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relationships

We had such a wonderful relationship. I wondered whether this was it. Could this be the one that I remember years from now, that I think about when I’m feeling down, or that I go back to when I hear the phrase “the good old days”?

It was better than good for a while. You were incredible and so supremely satisfying. There was electricity, energy and a belief that this connection was something extraordinary. It gave me so much to look forward to, day in and day out, because I knew you’d be there for me.

I was dealing with a lot this summer. My family moved to North Carolina. I lost the close proximity to the friends, neighbors and nearby family I’d taken for granted for all these years.

It was harder to see you at first. But that didn’t stop the connection, from allowing me to enjoy the promising magic ride. Maybe modern technology minimized the distance, maybe it was just some perceived link, but I believed in you, in us, from so far away.

My wife has become accustomed to the annual search for this kind of closeness with you. She’s extraordinarily supportive of my emotional well-being. She knows that I need you, even if you don’t always seem to need me. She appreciates that I don’t need to try to defeat this kind of addiction.

She knows that I had a connection with you long before she came along and she doesn’t try to get in the way of that. She hasn’t tried to change me or turn my attention to other passions. She also knows that, when all is right between you and me, she and I have a better relationship because I’m a better-adjusted person who believes anything is possible.

It was such a whirlwind this time. Even when you seemed on the precipice of disappointing, you found a way to come through. You put a smile on my face as I went to bed, knowing that you’d done it again and that the sky really was the limit.

Of course, I recognized that it would never be so spectacular for all these months. I knew there’d be some nights when I might feel like pulling away, when I might think about dedicating my time, attention and passion elsewhere. I didn’t disconnect because I wanted it to work out. I pushed the warning signs away, even if I started to feel as if the separation and the potential through the middle of the summer fell short of my hopes.

Ultimately, as you know all too well, people remember the biggest moments. When these monumental days arrived, you seemed ready.

Initially, you didn’t disappoint. But, then, something happened. It was as if the nagging concerns I had through the summer came back to haunt us. You hadn’t changed at all: It’s just that I saw the weaknesses, the deficiencies and the problems that limited you.

You fought bravely to hold on, but it just wasn’t meant to be. The Red Sox and their fans, as it turns out, will continue to move forward, driven by the belief that those 108 wins will propel them all the way to the World Series.

For me, I can only look back and smile, wondering about what could have been after that spectacular start and hope that, maybe next year, the Yankees and their dedicated fans from near and far will bask in the progression from summer success to the fall classic.

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If we stepped outside tomorrow to a 52 degree day, we’d race back inside and put on a coat.

If we opened the door in January to the same temperature, we might race back into the house to shed that same coat.

It’s all about expectations.

Our daughter figured that out several years ago. Gone are the days when she tells us she thinks she did well on a test. She doesn’t want us to ask, “What happened?” or hear us say, “Oh, but you thought you did well on that test.”

Instead, she often tamps down our expectations, indicating that we’d better brace for the equivalent of the academic cold. If she does better than expected, she won’t have to contend with questions. If she met the lowered expectations, she can say that, even if she didn’t do well, she can take consolation in knowing how she performed.

Yes, relationships are all about managing those expectations.

Let’s take a quick look at President Trump. He’s a shoot-from-the-tweet president. He frequently misspells words, gets facts wrong here and there, and attacks his opponents, his allies and anyone in between according to his mood.

Has he done the same thing as our daughter? Is he resetting our expectations? Is he pleased to redefine the notion of a modern-day president?

If, and when, he seems levelheaded, deliberate and considerate, is he climbing over a bar he reset for himself, giving us a chance to applaud the manner in which he interacted with a public prepared for a stream of anger and disdain?

Relationships, as Harry from the movie “When Harry Met Sally” knew all too well, are also about setting expectations. When Harry (played by Billy Crystal) is sharing one of his many philosophies of life with Sally (Meg Ryan), he suggests that he never takes a girlfriend to the airport early in a relationship because he doesn’t want her to ask why, later in the relationship, he doesn’t take her to the airport anymore.

Some people’s jobs, like stock market analysts, meteorologists and oddsmakers, involve setting expectations.

Built into their forecasts, meteorologists often leave the back door open, in case they’re wrong. As in, “It probably won’t rain, but there’s a 15 percent chance of precipitation today.”

While that forecast is innocuous enough, it leaves a small measure of flexibility in case the weather people missed a heavy band of rain clouds from their Doppler models, which happened recently, leaving my wife disappointed and dripping wet at her office after trudging through an unexpected shower.

Of course, a meteorologist who predicted rain every day in anywhere but Ketchikan, Alaska, where the locals say it rains 400 days a year, wouldn’t last long, as people would bristle at carrying unnecessary umbrellas through the brilliant sunshine

Many years ago, my wife and I went to see a movie. When we got to the theater, the film was sold out.

Instead of turning around, we bought tickets to a film on which we hadn’t read any reviews and knew nothing. We wound up watching “Shakespeare in Love.” We thoroughly enjoyed it, in part because we had no expectations.

Perhaps the most difficult expectations to meet, or exceed, are our own. Raising the bar for anything — the taste of the food we cook, our performance during a presentation or our ability to stay calm in a crisis — involves risk. Then again, once we clear our new expectations often enough, we know what we can expect of ourselves and can move on to bigger challenges. The rewards, even if we never tell anyone how much more we accomplished than we expected, seem well worth the risk.

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If you have had a particularly nasty fight with your spouse or best friend today, consider this. How well did each of you sleep last night?

It may not come as a surprise that a good night’s sleep makes one feel calm and good natured the next morning. But how many of us consider the ramifications of poor or too little sleep one night on our behavior and relationships the next day? We may feel out of sorts, perhaps below our awareness radar, and that can lead to more difficult and even acrimonious interactions with those at work, in our daily routines and especially with our spouses. Even worse, it may affect our health.

A study at Ohio State University of 43 couples and how their bickering could influence their health tracked the subjects spouses most often argue over: managing money, spending family time together or an in-law intruding on their lives. According to an article in The New York Times Science section, “Relationship Problems? Try Getting More Sleep” by Tara Parker-Pope, Sept. 4, the study revealed that some couples argue calmly, even constructively, while others were “hostile and negative.”

The difference? The hostile couples were likely not getting enough sleep, usually less than at least seven hours. So before you give up on a relationship, consider the sleep factor. With enough sleep, you will still have disagreements, but the tone of the conflicts will probably be more patient.

The Ohio State study goes further. It purports to measure how marital discord together with sleep deprivation can negatively affect a person’s health. The way the university measured for this possible toxic effect was by taking blood samples from both members of the couple before and after an argument. The samples measured the level of inflammation in the body because inflammatory proteins have been linked with heart disease, cancer and other health problems. The results showed that “marital discord is more toxic to your body when you haven’t gotten enough sleep.”

Interestingly, when one member of the couple got adequate sleep, it mitigated the negative tone of the conflict, even if the other member was sleep deprived. So that suggests “a half-a-loaf is better than none” conclusion.

The article goes on to reveal that some 25 percent of couples sleep in separate beds, presumably in order to get more undisturbed rest. “And when one relationship partner doesn’t sleep well, his or her partner is more likely to report poor health and well-being.”

In conclusion: “The lesson, say the study authors, is that before concluding a relationship is in trouble, couples who regularly experience conflict should take stock not only of the relationship and how they are managing conflict, but also of their sleep habits.” The study was published in the May edition of the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, hardly most people’s bedtime reading but offering an article to better understand the universal need in a marriage for adequate sleep.

In addition to all the authoritative information above, I can offer another nugget in the advice for marrieds department. Mine is anecdotal, not academic. Disagreements don’t go well if one or both members of a couple are hungry. Hunger starts out as insidious rather than full blown, and so it is often hard to identify the mood change when in the midst of a difficult discussion or even in an idyllic setting. But hunger can forcibly affect one’s outlook and certainly one’s patience.

I found this to be particularly true with my husband. (I’m not making a gender specific allegation here, just sayin’.) We could be having a perfectly lovely time at the zoo or some other outing, and for no apparent reason, he would begin to get cranky. The level of his crankiness would rise as we continued to stroll. Fortunately I eventually figured it out and began to carry protein bars in my pocket. At the right moment, I would pull two out and offer him one. Within merely a couple of minutes, all was again right with the world.

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