How to Get More Love from The People You Love Most

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

How to Get More LoveWe hadn’t spoken since noon the day before when I had told him I was done.

“I’m not going anywhere,” I’d tempered my declaration to a slightly more reasonable level, “but I am done trying to connect with you!”

He opened his mouth as if to respond but closed it again without speaking. I watched him take a breath, clench his jaw, and shove down any signs of anger or understanding. And then, with a single word, he lowered the cone of silence.

“Fine.”

Shortly after that he left to spend the afternoon with a friend, and I settled into losing myself in motherhood and housekeeping. When he came home we moved in our own wide circles around the kids, overlapping with restrained civility only when absolutely necessary. The next morning he left for work without saying goodbye.

My heart broke.

Yes, I’d technically been the one to use the D word – but he was the one who was executing it so easily. He was the one pulling away effortlessly. He was the one holing up and refusing to reach out when he knew that I was hurting. I was the one he’d rejected!

Our perceptions can be so, so stupid. And blinding. And fickle.

Just a few days earlier I’d been telling a friend of mine the story of our marriage. I’d told her all about the things I learned from almost getting divorced and the horrific behavior Jared had put up with and forgiven while I was “finding myself”.

“Wow. You can’t ever say he doesn’t love you,” she’d said.

“No,” I’d agreed, “he definitely has proven his love.”

But now I was saying I was done. Now I was saying he didn’t care. Now I was saying I was the only who tried and he was the one who needed to… to… to love me better?

You can’t ever say he doesn’t love you.

With my friend’s words echoing in my head, I struggled to make sense of what I was feeling and who was to blame. Finally, I summoned my courage and sent him a text.

“I know in my head when I think about our entire history together that you must love me. But when I don’t feel loved right now, it’s really hard to hold on to that.”

The standoff was over.

With that one admission I had reopened the lines of communication and we did, eventually, find our way back to each other.

love

There are few things scarier or more painful than thinking the person you love most in the world doesn’t love you back. Unfortunately – as my own recent marital breakdown demonstrates – it is surprisingly easy to find yourself thinking exactly that, no matter what your loved one actually feels or thinks about you.

But there is hope.

It’s never too late to turn things around and start feeling the love you need. These steps can be used over and over again to pull you and your relationship back on track.

1. Stop trying to guess how your partner feels.

One of the lessons I’ve learned repeatedly in my almost 15 years of marriage is that how I feel has nothing to do with how Jared feels about me. Whether or not Jared loves me (he does) is not the point.

Focusing on how Jared feels is a convenient way for me to shirk responsibility for my own happiness.

It’s also a really good way to tick off my husband and close down communication – because there are few things more infuriating than being told by someone who is not you how you feel.

Don’t let yourself get distracted by this non-issue. Instead…

2. Figure out how you want to feel.

OK, so you want to feel loved. What else? What does feeling loved mean to you?

Love to me is about being seen, chosen and cherished.

Love to you might be about being protected, respected, valued, or desired. The more you understand about what other feelings are tied up in love for you, the better you’ll be able to…

3. Identify specific actions that help you feel loved.

This is often the hardest part of getting the love you want, but it’s also the most important.

That doesn’t mean there is one universal list of behaviors that make everyone feel loved. We interpret and respond to actions differently. We have unique triggers.

It’s your responsibility to know what your triggers are.

If you don’t know what actions make you feel loved, start with this free quiz to identify your love language.

4. Share those actions with the person you love.

I used to think that if Jared loved me enough he would automatically know what I needed.

Because apparently love makes us mind readers.

Except, it doesn’t.

The only way for our partners to know what they can do to make us feel loved is for us to tell them. The more specific we can be, the better chance they have of meeting our expectations and our needs.

Of course, this is also terrifying.

Hi, I’m feeling unloved and unloveable! Let me beg for your affection by telling you exactly what you have to do for me!

And a little embarrassing.

I really feel loved when you tell give me a specific list of things that you love about me.

It’s no wonder I tend to resort to my love-inspired-mind-reading theory.

In recent years, I’ve been able to use my history with Jared to bolster my courage in these moments. I also remind myself that I am absolutely loveable and so of course he is going to want to love me.

Ultimately, finding the courage to be vulnerable comes down to having faith that you can survive the consequences of that vulnerability – even if that includes rejection.

5. Ask the person you love how they feel love.

This serves two purposes.

First, chances are that you and your partner speak different love languages. That means that he is probably trying to love you in ways that are meaningful to him – and possibly wasted on you. It helps to be able to recognize these well-intended behaviors for what they are:

  • effort
  • proof that you can trust this person enough to reach out.

The second reason to learn your partner’s love language is so that you can…

6. Practice loving them in their love language.

One thing I’ve learned from my own experiences and from coaching others is that we tend to turn inward when we’re feeling insecure. When we are too focused on ourselves, we become like blackholes where love and light go to die. No matter how much love someone is throwing our way, we are blinded by our self-centered perspective.

The solution is to turn our attention outward.

And when we do, we’ll inevitably see that loving someone else well helps us to experience love ourselves.

Bonus: the more loved your partner feels, the more motivated they’ll be to listen when you ask for what you need.

It’s like an endless, awesome loop of love!

And you can get it started.

But be careful. You can’t love someone well with strings and expectations attached. Avoid the trap of thinking that you can skip open and honest communication if you just make your partner happy. Remember:

  • You cannot make someone else happy.
  • Being happy won’t transform your partner into a psychic.

The best way to reconnect with your partner and recharge your relationship is to rely on personal responsibility, self awareness, vulnerability, and courage. It’s with those strengths that you’ll be able to identify what you need and ask for it.

Should You Make Your Kids Happy? Dr. G Has the Answer

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Every single time I have talked to a group of women about happiness, I have been asked this question:

Is it my job to make my kids happy?

Finally, I’m thrilled to have an answer that comes from a source I trust.

Dr. Deborah Gilboa – you can call her Dr. G – is a family physician and parenting expert. She’s also smart, compassionate, and believes in every parent’s ability to know their own child best (which is the only kind of parenting expert I’ll listen to!)

Here’s what she has to say about happiness, parenting, and where the two overlap.

Get the Behavior You Want... book cover

How do you define happiness?

A room without a roof? Just teasing. I define happiness as one part contentment, one part excitement and one part physical pleasure! That last part could be an ice cream sundae, a massage, a sandy beach or a boat, depending on the moment.

What is a parent’s responsibility in their child(ren)’s happiness?

Our job is to give our kids the tools they need to find and make their own happiness. We have to take the long view (because goodness knows they can’t!), and raise them towards a worthwhile adulthood.

What do you do when your kids are unhappy?

I ask them about it. I ask why, and what and how, and then I ask how he might solve the problem he faces, or how he might move on from the disappointment.

I show empathy. I do not set myself up as the person who will fix it, but I often mention that I could offer some suggestions.

dr g advice on parenting and happinessWhat “shoulds” have you let go of in order to be a happier parent?

That I should have a clean house, that I should cook a full dinner for my kids every night, that I should be with each of them for each game/performance/playdate.

We do a lot of balancing with 4 boys in 6 years, out of necessity. It’s taught me some great lessons, like what I can let go and what I shouldn’t. If we only had one child I don’t think I would have traveled that path!

What’s the best advice about happiness you’ve ever received?

That happiness is more rare in the “big” moments than in the everyday. We often have a lot of expectations built up and emotions swirling at the milestone events. That the happiness in the car on the way to the graduation while singing along to a great song on the radio is every bit as valuable (and often more achievable) than happiness while shaking the university president’s hand.

How much do you love the idea of a parenting expert who might not have a spotless house or be serving a homemade dinner every night? Lots!

But that doesn’t mean that Deborah is a hands-off parent. In her new book, Get the Behavior You Want… Without Being the Parent You Hate, Dr. G makes it clear that she wants her kids to succeed in the real world and she takes a proactive approach to making that happen. If you’re looking for some practical advice to get your kids to be more responsible, respectful, and resilient, I highly recommend checking it out!

The Absolute Easiest Way for Busy People to Practice Mindfulness

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

busy people being mindful

Experts promise that you’ll be happier if you can be more mindful. But what the heck does that mean – and does anyone really have the time for it?

What it means: mindfulness is just a fancy way of saying that you are paying attention to the here and now.

As simple as that sounds, it’s shocking how often you probably aren’t being mindful – especially if you’re a woman.

Most of us tend to do one thing while thinking about another. We drive home while mentally planning dinner. We make dinner while wondering if our kids are caught up on homework and when the last time we called our own mother was. We eat dinner while trying to get everyone else at the table to communicate openly about how their day went.

This mental multi-tasking might be how you attempt to “get it all done”, but research shows mindfulness can actually help you manage your busy life better.

People who practice mindfulness are:

  • more focused
  • less depressed
  • more satisfied in their relationships
  • less emotionally reactive
  • more intuitive
  • less stressed

Rest assured, you don’t have to be mindful all the time. Moderation is a good thing even in matters of mindfulness (in fact, we tend to be most creative when we are mentally distracted.) You just need to find some time to be present.

And I promise you aren’t too busy.

If you shower, you have time to be mindful.

One of the easiest ways for busy people to practice mindfulness is to take a mindful shower.

Really.

You have to do it anyway, and you know you usually forget all of those brilliant ideas you have the second you turn off the water. Instead of letting your mind run in circles while you lather up, seize this precious personal time to practice being present.

Pay attention to…

  • how the water feels on your skin.
  • the smell of your shampoo.
  • the way your fingers feel on your scalp.
  • how the steam accumulates around you.

You don’t have to experience some kind of soap commercial nirvana; just notice what is while you’re performing the necessary task of getting clean. Give yourself those few minutes to let go of the future and the past. Trust that the world can maintain its orbit long enough for you to wash the stink off.

It might seem like a small thing, but it’s a good start.

It’s enough to make a difference.

Want a few more ideas for practicing mindfulness?

Happiness Interview: Naomi Hattaway

Friday, September 5th, 2014

When I first met Naomi she was living in India. Then she and her family moved to Singapore, she and her kids and their beloved street dog happily following her husband’s career around the world. Now, she’s settling into what she calls her Forever Home in the countryside outside of D.C. – and she is just as happy and adventurous as ever.

Naomi inspires me because she is the type of woman who sends friends from the Internet thank you cards, inspirational tea bags, and earrings from India. She goes the extra mile with her relationships.

She’s also one of the most positive, generous, and caring people you could ever hope to bump into – online or off.

Here’s what she has to say about happiness.

NaomiHeadshot

How do you define happiness?

That’s such a hard question for me to answer succinctly. I used to think happiness mirrored the feeling of elation or joy. It used to be only defined by the giddy, butterflies in my stomach, full on laughter kind of emotion. As I get older, move around and continue to raise kiddos through adulthood (how did that happen so fast?) I think that happiness is a series of moments during which I am aware. That sounds so foo-foo, doesn’t it?

I am happiest when I can be present in the fact that I have enough, I am enough, I can create, I can change the world I live in. I am happiest when I am grateful for what is in my life. I am happiest when I am on a path towards a project, journey or challenge.

What “shoulds” have you let go of in order to pursue your happiness?

The “shoulds” I’ve had to let go of in order to pursue my happiness are three big and easy ones to share with you.

  1. I should have never had a child at age 18, unmarried and broke.
  2. I should finish what I start.
  3. I shouldn’t have said that.

What do you do when you’re feeling UNhappy?

When I’m feeling unhappy, the FIRST thing I do is turn on music. I go to several places for this. Best one for productivity is Focus@Will. Best one for kicking my bad attitude to the curb is my running playlist. I’ve created several grooveshark playlists that are perfect to get me up and focused on something else.

SECOND thing is to create a quick mental gratitude list. It can be as simple as: I am grateful to be sitting under a bright blue, expansive sky. I am grateful and aware of my amazing family. I am grateful for my husband who always remembers to ask if I need anything from the store on his way home from work. I am grateful for … (the list gets REALLY long, rather quickly!).

Typically, those two things jumpstart my happiness continuum. If I need an extra boost, I typically reach for my camera or take a gander through my photo archives. I recently started an online collaboration of photography with a friend. We invite others to contribute the color they see in their world. It has an AMAZING way of bringing in a happiness injection!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about happiness?

The best advice I have ever received about happiness actually came from you, Britt!

Enough of spending my days daydreaming about an upcoming vacation (surely, that will make me happy) or the next date night. Ridding myself of the notion that tomorrow will be better or that reaching my goals would equate to finally achieving the happiness grail did wonders for my sanity and overall mental state.

Today is the day I choose to be happy and spread that contagious energy and way of life to others!

That’s pretty much exactly how I think of Naomi: spreading contagious energy. :-) Check out her website for more of that energy.

3 Tiny Steps to Break the “I Know Better But I’m Not Doing Better” Cycle

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

spiral

You know what I never do when I’m feeling depressed? Google “how to stop being depressed.”

Because I know how. I know exactly what I need to do to feel better.

The knowing and the doing are not the same thing.

I don’t know anyone who does exactly what is good for themselves all the time. I know lots of people, however, who get off track and quickly find themselves in a shame spiral about how they should be taking better care of themselves.

You know what doesn’t fix depression? Shame.

In fact, shame can prolong the funk. It keeps us from going back to the gym, or calling a friend, or reopening our gratitude journals because it’s been so long. Shame perpetuates the cycle.

Here’s how you can break it.

3 Tiny Steps to Get Back to Doing What’s Good For You

1. Combat the shame by reaching out.

Shame says things like, “what the hell is the matter with you?” and “maybe you’re just lazy” and “everyone is tired of hearing about my problems that I’m not doing anything about.”

The best way to shut that shame up is to tell someone about it. Shame is a gremlin that withers and dies when you shine a light on it.

Tell someone you trust that you are struggling. Tell them it’s hard, and that you’re scared, and that you don’t know what the heck is going on. Ask them to listen without helping.

2. Focus on direction, not distance.

The more time we spend not doing what makes us happy, the farther we imagine the journey back to it must be. That’s a myth. In truth, happiness is not a destination but a direction in which you travel.

The moment you turn around, you are already back on track.

But here’s the thing about turning around: a significant force is required to change direction. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that once you get turned around, it will take much less effort to keep moving towards the light. That’s physics.

Keep telling yourself:

point towards happiness

3. Do one small thing before you feel better.

Exercise, eat healthy, go outside, do yoga, keep a gratitude journal, call a friend, take a walk… SO! MANY! OPTIONS!

A long list of potential lifesavers can become the weight that drowns you. Think smaller.

Pick one thing today you can do to move towards the light. Pick the easiest thing: the one item on your to-do list that will require the least amount of effort but still earn the satisfaction of a checkmark.

Have faith that will be enough.

Remember that you are only changing direction, and each small action is a degree you’re turning. Every degree counts.

You can do this.