Tag Archives: Valentines Day
As featured on Huffington Post 50
As some of you know, I’m spending the winter working on a novel I’ve wanted to write for many years. It’s a love story. Usually I write the “one woman’s search for _________________” kind of book. But this time there are two protagonists, a man and a woman, and the story spans over fifty years of their lives. It’s a made-up jaunt in the fields of abundant love, and who wouldn’t want to play around in those fields? The bummer is…turns out, a love story is hard to write. Go figure. I thought it would be a breeze.
Here’s why: in the story of every important relationship, real or imagined…there is a conflict. It’s not about avoiding the conflict, or denying it, or being afraid to meet it head on—it’s about accepting the conflict and learning how to navigate it with all your heart. That’s not easy when you factor in the origin and foundation of each player’s sense of self, future, safety, risk. A love story can be blood-sport, and it often is. It’s how you play the game that matters. (Not that it’s a game—I’m just using a metaphor. At least I didn’t use “s***-storm.”)
Most of us do not want to accept this universal truth. We want our relationships to come easily, without bumps and hiccoughs, never mind gutting pain or bottomless challenges or high-altitude hopelessness.
In fact, you may be one of the people out there who blithely claims that there is no conflict in your relationships. But I’m not sure I would believe you. I have a Golden Retriever, known to be one of the most docile, uncomplicated, forgiving, accepting creatures on earth. And believe me, we are in conflict every single day, and for a large part of it.
It goes something like this: “No, I can’t pet you—you rolled in deer guts in the woods and you reek and I don’t have time to give you a bath. Don’t give me those eyes again. I can’t handle the guilt! I have a deadline and I’m late to pick up the kids! And no you can’t come in the car because you rolled in deer guts in the woods! That’s what you get for being a Montana dog! Maybe you’d rather live in a three story walk up in lower Manhattan and regularly go to a dog groomer, and enjoy Chinese take-out at the dog park! I apologize for your 20 acres! I know—I’m a horrible horrible person. All you want is a little love. I love you. Does that work? Do you speak English? Can I write you a love poem instead of touching you right now? Ugh. I promise, I’ll get one of the kids to wash you later today. I just don’t have time right now! At least I let you in the house with the deer guts all over you! Can you throw me a bone here? Ok, that’s twisted. I know. Especially when I haven’t given you a bone in a long long time. It’s probably my fault that you went out foraging for animal bones. You’re probably lacking in calcium or something.”
And that’s just my relationship with my Golden Retriever. You should hear my conversations with my teens!
This afternoon it sounded something like: “I’ll give you five bucks to give the dog a bath.”
“I’ve got homework.”
“I’ve got basketball practice.”
“How about ten?”
“Fifteen. Do you want me to show you the C-section scar again???”
“Fine. I’ll do it for fifteen. But I’m still mad at you for not teaching me how to do a somersault.”
I offered my best glare. I should never have taught them how to negotiate so well. Mother of the Year.
And so the dog, the dog I love, does not get rubbed behind the ears for the better part of the day. But at least he gets to stay in the house. (I don’t profess to have the cleanest house. We choose our battles.) And the teens, they get their homework done, and the dog gets washed eventually, and we sit at the table on that rare night when everybody’s home and we talk. What do we talk about usually? Relationships. About them being hard. With teachers, and friends, and family members, and bosses. That’s the stuff of life: conflict. Otherwise there’s no story. Otherwise we talk about the things you talk about when you’re trying to help your kid not have nightmares. And strawberry shortcake and fields of daisies only go so far. Strawberries mold, and daisies wilt, and fields get hit by thunderstorms and blight.
Think about it. Even jokes have conflict. They wouldn’t be jokes without them. Here’s our family favorite: ”So there’re two muffins in an oven. One muffin says to the other: It sure is hot in here. And the other muffin says, Wow. A talking muffin.” Conflict: Muffin vs. Nature. Muffin vs. Muffin. Muffin vs. Itself.
The fun of it all is in Conflict Resolution. After the dog gets his bath and you are snuggling with him, rubbing him behind the ears and down his back, after the kids forgive you for not teaching them to do a somersault, fifteen dollars richer, after the house is quiet and the I love yous get whispered…that’s when I’m thankful for the love story and its inherent conflicts.
There is an arc to love. It doesn’t just hatch and bloom and self-groom. It comes, double-helix sometimes, like the Northern Lights. But one thing is sure: it comes. Maybe not in the way you’d like to write it—as a beautiful, sweeping, epic love story. Maybe it just wants you to scratch behind its ears. And take it for a drive with the window down.
…Or maybe you want to love yourself, and give yourself a Haven Retreat!
The next Haven is from April 2-6 at the fab El Ganzo in Los Cabos, Mexico– considered one of the most romantic places in the world. It all begins with self-love:
I am so honored to be in Arielle Ford’s new book, Wabi Sabi Love. (In the same chapter as Michelle Obama, no less!) This book takes ancient principles like: To abbrieviate suffering, practice empathy, compassion, and surrender for both yourself and your partner…and merges them with modern living.
This is the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. Here are some inspiring words from Arielle:
Give Your Mate Amnesty For Valentines Day (its free!) By Arielle Ford
Sexy lingerie, romantic dinners, long stem roses, a box of chocolates, and champagne…these are typical Valentines Day gifts. As lovely and appreciated as these gifts can be, what if this year you gave your beloved something that they never expected, something that will make both of you happy and is totally free? Here’s what I’m suggesting: Give your beloved amnesty for the one thing you most complain, argue, or harass them about.
Decide right now to figure out how to create a new story for yourself about that thing your mate does that drives you crazy….find the beauty and perfection in it, and then GIFT them with your vow to finally let it go. Whether it’s the wet towels on the floor, the toilet seat left up, the dirty dishes in the sink, the constant texting at the dinner table, squeezing the toothpaste from the middle of the tube, forgetting to take out the trash, interrupting you when you are on the phone, or whatever transgression you have deemed unbearable.
If you are feeling really stuck, ask yourself these questions: How many more times am I willing to allow this situation to annoy me? What payoff do I get by finding fault in my partner? What does being “annoyed” keep me from having? Where did I learn to be annoyed by other people’s behavior?
NEXT: Imagine that your mate’s annoying behavior exists solely to teach you how to become a more loving and compassionate person. And then, upon reflection, please write down three (or more) gifts of the offending behavior. Looking for the gifts is an invaluable skill in a world in which we can’t control others behavior. While our partners may never change the quirks and idiosyncrasies that we find maddening, we can change our perceptions of them. This Valentines Day make a shift from “annoyed to enjoyed” and let your beloved know by sharing this free, very special amnesty vow with them www.wabisabilove.com/vow
I’ve really enjoyed this back and forth with Tom Matlack of the Good Men Project. I hope you will pass along his positive energy and the way that he champions men and holds them to their best selves. Here’s is the last in our series. Hope you enjoy. yrs. Laura
In the last of a five-part series on love and relationships, Tom Matlack and author Laura Munson debate the question: Do men and women mean the same thing when they say ‘I love you’?
MUNSON: I have to believe that the notion and experience of love are not gender-specific, nor are they culture-specific. I wrote a book about what happened when my husband told me he didn’t love me anymore and wasn’t sure he ever did. I didn’t believe him and chose to give him room to work through and heal from what I believed was a crisis of self brought on by sudden career failure. And he did heal—and we’re still together. I am deeply grateful for that. Some marriages are meant to end. I didn’t feel that ours was—and it turned out that he didn’t either.
I have heard from people around the world, married and unmarried, men and women, gay and straight, responding with gratitude for my book’s message, which is one of personal responsibility in crisis—one of non-reaction and a commitment to finding the freedom of the moment, no matter what’s going on in your life and no matter the outcome of the ordeal. In an interview with a reporter from Tel Aviv, I asked, “I wonder how Israelis will respond to this message.” She paused and said, “I don’t care where you’re from or what religion you are or what social group, the words ‘I don’t love you’ are universally ones we fear and dread.”
I have found that to be true, so I believe that the reverse of those words is just as universal. We long for the words “I love you,” whether we are women or men. We long for the fulfillment and intimacy of relationships. But that “I love you,” in order to be authentic, has to start with the person who is expressing that emotion. That “I love you” has to begin within. If you don’t love yourself, however are you to love me?
MATLACK: I’m with you on the ideal of love being universal, across gender lines. But the way we get to that ideal is different, requiring that we overcome gender-specific obstacles. I have no idea if it is genetic or learned, but little girls and little boys grow up with very different conceptions of what romantic love is all about. I grant that there are as many different variations on the theme as there are human beings, but in general, women see love as a thing at the center of their existence and men see it as something to be conquered, dealt with, and at worst lied about. Your husband’s story, like my own, points to the difficulty guys have just being honest with others and ourselves when it comes to love.
When we’re young, a guy saying he loves a woman might just mean he wants to sleep with her. My sense, though I only have secondhand reports on this, is that young women generally perceive that, for guys, sex is an expression of love—rather than the other way around.
Guys eventually warm to the idea that there might be just one woman out there that will meet all their needs—but the word love still scares us. I have heard it too many times to count: guys think that if they fall in love and commit, they are giving up options for other women.
But it isn’t about the sex or about the lack of freedom, it’s about the fear of looking ourselves in the mirror and feeling disconnected to the guy staring back at us. I don’t think guys cheat because they think it’s a good idea to sleep around on their wives and kids. Inability to commit isn’t the cause of infidelity; it’s a product of fear and self-loathing. As you suggest, you can’t hate yourself and love someone else.
Some guys never get there. But by the time we reach 46—which is where both my wife and I are now—we have the emotional maturity to see the true and lasting benefits of love and commitment. Guys eventually catch up with the smarter and more mature gender, to see ourselves worthy and capable of giving (and receiving) love without doubt.
Guys like me know we are lucky to cuddle in bed with the perfect woman—in other words, one who has seen the good, the bad, and the very ugly, and stuck around despite it all. And when we say we are “in love,” it is with an equal conviction to that of our female counterparts.
MUNSON: I find it so true and so unfortunate that the words I love you are so loaded—manipulation, transference, co-dependence being some of it. I agree that emotional maturity comes with age and long-term relationships. I always tell my teenage daughter that people are not capable of being equal loving partners until they are much older—and to focus on her female friendships. I didn’t make that choice when I was younger, and spent most of my time with longterm boyfriends. While I don’t regret those relationships, I do wish I’d skipped the adolescent drama and focused on nurturing friendships instead. When I said I love you back then, it was very different than the I love you I offer now to my husband of 20 years. That I love you is loaded in a different way. It means Thank you, I respect you, I believe in you, I believe in us.
Tom Matlack and Laura Munson debate other questions about modern love: