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Relationship Alive!

Neil Sattin interviews John Gottman, Sue Johnson, Harville Hendrix, Peter Levine, Stan Tatkin, Dick Schwartz, Katherine Woodward Thomas, Diana Richardson, Terry Real, Wendy Maltz - and many others - in his quest to dig deep into all the factors that keep a Relationship Alive and Thriving! Each week Neil brings you an in-depth interview with a relationship expert. Neil is an author and relationship coach who is enthusiastic and passionate about relationships and the nuts and bolts of what makes them last. You can find out more about Neil Sattin and the Relationship Alive podcast at http://www.neilsattin.com
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Now displaying: February, 2016
Feb 23, 2016

Have you ever had the feeling that you get into the same kind of conflict, over and over again, in your relationship? And when you recognize that, do you feel more free- like you are able to stop the pattern in its tracks and do something better? Or, are you left feeling powerless once the train has left the station? Well, it turns out there is one major source of all conflicts within a couple, and today we are going to talk about what that source is, and in very practical terms how to recognize it and break free of those repetitive patterns when they are happening. And, we will also have a helpful hint or two for those of us in relationships with children from past relationships. Today’s guest is Dr. Sue Johnson, renowned psychologist, researcher, teacher, and author of the book “Hold Me Tight- Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love”. She is a leading innovator in the field of couple’s therapy, and the primary developer of Emotionally Focused Couple’s Therapy (EFT), which has demonstrated effectiveness in over 25 years of peer reviewed clinical research.

Get ready to learn even more how to apply attachment theory to your life in a way that will help you feel more grounded and secure in your relationship, and better able to take on the world!

In this episode, Dr. Sue Johnson and I explore the following:

Romantic love is an ancient wired in survival code- More and more research, and more and more couples, are helping to crack the code of love! We now know that you must go towards the emotions in order to understand the who, whys, hows, and whats of romantic love. Adult bonding and all the emotions involved in this is the key. So much of previous couple’s therapy and relationship advice has focused on skill acquisition and controlling cognitive thinking, but as most of us have experienced, skills usually go out the window in the face of enormously powerful emotions. Emotions are not byproducts of interactions, rather they are the music of the dance. Emotions organize our interactions. When you are lost, confused, stuck, remember Sue Johnson’s exclamation as she really looked into the research: “Oh my! This is ALL about attachment bonds!” And it is. Your mammalian brain is wired to perceive relationship threats as a matter of life or death, because in many ways they are. They key question in love from an attachment point of you is: Are you there for me? Can I rely on you to be there? Will you come when I call?

A.R.E: Is there someone on this planet that you matter to so much to that they will be available, responsive, and engaged? Aka, A.R.E. If you have ever been surprised by the intensity of your emotional reactions in your relationship (sadness,  anger, devastation, the list goes on), think about it in relation to attachment and the core need we each have to trust that your partner will be there.

A vision for what is actually possible in your relationship:

From last 25 years of research, and from what couples share, we know that you CAN learn to understand this dance called love. Even if you have had negative relationships, and even if you are in a distressed relationship right now where you are actively hurting each other, you CAN learn to see patterns, the way you move with your partner, the way you trigger each other, step on each others feet, and push each other off balance. You can learn to help each other in moments of emotional disconnection when your brain freaks out because it says “I am all alone”. You can help learn to balance each other and create a secure base. You can look and say “Hey! We are caught in that thing again, where I can’t seem to connect with you and I get upset and so I start poking you so that you will turn towards me, but you feel that I am just trying to hurt you and that makes you run away, so...shall we not do that thing and sit and have tea instead?!” Every relationship has that thing, that pattern, argument, stuckness that you find yourself up against over and over again. Get creative and make names for it! Our spiral, the nothing, the tornado… Make it so that you you guys can recognize ways emotional disconnection manifests in your relationship (so you can help each other out of it!).

A secure bond is the way we are meant to be! A secure bond is predictive of every kind of mental health, growth, and good mental processing you can imagine. We are born longing for this connection with a few loving others, and when you are in a secure place it is as if your whole system becomes available for collaboration. Without it our system becomes compromised. If you are spending 75% of your energy trying to prove to others that you're okay, worrying if other people will accept you, feeling alone, trying to persuade yourself that you don't need other people, or actually trying to please other people, then obviously it will cripple your growth and your ability to deal with stress.

Homo Vinculums- Somehow in the 21st century we have forgotten just how important secure bonding is. We are homo vinculum- the one who bonds. We are social attaching bonding animals and our whole nervous system is wired for that! Understand your own homo vinculum-ness and you will understand why it is so natural to be terrified of rejection and abandonment. In fact, our brains respond to rejection in the exact same location, and in the exact same way as it processes physical pain.

Hold me tight- We are social interpersonal beings that are designed to grow each other. Resilience comes from the ability to reach out when the dragon comes and hold hands with another human being. The best strategy for dealing with our vulnerableness is to ask for support, take in support, and turn to other people. This is especially true in our relationships! There are ways to share vulnerability and enter into emotions together in a way that pulls your partner towards you and leads to secure bonding. Remember that our partners can do things that no therapist can do, and that our intimate relationships are the most natural and potent places for growth. While there is always inner work that must be done (addressing triggers, looking at patterns, exploring wounds), it is in the safety and love from another that you can make sense of your emotions, learn to stay balanced, and learn to deal with panic.

Demon dialogues- Demon dialogues are those negative patterns and traps oh-so-common in our relationships. Here are three categories:

  • Find the bad guy- This is an attack attack pattern where both of you are pointing fingers, placing blame, and saying “this is your fault not mine”. You are giving the message that you would be “better even if I am by myself’ which is often not the case.
  • Protest Polka- This is the most popular demon dialogue and is also known as demand/withdraw. It occurs when one of you is searching for connection and you begin to demand it. The demander pokes and pokes their partner to get a response, and the other partner begins to withdraw more and more, feeling like the more they get poked the more they want to run. This creates increased distance, tension, and dissonance.
  • Freeze and Flee- This is a last resort/last ditch effort kind of pattern. It occurs when the couple becomes burnt out after hundreds of protest polka and find the bad guy interactions. It occurs when there is no clear solution and no other way to reconnect. Both partners become withdrawn and the relationship becomes a desert.

 

 

Invite yourself to think about your own relationships- Do any of these dialogues seem familiar? What patterns do you notice? Even the healthiest relationships have interactions like these, however because there are loads of other loving interactions mixed in, the ‘bad ones’ don’t become the central feature- and you are able to find ways to turn towards each other and reconnect. When you look closely together at your demon dialogues you will find the source-- either one or both of you are triggered and a raw spot has been exposed- you experienced a disconnection from your partner and you entered these dialogues in an effort, albeit ineffective, to repair connection.

Revisit a rocky moment at a later point through the lens of attachment to better process and get to the source of your arguments. Although it may seem that couples fight about dishes, laundry, ex’s, schedules...underneath all arguments is the essential question “are you there for me?” Once you can understand how the fear of rejection and abandonment is a natural fear, you will be able to identify where you get stuck and will find productive ways to deal with moments of disconnection. Talking about your fears and vulnerability in a clear way will get you both out of that stuck place where you quickly become polarized and dangerous to each other.

Deep in our bones we know this bonding dance. Even if you did not have secure attachments in childhood, we each have a deep instinctive propensity for bonding. You do know what you need to feel secure - you just need to be willing (and feel safe enough) to take the risk and as for what you know you need. Don’t make your partner guess! You can say things as direct as “Right now, babe, I need you to reassure me that you still want me!”, “Hey! Sweets! Can you please take a break and rub my feet for a few minutes I need some closeness if you are available”, “I need for you to tell me that I matter to you, and if you are too busy right now, then tell me will will do something together on the weekend”, or “This is scary for me to tell you, but I really do need you to reel me in right now because I am stuck behind this wall I built and I can’t quite get out”. People move into a new dance bit by bit when they feel confident enough to express and address their emotions.

Is a secure connection the enemy of eroticism? Many have long questioned whether long term relationship stability leads to a lack of eroticism, and some have even stated it as a truth, but good news is that all the evidence points in the opposite direction! Evidence shows that a secure emotional connection helps you engage, explore, and become attuned to your partner, which is essential for intimacy. Passion is the longing for emotional connection twinned with the ability to attune and move together in synchrony and then go into erotic play.

Extra tip: If you are in a blended family in which your relationship involves children from previous relationships, EFT is perfect for you too! At this point you may be overwhelmed by trying to balance the responsibility you feel for your children and their ruptured attachment, and the energy you need and want to put into growing your new relationship. You may be feeling like it can’t all happen at once! This is true, but the more you can work on your relationship the more you can turn as a team and parent (what are now) YOUR children in a way that makes them feel safe and connected. Focus in on the emotional realm of your partnership, learn together about the messages you send each other and why. You and your children will benefit from your increased sense of security and attunement.

Resources

For more research and videos on the science of bonding see Sue’s website: www.drsuejohnson.com

Read her book: Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love

The Still Face Experiment: Dr. Edward Tronick

www.neilsattin.com/sue Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Sue Johnson - and to qualify to win a free copy of “Hold Me Tight”.

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Feb 16, 2016

Have you ever heard yourself saying “There’s a part of me that feels one way, and another part of me that feels another?” - or have you ever wondered why you might do things that seem counterproductive to what your actual intentions are? Do you have a mindfulness practice, and wonder how you can get more out of it - is it not quite transforming your life the way you thought it would? Or here’s another question: when you take a moment to get to the heart of what you want, or “need” - how do you know if it’s something healthy, or just a way of perpetuating something within you that really ought to be something that you heal and move past?

Today’s guest is going to help you answer those questions. And if you’re inclined to do the healing work, what he offers is a powerful path to get you there. His name is Richard Schwartz, also known as Dick - and he is the founding creator of the evidence-based therapeutic modality called “Internal Family Systems” - which offers an effective way to address both issues within yourself and issues within a relationship. We’ll explain how it all works, and how you can use it on your own, on today’s show. Dick is the author of the book “You Are The One That You’ve Been Waiting For, Bringing Courageous Love to Intimate Relationships” - and we’ll use that book to help guide our conversation about how to apply Internal Family Systems (IFS) to your relationship. We discuss how to identify and heal the various parts of yourself that may be leading your actions, your beliefs, and causing internal and interpersonal havoc, and how to reconnect with your Self  in ways that result in lasting healing and promotes intimacy.  You will learn how to speak for your parts, heal vulnerable and hurt parts, and increase Self leadership. I think you will find that this approach makes a lot of sense and that it is very workable!

In this episode, Dick Schwartz and I cover the following:

We all have parts.  We all have parts inside, as if we are carrying around a family or a cohort of sub personalities. You’ll recognize this as soon as you tune into your speech- how common is it to say “part of me really doesn’t want to do that right now”, “another part of me does”,  “part of me is frustrated this is happening”, or any other form of “part of me…”? This is the language we each naturally use to explain the phenomena of having multiple, mixed, and sometimes contradictory emotions/instincts/beliefs. But, we are also not ONLY our parts. This is a distinct premise of the Internal Family Systems approach. We each have a Self and all that is not the Self are parts. Parts are autonomous, they have projects, agendas, missions, and sometimes are so self-like that they fool even us.

An allegory to explain parts:  A little boy is standing on the bank of a river watching the water flow by when all of a sudden the ground gives way, and he finds himself tumbling quickly downstream. He doesn’t know how to swim but at what seems like the last second he grabs onto a log floating beside him. He grabs on with all his might and hugs it until the water washes him safely onto a beach further downstream. The boy tries to step up to solid ground but it is difficult to walk with the heavy log. He cannot let go of the log, fearing he will not be able to survive without it, and yet he is stuck holding it.  

This little boy has a part that will not let go of the log because it believes the boy may drown without it. When we have difficult, traumatic, and confusing experiences we immediately learn ways to adapt in order to survive. Parts are our system’s response to painful experiences in order to protect ourselves from being hurt/shamed/embarrassed/disappointed again, and they learn to protect at all costs, even when it seems that it is wreaking havoc in our lives. You may know some of your parts already- the one that always makes you late, the one that makes you perfectly on time for EVERYTHING, the one that starts to panic when he/she doesn’t call you back, the one that makes you eat more than you intended, the one that is constantly pointing out flaws in your partner, the one that is constantly criticizing how you look… we each carry parts upon parts, some more extreme than others. Whether you love some of your parts (the hardworker? the dedicated friend?) or are incredibly ashamed by other parts (the addict, the procrastinator), it is important to understand that all parts have good intentions. Even the most damaging and dangerous parts.

Learning more about your parts- Your anger, for example, may be like the little boy’s log. If you were to bring mindfulness and curiosity towards your anger  (knowing that it has good intentions), focus in on it, and then were to ask the bundle of anger what it wants you to know about itself, you will likely get an answer. Often the answer will surprise you! Ask your anger what it is afraid would happen if it didn’t get angry so quickly. What you will learn is that it is likely protecting a young vulnerable part of yourself that it is afraid will not be able to survive without protection. You can ask the part how old it thinks you are. Often you will learn that your parts are stuck in the past, and that they are exhausted of their role. As we learn more about a part’s purpose we can learn what to do to help release it from its current role, and how to heal the original hurt. Most parts are not what they seem and will gladly change if they sense that it is safe to do so!

What is the Self? Not only does it turn out that we all have parts, but we also all have a Self! This is an internal omnipresent essence that cannot be damaged, and has all the resources that we need to heal ourselves. Some may call it an inner leader, an inner good parent, others may call it their spirit, their soul, their “I”, or simply “myself”. IFS defines the qualities of Self as the 8 C’s:

COMPASSION

CURIOSITY

CALMNESS

CREATIVITY

CONNECTEDNESS

CLARITY

CONFIDENCE

COURAGE

It can happen that our parts are so actively protecting us that it may feel like we can’t find our Self however as you learn to separate more and more from your extreme thoughts and emotions this more centered state emerges. It is helpful to recognize that it is always with us, and there are many ways to access this. Even just conjuring up these qualities helps to build Self energy. Many of you will know this process as mindfulness- the consciousness of witnessing ourselves in each moment from a compassionate place.

Self-leadership: The key towards healing is to build a Self to parts relationship in which your parts can begin to sense that there is a Self present. As protective parts begin to be acknowledged by the Self (bringing curiosity helps this tremendously), they are able to begin to trust more and step to the side which allows the Self to be even more present. A key question to ask in order to build the Self-to-part relationship is: How do you feel towards this part? The more self-led we are, the more healing can happen because we will be able to connect to the knowing that we actually do know how to take care of exiled parts.

Exiles- what they are and how they manifest in our lives and relationships:

By nature of growing up, we all come out of our childhoods and families with many exiles. Exiles are parts that in a painful moment took on a burden, such as the belief that “I am worthless”, “I am no good”, “I am not wanted”, “I am alone”. These vulnerable parts of ourselves are usually hidden, locked away, ‘exiled’ in our system by all of the other parts that are desperately trying to protect them. Sometimes some of us come to relationships in hopes that our partner will heal, match or redeem us, someone who will give us that special something that we did not get at an earlier and critical stage. This premise sets people up for relationships that may not work out because our partner cannot do our healing for us. It is as if your parts, in desperate want of survival, choose a partner instead of your Self choosing. Exile led relationships can lead to neediness, dependency, disappointment, and will likely run your partner away. Over time the parts that wanted to be taken care of become frustrated, they begin to criticize your partner in an effort to change them into the redeemer you were looking for, or your critical parts lead you to try to change yourself, and then you may develop parts that begin to create escapes through fantasizing, drugs, work, sex, etc.

Attachment theory taken inside- We are all hurt and we all have extreme protectors that screw up our relationships- and so, we each have a responsibility to our partners to work on ourselves. In order to move away from being in an exile-led relationship, it is important to learn to take care of your vulnerable parts. Instead of expecting or demanding your partner to be the attachment figure you never had, your Self must become the good attachment figure. In this way you become the one that you have been waiting for! Your partner then, can become a secondary support, a role that has a lot more vitality and sustainability!

Tor-Mentors- Although it may sound less romantic than ‘soulmates’, often our partners are our most prized ‘tor-mentors’- those people in our lives that help us learn how to heal by tormenting us! Our partners trigger our parts constantly, which causes large emotional reactions that become trailheads that if followed will lead you to some key exiled parts that may need to be saved from where they are stuck in the past. In this way our partners help us transform by shedding light on areas that can then be addressed between your Self and your parts.

Creating a Self-led relationship: Try introducing parts language into your relationship! Likely you will be amazed by the immediate impact on your communication. In order to get to the open hearted place of Self to Self interaction, it is important to learn to SPEAK FOR, rather than FROM your parts! Instead of “I hate it when you do that!”, say “I have a part that hates it when you do that thing”. Over time this will become something more like “When you did that thing it triggered an angry part of me that hates when you ignore me because it remembers when I was little and my father would do the same”, or something like that. In this way, not only are you taking responsibility for your reactions, you are bringing Self-energy (and all the qualities that come with that!) into the room. “I hate it when you do that” or worse, “I hate you” will cause your partner’s protectors (likely ones that experienced rejection or hatred) to inevitably react- thus creating a protector parts war in which one person’s protectors get triggered and react which alarms the other person’s exiles which put their protectors on alert. It is very difficult to get out of this cycle until you are willing to go beneath the protectors and see what it is they are reacting so strongly to.

Unburdening as a way to heal exiles and increase vitality in your relationship! Once your system begins to trust that your Self is truly present, a certain safety is created that allows for the protector parts to relax enough for you to access your own exiles. Often this process is best mediated with a therapist, as they can help act as ‘hope merchants’ and help you stay connected to Self so that you do not become overwhelmed as you interact with these most vulnerable parts of yourself. Once you have gained permission from your protectors you can access exiles directly and begin to find out what they need in order to release the extreme beliefs and emotions that they have been carrying for so long. Note: experience shows that 70% of most people’s exiles were ‘born’ before the age of 10. Once exiles are acknowledged, heard, and helped to release their burdens they spontaneously transform! In an effort to protect and survive, our parts take on roles and structures that often cut us off from our most vulnerable resources. The unburdening process reintegrates the original personalities of innocent parts which leads to a surge of vitality! By taking care of your exiles (instead of adapting to them all of the time), all of that child energy- the spontaneity, delight, playfulness, and creativity  will flood back into your system, and into your relationship!

Dos and Don'ts of trying this at home: If you would like to explore your own parts, try the following:

Imagine your partner in a room by himself/herself and you are outside the room, looking in. Just notice the parts of you that come up as you focus on your partner. Choose to focus on the part that is most visible/energetic/extreme.  Take your attention inside. Where do you find this feeling/sensation/thought in or around your body? Then notice how you feel towards it? If you feel anything that is not one of the 8 C’s then it is another part! Ask those parts to give some space and relax a bit.  Keep identifying parts and asking them to step aside until you feel curious towards this target part.  With curiosity and compassion it is safe to ask this part why it does what it does/feels what it feels/believes what it believes. Ask what it is afraid would happen if it did not do that thing.  As you learn what it is protecting then you have a lot of options- you can talk to your partner about what you learned, you can thank that part for its service and remind it that it doesn’t always have to jump in in this way. If you ask it how old it thinks you are and it is way off, then help it see that you are actually older and not stuck in that same young place.

At this point the protective part has likely led you to a shadow sides of yourself, the basements and darker areas where we each store our exiles. Be careful not to rush towards exiles- if it becomes too scary or overwhelming , more extreme parts will come in to distract and may cause damage in their efforts! As you encounter exiled parts and painful memories it is suggested you work within the safe holdings of a therapist you trust.

Exploring parts with and without your partner: A lot of this work involves intensely inward awareness and can definitely be done on your own. Beware however that as you work with your parts and address underlying core memories and bruises you may change a lot! Just as your protective parts will restructure themselves in response to your unburdening, your relationship may restructure as well- likely for the better! Tthe more Self-led you are the more attractive you will be to your partner! As far as working this model together, you can definitely begin today by using parts language. Begin to identify parts (make the come as alive as you can- color, shape, name) and start speaking FOR your part. As you each begin to learn about your parts and what they are protecting, share this. Share your own Self-energy with your partner by being curious, with them, about their parts. Together you can build a culture of understanding that all parts, even the most disruptive ones, have a positive intention, and once you can gain glimpses of what is being protected, then empathy for each other and your parts will emerge. This in turn leads to resilient intimacy, that kind of intimacy that is created by diving deep and coming back out to celebrate your healings together.

Things to try immediately:

-Notice parts and bring curiosity towards your parts. Where do you sense this part in or around your body? it may be a feeling, thought, sensation, physical pain, voice, etc. What is this part afraid would happen if it did not do its job? Ask it! Ask it how old it thinks you are! Thank it for all it has done! Let it sense YOU now.

-Appreciate all of your parts and how they have been working to protect you for likely a long long time. Remember all parts are welcome and all parts have good intentions.

-Try speaking FOR your parts! You will be amazed at how immediately impactful this can be in your partnerships

-Find ways and take time to connect with your Self. you can invoke any of the 8 C’s at any point and this helps conjure more Self energy.

Resources

Learn more about Internal Family System from the Center for Self-Leadership

Read Schwartz’s Book- You are the One You’ve Been Waiting For

www.neilsattin.com/self Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Richard Schwartz

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Feb 9, 2016

Today’s guest is Dave Richo, a psychotherapist, teacher, workshop leader, and author of the well-known book “How To Be An Adult in Relationships- The 5 Keys to Mindful Loving”. In this conversation we explore topics found in his more recent book “How To Be an Adult In Love- Letting Love In Safely and Showing It Recklessly”, and his brand new book “You Are Not What You Think- The Egoless Path To Self-Esteem and Generous Love”. Richo’s approach, which combines Jungian, poetic, and mythical perspectives, delves deep into the Buddhist concept of loving-kindness. In today’s episode we explore the whys and the hows of egoless love in the context of romantic relationships. You will learn key questions to help you assess your own ego balance, and ways to surrender ego in order to build self-esteem, address old wounds and fears, be fully loving in all of your relationships, and to actually evolve your capacity for love. You will be reminded and awakened to the ways in which taking care of ourselves is in itself an act of love.  

Here are some highlights, insights, and suggestions from my conversation with Dave Richo:

Widening the range of love- The Buddhist practice of loving-kindness is really about expanding our definition of what it means to love. It is about beaming out love to yourself, those closest to you, those you feel neutral about, those you don’t even really like, and all with EQUAL force. This force of grace and power is one that comes from beyond our ego, and extends through us to all beings. We can learn how to love, which is important, but we can also work on opening ourselves to call upon this sense of unconditional grace that is omnipresent and here to help us. How to connect with this sense of spirit is incredibly personal and you must find the right wording, symbolism, rituals, and practices that make it your own. However you relate to this concept, take a moment to consider that perhaps by incorporating awareness of this wider loving spirit you might find ways to better heal during difficult times, feel connected to your partner regardless of what you think or feel about them in a given moment, and even potentially, as Dave explains, feel more fully human.

Agape love: The Greek’s referred to this form of selfless, unconditional and utterly limitless way of showing love as ‘Agape love’. They saw this form of boundless love to be our own highest calling. Although the love we hold for our romantic partner(s) exists within the definitions of the Greek’s Agape love and the Buddhist’s loving-kindness paradigm, it is the erotic dimension that distinguishes our intimate partnerships from the crowd. Interestingly enough, the Greek’s also believe that erotic love exists in our creative pursuits as well. Therefore there are many ways to experience erotic love, and infinite ways to experience Agape love.

Tending to the relationship through Egoless Loving: So how can this wide definition of love inform our ability to engage the challenges that may arise in our partnerships? Love is about giving of oneself without being sure exactly what we will get in return. If instead, our egos are leading the way in our relationship we may find ourselves using the partnership to assert and solidify our own ego purposes, leading to patterns of selfishness (and not the good kind!).

The evolution of a relationship from Ego-ideals to Egoless led love: There are three phases a romantic relationship must pass through in order to achieve an egoless led love:

1) Ego-Ideal to Ego-Ideal Romantic Phase: In the beginning… two individuals meet, and their two ego ideals fall in love. Meaning that person you always desired is finally found! Stars, rainbows, romantic dates, until…  

2) Ego to Ego Phase: The inevitable conflicts, big or small, begin, and the ego-ideals erode and you begin to see the other person as she or he really is (warts and all). You may start to see your partner as self-centered, self-promoting, self-ish, or maybe you just start getting really irritated with the way they do or don’t do the dishes, you get the idea… In this conflict stage, the goal is to confront the ego dimension of ourselves and see if we can let go of it in favor of a more loving response. There are many psychological techniques, communication tips, outlined processes, prompts and activities you can choose to engage in here to help address, process, and make it through this phase. Regardless of how you and your partner work on your conflicts, it is critical to remember that this is an act of love! When we commit to working through the tough stuff and putting in the energy when struggles arise we are showing ourselves and our partners love in action. This increases connection, and of course, trust. And it leads to the final phase.

3) Egoless Love Phase: Through successfully showing up for Phase 2 and taking responsibility for our own egos, a new dimension of love is possible. Now that our partners can trust that we are dedicated to tending to the partnership versus tending solely to our egos, true commitment is possible.  (Note to eager hearts: this is the appropriate time to choose marriage rather than during the Ego-ideal phase!).

Hold up! Lets take a moment to look closer at what ego is, and what it means in love.

Ego is the latin word for ‘I’. It lies on a continuum. One extreme is when the ego is inflated which can look like arrogance/swagger/narcism, and on the other extreme when the ego is deflated it can look like withdrawn/shutdown/doormat-like. In equilibrium the ego is strong yet not forceful, direct but not judging, respectful, humble, confident without arrogance, and loving.

Only from a healthy ego is true love possible. You cannot be fully loved by those whose egos are stuck on either end of the spectrum. Someone with an inflated ego cannot truly love you, even if it seems she/he cares about you it is only because they are focusing on you to see what they can get from you. Someone with a deflated ego is guided by fear and appeasement, neither conducive to deep healthy love. Those with healthy egos however, have self-esteem, and so they are capable of looking into YOU.

Helpful questions to uncover where you are on the ego spectrum, and consequently discover if the love you are giving and getting in your relationship is healthy:

We are each born with a set of original needs, Dave categorizes them into the 5 As: attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing.

-Attention- your caretakers focused on your needs in an engaged way

-Acceptance- your family and community accepted you as you were

-Appreciation- your family cherished and celebrated you

-Affection- your family showed affection in physical and appropriate ways

-Allowing- your family supported you without clinging or holding you back

These five needs remain with us throughout our life and they create a solid definition of how love is shown.

How do you know that you really love yourself? Ask! Using the same 5As you can ask yourself “Am I paying attention to my needs? Am I accepting myself as I really am? Am I holding myself as valuable? Am I taking care of my body? Am I allowing myself to make the choices that reflect who I am rather than what others insist?

Notice your answers, and notice how assertive you are. Can you state your needs without aggression or demand? Are you afraid of asking for what you want or afraid of your needs themselves? Are you afraid of needing or wanting to be fully loved?

Bring the 5 As into your relationship by talking through them with your partner and turning the questions around! How can I pay attention to your needs? Am I accepting you as you really are? Etc. This can be in incredibly informative and empowering process to pursue together.

When you can give yourself the 5As it is called healthy self-love. When you can give your partner the 5As it is called intimacy. And don’t be fooled. Acts of self-love are in themselves a way of showing love to others. Turning attention inward helps you show up and be fully you!

The 4A Process: In establishing intimacy, it is critical to address fears of intimacy- Although subconscious, hidden, or simply out of awareness, many relationship conflicts arise from two common fears originating from our childhoods: 1) fear of abandonment and 2) fear of engulfment. These fears develop into fears of intimacy and are the root causes of so many relationship struggles (both MAJOR and minor ones!). The 4A process can help you and your partner work through the fear(s).

1) Admit- admit you are afraid, share with your partner

2) Allow- allow yourself to feel the feeling

3) Act as If- feel the fear but do it anyway, don’t let the fear stop you

4) Affirmation- Tell yourself “I am letting go of this fear”

An example: “When you hug me I feel scared you will smother me, but please keep hugging me so that I can work through this feeling because I know you are safe and will not overwhelm me. I don’t want the fear to stop this moment that is happening, so I am going to let go of this fear.”

Work with original fears so that you can experience the other side of intimacy! There is a difference between fear management (making exceptions, working around, and placating ourselves, etc) versus taking responsibility for our fear (tracing source, acknowledging triggers, expressing awareness).

It’s not you, It’s me! While our romantic relationships are indeed sources of deep happiness, they are also our best labs in which to grow into awakened, full, and healthy human beings. As so many of us have experienced, our intimate partnerships lead us to the most undeveloped parts of ourselves. Humbling! Intruiging! And experience shows that everyone, we mean everyone, has childhood scars that continue to dwell in the psyche and play out in subtle, and unsubtle ways! Taking responsibility and becoming aware of how our past carries over into the present is in itself an ACT OF LOVE.

Healthy relationships give us the opportunity to heal old wounds, and therefore the ability to have healthier relationships, and so on. Welcome these opportunities to heal your past!

For those of you growth-oriented partners, you can begin to ask yourself and your partner “how can I best sponsor growth and healing?” From this place of love, you can engage in what Dave calls Safe Conversations.

Safe Conversations- If you want to love yourself and allow your relationship (current or future) to have more love in it, you must be willing to have conversations without judgement about how the past is informing the present. From here you can choose how you want to give and receive the 5As and how to have a relationship in which childhood wounds are no longer getting in the way. Safe Conversations help to air out and find patterns for deeper understanding. Here is short list of example questions to discuss with your partner (taking turns asking each other), but please refer to Dave’s book for more a more in depth discussion. “How were your early needs handled in childhood? How did your parents show you the 5 As?” “How can your needs be met now in this relationship?” “How were your feelings handled and expressed in your childhood? How was sadness shown? Anger? Fear? Joy?” “How were conflicts handled by your parents?” “How do you want to handle conflicts in our relationship?” “How was free speech seen ny your family?” “How can you feel safe to speak your needs in our relationship?”

This is a lot! It is long, deep, unfolding, and takes an immense amount of ego-less led presence. Take breaks!

And lastly, a suggestion for expanding your daily capacity for loving kindness: Daily rituals help call our awareness to attention, Dave shares his morning dedication with us: “I say yes to everything that happens to me today as an opportunity to give and receive love without reserve. I am thankful for the enduring capacity to love that has come to me from the sacred heart of the universe. May everything that happens to me today open my heart more and more. May all that I think, say, feel, and do, express loving kindness towards myself, those close to me, and all beings. May love be my life purpose, my bliss, my destiny, my calling, the richest grace I can receive or give and may I always be especially compassionate toward people who are considered least, or last, or who feel alone or lost”

Resources

Dave Richo's Website

How to Be an Adult in Relationship on Amazon

How to Be an Adult in Love on Amazon

You Are Not What You Think on Amazon

www.neilsattin.com/adult Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Dave Richo

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Feb 3, 2016

Today, we’re going to talk about lies. Why do we lie - ever? And while it’s easy to perhaps scapegoat people who aren’t telling the whole truth - as with anything in relationship - it takes TWO to tango - so how does the person who’s being lied TO help create the dynamic? Most importantly - how do you bring your relationship back into balance, so that you can experience the power created by telling the truth and being in integrity. Today’s guests are Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson. They are two of the world’s leading experts on couples therapy and the topic of honesty in relationship, and their groundbreaking book - Tell me No Lies - explores exactly these questions about how to undo the damage caused by all lies - big and small - in relationship.

In today’s conversation, Ellyn Bader, Peter Pearson and I discuss the following:

What constitutes a lie? Lying is not an exact science, rather it occurs on a continuum, with several distinct types:

Equivocations: Giving ambiguous, indirect, or contradictory information

Exaggerations: Overstatements and truth stretching

Understatements: Minimizing or downplaying aspects of the truth

Concealments: Deliberately omitting information that is important and relevant

Deliberate lies: Making up information, or giving the opposite of the truth (no versus yes)

Felony lies: These are the big high stakes ones

Why do we lie? The good the bad and the ugly. Lying always has a purpose, and is often resulting from a need to protect something.  What is crucial to consider is the motivation behind the lie, and what in fact the individual is trying to protect. Is it their ego? Their sense of security? Fear of shame? In some cases, as often happens in the beginning of a relationship, lies may be told in order to HELP solidify the bond and create closeness (“Yum, the dinner you made was delicious!”). In other cases lies are told in order to avoid conflict or tension, or to avoid hurt feelings. We also lie to advance ourselves, enhance our image, protect ourselves, or gain power. While there are minor seemingly loving lies that are told in order to protect the bond, it is almost always more successful to protect the relationship through truth telling, as risky and scary as it may seem.

Lying between me, myself, and I: There is an enormous amount of self deception in most relationships, and let’s be honest, in our lives in general. Everyone, whether currently coupled or not, can take time to ask: Am I really telling myself the truth about my own experience? How well do I know myself? How much am I able to communicate what I know about myself?

These questions are incredibly potent to hold as a relationship begins to unfold. In the honeymoon phase, or what Bader refers to as the ‘temporary psychosis phase’ due to the plethora of neurochemicals involved with falling in love that make us “bonded and stupid”, it is very normal to lie. Mostly to oneself. Amidst the adrenaline and excitement of new love, many people do not pay attention to their own wishes, desires, or needs. Some may forget to ask themselves “Who am I really? What really matters to me?”. This is natural because when people first come together there is a strong desire to try and be the same. They may knowingly and unknowingly minimize differences and emphasize ways they are alike in order to prove compatibility to each other, and find alignment. This can actually be a cute, sweet, profound, and important process, however where it goes from here is the make or break…

Lack of differentiation creates havoc in the long run: While it may be normal to search for commonality in the beginning of a relationship, a couple must begin to welcome and celebrate difference early on in order to avoid getting stuck on “the dark side of the honeymoon”, that petri dish for resentment, fear, instability, and ultimately distrust. Failure to differentiate usually results from one or both partners being conflict avoidant, meaning that they hold the basic fear that conflict will lead to rupture or collapse of the relationship.  Because they are seeking security above all else, they are willing to overcompensate or over adapt for long periods of time in order to keep the illusion of permanence in the relationship. This begins by the conflict avoidant partner not expressing their desires, needs or wishes, and frequently includes lies by omission. This partner gives more and more of themselves, ignoring important parts of themselves, until they either collapse, become depressed, develop secret anger, etc. This leads to the next stage, the “Freedom Unhinged” state, in which the relationship begins to disintegrate. More extreme lying occurs, including the GREAT BIG felony lies (gambling, infidelity, etc). The stakes are high, and as one partner becomes more and more adamant that such and such is NOT happening, the other partner may even begin to question their own sanity. Often at this point trust has been so violated that couples usually separate as it is rare to be able to piece everything back together.

NOTE TO THOSE EXPERIENCING FELONY LIES: It is advisable to get a therapist involved. If you guys want to try to work through it on your own make sure to slow down. Often the partner who has lied is in a hurry to heal and looks to find solutions quickly. Let your partner express their feelings, all of them, and allow them to ask LOTS of questions. Regaining trust isn’t simply a decisional process. It takes a long time and it takes a lot of small things done daily. Do what you say you are going to do.

It is common to experience disillusionment as new love matures! Some things just don’t show up in early stages. Realizing truths can come after commitments have been made, and need not incite panic. Oscar Wilde says “the truth is rarely pure and never simple”, and this is incredibly true in relationships.

Inviting truth and how to AVOID becoming conflict avoidant: In order for couples to evolve well and enter into a growthful process from the honeymoon phase, it is key to start substantial truth telling early on. Each partner speaks up about things that are important and matter to them, even at the risk of moving into areas of disagreement. Although the early years of differentiation are not always easy, there are many moments of growthful tension. It takes courage not only from the one who tells their truth, but from the partner who is willing and able to truly listen and hear their partner share!

Lie Invitees: Knowing that lying is often one of those ‘two to tango’ deals, how does the person who’s being lied TO help create the dynamic? Somebody becomes a lie invitee when they do not fully collaborate on the commitment to truth telling. For example, when your partner shares honestly and with integrity with you and you attack them or shame them, they will inevitably think twice about being honest in the future, thus leading to increased deception. So how are you receiving your partner’s honesty? Are you being reactive instead of responsive? Are you being a martyr? Acting above? Playing victim? If so you may actually be encouraging your partner’s lie telling. The BIGGEST self deception that occurs in relationships is the belief that we are victims and not contributors in the distress.

Truth telling is a collaborative process, so always stay AWARE of your participation in what goes on in your relationship. Ask yourself “what would be required of me to bring more honesty to our partnership?”, “What can I do that would make my partner glad to be with me?”, “How can I be in order to increase ease and fluency in our communication?”. Come clean when you need to, and work towards being willing to SEE and BE SEEN, HEAR and BE HEARD by and with and for each other.

According to Bader and Pearson, THE ABSOLUTE FOUNDATION OF MAKING A RELATIONSHIP WORK IS NOT LOVE IT IS TRUST. Explore this, meditate on it, discuss it, play with it, reject it, embrace it, and notice. Notice how you react and respond.

Come clean with grace and generosity. When you become aware of a place in which you have not been totally honest with your partner, do not rush into confession. There is an art to everything, confessions included. If you are going to express a difficult truth, give your partner a loving heads up. Telling lies/not telling the truth can feel so shaming and heavy that there is a tendency to want to unload quickly and release the guilt as soon as you feel ready to share. This is not advised! It is as if you hit your partner with two arrows instead of one, stinging them once with your news, and second with the selfishness of your delivery. So SLOW DOWN (less in time, but more in tone). Say something like “Hey, I want to share something with you that isn’t easy for me to say”, and then verbally honor that your motivation in telling them the truth is to continue to build the trusting foundation you are both committed to creating in your relationship. This acts as a paradigm shifter- from ‘me and you’ to ‘us’, and helps facilitate your partner’s ability to hear the truth.

BE CURIOUS NOT FURIOUS- There is also an art to receiving truth telling. If your partner has shared something with you from a generous and couple centered place, it is good to remember to respond first with “I really appreciate your honesty”. Work together towards a place in which you can respond by staying curious, and saying “tell me more”. When and if you recognize ways in which you are either being a lie invitee, or having difficulty receiving your partner’s honesty, share this. Say something like “Honey, I am noticing that I have been doing such and such and that it might be making it hard for you to be honest with me”. By the mere fact of owning one’s contribution to the patterns, doors will open and fresh air will come into the relationship. You can also experiment together. Say “Look, I know that I have been reactive in the past, and I am really going to try to listen and hear you without demanding anything in this moment”. Then take turns! Give this platform a try and see if it eases or shifts any stuckness in your communication patterns.

Truth is a process and the key is to build a culture of truth telling in your partnership- Nobody is totally honest all of the time, but if you can start talking more openly about how to give and receive honesty before the nitty grittys come crawling out of the closets, the monsters from under the bed, those once upon a time white lies get revealed, it will make all the difference in the world. The more hiding you are doing the less vibrancy and energy is available for the relationship and for your life. So, create a container and a commitment together to being clear and direct, and don’t forget these two rhymes:

IT TAKES TEAM WORK TO MAKE YOUR DREAM WORK

BE CURIOUS NOT FURIOUS

Resources

Check out Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson’s work at: www.couplesinstitute.com

Read their book- Tell Me No Lies

www.neilsattin.com/lies Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

 

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