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Mommy Madness Mistake

Are you slipping into “Mommy Madness”???

Michele Weiner Davis, an internationally renowned author and therapist, does a brilliant job summing up the perils of an all consuming focus on your children in this article.

Have you “been there/done that”?  Are you there now?  What are your thoughts about “child centric parenting”?

The Languages of Love

This past weekend, I attended Michele Weiner Davis’ course, Divorce Busting® Intensive for Professionals. We buckled down for days, and from 8:30-5:00 every day, we talked about techniques to help couples on the brink of divorce resolve their differences.

One of the stories that she shared was of herself as a young wife. She got married in the 70’s when the modern woman was emerging and this culture was the filter through which she viewed her marriage. She didn’t need to cook for her husband – she was too busy building her career! As the kids arrived, she realized that she had to do something to get some nutrition in them, so she began to ensure that there was actually food on the table when they got home. What she was quite shocked by was her husband’s reaction to her new-found culinary skills. He would smell the food wafting through the house when he arrived home and gave her the most enthusiastic of responses! As she thought about this reaction, she began to realize that his mother was a superb cook. In fact, at family gatherings, the table was covered with all sorts of dishes to enjoy. Because of the way he was raised, Michele’s husband felt loved when she put an effort into cooking!

Inadvertently, Michele had stumbled upon a concept which she now shares with all the couples that she meets – Real Giving. Real giving occurs when we give to our spouses something that we know they will like. It might be a hug when they are being particularly ornery. It might be tidying the house even though you are exhausted and want to go to bed. It might be starting up the car on a cold winter day so it can warm up before your spouse gets in it. It might mean filling up the gas tank in your spouse’s car. It might mean sitting eye to eye and having a conversation. Or it might mean letting them go for a night out with their friends.

It might not seem natural, come easily, or even feel like it is a big deal to us, but we must learn to recognize what our spouse sees as important loving acts and do them. It’s not about sacrificing for our spouse; it’s about showing them love.

In his groundbreaking book, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman wrote of this important concept. In this book, he theorized that people have one of five “languages” in which they speak love to their partners. They are:

  • Words of Affirmation (telling your spouse through verbal or written language how much they mean to you, how good they look, what you love about them, etc.)
  • Physical Touch (reaching out to have physical contact with your spouse)
  • Acts of Service (pitching in to help your spouse doing things such as running errands or household chores)
  • Quality Time (having undivided attention and spending alone time with each other)
  • Gift Giving (giving gifts of other tangible expressions of love to your spouse)

Frequently, spouses speak different languages. An Acts of Service husband might take care of all the household chores, but his Quality Time wife just wants to spend time with him. A Words of Affirmation wife might be telling her spouse what a great husband he is, but her Physical Touch husband wants to be able to cuddle more often.

Furthermore, all of these languages have “dialects”. A Words of Affirmation spouse might be embarrassed to hear you speak the words aloud, but is delighted to find little notes around the house which express your affirmation. A Physical Touch spouse might crave back rubs and massages. A Quality Time person might love spending time together on the golf course and go out for beer afterward. A spouse who delights in Gift Giving might like fresh cut flowers to put on her table each Friday night. An Acts of Service person might like to have the car washed each week.

If spouses are speaking different love languages to each other, and they don’t recognize that their partner doesn’t speak the same language, they will overlook the acts of love that their spouse is giving them. Even when they find out there is such a thing as different “languages” of love, some people ask – Why should I learn his language if he won’t learn mine?! Or worse, these people will get judgmental and think to themselves, “Her way of showing love is stupid; mine is better.” These attitudes are toxic to the relationship. They create a deadly standoff in the marriage wherein neither party is willing to budge first.

If we are not able to learn to recognize and then speak the language of our partner and if we refuse to practice real giving, then we are channeling the actor from Cool Hand Luke who said, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate!” Neither party is going to feel loved and both parties are going to feel resentful! Welcome to the fast-track to divorce!

However, when couples are practicing real giving (even if just one party starts the process), then they are putting aside the notion of a tit-for-tat relationship and seeking ways to show love to their partners in manners in which the partner recognizes,  accepts and cherishes. And it is quite amazing what usually happens – once the first domino is tipped over, it creates a chain reaction throughout the relationship which is incredibly positive! Both parties are going out of their way to show love to each other.

What to do some real giving practice this week? Here are some ways to get started:

  • Which language do you speak?
  • Does it have a particular dialect?
  • What language does your spouse speak?
  • Does that language have a dialect?
  • Practice real giving this week by picking two things that you want to do in your spouse’s love language, and give it to your spouse as a gift.

Divorce Busting in Denver

The second week of June, I will be headed to Colorado to attend the Divorce Busting Seminar for Professionals.

divorce_busting_kit

This course is put on by Michele Weiner-Davis and it teaches professionals to apply the principles of Solution-Oriented Brief Therapy to their practices. As I meet so many women in my coaching room who are on the verge of divorce because of their sex lives (or lack thereof), I thought that adding some more tools to my tool box would be prudent. Well, that and the fact that Michele invited me personally.  Who can turn down a personal invitation from one of their heroes?

I am a huge fan of Solution-Oriented Brief Therapy for two reasons:

  1. Solution-Oriented. Call me ridiculously optimistic, but I really, truly believe that the vast majority of relational problems can be solved by deciding what we want to change in our lives, altering the patterns that we are entrenched in and which perpetuate those problems, and then applying practical solutions. A lot of relationships falter or fail because we don’t have enough perspective to change up these patterns or are just too darn lazy to implement them
  2. Brief. If you have ever spent hours on a counselor’s couch (and since I was orphaned so young in life, I have certainly logged my time talking about Mommy and Daddy issues), you will appreciate a method that moves quickly. In short, we are not delving into the Freudian world of [insert deep, calming voice here] “Tell me about your mother”; we are focusing on making change and getting in and out quickly.

Can you see why I am such a fan???

So, allow me to make an offer. For all of you who are signed up for my Passion News, I will send you (and you only) the highlights of what I learn on this trip in an email newsletter. If you are not yet signed up, don’t be left out!! Sign up now!

OH me so horny

As I mentioned in one of my blog posts, Guess Who’s Coming to Town, I was recently able to spend some time with one of my heroes, Michelle Weiner-Davis. Her work in the field of marriages on the brink of divorce – and specifically when the cause of that brink is their lack-luster or non-existent sex life – has been lauded everywhere from Oprah to The Today Show to CNN.

In her books, The Sex-Starved Marriage and The Sex-Starved Wife, Mrs. Davis moves past the gender stereotypes of [husband=horny] and [wife=disinterested] to a gender-neutral depiction of the High Desire Spouse and Low Desire Spouse. In some marriages, spouses get slotted into one role and stay there. In others, however, the roles can change back and forth due to stress, illness, exhaustion, children, hormonal fluctuations and a host of other life circumstances.

low libido

Regardless of who is the “horny” person in the marriage, one thing is always constant – the person who gets to set the frequency in the sexual relationship is the Low Desire Spouse. Whoever says “no” wins. If both parties are communicating about this issue and accepting of this arrangement, then it is usually smooth sailing. However, problems develop when:

  • There is a large gap between what the High Desire Spouse wants and what the Low Desire Spouse wants
  • This gap grows because the Low Desire Spouse begins to avoid all physical touch out of fear it will lead to sex
  • The High Desire Spouse begins to push harder for sex in response to the Low Desire Spouse’s pulling away
  • Communication about the subject becomes acrimonious or non-existent
  • One or both parties begin to feel misunderstood or unloved by the other party

Sadly, if this cycle of misunderstanding, lack of communication and lack of physical connection is allowed to perpetuate in the relationship, then the marriage becomes at risk for infidelity and/or divorce.

So how can you become proactive to make sure your relationship is not at risk? As with most aspects of marriage, it takes open communication and willingness to compromise without being judgmental of your spouse. Remember, one role is not better than the other – it is simply a product of putting two different individuals in a relationship together. And if there are issues in the marriage that are a result of your differences, it is not a “his” or “her” problem, it’s a problem for “y’all” (yes, those are my Southern roots coming out). So stop blaming each other and get to work. Need some suggestions?

Here are a few exercises to be proactive in your marriage:

  • Take a moment to look at your relationship through your lover’s eyes. Ask yourself:
  • High Desire Spouses: How does it make him/her feel when I initiate sex? What am I noticing about him/her before I initiate? What makes my spouse feel loved and respected and how can I do those things for him/her?
  • Low Desire Spouses: How does it make him/her feel when I say “no”? How does he/she interpret my refusal to give a hug or a kiss? What would I be communicating to him/her if I said “yes” even if I am not totally in the mood?
  • What you focus on will grow. What were the circumstances around the last time you had great sex (or even sex at all)? Who initiated? Was there something special that happened? How were you feeling emotionally before you had sex? Did you feel empowered? Or less tired? Or deeply connected to your spouse? Did something different go through your mind beforehand? Once you have a clear picture of what is was that made that last encounter great, reduplicate it!
  • Rediscover the warmth of physical touch. Initiate touch during times when it is not possible to have sex so that neither party feels any pressure. Walk down the street holding hands, give a hug or kiss while the kids are in the room, sit close to each other on the coach while company is over, have a cuddle while the TV is on, etc.
  • Try something new. Do you know the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a new outcome. If what you have been trying isn’t working, then try something different and see what kind of response you get. Change the time or location of your sexual encounters, learn a new sexual technique, make the choice to say “yes” no matter when the next request comes, etc.
  • Read the Michele Weiner-Davis’ books. These books are a good read for anyone who is interested in this subject, but essential reading for couples who are struggling with the pain of sex-starved marriages. Her approach is practical to understand and implement. Here’s a link to her on Amazon.ca

I do want to take a moment to reiterate that the labels of “high-desire” and “low-desire” are not permanently affixed.  In both men and women, and in relationships in general, libido ebbs and flows.  The spouse that is high desire today may be the low desire spouse next month.  Sometimes relationships can reach an equilibrium where your desires match. Whatever the case you find yourself in TODAY, know that any number of factors can cause that to be different tomorrow.  The important thing to remember is that communicating to each other your wants/needs/desires regarding sex is what keeps your relationship strong in this area.

If you haven’t yet, please do go vote in the poll on “Who Has the Higher Sex Drive in Your Relationship“.  And remember that when you vote, you are not slapping yourself with a permanet label – just noting where your relationship is at the moment!

Guess Who Is Coming to Town

Well, it is way too early for Santa to arrive, although it is my personal opinion that you never have to be hindered by the time of year to surprise your lover with a stocking filled with special goodies. Nope, it’s not Santa, but this person is better than Santa to me. One of my heroes, Michele Weiner-Davis, author of The Sex-Starved Marriage and The Sex-Starved Wife, is coming to town for a TV interview.

And I pulled some strings so that I can pick her up at the airport and then drool in complete adoration have a highly intellectual conversation about the state of marriage on the way to the TV studio. In preparation for this conversation, I thought I would do some research to see what the stats are for “sexless marriages”.  After having seen the results so far of the poll I posted last week, I thought this was incredibly interesting from a statistical stand point.

Here’s a snapshot:

  • Experts define a “sexless marriage” as one in which the couple have sex 10 times at most a year (for those of you doing the math, that works out to sex every 5 weeks or so IF you are hitting the upper limit of the definition)
  • According to research reported by Newsweek Magazine, between 15-20% of couples say that they have sex no more than 10 times a year, thereby classifying themselves as having a “sexless marriage”
  • US Today reported that between 20-30% of men and 30-50% of women report that they have little or no sex drive
  • According to a Denise Donnelly’s article Sexually Inactive Marriages, published in The Journal of Sex Research, several factors affect the amount of sex that occurs in a marriage: time together, kids, age, and communication about sex.

You have until Wednesday to suggest questions for me to ask her!  Use the comments to give me questions and I will do my best to ask them of her personally and post her answers here!  (Makes coming to my website all the more worth it, eh?)