Tag Archives: marriage

Three Tricks to Forgiveness (how to stay married)

A man asks his friend what he can do about his wife’s annoying habit of speaking rudely to people. Besides this fault of hers, one that causes him frustration, she’s a good person, he says, and he loves her. He also values his marriage of 25 years.

Should he try to change her? Can he help her fix this bad habit? What can he do?

I would offer him these three steps, the combined effect of which, leads only and inevitably to forgiveness.

1. Look Inward (acknowledge your own stuff). 

You have “stuff,” too, I’d remind him.  We all do. Acknowledging our own stuff takes courage and humility. These are the qualities that make this step an important part of living an enlightened life. Turning the pointer inward rather than outward, brings us in touch with a more profound and interconnected view of reality; we begin to see the world as a reflection of ourselves, shaped by our interpretations, which themselves, are shaped by our frame of mind and limitations. The effort to  “expand our consciousness,” boils down to the increasing ability to see reality this way—as a construct of our minds.

But, we are so busy judging what others are doing that we miss the opportunity to see what we, ourselves, are doing. And we spend a lot of energy doing it; we spend our time trying to fix others’ broken knobs and loose screws, rather than our own. It’s a bit funny, when you think about it, that imperfect people spend time and energy trying to make others perfect!

2. Acknowledge that Your Partner Puts Up with Your Stuff (all these years).

Now that the pointer has been courageously redirected inward, we can take the next step, which is to acknowledge that our wonderful other has been putting up with those loose screws of ours…all these years! This is certainly cause for gratitude—a delightful, grudge-dissolving feeling, that swells forth from the heart, like chocolate from a wedding fountain, which, in its simultaneous sweetness and ridiculousness, enables us to laugh at ourselves and celebrate our perfect imperfections.

(It is only a half-joke to say that successful long-term relationships are proportional to the combined ability of each partner to put up with each others’ stuff.)

3. See the Positive in Your Partner (it actually takes effort).

For every one annoying habit, there are surely 100 good ones. It takes practice to remind ourselves to see them. The positive mind needs flexing, like any muscle.

One of my own teachers once spoke of a beautiful teaching; to see and then unsee a fault. Taking the time to consciously recognize and remember what we have forgotten, through time and familiarity, is one way to unsee what may not be a fault at all, but rather…our own lesson in disguise, waiting to be discovered.

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Top Three Secrets to a Happy Marriage

My husband and I celebrated 18 years of marriage this week. In today’s climate of dissatisfaction, conflict and ultimately, divorce, it seems to be a minor accomplishment! Here I offer my own top three tips for a successful long-term relationship:

1. Don’t colonize another person. Any other person. 

This means, refrain from imposing your own agenda on them. As one of my own teachers so beautifully put it, “watch your prayerful stillness dissolve whenever you try to control another person.” We kid ourselves by pretending that we would never do this, but watch the little ways in which you press your will on others, even your partner. You’re watching more golf? Are you really still hungry? It means not interrogating. Even questions about whereabouts fit into this category. This means that you must be centered. So look after your own inner peace and spiritual fulfillment because even if you are the only one practicing, watch as it transforms your world. This may be as simple as being fine by yourself. The presumption, of course, is that you have trust in place and so with confidence as the foundation, you may coexist as two independent people who are compatible and who enjoy spending time together, by choice.

2. Be the “Deciders.”

Know that you are adults, and one of the perks of being an adult is that you get to make the decisions that are right for you. In a relationship, that means feeling free to forge arrangements that work to promote harmony in the home, regardless of traditional norms. We have all imbibed a lifetime of ideas from society, media, family and friends, often without considering whether or not we agree with them. And even though we think of ourselves as independent thinkers, notice the ways you unconsciously allow yourself to look upon those ideas as standards. It is especially revealing to notice when you allow yourself to measure your habits and domestic arrangements against these societal norms, allowing insecurity to sneak in when they don’t measure up. This includes everything from when you eat, if you eat together all the time, when and how often you have intimate relations and whether you even sleep in the same room, to whether you take Sunday off. It especially includes issues related to child-rearing, which can be the toughest area in a marriage.

3. Show Gratitude.

So simple, yet so difficult. Say I love you. Everyday. And say thank you for all the little things. This means seeing the positive and letting those myriad positive things serve as a counterbalance to the irksome things. Surely the former outweighs the latter! This also means “un-seeing” those little irksome things because you know that in the big picture, they don’t matter. Unseeing also happens when you use those irksome things as mirrors—what similar things do you do? This diffuses frustration and prevents anger from arising in the first place. It means valuing being happy over being right. It is so easy, but it is always the easiest things that we forget (like being present, or breathing consciously). The tension and stress of everyday living keep us unconscious. And so, we allow annoyance and disappointment to grow within. Be willing to be honest with yourself—how often do you really say I love you? Or, I appreciate you. This preserves the feeling of connection between you—the bedrock on which everything else depends. Remember, your shift in this direction will naturally and magically create a similar shift in your partner. And in this spirit of gratitude, the feeling of love and beauty will begin to permeate the domain, displacing all negativity, the way the evening breeze relieves the afternoon heat.