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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Dec 29, 2016

With so much information - how do you choose what to do to help your relationship? There's no possible way that you could do it all, and in this week's episode, I offer you a tip to reduce the overwhelm and start seeing some results. Plus I know you're busy this time of year, so this week's installment of Relationship Alive is short and sweet - with a preview of what's to come in the new year. Enjoy, and see you next week!

Dec 21, 2016

Whether it's making love, or doing the laundry - how do you create an environment where your partner wants to fulfill your desires? This week's brief episode explores exactly that - focusing on how to shift your perspective on getting your needs - and desires - met in your relationship. Enjoy!!

Dec 13, 2016

How do you bring the full YOU to your relationship? How do you keep things fresh, and vibrant? How do you breathe that life into the places where you experience conflict with your partner, to unravel the knot that might keep you in an old, unhealthy pattern? And how do you steer your relationship towards your dreams of what might truly be possible - even if it feels like you’ve gotten off track? In today’s episode, we’re going to cover all of that and more in a conversation with Hedy Schleifer, creator of Encounter-centered Couples Therapy. It’s one of my longer episodes - rich with content and ways for you to create positive, dynamic energy in your relationship.

My goal is for this episode to transform you, so that you’ll no longer be able to experience the landscape of your relationship in the same way. What’s so exciting to me about Hedy Schleifer’s work is that it integrates much of what we’ve been talking about here on the Relationship Alive podcast.

Alive in connection: The goal of Encountered-centered couples therapy is about learning to be fully alive  in relationship. An ever increasing body of research shows that we humans are wired and born to be joyfully relaxed, and alive in connection with others.

The Four Levels of Learning:

Level 0: Level 0 learning is when you hear something, however you do not retain it. Even if you are interested, when someone asks what you learned you realize you don’t really know. This learning is superficial and ephemeral.

Level 1- Level 1 learning is when you find a concept/idea/skill really interesting, however because you have no way of integrating the new learning which you get home it is lost.

Level 2- Level 2 learning is when we get excited about a new concept/idea/skill and then when we take it home it makes a difference. We integrate this new learning into our life and experiences changes as a result.

Level 3- Level 3 learning is the goal. This is learning that is transformational. In level 3 learning there is a before and an after as the learning has fundamentally shifted you. You are changed by it. From this new learning you experience and see the world in a very different way.

100% engagement right here and now. Level 3 transformation can only occur when everyone involved is willing to be fully involved in the right here and right now. True integration is only possible with full participation.

Wake up to your full aliveness! It is possible, despite all of the ruptures and wounds a relationship may have collected over time, to repair. Humans are capable of an intensive and magical connection with each other- a way of being with each other’s essence that is pure and raw. This essence to essence encounter is made possible when partners wake up to their full sense of aliveness. With assistance one can begin to re-see their partner for who they really are- that amazing, delightful, creative person. Sometimes our survival instincts make us lose touch with this sense of passion, authenticity, and vitality in ourselves and in our partner due to the way we cope through isolation and withdrawing. When the conditions of safety are achieved, connection can be made and the revelation of more and more dimensions of our beingness becomes available!

Meditation in connection: Culturally, and personally, we have lost the ability to just sit and be with each other. Can you find moments with your partner to just breathe, and sit, and be together? It may not be comfortable at first, but can you invite your partner to sit in a meditative silence and just look at you, and vice versa? Sit with each other, and be willing to be in the rich silence of two souls together. Honoring that space between- the separateness and the unity of yourselves in partnership. Despite the awkwardness or potential discomfort of this experience, this is a wonderful skill to practice that will lead to increased a sense of connection and a deepening of your intimacy.

Know what lives in your heart: What is your wildest dream for your relationship? What lives in your heart? What is it you really long for? What would a connected, Intimate, soulful, deep, and alive relationship look like?  What is your deepest aspiration that you would like to put on the horizon today? Not as a goal, but as a dream. Once you have allowed your heart to speak, you can begin to make decisions about what directions to take to fully realize your deepest longings. Allow this process time- it take a while to reach deep inside and find these aspirations. This is an exercise that can be done whether you are in partnership currently or not. As a single person answering these questions is a wonderful and powerful way to connect with it is you are hoping to find and be in the next relationship you choose. The more clear you are with your desires the more honed your ability to recognize what is good for you will be.

Grief is an inevitability.  When you go to the horizon and you look at how life should be/could be/would be, inevitably you are holding the tension between how it is, and how it could be. Be gentle with yourself as you hold onto the tension of this liminal space. Be willing to be with and live with the emotions that reveal themselves when you are in awareness of how your love life is or is not right now. The grief that occurs as a result of this tension is natural, and inevitable. This is authentic vulnerability and is an essential part of moving out of stuckness and stagnancy and towards a new, vibrant, and rich reality. Know that ambiguity and uncertainty can feel dangerous to our nervous systems, and so make sure to be aware of signs that you are being overwhelmed by your survival brain. Have ways to ground and regulate yourself, reminding yourself that being in this space between is necessary, and temporary.

Shift your language from abundance to deficit! One quick and generative change you can make right now in your relationship and in your life is to shift your language. Notice how you state issues- do you focus on the deficit? Such as “I really don’t want to have bad sex anymore”, and can you choose to state it in the affirmative by saying something more like “I am dreaming of having passionate and juicy sex”. By choosing words of abundance, you open more possibilities for connection, creativity, and choice.

EXERCISE: As you begin to make changes in your relationship, or are wanting to see things with new eyes, it can be helpful to reflect on the following 4 questions:

  1. What have I learned?
  2. What am I relearning?
  3. What has surprised me?
  4. What am I intrigued by?

Three Invisible connectors that help create the “dance of life in connection”:

1) Honor the space between: Take some time to reflect and sense the relational space that has been created between you and your partner. Is it clear? Joyful? Fun? Is it tense? Difficult? Conflictual? In crisis? It may be helpful to look for indicators by noticing the reactions of either your children, or your pets as they too are affected by the tone of the space between the two of you. Recognize that your relationship lives in this space between. Tend to it. Honor it. Make it as sacred as possible. The quality of this space is what allows for a sense of encountering to happen- a coming together of two beings in full and rich aliveness and authenticity. By honoring this space between you open new possibilities and opportunities for increased connection, mystery, and even miracles!

2) Create a bridge: A healthy and vibrant relationship is bilingual- in which you  speak your language but you also speak and learn the language and culture of your partner. You learn the rhythm and the music of your partner. To do so it is important that you are willing and able to cross the bridge and enter into the world of your partner. There is as much an art to visiting as there is of hosting. As a host you can ask the following questions: How do I invite my partner into my world? How can I be as transparent and authentic as possible so that my partner can see me, and see into me? How can I make them feel welcome in my world and allow them to make discoveries on your own? For the one visiting and crossing the bridge some important questions are: Can I enter this other world without bringing in the past? How can I live in the present with my partner? What do I need to do in order to bring new and fresh eyes to see their world? Am I being open to discovery? For both the host and the visitor there needs to be a willingness to be vulnerable, open, and emphatically curious!

3) Zone of the encounter: By creating an honored space in the relationship, and then crossing the bridge into each other’s worlds, you allow for the encounter to occur. These are the conditions required to create safe and trusting connection, which in turn leads to deepening connection. This positive feedback loop is enhanced by how frequently you enter into this zone of the encounter with each other. This is true due to the fact that the more time you spend in this ‘blessed state’  the more neural pathways will wire around the experience and make it easier and easier for you to access this level of intimacy and connection!

Neighborhoods: Imagine yourself as a big expanding world that is filled with neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods are precious, some rough and tough, and some filled with childhood memories. When you invite your partner to cross the bridge into your world, you can name some of your neighborhoods and decide together which to visit and explore. Please note that it may be helpful to have professional support as the two of you choose to enter into the toughest neighborhoods (such as the neighborhood of abandonment, distrust, etc).

Have a beginner’s mind: When you are invited to cross the bridge into your partner’s world and to visit one of their neighborhoods, be sure that you only accept once you know you are willing to leave your known stories and assumptions behind. This is a big decision as it is the decision to be willing to be changed. Entering their world is a choice to have a beginner’s mind and see with fresh eyes. It is better to acknowledge you are not ready and postpone than to accept without being ready or willing to leave the past behind.

Be curious and show up as a visitor: As you begin to get familiar with the idea of neighborhoods you can use this as a question in your relationship. When your partner seems off, or far away, or hijacked, get curious about where they are on their map. What neighborhood might they be in? And are you willing to show up as a visitor with nothing but curiosity? When your partner comes to your world with this level of openness to learn, your own defenses begin to melt, and reciprocity is possible.

Let your limbic systems talk to each other! The truth is that we can help each other as much as we can trigger each other! The limbic systems of our brains are constantly scanning our surroundings for safety. Allow your limbic systems to speak with each other- and help create cues of safety for each other that allow the alarm system of the brain to quiet down. Strive to become the regulating resources you are for each other! With even more support it is possible to use the safe container of your partnership to unravel survival knots that have been long embedded, and to allow for shifts towards a more present truth.

Allow ‘I don’t know’ to be a corridor to  new knowledge: Celebrate those inevitable moments in relationship and conversation where you do not have answers! These moments and impasses are the openings to new truths. When you get to an “I don’t know”, get curious about what this corridor might lead to. Likely, if you follow it with openness, you will discover a deeper truth either about yourself, your partner, or your relationship.

We are all heros! Instead of thinking about healing, think about transformation. When we truly go into the past to see where we have come from what we find is a heroic story, rather than a wounded one. Each one of us is a hero of an archetypical story and it is a story of resilience, of courage, and of boldness. By being willing to discover a hero instead of a wound, we help ourselves transform from a sense of less than to a sense of completeness!


Check out Hedy and her husband’s website for more resources!

Go here if you are Interested in getting trained Encountered-centered Couples Therapy!

Wanting support for you and your partner? Connect with Hedy for a couple’s intensive. Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Hedy Schleifer!

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Dec 7, 2016

If you're looking for things to change or grow in your relationship, but nothing is happening, you might need to ask yourself this IMPORTANT question. Are you willing? In this week's podcast, I reveal how to use this question as part of a process to uncover some of the hidden obstacles to progress in your relationship (or in general).

Also, on December 14th 2016 Chloe and I will be offering a free webinar: The 50-Minute Relationship Breakthrough. In it, we reveal a simple 3-Step Strategy to build deep intimacy with your partner, transform conflict into connection, and uncover new tools and possibilities to keep your relationship alive and thriving. Click here to register! It's at 1pm Eastern (US), but there will be a replay available if you cannot be there live. As long as you're signed up we'll be able to send you the link to the replay.

Looking forward to hearing about your insights, and seeing you for the webinar!

Nov 29, 2016

Breakups happen. With the right frame of mind, any breakup that you go through can become a golden opportunity. It can be the best thing that ever happened to you - and, believe it or not, it can also be the best thing that ever your relationship! We’ve covered the topic of Conscious Uncoupling here on the podcast, back in episode 21 (with Katherine Woodward Thomas) - and now we’re going to take a slightly different approach. In today’s episode, we’re talking with Chris Seiter of and - about what’s involved when you decide that you actually want an ex...back.

I’m going to assume that you’ve done your soul-searching here, and that getting your ex back is actually something that would be good for you (apart from a “heal my pain, now, please” kind of thing). If not, please take the time to do that. Fortunately, if you’re following Chris Seiter’s approach, you’ll find yourself with time built right into the process - time to grow, heal, and...get some perspective before you potentially dive back into something better left behind. That all being said, my own relationship went through a breakup or two on our path to stability - so it’s not necessarily over for you and your partner, especially when your do-overs give you a chance to undo the unhealthy patterns that led to your breakup in the first place.

Rehabilitate with your own growth. When it comes to break-ups and separations, especially when not mutual, there can be a lot of pursual/withdrawal and victim mentality patterning. Desperate measures are taken by the one who is left as they feel hopeless and out of control. So many of us have the tendency to rush into fixing things as quickly as possible, however going from zero to sixty only repels exes further. Resist the instinct to beg your ex, or try to win them back immediately.  The most important shift you can make, is to turn towards yourself. Make a u-turn and focus on rehabilitating your own growth. This will simultaneously increase your chances of re-attracting your ex, while rebuilding your own sense of wholeness and vitality.

How can i become the best version of myself? Given that the best thing you can do during a break up is to focus on yourself- check in with the holy trinity of well being: Health, Wealth, and Wellbeing. Ask yourself: what do I need to do to improve my health? How am I growing my mind? How am I tending to my heart? What can I do to take care of myself financially? There is a synergistic effect between these three areas of yourself, and by shifting your attention and energy to the things you do have control over will re-invigorate your sense confidence, creativity, and clarity. Not to mention that the healthier you are in a holistic sense, the more attractive you are to others. Furthermore, there are many times when through working on yourself and making needed changes, you discover that you have naturally outgrown your old relationship.

No contact rule. When in a state of fear of losing a relationship, many people focus on the other, versus finding inspiration to devote time to their own growth. Often this looks like a continual obsession with how and when to contact their ex. Data shows however that 70% of those successful of getting back together with their ex, is through using a No Contact rule. Having a period of no contact is important for many reasons, including but not limited to

  1. ignoring your ex will make them curious about you and miss you
  2. raises chances that they will pursue you
  3. interrupts the pursue/withdraw pattern, and
  4. allows you to have the space and time needed to focus on yourself.

Obviously everyone’s situation is unique, and so the rule will have to be tailored to your circumstances (perhaps you have children together?). That said, it is recommended to choose between a 21 day, 30 day, or 45 day no-contact rule.

Creating more contact: Once contact begins again, pay attention to the levels of communication, from texting, to talking on the phone, to meeting in person. Be mindful of what is too much, and what is too little. Create cliffhangers in your text messages, meaning engage your ex and then end in an open loop with an unanswered question, an open invitation, a ‘to be continued’ thought. Remember while you are reaching out that we are all hardwired for connecting, and very responsive to stories. Texting provides a great platform to re-engage your ex through humor, things you know they would find amusing or interesting, etc, however the goal is to move towards phone conversation and ultimately, the decision to go on a date together.

Small and doable. When you go on a first date, you don’t ask your date to marry you! Same goes when reconnecting with an ex. Do not try to go from 0-100 to get to 100, in fact it is neither advised nor perhaps even possible. Instead, take baby steps. Keep your sense of pressure/perfectionism in check, and focus on showing up for each moment with authenticity, compassion, and presence. Do not feel like there is one spectacular thing you could do that would unlock the possibility of getting back together, instead improvise moment to moment. Take a step towards them, then perhaps a pause, then another step, looking inside yourself to figure out what the ‘right’ step means to you. It is way more effective if you go moment to moment, and will inevitably provide important new information about whether this relationship is the right thing for you or not.

Move Move Move: If you genuinely take the time to focus on yourself, to give critical space for growth, and then you reconnect but your ex still says they are not interested, then it is time to move on. Break ups are incredibly painful, however continuing to pine over someone who is saying they are unavailable becomes dangerous as it can make quickly make you and your life feel stagnant, decrease your sense of confidence, and limits your sense of possibility and openness to anything new.

Ask a question! Chris or his team will respond! Find his contact info here.

Check out Chris’ websites for amazing resources:

For ex boyfriend information check here!

For ex girlfriend information check here! Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Chris Seiter.

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Nov 23, 2016

Did you know that amplifying the gratitude in your life can have an enormous impact on shifting you from scarcity to abundance? Today's episode, short and sweet, offers you several quick practices that can help you get into the habitude of gratitude. Enjoy, and - if you're here in the US - Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 15, 2016

What do you do when you feel like your relationship is going in the wrong direction? How do you find new things to try when you feel like you’ve tried everything? And what’s possible for you when you’re going it alone - perhaps when your partner already has one foot (or both feet) out the door? On today’s episode, we are chatting with Michele Weiner Davis, author of the bestselling books Divorce Busting, The Sex-Starved Marriage, and The Divorce Remedy. Her solution-focused therapy has helped thousands of couples come back from the brink of separation and divorce to a place of lasting, thriving love.

You can’t figure this stuff out by meditating on the top of a mountain. We are not necessarily born with the skills required to have healthy and happy relationships. Instead, we learn by watching our adult caregivers, and for many of us, this means that we did not have great role models or teachers. That said, it is possible to learn these skills, including how to navigate conflict with grace and compassion, how to show tenderness, how to communicate needs lovingly, etc. We learn how to actively love within the context of our relationships- and our relationships are always giving us teaching opportunities. In order to grow from these lessons, it is critical that we pay attention to our roles, patterns, and habits in the relationship. More often than not, one’s relationship patterns will follow them into any subsequent relationship. This may explain why first marriages end 42% of the time, but the rates of divorce for 2nd and 3rd marriages is much much higher. So, be willing to get into the weeds and to learn everything you can about how to have a good, healthy, and loving relationship now!

It takes one to tango: Do you feel like you are taking on your relationship alone? That your partner isn’t as interested or willing to ask the hard questions? One big assumption in relationships is that change has to take two people. The truth is that when one person makes changes in a relationship, their partner will change in response. You CAN effect change singlehandedly in a relationship as long as you are willing to take the first steps! You have nothing to lose (and everything to gain) by taking the initiative and trying a new approach to making changes in your relationship- tip the first domino and watch how you can be a catalyst for big shifts.

STEPS: These steps are for anyone who wants to turn their relationship around (or simply to feel better):

Step 1) Start with a beginner’s mind: Many people have loads of misconceptions about marriage in general, and long-held stories about their own. Often these assumptions and fictions are limiting and debilitating, creating an invisible context that silently stifles the relationship and gets in the way of what is needed to make things better. Get curious and bring awareness to the beliefs you hold about the concept of marriage/partnership, and check in with the stories you may have created about what is possible in your own.

Step 2) Know what you want: Many people spend a lot of energy and time cause hunting- meaning they focus on places in their relationship that are no longer working. Try to look concretely at what is working and forward to where you want to be. By identifying specific steps necessary to achieve what you would rather have, you can begin to set goals. These goals should be action-oriented, measurable, and doable.

Step 3) Ask for what you want: Once you know your goals, you will be more prepared to lovingly communicate your desire for change to your partner in a way that will likely bring you both closer to what you want, and away from the shame/blame cycle. Asking for change when you have taken the time and energy to identify your own responsibility as well as specific steps forward will mean that your partner will hear a request for change rather than a complaint. Complaints lead to defensiveness and your partner is much less likely to be curious, open, or willing to comply. Be intentional about your timing- trying to have a heart to heart while in the midst of dishes, kids, and chaos is not the time. Find quietude, and preface the conversation with conciliatory and loving statements, such as “I know you don’t mean to do this, and I haven’t been open enough with you about how this has affected me, however I would love to talk about…”. From here, be specific! Ask for what you want and help paint a path forward with concrete action steps.

Step 4) Stop going down cheese-less tunnels. Where in your relationship do you find yourself getting stuck over and over? Are you saying and doing the same thing repeatedly? Is there one place your partner really digs in their heels? Bring curiosity to stuck places as these are likely the result of consistent yet ineffective attempts to intervene and fix. Look inward and ask yourself what patterns you may be repeating that have not yet worked. The want to fix can be so strong, and the pain of disappointment or discontentment so great, that we can blind ourselves to how we may actually be exacerbating the conflict or stagnancy. Thankfully, doing something different usually brings enough movement to break free from toxic cycles of behavior, and into creativity and possibility!

Step 5) Experiment and Monitor Results:  Begin to experiment. Have a trial and error philosophy- try doing things differently- it almost doesn’t even matter what you do, because anything will be better than what hasn’t been working. Remember that spontaneity is a powerful force in relationships as it breaks patterns and opens new doors that allow for more creativity. What other actions might you be able to take that are different than your status quo? Embrace the idea that it is probably and possible that if you approach things differently, you WILL get different results!

Step 6) Take Stock: As you begin to make shifts, keep your eyes open for signs of shifting and change. Do not expect big tectonic plate sized shifts, but rather become keenly aware of microshifts, training yourself to look for small signs. Is there a change in your partner’s tone? Are they asking different questions? Body language shifts? Are they initiating conversation differently? Scale expectations down and look for the baby steps forward. This is not because big shifts are not happening, but rather because the more small shifts you can appreciate and notice, the more encouraged you will feel and this alone will bring new energy and vitality to your relationship!

Step 7) Keep the Positive Changes Going: Lasting change has setbacks- the road to positive lasting change is paved with many ups and downs. What separates those who can sustain and grow over time from those that get stuck and resentful is the willingness to take personal responsibility in the context of their relationship. Don’t wait for your partner to come to you. Take personal responsibility for doing what you need to do in the moment to get your relationship back on track on any given day.

Positive change buttons: We all know those things that we can say that really gets under our partner’s skin. Those hot button topics or statements that tick them off and totally and immediately send them into defense. Well, this ability to so quickly change the mood can be used in reverse as well! Take time to notice what brings your partner to life and makes them feel good- then begin to incorporate these ‘positive change buttons’ throughout the day!

Last resort technique? Do you feel you are in the 11th hour of your relationship? When it feels like all else has failed, the last resort technique helps with skills that work to turn things around, even without the direct support of your spouse. If you feel like you have done everything to save your marriage, but you are losing steam or hope, begin by taking a deep breath and several steps backwards. You want to break the toxic victim/defender dynamic. At this point your partner may be used to being pursued intensely, so try to stop chasing. Turn towards yourself and focus on your own growth- exercise, meditate, find friends, go out, rediscover self-care. By focusing on your own wellbeing you will feel more confident, grounded, and independent, and often, this will not only just make you feel better but it will likely bring your partner closer!

This didn’t save my marriage but it did save my life: All of the steps outlined above, including the last resort technique, will help you get grounded into yourself. They connect you with what you hope for in your relationship and your life, and to a greater sense of optimism that comes from a sense of increased clarity and capability. These steps may not necessarily save your relationship, however they will leave you feeling independent, strong, clear and inspired.


Read the Divorce Remedy: The Proven 7-Step Program for Saving Your Marriage
Keep your eyes open for Michele’s newest book Healing from Infidelity available January 2017

Learn more about Michele’s work and find more resources on her website

Call today to schedule a consultation! 1800-664-2435

Feedback? Questions? You can contact Michele directly at: Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Michele Weiner Davis.

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook
Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Nov 9, 2016

How do you increase the amount of positive energy in your relationship? Since what you focus on grows, in this week's episode I'm going to give you some thoughts on how to expand your ability to focus on what's working (both within yourself, and in the way you relate with your partner), and stop feeding into what isn't working.

Enjoy these practical suggestions that you can put into practice - today. It's always possible to find something to celebrate - especially when you know how and where to look. Which is what I'm about to teach you on today's Relationship Alive podcast.

I'm excited to hear about how this practice impacts you in your life and your relationship - make sure you let me know!

Nov 2, 2016

How do you foster intimacy, even when you're fighting? The recipe for a successful relationship involves learning how to collaborate even when things aren't going well. And once you learn how to do that, you'll find that opportunities to create intimacy are abundant in your relationship. It's the magic that happens when you're willing to work together no matter what's going on. In today's episode, we're talking to Dan Wile, the creator of Collaborative Couples Therapy. Along with seeing clients and conducting intensives for couples, Dan Wile trains therapists in Collaborative Couples Therapy, and his work is recommended by John Gottman as an embodiment of the principles recommended through his research and practice.

Here are the details on what we cover:

Create a loving conversation: Many couples struggle to communicate their way through conflict- so often resorting to withdrawing or fighting. Collaborative couple’s therapy helps couples learn to reach out to one another in difficult moments and around difficult topics so that they may create a loving conversation out of whatever it is they are going through. Through collaboration conflict can become intimate exchange.

Self-reinforcing cycles: Dan Wile explains that many couples too easily find “themselves in an adversarial or withdrawn cycle without knowing how they got into it, not wanting to be in it, and not knowing how to get out of it”. Here are the 3 self-reinforcing cycles he identifies:

Adversarial: Speaking from anger often begins a vicious cycle. When we speak from a charged place we often have a threatening tone, and we enter into either attack mode or defense mode. Biochemicals are released, and the sympathetic nervous system is leading the way, thus making us speak before we think. We make accusations that put our partner on the defensive and vice-versa, therefore reinforcing the intensity and increasing escalation.

Withdrawn cycle: Another common reaction to conflict is the withdrawal cycle. This is when one partner, or both, use extreme cautiousness and avoid saying anything evocative. While this may seem like a safer strategy at first it is dangerous as it leads to mutual withdrawal, intense distancing, and a devitalization of the relationship.

Empathic Cycle: Both the adversarial and withdrawal cycles can be shifted to a loving cycle through empathy. One partner must take a step out of their “i’m right, you are wrong” stance, and step towards their partner. When one partner acknowledges the otherness, or speaks for the ‘we’, they offer a moment of reconnection and an opportunity for repair. This can sound and look a lot of ways, for example “Wow- you seem to have a point, even if I do not agree I want to understand you more”, or “you know, I think I am saying a lot of things that I do not really mean right now because I am very angry”, or “even though this is really messy I am proud of us for trying to work through this difficult conversation because the topic is so important to us both”, or “I’m getting really upset because this is something I really care about, and I know you do too- I’m feeling like things are at stake and I’m feeling vulnerable”. Confessions such as these often helps the other partner acknowledge what is happening for them as well, and thus the couple finds themselves talking about the angry/frustration/sadness, rather than from it.

The “We need to talk” talk.  There is a common pattern in which one partner will seek out the other and say something like “we need to have a talk”. This languaging gets registered as “I have a complaint” or “you did something wrong” and immediately the conversation is derailed into a conflict as the one partner goes into defense or withdraw mode. If you are the one initiating the conversation try to:
  1. Anticipate the struggle of your partner: Initiate difficult conversations by preemptively voicing the concern that often lead to the fight, such as “I want to talk about something difficult, and it might make you feel defensive, but I want to find a way for us to have this conversation that allows me to share in a way that you can hear and we can work through this together”. Or, “I want to talk about (the state of things in our kitchen) and I already know (that you might feel overwhelmed by this) and I totally understand and yet, we need to figure out how to solve this somehow”.
  2. Turn your complaint into a wish or a fear: Learn to express what your concern is by sharing the underside of the issue and making it more about you than about them- they will be much more receptive and able to stay present for solutions!
  3. Practice: Play with taking on your partner’s side and pretending to voice their side of the fight. This kind of role play can help increase understanding and empathy.
From fight to intimacy: A fight occurs when there are two people who both feel too unheard to listen. Each person presents their point of view (often in a very charged way) and the other presents theirs and neither is acknowledging the other’s views or feelings. It is possible to shift from confrontation to intimacy. Intimacy comes from the ability to share what is most deeply on your mind- what is most alive for you in the moment. It is about sharing this feeling with your partner, and then hearing the same from them. In order to shift from fight to intimacy it is helpful to search for, and speak for the underbelly feelings/leading edge feelings: those feelings that are at the core of the conflict.
Leading edge feeling: Learn to get to the underlying current of what is happening for you by searching below the content for the emotions, fears, worries, and sensations that are informing how you are showing up in any given moment. Be curious and empathic with yourself as you search for the soft underbelly feelings. Once you have identified this, share it! As intimidating as these may seem at first, you will soon learn that it is the key to creating loving conversations and building intimacy with your partner. You will feel a great amount of relief once you have shared your truth and your struggle, and consequently your partner will often feel great relief as well as it allows them 1) insight into your vulnerabilities, 2) demonstrates your trust in them, and 3) may validate certain instincts or gut feelings they have had about what you have been going through. Get professional or personal support in learning to identify the underlying feelings, and then practice expressing it outward and making it known. When we can find our lost voice we allow for fuller expression of our inner struggles, and thus, create more opportunities for connections.
Self-empathy: When we have a lack of empathy for ourselves we are unable to get in touch with our leading edge feelings, and when this is true we either:
  1. Turn our feelings and struggles into something our partner is doing wrong. Such as if you are feeling unlovable you may believe or accuse your partner that they don’t love you.
  2. Get quiet. Sometimes if we cannot figure out how we are feeling or don't know how to speak for it we either blank out or say nothing at all.
  3. Other times we try to resolve the gap through actions. For example, if you are feeling uninteresting you might try to talk more and more. Or you turn to substances (food, drugs, alcohol) to try to self-soothe the inner struggle.

None of these strategies end up helping us get to the core of the issue. Instead they distract us into a further place of disconnection not only from ourselves, but from our partner. If finding empathy with yourself is very difficult, you can try to imagine looking at your own struggle as if it was your friend’s- what would you say to that friend? Find resources and ways that help you come back to a centered place of compassion for yourself so that you can re-find your voice and speak for your vulnerabilities.

Allow love in: While it is widely believed that you cannot love another until you love yourself, it is simultaneously true that you can learn to love yourself deeper and better if and when you feel loved by another person. As you increase your own sense of empathy for yourself, find ways to allow your partner to show up for you. This can be facilitated by sharing your struggle. By offering your partner a window into your tender places you invoke their sense of curiosity, their desire to support you, and their ability to help facilitate a warm nurturing environment for you to better step out of yourself and discover more of what you are truly feeling.
A relationship is how you deal with difficult moments. Healthy vibrant relationships are not devoid of difficulty, rather they have the capacity to find intimacy and connection through struggle. Work with yourself and your partner to get to the source of your feelings and speak about the deepest parts. As you do you'll help yourself and your partner get out of a triggered state, and into a compassionate and empathic place in which you are both more resourceful, creative, connected, and where you can actually repair!
Read Daniel Wile’s book After the Honeymoon: How Conflict Can Improve your Relationship
Find out more about Dan’s work and workshops Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Aubrey Fuller.
Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook
Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Oct 27, 2016

When things go wrong in your relationship, what do you do to make things right? Whether it's something small, like accidentally hurting your partner's feelings, or something big (like infidelity), there is a process that you can go through in order to not only heal what's happened, but to leave you stronger, as a couple, than you were before.

In today's episode, I cover the secrets of how to repair your relationship. If you've tried and failed to heal the hurts of the past, to find forgiveness, and to move on in a more positive way, then my goal here is to show you what you're missing. I cover:

  • What you can - and must - do on your own - the inner work necessary.
  • What to do with your partner - the relational skills of repair
  • When to involve a 3rd party to help you out

It's completely normal for things to come up that require repair. The question is: can you actually fix things and move on? The skills of relationship repair are required for any successful relationship - and here they are, summed up for you in one quick episode! 

Oct 19, 2016

Want to deepen your sense of what’s possible in sex, and experience a completely new kind of sensual connection to your partner? There’s more to sex and sensuality than most of us discover on our own, and on this show, one of my goals is to help you relearn and re-experience yourself as a sexual being. The practice of Orgasmic Meditation (OM), created by Nicole Daedone and promoted by OneTaste - the organization that she co-founded, allows you to explore orgasm sensuality in a totally new way. It is also a profoundly different way to connect sensually with your partner. Today’s guest, Aubrey Fuller, is the co-owner of OneTaste New York and OneTaste Los Angeles, and she is one of the world’s experts on how to “OM” - and the benefits of the practice.

Orgasmic Meditation (OM)- OMing is a partnered exercise introduced by slow-sex leader Nicole Daedone who co-founded OneTaste. It is a therapeutic and meditative sensual practice in which the focus of awareness is on the stimulation of the clitoris. One person (the one doing the stimulating) is the stroker, and the other person (who is receiving and, in this case, must have a clitoris) is the strokee. OMing is a 15-minute process that is both prescribed and predictable as it follows a series of steps that people are trained in and encouraged to follow.  While OneTaste  educates people on the what, the when, the how, and the where, they leave the who to you. It can be done with a partner, a friend, or anyone else you trust. There are classes taught around the world, and OMing communities can be found in many major cities.

Why? Those who teach, and those who experience OMing speak about the extensive benefits of the practice. It is about rediscovering what is possible in how we connect with each other sensually, sexually, and intimately! The impacts are not only physical, they are emotional, psychological, hormonal, and relational- to name a few. And the benefits are not only relegated to the strokees! Strokers also describe incredible growth and healing through the practice. It validates. Increases confidence. Heals old wounds. Raises consciousness. Allows for connection to body and other. It allows for deep healing through opening, relaxation, and release. For many women, OMing may the first time that they really learn, on a cellular level, that it is safe to be female in the world.

Orgasm 1.0/Masculine style orgasm: Masculine style orgasms are the type in which the goal is climax. There is a predictable pattern of ascension, climax/ejaculation followed by quick decline.

Orgasm 2.0/Feminine style orgasm. Female style orgasms, on the other hand, are non-linear. They made or may not include climax, and they may include many. This is non-peak orgasm sex that focuses more on the in-between and on following the sexual energy up, down, left, right. OMing is all about redefining, exploring, and celebrating the feminine style orgasm.

O2 sex- when to stop? Shifting from O1 sex to O2 sex requires a certain letting go of expectations and agenda. This is what slow sex is all about. Some people get disoriented at first as they no longer have the explicit information from ejaculation that ‘the deed is done’. To learn more about non-orgasmic sex, check out other episodes on slow sex - such as Episode 2 with Diana Richardson (Discover the Power of Slow Sex), Episode 5 with Marnia Robinson (How Orgasms are Hurting Your Relationship), and Episode 23 with Sheri Winston (Useful Things You Never Knew about Feminine Sexuality). As for OMing- the 15 minute timer is taken very seriously as it helps hold a container which differentiates sex and life, and maintains immaculate boundaries so that people do not get lost in meaning, expectations, or old patterns. When it comes to OMing it is very important to stick with agreements on time- honoring the sacredness of the practice.

Empathic orgasm: Aubrey Fuller of OneTaste jokingly advises: “Have a clit? Get it stroked! Don’t have a clit? Stroke one!” Both strokers and strokees tend to feel the same after an OMing session- stating that their mind is quiet, they feel open, refreshed, and content. Strokers often feel turned on themselves, and describe a sensation of a pulse of electricity running from their fingers through their whole body: a flush of energy, as well as oxytocin being released. In this way, OMing allows for individualized experiences (strokers and strokees may have their own journeys) while also allowing for connected and parallel processes. While the strokee may get off directly, the stroker has the opportunity for empathic orgasm.

A note for those who have trauma histories: Always follow your own knowing. Tune it to yourself. This practice is meant to bring stuff up- and as in any meditation practice, when we get quiet and allow ourselves to open, our vulnerabilities emerge. This is especially true in OMing because the clitoral stimulation floods the basement of your being- your genitals/hips/pelvis with motion and orgasmic energy and often these are the places in our bodies that hold shame and unreleased traumatic memories and emotions. This is something to remain aware of and to care take- are you in a place and do you have the support to be with what comes up in a way that is not going to overwhelm you? While this is something to be cautious of, it is not contra-indicated by any means. In fact, BECAUSE it brings so much motion and energy to these often hidden places of our bodies and psyche, there is incredible potential for healing, restoration, and growth. Reach out to safe and stable professionals or people in your life to help you assess safety, trust, and your own sense of readiness.

Be slow when it comes to slow sex! Want to introduce this to your partner but think they are going to be resistant, uncomfortable, or dismissive? Take it slow. Introduce it with patience, and bring them resources- websites, videos, podcasts, book. Do not take their discomfort personally- this is a radically different way to approach sex, and one that involves more vulnerability than most are used to- so it may require time to readjust to!

How To:  There are many videos and courses available to help walk you through the steps of an OMing session. That said, what follows is not a guide, but rather a short run through to help give you a sense of the process.

  1. Ask: Either the strokee or stroker can ask to OM. Either can say no. Set up a date for later, or do it right then- either way honor the commitment as you would a meeting.
  2. The nest: OMing happens on a yoga mat with a blanket and pillows. The stroker sets up the nest and invites the strokee to lay down.
  3. Get ready: The stroker also needs to get a small washcloth, lubrication (OneTaste sells some especially designed for the practice, called OneStroke), and gloves.
  4. In position: The strokee undresses from the waist down and lays on her back with her legs butterflied open. The stroker gets into position sitting next to her. Check out the OneTaste site or the book Slow Sex by Nicole Daedone for clear illustrations on how each should be positioned.
  5. Safeporting and grounding: Stroker communicates in short clear sentences with a calm voice that they will “touch your thigh now”. The statements are firm and always require consent. The stroker then presses the strokees body towards the ground to begin warming the body to touch.
  6. Noticing: Next, the stroker puts full visual attention on the genitals and voices three value neutral things they notice, such as “dark hair that swirls above the clitoris” or “engorged labia”. The strokee thanks the stroker, who then puts on gloves and offers another safeport: “I’m going to touch your genitals now” and looks again for consent.
  7. Stroking: With lubed left forefinger stroker begins on the outside of the vagina and comes up through the inner labia landing on the clit- ideally finding the 1 o'clock spot (most sensitive spot). The stroke is a gentle (no harder than you would stroke your eyelid) up and down, and requires continual contact. Follow sensations, and feel way through experience.
  8. Concluding: the timer will go off at 13 minutes at which point the stroker says “2 minutes” and only strokes on the down pull from then on. These last 2 minutes are about grounding back into the body. When the 15 minute timer goes off the stroker announces “time” and applies grounding pressure to genitals. They then do a towel stroke and helps strokee sit up.
  9. Sharing frames: Both the strokee and stroker share a snapshot of their sensations and give each other an overview of their experience before putting away the nest and concluding the session.

In the moment feedback: There can as little or as much communication as needed during OMing. The strokee can ask for adjustments, and the stroker can make offerings, such as “more pressure? More to the left? Pull your hood back more?”. There is no formula or rule around communication- only that both are mindful to keep statements and questions short and simple so that neither person is distracted into a heady/intellectual thinking place.

The point: The point of this practice is to sink into a feeling state and just feel human connection! Being present for whatever arises on a sensory level. It is ultimately a goalless practice in which you are neither pursuing nor avoiding climax. For both the strokee and stroker the attention is placed on the point of contact: where the finger meets the clit. Breath is natural, eye contact is minimal, and attention returns continually to this point.

Did you know why OneTaste is called One Taste? The name of the organization comes from the following quote from the Buddha:

“Just as the great ocean has one taste, the taste of salt, so also this teaching and discipline has one taste, the taste of liberation.”


Learn more about OneTaste here! Find links to their app, classes, stories, and more!

Read Nicole Daedone’s book Slow Sex

Take a free course!

Buy OneStroke lube! Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Aubrey Fuller.

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Oct 13, 2016

Being in relationship is an act of courage. And while it's easy to see the obvious moments when you're "feeling your fear and doing it anyway" - what I want you to discover in this week's episode is just how much the micro-moments of risk-taking and vulnerability - and the courage required to show up in even THOSE moments - is what a successful relationship is made of. If you follow Brené Brown's work on vulnerability at all, that's exactly what I'm talking about.

This week I'm going to tell you a story about how this recently played out in my relationship with Chloe, and along the way offer you strategies and insights about how to find your courage and make the most of moments of risk and vulnerability. Plus a bonus strategy on how to deal with a busy life that doesn't leave much time for togetherness. All this and more, this week on Relationship Alive!

Oct 5, 2016

What do you do when you and your partner disagree on something truly important? How do you find a way to bridge the divide and come back to a place of collaboration and understanding? And how do you know when to throw in the towel? Today’s guest, Sheila Heen, of the Harvard Negotiation Project, is one of the world’s masters of turning difficult conversations around. In today’s episode, you’ll discover some of the skills required to get through an impasse back to a place of connection. And like many of the relationship skills that we’ve covered here on the Relationship Alive podcast, our goal is to give you some new approaches to familiar situations, to uncover the blind spots that get you into these predicaments in the first place (or prevent you from getting out of them. Once you make the shift, you’ll never experience conflict in the same way again.

What qualifies as a difficult conversation? If you are anxious about raising a conversation, or have raised a certain topic a million times and it goes badly or nothing really changes, then it qualifies as a difficult conversation.  Difficult conversations are those that are about things that really matter to us, and with people who really matter to us. Difficult conversations have a certain intensity to them, often eliciting strong emotions, and carrying a long history. These are the conversations where the stakes feel high, and you might feel like there are just no possible solutions.

Difficult conversations are part of a healthy relationship. Having a relationship comes down to the ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions, meaning that it is less about never having conflict or disconnect, but rather having enough eye to eye and heart to heart to repair, grow, and trust. This is especially true when it comes to communication. Do not take the fact that you may be arguing or disagreeing as an immediate sign of health. Instead look at how you are having the conversations. We all know that there are many ways of communicating that damage relationships, however it is important to realize that there are also many ways to have difficult conversations that in fact help build and strengthen your bond!

Don’t get too caught up in the content! Moving difficult conversations towards healthy connection is about looking and listening for what is underneath the content.

It is very easy to get hooked into the substance of the conversation- however the substantive issue is temporary and ephemeral, while what is underneath is long term and deep set. Take a step back and look at HOW you are having the conversation, more than focusing on the WHAT of the conversation. Are you trying to understand the deeper layers? Listening for the implicit messages? Beneath what it is you may be talking about or disagreeing on is a second layer consisting of feelings and fears about being cared for, understood, appreciated, loved, etc. This second level is the glue that holds relationships together, and is often an omnipresent influence in the tone of the relationship, whether acknowledged or not.

Be willing to let go of control.  Many of us come into our interactions with the agenda of changing the other person. What we believe we really want is for them to be different, and we think that if they changed then all would be better. As a result we become hyper-focused on getting the other person to think X or do Y, which inevitably increases tension and discord. We must try to fess up and come to terms with the fact that we don’t have ultimate control over how or if someone else will change. Instead of so actively trying to fight and avoid this reality- embrace it! At first this may feel frustrating, or depressing, but soon enough there will be this sense of liberation. Ah…a weight lifts off your shoulders and you become available to tend to what is happening for YOU. In letting go of the need, desire, and agenda to control the other, we enter into the conversation in a more open way that actually maximizes the chances that you will get the results you ultimately want!

Shift to a learning conversation: We are all guilty of confusing conversation with the need to win the argument, or get the other to admit we are right. Acknowledge this desire and tendency, and then work towards shifting the purpose of the conversation from delivering YOUR message to that of connecting for the purpose of learning. If the purpose is truly to learn more about each other’s differing perspectives, then a certain level of trust will be possible that then is often the opening to options, connection, and possibilities that were otherwise unseen.

Internal voice: If you look and listen below what people say to each other, then you can tune into the running commentary of their (or your) internal voice. This is the voice that has strong beliefs, is fearful, worries, judges, has negative or distorted view points, and projects on those around. Get to know your own internal voice in an effort to realize how it is influencing your ability to be present in meaningful conversations. In conflict, this internal voice is preoccupied with 3 levels of conversation:

  1. What Happened Conversation. This is that inherent sense of “I am right”.  We feel that we have a story about what happened, what is happening, and what should happen going forward.
  2. Feelings Conversation- Strong feelings are the energy that drives the conversation and guides our reactions. Notice what feelings are fueling you- sadness? Feeling at whit’s end? Feeling afraid?
  3. Identity Conversation. One of the strongest contributors to how we are or are not reacting in conflict is due to what we feel the situation says about us. We wonder whether we are competent. Loved? A good parent? Identity is really driving who we are trying to be in most conversation.

What happened conversation: When we are focused on the WHAT happened part of the conflict or discord, we are usually focusing on 3 things:

1) Preoccupation with what I am right about

2) Placing blame and figuring out whose fault it is

3) Looking for intentions and what is motivating the other person to be so adamant/unreasonable/etc.

Intention and actions: It is inherent that many of us have a tendency to think the worst of other people and the best of ourselves. Whether through a sense of protection, ego, or defensiveness, we commonly interpret our own behavior in the best light. We also project our fears on others, confusing feelings and fears. For example, if our partner does not do the dishes, we may automatically believe that it is because they do not care, or that they are trying to make our life miserable, or that they simply did in on purpose to upset us. This blaming and assumption of bad intentions is one of the fastest ways to escalate a fight! To slow this reactivity down, it is important to pull apart and make space between intentions and impacts. Intentions are invisible. Again, intentions are invisible. We have no x-ray capacity to truly know someone else’s intentions without them letting us know. What we can see is actions, and what we can do about it is share and ask. Tell your partner how their actions impacted you. Tell them that you don’t know what their intention was. Tell them you are frustrated/mad/sad/hurt. You can even share with that that it isn’t working for you. But while you do, also share that you are curious about what is happening for them. Then listen. Gather information about their side of the story. Be receptive instead of defensive, and curious instead of controlling. The truth is that there will be no new solution until the problem itself is really understood.

Blame vs. contribution:  Blame is an inherent part of our internal voice. It is part of our way of looking in reverse and learning from our experiences. It asks “whose fault is it” and then figures out punishment. While it is true that blame can be dangerous as it escalates conflict and impacts safety and trust, it is also a hard wired way we figure out problems. A healthier, and more productive way of using blame, is to shift to joint contribution. Instead of focusing whose fault it is, the concept of joint contribution assumes that everyone contributed somehow*. It may not necessarily be 50/50, but there is shared responsibility. Thinking through a joint contribution lens helps get at the critical learning needed to build awareness that allows the relationship to develop and shift out of stuck patterns.

*Note: contribution is not just what you DID, but what you may not have done. It may look, for example, like ways you are expecting something from your partner that you know is not truly who they are/what they are capable of. Are you still expecting them to be on time, when you KNOW they are always 10 minutes late?

Are you an absorber or a shifter? Absorbers are those that are quick to see their faults, while shifters are those that never see their part in a conflict or situation.  As with many dynamics in relationships, there is usually a balancing out of these tendencies- with one person becoming more of the absorber in order to bring equilibrium. Over time however, this pattern becomes unstable as the absorber gets overtired from overcompensating and taking on the blame, and always being the one who apologizes. They hit their limit of what they are able to change about themselves without having their partner shift as well. Absorbers themselves have to take responsibility for how their overcompensation is affecting the relationship, and learn to make ultimatums. Take responsibility early and often for your contribution to a problem!

Feelings conversation:  Feelings are inevitably going to be present and part of difficult conversations. Make them known, visible, and heard. Let them be part of the dialogue. How we each feel treated in a relationship, and how we feel treated on a specific issue is always at the heart of the conflict. Welcome feelings in, not as distractors or points of contention, but rather as inarguable truths that need attention. Feelings can get a bad rep- but they play such a positive role in relationships and help lead us towards deep and core meaning and values.

There is a big difference between expressing emotion and being emotional. Being emotional often involves translating our feelings into judgments. Internal emotional voices are profane, and tend to come out sounding big and mean. This is the WHAT THE FUCK part of us. In effort to avoid hurting our partners, we try to hold our emotions in, muting and hiding them. There is, however, ways to share emotions without coming from emotionality.  Practice noticing and naming the emotion, and then OWNING IT. Speak FOR the feeling, rather than from it.  Say “I am so frustrated/lost/at whit’s end/hurt”, without adding on an attack (because you…). Share things such as “I am confused about whether or not you are as committed as I am” or “I’m scared about what this might mean for our relationship”, or “I feel lonely”. Watch out that you do not say “I feel LIKE”. A feeling followed by ‘like’ turns it automatically into a thought and a judgment.

Identity conversation: Identify questions fuel feelings and fears. What is usually at stake is not whether or not your partner did or did not do the dishes/come on time/follow through/etc, as much as it is about your own identity of what this means. You may be questioning whether you are lovable or not, whether they care or not, whether you are trustworthy or not, or whether you are someone who is willing to be walked on or not. These deeper questions and insecurities prompt the feelings that get embedded into the meaning of an action.

Identifying what is at stake: In order to gain clarity on what identity questions are influencing your reactions, it is helpful to hone in on what you are truly worried about. Ask yourself “What do I worry this conversation/conflict says about me?” Begin to get a pulse for your common insecurities and put your finger on what the deeper questions you are constantly asking are. Depending on the questions you are asking, you find evidence. Looking for evidence that solidifies our worst fears gets us into a whole lot of trouble in relationships. When you get a handle of these identity pieces, you can get insight into why certain conflicts feel so high stakes.  

Collaborating anew:  To move out of conflict and towards collaboration, it is key that you shift to a third story. In conversation there is always MY story, and YOUR story, and yet, realize that there is always also a third story. This third story is the one that holds onto the knowing that each of you have a different relationship to the problem and have different conclusions. This third story respects discord and even embraces it. Coming from this place of accepting difference, allows for the possibility of understanding, learning, and togetherness. It might sound something like: “Hey babe- look ,we have been trying to talk about this for a while now, and I may have not done a great job yet of understanding how we got here, or what this means to you, but I am going to try again. I’m not here to persuade you of anything, or show you how I am right, I just really want to learn what is at stake for you in this situation, and what you are afraid of.” Follow through- listen, don’t argue, be curious, step into a 3rd party listening role and just hear them for who and what they are. Say “tell me more about that…”. Of course, you WILL have your own internal reactions and defenses, and it is okay to share your struggle from a centered place.  Sign post it! Meaning, it is okay to name for your partner what is happening for you internally, but only with the intention of sharing- not with the intention of blaming.

Slow it Down!  These conversations take time! Do not rush them, or expect them to resolve immediately. Give time for digestion and processing. In fact, it is a good idea to give a while (hours, a day) between really allowing your partner to share their side, and you sharing yours. Acknowledge how much you have learned from their sharing, and then choose a time when you will have a chance to share how it affected you and where you are at. When we postpone the expectation for the need to respond immediately we really create the space necessary to sink into deep listening. Time allows for us to move away from reactivity, and into responsiveness. When we take off the pressure of having to find the solution instantaneously we open ourselves up to listen for the deeper fears, worries, identity issues, and core feelings.

Opening up more than just my way or your way. While this all might sound like a long and arduous process, it is ultimately way more efficient AND worthwhile. Take the time to really show up for deeply understand the problem, and you will find how much more graceful and easeful solutions appear. This is true because deep listening allows for collaboration. You get to a place of knowing what is at stake for each of you (without the need to agree), and you begin to understand each other’s points of view. This creates common ground around the stuckness. “Oh wow- we really are on different pages here!”. In most cases, individual solutions are not actually what is needed as much as it is about the process. Can you solve the problem together? Can you reconcile differences while walking through life together? Create sanctuaries in your conversations that honor your differences! Invite in the difficult conversations with courage and vulnerability, as this leads to transformation!


Check out the Triad Consulting Group

Find more information on Heen’s work here

Learn more about the Harvard Negotiation Project

Read Sheila Heen’s Book Difficult Conversations

Also read her book Thanks for the Feedback Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Sheila Heen.

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Sep 29, 2016

One of the most important skills in relationship is knowing how to actually show up - to be present. And while presence is a skill you can learn, there’s something else that’s almost always required if you’re going to be present for any length of time. You have to have something to bring to the table, and the only way that’s going to happen is if you’re paying attention to your own needs. It’s called “Self Care” - and in this episode I talk about how to honor the parts of you that are calling out for time, space, and attention. When you can show up consistently for yourself, it will be much easier for you to show up for others.

This episode also contains a quick guided meditation to help you get centered, and more in touch with what those deep parts of you need. Please make sure you don’t try to do that part while driving! Also, if you’re interested in finding out more about the 7-week online course that Chloe and I are running, called “Thriving Intimacy,” please visit or text the word “INTIMACY” to the number 33444 and follow the instructions.

This episode is for you. I hope you find it to be nourishing and helpful on your path to deeper connection with others, and deeper appreciation for yourself on your journey.

Sep 21, 2016

How do you harness the power of your mind so that it’s working for you, not against you - especially when things get triggering with your partner? We now know that our minds are flexible, and that through neuroplasticity you can continue to develop and change throughout your whole life. In today’s episode, we are talking with Dr. Dan Siegel, one of the world’s leading experts on mindfulness and neuroplasticity, about how you can apply mindfulness with your partner to develop deeper connection to each other, and to yourself. Come along for the ride, as we take an in-depth look at the relationship between your mind and body - and your partner’s mind and body!

Self- In today’s culture we have equated Self as an output of the mind, and the mind as some outcome of the brain. We have narrowed our definition of Self and separated it from a broader and more integrated wholeness. Invite in the possibility that your sense of SELF comes from the weaving together of many layers of your being, and is as expansive as it is tangible.

Integration: Integration is the basis for wellbeing. Integration is the unifying principle that various aspects of a system are honored for their differences, and then linked. Integration is at the core of healthy brain functioning, and healthy relationships. In an integrated state, the social engagement system of our brains is turned on and we are available for connection.

MWE: A healthy relationship is not about dropping your own sense of Self, it is about learning to honor the uniqueness and individuality of both partners and integrating the two into a new whole. It is about going from ME to MWE: a new WE created by the joining of your two Selves into a new entity.

Mindsight: Mindsight is our capacity to be aware of our own minds. It is our ability be aware of our habitual patterns and behaviors and move away from being on autopilot. Mindsight is the capacity to 1) have insight into yourself, 2) have empathy for other people, and 3) honor differences and promote integration. Mindsight is something that can be developed and learned, and must be in order for healthy relationships to form. Thanks to neuroplasticity, increasing mindsight can physiologically and neurologically change our brains- helping us shake off old or inherited patterning and allowing us to become more aware, available, and attuned individuals.

PART: This is an acronym that helps get to the core aspects of how you are or are not showing up in your relationships. What PART do you play in your life to bring more health and restoration to yourself and your relationship?

P: Presence- Presence is the ability of being in an open and receptive state that allows you to connect with whatever is arising inside of yourself. Once you can be present for yourself, you can learn to develop a deep acceptance of what may come up. As we learn to be with, and tend to, and remain aware of our own triggers, emotions, thoughts, and patterns, we then learn to caretake ourselves in ways that take pressure off of our partners and allow us to be more present with THEM!

A: Attunement- By learning to direct your focus of attention, as if it is a stream of energy you can point in various ways, you gain the ability to attune to both yourself and others. Asking questions is a wonderful way to refocus attention. Ask yourself: what meaning does this have for me? What is happening right now? What is happening beneath my/your behavior right now? This curiosity and looking for the underbelly of behavior allows you to gain access to the subjective world of attitudes, beliefs, stories, longings, dreams, insights, and other aspects that are often influencing behavior in the moment.

R: Resonance- If, and only if, you are present, open, and attuned, can you resonate with others. Resonating with others is the ability to allow someone else’s internal state to affect your own. It is the openness to being changed because of another. To be touched. To shift inside in response and attunement to another. Feeling felt by others, and willingly feeling with others is the beginning of becoming a MWE.

T: Trust- When presence, attunement, and resonance are achieved the social engagement system of our nervous system is engaged and turned out. Our brains are wired towards reactivity (flight, fight, freeze, disconnect, avoid, defense, etc.) however when we are in safe and true connection with others we become receptive. Our neurobiology is changed when we feel safe- our muscles relax, our heart rate lowers, and we enter into a ventral vagal state that allows for even more P and A and R. Trust is simultaneously a requirement and an outcome of being in connection with others.

Positive emotion comes from connection. Research (and experience)  have shown that positivity resonance is possible whenever there is human connection, even if it is around being together through suffering or difficulty. The act and process of reaching out to another and connecting, no matter their state, changes the neurobiology of both of you and increases the level of integration. The higher the integration the higher the positivity resonance. This is true because as you reach out you provide relief for the sufferer (who felt alone before), and the sense of compassion and empathy is increased in both individuals, therefore forming a sense of MWE.

Converting implicit memories into narratives of growth and coherence: Very often our reactions in a given moment are more based on implicit memories (those that live in our subconscious) than they are to the present issues/content. We react to the now as if the past were the present, and this can cause confusion, hurt, and high tension in relationships and wreak havoc in our interactions. When we are unaware and unable to differentiate between present and past we react to triggers in one of four ways: fight, flight, freeze, or faint. To begin the process of bringing these patterns into awareness, attune to your own internal state and notice when you shift from a place of receptivity to one of reactivity. Notice the difference in your body, and become aware of the micro-shifts that help clue you into knowing you are beginning to go into defense/reactive mode. This process has a physiology to it- be it clenched jaw, tightened chest, shallow breathing, getting sweaty, higher pitched voice- begin to map these for yourself so that you can fine tune your self-awareness.

Something needs to be done. Nothing positive happens in relationships when we are reactive! That said, it is crucial to learn ways to move out of reactivity and back into receptivity before engaging in fixing/healing/processing. Once you have become skilled in attuning to your internal state of being and noticing when you shift into a reactive state, then it is critical to learn how to take care of yourself. This can be anything and everything from journal writing, to walking around the block, to sitting for a meditation, to calling a friend, to putting on some music and dancing, stretching, drinking a glass of cold water, etc. Whatever your go to self-care and de- escalation strategy is, you MUST first be aware that you need to take a break! This inner work allows you to get back into a state where you are available and open to receiving and being in connection.

Memory retrieval is a  memory modifier. Once you are able to 1) notice that you are being triggered and 2) able to pause and get out of the reactive state, then you can begin to get curious. What past experiences- be it a single incident, or chronic long term patterns, are informing your reactions right now? Ask non-judgemental, open ended questions of yourself. Write. Process with others. Go to counseling. As you find core explicit memories, you then have the opportunity to bring them into awareness and label as ‘past’. The process of bringing memories into consciousness (memory retrieval) is in itself a form of modifying the memory. Identifying the old memories that have been informing your present reactions allows you to make connections, see links, and gain insight into why you respond the way you do. From here you can make meaning of madness, and meaning of memory. Your implicit memories become explicit, and what is automatic becomes autobiographical. You can begin to own your reactions in empowering ways, saying things like ‘There is a theme in me where I get very defensive when I have the feeling of being rejected because my father never thought I was good enough.” Themes that you may begin to identify could be:  abandonment, feeling worthless, neglect, isolation, rejection, being invisible, being smothered, being given too much responsibility, being ignored, being abused, etc.  As you shift the ways you relate to yourself and your past, you will find your relationships shift too!

SIFTing: Our brains are wired with a negativity bias- meaning we automatically scan and focus on negative aspects of an experience (this is due to survival wiring). That said, our brains are elastic and neuroplasticity allows us to change our brain by changing our focus and rewiring our circuitry. We can do this by taking the time to notice and savor positive experiences. SIFT is a practice and process of focusing the Sensations, Images, Feelings, and Thoughts associated with a positive experience. Try it! The next time you recognize a moment or experience for which you are grateful for, relieved by, appreciative of, or feeling good about, pause and flow through the SIFT process focusing for just long enough to soak in the various aspects of the experience. Neurons that fire together wire together, and therefore these small but frequent exercises begin to reshape our brains in a way that is organized around positivity, making us more receptive and less reactive.  

The Wheel of Awareness: Imagine a wheel- hub at the center, spokes leading outwards towards the rim. Now imagine that the hub is the seat of your awareness. Your consciousness resides here- centered, central, calm, clear, open. From here you can send a spoke of attention around to the rim, upon which resides all we can be aware of: our five senses, the interior of our bodies, our mental activities, and our sense of interconnectedness. Through practicing the wheel of awareness meditation you can develop the ability to 1) differentiate between awareness of rim elements and awareness of hub elements, 2) recenter yourself in the hub as the source of your consciousness, and 3) redirect your focus of attention/spoke. All of this helps to build your capacity to be in that deep presence so essential to receptivity and attunement.

Remember: The more integrated you can become the more you are able to lean into challenges, and the more open you become to new possibilities!


Visit Dan Siegel’s website for more resources

Want to know more about the Wheel of Awareness? Check it out here!  

Read Dan Siegel’s book Mindsight

Order your copy of Dan’s newest book Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human which is set to be released October 18th, 2016. Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Dan Siegel.

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Sep 15, 2016

Every day, with your partner, you have the chance to make things amazing. Or...not. In this episode, we're going to cover a simple practice that allows you to set a positive, love-filled, growth-oriented tone for your days no matter what is going on in your life. And, if things are tough, I talk about how to handle that in a way that still keeps things positive - without sweeping important issues under the rug.

Also, join my partner Chloe and me for our free online class - the 50-Minute Relationship Breakthrough. In less than an hour we will reveal a simple 3-step strategy that leads to deeper intimacy, less conflict, and shows you exactly where your relationship needs help (and where it's smooth sailing). Plus we'll be there live to answer your questions. You can sign up at - or you can text the word "INTIMACY" to the number 33444, follow the instructions, and I'll send you a link so that you can register. Please sign up even if you can't be there on the webinar live - so that we can send you a link to the replay.

On the webinar we'll be also offering a special discount for our 7-week online course on how to create Thriving Intimacy in your relationship. It's everything about relationship that you wish you had learned in school (plus unlearning the things that you did learn in school). That course starts on September 26th. Another great reason to join us for the free webinar!

As always, let me know if you have any questions, and please enjoy this week's episode of Relationship Alive!

Sep 7, 2016

Have you been stuck in a cycle with someone that leaves you feeling like you can never win? Where you feel like you are always giving in? Not saying what you are really feeling? If so, you may be experiencing emotional blackmail. It’s not pretty, and you can be left with the uncomfortable feeling that there’s no way out without sacrificing who you are in the process. Don’t despair - there’s hope for you! In today’s episode, we’re going to chat with the world’s foremost expert on ending the grip of emotional blackmail, Dr. Susan Forward, one of the nation’s leading psychotherapists, and a New York Times bestselling author who has spent decades helping people break out of toxic cycles and discover healthier ways of relating.

What is emotional blackmail? The structure of emotional blackmail begins with a demand, followed by pressure to fulfill the request, and finally, being threatened with punishing consequences. The threat can be blatant or subtle. Subtle threats come in the form of pouting, sulking, passive aggressive comments, while blatant threats are overtly articulated consequences of ‘if ____, then ____’.

FOG: Emotional blackmail, although incredibly powerful and hurtful, can become normalized by both the receiver, and the doer.  Another way to know if you may be being emotionally blackmailed is to check in on if you feel as though you are in a fog. FOG stands for Fear, Obligation, and Guilt. These three components cause us to feel overwhelmed and make it so it is difficult to find our way out of an imbalance of power, unable to clearly see the dynamics, and make us have a tendency to comply.

The Need to Please Disease- When we are vulnerable we have a tendency to rationalize unhealthy and unloving treatment in an effort to protect ourselves from further guilt and fear. We can end up giving in, no matter the price, just so that the other person is not angry with us. The lethality and toxicity of constant giving in accumulates until the person who is the target of emotional blackmail becomes depressed and angry, and internalizes this to become self-hatred.

Water wearing down the rock: Constant compromise and giving in to something and someone that does not feel aligned with your own needs and desires can wear you down. Like water wearing down the boulder, you become the pebble- a smaller version of yourself. By having the courage to look at what is really happening in the dynamic, you will find opportunities for change and growth.

Stand up for your own truth.  Everyone is terrified of other people’s anger and retaliation- this is a core fear that goes back into childhood for many. Despite anger being such a powerful force, there are behavioral strategies that help equalize the balance of power and help you become more assertive and self-protective. It takes courage to stand up for your own truth, however it is worth it.

Honest look at ourselves. None of us are immune or exempt from being emotional blackmailers ourselves. Take time to look at your own patterns around getting others to do what you want. How do you handle when someone disagrees with you, or doesn’t want what you want? Do you plead? Coax? Get pouty? Become punitive? Do you punish through withholding things or love? Do you take their denial personally and as a threat to the relationship itself? Do you say things like “If you really loved me you would…” Or “if you really cared about us you would…” We are all guilty of some of these at times, and the question is not if, but rather to what degree and how often?

Admit and Acknowledge: Do you feel like you have been emotionally blackmailing someone? Begin by labeling your behavior as such. Then, find the courage and humility to sit down and tell the person you are bullying that you are aware of your actions. Naming and sharing this goes a long way. Admitting and acknowledging is a way of fessing up and owning your actions and it creates a climate of much greater safety. With this safety healing and repair can begin. Saying sorry will not be enough however. You will have to show the person you have hurt that you are ready to own your actions through behavioral changes over time. And elicit their help! Ask the person you have hurt what they need from you to feel safer, and more trusting. Find ways together to move forward, and stay open to getting counseling!

Admitting and acknowledging is a two way street! It is important to look at your own responsibility and behavior as the compliant one as well. Read through the following checklist to find out if you are a target of emotional blackmail:

-       I tell myself that giving in is no big deal

-       I tell myself that giving in is worth it to get other person to quiet down/calm down

-       I tell myself that what I want is wrong

-       I tell myself that it is not worth the hassle- I’ll give in now and take a stand later

-       I tell myself that it is better to give in then to hurt their feelings

-       I don’t stand up for myself

-       I give away my power

-       I do things to please other people and get confused about what I want

-       I acquiesce

-       I give up people and activities I care about to please the other person

Yes to the above? Don’t wait for the other person to change. Do the above statements resonate with you? If so, it is time to look inside and find the courage to make changes yourself. Find the emotional maturity and empowered stance to stop the victim/blame cycle by realizing that you do not need to put yourself second any longer. Be willing to look to your past to see if complacency is an automatic, inherited, or learned behavior that began in your childhood. Be willing to take the reins in your own hands and set limits and boundaries. You have just as much responsibility as the blackmailer to change the dynamic, and you have just as much right as the other person to have your needs met. This can be a difficult and daunting shift in perspective for anyone who has a history of abuse as it brings up true fear and guilt around displeasing people- reach out for support when needed!

Negotiating for a healthier relationship. We all have choices when a relationship goes off the track. We can accept things the way they are, we can negotiate for a healthier relationship, or worst comes to worst you can end the relationship. That said, there are strategies, communication skills, and behavioral changes that are worth trying in an effort to shift the dynamics before giving in more, or giving up.  

Feeling your fear: Shifting yourself out of an emotional blackmail situation requires the willingness to tolerate the discomfort of displeasing someone, and often this can bring up fears. Many of our fears are old feelings that we mistake as coming from current events. We confuse our past with the present, and so when we get hurt we react in accordance with prior experiences. We will do nearly anything to protect ourselves from our fear of other people’s anger. Differentiating the present from the past will leave you with more confidence and many more choices for ways to react. Help yourself see that you are now an adult, no longer hopeless or dependent, and that your past does not need to dictate your experience any longer. From this knowing, ask yourself ‘what is the worst thing that can happen?’ Then believe you have the courage and resilience inside to handle this. Lastly, it comes down to allowing yourself to feel fear, and being with it.

*NOTE: There are certain situations and people where the fear is very warranted. If the person emotionally blackmailing you is completely locked into their angry defensive way of being, then you must ask yourself if it is really worth it or possible to work with them. Listen to your fear in these situations as it may be protecting you from true threat.

Be with your guilt: Guilt, along with fear, is often the major contributor to complacency. The fear of guilt itself is a powerful force. Realize that you can tolerate the guilt- no one died from guilt! Your dignity, self-respect, and health will all thank you for addressing this. Have a talk with your discomfort- take a close look and ask yourself the following questions:

-Is what I did or want to do malicious?

-Is what I did or want to do cruel?

-Is what I did or want to do abusive?

-Is what I did or want to do insulting?

-Is what I did or want to do belittling?

-Is what I did or want to do demeaning?

-Is what I did or want to do truly harmful?

If you answer no to these questions, then there is nothing to be guilty of. That is not to say that changing your behavior won’t be uncomfortable, but you can begin to redefine the discomfort as a sign of growth and change!

Do it and the feelings will show up! Many people incorrectly assume that they need to feel stronger before they can take steps and make changes in reaction to emotional blackmail. This is not true! As you begin to shift to a new set of behaviors, the sense of empowerment will follow. Others may be shocked by your changes, and have strong reactions. Allow for this and do not take it on! It may not feel great at first, and that is OKAY.

How to de-escalate the conflict: Blackmail thrives on conflict and escalation, and pushing one person lower and lower on the power structure. A natural tendency when we are emotionally attached is to get defensive, however defensiveness breeds defensiveness. If you can find non-defensive responses, the emotional blackmailer will no longer be able to attack and you WILL shift the dynamic. This requires learning to protect yourself, versus defending yourself. Doing so requires non-defensive communication skills. For example, try saying “I am sure you see it that way, and you are entitled to your feelings, however I am not willing to have this conversation now, let's talk about it when you are calmer…” Other non-defensive communications that can shift the other person’s resistance and defensiveness sound like:

“Can we talk about why this is so important to you?”

“Will you help me understand?”

“It is not acceptable for you to continually make me feel guilty and scared- how can we work together to find a way to get your needs met in a way that doesn’t compromise mine?”

“I feel as though you are pushing me and our relationship to the edge of a cliff and I don’t know if you are taking me seriously when I say I am not happy. I want to find ways together to solve our problems and conflicts in a way that doesn’t leave one of us feeling emotionally battered- can we talk about this?”

“I am not willing to live this way any more, I need to be treated with respect and caring and want to find ways to make us both feel safer and more loved”

“You could be right, however I am feeling…”

Stop! And take a breath. Next time you are asked to do something you are not okay with, first thing to do is to STOP. Take a breath. This immediately pulls you out of your habitual pattern and away from the automatic reaction. Instead of saying yes, or no, say “I am not able to make this decision right now, I need to think about this. I’ll get back to you- but I need some time to figure out how I am really feeling about this”. This stance will allow you to calm down, garner your strength, and have the time necessary to connect with yourself beyond the fear and guilt. A healthy decision is made when we are able to balance and check in with both our intellect and our emotions- this takes time. Putting things back on your own timeline will make for your ability to be in your integrity and this will inevitably shift the power structure!


Find out more about Susan Forward's work at her website

Email Susan at  if you are interested in phone consultations- she responds to each email personally! Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Susan Forward!

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Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Aug 31, 2016

How do you spend time with your partner? Do you put energy and attention on the things that you want to GROW in your relationship? Or does your energy and attention go to problems and other things you wish weren't true? In this week's episode, I'm going to give you a simple gratitude practice that can dramatically shift the dynamic in your relationship towards the positive end of the spectrum. Try it for a week, see how it ripples out into the rest of your life, and let me know how it goes!

It's simple, really. Focusing on what you have, on your gratitude and your appreciation, will highlight just how rich your life and partnership are. Take time every day (it works best to set aside a regular time - I prefer just before sleeping) and share 3 things with your partner that you appreciate about them. They can be big things or tiny details. After each one, pause and allow your partner the opportunity to RECEIVE each one. You can alternate with each other (where you take turns sharing each appreciation), or you can do all three - and then your partner shares 3 things that they appreciate about you.

We'll focus in another episode on some other strategies about how you shift the quality of your time with your partner. This week, though, I don't want to overwhelm you. Try this practice out with your partner (or with yourself, if you're single), and see what else changes. And please let me know. You can always write to me at neilius at - or you can join our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook. Looking forward to hearing what you notice!

Aug 19, 2016

Are you afraid of love and intimacy? How do we deal with that paradox, that we fear that which we most want? If you get to know that part of yourself, and embrace it - as we’re going to reveal on today’s episode - then it becomes an amazing source of power, inspiration, and connection for you. And if you don’t think you have that fear, then you definitely want to listen to this episode, as it may help you uncover some of the blocks that - well - you don’t even know you have! Today we’re having another visit from Ken Page, author of “Deeper Dating: How to Drop the Games of Seduction and Discover the Power of Intimacy” - and his work on how to bring your authentic self to dating and relationship is a powerful tool for you to get to know yourself and your partner (or partner-to-be) better. And to access the power that comes with getting to know this part of yourself really well, and dancing with it.

I also wanted to let you know about Ken Page’s free class - the Five Essential Insights for Finding True Love, happening on August 31, 2016, where you can learn more from him about how to access your Core Gifts in relationship. You can click this link in order to sign up for the free class. He’s also going to be teaching a seven-week course for single people this fall (which he’ll talk about at the end of the free class) - and if you happen to sign up for that, a portion of your course fee will help support the Relationship Alive podcast. And now...onto today’s show guide!

The paradox of vulnerability: Despite common belief and widespread cultural teachings, the parts of ourselves that we are most ashamed of are in fact our most beautiful, tender, and truthful parts! Our vulnerabilities are where our soul lies and where love comes from. We are unfortunately socialized to be ashamed of vulnerability in the name of being cool, witty, ‘independent’ and strong and we learn all sorts of ways to mask, defend, and pretend our way out of our wounds.

Protecting wounded places: The act of finding love is about deconstructing the walls we have erected inside to protect the world (and ourselves) from accessing our vulnerabilities. Every way in which we protect ourselves is a way we are blocking ourselves from the gifts that the wounded place has to offer.  We falsely believe that we are only going to find love once we have built a strong enough fortress, while in fact, the parts we are hiding are the exact parts that the person that is right for us is going to fall in love with. This is true because our deepest wounds reveal our greatest gifts! It is our source of inspiration, knowing, laughter, creativity, trust, potential and passion.

You don’t have to be something other than who you are. Cherish the reality of this concept. Cherish the relief it offers. Treasure your fears and turn your vulnerability into your holy ground- welcome it in with open arms as a guide not only to who you be, but to the love you are capable of giving and receiving. Turn towards your fears and know that the degree to which you accept how you flee love is the degree to which you will become a greater version of you, and your life will fill with more and more love! This is not going to be some polished packaged kind of greatness- it is going to be a gritty kind of human greatness. You may even be crestfallen and disheartened at first authentic contact with your shadow sides, however quickly you will see the beauty of exposed hurt and fear. You will gain a certain kind of dignity- a dignity in how you hold your heart, and others’ too.

Your path to intimacy is perhaps the most important path you will journey on in your life! Acknowledging our fears around intimacy is a process. So many of us have developed very sophisticated strategies and defenses so as to protect ourselves and the world from truly seeing or hearing our fears. Learning to listen inward is a courageous act that requires self-compassion and curiosity. It can be incredibly supportive to do this archeological heart work in relationship with someone else, be them your partner, your friend, a therapist, a coach, or someone else who can help hold you in a conscious way.

Become intimate with your fear of intimacy.  Begin to practice the following steps as a way to guide you through the process of getting to know and love your fears:

Step 1: Make a paradigm shift. Shift your perspective to the belief that you do have fear of intimacy, you do act out of fear of intimacy, and you do flee intimacy. All humans do! Furthermore, celebrate the knowing that your fears are your gifts- they are true gold, capable of helping you get closer to the love you want.

Step 2: Get curious. Now that you are aware that there is no need to be either ashamed or afraid of your own fears, ask yourself: what am I afraid of? What are my flight patterns? What do I do to push love away? Observe, wonder, watch.

Step 3: Ask these two powerful questions. Alone with a journal, or together with another person, ask yourself the following 2 questions at least 3 times each. Allow your answer to come out raw and unedited. Repeat the questions until you feel a softening of your heart.

Question #1-Tell me about your fear of love

Question #2- How do you shut the door to deeper intimacy?

Breathe into the answers and heed the advice embedded within: The first question reveals not only your fears, but your values and deepest gifts. These fears may include fear of losing the other person, fear that if you are really seen you will not be loved, and fear that if you taste intimacy you will also be hurt when it isn’t there. These fears speak about how truly and deeply you love, how much you desire truth and wanting to be seen for all that you are, and how poignantly you experience intimacy. Always be sure to look for what value and gift your fear is protecting you from. The second question reveals your most significant blocks to intimacy. We all have flight patterns and ways that we choreograph avoiding intimacy- acknowledging and admitting these allows us to uncover exactly what it is we need to do to ALLOW intimacy. Listen closely to your answer to question #2, because embedded within is the knowing for what you can change to have more love in your life!


Listen to our first episode with Ken Page: Episode #30

Take Ken’s course The 5 Essential Insights for Finding True Love online for free!

See for links to interviews, learn more, access online courses, and to sign up to receive Ken Page’s free ebook!

Read Ken’s book Deeper Dating Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Ken Page!

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Aug 16, 2016

How does your relationship within yourself help you develop a deeper connection with your partner? How can you balance the skills of inner work with the skills required for a thriving relationship? By now you’re aware that there are all of these parts within us that shape who we are - both how we see ourselves, and how the world sees us. You have these parts, and your partner has these parts. The more that you and your partner can be the “leader” of your parts, and the more you can interact with each other from that place, the deeper your intimacy will become. Today’s guest, Toni Herbine-Blank, has created a practical way for you to do just that. She is the developer of Intimacy from the Inside Out (IFIO) - which combines the wisdom of Internal Family Systems with Attachment Theory and state of the art couples therapy - to help you and your partner deepen your connection while making it more resilient.

Internal Family Systems Recap: For an in depth discussion on the Internal Family Systems model, revisit episode #26 with IFS founder Dick Schwartz. Briefly, IFS outlines that we each contain a Self and many many parts. We have protective parts of our personality (managers and firefighters) which have developed to take on the role of protecting the more vulnerable parts of us (exiles). Exiles are often young parts of ourselves that have been wounded in relationship and have been pushed back and tucked away by the system in order to not get hurt again. Imagine a giant umbrella with two little feet sticking out from underneath. The umbrella is the protective system (sometimes called coping mechanisms, or defenses) covering up the little exiled ones from any harm.

We do not get out of childhood without getting hurt. Whether you have experienced BIG T Traumas, or little t traumas, you, and everyone, have healing to do. We have all been wounded, even those with ideal childhoods, and our systems have responded by creating protective mechanisms. Children are brilliant at creating the defensive strategies- and now these ways of being are so tightly woven with who we think we are, and how we operate in relationship that they can go undetected.

Why think in parts? Seeing ourselves through a parts lens begins to open us up to connection, awareness, and experience of core Self. Self is unwounded, ever-present, and an incredible healing resource. It is our heart space. Without parts languaging, we can get stuck between the protective system and the vulnerabilities, leading to internal and external tension, stagnation, and cycling in ourselves and our relationships. Access to Self brings energy to a relationship from the inside out. A parts perspective also allows for differentiation between what you do and why you do it. As you learn more about your own internal system, you can begin to take responsibility for how you are showing up in your relationship without getting stuck in the shame and blame cycle that so often takes the energy and intimacy out of relationships.

The You-Turn- The You-turn is at the heart of the Internal Family Systems model, and at the core of what develops vibrant intimate relationships. As so many of us know, it is so easy to focus on our partner when we are suffering. We blame them for what they are or are not doing, and hold onto it as though it is the cause of our hurt/grief/disconnection/discomfort. The You-turn is just this- it is a redirection of focus to the internal. Invite yourself to start looking inward with curiosity- what happens inside of you in response and reaction to your partner?

Track internal cycles and sequences: By bringing curiosity towards the internal experience, we can begin to observe the unfolding of our interactions. Noticing in real-time what is happening internally slows us down enough to allow for many more options of interacting! To start learning to do this, begin by simply tracking what IS happening. Are you yelling? Withdrawing? Shutting down? Then begin to see these reactions as coming from parts of you. Bring in curiosity- what are these parts trying to protect? Developing this inner awareness takes practice, safety, and often benefits from the support of a therapist.

Listening for needs: Many couples lose connection due to communication struggles. How are you using language? What kind of language are you using? Notice your patterns in speaking and in listening. How deeply are you listening to your partner? And what is getting in the way of really being able to listen carefully? As you ask these questions, begin to invite yourself to listen deeper, meaning listening for the underbelly of the conversation. Often the content is a variation on the theme of needs. Listen under the surface of what is being said for what needs you, or your partner, are expressing a desire for being met.

Protection evokes protection: Often our conflicts arise from a protector to protector interaction. If you respond to your partner through speaking from a protective part, this causes your partner to react from their protective system, and vice versa. This quickly escalates until both of you are in full defense mode and no connection can be made until safety is reestablished. Using an IFS perspective allows you to see the defensive reactions as a sign that there is a more vulnerable voice trying to be known and heard. There is almost always much more going on in a conflict than the content- in fact, most couples generally have one fight they repeat continuously just with different ‘issues’. Thus, it is not about changing the content but rather about changing your approach to the content/your relationship to the process. You will build intimacy from the inside out as individually and together you are able to explore and understand your internal systems.

Choice equals empowerment. The more protective we are, the less we get what we want from relationship. When we are being led by our protective system our options for behavior become limited to either attacking or collapsing. This plays out in all sorts of unhealthy relationship dynamics- causing fighting, distancing, and tension. When we get triggered and hurt we are no longer clear, and when we are no longer clear we no longer have the space inside to make a decision about how we want to respond. Intimacy from the inside out helps us differentiate on the inside, which helps us expand into much more choice! As we allow more room for Self, and begin to address the underlying fears and vulnerabilities causing such defensive and protective measures, we find that we are able to be more confident, calm, creative, curious, and compassionate in our interactions. We find humor, freedom, playfulness, and new possibilities for how to navigate getting our needs met.

I have a huge heart! As much as intimacy from the inside out is about building a relationship with our vulnerable parts, it is also about reconnecting to Self. Think of Self as this beating heart that sustains life- always there pumping away in the background. Connect with the knowing that you are more than just your parts- you have a HUGE heart that you can access at any point.

How to make a YOU-turn:

  1. Conscious awareness-  The first, and often hardest part of making a you-turn is the actual turning towards yourself, instead of the habitual focus on the other. So, with curiosity, turn towards yourself and first name that you are having a reaction/getting triggered. Begin to notice what is happening on the inside by recognizing what is happening in your body (the body is ALWAYS reacting some way or another). Is your stomach clenched? Feeling of anger in your chest? Do you want to run away? Flushed cheeks?
  2. Say Hi- Once you have turned towards yourself, begin a relationship with the parts of you that are showing up. Name them, start separating and differentiating from them. Differentiating and unblending from our parts- possible through naming them and asking them to give some space, is helpful in regulating affect and de-escalating ourselves. When you recognize a part, find a way to say “Hi! I get what you are up to, and I am going to help you”. When parts sense our presence (and feel Self energy) they begin to relax and once a relationship is established between Self and a part we can get to understand it and find it’s purpose and impulse.
  3. Ask the question- Ask your part what are you afraid would happen if you didn’t do the impulse right now? If you didn’t get angry/attack/withdraw/shutdown?’ If the part trusts you are coming from a place of curiosity and not from a judgmental shame/blame part, then you will begin to hear all kinds of ways that your parts are protecting deeper vulnerabilities.
  4. Develop a relationship with the vulnerability. Find ways to be with your vulnerabilities gently and with compassion. Maybe you do this with the help of a therapist, a meditation practice, a support group, a friend, a walk alone, or a creative process. Be with your exiles and let them feel Self energy holding them.
  5. Speak for the deeper vulnerability to your partner. When you are ready, share your exiles with your partner. Teach them about what you are learning about your system.

Sharing your vulnerable parts with your partner: Know that learning to unwrap protective layers and expose vulnerability, although so crucial for intimacy, is a process that will develop slowly. This requires a level of safety and trust that many couples have long lost. That said, be patient with yourself and your partner, while knowing too that it is incredibly worth learning to do! In fact, there will be a lot of relief for your partner as they come to learn how much of your current reactions are originating in a history that came long before them. As you share how your needs are connected to childhood wounds and past hurts, their heart will soften and they will open to you with much more curiosity and compassion. This is true because as you take responsibility for your internal system, they no longer have to defend and protect themselves due to you entirely blaming THEM for your reaction, nor do they have to feel like they are the sole cause of your suffering.

Speak for parts, not from parts: Learning to speak and listen well is a courageous act for all couples. Courageous communication begins with that pause and you-turn. Take those 10 deep breaths, name to yourself what is happening, and then speak FOR your parts, rather than from them. For example, speaking from an angry part would sound like “You aren’t listening to me!”, however speaking for this angry part could sound like “There is a part of me that is really longing to be heard”. Often our parts are just trying to get our core needs met: being heard, being seen, being known, being understood, and being loved. As you begin to unearth the deeper needs and share these with your partner, you begin to engage their curious Self. Parts led interactions are often dysregulated and does not give the space or safety necessary for our partner to understand you. Speaking for your parts, especially for you exiles, invites them in for understanding and intimacy. Furthermore, ask for permission from your partner, such as “I am noticing a part of me that is getting really frustrated and I am wondering if you are available to listen?” This gives your partner permission to check in with their own parts to see if they are open and available for deeper listening.

A temporary moment of maturity (TMM):  If either of you realizes that you are having a difficult time unblending from a part, and are continuing to speak FROM parts instead of on behalf of them, someone in the couple has to have a TMM and be willing to step out of the protector-protector dialogue and ask to pause and return to the conversation when you are both more available/Self led. This can be very hard to do because it is hard to truly hear your partner when you are hurt and it is even harder to put your own stuff to the side to be present. Try to simultaneously unblend from desperate parts (those pesky parts that want to fight and want the last word), while bringing your heart forward. Ultimately courageous communication is about how you hold onto yourself even when your partner is unavailable.

Experiment: Next time you feel badly about yourself or something in your life try to make a you-turn and notice just how quickly a part of you tries to find someone or something outside of yourself to blame for it. We all have such strong impulses to focus outward when we are having intense and uncomfortable internal feelings!

Shaming and blaming: Once you catch yourself pointing the finger outward, pause, take a breath and choose to go inside. Breath and ask yourself: can I just feel into what is happening in here? Remember that if there is a protective impulse, then there is inevitably something more vulnerable going on under the surface. Actually, when you feel a protective impulse coming up, it is time to get excited as this means that you have an opportunity to find out what you really need in that moment and you will then be much closer to getting those needs met! Ask your blaming/shaming parts to step to the side, and check for what that more vulnerable feeling underneath is. A great you-turn question sounds like ‘What am I feeling right now and what am I needing?’ then, ‘can I do this for myself or do I need to go outside and ask for help?’.

Inner critic: Shame is often present in us, though very hidden and well-protected. Many of us were shamed in childhood- whether it was overt and explicit messages from parents or implicit ones from school, family, or friends. When a child is shamed over and over again and there is no repair (apology or acknowledgement) they will develop a part that takes on the role of further shaming- what we often refer to as the inner critic. We quickly learn how to internalized the critical voice by developing chronic negative self talk. The ‘logic’ behind this is that this part believes that if it does a good enough job of criticizing us, we will be motivated to do/be better. Thus the inner critic’s good intention is to hopefully improve oneself. Unfortunately it does not work out that well. Not only do we deflate and exhaust ourselves, we also strain our external relationships. This is true because if there is an internal critic, then there is an external one as well. The external critic parts shame and blame those around us, as a way of trying to do to others what we are doing to ourselves in hopes of alleviating the internal dilemma. No one however, has punished or shamed their way into getting the love they want and need.

Internal attachment. The more you know how to show up for yourself in hard moments the more fully you are going to show up in your relationship! Bring your awareness to both the external and internal critics- The more you can love yourself, honor yourself, and extend compassion internally, the easier it is going to be to do that externally. As you heal the vulnerabilities that the critic is trying so desperately to protect, the negative self talk will quiet, and consequently the external critic will soften.

How big can your heart get? What is your vision? What do you want to create? Intimacy from the inside out creates reverberations felt throughout your entire relationship. Once you and your partner build a relationship with your own internal systems and learn to caretake your own parts (the protective ones and the vulnerable ones), you will move out of protector to protector driven relationship into a Self to Self relationship that is full of creativity, compassion, curiosity, clarity, calmness, and loads of intimacy. Share this heart space together and explore what it is that you want to create together. Build a shared vision. Ask yourselves what is getting in the way of expressing the fullness of your relationship potential. What is holding you back? How expanded can you get? Let your WE expand and strengthen- what a powerful force it is in the universe!


Read Intimacy from the Inside Out: Courage and Compassion in Couple Therapy

Find more information and Toni’s trainings on her website  

Check out the Center for Self Leadership for Internal Family Systems trainings Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Toni Herbine-Blank.

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Aug 11, 2016

How do you get inspired in your relationship? Today we know that "novelty" helps keep the spark of your relationship going - and there are MANY different ways to keep things fresh. In today's episode, I talk about a way that's fun, collaborative, and easy to keep going. And the act of doing it generates more energy to do more of it. Curious? Dive in to today's episode on the power of Contribution - and discover what happens when Creativity meets Contribution in your relationship. fianceé Chloe and I will be offering our online course that compiles the distilled essential wisdom from the past year of the podcast, as well as our own healing and coaching practices with individuals and couples. If you want to find out more about the course (it will be starting in September 2016) - make sure that you take a moment to either grab the Free Guide on - or text the word "RELATIONSHIP" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions (which will get you the free guide) - and once you have the guide, I will also be able to let you know all the important info for our course. We're really excited to work with you, and will be offering some extra-special incentives for this first version of our course, so stay tuned!!

Aug 2, 2016

How does your attachment style affect your dating life? When you know your attachment style, and that of your partner, how can you use that knowledge to make your relationship stronger? How do you know when it’s time to commit? In today’s episode, we’re talking with Stan Tatkin, author of “Wired for Dating” and “Wired for Love” - and one of the world’s leading experts on how to use attachment theory for the betterment of your love life. This is Stan’s second appearance on Relationship Alive, and we use the opportunity to dive even more deeply into his work and how you can put it to use whether you’re single, attached.

Waves, Islands, and Anchors. These terms describe researched relational and attachments styles. They are constructs that help give metaphor and meaning to ways in which an individual relates to others as a result of early childhood experiences. Our early familial patterns change and shape our autonomic nervous systems, and thus, the way that we engage with those around us. When it comes to depending on another we each have different ways we feel in our body, minds, our memory, and in our bones.

Anchors: Those who are anchors experienced secure attachments. They were raised in a reliable environment where relationships came first, where their needs were attended to, and there was no sense of either being left or being taken over. This infant develops with the intrinsic and extrinsic knowing that it is free and able to grow and learn independence without consequence.

Island and Waves: Unlike anchors, islands and waves were raised in an environment where relationship did not come first, and from a very young age they had to adapt themselves to their environment in order to get their needs met. Both islands and waves want relationship, although they both struggle with trust. Waves tend to hold a core belief that they are going to be abandoned, and so they are less independent and often cling to others. Islands, however, hold the core belief that if they depend on another their independence will be taken away, and they will feel robbed and trapped, thus causing them to be ultra distant and quick to quit.

Patterns not labels. These terms are not meant to pigeon-hole, but rather help describe the psychobiological response to insecure childhood experiences. These patterned responses are also not static- we can adapt, change, and heal. And although relationships are the places in which insecurely attached individuals may struggle the most, relationships also offer incredibly healing potential! Each partner must be willing to get to know their own wiring, and then get curious and learn to understand their partner’s wiring. From an understanding of your own and your partner’s psychobiological needs, you begin to move away from distressing conflict, towards collaboration, compassion, and ultimately, to building a securely attached relationship.

Attachment is fluid- we are hurt by people and healed by people. The only way out of insecurity is through a relationship! You have to do it with another person!

Fully resource each other! Creating a secure relationship takes a commitment to being in the foxhole together. Create a culture together in which you watch out for each other- where you are working collaboratively and mutually. Make your own 10 commandments, and include expectations such as:

We pay attention to each other

We are present with each other as much as we can be

We never throw each other under the bus

We do not keep secrets or hide

We never threaten the relationship or each other

Safety in a relationship is a cultivated state- requiring constant input and attention. That said, the energy you each invest in limiting the stress load and the threats, will create the space and stability needed for resilience, flourishing, and healthy development!

Navigating insecurity while dating: As you enter the dating scene, it is incredibly valuable to learn about your own neurobiological wiring. What was your infancy and early childhood experience? How did your primary caregivers show (or not show) love? How were your needs met or not met? And how have you showed up in relationships so far? Are you trusting? Fear independence? Fear abandonment? On top of an awareness of how your own experience has shaped your reactions to relationship, it is helpful to also examine how cultural, familial, or personal ideals of relationship are impacting you. What expired values and expectations of relationship are you still holding on to that are no longer serving you? All of this questioning helps build a foundation for successful dating that allows you to be your authentic self and find a person who matches not your fears, but your desires. So many people do not do this inner searching, and end up simply heading out on a hunt for the ‘perfect person’, rather than for someone who matches their own sense of what a relationship is, and the shared we-ness of it all.

Don’t just trust your own perceptions! No matter how self-aware and how many hours you have spent exploring your inner landscape, none of us are immune to the love drugs so prevalent in the beginning of courtship. Due to the neurochemicals associated with the honeymoon phase we are blinded. We are silly in love. We are superstars not truly yet showing or seeing flaws. Take care of yourself during this phase by getting your date checked out by family and friends! Share them with your social network/loved ones and have your people sniff them, and the two of you, out. Ask for feedback- how did we seem together? Was I myself? Do they seem genuine? Etc. Not that you have to take their word for reality- but it is helpful in this infatuation phase, to gather as much information as possible.

Audition them! It takes about a year for pair bonding to develop and to really start to get to know someone and shed perceptions. Allow this first year dating to be an audition. Less with the intention to test, but with the openness to stay in curiosity. So many people want to rush right away to comfort, and thus they jump to creating a false sense of permanence, when really getting to know someone is inherently risky and requires the courage to tolerate the fact that it may end.

When does dating end, and a sustained relationship begin? There is no guidebook, unfortunately. Each couple must decide when they deem themselves ready for exclusivity and further commitment. Hopefully as the first year develops, you and your partner have created a culture together in which you have learned how to pay attention to the mechanics of your relating, and reflect on this together. You have created language together and the safety needed for clear dialogue and checking in on your own personal growth, as well as how the relationship is going. If the couple has dedicated the time and energy needed to develop masterful communication skills, then they will more often than not have a mutual knowing, by the end of the first year, whether they are set up for longevity, or if the relationship needs either more work, or is simply not a fit.

Being in relationship means conflict.  Be careful not to assume that just because there is conflict in your relationship or with your date that your compatibility is doomed. Conflict is an inherent part of authentic relating- and it is best to welcome it in the relationship, and create space and home for it. The opposite- the hiding, ignoring, intense minimization, and avoidance of conflict creates much more dangerous dynamics in the long run. The question then, is not if there is conflict present, but how do you, together, manage distress? How quickly can the two of you metabolize a disjoining experience without pointing fingers or making each other the problem?  How well you cultivate repairing states directly impacts your ability to weather the inevitable storms. Ask yourselves- Are we good at attenuating and foreshortening negative feelings? Are we good at amplifying positive feelings and love? Can we generate excitement together? Do we know how to create quiet love together? These questions help examine whether you are creating a psychobiologically safe and secure environment in which conflict can arise without creating a rupture of attachment.

Kicking the can down the road. Many individuals, especially those who have insecure attachment styles, will engage in a kicking the can down the road mentality in which they ignore moments of disharmony and move on without repair. This may look like an argument in which a deal breaker issue arises, and one or the other person looks over the precipice, sees the end of the relationship, and turns back to their partner with a demand or an offer of even bigger commitment. And it makes sense! Breaking up is really hard to do and creates incredibly stress on the nervous system, and most people will sacrifice and compromise along the way to avoid pain. And yet, we know deep down that kicking the can down the road, and remaining in a relationship that is not right or working for you, wreaks havoc on your nervous system as it is constantly in a low to high grade stress state.

Dating waves or islands: While anchors are by nature the most secure dating partners, don’t limit yourself to finding an anchor as most of the population are insecure in one way or another, and it is by no means a requirement for a successful relationship. Furthermore, we attract to people we can understand and relate to, and so it is unlikely that you will find an anchor, if you yourself are not one. Be patient with yourselves and with others, and focus on staying alert and curious about the different tendencies of waves and islands and how this shows up in dating. You may notice that insecure attachment shows up as a lack of collaboration. Is this person speaking in a way that engages me? Do they make it easy for me to connect with them? Relate to them? Is their face flat or are they overly expressive and emotional? And the same goes with yourself- how are you showing up?  

How can I take care of myself and take care of YOU at the same time? The key is to identify your own tendencies, and to take responsibility in communicating this to others. For example, if you are an island, share with your date/partner that you are likely to be a little more reserved and quiet and that you do not want them to misunderstand that as a reflection of your lack of interest. Let your partner know that you get nervous and fearful when there is a sense that your independence is being threatened. Make it personal so they don’t have to! If you are a wave, give fair warning that you love interacting with people, and that you are prone to emotionality and that if it gets too much they can let you know. Let them know too, that you fear abandonment and that you need a certain level of awareness and care around this. If you know yourself, you are able not only to take care of yourself, but you can take care of your partner simultaneously. Own how you are likely to deal with conflict too. Share with each other how you historically deal with distress, and use each other to catch old patterns, and build new ones.

Become an expert on each other. Pay attention to who your partner is, and what their needs are, and get very very good at differentiating this from who you need them to be or idealize them to be. Observe, notice, question, allow, consider, and check in on how your partner functions and why. Really we are talking about how to tolerate another, different person. Are they a cat, and you are expecting or desiring a dog? If so, how can you catch yourself so that you are not constantly disappointed, or blaming them for their lack of dog-ness, and instead appreciate their cat-ness. Respecting differences is not a passive process- honor and allow differences in your actions and become an active caretaker of your partner’s idiosyncrasies.

Allow your nervous systems to play with each other! Building a secure relationship is not just about how you manage distress and differences, but how well you amplify the positive. Learn to amplify good things. Thanks to mirror neurons, you can co-regulate and co-create nervous system states together! You can co-create exciting love (that dopamine rich infatuation state) by using eye gazing, touch, and novelty. And then, to create the serotonin rich quiet love state, try allowing sweet silences, and parallel relaxation. Relationships need quiet love in order to have time for rest, for processing, for distress relief, and for re-finding equilibrium and stability. These times are necessary so that our autonomic nervous systems can wire around safety.

Moments of connection create integrated systems.  Our nervous systems are built in relationship, and require frequent safe connection with others to regulate. Bring this science into your partnership. When injuries and hurt are not repaired and resolved quickly, we become wired in a way that makes us hyper-reactive and likely to see our partners as threats.  Furthermore, the human brain is 1) constantly scanning for danger, and 2) frequently making things up to fill in gaps. On top of this human communication is pretty flawed, even on a good day. All of this means that without awareness, we can become stuck in limiting patterns of relating that rely on assumptions, and escalate quickly into a fight or flight reactivity- something not conducive to stable love.

Counteract the tendency to automate by checking in! How you perceive your partner, how they look, feel, taste, sound, seem, is hugely altered by the state you are in. When you are in an elevated and mobilized state you are likely to see them as threatening. You may, in those moments, not be able to discern between the reality of your partner and your subjective experience. Come face to face, get eye to eye, check and recheck, slow it down, and pay attention to each other. Gentle eye contact and close yet calm proximity are physiological conditions that help create a sense of safety. You also want to check in eye to eye because this allows you to track the microchanges in your partner’s body language so that you are responding to what is happening in real time. Then, ask, ask, and ask again! Are you upset right now? Your face just went cold/flat, what just happened? Are you okay? Am I doing that thing again? Are you feeling attacked?

Bring mindfulness into your love life. Instead of tracking your internal experience as you would in meditation, track the external experience. Learn to study your partner and your relationship with attentiveness, and non-judgment. If you do not attend to what you see, you lose, your partner loses, and the couple loses. Pay attention. Be present. Go step by step and moment to moment. And allow for whatever arises. This is how we learn to take care of ourselves and our partner simultaneously.


Read Stan’s book Wired for Dating: How Understanding Neurobiology and Attachment Style Can Help You Find Your Ideal Mate

Check out Stan’s website for more information on his work and for couple’s retreats

Want to know more about trainings for therapists? Check out The Pact Institute Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Stan Tatkin.

Join our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Our amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Jul 27, 2016

What do you want in your life, and in your relationship? Are you having trouble getting your needs met? In this episode, I walk you through a process that helps you get at not only what you think you want, but deeper into the needs that are at the heart of your desires. Once you discover what your true needs are, you might discover that they're actually a lot easier to satisfy than you thought! I also give an example of how this process might make a difference in a couple with mismatched desires for sex.

It's a quick episode that gets right to the point of this technique for unearthing not only what you want, but what you truly need. Give it a try! Was this episode helpful for you? Please let me know what you discover!

Jul 19, 2016

What’s holding you back when it comes to being in the present? To living into your potential? To follow through on decisions and actions that light you up, and make you feel more alive? Here to answer those questions (and more) is today’s guest, Kyle Cease. Kyle is a transformational speaker and comedian with a gift for helping you evolve, in the moment, towards what’s positive and possible.

As you’ll hear on the show, for Kyle’s 2-day “Evolving Out Loud” events, he does little preparation, instead bringing a profound presence and willingness to dive in with the 1400 people in attendance. In the same spirit, this conversation emerges “in the moment” - and I’m excited for you to see how it unfolds. You’re going to get an experience of Kyle’s work in action as we tackle some of my own limiting fears and beliefs - in Kyle’s words, he and I are Evolving Out Loud - right here on the show.

Some of the concepts that we cover are:

We are helium balloons, naturally trying to go UP. Imagine each one of us as a helium balloon, intrinsically inclined to go up/move towards ourselves, and yet, we tie ourselves to ‘things’. We tie a string from our sense of lightness and well-being and attach it to objects, goals, ideals, and ifs ("I'll be happy IF I...get the promotion, the perfect house, the right partner). We then allow this stuckness to limit and define our identity. What are you stuck to that is holding you back from floating into and up to yourself?

Have a letting go spirit. One way to navigate the question about what you may be holding on to that is limiting you is to check in with your body. What feels light? If something feels light, move towards it. If it feels heavy, move away from it.

Chicken or the egg?  You may wonder whether you need to know yourself better before you can experience what is light and what is heavy to you, or whether you need to get rid of things that are heavy before you can know yourself. Bring this conundrum into your daily life by inviting in the possibility that it is "both and" - and as you connect with your heart, you will create the space needed not only to see what is not working any longer, but also the space necessary for more of your own innate guidance and expansion.

Move from your heart, not from your fear.

Our mind can only measure what we can lose, not what we can gain. Your fear is only based on what you know, and what you know you know. Fear tries to predict future outcomes based on previous experiences, and thus, holds us hostage to old patterns from our past. And it is cognitive and mind led. Again, return to the present and to your heart in order to create the trust in the present that you are safe and here. From this you will find yourself and create more space to allow newness to come in.

HEART EXERCISE: Be heart not old story. First, identify a negative thought or belief that you carry. Now imagine and visualize that it was actually you, at a much younger age, that said the thought/belief. Be there with the kid, and this time, let your heart respond. See what happens… You may find that the old story may start to leave your body, or that you now have more compassion/humor/lightness/curiosity about this fear or thought you have been carrying for what is likely a long long time! The childhood stories we carry are our past, however they remain present in us until we acknowledge them. So acknowledge them! See them! Name them! Listen to them! And be there with them from a heart space, because your heart is in the present. It is right now. And it is what you are.

My heart knows that deep down I am okay. Begin to change “I am really scared that…”, or “I am worried that…” to “my mind is really scared that…but my heart knows that….” See, our minds are constantly scanning our past for evidence to help predict the future - that said, it is critical that we find ways to remain aware when we are doing this, and step into a more present and trusting place. That sense that deep down we know we are okay - that does not have to be a place we only seek when we are panicking - it is available to us at all times when we can step into the heart...

There's MORE!

Visit to download the complete detailed show notes...including all of the exercises that you hear on the show:


Explore Kyle Cease’s website  which is full of videos, links to his workshops, as well as information about his coaching.

Go here and enter the promotion code: GRANDMA when registering for an Evolving Out Loud live event for an amazing discount on admission. Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Kyle Cease.

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Jul 12, 2016

When you're with your partner, whether you're having a conversation, or making love, or somewhere in between - and one of you is triggered - then all bets are off, and it's going to be WAY more difficult for you to arrive at a place that feels good. We've covered the topic extensively on this show for good reason. This week, I am going to summarize the "best" from the podcast - how to know when you're triggered, why it's important, the best techniques for coming back into balance with your partner (and within yourself) when it happens, and where to find out more information in the other show episodes. I've done the work so that you don't have to! Enjoy!

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