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“Relationships Require Other-Centeredness”
by Dr. Doug Burford, LPC, EMDR, DMin, Licensed Professional Counselor and Relationship Coach
(See Doug’s video as he introduces our March Blog “How to Master Retirement Relationships“)
We can know everything there is to know about marriage—intellectually—and still wind up with a bad marriage, or even divorced. Information about what makes marriage work isn’t enough. Conversely, people relatively ignorant of academic research and intellectual insights into marriage can have mutually endearing and enduring marriages, regardless of their life circumstances. What makes the difference, then, if not knowledge? It comes down to other-centeredness.
Other-centeredness… is that even a thing? (I have to hyphenate it so my spellcheck doesn’t object.) Yes, it must be a thing, because its opposite—self-centeredness—is a thing. And when it comes to marriage—and nearly all relationships—other-centeredness is THE thing.
Bad behavior that creates or contributes to bad relationships is not mysterious. Bad behavior is simply self-centeredness in motion. Where it comes from is as individualistic as the individuals involved. But whatever its source, and whatever its more legitimate cousins—self-actualization, self-preservation, and self-protection, for example—its focus is on self, not the other. And self-focus (self interest at least, self centeredness perhaps, or selfishness at worst) usually doesn’t feel good in a relationship. It feels less than loving.
Other-centerdness is actually my definition of love. In scripture, the apostle Paul begins his chapter on love by remarking that a person can fathom all mysteries and have all knowledge, but have not love, and thereby be nothing. (1st Corinthians 13:2) That’s a strong verdict, especially in our culture that idolizes information. Yet, in the world of relationships, nothingness is what becomes of us if there is not love (other-centeredness). Listen for that term under all the words the apostle Paul uses to describe love: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1st Corinthians 13:4-8)
You might have noticed that there is not a self-serving word in the entire list. Everything that Paul commends as love would only be done for the benefit of someone else. After all, why be kind; what’s in it for me? Answer: It’s not about me; it’s about blessing someone else. Why be patient if I’m feeling impatient? Answer: for the sake of another. Why not be a braggart or envy others who have what I can’t have? Answer: Because other-centered love can be happy for others who have what I don’t. And we could go through the entire list this way. The point is, everything love does, it does for the benefit of someone else; that’s what makes it love.
Notice, too, that Paul’s list is devoid of feeling-words. Love is not an emotion. Love is a combination of attitudes and behaviors acted on regardless of how we feel. In fact, often, love is about doing the opposite of what we feel like doing. Love summons self-control so that we are not controlled by what our emotions tell us to do or say. It’s how responsible parents love their children. This understanding of love may not sound very romantic, but it is a relationally safe way of love that is the most solid foundation for romance. Romantic relationships are built upon the foundation of a ratio of “feel-good” to “feel bad” interactions. We are drawn to, and remain drawn to, people who make us feel good. Obviously, being affected by another’s self-centeredness feels bad; being gifted by another’s other-centeredness feels good.
Research by Dr. John Gottman has identified seven principles that undergird successful, mutually satisfying, long-enduring loving relationships. The first of these principles he calls “Love Maps.” A Love Map is detailed knowledge of a partner’s world. It is familiarity with what is important to one’s partner—their likes, dislikes, hopes, dreams, disappointments, fears, anticipations. It is knowing what relaxes our partner, what stresses them, what angers them, what makes them feel supported, etc. It’s good information to know; but, as we noted earlier, knowledge is not enough. Knowing these things about our partner is like knowing French.
What good is it, if we don’t use it? To quote Bob Goff’s book title, “Love does.” Love (other-centeredness) takes what we know about our partner (Gottman’s Love Map) and uses that knowledge to make our spouse feels protected, important, remembered, respected, and honored. It takes our partner’s likes and dislikes; preferences and anticipations, and includes them on our shopping lists, personal calendars, and to-do lists.
Love looks for opportunities and invents ways to use the Love Map to make our partner feel good. Remember doing this when you were dating? It’s what many couples stop doing once they get married, and maybe start doing with someone who isn’t their spouse—their eventual affair partner. Affair partners learn each other’s preferences and build those into their interactions; they remember what is important to each other; they carefully govern their words and go out of their way to speak kindly; they listen and express understanding, rather than arguing their own point of view. In other words, they practice other-centeredness, like husbands and wives used to do when they were dating.
The hope for marriage is the recognition that both partners do indeed have Love Maps. It is further recognizing that partners’ Love Maps are not going to match. That does not spell incompatibility; it spells opportunity to understand what this entirely-other-human-being needs to feel loved. Hint: it won’t be what comes naturally to us. Our partner is not us; they’re them. Other-centeredness learns what feels good to them; love doesn’t insist that they like what feels good to us. Love is about learning a new map. This education will not come from a book. It will take other-centered focus to notice and remember what makes our spouse feel loved, respected, safe, secure, nurtured, supported, honored, comforted, protected, accepted, and liked. It is on the basis of such feelings that a ratio (feel-good to feel bad interactions) will be built that becomes strong enough to feel like love. Love is about knowing our spouse better than does anyone on the planet, and using that knowledge to make our spouse feel all of the things just listed. And to know how to do so better than anyone else on the planet. When our spouse is also—with other-centered love—meeting those same needs for us (but according to our different Love Map), then there is a solid, safe relationship.
Again, other-centeredness is not natural. Self-centeredness is natural (survival of the fittest). It can be a struggle to get beyond ourselves and empathize with someone else. Ideally, we experienced this kind of love from our parents. If so, it’s easier to replicate. If not, then we need a reparative experience or experiences from which to draw. If those experiences don’t come from safe people in our life, then God offers what people might not. That which we may not have been given to us by humans is available to us by the Holy Spirit. For free. The heart that humbles itself to Christ as Lord, and calls out to the Holy Spirit for help, will be graciously given awareness of God’s loving presence within and alongside it, always.
One work of the Holy Spirit is to transform self-centeredness into other-centered love, like the love of God toward us. It was this love that drove him to visit earth, love the unloved, serve like a servant not a king, and die like a criminal so that we wouldn’t have to. That’s other-centeredness. That’s love. It’s what God has in his heart for us, and what he wants to form in our hearts for others. Just ask him for this gift. He will answer and grant you his heart.
“Moving out of our Traditional House – Experiences & Lessons Learned” by Brian Greenlee
Relocation & Residential Specialist, Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate
In my 17 years as a Relocation & Residential Specialist at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, I’ve seen many people over the age of 55 move out of their traditional family home. I’ve seen some folks struggle with all of the decisions and I’ve seen others breeze through it.
Those who have a vision of the type of lifestyle they want appear to do the best during this transition. Recently, my wife and I embarked upon our own housing transition. We knew we wanted an involved, active lifestyle at least for the next 30 years! We chose to go from the suburbs to a popular more urban neighborhood known for its beautiful older homes, central location, walking opportunities, restaurants and retail.
My wife was enthusiastic about moving while I was more reluctant to leave the home where we raised our family. The challenge of rehabbing a nearly 100 year old home was daunting. Then there was adjustment of downsizing. We spent years accumulating “stuff” and had so many decisions that it was difficult to know where to begin.
After looking for nearly a year, we finally found the house with the footprint we were looking for but needed a lot of updating. After a career spent helping others buy and sell homes, being on this side of the process felt much different. Our home sold quickly but with so many updates to electrical, plumbing and gutting the kitchen and master bath, we had to add an interim move and furniture storage to our plans.
This posed a packing challenge. Having to sort through belongings quickly, we used a three-way sorting system: Keep, sell, give/throw away. Did we really need to keep every piece of Kindergarten artwork? How about all the birthday cards or household items we didn’t use but felt guilty putting in the sell or give away pile. We worked closely with our estate sale manager to learn what was valuable and should have special handling. We also took photos of special items we wanted to remember but ultimately decided to sell. We can look back through the photos but aren’t burdened with trying to store the item in our new, smaller home.
There were exciting moments and just as many tearful ones. Walking through our old home once it was empty was hard but we eased the transition by writing a note to the new owners sharing some of our special family memories and wishing them just as many happy times in their new home. It was a therapeutic way to say good-bye to a home filled with memories.
Then we could fully focus on the renovations. We knew there would be unexpected expenses and special items that stretched out budget even with our contingency fund, something every rehab project should include.
We survived the not so perfect timeline and enjoyed designing a home that fits our current lifestyle. There is a feeling of freedom from not owning so much “stuff” and spending our time walking nearby trails and sampling all the nearby restaurants.
We look forward to making new memories in our new home and are happy we made the move.
“Make your birthday great again”
by Hallie Hudson Peavey, Hallie Hudson Life + Communication Strategies
(3 minute read)
The older I am the more I think about the older I am.
Next week is my birthday. Until a few years ago, the week leading up to this chronological fact was filled with all kinds of anxiety. A behavior I decided to change after I realized the last time I looked forward to my birthday was when I turned 21.
For almost three decades, I lived with the belief that reaching the age of alcohol legality was life’s last call for age celebration. Society’s idea that 1, 16 and 21 were the few birthdays worth fun fanfare had me fooled.
Realizing how limiting this thought was prompted me to make a few tweaks in my thinking. Deciding to make my birthday less about the number and more about my life was the first step.
Now I see my birthday as a day to celebrate where I am, where I’ve been and where I’m going. Birthdays are a great mark in time, so it helped me to see time as a gift rather than a thief.
Here are a few things that might help you make your birthday great again
Set a goal with a plan. Many people feel their birthday is a depressing reminder of things they haven’t done. If the same goal sits on your list year after year it’s probably time to take a deeper look at why. In most cases, the solution sits snugly in your subconscious mind. Once you uncover what’s kept you back, goals become achievable.
Be with loved ones. We are here as humans to enjoy relationships. Even if you have people around, take a moment and assess if those people fill you up or wear you out. You pick up the vibe of your tribe so if your tribe isn’t raising you up it might be time to give birth to some new relationships.
Give some thing to some one else. The ripple effect is real. Awkwardly compliment the clerk at the dry cleaner. Give an extra $5 to the waiter. Giving is a great way to see life’s beauty.
Celebrate Gratitude. Yes. There’s a reason gratitude shows up in conversation so often. Because it works. What you appreciate, appreciates. Take note of the things in life you enjoy. Then. Do more of them. It’s that simple. Allow your life to be easy. And if right now the only thing in your life you enjoy is your morning cup of coffee, still write it down. Start somewhere and begin to sip down that java with a smile. You will soon see more and more of what you like start to show up for you.
Whatever the age, the bigness of a birthday is relevant. Last month my friend’s daughter turned 19. She slipped into a bit of a funk knowing this was the last year she’d say teen in her age.
Miracles are a shift in perception. Instead of mourning the passing of time, celebrate where you are, even if it’s not exactly where you want to be.
Endings hit especially hard when you don’t know what’s coming next. So take the lead and begin to be a part of creating what’s next.
Make a plan and keep moving forward. No matter our age, we are always capable of learning some thing new and raising a few standards.
Hallie Hudson Peavey used to be a puzzled stay-at-home mom confused as to why a life full of very pretty things brought her very little satisfaction. Today, she is a life coach and communication consultant eager to share her solution with anyone asking a similar question. (She is also a Taurus, so she is still a fan of pretty things, but in a different way.) Her phone sessions offer a blend of her experience as a life coach and multimedia communicator.
Hallie helps people get everything they want by redirecting outdated neural pathways blocking the way. The proven results empower her clients to confidently communicate their message as they begin to understand who they are. Through fun and unconditional conversation her science-based techniques pave a new way for anyone to enjoy true satisfaction. If you want to learn more about her services subscribe to Truth Drops newsletter full of thoughts to help you grow.
“Feel Better at 55 and Beyond”
Online Wellness Coach & Healthy Lifestyle Advocate
There are many things we cannot predict, like tonight’s lottery numbers, tomorrow’s weather or the next fashion trend. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not so concerned about the next fashion trend, as I have had some of the same clothes for… well; let’s just say a long time. And I look for the positive in any type of weather, so I don’t worry about catching the reports on the news.
But one thing I could predict was how my health was going. With my in-laws living less than a mile away, we always had them over for dinner. It was a “Sunday dinner” every day of the week, and since my wife and I enjoy cooking and baking, I found myself overeating very frequently. Casually observing the health of my in-laws and dental patients, I saw heart disease, diabetes and lists of medications a mile long. So at 40 years old, I could predict that health problems were in my future.
I grew up in South Florida, and I’m now in the Northeast (I know… I got it backwards). In my youth, I was one of the “fat kids.” I don’t even like to use that term, but that was me. I could never turn down a big plate of pasta or any type of dessert. Near the end of high school, I lost weight, although I did it the wrong way. I ate too little for my activity level. I found joy in jogging and playing basketball and studied food labels to get as few fats and calories as possible. I lost weight, but I was always tired and run down.
I went to college in Atlanta, then dental school in Philadelphia. I stayed at a reasonable weight, although I never had an athletic, toned appearance. It seemed like I was always on a diet, thinking that by restricting my food intake, I would be in better shape. Instead, I craved unhealthy junk more than ever.
Fast forward a couple years after dental school graduation, and I was blessed to find the perfect wife and start an amazing family! But that’s when we started having five “Sunday dinners” a week. I was not as physically active as I had been in college or dental school, and my weight started creeping up. Family and work commitments were often to blame for not exercising, but I really had only myself to blame.
I weighed 160 lbs. after dental school, but by the time I reached 40 (15 years later), I was over 210 lbs. That may work if you’re a bodybuilder with tons of muscle, but not a 5’9” dentist. After hurting my knee playing soccer, I knew I wouldn’t be exercising. So again, I looked to strict dieting as a way to control my weight.
I tried different diets that you are probably familiar with but nothing worked. It wasn’t until an old dental school friend introduced me to a new type of nutrition (not a diet) and subtle lifestyle modifications that I stopped gaining weight and was able to lose weight for the first time in decades without cravings and hunger! My friend recommended and coached me with this simple Isagenix system focused on protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, fiber, amino acids, vitamins/minerals, trace minerals, probiotics and complex sugars to get the right nutrition. Some of my lifestyle modifications included drinking more water, eating the right amount of food at the right times and using weights to exercise (starting with light weights).
My energy level went through the roof!!! My immediate thought was what was in this nutrition? So I checked it out. It’s all-natural and seemed like a “superfood.” I was sleeping better than I had in years. I wanted to learn more and share my knowledge with whoever would listen, similar to recommending a good movie or restaurant.
And that is what led me to become a health coach, in addition to being a dentist. I help people not only lose weight, but also put on weight the right way, increase their energy levels, sleep better and age healthier.
As you age, what are your health goals? And more importantly, WHY do you have those health goals? I want you to focus on your why and not just on the scale. Maybe you want to be able to keep up with your grandkids, or have more energy to travel or maybe you want to set the example for other loved ones to help them jump start their own journey to better health.
Make yourself a priority and feel better than you have in years! You don’t have to go for that “toned, athletic look,” but maybe subtle changes in your daily routine can significantly help you like it did and continues to do for me. Be Well!
I’d be happy to have a 20-minute complimentary consultation with you to discuss nutrition, share additional lifestyle tips and see if what changed my life can benefit you. Contact me by phone or text at (609)922-3340, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send me a friend request and message on Facebook at my profile page https://www.facebook.com/ted.bell.1671
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