skills Center in Sacramento began with an organizational meeting sponsored by "Healthy Marriages", a national group promoting education and support for good marriages. Since that time Carolyn Rich Curtis, Ph.D has led a group of hard working volunteers in creating and nurturing an educational relationship center which has reached out to struggling couples. Here is the stated purpose of the organization:

Relationships and marriages thrive in our community

We promote the development of healthy, safe, and stable families where children thrive.

1. To promote the sustainable development of strong, safe, and stable families among those at-risk.
2. To teach young people the skills necessary for forming and sustaining healthy relationships.
3. To support couples as they transition from being a couple to a healthy family.

Look for a story from a couple whose lives changed after attending one of their classes.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Dance of Intimacy

One of the books I read while we were at Tahoe was "The Dance of Intimacy" by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D. She says, "An intimate relationship is one in which neither party silences, sacrifices, or betrays the self and each party expresses strength and vulnerability, weakness and competence in a balanced way."

Based on this definition I wonder how many people achieve intimacy. That is definitely our goal if we hope our relationships will evolve into true soul mate status.

"Intimacy is not about that initial 'Velcro stage' of relationships," according to Dr. Lerner. "It is only in long-term relationships that we are called upon to navigate that delicate balance between separateness and connectedness and that we confront the challenge of sustaining both--without losing either when the going gets rough."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Winter Wonderland in May

Our May get-away took us to our Tahoe timeshare at the top of the ridge dividing California from Nevada. We look down from our Ridge Tower more than 7,000 feet to the lush green Carson Valley. When the sun goes down lights from the towns of Minden and Gardnerville sparkle like a necklace of diamonds.

The Amgen bicycle race was scheduled to start at South Lake Tahoe on Sunday. It had been snowing all night and continued on the big race day. The first stage of the race was cancelled. It continued to snow through Wednesday. The trees bent with their loads of snow. The Christmas card beauty pushed us into compulsive picture taking. How many pictures from one balcony does one need?

We had our fireplace going keeping us snug, warm, and cozy as we read books and enjoyed being together. No pressure. Nothing that had to be done. The full moon peeked out from the clouds from time to time spotlighting the remarkable May winter wonderland.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How the Novaks Handle Stress Points

"Ted and I approach life very differently," says Brenda Novak. "Ted is a big picture person, very flexible and willing to go the extra mile, on the one hand--or, if he falls a bit short at something, to say that's good enough and be happy with less than a perfect job."

"I am more OCD. LOL He can do dishes without wiping down the counters. I have to finish it all. He can fold clothes in a sloppy way and toss them in a closet or leave them sitting out forever; I can't. He can plant a garden and leave the trash of the pots and stuff laying in our yard for months. I"m more of a stickler for doing things right and getting them done on time. Those types of messes can really irritate me."

We've basically worked out this difference by realizing that not every tool is meant to do every job. A hammer is just as good as a saw. Whether or not one is better depends on what you're trying to do with it. That's exactly how it is with our separate skill sets. I'm better suited to some things. Ted is better at other things. We appreciate and celebrate our differences and admire the strengths we recognize in each other.

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak has three novels coming out this summer/fall--INSIDE, IN SECONDS, and IN CLOSE. She also runs an annual online auction for diabetes research every May at To date, she's raised over $1 million. Brenda considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ted and Brenda Novak Together 27 Years

Brenda, a N.Y. Times best selling romance writer, met Ted at college. Her best friend brought him home after a Halloween party. "I normally wasn't impressed with the guys she liked," says Brenda, "but I remember thinking, this one is cute--really cute."

"The second Brenda walked into the room," says Ted, "I knew I'd met the wrong roommate. I backed off from having a relationship with her friend and became friends with all the girls in her apartment instead." When Brenda's friend got a boy friend, Ted felt it was safe to ask Brenda out.

Brenda knew before Ted did that he was the one she would marry. One day he said to her, "We're going to get married, aren't we?" She said, "You're just now figuring that out?" Once he was committed there was no looking back," Brenda says. "He has been steadfast in his love and loyalty."

Brenda believes flexibility is the key to keeping romance alive. "I try to remember that nothing in my life is as important as Ted is. Our marriage is the foundation for our family. That puts little things that can creep in and cause annoyance into perspective."

Brenda says Ted is a nurturer and there's nothing better than marrying a nurturer. Ted believes taking time for the little things keeps romance alive. "I try to show Brenda I care by making sure she has water at her desk every day, by making her a special juicing concoction every morning to see that she gets the vitamins and minerals she needs, by bringing her treats from restaurants I go to for business, by leaving her notes. I want her to know how important she is to me and to our family."

More about Ted and Brenda in my next post.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Steve and Ann Beede--Together 24 Years

Steve and Ann Beede believe in love at first sight. They met on Ann's birthday in 1977 on an island in Boston Harbor. They have been together ever since. Both confirm that they knew the day they met that this is the person with whom I want to spend my life. "That day we even talked about how many Kids we would like to have," says Steve.

For Ann planning activities together has kept the romance alive. Steve agrees. "Reading Gottman's SECRETS OF SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE and both of us really caring also helped," he adds.

"We went through three downturns in the real estate market and worked our way out", Ann said. "We never blamed each other. We worked together to overcome obstacles." "The market crash in 1986 wiped us out," Steve added.

Steve's answer to what he likes best about the relationship: "Friends, fun together, making memories, being US." Ann's answer: "Friendship and nice long drives for talking."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Improve Your Listening Skills

Very few people learn to be good listeners. If you want to speed up your relationship's evolution toward soul mate status, learning to listen is the key.

Here is how:
Focus on the idea the speaker is trying to get across to you.
Try to understand what he/she is saying.
Resist forming arguments against the idea.
Do not ridicule or discount.
Practice listening every day.
Ignore distractions.
Keep an open mind.
Do not make assumptions, clarify.
Try to understand rather than try to be understood.

For more on talking and listening, check out "Becoming Soul Mates--How to Create the Lifelong Relationship You Always Dreamed Of" by Elva Anson.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spring Fever in Shenandoah Valley

It becomes increasingly clear that for long-term relationships to evolve into soul mate status both people in the relationship must invest time and energy. Date nights and get-aways provide opportunities for lovers to focus on and learn more about each other.

Use these together times to have fun and to let go of the stress and conflict of financial, work, parenting, and other problems. Tell each other your stories. Have playful sex. Explore new places. Meet new people. Try new things. Look for what you enjoy about your mate.

I had a choice Friday. I could go to my professional meeting of marriage family therapists or I could go for a beautiful spring drive with my soul mate to the Shenandoah Valley for lunch. Guess which I chose.

Monday, April 4, 2011

British Columbia Beauty in California

Our March get-away took us into a wonderland of glistening snow covered mountains, rivers rushing to keep up with the excess water, and trees trying not to break under their unusually heavy load of snow. It reminded me of traveling through British Columbia uttering unstoppable oh's and ah's.

Carson Valley, spotted with splashes of snow, stretched to meet us as we descended on the east side of the Sierras. The ecstatic squawking of mating geese filled the air. There must have been hundreds of geese happily settled with their mates in their marshland nests. We felt one with spring as we carried our suitcase into our time share apartment and focused our attention on each other for the next two days.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

John and Michele Zumwalt Share Relationship Tips

We met at a recovery camp-out in June of 1991. We started dating steady and married on Nov. 20th, 1993. We knew very quickly that we were meant for each other. We started having date nights every Friday night. It was especially important when the Kids were little. Mom needed a get-away. We also pray and do Bible studies together daily.

My relapse with prescription drugs in 2003 was the most difficult time in our marriage. We sought Christian counseling and God has helped us find our way back to Him and to each other. Johnny and I share our journey with Jesus. Our marriage is a true mission. We are friends, but more than that, we are faithful friends who are Kingdom building TOGETHER.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What Women Want From Men

Webster's dictionary describes intimacy this way: "intrinsic, innermost...marked by very close association, contact, or familiarity, marked by a warm friendship, suggesting, warmth or privacy, of a very personal or private nature." In surveys that question what women want most in relationships, nine out of ten women say intimacy. Is it any wonder that a recent survey on the website, "How to Get the Man of Your Dreams", found that women desire courtship?

Are you a woman who likes to have a guy open her car door, seat her at a dinner table, help her with her coat? Do you admire the guy who occasionally plans a surprise get-away to his wife's favorite place? How about the guy who brings a rose or her favorite CD to his date? I know a man who emailed poetry he wrote to the woman he loved. She loved it.

A man who makes a woman feel special with his thoughtful attention has learned how to be a lover. Women look for that kind of man. You can bet she tells her friends all of the special things he does. Unfortunately, they may ask their guy, "Why don't you ever do anything like that?"

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lisa Ling and Paul Song Learn A Lesson

RELATIONSHIP IS DIFFICULT! Being "in love' does not change that. Working with couples reinforces my opinion that this is unavoidable in relationships in general as well as in intimate relationships. The closer you become to someone, the more certain it becomes that you will at some point feel hurt, frustrated, and disappointed.

Recently, "People Magazine" printed an article in which well-known correspondent, Lisa Ling, shared how she and husband, physician and biotech firm president Paul Song, struggled through troubling times. Song's father died of gall bladder cancer, his mother had a bad car accident, and Ling had a miscarriage. Instead of disconnecting from each other, Paul and Lisa realized their marriage needed mending and they started therapy.

One of the essential ingredients necessary for becoming soul mates is commitment. You will see that over and over as couples share their stories. Instead of thinking first of divorce, find a good marriage therapist who believes in marriage. Open up to understanding and learning what you can do to get through the difficulty. At the very least, you will learn more about yourself and relationship which will be of value for the rest of your lives.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Monty and Julie Flanagan High School Sweethearts

We met in 1966. I was a sophomore and Julie was a freshman at Sanger High. We were the only two viola players in the orchestra. We began going steady. I wondered when we would break up, because we never argued. I finally decided she was the one in the second year of Jr. College. We have been married 37 years. We have been completely devoted to meeting each others needs with God's help.

I started working at age 11 and I became a workaholic and couldn't stop no matter how hard I tried. I got sick and was put on permanent Social Security Disability. Now Julie has me every day and never seems to get tired of my being around.

I like too many things about being married to try to list--cherishing, loving, needing, being together. Most of all we enjoy being one with each other and with God. Sort of like a trinity.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Winter at Sea Ranch

Always beautiful and romantic.

If you have never been to the north coast of California in winter, you are missing a real treat. On a rare sunshiny Sunday we headed to Sea Ranch for a two night get-away. We stopped in Sebastopol to have brunch at our favorite restaurant, The French Garden. Fresh green vegetables, honey, and farm eggs filled a small farmers' market in the parking lot. The blue green ocean at Bodega Bay reminded me of the ocean at Hawaii. It sparkled, but it was as calm as a large lake.

Our room was ready when we arrived at the Sea Ranch Lodge. I opened the window, lay down on the window seat and let the sun bathe me in its warmth while the cool breeze blew softly over my face. What a wonderful place. No T.V. to watch the Oscars event. We watched the sun wiped out by an incoming storm as it was trying to escape on the horizon.

The next day it rained. We read books, talked, and cuddled. These are the things that help keep romance alive. Try it.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Susan and Dave, Broke But Happy

For a couple of years Dave and I were neighbors who had only said, "Hi", to each other once in awhile. After I invited him to a barbecue, being together became an almost every day thing. After a month of friendship, we fell in love. He proposed on Feb. 12th. He couldn't wait until Valentines Day. We have been married 12 years.

I suspected Dave had been watching me for some time before the invitation to the barbecue. When I asked him if this was true, he said, "I knew right away that this one is crazy enough to have me." We laugh a lot. I believe laughter is the most important thing to keep romance alive.

Finances have always been a stress, along with the rest of life's challenges. Perseverance and commitment have kept us together. We know that we will always be together and that we can always depend on each other. Both of us have made some bad choices with alcohol, etc., but we remain committed despite our mistakes.

I think we're a pretty cool couple. My first marriage did not last a year. This one will last a lifetime. My parents have been married for more than 50 years and I take marriage seriously. The failure of my first marriage was devastating.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Georgia Celebrates Her 5oth Year with Soul Mate

Gene and I went together for three years after meeting at the church college/career group. We married in 1960. We kept our romance alive by talking, trusting, being committed, working on projects together. As we have each individually sought to draw closer to God we grew closer to each other. We never lied to or kept secrets from each other. We spent lots of time with our children and with each other. Family time was important. Since Gene retired we have been together all the time. That is pretty romantic. We have traveled in our RV extensively enjoying the beauty of our country. We have similar interests, such as learning more about the ancestry of our families.

A stress point is not a one time happening. I believe men have difficulty with anger. Responding to anger is also difficult. We are still working on this which causes stress between us. We work during the calm times to discover the cause and seek a better way to respond by exposing our inner most hurts to each other while seeking God's solution. I am learning to defer to Gene when there is a difference of opinion and leave the final results to God. This is a process and ultimately
God is in charge.

What I like best about our relationship is I am married to my best friend and he has never given me a reason to distrust him. I like being married to one who loves God and wants God's best for me and our relationship.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gene and Georgia Schroeder Together Since 1957

We met at a church college and career group in 1957. We car-pooled and did almost everything together for 3 years and married in July 1960. We are celebrating our 50th year of marriage this year.

I was always early to meetings. When I opened the door that day in September, I found Georgia sitting on a table in her white fur trimmed coat. I was smitten. Before September ended I was sure the Lord was leading us to a unique oneness with Him here on earth.

Romance came from being together and exploring our common interest in God and His leading. Our lives touched in special ways that would say, "I care about you. You are important to me. I want to do this for and/or with you. This flower is just for you. I wrote this poem for you. I love you.

The best thing about our relationship is the knowledge that our relationship comes through the Lord in all its unique aspects. We know it will last for the time He has appointed for us to use it with Him for His glory and the benefit of others and us. We look forward to our eternal relationship with Christ.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Laurie and Paul Ferrari Together Since 1996

Paul and I met when his sister was getting married and I was her bridesmaid. We met in September and didn't see each other again until January for the wedding. We started dating a week after the wedding. We have been together 15 years and we now have two little boys.

I knew Paul was the one, because after meeting him I didn't want to be away from him. He lived in San Francisco and I lived in Sacramento. What has keep our romance alive is having date nights and talking about the things we are passionate about.

Initially, our moms' moving at different points in our lives created tension and conflict. We have a son with Asperger's so there has been stress about our children. Recently job loss, financial concerns , and family crisis have caused stress.

What keeps our relationship good is that we have a spirit of togetherness and we laugh together often. We face the world together with love and humor. That is what works for us.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Experts on Dating, Love, and Relationships

Since I began writing about relationships tips, I have received ideas from many people who call themselves relationship experts. How does someone qualify as a relationship expert? Are you an expert on dating, love, and relationship?

I recently received a news release about a seminar called "Meet 'Em, Date 'Em, Keep 'Em". It read, "The afternoon brings together some of Sacramento's top experts on dating, relationships, and love. Attendees will learn everything from finding the right mate to keeping the love and romance alive over the years of a relationship." Wow! What a promise! I wonder how many of these experts have kept love and romance alive for more than 15 or 20 years.

Thousands of people call themselves relationship experts. Some of the most famous have been married and divorced five times. One said that's how she became an expert.

The best experts I have found are people who have worked on their relationships for years and are committed to making them work. As a result they have nurtured the intimacy until it has become a soul mate experience. Hang in there. You, too, may become an authentic relationship expert.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

More from Dr. Jane Greer

I particularly liked Chapter 5 from Dr. Greer's book, "What About Me?" The title, "Loving Me Without Losing Us" deals with the age old question, how can I be who I am and still be connected to you? The second chapter of my book, "Becoming Soul Mates" is titled, "Begin with You". It is fundamental to good relationships. If there is no you, there is no relationship.

Dr. Greer addresses her comments on what she calls "SelfNess" to martyrs and givers. She says martyrs and givers find their self esteem by meeting the needs of their significant others. "Their sense of self depends on what and how they give and do for their partners." She gives illustrations and help for what's behind this distorted perception and how you can work on putting higher priority on your own needs.

Intimacy seldom comes to people who don't respect their own needs and set boundaries. We must be able to be who we are and stay emotionally connected to the other person who thinks, feels and believes differently without needing to change, convince, or fix him/her.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Valentine's Day the Lovers' Day to Celebrate

What are you and your special person planning for Valentine's Day? Look for special events like the "Authors' Signing Faire" at Westfield Galleria at Roseville. This event will feature authors with books about romance and love. I will be there with my book, "Becoming Soul Mates." Come and introduce yourself to me. This event is Saturday, February 12th. I am sharing a table with Pamela Johnson whose book is "Heart Pirate". It should be a lot of fun and what a great Valentine's gift for the one you love.

Whatever you do on Valentine's Day, take this opportunity to show someone you love them.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dr. Jane Greer--"What About Me?"

What a wealth of good books on relationship wait for anyone needing help. Today I will be writing about Dr. Jane Greer's new book, "What About Me?" Dr. Greer says there are two primary areas of selfishness--sexual and emotional. She divides the selfishness scale into four categories--martyr, giver, taker, controller. She describes martyrs as completely selfless with the dominant emotion: fear. Givers are somewhat selfless. Dominant emotion: guilt. Takers expect to be given to and taken care of. Dominant emotion: disappointment. Controllers are completely selfish. Dominant emotion: anger.

Dr. Greer's book includes a quiz the reader can take to determine where on the continuum you fall. Part one of the book describes the role selfishness plays in relationships. Part two gives advice on how to move from me to we in healthy ways. Look for more about Dr. Greer's book on this blog soon.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Self Knowledge, Self Esteem in Relationship

Quite often marriages end because one partner reaches a point where he/she feels lost and says, "I need space to have an opportunity to find myself." This can be devastating. In all of the six stages of relationship Dr. Libby Kovaks describes in her book, you will struggle with understanding who you are. In the honeymoon stage you naturally feel enmeshed and separateness can feel frightening.

As you go on with life you find yourself challenged by new roles: mate, parent, son or daughter, boss, employee, student, teacher, speaker, leader, best friend, writer, athlete, expert, retiree. You get the idea. Who you are is dynamic, ever changing and sometimes confusing. Just when you think you know who you are, it no longer fits.

Then perhaps your parents age or die. Your children leave home and you feel lost and uncertain. What if you made wrong choices? Maybe you've missed out on something. All of the old resentments become persistent. You end your marriage or relationship in search of what you've missed or lost.