How do you get from where you are now - to where you want to be? If you keep doing more of the same, then you're going to experience...more of the same. Sometimes, when you're trying to achieve different results, it does make sense to make BIG changes. However, in today's episode, we discover how to find the tiny places in your life where you can easily make a shift - the kind of shift that will ripple out into everything else. Once you identify these leverage points, you might find that the bigger changes...take care of themselves.
Do you feel like there are some things that you just can’t ask for? How do you get what you truly need in relationship? And how do you navigate to true win/win solutions in a relationship where you and your partner feel excited by what you’ve created together, instead of feeling drained by compromise? In today’s episode, you’re going to learn a unique approach to getting your needs met, and getting your partner’s needs met. Instead of using a psychological approach, today’s guest, Max Rivers, is going to show you how to use the skills of mediation to breathe new life into your connection. In addition, through Max’s unique application of Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (which he calls “Embodied Nonviolent Communication”), you’ll discover another secret ingredient to effective communication within your relationship. Max Rivers is a trained mediator who teaches these skills to couples in a series of six classes. His forthcoming new book, Tired of the Same Old Argument, makes his concepts easy to understand and put into practice. And, of course, I’m excited to introduce him to you!
Why mediation? For those of you who may be frustrated with traditional couple’s counseling, mediation may be a more efficient and effective intervention for you. In psychotherapy couples can sometimes get stuck in a pattern of judgement in which they over-diagnose their partner. Furthermore, it can be much faster to go straight for the present needs and building conflict skills than it is to explore the psychological phenomenon that brought the conflict about in the first place. Mediation focuses on creating win/win solutions in which both parties work towards resolution. Resolution occurs when everyone is able to identify and communicate their needs- so much so that their needs are satisfied.
What do we mean by needs? Needs are not behaviors, not wants, nor do they refer to other people. Needs instead are our deep truths and speak to the places where our existential satisfaction lies. Needs have certain qualities- they are always positive in their intention, life affirming, and they are the relative and definitive truth of the person they belong to. Needs are the junction box inside our body where our universal and incredibly personal truths live. Know that you are carrying this box of greater wisdom everywhere you go. When we are able to drop down out of story, under the judgements and the thinking, we can come to find a felt sensation of our knowing.
Into me you see: The word intimacy can be broken down into the sentence: into me you see. Intimacy is created when we let another person see deeply into our heart’s desire and we show curiosity and interest in seeing into them. Dropping into an embodied sense of our own truth and then sharing it creates an increased connection. This connection alone is nearly 90% of the solution to conflict resolution! As Max Rivers says: “any two people with open minds and open hearts can solve any problem that comes in front of them”.
What is alive in me right now? It may take some practice and learning to be able to find your own needs. It is not that it is hard, rather that it is a turning towards ourselves in moments we have become habituated to turn outward. Remember that our needs do not communicate to us through words but rather through our feelings that arise from bodily sensations. Go to the body to listen. It is not what you are thinking but what you are feeling that has potency and can become a portal to clearer awareness of your deeper needs in any given moment.
Judgements: We are all guilty of hurling insults, blames, and judgements at our partner in moments of disappointment, rage, hurt, and pain. Why do we do this? Most often it is a tragic attempt to have our unmet needs discovered. They are our way of trying to poke and pry and push our partner into discovering our needs, however, because they communicate with such violence and damage they leave us alone, distant, hurt and in conflict. Make a radical choice to trust and believe that every judgement either you or your partner hurls at one another is actually a statement of needs disguised in the opposite form. From this perspective, you can begin to learn to listen to a judgement and recognize it as having no information about the other, but rather a trail into what the speaker is needing. Listen for what is underneath and ask yourselves: what is the reverse of this judgment?
Going straight for the anger. Know that other people do not cause our feelings. Perhaps try repeating this to yourself several times and letting it soak in. It is futile and ultimately frustrating to keep ourselves and our partners stuck in the shame and blame game. We must take the time to go past our stories and our histories and get straight to what is present right now for us. And then it is our responsibility to communicate our needs. Anger is frustration plus time, and the best way to avoid increasing resentment and rage is to communicate clearly and often. Your anger is yours! The intensity of your anger does not implicate the limitations of your partner (as we so often assume) but rather implicates you for not taking the responsibility of communicating openly. To move away from anger it is critical that we continuously tend to our subtle body sensations in the present moment, and speak to these. And it is so worth it! Not only will you avoid resentment, but you will be giving your partner an opportunity to fulfill your needs and this gives THEM pleasure as well!
Forbidden needs: Many of our conflicts arise from a frustrated and often violent attempt to satisfy our needs. All of us are carrying an embodied experience of having needs that went unmet in our childhoods and our earlier relationships. When needs go unmet for an extended time we conclude that these needs are forbidden either because they are inherently bad, or because it means that something is wrong with us for having the desire, or that there is another reason that nobody wants to meet the need. Due to the forbidden nature of these particular needs we try our damn best to live as though we do not need these needs. Our psyche tries hard to help us shun these needs, however, in doing so we get into a bind in which we reverse the content of the needs and we communicate the opposite of the want. We say “you are so cold” when we want warmth. We say “you don’t give me any space” when we want closeness. And on and on.
Make a feeling guess: As a partner when we hear these intense judgements it is easy to react and attack. Remember that these defensive and often offensive remarks really are NOT about you! Try your best to duck below the judgement and attempt to get curious about what need is being spoken for. Without ego, attempt to guess the opposite! If your partner is telling you that you suck at washing the dishes, perhaps they are really needing you to either thank them for their efforts or show them support around the home in another way. Make it your goal in moments of conflict to turn towards your partner with empathy, curiosity, and presence. Use questions to go under the leaves to find the truffles- help them get out of the past and the future, out of the story and the judgements and into their body. This process of embodied non-violent communication allows you and your partner to efficiently (and lovingly) get to the core of what is most true for them- shedding light on information that is crucial for both of you.
Moving from conflict to connection: Moving from conflict to connection requires this sorting through judgements and content to get to the deeper truths. In order to do this we 1) must observe and notice what is happening in and around us, 2) see what it is we are feeling, 3) identify the underlying need, and 4) breathe into these feelings. Breathing into the sensations in our body helps enlarge them so that we may find what is alive in there- what is it that is being communicated to us? What do these needs want from us? Remember that there will be a time to share and express what you discover with your partner, but not before you listen yourself. We can become habituated in relationships to offload the responsibilities of our needs onto our partner and this is a setup for being disappointed. So listen first, and see what your needs are asking of you before turning to your partner.
Beginning the beneficial cycle: You’ll know you have defined a need as there is a palpable shift into a sensation of softness and relief- an ‘Ah...I’m home’ sighing sort of feeling. The quality of time and space may shift and there will be an increase of kindness, non judgement, and excited curiosity. There will be a shift away from blame, and the total trust that no one is doing anything wrong or bad. The judgements begin to turn into intimate connections, the vicious cycle begins to slow down until it stops and reverses into a beneficial cycle. As you share what is true about you in any given moment it gives your partner the freedom and safety to share what is true about them, which in turn will give you more safety, which then creates a positive reinforcing cycle. And who doesn’t want that?
The benefit versus the disappointment of difference: What if we were to believe that the core value of relationship is difference? The reason we want to be in relationship ultimately is because the ways our partner is different than us helps to match what is needed in us. Max Rivers states that “a love match is this amazing mathematical combination of our strengths matching up with their forbidden needs, and their strengths matching up with our forbidden needs”. How have you been perceiving and experiencing difference in your relationship? Take a moment and check in on the messages you have received and the stories you hold about difference. The louder cultural stance, at least here in the US, is that difference is both dangerous and bad. From this belief, difference becomes a source of unending conflict as we try to change the person we are with into ourselves as we believe this may make things easier. But just imagine if you succeeded! It would be a disaster not only because you need difference to bring polarity and energy to a relationship, but also if you both truly succeeded then you would have simply switched places! Conflict is almost always caused by misunderstood difference. As you begin to re-appreciate the benefits of the differences between you and your partner and begin to acknowledge how your strengths and needs match up, you begin to pave your way towards mutual satisfaction.
You need the needs of your partner: As we understand needs more deeply, and move away from a culturally stuck view of ‘having needs’ equating to ‘being needy’, we can begin to fall in love with the ways that our needs bring us intimacy. We are in fact hard wired to get pleasure and fulfillment from meeting our partner’s needs. We begin to feel that our differences are being honored and celebrated, and we grow in our confidence that what we bring to our relationship is deeply and critically supportive for our partner, and vice versa.
Slowing down is also a strategy: Many of us have been programmed and raised to try to figure our way out of conflict. We quickly jump to solutions in an attempt to feel helpful and to avoid discomfort. In this speeding through of the process, we can miss the listening is necessary to actually identify what it is that is needing “fixing”. Invite yourself to see slowing down as a strategy in and of itself. Once ALL of the needs are on the table, then the creative process of solution and strategy finding can happen successfully- and often times much more efficiently. Once we are in a place of clarity around the needs, we will find ourselves with many more options. This is true because needs are incredibly flexible, and there are often endless ways of meeting our needs. Strategizing can become an energizing and loving co-creative process. Two people with open hearts and open minds, even when presented with an incredibly complex set of needs, will have a huge capacity for creating answers and strategies. Be open to surprising yourselves and each other as you work together as a team!
Listening them down to silence: So how DO you get all the needs on the table? The answer is simple, yet takes discipline, dedication, and practice: Invite your partner to share with you and be sure to listen openly and with excited curiosity. When they finish, reflect back what you heard, and ask “and what more?” Keep inviting them to share more until that sweet sigh of relief and release is felt by both of you- that sensation that yes, that is all.
Go to the breath to find what is alive in you. Here is a short meditation to help get into the body to listen lovingly to the truth and wisdom of your needs:
Take a few easy breaths. Moving deeper into your body. Notice what sensations are arising. Notice, without judgment, whatever it is you are experiencing right now. Observe what feels heavy or light, cool or warm. Is there a difference from one side of your body to the other? Is there a place of stuckness? And where is there movement? See if you can breath into those parts of your body and enlarge your experiencing of that space. Imagine that it has some deep desire for you. That it is positive in its intention and it knows precisely what it is you desire. Invite it to communicate in any ways it wants to. Does it have a message for you? What does it want for you in this moment? And what is it asking of you so that you may have that? Add breath into your questions and see what arises.
If you discover something which feels true- take a risk and share it with your partner! Share it with the intention of your partner seeing what is true and alive in you. Imagine that they will be delighted to know and to learn this. Every bit of truth that they find out about you is more for them to love.
Learn more about Max Rivers’ work with Teamwork Marriage Mediation where you can book sessions, watch videos, and read more!
Read Max Rivers’ new book Tired of Having the Same Old Argument? (visit his website and click the “Buy the Book” link for the latest edition)
www.neilsattin.com/rivers Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Max Rivers.
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How do you know if you're being codependent? What happens if, in the process of trying NOT to be codependent, you stop considering your partner? How do you find the balance? And what is the antidote for resentment in a relationship? In this week's episode of Relationship Alive with Neil Sattin, you'll discover the essential difference between being codependent and being considerate - and you'll learn how to find even more freedom AND connection with your partner.
How do you grow into something new and greater with your partner? How do you foster feelings of love, passion and connection - no matter how long you’ve been together? How do you evolve beyond what you even know to be possible for yourself in relationship? This week we welcome Dr. Jeffrey Zeig to the Relationship Alive podcast. He has authored and/or co-authored more than twenty books on psychotherapy, and he is the architect of the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference, one of the most important conferences for therapeutic professionals. His work is on the cutting edge of helping us evolve what we know about what’s possible in the science of helping people change, as he is in a unique position to survey the entire landscape of what people are doing in the field of couples therapy.
Stages of Love: Love is a biological phenomenon that has three different stages, each with their own neurobiology. The first is the Stage of Attraction; this is when we discover someone who we feel drawn to. The next is the Stage of Attachment; this is a stage of luminance, which is marked with high sexual activity, an intense desire to find similarities, and a sense that you cannot get enough of each other. This stage then evolves into the Bonding stage in which we choose our partner as our mate. At this stage the neurochemicals secreted naturally drive down sexual desire. This decrease in dopamine rich sexual activity can become a crisis for couples who do not understand that there is a biological context influencing this change and instead create stories of lost connection or attraction.
Shakespeare was right- love is blind. In the luminance stage we are nearly incapable of seeing our partner for who they truly are. In fact, we see them through a distorted hormonally influenced haze-biologically donned rose colored glasses. It is not until we enter into the bonding phase that we begin to see our partners in a more realistic way. This inevitable change in perception can be jarring, and especially threatening if not understood through biology.
Discovering difference: As we settle into deeper relationship commitment the differences that provided such attractive polarity in the beginning can become sources of strain and strife. Too often relationships become like religious enclaves in which each person tries to convert their partner to do and be like them- more articulate, more organized, more emotive, and on and on… This can become a time of crisis with higher rates of alcoholism, workaholism, divorce, and affairs.
Allergic to each other’s strengths? If we are not careful, we can become allergic to our partner’s strengths. What were once your partner’s idiosyncratic characteristics that so attracted you to them can become irritating if you do not continually refresh your appreciation. When we focus our energy on trying to control or conform our partners to match our desires we misread difference as disaster, disappointment, and failure (on their part and ours). In healthy relationship differences are not dangerous, rather they are celebrated.
JFK reminds us to ask a different question: How can you find your way back to appreciation of your own and your partner’s different strengths? Ask not what your partner can do for you, but what you can do for your relationship. In what ways can you step up? In what ways can you improve? Don’t target the other person and expect change from them. Instead of reaching over the fence and weeding their garden, weed your own garden and instead gaze over to their side to look for the flowers. A loving stable relationship grows and thrives in an atmosphere of appreciation, rather than one of comparison and judgment.
TOPIAH: Wait, what IS love? It is not just a concept based on internal characteristics (like passion, security, appreciating the other person, trying to make the other person feel comfortable...). Instead, love is an interaction pattern. It is not something that happens solely inside a person- it is something that happens amongst and between. We do not have words to accurately describe this interactional experience. How can we capture the essence of what occurs between two loving people? TOPIAH is an acronym that attempts to describe this experience- it stands for Taking Obvious Pleasure In Another’s Happiness. An upward spiral of energy and connection is created when you show your partner that you are happy with that which brings them happiness and meaning. Make this appreciation obvious!
Change the spotlight: Due to survival needs we have evolved to be neurobiologically wired to focus on the negative and on mismatching differences (finding what is wrong in a given situation). With this small amount of scientific understanding, along with the knowledge that we are capable of rewiring our brains, we can begin to train ourselves to cultivate the art of appreciation and awareness of the positive. Being intentional is not easy, nor always instinctual- it requires a degree of thoughtfulness and an ability and commitment to choosing what you place your spotlight of awareness on. Bring the spotlight to the present moment through a smile, a gesture, a hug, a sweet comment. So much of the time we are trying to DO things that make our partner happy, however simply the act of noticing that your partner is happy about something and shining a light on that is in and of itself a positive contribution to emotional connection and fulfillment.
Little acts of kindness build insulation. John Gottman reminds us that we should strive for a 5:1 ratio of moments/experiences of connection and attunement to experiences of discord. Little acts of kindness in which we display thoughtfulness and responsiveness to our partner is like making deposits in the emotional bank account, or better yet, building insulation. Don’t miss opportunities for appreciation! You want to build enough insulation by virtue of taking pleasure in your partner’s happiness so that when the inevitable regrettable incident happens, the relationship does not crash.
Go from Yes, but…to Yes, and! Another critical way to make deposits into the emotional bank account is to change your interaction style. Many relationships get stuck in a habit of differentiation and power dynamic that incorporates a pattern of awfulizing. If this is the case you will literally hear yourself and your partner responding to each other with “yes, but”. This dynamic leads to a downward spiral in which each person is left feeling depleted, disappointed, judged, unheard, and disconnected. Change to a “yes, and” response and watch what happens! The positive energy that is generated is palpable. Instead of discord and deadlock a couple will find themselves improvising, and mutually inspired.
Emotions are not communicated with words: When we really want to reach our partner on a deeper emotional level, we need to connect with their limbic system. Emotions are understood and communicated in HOW words are spoken, more than in WHAT is said. We need to tend to the paraverbal factors of using gestures, posture, proximity, tone, and tempo to communicate directly with each other’s limbic systems.
Evocative communication: When the intention is to share emotions then we have to use communication that is more conceptual, even if this means giving up some clarity. There are two forms of communication- that which is informative, and that which is evocative. When you want to move something from the land of knowing to the land of realizing, you must build a bridge using evocative language. This is an art. We are storytelling creatures, and are moved through symbolism and metaphor. Find ways to incorporate metaphors and stories in your relationship in order to create doorways through which your partner may be invited into the inner landscape of your heart. This vulnerability builds closeness and deepens understanding of each other. So… go inward and explore your own sense of meaning and then get creative with your words.
Check out Dr. Jeffrey Zeig’s website for workshops for professionals
Find his video lectures on Youtube
www.neilsattin.com/zeig Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Jeff Zeig
Learn more about Dr. Zeig’s new project on evocative language here
Go to this website to read about positive addictions
And last, but certainly not least find, out more about the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference!
How do you know what you *really* want in relationship? And how can you help your partner truly understand what makes you tick - so that they can speak the language of love in ways that are meaningful for you? In this week's episode, we cover a way for you to not only help your partner show up for you - but also for you to discover hidden truths about what you truly desire. Learn how to create the first draft of your Love Map (as John Gottman calls it) - the User Manual for You.
Also don't forget to check out last week's episode, featuring both John Gottman and Sue Johnson on the topic of Attraction - how to sustain it, and how to revive it when it's gone.