THE CROCK-POT MARRIAGE: TASTY LOVE IS SLOW-COOKED

crock pot

“You Can’t Hurry Love” sang The Supremes in their 1966 hit, covered in 1982 by Phil Collins and in 1999 by the Dixie Chicks.  Love that’s instant is often short-lived, more lust than length.  To await the outcome of something not ready in a jiffy is the practice of relationship . . . love at its most tasty.  While many of us search out the searing heat of newness, turns out successful love is cooked in a crock-pot. 

That familiarity breeds attraction has been a theme celebrated for at least a century, from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion as inspiration for the Broadway hit musical My Fair Lady to Oscar-nominated Bridget Jones’ Diary.  Guys might not worry about big girl panties, but it’s not just plus-size gals who love the possibility that love conquers looks. 

Despite what mom said about a good personality and a great smile, it seems the pretty ones have a shapely leg up when it comes to finding a likewise gorgeous mate; in evolutionary terms it’s called “high mate value”.  Notwithstanding friends with benefits, turns out mate value increases the longer people spend time together before dating.  In other words, the more you get to know someone, the more attractive you find them. 

Turns out mom was right.  

It stands to reason that the perception of mate value might also increase once people are permanently paired, irrespective of the amount of time spent getting to know each other in a non-romantic way. 

Several factors may be key:

Realistic expectations might mean having few, if any, expectations at all.  Of course that means that long-term togetherness is best viewed as a box of chocolates; understanding that the twists, turns, and adventures of even one life are unpredictable that double goes for any couple.  Shared values can feed into the predictability that increases the more that’s known about each other.  An acquaintance’s behavior doesn’t carry the same weight as that of someone we’ve committed to, probably because the expectation of a friend’s behavior doesn’t matter as much even though the behaviors might be the same.  For example, when a friend gets drunk it may be humorous; when a mate does, not so much.

No one has a plan for change, even though change is on the short list of life’s certainties.  The story of the spouse who left when the other developed cancer is apocryphal but is only a segment of our fear that when we’ve grown older, rounder, or more wrinkled our mate value is lost.  But the more you know someone, really know someone, the less likely change is upending.  True as well is that knowing and planning require learning and practicing.  Despite a feeling of instant connection, relationship is, well, work.  Just when a couple feels the hard part’s behind them, then whammo change happens again; it’s not so much planning for particular changes (as if that were even possible) it’s having the ability to have a plan for change in general.  As difficult as it might be to achieve, couples who can reach consensus about a plan of action are couples who are successful at riding out change together. 

Communication is about more than talking and listening.  Communication that works is an active process that builds on itself over time.  Attentiveness, thought, understanding, and active involvement are marks of partners who continue to know each other.  Think of friends you’ve had, male or female, to whom you felt comfortable talking about anything.  Expectation, judgment, and vulnerability seem to increase with romantic closeness when the truth is that you may already have trusted a friend with lots of the same things.  The effort each of us puts into “communicating” seem inversely proportional to time:  listening and talking to new mates is more intense than listening and talking to new friends; while the same behaviors are more intense with older friendships than with long-standing mates.

Each partner’s vulnerability to the other is possibly the most telling feature of mates’ mutual value.  Belief in the relationship incorporates the needs for trust and safety we all have.  With vulnerability (and the acceptance of it) there are no surprises, no hidden agendas, and not much left unsaid.  Respect is a key element of mutual vulnerability; knowing that your partner – or your friend — will not seek to harm you intentionally.  Both have a serious effect on self-esteem and our beliefs about our place in the future of others.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice who specializes working with couples.  Cooking with a crock-pot every chance they get, she and husband David have been married for 29 years. Together with their 2 hooligan cats, the Skinners live in Colorado where they teach Couple Communication Workshops.

Copyright, 2015  Being Heard, LLC

GENGHIS KHAN GOT A DIVORCE

genghis Khan

It’s not that I don’t love you, Gengy.  I do.  But things just aren’t the same.

Used to be we’d talk ’til the yaks came home.  We don’t talk like that anymore.  Actually, we don’t talk at all.  You’re distant and quiet, even with the kids.  You’re never home at dinnertime and I can’t remember the last time we had a date night.

Other gals say it’s the same with them.  You and your horde come home after conquering and slaughtering and a year’s gone by and you act like some bigshot who’s gonna take over where you left off, but guess what? everybody’s been used to fending without you. Know what else? we’ve done pretty good, too.

Whoa, Gengy; don’t get your temper up!  You’re such a control freak, but you’re not gonna bully me anymore.  I love you, I do. But I can’t — no, I won’t — keep taking it.  You come off as so studly but I’m tired of sleeping by myself while you get wasted on that fermented crap.  I’m really sick of all those concubines hanging off you.  And I’m tired of entertaining all those brutes you call generals.  Gengy, I’m just. plain. tired.

I’m done.  I mean it this time.

Your moods don’t bother me anymore.  I don’t give an ox’s ass about all that blood on your hands and those nightmares you have.  Man up, Genghis!  It’s a brutal world out there for all of us; but the Great Khan wants us to feel sorry for him like nobody else matters.

The saying is “love conquers all”, not “Genghis Khan conquers all.”  Try thinking about somebody else besides yourself for a change!

It’s beyond me how you can get one end of your empire to communicate with the other but you’re in the dark when it comes to communicating with me.  What do I want?  I’ll tell you:  I want you to tell me dinner was good.  That I look nice.  Tell me about your day; you know, like how’d it go out on the steppes. Some funny story about one of your generals.  Like that.

Yeah, yeah, I know all about all the great stuff you do.  You keep telling me, don’t you?  You don’t listen, not to anybody.  You do what you want, you get what you want, and thousands of people get hurt.  If you put half as much effort into us as you do into work, we wouldn’t be so far apart.

Look, Gengy, we’ve been together a long time, since we were 12. Pretty good for an arranged marriage, huh?  Remember our first night — all those stars! the music of shuffling ponies.  And you couldn’t . . . well, that’s ancient history.  After all, you were only twelve.

You once said you’d give me the known world but I didn’t think it meant you’d be gone all the time.  It’s like you’re trying to prove something with all this conquering.  And being so fearsome; what’s that about?  Sometimes you even scare me.  You don’t have to be a therapist to see what having a tyrant for a father did to you. And the way you treat me? Just like your father treated your mother.  She took it for all those years, but I don’t have to.

I’m sorry; bringing your mother into it, that was a low blow.

Listen.  Mongolia doesn’t feel like home anymore.  You’re never around and when you are you’re all inside your head about who you and the boys are going to pillage next.  The kids don’t need me; they’re all grown and scattered to the winds.  You don’t need me, and I’m tired of doing this marriage by myself.  I’ve got to think about me for a change.  I’ve always wanted to travel —  maybe China; I hear their silks are to die for.

Don’t act surprised, Gengy.  We’ve both known this was coming. As brutal as you are, you never laid a hand on me.  This is gonna sound strange, but you know what?  I almost wish you had.  At least that way you would’ve touched me.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist specializing in couples work, especially with those couples whose relationship is impacted by visible or invisible disability.  She lives in Colorado with her husband David (whose latest conquered territory is the garage) and their two pampered yak-ity cats, Petey and Lucy.  She and David hold a Couples Communication Workshop throughout the year.  Check it out all the Workshops offered @ www.coupleswhotalk.com

Copyright, 2015 Being Heard, LLC

CASTING A SPELL: EASIER THAN YOU THINK

Casting a spell is done by the lovers among us; no exorcism needed.   Anyone who’s had a broken heart knows words and potions don’t work anyway.  And, unless you’re a crazy cat lady, the likelihood of being under the spell of a lover’s words is far greater than being eID-100183804nchanted by a black cat.
Loving someone calls out parts of us untouched by anything else. Loving and being loved is the genesis of trust, fearlessness, safety, vulnerability.  Linking to another calls for courage, and hones our concept of “forever”.  Falling under love’s spell is the only time we’re wholly, nakedly, ourselves.
There’s no doubting there are parts of love’s enchantment most of us would choose to do without.  Being vulnerable, for instance.

It’s so scary that most partners would rather fight, go silent, resentfully acquiesce, or run away rather than connect.   We think that connecting with the one we love calls for us to “give ourselves over”, “lose” ourselves.  And that that person will, with malice aforethought, mistreat us.

Holding ourselves back from our partners, investing the bulk of our emotional energy in children, jobs, or pets may seem a safe way to cope.  It’s not.  Actions may seem to be reasonable when they’re really frantic, reactive, and irrational.  The result is disconnection.  It’s alone-ness, alright; one that’s soul deep.

Being by yourself and being in a relationship isn’t always unhealthy, though.  In fact, the bulk of who we are is lived individually, as it should be.  The relationship itself stays healthy when there is a communicated, mutual understanding of, and confidence in, the “us-ness” that bridges one to the other.

Successful relationships are overlapping, not pancaking.  A well-designed spell allows each partner to breathe.

Take John and Mary, for instance.  To him, being alone means time to decompress after work, diddling on the computer or watching the news.  For Mary it’s a long, hot, bubbly soak spent with a trashy novel, candles . . . and no kids.

Are we now too busy to spend time re-casting love’s spell?  Too dour to be delighted in loving and being loved?  So impersonal that we let our thumbs wirelessly communicate our needs?

Is casting a spell a lost art?

A passionate lover of the season of beauty and decay, Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist specializing in teaching couples how to be safe and vulnerable at the same time.  She lives in Colorado with her husband of 28 years, David, and their 2 hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy.  Black spirit cats Squeak and Winston Bean never felt safe on Halloween.
 
© 2014, Being Heard, LLC
Image courtesy of 9comeback at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 
 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING HAPPY

Funny couple

 

If you’re allergic to dogs, happiness is not a warm puppy.

Metaphors about puppies, or anything else, are potentially dangerous.  Even knowing where happiness — like any other emotion — occurs on the emotional spectrum doesn’t give the whole story. The only way to really know about someone else’s happiness is for you to ask and them to tell.

Thinking in deep and different ways about happiness isn’t easy.  Here are some thoughts to get you started:

 

–  Happiness has to withstand time, age like fine whiskey. Update your awareness: what made us happy then may not make us happy anymore.

–  Time and distance are sweeteners; I always love those I love when I’m away from them.  Be aware that both time and distance can be distorting while still sweet.

–  Remembering happiness transports us to a happier time; look at the popularity of oldies music, or school reunions.

–  Happiness can be a trickster.  Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder, usually brought to you by distorted reality.  We want happiness so much that remembering it can be larger than life.

–  The “gift giver” doesn’t have to be animate and neither does the gift, like what what we derive from picturing daybreak in our mind’s eye, or watching sunrise in the moment.

–  Giving happiness to someone else requires mindfulness and presence.   For example, active listening to what your child, friend, partner says, and being heard yourself are monumental gifts.

–  Happiness shows externally (an ear-to-ear smile) while its meaning remains internal.

–  Your happiness is unique to you; no one else has ever been happy in that precise way.

–  It’s personal; no one can tell you what makes you happy.  Letting someone decide for you can turn happiness into unhappiness and resentment.

–  It’s a singular moment in time, that’s the reason it stands out.

–  Happiness can be bittersweet; like remembering past happiness that is no longer ours.  The coin of happiness has another side; in some situations, there is no happy at all.

–  Happiness can’t exist in a vacuum; and it can’t start there, either.

–  Happiness is an active process; changing as we change, growing as we grow.

–  Happiness is dynamic: the act of giving brings as much happiness as receiving.  Happiness is an endless loop, where giving begets happiness that begets the receiver’s happiness that can lead to the receiver becoming the giver where each one is giving and receiving and so on and happily ever after.

Mostly, you need to know that your happy can never truly be anyone else’s.  Sharing words and thoughts and then listening and hearing each other, that’s the only way any of us ever really know what makes someone else happy.

Kathe Skinner is a Colorado-based Marriage & Family Therapist specializing in couples work, especially those for whom invisible disabiliy is a player in their relationship.  Lack of happiness and poor communication are the two biggest complaints that have couples seeking her help.  She knows all too well that there are times happiness seems to be hiding under a rock.  What brings her happiness?  Her husband David, their 2 kitties, Petey and Lucy, the people who trust her as their therapist, and lying on a pool float looking up at a clear blue sky.

Read more about her at www.beingheardnow.com

Kathe welcomes your comments and can be reached at 719.598.6232.

©2014, Being Heard LLC

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7 TRUTHS ABOUT COUPLES THERAPY

computer screen choosing loveJunk.

That’s the name I give to those reams of paper already printed on one side, fit only for recycling.  The remains of old binders of stuff from grad school account for this week’s batch of junk paper for my printer. Like a paper I’d written almost 20 years ago:  Assumptions, Approaches and Issues in Marital Therapy:  A Personal Definition.

Amazingly, what I believed then, minus the naïveté and lack of experience, is largely the passion and promise of what I believe today:

1.  Ease the pain.  Right off the bat, a therapist’s job is to give a couple hope about the future, no matter if it’s separately or together.  A therapist’s first role is to soothe heart hurt, restore faith, and normalize anger.  The hard work can wait for later.

2.  Children’s and pets’ behavior is about you.  Overstated, but you get the point:  Misbehavior, theirs or yours, is a symptom and not necessarily the cause.  When you want things better at your house, start by working on the big boys and leave the small fry alone.

3.  You’re driving the bus.   Where we go is yours to decide; my job is to help you get there.  A good travel agent doesn’t tell you where you want to go; you tell the agent.  Think of me in that way, gathering information then putting a package together that gets you on your way, lending a hand when problems along the way.

4.  I’m not immune to the issues you have.  Part of my skill is being able to tune in to your problems.  Although I’ve often been there, done that, I may see in your struggles things I have yet to resolve in my own life and relationship.  In the  that’s called counter-transference, and all therapists are touched by it.

5.  For each step back take 2 steps forward.  The family  system we grew up in, and how relationships worked within it, predict behavior in our relationship now.  Think of it as an individual version of “driving the bus.”  Called individuation or differentiation, couples therapy looks hard at each partner’s ability to separate from those automatic behaviors we learned about ourselves and relationships so long ago.  Remember that it takes two strong individuals to make a relationship work.

6.  Without Action, Knowledge is wasted.  Put another way, “So what’re you gonna do about it?”  The whole aim of coming to therapy is “behavior change” and not just “changing your mind.”  Those are things for me to know and you to learn.

7.  Crisis = Opportunity.  Going into marital therapy, or any kind of personal work, is an adventure whose outcome is largely unknown.  What I do know is that when things come to a head tremendous opportunity for growth exists when things burst.  Relationship is dynamic and as individual as each of you and the two of you together.

Hardest for me to learn has been that I can never want change more than my clients do.  You will  be (and ought to be) the trump card, driving force, bus driver, agent for change, mover and shaker.

What I know is that all of my skill, compassion, and knowledge will never be enough to right a boat when the passengers have jumped ship.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist, Coach, and Relationship Specialist who, for almost 20 years, has been in private practice along Colorado’s Front Range.  She has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis longer than most relationships she sees and specializes in working with couples where invisible disability is part of the relationship mix.  Kathe and  her husband, David, teach Couple Communication Workshops where participants get a peek at how this team manages a marriage where 2 very different personalities see things from 3 perspectives – and where class-goers learn to do the same.  Workshops are offered throughout the year.  Get the schedule and learn more at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com.

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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©2014, BeingHeard, LLC

IT TAKES TWO TO DO-SI-DO

cowboy boots red

Doin’ the do-si-do’s impossible to do by yourself. 

I spent lots of years hanging out with girlfriends or not hanging out at all, which was more likely to be true. Most times, none of us even had someone who filled in for love. I’m not ashamed to say there are times I would’ve settled – my need for affiliation was that great – at least for awhile.  Although I did draw the line at that Mafia guy.

Being un-paired suggested to me that who I was was unacceptable; someone whose standards, suggested Mom, were sometimes too high.  This time she was right.

The upshot was a 10-year marriage I never wanted and that didn’t work, anyway.

And when, post-divorce, I found someone to love, conundrums followed double-behavioral-messages and I was as heartbroken and needy as if I were one of those women who stand uncomfortably on the periphery of social situations.  How humiliating that, when I bought myself a dozen roses to make him jealous, he knew no one else had done that but me.  

If you haven’t been there, done that, and are newly-bummed by Valentine’s Day, here are some thoughts:

1.  Scoundrels are plentiful.  Scoundrels will always be scoundrels. Scoundrels become scoundrel-ier the more you like them.

2.  Singles gatherings are very sad.  While such encounters are billed as “fun”, they never are.  They’re too often a forum for people to tell their bad/sad story.  While good forums for social science researchers, mixers like this can suck the breath out you for weeks.

3.  Visit the zoo.  Animals who live in enclosures have other fish to fry so they’re not upset when your dump truck of emotions backs onto their turf.   Just don’t dump on their food.

4.  Develop a mental solidarity with women who become collectors of cats.  Every cat-loving woman I’ve ever met understands how this happens, and is comforted by knowing that homeless felines are plentiful if all else fails.  

5.  Diet only if you want to.  A hungry person is a grouchy person, not at all lovable.  By the same token, if you’re ashamed of evidence of those ice cream orgies, remember that a shamed person often lies.

6.  Going to a bar is noisy, phony, expensive, sometimes dangerous but often depressing, especially when your friend gets hit on and you don’t.  People sucking up the bar scene are generally alcoholic, shopping for a good cut of meat, or both.  

7.  At the first sign of abuse run.  Fast and far.  Never look back.  

8.  Everything you’ve ever heard about kissing frogs is true.  These days you really can get warts.

9.  While the world feels like Noah’s Arc. fact is that with the divorce rate at 50%, out there’s a pretty big pool of people rejected by someone else.  And they’re yours for the taking.

10.  A clean bill of health is as important as it was to have a passport in Nazi Germany.  The consequences are about the same, too.

Pairing up is about lots of things, many of which we have no control over, like the biological imperative to reproduce our species, and to protect what we create.   Humans are meant to affiliate; we’re social animals who rely on, and need, each other.  The herd is enormous – 7 billion and growing. 

The odds are in your favor.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Coach who’s been in private practice for the last 17 years.  She works especially with the invisibly disabled.  Kathe finds real-life adventures in Front Range Colorado, where she lives with husband David and their hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy.  Neither of them has square danced since they were in 6th grade.  Learn more about Kathe & David Skinner and the Couples Communication Workshops they teach at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com and be sure to keep visiting Kathe’s blog at ilikebeingsickanddisabled.com.  P.S.  Pass it along!

©2014, Being Heard, LLC

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HAVE SEX OR DO LAUNDRY?

bigstock-Blue-laundry-basket-isolated-o-48813821No brainer, right?  But for many women, it’s not as stupid a question as you’d think.

The 21st Century may see a socioeconomic shift in favor of women, e.g. more upper-level management positions, more business owners, greater control of wealth.

Success comes at a price; working harder for longer hours upsets the already teetering balance among personal, relationship, and family demands.  Another price?  Women are just as likely to experience heart disease as men.

For decades men have steadily increased the amount of time they put into housework and childcare.  Even so, the reality in most families where both partners work still reflects a scale that’s less than balanced.  And while the workforce is trending toward containing equal numbers of men and women, that increased role doesn’t usually reflect other, needed, social changes, like equal pay, daycare, maternity leave, or scheduling flexibility in attending to family needs (like staying home with a sick child).

Women as breadwinners are another phenomenon of the new century’s economic downturn.  That kind of role-shift between partners rocks a boat already sinking with the weight of household needs – who does what?  How long before hunting dust bunnies pales in comparison to hunting mastodons?

It’s a 24/7 job, no matter who does it and whether the family knows it or not, holding fast is everyone’s job.  While men may be able to put sex toward the top of the pyramid (at times even the tippy top), most women are still in the burial chamber, getting the mummy ready for bed.

Fact is, too many married women look to their partners to lighten the loads of laundry, not for sex.

In this context, how does a willingness to do some horizontal exercise together move up in your list of must-do’s?

  • Talk Together.  Remember how it was when your relationship began?  You two talked forever.  It worked then; why not now?  Remember that part of what makes your marriage exciting (and sometimes turbulent) are your differences.
  • Mourn.  Be brave; acknowledge that some hopes and dreams are no longer attainable or even reasonable.  Holding on can pull you both down.  Move forward by dreaming in a different color.
  • Say it Out Loud.   No one knows what you’re thinking unless you say it out loud.  You may have always expected your partner to be a mind reader, thinking “If they loved me…they’d know.”
  • Re-Prioritize.  And share the list with your partner.  Working toward workability takes two.  Are you tired of seeing his clothes on the floor?  Does he get crazy when your hair’s in the drain?  Negotiate a win-win; it’ll save you both time and aggravation.
  • Negotiate.  Working toward workability takes two.  Are you tired of seeing his clothes on the floor?  Does he get crazy when your hair’s in the drain?  Negotiate a win-win; it’ll save you both time and aggravation.  Be sure to follow through.
  • Delegate.  Neither of you is superhuman.  Trying to do it  alone hasn’t worked, has it?  Too many women excuse children from sharing in home tasks.  This often untapped resource can learn, starting as early as age 3,  responsibility, ownership and pride.  And you catch a break.Cluttering our days with unreasonable expectations and unspoken needs is so much less necessary to our happiness – and health – than being together.  So what’s stopping you?

Specializing in couples work, Kathe Skinner is a Colorado Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Specialist.  She works especially those couples where invisible disability is present.  She and husband, David, have lots of practice re-prioritizing retirement in interesting economic Find the schedule for the next Couple Communication Workshop at http://www.beingheardnow.com

© 2014 Being Heard