Creating Space

6th February 2014 by Miranda Heathcote

 

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My husband was recently away for 2 weeks on a ministry trip. This is quite normal – since we started working in overseas missions, we have done a lot of travelling and now that we have kids we switch around who travels and who stays home.

Personally, I find it easier to be the one who travels (duh, I guess that sounds obvious, right?). It’s not just that it’s a treat to have to take care of only myself and to have only my work to focus on. I also find it a lot easier to be the one who comes home and ‘re-joins’ the family than to be the one making space for the returning wanderer.

If you’re a stay-at-home parent welcoming your other half home each day, or if you have a partner who travels for work, you might experience this too.

Doesn’t she know you have a system for everything?

Can’t he just put things back in the place you prefer?

Why does she always jump in the bathroom right before you? Doesn’t she know you’ll only have time for a 2 minute shower?

Did he really just promise the kids something I’ve already said no to?

(And so it goes on. My personal favourite is something to do with how the curtains hang once they’ve been opened. But I’d never admit to that in public.)

After 20 years of living together, you would have thought we’d have nailed this whole ‘sharing our space’ thing. But it’s like there’s this reset button and everything goes back to zero if you’re apart for longer than 5 days. Or is it just me?

I’ve come to realise that I need to be intentional about creating space for my partner. 

I need to create physical space, so that he can inhabit this place we call home in a way that feels homely. Even if that means I occasionally trip over his abandoned running shoes. In a house where he is the only guy (poor dude) I have to stop subjecting him to my feminine ideals of order and beauty and learn to appreciate the physicality of masculinity that invades the space when he is home.

I need to create emotional space, so that he feels that, yes, we do need and want him. When he’s not around my independence goes into overdrive. I’m not the type to present him with a list of things that need doing when he gets home; I’m far more likely to lug furniture around and drill holes in the wall as I hang off a ladder, even if it gets a little foolhardy. 

I have to learn to take a step back from that (wonderful and necessary) independence and lean into interdependence again once he’s home.

I need to create relational space, so that he catches up on time with our girls and with his guy friends after a trip. And with me, of course. Most times this means giving up on the idea of having him all to myself right off the bat, so usually it helps for us to agree a time when we will get to be alone and swap stories about our time apart.

And I need to create spiritual space, so that he can process his experiences and have his soul catch up with his body, if that makes sense. For Tim, this usually means he needs some time to introvert so that he can be fully present with us. Expecting him to process everything out loud with me is unrealistic, but if I’m patient he will generally figure out how he’s doing and share it with me!

What about you? How can handle the tension between independence and interdependence? How can you be intentional about creating space for your partner?

“Just A Piece Of Paper” now available on Amazon!

3rd February 2014 by Tania West

 

 

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Whether you want to save your marriage, help your marriage, avoid divorce, overcome relationship problems, enjoy dating your life partner, or discover a new aphrodisiac, “Just a Piece Of Paper” is a MUST read for you.  Viewed through the lens of the first wedding anniversary, this short, entertaining book explores why and how “commitment” can bring a dynamic, new, and exciting freedom to your relationship.  

Full of practical and down to earth wisdom and humour, this is a book ideal for busy couples keen to keep the sparkle in their relationship.  The author gives straightforward strategies, easy to implement, which will ensure that you experience the kind of marriage that you deserve!  

 

  Available to purchase from Amazon in paperback and kindle NOW!  

Tell me what you need, what you really, really need!

26th January 2014 by Miranda Heathcote

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My 5 year old has recently learned the meaning of the word ‘assumption’. It’s a big word for such a small girl, but hey, we try to say it like it is.

She learned the word because she kept on making them. She’d say things like, “I wish I could play a game with someone but I can’t because everyone’s too busy.” Or “Nobody will want to take me to the park because they’re on their computers.”

(In case you missed it, that’s the moment to log out of Facebook and make eye contact!)

“Manu,” I said, closing the lid of my laptop. “What is the question you want to ask? What is it that you need?”

Have you ever experienced the deep conviction that comes when teaching a lesson you know you are still in need of learning yourself? As I continued my conversation, I made a little mental note to ‘come back to this later’.

Learning to ask for – to actually articulate – what I need is something I became aware of early in our marriage. And 20 years later, it’s a lesson I am still learning. 

We were so in love, we had so much in common, he was so caring (cue rousing romantic music) … surely he would intuitively know what I needed, when I needed it? Surely, loving me meant he would be naturally drawn to meet that need, whatever it was?

Er … no!

Love does not give us the ability to read one another’s minds. To finish one another’s sentences, maybe, but to unfailingly ‘read’ one another’s needs and desires? Heck, half the time we don’t even know what we need!

And to make the assumption that, if your spouse hasn’t met a need you haven’t verbalised, it is because they don’t care is like going full speed through a gate signed, ‘Frustration and disappointment: this way’.

So why do I find it so dang hard to ask for what I need?

Because it makes me feel vulnerable.

Because I don’t like to admit I need anything.

Because I’ve been taught to be independent.

Because I’m afraid.

In spite of all that, sometimes – just sometimes – I get it right. Instead of stomping around the house, I say I need some space; instead of putting up barriers of busyness, I say I need some quality time together; instead of mulling over my own feeling of rejection, I say I need to be treated, to feel cherished.

I take responsibility for my own need. I empower myself with words.

And always the response is better than if I said nothing at all. True, our need is not always met in exactly the way we imagined it would be, but by giving our spouse the opportunity to meet us at our place of need, we empower them to too: to love us in that place.

In our home we are trying to learn to ask this question of one another: What do you need right now? It helps us to get in touch with our needs and to articulate them.

So what do you need? And how will you ask for it?

 

7 Tips on keeping your marriage alive!

23rd January 2014 by Tania West

 

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As I reflect on a party I am co-hosting with close friends to celebrate 151 years of marriage (jointly) – it s a great opportunity to reflect on what keeps a marriage fresh, vital, exciting….. Here are 7 tips based on 151 years of distilled wisdom!

1. Never stop appreciating your partner: it’s easy to let familiarity cloud our ability to give expressed value to things our spouse says, does, believes and hopes.  It’s even easier to focus on the tasks not done, the things not said, the beliefs that waver or the hopes that got dashed.  The simple truth is that what we give our attention to grows- (in all kinds of ways!) so when we take the time to verbalise our appreciation, we find ourselves feeling more appreciative, and the more appreciative we feel, the easier it is to verbalise it. 

2. Listen as much to what is not said as to what is: Be aware that issues often come multi- layered and what seems to be the problem may well be the disguise for something quite different.  The only way to get to the root of the issue is to listen attentively and give space for our partner to “un-pack” their feelings, without feeling the need to “placate” or “fix”

3. Make time for fun and friendship: We all know that marriages need time, but how we spend that time matters.  I have sabotaged many a “date night” by raising “issues” or “household stuff” which has really taken the edge off the evening and even caused out and out conflict.  Even grown ups need time for playful fun, engaging conversation, and frivolity!

4. Make a “No fishing” rule: Tempting though it can sometimes be to make mention of previous occasions when your spouse has been a little less than perfect- fishing through past hurts and misdemeanours rarely brings the satisfaction we had hoped and often creates emotional barriers and resentments.  After-all no-one in their right mind would go swimming in an open sewer! 

5. Keep a sense of  reversed perspective: It really seems to be the case that the little things are the big things in relationships- so when you roll your eyes, question your spouse’s very good judgement, are overly critical or forget something important to your partner….. it matters!

6. Communicate your hopes and dreams: We all have things we’d like to achieve, places we’d like to visit, people we’d like to meet – its easy in the hustle and bustle of everyday life to get bogged down in child issues, mortgage repayments, and day to day household “stuff” and our hopes and dreams can get crowded out.  Sharing with each other on this level keeps us connected to the things that really matter to our spouse.

7. Cultivate a sense of humour! There is definitely something to be said for not taking oneself or one’s spouse too seriously. Being able to laugh together is a wonderful antidote to the “stuff of life” that sometimes drags us down.

 So, if you want a marriage that’s not just alive but thriving: praise often, listen much, play frequently, fish reservedly, attend sensitively , communicate hopefully, and laugh uproarously!

 

Choosing to love

17th January 2014 by Miranda Heathcote

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If being adoptive parents has taught me one thing, it’s that love is a choice.

Not long after our family adopted Emmanuelle, I remember chatting with a friend who was wondering about adopting a child herself. “I’m worried I won’t be able to love as my own a child I didn’t give birth to,” she said. Ah, that old chestnut.

Do we love because it’s instinctiveintuitivespontaneous? Yes, love can be all of these wonderful things. Just reading those words makes me happy. But it isn’t always that wayis it?

I also choose to love. We’d probably all agree with that. And I choose not to love. Or perhaps more truly: by not choosing to love, I choose not to love. Take a minute, mull it over.

Never is this more true than in my marriage. A good marriage is not made because of the Big Decision to tie the knot. No, a good marriage is made because of the millions of little decisions; the small choices to show love.

I choose to say yes, when it would be easier to say no.

I choose to make two cups of coffee, when I could just make one.

I choose to enter into the conversation, when my hurt makes me want to stay silent.

I choose to embrace the possibility of sharing a fun moment, when my responsibilities lay heavy and I’m tempted to believe I don’t have time.

I choose to risk, when I could stay safe.

I choose to be the one who reaches out first.

And I keep on choosing. Because by choosing to love, I choose life: in every act of love I choose to live the kind of life I want, the kind I long for, the kind I was made for.

This sort of thinking flips on its head the typical martyr mentality I can so easily fall into. You know, the one that says ‘I’m always the one who makes him coffee!’ or ‘Why should it be me who says sorry first?’ or ‘I was the one who organised the date-night babysitter last time!’.

This choosing to love thing? It’s what’s good for YOU! 

Sure, it’s good for everyone. Of course, you’ll find your spouse feels better when you choose to love than when you choose not to. But the bigger picture is that every small choice takes you closer to what you really want: to live in a secure relationship of committed love. ‘Cause that kind of thing doesn’t just happen to us … we do that. We build it through millions of small, seemingly insignificant choices.

What about you? What are you choosing today?

Miranda Heathcote

 

Is your relationship a good advert for marriage?

10th January 2014 by Tania West

marriageAsk the average teenager (and in a variety of schools in different contexts we actually have) whether they see themselves one day getting married and over 75% of young people will respond positively.    Given then that the marital state is one that many aspire to, what kind of example are those of us who are already married setting?  Are we a good advert for marriage?  or not?

What does a great relationship look like?  One that’s not airbrushed or embellished with Hollywood drama?

I suggest the following are hallmarks worth aspiring to:

1. Honour– this seems a rather old fashioned word but it means to offer great respect or esteem highly.  What does this look like in your relationship?  How do we demonstrate respect for our partner?  What is the quality of our attention like  when we listen?  Do we listen?  How do we demonstrate appreciation?  How do we honour ourselves?  To what extent are we honest about our own needs?  How do we make requests in a way that doesn’t sound or feel demanding?

2. Grace– often defined as elegance, courtesy, undeserved favour.  To what extent do we exercise grace in our relationships?  How often do we over-look a grumpy attitude or a forgotten task?  What kind of common courtesy’s do we extend to one another?  What sort of reasonable allowances do we make in order for the path of love to run smoothly?  How quick are we to apologise and to forgive?  Do we nurse and harbour resentments or do we with great courtesy show them the door?

3. Humour– I suggest every great relationship needs humour- the ability to laugh at ourselves (and sometimes each other) to not take ourselves too seriously.  To laugh over the simple, the happenstance, the everyday, a misunderstanding, a mistake.

Perhaps if we laugh more, exercise a little more grace and demonstrate an attitude of honour and appreciation, we would all have the kind of relationship, the kind of marriage that whilst not being perfect,  at the very least provides a compelling vision of the possible.  That’s got to be good news for the 75% of young people who will one day find themselves saying “I do”. That’s got to  make our relationships if not a great,  then surely a better  advert for marriage.

A goal worth aiming for

31st December 2013 by Tania West

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Apparently if we have a goal (consciously) we are  more likely to achieve it.  If we have a goal and we write it down we are even more likely to achieve it.

So as this is the season for resolutions ( New Year language for a “goal”) what about considering the goals of your marriage?

What kind of marriage do you want to create?

What values do you want your marriage to express?

What qualities do you want others to notice in your relationship?

How will  you prioritise your relationship in the coming year?

If goals expressed are more likely to be realised, lets all go for some goals worth aiming for!

 

 

Confronting the “elephant in the room”

14th December 2013 by Tania West

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The run up to Christmas can be stressful: have we remembered to buy gifts for all the right people?  Have we brought the “right” gifts? getting all our Christmas cards written, remembering who is no longer with their partner/spouse so that you don’t put your size 8’s in it (again!) Wrapping gifts, struggling with sellotape, trying to find the scissors, writing a newsletter that doesn’t make you sound like the Waltons on speed (haven’t quite cracked that one!)… but arguably the most stressful thing about Christmas are the elephants that will insist on showing up un-invited.

What do I mean?

The elephant in the room is the topic that everyone knows is there but no-one wants to address, or acknowledge.  It can happen in families and it can happen in marriages.

Signs of an elephant presence:

1. Elephant droppings: Every time you mention a certain subject its like you’ve stepped in something un-savoury and your partner reacts to you rather like they would react to an unpleasant smell!

2. Massive elephant footprints: Every time you find yourself reacting in a manner that is way out of proportion to the initial issue- there may be something bigger lurking.

 

What do we do about it?

Here are three suggestions learnt whilst doing my first serious abseil last weekend: 

1.  Create a secure environment. I have learned that if you are about to take a risk you need to be securely attached!   Elephants are best confronted, but do it in the wrong way and you’ll cause a stampede!  So choose your time and place carefully.

2. Lean into the discomfort.  It is counter intuitive to lean backwards off a 100 foot building (believe me), but the more you lean back the easier it is to walk down the side of the building.  In the same way, confronting elephants requires going into the discomfort the conversation will bring, knowingly.

3. Control your descent.  If you let the rope just run through your hands, you will quite literally fall- but if you run the rope through your hands gradually you can control how fast you scale the building.  In the same way, when confronting your elephant, the more cautiously you move, the more you are likely to engage its trust and the less likely you are to be trampled.

So if you hear amidst the carols and the twinkling lights the far off sound of a trumpeting elephant, or  accidentally find yourself walking through elephant droppings or discover massive elephant footprints in your relationship, do not be alarmed! Confront it safely, with courage and caution and have yourselves a very merry Christmas!

 

Is unconditional love an oxymoron?

9th December 2013 by Tania West

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When couples marry they typically make promises to love each other “no matter what” whether the “what” is sickness, poverty, health, wealth to in short relinquish their right to love based on conditions.  That’s pretty impressive.  And I’m sure that at the time was intentionally meant.

But what does it mean?  I mean at times your spouse is an absolute pain right?  Their disorganisation means that you were late (again) for that dinner engagement and how many times have you asked them not to put your best cashemere jumper in the washing machine?  How many times do you have to mention their slurping of their morning tea (which is just downright infuriating) does unconditional love mean that we just turn a blind eye?

Is it possible to love without conditions?

Are some conditions valid and reasonable?

I suggest that unconditional love does not mean that we relinquish our rights to reasonable behaviour, reasonable boundaries, reasonable requests, but that it does mean that we determine to act lovingly, to pursue connection (whenever reasonable to do so).

What does it mean to pursue connection?  

To commit to lovingly and honestly communicating with our partner about what matters to us.  To accept that they have a right to be who they are as much as you have a right to be who you are.  To learn to be  vulnerable and to build trust.  

To commit to pursing their wholeness, well being and good for the rest of your life without sacrificing your own in the process.  

To  love without conditions, doesn’t mean we “settle” for less than we deserve, but rather that we continually strive for what ultimately brings the greatest freedom of all.  For it is in truly loving another that we discover the paradox of love itself – its currency is in its surrender.

Its all about…you actually!

2nd December 2013 by Tania West

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If only my partner would be more attentive/less demanding/more demonstrative/less critical/more tidy/less irresponsible…..sound familiar?

What if its not really about them at all?

What if its actually all about you?

Of course its convenient to play the blame game- (and let’s be honest it can be one of our favourites!) afterall we wouldn’t be feeling so annoyed if they would just pick up their stuff, or take responsibility for opening the post, or actually load the dishwasher (rather than letting everything just pile up on the side) and so on.

And while we are busy blaming our errant spouse we are spared the pain of looking a little closer to home for the source of our dissatisfaction.

Could it be that we have some responsibility for managing our own emotional state at any given time?  irrespective of the dishes, the bin, the stuff, the post……?

Because if it is actually all about me, then I have some internal work to do.  I will need to accept the fact that no-one can make me feel anything without my consent- I will have to admit that I give away copious amounts of my own personal power every time I find myself relating the “you make me……” accusation.   If I feel powerless in the relationship I will have to take responsibility for not being clear or assertive enough about my own , wants, needs and desires.  

If its actually about me, I will need to consider my response rather than react in my usual way, I will need to address my own thinking, assumptions, prejudices and yes even my own cowardice.

If its actually about me, I will need to address my own perceived powerlessness and ask myself what I gain from treading this well worn neurological route and I will need to consider honestly whether these “gains” are adding qualitatively to my life or actually robbing it of its vitality.

So, next time you find yourself wishing your partner was different in some way, just ask yourself this question:

What if this is more about me?

And if it is (as it often is), then maybe there is value in taking real response ability, taking hold of our own personal power, and using it to build a greater honesty, a greater intimacy and a more respectful and honouring relationship.