Category Archives: Conflicts
“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
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.
Eva, a woman who attended our Give Yourself to Love weekend, said after the first day, “I made love with God last night. The only difference with the man in my bed, was me!”
Another woman on the verge of divorce said, “After the first four hours this weekend, I got everything I wanted. We are back in love with each other. It’s like night and day. He hasn’t been affectionate with me for 8 years. He couldn’t keep his hands off of me this weekend. Something really opened up in him and healed him this weekend.”
When we fall in love, our lover becomes like a god or goddess in our love-struck eyes. As one person described it, “I remember the first day I ever looked into your eyes and felt my whole world flip.”
In that glorious honeymoon stage, we highlight the best of our partner in our mind’s eye. We uplift them with our words of appreciation and whispers of adoration. We go out of our way to generously give to them – touch, love notes, meals, flowers, gifts. We hang on to their every word, our hearts bursting at the seams with love!
When we meet our newborn child, we are likewise overcome with profound deep love. And it only grows over time. The bubbling delight of a child experiencing the magic of a butterfly for the first time delights us. We applaud their efforts at crawling or walking or later learning to ride a bike. We treasure their art creations with crayons and colored paper. We want to hold them and kiss them and squeeze their little cheeks. We express our love for our children in a thousand different ways.
Same thing when we see someone help a blind woman cross the street or a person with disabilities win a hard-earned race or a bubbly new puppy or kitten play with a ball – we are overcome with love and good feeling.
In each of these instances, we are seeing through the lens of love. We are seeing the best in someone – their innocence, positivity, and possibility.
Contrast that to when we are annoyed, angry or upset. At these times, we are seeing the worst in someone. We highlight what we don’t like, what we don’t want, or what we wish wasn’t there. We justify our bad feelings with recalls of past behaviors where they fell short. We circle around in negative thinking and lash out with hurtful or harsh words until our upsets take on a life of their own.
When we look through the lens of judgment, we cut ourselves off from love.
To feel love again, we need to shift our perception.
As Marcel Proust says, “Discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.”
To create for ourselves a new experience, we need to turn our attention away from what we don’t want and put it on what we appreciate. We need to return to highlighting virtues rather than weaknesses. And we need to consciously amplify our experience by deliberately choosing to think about and express what we love.
This practice of shifting what you look for and how you see has been shown to be powerfully effective.
For example, we encouraged a couple to take on an experiment with their teenage son. He was about 17 years of age, wore a beanie hat with long hair that covered his eyes, smoked pot, got bad grades, and barely conversed with his parents. His parents were judgmental about his choices, and angry about his lack of connection and conversation. They had already tried everything they could think of to alter their relationship with him, but to no avail.
For one week, they decided to see their son at his best, to see him through the lens of love in their mind’s eye. Every morning for five minutes, they both imagined their son being powerful, loving, vibrant, smart, communicative and happy. It wasn’t easy at first, but they finally found a positive track and stuck with it. Before the week was over, they were both stunned when their son joined them downstairs for dinner with his hat off for some real conversation!
This couple changed their view of their son, and he in turn, changed in response.
Another woman we worked with who had been estranged from her sister for over twelve years took on this same experiment. Within a week, her sister called out of the blue, and they were able to successfully heal an age-old wound.
Mark and Lana moved back in with each other, more in love than ever, after being separated for almost a year, just from seeing each other with “fresh eyes”.
And last week, a couple in tears whispered in my ear their gratitude to us for saving their marriage, simply by recommending that they quit complaining, and instead appreciate each other every night before bed.
When we see the world through the eyes of love, our whole perspective changes. We see opportunities instead of challenges; we see the possibilities and potential in people and situations, instead of their limitations.
When we see the best in someone, we unchain them from the prison we’ve crafted with our judgmental word and thoughts. We free them to realize their full potential.
Not only do you change when I see you at your best, but I change too. I become a higher version of myself when I see you at your best. When I see your courage, I see my own. When I see your power, I connect with my own capabilities and competencies. When I focus on your generosity, I see my own giving heart. When I appreciate your efforts to do your best no matter what, I find compassion for my own shortcomings. When I see the depth of your love and care, I connect with my own loving nature.
Love is the only lens through which all things are possible.
It is in this magical place where we are empowered and supported to call forth the best of ourselves and each other. Love brings healing and forgiveness. It transforms hurt, fear, and conflict into harmony and love. Seeing through the eyes of love catapults us into a space of possibility where miracles and dreams have their best shot at being realized.
Are you up for an experiment?
Bring to mind someone with whom it would benefit you to see through the eyes of love. Begin by saying to yourself, “I am willing to see this person through the eyes of love.” Then, see them at their best. Focus on something you love about this person and amplify it with your attention. Meditate on their Full Potential. Let this vision be your prayer.
And then follow up your practice with action. Appreciate them this holiday. Give thanks for some quality, skill or virtue they possess. Write a letter, a poem, a song, or a text, or make a phone call to express your appreciation and grateful heart.
There is truly no greater gift that you can give to anyone (or yourself) than the gift of seeing through the eyes of love.
And honestly, there is no gift more greatly remembered.
When we fight or are stressed in relationship, we engage in a variety of protective postures and activities. We scream, pout, run away, shut down, cry, plead, deny, analyze, etc. Each of these moves are designed to reduce the discomfort we feel. However, there are many things we do or say when hurt, angry or afraid that actually make matters worse in the heat of an argument. Here are just a few of the most common mistakes people make when upset or triggered that escalate fights.
Generalizing or Bringing Up the Past: When upset about something, we tend to remember all of the other times we felt similarly. This tendency causes us to generalize our thoughts and feelings out beyond what we are experiencing now. We tend to think in terms of “always” and “never” when we are angry or hurt. “I never get what I want in this relationship.” “You always criticize me!” “You are never happy with what I do.” Generalizations like these only make whatever you are experiencing bigger. They also can overwhelm both you and your partner with a feeling of powerlessness and hopelessness. And they can inspire defensiveness in your partner, as they will want to argue with your generalized assertions.
Bringing up the past is another common mistake couples make. When you bring up the last time you felt hurt like you do now, and the time before that, and the time before that, old wounds get re-stimulated. While people use the past to add evidence to their claim that things are not getting any better, and to justify their hurt and anger, they also cloud the issue by bringing in too many incidents and unresolved feelings to the table. Generalizing and bringing up the past is confusing and prevents couples from focusing on and resolving the presenting complaint. With ten issues on the table, for example, it is challenging to know where to start for tackling a problem or addressing a concern.
A good practice when upset is to avoid generalizations and avoid bringing up the past. In particular, avoid using the words “never” and “always” altogether. Instead, keep your focus on this moment, on what you are experiencing right now. Instead of saying, “You always criticize me”, say “I am feeling criticized right now.” Instead of saying “you are always late”, say “I am angry you were late today.”
Breaking up in the middle of a fight: This generalizing tendency, along with a strong desire for immediate relief from pain, results in some couples breaking up, or threatening to break up, every time they fight. Breaking up in fights, while intending to stop pain in the moment, actually only escalates fear and anger. Breaking up adds uncertainty of the relationship and future to the mix of whatever breakdown is at hand and makes the problem even bigger and more overwhelming.
As with generalizations, breaking up makes it difficult to focus on and resolve the issue at hand. You can’t express your anger about your partner being late nor can you creatively explore solutions, for example, if she/he is packing their bags to move out.
A good practice is to avoid talking about splitting up in the middle of upset. Take time outs instead, and re-group once you have calmed down and can think clearly again. If you still want to consider the possibility of separation or divorce once the heat of the moment has passed, that is the time to discuss it.
“You” statements: It is always easier for us to point the finger in blame when we are upset, and to see what the other person said or did to contribute to the breakdown or upset. And we are usually are all too willing and eager to point those out in the heat of upset. “You never help around the house!” “You never listen!” You statements like these will invariably put your partner on the defensive and can easily escalate your fight. You statements also have the unfortunate side effect of inspiring the other person to hurl you statements right back.
As tempting as it is, steer away from talking about the other person. Instead, talk about yourself – what you are feeling and thinking. It can be useful to know, that the closer you are to telling the truth about your own experience in this moment, the less arguable it is. For example, instead of saying, “You never listen!”, say “I am not feeling heard right now.” Your partner cannot argue with your experience of not feeling heard. This shift in focus will significantly shift your experience in the midst of upset, and is unlikely to add fuel to the fire.
Talking about the problem:
We have a tendency when we are upset to go on and on about our complaint. We really believe if the other person knew how dissatisfied we are, they would change and “fix” our complaint. However, unbeknownst to all of us, the more we focus on the problem, the bigger and worse it becomes. More often than not, talking about the problem IS the problem. Instead, share your complaints as requests. For example, instead of saying, “You are so critical”, say, “Would you be willing to say something you appreciate about me?” Move towards solving your complaint or breakdown and offer suggestions for how things might be better.
These are just some of the common mistakes couples make in arguments. Be gentle with yourself as you learn to embody these new practices. Remember, practice makes perfect, so play with practicing what works!
And finally, here’s a very common question we get …
A Common Question from Couples
What do I do when my partner and I are disconnected?
The tendency when we feel disconnected is to assume it is the other person who is the source of the distance. We blame, we wait or we resign ourselves to accepting distance as the “way it is”.
When disconnected, ask yourself what you are not saying? Where are you holding back? What are you not asking for? How are you contributing to the lack of intimacy? Love is what is present when there is nothing in the way. Look for what you might be holding in the way of your love for your partner. Many doors will open when you look at yourself as the Source of your experience.
Intimacy = Into Me You See. If you want to be closer to someone, reveal more about yourself to the person you want to be intimate with. Be as honest, real and vulnerable as you are able. Make “I” statements. Talk about you – avoid talking about them. Authenticity builds trust and increases intimacy.
Be what you want. You want closeness. Be close. Reach out. Touch. You want intimacy. Reveal yourself. Make eye contact.
Ask what your partner needs to feel safe to be intimate with you. Listen with your heart. Expect them to meet you. Assume that they too want to be intimate. Or they wouldn’t have chosen to be with you….
I love you, you drive me crazy!
You know that glorious in-love feeling at the start of relationship?
When you feel driven crazy, but in a good way? You can’t wait to see your partner again, to smell them and touch them and love them in twenty different ways!
As time goes on, however, after you have been with someone for a year or two or thirty, your partner starts to drive you crazy in a different way. He or she doesn’t put their clothes away, forgets to keep their promise to run an errand, misses an important anniversary or says something that hurts you to your core.
No matter how similar and well matched we are to begin with, there are ALWAYS areas where we are not.
Christian and I are no exception. Here are a few examples …
• He is disciplined and linearly focused and I am much more free flowing and emotional.
• He likes his chef’s knives to be arranged in order of size on the knife magnet and cared for a certain way. I couldn’t care less about them.
• I like to have pillows evenly and perfectly placed on the beds and couch for looks, and he’d like to throw them out, because, as he says, “they have no purpose!”
• He likes to hit the snooze button three times before getting up and I like to wake up on my own.
• He likes having an extra hour to prepare for going anywhere in the morning and I like to sleep as long as possible.
• Christian keeps the car A/C at a constant 69F. I like it set somewhere between 75 and 89F.
• I like going shopping, and browsing for the next new thing. Christian goes shopping like a search-and-rescue team, in and out as fast as possible.
Do you think we ever have conflicts about any of this stuff? You think we go crazy sometimes by these differences?
Of course we do!
And …. (this a very big AND) … We have learned to enjoy and have fun with these differences as much as possible. We have worked diligently to create win/win solutions to our differing preferences. For example, I take care of the knives for him, and he puts the pillows on the bed for me. Sometimes, he puts the heart pillow on the bed upside down on purpose, and sometimes I threaten to put his knives in the dishwasher, just so we can have a laugh about our quirks together.
You don’t HAVE to be driven crazy by each other. In fact, it is often those things that drive you crazy that you’ll miss most when your loved one is gone.
So here’s a simple strategy to try out:
Think about something that drives you crazy about your partner (or a friend, or your ex). Maybe your partner squeezes the toothpaste or puts the toilet paper roll on backwards.
Next time you see the toilet paper roll or the toothpaste tube, think to yourself, “Someone I love is near!”
And then … this is the fun part … do it for them!
That’s right. So, if I know Christian loves his knives all ordered on the magnet, I’ll do it for him (perhaps leaving one of them out of order, just so he knows I was there :).
Try it out. See what happens.
Now, granted, sometimes the “thing” they do that drives you nuts seems to big or scary to have fun with it like this.
We’ll give you a new way to think about the things that REALLY drive you crazy, and a simple tool to use.
Until next, reach out and love somebody…
Sonika & Christian
I’m a clean freak … (Sonika speaking).
There is nothing I like more than looking around and seeing everything neatly in its place. I feel free. Like there is nothing in my environment telling me to what to do. I can relax and follow my inspiration.
I am one of those people who will clean up your glass and put it away before you are finished drinking from it. Just the other day, Christian and I were hanging out in the kitchen. Christian turned around and said, “Where’s my tea cup?” You guessed it. I’d already put it in the dishwasher.
Needless to say, my clean streak can drive other people crazy.
Some people are not so clean and tidy. They leave things out and undone. They may have piles of paper and projects out and about, clothes on chairs or floors, counters full of stuff.
These people tend to drive neat freaks crazy.
Clean or messy – what side of the scale are you on?
This topic is one of several debates that can lead to countless fights and upsets in relationship. It can even be a deal breaker for some, and lead to separation and divorce.
So what to do when you and your partner (or parents or kids or roommate or friend) are at different ends of the clean-messy spectrum? How do you come up with a way to be together that works?
That is a big question, with many possible solutions.
In this video, we give you one idea that just might help…
Sonika & Christian
We believe relationships are meant to be fun and easy, enlivening and empowering, passionate and fulfilling. With our unique and practical approach to relationship, you learn how to resolve conflicts quickly and easily, to understand and forgive one another, and to step into love whenever you want. Click here to get free video tips on love, sex, intimacy, communication, and more.
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Committing to something or someone is a scary move.
You might fail!
It might not turn out. Your partner might leave you. Your business partner might take your money and run. That class might bomb. You might go broke. You could lose everything.
True. Anytime you commit, there is always the chance that whatever it is you are committing to may not meet your expectations. You may indeed fail!
But when you don’t commit, you are doomed to certain failure!
Think about it. You can’t succeed at what you don’t try at. As Mark Zuckerberg once said, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk.” We think we are preventing failure by not committing, but in fact we are only ensuring our failure!
Often our strategy for minimizing the risk of committing is to make sure everything will turn out BEFORE we commit. Get all of our ducks lined up in a row. Answer all of our questions. Reach a certain point financially. Study and get more prepared – FIRST. We hope that we will reach some imaginary place where all fear and doubt is replaced by certainty.
But for many of us, we never reach that place of confident certainty. Unfortunately, too many of us reach our deathbed with our dreams still in us because we never risked stepping out of our comfort zone to commit.
I have come to discover that committing first is the secret to living a passionate and rich life. As Marta Mrotek said, “Once you commit and decide that there is no turning back, you’ll find the strength.” I have experienced the depth and power of her words. First I commit, and then, BECAUSE of my commitment, I figure out what to do.
I will never forget the power of this way of living. Back in 1990, I courageously quit my job of some 10 years. I was terrified. This job not only paid well, but it filled my private coaching practice on the side. My co-workers were my best friends and the people I had come to know and love over the past decade were my community and like family. I had designed a good bunch of the content that I would now be leaving behind and I was cherished as one of the most beloved leaders of the organization.
But I had felt out of integrity in this business for quite some time. So, to be true to myself, I knew I had to leave. With my head yelling at me about what an idiot I was being, I dared quit during a staff meeting that morning. It felt so right and powerful.
That afternoon, to make matters even more terrifying, I bought a 4-bedroom house in the Bay Area with a huge mortgage. I had no idea how I was going to pay for it now that I had quit my job! I was terrified, but exhilarated too! My mind was having a field day about my stupidity, and all the horrible things that could happen were playing out quite vividly in my mind.
But after a few days, something else began to happen…
I was challenged to rise. I had to figure out a way to pay that mortgage. I had to figure out another way to bring in money. I had to design a way to make it all work.
Something miraculous happened in that space of excitement and terror. I found the strength. Openings appeared. Possibilities emerged.
It was in that space of commitment that the first rendition of LoveWorks was born 24 years ago.
I can’t even imagine where I would be today had I not taken that risk.
I still move this way. So does Christian. We commit to writing an article before we know what we are going to say. We publicize an event to over 4,000 people before we design the content for it. We commit to teaching a business seminar before we know what we are going to do at it. We buy something without knowing how we are going to pay for it.
We lock ourselves in by committing.
From there, in every single instance, we are called to rise. We find aspects of ourselves we didn’t know before, walk through openings we would not have otherwise noticed, profoundly alter lives that would not have otherwise been transformed.
BEST of ALL, we experience an aliveness, creativity and passion in our day-to-day life that, honestly, beats out boredom, comfort and complacency any day.
And sure, while we have a few flops here and there, 95% of the time, we have a best-seller!!
As William Murray once said “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness…but the moment one commits, then Providence moves…” … And magic happens!
Our motto for 2014? JUMP!
So we will leave you with a question: What great thing would you attempt if you knew you would not fail?
Once you have your answer, JUMP!!