"Please pass the ham."

As recipes and cooking may be passed down from generation to generation, so too are the origins of our capacity to love and to be loved. These family influences ultimately shape our unique, personal love maps.

There is a story that surfaced several years ago about a newly married couple. It makes a strong point concerning the development of love behaviors and interaction patterns within families.

In preparation for their first big dinner with both sets of parents and grandparents, the new husband was puzzled as he watched his bride put the ham in the oven. He inquired of her, “Honey, why did you cut the ham in half and then put it in the pan?”

She replied, “Oh, I don’t know…I suppose because that’s how Mom always did it. It must help it cook faster or something.”

At dinner that evening, the bride asked her mother, “Mom, why do you cut the ham in half before you bake it?”

The mother, baffled by her daughter’s question, thoughtfully replied, “I suppose it’s because that’s always how my mom did it.”  All eyes in the room turned on the bride’s grandmother for an explanation.

The grandmother, quite amused, chuckled and said, “When I was first married I didn’t have a pan large enough for the ham to fit in—so I always cut it into two halves and just kept doing it that way. I guess I just got accustomed to making ham that way!”

As this story illustrates, more often than not we don’t give much thought to our behaviors. We do them simply because that’s how we’ve become accustomed to doing them. We do them because this is what we’ve been taught, because it’s what we’ve so often observed.

So it is with much of what makes up marriage, intimate relationships, and family life—we love others and allow others to love us the way we learned from the families that raised us. We communicate the ways we were taught to. We parent the way we were parented. We argue the ways we were taught to. We manage finances the way we were taught to. We express intimacy the way we were taught to. We cope with stress and crises the way we were taught to.

Experience by experience, your love map is written. And this becomes a part of who you are. It becomes your set of expectations, it becomes your marriage script.

Now, all is fine and dandy if we marry someone who was raised exactly like us. But this isn’t reality, is it?

What are some ways that you and your partner differ in the ways that you love each other?

Photo Credit: What What (flickr.com)



"I thought you had the map?"

No two people in a relationship experience or express their love in exactly the same ways. And to complicate things even more, you can love the same person in different ways at different times. This is because as you grow from infancy through old age, your concept of “love” is under construction, continuously developing over time. Ultimately, you develop your own, unique “definition” of love.

Experience after experience—from the parent-child relationship, to friendships, to boyfriends and girlfriends (and ex’s), to sexual hookups, to marriages that work and marriages that don’t/didn’t—you create a love map, or a playbook. This map is then internalized and made a part of you.

Your love map is kind of like a mental blueprint. It’s your one-of-a-kind image of what love is and isn’t. Whether you realize it or not, you use this love map to help you determine who you want to date or to marry. You use it when you begin to question if you’re “in love” with someone.

And just as important, you use the love map to determine if a relationship is over, because if elements in your love map are violated (such as trust or respect) or not fulfilled (like humor or sex), you eventually “fall out” of love.

Because your love map is an integral part of who you are, it almost always directs each and every aspect of your intimate relationships. Your love map also drives the motives behind your relationship patterns and interactions.

For example, a wife could certainly do something for her husband, she can do an unexpected act of kindness like making a cup of coffee for him in the morning—but what if her love map is written in such a way that if she gives something to her partner, she expects something in return?  And what if he doesn’t know what’s written on her love map, that she expects something back?

The first important step in divorce-proofing a marriage is to identify your love map, and to have an understanding of your partner’s love map.

Big. Huge. Important.

Are you ready to take your marriage to a level that few couples experience?

Create a love list: Take a few minutes to jot down 10 key attributes that you consider central for a committed love relationship to thrive (such as, trust, respect, humor, support, sex, etc).

Rank the order of importance of your chosen attributes, with 1 being the most important.

How does your list compare to your partner’s?  Do each of you share identical lists with identical rankings? In what ways does this help you to better understand your partner?

Photo Credit: flickr.com

Everything That Comes with It

 

I admit it—I was the little girl who used to create Barbie doll wedding dresses out of toilet paper.  I was the little girl who pinned a pillow case “wedding veil” to her pony tail, and I was the little girl who, when asked by her ice skating instructor what she wanted to practice, said, “Let’s practice walking down the aisle!”

Falling in love.  Marriage.  Babies.  I had my entire life planned out by the time I was six years old.  Is it any wonder I had to have the wedding of the century (second only to Princess Diana, of course)?  My winter wedding day, complete with snow, was spectacular.  Perfect.  Flawless.  I was locked arm in arm with my dad, and the wedding planner was making sure my gown would make its magnificent statement (actually, in 1981 we didn’t have wedding planners….but I’m fairly certain he would have been a wedding planner if there were such a thing back then).

The music was just about to cue my entrance, and

It.  Happened.

As I tried to step toward the doors waiting to be opened by the wedding planner wannabe, my dad hesitated.  He wouldn’t budge.  At first I thought he was just trying to slow me down a bit (he had been, after all, telling me to be still and quiet down since I was about two years old).  In a panic, I looked at Dad and said, “Are you okay?”   He took a deep breath.

Oh. No.  I knew that sigh.  I knew that sigh always preceded a lecture, correction, admonishment.  Why now?  Didn’t he maybe kind of sort of think this might not be such a good time?  Couldn’t he have maybe kind of sort of told me what he wanted to say, oh, I don’t know, like a month before? Or at the rehearsal dinner?  Or the morning of the wedding?  The doors opened and I gave him an I’m-kind-of-busy-right-now-Dad-can-this-wait-oh-no-you’re-going-to-say-it-anyway-this-can’t-be-happening-everyone’s-looking-at-us look(s).

Gently, like loving daddies do, he drew me into his side and whispered in my ear, “When you take your first step down this aisle, you must do so as if the word ‘divorce’ does not exist–you must enter this marriage knowing that divorce is a possibility, but something that should be your very last resort.  Because after today, I can guarantee you that along with the happiness and joy you are feeling this very moment, this marriage will bring with it sorrow.  There will be heartbreak, there will be difficulties, there might even be tragedy.  Before you walk down the aisle, you must know in your heart that marriage–and everything that comes with it–is truly what you want.”

I would like to be able to say that I melted into his arms and thanked him over and over for his wisdom.  But, using my wedding bouquet to point toward the altar, all I could manage to get out was, “Ummmm….Okay.  Thanks.  Can we go now?”  And, like loving daddies do, he squeezed me, chuckled, and said, “I love you Chickie.  Let’s go get ‘em.”

Realistically speaking, none of us is equipped to tackle the “everything” that comes with intimate relationships and marriage.  We change.  We grow.  And we soon come to discover that the “everything” is actually quite different from what we expected.  In desperation, we consider divorce because the “everything” just hurts too much. It’s just too much work to make it right again.

But guess what–you can divorce proof your marriage.  You can have a marriage or an intimate relationship that doesn’t just survive, but one that thrives. You can experience a sex life that is almost never dull or boring.  You can be a terrific parent.  And you can leave your kids a legacy that no amount of money can ever buy….a foundation upon which they will someday build their own marriages and relationships.

About now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Here we go again, same-old-same-old tired marriage advice.”

Nope.  I won’t waste your time with that stuff, because it doesn’t work.

You see, the problem with existing books, TV talk show gurus, radio shows, and marriage or engagement weekend retreats is that they assume in their one-size-fits-all fixes that everyone defines “love,” “marriage,” or “sex” in the same way they do.  That’s why this stuff flops–almost always.

By writing with the notion that everyone follows the same pathway to marriage (first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes ______ pushing the baby carriage), books like The Love Dare and He’s Just Not That Into You reduce love, sex, and the “everything” of intimate relationships to something we do, instead of showing us how and why these experiences are a part of who we are.

Follow me through this blog. Spend some time with me and discover how, from the parent-child love bond, to friendships, to ex-boyfriends, girlfriends, or lovers, every past relationship writes your marriage scripts.

Come alongside and see how you can know–really, really know–who you are as a lover and who your intimate partner is.  Learn what it truly means to vow to “love” or to “honor” or to “care” for that person you’re thinking about marrying, or that person you’re already married to.  Hang out here for a few weeks, and you’ll discover how you can commit to the commitment….even when the “everything” makes it seemingly impossible to do so.

Kelly