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Loving Well

Below are the articles in the Loving Well category. Each article title is followed by a brief summary introduction to the content. Click "Read Excerpt" for a more comprehensive review. Click "Add to Package" to buy or redeem the article.

Loving Well

Give Your Relationship a Tune-Up

Buy a car and you get a wonderful machine, ready to go for thousands of miles. But find a partner and you’re on your own. There’s no owner’s manual, warranty or guarantee. But there is hope.

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Most of us can do without a car if need be, but few of us want to do without love. Within most of us there is a basic human longing for connection and relationships with others. For many, the backdrop of a loving, committed relationship gives us the space to learn about ourselves and grow deeper as we age.

Like cars, relationships need maintaining and regular tune-ups. But because they don’t come with operating instructions, below is a simple maintenance guide to help you keep your love relationship strong, healthy and on the road for years.

Know What Kind of Driver You Are

Recent research has shown several things strengthen a marriage and other long-term partnerships: communication, honesty and spending time together. Just as important is knowing yourself and what you bring to a relationship. When you connect with yourself, and work on those challenging parts of yourself, you create a stronger and better partner for someone else. That isn’t just true in the first flush of falling in love, it's true for the many years that follow.

“Being intimate with ourselves is the necessary foundation for being intimate with others,” writes John Amodeo in Being Intimate: A Guide to Successful Relationships.

How Healthy is Your Sex Life?

This quiz explores how well your communication skills contribute to a healthy sex life.

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Sex is play. It is celebration—the glue that keeps a relationship together during difficult times. However, keeping that sexual spark alive in a marriage or a long-term relationship can be a challenge. But those who take the time to cultivate a loving and tender relationship will reap the reward of feeling more connected. These couples also tend to be more physically healthy! Take the quiz below to find out if you have a thriving sex life.

Answer True or False:

1. My partner and I communicate in an open and loving manner about most things that matter to us.

2. I am able to articulate my sexual needs to myself. I know what I like and what I don’t like.

3. I communicate those likes and dislikes to my partner. I don’t expect him or her to “just know” how to please me.

How to Create Balanced Relationships

This article explores how to nurture and achieve healthy interdependence and balance in your relationships.

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Most people would say they want (or have) a balanced relationship with their significant other. But what does a balanced relationship look like and how do you maintain it?

While it’s possible to find happiness, at least temporarily, in all three types of relationships, the Interdependent relationship is generally considered the model for a balanced relationship.

What do you do if you don’t consider your relationship to be balanced? Take heart. With a little information and effort it’s possible to attain a balanced relationship.

How Well Are You Nurturing Your Romance?

A quiz to help evaluate how effective you are at nurturing your romance—and why it matters.

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A romantic relationship is like a beautiful, vibrant garden that requires regular watering, nutrients and sunshine to keep it alive and healthy.

You wouldn't expect your garden to grow and thrive without taking the proper steps to nurture it. The same is true of your relationship. Without ongoing care and attention to your romance, your relationship will ultimately wither on the vine.

Take the following quiz to find out how well you are nurturing your romance. It contains 10 excellent ways to help love relationships to grow and thrive. Grade yourself on each of the following statements according to how frequently it pertains to you and your relationship. You can then interpret your results at the end of the questions.

Very frequently 10 pointsOften 8 pointsOccasionally 4 pointsRarely or never 0 points

1. You hug, cuddle and say "I love you" to your spouse or lover.

2. You compliment your loved one with true and honest statements.

3. You surprise your partner with romantic gestures, such as unexpected cooked meals, special notes, trips or date nights.

4. You enjoy sexual intimacy with your partner: You're as much a willing giver as you are an appreciative receiver.

Important Things to Say to Your Partner

Simple but effective ways to improve communication and deepen one’s relationship.

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Too often, communication between long-term couples can devolve into the logistics of life: Can you pick up the dry cleaning? Did you take out the trash? Loving relationships need—and deserve—so much more.

Deeper communication may require an intentional shift or willingness to expose vulnerability. But isn’t your happiness—and your relationship—worth the risk? Here are some ways to begin:

Thank you for… Everyone likes to be acknowledged and appreciated for what they do. Thank your partner for more than just what you asked him/her to do. For example, you might thank him or her for being a great parent, for always making time for the children.

Intimacy—Accept No Imitations

Intimacy is sometimes a delicate dance that includes the timing of revelations, appropriate boundaries, trust, and more.

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How and What to RevealWriter Pat Love asks, “What is intimacy?” and then answers her own question, “Into me, see.” It’s not that to be intimate you need be transparent, or that every thought, feeling or story must be shared with your partner—but intimacy flourishes in a climate in which it’s safe to disclose parts of your experience that cut closer and closer to your private self.

Sometimes, though, a longing for connection can lead to disclosing too much too soon, or telling a new partner more than he or she is ready to know or needs to know. Or to opening up too much about ourselves or people close to us when discretion might be the better choice. Consider following the Rule of Three: let a disclosure come to mind three times before sharing it rather than saying everything exactly as it occurs. Those things that recur are the ones that really belong to the relationship.

Remember time is a necessary part of the intimacy equation. The thrill and power of the first weeks of a passionate relationship encourage self-disclosure and lots of sharing, but no matter how strong the connection, some things can come to light only after trust has been allowed to build.

Living and Loving from Gratitude

Long considered a virtue, gratitude is now also a tool for a happier life and more loving relationships.

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Gratitude isn’t a new idea; most spiritual practices and philosophies emphasize gratitude and compassion for others. But in recent years gratitude has shifted from being an idea to a concrete tool that people can use to become happier and healthier. This practice focuses on appreciating what others have done for you and de-emphasizes being angry or blaming others for your problems.

“When we develop a sense of appreciation for those around us and cultivate a sense of gratitude for life itself, we are relieved of the burden that comes with seeing ourselves as ‘victims,’” writes Greg Krech in Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection.

Krech calls this state of appreciation “grace,” a term used in many religions. However, grace as a practice is not a belief as much as a shift in thinking. Or as Krech puts it: “It’s the difference between seeing life as an entitlement and seeing it as a gift.”

However it is practiced, gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Yes, pain and injustice and cruelty exist in this world. But when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. We often feel more energized to reach out and help others; we feel we have some power to positively affect our world. This again leads to a feeling of well-being…and gratitude. It’s a self-sustaining cycle!

Tending the Fences: Setting Healthy Boundaries

Article teaches boundary setting by showing how a person might compensate for not having them set adequately.

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Good personal boundaries make for good relationships. Boundaries are those invisible lines of protection you draw around yourself. They let people know your limits on what they can say or do around you. Healthy boundaries give you freedom in relating to others. Make them too solid and you build walls, too weak and you allow other’s actions to harm you.

It’s not always clear where our boundaries are or need to be. Recognizing and studying the signs of ignored or ineffective boundaries is a good place to start, as these “symptoms” give clues to the needed boundary. See if any of the following ring true for you.

Aloofness and distance. When you are unwilling or fearful of opening your space to others, or when you build walls to insure that others don’t invade your emotional or physical space, this may be a defense against cruel behavior, abuse or neglect that you allowed to happen. A person with healthy boundaries draws a line over which they will not allow anyone to cross. They recognize their right to say, “No!”

Chip on the shoulder. This kind of attitude declares, “I dare you to come too close!” and is often the result of anger over a past violation or ignoring of your physical or emotional space by others. Healthy boundaries mean you are able to speak up when your space has been violated, leaving you free to trust that you can assertively protect yourself to ensure you are not hurt.

Tending Your Marriage After the Kids Arrive

Adding children to a marriage creates significant change (and often, stress). This article suggests ways to keep your relationship strong with this new normal.

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Starting a family is exciting. However, no one is prepared for all the changes that come with adding children into the mix. Your relationship is going to be tested as you figure out what "normal" means now. It can seem impossible to invest attention and energy into your marriage. However, with just a bit of effort, the two of you can become even closer.

What Do You Expect from You?

The reality of not enough sleep can leave you feeling that you will snap if even one more thing has to be done! Before the baby (or two or three) things like having a tidy house or baking cookies for a social event may have been something you took for granted. Give yourself permission to say "No" to those things.

It isn't only the expectations you put on yourself you need to consider. Your spouse is going through as much change as you are, as you each try to figure out what it means to be a parent. Common areas of conflict include:

• Household chores—"where did all the laundry come from!"

• Parenting styles—"but my mother always said..."

Top 10 Actions That Say “I Love You”

It takes more than words to communicate to a beloved that he or she is loved. Here are ten ways people can show they care.

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The saying, “Words are cheap, action speaks,” is never more true than when applied to “I love you.” Whether spoken to a romantic partner, your children or other family members, if the actions aren’t there to back up the loving words, it all means nothing. Below are 10 of the best ways to say “I love you” in your actions. But there are thousands more. See how creative you can get in coming up with your own ideas.

1. Greet your loved ones with a big smile, a hug and a kiss.

2. Really listen to what your loved ones are saying; give them your undivided and undistracted attention.

3.Do simple (even random) acts of kindness, such as massaging shoulders or feet, cooking a favorite meal, running a bath.

Top 10 Daily Practices of Loving Relationships

Here are ten everyday ways to help keep love alive.

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Living with those you love—whether they be mates, children or older parents—brings intimacy and stresses that are different from other relationships. Here are 10 daily practices that help keep the love flowing and the relationships growing.

1. Share something from your day. Involve your loved ones in your life outside the home—or inside your heart.

2. Express gratitude. Show that you notice their daily contributions to the family and your life. Receiving a “thank you” for doing the dishes or taking out the trash feels soooo good!

3. Eat dinner together. Connecting with each other over food is an ancient human practice. It’s worth it to make time for this warming activity.

Top 10 Things to Say to Your Partner

These ten statements can help maintain intimacy and improve communication.

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What do you want for dinner? and Did you take out the trash? may be two of the most frequently made comments, one partner to another, but in order to maintain intimate and loving communication in their relationship, couples may need to become more intentional in the messages they give one another. Try these.

1. Thank you for… People need to be acknowledged and appreciated for what they do. Not just for the things they’re asked to do, but just because.

2. Would you please… Expecting your partner to read your mind is expecting the impossible. Say what you want and need. Be specific.

3. How do you feel about… Asking, then listening to your partner’s response, withholding judgment or any need to try to change the feelings.

Top 10 Ways to Deepen Intimacy

True intimacy with another is not a given nor is it an impossible dream. Here are ten ways to create it.

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The poet Rilke once advised a friend that a good marriage does not create “a quick community of spirit by tearing down and destroying all boundaries,” but rather appoints the other “guardian of his solitude.” Rilke’s comments, applicable to all committed partnerships, point to the mutual respect and clear-eyed seeing that form the basis for genuine intimacy. Here are 10 ways to attain it.

1. Bring up difficult subjects.

2. Listen with openness to feedback.

3. Attempt to elicit a fuller range of feelings during discussions and disagreements.

Top 10 Ways to Love Fearlessly

Approach love with the courage of a warrior and watch your relationships soar.

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Let’s face it: love is messy. With its magnified highs and lows, love is unpredictable and never what we expect—so much so that we might be tempted to cower in fear. But if we approach love with the courage of a warrior, we can have relationships of heroic proportions. Here are 10 ways:

1. Be yourself. If we want to be loved for who we truly are, why put on an act?

2. Don’t believe your stories. Our interpretation of events and feelings is, in fact, just one possibility for what is actually true. Focus on what IS to get closer to the truth.

3. Stop looking for perfection. More than likely, what we call “high standards” is a mask for our own feelings of inadequacy.

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