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December 2008

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In this issue:

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Conscious Relationship Resources

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David Steele
David Steele
Founder and CEO,
Relationship Coaching Institute

Frankie Doiron, President
Relationship Coaching Network

Tara Kachaturoff - Photo
Tara Kachaturoff
Editor | Partners in Life Couples News

Copyright 2008 by All rights reserved.

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Ask Our Coaches:
Inlaws for the Holidays:
Do I have to do this again?

"... all I want to do is to enjoy our own family
in our own home..."

This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your questions to who will forward them to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.

Dear Coaches,

The holidays are quickly approaching and I'm not looking forward to them at all. Every year we spend a couple of days at Thanksgiving and Christmas with my husband's family. They live several hours away. My parents are deceased. We have several children as well and the grandparents love seeing them.

I'm just plain sick and tired of visiting the in-laws. I want to enjoy the holidays in our home, celebrating our traditions as a family. We buy gifts, put up a tree, and make the house festive, yet we never get to enjoy it because we're out of town for sometimes up to 5 days when we visit them.

I've tried talking to my husband about this, but he insists that we spend the time with his parents. He's extremely close with them and is always trying to please them, even when it interferes with my wishes. He thinks it's insensitive of me to not want to spend the holidays with his parents.

I'm so frustrated. Is there anything more I can do? I feel like I'm being seen as the "bad" person in all of this and all I want to do is to enjoy our own family in our own home - without his parents. Any advice as to what I can or should do?

Sinead from St. Paul

Hazel responds …

I hear your frustration and having been in a similar situation I can empathize with how you feel. I don't feel it's insensitive of you to want to spend time in your own home when you spend time making the house ready for the holidays. However, to please everyone is usually impossible so perhaps there could be a compromise.

Wanting to spend time at the holidays as you say, "without his parents," would probably create a challenge for you in your relationship with your husband and probably put a strain on the relationship with your in-laws -- causing a bigger challenge for you. Your husband obviously wants the time to be spent with everyone.

Perhaps it would be possible to spend time with your husband's parents on the holidays at your home instead of going to their home, or you could do a holiday exchange, with one year at your house and the next at theirs.

Consider talking to him without anger and explain how you feel -- "Honey, I love/like your parents and I understand you want to spend time with them, but I also think it's important that we spend holidays at home, too, so perhaps we could have a compromise." Something like this is usually not inflammatory if said in a non-angry, loving way and might get you, at least, part of what you want for the holidays.

If it's too late to make a change for this year, request that although you are willing to go to his parents this year, that you'd like to make it a shorter visit so you can enjoy your own home, too, and that next year everybody comes to your house. If none of this works, or if you both have an issue with this, I would encourage you to seek the help of a relationship coach who can be objective.

Hazel Palache |

Jack responds ...


Dear Husband,

How very fortunate you are to have a spouse who acquiesces to your desires, especially year after year. Your parents must be thrilled to see you and your family arrive each year to spend the holidays. The children surely are ecstatic to be with their grandparents. Clearly your experience as you grew up instilled in you a sense of "being home" for the holidays to share the joy with your parents.

Having said this, I have a couple questions. First, are you denying your children their own sense of "being home" for the holidays? Second, does discounting Sinead's request to be at home serve you in some way? I wouldn't think you are being selfish or self-centered, as the travel and disruption are clearly worthwhile to you.

And one more question -- can you imagine the joy, and the loving you will create and nurture with Sinead and your children by remaining at home this year? Being a willing, supportive husband and father is a great gift to your family. The memory will last longer than you can imagine. Please don't limit yourself by not giving your love and care to your family.

Jack Cook | | 904.312.0693

Laura responds …

Holidays can be stressful on a good day, but when you toss in family issues, it can be most unpleasant. The question is how can you get more of what you want. My suggestions are as follows. Explain to your husband how much creating your own holiday traditions in your home means to you. Ask him to brainstorm with you to come up with ideas on how to incorporate his family traditions in your home.

His participation in the brainstorming process will help him feel a connection to the solution rather than disconnected because of your unhappiness with the situation. Brainstorming is a time when you come up with as many ideas as you can and write them down on paper. Regardless of how silly an idea might seem, write it down.

Some ideas might include his family coming to your house every other Christmas, or alternating the Thanksgiving holiday. Or perhaps it's having Christmas Eve and Christmas morning in your home and traveling to his family for Christmas dinner.

When you think you have enough ideas, review them one by one, talk about them, laugh about some and keep the ideas that you both seem to feel will help you both attain your goals.

And don't forget to involve the kids. They'll enjoy being a part of the family process and they are an endless source of ideas and fun.

Laura Moorman | 603.387.6114

Pamela responds ...

It's frustrating to miss the joy of waking up Christmas morning in your own home and celebrating the day with your own traditions and celebrations.

The second developmental stage of marriage is the opportunity to differentiate and create your own style of marriage including household tasks, traditions, and rituals. This stage can last up to ten years as a couple begins to separate from their family of origin, decide how they want things to be in their own family, and set boundaries with each other and with parents and siblings.

It's up to each of us, individually, to be the boundary setter for our family. If I don't do my part, my husband/partner will not feel supported and eventually it wreaks havoc on the relationship. If he/she doesn't set the boundaries with his/her family, I won't feel supported. The end result is usually conflict and blame.

It sounds like your husband is unaware of the importance of boundary setting for the sake of your marital relationship and would benefit from some education about it and perhaps some coaching to help him make the adjustment.

You've probably reached the point where you don't even want his parents around for the season because your needs have been neglected for so long. You can both benefit from consulting a therapist or coach to learn some coping and assertiveness skills, to define who you are as a couple and family, and to create a loving extended family together.

Pamela Simmons | | 214.674.8759

Kat responds ...

Put aside all thinking about how it has been done in the past and what your husband or in-laws want. Take time to get clear on what you want. To get that flow going, write down the first fifty things that delight you about the holiday season.

Review the list and pick the top ten. Now you know what you want. You might also take some time to make a similar list of things you've liked about the time spent with his parents. You could be surprised at what you haven't noticed due to your frustration. This is a great starting place to begin a different kind of conversation with your husband.

To insure the best outcome for any change-making conversation, set aside a time when you're both able to focus on this subject without being tired or distracted.

Let your husband know you want to find a solution that honors everyone involved, but this year you need to have your voice heard and considered. Keep the focus on your list of wants and stay out of the area of blame or resentment which is sure to derail any meaningful dialogue.

It may take time and more than one conversation to bring about the complete change you are looking for. There is something magical that happens when our focus is on something we want and it comes from the heart. No matter what the outcome, it is a worthwhile pursuit.

Kat Knecht | | 805.804.6282

Feature Article:
Weddings and Commitments: A Primer on Vows

This month I interviewed Carol Baxter who is both an RCI coach as well as a non-denominational, ordained, interfaith minister. She discusses vows and how they can be an important foundation for our relationships.

Tara Kachaturoff

Tara: What do you do as a non-denominational, ordained, interfaith minister?

Carol: I offer spiritual counseling within a sacred space of non-judgment, where people can awaken to their spiritual or authentic identity as they navigate their experiences with integrity and purpose. I also delight in creating and performing ceremonies of celebration and am honored to officiate in those of transition.

In my classes, seminars, and counseling sessions, I teach practical approaches to a joy-filled life. I teach positive parenting, relationship, and stress management seminars, and also facilitate a support group for those experiencing grief and loss.

Tara: What's the difference between a wedding ceremony and a commitment ceremony?

Carol: Throughout the ages, all cultures have used rituals and ceremonies to mark and celebrate life events, and to support one another during times of transition and change. Ceremonies and rituals also raise us above the everyday and help give meaning and purpose to our lives.

The marriage ceremony dates back to a time when marriages were means of uniting two clans in an effort to create bonds that fostered peace and cooperation. Today these ceremonies create a new family, bring the community together and recognize our place as members of one family.

Many of the rituals within the ceremony can be traced back to Roman and Anglo Saxon times, some to Victorian times and others to folklore that has been passed down through countless generations. Most have to do with bestowing good luck and fertility on the happy couple.

Today, a marriage is a time to celebrate the wonder of love, for making pledges for the future and receiving support for a new relationship from the community. It is also a way of recognizing our continuity with the past.

The commitment ceremony is becoming more and more prevalent, and is a contemporary answer for couples who do not want a legal certificate or do not have the option of a legal or religious union, yet desire to pledge themselves to one another, celebrate the wonder of their love, and express their commitment to one another.

Marriage and commitment ceremonies are rites of passage and key life events. The rituals within the ceremony help the couple let go of a life lived on one's own and look forward to life lived together. Couples now have many options, within both ceremonies, for expressing their personalities, values and what their hearts contain. It is possible to create a ceremony that celebrates their union in ways both personally meaningful and memorable.

Tara: What are vows and why are they so important?

Carol: Whether traditional or contemporary, the words of promise witnessed during a wedding or commitment ceremony state the couples intentions for their future, set the course for their relationship, and create a blueprint on which to build their life together. When witnessed, the couple invites the community to partner with them in supporting their hopes and dreams.

Our words carry great power. We can think something, desire something, and hope for something. Yet, it is the conscious and deliberate expression we give to these thoughts and emotions that usually puts feet on our feelings and carries our intentions into action.

When a couple exchanges vows, they are expressing their desire for the greater or spiritual context in which they live their lives and for it to bring them the right people and circumstances as well as the wisdom and guidance to enhance their relationship and ensure its success.

Tara: Some couples choose to renew their vows. What does it mean to renew vows and what can that do to enhance one's relationship?

Carol: A vow renewal is a ceremony where a couple publically re-commits to their relationship by expressing their enduring love for one another. This ceremony is a sentimental rather than an official or legal event.

It can be a way for a couple to commemorate an important milestone, such as a major wedding anniversary. It can be the recognition of having traversed some rocky times together. It can be the way a couple can finally have the ceremony and celebration they always wanted.

This ceremony, whether simple or elaborate, is a time to re-dedicate and reconnect to their relationship and can be a deep source of rejuvenation for the relationship. The ceremony format and procession may follow the same format as a wedding or commitment, or be something original and more appropriate to the time.

Tara: What are some things a couple might do to prepare to renew their vows?

Carol: A vow renewal ceremony can be as simple as two people alone at beautiful spot reciting vows they have written, or a fancy affair with hundreds of guests. Also, since this is not a formal religious or civil union, you can ask a judge or clergy member to officiate, but also you can ask a friend or an adult child to lead the ceremony. For a simple vow renewal, all you need is your love and the words you wish to share.

Planning this celebration should begin by deciding on the style of ceremony and reception, picking a date, deciding on a budget, and finding a venue. How simple or elaborate the affair will be may depend on your reasons for wanting a vow renewal ceremony.

Whether you are focusing on the celebration of your dreams, the romance of a maturing love, or the deepening of your relationship through challenges you have faced together, remember to choose elements that are most important to you.

Tara: Do you have any tips on how to get started with writing your vows?

Carol: If you desire to create your own wedding vows, then it is time to do some thinking. Sit down in a quiet space with paper and pen, a friendly scribe or a recorder, and answer these questions. The answers may not end up in your vows, but will help you clarify the feelings and promises you wish to communicate.

• What is the single greatest thing you like/love/know about your partner?
• When did you know that you were in love? How has that love deepened?
• What does this marriage or commitment mean to you? Why do you want to re-dedicate yourself to your partner or relationship?
• What has changed about your relationship over time? What will be different? What will stay the same?
• What is your most favorite memory of your partner?
• When you were young, did you dream of your wedding day or your future spouse? How has this relationship with your sweetheart matched up to or exceeded your vision?

Take some time to read through passages of poetry, love stories, and famous writings about love. You may want to combine some lines or a quote from literature with a sentence or two of your own gleaned from your answers to the above questions.

For example, you might say:

"When I read these words by Zelda Fitzgerald, 'Nobody has ever measured, even poets, how much the heart can hold,' I understood. As much as I knew I loved you on our wedding day, I can now say that was just the beginning of a love that grows ever deeper with each passing day. I fell in love with you when I first saw how beautifully you treated your children, how much patience and respect you gave to them. I am so grateful that you have chosen to share your love with me, and that we get to grow old together."

Remember that no matter what words you choose they will be meaningful and moving as long as they are from your heart.

Copyright © 2008 by Carol Baxter. All rights reserved in all media.

Carol BaxterRev. Carol Baxter, founder of The Inspired Living Center, is an Interfaith Minister and Spiritual Counselor. She is a member of the International Association of Counselors and Therapists as well the Relationship Coaching Institute. Her work involves helping people discover the essence of who they are and guiding them through the changes necessary to become who they are meant to be. | 772.785.7862.

Bonus Article:
Four Ways to Bring the Romance Back

By Don Bailey

After 44 years of marriage, Cleta and I are more in love than ever before. We've learned a lot through the years that make it that way and so I'd like to share some things about romance that have been truly helpful to us and we hope will help you as well.

#1: Meet Other's Needs

First, it is clear that true love is about the other person -- your spouse. If you married focused on getting your needs met, you should have hired a servant instead. It's about giving! One of the ways to show your true love is by being romantic.

Romance is a simple process of showing your spouse how much you adore and appreciate them. We can do this by understanding and practicing their love language. For example, Cleta knows that words of affirmation really spark me and motivate me toward her and life. She practices giving them regularly.

We all love to feel needed but in our marriage I want to know that Cleta doesn't just need me; she wants me and adores me and shows it. That's the purpose of romance.

#2: Aim to Please

Knowing each other's likes and dislikes will help you in planning ways to be romantic. Romance is not expressed just in kisses, embraces or even in sex, although these are very important in the overall picture. Just knowing that Cleta really treasures our one-on-one time helps me choose actions that please her.

Quality time is clearly her love language and we practice that a lot. We simply love being together whether it's cooking together, working in the yard or cuddling up on the couch for a movie. I think we could be OK, just the two of us, on a deserted island.

Cleta knows my appreciation of nice clothes and even though I typically choose my own, she takes great pride in keeping them looking nice for me. Yes, she still irons and, yes, I find it romantic that she cares for me in that way.

#3: Connect at the Heart

Women typically love romance and are very aware of the times when we men are romantic. Likewise, they are very aware when we aren't. There are times when we plan romance and times when it just happens.

Those later times may be the most special because they flow through the heart and create oneness between us. They can be as simple as a spontaneous wink as your eyes meet across a crowded room.

It may be a simple act of kindness that brings tears to her eyes or an unplanned response to a request that is special. Let those spontaneous moments flow into a oneness that is ever growing. Simply said, be conscious of your relationship.

#4: Keep in Tune

The biggest threat to our romance and our relationships is taking them for granted. It's being unconscious of one another's needs and desires due to the pressures and priorities of life. Your marriage should be your second highest priority, with your relationship with God being first.

Unless you are really good at communication and especially listening, you may need a structured approach to staying in tune. For example, Cleta and I have begun using a visit to McDonalds for a hot fudge sundae as a time to catch up, be a little serious and ask the question, "How am I doing at meeting your needs?" It's a cheap date, doesn't usually take long, but keeps us in tune with the other's feelings. We've actually started looking forward to these times and not just because of the hot fudge.

The challenge for all of us is to think beyond ourselves. Real love is an exercise in giving and receiving. Just think what a positive impact it could have on your marriage if you spent time studying your spouse. Ask questions and take notes. Then practice what you learn by being romantic. It's never too late to put romance into your marriage. With it you can share a love that grows and lasts forever.

Copyright © 2008 by Don Bailey. All rights reserved in all media.

Don Bailey Don Bailey is the founder of LIFECare Coaching/Counseling.  He is an ordained minister, a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor and RCI Licensed Relationship Coach.  His passion is to see new love relationships "begin right" and existing ones "reach their peak."

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