Tag: love

Mindfulness in Relationships

Romantic dateAn Excerpt from Love Cycles by Linda Carroll

The research is clear: one of the primary differences between couples who thrive and those who dive is how they manage conflict. Couples who thrive are likely to possess two strong skills: they can see and accept their differences and, paradoxically, because of this ability, they can be generous and collaborate on a happy coexistence.

News anchor Diane Sawyer has said, “A good marriage is a contest of generosity.” Easier said than done, of course. Neurobiologists suggest that some people are more genetically equipped than others to behave with generosity. Conversely, some people withhold more than others. Temperament isn’t everything, but it does account for a lot. Yet we can learn to override our predisposition to some degree. At first we simply go through the motions and practice the new behavior, say, of generosity. Eventually, the feeling itself will follow. Although to be generous may never be our first instinct, it can feel far more natural in time.

Partner Yoga
We must begin with what we already have within us. Then we must adopt an emotional practice that is akin to a good yoga practice. Slowly we stretch into what love asks of us: forgiveness, kindness, empathy, and deep, courageous self-examination. As we develop such self-awareness, we begin to catch ourselves when we fantasize about how our partner “should be,” and we return to a fuller, more realistic vision of our mate.

In his Guided Mindfulness Meditation, Buddhist teacher and writer Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” In other words, the future is a fantasy, the past is over, and our job is to stay focused on the very moment we are in.
 
When we use our relationship as a place to practice mindfulness, we become less reactive because we have slowed down our responses, allowing us to respond to what is actually happening rather than to our fears or fantasies about what it might mean. When we are in this open, accepting place, the usual distractions of hurt, anger, grudges, and longing no longer pull us away or create defenses and judgments against our partners. This gives them the space to be themselves, not who we want or imagine them to be. This allows safety to grow between our partners and ourselves.

Collaboration isn’t just a question of how two people find a way to share a life. It’s a question of how each partner carries out the individual work that will equip him or her to build a good life with another person. If we can slow down our first reactions and respond as lovers instead of fighters, we can create a relationship with more security and freedom for each of us. In turn, we can start to get creative. That’s when collaboration gets exciting: we work off the sparks in each other to build something to serve us separately and together. This kind of partner yoga helps us to reach for our best possibilities. In fact, it will help us to better connect with everyone in our lives.


Linda Carroll is the author of Love Cycles. A couple’s therapist for over thirty years, she is certified in Transpersonal Psychology and Imago Therapy and is a master teacher in Pairs Therapy. She lives in Corvallis, OR, offers workshops across the country, and is a frequent speaker at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. Visit her online at www.lindaacarroll.com.

Adapted from the book Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Wholehearted Love ©2014 by Linda Carroll.  Published with permission of New World Library www.newworldlibrary.com.

Mindfulness in Relationships

Romantic dateAn Excerpt from Love Cycles by Linda Carroll

The research is clear: one of the primary differences between couples who thrive and those who dive is how they manage conflict. Couples who thrive are likely to possess two strong skills: they can see and accept their differences and, paradoxically, because of this ability, they can be generous and collaborate on a happy coexistence.

News anchor Diane Sawyer has said, “A good marriage is a contest of generosity.” Easier said than done, of course. Neurobiologists suggest that some people are more genetically equipped than others to behave with generosity. Conversely, some people withhold more than others. Temperament isn’t everything, but it does account for a lot. Yet we can learn to override our predisposition to some degree. At first we simply go through the motions and practice the new behavior, say, of generosity. Eventually, the feeling itself will follow. Although to be generous may never be our first instinct, it can feel far more natural in time.

Partner Yoga
We must begin with what we already have within us. Then we must adopt an emotional practice that is akin to a good yoga practice. Slowly we stretch into what love asks of us: forgiveness, kindness, empathy, and deep, courageous self-examination. As we develop such self-awareness, we begin to catch ourselves when we fantasize about how our partner “should be,” and we return to a fuller, more realistic vision of our mate.

In his Guided Mindfulness Meditation, Buddhist teacher and writer Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” In other words, the future is a fantasy, the past is over, and our job is to stay focused on the very moment we are in.
 
When we use our relationship as a place to practice mindfulness, we become less reactive because we have slowed down our responses, allowing us to respond to what is actually happening rather than to our fears or fantasies about what it might mean. When we are in this open, accepting place, the usual distractions of hurt, anger, grudges, and longing no longer pull us away or create defenses and judgments against our partners. This gives them the space to be themselves, not who we want or imagine them to be. This allows safety to grow between our partners and ourselves.

Collaboration isn’t just a question of how two people find a way to share a life. It’s a question of how each partner carries out the individual work that will equip him or her to build a good life with another person. If we can slow down our first reactions and respond as lovers instead of fighters, we can create a relationship with more security and freedom for each of us. In turn, we can start to get creative. That’s when collaboration gets exciting: we work off the sparks in each other to build something to serve us separately and together. This kind of partner yoga helps us to reach for our best possibilities. In fact, it will help us to better connect with everyone in our lives.


Linda Carroll is the author of Love Cycles. A couple’s therapist for over thirty years, she is certified in Transpersonal Psychology and Imago Therapy and is a master teacher in Pairs Therapy. She lives in Corvallis, OR, offers workshops across the country, and is a frequent speaker at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. Visit her online at www.lindaacarroll.com.

Adapted from the book Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Wholehearted Love ©2014 by Linda Carroll.  Published with permission of New World Library www.newworldlibrary.com.

Three Essential Questions

3-3-questionsAn Excerpt from Love Cycles by Linda Carroll

Most of us live with two competing urges — to merge and to feel independent. If we can strike a balance between them, however, we can reconcile these urges: we can connect deeply with our partner and still feel whole, even when we’re alone.

The more we feel a solid sense of self, the more we can accept our partner’s differences. We no longer ask in frustration, “Why aren’t you me?” At a deep level, we truly get that our partner is a separate and whole individual, just as we are. This recognition and acceptance of separateness is what it means to be differentiated. By helping us to move skillfully and comfortably between relationship and independence, between connection and solitude, differentiation is at the heart of a healthy self and a healthy relationship.

Three Essential Questions
In my work with couples over the years, I’ve found that exploring three essential questions enables us to master the art of differentiation in much the way Mark did with Martha — and with similar results as a person and as a partner. Our answers change as the seasons of our lives change, so we will ask them more than once. The core questions are these:

Where have I been?
Where am I now?
Where am I going?

Each question naturally flows from the other: (1) exploring where we’ve been should give us enough self-awareness and information to (2) assess where we are now and to see how much, or how little, progress we’ve made toward our ideas of fulfillment. When we ask this second question, it’s time to consider whether or not our ideas of success still make sense to us. The monk and mystic Thomas Merton was thought to have said, “People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.” Many of the first big decisions we make in life arise either out of opposition to or in compliance with our caretakers and authority figures. Some of us reach the top of Merton’s ladder before we realize it isn’t really where we want to be.

Once we’ve taken stock, we’re ready to (3) consider where we’re going next. As we ponder this issue, we might consider: What is my gift to contribute? What is my heart’s desire? If we do decide to head in a new direction, we need to be intentional, determined, and prepared to succeed.

Why the Three Questions Are Essential
Where have I been? Where am I now? Where am I going? Charlie and Megan asked and answered these necessary questions, and as their lives continue, they can expect to do so again from time to time. What makes these questions so crucial?

To ask the question, “Where have I been?” grounds us in place and time and allows us to understand our nature and psyche. To ask, “Where I am now?” allows us to assess where we are in our journey of self-discovery, which is the primary work of our lives. “Where am I going?” speaks to change, which is a constant and reflects the human search for meaning.

As stated above, part of the significance of these three questions is how each one leads naturally to the next. If we can understand where we’ve come from, including the dreams we may have put away and the roads we may not have taken, then we can begin to look at where we are now. Once we reflect on and understand what does and doesn’t work in our present lives, we can begin to get a fair idea of what’s next for us. Gradually, we will expand and develop into the whole, self-actualizing person we’re meant to be, someone who is prepared to be a mature, openhearted partner to another human being. As we begin to balance the legitimate needs of both self and other in a continuous, conscious dance, we practice the vital art of differentiation.


 

Linda Carroll is the author of Love Cycles. A couple’s therapist for over thirty years, she is certified in Transpersonal Psychology and Imago Therapy and is a master teacher in Pairs Therapy. She lives in Corvallis, OR, offers workshops across the country, and is a frequent speaker at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. Visit her online at www.lindaacarroll.com.

Adapted from the book Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Wholehearted Love ©2014 by Linda Carroll.  Published with permission of New World Library www.newworldlibrary.com.