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Laying the Groundwork for Love
Before your love can become sustainable you must first establish a solid foundation.

Excerpted from, "Love That Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy" by Wendy Strgar, founder and chairman of Good Clean Love

The quality of your thoughts, especially concerning the people you love, creates the ground that allows for the growth in all of your relationships. Many people are unaware of the effects of their own thoughts or the powerfully destructive effect that negative thinking has on our relationships. Whether from unexamined ideas from our family of origin or unhealthy influences in popular culture, negative thinking and its projections limit the possibility of fully experiencing love in our relationships.

Some of the most common bad thinking that I witness over and over when people share their romance stories with me is the idea that the relationship that you are in should be easy, easier, less work, less demanding…and that being in relationship with your mate should make you happy, satisfied, or content.

I remember vividly the afternoons I spent sitting at the park with a friend, watching our kids play. Our favorite topic was our respective husbands. I looked forward to sharing my husband's most recent offense: It felt good to have someone else really understand the frustration that I couldn't communicate to him about his fathering style, or the lack of it, as I saw it at the time. The conversations only fueled my self-righteous, negative thoughts about him, and I would arrive home angry and bitter about my partnership.

I didn't realize the power of these thoughts had in my relationship until a relatively new acquaintance joined the conversation at the park one windy day in the fall. Hearing my rant, she asked point blank: "If it's so bad, why are you staying with him?"

I couldn't respond at the moment, but after weeks of soul searching, I realized that my negative spin wasn't necessarily "the Truth." As I began to experiment with seeing the positive in my husband's actions, he reciprocated.

The change was remarkable: As we began to accept each other as we really were, I could see again what I liked about him. We realized quickly that most of our arguments were variations on the same theme: "Why won't you be the way I want you to be?" We learned that it is impossible to love someone if you are always waiting for them to become your definition of "loveable."

The work of changing your thoughts begins with learning to actually witness them. Try it for a week. Don't judge yourself when you see bad thinking patterns, but be willing to acknowledge how your thinking is affecting your mood, your communication, and your ability to commit to the people you love. With practice, you can catch these mind habits earlier and earlier and develop an awareness that allows you the freedom to choose how you want to think.

Try to approach your relationship with this in mind: This relationship is not here to make me happy (satisfied, content, or fill in the blank). It is here to teach me to love.

Holding loving thoughts of your partner is one of the most powerful change agents available to building sustainable love. The energy of love that envelops both partners creates a safety net of unconditional support. This, in turn allows the family to grow and change as the individual members enjoy the freedom of discovering themselves.

Wendy Strgar is the founder of GoodCleanLove.com, which provides products and advice for sustainable love. If you have questions about products or toys send them in and Wendy will be happy to share her knowledge. When visiting the website, use coupon code NEWSITE08, to enjoy a new year 15 percent discount.

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.

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