My Year of Living Backwards – The Secret to Successful Relationships


Long-married couples are inevitably asked for their “secret” to a successful relationship. Well, after 34 years of marriage, here’s mine: don’t let yourself get too hungry. I don’t mean hungry for adventure, or novelty, or a new grand passion. I mean H-U-N-G-R-Y … for food.

Whenever Mark or I start feeling a little peckish, we invariably start pecking at each other. In the past, it led us straight into an argument … and there have been some whoppers. Over the years however, we’ve learned to back away from that cliff. Now I say to him, “Mark, you’re starting to look really annoying to me right now. Let’s meet back here after I’ve had something to eat.” It’s really as simple as that.

It’s not just marriage that benefits from a little shift in blood sugar.

My daughter suffers from hypoglycemia and the mood swings that accompany it. Ninety-seven percent of the time, no one could find a more delightful, more even-tempered, or more forgiving companion than she is.

There is, however, that final three percent. If she lets herself get too hungry, actual flames dart from her eyes. We, her family, quake at the sight.

This past weekend, I was visiting my son in Victoria and she took the ferry from Vancouver to join us. She awakened me from a deep sleep with an early morning call, telling me I didn’t have to pick her up as she had a ride. At least that’s what I thought she said. Later, still in dreamland, I got a second call:

“Where are you? The ferry docked 10 minutes ago!”

By the time we collected her and deposited her in my son’s house, she hadn’t eaten for several hours and wasn’t particularly friendly. I immediately began looking for food … any food. From the depths of the fridge, I called out to her.

“Come over and give me a hug.” (She’s normally the huggiest of daughters.)

“No, I’m mad at you.”

“I’ll start looking better to you after breakfast.”

“No Mom, this has nothing to do with me being hungry. I’m mad at you.”

Later, while her mouth was full of cheese burrito, I tried again, “How about a hug?”

She was weakening, I could tell, but she held her ground.

“No, you left me at the ferry. And last Christmas you forgot to pick me up at the airport.”

“I didn’t forget. I got the schedules mixed up.”

Inevitably, however, the food worked its magic, as I knew it would: in no time at all she was in my lap.

Exercise is almost as magical as food when it comes to changing our moods. During that same visit, my daughter was telling my son and me about her boxing classes:

“After my workout, I feel braver and more confident with people. It might be the endorphins giving me a little bit of a high. I’m more willing to step out of my comfort zone. I asked a guy out recently and I feel I wouldn’t have been brave enough if I hadn’t just finished a really intense workout.”

“Are you okay with me putting that in the blog?” I asked. (Appropriate sharing is not always my strong suit.)

“Absolutely. I think that, after an intense workout, people should do things they’re scared of doing: if you need to write a serious email to your boss or ask someone out, work up a sweat then do it immediately after.”


Exercise is simply one of the best things we can do for ourselves. While it may be difficult to force ourselves out of bed for a 6 a.m. workout, or head off to the gym after a long day at work, no one ever regrets it afterward.

While exercise puts us in a positive state, other things can have a more negative effect on our moods. In my communications workshops, I often share the H.A.L.T. acronym with clients. If you find yourself about to bark at someone, check your physical state first. Are you Hungry … Angry … Lonely … Tired? Any one of these can lead us to do or say something we’ll regret.

Even mild dehydration can result in mood swings. Changing your outlook on life and relationships can be as easy as taking a drink of water.

Food, exercise, water, rest: can life really be that simple? You’ll discover it can be, in these years of living backwards.

image Susan Young de Biagi is a regular contributor to prdn.

“As a trained historian, my twin passions are writing and teaching. In addition to Cibou – my first novel – I have written or co-written three books of non-fiction, and authored a number of digital, educational products.

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