Tag Archives: John Gottman

Ooooo … when love blooms!

dancing couple

Is your brain marinating in a cocktail of hormones and giddiness? If so, it’s probably love . . . new love!

New love is the budding stage of something potentially profound between two people. And just as a flower bud is fragile, the same is true of love. Both must be treated with tender loving care.  When a couple masters this fine art, it becomes a thing of beauty that is a pleasure to behold.

A few years back, I observed such a wonder:

My spirit smiled as I watched them glide across the dance floor. Arm in arm, they exuded a tenderness so real, it almost seemed possible to reach out and touch it.

Oh, there were plenty of other dancers to appreciate, couples with more finesse and physical appeal, but this couple had me transfixed.

Have you ever become captivated watching elderly couples dance to the music of some bygone era? Obviously I have, particularly with those whose lives appear interwoven by the threads of some shared past.

Those couples are easy to spot. Love flows between them palpably, richly different from the newly-in-love brand. It is a love that has matured to perfection.

Never mind that the external luster is gone. It’s apparent that something more enviable has replaced it—a mysterious something that shines in their eyes for each other. Such love surpasses physical attractiveness.

When I watch such couples, it makes me wonder about love. Just what is it? Is it more about allure and attraction, magnetic in its mysterious intensity? The kind that permeates popular culture in movies and TV? Or is it more like a garden you tend and cultivate? It is, of course, both.

With a gravitational grip like none other, the power of new love pulls people together. The action doesn’t stop there. It proceeds to swoop them up and swirl them around and around until they become dizzy with brainlessness. The whole event rivals anything that can be found at the amusement parks!

No question, falling in love is supremely exciting. But then, lovers eventually reach the ground; some grow restless and bored, while others till a garden. And, oh, how it blooms! That’s what I saw in that couple gliding across the dance floor. I was viewing a couple in their bloomed state.

Now then, how to tend a garden? Borrowing from the wisdom and experience of others, I came up with a few powerful tips:

  •  Mary Durso, married for 58 years, says: “If you have respect and consideration for one another, you’ll make it.”
  • Allyson Jones, author, says: “Love teaches without lecturing, resolves mistakes without  scolding, and gives without expecting things in return.”
  • Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and author of “Teachings on Love,” asserts that love is about feeling connected to someone in their suffering, not just in their joy.  When we love someone, we’re moved by their pain and desire to remove that pain.
  • Wayne Dyer, author of “Your Erroneous Zones,” offers his definition of love: “[Love is] the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves, without any insistence that they satisfy you.”
  • John Gottman, Ph.D, a leading marital researcher, tells us that a strong union is one in which two people deal with problems head on.

When couples avoid discussing hot topics because it might lead to conflict, intimacy is forfeited and huge gaps form—creating distance between them. According to Gottman, couples thrive when the two “turn towards” each other when problems crop up, rather than “turning away.”

The couple on the dance floor might say: “Get out there and dance!” In other words, factor in fun. Without happy times and positive experiences, the weeds of a relationship tend to take over.

So how does a relationship mature to a ripened state? It requires “the garden.” An individual can make any ordinary garden thrive, but love requires two gardeners who busy themselves with the planting, the watering, the fertilizing and the weeding.

And we mustn’t underestimate the valuable role that age plays. Dazzled by the couple on the dance floor, I felt privileged to bear witness to such enchantment.

Is it not true that aged wine is grander?

 

© Salee Reese 2007

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The Latest Wow: The Great Divide

grand canyon

 

Not long ago, I was counseling a couple when one partner, Tracie, wowed me with this:

“There will be days in which I will get mad at you and you will get mad at me but we will resolve it. I don’t want to live a life of avoidance.”

Tracie is on to something. Avoidance is no way to inhabit a relationship . . . it isn’t living. It’s compromise; it’s existing in a space of bitterness and resentment; it’s detachment. And detachment grows like an untreated fungus. Pretty soon, a canyon-sized gap defines the nature of the relationship. Not good. Problems don’t get resolved, discussion is thwarted so misunderstandings are allowed to flourish, and wounds don’t get healed—only compounded.

Problems don’t magically go away. They grow fatter if ignored. And we can’t rely on time to do the healing. It doesn’t always work that way.

Dr. John Gottman, an acclaimed marital researcher, doesn’t mince words. He maintains that such relationships are doomed, and further states that unaddressed issues and avoidance are more detrimental to relationship health than conflict. At least in the midst of conflict, he continues, passion and engagement are occurring.

All of that makes sense. Can we really feel close to someone who isn’t receptive to talking things out, who’s unwilling to listen to our point of view, who’s unwilling to work on arriving at a common understanding, who’s unwilling to get vulnerable and naked with their truth? Of course not. It takes mutual understanding—more so than agreement, actually—to spawn an intimate connection.

Thich Nhat Hanh put it perfectly:

“Love is made of understanding and understanding is made of love. “

And, let’s face it, understanding can’t happen unless we have the courage to share honestly, gently, and with an open heart.

 

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality

 

 

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The Latest Wow: Man Objects to Being Eye Candy

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Here’s one man’s response to my post “The Latest Wow: He Says ‘No’ to Sex”

“I know I’m in the minority, but I don’t like being a magnet for women. My physical appearance isn’t who I am … it’s not how I know myself. Before a relationship even gets off the ground I want to make it perfectly clear that my physical appearance means little to me, and if it means something to you, it separates us. If you’re not drawn to something deeper about me, I’m not interested.”

How many women have thought or said those very words? How many complain about being sexual objects? How many long for a connection that runs deeper than the surface? How many want to be valued for who they are? Zillions.

Meg’s a good example. Click here to read her story.

Obviously, these concerns cross gender lines. Men, as well as women, resent being mere eye candy . . . we all want to be valued for who we are inside.

What are your thoughts?

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Filed under Couples, General Interest, The Latest Wow!