Lasting Love: Navigating the Highs and Lows of Relationships with Expert Myrna Haskell

Imperfect Love | Myrna Haskell | Lasting Relationships


Real love takes work! It’s easy to believe that healthy relationships should “just happen.” Our happily-ever-after fairy tales perpetuate the myth that love relationships should be both easy and perfect. Yet even in fairytales, the main characters encounter incredible challenges that test their resilience, commitment, and fortitude. Could it be that our romantic relationships are one of life’s greatest proving grounds for our ability to love fully and deeply despite our imperfections and life’s stressors? Healthy relationships don’t occur by magic; it takes genuine love and ongoing work to forge connections that will last through thick and thin. Join Dr. Carla and expert Myrna Haskell for an in-depth look at the keys to fostering lasting, beautiful relationships built on mutual values, healthy communication, and honesty.


Books by Dr. Carla Manly:

Date Smart: Transform Your Relationships and Love Fearlessly

Joy From Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend

Aging Joyfully: A Woman’s Guide to Optimal Health, Relationships, and Fulfillment for Her 50s and Beyond

The Joy of Imperfect Love: The Art of Creating Healthy, Securely Attached Relationships


Connect with Dr. Carla Manly:









Connect with Myrna Haskell:


Instagram: @sanctuarymag2016

LinkedIn: @Santuary2016

YouTube: @Sanctuary2016

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Lasting Love: Navigating the Highs and Lows of Relationships with Expert Myrna Haskell

Fostering Healthy, Connected Relationships with Communication and Mindfulness

Cinderella and Prince Charming, Sir Lancelot and Guinevere. We expect our romantic relationships to last forever and our happily ever after fairytales perpetuate the myth that love relationships should be both easy and perfect. Yet even in fairytales, the main characters encounter incredible challenges that test their resilience, commitment, and fortitude.

Could it be that our romantic relationships are one of life’s greatest proving grounds for the ability to love fully and deeply despite our imperfections and life’s natural stressors? In this episode, we’ll focus on this reader’s real-life question. How can you keep a long-term relationship going despite external stressors? What are your suggestions for navigating issues that put a lot of strain on a relationship such as addiction, the death of a loved one, health problems, or serious financial concerns?


Imperfect Love | Myrna Haskell | Lasting Relationships


In this episode, I’m joined by a very special guest, Myrna Beth Haskell, who will be sharing her expertise on relationship issues with a vast background as a feature writer, columnist, editor, speaker, and Founder of Sanctuary, and online women’s magazine focusing on the arts, philanthropy, health and wellness, culture, and community. Myrna is an amazing individual. Welcome to the show, Myrna. It’s such a joy to be with you.

Thank you so much for inviting me to be here with you, Carla. I love this new show you’re doing. The topics are going to be fabulous. I just know it. I’m excited to talk about this one with you. Thank you so much for inviting me.

You’re welcome. Before we jump into our episode, could you tell our readers a little bit about what makes you, you?

For those who know about the magazine, a lot of me is in there. I love to be involved in the community. I’m a very social person. I love to talk, communicate, and write. That all goes hand in hand. I love to tell the stories of women who are making a difference in some inspirational way. My passion for life comes from Sanctuary Magazine.

I’m a chatter, which is why I love being on here with you. I guess that’s all I want to say unless you have another question about me in particular but I do enjoy communication. That’s a big part of what I’ve done, not only in my career, but I have lots of friends. I love to go out and socialize. Communication and social events are a big part of my life.

Thank you for that beautiful background. I do have to say a big piece of what makes me such a fan of you and Sanctuary Magazine is the fact that you channel so much energy into empowering and supporting women. Not that it’s just women that you reach. All genders absorb that positivity. All of us can embrace that joy that comes through our work and any act of kindness we can do to support other people. Thank you for the work that you do.

Thank you, Carla. You as well.

Let’s move into the question of the day, which takes us to the roots of long-term relationships and how we might get into a relationship thinking, “This is going to be easy. This is going to be wonderful.” I have visions of a house with a white picket fence. I’m going to live happily ever after with my partner. We’re going to have a child or a dog,” or whatever, and then life gets in the way. There are so many things that can come up in long-term relationships.

Whether it is an aging parent, the loss of a child, an addiction of a family member, a huge world event like 9/11 that shatters somebody’s life, a natural disaster, fire, flood, hurricane, or tornado where your lovely life if it was an easygoing relationship, it can be super challenged. If your relationship is already a bit tested and tumultuous, those life stressors can break the relationship. You are married. You’re in a long-term relationship. Tell us a little bit about what you’ve found to be your best coping strategies for dealing with life stressors.

I’ve been with my husband for more than three decades. I think that qualifies me in terms of personal experience to talk about this topic. That whole first love thing that goes on, there needs to be something more behind that from the beginning. When you search for a life partner, hopefully, going in, you know that you have the same values. You have the same ideas of family and if you’re going to raise a family together.

You communicate and talk about these things before day one of the wedding because at least if you can start from a base of the two of you have the same idea about how you think at that point in your life, how you’re going to move through things, and how you’re going to use your values and your goals to move in a certain direction together, that’s helpful. However, what I think happens is even without disasters, people change. Also, is there a strong background there and a strong communication base that when the other partner does start to change, you can work through those changes because there’s so much love behind it and so much agreement in every way about how you want to move through life?

I think lots of times people, it’s that fairytale. I think I heard you say that idea of the wedding in Cinderella and having a person who’s going to be there for you through thick and thin. You don’t understand what that truly means until things start to go wrong. It’s easy to love when everything’s beautiful, everything is fun, and there’s no money issues.

It's easy to love when everything's beautiful and fun, but without that really strong base where you know that you're going to be able to move through life together when these external pitfalls happen, things are going to unravel. Click To Tweet

Also, you don’t have a child who’s sick and someone hasn’t died and you’re going through that together and maybe handling that differently. Yet without that strong base where you know that you’re going to be able to move through life together when these external pitfalls happen, things are going to unravel.

Thank you so much, and I agree with you. We’re talking about first, setting up the relationship and we can get to those issues that come if you haven’t set up the relationship well. We can talk about that. Through no fault of our own, sometimes we don’t create that healthy foundation. I agree with you going into a relationship. This is for our listeners who are looking at relationships or in new relationships. I talk about this in both my book Date Smart and The Joy of Imperfect Love of how important it is to interview yourself and the potential partner to see, “Wait a minute.”

Some people don’t talk about the big things before they get married. You have to communicate. For me, number one, Carla, is communication. You have to be able to communicate about the good things and the bad things, and how you’re going to move through them together to help each other be stronger, to get through that bad thing that happened rather than fighting each other over it. That’s hard to do. Sometimes it’s hard to do.

Let’s bracket communication for a moment and we’ll make it our own subtopic in this show because it’s such a critical piece. Let’s go back to the part of setting up the relationship and having someone you’re dating or maybe you’re moving in together wherever you are, and slowing down to say to yourself, “What do I want in a relationship? What do I have to offer? What are my values and what are my priorities?”

If each partner knows all of those important things, then they can communicate them to the other but we sometimes miss that step because we think, “I want a partner. I want someone who’s cute, makes a lot of money, or who’s artsy,” whatever our criteria are and then we launch into the dating world and scoop up someone without realizing, “We might not have a friendship here. We might have the superficial elements.” What do you think about that idea of first diving in to do a self-assessment on what you have to offer and what you want?

I think I want to talk about first that two-way street. In order to get, you need to give and a relationship is all about giving and getting. Sometimes your partner is only functioning at 30%. They’re depressed about a loss of a job or whatever that is and you have to give the 70% then. However, the tables might turn at another time, you’re at 30%, and they’re going to give 70%.

I think that’s a big part of when you start out. You have to see that you are giving, but you’re also receiving from this partner because that’s going to happen throughout your relationship for decades, the giving and receiving. You need to do both and both partners need to be on board with that because if you’re not going to support each other when you’re down, the relationship’s going to unravel.



I think that’s something you can think about when you’re dating somebody before you get into a lifelong commitment. How has that been working, the push and the pull, the give and the get, or the two-way street so far in the relationship? Has something happened when I’ve been upset about something and my partner was there for me right away?

He wanted to talk about it with me. He wanted to discuss it. He seemed concerned that I was upset, rather than blowing it off or, “You’re making too much of this.” The little things like that, if you pay attention to those things and they’re going well early on, they’ll probably continue to go well into the relationship. If there are those small red flags early on, those red flags are going to get worse as you continue into the relationship.

If we look at how we’re setting this up for a healthy relationship, we interview ourselves about what we have to give and what we want. We are clear in that so that when we’re dating we can state that and have the other person come back to us with what their needs are, their values, and their priorities. Also, make sure there’s a good enough match, and then we move to the place where as part of that we can talk to someone and say, “I believe.”

By the way, research shows this to be true. Relationships that are balanced are among the most successful over time. There are times it’ll be 30% where I’m able to give 30% because I am carrying two jobs and the other person might need to carry 70% but we want to flip that so that I am then able to carry maybe 70% at another time while the other person might be in the hospital or that person’s carrying two jobs or whatever it is so over time, do we have that 50/50?

To be able to talk about that as we’re dating, as we’re in long-term relationships is exactly what you said, Myrna. It’s creating that balance. It won’t always be each person. I hear this sometimes. Each person should give 100%. We can strive to give 100%, but if we’re sick with the flu or something, we’re not going to be able to so we don’t want to act like we’re sick with the flu or entitled for the entire relationship, but we want to give ourselves the grace to have some self-care and the other partner will step up.

When that partner needs it, the balance shifts. I love that you brought that up because that ongoing balance, which takes communication and mindfulness, does help us when those big stressors come. It helps us have a nice soft atmosphere in the short-term and long-term so when those stressors come, we’re used to a teamwork approach.

I was going to say team too. You are a team. You need to be a team to move through the difficult parts of life. That’s what finding a partner is. Some people choose not to. Some people are fine with being independent and not getting into a long-term relationship. We’ve seen that many times and that’s fine. You can be happy with just friends but when you go into a long-term commitment with a partner, it’s a team now. You have to help your teammate out. Your teammate sometimes has to help you out. I’m so glad you said team because I think of my husband and me being a good team.



He lifts me when I’m down and vice versa. We do that and we communicate well. I think probably we’ve lasted this long because of those two things the most. We work well as a team and we talk. If I’m upset, I talk to him, he listens, and vice versa. You’re not always the one who’s going to throw and make the basket. You’re going to pass to the other person so that they can have some success and that they can have some attention. I love the whole team idea. I’m so glad you brought that up.

It’s interesting that we’re on this pathway because throughout The Joy of Imperfect Love, I talk about teamwork. We’re used to it in the work setting. We get it. We need to be team players yet we often forget that that same principle is even more important in the home relationship. It’s not about one partner being the boss and the other person saying, “Yes, Sir, yes, Ma’am,” or whatever it is. No. It is about saying, “We are a team. This is team energy. We want to be on the same page.”

We then go back to the piece about communication. The way to stay a team member is to communicate. It’s not to yell, not to go silent, not to talk over each other, and not to compartmentalize, but to consistently come. Get through those hard conversations, get through the easy conversations, and communicating, communing with each other in the truest sense of the word.

Make it part of the fabric of the relationship. Even if you came from a background where communicating wasn’t safe. That’s part of that screening process that we want to be doing early on and carry it through is saying, “Wait a second. I value communication because communication allows me to be emotionally connected.”

It allows my partner to be on the same page. It allows us to get through these little hiccups in life. As I said, we’ll have dinner. I invited you to the restaurant at 7:00, but you showed up at 8:00 and the person’s saying, “I wasn’t clear on it.” When we look and say, “If we start working on communication, these little hiccups in life build the foundation for when those big hiccups come and they do come.”

Also, the team thing too, Carla, I think comes in particular good use if you’re parents because I’ve seen so many times parents working against each other instead of presenting themselves as a team to their children. “We’re working together to help you through this as a teenager,” or whatever it is. If children see that their parents aren’t a team, they’ll try to use one parent against another parent. I’m still on the team thing but when you’re raising children, you also need to be a team raising your kids.

That’s one thing I remember about my parents very strongly. You couldn’t get to the other person because they both were saying, “Wait until your father comes home. Wait until I have a chance to talk to your mom.” No matter how hard I tried to get one of them on my side, they were a united front. Also, for families that aren’t together where maybe the parents have separated or the partners are living in two different states, cities, or across town, it’s so important to stay on the same page because the kid’s relationships thrive on consistency.


Imperfect Love | Myrna Haskell | Lasting Relationships


We all do our best when we know the agreements and when we’re held accountable to the agreements. That’s a big piece about the reader’s question about how we navigate these hardships. If the hardships bring in all of the arbitrary, all of the unexpected, but if we have good communication principles as a foundation and we’ve been using them consistently, then we’re able to say to a partner, “I’m suffering right now. I’m not feeling well. I’m grieving. I need some extra space. I need some support.”

The other partner may be in a place where let’s say you’ve lost a child where they’re saying, “I’m grieving too. I don’t have anything else to give to you. I’m in such pain myself.” “What do we do then?” As a team, we can say, “Maybe we both need support. Maybe we need a grief group. Maybe we need marriage therapy. Maybe we need relationship counseling,” or whatever it is. How do we get there? It’s through communication. We’re now heavy into that piece you brought up that we’re weaving throughout the ethics.

I heard you mention losing a child. I interviewed the co-founder of Taylor’s Gift Foundation as one of our features in the magazine. This was part of the discussion that grief over the loss of a child is something that can break up a marriage because people grieve differently. Her analogy was you’re on the same rollercoaster but on different tracks. Also, you need to find space where you can give each other grace for how you’re dealing with the tragedy differently.

It’s because if you’re dealing with it differently, that can move you away from each other but at the same time if you give that person grace and you understand that it’s okay that they’re grieving differently, you’re supporting each other even though you’re dealing with the tragedy differently. I thought that was interesting because she lost her thirteen-year-old daughter to a terrible ski accident.

When something rocks your world that badly and something is that tragic to lose a child, it would be an instance of something that can completely unravel the fabric of what you had when your family was happy and everyone was together. I wonder if that idea of change too over the decades we change, works the same way too I think. I’m not the person exactly that my husband married many years ago and he’s not exactly the same guy either but we work through that together.

We make that more of a joy that we still love each other and that we have all this history together. Also, we’ve gone through changes together because of those kinds of things, Carla, like the death of a child as you mentioned. People lose their homes and everything they have in hurricanes and these strong external pressures test a marriage. Any long-term partnership or love relationship, that’s when it’s tested the most. Without those foundations and those graces that you give one another, things are going to unravel.


Imperfect Love | Myrna Haskell | Lasting Relationships


Going back to the grief piece where you were talking about grace, I love the concept of grace. I love that the woman you interviewed said, “Have grace for your partner but I also want to emphasize the key of giving yourself grace. We often we’re so used to in some situations saying, “Have grace for others,” yet when I work with clients, I’m always saying and sometimes they’re surprised because they’re expecting me to say, “Have grace for your mother-in-law.” No. Have grace and compassion for yourself that sometimes you will be floundering. When life struggles come and you’re looking at bills that you can’t pay, a child has an addiction, or a partner’s addiction has been uncovered or something like that. You’re saying, “What do I do? How can I bear this?”

You get a mental health diagnosis or a physical health diagnosis within your family system and sometimes it’s one after another. I know people who have encountered hardship after hardship and that’s where having that team energy and also, the grace for each other that we can get through this if we’re a team. If we give each other grace or give ourselves grace for being imperfect, for being human, for maybe melting down at times, and sobbing on the couch. All of these things are a natural part of facing life’s challenges and making space for ourselves and each other. I think that’s an important part of teamwork.

I love that you said to give yourself grace. I’ve found with all the women that I’ve interviewed, one of the things that comes up over and over again is that women are natural caregivers because they’ve always been the caregivers. They are taking care of everybody else, elderly parents, children, their partner, and their colleagues when a colleague is down.

This idea that take care of everybody else first drains you. If you can’t charge yourself and give yourself grace, how are you going to take care of everybody else because eventually, you’re going to be depleted of energy, of feeling healthy, and feeling good about yourself? You can’t take care of other people unless you think about yourself and care for yourself. That’s something that comes up over and over again. I feel like that’s hard for a lot of people.



Some people think that it’s selfish to engage in self-care because they’ve been socialized to believe that self-care or grace for the self, which are two different things, are wrong if you’re a nurturer. It’s wrong if you’re a woman but in truth, it’s such an important part of showing yourself that you matter, giving yourself grace, giving yourself compassion, and showing your partner. If your partner’s not giving you the space and the care you deserve to be able to say, “I’m modeling this.”

Also, if there are children in the home, neighbors, and friends who are able to see someone saying, “I am not in a good space right now to host a party or to bring cookies or to be the giver or the doer. I’m going through a lot and I need to turn inward a little for a little while.” You might also be saying quite the opposite. “I need to come outward a little bit more than normal.”

I think that’s such an important piece of handling these challenges that life will bring our way. Going back to some of the pieces you were talking about when you have relationship issues, the relationship is struggling, and communication might be difficult. I believe that if you are not good at communicating with a partner, maybe it was never modeled for you that going back to the basics of mirroring, reflective listening and working with a partner just to listen to them.

Hear what they have to say. Practice not interrupting, repeating, mirroring back what they said, and then giving the partner the opportunity to do the same. It’s because mirroring or reflective listening isn’t about fixing. It isn’t about opinions. It is about giving the partner the ability to say their piece without interjecting our opinion, reflecting it back, “This is what I heard you say,” and then once that process is done, giving the partner the space to do the same. What do you think about mirroring a.k.a. reflective listening?

I hadn’t heard that term before, Carla, but I know you’re a wealth of knowledge obviously on all of this. I think that’s an excellent exercise for couples to do. I’m not sure that I do that. I feel like I’m a very good communicator, but during a heated argument or you’re upset about something, I think that’s where the challenge is. It’s because you want to jump in there because you’re upset but the taking, the deep breath, and being a good listener is naturally going to bring emotions down because the other person has a chance to speak their mind and say what’s hurting them.

You repeat back. You open your ears and listen very carefully to what they’re saying, then repeat it back to make sure you didn’t mishear anything that they said. That’s a good exercise and I think it’s one that would work when things are heated and you’re upset because if you’re a talker and you know you love to communicate, that’s easy when everything’s going well. It’s always about, “Something’s wrong,” and you’re emotional.

I think practicing that during good times and then using it almost as a habitual kind of thing is great for couples to practice that. I’m going to try to do that. I feel like I’m a good listener, but I know I interject too soon. I do know I do that. Do you do this with couple’s therapy and have the actual practice of listening, repeating back, asking questions, and learning to keep your mouth shut while your partner is going through exactly how they feel about something?

Absolutely, and not only do I practice it in my own life because I didn’t come from a childhood where communication was taught or honored. It was children who should be seen and not heard. You were taught to be very small no matter how old you are. When I learned about mirroring and reflective listening, it’s something that if you watch many women, they will naturally do when a girlfriend is sharing something. The other woman will say, “He did that to you. I’m so sorry. It sounds like he was saying horrible things.”

In a way, it’s very common for some women to mirror back as a way of joining in romantic relationships, even our friendships, and business. Sometimes we’re so busy speaking our piece that we’re not listening to the other person. If we were asked, “What did the other person just say?” We might not know because we were so into what we wanted to say. That’s where the power is with reflective listening. It feels clunky at first. It’s laborious but the more you use it on simple topics where there is no charge.

It’s the emotions that come into it. I think that if it’s not practiced, you lose it because now you’re emotional about whatever it is that’s going on. I can see that practicing this type of communication is very important.

Yes and if you start with the basics with something as simple as, “If I hear you right, you’re going to bring home the dry cleaning and pick up the kids from soccer,” and the other person is able to say, “Yeah, absolutely. I’m getting the kids and the dry cleaning, but I was also going to stop for milk.” What it does is it becomes not only a way of helping the other person know they are heard. It helps the receiver take it in neurobiologically. We’re putting that into our memory banks because we’re repeating it back.

Also, because you’re repeating it, let’s say the other person is upset, it’s almost like you can understand it better because you’re verbalizing it.

Absolutely. I’m doing my best not to get reactive. I am doing my best not to cut you off. I’m simply listening. The hard part with that is I’m likely upset and hurting too so I have to do what I call racketing the experience. I take my experience and I put it over here. I tell my inner child and my adult person, “There will be time for this,” and then I repeat back what my partner and other person said, “If I hear you right, this is how you’re feeling. This is what you’re saying.” The partner could come back and say, “You got that but you didn’t get this,” and they may add something on and then you simply say, “Okay. If I hear you right, this is what you are saying.” Also, you watch your partner de-escalate because they are feeling heard.

I can see that, yes.

Interestingly enough, what you sometimes find, or what I’ve found is by the time it’s my turn, the issue’s been resolved by me and that’s not always the case. Sometimes I still have things that I want to say and have the other person reflect back to me. People tend to avoid it, Myrna because it’s time-consuming and it does feel clunky at first, but it helps. Also, we think about how often we do this in business negotiations. Someone will say, “The price for this carpet is $2,000.” We say, “Okay. Did you just say $2,000? Does that include tax?”

The person will say, “No. It’s $2,000 plus tax.” I go, “Can you throw in delivery with that?” “Nope. I can’t throw in delivery with that.” We’re mirroring but when it comes to bringing that into especially challenging times, we become dysregulated. We’re often in fight mode. If we can remember that part because of communication, and I love that you started talking about the communication piece because it is the highlight.

When we have this communication and I’m able to come to my partner, you are able to go to your partner and say, “This is how I’m feeling. It’s hard for me to say this, but this is what I’m going through.” The partner can come back and sometimes you join over the tragedy. You join over it rather than becoming fragmented and I’m going to ask you this question because you are being open and honest with each other, even when it’s hard. In all of the work you’ve done, what do you think about the importance of being open, honest, and transparent with your partner through thick and thin, through the good times and the not-so-good times?

I think you have to be because if you are holding something in and you are not being transparent about that to your husband, your wife, or your long-term partner, it festers. You have to let out hurt and things that make you emotional. I know it’s this whole gender thing I’m getting into, but I find that sometimes it’s harder on their part to talk about how they’re getting emotional about something but if you hold it in, it’s going to cause additional problems.

If you're holding something in and you're not being transparent about it to your husband, wife, or long-term partner, it festers. You have to let the hurt out. Click To Tweet

Now, you’re more stressed. Now, you’re going to be upset about something that you probably weren’t even going to be upset about because you weren’t honest and you didn’t let out what you were feeling about this other issue. Now you’re fighting about two cartons of eggs that weren’t picked up. It’s only one when two were on the list, or something stupid because this other thing has festered and now some inane thing that comes up is going to be a problem.

I think that in marriages that get in trouble, they start fighting about stupid things because everything is annoying them now because the big stuff never came out. It was never talked about honestly and you weren’t transparent about how you were feeling. Now, you’re nitpicking on all of these other things. You have to be transparent. To think that you’re just going to throw something under the rug, “I’m going to forget about this.” If you are hurt about something, you have to let that out. You have to be honest about how you’re feeling.

I agree with you.

I’m glad you brought that up, Carla because that is another big piece. I think a lot of people bury things because they don’t want the conflict, but what they’re not realizing is they’re causing conflict in other areas now because they buried it. Do you know what I mean?

One hundred percent. In The Joy of Imperfect Love, I use the metaphor of a backpack because we want to keep what I call the backpack of our relationship clean. If we’re constantly putting pebbles of resentment and irritation into that backpack, that backpack is going to get heavy and there are times that you’ll pull things out from that backpack and hurl them at your partner. That backpack gets heavy and it’s much like a trash container in the kitchen.

If you keep taking things that you don’t want to discuss and put them in the trash and you don’t empty the trash, then it’s going to get stinky and smelly. Pests are going to come. What we want to do and I agree with you, it’s so important, and here’s the biggest caveat in all of this. It’s important to bring up your hurts, your feelings, and your preferences, but we want to do it in a way that is not harmful to the self or to the partner.

It’s not accusatory. Some people are so defensive that no matter what you say, they’re going to take umbrage at it and have a fit. However, for people who generally have healthy emotional intelligence, if you bring something up instead of saying, “I hate you because you forgot our anniversary,” that’s not going to necessarily get you very far.

If you’re able to bring it up in a way that says, “I feel sad and hurt that you forgot our anniversary. It would feel good to me if we were able to celebrate it this coming Saturday. Would that work for you?” That takes a lot of mindfulness. It takes some self-control and self-regulation. I use an iMessage. “I feel, state what the hurt is, and state the cure.” What is the fix if there is one?

“I’m sorry you forgot to pick up the kids at soccer,” or, “I’m sorry I forgot to pick up the kids at soccer. I’ll leave right now and I’ll get them. I apologize. Next time, I’ll set a reminder in my phone so that I don’t forget the kids again.” Those are little issues in the whole scheme of things but if we make it a practice to use those iMessages of how you feel, what you need, and what the fix is, then when we get to these bigger issues.

You’re going to use those same skills. I’m right there with you. I think part of communication and being a good listener is you know what your partner’s going to be defensive about because you’ve learned so much about them in this process of communicating and sharing. Now, a situation comes up that you know they’re going to be defensive about.

You learn so much about another person through the process of communicating and sharing. Click To Tweet

If you’re armed with that knowledge, then you can go in with that in the back of your mind maybe a bit easier because you know the person’s going to be on the defensive. You’re going to do some things about how you’re going to bring up this subject that’s going to keep things calm or say your partner’s late all the time. There are easy things you can do to fix that kind of stuff. I know he is going to be late, so I’m going to tell him to meet me fifteen minutes earlier than I want him to meet me because he is going to be late and then I’m going to get upset.

That’s a silly little thing but you get to know each other and again, it’s that moving forward together as a team. You try to learn for yourself how you’re no longer going to get upset about that thing that’s not going to change in that person because there are some things we all have that we’re going to have. I think that’s part of the whole thing too. Learning about your partner and learning how you’re going to deal with something that you know is going to happen to make you feel good about it too. Also, to try to manipulate the situation so that it doesn’t escalate. I don’t know if manipulates the right word to use there, Carla, but you know what I mean.

I think it’s sage advice, especially when the items are little ones. A friend of mine once told me, and I never forgot it because I didn’t even know it about myself. She said, “You’re consistently four minutes late.” She didn’t say it in a mean way. I thought, “Do I want to be four minutes late?” “No. That’s not kind to other people even though it’s just four minutes.” I took that feedback and have done my best to be a bit early or at least on time. Also, you are right. A friend will make adjustments for 4 minutes or 10 minutes. They’ll say, “That person, that’s a thing.”

We don’t want to make adjustments and this is me as a psychologist and as a woman saying, “If somebody is being toxic. If they’re aggressive, if they’re hurtful, if they’re sarcastic, if they’re not listening,” those are things in the relationship where we do want to say to a partner, “It’s important for you to work on this because I’m not able to speak my mind. I’m not feeling safe. I’m not feeling heard.” That’s where the teamwork thing comes back into play big time. People are imperfect. Relationships are imperfect. Yet when we start seeing our own foibles, our weaknesses, our frailties, and we work on them, why not? It’s a gift to the self. It’s a gift to the relationship. It’s a gift to the other.

The relationship gets stronger. Going through all of this and coming out on the good end makes it stronger and stronger as you move forward.

Going through all of the foibles, weaknesses, and frailties and coming out on the good end just makes your relationship stronger as you move forward. Click To Tweet

Also, it makes both people proud of themselves because they’re working on something that’s far more lasting than business or money. They’re working on their internal selves, their ability to communicate, and their ability to love. I’m a big fan of personal accountability. There are parts of ourselves, the little hiccupy things that are going to be quirky that’s going to be part of who we are but on the big stuff, the toxic stuff. We do want to look, self-reflect, and put in the effort to change.

Before we close, I know we’re going into so much depth. You had said something that I didn’t want to let go of and I wanted to dive in a little bit more deeply now. The piece is about how important it is to not grow away from your partner. When we have a relationship, especially our early young ones, the young relationships where we meet and we want to buy our first house and we want to have a kiddo and we want to have a pet, or we don’t want to kiddo, and we have all of these life plans ahead of us.

It’s so easy if we’re mindful to stay connected because we’re joined by these mutual goals but sometimes especially if people either meet later in life or the kids are gone and they realize, “We’ve grown apart because we don’t have any mutual goals anymore. There is no mutual connection or shared interests.” That’s the place where I think it’s so important and you had brought it up about staying connected that people will change. Let’s hope we all change for the rest of our lives. That’s why we’re here to change, evolve, and become better human beings. We’re going to change. Do we change with intention or do we let life change us?

That’s a good point.

I believe in it. If we’re in a relationship and we’re communicating back. Your piece about communicating is such a foundation of healthy relationships but if we say, “I’m no longer interested in working 9:00 to 5:00. I want to go and do a startup,” or, “I no longer want to have kids,” or, “I want to adopt a kid,” or, “I’m not liking my body anymore. It’s sagging.”

Whatever is going on, when we bring that up and talk about it or, “I have a new sport I’d like to undertake. I want to go skydiving. I want to take up yoga,” or whatever it is, we’re communicating. We are bringing that partner even when we’re tired because so many times we come home or if we’re working from home, we finish the day, we see our partner’s like, “How are you?” You eat. You turn on the TV and go to sleep. There’s no communing. There’s no connecting. There is no way to stay on each other’s page.

The reason I wanted to focus on this is that if we have that communing, that ongoing connection of, “This is who I’m evolving into.” Sometimes someone we want to evolve into and we’re not quite there yet. We’re talking to our partner about it and they’re talking to us about their successes during the day or the things that irritated them. We’re listening and not trying to fix it, then that’s creating this network or this web of energy and connection that when those big pieces come, those big life changes, we’re not taken by surprise because we’re already connected through this web of love. What do you think of that?

With the change piece, I think that goes hand in hand with two activities, likes and dislikes of the individual people on the team. It’s okay that you might like to go roller skating or rock climbing and your partner doesn’t want to do that. However, it’s also not okay to completely ignore the fact that your partner loves rock climbing, for instance, and it’s a big part of their life. You don’t have to go and do it. Maybe they have a friend that does it with them, but what then when they come home, you say, “How is the rock climbing? Was this a better place than the last time you went?”

That’s all it takes sometimes. You do not necessarily have to move forward exactly the same together. That’s why the changing that’s happening. If you are at least on board with embracing what’s happening to the person and trying to understand it, it’s not going to pull you apart. I have this fun example. I was never a basketball fan and my husband played basketball throughout school and then he coached at one point when our son was playing. He loves the Knicks. I was never into the Knicks.

One birthday many years ago, I decided to surprise him with Knicks tickets. I was going to go to this game. I was going to force myself to go because I wanted to see what the big brouhaha was over it. We go every year. We have such a good time. I have nicknames for the players. Through his joy about this sport that I knew nothing about, I get joy out of it now. I’m not saying that it’s going to always happen, but sometimes when you open your mind to a change to doing something that maybe you didn’t think you were going to like that your partner liked, that’s in that same area of likes and dislikes that are different.

Things that you might have liked two decades ago, you no longer like for numerous reasons. Maybe you’re arthritic and you used to do gymnastics. It could be in numerous things so you no longer do that or you no longer dance because you have hip issues. You found a new thing and maybe your partner doesn’t like that thing. I think it’s about understanding what the change is and trying to embrace it in some way. Going back to you saying if it’s a toxic thing, that’s no good. We’re talking about normal changes. Maybe it’s a midlife crisis kind of thing.

That happens when the person’s a little bit more depressed or not sure where they are in their life at this point. Digging in and getting into why that’s happening to the person and trying to understand it is important to move forward because you are going to have different likes and dislikes. That’s okay. That’s part of life. It’s how you handle it and how you move forward with it. Also, how you try to understand your partner and why they feel that way about whatever. It’s not necessarily an activity. It could be a state of mind or whatever it is.

You are going to have different likes and dislikes, and that's okay. That's part of life. It's how you handle it, how you move forward with it, and how you try to understand your partner and why they feel that way about whatever it is. Click To Tweet

It could be anything and I agree with you. I call it joining. When you join with your partner, you can join mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. You are a perfect example and I’ve done that myself where it’s an activity that’s outside my comfort zone and my natural interest. I say, “I’m going to lean into this because it gives my partner joy.”

Yes, and then that makes you feel happy especially if your partner’s giving back to you the same way with something.

That would be the teamwork piece. When your partner is able to lean in and say, “I’m not a big fan of going on daily walks or whatever it is, but because I love you, I’m going to lean in and do that with you.” I think going back to the question, what this does, all of these pieces we’ve talked about when we work on communication, honesty, transparency, connection, joining, and staying connected. These issues come up in life. Maybe somebody who’s 30 finding out they can’t have kids or somebody in their twenties finding they have a life-threatening illness.

Somebody in their forties whose child has an addiction or there’s a suicide or anything. If we have a partnership that has these foundations, these elements that are built in and nurtured, it takes work. Back to our fairytale, we might often think fairytales, everyone had it so easy. Cinderella ended up in the castle but that’s not what the fairytales are about at all. The fairytales are about that heavy lifting that we often don’t see in the romanticized versions of them.

The heavy work that’s done behind each character’s in their personality that’s done behind the scenes to make them get to a life that is more pleasant, more joyful, and more fulfilled. I think that when we have that as the foundation for our romantic relationships, we can truly partner with someone through thick and thin.

You’re stronger together. It’s not that you have to have this person to make you internally happy, but it’s about being stronger together and forging forward together through life’s ups and downs and becoming stronger together when you come out the other side. I think every long-term healthy relationship, Carla, is going to say something similar. That’s how they look at their marriage. Do you know what I mean? “I’m a better person and a stronger person.” It doesn’t mean that I’m not independent, but we help each other be better and we move forward together and become stronger for that as a whole and as a team, right?

Help each other be better as you move forward together and become stronger as a team. Click To Tweet

It’s so true and I do have to say, as we bring our time together to a close, that all of the pieces we’ve talked about are applicable to friendships, the long-term friendships with our guy friends, with our female friends. If you choose to be single or have good friends while you are in a long-term relationship, all of these principles can be applied to creating healthy lifelong relationships of every type. I firmly believe that the pieces that we talked about will help new couples and longer-term couples enjoy their relationships a lot more as well as all of those single people out there. Myrna, thank you so much for taking the time to grace us. Could you tell our readers where they can find you?

I would love it if you’re reader would check out Sanctuary Magazine. That’s That’s pretty easy. We have a special guest space in the magazine, which is nice where there are interactives. I’ve had Carla be part of the Ask an Expert section on different occasions so you can feel like you’re a part of it. You can send in questions. We get photographs and inspirational stories from our listeners and readers too with what we do.

Please check out Sanctuary Magazine and you can write to me. My information is there in the magazine. If you have somebody that you know that you think might be a good fit for an interview, we always get feedback from listeners and look into things that they suggest for us. Thank you so much for having me on your wonderful show. I appreciate it.

It’s such a joy to have you. For our readers, please check out Sanctuary Magazine. It is so full of beautiful, inspiring images, messages, and poetry. So much is there. Readers, thank you as well for sharing your time with me.


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About Myrna Beth Haskell

Imperfect Love | Myrna Haskell | Lasting RelationshipsMyrna Beth Haskell has worked in the publishing industry for over 35 years as a feature writer, columnist, editor and speaker. She is founder and executive editor of Sanctuary, an online women’s magazine launched in 2016 with a focus on the arts, philanthropy, health & wellness, culture and community. She has held leadership roles in various community organizations and is currently a member of the National Association of Women Artists’ Board of Directors.

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