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Mindful : April 2013
Have a conversation you’re prepared for, not a spur-of-the-moment slugfest. My girlfriend and I are getting married. I love her. But I’m not sure she’s the one because our relationship didn’t start with fireworks. Is this marriage going to last? Did you swoon over your favorite food when you first had it? Would you have jumped in front of a train for your cat when you brought her home from the shelter? Probably not. Look at where you are right now. When you think of your fiancée, do you smile? When you’re apart, do you miss her? To unravel your feelings, reflect on the different layers of your relationship: physical love a nd sexuality, emotional love and friendship, a nd the mental love of open communication a nd respect. Marriage challenges you and helps you grow in all three dimensions—it helps your partner develop too. When you commit to something, you can’t know where that commitment will lead. Being aware of what really matters to you is what’s important when you take that leap. My husband insists on picking up the check when we go to dinner with friends. I admire his generosity, but we simply can’t afford it. Once we’re home, we argue, and I come off as a cheapskate. Ouch. Timing is your first problem. A house- hold budget comes together over mindful light-of-day conversation. Talking about who’s breaking the rules on Friday after a night on the town? That’s asking to go to bed angry. Have a conversation you’re prepared for, not a spur-of-the-moment slugfest. Take some time to yourself to explore specific concerns about money. Can’t buy things you need because your husband spent the money already? Makes you resentful, right? If you suppress that feel- ing, you’ll tie yourself in knots. If you act on the anger, well, there you go again. There’s a middle way. Notice how the fears feel in your body. When you tense up, breathe easy a nd continue to notice the sensations and thoughts that a rise. Bring that calmness when you sit down to talk with your husband later. Another thing. He’s got reasons for wa nting to pick up the check. Find out what they are and respect that they have meaning for him. You want a conversa- tion about cash, after all, not a fight about who’s right. My 15-year-old has stopped talking to us and he rarely smiles. If I try to draw him out, he gives one-syllable answers. I don’t know what to do. It’s painful when a child seems to be pulling away, and it’s hard not to take it personally and resolve to harangue him into being the person he was. But he’s not that person any more. And you can’t badger him into transporting back in time. Try to look beneath the silent and sullen exterior to the goodness of the boy you knew and raised and accept the cha nges he’s slogging through. Do you remember those yea rs? The freight train of emotions and challenges and physical changes? Yikes. It’s not the easy way, but give him his space. And never, ever stop checking in. His ears still work and you have to trust that he hears that you care and that you love him. The good news? He’ll cha nge again. And you can too. You can come out the other side with a broader perspective and a better sense of what you can control and what you can’t. No matter how much you harangue. ● Ask Ms. Mindful 68 mindful April 2013 in practice relationships Illustration by Alessandro Gottardo