“So Let It Be Written; So Let It Be Done

Those of you of a certain age might remember the epic movie “The Ten Commandments” in which Yul Brynner plays the part of the Pharaoh of Egypt. The Pharaoh had a custom when setting a new policy or law to state with due gravity, “So let it be written; so let it be done.” This meant that negotiations and considerations were over and woe to anyone who did not obey the edict or deliver on their commitments. Writing our Marriage Commitments

For many years after that movie it was common to hear a teacher or meeting facilitator say, somewhat jokingly as an instruction was given or a decision reached, “So let it be written; so let it be done.” That was the signal for everyone to be on the same page and get to work on bringing the desired outcome to fruition.

During our Marriage Retreats our couples deal with the most important issues, challenges, and opportunities facing them and their families. They are thrilled as they build a solid base in their relationship then use the principles and skills they have learned to communicate effectively and find resolution to problems and set a new vision for their future.

After every successful discussion the couple is deeply relieved to have succeeded and somewhat giddy in their happiness. But we always gently bring them back to the task and ask them to:

1.    Clearly state the commitments they have made to one another.

2.     Repeat back what their partner has said so they both know they “get it.”

3.     Write the commitments down in their journal and read them to one another to make certain what is written is clearly understood by both partners.

In other words, the final step in a crucial conversation aimed at solving a problem or making a plan is represented in the Pharaoh’s ancient edict: “So Let It Be Written—So Let It Be Done.”

Try this as part of your problem solving processes and you will find that the follow-through of you and your partner delivering on your commitments on time and on task will increase; and you will find yourself with fewer of those relationship and life “weeds” that otherwise seem to just keep growing back time after time.

Have You Become Obsolete?

We were working with a couple from an Eastern state some years ago and the husband, whom I will call Rick, and I were standing outside on the deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Rick was thinking out loud, wondering how the downward spiral of his marriage relationship had started.


I looked at him and said, “Now Rick, do you really want to know the answer to that, because it might be painful to hear.” He paused but bravely answered, “Well, if I’m going to do anything about it, I guess I better know the truth.”

So I told him: “You allowed yourself to become obsolete as a husband.”  Obsolete Marriage Relationship


The word “Obsolete” can cut deeply into a person’s psyche and self-image. At work the last thing we want to be called is obsolete, because the unemployment line can’t be far off if that is how we are evaluated.

Just as a technology specialist can quickly become out of date if he or she does not keep up with new technologies, processes, and systems, a marriage partner can also become obsolete and out of touch in their relationship. You might call it the Dodo bird syndrome.

Perhaps you can relate to some of these patterns that bleed the life out of a marriage:

  • Sometimes we don’t go to the trouble to find out what pleases our spouse and we coast on past good times.
  • Often we don’t put forth the effort to grow as a communicator.
  • We stop putting effort into creating special moments together through romance, dates, and moments of happy spontaneity.
  • We damage trust and don’t know how to reestablish it.
  • We don’t learn new skills that might help us to better manage our health, households and finances.
  • We slip in our roles as parent, provider, or home manager because we don’t develop the skills or spend the requisite time.
  • We stop growing toward that goal of a more refined human being.

Never make the mistake of believing that “natural ability” and being with your perfect “soul mate” will exempt you of the need to continue developing new insights, abilities, and talents that will translate to an ever growing and vibrant marriage relationship. It takes time and it takes effort. But it is time and effort that brings an infinitely joyful return on investment.

Many couples have found that the best step they have taken out of obsolescence and back into relationship relevance and fulfillment is a LIFE Marriage Retreat. It’s time to begin sharpening your saw as a part of a sacred relationship. If you can’t join us at a Retreat now, begin putting some additional effort into growing in your roles through observing your partner and what pleases them; reading the right relationship books (we suggest John Gottman as a good place to start), and just spending the time and focus on what really matters.

I am pleased to say that Rick, through dedication and effort, turned himself back into a relevant and beloved husband and father.

Obsolete is an ugly word. Don’t find yourself in such a painful place.


Marriage Infections and Their Cures (part 3)

The story is told of the woman who, while making dinner one night, was asked by her daughter why she cut the end of the roast off before placing it in the pan to cook. “Because that was always the way my mother did it,” she answered. But it got her thinking so she called her mother to ask her the same question. “Because that is the way your grandmother always did it,” she informed her   Influences we bring into marriagedaughter. But that, in turn, got her to thinking so she called her own aged mother and asked, “Mom, why did you cut the end off the roasts before cooking them?” Her mother was a little surprised by the question but said, “Well dear, I had a small roasting pan so I had to cut the end off the roast for it to fit.”

We all bring enormous influences with us from our families of origin (as well as from other life experiences) into our own marriages and families. If only all those influences and habits were healthy and productive! But as much as our families loved us, most of us picked up some baggage from mom and dad and siblings that we now would just as soon not have.

We have previously talked about the fall of a great Mayan city due to allowing disease-carrying Spanish sailors inside their city walls. We compared that tragedy to that which afflicts many marriages and families as they allow negative influences into their sacred homes and relationships through the Internet and other media.

Fortunately, as we discussed in previous postings,  every family can take preventative steps to protect themselves from many of these destructive outside influences. But what of those harmful traits that are brought into the home and relationship by family members in the form of attitudes, fixed beliefs, and habits?

  • A husband brings with him from his family of origin a tendency to be harsh and even abusive toward his wife and children.
  • A wife who observed her own mother’s lack of honesty now finds it difficult to be open and honest in her own marriage.
  • Spouses whose own parents divorced have no clear vision of what a healthy marriage and family can be.
  • Parents and children, bombarded with negative messages both inside and outside the home turn cynical and selfish with those who most deserve their love.

In our Marriage Retreats we do not encourage couples to get lost in blaming their past experiences (especially in their family of origin) for their current marriage troubles, but there can be some benefit in recognizing that, along with many positives, we all bring some harmful influences with us as we form the nucleus of a new family from two very different people.

We can control usage of the Internet and turn off the TV. But how do we deal with deep-seated fears, resentments, trust issues, and negative behaviors that lie within ourselves and our partners?

At a LIFE Marriage Retreat couples learn and practice the true principles and skills that define every successful marriage and life of meaning. They discover that as they make shifts in their perspective and pay attention to the results in their lives they can lay down the negative baggage they carry and replace it with  beliefs, behaviors, and goals that keep them pointed toward their objectives of a healthy and happy marriage and family.

It is not always an easy process to overcome deep-seated beliefs and behaviors, but we see couples succeed in doing so at every Retreat.

Success will not come just by digging those harmful tendencies out and thinking the work is done.  The real key is to see and believe in principles and practices that really work. It then becomes an almost natural process to allow those to simply replace the recognized negative influences within us.

As we take accountability for what we bring into our families and relationships the way will be cleared to make the changes that will bring us back on course to the higher and happier ground we all seek.

Marriage Infections and Their Cures (part 2)

In last week’s posting we described a ruin of an ancient Mayan city (near the site of our Mayan Riviera Marriage Retreats) that had fallen, not by sword and gun, but by diseases carried by the Spanish sailors who were invited into the city. We compared the fall of that once great city to marriages and families that invite (or unknowingly bring in) influences, habits, beliefs, and attitudes that lead to the damage and destruction of relationships.In this posting we will mention a few of the destructive external agents that couples and families invite into their homes. Adults and children are equally at risk in each area mentioned. These dangers are equally destructive to marriages and the larger family, not just to children. Marriage Problems

The Internet

What a powerful source for good the Internet can be! But for almost every good there is also a trap laid for the unwary.  

  • Time that could be better spent with spouse and family are instead wasted on endless surfing and pointless playing. We often work with couples that claim they just don’t have enough time for one another but confess they spend hours on the Internet.
  • Pornography is now gaining general recognition among the medical and psychological community as an addictive behavior that reacts in the brain in ways very similar to addictive substances, and its impact on marriages is prevalent and uniformly destructive.
  • Family members can be enticed to form inappropriate virtual relationships that can lead to emotional betrayal and even physical and emotional risks.

One Idea — With your family’s involvement, set firm rules for Internet usage in your home. Make certain that computers are kept in public and open areas; set a time for the Internet to be turned off at a certain time each night; install the best filtering and tracking software available (Safe Eyes has a very good reputation).

Television, Video Games, Music, Messaging, etc.

It’s your home, protect it. Would you allow dangerous and destructive people into your home? Then why do we allow just as harmful virtual influences into our lives and homes? Stop debating and choose the safer route. Some television programming is destructive to marriages and families, case closed. Some video games and music promote excess and violence when we are seeking homes of peace and sanctuary. Many are willing to text words, images, and ideas that they would never say aloud. Husband and wife must stand firm. You deserve a home of peace and safety.

One Idea — Many of these unwholesome influences run rampant through our homes because we don’t replace them with healthier activities. The truth is that children and adults might at first moan about spending more time together, but research shows that when a couple and family spend quality time together learning and having fun, they soon become entirely willing to spend less time on television, video games, and other negative or low benefit activities. It takes planning and commitment to pull a marriage and family together, but the rewards are astronomical. Carefully managing your family’s time and access to potentially negative influences is not depriving them, but serving them.

We invite you to take your home and relationships back from the negative forces that might be holding it (and you) at siege. You can be certain that as you do so your marriage will improve and your entire family will move to higher and happier ground.

LIFE Family Trainings and LIFE Marriage Retreats will be happy to help you on this noble quest.

In our next posting we will discuss some of the damaging beliefs and attitudes that are often brought into relationships, and ways to replace them with those that are more healthy and productive.

A Thought to Reflect Upon

“Shall we just carelessly allow (ourselves and our) children to hear casual tales which may be devised by casual and uncaring persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish (ourselves and) them to have when they are grown up?”


Marriage Infections and Their Cures

Some time ago we visited an ancient ruin of a once great Mayan city. As we walked through the  grounds studying the crumbling stone buildings and signs of magnificent sculpture, frescoes, and even impressive technology, it was easy to see in our imagination through the mists of 1200 years the hustle and bustle of thousands of citizens of the city involved in trade, worship, play, and all aspects of life.

The city was well situated in terms of productive soil, adequate water supply, and a defensible position on cliffs overlooking the sea. In any such setting our minds eventually come up against the question: What happened to these people? Where did they go?

At least part of the answer to that question is found in the annals of history. In the 1520’s a Spanish ship anchored just off shore from the city. It is easy to imagine the dilemma of the Mayan leaders. On  Marriage Problemsone hand they were in a secure position to defend themselves against what was a very small Spanish force, should the Spaniards prove hostile. Put they were also immensely curious about these white, bearded people and their technology that was so different from that of the Mayans. And so they invited them in.

Within a matter of just a few short months this great city was in crisis as hundreds, perhaps thousands, died from an unseen plague. Eventually the city was generally abandoned and the jungle began to relentlessly take it back.

You see, whether the Spanish were hostile or bent on destroying this city and people was irrelevant, because what they unknowingly brought into the Mayan city were European diseases, perhaps germs such as small pox and cholera. The Mayan people had no natural immunity to such diseases and were annihilated as thoroughly as though by gun and sword.

As we work with marriages and families in crisis we often can trace much of the decline back to a few choices that introduced an unseen and, at first, unfelt infection into the individuals which then proceeded to overwhelm them, and then their relationships.

In our next few postings we will point out some of those deadly “diseases” that we unknowingly invite into our lives and homes and describe the havoc they can wreak. Some of those deadly influences come through our televisions, computers, and iPods and are doubly dangerous because society simply winks at them without recognizing the toll they take. Others are erroneous beliefs and attitudes that can doom a marriage if not corrected. Still others come in the form of habits or addictions.

We will also give some ideas about how to make different choices that will invite the fresh and cleansing air of healing  and joy into our families. Because at the end of the day just as the Mayans had a choice, we all have a choice of who and what we will invite inside the walls of our families and relationships.

Retaliation or Reconciliation?

One of the most important journeys any of us will take during our lifetime is that which leads to wisdom. One of the key components of wisdom is learning to recognize that all our choices have consequences, positive or negative. As we grow in wisdom, we are willing to learn from the results of our choices, making better and better decisions as we move along life’s path.

As we strive to become more wise in our relationships there is a particular choice that we will be called upon to make time after time in our marriages. Sometime in the next few days almost every last one of us is going to feel offended, irritated, or hurt by something our partner says or does.

It’s not always easy to think in rational terms when our blood pressure is rising over a perceived slight, but the truth is that conflict is the passageway to intimacy and health in our relationships. Without it there is no growth or refining. But to win the relationship rewards we must make the right decision in the face of adversity.  Marriage Reconciliation

That moment when you feel hurt or offended you will be faced with a decision: Should you Retaliate; or should you seek Resolution and Reconciliation? Your response to this choice will have an enormous bearing on your future happiness and the long-term success of your relationships.

You might have hoodwinked yourself into believing that you really don’t have a choice; that offense must be answered with offense, aggression with aggression (even if it is passive aggressiveness). That is patently false—you do have the freedom to choose. You can choose the mindless destruction of retaliation and begin or continue the downward spiral of your most precious relationship.

Or you can enter that special passageway that leads to trust and relationship harmony by seeking reconciliation and win/win resolution. It only takes one partner to make that first step.

I don’t want to trivialize such a step or the effort required to take it. We humans seem to be hardwired to answer a hurt or offense in a like manner, and without a determined and conscious effort, retaliation, in some form will usually be our reaction.

But it is possible to choose differently and, by doing so, to literally bring a relationship out of the cold downward spiral to warmer, higher, and happier ground. I point to some necessities if we are to break this damaging cycle of hurt and retaliation,

 1.    Find a space of humility that brings with it a desire for reconciliation above “winning” or proving yourself “right.”

2.     Take the initiative and be the peacemaker. Don’t let pride stand in the way of resolution.

3.     Sympathize with your partner’s feelings and seek to understand their perspective. You need not agree with their point of view, but it is important to understand and acknowledge it.

4.     Without trying to justify yourself, take accountability for your part in the problem.  The truth is that there are very few relationship issues that are unilateral; the roots of problems tend to be tangled together. Taking your share of accountability will help defuse the resentment of others.

5.     “Attack” the problem, not the person. Be honest, but choose your words and tone of voice carefully. Nothing has ever been solved through harsh judgment or name calling.

6.     Emphasize Reconciliation, not resolution. Never place the desire for a solution above the paramount goal of building and strengthening the relationship. Solutions will always be found in a healthy and loving relationship, but rarely in one marred by turf wars and a need to be right.

 You will discover that as the relationship is reconciled, many issues will lose their negative energy and will simply disappear or become more easily managed. So don’t hesitate to temporarily compromise on a particular problem, knowing that an even better solution will grow from the fertile soil of a loving relationship.

The Desert, the Oasis, and Marriage Retreats

Most couples who come to our LIFE Marriage Retreats have something in common: They have unsuccessfully tried traditional marriage counseling as a means of taking their marriage to higher and happier ground.

While certainly not all marriage counselors are created equal, this is not meant as an indictment of traditional marriage counseling. Instead, the observation points to a fact that holds true for any marriage enhancement program; no matter how brilliant the teacher, trainer, or therapist; no matter how true their teachings, observations, and assignments to the couple in marital distress, it will always come down to the couple’s willingness and ability to understand what is being offered to them, and to LIVE IT over a long enough period of time that it leads to a new way of being for both partners in the relationship.

We own a cabin where we do some of our Marriage Trainings. This cabin is in a desert region but sits on a pretty little lake in the midst of a lovely oasis. The cabin has been in our family for years so we have some understanding of what it took to change the desert into an oasis. We realize that the beautiful green grass did not magically appear; the cool of the shade from tall leafy trees has not always been there; the bright and plentiful flowers have not always bloomed in that region. All of these and more were bought by precious water from deep underground and consistent and dedicated work.

Even with the initial battle won every year brings a new challenge to maintain that oasis in the middle of the desert, because the desert fights hard to take it back. There is no such thing as cruise control, coasting, or resting on your laurels in such an environment. Miss any needed upkeep or maintenance and grass quickly browns, flowers wither, trees become infested, and desert weeds proliferate before your eyes. The desert demands commitment and consistency from those who choose to live there. So does marriage!

Like that desert oasis, marriage first must be built by those with the vision and commitment necessary to any great task, then be consistently nurtured and maintained.

It takes effort and desire to learn the principles and skills that define every successful relationship, then a deep commitment and ongoing work to build trust and stay true to those principles and skills. Every time we think we have arrived and think that we can coast in our marriage, the ‘desert’ will try to take it back and we will see the trust wither and joy turn dry and brittle.

Many couples find a Marriage Retreat and its traction building concentrated time and energy to be the perfect way to build or rebuild the oasis of their marriage, and to deeply internalize the principles and skills needed for the long haul. But whether a couple chooses a Marriage Retreat or Traditional Counseling, the bottom line will be their commitment to live the principles and practice the skills for the rest of their lives.

The Poison of Resentment in Relationships

Posted by Margo Dye, co-owner of LIFE Marriage Retreats

We all know that Humility is one of the indispensable principles of happy relationships, and I think I am beginning to finally learn it, but not without a price. I am discovering that true humility goes far beyond simple tolerance and has nothing to do with self-righteousness.

My dear daughter-in-law is so much like me in many ways, but with many improvements that I admire and am still striving for. Recently we had an unspoken struggle of a direction we were both going, but wanting it to be on our own terms.

I love her and wanted things to be right and OK between us again, but found that pride and issues that I was slow to admit were getting in the way. The selfishness and immaturity I chose into made the decision of going to her to talk about things a slow and arduous process.

This time of pride and its accompanying misery was grueling; I wanted the pain to end but was unwilling to let it go and admit I was wrong in wanting things my way.

At a recent Marriage Retreat we worked with a couple that had been separated by war. In those difficult circumstances they became distracted from what is really important in a relationship and each pursued some selfish interests, trying to fill their emptiness. As the husband awoke to the awareness of how far apart they had drifted, not only in real distance, but emotionally as well, he realized what he was losing and desperately sought to repair the breaches in their relationship. He was frightened and hurt and wanted the damage he had helped bring into the relationship fixed immediately.

Watching him striving to align his actions with his desires was, for a time, like watching someone trying to get two powerful magnets with the same polarity together, and failing in the attempt. In this quick-fix-I-want-it-now world we want to go to the store, pick it out, bag it, and use it immediately. In our search for the quick fix in our relationships we especially do not want to admit that we are a very real part of the problem. This man at first felt his resentment was justified and he wanted to make it all about his wife and her need to change and recommit to the relationship. But it was not until he found his own space of humility and took accountability for his part in damaging the relationship, that they were able to move forward and connect once again.

The time I spent in my selfish frame of mind was so draining. I was finally able to take my accountability in the misunderstanding with my daughter-in-law and am grateful that she was willing to accept my apology.

I’ve heard that resentment and carrying a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I can verify from experience that it is true.

A few words from a popular song by John Mayer stand out to me: “Waiting on the World to Change.”

I feel I could wait forever, and maybe I would die waiting for others to change to suit me. I am finding that it’s me that continues to need the changing and refining.

And that is a liberating discovery!

True North

In our LIFE Couples Retreats we often use the phrase, “True North,” referring to the direction that leads to ultimate life and relationship joy and fulfillment. In our trainings we teach the principles and skills that become the compass or GPS that keep us consistently on track, heading true north, toward our desired destination.

Many in our world fool themselves into believing that there are any number of directions that can be defined as an individual’s true north, that there are no rules or maps that govern the journey. It is certainly true that our individual journeys are unique, and that we each will move at our own pace and experience unique side trips and detours. We will always possess our own Compassunique characteristics and personalities. But ultimately  south, east, or west are not North, and as long as we insist on other directions we are doomed to wander lost in the desert, never finding the higher and happier ground we all crave in our relationships.

Over the years we have worked with couple after couple who, before coming to us, had tried to find their way to happiness and peace through back doors and short-cuts. For years they  butted their heads against walls and obstacles, convinced that if they tried it their way just one more time, it would work and they could finally discover the life and relationship of their dreams.

As all of us sometimes do, they had been living in insanity. You remember the definition of insanity, don’t you?Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

What these couples have previously failed to understand is that relationships are governed by principles that are as powerful, pervasive, and even predictable as physical laws such as the law of gravity. While I am all for science being taught in school, sometimes I wish the schools would teach a little less of the Laws of Motion and at least something about The Laws of Successful Relationships; the world would be a happier place.

Left without a map or compass many people stumble frustratingly in the darkness, relationship happiness and fulfillment always out of reach. The principles of successful relationships are always there, unchanging and ready to be put to miraculous use, but instead of allowing those principles to lead them true north to happiness they more often break themselves against them. They don’t figure out that as hard as anyone tries to make it otherwise, dishonesty will always damage us and our relationships. Impatience and anger with others will never bring us the sweet results we ultimately seek. On the other hand, they also find it hard to comprehend that principles of kindness and honest attempts to understand the perspective of another will always bring  warm rewards.

In our human pride we so want to do things our way and will fight to defend our turf and prove ourselves right. By the time most of our couples come to us they have wearied of the fight and have come to the conclusion that they would rather be happy than “right.” They have decided that humility is not weakness but perhaps the greatest strength that they will ever know. They are open to learning a better way and a new direction.

These couples soak up the principles and skills, thrilled as they almost immediately see the positive results of their first hesitant attempts to bring new skills and true principles into their lives and relationships.

It’s not always easy. Old beliefs die hard; former habits don’t always leave quietly. Most of us have spent decades  developing our current ways of being so we won’t be able to make a complete shift overnight.

But if you are like other people we have worked with, you are ready for new light, greater happiness, and are prepared to commit to an exciting and joyful journey. That is all that is necessary.

We hope you will join us sometime soon.

Addictions in Marriage

These are a few of the addiction-related issues we have seen couples struggling with just in the past few Marriage Retreats we have hosted:

  • A wife is tired of her husband’s drinking leading him to become the embarrassing “life of the party”at social gatherings.
  • A husband is frustrated that month after month their budget is destroyed by his wife’s spending patterns that she tries to hide from him.
  •  Husbands and wives complain of emptiness and betrayal in their relationship as their partner spends more and more time on the Internet behind closed doors.
  • A wife can’t figure out why she can’t make her husband become a better husband, as hard as she tries to force him to change. (be careful as you consider this one–the husband might or might not have an addiction, but the wife almost certainly does–that of codependency.)

All humans have legitimate needs that, if we are to remain healthy and happy, must be met. The problem is that when those needs are not met in an honorable fashion, we will, sometimes subconsciously, try to meet them in unhealthy dishonorable ways. That is largely why we have prisons, rehab centers, sanatoriums, psychiatric couches and, to a significant extent, unhappy Addictionfamilies and marriages.

Whether we try to fill our needs and the holes in our inner selves with drugs and alcohol, uncontrolled spending, inappropriate sex and pornography, co-dependence, or any other potentially addictive substance or behavior, it is impossible to do so without direct or collateral damage to our most important relationships.

In a relationship where addiction, damaging negative habits, or destructive character defects are present everything will be out of balance. The addiction occupies the center of the addict and everything they say and do is processed through the addiction, not through the appropriate principles of life and relationships.

Addiction is a progressive condition (or disease if you prefer) and, if not addressed and treated, will always lead to the further dissolution of one’s life and relationships. While addiction often springs from deep and unmet needs with which we can sympathize, the addict ends up living in a world of deep selfishness and isolation that tends to alienate others.

A couple dealing with addiction in their relationship must first and foremost come to a place of honesty about it. Once the problem is recognized and admitted there is room for hope of recovery for both the individual and the relationship to grow.

While recovery will always be enhanced in a loving and supportive environment, often the sense of guilt and betrayal in the relationship will have to be overcome to find that love and support. And even in a loving relationship a spouse trying to “help” their partner through addiction recovery can easily slip into unhealthy codependency and derail the recovery and further damage the marriage.

Through our Retreats couples dealing with addiction as part of their marital challenges can come to recognize the addiction, develop a sense of hope for recovery, join together as a united team, and begin to formulate a plan of recovery. That plan of recovery might include therapy with a competent professional or involvement in a 12-Step support group, or a combination of both.

The wonderful news is that even the first step together into recovery will bring enormous rewards of growing trust and peace and the couple can fully expect not only the recovery from addiction, but the recovery of all that is best about their relationship.