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Our 8th wedding anniversary

Today is the eighth anniversary of our marriage, and we’re off to a two-day holiday in the mountains north of here to celebrate.

I created a card for Shonnie and gave it to her this morning:

Happy anniversary, my sweet Shonnie!

The longer we’re together, the more certain I am that we’re supposed to be. We’ve created such a rich and fulfilling life together in just eight (plus 2.5) years together, I look forward to seeing what we manifest in the coming decade. I love you, I love you, I love you!


And Shonnie responded with a card and a note of her own:

Once upon a time
two people fell in love . . .
They took every smile and every tear,
a few differences of opinion,
some major triumphs,
and several minor miracles,
and turned them into something very beautiful.
I love what we’ve made together.
I love you.

In just 8 years of marriage we’ve been on such a fantastic, interesting, challenging, opening, expanding, enjoyable journey. As this card says, “I love what we’ve made together.” I look forward to many more memories as we travel into our future. I feel confident in our abiity to find/create/follow the best life path for us and I feel grateful that we are so good at sharing all parts of the journey with love, grace, humor, agility and strength.

With love and gratitude, Shonnie

Bruce & Shonnie's wedding kissYesterday I wrote about how we’ve created a rich and rewarding relationship. Below are my thoughts on this:

* * *

Tomorrow we will have been married eight years. In addition, we lived together for more than two years prior to our marriage. Our relationship continues to grow, deepen and become more fulfilling. Some of the reasons for this include:

We were both clear about what we wanted in a primary relationship (and what we didn’t want) before committing to one another. In fact, I (Bruce) had a four-page typed list of attributes I wanted in a mate. Approximately ten of these were non-negotiable, including authenticity, integrity, compassion, physical attractiveness, athleticism, and commitment to personal and spiritual growth. By going through this process, I gained the clarity I needed as to who I was looking for and where they’d be hanging out. Then the Universe responded. I met Shonnie at a marathon training group in Austin in the summer of 1995.

We have a clear vision about where we want to go together. We are not on the exact same path, but we do have a similar vision of where we want to go in terms of right livelihood, spirituality, personal growth, sustainability, and service. To paraphrase Neale Donald Walsch, the two questions that must be answered are “Where are you going?” and “Who’s going with you?” And they must be answered in that order. Not to do so presents problems for couples, if not now, then somewhere down the road.

Our values are in alignment. We were clear that we both valued love, compassion, honesty, integrity, authenticity, commitment, impeccability, emotional and spiritual growth, generosity, service, gratitude, playfulness, and simplicity early in our relationship.

We made a deep and abiding commitment up front, and we keep that commitment. Before we moved in together, we created agreements about how we would be with one another. And before we married we created marriage vows for the ceremony and as commitments for how we would live our lives together.

We meet regularly to review our vows/commitments, acknowledge one another, and tell our truths. In fact, at each evening meal we state at least one thing we’re grateful for, then acknowledge each other for at least one thing they did that day.

We tell the truth. Each of us tells the truth even when we believe it might be challenging for the other to hear. And we do our best to really listen when that truth is being told.

We focus on what is working in the relationship and the positive attributes of one another. The tendency in today’s culture is to focus on what’s not working and what we don’t like about our partners. To do so, guarantees that more of the same will be created. On the other hand . . .

Bruce & Shonnie's wedding ceremony We clean up our space as we go. We step over nothing. For example, if I (Bruce) do something thoughtless, disrespectful or unloving, Shonnie has committed to bring it to my attention in a way that I can hear it.

We refuse to hold onto ill will. This is the real relationship killer–resentment that has built up over weeks, months, years and creates walls between partners. We have a process that we use regularly to cleanse ourselves of resentment.

We support each other to be fully authentic, rather than try to get our partner to become the person we sometimes might like him/her to be.

Thanks to all of you who have acknowledged us on our special day. And thanks to those of you–family and friends–who helped create our marriage weekend May 28-30, 1999 (see photo above). This remains one of our fondest memories during all of our time together.

Marriage quotes

Need something loving to say at a wedding? Getting prepared to give a wedding toast? Looking for appropriate quotes to include in your best man or maid of honor speech? Below are a handful of our favorite quotes about love, relationships, and marriage. If you have a favorite to share, please drop it in the comments section.

“To keep your marriage brimming, With love in the loving cup, Whenever you’re wrong, admit it; Whenever you’re right, shut up.”

~ Ogden Nash

“You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving. The great acts of love are done by those who are habitually performing small acts of kindness. We pardon to the extent that we love. Love is knowing that even when you are alone, you will never be lonely again. And great happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved. Loved for ourselves. And even loved in spite of ourselves.”

~ Victor Hugo

“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”

~ Mother Teresa

“Marriage is a relationship, not a project to be completed or a problem to be solved.”

~ Gary Chapman

“When you are for me as much as you are for yourself, And I am for you as much as I am for myself, we will start to understand the meaning of our relationship.”

~ Brad Brown

“Being married is like having somebody permanently in your corner, it feels limitless, not limited.”

~ Gloria Steinem

Podcast — Ideas for couples thinking of writing their own wedding vows

icon for podpress  Bruce Mulkey & Shonnie Lavender interviewed by Karen Ross [12:18m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

“We believe that each couple has the vows within them. We put together a process to draw those vows out.”

~ Bruce Mulkey

Planning your wedding can be a hectic, challenging time. For many couples, the idea of using their own vows is appealing, yet the thought of having one more thing “to do” can seem overwhelming. We understand this dilemma and wrote The Marriage Vow Workbook to give you a path to follow in writing your own wedding vows.

Picture of a radio In this episode of the I Do! I Do! podcast (12 minutes 18 seconds long), we share part of our interview by radio talk show host, Karen Ross, from 106.3 FM in Greenville, South Carolina. Here are the areas we talk about with Karen.

  • Why we were inspired to write The Marriage Vow Workbook
  • How the book benefits couples entering their first marriage as well as people who are preparing to remarry and those who are renewing their vows
  • Writing your own wedding vows is easier than you might think
  • How reviewing your vows on a regular basis helps to keep your love strong
  • How The Marriage Vow Workbook offers more than simply a process for writing your own wedding vows
  • The advantages of having thoughtful relationship conversations before you get married
  • The value couples receive from taking the opportunity to go deep and explore some areas like values, goals, and their vision for the relationship before they ever say “I do”

“Looking at some of these exercises [in The Marriage Vow Workbook], they’re important in ways other than just writing the vows. I would imagine this opens up some real areas of insight for couples.”

~ Karen Ross

If you have questions about writing the vows for your upcoming wedding, drop us a comment below or send us an email via our Contact Us page. We’re here to help you get your marriage started off right.

Have more fun with your spouse

Though Bruce and I definitely advocate spending time working on relationships (i.e., investing time to make them as fulfilling as possible), we think that sometimes work should be the last thing on your list. Many couples, including us, need to find ways to bring more PLAY into our partnerships.

Play nourishes you both physically and emotionally. . . . In addition to nourishing you physically and emotionally, couple play directly and intensely adds zest to your relationship. It strengthens your bonds with each other. . . . it gives you an important tool for coping with various challenges and problems.

~ Drs. Jeanette & Robert Lauer

As children, we all knew how to play. We knew how to have fun, laugh, be silly, create, enjoy, savor, relax. We were experts at living in the moment and doing what we wanted to do (instead of what we “should” do). As “responsible adults,” however, we may have forgotten how to play, or simply don’t think of play as important. Here are three factors that Jeanette and Robert Lauer, authors of The Play Solution: How to put the fun and excitement back into your relationship, say keep couples from being playful:

  • “The ‘act your age’ trap” — Many of us think play is for kids and let the belief that we’ll been seen as childish, immature, or silly keep us from playing or having fun.
  • “The tyranny of schedules” — We live in a busy world where we’re go, go, go from early morning until late at night and our schedules are bursting with meetings, appointments, chores, and other responsibilities that leave us little time for play.
  • “The long arm of work” — If we’re not busy because of our own desires, we’re often occupied with professional pursuits and demands of our jobs, so play gets pushed even further down our list of priorities.

Bring play back into your lives

So, before we all get too cranky or too forgetful to remember how to play, let’s follow some of the Lauer’s tips.

  1. Create a “play profile” to identify your favorite types of play (e.g., social, cultural, love, physical, humor, games).
  2. Identify your “play quotient” as a couple so you’ll know if you’re getting the “right amount” of play for each of you.
  3. Go for a laugh a day so that laughter and lightness are part of your everyday relationship. (The book offers 10 specific tips for getting your RDA of laughter.
  4. Be spontaneously playful by adapting your routine so you don’t get stuck in a rut. Again, the book is filled with concrete ideas.
  5. Make intimacy and sex playful and fun. This can include everything from writing love notes to each other to creating “love feasts.” Check the book for examples.

Don’t take our word for it. Go out, get your own copy of The Play Solution: How to put the fun and excitement back into your relationship, then start playing. There’s no better time than right now to make your marriage more fun!

One skill is essential to a lasting, happy marriage

What’s sure to happen to couples who’ve been together for a long time? Things will have occurred over the years that they didn’t like. Yep, it’s true, even the happiest of twosomes get irked, irritated, upset, angry, frustrated, and just plain annoyed with each other. Ask any honest couple and they’ll confirm this fact. :-)

No big deal, right? If couples “clean up” these relationship disconnections as they go along, they’ll be good to go. If, however, like most people, the couples sweep the poop under the rug, before too long they’ll be separated by a big pile of stinky stuff. So, if you plan to be with your honey for a long, loving lifetime, you must both become experts in forgiveness.

A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers.

~Ruth Bell Graham

What does forgiveness mean?

In Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All, Gerald Jampolsky, M.D., wrote that, “From the perspective of Love and Spirit, forgiveness is the willingness to let go of the hurtful past. It is the decision to no longer suffer, to heal your heart and soul. It is the choice to no longer find value in hatred or anger. And it is letting go of the desire to hurt others or ourselves because of something that is already in the past.”

The way to God is through forgiveness here. There is no other way.

~A Course in Miracles

When is forgiveness needed?

Based on my own experience in relationship, forgiveness isn’t just for rare occasions. Though my preference is to never have big issues to forgive in my relationships, there are plenty of everyday “infractions” that keep me from feeling totally connected to the people I love. While it may seem petty, I’ve found that most people harbor grudges over “trivial” matters (whether they realize they’re doing so or not).

Here are few areas to look at in your relationship to see if resentments are building up:

  • Money – Has your partner done anything with money that you feel angry about?
  • Sex – Has your partner ever been “too tired” when you were in the mood (or vice versa)?
  • Habits – Does your partner do anything that you get irritated or annoyed at?
  • Decision making — Does your partner always agree with what you want to do?
  • Time – Are you ever upset about how your partner wants to spend her/his time?
  • Communication – Does your partner ever say things you find irritating, unloving, or mean-spirited?
  • Life – Is there anything your partner has said or not said, done or not done that you felt annoyed, irritated, frustrated, or upset by?

In relationships, “resentment” is the real four-letter word.

~Brad Brown

How can you tell if forgiveness would help?

If you want to have a loving, connected, fulfilling relationship my advice is this: Anytime you don’t feel loving, connected, or fulfilled in your relationship, forgiveness might be your solution. Here are a few clues I’ve seen in myself, and those I work with, that indicate it’s likely time for forgiveness:

  • You talk to your partner with a negative tone of voice (whether you sound snotty, snooty, condescending, critical, or bossy).
  • You call your partner names (even if you say “I’m just joking”).
  • You complain about your partner to friends or family.
  • You are gruff or non-responsive with your partner.
  • You physically withdraw from your partner.
  • You emphasize things your partner does “wrong.”
  • You claim (aloud or to yourself) your superiority.
  • You avoid spending time with your partner.
  • You react quickly and harshly for even “minor” annoyances.
  • Your primary communication with your partner is stiff, cold, grumpy, or terse.
  • You are sarcastic, argumentative, or defensive.
  • You are highly sensitive to anything “bad” your partner does.

Life is an adventure in forgiveness.

~Norman Cousins

How do you forgive?

If you’re new to the practice of forgiveness (based on what I see in our world right now, I dare say that we’ve got a lot of rookies on our forgiveness team), there are some great resources to help you learn.

So, there are my thoughts on forgiveness and why it is a skill you must master if you want to have loving, lasting relationships. I welcome additional resources as well as other opinions or questions you have. Please feel free to add your thoughts in by clicking the “comments” area at the bottom of this post.

Forgiveness creates a world where we do not withhold our love from anyone.

~Gerald Jampolsky