Most Important Things I’ve Ever Learned (About Love)- #3


I used to take unloving situations (in my earlier marriage) very personally.

When my first husband had a hard time feeling love for me or saying “I love you” & spoke of his concern about ever being capable of loving me, I used to feel a sting so deep in my heart that it physically hurt.  I thought it was because of me.  I thought I was truly defective in some way, or inadequate, or not beautiful enough, lovely enough, talented enough, dynamic enough, engaging enough, creative enough, or interesting enough.

I want to tell you how I learned to end that thinking.  Completely.

And heaven help me, I hope I can explain this well enough….because I really, really, really think this can rock your world and your marriages and ANY relationships that you have.  This bit of enlightenment has been one of the most life changing things I’ve ever learned.  I learned it from my fertility acupuncturist, and it still affects my life now nearly every single day.

She pointed out to me that if another person is unkind, offensive, unloving, angry, unhappy, irritable, etc., they are most likely suffering in some way!  I’ll never know why this bit of information wasn’t so clear in my head until then.  But it changed my life.You see, people in this state are just not doing well, for whatever reason.  They simply don’t know that there is a better way to be.  Perhaps they …..

-have had unfortunate things happen to them

-have been lacking in opportunities to learn and progress

-have lacked any reasonable teachers of healthy behavior

-have just plain cleaned up one too many boxes of cereal dumped in the kitchen by a 2 year-old and are a bit sharper than normal.

Instead of taking any form of their behavior personally & unleashing your OWN set of dysfunctional behaviors as a response….(for example, responding as a rejected, unwanted, sad, uncheerful, fragile, or insecure wife; or an angry, hell bent, defensive, or critical husband)……INSTEAD, you choose to see the big picture in that moment…..and you choose to believe that they wouldn’t be acting this way if they knew better.

Can you see how powerful that little change in perspective could be?  Can you feel some looming  distance between a husband and wife getting squashed?  Or days of silence never even getting started?

When you have this perspective, instead of feeling a sting in your heart, it’s easier to have your heart go out to them in those moments.  And holy crap, that is a world of difference.  Chances of you avoiding dysfunctional behavior yourself go way up.  And while there are no guarantees, there is also a possible chance that your spouse might have a chance to rise to the occasion.

Now, this is H-A-R-D to do.   But totally worth it.  The most effective motivation I know of is love.

If we truly want to have the most pure & real kind of love for someone and truly want to be the best version of ourselves that we can be for those that we love, why is it that we drop all those intentions and desires in a hot second when someone harms us or makes us angry?  I hope you might let some of that real kind of love start to dominate your actions in those moments… will liberate your soul of so much hurt and anguish – more than you could ever imagine.

By some miracle, during the last year of my former marriage, I was able to recognize that I was suffering, just as my spouse was….and though I couldn’t remove his suffering, I could do something about my own.  And so I learned to see my former spouse in a different light.  I was able to have even more compassion for him & what he was going through.  And the biggest triumph of all was learning how to not take his behavior personally any longer.   I wasn’t perfect at this as I was learning it, but I remember clearly many, many moments of pure calm & love – – – even when I was faced with situations that would normally make anyone’s blood boil (including my own.)   I can’t tell you how empowering it was.  It was the most triumphant thing I’d ever done.

It is my wish that every single one of you could tap into this.  Once you do it even once, you’ll be amazed at what you’re capable of.  And you will get better and better at keeping your own wellness intact.

(Pictures of us and the ‘love’ graffiti from a glorious day in DUMBO, Brooklyn.)

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  1. Laura November 28, 2011 at 8:18 am - Reply

    I've heard it said before that "hurt people hurt people." That comment reminds me of this post. Great blog!

  2. Susan November 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm - Reply

    Such great advice, and it is a hard thing to learn…but when I had that "a-ha" moment (also in my past relationship), it changed the way I live, and love. You inspire me and make me want to write more about love!

  3. Brandy November 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    Oh Mara and Danny
    I wish I could give you a big hug and kiss to express my gratitude to you for creating this blog and sharing your life with us. I love this post! I actually commented on your last post Most Important Things I've Ever Learned #2. I commented some time after you originally posted it and I'm wondering if it ever made it to you? The above post makes complete sense to me but #2 not so much. Hope to hear back. Xoxo Brandy

  4. mara November 28, 2011 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    Susan – oh man, so happy to hear that you had such a pivotal change as well! It's reassuring to me…I'm just always glad to see that this is powerful for others, too.

  5. -Maria- November 28, 2011 at 6:27 pm - Reply

    Ah, so great to wake up on a Monday morning and start the week with something this good. Such encouragement!

  6. mara November 28, 2011 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    Brandy – thank you so much. You make me melt. I left a comment for you back on the Most Important Things I've Learned #2. I am so sorry it took so long! Thanks for your patience. And wow, just thanks for reading… 🙂

  7. mara November 28, 2011 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    Laura / Maria – thanks so much for reading and for just being so kind. xo

  8. lisset November 28, 2011 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    I second Maria's comment. You wouldn't believe how much I look forward to your posts. A little yoga and your blog keep me smiling all day long.

  9. mara November 28, 2011 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    Lisset – really?? Ahhhhh…..that just makes me so happy, I can't even tell you. THANK YOU so much!

  10. mara November 28, 2011 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    Lisset – by the way, I think I should start yoga. I know I would love it, I just never had the time. But I do now, and you just reminded me that I should do it. THANK YOU.

  11. Liz November 28, 2011 at 10:43 pm - Reply

    i am new to your blog, but i wanted to stop lurking and let you know that i just LOVE IT. you are such a lovely writer, and with such wisdom. i hope you keeo at it.

  12. Sarah November 28, 2011 at 10:46 pm - Reply

    Mara, what a timely post! Thank you for sharing. I feel this info, not our circumstances, is KEY to a joyful existence. You are an inspiration 🙂

  13. Sage November 29, 2011 at 1:51 am - Reply

    Thank you again! Need this reminder. Love the challenge to love and forgive others. I like the phrase mentioned by Laura in the first comment, "hurt people hurt people". I would want to say something like that about how happy people don't let hurt people hurt them…or something more clever that sums up this post. Maybe "loving people forgive hurt people."

  14. Tina Hamilton November 29, 2011 at 2:47 am - Reply

    Hey Mara, I love your blog, your an awesome writer. I miss you lots. Love Tina Hamilton

  15. brooke November 29, 2011 at 3:20 am - Reply

    This IS life changing. Just understanding on a very deep level that it isn't about you changes everything. Thanks for your powerful and thoughtful posts.

  16. nluvwthmybstfrnd January 23, 2012 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    I found your blog through the urban cowgirl and have been reading through, starting at the beginning. I'm not a religious person, and I actually almost stopped reading a few times as I felt as if your advice didn't really fit me at times. But, girl! THIS! This right here is exactly why I've been reading. This is the answer I've been searching for! This post really touched me and made more sense to me than anything so far. You are an awesome person, Mara. I can apply this to so many situations in my life. I will be making a concious effort from here on out to see things from this perspective. I've already learned so much from reading your blog and, thanks to you, I already feel like a different person.

  17. 3 Peanuts February 9, 2012 at 10:53 pm - Reply

    What a fabulous post!!! I am a marriage and parenting coach and one thing I always tell my clients is that children behave badly because they feel badly. (so this extend to kids too) And our job as parents is to figure out what is making them feel that way. Sometimes, they are just tired. Sometimes, they feel neglected.

    I agree that while all of this is very easy to understand it is hard to practice in a day to day way but we can try and I'll bet with practice we all get better, right?

    I found your blog through another a few days ago and starting reading. I LOVE it. Your love story is beautiful. You and your husband are wise beyond your years and so adorable. You all are very inspirational!!! Now I am going back through old posts. I will pray for you and your husband to have children. We have two biological boys and one adopted daughter from China. She is SUCH a blessing. You can see our little family on our blog. Adoption is such an incredible gift from God. It has filled my soul in ways I cannot describe and I would love to adopt again.

    I do have a question…maybe for a future post….how is your faith different from Christianity? I am Catholic and I have always wondered.


    • danny February 10, 2012 at 1:16 am - Reply

      Hi Kim – Thanks for the great comment and welcome to our blog! We appreciate your faith on our behalf, and both of us tend to believe that adoption will probably be a part of our lives whether we have children naturally or not. I'm so glad to hear your experience has been positive…I viewed your blog briefly and you have a beautiful blog.

      As for religion, we may not do a post on the subject (at least not at the moment). So I'll direct you here.

  18. Anonymous June 19, 2012 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    Hi Mara and Danny,
    I think I am getting the idea that when someone is acting unloving, angry, being short with you etc "they are suffering in some way" and that we should not take those comments/behavior personnaly. Al though it is very very hard but I can see myself getting there eventually with practice and feeling more at peace than I normally do.

    However, the ONE BIG thing I struggle with is what's the line that will tell you that they are not deserving of your forgiveness and that they are treating you with disrespect or you are being a door mat? I am not married so it's not my spouse but it's my boyfriend. Sometimes, when he gets stressed at work (he is a workaholic), gets quite short with me and also would cancel our weekend get togethers on short notice (weekend is basically the only time we see each other). Granted he doesn't do that all the time, but sometimes he would do it for 2/3 weeks in a row. I am a VERY VERY sensitive and emotional person and I long to see him so even if it's for one weekend it bothers me a lot. Granted he sometimes sees that he is being short with me and he apologises. Anyway, I am sorry to ramble on, my question for you is when do I know that I am being taken advantage of? Also, during those times when he is being rude or angry or short with me because of something he is going through, what should be my response? (it's mostly on the phone because we don't live together).

    I realize I wrote a looong comment/post and I am sure you guys don't have time to answer everybody's concern but if you have any insight I would trully trully trully appreciate it. I LOVE your posts, I read it now every day. Thank you sooo much,

  19. Mensajes para enamorar March 2, 2013 at 7:47 pm - Reply

    I love this blog, thanks!

  20. Anonymous May 10, 2013 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    Reading your posts has given me such a better perspective on my life/trials/happiness/love! Thank you for what you guys do. I know I appreciate the time and effort you've put into creating this blog and sharing your lives with the world.

  21. Anonymous October 17, 2013 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    I really love this post because it resonates so much with my life right now. I wish I could've read this post much sooner, because it would've saved me so much grief. But thank you so much for sharing, this is something that I am currently trying to work on, and hope to remember the next time someone unintentionally tries to hurt me, and that I wont take it so personal. Again thank you!

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