YOU Are a TREASURE

Monday was a busy, if not hectic, day, It was 3:15pm before we got around to helping each other make the bed. Our conversation follows:

I said “Forty-one dang years to get where we are.”

Nate said “Yeh, well I like where I am.  You know how you always embarrass me when you say what good a person I am. Well, YOU are a TREASURE.”

That says everything.

I had to include a picture of us imperfect spouses with such a sweet statement.

Infidelity in our Politicians is a Lesson for Us All

Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina went to Argentina to cheat on his wife.  
 
When spouses cheat on their spouses, it’s often about something that the spouses haven’t worked out in their relationship. It can have a lot to do with feelings and needs that they are afraid to express to their partners, and, therefore, don’t get met. 
They are afraid of rejection or disappointment or other negative responses. It’s easier to stuff those feelings and find someone new that can admire you.  And certainly, many people in politics, like Mark Sanford, have a need to be admired.
It’s about levels of intimacy
It’s about levels of intimacy and scary feelings of vulnerability.  Many of us use our directory of friends to separate and spread our personal information.  We talk to one about sports, one about feelings, one about work, and that’s healthy within limits.  But just like having a gatekeeper physician that is the hub of your medical information, when a spouse is a hub of our total gamut of feelings and thoughts, it makes for a powerful relationship. It keeps us honest rather than spreading half truths or out-of-context facts amongst our friends and deluding ourselves about our current issue.
 
‘Stranger on the subway’ syndrome
However, rather than risk sharing so much with one person, it’s easier to start (have an affair) with someone new. It’s the ‘stranger on the subway’ syndrome. When you have feelings festering inside, it’s easier to share it with a stranger ‘on the subway’ than risk disappointing or angering the one you love. Haven’t you even hesitated to mention something to your spouse that you easily talk about to your friend. 
It takes so much courage to reveal yet another imperfection to someone we love and is in a position to ‘judge’ us. 
“United we stand; divided we fall” theory backwards
Subconsciously, we are acting on the “United we stand; divided we fall” theory and using it backward.  If no one has all the information about us – our strengths and frailties – they will have no ultimate power over us. And that’s true, but you risk the value of coordinated medical treatment without a functioning gatekeeper physician. Also, you risk the value of  nurturing the spiritual and emotional depth of a complete relationship without an intimate partner that you’ve bared your soul (not just your body) to. Nothing risked; nothing gained; therefore everything lost—including the respect of your children who need you more than you realize and everyone else in your world.
An affair is the easy way out–out of the life that you value. Don’t take the easy way out; take the difficult route in–into deeper trust and love than you’ve ever known.
 
Or maybe you have a different idea.  I invite your ideas. And don’t forget to follow me on www.twitter.com/imperfectspouse.

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Pet in an Established Relationship–Yes or No?

My cousin, Alfred, is married (second) to a wonderful woman, Meg—beautiful, charming, and full of integrity and heart. They live together in a lovely house that she has impeccably, yet comfortably decorated.  During the holiday, her son and grandchildren gifted her a cat – from the pound, hours away from being euthanized. (Notice how I build in the drama.)
 
MEN GROUSE
Alfred is grousing; Meg desperately wants the cat. She asked me, could she keep the cat? Well, it’s sure okay with me, but I’m not exactly the one she should ask.  Or should she ask anyone?  It’s true that decisions affecting both people should be discussed with both people. But it is also true many men (and, I’m sure, some women) never want anything to change. It’s too much work for them to adjust to something different in their life.  But life is filled with change. Maybe it’s a good idea to practice adjusting to change, especially small ones, and good ones. 
 
My husband groused at every pet we ever got and he became the most attached to each one.
 
I finally realized that his grousing was obligatory—as if that’s how men were supposed to act.  I stopped focusing on his claims of discontent and started noticing his enjoyable interaction with our 2 cats.

WOMEN BEHAVE DIFFERNTLY WITH THEIR MAN
My cousin, Meg, is so smart and capable and strong, that seeing her insecure and defensive was surprising.  What I noticed is that Meg really has her own misgivings about having a pet.  Her house is beautiful.  Her home location is not conducive to having an outdoor cat.  Where will she put the litter box?  Will it scratch her furniture?  These are her questions, but she can’t air them with her husband because he will use those uncertainties against her. 
 
MAN TALK
My charming husband suggested to Alfred that he throw the cat out the window. This is how guys talk to each other. Unbelievable. They are one step away from cave men – okay, you’re right, half a step.  Well, this isn’t a story about my hubby; I know his bark is worse than his bite.  The telling part of the story is my cousin’s answer.  He said, “I can’t do that. There’s someone else involved, and she would throw me out the window. That tells me that he knows how important this is to her.  He’s just wired so he can’t go down without having a fight.

COMPLAINING DOES NOT EQUAL POWER
Meg doesn’t understand how much power she has in her relationship, and Alfred doesn’t realize his power either.   She sees his complaining as the power to take her cat away. He sees his complaining as his desperate, last, overtime attempt at a touchdown—could win, but probably won’t.
 
The truth is that pets are a pain in the neck. They are an interruption. They wake you at 4am. They miss the litter box. They scratch something. They also love you, make you laugh, keep you company, make you laugh, give you responsibility, but not too much, and of course, make you laugh.
 
Also, I still think it’s good to practice adjusting to changes in your life. It’s like emotional calisthenics.

LESSONS FOR US ALL
Suggestion #1: Don’t buy pets and art for someone else.
Suggestion #2: Don’t prejudge what should happen.  Give each of you time and space to figure out how you feel. 

HE DIDN’T HAVE TO GROUSE; THEY BOTH AGREED.
In Meg and Alfred’s case, Meg decided she didn’t want the cat in her house even though she loved the cat.  It didn’t fit into her lifestyle.  She just didn’t want to hurt her grandkid’s feelings.  Meg was smart enough to give herself time to think it through. When she subtracted out the emotion, she and her hubby were in agreement. They simply have spent too much time and energy in making their nest their masterpiece to welcome another being into it for longer than the length of a successful party.

Does that make sense to you?  I’d love to hear your comments.

Follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/ImperfectSpouse

Split Second Timing to Relationship Success

 Did you ever notice that there is a split second before you respond to request or question —- from anyone, but I’m talking about being an imperfect spouse.

This is when I notice this split second:
1. When Nathan comes into my office and I’m deep in something — writing mostly.
2. When he comes into my office while I’m on the phone and sits down to wait to get my attention  interrupting my privacy— though there’s really nothing “private”.
3. Or he justs asks a question or makes a simple request.

There’s that moment when I decide whether to be annoyed or not. That sounds so rediculous and mean, but it’s true.  Earlier on in our marriage, I most often decided to be annoyed.  It’s so easy to be annoyed; men usually haven’t mastered the nuances of social behavior. At that time, I thought it was just my husband.  Since then, I have learned that that’s how men are. We women are so good at nuanced communication, that it is easy to be superior and smug.

Me being nasty, who would believe it today?  And really I’ve never been down right nasty–moe or less.  I’ve been angry to/at someone else. Somewhere I got the idea that my partner was supposed to weather all my moods–especially the bad ones.

Being nasty or incredibly ill-tempered, at least reminds of a story. It was in the time or our relationship that in any difference of opinion with Nathan, I knew I was always right. The story is very funny — now, but it wasn’t at the time.  We were driving from the east coast to the west coast. We were as far as Utah.  I was being grouchy and Nathan said, “You’re just hungry.”  I went ballistic.  I ranted about it was he was grouchy when hungry, not me and on and on blah blah blah. Oh my, how self-righteous I could be.  Well, Nathan didn’t answer me.  He was silent, but he was on a mission to find the closest open restaurant.  He found a diner.  We said little as we were seated, but there was this tension that was palpable.

Just picture the lions in the zoo, right before feeding time —pacing, circling, glaring.

Then we were served. I ate, and boom, bingo. The difference in my mood was so extreme that even I couldn’t miss it.  I was exactly like the lions after they devoured their meal—quiet, content, peaceful.

I guess I had to get used to him being right once in a while–only begrudgingly at first.  But now, I’ve settled in and I’m no longer surprised at how often he is right, but I am grateful, cause he still the stubbornest man I know — except for our sons (no surprise).

So back to the present.  I still feel this split second before I respond.  Now I’m a bit smarter.  Most of the time, I use that second to bring my niceness to the fore — I mean my respect for him, my love for him in my tone and attitude. My words are regular words, but my regard for him is clear. Honestly, it’s not always easy, but it’s definitely getting easier.

What’s amazing is the response from him. It took a while for it to surface as if he wasn’t sure if it was just a fluke. Nothing said, but the gentleness, the sweetness, the gratefulness, and happiness that he exhibits is impressive and it’s directed to me–and everyone in his life.  It has freed a courage in him. 

Dang, If I had known sooner that being right is not the goal.  It is about honoring myself, not defending myself and honoring him, not ‘teaching’  or ‘dissing’ (disrepecting) him.

Does that make sense to you?  I’d love to hear your comments.

Follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/ImperfectSpouse

Laugh your way to a Great Relationship

We had just finished dinner.  We were cleaning up.  Nathan was cutting the individual chocolate, chocolate chip, chocolate-icing bundt cakes in quarters for his whenever-he-feels-like-it snacks. They come in a clear, plastic, lidded container for 4.  It looked so nice and neat in the container that I said “You could leave in the the plastic container instead of putting it in the plastic bag where the remainder of his left overs lay lifeless and chocolate-smeared.” Even frozen in the freezer the bag gets pretty smeary. 

Here is Nathan’s response.  “Yes, they think they can marry you and then change you.” 

I burst out laughing.  Like I could change anything about that man. He is so much stronger-willed than I.  Without any effort at all, he is single mindedly who and what he wants to be at all times.  After forty-one years of marriage and mostly a great relationship, I speak with authority.  I certainly have done my best to “fix” him, not that he wasn’t a wonderful man already. But who’s the man that couldn’t benefit from just a little bit of tweaking. 

It was somewhere around year 20-25 that I just gave up.  I had tried everything, yelling, screaming, crying, ignoring, pleading, sneering.  All I got was frustration.

Giving up was really my salvation.  I started ignoring what I didn’t like and emphasizing — and praising — was I did like. And Voila’, we were both happier — and happier with each other. 

So by now, when he gives me the “She wants to change me” routine, I always laugh. Cause it really is a big joke.  But I also notice that this must be something that is important to him.  It doesn’t make sense that it is, but it doesn’t have to make sense to me as long as it does to him.  So I luagh at the joke and move on. I don’t eat those things anyway.

Does that mirror your experience or do you have a different experience? Let me know your secret to a great relationship.

Follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/ImperfectSpouse

I have to defend myself. Do I?

 I was advising a woman about the difficulties that she was having in her relationship, and she said that she gets into an argument with he boyfriend and then ‘she has to defend herself.’

Hey, I have an idea. Don’t defend yourself.  Really.  If he says that your are being emotional.

Say, “Yes, I’m being emotional.  That doesn’t change the fact that ………” 

There is no reason to defend yourself. Why feel guilty about being yourself? Just work at being your best self. 

When I stopped defending myself; our arguments really got to be less and less. Nathan would say I was very concerned about how we looked when we went out.  I finally got smart and said, “Yes, you are right.”  That’s the end of the argument.  He either honored that part of me or he didn’t– sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t.

The other side of that is he says, “Well, I don’t think about about how I look sometimes.”  He didn’t defend himself. So I either honor that that is the way he is or I don’t __ sometimes I do  and sometimes I don’t.

It’s not a perfect world, but the tension about our being perfect and honoring the other’s wishes perfectly is gone. We are who we are.  We do our best and laugh about the rest.

 

A Split Second to Relationship Success

Did you ever notice that there is a split second before you respond to request or question —- from anyone, but I’m talking about being an imperfect spouse.

This is when I notice this split second:
1. When Nathan comes into my office and I’m deep in something — writing mostly.
2. When he comes into my office while I’m on the phone and sits down to wait to get my
attention,   interrupting my privacy— though there’s really nothing “private”.
3. Or he justs asks a question or makes a simple request.

There’s that moment when I decide whether to be annoyed or not. That sounds so rediculous and mean, but it’s true.  Earlier on, I most often decided to be annoyed. 

It’s so easy to be annoyed; men usually haven’t mastered the nuances of social behavior. At that time, I thought it was just my husband.  Since then, I have learned that that’s how men are. We women are so good at this, that it is easy to be superior and smug.

Me, nasty, who would believe it today.  And really I’ve never been nasty to anyone else, Well, of course, I’ve been angry at someone else.  it’s happened, but I’m pretty patient as long as I’m not worried about somethng.  However,somewhere I got the idea that my partner was supposed to weather my many moods.

I have to tell you a story that comes to mind. It’s very funny now, but it wasn’t at the time.  We were driving from the east coast to the west coast. We were as far as Utah.  I was being grouchy. I didn’t know why, but that’s how I felt.  Nathan said, “You’re just hungry.”  Well, I went ballistic.  I ranted about it was he was grouchy when he was hungry and on and on blah blah blah. Oh my, how self-righteous I could be.  

Nathan didn’t answer me.  He was silent, but he was on a mission to find the closest open restaurant.  He found a diner.  We said little as we were seated, but there was this tension that was palpable. Just picture the lions in the zoo, right before feeding time —pacing, circling, glaring.

Then we were served. we ate, more important, I ate.  The difference in my mood was so extreme that even I couldn’t miss it.  I was exactly like the lions after they devoured their meal—quiet, content, peaceful.  I even laughed and made fun of myself. The difference that I could feel in my body was amazing.  I guess I really was hungry.

I guess I had to get used to him being right once in a while–only begrudgingly at first.  But now, I’ve settled in and I’m no longer surprised at how often he is right, but I am grateful that he is right occasionally, because he is still the stubbornest man I know — except for our sons (no surprise).  So it’s a good thing that he’s right once in a while when he’s being stubborn. (Did I mention how a good sense of humor can strenghten a marriage.

So back to the present.  I still feel this split second before I respond.  Now I’m a bit smarter.  Most of the time, I use that second to bring my niceness to the fore — I mean my respect for him, my love for him is in my tone and attitude. My words are regular words, but my regard for him is clear. Honestly, it’s not always easy, but it’s definitely getting easier.

What’s amazing is the response from him. It took a while for it to surface as if he wasn’t sure if it was just a fluke. Nothing said, but the gentleness, the sweetness, the gratefulness, and happiness that he exhibits is impressive and it’s directed to me, first –and then everyone in his life.  It has freed a courage in him. 

Dang, If I had known sooner that being right is not the goal.  It is about honoring myself, not defending myself and honoring him, not ‘teaching’  or ‘dissing’ (disrepecting) him.

i pay attention to those split seconds now. If you try it out, write me and let me know your experiences.  I invite you to follow me on  http://twitter.com/ImperfectSpouse

 
 
 

 


You Can’t Change Me — Nay nay nay nay nay nay.

4/24/09

Be prepared to laugh, because this is funny.

We had just finished dinner.  We were cleaning up.  Nathan was putting away some things he had bought at Trader Joe’s. He was cutting the individual chocolate, chocolate chip, chocolate icing bundt cakes in quarters for his whenever-he-feels-like-it snacks. They come in a clear, plastic, lidded container for 4.  It looked so nice and neat in the container that I said “You could leave in the the plastic container instead of putting it in the plastic bag where the remainder of his left overs lay lifeless and chocolate-smeared.” Even frozen in the freezer the bag gets pretty chocolatey. 

Here is Nathan’s response.  “Yes, they think they can marry you and then change you.” 

I burst out laughing.  Like I could change anything about that man. He is so much stronger-willed than I.  Without any effort at all, he is single mindedly who and what he wants to be at all times.  After forty-one years of marriage, I speak with authority.  I certainly have done my best to “fix” him, not that he wasn’t a wonderful man already. But who’s the man that couldn’t benefit from just a little bit of tweaking. 

It was somewhere around year 20-25 that I just gave up.  I had tried everything, yelling, screaming, crying, ignoring, pleading, sneering.  All I got was frustrated.

Giving up was really my salvation.  I started ignoring what I didn’t like and emphasizing — and praising — was I did like. And Voila’, we were both happier — and happier with each other. 

So by now, when he gives me the “She wants to change me” routine, I always laugh. Cause it really is a big joke.  But I also notice that this must be something that is important to him.  It doesn’t make sense that it is, but it doesn’t have to make sense to me as long as it does to him.   I just laugh at the joke and move on. I don’t eat those things anyway.

Introducing Merle Singer : “The Imperfect Spouse”

Merle Singer, M.S. is Chief Strategist of and a content contributor to “Making Love Simply Divine,” a comprehensive program dedicated to helping you create and nurture highly successful, deeply satisfying relationships in and out of the bedroom.

She and her first and only husband Nathan celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary in September 2008.

Together Merle and Nathan have owned highly successful pharmacy businesses and real-estate holdings on the East and West Coasts.

Today, Merle is known as “The Imperfect Spouse,” and uses her lifetime of successful relationship experience to teach individuals and couples how to deal with and embrace “the magic of differences” in ways that contribute to the longevity of deeply satisfying relationships.

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