Memories of the Way We Were

  • What are some of your favorite memories with your spouse?
    • Do you often revisit them together?
      • Do you savor them fondly?
        • Do you ever say, “I remember when…?”

Photo by Gabriel Craciun

Good memories can be the glue to hold us together.  During a struggle or impasse in our relationship, cherished memories can provide a cooling place of respite, an oasis of sorts.  As we remember the happy times of closeness and connection, we also remember how we felt loved and appreciated and how we in turn loved.

Good memories give hope and provide a safe harbor in a troublesome storm.

Some of you may remember the 1973 movie “The Way We Were” with Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand.  It was a sad chronicle of a troubled young couple, from infatuation, courtship, marriage and unfortunately, final separation.  The theme song, sung by Barbra Streisand, is very poignant:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ju29bXJDHDk

In the song, she remembers

“the smiles we left behind, smiles we gave one another.”

She is reflecting on the happy times in their relationship, when they laughed and smiled together.  The times were easy and life wasn’t complicated.  They had few troubles and worries and their relationship wasn’t torn by changing desires and directions.  And she asks,

“Can it be that it was so simple then?”

Most of our relationships do start out simple.  We are in love.  You love me and I love you. Simple.  No children, no big financial issues, no career crisis.  Just simple.

And then life happens.

We get married, have a few kids, get into debt.  We find that we don’t have enough time to talk.  No date nights.  No weekends away.  No time for each other.  And we drift.  Then we look back to those happy memories.  Happy times.  The laughter.  And so the song ends with,

“So it’s the laughter, We will remember,

The way we were, The way we were.”

Here are my thoughts on memories.  Not only should you cherish them and hold them dear, but you should revisit them often.  Turn off the TV, laptop, and  phones and set aside a snuggle time together.  Put on a few candles and some soft background music.  Cuddle up and one of you can begin to share some of your favorite memories together.  The special weekend away a few years ago when Grandma had the kids.  Your first date.  Your first kiss.  Each of you share and take time to savor the memories.  Tell your spouse why each memory was so special for you.

And then make it a point to make new memories you can add to your library of memories.

They are like deposits to a bank account that you can withdraw anytime you need some hope in the midst of a struggle, or just a smile and a laugh together.

Memories of “The Way We Were!”

Thankfulness

Photo by monmart

Photo by monmart

This week we celebrate the annual tradition of Thanksgiving Day. We gather with family and friends and partake of far too many calories in the finest turkey, mash potatoes, gravy, and of course pies and other treats. We enjoy each other’s company and engage in lively dinner time chats.

I am reminded during these times to be thankful for the wonderful blessing I have been given in my wife, Darleen. Come to think about it, each day has something to be thankful for. Here are just a few of the many things that come to mind:

Darleen has been a wonderful wife for the past 40 years. I often call her my “Proverbs 31” wife. She is thoughtful, kind, and considerate. She does so many special things for me and around the house I can hardly begin to count. She is an amazing cook and can make anything from an elaborate Christmas dinner to a simple backyard BBQ. She decorates the house for special occasions and keeps our home neat and clean for when guests are over. She is a thrifty shopper always on the lookout for bargains and specials. She is patient and long-suffering (I added this because she mostly needs patience for me. I am often slow on the uptake with tasks around the house that need to be done.)

Oh yes, she’s my live-in nurse, on duty twenty-four hours a day. I once got a deep cut on my finger, and passed out after seeing my blood. I hit my head and cut open my chin as I fell over. Yes, I know, it sounds funny now, but I could have bled to death had my nurse not been there to take care of Mr. Wimpy. Now you see why I have a lot to be thankful for.

Photo by Armin Hanisch

Photo by Armin Hanisch

She has not only been a fantastic mother to our three children, but now she has the role of best Grandma Bear ever. Just the other night, the evening before Thanksgiving Day when we had a house full of family and friends coming over for dinner, she was up until 11:30 making doll house furniture for a doll house she bought for our granddaughters. She hand-crafted elegant beds preparing the doll house for the next day when our granddaughter was coming over. Wow!  What a woman I have been given. And she has made a point to make a quilt for each grandchild when they get to two years old, each with a special verse sewn in to the corner.

In Proverbs 18:22 it says,

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing”.

My special wife. Truly a good thing. I am so thankful that the Lord has blessed me with such a wonderful soulmate, best friend and lover. She is truly the most special gift in my life and I love her now more than ever.

So, to all you men out there, take some time and think about your wife and what you are thankful for, and then tell her, over and over. Be thankful for the blessing God has given to you.

More From Dr. Gottman – Stonewalling

We’ve been looking at the Four Horsemen from The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage by John Gottman, Ph.D.  Today we’ll take a look at the fourth and final of the four negative relational interactions, Stonewalling.

When the cycle of criticism, contempt, and defensiveness continues for an extended period, one spouse may eventually just tune out and give up.  They no longer engage inthe argument, they stop trying to give an answer, and will usually just walk away.  They stop the back and forth pattern in the

By cal-retroart

By cal-retroart

critical and contemptuous cycles, and give up trying to defend themselves.  They shut down, walk away, and hide.  But in so doing they also walk away from a meaningful relationship.

Stonewalling is avoiding.  You avoid the fights, arguments, bickering, and critical hurtful comments.  You avoid tension, hostility, and anger.  Your defensiveness has found a new tactic as you seek the peace that comes from silence, but it’s at the cost of your relationship.

You avoid the conflicts, but give up hope for being close.

I remember the years of being apathetic in my relationship.  I tried many times to find a way to get closer to Darleen, but something wasn’t right.  After reading books and going to seminars and still not being able to get close, I thought to myself, “I don’t care anymore.”  There would be long periods of stonewalling when I would not engage.  I was distant, cold, and unapproachable.

I look back on these years as the desert years.  I was telling myself a lie that I didn’t care, when I really cared very much.  I wanted a closeness in our relationship but I would get frustrated and distance myself, believing the lie.

After many years, I rejected that lie, and embraced the truth that I loved Darleen very much, and I needed to act on that belief every day by praying for a healing in our relationship.  No more stonewalling.  It was a time to be fully engaged and to pursue removing the barriers that kept us apart.

I was confronted with a choice: that I could remain apathetic and we’d have another 30 years of a marriage characterized by distance and separation, or I could determine to work on it and we could spend the next 30 years as soulmates.

I chose soulmates, and by God’s grace, we are now enjoying years of closeness like we never had before.

Stonewalling kills a relationship.  It signals I would rather be away from you in silence than to be close to you working on being soulmates.

If you see a pattern of stonewalling in your relationship, I hope this has helped you see the need to work through your issues so you can enjoy a soulmate relationship.  You must be willing to take the steps to grow personally.

I truly hope that you choose to grow.

The Rest of Our Story

This last week as we visited our daughter and her family, I watched my husband playing ball with the grandkids. A simple game, him throwing the ball out in the yard and they’d retrieve it and throw it back. There were wild screeches of delight every time the ball landed in the kiddie pool as the kids announced another “wet ball.” Such a simple game, yet such fun was had.

It reminded me of times Alan would play with our own children. He has a way of making anything fun. I am really thankful for this quality in him and it made me so happy to see it again impacting another generation.

There have been other instances too when I think about how glad I am that we stayed committed in our marriage and worked out the problems so that we could still be together to enjoy moments like that ball game. We had some really hard things to work through, and it took years. There were many times that I thought maybe it would just be easier to split up. I wondered if it would ever get better. I know Alan had those thoughts too. But we got through it with the grace of God.

And now we are living “the rest of our story” together. Moments like the ball game become poignant because they could have been lost to us. If we’d split up I wouldn’t have witnessed that scene. So the hard times we went through seem so worth it to have the rich relationship we have now.

Of course, life isn’t perfect. There are stresses. But this is the part of our story when we experience calm in the storm together. We feel the support of the other even during a disagreement. And we come to understanding more easily.

My hope for you is that you too will persist in love and forgiveness so that you can joyfully live the rest of your story together.

 

Ideas For a Fun Time, Out or In

Go for a walk at the local mall and get an ice cream cone together.  The exercise will be great if you take two to three laps around the mall, alternating between upstairs and downstairs.  Walk at a fast pace, just enough to get the ‘ol heart beating.  Take note of the specialty shops and after your laps, stop by a few and just window shop.  No need to go crazy and spend next month’s budget, but it’s ok to dream a little.  Remember to chat along the way.  Tell her why you love her so much.

 Look up historical sites in your town and go visit at least three.  Hey, this can really be fun.  Most cities have a chamber of commerce or a visitor’s bureau or you can search online for the local sites and look up the history.  When Darleen and I visited Oysterville on the Washington coast, we found a little church built in the early 1800’s.  On the same street were several original homes.  Historical markers out front told a brief history.  As Spock would say, “Fascinating!”  Tell each other your favorite time in history and who you would like to meet if you could go back in time.

 Look up the largest and smallest park within a fifteen mile radius and visit each.  Take along  some muffins, juice and fruit.  Enjoy the first park with a walk and find a nice place for your mid-morning snack.  Then, off to park number two.  Take a walk around the park, stopping to take a few pictures here and there.  Note the flowers, trees, and any birds you spot.  After your walk, bring out the special lunch you packed earlier.  Find a nice picnic table in the shade, or sun if you prefer, and relax.  Share your most favorite place to spend time together.

 Shop for all the necessary ingredients for an unusual dinner and make it together.  This could be really fun.  Make a homemade pizza with your favorite toppings. Or a special hot and spicy south of the boarder dish. Maybe try something stir fried.  Or, if you like adventure, get a cook book with various ethnic dishes, and each of you pick out three that you would really like.  Then number all your choices and put the numbers in a box.  Pick one out, get to the store, and shop for the stuff. Come home, open a bottle of your favorite wine, and get cooking.  After a fine dinner, you can get other things cooking.

 Take the time to laugh, play, and make special memories together.

A Great Marriage – The Ten Keys

This week I’m sharing with you advice from a book that’s been on my shelf for quite some time,  How to Make  A Good Marriage Great –Ten Keys to a Joyous Relationship by Victor Cline, Ph.D.  Most of the time when I see “Ph.D.” next to the author’s name, I think, “Ugghh, another 9000 pages of endless psychobabble that will take me three years to plow through.”  But then I come across a book like this one that breaks down complicated issues into basic strategies for success.  Get a copy of this book.  I’m sure you will find it useful.  In the forward Dr. Cline says, “I have never seen a happy divorce.”  How true is that?  Broken relationships even if they end amicably are painful and leave deep lasting scars.  He goes on to say that “we are all flawed.  We make mistakes…”   But then he says, “We have choices.  If we wish, marriage can be a wonderful, exhilarating adventure with almost no limits…” So I encourage you to choose the wonderful and enjoy the adventure of marriage.

Here is a summary of his first five keys for making a marriage great – with my added editorial comments:

1.        First Key – Shower Positives, Minimize Nagging  – Too often we focus on the five percent of the daily things that happen that are negative, such as a harsh word or insensitive comment.  We overlook the positive.  We need to get in the habit of being thankful for all that is good in our spouse and have grace and patience with the negatives.  Remember: five positives overcome one negative!b

2.       Second Key – Let Your Spouse Know the Facilitators of Love – Here he encourages us to clearly and verbally let our spouse know what our needs are.  Don’t expect he will somehow read your mind.  When your spouse expresses his needs, listen and do your best to give him what he needs.

3.       Third Key – Defuse Anger  – Find a way to step away from tense boiling points when they happen.  Sometimes writing it out and sharing notes can help.  Take time to calm down and when cooler heads prevail, the issues may be easier to work out.

4.       Fourth Key –  Positive Sexuality  –  This is such an important key in marriage relationships and it is the basis of true emotional intimacy.  Men need sex to feel emotionally connected and women need to be emotionally connected to truly enjoy the richness of sexual intimacy.  Work at understanding each other’s needs.

5.       Fifth Key –  The Power of Commitment – Love is a Daily Decision  –  This is clearly a cornerstone to a lasting marriage.  We must make an unconditional commitment to each other – For richer / For poorer – For better / For worse – In sickness / and in health – ‘Till death do us part.  Familiar words.  We need to be committed to each other and committed to growing our relationship into a “joyous relationship”.  It’s not good enough to be committed to a lifeless relationship.  We also need to be committed to and working toward a joyous relationship, a soul mate relationship.

Next week we’ll look at the next five Keys according to Dr. Cline.

Do You Remember When We….?

Have you ever shared a time of reminiscing with your spouse about your courtship years, or your engagement?  Perhaps you have thought back to the deliveries of children, or hard times like being unemployed, moving, and problems with relatives.  Or maybe you are a young couple who doesn’t have a lot of shared history yet.

Turns out, these times of recalling shared memories can be a part of a successful and close marriage.  John Gottman in his book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail…and How You Can Make Yours Last calls it “finding the glory” in your marriage.  It is worth doing, helps strengthen our bond with our spouse, and gives hope for the future.

In my own marriage reminiscing played a key role in keeping us together during our desert years when we were committed but not close.  Many times we tried to work through the issues.  At times we’d even have understanding of each other, but somehow it didn’t translate into action or growth.  But that’s another story…  For now, know that we took care of responsibilities, but not each other.  When I look back and realize the state we were in it is amazing that we made it to the great marriage we have now.  Many things contributed to our longevity, like our stubborn commitment to our vows, but reminiscing is the thing that brought us back to the oasis where we could find joy together now and then.

Taking time together was a priority for us.  Every three or four months we’d take off overnight to the beach.  We’d go out for special occasions.  We started celebrating the anniversary of our first date and our engagement (which happens to be my birthday!)  All these celebrations gave us time to remember our beginnings, the romance, getting to know each other, and happy carefree times.  It was time to connect again with what we loved in each other.

As time passed we weathered many storms together.  There were periods of unemployment, difficult childbirths, sick children, stressful family times.  All the usual life difficulties.  But we’d look back at those and see how the Lord brought us through together.  It gave us a sense of camaraderie and confirmation that we were still right for each other after all.  As Dr. Gottman would say, we were “glorifying our struggles” and remembering them in a positive way that gave us hope for a bright future.

When we finally did work through those long-standing issues we realized what a role those times of reminiscing played.  They really did give us little oases of positive feelings to hold on to through the next desert trek!

I hope this story encourages you to take time with your spouse to remember back to your beginnings, to happy times, and even sad or stressful times.  Share the joy and blessings together.  Find meaning and growth in the hard times.  Just don’t forget your past.  Lessons from your history together may be just what you need to get to a soul mate marriage.

Share some of YOUR special memories in the Comment Box below.