OLD LOVE LETTERS FROM YOUR PAST: GOOD FOR YOUR MARRIAGE.

keep old love letters

I’d forgotten all about them, so when my husband plunked down dusty, dirty old boxes for me to go through, I inwardly groaned at more work.  What I found caused me to turn off the TV, plop down on the floor, and get teary.

Some things are personal.  It’s okay, healthy even, to keep private some things, especially from your partner.  You disrespect all three of you by telling all, or worse: using an old relationship to make your partner angry or jealous.  What passed between you and an old love is about as private as it gets and ought to be kept that way – unless it’s an STD in which case your partner knows something anyway.

Here’s why those almost 50-year old letters are meaningful to my marriage today.

That was then.  Old love letters bookmark a time never to be recaptured.  Memories are wrapped in words that are still breathtaking, kind of like a favorite old movie watched over and over again.  That was long before kids and careers, mortgage payments and personal tragedies – all the water that’s gone under the bridge.  Anyone who’s tried knows wishing doesn’t make it so.  If you have the chance to go to a school reunion, take it.  It’ll make you careful about what you wish for and maybe keep you from trading one used car for another.

20/20 Vision.  How many times have we wished for hindsight?  Knew then what we know now?  Old love letters give you an opportunity to jump between realities; to see that your life has become far richer in experience than what it was then.  You wouldn’t make the same decisions today because you’re more knowing and because you know more, too.  Seeing clearly isn’t just about having new glasses; they only work when you wear them.  Maybe the past gets romanticized because it was so free of all we see and know today.  Most of what happened long ago was drama without impactful consequences; no wonder those were the best days of our lives.

An ego-boost.   Those old love letters described things that, ahem, were personal.  Very personal.  After reading them, I’m likely to dial up some oldies, suck in what I can of my tummy, and turn my best side to the mirror.  But, at 60 years old plus, I can’t see much of the hot-looking girl in the picture I hold.   Those letters dialed back the scale, dialed back the clock, and let me be Cinderella waltzing a horizontal dance with someone who’s not the prince of my heart today.  Part of what’s swoon-worthy are the words themselves – I can always be bought that way.  That I was described so beautifully made me feel beautiful every time I read them.  They still do.

Appreciation for today.  My high school years were spent in Hawaii – a place imbued with the honeymoon-like magic of new love – during the powerful and poignant Age of Aquarius.  Juxtaposed with rule bending and breaking was the rule-bound experience of Viet Nam.  But my memories, all these 40+ years later, pumped as they were by the unique history of the late 60s, are no less vivid and meaningful as anyone else’s.  Reminders of the past, like the letters I re-read, show me how much more I have to love now.  And even how much better at it I am.

Didn’t Want Him, Anyway.  Back then, love was pretty black and white; no mortgages, usually no kids, definitely no wisdom.  Today’s love, mature love, knows that love can be fickle and to keep it requires attention and effort.  If I’d gotten on a white horse (or in a VW van) and ridden off with my first love, the scenery would look nothing like it does now.  I like the bourgeois creature comforts most aging hippies fell for, too.  Honestly, while I would’ve made a few changes along this long, long way, starting over with the boy who wrote those heartbreakingly beautiful letters wouldn’t have been one of them.

Having moments of nostalgia and longing for the past are natural.  Keeping those moments alive is part of the romantic, fanciful, non-threatening part in each of us.  Humans are unique in the ability to fully remember the past.  But know that bringing it forward, unaltered, never works.

I finished reading the notes the other night, then broke down the dusty box and put it in the recycle bin.  The few I saved still whisper about what was and will get packed away until I again need to feel delicious.  The touching wish left behind is about gifting the past’s richness to my marriage today.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Certified Relationship Expert who shares with couples how to keep love alive and growing.  She encourages them to write love letters.  Kathe, and her husband, David, have been married nearing 30 years; their love is shared with cats Lucy and Petey, both of whom send messages in other ways.  In that dusty box Kathe found the first card ever sent to her by David; odd she kept it since it wasn’t romantic at all.

LOVING

Love at its most true is not afraid to be hard. ~ Whitley Streiber

Love at its most true is not afraid to be hard. ~ Whitley Streiber

Married, in a relationship, or single, life is often ungovernable.

Through disability, chronic illness, divorce, break-up, deaths big and small where do we find respite from difficulty?

When can we stop being courageous?

So many of us lean on love to give us relief from life’s chattering.

If love were so one-dimensional, though, if all loving did was give us rest, would it still be lustrous?

What is easy, quantifiable, predictable soon loses our interest.

Whitley Streiber put it beautifully, “Love at its most true is not afraid to be hard.”  I agree (even if he is talking about aliens.)

Kathe Skinner is a psychotherapist and relationship coach, specializing in working with couples whose relationship is impacted by invisible disability and chronic illness.  Married to David for over 26 years, they live with kitties Petey and Lucy in the Front Range of Colorado.  Are there aliens cruising the skies over her home?  She thinks the logic is irrefutable.

HEALTHY LOVE AT THE U.S. OPEN

The U.S. Open, the last of the tennis year’s four majors, is powering its way to the finals, and I’m psyched.

Tennis is an intense human drama that showcases the psychology of winning — belief in self, winning through intimidation, body language, gamesmanship, positive self-talk, courage, and reaching deep past pain and fatigue to tap the will to win.

It’s not surprising as a couples therapist I would remark on the irony of tennis’s scoring where zero (“love”) literally means “nothing”.  The phraseology’s origin is unclear.  Some cite the similarity of a zero’s shape to an egg (the French word is l’oeuf) while it’s also been said that “love of the game” or playing for love is what’s being referenced.

Apply tennis’ meaning of love to relationships’ meaning.  How incongruous to say that love is nothing!  That a feeling that surpasses everything, that defies explanation, and that transcends other emotions in its saving grace is nothing. Unlike tennis, healthy couples love doesn’t count winners or losers, nor does it strategize another’s defeat.

Love doesn’t take sides.  The best duos are dynamic for years, honing skills through practice practice practice, all the while getting closer and closer. Relationship longevity is the result.

The problem for many couples is knowing what to do to have things be better between them.  After all, what they’ve done so far often makes things worse.

Both partners absolutely need to learn the basic skills that account for fruitful communication.  Without it, a relationship’s foundation is incomplete, shaky, bound to crumble under the weight of all that happens in a couple’s life together. Couples have many choices when it comes learning communication skills.  Along the Denver/Colorado Springs corridor one example is the Couple Communication Workshop offered by Being Heard, a program unique in having a husband and wife team as instructors.

In a beguiling contrast to singles competition, partners in doubles — two partners competing against each other — is very much like romantic love.  Togetherness has great purpose and meaning; there’s a full and expressed range of emotional intensity that includes joy, disappointment, and frustration; and having your partner’s back is the way it’s supposed to be.

Kathe Skinner specializes in couples work as a psychotherapist in private practice.  These days the only tennis ball in her life belongs to the dog next door. Married for 29 years to David, another fan of “love”, they live in Colorado Springs with two hooligans cats who couldn’t tell a Venus from a Serena.

Copyright, 2015

Being Heard, LLC

THE GRASSHOPPER & THE ANT: A LOVE STORY

 In the modern age, long past the time Aesop and Burl Ives were telling stories, hybrids thrived.

Different is Better

Different is Better

One such unlikely combination was the grasshopper and the ant.

Now, you would think that being such behavioral opposites their paths would never cross.

You’d be wrong.

Somewhere in the reeds and weeds all the bugs were doing their thing.  Beetles rolled balls of doo-doo around in      circles.  Bees started happy hour before five o’clock while cockroaches didn’t look anyone in the eye.

Ants, on the other hand, saw none of this, nor did they care.  Their journey was always the same:  back and forth back and forth from here to there here to there without looking left or right the whole time.

Don’t wait it’ll be too late don’t wait it’ll be too late,” That was the mantra of the ant.

A world away – in bug terms, actually only a few yards – a grasshopper did grasshopper things.  A traditional dance danced to a traditional song.  A game of Reverse Limbo.   Hopping and leaping hopping and leaping getting the rep of not being in one place too long.  A grasshopper’s boots were never parked under anyone’s bed.

La la la la la la live for today.”   That was the grasshopper’s mantra.

Now, I know a lot, I’m very smart and awfully tuned-in, but, to be honest, I don’t know how the two of them – being so different and all – got together.

But they did.

No longer was it this way or that way right or wrong yes or no.  The grasshopper and ant created an us where before there was only a yours or mine.  No longer just different bugs, the grasshopper and ant created  more:

A view looking down plus a view looking around;

Purpose and play all in one day;

In turns open-minded and single-minded;

Rewards from busy and the permission of intimate;

All that, plus leaving room for each to do their own thing.

Here it is, the end of my story.  I thought long and hard about the best way to finish it.

The truth is that the end is the beginning as much as a beginning is an end in itself.  It’s truly true that an ant by itself and a grasshopper alone is never as juicy as the two together.

Two together is the only way to live happily ever after.

The End (The Beginning, as well.)