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5 Tips For Maintaining Healthy Relationships

I believe at last count there were 4,879,246 articles on the Internet describing how to maintain a healthy relationship.  Therefore, I felt it was important to write another.  I was also inspired by the fact that this article title is now used as a sample placeholder article for downloadable empty blog templates which further trivializes the subject to the point where I feel I can now confidently enter the fray.

Happy relationships are a byproduct of fake news.  Oddly enough, the Russians, who are not well-known for happiness in any form, may well be behind the proliferation of this theme online.  It is believed that they can undermine our culture by encouraging us to believe in delusional happiness as a perpetual human state and necessary birthright such that, at the mere hint of anti-glee, we will break our society apart and devour it in yummy toxic bits.

Nonetheless, here are several ways to maintain total unadulterated bliss at all times in your relationships.  The good news is that if these fail to bring about the desired result, it is most likely that something is wrong with you.  Just to be entirely clear, this is good news for me.

1.  Communication:  It is best to communicate using a series of mono-syllabic grunts coupled with passive aggressive facial expressions of various forms of disapproval.  Anything more complex than this is likely to create a phenomenon known as “sharing” which generally leads to some form of unhappiness within 4-12 minutes of the first symptoms.

2.  Listening:  Hearing is the natural enemy of happiness.  To test this theory please go to the nearest public place and listen to other people speak.  Within 4-12 minutes you are likely to feel faint or experience acid reflux.  However, in a relationship, if two people follow the main principles outlined in point #1, there should be little listening to do.

3. Compromise:  Happiness depends entirely on indulging your every need and fleeting whim without hesitation.  If anything is interfering with that it is likely you may have fallen prey to momentary bout of listening.  If you find yourself feeling the need to consider someone else’s needs, the Russians may have already won.

4. Respect:  It is very important in relationships that the other person manifest respect for you on the off chance you happen to be noticing what they are doing.

5. Honesty:  This comes in the form of an ointment that can be purchased online or grown in petri dishes in cool dark areas of your house.  Rub some on your face before communicating and it may help.  If someone claims that you are not honest, then point out that they may have accidently been listening and remind them to compromise by showing you some respect.  Then rub some on them.

Remember, above all, it is important to remember that it is your patriotic duty to pursue unfettered joy at every turn.  For the good of our country, please keep these principles in mind in your relationships lest our nation will melt into the now dangerously warming seas from whence our ancestors crawled several years ago.  Think of them.  Think of yourself.  Think of me.  Best wishes.

Friends in the Work of Life, Friends in the Fun of Life

One day I was lamenting the loss of friends post-divorce that I had felt close to throughout the marriage.  It was not that I did not have other friends in my life at the time, but I was confused by why people I had once felt close to were now no longer talking to me or even trying to be a part of my life.  It was then that my therapist said to me, “Well Doug, some people are friends in in the fun of life and some are friends in the work of life.”  I found that to be an evocative sentiment at the time and it has grown on me even more since.

These “fun of life” friends were people who got together some few times a year at parties that all followed a pattern.  We gathered and had conversation for about an hour or so that celebrated our wit and said very little.  We never delved into each other’s lives.  We never talked of hopes, dreams or fears.  We never talked of pain or hardship.  We absolutely never spoke of feelings.  Then after about an hour or so the drinks began to kick in.

Once the alcohol started flowing through our veins we became louder, more sarcastic, and more judgmental for our own amusement.  The evenings flowed through a period of recollection and nostalgia that generally followed the pattern of recalling the same stories we had told the last time we got together. After that, things would get even louder, games might be played, music would start, dancing may ensue and the evening would reach its inevitable tipping point.  Soon all would be drunkenness.  This is fun, in a way, but it is also empty in more meaningful ways.

Eventually someone would fall over and we would realize that the evening probably best be drawn to a close before we all fell over.  We would retire and wake up in the morning craving carbs and Advil. Slowly people would muster up the strength to get in their cars and leave.  We vowed that it was a fantastic time and we were fabulous people who loved each other just so so much.

We never spoke of the mental illness suffered by one of the friends who lived a paranoid schizophrenic life in a one-room apartment with a refrigerator full of only beer.  We never spoke of the failed relationships, unhappy marriages or daily struggles that made up the lives of the guests.  We never encountered anything real in each other.  We reveled in the fakery, drenched ourselves in nostalgia, drank like fish, and called that love and friendship.

Friends in the fun of life.

Then later in my life I began to form different friends. When we got together we surely had fun.  We told stories, we laughed we ate and we sometimes drank.  Lots of time we ran. We ran in any weather all year around. We went to events together.  We celebrated each other at special times.  We created special times so that we could celebrate together.  We celebrated life.

We also knew each other for real.  We knew who was sick, who was suffering, who was hurting and who had a joy to share.  We acknowledged that life was a winding road and we took each other’s hand and said “Let’s walk (or run) together”.  We met weekly or many times a week and looked at those times as highlights of our week.

Friends in the work of life.

The fun of life is a good thing.  It is not to be completely disparaged.  However, if relationships only seem to have a toehold in that reality they are certainly of dubious value. Or if relationships like those are the only ones you have than your life will surely be wanting for deeper connections.

The work of life is what we each face each moment of every day.  It is joyous but messy, happy but sad, celebratory but painful.  It is in the reality of these dichotomies and struggles that we connect at the level of our soul’s daily striving to touch the divine in all of us and be one.

Friends in the work of life.

I wish them for you all.  I treasure mine.

Walls, Windows and the Nature of Intimacy

Humans are meant to connect with others.  This drive is built in to our wiring.  Though we may have the need we do not always have the ability or abilities are constrained. We are generally much better at building walls than we are at creating windows.  Yet is only these windows into ourselves and others that can ultimately let intimacy in.  It is easier to put up a wall but not better.

Relationships can be built on many other foundations and still serve helpful purposes without reaching into the realms of intimacy.  However, this still leaves a primal void that will seek other ways to be filled, some perhaps unhealthy.

Many of us become involved with addictions, depression and perpetual distress.  We may also see people who fill voids with materialism treating their lack of intimate connections with connections to widening array of self-aggrandizing stuff.  Of course there is always the love of work.  We feel so noble when we throw ourselves into hyper-performing professionally.  The irony is it generally leads to more money so you can feed the materialistic urges too.  What a perfect deal. There no end to the number of habits that we will conjure up to give ourselves some comfort from the pains in ourselves.

Intimacy is not a single state.  I believe it is a process of ongoing revelation and growth.  There are four key elements to it.  I borrowed these from the Johari Window model.   The “other” in this case could be any other person but in this case I am speaking primarily about love relationships.

  1. What you know about yourself and you share with the other so they know it too.
  2. What you know about yourself and do not share with the other so they do not know it.
  3. What the other knows about you yet you do not know it about yourself.
  4. What neither you or the other know about you.

What You Know About Yourself and Share

In an intimate relationship this window should be the largest.  It should also grow as you become of aware of new things and seek to share them.  The things that you know about yourself are both positive and negative (as well as everything in between).  There should be no fear or shame in sharing these with your partner and they with you.  It is the source of the deepest bonds. When a relationship is growing and thriving this will be the area where intimacy thrives.


What You Know About Yourself and Do Not Share

This is not an open window but rather one with the shades drawn.  It can be a dangerous place where we keep things about ourselves hidden and try to manipulate reality.  I am not sure I know of any good reasons to do this though I am sure some people would say that you cannot share everything and some things are best left unknown in the interests of everyone.   I think things should move from this category to number 1 as much as possible.

What The Other Knows That You Do Not

This is like one of those windows in the police station where you can see through it from one side but not the other.  Relationships can suffer when this window gets too big.  Sometimes the other may realize things about your nature that you are not willing to see in yourself.  This denial breeds conflict and pain.


What Neither You Nor The Other Know

Though may seem like a hopeless dilemma it is actually where some of the greatest opportunities for deepening intimacy may come from.  As we open up to ourselves and become more intimate with ourselves, there is more to share.  This also relates to the concept of loving yourself which I recently wrote about here.

I believe we all sense the need for intimacy.  We seek connection.  We hurt when connections are damaged.  We fight when connections are threatened. Here is to the forever flawed and achingly imperfect process of finding our way through our own journeys in intimacy.  Build windows…not walls.



Shrimp Suspended in Green Jello Mold

bad food art shrimp aspic

In the annals of Bad Food Art, there is a consistent theme around the concept of food being presented in a molded shape.  Anytime you can take a series of ingredients and make them appear to be something altogether outside anything that occurs in the natural world it represents a triumph of human technology.  Jello molds are the consummate example of this (though they are closely rivaled by the “loaf” which may get it’s own wing in the Bad Food Art Museum soon). Read More

Velveeta- Golden Glory

bad food art velveeta

I believe we all secretly fear that Velveeta is made from the same basic materials as traffic cones.  When it is depicted that way it only drives home the realization that have no idea what we are putting in our bodies.

When I first began assembling the Bad Food Art Museum, I thought that the 1950s exuberance over all things heavily manufactured or processed was lighthearted and fun.  It is, but as I have become more aware of the challenges created by our American diet,  I also began to realize that this time period is the ground zero of the bad food bomb the fallout of which continues to settle over us today. Read More

Wonderful speech on how to fulfill the promise of internet marketing

One of my favorite thinkers concerning things web-related is Avinash Kaushik.  His most recent blog post contains the text of a speech he gave to a gathering of Canadian marketing executives. The point of it is that we fail to take advantage of the promise of Internet marketing because most of us find “shout” marketing and interruption advertising to be more comfortable.  It is brilliant.  It is controversial. It challenges us all.  I just really like it.  Take the time to read it here.  Send your comments.

Great new additions to Google analytics

Google Analytics continues to become an even more powerful tool with some recent additions that are outlined in this article on the Google Analytics blog. In the past we have only been able to set specific urls as goals which works well for ecommerce sites.  However, what if you have a shopping or booking engine that is hosted externally or you have a content site where engagement is a primary goal?  The most interesting new feature is that they now allow two new kinds of goals to track:  time on site and pages per visit.  Read More

Using tracking urls to learn more about your social media traffic

Much is discussed about how to track the ROI of social media marketing efforts and it seems that in the space of time it will take me to type this that 3 new Twitter software tools will launch that claim to do this.  However, most of us have some tools are our disposal right now that do a darn good job of getting us very detailed information if we are prepared to take an extra step or two.  By combining tracking urls like those generated by Google analytics with a URL shortener like you can not only get information on the clikc activity of your inbound links from social media posts but you can filter your analytics to create reports on what the traffic is doing once they enter your site. Read More

Presentation: Twitter as a lead generation tool

I saw this interesting case study from MarketingProfs that details how a social media monitoring software company called Techrigy is using Twitter as the primary lead generation tool.  The presentaion includes their impressive case study plus basic tips in how to monitor conversations on Twitter to find users with whom to engage.  The only shortcoming of it is that they do not place much emhasis on the content of their Tweets.  I find that it can be challenging for a business to walk the line between being informational and promotional so I would be curious how they have solved for that. See below for full presentation: Read More

Why you might be able to accomplish more for your business on Twitter or YouTube than on Facebook

I am generally in favor of Facebook business pages as long as the business has a reasonably interesting content strategy, the willingness to committ sustained time and energy to it, and the willingness to cross-promote it in througout their marketing efforts.  However, there is one thing thaty bugs me about Facebook relative to some of the other popular social sites such as Twitter and YouTube.  On Facebook there is no way to search for and engage potential new fans without using Facebook advertising to get to them.  I know Facebook does not want to commit the same sins as MySpace and create a platform for spammers but I have to believe that there can be a way to implement fan site invitations that would not be intrusive. Read More