Planning your relationship

700899_finished_projects_2.jpgMaranda made a comment on my post about a blueprint for relationships – “…Oh, let me tell you – it DOES NOT work!” When you think that making a blueprint for your ideal relationship doesn’t work, then you are doomed to have dysfunctional relationships. Everything in life depends on good planning. So planning your relationship together with your partner is being smart. Marriage counselling agencies have sessions or workshops aimed at enhancing relationships. Marriage celebrants are compelled by the government, to recommend that couples have such an experience before they get married. This is a valuable, practical exercise which can also be modified to use whenever there is a “pinch” in the relationship.

when I worked as a marriage and family therapist
for a well known agency in Sydney I was also trained to
carry out tests to assist couples to prepare for marriage
the tests could be sent off to a computer analysis firm
and once returned to us, the couple and I
processed the results together
often there were areas that the couple had
assumed would not be a problem until
they saw what their answers revealed
so with that information they would
make a basic plan to ensure that the
relationship had a good foundation

Self love or codependence

My eyes, photo by Lucretious, Thessaloniki, GreeceAn important part of being in recovery from codependence is having a healthy relationship with self. In other words, the choice is self love or codependence. A comment from Maranda on my post about having a relationship with self shows how difficult it is for some to conceptualise this – “Nice theoryÖ How can you start ďloving yourselfĒ in real life, I wonder?” Some people can only feel lovable when someone else loves them and then they see themselves through someone else’s eyes. No one can make you feel in a certain way unless you allow yourself to feel that way to begin with. So the ability to feel one way or another comes from within. The same way that you can feel terrible about your self, you can feel confident about yourself and, therefore, feel lovable – that’s self love. To hand over your power about how you feel is codependence or being neurotic.

Loretta came home with her small children and
found his clothes gone!
she managed to get the toddlers bathed, fed and to sleep
then she collapsed as the reality hit her
what happened? how come she didn’t know?
how did he expect them to survive without him?
she got through the night without any sleep
then the next day she was in ‘shell shock’
but the next night, too exhausted to stay awake
she drifted off believing that without him she
would be forever alone raising their children
it never occurred to her that she was lovable
at 25 she thought she would live alone forever!
fortunately, she remembered that she is lovable
and when faced with self love or codependence
she chose to focus on the relationship with self
he came back but in time she just sent him away
because she discovered that she deserved better

Wedding ceremony

437055_white_bauhinia.jpgOn your special day, you choose the wedding ceremony according to your taste. A romantic ceremony in a park, on a beach, at a reception house, in your backyard, even at the Opera House on the steps. Another exciting part of having a celebrant formalise your marriage is that you choose whether it is a long script or one that is short and sweet. This choice enables you to create the ceremony that has meaning for both of you. Check the celebrant category on this site and get some ideas about what to choose.

the bride and groom wore black
and so did the guests
the marriage took place on the
wharf at the Opera House
they chose the short version
the sun was shining and a cool breeze
gently ruffled everyone’s clothes
then in the middle of the romantic ceremony
helicopters buzzed above, in formation
their mates on the FX team had organised that
and everyone waved at the sky
a day to remember that was

Romantic trade-off

You&Me, photo by Valentina Jori, Roma, Italy, intimacy How many times have you been frustrated with your partner because you feel that you give and cannot get the same in return? Whether it has to do with the type of movie you want to see or what hobbies to share. This can affect your sex life too because the partner who feels less powerful in the relationship can lose their sex drive and can appear to be with-holding that pleasure. Of course, communicating your innermost concerns is a tricky task for some. An effective way to right this imbalance is to use a romantic trade-off. The couple can sit and work out what each one feels is missing in their relationship and then agree to trade-off one requirement for another. In that way there is a fairness to the process which results in greater intimacy. Sometimes this is done with the help of a therapist.

Susie was a sexy, sensual woman when
they first got together
that’s one of the characteristics that
attracted Bob to her
then after awhile that changed drastically
Bob had wondered what had caused that
was she no longer attracted to him?
when they came to see me we looked at
what worked and what didn’t and
some of their needs and wants were negotiated
for a romantic trade-off which satisfied both
not all requirements were resolved but at least
they agreed to disagree, for now

Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine's Day, photo by Michal Koralewski, Gniezno, Poland, day of loveToday is the day of love. Some people criticise the practise because they believe it is too commercialised. Other people enjoy the romantic and sensual mood of the day. It was once the role of the male to send flowers, chocolates and poetry to the female, often it was an anonymous gesture, creating intrigue. Nowadays it is something both men and women do for each other. It is a ritual that enhances relationships. Unless both partners dislike celebrating the day of love, then it is worthwhile to participate in the celebration.

Bruce felt that it was ridiculous to
celebrate Valentine’s Day
Vicki was looking forward to
receiving some show of affection
on the day of love from her new partner
somehow he had managed to avoid it
on previous occasions but she had
made it clear that it was important to her
Bruce ordered the works
flowers, perfume, choice words in the card
and dinner for two at a romantic restaurant
why? because he is a smart bloke and
values the relationship enough to
do the right thing when he is made aware
just as Vicki has done with his wishes
such as fishing with the mates on the
first Sunday of the month and the
regular card night at their place
with her playing the hostess
this exchange of favours to satisfy
each others desires is what makes
their relationship special

Happy Valentineís Day, photo by Michal Koralewski, Gniezno, Poland, day of love

Relationship checklist

from:New York Times

Heart, photo by Michael Bretherton, Brisbane, Australia, customised relationshipsQuestions Couples Should Ask (Or Wish They Had) Before Marrying
Published: December 17, 2006
Relationship experts report that too many couples fail to ask each other critical questions before marrying. Here are a few key ones that couples should consider asking:

1) Have we discussed whether or not to have children, and if the answer is yes, who is going to be the primary care giver?

2) Do we have a clear idea of each otherís financial obligations and goals, and do our ideas about spending and saving mesh?

3) Have we discussed our expectations for how the household will be maintained, and are we in agreement on who will manage the chores?

4) Have we fully disclosed our health histories, both physical and mental?

5) Is my partner affectionate to the degree that I expect?

6) Can we comfortably and openly discuss our sexual needs, preferences and fears?

7) Will there be a television in the bedroom?

8) Do we truly listen to each other and fairly consider one anotherís ideas and complaints?

9) Have we reached a clear understanding of each otherís spiritual beliefs and needs, and have we discussed when and how our children will be exposed to religious/moral education?

10) Do we like and respect each otherís friends?

11) Do we value and respect each otherís parents, and is either of us concerned about whether the parents will interfere with the relationship?

12) What does my family do that annoys you?

13) Are there some things that you and I are NOT prepared to give up in the marriage?

14) If one of us were to be offered a career opportunity in a location far from the otherís family, are we prepared to move?

15) Does each of us feel fully confident in the otherís commitment to the marriage and believe that the bond can survive whatever challenges we may face?

Wedding day

la propuesta, photo by Gabriel Bulla, Isla Margarita, Venezuela,  wedding ceremonyBeing in love is amazing and people like to complete the experience by getting married. The wedding day can be formal or it can be as depicted in this photo, partly formal and partly casual. Whatever it is, the main emphasis needs to be on making the day exciting and unforgettable. As a celebrant I have been a part of many wedding ceremonies which can be seen in the weddings category on this page.

they were in love and well organised
they knew how they wanted to celebrate
their wedding day and it sounded
absolutely fantastic because
it would be on the beach with a
few members of the family
and close friends
they all loved dreamy weddings
and this one was so romantic too

Children need love, so parents chill out

Anger, photo by Ivar van Bussel, Groningen, Netherlands, abusive tantrumsFathers and mothers, with small children, are usually at a Life Stage when stresses affect their behaviour, making them intolerant. It’s vital that we don’t psychologise abusive behaviour exhibited by stressed parents. In other words, avoid excusing abusive actions just because parents are stressed – there’s no excuse good enough for abuse. So parents, remember that although you’re having a hard time, when you over-react about your children’s mistakes this negatively impacts on their self-esteem. Also your behaviour is seen as inappropriate and abusive by children and everyone around too! What’s more if the ‘punishment is too severe then the lesson is lost’. When you’re finding it difficult to keep your cool, then maybe you need to see a therapist so that you can let off steam before it becomes abusive for everyone concerned. Children need love to grow healthily, not fear. Childrearing specialists claim that prisoners didn’t get there from too much parental love as children.

she was almost hysterical as she told me
how her family was driving her crazy
her husband was in the same state!
you may say “no wonder” when they
are in stressful jobs and trying to
make a decent lifestyle for their family!
then as the story unfolded they realised that
their lives had become unmanageable due to
hard work, lots of bills and not enough rest
everything had become so serious and
children have no way of knowing how
to deal with their parents’ stress, therefore,
they chose to do things as a family that
would bring them fun and relaxation
as well as putting their home in order
instead of just excusing the dysfunctionality

Timing is vital

Clock, photo by Henning Buchholz, Bremen, Germany, high priorityWhen good intentions become failures, then our timing could be out of sinc. Timing is vital in any plan of action, even for simple discussions. How often do we begin to say something, feeling confident and enthusiastic, and then the whole situation deteriorates into struggling in emotional quicksand? The more we struggle the worst it becomes and we wonder how it happened? Perhaps we didn’t consider whether it was appropriate to bring the matter up, no matter how simple it seemed. Perhaps we didn’t consider whether the other person was in the mood to deal with the matter. Perhaps we didn’t consider how capable we were at that point to express the matter appropriately. Or a combination of all of these things. When we pause and plan how to express ourselves, especially taking into consideration how right the timing is, then the interaction has more of a chance of being successful.

Stephanie had learnt from a young age
not to jump into the emotional deep end!
her father had a volatile personality
whether he was drunk or not, and so
before she spoke about anything delicate to anyone
she’d ask “are you free to speak for a moment?”
this usually prepared the other person
and it spared her unnecessary hurt!
how easy would it be if it were protocol for us
to first ask this question, just as we
automatically say “please” and “thank you”,
checking that the timing is right, could
protect us from abusive personalities
whilst respecting each others availability to
be fully present in a discussion

Role models

Dad's Shoulder, photo by Joseph Zlomek, Pottstown, United States, loving parentSome people have had abusive parents as role models. Others have had one parent functional and the other dysfunctional. Unfortunately, there are those who have been abused and become abusers, mainly because they experienced how powerful induced fear was. The promising thing is that as we grow most of us learn to appreciate the healthy role models and mimic them in adulthood.

Nina was surprised that her mother’s abusive behaviour
hadn’t made her an emotional cripple, but remembered
that her father was a gentle, loving parent and
whenever she was tempted by her mother’s words
to believe that she was ugly and worthless
Nina would recall her father’s unconditional love
which gave her the confidence to make healthy choices
at times it took a lot of work to raise her self esteem
because her mother’s words would creep into
Nina’s thoughts unexpectedly, however
that was short lived as she developed the skills
to diffuse such thoughts by sending them
off into the universe in imaginary balloons