Tag Archives: Marriage

Is love a feeling or a choice?

Every living person craves it. Of course, some will deny it. Some still don’t understand it. Some even have a warped and twisted view of it, while others will live in pursuit of an elusive concept of it.

Consider it a warm and fuzzy feeling or a day-by-day choice, it remains the one thing in life that every living person wants in some form or another.  Love.

Whether it be love for another human being, for a partner, a parent, a child, a friend – we are all capable of love, although our translation of it may differ.  For me, romantic love has always been about ‘feelings’.  You know what I’m talking about:  that all-consuming feeling when you first meet a prospective partner, the way their touch can set your skin on fire, how a simple look can speak of a myriad of future promises … all those happy, excited and euphoric ‘feelings’ of being in love and of being loved.  For a person like me, a person who wears their heart on their sleeve, falling in love is actually quite easy.  But staying in love when the initial blaze has waned is a far harder task.

love-300x287Staying in love requires a directional movement from the conditional love square on the game board to the unconditional one.  Unconditional love is considered true love, and true love has staying power.  It means learning to love another person without expecting anything in return.  It also means putting the needs of that person above that of your own. For example, when you say your marriage vows, you pledge to commit to and love your partner for the rest of your days “until death do you part”. It doesn’t mean loving that person for as long as you still feel loved by them or until that person no longer gives you what you need.  I wonder how many people really know what they’re getting into when they pledge before God to honour, cherish and love their husband/wife for the rest of days?

When the light-hearted, seemingly easy side of love fades, a decision needs to be made.  That decision requires a bit more than just feeling like you love someone, it requires effort, hard work, commitment and an actual choice to love.  It may even require frequent reminders as to why and how to love.

I believe that most of us battle with unselfishly loving another person such as our partner. I know that I do.  I can go a step further and admit that I even battle to love myself; so trying to love another person unconditionally is far more complex that I would like it to be.

Luckily, while love is open to our own personal interpretation of it and is sadly influenced by past experiences and hurts, unconditional love has only one definition and one set of rules:

•   Love is patient and kind.

•   Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.

•   Love does not demand its own way.

•   Love is not irritable and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.

•   It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

•   Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

(1 Cor 13:4-7)

Office relationships: A born killer

I wonder if anyone has ever killed their spouse because of working together?

It’s been just over a month since I starting working with my husband, and even after such a short period of time, I can now fully understand how easy it is to have murderous thoughts.

There are couples who can mesh their home and work lives seamlessly and successfully, then there are couples who just can’t make both work simultaneously. I was hoping that the latter would not be true in our case, yet the signs are clearly on the wall.  Peace has grown wings and taken flight, leaving us to snarl, snap and bicker with each other at will.

Love aside

The problems we experienced with each other at home has cascaded into our working environment.  Only now I feel like there is no reprise, no space to escape and no time to gain any perspective.  We are in each other’s hair 24/7 with no distinction between work and play.

To reiterate, I do love my husband dearly. Although our relationship has been tumultuous and challenging from the get-go, it has been rewarding.  We have found – and continue to find – ways to make our personal relationship work despite our differences.  So, given that we are still exploring means and ways to live together harmoniously, I have to consider that perhaps I was too quick to think it would be plain sailing to also work together?

Bad timing has its own part to play.  While we’ve always talked about me coming to work in his business, we planned it for a year or two down the line.  The surprise of my retrenchment put a spanner in the works and bullied us into pushing our plans forward.  Subsequently, I’m convinced all of this has made my husband question his sanity in suggesting we work together in the first place!

Boundaries and truces

Marriage Equality

Marriage Equality (Photo credit: charlesfettinger)

I read somewhere that husbands and wives who work together have to apply the same rules that exist in their marriages to how they work together. For example, if the couple see each other as equal partners in the marriage, well then they have to be equal partners in the workplace – a manager/sub-ordinate relationship just wouldn’t work in this case.

Defining boundaries and setting the grounds for a mutually beneficial working experience is tantamount to success.

We didn’t do these things.  That leaves us having to take ten steps back in order to move a few steps forward again. I’m now on the verge of a new dilemma:  do I admit defeat and sell my soul by heading back into the corporate working world to save my marriage, or do I continue to try to make a success of our working arrangement which would mean having to wave the white flag and suck it up in the hope of things eventually getting better? This fork in the road is a new twist for sure; I only wish I had a crystal ball to make the choice easier.

How to stop cheating – the second instalment

Cheaters are selfish, self-absorbed and self-indulgent. Do I have the right to say any of these things? Oh yes, I do. As a former cheater, I think I am fully equipped to talk first-hand on the topic.

People cheat for different reasons

“We don’t have sex anymore”, “I’m lonely”, “He doesn’t understand me”, “We are always fighting” and so on. 

In my case, my feelings of rejection at being denied a child was my justification for cheating. One thing remains true for all cheaters though; a cheater is always looking for validation. If a cheater looks hard enough for reasons to corroborate why he/she cheated, believe me, those excuses can be found.  Even friends who mean well can help the cheater justify an affair.

The greatest deception stems from the belief that the person with whom the cheater engaged in an affair with is his/her true love and a fulfilling relationship can bud from the affair. It’s just another way us cheaters find some kind of silver lining in the whole tainted matter.

Having an affair is an exit from the existing relationship, it is a way to escape the problems of the current relationship, it is focusing solely on how you feel and putting your wants and needs before that of anyone else.  It is, most importantly, not an apt solution to any problem experienced in a relationship.

Stopping the bus

If you find yourself cheating or contemplating a relationship with someone other than your partner, how do you stop? A moving bus with bad brakes is hard to stop. The best way of course is to recognise what is happening before you find yourself knee-deep in a scenario you can’t get out of.  Here’s my advice:

  1. Before you embark on a relationship with another person, save yourself the unneeded complication by choosing to handle one relationship at a time. You can’t give yourself fully to two people at the same time.  If you really care about this other person, and he/she about you, then a little space can do no harm.  Besides, if it’s true love, another few months apart won’t make much of a difference right?
  2. So take a time out – not a week or two either – to focus on what you want, and to figure out if the current relationship can be saved or fixed. Marriage counselling or individual sessions with a therapist can go a long way in helping you to clear your mind and see things with a little more perspective. Don’t elude yourself into thinking that the new relationship won’t come with its own set of complications – perhaps worse than the existing relationship. Then what will you do, have another affair?
  3. You’ll be surprised at how quickly things can settle when you have no extra pressure from a second relationship on the go. If you’ve made up your mind and feel 100% certain that the current relationship cannot be spared, then at least its closure. Make a clean break and end the relationship with your partner first (move out, start the divorce proceedings, get your life back on track).
  4. Don’t jump into a full-blown committed relationship with the other person before the ink has even dried on your divorce papers!  Ending one relationship is traumatic enough and fraught with its own myriad of emotions.  Enjoy being single for a bit – even if you find yourself lonely and miserable. It’s all part of the experience and will pass in time. If you can’t stand not talking to the other person during this time, that’s fine. Just don’t move in together and spend every waking hour together. You need time to heal, to feel and to re-discover YOU.
  5. Time has passed, and you should feel semi-human again. If the other person is still on the scene and you feel ready to indulge some form of commitment, start from scratch:  start dating and getting to know the person all over again. Now that the excitement of sneaking around and trying not to be caught is out of the way, the filters are off and you can actually get to know this person the right way.  Odds are that the relationship will feel different and you may not be so enamoured with the person as before. But that’s a risk you have to take …

A cheater’s guilt – the 1st instalment

It’s time.  Time to share a slice of the sordid Teatart pie – details pertaining to a part of my life that I try to keep hidden as best as possible.

In four words:  “I am a cheater“.  A mask of shame and disgrace I don every day of my life.  It’s the ugly twin that I try to disown, yet without it I would not be the person I am today.  For that I can be grateful.

Before I actually cheated, I looked down in abject disdain at other people who had seemingly tossed their marriage vows to the wolves and committed adultery.  I simply couldn’t understand what would cause a person to act so selfishly.  I even went so far as to question their value system and morals.

Marriage Day

Then I fell into the trap so many others have fallen into. A lethal combination of low self-esteem and lack of emotional fulfilment in my marriage rendered me weak to the flattery of a younger man. He had a crush on me, and I loved the attention.  While my husband of eight years kept putting off my requests to start a family, this young man told me exactly what I needed to hear.  He helped to quell the feelings of inadequacy and rejection that I had kept in check under a thin veil of nonchalance and sarcastic humour.  But it was a lie – a good one – but a lie non-the-less.  I sacrificed my reputation and my marriage; worse, I hurt a good man who had only ever tried to love me.

Hindsight is a wonderful luxury that few of us can afford. If only I had paid heed to the warning signs.  If only I had not met him.  If only I had been stronger.  If only … The crux is that I chose to put my own needs before that of my marriage vows. I broke my promise to be faithful.

cheating

cheating (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I know much has been said and written on the topic of infidelity. I subscribe to many blogs in which the core topic revolves around this very discussion point.   Over the years, I have read many a book and article on the topic.  Moreover, the point of infidelity has been key in several of my counselling sessions with two different therapists.

The marriage therapist my ex-husband and I sought out at the time described the situation to me in simple terms:  we all have a list of needs in a relationship and we attach different priorities to those needs.  My need for physical and emotional intimacy began to outweigh the other needs on my list, until finally it overpowered everything else.

Some people endeavour to alleviate their pain through drinking, gambling and pornography, amongst other distractions.  An affair was my exit.  Now I live with the regret of one really bad decision made in a moment of pure insecurity and weakness. 

Nothing can accurately describe the guilt of a cheater.  The partner we cheated on is not the only person who gets hurt.  We hurt ourselves too!  And sometimes that hurt can never truly be healed.

The last romantic – part 2

I’ve been labelled many things in my lifetime, the most recent of which is “the last romantic standing”. If you’ve read part 1 of ‘The last romantic’, I’m sure you will understand why.

While I now understand that relationships are not by any means plain sailing, surely I can’t be all wrong in the ideal of finding that perfect love connection? After all, doesn’t every teapot have its own lid? ;)

In spite of a failed first marriage and the fact that my second husband is not a romantic by any count, I can’t seem to let go of the idea that the kind of intense love that slays all obstacles in its path and transcends the ugly reality of any situation still exists. I actually still believe in a “happily ever after”!

The pursuit of my very own happy ending has led me down an interesting path – or more of a scenic route really; a path that could’ve perhaps been made easier if I had not fallen in love with a man who is my polar opposite. For example, I am emotionally expressive, he is emotionally reserved. I am communicative, he is restrained. I am a romantic and idealist, he is a pragmatic realist.

Author: Bagande

Being attracted to a partner who does not share the same attributes or ideals is not uncommon. However, the danger lies in the fact that what often attracts us to our partner in the beginning is what can cause contention in the relationship years down the line.

The psychology behind this can be discovered in Imago Relationship Therapy. Imago is the Latin word for ‘image’. The therapy focuses on the belief that we all have a unique image of familiar love that has developed from birth i.e. how we were loved and felt loved, whether positive or negative, by our parents/caregivers and other significant adults in our childhood.

Dawn J. Lipthrott, LCSW, describes it so well in her article, ‘What is Imago Relationship Therapy, anyway?

The marriage

In short, we subconsciously look for a partner who represents the positive and the negatives of the adults from our childhood. One reason is because we want to re-create our past hurts so that we can arrive at a different outcome. This is how seemingly opposite people end up in relationships and marriages without a cooking clue how to address the challenges of viewing life so differently.

According to my own experience, this is how Imago Relationship Therapy has helped – and is still helping – my husband and I to achieve a healthy, balanced and happy marriage. It’s a win-win scenario: a more romantic fairy tale marriage thanks to practical and real solutions.

Step 1:
We had to develop a combined relationship vision. This is now proudly displayed on our fridge and serves as a reminder on what we want to achieve.

Step 2:
We had to acknowledge our caregivers’ positive and negative traits and this meant also remembering buried childhood wounds and frustrations. From there, we could finally see for ourselves how we searched for a partner with similar traits to our caregivers. As our partners cannot give us what we longed for as a child, understanding and recognising this fact is a crucial step in the right direction.

Step 3:
The third step was learning how to effectively communicate and to share our needs with our partner by using tools such as the Couple’s Dialogue and Container Transaction.

Step 4:
Finally, we had to put everything together and self-integrate the aspects of our disowned, lost and false selves to figure out what our true self is. I know it sounds a little weird, but it makes sense when you see how it all fits together.

The last romantic – part 1

Since my early childhood, I’ve been in love with the notion of being in love.

I blame two factors for this old-fashioned romantic frame of mind, the first of which can be attributed to the warm and fuzzy fairy tales of damsels in distress and knights in shining armour told to many a young girl.

English: : Prince Charming meets Cinderella in...My generation, and that of my mother’s and my grandmother’s, have grown up reading these soppy stories. “Happily ever after” is a guarantee and all we need to do is wait patiently for the hero to ride up on his powerful steed and sweep us off our feet.

The second factor to blame is of course Hollywood! I echo the sentiments of my fellow blogger, Laughing.Loving.Eating: “Hollywood: you lie!”. All those classic Doris Day, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies of yesteryear have taken their toll. I become all soft and mushy at the mere suggestion of a man courting a woman. My mind conjures up thoughts of elaborate romantic gestures, public declarations of undying love and perfect moments of pure bliss.

No-one prepared me for the harsh reality of love and relationships. It’s the thirteenth fairy tale never told to little girls: Prince Charming sometimes never arrives, and if he does he’s often late for his appointment.

Relationships are hard work and very seldom a bed of roses. This is what I’ve learnt in my thirty-five years:

  1. Love is an ideal concept characterised by feelings only. Real love is a choice – every morning on waking, you make a choice to love your husband/partner.
  2. Compromise and communication are two key pillars in a relationship. Without either of these, a relationship will never reach its full potential.
  3. Complacency and apathy are stealthy relationship assassins. It takes daily effort to keep a relationship fresh, exciting and harmonious.
  4. Sex can be likened to a candle: the flame burns bright and strong at the beginning of a relationship, but eventually dies down to a small, warm glow … which still, by the way, lightens a room.
  5. Every man has a knight in shining armour in him, but is far from a knight in shining armour.
  6. A husband/partner should never be expected to emotionally fulfil a woman completely. A woman needs good friends to share her life with and a support structure in family and friends to keep her strong and balanced.
  7. A relationship is not defined by how great the good times are, but how you get through the bad times.
  8. A husband/partner doesn’t need to know everything! Sometimes, what you think is insignificant or of no consequence, could actually hurt him or create insecurity if he knows.
  9. You don’t need to do everything together. Having your own interests, style, hobbies, friends etc. is healthy.
  10. Most importantly, learning to love your husband/partner in the way he understands – and vice versa – will make the biggest positive impact in any relationship. Dr. Gary Chapman’s “The 5 Love Languages” is truly an eye opener.
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