Sunday, November 30, 2008

two years, six months and 25 days

Has the fire gone out?
According to a poll ( of 5000 couples reported in the Daily Mail Reporter the “the fire” goes out of a relationship in two years, six months and 25 days.

Reported symptoms:
• Husbands give up trying to be tidy and wives no longer make an effort to look nice for their spouse
• Couples are far less likely to share the TV remote – 75% of men and women said they wouldn’t relinquish the remote (even if asked nicely)
• 83% of couples surveyed indicated it was a problem to continue celebrating their wedding anniversary by the third year
• More than half of the couples interviewed felt undervalued by their partner
• 70% of men left socks, pants and dirty washing lying around the house (79% no longer bothered putting the lavatory seat down)
• 67% of women said they no longer made the effort to dress up and look nice for their spouse – 54% no longer bothered with make-up – 61% preferred tracksuit bottoms or pj’s while at home
• 83% married couples held hands while out during the first few months of marriage but only 38% after 10 years
• During the first year of marriage partners would cuddle more than 8 times a day – down to 5 or less times after 10 years of marriage
• 60% said they hadn’t been surprised with a romantic night out since marriage
Do any of these statistics hit close to home for you?

In the Threshold Model of Relationship I describe the phase called “Habituation”. Habituation explains the apparent decline of romance and passion that many couples experience. When a relationship is heavily weighted with “habituation”, there is little passion and intimacy stalls out. The law of nature doesn’t allow static to remain static – either decline or growth is the order. The same kind of energy that allowed the relationship in the beginning is essential for sustained growth and health.

Keeping Fire in the Relationship

People are attracted to one another by a form of magic which many call romance. Romance can be defined in many ways. To be romantic, one must be attentive to their partner. “Noticing” or paying attention is really important. Understanding the nature of early bonding between parent and child is really helpful when wanting to become more romantic. In the relationship of parent and child, the parents are attentive to the needs and wants of the child without asking the child what they want or need. In the same way, noticing or paying attention allows each partner to ‘know’ without being told what the other wants or needs.

Surprise and being Surprised
Surprise is a key ingredient in romance, but not the kind of surprise that disregards the partner’s wants and needs. Buying your wife a weed trimmer when she doesn’t enjoy mowing the yard IS NOT the kind of surprise I’m talking about. The surprises that allow your partner to know that you understand their dreams and wishes are the romantic ones.

A key part of romance is being surprised! Many couples have fallen into a pattern where one partner no longer feels creative enough to do the surprising and the other needs to know everything before it happens! Essentially the space between them has become very controlled (habituated) and unfriendly for surprises. The unimaginative partner’s creativity is stifled while the fearful partner needing to know everything in advance leaves no possibility for being surprised. These patterns will need to be thoughtfully changed for the process of romantic surprise to take place.

Practical Tips
• Send a unique gift at work – very simple, homemade, doesn’t need to be perfect
• Find out from partner’s family something they have always wanted? Surprise your partner!
• Go on Dates – Dating is not just for new relationships.

Share your story of how you keep the fire burning!
Suggestions are welcome and might just help someone keep their fire burning!

p.s. - Your suggestions will be compiled into a blog post for others to view.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Fullfilled or Just Happy?

“I just want to be happy!”

In the thirty plus years as a professional counselor working with couples, the most common response to the question, “What do you want?” is “I just want to be happy!” Digging deeper into the desire for happiness, it seems that happiness is a way of thinking about desired life outcomes as it “should be”. Unhappiness in the relationship was connected to unfilled ‘isms’ or beliefs like “should”, “must”, or “supposed to be”.

Beyond Survival

Often human beings are more concerned about survival than prospering. We find ourselves identifying what we need minimally to “be happy”. This kind of happiness could be simply described as experiencing life the way it “should be”. We look at the world around us and the people in it, the people who seem to be happy. And we identify what it will take for us to experience that happiness. Happiness looks a certain way and has its price tags. The “happiness” in survival mode is a comparative happiness. The dialogue that is connected may sound like this, “Well at least I don’t have to make their car payment!” Happiness in this way of thinking is connected with certain desired outcomes and can seem unattainable.

The cycle of beginnings and endings rob us…

The survival way of thinking certainly applies to our relationships. We notice the relationships of others and may idolize what seems to make people happy. Our sights are usually set unrealistically in this mindset. Women want to find the perfect man, the knight in shining armor who is funny and tender and understanding. Men want to find the woman who is youthful and beautiful, the mysterious damsel waiting to be discovered. When this does not seem to come easily, we quickly revert to the survivor mode, which leaves us with taking whatever comes our way or settling for what seems attainable. In short order we find this does not make us “happy” but rather frustrated and dejected, and in a cycle of beginnings and endings that rob us emotionally.

A Rich and Vibrant Relationship = Fulfillment!

The idea of fulfillment is in stark contrast to the idea of happiness in the survival mode. Fulfillment is an acceptance of what is. Fulfillment is not possible if one is always concerned about what is missing or “wrong”. Fulfillment looks to the potential and possibility of a relationship. This kind of happiness fosters growth and celebrates the unique characteristics that can make for a rich and vibrant relationship. Fulfillment is the mindset of those who wish to prosper in relationships. The beginning of prosperity in a relationship comes from acceptance of what is.

What Would You Choose?

If you focus on what “is not” or missing, then quickly you become unhappy and then only make the happiness of survival your goal. To be aware of what is working, what is valuable in yourself and your partner points you to the fulfilling engagement of two individuals committed to prospering in all life areas. The potential of this latter kind of happiness is unbounded. What kind of relationship would you choose to create?

Action Step!

What do think are the top 5 features of a Fulfilled Relationship!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving 2008

This Thanksgiving Holiday is a time for thankfulness which I like to describe as “being full of thanks”. Gratitude or appreciation is the key element in a relationship filled with passion and intimacy. David Meyers, author of “The Pursuit of Happiness”, stated, “Satisfaction isn’t so much getting what you want as wanting what you have.” Take just a few minutes during this holiday to share with the love(s) of your life those specific things that they bring to you that makes your life full. Happy Thanksgiving!!! Russ

Friday, November 21, 2008

A “Here and Now” Relationship!

One reader asked, “Is the ‘here and now’ creation between two individuals …. the same as a couple being equally yoked?” (“Living Lessons” November 2008”)

The foundation or structure
I believe that both of the concepts are vital to the creation of the ultimate relationship. However they are different. The concept of “equally yoked” speaks to the structure of a relationship while “here and now” describes the process that occurs within a relationship. The structure of the relationship promotes certain processes to occur, which in turn allows outcomes to be gained for both partners. Being equally yoked within the Judeo-Christian teaching about marriage refers to having shared spiritual beliefs. I would like to expand “equally yoked” to mean “shared core values” which I believe are essential to the structure of a fulfilling partnership.

Be Authentic
Core values remain the constant while preferences, tastes, interests and even personalities may change over a period of time. Author, Melissa Darnay said, “you can change a person’s socks, you can change their hair cut, but you can’t change their core values… or yours”. Shared core values allow a couple to make the various adjustments required by life in such a way that their relationship remains vital and exciting. These core values also allow each partner to be their authentic selves. Often having shared spiritual belief is interpreted by most as ‘shared or similar beliefs about something, ideas, or ‘God’, whereas shared core values are personal commitments which each partner actively incorporates into their actions, words and thoughts. One of my core values is personal growth. This core value fosters ongoing improvement and learning. This is applicable in all areas of my life, which includes my relationships. Without the value of personal growth, my relationship will become flat, stale and mediocre. Having this core value allows for the ‘here and now’ aspect of relationship. This is the place for intimacy and passion.

Remember the passion of new love? In this special experience each partner is in a place of growth and discovery (a core value) which fires and fuels great passion (here and now) and growing intimacy (outcome or results).

It takes more than common beliefs
It is extremely important that each partner be true to their core values. When one fails to do so, they become ‘unequally yoked’. Passion and intimacy fade and affection erodes into complacency and mediocrity. The resulting process of being in ‘here and now’ fades and is replaced by another, ‘then and there’. This place focuses on what was and what might be. ‘Here and now’ is being conscious and intentional while ‘then and there’ becomes the default where we live our unconscious relationship. ‘Then and there’ is controlled by guilt, shame, dread, anxiety and fear. Passion and intimacy fail to prosper in this environment. Couples may have shared beliefs about ‘things’ but not have an active commitment to those ‘things’. They would be considered to be ‘equally yoked’, but yet unfulfilled. They have a commitment based on beliefs about something, not beliefs in something – an expression of empty love.

Consummate love is comprised of commitment, passion and growing intimacy!

Action Steps –
• What are your core values – those values which guide your actions, thoughts and words?
• How do you express each of these values in your life? Work? Relationship?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Relationships are Living Legacies! Is Yours?

Living Lessons

Recently, I asked two gentlemen if they could identify a couple whose relationship represented what they believed to be a quality relationship. Both seemed to be at a loss. Later that same day I asked another acquaintance the same question, and she immediately responded with a couple’s name. These responses, a very limited sample, support the view that fewer than 5% of our population are in what would be called a quality relationship.

Additional questions revealed that the identified couple was an inspiration to others, providing a living model of a quality relationship. The power of a living lesson is so valuable! It was very interesting to experience the smile and increased animation as this woman described the couple.

A Here and Now Creation

Creating a quality relationship brings not only fulfillment to one’s life; it brings hope and encouragement to those who come in contact with such a beautiful creation. A quality relationship isn’t static, but a ‘here and now’ creation between two individuals that are intentionally experiencing the essence of one another moment by moment.

The quality relationship you create brings great hope not only to you and your partner, but teaches others how they can have such a generative relationship. Living the lesson is so powerful. Our words are so often presented as advice, but rarely help individuals move towards a more fulfilled life. Thousands of advice givers share their thoughts and ideas about relationships which pales in the light of a living lesson of a ‘here and now’ relationship.

The Legacy of a Quality Relationship

Living a quality relationship is one of the greatest legacies that you leave for those you love. This is a true gift that gives a model of how to live such a relationship to those that are in your sphere of influence. This gift will empower others to teach and share your life lessons. The gifts of action and deeds outlive our words and material gifts

Call to Action:

Share a story or description of a quality relationship that has made a positive impact in your life.

Is Your Relationship Mediocre?

Mediocre Relationships just Happen?
Often people give more attention and care to the purchase of their homes and autos than their life relationship. Many enter a lifelong relationship believing that the intensity and passion that sparked the beginning of relationship is everlasting and will overcome all challenges. Little thought is given to the cost and ongoing input required to maintain the relationship.
Life happens even to those that know the thrill and rush of new love! Events such as the birth of a child, change in finances, career moves, and relocation can factor in to affect the quality of a relationship. As life happens, the relationship can take on a flatness or mediocrity that is often accepted as normal. Typically, it is believed that love that has lost its passion and can’t be recovered.

Fixing a Flat… Relationship!
When a relationship seems to have become flat, a lot of energy may be given to recover the passion or‘re-ignite’ the fire. The recovery attempts are usually focused on the relationship and ways to fix the relationship. The problem is seen as an external problem to be repaired or resolved. Partners may place blame for the failing relationship on situations, others, themselves or their partner. Blaming contributes nothing to the intended goal. It is a sign of withdrawal of partners from one another. When their efforts fail, the energy that was once expressed as passion and excitement in the relationship is re-directed into work, child-rearing, hobbies, etc. Success of the relationship becomes evaluated in the performance of children, acquisition of material things such as home and possession or achieving prestige. Rather than continuing the efforts to repair or restore the relationship, the couple begins to accept mediocrity as the inevitable.

Passion Fruit!
Quality relationships are created! The passionate and juicy relationship that brought two people together seemed to just happen – it was effortless! The effortlessness of the early stage of the relationship didn’t seem like work, where as recovering the mediocre one seems impossible. They perceive the required effort as overwhelming! Einstein suggested once, that the way one sees a problem is the problem. The problems don’t lie with another person, circumstances or situations. The way the relationship is perceived – as a separate entity - becomes the challenge to improvement. A relationship is the space between two individuals. Space by definition isn’t an entity or thing. The relationship or space that exists between two separate individuals is filled with the energy both partners bring to it.

Your Most Important Investment
Your primary love relationship is the most important investment you will ever make. True wealth is found in valuing and nurturing your human potential and is expressed by your capacity to relate to and nurture those that are closest to you! Valuing and nurturing a quality relationship begins with you. It begins with a commitment to personal growth and understanding that a relationship or the space existing between two people is a reflection of the quality of energy that each brings to that space. What kind of energy do you bring to the space between you and your partner? Friends? Children? The effort you put into creating a quality relationship is an investment that will pay dividends throughout your lifetime and the lives of those you encounter.

Call to action
1. Describe what you believe are the typical beliefs that people have when the “fire” seems to have gone out of a relationship?
2. Share a story of a couple that has recovered passion in their relationship.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Creating the Relationship of Your Dreams

Creating the Relationship of Your Dreams
The intent of this blog is to create a teaching/learning community for those of you who want to expand your awareness and make a positive difference in your primary love relationship. Your primary love relationship is a mirror or hologram of how you interface with the rest of the world. Quality relationships allow the fullest expression of your positive energy and creativity. When we are successful in relationships we can expect to experience success in all areas of our lives. This success is experienced as appreciation, joy and abundance, the relationship of your Dreams!

Mediocre Relationships just happen. Quality Relationships are created.
Your primary love relationship is the most important investment you will ever make. Many lives are spent attempting to fix that which is broken on the inside through the pursuit of wealth, power and prestige. True wealth is found in valuing and nurturing your human potential and is expressed by your capacity to relate to and nurture those that are closest to you! Few people on their death bed ever said, “I wish I had worked more”, or “I wish I had earned more”. Most talk of those that they have loved and desire their presence in their parting moments. The effort you put into creating a quality relationship is an investment that will pay dividends throughout your lifetime.

What is a Quality Relationship?
It has been estimated that fewer than 5% of couples in western civilization enjoy a quality relationship. Even though they can appear very different from couple to couple, quality relationships have common elements. A quality relationship allows two individuals to grow and express their full potential as human beings. A quality relationship is a statement of the character of each of the partners. A quality relationship has partners that share core values. A quality relationship has a clear purpose or mission.

Your Help is Needed!
If fewer than 5% of our population report living in a quality relationship, then we are in a relationship crisis as well as an economic crisis! This Blog isn’t just for those that believe their relationship is a mess, but for those that have that exceptional relationship to share their wisdom and experience. There are thousands giving and writing advice about relationship – getting past pain, having better sex, how to get a first date and the list goes on. Your questions, thoughts and opinions are vital to the purpose of this Blog – Creating a Quality Relationship.

Post your idea or thoughts that define a Quality Relationship!

Quality Relationships are Fundamental to Economic Prosperity!
We are currently in the midst of the most expensive political campaign our country has ever witnessed. Political candidates promising change have spent millions upon millions of dollars to convince you to pull the lever for them. True change does not come from the spending of dollars, but from sincere efforts of individuals who invest themselves for the greater good. In the same way, quality relationships are created through the intentional efforts of men and women who invest the best of themselves in their primary relationship. How important is it that more than 5% of couples have the access and information to create quality relationships? It is extremely important. The cost of mediocre or failed relationships is counted in many ways. One cost is the number of children and youth that are doing life without the opportunity to know personal responsibility. These costs are multiplied many times over in the exorbitant costs of habilitation and rehabilitation of our youth. The cost of our social welfare and correctional institutions can be directly related to lack of quality primary relationships in our culture.

Quality relationships allow the nurturance and development to full potential of all family members. Quality relationships contribute to the greater good of the larger community. Quality relationships are fundamental to our prosperity!

Call to Action!
1. Set a goal of creating quality relationships in each of your life areas, beginning with those closest to you! Start where you are instead of waiting to find the ‘perfect partner’ or ‘situation’.
2. Become a promoter of quality relationship every where you go! Teach and promote quality relationships. Speak up! Let others know how important quality relationships are!
3. Do what you do best – share your wisdom; share your resources; share your gifts.
4. Post your definition of a Quality Relationship!

Russ Hardesty Nov 4, 2008

Reader Comments

"...My spouse and I have been married for 32 years and I've experienced our relationship from giggly in bed, to passionate in bed, to mad in bed to "sleeping" in bed...As we grow older the intimacy definition changes for me. Intimacy also for me is just sitting quietly, or driving for miles quietly or walking just hearing our footsteps crunch the leaves, holding hands. My usual struggle in intimacy is in my head - I have to intentionally stop my daily to do list, my past and future stuff and live in the present moment..." Pam

it's ... smaller things to celebrate that create the real passion

“We have found that passion ebbs and flows but we set a goal for our relationship a number of years ago that is working for us. At least every six months we do something that will create a lifetime memory. For us, we love to travel, so it's been pretty easy to find something big to do that will create that lifetime memory, but sometimes it's the finding of smaller things to celebrate that create the real passion.” Steve Rae

What'll arouse passion more than the feeling of being forgiven?

“The "typical beliefs that people have when the “fire” seems to have gone out of a relationship" I believe are a) that you feel your partner should have changed or should not have changed and b) that you feel you should change or that you should not have changed.

Acceptance of yourself and your partner leads to forgiveness. What'll arouse passion more than the feeling of being forgiven?” Brian Massey

A word from Russ Hardesty

The realm of relationship is mysterious; filled with magic, surprise, excitement, passion, intimacy, loss, disappointment and creativity. I am fortunate to have a life partner who is at once a mirror, teacher, lover, nurturer, student and companion. In this place of mystery, I continue to grow into a mature, loving and free man. I welcome feedback, suggestions, and comments – which is a gift to me! Thanks for joining the expedition! Russ