Two Living as One

This short anonymous survey was created to assist in determining if an easy to measure indicator can be established that relates to the quality of a marriage.  I will use this data to formulate theories regarding martial quality.


* The pulse of a marriage can be determined by a single measurement?

* What would be the BEST one indicator of a high quality marriage?

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In this series I will wanderingly explore the concepts behind what defines the quality of a marriage.  How can a marriage be objectively evaluated? And even more importantly what can be done to grow it toward excellence?

What Does Sizzle Look Like?
In this post I’d like to consider the face of sizzle.
Because my definition of sizzle involves an emotional response I need to consider the emotional psyche as I try to give examples of “sizzle in action”.
wave.png (2.7KB; 400x175 pixels)
The human emotional response consists of waves of highs and lows.  Some highs are higher than others and the same applies to lows.  Some are record setting low points while others are only slightly lower than the norm.  Unlike the waveform I used as an example, I do not believe that a peak high must be preceded (or followed) by a peak low.  Life wanders through the ups and downs, all in varying degrees at varying times.
One thing is certain – when you’ve peaked in either direction you can only reverse course, at least until you once again reach a peak and reverse course yet again.  There’s no avoiding this, that’s the definition of a peak.
So we can conclude from this analysis that’s in life’s journey we are either moving toward a peak or away from a peak.  Life is anything but static so there’s no camping at a peak for very long.
Can sizzle exist in a continuum of ups and downs, or must it appear and disappear?
Sizzle, by my definition, sounds as if it should be a heightened sense of euphoria which does not end.  On the other hand, this flies contrary to my observations of the human emotional cycle.  So that would appear to answer the question with an resounding “sizzle comes and goes”.
If sizzle comes and goes, what ignites it?  Does it just happen?  Is it the natural result of the highs?
What are the real differences between the emotional highs and lows?  Aren’t they largely defined by what’s going on inside me and not the external events around me?  If sizzle must be ignited, there must be a threshold of ignition; a point below which there is no sizzle.
Of course this begs the question that if sizzle is tied to my emotional highs and lows then what good is it to gauge a relationship?  If I am at a below-the-sizzle-threshold low and use it as a barometer of my relationship the indicator will show my marriage is in serious need.  Conversely if I use it as a barometer when I am at an emotional high then my marriage walks on water – which may not be the case.
So where does this leave me?
That’s a very good question I ask myself.  In a flash I am seeing my self-appointed brilliance.  Remember that definition of sizzle?
siz·zle (szl)
an internal condition in which one is motivated at an emotional level by a constant state of unrest due to anticipation of what has yet to happen
I see it now, it’s the anticipation!  If my relationship has sizzle, then regardless of the highs or the lows I am anticipating that emotional condition.
Sizzle does not just turn on during the emotional highs.  Sizzle carries through the highs and lows.  Sizzle is that which is either the light at the end of the tunnel or the bright sunshine outside the tunnel.  Sizzle doesn’t turn on and off – it is. Granted we may feel up and down but with sizzle it’s all got that upward focus of anticipation.
So what does sizzle look like?  For that you’ll need to read The Face of Sizzle since this post has outgrown it’s britches.
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In this series I will wanderingly explore the concepts behind what defines the quality of a marriage.  How can a marriage be objectively evaluated? And even more importantly what can be done to grow it toward excellence?

What is Sizzle?
I have previously discussed “sizzle” in a marriage.  More accurately, I threw out a teaser stating that marriage sizzle is a barometer for the quality of a marriage.
Let’s explore what I mean by sizzle.  To do this I’ll begin with a few dictionary definitions.
Sizzle: “to be in an agitated emotional state
    • agitated: “to disturb or excite emotionally; arouse; perturb
    • emotional: “actuated, effected, or determined by feeling rather than reason
    • state: “condition or mode of being
    Dave’s abridged definition:
    siz·zle (szl)
    an internal condition in which one is motivated at an emotional level by a constant state of unrest due to anticipation of what has yet to happen

    Why the unrest?
    • The unrest is largely based upon wanting something that one does not currently have possession of.  It is a state that is characterized as being “worked up and no where to go”, pent up energy.
    What is anticipated?
    • The anticipation is based upon what has been and what is to be.  It is that which feeds the reward receptors in the brain.
    So what does sizzle motivate one toward?
    • Sizzle in a marriage motivates one to increase the level of pleasure by generating the same level of excitement in the spouse.  This will be reciprocated, thus increasing the desire for that which has not yet been gained.  In effect it will motivate toward doing that which will cause greater feelings of good.
    In short, sizzle will have two people tripped over one another in order to please the other.  The more I please my spouse, the more I am pleased.

    Sizzle can only be said with sizzZ zzle!
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    In this series I will wanderingly explore the concepts behind what defines the quality of a marriage.  How can a marriage be objectively evaluated? And even more importantly what can be done to grow it toward excellence?

    Watch this flashback from 80’s television.
    Sizzle or Sizzle-Lean?  Which do I want in my marriage?  Do I want that cholesterol-rich, ticking time bomb, F – A – T, or would “real meat” hit the spot?
    What is “real meat” anyway?  Let’s digress for a minor history lesson…
    • On Monday, July 22, 1974, a U.S. federal trademark registration was filed for SIZZLEAN by Swift & Company, Chicago, IL 60604.  The SIZZLEAN trademark is filed in the category of Meats and Processed Food Products under serial number 73027487. The description provided for SIZZLEAN is CURED, CHOPPED AND FORMED PORK BREAKFAST STRIPS.
    • Though the product contained much less fat than bacon, it was still 37% fat by weight, causing complaints that the “lean” name was not accurate.
    • One connoisseur says, “It tasted like salty play-dough mixed with SPAM.”
    • Another shares his fun fact: “Everyone in the above video is dead now because Sizzlean was made of 90% asbestos and 10% horse manure.”
    Real bacon needs to sizzle.  A marriage needs sizzle.
    My premise for this series is that sizzle is the barometer of quality.  Without the sizzle it may look like bacon, it may smell like bacon, it may even be a little less mess – but it’s not the real thing.  To adapt the quote of a fan of real bacon, “A marriage without sizzle is like Play-Doh mixed with Spam.”
    The significant majority have settled-in and become complacent with a marriage that at best is “leaner” than the sizzle of that first love.  The offense is that the majority of this majority believe that’s the best it can be.  The lie has been accepted for so long it has now become “fact”.
    Explore with me.  Offer your insights and wisdom.  Share your struggles.  Let’s see if we can bust this myth wide open.
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    Relationships are easy as long the the other person adapts to my way of thinking.
    But what if…
    What if my spouse sees things a little differently?
    What if my spouse insists I am the one who needs a “rethink”?
    What if my spouse has baggage or other reasons to believe they may be led into a painful situation?
    What is I’m just being stubborn and insisting on my way because I am the one that doesn’t want to step out of my comfort zone?
    Can I really know I am NOT THE ONE being unreasonable?  Can I really be sure I don’t need to re-assess my position?  Can I really stand firm on the fact that my own baggage is not influencing my viewpoint?
    Why is it that we tend to want the other to change first – then we’ll follow?  No matter whether our basic personality is aggressive or passive in dealing with life, in the end don’t we tend to give less than 100% until we see “good faith?”
    Does self-preservation (that’s what I’ll call it) really accomplish what our heart really desires?  Or does it simply protect us from something, giving nothing in return?
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    A friend recently posted this on a popular social media site.  As I looked over the diagram I had to consider how we all over complicate so many things in life.
    Take a look, what do you think?
    EngineeringFlowchart.jpg (584x436 pixels)
    Of course a mechanical device, like a car for instance, is far more complicated than this but in essence doesn’t this diagram sum it up?
    What might a diagram for relationships look like in it’s most simplistic form?  If we broke the activities and events of life down to their basics do you think we’d have a higher success rate in repairing it when its broken?
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    Q: Why is it that a “serious” talk between a couple near bedtime usually results in frustration and inadequate sleep?
    A: Because it’s not focused on resolution.
    The answer may be overly simplistic but I tried to take into account that other garbage often gets dragged in as well as attitudes of rightness.
    Yesterdays post was based upon an understanding of something that was going on a few days prior.  Nothing huge, but a problem nonetheless.  We knew we’d need to revisit the triggering event and dissect it.  After several days talking about making such a time and both with an attitude of let’s-understand-this-so-we-can-put-it-behind-us we found the opportunity.  Unfortunately we were forced to violate every rule for such a discussion because the only foreseeable timeframe would be prior to retiring.
    The conversation was pleasant and mutually agreeable.  Even though it is not complete it promoted a healthier sleep than expected.  We knew we wanted to get to core issues.  We didn’t wrap it up but we did begin the unwrap process.
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    Triggers: A trigger can be viewed as a stimulus to a response pattern.
      1. Proust’s madeleine cake(see footnote) triggered his memories of times past.
      2. Rejection may trigger depression etc.
      Such triggers are usefully identified in clinical psychology so that strategies can be worked on to alter the response, so that clinical problems are avoided or managed more appropriately.

      In the most basic of layman’s term (into which class I fall), a trigger is something that sets me off.  A sight, a sound, a smell.  It is something which causes my brain to recall a memory I did not consciously intend to recall.  It’s effect often has negative consequences.  It’s because of a trigger things can be going fine one minute, then in the next the world is crumbling before my eyes.  A temper could go from non-existent to extreme.  What is a happy time can instantly turn into a period of intense anxiety or fear.
      Triggers recall memories.  Triggers can be a single word which then colors my current experience.  A bearded man or short woman can trigger something deep within me which makes me despise this person I have never met.  I see reality but a trigger alters that reality and tells me “this is the way things really are.”
      Memories of this type are often only partial and out of context.  Triggers change the context.  Others will look at us when “we’re triggered” and wonder what happened.
      So, does it take a clinical psychologist to identify a trigger?  I think not.  We’ve all been triggered.  We all see others triggered.  We knows it’s happened.  When it happens between two people, this is an ideal time to begin honest introspection and create unity by carefully dissecting what made me feel the way I felt when…
      I’m not saying the process is simple.  But a few strategic questions phrased as statements to be repeated can be a very useful diagnostic tool.
      Fill in the blanks: “I felt _____ when you ____ because ….
      Then in response, dig deeper by saying something like: “you felt _____ because….
      (Don’t say “why did you feel….”  ’Because’ is a much better word because it digs deeper than logic)
      Processing like this could help to understand feelings and thought patterns which seem entirely disconnected for the reality of current events, but are in fact the distortions to current events making something that is now seem like something that was then.
      When two go through this process it brings understanding to both parties and with time could diffuse the trigger bringing the relationship into the present.

      (footnote):  French writer Marcel Proust in his novel In Search of Lost Time made famous the concept of involuntary memory.  Proust contrasts involuntary memory with voluntary memory. The latter designates memories retrieved by “intelligence,” that is, memories produced by putting conscious effort into remembering events, people, and places. Proust’s narrator laments that such memories are inevitably partial, and do not bear the “essence” of the past. The most famous instance of involuntary memory by Proust is known as the “episode of the madeleine,” yet there are at least half a dozen other examples in In Search of Lost Time including such distinct memories produced by the scent of a public lavatory on the Champs-Élysées.
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