Archive for the ‘Unconditional Love’ Category

Joy versus Happiness: Where to find them

Joy is what we experience from things, activities, and even adventures.  But true happiness comes from relationships.

Joys are passing.  That’s why we are constantly seeking new joys.

True happiness, by contrast, is marked by a deep sense of peace or contentment, which in turn is dependent on feeling safely connected to other persons by whom we feel loved and love in return.   These other persons may be family, friends or God . . . and to some degree, even pets.

Here’s the proof.   A person who has experienced great joys in his collection of mementos, cars, or travels does not receive comfort on his death bed by asking for the things or distractions that gave him joy.  He receives comfort by asking for the people in his life who were the source of his true happiness.

Here’s another proof.   No one who feels entirely isolated from meaningful relationships is happy.   Loneliness is the antithesis of happiness.  The lonely may experience joys, but they are not happy.  They do not feel socially connected and socially rooted.   We are all psychically built to be social creatures.  When there is a lack of sufficient social connection we are not fully the social beings we are meant to be and therefore lack a fullness of happiness.

In short, we can only find true happiness in relationships with others.   Indeed, it can be argued that the whole purpose and meaning of life is to develop relationships and thereby understand and mirror that Divine relationship which is the very nature of the Trinity. One of the ways we are made in the image and likeness of God is to be in relationship with others like ourselves.

From these insights we can see that key to experiencing and deepening true happiness in our lives is to focus on nurturing our relationships with others, including God, parents, siblings, spouse, children and friends.

Everything you do to nurture and restore relationships (including seeking and offering forgiveness, comfort, and support) will contribute to your happiness and the happiness of others. 

From this same line of reasoning we should also be aware that the temptation to seek individual joys in things and experiences, especially at the expense of our relationships, is like overindulging on sugar at the expense of good vegetables and protein.   Whenever our pursuit of joys lead us to neglect our relationships, this will diminish our happiness, not feed it.   So be careful of pursuing the excitement of material joys at the expense of your relationships.


Guaranteed Freezing: “I’ll give you wood when you give me heat.”

Your spouse’s opinions may change over time, but seldom because you have lectured, pressed, insisted or demanded his or her conformity with your opinion.  It is far more likely that your spouses opinion, or yours, will change simply by being aware of each others views and being open to allowing those views, and others one will witness as the years go by, percolate deep inside until that view begins to meld into one’s own opinions.

Acceptance of differences is what both wins  hearts and eventually, at undetermined times and rates, can transform hearts and opinions.

Withholding acceptance, on the other hand, poisons intimacy.

In The Seven Levels of IntimacyMatthew Kelly writes:

The first truth of relationships is that all relationships have problems.  They all have unresolvable problems.  These unresolvable problems are usually the result of vastly different opinions on certain issues or varying expectations about the role each partner should play.  All of these are the result of differences in upbringing, education, and experience.

…it is how we choose to deal with these unresolvable problems that most influences the quality and depth of our relationships.

The relationships that thrive despite their unresolvable problems are those in which the people acknowledge the problems, find ways to adapt to them, and over time even find them amusing.  They don’t allow differing opinions to become a roadblock in their quest for intimacy.

The people whose relationships struggle take a very different path… They constantly argue to the point of gridlock; they keep hurting each other’s feelings, and consciously or subconsciously they stand at the stove saying, “I’ll give you wood when you give me heat.”

They withhold their love, affection, and acceptance from each other while promising themselves, “When I understand her I will accept her,” or vice versa.  Over time, a pattern emerges.  The people disagree about something; they criticize each other; they blame each other for their inability to resolve their differences; the tension escalates; the subject of the argument is abandoned for condescending and critical personal attacks; the argument becomes too painful, so one person (or both) abdicates; they retreat from the conflict and return to the superficial and safer levels [limiting conversation to cliches or facts, rather than opinions and values].

Unless they can lean a new way to deal with their unresolvable problems they will never taste the life giving waters of intimacy. The new way they desperately need to find is acceptance. . . .

We must work our way out from under the illusion that all problems can be resolved.  Once we are liberated from the expectation that we should be able to resolve all the problems in our relationships, we are free to turn our attention to helping each other become the-best-version-of-ourselves.

It isn’t your job to fix the relationship.  It is the relationship’s job to fix you.

Relationships are hard work, but the hardest work is letting go of our personal agendas and learning to accept that we are who we are and where we are right now for a reason.

Everything doesn’t have to be planned and controlled. Relationships should be treated as sacred mysteries.  Allow the mystery to unfold in it’s own time.

The greatest gift we can give anyone in relationship is acceptance.  Once we resolve to accept people for who they are and where they are, we are set free and so are they.

We are free to affirm them, encourage them, and appreciate them, and by liberating ourselves we set them free to be who they are and become all they were created to be.

All relationships have unresolvable problems.

It is difficult to come to come to terms with this truth at first, but in time you will discover, if you have not done so already, that it is how we deal with these unresolvable problems that usually determines the fate of our relationships.

Very few relationships lose their footing in the midst of great joy or even the everyday challenges; it is the unresolvable problems of relationships (and the illusion that they should not exist) that cause us to lose our footing.

Marriage is Supposed to be a Struggle?!


If you think your spouse should ALWAYS make you happy, I feel sorry for . . . your spouse.

Sure, the desire to make you happy should be high on your’s spouse list of priorities.  But you go too if you think your spouse’s responsibility to make you happy.

Take a moment to view the coin from the other by Tavallai--cc flickr

Can you always make your spouse happy?

No.  So how can you expect more from him or her?

Even if your spouse could “always make you happy,” would that truly be a good thing?

Probably not.  It would far more likely just make you increasingly narcissistic and more of a pain in the ass than you already are!

If it’s not good for your own spouse, siblings, children, or pets to always get their way, why would it be good for you?

Marriage is the Best Path to Self Improvement

Despite all the romantic hopes everyone harbors about finding a soul mate or perfect match, the reality of human nature is that we are all imperfect and therefore imperfectly compatible.

Lori Lowe’s essay We All Married The Wrong Person describes research that shows that there are no perfect matches, and perhaps not even any great matches.  Instead, there are matches of imperfect people who greatly work at becoming better and more tolerant. Read the rest of this entry »

Extraordinary Reasons for Sexual Problems in Marriage

Every marriage goes through cycles of intimacy.

Sometimes we will feel close to each other and yearn for ever more emotional, physical, and spiritual intimacy.  At other times, we will feel that we are drifting apart.   If the drift apart becomes too severe, we may actually begin resent our spouse’s efforts to renew and restore emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy.

Some of the driving forces which tend to push couples away are what I will call normal circumstances.  These encompass the normal competitors for time and energy — like jobs, parenting, hobbies, et cetera– and the normal vices of human nature — self-absorption, selfishness, envy, boredom and the like.    These are “normal circumstances” because they arise in nearly every marriage and are addressed in nearly every book on marriage advise.

But there are also extraordinary circumstances.  Unfortunately, these extraordinary circumstances are not rare.   I call them extraordinary not because they are rare but because can loom so large in the psyche of one or both partners that they may render a spouse truly unable to even work at being who or she wants to be without professional counseling and an extraordinary effort on both partner’s part. Read the rest of this entry »

When a History of Sexual Abuse Impacts Marital Intimacy

Trust is vital to marital intimacy.

Unfortunately,  sometimes through no major fault of a spouse, trust may be lost — or at least buried–beneath feelings of anxiety, fear, or even an emotional shut down.

Why?  Because past hurts caused by other people can become mentally associated with one’s spouse.  Once these links are made, even subconsciously, these feelings of hurt, despair, shame, hatred, and more need to be dealt with or they will continue to haunt the marriage.

One life experience that can intrude on marital intimacy in this way is a history of sexual abuse, especially a history of sexual abuse as a child.

photo by  Stuart Dallas Photography--cc flickr

While a history of sexual abuse may not always interfere with marital intimacy, it would be a very rare couple with whom it never has any impact on their relationship.

Occasionally, the effects of prior sexual abuse will be evident early in a relationship.   In such cases, an alert couple will educate themselves and be consciously prepared to persistently and patiently work through these issues as they unfold through the early years of their marriage.  Bravo!

In other cases, a couple may be taken by surprise by issues arising out of a history of sexual abuse.  Or worse, they may have no insight at all as to how this past is contributing to the disintegration of their marriage.  This can occur because survivors of sexual abuse are often unaware of its lingering effects and impact on relationships.

Indeed, if an affected spouse believes the past abuse is not something that needs to be addressed (much less has successfully suppressed memories of the abuse), it is quite likely that their spouse, too, will treat it as a non-issue presuming he or she has even been told about the past abuse.

As a general rule of thumb, however, sooner or later it will always become an issue.   As trust, love, interdependence grow and wane, and as unexpected events in life create emotion sapping tension and hurts, unresolved feelings will be triggered, misdirected, and misinterpreted.

In many cases, a couple may enjoy period of normal and pleasurable marriage for several years.    During this time, the affected spouse may actually be coping well, and healing on many levels.   Alternatively, the affected spouse may mostly be suppressing the all the little hurts and resentments which are due to normal marriage experiences rubbing up against unhealed trauma wounds related to trust, self-esteem, control, sexual boundaries, and more.  In such cases, the affected spouse may be working hard to convince themselves and their spouses that they are happy when in fact they are getting by, coping, doing their best to their “duty,” while inside true marital intimacy is not growing but is instead eroding.

Read the rest of this entry »

Love is Verb, Not a Noun. A Choice, Not a Chemistry.

Many people are looking for “chemistry” in their love lichemical reactionves.

They want someone who stirs up their feelings of admiration, attraction, and desire.

It’s like they want to be handed a surprise gift.  A neat little package containing all of the feelings we associate with love, especially the way “true love” and “love at first sight” is conveyed in the movies and songs that define our culture.

Is it any surprise, then, that divorce rates are so high?  Is it any surprise so many people are in serial relationships that last only months or a few years before they renew their search for “better chemistry?”

Love is not chemistry. Love is a choice.

The feelings we associate with love (admiration, desire, possessiveness, generosity, et cetera) are just that; feelings associated with love, especially when choices to love are being reciprocated and the challenges we face are relatively small.   And these feelings are all good.  But they are not love.

Love is decision.  It is a verb.  It is the process of making every day choices that honor a relationship which includes commitments of serving another persons, whether that be a new born child you barely know, a parent you’ve known all your life, or your fiance’ on your wedding day.


It is the every day decisions to make little or big choices to honor this Read the rest of this entry »

Wanted: Leaders not Tyrants — What Women Want in Men and How They Can More Likely Get It

Women are attracted to confident men.

Indeed, confidence is the most commonly listed qualities report wanting in men.  Moreover, even the physical characteristics of an attractive man are ones which suggest manly confidence, strength, and an ability to lead.

On some level, this sign of confidence also reflects an ability to protect, provide, and lead a family.

But there are delicate balances at stake.   Leaders are valued, but beware of tyrants.

Men, or women, who “naturally” appear to be strong leaders may in fact be tyrants–pressing their wills forward with a sharp focus that looks like leadership but is really self-focused, closed-minded narcissism.   Dictators may be perceived as leaders, and do serve the role of leaders in many governments, businesses, associations, homes, and relationships . . . but once they are discovered to be dictators, they are usually not the men women wish they had married.

by Elvert Barnes, Creative Commons

While husbands should certainly avoid being tyrants, it still remains true that most wives want a husband who is a leader.  More specifically, they desire a husband who is closer to the ideal of a servant-leader, one who seeks the good of everyone and is often willing to forego his own desires and preferences because of that desire to “lead by example,” including by examples of generosity.

The irony is that a good servant-leader, especially early in relationships, may not be perceived as a “leader” precisely because he is seeking to understand his partners needs and desires before making decisions.

The dilemma this creates for confident women is well described in a blog post by Evan Marc Katz:  If You Want to Date A Confident Leader, You Have to Let Him Lead.

While Katz fails to offer much in the way of solutions (like I hope to do), it is still a very interesting read.  Go ahead.  Go read it.  Then come back here.

One of the striking points in the Katz article is that many confident, successful women are tired of making decisions all day and would welcome their date simply choosing what restaurant to go to without having one more consultation.   This sets them up for being more intrigued and impressed by men who are really prone to be dictator types w

ho know what they want for themselves and figure its up to women to adjust if they want to be part of “his life.”   The problem is that this form of self-centeredness may appear to be confidence, which is attractive, in the dating stage but is later seen as, well . . . self-centeredness after marriage, which is not attractive. Read the rest of this entry »

Marital Expectations — Ingredients for Marital Intimacy


Be wary of stereotypes.   They often hold elements of truth, but not the whole truth.

Stereotypes about men and women, for example, may be helpful starting points in discussions because there are true differences in men and women.  On the other hand, since there is so much variation between individuals, both men and women, stereotypes often don’t apply to particular individuals or couples.

Acknowledging that caveat (and with your promise of tolerating the following over generalizations), let’s see what we might learn by contemplating a couple of stereotypes.

(1) Men want sex more often than women.

(2) Women want conversations more often then men, especially about topics (and in feeling terms) which women experience as especially meaningful.

So, man meets woman.  They fall in love.  They promise to marry with the expectation that their spouse will dispel the loneliness  in their lives by giving them the security of (a) a sex partner forever and (b) someone to converse with forever.

Put another way, they are looking for sexual security and emotional security which are distinct but very intertwined.

Typically, for men satisfaction of sexual desire produces feelings of emotional closeness.  For women, emotional closeness produces feeling of sexual desire.

This is why women want to be romanced before sex and also why men have a tendency to want to move quickly toward sex . . . not just for the sex act itself but for the afterglow of emotional closeness which sex is the shortcut to.

So part of the “mismatch” between men and women is that while they both want true intimacy, which is both emotional and physical, they have a natural tendency to want the first steps to be down their own preferred path . . . emotional for women and physical for men.

This difference can lead to unintended hurts.   A wife can feel emotionally hurt and used when the husband neglects to emotionally warm her up before sex.   Conversely, if the wife refuses a “quicky” because her husband has failed to romance her, or she just doesn’t have the time, he is going to experience rejection.   Not just a rejection of sex, but rejection of emotional intimacy with him.   He, after all, is seeking not just sexual release but profound emotional intimacy. . .or at least a short cut to it,  especially in the afterglow of sex.

So remember this fundamental principle:  both husbands and wives want intimacy.  Deep, profound intimacy.  But they often see different paths to greater intimacy.  

While they both want sex and conversation in the mix, it is likely that they each want sex and conversation in different proportions.   Add on top of this the fact that either spouse, feeling that one’s desire for intimacy (verbal or physical) is being rejected feels like a rejection of one’s very self.

Read the rest of this entry »

Unconditional Love. What is Your Unilateral Promise to Your Spouse?

Marriage vows are intended to bind us to our spouse even and especially when we no longer feel like we want to be together, much less bound together.

Marriage vows are a reminder that promise to love someone is an act of the will, a decision to bind one’s will to the process of trying as best as one can to expand, renew, or even restore feelings of love . . . even when there is a drought of such feelings.

Following is a letter from a husband to a wife in the midst of marriage counseling.  At the time it was written, they had not had physical intimacy for over two years, and she was balking at plans arranged during a counseling session for them to go on a second honeymoon. Read the rest of this entry »

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