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

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
 
 

WHEN A CAREGIVER DIES

bigstock_Old_Couple_Holding_Hands_2041049     First published on Disability.gov

For 70 years she put up with his (sometimes volcanic) rumblings.  He doted on her with diamonds, and was a poorer father for it.

The youngest of 5 much older siblings, she was babied into being passive and timid.  He was a blustering bad boy who loved control; a lifelong natural at most things mechanical.  He took seriously his duties as a man, a spouse, and head of the household.  He didn’t brook anything that deviated from his definitions of right and wrong, a bigot in many ways.   A mother and military wife who could fend for herself and children when she needed to, she preferred being cared for . . .  and he liked it that way.

Both were fortunate:  for much of their lifetimes, neither was chronically ill or disabled.  Unless you count legal blindness, which he didn’t (though most who drove with him did).  And even though she developed macular degeneration, a disease of the eye that usually leads to blindness, she could sometimes see the world better than he did.

Several years ago her macular degeneration began to impact both of them.  By then, her hearing had deteriorated, too, and her world shrank.  Although she rarely admitted fears (not to us, anyway) he expressed his the only way he knew how:  he fixed as much as he could.  He cut her food, gently guided her through the dimly-lit places they avoided more and more, lent her his arm, and searched out gizmos and gadgets he found in catalogues.  He took care of her.

Last year, George left Kate.

True to his role, George had organized everything, including who his wife’s legal caregiver was to be — my husband. Now, almost a year later, Kate no longer plans on joining George in death right away and doesn’t cry for hours each night.  Not that she tells us, anyway.  As her vision deteriorates Kate, not surprisingly, adapts. David and his sisters do what they can from a distance of a thousand miles, mostly via phone calls and the occasional visit.  Immediate support comes from close friends and a kind and caring nursing home staff.

Today, it takes a dozen people to do what George did.  Even so, he can never be replaced.

None of us could live well if we spent too much time dwelling on the eventuality of death.  But some of us — the visibly or invisibly disabled or chronically ill — need to spend more time thinking about the profound changes a caregiver’s death brings.  Like David’s parents, my husband and I are fused by years, experiences, commitment and love.  Though I’m the one diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, in truth MS is something we both carry.

As we age and tire, slow and re-prioritize, both of us have to remember that though we plan to go out holding hands as star-crossed lovers, the truth is more mundane . . . and likely.  Whoever is left to mourn, cared-for or caregiver, what needs to happen is the same:

1.  Plan now.  The outcomes might look different, but the grief will be the same.

2.  Get your house in order.   You don’t have to be a survivalist in order to be prepared with legal, medical, financial, and personal concerns.

3.  Create your own family.  Gather together people who care, no matter what the will says.

4.  Get outside each other.  Get perspective from someone trustworthy and caring who’s outside the mix — minister, counselor, or therapist.

5.  Express yourself and your needs clearly, often, and appropriately.  Consider what to say and who you say it to.  Sometimes being blunt can be hurtful; at other times necessary.  Some people are better prepared to bring a casserole or help with housekeeping than to see you cry.  Try out your voice to a journal, or pay a therapist or counselor . . . they can be skilled and trustworthy allies.

6.  Keep in touch with others.  It’s unfair (and shortsighted) to place the burden only in one place — like with your son.

7.  Have someone to talk to, starting now.  Clergy, therapist, physician, friend, partner, family can help you sort out what to say and how to say it.  Think of yourself as a nuclear reactor.  Keeping it to you guarantees one of two outcomes:  shutting down or exploding.

8.  Join a group of those experiencing what you are.  There’s no substitute for having someone “get it”.  Don’t believe me?  Try talking to someone who doesn’t.

DSC_4482-K&DKathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Certified Relationship Specialist     specializing working with couples, especially those for whom invisible disability is part of the mix.  She has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for over 35 years.  Kathe and her husband David hold Communication Workshops in Colorado Springs and are both Certified Instructors for Interpersonal Communication Systems.  Along with their two hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy, they live along Colorado’s Front Range.  Find out more about Kathe and David at http://www.beingheardnow.com and read Kathe’s blogs, ilikebeingsickanddisabled.com and couplesbeingheardnow.com.

© 2014, BeingHeard LLC