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?”


Who chose your partner?

Whether your rela­tion­ship is going well or not you can always think back to the out­set of the rela­tion­ship and, if you are able to look at those begin­nings with an open mind and objec­tively, you can always say, I told you so. Or at least your par­ents, rel­a­tives or friends could say it.

Our ini­tial rea­sons, feel­ings and intu­ition, or denial of the same are very telling about what our rela­tion­ship will look like in the future. No sur­prises here. If, say, when you first met your part­ner your intu­ition told you that he/she was not for you for any par­tic­u­lar rea­son or in gen­eral, and later you gave in to your feel­ings and rea­sons for not trust­ing your intu­ition, you may very well regret it at some point in the future. If you got into the rela­tion­ship with an agenda, when­ever your agenda gets ful­filled or is not per­ti­nent any more, the rela­tion­ship will most likely dis­solve. You may even be unaware of the real rea­son why you do not want to be in a rela­tion­ship any more, so you will look for some super­fi­cial imme­di­ate rea­son to end it, but if you go deep enough you will always find that orig­i­nal agenda being the real rea­son and cause for your “change of heart”.

Now imag­ine that your part­ner came into the rela­tion­ship with an agenda that he/she has never revealed to you. Often they may not even be clear about it them­selves, or they may be in denial about it. You may end up bewil­dered and con­fused as to what hap­pened. You will never get a straight answer from your part­ner for the rea­sons men­tioned above and you will have to set­tle for some other lame and unbe­liev­able excuse for the break-up. Either way, the real rea­son most of the time lies in the ini­tial rea­son for being in the rela­tion­ship in the first place.

So, who chose your part­ner? Were they your fears, long­ings, desires, inner child, inse­cu­ri­ties, low self-esteem, lone­li­ness, sex drive, you name it. These are just some of the rea­sons. Men and women usu­ally have very dif­fer­ent ones. That par­tic­u­lar dif­fer­ence makes it very dif­fi­cult for you to dis­cern what the real rea­sons are for your part­ner want­ing out.

But when all is said and done, the rea­sons for break­ing up most of the time are just that: rea­sons, plau­si­ble sto­ries, excuses and expla­na­tions. Orig­i­nal agen­das are rarely part of the break-up con­ver­sa­tion and tak­ing respon­si­bil­ity for it is not even on the radar screen. It is much eas­ier to blame the other for your lack of com­mit­ment, respon­si­bil­ity, integrity and gen­uine love.

Aware­ness exer­cise: Being hon­est with your­self is very demand­ing, often uncom­fort­able, some­times even impos­si­ble, but nev­er­the­less, it is an essen­tial prac­tice for being in touch with real­ity and your growth and devel­op­ment. This exer­cise has two parts: a) no mat­ter how resis­tant and uncom­fort­able it may be, admit to your­self the real rea­sons you got into the rela­tion­ship in the first place, and b) remem­ber what your ini­tial reac­tion was when you met your future part­ner for the first time. What con­clu­sions can you draw from these mem­o­ries? Cau­tion: This is nei­ther the place nor the time to blame any­one, includ­ing your­self. Just notice what insights you come up with. You may even share them with your part­ner if you think it appropriate.

Please share those insights  with us.


How to…

Recently I received an e-mail from a per­son request­ing a refund because he had read many books on rela­tion­ships and that The Rela­tion­ship Saver was not help­ful.  A few oth­ers have com­plained that it’s not spe­cific enough. I’m sure that he is not the only one who has accu­mu­lated a lot of knowl­edge about sav­ing rela­tion­ships dur­ing a con­sid­er­able period of time, but has always been dis­ap­pointed because “it didn’t work”.

So, how is it that we are so knowl­edge­able yet can­not improve rela­tion­ships, no mat­ter what? The best exam­ple is over­weight peo­ple who want to lose weight. Most of them know exactly HOW to do it. The same applies to rela­tion­ships. We often know how to do it, yet we do noth­ing about it. And therein lies the problem.

Both The Rela­tion­ship Saver and The Game­less Rela­tion­ship are prac­ti­cal books of which there are two types: one, which spells out rules, and the other, which explains the prin­ci­ples. The Rela­tion­ship Saver is a “rule book”. It does not explain any under­ly­ing prin­ci­ples.  If they were included The Rela­tion­ship Saver would run to vol­umes. It is designed as a man­ual to be put to imme­di­ate use. Sav­ing a rela­tion­ship is often an urgent matter.

On the other hand, The Game­less Rela­tion­ship is a book about prin­ci­ples. Rules are cre­ated from prin­ci­ples, i.e., “Do not steal” is a rule, but it comes from a prin­ci­ple of hon­esty, cred­i­bil­ity, trust and integrity. A rule book is meant to be short  (look at The Ten Com­mand­ments).  To explain the under­ly­ing prin­ci­ples may take much longer.

How come we read all these books, we gather all the infor­ma­tion we can get, and our rela­tion­ship is still in trou­ble? I am sure by now you’ve guessed why. The magic word is ACTION, and not just any action. In order for a book to work, YOU must do the work. Sorry, there is no way around it. I wish there were a magic wand that you could just wave and your part­ner would change into a prince/princess and you would live hap­pily ever after. The only magic wand there is hap­pens to be the one you hold in the form of an ACTION that pro­duces a change in YOU. Here are some rules (with the under­ly­ing prin­ci­ples in paren­the­sis), which if you apply them, will not only improve your rela­tion­ships but will give you a much hap­pier life in general:

-    YOU must take action (actions are always in lan­guage).
–    YOU are the one who needs to change (peo­ple react to each other).
–    You can­not change other peo­ple (change can only be ini­ti­ated from inside and insist­ing that other peo­ple change makes you a vic­tim).
–    Keep your promises (integrity).
–    Do not gos­sip (integrity).
–    Do not judge, lest you be judged. (Your beliefs and inter­pre­ta­tions are NOT real­ity. They are only real to YOU.)
–    Leave the fol­low­ing phrases out of your vocab­u­lary:
o    I, you, he/she/it should (The world is what it is, not what you think it “should” be.
o    I’ll try. (“There is no try, you either do or not do” – Yoda from The Star Wars movie.)
o    I hope. (Hope is okay, but there is no action in it, there­fore no change.)

-    Love (uncon­di­tional love is the high­est level of self expression).

How do you fol­low the rules? By apply­ing them in action. Liv­ing by the rules is fine — many peo­ple do — but dis­cov­er­ing and becom­ing aware of the under­ly­ing prin­ci­ples and learn­ing from them makes you much more ver­sa­tile, secure and much more pow­er­ful; not to men­tion that lit­tle plea­sure of being right more often.

Dif­fer­ent peo­ple learn (or not) differently:

- Stu­pid peo­ple do not learn.
– Smart peo­ple learn from their own mis­takes.
– Clever peo­ple learn from other people’s mis­takes.
– Intel­li­gent peo­ple learn from PRINCIPLES.
(Dr. Lo)

So, how do you make the most of a prac­ti­cal book? Every sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent. Every sit­u­a­tion can be observed from dif­fer­ent points of view and thus inter­preted dif­fer­ently. No prac­ti­cal book, there­fore, can tell you exactly what to do in ANY par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion. You must make your own judg­ment accord­ing to your inter­pre­ta­tion of the cir­cum­stances accord­ing to the rules and prin­ci­ples learned from prac­ti­cal books. To the ques­tion I often get: whether The Rela­tion­ship Saver will get my love back, the answer is NO, The Rela­tion­ship Saver will do noth­ing for you.

Some peo­ple think that just by read­ing a book and hav­ing more knowl­edge about rela­tion­ships and/or if they are told exactly what to do in their par­tic­u­lar cir­cum­stance they will save their rela­tion­ship. Rela­tion­ships are about being and not about doing. Doing is a direct result of being, not vice versa.  In other words, what you do is a direct result of who you are being in any par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion. YOU must walk the talk. YOU must learn about the changes you need to go through AND put them into prac­tice. And, YOU are the only per­son you CAN change, thus most likely chang­ing your rela­tion­ship and the qual­ity of your life. Do not give that power to ANYONE else.

Books have enor­mous power, but only if you coop­er­ate and if what you’ve read is reflected in your actions.


What Really Determines How We Live Our Lives?

This post is from a friend and men­tor Morty Lefkoe, at

It goes very well with my pre­vi­ous post and some oth­ers. And, very use­ful in highly emo­tion­ally charged sit­u­a­tions .… if you decide that you want to use it, that is. Unfor­tu­nately we often just won’t. How stub­born can we get, to our own detri­ment of course? No won­der our rela­tion­ships go down the tube, although we do have tools to save it.


For years I’ve thought that our lives—what we do, think, feel, and perceive—were the direct result of our beliefs and our con­di­tion­ing.  When I looked at the lives and beliefs of over 13,000 clients, I noticed a very close correlation.

In the past few weeks I’ve had rea­son to rethink that con­clu­sion.  I’ve iden­ti­fied a  cou­ple of steps between beliefs and how we live our lives, so I no longer think there is a direct connection.

In order to explain what the actual con­nec­tion is, let me briefly remind you of my three posts last year on “occur­ring.” (See here) Most peo­ple are not aware that the way real­ity shows up or occurs for them is not the same as what’s actu­ally “out there” in the world.

For exam­ple, if some­thing you’re about to do occurs to you as dif­fi­cult, for you it really is dif­fi­cult.  For you, the dif­fi­culty is a fact. Actu­ally, the project might require skills that you don’t have or per­haps you aren’t con­fi­dent about your abil­ity to do it suc­cess­fully. But the project itself isn’t dif­fi­cult.  Dif­fi­cult is in our minds.  Only the require­ments of the project are in the world.

So there is a pro­found dif­fer­ence between real­ity and how real­ity shows up for us, and most peo­ple usu­ally never make that distinction.

Back to my new real­iza­tion.  It now seems to me that what deter­mines our thoughts, feel­ings, behav­ior, etc. at any given moment is the way peo­ple and events (and even our inter­nal thoughts) occur to us, moment by moment.  And, for us, real­ity is this occurring—not how real­ity really is.

Are beliefs and con­di­tion­ing involved at all?  Yes, they are.  The con­nec­tion between our beliefs and con­di­tion­ing and how things show up or occur for us is   the mean­ing we are giv­ing real­ity moment by moment.

Here’s how I think it works: We have beliefs and con­di­tion­ings from ear­lier in life.  When we inter­act with any sit­u­a­tion, our exist­ing beliefs and con­di­tion­ings are the pri­mary deter­mi­nant of the mean­ing we give the sit­u­a­tion.  That mean­ing in turn deter­mines how it occurs for us.  And that occur­ring then deter­mines how we react to the situation.

Here’s an illus­tra­tion to make this real.  Imag­ine you have sev­eral beliefs, includ­ing What makes me good enough or impor­tant is hav­ing peo­ple think well of me. The sit­u­a­tion you encounter is: You’re with a group of friends, all of whom have the same opin­ion about some­thing.  You dis­agree.  That’s real­ity.  Given the beliefs you have, the mean­ing you might give this real­ity is: “It’s dan­ger­ous to dis­agree with my friends because that might result in them not lik­ing me or think­ing less of me.”  Given that mean­ing, the sit­u­a­tion prob­a­bly will occur for you as uncom­fort­able and you will feel resis­tance to speak up about your dis­agree­ment.   And given this way the sit­u­a­tion showed up for you, you prob­a­bly would not say anything.

Can you see that your beliefs would lead you to give real­ity the mean­ing you did?  … And can you see that given that mean­ing, the sit­u­a­tion would occur to you as it did?  … And finally, can you see that your behav­ior prob­a­bly would be con­sis­tent with how the sit­u­a­tion occurred to you? …

When I men­tioned this new way of look­ing at the rela­tion­ship between our beliefs and the way we live our lives, one friend said to me last week: Why are you com­pli­cat­ing the sit­u­a­tion?  If beliefs and con­di­tion­ing cause the mean­ing, which causes the occur­ring, which deter­mines how we life our lives, so what if there are a cou­ple of ele­ments between the beliefs and how we live our lives?

Here’s why this dis­tinc­tion can be very impor­tant.  If our lives are the direct result of our beliefs and con­di­tion­ing, then we could not change our lives until we found and elim­i­nated them.  But if our lives are the result of the mean­ing we give any given sit­u­a­tion, then it might be pos­si­ble to change that mean­ing, thereby chang­ing how we will act and feel in any given sit­u­a­tion, with­out elim­i­nat­ing the beliefs.

I think that it is pos­si­ble to do that and I’m in the process of con­duct­ing an exper­i­ment with 20 peo­ple over a ten-week period to see what is required to change the mean­ing we auto­mat­i­cally give to sit­u­a­tions.  So far it looks like it can be done.  I per­son­ally have done it many times, even though it can be dif­fi­cult to do it consistently.

Now in the long run you still would want to get rid of the rel­e­vant neg­a­tive beliefs and con­di­tion­ing because, if you don’t, the next time a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion comes up, you’ll prob­a­bly form the same mean­ing, which you will then have to change.  On the other hand, if you elim­i­nate the neg­a­tive beliefs, you’ll form a dif­fer­ent, more pos­i­tive mean­ing the next time, and you won’t have to change it.

At this point you prob­a­bly are ask­ing: So how do you change the mean­ing we auto­mat­i­cally and uncon­sciously give events every minute?  The same way we elim­i­nate the mean­ing we gave the events that led to beliefs as a child.  Give the events two or three dif­fer­ent mean­ings so that you can make real that the mean­ing you gave the sit­u­a­tion is not “the truth,” and then real­ize you never saw the mean­ing in real­ity.  You only can see real­ity; mean­ing is always in our mind.

Also, it seems that some peo­ple are able to ignore or tran­scend how things show up for them. I’ve observed a few peo­ple who seem to be suc­cess­ful finan­cially, in their careers, and in other aspects of their lives (such as deal­ing with eating/weight issues)—who still have a bunch of neg­a­tive self-esteem beliefs.  That wouldn’t make sense if our lives were con­sis­tent with our beliefs.  But given what now appears to be true, as I’ve described above, these peo­ple either are chang­ing the mean­ing of sit­u­a­tions con­stantly or are tran­scend­ing the way things show up for them.

Peo­ple who do the lat­ter seem to be able to say to them­selves: “Yes, the world is occur­ring as dif­fi­cult, or me as inad­e­quate, etc., but so what?  I don’t care about real­ity (how the world occurs to me), I’m going for it anyway.”

In look­ing at my own life I can see that I’ve done that from time to time.  I have  pur­poses or goals that I am so com­mit­ted to that I can totally ignore how things occur for me.  One exam­ple is I have decided to dras­ti­cally cut down my con­sump­tion of sugar and have just a square or two of choco­late after din­ner and none dur­ing the day.  Most days after lunch I feel a desire for choco­late.  I notice that feel­ing and ignore it, say­ing silently to myself: “I don’t care if I feel like eat­ing choco­late, I’m not going to do it.”  There is no strug­gle or effect and I don’t think about eat­ing choco­late any more after I have that thought.  It’s as if my com­mit­ment is so much greater than the way my desire for choco­late shows up for me after lunch that the desire for choco­late feels irrelevant.

I’ll have more to say about chang­ing the mean­ing you have given a sit­u­a­tion and tran­scend­ing how the world occurs to us a few weeks after the Lefkoe Free­dom Exper­i­ment is com­plete and I have the results from 20 exper­i­menters.  In the mean­time, check it out your­self.  See if you can notice that you gen­er­ally are not aware of the dif­fer­ence between real­ity and how real­ity occurs or shows up for you.  And then see if you can change that occur­ring by chang­ing the mean­ing you had just given the sit­u­a­tion in front of you.”


Well done Morty! Great arti­cle and excel­lent insight.



Disagreements in Marriages and Relationships

In my last arti­cle we talked about how the attempt to make clear what we are actu­ally talk­ing about may resolve many repeat­edly frus­trat­ing arguments.

Here I am going to dig a lit­tle deeper into the causes of dis­agree­ments and argu­ments in rela­tion­ships. Why do cou­ples argue so much? You would think that since you will­ingly started your rela­tion­ship that you must have agreed on most issues and even in the areas where you ini­tially did not you thought that as rea­son­able peo­ple you would be able to work things out. Well, after months and years of being in a close rela­tion­ship not only did the dis­agree­ments not get bet­ter, they got worse.

We do not see things as they are.
We see things as we are.


Jean Piaget, the French child devel­op­ment psy­chol­o­gist, con­ducted a reveal­ing exper­i­ment. He gave a group of chil­dren a wooden block, which was painted red on one side and green on the other. After exam­in­ing the block he would show them the green side and ask them what color he was see­ing. Most chil­dren younger than five years old answered “green”. They were inca­pable of rec­og­niz­ing that the per­son on the other side could see some­thing dif­fer­ent than they did. Older chil­dren gave the cor­rect answer. They under­stood that while they were see­ing the green side of the wooden block, the researcher on the other side saw red. These chil­dren demon­strated that they had devel­oped a sense of per­spec­tive, the abil­ity to appre­ci­ate the sit­u­a­tion from another point of view.

How often in your rela­tion­ship have you behaved as if you were younger then five? How often do you think that your point of view is real­ity itself and if your part­ner does not see the sit­u­a­tion or event the same way you do, he/she is plain “wrong”. That is called onto­log­i­cal arro­gance, think­ing that what you think is real is real for every­one else as well, that you are right while every­one else who does not agree with you is wrong. When our daugh­ter, Diana, was five years old, she would say that she didn’t like mush­rooms because they were yucky. In fact, the oppo­site was true. Diana called mush­rooms “yucky” because she did not like them. She thought that any­one who liked mush­rooms had no taste: a typ­i­cal case of onto­log­i­cal arro­gance. Ontol­ogy is the branch of phi­los­o­phy that stud­ies the nature of real­ity. Onto­log­i­cal arro­gance is the belief that your per­spec­tive is priv­i­leged, that your way is the only way to inter­pret the sit­u­a­tion. If you see green every­one else must see green also, oth­er­wise they don’t know what they are talk­ing about. While onto­log­i­cal arro­gance is cute and endear­ing in chil­dren, it is much less charm­ing in adults – yet it seems to be preva­lent in adults. It may become quite dev­as­tat­ing for a rela­tion­ship if your onto­log­i­cal arro­gance adopts the behav­ioral atti­tude of “it’s my way, or the highway”.

In charged sit­u­a­tions most of us assume that we see things as they are; it is not so. We actu­ally see thing as they appear to us. Check it out for your­self. When was the last time that you met an “idiot” who thinks exactly like you do? Do you think that peo­ple who dis­agree with you are idiots, or you call them idiots because they dis­agree with you? (Instead of “idiot”, you may sub­sti­tute the epi­thet which you usu­ally use on your partner.)

The oppo­site of arro­gance is humil­ity. Humil­ity comes from the Latin word humus, mean­ing ground.  Being a hum­ble per­son, a per­son with onto­log­i­cal humil­ity, means that you real­ize that you do not have a spe­cial claim on real­ity or truth, it means that you are well grounded in real­ity. Remem­ber, the first step to trans­form­ing any sit­u­a­tion is being in a pro­found rela­tion­ship with what is so. You would under­stand that other people’s and your partner’s per­spec­tive are just as valid as yours and that they deserve respect and con­sid­er­a­tion. Onto­log­i­cal humil­ity makes sense on an intel­lec­tual level, but it is not our nat­ural atti­tude. It requires, at the min­i­mum the cog­ni­tive devel­op­ment of a six-year-old.

If we are to stop argu­ing, dis­agree­ing about every­thing, quar­rel­ing, scream­ing at each other, etc., and as a result feel not under­stood, deserted, resent­ful, angry, aloof, dis­ap­pointed, not loved or respected, we must stop behav­ing as five-year-olds. We must make an effort to be aware of our own per­spec­tive and point of view, allow oth­ers to have their own, and attempt to step into their shoes and see their per­spec­tive on the world. Only then would we be able to start to under­stand why they think what they do and why they do what they do. This does not mean that you have to be a psy­chol­o­gist and under­stand every “how” and “why” the other per­son thinks; respect­ing another’s point of view would be suf­fi­cient. Also, by prac­tic­ing onto­log­i­cal humil­ity it does not mean that you are giv­ing up your own per­spec­tive. It is quite hum­ble to say that mush­rooms are yucky as long as you add “for me”. You may be hum­ble and still assert your­self, your views are com­pletely valid, as long as you do not oblit­er­ate and inval­i­date or dis­re­gard your partner’s point of view. This is why I had a whole chap­ter on agree­ing with your part­ner and why I refer to it in The Rela­tion­ship Saver.

Dur­ing our lives we all have very unique expe­ri­ences on the basis of which we form our world-view, our men­tal model of the world.  Your men­tal model is your own par­tic­u­lar set of deeply ingrained assump­tions, gen­er­al­iza­tions, beliefs, and val­ues. From this model stem all the inter­pre­ta­tions and mean­ings we give to our expe­ri­ences. Mean­ings and inter­pre­ta­tions, as I men­tioned in other arti­cles, are not “out there”. They are formed “in-here”, in our minds, and everyone’s men­tal model is dif­fer­ent, some­times only slightly, but dif­fer­ent nev­er­the­less. We must start being aware of other people’s mind mod­els and start appre­ci­at­ing and under­stand­ing them if we want our own mean­ings and real­ity to be under­stood and appre­ci­ated by oth­ers. Only then can we aspire to start hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions and com­mu­ni­ca­tions as adults, and not as four-year-olds. We might even learn some­thing we didn’t know that we didn’t know. It’s time to grow up.

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Are You A Yea Or A Naysayer?

Here is how you can, with one almost mag­i­cal touch, not only repair, but have your rela­tion­ship back again.
One of the first things I say in The Rela­tion­ship Saver is that if you want to start repair­ing your rela­tion­ship you will have to start agree­ing with your part­ner. The first think that may think about when I say this may be some­thing like, “Why or how should I agree when he/she ______.” Before you start defend­ing your posi­tion on this issue stop and think what result you want to achieve. I pre­sume that you want him/her to change their mind and agree with your point of view. Of course you do, because your point of view is bet­ter, right, fair, cor­rect, eas­ier, more log­i­cal, etc., and, it may very well be so. But, again, think about what out­come you want and whether forc­ing the out­come would work. You might have noticed that it does not, espe­cially in con­fronting sit­u­a­tions. When your rela­tion­ship is fine, when you are in love, when you have noth­ing to lose includ­ing your face and your pride it is easy to agree, but in a sit­u­a­tion when things are not going well, sur­vival kicks in and you are dri­ven to pro­tect your­self and coerce your part­ner to be on your side so that you can feel safe again. Say­ing no in such sit­u­a­tions is auto­matic, backed up with sheer hope that if you say no over and over again that some­how he/she will see the light. Well, in case you haven’t noticed, it almost never works. Your part­ner finds him/herself in the same sit­u­a­tion like you, defend­ing his/her posi­tion and try­ing to sur­vive the sit­u­a­tion just as well as you do. So, your instinc­tual reac­tion to a dis­agree­ment from your part­ner is to dis­agree as well and then the rela­tion­ship rapidly spi­rals down­ward out of con­trol. Although it may be counter intu­itive, to stop the down­ward spi­ral from plum­met­ing you need to stop react­ing. Notice that re-action means tak­ing the same action over and over again. The way out of this quag­mire is to do some­thing totally oppo­site: AGREE. Start say­ing yes. Since no does not work any more, yes might, and this is why. Say­ing yes is unex­pected. It inter­feres with the flow of the down­ward spi­ral, stops the process of react­ing to one another. When he says that he is going to do some­thing that you may not agree with and you put a cog in the wheel by say­ing okay, at that moment he will have to take respon­si­bil­ity for his actions. At that moment he does not have to react to you any more by doing it “just because ______.” By say­ing yes you may not stop her from doing what she is bent on doing any­way, but by being okay with what­ever she wants to do you will stop the ani­mosi­ties in your rela­tion­ship. I should men­tion that by say­ing yes it does not mean that you actu­ally want your part­ner to go through with his choice action, and of course he will know that , but what you will do is show respect for his deci­sions even if you do not like them.

As you might have noticed, say­ing Nay most often does not make the world com­ply with our wishes, but by say­ing Yea we get in tune and agree­ment with real­ity instead ask­ing real­ity to change to our wishes. It never does any­way. In The Rela­tion­ship Saver one of the first rules for repair­ing your rela­tion­ship is being happy. It is no coin­ci­dence that the first rule of com­edy improv is never to say “no”, because it stops the con­ver­sa­tion in it’s tracks. You must have heard it before that if you want to have a effec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion never say “yes but” because it has the same mean­ing as no. Instead you may say “yes and” which means “I agree”. Agree­ing with your part­ner is another rec­om­men­da­tion of The Rela­tion­ship Saver.

In con­clu­sion, the first step to change is being able to be pro­foundly related to what is. Unless you are able to fall in line with the real­ity of the sit­u­a­tion, you have no hope of chang­ing it. Liv­ing in a la-la land of your thoughts and wishes, divorced from real­ity and negat­ing it, is not only inef­fec­tive and unre­al­is­tic, it is down­right child­ish. It is time to grow up even if you do not want to, for your own sake!!!



Ego In A Relationship

ego |ˈēgō|
noun ( pl. egos)
a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance

I am not a psy­chol­o­gist, so I’m not going to go in depth about all the facets of ego, super ego, etc. For the pur­poses of this arti­cle, I will con­cen­trate on the above def­i­n­i­tion and what it means for rela­tion­ships. In this “new age” we often hear that in order to be spir­i­tu­ally and even morally and eth­i­cally advanced we must shed our ego because it is some­how in our way. Hav­ing an ego, or a large ego (what­ever that means), in our mod­ern cul­ture is a bad thing. Noth­ing can be fur­ther from the truth.

Ego is not only indis­pens­able – you can­not get rid of it because it is part of your per­son­al­ity – but also very nec­es­sary in order to have, as it says above, a sense of self. Now, we can talk about a healthy or unhealthy, bal­anced or unbal­anced ego. Where in our rela­tion­ship does this ego, or sense-of-self, come into play? A per­son who has low self-esteem is prone to being a vic­tim, depressed, a drug addict, an alco­holic, etc. The other man­i­fes­ta­tion for low self esteem (the self-importance part) is when one’s ego is arti­fi­cially boosted, which usu­ally hap­pens in order to com­pen­sate for some short­com­ing. These peo­ple hav­ing a low self-esteem will do any­thing to mask it, hide it, pre­tend that they have high self-esteem and try to con­vince oth­ers of the same. They develop their own kind of sur­vival strat­egy doing oppo­site of the ones who acknowl­edge it and exhibit their depres­sion, vic­tim­hood and other short­com­ings, by being overly ambi­tious and very suc­cess­ful (which doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily make them happy), or become bul­lies, abusers, right­eous fanat­ics, or even crim­i­nals. Exhib­ited low self-esteem and con­versely exag­ger­ated self-importance are detri­ment to one’s grasp of real­ity, thus cre­at­ing a dis­cord between their own per­cep­tion of them­selves and that of others.

Curi­ously enough, our cul­ture treats low self-esteem as nor­mal, espe­cially if our behav­ior com­pen­sates for it; in other words if we pre­tend well oth­ers buy into it. In my prac­tice I have never met a per­son with gen­uinely high self-esteem. Peo­ple with “very high self-esteem” and grandiose think­ing are con­sid­ered to have delu­sional dis­or­ders (isn’t low-self esteem delu­sional as well?), and are usu­ally put into insti­tu­tions under the guise of Napoleons and Cleopa­tras. Those who do not end up in a men­tal insti­tu­tion become so-called great lead­ers such as Idi Amin, Hitler, Stalin, Napoleon, and … you name it.

All these ego imbal­ances have con­se­quences and they show the most with those we are clos­est to in our rela­tion­ships. As you can see, main­tain­ing a healthy and bal­anced ego is of the utmost impor­tance if one is going to main­tain a happy rela­tion­ship. Med­i­tat­ing and hav­ing some kind of spir­i­tual prac­tice, doing yoga, exer­cis­ing etc., is all very well and they should not be neglected, but neglect­ing aware­ness about who you are, how you occur to oth­ers, hav­ing your bound­aries, pre­cisely defined val­ues, ethics, being in integrity and aware what you tol­er­ate (where you are out of integrity), in other words, with­out keep­ing your ego healthy and in bal­ance, hap­pi­ness and suc­cess­ful rela­tion­ships will always be out of your reach. (Remem­ber, you choose your part­ners too.)

Hav­ing a healthy ego means hav­ing a strong sense of self as sep­a­rate from oth­ers. Hav­ing clear bound­aries and dis­tinc­tions between our own feel­ings, thoughts, needs and desires and those of oth­ers, and also being respon­si­ble for what’s our own.

I may be delu­sional, but I think this arti­cle is great! Of course I am never good enough, but that’s another story. :>)

Man­i­fest your best.



Responsibility In Relationships II

What respon­si­bil­ity means in a rela­tion­ship and how we avoid being respon­si­ble unbe­knownst to us. In The Rela­tion­ship Saver and else­where I men­tioned that the only effec­tive way to be respon­si­ble is to take 100% respon­si­bil­ity for your rela­tion­ship. How do you know if you are not being 100% respon­si­ble? Well, there are a few behav­iors that once you rec­og­nize them they will give you a pretty good idea of how respon­si­ble you are. In the coach­ing com­mu­nity we call it RACKETS. What it means is that we pre­tend we are doing the right thing when in fact there is a much more insid­i­ous rea­son for our action:  avoid­ing respon­si­bil­ity at all costs.

And the costs are high. But first, let’s see what a racket is and deal with what we get out of what is called “run­ning a racket.” The def­i­n­i­tion of a racket is: A fixed way of being plus a per­sis­tent complaint.

What is it that you do and what do you get out of run­ning a racket?
–    You are right and your part­ner is wrong.
Read the arti­cle “On Being Right”
–    You try to dom­i­nate or avoid dom­i­na­tion of a sit­u­a­tion or your part­ner.
This may include pres­sure, bul­ly­ing, insist­ing on your point of view, all sub­tle passive/aggressive behav­iors, etc., as well as the “don’t tell me what to do” syn­drome, even avoid­ing the dom­i­na­tion of your own promises. (Read the arti­cle on Integrity In Rela­tion­ships)
–    Your actions are always jus­ti­fied (by you, of course) and your partner’s actions and/or opin­ions are by default inval­i­dated.
We judge oth­ers by their actions. We judge our­selves by our inten­tions.
In short, what we get out of run­ning a racket is avoid respon­si­bil­ity and by default lose power.

You may notice that for most peo­ple this is a default behav­ior, we do not know any dif­fer­ent. But, the big ques­tion is: are we aware of the COST? Do you know what the costs are? I bet you don’t — these are very obvi­ous so here they are:
–    Love and inti­macy
Love starts with com­plete accep­tance of your part­ner (read the arti­cle on Love In Rela­tion­ships in this blog) and inti­macy is free­dom and the abil­ity to safely com­mu­ni­cate what­ever you are present to at the moment
–    Full self-expression
This means being free to be your­self at your best with­out hav­ing to jus­tify, defend, sur­vive, or in any way com­pro­mise your integrity (read the arti­cle on Integrity In Rela­tion­ships)
–    Health and vital­ity
You know how you feel when your rela­tion­ship isn’t work­ing. It can lit­er­ally make you sick. Depres­sion is another option. Vital­ity is nonexistent.

And now that you know what it costs you to run a racket you may try to become more aware of what comes out of your mouth pre­ceded by your thoughts. In order to become aware here is how to rec­og­nize if you are run­ning a racket or not:  When­ever you are frus­trated or upset and that state of mind is famil­iar to you, you think, “it always hap­pens,” you may be sure that you are run­ning a racket.

Run­ning a racket and thus pass­ing on the respon­si­bil­ity to oth­ers, cir­cum­stances and/or the envi­ron­ment is the best way to lose power and con­trol of your life and a say-so in your relationship.

Please also note that run­ning a racket is an instinc­tual, knee-jerk reac­tion and totally counter-intuitive. Nev­er­the­less, it is a nec­es­sary com­po­nent of your hap­pi­ness in a happy and game­less rela­tion­ship to be prac­ticed on a moment-to-moment basis until it becomes your sec­ond nature and you can stop a racket in its tracks, even before it man­i­fests itself in lan­guage and behavior.

Absence of rack­ets in your life guar­an­tees hap­pier per­sonal life, stronger rela­tion­ships, huge leaps for­ward in your per­sonal devel­op­ment and valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to others.




Selfishness And Sacrifice In A Relationship

My daughter’s friend Edan asked me to write a blog entry with the title theme. So here it is. These ques­tions often arise in a rela­tion­ship. Am I being too self­ish, or should I be more self­ish? Or, what do I sac­ri­fice in this rela­tion­ship and should I?

When­ever you ask one of these or sim­i­lar ques­tions, you may be sure that your rela­tion­ship needs some work. When I say that your rela­tion­ship needs work what that usu­ally means that it is you who needs to sort some things out for your­self, like what are you afraid of, are you being abused in any way, are you clear on your val­ues, what do you tol­er­ate and what are your bound­aries. You may not even be famil­iar with what these terms really mean, let alone being aware of them in a time of dis­agree­ment and conflict.

If you want to have a suc­cess­ful rela­tion­ship, you must start with your­self and take care of your­self first. Being self­ish in that way is not only okay, but also nec­es­sary for a healthy rela­tion­ship. Sac­ri­fic­ing your own hap­pi­ness to make your part­ner happy is NOT the way to go. Sac­ri­fic­ing any­thing means dimin­ish­ing your­self in some way; the ulti­mate being your life. How can you make any­one happy by sac­ri­fic­ing your­self? Your hap­pi­ness comes first. If you think that is self­ish, so be it, be self­ish. It works the other way round too; to be happy at some­one else’s expense does not work either. You must have no regrets at any time; oth­er­wise, it is very easy to fall into a blam­ing game. This is an integrity issue. See the post Integrity In Rela­tion­ships.

Regret­ting some­thing means that you have sac­ri­ficed some­thing. Now, there is an impor­tant point to under­stand here: you must be able to take 100% respon­si­bil­ity for what­ever hap­pens to you. (Notice that I did not say blame, fault, shame or guilt.) Respon­si­bil­ity is to be able to respond appro­pri­ately. You may not be respon­si­ble for what hap­pens out there; although if you look deep enough it may have some­thing to do with you, after all. It takes two to tango – you do have a choice how to inter­pret an event and what you make it mean. See the post in this blog The Mean­ing And Real­ity.

In The Game­less Rela­tion­ship I explain in detail the 4 prin­ci­ples of a per­fect rela­tion­ship. If you take a lit­tle time to read it, it will explain in detail the dif­fer­ence between “me, me, me” vs. “us” and that sac­ri­fice has no place in a happy relationship.

Be happy!


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Relationships On Automatic

Yes­ter­day we went to see the movie 500 Days of Sum­mer. It was a love story, a rela­tion­ship story, which left me very unset­tled and frus­trated. As I was leav­ing the the­ater I kept ask­ing myself, what was it that was mak­ing me so uncom­fort­able, even angry? Since anger almost always comes from loss of power, I started search­ing for the source of the pow­er­less­ness that I felt.  Then it dawned on me that the char­ac­ters in the movie had no con­trol over their feel­ings and actions and they did not know why or how things were hap­pen­ing to them. Obvi­ously I was iden­ti­fy­ing with the male char­ac­ter in the movie. Both of them were like leaves in the wind of life. It all was very real. I bet that the screen­writ­ers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber must have had sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences to be able to make a movie this powerful.

Such behav­iors which are com­pletely auto­matic, with which we are so force­fully genet­i­cally pro­grammed that we are pow­er­less when faced with it, are preva­lent in humans and although they may be counter pro­duc­tive in today’s soci­ety, they pos­i­tively rule our lives.  In order to start solv­ing a prob­lem, one must first cor­rectly iden­tify the core of the prob­lem. So, this led me to the ques­tion: “If I had to choose one thing that dri­ves each gen­der what would it be?”

From all my expe­ri­ence with peo­ple’ s rela­tion­ships, as well as my own, I came to the con­clu­sion that the bot­tom line rea­son for female behav­iors is SURVIVAL and for males it is CONTROL. Many peo­ple would say that feel­ings are what drive women, and power and sta­tus are what drive men, but both boil down to sur­vival and con­trol. This totally makes sense when you con­sider that women are directly respon­si­ble for the sur­vival of the species and that “self­ish gene.” On the other hand, man’s duty is to pro­tect and ensure that their “self­ish gene” will sur­vive too and the best way to do that is to make some sense and order and take con­trol of this world.

So is there any­thing we can do about it? Yes, I think so and that is to stop resist­ing our nat­ural devel­op­ment, EVOLUTION. We must evolve in order to sur­vive. By evolv­ing I mean adapt­ing to the ever-growing com­plex­ity of the prob­lems we face.  Here we are again, hav­ing to iden­tify a prob­lem before we can tackle it. So, In order to over­come our thou­sands of years of pro­gram­ming we must repro­gram our genetic infor­ma­tion and bring it up to date.  (Sci­en­tists are find­ing that it is not only pos­si­ble but that is nat­u­rally hap­pen­ing all the time from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion. Our actions and behav­iors today will impact gen­er­a­tions to come.) The first step is to stop resist­ing it and argu­ing against it and become aware and present to its power over us, dis­tin­guish it as such, as often out­dated auto­matic behav­ior and bring our free choice into play. Are we ready for it? Some are and some are not. Only the future will tell.  So, go and see the movie and try to look at it through the lens of sur­vival and con­trol for woman and man respectively.


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Thinking & Destiny

Some­times it’s good to be reminded of some basics, which may be very obvi­ous once brought to your atten­tion, but which we rarely   apply in our day-to-day deal­ings with our part­ners in our relationships.

So, here it is: OUR THINKING CREATES OUR DESTINY. I am not claim­ing that this is THE truth, but if you regard it as such your life will change for the bet­ter. We, our phys­i­cal bod­ies, are the exe­cu­tion­ers of our will. Every­thing starts with thought. Noth­ing hap­pens with­out it. Check it out if you do not believe me: your next move depends on what you are think­ing NOW. And, it is always NOW. Later becomes now and past when­ever it hap­pened, always hap­pened in what was then NOW. No one can put thoughts in your head. No one can make you think any­thing. Think­ing is a process that starts and fin­ishes inside your mind. It often looks as if some­one made us have cer­tain thoughts, but that is in fact impos­si­ble. All they do is they trig­ger some mem­o­ries and beliefs that we keep close and dear and when they are chal­lenged or con­firmed we REACT with our thoughts. These thoughts gen­er­ate feel­ings. There is no feel­ing with­out a thought except a phys­i­cal pain when we get cut, burned or hit. (This point can be argued as well, but I will not go into it at this point.)

Can you see how this can apply to your relat­ing to other peo­ple? Just because we are not aware that we are the cre­ators of our thoughts and/or are not will­ing to take respon­si­bil­ity for it, we tend to blame oth­ers for our des­tiny, for how our life and our rela­tion­ships go. By pass­ing on our respon­si­bil­ity to oth­ers we will­ingly give power to oth­ers to cre­ate our des­tiny and in return reserve the right to blame them and make them wrong. This is the way of the vic­tim, and I can see how being a vic­tim can be com­fort­ing. Hav­ing no respon­si­bil­i­ties is like being a child again, no power and seem­ingly no wor­ries. Being an adult means, to a large extent tak­ing respon­si­bil­ity for your actions. And, since every action (and inac­tion) starts with a thought, your free­dom and the well­be­ing of your rela­tion­ship starts with your con­scious action for tak­ing respon­si­bil­ity for what goes on inside your head. Your future, your life and your des­tiny depend on it, no more and no less.

Best regards,


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Responsibility In Relationships I

This should have been my first entry, but since the issue of respon­si­bil­ity is time­less this may be just as good a time as any to bring it up and clear some air about rela­tion­ships in gen­eral, and your rela­tion­ships and my writ­ing in par­tic­u­lar. So, since you are read­ing this blog I’ll make it about you. Let’s con­sider that the qual­ity of your rela­tion­ship has NOTHING to do with your part­ner and EVERYTHING to do with YOU. In other words you are the one who is 100% respon­si­ble and has the say-so how it goes for you. This, of course is not the truth, but I invite you to start act­ing as if it is and notice what mag­ick may occur.

Now, how resis­tant are you to this notion? Take a lit­tle time and think about it. Does it empower you or does it DIS­em­power you?

Before you try to answer this ques­tion a few words about respon­si­bil­ity. When I say 100% respon­si­ble we need to be on the same page, i.e. we need to agree what is meant by respon­si­bil­ity. In this con­text what I mean by respon­si­bil­ity is NOT bur­den, fault, blame, credit, shame or guilt. Respon­si­bil­ity sim­ply starts with say­ing you are cause in the mat­ter and that you are able to choose a response. You may not be able to choose what hap­pens, but you are always able to choose how you will respond to it as opposed to sim­ply auto­mat­i­cally react to an event or a sit­u­a­tion. In tak­ing such respon­si­bil­ity there is no eval­u­a­tion of good or bad, right or wrong. There is only the stand that you take and the real­ity of what is.

Being respon­si­ble starts with the will­ing­ness to deal with a sit­u­a­tion from the point of view that you are the gen­er­a­tor of who you are, what you do  (how you choose to respond) and what you have. Again, that is not the truth. It is just a place to stand.

Now, in this con­text does being respon­si­ble make you more or less in con­trol of your life? Is being respon­si­ble an empow­er­ing way to be?

Take every chance to be responsible.

Best regards,


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The Meaning And Reality

The core mean­ing of the word rela­tion­ship is to “respond com­pletely to another, like respon­si­bil­ity” says Krishnamurti.

Let’s see what this really means. Respon­si­bil­ity, as I explain at length in my book The Game­less Rela­tion­ship, is abil­ity to respond and not merely to react. Also, most of the rela­tion­ships most of the time are hap­pen in reac­tion to each other. (Ref. : The Rela­tion­ship Saver.) That’s why it is so easy for a rela­tion­ship to go into a down­ward spi­ral with­out appar­ent hope of sur­vival. We now also have to dis­tin­guish response from reac­tion. To respond is by no means same as to react. Reac­tion is auto­matic, based on our thoughts and inter­pre­ta­tions when we are engaged in a rela­tion­ship. Response is based on what actu­ally hap­pens, on the real­ity of the action, and not on our inter­pre­ta­tion of what we saw or heard. In other words one responds to what is being said and not to one’s own mean­ings and inter­pre­ta­tions to what is being said. To respond appro­pri­ately to any sit­u­a­tions takes much more than tak­ing the sit­u­a­tion at the face value. First, it takes thor­ough under­stand­ing of your own think­ing process and only then the think­ing process of oth­ers. This requires thor­ough aware­ness of your actions, by being an avid observer of your­self, by being in the present moment. So, as we can see the rela­tion­ships never hap­pen in the past. So, don’t bring up the past and don’t dwell in the future, in what should and should not be. Your trans­for­ma­tion of your rela­tion­ship begins with a pro­found rela­tion­ship with what is.

This needs prac­tice, so, prac­tice, prac­tice and prac­tice and .… prac­tice now.

Best regards,


The Rela­tion­ship Saver

The Game­less­Re­la­tion­ship

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Why We Have Problems In Our Relationships?

Okay, let’s start at the begin­ning. This is old news, but we rarely get at the most basic causes of why it is so dif­fi­cult for a rela­tion­ship to work out smoothly. The most gen­eral con­clu­sion is that men and women are very dif­fer­ent. That’s why we have the “oppo­site” sex. And truly oppo­site it is. Not only are we obvi­ously dif­fer­ent bio­log­i­cally, but we have dif­fer­ent inter­ests, goals, and rea­sons for doing things in our lives. Our sur­vival strate­gies are also dif­fer­ent. Our “but­tons” get pushed for dif­fer­ent reasons.

To under­stand why this is so, we must first look at the inter­ests of our maker. And I do not mean God. I mean our genes, the very intel­li­gence that God has cre­ated you might say, that has designed us to be the way we are. Now, genes have one and only one inter­est on their “mind” and that is to repli­cate them­selves. For that pur­pose they use us humans as a tool for their repli­ca­tion. We are now talk­ing about human genetic pro­gram­ming. This pro­gram has been in oper­a­tion for hun­dreds of thou­sands of years. At this point you may ask: and what has that to do with my husband/wife leav­ing me? It may have every­thing to do with it, just bear with me for a moment.

What I am about to say may not apply fully to every woman or man, but it is way more preva­lent than you may think. Remem­ber, most of it is not done con­sciously; it is com­pletely auto­matic. We are for the most part clue­less about why we do the things we do, espe­cially the things that do not serve us or con­tribute to our hap­pi­ness and well-being. By the way, genes do not give a damn if we are happy or not as long as we repro­duce. The proof is in the pud­ding. There are more than 6,000,000,000 of us today mostly poor, hun­gry, suf­fer­ing and unhappy; dou­ble since 40 years ago.

The answer may lie in our genetic pro­gram­ming. Men can­not bear chil­dren and they need women if they want their genes to con­tinue to pros­per. They will use any strat­egy to seduce a woman and have sex with her. The more women they have sex with the bet­ter. Com­pe­ti­tion is fierce for young and healthy fer­tile women. Pow­er­ful men, men who dom­i­nate other men, and men who can rec­og­nize oppor­tu­nity quickly have more chance to repro­duce their genes. These traits are much more pro­nounced in men then in women even in areas that have appar­ently noth­ing to do with sex.

Women, on the other hand, have much more to risk if they are going to engage in sex. They do not jump at the first oppor­tu­nity they are patient. Also, they have a finite num­ber of eggs and can have only one child per year as opposed to men who pro­duces mil­lions of sperms a day and can make sev­eral chil­dren in a day (the­o­ret­i­cally). In order to see that they repro­duce as healthy genes as pos­si­ble and be secure dur­ing preg­nancy and beyond they have to care­fully choose with whom they have sex with. So women look for a man who can give them secu­rity, who will dis­play com­mit­ment to them and the fam­ily and a man who is will­ing to con­stantly invest in them mate­ri­ally, emo­tion­ally and time-wise.

As you can see the inter­ests of a man and a woman are on the oppo­site sides of the spec­trum, thus we have the oppo­site sex.

Life in the past in smaller com­mu­ni­ties was heav­ily reg­u­lated and cou­ples did not sep­a­rate as often as they do today. There are too many con­flict­ing mes­sages in today’s soci­ety which make it very dif­fi­cult to make sound con­scious choices, espe­cially when we are not aware of our instinc­tual dri­ves and how they influ­ence us.

This is by no means the com­plete pic­ture, but I am sure that you will be able to see how our thoughts, feel­ings and behav­iors are quite auto­mat­i­cally dri­ven by the dif­fer­ent ways that men and women see their best inter­est in prop­a­gat­ing their genetic mate­r­ial. Dif­fer­ent cul­tures have been try­ing to reg­u­late these auto­matic behav­iors in dif­fer­ent ways, but this is a topic for the next post. This is obvi­ously not a very new topic, although it may be for some of you. Stay tuned, have happy hol­i­days and try to under­stand and show more com­pas­sion for your part­ners. For­give them, they do not know why they are doing what deep inside they don’t want to do.

Learn com­pas­sion and understand.



The Rela­tion­ship Saver

The Game­less Relationship


Do You Act Or React?

React­ing means to act again, re–act. React­ing is based on what we already know and often so well that we do it auto­mat­i­cally. Some reac­tions are very use­ful for our sur­vival, like pulling our hand back from a hot fur­nace or jump­ing away from an oncom­ing car. In other words when our bod­ies sense dan­ger we react with­out think­ing. This kind of reac­tion is all very well in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions, but the part­ner in our rela­tion­ship may end the rela­tion­ship very quickly with­out our even being aware that our reac­tions are auto­matic and counter to our best inter­est. So, what is the mech­a­nism of reac­tion? If we can be become acutely aware of this mech­a­nism when­ever we are in a sit­u­a­tion to react, or in other words, when our but­tons are being pushed, our rela­tion­ships and our lives may look com­pletely dif­fer­ent; we could be much more evenly bal­anced, avoid prob­lems and expe­ri­ence a much higher degree of hap­pi­ness. React­ing is a very use­ful sur­vival tool, it is based on learn­ing from experience.

Some expe­ri­ences are use­ful to remem­ber and remem­ber­ing them at the right moment can save our behind. The prob­lem arises when we react to the present sit­u­a­tion which is SIMILAR to the past ones. For instance, you were bit­ten by a snake once and now you are afraid of every­thing that crawls, like lizards and such. An exam­ple closer to rela­tion­ships would be that if you had an abu­sive father, now you think ALL men are abu­sive. Another exam­ple would be that your par­ents always told you what to do and now you get angry and resis­tant to ANYONE even ask­ing you to  do some­thing. If you thought that your par­ents did not love you, you will think that any­one who expresses their love to you is phony and lying or not hon­est. In these sit­u­a­tions you often tend to blame oth­ers for “mak­ing you feel that way” or “mak­ing you do cer­tain things”. So, you get the idea; cer­tain words and behav­iors by oth­ers push your but­tons or trig­ger mem­o­ries of the past and you are sim­ply RE-acting your past. You have no choice and no free will in the mat­ter. You can now begin to see how this auto­matic behav­ior can be detri­men­tal to your rela­tion­ship. But all is not lost. You actu­ally can take respon­si­bil­ity for your but­tons; they are yours after all and if you didn’t have them nobody would have any­thing to push.

This brings us to the alter­na­tive. Being respon­si­ble for your actions means that you are able to respond, thus response—able. What does this actu­ally mean, and more impor­tantly, how do you be response—able? For most peo­ple respon­si­bil­ity is bur­den, fault, blame, credit, shame or guilt. I sug­gest that if you take respon­si­bil­ity as will­ing­ness to deal with the sit­u­a­tion from the point of view that you are the one who has a choice about how you are going to act in a cer­tain sit­u­a­tion, you are going to gain power beyond your wildest imag­i­na­tion. Some­one said there is a moment between any stim­u­lus and a response and the choices that you make inside that win­dow of oppor­tu­nity is what your life depends on.  As you can see, respon­si­bil­ity is a mat­ter of free choice; it is an exer­cise in free will. Respond­ing is not sub­ject to your feel­ings or cog­ni­tion. It is inten­tional choice in accor­dance with your val­ues, ethics and morals and not some fleet­ing feel­ing, asso­ci­a­tion or thought. These belong in the cat­e­gory of reac­tions so it fol­lows that auto­matic reac­tions are irre­spon­si­ble actions. Now it becomes obvi­ous that no one can make you feel or do any­thing, ever. I do under­stand though that every action has its con­se­quences, but you are ulti­mately the one who will make the choice about what con­se­quences your actions will have.

Now that we have dis­tin­guished react­ing and respond­ing, I hope you can see that tak­ing respon­si­bil­ity for any­thing and every­thing that hap­pens to you in your life, no mat­ter how unrea­son­able it may be, will make you more con­tent, pow­er­ful, suc­cess­ful and ulti­mately hap­pier than merely react­ing to what hap­pens to you.
Take charge of your life: be responsible.


The Rela­tion­ship Saver

The Game­less Relationship

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