THERE IS LOVE -- THE WEDDING SONG
In 1969, "Paul" (Noel Paul Stookey) of the singing trio "Peter, Paul, and Mary" wrote a song for Peter's wedding. Peter asked him to bring some "inspiration" to the ceremony. Noel prayed to God about it and the words came to him immediately. He wrote them down as the Spirit dictated and then translated them into third person so it wouldn't sound like he was personally claiming to be the Second Coming. (There is a version of him on YouTube singing it in God's original words, with him explaining.)
Noel has never felt right about receiving royalties for this particular song because he believes that God is the author and not him. It was a huge hit, so he created a charitable organization to spend the royalties.
The words of this song are profound. "He" refers to God:
He is now to be among you
At the calling of your hearts
Rest assured this troubadour
Is acting on His part.
The union of your spirits, here,
Has caused Him to remain
For whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name
There is Love, there is Love.
A man shall leave his mother
And a woman leave her home
And they shall travel on
to where the two shall be as one.
As it was in the beginning
Is now and til the end
Woman draws her life from man
And gives it back again.
And there is Love, there is Love.
Well then what's to be the reason
For becoming man and wife?
Is it love that brings you here
Or love that brings you life?
And if loving is the answer,
Then who's the giving for?
Do you believe in something
That you've never seen before?
Oh there is Love, there is Love.
Oh the marriage of your spirits here
Has caused Him to remain
For whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name
There is Love, there is Love.
Is there a better way to describe a wedding and, indeed, a marriage than "the calling of your hearts"? It is "calling" all in attendance to join in this sacred moment when love is celebrated. It is "calling" the two at the altar to become one. In fact the song continues, "they shall travel on to where the two shall be as one." There is a lot of scriptural imagery in this song. In this sacred moment, God is promising, "I am now to be among you." And the "union of your spirits here has caused Me to remain." The imagery of a union of spirits has a hint of eternity doesn't it? And he says that whenever two or more are gathered in His name, there He will be also. One of the reasons we get married is that God has promised to be with us whenever two or more are gathered in His name. What are these times? Family prayer, the dinner table, the marital bed and countless others.
There is more I could say about the lyrics of "There is Love." I'll let you discover them for yourself. The message that this song leaves me with is that the love of a man and woman is holy. It is sanctified in marriage, and has the potential to exalt us to a higher plane of existence. Do most marriages live up to this? No. Most involve a pretty large quantity of bickering and dissatisfaction. So how can we live up to our privileges? With intention. Instead of just letting life happen, decide together what marriage is, and intentionally try to behave differently. When we have something special, we treat it differently. We separate the holy from the common and treat holy things with more care. Your spouse is not just someone to provide money, a home, or help you with tasks. As meaningful as those things can be for each other, your spouse is more than that. He or she is your king or queen -- and the person with whom you will explore all the heights and depths of eternity.
To mid-singles, I suggest pondering deeply about the presence of God in marriage -- the union of your spirits as well as your bodies, and becoming one with each other and with the Creator. The rest of the world may not see anything special about either a wedding or a marriage. I encourage you to see the deeply profound purpose and meaning in it -- and look forward with joyful anticipation. Thinking of it this way will lead you to better choices.
You were young once and longed for this joy. You believed in it and believed you were meant for it. As the song says:
Well then what's to be the reason
For becoming man and wife?
Is it love that brings you here
Or love that brings you life?
Love is what brings us to a wedding, and physical love is what gives life to children. In a larger sense, love IS the life force in the universe. The opportunity to create that transcendent experience with one special person is bigger and more majestic than anything in the way.
Think on it, and dream on!
THOUGHTS ON DATING (Written by Jeff as a Mid-Single in 2013):
Dating is far easier in my 40s than it was in my 20s. (If you married in your 20s and have remained married, chances are that you are scratching your head.) I am far more comfortable in my own skin now. I long ago abandoned the need to save face or to alter who I am to please someone else. I no longer need the validation of being liked back by everyone that I like. I no longer care what anyone else thinks of the women I date or, ultimately, who I choose to marry. They will not have to live with the decision--at least not every day as I will. If I choose to love you, it is because I truly feel that way, and not because a committee of people I have the need to please has approved you. It is liberating to love for my own reasons and on my own terms. Having said all of this, though, I hasten to add that 20 more years does not make it any less painful to get my heart broken when a relationship ends. I approach relationships at this stage of life with much more confidence and less fear. But I am just as capable of getting hurt as ever. I think that means that I am still alive, still human, and still capable of deep love.
THOUGHTS FROM A CHINESE DISH
In late 2017, I went to China with a delegation of Utah business leaders. At least twice a day during the two weeks we were there, business and political leaders threw huge banquet lunches and dinners for us with the finest foods China has to offer. I have never experienced the "red carpet" treatment like this in any other setting.
At one of these dinners, I saw this orange fish shaped thing coming around the table. It looked made of gelatin. I had no idea what it was and hesitated about trying it. After all, it could be made of fish guts or something. But, as often happens in China, the Chinese business man sitting next to me grabbed the serving spoon and plopped a big helping of this fish shaped thing on my plate. He said, "You will like." Not wanting to be rude, I took a bite . . . and smiled. My host said, "mango pudding." It was delicious.
I was single at the time I took this trip to China. I think trying the fish shaped dish was a little like dating someone new. I saw something unfamiliar and I was leery of it. It could be anything. It could be something unappealing. What if it made me sick? But it didn't. It was mango pudding and it was amazing.
Dating a new person can be a little scary. Jon Harris
has kept us updated on his budding relationship. Remember how nervous he was about getting together and having the first kiss? It seems like that turned out to be mango pudding too. The thing is, you don't know until you pick up a spoon and give it a try.
has compared dating to Bertie Bott's every flavor beans in the Harry Potter novels. You don't know what you have until you try it. Occasionally she got a vomit flavored "date" experience, but most of the time they turned out to be pleasant.
We all tend to gravitate to what is familiar. Our brains tell us it is safer than something unknown. But this doesn't always serve us. It's what keeps people stuck in abusive marriages. It often causes them to find a similar partner the next time. I'm not suggesting that you seek different for difference sake. But be open to trying out a lot of different flavors until you find your favorite. Don't pre-judge it or be too vigilant for "red flags." (I promise, your brain knows how to invent them and conjure up fear from the most innocuous things.)
When you a dating opportunity arises that feels unfamiliar, think "mango pudding."
On June 13, 2021 at 4pm, we joyfully watched a historically significant Face to Face event produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the first of its kind for this specific audience (ALL single adults, age 31+).
Single adults make up over 50 percent of the adult membership of the Church, noted Sister Bingham, “that is a significant audience!” Sister Eubank said that as a single adult herself, she is happy to have open conversations with other single adults, “Every member, no matter their circumstances, has so much to contribute, and we hope to better recognize this.” Elder Andersen added, “To those adults, whether you have never been married or are widowed, divorced, or a single parent, you are needed in God’s kingdom. We are grateful for all you do to progress the work of the Lord.”
Watch this event online for inspired words of counsel and comfort, specifically for singles of our Faith. We highly recommend watching this if you are single or if you love and support a mid-single in your life. Here's a link to watch the playback at any time: Single Adult Face to Face
To help prepare for this event, review President Russel M. Nelson’s April 2021 general conference address: Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains
We have a friend currently serving on the Single Adult group committee for the Church, who was involved in planning this special event. She asked for our feedback and we had so much to say that we decided to do a podcast on our thoughts about it. To hear our commentary, listen to episode 14.
LILY Pod Episode 14:
The First Church Wide Devotional for Mid-Singles
In light of Sister Bingham's comments on Face to Face, we would really like to increase our effort to make our Love In Later Years (LILY) Facebook Group a gathering place for mid-singles and those who are interested in their welfare – to fellowship, receive edifying thoughts, and alleviate loneliness. The more the merrier! We currently have 683 wonderful members and would like to grow that number to 1,000 by the end of July 2021!
Come join us and please share with friends and family: LILYFacebookGroup
Also follow us on Instagram (where we post different content): LILYInstagram
Forward this email to a friend. If they would also like a little more love and light in their inbox each week, they can subscribe to our free weekly LILY Letter at www.loveinlateryears.com
Who wants to recreate and rebuild their lives? This Program was designed for you!
Along with many incredible Relationship Coaches, Mental Health Professionals, College Professors and Public Speakers, Love in Later Years will inspire and coach our team of Dating Olympians in our 5-week online masterclass and dating event. Packed full of coaching challenges, supportive interactions and a 2-week in person dating event, where Olympians will earn points for putting to practice what they learn in the course.
To promote this event, the Dating Olympics is offering a huge discount for the first 50 people who sign up. Spread the word!
Share it with your friends or someone you want to get to know. This will be the perfect opportunity for you to do that.
Here is our LILY Pod interview with owner & founder of the Dating Olympics:
15. Sheri Braithwaite and the Dating Olympics by LILY Pod • A podcast on Anchor
Jeff & Cathy discuss Sheri Braithwaite's journey as a mid-single, recovery from divorce, and why someone who "hates" dating created the Dating Olympics.
This afternoon, we were privileged to watch the FIRST EVER Face to Face Event for Single Adults (ages 31+). This event had a different approach than others before, considering it’s for a more mature and experienced audience. It will be a blessing for so many! We have a friend currently serving on the Single Adult group committee for the Church who was involved in the planning process. Please watch this online for inspired words of counsel/comfort, specifically for singles of our Faith. It’s an invite for ALL singles - never married, divorced, or widowed. We highly recommend watching this. Here's a link to watch the playback anytime:
The first presidency asked us to also study President Nelson’s talk: “Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains” from Apr 2021 General Conference, which you can find here:
After watching the premier of this special event this afternoon, we had so much to say about it that we did a podcast. Listen to our thoughts on this first ever churchwide mid-single devotional on LILY Pod:
14. The First Churchwide Devotional for Mid-Singles by LILY Pod • A podcast on Anchor
Jeff and Cathy discuss the first churchwide devotional for single adults over the age of 30 in a Face to Face with Relief Society President Jean Bingham, Sister Sharon Eubank, and Elder Neil L. Anderson.
In light of Sister Bingham's comments on Face to Face, we would really like to increase our effort to make our Love In Later Years (LILY) Facebook Group a gathering place for mid-singles and those who are interested in their welfare to fellowship, receive edifying thoughts, and alleviate loneliness. The more the merrier! We would like to have 1,000 members by the end of July 2021! 💕 Come join us and please share with friends and family:
THE TALE OF HUFFNAGLE THE HUMAN
There once lived a man named Huffnagle. He was a sensitive man with a bright mind, and he was lonely. He had many good things in his life -- he was young and athletic, got good grades in college, had some good friends, and he was handsome. He couldn't necessarily see these attractive attributes in himself because he focused on people who rejected him. He rarely risked his fragile ego to ask women for dates and, when he did, he was horrified if they refused him, even for really understandable reasons.
One day at the beginning of an academic year, Huffnagle met a lovely young woman named Hilda and walked her home from class. She was aloof and stand-offish but cordial. He assumed she was not interested in him and determined not to call her. He didn't even ask for her number.
The next week, Huffnagle and his roommates all decided they needed to start dating more. They bought tickets to a concert in a unique location and decided to all get dates. Huffnagle vowed to ask the next woman he ran into for that date. As he was walking from his apartment toward campus, Huffnagle met Hilda again as she was about to go out for a run -- and he almost forgot his vow. But he kept the vow and asked her to the concert.
They had a good time, and he asked her for another date. However, Hilda's roommate called him and told him that Hilda was making fun of him with her other roommates. His fragile ego was unable to stand this kind of insult, so he walked to her apartment, asked her if it was true and, when she admitted it, he broke the date. She told him she was not interested in dating him anyway, but asked if they could be friends. He said that was up to her and walked away.
The school year progressed forward, as they always do, and Huffnagle dated once in awhile, but the first dates didn't ever seem to lead to second dates. Huffnagle was discouraged. He doubted he would ever find a woman who could put up with him and keep him company over the long haul.
One night, when Huffnagle was returning from a Valentine's Day dance in his tuxedo, he found Hilda waiting in his apartment. His date had not gone particularly well, and he had decided not to ask the same girl out again. Hilda wasn't there to see him, but he needed someone to talk to. He asked her if she was doing anything later that evening and she said no. He said maybe he would go to her apartment and see her. She had said she wanted to be his friend, so now he was going to talk out all of his romantic woes with her. However, Huffnagle's roommates got home, and they decided to watch a movie together, and Huffnagle completely forgot about telling Hilda that he would visit her.
The next day in church, Hilda asked Huffnagle what had happened. "I waited up until 1:00 a.m." she said. Huffnagle felt genuinely sorry to have inconvenienced Hilda and promised he would visit her that afternoon.
During that visit, Huffnagle and Hilda talked like best friends, reminiscing about childhood, sharing experiences, talking about literature and ideas, and connecting at a really deep level about emotions and spirituality. After that conversation, Huffnagle and Hilda were inseparable for the remainder of the school year. They often went to the beach together, got together in the evening to study together, went for long walks, and otherwise just craved each other's company.
As the end of the school year approached, Huffnagle realized that Hilda was planning to go on a mission, and he realized how much he would miss her. He thought he might never see her again, and it made him very sad. He thought about it over and over again, and he decided he did not want to live without her. So one quiet evening on a beautiful beach, Huffnagle proposed marriage to Hilda. He read her a poem he had written to her and said, "I love you Hilda. Will you marry me?"
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
THE TALE OF HUFFNAGLE THE HUMAN, PART 2
When Huffnagle proposed, Hilda smiled and said, "Aren't you going to get down on one knee?" More sure of her answer now, Huffnagle bent down on one knee and repeated his proposal. Hilda replied, "Of course I'll marry you Huffy!"
Huffnagle and Hilda tumbled ahead like careless puppies, having a baby 10 months after they were married, living in different cities where Huffnagle tried to develop a career. But early in their marriage, Huffnagle noticed that Hilda didn't seem entirely happy. She seemed to resent not going on a mission as she planned. She also made the comment wistfully that, "I was just getting to the point where I could get any man to ask me out and enjoying being young and single. Now I'm just old and married and knocked up!"
Huffnagle was very troubled by these words and didn't like Hilda thinking them, let alone saying them. Why was she missing the attention of other men? Wasn't the point of dating to find love and get married? Then why was Hilda missing the dating game? It seemed out of harmony with their religion. Wasn't eternal marriage the point of everything? Hilda's thinking seemed dangerous. Were there former boyfriends she missed? Did she wish she was with one of them? Did she regret marrying Huffnagle? He worried and fretted about Hilda constantly. He quizzed her and asked her questions trying to decipher any clue of her disloyalty or dissatisfaction -- even if it was just a passing thought. She refused to discuss it with him, which only made his horriblizing worse as his mind concocted all kinds of things that might be going through Hilda's mind.
And there was more. Hilda was often unhappy. She rarely smiled, except when she was putting on a show for other people. She rarely smiled at Huffnagle anymore. She worried a lot about whether they had enough money and seemed to regret their sometimes meager budget for groceries. She often slept in until well after noon and was unmotivated to do house work -- so their home was usually a mess. Huffnagle tried to clean up when he could. But working full time, he couldn't keep up with it.
Huffnagle and Hilda had more children and more children were more work. They loved these children, but life had started to feel overwhelming. Huffnagle was often worried that things at his home were unsafe when he was not there and worried about Hilda's well-being when he was away at work or out of town on business. The budget continued to be tight and Hilda and Huffnagle got in trouble with credit card debt a couple of times, which they only overcame by even deeper cuts in their budget.
Hilda finally decided that she needed more money than Huffnagle could provide. So she got a job working nights as a waitress at a local diner. At first, Huffnagle objected to this because it would give them little time together as a couple. Hilda watched the children during the day when Huffnagle was at work, and he watched them at night while Hilda was at work. Hilda did seem a little happier. She kept all of the money she made for herself. It wasn't a lot of money, but it bought her some of the things she wanted, like the occasional pair of new shoes or a meal out with a girl friend. Huffnagle sometimes resented that He worked "for the family" and Hilda only worked for herself. He resented that she had more money to spend on herself than he had for himself, because most of what he earned was used to pay bills and support the family.
Hilda also made glowing comments from time to time about the men she worked with, or who flirted with her when she waited on them. Huffnagle wasn't so sure he liked having his attractive wife out in a social place where she was exposed to so much positive male attention.
Huffnagle also noticed that lovemaking had become less frequent and more of a chore for Hilda. She rarely wanted to be satisfied herself and mostly just wanted it to be over quickly so she could get back to reading her book or other solitary activities. Huffnagle tried to talk with her about how this hurt his feelings, but she refused to discuss it or even admit that it was a problem.
Huffnagle decided that maybe Hilda would talk to him in marriage counseling where there was someone else in the room to help Hilda feel safe. He proposed that they go to marriage counseling.
THE TALE OF HUFFNAGLE THE HUMAN, PART 3
Hilda agreed to go to marriage counseling. Huffnagle loved Hilda desperately and he told the therapist, "I'll do whatever I have to do to keep my family together." Hilda was less convinced that she wanted the marriage to work, so most of the therapy focused on making Hilda happier. Occasionally, Huffnagle brought up the concerns he had, but the therapist said they were "putting the cart before the horse."
After six months of marriage counseling, Hilda did feel better and more willing to be in the marriage. But her behavior toward Huffnagle didn't change very much. She was still unwilling to discuss his concerns. Since those had never been explored in counseling either, they remained unaddressed and continued to fester. Hilda continued to be uninterested in Huffnagle in the bedroom.
As the years passed, Huffnagle and Hilda occasionally caught glimpses of the relationship they had when they were young. They were both intelligent and could connect over thoughts and ideas. But they could rarely connect over the things that were most personal to them. There was an undercurrent of contempt between them.
They built their dream home with a vaulted ceiling, wood floors, and an incredible mountain view. Hilda had always hoped that moving into a house like that would make her happy. (Huffnagle secretly hoped so too.) In the end, Hilda was happier for a few weeks -- until the newness wore off and the house was just a place to crash. They tried the same experiment with a luxury car for Hilda. She was happier for a few weeks and then it was just transportation.
As our couple was sitting in church on Easter Sunday, Huffnagle looked over and saw that Hilda was not wearing her wedding ring. His anger swelled within him, and he removed his wedding ring and dropped it in Hilda's purse. She looked over at him incredulously and whispered, "what?" Huffnagle whispered back, "You haven't worn your ring in months and you ask me what?"
That moment between Hilda and Huffnagle was the beginning of the end. Huffnagle decided that his concerns had never been important to Hilda, and he persisted harder than ever to make her hear him. In turn, Hilda persisted more stubbornly than ever to stonewall and resist all uncomfortable conversations. The more they did this dance, the more polarized they became -- until Hilda wanted nothing to do with him and moved into to the spare bedroom.
Huffnagle went to Hilda shortly after this and said, "I love you Hilda. We've been together through good times and bad times -- 16 years. We have children. I don't want a divorce. Can we go to marriage counseling again?" She said she would think about it. Huffnagle went to her parents and told them everything and asked them to recommend counseling. They seemed troubled and said they didn't want to be involved, but said they would encourage her to go to counseling.
TO BE CONTINUED AGAIN . . .
THE TALE OF HUFFNAGLE THE HUMAN, PART 4
Hilda agreed to go to counseling again and said she was hopeful. Huffnagle was hopeful too. But this time around, Huffnagle was different in counseling. He didn't approach it with the attitude that he would do anything it took to save the relationship. He thought it would be better if both he and Hilda were heard and understood in counseling.
Perhaps Hilda was hoping that counseling would do what it did before -- and get Huffnagle to focus only on making her happy at his own expense. Perhaps she was actually just done with the marriage and didn't know how to end it. Perhaps she only went to counseling to please her parents. Huffnagle could not tell for sure which of these answers was right or if they were all wrong together. All he knew was that, at first, it felt like Hilda was trying to "win" the sessions. Perhaps he was doing the same. It is common for people to go to counseling wanting the counselor to change their partners.
The counseling went on for 8 months, but it was mostly over after the first month, when Hilda mentally checked out and became mostly non-responsive in therapy. Whatever the reasons, she just appeared tired and crestfallen -- like she was exhausted from years tolerating a marriage to a man she didn't really love. She seemed to be following the path of least resistance. She wasn't quitting counseling, but she wasn't engaging either. It was quiet, passive resistance.
They say some marriages end with a bang and others with a whimper. This was definitely a whimper kind of ending. In fact, Hilda and Huffnagle never argued -- during their marriage or in the middle of the divorce. Their marriage just seemed to fade out of existence.
The counselor once said, "You two don't seem to have any passion -- even to fire one of you up to go and file for divorce." Huffnagle knew, for his part, that he had been passionate about Hilda. But he was emotionally exhausted from years of over-functioning with a chronically depressed wife, and trying to earn the love of a woman who would never give it. One person cannot have enough love for two. Huffnagle had learned that the hard way.
As the years passed, Huffnagle and Hilda tried to mitigate the harm the divorce did to their children through counseling and other interventions. But it was hard for Huffnagle to watch his children suffer and act out.
Hilda moved in with another man before the divorce was final, believing she was finally in love. Huffnagle dated many women for a decade before he re-married.
As his single years passed, Huffnagle sometimes reminisced about his younger years and his marriage to Hilda and he was sad that something that began with so much promise seemed to almost end for no reason. He heard from the kids that Hilda's new husband had a bad temper and he hoped she was o.k.
As he thought about it, with the benefit of some time and distance, he understood that he had not been a perfect husband. That is not to overlook Hilda's limitations. But he could remember moments early in the marriage where he was needlessly insecure and jealous, and realized that his questioning of Hilda not only seemed weak and needy, but also reflected a lack of trust. He also thought about how he was always a little bit afraid that Hilda was not who he hoped she was, and might not be true to him and to their shared faith -- and he had never been at peace about this. As he reflected on it, Huffnagle realized that this had probably helped to create a feeling in Hilda that she was not right for him and that she could not be what Huffnagle needed. This was reinforced by the fact that Huffnagle often looked to Hilda for his happiness and validation of Himself -- which was overwhelming to Hilda and felt smothering to her.
Huffnagle came to peace with the idea that the demise of the marriage had not been all Hilda's fault. He had also played a role. He had loved Hilda the best he knew how at the time. There were marriages worse than theirs that went the distance -- even involving severe mental and physical abuse. So what did that say for Huffnagle and Hilda? Not much. Such comparisons are seldom very helpful.
Huffnagle had always previously thought that marriages ended because of abuse and that people need a really good excuse to get divorced. He learned that divorce is about a choice, not an excuse. Huffnagle learned the hard way that you can never take love for granted. It is a precious gift. It cannot be taken, demanded, or extracted. It can only be freely given, and a wedding ring does not change that. Real love honors agency and accepts the consequences.
Huffnagle also learned that a marriage is more than a discovery -- it is the creation of the two people involved. He learned that he could only create his 50 percent of it, and that marriage could be better if the two spouses together formed clear intentions about how to operate and create a marriage they both loved.
And here ends the tale of Huffnagle the human -- utterly human isn't he? I hope all of us can see the little bits of Huffnagle and Hilda in ourselves and think a little more deeply about how we show up in relationships. Divorce creates a precious opportunity for us to intentionally consider how we can show up better, be less demanding, be more connected, and be more capable of personal happiness and, thus, marital happiness.
You may be in pain lover past losses. But take this journey. Accept the challenge. It might be the best thing you've ever done.
RELATIONSHIP LESSON FROM HORSES
I love horses. I mostly grew up in the city and my ranch raised father decided I was missing out on the education in hard work he had received as a child. So he sent me to work on my grandfather's ranch with my uncle David the summer I turned 12 years old, and I continued to do that every summer until I was 18. I was horseback 16 hours a day. At age 11, I learned to get up at 5:00 in the morning, catch and saddle my horse, and be working by the time the sun came up. By the time I was 13, I could cut and corral cattle as well as my uncle.
During those summers I would usually have two horses, and I would alternate them every other day so they would have a day off between work days. During that period of time, I got to know about five horses really well. Each one had its own personality and style. My least preferred mount was a tall and beautiful sorrel named Lad. He was beautiful, and a great cow pony. But he was mentally ill. When I would call the horses in, all the other horses obediently came in, knowing they would be fed grain. I always had to go out and catch Lad in the pasture. When I saddled him he would blow up his belly so the cinch would not be tight. A mile or so down the road I would always have to get off and tighten the cinch. Before I discovered that trick of his, I had the saddle just slide off to the side and fell off a couple of times. Whenever I went to get on him, he had his ears pinned back like he was angry and stepped around nervously like he wanted to buck.
Lad did buck with me a number of times. Typically, if I held something out to the side of me, he thought it was a ghost or something dangerous to him and would start bucking. The first time it was a water jug I was handing back to my dad. I didn't last three jumps before I was bucked off. I can describe the other incidents, but you get the general idea. Typically, I never got to ride Boots or Smokey when my brother or cousins were around, because I was the more experienced rider and knew Lad better -- and he was by far less gentle than the other two. Sometimes I hated him.
The biggest problem I had any time a horse started bucking was that I would freeze with fear and spend all my energy trying to get the horse back under control. I always try to keep control and stop them from bucking in the first place. But once they start bucking, I have to control myself before I can control the horse. If you talk to great rodeo cowboys, they can tell you that they simply accept that the horse is bucking and, in fact the harder he bucks the higher they are likely to score if they can stay aboard. They focus on themselves and the things they can control (body position and movement). They focus on reacting to the rhythm of the horse and getting into that rhythm with him. They aren't fighting the horse. They are working with him. You know what? Once the horse knows he can't beat you, he realizes that bucking is futile and he stops wasting his energy bucking.
Much like Lad, most of us in this group have experienced traumatic events or relationships in the past. We are likely to overreact as a result of that. Much like the 12-year-old me, we are tempted to try to control our partners to prevent chaos from erupting and destroying our lives.
Like a bucking horse, when a trial appears in my life, it usually feels like chaos unleashed. I instinctively try to seize control of it. However, if I relax and focus on the things I can control, I generally see that there is a rhythm to it. It is not chaos. If I accept that the horse is bucking and get in sync with the rhythm of it, I can ride it out. If I fight it too hard, I am likely to get bucked off.
Relationships are like that too. If my partner feels fear (which most do at some point in a relationship) and pulls away from me, I might be inclined to react with fear and try to seize control by arguing vociferously for why she is making a huge mistake. So what is she going to do? She's going to buck harder. (I have learned this from experience.) What if I accept that this is where she is and try to get in rhythm with it? We are more likely to ride it out. We are likely to build trust and both of us will gradually realize that no bucking is necessary.
Life and relationships can be like riding a high spirited horse. You can't take them for granted and they can surprise you in all kinds of ways. But remember, when it feels like chaos is breaking out, it probably isn't. There's actually a rhythm to it. If you can get in sync with that and work with it, life goes better and relationships go better.
Jeff and Cathy each hold college degrees in the family science field. The principle of least interest is a prominent theory in this discipline. It simply means that the partner who is least invested in a relationship controls that relationship. This is so because the less interested partner is more willing to walk away rather than compromise or change.
We have seen many manifestations of this, such as a wife who is constantly clamoring for her husband's attention while he works long hours to avoid feeling smothered at home. It could be the husband who is pressing his wife for more couple time while she focuses on the kids and her friends, often to the exclusion of her husband.
In the realm of dating, one person may be very excited about another, while that other may still be dating a lot of other people. That dynamic creates a great deal of frustration for both of them. The one who is dating all of the other people controls the relationship because he or she is prepared to pursue other interests, while the other is willing to make the relationship a priority.
If you are the more interested dating partner, here are a few suggestions to help you deal with a relationship where you have no power:
- Date other people. If your partner does not commit to an exclusive relationship, neither should you. I have coached people who have protested, "But I don't want to date anybody else. I have found the person I want to be with." Don't invest more than your partner is willing to invest. This isn't a matter of playing games but of recognizing where your relationship really is. For commitments to be meaningful they need to be mutual. If you are constantly chasing someone who is chasing other people, you are likely wasting a lot of time and emotional energy, and smothering your partner in the process. Keep dating other people and give your partner a chance to catch up. Be open to meeting someone else.
- Develop other interests. Take a class. Restore an old car. Get together with friends and go to a movie. Do some scrapbooking – whatever you enjoy. Don't overload a relationship with constant demands that the other person "be there" to make you happy. Make yourself happy and accept what the other person is willing to give. Ultimately, if your partner does not get more invested, your relationship is not going to go anywhere and it shouldn't. Occasionally we have seen relationships where the more interested person gave an ultimatum and the less interested person gave into it under pressure. That leads to a marriage to a half-hearted partner. Does anyone want that?
- Don't get married where there is a huge emotional intimacy gap. If you are in a relationship where you find yourself always wanting more of your partner, this may not be the right relationship for you. You may have fundamentally different ideas about the appropriate amount of time together and the balance between relationship and outside interests. You might have great physical chemistry and the ability to connect in conversation. But if your partner is not invested in the relationship at roughly the same level as you, it is going to take a lot of adjustment for you to get comfortable in the relationship. You're probably going to do a lot of grieving. You have to decide whether that is something you are ready to do, or if there might be another person out there that is better suited to you.
Listen to our LILY Pod episode which outlines dating etiquette for mid-singles and for married couples. If in addition to these free materials you would like to consider one-on-one coaching for your own dating and relationships, email us at loveinlateryears.com to schedule a free consult.
Enjoy LILY Pod Episode 7: Dating Etiquette for Mid-Singles and Married Couples
"Loving someone will never be wasted."
During our mid-single years, we met a lot of amazing people and created many good relationships. They didn't all lead to marriage and that's okay. When a relationship doesn't turn out as we may hope (forever), the opportunity to connect with and love another person is never wasted.