Author Archives: Christian Pedersen
“You don’t listen to me!”
“What are you talking about, I’m right here in front of you … “
Sonika and I did a presentation this week for a group of couples and singles in Sacramento. We played out a typical interaction between partners. One of the couples in the group said, “We literally had that exact same fight this week. Have you guys been in our house?”
We hadn’t been in their house:) But we have been inside their relationship, and thousands of other relationships.
The conversation went something like this:
“You don’t listen to me!”
“What are you talking about, I’m right here in front of you … “
“That’s not the point. Look at you, with your arms crossed, all stiff, you’re not really listening”
“Want me to repeat every word you just said?”
“No! You’re being all defensive, can you just listen for once?”
“So I’m not doing it right, is that it? It doesn’t matter what I do, it’s not right for you!”
“See, you’re doing it again! Making it all about you when I’m trying to tell you something about me”
“Well, if you actually cared about what I think … “
From here, you can imagine how the rest of the interaction goes. More arguing back and forth, more disconnection as each one tries to get their point across.
A simple argument like this illustrates what pretty much every person in this world does to problem solve their relationship:
They bring up an issue they think needs to change, in this example, “You don’t listen to me”.
When I’m the one bringing up an issue, I think I’m just presenting an obvious problem, in a calm and reasonable manner.
But in the ears and eyes of the recipient, “bringing up an issue” like this sounds like nothing but complaining, blaming, and criticizing.
Why do I bring up an issue? In the hopes it’ll improve our relationship. In the hopes that you’ll get my point, agree with me, and change your behavior (to one I like better).
We call this strategy Complaining For Change.
Everyone uses this strategy in every relationship. With spouses, dates, ex’s, co-workers, employees, family members, you name it.
It’s like a bad movement that went viral long before anyone heard of Facebook.
It’s the #1 default strategy we use to improve our relationships. And it consequently, always, no-exceptions-ever, backfires.
The whole strategy rests upon a fantasy. The fantasy is, if you say, “You don’t listen” to your partner, that he’ll go, “Really! OMG, I’m so sorry I haven’t been listening you to. I’m such a doofus. You deserve to be listened to all the time, and every word you speak is gold to me. I promise it will never happen again, I’m really sorry about that, I love you, baby! Tell me again, what did you want me to hear?”
But has that ever happened in real life?
We use the example of “You don’t listen”, but you can insert any other topic or issue.
“Am I the only one cleaning up around here?”
“Do you really have to spend that much money on clothes?”
“We really need to talk about the stuff in the garage!”
“Why don’t you want have sex anymore?”
“You’re going out with your friends again!?”
Or with our kids, we say things like, “Your room is a mess”, with the fantasy that they’ll go, “Oh, I’m sorry, dad, I’ll get it cleaned up right now, thanks for telling me”.
What actually does happen when someone tells you, “You never listen to me”? Do you want to listen more? Or less? What actually happens when you tell your kids, “Your room is a mess”? Defensiveness, resistance, more arguing.
When we complain for change, we make things worse.
As a matter of fact, we end up with less of the very thing we were trying to get more of. It produces the exact opposite of what we were hoping for.
“You never listen” produces less listening.
“Why don’t we ever have sex anymore?” produces less sex (Think about it, are you more or less attracted to your partner when he/she says that?)
Complaining For Change is basically a relationship tragedy.
It’s meant to make our relationships better, with more love, connection, and friendship. But instead it grinds down our love, patience, and good will and produces more of the problems we’re trying to solve.
So what to do instead?
We recommend two simple tips (granted, not always so simple to practice).
1. Quit Complaining For Change
2. Find and deliver specific appreciations
We mean #1 very literally. Just quit it. Knock if off. Don’t ever do it again.
Next time you catch yourself complaining, you’re better off zipping it and not saying another word.
Because everything you say after that point is only taking your further down a negative rabbit hole. You already know you’re not going to like where it’s taking you, so stop going in that direction.
As to #2, find and deliver specific appreciations, it’s the fastest and most effective antidote to Complaining For Change. It’s like kryptonite.
Sure, it’s not meant to fix all your relationship issues, nor are we recommending that you don’t deal with your legitimate challenges. But until you have a better method than complaining, you’re better off not talking about your problems and making things worse.
Whether it’s your spouse, date, brother, sister, anyone, find something to appreciate about that person and tell them.
Appreciations are to human beings like water and sun is to a plant. Without them, we wilt. With appreciations, we puff up and shine. Delivering appreciations uplifts the other person and supports them to be and bring out their best.
More importantly, it forces your mind to look for something you like in your life. It gets your focus off of what you don’t like. Every time you find something specific to appreciate, you’re reminding yourself that you actually have some of what you want in your life and relationships, that it is not all crap, and that uplifts YOU.
Every appreciation feeds BOTH of you, and you actually begin to create an upward spiral of positivity in your relationship.
This appreciation practice will disappear a good bunch of your problems. Most breakdowns stem from one or both of you not feeling seen, loved, valued and appreciated. As for the rest of your issues, your head and heart will be in a much better place to deal with … anything. With love and appreciation as the frame, it is more possible to work on your challenges together or by yourself.
Try it. Many couples have saved their marriages from implementing these two steps alone. Parents have had breakthroughs with their children. Co-workers have had miraculous shifts in their relationships at work.
And then get help for effectively dealing with the genuine conflicts and problems that inevitably show up in every relationship. So you can use them to bring you closer to one another, instead of farther apart!
For that purpose, consider attending our two-day Give Yourself to Love training. It offers powerful cutting-edge paradigm shifts and practical tools for improving relationships that stay with you for the rest of your relationship life!
You can save $700 per ticket in October!
More here: loveworksforyou.com/gytl
“There was no happy ending. I never called her. Using my cowardly cunning rationale, I eventually convinced myself she wasn’t that interesting anyways, that it probably wouldn’t have led to anything, and that it just wasn’t that important.”
When I was 14, I spent a week with my handball team at a tournament summer camp. There was this girl there, Britt, who caught my eye. At the final dance, we timidly chatted a bit, maybe even danced (as I recall, “dancing” meant standing across from each other looking down, trying not to move too much:)
A week after camp, I got a letter in the mail from Britt. Oh my, she thought I was cute and wanted to talk to me again, with her phone number included and an invitation to call her.
You can imagine how excited I was, my belly doing summersaults. I fantasized for days about the smooth conversations we’d be having, and how’s she’d be laughing at my quick wit.
So what happened?
Fear happened! I was terrified to call her, and even more terrified of the idea of being with her in person, just her and me. I read her letter over and over again, always feeling excited and flattered, but when it came to dialing her number … fear ruled me.
There was no happy ending. I never called her. Using my cowardly cunning rationale, I eventually convinced myself she wasn’t that interesting anyways, that it probably wouldn’t have led to anything, and that it just wasn’t that important.
BS! The simple truth was I desperately wanted to call her and I let fear be the strongest force in me. Hence, I totally missed out on … who knows what?
For years and years after that event, I repeated a similar sequence in my life in general and in my relationships in particular. Whenever I let my fear be the strongest force, it consequently led to unhappy endings. I walked away from countless relationships, and didn’t participate in countless opportunities, all because of fear.
There were so many things that seemed to cause that unpleasant pit in my belly. Getting really close to a partner. When a girl REALLY liked me and wanted us to be more serious. When she got mad about something and tried to talk me about it. So many times I let fear get the upper hand.
It wasn’t all bad, of course. There were many times where I followed my heart and did not let fear rule my choices.
After five years of university studies, I had all the required credits and exams to complete my master’s degree. I only needed to finish my final thesis. I chose to walk away from the whole thing because it was sucking the joy out of my life and because I never had my heart in it to begin with. In fact, the only reason I started my studies in the first place was because I was afraid I couldn’t make a decent life without a master’s degree.
Lots of people thought I was nuts to walk away, and I had serious fears they were right, but I still did it. In my heart and gut, it just felt like the right thing to do.
After years of physical and internal misery I finally admitted to myself that my life was not working and that my way of doing things was causing serious harm to my wellbeing and my relationships. It was scary, but I took the leap of faith to “quit” my old life. I sold my apartment, got rid of all my stuff, and moved to another country with no clue of where I was going.
A few years later I took another big risk that really paid off. I spent the last $8000 in my savings account to sign up for a course at The Option Institute in Massachusetts. I lived in Denmark at the time, had no steady livelihood and no clear path of where I was going. But I had a recurring voice in my mind that said to get myself to The Option Institute. So I did, knowing full well it was my last money, but choosing to trust that it would work out.
The first morning I was there, I met Sonika.
Now, I know there’s a lot of refrigerator-magnet wisdom that says, “Just follow your heart”, “FEAR is only False Evidence Appearing Real” (or more entertaining, Fuck Everything And Run), or, “Do it anyway”, which is great, but in my experience, it’s been a lot more complicated than that.
Much more than “overcoming” fear, it’s been about developing an empowering, judicious, and sometimes even fun-loving relationship with fear. Because it’s not just something to “get over” once so we can do the thing we were afraid to do. Fear arises each time we step outside of the box into new territory, and as a result, it’s not going away anytime soon, if ever.
So what to do?
There are a few things that have been absolutely key for me …
1. Understanding the good, innocent intention behind my fear. The Course in Miracles says there are only two states, love or fear. But I find the fear comes with a good deal of love in it.
2. Making friends with my fear. Since it’s not going to go away permanently (well, perhaps some day when I’m a more enlightened person), I might as well co-exist with it in a harmonious way.
3. Realizing how my fear points to my triggers, which points to what I’m making up in my head, which points to a decision I made long ago, which hardly ever serves me anymore. And which can be changed.
4. Gaining the discernment of when fear is to be listened to, and when it’s just paper tigers roaring in my head.
5. Having the courage to move ahead with clear action in the face of fear (should have done that with Britt 30 years ago!)
6. Learning how to decrease the intensity of my fear, and yet remain calm when fear is intense.
Sonika and I have this motto of sorts: Trust, risk, and keep a sense of humor. We try to live by that in all aspects of life. Whether it’s a trivial everyday relationship issue like working out a conflict between us or it’s big, intense, life-changing stuff like losing all our money or wondering which country to live in.
It’s from that place we developed our newest workshop offering, Fearless Love, Fearless Life.
If you would like to embody more of this spirit in your own life and relationships, come join us for our newest workshop, Fearless Love, Fearless Life. You’ll get to have fun with your fear, make friends with it, take it “for a walk”, and connect to the amazing love and power that’s waiting for you right on the other side.
And keep a sense of humor :/)
Rooting for you!
Christian & Sonika
“I led sexuality classes in college as a student teacher where I passed around sex toys to middle-aged women who didn’t know whether to giggle or throw up.”
Where do you stop yourself because of your fear? In what ways do you stay safe and comfortable instead of venturing out towards what you really want?
Almost always what keeps us from stepping out and taking risks is our fear of failure. We are scared of things not turning out well. We make up a story that the outcome will be bad in the end, and we feel so uncomfortable at the mere thought of doing something new that we stop before we start.
But everything we want is outside of our comfort zone!
That experience of aliveness, exhilaration, expansion and passion that we all long for, comes first from a willingness to be physically uncomfortable as you step into new territory, and to take action no matter how scary it might seem. Over and over, Christian and I watch people in our trainings navigate through discomfort only to discover massive transformation, deep love and bliss on the other side.
Certainly one of the side benefits of taking risks, is that we often discover that our fears are way worse than reality. Even if we do happen to fail, we find that we can learn from our mistakes and grow ourselves to be more competent and powerful than before.
I have developed a working relationship with fear over the years, by taking fear with me into new experiences – some of which were terrifying for me.
I have jumped out of an airplane, gone spelunking in underground caverns, parasailed at 200 feet, crossed rickety bridges and zip-lined over deep canyons, hurled myself through the air on ropes courses I don’t remember the names of, and rafted down white-water rapids in California and Wyoming. I worked in Yosemite as a national park laborer for three summers, bravely handling a chainsaw my first year. I walked on coals twice, led workshops in the nude, and was a guest speaker at numerous conferences.
I led sexuality classes in college as a student teacher where I passed around sex toys to middle-aged women who didn’t know whether to giggle or throw up. I have subbed for ministers on Sundays delivering inspirational sermons that made people cry. I have been married and divorced more than once. I traveled to Mexico by myself when I was 18. I have designed and facilitated relationship trainings for over 38 years – in Michigan, Canada and California, and even on cruise ships to Mexico.
This upcoming weekend, I am Dancing With Our Stars in Nevada City, where I will be performing two dances with a sore hip, two weeks before my 60th birthday, in front of some 700 people.
I have had my failures over the years. I have had my voice crack in the middle of singing a song to a crowd. I have bombed miserably in front of hundreds from a joke gone bad or one of those terrifying blank-outs when I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I was going to say. And I have had two people show up to what was supposed to be a large speaking gig. Imagine the hollow sound of their applause!
These “failures” have taught me a lot about fear and life, and about humility and humor.
I have learned that all failures and mess-ups diminish and heal over time. There is almost nothing that can’t be repaired, forgiven or learned from. When we use failures and mistakes as learning opportunities, we can never really “fail”.
I just heard of a man who literally passed out from anxiety and stage fright at the first workshop he was leading. It turned out that his fainting created immense vulnerability, connection and love between him, his wife and the workshop participants. As a result, it substantially changed his relationship with fear. Why? Because, when the worst thing happens – and you’re still ok – you don’t have to worry about the worst thing happening ever again.
More importantly, I have discovered through my many mess-ups, that no one cares! People are so afraid of failure themselves, that they actually aren’t judging you as much as you think they are. In fact, they love it when you mess up and laugh at yourself. It gives them permission to take risks and make mistakes too! I have learned to laugh out loud at myself if things don’t go as planned.
Oh, I still get scared. I have been afraid off and on about this dance competition. But it isn’t stopping me. On the actual evening of the event, I will simply take my fear with me for a twirl out on the dance floor! And if I fall or mess up, I will laugh and appreciate the heck out of myself for risking stepping out on the edge of life yet again. My favorite motto is “Trust, Risk and Keep a Sense of Humor!”
Taking action in spite of fear is a skill to develop. It takes practice!
If you would like to take a dynamic look at your relationship with fear, and step out beyond your comfort zone so that you can milk this life for all it has to offer, you are invited to attend Fearless Love, Fearless Life. Discover a new relationship to fear so that you are never stopped again from doing what your heart longs for!
Here’s to trusting, risking, and keeping a sense of humor!
🙂 Sonika Tinker
I was looking in my partner’s eyes and for the thousandth time feeling like something was missing. I so wanted to feel intimate, but as usual, I didn’t. I felt empty and lonely.
Even when we were lying in each other’s arms, making eye contact, I felt nothing. I kept looking for that magical in-love feeling, the sense of connection and oneness that people talk about in fairy tales. But after years, the feeling still eluded me. Why didn’t I feel that?
I was pretty sure it was my partner’s fault. If only he were different, I would feel more loved and swept off my feet. Maybe if he shared more of himself with me? But when he did, I still felt nothing. Maybe if he touched me more? Nope. That didn’t work either. Maybe if he acknowledged me more? Was more present? Looked more deeply into my eyes? Was more awake and sensitive?
I tried for years to figure out what HE was doing to “make me” feel so disconnected and separate. Oftentimes, we both looked at what he was “doing wrong”. Try as we might, nothing he did ever made any difference. We only got farther and farther apart.
One night, when I was yet again wanting to feel in love, I had a realization that changed my life forever:
Wanting and having cannot exist in the same space at the same time.
I realized that I could not WANT intimacy and EXPERIENCE intimacy at the same time. As long as I was “wanting” love, I would never “have” the experience of love and intimacy I desired. It wasn’t possible. Why? My wanting took up all the space!
No wonder nothing my partner did made any difference!
It didn’t take a rocket scientist for me to realize that this was not the only place I was wanting.
I was stuck in wanting everywhere in my life.
I wanted to lose weight.
I wanted to make lots of money.
I wanted to feel loved.
I wanted to do important work.
I wanted to be healthy.
I wanted to be beautiful and thin.
I wanted to be a great mom.
I wanted to be a good lover and a good wife.
I realized, that even when I did lose weight or did make money or did hang out with my beloved, I DIDN’T FEEL ANY DIFFERENT!
As I looked more closely, I began to see that I attached “feeling” states to certain “forms”. I realized that I believed the “form” or acquisition of a thing would make me feel a certain way.
I thought I would be happy when I lost weight. But I wasn’t.
I thought I would be connected when I was in a relationship or if my man was a certain way. But I was still lonely.
I thought if I bought real estate and made lots of money, I would relax and enjoy life. But I didn’t.
I thought if my kids loved me, I would feel loved. But I still thought I wasn’t enough.
Frankly, I was shocked.
Every external thing I went after did not actually make me feel any better when I got it.
I began to see that there was a difference between the “thing” I wanted and the experience I hoped I would feel when I got that thing. I saw that the “thing” and the experience were not connected at all.
My happiness and love did not live in any “form” in any-thing.
I started noticing how commercials keep us mixed up. They are always giving us the message that if we buy that truck we will feel powerful, or if we buy that mop our kids will be happy, or if we buy that shampoo we will feel special and in love.
So now what? If my happiness does not live in a thing, if nothing out there will make me happy, then how do I get happy?
Well, it took me a lot of years, but I finally figured it out.
Go straight for the feeling experience.
I developed this powerful process I call “Living in the Question”. This question tricks my mind into imagining myself having the experience I really want.
It goes like this, “If I were (feeling experience) right now, what would I say? What would I do? How would I be?”
So now when I am lying in bed with my man, I ask myself, “If I were in love with my man right now, what would I do? What would I say?”
And whatever answer my mind gives me in the moment, I do it. I imagine myself feeling in love, and the feeling of love comes from within me. I instantaneously step into a love space.
Or I ask myself how I would be right now if I had already lost all the weight I want to lose, and I find myself eating better food and having more energy – which is the reason I wanted to lose weight in the first place. I can feel what I want to feel now without having to lose a pound.
This question has been my lifesaver. I now know how to move out of wanting into having.
I am much happier, peaceful and loving now than I have ever been. I don’t try to change my externals, though I still have fun playing with that stuff.
And I don’t make my beloved wrong anymore.
Now, I look in his eyes, breathe in sync with his breath and dive into sweet deep love with him. It is so beautiful to be joined with him, to feel that sense of oneness and connection I longed for all those years.
And guess what?
It’s better than all those fairy tales…
For many people in relationship, fights about how much quality time to spend together or apart is commonplace. Usually one partner is arguing for more time together, while the other is arguing for more time to him or herself.
Watch our video here, and/or read the full article below the video.
There are two sides to this intimacy-freedom spectrum: there is a preference for intimacy or freedom, and there is a resistance to the other side. In other words, if I prefer intimacy and connection, I generally resist space and freedom – for myself AND my partner.
This is complicated even further by the fact that our needs and desires are constantly in flux. Even if one partner has a preference for more connection or space than the other, personal space and connection needs can vary from day to day. For example, I may want more connection today, but more space tomorrow and the next day.
This dilemma has a positive side. I just feel SO GOOD when we are together (or apart), that I want more of it. I want that feeling to stay and never leave. I want to hang on to that particular experience!
But sometimes this dilemma is fueled by fear. I don’t want you to go away because I am afraid if you leave you will never come back.
The more couples fight about this, the more they solidify their own position and preference and the more they resist their partner’s need. This pattern, in the end, only keeps the arguments and dissatisfaction going.
Given that there is an intimacy-freedom spectrum, it is inevitable for couples to find themselves having differing needs for connection and space. Rarely do couples hit the balance point where they both want the same exact amount of time together and apart.
So, what to do when you find yourself at odds with your partner’s preference?
For starters, explore. Where are you on the spectrum?
Do you find yourself preferring connection and dreading separation? Do you resist or pout or make a scene when your partner needs space or pulls away emotionally? Do you forget to take care of yourself because you are so focused on being with your partner?
Or do you prefer being alone and dread too much time together? Do you make plans away from the relationship without consulting your partner? Do you stay up late to avoid going to bed at the same time? Do you resist intimacy or sexual overtures?
So, explore your general preference.
Both space and togetherness are essential for love’s continued expansion. It is essential for any expansion and growth.
Think about it.
Your heart muscle opens and closes.
Your lungs expand and contract.
Your muscles tense and relax.
The seasons come and go.
The moon waxes and wanes as the earth shifts.
The waves and tides come in and go out.
There is a natural ebb and flow to the ever-changing energies of life that keep things moving, evolving, growing …
The same is true in relationship.
Relationship needs to breathe. It needs to move. It needs the space to grow and change. It needs an out-breath and an in-breath. It needs togetherness and separateness. It needs freedom AND connection. That is why this issue is so present for most couples in relationship – because both aspects are so essential to mature, healthy love.
Think of it this way …
When you get attached to connection, and you resist taking space or allowing your partner to take space, is a bit like trying to not breathe out. It is impossible, for one, and if you do happen to be successful, you will die. The same is true of relationship. Your relationship will die without breath, without movement. It will die if you ONLY have togetherness or you ONLY have space.
Or here is another useful image.
When you get attached to space and freedom, and you resist coming together in complete union with your partner, it is a bit like trying to keep a wave from coming onto your shores. Sure, you can build a wall to keep the water at bay with a lot of effort, but that wave is going to keep banging up against your wall over and over again for as long as you’re with this partner.
Imagine how it would be if you allowed for and celebrated both aspects. You come together and experience delightful bliss in deep intimacy and sex AND you go out and experience the richness of your time alone with yourself or others. You enjoy the exhale, and you allow the inhale. Both aspects give, both are nourishing and both contribute to your expansion as individuals AND as a couple.
How that looks in relationship is not resisting or arguing for one or the other of these states.
If you are the “connecting one” in the relationship, instead of pulling for your partner to come back when he emotionally withdraws, remind yourself that the wave is going out to sea. The wave is going back out to its source and will return invigorated with new vibrancy to add into the relationship. He is going out to sea FOR the health of the relationship. Remind yourself that he will be back – stronger, clearer, and more available for connection when he returns.
And if you are the “space one” in the relationship, instead of snubbing your partner’s overtures for connection, freely step in with your appreciation for your partner’s open heart. Reward her love and desire for you by meeting her with your openness and availability.
When you do this, a wonderful alchemy emerges. Your togetherness builds and reinforces your freedom. Your closeness infuses your solitude with confidence, love and presence. And vice versa. Your time alone is this nourishing opportunity to refuel your connection with yourself and spirit, so that you are more available and open for love and intimacy when it comes to you.
So don’t try to hang onto that wave or breath – no matter how good it feels. It will kill you and the relationship. Let the wave have its way. Trust that whatever you prefer will come back around, and enjoy the ride along the way.
As a coach, over and over again I witness successful people with great lives and loving relationships lament their failure because they don’t measure up to some outside image of what they think they need to be happy.
Many couples divorce and many singles stay single in search of that perfect ideal relationship.
In the Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz talks about how having many options produce unhappiness. With more, better, different, faster choices in front of us, we continually compare what we have with what we could have, and this comparison has us feel unhappy with our lives and relationships as they are. We keep ourselves wanting what we don’t have.
Jon Jandai, on a Ted Talk I listened to recently, spoke about growing up in Thailand where he worked two months out of the year – one month planting, and the other harvesting, rice. The remaining ten months of the year he and his family had free time to be with themselves, take naps, visit with friends, garden, create art, read, and attend festivals. His community was poor, but they didn’t know it until television made its way into his town.
People went from being happy with their lives to feeling discontent, like they should have more and better. Jon’s parents sent him to Bangkok to get an education, so he could have access to this better life.
While he was working hard for eight hours a day at school, he wondered why? And for what? He already had a good life. He didn’t have to work more than two months out of the year and garden for fifteen minutes a day to have enough food to eat for him and his family of six. And he had enough rice and food left over every week to sell for extra income. It took him two months to build a house, that he could then live in for free for the rest of his life. He didn’t need clothes, because visitors coming through often left clothes behind that he could wear.
What was really better about what he saw on television? Where people work hard at jobs they don’t like for 40+ hours a week, take thirty years to pay off a mortgage on a house they own, make purchases on things they don’t really need, constantly buy new clothes to stay in fashion, and have but two weeks off a year for vacation.
We are continually bombarded in our lives with images of people who have more than we do. Millionaires who have luxury cars, vacation homes, boats, planes, nannies, personal chefs and have achieved a high level of success. The rest of us look on in envy, believing that we are poor in comparison, and that our happiness lies in some faraway distant future when we should attain some arbitrary level of material success and fame.
In this constant comparison, our otherwise good lives – perhaps average lives, which today are good lives – look like a failure.
Likewise, movies and television showing hot sexy thin tan young people falling in love and living happily ever after have our relationships look substandard by comparison. “Sleepless in Seattle” spoke to many who would love to replace their partners who snore and fart and belch and pick their noses with that handsome mystery rich prince who will sweep them off their feet and take care of them forever.
Alan Watts said that the act of wanting a more positive experience is in and of itself a negative experience, and the act of accepting a negative experience is paradoxically, a positive experience. We say it this way. “Wanting and having cannot exist in the same space at the same time.”
I recently worked with a couple that had been dating for two years. They loved each other deeply and had scheduled a session with me to help them with their breakup. The Relationship Completion process I gave them to assist with their separation process backfired, and only had them fall more in love with each other.
As we worked together, it was more and more apparent to me that they were stuck in some outside form that they believed they needed to be happy. Because their partner didn’t look like how he or she should, they thought they should move on to find their Prince/Princess Charming.
But when they slowed things down, they could see that they have what really matters most: undying love for each other, the ability to share and talk about anything, hot sex, the ability to take responsibility and work through challenges together, and the desire to really be there for each other.
They were able to see where they could join each other more completely to both appreciate their pretty miraculous life and relationship, while having fun creating new possibilities for the future. Witnessing their breakthrough, I imagine, was like Jon seeing that he already had the life he was presumably working hard to attain.
So what is the message to all of us?
Quit comparing. Quit thinking that what we have isn’t it. Quit looking for where our partner isn’t perfect. Or as Barry Schwartz says, have fewer expectations. Appreciate what we have now. Be in the moment. Choose to feel good. See “average” and “what is” as success, as having already arrived.
Christian and I endeavor to do just that. As we sit on our deck in the sunshine – we have a choice. Do we look at the large pile of bark that needs to be scattered about, the large yard of lumber that needs to be cut and stacked, a roof that needs to be repaired, a driveway that needs paving, and the carpet with stains, or do we appreciate getting to live in this amazing house with yard and pool and garden and flowers and birds and a cat?
Do we focus on not having made love last night cuz we were too tired, or do we have fun remembering the great sex we had last weekend and the grand time we will have tonight? Do we focus on how little money we have in savings, or do we focus on feeling grateful for the money we do have? Do we lament our business not being huge and famous, or do we appreciate getting to do meaningful work for the hundreds we DO get to serve?
We always have a choice. One leads to happiness and one doesn’t.
FOR A LOT OF GUYS, intimate relationships are hard work!
It’s uncomfortable, way too emotional, and you’d rather just not deal with it at all, and hope it’ll work itself out. After all, she normally returns to her senses after a while. Right?
Even when deep down, you know you have some problems in your marriage or relationship, you might be saying what my friend said right after he found out his wife had fallen in love with another guy: “I knew we had some problems, I just figured we’d get to it some day”.
But here’s the great news.
It really isn’t meant to be that difficult, and it’s absolutely attainable to make it smooth and easy.
And if you’re being totally honest, wouldn’t it be worth a lot to feel admired, loved, and appreciated by her? Doesn’t it make you feel taller when she thinks you’re the best guy ever?
You just need to know some key points, and then do your best to practice them. By doing so, you can actually make it easy for her to see you as the man she fell in love with.
- She’s not like you. Never will be. Isn’t supposed to be. So don’t try to convince her to stop being “so emotional”. Simply accept that she has a different “operating system” installed than you do. Accept that her emotional way of processing information is as valid as your logical way of doing it. Just different.
- The #1 thing she’s looking for is trustworthiness and reliability in you. Why? So she can feel safe and relax. When she feels safe and relaxed, it’s really easy for you to relax and enjoy life.
- Face your own discomfort with her intense emotions and conflicts in general. You cannot make emotions or conflicts go away, period, so you might as well make friends with them. How? Own your discomfort about it, admit it out loud.
- Pay attention to her. Be an attentive mate, just like you were when you were first courting her. Chivalry never goes out of fashion. So notice how she dresses, notice when she comes and goes, hold her hand, touch her cheek … BE there in a way that she can feel. Don’t just be the silent brooder in the corner.
- Find your own power. Say yes when you mean yes, and no when you mean no. Don’t pretend to listen for 10 minutes while thinking, “blablabla, she’ll be done soon”. Be honest if it doesn’t work for you to be talking with her right now. Stand up for what’s important to you, in a firm, but non-aggressive manner. Let her feel you have a spine, and don’t just along with anything she says so you can avoid a conflict. She’ll respect the man you are when you do that.
Now, sure, there’s a lot more to the equation of having a great marriage. But if you can keep these five in mind, and use them as a starting point, you’ll be ahead of the game, and might even produce some serious breakthroughs and sexy action!
“I am not enough.”
“I am not supported.” “No one loves me.” “I am too much.”
We all have some negative self-talk that lives in us.
Almost every single person will tell you when they’re being deeply honest, that they don’t feel good enough or loved for who they are. These negative messages plague our daily lives and mess up our careers and relationships.
Negative beliefs that we have about ourselves present themselves in every relationship that matters. They arise in stressful situations – whenever things aren’t quite going the way we want them to. When our boss yells at us, when our kids get bad grades, when our partner forgets our birthday or there are dishes left in the sink, we are right back to thinking we are unlovable or unworthy.
Sometimes it even feels like life is conspiring to keep us feeling bad about ourselves.
We seem to keep attracting and recreating situations that reinforce these negative beliefs.
We are shocked when our partner does that SAME exact thing our mom did way back when, and we find ourselves once again feeling that SAME exact bad way about ourselves.
To make our lives better, we try to make sense of these negative thoughts, try to understand and figure out where they came from.
We blame our parents for having yelled at us, for leaving us when we were young, for having affairs, for fighting, for drinking, for calling us names, for telling us we were not measuring up. We remember specific incidents from our childhood, when we first felt inadequate, unworthy, unloved, and we re-play them over and over again in our minds, proving that we were unfairly done wrong, victims of unconscious, unaware, stupid parents.
We would love to eradicate these negative thoughts. We try thinking positive. We say affirmations. We attempt to forgive our parents and re-write our past stories through therapy and books. But as much as much as we try to change our experience in life, we feel trapped in these old patterns, resigned to feeling bad about ourselves forever. Life just reinforces our negative beliefs faster than we can un-do them.
But what if …
What if we were supposed to have these negative thoughts? What if it was inevitable and part of the human design? What if these thoughts were fundamental to our makeup and part of the perfection of who we are?
Let me explain.
It is pretty much impossible to grow up without the thought that there is something wrong with you. Think about it.
When we are children, we see from a child’s point of view. When I got in trouble for riding my tricycle far down the street when I was 4, I made up that I wasn’t enough and that it wasn’t safe for me to follow my heart.
But from the point of view of my parents, who had no idea where I was for too long a time, they were merely frightened that something terrible had happened to their little girl. I mistook their fear and upset as being a statement about my inadequacy – something they never intended to communicate.
Since then, I have felt like I was not enough many times in my life, and I must say, that insidious belief has benefitted me greatly. It has fueled my interest in education and personal development, it has challenged me to take risks and grow myself in ways I never would have imagined, it has sourced my deep compassion and love for other human beings in struggle, and it has been a great source of my humility and vulnerability in leadership.
My recurring thought of not being enough has even birthed a business where I encourage and empower people to see their beauty, and to have regard for the positive intent behind their flaws and negative beliefs.
If I had thought I was enough, or more than enough, I might have become an arrogant, boastful, heartless, unconnected human being.
I was working with a woman who had the unfortunate experience of watching her mother die at her own hand. In our work together, she discovered that her profound fear of depression and aloneness kept her strong and alive.
Another woman, who was raped as a young girl, now works for CPS saving young children from violence and sexual abuse. A young man who was lied to as a child has become one of the most intuitive and accountable human beings I know. In the end, each of their tragedies and corresponding negative beliefs birthed much-needed gifts.
Consider the possibility that your negative aspects are there to serve you as much as your positive ones.
They are meant to be here. They are your friends. Instead of trying to get rid of them, use them. Each negative belief carries a rich gift, not only for you, but also for the world.
He wanted to buy a boat. She didn’t.
She preferred saving the little bit of money they had left over every month until they had enough saved up before buying something extravagant like a boat. He didn’t want to wait. He pictured holidays camping, fishing, and skiing with his kids – all of which in his mind required a boat. They disagreed. They fought. They went round and round.
One day, he went out and bought a boat without the “go ahead” from his wife. She was pissed. He parked the boat in their driveway – a neon sign in her mind of his lack of regard for her concerns.
Unfortunately, even though he got the boat, he didn’t get his dream vacation. For one, after buying the boat, he and his wife couldn’t afford to take it anywhere and actually use it. And two, she was so angry that she didn’t want to have anything to do with the darn thing. It just sat there in their driveway for who knows how long as a memento of their lack of alignment.
Conflicts like these are commonplace. When in relationship with anyone – whether spouse, children, parents, co-workers, friends, or ex’s – it is inevitable that I am going to want one thing and somebody is going to want something else.
Examples abound: I want to go out to the movies and you want to stay home. I want us to make dinner together and you want to putz in the garage until dinner is ready. I want to have sex and you don’t. I want to invite my family home for the holidays and you want to vacation by ourselves in the Bahamas. I want to move in, get married and have a baby and you want an open relationship with Shirley. I want to move to another country and you want to stay put. I want to splurge and buy a fancy new car and you prefer saving every penny and driving our ten-year old dented Ford until it dies.
At first glance, in conflicts like these, it looks like we are on opposite sides of an issue, where only ONE of us can win and get what we want. I, of course, want that winner to be me, so I push and pull and argue for MY position without much interest in even listening to your position lest I be swayed in your direction. This way of approaching conflicts keeps us at a standstill, with little or no movement on issues that matter most to us. Or, like the couple above with the boat, one person moves ahead and on the surface gets what he wants, but with a large negative lasting consequence to the relationship. If left unresolved, some issues become deal breakers that lead to estrangement, separation or divorce.
Luckily, we have a whole new way to approach conflict that leads to connection, love and harmonious solutions.
First, it is essential that we move as partners rather than as adversaries when disagreements arise, to believe and trust that whatever is coming up is happening FOR both of us for some positive good purpose.
Second, we must really listen to each other to understand each other before lighthearted creation is possible. What do we want? And why is it so important to us? What is it we want to create? What is the concern we are trying to take care of? What is the experience we are going after? What are we afraid will happen if we don’t get what we want? What old stories are getting activated that aren’t really about the current issue at hand?
Once fully expressed and heard, it is helpful to take on the other person’s point of view so you can step into the other person’s position fully.
And then to take ownership of the other person’s position, concerns, needs and wants as fully as your own, to commit to win/win solutions. Commit to not moving forward on any major decision until there is full and complete alignment. Come up with creative solutions that take care of both of you.
We believe that every time there is an impasse, that something even better wants to be created. For example, had that couple with the boat worked with us before taking action, they could have emerged happier and closer than ever with a win/win solution like renting a boat for a weekend on a lake with friends as one possibility for how to both get their needs met.
Just as we can’t see the forest through the trees, it is challenging to see new possibilities from inside of our own conflicts sometimes without guidance and support. If you are feel stuck in conflicts and impasses that go nowhere, if you trigger the bejesus out of each other to the point of saying and doing things you regret, or if you feel resigned about ever getting what you really want in your relationship world, we strongly recommend you join us for The Gift of Conflict workshop April 29-30 in Auburn.
For the first time ever, we are opening up this course to people outside of our Mastery Program, so that you too can benefit from the tools we teach at the Gift of Conflict for the rest of your life. Act now while space is still available!
She wanted an open relationship, but he didn’t. After months of endless processing, he finally relented. Reluctantly, he allowed her to date others, and at some point, finally went out on a date of his own. He fell in love with someone else. She freaked out. Now she wants monogamy and he wants an open relationship. They have switched positions.
She wants more sex but he isn’t interested. His libido is gone he says. We work together in several coaching sessions to revive his drive and reignite his interest. As soon as he is amped up and ready to go, she finds excuses for why she doesn’t really want to. They have switched roles.
She wants to get married but he isn’t sure. She threatens to leave him, saying she doesn’t want to be with someone who isn’t committed. As soon as she takes a break from the relationship, he realizes that he can’t live without her. He proposes, but she declines because she isn’t sure he is “the one”. They have switched places.
What the heck is going on?
We have seen variations of this pattern over and over again throughout our entire coaching career. I have seen it in myself as well. I want one thing, or so I think, but as soon as I get it, I am then not so sure. I strangely seem to want something else – sometimes the exact opposite of what I was just fighting for!
These scenarios are commonplace in our relationships.
• One of you enjoys a clean tidy house and the other prefers it a mess.
• One of you wants children and the other isn’t ready.
• One of you wants to commit and the other isn’t sure.
• One of you likes to save money while the other is a spender.
• One wants sex and the other couldn’t care less about it.
• One is social and wants to go out and the other is content to stay home.
• One of you wants monogamy and the other wants an open relationship.
• One of you likes loud music and the other likes it quiet.
• One wants more time together and the other wants more space.
• One of you likes to camp outdoors for vacation and the other likes to stay in a hotel, shop and visit museums.
• One of you wants to live together and the other wants to continue living apart.
The list goes on…
It is easy in these moments of conflict and incompatibility to question whether or not you are well suited for one another. You may wonder if you will ever get what you want in the relationship and even contemplate ending the relationship in search of a better match.
At first glance, these incompatibilities look like either/or scenarios where one of you is going to get what you want and the other isn’t. This sets you up for a fight against each other as adversaries as you endeavor to “win” your side.
But conflicts like these aren’t winnable, because there is something going on underneath that is bigger than the either/or conflict on the surface: a deeper truth, a deeper desire, a deeper need, a deeper fear.
We offer a radical new way of looking at conflict that transcends the either/or paradigm. Our unique system allows you to find the AND in your conflict, the place of overlap, the opening in the middle where there is alignment, where there is connection, where there is agreement. In that middle place, creative solutions abound that will surprise both of you.
In our work with thousands of couples and singles, we have come to realize that external conflicts in relationship are an expression of internal conflicts. Meaning, if I have a desire for sex and you don’t want sex, some part of me wants sex and some part of me doesn’t.
The same is true for you. Some part of you wants sex and some part of you doesn’t. When I own both parts in myself and you own both parts in you, we are then able to work as partners on the issue rather than as adversaries to find common ground and discover creative solutions.
I worked with one couple that was at an impasse. She wanted monogamy and he wanted an open relationship. They both loved each other deeply and didn’t want to lose their relationship, but they didn’t know how to move forward. Just for an experiment, I invited him to say he would marry her and invited her to say he could be with other women from time to time. They both felt completely relieved and excited as they said their respective phrases. Turns out, both of them wanted security and freedom, marriage and open relationship. They lit up, walked out hand in hand and got married soon after. They raised a son and had a few sexual liaisons with others from time to time. That was 25 years ago.
They found their “middle”, that win/win solution that felt good and right to them and allowed them to create exactly what they wanted in their relationship.
It is important to note that solutions are not a one size fits all. In other words, what worked for them might not work for you even if you have the same problem. You need to find your middle, your opening, your solution.
We have successfully helped many couples and singles to solve recurring fights, conflicts and challenges once and for all by finding their “middles”.
Don’t hesitate to contact us for support if you find yourself in some of these similar predicaments.
Or consider joining us for our phenomenal Gift of Conflict workshop! (Registration is open for the first time to non-Mastery Program members.) Click here for more information or to register.
Really. There is no need to stay stuck in conflicts. No need to keep fighting about the same things over and over again.
With a little help, you can discover the breakthroughs and creative solutions that will delight and grow you to the next highest version of yourself and your relationship!!