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Archive for the ‘Loss of Intimacy’ Category

In Good Times As In Bad

It’s easy to be good to your partner when things are going well. When we’re happy, isn’t it easy to treat everyone around you well? Our partner is (hopefully) the closest person to us in the world. So he or she knows when something is wrong even before we tell them. They know our patterns, our customary behaviors, so they are perhaps best able to spot an anomaly.

Because of that closeness and familiarity, however, our partner is the person we are most likely to vent our frustrations onto. We sometimes call this “displaced aggression”. Think about it, your boss gives you a tough talking-to, you lose a major account, your car needs an expensive repair, the air conditioner or heater just went out, etc. Not knowing you personally, we can’t say for sure what could go wrong in your own world, but just imagine: It could be the worst day ever.

You can’t take it out on your boss, or most authority figures around us, now can we? In most cases, we wager not. So you return to the sanctity of your own home, and your partner greets you with a smile. Though instead of giving him or her the opportunity to talk with you, to help you cope, or to at least lend a sympathetic ear, you unload on them. You take all the frustration you feel toward your boss, the mechanic, the cop who pulled you over, the customer who dropped you, and so forth, and you direct all that energy toward your partner – who is ironically only wanting to help.

This is a common occurrence for many people, and if it sounds familiar, you have an opportunity before you. We challenge you to learn something new, to recognize the impact you have, through your words, your actions, your entire interaction with someone else, and to find the opportunity for intimacy in the challenges couples face. Clearly, this is one of those situations where it works best when both people have a high level of commitment. However, you might be surprised to learn just how readily people can be seduced into a more powerful state of mind, indeed, a more intimate state, by someone willing to leverage their energy, their power, their seductiveness, to lead them.

Recently we worked with a client complaining of this very scenario – her husband was frequently irritable and when something went wrong with his work day, it was her fault. As soon as they both got home from work, he took out his anger and frustration on her and the kids. She asked, “If I want him to act differently, why are you saying that I have to change?” This is a common complaint, so it wasn’t the first time we heard it, nor will it likely be the last. If you have not acted with power and precision before, it might seem strange that as part of a system, when we change, the rest of the system must as well – if only to maintain equilibrium.

We lead by doing, by example. Like hypnosis, you go first, then your subject follows. Sure, you may have to develop a skill, but then, that’s why we’re here, now isn’t it?

As with other articles on this site, we want to restrict the length, so we won’t delve too deeply into how in the first part. First, we will focus on why you would want to do this and what impact it will have. Then in Part II, we will look at techniques – though we may offer a taste just to get you started. Actually, Keli wrote a really great article about a powerful strategy for doing just this (“5 Steps for Stopping a Fight and Reconnecting Instantly” in the May, 2013 archive). If you haven’t read it until today, you’ve been missing out.

Imagine the above scenario  – you have had one of the worst days ever. You get home and your partner is already there, cheerfully unaware that you have superimposed a target on his or her chest. He or she is doing that irritating thing that always gets on your nerves, but tonight, that’s increased by a factor of ten.

Reading you, your partner says something that immediately stops you in your tracks. You suddenly don’t feel the same way and begin to feel waves of appreciation, of love, for this amazing person who’s stuck with you through the challenges as well as the parties (and of course, sometimes parties can become a challenge, and vice versa!).

Your whole perception has changed.

How did that happen?

Maybe more importantly, now that the two of your have begun sorting out your days in a spirit of love and appreciation, what sort of trouble can the two of you get into? Does it sound enticing yet? Or at least more fun than one of the other possible outcomes?

We suggest that the above turn of events is not only possible, but really easy once you make it a habit. Like anything new, it may seem a little awkward at first, but with some practice, can really lead to a beautiful shift in your relationship. Choose your own metaphor here: You might think of it as interior redecorating, or a reengineering, or an overhaul, of your mind. One that leads to more pleasure and happiness.

And it all begins with your making  a decision – that the life of your relationship is more important than the moment of frustration. And deserves to be treated accordingly. As do YOU!

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Consider the first two sentences in a prior article:

Many of us have experienced the oddity of the emotional affair. We may have even been guilty of indulging in one.

We itilicized that word because our choice of predicates radically impacts how we feel about it. Language is powerful. Consider briefly how different you feel as you read the following sentences to yourself.

It is wrong to indulge in something decadent

It is good to soil yourself with something good.

Do you see the mixed messages in each? In English, we often consider predicates like indulge, decadent, forbidden, taboo, naughty, and so forth as exciting. In most cases, we might, putting our Puritan hat on, agree that they are wrong, wicked, negative (and let’s face it, the Puritans do have great hats!). Though these words radically affect how we feel about the subject of our sentence.

Sometimes a simple shift in word choice can make all the difference. In the example above, for instance, how do you feel about “indulging” in something? If you’re like many of us, an “indulgence” is something naughty, something you know you just shouldn’t do…but will be so wonderful that it’s worth just about any downside I could mention! This is not a new idea, as in the field of NLP we have been doing “submodalities” work for several decades. That is, carefully adjusting the aspects of our sensory perception to influence how we feel. Likewise, certain words have common submodalities or even anchored responses. Some call this an “emotional charge”, the effect the word has upon us as he hear or read it. Biologists and behaviorists are more apt to call it a conditioned response, but whatever you choose to call it, this is a powerful agent of influence that you can use in your own life, as well as in your daily communication with others.

How? Though the world around you will provide you with its own predicates, and if you pay attention when TV commercials come on, you might not that advertisers are hardly oblivious to what we’re talking about here, you can always shift the language in your own mind. That is, though I provide you with a frame of reference, leading your mind where I want it to go, you don’t have to follow through. Rather, as soon as you catch on, you can alter the language to suit your own purposes, instead of my own. While advertisers might prefer that you “indulge yourself” by purchasing their product, “luxuriating” in its wonder, and the moment the sticker shock occurs to you, they might urge you to consider, “aren’t you worth a little extravagance?”, you don’t have to leave it at that. Rather, you can challenge that statement or amend it. For instance, take the following three pitches and note the rephrasing or addition I’ve added in bold text:

Life is short. Have an affair. After all, stress, guilt, and broken hearts are what make a full, well-lived life, right?

Indulge yourself with a ______. (Now try substituting the word “indebt”, “impoverish”, or “punish” for the word “indulge.)

You deserve it! Treat yourself to a _______. Don’t you deserve it? Haven’t you been a bit of a shit lately? Go ahead, you deserve a little _____.

Just a couple of examples, but if you pay attention, examples crop up all around us. This is a pretty savvy world we live in, and a lot of smart people have made it their business to manipulate us. Whether they are after our buying power or our personal attention, others have a vested interest in influencing our decisions. How does this pertain to intimate relationships? Consider that the media is trying all the time to sell us a “better”, “more exotic”, “sexier” life. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is by playing on our own expectations of what we deserve. Sure, there will be exceptions for those among us with esteem issues, but by and large, don’t most of us feel that we deserve the best?

Let’s say you’ve put decades, years, or even months (it’s all relative, remember, and every great lifetime-spanning relationship began with a single date) into our relationship. We’ve learned to blend our life maps and create a Relationship Map™. We now have a relationship in which we can both be ourselves and be part of something larger than ourselves. In addition to always being you, yourself, you are now part of a…WE! You have someone to tell your silly stories, someone who will appreciate you, share intimate moments, to share, potentially, everything. Sounds wonderful until someone reframes that as “routine” or “boring”. Sound familiar? To someone in the business of selling exciting, new experiences, it might be quite a nuisance that you have this great relationship! Consider one of the examples above – Ashley Madison, who tried to convince us that “life being short” was some sort of good reason for “having an affair”. For someone selling that product, your stable, committed, strong relationship would be quite a nuisance indeed.

So as a smart consumer, to stick with the metaphor, you must make a decision. Is that product truly worth the price you would have to pay? And we’ll go ahead and state the obvious just to get it out of the way – an affair is not the answer if your relationship is waning. Ever. We can deal with that topic another time, but we mention it so our position on this topic is unambiguous. We view those “selling” an affair as being counter to our own interests. Simply put, purveyors of affairs are trying to steal something from you. Whether they’re running a web site to facilitate infidelity, actively trying to seduce you, or merely voicing support for the idea as you ask their opinion. Such people are trying to take something from you. There’s a litmus test that simplifies this and we offer it to you if you’re skeptical. When facing an action, a thought, anything at all, ask yourself: Is this bringing me closer to my partner or creating separation between us? You can ask it of anything, and if it’s innocuous, it will have no effect at all. For instance, if the question is your spending an hour organizing your prized collection of widgets, baseball cards, antique spoons, whatever the item might be, that hour might have no impact on your relationship at all. If not, and you’re sure of it, (your partner might not agree!), then it truly is harmless. Of course, if your partner needs some personal time, your choosing to organize your widgets might in fact bring you and your partner closer together. But let’s say the question is whether or not you will have a one night stand. NOW ask whether it will bring you and your partner closer together or create separation between you. Notice the difference? And if you are one of those people who thinks the deciding factor is whether or not your partner discovers your infidelity, you have, sad to say, much to learn.

Resolve today to focus on bringing your partner and yourself closer. Every action, every word, every decision, has the potential to affect this. Make it wisely and lovingly.

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Many of us have experienced the oddity of the emotional affair. We may have even been guilty of indulging in one. Consider that coworker with whom you often flirt, the barista at the coffee bar with whom you have “a regular thing” when you show up, always at about the same time, to ensure he/she is there, or any other common scenario where you enjoy a private pleasure with little guilt.

Let’s just jump right into a litmus test for the innocence or guilt that’s appropriate here: Would you feel awkward if your partner knew everything about these encounters? Not just the surface communication, the actual words you and that other person actually exchange. But also the way that person winks at you, the way you offer something extra (or they do you), the body language you both exhibit, and even the illicit thoughts you have about the exchange. Now how innocent do you feel?

“I never actually had sex with her!” That’s the argument we often hear when we confront an emotional affair that we observe. As though the only qualification of intimacy is actual intercourse. Intimacy comes in many forms, and for couples in a relationship, it’s wonderful to explore and to utilize as many of these forms with which they’re comfortable. But that also means that just because you haven’t slept with your coworker, the barista, or the clerk at the store, you may very well be soliciting some form of intimacy with them. They may actually be doing the same. If you indulge it, on some level you are being erotically intimate with them. If your “primary” intimate relationship is exclusive (and we admit that we are biased toward that), then you are cheating when you share erotic intimacy with someone other than your partner.

Learning from the above paragraph, assuming you have and honor your committed relationship, is powerful. Because even if you are not guilty of soliciting or conducting an emotional affair, if you would argue against the accusation on the basis of not having slept with the other person, you do need to begin learning what constitutes an emotional affair. The first step is learning that intimacy comes in many forms. We’ve known couples that are faithful to one another, yet one or both does not appreciate the complexity of intimacy – as though it strictly means sexual intercourse. This robs the relationship of precious experiences, support, and nurturing. Intimacy is the water on your flower garden. Without it, you can have the best soil, excellent fertilizer, but your flowers, your relationship, will not survive. People often require or desire different types and degrees of intimacy, hence some people not even understanding it. Likewise, someone who doesn’t value or notice intimacy may be oblivious to the fact that their coworker always brings them their coffee just perfectly as a sign of erotic affection. Such a person may unwittingly return that request for intimacy by reinforcing the behavior in an unprofessional manner.

Emotional affairs can, however, develop into something that even the most obtuse among us couldn’t miss. You and a coworker may go on a business trip together. Staying in different rooms doesn’t neutralize this – if you spend all your social time together, the sex is not the issue. You are potentially building an intimate relationship with everything but the sex. Sex is of course wonderful, but that’s clearly not the only great thing about an intimate relationship! If you’re in a committed, exclusive intimate relationship, your partner, not the coworker, waitress, barista, clerk or anyone else, should be the sole recipient of that intimacy. Period.

“What’s the harm, as long as you don’t sleep with these other people?” Plenty. Our intimate relationship is a complex matrix of shared experiences, adventures, challenges, and triumphs, hence our calling the product a Relationship Map™. When we divert experiences and shared jokes, tender words, even something as seemingly innocent as a flirtatious phrase, from our primary relationship, we weaken it. We instead begin building a Relationship Map™ with the other person. Now look at the long term effects of this. Do we really see any benefit to a partly-constructed relationship with a stranger? Do we at least get how stealing from our partner to build that partial construction is wrong? What about slowing the progress of building our own ideal relationship with our partner because we are taking those resources and giving them instead to someone else?

We’ve heard the argument that such emotional affairs can increase the “spice”of the primary relationship.

If you find you are lacking spice, try some habanero sauce.

You might, in that giddy moment, where you’re excited by the risk and damage you’re doing to your relationship, actually believe that you’re somehow benefiting your primary relationship. That’s an illusion. Further, the mature person with a balanced life learns that a relationship is at its best when you devote all your erotic love, all your intimate attention, to it. Diluting these by sharing them with others lessens the value that relationship can provide. But look at the other side of it – your emotional affairs are left with even less – so they can offer even less value. This generally winds up a confused mess, robbing us of time, energy, and life.

As we bring our lives into focus, we find that we not only enjoy more, but GET more. One intimate relationship. One career. One spirituality. One ___ (fill in the blank with whatever matters most to you). You will find that as you devote more to each single pursuit, you are able to get more from it.

The whole problem is often that we don’t commit enough to each thing that matters to us, just expecting it to run fine on “autopilot”. It won’t.

It’s up to you how much joy, how much success, how much love, how much intimacy, how much prosperity, you can receive in life. And it starts by deciding how much energy and attention you will give that one thing.

Commit to getting more from your relationship, and begin by committing to give your all to it. The only affairs you want are those you enjoy exclusively with your partner.

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Relationship Map™

In a prior discussion, Relationship Map™, we talked about Maps of the World, and you no doubt noticed that they are unique to the individual. You have your own such map, as do I, and so does your partner, your kids, and your boss.

So to recap for our present discussion, what is a Map of the World in the first place?

We use this term to explain how we as individuals make sense of the world around us. Think of it this way: Your friend wants to take you to lunch at a new restaurant. Neither of you has been there before, as it’s just opened. But you have an address. So you pull out a map (or the mapping app on your phone!) and scan how to best reach that address.

For the map to be useful, it should depict the streets you’ll encounter, other notable landmarks such as railroad tracks and bodies of water. That way, even as you plot the address, you can make note of the fact that you’ll turn left after you pass a bridge over a wide river, then turn right at the park. These landmarks will be represented by symbols, not actual, detailed depictions of each item. And while the landmarks and streets will hopefully be drawn to scale, they will of course not be same size and detail as the real items. That would make for one really large and hard to read map! If you’re using a smart phone, you would certainly go over your data plan – assuming the map was even useful.

NLP refers to maps in a very similar way. To make sense of the world around us, and to navigate within it, we create maps, or more simplistic and smaller, though to scale, representations of the outside world. We use these to make sense of what we see, what we experience, and to get from one place in our lives to another. We are avid map-makers, looking for ways to organize and simplify our experience to hopefully save steps, minimize trial-and-error, and achieve our goals more simply and with less struggle.

Such a map may include our beliefs, your values, experiences, generalizations about what we’ve learned, our prejudices, religious or spiritual convictions, our opinions, and so forth.

Think of it this way. Cartography is actually much more sophisticated today, but the earliest mapmakers followed a process much like the following:

 

  1. Notice the general shape of the river – document it on paper
  2. Notice the position of the mountains in relation to said river – document it, likewise
  3. Notice the forest to the west, and draw its location in relation to the river and mountains
  4. As you follow the river, notice where it forks, and how a particular rock formation would make a great landmark – then draw both into the emerging map
  5. As you begin planning your small town at that fork in the river, draw it in such a way that someone could find it with the map as a reference
  6. As the town develops, expand the map to include the streets you create, and the landmarks that fall within the boundaries – and draw these into the map. As you learn more about the landscape, mapmakers can add details to the map. Likewise, as you expand the town, adding streets, a city hall, parks, etc., they can draw in these additional details. The objective of the mapmaking process is to make it easy to find things without going overboard on the details. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, you want it to be as detailed as it needs to be – but no more so. If it gets too detailed, it threatens to become a life-size, exact picture of the landscape and the town. This is what Alfred Korzybski meant when he famously said, “The map is not the territory”. The point of a map is to be useful, not an actual-sized, exact photo of the landscape.

 

We use a similar process as we meet someone. Using the list of cartographer’s steps above as a model, two people create a map of their romantic relationship in a very similar way. Consider the following steps:

  1. Notice attractive person you would like to meet
  2. Introduce yourself and note signs of their corresponding interest – the first shared component of the Relationship Map™
  3. Identify your reason for being there – revealing your interests
  4. Other person reveals that they share your interest – the next component you two share – a second detail on your shared map
  5. Share with one another your additional interests, including taste in movies, music, books, artists, and find that you share several – additional components to add to a shared map
  6. The two of you agree that you already seem to have so much in common, and interest in learning more – then decide to meet again in a social setting. This might be a “date”.
  7. After having the opportunity to discuss your values, passions, history, spiritual and political views, among other things, you decide that you would like to continue learning about one another – your Relationship Map™ is developing still further.

Our Relationship Map™ begins to form even before our very first date. As soon as we begin interacting, and as we discover we have things in common, we are creating a shared map. So our Relationship Map™ actually begins as you strike up a conversation, before the two of you even agree to a first date.

The things that we have in common create the framework and foundation of the Relationship Map™. This includes shared likes, such as movies, art, music, and other interests, are the foundation and as we ask those questions, and as we answer these, we begin to build the map.

Each additional experience that you as a new couple find you share in common further enriches this Relationship Map™. Assuming the trend continues toward deepening the relationship, and in fairness, that doesn’t always happen, you may find that you are married to this person and have several children by the time you look up and notice it happening! When we live our lives on auto-pilot, rather than a life of our own design, we may wind up pleasantly surprised to find it worked out to our satisfaction. Just as you can purchase a lottery ticket and it may win you a large sum of money.

It’s also very likely that when taking a chance like that, exerting no influence or skill upon it, that that outcome is less than favorable.

Though you may also deliberately create each piece of the emerging map with your partner, and therefore get to savor each delicious step! Just as each of use is continually creating maps to make sense of the world in which we live, we are hopefully also updating those maps to ensure they remain accurate.

Consider a city map as an example. One that was published in 1970. At that time, the street layout may have been perfectly accurate, the location of the parks and bodies of water absolutely represented in the map. Though since then highways may have been created, new streets laid, the city itself may have grown, necessitating “growing” the map to keep pace. By 2013, that map may bear only a passing resemblance to the actual lay of the land. So trying to use it for navigation may be very challenging, and likely to wind up with a lost traveler.

In other words, it’s entirely possible to allow the natural map-making process to create your life map and Relationship Map™. By making you aware of the process, we encourage your actively participate in creating your map, and overall in designing your life, your love, and your happiness.

The same thing happens with life maps, Maps of the World. Perhaps the map, your generalizations, beliefs, and attitudes, may have served you very well for the first fifteen or so years of life. But once you started high school, certainly by the time you reach college, many of those attitudes may have been refined, updated, or entirely rejected, in favor of more useful attitudes and beliefs. Just as when drawing a map, your accuracy and usefulness are always up for questioning, so too are the personal maps we craft. As long as they serve us and make our lives easier, we tend to leave them intact. But when we encounter situations where they don’t serve us, or perhaps they even make things more difficult, we must go back and update them.

The key take-away is that whether we intend to or not, whether we actively participate or not, we as individuals are continually creating Maps of the World. And in the same way, from the very beginning of a relationship, throughout its life, we are continually creating  our Relationship Map™. Understanding key differences in our individual Maps of the World will provide clues to why our developing Relationship Map™ is challenged. And as we learn to become more skilled mapmakers, we can design and enjoy the life and the love relationship that we have always wanted.

Relationship Map™ is your guide to making not only the journey magnificent, but also the destination what you both desire.

Learn more about how we can introduce you to your Relationship Map™ and how you can take control, using it to create greater intimacy, more love, better communication and tenderness, and more fulfillment for your relationship. Starting now!

 

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Appreciation can be such an elusive thing. On one hand, we all know what the word means. In the context of a relationship, it refers to experiencing and showing gratitude for someone else, perhaps for something specific they do. Perhaps for something as global as being wonderful.

The most insidious road to losing that sense of appreciation is taking someone for granted. Let’s say that your partner went out of their way to do something nice for you. Something you really love and, yes, appreciate. Now what if you became so accustomed to that nice something that you came to take it for granted? It’s easy to lose that sense of gratitude and appreciation for someone doing something that they seemingly do all the time. How special is it when it happens every day?

Well, the answer to that question is a personal choice we all make, whether we notice or not. After all, lots of things happen every day that make our lives better. The Earth orbited around the sun in just the right way that sunrise came when expected. You woke up and found that you were yet again alive and at least relatively healthy. You took a deep breath and noticed that yet again, you could breathe. We realize that there will be mild exceptions to this. I hear an objection from someone in the back who must cart around an oxygen tank. “I don’t wake up able to breathe”, he says. Yet, though he requires assistance from that oxygen tank, he is breathing. I drove past a cemetery the other day, and it was filled with people who were much less capable of breath than he. So let’s not nitpick! We’ll bet that there are a dozen great things in your life that happen every single day without fail. Just as your partner may do the same nice thing for you every day.

The next step is deciding what all that means. If it’s just something to take for granted, because it will always be there, you allow yourself to be robbed in two ways. First, your lack of appreciation is something others can see clearly in you. Who is going to continue doing nice things for you if you never show appreciation? Meaning that at some point, the thing you take for granted may very well disappear. Now I hear the refrain of “Don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” Very true – we often don’t.

But there’s that second thing being stolen from you when you take things for granted. A huge component of a happy and prosperous life is feeling, deeply and personally, appreciation, gratitude for all the wonderful things in your life. That incredible feeling of fulfillment, joy, satisfaction, of overflowing with happiness, can vanish as well. It can be taken from you and all you have to do to invite it is to take that gift, that gesture, that nice thing someone does for you for granted.

If you instead take a moment and, just choosing one of the things in your life for which you are grateful, you have taken charge of this process, and you can amplify your emotion, making your joy and fulfillment rise like boiling water in a kettle. If you keep it up, your life will be overflowing with excitement and happiness. There’s also been a good amount written already about how gratitude is the doorway to achieve more. 

Now back to what your partner feels in all this. Consider two distinct scenarios in which your partner has yet again done something nice for you. Let’s assume that he or she is not the sort of person who does such things solely for the kudos and the thanks. Sure, that’s nice, and most of us like to hear those things. But let’s assume that’s not the only reason. Mainly because it probably isn’t the only reason!

Maybe the first time the good deed goes unnoticed, they brush it off. Maybe the second or third, the same, they just let it roll of their back, and keep putting the energy into their kindness. But think about it, would you continue to expend effort, giving something for which you receive no acknowledgement, no thank you, no gratitude, no sense of having done something good? For various reasons, primarily that you’re human, let’s guess that you won’t. Like most people, you will stop doing something for which you’re not being reinforced on at least some level. It even works with animals.

Here’s the tough part – it also works on your partner. If you fail to acknowledge and express true gratitude, you can expect that behavior to eventually stop. It might take a while, or it might happen immediately. But sooner or later, as would any of us, your partner will stop doing that nice thing for you. Behaviorists call this extinction.

Working with couples, some of the interesting things we’ve heard come both sides of that discussion. In one situation, the young man was a building contractor and the young lady a realtor. She developed the habit of putting a Twinkie in her husband’s lunch box every morning. She knew that, despite his being very macho and “manly” in his attitude, he had a tremendous sweet tooth. He’d once told her how he’d loved Twinkies since he was a kid. With a desire to please him, she began adding a Twinkie every day. He at first was delighted, and while he admitted to wanting to thank her and kiss her for it, he repressed the urge. It just wasn’t “manly” to act that way.

Nonetheless, he came to expect that Twinkie, and he found himself looking forward to lunch specifically because of it. Though he was taking it for granted, it didn’t seem like such a bad thing to him. After all, she must know that he appreciates, it, right?

Meanwhile, she had been giddy, knowing that she had tickled a fancy that only she knew about. She delighted in packing his lunch box every morning, fully aware of how happy it would likely make him. She imagined how he would light up and beam, thanking her profusely, covering her with kisses, insisting that he make her dinner, and dozens of other possible gestures of gratitude she was soon to enjoy. So far, he had been reserved, but sooner or later, that grateful, excited little boy she knew was there would jump out and thank her. He just had do! Right? (Are you beginning to spot the incorrect assumptions, inherent?)

After awhile, she began to wonder about it. He never said anything, never thanked her, never mentioned the Twinkie. She began to lose all the joy she’d gotten from packing it, thinking that perhaps she had misunderstood. Maybe his “man of few words” approach to communication simply prevented him from stating what was, to her, becoming increasingly obvious – he had outgrown the Twinkies and probably gave them to someone else or even threw them away. The little boy had grown up, and just didn’t perhaps have the heart to tell her.

She confided that this truly hurt her feelings. After all, she’d expressed this gesture out of love for him, as a woman who could appreciate the little boy in him that loved sweets. For him to ignore her gesture wasn’t, obviously, just a rejection of the “creme”-filled golden sponge cake with the 500 year shelf life. She swore that once she saw an expiration date message stamped on the box which read, “Best if used before the Year 3000”. I chided her that she was imagining things – everyone knew that those things actually never expire. I was quite sure that those Twinkies would be just as fresh as they ever were, all the way through to the mid-4000’s.

(By way of disclaimer, Chris likes Twinkies, despite not indulging in the. But there’s no denying that if you found a time machine, and you managed to go forward in time thousands of years after humanity dies off, you would still find Twinkies in their plastic packaging, their cardboard boxes long ago having rotted away. But once you opened the plastic, you’d find that the cakes were still edible! Or at least, as edible as they ever had been.)

But back to her feelings. His lack of appreciation told her that, whether he liked Twinkies anymore or not, he didn’t appreciate her gesture. The next step many of us take in our minds is the one she took next. She concluded that he didn’t actually appreciate her. 

So while she stopped packing Twinkies, with more than a bit of repressed resentment, she simultaneously felt the hurt within her growing.

This, by the way, is the part where most men become confused. All this is happening within her, and face it, with us explaining the process, kind of a play-by-play commentary, it makes sense, doesn’t it? Yet to a lot of men, taking the gesture for granted just doesn’t seem like a big deal. At least in the moment. And it’s that moment that counts.

So the “amazing, disappearing ‘good thing'” doesn’t just refer to gifts and treats like Twinkies. In reality, it refers to our relationship.

At the same time, to a lot of women, the lack of appreciation for her effort seems like not just a big deal, but a monumental one. After all, in the above example, she wasn’t just being rejected for her gesture. She herself was being rejected, taken for granted.

There are volumes we could explore about how to show appreciation to your partner. But let’s begin with this – look at any effort that person makes that is in any way out of the ordinary. Now narrow that list down by focusing in on the things that don’t directly benefit themselves. Maybe it’s a Twinkie in your lunch box. Maybe it’s taking the trash out without being asked. Maybe it’s being quiet when you take a nap, or rubbing your feet after a stressful day. Maybe it’s suggesting a “spa day” after a tough week. Whatever the gesture, recognize within it what it does for you. If they care about you, that is most likely a gesture they intend for you, to make your life better, to ease your stress, to make you smile, to make you feel loved. Assume positive intentions. This is your partner we’re talking about.

The irony is that the gesture might be breathtakingly impactful to you. Or it might be a subtle nicety. But it’s for you, and someone, out of their caring for you, is going to the effort to do it for you. How does it feel? Do you like it? Would you like it to continue?

If yes, use all your senses to say thank you until you find the right combination for your partner. Some of us want to hear “Thank you, that made me feel great!” Some of us want to be pulled close and kissed with gratitude. Some of us just want the grateful embrace, or to see a big smile as we are thanked. There is no universally wrong answer, and once you begin learning about NLP, you start to notice that there are some ways that will work better with your partner than others. There are some ways that, while not better overall, are indeed very much better for that person. And since the two of you have so much wrapped up in one another, what’s very much better for your partner, if you’re smart, will become very important to you.

Feel that gratitude. Show that gratitude. Experience that gratitude together. Connect with one another in a place of Gratitude. Let it fill your spirit and bless your relationship. Let it weave a sumptuous bond between you and your partner, holding you together even as the stresses of life and the people around you strive to pull you in separate directions.

Gratitude is one of the few gifts we can give simultaneously to one another and to ourselves. Give prodigiously!

 

 

 

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