What Is Real Love

By Michael Thomas

Love, either its expres­sion or its attempted nul­li­fi­ca­tion, plays a daily role in each and every one of our lives.  It impacts our inter­ac­tions with both our friends and strangers, as well as influ­enc­ing our deci­sions about what we share, do, and say. It effects our per­spec­tive towards new infor­ma­tion, and our tol­er­ance for dif­fer­ences. As Erich Fromm said in his inter­na­tional best­seller “The Art of Lov­ing,” love is “an activ­ity, not a pas­sive affect; it is a “stand­ing in,” and not a “falling for.”” Love is inher­ently bound with respon­si­bil­ity, respect, appre­ci­a­tion, giv­ing, and shar­ing.  Love is an art; mean­ing one improves through con­cen­tra­tion, prac­tice, and an under­stand­ing of your own strengths and weaknesses.

Part of respect­ing and appre­ci­at­ing every­thing from peo­ple to nature is open­ing your­self to giv­ing it your full atten­tion, your con­cen­tra­tion.  I find it use­ful to min­i­mize my con­scious thoughts, and allow myself to fully sub­merge in the moment, the person’s words, and truly inter­nal­ize what they are telling me; truly con­nect with them as a fel­low human.  This helps me then answer as an hon­est human being.

To con­tinue read­ing click HERE

N.B.: http://www.ExposingTheTruth.co/ is an excel­lent web­site. I highly rec­om­mend. It is well worth sub­scrib­ing to.


On Love

Love is like a stand you take for some­one or some­thing — a stand you take FOR some­one, towards some­one, rather than it being an inter­nal state which you rep­re­sent with the word “love.” If that were true, if just that lit­tle bit were true, the dis­tance between you and the mas­tery of love would be very short. You and I could bring forth the phe­nom­e­non of love by virtue of a dec­la­ra­tion, “I love you,” where the dec­la­ra­tion was a stand, a com­mit­ment and we could see that that was not some “thing” called love, but an open­ing, a pos­si­bil­ity, a clear­ing in which our expe­ri­ences could show up as an expres­sion of the dec­la­ra­tion, of the stand, of the com­mit­ment, of the context.

If all that were really pos­si­ble, then the dis­tance between us and mas­ter­ing love is pretty short. You see, what shows up in a stand val­i­dates the stand. If a doubt shows up in the space of some­thing for which you stand, it shows up as an expres­sion of the stand, that is to say it shows up for you as some­thing to han­dle out of your stand, not as some­thing con­trary to that for which you stand.

So if love in our rela­tion­ships was a clear­ing in which life became present, even what we ordi­nar­ily think of as a neg­a­tive cir­cum­stance, in a clear­ing cre­ated by a dec­la­ra­tion of love, where the dec­la­ra­tion is some­thing for which you stand, even a so-called neg­a­tive cir­cum­stance does not show up in oppo­si­tion to that for which you stand, but shows up as some­thing to be han­dled within the stand. I know you’re sit­ting there say­ing “gee I wish it were that easy” and I’m say­ing it might be some­thing very close to that easy … just like that.

And I’m invit­ing you into this domain of pos­si­bil­ity where you don’t know the answers, where rela­tion­ship and love exist like a ques­tion. I know you think that love is a set of emo­tions and moods and thoughts and atti­tudes and out­looks and feel­ings. And I’m invit­ing you to con­sider the pos­si­bil­ity that, that sim­ply is one inter­pre­ta­tion, not one with which you are stuck. That you do not need to live the rest of your life with­out love when you don’t have that set of feel­ings which you have hereto­fore described as love.

…that it might be pos­si­ble to bring love into your life, like a cre­ation, like some­thing for which you could be respon­si­ble, like some­thing you could bring forth on your our own as a mat­ter of dec­la­ra­tion and as a mat­ter of tak­ing a stand. And that you could bring love into those cir­cum­stance in your life when the rela­tion­ships are most dif­fi­cult, most prob­lem­atic. And you could do it as a sim­ple act of being where being is that for which you are will­ing to stand. And that the stand comes forth in a dec­la­ra­tion and exists behind the dec­la­ra­tion as a stand.

- Werner Erhard


The Right to Be Wrong

Our cul­ture is built for win­ners. Every­one else is a loser. Whose aim in life is to be a loser? Not me, cer­tainly, and I per­son­ally don’t know of any­one who has. So, what do we do in the game of win­ning? We try to be right as much as we pos­si­bly can. Even if we know we are wrong we will try to con­vince oth­ers that we are right, or we will look like losers. “Look­ing good” is impor­tant. It projects a win­ner.  And I don’t mean just looks, but a gen­eral per­cep­tion of oth­ers that we are “in the know,” that we are always right, that we know what we are talk­ing about, that our judg­ments are cor­rect. We want to be trust­wor­thy and reli­able. We want to be RIGHT. We expect that oth­ers want to be right too and we “know” that if we admit that we are wrong oth­ers will not only gloat, make us look bad, lose respect for us, but also take advan­tage of us in every way possible.

All these attempts at being right are masks to hide behind in order to look good, but being always right is an impos­si­ble task to accom­plish. Suc­cess­ful peo­ple in busi­ness and in rela­tion­ships (busi­ness is made of rela­tion­ships like most any other action in life) have made dis­pro­por­tion­ally more mis­takes and have been many times more wrong than right.

The road to suc­cess is paved with failures.

One of the main com­plaints in unsuc­cess­ful rela­tion­ships is “we fight a lot.” Why do peo­ple fight? You guessed it: each per­son keeps insist­ing they are right by furi­ously jus­ti­fy­ing their posi­tion, by mak­ing their part­ner wrong and inval­i­dat­ing their partner’s point of view in order to win an argu­ment, so as not to be per­ceived as a “loser”. This down­ward spi­ral causes ver­tigo from which it is hard to recover.

So how do win­ners deal with los­ing, with being wrong and recover from their mistakes?

The rule of thumb is: the more insis­tent, sig­nif­i­cant and seri­ous you are about being right the more dif­fi­cult it is to recover, which implies that the more will­ing you are to admit, or could be wrong, and the sooner you can do it, the eas­ier it is to stop the down­ward spi­ral into rela­tion­ship dis­in­te­gra­tion. If you screw up a lot, you would even have to use that dreaded action to pub­li­cally or for­mally APOLOGIZE, which most peo­ple avoid like the plague.

I like to say that your rela­tion­ship is as good as your last conversation.

My inten­tion in this arti­cle is to uncover the lunacy of spend­ing our ener­gies, and indeed our lives, try­ing to be right about every­thing. Only peo­ple with low self-esteem and a low opin­ion of them­selves insist on being right all the time in a futile attempt to hide their inse­cu­ri­ties. If you are one of those peo­ple I sug­gest that you start doing exactly the oppo­site. Start being authen­tic. Stop hid­ing behind your right­eous­ness. Oth­ers will admire you for your courage, which most likely they them­selves do not have.  Peo­ple want to be right for fear of not being accepted, being shunned, rejected, not respected and, of course, not loved, when in fact the result is quite opposite.

This is how we “intu­itively” react to sit­u­a­tions when the right actions may be quite counter-intuitive: Most of our behav­ior is con­ducted from our rep­til­ian brain, our fight or flight instinct. We some­how uncon­sciously equate a chal­leng­ing con­ver­sa­tion with an encounter with a saber-tooth tiger. This brain, which has direct access to the emo­tional cen­ter (the amyg­dala), decides our actions. Becom­ing aware of what is REALLY hap­pen­ing, i.e., pro­cess­ing it through your con­scious mind (the neo-cortex), will uncover other pos­si­bil­i­ties and oppor­tu­ni­ties to “sur­vive” a con­ver­sa­tion with­out the knee-jerk reac­tion of hav­ing to be right.

In con­clu­sion: enjoy being wrong. You might as well, because most of the time you are. Con­sider that your beliefs are just that: YOUR beliefs, not nec­es­sar­ily facts. Allow oth­ers to have theirs. The world is not made to your spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Be gra­cious with oth­ers by allow­ing them to be wrong with­out beat­ing them up about it and mak­ing them wrong about being wrong. In other words, stop being right about their being wrong. If not imme­di­ately, but soon, they will start to rec­i­p­ro­cate, which ulti­mately leads to a great rela­tion­ship where each of you can be com­pletely authen­tic, and have the free­dom to be yourself.

To have a great rela­tion­ship you must give up the right to be right. Be a winner!

Good luck.


How To Make Your Man Happy

After I say, “Give him sex when­ever he wants it,” I prob­a­bly have noth­ing else to add. But WAIT, there is a lit­tle more to it although not nearly as much as a woman* would require for her happiness.

The nat­ural instinct of men* is to “dom­i­nate.” That’s where it all starts. Men want to be deci­sion mak­ers and in charge, although the real­ity is that women always are. Men just don’t know it on a con­scious level. If you do not han­dle it right your man may become either openly or pas­sively aggres­sive. He is phys­i­cally stronger and his last resort is to use force. Be that as it may, you need to play a woman’s game. You are a woman; you should instinc­tively know how to do it. Play­ing a power game with a man is not a good idea.

Let him be in charge

So, to make your man happy you need to give him the illu­sion that he is in charge. This should be very easy to do because men LOVE help­ing women and solv­ing prob­lems. (Have you noticed how men are not so good at just lis­ten­ing? Men offer you solu­tions and help when you don’t even need it nor ask for it.) Start appre­ci­at­ing his enthu­si­asm and sense of respon­si­bil­ity for your prob­lems as well as his eager­ness to help you solve them. That’s how he expresses his love. He does not nec­es­sar­ily want to “fix” you. He owns your problems.

Men love and are proud of being able to pro­vide for and sup­port their woman, which can­not be said for women who really hate being the bread­win­ner of the family.

Give him his own space, phys­i­cal as well as mental

Phys­i­cally he needs his “cave,” his space where he can be undis­turbed doing his own thing. This may be a work­shop, garage, office, a den or a cor­ner in the home that he can call his own where he “reigns supreme.” He should be able to do what­ever he wants in that space: sort out his col­lec­tions, make some­thing, read, write, watch foot­ball, or just do nothing.

Men­tal space is also very impor­tant. It may come as a sur­prise to you but men often think of NOTHING. They need to do that occa­sion­ally. So do not force a con­ver­sa­tion if he does not want to have one NOW. He’ll come back to it when he is ready.

Learn to take what a man says at face value. He means what he says. Stop look­ing for hid­den mean­ings as to what comes out of his mouth. When he says that he is busy and can­not talk to you now, it does not mean that he does not love you. It means “he is busy and that he can­not talk to you now.”

Too sim­ple for you? Yes, that is the real­ity about men. They are VERY SIMPLE, for bet­ter or for worse. Also, men do not express their emo­tions as much as women do. Men can con­trol their thoughts and their feel­ings, but it does not mean that they do not have them. It is a 50,000 year-old sur­vival strat­egy. Try not to ques­tion it and make him into an overly sen­si­tive man. Do not try to turn him into a per­fect hairy woman. One, you will not suc­ceed, but if you do, he’ll change just to please you. Two, if you suc­ceed even par­tially, you will not like what you have.

Show respect

As much as women are about secu­rity, mostly emo­tional secu­rity that is, men are about respect. Notwith­stand­ing the fact that adults should earn respect and not be given it freely, there are some areas where your man will love you and respect you back if you show respect for his inter­ests and hob­bies, as well as sup­port him socially.

In other words, do not put down his inter­est in motor­cy­cles, his gun and knife col­lec­tion, cars, sports, or even bal­let. He loves his inter­ests and if you ask him why, he may even be eager to explain it to you at length and in detail, if you have the patience to lis­ten. If you do not respect his inter­ests he will with­draw, resent you, hide it from you etc., which obvi­ously would make him very unhappy.

If you respect him and are sup­port­ive of him in pub­lic, among friends and fam­ily, he will inter­pret it as the purest form of love on your part. “Praise in pub­lic, crit­i­cize in pri­vate,” as the adage goes.

If you want to per­pet­u­ate the attrac­tion in your rela­tion­ship, keep the gap between fem­i­nin­ity and mas­culin­ity as wide as pos­si­ble. If a woman adopts too many male char­ac­ter­is­tics and a man vice versa, the roles may reverse, attrac­tion will evap­o­rate to be replaced by either con­flict or indif­fer­ence. No one rel­ishes the prospects of this happening.

These are char­ac­ter­is­tics which apply to most men­tally healthy men. Of course, there are indi­vid­ual dif­fer­ences, but do not assume that your man is so com­pletely dif­fer­ent that most of the above do not apply to him. If that is the case, he may be a woman, or he may be reluc­tant to exer­cise his “man­li­ness” with you. Con­sider that he may be try­ing to please you too much.

Good luck.

*Note: When I say a man and a woman, I mean male and female energy and nat­ural, genetic char­ac­ter­is­tics. (I talk about it at some length in The Game­less Rela­tion­ship.) Every human being has both char­ac­ter­is­tics. Men have more male and women have more female, and that can some­what vary from per­son to per­son and sit­u­a­tion to situation.

Changes In Relationships

May 20, 2012

Posted by:

Category: Awareness, How to


Changes In Relationships

The uni­verse is a net­work of rela­tions. What was once thought to be absolute is always sub­ject to evo­lu­tion and rene­go­ti­a­tion. The com­plete truth about the world is not gras­pable in any sin­gle point of view, but only resides in the total­ity of sev­eral or many dis­tinct views.”

This was a quote by Jus­tus Buch­ler, Phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor at Colum­bia University.

If this is true of the uni­verse, I thought, how would this apply to rela­tion­ships? And it did per­fectly. Let me rephrase it in rela­tion­ship language:

Rela­tion­ships are net­works of con­ver­sa­tions. What was once thought to be absolute is always sub­ject to evo­lu­tion and rene­go­ti­a­tion. The com­plete truth about rela­tion­ships is not gras­pable in any sin­gle point of view, but only resides in the total­ity of sev­eral or many dis­tinct views.

I often say that your rela­tion­ship is as good as your last con­ver­sa­tion. This may or may not be true, but it helps if you think it is. You may be more present and alert to the con­stant changes and fluc­tu­a­tions of cir­cum­stances and reac­tions from your part­ner. You will also learn to self reflect more often and have a bet­ter grasp of the real­ity and the feel­ings and true inten­tions of your partner.

Never under­es­ti­mate the power of con­text within which opin­ions and inter­pre­ta­tions are formed. Con­text IS deci­sive. Some behav­iors may be inter­preted quite dif­fer­ently in dif­fer­ent con­texts. This may influ­ence the health of a rela­tion­ship from one day to the next.

As you can see, there is no such thing as a sta­tic rela­tion­ship. It always changes, moves and fluc­tu­ates. A rela­tion­ship is bet­ter viewed as a verb rather than a noun. I believe that being agile and aware of the inevitable con­stant changes in a rela­tion­ship will make you a bet­ter per­son. Aware­ness is the first step to enlight­en­ment. This may be a rea­son good enough to take 100% respon­si­bil­ity for your rela­tion­ship. What do you think?


Valentine’s Day Expectations

by Sara Aboulhosn

It’s almost Valentine’s Day.  Radomir and I were casu­ally dis­cussing V-day and the crass com­mer­cial­iza­tion of just about all aspects of it and we started think­ing about what to write about for this so-called hol­i­day.  What topic would hit the nail on the head?  For me, it was easy to see – Unful­filled Expec­ta­tions.  Sorry Charles Dick­ens, not Great Expec­ta­tions but the unful­filled ones. They just pop up every­where, in all places, at all times; not just in romance. They do tend to stand out more on Valentine’s Day, though, because of the hype our cul­ture has built up around what we should do, what we should have and most, most, most impor­tantly what we SHOULD GET!

Oh, to be a woman (and I am) on V-day. We should get the flow­ers, the choco­late (even though we secretly or maybe not so secretly com­plain it makes us fat), the can­dles, the romance and yes, THE RING (if that’s where we’re at in our rela­tion­ship).  Hey, even if we’re past the ring stage, tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials tell us our man SHOULD be shop­ping at Jared Jew­el­ers or the like and buy­ing us a trin­ket from this or that lovely Valentiny col­lec­tion of jew­elry.  Depend­ing on the man, he might even be spring­ing for Tiffany’s and buy­ing us way more than a mere trin­ket.  The point is, though, he SHOULD be doing some­thing for us.  He SHOULD be show­ing us he loves us.  He SHOULD be spend­ing more money on us that he usu­ally spends and if he doesn’t usu­ally spend money on us, this is his chance to make it up and really show us he loves us.

I was so poignantly reminded of this whole nasty can of Unful­filled Expec­ta­tions by watch­ing the Valen­tine episode of Grey’s Anatomy.  Yes, you can pick up rela­tion­ship advice from these dra­mas, if you’re pay­ing atten­tion.  A cou­ple comes into the ER, he on a gur­ney, she walk­ing on her legs, both exit­ing from an ambu­lance that had picked him up from a car acci­dent. He was chas­ing her in his car – she ran out on him when she found out that once again, after 8 years, he didn’t give her an engage­ment ring.  Once again he got her hopes up with a small box, but instead of a ring, it had a “cheap neck­lace” inside (as she put it). She was harangu­ing him as he was being wheeled into the treat­ment room lying flat on the gur­ney, strapped down to pro­tect his neck, a gauze pad under his nose to sop up the blood, since his nose was broken.

Once again, after 8 years her expec­ta­tions were unful­filled. She couldn’t even open the neck­lace, which was a locket neck­lace. All she could do was run out of their home to escape the noise in her head which was prob­a­bly say­ing some­thing like, “He doesn’t love me, he’s using me, he’s this, he’s that…”

He needed surgery and after the surgery, as she was sit­ting by his bed­side watch­ing him hooked up to tubes and wires, look­ing washed out and gravely hurt, she told one of the doc­tors that although she had the ring picked out for when he finally pro­posed, look­ing at him there, she real­ized that all of that was crap. All she wanted was for him to be OK.  Unfor­tu­nately, it was too late and he crashed. They couldn’t revive him and he left the earthly plane with all of its unful­filled expec­ta­tions float­ing around.  Later, the doc­tor with whom the girl­friend had been speak­ing found his effects and in the midst of them was the “cheap neck­lace”. The doc­tor decided to open the neck­lace and what did she see?  Writ­ten on the left side of the heart, “Will You”, writ­ten on the right side of the heart, “Marry Me.”

That par­tic­u­lar story line ended right there. But can you imag­ine the anguish of the girl­friend if she was given the neck­lace?  Or if she wasn’t given the neck­lace? Either way, her unful­filled expec­ta­tions would be what she would have to live with vs. what was so.

All that really hap­pened was that her boyfriend of 8 years had not yet pro­posed on Valentine’s Day morn­ing, when she was hop­ing and expect­ing he would.  SHE was the one who had it mean some­thing.  And there’s noth­ing wrong with want­ing to get mar­ried (sorry guys who’ve been drag­ging your feet – this is not a “get out of jail card” for you to jus­tify foot drag­ging).  It’s just that we need to take respon­si­bil­ity, each and every one of us, for our expec­ta­tions and own them as our expec­ta­tions. They are not our part­ners’ expec­ta­tions, our pets’ expec­ta­tions, our boss’s expec­ta­tions. They are OURS.  If our expec­ta­tions are not being ful­filled or met, we can decide if we wish to pro­ceed or not. As Ein­stein said, the def­i­n­i­tion of insan­ity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect­ing to get a dif­fer­ent result.  (Radomir reminds us of this often too, in his blog posts). Prob­a­bil­ity wise, a dif­fer­ent result might be got­ten at some point but is that good enough for liv­ing a ful­filled life?

What should the girl­friend in the show have done?  I can’t say – I wasn’t there dur­ing the times she was dis­ap­pointed pre­vi­ously, dur­ing the talks they had, dur­ing the wed­dings she men­tioned she attended with him where she cried her eyes out nos­tal­gi­cally think­ing of HER non-wedding.  I do know that she could have taken respon­si­bil­ity for her role in their rela­tion­ship. She could have quit blam­ing him. She could have grown up and decided if it was worth wait­ing for some­one 8 years, even if you loved them, if mar­riage was your ideal and not his.

I do know she could have decided what was really impor­tant to her and taken that as the credo by which to live her life. This way, when Valentine’s day came along and no ring showed up, there would be no drama, no run­ning out of the build­ing in a frenzy.  Just an abil­ity to be with what was so — that what was impor­tant to her was not there in their rela­tion­ship.  And finally, then she could have opened the neck­lace, or not, while the man was still alive.

I wish you a guilt-free, calorie-free, expectation-free Valentine’s Day!


Click HERE for The Rela­tion­ship Saver, The Fast Track Man­ual for Sav­ing your Relationship.


February 4, 2012

Posted by:

Category: Awareness, How to, Marriage



Change is a very pop­u­lar topic. You either want it, don’t want it, or it is forced upon you. In any case, change is inevitable. They say it is the only thing that stays con­stant. Very clever, and deeeeeep — in a cos­mic sense. But how do we deal with it in our lives, on the court?

When change occurs it hap­pens on all lev­els: per­sonal, social, behav­ioral and cul­tural or rela­tional. Or rather, if change is to take effect it has to occur in all of these four areas whether we like it or not.

Change may be thrown upon you, such as when you are being unex­pect­edly dumped by your loved one. The change in your rela­tion­ship is a cul­tural change. It occurs in a rela­tion­ship between two peo­ple. And not only two peo­ple, it has a rip­ple effect on most of the peo­ple you know. Their rela­tion­ship to you may also change.

Spa­tial change occurs in your envi­ron­ment; you may need to move out, change or find a job, etc.

Your behav­ior is bound to change as well. Things you used to do you don’t do any more, or you start doing things you never used to before, like drink­ing, etc.  Remem­ber, you have been dumped. It’s not easy on your emo­tional life. You may be dev­as­tated. You may be going through emo­tional stages sim­i­lar to peo­ple who hear that they have three months left to live.

All in all, you are in a big hole, emo­tion­ally and oth­er­wise. Changes like these can be dev­as­tat­ing. So, where do you start the recov­ery process? In The Rela­tion­ship Saver I say, “be happy”. Yes, right! Eas­ier said than done, you will notice.

Here is the first step. Start from your inter­nal processes, with your­self. The rea­son being that the only ele­ment you have con­trol over is YOU. (I know: it would be much eas­ier if oth­ers would change to accom­mo­date your wishes, but that’s not going to hap­pen.) Since change is thrown upon you, in order to turn it around, the first thing you need to do is CHANGE YOUR MIND. About what? You might ask.

First, let’s dis­tin­guish what I mean by mind in this case, before we go about chang­ing it. What I mean by your mind is your point of view, lit­er­ally, the point from which you see the world. Since every­one has a dif­fer­ent point of view, obvi­ously there is not ONE point of view to observe the world, or in this case, the present sit­u­a­tion of being dumped.

Chang­ing your mind or point of view is often dif­fi­cult to do because we iden­tify with our point of view, this is who we are, this is what we believe and let­ting go is as scary as los­ing our­selves in obliv­ion. We think if we change our point of view we have a weak char­ac­ter or that we are aban­don­ing our val­ues and beliefs, which we think make us who we are. Noth­ing can be fur­ther from the truth. Open-minded peo­ple often change their mind depend­ing on the real­ity with which they are pre­sented. You may believe in the sanc­tity of mar­riage, for instance, but such mar­riages are sup­posed to be per­fect mar­riages, noth­ing like the one you may be in now. Chang­ing your mind by real­iz­ing that your mar­riage is what it is now and not what it should be, is the first step. Is this mar­riage what you want or some­thing that you used to have? Obvi­ously not. So instead of hold­ing onto your idea of how things should be, start think­ing about what to do next. Many peo­ple in such a sit­u­a­tion say: “But I love him/her I don’t want us to sep­a­rate.” No, you love the per­son who was, not the one who is now.

Chang­ing your mind about your needs is another big step. You really do not need him/her. It is your fear talk­ing. Do not lis­ten to it. Do you con­sider your­self “brave” or a “weak­ling”? Fol­low your high­est self and you will change your mind much more eas­ily. Being a vic­tim brings a sweet cozy feel­ing for a while, but in the long run it is pathetic and dis­gust­ing, espe­cially if you are a self-proclaimed vic­tim, which is how it is most of the time. You HAVE every­thing you need. Change your mind about that and your life will change.

When you change the way you look at your­self every­thing changes, includ­ing your behav­ior. Chang­ing your cir­cle of friends and/or the place you live and work will most likely be a wel­come change in the long run. Stop con­trol­ling your des­tiny. You can­not. You will only make more mis­takes. You can only cre­ate your future and the time to do it is ALWAYS now.

Click HERE for The Rela­tion­ship Saver, The Fast Track Man­ual for Sav­ing your Relationship.


Is what you do who you are?

How many times have you called your­self and oth­ers pathetic, stu­pid? “Not good enough” are the three words that would cover all the things that are “wrong” with you and oth­ers. Maybe you have noticed that this often func­tions as a self-fulfilling prophecy. After repeat­ing to your­self that you are stu­pid, you really start doing more and more stu­pid things. Why? Because you are “stu­pid”, of course! What else can you do? That’s how things are. Only stu­pid peo­ple do stu­pid things. Right? That’s who you are, you become con­vinced. When you think that some­one is __________ (fill in the blank) you relate to him/her as who she/he “is”, in appro­pri­ate fashion.

This prac­tice becomes even more promi­nent with your (ex)partner when your rela­tion­ship is not work­ing out the way you’d want it to work.

In the case of the rela­tion­ship brake up, in order to alle­vi­ate our suf­fer­ing we engage in a blame game, e.g. name-calling. It makes no dif­fer­ence whom we blame for the sit­u­a­tion as long as it is “some­one.” This, of course, includes our very selves. We first blame oth­ers, our part­ner and all the peo­ple he/she knows, and our friends and fam­ily for all sorts of dif­fer­ent rea­sons, from not warn­ing us to not agree­ing with our side of the story.  In order to absolve our­selves from any respon­si­bil­ity of a wrong judg­ment the com­plaint is not only focused on what peo­ple did, but who they ARE (thus name-calling), because of their deeds or the lack of. Of course, he lied to me, he IS a liar. Now, here lies the most dan­ger­ous and far-reaching mis­take. Peo­ple do all sorts of things, but that’s not nec­es­sar­ily who they are. If you lie once, are you a liar? If you fall in love with some­one else, are you a cheat, not faith­ful etc.? If you say some­thing rude do you become a rude per­son for­ever and exclu­sively. If you do a stu­pid thing it does not mean that you ARE stu­pid. You just did a stu­pid thing, and … by whose judg­ment your deed was stu­pid? Many “stu­pid” things we do turn out not to be so stu­pid after all. If some­one does not love you any more it does not mean that you are not lov­able, or not good enough as a person.

Although we judge peo­ple by their behav­ior, do not for­get that we judge our­selves by our inten­tions, and so do they. Step­ping into another person’s shoes and find­ing out what his/her inten­tions are is an act of grace, love and com­pas­sion. Also, you must under­stand that other peo­ple judge you by your behav­ior and that they are not obliged to know what your inten­tions are. They may not be inter­ested in your inten­tions. Your behav­ior speaks for itself. You have no right to expect peo­ple to be lov­ing, gra­cious and com­pas­sion­ate. You can­not make them wrong for it. All that has noth­ing to do with you, any­way. You need to be respon­si­ble for your own behav­ior and how you come across for oth­ers. At the same time it does not mean that you should asso­ciate at any cost with peo­ple who exhibit per­son­al­ity dis­or­ders in their habit­ual behav­ior. Ego­cen­tric, obsessive-compulsive, depres­sive, passive-aggressive, socio­pathic, bor­der­line, nar­cis­sis­tic, histri­onic etc. are just some exam­ples of the char­ac­ters to be avoided, not to men­tion abusers and addicts.

In the case of the well-balanced men­tally healthy peo­ple, the maxim that you should “treat oth­ers the way you want to be treated” is not very help­ful. There are too many oppor­tu­ni­ties to screw up. The bet­ter one would be

“Treat oth­ers the way they want to be treated”

To do this requires a large dose of the uncon­di­tional love and trust. (Accept the fact that not every­one who is offi­cially an adult will act as one all the time.) Peo­ple do make mis­takes, but mis­takes are part of life. The prob­lem is that we con­sider mis­takes to be “bad.” Mis­takes are just that, mis­takes, and an error in judg­ment. No one has ever escaped from mak­ing mis­takes. Why we are then, so harsh in blam­ing oth­ers (and our­selves) for mak­ing mis­takes. Being more for­giv­ing of oth­ers and our own actions is a cer­tain road to hap­pi­ness and self-growth.



Peo­ple are very open-minded about new things…

as long as they’re exactly like the old ones!

—Charles Ket­ter­ing


Open-mindedness is the will­ing­ness to search actively for evi­dence against one’s favored beliefs, plans, or goals, and to weigh such evi­dence fairly when it is available.

Being open-minded does not imply that one is inde­ci­sive, wishy-washy, or inca­pable of think­ing for one’s self. After con­sid­er­ing var­i­ous alter­na­tives, an open-minded per­son can take a firm stand on a posi­tion and act accordingly.

The oppo­site of open-mindedness is what is called the myside bias which refers to the per­va­sive ten­dency to search for evi­dence and eval­u­ate evi­dence in a way that favors your ini­tial beliefs. Most peo­ple show myside bias, but some are more biased than others.

Ben­e­fits of Open-Mindedness

Research sug­gests the fol­low­ing ben­e­fits of open-mindedness:

  • Open-minded, cog­ni­tively com­plex indi­vid­u­als are less swayed by sin­gu­lar events and are more resis­tant to sug­ges­tion and manipulation.
  • Open-minded indi­vid­u­als are bet­ter able to pre­dict how oth­ers will behave and are less prone to projection.
  • Open-minded indi­vid­u­als tend to score bet­ter on tests of gen­eral cog­ni­tive abil­ity like the SAT or an IQ test. (Of course we don’t know whether being open-minded makes one smarter or vice versa.)

Open-Mindedness as a “Cor­rec­tive Virtue”

Social and cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gists have noted wide­spread errors in judgment/thinking to which we are all vul­ner­a­ble. In order to be open-minded, we have to work against these basic ten­den­cies, lead­ing virtue ethi­cists to call open-mindedness a cor­rec­tive virtue.

In addi­tion to the myside bias described above, here are three other cog­ni­tive ten­den­cies that work against open-minded thinking:

1) Selec­tive Exposure

We main­tain our beliefs by selec­tively expos­ing our­selves to infor­ma­tion that we already know is likely to sup­port those beliefs. Lib­er­als tend to read lib­eral news­pa­pers, and Con­ser­v­a­tives tend to read con­ser­v­a­tive newspapers.

2) Pri­macy Effects

The evi­dence that comes first mat­ters more than evi­dence pre­sented later. Trial lawyers are very aware of this phe­nom­e­non. Once jurors form a belief, that belief becomes resis­tant to counterevidence.

3) Polar­iza­tion

We tend to be less crit­i­cal of evi­dence that sup­ports our beliefs than evi­dence that runs counter to our beliefs. In an inter­est­ing exper­i­ment that demon­strates this phe­nom­e­non, researchers pre­sented indi­vid­u­als with mixed evi­dence on the effec­tive­ness of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment on reduc­ing crime. Even though the evi­dence on both sides of the issue was per­fectly bal­anced, indi­vid­u­als became stronger in their ini­tial posi­tion for or against cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment. They rated evi­dence that sup­ported their ini­tial belief as more con­vinc­ing, and they found flaws more eas­ily in the evi­dence that coun­tered their ini­tial beliefs.

What Encour­ages Open-Mindedness?

Research sug­gests that peo­ple are more likely to be open-minded when they are not under time pres­sure. (Our gut reac­tions aren’t always the most accurate.)

Indi­vid­u­als are more likely to be open-minded when they believe they are mak­ing an impor­tant deci­sion. (This is when we start mak­ing lists of pros and cons, seek­ing the per­spec­tives of oth­ers, etc.)

Some research sug­gests that the way in which an idea is pre­sented can affect how open-minded some­one is when con­sid­er­ing it. For exam­ple, a typ­i­cal method of assess­ing open-mindedness in the lab­o­ra­tory is to ask a par­tic­i­pant to list argu­ments on both sides of a com­pli­cated issue (e.g., the death penalty, abor­tion, ani­mal test­ing). What typ­i­cally hap­pens is that indi­vid­u­als are able to list far more argu­ments on their favored side. How­ever, if the researcher then encour­ages the par­tic­i­pant to come up with more argu­ments on the oppos­ing side, most peo­ple are able to do so with­out too much dif­fi­culty. It seems that indi­vid­u­als have these counter-arguments stored in mem­ory but they don’t draw on them when first asked.

Exer­cises to Build Open-Mindedness

In my read­ings, I did not uncover any open-mindedness inter­ven­tions. But in the spirit of creativity/originality I con­sulted Cather­ine Freemire, LCSW [Cather­ine Freemire, LCSW, Bal­anced Life Coach­ing, coachcat@jps.net ], a clin­i­cal ther­a­pist and pro­fes­sional coach renowned for her cre­ative think­ing. She came up with three exer­cises for build­ing open-mindedness which I think are def­i­nitely worth trying:

Select an emo­tion­ally charged, debat­able topic (e.g., abor­tion, prayer in school, health­care reform, the cur­rent war in Iraq) and take the oppo­site side from your own. Write five valid rea­sons to sup­port this view. (While typ­ing Catherine’s idea, I had a related one of my own: If you are con­ser­v­a­tive in your polit­i­cal beliefs, lis­ten to Al Frankin’s radio show; if you are lib­eral, lis­ten to Rush Lim­baugh! While you are lis­ten­ing, try to avoid the cog­ni­tive error of polar­iza­tion described above.)

1. Remem­ber a time when you were wronged by some­one in the past. Gen­er­ate three plau­si­ble rea­sons why this per­son inad­ver­tently or inten­tion­ally wronged you.

2. This one is for par­ents: Think of a topic that you con­sis­tently argue about with your teen or grown child. Now, take their posi­tion and think of 3 sub­stan­tial rea­sons why their point of view is valid. (This could also be done with spouses or any fam­ily mem­bers for that matter!)

© 2004 Authen­tic Hap­pi­ness Coach­ing. All rights reserved.

Personal Boundaries

October 16, 2011

Posted by:

Category: Awareness, How to, Marriage


Personal Boundaries

All prob­lems in life may be divided into ones we can do some­thing about and the prob­lems we have no influ­ence over. Every one of our prob­lems is either within the sphere of our con­trol or it is not , e.g. it is inside or out­side our per­sonal boundary.

Your per­sonal bound­ary marks the line between what you con­trol and what you don’t. Solv­ing prob­lems begins with the cre­ation and famil­iar­ity with a healthy, mature and inte­grated per­sonal emo­tional bound­ary, so that you can eas­ily dis­tin­guish what you can con­trol, and LET GO of what you can­not. Spend­ing your emo­tional energy on what you can­not con­trol is called emo­tional SUFFERING.

Space inside your per­sonal bound­ary is your safe space, your COMFORT ZONE. That’s where you feel com­fort­able and in con­trol i.e. per­form­ing rou­tine tasks, com­mu­ni­cat­ing with peo­ple you know well about things you are knowl­edge­able about, etc. What lies out­side of it is unknown, you feel UNCOMFORTABLE  and that pro­duces FEAR. Applied to your rela­tion­ship, if your com­fort zone is deter­mined by your rela­tion­ship, you will nat­u­rally fear a break up.

We often allow our bound­aries to develop HOLES. When­ever you get afraid of some­thing that is not an imme­di­ate threat to your life, your per­sonal emo­tional bound­ary has been punc­tured; you have allowed an out­side influ­ence that you have no con­trol of press your but­tons and let your bound­ary be vio­lated. When­ever you use the word SHOULD, you allow the out­side cir­cum­stances that you can­not have con­trol over pull your chain. Some typ­i­cal exam­ples are: “She should not leave me”, or “He should love me.” (Feel free to add those hun­dreds of your own.) Instead, con­cen­trate on what YOU can do about it now (within your con­trol and INSIDE your bound­ary) instead of what should be or, even worse, what should HAVE BEEN. What dif­fer­ence does it makes if you think that she should not have left or that the earth should be flat? Yes, you may wish, but you, unfor­tu­nately can­not change the past events or the present real­ity. So, con­cen­trate on what you CAN do about it and CREATE the future by expand­ing your per­sonal bound­ary. You can­not pre­dict  the future no mat­ter how hard you try. There are too many unknowns out­side of your boundary.

Your per­son­al­ity is deter­mined by your pref­er­ences, i.e. say­ing YES to some things and NO to oth­ers, con­sis­tently. Your likes and dis­likes deter­mine your per­son­al­ity. If you are wishy-washy about your pref­er­ences and what you like and dis­like you are open to punch­ing holes in your bound­ary, thus hav­ing a “weak per­son­al­ity”. Your per­son­al­ity is being invaded from out­side and that trans­lates into SUFFERING. When your per­sonal bound­ary is solid, capa­ble of say­ing NO and hon­or­ing NO (this is where your per­sonal integrity comes in, see The Game­less Rela­tion­ship on integrity), you are well pro­tected from STRESS. Say NO to stress and it goes away. Stress orig­i­nates in uncon­trol­lable envi­ron­ments, out­side your bound­ary. You can say no to any influ­ence from out­side of your bound­ary. Holes in your bound­ary are the places you have trou­ble “say­ing NO” or “hear­ing NO”. Say­ing NO to things that you don’t pre­fer and being able to take NO for an answer will only strengthen your bound­ary. Peo­ple who have “their but­tons pushed” or let­ting oth­ers “get under their skin” have very porous bound­aries. If you are being vic­tim­ized in any way, your bound­ary has been pen­e­trated. Peo­ple whose but­tons can­not be eas­ily pushed and peo­ple with “thick skin” have strong per­sonal bound­aries. Peo­ple who can eas­ily be manip­u­lated by SHAME, or made to feel GUILTY need to start seri­ously work­ing on their bound­aries. But, be care­ful. You may build imper­me­able WALLS around you.

Bound­ary WALLS may be just as detri­men­tal to your rela­tion­ship as bound­ary HOLES. Some­times we learn our lessons “the hard way” and plug the bound­ary hole too tightly. If your pre­vi­ous rela­tion­ship was “bad”, say, you were emo­tion­ally manip­u­lated, you might have promised to your­self “never again” and close your­self to inti­macy with ANYONE. Post-traumatic Stress Dis­or­der is a good exam­ple of how men who came from com­bat are “unable to feel” any­thing. It is not that they are unable, they just say NO to inti­macy and feel­ings. They have been hurt too many times and now build thick walls around them­selves that even the most lov­ing part­ner or any mem­ber of their clos­est fam­ily can­not pen­e­trate. You’ve also heard peo­ple get into gen­er­al­iza­tions such as: All men are_____, or women are______. That’s how walls are bul­let: mak­ing gen­er­al­iza­tions out of you own nar­row expe­ri­ence. Being a her­mit is just as bad as wear­ing your heart on your sleeve, as Paul Dobran­sky, MD would say.

In con­clu­sion: it is mat­ter of your integrity, men­tal health, and per­sonal devel­op­ment to con­stantly expand a healthy per­sonal emo­tional bound­ary that will not have holes in it, but be able to will­ingly open to pos­si­bil­i­ties that will allow growth of your per­sonal bound­ary and thus enlarge your abil­ity to influ­ence your life. The size of your healthy and mature per­sonal bound­ary will deter­mine how suc­cess­ful you are in all areas of your life, includ­ing your rela­tion­ships with loved ones.

Click HERE for The Rela­tion­ship Saver, The Fast Track Man­ual for Sav­ing your Relationship.


The Freedom of Being: Beyond Right/Wrong

The Free­dom of Being: Beyond Right/Wrong, Win/Lose, etc.

By Larry Pearson

Taken from The Land­mark Newsletter

Land­mark Forum Lead­ers in Conversation

This pas­sage comes from The New York Times: “Long before seat belts or com­mon sense were par­tic­u­larly wide­spread, my fam­ily made annual trips to New York in our sta­tion wagon. Mom and Dad took the front seat, my infant sis­ter sat in my mother’s lap and my brother and I had the back all to our­selves. We’d lounge around doing puz­zles, read­ing comics, and count­ing license plates. Even­tu­ally we’d fight. When our fight had finally esca­lated to the point of tears, our mother would turn around to chas­tise us, and my brother and I would start to plead our cases. ‘But he hit me first,’ one of us would say, to which the other would inevitably add, ‘But he hit me harder.’

It turns out that my brother and I were not alone in believ­ing that these two claims can get a puncher off the hook. In vir­tu­ally every human soci­ety, ‘He hit me first’ pro­vides an accept­able ratio­nale for doing that which is oth­er­wise for­bid­den. It is thought that a punch thrown sec­ond is legally and morally dif­fer­ent than a punch thrown first. The prob­lem with the prin­ci­ple of even-numberedness is that peo­ple count dif­fer­ently. Peo­ple think of their own actions as the con­se­quences of what came before, they think of other people’s actions as the causes of what came later, and that their rea­sons and pains are more pal­pa­ble, more obvi­ous and real, than that of others.” *

The stuff of wars, soap operas, divorce courts, Ham­let, and more all bor­row on that equa­tion, as do we. While we might wish we’d left that even-numberedness to our child­hood and ado­les­cence, it’s not to be. The dynamic of deal­ing with issues that are unwanted, yet per­sist con­tin­ues to play out in board rooms, neigh­bor­hoods, mar­riages, and between nations—we jus­tify, we blame, we complain.

Issues that are unwanted, yet per­sist can be a pow­er­ful impe­tus for change, as evi­denced by the progress of human rights, for exam­ple. But there’s another world of things that are unwanted, yet persist—things that we com­plain about over and over, like some aspect of our rela­tion­ships or jobs that is not work­ing, and yet we find our­selves keep­ing around.

If we put what’s “unwanted, yet per­sists” together with “fixed ways of being,” we get what we call a “racket.” It’s a “mashup” of sorts (a web buzz­word). In a mashup, one web appli­ca­tion is com­bined with another, mak­ing both appli­ca­tions more pro­duc­tive and robust—you get some­thing greater than the sum of the parts. If you mash up what’s unwanted, yet per­sists (which is most likely occur­ring as a com­plaint) and a fixed way of being, you also get some­thing greater than the sum of its parts, but in this case, the yield heads in the wrong direction—the com­bi­na­tion is unpro­duc­tive or more accu­rately, counterproductive.

com­plaint is some kind of opin­ion or judg­ment of the way things “should” or “shouldn’t be.” The eval­u­a­tive com­po­nent isn’t a com­men­tary on facts that are true or false, accu­rate or not, but again how we think thingsshould be. By fixed way of being we mean act­ing in a pre­dictable and repet­i­tive man­ner (like always frus­trated, always upset, always angry, always nice, always annoyed, always sus­pi­cious, always con­fused, etc.). What­ever ourfixed way of being is, it’s not some­thing we have a choice over. It’s just there—it shows up auto­mat­i­cally when the com­plaint shows up. It’s also worth not­ing that a recur­ring com­plaint doesn’t cause the way of being, nor does the way of being cause the recur­ring complaint—they sim­ply come together in one pack­age. The whole point here, though, is that it’s a fixed way of being, not a pos­si­ble way of being.

The term “racket” comes from the days of big-city gang­sters and street-level crim­i­nals who con­ducted ques­tion­able activities—loan-sharking, bribery, larceny—usually set up to get some kind of pay­off, cam­ou­flaged by an accept­able cover above sus­pi­cion. In a “rack­e­teer­ing” oper­a­tion, the efforts at con­ceal­ing what’s going on behind the scenes can become quite elab­o­rate so as to pro­tect and ensure the suc­cess of the oper­a­tion. We bor­row the term racket as it’s applic­a­ble to our con­tem­po­rary lives and because it car­ries with it many of the same properties—deception, smoke screens, pay­offs, etc.

Some­times per­sis­tent com­plaints orig­i­nate with us, other times they come at us from some­one else. It’s harder to see that we’re in “racket mode” with com­plaints that come at us, because it looks like some­body else is the per­sis­tent com­plainer, and we just an inno­cent bystander. But under closer scrutiny, it turns out we too have complaints—complaints about their com­plaints. Our match­ing com­plaint might show up like, “don’t they under­stand, don’t they know how it is for me, why are they nag­ging, don’t they see every­thing I’m doing for them?” When we com­plain, we feel quite jus­ti­fied that our response is appro­pri­ate to the situation.

We explain the ratio­nale behind our com­plaints to inter­ested (and unin­ter­ested) par­ties, and point out how pleased we are with our­selves for tak­ing the nec­es­sary steps to sort things out—we have a cer­tain fond­ness for our attempts, for “try­ing.” We might get our friends, fam­ily, or cowork­ers to agree that we’re deal­ing with our com­plaints the best we can. If they point out that per­haps we’re the one per­pet­u­at­ing the prob­lem, we could feel mis­un­der­stood, put out, even busted. Seen from a dis­tance, there can be some­thing almost endear­ing about how we go about all this—as if it’s part of our authen­tic and sin­cere spirit—but actu­ally, our ratio­nale for doing what we do is another thing entirely. This is the cam­ou­flage or cover-up part. The decep­tive nature of a racket and the allure of the pay­off keep us from real­iz­ing the full impact rack­ets have in our lives.

The pay­offs for keep­ing rack­ets around usu­ally show up in sev­eral ways: being right and mak­ing oth­ers wrong (not the fac­tual kind of right, but think­ing that we are right and the other per­son is wrong), being dom­i­nat­ing or avoid­ing dom­i­na­tion, jus­ti­fy­ing our­selves and inval­i­dat­ing oth­ers (attribut­ing cause to some thing or per­son other than our­selves), engag­ing in the win/lose dynamic (not “win­ning” like a cel­e­bra­tion with tro­phies, applause, or con­grat­u­la­tions to the oppo­nent, but win­ning such that some­one else is the loser or is less­ened in some way). These pay­offs are like facets of a diamond—although one facet might be more dom­i­nant than another (and we might deny or not be aware that some aspect of a pay­off is active in our case), they’re really all at play.

The pull of these pay­offs is often com­pelling enough to get us to give up love, vital­ity, self-expression, health, and hap­pi­ness. That’s a ridicu­lously strong force. Those costs are the stan­dard fare of a racket.  It’s pretty obvi­ous that we can’t be happy, vital, and lov­ing while we’re mak­ing some­one wrong, dom­i­nat­ing some­one, being right, or jus­ti­fy­ing ourselves—one dis­places the other. This is where choice comes into the picture.

Rack­ets, although one thing, have two forms of exis­tence (some­what like ice and steam are two forms of H2O). One form of a racket shows up as “I am X, Y, or Z.” The sec­ond shows up as “ahhh, I have a racket that is X, Y, or Z.” When we are the racket, it shapes and deter­mines our way of being. But when we have a racket, it has very lit­tle power over our way of being. We have a choice about what’s at play—about giv­ing up our rack­ets, our posi­tions, our unpro­duc­tive ways of being. When we elect to trans­form our default ways of being—being right, com­ing out on top (the even-numberedness, so to speak)—we move to a place of free­dom, a place of pos­si­bil­ity. The ques­tion then becomes: How do I express my life? What would be, for me, the most extra­or­di­nary, cre­ated, invented life?  It becomes a mat­ter of art, of design. How extra­or­di­nary are the every­day aspects of our lives; how rich our lives are, how full of oppor­tu­nity, when we act on the pos­si­bil­ity of liv­ing life fully.

* Adapted from Daniel Gilbert, New York Times, 7/24/06.

Click HERE for The Rela­tion­ship Saver, The Fast Track Man­ual for Sav­ing your Relationship.


Is Your Marriage a Private Matter?

Cer­tainly not; your wed­ding wasn’t. Let me try and explain, but first let me say what prompted me to write this blog. I’ll make it short. I recently talked to the par­ents of a cou­ple who was about to get divorced and they said: “We can­not do any­thing about it. It’s their busi­ness and their pri­vate life. They are adults and we do not want to interfere.”

If no one both­ers to “inter­fere”, there will be all sorts of trau­mas, incon­ve­niences, changes and expenses for all involved: the cou­ple them­selves, par­ents, friends, col­leagues, employ­ees, and employ­ers, etc., etc. In short, every­one with whom the cou­ple comes in con­tact. Peo­ple take sides and it causes a rip­ple effect of bro­ken friend­ships, hurt feel­ings, much gos­sip, and so on. As you can see, this is far from being a ”pri­vate mat­ter”, although it may seem that way at first sight.

In the past, when peo­ple lived in extended fam­i­lies sep­a­ra­tions and divorces were rare. The couple’s fam­ily felt respon­si­ble for their rela­tion­ship. A cou­ple could not behave any way they “felt like it” because there were always wit­nesses to pass judg­ment on their behav­ior. It is clear who is the one mess­ing up a mar­riage. Friends and fam­ily some­how think they are not respon­si­ble for the well being of the couple’s rela­tion­ship. It is so easy to shed the respon­si­bil­ity. Peo­ple often for­get – or they never knew in the first place – that wed­dings are meant for the guests to wit­ness the wed­ding vows and keep the cou­ple account­able and remind them of “until death do us part”. You are not invited to a wed­ding to eat, drink and have a good time only. Cer­tain respon­si­bil­i­ties come with it if you are a friend or a family.

So, as you can see, the respon­si­bil­ity for the suc­cess of a mar­riage is on both sides: the cou­ples, and on their fam­ily and friends. When a cou­ple is alone and iso­lated as a “nuclear fam­ily”, and when it comes to a break-up most peo­ple imme­di­ately take sides with one part­ner or the other instead of tak­ing a stand for the mar­riage itself. I’m not say­ing that all cou­ples must stay together no mat­ter what, but my expe­ri­ence as a rela­tion­ship coach with thou­sands of peo­ple, tells me that there are very few rea­sons that may jus­tify a break up: abuse for one. How­ever, most peo­ple break up for rea­sons such as an urge to be right, jus­ti­fy­ing one’s actions and inval­i­dat­ing the other’s, a wish to dom­i­nate or avoid dom­i­na­tion of mar­i­tal respon­si­bil­i­ties, being needy, hav­ing an inflated pic­ture of their own con­tri­bu­tion in the part­ner­ship, etc. All of these are per­son­al­ity issues that, if a per­son is will­ing, can be eas­ily iso­lated and dealt with. Peo­ple are always so ready to blame oth­ers and at the same time be totally unaware of their own actions and short­com­ings and what is even worse, being in total denial of it.

Friends and fam­ily hear only one side of the story when the going gets rough and often don’t know or don’t dare to ask ques­tions that may open a person’s eyes to their own actions (or more often inac­tions) that might have caused the prob­lem. So, instead of being sup­port­ers for their rela­tion­ships they become accom­plices to the break up.

On the other hand, a cou­ple often does not ask for help until it’s almost too late, or ask for help in the wrong places, with peo­ple who will uncon­di­tion­ally agree with their ver­sion of the whys, the hows and the whos, not both­er­ing to find out if there is more to it than meets the eye.

In con­clu­sion: sep­a­ra­tion is not a pri­vate affair. All involved should take respon­si­bil­ity for the fail­ure of a rela­tion­ship. And, yes, if you know them, you ARE involved. And if a cou­ple thinks that their break up is their own busi­ness, think again. You are not alone in this world; you may be screw­ing up some­one else’s life as well, not only your own. It is time to grow up, become an adult, what­ever that means to you. Stop point­ing fin­gers at oth­ers and see what you can do because you are the only per­son you can have con­trol over. Do not worry about your part­ner since he/she will react to you as she/he always has done in the past and is doing so in the present.




Self Defense For Verbal Conflict

My good friend Philip, an Aikido prac­ti­tioner,  wrote this arti­cle. I imme­di­ately rec­og­nized it as a gold mine for resolv­ing rela­tion­ship con­flicts (although this par­tic­u­lar story is about a con­flict with a neigh­bor) and and at the same time devel­op­ing your­self. Our auto­matic behav­ior is to re-act to each other which, as I men­tioned in The Rela­tion­ship Saver, throws a wrench into the wheels of our rela­tion­ship and into a down­ward spin. Here Philip elo­quently explains how to stop react­ing and take your  rela­tion­ship into your own hands, the Aikido way.



Self Defense For Ver­bal Con­flict

By Philip Stearns

A cou­ple days ago my friends Radomir and Antoinette were accosted by their next-door neigh­bor, a young, 20-something woman.  Based on the per­ceived affront of a car parked too close to her dri­ve­way, the woman mate­ri­al­ized on their front porch, banged on the door and, when Antoinette answered the knock, pro­ceeded to threat­en­ingly cuss her out as being an incon­sid­er­ate, f-ing bitch before head­ing back across the drive to her house.  Her hus­band Radomir, upon hear­ing of the inci­dent, made the trip next door to get to the bot­tom of the sit­u­a­tion.  He was met by a sim­i­lar stream of invec­tive high­lighted by the resound­ing bang of the door slam­ming in his face.

Hav­ing been friends with Antoinette for many years and know­ing her to be an extremely polite, respect­ful, gen­tle, soft-spoken, reserved Eng­lish woman, this scene seemed almost amus­ing in its absur­dity.  Who could get so worked up with Antoinette?  The look on her face, how­ever, revealed how shaken up she was by the episode.  Radomir, him­self an expert in human inter­ac­tions and rela­tion­ships and an author on the topic, was sim­i­larly both­ered by the extreme nature of the ver­bal attack.  The ques­tion imme­di­ately arose in the con­ver­sa­tion as to how I would have han­dled the woman had it been me stand­ing in the door­way, nose-to-nose with the rag­ing, abu­sive shrew.  I prac­tice a defen­sive art called aikido – some­times referred to as “the art of peace” — that is all about resolv­ing con­flict so this real-world episode demanded con­sid­er­a­tion and raised the ques­tion: how do you han­dle a sud­den, intense ver­bal attack so that every­one can win?  After all, the lady was their next-door neigh­bor.  You don’t want to aggra­vate the rela­tion­ship.  But you want to defuse the sit­u­a­tion and, ide­ally, feel good about it.

Before explor­ing approaches that can be taken in sit­u­a­tions like this, it is use­ful to under­stand a cou­ple of facts about human biol­ogy and psy­chol­ogy.  Under­stand­ing them is the key to both keep­ing your cool under fire and help­ing your assailant sim­mer down.

First of all, humans are equipped with an amaz­ing brain, the prod­uct of mil­lions of years of evo­lu­tion.  The brain is actu­ally made up of many inter­ac­tive parts.  Some two dozen or so of the old­est parts make up some­thing called the lim­bic sys­tem, a set of brain struc­tures that line the inner bor­der of the cor­tex.  Phys­i­o­log­i­cal func­tions such as sleep cycles, heart rate, blood pres­sure, hunger, thirst, sex­ual arousal, for­ma­tion of long-term mem­ory, fight or flight impulses, among other low level, basic func­tions, find a home in the lim­bic sys­tem.  This is the area of the brain that kept us alive through ancient times of extreme adver­sity.  This is where the impulse to flee from dan­ger is gen­er­ated and where the reflex­ive instincts to pro­tect our selves, our chil­dren, our food, our shel­ter and our stuff come from.  Sur­vival has always been the name of the game and fight-or-flight was a key to enabling us to see the sun rise another day.  Even now, after count­less gen­er­a­tions, if we per­ceive we are being attacked or threat­ened in some way, elab­o­rate hor­monal and phys­i­o­log­i­cal changes instantly emanate from the lim­bic sys­tem trig­ger­ing emo­tional responses like fear or anger.  The reflex­ive instinct towards self-defense rises from the ancient rep­til­ian brain, insist­ing we flee or fight.  Inher­ent in these reflex­ive feel­ings is a sense of vul­ner­a­bil­ity from exter­nal sources of danger.

The next useful-to-understand fact of human nature is that each of us pos­sesses a set of bio­log­i­cal ‘switches’ for our emo­tions.  These switches are entirely auto­matic and they are uni­ver­sal.  They are often referred to as the Affect Sys­tem and they devel­oped along­side the lim­bic sys­tem to aid in our sur­vival in some way.  Most of the emo­tions that are trig­gered are thought of as being ‘neg­a­tive’, such as fear, anger, shame, dis­tress, dis­gust, etc.  A few are ‘pos­i­tive’, like inter­est, excite­ment and joy.  For our pur­poses here, it is only impor­tant to under­stand that:

1.  These emo­tional switches exist and they are fun­da­men­tal to who we are.  We all have them.
2.  Only a sin­gle switch/emotion can be acti­vated at-a-time.  An anal­ogy would be those old-fashioned car radios with ‘radio but­tons’; when one is pushed, the oth­ers pop out.  So, for exam­ple, we don’t expe­ri­ence fear and joy simul­ta­ne­ously, or anger and inter­est.  If you are feel­ing joy­ful and some­thing sud­denly fright­ens you, joy will give way to fear, and visa-versa.
3.  The third fact that is par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant to our expe­ri­ence in a sit­u­a­tion that we per­ceive as being threat­en­ing is a phe­nom­e­non often referred to as “affect res­o­nance”.  In a nut­shell, peo­ple tend to auto­mat­i­cally share emo­tions to one degree or another.  If a per­son is upset in our pres­ence, we tend to feel upset.  We res­onate emo­tion­ally.   The pres­ence of an excited per­son tends to make us feel excited, too.  Joy begets joy, anger begets anger, and so on.  This is most read­ily observed in chil­dren.  New­borns in a hos­pi­tal nurs­ery, for exam­ple, can eas­ily be seen shar­ing  ‘dis­tress’.  One hun­gry baby starts cry­ing and all the babies join in, hun­gry or not.  For­tu­nately, as we grow up we grad­u­ally learn to mod­u­late these emo­tional reac­tions.  With­out the learned abil­ity to get a han­dle on this phe­nom­e­non of Affect Res­o­nance every upset per­son would trig­ger upset in all of those around him.  Every tear would gen­er­ate a tor­rent of tears.  So, as we mature, we learn to mod­u­late the impulse to spon­ta­neously share the emo­tions of those around us.  Nonethe­less, we still feel the basic impulses when exposed to another person’s emo­tional state.

Right!  Now we have an under­stand­ing of these basic facts of human nature.  How might this serve us when faced with an enraged, scream­ing, threat­en­ing neigh­bor who has appeared on the doorstep intent upon vent­ing her rage and mak­ing you feel as bad as humanly pos­si­ble?  Let’s take a look…

First of all, the most nat­ural expe­ri­ence for most peo­ple is for your body and mind to become highly reac­tive as affect res­o­nance kicks in.  The woman is loud, angry and threat­en­ing.  You may well quickly feel hot, shaky, per­haps fear­ful or angry.  Maybe you will feel guilty or ashamed if your car really was block­ing the neighbor’s dri­ve­way.  Or, you might be dis­gusted by the bizarre dis­play. What­ever the ini­tial feel­ings, they will almost cer­tainly be neg­a­tive.  The inten­sity of the assault will be a shock to your sys­tem.  The first step toward tak­ing advan­tage of the sit­u­a­tion is clearly to get a grip on you.  You can feel your­self los­ing it.  What to do??

Remem­ber that what­ever affects (switches) are being thrown and what­ever emo­tion you are expe­ri­enc­ing can be coun­ter­acted by con­sciously throw­ing a dif­fer­ent switch.  The trick is to con­trol your mind.  It might be use­ful to see the woman on the porch as being a sales­per­son who is sell­ing you some­thing you really don’t want to buy.  After all, why would you want to buy a body full of rag­ing pep­tides and a head full of dis­tress?  Or, in the words of Tom Waits, “a head full of light­ning and a hat full of rain.” So, the first order of busi­ness is to CHOOSE to move your atten­tion con­sciously to some place other than the woman’s face which is the pri­mary pro­jec­tor of her rage.  My favorite loca­tion in this sit­u­a­tion is the bot­tom of my feet.  Put your atten­tion on the soles of your feet and become aware of the feel­ing of pres­sure com­ing from the con­tact with the floor.  Think about the feel­ing, visu­al­ize your feet and the way they greet the floor.  Are you wear­ing shoes?  How do they look?  Raise your big toes and see how the sen­sa­tions in your feet change.  Put them down again.  Take a deep breath and imag­ine the air is trav­el­ing all the way down to your feet.  Put your atten­tion in your feet.  Breath into them.

What this exer­cise is doing is cap­tur­ing your atten­tion and trig­ger­ing the “inter­est” switch.  You are switch­ing off the neg­a­tive emo­tions and turn­ing on inter­est.  You are calm­ing down and giv­ing your­self a break from being buf­feted by your own biol­ogy.  Now, main­tain­ing your aware­ness of the bot­tom of your feet, move your atten­tion to the woman’s body.  Notice that you can now do that with­out feel­ing reac­tive.  Inves­ti­gate all the ways she has become rigid, unbal­anced and unsteady.  Allow your­self to be absorbed in this inves­ti­ga­tion.  Then take another breath and extend com­pas­sion towards this trou­bled woman.  Feel a con­nec­tion form.  Reach out to her in your mind.  You now have some­thing that she dearly needs.  You have calm, empa­thy and compassion.

This is where the magic begins.  Notice that one of two things is going to hap­pen.  Either the woman is going to break away and leave because she feels her mood slip­ping away and she is invested in hold­ing onto the intensely neg­a­tive feel­ings… or…. she is going to calm down.  She is look­ing for resis­tance and you are giv­ing her none.  The abil­ity to main­tain her rage depends on your resis­tance.  She needs some­one to push on to main­tain her rage. When you take the resis­tance away, so goes the ugly mood.

Affect res­o­nance goes both ways.  Just as your emo­tions are trig­gered by your neighbor’s intense anger, so will her mood be affected by YOUR emo­tional state.  THIS is your power.  This is your road out of a sense of vul­ner­a­bil­ity and into a sense of peace and empowerment.

So, the name of the game is not to react to your neigh­bor… but to con­trol you.  When you trap your own atten­tion and become inter­ested or even – with prac­tice — joy­ful in the pres­ence of your neigh­bor, she is going to feel her own mood alter in accor­dance to the laws of her own phys­i­o­log­i­cal makeup.  It’s just a fan­tas­tic and for­tu­nate fact of human biol­ogy.  Your neighbor’s abil­ity to main­tain her rag­ing emo­tional state is under­mined by your own pos­i­tive pres­ence.  She can­not feel your inter­est, com­pas­sion, or your love with­out res­onat­ing to it and with­out hav­ing her neg­a­tive emo­tions switched off.  By con­trol­ling your­self you are switch­ing off your neighbor’s anger switch.  You have the power.  And it’s a win-win.  Once calm, you can work out the details of your differences.

The prob­lem in human con­flict is never the per­son attack­ing you.  The only issue is how you feel about it.  That feel­ing becomes a choice when you under­stand how your feel­ings oper­ate.  And, once you have expe­ri­enced the real­ity that what you choose to feel either sup­ports or dis­solves your attacker’s neg­a­tive inten­tions, it becomes dif­fi­cult not to ask the ques­tion, “who is really respon­si­ble for this situation?”




Happiness In Troubling Times

In pros­per­ous west­ern cul­tures divorces are sky-rocketing while in poorer soci­eties fam­i­lies are far more sta­ble. What are the rea­sons for this phe­nom­e­non and what has that got to do with us? Do I have to become poor in order to have a happy rela­tion­ship, you may ask. Not really, but on the other hand, you may have no choice.

You are aware, I’m sure, that the econ­omy in the U.S. is not exactly at its peak per­for­mance and there are unde­ni­able indi­ca­tions that it will get worse, much worse. This time I became painfully aware of the inevitable down­fall of our econ­omy. It may not hap­pen tomor­row, but in 5 to 10 years it is inevitable. It may sound like doom-and-gloom, but all the met­rics and his­tory point in that direc­tion. Pre­dict­ing the future is a risky busi­ness, but one thing is for cer­tain: we may not become exactly a third world coun­try, but we are cer­tainly mov­ing in that direc­tion.  It is hap­pen­ing slowly, so it may not be so obvi­ous. Think of the prover­bial frog in water that is get­ting warmer and warmer until it’s too late. It dies with­out try­ing to escape. Denial will not help. If you want to know the real­ity of the present state of the U.S. econ­omy there is a plethora of lit­er­a­ture out there to sup­port it. If you want to read only one book on the sub­ject, try Sur­vival+, Struc­tur­ing Pros­per­ity for Your­self and the Nation by Charles Hugh Smith.

All these years we have been trained by the main­stream media and adver­tis­ing that the “pur­suit of hap­pi­ness” means procur­ing mate­r­ial goods and sta­tus that in turn will make us happy. In other words, the more we have the hap­pier we will be. The pro­pa­ganda of con­sumerism has dis­torted our inalien­able right of the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness, from a struc­tured jour­ney (with the inevitable set­backs) to the fleet­ing eupho­ria of a new purchase/ acqui­si­tion. We have renounced our title of cit­i­zen and embraced the con­sumer avatar while becom­ing dif­fi­dent to the free­dom of reality.

In order to pre­pare for what’s com­ing and the end of pros­per­ity as we know it (although it will be incre­men­tal instead of sud­den. Have you started feel­ing like a frog?), we need to dis­tin­guish what it is that really makes us happy. Inci­den­tally, the same things that make us happy turn out to be our best sur­vival tech­nique when the bad times hit.

Numer­ous stud­ies of the multi-faceted inner sen­sa­tion we call hap­pi­ness are largely inter­nal and relationship-based. Com­mon sense sug­gests that secu­rity offered by wealth and income boosts well-being, but stud­ies find addi­tional wealth pro­vides dimin­ish­ing returns. Beyond a cer­tain rel­a­tively low level, addi­tional wealth in any form (cash, goods, travel etc.) offers lit­tle improve­ment in well-being (read: happiness).

This soci­ety is pro­mot­ing pos­ses­sions, titles, enti­tle­ments, and asso­ci­a­tions with the “rich and famous” as a source of hap­pi­ness, but per­sonal integrity is essen­tially mean­ing­less and val­ue­less in the cur­rent con­sumerist frame of reference.

The pro­lif­er­a­tion of the so-called self-esteem indus­try is an unre­al­is­tic, feel-good mar­ket­ing ploy as well. Just as mar­ket­ing pur­pose­fully con­fuses hap­pi­ness with con­sump­tion, so too does the self-esteem indus­try con­fuse exter­nal met­rics and slo­gans with inner secu­rity and well-being, (i.e., you can be, achieve, have what­ever you want, imag­ine, con­jure etc.!!) with no men­tion of the nec­es­sary hard­ship, unpleas­ant choices, inevitable suf­fer­ing, and set­backs on the way to success.

Pros­per­ity and “real wealth” can­not be mea­sured by the size of one’s home or range of pos­ses­sions, but by health, access to FEW (food, energy and water –what we often take for granted), mean­ing­ful work and a net­work of peo­ple who care about your well-being.

When the going gets tough, as it surely will, out of the things men­tioned above, rela­tion­ships are the only one fac­tor over which we can have con­trol.  We must under­stand that nei­ther pos­ses­sions nor titles will make us happy, but rather the rela­tion­ships we nur­ture with oth­ers. By build­ing healthy fam­ily rela­tion­ships first we will undoubt­edly thrive in the face of mate­r­ial scarcity.

Our per­sonal pros­per­ity and the pros­per­ity of our soci­ety will largely depend on the true, hon­est and deep con­nec­tions we develop with other peo­ple and not on what and how much we have. Nei­ther will we be able to rely on the state to pro­vide for us.

In order to start the process of true, hon­est and deep relat­ed­ness, we need to start with build­ing such a rela­tion­ship with our­selves first. In other words we need to grow up. Peter Pan and Cin­derella must be left in the past where they belong and be exchanged for a deep rela­tion­ship with real­ity, start­ing with grat­i­tude for what we have now. No move­ment is pos­si­ble with­out acknowl­edg­ment of the real­ity of the present situation.

The next step is fam­ily. First, sort out and com­plete your rela­tion­ship with your par­ents (alive or deceased). With­out doing that you can­not be really free in any other rela­tion­ship.  Your part­ner (hus­band, wife, etc.) must have, in your mind, the same sta­tus as the other mem­bers of your fam­ily, i.e., your chil­dren and your par­ents. Think­ing that you must be “in love” in order to be in a happy and lov­ing rela­tion­ship is an ado­les­cent con­cept. Also, there is no sub­sti­tute to being 100% com­mit­ted, 100% in integrity, and 100% respon­si­ble for your life and your rela­tion­ship. Learn what love is (hint: it’s not merely a feeling.)*

Your friends and neigh­bors are next. Learn to give first, with­out expect­ing any­thing in return. It could be any­thing: a kind word, a com­pli­ment, or help, ser­vice, mate­r­ial things, food, etc. Share your pos­ses­sions and life with them. In tough times you can never have enough your­self of what you may need. By shar­ing what you have will entice the oth­ers to give you what you may be lack­ing. This is how friend­ship, trust and com­mu­ni­ties are built. You may need to orga­nize in the future to form busi­nesses, orga­ni­za­tions and local gov­ern­ments. Mere schmooz­ing and net­work­ing ain’t gonna cut it. You need to get to know each other on a per­sonal level. You need to break bread with them, some­times literally.

As you can see, mov­ing from a con­sumer iso­lated soci­ety into a true com­mu­nity — which seems to be an inevitable step in the next five to ten years — will take some doing if we don’t want to be swept away by the eco­nomic hard­ships that lie ahead.  For­tu­nately, the steps we must take to adapt to changes are the same steps that will bring us hap­pi­ness, pros­per­ity, and close­ness to our fam­ily and loved ones.

What do you think?


*Ref.: The Game­less Relationship.




Facts vs. Feelings

The more I learn about dif­fer­ences between men and women (or I should rather say fem­i­nine and mas­cu­line) the more I dis­cover the causes of mis­un­der­stand­ing and mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tions that that are per­va­sive in man/woman rela­tion­ships. The fol­low­ing is a per­fect exam­ple how mas­cu­line and fem­i­nine per­ceive and inter­pret real­ity, which if under­stood and han­dled prop­erly can solve most of the rela­tionship prob­lems, but if unat­tended can eas­ily esca­late to a break-up or divorce.

Here is the exam­ple in the two cor­re­spon­dences that I received from Ali­son Arm­strong, a rela­tion­ship expert who I respect very much. (Her books, courses and CDs you can find in the right col­umn on this website.)

After read­ing this exam­ple try to see other occur­rences where gen­der dif­fer­ences, if under­stood prop­erly can save you a lot of grief in your relationship.

What doy think about this? Let us know.

Best regards,


Dear Radomir,

One of the things we dis­cov­ered years ago is that the Mas­cu­line mea­sures real­ity by trusted FACTs while the Fem­i­nine real­ity is cre­ated by her FEEL­INGs.  Both of these are com­pletely valid ways of see­ing the world.

An inter­est­ing and haz­ardous side effect, how­ever, is when you put these two real­i­ties in an auto­mo­bile together.  Let’s call the Mas­cu­line a “Man,” although this is not always true, and the Fem­i­nine a “Woman,” also not always true ~ but eas­ier to repeat over and over again.  He’s going to pay atten­tion to being Fac­tu­ally safe, while she can’t help but notice if she Feels safe.

Add to this the dif­fer­ence in eye­sight for men and women: He can track mov­ing objects way bet­ter than she can; she has a periph­eral vision that’s more sen­si­tive and prey-like than preda­tor ~ mean­ing she sees more threats.

This is how you have a woman full of ten­sion and poten­tially freak­ing out because he keeps chang­ing lanes.  Every time he moves the car to a lane on her side, it will look to her like cars on her side might hit her.  So she doesn’t Feel safe.  He may know fac­tu­ally that he hasn’t had an acci­dent in decades, that the car over on the other side wasn’t going to move, that the speed with which he slipped in that spot missed the other car by a mile… and so on.

Unfor­tu­nately, the Fact of her being safe will not make her Feel safe.  And a man’s great­est chal­lenge with women is mak­ing them FEEL SAFE.  Because every­thing good from a woman begins with her feel­ing safe ~ and every­thing nasty begins with her feel­ing unsafe.

I would love your com­ments and ques­tions related to this topic.  It’s worth exploring!



Thank you for your pro­found response to “Chang­ing Lanes.”  I’m thrilled that so many of you found insight, inspi­ra­tion, relief and, even, heal­ing, in a seem­ingly small thing that effects our time with the oppo­site sex in such a big way.

To con­tinue the dia­log: Since learn­ing about the effect of chang­ing lanes on my feel­ings of safety, Greg has mod­i­fied the way he dri­ves.  On a recent trip back from Ore­gon, he apol­o­gized for get­ting close to a semi-truck as he nego­ti­ated the hol­i­day traf­fic.  His apol­ogy was sweet but unnec­es­sary.  As I said to him, “Honey, chillin’ the cave­woman is a part­ner­ship.  I just reminded myself that, as a hunter, you track mov­ing objects much bet­ter than I do and the fact is you’ve never plowed me into the back of a truck!  So I calmed myself down.”

I tell you this because under­stand­ing our instincts and hav­ing a vic­tory of human spirit is some­thing we can all do.  On one end, it’s mak­ing an accom­mo­da­tion to not antag­o­nize another’s most prim­i­tive reac­tions.  On the other, it’s being respon­si­ble for hav­ing them and talk­ing your­self back down off the cliff edge.  Being will­ing to act from whichever end you’re on is a gift to our part­ners — and just plain smart.  Using the infor­ma­tion about our great­est weak­nesses and demand­ing solely the accom­mo­da­tion from our part­ners isn’t fair or in true partnership.

Speak­ing of part­ner­ship, I’m off to Col­orado for three weeks of bliss with some of my favorite two and four-legged part­ners.  PAX World News will return in Sep­tem­ber renewed.  Mean­while, Patrice will give you ample oppor­tu­ni­ties to lis­ten and watch the lat­est inter­views shar­ing my most recent trea­sures from the adven­tures of study­ing men, women and part­ner­ship.  Look for those emails from her in August.

Many bless­ings,






How To Make Your Woman Happy

Note: What fol­lows does not apply to ALL the women ALL the time, but in major­ity sit­u­a­tions it could be very use­ful and right on the mark.

I shall attempt to lay out as suc­cinctly as I can a guide to most com­mon issues we, men, need to deal with in our rela­tion­ships with our women. Too often we for­get that we are deal­ing with a “dif­fer­ent species” i.e. female Homo Sapi­ens and by default, if we want to be nice, we treat them the way we want to be treated. That’s what we have been told: “Do unto the oth­ers as you would have them do unto you.” Wrong! When deal­ing with the oppo­site sex, in fact with oth­ers in gen­eral, we should use the mod­i­fi­ca­tion of this rule:  “Do unto oth­ers as they would have it done to them­selves”. In other word treat oth­ers as they want to be treated.

Well, the prob­lem arises when you have no idea how oth­ers (women) want to be treated. Espe­cially when it changes all the time depend­ing on cir­cum­stances and on con­stantly chang­ing feel­ings that women are so good at. Men are cer­tainly dis­ad­van­taged in this area. The best we can do is to become good at a guess­ing game. So often we find our­selves with a foot in our mouth not under­stand­ing what hap­pened and how we got there, although we treated our very much loved woman exactly the way we would want to be treated.

Here I will try to out­line some “rules” that will keep your foot where it belongs, on the floor.

Since this arti­cle is aimed at men I will deal with this issue in bul­let points. Here are some of the basic rules when deal­ing with a woman we love:

• First and fore­most: take full respon­si­bil­ity for what comes out of your mouth as well as how you choose to inter­pret what you hear.

• Reas­sur­ance. Our women need to be told that we love them. We erro­neously think that our actions like work­ing and pro­vid­ing for the fam­ily clearly com­mu­ni­cates our love for her. We often think that the more we work the stronger is the mes­sage of our love. Wrong again. Noth­ing can sub­sti­tute look­ing in her eyes and telling her: “I love you.”

• Emo­tions. Women emote very dif­fer­ently then we do. A woman hav­ing a dif­fused focus as opposed to single-focus of us, men, can­not con­trol what thoughts come into their head. Thoughts trig­ger emo­tions and we men find our­selves in trou­ble, not know­ing what hit us. There is no logic and no con­nec­tion to the present sit­u­a­tion. We can­not con­nect dots and We start ask­ing our­selves what did we do wrong. Most likely noth­ing. Feel­ings some­times go ram­pant in a woman. She can­not con­trol it. She can­not choose  what to think about. Say­ing “Don’t think about it”  does not help. Try to close the issue by resolv­ing the con­cern. Of course you need to find out what the real con­cern is and that may take some doing.

• Secu­rity. Again we think that the most impor­tant thing for a woman is that she feels finan­cially secure. That’s why, as I men­tioned before, you do your best to pro­vide for her. That’s awfully nice of you, but you may be bark­ing up a wrong tree. What she really wants much more than “money and things” is emo­tional secu­rity. This means that she can count on you to always be there for her and that she can count on you to be her best friend.

• Lis­ten­ing. We men lis­ten for a prob­lems and look for solu­tions. We also lis­ten for the point of the con­ver­sa­tion. We have no patience to lis­ten to a chrono­log­i­cal unfold­ing of a story with­out know­ing were it is going. As soon as our loved one tells us that she has a prob­lem, we are think­ing how to fix it. Wrong! Your women is quite able most of the time to fix the prob­lem her­self. If she can­not she will ask you for help. You need to trust that. What she wants from you is to lis­ten to her and acknowl­edge how she feels about it, because her feel­ings are the prob­lem that she needs to com­mu­ni­cate to you. Once you know that, it becomes easy (or not) to just lis­ten and not offer your solu­tions because there are none. She is deal­ing with her feel­ings which she has no con­trol over. So, next time she comes to you with a prob­lem, do not lis­ten to her prob­lem, lis­ten for her feel­ings. Do not offer help, wait to be asked for it, or ask if she wants your help.

• Sex. We men are very vain. When our woman does not want to have sex with us, we take it per­son­ally. Sex is our pri­mary drive in rela­tion­ship with a woman. Not so for them. In fact once you under­stand that woman’s “warm-up time” is much longer than ours and that she needs to be fore­warned so that she can antic­i­pate it, things become much eas­ier. It’s not about you. Women are wired dif­fer­ently and for a good rea­son. (I’m not going to go into it here.) Very often she just wants to be close to you, to snug­gle and be cud­dled. Of course, when­ever that hap­pens you think about sex. Hold your horses, not so fast! It DOES NOT mean that she wants sex. If you insist on it every time she comes close to you, she will start avoid­ing you. You scare her off. Take it easy, take your time. Once she gets into it, she WILL enjoy it as much, or maybe even more than you do, but patience is an oper­a­tive word.

• Beauty. A woman asks a man: “Does this dress make me look fat?” Man: “No, your fat makes you look fat.” Baaaaad move. That’s how you can talk to other man friends and not to a woman, because women are dif­fer­ent species. They will never inter­pret it as a joke, or just take it as plain truth. Remem­ber, it’s all about feel­ings. Her inter­pre­ta­tion would be …. well, make up your own. Women want us to find them attrac­tive. They want to be looked at and we, men want to look. Per­fect match! She has a deep need to know that she is beau­ti­ful for YOU. When she asks you how she looks do not say, just fine. Cul­tural pres­sure to look beau­ti­ful is great and it can hardly be avoided. So, tell her often and hon­estly that she is beau­ti­ful. You do not have to use exactly that word, but there are so many oth­ers and other ways to say the same thing. Be cre­ative.
These are just some of the points that we men often are not aware of, or sim­ply do not bother to prac­tice them. Try them, they work. Ask your women.

(Next arti­cle will be for women about men)

Let us know your thoughts and expe­ri­ences about this from both men and women.






How To Achieve Excellence

The fol­low­ing quote was on the desk of now deceased Land­mark Forum Leader Jerome Downes. Think how you can use it in all your rela­tion­ships. If you do,  your life WILL move toward an excel­lent one. I think it is worth more than one whole post, so here it is:

“To achieve excellence,

you must care more than oth­ers think wise,

risk more than oth­ers think safe,

and dream more than oth­ers think practical.”

Jerome was a brave vision­ary leader. Using this quote in a sur­vival mode is not an option, because sur­vival is the oppo­site of excellence.





How To Stay Together

Ded­i­cated to my wife Antoinette with love

Today is our (Antoinette’s and my) 35th wed­ding anniver­sary, which prompted me to write this post. Our friends and fam­ily con­grat­u­late us and obvi­ously are impressed how we stayed together for such a long time. We do not really see any­thing to be impressed about. We just are together and it is the most nat­ural thing for both of us. In The Game­less Rela­tion­ship I have out­lined the four prin­ci­ples of a healthy rela­tion­ship and we are both draw­ing from it on daily bases. Some­one says that all is in atti­tude. And indeed it is. Let me explain.

Just to be on the same page here is the definition

atti­tude |ˈatiˌt(y)oōd|


a set­tled way of think­ing or feel­ing about some­one or some­thing, typ­i­cally one that is reflected in a person’s behavior

So, when it comes to your atti­tude towards your mar­riage, do you see it as a rela­tion­ship between two sep­a­rate peo­ple that have come together to share life, or do you see your­selves as one fam­ily and parts of the same fam­ily. Although both are true, which one do you think is more likely to sup­port a long-term rela­tion­ship? How do you see your par­ents or your grand­par­ents, as two peo­ple that got together, merely in a rela­tion­ship, or as your fam­ily? As a fam­ily of course. They are yours. Blood is thicker than water. Why is it than, that spouses can­not see them­selves as such a strong fam­ily unit as their chil­dren see them. (Hint: blood has noth­ing to do with it.) What would it look like if your atti­tude (set­tled way of think­ing) towards your mar­riage would be not merely as a mar­riage, but as a fam­ily unit? Remem­ber, you can­not dis­own your fam­ily i.e. par­ents, chil­dren etc. That kind of atti­tude requires you to make such a choice (“choice” is a key word here) with integrity, com­mit­ment, respon­si­bil­ity and love, the four prin­ci­ples of a per­fect rela­tion­ship as elab­o­rated in The Game­less Relationship.

So, when­ever a prob­lem comes up, you deal with it as a unit, a fam­ily, not as two sep­a­rate peo­ple look­ing to gain advan­tage over each other, or get some­thing more for your­self. In par­ent­ing there is a rule that you scold chil­dren for what they did, or did not do and not for who they are. Take 100% respon­si­bil­ity for your fam­ily and avoid per­sonal judg­ments and per­sonal attacks. Use the same prin­ci­ple in your mar­riage towards each other and deal with it from the point of view of your fam­ily and what’s best for it, which coin­ci­den­tally, most of the time turns out to be best for each of you. Trust the process and you’ll eas­ily reach your 35th anniver­sary and not be sur­prised about it and cel­e­brate it with joy like every other day in your marriage.

Aware­ness Exer­cise: Notice in what ways and in what sit­u­a­tions you feel alone, although you are mar­ried or in a rela­tion­ship. Do you feel that that your life is, and deserves to be sep­a­rate? What prob­lems would you con­sider to be his/hers or yours only? How eas­ily can you dis­own your spouse/partner? Can you do the same with your sib­ling or a parent?





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