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How to Stay in Love 101 – Feed the Right Dog

 

Falling in love is the easiest thing in the world. Your hormones jump in and do what they’ve done for thousands of years. There is no real effort involved; mostly, you just enjoy the ride.

The work begins after that first wave  passes you by. When passion has been put on pause and everyday distracts step all over everything. A relationship is a living breathing thing that changes with time. And like any other live organism it must be fed in order to survive.

People often talk about finding love. I want to talk about staying in it.  So every once in a while I’ll throw a few suggestions your way. Here’s the first:

Remember to Feed the Right Dog

Pretend you have two dogs, one named Displeasure and the other Joy. They both live in your house and you and your spouse are in charge of feeding them. Displeasure, bitch that she is, barks a lot. She is easily annoyed and she snarls and growls and carries on the moment something does not go her way. If her food is late she starts up. If she doesn’t get to go outside when she wants the yapping begins. You have to throw her a bone to get her to stop.

Displeasure gets fed a lot.

Joy, on the other hand, is a quiet and content canine. Loves to be petted but doesn’t cause you any trouble if you don’t. She will sit quietly in the corner and await the attention she deserves, but she does not howl when it doesn’t come her way.

She often gets ignored.

Here’s the thing: you have to make a conscious effort to feed the quiet dog. Acknowledge all kindnesses. Thank your spouse for the everyday things that could easily go ignored. Whoever is paying the bills should feel like you respect the effort that it takes. If you enjoyed something your spouse said or did let her know. If he did something that anyone on the street would be impressed with, don’t let the fact that you have seen him do it before keep you from mentioning it again.

from Making Marriage Work p. 63

 

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Enjoy the Book, Ladies

 

 

I answer a lot of relationship questions in different places. One is on my Facebook Page “My Mother’s Rules.” I also answer questions on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. Eastern live on Divorce Court’s Facebook Page.

Sometimes I find that I get the same kind of question over and over again. The details are different, but the underlying issue is the same. These days the one I get most often goes something like this:

“I am 22 years old. I have been dating this guy for a year. I think he’s cheating on me. He doesn’t respect me and he causes me a lot of heartache. But I really love him and I want this to work out. What should I do?”

Before I answer questions like these I usually warn people about my biases and history. To do otherwise would be misleading.

When I was single, boyfriends didn’t have Angst Clearance. In other words, they were not valuable enough, especially in the early going, to warrant agonizing over them. In my 20’s I was all about my education and destination. If a guy wanted to be with me he had to act right because I had other things to do. Whether or not he hung around while I was doing them depended on whether or not he clogged up my mind or my time with negativity.

When I was in my early 20’s I had boyfriends because they were fun. Once they weren’t, they got fired. Or just as often, I’d get booted because they found me less than accommodating or just a pain in the ass. Such was life.

Around 26 or so I’m not going to lie, I did want to settle down. That’s when Boyfriendhood became a probationary period. Is he good for me or no? If the answer was no, I moved on. The important thing is I did not feel that the time I spent discovering that was wasted. It had value. In the interim, I enjoyed his company and had some fun. I didn’t lose anything because I had not altered my life for him; I had merely let him join me for a small part of mine. And that part was fun because once it got ugly I cut him loose.

I never asked myself, “How do I handle it?” or “Should I try to wade through it?” I always thought, “Wow, dodged that bullet.”

Now, I’m not going to lie. I may have taken the whole thing a little too far. My date and run attitude left me ill-prepared for marriage. Once married, I couldn’t just leave. I had to learn to deal with problems and I didn’t have much experience with that. So there were a few rough years as a result.

I think, however, there is some middle ground you can aim for. Having a boyfriend with whom you have a few issues is not a bad thing. Life is lumpy and there are always going to be problems.

But once it becomes a story of unrelenting unhappiness you have to know it’s okay to let go.

One young lady told me she wasn’t into all that “starting over mess.” She wanted me to tell her how to handle the misery she was in because she wanted to stay with the guy that made her miserable.

In fact, I’ve had a number of young ladies (21, 22 or 23 years old) tell me they want to make a bad relationship work because they didn’t want to feel like they wasted the year or two they’ve put into it.

My response? Any time you’ve spent learning something, enjoying yourself or progressing as an individual wasn’t wasted. So you dated someone for two years and it didn’t work out. Did you have fun? Did you enjoy your time with him? Did you learn anything from him? Did you have any new and interesting experiences with him? ALL OF THAT HAS VALUE.

Once it becomes a truly negative experience, though, it’s simply time to move on. Yes, you will feel bad but you will get over it. To be without a man is not a failure. To feel like you wasted your time just because that relationship didn’t end in marriage or a permanent relationship of some sort is, however, a mistake.

There is one very important caveat to this entire line of thought. You have to take care of your business in a way that does not make you vulnerable. If you don’t control your fertility you cannot control your life.  Don’t make major moves to please him that hamper your ability to make decisions that allow you to move on. Got that part? It’s important.

That said, feeling that you’ve wasted your time in a relationship if it doesn’t end in forever is like reading the end of a good mystery book before you’ve read the book itself. The journey, the red herrings, the false turns, the snappy dialogue, the words themselves have value.

I get it. We women want to settle down and have a permanent relationship. What concerns me is women who settle for misery in order to achieve that permanence. Please don’t.

What’s worse than not having a man?

Being stuck with one that makes you miserable.

Enjoy the book, ladies.

Make the most of everyday.

Don’t worry so much about whether you can tie down

your tomorrow that you miss today.

You early years are not about locking down a guy.

They are for loading up your life.

JLT

 

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Love in a House Divided

I just spent a heart wrenching, spirit deflating several hours on YouTube watching videos in which black women defame black men and black men demonize black women. Of course, I knew of the great – and I claim quite damaging – divide between black men and women. I hear about it a fair amount because of what I do. I read a lot and watch enough TV to know what the current mood is. But I never just dove in and watched what was out there on line.

I got pulled into it because a guy on my twitter page tweeted a picture of a black woman, with a weave, a big booty and shopping for designer sneakers and asked me something like “Can you save us from our black queens?” I responded by saying that “Black Love often struggles to survive in inhospitable circumstances. We should all do better ourselves and stop blaming the other side.”

 

I included this with my response:

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His response was hilarious. He said, “I guess I should better myself. I’m not going to lie, I had to look up the word inhospitable.”

Of course, gender blaming is not unique to our community. As I always say men are odd and women are weird. Accordingly, we’re always going to have a few ‘What the hell is wrong with those people?’ thoughts about the other gender. To some extent we have always found each other befuddling and a bit confounding.

But I digress.

Before today I just never sat down and went through the cesspool of negativity that exists on the subject of black men and women that WE generate ourselves.

Sometimes the videos simply contained a man or a woman commenting on behaviors they have seen or experiences they’ve had. Many were accompanied by videos or pictures of either gender displaying what no one can deny is less than beneficial behavior.

Unsettling as the behavior was, what truly alarmed me was the vitriol with which each side spoke about the other. “Black women are single handedly destroying the race.” “Black women hold their children’s minds hostage to ignorance.” Or, on the other hand, “Black men are worthless.” “Black men are the weak link in Black society.’

I have a lot to say on this subject and I will return to it. But what I will leave you with at this moment is this. To universalize your own experiences or that which you see on TV and YouTube is a mistake. Each reflects certain stratum and populations within a very diverse black community.

There are historical and cultural reasons for how things have ended up the way they are. They serve as reasons but not excuses … so no one gets a pass  … but it helps to understand the challenges.

Here’s my point. What has become culturally common in certain parts of the black community cannot be solved by blaming one gender or another. We all have some fixing we can do. Demonizing one another does nothing to fix the problems we face for no other reason than that kind of dart throwing rarely, if ever, gets others to change their behavior.

I see a lot of anger and hurt, not thought and understanding. My concern is we’ll become our own worst enemy by tearing each other down in a way that doesn’t do us any good.

For Chas S. Happier Love Tweets

 

 

This is for Chas S. She wants me to tweet about relationships more … ones that are happy. And I thought about it for a while. Then I reviewed my tweets and thought my goodness, she’s right. I do sound like a bit of a scrooge LOL!

So … I tried to find something to say that wasn’t old or corny and that I truly liked. I tried to say something of value and well, it sounded forced. Then I began to think why I was having such trouble: A. What can I say about LOVE that hasn’t been said far more often and by far smarter people than me? Quotes on love and the happiness it brings abound. B. Everybody idles at their own speed. You can always tell when one’s thoughts (or tweets) aren’t in character. C. I talk about what I see. I gather thoughts and themes based on the streams of information I get. Divorce Court … ya know?

I think I know what Chas is looking for (I could be wrong) but I believe she’d like to hear hope and a positive take on a lasting and meaningful love. Here’s the thing:

  1. I am who I am. (for better or worse) and I think the way I think. I have never been a romantic person. I’ve been called a romantic curmudgeon and I suppose you could look at me that way. I might not be much in the romance department but I’m great in a crisis.
  2.  I suppose I could quote others on love. I quote others about a lot of things but those quotes are everywhere. People tweet what interests them.
  3. I think my quotes about relationships, though not warm and fuzzy, are in support of love. I’ve been married 27 years, most of them happy. (everybody goes through things) We all know how good it feels but what you have to know is how to make it last. I like to pass those thoughts along for instance …

“Never hook up w/someone who is weak in the same places u r. Diversify ur dysfunction. Give the ‪#relationship a chance.”

 

I think that’s helpful. My mom and I were discussing why our marriages lasted and this was one of the reasons. Both parties brought something to the table the other didn’t have.

Then again, everyone says communication is the key. I like to tweet about ways to get that done.

‪#feel#THINK #act … in that order and with that emphasis.”

 

“Talks rarely end better than they start out

Hard 2 get 2 a rational resolution when u come at folk w/all kinds ‪#crazy.

Stay calm. Get heard.”

I have found, however, that most of my tweets are about controlling your own emotional state which is an all consuming personal pursuit of mine. I also like to laugh, mostly at myself.

“Always trying 2 b on some ‪#positive stuff. ‪#Negativity

shows uninvited enuff. No need 2 hunt it down or pull it in”

 

“Every time I walk by a mirror my body says “Oooh, girl, you need to do a sit up or something…” ‪#LazyLazyGirl

 

And yes, I do issue warnings and the like. But people ask me about getting hurt or picking the wrong guy. I like to note the pitfalls when I see them.

 

“Loved u yesterday, love u 2day. Tomorrow’s on u. Love is a 2 way street ‪#relationships: I give u my all. ‪#Reciprocation‘s nonnegotiable.”

 

So there it is, Chas. I tried but it turns out I’m not that girl. The great thing is twitter is full of people who think about all kinds of things in very different ways. I bet there are a lot of people out there that Tweet those kinds of things. That’s the beauty of diversity in thought and personality. I love knowing and dealing with different people and enjoy their perspective for what it is. That said … lol, your tweet gave me pause and an opportunity to look at myself through others eyes. I’m always looking to upgrade.

ALL THE BEST, JLT

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THIS GIFT?

Today is a singularity.

There will be other days.

For most, but not all of us, there will be a tomorrow.

But Today, this particular twenty-four hours is a one-time thing. Once it’s gone you cannot get it back.

Of course, this idea is neither novel nor hard to grasp. Today and its singular nature happens everyday, which, in part, is the problem. Its regularity often obscures its singular nature. The very fact that there are so many Todays keeps us form realizing the immense value in any particular one.

And then there is the business of living that so often gets in the way. It is very easy to become consumed by every day emotional adventures. Traffic, bosses, schedules, children, waiting … it can be so constant and immediate that it sucks up all of your attention. You can easily get overwhelmed by all the things you have to do just to get from one day to the next. You work, you handle problems and you put out fires. The business of living often leaves us feeling we have time for little else.

That said, I’d still like to make a plea for celebrating Today. To honor it doesn’t take much time and the benefits are enormous. There are a whole lot of different ways you can live any particular moment. Each one, in and of itself, is both an option and an opportunity.

You can fill it with worries despair or regret. You can spend it nursing old hurts and anger. You can zone out on the couch and binge watch your way into feeling nothing at all. Or you can take a moment, just one or two, and acknowledge the singularity that is Today. Then you can decide to do something special with it.

You can do one small thing that helps you achieve a dream you haven’t thought about in a while. Small acts in pursuiFullSizeRender-6 copy 5t of a distant goal will get you there eventually. You can perform an unexpected act of care for someone you love. You can take a moment to care for yourself by entertaining a pleasant memory or get together with others who appreciate Today as well. Community, fellowship, support in general works wonders for all involved.

Valuing Today is all about taking the time to be grateful for it and doing something worthwhile in it. The context and meaning of your life is established from moment to moment. Don’t get so distracted by the day to day that those moments just slip away.

HAVE A WONDERFUL TODAY!

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*Audiobook Version*
My Mother's Rules" is a humorous, easy to follow self-help guide to managing your emotional life.

My Mother's Rules" is a humorous, easy to follow self-help guide to managing your emotional life.

Using lessons learned on the bench along with humorous anecdotes from her own 30 year marriage, Judge Lynn Toler wrote "Making Marriage Work" as a logical and simple guide to bringing back the practicality lost in relationships over the years.

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How to Stay in Love 101 – Feed the Right Dog

Posted by on Jul 14, 2016 in This was on my mind | No Comments

  Falling in love is the easiest thing in the world. Your hormones jump in and do what they’ve done for thousands of years. There is no real effort involved; mostly, you just enjoy the ride. The work begins after that first wave  passes you by. When passion has been put on pause and everyday distracts […]

Enjoy the Book, Ladies

Posted by on Jun 28, 2016 in This was on my mind | No Comments

    I answer a lot of relationship questions in different places. One is on my Facebook Page “My Mother’s Rules.” I also answer questions on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. Eastern live on Divorce Court’s Facebook Page. Sometimes I find that I get the same kind of question over and over again. The details are […]

Love in a House Divided

Posted by on Jun 8, 2016 in This was on my mind | No Comments

I just spent a heart wrenching, spirit deflating several hours on YouTube watching videos in which black women defame black men and black men demonize black women. Of course, I knew of the great – and I claim quite damaging – divide between black men and women. I hear about it a fair amount because […]

For Chas S. Happier Love Tweets

Posted by on Jun 5, 2016 in This was on my mind, Uncategorized | No Comments

    This is for Chas S. She wants me to tweet about relationships more … ones that are happy. And I thought about it for a while. Then I reviewed my tweets and thought my goodness, she’s right. I do sound like a bit of a scrooge LOL! So … I tried to find […]

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THIS GIFT?

Posted by on Jun 3, 2016 in This was on my mind | No Comments

Today is a singularity. There will be other days. For most, but not all of us, there will be a tomorrow. But Today, this particular twenty-four hours is a one-time thing. Once it’s gone you cannot get it back. Of course, this idea is neither novel nor hard to grasp. Today and its singular nature […]