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Never blame your mate

“Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate.”

~ Barnett Brickner

When we hit rough patches at work, it’s common to look for someone to blame. When we don’t like what’s happening in our communities, governments, and churches we easily complain about who’s at fault. It’s no different in our marriages. Many of us tend to point the finger at our partner when we argue or when something’s gone wrong.

There are many problems we create when we blame our spouse for our dyad dilemmas.

  • Our partner usually gets more upset since they’re now being labeled as THE guilty party.
  • We abdicate our ability to rectify the situation because when we make someone else responsible we become the powerless victim.
  • We create a relationship imbalance (one person is “up,” the other is “down”) which makes us susceptible to another pendulum swing sometime in the future.
  • Our problem still exists and, if anything, it’s now worse than before we started blaming.

Relationship problems are relationship problems. They involve two people (in this case), both of whom played active roles in creating the problem. So, the next time you’re in a spat with your spouse, ask yourself, “What did I do that helped make this situation happen?” Though it’s initially more sobering to take responsibility for your role, it’s a faster, and smoother route to reconnecting than blaming can ever provide.

Things we do for love

“You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.”

~ Henry Drummond

This post is about love, not between two romantic lovers but between a mother and daughter–my mother and me.

Shonnie & her mom, Cora SueWhen my mom was struggling with breast cancer, her doctors implanted a device in her upper chest where some of her drugs could be injected after the veins in her arms and hands had became too difficult and painful to access. Unfortunately the area became infected and the device had to be removed, which left an open wound. To heal, the wound required a thorough daily cleaning. I asked the home health nurse to show me how to care for the wound so I could help my mom restore health to at least that one thing.Love compelled me to do that. Love willed me through my fear, past my sadness, and into my compassion. Love guided me to face my pain to help soothe my mom’s. Love didn’t necessarily make that task any easier, but it did allow me to take the first step.

Love also helped me do other things that I had never conceived of:

  • Rushing across the Dallas metroplex between my double shifts as a waitress to be with my mom during her multiple stays in the hospital in the first couple of months after her diagnosis;
  • Bathing my mom and changing her diapers when her cancer progressed so much that she could no longer care for herself or even leave the hospital bed we had at home;
  • Holding her unresponsive hands and caressing her motionless face while I laid alongside her dead body in the Dallas hospital where she spent her last days;
  • Reading a poem I’d written about her at her memorial service in front of hundreds of family, friends, and others who loved her.

Had love not possessed me during her illness and death, I could have never done such delicate, difficult, and sometimes seemingly ineffective tasks.

Of course, love had gotten my mom through trials and suffering too, as is the case for all parents. Whether she was worried sick when I got Chicken Pox at the age of four, or exasperated when I threw the tantrum to end all tantrums, I’m sure love guided her. When I did things she didn’t understand or condone, love may have helped her come closer instead of pulling away. Love, I’m certain, had to be accessed regularly once I reached my teen years when so often kids and parents lock horns or build walls between each other. Love may have even given her the courage to be so vulnerable to me during her last six months of life.

“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

July 2 was the 14th anniversary of my mom’s death. July 14 is her birthday. It’s been so long that I don’t really remember her voice, and though I don’t consciously think about her everyday, love helps me stay connected. Through memory of our shared life experience, I get to be with my mom in spirit. As those of you who’ve lost someone you deeply love know, there are times when you miss that person so much that you weep uncontrollably, overcome by your loss and filled with hopelessness. Writing this piece is opening me up to that pain anew. But love helps me ride those waves of despair and emerge whole, despite my scars.

Cora Sue Boehm, my momThank God that love does all it does for us. It’s the superhuman gift we’ve each been given — a superpower possessed by all mortals. Without love I’m quite certain that there would be no point to life, no reason to exist at all. So while loving someone with all your heart makes you extremely vulnerable, love will also mend the heart’s wounds, leaving you both more tender and more tough in the process. May each and every one of you do scary, difficult, gentle, powerful, and important things for love. And may your beloveds do likewise for you. Your lives will never be the same. . .and that’s a wonderful thing.

For all of my beloveds, especially today for my mom, born Cora Sue Boehm, on July 14, 1943.

What guys really want

What do guys really want? Chicks with nice boobs? Copious amounts of cold beer? Plenty of sports? A really cool car? The new iPhone? Well, thatJennifer Aniston photo online video of Jennifer Aniston strolling topless down the beach is pretty titillating. And it’s hard to beat a pint of good ale with a hot slice of pizza. Furthermore, when our favorite team is competing on TV, family, social and business commitments are often out the window. And, yes, nice wheels are imperative. As are the latest gadgets from Apple.

But beneath all the grab ass, locker room banter and fascination with things that go fast (cars and computers alike), we guys have some deeper wants and needs that we don’t always share with our female counterparts. So in the interest of greater XX-XY harmony, here’s a list of what guys really want from the women in our lives.

We want you to tell us what you want. Of course, sharing what you really want from us doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it. But it sure as hell increases the odds. Plus it eliminates the need for us to make dubious assumptions, take half-assed guesses or play Kreskin and try to read your mind. For starters maybe you could tell us how and when you prefer to be touched, how you want to be comforted when you’re feeling low and what really turns you on in bed.

When we’re grumpy, sullen or withdrawn, we want you to understand that it’sYoung couple photo probably not about you. We guys have our ups and downs just like you do. Often we’re not even conscious of what’s going on. We just know something’s not quite right, and we tend to pull back. From your perspective, it may be easy to think we’re pissed at you or dissatisfied with the relationship, when frequently it’s just that we’re not at peace with ourselves, which brings us to . . .

We sometimes want time alone. Don’t take our desire for solitude personally. Occasionally we just want some down time to “be,” to consider our own wants and needs, to reconnect with who we really are so that we don’t become enmeshed with you, so that we can come back and offer you the best of who we are.

Just listen when we dream out loud. Sometimes we guys like to share our dreams aloud. When we do so we are not asking for your approval, feedback, opinion on how realistic they are or strategies for achieving them. We’re merely having fun envisioning future possibilities that we may or may not intend to actually manifest.

If you’re pissed about something, put it out straight. If we do something and you react with anger, we’d appreciate it if you’d share your displeasure then and there. It might not be very pleasant, but it’s a hell of lot better for us than being blindsided by pent up resentment that leaks out days or months after the original event occurred.

Be gentle with your language. Frequently teasing, clever banter and wisecracks directed toward us or toward the male sex in general are actually thinly disguised criticism and disapproval. This kind of behavior tears at the fabric of our connection, and when we’re on the receiving end, it hurts more than we’re typically willing to let on.

We like to be acknowledged. Let us know when we’ve done something for which you are grateful. A simple, sincere “thank you” can foster a stronger connection between us as well as increase our desire to replicate the action or way of being.

We want you to love us as we are. Guys are not here to live up to your expectations. We’re not projects or fixer-uppers. As the eminent philosopher PopeyeElderly couple photo the Sailor Man once said, “I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam.” Having said that . . .

We want you to help us remember who we are when we forget. As members of the human race, we sometimes forget who we really are and what the hell we’re doing here. At times like these we yearn for you to nudge us in the right direction. We may resist at first, but when you compassionately remind us of our strengths, our personal power and the gifts we have to offer the world, we’ll ultimately be deeply grateful for your love and support.

Fully commit to the relationship. Yeah, we know. We’re supposed to be the ones with commitment issues. But when we’re assured that you’re in all the way, the space is opened for us to join you. And when that happens, there’s no more looking around for someone better, no more “should I stay or should I go,” no more exit strategies. We’re both on firm ground and can relax and enjoy it.

When all’s said and done, we’re not the indifferent, irascible bad boys, the technoholic geeks or the politically correct metrosexuals we may sometimes appear to be. We’re just guys . . . with hearts and minds and spirits. Wanting to connect, wanting to love and be loved, wanting to express our tenderness toward you . . . but sometimes just aren’t quite sure how.

Oh, and about Jennifer Aniston’s boobs . . . they’re definitely not real.

* * *

An earlier version of this post appeared in the June 2007 Y chromosome issue of Western North Carolina Woman. In addition, an abbreviated version of this post was entered in Problogger’s Top 5 Writing Project.

Over 100 ways to express your love

Image of a girl holding a flower out as a giftFor those times when you need some inspiration for showing your partner that you love her/him, here’s a list of 101 ways to show you love somebody. This list came from a competition in Milton Keynes secondary schools and youth clubs and in one of the local papers asking for people’s answers to this question:

If you and your girlfriend or boyfriend had decided
to wait before having sex. . .how would you let
the other person know you loved her or him?

Still stumped for ideas (or perhaps you’ve already used the 101 ways suggested above)–read about how you can show your love without spending a dime.

What creative ways do you show your honey that you love her/him? What’s the most romantic gift you’ve ever received?

Modern wedding vows (a humorous slant)

While we do favor the self-written wedding vow for most couples, you have to be careful not to go too far. . .

Vowing Wedding Favors

What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever heard at a wedding ceremony?