What is Love?

Love. Heather Edwards

Love is... Heather EdwardsThis Valentine’s Day I’m challenged to answer the question, “What is love?”. Recent personal events have stretched and profoundly changed me in beautiful and unforeseen ways. Because of this, love has a broader, richer, more complex meaning than before.

So when I’m asked the question, “What is love?”. Its definition extends well beyond a Valentine’s Day celebration of attraction, sexuality, partnership, and mating. While I appreciate that, it goes much deeper.

It’s an expression of give-and-take, mutual support, sometimes giving more than you knew you could, truly being there for someone else in their darkest hour, accepting what may be difficult to see, and accepting love in its many forms when it comes back to you.

Where do you see love? In heart shapes in the clouds, a kiss between lovers, or a mother preparing dinner for her family?

How do you experience love? Do you notice butterflies in your stomach, a warmth in your heart, or a calm awareness of your safety and wellbeing when in the presence of someone special?

How do you express love? With your words, actions, or touch?

Love is... Heather EdwardsLove is… listening, sharing, supporting, trusting, relaxing, letting go, longing, aching, forgiving, caregiving, accepting, being yourself, graciousness, excitement, warmth, kindness, truth, vulnerability, openness, strength, courage, heart centric actions, positive energy, highest vibrations, healing, grounding, helping…

With so many ways to experience and express love, what will you do today to enlighten someone about their special place in your heart? Don’t assume they already know your love or that you have plenty of time to show them. The only moment that truly exists is this one. Make it matter.

L.O.V.E. Luminous. Open. Vulnerable. Expressive.

Here’s a Love Letter from Ludwig von Beethoven:

Love is... Heather EdwardsMy angel, my all, my very self

We shall surely see each other soon; moreover, today I cannot share with you the thoughts I have had during these last few days touching my own life –

If our hearts were always close together, I would have none of these.

My heart is full of so many things to say to you – ah – there are moments when I feel that speech amounts to nothing at all –Cheer up – remain my true, my only treasure, my all as I am yours.

Ah, wherever I am, there you are also –

Much as you love me – I love you more –

Oh God – so near! so far!

Is not our love truly a heavenly structure, and also as firm as the vault of heaven?

my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved, now and then joyfully, then sadly, waiting to learn whether or not fate will hear us –

I can live only wholly with you or not at all –

No one else can ever possess my heart – never – never –

Oh God, why must one be parted from one whom one so loves.

Be calm, only by a calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together –

Be calm – love me – today – yesterday – what tearful longings for you – you – you – my life – my all – farewell.

Oh continue to love me – never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.

ever thine

ever mine

ever ours

Your faithful Ludwig

Share your heart. Share yourself. Share your love. Deepen your experience of each day.

Psychology Today – Got Relationship Blues?

146719-149047(Hint: Stop Criticizing)

Why endless criticism is doomed to failure.
Published on April 4, 2014 by Mark Banschick, M.D. in Psychology Today
 

Look at your relationship.

The problems seem obvious. But, what are the solutions?

Heather Edwards breaks down relationship problems into a digestible form,making it easier for you to do what’s needed to be happier.

The Good Relationship:

Sometimes the key to discovering what works best in a relationship is eliminating what we knowdoesn’t work. There are a number of scientifically proven actions that destroy relationships. John Gottman calls these the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” So let’s start there. 

Criticism:

The first is Criticism. Unless this is constructive with the intent of helping, it’s probably hurtful. In destructive criticism, couples will attack each other’s personality or character in an effort to prove who is right and who is wrong. It leaves both feeling angry and dissatisfied in the long and short run. These statements tend to start with generalizations, and include absolute words like “always” and “never.”

Contempt:

The second is Contempt. In this communication style, one partner will attack by name-calling, mockery, hostility, and negative or aggressive body language and tone of voice. Its intent is to demean and dis-empower the other person’s position and character. There are no happy endings when contempt enters the room.

Defensiveness:

The third is Defensiveness. When one partner feels like a victim, she may deny or make excuses for her behavior. Or, he may cross complain by lodging one of his own complaints in retaliation, or “Yes, but!” the original complaint in refusal of responsibility. It’s a very closed, blaming, andjudgmental way of approaching conflicts. And it doesn’t work.

Stonewalling:

The fourth is Stonewalling. When one partner stonewalls, he has shut down the conversationThe relationship store is closed for business. There is a stony silence, avoidance, and a withdrawal from communication. There may be a belief that the avoidance prevents a bigger blow up, but what it really conveys is icy distance, disconnection and smugness. It actually worsens the problem and sabotages thechance of resolution.

Learning From Happy Couples:

Happy couples have 5 positive interactions to every negative one. Gottman calls this the “Five to One Ratio.” Positive interactions are cultivated everyday in successful marriages. A few examples of easy ways to do this are giving a compliment, showing your appreciation for something big or small, reliving a fun memory, or doing something nice for the other person. The key to the most successful relationships is spending time being together and talking together. Share your ideas, experiences, and dreams with each other.

More sex = more joy. People are 55% more likely to report higher levels of happiness when they have sex two to three times per week. Having sex at least one time per week makes people 44% more likely to report happiness. The happiest couples have sex at least 2 to 3 times per month. The hormones released during sex create stronger bonds, warm fuzzy feelings, and a sense of relaxed satisfaction. What are you waiting for? Make sex a priority in your busy life.

Strong relationships have the Michelangelo Effect:

This means that one partner brings out the best in the other. It creates a sense of esteem and personal satisfaction in actualizing the ideal self. They also share new experiences, celebrate good news, and laugh together. So go for an evening walk, try a new restaurant, explore new places, relive a funny moment, and show enthusiasm for the other person’s accomplishments.

When in disagreement, their arguing style is open, considerate, and empathic. It includes active listening, humor, and affection. They even concede on certain points their partner makes. After all, one person can’t be right all the time! Plus, very few things in life occur “always” or “never”—except, of course, for sunsets and taxes.

Now you have an idea of what empowers relationships, and what destroys them. You may have recognized some of these positive and negative qualities in yours.

Remember that it’s never too late to make things better. If you and your partner are invested in enjoying a happy life together, then start employing some of the tips here—and try to change the negative oneswhen they surface.

_____________________

Psychology Today – The Fire of Love

143932-145410Do You Want A Better Love Life?  This article was published on February 12, 2014 in Psychology Today.  It was coauthored by  Mark Banschick, M.D.

We all want love.

We want to be seen, validated, treasured and wanted. And we want to give. We want the freshness of love to invigorate our lives and put the whole world into perspective.

Love is more than sex…more than adoration…more than warm memories. It is alive and vibrant, like a warm fire on a cold winter’s day. Keep it stoked and it stays alive. Let it lie fallow, and don’t expect it to last.

With winter upon us, we’ve teamed up with guest blogger Heather Edwards about kindling more love in your life. Good things need attention – it’s a lesson about happiness.

A Day of Love 

Consider our communal celebration of love: Valentine’s Day. For a moment we are aware again of  love notes, red roses, and heart shaped chocolates. Romance is awakened and we feel reconnected. 

Or, consider your anniversary… the moment when you both commited to each other. Or, a birthday, a time to openly value him or her. They all work, but what about the next day?

Isn’t love more than a two or three day holiday?

Imagine removing the pressure. What if instead, we mindfully loved more generously and openly in our everyday lives and relationships? Everyday. Stop wasting your time and energy searching for differences, problems, and sources of anxiety—they’re way too easy to find and obsess about! Shift your focus to what is positive, good, and loving.

Yes a birthday, an anniversary and even, Valentine’s Day, all count. But, the fire of love is found in smaller, less significant moments as well.

Love is a way of feeling. It’s a way of thinking. And, it’s a way of behaving.

Let’s take a moment to consider the ways we celebrate our relationships. Not for just for two or three special moments, but 365 days per year.

Acts of Kindness

Whether you’re the gift giving type or the favor offering kind, remember the ways you reached out to your partner when your relationship was new. What were you eager to do for that person, simply for the sake of making him/her feel good? How did you express tenderness, infatuation, and desire? Rekindle those moments. Take time to plan a meal, give a massage, or connect through sharing ideas, dreams, and plans.

Listen carefully to her. Let him know how special he is. Love can spiral up.

“I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame.” —W.B. Yeats

Seek Adventure

When your relationship was new, everything you did together was adventurous simply because YOU were new to each other. Some of those activities may have gotten lost in the shuffle of responsibility, boredom, or routine. Keep novelty alive! If you are not new to each other anymore, find activities that are unique. Get outside your comfort zone, together. After all, getting to know each other was exciting and challenging when there was uncertainty. The world is fresh for discovery. There are new places to visit, new nuances of sex, a special date to break the routine, a project you both share. Recreate that excitement.

“What we find in a soulmate is not something wild to tame but something wild to run with.”  —Robert Brault

Adults Can Play Too

Whatever your age, playfulness is inside of you. Watch lovers as they hold hands or prance through the snow. They are awakening an inner child. Allow yourself a careless laugh or a fun, awkward moment. Kids make life special all the time (and unfortunately, we often want to silence all the action), and grownups can as well. Love brings out playfulness.

Do something ridiculous together. Go on a walk for half a day without a goal in sight. Wear something kooky because its fun. Make sex an adenture. Or, perhaps, just sneak away from the kids for a romantic moment, like two jailbirds on the run. (Of course you love your children. But there’s time for grownups as well.)

Let go a little. There’s fire in there.

Give Space for Love

One of the lest understood dynamics in passionate love is a passionate commitment to letting your lover have some space when he or she needs it. You undoubtably know that it’s natural to take time, like its natural to bond. In fact, they are both active ingredients in a healthy relationship.

Ask any man or woman who feels crowded in by their partner.

It’s not pleasant and will not promote love.

A good fire, like a relationship, needs spaces to breathe. Otherwise, it’ll choke itself out.

Sometimes love is kindled in the rawness of great sex. Sometimes, it’s getting away together. And, sometimes it’s being apart. Sorry, there is no easy formula here. Just know that love is best when it comes freely.

Greater Intimacy

Some confuse intimacy with sex. Although they can be mutually exclusive, they are far better when shaken and stirred together in a loving cocktail of sensuality. Touch frequently. Express gratitude. Speak warm sentiments. Be vulnerable. Ask for what you need. Confide your fears and exert your power (in a loving way, not threatening). Don’t assume. Generously give space. And passionately enjoy closeness. Take risks. Share your innermost self.

“Warm me like sunlight and soothe me like rain. Burn me with passion and steal away the pain.” —Tyler Knott Gregson

If you’re lucky enough to be in a loving relationship, nurture it every day. Keep your feet on the ground, your head on your shoulders, and notice how your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife shares this journey. It can be a slow burn or a hot one, but love can be had.

Is there a special day of love? Yes, everyday.

 

The Four Horsemen vs. The Michelangelo Effect

IMG_6987The problems are obvious.  What are the solutions?

Sometimes the key to discovering what works best in a relationship is evaluating and eliminating what we know doesn’t work.  We know there are a few scientifically proven actions that destroy relationships.  John Gottman calls these the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”.  So let’s start there.

The first is Criticism.  Unless this is constructive with the intent of helping, it’s probably hurtful.  In destructive criticism, couples will attack each other’s personality or character in an effort to prove who is right and who is wrong.  It leaves both feeling angry and dissatisfied in the long and short run.  These statements tend to start with generalizations, and include absolute words like “always” and “never”.

The second is Contempt.  In this communication style one partner will attack the other’s sense of self using name-calling, mockery, hostility, and negative or aggressive body language and tone of voice.  It’s intent is to demean and disempower the other person’s position and character. There are no happy endings when contempt enters the room.

The third is Defensiveness.  When one partner feels like a victim, he/she might deny or make excuses for their behavior. They may cross-complain by lodging one of their own complaints in retaliation, or “Yes, but!” the original complaint in refusal of responsibility.  It is a very closed, blaming, and judgemental way of approaching conflicts. And it doesn’t work.

The fourth is Stonewalling.  When one partner stonewalls, he/she has shut down the conversation. The relationship store is closed for business.  There is a stony silence, avoidance, and a withdrawal from communication.  There may be a belief that the avoidance prevents a bigger blow up, but what it really conveys is icy distance, disconnection and smugness.  It actually worsens the problem and sabotages the chance of resolution.

What we know about happy couples:

Happy couples have 5 positive interactions to every negative one.  Gottman calls this the “Five to One Ratio”. Positive interactions are cultivated everyday in successful marriages.  A few examples of easy ways to do this are giving a compliment, showing your appreciation for something big or small, reliving a fun memory, or doing something nice for the other person. The key to the most successful relationships is spending time being together and talking together.  Share your ideas, experiences, and dreams with each other.

More sex = more joy.   In a recent study it was determined that people are 55% more likely to report higher levels of happiness when they have sex two to three times per week.  Having sex at least one time per week makes people 44% more likely to report happiness.  The happiest couples have sex at least 2 to 3 times per month.  The hormones released during sex create stronger bonds, warm fuzzy feelings, and a sense of relaxed satisfaction.  What are you waiting for?  Make sex a priority in your busy life.

Strong relationships have the Michelangelo Effect.  This means that one partner brings out the best in the other.  It creates a sense of esteem and personal satisfaction in actualizing the ideal self. They also share new experiences, celebrate good news, and laugh together.   So go for an evening walk, try a new restaurant, explore new places, relive a funny moment, and show enthusiasm for the other person’s accomplishments.

When in disagreement, the happy couple’s arguing style is open, considerate, and empathic.  It includes active listening, humor, and affection.  They even conceding on certain points their partner makes. After all, one person can’t be right all the time!  Plus, very few things in life occur “always” or “never”.  Except, of course, sunsets and taxes.

Now you have an idea of what empowers relationships, and what destroys them.  You may have recognized some of these positive and negative qualities in yours.  Remember that it’s never too late to make things better.  If you and your partner are invested in enjoying a happy life together, then start employing some of the tips here – and recognize and change the negative ones when they surface.

Everyday is Valentine’s Day

Lake TahoeValentine’s Day is the day of love notes, red roses, and heart shaped chocolates. Romance is awakened and we feel reconnected.  For centuries, it’s celebrated as a day to declare and honor our one true love.

Some love it.  Some hate it.  Some just follow the relationship protocol.  There are those who yearn for a special day of gifts, romance, and kindness. There are those who loathe the “Hallmark Holiday”, deeming it contrived and corporate.  There are those who choose not to rock the “love boat” and dutifully follow tradition.  Whether you love it, hate it, or are apathetic to it, it happens every year – and this year its happening 3 days from now.  What’s one to do?

Imagine removing the pressure of finding the perfect gift or expression of love on that one day each year.  Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a single day of celebration fraught with gift giving, spending money, and the materialization of love.  What if instead, we mindfully loved more generously and openly in our everyday lives and relationships? Everyday.   Stop wasting your time and energy searching for differences, problems, and sources of anxiety – they’re way to easy to find and obsess about!  Shift your focus to what is positive, good, and loving.

Let’s take a moment to consider the ways we celebrate and acknowledge our love and relationships on this not-so-subtle reminder called Valentines Day.  There are pretty predictable ways we conform to social expectations, but as you continue reading, imagine incorporating these ideas into each day. Yes, 365 days per year.

Acts of Kindness –

Whether you’re the gift giving type or the favor offering kind, remember the ways you reached out to your partner when your relationship was new.  What were you eager to do for that person, simply for the sake of making him/her feel good?  How did you express tenderness, infatuation, and desire?  Take time to plan a meal, give a massage, or connect through sharing ideas, dreams, and plans.

“I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame.” – W.B. Yeats

Seek Adventure –

When your relationship was new, everything you did together was adventurous simply because YOU were new to each other.  Some of those activities may have gotten lost in the shuffle of responsibility, boredom,  or routine.  Keep novelty alive!  If you are not new to each other anymore, find activities that are unique.  Get outside your comfort zone, together.  After all, getting to know each other was exciting and challenging when there was uncertainty. Recreate that excitement.

“What we find in a soulmate is not something wild to tame but something wild to run with.”  – Robert Brault

Greater Intimacy –

Some confuse intimacy with sex.  Although they can be mutually exclusive, they are far better when shaken and stirred together in a loving cocktail of sensuality.  Touch frequently.  Express gratitude.  Speak warm sentiments.  Be vulnerable.  Ask for what you need.  Confide your fears and exert your power (in a loving way, not threatening).  Don’t assume.  Take risks.  Share your innermost self.

“Warm me like sunlight and soothe me like rain. Burn me with passion and steal away the pain.” – Tyler Knott Gregson

If you’re lucky enough to be in a loving relationship, nurture it everyday.  Keep your feet on the ground, your head on your shoulders, and notice the life partner sharing this journey with you.  When you keep that in mind, everyday can be Valentine’s Day!

Psychology Today – Getting Unstuck: Kick Starting Your Marriage

136048-136019This article is published in Psychology Today by Mark Banschick and Heather Edwards.
When your relationship needs repair…
0
Share

Time to Kick-Start Your Marriage:It’s easy to get caught up in work, childcare, managing your home, and keeping up with bills. The day to day realities of adult life can be draining, and under these pressures, any relationship can atrophy.

Marriage Has Positive & Negative Cycles:

Most couples go through it. Communication breaks down, sexual intimacy becomes an after-thought, fun is infrequent, and empathy is a strain. Sometimes conflict and arguing escalates, or for others, the marriage starts failing as the couple resorts to living parallel lives. Either way, the negative cycle has replaced the life enhancing positive cycle that couples find when they turn love into an action verb.

Since the “D” word was not in your vocabulary when you got married, how can you flex and rebuild that svelte marriage muscle?

In this guest blog, Heather Edwards, a New York based therapist and life coach, lays out five ways to build positive energy back into your relationship.

Have Fun:

It sounds like the easy answer, but it’s always a good place to start.

Consider the ways you used to enjoy each other’s company. You used to play together. What did you enjoy doing most? Was it going to a concert, park, or favorite restaurant? Maybe it was taking a bike ride, getting a massage together, or walking on the beach. Whatever the activity, make a commitment to one new action that brings energy into your relationship. If being together feels stifling for you, it probably feels the same way for your spouse or partner. Any activity that doesn’t have some level of enjoyment in it will eventually be one you want to rid from your life. The same applies to your marriage. So start breathing fresh air into it!

Self Awareness:

Be aware of your needs.

What needs are not being met by your partner?  Respect, encouragement, acceptance, and trust are a few needs that can feel compromised when marriages break down. These higher-level needs are sometimes masked by the day to day gripes, nagging or avoidant behavior that can become commonplace. Recognize your own negative behaviors as destructive, not constructive, and question what need is suffering underneath it. That’s probably what’s motivating your bad behavior, not just the dirty socks on the floor. Consider ways to constructively express yourself.

Ending a negative cycle begins when you see what you are doing to each other.

Communicate:

Your partner is not a mind reader, nor does he or she have a crystal ball that will enlighten him or her.

That means it is up to you to say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you want your message to be heard in a non-defensive way, then you need to verbalize your thoughts and feelings in a way that is not blaming, judging, nor critical. Blaming and judging can lead to defensiveness and stonewalling. Criticism can lead to contempt and resentment—and that’s the negative cycle.

If what you want to build is openness, strength, and mutual support, then change the way you communicate. Rather than focusing your attention on your partners actions, focus on your experience of it. Own your feelings. Simply state what you feel when certain behaviors occur. Clearly and calmly ask for what you want. State, “I feel ___, because ___, and I want ___”.

Empathy:

Now that you’re aware of your true feelings, needs, and wants, consider your spouse’s experience of this problem.

All relationships experience power struggles. And, you know you are in one if either you or your partner needs to win at all costs. You may not always agree, but you need not make him or her feel stupid or crazy. When it’s about winning an argument, you both lose.

Hear the feelings words he or she is using. Notice the body language and requests made. Imagine how it feels to express oneself in the manner he or she is using. Practice walking in their shoes.  Check it out. It’s okay to let your spouse know that you recognize their struggle and that it’s real and valid. After all, you’re in this together, trying to find a way to live your lives better.

Intimacy:

Intimacy can be the barometer, or measure of pressure and change, in a relationship. Have you noticed your intimacy changing as stress, conflict, and detachment rise? Well, it’s an easy indicator that something is suffering badly and needs your attention. Identify the troubled areas in your marriage and apply all of the above interventions to them. Make improving your sex life with your spouse a priority.

Oxytocin, a bonding hormone that is released during sex, will bring you closer and increase warm, loving feelings toward each other. Just do it! Set aside time to nurture yourselves in this way.

Have fun reconnecting with each other!