Tag Archives: Loving Relationship

Finding Your Marital North Star

premarital counseling charleston scOften times when I work with premarital couples I ask them what characteristics they would like to see in their marriage. I encourage these couples to take time to think about what is important to them in a relationship, write it down and look back on in frequently.  I then talked to couples about using this list as their North Star that will guide their behavior in their marriage.


During the good times we don’t need this list as a guide. We can easily see the good in our partner and are open and loving. But when things become difficult we quickly lose sight of what is important to us and we get pulled off course.


In difficult times many people will begin to use their partner’s behavior as a guide for their own behavior (i.e. you hurt me so I will hurt you back, you are disrespectful to me so I will be disrespectful back, you withhold from me so I will withhold from you). One can see how this would become a vicious cycle for disaster.


We get pulled away from what we really want in our relationship if we base our behavior on someone else’s behavior.  This is because behavior is not a constant in any relationship. Additionally, our perception of behavior is not constant so all it would take is our perception being off for us to be pulled off course.



I was having brunch with an unmarried pregnant friend recently. During the course of brunch she was telling me that she was in a difficult position about what last name to give her baby who was soon to be born. She was no longer with the baby’s father in the romantic sense and she was not happy with all of his life choices.


On the one hand she was not particularly attached to her last name and she did not feel compelled to give the baby her name for any personal reason.  But, on the other hand she was not sure if she wanted to give her baby the father’s last name because she felt as if she was rewarding him with that honor.


We talked about it a little and I asked her if she wanted a friend answer or a therapist answer. She said she would like to hear both. As her friend I told her, “F- him” we laughed and than I told her about what I talked about above.


I asked her to think about what kind of relationship she would ideally like to have. What characteristics would it have? I encouraged her to use these as a guide during these difficult times so she did not get pulled away from what she really wanted in her relationship.


There is one mistake that people commonly make with this exercise. They make their list and then expect their partner to do it. Or, they give these things only if they feel their partner is doing the same thing.


What ever you want in your relationship give it to your partner, but give it freely with no expectation of getting it back or needing it back. When we need to get the behavior back in order to give it we fall into the trap of using our partner’s behavior as our guide. This will lead us off course.



There is one phrase that helps me when making difficult decisions in my life and I use this as my guide in all my relationships, whether personal or professional. My go-to phrase that helps me is “Is it loving?”


This phrase helps me when I get off course and even though I am not behaviorally perfect and forget this phrase, it is always there to help when I am ready and open to accept its strength and wisdom.


The phrase, “Is it loving?” does not mean I become a doormat in every situation. It might be more loving to leave a situation then it would be to stay. If I am married to someone who hits me and my children the most loving thing might be to leave. This person hitting me cannot see that there is a better way to live. As long as I stay I may be holding them back from seeing another way to manage their anger.


It might be more loving to stop giving financial support to my child so they can learn how strong they really are. It might be more loving to let my child struggle with the consequences of poor decisions. Being expelled from school and grounded for drinking at school helps the child learn appropriate behavior. It may also keep them from progressing their behavior of drinking that later develops into driving under the influence and killing someone else.



“Is it loving” can also be applied to the thoughts I think about other people. Thinking unloving thoughts about any one has a direct effect on me. I don’t like the way I feel when I think of someone else being the “bad guy”. When we can see the innocence in another it has a different effect. When I can see the person as doing the best they can in that circumstance the emotional pressure is released.



Examples of Characteristics People Report Using as Their North Star in Their Marriage:



  • Respect
  • Listen to understand not to dispute
  • Kindness
  • Forgiveness
  • Understanding
  • Not nitpicking faults
  • Open to suggestions
  • Giving partner space to be exactly the way they are
  • Taking responsibility for behavior
  • Willing to admit when they make a mistake

Look For Loving In All The Wrong Places: Rekindling love in your marriage

Your task is not to seek for love, but to seek and find all the barriers that you have built against it. Love is your natural state. Your only problem lies in covering it up with cheap substitutes. Our need to be right, expectations of how we think something should be, judgments we project upon others all block our loving nature.


During the first stage of falling in love we get a glimpse of our loving nature. Take a minute to think of a time when you first fell in love. If one sits and puts themselves back at this time they will begin to experience a taste of love welling up.


When you first fall in love you experience this unspeakable feeling of joy, peace, life all tumbled together into one unit. This feeling permeates us and we begin to feel it in all aspects of our life. We aren’t just in love with the person we found but we are in love with squirrels, and plants and spoons, and coffee and anything else we come in contact with. We are in love with life itself.


Falling in love is wonderful and it feels so natural to us that we want to hang on to it desperately. What we fail to realize is that it is not coming from the other person. You will discover this when you take a good look at the situation.


When you are in love and have this amazing feeling do you only feel it when that person is present in the same room with you? Of course not. You could still feel it if they were in Timbuktu. The feeling is present when they are there and still present when they are not. This is the case for one simple reason. The feeling of love you feel is coming directly from you.


When you are open you shine and experience your own natural light. We experience this light in the form of what we call love. But when we think that what we are feeling is coming from the other person we become frightened and want to hang on to this feeling of love. We try to hang on to it by trying to control the other person in various ways.


We set up expectations in an attempt to get in touch with this feeling once again. You listen to me so I feel love. You desire me so that I feel this love. You notice me so I feel this love. You show me respect so I feel this love. Listening, desire, attention and respect are all great elements to have in a relationship but you do not need them to experience that love you are looking for.


No one can take their love away from you.  When you close off, hold resentments, judge others, have expectations of how a someone or a situation should be you end up cutting yourself off from your natural light.


When you look outside yourself for love it will fail and end up hurting you.  It will end up hurting you not because it has the power to hurt you but because you have given it the power to hurt you. You have made the proclamation to yourself that you need ____________(fill in the blank with your perceived need or desire) and that is what follows. “I need your attention to be happy”. “I need you to desire me to feel love”. “I need you to be calm for me to be at peace”.


What you are looking for in your partner you already have.  You have just, for a brief moment in time, forgotten. Welcome what is and your light will shine on all you see.


“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.”

– Rumi


What Fidelity is Meant to Protect: Insight from Wendell Berry

Although he may not be a favorite of everyones, Wendell Berry offers insight on a wide variety of matters. From economics, to farming and marriage, Wendell’s thoughtful  commentary encourages us to take a second look at so many things we take for granted. Below I have included one of his quotes from “The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrain Essays” that pertains to marriage and fidelity.

Too often are we presented with circumstances in our relationships that bring about discouragement, disgust, and irritation. The quote offers a perspective on the importance of fidelity in times of trouble.

If you enjoy the quote I encourage you to explore some more of Berry’s work. I have included a link below from the website where I copied the quote.


“What marriage offers – and what fidelity is meant to protect – is the possibility of moments when what we have chosen and what we desire are the same. Such a convergence obviously cannot be continuous. No relationship can continue very long at its highest emotional pitch. But fidelity prepares us for the return of these moments, which give us the highest joy we can know; that of union, communion, atonement (in the root sense of at-one-ment)…
To forsake all others does not mean – because it cannot mean – to ignore or neglect all others, to hide or be hidden from all others, or to desire or love no others. To live in marriage is a responsible way to live in sexuality, as to live in a household is a responsible way to live in the world. One cannot enact or fulfill one’s love for womankind or mankind, or even for all the women or men to whom one is attracted. If one is to have the power and delight of one’s sexuality, then the generality of instinct must be resolved in a responsible relationship to a particular person. Similarly, one cannot live in the world; that is, one cannot become, in the easy, generalizing sense with which the phrase is commonly used, a “world citizen.” There can be no such think as a “global village.” No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it. Where we live and who we live there with define the terms of our relationship to the world and to humanity. We thus come again to the paradox that one can become whole only by the responsible acceptance of one’s partiality.
(pg.117-118, “The Body and the Earth”)”


Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

So You Want Respect: How to get respect in your relationship


You don’t have to go very for to hear someone giving his or her opinion on respect. Some will say that respect is something that is earned; that so-and-so has not earned our respect so we will happily keep it to ourselves.  “No respect for you”- soup Nazi style.


We hear people say they demand another’s respect. I often wonder how this works exactly. Is it that they force the other’s respect through threats, muscle or might. Does this demand of respect add up to something like “Respect me or I’ll tell on you” or “Respect me or you’ll be sorry”?


Indeed the demand of respect doesn’t sound that respectful when it is couched in such terms.


I, for one, think respect is very important to our lives. But I don’t think respect is something that should be earned or demanded.


That doesn’t mean we need to put up with unconscious behavior.  There are times it is best to move away from destructive behavior, but we can still do it in a matter that respects the other individual.


What does it mean to respect?     How to get respect in your relationship

 For those of you reading this who know me you already know how I feel about religion.  I welcome religion, all religion for that matter, but do not prescribe to one specific one myself. If anything I love the philosophy behind religions.


I have heard it said that religion and psychology, in their finest condition, meet.  I believe there may be some truth to this.  I say all this as a preface to what I am about to say about respect.


When we look at the word respect and break it down it means re-“again”, and spect-“look” put it together and we have “to look again”.


This is where some people say big whoop- I know this from grade school. It’s also where some people say “Right! And if they want me to look again (or respect them) they had sure better earn it”.


This is where I have a slightly different view on respect. When we look again we are looking to see something we have missed before with our superficial glance.

When we look again we are looking through the surface level.

Some might say we are looking to see the divine in that individual. Some might say you are looking again to see that person in a different light. Other may say our second look is done to see that person’s side of the story- to see them as innocent.


The view I like is that respect means we look again to see the divine in another.  Some religions teach that when we begin to recognize the Divine in another we begin to see it in ourselves. This is one of the reasons I like this explanation of respect so much.


When we begin to look for the innocence in another we begin to see it in ourselves.  When we learn to treat others with genuine loving kindness we begin to offer ourselves that same.


When we begin to understand that respecting others is actually for our own benefit we are more open to the experience.


This is way we are better off not living from the viewpoint that respect must be earned. When we live like this we end up selling ourselves short.



So know I know why it helps be to respect others- what can I do to start getting other’s respect?


Whatever you feel that your relationship is lacking, start giving it.


If you don’t feel like you are getting enough respect- start giving respect.


If you don’t feel like people are listening to your ideas- start listening to their ideas.


If you feel like people judge you too harshly, begin to look at how you are judging others.


Think about the times when you have been disrespectful to another person. (And if you are saying right now that you have never been disrespectful to another than I am going to call B***S*** on you. 😉 But denial is a tool we use until we don’t need it anymore so that is still ok.)


Think about that time when you have been disrespectful to another, maybe because you felt they deserved it, or may be just because you were having a bad day.


Are you there thinking about it?…Good.


What happened when you were disrespectful to them? Did they react in a way that caused the situation to get worse fast? Did communication stop? Did they walk away?


There may be a chance that that person was disrespectful right back and it may not have been to your face. Perhaps they were very respectful.

Consider that other person was not respectful, what would have happened if they responded with respect. Would you be more or less likely to show them respect? Typically people would answer they are more likely to show another respect when they think they are getting it.


So this is how you begin to get more respect in your relationships- start giving it.


Whatever you feel like you are lacking begin giving it- BUT YOU HAVE TO GIVE IT FREELY.   Stop keeping tabs on how much you are giving to others.


Do you like it when people give you something just because they want something in return? I know I don’t but I know that sometimes I can get caught in this trap of giving to get something.


If you are giving to get something- take note but don’t punish yourself. Sometimes it helps to remember you are a Divine being and a Divine being doesn’t deserve judgment.


If your not comfortable with the word Divine that’s all right find another word that you are comfortable with.




I would like to your thoughts


Should respect be earned or given unconditionally?


What is some advice involving respect that you have found helpful?


Should we strive to see the Divine (or good) in everyone?


Are there those you feel do not deserve respect?