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Entries in Couples therapy (5)

Thursday
Oct062016

Facing The Dragon That Guards The Treasure 

Sarah was a treasure hunter searching for the most precious heirloom in the world. It was so rare that only ONE existed in the entire Universe. Long ago, she was given information from a wise guru that she was the only soul who could retrieve this treasure. He told her that it was impossible to move from its resting place unless her hands touched it. She knew this was her destiny, and it became her life long mission to find it. It was rumored that dragons sometimes attack people who search for such treasures, so she was wearing a large, heavy suit of armor to protect herself. Even though it was cumbersome and uncomfortable, she wore the armor just in case she came across any fire-breathing dragons.

Finally, after many years of searching, her journey was nearly complete. Just ahead through a narrow passageway, she could see the heirloom waiting to be discovered! She could hardly contain her excitement until she realized there was a big problem. In order to retrieve it, she would have to take off her armor to fit through the passageway. The opening was so narrow that there was no way to squeeze through it with the armor on. But she worried that the dragon was waiting on the other side protecting the treasure. What a predicament for her! Without the armor she could be badly burned or maybe even killed by the dragon. Yet, she wanted this treasure more than anything. What should she do? What would you do?

More often than not, we choose to play it safe and not take the risk (at least I do). We may rationalize this decision and convince ourselves that we really didn’t want the heirloom anyway. Or we may stand in front of the passage with our armor on for days, weeks, even years, feeling a tremendous yearning or inner conflict that will not subside. We really want it but we are afraid to go get it. What if we’re not capable? What if we fail? What if we are not worthy to receive it?

This dilemma is representative of arriving at a growing edge, when we are striving for something important in our lives. And standing there at that growing edge it becomes apparent that we will have to take a “risk” in order to proceed forward. Whether we want to attract more wealth, find a life partner, move into a new career/vocation, create a work of art, or whatever it may be, it is important to recognize that the goal or accomplishment we are seeking is NOT the heirloom. The actual heirloom is the new self that we must allow to emerge and express itself in the world. In other words, the real reason to strive for goals and accomplishments is to transform into a greater version of ourselves—to become (or realize) the person who can achieve it. The armor is the old self that we are afraid to shed, so we often just keep holding on to it. We believe that armor protects us and keeps us safe, but we cannot become the greater version of ourselves while still holding on to the old self.

But on rare occasions, usually when we just can’t stand to feel stuck anymore, we gather the courage to take off that armor and go through the passage. When we finally make it to the other side to retrieve that most precious treasure, we come face to face with that guardian dragon we feared so much, and it turns out to be a tiny lizard that couldn’t hurt a fly (well, actually they eat flies but you get my drift).

What is the greater version of you (the treasure) that wants to come forth and shine through? Are you ready to let go of that armor to make space for your greatness to blossom?

 

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Wednesday
Mar092016

If Romeo and Juliet Had Lived....

Have you ever wondered what would have happened to Romeo and Juliet if they had lived? Would their burning love and desire for each other have lasted throughout their lives? Would they have frolicked in the fields, finished each other’s sentences, and made passionate love all the time? The answer is NO! Because their relationship was based on good old “romantic love,” I think it would have gone like this:

 

Romeo, Romeo where art thou my dear

I can’t live without you, please please come here.

Juliet, Juliet you’re the only one for me

I only feel alive when I am with thee.

Our dream has come true and we are complete

The love we have searched for is now at our feet.

 

(Fast forward 10 years)

 

Romeo, Romeo I can’t stand you near

You don’t do a thing and you bring me no cheer.

Juliet, Juliet stop calling me lazy

It’s your nagging and nagging that’s driving me crazy.

The dream has now ended because we can see

That you’re not the person, you were supposed to be.

 

But if Romeo and Juliet couldn’t do it, is a relationship filled with love and passion even possible? YES it is! And we are all capable and worthy of experiencing it. Yet, the relationship must be rooted in something deeper than romantic love. It is the One Love that comes from our Spirit and exists within each of us. Call it what you will, Higher love, Divine Love, Universal Love, etc., but it must be cultivated in our hearts so that we can see through the outer shell and behold the beauty within our beloved.  

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Friday
May082015

After the Fight--3 Steps to Reconnect

We are very likely going to hurt each other in relationships, and I don’t know if there is a way to avoid it. Therefore, the ART of reconnecting and repairing after emotional pain becomes a crucial component in a long term, loving relationship. Much of the time our repair attempts are incomplete or outright fail, and a true reconnection with our partner is not established. We then hold on to anger or resentment (sometimes unconsciously) and slowly begin to drift apart. It may even get to the point that we are irritated by almost anything our partner does.

In order to prevent this from happening, a complete reconnection must be established any time feelings have been hurt. This means that we must be able to look into our partner’s eyes and feel authentic love and appreciation for them again. If we don’t feel that way yet, then we haven’t fully repaired the connection. It is essential that we do not stop until full reconnection is achieved so we don’t hold on to the past. This process is not about solving a problem or negotiating something. For example, if the original conflict arose over a dispute over who would do the dishes, this conversation is not about figuring that out. It’s about repairing the emotional damage that occurred in the dispute. Once reconnection is established, you can then more effectively discuss the issue of dishes. 

Creating a formula for reconnection is tricky because it is an art form, and it may look different each time. However, there are 3 key steps that are present in most successful endeavors:

Step 1-Readiness/Willingness

Ask yourself the question, “Am I ready and willing to move toward reconnection?” This requires an honest self-assessment as to your emotional state and willingness to engage in a meaningful way. This does not mean that you must feel completely healed already. You may still feel some pain, but you have moved past being immersed in blame and defensiveness. If you are not at this point of readiness it usually does little good or causes even more harm to attempt. If you do make an attempt and realize you are becoming too reactive, it is best to shelve it for a period and come back when you feel ready again. 

Step 2 – Ownership/Responsibility

In your mind and heart you must accept full ownership of your feelings and your contribution to the situation, and this must be reflected in any words you use. If even the slightest hint of blaming your partner comes through, it will likely derail the situation.  When words are required, it is best to speak more about yourself and your experience and very little about your partner.  This is not to say that you should blame or criticize yourself either; this prolongs the process as well. If an apology feels appropriate, which in some cases is not, be certain it is heartfelt-no hollow apologies! When it is sincere you will feel it deeply and only need to say it once.

Step 3 – Forgiveness

This last step is arguably the most challenging and misunderstood of them all. It involves a true letting go of the emotional pain/attachment around the situation and the ability to have compassion for your partner at the same time. The way you feel is the barometer as to whether you have reached the level of forgiveness. You will be able to look at your partner and feel authentic love and appreciation again. Just like an apology, contrived forgiveness is not effective. If you are not at that level yet, let that be OK for now because it cannot be forced. However, each day you can make a conscious choice to keep moving toward it. In a quiet state of mind, ask yourself questions such as:

What am I afraid will happen if I forgive?

Do I have to continue holding on to this?

How much am I willing to forgive in this moment?

 

And remember, don’t stop until you reach the freedom and glory that true forgiveness offers.

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Sunday
Feb082015

Do The Unexpected

Have you ever received an unexpected gift, whether material or otherwise, and noticed the positive impact on your emotional state?  The surprise of receiving something we did not expect usually has greater power than when we are already anticipating that something is on the way.  This Valentine’s Day, which is quickly approaching, why not reach deep into your heart (not necessarily your pocket) and surprise him/her with something truly meaningful? Let your soul guide you to give something that they would not expect, but that has deep meaning to your partner.

Better yet, don’t let Valentine’s Day be the only day you give gifts such as these. Find ways to give and express your love on just ordinary days for the pure joy of giving. You can begin right now!

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Wednesday
Jun182014

Welcoming the 3 Kissing Cousins--Doubt, Worry, & Fear

I’d like to introduce you to some old friends of mine who I’ve known most of my life. Virtually every day at least one of them pays a friendly visit and says hello. These 3 friends are so closely related that I call them kissing cousins—Doubt, Worry, and Fear. I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with all three and I’m usually not too happy when they appear. Occasionally I will attempt to bolt the front door and lock them out, but that never works. They just kick the door in and wreak havoc in my home, leaving messes everywhere. What tends to be most effective when I hear them knocking is to welcome them in, give them some space, and treat them with compassion.

When Doubt arrives she tells me that I am not good enough or that I can’t do something for any number of reasons. Her voice is often a faint whisper but even if I can’t clearly make out the words, I can feel her presence. When I am able to sit with Doubt in compassion and understanding, she will make her way out the door and is replaced by a new visitor—Self Confidence. Self Confidence tells me to fully believe in myself and to know that I have all the resources within to succeed in my endeavors.

When Worry pays a visit he tries to take my attention out of the present moment and into the future. He wants me to think about all kinds of negative outcomes that could occur. In fact, he just appeared and commented, “They probably won’t like what you are writing.” I hear you, Worry, and it’s OK that you’re here. I understand you are just doing your job and trying to protect me, but I don’t need your protection right now. I give you permission to leave and I’ll allow my new visitor, Trust, to step into my home. Trust tells me to stay focused in the Now, that I am going to be just fine, and that whatever the future holds will be for my highest good. Thank you, Trust, for those words of encouragement.

Last, but not least, is my good pal Fear. He puts on a great show, appearing to be the biggest and most powerful of the cousins. Rather than whisper, he shouts out loud, “Don’t try that! You might fail! They will laugh at you! Get small so they can’t see you!” Because his voice is so loud he can be very challenging to deal with. But when I can sit with him and let him shout, while at the same time cultivating compassion, his voice begins to weaken. I then have the wherewithal to call in my other companion, Courage, to help out. Courage tells me that I have the strength to move forward, even if Fear is still lurking around my home. It tells me to stay committed to my vision regardless of what obstacle may appear in the way.

While I sometimes fantasize about ending my relationship with the 3 kissing cousins, without them I may not enjoy the company of their counterparts (Self Confidence, Trust, & Courage) quite as much. So for now, I won't go out of my way to invite them over, but when they come a knockin' I will do my best to treat them with the respect and compassion they require.  

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