- February 2020
- January 2020
- December 2019
- October 2019
- September 2019
- August 2019
- July 2019
- June 2019
- May 2019
- April 2019
- March 2019
- February 2019
- January 2019
- December 2018
- October 2018
- September 2018
- July 2018
- June 2018
- May 2018
- April 2018
- March 2018
- February 2018
- January 2018
- December 2017
- November 2017
- September 2017
- August 2017
- July 2017
- June 2017
- May 2017
- March 2017
- February 2017
- January 2017
- November 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- September 2015
- August 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- September 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
Category Archives: Couples
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
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.
Last night, my daughter asked me to rub her back. I noticed myself hesitate. My addiction to my phone took over – I wanted to keep doing emails, reading Facebook news, and beating people I don’t even know at Scrabble. I had to remind myself that my relationship with my daughter was more important than distracting myself with my phone. I made myself put it down and a sweet interaction and conversation ensued as she laid on the floor of our living room in the dim quiet light while I massaged her aches away.
This experience is happening to me more and more these days. I notice myself preferring texting, posting, swiping, liking, blogging, scanning countless images, videos, and devouring the latest gossip or news snippet to *being* in my REAL life and relationships. I postpone going to bed to get one more word in.
But it isn’t just me. It’s all of us. I can barely have a conversation with my children anymore without several interruptive pauses as they respond to the latest “beep”. We are hard pressed to get through a meal as a family without looking up something on our phones. The phone is the last thing we look at before sleep and the first thing we look at when awake. We take it with us every time we visit the bathroom. It is frightening to watch myself and my family glued more and more to our screens. We are like addicts in need of our technological “fix” lest we die from withdrawal, boredom or loneliness.
Last year, when I heard that a friend of mine had a death in the family, my heart went out to her. I lovingly sent out a text to let other friends know so they could send their condolences. Upon hearing the news, another friend of mine immediately went to her house to offer support. I was shocked to realize that it had never occurred to me to do that. I had forgotten that a text was a poor substitute for real human contact.
What is happening to us? How is this digital age impacting our relationships and our families?
We talk less, interact less and get out of the house less. We rarely look at each other and we have less sex. We take fewer risks. We hardly ever reach out to each other by phone and have an extended conversation. We have fewer deep, rewarding interactions with our spouse, children and friends. We are lonelier, and more disconnected and isolated than ever. This new way of living is becoming more and more a new way of not living.
We see the impact of this digital age all the time in our relationship work.
We come across many singles who are understandably desperate for intimacy. So-called “dating” sites are like shopping catalogues for the perfect specimen, and the few dates with prospective partners that occur after meeting online are but judging fests with little or no genuine connection. Most singles are touch and affection starved. As a result, many feel hopelessly sure there is something wrong with them and afraid they will be lonely forever.
Couples surprisingly feel just as lonely and disconnected in their homes and marriages. They can go months or even years without talking, looking at each other or making sweet deep love. Many men disappear into their work, computer or porn worlds while women contemplate divorce in secret while losing themselves in TV dramas, house and kid logistics, or careers. Turns out many couples are just as love and touch starved as their single counterparts.
Many of my women friends who have relatively happy lives are sure they are the only ones who never get out much, are never invited to parties or events or dinners. But in reality, all of us are merely spending way too much time on our screens, pretending we have lots of friends and connections as we scroll through pages of posts and pictures, and feeling involved in life by proxy as we Netflix the latest episode of our favorite series.
Just look around the next time you walk into a coffee shop – there just isn’t much real-life human interaction and conversation going on anywhere these days. It is no wonder we are lonely. And the cycle is self-perpetuating, as we go to our screens to find the connection we long for, the very thing that keeps us feeling disconnected in the first place!
I am 59 years old, so I have known life without smartphones and computers. I remember playing outside and spending hours camping and swimming and playing games when I was growing up. I remember reading books out loud with my parents before bed and having conversations about our “day” over dinner. We worked together in the yard, cooked meals and cleaned up together and engaged in crafting projects, and played with our animals. Watching television was something that happened sparingly in the evenings. Going to the theatre was a rare special treat.
My past helps me remember that life is richest and my relationships more meaningful away from electronic gizmos. Each activity in real life that I design into my day contributes more to my body, heart and soul than any news feed ever has. I play volleyball six hours a week. I teach myself to learn new songs on the piano. I gather with women in a spiritual group. I coach clients and lead workshops. We engage in community workdays, where some ten families alternate going to each other’s houses once a month to work together on a project of that family’s choice. Christian and I take walks regularly in nature. We vacation at new places every year. We dance and laugh and crack jokes and sing songs. We have a “no phone” table policy, with and without kids, which means mealtimes are conversation rich. Making love is a priority for us every week. We invite friends over for dinner and games and holiday celebrations that are purposefully interactive, playful and memorable. For example, over Christmas, we played fun white elephant games, lit candles on our tree in reverential silence, sang songs, and went caroling with friends. On New Year’s Eve, we dined with two other couples and played a game called Sparked that inspired us to share stories, laughter, tears and love.
Each real life activity encourages us to meet the unexpected play of life in motion with undivided focus, to be in the time consuming messiness, awkwardness, deliciousness and pleasure of real relating and living in all its variety.
Still, even with knowing all that I know, I feel the pull of the screen…
Christian and I judge our children and their friends for having phones glued to their hands, even when together, with little eye contact and real conversation. For them, like us, the pull of technology is constant. But they know the richness of life without phones too. Our son came alive with purpose and perspective when he volunteered in Bali this last summer, a location with sketchy Internet. He appreciated more than ever in retrospect his media-free Waldorf Education and vowed to spend fewer hours on the computer upon his return. Our daughter enjoyed the peaceful beauty of nature, singing songs and working together in the elements when she joined her class for an 8th grade field trip on the shores of Maine without phones.
Both of our children and their friends appreciate it (even though they hate it) when we tell them to put phones aside for a meal, an activity or visit – they literally come alive as they engage with us, each other and their surroundings.
It is more and more imperative that we insist on making time to really be with each other in this life; to not let the pull of our screens put us to sleep to what really matters. There is nothing that fills us up more than genuine interaction with other human beings, than being present to the beauty of these bodies in this life with all of our senses. No one wishes they had spent more time on their phones when faced with death. They wish they had danced more, loved more, played more, touched more, laughed more.
Personally, I think that is what makes our live trainings so powerful. People are supported to actually look at each other, talk to each other and work through conflicts together. In the process, souls are nourished, hearts are blown open and people are massively transformed in a way that can only happen in community with others.
I will never forget one man, sharing with tears in his eyes, that his wife hadn’t looked at him like that for years. Another woman, on the edge of divorce, fell in love with her husband again after just a few moments of guided heartfelt sharing. A single man, who had given up on love, months later was in the relationship of his dreams because he dared physically reach out to someone he was interested in 2,000 miles away.
Meaning, contribution, mystery, play, passion, love and transformation show up in real life; it is not replicable on a screen. It is in relationship with life and others that we see and feel ourselves, where we are supported to grow and experience and play and transform and create and manifest.
I believe that in this digital age, we are challenged more than ever to create meaningful, passionate, joyful, love-filled lives and relationships. And for those of us who happen to still remember life before TV and computers and phones, well, we may be the last generation to impart to our youth the value of eye-contact, delivering appreciations, having loving sex, being vulnerably honest, sharing deep feelings, taking risks, being in nature and focusing our attention on who and what we love.
To do so, we will need to find the commitment and courage to disconnect from our own technological gadgets, to get out of the house, to make sex, love and relating a priority, to model what is possible when our lover or children ask for our attention and we don’t hesitate to put down our phones.
Note: If you would like to deepen your relationship and life experience in 2017, you are invited to put down your phone and join us. loveworksforyou.com
Any thought or comments, send me an email at email@example.com
A mother of three recently confessed to me in private, “I just don’t have it in me to work on my relationship or give to my husband. I feel so depleted and spent. My heart is shut down. I go from work to taking care of our kids and back to work again. I am over the top done. I swear, if he asks me for one more thing, I am going to scream.”
We women are typically the caregivers, the homemakers, the child caretakers, and sometimes the money managers and breadwinners too. In our nuclear family or single homes, there is often much more to do than we have time for.
When our lives are full at work and at home, we have a tendency to put other people’s concerns ahead of our own. We are so busy responding to the needs of our kids and clients and spouse or dates, that we often don’t even know how we feel, much less what we desire. We don’t know what to do that would be nourishing for our heart and soul.
We aren’t aware that we haven’t been paying attention to our own needs until we burst into tears or scream at someone we love.
Without realizing it, we get so caught in the logistics of life, that we forget to cry and laugh with the people closest to us. We begin to feel lost, disconnected and alone, and we begin to make up that there is something wrong with us because we have all the trappings of a good life but we still feel so lonely inside. We forget that we are beautiful and powerful and lovable, that our lives have a larger purpose, and that we are not victims, but rather master creators of our own lives.
That was true of Laura. She was so disconnected from her beauty and power and humor that she withdrew into protectiveness around other people. At the last retreat, she was so supported, loved and celebrated, that she is now taking acting classes, feels more open and comfortable meeting and interacting with people she meets, and recently had to adjust the mirrors in both her cars because she is sitting taller in herself!
If you would like to be reminded of the perfection of your life, including the messy parts, and if you would like to reconnect with your power and purpose and beauty, and if you would like to devote some nourishing time to yourself just because you deserve it, you are invited to attend Love’s Secret, a retreat for women who want more.
In this intimate retreat, limited to 16 women, you will get to sink down into safe space and connect with yourself like you haven’t in a very long time, perhaps ever.
You will actually get to “feel” your feelings, talk and be heard, and be supported to expand into your power. You will be fed nourishing organic meals, receive a massage if you wish, take long walks, and be supported by a group of supportive sisters to rediscover your unique specialness.
This retreat is so empowering and nourishing, that some women attend every time it is offered! Vicky, who is about to attend for the third time, said, “This retreat changed my life. It totally transformed my relationship with my husband and my children. I changed so much that even my daughter commented on how much happier I am!”
If you are longing to nourish your soul, your mind and your body, please join us for a retreat that promises to rejuvenate you from the inside out.
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.
We’ve been struggling with something of late …
How to speak completely authentically from our hearts without compromising our standards and values!
If you know us, that might sound odd to you, because it’s not like we’re hiding and don’t show our faces!
But we are aware that we could speak our truths stronger still.
So why haven’t we done that fully?
Honestly, because we’ve been afraid people would get pissed off at us! And “people” could be YOU right now!
We once had a coach who said, “I don’t give a shit if you like me!”
She’s talking to us, her clients!
She’d say, “It’s not my job to make you like me! It’s only my job to help you achieve your goal, that’s all I care about!”
At the time, that seemed pretty harsh to us. You know, we’re relationship coaches, we protect relationships and do our very best not to burn bridges.
More and more, however, we see the point she was making (even if we might never express ourselves like that).
And that’s what we’re afraid of.
That if we speak the full extent of what we know to be true, you’ll think we don’t care about you, that we’re bad people. You’ll think we’re jerks and go away!
But truth will out, and we are deciding to jump, risk, and trust that it’ll all work out, and that those who are inspired by our message will come along for a powerful ride of love.
And those who don’t see things our way … we wish them luck finding what they’re looking for!
So what would we say if were saying it all with no fear of not being liked?
And if your relationship is NOT that, that means other parts of your life aren’t great either! And if that’s the case, do something about it! Quit suffering in safe settling.
Quit taking crap from yourself or your partner about why it’s not being better already. Quit blaming ANYONE, including your partner, for all the breakdowns.
Start using your love life for a much bigger purpose than filling your needs for safety and physical affection. Start using your relationships to grow yourself as a human being!
And stop accepting ANY excuses you can come up with that justify your current predicaments.
Just like we choose to take the risk and speak more and more boldly, we hope it’ll inspire you to take a risk too! Speak the truth about where you’re settling for less than full-blown love, fun, and powerful growth.
Dare to say to your partner, “Hey, we’re not as happy as we could be”, and vow to do whatever it takes to put you on an upward spiral in your life! Make a bold move!
Take a training with us, or with someone else who’ll stretch you beyond your current limits.
And please don’t fool yourself into thinking your relationship is “allright”, when it really isn’t. You know, if you think “allright” and “fine” is good enough, then you might be one of the people we can’t help.
We decided a long time ago that “allright”, which is the same as mediocre and settling, was not going to be good enough, ever! I’ve already spent enough years wading through oatmeal … bllllllllllpppppppprrrrrrrr! Grey, uniform lukewarm mediocrity!
How do you know if you’re settling?
If you accept “things as they are” even when it doesn’t feel great
If you don’t talk to your partner about anything other than logistics
If you get angry a lot
If you’re not sleeping together, and having wonderful sex
If you’re avoiding each other
If you don’t feel a tingle when you connect eye to eye.
If you’re just not listening to that little voice saying, “Somethings gotta change”
If you’re sick of being alone
If you’re not enjoying yourself while you explore new relationships!
If it’s hard for you to get out and put yourself out
If you feel love and touch deprived
If you weren’t settling … if you didn’t accept “alright” as good enough, and if you didn’t care what anyone thought, what would your relationship life look like?