On Marriage

Truth Byte #69: It’s the little things that hold us together.

As Spring arrives, so does wedding season. So many people get so excited for their big day, spend lavishly, dress scrumptiously, and gather together friends and family to witness this lifelong commitment.

But what happens after the dust has settled and the humdrum of regular life kicks in?

This year is my lucky 13 in marriage, and while I still consider myself quite the infant when it comes to married life, there are some things that I have picked up in this last decade that may be useful if you are newly married or struggling with a marriage that doesn’t feel like what you signed up for.

WARNING: I know that some readers may be annoyed by this post because marriage actually didn’t work out so well for them, and I understand that perspective. But even those who have been through horrible endings, once they have had a chance to allow the wounds to heal, will likely seek out a long-term companion. Whether married, common-law, live-in, deeply committed, or some other label, I know about some things that are actually working for people in monogamous relationships. So if that’s you, it still may be worth the read.

What does it take to remain content and connected as a married couple?

When I scroll through my social media feeds, I see married couples on fancy holidays and picnics in the park. I see birthday bashes, sporting events, daddy-daughter dates, and girls’ night out.

But what I don’t see is what actually sustains us in marriage.

What we don’t see is the daily connection, the interrupted conversations, that sweet touch on the small of the back, that look of adoration. What we don’t see is the tightening of lips and shoulders when someone puts down the one you love in front of you. What we don’t see is the teasing hug good night before bed because she wants to stay up and watch mindless tv, and that’s okay with you. What we don’t see is him making your mom feel better when she uses the wrong pronoun.

These little moments are what keeps a marriage afloat during stormy waters.

No one ever told me about the power of these little things when I was a newly-wed. We committed our lives to each other after living on our own terms for a decade.

Suddenly, our lives were expected to blend together seamlessly.

There were times I felt so lonely and confused, even though my partner was lying right next to me in bed. I guess I thought marriage was going to be like a series of dates, each one more thoughtful and surprising than the next because as time went on, he would get to know me better, right? And for the first couple of years, it was.

We played house, had a baby, figured out how to include each other in our families of birth, and paid all our bills on time.

But as time marched on, our calendars got busy, we had another baby and suddenly date night was not easy to pencil in. As my partner loves to say, we became two ships, passing in the night. We decided to attend a 9-month training program to learn about the dynamics of intimate relationships, and finally we started to see how the ebbs and flows we were experiencing were part of the maturation of our bond. We learned about the stages and phases of love, and how authenticity and commitment would always bring us back to each other.

We learned that our marriage was something we had to mould and tend to, otherwise, in a very short time, and without warning, it would wither away.

We watched as that withering happened to some dear friends around us. We watched as they let each other go in search of greener pastures, while their children, parents, friends, and extended family tried to figure out how to reconcile this new normal.

We wondered if it was just a matter of time before we were that couple that drifted away from each other. Neither of us can look at our own parents and say, “Now there’s a happy couple”, so we had no role-models to look up to.

So we studied relationships, grew together while remaining strong in ourselves, and we looked for mentors, people who had the kind of marriage we wanted to someday have.

And we found them!

This older couple that we know just go together like peanut butter and jelly, like milk and cookies, like saag and roti. They get each other. Each of them makes the other seem shinier. They are also not afraid to ask for what they need and disagree (honestly and respectfully) on a regular basis. They have surrounded themselves with other people who believe in marriage and are willing to fight through the storms holding hands. They are the two rocking on the porch at the end of a life well-lived who the neighborhood kids call Grandma and Grandpa.

The two essential ingredients they have cultivated are: mutual respect and a deep, abiding friendship.

So that’s what we hold on to now: mutual respect and deep friendship. When things get heated I ask myself if I would say what’s about to come out of my mouth to a friend. He asks himself if the respect he feels for me is strong enough to stand up for me when it counts. We keep coming back to each other, no matter how far away our ships sail in the night.

We invest in the little things.

Sometimes we go to bed angry, because that works for him. He always wakes up feeling better. Sometimes we hash it out, because that works for me. I can sleep soundly then. So yes, there is give and take, and unfortunately, I don’t really get to be a brat and get my way all the time (though I SOOOOOO want to sometimes!). I have to show up as an adult and treat him like one too. No matter what the conflict, the marriage comes first, always. Before the kids, before our jobs, before our extended family obligations, before finances, our marriage is first.

So those are my thoughts on marriage, and how it’s actually the little things that keep us together. I am someone who loves to learn about myself and the people around me, and if you are too, here are some books that have helped us along the way:

If It Hurts, It Isn’t Love by Chuck Spezzano
Mars and Venus in the Bedroom by John Gray
The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine
I Wish He Had Come With Instructions by Mike Bechtle
How Can I Be Your Lover When I am Too Busy Being Your Mother? by Sarah Dimerman & J.M. Kearns

Listen to our podcast and join my husband and I as we journey through marriage and parenting, and adulting in general, and let us know if there is a topic you want to hear us talk about.

My Two Grad Dates (and Other Secrets)

Truth Byte #59:

Somebody adores you, even when you can’t.”

I am on a personal retreat this week. And while I ponder the big and small choices I have made over the year since my last retreat, a lot of good “ahas” are coming up. Last year, just after coming home from my retreat, I wrote Truth Byte #14, That’s Not Really a Tiger, about how to be gentler with ourselves. Today, I want to tell you something else.  Today I want to tell you that somebody adores you, even when you don’t have the capacity to adore yourself.

Let me tell you a story. I was in twelfth grade, and it was the evening of my high school graduation party. I had two (yes two!) dream-come-true dates, a guy from my faith community that I had crushed on for two years as we went out on group excursions and attended religious education classes, and another that made my heart flutter every time I passed his desk in Chemistry class who I secretly loved for all three years of high school. I actually used to go to “the bathroom” two or three times every class I had with him just so I could pass by Bachelor Number Two, make eye contact, and get a whiff of “he’s-not-just-a-boy-he’s-a-man-because-he-wears-it” cologne.  Maybe that explains my less-than-stellar final marks in that class…
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Healing the Broken Heart

Truth Byte #38

It’s time to heal your heartbreak.

 

Most of us have experienced heartbreak.  And not in the traditional sense. 

 

Sure, many of us have lost a romantic partner to another, had someone leave us prematurely, or fell in love in that classic, unrequited way.

 

But I am not talking about those heartbreaks.

 

I am talking today about something much deeper.

 

The reasons that those heartbreaks felt so devastating at the time was because we were nursing a hundred thousand other heartbreaks before those romantic ones happened.

 

Let me explain.  Your first heartbreaks happened before you turned 10 years old.

 

You probably don’t remember it happening to you, so let me tell give you some scenarios:

 

  1. You were the first and adored child in the family. Then another baby was born.  She/he was cuter, smaller, and drank in every adult’s attention. Heartbreak.
  2. Your heard your parents arguing about money one night as you were trying to fall asleep. You remembered them buying you new shoes for preschool earlier that week. You feel like maybe if you didn’t ask for those shoes they wouldn’t always be arguing. Heartbreak.
  3. Your best friend moved away in grade four. Heartbreak.
  4. Some adult you cared about made fun of the goofy way you danced. You were a kid, and danced liked no one was watching (because you didn’t’ think they were!). Heartbreak.
  5. Your dad left your mom and you were shuffled from house to house. Heartbreak.
  6. Your dog died. Heartbreak.
  7. Your fish died and no one told you. You just came home one day and there was a new fish in the bowl and you could tell it wasn’t yours, but no one would admit it. Heartbreak.
  8. You found out the truth about the whole Santa Clause conspiracy.  Heartbreak.

 

And the list could go on and on.  These are childhood moments that happen to most us us.  And many of us can just shake them off.  But for those of us who are a little bit “more” as kids, those of us who would get lost in the beauty of a leaf as it turns orange, or those who actually felt like we could communicate with animals, or those who unabashedly opened our hearts to the world, these simple events can create the beginnings of what I call “heartache”.

 

Heartache is different than heartbreak.

 

In heartbreak, you have a good long cry, either out loud or in your own mind, and you vow to never “do that thing again.” Heartache is where we walk around with a giant wall around our hearts so we don’t ever get hurt again.  Heartbreak comes from an external event, and there is little we can do except brave through it.  Heartache is an orientation, a way we approach love and connection, and the world itself. 

 

Too many people who run this sweet planet are mired in heartache.

 

And those who could actually turn things around are too busy talking about and nursing their heartbreaks to do a damn thing about it.

 

Today, I appeal to you, my brothers and sisters who are recovering from heartbreak, to just let it go.  That heartbreak started when you were small, and has continued time and again throughout your life.  And if the point of this human life is to experience joy and connection, then you can simply choose to believe that these painful situations helped to orient you away from pain and towards what you really do want.

 

You are making the mistake by concentrating on the pain. What if, instead, you looked at this heartbreak (whether past or present) as an opportunity to forgive?

 

In the heartbreaks that happened in childhood, we interpreted them as heartbreaks because we couldn’t see the full story.  Your friend didn’t move away to hurt you, and your parents would have bought you those shoes anyway.  It wasn’t your fault.  In the grown-up heartbreaks, because there is so much heartache that has built up over the years, we are often not willing to see the big picture until years, even decades later.

 

I finally forgave my first boyfriend for breaking up with me LAST WEEK!! That’s like, 20 years of holding on.  Incredible. Unnecessary.

 

So learn from me and save yourself some time.  Let go of those heartbreak stories today.  And you don’t have to follow some formula of how long it’s been until you can forgive.  You can begin to forgive him/her/them right now.

 

Happiness and a healed heart are waiting on the other side.

 

It’s your life, and only you can live it.  More at www.talktosaira.com (and connect with me if you want to learn a fast-track method to heal your own heartbreak!)

 

 

 

 

Love Should Not Hurt

Truth Byte #23

You have entangled love with pain.

It happened a long time ago, and maybe so early in your life that you don’t remember it.

Maybe you were patting your baby brother on the head and he whacked you in the face.

Maybe you were cuddling your cat and she clawed you.

Maybe you offered something to a playground buddy and were rejected.

Maybe you were generous with your good ideas and everybody laughed at you.

Maybe you watched your parents, who were supposed to love each other, bicker and argue and belittle each other without respite.

Whatever it was, it’s got a hold of you, and is impacted your capacity to give and receive love.

Many of us have mixed up pain and love. 

I remember the most adored I felt as a child was when I broke my ankle in first grade.  My parents catered to my every whim, actually allowing me to read in public so I could do something I considered fun while the other kids spent the summer splashing around in someone’s backyard pool.  Friends and strangers wrote “get fixed soon” messages on my plaster cast, and drew hearts in all shapes and sizes that I would study while I sat alone on the sidelines while everyone else played without me.  For a short couple months there, I felt so loved.

And yet physically, I was in so much pain.

I consciously relived that confusion when I delivered my first baby.  Love and pain blended together into sweet agony as they cut me open to give him life.  Every time I picked him up, my body would scream in anguish, and yet my heart bubbled over with adoration.  Breastfeeding was a nightmare for those first few months, and yet I pushed through the blisters and bleeding as my motherly instincts dictated my actions so I could nourish and protect my baby.

 Pain and love, linked inextricably together.

I have seen this crossing of neural wires in my clients.  Each one of them has a story of when they confused the two, expecting love to be painful.  Our cultural stories and mythologies echo this theme.

And yet true love, from Source, never brings pain.

True love doesn’t leave anyone out.

My teacher Chuck Spezzano wrote a book called “If It Hurts, It Isn’t Love”.  I give this book as homework to my clients who are healing recent and ancient heartbreaks, and those who have entangled love with pain.  The first step is to realize what Love actually is, and let go of all the pain we have associated with it.

Here’s how to know if you have got your love and pain wires got crossed:

  1. You are looking for a passionate, fiery relationship, similar to you have had before. You spent a lot of time either crying or pining after the other person.  You felt so alive and you want that again.
  2. Your partner seems boring these days and you have been kinda thinking about having an affair. Or you have already had an affair while one of you was in a committed relationship with someone else.
  1. You seem to always have a juicy drama story to tell.
  1. You justify things by saying, “That’s just how men/women are” when someone hurts you in an intimate relationship.
  1. You grew up watching your parents fight, either overtly or passive-aggressively.
  1. You find yourself pushing away people who claim to care about you, including friends and business colleagues.
  1. When things get “too good”, you start feeling anxious, like it’s all going to come crashing down.
  1. You hit your kids.
  1. You were hit as a kid.
  1. You can’t access your emotions and/or you think people who are emotional are weak.
  1. You are in an abusive relationship (including physical, verbal, sexual, emotional, financial, any kind of abuse.) Or you don’t think your relationship is abusive but your friends tell you it is.
  1. You gossip about people that you say are your friends.

If you could relate to one or more of the statements above, chances are high that you got your wires crossed, and pain and love are inter-woven for you.

So what?

Many of us have this dilemma, and until those wires get uncrossed, little life events can morph into crisis without us understanding how or why.  Life feels like a rollercoaster, and it feels like the next drama is just lurking around the corner.  When someone beautiful happens to you, you have this sick feeling because you know it’s just a matter of time until something goes wrong.  And so you are careful to not get too excited about anything.

I would call that living at half mast.

And that means it is going to take you forever to get where you want to go.

So how do we fix it?

Three simple steps:

  1. Own it.
    • Understand that you have a mixed-up way of seeing love, and see if you can figure out where it started. You may have a clear memory, like I did, or you may be able to get there through something a bit more hands-on like working with a counsellor or attending a workshop. (Some good ones on this topic coming up in the Fall!)
  1. Share it.
    • When you do this work alone, it is easy to fall in to old habits and no one would ever know. When you include someone else, you know have a cheerleader in your corner.  It could start with a simple conversation like “I have realized I mix up love and pain.  Could you point out to me when I am doing that over the next two weeks?”
  1. Track it.
    • Start today with a log book of the thoughts you have that demonstrate the mix-up. (For example: “I found out my friend’s husband cheated on her.  I knew their relationship was too good to be true.”  This thought shows you that you expect that love will always come with pain.)  Also track thoughts that demonstrate your corrected thinking: (“I know that love will find a way.  Either they will become stronger through this or they will part ways and they will each find their true match.”)  Follow your thoughts for a week or two and see if you are able to track more of the corrected thinking.  The more you practice, the better you will get, and tracking let’s you see the progress.

Once you see that love is just love, you will also start to notice that pain comes from attachments and expectations.

When you truly step into love, you will become irresistible. 

We are all looking forward to meeting the new, renovated, love-filled you!

For more on how to have the life and the love you want, join me for a workshop or book me to talk at your next event!  Sign-up for the newsletter to get practical guidance on how to life the life you were meant to be living, or watch the weekly talk-show on my YouTube channel to be inspired!

 

 

Why am I still single?

So many people ask me the question, “Dr. Saira, if I am really as great as you tell me I am, then why am I still single?”

This question breaks my heart, for many reasons.

Yes, you may still be single, but that is only part of the story. If true love is what you are looking for, you will indeed find it. But there is some fine print you need to know about. If you want to be in a committed, loving, mutually beneficial, long-term partnership, you are going to have to let go of your control and perfectionism. Because people are not computers, they will not follow predictable patterns, nor will they always behave the way you hope they will. Read More

Listen In : Talking About Love

[audio:http://talktosaira.com/audio/DrSairaRJ1200_Feb14.mp3|titles=Dr. Saira on RJ1200 Talking about Love|artists=Dr. Saira with Saima Naz on Gupshup 2/14]

What is it about love that makes us so crazy? What is it about those three little words that give men clammy hands and women the butterflies? Is there such a thing as “the one”? And if there is, why haven’t you found him or her yet? Listen here as I help unravel the mysteries of love.

Are you stuck in the dead-zone?

All couples go through it: the dead-zone. Most of us don’t even know it exists, because most of what we learn about relationships is centered around the first two phases: romance and power struggle. Intimate relationships are a platform for clearing out your old stories and belief systems, and stepping more fully into the life you were meant to lead. And while you can do all that without having a partner, being in a relationship accelerates your growth. Why? Because there is no where to hide! No matter how you try, your partner will call you out, whether gently or dramatically. And the messages may be clear or convoluted, loud or soft, to the point or round-about. No matter how your partner communicates with you, when things are not working, one of you will be the first to sense it. If you are the one sensing it, you are probably also the one with the capacity to heal it.

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Have you found your true love?

Does true love really exist? The classes I took in university taught me that the media, society, Bollywood and Disney have clouded my mind. Other people sold me the fairytale of true love, but no one taught me how to actually sustain it. After all, doesn’t it always end with “happily ever after”? Whether it’s Sandra Dee and Danny or Simba and Nala, couples everywhere are driving off into the sunset. But what about five years later? What about forty years later? Do people stay happily married or is it just a phase?

Read More