One Word that Can Change Your Marriage: L.I.S.T.E.N.

Couple listening

Do you ever lay awake at night feeling distant or disconnected in your marriage? The truth is if you keep doing what you have been doing, you are going to get the same thing.

Do you want to have a more resilient, robust marriage? Do you want to begin to take some simple steps to turn things around?

You always have a choice to make a decision. You can do nothing, or you can choose to begin using some of the tools contained in this article to start improving your relationship within the next few hours.

These six insights are the results of 47 years of being married and sitting with couples as they worked through their issues as a relationship specialist.

Because I want your marriage to have a renewed sense of love, passion, and purpose here is a simple process that you can begin as soon as you finish this article. You can begin, literally right now, to build a more resilient marriage.

Here is a low-cost, high yield way to refresh and energize your relationship? While the focus on this article is on your relationship, these practical-proven tips will work in your day-to-day living.

I am going to take the six letters of the word LISTEN and show you how to add almost instant energy and purpose in your day to day actions.

Let’s jump in!

L – Lean forward and look into your partner’s eyes. I am not talking about a staredown, because that can get pretty creepy pretty quick. Instead, be intentional about looking into their eyes. FYI, it is reasonable to look into someone’s eyes and look away, so I do not want you to feel weird. However, studies are showing that more people struggle with this because of the blue screen of electronic devices.

I – Use “I” statements as opposed to “you” statements. This is a tough one for so many of us. Yet, while tough, it is a skill that can be learned, click here for a free PDFon how to learn to trade in the old inflammatory “you” statements with uplifting “I” statements

S – Shared Responsibility. The blame game started in Genesis chapter 3 and continues until today. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard clients say something like, “I wouldn’t do “x” if she didn’t do “y”? Let’s face it most of us find it pretty easy to blame someone else, like our spouse, our parents, our in-laws, and God only know what else for the problems in our relationships. The hard truth is that it usually takes two people to screw things up, so rather than becoming an impotent blamer, assume responsibility for the issues you are struggling with and share the responsibility for it.

Dr. Jack Allen, a friend of mine, puts it this way, “If you make a mess, take ownership of it, confess it, then CLEAN IT UP!

T – Tenacious. Absolutely refuse to be wimpy and whinny. Lean into the relationship, face the issues with courage, be committed as a couple to work through the situation. The key concept here is resilience. Get help if you need it.

I am an old Tom Petty fan, and for years I have used his song “I Won’t Back Down,” as a personal theme to be tenacious in my marriage and in my own convictions. If you haven’t heard it in a while, here is a link to the video.

E – Encourage. The word means to give courage, hope, and confidence. Here is a secret that I have learned as both a therapist and a man married to the same woman for 47 years.

Men need three things: To feel needed, to feel competent, and to feel respected.

Woman needthree things: To feel valued, to feel cherished, and to feel secure.

If you think about these three needs, you will find that it will be easier to be an encourager.

N – Negate the negative. Make sure not to overthink the negatives in your relationship, if you do you will self-destruct! Instead, be intentional about looking for the good.

I want you to take a couple of minutes and listen to a vintage song that deals with the power of having a positive attitude. Here is Paul McCartney’s & Diane Krall’s version of Accentuate the Positive.

I know that was quick, but I also know that this little six-letter tool kit can enhance all of your relationships.

Here is my challenge for you. Pick the one that you feel you need to work on in your marriage to just do it.

I’d love to hear how this helps, so please feel free to comment.

Looking for some help in your relationship? Email John about getting a free marriage 30-minute marriage assessment.

Interested in doing a Couple’s Personality Consultation? Simply email John for more info.

Some Ancient Insight:

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT

5 Stages of Marriage from 30,000 Feet

Stages of Marriage
(c) 2018 John Thurman

Did you know that marriage experts have identified 5 Phases of Marriage? In today’s article, I will give you a bird’s eye view of the 5 Phases of Marriage and in the next few posts, I will go into more detail on each one.

One of the ways to develop a more intentional and resilient marriage is to be a life-long learner.

Married life can be very frustrating at times. In the first year of marriage, the man speaks, and the woman listens. In the second year, the woman speaks, and the man listens. In the third year, they both speak, and the neighbors listen.

Forty-seven years into this adventure called marriage, and we are still active learners. As a long-time participant and observer of relationships, I can tell you that, like children, marriages go through specific, predictable stages and phases. By preparing for these, you can learn to resist some of the temptations to take short cuts or bailout of the relationship, and you will learn to be resilience. If you fail to understand these common, predictable patterns, then there could be a rough road ahead of misunderstanding, overreaction, which can lead to the death of your relationship.

Make sure you’re a buckled in as we take off and overview these phases and stages look like from 30,000 feet.

Stages of Marriage

Phase One – Crazy in Love/Lust.
This stage can last from months to years. It is all about you and your lover and the excitement, sex, and intimacy you are experiencing. You have fallen in love and knew the two of you would spend the rest of your life together. The little differences in personality and style were seen as cute and endearing.

Stages of Marriage

Phase Two-What on Earth was I Thinking?
At some point in the relationship, the little differences begin to annoy us. What was cute a few months ago is now a significant source of irritation. The little voices in our heads start to wonder if our spouse is the right one, or did I get a lemon. In this stage of the relationship, we begin to realize that we didn’t marry Mr. or Mrs. Wonderful. Slowly it begins to dawn on us that the “perfect relationship” is flawed.

Stages of Marriage

Phase Three – I Can’t Change My Spouse; Maybe I Should End It!
This is the stage where a couple may seek the counsel of friends, clergy, or a therapist. Usually, there have been several hurts, continued harsh conversations, a significant drop in communication, and an increase in disengagement within the marriage. It may have gotten to the point where one spouse is pushing for a divorce, and the other is pleading to save the marriage. This phase is where the relationship is at risk of an affair.

Stages of Marriage

Phase Four – Maybe We can Work it Out.
In this phase, we begin to come to terms with the fact that we are never going to agree on everything with our spouses. As a couple moves into the phase, they begin accepting the fact that you have to take the good with the bad. We become more open to forgiving our spouse, recognizing that we might not be the easiest to live with.

Over the next several weeks, I will be going into more detail about each phase and stage to give you some tools to enhance your relationship.
I hope to hear your thoughts and ideas on this subject so feel free to leave a comment.

Stages of Marriage
(c) 2014 John Thurman

Phase Five – We’re in this Together
“Divorce Busting” expert, Michelle Wiener-Davis says, “It is a tragedy that half of all couples who wed never get to this stage when all of the pain and hard work of the earlier stages begin to pay off. Since you are no longer in a struggle to define who you are and what the marriage should be, there is more peace and harmony.” Many times this stage of a marriage is a time to renew your friendship and passion. I hope you will choose to have a long-term, rewarding marriage that is both intentional and resilient.

Hey, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Shoot me a comment and let’s have a conversation!

By the way, here is a link to a great article, Dating and Relationship Boundaries by Marcus Neo

John

7 Benefits​​​ of Having Humor in Your Relationship

Cheap ways to strengthen your marriage by adding humor to your reationship.

Humor in Resilient Relationships

Several years ago, my wife and I had come to an impasse in our relationship. I was detached and living in my career; something men often do, and my wife was into other things. I wish I could tell you that I suggested some counseling, but no, I was too proud and bone-headed to do that. It was my wife who strongly encouraged me to make a call. Our counselor was a wise man who helped us learn to re-negotiate our marriage and reconnect. As we wrapped up therapy, he made a comment that surprised and encouraged us. He said, “Angie and John, like many couples that come to see me, you guys were way off track, but even in some of the tougher sessions you both maintained a healthy sense of humor in your relationship. That let me know that you two are going to make it.”

Those encouraging words were a gift to us nearly 34 years ago and have sustained us through the ebbs and flows of our marriage. Through the Winters, Springs, Summers, and Falls of our lives, we have managed to maintain humor in our relationship.

Humor, laughter, and joy have a powerful effect on health and well-being. It alleviates tension and stress, boosts the mood, raises creativity, and provides an excellent, drug-free energy boost. Humor brings people together and helps them manage life better. An occasional shared belly laugh is an essential part of a robust and healthy relationship.

Laughter and joy and playful communication are some of the most effective, free tools that can keep your relationship vital, fresh, and stimulating. Humor and laughter can keep your relationship exciting, light, and joyful. Want more sex, laugh more. Want to increase your overall well-being, chill out, and giggle.

Here are six things that laughter and humor can do to enhance your relationship.

1.     Links you to others. We are hardwired for relationships. Your happiness and health, in no small degree, depend on the quality of your relationships. Real connections are engaged in face to face, eyeball to eyeball, not in the glow of the blue tinted screens. And the laughter helps strengthen the relationship’s connect on several levels.

2.     Helps smooth over differences. Using soft humor often enables you to deal with sensitive subjects, work through disagreements, and gain a fresh perspective on problems.

3.     Develops resilience. A sense of humor is one of the keys to resilience. The American Psychological Association defines resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress–such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. 

4.     Increases energy and relaxes at the same time. Joy, humor, and laughter relieve fatigue and relax your body while recharging your batteries and helps you get more done.

5.     Renews perspective. Most relationships, life, or job situations are not as bad when viewed through the window of joy and laughter.

6.     Increases creativity. Playfulness and humor release certain brain chemicals that loosen you up energize your thinking, and inspire creative problem-solving.

As we move into the summer months, I want to challenge you to be more intentional about experiencing more joy in your relationship.

I’d love to hear your comments, input

 and ideas. 

Meaningful Intimacy, Want More?

meaningful intimacy

Have you ever blown it the arena of intimacy in your marriage? I have. There have been times when I have been a knuckle-dragging, selfish, and ignorant Neanderthal. I am thankful for my wife, who has extended grace as we have spent most of our 46 years together in a learning mode. In this post, I am going to show you how to have more meaningful intimacy in your relationships.

If you are feeling brave, I encourage you to take some time and read this post. It is a compilation of things that I have learned over forty-six years of marriage and over fifty thousand hours of counseling experience. I can guarantee you that you can enhance your relationship with more meaningful intimacy.

One of the foundational principles of building and maintaining a healthy, resilient, relationship is to recognize the foundations of meaningful intimacy and communication. It is not about technique, positions, or power, but about getting to know someone genuinely.

Dwight Bain, a long-time friend, therapist, and life coach shared some great thoughts in a recent presentation which I would like to pass along. It sets a good starting point for this article. Dwight was addressing married couples, but the points he makes are crucial to developing any romantic relationship.

There are so many failed marriage stories in the headlines it can make you wonder, “Is an intimate relationship even possible anymore?” and if so, “How do you get one?” It seems that some couples quickly move from being fired up with a romanticpassion to wanting just to fire each other as a bully boss does to an exhausted employee. 

It’s no wonder people are more cautious about opening up their hearts to another person. It might be because they have likely witnessed the process of intense romantic chemistry quickly eroding into hateful rejection and ugly conflicts.

Everybody talks about genuinely wanting a meaningful relationship where they are loved and accepted, yet few are willing to take the chance of being vulnerable or hurt again.

Genuine, meaningful intimacy is about seeing into the heart and mind of your mate. It’s learning to connect with them in multiple ways like feeling close, accepted, and loved on the inside no matter what kind of pressure might be happening on the outside. 

To experience this kind of intense relationship, you need understanding regarding both sides of an intimate connection to grow to a new level of purpose and passion together. These different levels of connection reflect the differences between a cultural view of relationships where romance is the primary goal; and a long-term view of marriage where learning to connect together through the realities of daily life is joined alongside love to build intensity, regardless of the circumstances. You need both sides to make your relationship go the distance from short-term infatuation to create long-term success in your marriage.

Building a meaningful relationship and/or being married is a team sport; you either win together or lose together.

One of the keys to building meaningful intimacy is communication. Two-way communication that is based on respect, honor, and grace is essential for two people sharing a life together.

Two marriage researchers whom I have known over the years, Drs. David Olson and Peter Larson have discovered 10 things you and I can do to be better at communication and increase your menaingful intimacy. 

1. Give full attention to your partner when talking. My wife gets very annoyed when I think I am listening, but I am distracted. My suggestion, turn off the phone, IPad, computer, or television and turn towards your partner.

2. Focus on the good qualities and be intentional about catching them doing good. People tend to rise or fall on our expectations when you are intentional about finding the good in someone they rarely disappoint.

3. Be assertive, not aggressive or passive. Share your thoughts, feeling, and needs. One way to do this is to the old therapist stand by, using “I” statements versus “you” statements. (e.g., “I worry when you don’t let me know you’ll be late” rather than “You are always late.”)

4. Avoid criticism. It is a relationship killer. I think William Arthur Ward hit the nail on the head when he said, “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I may not forget you.” You can never share too much encouragement. If you must criticize, sandwich it with a least two positive comments. (e.g., “I appreciate it when you help out by cooking, the food is excellent. It would mean a lot to me if you could straighten up a little after you are done. Thanks again for dinner.) This is known as the sandwich method. 

5. Listen to understand, not to judge. Two eyes, two ears, one mouth. Listening is all about trying to understand.

6. Use active listening. Summarize your partner’s comments before sharing your own reactions of feelings.

7. Avoid blaming each other at all costs. Instead, work together for a solution. There is energy when we accept responsibility and decide to work towards a mutually beneficial solution.

8. Manage your conflict. (I will give you ten steps for resolving conflict in my next post. 

9. Seek counseling. If you are not able to have better results with your communication as a couple. Then take action. Enroll in marriage/relationship class, read a book together, see your pastor, priest, or get counseling if you need to.

10. Hit the pause button, slow down, catch your breath. Sometimes a dinner date, a night away from the house, a weekend escape can go a long way in lowering the stressors in a marriage.

One of the best ways to increase the frequency of physical intimacy is through solid communication. When men and women feel heard they usually are open to more intimacy.

What is intimacy? One definition of intimacy is it is an act of familiar expression serving as a token of familiarity, affection, and love

I believe as a culture we have lost some of the essential components of intimacy by limiting it to just a physical response.

There has been some breakthrough research that shows which there are at least five different areas of meaningul intimacy! Take a moment and grade yourself in each area, then ask your partner to do the same.

The first is Intellectual Intimacy. On this level, couples are able to talk about current events, share ideas, laughs, and thoughts, even debate political and religious topics. They are able to participate in the exchange of thoughts and ideas jointly.

The second area of intimacy is Recreational Intimacy. This means there are some recreational activities that a couple enjoy together. It does not mean they do everything together. 

The third area of intimacy is Social Intimacy. After decades of marriage, my wife and I realized that it is entirely okay for her to have her friends and me to have my friends as long as we share some “we” friends. Couple friendships can be an added bonus to a relationship by being a sounding board, providing feedback, and accountability.

The fourth intimacy area is Spiritual intimacy. While this area of intimacy is the most subjective, due to the various religious backgrounds & practices a couple may have, it is still an essential component. In my opinion, one of the most important because a growing relationship is at its core spiritual in nature. Spiritual intimacy is also a crucial factor when and if children become a part of the family.

The fifth and final level of intimacy is physical intimacy. Sexual expression is part of our hard wiring and can be both exhilarating and refreshing for a couple, in the right context. In recent years the primary focus has been primarily on physical intimacy. We have reduced physical intimacy into a series of positions and practices based more on applied physics than on building relationships.

Could it be that one of the reasons we see so many relationships falling apart is that we have failed to understand that intimacy works on several levels? If a relationship is based primarily on sexual expression, it is doomed to fail in the long run. However, if a couple can grow in their understanding of these different levels of meaningful intimacy, their relationship will experience growth in all areas. As you grow in these other areas, then sexual expression within your relationship will become more intense and meaningful. This is because it is based on getting to know your partner and being recognized by them.

So how can you have more meaningful intimacy in your life? Be mindful of the ten communication tips and the five levels of intimacy and how interconnected they are. 

I’d love hearing your thoughts.

5 Valentine Shopping Tips for Men

Keeping things lite, fun, and romantic can strengthen your relationship.

February is here, and we all know Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

John Thurman

Men, please get your shopping done before Feb. 14. If you wait too late, the roses will be wilted, and the selection of cards and chocolates will be pretty much picked over. It seems simple enough, but how many times have we men suffered from procrastination a condition related to waiting until the last minute to shop for your wife or girlfriend. Good news: There is a cure – buy early!

I got a chuckle out of this story.

Nuts About Love
 
“Driving through Southern California, I stopped at a roadside stand that sold fruit, vegetables, and crafts. As I went to pay, I noticed the young woman behind the counter was painting a sign. ‘Why the new sign?’ I asked. ‘My boyfriend didn’t approve of the old one,’ she said. When I glanced at what hung above the counter, I understood. It declared: Local Honey Dates Nuts.”

Contributed by Theodore Bologna

Here are five guy tips that will help you in your Valentine gift selection:


1. If you buy chocolate, make sure you don’t get it at the grocery store or the pharmacy. Buying high-quality chocolate shows her how special she really is. You need to know if she likes milk chocolate, dark chocolate, soft centers, assorted nuts or just plain chocolate.

2. I spent part of my young life helping my mom out at her florist shop. It was always interesting to see stressed-out men coming into the shop on the 13th or 14th of February hoping Mom could work a miracle. She usually did.

Don’t wait until Valentine’s Day to pick up flowers at a florist shop or grocery store. If you want to earn extra points, spend a few extra dollars and have them delivered to her work site or home. Women have this fantastic quality: While the other women at her workplace will ooh and ah over the flowers you sent your spouse, they will walk away with envy, wishing their man had done the same.

3. When looking for a card, try to avoid the “ I know I don’t say it enough, but I really do love your card.” I promise she will not be impressed. Instead, you might ask one of the women at the store to help you pick the right card. Make your card purchase based on words she would like to hear. For an additional bonus, write a short hand-written note of love and appreciation.

4. Help your kids select a card or gift for their mom.

5. You do have permission to get your wife some cute, flattering pajamas. Just don’t buy anything too revealing, flashy or trashy. If you decide to get something on the naughtier side, just make sure she has pre-approved it. Remember the gift is for her.

In closing: Being thoughtful on Feb. 14 does not let you off the hook for the rest of the year. Your wife and or girlfriend desires to feel valued, cherished and secure 365 days a year.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Seven Ways to Have a Happy Husband

Ever wondered if there are any ways to tell if your husband is a happily married man?

While every relationship goes through its seasons, here are some proven indicators that your man is happy in your relationship.

1. He knows that he can be himself without being judged or criticized. You see, there is nothing that can kill a relationship faster than criticism.

2. He feels that you notice him and appreciate all that he does for you and that you do not take him for granted.

3. He realizes that you love and accept him for who he is, but he also knows that you will not put up with any bad behavior. He knows that your love is the “real deal” and respects it because he sees that it is not based on submissive compliance, but a loving choice.

4. He likes that you care about looking attractive in your own personal way. He doesn’t expect you to look like someone you aren’t, but seeing that you care about your appearance makes him feel you value yourself and your relationship with him.

5. He sees that you desire him and express it through physical intimacy. Every man wants a wife who loves physical intimacy. What do most wives want? A man who provides the intimacy that her soul longs for. You see men only need a place, but a woman needs a reason.

6. He feels respected and admired by you. There is no love outside of respect. Feeling the admiration and respect of the one you love boosts self-esteem, increases intimacy, and promotes communication and passion.

7. He sees that you do not hold on to grudges, keep score or consistently feel victimized by life. The helps your relationship develop flexibility and adaptability, and keeps the possibility of a rewarding future intact.

Action Plan:

Take a moment to reflect on your feelings about these seven indicators. Are you happy with where you are? If so, outstanding! If you feel you need a little work, then pick one or two and try them out as a pilot project with your honey. After all, it is a budget-friendly, powerful tool that you can use to enhance your marriage!

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!

 

Shades of Grey, Shades of Love: 10 Skills to Build Up Your Marriage

Shades of Grey or Shades of Love Part 2

John Thurman

“It is a luxury to be understood.”      Ralph Waldo Emerson

Building a relationship and being married is a team sport; you either win together or lose together.

One of the keys to building intimacy is communication. Two-way communication that is based on respect, honor, and grace is essential for two people sharing a life together.

Drs. David Olson and Peter Larson have invested their careers studying relationships. They have identified 10 Communication Skills that will enhance your intimacy.

1.     Give full attention to your partner when talking.  My wife gets very annoyed when I think I am listening, but am distracted. My suggestion turn off the phone, Ipad™, computer, or television and turn towards your partner.

2.     Focus on the good qualities and be intentional about catching them doing good.  People tend to rise or fall on our expectations, when you are intentional about finding the good in someone they rarely disappoint.

3.     Be assertive, not aggressive or passive. Share your thoughts, feeling, and needs.  One way to do this is to the old therapist standby of using “I” statements versus “you” statements. (e.g. “I worry when you don’t let me know you’ll be late” rather than “You are always late.”)

4.     Avoid criticism. It is a relationship killer.  I think William Arthur Ward hit the nail on the head when he said, “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I may not forget you.”  You can never share too much encouragement.

5.     If you must criticize, sandwich it with a least two positive comments. (e.g. “I appreciate it when you help out by cooking, the food is excellent. It would mean a lot to me if you could straighten up a little after you are done. Thanks again for dinner.)

6.     Listen to understand, not to judge.  Two eyes, two ears, one mouth. Listening is all about trying to understand.

7.     Use active listening. Summarize your partner’s comments before sharing your own reactions of feelings.

8.     Avoid blaming each other at all costs. Instead, work together for a solution.  There is energy when we accept responsibility and decide to work towards a mutually beneficial solution.

9.     Manage your conflict.  (I will give you ten steps for resolving conflict in a few weeks.)

10.  Seek counseling.  If you are not able to have better results with your communication as a couple. Then take action.  Enroll in marriage/relationship class, read a book together, see your pastor, priest, or get counseling if you need to.

One of the best ways to increase the frequency of physical intimacy is through reliable communication. When men and women feel heard, they usually are open to more intimacy.


Next week I will be writing about the five levels of intimacy.

To spice up your love life check out my talk on the 5 Phases of Marriage

Shades of Love or Shades of Grey?

By John Thurman

There is a ton of buzz in the media today about Shades of Grey as the movie buzz builds with the release of the movie trailer. The book series took the world by storm, and I am sure the movie will do the same.

But wait a minute.

One of the foundational principles of building and repairing a relationship is to understand the foundations of intimacy. It is not about technique, positions, or power, but about getting to know someone deeply.

Dwight Bain, a long time friend, therapist, and life coach shared some great thoughts in a recent presentation which I would like to pass along. It sets a good starting point for the next few weeks. Dwight was addressing married couples, but the points he makes are key to developing any romantic relationship.

There are so many failed marriage stories in the headlines it can make you wonder, “Is an intimate relationship even possible anymore?” and if so, “How do you get one?” It seems that some couples quickly move from being fired up with romantic passion to wanting to just fire each other like a bully boss does to an exhausted employee.

It’s no wonder people are more cautious about opening up their hearts to another person, because they have likely witnessed the process of intense romantic chemistry quickly eroding into hateful rejection and ugly conflicts. Everybody talks about wanting a meaningful relationship where they are loved and accepted, yet few are willing to take the chance of being vulnerable or hurt again.

Marital intimacy is about seeing into the heart and mind of your mate and learning to connect with them in multiple ways such as feeling close, accepted and loved on the inside, no matter what kind of pressure might be happening on the outside. Listen to the word intimacy slowly spoken… ‘Into-see-me’. Since true intimacy is about complete openness, and coming closer together to connect in the most intense ways.

To experience this kind of intense relationship, you need to understand both sides of an intimate connection to grow to a new level of purpose and passion together. These different levels of connection reflect the differences between a cultural view of relationship where romance is the primary goal; and a long-term view of marriage where learning to connect together through the realities of daily life is joined alongside romance to build intensity, regardless of the circumstances. You need both sides to make your relationship go the distance from short-term infatuation to build long-term success in your marriage.

My friend, Dr. Kevin Leman has a great resource that can help you heat it up at your house.

Next week I will introduce the five levels of intimacy.


John Thurman is a Counselor, Speaker, and Author of Get a Grip on Depression, order your personally autographed copy today.
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(c)2013 Canstock photo