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Relationship Alive!

Neil Sattin interviews John Gottman, Sue Johnson, Harville Hendrix, Peter Levine, Stan Tatkin, Dick Schwartz, Katherine Woodward Thomas, Diana Richardson, Terry Real, Wendy Maltz - and many others - in his quest to dig deep into all the factors that keep a Relationship Alive and Thriving! Each week Neil brings you an in-depth interview with a relationship expert. Neil is an author and relationship coach who is enthusiastic and passionate about relationships and the nuts and bolts of what makes them last. You can find out more about Neil Sattin and the Relationship Alive podcast at http://www.neilsattin.com
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Now displaying: Page 7
Jul 11, 2017

When it comes to the success of your relationship, how much are you standing in your own way? How do you get really clear on your part in the dynamic? And how do you work some magic in the way that you communicate, to connect no matter how challenging the moment? Joining us this week is Dr. David Burns, a Stanford emeritus professor who is also the author of Feeling Good - one of the most popular self-help books (dealing with depression) of all time. He is one of the chief popularizers of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and has recently been developing TEAM therapy, which addresses some of CBT’s shortcomings. David Burns is also the author of Feeling Good Together, which applies his practical approach to relationships: how to thrive, as well as how to turn a troubled relationship around.  

Changing the question: When it comes to relationship difficulty and challenges, many of us are quick to point fingers at THEM. We believe it is the fault of the other person, and we spend a lot of energy blaming them. The question that will lead to hope and growth is not “will the other person ever change?” but rather, “am I willing to change?”. By looking at our own behaviors and beliefs we are able to regain a sense of power, and gain access to our ability to effect change. By changing ourselves we can’t NOT change those around us! By coming from a radically different place ourselves we find we can transform the entire relationship dynamic.

Outcome resistance: While interpersonal transformation is possible with new perspectives and new skills, nothing will in fact help if there is a core resistance to the possibility of change. Before diving deeply into the hows of changing your relationship dynamics, you must first ask yourself “Do I want a better relationship with this person?” Allow the answer to surprise you. There are actually many possible motives and factors that could be competing with your authentic desire for expanded joy and intimacy (sometimes we’d rather blame, be right, even hate).

Process resistance: If in asking the above question you find that you do indeed want to become closer with your partner (or whomever you are in conflict with), the next question is whether you are willing to give up blame and look instead at your own role in the dynamics?  In your heart of hearts, who do you think is more to blame for the quality of your relationship? You or the other person? The prognosis for your relationship if you are in a victim mentality are close to zero - this stance is dangerous and debilitating. That said, are you willing to begin to look at yourself as part of the cause? And are you then willing to engage, from this place, in a process to help transition your relationship from a place of hostility into a place of love? If you find that you are unwilling to make this shift towards responsibility, or do not feel you are interested or able to engage in making changes on your own, you may be experiencing process resistance. This resistance is important to listen to and must be addressed before expecting yourself or your partner to change any further.

Exploring resistance exercise: To do this exercise, take one sheet of paper and create two columns, on one side list all of the advantages of remaining resistant and on the other list all of the disadvantages. For example, the advantages of continuing to feel as though it is THEIR fault may sound something like: I don’t have to feel guilty, if I can continue to blame them I don’t have to feel any pain, I get support from others when I complain and play victim, it is satisfying to scapegoat others, I feel morally superior, I don’t have to change, it helps me feel like there is nothing wrong with me, it lets me be angry all of the time, it justifies my passive aggressive or revenge type behavior. The disadvantages of resisting responsibility, on the other hand, may sound something like: keeps me feeling powerless, maintains painful status quo, being angry all the time is exhausting, I don’t feel centered in my best self, I feel disconnected from my compassion, there is a sense of stagnation, I don’t experience any growth or room for learning, I am constantly stressed, I experience anxiety and depression and loss of intimacy, this just feels unhealthy. When you finish your lists add up the total notes you made in each column and reflect on the balance you see. In what ways has your resistance to looking at your own role in your relationship been helping you, and in what ways has it been harming you? And what, now that you see all of this written in front of you, are you feeling ready and open to?

Looking at your own role: Nearly all relationship problems are encapsulated in any single thirty second exchange shared between two people at odds with one another. To explore this, take a moment of conflict you experienced recently and write down exactly what the other person said, and then what you said next. What you said next determines the entire outcome and if you look closely with humility you will see just how your response/reaction triggered the exact problem that you have been complaining about. This realization can be incredibly painful and humiliating as we spend so much of our energy focused on what the other person said or didn’t say and so convinced that it is all their fault!  Although painful, this realization is also our key into the potential for transformation!

Free yourself from victimhood: When we see ourselves as victims we do not see the impact of our behavior on the other person, and we stay blind. If you have the courage to look, and to examine the role you play in conflict and tension you will become empowered. By freeing yourself of victimhood through noting the ways you are the one who is creating the very problem you are suffering with, you begin to see how you also have the power to transform the relationship by thinking about it and communicating in a radically new way. From here change can occur quickly, and even, at times, easily.

Try keep a relationship journal: As mentioned above, we can learn a lot about our role in our relationships by checking out the ways we do or don’t respond and react to our partners during conflict. To do this in a methodic way, follow these steps:

1) identify and write down something that someone else said that triggered you

2) write down your response in the moment

3) assess whether your response was an example of good or poor communication (see below)

4) enlightenment step: ask yourself “what was the impact on the other person of my responding the way I did?”

5) revise what you could have said using the techniques listed below

 

EAR- Good communication requires patience, presence, and skills. EAR stands for empathy, assertiveness, and respect. It is communication that incorporates EAR that creates feelings of mutual acknowledgement and safety and leads to repair and connection versus escalation and disconnection.

5 secret techniques of effective communication (no particular order):

  1. Disarming technique- This technique is about finding truth in what the other person says, no matter what. It is based on the law of opposites which posits that if you defend yourself from criticism that feels unfair you prove that it is valid. This paradox however can work in reverse! If instead of defending and negating an irrational criticism you choose to genuinely agree with something they said then you help prove it isn’t the case and the other person will quickly stop believing. Escalations occur when people feel unheard or misunderstood and by finding truth in what someone is saying, and you do it with respect and humility, it becomes music to their ears and can be incredibly soothing.
  2. Thought and feeling empathy- Though empathy is when you repeat the words that someone else says in order to help show them you heard their message. Feeling empathy is when you acknowledge how the person is probably feeling given what you hear they are saying to you.  
  3. Inquiry- Inquiry is the process of asking gentle probing questions to get more information about what other person is thinking or feeling.
  4. Assertiveness- Assertiveness is the skill of communicating your subjective experience through “I feel” statements. This requires expressing your feelings in a direct, yet gentle and non-threatening way.
  5. Stroking- This is the skill of conveying warmth and respect even in the heat of a moment. Show, say, or do something that expresses to your partner that you are there in an open and loving way.

You are the god of your own experience: We are creating our interpersonal realities in every moment of every day. We are not the victims of our experiences, but rather the god who is creating our own reality. The enlightenment step described above, in which you ask yourself how your reactions are impacting your relationship dynamics can lead some to mystical and spiritual insights. This turning towards ourselves as the cause is a practice. It isn’t easy! Be patience with yourself while you are learning to grow in this new way!  

Resources:

Be sure to check out David Burns’ website for loads of free resources, a blog, a podcast, the workshop schedule, and so much more!

Read his book Feeling Good Together

Also read David Burns’ book Feeling Good

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

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Jul 5, 2017

Find out what's in store for the upcoming 100th episode of the Relationship Alive podcast! Also, this week is an opportunity for you to get caught up on episodes you've missed, or to revisit ones that have had an impact on you. Looking forward to seeing you next week with David Burns, author of Feeling Good and Feeling Good Together.

Jun 27, 2017

There’s nothing quite as powerful to help you on your journey as the community of friends that surround you. However, our friends aren’t always clear on how to do that - particularly when it comes to your relationship. How do you enlist your friends to support you in your partnership? In today’s episode, you’ll discover a sweet way to create a moment of deep connection with your partner and to show your friends exactly how they can help you and your partner nurture your connection. If you’re single, this practice will show you how you can harness the energy of your community to keep you on track in life - and in your quest for the right relationship (if you’re looking for that).

Along with strengthening your relationship, this practice will also help you strengthen your connection to your friends!

Jun 20, 2017

How do you stop repeating the old beliefs and actions that are holding you back? How do you ensure that the core part of your inner guidance is sending you in a positive direction? If you find yourself doing the same old dance again and again - either with your current partner or in relationship after relationship, then this is the episode for you. Joining us is Katherine Woodward Thomas, author of the NYT Bestseller Conscious Uncoupling, as well as the bestseller Calling in the One, as a guide through a powerful process of self-discovery. We dive deep into a core part of her work, the “secret sauce” that has helped Katherine transform the lives of so many people worldwide.

Katherine Woodward Thomas has been on Relationship Alive a couple times previously. If you’re interested in hearing our other episodes together, they are:

Ep 21: Healing Pain from Past or Present Breakups

Ep 3: Overcoming Your Barriers to Love and Connection

Repeating the story: So often we get into relationships that allow us to recreate old and often painful patterns developed in our childhoods. While this duplication process may partly be in search of healing, it is more due to the fact that we lack the skills to do relationship any differently. Luckily this can shift. We can learn the skills and repair the developmental needs in order to navigate our relationships to the highest potential they hold for our happiness and wellbeing.

Getting to the center of it all: We generate our lives from what lives at our center. What core belief about love are you carrying at your center? It is from this belief, often formed in childhood, that we generate our entire experience in the world and in relationship. If your core belief is broken (No one will ever love me, I am unworthy of love, I don’t deserve love), no amount of skills will help remedy. Instead an entirely new center must be found - one that is truer and has more room for positive possibility and growth. It is this excavating of old beliefs that allows us to move from post traumatic stress towards post traumatic growth.

Beliefs are relational: Our core beliefs were created in relation to another, and are, thus, also able to be healed through relationship. Remember however, that no one can show up for us in a way that we are not showing up for ourselves. We must teach those around us how to love us by the ways in which we love ourselves.

Source fracture wounds: Source fracture wounds are the result of our original experiences of being hurt in love. These experiences, often long forgotten by explicit memory, become so entwined with our entire identity that it may take some time and support to be able to unblend enough to identify them.

The body holds beliefs: Our implicit beliefs are held more in our bodies than in our brains. Try closing your eyes for a moment and connecting with your painful pattern in love. How does this experience show up in your body? Is it a heaviness in your heart? A tightness in the stomach? An ache in the solar plexus? Stay connected with it and welcome in the feelings while letting this part of your body tell the story “I am...or I am no...or other people…” Listen. Then ask yourself - how old is this part of me? Allow this dialogue to continue between yourself and this young self. Once you feel like you have really listened in, you can begin to update this young belief with a more mature and validating voice: for example, share with it that you are, in fact, deeply loved by all of life and there is evidence around for how all of life loves you. Once we have discovered the old stories we created long ago, we have the opportunity to mentor and usher in a new perspective.

Stay in relationship between yourself and your tender parts: The places in our bodies that hold these beliefs often cause us both emotional and physical pain. This tends to make us want to ignore and shun these areas of our bodies, however it is actually these areas that need the most TLC. Continue to build a relationship between yourself and these tender areas. Place a hand on these parts of yourself and let them know you are there. These parts of ourselves are often lonely, stuck, and waiting for us to liberate them from the story they are trapped in. Talk to yourself! You will likely have a sense of immediate relief. Let your parts know “I am enough, I am a treasure”. This dialogue and honoring allows you to course correct the consciousness of long stagnant and painful thought/feeling networks.

Start within. Are you ready and desiring of a new love experience? It may be time to wake up from old trance. In order to step into a more authentic, fulfilling, and growth oriented relationship you must 1) be willing to go deeper, 2) stop being a victim, and 3) begin to reflect on yourself as the source of your own experience with your partner.

See yourself as the source:  In what ways are you creating situations that provide more evidence for your source fracture story? We so often covertly pull on others to validate our old stories. This is subtle, subconscious, and because we can’t see how we are manipulating our experiences we are left feeling like others are doing it to us. The truth is that most of the things that we do that lead to toxicity and disappointment are old strategies we developed in childhood to protect ourselves. Predictability, even if negative, is safer than the unknown and so we create situations that give us more evidence for our aloneness/lack of safety/unworthiness or whatever else we believed in order to make sense of the world. Can you reflect with humility and curiosity on the ways that you yourself may be the source of breakdowns in your relationship?

Sit in your truth: Given that we create our lives from our center, we must tend this center with care and clarity. Depending on our core belief we are either going to navigate our way into the higher potentials of a relationship or we are going to spiral the potentials downwards into the old story. When we function from our source fracture story we end up choosing people who will predictably play out our old patterns, however when we are able to live from a deeper truth we lose interest in old dramas and become increasingly more attracted to healthy people.

Ask empowering questions. Ask the questions that will lead to truth and growth. How am I giving away my power to my partner? How am I treating myself in ways that have trained my partner to treat me this way? By taking responsibility you can enter into a completely new (and likely more honest and productive) conversation with your partner.

Enlist your partner: Become evolutionary partners by helping each other grow and wake up to a deeper truth. Ask your partner to give you feedback and insight into ways you might be impacting the dynamic without realizing it. Through honest and humble conversations such as these we begin to turn our relationships into places of safety (rather than needing to tap dance around each other’s wounds).

Getting from limbic to cortex: It is inevitable that you and your partner will trigger each other and cause each other to “go limbic”. Once you have gone limbic - all bets are off! Be sure to give yourself timeouts so that your nervous system and brain can come back online. By giving yourself the time necessary to shift back to a regulated state you will be better prepared to engage from your wise adult self. One way to help shift this is through affect labelling. Try taking a deep breath and ask yourself ‘what am I feeling right now?’. Notice and then name the specific emotions. Through mirroring back to yourself your own internal experience you begin to de-escalate the intensity and bring yourself back to center. From here you are better able to choose curiosity and compassion in the face of challenge and imperfections. Both affect labelling and choosing compassion are key skills and relationship muscles needed for growth and repair.

Graduate from old patterns: Are you ready for a paradigm shift that will leave you more ready, more open, and more capable of big love? Change starts from setting an intention to have happiness and love. The biggest obstacle to this that many of us face is being blended with the identity of someone who is unworthy of it. Through lovingly and patiently working with the parts of yourself that hold wounded beliefs you are able more accurately fill needs that were unmet when you were younger. As we look more at our own development we are able to recreate the experiences we missed and unravel the old story by replacing it with invalidating experiences that are at once empowering and so needed. This requires vulnerability. As you learn your own true needs and begin to practice communicating this to safe people in your life, you will in turn be welcoming in the evidence of what’s true about you. These are all learnable skills! Practice identifying what was missing, asking for what you need, and allowing yourself to receive. Remember, vulnerability is often the doorway into a place of growth, restoration, and true healing.

 

Resources:

 Interested in Katherine Woodward Thomas’ coaching training? Check it out here!

 Read Calling in “The One”: 7 Weeks to Attract the Love of Your Life

 Also read Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After

 Find out more about Katherine Woodward Thomas’ work on her website

www.neilsattin.com/kwt3 Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Katherine Woodward Thomas

 Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

 Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Jun 13, 2017

How do you clear away the energy of your past to help you be present in your life, and relationship? In today’s episode, we talk about a specific process to tie up loose ends, so that they don’t drain your energy here and now. Why let all of those old connections get in the way? After you go through this process, you’ll feel so much lighter, and have more mental and emotional capacity for the current things that matter most.

In this week’s episode, I’m building a bridge for you between last week’s episode, with David and Lila Sophia Tresemer - where we talked about Conscious Weddings and the power of making commitments, and next week’s episode, which will feature Katherine Woodward Thomas and a deep dive into transforming your core love identity. Enjoy - and please let me know how it goes for you!

Jun 6, 2017

How do you bring magic and consciousness to the way that you commit to your partner? And, if you’re getting married, how do you create a wedding that truly represents YOU - not simply what society expects a wedding to be? Plus - is there a way to imbue your commitment with dynamic energy - instead of feeling confined, and stagnant? It today’s episode, our guests are Lila Sophia and David Tresemer, the authors of Conscious Wedding Handbook, and producers of the DVD Couples Illumination: Creating a Conscious Partnership. Along with answering these questions, we chat about how to develop deep, sacred alignment with our partners - and how to create space for the “Sacred Moment” to occur - in your weddings and rituals, as well as life in general!

 We need to be engaged: It is not quite enough to just want to be happy and ‘do life’. In order to be fulfilled in our lives and in our relationships it is critical to engage in discovering and committing to that which gives a sense of a deeper and more expansive meaning. Begin, as a couple, to ask questions such as: What are our values? What new project do we we want to undertake? What kind of social spiritual activism can we engage in? How can we deepen in ourselves and create meaning as a couple? In order to sustain vibrancy as a couple it is important to be proactive and engaged. Use the support of your sacred union to do this!

 Promote curiosity: We never want to lose sight of the magic of ourselves and our partners. One way to build curiosity is through something called repeated questioning. Repeated questions are based on a foundational belief that there is always a deeper layer to access. When you keep repeating the question you will get different responses. As the automatic answers are heard, and you continue to ask for further layers, you become capable of accessing a more mystical realm. This exercise promotes intense curiosity and deep listening.

 Repeated Questioning: Start off simply! In an attempt to practice this exercise, begin with something as innocuous as “what is your favorite dessert?”  The questioner/coach ALWAYS says “thank you”, and then repeats the question- “what is your favorite dessert?” Go for about 3 minutes, and then switch. You will begin to discover things that are below the obvious and are true discoveries. Let it flow! After the exercise, be sure to take a moment to integrate through writing. What did we learn? What surprised us?

 “What is relationship for?”: Ask this question, and then repeat. Ask again. And again. Explore. Listen. Allow innate wisdom to come through. This is especially great to do with your partner so you can discover and delight in new awarenesses together.

 Cultivate equanimity:  This exercise is not about fixing, judging, or changing your partner. It is about deeply listening in and holding space for something new to emerge. This is a nurturing exercise, rather than a manipulating or manifesting one. Stay present, stay curious, and stay open. If you find yourself taking answers personally, or becoming emotionally charged, try to come back to the basics of the exercise. If you cannot connect back with your open self, pause and recalibrate- finding regulation either with the support of your partner or by taking a break by yourself.

 1, 2, Oneness. Through a dynamic partnership with another human being love can find a home in a way that leads to very astonishing experiences. This connection can be called ‘one-ness’- that sense of being in touch with creation itself. While this togetherness is incredibly powerful and juicy, it is critical that we continue to cultivate our own one-ness. We must be able to be sovereign individuals who would be happy to live on our own, and from this sense of inner stability choose to join with another to become a 2. If this is not the case we may find that we are choosing our partner because we are looking for a cure (and we do NOT marry our doctors). We do not thrive in love when our brokenness chooses our relationships. Choose from wholeness, whatever that might mean to you in any given moment.

 Tender territory. Every couple must learn to recognize that each individual needs to be accountable to their own sense of wholeness and sovereignty. From this knowing they are far better equipped for connection versus conflict. From wholeness each person can use their tools to best help navigate difficult territory with the intention of collaborative repair instead of a place of needing to be right or prove themselves. Learn to take care of your own triggers. Learn to take responsibility for yourself when you are in reactivity. After a disruption remember to join forces again to reflect together on how to do it better next time. And of course, be sure this is a loving conversation in which you both show up with curiosity, rather than with blame and shame.

 Cultivating a sense of wholeness: Is total wholeness a prerequisite for being in a relationship? This is an important question, however there is not one right answer. Plus, to think that we can only come into relationship when we are completely whole would likely eliminate a lot of weddings!  It will always be true that we always have more of our individual work to do. And it is always true that we are always in relationship. There are cycles in personal growth that one constantly goes through, and it is not a linear path to wholeness.  What is necessary is that we are able to have enough self awareness to know how to check in with ourselves and ask what we might need in any given moment. Do I need to go into a 10 day solo retreat? Do I need to go away with my partner for a vacation?  Do I simply need to walk out of the room right now?

 Relationships are for mutual support! Magical things can happen through relationship  with another human being!  Part of this magic is the gift you receive from your significant other’s support for you to do your own work. Through supportive partnership you can stand shoulder to shoulder and assist each other in growing into your individuality in more authentic and expansive ways. The learning may be filled with light and love, or perhaps hurt and frustration. All relationships (INCLUDING those that end) offer opportunities for growth and learning. Cultivate gratitude for the supportive aspects of your partnership as this can become a resource yard to visit in challenging times.

 Twin flames. Whether you are single, dating, or prepping for marriage it is worth checking out your inherited views on how to know if someone is right for you. Do you find yourself believing in the concept of twin flames? Soul mates? Prince charming? Happily ever after? And how do these concepts affect you? Are there certain idealizations or expectations that you may need to let go of or dissolve in order to be open to that which is in front of you? Or perhaps you just need to edit/reinvent an ideal to help reinforce your faith and knowing?

 Celebrate and care-take the jitters: Almost everyone stepping into big commitment has and will experience ‘the jitters’. This phenomenon is NOT necessarily a sign that something is wrong. These jitters are simply anxiety, and anxiety is just energy that is trying to communicate something to you. Don’t suppress it- instead, work with it. Breathe into it, take it to the gym... try to help it find its shape and form because it is here to assist you in growing. Having this (often pre-wedding) anxiety can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, however it is here because you are working with the unknown. By respecting this, you get to celebrate the jitters as it means that things are happening!

 Forever: Have you been married before and wondering how to trust your sense of ‘foreverness’ as you prepare to marry again? Does the word ‘forever’ bring you comfort, or discomfort? It can be helpful to explore your sense and assumptions of the word before entering into marriage. Can you connect with foreverness as being more about a space and experience beyond time? A mythical conceptual form that helps us reach towards bliss and creative power and invokes something greater? As mortals we cannot promise foreverness, so how can we redefine this term in a way that brings bigness into the wedding, without having it become a binding or limiting paradigm?

 Reframe failure:  Not all relationships will be lifelong. Not all relationships should continue. Exploring what this might mean in your own partnership before the wedding is a mature and loving undertaking. Dealing with the possibility of future splitting up front is as real as it gets.  If we enter consciously into relationships, then there is the possibility to end consciously as well. What conversations or steps do you need to take together to not make divorce a taboo? While this can be daunting territory to bring into a pre-wedding process, couples who do discuss future possibilities report feeling much more secure, trusting, and able to navigate the challenges that do arise. NOTE: It can be very helpful to seek out the support and services of a third party, such as a mediator skilled with creating prenuptial agreements, to help you answer questions without going into a fear-based place.

 Conflict WILL occur: As soon as the possibility of divorce/separation is safely introduced into a partnership, couples are much more able to navigate conflict. Conflict WILL occur (actually we should all hope it does so that we can keep learning and growing). Unfortunately many people are terrified of conflict because they believe it might result in separation, and thus they take many harmful steps to avoid, suppress, or appease important areas of tension. What if, instead, you can recognize that you need to be able to harness the energy of conflict to help break through to the other side? Can you craft a ship for your relationship that is as watertight as possible to weather the inevitable storms? Build resiliency through having a well crafted contract, good tools, and deep love. And be sure to create a constellation of shared values and visions to help you navigate the stormy times.

 In whose name? In whose name is a question that helps identify this constellation. What is highest vibration that you associate with your relationship? The core intention? The answer may be religious, or it may be spiritual. Is it compassion? Love? Service to humanity? Awakened awareness? Truth? Find that which inspires both of you to connect with something greater. This greatness will then be there to sustain you through the challenges.

 The sacred moment:  Sacredness cannot be manufactured. Sacredness cannot be ordered, planned, or guaranteed. And yet, sacredness belongs in your wedding, just as much as it belongs in your marriage. Weddings are one of the last remaining ceremonies in modern Western cultures, and are largely defined at this point by consumerism. Look closely at ways you may be being influenced by the wedding industry’s expectations, and look closer in at your own desires for the ceremony. The wedding ceremony is truly an opportunity for a transformational experience. While we cannot force sacred moments to occur, we can set intentions and create containers and temples to allow for what is real to emerge. Work with whomever is marrying you to find ways throughout the ceremony to leave space for spontaneity. By bringing in intention and invoking that magic can happen is the key to it actually happening. It is not in the words as much as it is in the space between the words. It is less about having the most perfectly crafted wedding plan, as it is about laughing during the mistakes. Be sure to choose a celebrant who can hold the ceremony in a way that lets you let go! This will allow you, and all of your guests, to relax into the felt sense that something significant IS happening. Remember, you can’t force it- you can simply invite love in, and if you make the needed space, it will show up- and often in the oddest and funniest and most unexpectedly delicious way!

 Sweet silence: Safe silence is one of the greatest gifts we can share with someone we love. Invoke and celebrate this by allowing moments of silence in your wedding ceremony. Silence can be the pregnant moment gives just enough time for sacredness to sneak in.

 

Resources:

 Find a specialized gift for you on their website here:  http://www.illuminatedrelationships.com/neil

 Read David and Lila Sophia Tresemers’ book: Conscious Wedding Handbook

 Check out their courses on their Illuminated Relationships website

 Find out more about their work here  on their website

 Check out their DVD: Couple’s Illumination: Creating a Conscious Partnership

 www.neilsattin.com/wedding Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with David and Lila Sophia Tresemer

 Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

 Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

 

May 31, 2017

When someone gives you a gift, what do you do? Do you stick it in the closet and wait for a rainy day? Or do you open it, and appreciate it, right then and there? Whether things are going well for you right now, or you're stuck in something less-than-awesome, this week's episode offers you a simple practice that can help amplify the good things - and find the grain of hope in any situation, no matter how dismal. 

After all, it's often not the big things that matter - it's the simple things, the simple gifts, that keep us fueled in connection - connection to the things that matter most in life.

Also make sure that you check out last week's episode with Erica Ariel Fox, on how to Create New Possibility from the Inside Out - based on her New York Times bestselling book, Winning from Within. Next week, we'll be chatting about the power of conscious commitment ceremonies, with David and Lila Sophia Tresemer, authors of The Conscious Wedding Handbook.

So enjoy this week's "simple gift" and see you next week!

May 23, 2017

How do you get better at being you? How do you get past the stuck points - that gap between what you know you could/should do - and what you actually do? We have a vast amount of inner resource available to us to help get unstuck and learn new ways of showing up - and today we’re going to bring that resource online. Our guest is Erica Ariel Fox, author of the New York Times Bestseller Winning from Within. Erica is part of the Harvard Negotiation Project, and her book follows up where Difficult Conversations leaves off - addressing that question of “How come this still isn’t working even though I know what I’m supposed to do?” Often, it comes down to the inner work that needs to be done - so that the outer strategies can actually be effective for you.

(if you’re curious - you can listen to our interview with Sheila Heen, one of the authors of Difficult Conversations, here in Episode 59)

So - where do you start when you’re trying to figure out why what ought to be working...isn’t? How do you figure out what parts of you need attention, growth, and development? Let’s dive in!!

Identify the performance gap: All of us have experienced times in which our behavior and actions were incongruent with what we wished we were doing or knew that we were capable of. Instead of being the reflective listener in a conversation you find yourself yelling… Instead of taking that walk you find yourself sitting eating the last of the cookies… Everyone of us has moments in which we know what to do, but do not do it. Can you notice these moments? Can you have a lookout part that observes the gap between intention and action? And can you work to separate this awareness from a judging part?

Talk to yourself! The process of going inside and checking in is critical in building self-awareness so that we can make new choices in how we relate to ourselves and the world. Slow down and begin listening in on your internal thought life. Are you constantly criticizing yourself? Judging others? Is your mind filled with gratitudes or grumblings?

Mindfulness moments: Make these internal life pulse checks frequent rituals. Perhaps you choose to check in every hour on the hour to see what you are thinking, feeling, doing, needing, and wanting. Taking intentional pauses to check in with your physiology and inner life leads to an increased sense of curiosity - the key catalyst for change. By listening with curiosity to the story you have of yourself at any given moment you begin to open to the possibility of growth and aliveness.

Centering on the continuum: As you turn inward can you find the 4 big archetypes? They are the Thinker, the Warrior, the Lover, and the Dreamer. Each one of us holds these four ways of navigating life and the world around us, however they may be elevated or deflated at any given moment. There is a middle ground with all of these- and we are constantly working with these parts to integrate them into a balanced whole. When centered these parts of ourselves are helpful, and can begin to give us counsel. Tune in regularly to see which parts are silenced, and which parts are on overdrive. By checking in on the status of these archetypes inside ourselves we can gather a lot of information regarding what we need more or less of.

The Thinker: A centered thinker collects information, synthesizes, finds logical answers, and remains open to changing their thinking. An elevated thinker might think they know the answer. They might stay convinced they are right and remain closed off to other perspectives. A deflated thinker is someone who doesn’t think their ideas matter at all. They are constantly questioning themselves, filled with doubt, and are rarely able to stand up for their ideas.

The Warrior: The warrior is the assertive part of ourselves. If inflated it becomes aggressive, if deflated it makes us avoid conflict and confrontation.

The Lover: The lover is the part of us that has emotional intelligence and is naturally inclined towards relationships. If this part is inflated we may become emotionally flooded and too dependent on relationships. If the lover in us is deflated we may devalue our emotions, and become distrustful of the emotional urges we have.

The Dreamer: The dreamer is the part of us that is connected with our imagination and with envisioning the future. It helps us get excited about the future, about possibilities, and helps steer us to what is next. If the dreamer is inflated we may become ungrounded and unrealistic. An inflated dreamer gets too far ahead too fast. A deflated dreamer feels lost with no sense of purpose or direction.

The Lookout: As we’ve already mentioned, this is the part of you that can be aware of patterns that are going on, who can assess which of your Big 4 is in the limelight (and which ones are lurking in the shadows). Your lookout helps you assess any situation and determine which of your Big 4 might need to step up more fully (and which might want to step back a bit) - as well as to notice the larger dynamics at work.

The Captain: In addition to the Big 4- we each have a captain. We want the captain at the helm, and the big 4 as passengers. The captain represents our capacity for high level functioning and integration. The captain helps us self-regulate and be conscious in our choices.

Take advice from the advisory council: If you are feeling uncertain about how to best navigate a process or a decision, try sitting down with a piece of paper and asking each of your big 4 if they have any advice for you. What is their perspective? What is their best advice to the captain? Then write from the captain’s perspective. - take in advice from advisory council. So much insight can come from honoring the ‘advisory council’ with your attention and attunement.  

Engage with your inner life. Running away or ignoring your inner life is dangerous and is very unlikely to help you in making good choices in relationships, work life, or community. Can you instead begin to engage in a genuinely open dialogue with yourself and all the different parts of yourself?

Make it concrete: In an effort to remain engaged with your inner life it can be helpful to have external reminders. Get creative! Find several small symbolic items to help represent the Big 4 and place them around your space. Imagine small altars that remind you to pause and check in. Finding what might represent each part is in itself a great way to get to know these parts of you more deeply.

Move around: Another important way to connect with the quality of each part is to move your body in ways that help you access this part. Take on the body posture of each part. By embodying each one individually with intention and attention you can begin to tap into the mood, values, perspective, and energy of the archetype. From here you can begin to gather their wisdom somatically and then integrate it emotionally and intellectually.

The Voyager- Another important archetype to recognize and cultivate in ourselves is that of the voyager. The voyager is a part of us that we can activate in order to help us on the path of exploration. It embodies a growth-oriented mindset and inspires us to remain curious, and to continually follow our impulse to learn.

Invite the Dreamer to help inspire hope: When our relationships get in a rut it is often because we have become stuck in a limiting set of dynamics and patterns. We reenact the same conflicts and conversations over and over again- sometimes without awareness. The Dreamer helps break these cycles by inspiring us to ask what is possible. When one partner begins to engage with the relationship from a Dreamer perspective, the entire dynamic can shift. Many of us are longing, perhaps subconsciously, for this part of our partner to show up. When it does, we can experience incredible relief and revived hope as it shows us that our partner is in a place of curiosity, openness, and engagement with the future. By taking some time to check-in with the Dreamer, you are investing energy in helping imbue your relationship with that critical sense of possibility that creates safety and spark!

 

Resources:

Check out Erica Ariel Fox’s website here

Take a FREE survey of your Big 4

Read Erica Ariel Fox’s NY Times Best-Selling book Winning from Within

www.neilsattin.com/within Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Erica Ariel Fox

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

May 16, 2017

How do you get better at being in relationships?  How do you create different experiences than you have had in the past (especially after the honeymoon stage has run its course)? How do you continue to deepen the intimacy and joy in your relationship when your attention is being drawn in so many other directions? In this episode, I introduce you to something I call "deeper relating", and how developing these skills allow you to tap into each other’s creativity and resourcefulness. It’s a key skill in taking your relationship to a completely new place, where you and your partner get to continually discover each other.

May 6, 2017

There’s a particularly sticky place that comes up in most relationships. It’s the place where your deep desires meet your partner’s fear and resistance - and vice versa. How do you unravel this dynamic, to experience the magic that lies on the other side? That’s what we’re going to cover in today’s episode with Hedy Schleifer. Hedy, the co-creator of Encounter-centered Couples Therapy, is going to describe what she calls “Unraveling the Survival Knot”. In this process, you get to uncover the gift that lies deep within the core of your relationship. The Survival Knot could seem like an impasse at first, but then it becomes a source of profound connection, growth, understanding, and healing for your relationship.

If you are curious to hear our first episode with Hedy Schleifer, you can listen to it here: Ep 69 - How to Be Completely Alive in Your Relationship. It’s not a prerequisite, but in many ways it sets the stage for today’s episode, so make sure you do check it out.

Unraveling the Survival knot: Every relationship has a survival knot, and it most likely needs unravelling. A survival knot is that place in relationship in which one partner’s deepest and most profound longing meets the other’s unconscious place of resistance and defensiveness. And vice versa. This is an (almost always) unconscious impasse. It is at this impasse where we are the most defensive (sometimes offensive!) without actually knowing how or why we are becoming protective. Staying stuck in the survival knot means that we are learning to adapt and cope, instead of acknowledging and living! Coping occurs when we are in a fearful and isolated mode, while living and thriving occurs in connection.

Tough love: The optimistic truth is that once we have uncovered the survival knot, we can begin to unravel it. Unravelling only occurs in an environment of safety. Safety, however, does not mean easy or comfortable. In fact, it is required to be able to enter into and share our toughest neighborhoods (those places in our life and psyche we are the most ashamed/uncomfortable/afraid) with our partners. It takes courage to welcome discomfort, however it is possible to create a situation in which you are each being so present for the struggle that you can experience delight in the vulnerability.

Plasticity provides possibility. The concept and science of neuroplasticity (the ability for the brain to change due to new neural networking) reminds us that we CAN transform ourselves and our experiences. In couple’s counseling, or intensive exploration and processing, it is possible to juxtapose past trauma and/or old negative thought patterns with a present experience of compassion and safety that allows for the brain to reintegrate the past in new and healthy ways. When our past wounds are exposed in the presence of a loving, nurturing, and validating other we are able to allow the brain to update the meaning making of events and core beliefs in ways that promote and restore freedom, growth, and confidence.

The map: Imagine your inner world as a map consisting of different neighborhoods. There are the precious neighborhoods where you may feel your essence, or feel passionate and alive. There are mysterious neighborhoods which have yet to be discovered or explored. And there are the tough neighborhoods which we are too scared to go to. Our map is simultaneously static and constantly expanding. As you observe your reactions, your patterns, what excites you, etc. you can begin to fill in this map with increased detail. Have fun with this, and don’t forget to name your neighborhoods!

What is the name of your toughest neighborhood when it comes to your relationship? Take time to consider the places in your relationship in which you experience and encounter the most fear, anger, disappointment, resentment. Give this whole experience (cocktail of emotion) a one or two word name. For example, is it Never enough. Left out. Not appreciated. Despair. Or, Betrayal? This name is important as it can symbolize and contain a whole layered experience which allows it to become something tangible enough to enter and explore. For too many of us, and for too long, this neighborhood goes unnamed, and therefore mostly ignored. This leads to blight on both a personal and partnership level.

Full presence: As you begin to name your neighborhoods, and prepare to invite each other in as hosts and visitors, it is critical to build your capacity to stay present with one another. There is a visceral and embodied experience that can be felt when you are in full presence, versus just ‘being there’. In full presence you will find delight! Allow yourself to be so open to your partner that even when they are sharing difficult and painful feelings, you can be filled with awe, versus guard and defense.

Generative listening: There are 4 different types of listening. There is factual listening, habitual listening, empathic listening, and generative listening. The latter is a form of listening that is on a very different dimension than the others- it is a listening that requires and involves one whole person listening to another whole person. It is listening with everything we’ve got: our heart, mind, and body. It requires a full openness and the intention of attuning to everything, at once. Generative listening is an internal, integrative, and intuitive experience of listening for the spiritual and emotional meaning being communicated on a very deep level.  

Listen to the 93%: Research shows that we say most of what we need to communicate without words. In fact, only 7% of communication relies on words! The other 93% is everything else- landscape of the face, tone of the voice, color of the cheeks, body language… As a listener begin to hone your ability to attune to how your partner is speaking before focusing on the words. Only with generative listening will your partner reveal themselves. The more present you truly are, the more authentic and open your partner will become both to themselves and to you.

Speak the essence: As a host, it is your responsibility to tell the truth. By speaking with raw honesty you will come to the core of what you are inviting the other to visit. The truth is not complex or very layered - in fact, as a host you should strive to say your truth in 5 words or less. Speak the essence. Words, especially when there are many of them, actually cover the core truth of what we need to communicate, versus help articulate it. This level of truth speaking requires authenticity, vulnerability and transparency.  

The art of visiting: It is inevitable that you will, sooner or later, become triggered while visiting your partner’s toughest neighborhood. Hone your awareness of the sensation of being pulled out of connection (returning to old patterns of anger, sadness, overwhelm, shutdown, etc) so that you can catch yourself and return to presence. Choosing to return is a powerful act of commitment and love - in fact, the coming back is as healing for our partner to experience as the staying there is.

Celebrate moments of “I don’t know”. While the visitor’s main responsibility is full presence, the host’s main responsibility is honesty. Work towards becoming so truthful and transparent that you get to layers and places in your neighborhoods that you have yet to know. If you speak with full authenticity you WILL get to the point where you actually do not now what to say- and this is the best place to be! It is the places we don’t yet know that become entrances into completely new understandings and awarenesses.

Implicit memories: One very important task in order to get to new places in our neighborhoods is to work with implicit memory. Our past is a silent voter in our apparent present. Implicit memories stored in our conscience are always weighing in on our experience of the now, and thus constantly influencing how we relate to others. We need to acknowledge this, because if not, they will continue to vote without our awareness! Making implicit memories become explicit means that they are no longer ruling our relationship without our knowing. This process is best facilitated with the support of a therapist or spiritual guide/practice.

Main Square: Somewhere at the center of our toughest neighborhood, where “I don’t know” is discovered, there is something called the Main Square. This is that most core statement that one voiced has an overall visceral sensation of “this is my truth”. It is a life giving statement that has been needed to be spoken since you were a child - you will feel its potency right away. It is from this core truth that you can begin to rebuild your neighborhood in a more authentic and generative way.

Reflect, reflect, reflect: Whether with the support of a therapist, a guide, a spiritual practice, or solo journaling continue to ask the big beautiful questions that help you find your core reason for living and for love. Relationships are difficult regardless, but made excruciatingly difficult when we have lost a sense of our core and highest purpose of being in partnership. What is it you are most desiring in your relationship? Why are you in partnership in the first place? What is it you want from your life and your partnership? Strive to verbalize the answers to these questions - knowing that they will evolve and change over time. Furthermore, as you move through challenges and struggles and growth in your relationship, take time to ask the following 4 questions: What have I learned? What do I know now more but in a deeper way? What has surprised me? What has intrigued me?

Live the adventure: Your relationship is not a problem to be solved, it is an adventure to be lived. What becomes possible when you put your energy into the service of love and connection versus into the effort for survival? Equip yourself for love as an adventure with the resources, the know-how, and the communication skills needed. By making a paradigm shift to this being a hero’s journey, we can open ourselves up to experiencing challenges as opportunities. We find more delight than despair, and more moments for creative problem solving.

Get support and stay committed: It takes time and holding to dance a new dance. Entering into full exploration with your partner require committing to a continual learning process. The more you discover, however, the more opportunities you will have to recreate your neighborhoods in ways that are liberating and re-energizing. Be willing to get support for this remapping process, especially for when you first enter into the toughest neighborhoods together. Once you have gotten to the Main Square, and dealt with implicit memories, you will begin to feel as though you can truly start redesigning your relationship. Some dynamic and behavior shifts will be automatic, and others will require daily intention. Ask each other- what do we need to do, in general and today, to go down the Avenue of Big Love?

Resources:

Check out Hedy Schleifer’s website for resources, upcoming workshops, and more!

Want more help? Reach out to Hedy for a private 2 day couple’s intensive session

Enroll in Encounter Couple’s Therapy training program.

www.neilsattin.com/encounter2 Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Hedy Schleifer

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

May 2, 2017

What’s the recipe for success in a long distance relationship? How do you stay connected when you’re apart? And how do you handle the times when you’re together so that they’re less intense? In today’s episode, I tackle the topic of how to bring balance to a long distance relationship. My goal is for you to get some new insights into where your relationship might be doing well - and where it could use some help.

What was interesting to me in recording this episode was realizing that so many of these hints are helpful for ANY relationship - even when we’re not separated by miles. In fact, it’s possible that you live your life as if you ARE in a long distance relationship, even if you see your partner every day. In this episode I also answer a listener’s question about what to do when it seems like your partner needs “too much” space.

So whether your relationship is taking place over the miles (or kilometers), or you’re in the same town, or the same bedroom - today’s episode is for you, to help you build connection despite the space, and manage the highs and lows of your togetherness.

If the Relationship Alive podcast is helpful for you and you’d like to ensure that it continues, please consider supporting us through a monthly or one-time donation. You can visit http://www.neilsattin.com/support or text the word “SUPPORT” to 33444 to find out more. Thank you!

Apr 22, 2017

Why do we love? Is it part of human evolution? What in our biology makes us strive for love and intimacy? And how do we make it last? This week we welcome Dr. Helen Fisher, TED talk all-start and author of Anatomy of Love - A Natural History of Mating, Marriage and Why We Stray. In this episode we dive head first into how long-term partnerships fit into what makes us human - along with some thoughts about breaking up, serial monogamy, and what makes love last. Helen Fisher is the Chief Scientific Advisor to Match.com as well as a Senior Research Fellow at the Kinsey Institute. You’ll appreciate how her knowledge of the science of love can give us the roadmap to long-lasting happiness in relationship.

We are built to fall in love. Is the quest for long-term thriving monogamy futile? History, biology, and evolution show us that we are, in fact, built to create pair bonds. We are built to fall in love. Our brains are wired to feel intense feelings of romantic love and attachment. While there is biology to support attachment structures, there is also biology to support the drive to wander, and to cheat. To reconcile these concepts it is important to know that pair bonding is different than monogamy. Every individual, couple, and culture needs to figure out how to navigate what attachment in the context of romantic love means.

Serial monogamy? In hunting and gathering societies serial monogamy was not necessarily the golden standard or expectation for coupling. However, women and men tended to have 2-3 spouses during the course of their lives. We have most likely evolved to have a series of partnerships throughout our lives. While culture plays a major role in how this is expressed, we see it happening more and more in people in their 20s and 30s.

 Before tying the knot.  Research shows that over 50% of single Americans have had a one night stand or friends with benefits. This is not reckless, in fact, it very well might be helping establish healthier marriages. There is a current trend in the United States in which the pre-commitment stage of relationships is being extended. 67% of people who live with their significant other say they have not married yet because they are worried about divorce. That said, 81% of people who married later say they would marry the same person again if they had a second chance. The longer you are together pre-marriage, the more likely you are to try to stick together, and this results in a sharp decrease in divorce rates. This is true because the time spent together gives you the chance to really know who you are marrying, and give the relationship time to work itself out, or not.

 4 year itch- Data shows that most people will divorce around 3-4 years of marriage. This is likely no coincidence. It takes 3-4 years to raise a child through infancy, and it seems evolutionarily beneficial to have evolved a predisposition for serial pair bonding linked with having one child at a time, and then to seek another partner as an adaptive strategy evolutionarily to have kids with different partners, creating genetic variety.

Rebuilding local community- We may be putting too much pressure and improbably expectations on our partnerships due to the fact that we have lost local community. It used to be that marriages were surrounded by family and community and could depend on help from others to help raise children. The loss of local community is a very serious issue facing contemporary marriages, and it is very important that we focus on rebuilding these social networks. Find, create, nurture, and invest in your friendship circles as an extension of and protection for, your primary relationship.

Happiness in the brain: Research results from the study of people in long term self-reported happy marriages shows an increase in activity in 3 brain regions. These three areas serve to facilitate the function of 1) empathy, 2) controlling our emotions, and 3) increasing our ability to overlook what we do not like about our partner and focus on what we do like (aka positive illusion). In order to keep all three of these basic brain systems alive it is important to do the following “magic combo”.

The Magic Combo:

Keep the romance alive with NOVELTY: Novelty drives up dopamine in thebrain and can foster intense feelings of romantic love.

Keep the feelings of deep attachment by STAYING IN TOUCH: Hold hands, sit together on the couch, walk arm in arm, sleep in each other’s arms… Anytime that you are in pleasant touch with someone you are driving up oxytocin levels which fosters the feeling of deep attachment.

Keep the sex drive alive by… having SEX: Sex is good for the body, the mind, and for the relationship. Pleasant and sensual stimulation and orgasm drives up dopamine and oxytocin levels in the brain therefore impacting both the sense of romantic love connection and deep attachment so critical for maintaining long-term partnerships.

Positive illusions: Our brains are very well built for deception. Use this to your advantage! Train your brain by using mindfulness and gratitude practices in order to have more control over what you focus on, and what you overlook. You can really build more capacity for attraction and love for your partner by increasing your ability and capability to shift how you see them. Instead of ruminating on the way your partner doesn’t do their morning dishes, choose to appreciate the cup of coffee they made you, etc…

Understand each other on a biological level. We are naturally drawn to some people rather than others, and much of this attraction is dependent on hormones and chemicals. The more you get to know different aspects of personality, and study your partner, the more you can give and get what each of you needs. Are they high testosterone? High estrogen? Low serotonin? High serotonin? Knowing each other on a biological level helps to turn differences into things to be celebrated, versus sources of consternation and frustration.

NOTE: Check out Helen Fisher’s quiz to figure this out below in the resource section.

Is technology changing the way we love? Dr. Helen Fisher posits that while technology is drastically changing the way we court, it cannot and is not changing the basic brain mechanics of how humans form attachments. She sees technology as helping, or hindering, relationship forming, and this is especially true for older citizens.

Deep relating: Continue to find ways together, and apart to nourish intimacy. This is likely going to require a constant balancing act of individual and partnership needs. Make time for deep relating, for it is in this time that you get to know and understand your partner in the ways they want to be understood, and then you can truly give them what they need. At the same time it is key that you continue to support each other’s individual and independent growth so as not to get over dependent or create claustrophobia within the coupledom. In a good relationship everyone feels like they’ve got a good deal and that it is balanced. Strive to create this sense of fulfilment for each other!

Resources:

Read Helen Fisher’s book Anatomy of Love and check out her other books too!

Take Helen Fisher’s quizzes here

Check out Helen Fisher’s speeches and articles on her website

Watch Dr. Helen Fisher’s TED talk The Brain In Love

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

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Apr 19, 2017

How do you know if someone is right for you? Whether you're dating and trying to figure it out, or finding yourself second-guessing your choice of partner - this episode is for you! My goal is for you to have some new ways of answering this question for yourself, to get you to a deeper level of understanding.

In some respects, the answer to this question is going to be unique to every situation. What follows in this episode are some general principles that will help you get more clarity and figure out your next steps when you're asking yourself "How do I know if this person is right for me?" I also talk about some practical ways to bring up the conversation with your partner (if you're in a relationship) in a way that will lead to the best possible outcome.

Apr 9, 2017

What role does your gender play in how you react to stress? And how does it determine the best ways to recover from stress? And what does it mean in terms of your relationship? The more that you understand your biology, the better you’ll be able to help yourself (and your partner) in the stressful times, and in the not-so-stressful times. In this week’s episode, we’re talking with John Gray, author of the international bestseller Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. His latest book, Beyond Mars and Venus, is an update to his work, and offers some insights into how to apply it to your life and relationship. He likes to say that he not only has great advice - he follows it - and John has been married for over 30 years. Our conversation covers a LOT of territory - so enjoy the ride!

Stress response: Stress is universal and ubiquitous. It permeates our lives, our bodies, and our relationships. Luckily, while it is true that we have little control over the presence of stress in our environments, research shows that we can have control over our internal stress responses.

Cortisol: Internal stress can be measured by the presence of cortisol in our bodies. As cortisol increases it creates a cascade of internal changes, including inhibiting our ability to feel happiness, connection, and motivation. This can be explained partially because as cortisol levels rise, blood stops flowing to the prefrontal cortex so critical in being able to attune to another and hear their point of view. Furthermore, cortisol sends 8 times more blood flow to the hippocampus- activating our tendency to focus on what is not working. Increasing cortisol levels thus impacts our ability to see the good, be grateful, or even see things as they are. We begin to look for faults, place blame, and criticize our way out of connection. It is at this moment that we must engage in activities that bring back hormonal balance, including an increase in oxytocin, so that we can re-engage with our partners from a more loving place.

Get curious about how your biology becomes your behavior, and vice versa:  In order to gain control of shifting our internal reactions and responses it is key that we learn about how hormones affect our biology and thus, our behavior. We all have an authentic unique self. And that unique self is a blend of our masculine and feminine qualities. While we each have our idiosyncratic ways of expressing these qualities, it can be helpful to look at the science and biology of general hormonal patterns along the gender continuum.

Tending to our biological needs, alone and together: When we are under stress our flight or fight system is kicked in, and often our fear response inhibits our ability to assess what we really need in any given moment. We all have certain biological needs that we are not aware of. Take time (when you are in a calm and regulated state) to learn more about how stress impacts your biology so that you can better meet your (and your partner’s) needs. With increased awareness and understanding you will be more equipped to not only remember what it is you really need to do to find equilibrium again, but you will be able to advocate for this in your relationships. Teach each other what you learn so that you can get, and give, the specific kinds of love that will stimulate the hormonal shifts so critical in regaining balance and well-being.  

Be specific in how you support each other! While gender identity is fluid, research shows that men and women need different hormones in order to feel open and ready to give and receive love. For men there must be adequate levels of testosterone, and for women they need adequate levels of estrogen and progesterone. Due to cultural and societal changes, modern society does not provide enough opportunities for appropriate hormonal balance. Without overgeneralizing too much, men are being asked more and more to connect with their feminine sides, almost to their detriment, and women are, for the most part engaging in testosterone inducing work environments. While so many of the recent cultural changes are beneficial to creating a more equal society, it is causing hormonal imbalances that are impacting our relationships without our awareness.

Role Reversal: Now that people are more and more free to explore both ends of the gender spectrum (and all the space in between), there is a tendency to get stuck too far from one’s biological homebase. In fact, going to the extreme of the other gender’s hormonal expression can become addictive. This is true because when a woman expresses her masculinity she is often expressing behaviors that have long been repressed, and doing so can release a huge amount of energy. And vice versa for men.

Danger! Danger!  Estrogen levels are rising in men from 1) overworking, 2) the freedom to express their feminine side more and more and 3) toxicity in the environment. When men’s estrogen levels rise, inhibiting their testosterone levels, they (ironically it would seem) become less able to be kind, loving and compassionate. The more he expresses his feeling and irritation/complains the more estrogen he produces, and this actually makes him feel worse. In an effort to regain the polarity needed to maintain attraction, his partner (in both homosexual and heterosexual couples) will go further to their male side. The longer these patterns go unnoticed the more ingrained the behaviors and biology become. This can be disastrous for relationships as it sabotages natural instincts and dismisses basic needs. Women are experiencing higher and higher levels of testosterone, and lower than needed levels of estrogen. Toxins from pesticides and ingested hormones act as estrogen disruptors and block the natural production of feminine hormones, leaving women 1) with a false sense of connection, 2) with less and less desire to display their feminine side, 3) overwhelmed and unable to stop and do something for themselves, and 4) less interested in relationships and intimacy.

Find balance: In general, what women need in order to counteract the testosterone inducing cultural forces acting upon them is to engage in estrogen and progesterone producing activities. Most importantly they need to create a personal life that supports their feminine side- time put aside for engaging in pleasurable and social activities. The female hormones of estrogen and progesterone are produced whenever people are doing something enjoyable, not rushed, and when they are feeling included and supported by others. Women, in general, need and want to feel connected, heard, and held. In fact, research shows that estrogen levels rise as a result of therapy, and this may explain partially why more women engage in therapy than men do. Men, on the other hand, need their testosterone levels to be 10-30 times higher than a woman’s in order to feel stress free and balanced. To achieve this men require time to detach from relationships, allowing them the time necessary to rebuild testosterone. Behaviors that stimulate testosterone can be defined as ‘cave time’- critical space and time to enjoy doing something non-stressful, but not involved with social bonding.

Women need to engage in behaviors that stimulate estrogen and progesterone. For women who find themselves in stressful work environments it can be difficult to shift away from testosterone’s momentum. To help increase estrogen it is critical to prioritize engaging in pleasurable activities. Women spend a lot of energy in ‘YOU-time’- time in which they are sacrificing their needs and giving a lot. To balance this, try to set aside ‘ME-time’ which may include yoga, baths, creativity, walks- whatever is natural, nurturing, easy, and comfortable. Furthermore, find ‘WE-time’ through bonding activities with friends and loved ones. WE-time produces oxytocin (which helps replenish estrogen levels) when it involves 1) feeling safe and able to depend on another, 2) receiving non-sexual touch, and 3) having the opportunity to share and feel heard.

Give hugs and/or give space. Listen to your partner’s biological needs, without taking it personally. Let your man have his cavetime. Let your lady vent. Remember- when we are stressed out, actions speak louder than words. Do not try to use logic. Do not try to argue, instead try to allow, and accept.

The Venus Talk: The Venus Talk is an exercise that gives women (or people wanting to support their feminine side) exactly what they need, without taxing their partner. It respects women’s need to express and vent their feelings and gives them a chance to feel bonded. The way a venus talk works is this: women have 10 minutes to talk. She can express anything at all, as long as it is not a direct complaint about her partner. During these ten minutes her partner just listens. As listener you don’t have to say anything, do anything other than receive and witness, and especially don’t try to fix anything. When women are given this opportunity and invitation to let it out, they tend to come back to regulation mid-way through sharing, and are able to see from new perspectives. Without having reliable times such as this for sharing, women will try to suppress their emotions, and inevitably these will get displaced and be expressed in complaints, criticisms, and resentments. Creating a sacred time such as this is incredibly supportive and responsive to not only her biological needs, but also becomes protective to the partnership in general. Silently listening to a woman allows men to build their testosterone, and increases a sense of capability and effectiveness needed for confidence and attraction.

“Gender intelligence is magnificent! Once people can grasp it and study it and apply it we can create the lasting love that we all want and that is missing today in the world. This new knowledge of relationship skills in a complex world comes at a time when we actually have the potential to create a new kind of relationship of love, attraction, and romance. It is possible!”  (John Gray)

Do not let your happiness depend on your partner changing. Follow these four steps (repeatedly) in order to help break patterns of dependency and resentment:

First step:  Stop! Stop trying to change your partner! Discover all the ways you consciously or unconsciously attempt to change your partner by being upset with them, by withholding love, by resenting  them, or by making unreasonable demands of them. Bring your curiosity and awareness to the ways you subtly and overtly try to mold or influence your partner to meet your expectations and ideals.

Second step: Be happy! Really learn how to increase and influence your own well-being. When stress goes down we are naturally quite happy- work to find the right chemistry of hormones in your body to come back into regulation. Take responsibility for your body and engage in activities and behaviors that increase needed hormones.

Third step: Give. Give more, not less, to your partner. And be specific with your giving. Learn what kind of support your partner need the most, and help meet those needs.

Fourth step: Ask. Advocate for what you yourself need from your partner and advocate for this. Don’t test your partner’s love and devotion by believing that “if they really knew me they would know exactly what to say/do right now”. Give them the manual, the tips, the clues, the tools, the know-how to give you exactly what you want.

Moon cycles: Be open and ready for change! A woman’s hormones are changing every day of the month, and thus, what she needs is going to be constantly shifting. Spend some time together reviewing the menstrual cycle and learning about what is most needed in each phase. Talk to each other about explicit ways you can respect her changing needs, and what the expectations are. It can be incredibly helpful to have a calendar (or a tracking app) so that you both aren’t left guessing about what is occurring.

Polarity, practice, and play: While learning the science of hormones can be daunting, and feel like a lot of work, it ultimately can provide insight needed for our relationships to blossom, and our passions to ignite. Attraction is so dependent on polarity, and luckily, with new research we now have the knowledge needed to effectively influence how we express our male and female qualities. Empower yourselves to be your own alchemists and be willing to practice and play with trying different behaviors! This will change your body, and your expand your potential for having a sustained, fulfilling, and passionate relationship!

NOTE: Learn about how to counteract modern toxicity: Check out John Gray’s newest book for a comprehensive overview and in-depth discussion about how our bodies are being affected by toxicity in our environment. It is critical to our balance and well-being that we understand the dangers we are being exposed, and take steps to cleanse our bodies and detoxify. Fasting and nutritional supplements can both be supportive in helping to kick out the extra estrogen your body has accumulated. Do your research! Read! Ask the experts!

Resources:

Read John Gray’s newest book: Beyond Mars and Venus: Relationship Skills for Today’s Complex World

Check out John Gray’s website for more resources, advice, and products!

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

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Apr 5, 2017

What is the role of "alone time" when you're in a relationship? How do you take space in a way that helps your relationship grow, and flourish? And what kinds of things should you do with your alone time - if you want it to support your ability to connect as well as your ability to shine brightly in your own right?

While much of the Relationship Alive podcast is focused on the skills of relating and loving - the things that you do together with your partner - today's episode is focused on a particular way of taking time apart. It's the Art of Taking Space - because, as with everything, there are ways of taking space that can not only enhance your life, but also enhance your connection. And there are ways where...not so much! 

Enjoy this week's journey with me on Relationship Alive! 

Mar 28, 2017

If you want to take your relationship to the next level, then you have no choice but to connect at a higher level. And I mean a MUCH higher level. How do you bring your connection to the divine, something greater than you, into your relationship? And how do you and your partner take that energy and use it to co-create something amazing in the world? Something that feeds your passion for each other - as well as for life itself? Today we’re going to tackle those questions, and more, with one of the world’s most respected spiritual teachers, Andrew Harvey. His new book, Evolutionary Love Relationships: Passion, Authenticity, and Activism, is just out - and it is a passionate vision of what’s possible in relationship. In this conversation we focus on how to make the divine not only accessible - but also a way of reinforcing the fabric and vitality of your connection to yourself and your beloved.

Becoming your Being: Becoming aware of ourselves as divine beings opens doors into new realms of possibility in all of our relationships. While this is a lifelong journey, we can continually attend to the following three phases:

1) Tune into your own true identity and the divine consciousness that you embody. Find the ways you come back to Self. What are your rituals? Your sacred spaces? Your mirrors?

2) As you experience a deepening into yourself, begin to expand this outward. Extend this sense of deep respect towards the cats, dogs, people, strangers, objects, etc. in your life.

3) Choose to dedicate yourself to something that needs your voice and your compassion. Engage in a cause and a community larger than yourself from a place of authentic desire. Speak up, fight for, and join with, those people and places that if you did not, your heart would break.

Mystical Adventure: What would it be like to welcome this journey into tuning into YOU and of finding who you really are as a mystical adventure? What becomes possible when you begin to see yourself as a unique drop of light in the great ocean of divine consciousness? Perhaps this question begins to help you connect and celebrate your sacred YOUness and find your way towards a life of action that allows for you to show up in your most authentic and alive form.

Simple holy practices: Journeying into sacredness is as profound as it is simple. Simple practices incorporated into daily life can be incredibly powerful. For example, what happens when you invoke the word of God (in whichever form fits for you) into your mind/heart throughout the day? Try saying God’s name or a mantra of your choosing while walking, while brushing your teeth, sitting in traffic, etc. Is it possible that this becomes a secret door into a deeper sense of presence or a shorthand path that becomes a direct link to your connection with an awareness of all that is greater than? Another practice that can become a portal into closer relationship with the divine is through the simple act of sitting in silence. Try sitting in silence for 10 minutes on either end of your day and see what arises, opens, becomes, expands, and/or releases.

Facing the shadow sides: This journey into authenticity is inevitably humbling, and not without pain. The more, however, that you connect with your transcendent self (your pure radiant and aware self) the more security, peace, and humor you will develop, thus giving you the needed qualities to address and face the shadow sides that emerge through this awakening. This is a reinforcing cycle allowing for deeper and deeper learning, with more and more grace. Trust in the process, especially on days you’d rather hide from the shadows, or in the shadows.

Love changes everything. Similar to the way that coming into contact with our shadow sides allows us to discover lightness, love is filled with paradoxes. Instead of getting stuck in tensions between opposing forces, try to jump right in and dance with the dynamics. What is it like to be between dark and light, peace and tumult, safety and wild, play and seriousness, and breakdowns and breakthroughs?

Breakdowns becoming breakthroughs: One of the most damaging myths in relationships is that healthy couples do not have tension. Momentary experiences of tension, however, offer opportunities for incredible growth and connection. With intention, awareness, and loads of love, breakdowns can become breakthroughs. Celebrate breakdowns as they herald growth! Love takes us to the edge of ourselves, and if our partner can love us, reach out to us, and be there for us, then we can make amazing leaps into vulnerability and from there, into authenticity. In this way our moments of chaos and mess become our moments of Aha! Oh! And Wow!

Rituals of Celebration: Celebrations are key to fostering joy and sustaining passion in relationships. Everything can, and in many ways should be, celebrated. Can you celebrate your mealtimes with space for silence or a blessing? Can you celebrate the chores of the day? Find sacredness by appreciating the ordinary details of life. Be especially intentional about honoring the intentions of all your partner is doing, rather than just celebrating the results. Surprise and delight your partner by finding unpredictable things to celebrate and cherish, and unpredictable ways to do so! In how many ways can you celebrate the fact that this other showed up in your life and that the two of you found each other and continue to choose each other? Rituals of celebration help to fortify the relationship so that when the inevitable struggles occur, there is a deep well of love and appreciation to draw from.

“Celebrate the wonder of being with another human being who is willing despite your faults and your  craziness and your comic complications to say to you, not only do I love you, but I want to go on a journey to the divine with you, to become a being who can radiate the fierce and tender loves of God in justice and compassion for the world.” (Andrew Harvey)

Surrender to authenticity: Loving your partner means loving all of your partner. In order to have a truly sacred relationship you have to be willing and able to give up control and expectation of who you wish your partner would be, could be, or should be. You have to be in a stage of reverence for their authentic beingness, and love with generous tenderness and compassion all that they are. Allow this letting go to be a continual process- a practice to attend to again, and again, and again.

3 practices to connect to the divine in each other:

  1. Gazing: Practice sitting cross legged across from each other and gazing into each other’s eyes with holding hands. Remember that gazing is different than staring, or looking. It requires a softening of the eye muscles, a relaxation of the face, and a sense of attuning to, rather than tracking, your partner.
  2. Imagining the Divine Mother: While sitting face to face, can you begin to imagine the divine mother (or whichever sacred image speaks to you) pouring golden light down your and your partner’s bodies. Imagine this glowing golden light warming and enveloping each cell as it passes from the crown of the head, down the spine, and into the feet- filling every nook and crannie. What is it like to see your partner all aglow while you yourself are being filled with the same light.
  3. Tonglen: Can you take this a step further by sitting across from each other and imagining each other’s shadow selves as a ball of black smoke? Invite this ball into your own heart- welcoming it, and bathing it in the deepest compassionate energy you can muster. Give their pain and sorrow a home, and a place in which it can be held and allowed to dissolve. This is a deep healing practice, almost like offering each other divine surgery.

 

 

**Note: ALL of these practices can be done by yourself in front of a mirror- and is an incredibly powerful practice for anyone- single or not.

Sacred aloneness:  Do not wait for a relationship in order to start practicing divine connection. Use this time of aloneness to 1)  get in touch with the beloved and 2) allow yourself to dream of another level of love that is possible. Make your aloneness holy through rituals and celebrations. Take time to daydream of what kind of love you would want, and then see if you can ask for even more. Use the silence that aloneness offers to get clear on what it is you truly want and then send it out as a prayer.

Do you feel alone in your partnership? Are you feeling like you are alone in the way you are showing up for the questions? Feel like you are the only one who is truly looking at the shadow sides and doing the work? Instead of moving into resentment, try to choose even more compassion. See your partner as already divine and treat them with deep sacred tenderness without asking for anything in return. Stop expecting and requiring that they change. Love them just as they are for in the end, the only changes people will make is when they experience being tremendously and unconditionally loved for who they are. Continue to do the practices, and surrendering to who your partner is in this moment- pour yourself into them with all the reverence you have and watch as the sea change occurs. For it will. And if it doesn’t, then perhaps you will have the clarity you have been searching for to make necessary choices to stay, or leave.

Invite and invoke your sexual connection to become a divine experience. Can you envision a sexuality that is beyond just creating pleasure for each other? What is needed to bring more revelation and reverence into the bedroom? Through grace and deep work with yourself and your partner you can begin to discover new levels of intimacy that open doors to shared enlightenment. Of course, this may be a new way of coming together, and will likely require a lot of unlearning. Be willing to look at all the ways you have assumed roles, chosen stagnancy, or limited yourself through body shaming. As you expand into seeing yourself and your partner as whole divine beings you will discover more limitations, restrictions, and vulnerabilities - welcome these uncoverings as very good news. The more you discover the more you can release yourself from old implicit patterns, freeing you to open to secret doorways into the divine experience of sex, sensuality, and connection.

Invite the divine forth: Sexual experience is one of the most direct initiations into divine bliss energy. Through practices and presence you can begin to invite the divine into the bedroom- opening the door, and waiting expectantly for what may happen next! Be open to an overwhelming sense of bliss- a blessed bliss that WILL leave you, and your relationship, transformed!

Resources:

Read Evolutionary Love Relationships

Check out Andrew Harvey’s website for the institute for Sacred Activism here

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

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Mar 22, 2017

Are you making choices based on fear? Or are you making empowered choices, based on who you truly are? When you come from a place of fear you usually don't get to experience the choice as your own. It feels like there is "no other choice." 

The funny thing is - you could make the exact SAME choice - but from an empowered place of deciding based on what serves the highest good - and have a completely different experience. One in which you feel your aliveness, your potency. Same choice, different result. All based on where the choice comes from.

In this episode, I describe a possible path through the fear, to the other side. And you'll learn a little bit more about me, and my relationship with Chloe, and how I came to be where I am today, in the process. My goal is for you to experience being "OK" - no matter what - so that you can feel the power of your choice, your agency, and enjoy the results, whatever they are.

Also - a little reminder - if you haven't picked up my Relationship Communication guide yet - what are you waiting for? Visit neilsattin.com/relate, or text the word "RELATE" to the number 33444 to receive your free guide to improving communication in your relationship.

See you next week, with Andrew Harvey!

Mar 15, 2017

How do you have better, more passionate, more connected sex with your partner? If you’re looking for information about how to deepen your sensual connection so that things actually improve over time - then you’ve come to the right place! Today’s episode features Sue Johnson, creator of Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT), and author of several best-selling books on how to do relationships well, including Hold Me Tight. Sue’s work masterfully blends attachment theory with how to thrive in partnership - and she’s here today to talk about how knowing your partner more deeply, and building safety, can create deep passion in the bedroom.

(You also may recall Sue Johnson’s first visit to the Relationship Alive podcast in Episode 27 - Breaking Free from Your Patterns of Conflict.)

The theory and science of relationships has not really looked at sexuality. Newer research is finally beginning to look at sex in the context of relationships. Of course sex can be recreational, but the vast majority of people are experiencing sexuality in the context of long term relationship - and thus this context should be included in our studies. It is as if we are only now beginning to see the whole picture and are able to create a map to help us understand how sexuality impacts, and is impacted by our knowledge about love and attachment bonding.

Sex is a conversation by other means. Think of sex as a conversation. If asked who you would have a better conversation with: 1) someone you feel safe and connected or 2) a stranger, most people would say option 1. This is true in sex as well. We have gotten caught up in a false idea that “the known” is less fulfilling, but this simply is not substantiated.

Myth: Familiarity is going to kill desire.  In terms of sexuality we have become caught up in this idea that familiarity is going to kill desire and that feeling safe and connected is a disadvantage - but this is a cliche and there is no supportive research. Johnson explains that in fact, “what we know... is that the people who report have the best and most frequent sex, and find it the most thrilling, are people in long term relationships.” Research is showing more and more that the comfort and connection that happens in secure bonding adds to sense of eroticism.

There is a distinction between a sense of familiarity where people are just tired of each other and not really connecting, versus what happens when you are actually safe and fully alive and present and connected with each other. Understanding this difference is critical to relationships! We know that the most basic element in secure emotional bonding is emotional responsiveness. When a secure bond is present there is emotional openness, accessibility, responsiveness, and engagement. Intimacy develops because people who have secure attachment are able to find and create deeper moments of connection.

ARE- Accessibility + Responsiveness + Engagement. The million dollar question in relationships is “Are you there for me?”. ARE is the answer to this question. Having a connection with your partner in which you are both showing signs of ARE results in a stronger bond, and better sex.

Novelty: What is novelty? Novelty occurs when there is a sense of longing, erotic play, spontaneity, and attunement in a relationship. The ability to play arises when connection is met with a sense of attunement. If you are really engaged with somebody and open to being spontaneous with them, you will find that every time you interact together there is a level of novelty! This is true because ultimate intimacy is unattainable - the closer you get to somebody the more you know that you can never know them and this tease becomes a spark for passion and eroticism!

Nature has found a way to shut-down habituation. Oxytocin, the bonding hormone, floods us with a sense of connection and belonging and shuts down habituation centers of brain. Habituation occurs when people are not engaged with each other, and/or are taking each other for granted. Habituation is what kills eroticism, not familiarity.

People who tend towards avoidantly attached patterns often have an external view of novelty - believing that sex will be boring unless there is a constant introduction of new toys, positions, behaviors, etc. Sex that relies on sensation and performance, however, leads to needing more and more to achieve sexual arousal. This becomes a negative cycle in which the other partner feels used, and disconnected.

Safety and thrill: In order to understand the importance of safety to the sensation of spontaneity and thrill, imagine yourself on a zipline. Likely, you would only be able to fully enjoy yourself if you trusted you were securely attached and that all safety measures were in place. In the same way, if you have a secure bond - safety can be a safe adventure, and play and spontaneity are possible! That said, if you want to turn your partner on, the very best thing you can do is to spend a few minutes talking to your partner, and helping each other feel connected. Remember: safety in your bonding is a prelude to great sex.

Falling in love again and again and again. The more we understand how sex and bonding are related, the more capability we have to reconnect with our partners and reignite a sense of passion. Knowing how to do this means that passion might not have an expiration date!

What to do when things feel dull? The irony is that despite sexuality being ubiquitously displayed in the media and in the public, it is often missing in our intimate conversations. The best thing you can do to move out of habituation and boredom is to openly speak about sex with your partner. Talk about what really turns you on: what you like and what you don’t like. Expand the conversation to include not only what turns you on in the bedroom, but what turns you on in everyday life as well!

The secret is in the connection and flow between us. Look at the big picture: What is happening in the bedroom is more than likely an extension of the rest of your relationship - how much sensual connection do you experience throughout the day? Look at everything in context - how do you dance together? Imagine yourself dancing without music - it just doesn’t have that passionate flow we all enjoy so much. Attunement and connection is the music that fires up our sexual interactions and makes our passionate encounters multi-dimensional.

Jealousy: Jealousy is the result of a deep sense of threat. It occurs when we become worried that our partner is giving their attention and interested in someone else that makes them turn away from us. One of the reasons that affairs are so threatening is that it threatens the bond that is core to who we are in relationship. The search and craving for emotional connection is one of the most powerful instincts in our species, and therefore, any threat to this bond is registered and felt as dangerous and potentially life-threatening. There is truth and science to this in the sense that emotional isolation is a risk factor for every illness and disease that we know of.

Bowlby’s 3 needs in adult relationships: John Bowlby explains that the three core needs in adult relationships are 1) bonding and attachment, 2) sexuality, and 3) caretaking. The attachment is the most basic core level and it defines the other two. It is primary in the sense that while you can live without an orgasm, you cannot live well without emotional connection and affection. We have too narrowly defined sex as performance and sensation - leading us to a disconnected sense of lovemaking that leaves us unfulfilled.

Unfulfilled? Unsatisfied? Stuck? Wondering how to break free from a flat or unhealthy pattern of sexuality that you may have become habituated to? Invite in the findings from new bonding science that correlates emotional connection with fulfilling sex lives. Be willing to look at the whole picture - placing your lovemaking within the context of your relationship.

Remember to re-establish safety with your partner before jumping into the details about your sex life. This may, for some of you, require involving a therapist- and if so, do! For others this may mean becoming clear that the intention of the conversations you are seeking are about connection and understand, versus shaming, blaming, or judging.

Once you have re-established a safe container for this conversation, begin to notice, together, your unique sexual dance. Ask yourselves and each other what patterns are present. What steps are taken to initiate sex? Who does what, and when? Use action verbs! What emotional music is playing (or not playing) in the background of your sensual lives together? With safety you can be free to become curious and vulnerable and to begin to look openly, engage, and share on a deep and intimate level about your sexuality. You can begin to explore what great sex is for each of you. You can share your fantasies! You can play and be spontaneous! You can discover and relearn what excites you! Be open to being surprised by yourself, and each other! A great lasting relationship and a great erotic life together awaits.

Resources:

Read Sue Johnson’s book Love Sense and Hold Me Tight

Check out Sue Johnson’s website for videos, resources, and upcoming events

Sue Johnson’s talk at the Psychotherapy Networker on Attachment and Sex

www.neilsattin.com/sue2 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

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Mar 8, 2017

What is the impact of distraction on your relationship? Or, for that matter, on your life? And - what can you do about it? There's only one way to know - and that's what we're talking about on today's episode of Relationship Alive!

Also, don't forget to check out my free guide on the Top 3 Relationship Communication secrets. To get it you can visit neilsattin.com/relate or text the word "RELATE" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. These simple actions can completely change how you experience your partner (and how they experience you) - bringing you closer whether you're talking about the easy things, or the challenging things.

Meanwhile, I hope you also took a moment to listen to last week's episode with Keith Witt - and stay tuned for next week's episode, featuring a conversation with Sue Johnson about Attachment Theory and creating a vibrant sex life. Now I'll stop distracting you, and let you focus on this week's episode! :-)

Feb 28, 2017

How do unconscious forces affect what you do in your relationship? Is there a way to get in touch with those things lurking in the shadows of your inner self - so that they can become fuel for positive energy in your life? In today’s episode, we have a return visit from Dr. Keith Witt, integral psychologist and author of the new book Shadow Light: Illuminations at the Edge of Darkness, and we will dive deep into how you can harness your shadow as a force for good!

(If you’re curious to also hear Keith Witt’s other episode, you can check out Episode 13 - Resolve Conflict and Create Intimacy through Attunement)

Defining shadow: Shadow is the concept that there is a lot that influences us of which we are not consciously aware. For example, our nervous systems are always reacting to internal and external cues. Our nervous system processes information from the world within and the world without and sends this information, these stories, to our consciousness. As our nervous systems scan and determine safety continually, we navigate our world throughout the day 1-10 seconds at a time. 40-60% of the information we gather about the world comes from nonverbal cues- from the unconscious to unconscious. If our nervous system concludes we are safe then we are more able to be in the moment. If it reads threat, however, then we go into defense and protective reactions. All this happens instinctively and unconsciously. Our conscious awareness either notices or doesn’t notice. All psychotherapy and healing work is about growing awareness of the shadow self, becoming more and more able to notice and interact with the unconscious itself.

Developing awareness: Developing awareness of our shadow selves is a continual process. It is effortful and easeful at the same time. Difficult and simple. It can begin by simply focusing on our breath going in and out of our nostrils and down into our abdomen. This meditation alone increases our appreciation of the sensation of breathing, and begins to build the mindfulness muscles so necessary to stay in the moment and be with what is. We probably have to practice this awareness of breath 1,000 times before it is a go to resource for us, but it is critical to developing our perceptual awareness, and our ability and capacity to shift our awareness between our conscience and subconscious.

Take the reins: Imagine your unconscious as a group of horses. Our conscious self is the one that should have the reins - the one that chooses the direction if it is in control. You want to shift from the experience of the horses pulling the carriage in any direction (usually more directions than one!) they please, to a centered and directed approach. The conscious self has the potential to direct the development of our unconscious, the potential to choose how to consciously and authentically evolve. Be in charge of the interface between your conscious and subconscious - and invite shadow material to surface. You can do this by asking yourself questions and listening to the answers given by your shadow self (that which is under awareness).

Expect everything to be as it is: Are you finding yourself stuck in repetitive patterns either in your inner world, or in your relationship? If so, there is likely a defensiveness that is creating resistance and repetition. Look under the surface for a clue - ask yourself what fear or expectation are you protecting yourself from? A key to breaking this desire/disappointment cycle, and finding more authentic happiness, is to return to an expectation that everything is and will be just as it is. This shift will help increase authenticity and give the energy to better hear and see ourselves clearly.

Constructive and destructive shadow: As we become more aware of all that influences us at any given moment, we can learn to discern between the constructive instincts and the destructive instincts. Remember, as you do this, that we do not have inherently evil parts of ourselves, and that the parts of ourselves that react and behave in ways we deem destructive are working to protect us. It is critical to our interactions that we become responsible for noticing and naming ways that our more destructive shadow self is showing up in any given conversation or exchange. How are these protective parts of you creating or exacerbating escalations, conflict, withdrawal, etc? If there is a sense that the connection between you and your partner is degrading or diminishing than there is evidence that this protective schema is at play. Shift into curiosity and cooperation - how in this moment can you work with your own fears and pain in a way that allows you to move towards repair and connection? Couples that cooperative and are open to receiving influence from each other are stronger, happier, and healthier.  

Don’t deny drives: In order to avoid deception, resentment, and the buildup towards an affair it is critical that you be honest about your instinctual drives, and curious about your partner’s. Do not deny them. Be receptive and creative in finding ways to meet each other’s needs. If you want to have a solid marriage, you must be willing the make sacrifices and make sure you allow your partner to be fulfilled, emotionally, erotically, relationally, spiritually, parentally. Long term relationships require will and effort and conscious acts of creation. If you are not willing to exercise that choosing and dedication, then fleeting passionate romance and affairs might shine brighter in your life and distract you from what is possible and waiting in your marriage. Turn towards the questions below to help clarify your knowing about why your partnership is worth the effort:

Ask questions to explore these 5 dimensions that are critical to intimacy:

  1. Is there erotic polarity between this person and myself?
  2. Does this person take care of their psychological and physical health?
  3. If I was in conflict with this person would they be able to get back to love?
  4. Would this person show up as a parent or family member?
  5. Does this person have something that is sacred to them that is larger than themselves and are they respectful of what is precious to me?

The hero/heroine journey- The last question above is so integral to a fulfilling relationship in that it reminds us that we cannot have a fulfilling love life if we ignore that which calls us forward. We are each on our own sacred heroic path, and our partner is as well. This journey must be celebrated, honored, protected, and nourished. Get in touch with what archetypal forces are influencing you- finding the ones that shut you down, or light you up- and begin to bring the concept of the hero/heroine’s journey into your long-term relationships. How can you use archetypal metaphors to understand each other better? How can you experience yourself as your own hero/heroine of your autobiographical narrative, and your partner as a companion, and vice-versa. Becoming clear about your sacred purpose is critical not only to living authentically, but also to loving authentically. Your partner may, at first, wish for you to choose them over your own sense of purpose and desire, however ultimately, you will be diminished, weakened, and likely lose attractiveness in their eyes if you do not dedicate yourself and follow your knowing. Trust, together, that following your truth and honoring your mission is one of the most loving things you can do to create a fulfilling and stable partnership.

Be a magical aide: Witt explains “if you have a partner that is deepening intimacy with you, you’ll feel that partner joining with you and supporting you on your quest. Your partner will become a source of magical aide for you, and one of your allies. And you want to be a source of magical aide for your partner too on his/her epic journey”.

Summoning the archetypes: Not sure how to identify inspiring or informative archetypes? Begin looking around, in your mind and memory, in your lived experience, in stories, movies, religious scripts, etc. in order to find heros. Identify their characteristics- what calls them forward in the world? Once you have identified archetypes that speak to you, you can find that part in yourself, and in doing so, find the parts of yourself that are stopping you, or afraid of being that big/bold/courageous/generous/etc. This “want” vs. “can’t” is an ordeal. There is something you want to do, but you have a fear that is blocking or protecting you from fully embodying these characteristics and doing that thing that you want (asking for a raise, learning to surf, asking your wife to explore sex more with you…). Whatever your ordeal is, if you take your ordeal on and do your best with it, you WILL discover more of your warrior self and strengthen your warrior self in that ordeal, and that leads you a little deeper. Have conversations with your archetypes! Find them in dreams! Do meditations! Spend time with them. Summon them as needed.

Illumination at the edge of darkness: Never ever say “that is just the way I am”. Even if you think this, do not say it! Say, instead, “I’ll work on it”. In order to build intimacy and grow your love life, move towards discovery.  Become curious and learn about your shadow side and how it is influencing your desires or fears. Go to the interface between the known and the unknown. Be in this interface without judgment, but with curiosity and acceptance, and with discernment for what is healthy and unhealthy. Be in that interface between constructive and destructive shadow with caring intent, always working to reach towards health.

This, of course, is not as easy as it sounds and it requires effort and courage, however as we know, when we act with courage we discover more courage! Remember, as Witt explains, that “focused intent and action in service of principal, driven by resolve, is a human superpower!”  If you have focused intent and action in service of loving your partner better, and you are resolved to do that, you are going to create better love with your partner. And if you both do it, you are going to create better love, and will continue to discover more and more about each other and the world. This is illumination at the edge of darkness!

Find the courage to share: We have a cultural dissociation around eroticism in the West, or maybe it is everywhere, maybe it is a human thing in that human societies tend to control people’s sexual choices.  Either way, it is up to us to overcome this silence, and to be able to open to each other in order to keep erotically alive. One exercise to help with this courageous conversation is explained below:

Create a lust map: Try this exercise in order to help clarify, communicate, and celebrate your sexual desires. Get a big sheet of paper and draw a circle in the middle. Using colored pencils, markers, collage materials, etc. write and draw things around the paper that light you up or turn you off and draw lines connecting to the center circle, and to anywhere else on the page- building a web. Be specific! Write down activities, behaviors, thoughts, fantasies, longings, etc. Get big with it - make it a masterpiece. When you finish, take turns showing your maps to your partner, explaining the different discoveries you have made. This sharing inevitably wakes things up - good or bad. You may find yourselves more turned on and connected, or perhaps triggered and intimidated. If the latter, it may be helpful to seek a therapist together in order to be held as you navigate discrepancies that arise from differing desires. Ask yourself: “is there room for me to help you have a better time during lovemaking, or vice versa?” Know that this exercise, however vulnerable it is, has powerful effects.

What possibilities open up? The art of intimacy is really the art of believing that you can engage in relationships that have endless levels of intimacy. There are a zillion ways to have great sex! For example, what possibilities open up if we aren’t following orgasm? We are all wired for sexual satisfaction, however how we define this is very open to interpretation. In the West, we may have become too dependent on the dopamine rich climax result as our definition of sexual ‘success’. Tantra, for example, helps to break the unconscious sexual dissociation barriers that have become so pervasive. It helps us to open again to an expansive, inclusive, and spontaneous exploration of what defines our own sense of sexual satisfaction. This expansiveness inevitably leads to a more fulfilling, awake, nourishing, and conscious sex life. By committing to authenticity and transparency you will find that you are able to go deeper together into a space of more and more personal and erotic growth.

Interesting fact: The average time couple’s spend engaging in foreplay increased from 7 minutes in 1940 to 14 minutes in 2000. This is a doubling in 60 years.

Resources:

Read Keith Witt’s new book Shadow Light: Illuminations at the Edge of Darkness and buy the workbook too!

Explore videos, resources, and more on Keith Witt’s School of Love website!

Read more about the concept of shadows in successful marriages on his blog!

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

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Feb 22, 2017

How do you speak your truth (effectively) in your relationship? And what can you find out about yourself from the requests that you make of your partner? In this week's episode, we talk about powerful ways to communicate what's really going on with you - to get you to a deeper connection in your relationship. Enjoy!

Feb 14, 2017

How do you foster more fun and creativity in your relationship? How do you change things up when they get boring? How do you keep them from getting boring in the first place? How do you bring your authenticity into the “fun”? In today’s episode, we’re chatting with Cathy Salit, author of Performance Breakthrough and one of the world’s experts on how to use improvisation for personal development. Her expertise offers answers to these very questions - so...on with the fun!

Are you finding ways to engage with curiosity? We are constantly in relation with what the world brings to us. By bringing the concept of improvisation into our lives, we begin to see all the possibilities and potential scenarios that each new moment offers. We shift from a stuck pattern of habitual response, into a place of curiosity and (sometimes) humor. We can even learn to delight in the fact that we are performers capable of changing the scene and scenario in new and surprising ways!

We are all natural born performers: We are all natural born performers; just watch children as they play, imagine, create, and experiment. We lose consciousness of our capacity to play as we age, however we can reconnect and reinitiate this capacity as adults in ways that allow us to grow and to stretch. Choose authentic play. Put yourself in spaces that cultivate this young and open energy, remembering that we are not only built to play, but we are built through play. Carve out places in your life and in your relationship dedicated to improvisation; create safe places in which it is healthy to be messy.

We contain multitudes. Living into this concept of ourselves as performers we begin to connect with multiple versions of ourselves. Not in a disjointed or splitting way, but rather in a full of possibilities way. Inside each of us, and inside each interaction, is the potential for MANY different outcomes. See how many ways you can respond differently from your habitual script. Expand your own expression and vocabulary of your authentic humanness. You are not set in stone, you are not programmed or trapped, instead you are full of surprises! Living into this belief can have profound impacts on your love life, allowing you to feel more confident and connected.  

The Becoming principle: The becoming principle is based on Salit’s idea that “we are not just who we are - we are who we are and who we are not yet, meaning who we are becoming.” When we improvise and perform in ways we have not done before, we begin to explore and discover new internal territory. We expand ourselves into new ways of being, and learn about parts of ourselves that we do not yet know exist! By getting outside of our habitual ways of reacting and being in relationship and in the world, we free ourselves to imagine AND become more than we thought we were or could be.

When it comes to dating... Is the process of dating becoming tedious, or daunting? Try choosing a new way to perform. Is it possible to try on the role of someone who is really interested in getting to know lots of people? This internal shift alone may make you focus on qualities of the experience that actually make it true for you. Play around with how you interact with challenges, looking more for the opportunities they provide than the struggle.

How would someone else do this? What if you see your relationship as if it were an ensemble? Each person has their strengths, their weaknesses, and together you can build off of these. Be playful together- when situations or issues arise, especially the ones that you have repeated over and over again, begin to ask each other ‘what else can we do?’ What can we try in order to be able to change some aspect of this scene?’ What might someone else do or say in this situation? How can we experiment in this moment? Try it on. Sing your complaints! Speak in accents. Make your woes an opera. Laugh at yourself. Repeat the scene as if it was a melodrama. Obviously this level of playfulness is not always appropriate, however it is helpful WAY MORE than it is harmful. Any shift from the predictable stuckness will open the door for the entire gestalt to change. The energy between you and your partner, and the tone of the conversation will transform in a way that often gives both of you a chance to look at yourself and the ‘scene’ with more of a distance and more of an ability to find a new perspective.

Role play: Another way to perform is to act as if you are your partner. Try them on. Get inside their point of view in order to learn more about your partner’s experience, as well as perhaps more about yourself as you begin to see your own actions and behaviors through their lens. Experience yourself through the way your partner portrays you. Role playing also gives you a great opportunity to educate your partner if you notice that their portrayal of you is off. These types of activities are critical as they help us examine and explore the HOWS of our interactions, versus the WHATS of our interactions, thus allowing us to see more clearly the hidden beliefs, habits, and needs that are constantly influencing communication and connection.

Create with Crap: So much of what we deal with in our day to day is far from roses and rainbows, and it takes courage and creativity to sustain our energy. ‘Creating with crap’ is the idea that we try to find creative and new ways to address old problems so as not to be demoralized, depressed, angry, or humiliated by it. We need to find ways to let the light in. For example, instead of focusing and ruminating on the fact that your partner is always late, make a new rule that for every time they are late you are going to dance together for 5 minutes. Find little gestures that invite magic in, and help turn painful moments into moments for connection.  

Applaud mistakes! It is key to create a culture in your relationship that encourages mistake making. Enormous growth occurs when mistakes and messiness are welcomed and applauded. We are human and we constantly make mistakes. The question is, how can we grow from this? How can the relationship grow from this? Sometimes it can be very helpful, and empowering, for one of you to turn to your partner and say ‘well, that went really badly- that was a mistake and I didn’t do that as well as I could have’. Make a mistake, and then take a bow! If your partner takes responsibility and owns their mistake, then applaud them! Make this the rule. By celebrating mistakes and vulnerability you move the relationship out of a dangerous shame and blame paradigm, and into a collaborative place in which together you can figure out how you could have changed the scene, thus reinforcing the container of the relationship, rather than degrading it one mistake at a time.

Yes, and! The day to day of partnership can become pretty mundane and quotidian, we all know it. In improvisation there is a fundamental rule in which each person listens with an openness and responds with “yes, and…” to everyone and everything that is presented with them. This rule is the key to creativity and connection both on and off the stage. Bring this attitude and practice into your relationship. Tune into what your partner is offering to you in every moment. In addition to this changing the nature and culture of your conversations (especially during disagreements), you will end up going places you would not have gone otherwise. By saying “yes, but…” you stay stuck. Some people feel temporarily more safe when they say ‘no’ and stick with what they already know/what is certain, however in time this actually becomes more dangerous. Choosing to be vulnerable, and taking risks, allows your relationship to grow, to develop, and to repair in ways that are essential for its integrity.

Resources:

Read Cathy Salit’s book Performance Breakthrough

Check out her organization Performance of a Lifetime

Sign up to receive Cathy’s newsletter here

www.neilsattin.com/performance Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Cathy Salit - and qualify for the book giveaway!  

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Feb 9, 2017

It’s an exciting week around here. For one thing, it’s my birthday week! I celebrated the day differently than I have in year’s past - taking a ton of down time, and enjoying some mellow moments with Chloe. Allowing myself the freedom to do NOTHING for a day. Of course, I didn’t do nothing, but what I did do felt sweet, special - and I appreciated all the little birthday greetings that came in from friends around the globe.

Here’s another piece of exciting news. A little background on this: You may know that Chloe and I have a 7-week course, called Thriving Intimacy. It’s a comprehensive journey through all of the things that they should have told you about how to do relationships well in school, but didn’t. We’ve been fortunate enough through our work with clients and the conversations here on the podcast to put together this 7-week course that’s comprehensive and represents the state of the art on how to do relationships well. We’ve had great feedback on the course - and if you’re interested in that, you can text the word "INTIMACY" to 33444, or you can visit neilsattin.com/intimacy and find out more. But that’s not why I brought this up...

After creating the Thriving Intimacy course, we started up a conversation with the site DailyOM. They were looking for a course on relationships that would have the potential to completely transform a relationship in 21 days, and asked us if we would be willing to put that together for them. So what we did is we looked at the framework that we put together for our 7-week Thriving Intimacy and thought - ok, if we were going to take someone on a 21-day journey that touched on all of these points in a way that made sense, what would it look like? How far could we go?

And that’s how our new course 21 Days to Deeper Intimacy was born. Actually I’ll let you in on a little secret - it was originally going to be called "21 Days to a Deep Sense of Safety in Your Relationship". I guess they thought that was too long or something. So it’s called 21 Days to Deeper Intimacy. And it’s a course that you can take with your partner, or alone. Over the course of the 21 Days, you will

  • Uncover the hidden obstacles to safety and connection in your relationship
  • Awaken a deep sense of presence and attunement within yourself and with your partner
  • Learn how to communicate with greater ease, so that you can feel fully seen and understood by your partner (and come to understand your partner better as well)
  • Clear out old, unhealthy patterns and ways of operating in your relationship, for a deeper sense of what's truly possible for you in love
  • Learn how to foster sexual and sensual energy throughout the day with your partner
  • Create a rock solid container for your relationship allowing you to feel the freedom that's possible in commitment
  • and more!

And DailyOM released it yesterday, on my birthday! That wasn’t planned, by the way. The course is already in their top 10 - which is really exciting for us as it means that it will be seen by the thousands of people who visit their site. And of course we wanted to tell you about it as well. One of the interesting things is that you can actually choose what you want to pay for the course. So hopefully that makes it accessible for you.

The way to find out more about the course is to either visit neilsattin.com/21days or you can text “21DAYS” to the number 33444 and I will send you a link so you can check out the course.

So whether you want a 7-week journey, or a 21-day journey, or both - we designed the two courses so that they would complement each other - there are some great options for you to take what you’ve heard here on the podcast and get some guidance on how to apply it in your life.

Next week, for Valentine’s Day, we’re going to release a fun episode with Cathy Salit on - well - basically how to foster fun in your relationship. See you then!

Feb 1, 2017

How can you heal your relationship after one of you has had an affair? What does it take to restore trust and come back to a place of mutual love, passion, and understanding? And how do you “affair-proof” your relationship to begin with? In today’s episode, we’re chatting with Michele Weiner Davis, bestselling author of Divorce Busting, and author of the new book Healing from Infidelity, which is meant to be a guidebook for couples who are trying to answer these very questions. Michele’s work draws upon decades of experience and is focused on the strategies that actually work - both for rebuilding your relationship after an affair, and for preventing affairs from happening in the first place. It can be challenging, but the rewards are most often a stronger, more connected relationship than what you had before.

Healing from infidelity takes courage: Shame is one of the largest roadblocks to recovery. After infidelity has been discovered, both the betrayed and the unfaithful partners can feel shame, although for different reasons. The unfaithful partner takes on shame around having being dishonest and hurtful, and the betrayed partner takes on shame that they would even consider staying with a partner who cheated. While this shame is worth listening to for any wisdom it holds, you must also hold onto the truth that choosing to work towards repair is anything but cowardly or weak. Acknowledge ways that shame is showing up for you, and choose to work WITH it. Professional help, especially during the crisis stage immediately following the discovery of infidelity can be incredibly helpful in building the tools, and the courage to address your relationship.

Note: Seek experienced help! If you choose to go see a therapist, be sure to vet them first. Most therapists do not have training on how to help couples deal with infidelity, and so it is worth asking them beforehand about their level of experience walking couples through infidelity. Also do not hesitate to ask your therapist what percentage of the couples they work with end up positively working things through. Be direct with your questions because you deserve highly skilled professional support!

Stronger through the struggle: Whether ultimately you choose to stay in your relationship or not, the work you do now will not be in vain. Many couples share that through confronting what led to the infidelity and tending to what needs rebuilding their relationship became stronger than it had ever been before. Additionally, if you do not stay together, you will both have gained insight and skills that will be invaluable in your personal growth, and future relationships.

Immediate and opposite reactions to infidelity: Often, the unfaithful spouse experiences a certain amount of relief when an affair is finally public. This is true because affairs are not all cakes and rainbows. While the affair has likely been fulfilling a need, it also means living a duplicitous life which can be challenging, hard, and guilt producing. Therefore, this partner can feel relieved to be done with the lying and pain associated with living double lives. That said, just when they are exhaling, the betrayed partner is likely at the lowest point in their lives. This discrepancy in the immediate aftermath of a discovery is inevitable, and yet, both partners have to (and this is where professional support is so critical!) begin to take steps towards collaboration and connection, despite the impasse.

The process of healing happens in layers, and stages. The healing process is not entirely linear. It is also unique to each person, and each couple. That said, there are three main phases. First is the crisis period in which both partners are experiencing their own and often opposite reactions to the discovery. For one there may be intense shock and for the other long waited for relief. Emotions are often big and overflowing in this stage. During the crisis period the focus is on re-stabilizing through compassionate communication, difficult questions, and deeply honest answers. Allow this phase to take as long as it needs. The second phase is focused on reinventing and rebuilding the relationship. Once there is more emotional equilibrium and safety restored both partners can begin to ask where to go from here. What does creating a strong and healthy future look like? And thirdly, together you take these questions into a phase of commitment: how do we maintain this new strength indefinitely?

Getting back to secure ground:  For the betrayed partner, the discovery of an affair leaves them feelings like the entire ground beneath them has shifted, and what they took as reality and stability is no longer. Their trust is often shaken to the core. They begin wondering “How can I even believe anything you say again?”, “how can I even know if you are telling me the truth right now?”. Part of rebuilding trust is through the ability to ask lots and lots and lots of questions.  The betrayed partner will likely be experiencing intense curiosity, and will dig for details to help them process the news. This is an opportunity for the unfaithful spouse to show up compassionately and courageously and share the truth of what happened. That said, the betrayed partner is responsible for their own curiosity.

Curiosity and control: People have the insatiable urge to ask questions in order to help make sense of something unfathomable, and to help connect the dots. For betrayed spouses they have often felt a deep sense that something was off- their partner may have been MIA, may have been getting off their laptop or cell phone quickly when they enter the room, etc. Questioning their partner is a way to make sense of what happened, while also an attempt to gain control back. Generally, this question period is especially intense immediately following the discovery period. It is common for couples to have marathon discussions revisiting all the details. During this interrogation phase, both partners have a responsibility in how they engage in these conversations.

Helpful or hurtful? If you are the betrayed partner it is understandable that you may be overwhelmed with curiosity, and yet be careful as sometimes asking ALL the questions does not serve you. Slow down enough to notice how you feel after asking a question. Did it help because the fears you were imagining in your head were worse than reality? Or does it leave you feeling more overwhelmed, hopeless, and discouraged? If so, it is important to build strategies to distract yourself. The intensity of this phase will subside, and you do not want to dig yourself into more pain only because you can not control your immediate urges. Make a list of concrete behaviors you can engage in to help you resist asking the harmful questions (take a walk, pray, meditate, play your guitar, call a friend…). That said, when you DO ask questions, it is imperative that you respect your partner’s vulnerability and courage as they work to be transparent with you. Do not use the information to attack them or punish them for their confessions, instead, work inside yourself to cultivate empathy for the effort of love they are committing to you by engaging in these often difficult conversations. This can be a time where it can feel incredibly supportive to have the presence of a third party, such as a couple’s counselor, who can help hold neutral and safe space for these conversations.

Hold space for each other’s process and pain. During this initial crisis period it is critical that the unfaithful spouse allow space to really listen to their partner’s feelings, to hear the questions, and to answer without defensiveness. While the unfaithful spouse is processing through their own intense emotions, they need to be present for the anger, rage, hurt, disappointment, sadness, and disillusionment of their partner. If you are doing your best to be transparent, answer questions, and hold your partner’s pain, and they continue to shame and blame you, speak up and let your partner know you cannot give them the honesty they desire and deserve if they are going to threaten you with each thing you share. Neither one of you will benefit from having unsafe conversations.

Don’t forget about communications skills 101: These initial conversations are raw, real, and difficult. Use all of the core communications skills in order to create as safe of a container as possible so that you can both show up with empathy, compassion, and the ability to take responsibility for your own escalation patterns. Remember to use “I” statements, especially if you are the betrayed spouse expressing intense emotions. The more raw the conversations, the more emotional traffic control is needed. Do not hesitate at this time to seek professional help. The goal is to create safety enough so that both partners can be heard, seen, and felt without an immediate reaction that leads to either escalation, or shutting down.

Finding a balance: In the initial phase of healing there will be a LOT of processing. This might at times feel circular, repetitive, or even two steps forward one back. And this is okay. That said, there becomes a time when what needs to happen is a moving forward into the second and third phase of healing. Knowing when is right to move into this next phase can be another moment of tension in a relationship. The unfaithful spouse might be thinking “how can we heal if we just keep talking about what happened?” while the betrayed spouse may be thinking “how can you not be willing to talk about this for as long as I need?”. The truth is that both are right. How can you come together to bridge this divide? Can you create a planned time to talk and process, while building in more time to focus and put energy into other aspects of your life together? And in what ways can the betrayed spouse take care of their need to process in creative ways? What other outlets can you use, be it a social network, a spiritual practice, etc. to continue moving through ruminating thoughts without being paralyzed by them.

Thought Stopping- The ruminating thoughts can become hurtful, and can take on a life of their own. Anything and everything can become a trigger to painful feelings. This is inevitable, and thus it is important to cultivate a plan on how to address it when it occurs. Thought stopping is one way. Thought stopping is just as it sounds. Begin by imagining a place, or a person you feel very safe with. Let this ‘happy place’ expand in your mind- what are the colors, the sights, the smells? Take time to conjure up this image and make it as tangible as possible. Once you feel you can truly access this space in your mind, introduce the thought that has been plaguing you. As soon as you bring that thought up, imagine a BIG RED stop sign and choose to go back to your serene peaceful place. This is not necessarily easy to do at first, but with practice you will see that you CAN change what you focus on. You do have control over where your focus is- and whatever you focus on expands. This is a wonderful and potent way to interrupt a negative thought pattern before it hijacks your autonomic nervous system. By doing this you are teaching your emotional system resiliency, and helping show yourself that you have your own resources to self soothe. This will build confidence often lost on finding out about your partner’s affair as it lets you feel in control again of the most important thing: yourself!

An opportunity to learn valuable skills: While healing from infidelity can be an incredibly painful process, it is also a process that provides infinite opportunities for growth that will serve each spouse for many years (and potentially relationships) to come. These lessons include, but by no means are limited to learning how to no longer be the victim, learning to self-regulate and self-soothe, learning to build intimacy during difficulty, and learning to develop iron-clad safety in relationships. These lessons help create a foundation upon which a relationship, or a heart, can withstand future adversity. Remember that the hurt goes with you when you leave, and so any time spent exploring the hows and whys of the infidelity, will only better serve you in the future.That said, time exploring your relationship before you leave is never wasted time!

Make decisions during moments of clarity, not crisis: The ultimate roadblock to growth and change however, is hopelessness. It is less about the difference in people’s opinions, values, or backgrounds, nor is it the nature or severity of the problem at hand that makes people throw in the towel, it is hopelessness. Hopelessness, Weiner Davis says, “is the real cancer in marriage”. If you have been trying to get your marriage back on track and you are losing hope, seek professional help before you make any big decisions about your future! A therapist or coach can help hold hope for you while you navigate through the uncertainty of the initial stages of repair, and build the tools to see if your marriage can be saved. Remember- life decisions should not be made in the midst of crisis! Make decisions just for today, and just in an effort to re-regulate and gain the clarity needed to see your options.

Becoming intimate again: There are some people who do not have intimacy issues after an affair, in fact, some couple’s describe having incredible sex post infidelity. While this is the case for some, it is not the case for all. It may take a long time to build back the trust needed to feel safe enough being intimate. Try to welcome the process of reconnecting as an opportunity to really get in touch with your and your partner’s needs and desires. Crises like this can crack open long-held taboos and silence around sex, and so, this can become a moment to bring awareness and curiosity to your sex life. Bring it out of the closet! Talk about what feels good! What turns you on? How do you want your partner to initiate sex? Do you want it more experimental? Also talk about triggers and how to support each other when one or both of you becomes disregulated. Most importantly, and throughout the conversations and reconnecting, BE PRESENT. Be present with what is happening in yourself, in your partner, and between the two of you. While you are beginning to piece your physical relationship back together again, it is critical that you set the intention to be as transparent as possible about what is happening internally and externally. Be open to the fact that sex might look different on the other side of an affair- redefine your lovemaking so that it is fulfilling and safe to both of you. Perhaps there are different forms of intimacy and smaller sexual gestures that your partner is craving? Ask, ask, ask, and listen.

Final tip to affair-proof your relationship: Wanting to be proactive and build resiliency in your relationship to avoid infidelity? Make sure that your relationship feels like a top life priority! Ask your partner: “what will make you feel like you are the most important thing in my life?” Find out, in concrete terms, what this means to your partner. Does it mean having meaningful conversations? Sex? Regular date nights? Every spouse has a different definition of what makes them feel loved and what specific behaviors makes them see you as being completely dedicated to them and the relationship. Get to know your partner’s desires and needs inside and out, and then absolutely do it! Follow through!

Resources:

Go to Michele’s website to get the first chapter of the brand new book Healing from Infidelity for free!

Read Divorce Remedy: The Proven 7-Step Program for Saving Your Marriage

Buy Michele’s brand new book Healing from Infidelity: The Divorce Busting® Guide to Rebuilding Your Marriage After an Affair

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

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

Feedback? Questions? You can contact Michele directly at: michele@divorcebusting.com

www.neilsattin.com/busting2 Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Michele Weiner Davis.

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Jan 26, 2017

How do you increase the levels of oxytocin, the "love" molecule, in your relationship? And can you do it in a way that also helps with any imbalances in libido/sexual desire? In this episode, I offer you one powerful way to boost the oxytocin and foster even deeper, sustainable intimacy with your partner. 

Also announcing my new FREE guide - the Top Three Relationship Communication Secrets - that's designed to help you stay connected with your partner even when talking about the most challenging of topics. To get it, simply visit http://www.neilsattin.com/relate or text the word "RELATE" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. It's quick to read, and will absolutely change the way that communication happens in your relationship. Enjoy, and see you next week!

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