Romantic Chemistry

Winner: 2015’s Blog of the Year!

If it’s working well you simply shift from a me to an us. That’s what relationships are. The couple is an entity unto itself. The mixture has a personality of its own and it routinely exhibits itself throughout the day, whether the couple is together or alone. But most of us get the management of this fact wrong. At least it’s for good reason.

732 Relax and Succeed - Until we have seen someone's darknessYou start as a baby and there isn’t even a world. Then you can see the world but there is no you—babies don’t recognize themselves in mirrors. Then you know you’re a you, after which you learn about property and ownership and then people start marketing to you and for a time you become an increasingly self-centered human being from roughly 13 to 21, and then—if you’re paying attention—you grow increasingly less self-centered in about seven to eight year increments, which is why a lot of people find the quality of their relationships improves as they age.

Your first loves are when you are most self-centered. So you’ll believe all the fairy tales and you’ll think your partner is the other half of your pre-written story. In the wealthy world that’s where she’s loved and seen as beautiful; and he’s envied and seen as strong, but the problems come when you try to turn that into a life because as soon as the other person doesn’t fulfill their part of your personal story, you feel they’ve failed and you break up. That’s why most relationships are so short when we’re younger.

This is due to how we choose to think about each other. When we first meet all we do is focus on all of the traits that are most important to us, plus however well the new person fills the particular holes left by the previous relationships. Any time you think that positively about anything you’ll be flooding your brain with the chemistry for awareness and gratitude and love—and it feels wonderful. But then…

732 Relax and Succeed - Maturity is when someone hurts youLife is busy, right? So life happens. And we get distracted. It used to be work was hidden at separate places and only fun was had together. Now we’re scheduling time together and there’s laundry and bill-paying and errands rather than all the fun. It’s domestic. It’s real. And it’s disappointing compared to where we were focusing our thoughts previously. And we’ll tend to start blaming the other person for that shift in our chemistry.

So now we’re focusing more on disappointing things and that’s what we’re talking to friends about, which just serves to lengthen the suffering unnecessarily. And eventually others and ourselves come to notice and focus on so many differences that we’ll wonder why we’re even with someone and we’ll leave. And yet the original person with all of their original qualities is still there, just waiting to be noticed. The only thing that makes it survivable is that both parties are variably doing it to each other.

When you’re younger you’re more absolute. If this person gets even one thing wrong then they are not your “soul mate” and so they must go. Then after a few painful losses we’re a bit more mature. We can see potential issues sooner so the drug isn’t such a dizzying high at the start and we stick it through one of those tough goes, have another good run for a while, and then break up on the second or third trouble spot. Which is fine because again for people that are paying attention: we learn from each of these.

732 Relax and Succeed - The Velveteen RabbitLater we’re older and wiser. Plus as we age we know we both have more invested in our lives with each other so there’s more to lose and less time to make up the difference. Sometimes that makes us stay when we shouldn’t. Other times it makes us try a bit harder to make things work and sometimes that’s why it does.

I know a couple that get along stunningly well for about seven weeks and then they’re absolutely certain they need to divorce immediately. That lasts less than a week and they’re back in touch with why they fell in love. In fact, they’re particularly good at noticing each other’s qualities during those other seven weeks. So the wisdom that keeps their relationship healthy is half gratitude and half patience. Because now when the blow-up happens, deep down they both know that it’s a pattern and that it will go away when they change their thinking. They just have to wait. That’s a mature relationship. That’s people who know how to forgive. That’s what love looks like in the trenches.

It’s not easy being loved. Most of us tell stories to ourselves about ourselves that lead us to believe that we can’t possibly deserve to be truly loved and so we fight against it in strange ways. Again, if we’re paying attention and are being introspective we’ll learn over time that everyone is fallible and we too are as deserving of love as anyone else. By genuinely feeling that way we become vulnerable and thereby open ourselves up to the greatest sensations of love we will have ever known.

732 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes you forgive peopleGo into every relationship knowing that your brain chemistry will naturally shift after seven or eight straight months of thinking wonderful things about the other person. When it changes don’t panic. Don’t think something’s wrong with your relationship when all that’s happened is that there’s been a natural and necessary shift to your thinking. Nothing can stay new and exciting when you see it every day.

Accept that trouble will happen and it’ll only be as meaningful as you make it. Remember that when you’re struggling you’ll want to control your partner’s behaviour—you’ll want to define their role in your life. And as soon as you can see yourself doing that you can consciously shift toward thinking about your partner’s many qualities instead. You’re not stupid. You were attracted to them for a good reason.

Be patient. Be understanding. And be grateful. Do those things as much as possible and that’s as good a recipe for a great relationship as any. And don’t be surprised if it takes a lifetime to learn just that.

Now go create a great day by appreciating the qualities of your partner and everyone else around you. And don’t forget to include you too.

Much love, s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organisations around the world.

Other Perspectives #68

686 OP-R Relax and Succeed - When you start seeing your worthIt’s a holiday here in Canada so I hope you have the day off and can spend it with your loved ones. In today’s Other Perspectives I discuss that very thing—how to spend healthy time with your loved ones. Because a lot of people have a lot of misconceptions about what a good, healthy, long-lasting relationship looks like.

Enjoy.

peace. s

Other Perspectives #67

681 OP Relax and Succeed - I don't understand

There’s a lot of hormones raging in any teenager so it’s not surprising the boys are prone to cheating and the girls are prone to drama. But there is no direct relationship between your care for someone else and their care for you. It’s not like a bank machine where you put your care in and then later you withdraw it. You each come with your own upbringings and your own tendencies in terms of how you were taught to deliver love (gifts, time, touch, talking, assistance etc.). It would be incredibly unlikely if both parties gave equally or in the same ways. For instance, if a guy had a distant, non-demonstrative father who never gave gifts then the guy is likely to be the sort of person who never buys a birthday card or gives a massage or barely says I love you. She can think he doesn’t love her but then the same guy can be solid and enduring during chemotherapy or with a very sick child. Likewise a woman who doesn’t show much affection or offer much attention to her partner can still be a remarkable partner to have during the death of a family member or for the most trusted of duties. You should be with people because of how they are in the world, not because they tick off a bunch of boxes in some magazine or off some list created by your friends. Your partner is not in a movie performing a romantic role for you. Your partner is a person with their own drives, interests and values and personality. The differences between you can coincide and be very compatible and helpful to both people. But you’ll still both routinely fail to meet each others expectations. But that’s not them failing. That’s you expecting. That’s not their problem, that’s yours. Lose the expectations and you’ll lose the pain too. Let people be who they are, don’t tell them what to do, but be fully yourself and that will make you an enjoyable person to be with. After that the rest will take care of itself.

peace. s

Other Perspectives #56

626 OP1 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Other Perspectives #56

Do you see that if you do something just because someone told you that you couldn’t, that you’ve still let them control your actions? This is why teenagers often come into conflict. A very low percentage of them will be aware of the fact that in their brain’s attempt to feign independence (no happy person is every truly independent), all they are doing is simply the opposite of their parents, teachers, coach whatever. They have no choice but to just choose the opposite because they are too young to have any nuanced references on what all of their choices must even be—and so they start at the only place they can—the opposite of whatever their oh-so-uncool parents would choose. And so if you want to be like the relatively short Martin St. Louis, and win the Most Valuable Player in the series that wins your team the championship, then that’s great because you’re using another person’s opinion to motivate you to achieve a goal that’s yours. But if you’re just doing it because you were told not to then that is what immaturity still looks like. If you want to know just how different the world can be just do some travelling. And if you’re too young for that, just start dating. If you’re in North America you’ll know something’s up as soon as Thanksgiving rolls around and you learn that your date’s Mom puts (or doesn’t put) raisins in the stuffing. Dating is usually the first real comparison we get they helps us understand how individualized the culture in each family actually is. So we don’t want to choose things just because they’re the opposite of what another person would choose, but we do want to become aware of as many of our choices as possible so that we can use all of the wisdom gained by all the world to help you find your way to the source of deep and abiding peace. Have a wonderful week!

peace. s

Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offense to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.

Other Perspectives #37

Winner: Scott’s Top Other Perspectives of 2014 #1

510 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Someday you will find the one

Orand here’s Scott being all harsh and everything again—or you might stay single your whole life. Yep. Sorry. Could happen. And you know what? That could easily be a wonderful, full, rich life filled with love and tenderness. But it still might not include a “permanent” relationship. In fact it’s that very concept that gets so many people in their 30’s and 40’s to throw away their lives while they analyze their existence against some impossible invented standard. Then they end up feeling like they’re failing when really they’re just being human. You’re not supposed to be in a relationship, you want to be in one. Well as this blog has clearly stated many times, wanting creates suffering whereas gratitude creates love. So it’s not the lack of a relationship that’s painful—it’s the fact that you want one. Stop waiting for your life to start after this or that event takes place. There is no destiny. You create it with the verb of your life. You have free will. Create a life. Make choices. Move forward. Live boldly. Do that and you will feel the love that is the basis of our universe, and there is no greater love than that.

peace. s

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Other Perspectives #21

Winner: 2014’s Other Perspectives of the Year

414 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - A healthy relationship

Uh. Be careful with this one. A lot of people will misinterpret this. This doesn’t mean you help your partner improve. It means you help them become who they really are. Improvement was what I originally thought too. A lot of people make that mistake. My ex-wife and I (I was much worse than her), saw potential in each other that was unrealized and so we lovingly urged each other to realize it. We were totally well-intentioned. But what we’re essentially saying to the person is, “you’re not okay the way you are already.” Ouch. People don’t “make” anyone better, people grow at their own pace relative to the nourishment they have. Period. So in the relationship I had after my wife, I didn’t wake up and look at her and think: wow you have so much incredible potential that I want to help you realize—I thought instead: wow I cannot believe how patient and dedicated you are to put up with all of my unrealized potential, not to mention my way of being. I’m so grateful I want to help you with whatever you want to do. That meant I had questions and not suggestions. I was looking for direction not to give direction. It was much more peaceful and much more actively loving. You want two people who are independent enough that they are choosing to be together, not that they feel they’ll fail without the other person. We’re not here to pull people out of holes. We’re here to place them on our shoulders so they can reach even higher. Now go ask your partner what they want to accomplish and give them a hand. It’ll be good for both of you. 😉

peace. s

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The Listening Man

Winner: 2014’s Blog of the Year #9

How do I get my husband to listen to me? Every time we “talk,” before I’ve even finished my thought he’s interrupting me guessing what I mean (and he’s usually wrong). And then every single time he tells me that the way I feel about something is wrong. I’m tired of being wrong and now I’m finding myself attracted to a guy at work. He’s overweight he’s not very good looking but he listens to me. My co-workers think I’m crazy to be attracted to this other guy because my husband is a very good-looking successful guy but I don’t even feel like my husband even really sees me. Am I crazy? What should I do?

signed,
Unheard

319 Relax and Succeed - A woman can't change a manDear Unheard,

Let’s start off with this: no. You’re not crazy. But you’re also not alone. When it comes to women’s concerns about their marriages this would be one of the top three complaints I hear in my practice. If it makes you feel any better for his prospects for change; I myself was this husband at one time. Here’s hoping yours doesn’t need the divorce I did before he clues in.

I can tell you that he’s not working against you from his perspective. There is an innocence in your husband’s actions, as frustrating as they might be. Men are solvers. We’re task-oriented. We see a challenge, overcome it and move on to the next one. So when a wife brings up a concern, a male ego will interpret this as a request for help—even if you explicitly state it is not.

I’m speaking in generalities here but most men will only listen to the “problem” up until they feel like they understand it and then they do one of two things: in the first they’ll conclude that from their perspective you are wrong and then they’ll think they can debate you out of your feelings. They might actually have some success at that if they were leading you in a good direction, but to be successful at that they would have to listen and since not-listening is why we’re here….

319 Relax and Succeed - Most people do not listenIn the second case the man does agree there’s an issue, but their response will be to immediately begin to apply their own problem-solving techniques to the task. These involve using their skills and working around their dislikes or their fears and the end they seek will be weighed by their values. If you’re married a lot of those things will overlap. But never all of them. And so your feeling of being crushed or having no space is common because you’re not actually in your marriage, your husband is married to himself and you’re a stand-in.

It gets to the point where many women’s views are routinely dismissed to the point where the women are passengers in a relationship bus driven by their partner. His passengers might suggest another route, but he won’t take those suggestions seriously simply because—from his perspective—he’s the driver and he’s on a route. Where to go is obvious and logical from his perspective. That’s why he’s so dismissive of your views. He earnestly doesn’t see them as valid when applied against his logic.

The only part he’s forgetting is that there’s also a logic to your psyche. That his views aren’t right–they’re just his. He’s not aware that we’re all psycho-logical beings with our own set of perspectives, values and insights, so he’s not taking your values into proper account. He’ll believe in an external, objective reality.

319 Relax and Succeed - The art of listeningYour attraction to the man at work is entirely logical. If you’re psychologically crushed by your husbands inability to permit and respect your opinions, then anyone who makes room for them will almost draw you toward them like a vacuum. You have pressure in your relationship and the guy at work is offering space. Space for you to be. Not be a part of what he’s doing. Just room to be yourself. If your opinion is always seen as invalid or wrong you can’t be yourself.

I’m not sure how old you are but there are pretty common patterns of this throughout the western world. Women are taught by advertising and past culture to beg for acceptance and to base that on their appearance and their charm but only recently on their capability. So even strong women will have been raised in an environment which strongly encourages them to be more passive peacemakers. Men on the other hand are taught to take charge, analyze and respond. A good example of this is coaching.

I heard an interview years ago with four Olympic level coaches who also worked in professional sports leagues. All had coached men and women at the highest levels. Two of the coaches were women and two were men. What all four agreed on was that there exists a key difference in male and female dressing rooms.

319 Relax and Succeed - You can lead a manAll of them agreed that for a woman to call another woman out in the dressing room would almost certainly undo the entire team. It would create so many hurt feelings, so much politics, and worse it would create “sides” to the issue which means half the team is actively working against their own team.

In a male dressing room, again all four coaches agreed it was common and expected that players were seen as having direct control over their own play even in a team situation. So if a defenseman feels his winger isn’t checking his man, then he’ll yell at him in the dressing room and tell him to do so. And that generally won’t disrupt the dressing room, it will make it tighter. People will feel that each individual is being held to account and because they see their play as theirs and not the teams, they’re comfortable with that. The problem in your marriage is that your husband is attempting to coach you rather than being on a team with you.

Men are particularly worse for this when they’re young. I remember seeing a younger friend and her boyfriend at a Farmer’s Market. She would gleefully approach a piece of art and want to discuss its qualities and her boyfriend would break her heart by dismissing the entire experience with his opinion as to its dollar value. Obviously curators don’t organize art galleries by price or value-for-dollar but he couldn’t see that. He thought the value is what should be analyzed, not the beauty. And in doing that calculation his girlfriend found him a little less interesting and attractive.

319 Relax and Succeed - I have learned a great dealI wish I had better news for you, but how this usually goes is that you quietly build up resentment-arguments in your head until you start actually imagining yourself being with the guy at work instead. Even if he would end up doing the same male thing, he would at least initially appear better because when he’s courting he needs to listen so he can learn what to do. Once he feels he’s sure of what to do, that’s when things turn bad.

You don’t want to be changing your partner into what you want or you’re just doing the same thing he is. The women that succeed at this are those who are in some way able to communicate the issue to their partner in a profound way. Many times it’s someone like me that gets hired to make this clarification and to communicate the gravitas of it all.

If the man can grasp this subtle difference in perspectives then many are actually quite quick and responsive because they really do love their wives. But he can’t get yelled or cried into that state. Men largely work with logic, so you need a way to communicate the idea so that he can appreciate its value to him personally.

319 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes we need someoneEither you or someone you hire will get this idea across, or you’ll slowly drift toward a listener somewhere in your life, or you will try a separation or go straight to divorce. But until there is some upside or downside that will suitably motivate your husband to look more closely at how his assumptions are crushing his spouse, I’m afraid you shouldn’t expect this situation to change.

I hope he’s not like me and that he doesn’t need to get divorced to learn. But even if you have to do that, it’s not like there’s only one road to happiness in life. My ex wife is now married to the ex of a woman I know and she speaks very highly of him and they apparently have a wonderful family.

For my part, I’m thrilled she found someone who’s behaved more respectfully and that she’s happy. And it’s not like my life’s been bad either—I can’t even find a life I’d trade for I like my own so much. And if it makes you feel any better, I’m truly grateful to my wife for leaving me. I’m so sorry I put her through certain anguish before she had to make that decision, but in the end it lead to better things for both of us and every woman after her benefitted greatly. However it unfolds, I wish you the very same good fortune.

peace and a hug. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

2013’s Blog of the Year #9

About a third of my clients are companies working on employee and management issues. Another third would be individuals dealing with depression, stress, an addiction, or some are looking for career or life counselling. The final third would be couples. Some are couples that are essentially broken up and they’re wondering if they can maybe make it work again. Some are thinking about breaking up and aren’t sure. Some start as a single then turn into a couple. Some come as couples272 Relax and Succeed - You know what's the one wrong thing right from the start. And when they come, they talk in a very in-depth about their relationships.

Because there are only so many ways of being there are also only so many ways in which two people can mix. There are only so many fundamental routes for a relationship to take. So after a time you start to see very strong patterns in peoples life experiences.

Almost all of relationships I work on have the problem of perfection. Expectations are too high. People say they don’t need their partner to be perfect, but then a minute later they’ll angrily yell at that same partner about how they’re not doing something the same way they would. This is often referred to as “the right way.”

Perfect relationships aren’t about two perfect people. They’re about two Human Beings sharing a perfect understanding that they want their partner to be no one but themselves. Anything else is to request that they live an otherwise unnecessarily stressed existence. Sure, maybe for a dinner with your parents here or there—but no one wants to live that way full time. If you love someone you love them as they arenot with conditions.

In a way I’m not surprised to see this blog in the number nine spot on the countdown. It’s a popular subject with a lot of people. Hopefully it’s popularity also points to its usefulness. You can find out for yourself when you read the 9th Most Popular Blog of the Year:

The Perfect Relationship

Movies books and fairy tales have everyone imagining romantic love in a completely unrealistic way. Sure, in a film Prince Charming can appear to meet all of a woman’s desires, but let’s face it—those desires are pretty lame when it comes to picking an actual partner. You can’t really marry rich, and you can’t marry handsome. Those are things that affect what you look at 272 Relax and Succeed - I love you not because of who you areand touch etc., but your experience of being with someone comes from how they treat you, and that’s always motivated by how much they value your perspective. So the point isn’t whether the Prince lives in the castle or has a nice horse, it’s whether he’s got a good sense of humour, or if he can find a way to enjoy going shopping with you, or if he’ll massage your back—even when you’re bitchy . Those are the qualities that actually affect your life. Not what someone wears, or drives or does for a living.

Can you see how different you are with your friendships? You don’t have qualifications like that. And you don’t look for promises or commitments. No one needed to buy a ring or any other gift to hold you. You were held by your own interest. And so it should be with our romantic partners too. Our partners should be people who are completely free to go wherever they choose and they choose to be around us because that is their favourite place. It might not always be their favourite place, but out of the seven billion people on the planet, if they’re choosing to spend their time with you—that’s the real commitment. The commitment of choice.

Since nature generally motivates our initial attractions we can usually spot the major reasons why we’re with someone. Maybe our family was very serious and stern and our partner is good at being lighthearted. Maybe our family was very disorganized and our partner always has everything carefully planned. Maybe our family had no sense of creativity but our partner is spontaneous and artistic. There will be reasons we find people attractive. We should keep in touch with those attractions lest we take them for granted. 272 Relax and Succeed - Never chase loveBecause if we do that we are unwittingly moving toward perfection, which is as unattainable for our partner as it is for ourselves.

Do not expect perfection from your partner. The question is only: when you are calm and content, is that the person you would most often choose to be with? If the answer to that is most often “yes,” then simply be with them when you both feel that way, and give each other space when you don’t. It is entirely natural to need the input of different kinds of human beings in our lives. We can’t be all things to all people nor can they expect us to fulfil all of their needs. Again, the relationship must be a choice, not a expectation, obligation, or demand.

If your relationship is floundering and you value it then there is only one response. Go back to having fun. Go back to being yourself. That’s who attracted your partner in the first place. Maybe they’ve changed and are looking for something else, but you can’t do anything about that—you’re you. You can’t become someone else for someone else. They are either fundamentally attracted or they’re not. So in the end the only thing that makes a relationship worthwhile is the fact that it’s voluntary.

272 Relax and Succeed - How do I improveForget perfection. Instead of complaints, consider appreciation and acceptance. Because if you keep complaining about the same things in your partner, that’s a sure sign that a major part of the issue is with you and not with them. Meaning either you should leave, or you should accept that the person you’re with includes the quality you keep complaining about. Either accept it or leave. That’s the only choice. Their job isn’t to change into who you want them to be. Their job is to simply be themselves so they can be identified by the people that will naturally love them in an unconditional way. And the very same goes for you

People aren’t right for you or wrong for you. It’s not the people, it’s the behaviour. So pay less attention to how rich, beautiful or sexy some one is and start caring about whether or not they’re rich in character, beautiful in spirit, and sexy because they truly care about you. And after that, the only thing you have to remember is that relationships are two way streets. So don’t start telling other people to change or they’ll get out their list for you. Better that you just love each other as you are, imperfections and all.

Enjoy your day by enjoying the people in it. That choice is always yours.

hugs. s

Dear Jealous Boyfriend

It’s a common problem. High school boys sometimes get hit with huge testosterone bursts as they suddenly grow. It comes with painful femurs and easy tempers. It’s when boys who are insecure about love will be inclined toward jealous worry. Today’s blog is a letter from their partner, urging a different kind of relationship. If someone’s printed this off and left it for you somewhere, then they’re trying to tell you that they think your relationship behaviour is inappropriate and/or childish, and that it is leading toward disaster.

186 Relax and Succeed - You know it's love whenReal relationships need real commitment. And the commitment isn’t to each other. It’s to ourselves. Because that’s how you make a healthy relationship work. You focus on making yourself the most helpful, enjoyable person to be around and the rest just takes care of itself.

So, for those people who feel trapped by their relationships, I offer you this:

Dear Jealous Boyfriend,

Let me begin by saying that despite what you often choose to think, I am with you by choice because I wanted to be. I was naturally attracted by qualities you naturally have. This isn’t something I really decide—you know that. You didn’t decide to like me either, you just realized that you did. So if people are truly attracted to each other, they don’t have to do anything to stay attracted other than continue to be the person who was attractive in the first place. Magnets don’t try to attract each other. They simply are what they are so they do what they do.

The only thing that threatens that otherwise natural attraction is when you’re angry and upset about things you’ve been thinking about. For me that’s like seeing a restaurant window that looks really good, and outside it smells awesome, but when you get inside the food’s terrible half the time and the waiters are super rude and mean because they’re worried and upset that I might not come back. And because it looks and smells so good, I keep going back. But if it’s going to be bad food and bad service more and more of the time, I start to feel like I’m stupid for continuing to come here.

186 Relax and Succeed - What you allowLook, your thoughts are very obviously not my actions. And no quality person is going to want to be in a relationship where they are always yelled at, are accused of things, or are generally treated poorly just because they either did some innocent thing like talk to someone of the opposite sex—or because you thought a bunch of scary thoughts that I have absolutely nothing to do with. I can definitely be responsive and I can recognize you’re worried and can act in ways that are helpful, but it’s not my responsibility to surrender my life just so you can stop worrying. Worrying happens inside your brain, not mine, so you’re the only one who can deal with that.

I need you to think about this carefully. Obviously no person is going to want to date someone who controls their life. I’m sorry that your life has lead you to believe that real relationships work by force, but I can tell you I didn’t want to date you for anyone else’s reasons but my own, and if I choose to leave it’ll be for the same reasons—mine. But I can’t force you to love me any more than you can force me to love you. That’s obviously not how love works. So we really only have one route to being in a relationship: we both volunteer for it, and we do that because we want to, and we want to because it’s enjoyable. So if you want to make sure I stay with you, rather than grabbing me by the arm and threatening me, you would do a much better job by acting in ways that are enjoyable. No one makes me spend time with my friends. I volunteer because they make me feel good. That’s important and worth remembering.

186 Relax and Succeed - Incredible change happensI’m sorry that events in your life lead you towards insecure thinking when it comes to relationships. I don’t take this personally. I know you don’t mean to do it and that it’s no fun for you to go through either. But I still can’t be a slave in a relationship. That will feel dead after a while and even you won’t want us like that. So let’s really work on this, because otherwise we’re just delaying our relationship’s demise.

Your thoughts are your thoughts and while it might be challenging at first, they are obviously entirely your thoughts, meaning they are ultimately in your control. So if you feel yourself knotting up in a rage, use the rage to remind you about the thoughts. And remind yourself that just because your childhood urged you to think that way, it’s still unproductive to us, and to our relationship, so think of something else instead and just come to me and be enjoyable.

Let’s glue ourselves together with joy. With fun. Let’s live with the least amount of anger and fear, and the most amount of orgasms and laughing. I would never leave a situation like that. So let’s quiet our minds and do that as much as possible.

I love you darling. And I love me too. So let’s build something that makes us both happy.

All the best,

Your Sweetheart.

Relationships: 101

Winner: 2013’s Blog of the Year #5

I get a lot of couples coming to see me in an effort to decide whether or not they should save their relationship or negotiate their break-up. Both instances can be very healthy but far more often than not couples rediscover their original attraction and the relationship continues with healthier perspectives and more loving relations.

To illustrate how I take them through an initial but very important perspective shift, I’ll create a sample of how these conversations often go:

71 Relax and Succeed - Love is the absence of judgmentOkay guys, we’re here to look at saving a relationship. Can I conclude from that, that both of you actually want to be in a relationship either with each other or possibly with someone else?” >They both agree. “Okay, you both want some kind of relationship. And can we all agree there are no perfect people with which to have a relationship?” They always agree that there are no perfect people. Then I bring out a vase, filled with marbles.

Let’s use this vase to represent the average person. This vase has 93 marbles in it. If a perfect person were 100 marbles, does it seem reasonable that most people would be mostly fine, with just a few issues? Maybe five smaller marbles like being messy or late or something, and maybe one or two bigger or more dangerous ones, like smoking, or being bad with money, or even things like abuse or addiction?” I have yet to have a couple who don’t feel that ratio is at least close to realistic. So that’s when I bring out a smaller bowl with seven marbles in it.

Okay, so this vase represents the 93 things we like and admire about someone, and the bowl represents the seven challenges they present.” I slide them each a sheet of paper. “You don’t have to go into a lot of detail, but write down just a few of the key reasons you got married in the first place. Tell me what the highlight marbles were that attracted you to each other instead of someone else.”

Some couples find this very easy. They’re aware of their attraction. Some find it surprisingly difficult. They’ve never actually codified what it is they like about their partner, so that in and of itself is a useful exercise. Once they remember why they were attracted and they write it down, I get things like, “I loved his family,” “I thought she was beautiful,” or “She was so good with kids,” or “He always made me laugh.” (The fact that many couples have not previously noted their partners qualities is itself worth noting.) I then thank them and I take the papers with what they like and replace them with two more clean sheets.

Now I’d like you to tell me why you’re splitting up. What’s in the bowl that you just can’t live with? What marble or marbles is motivating the idea of breaking up?” In this case, the person contemplating the leaving is pretty quick to write. They’ve been thinking about this long before they came to see me so they’re well-versed in their complaints. The person being left is usually slower, and 90% of the time it’s the guy and they usually don’t have a big complaint, so they’ll often just write “Nagging.”

71a Relax and Succeed - Every rose has its thornNow here comes the good part. I thank them again, I take the two sheets describing why they’re splitting, and I hand them two more sheets of fresh paper. “Great. Thanks. Now what I’d like you to do is write down the bowl-marbles you will stay married to.” This always furrows brows.

The wife speaks up. “I’m sorry? I don’t understand.”

Well, we’ve already agreed you both want to be in relationships with someone. And we’ve already agreed that no one is perfect, so therefore everyone has a bowl of seven marbles. So since you want to be with someone, and everyone has them, tell me which bowl of marbles you would stay in a relationship with?”

This slows things down considerably and often nothing gets written down. Eventually either the husband or wife will speak up: “I’m not sure I understand this exercise. What kinds of things am I supposed to write?”

Anything you want. You can pick any kind of challenges you like, but since everyone will have some, tell me which ones you wouldn’t leave someone over.”

“Can you give us some examples?”

Well, what do your friends complain about in their relationships? Would you prefer an alcoholic? (No.) A drug addict? (No.) Someone violent? (No!) Bad parent? (No!!) Someone who steals? (No.) Someone who cheats? (No.) Untrustworthy? (No.) Poor hygiene? (No!) Bad in bed? (Nooo.) Gambles? (No way.) Someone who runs you down to others? (…no.) Mean-spirited? (No.) Yells? (NO!) Doesn’t contribute to the running of the household, either financially or domestically? (No. No. No.) Look guys, you have to pick something. We’re getting down to things like ‘Doesn’t pick up his socks,’ or ‘She doesn’t help with the dog.’ If those are reasons to end a marriage, then maybe it’s your expectations that are unrealistic and not your partner’s behaviour.”

After this we usually sit quietly for a fair bit as they stare at their paper but don’t write much of anything down. Often I’ll see the person who planned to leave looking at their partner’s list of bowl-marbles. “What if we’re having trouble doing this? What does that mean?”

It might mean you’re already with a person that’s a good match for you.”

But then we’re right back where we started. Now what are we supposed to do?”

The same thing you did when you got married. Do you really think that bowl didn’t exist when you walked down the aisle?” They think about it and acknowledge there must have been a bowl. “So why was the bowl so-okay back then that you’d invite all of your family and friends to a ceremony where you chose to publicly and permanently get attached to that vase and bowl?”

They usually don’t know.

71b Relax and Succeed - Selfishness is not living as one wishesThe reason it was okay back when you got married was because you weren’t taking the vase for granted. You were filled with positive, respectful and enthusiastic thoughts about the marbles in the vase. You discussed the marbles in the vase with your friends. You weren’t focusing on the bowl much at all. But now you only talk to your friends about your partner’s bowl-marbles.

Can you see? Falling in love is to look admiringly on someone’s vase. Falling out of love is to look judgmentally at their bowl. But if you’re going to do that, should your partner do it too? Bottom line, you both have bowls so your partner has to deal with you too. A bowl’s a bowl. It doesn’t matter what’s in it. It’s the fact that it’s there at all.

There are two ways to live. One is to Want things to be different. The other is to Appreciate what already Is. One leads to bickering and negativity, and the other leads to happiness and cooperation. The only question is, when you look at your partner are you going to choose to look at their vase or their bowl?”

Accepting those facts is what keeps 90% of the people I see together. They didn’t realize that they secretly assumed that their life would improve if they left, even though there was no good reason to think that. Computer dating can cause this, because it gives us this notion that if this person doesn’t work out, then there’s a list of other people to choose from. But that list is as much a list of bowls as it is a list of vases. So be careful what you wish for.

Ask yourself what your partner’s vase is filled with. Invest yourself in that and you will fall in love all over again. You’ll still have to wrestle with their bowl, but it’s important to remember that they have to wrestle with yours too. Because of the people who did choose to leave, an awful lot of them found that their future partners weren’t as accepting of their bowl as their previous partner had been.

Go focus on what you like about your partner. If you do that and you still feel like you’d rather be alone or risk trying someone else then that’s fine. Just don’t go thinking that you can replace them with a relationship that doesn’t include two bowls of marbles. Because that’s just not how the universe works.

peace. s