Five Things We Can Do for Ourselves That Also Make Us Better Partners

One of the cornerstone theories I coach by is: If we focus on being our best, our relationships automatically benefit.

Most relationship issues stem from one or both individuals having a personal struggle that then strains the relationship. This stress compromises communication, and can throw us into crisis mode. When we're amidst our fight-or-flight response, everything that doesn't help us either fight or run away is physically suppressed.  This limited resource state can be the opposite of what we need to constructively problem solve, and shift into action to resolve the issue at hand.

While this may vary for everyone, what I personally strive for is to participate in a relationship dynamic wherein we can trust each other to handle  our own stuff, and we also know we can count on each other to tackle life's challenges together. I think of it as a flow between making decisions collaboratively and independently. Some couples like to make all their decisions together, and others focus on sharing the important ones...what matters most is what's best for you, and your relationship.

While the art of navigating relationships involves weaving between interdependence and autonomy, much of what helps us create successful relationships is connected to the ever evolving relationship we cultivate with ourselves. 

Here are five areas where what we do for ourselves also benefits our relationships:

  1. Personal hygiene - I'm beginning here because physical affection reflects extraordinary love.  When hygiene and pheromones are just right...the way your partner smells to you is intoxicating (in a good way). No reason to jeopardize that by letting yourself slide in the self-care department. Personal hygiene is indicative of one's self-esteem, so assess whether your daily habits reflect you at your best. If being close to someone is something you want, being the self-respecting person who takes pride in taking care of him/herself is a great way to honor yourself and your relationship.
  2. Your state of mind regarding your career - Yes, there are elements of our jobs that we simply don't like, but they come with the territory. So, we either do them, or hire them out; the choice is ours. Our job satisfaction can vary greatly on the perspective we bring to the work we do. If you're in a job you do not like, it may be time for an accept/reject conversation. The accept segment involves recognizing that there are reasons why you are doing what you're doing, and there's an acceptance that lies in acknowledging your reasons. The reject segment pertains to the things you refuse to accept, and decide to change. That would include beginning to look for another job, or committing to creating supplemental areas of income, so you begin to step into the possibilities available to you. Complaining about work, and bringing that home every day is not only taxing on you and your soul, but it can also damper your relationship. Also, if we're complaining and hyper-focused on the negative, we are often negating or neglecting other positive elements in our lives. So if we need a reminder, remember there's this person you care about who has chosen to spend their days with you; what do you want your influence on your time together to be?
  3. Fun (Yay!) - Are you having enough fun? You most likely knew the answer to that before you even finished reading the question :)  If you're a YES, you're a rock star, proceed to #4. If you're a no, you have plans to make! What can you do to bring more fun into your life? In what ways can you have more FUN together?
  4. Kindness towards ourselves - We tend to be our own toughest critic, so it can take a concerted effort to give ourselves some grace. Being kind to ourselves generates good energy, which then radiates to those we're around. Can you think of how it feels different when we're around someone who's in a positive state of mind versus someone who's in a negative energetic state? Which would you rather spend more time with? The person we spend all of our time with is ourselves, so pick your roommate accordingly ;)
  5. Knowledge of our passions - You know when you do something that excites you and you feel an amazing rush? What are a few of the things you do that engage you with your passion? Not only do our passions bring a richness to our lives, but they also amp up our personal magnetism. We are naturally drawn to passionate people. There is a distinct vibrancy to them and how they live their lives. It doesn't have to be all the time, but we do need to make time for the things we're excited about. Have you had a moment when you fell a little bit more in love with someone by seeing them do what they love? That's the feeling we create as we engage in our passions and share them with the world.

Now I'd like to hear from you! What other things have you noticed that make you feel good, and also enhance your relationships? Please share your experience in the comments below.

To the art of interdependence and independence xx

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5 Ways We Unknowingly Sabotage Relationships

I've been fascinated with relationships since I was 5 years old. Seriously. I remember playing tag in the kindergarten playground, and being curious why nothing happened when I was tagged by a boy, and nothing happened. Wait, to my intrigue/disappointment, "coodies" were not real.

In kindergarten, we're guided by imaginary germs, things we've been told, and what we've made them mean. As adults, what imaginary things are we afraid of? The stories change, but the premise remains...we create the world we live in.

If I create my world, why don't I have the relationship I want?

What if you do?

Sometimes we sabotage the exactly thing we want for unknown, or unconscious reasons. Usually, they're "survival notes" our unconscious has made along the way. Our thoughts and behavior give us insight to what our notes contain. The unconscious mind responds to questions, which is one of the reasons self-inquiry offers us greater insight into who we are. I've come up with a few signs to look for that may indicate that we're unconsciously sabotaging our relationships. Are you ready? Here they are:

  1. We're not fully available. If you are playing games and ignoring the other person for fun, that's your choice; but know that you're not fully available. Let's distinguish between time availability and emotional availability because they're both important. If you're busy, and getting back to someone as you can, it's different from intentionally being unavailable. Yes, your time and energy should go towards what's most important to you, which most likely doesn't include a coffee date with someone from Bumble; however, if you truly want to find someone t build a relationship with, you're going to have to set some time aside. As for emotional availability, if you're not in a place to connect with someone, take the time for yourself to do the personal work  you need to do. In the big picture, you'll be happy you did. I'll use myself as an example. I want an incredible person to build a life and lasting relationship with...that means that I'm going to have to put myself out there, and be willing to do the work, and set time aside to meet new people, and invest in myself and my life, so I sync up with the vision I hold. 
  2. We're not present with the other person. If we're distracted by our thoughts (ie. I need to get my car washed, and pick up my dry cleaning, etc.), it will take us out of the moment. Make a list of what you need to get done, and do it when you can. If a thought comes up, ask, "Is there anything I can do about it now? Do I need to do something about it now?" If both answers are no, then set it aside and re-engage with the lovely person who decided they wanted to spend this hour with you. If you are constantly checking your phone while sitting across the table from someone, you're (perhaps unknowingly) indicating that you'd rather be somewhere else. I'm not saying to never look at your phone, but checking it incessantly is an indicator that you may benefit from putting the phone away, and being more present with the person right in front of you. Other ways to be present is to make eye contact, ask questions, and genuinely connect in the moment.
  3. We make up a story that isn't true. We decide that them leaving the toilet seat up or down is passive aggressive. Sometimes, it's easier to make a list that separates the actions ("What happened?") and the meaning that was applied ("To me, it meant..."). When we can separate the two, we can see the situation more clearly, and see what we brought to the situation. 
  4. We're scared of what we want. This is a major one. "If your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough" territory. The thing is our dreams should scare us...it's because we don't know them yet, and on a primal level anything unknown feels like a death threat. Consciously, we know that our dreams won't kill us, but we're hard-wired to survive, and our survival instinct only knows that we can survive what we have already experienced. That doesn't mean that we can't experience something new...rather we just need to know that that is where our fear is coming from, and we can choose whether or not to let that steer our actions or not. 
  5. We make someone else responsible. The moment you blame your partner on a regular basis, it's time to take a step back. You are choosing to be with them after all. Keep that in mind. What is their behavior provoking in me? Of course, it's easy to say s/he "made me" do it. But that's never actually true. You DID it. They DID it. But you didn't make them do anything, and visa versa. As long as you make someone else is responsible, you remain in a place where they have power over you. Take back your power, and step into the space of, "I trust myself. What would I like to do?"

The first step to breaking unconscious patterns is to become aware of them. Congrats! You've begun the process simply by being here. If you're wanting to create a different dynamic, you'll continue to step #2: Track the pattern back to where you first learned it. How old were you? What was going on at the time? How was this thought of belief intended to serve or protect you at the time? By appreciating where it came from, and the positive intention behind it, you've now acknowledged that it's been at work behind the scenes, and you now have the choice to expand the belief. Ask yourself, "How do I now choose to expand my beliefs? Who do I become, and who am I as I embody this expanded belief system?" *I will say that this taps into a process that can take several months to unfold, however, we can dive into this process of personal introspection at any time we choose, so I offer a few suggestions here, in case that's something you'd like to do. 

Now that we've discussed 5 major ways we tend to sabotage our relationships, and how to begin the process of understanding ourselves more, I'd like to close on this note: People are who they are, not who we want them to be. The same is true for us: Do you want to be who you are, or who others want you to be?

Just as we want the freedom to be ourselves (and loved and accepted for it!), so does the person next to you. It's a part of our humanity. So, give yourself some grace, realize we're all doing the best we can, and see what happens when you show up with the intention to be present with yourself, and those whom you're with.

If you experience is anything like mine, it'll change how you see the world. 

One more thing :) I would like to mention letting go of the past as honorary #6 for this list. Accept your past for what it is, and that it got you here. Every present moment is finite, and living in the past takes away from the possibility of the present. Allow yourself to move on, be it from from a relationship, a hurtful fight, whatever may weigh you down. Thank the other person, or the experience for being in your life. Approach the lessons you've learned, and the time you've shared with reverence. Know you'll always have that. Just because you choose to walk away to move forward (or someone else does), it doesn't erase all the memories. Be grateful for them. Take them with you how you'd like, and step forward as the brilliant, refined, evolving person you are.

Go get 'em xx

Our Wives Hate Us - Part II - Resolving Relationship Conflict

I'd like to elaborate on an entry I wrote ("Our Wives Hate Us") last week, and go further by exploring how to resolve conflict when it comes up in our relationships. The context of the aforementioned article was marriages struggling with infidelity, so I will talk about what this looks like when we encounter possible deal breakers, and how it's different, yet can still be applied with daily, or smaller issues that come up.

I'll begin by saying that often the things we think are deal breaker, can look or feel completely different once we're in them. You may never tolerate someone being unfaithful -- that is your choice. I've found that in many situations in life, that which we automatically thought we'd do is not what we decide once we are actually faced with the situation. That's ok. Part of our work as human beings having the opportunity to be alive includes the need to figure shit out. Sometimes it's something we don't want to do, and sometimes it's in situations we never thought we'd find ourselves in...nonetheless, we have to do something, so we might as well respond to the best of our abilities.

These questions will help you take a step back, gain greater perspective, and guide you through how to align with your highest priorities. Here we go...

  • What is at stake? Take an inventory of where you are. If I'm six weeks into a relationship, I may look at infidelity differently than if I were married with three kids. This is because I'm willing to cut my losses at six weeks of my life, and treat such behavior as a red flag for which to do so. The more that is at stake, the more difficult this decision becomes, but it makes it simpler at the same time: there's a lot on the line, what's most important to you?
  • What do I need? If I know that I'm heartbroken, but I don't know what I need...I can get stuck in the emotional upheaval. The most wonderful thing about this question is when we pause to ask ourselves it, we will always receive an answer. You'll have a thought or idea, your subconscious will make something known to you. Use this circumstance as a reason to get to know yourself more intimately, to feel what you need feel, and to acknowledge what you need. 
  • What does my partner need? If we can have the wherewithal to ask what need is driving my partner's actions, we will get much further in understanding the underpinnings of our current dynamic. If we haven't been intimate for months, and have been feeling disconnected, there's a part of him/her who gave up on getting their physical and/or emotional needs met within the relationship. If we know and communicate our needs to one another, and desire to meet them for each other, we are much more likely to be able to resolve a potential issue within the relationship before it escalates to the extent of infidelity. On a lighter note, being in a mindset of, how can I make my partner feel good, what does him/her need, and what do I want to do for them to make that happen?, will improve the quality of your relationship ten-fold. We all too often give others what we need because we assume they want the same things...don't make this assumption, learn the needs of your partner, as well as know what your needs are too.
  • Are we sorry? Nothing can resolve an issue as quickly, or delay a resolution so long as the offering, or absence, of a genuine, heartfelt apology. If you feel bad, apologize. Apologize for what you feel badly about, and be specific (I'm sorry for...). It's ok to ask for an apology too. They don't have to give you one, but they may not have thought of it, but either way, you'll learn a bit about how this person operates. Ask yourself, "Is this conflict worth keeping alive because I'm too stubborn to apologize, or more dedicated to being right?"
  • Are we willing to change? If we're willing to change, then we decide together what that looks like, how it's going to happen, and how we are going to stay accountable. It may take professional help, so be willing to find the solutions that best support your success. If you're not willing to change, then that needs to be acknowledged too. What is then more important in this situation? What needs to be accepted as is? What am I unwilling to compromise on? Is this realistic? If your expectation sets the other person up for failure, then this will breed even deeper conflict. Lastly, ask yourself, "What am I so hung up on? What am I so unwilling to do?"
  • Are we willing to forgive? If I refuse to forgive you, our relationship is over. It's that simple. Furthermore, if I'm going to forgive, I have to mean it with my entire being. What happened is over. It is in the past. Do you want to keep inviting it into the present? The emotional residue (pain, distrust, anger, grief, resentment, etc.) will keep it alive. So understanding your emotions, and processing them is crucial. The same goes for behavior...doing the same things that created the issue in the first place  will recreate it again. Have amends been made? How does it feel to let go of the pain, and surrendering it to the past?
  • Do I still love you? If you no longer love each other, or one person no longer feels love for the other, you're treading on dangerous terrain. If I still love you, I am much more likely to want to work through difficult times. Once the love is gone, the quality of the relationship that remains will continue to decline unless major changes occur.
  • How do we rebuild trust and respect? If you've gotten this far, and have both committed to rebuilding trust and respect, then you must decide together what that looks like, and what the terms are. Deeming this as the start of greater transparency and honesty between you, and seeing this as a something you didn't allow to destroy you, will slowly begin fortifying the foundation of your relationship.
  • Do we want to rebuild? It's one thing to know what needs to be done, yet it's quite another to want to do the work. Are you committed to healing the past and moving forward? Are you both willing to do what it takes? Do you know in your heart that this is what you want more than anything? That's how badly you have to want it...anything less may not be strong enough.

If we look at these questions, and treat them as a self-discovery process, we will also become better partners along the way. If we genuinely want to know, understand, and love each other, our love, commitment, and resilience has to be stronger than the forces against them. Our fractures have to be reinforced and healed, and not broken the same way again and again. As long as we show up to create the strongest love we can share together, the causes that fractured it will teach us, and bring us closer rather than tear us apart. How will we allow the experiences we have to define us? What are the experiences we seek to co-create? Who are we when we come from a place of creating the best relationships we can?

The Makings of Extraordinary Love

I started this blog with the intention of sharing stories about real-life relationships that shared the love most of us dream about, crave, and hope exists.

As I started researching and interviewing people, I realized I was learning a lot more about things that compromise love in relationships rather than the love that's shared. So, this will be the first in a two-part entry that discusses the elements that allow extraordinary love to be possible, and then those that often lead to its detriment.

When I was sixteen, I believed that I, too, would someday fall madly in love with the love of my life. Twelve years later, there's a part of me that is still holding out for that. My notions of what love is have also evolved and expanded quite a bit.

Extraordinary love, to me, is two people strongly committed to creating the most loving relationship they possibly can. Furthermore, it's the conscious effort to make each other feel special, to meet each other’s needs, and to truly want to be better together.

The last article I wrote was about infidelity and animosity in marriages. I'd argue that both are symptoms of the breakdown of love in the relationship. That is to say they love each other, but stopped feeling loving and loved somewhere along the way. It's a glorious oversimplification, but it's most likely true.

These are some of the elements that enhance, and are characteristic of extraordinary love within a relationship:

  • The way you look at each other; you know the “look”
  • Being conscientious; do you anticipate and seek to meet each other’s needs?
  • Affection, physical connection
  • Laughter; do you enjoy each other? At the end of the day, can you let things go and enjoy silly moments together?
  • Spontaneity; do you still surprise each other?
  • Deeply knowing one another, and seeking to continuously know more
  • Giving and receiving; do you give freely? Do you receive and thank your partner for what they give to you? 
  • Support of each other’s dreams and endeavors; do you believe in them?
  • Shared dreams; do you have a vision you've co-created for your life together?
  • Respect; do you protect each other’s integrity?
  • Trust; can you trust that you'll be there for each other? Do you mean what you say? Do your actions follow suit?
  • Making agreements; do you discuss decisions together? Do you establish to hear each other out and be respectful of each other’s opinions? Have you resolved to figure things out together?
  • Compliments; do you notice and share what you like about each other?
  • Acceptance; do you criticize each other or recognize your frustration, and lovingly accept that we’re imperfect human beings?
  • Forgiveness; do you choose to apologize, forgive, and move forward? 
  • Intentions; do you trust each other's intentions? 
  • Willingness to re-evaluate; are you willing to be wrong?  Are you willing to admit it, and seek resolution?
  • Loyalty; would you fight for your partner? Do you know you have each other's back? 
  • Daily collaboration; how do you work together? Do you regularly handle situations as a team?
  • Graciousness; do you truly want to do things for each other?
  • Appreciation; do you recognize the ways in which you appreciate each other?
  • Love and like; do you love each other? Do you like each other? Do your actions towards one another reflect that you do?

As you reflect on these 22 elements, which do you feel strong in? Which would you like to improve?

Anything you'd add? Let me know by mentioning it in the comments below.

Extraordinary love begins with the desire to be better. To decide to notice more. To be more conscious of how you show up in your relationship. The fact that you're here shows that it's something you're willing to create, and the sooner the better, so go make extraordinary love.

Xx-

Meg