The wedding march has begun, the doors at the back of the church burst open and in a flowing white gown the bride and her Dad start down the aisle with all eyes except hers on her. She looks down the long aisle, sees the altar, and him, the man of her dreams, and she thinks to herself, “I’ll (aisle) alter him!” (adapted from Robert Fulghum)
To begin the journey to getting your groove back, let’s start by looking at how we normally make decisions about how to behave, why the natural way is so dysfunctional, and how to move to a different paradigm that will deliver long term benefits.
Before we begin dissecting how behavior works, let me ask you to give an honest answer to this question. Have you ever been in love with anyone you are not in love with today?
(I have a clue for you, the answer to that is YES for 99.98% of all people. Anyone who says otherwise will lie to you about other stuff.)
The follow on question is…were your feelings lying to you back then or are they lying to you now?
There really isn’t a good answer to that. Feelings are just what they are and you don’t bid them come to you. They just come. The trick is learning what to do with them.
So now let’s dive in to the circle on the left side of the figure above.
Where would you say that we usually begin on this continuum, Thoughts? Attitudes? Behavior? Feelings? (Scroll down a little after you made your choice.)
OK, the best answer is FEELINGS. Even though they are very unreliable, we still naturally tend to be reactive about our feelings, think about them, develop predispositions to act in a certain way (that’s attitude) and then we act.
This is sooooo very normal and natural that we most often determine our behavior based on how we feel…changeable though that is. Our feelings fluctuate with the weather, what we had for dinner last night, the condition of our liver, who won Dancing with the Stars, and about as many other things as you can imagine.
The problem is that this is very dysfunctional or if you prefer, it just doesn’t work very well. Seldom can you get to the kinds of behavior that produce great feelings by starting with how you feel. Even when we get to the place where we know that approach won’t work, we just keep on doing the same things the same old ways…and you know how that defines insanity.
So, how can we get to the place where we can feel what love feels?
Two things have to change to make that happen, and they are represented in the circle on the right.
- You have to change your starting point, and
- You have to change directions
Sounds simple, but it isn’t. The change in starting point is to BEHAVIOR first. The idea is that you have to act as LOVE would act regardless of how you feel or what you think or how your partner acts.
That is a bit of work deciding what acting in love toward your partner looks like and then committing to doing it regardless of his/her response or your own needs.
Now we are back to those four-letter words again…like work, and hard work, and much hard work, and very much hard work!
Our plea to you is PLEASE trust the process. The payoff is worth the effort.
So you must begin with acting with a servant’s heart toward your partner without preamble or predicate, regardless of how you feel about it or how he/she responds in return. I mentioned a servant’s heart before, so just to be clear, a servant’s heart looks for ways to ACT in such a way that your partner gets to feel what love feels. There are multiple examples and suggestions for how to do this that follow.
That will enable you to develop some habits (behavior) that will create a predisposition to act (attitude) in those functional ways again and again. As you experience success in doing this, you can have some intentional (thoughts) about how that is working and surprise of surprises, great (feelings) just show up.
Thus, the conclusion is that you can act your way to great feelings far quicker than you can feel your way to right behaviors. You must DO what love DOES if you want to FEEL what love FEELS.
A word of caution, however. The left hand circle is normal and natural and feels a lot like those old house shoes that are so comfortable. The problem is that it just doesn’t work very well. The right hand circle is abnormal and unnatural and is hard work. It is, however, very functional and does deliver what it advertises.
Since you have been acting on your feelings for most of your life, it is difficult to keep from reverting to the old ways when you have a crisis in your relationship. You will be tempted to sabotage your newfound functionality in favor of the old ways that don’t work.
Getting this right means that you will keep on doing what is right because it is right and it will deliver the results you want, and will help you fight against the temptation to revert to your old ways of behaving.
The results become spectacular.
What comes next are some simple tools for learning how to start and how to practice this new way to joy. Couples who diligently follow the simple tools that follow overwhelmingly report restored relationships at the highest level of joy they have ever known.
Come on along, you can do this. All we ask is that you trust the processes and practice, practice, practice.