SIX WAYS to SWEETEN and DEEPEN OUR CLOSENESS by EMBRACING TENDERNESS
We think of tenderness as a gentle and caring sensitivity to each other’s feelings.
These six “Ways” are at the heart of embracing tenderness together, and are six of our seven chapter titles:
- Honoring Feelings: Becoming Fully Known and Deeply Loved
- Taming Criticism, Anger and Blame: Gentling Our Communication
- Resolving Conflict Tenderly
- Celebrating Our Love: Embracing Romance
- Eroticizing Tenderness: Reframing Desire
- Growing in Tenderness Together: Choosing Closeness
Any of these Ways can enhance your tenderness, and in combination they have the potential to create an exquisite closeness that is precious beyond words.
A LOVE STORY
We feel like we’re living a love story, and we’re hoping that if you’re reading this as a couple, you’re living your own love story and want to learn something new to sweeten and deepen it.
TENDERNESS, YOU SAY?
Some will say it is out of date, old school, like the waltz in a world of modern dance. And there’s no going back.
Others will say the growth of tenderness is exactly what is needed to counter the coarsening of our culture.
Still others will say cultivating it is a good idea, but it is bound to be a soft voice in a loud room, and therefore won’t be heard.
Let’s just focus on the two of you for now. Consider this book as a love letter from the two of us to the two of you, passing on what we wish we had learned earlier. (Hoping, of course, that there are two of you, at least at some point.)
We are saying that cultivating tenderness is the best way to connect intimately with each other and to bridge our distracted distances to create the closeness that most of us inwardly crave. We are also saying that the rewards can be exceptional and even exquisite, and can fulfill us on the deepest of levels — including why we’re here. More about that later.
MUCH TO LEARN ON OUR JOURNEY
Much of what we are sharing here we learned from conflicts that arose fairly early in our relationship. At the beginning, we thought our journey together would be smooth sailing. We had seen many of the same relationship books on each other’s bookshelves. We had each been married and divorced, and knew that we wanted to do things differently this time.
To our surprise, we were in couples counseling before the end of our first year together. That popped our expectation bubble, but it showed us that we were determined. We agreed early on that we would make this one work.
Conflict itself was the obstacle in our path. We were stuck. One of us was conflict assertive and one of us was conflict avoidant. Each of us felt abused in our own way. And neither of us wanted to be wrong. We also were not feeling heard by each other during our disagreements.
We had so much to learn — mostly about ourselves through each other — about honoring feelings, banishing blame, transforming anger and resolving conflict tenderly.
Fortunately, one of us soon started a master’s degree program focused on conflict resolution, and we collaborated on the assignments. We came to accept conflict as a natural result of our inevitable differences. We gradually learned to appreciate conflict as an opportunity.
Most importantly, we also learned to treat each other tenderly during conflict.
TENDER CONFLICT RESOLUTION and MUCH MORE
In our conflict chapter we’re going to walk you through what we call “tender conflict resolution.” We’ve included an exercise called the S.A.V.E. Process to show you the steps so you can use it if you wish.
You can see from the list of the Six Ways that there is more to be learned than tender conflict resolution. Each of the Ways makes a major contribution to the joy of living tenderly together.
Most of the seven chapters (“Why Tenderness” plus one chapter for each Way) include suggested exercises, and every chapter includes original poetry. We’ve designed this to be an easy and quick read, averaging about 20 minutes per chapter.
The chapters contain the core elements of living tenderly together. In these pages, we believe you’ll find many ways to help you sweeten and deepen your closeness by embracing tenderness.
These writings are in the process of becoming — in 2024 — an affordable book, priced to encourage easy availability.
We’ve been a couple since 1984. Cheryl is a retired hospice social worker and Bob is a retired family mediator. We both have a university certification in conflict resolution that we earned while Bob was completing his master’s degree.
In 1992, we trained to become a Leader Couple in the Association for Couples in Marriage Enrichment, now known as Better Marriages (bettermarriages.org). We have presented workshops at marriage enrichment conferences at the local, regional and national level, on topics including “Living Tenderly Together,” “Tenderness, Fun and Romance,” “Tenderness and Desire” and “Beyond Anger: Embracing Conflict and Each Other.”
A favorite story of our relationship is about the love poem Bob wrote to Cheryl for Valentine’s Day some years ago. It has become a sweet and tender love song by popular singer-songwriter, Erin Bode: “The Moon Is Ours Tonight.” Together with Viktor Krauss, Erin composed the music and then added her delightful voice. The story is in our BLOG (see in headings above, or in CONTENTS, above, if you are viewing this on your phone). The song is available on iTunes, YouTube and elsewhere.
THE PATH OF SWEET TENDERNESS
We’re still learning, because a great thing about these “six ways” is that there is always room for growth in each of them to sweeten and deepen our relationship. It’s a lifetime journey.
We’ve come a long way down the path of sweet tenderness during our years together. Our goal is to illuminate that path for you (in case you’re headed in the same direction). We hope you’ll join us in our first chapter: “Why Tenderness.”
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