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Category Archives: Couples
Most of us spend more time than we might like to admit wishing for something to be different in our relationships. We want more engagement, less fighting, more sex, less distance, more intimacy, less time watching TV, more appreciation, less criticism, more dates, fewer nights at home alone, more communication, less silence, etc.
We don’t just want our relationships to be different. We want our lives to be different, too. We want a bigger house, a faster computer, more money, more clothes, more vacations, a skinnier healthier body, a younger look, and lots of better, newer stuff.
We are so accustomed to wishing and longing for more and different – whether in our relationship, work, money, kids, body, etc. – that we don’t even recognize that we are spending our precious lives in a state of constant wanting. This wanting manifests in our experience as unhappiness, dissatisfaction, boredom or loneliness. We feel like we are missing or lacking something important.
There is something I realized a long time ago that has proven to be pivotal for living a fulfilling and happy life:
Wanting and having cannot exist in the same space at the same time.
I think of life as a house with two rooms, the Wanting Room and the Having Room. The Having Room is the room in which we are engaged in life and love.
Just like in a real house, you are either in one room or the other; you cannot be in two rooms at the same time.
Unfortunately, when we want our lives to be different and the people we love to change, we are in the Wanting Room.
When we are in the Wanting Room, we inevitably produce unhappiness for ourselves. Our focus on lack and what is missing keeps us from noticing and appreciating what we have. It throws us into a state of resistance to our current reality and has us believe we are powerless victims stuck in unwanted situations, unable to powerfully create what we want.
Think about it. You only want stuff you don’t have, right? The mere wanting of anything is a declaration that you don’t have it. So when you reside in the Wanting Room, you’re likely to have internal conversations like, Why can’t I make my relationship work? Where are all the good men? My husband never talks to me. I wish I looked younger. Just to mention a few examples.
The Having Room, on the other hand, is where you get to enjoy experiences, where you harvest and partake in the fruits of your labor, where you appreciate what you have and count your blessings. It’s the difference between wishing you had an apple, and actually biting into an apple and enjoying the blast of taste and sensation as you do it.
Life is just better when you occupy the Having Room. So how can you do that? We’ll give some ideas here, and share a few real-life examples.
One way to shift from Wanting to Having is to take notice of and express your gratitude and appreciation for what you do have, even if you have very little. What is working in your relationship? What do you adore about your partner? What would you miss about your spouse if he or she suddenly vanished? What do you take for granted that you are grateful for? And tell them.
Another way to shift from Wanting to Having is to ask the question, “If I already had what I wanted, what would I do or say right now?” This question tricks your mind into imagining that you already have what you want, and enables you to bring to mind actions that you can take right now that are consistent with what you want to create for yourself. When you take those actions, you step into having the experience that you were longing for in the Wanting Room.
For example, if you are struggling with intimacy in your relationship and you want more connection with your partner, you can ask yourself, “If I were connected and intimate with my partner, what would I do or say right now?” Trust me, an answer will pop up in your mind. This question will move you towards creating more intimacy with your partner and thrust you into the Having Room.
At our last workshop, a woman was angry with her husband for something he said that triggered her. She was missing the close connection they were sharing before he said it and was now in the Wanting Room feeling disconnected from her man. When we asked her what she would do if she felt close and connected like before, she said she would go over to him and put her head on his shoulder and her hand on his knee. So we encouraged her to do that. As soon as she sat down next to him, her face lit up like a light bulb and a smile spread across her face. She was back in the Having Room (and you can imagine how he responded to that gesture:-).
A single woman called me for coaching, very distraught and lonely after her last relationship ended. She had a hard time getting out of bed and she was scared she’d never find love again. She was solidly anchored in the Wanting Room. During our conversation, I asked her, “If you knew you were going to be fine, and you would definitely find love again with a wonderful man, what might you do right now?” Her first response was, “I’d get out of bed and go to the gym!”
Just like that, back in the Having Room (And sure, this does not fix or deal with her entire situation, but it’s definitely a vast improvement over being in bed, depressed).
Just to be clear, wanting isn’t bad. That is where the best of our creative ideas show up! Wanting is the start of any improvement in life. You just don’t want to get stuck in wanting! Be there long enough to uncover what you want to create! Use your wanting to connect you to your desires and dreams. Then use that discovery to spark and move you into having, into action.
Everything you want – all of the connection, love, peace, fulfillment and joy you desire – lives in the Having Room.
If you find yourself stuck in wanting your relationship to be different, check out our Give Yourself to Love live relationship training. We will teach you how to step into having the life and relationship you long for and deserve. Click here for more info …
A woman came into our office, we’ll call her Karen, very upset and jealous that her husband was “attracted to other women”. She had come across a picture of a woman he had liked on his Instagram account, which set off her jealousy. In fact, she got so mad at him, she accused him of being unfaithful and threatened to divorce him.
A man I coached, let’s call him Timothy, was enraged with his girlfriend, because she was always talking about how great her car was. Every time they’d go driving, she’d say, “I love this car, it makes me so happy driving it!” When he heard her say that, he’d feel a wave of anger arising inside him, and he’d clench his jaws in hopes of not saying something nasty. But sometimes he just couldn’t help himself and berated her for going on and on about her “stupid car”.
What do these two examples have in common?
First, both people got really angry over their partner’s behavior. Secondly, both of them reacted out of anger in ways they afterwards felt bad about, and which created a significant fall-out. Karen ended up with a serious breakdown after her outburst and accusations, and Timothy ended up having to apologize and backpedal after letting his girlfriend have it, but even after apologizing, he still felt mad and she felt hurt and kept her distance.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, both Karen and Timothy shared a very common predicament: They both made sketchy conclusions based on sketchy evidence.
Did you ever read or see the Hunger Games series? In case you haven’t, our young protagonists Catniss and Peeta go through all manner of harassment and awfulness at the hands of the “evil empire”, called The Capitol. Peeta is tortured and brainwashed to the point where he believes his beloved Catniss is his mortal enemy. The bad guys messed with his head so badly he can’t tell friend from foe, love from hate, fantasy from reality.
When they get reunited, Catniss and Peeta make up a game, a test of sorts, to help Peeta regain his sanity. Peeta says what he thinks, then asks Catniss, “Real or not real?”
In the final scene, they’re snuggled up in bed, and Peeta says, “You love me. Real or not real?” You might guess what her answer is:-).
Why is that relevant here?
Because both Karen and Timothy, although dealing with seemingly very different situations, are in a similar situation to Peeta in the Hunger Games. They don’t know what’s real or not real, true or not true, accurate or false. They don’t know what is fantasy and what is reality.
Karen sees an image on her husband’s Instagram account and quickly makes several conclusions.
She concludes that …
- He’s attracted to this woman
- He’s attracted to many other women, too
- He’s not attracted to her (Karen)
- She’s not attractive, period
- He’s unfaithful
- He’s lying
- He’s deliberately keeping secrets from her
Real or not real?
Timothy, in his situation, when he hears his girlfriend talking about how much she loves her car, makes several conclusions, too.
He concludes that …
- She loves her car more than she loves him
- She thinks her car is better than his car
- She thinks he’s a loser because his car is a piece of junk
- She thinks he’s not successful in life
- He really isn’t as successful as he should be
- Other guys are way more successful than he is
- She’s deliberately mocking his car and him
Real or not real?
When we talk more in depth with Karen and Timothy, it quickly becomes clear that they don’t really know if any of these conclusions are real or not real. What IS real is that they themselves made up these conclusions based on the “evidence” at hand, which in each case was very skimpy evidence for such heavy conclusions.
What IS real is that Karen saw an image of a woman on her husband’s Instagram. And what IS real that Timothy’s girlfriend said, “I really love my car”.
Beyond those simple facts, everything else is a made-up conclusion that may or may not have any real basis.
How do you tell the difference between reality and fantasy?
One way is to simply ask yourself, like Peeta did, “Real or not real?” and sometimes it’ll be evident. For example, when Timothy realized he was concluding that his girlfriend was deliberately mocking him, he immediately said, “Not real, she’d never do that, that’s ridiculous”. (As you might know already, sometimes the stuff we conclude is flat-out ridiculous when examined).
Secondly, you ask the other person(s) involved. In Karen’s instance, she wasn’t sure if her conclusions were real or not real, so we would recommend she ask her husband about it.
A word of caution. When you ask your partner, or someone, if your conclusions or assumptions are real or not, try saying it this way.
“Because I saw a picture of so-and-so on your Instagram, I’m making up that you’re attracted to her and you’re not attracted to me. Is there any grain of truth to that?” (“Is there any grain of truth to that” is another way to say, “real or not real?”
DO NOT say, “You always have these skanks show up on your profile! Are you sleeping with them, too!?” You can imagine how well that would turn out. Don’t accuse before you know.
By including the words, “I’m making up that …”, you acknowledge that what you’re making up could be just that, purely made-up conclusions with no grounding in reality.
When you ask directly, you might sometimes discover that some of your made-up conclusions do indeed have a solid basis. Sometimes your partner might say, “Yeah, there is a bit of truth to that”, which could open up some really juicy conversations, if you’re willing to go there.
The main point we want to make here is that we all suffer from the predicament of making up sketchy conclusions based on skinny evidence. Often, our conclusions are detrimental to our own wellbeing and to the health of our relationships.
When Timothy makes up that his girlfriend is telling him he’s not successful enough, it’s more a reflection of his own lifelong fear that he’s not successful enough, than it is her putting him down. In this case, she just loves her car, plain and simple. That’s it. The rest came straight from his “mind factory”.
Don’t believe your own conclusions too readily. Especially the ones that make you feel like crap!
The wonderful Byron Katie asks of her own thoughts: Is it true? Can I be absolutely certain it is true?
Questioning your own conclusions might just set you free from the occasional madness of your own mind, and open up more space for love in your relationships.
Real or not real?
PS. We just launched our new podcast, Dare To Love. Check it out here …
The other day while we were driving in the car, Christian was angry.
Not at me. He was frustrated that his back wasn’t healed enough yet for him to be able to drive himself long distances. So I did what any loving wife would do. I got mad at him for being mad.
You may have heard the saying, “You become like who you are around.” Mostly what the saying means, is that if you hang out with people who are not successful and playing big, chances are YOU will not be successful or play big.
There is another way this dynamic plays out in relationship. When Christian gets mad about something, I get mad at him for being mad. I become like him. Which doesn’t help, by the way, it just accelerates his anger, because he now adds “being mad at me for being mad at him” to the mix. When he withdraws, I withdraw too. When he judges, I judge him for judging. Christian does the same with me. And we both do it with our kids.
This plays out so fast that we barely notice how we “become just like who we are around.”
Now, it is NOT my intention for us to both be pissed, withdrawn and judgmental. And it is not Christian’s intention either. Even though that is what gets produced.
We know it is the same for you – that when you “match” your partner’s moods or thoughts, you don’t want a miserable experience either!
Our unconscious positive intention in matching our partner’s emotion is for the bad feelings to go away and the good ones to return. Some part of me actually believes that if I get mad at him for being mad, he will quit being mad!
So how do you change this dynamic?
First thing is to notice it. Become aware that you are doing exactly the behavior or emotion you are resisting.
Next, is to realize that you want something sweet and good underneath your bad feeling. For instance, in the car, I noticed that I really wanted Christian to feel good and happy and for us to have a fun sweet time together. That was the reason for my wanting him to not be mad.
As I saw that in myself, I was able to see that in Christian too. He just wanted to feel good, happy and in his power too.
Seeing that he wanted something sweet and good underneath his anger softened my heart. It took me out of mad, back into love.
When we connect with the positive intent underneath bad feelings, annoyance gets replaced with compassion, and separation gets replaced with connection. “We are the same. We feel the same. We both want something good.”
Once we understand that a pure innocent desire for love, connection and all things good is underneath our anger, we can reach out in love from that new place.
As a result, instead of meeting Christian’s anger with more anger, I was able to meet his anger with love, and give him a chance to “become like who he was around.” I complimented him for his desire to feel good and appreciated his aspiration to drive the car. We ended up stopping for food, enjoying delicious sandwiches together, and he successfully drove the next half hour to our destination.
Soon after, we were playing, giggling and in the end, enjoyed a wonderful evening together.
Next time you notice yourself “matching” your partner’s mood, slow things down.
Look for the positive reason you are mad or sad or upset underneath, and instead of both of you spiraling down into a crummy experience, lead both of you to an upward spiral of deeper love, connection and joy.
My husband Christian and I have been busy of late. Distracted. More in our heads than our hearts. We felt a bit flat and off. I was definitely not in my feminine receptive loving flow – more in my masculine “doingness.”
When it came time for dropping back into our hearts and bodies with each other in lovemaking, I surprisingly felt a bit of dread about the whole thing. My body was so closed that mostly I felt like I didn’t want to open.
I could watch my mind wanting to rush out to the kitchen to eat something, to watch something on TV, to check my phone or email for messages – anything to avoid sinking and melting. I put on a shirt as a sign of sorts of my guarded, un-open heart. I dared to tell the truth about my resistance to opening.
Now, thank God, I am with a man who knows my deeper yearning: to melt into love and God through our bodies and hearts in sex. To let go of resistance and be fully present. To love and be fully open in my heart.
So he doesn’t pay much attention to my words, because he is listening to what is underneath my words: “Take me.” “Make me open.” “Melt my closed heart with your love.” He meets my resistance with his strong, yet gentle, persistent presence. I feel the strength of his hands and body as he wraps his arms around me and holds me close.
I push him away, but he stays with me. He kisses my face and neck and keeps holding me. He kisses me and senses my closed lips. He tries to tease me out. But I turn away from his eyes and lips and try to hide in his chest.
He stops for just a second to see if I am serious, to check if he really should back off. I love that about him — his heightened awareness and sensitivity to my body language and non-verbal communication. His checking in, enables me to feel safe, to trust him. I know if I really wanted him to back off that he would.
But deep inside myself, underneath this closed heart and body, is a desire to truly open and surrender to love, to melt. So I encourage him to stay, to continue to love me in spite of my “shut down.” He needs that reassurance to proceed. It helps him stay present, helps him know he is doing the right thing.
He keeps being there with me, relentless with his kisses and eyes and touch. He knows I will eventually open, that I won’t be able to keep resisting his love, his presence… And he is right.
Within minutes, I start to cry. Then sob. My whole body releases the build-up of tension and resistance in my cells through my unstoppable tears. I can feel my body relax more and more through my crying, and my heart begins to soften. He just keeps holding me, telling me it is good that I am crying. He knows that my tears are essential to my opening.
The tears eventually stop, and then I am laughing and looking at him and touching him and opening my mouth and heart and yoni to him, and he meets me there. In this sweet soft open loving powerful presence place.
And in the end we are melted and soft, a puddle of love, lying in each other’s arms.
We appreciate God and each other, for this delightful place of love and softness and strength and presence where all is well and good and right….
It never ceases to amaze me how I need to cry to soften myself out of masculine and back into my flowing easy open feminine heart. If he didn’t stay with me—if he took my resistance personally and stopped and turned away—I would never get to drop down into my tears and melt. We would never get to wash away all of the “disconnect” and “re-set” ourselves back to LOVE.
How grateful I am for the transformational power of Presence. And for having a man in my life who can funnel that presence through his eyes and body and call forth the deepest parts of my love.
We have worked with several men and women the last few weeks – couples feeling distant and lonely, fighting over stupid stuff, desperate to find their way back to each other – many considering divorce; and singles feeling hopeless and lost. They all shared how they felt depressed, bored and uninspired in life as a result of their unhappy relationships.
Within a short time of working with us, couples are looking at each other like they haven’t in years, sharing their deepest feelings in safe space, and feeling connected, hopeful and in love again.
Singles are feeling loved, seen, safe, powerful and beautiful, full of hope and possibility.
I know this might sound like “too good to be true” stuff, but it happens all the time, I assure you.
A man at our last workshop came up to me and said, “When I came on Saturday, I was feeling so angry with my partner and unsure about whether or not I even wanted to stay in this relationship. After this weekend, everything has changed and I am leaving feeling re-committed and in love.”
A woman said, “Wow. We haven’t felt this close to each other for years.”
And a single man said, “I got to have the experience I have wanted my whole life this weekend. Now I know that I can create that anywhere.”
I could list hundreds of examples.
The thing is, resolving conflicts and getting back to love is easy when you know what to do. Easy.
But humans are funny. For some reason we would rather struggle on our own for years and years rather than invest in a few weekends to learn skills that will save so much heartache and misery down the road. Most don’t even think to get help until someone walks out the door.
Not just in your romantic relationships, but in every relationship.
That’s right. We help anyone improve any relationship.
We’re like a one-stop shop for all your relationship needs.
Jeremy is a more effective restaurant manager.
Charlene, Kay, Greg and Cari are all better doctors.
Desiree is a better school psychologist.
Jerry is a better lawyer.
Amy is a better nurse.
Maria is a better therapist.
Vicky is a more loving and happier mother.
Jeff is now on good terms with his ex.
Mike and Jean created a breakthrough with their teenage son.
Mark, Mary, Machen, Laura and countless others have saved their marriages.
Paige, Andy, Samantha, Kate, Jessica, Diego, Grace, Jeremy, Naomi and many others have found the love of their lives after years of being single.
Beth, Kate, Molly and Jennifer all started families after resolving their relationship struggles.
You can’t keep doing the same things over and over again and expect different results.
Marriage, sex, dating and parenting do not get better by themselves. In fact, all professional experience, and lots of statistics, will tell you that you are headed towards divorce, separation, loneliness and dissatisfaction without some sort of effective intervention or education.
But with the right support and tools, any relationship can be improved!
For example, one couple came to us as a last ditch effort after he had an affair with another woman. They were both pretty sure that divorce was the only solution for their problems and past hurts. They have since forgiven each other and themselves and are enjoying the most sensational second honeymoon!
And Laurette was feeling so wounded she wasn’t sure she ever wanted to be in a relationship again. Now she is enjoying a wonderful new man!
Our workshops and programs offer a safe radical innovative approach to relationship that allow you to create what you REALLY WANT: connection, fulfillment, freedom, love, peace, aliveness, and bliss. We help you realize your Full Potential in your relationship world, teach you how to use the problems and challenges in life as stepping-stones towards your dreams rather than obstacles on your path.
To incentivize you to take the risk to jump in on a program that will catapult your relationships to new heights, we are offering a 2-for-1 spring deal for our upcoming two-day relationship training, Give Yourself to Love: Creating Relationships that Call You to Rise. May 5-6 in Auburn, CA, 9-7 PM both days.
Don’t suffer any longer. Seriously. Improve your relationships. Improve your life!
And do it now for the reduced investment of just $397 for any two people, May 5-6 in Auburn, CA!
Watch the video and get the details here: www.loveworksforyou.com/gytl
See you there!
🙂 Sonika & Christian
To improve security, we recently moved our entire website to a different server. As I was checking it out to make sure everything was up and running, I came across the testimonials page where a couple talked about how they went round and round on the same issues, and took turns feeling disconnected and shut down before they came to work with us.
Just today, a woman called me to say that if she could do it over, she would have picked a different man to be her husband. “He just doesn’t hear me when I communicate”, she said.
Another gentleman told me that after an almost-separation from his long-time girlfriend, he is finally ready to work on his relationship. “We both feel so judged by each other. We need to learn how to listen better to each other.”
Relationships can be hard. It’s easy to fight about the same things over and over. It is tempting to lose ourselves in our favorite screen and hope our problems will get better by themselves. It takes courage to improve our relationships and to dare learn a new way to communicate with each other.
One of the questions we hear often from the people we work with, is “How can we create more intimacy and connection in relationship with less reactivity and judgment?” In this article, we will offer a few different ways to increase intimacy and improve communication in relationship.
Get curious about your partner
To create more intimacy, it is imperative that we take time to step into each other’s worlds: to listen, to ask questions, to encourage the sharing of feelings, desires and thoughts without limitation or restraint, and to safely explore and discover the other person with curiosity, mindfulness and an open heart.
Often, we are oddly reticent to spend too much time just listening to our partner, or someone else. We are afraid to step into another person’s world. There is a concern, that if we really hear and understand our partner, really get their needs and concerns, our needs and opinions will get lost. We are afraid that we won’t get what we want if we don’t get our own needs across.
Consequently, with both parties fighting to be heard and no one listening, conversations tend to stalemate and go nowhere.
Therefore, any structured conversation that interrupts the usual batting back-and-forth style of communication and allows for both people to be heard, will be useful for creating deeper intimacy and connection.
Focused Exploration One Person At A Time
One way to deepen intimacy and interrupt fights is to take turns asking questions with the intent to learn more about each other. Agree that you will focus on one person at a time for, say, 10 minutes before shifting to the other. Knowing that you will both get to talk and be heard will help you feel relaxed.
Pretend you are listening to someone you don’t know at all. Be committed to discover something that surprises you. That will help you cultivate a curious mood as you explore.
Ask questions you authentically want to know more about. Any open-ended curious question will do. “How is that for you? How do you feel about that? What do you want? What are you afraid will happen if you don’t get that? What do you want me to really know? If you could have it your way, what would you change? Would you be willing to say more about that? Why is this really important to you? If you could go back and change anything, what would you change?”
Once one person has had a chance to share and be heard, switch roles.
Heart Shares are a variation of the Native American talk circle, where the person with the ceremonial pipe has the floor to talk without interruption. Everyone else just listens until the pipe is passed.
Heart Shares are great practice for learning how to not react when triggered, and how to share from your heart without blame, criticism or complaint.
For couples, one way to do Heart Shares is to sit near or in front of each other with eyes closed, to eliminate visual distractions, and having cleared away all other distractions. Speak honestly and vulnerably in “I” statements as you go inward to discover and reveal your self. Avoid “you” statements and put-downs to make it easy for your partner to stay with you. Whoever has the floor first speaks until they declare they are complete, or when the agreed-upon time is up. Their partner then only says “Thank you” with great sincerity before taking their turn to share. (To keep Heart Shares safe, it is imperative both parties agree to not use against each other whatever is said in a Heart Share.)
Share. Then Respond.
Yet another way to increase intimacy is to take turns, sharing and responding without interruption, so that both people feel heard and both have a chance to respond on a topic. One speaks his or her mind and the other responds, after which they both repeat that same sequence. Then both parties switch roles.
Take turns sharing and repeating back what you heard to be sure you are getting what the other person is saying correctly.
Light-Hearted Questions Practice
You can ask light-hearted questions to help create connection on non-triggering topics as a way to practice listening and exploring, which will make it easier to tackle more challenging topics later. Questions like, “If you could have any super power, what would you choose and why?” or “If you could go any place in the world for three weeks on a paid vacation, where would you go?” or “What is your sweetest memory of us?”
Remember that whatever the other person thinks or does makes sense from their point of view, and that there is a positive intent and desire underneath their feelings and behaviors. Taking time to listen and explore will increase understanding, build compassion and open you up new possibilities for connection.
We recommend you pick just one of the suggestions above and try it. Just see what happens. You might just surprise yourself with how quickly you can produce a sense of shared intimacy.
Do you ever wonder if you could do better in the relationship department? If you could find a better partner than the person you are currently dating or are married to? Somebody who is less critical, more open to sex, more successful, playful, and intimate?
In this day and age where we can pre-order products to our specifications and have them arrive overnight on our doorstep, where images of gorgeous young lovers madly in love are plastered on billboards and movies with increasing regularity, and where expectations for marriage bliss are at a all time record high, it is easy for us regular people to feel disappointed with substandard partners who are less than perfect at satisfying our fairy tale picture of our every dream come true.
Sleepless in Seattle was a classic depiction of a woman in an ordinary relationship with a man she knows intimately well. He farts, burps, snores, unceremoniously gives her his grandmother’s ring when he asks her to marry him, and makes unremarkable love to her. But it is clear he is a sweet nice guy who loves her deeply and would do anything for her. All the while, she secretly longs to be swept off her feet in romantic bliss by a handsome mysterious hunk from another city, and when presented with that possibility, dumps her fiancé in the middle of a Valentine’s Day dinner for an upgraded male model.
This schism between our actual experience and our fantasy of relationships is not so far off from what many men and women experience in dating and marriage. There is a rampant secret longing for that illusive something “better”, no one seems to be above it, and it is contributing to immense dissatisfaction in relationship, plus a 45-50% divorce rate.
It is not anyone’s fault really. We are impacted by high cultural expectations for marriage. We want everything that we expected in traditional marriage in terms of companionship and economic support and family life and social status. And we also want what romantic marriage brought us – a sense of belonging, connection, intimacy, a best friend, a play buddy, a trusted confidant and a passionate lover. And we also now have a desire for self-fulfillment in our relationships, for personal development and the realization of our full potential. And let’s not forget, that we want to find our soul mate too, a word that for most of history was reserved to God, someone with whom we can experience mystical transcendental oneness and bliss.
That is a lot to put on one person … on one single relationship.
Are these high expectations, in this age of customization, keeping us from being happy in our relationships? Would we benefit from lowering our expectations and standards? Would we benefit from choosing to make the best of our relationships as they are? Might we gain more by putting energy and time into improving our existing relationship rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater and starting over?
One of the first suggestions we offer to unhappy couples is to complain less and appreciate more. It shifts a couple’s attention off of what is missing on to what is wonderful and working, and this simple shift in focus often quickly replaces dissatisfaction with an experience of satisfaction, gratitude and love. This is an important first step – to make ourselves “satisfiable”.
Research suggests that the more choices and options we have, the less happy and fulfilled we are, the less satisfiable. Certainly, the more expectations and specifications any of us have for what we want in relationship, the less likely we are to find someone who is a match to them, and the less likely we are to experience satisfaction once we are in relationship.
Because, honestly, no one is perfect – no one can be everything we need and want all the time.
Yet sometimes, ending a relationship and starting over is exactly what is needed for us to be happier and more fulfilled. Certainly, some of us (like myself) who have divorced and remarried, know intimately the benefits of a more aligned and better matched partnership!
Where is that line between unreasonable expectation, reasonable preference, non-negotiable deal breakers, being grateful for what we have and dancing gracefully with what shows up?
While there are no easy answers to the complexity of our current day relationships, we can strive to be aware of our tendency to compare what we have to unachievable standards and to be tentative about throwing away perfectly good relationships.
Yippppeee, Valentine’s Day is almost upon us! A chance to express our love!
Granted, some of you might approach Valentines Day with considerable dread, either because you don’t know what to do, because you don’t have anyone to spend it with, or because you feel obligated to do or buy something even though you don’t really want to – you know, get the hearts out, send flowers, buy chocolates, purchase a Hallmark card, reserve dinner at a fancy restaurant, and generally be blinded by all the pink!
Conventionally, Valentine’s Day is a day to express love for a romantic partner.
But we need not limit ourselves. Remember when we used to make Valentine’s cards for our friends in school? That’s right. Love is not relegated to only lovers.
We love our friends, our children and grandchildren, our extended family, previous lovers, co-workers, clients, teachers – as well as our primary partner if we have one.
There is also our relationship with ourselves. How many times a year do we take the chance to celebrate and love ourselves? Give ourselves a luxurious bubble bath or take ourselves out to a nice dinner or indulge in a lovely massage? How often do we take time to say out loud what we appreciate about who we are?
And then there is our relationship with God or Spirit or the Great Mystery or the Universe or whatever words you choose to use for this miracle life of ours. How often do we give thanks for just being alive? For living a blessed life? For the sun and moon and rain and air and land and animals?
There’s a multitude of places to express our love and gratitude. By all means do it with your lover, spouse or primary partner, but that doesn’t have to be the extent of it.
Not only that, but love is free. We can express our love in a myriad of different ways that do not require buying anything at all.
When we express our love, and become a vehicle for love’s voice, not only do we help others to feel special, but we feel the positive effects of stepping into love too. When we reach out and do something that communicates the depth of our love and appreciation, we ourselves are uplifted!
Valentine’s Day provides a great excuse for us to express our love. It is a chance to do something we may never have done before to show our appreciation.
Aside from the conventional Valentine’s Day practices, we thought we would help you brainstorm a list of things you can do to make this Valentine’s Day special. Feel free to steal one or more of the ideas listed below or invent something else!
• Write a love song or a poem and deliver it in person.
• Make a Valentine from scratch out of paper, glue and craft supplies
• Call a loved one and leave a mystery love message
• Make a list of what you love about that person that corresponds with how many years you have known that person
• Have a picnic on the floor of your living room by candlelight
• Set up a table with table cloth and flowers outside and eat take-out in a park, or on your porch.
• Serve cake and ice cream or some other delectable desert before dinner
• Put on your favorite dance music and dance
• Take a walk in the moonlight and share your happiest memories
• Feed each other your entire meal without utensils
• Text someone something you will always treasure and never forget about them
• Write a letter to someone about how they have touched your heart or changed your life
• Offer your partner a foot or back rub to soft music while delivering appreciations
• Take a bath by candlelight
• Write a love letter to yourself about what you appreciate
• Forgive someone for something you have been hanging onto and tell them
• Make a bonfire outside and sing love songs under the stars
• Run up to someone as if you haven’t seen them for a long time, pick them up, twirl them and tell them how lucky you are to know them
• Make a list of 10 intimacy and love questions to ask and answer
• Invite your non-Valentine’s friends over and have a non-Valentine’s hangout.
• With family or friends, take turns saying what you love about each person
• Leave love notes in secret hiding places all around the house
• Make a video or book of what you love
Notice that all of these ideas are simple. They are more about creating a special memorable experience than about spending money on something fancy or doing something you always do by rote or that you think you should do.
We encourage you to take time this Valentine’s to come up with a creative, fun, and unique way to express your love – not only to your loved ones, but to people in your life that you care about and wish to appreciate, including yourself!
Don’t forget. Love is free, and the more we give, the more we get.
Make this Valentine’s Day one to remember! And once Valentine’s has come and gone, remember there are 364 other days in the year to express your love.
Christian and I weren’t feeling well. Christian had just gotten over a 10-day flu, and I could tell by my run down body and cough that I was working hard to fight it. We had two talks scheduled that week and a workshop. We did them anyway.
While sick and recovering, neither of us felt like being intimate. We hadn’t been sexual for a week and we could tell we both really needed the physical connection, even though we still didn’t feel like it. We made love anyway.
When our daughter’s other mother insisted we do the necessary repairs on our house for mold remediation, we didn’t want to.
Tearing up our house, living in disrepair and spending money on said repairs were not on our list of priorities. We did them anyway.
Our daughter had a horse show in Davis last weekend and our son and his girlfriend wanted to meet up to walk through the Dixon corn maze. We didn’t really want to do either activity, but we went anyway.
When Christian and I first met, we were not what we each were looking for. He wasn’t looking for a mature 47 year-old professional from California with two children, and I wasn’t looking for an unemployed, broke 32 year-old with little relationship experience who lived in Denmark. But we got married anyway.
Why? Why would we do what we didn’t feel like doing? Why would we marry someone who didn’t match our picture of the ideal partner?
Because we were committed to something greater than ourselves.
Commitment is often the difference between being successful or not. One of my favorite passages reads, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness….”
When you’re not committed, it’s easy to walk away when differences, obstacles or problems arise. There is no commitment to stay in there and work through them. Even minor differences show up as deal breakers, as reasons to give up.
But when you’ve already made a commitment, those same differences or problems are just the next thing to work through. When you don’t give yourself the option to walk away, you begin to explore and notice options and solutions that can only show up inside a committed conversation.
EVERY relationship has differences! Every relationship has problems! Nobody is exactly the same as you. Life is not always easy. Everyone encounters tough times.
When you are committed, you use differences and challenging times to expand yourself into new territory, to deepen your understanding of others, to creatively come up with win/win solutions, to bring you closer to yourself and another human being, to walk hand in hand through life’s varied experiences.
When you’re not committed, you use differences and challenging situations as justifications to back off, disappear, avoid, and distance which can keep you stuck and actually prevent you from getting what you REALLY want.
When you’re committed, your focus in relationship is all about give AND take. You remember that your partner’s needs are as important as yours, and you lean in towards solutions that deepen your connection in relationship.
When you’re not committed, your focus tends to be on yourself and what you are getting or not getting. “Are my needs getting met here? Will I get the kind of relationship I want if I choose you?” There is very little attention on the other person. We don’t think to ask, “What is your most important need? What can I do to help you get your needs met? How can I help you feel loved?”
We are generally afraid that we will lose something or get less of what we want if and when we commit. But truthfully, we get MORE of what we want when we commit.
There is infinite freedom inside of commitment. When we choose or decide a course of action, when we marry or buy a house or commit to a job, endless new openings and possibilities arise within that decision!
Imagine standing in an aisle at the grocery store, picking out peanut butter. There are many different kinds: crunchy or smooth, salted or unsalted, Valencia or Spanish or Virginia, with or without sugar, organic or not, and several different brands of various combinations.
Only after choosing ONE kind, do you have the freedom to do different things with it and create new experiences: bake cookies, eat it by the spoonful, slather it on celery slices, make a PB&J sandwich, etc.
The same is true in relationships. Until you choose ONE person, even with “differences”, you can’t discover all of the fun, loving ways you can interact with that person and all of the creative solutions you can come up with for how to work through the conflicts that arise between you!
We were speaking with a woman who has been single for five years, clear that she does not want to date a man who is into sports because she hates sports. So every time she finds out a man is into sports, she writes him off and moves on. But if she fell in love with and committed to a man who enjoyed sports, they would work it out!
Christian and I have our differences and conflicts, just like most couples. One way we are different, is he doesn’t like musicals and I don’t like rock and roll. But now that we are married, I sometimes listen to Queen and he sometimes goes with me to musicals and we actually enjoy ourselves! Or sometimes I go out with friends to musicals and he rocks out to loud music on his ear-buds. Point is we make the differences work because we are committed to making them work!
I realized a long time ago, that to commit to someone or something is really a hidden declaration to myself that I WILL make good on that commitment. I trust myself to come through no matter what, to stay in there and creatively figure out a way to keep my word and do what I committed to.
Yes, of course, as with all things, there are exceptions – times when it may be the right action to back out of a commitment or renegotiate a promise. If that is the case, when you do, it is important to make sure to take care of the other person or persons as best as possible, to take care of their concerns so as not to break trust or damage your relationship with them.
Commitment is powerful. It calls you to rise in ways you might not otherwise. It summons amazing resourcefulness and creativity. Synergy becomes possible. Miracles show up.
We believe that you can always commit to something. Commit to being completely transparent about whatever you are thinking and feeling. Commit to allowing other people to have their experiences and feelings. Commit to asking for and creating what you want. Commit to creating win/win solutions so your partner gets what they want too. Commit to showing up no matter how you feel. Commit to some project or goal and don’t stop until you achieve it!
When you find something big enough to commit to, obstacles are merely steps along the way to your dream. Without commitment, obstacles stop you on your path.
We encourage you to create a commitment “frame” through which to live life. What if you couldn’t walk away? What if the person you are with is the perfect person for you to be with right now? What solutions / opportunities would you see around the difficulties you are facing? How could you use this situation to help you grow?
I’ll leave you with our favorite quote on Commitment:
“…Until one is committed, there is hesitancy,
the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.
I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!’”
W. H. Murray in The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
“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