Let’s CREATE Our Relationships!

For most relationships outside of child/parent, there is absolutely nothing inherent about these relationships. We fall into norms of society, sure, but relationships are full of assumptions and expectations that do us no good.

This is why it’s incumbent upon us to CREATE our relationships, to decide what they are and what they are not and I believe this is the new and very exciting frontier in relationships. This goes for all areas of relationships, from what our shared goals are to fidelity to sexuality, to whom we will be for each other.

We’ve outgrown our roles, we live in a new world of gender equality (it’s here, even if it’s not complete by a long shot), of sexual relations being completely chosen by the participants, of all kinds of alternatives to what used to be that are increasingly out and in the open every day.

Empower yourself to create your relationships. Do not settle for old roles, old assumptions. We’re not built for them any longer. What we’re built for is exploration, finding what we truly want, respecting each others’ journey, growing and being grateful that we are living in this time of great opportunity.

Happy Anniversary


I have been in awe of my 13th anniversary with my wife Rosanna all day. Blown away by what it takes for two people to create a marriage that I am so proud of. Not because it looks perfect, because it doesn’t, but because it’s been such a challenge despite both of us loving each other so much.

(My) Marriage has not been easy. We throw ourselves into it knowing so little about what it’s going to be like and what it will take to incorporate all of the changes in life. Kids, mortgage, finances, being close or near to your family, the growing stakes in your careers, simply just trying not to be an a#@h&%* all of the time because this life isn’t easy. It is such a daunting endeavor.

But all of these things fashioned me into a new person, a version of myself that I needed to become, that I am proud to be. If it wasn’t for the challenges and for being with Rosanna, someone I respect, love and admire as much as I do, someone who has always made me want to learn how to be a better man, whose heart has always been so perfect to me, if it wasn’t for our vows and our commitment to not just stay together, but to figure out how to keep our hearts open to each other despite life happening, despite being changing people, despite it being hard sometimes even in the midst of so many blessings and sometimes despite ourselves, I wouldn’t have become the person I am today. I credit my marriage, above all else, as being the structure for me to really grow up (and I’m still doing it).

When my wife tells the world that she loves me more than ever, after 13 years – and for those of you who saw us at the beginning, you know that first act was tough to follow because we were so in love – you could never know just how much that means to me, how grateful I am for what it takes and what we’ve been willing to do to make that so. I’m proud of us.

I love you Rosie, more than ever. Happy Anniversary.

Respect Relationships

holdinghandsMarriage and intimate relationships are extraordinarily challenging.
We are given few tools, if any.
We have few extraordinary examples of success.
We have almost no culture of feedback, evaluation and improvement like most institutions have.
We have love, we have attraction, we have expectations and we have hope and that’s about 5% of what you need to be successful.
Forgive yourself.
Forgive them.
Respect the nature of this endeavor.
You can give yourself and others the understanding that you have a lot to learn, that we’ve barely scratched the surface, whether we’ve been practicing for a year or 20.
You deserve a lot of credit for even trying.

Woody Allen on Relationships or, How to Make Better Tasting Eggs!

“It reminds me of that old joke – you know, a guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office and says, hey doc, my brother’s crazy! He thinks he’s a chicken. Then the doc says, why don’t you turn him in? Then the guy says, I would but I need the eggs. I guess that’s how I feel about relationships. They’re totally crazy, irrational, and absurd, but we keep going through it because we need the eggs.” ― Woody Allen, Annie Hall

If we’re in it for the eggs, we’ve got no chance, relationships will eat us alive. You probably have bite marks, yourself (and given them)!

It’s what you can make out of the crazy, irrational and absurd that’s the opportunity of relationships. Our reactions to what happens in relationships are a window into our transformational process. I know, it would be so much easier to just have unlimited eggs, but when you take relationships on for the sake of your transformation and all of the success that can come from it in every area of life, relationships become the most powerful tool around.

From here, the eggs get better and better 🙂

We Exist in Different Universes

We exist in different universes.

No matter whether you’re strangers or know each other all your lives, you exist in different universes, because we each are the creators of our own universe.

This is something we know without knowing it, because we constantly try to have other people live inside our universe with us. That’s the essence of conflict. The closest we can get to fully relating with each other is acknowledging that all we have is our own universe and this is what others have to work with as well. From there we can be curious, understanding and forgiving.

You can be coached when you see a destination that you want to reach that seems somewhat or completely outside of your universe, but you’re willing to have the parameters of your universe change in order to get it. But when you hold fast to the definitions of your universe, expect familiar results.

You can truly be in relationship with others when you can allow their universe to exist alongside yours, where you’re well aware that sometimes these universes will not agree. When you do this, you have the best chance of relating to another person, because the threat of needing them to see things as you do goes away. This is the environment where ideas can be fruitfully exchanged and considered. Otherwise, all we are doing is defending our universe…

Last Night’s Relationship Circle – Roles in Relationships

We gravitate towards roles in relationships – mother, helper, know-er, child, savior. How many relationships are you in just to continue playing a role, because it makes you feel needed? Are you choosing these roles or are they automatic?

How people choose roles that they become victimized by:

1. Roles come from how someone has related to another person from past experiences. For example: I need to be your protector because I know you to put yourself in dangerous situations. The victimization is that the other person winds up resenting you for not understanding who they are today.

2. Roles are chosen to help people mitigate their own fear and discomfort. Because I am scared about my future with you, I choose to fix you. We choose a role that if we follow, it will hopefully make us comfortable. It is ultimately about our life, not the other person. In this role, we (consciously or unconsciously) care about what happens because we feel the other person’s choices effect us. Our discomfort distorts everything we see.

“If my boyfriend would just realize…”
“If my son would just finish law school…”

The victimization here is that we relate to the thing we’re afraid of, not the person and the relationship suffers.

3. Pattern. We find ourselves habitually choosing roles all my life. This is usually born from an incident early in life. We learned how to deal with something scary by choosing this role

The victimization here is that we don’t get our needs met, because we are always being the ________.

The other side is how we react to the roles others choose in relationships with us.

I am tired of my husband trying to be my therapist. My mom won’t leave me alone about getting married. My brother is always correcting me, like he’s some critic I never asked for.

We can all relate to these examples. Here are some tips on how to deal with it.

1. LEAVE THEM ALONE. Let these people play the roles they want to play. In fact,thank them for it. Whatever reactions (thoughts and feelings) are coming up for you are yours. Learn to be with your emotional responses, become masterful.

Your reactions are also a part of the pattern that you and your partner/mom/friend have created together. If you stop bringing the predictable response and take responsibility for your reaction, the pattern will break down over time and the relationship will shift. By taking a role with us, people are NOT controlling us. Whatever reactions we have are ours.

2. Let the person your in a relationship with know the roles you want them to play with you. Not to the exclusion of the roles they want to play, in addition to them. In fact, don’t even mention the roles they seem to play. Only mention what you want more of.

No matter how careful you are with suggestion number two, when you are shifting the normalcy of the roles people play in a relationship, there may be some pushback and upset. Many of us will not want to take on number two, because we are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. There are things we don’t say or do because we make up a future possibility in our mind, like if someone gets upset that it will cause irreparable damage. We don’t think we can have a continued relationship with someone if we say something to them that could be upsetting and then we stay victimized. We need to allow them to have a reaction and continue to forge the relationship we want.

3. Recognize that role dissonance occurs because each person on this planet is living inside a different reality than every other person on the planet. What we try to do is force others to live inside our reality. Life would be so much easier if everyone lived inside of one reality 🙂 Your reality doesn’t have to be my reality. Once you see that, the experience of being controlled will dissipate. Again you don’t need to mention this to the other person, just allow them to continue doing it, it’s your reactions to it that you can make a difference with.

Travis Bailey, thank you so much for helping me collect the notes from The Relationship Circle and sending them to me without me even asking. It was invaluable help in putting this update together.

Recap of this week’s Relationship Circle – Let’s ARGUE

We argue. We have different opinions, beliefs, ways of seeing things, different tolerances and sometimes we argue over these things. The difference between an argument and a disagreement is the emotion and the behavior. Most of us notice patterns in how we argue, what we argue over and how they end up. Few of us truly enjoy being in arguments and many of us leave arguments creating judgments, making decisions about each other and holding things on each other. Relationships end from this, some never get off the ground and life-long resentments and discomfort between people can be formed.

What we were playing for last night was a big game, getting to the point where we can use arguments as access to getting “the real me” out in the world and discarding old reactions that are meant to protect us but in the end limit the possibilities of our lives.

So, last night, about 18 of us got together to talk about arguing. Here are some of the things we saw:

Our tolerance, more accurately lack of, is what starts an argument. Because we react to something, either our partner’s behavior or opinion or their tone. Once we see the trigger that we are waiting for, we are in an emotional mode, where we have a goal in mind (usually escape or neutralization/dominance) and we relate to our partner as an enemy, consciously or not.

We can create agreements with partners where we both understand that what happens in arguments are not representations of the best of us, that they can be wild and that they just may need to come out. If you make an agreement like this, you’ll be practicing handling extreme situations, which will help you in all parts of life. More about that further down the page. Other agreements we can make can include stopping conversations when we know we are about to get emotional. This is great practice at not making our emotions right, we can start to relate to them as

    just happening

. They may be happening, but that doesn’t mean they are right (or wrong, for that matter). Getting someone to go along with this rule can be rocky, because you will be “taking away” your partner’s (and you own) opportunity to get his/her needs met. Being angry, reactive, etc. is ultimately selfish. We are taking care of ourselves at the expense of another, as long as they are not in agreement with us to allow us to get our needs met in that way.

We can actually increase our tolerance and in the process, present no pushback to our partner, which diffuses arguments and contributes to our partner feeling heard. Life calms down.

Feeling heard is a powerful diffuser.

    Telling someone you hear them is not hearing them

. When you truly understand or hear someone, the partner feels heard. This what you’re going for. It’s a higher bar and requires zero opposition coming from you. Hearing someone does not mean you have to agree with them, but here is the important part, you have no longer related to your partner’s belief or opinion as threatening to you. They are entitled to their point of view, to how the world occurs to them and that their belief exists no longer does anything to us and from there, we are no longer threatening to them. Understanding someone never puts you at risk. It is completely different from being passive or not doing anything about something you want to change.

When we argue, the emotional memories of past arguments shows up in the moment. They show up in strong feelings, like wanting to cry or dominate or hide or injure. They show up in body sensations, like tightness in the chest or an ache in the stomach or tension in our temples (or however it shows up for you). We’re dealing with A LOT of internal stimulus when we’re in arguments. What we normally say or think is that our partner is doing something to us. This is not true. Everything that is happening is generated by

    your body

. Knowing that this is happening to us and to the person we are in an argument with can create a lot of empathy. When we recognize this, we can get outside of the argument and the emotions showing up make much more sense and appear much less personal and threatening. What is happening is being created by our past, our hormones and our nervous system. It’s a big show! Once we can start seeing that, we can learn to not identify with the experience and start to simply have it, we can willfully get on the ride with our body. It’s like the 4th of July in there!

Being with what’s so, loving what is (as Byron Katie says it) is a key to fundamentally transform relationships and ourselves. When we can be with what’s so, we can see what our partner is up to without reacting to it, we can understand what is happening to ourselves without getting caught up in it and losing control, we can start to see the gold in what people say or want beneath their tone, their own reactivity. When you can see deeply enough, you can see the beauty in another human being, especially when their highly reactive.

What we are not talking about is suppressing. Suppressing is another word for suffering. When we suppress, we are left unsatisfied. When we experience, we eventually see a powerful opening while allowing feelings and body sensations wash over us or even while acting out. But even if you are acting out, some awareness can develop, where we start to see the separation between our behavior and ourselves. If you’d like to practice this, when you are in a reactive mode, ask yourself, “am I still here?” You’ll begin to feel a separation between your reaction that is happening and yourself, which is calm, powerful and at peace even within the reaction that is occurring. The more you practice, the more the volume on our reaction quiets down and the more the volume increases on who you really are and that’s what we’re REALLY up to here, getting the real you out there, living in the world having given up on hiding away behind our reactions that are designed to protect us.

In the end, the work I share is meant to TRANSFORM YOUR LIFE, not just give you a few tips on how to more effectively handle situations. This is no easy game. The approach requires a willingness to become a master, like you are training in the martial arts or translating your soul through art. This is no temporary cure, it’s a process and a way of life.

Thank you! Practice and share with me (and everyone if you’d like!) how your practice is going. I’d love to hear from you.


This Week’s Relationship Circle – Starting Over

Do we ever really start over, after a fight with our partner, after a break-up, after getting our feelings hurt?

We think we do, but how much of that last incident and all other incidents that have happened to us in our relationships (mommy, daddy, authority figures, past loves) are we carrying around with us? Is there ever a true reset, where we give ourselves cleanly and openly to the next person who comes into our lives?

We want to, but most of us don’t see how much of the disempowering parts of our past that we are “gifting” to the next boss, the next romantic partner. We relate to ourselves as formerly hurt, as the victim, and unconsciously look for someone to heal us, to “complete” us. Like the line in Jerry Maguire, the idea of another completing us can be romantic, it can feel euphoric, like the right person will take all our hurt away, but this is not the case.

Our natural state is on guard, leery of the next person to resemble the threats of our past and we are looking out for anything that carries even a whiff of resemblance. Eventually, we will find what we are looking for. From then forward, our relationship partner is moving closer and closer to threat status. This can take so much life out of our relationships, so much time and energy and when we fill the space of our relationships with fear based energy, love seems to get scarce.

We’re normally reacting to this pattern in our partners, so they’re reacting o the pattern in us, and on and on.

OK, enough of the gloom and doom, because in actuality this blog post is about getting more out of and freely contributing more to our relationships than ever before. At the last circle, I asked what the experience of our relationships would be if we didn’t have to be on our guard any more, if we were living beyond our former threats to love, relationship and our feelings. The response was that we would feel like a child. Bingo!

Beyond our past hurts lies our freedom, our chance at providing unconditional love, our life beyond feeling like we need to have such a heightened concern for our own emotional well-being. In other words, freedom, and resiliency without even trying. If someone gave you this gift, if this is who your partner was being with you, what would that bring to the relationship?

This is my suggestion,that you be the gift, that you take responsibility for learning how to live beyond your past hurts. Once you give this gift, you will be training your partner, your boss to let go of their own, over time, and a spaciousness, where joy, love, camaraderie, partnership and intimacy can truly grow. This is the true source material for starting over.

And as I know people love to sit in the “how” department of Target, I’ll put a few items on the shelves.

This is my favorite article on understanding the physiology of our own reactions in relationships. I’ve shared it with everyone I know: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/me-first-we-first/201203/how-threat-emotions-cause-us-misread-our-partner-4

Second, practice acknowledging all of your reactions. Get in the habit of knowing when they are happening and get out of the habit of making them right. By all means, get out of the way of oncoming buses, but when you notice an emotion when your mother’s number flashes on your caller ID, just admire the reaction, acknowledge the powerful body sensations and the thoughts that race through your mind and start practicing dis-identification with the reaction. These thoughts ARE HAPPENING, these feelings ARE PRESENT, and they are not YOU. Over time, you won’t take your own reactions so seriously and personally. It will cease to be his or her fault for making you feel a certain way. The engine is inside of YOU, you created how it feels right now and you can also allow it to pass. When it does, you’ll have more of your heart, intellect, compassion and love available for yourself and everyone else.

Next, try just walking away. Sometimes our reactions are so strong, we just can’t help but say or do some pretty ill-advised things. I learned this one from my mother. When I was a kid, my mom would get upset at some of the frustrating things I would do and she just took herself away until she could give me the version of her that she really wanted for our relationship. This was a gift because she explained it and took responsibility. She said she was doing that for me, not because of me.

Another suggestion is completion work. Completion is a process you undertake with ontological coaches who are specially trained for the work. The goal of completion is to leave the client with no energy that disempowers him/her in an area of life. It’s a process because completion is basically infinite. As we take our completion deeper and deeper, more of the essence of who we are comes out and our fears and automatic ways of being (fight, withdraw, injure, avoid, looking for sympathy and agreement as an unconscious need, etc.) start to disappear. We can handle life more powerfully.

Feel free to contact me about completion work and any other questions you have as you live and learn in your relationships.