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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Jun 29, 2016

These days, I don’t think that you can have a conversation about conscious relationship without talking about polyamory. For me, it usually comes up in a couple different contexts - first, it can simply be when I’m talking with someone who is already actively exploring polyamory and wondering how to do it better, or is single and pondering whether polyamory might be right for them. And then there are couples who are currently monogamous who are thinking about the possibility of opening up their relationship to other partners - for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes that can work, and other times...not so much. There’s also the experience of jealousy - that almost always comes up in conversations about polyamory - although it’s relevant for everyone no matter what your relationship status.

How do you know if polyamory is right for you? How do you know if your currently monogamous relationship could benefit from opening things up, or if it’s a bad idea? And how do you handle jealousy in your life - no matter what your circumstances?

On today’s episode, we’re talking with Janet W. Hardy, co-author with Dossie Easton of the Book “The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships, and Other Adventures”. Janet is one of the world’s leading experts on the topic of how to have a healthy experience with polyamory, and she’s on the show to tackle the questions we just raised - and more. It’s going to be quite a wide-ranging conversation that, I hope, will offer something useful for you no matter how you’re thinking about polyamory, or the effects of jealousy, in your own life.

Polyamory is self-defined. Polyamory is everything and anything from a long-term multi-year relationship with more than one person to a circle of sexual friends, to a committed couple who brings another into their bedroom from time to time. The terminology is not nearly as important as if it is working or not.

What makes for a successful poly relationship? What makes poly work, is really similar to what makes any relationship work. This includes being respectful of each other’s boundaries but willing to try things that are a little challenging, sharing responsibility and taking care of life’s commitments, and making sure that that everyone’s needs are being met. Polyamory does however, often require more time and the ability to manage complex schedules! Not to mention, incredibly honed self-awareness and communication skills. Many people go in and out of monogamy as life circumstances change. Getting your PhD and raising 2 children? Might not be the time to start exploring multiple partners!

Worthwhile discussions: Whether or not you consider yourself monogamous or poly, there are some very important conversations that help set expectations and create mutual understanding. Get curious and vulnerable in your questions- what is within the agreement and what is not? Porn. Masturbation. Flirting. Sexting. All of these things must be discussed together with your partner(s) and clear agreements must be made.  

Remember that knowing your boundaries is YOUR responsibility- not anyone else’s. This is where self-awareness is critical! We cannot negotiate for agreements if we do not know what our needs are!

Is becoming poly ever the answer to relationship problems? Rarely. Becoming poly is a choice, not a prescription or a solution. Only in the case that there is a healthy, happy and sustained couple in which one person wants a different kind of sex (more kink, rougher, gender switch, etc)- then maybe. Unless a couple has very developed communication skills and a willingness to try things that may feel challenging, than this is not the time.

Jealousy has nothing to do with the other- it has to do with ME. People in poly situations have learned this over and over. They have chosen to make a commitment (and to recommit) to learning how to survive jealousy. There are skills and perspectives that help deal with the hurt without it growing out of proportion or becoming a limiting factor in connection. We have a cultural tendency and belief that jealousy is the most terrible of emotions- and further, that it entitles us to act out in horrible ways. But what if we can learn to see jealousy as a gift? It is like a neon blinking arrow that brightly highlights the things that we do not like about ourselves. And when we can see this we can take care of it! Because, in essence, jealousy is simply a sense of feeling bad that is projected onto another.

When you have survived a jealousy storm - you learn that it gets easier! When we have surges of intense emotion we have the tendency to create stories. Challenge yourself to get curious. What if this is just energy that I am experiencing? What if this isn’t what I think it is? Over time you will develop a set of skills and muscles that will help you take care of yourself as you navigate through jealousy. When we let go of the idea that it is anybody’s job but our own to get through jealousy then we gain a clearer idea of what we can do to soothe ourselves.

Requests to restore safety and connection: Self-care during jealousy storms do not necessarily have to be a solo experience. Advocate for your needs by asking your partner to show care and safety through actions- calling, cuddling, special dates, gifts, etc. These requests, when they come from a self-aware partner and not too overly dependent place, are critical in restoring safety for the person who is feeling angry/sad/scared. Furthermore, take a close look at the jealousy. Often times there is underlying grief for the loss of imagined partnership and future.

Me, and the things I don’t like about myself. Sometimes jealousy manifests in racing looping thoughts. At this point, get out a sketchpad or a journal and write or express all of your thoughts on the issue. When we bring underlying fears, worries, and concerns to consciousness we are more able to see them for what they are- we see that most of our pain is not what others are doing to us, but rather our insecurities manifesting. Remember humor, and remember self-compassion.

We all make compromises to be in relationship. The surest way you can tell that you don’t have an agreement is when one partner does not agree to it anymore! If one partner is consistently violating an agreement, then it needs to be reevaluated. If an agreement cannot be reached than the partner who feels that their agreement was violated has to learn to either 1) live with the reality that the agreement is going to get breached, or 2) decide that they cannot live with it and move towards a respectful end to the relationship.

Embracing conflict: Arguments do not necessarily have to be places of disconnection. And they do not have to be inflamed. In fact, arguments are incredibly powerful conversations that help clarify various perspectives. Learning to argue without inflammation is a skill and an art worth practicing with your partner(s). Get creative! Schedule your ‘fights’. Set aside 20 minutes that are dedicated to a specific conflict. Doing so can allow for the reactive emotions to settle before diving in, and allows for safer and more patient fighting that increases the spaciousness necessary to evolve how you think as a couple. Do not, however, forget to use a timer! Give person A 3 minutes to make their point, then give 1 minute for silent reflection, and then 3 minutes for person B. Have an agreed upon ending- we all know that the desire to have the last word in arguments makes them more raw, dangerous, and divisive.

TIP: Together create a place in the house for open dialogue! Or a specific piece of clothing that you don for times you want to communicate to your partner “Hey babe! I’d love to talk now- can you join me for this conversation?” A specific couch, a a candle you light, or an old t-shirt.

SAFE word: As is common in the BDSM community- it is incredibly helpful to have a shared key word that either partner can use when they sense there needs to be a time out, or a redirection. Together you need to have a way to communicate that you are too triggered, upset, or reactive, and that you want to come back together when you are both feeling a little safer and saner.  Make it fun- find something that has shared humor!

Monogamy does not mean that you do not get horny for other people! Monogamous or not, we all will be attracted to other people and have desires throughout our lives. That said, it can be challenging at times to know when to accept desires as passing inevitabilities, and when to try opening your relationship. It is key that the interest in opening a relationship comes only from a solid and stable place- the relationship should be working on almost all levels.

Tolerable discomfort: One way you can tell if a poly relationship is working is that the one partner who is wanting poly a little less feels slightly out of their comfort zone and the other one who is more interested in poly is feeling a little bit confined. If everyone is just a little tolerably uncomfortable then it is working! Remember, this all requires incredible levels of curiosity and compassion, and communication! Fierce intimacy is possible when everyone is communicating well!

Bring your questions into conversation with your partner in a way that is thoughtful. It is critical to always have a lot of love and care for your partner when discussing sexual and romantic needs, but never as critical as it is the first few times you bring it up. Do not surprise your partner, or come heavy handed. Be gentle, yet clear, and start by simply saying “Hey babe, I want to share that I am thinking about this…” . Perhaps you can start by sharing erotica, looking at personal ads, or spinning fantasies together. You might try free associating some thoughts about what your life would or could look like with new agreements. Some couples then try sharing their bed with a third- this might be all you end up doing, or just a stepping stone to further explorations.

Easy things to get you to hard places: This is a great exercise to do together to help explore your edges: Get a pack of index cards and have both of you separately write down everything you could imagine your partner doing with another person. Be very specific. Order these cards into a hierarchy of things that seem tolerable to things that seem impossibly difficult. You will learn a lot about your partner- but also about yourself! The things that you thought were going to be very difficult may very well become possible, and vice-versa! Most people surprise themselves. If poly is new to you and you are having a difficult time warming into the concept- think about what is in it for you. This might be anything from having a happier partner, to more time for yourself, or more time to explore stuff that YOU are excited about. Remember poly is a spectrum that can be defined in many ways- there are a lot of possibilities. That said, if you are a definite NO, clearly articulate this to your partner is a non-shaming way.

Do versus Don’t Agreements:  For those of you just beginning to explore polyamory, you will be highly focused on your agreements about what is and is not allowed.  These often come in the form of ‘Don’ts’, but over time invite in a shift towards what you do do. For example, “I don’t want you to have intercourse with her” might become “after you have intercourse with her, I really need you back in bed for some reassurance and a sense of your physical presence”. Things you agree to DO are much easier to administer and bring in a sense of motivation, energy and vibrancy to the relationship. Learn ways you can reconnect- baths, massages, dinners, gifts, hot springs, etc. and incorporate these into your agreements!

Lastly: Find a poly community!!! The lack of role models can be really difficult. Plus, once immersed in a poly community you will learn from others how to navigate boundaries, jealousy, negotiations, compromises, and even gain valuable insight into what is possible in the bedroom and out!


Read Janet’s book The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures

Learn more about Janet’s work and read her recent writing on her website

For more on this topic check out Erotic Mind- Unlocking the Inner Sources of Passion and Fulfilment

Polyamory and Jealousy: A More Than Two essentials guide is a workbook for couples in open relationships dealing with jealousy and can be found on the More Than Two website Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode and qualify to win a signed copy of Janet Hardy’s book.

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Jun 22, 2016

In today’s show, I want to cover a few key questions. How do I identify what “stage” my relationship is at? How can I make that information actually useful for me? How do I know if it’s worth it to keep putting in the time and energy required? We’re going to dive deep into how to answer that question, to diagnose how both you and your partner are showing up - what can be celebrated, and what can be improved.

Also, in case you haven’t seen it yet, I wanted to remind you that there’s a free guide on my website,, called - “The Single Most important thing that will make or Break Your Relationship” - if you don’t have it yet, please check it out, as it’s a clear guide to understanding your needs, and your partner’s needs, in relationship. You can simply visit and click the “send me the action plan” button - or you can text the word “Relationship” to the number 33444 and follow the instructions to get your free guide.

OK - now - let’s get started. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover! So there’s a basic premise that I have for you...Relationships can be hard work’s worth it.

Jun 15, 2016

Judging from the emails that I get and the clients that I see, many of you are looking for more information about how to repair a relationship after something big, like infidelity, has happened. How do you repair trust? How do you get your relationship from a place that can feel like total chaos through to the other side - where you have a new sense of possibility and vitality in your connection, and what’s happened is just a distant memory?

Today’s guest is Terry Real. You may remember him from episode 4 on Advanced Relationship Jiu-Jitsu - he’s the author of the book The New Rules of Marriage, What You Need to Know to Make Love Work, founder of Relational Life Therapy, and internationally known couples expert and family therapist. Terry Real has also partnered with Esther Perel for trainings on the topic of recovering from Infidelity - which is one reason why I thought he’d be a great guest expert on this topic. So on today’s show, we’re going to revisit the topic of Infidelity (which we also covered in episode 36 with Janis Abrahms Spring), and tackle exactly what steps are involved in how to repair after an affair.

A couple housekeeping things I also wanted to mention. For those of you who are listening right when this episode comes out, you should know that Terry and Esther Perel have also teamed up for a new online course, called the Power of Intimacy. The course explores the influence of power dynamics on the passion in a relationship - and how to come back into a healthy, vibrant balance when things are out of whack. The course was designed for primarily for couples therapists, and I know a lot of you listening to the show do with couples and might be interested. I got a sneak peek at the course, and I think there’s a lot of good stuff there for you even if you’re not a therapist and simply interested in advancing your skills in relationship. For more information you can use the link - and that will take you to their site - and if you do happen to buy their course a portion of the course fee will help support the podcast. If you’re interested in their course and don’t want to necessarily support the podcast, you can just visit directly. The course enrollment is only open for a few more days (because it includes live calls with Terry and Esther Perel) - so if you’re interested - check it out before they close the doors.

One last thing. It’s summer! And I live in Maine - so every year when the temperature soars above 60 it feels like a miracle. I am going to do my best to keep this a weekly show, especially for you loyal listeners - but that might mean getting creative with the content here and there since many of my guests are taking summer breaks - and a little more difficult to track down. However, if I miss a week here and there don’t despair! This podcast isn’t going anywhere. After all, we were recently named one of the top 10 relationship podcasts by Women’s Health Magazine. That couldn’t have happened without you - your help getting the word out and keeping the ideas coming for interesting episodes. And there are definitely some interesting episodes coming!

OK - enough from me! I am so excited to have Terry Real back on the show, to share more of his advanced relational wisdom with us. Here’s what we cover:

How to define infidelity: Infidelity can be defined as the combination of a transgression or betrayal of some kind, and deceit. No matter whether the transgression is emotional, or physical, it is still occurring in the mind. Infidelity can be everything from a multi year affair, to texting, sexting, recontacting an old flame, or touching hands- and even these relatively mundane actions can become highly charged and erotic. In general, there are three types of affairs:

Relational affairs- acting out in reaction to primary relationship issues

Personality affairs- acting out of narcism and/or immaturity

Existential affairs- primary relationship is healthy and loving, but person feels that life is short and wants to experience more

YOU are responsible for what you do on your side of the seesaw. Always remember that you are responsible for the way you choose to act/not act. A difficult or unfulfilling relationship does not justify an affair. Yes, you may be completely right that your relationship needed some shaking up and change, but this does not sanctify hurtful or deceitful behavior.

Holding yourself accountable. Boundaries are unique to each couple, and therefore must be defined together (hopefully before a transgression occurs). If you are currently in a relationship, bring this up with your partner with curiosity and compassion, and begin to ask each other about what your implicit and explicit rules about monogamy are: does it include texting? What should be shared and what can remain silent? Etc.

One general rule to know if you are engaging in appropriate behavior with others is to imagine that a REASONABLE partner was observing or overhearing you. If they saw or heard what you were doing or saying - would they be upset? If so, treat this as a good wake up call!

Distrust and trauma: Being on the receiving end of infidelity is a traumatic experience. The hurt partner’s sense of reality and trust is so deeply assaulted and violated by the actions that they are left feeling as though the ground beneath them is gone. So how does one come back and repair from such a reality shattering experience? The good news is that about 2/3rds of couples survive an infidelity (and the odds are greatly increased if you engage in good therapy).

Three phases of repair:

Phase 1: The beginning phase is focused on the fresh and raw hurt, and the insecurity that comes after the discovery. It is a time to work on acute issues including grounding and addressing the trauma that the hurt partner may be experiencing. The hurt partner might have acute symptoms such as throwing up, insomnia, nightmares, panic attacks, etc. Seeking support from a therapist to help with stabilizing is a good idea.

Phase 2: This second phase is focused on exploring the underlying meaning of the infidelity. The focus shifts away from the specific details of how the infidelity unfolded, and more into an exploratory questioning about motives, lessons, and insights.

Phase 3: The final phase occurs once resolution and repair has thoroughly been explored. The couple is now able to begin to re envision their relationship. The goal is not just to have couples survive, but to have the relationship transformed through the crisis.  

TRUST is a big word.  Trust is not an on-off switch. Repairing trust and coming to a place of intimacy after a breach of trust is a long process, and unique to each couple. That said, there are some strategies that can help build trust:

Reassuring behaviors: Reassuring behaviors are actions that the couple can take together to explicitly address transparency and accountability. This might include going over emails and text messages once a week, or sending photographs of what you are actually doing (are you in that hotel room you said you would be?). These requests must reasonable and moderate, and come from a place of building trust, rather than shaming/blaming or re-punishing the one who breached the trust. Keep some boundaries: partners do not need passwords to each other’s devices - instead, come together to look at your interactions with others and grow from these opportunities to reconnect.

Moving towards investigative questions: While a reasonable amount of clarification after an affair/infidelity is appropriate and acceptable, the hurt partner must work to move away from detective questions that only scratch the wound. The growth and repair happens when the couple enters a deeper exploration together. Investigative questions include questions such as “what parts of you got woken up?”, “what did that mean to you?”, etc.

Addressing the two aching questions: The hurt partner always has two burning questions:

  1. How could you do this to me?
  2. How do I know you won’t do it again?

These questions begin to be answered in the first phase of repair. In this phase the involved partner must take full responsibility to share and own their actions - to tell the whole truth without ragged disclosures and to make no excuses. They do not necessarily need to have remorse for the affair, but rather for the damage and hurt it has caused their primary partner. Repair then begins when the involved partner is in a place of ownership over what they did and willingness to look deeply inside and ask exploratory questions that will lead to understanding and change. As for question two, it is complicated! You don’t ever really know. Trust is provisional and you may never have that blind trust that you had before, but that does not necessarily mean that you are in a bad or weak relationship, it just means that you are not naive anymore.

Trust develops from learning. The bottom line is that there is some risk involved in being in relationship! Love requires vulnerability, and so there is no ultimate protection or promise that can be made to assuage all worries. That said, couples can not only repair from a breach in trust, but gain a whole new dimension of connectedness and commitment. Trust comes from the learning that occurs through difficulty and challenge. You’ll recognize the repair in your gut - that feeling that your partner is not the same one who acted out in the first place.

Use the hurt as a catalyst. Without putting a silver lining or a bow around the awful, it is possible to use infidelity as a catalyst for growth, and a chance to look deeply at yourself, your partner, and your relationship!

TIP: It is very hard to navigate the rawness and depth of this hurt alone. Get some kind of support! It can be incredibly valuable to have an objective third party help to hold your relationship as it reconfigures itself and to help address all the layers of healing simultaneously so that you, and your partner can not just survive, but thrive.


Read Terry’s most recent book The New Rules of Marriage: What You Need To Know To Make Love Work

Learn more about Terry’s work and the Relational Life Institute on his website

Go to his website to find a couple’s therapist Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Terry Real.

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Jun 7, 2016

How do you really see another person? And how do allow yourself to BE seen? How can you deepen into knowing the people around you, especially your partner, more honestly, more fully? These seem like they would be obvious questions in the case of relationship, and yet so often we plunge into partnership, driven by chemistry and desire, only to wake up later, sometimes years later, and to find that we’re simply going through the motions, vaguely (or extremely) dissatisfied, and knowing on some level that something more is possible. Today, we’re going to take this on directly, to go to the heart of vulnerability - opening up to the experience of the moment with another.

Guy Sengstock is the earliest founder of “circling” and the co-founder of the Circling Institute. He’s also an exceptional coach, with a gift to help you see the water you’re swimming in. Circling is a practice that allows you to experience what it’s like to be fully “gotten” by other people - and for them to get a sense of what it would truly be like to be in your shoes. If you enjoyed Episode 13 on Attunement, with Keith Witt, or episode 6, on developing shared consciousness with Patricia Albere, then you are going to love this deep dive into how to really get related with yourself and another human being.

Today, Guy and I dive into the following:

What is Circling? Circling is more practice than it is concept. It is a practice that when done in a group is simply following and giving ourselves to what is most alive in the moment with others. It is a presence practice. Like a mantra in meditation or an asana in yoga, the object of focus in Circling is the moment to moment occurrences in relationship. This relational practice helps us become uncomfortable in a particular way, that can help open us to new aspects of ourselves that we then take into our relationships outside of the practice.

Relational asanas: At the heart of circling is the simple (yet challenging) intention of speaking the moment, such that you are voicing what you are noticing and sensing AS IT OCCURS. Most human conversations are triangular in that you and I talk about a subject - rarely is it present tense and speaking in, for, and about the moment. Circling is similar to an asana in yoga, but in this case it is a relational asana. How can we learn to not speak about, and rather speak and listen for what is happening right in this moment? When we do this, we step into surprise and mystery because we do not know what will happen next. From this risk, our aliveness and our anxiety increases.

Share your anxiety -  So many times we hide our anxiety from our partners, and often from ourselves. Anxiety and a nervous feeling helps to illuminate areas of stuckness/friction - a trailhead for finding out what is important enough to cause such an acute sensation! When we learn to share our anxiety with our partner, we show them that we care enough to include them. If and when you notice anxiety in the other, do not take it as a red flag, but rather a moment to get curious- “Oh woah, I’m imagining there is something really important to you that is making you feel so strongly”. Opening up our most vulnerable and sticky feelings to our partner brings in a whole new dynamic to the relationship! It opens the doors to what is ACTUALLY occurring in a way that can then be explored and known, rather than simply managed.

Being in someone else’s shoes. Really feel heard and known. What is it about circling that brings about the experience of real connection? In circling, we really acknowledge ourselves as nervous systems that are inherently open to the world (permeable and transparent to it). When I look at you, I can actually start to imagine what it is like to be in your nervous system. I can start to sense what you are afraid of, how what I am saying impacts you, etc. In all deep levels of conversation and intimacy, what we are saying to the other is “I am close to knowing, understanding, and caring about what you care about”. And in caring about each other, we find out what WE really care about. When we tune in this closely, it is almost as if someone could ask you to make a decision as if you were the other person, and you would feel like you could! Of course, there is a critical line between feeling as though you know someone through being present with them, and believing you know someone.

How do you know that you have an assumption? You don’t! Assumptions are inherently places we are unaware - if we know about it, then it isn’t an assumption anymore! Assumptions are a natural reaction to being in relation and we all have and hold them! And they are not to be feared or shamed - in fact, we can even look forward to moments of dissonance. Once an assumption is named, it then becomes great information and material for exploring. What if instead of trying to get to right and wrong (which inevitably leads to repression or argument), you got curious? What if your response to being triggered was to become curious about you, about your partner, about your relationship and what is happening to you, them, and the couple in that moment!?

What to do when the record stops. Okay, so everything is going swell, and then all of a sudden the record screeches to a halt, and you and your partner are in a disagreement. How we respond in that moment is going to make a huge impact on how the next moment will unfold. Try letting go of proving who is right and who is wrong- and instead, choose curiosity.

What exactly is curiosity? Curiosity is the first thing to go when we contract, and one of the primary aspects of being open. Whatever curiosity actually is, it is deeply connected to our level of openness. And of course, the moments when it would be generative and helpful to be curious are exactly the times when we do not feel it. And so we must choose it.

Leaning in: Choosing curiosity might look like this: 1. Acknowledge (with the intention to relate) that something just happened, and 2) Ask your partner: What just happened, for you? What was the impact on you of what I just said/did? How did that occur to you? What did _____ mean to you? How did you take that? Demonstrate that you actually care by showing your intention to really know them. Asking these leaning in questions affirms and acknowledges their otherness, and that you are a being that has no authority to know what they are feeling or thinking, but that you want to share and know! Leaning forward and in with our questions and attention is an act of offering to someone our deep desire to fully understand them.

We cannot force intimacy to happen - we can only invite it out! Sometimes when we ask such direct questions, we will be met with “I don’t know”. Honor this - it is a reminder that we cannot force closeness. We cannot manage or take away how our partner is experiencing us, and you must remember to make space for them to share with you what is actually happening inside their world.  If someone does not want or is unable to share with us how they are feeling, you can try to ask a follow up question: “Huh, you don’t know? I’m imagining that you are too mad to talk right now, is that true? Or perhaps in asking you how that was for you you feel invaded, or pressured? Is that true for you?”

When someone reveals what is true for them, it is an act of their own human freedom, and so when they don’t, we can only respect their individuality and sometimes, share our personal experience: “When you said you don’t know, I just noticed that I was feeling some anxiety in my chest and I started to lean forward more”. This type of sharing - the kind that reveals what is happening inside of us - is unarguable. When we share from this place we gift our partner insight into a space that is wholly, and holy, us. Thus inviting intimacy, and aliveness!

Intimacy is a function of our ability to tolerate anxiety. You can’t separate wetness from water - in the same way, you can’t have intimacy without discomfort. We spend a lot of energy trying to not say truths that we feel might push our partner away. In submitting, controlling, dominating, or dissociating from discomfort we diminish the possibility of intimacy and aliveness. It becomes harder and harder to be ourselves, and we end up risking connection for fear of disconnection. When instead, we share our truth and take that risk, we grow! And yes, it is unpredictable, and yes, it is anxiety producing because it immerses us in a reality that anything could happen. And yet, to have more and more depth and competence in our relationships- we need to just jump in and even invite in more ambiguity! Although scary and uncomfortable in the moment, the times when we share what is really happening for us, we begin to create a deep and genuine sense of security in our relationships.

Life is about reaching out to become what it is. By entering into unknown, unpredictable, and uncontrollable territory together, you learn and build what your connection really is.  If i am continually willing to be myself, and willing to let you be yourself, then we may actually find out what is really true for us. This is the case because we are not known selves when we enter relationships. As is implicit in nature, in biology, in wherever life unfolds, relationships are a constant becoming. And to become, there must be some friction, or dissonance. Look at evolution! If all had gone perfectly, there would still only be single celled organisms! When life is introduced to irritation, it creates itself in higher order of complexity. Life becomes itself through interactions with discord. This is true in relationships as well. We ourselves are revealed in moments of relational tension. Our reactions and responses are a feedback loop that tells us what is important, and what makes our heart hurt, and grow. Staying present, and being willing to be in the unknown, will inevitably lead to a surprising new sense of aliveness and closeness!  

A TIP for kickass dating - In dating, we are constantly screening the present for clues about how we will feel in the future. Becoming masterful of noticing and illuminating how a conversation is actually going automatically translates into kickass dating! It will help you embrace the anxiety in the moment in a way that is fun. Step into the curiosity and ask yourself “What am I going to learn about myself from this person?”

TRY THIS AT HOME: In a relationship you care about (with your primary partner or other), simply see what happens when you introduce your experience of what is happening right now, in the relationship. “Right now i am noticing you…. And it makes me feel …..”. Then just pause and find out what happens. Notice that by the time you finish your sentence you don’t know what will happen next! A lot of the time we speak to each other in order to know what will happen after we talk... instead, be willing to move away from triangular conversation- and generously name what is happening for you right now. More specifically, try to bring a practice of gratitude into moment to moment interactions. “I am grateful right now for this moment we are having” or “I’m noticing how you are leaning right now, and I’m feeling so touched by it”. Etc.

Remember- every single moment holds the possibility of growth! A present focus invites this sense of aliveness!


If you are interested in coaching email Guy at

To read some of Guy’s writings check out his website!  

To learn more about being trained in Circling check out their website Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Guy Sengstock and be entered to qualify for a free two-hour couching session!

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!


May 23, 2016

It’s common these days to hear people talking about having healthy boundaries - but what does that even mean? How would you know what a healthy boundary looks like? How do you honor other people’s boundaries? And if you’re experiencing a breakdown - how do you get back on the right track, so that you know what your boundaries are, and so that they’re respected by the other people in your life. Today’s guest is Sarri Gilman, a therapist for 30 years who has also directed several non-profits, and the author of the book “Transform Your Boundaries”. In this book, Sarri Gilman explains exactly what your boundaries are, and what they aren’t, and gives you guidance about how to bring your boundaries, and yourself, back online.

Here are the core topics that Sarri and I cover in this episode:

YESSES and NOs.  Boundaries are at the core of all relationships- if you interact with humans, you need boundaries! What are boundaries? Boundaries are a collection of your yesses and your nos. We can navigate through layers of complexity and many difficult situations when we come back to a knowing about what our yesses and what our nos are.

Boundary work is ongoing: As with so much in relationships, boundaries are not static entities. They change as we change, and vice versa. Forget about ever ‘mastering’ boundary setting - this is going to be a lifelong process! It takes time, and an investment in yourself too, to sort out your feelings so that you can get to know your own yesses, and nos. Of course there will be foggy and fuzzy situations, and grayness is a part of life, but the confusion cannot become an excuse to be uncertain of your boundaries. Instead, it means you may have to take extra time to check in with yourself.

Self care is at the heart of boundary work- Boundaries - which we often think of as interactional and relational - all stem from self-awareness, and self-care. Start noticing how many times a day people ask you for something. Then notice how many times each day you have the chance to clarify what is a yes and what is a no. Tune into yourself - can you locate that knowing of what you need? To what extent do you follow through on this knowing? Ask yourself - am I giving myself what I need right now? Am I taking time each day for self-care activities? Am I drinking enough water? Am I picking up my guitar? My knitting? Have I taken a computer break and stretched? Tune into you, and learn what it is you need each day to feel well and okay on the inside. From this awareness, you can come to know your true yesses and nos, and gain a stronger voice and clearer compass for navigating conflict around boundaries.

Where do you feel you are paying the price for not taking care of yourself? Not having healthy boundaries can lead to patterns of distraction, avoidance, and isolation. As you begin to increase your self-awareness around your yes and your no, you may begin to notice patterns of boundary avoidance, or compromise. So many of us have been conditioned to put others first, so that our boundaries are a response to what others need, rather than linked to self-care. Some common patterns of unhealthy boundary setting include workaholism, numbing out via internet, social isolation, as well as approval seeking. Do you find yourself looking for LOVE without looking for YOU? Are you so hungry to be loved/liked/approved of that you will do anything for this, without considering if it is actually good for you, or aligned with your real needs?

There is a line in any of these patterns that we do that is healthy, and okay up to a certain point. We are all going to have times we need to distract ourselves, put others first, or feel a need to isolate, and yet, it is key to have a way to check back in with ourselves. When we lose ourselves we lose control of our behavior, and this can lead to depression. On the contrary, if we hold boundaries that are too rigid and firm, they become imprisoning for ourselves and our soul/spirit.

What nurtures you? What is it that YOU need to feel alive, centered, and empowered? Tune into the very core needs you have on a daily and weekly basis, and make sure you are honoring them. Take an hour to read, time at the gym, a walk with a friend, a dinner date - these small acts of nurturance create the resilience, and self-compassion that makes us that much more open to our relationships.

Boundaries help to bring ourselves closer to others. Although it may at first sound paradoxical, good boundary setting allows for more authentic intimacy and connection. This is true because setting boundaries is the result of, and the contributor to our knowing ourselves better, which in turn brings those around us closer. Whether with your family, your work relationships, or your primary partnership, learning healthy boundary setting will lead to increased truthfulness, trust, and depth!

Scary, but worth it! Setting boundaries can be difficult and daunting. It can be especially hard if you are someone who has spent much of their life trying to care take of, or please those around you. What helps get through the immediate fear is looking towards the long term results and consequences. Not holding boundaries or following through on commitments with yourself has a huge price! We each have a spirit, or a part of us, that watches what we are doing all of the time - if it always sees you saying no to you, not following up on your own needs, then you may begin to feel depressed. Constantly saying no to ourselves, and trying to say yes to everyone else, can develop into depression, anger, and resentment.

Resentment: Resentment is the clearest signal that your boundaries have been crossed. It comes from a feeling that someone failed to respect our boundary - but it is not their job to do so! It is our job to state our boundaries, and to make them clear and big. If someone is crossing your boundary, it likely means you have to make a bigger sign. The fear and intimidation of doing so should not be a barrier - it is temporary and ephemeral, unlike resentment which does not leave us quickly, and can stick with us so long it make us sick. By allowing our fear of saying no to dominate, we run the risk of carrying around resentment- and then we are left paying that price for a long while. Instead, choose to take the risk of the discomfort of a NO in the name of authenticity, connectedness, and a more honest way of being in relationship! It is your job to respect and care-take your own boundaries. No one else can do this for you.

The art of saying NO: Once you have the courage and self-compassion to set a boundary, then it is your responsibility to do so with as much compassion for the other as you can. Many times our yesses and our nos come up with a lot of associated feelings - anger, frustration, entitlement, etc. Check in to see what level of emotional charge you are feeling, and if it is high, take steps (walk, journal, breathe...) to calm yourself enough so that you can state your boundary from a centered place. When we do so, it is better received than when we set a boundary with hot and high emotions. You may think that getting big and loud will help the other person see your boundary more clearly, but really it only distracts them, puts them in the defense, and leads to increased tension and conflict. Furthermore, with your emotions in check, you are more likely to feel grounded and have a ‘stand by it’ mentality that allows you to not be as affected or swayed by the (often) inevitable reaction you may get. It will help you stay committed to the boundary itself, without getting distracted or lost in all the feelings around it.

How to best handle your fear of communicating a NO: It is common to be worried about how your boundary is going to be received - and yet, often this fear is based on an assumption we are holding. Acknowledge that you have some fear about what a no is going to mean to the other person, and share this! If you are someone who hates to disappoint people, you can take care of them and this feeling simultaneously by simply stating “I am really sorry if you find this disappointing…” before you share your no. Putting it right out on the table is a way of creating more understanding. And helps to create a bridge between the two parties so that they do not get too lost in the emotionality of the process. This connecting is critical when you share boundaries, especially within your romantic relationship as it helps to hold the container and the safety necessary so that the no does not feel like a rupture of attachment. If your no comes from an authentic, self-honoring place, then it is inherently important, even if uncomfortable, for your partner to know about. The deeper your awareness of this, the more resilient you can be in your stance and more capable of holding the boundary, while holding the temporary hurt or harm your partner feels.

We want to get what we want. And we don’t like not getting it. You may find that people use anger and big emotion as a way to manipulate you to change your mind if you have stated a no, when they expected and wanted a yes. People ARE going to push up against you. Be ready for this- notice it and be okay with people having feelings about your inner boundaries. It is okay for people to not like it, or to be upset!  It is not a relationship breaker! Without feeding the drama, you can state something along the lines of “I understand that you are angry, and totally get why you are angry, and I am not going to change my mind. Let’s figure out together how else you can get what you need/want!”

What to do if you suspect that your partner’s NO stems from fear or avoidance: If you do not understand or trust the motives behind your partner’s No, use this doubt and confusion as an invitation for more understanding. Ask them to tell you more about their No. Where does it come from? What brought them to the No? How is it important to them? This curiosity and compassion will help you understand the deeper place your partner is coming from, while also creating a culture and a conversation that can help any stuckness or fear your partner has that is motivating their No, allowing it to dissipate. When we feel comfortable and respected in our relationships, our boundaries can come from that authentic core needs place, rather than from a more reactive and rigid place. This conversation about boundaries provides a chance for intimacy and connection - enjoy it! Explore it!

You ARE going to have a different yes and no than your partner. This understanding is critical in order to provide the flexibility and resilience necessary to get creative! The challenge is not to get on the same page, but rather how to prioritize and protect each other's needs without violating the other’s no. This process encourages creativity and spark! You CAN coexist with a values conflict if you are willing to expand the field a little bit, and start working together to find new solutions.

Connect with your partner each day. Take a minimum of 20 minutes each day to check in with each other. Ask each other questions, and listen! How are you feeling about this/that? What are you thinking about? Is there anything I need to know? What is on your heart? Find out what your partner needs for their self-care, and ask more about it. How can I help you? How can I better encourage that for you? How can I support from my end? Frequent quality check-ins help to create an environment where boundary work can happen in a more effective and mutually empowering way!

TRY THIS: In an effort to practice stating and receiving nos and yesses, you and your partner can take turns expressing to each other some things that you know your partner will say no to. Notice what it is like to receive a no. To state a no. Then try it with yesses. Feel free to laugh! This exercise is meant to help bring in some humor and take the charged energy out because once you can laugh with each other, you can more easily catch yourselves and turn towards regaining perspective.


For more information about Sarri Gilman’s work see her website here

Watch Sarri’s TEDx talk

Read Sarri’s book Transform Your Boundaries

Look for her app coming out Fall of 2016!

Check out episodes #14 Margaret Paul and #26 Dick Schwartz for more on getting in touch with your inner voice Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Sarri Gilman and qualify to win a copy of Transform Your Boundaries and her Transform-Your-Boundaries cards!

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May 18, 2016

This week is going to be a little different. We’ve had so many new listeners join the podcast over the past couple months - and maybe you are one of them, that I wanted to give you an opportunity to catch up. So this mini-episode is going to be short and sweet, to give you a chance to go back through the more than 8 months worth of episodes and choose something interesting, or edgy, or simply choose something at random to check out. Week after week I’ve been striving to create unique, actionable content with the world’s top relationship experts, or people who are experts at skills needed in relationship - so I encourage you to take a moment and dive back into the archives.

I also wanted to mention something that I haven’t talked about at all on the podcast - if you haven’t gotten it yet, make sure you go to my website,, and check out the “action plan” - which is available for FREE - all you have to do is go to the website and click the “send me the action plan” button, and you’ll get the guide that I wrote called “The Single Most Powerful Thing that Will Make or Break Your Relationship”. This guide is designed to give you clarity into how your relationship is or isn’t meeting your needs, and how to adjust things for the better - or, if you’re single, you’ll get insight into how to create a relationship that is truly going to get to the heart of what you’re looking for.

Whether you’re single and looking, in a relationship that’s good - but you want to make it better, or in a relationship that’s in trouble - I want to encourage you to get support. Way back in our very first episode, John Gottman mentioned that couples wait an average of six YEARS to get help - and let’s just say that six years is a LONG time, with lots of potential to create even more damage. Sometimes all it takes is one or two coaching sessions to experience a radical shift, to learn new skills and uncover the blind spots that are holding you back. So - don’t wait six years. If you’re interested in finding out more about what it would be like to work with me, you can email me at neilius at - or simply text the word “SUPPORT” to the number 33444, and I’ll send you a link to my scheduler to set up a free conversation to chat about what’s going on with you and see whether or not we’d be a good fit to work together.

If you’re looking for a way to stay in touch as well as to connect with other people listening to relationship alive - check out our group on Facebook. It’s called the Relationship Alive Community - - and I look forward to seeing you there!

Thanks again for listening to the show, and for the courage and willingness to show up for yourself, and, if you’re in one, for your relationship. Thanks also for helping to get the word out about the podcast. Relationship Alive was recently chosen by Women’s Health Magazine as one of the top 10 relationship podcasts - and part of the success of this show has been your willingness to help get the word out. If you can take a moment to let a few friends know about the podcast, or post it on Facebook or Twitter, I would be most grateful. We have more great episodes coming in the next several months, and I’ve also heard from many listeners that they’d like to hear more about the work that I do with my partner, Chloe - and more about what’s been helpful for us in our relationship. We just taught a workshop in Montreal called “Deepening Intimacy, the Art of Conscious Relationship” and I’m looking forward to having her on the show to talk about that, about the book we’re working on, and...well - you tell me! Drop me a line at neilius at, or in the Relationship Alive Community facebook group, and let me know what questions you have for me or Chloe, and we’ll incorporate that into our show together.

Ok, now’s your chance to dive into the Relationship Alive archives and pick out something really juicy. I can’t wait to hear more about what you pick and how it’s helpful for you. Take care, and...see you next week!

May 10, 2016

Let’s face it, modern relationships can be kinda complex. And if you’re in a relationship with someone who has been divorced, and has children from their previous relationship - or if you have children from a previous relationship, then you’re probably in the middle of that kind of complexity. Back in Episode 21, with Katherine Woodward Thomas, we talked about Conscious Uncoupling and the inner work required to heal from past relationships so you can be present for your current relationship. In today’s episode, we’re going to tackle the topic of success in a post-divorce family head-on. There are challenges that are unique to this situation - and you’ll find that the strategies for succeeding come down to themes that we’ve been covering on the show. How do you connect, communicate, co-parent, and get really clear in a potentially complicated situation? That’s what today’s show is about.

Our guest is Susan Wisdom, retired therapist and author of the classic book “Stepcoupling: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Marriage in Today’s Blended Family”. It’s one of the few books on the topic - and fortunately it offers a lot of helpful information and strategies for strengthening your relationship, and your family, when you’re operating in a post-divorce world. If you’re not in this situation, then I think you’ll find that today’s show has some great insight that can help any relationship, especially if children are present.

In this conversation, Susan Wisdom and I cover the following:

The 4 C’s are helpful building blocks for successfully navigating stepcoupling, they are:


CONNECTION: Connection is that wonderfully good feeling that is the glue that keeps couples together. It can be in the form of a thought, a behavior, a caring action, or a feeling that conjures togetherness. The more connection that exists in the stepcouple, the better coparents you will be, and the sooner the children will feel safe and trusting of their new family dynamics.

COMMUNICATION: Communication is key in building and sustaining the stepcouple (and any relationship). It is important to learn to communicate in healthy ways, and from a place of deep respect and curiosity. Remember that listening and receiving is just as much part of communicating as voicing and articulating. When you hear your partner say something that begins to boil your blood or trigger you, try on a “hmmm” response- switching from immediate reactivity to questioning and curiosity. Clear communication relies on calmness- calm language and a calm nervous system- if you find yourself drifting out of this, take a deep breath and try again.

CO PARENTING: Issues around co parenting go hand in hand with a dedication to communication. Successful co parenting does not necessarily come naturally, rather it is a dynamic that must be addressed head on, created together, and continually nurtured. Face this  directly- develop a plan and find strategies that work for the two of you. As you do this, be patient with each other- you are not always going to get your own way. Instead, observe your partner as they parent, and be open to their influence. Furthermore, be open to the concept that by letting go of some control, you are helping to create a stronger team.  

CLARIFICATION: Be willing and able to look at your coparenting dynamic from multiple perspectives, and with a curious mind. Notice, inquire, and remain aware of how issues from the past are manifesting in your current relationship.

Stepcoupling- The foundation of a strong blended family relies on the health and strength of the step-couple themselves. When all's said and done, are you each fully committed and in love? Your YES will carry you through the constant challenges (and blessings) inevitable when raising a blended family. It is common for children of split families to try to drive a wedge into the new couple as a reaction to their still being upset about the loss of the original parental couple. If the stepcouple themselves does not feel like a team, the couple AND the children will begin to feel threatened, weakened, and ultimately untrusting. If on the other hand the couple is strong, then the children will begin to trust, adjust, and it will be more natural.

Be aware that an adjustment period is natural for all- and be careful to balance your attention between the bond you must maintain with your children, and your excitement for this new blossoming relationship you are in. Know that it is possible! The good news is that if you travel the distance together, there is a tremendous amount of love and fun that is possible!

Differences are inevitable and beautiful. There is often a period of shock for partners after deciding to move in together because there are dynamics and details that were never visible or experienced during the honeymoon phase. Accept that these challenges are inevitable. Be patient, join support groups, get counseling, and begin to bust through these unrealistic co parenting expectations and myths:

MYTH 1: You will quickly and naturally adjust to your partner’s children once you

get married.

MYTH 2: You will instantly love your stepchildren as you love your own children

MYTH 3: You will attach and bond equally with all children in the family

You don’t have to immediately love your step children. Shall we repeat this? You do not have to immediately love your step children. In fact, it is very natural and normal to not love your step children. So stop shaming yourself if you find that you do not love your partner’s children as if they are your own, and focus on being a responsible adult, caring for the children, and responding and providing for their needs. Honor the fact that your relationship with your stepchildren is a unique and different form of relationship, and allow the love to grow in its own time.

It is all a work in progress. It can be helpful to acknowledge that blending your families together is essentially an exercise of figuring out how a group of strangers can fit together. This adjustment is going to look different for every family, and for every member of the family. It will develop over time, and it will develop that much stronger if the couple does not hold tightly to expectation that “we love each other so this should be easy”. It is unrealistic to believe that you will agree on how to  raise or discipline your children, in fact, you may never together agree- but you can find ways to compromise and to create new ways together. Remember the beauty and gift of blending families is that you get to develop your own family system!

Styles and value differences in families can be DELIGHTFUL.  Parenting is always difficult, and coparenting can be exponentially harder because there are inherently more differences in the picture. Not only is the couple coming from different backgrounds (as is true in all couples) but the children also come into the new family with their own differences in backgrounds, experiences, temperaments, genes, traditions, values, senses of humor, etc. In original families it is possible to maintain an illusion of some cohesion in values, but as soon as you are working in a blended family, all bets are off! It is up to the stepcouple to hold a space for all these differences, and in order to do so there must be strength, love, humor as the glue to hold together the differences of the couple themself! You will have to try to do anything and everything to foster acceptance of the breadth of experience and values that are now essentially being married together. On the toughest days, try on the mantra: different can be delightful! Can you find ways with your partner and your kids to celebrate this chance you have to redefine values, create new patterns, and cohabitate a myriad of differences?

Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be together? As you figure out what is going to help make your family stay together over time, return to this question often. Learn to recognize when you are triggered, stop playing the right/wrong game, and find ways to ground yourself in a process (versus immediate result) oriented view. There WILL be compromises. There WILL be adjustments. There WILL be misunderstandings. And there WILL be solutions.

Try to not take it personally. Do you find yourself saying “my stepkids do not respect me” or “my stepkids never listen to me”? Taking behavior personally is a common and nearly universal reaction for stepparents.  Have patience with your vulnerability, while trying to not take your stepchildren’s actions too personally. The truth is that they do not know you yet, and they are likely not excited about your entry into the family- for reasons having nothing to do with who you are, rather with that you represent a loss and change. Furthermore, the children are protecting themselves from more disruption and change by testing you to see if you will stay. This trust takes time. And in the meantime, remind yourself often that these children have good reason to not trust, and that their extreme behavior is likely a manifestation of their incredible self-protective instincts.

Get curious. Bear in mind, especially in the hardest moments, to embody the qualities of RESPECT and CURIOSITY. Get seriously curious. Who are these children? Where did these children come from? What do they like? What do they not like? Get to know these children. Try dedicating time to get to know each kid independently, while also creating times and ways for the whole family to come together, whether this is during meals, weekend activities, or certain rituals and traditions. Your place as a stepparent will develop over time, and it will come from personal authority versus positional authority. You are setting yourself up for major struggle and tension if you come in believing that “these children should respect me- I’m the adult here”. Personal authority, instead of positional authority, develops from the slow building of rapport and trust. It is slower to develop but it is genuine and long lasting.

Extend curiosity to your partner. As you begin to blend your families, you will begin to observe reactions, responses, actions, and patterns in your partner that you might not have been aware of before. Do not assume you understand why your partner does or believes what they do- ask! The more questions you ask yourself and your partner the more clarity and connection you will feel that will help to create that sense of togetherness that is essential in building a strong family foundation. Ask your partner what their relationship is to cleanliness, to religion, to money. Ask how their parents disciplined them, how their parents showed affection, how they were taught to respect their parents, and on and on. You can get creative with your curiosity! This inquiry will yield helpful insight, at the same time as it will develop a sense of feeling respected and invested in. Nothing is more loving than asking those open-ended questions that say ‘my heart wants to understand you’.

Acknowledge the children’s feelings and discomfort. Even in the best case scenarios, familial transitions and blending of families is disruptive for children. It is confusing for kids, and it must be known and appreciated that it will take a while for kids to trust the new arrangements. It takes time, gentleness, developmentally appropriate responses, flexibility, and consistency. Truly be there. For the good, the bad, and the ugly, the stepcouple must be there. The stepcouple must show the children that their relationship is strong enough to keep the kids safe, and they must model for the children that having mixed emotions is okay and tolerable. Be aware that the stress that you feel as a couple reverberates throughout the family, and take responsibility for looking inwards when there is stuff coming up with kids.

See yourself as the source of your experience- Be mindful of any victim narrative you are living in. Meaning that if you find yourself feeling like this family happened to you, instead of it being a conscious choice you made, then take a moment to step back. Check your triggers. Check your sense of self. No matter how lost, weak, small, or helpless you feel, remind yourself that you are an adult who has the power to shift the dynamics, and that you are always able to change how you relate to the reality that is your new family situation. The children, and your spouse, will respond to your sense of self confidence, and the whole family will feel more stable and safe when you are able to reconnect with your own strength. When you are rocked, reach out for support- ask your partner, your friends, your community to help you find the strength to be with what is, and to change what is needed.


Learn more at Susan Wisdom’s website

Read Wisdom’s book Stepcoupling: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Marriage in Today's Blended Family 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 Wisdom and qualify to win a free copy of Susan’s book, Stepcoupling.

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Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

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May 3, 2016

How does your biochemistry affect your relationship? Are there ways to foster the inner chemicals of love to keep things feeling fresh and vibrant? Today we’re talking about the big “O” - Oxytocin - and its impact on how we fall into love, and keep love going. In other earlier episodes on the show, we’ve talked about oxytocin, and oxytocin versus dopamine - and it seemed like it was time to go straight to the source of much of what we know about how oxytocin works.

Today’s guest is Sue Carter, Director of the Kinsey Institute, and Rudy Professor of Biology at Indiana University. Sue was the first person to figure out oxytocin’s role in how we bond with our partners - so if you hear people talking about this “love chemical” - they’re probably talking about her work or work that’s based on her work. We’re going to chat about what we know about oxytocin, what we don’t know, and how to use the science to help you improve things with your partner.

The Love Hormone: Oxytocin is often seen as the ‘love hormone’. It was first discovered to be involved in love in the early 1970’s when it was found to be present in the birth process. Since that time it has been proven to play a key role in birth, as well as in the bonding of mother and child. More recently it has been discovered that oxytocin affects our brains, and is involved in the biological and neurological system of attachment between parents and children, and between adult partners.

Why is oxytocin so important in successful long term relationships? Anything that lasts a long time in human behavior has to have a biochemical or biological basis. There has to be a mechanism that allows us to fall in love, one that helps keep us together, as well as a mechanism for allowing break ups to happen. The question of why oxytocin is so important is complicated to answer, but the short answer is that it is a mammalian hormone with an ancient biochemistry (meaning it existed before the emergence of mammals) and it is reused many times for many purposes. The most important things in a human life require oxytocin to be present. This includes birth, caring for offspring, finding a mate, creating a social bond with our partners, and restoration and healing in the face of stress.

All mammals have a very similar brain stem.  The basic biology of pair bonding and of attachment is possible using old neural mechanisms and is housed in old parts of our brain - the parts of our brain stem which we share with all other mammals. Many believe that the most important organ for connection is our brain. In fact, Woody Allen once said, that the brain is his “second favorite sex organ”.  The brain is directly engaged in the process of both falling in love and experiencing positive forms of sex.

Fostering oxytocin production: We can get low level oxytocin production through simple social behaviors- interacting, play, being in a socially safe place, and engaging with others. The most reliable way to release higher levels of oxytocin in humans is via sexual behavior, specifically orgasm. Another activity with high oxytocin production is birth - in which the hormone is released in repeated bursts.

Parent and child - All human babies need a caretaker, and it appears that oxytocin is critically involved in the bonding and attachment necessary to keep children cared for. Attachment behaviors found between parents and children produce similar oxytocin producing results between two adults. For example, it is a fact that the human breast has a monosynaptic connection between the breast and hypothalamus- meaning there is a direct route from the breast to the brain*. This route is not limited to nursing- any kind of breast stimulation has the potential to release oxytocin with other stimulation, if in the right context.

*Men also have this same nipple neural network.

We have a biology that is beautifully attuned to allow us to attach to people that are safe, and people that we have good potential to become long term partners with. Oxytocin is a very clever molecule! Oxytocin works within a background of a set of complex hormones, and never in isolation. It is highly tuned to context, and is sensitive to high levels of stress. This means that consensual sexual interactions are critical for positive and oxytocin producing physiological responses. Although safety is a very relative concept, our bodies are highly tuned to know how to assess for safety.

You can’t just read the sex manual. By all means enjoy reading sex manuals, learning new how tos, and fun tricks, but remember that no matter how well you are trained in the ‘technology’ of sex, there is no assurance it is going to work! You can learn to touch here/suck that, but know that meaningful and fulfilling sexual interactions involve both partners, some key biological processes, and a whole lot of consent. As humans we are always reading the social cues of those that we are forming relationships with. We listen for verbal cues, and are constantly scanning for subtle body language. Always remember that your partner may be having a very different experience than you are. That said, take your time, put yourself in their experience, and look for invitations to move forward.

What makes internet dating so challenging? Our bodies use neuroception - our nervous system’s decision making process - to help read physical and social cues to assess safety. Online dating makes this very difficult, and may explain that feeling of disappointment when you finally meet someone in person who you had amazing internet interactions with. Be patient, and trust your body to know who is a good match.

How to nurture oxytocin - We humans get bored, and our body is designed to seek spontaneity, variety, and novelty in our lives. Yes we have a need for stability and certainty, but our nervous system also craves stimulation and growth! Oxytocin is involved in both the seeking of safety and in the capacity for not fearing the strange. This allows us to enter into novel situations, and enter into new relationships! Without oxytocin there would be no change, and perhaps no partnering at all!  

If you want to up the game and make things feel a bit more potent with your partner, then engage in activities that you find mutually exciting and interesting. It is not enough to just feel safe, on top of the secure base there must be something that makes the relationship feel dynamic and exciting. How well is your relationship balanced? Is there too much variety and not enough safety? Or vice versa, too much safety and not enough variety? Play around with the balance, and check in with each other to help come to a working definition that feels right to both of you.

What is happening at the Kinsey Institute - The Kinsey institute is constantly at the cutting edge of research about love, sexuality, and bonding. Currently they are exploring the concept of contact - trying to understand the messy and complex process by which we assess and make better partner decisions. They are also researching how to better help people repair after sexual assault and trauma. Lastly, they are looking into the ramifications of certain medical procedures and surgeries on reproductive and sexual processes.


Check out what the Kinsey Institute is up to Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide.

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Apr 26, 2016

What do you do when you’re in a relationship and your partner cheats on you? Or what if you’re the partner who has stepped out on your relationship? Does infidelity mean that things are over? do you bring things back into balance and heal your relationship - perhaps even get it to a place that’s better than it ever was?

My hope is that you’re getting the tools that you need to thrive in your relationship here on the podcast. Of course I also want to ensure that you have the information that you need in order to repair your relationship when things go wrong. Perhaps no problem impacts relationships more than infidelity. So whether you’ve experienced it in the past, or it’s going on in the present - this episode is for you. And, if you’re thinking about having an affair, I want to take a moment to encourage you to find a way to address the problems in your relationship directly. Believe me, even though a relationship that survives infidelity can be even stronger than it was before, it’s way easier to just tackle things head-on and avoid all of the hurt and trust issues that come from an affair.

Today’s guest is one of the world’s experts on the topic of infidelity - and how to heal in its aftermath. Her name is Dr. Janis Abrahms Spring, and she is the author of the Bestselling book “After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner has been Unfaithful”. She is also the author of two other books: “How Can I Forgive You, The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To,” and “Life with Pop: Lessons on Caring for an Aging Parent.” Her book “After the Affair” has sold over 500,000 copies, and is full of insightful, relevant information about what to do if your relationship has been impacted by infidelity.

Today, Dr. Janis Abrams Spring and I cover the following:

What constitutes infidelity in a relationship? There is no one definition for what constitutes infidelity; rather every couple must define it together. Infidelity is not necessarily about sex, it is also about secrets, intimacy, and trust. Whatever someone’s definition of cheating is, most people know when they are violating their partner.  Feeling unsure if you are crossing a boundary? As a general rule, imagine that your partner were in the room looking over your shoulder- if you are uncomfortable with them witnessing what you are doing, saying, or how you are being then you can assume you are doing something that would hurt them and is violating an implicit sense of trust in your relationship.

Create a secrets policy. Don’t wait for something to happen, speak early and openly with your partner about infidelity, and come together to create a working definition before any situation or threat occurs. Talk about what is permissible and what isn’t, and see how your perspectives align. Some couples have understandings and permissions around certain secrets, while others choose to share everything. Be proactive in your relationship by starting this dialogue now! Working out these agreements does not necessarily have to come from a fear-based place, but can instead be a loving and empowered step towards building resilience, and trust.

NOTE: Don’t forget to include cyber affairs in this conversation. What constitutes an affair when you don’t actually meet or touch the other person? What level of flirtation is okay with you? There is no blanket rule here - each couple needs to define the boundaries together and make sure they are on the same page.

Why do people have affairs? While apologies, recommitting, and choosing monogamy are all important steps in repairing after infidelity, one of the most critical tasks post affair is to understand why the affair happened in the first place. Likely there were multiple reasons. This is going to require taking an honest and deep look at yourself, and your relationship and be willing to get very clear about your vulnerabilities. It will not be easy, or comfortable, but try to create a list/an inventory of contributing factors - and search to find out what your actions say about yourself, your partner, and your relationship. Remember that affairs are often less about the attraction to the other person, and more an attraction the unfaithful partner has to certain parts of themselves and the way they get to be with this new person.  They may feel seen, validated, care for, and desired in ways that they have long been aching for.

Degree of responsibility: Repairing after an affair requires the couple to come together in an effort to collaborate, clarify, and recommit. It takes two to tango, as they say, and nothing is a one-way deal in relationships. That said, it is important for the hurt partner to also take the time and risk of looking at themselves and understanding what responsibility they had in contributing to the vulnerabilities that may have let an affair occur. Each partner must willingly search for ways they each contributed to the space between the couple that made room for another person to come in. This is sobering work and a challenging process, and must be addressed and explored with compassion and passion so that the hurt partner does not get double slammed, first by the affair itself and then with the belief that somehow they are to be blamed for it happening. Though painful, there is enormous potential for growth and transformation in the process if the couple is open to learning from the affair and working to create a new beginning! Willingness leads to recovery!

Share your concerns and your vulnerabilities with your partner. One of the most empowering and effective ways to avoid an affair, is to willingly take the risk of communicating your needs and desires with your partner, before they take on a life of their own. If you are feeling unheard, unloved, frustrated, disappointed, etc., go to your partner and say something like “I love you and want to be in this, and yet, what is happening right now is challenging for me and is making me vulnerable to look for someone else’s attention! I want to look at this together and figure it out”. This way you are voicing your concerns early, enrolling your partner in a collaborative and creative process, and allowing your partner a chance to respond and change their actions accordingly.

Infidelity does not necessarily mean the end of your relationship. There is no way to predict whether you are in a relationship that can weather an affair or not, however there are some key questions you can consider. Ask yourself and each other- Are we willing to do the work that is necessary to rebuild our relationship? Are we really ready to understand each other’s hurts and needs? Are we willing to change the way we treat each other? How willing am I to learn from this catastrophe and grow from it? If you do choose to stay, you will necessarily and inevitably learn to be a better partner, and you will have a new marriage to the same person (this time, with new skills).

“Infidelity is often the deathblow to a relationship. But it can also be a wake-up call, challenging couples to confront the issues that led to the affair and build a healthier, more intimate relationship than before.” Janis Abrahms Spring

Will I ever love and trust my partner again? This question is where the process of healing usually starts. The beginning will likely be like walking through a black cloud - there will be times when you will lose your way and time when you will feel that you cannot recover. While it is not in the best interested of each couple to recover, the couples that do succeed are the ones that keep walking through the difficulty. Not skirting around it, not going under it, not trying to rise above it, but drudging through the thick of it. Even through the despair, the pessimism, the unloving moments, they continue to hold on. It can take a year and a half of rollercoastering before people really feel like they are going to make it.

Watch out for emotional reasoning! Our feelings do not necessarily forecast the future. If you feel desperate and hopeless this does NOT necessarily mean there is no hope. If you feel distrust this does not necessarily mean your partner is untrustworthy. If you find yourself really confusing thinking and feeling, or projections with reality, slow down and take time to look inward and outward from multiple perspectives.

Revealing an affair- Again, there are no rules when it comes to if, or how you tell your partner you are having an affair. As you consider whether you will reveal cheating, it is important to be very thoughtful, and to remember the fact that the person you share a secret with is the one you are closer with, meaning that by keeping your partner in the dark you are continuing to choose to be emotionally connected with the person you had an affair with. By coming clean with your partner you allow them the freedom to make their own decision about what they want to do. Whether or not you tell your partner, you still must figure out why you cheated and be willing to look at your internal stuff and share any grievances and needs with your partner in order to allow the relationship to grow and to avoid continued infractions.

What is TMI (Too Much Information)? As the hurt person you might have an initial instinct to want to know every single detail about your partner’s affair. It is usually not required or generative however for you to need to know everything. Breathe, and ask yourself: what is good for me to know? Is knowing this/that going to help me or hurt me? If there is nothing good that is going to come of a specific detail, it is best to leave it for the time being, as you can always ask more questions down the road. By looking at the motivation behind your questions, you can avoid unnecessary hurt and pain and details that will live on in your dreams and in your psyche. As the unfaithful partner, it is your responsibility to trust your partner’s questions, and to try your best to answer their questions on the level they are asking them. And always be respectful with the truth.

Getting the other out of your life and out of your relationship - Whether the affair person is literally in the picture or not, they will continue to remain present in the couple’s life, and in their bedroom, psychologically and emotionally for quite some time. That said, another important step in the healing process for a couple reuniting and repairing after an affair is to cut ties with the affair person. Ritualize this and make it as clean and concrete as possible. Perhaps this means having a symbolic funeral for the lover in which you make a formal ending. This can be in many forms - the essential elements being that you clearly state the expected and intended ending of your affair.

Often the unfaithful partner will write a letter or an email to the person they engaged in the affair with, stating that they are no longer going to contact or accept contact. Be respectful - it is counterproductive to be cruel, or to minimize what happened. Allow your partner to read over what you write and discuss it before sending. Transparency, now, is key.

Trust is built on concrete behaviors. Trust is not built on verbal reassurances (“Trust me, honey”) but on concrete behavior that communicates to the hurt partner that they are now safe, and hopefully will allow them to feel more comfortable and connected. The list of behaviors and gestures that help to rebuild trust relationships are vast, and most effective when personalized and defined through dialogue in the couple. Create a list together! Examples include telling your partner immediately when you have heard from or encountered the affair person, acknowledging anniversary dates and places related to affair, and letting your partner know when you are experiencing emotions that have been triggers for escape in the past.


Read Janis’ recent book After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful

Read her other book How Can I Forgive You?: The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To

To learn more and get in touch with Janis, check out her website Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide and qualify to win a free signed copy of After the Affair.

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Apr 19, 2016

Many of you have written in wanting me to address the impact of children and parenting on relationships, and as you might expect - the impact is considerable! How do you take some of the ideas we’ve been talking about here on the podcast and apply them to how you interact with kids? How do you get away from fear-based tactics of command and control, rewards and punishment - and instead switch to a form of parenting that’s trust-based?

Since we focus so much on conscious relationships on the show, I wanted to tackle the topic of conscious, growth-oriented parenting with one of the nation’s experts on the topic. Alfie Kohn is the author of fourteen books on education and parenting, including “Unconditional Parenting”, and the newly re-released “Myth of the Spoiled Child”. He has been featured in Time Magazine, and on Oprah, and he challenges much of the conventional wisdom about parenting. You can find out more about Alfie Kohn at his website, . My hope is that you’ll see how this approach to parenting ALSO has something to offer you in your relationships - Are you fostering playfulness? Curiosity? Cooperation? Or compliance and resentment?

Try on your kid’s perspective! Perspective taking is the process of getting out of yourself in order to imagine how the world looks from someone else’s perspective. Sometimes this might be in the literal/spatial sense, but more importantly it is about imagining how another person thinks and feels. This is different than empathy, because you are just trying to understand how they think and feel, rather than feel what they are feeling with them. Doing this with your children both helps to promote this skill in your kids, and is a key characteristic of good parenting! When you can imagine how things look from your kid’s point of view, you are much more likely to be responsive to their needs. Allow your children to explain to you their take on the world so that you can gather important information needed to better understand their behavior.

Working WITH approach instead of a Do TO approach:  When it comes to parenting, rewards and punishments are an easy one-size-fits all approach that lets people go into auto-parenting, but unfortunately does more harm than good. While rewards and punishments may get the short term reactions we are looking for, there is a lot of research and evidence suggesting that this parenting style ultimately damages and holds children back. The alternative is not just the absence of bribes and threats, but an entire complex network of guidelines - the most important being that you let your kids know that you accept them no matter what. With this attitude you can begin to work WITH your child, getting to know their perspective and world, and bring them into decision making. Children learn to make good decisions by making decisions (and learning), rather than learning to follow directions (on making good decisions).

In the long run, what do I want for my kids? Ask yourself “what do I actually want for my children in the long run?” This will help you set long term goals that will guide your parenting intentions and decisions. Do you want them to develop into adults who are happy, ethical, caring, compassionate, self-reliant, creative, or have other qualities? Once you have your dreams for your children defined, you can reflect on how you are actually parenting in the present, and how what you are doing is or isn’t bringing about these results. Are your actions supporting your intentions?

You may find when you reflect on this question that some of your present actions are negatively impacting future possibilities. For example, if you want your child to share and you reward your children with a lot of praise when they do, then this could actually lead to a certain level of self-centeredness as your child’s attention will move away from learning to give and take with generosity, and towards doing whatever is needed to get rewarded. Children are highly tuned into ways they can change their behavior in order to get the love they need, and will therefore go to great lengths to meet adult expectations. However, do you want your child to feel like they have to perform in order to receive your love?

What does my kid need? This is a very different question than the one most parents ask, which is “how can I get my kids to do what I want them to do, when I want them to do it?” Universally and fundamentally most children (well, all of us) have a need to not merely be loved, but to be loved for who they are. Conditional love, the kind in which we offer love when an expectation is met, can be quite damaging as it develops a sense of conditionality in the child’s own sense of self. Punishments and rewards do not help a child learn right and wrong, nor does it help them develop their own sense of motivation and volition. In this way, rewards and punishments usually promote opposite skills and qualities from the intended effects. In order to avoid this power dynamic, in which both you and your child may lose their sense of self and connectedness, it is critical that you learn to love your child with openness, acceptance, and curiosity.

Practice unconditional love. How are you showing your children that they are loved unconditionally? That you love them for who they are, not what they do? If our love comes with strings attached, than our children will not be able to develop a secure attachment to us, and ultimately to themselves. This can be translated into our adult relationships as well. Nobody wants to be loved by another adult contingently. It should be noted that there is a degree of conditionality in adult relationships (it is okay to have behavior boundaries) that is different than in our relationships with our children. When it comes to our kids, we have to to be there for them no matter what they do or say.

Turn praise into questions that elicit thinking. Praise is a form of judgement. When we overpraise our children, we further create children who are compliant versus caring. If, for example, your child draws a picture of an animal - instead of saying “I like how you drew that animal”, try just verbalizing what you notice so that they can reflect on what they did. Or, say your child shares a toy with another child, instead of “I love the way you are such a great sharer!”, try asking something along the lines of “Why did you decide to share that toy?” In an effort to build your child’s capacity for independence and confidence, turn your praise into questions, and occasionally reflect on and point out things you notice. This is all a way of working WITH your child, and it models respect, curiosity, and engagement with much more impact than a patronizing pat on the head will do.

Parenting is about when you are at the end of your rope- somehow you have to manufacture more rope! For the most part we have good instincts for what our kids need, but we have trouble responding all of the time, especially when patience is running low. It is helpful to remember that when we ourselves are stressed out we often revert to older patterns of behavior, and this might look like trying to hold on by wielding power. When we do, our children’s nervous systems usually go into collapse or fight or flight mode, further escalating the situation.

Take responsibility for your auto-parenting habits, and work to reframe the immediate frustration within a longer term context. Of course there are situations where compliance does become essential, but when we become dependent on demanding and expecting to be obeyed immediately and mindlessly we are going to illicit pushback from our children. Be selective in your response, and build in extra time for talking with your children. Your child doesn’t want to go somewhere? Instead of immediately focusing on how you can make them change their mind, pause and take their perspective. Is there a good reason for your child to feel that way? When we do more asking than telling our kids tend to be more likely to say “okay” in situations when we really need them to go along with it.

The more you focus on your child’s behavior the more you are missing your child!

What matters are the needs, motives, reasons, and values that are underlying and informing your child’s behavior, more than the behavior itself. Don’t focus only on the observable outcomes (what you can see and measure) but on the whys of the behavior. To understand the deeper levels, it is necessary to enroll your child in a conversation to help give you a sense of their perspective. Asking your child will not only elicit helpful eye opening information that will help you better set guidelines and limits, but it will also help them develop reflection skills.

Talk less, ask more!! This very wise bit of council is as relevant in our relationships with our kids as it is in making us better spouses, lovers, managers, and friends. Our tendency to want to impose our beliefs onto others gets us in trouble, alienates us from the connections we crave, and ultimately undermines our ability to form trusting bonds. The process of asking another to share their feelings and thoughts with you, not only models curiosity and respect, but it brings to life this concept of unconditional love!


Check out Alfie Kohn’s website for more information and his public speaking schedule

Read Kohn’s books Unconditional Parenting and The Myth of the Spoiled Child

Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Alfie Kohn.

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Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

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Apr 11, 2016

Have you ever wondered what exactly is happening in your body when you get triggered? Why do we go into rage, or feel like leaving, or completely shut down? Have you ever experienced conflict and thought something like “If only my body could just CALM DOWN then I might be able to actually resolve this?” - Or have you experienced that moment of getting nowhere in a conversation with your partner because they are triggered?

There’s a reason that we keep coming back to this issue of safety and being triggered - that’s because both your ability to feel safe in the container of your relationship, and your ability to restore safety when, inevitably, you aren’t feeling it is at the heart of your being able to do relationship well - especially once the “honeymoon” stage of your relationship is over. Creating safety with your partner is at the heart of the work of people like John Gottman, Sue Johnson, Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, and Stan Tatkin - and creating safety within yourself is at the heart of the work of Peter Levine, Dick Schwartz, and Margaret Paul. In other words, we’re diving deep because this understanding is KEY to helping you in almost every aspect of your relationship with others and your relationship with yourself.

Today’s guest is Dr. Steve Porges, creator of The Polyvagal Theory, and a distinguished university scientist at the Kinsey Institute and a Research Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina. For more than 40 years Steve has been working on this theory of how our vagus nerve works and his work has completely transformed our understanding of how we respond to obstacles, adversity, stress, and trauma. How the very same nerve pathways that support our health can also be recruited for defense, and create health problems. If you’ve heard of “fight/flight and FREEZE” - that’s all based on his work - and you have some idea of what I’m talking about. In today’s episode, we’re going to not only get a better understanding of how and why the body does what it does, but also get even more clear on how to come back into balance so that you can be in a state of healthy responsiveness, playfulness, and curiosity - not triggered and just trying to deal.

Developing a neurophysiological understanding of our defense systems.  A basic understanding of our autonomic nervous system provides insight into why we react the way we do in conflict and crisis, while also laying the framework for what we can do to help bring ourselves back into a physiological state in which we are available for connection, love, and intimacy. To begin, it is helpful to know that as humans we have developed (through our evolutionary history) two different major autonomic defense circuits:

Sympathetic nervous system: The mobilization defense system is dependent on the activation of our sympathetic nervous system which is responsible the fight or flight response we know so well.

The immobilization response- Our most ancient (meaning we share it with virtually every other vertebrate that has evolved) defense system is that of immobilization and shut down in the face of fear. This physiological state is regulated by the vagus and includes reduced oxygen demands, reduced metabolic demands, and can include dissociation, passing out, and defecation.  Immobilizing in the face of fear is an adaptive behavior that allows us to disappear. Those who have experienced, or work with others who have experienced trauma, know this state well.

There is no conscious input in how these systems activate- the concept of consciousness in this context can be very damaging because it suggests a degree of volition that can lead people who experience major trauma like rape, threat, or force, to feel ashamed of how their bodies reacted. Unfortunately our culture sometimes asks questions like “why didn’t you fight?”, or, “why didn’t you leave?” These questions do not respect the implicit and reflexive activity of the body to defend itself by freezing - based on these inherited circuits.

Neuroception- Neuroception the term that Steve Porges created to describe how our body can sense something and react to it without it necessarily entering our conscious awareness. Our nervous system makes decisions and changes our biobehavior without any level of conscious awareness- despite the fact that we are profoundly aware of the impact on our physiology we are rarely aware of the triggers causing these state shifts. If our body detects risk or danger features in the environment we might have a sympathetic excitation (sweat, jumping out of our skin, etc)- we might not be aware of the cues, but our body is informing us!

What is the vagus nerve? The vagus nerve (a major component of our parasympathetic nervous system) is a large nerve in our body that originates in our brain stem and goes to nearly every organ in our body. If you are interested in the mind-body connection, then you are interested in the vagus nerve. Amazingly, 80% of the fibers of the vagus are used to bring information from the organs to the brainstem, the other 20% is for information being sent from brain to the body. This means that our organs really carry the majority of our bodily information. The vagus has two branches- an older branch that can be recruited for defense as it goes to the organs below the diaphragm and elicits immobilization behaviors, and another newer more evolved branch that, when functioning, keeps “fight/flight/freeze” in check, and supports our health, growth, and restoration! It is the part of our autonomic nervous system that is responsible for allowing us to connect, self-soothe, be playful, and be in relationship. This newer vagal circuit is linked to the features of the face (ears, eyes, mouth), enabling us to express our bodily state in our facial expression, in our voice, and to detect the intonation of other people's voices to screen for safety. This newer system has myelinated nerves which respond to voice intonation, smiling faces, playfulness, social referencing, and reciprocity.

Hierarchy of defense systems: We use our three phylogenetically evolved systems of regulation in a hierarchical pattern. In an effort to create safety, we first use our most newly developed system (the myelinated vagus) to connect, when this fails we go into sympathetic mobilization (fight or flight), and if this fails we head into our most ancient defense system of parasympathetic immobilization. Our entire autonomic nervous system (ANS) is built to support health, growth, and restoration. The key way that we ensure that we are using our ANS in this way is through the vagal brake. Our newer myelinated vagus has the potential to inhibit the defensive structures of the other autonomic nervous system (ANS) pathways. This means that when we know how to recruit our vagus we can prevent ourselves from being hijacked by the more reactive and destructive patterns of either full mobilization or immobilization.

Survival through cooperation: While being a mammal is a pretty great deal, there are a few things that we do not do very well. Namely we are not wired to deal well being by ourselves, and any extended or intensive isolation is not good. Mammals evolved to co-regulate - meaning that we help each other regulate our states through caregiving and reciprocity. It is important to remember that Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest has been long misinterpreted, and that we survived due to cooperation, and not through aggression.

Observations that may indicate that your system, or your partner’s system, is being recruited for defense:  Is there reciprocity in facial expressivity? Eye gaze? Intonation of voice? Also ask whether the vocalization patterns lends themselves to reciprocal dialogue or are you stepping on each other’s words? Our culture is so focused on syntax and words that we have forgotten that one of the most important ways we detect safety is through prosody (varieties in tone/timbre/rhythm) in voice. It can be incredibly helpful to keep this in mind in your relationship and interactions.

Every relationship has some minor to severe level of arguments - meaning people feel some semblance of danger and they get angry or scared. When this happens the neural tone of the muscles in the face is reduced which changes the tone of the middle ear - and literally people will have difficulty hearing you. In arguments with partners or children, it is likely the other person is having difficulty understanding you, because they are actually having difficulty hearing you!

While communicating with your partner, regularly check in with not just what you are saying, but how you are saying it - what is your tone? What is your body communicating? And is your partner is a physiological state in which they are open to engage and hear you?

It is the experience and not the event. Trauma leads to a lack of feeling, or difficulty feeling, one’s own body. Trauma histories have very little to do with the actual events that occurred, and more to do with the physiological responses that occurred. When considering your, or someone else’s trauma history, focus less on the objective events or facts of the experience, and become curious and become witness to their subjective experience. This will lead to an understanding of how and why the body is reacting in certain ways.

If we don’t feel our own body - we have difficulty related to other people’s bodies. A feature of trauma histories is the lack of feeling one’s own body. In order to get a sense of how present you, or your partner is in their body, it is helpful to look at how well are you/they playing? Does the person have the ability to be spontaneous, reciprocal, and spontaneous in the interaction? Are they responding to cues?

In addition to the question of how well you are playing, the other important question is how well are you pooping? This is important because the whole area below the diaphragm holds and reflects the effects of trauma on our bodies. Trauma is linked with IBS, constipation, and furthermore, the nerves that regulate this area also regulate the genitals. When we bottle up feelings in the subdiaphragmatic area, our sexuality is also impacted. Highly anxious or tightly wrapped individuals will have digestive systems that reflect this, and likely their sexual responses to intimacy will reflect these features as well.

Our autonomic nervous system is there to support health, growth, and restoration! It is only when it is used chronically for defense that we begin to have dysfunctions and disorders manifest in our organs.

Repair- We have violations of expectations ALL the time! However, when you have a violation it creates an opportunity for a repair. It is important to remember that it is not the words of an apology that matter as much as it is how the apology is said: the gestures, the words, and the intonation of voice. Your partner will only respond to a valid apology when the nonverbals are in concert with the intention. It is not the words! Culturally we function so much on syntax in our culture and not enough on the intonation of the words - in your relationship shift your attention to how you are interacting and how your body, and your partner’s body is responding to intonation. Remember to ask - how am I creating safety in this interaction? Am I speaking with prosody in my voice that will create comfort for my partner?

Be more playful! Using gestures of engagement, and more playfulness, helps to regulate each other’s physiological state. The notion of connectedness is a biological imperative. The goal as mammals, and as good spouses, is to interact in a way that regulates each other’s physiology. It is a responsibility for individuals to interact to make each other feel safe. It is not just healing, and enjoyable, but it has great impact on our mental and physical health because it supports the circuits of health, growth, and restoration!

Somatic experiencing: In efforts to recover from trauma, it is critical that we learn how to separate physiology from events. This occurs when we have the opportunity to be in the same physiological state in which we experienced the trauma, however in a way in which we have the control we did not have when we were in original event. It will not happen by telling someone to not get upset or not worry when they are triggered, but instead letting them experience their body reacting, but this time in a safe context. Doing this begins to take power away from the implicit body memories.

Change your breathing pattern: Have you noticed how when you are upset with your partner, you begin to huff and puff? This is your body physically preparing to mobilize for a fight or to run. Can can change your physiological state towards social engagement through shifting your breathing. Long inhalations removes what is called the vagal brake and it allows us to get more mobilized. In an effort to slow down, we need to have long exhalations. Try extending your exhalations through intentional breathing and through singing. Singing is wonderful because it uses muscles of social engagement system. Another way to play with voice in your relationship is to improvise songs, and use gibberish in moments of tension to help change your intonation and move the focus away from the meaning of words, and towards how the voice can help build repair and closeness.

Escalation is not coregulation! In most relationship conflicts, both individuals feel like victims - in order to de-escalate a situation and move in the direction of play and connection, one person must step up and take charge of noticing the pattern, and changing the way of engagement. This means meeting your partner on their level - often through touch, gentleness, and a prosodic voice. Hug your partner - not in an effort to fix, but rather in an effort to connect and bring back safety.

Be respectful of your physiological state: Respect your body’s behaviors without judgement, and without justifying or making personal narratives. Our bodies are constantly sending us information about the world - be respectful of your body shifts, even in moments when your body is reacting in a way that feels exaggerated or maladaptive. Also be respectful of how your body state shifts affect those around you - knowing they are going to react to your shifts, whether you intended for that or not. Taking responsibility for your physiological state is not only about learning how to downregulate your system, but it is about communicating your state to those around you.  We are human, and are not always going to be able to perfectly respond in a situation that triggers us, but what we can learn to do is to verbalize what is happening in our body to others! If you are angry about something that happened, or feel the signs of being triggered, share this out loud. This will help your family, your spouse, your partner be able to not take the visual and bodily cues you are sending personally. This will SAVE your relationship!

Last bits of advice: Remember to change the prosody of your voice, bring in gentle touch, and see yourself as a vehicle for healing and safety for you and your partner! Before you react, listen! Don’t use the physiological state you are in as the motivator for behavior, just pause for a moment and get a better evaluation of the context. Add in a few long exhalations, and you will be more able to stay present and get  back to a physiological state that allows you to be responsive, engaged, and connecting with your partner and those in your life!


Visit Stephen’s website for more information, a list of public speaking events, and links to previous interviews!

If you want to gain an in depth understanding of Polyvagal Theory, read Stephen’s book The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode.

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Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Apr 5, 2016

What does it mean to forgive, and is there a way to do it that truly works? Why is it essential to practice forgiveness in your life, especially in your relationship? And how does the practice of forgiveness change when it’s something BIG you’re trying to forgive, vs. the everyday things? Did you even know that forgiveness can help you get through the everyday ups and downs of life with your partner?

In relationship, it’s inevitable - big, or small, one of you is going to hurt the other. So then, the question is: what do you do? HOW do you repair, and find your way to forgiveness. In today’s episode, we’re going to explore the topic of Forgiveness with one of the world’s experts on the topic, Dr. Fred Luskin, director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, and author of the books “Forgive For Love: The Missing Ingredient for a Healthy and Lasting Relationship” and “Forgive for Good” - which are both eye-opening journeys into how the process of forgiveness works in the context of life and love. Fred Luskin has worked with couples, and has also worked with people from war-torn countries - so his forgiveness methodology covers a wide range of the human experience.

When we talk about forgiveness- is it necessary to have someone on the other end who is saying they’re sorry? It certainly is easier when we can directly respond to someone offering us an apology, however this is often not the case. Either that person does not believe they did something wrong, they are no longer in our life, or they are incapable for some reason or another. The crux of forgiveness is when you wanted a certain outcome but that outcome did not occur. Forgiveness is about making peace when you don’t get what you want - and about how you reconcile your desire for something with the reality that it did not happen.

Practicing forgiveness: For most of us, true forgiveness, the deep acceptance form (rather than the ‘sorry’ and ‘it’s okay’) is challenging! People don't want to forgive, and often don’t know how. It requires an acceptance that the relationship matters more and that owning one’s own weaknesses matters more than whatever grudge you are holding. This is difficult for our egos to accept. It is a a releasing of focusing on our own hurt, and a switch to being able to say ‘you might have harmed me but I am going to release that image of you as someone who does harm’. It is hard to battle away the power of our self-absorption, for many of us this has become a great defense strategy, but you will find that your life and your relationships are more successful when you do make the shift.

Temporary grief is necessary. It is easy to be caught in the habit of wanting to stay in the hurt and the blame, versus choosing to do whatever it takes to release that feeling. It is not just that it is a habit - there are good reasons to feel the hurt, initially. Grief is a necessary experience - that moment of really feeling that thing you didn't get that you wanted or needed. When you don’t get the love you wanted, OUCH. It is hard. The struggle, however, helps shed light on our desires, stuck places, expectations, and opens our awareness. That said, this period of hurting is not necessarily bad - it can be necessary to experience grief, on some level, in order to grow!

Choose to grow. Grief becomes negative when it becomes chronic. This is often caused by being stuck in an inept or unuseful schema of how life should be. Throughout your entire life you have a choice on how you are going to move on from hurt - are you going to use this as a chance to grow, or as a chance to remain bitter?

Creating new ways of thinking about things: The understanding of what happened requires creating some new cognitive schemas around events. For example, instead of the thought ‘they owed me’, a new schema could be ‘I don’t always get what i want’. In order to have adult relationships we have to accept that we are all flawed human beings. It is important to grow out of our immature and young schemas that hold that we should get everything we want. These old schemas can be replaced- it just takes time! Thanks to neuroplasticity our brains themselves change as we change these long held stories and beliefs.

The process of forgiving does not depend on what you are forgiving! The easiest way to practice forgiveness is to practice on the little things. If you want to become more forgiving in your relationship(s), you can choose minor things that your partner does that you don’t like as a way to develop your skills. This way, when the bigger things come you have already developed the skills and created the brain pathways that you are going to use! We need these new pathways to help us handle disappointment - work towards building this ‘muscle’.

Moving away from blame. In order to move out of the grudge and blame cycle it is essential to shift your perspective from THEM to YOU. You have to take responsibility for your own part and your own life. It is not always about finding out what you did wrong, but rather about taking responsibility by saying “my nervous system, my moods, my brain, these are all up to me and not that other person!” Even though your partner sends out a lot of information and stimulus that can be frustrating and triggering, you are responsible for knowing how to handle yourself and your life. This sense of efficacy in handling yourself is what forgiveness helps lead us towards. If you do not practice this shift in perspective than you suffer due to constant fear of what others can do to you.

Reframing really traumatic and difficult experiences: While it may seem counterintuitive at first, when it comes to the more damaging and traumatic experiences in our lives, the most helpful thing we can do for ourselves is to reframe our hurt in the context of all humanity’s wounding. Devastation and hurt are ubiquitous on planet earth, and it may be one of the aspects of being human that we have to struggle with. Be careful not to exaggerate your experience by seeing it as unusual - yes, your individual wounding may feel distinct, but reframe it within the context of the amount of human suffering. Focusing in on the uniqueness of our specific hurt can cause incredible extra suffering. By reframing your suffering in the greater sense of human suffering it is possible to feel connected to a greater universal truth and power. From here you can more easily access a sense that change and obstacles are a part of life. The question then becomes, given that suffering is part of life, am I going to, in my present life, let these things have power over me and control my life? You have the choice on how strong and capable you want to be when it comes to your own hurt.

Blame, in the context of love: Much of the reason that couples blow up is due to the fact that everyone has been hurt, and everyone has a lot of anger, and we are all looking for places to put this anger. When we find something wrong with our partner, part of us focuses on this so that we can channel the bigness of our frustration that existed - long before we had a partner! Their mistakes and flaws become a place to blame so that we do not have to directly address our deeper dissatisfactions - in other words, our partners actions become ammunition we use to protect ourselves from our own disappointments. To break this cycle we have to choose to be a loving person, even in the midst of hurt. We have to look at our own flaws simultaneously. It is not a matter of “how am I, perfect and whole, going to deal with this broken person?”. No, the question instead is: how do two flawed humans get along? This question moves you away from blame, and out of the victim cycle of someone doing something to you, and moves you towards the true creative challenge of figuring out how two people trying to work with their own weakness can learn to love each other!

You cannot actually push forgiveness - you can sneak around to it though! Forgiveness lives in the part of the brain we have access to when we are calm and centered. It is a natural response to life, but you have to cultivate conditions to bring out that natural response!

The 4 practices towards forgiveness:

  1. Calm yourself!  Quiet down, relax and do practices that are gentle and calming to your nervous system. The adrenalized brain is going to make everything worse… taking care of it is primary to the process of forgiveness.
  2. Find good! See the good in whatever it is you are dealing with and in your life so that you do not exaggerate the negative.
  3. Cognitive reframing. Help yourself understand that ‘hey! It is a given that at some level I am not always going to get what I want!’
  4. Alter the victim story. If you have gotten stuck in the perspective and the story that this has all happened to you - get out! Find a new way of looking at things that helps you take responsibility for your own actions - whatever part is yours.

Your anger may be automatic, but you still have a choice: When you are upset and triggered your sympathetic nervous system reacts and will take over if you do not learn to calm it. When you are on the adrenal pathway, you are going to say the same stereotypical things to yourself, and you will likely revert to older and more immature patterns and habits of reactivity. There are of course, certain experiences in which it is appropriate to use your adrenaline to react so that you can protect and defend yourself, but most often in relationships we are not dealing with actual fight or flight situations.

Instead, what is often happening is that your partner does something that makes you enraged, and your nervous system reacts as if you are ACTUALLY in danger. You can learn to change this response. The habitual response to hurt is often “Wow! I am so angry because they did that horrible thing!”, but the deeper truth is you are upset because you have been practicing certain kinds of thinking and being, expectations, that can lead you to being upset. In blaming your partners for our upset (which is often connected to a very old hurt) and focusing on how it is their fault, you feel helpless. This helplessness is what is so dangerous. The more awareness you learn to have around your automatic reactions, and the more you learn to calm your nervous system, the easier it will be for you to make the shift. You will be able to say, in the midst of hurt, “Oh! I am upset”. And sometimes you just need to feel this upsetness for what it is.

Calming yourself: It is important to continually practice ways of calming yourself down so that when you get to a triggering situation, you can rely on known and developed abilities and strategies. There are endless options here! Get creative, explore, try things out - find what feels good to you and your nervous system. Heart centered breathing, for example, is a meditation technique of bringing attention to your abdomen, and noticing its expansion on each in breath. Deep breathing is critical as it helps get our parasympathetic nervous system to kick in and calm our sympathetic nervous system. After a few breaths you can bring in an image of something loving or positive. This quick practice gives your nervous system a reset, and gives you the mental bandwidth that you did not have 30 seconds prior! When you are angry and stressed out you do not have much bandwidth at all, and are unable therefore to make much sense of what is actually going on. From a slightly more centered place you will now be able to think to yourself “oh boy, I’m getting upset, I’ve been upset about this 500 times before, isn’t it enough?”, or “Hmm...I am getting upset again, is there another way to deal with this?”

You have a choice in how upset you get: Once you know that you can calm yourself, despite who said or did what, you gain choice and freedom! As long as you are blaming others for the actions of your nervous system, it is going to be very hard to have any clarity. Once you take responsibility though, for your own physical, mental, and emotional reactions then you have the choice: do you want to go back to contempt? Or do you want to try something else?

Unenforceable Rules: You can want the sun to rise in the west, but if you get upset when it rises in the east, then you KNOW you are holding onto an unenforceable rule. In relationships these rules could look like, “they cannot lie to me, they shouldn’t drink, they must be home at 8, they should want sex as much as I do”.... We can think this, but we do not have control over the decision our partner makes.

Often these unconscious rules show up when we become upset. The anger helps to highlight where it is we are engaged in a futile attempt to keep a rule that cannot be enforced. Generally, when you notice that you are getting very upset and there is not any immediate danger, then likely there is an unenforceable rule in there.

If you are in the middle of the same argument you have had a million times, then recognize there is something going on in your head that is not helping. Step away- even if it is just psychically, and take a deep breath. Turn your body away for a second. Ask yourself seriously - do they have to do what i want? The answer is always no. So how can I take care of myself? Usually the answer has to do with calming down so that you can get your brain back! Once you are back in a more regulated space you can get curious - what is truly happening here? What can I do differently?

When you do this process of caring for your reactions, it is called forgiveness.  You are no longer just getting upset and staying upset - you are taking back control of yourself so that you can have a more successful relationship and successful life!

There are going to be lots of things you just have to live with. The research on successful relationships shows that forgiveness is at the top of necessary qualities to thriving in partnership. Even if there is nothing atrociously wrong with your partner, the interaction of two good people sorting life out is going to create all sorts of conflict! Your expectations, temperatures, biological rhythms, and upbringings are all different and the integration of two different people into a functioning unit is hard. There are inevitably going to be gears that grind, EVEN if you REALLY love each other. If you use the differences as ammunition, you will be miserable. If instead you can recognize that there are many places where you are just going to have to make peace with the fact that you are different, and that there are places you just won’t agree on, then you have a much better chance of openness and happiness. Furthermore, these differences and stuck areas will work out much more successfully once you get out of the mental head space that there is something wrong. Try thinking “we are different, and this is the person that I chose”. Just this thought alone can move you out of the blame and victim cycle, and into the possibility of change.

Create a positive story that you tell about your relationship. Try on this frame of mind: What a remarkable thing it is that someone would try to love me! That as flawed and difficult as I am, someone would take me on!  The effects of this kind of humility and humor are profound and allow us to be in relationship successfully!

NOTE: Don’t forget to take some time now to create an image that evokes love and gratitude for you. Find it, develop it, and practice visualizing it often so that it is available to you next time you get angry and need help calming your nervous system!


Read Dr. Fred Luskin’s practical and powerful book: Forgive for Love: The Missing Ingredient for a Healthy and Lasting Relationship

Check out the Forgive for Good website as well as the Power of Forgiveness website Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Fred Luskin and qualify for a signed copy of his book.

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Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Mar 28, 2016

Are you curious to know the most common issue that I hear about from clients, and from listeners who write in? It’s communication - or, rather problems with communication. Whether it’s being heard, or feeling like you have no idea where your partner is coming from, or you’re trying to communicate one thing but your partner hears something completely different, or you’re always being criticized - the list of potential communication problems goes on and on. Fortunately, today’s guest is going to help you take a monumental leap in the direction of communication that creates growth and connection in your relationship - and in how you communicate with others in general.

Today’s guest is Marty Babits, contributor to Psychology Today, and Co-Director of the Family and Couples Treatment Service, a division of the Institute of Contemporary Psychotherapy in NYC. Marty is also the author of the extremely helpful book, “I’m Not a Mind-Reader - Using the Power of Three-Dimensional Communication for a Better Relationship”. Marty has been working with families and couples for over twenty-five years, and the wisdom in this book combines that experience with the work of many of the guests who have been here on the show, to create a manual for communication that will give you a completely new perspective on how to do it well.

Prepare to dive deep into a recipe for communication that is sure to shift the results that you get as you interact with the world - especially the ones you love.

The 3 dimensions of communication: These 3 dimensions are in every interaction between any two people who are connected:

The 1st dimension- This is the literal meaning of what we say, or rather the surface meaning. This is where we can ask: are the messages clear and coherent?

The 2nd dimension- This is the meaning that is under the surface, aka the emotional subtext. This dimension is often more complex and it includes the way we are thinking about the way we are. It is in this dimension that love comes through, or contempt.

The 3rd dimension- This is the deepest and most profound dimension of communication. It requires reflectiveness and mindfulness. This is where we can take the pulse of whether what we are communicating is moving us towards creating emotional safety with our partner or away from that. Implicit in this dimension is our ability to monitor how the whole direction of the relationship is going.

Try this: Pause in your next challenging interaction and take a mental snapshot in any given moment and compare it with what is happening 3 minutes later. This will give you a sense of the direction it is going and will help you practice being aware of what feelings, ideas, and tones are actually transpiring compared with those that you would like to be communicating or feeling.  This willingness to become more aware of how we are showing up in our interactions is helpful in any kind of communication!  

Beginners mind- Foster your willingness to try something new on and a willingness to begin again! Maintaining openness can offer whole new vistas we may be currently unaware of. And that not knowing is okay! Allow yourself to forge ahead into unknown territory knowing that this risk is what it means to be human, and to evolve.

Bring this openness and willingness to not know into your relationship. Can you be open to the possibility that attitudes can change and that people can grow? Openness and willingness to not know are the key for couples to get out of that locked patterning that can happen due to expectations and assumptions. When one partner begins to change, the other partner often continues to expect more of what they previously experienced, thus not able to see the newness in their partner's actions or attitudes-even when these changes are attempts at trying to create a better relationship. Resistance to change is common, and natural, as there is often a strong sense of inertia that carries you towards what has been, perhaps out of fear because change WILL inevitably disrupt patterns that may have been in place for a long time. To help move forward, consider that when you are busy focusing on your partner’s faults, you often miss all of the nice things that they are doing! In an effort to energize the positive, give yourself a direct encouragement to try to look for those new things. Actually open yourself to the possibility of new trends- this is the heart of what develops in successful couples work, and what ultimately transforms disappointments, disillusionments, and resentments…

The optimal prelude to conversation is invitation: Are you willing to be open to the possibility that you CAN have better interactions? As we learn over and over again, we can not force someone to feel, see, or hear our perspective- but we CAN invite them to do it. By inviting your partner to join you in conversation is to honor their sense of choice in how they enter the dialogue. This honoring leads to a sense that you respect their inner world, which then sets the stage for more openness and trust. Now the conversation can begin.

Being safe is a prerequirement for making breakthroughs in intimate communication- This goes for ALL interactions, interpersonal, romantic, sexual, etc. In order to understand each other, people have to be open to each other, and in order to do this there has to be safety. Attachment theory suggests that our survival, and therefore our sense of safety, is dependent on the extent to which we do, or don’t, feel connected to others. Conversely, when we feel threatened (whether this is perceived or real) our autonomic nervous system goes into its fight or flight response, at which point we are not available or open for connection OR communication. Therefore, it is important to cultivate an awareness of how safe our interactions are. Get into the habit of asking yourself “is the way I am communicating right now contributing to an overall sense of safety in this interaction or is it distracting from it?” We all have the capability to activate the part of our neurobiology that is very highly attuned to interpersonal issues! Meaning, we each know how to connect and build empathy in our interactions, we just need to first learn how to be relaxed within ourselves and have the safety in order to do so.

The power of the unconscious. We are each guilty the following: Your partner says something that makes you feel something, and you make an assumption that how you are feeling is connected to some truth about what your partner just said. This leap happens on an unconscious level. Invite yourself to consider the possibility that you may be misinterpreting! Sometimes we think we are reading our partner’s mind, but we have this unconscious tendency to misread their meaning depending on our own conditioning. This is important to remember as both the receiver/lister and the giver/talker. When you are speaking, bear in mind that your partner may be hearing you through their own lens- communication does not end when you have muttered what you want to say, rather it is a process that you must follow through on, noticing if what you said had the effect you intended.

Listen three dimensionally! We are more than our words. Words can be profound, yet we are sharing lives not words. Remember that what people mean is more important than what they say. Although, there is a strong relationship between the two! With compassion, we can move ourselves towards fuller expression. This requires a rethinking of what listening is. Expand your sense of listening to include a listening in on your own internal voice so that you can remain aware of what you are thinking , feeling, and believing and how you are putting this together with what you are hearing from the other person. Then work on extending your awareness to  include a consideration of what might be happening inside of the other person that may be producing the speech or the tone you are hearing now. This alive awareness of what is being said, how it is being said, and how it is being received helps move towards a communication that is open, flowing, and receptive enough so that the love that is needed can come through, and the sense of contact and connection is felt and genuine.

Receiving- to receive you have to give to yourself. For those of you who are more comfortable with being the caregiver than the receiver, allow yourself to see this as an invitation to learn more about yourself. Is there are sense of unworthiness? This is just one example of resistances we may have built in how we are in relationship, and while it may be tempting to accept this as just the way things are, often times rejecting this very notion is what will lead to growth and opening. Remember that ‘working’ on your relationship is really ‘learning’. If you can change your perspective and attitude on problems and redefine them as challenges, then you will be able to turn your problems into opportunities. Get curious and compassionate with yourself and reflect on questions like “How can I make things better?”, “How can i allow myself to feel more loved than i do?”, and “How can I work with receiving while maintaining my integrity?”

A synonym for complexity is richness! In effort to rethink “working” in and on your relationship, it may be helpful to welcome complexity as richness. Together you can begin looking to create possibilities and new roads where you thought there were dead ends. Ask, “What else is possible in this moment?” and “What if this isn't what i think it is?” These are the questions that make awareness three dimensional. You are aware of the problem AND you are aware of there being other possibilities. With 3D awareness it is as if you can walk around the problem- seeing it without totally being in it.

Troubleshooting mode- how to turn the ship around. Okay, so let’s say you're in a conversation and it is about to go south- what can you do? First, name it. Say something like “Hey, I think we are at that place we have been before, and I know what has happened in the past, do you think it is possible that we can try to do something different?”. Then, for example, you can say something like  “I’m having that feeling again that we are going further away from each other- let's take a brief break and resolve to come back again and approach this with a more positive attitude- because right now i am feeling a little hopeless and defensive”. These statements are founded on the belief that you CAN change the dance. To do so requires a plan, preemptively created, that can be used in tense moments. If you know that when one of you is triggered, voices often get raised then collaborate together when you are both regulated to set up a plan and a statement such as  “hey babe, you must really be activated right now because you are raising your voice, let's slow down”. Acknowledging each other’s autonomic responses without judgement, and having a plan that gives each other permission to calm back down helps to create emotional safety. This emotional safety is unavailable and often threatened when we are in up-regulated and triggered states.

Have an insult substitute ready! There are inevitably going to be times when you will not be able to get around your biological state of fight or flight (defense and anger), and this is NOT going to be a time when you are going to create new understandings that are going to become the foundation of a better relationship- no, this is going to be a moment to just get through. When all else fails, and we cannot regulate ourselves with the grace or swiftness our system or our partner needs, then it can be helpful to have a venting statement at the ready as a means of damage control! This allows you to have a way to express your anger or activation in a somewhat contained way. You can say, for instance,  “I'm not going to say what is on my mind right now because if i do it is going to create bad feelings, I just want you to know that I am that angry and I'm going to, for the sake of our relationship, chill out for a minute”. Figure out a statement that works for you and your partner, and don’t be ashamed to use it on occasion- when triggered enough our autonomic system reverts to old patterns and conditioning that can lead to much more damaging behaviors and statements than something like “woah, I’m super activated right now and can’t engage or I may say something hurtful that I would regret”. Remember also that YET, the word and the concept, hold all possibilities present. Try bringing it in when you feel stuck- “I’m not ready, yet”, “I’m not yet calm enough”, “I don’t want to, yet”...

Communicate don’t Debate”: You may be so accustomed to debate style conversations that you don’t realize any more how much energy is going into discussing who is right and who is wrong. Begin to notice how open you are to hearing each other. You do not have to agree, but you do have to agree to openly listen. The actual nuts and bolts decision making that is often fodder for debate will come easier as you develop your capacity to work things out without being deadlocked in not understanding each other.

Often criticism is a veiled attempt at repairing a disconnection. This is a hard one to conceptualize, and even harder when we are in midst of hurt. And yet, the idea that criticisms can actually be a way for our partner to say they need to connect with you is a core principle in attachment theory. Of course it is not a great way to do so, nor is it very effective, but it does speak to the concept that our main motivation in communicating is to connect. When we feel we cannot connect effectively than we become frustrated, and this can come out looking like hostility. It is not necessarily hostility against the target person, even though it sounds like it, it is more about what is underneath- a pleading for connection. How does the fear of abandonment and loneliness show up in your interactions? How can you find ways together to say “I am here”, even in those messy and hurt moments?

The predominant element in relationships is work, not magic. Mindreading, although so tempting and so habitual, is not advised. It is not the mindreading itself that is destructive, as much as it is the assuming that your (mis)reading is the truth. When we take our own readings as the way it is, we leave our partners feeling in the dark and misunderstood. How you analyze or hold onto what you think your partner is thinking and feeling often becomes a critical aspect of the tone of your relationship. It can lead to resentment, frustration, hurt, and alienation. Although you likely know your partner very well, do not confuse this with having the ability to mindread- your assumptions of what are going on with your partner are often times NOT TRUE (especially if you are assuming the worst). Conversely, holding onto the attitude that your partner should automatically and intuitively “already know” is equally destructive and misleading. The golden rule is that YOU have the responsibility to help your partner understand what you are feeling. Express and share yourself in a clear way so that your partner can better give you what you want. Through a mutual commitment of 1) not mindreading and 2) not holding onto the “well my partner should have known” ideal, you will become partners, not adversaries. This is not to say that partners who are close sometimes CAN understand each other on a beautifully profound level, or that there are times when genuine unconscious communication does happen, but it cannot be expected or taken for granted. In general, relationships DO take work, especially when it comes to communication.  


Read Marty’s book “I’m Not a Mind-Reader - Using the Power of Three-Dimensional Communication for a Better Relationship”

Learn more about Marty’s work at his website

Check out his blog on psychologytoday Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Marty Babits and qualify for a signed copy of his book.

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Mar 21, 2016

How do you hold a vision for your relationship without being trapped by perfectionism when it doesn’t quite measure up to the ideal? How do you manage time in your relationship so that you have time to nurture and build your connection? What are some practical ways that you can learn to value your and your partner’s uniqueness, and what you each bring to the table? And just why is commitment SO important in your relationship’s development?

As a healer, relationship coach, and the host of this show, It’s my goal to provide you with unique, actionable insight for how to do relationships amazingly well. And while most of the guests that you’ll hear on the show make perfect sense if you’re familiar with the relationship space, like Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt in episode 22 or Diana Richardson talking about her version of Tantra, which she calls “Slow Sex”, in episodes 2 and episode 10, there are some other less obvious sources of wisdom that I want you to know about.

One of these is an organization called “Strategic Coach” - led by Dan Sullivan - which supports entrepreneurs in innovative, often counter-intuitive ways to grow their businesses and lead lives balanced between work and well - LIFE. The more familiar that I’ve become with their advice for entrepreneurs over the years, the more I saw that you could apply their wisdom not only in the business world, but also in the realm of love and relationships. As it turns out, they do have a program called the “Couples Connection” for people in relationship - but it’s only available to people in the strategic coach program. And today’s guest, Shannon Waller, has not only been part of the Strategic Coach Organization since 1991, she has been instrumental helping them do exactly what we’re talking about - gearing their strategies towards the health and growth of relationships. She’s currently Strategic Coach’s Entrepreneurial Team Strategist, and she has also been part of every single Couple’s Connection workshop since they started running them. I’m so excited to have her here on the show to chat with us about some of these really practical, yet unconventional business strategies - and how you can apply them in your love life.

In this conversation, Shannon Waller and I discuss various new ways to approach yourself and your relationship:

Continually innovate- Whether you yourself own a business or not, there are some critical tips from successful entrepreneurship that translate well into relationships. For example, there is a need, in business, and in relationships, to continually innovate. Without change and cycles of innovation it is all too easy to get stuck in problems, complacent, or bored- and it isn’t long until minds and hearts start to wander. In order to have the relationships we really want, we must continually work to strengthen the container of the relationship so that it becomes a source of growth, energy, and vibrancy. Without this investment of energy, partners will lose heart connection and may begin to substitute other things, including work, so that they feel less empty.

The “GAP”:  The “Gap” is a key concept in helping us assess our sense of progress, and consequently our sense of competency. The “Gap” is that space between where we are now, and where our ideal is. We all hold ideals- ideals for our partner, our children, ourselves, the way the world should work, how our week should play out- and on and on. First, learn to distinguish helpful versus harmful ideals. A helpful ideal is one that is inspiring and makes you want to be a better person, it gives you energy and helps you set goals. A harmful ideal is one that is burdening, limiting, and leads to decreased energy, anxiety, and shame. All ideals however, can become burdening and limiting if we are not careful in how we relate to them. Think of ideals like the horizon- a mental construct to describe “where the earth meets the sky”, a definition that helps our brains come to grips with something that we can never actually experience or reach. Ideals are a similarly moving target. They are incredibly powerful and valuable in helping inspire and motivate us, and yet, we often misuse them. When we use our ideals to measure ourselves against, we run into problems. When we measure ourselves against this moving, amorphous, and inherently unattainable ideal, we can feel depressed, get frustrated, and often feel like a failure.

There is an alternative! Instead of facing forward towards the future, turn around and take a look back at where you started from. Think of yourself standing on the front of a large boat staring at the looming horizon and wondering how long it will take, and how far you have gone, and now, imagine yourself walking to the stern of the boat and viewing the shore receding further and further away… When we measure ourselves against where we have come from, we gain a sense of progress, and begin to experience satisfaction, optimism, and loads of other great feelings. Going into the “Gap” is inevitable, but we always have a choice on how we measure ourselves and how long we stay stuck in there.

STOP and CELEBRATE progress! We all have loads of ideals when it comes to our relationships- expectations for how our partner will act, what they will and won’t say, do, feel, how we will show up.... A lot of relationships get stuck in the Gap. It is important to refocus your attention together on progress that has been achieved.

TRY THIS: List out 5 achievements you have experienced together, and celebrate these realizations! This positive focus will change how you feel on an everyday basis in your relationship.

Find measurable goals in your relationship- Having ideals helps create a vision for what is possible in our relationships, and sets a direction to work towards. Remember however, to be careful in how you measure your relationship against these ideals. Along with looking backwards in order to move forwards, it is helpful to set measurable goals to track progress. We are all guilty of broad statements such as “I want our relationship to be better”, or something like “I want us to be having more sex”- but these are undefined and can quickly lead to guilt, shame, and/or disappointment. Instead, try to set mini and measurable goals- what can you do on date night? When can you set time aside for intimacy? How much time do you want to spend per week together without phones? Together discuss what is going to invigorate your relationship, and set measurable goals and intentions to follow through on.

To help you create these measurable goals, it is helpful to ask yourself and your partner: “How will we know that we are in a better relationship?” This question points towards places that can be measured and tracked, which will then lead to that feeling of ‘better’.  

Maybe it is time for a new time paradigm:  There is an entrepreneurial time system that can be applied to relationships, with great consequences. This system divides your time into 3 different types of days:

Free Days: Free days are 24 hours (midnight-midnight) when you turn off, and tune in. You don’t check email, your phone, or do any work related activities. You spend this day rejuvenating and dedicating time to your personal life- you friends, your family, yourself, getting more sleep, getting more grounded…. Make them sacred- whatever this means to you. If you truly plan, protect, and follow through on these free days you will begin to breath again, and it will add oxygen to your relationships! Slipping relationships get solid again as you recenter into yourself. It is important that when planning your calendar, you pick these days FIRST.

Buffer Days: This is the time to get your house in order, so to speak. Focus on all the details that are necessary to getting your life and work in order. Clean up your “messes”. The intention of buffer days is to do all that is necessary so that you can protect your free days and your focus days.

Focus Days: Focus days are another 24 hours (midnight-midnight) in which you spend 80% of your time being productive and focusing on your money making ventures. These are your performance days. Your show days. Attend fully and without interruption. Network, be creative, use your expertise to solve problems and progress.

Be creative in how this can be applied in YOUR relationship. How can you better manage your responsibilities and time so that you can enjoy dedicated and uninterrupted time with yourself and your loved one?

Unique Ability- How much time do you spend thinking about ways you can be or get better? It is true that we all have ways we can be, do, feel better, however our assumption in our minds is that if we can always get better, than this must mean we aren’t very good right now. This ends up undercutting our own unique abilities. Our unique abilities are those qualities, skills, and gifts that are uniquely us. It is a combination of what you love to do (what is your passion? What fuels you?) and those things that you have superior skill at (what are you really good at?). This combination gives us an unending sense of that “I’m on fire” energy.

Give yourself permission to not be perfect at everything and play to your strengths! We all have strengths and non-strengths, and the majority of our cultural conditioning has been based on finding what we are deficient at, and having a “fix what’s wrong” focus. We get this message that we need to work on our weaknesses, however if you work on your weaknesses for a very long time you get….very strong strong weaknesses! Invite yourself to start learning and discovering your strengths, and strengthening these! To do so, it is important to have some perspective, and humor around the expectation that you are supposed to be good at everything. Needless to say, it is not true, nor is it possible- we all have cards that we can play all the time, and other cards that we simply don’t have in our deck.

Think of your life and all your responsibilities, roles, and activities, and now try to begin recategorizing these into the following categories:

Competent activities- those activities in which you reach the minimum standard. You are okay at this.

Excellent activities- these are the activities in which you have superior skill. Other people give you a lot of feedback on this, but inside you are sometimes bored…

Unique ability activities- Then there are a small subset of activities in which you have fun, you have the most learning, and you have the most to contribute. This is hopefully connected to how you make money. It goes with you everywhere, and is core to what brings you fulfillment. These are natural to you, and ELF: easy, lucrative, and fun. Give yourself permission to use this unique ability!  Return on energy is profoundly better when we invest in our strengths!!

Exercise: You can do this alone, or in tandem with your partner. Take some time to get to know your strengths- either by complete a strengths finder assessment tool (see resource list) or by simply sitting down and making a list of what you are really good at. Assessment tools are helpful in that they identify what motivates you, and what your natural leanings are- without all the self-judgement that comes along with self-evaluating. Now make a full list of all that is required to maintain your life. If you are doing this with a partner- make your lists separately and then match them up. Once this is completed begin to look at what is required compared to what your strengths are. The gaps provide opportunities to become RESOURCEFUL. Prioritize what you enjoy doing, and set up the environment and the resources to do this. For those necessary activities and responsibilities that you are not as inclined towards, get creative- delegate, hire out, barter, etc. This requires that you give yourself permission to not do everything, to be okay with where you are at, and to have a sense of humor.

NOTE: The Kolbe profile can be a major catalyst in helping clear out some stuck patterning in your relationship. It helps put language to that amorphous “us” by revealing your uniqueness. Use it to help you and your partner find out how you each problem solve, where you work together, and potential areas of conflict. In effect it helps you see what is happening backstage- all those dynamics that end up influencing how we show up in our lives and in our loves.

4 C’s Growth Formula: Intimacy can be scary. Exposing yourself can be scary. Sharing can be scary. The 4 C’s growth formula helps conceptualize the process of becoming confident BY becoming vulnerable. Intentional growth begins when we make a COMMITMENT.  Once you are past the honeymoon stage, and ready to start creating a safe container where you can really experience the full potential for aliveness and growth-- you begin to shift towards learning to sustain an arc of growth and commitment. After you have made the commitment- that YES to someone, you enter into the COURAGE phase. This is when you have made a commitment to something that is bigger than you are, and often to something to which you are not totally prepared for. You throw yourself off a cliff and need to learn how to fly. The only way to get to that more comfortable sense of capability and confidence, you have to go through the courage phase. If someone is only half committed, the courage phase takes a really long time, and in truth you never really quite get there. But when you fully jump in and take the risk of committing, you learn, you innovate, you create, you build relationship muscles, and then you put into place the CAPABILITIES, and these lead to a whole new sense of CONFIDENCE.  


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We all know this cycle- and we go through it often. The more often we go through it the more capabilities we build, and therefore the more confidence we have, which then leads us to being able to make bigger and bolder commitments! You can’t just rest in capability in confidence- this leads to stagnation and stuckness. Instead be willing to make greater commitments as this will give you the determination necessary to enter into the courage phase in which we begin to become the people and the partners we want to be!

Be self determining- The world can be challenging and powerful, and often there are many external pressures on our relationships that must be contended with. A strengths based approach is not blind to these, but rather requires a willingness and a strength to look directly at these difficulties. Find constructive language with your partner to share your fears, vulnerabilities, and worries in order to be conscious and intentional together about how you want to approach these challenges. This verbal acknowledgement and navigation does not have to be heavy handed- take the conversation with you on date night! Have fun, and find intimacy, in finding words together that will help you be more self-determining in how you lead your lives and your relationship.

Lastly, KNOW THYSELF- Use assessment tools, inventories, strengths finders, conversation, introspection, reflection, creativity, or any other means to help you find your unique abilities and that idiosyncratic YOU. Then, find ways to actually honor who you are so that you can become more fully you. The best relationships involve a dynamic in which what makes one partner come to life, then brings their partner to life. This leads to mutual excitement, passion, and ever evolving growth.


For more information about Shannon Waller’s work see

Unique Ability 2.0 on Amazon

For more on the 4 C’s breakthrough process, read here

Click here to go to the Kolbe website and take the Kolbe-A index to help find your natural abilities

Visit the Gallup Strengths Center where you can complete the Clifton Strengthsfinder Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Shannon Waller and qualify to win a copy of Unique Ability 2.0

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Mar 16, 2016

What is the secret to cultivating inspiration in your relationship? And, if you’re single, how do you find people to date who will truly inspire you to be more of who you are, more conscious, more connected? To that end - I want today’s episode to inspire you: we’re going to talk about a path to connecting with the parts of yourself that are truly your core gifts - and how to bring those into your relationship, into your dating life if you’re single, and how to connect your authenticity to the spark of passion.

Today’s guest is Ken Page, renown psychotherapist, Psychology Today blogger, and author of the book “Deeper Dating: How to Drop the Games of Seduction and Discover the Power of Intimacy”. Ken’s book is one of the few books that I’ve read for the podcast that left me feeling truly moved - both by the hope that it instilled in me for single people looking for a new way to connect with others, as well as through giving me a completely new way to frame the dance of attraction within a relationship.

Core gifts- The concept of core gifts helps to lead us onto a very different path to finding a partner. This concept teaches us that the very places where we are most scared of love and those parts of ourselves we think we need to hide or suppress are again and again the powerhouse of our ability to love! This can be very surprising! Common culture around dating teaches us how to airbrush ourselves, how to play hard to get, and how to change ourselves in ways to make us seem more attractive. Thickness of skin is prized in the current dating world. In this very approach you are screwed from the start, because in trying to make yourself more attractive, you freeze your authenticity and spontaneity. You further feed all of your insecurities as you learn to hate those parts of yourself where you are most sensitive. Conclusion is that the fix-yourself-to-find-love stuff just doesn’t work!

The parts of ourselves that we feel most embarrassed about are our holy places. Our most sensitive parts, the ones we have been programmed to be ashamed of, are in actuality begging for liberation! Our search for love will fail if we don’t love those sensitive places in ourselves. To the degree to which we embrace those parts of ourselves, we attract partners who are more available, caring, accepting, and supportive of our whole selves. Our deepest insecurities are the markers of our greatest gifts and those gifts will lead us to the real love we are looking for!

Embrace your passions and your sensitivities

Attraction of Deprivation versus Attraction of Inspiration: You can’t force your attractions. You can’t make yourself attracted to someone, even if they are good for you,  if there is not the sexual attraction. What we can do is educate our attraction. In order to do so we need to understand the differences in our circuitry of attraction.

Attraction of Deprivation is that rapid falling for someone who is ultimately unavailable. That attraction to someone who is almost there, almost gets us, almost meets our needs. Often these are hot attractions and exciting, but the almost-ness goes on forever. They scratch and itch. They don’t completely feed a real need. It is important to understand and to recognize our own attractions of deprivation in order to choose partners more clearly and consciously.

Attraction of Inspiration occurs when you meet someone and you are physically attracted to them, AND you are emotionally and spiritually attracted to the way that they treat you, the quality of their consistency and integrity, and by their way of being in the world. When you find someone like that, attraction is going to build in a different way. It is more like being fed from the inside. The attraction grows richer, more celebratory, and more real as time goes on. That is happiness and that is where we want to look for love!

The more we support our sensitivity, the stronger we become in the world!

Don’t go pursuing the hottest thing around town! Instead, find people who amplify who you are and work on your own capacity to discern who is on that wavelength with you. This discernment is the way you can be vulnerable, generous, kind, and be more protected than if you were playing games. When we learn to honor our sensitivity we gain a kind of dignity and are ultimately less hurt by rejection because our ultimate commitment is to find someone who loves us for who we are. So when we find someone who doesn’t love us for who we are, it is okay because they weren’t the right one! When we operate from a “how do I play this game” place then we are operating from a fear based place and will likely suffer tremendously from rejection, when we make room for our vulnerability and ask for what we need and honor what we need in our relationships we become stronger and more resilient!

For everyone looking for relationship: If you can make a decision and commitment (and it ain’t no little thing) that from now on you are only going to cultivate your attractions of inspiration, then your dating life will change in profound ways.  You will narrow your field but you will also deepen your field. The degree to which you honor your core gifts and only look for people that treasure what they see when you are really you, a kind of magic happens. You will start meeting and attracting different people.

How to recognize your own gift zone:  Your core gifts are those places in which you are the most you. You can think of them as shards of god inside you- they are those parts of you where you feel deeply. Where life touches you the most deeply. The places where your intensity and passion are very powerful for certain things. Where you desire love. Desire truth. You can ask yourself: Where has my passion run really deep in my being? Where has my sensitivity run really deep? Where have I wondered if I am too sensitive? Those are places where your antennae are exquisitely in tune for what you need and desire.

Exercise: Try the following for two days and watch what happens. First, get a journal. Make little notes answering these two specific questions:  

  1. What kind of interactions fill my heart?
  2. What kind of interactions hurt my heart?

Take notes about certain moments and honor each one of them. After 2 days if you look at all of those points it will be like a connect the dots- you will see the themes and those places where you can be most hurt and most inspired. These are your core gifts, and where your magic lies.

Notice the places where you are most hurt, as these are the places you are the most tender. The places where you are the most tender are the places where you are the most beautiful. And it is from these tender places where your love springs from! The hurt represents moments where there was a break in love and connection- and by recognizing where these occur you will build a stronger connection with yourself.

Be willing to really really really ask for what you want: In every relationship there is a good struggle- a place where your partner has a really hard time giving you what you need, and vice versa. Even in our most wonderful relationships we can get hurt because we are all separate beings, and imperfect. The hurt is often amplified because most of us are not willing to really really really ask for what we want. We have some belief that if we do then we are being too selfish, or we ask in a demanding way that isn’t really coming from our place of need. Sometimes we don’t even ask at all, and instead build resentment. But when we can learn to ask from a place of real authenticity, something very different happens.  This act of getting more and more vulnerable with your partner and really asking for what you need, is a very powerful thing. Ask for those things that you feel mortified to ask for! Even though it may be scary, you’ll find that it can be liberating, and Intimacy producing! Helpful to know here that research shows that when you are terrified you are most likely to feel loved. There is a high chance of REALLY GREAT PASSION on the other side of fear.

Honoring: If you practice honoring the fierceness around your passions, you will get wiser about how to express your passion in the world. And when you honor the tenderness of your sensitivity, you will become so much more beautiful at how you express it and share it and live it in the world. This act of honoring allows you to open up to a blossoming of a whole new set of possibilities!

How does Attraction of Inspiration lead to great sex? Have you ever had an experience of sex when you have felt love, connection and also intense turn on? Some combination of hot hot sex but also heart sex? If you have experienced that- you’ve found the sweet spot where turn-on is intense and love is intense. Not only do we need to respect each other by cuddling and caressing and going slowly, but we also need to be willing to get vulnerable with our sexual desires and willing to take responsibility for our turn-ons. Be it vanilla, kink, or some combination of- think of those things that really get you hard, wet, turned on, what are those things that are really juicy to me? Then swing out- meaning take a risk and go towards your partner, by asking for those things in your relationship. When you are brave enough to share what ways of touching/moving/playing/being not only fill your heart, but also turn you on, you are building intimacy and hotness.  When you can trust each other with these perhaps embarrassing wants, and gift each other non judgemental listening and go-with-it-ness, you’ll be more likely to have that crazy sex you’ve been wanting. Ken Page says it will be “like Christmas in bed!!”


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 - and to qualify to win a free copy of Deeper Dating!

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Mar 8, 2016

On our show, we’ve talked a lot about getting “triggered” - but what does it even mean to get triggered? Why do we hold trauma in our bodies? And how do we move through it so that we can live more freely, be more fully alive - and present for what life is bringing us in the moment? And if you’re in a relationship, how can you and your partner help each other heal - either the traumas of the past, or the inevitable traumas that we cause each other?

Today’s guest is Dr. Peter Levine, one of the world’s foremost experts on Trauma, and author of many books on the topic, including “Waking the Tiger”, “Trauma & Memory”, and “Healing Trauma” - a book that guides you through a process for Healing Trauma and your triggers. He is also the creator of Somatic Experiencing, one of the most effective ways of dealing with the effects of trauma, and releasing trauma from the body with thousands of trained practitioners all over the world. In today’s episode, you’re going to not only learn how your body holds trauma and triggers, but also get some guidance into how you can, in the moment, come back into balance and actually allow yourself to fully move through whatever is stored in your body. We talk about how we can help each other in relationship - and we also chat a bit about how to apply Peter’s work with children.

In this conversation Dr. Peter Levine and I discuss the following:

The past lives in us. Our past lives in us in ways that we are often unaware of. Times when we may have been left alone, yelled at, hurt, neglected, abused, misunderstood, exposed to difficulty, or otherwise traumatized, all leave imprints on our bodies that can last through many years and decades. The question is not whether these memories exist in us, but how they live in us.

Implicit and Explicit Memory:

Explicit memories- These are the ones that we normally think about as things to remember. These are the thoughts and memories we are fully conscious of. Lists at the grocery store, directions, etc. Rarely has emotional content.

Episodic memories- these are also explicit memories, however they have a deeper quality. This is when, for example, you are sitting at the ocean and all of a sudden you have images from your childhood. Representative of parts of our lives

Implicit memories- These are even deeper. Emotional memory is when all of a sudden you find yourself angry, or frightened, and wonder what just happened. You may be feeling threatened and defensive. A fight might occur from this.

Procedural or Body memories-  Even deeper than emotional memories are procedural or body memories. When we felt terrified our bodies experienced terror physically (shoulders go to our ears, we get a knot in our belly. heart going fast..) These are all autonomic and automatic response we have. Even if we understand why we are being triggered and the emotions that occur as a result, our procedural memories prime the pump and cause us to react in often inappropriate ways.  

Triggers are echoes of memories stored in our bodies: If in a couple, both people have been traumatized in their life, it can happen that their fear and their anger will escalate, ricocheting off of each other. What is happening here is that our brains are wired to perceive threat and all the intense emotions ensuing as caused by something real. Our partner may do something, or not do something, or give a look, or say something, and all of a sudden our body reacts by developing a knot in the stomach, a tightening in the shoulders, faster heart beat… Our brains look to find causation for this symptomatic response, and often will attach blame to anyone near by! In this way we enter into situations where we begin believing “this must all be about you”, when in reality it is most often the result of an echoing of earlier memories stored in our own body. A relationship and interaction will go nowhere when both people are stuck in this velocity trap of blaming and shaming.

Somatic Experiencing helps people learn to experience their emotions and sensations in their body and notice all that goes on without having to react. It helps people go from being closed and defensive to open and curious- which is the key to trauma recovery!

Our relationships are constant sources for healing. Living, loving and being in constant interaction with our significant others provides endless opportunities for our triggers to be revealed! While this can be seen as very painful, burdensome, and unsexy, it is important to realize that every trigger offers an opportunity to heal! Our intimate relationships are ideal places to have our traumas arise, because we can face our memories and reactions with a trusted other who can share it with us, hold us, and be with us as we come into greater aliveness and joy! We cannot live our life with vitality and clarity when we are stuck in our habitual trauma responses.

Bringing your relationship into the here and now: The most important lesson for growth in relationships is learning how to individuate, together. To see the other as other, and not as a perception of our own fears and flaws. To do so it is critical to get to know ourselves- spiritually, sexually, psychologically, somatically...This is especially true when there is a history of trauma present in a relationship. Just as trauma causes the body to remain stuck in the past, trauma can keep a relationship from being in the present. To bring your relationship into a more current state, you need to learn to be in touch with your reactions and learn ways to move not around, but through them. Be direct- ask your partner “Can you just be here with me and give me a little support and time to figure out what I am feeling and sensing, and how it is connected to a memory?” Each time we can do this we can further and further uncouple from those trauma laden memories so that we can bring ourselves AND our relationships back into the here and now.

How to move through triggering moments:

Trauma is never graceful, and often it leaves parts of us, physically, emotionally, and psychologically, stuck. With support and guidance we can move through the stuckness. Consider animals in the wild. Although their lives are threatened on a routine basis, they are rarely traumatized (if so they would lose their resilience and go extinct). What is it in animals that gives them resilience? All mammals, including us, have identical instinctual fight and flight autonomic nervous systems to us, but other animals have the added benefit of remembering how to use the body to work through the traumatic experience. Animals shake. Literally. They shake their bodies which allows the body to process all of the hormones and neurochemicals involved in the fight/flight response. You have likely experienced this too- shaking and trembling in your body, cold hands, spontaneous deep breaths immediately after a scary event. It is important that we help support each other in allowing our bodies to work through our experiences similar to how other animals do. Somatic Experiencing developed as a methodology that imparts basic life skills to move through events that are potentially traumatized in order to gain a greater resilience and joy in life. These are skills everyone in the world could use! It would make for a better, safer, and more compassionate world.

Fight or Flight, then Freeze. Our autonomic nervous systems are wired for a fight or flight response to threat (real or perceived). If we are unable to follow through on either of these instincts, if these actions do not suffice, or if our system becomes too overwhelmed, the body will go into a state of apathy and collapse. It freezes. This shutdown stage is meant to be temporary, but sometimes we get stuck there due to fears that reinforce the paralysis. When someone we can trust is near us, it is possible to have less fear to truly sense the immobility, make contact with it, and move through it. Being in presence with the sensations will lead to deactivation and we can learn to see what memories are keeping us stuck, and from there learn to renegotiate our reactions, and our reactions to our reactions!

A good experiment to try: When we have been traumatized, especially in the case of sexual trauma, we try to isolate from our body (also known as dissociation, or soul fragmenting). It is as if the body has betrayed us and we begin to perceive it as the enemy. You can start by befriending and reconnecting with your own body. Pay gentle and nonjudgmental attention to your own reactions. With time it becomes softer and easier for you to reflect on your feelings, and your physical responses. You can do this with your partner. Agree not to have intercourse, but just to explore together. As soon as a trigger comes up, take the time together to integrate and be with the sensations in a patient and compassionate way. Know that our minds are clever but our bodies are wise! Our bodies know what to do, they are instinctive. Imagine what your body might have wanted to do at the time when it was violated-- push away, fight, run? Find safe ways to allow the body to express the desires and needs that it had but could not follow through with in the past. This brings power and energy back to the body, and helps hold compassion for the child, or younger version of yourself that could not defend or protect itself at the time. As we sort through the links between memories and reactions, we begin to mend again and return to a deep and full sexual, spiritual, psychological, and physical connection with partner.

Learning to recognize when you are triggered and work with the procedural body memories will help you find more freedom and more wholeness!

Tip to try with your child, and/or your partner: When your child is very angry, help give them a way to safely and effectively direct their anger. Most children find it difficult to deal with their own intense emotions because their parents have difficulty with them. As a parent, and as a partner to your significant other, you can help another feel their strength by directing their feelings into healthy aggression. Try this: put out your hand, make eye contact while you are doing this, and invite them to push your hand hard. Putting a lid on our anger puts a lid on all other feelings simultaneously. Allowing the body to safely express its sensations will help to release stuckness and lets us feel more alive!

VOOO: A wonderful thing to practice. This is a simple practice that helps you get present and out of a trauma response state. Take a full and easy inhale, and as you exhale make the sound “voooooooo”. Let the sound come from your belly and go until breath comes to an end. The next inhale happens automatically and naturally. Do several rounds to help calm your autonomic nervous system.


Learn more about Somatic Experiencing and find a practitioner in your area here.  

Read some of Peter Levine’s books:

Trauma and Memory: Brain and Body in a Search for the Living Past: A Practical Guide for Understanding and Working with Traumatic Memory

Healing Trauma on Amazon

Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma

Trauma-Proofing Your Kids: A Parents' Guide for Instilling Confidence, Joy and Resilience Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Peter Levine - and to qualify to win a free copy of one of his books!

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Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Mar 1, 2016

Having healthy polarity is an important component of maintaining a spark with your partner. Have you wondered, though, about what that really means? Does that mean that one of us has to be “masculine”, and the other has to be “feminine” in order for this whole thing to work? How do you turn polarity into something that doesn’t become just a descent into stereotypes, but into a dynamic energy that lives and breathes in your relationship? And how do you take it to the next level, tuning into higher states of energy with your partner? 

Today’s guest is Michaela Boehm, an experienced counselor and tantric lineage holder who specializes in teaching skills that enhance deep intimacy and lasting attraction, and who co-taught for a number of years with David Deida to make the concepts that he teaches in books like “Way of the Superior Man” and “The Enlightened Sex Manual” practical. And in today’s episode, we’re going to do just that. We’ll update your idea of what “polarity” even means - and give you some practical tools to open yourself up to what’s possible in terms of your energetic connection with your partner. Michaela is also going to point out some of the places where people stumble or get stuck - so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes on your journey.

In this episode, Michaela Boehm and I cover the following:

Within each human being there are two forces: The terms ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are placeholder terms that describe two different types of energies that are found in each one of us. Over the years these terms have been misconstrued by popular culture- losing their original purpose and meaning. People have conflated ‘masculine’ with man, and ‘feminine’ with woman, causing further polarization, stereotyping, and kindling more gender wars. Misunderstanding these terms boxes and pigeon holes people, and can even become another form of oppression. In an effort to move away from these constructs, it is helpful to take a look at the two underlying principles that represent the masculine and feminine energies: the organizing principle, and the pleasure principle.

The organizing principle:  Everyone has an organizing principle, which is the masculine energy, that gives clarity and helps make things happen. It has a long term view and works on a time/space grid to essentially create forward movement. It has a tendency towards emptying out. It is filled with consciousness and has a depth of penetration and clarity that gets things done!

The pleasure principle: The pleasure principle is the feminine energy in us- the wild chaotic swirl of nature as it is expressed in each person’s body, environment and life. This is the enjoyment of multitude. Of flavors and textures and fullness.

You need both within yourself. The organizing principle without the chaotic swirl life force is just static and stuck. The chaotic and creative flow of nature without direction is a disaster. The strength of one principle is enhanced by the other, and disastrous on its own. Imagine being all in the masculine.. you might be so rigid you no longer know about how to flow with life, now imagine you are all in the feminine... your life might become so chaotic that you cannot seem to move forward. Therefore, it is important to find both inside of yourself.

Finding your ‘home’ energy: While we each have aspects of the masculine and feminine inside of us, we each have a ‘home’ energy or a ‘home’ preference which is the place where we feel most naturally relaxed and fulfilled. When you are left to your own devices, you will naturally lean towards one principle or the other. Here are some good questions to ask yourself when reflecting on what principle is most native to you:

Do you enjoy engaging in the fullness of life (children, dinners, animals, friends, clothing, social events, house decorating, doing things, etc? Are you your happiest and is your body the most relaxed when you are fully engaged in activities? Do you thrive on the engagement and exchange of love? Do you talk a lot? Yes to these questions points towards how the pleasure principle- the pleasure of being alive in one’s body- is showing up in your life.

On the other hand, do you like clear structure, making things happen, and enjoy adhering to a schedule and a plan? And if you had a month to plan however and whatever you wanted how would you use the time? Would you hope to meditate? To sit in a desert and contemplate vastness? Would you want your mind and body to experience silence and clarity? Do you recuperate through being still? These tendencies speak to the masculine and organizing principle in each of us.

NOTE: Both men and women are experiencing increased levels of the organizing principle as our society is much more geared and rewarding of the masculine.

Finding a mix of these two dynamic qualities allows you to be more effective, expressive and fulfilled in life, plus it is has a huge impact on your sexual life!

Polarity increases sexual play/Friction is sexy- In our sexual lives, the erotic friction- meaning the tension between the two poles- is what makes for chemistry and that spark we all want in our relationships, regardless if we are gay, straight, or bi. You can learn to go back and forth between the energies, helping to balance and add healthy tension to your sex life (the hunt and being hunted, the penetrator and the surrenderer, etc). Learning to animate and distinguish these two aspects of yourself will make these energies available for you to better play with another human being! In most relationships you learn to polarize sexually- fluidly moving from one who is doing to one who is being. By developing facility in all areas of the spectrum you have more options in ways to creatively balance each other! Beauty comes when you can identify a ‘home’ place in which you are naturally joyous while having fluidity and faculty to call upon and bring forth the strengths of each allowing for fuller range of expression, and therefore, more sexual possibility.

Increasing your capacity to experience energy throughout your entire body - it is not about trying to get something right! Your sexual life can be enhanced and transformed by learning to work with your energy. Before diving into how to achieve this, here are a few thoughts on potential pitfalls and considerations in regards to energy control and manipulation:

-There are many schools of thought, and thousands of techniques for achieving non-ejaculatory sex and getting away from orgasm addiction. Often this can come from rigid control of the breath. This may have bad consequences physiologically and psychologically. When people get too focused on their breath they tense their bodies and pelvic floor, which in most people are already plenty tense! It is actually rather counterproductive for many people to impose more structure and tension (in breath and pelvic floor). For those of us who do not have a lot of time to dedicate to mastering tantric techniques, it is more generative to focus on learning to relax and be in gentle attunement with one’s natural physical tendencies.

-According to Michaela and ancient Taoist traditions, there are times when ejaculation is what is needed! Strong rigid measures of control on a man’s natural process can have many other side effects that may negate the fact that he can now last longer. Take it with a grain of salt!

-Bypassing ejaculation can have great impact on achieving full body pleasure orgasms, however beware that the focus on controlling ejaculation doesn’t become another form of larger control that becomes a source of shame, or another way to brutalize oneself. Last thing most couples need is more places of disappointment! Not ejaculating is not that hard to achieve, but it does not necessarily mean you have satisfaction or pleasure in the body or are more emotionally free. Furthermore, “Don’t cum!” can become as much a fixation or obsession as anything else which would lead further away from intimacy.

- For many thousands of years putting control on a human’s sexual urges was one of the main ways of gaining control in society. “Don’t have sex, it is a sin” isn’t much different than “don’t ejaculate it is a spiritual sin”. Be careful with dogmas! These concepts can be very dicey in the wrong hands.

-It isn’t the ejaculate control that is important- it is the ability direct, expand, and circulate energy around your body and learning to lead your arousal peaks, rather than have them lead you. There are many ways to learn to direct energy for increased sexual pleasure.   

What is the optimal way that your body can be in a relaxed state so that you can combine yourself with another human, spiritually, sexually, emotionally, physically in the optimal way?

Delocalize pleasure: Delocalizing pleasure, meaning moving energy from one’s genitals and expanding it throughout the body, is a wonderful way to increase a sense of pleasure throughout the entire body. There are many ways to do this without having to practice circular breathing or other techniques for 30-50 minute a day! Try touching other parts of your body while you are sexually engaged. Relax the base of your body. Try to feel your extremities while you are in the middle of sexual intercourse. Loosen your shoulders and head to release tension. Loosen all tight areas. Create movement through touch and massage. Don’t make a big TO DO, just relax, breath, move, touch! When you are in the midst of sexual pleasure allow the energy to move through- actually relax, let yourself feel, and allow yourself to receive.

Try this one on: actual intimacy is about actually feeling what is happening.

You can delocalize pleasure not only in your body, but in your life!  We are all continually somewhere on the sexual continuum. And sexuality is a constantly flowing energy- it is a matter of one’s capacity to tune in. Sex doesn’t just have to happen in bed (or on the kitchen table!) but can be simply happening when you are making a meal together, walking, or being side by side. This realization, especially when shared with your partner, can create increased sense of pleasure throughout your relationship, and life.

A few practices to help you increase your openness and attunement with your own feminine and masculine energies: In order to get in touch with your pleasure principle try movement! Movement is one of the most beneficial things we humans can do for ourselves. Try shaking it out at least once a day! Pick a song and dance, shake, or move your body in a spontaneous way. Feel how your body wants to move, and let it! Do this while brushing your teeth! Between meetings! First thing in the morning. Exercise is wonderful too, however it is linear and forces habitual patterns. Surprise yourself.

As for getting in touch with the organizing principle, find 5 minutes a day to sit and do nothing at all, not even a meditation practice. Just sit and allow whatever comes up to come up, and be with it. These two simple daily practices offer the opportunity to experience both ends of the spectrum: the pleasuring fullness, and the organizing emptiness.

Feel the pleasure of being alive! And the fullness of being in this moment!


For more on retreats, somatic education, workshops, and wisdom from Michaela Boehm, please see her website:

Enlightened Sex Manual is an alive and evocative book! If and when you read it please send your feedback about how it is impacting your life! Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Michaela Boehm - and to qualify to win a free dowload of one of her recordings!

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Feb 23, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

A vision for what is actually possible in your relationship:

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

The Still Face Experiment: Dr. Edward Tronick Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Sue Johnson - and to qualify to win a free copy of “Hold Me Tight”.

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Feb 16, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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









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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things to try immediately:

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

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

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

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


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

Read Schwartz’s Book- You are the One You’ve Been Waiting For Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Richard Schwartz

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Feb 9, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Appreciation- your family cherished and celebrated you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2) Allow- allow yourself to feel the feeling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dave Richo's Website

How to Be an Adult in Relationship on Amazon

How to Be an Adult in Love on Amazon

You Are Not What You Think on Amazon Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Dave Richo

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Feb 3, 2016

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

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

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

Equivocations: Giving ambiguous, indirect, or contradictory information

Exaggerations: Overstatements and truth stretching

Understatements: Minimizing or downplaying aspects of the truth

Concealments: Deliberately omitting information that is important and relevant

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

Felony lies: These are the big high stakes ones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Check out Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson’s work at:

Read their book- Tell Me No Lies Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!


Jan 27, 2016

Today’s guest is Sheri Winston, wholistic sexuality teacher, founder of the center for intimate arts, and author of the award-winning book “Women’s Anatomy of Arousal: Secret Maps to Buried Pleasure”. We’re going to talk about how the sexual energy of a feminine person works. We’re also going to talk about the female anatomy - and you just might find out some things that you NEVER knew before. Sheri also brings her knowledge as a midwife and a massage therapist to bear on the topic of just how we might come to sexuality from a completely different perspective. I guarantee that unless you’ve already read Sheri’s book (and maybe even if you have) you’re going to learn something new today.

Here are the highlights from my conversation with Sheri Winston:


  • What is wholistic sexuality? This is a way of seeing the sexual life force that emanates through us and around us at all times. When you’ve heard me talking about “the continuum” - this is it. We are always able to access this energy, and with our partners we are always connected, even when we’re not in the bedroom.
  • Contrast that with “male sexuality” - This is the popular model for “how sexuality works” - and it represents a very masculine way of looking at sexuality. Quick turn-on, deep penetration, huge orgasms. However, feminine people have a completely different type of sexuality.
  • What is feminine sexuality? Rather than a quick boil that starts at the center (masculine sexuality), feminine sexuality starts at “the edges” and heats up slowly, until the entire system is fired up. It can take a little while!
  • So wholistic sexuality is: being able to recognize these different types of sexual energy and recognize where you and your partner fall on the spectrum - and then to take each other into account!
  • How does a woman know when she’s actually ready to experience penetration? If you are “desperate” to have your partner inside of you, then you are ready. Anything before that and your entire system may not be quite ready. Also it should feel “completely fabulous”
  • If a woman is “wet” does that mean that she’s ready to be penetrated? NO! In fact, lubrication is one of the earliest stages of arousal, but many more things need to happen in a woman’s body (along with lubrication) for penetration to feel completely pleasurable.
  • It’s about the journey - so enjoy it!
  • Did you know that women have as much erectile tissue as men? Along with erectile tissue that’s present all throughout the broad genital region, the clitoris is actually just the tip of an enormous clitoral network that extends throughout that part of a woman’s body.
  • As an experiment, if you’re a woman (or partnered with a woman): See if you can observe all of the changes that are happening within a woman’s body as she is getting more and more aroused. Can you figure out where all (or at least some) of the erectile tissue is? Sheri Winston calls this a “herection”. :-)
  • Timing is everything! For instance, there is a stage in arousal where the cervix gets pulled up and out of the way. When that happens, deep thrusting penetration can feel amazing! Before that happens - it can be painful!
  • O1 vs O2...and beyond! How sensitive are you able to become to the levels of arousal when you bypass “Peak Orgasms” and allow your bodies to ride deeper waves of pleasure together, for more time?
  • Arousal is an “altered state of consciousness”: And when you see it that way, you can understand why it can take time to make the shift, and why it’s an experience that can be deepened. Figure out what you need for yourself, and what your partner needs, to stay in and play with that state of consciousness - it’s a grand experiment!
  • Here are some ideas for how to expand that altered state: How does changing the way that you’re breathing affect the sensation in your body? How does your state of relaxation affect things? Can you set the stage in different ways that connect you to a ritual of sensuality - to help deepen your presence, and ability to be absorbed in the moment?
  • The power of sound: Making wide, open sounds can actually help your body relax - it’s part of an automatic response where the lower part of our body reciprocates the openness of the upper part of our body (our throat and mouth when we make those kinds of sounds)
  • Set the container: Create an intention with your partner to close the space, energetically, to the rest of the world. That space and time when you are together is yours and yours alone, and other intruding thoughts/energies are not welcome. It can be a good idea to keep technology (phones, etc.) out of the bedroom.
  • How to keep things “alive”: Be INTERESTING and INTERESTED! Cultivate your creativity and imagination AND your curiosity about your partner’s experience.
  • Eye contact and kissing with tongue: Both magnify sexual energy and help induce the “altered state of consciousness” that we’ve been talking about.
  • Dedicate Time - In long-term relationships, sexual connection “just happens” less and less, without attention. Dedicate time as frequently as possible to experiencing your partner’s sensual essence. Even just 5 minutes of eye-gazing is better than nothing.
  • How do we handle shame? If you know that shame is an issue for you, recognize that it is at times for almost all of us! During the altered state of arousal, it can be a prime time for you to reprogram those parts of you - especially if your partner is prepared for those moments. Prepare positive statements that reverse the shame, and, as an example, you can have your partner whisper them to you (or yell them at you!). Whatever feels right.
  • Debrief - LATER. You can always take time at a later moment to talk to your partner about what came up for you (or to ask your partner about what came up for them) - what worked, what didn’t, strategize for the future, and take a moment to affirm the depth of your love for each other.




Sheri’s websites:

Woman’s Anatomy of Arousal on Amazon   Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide. If you download the guide within the first week of this episode's airing, you are automatically qualified for a chance to win a free copy of Sheri Winston’s award-winning book “Woman’s Anatomy of Arousal”.

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Jan 19, 2016

Today’s guests are none other than Harville Hendrix and Helen Lakelly Hunt, authors of “Getting the Love You Want” - which offers a step-by-step path for you and your partner to attain a more loving, supportive, and satisfying relationship. In this conversation, you’re going to get to hear exactly how their system of conscious relationship works, and come to a deeper understanding of what’s possible in relationship. You’ll also learn about their “Imago Dialogue” - also known as “safe conversations” - which is a process that you can use in your partnership - or in any dialogue, really - to ensure clear communication that actually GETS you somewhere.

An essential part of being in relationship is the path that it offers to you to become more fully who you are meant to be in the world. And to do the healing required - both the inner healing as well as what’s only possible in partnership with another person. On today’s show we’re going to cover some essential skills so that you and your partner can create a solid foundation for this healing journey into conscious relationship together.

Harville Hendrix, Helen LaKelly Hunt, and I talk about the following:

  • Imago Match - Combine the best traits and the worst traits of your childhood caretakers, and you come up with a list of the qualities that you are most attracted to as an adult. In particular, your unmet needs are calling out to be met by someone who also matches your childhood caretakers’ negative traits. Wouldn’t it be easy if you could just find someone who will naturally meet those needs? Of course! However, that’s not the way that our unconscious mind works - in order for the healing to actually occur, those needs must be met by someone who shares the same difficulty with actually meeting them! It’s a potential recipe for disaster (and why so many relationships don’t work in the end). And - if you’re aware, also a potential recipe for great healing and transformation through your relationship.
  • Couldn’t you just try to hack your way around it, and find someone to meet those needs directly? Isn’t that what’s at work as we’re looking for the “right” partner? We’re looking for someone who fits an ideal list of traits - and usually when we first decide we’ve found a match - ZING - they’re perfect in every way. Nearly all relationships lead to a time when suddenly you see that along with all of those positive qualities come a host of negative traits that were also there all along. So as much as we think that a hack could be possible, there seems to be no way around actually having to create a container for growth and change in your relationship - to handle the inevitable challenges that come with the easeful moments.
  • Is conflict a sign of trouble in a relationship? No - in fact conflict is usually a sign of a place where you and your partner can actually grow. Your partner actually contains a “blueprint” for your own growth and healing.
  • It’s easy to look to your partner to see where you might want them to change and grow...and yet the first place that you should look is within yourself. Helen LaKelly Hunt offers the example of how she might have really wanted to foster Harville’s latent emotional exuberance, she actually learned a lot and facilitated growth in her relationship by learning how to contain her energy. And this created space in her relationship with Harville for him to learn more about being expressive.
  • Why is this all a good idea? Now you are able to develop parts of yourself that were probably not encouraged within you as you were growing up. Harville and Helen even suggest potentially developing the parts of yourself that you are least attracted to in your partner, as a way of pulling yourself up the growth curve and getting in touch with the parts of you that are within you, waiting for their chance to shine in a healthy way.
  • So if conflict is OK - then how do you know whether or not you’re in the wrong relationship? While Helen says that essentially if the attraction is there then ANY relationship could be the material for a lifelong, growth-oriented partnership (that has the power to overcome some big things, like chemical dependency, or infidelity). That being said - if you’re in a situation where your partner literally cannot take responsibility for ANYTHING - i.e. everything is your fault - then that relationship is unlikely to succeed.
  • A suggestion: If you’re in a relationship that you think is in trouble (or even if you’re in a relationship that’s ok, but you want it to grow even more) - go on a couples retreat for a holiday or birthday. In a retreat-like environment even a partner who’s not inclined to do “growth” work might see unhealthy patterns that they’ve been contributing to, or get excited for a vision of what’s possible. Many couples have shown up to these kinds of workshops thinking they were done, only to get a renewed sense of possibility and love for each other.
  • Instead of trying to find the right partner, focus on BEING the right partner. Instead of trying to change your partner, focusing on growing yourself and your own capacities within the relationship. At the same time, it is helpful to energize and appreciate your partner for the things that they do well - to amplify that energy within your relationship. Otherwise too much change can lead to exits popping open for either partner - and having exits closed is an important part of having a safe container in the relationship.
  • Imago Dialogue: This is a three-step process for effectively communicating. First decide who is the “sender” (the person talking) and who is the “receiver” (the person listening). The job of the person talking is to speak in an “I” statement - and to break what they’re trying to communicate down into small, digestible chunks.
  • Mirroring: The first step as a receiver is to Mirror back what you’re hearing from the sender. Try not to paraphrase - use their exact words. And then ask - did I get it? And if the answer is “no” - then give the sender another shot at expressing what they need to express, and repeat this step. If the answer is “yes” then you can ask “Is there any more?”
  • Validation: As the receiver, can you understand where the sender is coming from? Do their conclusions make sense to you given what they are saying about their experience? If not, you can ask questions to clarify. If so, you should say that it DOES make sense. Note that you do not have to AGREE with their view of the world - the point is simply to GET their view of the world.
  • Empathy: As the receiver, can you imagine what it would feel like to be in the sender’s experience? Can you convey that to the sender as well?
  • IS THERE MORE? Always take the time to give the sender the opportunity to really communicate everything that they need to communicate.
  • Then, take turns. Once the sender’s meaning has been fully mirrored, validated, and understood - it is time for the sender to become the receiver and vice versa.
  • Make a commitment to ZERO negativity. What does it take to simply notice all the times that you’re bringing criticism, blame, or judgment into your relationship? And once you notice that, can you shift yourself into a position of seeing yourself as the source of your experience, and taking responsibility for your part in how things are (or facilitating change) rather than pointing the finger, or expecting the other person to do the work?
  • It’s not that you can’t tell the other person how you feel...but simply that you can learn to always communicate respectfully. It’s not what you say but HOW YOU SAY IT.
  • Are you making time for fun? Don’t just rely on happenstance for fun to happen! Schedule fun into your calendars, so that you are guaranteeing that you’ll have good times and be infusing your relationship with positive, fun energy.
  • Appreciation Practice - You could try giving your partner 3 appreciations every night before you go to sleep. How does that shift the quality of your relationship, when it becomes a regular practice?


Getting the Love You Want - on Amazon   Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide. If you download the guide within the first week of this episode's airing, you are automatically qualified for a chance to win a free copy of Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt’s groundbreaking book “Getting the Love You Want”.

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Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Jan 12, 2016

One of the biggest obstacles to being fully yourself in the present is being held back by the pain of the past. I’m thinking specifically of the endings that we go through. If you’re like me, you’ve been through a breakup or two in your life. Maybe you coasted through each one just fine - or maybe you collected a scar or two - or more. Whether you were the person leaving, or the person left behind, or it was a mutual decision - I’m curious - are there any remnants of past relationships that might be influencing you now, in the present? Are you in a relationship wondering if you should stay, or go? Or are you in the middle of a breakup right now? Or are there aspects of your current relationship that you’d like to breakup with - so that your current partnership can begin anew? Whether your breakup was something long past, or something happening in the moment - this episode is for you.

Today’s guest has been on the show once before, back in episode 2. Her name is Katherine Woodward Thomas, and she is the author of the New York Times Bestseller “Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After” - as well as the national bestseller “Calling in The One: 7 weeks to attract the love of your life”. (I’m currently in her Conscious Uncoupling coach training program.) While the focus of this show is on how to have amazing relationships, I thought it was wise to tackle the question head on of how we break up, and how to turn it into a positive experience - instead of a traumatic one. We’re going to talk all about Katherine’s powerful 5 Step Conscious Uncoupling process on today’s episode.

The main points that Katherine and I cover are:

  • Your current relationship actually starts with how your last one ended. What from your past did you carry into your current relationship? Are there expectations of your current partner that are left over from your prior partner? Are there wounds that you have yet to heal? Fears that are holding you back? Your ability to grow from past breakups will determine whether or not you can avoid repeating past mistakes.
  • Conscious Recoupling: The process of going through a breakup process with your current partner, growing/healing, and staying together in a totally new way.
  • However in order to truly recouple, you have to be willing to go through a true breakup process. If you follow the Conscious Uncoupling steps, then you need to actually be willing to let go of the relationship in order to begin again.
  • You could be in the “bargaining” phase of grief. If your relationship is truly ending, there is the phase of grief that you go through where you think perhaps it isn’t possible going to come to an end - so there’s a risk of going through Conscious Uncoupling with the idea that you’re actually going to stay together with your partner. Most of the process is meant to be done alone - so if you focus on your work, and your growth, and your healing - then you can assess where things are truly at as you wrap up the process.
  • Why do breakups cause so much pain? They are considered a “rupture of attachment” - which is actually one of the biggest sources of trauma that we can experience. In fact, our brain processes relationship trauma in the same place that it processes physical pain - so no wonder it can feel so physically intense!
  • How do you know if you should stay or go? It’s always helpful to get professional help in deciding what the right thing to do is. Also, one question to ask is whether or not there’s room to accept each other’s growth in the relationship. Do your values match up? Can you support each other even with different interests/passions? Get curious about where you’re at, and where your partner is at - can you look at what’s happening through your curiosity instead of your pain and frustration?
  • What happens if you shift to seeing yourself as the source of your experience? One of the core attributes of Katherine’s work and the Conscious Uncoupling process is to see how you are the source of your experience, to take your power back from any feelings of being victimized by whatever situation you’re in. When you make that shift to seeing yourself as source and healing core source fracture wounds, then your entire perspective on your relationship may also shift. You can do that healing work within the context of your relationship - and it might inform your decision about whether to stay or go.
  • When you see how a source fracture like “I’m not special” is running your life, and shift to a more positive sense of self - miracles happen. Are there negative messages at the core of how you interact with the world? How does that determine the way that you see the world? How does that shift for you if you invert a core negative image into a core positive image? How will your interactions with life and your partner change?
  • STEP ONE - Find Emotional Freedom - The first step allows you to create a container to safely experience any big emotions that you’re having, so that you can then harness them for your own positive change.
  • STEP TWO - Reclaim your power and your life - In this step, you start asking the kinds of questions that help you actually make use of the situation. Questions like: How did I give my power away? What are different choices that I can make that support my vision for the kind of life and relationship that I want?
  • The power of making amends - TO YOURSELF. What are the specific actions that you will take to ensure that you never make the same mistake(s) again? This is an important part in the process of outgrowing who you were in the relationship.
  • STEP THREE - Break the pattern, heal your heart. At this point you get to dive into the core negative belief that your painful feelings seem to be reinforcing. If they had a voice what would they say? Things like: I’m not important, I’m alone, I’m not lovable, etc. You start to see how a belief like that totally polarizes your experience in order to support itself. So what happens when you take on the OPPOSITE belief? Suddenly your experience will re-oriented around that new view.
  • STEP FOUR - Become a Love Alchemist. In this step you clear the air with your former partner (this can happen on a soul level, not necessarily in person) - and create a new vision for what your connection to that person can look like moving forward.
  • STEP FIVE  - Create your Happily Even After Life - This is the step where you decide on a new vision for yourself in relationship, and can also create a ritual that empowers your new vision for your connection to your former partner. The community around you can also feel supported by participating in this new vision - helping your community heal from the ripples of trauma that your breakup has caused.
  • The importance of clearing the air - When you take responsibility for your part of things that happened in your relationship, you are creating breathing room for your relationship with your former partner to be able to grow in a new direction - and empowering yourself, again stepping away from being a “victim” and reclaiming your own power of choice and to steer your life.



Conscious Uncoupling on Amazon

Calling in the One on Amazon   Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide. If you download the guide within the first week of this episode's airing, you are automatically qualified for a chance to win a free copy of Katherine Woodward Thomas’s book “Conscious Uncoupling”.

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Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Jan 5, 2016

We’ve talked a lot on this show about the stages of relationship - I’m thinking in particular of the John Gottman episode, and the Terry Real episode - how almost unavoidably the “honeymoon” ends and then the real relationship begins. Would you like to know some ways to get that spark back - in a way that’s sustainable? Do you know what you REALLY want in your relationship, and I’m talking about how to get below the surface-level to the desires that will actually satisfy something deep within you? In this episode, we’re going to cover how to connect with your partner  in a way that promotes passion - and we’re also going to take the experience of attunement (like we talked about in our episode with Keith Witt) to an even deeper level that you can use in ALL of your interactions with other people.

Today’s guest is Shana James, a coach for the Authentic Man Program and co-creator of the Authentic Woman Experience, and whose site “” helps men who are looking to have more satisfying relationships after experiencing divorce or painful breakups. I’m a huge fan of her work, and her ability to help men find their presence, women find their radiance, and to help everyone to connect powerfully in the kinds of relationships that they’re looking for. She’s currently hosting a telesummit for men to help them have more conscious, healthy, and satisfying sex lives - which you can find out more about at  

 In this episode, Shana James and I talk about:

  • How do you figure out what you REALLY want? On the surface it seems like you might want one thing - an example that we talk about is wanting your partner to wear sexy lingerie - but what is the desire UNDERNEATH the want? The closer you can get to asking for what you really want - making yourself vulnerable in that way - then you might actually get your real desires met instead of surface-level desires.
  • What’s wrong with surface-level desires? Nothing is wrong with them, per se. It’s just that when you get a surface-level desire met you might find that it doesn’t actually satisfy the itch that you thought you were scratching. When you get to what’s beneath your desires (like a desire for connection, or vitality, or curiosity, or adventure) then you actually have a chance to feel satisfied...AND get what you’re really looking for.
  • What’s one thing that kills spark in relationship? Partners who have become unwilling to be vulnerable. If you can cultivate your courage in relationship to BE who you are, then your vulnerability can be an incredible spark enhancer!
  • How do you generate change and connection? When you choose to be generous in your relationship, you are adding energy in a way that invites your partner to come forward and meet you. It also helps you ignite your curiosity - which is the antidote to boredom and disconnection in a relationship.
  • What if you’re always the one being generous? How do you know if you’re just stuck with someone who’s a perpetual victim, or a narcissist, who just takes takes takes? One thing to ask yourself here is, are you being “generous” truly? Or are you being generous to a point, and then blowing up or shutting down when it doesn’t turn into getting what you want? How do you stay vulnerable, even in those moments?
  • How do you stick a fork in the windmill of a repetitive relationship pattern? Shana James shares a powerful question that could help you change the direction - and also some other ways that generosity and vulnerability become powerful agents for change in a relationship.
  • The power of true listening. Your ego might have a REAL problem with just simply listening to your partner. It could even feel like you’re “dying” in a way. And yet figuring out how to truly receive your partner is an amazing act of generosity that can keep your connection going strong.
  • Shana James talks about Authentic World, Authentic Man Program, Authentic Woman Experience and...what is authenticity anyway? Does what you have inside match what people see on the outside? Do you know your internal landscape, and are you healing negative images of other people that might be “authentic” to who you are right now, but might actually be getting in the way of connecting in a powerful way.
  • What are the different ways of being present? Are you being present in a spiritual way? In a physical way? In a sexual way? Can you be present with yourself AND be present with the other person, and their experience?
  • Learn how to engage your connection from different places within you. Shana and I talk about how to reach into a connection with another person and diagnose where you feel the life and vitality within them, and within yourself in relation to them - and how to use that to fuel conversation and curiosity.
  • Why is it important for your partner (or prospective partner to know the real you)? One of the biggest source of pain for people in relationships is the inability to truly be themselves, to feel like who they really are is going to be rejected by their partner. Wouldn’t you want to know if a prospective partner could truly accept you BEFORE you’re in a committed relationship? Wouldn’t you want to know that about your existing partner before you let another 3, 5, 10, 20 years go by?
  • How do you know how another person is making you feel in your body? Step one is to have an actual awareness of your body at “baseline” - how do you feel when you’re just you - alone? Then you can begin to notice how your internal sensation changes when you’re in proximity to (or even just thinking about) another person. Shana James also shares some amazing ways to use this information to create more connection and play in your interactions with other people.
  • The power of questions. We’ve talked about this a lot here on the Relationship Alive podcast - the quality of the answers you get and the experience that you have is determined chiefly by the kinds of questions that you’re asking. Want a better experience? Ask a better question.
  • How can you experience more pleasure? We talk about how your ability to tune into your own sensual and sexual energy - without turning that into an agenda, but just experiencing it - tuning into your own vitality, how that starts to resonate with the other people in your life. Can you be comfortable with that part of yourself and bring it into your interactions with your partner? Can you do it in a way that doesn’t have an agenda attached to it?


Shana’s websites:   Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide. If you download the guide within the first week of this episode's airing, you are automatically qualified for a chance to win a free copy of Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages”.

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

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