Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘Wellness Wednesdays’

Working towards wellness

Coffee IV - aka UTOPIA

Coffee IV – aka UTOPIA

I’m working on getting better.

It involves getting rest, identifying what matters, and pursuing what gives me energy. And, of course, more dietary modifications.
Fortunately these dietary modifications are small this time around, since so much work has been done in this area already. In fact, the dietary edits can basically be summed up as follows: stop drinking coffee and cocoa.

I know. Wow. If you know me, you know this is big.

To kick-start the process, and give myself time to rest, reframe, refocus and plot the path to recovery, I have taken this week off. The plan is to get organised, since the current chaos in my life is by far the biggest contributor to chronic stress.

I decided that I would quickly do the top three most urgent things on my list, then spend the day with the girls, sorting out their dungeon bedroom.

I got started at about 7:30 this morning. It’s now 15:45. And here I sit, at my computer, just finishing off one more thing before I get started on what I had planned … or start supper and stuff. As usual.

Better luck tomorrow.

(Am I really SUCH a workaholic that even my failing adrenal glands can’t knock sense into me? Huh.)

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Parenting “on the spectrum” – part 2

Autism Spectrum Disorders | Image from http://www.autismdailynewscast.com

Autism Spectrum Disorders | Image from http://www.autismdailynewscast.com

In my last post I explained a little bit about what it’s like to live with a child on the autism spectrum, and how we identified that Goldilocks is such a child. Essentially, she has both Tourette’s and ADD, both autism-spectrum disorders. She also shows all the signs of high-functioning Aspergers as it presents in women and girls. So, without spending thousands of rands and dozens of hours on tests with the simple goal of acquiring a label for what we already know by plain observation, I’ve taken a different approach. I am harnessing the power of research, the internet, and maternal intuition to treat hat we’re presented with as best I can.

It is a work in progress. Every day present unique, unforeseen challenges, and I am sure I will never master the full scope of what it means to parent an “Aspie” with any degree of excellence. However, I can share what’s working for us right now, in the hope that it will help someone else.

Nine ways to help your Aspien Girl

  1. Identify her learning style

    We have spent a lot of time understanding just how Goldilocks processes the world. She is very musical, and even more kinesthetic. Ideally, I should be giving her hours of dance classes and free dance time, too. I am working on finding ways to share information with her that involve her whole body, and that use music. (Any suggestions are most welcome).

  2. Identify her triggers – food & environment

    Goldilocks can’t tolerate nuts, sugar, casein, lactose, wheat, gluten, grains, artificial colourants or flavourants, and any processed foods. Any of these, even in tiny doses, trigger asthma, tics, ADD and OCD. She becomes irrational, defiant and paranoid. She can’t control her body, her words or sounds, or her emotions. She is very likely to punch or kick others, break things, scream at people, flail around with her arms, forget things, shout, stamp her feet, be cheeky, be cruel in her words and actions, cry, make strange sounds and try to hide in small spaces. When she has not had any of these trigger foods, she is the easiest child in the world. She is pleasant, helpful, thoughtful, polite, kind and mature. She works fast and accurately in her school work and is artistic, creative and placid.

    Too much noise, heat or light, or noises that irritate; too much physical touch, or being forced into activities she can”t tolerate, trigger very similar reactions. While a certain amount of self-discipline is a valuable skill that she must acquire, forcing too much of it is a recipe for a melt down of epic proportions. It also results in what she calls a “tic bomb” at night, where she lies in bed making all the tics that currently form part of her repertoire, all at once, sometimes for hours on end.

  3. Make her feel safe

    This is key. At the tender age of eleven, with puberty looming large and what the scientific literature promises to be the very worst of her reactions to everything, Goldilocks finds it difficult, at times, to cope. My job is to let her know that it is okay to have “quiet times”, where she is undisturbed. It is okay for her to want and even need those times. It is okay for her to tic. It is okay for her to “cheat” in what she eats, and I will help her work through the consequences. It is safe to tell people about her challenges, and fine if she chooses not to do so. It is okay for her to go outside during Sunday School if the sheer weight of effort involved in socialising with so many people all at once is more than she can bear, and she devolves into one of her “tic bombs”.

  4. Make her feel understood

    As an extension of point 3, I need to make sure Goldilocks realises that I understand. In fact, I share (or have shared) some of these challenges, But even if that weren’t the case, I need to know as much as possible about what she faces. I need to do my homework. I need to invest time and energy into finding out what makes her “tic”, so to speak. Then I need to communicate that information to her, so that she knows she’s okay. And I have a duty to make sure that anyone else involved in her care in any way is aware of her special needs as well.

  5. Protect her from naysayers

    Sometimes, people just don’t get it. No matter how carefully I try to explain it all, or how much scientific backing I provide, they refuse to understand. They maintain that firm discipline will resolve the issue. Or they expect things she can’t hope to deliver. In those cases, I need to step in and run interference. I will always believe that education is the solution to our problems, and start these conversations with yet another attempt to educate the other person, to give them the tools they need to understand my unique little genius. And if they still stubbornly refuse to be nice, we gracefully exit the situation. We don’t actually have to put up with unpleasantness, and it’s my job, as her mom, to protect her from it wherever I can.

  6. Balance that protection with resilience-building determination

    Having said that, sometimes a little resilience goes a long way. I will protect my daughter, but I will also teach her to stand up for herself. I will protect my daughter, but not at the expense of a valuable life lesson: sometimes people are mean. Sometimes, people are hurting, and they lash out. We need to respond in kindness, gentleness and love. We need to be nice, even if others aren’t. This lesson breaks my heart a little bit, but it is vital, and I won’t shirk my duty.

  7. Don’t expect too much

    Goldilocks is gifted. Sometimes things come naturally to her. Often, she’ll look at a Math problem and it seems to solve itself in her head. She can read pages of old english fluently and with understanding. Science is as easy to her as eating chocolate is to me. And some days none of this is true. Some days, adding one to five is well beyond the scope of her abilities (just last week, in fact). On those days, I want to give up. My frustration is palpable, and she feels my disappointment like a living thing. A venomous snake, biting her, belittling her. Destroying her. I am ridiculous to expect to much on those days. I should revel in the good days and be patient and inventive on the bad days. But I am human (and busy) and I want every day to be a clockwork machine filled with highlights of genius and buoyed along by hours of happy, harmonious play. I expect too much. If I can give Goldilocks one gift, it is this: I will take each day as it comes. I will enjoy it thoroughly, regardless of how it goes academically. I will cease to measure “success” in academic terms, which have so little relevance to daily life. I will simply delight in watching her unfold into who she is meant to be.

  8. Don’t expect too little

    Even so, what can be worse than realising no one expects you to amount to anything? I will not do her that disservice. As parents of unique children, we need to be ready to expect the unexpected. They will always surprise us, and very often those surprises will be good – wonderful, even. I will expect her best, and thus elicit it, always encouraging her to be her own, wonderful self. I will remember that my idea of success, achievement, and excellence are not the same as her reality, and I will be sensitive to my tendency to measure things too strictly. We must embrace all that these angels offer us, and let them know that it is good.

  9. Love her unconditionally

    What greater gift can a child have than a mother’s love. No matter what. On bad days and on good. When she’s messed up. When I’ve messed up. When things are messed up despite our best efforts. This above all I commit to do. I will not hold grudges. I will not be cold and distant. I will not be unclar and vague. As far as I can, I will not be distracted. I will be available. But above all, I will love.

Today, I’d love to hear from you. Are you facing similar challenges? What’s working for you? And what isn’t? What have I left off this list and where am I going wrong? Please leave me a comment and let’s start a discussion on this vital topic.

With love,

Vanessa

Parenting “on the spectrum” – part 1

What “the spectrum” means

When my brother was about eight or nine years old, he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. We were not surprised. He’d been impulsive and extremely “busy” since he was born. But the diagnosis gave us nothing more than a label for what we already knew to be true. Oh – and some personality-draining pills. In an effort to appease his teachers, my brother took his pills faithfully for some time. However, the effect they had on his emotions, personality and creativity were too great, and finally he and my parents called time on the drugs, choosing instead a series of expulsions as he wended his way through academia. Needless to say, despite an incredible IQ and masses of “potential”, he barely scraped through high school. And he hated it. As I watched, I vowed to avoid the same scenario for my children.

A tentative diagnosis

At first, we didn’t realise that we had any “special needs” in our family. Both girls are beautiful, bright and healthy. They excel at anything they set their formidable minds to. But that’s just the thing. They don’t set their minds to everything. Goldilocks, in particular, can be very focused and effective working on activities that interest her. But if an activity doesn’t engage her,  getting her to participate in it is no straight forward affair. You’d have more success milking a male mountain lion. Her teachers noticed that “something was up” before we did. What we identified as Goldilocks’ unique awesomeness, they identified as a learning disability. We were sent to speech therapists, occupational therapists, educational psychologists and paediatricians. In the end, the “experts” diplomatically told us that we were both right. Yes, she’s highly gifted. Yes, she has ADD. Here are some pills. Have fun. I fought tooth and nail against the party line for years. I refused to give my child Ritalin until the teachers refused to teach her if I didn’t. Even then, I took my laundry list of concerns into the doctor’s office with me.

  • What if her personality changed?
  • What if she lost her specialness?
  • What if her tics got worse?
  • What if? What if? What if?

My fears were well-grounded, and all of them turned out to be completely valid. Having read the material obsessively, I knew the side effects of that little white Teachers’ Aid. I have had tics all my life, and while I could easily dismiss my own (aren’t I a grown adult, after all?), I certainly didn’t wish the same on my child. She had enough on her plate as it was. The pill took effect devastatingly fast. School was no longer challenging in any way, and the teachers were delighted at the turn around. Poor little Goldilocks, however, lost her spark. She became withdrawn and depressed. She lost her appetite and a noticeable amount of weight. She began to express the wish that she’d never been born. It was then, when I identified suicidal ideation in my eight-year-old, that I stopped the treatment. We removed gluten from her diet and started her on a strong course of excellent Omega 3s. The teachers didn’t notice, and within a few months I began to see a glimmer of my little girl starting to resurface. The tics, however, got progressively worse. The paediatrician and a GP both flippantly acknowledged, “Oh yes, that’s Tourette’s”, and offered no further assistance of any kind.

No matter.

I trusted them not one jot and set off to find solutions myself. First things first, we investigated the link between migraines (which both Goldilocks and I are victim to), epilepsy (which my mom had in her childhood), ADD and Tourette’s Syndrome. That research led us to the link between these conditions and both Aspergers and Autism. Even then, I was reluctant to accept any labels. For one thing, I didn’t want my daughter in a “box”, so to speak. And for another thing, it seemed a little like Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy as I kept digging into what afflicted my little girl, trying to identify it. My research (and some good friends) led me to the blog of Tania Ann Marshall, a research pioneer on autism in women. Here I found lists of symptoms describing what Autism is and how it presents in girls. Because girls are not like boys, and their syndrome experiences are different, as well. I watched videos by thought leaders and research pioneers on the subject.

Symptoms of Aspergers in Girls and Women

Autism Spectrum Disorders | Image from http://www.autismdailynewscast.com

Autism Spectrum Disorders | Image from http://www.autismdailynewscast.com

Today I’ll end here, with a list of symptoms that all match my Goldilocks. Next time, I’ll go into some coping strategies for helping your autism-spectrum child be the best they can possibly be.

This list is taken from Tania Ann Marshall’s website, where she explains:

This profile was created for females who are self-diagnosing or considering formal diagnosis and to assist mental health professionals in recognizing Asperger Syndrome in adult females.

  1. Cognitive/Intellectual Abilities – girls with Aspergers tend to have above-average intelligence.
  2. Education/University Life – girls with Aspergers tend to have eratic performance at university and higher education institutions. Despite high marks, they have a tendency not to complete their studies.
  3. Career/Work – these girls are very often drawn to careers in the arts (writing, painting/drawing, acting or music) or careers working with animals. They tend to work to become experts in their chosen fields, thanks to their obsessive focus on things that interest them. Social interactions tend to be fraught.
  4. Social and friendships/relationship– “Aspien Girls” tend to battle to understand social interaction, and use “social echolalia” (copying the interactions of others) to mimic social graces.
  5. Communication  – she can find it difficult to express herself, especially under stress. Usually writing her feelings down makes it easier for her to be clear and calm.
  6. Physiology/Neurology – a woman or girl with Aspergers will tend to be highly sensitive emotionally. She will be easily upset if her environment is disturbing (too loud, messy, bright, dull etc). She may need to withdraw at times to recharge. She may have OCD, ADD or Irlen Syndrome, and may grind her teeth. She will probably battle with being organised, and is highly inclined to have wheat, gluten, grain, dairy and casein allergies. She may have tics.
  7. Physical Appearance – her dress sense will be unique. She is either very unlikely to conform to social norms, or ultra-conformative to the point of obsession. There is also anecdotal evidence of a link between girls with Aspergers and anorexia.
  8. Lifestyle  the Aspergers girl seeks peace. She prefers not to work with other adults, selecting children, books, computers, or nature instead. She tends to be obsessive about her area of interest. She requires routine and works hard to “automate” tasks to simplify her life.
  9. Relationship Choices/Sexuality/Gender – girls with Aspergers tend to date much older men, or to adopt a same-sex orientation.

There are more on the list but they are covered for the most part by topics mentioned here.


References

Cheap date

This has been a strange week. The list of things I react very badly to when ingested seems to grow by the minute. In a desperate bid to create even the vaguest hint of normalcy, this week I tried taking an antihistamine that many people had recommended to me as being the “only one with no side effects”. Well. Apparently I am SUCH a cheap date that even a single simple antihistamine can put me on my ear. I spent a day and a half feeling as though I’d had three glasses of wine and wrapped myself in cotton wool. Nothing in the world could penetrate, and all I could think was, “I have to drive later. I hope the world stands still by then – at least until I get home.” The drive from “work” to home is about 1km. So you see.

Now that I am beginning to regain consciousness, I know some key things:

  • I am allergic to coconut in all its forms
  • I am allergic to every version of biltong (jerky, but better. Exponentially better)
  • I can’t have commercially processed bacon, despite what I post on Facebook
  • I am allergic to nuts
  • I have really severe candida and can’t actually tolerate any sugar of any kind – even raw honey or fruit
  • I really can’t have any commercial meds and still expect to be functional

So my skin is bad, my brain is foggy and my abdomen aches with distention. My scope for caloric intake is impaired.

But at least we’re narrowing down both the issues and the options.

Sorry for having been quiet.

Confessions of an anorexic – part 2

“Miss A—” pictured in 1866 and in 1870 after treatment. She was one of the earliest anorexia nervosa case studies. From the published medical papers of Sir William Gull

Yesterday I told you my story: why I became anorexic, how it played out, and how I started the road to healing.

Today, I want to share what I’ve learned from this experience. I hope it will be helpful to you if you or someone you love is facing a similar situation.

9 things you should know about Anorexia Nervosa

  1. It’s not about food. Not really.

    It’s about control. My life was out of control. My parents could not be made to see reason. My siblings would not cooperate. My grades were never as high as I wanted them to be. The popular girls measured their status by how thin they were – and I was a nerd. Even though I knew it wasn’t true, I hoped that if I could be the best at this, I might have found a way to be accepted. I knew I could be the thinnest (ie: best). I knew I could control food. It was one thing that was utterly mine.

  2. It’s not about what you weigh.

    That’s merely a tangible yardstick of your success. I cared about what the scale said not because I had a goal weight in mind, but because the numbers were real and clearly indicated that I was “winning”.

  3. Forcing me to eat would not have helped.

    People tried. They failed. All that did was to strengthen my resolve. I would not be controlled. Now, I understand that in cases more serious than mine this is the only way to save a life. However, unless you get to the heart of the problem, this solution is only temporary at best.

  4. Fighting amongst yourselves does not help.

    Blaming one another for my sickness is counter productive. I am trying to distract you from yourselves and unite you in a fight against something that matters. Please stop fighting.

  5. Tiptoeing around me would not have helped.

    People tried that, too. Even though I stubbornly refused conversation, I longed to be heard. A sincere airing of issues and a resolution to start improving would have been of immeasurable value in the early days.

  6. Focusing on healthy nutrition is only a beginning of a cure.

    An unexpected side effect of my experience with anorexia was that I learned that food could make me very sick, and abstinence from food could make me much better. I knew I’d have to start eating again eventually, but I now felt empowered to make choices that would support my body‘s unique requirements, rather than contributing to my general sense of malaise. However, when well-meaning friends and family tried to give me dietary advice, I was deaf. What they advised did not match up with my experience, and my anorexia was never about diet, anyway.

  7. I destroyed my body in more ways than I ever anticipated.

    Even though I would never talk about anorexia at that time, I did read about it. I told myself I was simply proving that I was NOT anorexic, but I think I was actually looking for tips. Perhaps I wasn’t reading the right material, but I can’t recall seeing much to prepare me for the devastation I wrought in my body. My hormones have never been balanced since then. I developed endometriosis and battled for a long time to fall pregnant. I lost  a baby. My hair is strange. I have heart palpitations. And I have a slew of food allergies and intolerances that make virtually every meal a minefield. I was not expecting any of that. I thought I could turn it off like a switch.

  8. I have become the Food Police

    My years of research into nutrition have resulted in a Mama who insists that her kids eat three healthy, balanced, Paleo meals each and every day, and get plenty of snacks and fresh water. Sugar is not tolerated. Starch is only allowed on VERY rare occasions – and even then, never gluten. My girls know more about the effect of GMOs and processed foods than most people my age. I never force them to finish the food on their plates, however, and go all Mama Bear on anyone who does. I also invest a significant amount of time into keeping food and figure separate. My girls think of themselves and others as perfectly beautiful creations of God – regardless of their size. Ugly is on the inside: poor manners and cruelty, not looks.

  9. I will never be WELL – although I AM better.

    What I discovered is that I have will power. For months after my appendectomy, I didn’t want to eat. I had conditioned myself to resist the urge. But I knew I needed to, and I had discovered that I could control my instincts and my body with my strong will. I used that, and it worked. I rechannelled my energy into learning about excellent nutrition, balanced exercise, and a sense of perspective. I stopped trying to be the top of the class, and focused on being the best version of me that I could be. The irony was that I did better than I might otherwise have done as a result of my new, improved attitude. I became a nicer person, too – more tolerant. I stopped trying to make people be what I expected them to be. My parents began to heal their marriage, I focused on the friends who brought out the best in me, and I learnt to be less selfish and more attentive.

    While it’s not a path I would ever recommend or choose again, I am much better for having walked it than I would otherwise be.

    I am still walking this path. When my life feels like it is spinning out of control, my thoughts often head straight for fasting. It seems to be a short-circuit in my brain, thinking that not eating solves everything. It doesn’t. I know that. But I sometimes need to remind myself.

If you’ve faced an eating disorder, or you love someone who has, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The neural pathways that led us to such extremes are hard to rewire. Let me know your experiences in the comments below. I’d love to connect with you on this important topic.

Confessions of a recovering anorexic – part 1

dietThe day it started

I remember the day it all began so clearly. I was fourteen. Just. We were standing in line, waiting to go into our Geography lesson. I’d always had a tendency towards skinniness, and I’d never seen it as an attractive feature – on myself, or anyone else. In fact, I had a passionate mistrust of the word “diet”, or anything to do with radical, short-term modifications to what I saw as a long-term issue.

And that issue was self control.

Around me, the girls were talking about the weight loss fads to which they subscribed, weighing up their relative successes (pardon the pun), and generally bemoaning their obesity. Although I stayed out of the conversation, I was irritated (a fairly typical state of mind for me in my early teens, I admit). “Why must they complain. They all look fine! And if it’s such an issue, just do something about it. If you won’t fix it, don’t complain about it!”

I decided I’d show them how it was done.

More to it than meets the eye

There were other things going on in my life at that time, as well. My parents were fighting all the time. They often spoke of divorce. We’d looked at countless houses with my mom as she tried to find “somewhere better” for us to stay. She’d even taken a job – a new development for our family. We knew the quickest route to a divorce and the legal ramifications of a trial separation. All weekend long they’d rage and fight. Threats were thrown down like gauntlets, and plans were made for “moving on”. By Sunday night, there’d be peace. And while the week would generally start off well, by Friday we’d be back at battle stations, armed and ready for combat.

Nothing I did could ease the tension. I tried to control my siblings’ behaviour to reduce tension. This would be amusing even with average individuals, but with my headstrong, stubborn and independent brother and sister, it was a recipe for disaster. I tried to ace all my classes at school, but there were some I could never master, and there always seemed to be someone better than me. Nothing I did could propel me to the top of all my classes, and I put in longer and longer hours to achieve mastery.

To make matters even worse, I was often sick. Food made me nauseous and caused my skin to break out. I had an ongoing cold and frequent bouts of bronchitis. My stomach was a hard knot of cramps no matter the time of the month, and I was plagued by headaches. Now I know that these were symptoms of my gluten intolerance, but at the time I simply felt like an undiagnosable failure.

These contributed to growing sense of being out of control over every aspect of my life.

It felt like flying

First, I gave my sandwiches away. There were enough growing, geeky boys around to help, and I explained that I “wasn’t hungry today”. That worked very well for some time, but eventually one of my teachers got suspicious when she caught me sleeping on her desk, and told my friends not to accept lunch from me.

Next, I made up a story. I told my mom I thought I might be gluten-intolerant like her, and asked if I could take a salad to school instead of sandwiches. She obliged. I loved that because even if I did “cheat” and have some of the salad, it was just lettuce and tomatoes, and I knew that wouldn’t have any effect. (I had no idea, then, that my “lie” was the truth).

Besides feeling tired (which took some time to start), I felt fantastic! For the first time that I could remember, I didn’t hurt. My skin was sallow, but my spots were gone. My stomach was flat, and my gut no longer ached. My brain was clear, and I could think. For the most part I had so much energy that I hardly felt the need of sleep. It did occasionally catch up with me, but over all it was a significant improvement in my quality of life.

After a few months, people noticed. I would fob them off with vague excuses, such as having an iron deficiency when I as obviously tired. I told them they were imagining things when they said my weight had dropped. I claimed I was dancing in my spare time, and that accounted for it. I said I ate like a horse at home (and at home I said someone had given me a meal at school).

I avoided meal times and family gatherings involving food. I hid food, threw food away, and claimed to have stomach cramps or nausea when faced with a full plate of food. My history of gluten intolerance symptoms was my firm ally in this deception.

I would never tolerate the mention of the word “anorexic” – after all, I didn’t care about being thin. But that’s what I was – and it had so very little to do with my dress size or a number on the scale

Coming back down to earth

Eventually,my period stopped, which was a welcome relief. However, I knew what I was doing. I had made my point and began to see that the time would soon come when I’d have to “go back to normal”. I was dreading it.

Then one night, around 1AM, I woke my parents up because I had severe abdominal pain. I thought my dad was spinning me around and around, but when I woke up in hospital I discovered that in fact I had passed out and been rushed to ER. I had appendicitis and needed emergency surgery. My moment of truth came when I needed to be anaesthetised. I hadn’t told anyone my real weight in so long that I couldn’t bring myself to do so now. I lied, giving the nurse a number nearly 10kg higher than my real weight. As I drifted into unconsciousness, I heard the nurses comment on how my body looked like that of a 12-year-old. They were sure someone had written the wrong information on my forms …

It took a long time for me to come round. My surgery was at 6AM, and at 3 in the afternoon I was still out cold. Even the doctor was concerned, and they took measures to wake me up. When I came to, and after understanding what had happened, I realised just how foolish and selfish I’d been.

I resolved to live a little more boldly, and leave a few things to chance. I also made a commitment to my own health: I would find out why food made me sick, and I would stop taking on other people’s problems.

This journey was a trial by fire, and it taught me a lot. I’ll discuss the lessons I’ve learnt tomorrow. But today, I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever faced an eating disorder? Are you facing one now? Or have you loved someone who battles with food/body issues? I’d value your comments. Please share your thoughts in the comments box below (just be nice :)).

– Vanessa

What your Mama should’ve told you about marriage (but didn’t).

A very good friend of mine is getting married in just over a month. He’s nervous, understandably, and has been asking me for advice. His primary concern is that, since they’ve been living together for a number of years, that initial “spark” has fizzled.  He’s worried that if he can’t reignite it before the wedding, it could mean that he’s making a big mistake, that they’re not meant for each other, and that somehow he’s “fallen out of love” with her.

Here’s my response:

It’s a trick!

In fact that initial spark is utterly fake. (Watch the video below) The initial spark is pure chemistry: your body and her body flood with hormones for long enough to allow your brains time to connect and identify a potential relationship partner. Science shows that this chemical reaction NEVER lasts more than 2  years (even 18 months is long), and everything after that is what it’s all about. Love is NOT a feeling. It is a decision. You decide to sacrifice your preferences and needs for someone else’s. In an ideal world, she decides the same thing. Then you lay the ground rules as a foundation for your relationship (eg: no cheating, no hitting, no badmouthing, no leaving), and you both apply a WORLD of plain, old-fashioned GRIT, and you work at it every moment of every day of your life.

Excellence requires EFFORT

Love is a VERB

Love is a VERB

To be good at ANYTHING requires hard work, practice, effort and determination. If you were aiming to be an Olympic athlete, you’d expect to train long and hard, for months and years on end, just to have a HOPE of success. In marriage, we should try to be the best spouse we can possibly be. We need to commit to training long and hard, disciplining ourselves and making an effort – for months and years. The key difference between marriage and Olympic sports is that in marriage these factors ALWAYS guarantee success, whereas on the sports field they only guarantee a CHANCE at success.

Failure is the result of expectations

The reason marriages fail is because people don’t realise these two things: love is an ACTION, not a feeling; and marriage takes lots of consistent work. It is worth it, but you need to go in with your eyes open.

Consider the cost

The only way to get that fluttery feeling back is to get it with someone else. And that costs so much more than you can quantify. True love in a committed marriage is DEEP. It lasts. It supports you when you feel that you’re facing the world alone. It comforts you when you’re at your lowest and rejoices with you at your highest. It supports you on the journey from low to high, and inspires you to get that. It knows you, understands you, cares for you. One day you’ll be old and infirm, and if you’ve traded your life of committed bliss for a few moments of feeling amazing, you’ll be alone. But if you’ve taken the plunge to be the person someone else needs in exchange for them being the person you need (whether they do their part or not, you NEED to do yours), you’ll be rewarded with contentment and a deeper version of love than you can even begin to fathom now.

Romantic love is a chemical addiction – Helen Fisher on TED

What do you think about marriage and love? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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