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
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Now displaying: April, 2019
Apr 23, 2019

Are you worried that your partner might not like you for who you truly are? And if you notice that you've been not entirely "you" in your relationship - how do you shift gears and create a context that supports more authenticity? Sometimes we discover something new about ourselves. Other times we knew all along that there were aspects that we've been hiding. Or we might act one way when we're trying to attract our partner - only to then feel trapped into being that "super-enticing" version of ourselves...forever. In today's episode, I show you exactly how to bridge the gap into truly being yourself - and how to invite your partner to be more authentic with you. In the end it will be a relief for both of you to be who you are - and to set yourself free from the shackles of society's expectations!

Also, announcing that tickets are on sale for Relationship Alive...LIVE! featuring Terry Real. We'll have a musical guest (Katie Matzell trio), and you'll also have the chance to ask YOUR questions. The show will be on June 6, 2019 at One Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine. Limited seats available. Click here to buy your tickets now!

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!

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Click here to get tickets to Relationship Alive...LIVE on June 6, 2019 featuring Terry Real and musical guest Katie Matzell

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Apr 16, 2019

How do you actually heal old attachment wounds in partnership - so you can create passionate, secure attachment with your partner? Today you’ll learn how to connect with your partner powerfully, in the present moment, to rewire your brain, break unhealthy patterns, and find the joy and wonder that’s waiting for you just below the surface. Our guest today is Dr. David Mars, the creator of AEDP for Couples. He specializes in helping couples heal attachment wounds and traumas, find each other again in the present, and create a joyful, passionate vision for their future together. His work can help you if you’re in a new relationship, or if you’ve been with your partner for 30 years. David integrates more than 30 years of experience as a couples therapist with today’s cutting edge neuroscience - and you’ll see exactly how that allows you to get into really deep touch with your own experience, with your partner’s experience - and how to bridge the gap between you. I’m so excited for you to experience David Mars’s work, and to see how AEDP for Couples can offer you something new in how you show up in your relationship!

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Want to experience a Luxury Suite or VIP Box at an amazing concert or sporting event? Check out to score sweet deals on a special night for you and your partner.


Visit David Mars’s website to learn more about his work and therapist trainings.

If you’re in a relationship and interested in experiencing David Mars’s work, visit

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FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict and shifting the codependent patterns in your relationship

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Your Relationship (ALSO FREE)

Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with David Mars.

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Neil Sattin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. It's been my mission to bring to you the most powerful healing modalities, the most powerful ways for you to find yourself in a deeper state of connection, with the people in your life that you're closest to. And of course, this can travel into all aspects of your life, but nowhere is it more important than with our partners, our spouses, our beloveds. And so it's been really important to me, not only to bring you what I consider to be the best of the best, but to also be uncovering new avenues that we haven't explored yet, because as fun as it is to have John Gottman on the show over and over again, he's a pretty cool guy, at the same time, there are so many modalities available to us that are effective and powerful.

Neil Sattin: And you may have heard my episode fairly recently with Diana Fosha, which was all focused on AEDP, Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy. And even though that's a mouthful, in its most basic form, it's about helping us heal the attachment wounds and traumas, the things that get in the way of us having the richest experience of life that we could possibly be having. It's important stuff. And of course, my goal for you is that you can not only access that, but that you can also bring it to your relationship.

Neil Sattin: So you get to overcome what it's like, not only to feel alone in you sometimes in some challenging experiences, but also what it can be like to feel alone as a couple, or alone in your couple. How do you bring connectedness in a powerful way to your experience of being with each other, in a way that deepens and leaves you feeling safer, more connected, more passionate, etcetera? So in order to dive more deeply into this topic, today we have an amazing guest with us, his name is David Mars and he is the creator of AEDP For Couples.

Neil Sattin: So it is the application of this work for therapists, in... So in a therapeutic setting, towards bringing couples into deeper connection with each other, and bridging the gaps of disconnect, bringing them into a more of a sense of peace and justice with each other, and also how they enter the new phase of their life, like that new phase that happens after the work that they do together, so that it can really be a powerful send-off into this new phase. And in preparing for this conversation, I've had the honor of being able to watch David work with couples, and it has been amazingly powerful.

Neil Sattin: So I'm really excited for you to be able to experience him here with me today and to get more of a sense of how this approach to healing some of our deepest wounds can actually be this amazing, life-giving, joyful, burst of experience that you can then bring into your relationship. That might sound like a lot for an hour-long conversation but I'm pretty sure we'll get close. So as usual, we will have a detailed transcript of this conversation, and in order to download that, you can visit, M-A-R-S, as in David, Mars, today's guest. Or, as always, you can text the word Passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. I think that's it. So David Mars, welcome to Relationship Alive, and thank you so much for joining us today.

David Mars: Thank you so much, Neil. I'm so touched by your introduction. And I'm just so aware of your dedication to watching all four of these three DVD sets of video training, and just so happy to have this honor of talking with you and with our audience as well.

Neil Sattin: Well, it's great to be here, and I appreciate your generosity in giving me access to your work. And as people who are regular listeners of this show have hopefully come to know, it's so important to me to be able to have that level of familiarity so that we can dive more deeply. And otherwise, we could talk for an hour about how you came to be an AEDP therapist, but I want to go more deeply into what you do, in ways that also are in the context of other conversations that we've had here on the show. So for example, we spoke to Diana, so you don't need to give us the full run-down on AEDP. We may do...

David Mars: Yes.

Neil Sattin: A little bit of that just to bring people up to speed. But if you're watching or listening to this, then I invite you to also check out the interview with Diana Fosha, which is really powerful, and where this, the AEDP, part of the work originates.

David Mars: Yes.

Neil Sattin: And David, you mentioned to me that you were a couples therapist for 30 years before coming into the AEDP realm.

David Mars: Yeah. Yes. Starting in 1975. So it's 43 years. It's hard to believe [chuckle] but that's true.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that's amazing and let's just say that I was one-year-old when you first started. [laughter]

David Mars: I should say that my beginnings with psychotherapy and couple therapy were really also working with families and with the groups, and it's a lot of aspects of work that was beyond couples alone. But the couple therapy has always been my strongest affiliation and connection, and my favorite work to do, partly because it's so darn difficult to do well, so it keeps me growing through these four and a third decades and continuing in my personal relationship also with my wife of 35 years, it's so wonderful to be with her and to see how what I learn and she learns because she co-teaches the work with me. Karen Pando-Mars and I teach together and being married together with a 19-year-old daughter and a 46-year-old daughter, from a previous marriage, really gives me a sense of the meaning, a deep meaning of how it is to be alive, how it is to have love be a guiding force and a guiding principle for how to be making decisions and how to exist even in conversation.

Neil Sattin: So David you were saying that you have been in, you've been a couples therapist for 30 years, and I'm curious for you, in terms of, as we think about the landscape of what's possible in the couple's world, what was it like for you, even having been a therapist for 30 years to discover AEDP and just can you give us a glimpse of what that brought to you and what that's brought to the way that you've seen your work unfold with couples?

David Mars: Yeah, I want to give a little context. In the decades before finding AEDP, which was 13 years ago, that I came to AEDP, I had done work that was very related to AEDP in process work through Arnold Mindell, and in respiratory psychophysiology, meaning the knowledge of how the breathing and the body co-relate and I would... For two decades plus would use monitoring equipment, computerized and very accurate monitoring equipment to look at breathing, heart rate, hand warming, muscle tension etcetera of the couples that I worked with, so that I could see how they're being affected by each other, but even more important, they could see how they were affecting each other, and realize that, for example, if I'm a man who speaks to his heterosexual wife in a way that's very firm and strong and sharp and clear and as expected of me at work, but when I see that her hand temperature drops her breathing rate increases. Her heart rate increases and becomes more agitated.

David Mars: And I find out that, wow, that's strong masculine... How I'm speaking actually turns her off rather than on, [chuckle] except for stress arousal gets turned on. But not her closeness to me, if I'm that man, I can learn to speak more kindly and softly and firmly in a way that's more meaningful and sourced by my own experience rather than my judgments, very powerful. And in these decades that I'd worked before finding AEDP, I also was very much oriented toward positivity and would have to be kind of apologizing sometimes because people would find that over the decades, that positivity wasn't really regarded yet as being optimal for psychotherapy.

David Mars: Many people felt that going darker, going more into the harsher aspect of life or a scream therapy or whatever it would be [chuckle] in the 80s, for example, or 70s, was really more important than the attending to love, to kindness, the feeling of really modulating harsh impulses and speaking even when angry, about what is really meaningful, what you really want to be understood about where I don't take my "Hurt" and hurt someone else with it, but rather maybe choose a more vulnerable side of feeling sad which is a part of hurt, feeling sad that I'm hurt and angry that I got hurt, but I go with sorrow, then the partner is much more likely to come close to me.

David Mars: So, that preceded AEDP. What was different with AEDP, in 2005 for me was that in meeting Diana Fosha, within the first 20 minutes of her presentation, I knew I wanted to study with her. And work with her and come to New York and get trained by her and by the morning break...

David Mars: I decided on that first morning break to come to New York and study with her, with my wife Karen Pando-Mars, and in going to New York, I found that I was able to share video of my work even during the first five-day training called an immersion course, and had that thrill of experiencing the cohesion of how I'd been working with AEDP, but also the organization of AEDP's scientific principles, the effect of neuroscience in particular, the understanding about attachment research which has been immense in my life since, to understand how attachment research informs me, and helps me as a person and as a therapist, and also Diana as a person, her remarkable intellect and, genius really, and kindness and humbleness, an odd package to find in a person, [chuckle] and it was so inspiring to me, that within a few years of study and intense work, I was able to become a faculty. I guess it was four years or so, of really intensive study and supervision with Diana.

David Mars: And so the quality of, the felt experience of love that I already started with, got more deepened by understanding how the work of AEDP, Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy, holds out for individuals and then transfer that understanding into the couple work and adding to it my own background in bio-feedback and understanding how the heart, and breath, and mind correlate with each other, and how we can enhance that loving vibe, which is literally a pulse wave from the heart that can be felt, that that power is so gratifying to be part of an institution. The AEDP Institute in New York is so moving to be a part of. All the people in it, the 24 faculty plus Diana, are so resonant with the values that I hold, it's quite, quite a joy.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I mean, if you get the sense of like... I was watching these DVDs of you working, and found myself moved, moved to tears so many times and laughing and, or accessing even in a really sorrowful moment, we'll talk about this in a minute. But, so tapped into my own experience that I would be starting to cry and then, I'd notice "Oh my goodness. The person in the video is also on the verge of tears right now."

David Mars: Yes, yes.

Neil Sattin: So it's all about developing that. And so this is just watching DVDs. So imagine the power of bringing that into how couples really learn to experience each other.

David Mars: Yes.

Neil Sattin: So it's not like glimpsing that level of positive effect, but also living there.

David Mars: Yeah, I so agree with you. And I just saw a couple last night, for example, where the couple came in with the dynamic actually, like the one I described, of the harsh speaking pattern in the male in this heterosexual couple, and the woman being quite well-meaning, quite dear, very sensitive, and not used to being talked to harshly. And how she was raised, for her it's shocking to be disrespected, but for him, he grew up with a lot of disrespect, and a lot of challenging behavior from his elder brothers, and lack of protection by the parents, so for him, harshness, is part of a defense structure that is survival-based, and as he lets go of it and becomes kinder and loving with her...

David Mars: I was able to say to the couple, "You know I just see how much progress you're making between sessions, how many great examples you've given me today of how I see you becoming more loving with your wife, and she's responding so warmly. My thought is, let's just shorten the session today, I could see you doing the work in between sessions, and you can see this recording of the session and rehearse it at home," And he said, "I'm so glad because I'm exhausted, I would love to go home early." [chuckle] It's a very unusual situation of knowing their work is between sessions right now.

David Mars: With their two-year-old son, and that's a joy from me, that that work comes home, and shows up in the next session, as evidence of the work, really, I mean, part of the natural lived life of this couple.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that's an interesting feature of your work. And my understanding is that obviously, it's not a requirement for couples to have their work with an AEDP for couples therapist videotaped, but that is something that you do encourage as... And it gives them the opportunity to see themselves...

David Mars: Yes.

Neil Sattin: In these, sometimes less than ideal states with each other.

David Mars: Yes, yes.

Neil Sattin: And also to witness their transformation moments and...

David Mars: Yes, absolutely.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that seems really powerful for the couples that choose to do that, and choose to watch the videos that are taken.

David Mars: Yup, yeah. It is true that in the therapists that I supervise and train, most do not videotape all their couples. But all videotaped some of their couples, a couple, so they can get trained. And for me, I videotape all the work that I do, and I'm so joyful that my couples that call, I let them know over the phone, that's how I work. And for me, my first experience of video being used with me was in 1970, and I got to see myself several times a week, on video as part of my undergraduate training interacting with others, trying to solve problems and seeing how my brilliant idea when expressed in a certain way, would shut down the conversation. In another way, I could be more humble and come forward in a more soft way, a more relational way that would bring the conversation up, and all of us would rise together, like the tide rises, lifts all boats.

David Mars: So, I got to see in 1970, how that is, had that blessing. So for now, all the way from to then, I have this continuous relationship to video as a way to enhance learning, into how people understand, how the reflective function can increase, and the capacity to reflect on oneself accurately is a direct relationship to secure attachment and developing more earned secure attachment. If I know actually how I am being, and I'm aware of myself, I can be aware of you, and by being aware of you and me together, I can become more attuned, and this attunement is so precious because, without it, it's like driving a car around with newspaper glued over all the windows, not knowing where one is going. It's so important.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that reminds me of really learning any skill, and the process of myelination, and how important it is to slow things down in order to get to a new place. And I think particularly around self-reflection, that's something that, it's not easy to, a lot of us don't learn that as we grow up. So I can see that video-ing, process as a way of actually slowing down the circuit, and bringing people into that cycle of self-reflection in a way that would eventually accelerate and become just part of how you operate, from practicing it that way.

David Mars: Yup thank you for that. In attachment research, it's very clear that when babies are reflected by their mothers or their fathers, and they are shown that they exist and are recognized in a harmonious way that's reciprocal, that goes back and forth and it's contingent, where the baby's response and the loving parent's response are in harmony with each other, and there's a conversation called the proto-conversation before speech, that baby learns, "I am safe, I am loved, I am delightful, and I'm with delightful people who delight in me being delightful." It teaches that love is a guide, as opposed to fear being the guide, and it's a powerful, powerful example of reflection.

David Mars: I'm going to mention something else, Neil, that you mentioned about a couple seeing themselves when they're in these regulated states and realizing how they unconsciously and habitually, they drive their partner away rather than bring their partner closer. What I also really enjoy, is couples seeing each other in love. Pinking cheeks, reddening lips, eyes becoming more vivid in color, bright like shining light, and seeing the light in each other and the love in each other and learning to enjoy love. For many people, love was not something that they had joy with. It's loved mixed with fear, love mixed with danger, love mix with avoidance and dissociation. And so to find that love is safe to soak in, safe to send and receive, and visualize it on the video, visualize it and see more clearly how I can see love in my partner, and feel love for my partner by choice. These are immense, immense powers to possess and to cultivate.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I noticed over and over again as I was watching your work, the refinement with which you were able to notice what was happening in a couple, and then to draw their attention both the person who may be having the experience to, their own experience that they were having, and then to bring their partner in, to invite them into the experience.

David Mars: Yes, yes.

Neil Sattin: In a way that kept them in dyad with each other.

David Mars: Yup.

Neil Sattin: Can you talk about that part of your process and why that's so important?

David Mars: I'm having such an experience of delight that you've seen these videos, and they're so dear to me, I've seen them so many times in the process, [chuckle] of doing them, creating the workshops etcetera. For me, there's something of great, great delight in being a bridge of consciousness, somatic consciousness, and to see the best in people, and reflect the best of them back to them, and for them to see, hear, feel, sense, even knowing their own movement, that they are vehicles of love when they want to be, with increasing skill, with increasing pride, because it is such a deep deep shame for people and deep sorrow to feel not competent to love.

David Mars: It's such a feeling of loss, that I can feel I'm speaking of it. And to be able to love, to be able to be loving, and to be lovable, being loveable, is a skill that many, many people did not learn to do. Survival is not enough in my point of view, and thriving in this world to me, actually, it really requires people to love and be loved. And that's really, I think one of the core elements of how I can help couples to see the best in each other, and to see the moment of a smile before the frown appears to cover it, and just to be there as an open channel for the couples to see, and hear, and feel, and sense each other more vividly in each session.

Neil Sattin: Now, if I'm listening, then the question that comes up for me is, "Okay, but how do you address problems then if you're so focused on finding the goodness," I mean the goodness sounds great. Yeah, sure, right. So if you're having this kind of question, maybe one thing to ask yourself is, how open are you to the experience of love, like David was just talking about? And at the same time... Yeah, because people come in right with big, big stuff. "You cheated on me, you're always negative, you're... " right?

David Mars: Absolutely. One of the parts I really enjoy about couple therapy is the challenge of having a couple come in, who already is coming in with a dryness, with an anger, with a revenge impulse, with feelings of bitterness, hopelessness, deep, deep, deep even rage, about, let's say, betrayal. And the challenge for me as a therapist, to find the sweet spot with them, in the first question I ask them, which is, "What do you want with each other?"

David Mars: What do you want to develop with each other, not for each other or to get from each other? What do you want with each other to experience, should this therapy be successful? And the couple might say I just came in, we have just came in from an argument. I can't think about that right now. I said well I understand this is a transition that's difficult to make. I do see this intention between you, but all the more reason in this therapy, to choose to remember what you want with each other. Because that's our purpose in being. We can certainly talk about what happened in the car before you came into the waiting area. But I would rather have you approach that in a place of loving each other and valuing each other and feeling that you are worth working this through to each other. And from this place we can do great things, working out your conflicts, but only from this place of love can we do it successfully.

Neil Sattin: So you're grounding them in that sense of, why are we here? And if this could work, what would we want with each other. And how would you help someone who, for instance, is really landing in a sense of, "Wow, I'm struggling. I'm struggling to even want to answer that question for you".

David Mars: Right, so in that case, I might say. I wonder there's a part of you that wants to want to know what you want with your partner and find that part of you that wants to want to be close to her, and just to suspend for the time being the doubting part of you, or the angry part of you that is here. I understand that's a real part of you, but for the time being, to practice a mindful choice to occupy the place of choosing her, just to take the moment. Now, if you will please just see her right now. As you see your partner, "What do you love about her? Just set aside all the rest, just find that 10% of you maybe that really is willing to do this and occupy this part of you".

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Mars: What would I find Neil is that it may be almost unbelievable to imagine people can do this the first session, but it is true. I have video to show it. What I have permission to teach from videos, is very clear that people can choose love over revenge and love over aggravation or love over dissociation because they want to, they get better and better at it. Yes, more, more complete at it, yes.

David Mars: Some people can get out one phrase of what they love about their partner, what they want with their partner, and the next Non sequitur is what they're mad at them about. I just need to say, "Wait wait wait, so that lasted 20 seconds. On the positive side, please would you go another minute, just stretch to go a minute of being positive with your partner what you want with your partner. Just one minute." And they go another 14 seconds, another complaint, and I say, "Wow okay, 14 more seconds we're now 34 seconds in, see if you can go another 26 seconds and just be with this that you really want something with your partner, and just hang in." And I'm smiling when I'm saying this, I'm really getting how difficult it is, particularly in contentious couples who come often, at least one of them comes from argumentative family systems. Where learning to argue and have conflict was a skill. And to set it aside, you could hear the armor clinking on the floor, to release that armor is scary, it's downright, terrifying.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And what I love about what you're offering is the way that love and tapping into that energy gives people the strength, and safety to then visit harder places.

David Mars: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Because I definitely saw that in your work, that there were times when one member of a couple would get to this really vulnerable place and offering something and then the other person just like... And as you're watching it, you're like, "What do you think is going to happen right now?" And of course what happens is it's like, is that love received? No, it's met with some harshness, or disbelief or doubt. And something that I'm curious about is your ability to hold the love and the vulnerability that one person offers and I think this is a valuable skill as a therapist, and also in relationship to be able to...

Neil Sattin: For instance, hold that you're offering something that's vulnerable, and at the same time to be met with a no from your partner, a refusal, and to allow them that experience without it necessarily sending you into a shame spiral or a dorsal vagal response. So yeah. How do you hold that dynamic as a therapist? Because I was impressed by how powerful it was to honor, like, it's okay that you're resisting this love right now, I'm not going to force you to accept it.

David Mars: Absolutely.

Neil Sattin: In this environment, even though that, it's probably what you think. I want you to do...

David Mars: Exactly. That's very well put, Neil. Yeah, it isn't about compliance, it isn't about love your partner because I'm saying you should. It's much more really to remember for example in the... That volume one volume two from New Jersey the 30-year marriage DVD set that is a two-part set, when Joanne is refusing Mike's overtures to being loving and at a point, she says I've had 30 years of difficulties with you. I am not going to simply just collapse with my upset with you just because you're nice to me in this session, I'm not, I'm still mad at you. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Mars: And I have a right to be, and I'm not going to... I'm not going to just set it aside. I'm really, really hurt and lonely. And you haven't gotten it, and I want you to get it. Of course, the way she does it, puts him into dorsal vagal again, but I just love that her assertion is so clearly based in her sense of her rights to be a person who has truth with self as the first prerogative beyond behaving herself with a partner and complying with me or her husband and her ferocity I think is really an essential response to being deprived of having rights all through her life growing up.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Mars: So, it was such a... She taught me something there in that. Because it went on. [chuckle] It was like a 13-session series of sessions. It wasn't a super long treatment, but it was one that sometimes felt long to me because the setbacks were almost every session. There would be some part of her that just needed to be mean to him and, thump him one, not physically, but with contempt. And I would just go, wow, okay. [chuckle] Ouch. That actually hurts from over here. And that kind of transparent response that often bring humor to her. She said, "Oh that was really sharp. I don't want to be that aggressive 16-year-old right now, I'm sorry". And she'd apologize to him sometimes. It's that subpart of self that really wasn't quite in her conscious knowing, that would sometimes reach out and do something of an ouch to him.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah.

David Mars: In the sweetest, most vulnerable moments. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So much here to unpack, first I love that you incorporate that notion of multiplicity and parts that are operating. We've had Dick Schwartz on the show to talk about internal family systems and also Toni Herbine-Blank, which is her incorporation of that into couples work. So I find that to be so helpful in people being able to give a voice to the more challenging aspects of their experience, but in a way that keeps a healthy distance from it, while at the same time honoring it, so that they are not becoming it. So I love that you've incorporated that into your work. And I also just want to give some context, to everyone who's watching and listening to that... So David is talking about this two-part DVD set so it's actually six DVDs that are this couple's Conference and in it they show video of David working with a couple, and this couple had been together for 30 years and they were on the brink, the woman partner had had enough, she was done with things being the way they were, and so...

Neil Sattin: And I often get emails from listeners like I've been married for 30 years. Is there any hope for me? I think I literally got that email, like three days ago. So one, yes, there is hope for you. And then we get to watch over the course of 15 sessions how they progress together. So it's not like an instant fix and it's also not an un-enduring length of time that it took for them to achieve a lot of progress as a couple.

David Mars: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: So, just setting some context. The DVDs are amazing. And if you're a therapist or a healer, that immersing yourself in the approach like that is one way that I think would be super helpful for you.

David Mars: Can I add something to this Neil?

Neil Sattin: Please yeah.

David Mars: I'm thinking about how Joanne and Mike, and they had given me permission to use their first names.

Neil Sattin: Great.

David Mars: In discussing their work, they're very, very joyful about being of service in the world. So that their couple experience can inspire other couples to grow and develop past traumatic ways of interacting and deadening ways of interaction, to ones that are really truly conscious and enhancing. And the couple was on stage with me, and in the... In showing their videos. So they were being interacted with the audience of about 100 therapists in using language, I-language like I use with them, like they use with each other, with the channels of experience, which are sensation, emotion, energy, movement, auditory, visual, and imaginal and using these seven channels along with I-language. They can communicate about their internal experience, what's moving in them, what they sense in their bodies, what emotions are coming up, what kind of energetic experience they're having.

David Mars: And the intimacy of that speech with the audience of 100 therapists gets combined when the therapists are also speaking level, not speaking and pontificating, giving ideas or advice but are actually being moved and speaking from their own experience of their own hope that's being opened in them by Joanne and Mike and speaking from that hope and that joy and that honoring of Joanne and Mike for their struggle and for their breakthroughs, and for their being present with us. They flew all the way from San Francisco Bay Area to New Jersey to be there at that conference, and [chuckle] it's just quite a statement of their dedication to wanting to transform.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. Joanne, just to revisit something, we were talking about a moment ago, she mentions that one of the most powerful moments for her to witness was the moment where you... To say called her out isn't really exactly the right phrase, probably, but you highlighted how she was coming at Mike in a very cutting way and the beautiful way you said it, it was something like, "Are you perhaps mocking him right now?" but you said it in a way that wasn't at all talking down to her, it was just like, I'm inviting you to ponder, was that maybe mocking him? And she spoke to just the impact of, "Oh my goodness! Right, I am doing that. And that is, as you mentioned, not what I want to be doing."

David Mars: Yeah, that's huge, that's huge. And I love this part about tapping in the middle of my forehead, the orbitofrontal cortex, the third eye in more mystical traditions. The orbitofrontal cortex is the senior executive that chooses how to be relational, how to be conscious or it can lay relatively dormant.


David Mars: If we're really actively choosing our partners in an atmosphere of love, choosing to want to be with them or even to want to want to be with them, as I mentioned earlier, to find the parts of us that are really open to moving away from argumentation and toward really saying, "What do we want to be understood?" As opposed to going for revenge or for an impact, to go instead for understanding is a major, major shift in consciousness and is an invitation to be recognized for the depth of what one wants to say and to bring the partner closer, even though it could be in the context of conflict. It does not have to be in the context of conflict, because I can speak about the part of me that wants the closeness.

David Mars: I can also say how I feel saddened that I'm not reaching that, and particularly for a male in this world that I live in, to be soft, the one that I grew up in, in my family it was not such a wise strategy. To be tough, to be resistant rather than resilient, a lot of what I learned, and now in these many years, decades really of practice, how to be soft and responsive, is such a joy in marital relating, because it's so conducive to being understood.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. For me, what comes up is this vision of true responsiveness.

David Mars: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Like the more... What I particularly love of the many things in AEDP for couples is, how you're bringing people more and more online into their present moment experience and all the different channels, you just named the different channels of experience, we can maybe talk about that a little bit more.

David Mars: Sure.

Neil Sattin: But as a way of enhancing how you show up in the moment. So when you say softness, what I feel is my own like, "Oh yeah. It allows me to take in the world, to take in my partner."

David Mars: Yes.

Neil Sattin: And to not be bowled over by it, but also to really respond to it. I don't have to push back at it, I don't have to react to it, I don't have to shut down typical fight-flight responses. I don't have to do that because I'm learning how to feel that in the moment.

David Mars: Yup. I like that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I wonder if you could give... Just because I'm noticing we've been talking a little while without naming... I would love to hear from you what you feel are the unique features of AEDP for couples and how people learn to experience each other, and how therapists learned to work with couples and bridge, be a bridge of consciousness, as you were mentioning earlier.

David Mars: Sure, yeah. I'd be happy to talk about that. I want to spring from what I heard you just saying about when a person knows they don't have to do anything, they're not required to do anything, but it's simply a choice. That's the key to me about AEDP for couples, it's about choosing, about the freedom, the liberty, the liberation from feeling constrained. I must do something for you. For many people already brings up resentment and a hardening inside, to submit one's own wishes to do the wishes and biddings of another. Part of the control struggle that is phase two in marriage. First stage, falling apart... [chuckle] into love, kind of disassembling into love, merging into love, being, kind of losing our senses into love. For many of us, it is how we fell in love, not all, but for many. And that merger state moves into the next state, which is control phase. Who's in control?

David Mars: Who's driving this bus? "It's me." "No. It's me. I drive the kids and you drive at work." How do we actually have a life with two steering wheels in the vehicle and not have it be a battle? There's something about the quality that for me is in AEDP for couples, that is symbolized by a marriage ritual where there are three candles and that the two lit candles are the candles that represent each of the couple members, be they same-sex or heterosexual, and they come forward and they light together. The middle candle represents the marriage, but they don't blow out their separate candles. In some ceremonies, the individuals blow out their candles and the union is always left.

David Mars: This is a major problem. It gives me chills to think about the fate of that couple that gives up their individuality to become merged into one, and for me, it's a mess that's invited, where one couple gets absorbed... One couple member gets absorbed into the other perhaps and submits to the other and the dying of the self is a tragedy that does not go well, for most couples in my experience. So when all three candles are lit, both individuals are thriving and bringing light into the world and to each other and the middle candle of their marriage is also doing this, that the children that come from that marriage can be, if there are children that come from it, can be loved and loving, and feel the joy the parents share with them as well. As part of that AEDP for couples model, that if the guiding light of love, the consciousness of love and the guiding principles of the whole body.

David Mars: Mind, heart, and gut helping the couple members to discern what is right action, what is the correct and wise way to be right now with you my partner, my beloved, my chosen one? How do I be with you in a way right now because my habit right now would lead me into another direction, that I know is going off a cliff of sorts. I'm going to run into a brick wall of sorts. That habit is not my friend right now. How do I, in this moment of activation, of anxiety, of pressure, how do I find myself? Of exhaustion perhaps. How do I find myself freshly, consciously and be guided by my own body to do the un-thought known.

David Mars: That's something that I haven't given thought of yet, but it suddenly springs to awareness. I can be like this with you. It's an actual creativity, and that creativity and living is so much part of how we humans, in fact, all sentient creatures can be creative, and I'm thinking about hummingbirds, for example, who are so, to me, remarkable in their durability, and resiliency to get through storms, and cold and rain and to still be there the next day at the hummingbird feeder at the Mexican sage getting sap from the flowers. How they do this is a miracle of their, to me, divine nature to be following their own guidance. They know how to raise a family, how to be directionally wise to go where it's warm, to go where there's food.

David Mars: This is part of what the research of Northoff and Panksepp brought forward before Panksepp's untimely death this last year, the trans-species, neuro-biological core self, and this is a consciousness that's in living beings that is not just the high brain, but it's in some cortical areas as well, that guides us toward wise choices and it's tapping into this that AEDP for couples is specialized in, tapping into sentience and the knowing of the self, is biologically corrected and overrides early defenses and early habits that are not necessarily helpful. They're just habits.

David Mars: And I want to say one more thinking about this, part of my joy is seeing couples take the best of each of their lineages, the best attributes what they learn through modeling through their parents through being raised, and surviving in that home their, true strengths, but they simply don't need to be all the space junk of everything else that their parents brought through their unresolved trauma that can be moved out of the back yard of this couple's lives and just cleaned up. It does not need to be that the replication of traumas with the couple has to endure together, but rather the healing of trauma through kind firmness. There's a clarity of mind and heart that are really dedicated to having a life that really thrives. That's really the core of AEDP for couples.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I'm thinking of a couple things one like a really kinda broad concept and one like a very specific thing. The broad one being, what we spoke about in the very beginning of our conversation, that the work is about accessing those core states of being and how we bring them to each other. And along with joy and sadness is your lust and sexuality. This is the work you were just referring to and your ability to bring all of those things online is related to your ability to shed your defenses and your defensive states, not in a like laying yourself bare kind of way, but in a practicing new habits of interaction, new habits of handling big emotions, which also seems like something that AEDP and AEDP for couples is really strong at helping people with.

Neil Sattin: And then the specific thing that popped into mind is, when you ask people, "How do you know that you're having this experience?" Can you talk a little bit about that question because I think it's such a lovely invitation to bring people more into their awareness and also, to combat the projection, that so often is happening.

David Mars: Very well put Neil. Yes, and rather than operating by projection which is... Projection is necessary if you don't have sufficient information of what's going on and projection is not a bad thing, it's just that it's sort of inaccurate often, its approximate and often has our own stuff laced into it or it very confusing and sort of it condemns the other person if we follow projection as our way of understanding our partner, it condemns them to having our internal material put on them rather than really seeing them truly for who they are. Its very lonely to live like that.

Neil Sattin: Right.

David Mars: So for me, one of the beauties is when couple members have an experience of discernment. I'm noticing, oh, my gosh, my partner right now is smiling at me. I could have totally missed that had my therapist not pointed it out. She's smiling at me and I love her smile and I suddenly realize that her eyes are bright, she still has a light in her eyes even though it's just being disassociated, just that I lost track of where she was in the room even. Lost track of the fact she was actually here. And I was just talking to myself in a way and that moment of seeing more clearly in the foreground awareness that my love for her is in my heart, and I can actually feel heat in my heart. And then this is a quote from a session where the man says, "This is weird, there's heat in my heart. It's so weird." And she says, "I've been waiting for you to say that for 23 years."


David Mars: "I am so glad to hear you have heat in your heart looking at me when I'm smiling at you." And then he says, "It's actually more like warmth. It's so weird." And I could just... It brings tears to my eyes to imagine a lifetime of his life before meeting her then 23 years later, that she's still waiting for him to feel a warmth in his heart and know the warmth is real and he can trust it and therefore he can trust her and relax his defenses against her hurting him or being less than. And there's something so liberating that that moment changes everything.

David Mars: Once the feeling heart isn't just a pump, is actually a heart that feels and knows that sentience of being is with him. This is not a man who studies consciousness. He's a businessman. It doesn't matter, he could be a military person, he could be a dentist, it could be a doctor, whatever it is, we all have hearts of knowing, particularly if we can train ourselves to listen to them, and hear our whole bodies how they can speak to us and get this tingling in my fingertips, I'm having right now, as I'm speaking with you, as an energetic state that relates to the excitement I feel in this conversation and that if I can relax myself a little bit and slow my speech I can feel a heart movement.

David Mars: I can start to notice how my muscles can start to relax. I can start to let my excitement tone down some, so I can feel more of the sense of grounded-ness in my chair, the sensation of my chair seat and my chair back behind me and the floor beneath me, supporting me, I can feel I'm really here more grounded with you. I can begin to hear that in my voice, so the auditory channel, come online. I can feel the deeper resonance of my voice coming in. The quality of this self-reflection in this moment that is so much about the sensations, the movement, the auditory, the visual, the whole imaginal field that come alive in me when I imagine the possibility of this being heard by so many of your listeners and just there's something about that awareness and any moment for any couple member's life, any therapist's life, to know I can choose right now to get more grounded and connect more deeply with myself, simply because I want to, is a great freedom.

Neil Sattin: So this is so powerful and I want to spend just a little bit more time here and the invitation for you listening or watching, if you're watching is to tune in to each of these aspects of your experience, because at any given moment, you can bring your awareness to them and that will help do what David has been talking about, to bring you more into a sense of presence with your partner and more of a knowing, "How do I know that my partner trusts me, right now, how do I know that I'm safe with them? How do I know that I'm angry? How do I know that they're angry with me because I might be interpreting something that isn't actually happening?" So and to be clear too, you use these channels of experience in a therapeutic way as well, because as a therapist being able to tune in to what's happening in your experience and the overall field experience of what's happening between you and your clients, you're able to wake up in them, all of these dimensions of their experience with each other to things that are happening in their body that they may have not even been aware of.

David Mars: Yes. Thank you for that Neil. I'm aware of this two-part way, that I can interact with a couple. One is, how do you know that right now you're feeling sad, or I could even say, how do you know that the wetness on your shirt, the wetness on your cheek is saying something to you and the person literally says, "Really. Oh, right my cheek is wet right." I guess I'm sad. Oh, I am, I'm sad". And then he says to his daughter... Sorry his step-daughter, who is on a video monitor, cause it wasn't really safe for her to come into the session. Cause they had such rancorous exchanges with each other, she's on a video monitor instead, on Zoom, as we are in this session, you and I. And he says, "I'm sorry that I hurt you. I'm sad that I hurt you."

David Mars: And she's so shocked because his boarding school in Britain didn't train him to be this way, the beatings that he got from age seven on taught him to never cry. And the tears are leaking out unbidden unknown until he sees them on his shirt and he feels them on his face, and suddenly it brings chills into my legs and my back to feel the power of his being able to apologize for that totally shocks his wife, that totally shocks his wife of 22 years.

David Mars: Totally shocks his step-daughter and she begins to weep just weeping and he's weeping and she's weeping and her mother's weeping in this couple session with the daughter there, who's 43, and we're all with tears and the feeling of the mercy of his breakthrough based on him for seeing the tears on his shirt. Answering the question, what do the tears want to say? How can you tell what the tears want to say? And suddenly his apology comes completely out of the blue. And a man who does not apologize particularly not from the heart. I could say as him, "I'm sorry you feel that way." Which, that's not an apology. But in this case, that dearness of his true self, the true core neurobiological self of him breaks through the defenses and suddenly his face is soft, his eyes are loving and his wife and daughter get to see him. At this moment she's his daughter, not his step-daughter, she really is in this united experience that she wants to be in with him as part of family. And the reunion happens this way. It's just so touching.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I can feel that, that that is an example of how we transform in an instant.

David Mars: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

David Mars: This is very true.

Neil Sattin: And can you highlight because you've gone through them quickly, but can we just spend maybe 10 seconds on each of the channels of experience so we can all really take in what they each are?

David Mars: Sure.

Neil Sattin: Yeah?

David Mars: Yeah. So sensation right now, probably I'll just say, the sensations I can notice are a fine hum that I feel throughout the surface of my body, the sensations of the hairs of the back of my neck, the sensations of my muscles becoming more relaxed, the sensations of my vocal cords and my voice again slowing down. The sensations of resonance in my chest as I'm speaking.

Neil Sattin: Great.

David Mars: And the auditory channel linking with the sensations that validate that what I'm feeling in my vocal cords and in my chest vibration is related to the pitch of my voice dropping and the quality of hearing my own breath coming in, the friction of my breath is part of that auditory channel that helps me to pace myself in my breathing which is central to self-regulation as a therapist or a partner in a marriage, and the quality of the tonal, the slight raspiness of my voice, the gravely-ness of my voice, the drop in for me is part of the feeling of gratitude for the grace of being with this couple that I just spoke of from last Thursday and to think of the channel of emotion. Mad, sad, glad, scared, disgust and surprise are the six categorical emotions.

David Mars: Many of us have one emotion that we specialize in that we can really access and regulate quite well. Perhaps there are other emotions that we don't do quite as well with that are very difficult for us to regulate. But to be regulated in all six emotions is part of the goal of AEDP for couples and AEDP. To be able to be with surprise for example and say, "My gosh, I was surprised you said that. And now I'm still surprised you said that and I'm still feeling the delight in surprise that I'm having this experience with you right now, Neil, I feel so joyful and so connected.

David Mars: And to feel surprise is not a fleeting moment, but one that I can continue to experience again and again as a surprise of the enlightenment of moments that are so... Are so precious and dear because they are literally unbidden, they just come sometimes. And if we go on... Surprise really is one of the categorical emotions that is most often missed by therapists because it happens and comes and goes so quickly. Present tense experience of surprise can remain for a lifetime.

David Mars: A surprise for example, when I'm 13 years old and I'm really asking for a sign that God exists and suddenly I feel, and see, and sense energetically I'm filled with this purple energy in my... Above my solar plexus, just between my heart and my gut, and it stays with me today at age 67. I was 13 years old, I am 13 years old in this hand dug cave and I have this energy of response and this powerful, powerful combination of imaginal seeing the purple energy, the body sensation of the energy filling my whole body as light, the body sensation throughout my body still now feeling a head to toe experience of being occupied by a sense of some deep surprise, that also is something that was so deeply longed for and wanted as a sense of validation that I'm not alone. So when we think about the emotion of this, for me, it's a combination of the gratitude and the sadness of having missed that in the previous 12 and a half years of my life, and now to feel that joy and connection with still having this as a presence.

David Mars: So in terms of what we've covered now, are sensation, energy, emotion, think about movement, as I'm giving these, counting these out my fingers are involuntarily showing automatically showing a counting of four, and these movements are moved by the anterior cingulate in the brain unconsciously, but they inform what I'm saying as I move from my heart out to you the audience to be able to know I'm really wanting to come from my heart and speak, knowing that I deeply, deeply care about, about AEDP for couples and about love and the healing power of love and how hand gestures can also be involuntarily showing push away or put down, or harsh measures of threat that are unconscious, and seen by the other more clearly than by the self often. That is part of the value of tracking movement channel, to my mind its the most unconscious of all channels because it's also clearly visible that it's happening to others but maybe not to us.

David Mars: So we have sensation, emotion, energy, movement, auditory, and imaginal. Let's speak about the imaginal channel. The imaginal channel contains the other six channels. I can have imagined emotion, I can have imagined experiences of moving of being free when I'm feeling stuck and I can imagine my couple member and I being joyful, my partner Karen and I being joyful, and in that imagining of joy I bring the biochemistry of joy into my body, the oxytocin, the dopamine, the citicoline come into my body and my brain cells. All the neurons of my body are affected by the imagination of love, being pure and true, and reliable and resilient.

David Mars: So for me, it's an upwelling of a combination of energetic thrill and emotional gratitude that it's possible to be 35 years into a marriage and be joyful about it and feel tears in my eyes, the sensation of tears in my eyes that we have this. Not that it's a permanent... That could be just uncultivated because marriage always has to be cultivated. In my mind, either a marriage is improving or devolving at any moment.

David Mars: This is not a guarantee. Oh yeah, we're set now. There's no set part of it for me. It's a living organism. So for me that's the channels of experience. I'll just say them again sensation, emotion, energy, movement, auditory, visual, and imaginal. I didn't overtly say the visual part. I just want to mention visual channels are essential to us humans, to see eye expressions, to see facial coloration, to see markers of tension, in ourselves and others, and to be very conscious about our own peripheral vision of our movement. So I'm aware of what I'm actually signaling. It's a great gift to know what I'm actually signaling to my partner or just someone else in the grocery store, whatever, I'm actually showing myself.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Perfect, thank you for giving us the rundown, and I like too in terms of the imaginal, I love that it contains all of those, and I also find that they're such a gift often in those images that come to us. I often offer those in my coaching sessions with clients and Chloe and I, that's part of how we interact with each other, my wife. This image just came to me of blah, blah, and so often that has a really positive and deepening impact on our interaction.

David Mars: Absolutely. What a transcendent function to have, to share between you and Chloe.

Neil Sattin: We're lucky.

David Mars: Absolutely.

Neil Sattin: And we practice it, as you were just alluding to. It requires attention. David before we go, this has been such a rich conversation, I could talk to you for another hour easily cause this time has flown by. Hopefully, we will have the chance to talk again.

David Mars: I hope so.

Neil Sattin: First, I do have a question for you, but I'm wondering... Let's just talk about how people can find out more about your work and if they want to work with you, or if they want to train with you, what's available to then?

David Mars: Well, there's a website, the Center for transformative Therapies website, which is, the URL is C-F-T-T site, so it's, and also the AEDP Institute site, A-E-D-P Institute, both have programs and training that I'm giving. A five-day program in Cape Cod that will be happening this summer and also in July and also one in Vancouver, Canada will be happening, another five-day training in Vancouver in June, and also other workshops that I give that are local and international and ongoing that'll be on their websites. Also, I give intensives for couples that want to fly in to have a weekend intensive, and also group work. Where a group work can come together and decide they want to fly in to work with me or fly me out to work them to facilitate group work that's transformational.

David Mars: And that's direct delivery to people that may want that, couples groups, for example, can fly me in or religious organizations, church organizations can fly me in. And the power of the work is so joyful to deliver because in a day or in an afternoon or two days so much can happen that really changes lives in a forward-moving way. You mentioned coaching, Neil, I'm so glad for that because it's something that's so important in the world to have this capacity, not just psychotherapy to work deeper but also coaching to work deeply.

Neil Sattin: Thank you, and we will have links to your sites on the show notes for this episode, and as a reminder if you want to download the show notes and transcript you can visit NeilSattin.Com/Mars, M-A-R-S, which is David's last name, or you can text the word passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions, and David, I'm curious, do you have time for one more question?

David Mars: I do.

Neil Sattin: Okay great.

David Mars: I do.

Neil Sattin: There are actually so many more, so it's challenging for me to pick one, but I'm curious so many couples who listen to this show, so many are married, many are not married.

David Mars: Yes, yes.

Neil Sattin: And I'm wondering, there's something about being married obviously that elevates our levels of commitments to each other, most of us. How do you work with couples who aren't married, and who are in that dance around, I'm not even sure... You know they could be asking the very same questions that a married couple would be asking like, "Are you the right one for me, do I still want to be in this. Wow, this is really hard, part of me has a foot out the door." Is there something extra that you bring, or that you would invite for a couple that's not hitched as a way of helping then actually stick with the work that's required in order to figure out maybe those questions that they have about each other?

David Mars: Yeah, I appreciate the question. You know the DVD set called Infidelity that is about trauma treatment and a case of infidelity, was of a couple that was not married, and they are still not married. They're still very deeply connected and committed, in having a joyful experience of relating, which I just saw one of the couple members just in a restaurant just recently and she was quite radiant and very grateful for the work, which happened five years ago. We're not doing the work anymore, but it's still living in their lives. So the marriage part isn't required, but it certainly does help from my point of view for many, many of us to have a commitment of marriage, to have that knowing my partner is with me in a way that has some kind of a substance beyond our decision making unto ourselves.

David Mars: And for me, a couple I'm working with now that is actually not married and they have a child and they're in the process of dissolution of their living together due to some pretty ingrained issues that are not, they're not remedying. I've only seen them twice, but they came in really this direction of unlinking with each other but keeping, of course, the responsibility of parenting. And for me it's a major joy in my life and a major piece of meaning to see that even couples who have never married can be deeply committed, even couples that have a child and who end up not continuing to be in a relationship can be loving parents of that child and can be wonderful co-parents even without living together, even without being married, but can still be in that place of that child coming up with a strong and secure attachment. If they haven't gotten that secure attachment already, they can develop that secure attachment over time by living with parents who are growing and transforming themselves.

Neil Sattin: And so for a couple who's let's say, there may be a little bit more in. So they're not actually dissolving but they don't have the, we're married to rely upon. Is there something, is there a way that you invite those couples to find safety, the safety that's kind of inherent in a marriage vow, because I know, as you just mentioned, "Okay, we're in this. We got married". And divorce as common as it is hard and challenging and requires a lot to make happen. So yeah, how to deal with the paradox of safety in a relationship where they haven't spoken vows with each other.

David Mars: Yeah exactly. And for me, I want to give the example of polyamory, which is funnily one of the most challenging ways to be in relationship that exists on the planet. I know many people are very keen on that. It works for them but the couples that I've known who have done that work on polyamory, it is a very, very complicated process, and for me, the safety experience is really, in many cases about how securely attached is this person to themselves? There's a recent song lyric I was listening to of an old song, "And I know you won't let me down because I have my feet so firmly on the ground".

David Mars: In truth, we're all vulnerable to having our heart broken, no matter how strong we are, and it's one of the greatest agonies that can be, to have a lost love in my experience, and also in research as well, but to be able to feel the truth of one's words is real, that one's actions and one's words match to me that's part of the integrity of married or unmarried, whatever it is, that can help couples to feel truly safe and truly believable and believed is to really make sure that our actions and our words match. That our apologies are followed by corrected action, not just words that sound good, and actually a commitment to live differently.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and a commitment to be in that process of the experience of earned secure attachment with your own being, and I've seen how that even changes what people ask for in relationship. I've experienced that myself, I've seen it in others, so yes, that I think is a great way of confronting that, I'm always safe in me and then I can bring that into however complicated this situation is to try and resolve it for the better.

David Mars: Yeah. Wonderful.

Neil Sattin: David. It is such a treat to have you here. I really appreciate your time, your wisdom, your work. AEDP and AEDP for couples is such a powerful modality and I'm really delighted that you were able to be here, to share with us, and I hope that for those of you watching and listening, that your curiosity is peaked and you're going to seek ways out of experiencing this for yourself. But, David, I have such appreciation for your work in the world and the way that that's rippling out from here and from the other ways that you're training people and working with people, it's super powerful.

David Mars: Thank you so much. What an honor to be in this conversation, with you and to be asked questions I've not been asked, before.

Neil Sattin: Oh. Good. [laughter]

David Mars: Yeah. It was a joy to be with you and I hope we get to speak again in another podcast another time.

Neil Sattin: Great, great, we'll make that happen for sure.

David Mars: Okay, bye. Bye.

Apr 10, 2019

We’re all talking about attachment style now, and how it relates to the way that we show up in relationship. It can be enlightening to learn about your attachment style, and to see how it plays out in your relationship. see your partner’s attachment style - it can explain A LOT about how the two of you interact. But how do you avoid being victimized by your attachment style? Is there a way to get beyond the unhealthy ways that we related to each other and break the cycle? And, if you’re a securely attached person, how do you avoid being pulled into the potential challenges when your partner has an insecure attachment style? Of course you could write a book about this issue, but we’re going to cover some of the finer points on today’s episode.

Also, announcing that tickets are on sale for Relationship Alive...LIVE! featuring Terry Real. We'll have a musical guest (Katie Matzell trio), and you'll also have the chance to ask YOUR questions. The show will be on June 6, 2019 at One Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine. Limited seats available. Click here to buy your tickets now!

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Click here to get tickets to Relationship Alive...LIVE on June 6, 2019 featuring Terry Real and musical guest Katie Matzell

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Apr 2, 2019

Have you ever wished that you and your partner could communicate better with one another and avoid conflict? Communication can feel very complex - but today we’re going to show you some very specific and practical exercises you can do with your partner that will improve your communication, mindset, and relationship satisfaction. This week, our guest is Jonathan Robinson, the author of many books including More Love Less Conflict: A Communication Playbook for Couples. Jonathan Robinson has worked with many couples and has been featured on TV and media - most notably he was on Oprah several times! By the end of this episode, you’ll have some new, practical ways to approach communication that will have an immediate impact on your experience in a relationship.

Also, announcing that tickets are on sale for Relationship Alive...LIVE! featuring Terry Real. We'll have a musical guest (Katie Matzell trio), and you'll also have the chance to ask YOUR questions. The show will be on June 6, 2019, at One Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine. Limited seats available. Click here to buy your tickets now!

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Our sponsor today is Blinkist. Blinkist is the only app that takes the best key takeaways and the need-to-know information from thousands of nonfiction books and condenses them down into just 15 minutes that you can read or listen to. Go to to start your free 7-day trial.


Visit Jonathan’s website to learn more about his work.

Pick up your copy of Jonathan Robinson’s book, More Love Less Conflict: A Communication Playbook for Couples.

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict and shifting the codependent patterns in your relationship

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Your Relationship (ALSO FREE)

Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Jonathan Robinson.

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Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. Today we're going to get really practical and we're going to get really practical about communication. But not only are we going to get practical about communication, we're also going to get practical about communication in a way that will bring you closer to your partner. And we're also going to address this from the perspective of things that you can do with your partner, structured exercises that will definitely take you to a new level of understanding and intimacy and vulnerability. And on top of that, we're going to get some tips about how to do things on your own, kinda renegade style, so that if your partner isn't necessarily signing up for communication exercises 101, you can still make huge progress in your relationship and your connection. And in order to have today's conversation, we have with us yet another esteemed guest. His name is Jonathan Robinson and he's the author of the book More Love Less Conflict: A Communication Playbook for Couples, among many other books. Jonathan has worked with many couples, has worked with Fortune 500 companies, and has been featured on TV and media.

Neil Sattin: Notably, he was on Oprah several times. And as you'll see his words are practical, applicable to your life. And they make a lot of sense, but they're not necessarily the kind of thing that you would automatically think to do. They're the kinds of things that once you hear them, you'll be like, "Oh yeah, of course, that's the way I should have been doing this all along." So I'm excited to have Jonathan here with us today. We are going to dive in momentarily, but before we do, just a reminder that if you want to download a detailed transcript of today's episode, you can visit That's the word more and the word love kinda squished together. And along with the transcript, Jonathan Robinson has also generously offered to combine with that his 50 desires. It's a list of things that are these universal desires that can, as you'll see, help you really get more in touch with what it is you're after anyway in your relationship and in any given moment. So that is also free for you when you download the transcript. And again, that's at

Neil Sattin: Or you can simply text the word Passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions which will lead you to a page where you can download the transcript, the bonus desires, worksheet, and a lot of other goodies as well from our other episodes. I think that's it for now. Jonathan Robinson, thank you so much for being here with us today on Relationship Alive.

Jonathan Robinson: Well, thank you, Neil. This will be fun.

Neil Sattin: I sure hope so. Let's see. How can we make it fun? Let's just start right in with something super fun. One thing that I really appreciate about your book, as I just mentioned, is how practical it is not only for people who have a partner who's willing to sit down with them and go through something structured but also the way that you're always offering these helpful hints that allow someone to just kind of incorporate it into their lives on their own and change the steps of the dance. And I'm wondering, obviously, ideally our partners work with us on the project of our relationships, but I'm wondering what you've seen as far as people taking some of these plays in your communication playbook and putting them into practice on their own, and what kinds of results you've seen them effect in their relationships.

Jonathan Robinson: Well, in fact, it's pretty rare to have two partners that both want to work on a relationship. If you have that, usually there's not that much of a problem. So mostly I get couples who are basically on the verge of divorce where one person is dragged in kicking and screaming. And even in those situations, if you have the right method, the right technologies so to speak, you can still get to a place of love often in like 20 minutes. So I use the analogy, if you're trying to go from where you are in Portland, Maine to California, well, if you have a plane, you can do it in six hours. If you don't have a plane, it's going to take you a couple of years. So some of these tools are really amazing technology that helps us get back to a place of love very quickly.

Neil Sattin: And some of them I noticed, okay, that kind of reminds me of Imago or that reminds me of something I've seen in the Gottman's work. And have some of those things just been trial and error on your part or what's that process of discovery like for you in coming up with these ways to help people in their communication?

Jonathan Robinson: Well, I use it in my own marriage, but also with my clients. And what I notice is that when people are upset they can't remember Imago stuff or Gottman stuff necessarily. They're too complex for most couples. So I tried to make it so that anything I taught in my book could be pretty well done in 20 seconds or less. Now, there's a few exceptions, but I know when I'm really stressed out or upset, I don't remember all the theory. What I remember is maybe I can say three words or maybe I can complete a sentence. So I tried to find the best and easiest methods that can be done usually in under 20 seconds. And that's usually what people actually can do, but the good news is, if they do it, it does lead to a transformation. My wife and I, when we first married we argued a lot, and I was looking for a way that even though we were upset, we could avoid arguments.

Jonathan Robinson: So I came up with a method called the Yellow Light Method, which just involves saying two words and if I can remember to say those two words we avoid arguments. And in the last five years, we've only had one argument. And basically, the method is if you're finding that you're upset or your partner's upset either you can say yellow light, and that's a signal to take two minutes out and take some deep breaths and then restart the conversation. And when you interrupt that momentum of upset, usually you don't go into an argument. So those are the type of methods I like the most. The ones that are so simple yet work pretty much 100% of the time.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, it's so important, too, to have something reliable that you can turn to that doesn't require a lot of thought, because as we've talked about here on the show a lot, you're not even really able to think. That part of your brain that accesses creative problem-solving thinking, it tends to go offline as soon as you start to feel your heart beating a little more quickly and get into that disconnected angry or hurt wanting to escape, angry wanting to fight, whatever it is. When you're in that mode, having to think it through is probably one of the most challenging things you have to do.

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, I can't do it, so I can't expect other people too. [chuckle] That's why they pass... These methods have passed the most severe test possible. Do they actually work in my life?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that's super important. And I like, too, that you offer examples in the book of things that happen with your wife. It's kind of a new theme here on the show because I think it's easy to get the impression that when you know all this stuff about relationships that things are smooth sailing all the time, and it's never challenging. And people like the Gottmans, they must just never fight. It's always bliss. It's always cherishing. And so lately, I've been asking my guests to name some of their own challenges just to make it real. And so I like that you offer that in your book, as well. These are challenges we've experienced and how I've used this particular exercise or how my wife and I have used it to help ourselves in these moments.

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, that's been a way to keep it on us, because we all face challenges in relationships. It's just a matter of whether you have ways of getting around those challenges or if you resort to the time tested tried-and-true method that most couples work or use, which is blame. And as you know, Neil, blame never works. Never once have I blamed my wife for my annoyance or blamed her and telling her what she does wrong where she then came back and said, "Oh yeah, now I see where you're talking about. I'm going to have to change that." I bat zero for 500 on that one. So that got me looking for other ways to do it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, and it's funny how ineffective so many of our innate strategies are, and yet without a new repertoire that's just what you do over and over again. Even though if you were to step back and look at the evidence, "Did this work? Did anything change? Do I feel more connected?" Any of that, the answer would probably be no for most of those things people just do. Blame, complain.

Jonathan Robinson: Shame.

Neil Sattin: Shame. Yeah, exactly. Criticize. Yeah, all those kinds of things.

Jonathan Robinson: Well, most of us, most couples don't even have 15 minutes of communication education in their life. And I think of a marriage or communication is something that we're doing all the time. We should have a lot of practice at it. If you even had 15 minutes on how to fly a plane, you would have a chance of not crashing, but if you don't have those 15 minutes and you have to take over a plane in mid-flight, you're probably going to crash. And that's an experience a lot of couples have is that they just don't have any other methods they've been taught other than blame, shame, complain. And therefore, that's what the habit they fall back into when things get tense.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, well, fortunately, we don't just have 15 minutes now. We have a good 45 minutes where we can help you who are listening come up the curve a little bit more. We're going to give you some cool exercises and things to try. And then, I'm just thinking about the study that... I just had John and Julie Gottman on the show and they were talking about this study where there were these married couples, I think they had children, both worked and they figured out that basically, these people had 15 minutes of communication time period, over the course of a week. That that was it. And of course, that time was more or less about the bills and logistics. And so if we can save that for you so that that 15 minutes can be something truly special and hopefully you have more than 15 minutes with your partner or with the people closest to you, then I'll feel like we did a good job here today, Jonathan.

Jonathan Robinson: That sounds good.

Neil Sattin: Awesome. So where's a good place to start? I know that I mentioned the universal desires when I first was talking about what we're going to talk about today, and maybe that would be a good place for us to just kinda drop in. But I'm open to your influence here about where do you like to start people out on this journey?

Jonathan Robinson: Well, you mentioned the Gottmans and they've done some great work. And one of the things I liked about them is they said that probably the best predictor of how happy couples are is the amount of appreciations they give to each other or the ratio of appreciations to criticism. So a very simple method, and I like simple, is that I have couples complete this sentence, "Something I noticed today about you that I appreciate is... " and you just complete that sentence. I have couples do that once a day and people are often hesitant like, "Oh, that's too simple or too mechanical," but it really does make a huge difference. And I'm a typical guy, so I actually have my iPhone remind me to do this every day, otherwise, I forget. And it's amazing how that can really help bond couples. Or if I did it with you, Neil. Something I noticed about you that I appreciate is that you're very clear in your communication. We had to do some scheduling stuff, but you were always very clear and helpful and before the show, during the show, it just makes it much easier to be a guest when I know where you're at and what you're thinking.

Jonathan Robinson: So I'm already thinking that thought, but when we say our appreciations, it helps to more bond, whether it be a couple or friendship. And that's something that's so easy to do that most people are missing out on because they don't make it a habit.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, and when I think about for a lot of us that can equal love or feeling loved is it gets conflated with appreciation, and so it's like you don't really feel like you're being loved by your partner if you're not getting that kind of acknowledgment from them about how you shine in their eyes.

Jonathan Robinson: Exactly, it's probably the quickest way for couples to feel emotionally connected.

Neil Sattin: And I really like the sentence stem approach, "Something I noticed about you today that I appreciate is," I think that's good because it gives us a way to focus our attention rather than being lost in the sea of all the possible appreciations. It's like pull something out of today, out of this moment. because I can imagine even just sitting down with my wife, Chloe, and what it feels like to have her attention. Even that in the moment would be something I would really appreciate, I'd probably want to reflect that right back to her just like how good it feels to experience her listening to me.

Jonathan Robinson: I like the method of sentence stems because they're so simple and yet can be so effective. I'll put out a couple more of the ones I really like. One is, "Something I've been hesitant to talk to you about lately is... " That helps bring in the difficult things that we sometimes avoid. Or how about this one? If you're in a disagreement and you're both trying to blame each other to use this sentence stem, "A way I see that I contributed to this upset is... " You say that and it immediately changes the energy of the conversation because now you're taking some responsibility which then leads to your partner doing that. So there's a lot of sentence stems in the More Love Less Conflict book that work really powerfully and immediately. And they only take 20 seconds to complete.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and that one you just named for diffusing conflict, I experienced that just the other day where Chloe and I, we had an argument about something. Oh, I remember exactly what it was. Sometimes our lives get a little busy and I think I've even mentioned on the show before that there can be dishes in the sink. And we each could be responsible for doing more dishes, I think. Our dog sometimes does more dishes than we do. And so there were no dishes, I was in a rush, I was making a meal. And we have a stack of special dishes that we're really not supposed to use. But rather than use a dish... I actually, come to think of it, I had just washed a bunch of dishes, but they were still wet and I didn't want to dry the dish with a towel, so I just reached for the special dish from the pile of special dishes. And Chloe got really angry at me. "Don't use one of those dishes. You just washed all of those dishes. I've asked you not to use those dishes." So innocent enough, I'm reaching for the dishes, and it would have been so easy for me to just get really angry and in fact, I did get angry. I was like, "Don't tell me what to do."

Neil Sattin: It was really a glorious moment for us of conflict. And we each stepped away for a minute or two, because we had been under a lot of stress that day, a lot of pressure. And then I came back, and I said something like, "I'm really sorry that I just yelled," or "I just yelled at you just then. I see that I went to use one of those dishes, and I know you've asked me not to use them a lot. And even though I feel like it's my right [chuckle] to take them, I recognize that you asked me not to, and I did anyway, and I can see how that must have felt like I was slighting you or not really paying attention to what you've asked me to do in the past."

Neil Sattin: And I will say that it didn't sound exactly like that when I said it to her. But it was along those lines. And it was really hard and painful for me to say that, because like you mention in your book, my ego just wanted to be right and wanted to make her wrong for having spoken up about it or tried to control me or whatever it was, that was her part in the dance. But I did have my part in the dance, and through owning it, right afterward Chloe said, "Yeah, I really... The way that I said that I'm really sorry, I know that must have... You must felt like I was really coming down on you or talking down to you," or something like that is what she said. And that was it, argument over, [chuckle] and we went back to just being connected and loving, and it was a really quick transformation. It's amazing because that gap from Maine to California that you were talking about earlier, that can feel like it's going to take two years, and it really can be as quick as making a shift like that.

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, yeah. And one of the things I like about the sentence stems is that it can be hard to figure it out the right thing to say on your own, but if you have the first part of the sentence memorized like, "I see the way that I contributed to this upset is... " then it becomes relatively easy and easier on your ego to just say that sentence and then the shift happens. So I always try to take these big ideas like taking responsibility or being more appreciative and turn them into a method or a technology that's so simple that even me at my worst can do it. And it seems like that's really what people need because we often know the theory, we often know what we're supposed to do, but when the rubber hits the road, we don't have that keyword to say that is really going to turn it in a new direction.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, are there other magical sentence stems that come to mind?

Jonathan Robinson: Well, there's 30 of them in the book. [chuckle] I'll spread 'em out through this interview. One thing that I like as a sentence stem is just saying, "Right now, I'm feeling... " Whatever you're feeling, and then, "Right now I'm wanting... " whatever you're wanting, because saying what you're feeling and wanting is really key information for your partner. And normally, we're very indirect, we're very not good at saying that in a way that our partner gets. So during the day, if I'm spending time with my wife, I'll think that sentence stem "Right now, I'm feeling like I want to be more connected with you. I guess I'm wanting a hug right now." And that helps point me in the right direction.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and I think it's important, you talk about this in the book, in the chapter where you're covering that sentence stem in particular, how important it is to identify what you're actually feeling versus, "I'm feeling like you're being an idiot right now," [chuckle] which is what people sometimes tend to do, which is to take an I feel statement and attach a judgment on the end of it, as opposed to just owning what they're actually feeling in that moment.

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, that's why I have, in the book, a page of just feelings. Here are 30 feelings. You're probably feeling one of these, you're not feeling... Even if you're thinking I'm feeling like they're an idiot, what you're probably feeling is I'm feeling annoyed or I'm feeling frustrated. And to some extent, that's a learning process because a lot of couples don't have that practice where they say, well, this really isn't a feeling. What am I feeling? So having a list in front of you can actually be very helpful that way.

Neil Sattin: Right, yeah, won't that be great when... I think you talk about this in terms of languages and communication, but to be able to Google how am I feeling right now? And get an [chuckle] Oh, turns out that I'm feeling annoyed right now. That makes sense, actually. Thanks, Google. Yeah, and then the second part of that stem, I'm feeling this, and what I'd really like is... And I think I'm not getting it quite right, but that last part of really being able to identify what it is you would like and what the desire might be underneath that seems so important for people to get clear on.

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, there's really two things that people want. They want... And usually, it looks like I want them to give me a certain action like maybe a hug or I want them to do the dishes. But underneath that, we think that if they did those things, we would get a certain desire fulfilled. Like if they gave me a hug I'd feel more connected, or if they did the dishes I'd feel more respected or something like that. So knowing what the ultimate aim is the ultimate desire or need you're trying to fulfill can be very helpful because they might do the dishes in a way that is throwing the dishes around and being upset while they're doing it, and the dishes get done, but you don't feel more respected at the end of it.

Neil Sattin: Right, right, and how useful is it for you to be clear about that with your partner so that the underlying motivations are the realm that you're dealing in, not trying in this roundabout way to get your needs or desires met.

Jonathan Robinson: And in fact, most partners are much more open to satisfying our underlying desires than they are to satisfying our other requests. If you said, "Well, I want you to do the dishes," they might have some resistance, but if you said, "What I'm really wanting is I'm wanting to feel more respected and more connected to you." That tends to be more vulnerable, and vulnerability is a real key to intimacy. If you look at the word intimacy, the instructions are there, into me see. So when we reveal what we're really wanting on an emotional level, that tends to open up our partners' hearts and makes them more connected and more open to doing what we want.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and then does it make sense to you to follow up with once your partner's offered vulnerability like that to ask, "What could I do that would help you feel seen and respected."

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Neil Sattin: And then they'll say, "You could do the dishes."


Jonathan Robinson: Actually, probably just asking what can I do to help you feel more respected would help them to feel more respected.

Neil Sattin: True.

Jonathan Robinson: But the dishes might be another way as well.

Neil Sattin: It might be, but what occurs to me is that it's more likely that if the dishes were kind of a surrogate for that feeling seen and respected that now that the true desire is out in the open, that on further reflection someone might be like, "Well, the dishes would be nice, but what would really help me feel seen and respected would be if I could talk to you about my day and have you just listen with your undivided attention."

Jonathan Robinson: Right, you're getting to a place where you're much more effective in satisfying your partner's real needs. And that's something that's really critical, because a lot of times partners don't even know what their partner's real needs are, and even if they do know what they are, which is unusual, they may be very ineffective in satisfying them. Take the issue of sex, which is a good example. A lot of couples don't ever directly say what they most enjoy in bed, so they find that they put up with their partner doing things which is not really what really does it for them. So here's a good sentence stem: Three things I really love that you do in bed are... And three things that I really don't care for much are... Just completing that sentence can improve your love life 50% in five minutes.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I'm curious for you when someone hears three things I love are blank, that's going to feel really good. Three things that I don't particularly care for, it seems like it would be really easy for the person receiving that to, if nothing else, just kind of feel bad about it, but maybe even to go into a shame spiral, or it could be really bad. So what do you recommend people do to help create a safe container for offering more negative feedback?

Jonathan Robinson: I have a lot of suggestions for that in the More Love, Less Conflict book. One example is always end on a positive note, either something you appreciate or something that you like. But sometimes what's necessary is just a time out, like if you're going to give some kind of feedback that's negative that the other person can't respond for, say, 12 hours, because a lot of times we have an immediate reaction and then after five minutes we realize, well, that's actually useful feedback, or it's no big deal. So creating that safe container can be either ending with something positive or creating a time period where neither person can react to it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and during that time period, what do you suggest people do to take care of themselves if they need that?

Jonathan Robinson: I actually do make several suggestions, and I have a list from watching funny YouTube videos to calling a friend to going to the gym. But I find that if couples are feeling connected and they feel respected and appreciated, and they're doing all those other things when you get a little bit of "negative feedback," it doesn't overwhelm them. What happens normally is that people aren't getting any positive stuff, so when they get another piece of negative feedback it can overwhelm them, and then you get into problems. So as long as you have love in your emotional bank account, so to speak, a little bit of feedback that tells you how you can do something better usually is not that big of a deal.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so important to probably to put your focus on some of the things we were talking about a moment ago, like offering the appreciations, and all the ways that you really do appreciate or resonate with your partner the things that you love about them, or the things that you see in them, so that when it comes time to offer something a little bit more discerning, let's say, [chuckle] it can soften the blow a little bit.

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, and there's other ways, too, for example, sometimes I have couples give what could be called negative feedback in a written form, while ending with a positive thing, and it can be easier to just read it and take some time on your own rather than have that person right there, which might be more triggering. So there's a lot of different ways to create a safe container, and people's job is to find what works for them because different things can work for different couples.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, I'm thinking, too, you offer an anecdote in the book More Love, Less Conflict during the exercise about withholding and couples being able to give a voice to the things that they've been holding back from each other. And that's something that could be really edgy or scary depending on what's being withheld, but even there you talk about wanting people to end on a positive note, something maybe really good or a deep desire that they've been withholding. And you mention this one couple that talks about how in trouble their marriage is, and how one is feeling hopeless, and the other has been flirting with someone at the office, and these are coming out in the withholdings, but then they end with these statements about really wanting to feel connected with each other and how much it feels like that shifts the dynamic for them, even though they have also offered some incredibly vulnerable and hard truths to each other.

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, you know, one moment of vulnerability or appreciation seems to be able to overshadow even years of negativity. Now, I've had couples who come into my office, they've been arguing and screaming each other for decades. And sometimes I'll have them do a couple of positive things, like saying what they appreciate or being vulnerable through certain sentence stems, and 10 minutes later they're holding hands and loving. And I find that is like a miracle because they've had years of negativity and yet their hearts really want to have that connection, they just haven't had the simple, reliable way of doing that. But once they do have that way, the bonding can happen very, very quickly, and I think that's a real testament to the human heart and spirit.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, the light it shines is much brighter than the darkness we can find ourselves in at times. And just to be clear for you listening, the withholding sentence stem, I just happened to have it in front of me right here: There's something I've been withholding, would you like to hear it? So again, important that your partner actually know that they're about to receive something. And then this is one of those cases where you mentioned, Jonathan, that it's helpful to create a container that says we're not even... We're not going to talk about this for 24 hours, and what is being offered is held sacred in some way, which is a great spin on it because I think so often when something is revealed that's been withheld, it can, just in and of itself, no matter what the content is, feel like a betrayal of some sort.

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, yeah. And that's probably the edgiest exercise in the book, and it's not something that one starts with, you kind of build to that, because if you're going to deal with difficult stuff, it's good to have some love in your emotional bank account because those types of things are like a withdrawal, and you don't want to withdraw into bankruptcy, so I encourage people to have some connection, and when you have to deal with the hard stuff, then you'll be able to weather that storm, because you already have a bunch of connection banked, so to speak.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, and that, for some reason, is making me think of two other things that you mentioned in the book, one being the higher self-exercise. And I think I like that because we so often want to be able to give advice to our partners, or fix their problems, or tell them how they should be that will make our lives easier, and the higher self is a bridge into that in a way that's actually really connecting.

Jonathan Robinson: That's a fun game.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, could you talk about how that one's done?

Jonathan Robinson: Well, you do want to sometimes give your partner advice, and sometimes they see you, they know you better than you know you sometimes. So something my wife and I might do is I'll say, "Do you want to play the higher self-game," and she'll say, "Okay," and we take turns kind of being each other's guru, so I might say, "Well, I'm married to this woman who gets self-righteous really quickly. Dear guru what would you suggest I do when she gets really reactive and self-righteous quickly?"


Jonathan Robinson: And then she has to answer as like a relationship guru. Well, it sounds like you might want to try this, this, and this, and it's kind of fun because rather than going back and forth and trying to prove that we're right, or you should do this, it's kind of like a game and it sets it up in a fun way where I can hear what she has to say. And a lot of times her advice to me about her has been right on because she knows what I'm doing that might make it better for her. And it's just kind of a fun way of being with each other where you can temporarily go into the role of advice-giver or a teacher without all the normal ramifications of that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and you mentioned an important aspect of that often being that the advice giver, guru, person sit with their eyes closed or blindfolded.

Jonathan Robinson: Yes, because that changes the normal mechanical way that you might be with each other. When you close your eyes and you're trying to give advice, it tends to help you to go deeper within and it also shuts you off from whether your partner is reacting to your advice. You get to really tune into, "What do I have to say to this question?" And that way it can be more pure and more truthful rather than a mechanical reaction to maybe how you think they're going to take it.

Neil Sattin: Got it.

Jonathan Robinson: I must say, Neil, I think you know this book better than I do at this point. I'm very depressed.


Neil Sattin: Well, it's fresh in my mind, so that's helpful, but don't worry, there will be no test. Nothing more than what we're already doing, I guess.

Jonathan Robinson: Okay.

Neil Sattin: It seems important to clarify, too, that if you're not doing that one as a structured exercise, one thing I noticed was that the simple practice isn't an offer to give your partner advice, it's asking them for advice. Can I get your best advice about something? So if you were going to sort of surreptitiously engage their higher self that's how you come at it when you're doing it more renegade style?

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, and people love that question, "Gee, honey, can I get your best advice about this?" And that's usually that asking for help in that vulnerable way usually leads to a lot more intimacy.

Neil Sattin: When it comes to knowing your partner better, we touched on this earlier when we were talking about the desires and wondering whether or not we actually know what our partner's deepest desires are and that's something I appreciate about that list of 50, I'm sure there are more than that, right? But 50 is a pretty good start and it helps you I think access the nuances of how these desires are slightly different than each other And I think it's also important, I loved your exercise on the perfect partner, and how we can share information with each other in a safe way about what we wish we were experiencing from the other person as a way to help them. It's like I'm helping you help me.

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, it's kind of like painting a picture. Sometimes the best way to learn is through an example, and somebody can tell you what Yosemite looks like but one picture of Yosemite and the game's over. You don't need to say anything more. And the same thing with what we want. So, writing out what my perfect partner would do, or what my perfect partner would say helps me to get example of what my wife is really wanting because I always thought that she wanted me to fix her problems and then she wrote out, "Well, my perfect partner would say this, this and this," and she never mentioned fixing her problems, she really wanted somebody who was incredibly empathetic. And when I really understood that she's not wanting my advice, she's wanting my empathy, my understanding, it helped me to change how I was with her, and now she has said, "Wow, you're really good at being my perfect partner now." And of course, that leads to more love.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I did an episode a while ago on writing the user manual for you for your partner. This is kind of my guide to me and how that can be such a sweet offering to your partner. I'm wondering what your thoughts are on how to do that in a way that doesn't come across as a criticism.

Jonathan Robinson: Well, one sentence stem that can be a very simple way of doing it is to say something like three things that tend to trigger me are, so you're talking about you rather than your partner or three things that almost always lead me to feel more loving are... Because a lot of times we'll say that that person really pushes our buttons. Well, it's good to tell your partner what your buttons are. So that they know to avoid them, but we not only have upset buttons, we have love buttons. If my wife gives me a shoulder massage, I love her. A Gorilla could give me a shoulder massage, I'd love that gorilla that's just how I'm wired. Whereas, if I speak to my wife in a certain tone of voice, that she finds very loving, that is her love button. So just knowing what really triggers your partner towards upset or towards love in a very simple way is very valuable information. A lot of couples really don't know that information.

Neil Sattin: That just feels like how helpful would that be in general if we just knew that about each other. I've heard Dan Sullivan, who has, he leads this company called Strategic Coach, he talks about that in the context of the work environment and giving the people who work with you like, "This is the recipe. If you want to piss me off, these are the things you can do," and basically listing all the kind of triggers that he has and if nothing else, once you know what triggers your partner, you gotta think twice before doing it or after you do it, maybe you'll think again like "Oh, I just did that thing that I know triggers them."

Jonathan Robinson: Right, right. One thing that people often ask me about attitudes towards their partner, and if you can have an attitude of gratitude in your heart for your partner, I find that that makes love flow much more easily.

Neil Sattin: Oh my goddess, I love that anecdote that you talked... Did you actually go to India for that, is that story true that happened?

Jonathan Robinson: That story is true. I went to see another guru as well while I was there but... So the story is that this friend comes back from India and he says his guru gave him a magical mantra to help him to feel more grateful for both his life and his wife. And I'm always interested in very simple methods. So I said, "Well, what's the mantra?" He said, "Well, you'll have to go to India to get it." and I go "damn but India is a hard place to get to, it's 18,000 miles away" but I make a trip, because I wanted to visit this guru and another guru. So I get there and I have to wait in line five hours to talk to the guru for a minute, but I do that, I'm kinda pissed off because I didn't get this mantra from my friend. I told the guru I wanted this magical mantra for feeling more grateful towards my wife and such, and he says, in an Indian accent, "Ah, yes, my mantra is the most powerful mantra on earth." He leans into my ear to whisper it to me and he says, "Whenever possible, repeat the following words. The mantra I give you are the words thank you." While I look at him, I think he's joking with me and then, but he's not smiling, so I go, "Thank you, that's it? I traveled 18,000 miles to get 'thank you', that's it?" So he looks at me, he says, "No, no, no, 'that's it' is the mantra you have been using and that makes you feel like you never have enough, my mantra is 'thank you,' not 'that's it,' 'that's it' will take you nowhere."


Jonathan Robinson: So I'm totally pissed off at this point. And so I look at him, I kind of sneered him, I say, "Well then, thank you." And then he sneers at me, he says, "Thank you is not the mantra, you must say it from your heart many times a day, so when you wake up and you see your wife, say thank you from your heart and when you eat breakfast together, and you're enjoying talking, say Thank you from your heart, and when you see your child, say thank you from your heart and soon you will be filled with gratitude." Well, because I traveled so far, I actually did this and I found that to my amazement, it actually worked just taking a second, connecting with my heart and thinking and feeling thank you. My wife literally knows the days that I'm doing that without me saying anything. She says, "Your energy changes and I just feel so much more connected to you." Gratitude is like a secret back door that allows love in. And it's one more method that just seems to work that once you have that technology, it's almost like a superpower.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, I have a good friend who was going through a really stressful time in his life and came through it and when I was speaking to him about it, I asked, "What did you rely on when you were going through all that stress?" And the number one thing he said was, "I developed a gratitude practice and every morning when I woke up, I just spend five minutes basically in silent prayer thinking about all the things that I'm grateful for in my life, and that in and of itself pretty much turned things around for me." So it's so powerful.

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, and the other thing I like which I think is so underrated is the power of good questions. On my website, I have what's called the 12 questions of instant intimacy that people can download for free. And if you ask the right question even if you're with a partner who doesn't want to do any communication, doesn't want to do any counseling, if you ask the right question, it opens up a magical door to intimacy. And I found that these 12 questions pretty much work with everyone. They work with your lover, your child, your co-worker, they're like secret weapons, so to speak, in the battle to have more love and less conflict. So I really like asking good questions, like an example might be, "What's been the highlight of your week or what gives you your greatest sense of joy in your life right now?" More people like talking about that, it makes them feel good. Or you ask, "What's one of the most amazing things you've ever experienced in your life? And people love these questions, but we don't ask them. And in this day and age, there's a lot of business, there's a lot of superficiality, but people really want deep connection and these types of questions help to open the door to depth and intimacy very, very quickly.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, I like one of the ones that you offer and you also have a separate exercise, that's kind of similar to this question, but it's what's something that you really want me to know about you?

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah. Because if you can get people to feel they understand each other that is a real key. I never had couples come into my office and say, "Jonathan, we really understand each other quite well, that's why we want a divorce."


Jonathan Robinson: But I do get the opposite, "We don't know, he doesn't understand me, I don't understand her," that can lead to trouble. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Well, in case you didn't get it when Jonathan just mentioned it, the full list of the 12 questions that lead to deeper intimacy is available on his website for this work, and that website is And if you go to that site, right on the front page there, you'll be able to download the 12 questions for deeper intimacy and we'll have a link to that as well as anything else that feels relevant especially a link to Jonathan's book on Amazon, on the show notes page for this episode, so you can visit, again,, all squished together as one word. To see the show notes, download a transcript, you'll also get, as a bonus for downloading the transcript, the 50 universal desires worksheet, and then on top of that, we'll point you in the right direction to access more of Jonathan Robinson's work, which is I just love it, it's so imminently practical and useful, really usable. So I hope that you're able to practice some of the sentence stems that you've heard today and then put them to use in your life.

Neil Sattin: So Jonathan before we go, I'm wondering, I'm trying to think now through because there are so many... And we've covered so many in this conversation together, and there are so many more in your book. So it really is, I feel like someone could get the book and kind of open to any page and be like, "Oh yeah, I'm going to try that tonight." It has that kind of flavor to it. So I'm wondering if you can talk about the process of when you actually do want something to change in your relationship, what have you found as a good way to help couples navigate? Like well, this really, this isn't okay the way it is right now, and I really want this one particular thing to shift if we could make that happen.

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, that's a really big area. And of course, I talked about that a lot in the book. I think if you have the right ingredients then you can make it happen, if you don't, blame never works. You don't shame people into changing but if couples really are feeling close to each other and they make a request for something very specific, and then say, "How can I support you or what can I do to change something that bothers you, so we both are working on something that will benefit the relationship." That has a much better chance of success than the blame, complain, shame, method of changing which basically never works. So having good communication, saying something very precise, very specific, being willing to change something about yourself at the same time that your partner wants, that can be a really good method for couples actually making the difficult effort it requires to change something about yourself.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, and I love that, too, because in there, I feel like there's also an acknowledgment of how often we actually do know what would be meaningful for our partners, we may not know exactly what their deepest desires are, and that's why I think those conversations are helpful, but just like you could say, and you mentioned this in the book, if you ask someone, "Would you know how to piss off your partner?" They could do it, they could probably list 10 ways to do that. If you get right down deep into what you know about your partner, you probably also know something that would really light them up or make them feel super special, or loved, and I think it's great to offer those kinds of things. I mean, why not, right? If you can make someone's day, why wouldn't you?

Jonathan Robinson: Yeah, yeah, and the other thing is, I think a lot of partners have to be focused on what feeds their soul, what feeds their sense of peace because when you feel peaceful and loving on your own, you probably make a better partner. I do a podcast called Awareness Explorers in which I interview spiritual teachers and I mentioned before like Dalai Lama, Adyashanti. Yeah, various people. And I'm always asking them, "What are your suggestions for going back to a place of peace?" Because I think the two most important things in life are peace and love and there's other ways to get them. You could have world peace, but what's the chance of that going to happen? That's not going to happen. So, how can you find inner peace? Now, with love, if you're lucky, you find a partner and you learn how to communicate that leads to a lot more love in your life, but there's also an inner way to love, loving yourself, having a connection with a higher power. But our mission in life should we decide to accept it is to find different paths to greater peace and love because when we're in touch with those things, we're at our best and we make a better partner, and we're better and more effective in the world, as well.

Neil Sattin: Totally agree, totally agree. Although I'm struck by your cynicism about world peace, I think it's possible, maybe sometime in...

Jonathan Robinson: Okay, maybe.

Neil Sattin: Our children's lifetimes, our children's children. I'm holding out the hope for that. One thing that I'm wondering before we go is whether... So many couples... This is so ironic, I think they come into... They're in that moment of struggle and often really not knowing if they should stay in the relationship that they're in, especially when they're in the midst of big conflict. And then it can get confusing, right? Because if you have some technology that actually helps you get along and connect, well then it can feel like, "Well, do I want to leave this person or don't I?" And I'm wondering if you have... And I recognize this could be a whole another hour's conversation so I'm not entirely being fair to you and just asking for your quick take on this, but is there a place that you go that helps a couple be resourceful or maybe an individual who's contemplating that? Should I stay or should I go question, that makes that practical for them like a sense of like, well, even if you can get along, maybe if this is happening, you're not right together, or maybe this is the kind of thing you don't want to tolerate. Yeah, how do people make that call for themselves?

Jonathan Robinson: Actually, I think that's really simple. What I find is when couples fully communicate honestly and vulnerably, one of two things will happen, they will either very quickly get back to a place of deep love and connection in which case, of course, they want to stay together or if they're very honest and communicating without blame and letting out all the things that they've been withholding, they may get to a place where they realize they want totally different things, and then they would naturally want to separate because we're not going after the same things in life anymore. But the key is really good communication. It will create the clarity that often is not there when couples are not so honest or so clear and vulnerable in their communication.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that makes perfect sense. And I think it's important to qualify that, just because you want two completely different things or 10 completely different things that doesn't necessarily mean you’re doomed, but if you're communicating clearly about it, then you get the opportunity to discover if you can navigate each other's vastly different desires and that feels good or generative or does it feel like there's just no way, in which case you're dealing with a deal-breaker.

Jonathan Robinson: Right, right, and you're right, that you can want different things and still have a happy marriage. It's just a matter of whether you're able to navigate those things in a way that is agreeable to both people.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, it makes total sense. Well, Jonathan, it's been such a pleasure to talk to you today, and I'm glad we finally made it work with all those scheduling issues that were totally on me. Just so if you're listening, you're like, "What's up with Jonathan and his scheduling?" No, it was me. And so again, I appreciate your patience with that. And it was well worth the wait, so sweet to talk with you. Jonathan's book, More Love Less Conflict, a communication playbook for couples is available from a bookseller near you or online, and you can visit Jonathan's website or you can check out his podcast that he just mentioned, Awareness Explorers, which is fascinating conversations with pioneers on the edge of consciousness. And Jonathan, is there anything else you'd like to add about ways people can find out about your work? I know you have a totally different body of work that you do, as well, and so, there's anything you'd like to add right now, this would be a great time.

Jonathan Robinson: Just that people should download those questions at and keep exploring stuff. I'm not naturally good at this stuff, which allows me to get good at teaching it, because by finding methods that worked for my wife and I really made a huge difference. I also want to say Neil, you're a great interviewer, I see why your podcast is so popular. It's really fun to go into some depth about some of these issues and hopefully help some people.

Neil Sattin: Well, thank you so much for saying that. I appreciate it.

Jonathan Robinson: You deserve it.


Neil Sattin: Okay.