Renewed faith in love

Love and acceptance within the relationship

I have to say, I am very impressed with the emotional intelligence of this young writer in her 20s.  This list: “20 Things You Need to Accept About Your 20s” is quite useful for those of all ages.

And when it comes to love, truer words were never spoken!

“The first time you fall in love probably won’t be the last.  There are different kinds of love and people that will come into your life for different reasons.”

How useful to know this for certain at age 20, instead of trying to “make” everything last.

But my favorite love truth is this:

“When you do find your person, they aren’t going to be perfect. Your relationship or marriage will be hard sometimes.  It isn’t about thinking someone is perfect; it’s about knowing that they are perfect for you. You need to marry your best friend, not your “dream” man or woman. 

Whenever my husband and I disagree, which has been often since we decided to remodel, sell our home, move and build a new home elsewhere, the stress of all this change has taken its toll on our relationship.  At times like these it is so important to remember that no one is always correct or ‘perfect’ but they may be ‘perfect for you.’

How do I know Mike is perfect for me?  Because he is someone who totally values what we share together.  Therefore he makes it clear that he cares deeply about both of our needs and feelings.  This makes it possible for us to get to the other side of an argument feeling good about our decision AND our relationship.

And if you don’t understand the value of that, you have a lot to learn about love!

The Practice of Self-Compassion

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”                       —  The Dalai Lama

And for most of us, this is much easier said than done…            What is the process of finding compassion for yourself?             How does that work?   For me it took hitting rock bottom.

self-respectI had always prided myself in figuring out life.  For better or worse, I made my way through life halfway successfully, meaning I kept a job, had relationships and survived.

Then, at age 49, my very survival was threatened.  My way of simply ‘getting by’ no longer worked for me.  I was absolutely not satisfied with my present, or the future I saw before me.

Good enough was no longer good enough!  That is when most of us decide to change.  The main difference between each of us is how bad life has to get before we make some major changes. 

At 49, I felt like I had nothing of what I had originally wanted out of life.  And what meant the most to me, after some in depth analysis, was to experience one genuine love relationship in this lifetime, love that survived all of the inevitable ups and downs of life.

Then I began observing the relationship I had with myself, assuming that the way I treat myself is probably the way I treat others in my life.  I am so naturally hard on myself, calling myself stupid all the time.  This was the mountain I would need to move BEFORE I brought a loved one into my life.

I am the first to admit this is a lifetime process and practice.  I practice everyday by carefully observing how I speak to myself.  Do I speak with acceptance, appreciation, affection?  Or do I get frustrated and angry with my obvious imperfections?

Rasta Mike and Laura FB smallFortunately, my small and fully accepting puppy Rasta is a great teacher in this regard… talk about unconditional love and acceptance.  Who knew such a small pup could spread so much compassion and love?

I must also mention my loving and ever compassionate husband Mike, whom I found on my own road to self-acceptance.  I found what I was looking for in life by simply stopping long enough to consider what was missing, and then go in search of the life I really wanted.

Love and the Mind

“How beautiful would it be to find someone who is in love with your mind?”

One of the often ignored advantages to finding love later in life, is finding someone who sees past your surface beauty.  That special someone who takes the time to look all the way into your mind and your soul.  This is a true gift of aging!

This is an advantage I had no idea of when I finally met the partner I had been seeking my whole life back in early 2005.

Let’s face it, early love can tend to be quite surface-oriented.  Sex appeal can be so appealing!  But when you’ve had decades to develop your mind and your heart, and then decide to attract someone who totally appreciates those qualities… ooh la la!         See, aging is not so bad after all.

And then if you have spent a few years alone after divorce, cultivating self-love and compassion, that new special someone you meet can seem like magic!

I will never forget the day Mike and I met.  It was just another ‘date’ from Match.com until he walked in the day with a big bouquet of flowers!  And even though Mike thinks of himself as very shy, we simply could not quit talking!

OK, ten hours later we were a little tired, but we did not want the day to end…  We had both finally met our match in terms of body, mind and soul!  We were so lucky!

And the best part is, we both recognized it immediately!

The secret to long-term love

Many of us don’t believe in love because of our experiences with what seems to be a great love at the beginning, which inevitably turned into a difficult and contentious relationship.

heart speaksIs there a way to tell if someone is likely to be a compatible long-term partner?

One answer was found by interviewing hundreds of long-married couples about what works and what doesn’t for a long and satisfying relationship.  They said the most straightforward answer to long-term love is basic similarities.

I know, conventional wisdom says opposites attract, but when over 500 people who have been married 40, 50 and more years were asked: What is most important for a long and happy marriage?  Their advice was nearly unanimous:

Opposites may attract, but they don’t usually make for great and lasting marriages. 

There are all kinds of reasons for falling in love.  Most common are physical attraction, a great sense of humor, affluence, and that ever illusive ‘chemistry.’

Not often do you hear: We share the same core values!”

However, if you are searching for a long, happy marriage, our elders advise you to find someone whose values align very well with your own.  Their version of a “magic bullet” when it comes to deciding: “Should I stay or should I go?”  Core values.

scan0012I must agree, after waiting until age 49 to meet my match. 

There were so many things that attracted me to Mike when we met over nine years ago now, but the many similarities in our core values turned out to be the clincher on this deal.

Trusting and respecting your partners’ judgment is key, and that happens when you know you will have the same take on most value-related decisions!

Are you financially faithful?

checkbookNew research shows many partners lie about what they paid for an expensive new item, hide debt from their partners, and even maintain hidden bank accounts.  This is no way to run a relationship!

Don’t be caught unaware like I was in my first marriage.  Take an active role in your shared finances and always look at shared tax returns.

When you first meet a new potential partner check them out carefully.  Here’s what I did when I first met my second husband:

Consider a background check.  If potential employers do it, why shouldn’t you?

Then, if the relationship becomes serious:

If he says he owns his house, go to the public county property records online and see if his name is on the property.

Share all financial records with each other including retirement savings, credit card reports and banking information.

Financial honesty is the basis for all other forms of honesty.  If you don’t want to share a checkbook with him, he’s not for you!

 

The Power of Shame

I have always wondered at the power of shame to shape our worlds.  So much so, that when I began my six month counseling internship at a rehab hospital, I knew within weeks that my M.A. thesis would be about shame.  We have so much shame in our culture around aging and disability!

In my thesis I explain the Chinese word for I’m sorry: 对不起, which means literally “I cannot look up at you.”  That’s exactly what shame feels like.

A large section of my book “How To Believe In Love Again: Opening to Forgiveness, Trust and Your Own Inner Wisdom” is devoted to the study of shame, because shame is often a culprit in our inability to risk finding love again.  Here’s a short excerpt:

“Many early “love” relationships that begin in high school and college are, for the most part, total disasters, marked with constant broke ups and then that glorious feeling of making up. 

This is the time when we play at love, testing out our egos and power over others.  It is not uncommon for our earliest relationships to include much shaming and blaming as well as some emotional, if not physical abuse.  We generally have no idea what we are doing, and with little impulse control or understanding of what we are experiencing, cruelty is common and mistakes are made.

Only by entering into more mature, loving relationships much later, do we realize the low quality of our earliest attempts at bonding with others.  But even then, it can be difficult to end the destructive cycle created by early shaming experiences, which lead to future dysfunctional relationship patterns. 

Love has come to be defined as a challenging, shameful, painful struggle.  First loves may be painful or even abusive, and that is how we come to define relationships.  That becomes the familiar pattern, so much so that it may feel strange and even suspicious when love is given freely with no apparent strings attached.” 

Want to learn more about how early shaming experiences may be negatively impacting how you approach love today?

Check out my book!