What’s the toughest part of loving someone well?

April 29, 2009 at 7:18 pm | Posted in Truthtelling | 6 Comments
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As a recovering “good girl” (one who works overtime to protect herself by trying to be perfect, keeping others happy, and avoiding conflict at all costs), certainly the toughest part of loving someone well is telling the truth about who I am.

And yet, learning to step out of fear and self-protection, and expressing my truth in as caring a way as possible is the essential element in living authentically.

I would hazard a guess that for many of you, like me — whether you’ve spent much of your life hiding your true self behind being “good” or “tough” or “focused on fun” — truth-telling in your meaningful relationships can feel terrifying. Because you may have experienced a long time ago that when you honestly shared your feelings and needs, you were minimized or ignored or abused or abandoned. (For more details on key styles of relating, see Dan Allender’s The Wounded Heart, even if sexual abuse is not a part of your story.)

What could be more important than engaging with a process that supports you in trusting and loving yourself, so you can love others well?

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How do you keep your love alive? Try affirmation.

October 14, 2008 at 10:46 pm | Posted in Affirmation | 4 Comments
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What do you suppose this woman has just told this slightly amused-looking man?

• “Not here, John!”
• “No, you didn’t really tell my mother that story!”
• “We’ve been dating for 3 years now, don’t you know I love you?”

Or, perhaps, this guy has just received an affirmation from his friend, a few encouraging words about an aspect of his character – “John, I really admire how calm and steady you are, you always put me at ease.”

It’s words of affirmation like this – when spoken by someone you trust — that help you feel valued and cared for. At times when you’re discouraged and insecure, words of affirmation also can remind you of who you are and help you get back on track.

You may have been told that receiving too many compliments will give you a big head, but I disagree. Experience tells me that when I receive honest affirmation from someone who truly knows me, I feel humbled and just want to keep embodying the qualities my friend says are true about me.

Setting the intention to be affirming to others is one of the most loving gifts you can give someone. Begin by looking for those qualities that you appreciate most about your partner, spouse or best friend, then communicate how you feel. Try at least one affirmation a day to start.

Can you recall the last time you were affirmed or you affirmed someone else? How did it make you feel?

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The liberating approach to life and love

January 17, 2008 at 9:44 pm | Posted in Differentiation | 3 Comments
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I’m not yet 100 pages into psychologist David Schnarch’s 1997 book, Passionate Marriage, but his philosophy about keeping love and intimacy alive in committed relationships is revolutionary. Whether you’re married or not, this text is packed with illuminating truth.

Take relational differentiation, for example. Schnarch defines differentiation as “the ability to maintain your sense of self when your partner is away or when you are not in a primary love relationship . . . the ability to balance individuality and togetherness.” If you’re well differentiated, you feel confident and able to speak and act freely when you’re with your significant other, when you’re separated from him/her, and when you have no significant other.

Regarding the development and expression of differentiation, Schnarch highlights two key elements to consider:

1. Most of us begin our adult lives at approximately the same level of differentiation as our parents.

2. We tend to select lovers and marriage partners who are near the same level of differentiation as we are.

Depending on your family of origin and the current state of your love life, those can be pretty sobering thoughts, right?

The good news is that we can become more differentiated over time through intentional and relationally-based effort. In fact, greater personal differentiation is one of the benefits of engaging with the Authentic Life process. It’s not an easy path but it’s the most liberating approach to life and love that I know.

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