What brings back the love in a relationship?

by Nathan Chua

As I join couples and families in their efforts to improve their lives together, I am beginning to see the wisdom in employing an old marketing slogan from a popular sports brand, “Just do it.” Much of the struggles that couples experience is not that they don’t love each other anymore, but they seem to have lost the ability to feel loved, or be loving.
There are many instances wherein couples think that they have to feel something, to do something. How can I be loving if I don’t feel like it? Unfortunately, the more a couple waits for the feelings to come, the more time is spent on waiting for something that needs acting upon.
This is probably one of the instances when acting or behaving a certain way, comes before the feelings of love. One only needs to go back to the courtship days, when each wants to outdo the other in expressing love. Even if you didn’t like to do certain things, you would do it to win the affections of the other. We do it to bring feelings of love.
So what should couples do to make them fall in love again? Just do it even if you don’t feel like it. No matter how wasteful you think buying those flowers is for your partner, just do it. No matter how much you don’t like expressing words of appreciation or tenderness, just do it.
Another common objection to this idea, is that people often feel it’s faking it to be someone you thought you have not been for so long. “It would feel fake if I were to change into a kinder, more appreciative and transparent person,” as many would say. Well, we can turn this statement around by saying that what you or others have considered to be your personality or style of relating, maybe just you faking it. The real you, is the one who wants to be more expressive, and who wants to act more consistently with how you feel inside. That self has been in hiding because of being hurt or shamed in the past, by the people you entrusted those genuine feelings and desires to.
Just remember you’re doing it because you want to keep the feelings of love. And if the law of averages applies, you will most likely receive the same loving acts in return. Furthermore, just do it because this may be the real you, who has been hidden from sight for so long…for that real you may turn out to be the better, more likable you.

The Extended Family – Vlog

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The Extended Family

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I believe the only way to better handle the multiple relationships, is to realize the difference between urgent assistance and personal responsibility. Much of the confusion lies in determining which areas need intervention from the extended family, and which don’t. Unnecessary conflicts arise when relatives start to dip their fingers into areas where they should not be. For instance, fights between couples become fights between two sides of the family.

by Nathan Chua

If you think this is a phenomenon unique to Asian families, well, guess again. During the crisis of 2008, we saw how important the extended family is even in the US, where rough and rugged individualism is considered an asset, and an admirable trait. We witnessed how families banded together to assist each other survive America’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Adult children of working age had little choice but to move back into their parents’ homes.

I think what makes our brand of extended family more complicated, is the involvement of uncles, aunts and cousins. With some, it can go as far as a clan no less. Although it is hard to blame the culture for this, as I see it as partly a failure of government institutions to improve social services like health, education and pension services. Families can only count on each other when crises strike, just as our current president described he envisions his future illness as one that should be taken care of by his children, or even his children’s children. In the more developed economies, individuals can manage to survive on their own through institutionalized government services.

Unfortunately, this dependence on family and the extended family, leads to another dimension of relationships that people need to maintain. It is difficult enough to relate to one other person, how much more challenging will it be if one needed to do it with a whole bunch of people!

I believe the only way to better handle the multiple relationships, is to realize the difference between urgent assistance and personal responsibility. Much of the confusion lies in determining which areas need intervention from the extended family, and which don’t. Unnecessary conflicts arise when relatives start to dip their fingers into areas where they should not be. For instance, fights between couples become fights between two sides of the family.

The second drawback is the debt of gratitude that parents and the older generation expect from the innocent young. Enormous amounts of pressure are dead weight on the young shoulders of a generation of children. The consequences are evident, not only in the social fabric of society, but also in the false selves that a whole bunch of kids have to assume. Their lives revolve around playing a rescuer role for the family, completely oblivious of who they really are. The debt of gratitude becomes simply a debt.

There is also that element of gossip. Many say that gossip is rather inconsequential. It’s just fun chatter that makes for an interesting piece of discussion at dinner time, or even during large family gatherings. No one gets hurt and everyone has a good time. It can even give participants that smug feeling, that they have insightful ideas, notwithstanding the fact that these ideas, are confined to the feebleminded task of faultfinding.

What is unseen is how gossip affects the very same people who engage in it. Yes, how many times have I heard people feel frozen in life, just because of the fear of being shamed by relatives. And yes, behind every gossip, is that part of us that feels shameful of some of the things that we all experience as human beings. It can be, most of the time, a projection of our own shame on other people. We participate in gossip thinking that we will never be or make the same mistakes as the other.

Now imagine the anxiety and depression that can provoke in anyone. Be perfect lest be subject to the same gossip mill that you were once a participant. For after all the flipside of gossip, is simply shame, a most powerful tool we use to feel above our own humanity.

The upshot is, while it is true that the extended family plays a vital role in helping both the young and the old generations survive in a Third World country, we must be aware of its limits. Be careful to make it a healthy interdependence. Be watchful that most deeds are done based on love, and a willingness to give, without any expected return of the favor. Do it because you love, not because it is the way it is supposed to be, for it is at bottom, an act of love to be accepted, not an entitlement to be claimed.

Is mindfulness the answer to emptiness? Vlog

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