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Fight FOR your marriage

Are you scared of conflict? Some of us have been led to believe that conflict is a sign of trouble in a relationship and should be avoided at all costs.

This is a highly unrealistic and sometimes damaging expectation for a long term relationship. Happy couples and families have just as many disagreements and almost as much conflict in their relationships as families who are distressed.

Avoiding conflict may be a good short term strategy. Unless you are a saint (!) it is not a good long term strategy. Unresolved conflict builds up over time and leads to resentment if it is not dealt with.

Learning to fight in a way that does not destroy your relationship is the key to long term relationship health.

Over the next few days, let us talk about some ways that may help in dealing with conflict in the relationship.

For starters, know that not all conflict can be resolved OR solved (this is really bad news for some problem solving experts amongst us!).

It does, however, need to be addressed....

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Small things often

So, how did you celebrate the 'big day' of love? If it was just like any other day, I have some good news for you.

How we celebrate and what we do on major holidays or special days does not have all much bearing on how happy our relationship is over time or for the rest of the year.

Research shows that what matters more than any big holiday or celebration is what you do on a daily basis to nurture your relationship.

The magic mantra for happy relationships, it turns out, is "small things often". Small daily acts of service and kindness are the key to long term relationship happiness.

That is so much more manageable isn't it?

AND it takes us to be intentional daily rather than yearly!

(Have you been reading until the end? I share some links there!)

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Celebrate love

Its here. Valentine's Day.

The day that can lead to feelings of sadness for the single ones and to the stress of high expectations for those who are in romantic relationships.

We hear murmurings of "why do we need a special day?", "we should love each other every day", etc etc.

Yes, we definitely "should". AND it is easy to get distracted by the busyness of life. It sometimes helps to get a gentle nudge to get us to pay attention.

This Valentines Day, how about letting all the consumerism, paganism (!), political madness against the holiday be what it is.

And consider taking a moment to acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate the loved ones in our lives today.

With or without the cheesy cards!

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It takes one

Have you heard the old adage, "it takes two to make a marriage work"? Most times we just accept this saying as true, thinking that unless both people work equally at a relationship, it is doomed to fail.

But here is the thing: if I asked you to fight with your spouse tonight, chances are that you can singlehandedly do that. All of us know which triggers and buttons to push to start a fight.

If we can singlehandedly start a fight or negatively impact our relationship, is it not possible that we can also singlehandedly turn it around for the better?

It may not be as easy as you'd like. After all, it is so much easier to wait for the other person to make the first move, isn't it?

Easy but not very effective! Waiting for the other person to change before we change is how many couples get stuck and distressed.

Relationships are a system of cause and effect. Once we change, the system itself changes.

So, why not make the first move?

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Ask for what you need

Wouldn't it be lovely if our significant others always knew what we wanted and needed without being told?

While it may be okay to wish this, we sometimes get frustrated when our spouse cannot
read our minds because we have told ourselves "they ought to know".

We begin to expect them to read our minds and predict what we need without having to ask for it.

Not only is this highly unrealistic, it is also a bit silly to blame someone for not being able to read our minds, don't you think?

Women, in particular, seem to find it challenging to ask for what they want.

Once you get the hang of it, however, it becomes much easier (and saves so much time!) to ask for what we need in simple and clear terms.

Try these on for practice!

- it is valentine's day next week. It would make me very happy if you plan an evening out for us.
- It would mean a lot to me if you tried harder to talk to my brother in law even though I know you don't find anything in common with him.
- Can you please watch Samir on...

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Create conflict free times and zones

Let's face it. If you are in a long term relationship, chances are that is at least some conflict in your relationship. This is normal and even healthy.

The 'masters of relationships' also have many areas of conflict in their lives but they manage to keep conflict in its place.

One way to 'keep conflict in its place' is to declare some times and zones in your life as conflict free. This means you will not let conflict intrude into these times and places.

It is a good idea, for example, to declare the bedroom and the dining table as sacred, conflict free zones. When you and your spouse are there, it is a time of amnesty, so to speak. You leave conflict out of these areas. You focus on things in your life other than conflict talk.

It may also be useful to declare early morning, late night and the first few minutes when you meet after a day apart as conflict free times.

After all, you did not get together with your spouse just to deal with conflict, did you?

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It’s all in your head

family positive thinking Feb 08, 2017

How and what we think about often has an impact on our relationships in addition to what we say or do.

What we think about day in and day out subtly influences how we approach our spouse and in turn influences how they will respond.

The decision to improve our relationship, therefore, begins in our mind.

So, choose to extend loving thoughts to your spouse throughout the day today, even (and especially) when they are not around.

Intentionally bring to mind something you like about them, some kindness or love that they have shown you or some pleasant interaction that you may have had in the past.

Hold that thought for at least 15 seconds. (This is the time it takes for a thought to begin to change our brain chemistry)

Soften and allow yourself to smile at the memory or the thought.

Repeat often for best results :)

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Look for what is right

Sometimes, when we feel underappreciated, we can get into a cycle where we are only focusing on what our spouse is doing wrong.

We can unconsciously start looking for things that they are doing wrong, "scanning the environment" for mistakes that they have made.

And guess what? We will always find what we are looking for!

Happy couples on the other hand, intentionally look for things that their partner is doing right. They get into the habit of catching each other at their best.

And they appreciate each other on a regular basis.

The good news is that focusing on what is right is a habit that can be learnt with intentionality and practice.

So start by intentionally noticing the tiniest thing that your spouse does which is right. If they are helping you or doing something for you, resist the temptation to correct or second guess them.

Instead focus on the intention which they are offering their service, however imperfect it may be according to your own standards.

Voice your...

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Express interest

Rekindling a friendship with your spouse is remarkably simple.

It can begin with expressing interest in their world – internal or external.

To learn what is happening in your partner's world, ask open ended questions that show you are interested in their day-to-day life. We sometimes forget to check in with our partner or fail to respond to their attempts to connect. Over time this can create serious damage to the relationship.

It can be as simple as asking, "How was your day?"

And of course, listening to the answer!

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A time to light candles rather than curse the darkness

family relationships Jan 30, 2017

Many of us are feeling fearful, angry, powerless and despondent in the current political climate. The world seems to be dissolving in front of our eyes and we seem unable to be able to do anything to stop it.

It is so very tempting to rail and wail about how unfair and oppressive the current world order is. This temptation is fanned and fueled by social media. Yesterday, I found myself drowning in a vortex of Facebook posts updating and commenting on unfolding events. I felt powerless, defeated and very very sad.

What are we to do?

While it is important to speak up, protest and register our dissent, there is a danger that these actions will so consume us that they will distract us from positive and proactive action.

More than ever, we need to focus on our purpose. Become a force for good and light candles in whatever way we can.

In addition to doing what we must to protest, let us not stop there. Let us show some extra kindness, befriend a neighbor, hug a child. Plant a tree.

Let...

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