Interview With Linda Bloom - How To Win a Man's Heart

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August 18, 2014

Interview With Linda Bloom

1. What made you write the book “101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married” and who is this book for?

My husband Charlie was invited by his little sister Claire, to speak at her wedding. He looked through a large number of lovely books of poetry and others about relationship, to find an inspiring passage to offer at the ceremony. He was frustrated because of the many pertinent pieces that he found, they would only address one aspect of marriage. So I encouraged him to write down some pieces of wisdom that we had learned over the years that we wished that someone had told us early in our marriage.

He came up with a list and when he delivered them during the ritual, he totally upstaged the minister. People were quite touched by the practicality and the truth in what he had offered to Claire and Michael. At the reception many people asked for copies and encouraged him to publish them.

On the car ride from Los Angeles to our home we jotted down hundreds. We formed them into one-liners of essence about successful relationships, with little stories to illustrate the points. We hoped to be for those new couples, the wise friend or relative that we wished we had had in the beginning of our marriage when we floundered and struggled. We offered our practical wisdom to the couples, like Charlie’s sister and new husband, who are just starting out on the challenging journey of marriage to help them get a good start.

2. In a recent newsletter your husband Charlie mentioned how his idea of minimalism versus your desire for whole-hearted intimacy brought about challenges in your own marriage. However you were unwilling to compromise or settle for less because you wanted to enjoy a wholesome, fulfilling relationship with him and you were able to successfully create the marriage life you wanted. We get emails from so many readers especially women who feel their relationship with their partner or spouse is getting boring or monotonous or that they feel they are being taken for granted or that they have lost the passion they once had. What would your advice be for women who are caught in this situation? Where do they start and what’s the first step?

When Charlie and I first got together, it was a source of chronic irritation that he was such a minimalist about our relationship, and that I longed for whole-hearted intimacy. What I would offer from my experience to those whose yearning is to have a deep and strong connection, is to not back down. It’s lessons in patience and persistence and the one who has the strongest desire for that closeness will have to step into the leadership role be a stand for emotional intimacy, be willing to risk bringing up the tough subjects, be vulnerable to expose the depth of their suffering when the emotional connection is too distant, and to be willing to continue to make the effort to enroll the less engaged partner. When my anger and resentment overtook me I was not successful. When my gentle but firm persistence prevailed, my partner responded. When I judged him saying “What’s the matter with you? Why did you even get married? You should have been a monk!” Those statements were not inviting. When I spoke from a softer more tender place saying “I miss you so much, I’m lonely for you, I want to be close to you because I really enjoy it, and it makes me so happy,” he was much more likely to respond.

To address those whose relationships are becoming boring, predictable, and monotonous, we can bring back the passion. It is largely a matter of checking inside to find out their deepest truth and sharing it with our partner. Checking in with our partner is the second half of the equation, but it begins with checking in with self. When people begin speaking more truth in their relationship, rather than skirting the tough issues, the relationship tends to have more juice. The one whose tolerance for boredom is smaller has more responsibility to initiate these enlivening conversations, and plan for more creative activities.

I believe everybody should have a bucket list. I have 100 items on mine, places I want to visit, people I want to spend time with, and experiences I want to have. It’s my belief that happy couples have interests, not necessarily interests in common, but things that they’re passionate about. If our partner chooses not join us, at the very least we’re creating a very interesting life for ourself. Quite often when we’re engaging in those conversations and activities that bring our excitement level up, our partner will feel their motivation to join us.

3. Great advice. You have a chapter “One of the greatest gifts you can give your partner is your own happiness” which talks about some of the things that you just touched upon. But so many women end up putting everything and everyone on their priority list that they end up neglecting themselves and even feel guilty of spending time and money on themselves. I guess what they don’t realize is that there is anger, regret and resentment building up inside them that is detrimental to the marriage and sometimes the husband has no idea of the pain and hurt they are suffering inside. What can women communicate their needs, wants and desires to men openly and honestly without any guilt or fear?

Women are strong in the area of being in service but there certainly is a shadow side. They often go over the line and end up martyring themselves, and committing to too much. They devote a lot of time and energy to career and family, and don’t take the time they need to fill their own soul-tank.

When I’m working with women around this issue, I ask them to tune-in to see if there’s grumbling in their mind. They may be hearing resentful thoughts like, “He doesn’t help enough, I’m not appreciated, I’m exhausted and nobody’s noticing, who’s gonna help me to handle this enormous workload?”

Once they hear the grumbling I invite them to be proactive about number 1, taking the time they need for compassionate self-care, and number 2, asking for help from husbands, friends, and sometimes hiring more house care and child care. I invite them to do this even if it feels uncomfortable at first and they feel a bit guilty about taking time for themselves and asking for help. Once they risk it, and get a positive response from their partner, it encourages them to do it more. It’s of utmost importance that the way they bring their discomfort to the attention of their partner. It must be done in a respectful way, not blaming him but talking about themselves, how tired and overwhelmed they are, speaking from their vulnerability. Saying, “I need your help” is appealing to the man in a way that her angry judgments are not.

4. Charlie wrote an interesting chapter “Commitment isn’t a prison; it’s a means to greater freedom”. We have a number of women subscribers who are looking for advice on commitment, especially what they can do to make it easier for men to commit to them. Though there are different levels of commitment starting from dating casually to dating seriously and then from dating seriously to becoming a girlfriend and from being a girlfriend to being engaged and getting married. The majority of our subscribers are looking for advice for the transition from being a girlfriend to being a fiancé. What are some things women can do to help address the men’s fear of commitment forever is like being stuck in a prison for life?

First I want to say that it’s not just men that are afraid of commitment, there are a lot of women who are afraid of commitment too. Its realistic to have some fear because it’s one of the most important decision that we make in our whole life. So many of us had parents who weren’t really delighting in their marriages or who divorced. Such traumas leave us fearful that we might become stuck in an unhappy marriage. When I work with people who have fears about being trapped I ask them to articulate those fears and to examine them to see if they are really true. Their fear may be taking a tiny seed and blowing it out of proportion. Exposing the fears and examining the fears to each other is deeply intimate communication, the kind that builds trust and allows the couple to risk going more deeply into their commitment.

There is also this romantic myth of finding the perfect partner and this belief often gets in people’s way of committing. It keeps doubt in their mind when the person they’re with shows their imperfections, which we all have. I work with this by attempting to bust up the myth and allow people to have a different frame. You don’t find the perfect partner, you become the perfect partner. You work on yourself, and hopefully your partner has a personal growth orientation as well, and together you co-create a beautiful relationship, and keep building it over the years.

5. Another common problem our women subscribers face is when their partners have the tendency to shut down or become silent. This is quite frustrating for many women because they are trying to figure out what’s bothering their partners, why they are behaving this way and how they can help them and the silence they get as a feedback is often confusing because they are not quite sure what they are suppose to do. It’s a popular belief that men are not very good at expressing their feelings and they don’t always want to talk about their problems because it makes them feel less “manly.” Are there certain things that women can do to make it easier for men to open up and talk honestly about without any guilt, shame or fear?

For starters, it seems to be reassuring to women when I tell them about the research that the average woman speaks 20,000 words a day, while men speak only 7,000. It seems to give them some peace of mind that men just don’t talk as much as women. Men’s silence might not mean that they’re upset or bothered by anything like a woman’s silence would. But sometimes men are worried, frightened, anxious, guilty, sad, hurting and trying to keep their image up of having it all together.

I’m reminded of an important teacher of mine, Stephen Levine, who said “If a person claims to have their shit together, they’re standing in it at the time”. It takes patience and modeling on the part of the women. By exposing her vulnerable feelings and needs, she is demonstrating to her man being real and authentic. She must proceed gently, slowly yet firmly and persistently inviting him into intimate exchanges with her. When he comes out from behind his image she can reinforce it like mad by saying how attractive she finds his sensitivity and open heart. Over time his comfort level goes up, exposing his tender side.

If a man can join a men’s group with the express purpose of becoming more real and authentic they can practice with other men. There is only so far that a woman can go with her partner. Some of the work needs to be done in the presence of other men who have owned both their strength and their sensitivity. It’s the wise woman who encourages her man to be a part of such a men’s group.

6. You talked about how it is important for women to ask for help from their husbands and not feel guilty about it. A common problem we hear from women is that they either ask, ask and ask and because what they are asking for is not being met, they either start to nag or they give up and a hidden resentment starts growing that worsens the relationship. How can women get what they want without nagging or suffering in silence?

If a woman has asked her partner many times and her requests are still not being honored, a different approach is required. I recommend that she asks her partner to have a heart-to-heart discussion with her. She needs to communicate to him how essential doing an overview of their relationship including the assessment of what’s working and what is not working. Most men really want their partner to thrive and be happy. They take pride in resting into the certainty that they are a good husband. They don’t really want their partner to suffer, and on some level men do get it that “if you have a happy wife you have a happy life”.

The woman has to appeal to the man’s enlightened self-interest. He doesn’t really want to deprive her of something that is essential to her well being, no matter what it is. If the woman communicates to the man that she is suffering, he may be able to hear her in a whole new way. He may not have been as keenly aware of how much this certain behavior meant to her because it doesn’t have the same significance to him. We have an exercise that we offer couples in our workshops that consists of rating the level of well being of the relationship on a scale of zero to ten. Zero is it just couldn’t be any worse, ten is it just couldn’t be any better. The vast majority of people are somewhere in the middle and most people have some ambition to move their score up toward ten. It’s a strong exercise exposing what’s not working in the relationship. We invite people to do the exercise with their eyes closed and hold up fingers at the same time so they’re not influenced by the other person’s scoring. And we ask them to give the responsible explanation why they voted that number. Generally speaking people do have ambition to make their score go higher and the exercise clearly shows how the numbers can go up. I sometimes kid around a little bit in class and tell the group about my favorite bumper sticker, “if you don’t want her to be a nag treat her like a thoroughbred”.

7. You have a chapter titled ‘It’s never too late to repair damaged trust’. In marriages, it’s not uncommon for years to go by with major issues not being addressed or repetitive conflicts never being resolved or couples living more like roommates or just going through the motions. What’s the first step anyone can take in repairing damaged trust?

No matter how long trust has been eroding for, it can be repaired if there is intention and commitment on both sides. The first step in repairing damaged trust is to tell the truth about how seriously the trust has been eroded and then it’s important to report out to our partner how seriously the trust has been damaged. This should be done without blame. The issue needs to be addressed by sharing vulnerable feelings of sadness, pain, and the fear that the trust may not be able to be repaired.

In our workshops we teach on the eight steps to building trust.

1. Acknowledge that there has been a breakdown in trust,

2. Identify where trust is missing,

3. Speak and listen from a feeling perspective without blame or defensiveness. Go beyond anger to fears, hurts and needs,

4. Accept responsibility, acknowledge your part in the breakdown,

5. Make appropriate amends (may include apology and/or forgiveness),

6. Identify practices and actions that will support the movement toward reinstitution of trust,

7. Agree to commit to these behaviors, and

8. Start living it.

8. Another interesting chapter is “Vacations are necessities, not luxuries”. In this current economic climate, more and more people are worried, feel stressed out and add to the fact that many even check their office emails and take office calls during vacation. What do you recommend couples that either are in a financial crunch or feel they just cannot afford a vacation or may even feel guilty of taking a vacation with their financial situation?

I stress the importance of putting relationship first before career and money. In so many families the tail is wagging the dog. So much time and energy goes into work that the couple gets the scraps left over at the end of the day. To take regular time out on days off to reconnect with our partner is essential as well as using all possible vacation days. When planning where to go on vacation part of the plan must have clear boundaries about not having office files come along or having business related communications.

There needs to be some protected, sacred time that is for the relationship only. There are ways to have a soul-nourishing vacation without running up much expense. We can go camping, we can stay at a friend’s home while they’re away, and we can trade houses. I impress upon people the importance of redefining success differently than most people do. Rather than seeing success as money, status, power, and influence to define success as having multiple, in depth loving relationships and then living accordingly.

9. What would be your top 3 relationship tips for single women who are looking to enter into a long term committed relationships or would be marrying in the near future?

1. I always tell the single women in my network to take their time to really know if they are involving themselves with a man who has integrity, is balanced in his sensitivity and strength, is kind, and truly interested in personal growth.

2. It’s important to go through a challenging time together to see if the man shows up consistently in a supportive way.

3. Find out if he is willing to take influence from you. A leading indicator of breakdown in marriage is when a man is so rigid and controlling that he can’t take influence from the woman in his life. To be able to negotiate differences, share power, and take responsibility for joint decision making, both partners need to take influence from each other.

10. Do you have any recommended books or programs for women who are looking to create happy and fulfilling relationships?

101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Last,
Authors: Linda and Charlie Bloom

Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth from Real Couples about Lasting Love,
Authors: Linda and Charlie Bloom

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts,
Author: Gary D. Chapman

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work,
Author: John M. Gottman

Journey of the Heart: Intimate Relationship and the Path of Love,
Author: John Welwood

Conscious Loving: The Journey to Co-Commitment,
Authors: Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks

Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples,
Author: Harville Hendrix

Charlie and I teach at Esalen Institute, Big Sur, CA on the West Coast and Kirpalu Center for Yoga & Health, Lenox, MA on the East Coast as well as other places. Our workshops have a great deal of practical value. They can check our website at www.bloomwork.com for locations and dates.

About Linda Bloom

Linda Bloom

Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW are considered experts in the field of relationships. They have been married since 1972. They have both been trained as seminar leaders, therapists and relationships counselors and have been working with individuals, couples, and groups since 1975.

They have been featured presenters at numerous conferences, universities, and institutions of learning throughout the country and overseas as well. They are regular faculty members at the Esalen Institute, the Kripalu Center, the California Institute for Integral Studies, and many other learning facilities.

Visit www.bloomwork.com to know more.




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