20 March 2014

Practicing What We Preach


From Danny 

Mara and I had what could have been, under many other circumstances, and in any different relationship, a very difficult conversation about what we each contribute to the blog.


I say that it could have been very difficult, because this is one of those moments where one person's ego can feel totally and completely attacked, and defensiveness can kick in immediately.

In this case, it was my weaknesses that were on display and that needed to be addressed, and the level of input that I was offering at the moment that needed to be increased.

Like I said, this is when either one of our egos could have reared their ugly little (or big) heads.  Mara's approach to me could have been a display of "I'm giving this, I'm doing that, I've invested time and energy, I've given and you haven't and because of that I'm upset."

No matter how kind or aggressive Mara's tone was, my response easily could have been to get super defensive, to push the blame somewhere else, to express what I'm doing that she's not in other areas of our lives.

And then it could have turned into a fight, and hurt feelings, and resentment, and disappointment, and disunity.

But instead, while she was kindly telling me what she needed, I tried to calmly listen. I recognized that she was right, and that I needed to do something about it.  I decided not to get defensive, or to resist her suggestions.  Instead I thanked her, expressed my desire to be better, we talked about some very simple things I could do that would contribute to that. And we hugged and kissed and expressed gratitude to each other.

Later, I went to the bathroom, and as I was washing my hands, I looked in the mirror and said out loud "You are truly a lucky man, you have a woman perfectly suited for you, she is a gift, she is patient with your weaknesses, she addresses you in love, and tells you where she needs you.  You have everything in the world to be grateful for."  It was partially directed at myself, because I wanted to commit to myself to be better about picking up the slack that I had allowed.  It was also partly directed at God, because I wanted to recognize my blessings and give them voice.

Later I came out and after we had some other constructive conversations, Mara kindly offered an apology in case I was offended or hurt in any way by her direct manner.  I told her "Not in the least! In fact you should have heard the conversation I just had with myself in the bathroom!"  And I told her all about it.

Mara and I truly believe in using a language of Love.  We believe in trying to do our best to get our egos out of the way when the other person is offering a suggestion, or even criticism (whether it is deserved or not).  We believe in expressing gratitude even after hard discussions.  We believe in being partners, and in helping each other address areas of weakness with kindness, concern, and as much assistance as the other person is capable of offering, while recognizing all along that whether or not change actually happens is entirely up to the person who needs to make the changes.  And if the person that needs to make changes doesn't, we don't believe in harping on or nagging the other person.  That only creates resentment.  We believe in persuasion, long-suffering, and kindness.

It makes even the hard conversations something that builds our marriage, and knits the two of us closer to each other in Love.

What about you?  Do you let your ego get too involved when you offer or receive criticism?  What are you going to do to change that in the next conversation you have with someone you love?  Let us know in the comments.  

40 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this story, Danny! You are so right about not being able to force change in other people, but I am happy to report that when I started using more loving language and modelling "persuasion, long-suffering and kindness" a few years ago, my husband happily started mirroring it back to me. So, if you want to make changes, altering your own behaviour is a great place to start!

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    1. It's often the only place that you can start!

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  2. I was literally contemplating last night whether you two ever do anything that gets on each other's nerves. Or do something to hurt each other's feelings and how in those moments you choose to react. So how weird/perfect you wrote about it today. It may still egg me that you guys are so good at pursuing the virtue thing ;) but it's good to hear that at times it's a struggle to do so. I loved Eckhart Tolles book about the ego and know how destructive it can be. I find in my relationship we have similar desires on how we want our relationship to be and how we want to raise our kids but sometimes it feels like I am in the only one working in the direction we both want to go. I'm consume myself sometimes with questions like "Why isn't he thinking of this? Why isn't he practicing these principles? Why doesn't he come up with the answers of how to parent from your center/god-self? Why doesn't he lovingly stare at me or choose to drop what he's doing, just to "be" with me?" I honestly know I can only choose to change myself, like the commenter above has said, leading by example helped her. I've gone through so many drastic life changes and am still in the process of choosing to pursue my higher self at all times (as oppose to only sometimes, when I let habit kick in) and it's hard and it takes time. You want the result more quickly but I find with 3 little energies (children) and a spouse it's a lot to balance with my own needs. Still figuring this all out but LOVE you words of encouragement and the example you set for us out there on our path to peace.

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    1. Sounds like you are not only still figuring this out...but doing a great job at it. You've at least learned to begin asking the right kind of questions, and you've become aware of what you're doing. It all starts with awareness, and from there you can begin making more conscious decisions to behave in different and better ways.

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  3. Have you guys ever read Crucial Conversations? You guys are perfect models of some of the principles they teach. For example, one of the keys to successful conversations like this is to create safety through mutual respect and mutual purpose. You guys obviously have done a great job of that and I'm sure Mara did a great job of helping you feel both respected and safe as well as focusing on how you both are invested in the same cause. Another principle is to start with heart and focus on what you truly want - NOT winning or making the other person feel dumb or calling them to the floor (thats about the self and again, doesn't express mutual respect or focus on mutual purpose). It IS about focusing on the things that are true to your heart like your relationship and seeking to build one another and things together, etc. You should read it. You already practice so many of the principles (Master my stories in particular - you can CHOOSE how to respond to life). I used to work for the company VitalSmarts (ran by Mormons, btw and headquartered in Provo) and they have lots of independent trainers all over the world. Maybe its another thing you guys could do in South America? Its so in line with what you already teach.
    Anyway, thats for sharing this. Its helpful for people to see that these types of conversations don't have to be dramatic and hurtful. They can be productive and ultimately bring you closer. Nice work!

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    1. Thank you so much for the book suggestion, and for the company suggestion. I look forward to using our time abroad to dedicate time to learning more about all sorts of principles that encourage peace and union in relationships. I've long considered that pergolas my next career should be based with a company like you describe.

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  4. OK so my first thought when reading this was, "Wow. That positive conversation sure took a lot of energy." Energy to be kind, gracious and to let go of your ego! I mean for Mara to think how to phrase it nicely, for you to listen and actually focus on not being offended, then to go and have a little talk to yourself and finally Mara coming to apologize and make sure she didn't offend you....whew! That sounds like a lot of work for just a little conversation.

    THEN I realized just how much energy arguments and contention takes...so much more!! And with arguments, etc it's more about sucking energy away rather than building positive energy or at least maintaining it. Like so many things in life, you can't choose whether or not to use your energy, but rather which way it should go--positive or negative.

    Well played Kofeds... well played.

    Slowly but surely little grasshopper is learning Sensei.

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    1. That is a great observation Miggy! I've written about that very thing elsewhere is comment, and maybe later today I can find where it is and link to it.

      Your observation is something Mara and I discovered before we met. The funny thing is, either way you're going to spend energy, but when you spend it negatively, it just drains you even more and you'll stew in it for hours or even days later.

      But when you use your energy in a positive manner, you it seems to actually replenish itself, and in the long run you'll have more left over.

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    2. I also wanted to post this comment from a previous post we did where I explain in detail what you just wrote about Miggy.

      http://goo.gl/0kqXxM

      I carry out the analogy of spending energy...I meant to turn it into a post of it's own...maybe will some day.

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  5. I love the work that you guys do but c'mon really, do you guys never ever fight? Isn't that good for the passion aspect in a relationship? To me it seems beyond human to practice this all the time..

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    1. I never said that we do this all the time. Though this is how we try to operate in all that we do. We've found that if at least one of us is willing to not get their ego in the way, whatever arguments might come up never escalate.

      Just like it takes two to tango....it takes two to argue. For most people, they argue because their ego is being threatened and they feel a need to defend or protect it (at least I know that is what happens when I argue with someone).

      You may not succeed at it all the time, but the more often you do it, the easier it gets individually, and you just might find that your partner decides to join you.

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    2. Good to know you guys don't do this all the time ;-) But sharing the hurt when things like this happen is good for a marriage I would think.. Whereas it feels a bit one-sided when one person has to assimilate things that might hurt their feelings (which you can't fully control all the time), it feels almost like a putting up a wall between your partner and yourself..

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    3. The interesting thing is if it feels like you're putting up a wall, then you're doing it wrong. (I don't mean you in particular, the "you" refers to me as well when I am struggling to do what I KNOW is true).

      You haven't yet made the real connection that their behavior is not so much a reflection of your personal worth or value as a human being, but is a reflection of their current state of being. Again, this stuff takes more than a post or a comment to clarify, that's why Eckhart Tolle has written entire books about THIS VERY THING.

      I do know it is possible. I do know it is a skill, learned over time, and slowly perfected. I'm okay with my own failures, I'm okay when Mara has a temporary failure. I know that we are working on it, getting better at it, and stumbles are part of the program.

      Though individually, we're not where we want to be at all times...it has been a rare thing where both of us simultaneously gets into that mode of ego domination/defensiveness.

      Like I said, if a wall is being created...you're still getting defensive...you're just doing it silently. The real issue is can you reach a place where you don't even build a wall. I believe you can.

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  6. Just wanted to thank you for the post, Danny! This issue has been a big challenge in my marriage. I get defensive and hurt whenever I feel that my husband is criticizing me (he can get a harsh tone in his voice if he's frustrated), and my first response is always negative. It's like I want to make sure he knows how hurt I am and then I want to make him feel the same. It's not good. I'm impressed by the self-control you had in that situation. I know all the stuff in my head--choosing how to react, being still, etc., etc. But it is so hard, in the moment when I am hurt, to actually follow those principles. I suppose it takes practice, right? Would love any additional advice on this you may have to share (although I know you've given a lot on this blog). Thanks again. I really like the posts you guys do about improving relationships. So helpful.

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    1. I think a lot of the "self-worth" posts are a really good place to start.

      Another place to start is to change the way you look at the situation. For example, what if you viewed each situation that came up as an opportunity to practice the skill set. It's kind of like learning to play the piano. Even if you have a really great teacher, no one expects you to hit all the right notes after being introduced to a new song, and no one is going to criticize you for making mistakes and hitting a few wrong notes as you struggle to gain familiarity with the keys and timing and tone.

      In a similar manner, you need to view these situations with your husband as a chance to practice. You're going to hit plenty of wrong notes, it's going to take a while to get the timing right, and really be able to hear the music in your head and actually play it the beautiful way it sounds. It's okay that you screw up, that it doesn't work. Keep practicing, develop that proficiency and muscle memory, and after 100 times of trying to play it and messing up (but getting better each time), one day you're going to play it perfect. And the only reason you will have played perfectly, is because you took joy even in the practicing.

      If you viewed practicing as tedious, or as a sign of just how bad you are at the piano, you'd probably stop immediately. But if you practice with the expectation of getting better, with the confidence that it will pay off, then even practice with all it's flaws becomes rewarding.

      So, change the way you look at it. It can empower some of those hard moments, and it can help you not beat yourself up for failing to master it all at once.

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    2. Thank you for taking the time to write such a lovely and thoughtful response. I love your piano analogy--it is encouraging to think about it that way. I especially like what you said about practicing with the expectation of getting better. It's such a positive way to look at the situation, and I think I can apply that idea to my relationship in general. I need to work a little harder improving myself to help my marriage be better, and now I'll make sure to work and practice with the expectation that things will improve. Thanks again. You guys are awesome!

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    3. One very small thing that I just might want to add based on your above comment.

      It may seem counterintuitive, but you might want to consider worrying less about the marriage getting better, and more about taking responsibility for your well being and not placing your well being in the hands of another. I say this because if you embark on this journey with the goal of improving the marriage, it can set a certain standard that will be another reason for your ego to get involved.

      For example, you might go about doing some very good word over the next week or month, and might find that you are much more in control of how you respond to situations. But you might find that your partner isn't interested in doing the same. Whether or not they join you in the whole process is their decision alone.

      If they don't join you but you're doing all of this work with the expectation that things change, one day you're going to be very upset. And your ego is going to be saying things like "I've done all this work, I've responded with greater kindness to you, I've treated you with understanding and patience, and you haven't done anything to make this work!"

      My point is, practice with the expectation that YOU might improve...because you are the only person you have control over. Then you can take joy in the progress that YOU have made, even if someone doesn't join you in healthier behaviors. If you practice with the expectation his critical tone will change and it doesn't, you might be tempted to dismiss the value of the personal growth you've made simply because it didn't change the other person.

      I hope that makes sense. I know it seems counterintuitive. I try to act in the way I've described above because it is how I want to act, and I'm happier when I do, whether or not the other person decides to as well.

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    4. This makes total sense, and I'm so glad you brought it up. I need to always remember that I can only change myself! Honestly, I have a long way to go...ever since I can remember my self worth has been based on the approval of others. And this is why I'm so hurt by criticism--I take it very personally, as if it's an attack on who I am, and I feel that I'm not good enough. So I think that your suggestion to go back and read some of the self-worth posts is a good idea. And I will work on ME with the expectation that I can improve! Thank you so very much for the time you've taken with these comments!

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  7. I'm with anonymous... sounds a little farfetched...

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    1. I'm not trying to be a jerk, but to use your comment as an opportunity to expound on the principle in the post.

      Is it that human beings are truly incapable of doing what I wrote? Or is your skepticism YOUR ego being defensive and protecting you from needing to ask if there is a better way of doing things than you are currently doing them? Did you or anyone else feel attacked and threatened because of what I wrote in the post, because it made you feel like you weren't a good partner or didn't have a good relationship? Or that you weren't justified in getting angry with your spouse, or your kids, or your friend or a stranger?

      The truth of the matter is, you are a good person, and you are just as capable of doing this as I am. I didn't always used to do this. For a good portion of my life, I would have been prone to take Mara's comments described in the post and do just the opposite. I may not have blown up and had a full blown fight, that kind of thing has never really been in my nature. But I might have silently held it against her, I might have become passive aggressive about it for a while.

      But on the whole, I don't do that anymore. Sure, I slip from time to time, no one is perfect....but I slip less often each month/year. My point in writing the post wasn't to claim that there aren't moments where I'm not as good at entering that place, my point was to describe what I DO WHEN I SUCCEED, and what I am constantly trying to be aware of and improve upon, and that I succeed more frequently at doing this and that this kind of interaction has become the norm in our marriage.

      And it works. Seriously.

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    2. It made me smile a little bit to read the last anonymous comment, that it seems far-fetched. I help run a very, very small business and I am in close partnership every day with another woman. She is a recovered alcoholic with a lot of emotional responses to life, but she works very hard to respond kindly and honestly. I am a devout Christian, so commitment to kindness and honesty is part of my obedience to God. And on top of it, we both need paychecks! We have to work out conflicts in a kind, constructive way--and conflicts arise on a weekly, if not daily, basis--or our business will fail! We have to apologize to each other ALL the time, constantly own what we did wrong, how we want to do better, and stay gracious, even when one of us is really steamed up. Of COURSE it's possible to do this. We all exercise self-control all the time. And if I can bite my tongue when I'm irritated at a police officer or my boss at work, why can't I bite my tongue and die to my ego around my husband, who should receive my kindest energy of all?

      I think too often modern Americans feel the need to "be themselves" by expressing their darkest side... But is that the self we should really want to be? It goes back to the concept of two wolves inside, one mean and snarling, one kind and peaceful. Which one grows? The one you feed.

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    3. Melody, I love your thoughts here. I recently wrote an email to a friend with the same concept that you brought up in the quote below:

      "We all exercise self-control all the time. And if I can bite my tongue when I'm irritated at a police officer or my boss at work, why can't I bite my tongue and die to my ego around my husband, who should receive my kindest energy of all? "

      EXACTLY!!!

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    4. Anon - it is a more rare thing to have two people committed to living this way - and committed to not letting their ego interfere with the relationship. Danny and I do this really well - so well that we have learned a thing or two about it and want so much to help others. The beautiful thing is, when you are not consumed with drama at home or in your marriage, you have so much abundance - and there is more energy and space and love overflowing. That's why we were able to start the blog. We felt a lot of abundance and felt we could give back in some way. Now, we actually don't think we're anything special. We believe that ANY person can improve and learn skills they need to transform their lives. I wouldn't write the blog if I didn't think that others had the potential to have abundance, too. The problem is, we all want to attach circumstances to abundance. We want to say abundance is dependent on a healthy marriage, or a loving partner, or the exact # of kids that we wanted to have, or the exact house or job that we had in mind, etc. But that is not true abundance. The message of this blog is that you can have abundance NO MATTER WHAT your circumstances! You can be whole, you can live according to your spirit (instead of your ego) and you can be free and fulfilled by living a life motivated by love - by letting your spirit (not ego) dictate your life - by choosing to pursue virtues (love, compassion, gratitude, kindness, forgiveness) instead of fear, fear, fear, anger, anger, anger. To us, that is abundance. That leads to happiness. And you can apply this spiritual practice to anything. It doesn't always change a circumstance. Some may have marriages that don't work out or maybe they lack a partner altogether. Some struggle with infertility or hardships as a mother. Some will have deaths in the family or major, major disappointments in life - - -but you can still make these things a spiritual practice. You can still experience personal abundance in those circumstances. (Danny and I practiced this way of life individually before we even met. And it's the same thing we practice in regards to infertility and any other life disappointment.)

      And, btw, thanks for writing in. I think you're not alone in feeling it's far fetched. So I'm grateful for the opportunity to try and explain. Have a great weekend.

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  8. Beautiful, Danny. I am working on doing this in my own marriage and have been so pleased with how it's going. I think the best part is that you are teaching that it's all fine and good to be loving and kind when things are going well, but the real test comes when something like this happens and your ego feels threatened. I am trying to teach that lesson to my kids - we need to be kind even when, especially when, it's hard.

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  9. What if your partner doesn't know how to do this, no matter how good you are at it, no matter the subject, etc?! How do you help them to do this? Can you? Should a professional be included?

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    1. Often times, therapists try to help people understand how to converse in much more constructive manners...so in that sense, yes it can help to have a professional work you through it together.

      One bit of warning...no amount of "technique" will accomplish the desired result if you haven't learned to separate your ego from the conversation. You have to believe that you aren't actually being attacked, and that there is nothing to defend....even if the words someone is using are very aggressive.

      It would take a whole separate post to go into this in detail...many of Mara's self-worth posts address this concept, in that the better you get at understanding that your worth isn't based on what someone else thinks about you, says about you, or does to you....the easier it is to enter into the space of mind that allows you to do this, even if your partner doesn't want to participate.

      So, if you need an intermediary, then yes, maybe getting a professional to guide you will help. It might not hurt to also read one of Eckhart Tolle's books, as you will begin to understand better just how often your ego is rearing it's ugly head, and in what ways it does so.

      Good luck! It truly is possible. Mara was exceptionally good at doing this with one boss she had that was particularly difficult (that word is an understatement). He NEVER was capable of reciprocating, but she did it on her side anyway and viewed it as a spiritual practice. She figured if she could learn how to do it with that boss, she could do it in any circumstance. I'd say her "training" has paid off quite well :)

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    2. This is a fantastic post, thank you! It's always great to see specific examples of how to apply counsel to specific situations. I do have a question about your comment right above... You said "you have to believe that you aren't actually being attacked, and that there is nothing to defend... Even if the words someone is using are very aggressive." I do understand that the way we choose to react is our choice, but sometimes people do choose to become so negative that it does appear to be an attack. Is that hurt we might feel actually our ego? I also think hat the principle of forgiveness helps us to heal from hurt. And allows us to progress without the burden being carried forward. I really do want to read the books that you and Mara suggest. Thanks for all that you do to help others and for being so open and willing to share!

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    3. Aubrey - one thought we share a lot: living in a better way, with your ego not involved in every interaction, will likely be a shock to your spouse. One partner might be really used to the up and down nature of the relationship or the ability to get a rise out of someone or the ability to control or manipulate or diminish someone or just the pattern of engaging in negativity. This could be something that feeds their ego - or it could be the way that makes them feel the most comfortable, if that's what they know best. SO, if this stuff doesn't work on their partner anymore or if their partner does not engage in this or reciprocate this crap anymore, it can actually get really uncomfortable for the ego-based partner. As they say, light is attracted to light, dark is attracted to dark. I think that does play a part here. I just mention it as your partner may display a level of discomfort if you are not playing the ego game. But - that discomfort can perhaps be a catalyst for him to change and learn and progress. Or, it could lead him further away (that happened to me). But I think the best thing you can do as things play out is to just stay true to yourself and your spirit and focus on not letting your ego get involved. As you make your interactions with him a spiritual practice, you'll gain more and more strength and ability to face whatever is ahead.

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  10. I really needed this today. I need to have a conversation with my business partner about re-thinking the 50/50 division of our start-up company. When we started out, there seemed no reason not to split things 50/50. But a year on, his measurable contribution (ie time and money) has dwindled to almost nothing and I am starting to feel resentful. We have not launched our company yet, so it's like we're engaged to be married, and the wedding is drawing near, and we need to get this fundamental problem solved before the wedding. I know that he is going to feel extremely threatened and undermined, but if I do nothing I know my resentment will grow and the 'marriage' could be disastrous. We are both very emotionally invested in the company, so this discussion will no doubt challenge both of us to remain calm and patient.

    Anyway, thank you for writing this, because it applies to all sorts of different human relationships, not just marriage.

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    1. That will be a really challenging conversation. I hope it goes well. I have had to have many difficult conversations at work, similar to that, but not as weighty. What I have learned is it REALLY helps to stay completely calm, almost detached, and help the other person recognize and acknowledge how they're contributing or not contributing. Once you can agree on those facts, without judging them but just acknowledging them, then you can go forward more gracefully. Restraining my own anger or disappointment is key. I hope it goes well for you :)

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  11. Last night, yet again, I cried. That's my immediate response, I seem less and less able to have a constructive talk without tears, as I get so tired, and then everything rears it's ugly head. I see so many thinks I'm not being helped with around the house. It's not THAT important, for a lived alone, and did it all, and coped, capably. But I was this home to be a partnership between us, and a shared responsibility to keep the home nice, and tidy.

    Sadly, every time I cry, I think my BF suspects that I want to break up with him. I don't - though I think about, think about what that might mean, but also if I would be 'less sad' without him - I wouldn't. That's not to say there aren't things we need to grow together with. I still find his 'jokes' hurtful when I'm feeling sensitive (again, when I'm tired). And I'm largely tired due to his snoring, which he's not done anything about.

    Thanks for offering a safe place for me to share this, and I'd appreciate any advice you offer, should you (and the readers) have the time.

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    1. Read Mara's posts on self-worth. Keep trying to practice the virtues Mara and Danny talk about. Don't have expectations of what your partner should do. My best advice is to read this blog! Hang in there. Don't be afraid to let go of your ego.

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  12. The single most important tactic for short circuiting defensive communication is to choose to have a positive mindset about your spouse. That is from the book Why Marriages Succeed and Fail by John Gottman. I think the key word is CHOOSE. We can control the way we think about and speak to others! Great post!

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  13. We apply this in our marriage and it makes such a HUGE difference! It make me love him even more! Thanks for the post, you guys are great! I love how real you are and what you share.

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  14. Thanks so much for this post, Danny. And, I have thoroughly enjoyed your increased presence on this blog--your and Mara's posts complement one another so well.

    I found this post in particular especially helpful because it offered an example of real-life relationship difficulties that we all go through--and what you two did to handle it well. It will serve as a model and reminder for me in how I want to try to treat others (and myself!) in future similar situations.

    One thing that I've found incredibly helpful to remind myself of is that, most of the time, what others say and do to you (and HOW they say/do it) is not a reflection of me--that helps take the "ego" out of the situation. This was definitely an issue/present in my last relationship and part of why it ended--our self-esteem and happiness were wrapped up in how each of us treated the other. And we had many an argument as the one you describe in your post...about how it COULD have gone for you and Mara.

    One question: what do you mean by "long-suffering"? I'm not sure I fully understand that concept.

    Thanks to both of you!!

    Nisha

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    1. Nisha, thanks for sharing your insights and what you plan to do about it. I think that is powerful.

      As I said in a few of the comments above, I also did not always do what I describe in the post. My ex-wife and I were really pretty kind to each other, and I'd say we had very few "fights" and arguments. It wasn't in the nature of either of us. And yet, I look back and realize that too often, even if I didn't argue something and verbally defend myself against the perceived or real attack, I still did so internally. And I developed a way of thinking about myself, the situation, and about my ex-wife that I think didn't help us move forward in the best way. It was in the last year of our marriage/separation/divorce that I learned the value of what I wrote about.

      It really is powerful.

      As for "long-suffering", I suppose I think of that in a religious context which may mean you wouldn't come to the same definition of the word I would if you didn't have the exact same context.

      What I don't think it means is sticking with something that is abusive. If real suffering is occurring in a relationship and it can be avoided by taking action to remove ourselves, it should be done.

      What it means to me is that I can have patience with someone, even if it requires patience over a sustained period of time, while I wait for them to come to a better state of mind. I'm kind of thinking of an example of a parent with a toddler in their terrible twos. Have you ever seen a parent with a child that is constantly having temper tantrums, just handle the child with total serenity? The child may scream all sorts of "I hate yous" and other things, but the parent is aware that their child just isn't in a good state of mind right now, they don't know any better, and the fact that they are having this breakdown doesn't mean they are a bad parent...it's just a reflection on the stage of growth that child is in. That kind of consistent patience that is displayed over the course of the temper tantrum phrase is something that I would equate with long-suffering.

      Sometimes it can be easy to do it for a child, because you assume "they just don't know any better", whereas an adult who is your spouse certainly SHOULD know better. But, truth is anybody who is acting in an unhealthy manner, at the very moment they are doing so, "doesn't know better."

      Buddhism has a phrase I like a lot. It says "Living Beings don't have faults, but their delusions do." The idea being, just as we can look at a child who is behaving poorly as misguided and currently doesn't know how to process their emotions and needs in a healthier manner, so too can we look at anyone who is behaving poorly and in misguided manner.

      People deserve our compassion.

      One word of warning. Deserving our compassion, patience, and long suffering doesn't mean that we need to keep dating them or marry them. When it comes to dating, you want to find someone who already has begun to learn how to have healthier interactions, who is capable of being mature enough to approach things in a way that facilitates harmony and mutual respect and love.

      When you are already married and have kids, by virtue of the decisions you've made in the past, it may not be so easy to just say "it's time for me to move on." But when you're dating, you should be able to do that. That's they whole point of dating. Finding a partner who is willing to explore life in the healthiest way. You don't look for partners to fix up and stay with them and their unhealthy ways because it is "long-suffering".

      Okay, long enough comment with a whole lot of tangents...hopefully it was helpful and not confusing :)

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  15. I've read through all the comments and maybe it is my ego that is making me feel completely discouraged by this...but i still am. i've been working on not getting offended as often and i think it is actually do to a post mara wrote awhile ago about how you shouldn't let what other people say/think affect your worth. Your worth should be rooted in the fact that you are a beloved child of God. I've been doing better at that, but then i read this and feel like a failure all over again. but hopefully one day i can be as good as you guys....my husband on the other hand; there is no way i can force him to want to be the same way.

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  16. Danny, this is a great post, and fits perfectly with what Wendy and I talk about over at ablogaboutfamily.com. If one is totally committed to put love first, always, always, always, no difference of opinion ever needs to become an argument.

    Because of the kind language Wendy has consistently used with me, I have been able to heal many of the wounds caused by my divorce. When you know that the other person is always speaking out of love, with your best interest in mind, things are so much less threatening. And to address some of the comments above, no, I don't think that any arguing is ever healthy for a marriage. Sharing your true thoughts, feelings, fears, and opinions is healthy. Anger, fear, and contention are not. I can honestly say that Wendy and I have never had an argument, and that each of us feels completely free to share our opinions. And I have conversations in the mirror kind of like the one you described, so I empathize with how blessed and lucky you feel. It really is possible to have an incredible marriage, no matter your past or the skeletons in your particular closet.

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  17. Talk radio's question of the day is. Do you find the foundation your relationship was built is still the same, and is it strong enough to sustain a life long commitment to marry?

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