Relationships are a maturation machine in need of regular maintenance
Valentine’s Day provides an annual reminder to focus on the importance of
frequent practices of love, laughter and healing for couples. Relationships are
a maturation machine in need of regular maintenance and fine-tuning.
Dr. Linda Miles recommends these twelve tools to maintain, repair and restore love bonds:
1. Kindness and Respect
The expression, “we should treat family like strangers and strangers like
family,” is indicative of the amount of disrespect that is tolerated in
relationships. This attitude is a barrier to the basic building blocks of
long-term goodwill and respect.
2. Ability to Learn
Although it is normal to have disagreements and power struggles, many
couples fail to learn from conflicts and may repeat the same self-destructive
scenarios and behaviors for decades. As James Thurber noted, our tendency is
to look back in anger or forward in fear, instead of “around in awareness.”
Many people grow up in rigid families, with rigid roles. Since the brain is
accustomed to the familiar, patterns are repeated even when not working.
4. Ability to Hear the Partner’s Pain
Inability to hear your partner’s pain is a common reason that couples seek
therapy. It is vital that partners take the necessary time to sit and listen with
empathy and compassion.
5. A Deep Inner Life on a Personal Journey
Often couples become too fused together, losing their individual joys and
6. Similar Passions
Many couples lose their pleasure bond with each other, sharing mostly
complaints and drudge. The ability to have a variety of positive experiences
7. Similar Values
Unfortunately, couples read too many “happily ever after” fairy tales. Instead
of understanding the importance of conscious negotiation of rules, roles,
religion and money issues early on in couple-hood, it is often left as an
Many people learn “shame and blame” games from their families. They
engage in rascal hunting and learn to use these behaviors in close
relationships. Families fail to watch each other with “soft eyes,” in order to
address problem behaviors in a gentle manner without judgment about
partners. Often a partner will take the “moral high ground” and lecture to the
other about perceived inadequacies. Instead of compassion shared between
two equals, partners often relate to each other like they are parents of
9. Ability to Laugh at Oneself
Because many people grow up in a shame-blame environment, it is often
difficult to respond to inadequacies with some humor.
10. Honesty, Vulnerability and Avoidance of Substance Abuse
Dishonesty and cover-ups erode trust. A lack of knowledge about substance
abuse introduces a wild card into the relationship. To maintain lasting love
throughout relationships, we need protection and connection.
11. Ability to be a Friend and not Just a Lover
In relationships, passion without friendship is like doing somersaults on a
circus trapeze without a safety net.
12. Make the World Bigger
Couples can make the world smaller for one another by being judgemental or
controlling. Smaller relationships don’t allow room for the required
maintenance or fine-tuning. In great relationships, people make lives bigger
for one another.
Although this is an easy list to memorize, the difficulty lies in breaking the
patterns that prevent maintenance of our desired behaviors. Peggy Papp, a
famous family therapist, remarked that we come out of our own family of
origin with a “cookie-cutter” approach to life which requires “heroic
moments” to reshape our own cookie-cutters. Visualizing your dream
relationship several times a day will help begin reshaping your cookie-cutter
and allow room for positive maintenance within your relationship.
ABOUT DR. MILES
Dr. Linda Miles is a leading psychotherapist, crisis therapist, award-winning
author, and relationship expert. She has studied and worked in the field of
counseling psychology for over 35 years and focuses on mindfulness, stress
reduction, mental health and relationships. She has published several books
on relationships and mindfulness (the latest: Change Your Story, Change
Your Brain) as well as articles in the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe,
Reuters and Miami Herald, and has appeared as a guest expert on
numerous national TV shows including CNN, Fox News, ABC, and NBC. You
can find additional resources on Dr. Miles’ Facebook page, Mindfulness
Rewrites, or at www.DrLindaMiles.com.
Dr. Linda Miles
Miles and Associates
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