Many of you know that I was a divorce attorney for 20 years in Omaha. Then I came to Sedona in 1999, closed my law practice 6 months later and started Sedona Soul Adventures in 2001. Since then, our Couples Retreats have saved so many marriages (and spiced up so many more!). Isn’t it funny how that instant karma has worked out? I spent 20 years divorcing people, now I’ve spent 14 years helping them stay together!
After so many years of working with couples who were either divorcing, on the verge of divorce, or just trying to be more connected (and everything in between), I’ve seen the same patterns over and over again and they aren’t necessarily the things that books and magazines talk about. I’ve put together a Relationship Checklist for you as a Valentine’s Day gift. These are what I see as the most insidious things that cause the biggest problems (and issues that lead to problems) in a relationship. Some of them might not be the usual things that you think of. Take a look at yourself and at yourself within your relationship as you go through the checklist.
Do you respect each other?
Do you respect your partner and does he or she respect you? There’s a big difference between feeling a crazy kind of love for someone and deeply respecting them. I’ve seen so many couples who have a passionate love for each other, but when it comes right down to it, they don’t respect each other. Do you respect your partner? Do you feel respected by your partner? If you don’t, the relationship is on its way to being over.
If you have a healthy respect for each other, you give each other the benefit of the doubt even when things get tough. You’re quicker to forgive those little transgressions, knowing that you basically hold your partner in high esteem.
Do you like each other?
This may seem almost the same as respect, but it isn’t. You can like someone and not respect them because you don’t think they’re a good person. You can also respect someone because they hold high values, but you don’t like them.
Do you actually like your partner? Do you think they’re a good person, do you enjoy hanging out with them? Last year I spoke with a man who told me he was completely, totally surprised when his wife told him she wanted a divorce, he couldn’t believe it. Later, I found out they weren’t going on vacations together because it was too unpleasant. If you can’t even go on vacation together and have a good time, something is wrong! If you don’t like your partner, you’ve got a problem. If the thought of being with them when you’re 80 makes you wince, that’s telling you something.
If you genuinely like your partner and like spending time with them, you have a much greater chance that you are going to make it through the long haul and through difficult times and spend the rest of your lives together.
Do you play fair?
The way that you disagree with each other says so much about your relationship. Some psychologists believe they can predict the success or failure of a relationship simply by watching a couple have an argument about something.
When you disagree, do you stick to the subject you are disagreeing about, or do you bring up stuff that has nothing to do with what you’re arguing about? Do you find yourself using phrases like “you always do this…” or “you never do this”. Fighting about something other than the current issue is not fighting fair and leads to huge build ups of resentment. Resentment is poison to a relationship.
You can disagree and have an argument and still come from the basic love that you have for each other. Being respectful while you disagree, really listening and trying to understand the other person’s perspective and sticking to the subject at hand can actually bring you closer together as a couple.
Can you really talk to each other?
Does your partner “get” you? Can you talk to them about pretty much anything and have it be okay? Do they know all the little weirdnesses about you and love you all the same? Or do you hide things from them? Do you tell them how you truly feel? I spoke with a man a year ago who told me his 30 year marriage had come down to “I go along to get along”. He wanted to do a Couples Retreat, but his wife didn’t want to. I spoke with him again a few weeks ago and things are worse (things like this never get better unless they are dealt with). When your partner feels like they have to hide how they’re feeling and can’t be honest with you, they start to shut down emotionally. That’s when the love starts to stop.
When you know you are safe with your partner, that they will love you no matter what, love continues to grow and thrive.
Are financial issues a problem?
Financial issues show up in a number of ways — from there not being enough money, to one person being a spender and one person being a saver, to disagreements about how money should be spent. In this modern age, we also see a lot of situations where there is an imbalance, especially where the woman makes more than the man.
Money issues are a hot button for many people, and usually have a deep connection back to childhood. Money issues bring up all the different things we’ve already talked about — not communicating, not fighting fair, not liking the other person because they’re a miser (or a spendthrift), not respecting the other person because they’re not responsible with money, etc., etc. Money is usually just the tip of the iceberg of deeper problems below the surface.
When money isn’t an issue in your marriage, you’re free to bring in all kinds of abundance in your lives, not just financially but emotionally and spiritually as well. It indicates that everything is flowing as it should be.
Do you have each other’s back?
I attended a couples workshop in Sedona in 1999 and during a very emotional part of the workshop one of the men said to his wife, “I’ve got your back”. Later, we broke up into our male and female groups and as we women gathered, a number of us remarked at how much that had touched us. About half of us said (through tears) that we had never felt that way in our relationship.
It can be a tough world out there and knowing that there’s at least one person who has your back is an incredible and amazing gift. And I will tell you after all these years of working with couples, it’s something that I don’t see very often. There isn’t that deep level of trust of knowing that your partner will be there for you no matter what.
This trust, this knowing, seems to me to be the secret sauce of healthy relationships — really knowing that your partner will be with you through thick and thin. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death parts you. It’s like a rare, exotic flower that must be cultivated and cared for.
My prayer for you is that all of your answers to the above questions were the “right” answers. That you have fabulous communication, you can be completely honest with each other, and there are no hidden agendas or resentments. If that’s not the case, I would urge you to do something about it and do it now. My experience is that these things only get worse over time. Once the milk starts to curdle there’s no turning back. It just smells worse and worse until you finally have to throw it out. And throwing it out is such a painful thing to do, when it’s your relationship that’s being thrown out.
We had a couple here awhile ago and he told me at the end of their Couples Retreat, that he thought it was hopeless and that he had already planned on filing for divorce when they returned home from Sedona. He had even hired the attorney, because he thought there was no way the marriage could be fixed. They came here for 4 days and their marriage was completely renewed. They both saw that at their core, they truly loved each other and they were focusing on all the wrong things. The marriage was completely saved and they came back 6 months later to spice it up even more. When you’ve got the love and the trust and the spice, you’ve got it all!
Even if all your answers feel like the “wrong” answers, they’re not! This is valuable information that is showing you where you need to put your attention. I want to tell you there is hope! We see it all the time. Come to Sedona and do a Couples Retreat. One of our Angel Guides will speak with each of you separately, really getting at what’s going on, what are the issues and what do both of you want? Then they’ll put together the perfect retreat that’s right for the two of you. Because each retreat is completely customized and because the sessions are all completely private (not in groups), you’ll get exactly what you need. It will bring you back into the love and trust and connection you’re craving.
Click here and one of our Angel Guides will call you. Or if you’d prefer, call us toll free at 1-877-204-3664 (US and Canada). For our friends outside the US and Canada call 01 928-204-5988 or click here and one of our Angel Guides will call you.
Wishing you a week filled with hearts and flowers,
Debra Stangl / Founder
Sedona Soul Adventures – Transforming Lives One Soul At A Time
Jim and Kate say “Sedona Soul Adventures completely surpassed our expectations and has changed our lives, forever!”
“Sedona Soul Adventures completely surpassed our expectations and has changed our lives, forever! If you had told me that the connection between my partner and myself could be this deep and spiritual, I would have said it couldn’t be done. The depth of our relationship is far beyond anything we expected. We also have the skills to keep that bond, and keep working on our individual journeys.”
Jim Spangler and Kate Wilford
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