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Paul and Layne Cutright are marriage and business partners who have been teaching principles and practices for successful relationships since 1976. They are the founders of The Center for Enlightened Partnership (www.enlightenedpartners.com), an online learning and resource center providing e-learning products, teleclasses and coaching. They are authors of the Amazon Best Seller, You’re Never Upset for the Reason You Think and Straight From the Heart. They publish a free monthly e-zine filled with inspiration and practical tools for all your valued relationships (www.enlightenedpartners.com/newsletter.html).

Are Your Partnerships Shipshape? The Top Ten Practices of Enlightened Partners
Communication, Communication, Communication: The First Secret for Successful Relationships
Creating Agreements That Work: Building Trust Through Clarity
Designing for Trust

Five Stages of Partnership
Handling Conflict with Effective Communication
The Healing Power of Love, Some Unexpected Surprises
How to Complete Relationships Consciously: The Ten Essential Skills for Cocreating Conscious Completion
How to Create Healthy Boundaries in Relationships
How to Share Power in a Relationship: The Five C's of Cocreation
Keeping the Love Alive: Maintaining Good Feelings in Any Kind of Relationship - Part I
Keeping the Love Alive: Selfing, the Cure for Resentment - Part II

The Healing Power of Love, Some Unexpected Surprises


For the past 23 years we have been experimenting with and refining the art of "focused unconditional love". Our application has been centered around healing the emotional wounds of the past and accelerating personal and spiritual evolution. The results have been profound, dazzling and transformational. Yet, there are some unexpected difficulties that many people are unprepared for.

Most people yearn for a state of ongoing unconditional love and acceptance from others. Unfortunately, most people experience this for brief periods of time - if ever. As people clear their consciousness and heal the wounds of the heart they expand their capacity for love and they start to attract people with an expanded capacity for love. The kind of loving that they have yearned for and worked so hard to prepare for has finally arrived. And are they in for a big surprise!

After awhile, they start to experience the limits to their ability to receive the love they have always wanted. Rarely do they recognize that this is happening. Many people have unconscious ways of deflecting love. If you aren't aware of this dynamic you can sabotage your "dream come true."

The thing to remember about love is that it is the Great Healer. It purifies anything unlike itself. In practical everyday relating that looks like love brings up anything unlike itself. That means in the presence of pure unconditional love any remaining issues of undeservingness, fear or limitation will resurface to your conscious level of awareness. For most people that means - YIKES!, some uncomfortable feelings. What is actually happening is the love energy is igniting "transformational tremors" that are moving through your entire body/mind system. In a very real way it is shaking you to your core.

The problem with it is - it just doesn't look cool. I mean, here you are finally receiving the love you have always wanted and then - you start to feel weird. It's a drag. You wish that you could stop it and make the feelings go away - but the only way to do that is to resist the love that has activated the transformational tremors. What a dilemma! Oh, what to do, what to do!?

Well, there is only one smart thing to do. Seize the healing opportunity. Surrender to the moment. Blow your cool! If the love is real it's certainly strong enough to handle your feelings. In fact, the love energy itself is asking you to let go. Let it wash away the remaining fears, hurts, guilts and angers. Let love do its job. Let it take you to a higher level of healing. So, you keep letting go. Love is a balm that soothes and heals all the wounds of the heart. By letting it in you discover at an even deeper level your True Self. You will feel cleansed and refreshed. You will have expanded your capacity to give and receive love another notch. You will feel even closer to your loved ones. You will feel safe and more deeply understood. You will experience greater trust in yourself and others. You will be happier. You will be healed.

So, the trick here is to discover what are your "automatic, unconscious" ways of deflecting love? When people are giving you more love than you can comfortably receive, what do you do? Change the subject? Become the giver? Smoke, drink, eat? Pick a fight? Go numb? Start spending more time at the office? Judging the person who's loving you? We all have our "favorite" ways of deflecting love when it feels like it's just too much, and it is very important to know what those ways are and vow to stop them.

In a new book called The HeartMath Solution, the authors take a provocative look at the heart and its alliance with the mind, body and spirit. They discovered that:

When we love,

the electromagnetic energy generated by the heart (it generates about 2.5 watts of power per heartbeat) changes from a state of chaos, into an ordered, harmonic pattern of waves.

When we love,

this ordered pattern, like a radio wave, effects every cell in our body. Also, the autonomic nervous system that runs the unconscious functions of the body changes from a state of conflict and imbalance into an ordered, efficient, balanced state.

When we love,

many systems in our bodies that were operating independently of each other begin to function together in a state of order and harmony called "entrainment." Entrainment is highly efficient and, except for loving, is usually only found during deep sleep.

And, when we love,

a new form of intelligence, "heart intelligence", is evidenced in our physiological, psychological and intellectual functioning. We are wiser.

We can open to our enlightenment and quicken our evolutionary process by continuing to expand our capacity to comfortably give and receive more and more love. It's the smart thing to do.

Handling Conflict with Effective Communication


Conflict between people is a fact of life -- and it's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, a relationship with frequent conflict may be healthier than one with no observable conflict. Conflicts occur at all levels of interaction -- at work, among friends, within families and between relationship partners. When conflict occurs, the relationship may be weakened or strengthened. Thus, conflict is a critical event in the course of a relationship. Conflict can cause resentment, hostility and perhaps the ending of the relationship. If it is handled well, however, conflict can be productive - leading to deeper understanding, mutual respect and closeness. Whether a relationship is healthy or unhealthy depends not so much on the number of conflicts between participants, but on how the conflicts are resolved.

Sometimes people shy away from conflict, and the reasons for this are numerous. They may, for example, feel that their underlying anger may go out of control if they open the door to conflict. Thus, they may see conflict as an all-or-nothing situation (either they avoid it altogether or they end up in an all-out combative mode, regardless of the real severity of the conflict). Or they may find it difficult to face conflict because they feel inadequate in general or in the particular relationship. They may have difficulty in positively asserting their views and feelings. Children who grow up surrounded by destructive conflict may, as adults, determine never to participate in discord. In this situation, the person may never have learned that there are effective, adaptive ways to communicate in the face of conflict.

People adopt a number of different styles in facing conflict. First, it is very common to see a person avoid or deny the existence of conflict. Unfortunately, in this case, the conflict often lingers in the background during interaction between the participants and creates the potential for further tension and even more conflict. A second response style is that of one person getting mad and blaming the other person. This occurs when a person mistakenly equates conflict with anger. This stance does nothing to resolve the conflict and in fact only serves to increase the degree of friction between the two participants by amplifying defensiveness. A third way which some people use to resolve conflict is by using power and influence to win at the other's expense. They welcome conflict because it allows their competitive impulses to emerge, but they fail to understand that the conflict is not really resolved since the "loser" will continue to harbor resentment. Similarly, some people appear to compromise in resolving the conflict, but they subtly manipulate the other person in the process, and this, again, perpetuates the conflict between the two parties and compromises the trust between them. There are better ways to handle interpersonal conflict.

Healthy Approaches to Conflict Resolution

Conflicts run all the way from minor, unimportant differences to disputes which can threaten the existence of a relationship. Conflicts with a loved one or a long-term friend are, of course, different from negotiating with someone who does not care about your needs, like a stranger or a salesperson. However, there is an underlying principle that underscores all successful conflict resolution. That is, both parties must view their conflict as a problem to be solved mutually so that both parties have the feeling of winning -- or at least finding a solution which is acceptable to both. Each person must participate actively in the resolution and make an effort and commitment to find answers which are as fair as possible to both. This is an easy principle to understand, but it is often difficult to put into practice.

We may get so caught up with our own immediate interests that we damage our relationships. If we disregard or minimize the position of the other person, if fear and power are used to win, or if we always have to get our own way, the other person will feel hurt and the relationship may be wounded. Similarly, if we always surrender just to avoid conflict, we give the message to the other person that it is acceptable to act self-serving at our expense and insensitive to our needs. Our feeling of self-worth suffers, resentment festers, and we feel poisoned in the relationship. Instead, it is healthier if both parties can remain open, honest, assertive and respectful of the other position. Mutual trust and respect, as well as a positive, constructive attitude, are fundamental necessities in relationships that matter.

Preventing Conflict

Most people have no interest in creating conflict with others. Most of us know enough about human behavior to distinguish between healthy communication and the words or actions that contribute to rocky relationships. It is in our interest to maintain relations which are smooth, flexible, and mutually enhancing. The problem occurs when we fail to use cooperative approaches consistently in our dealing with others. We seldom create conflict intentionally. We do it because we may not be aware of how our own behavior contributes to interpersonal problems. Sometimes we forget, or we are frustrated and annoyed, and sometimes we just have a bad day. At times we feel so exasperated that we focus on our own needs at the expense of others'. And then we find ourselves in conflict.

To prevent conflict from happening in the first place, it is important to identify the ways in which we contribute to the disagreement. One way of doing this is to identify a specific, recent conflicted situation, recall what you said, and then think specifically about how you could have used more effective language. Think about ways in which your communication could have set a more trustful tone or reduced defensiveness. Then, once you have identified your part in the conflict, such as blaming, practice working on that particular behavior for a day or a week. At the end of the time period, evaluate your progress. Did you succeed? In what situations did you not succeed? (While it may be the other person who created the conflict, you are the other half of the interaction and it is your own response that you have control over and can change.)

Using Effective Communication Techniques to Reduce Conflict

Once you find yourself in a conflicted situation with someone else, it is important to reduce the emotional charge from the situation so that you and the other person can deal with your differences on a rational level in resolving the conflict.

The Defusing Technique

The other person might be angry and may come to the situation armed with a number of arguments describing how you are to blame for his or her unhappiness. Your goal is to address the other's anger -- and you do this by simply agreeing with the person. When you find some truth in the other point of view, it is difficult for the other person to maintain anger. For example, "I know that I said I would call you last night. You are absolutely right. I wish I could be more responsible sometimes." The accusation might be completely unreasonable from your viewpoint, but there is always some truth in what the other person says. At the very least, we need to acknowledge that individuals have different ways of seeing things. This does not mean that we have to compromise our own basic principles. We simply validate the other's stance so that we can move on to a healthier resolution of the conflict. This may be hard to do in a volatile situation, but a sign of individual strength and integrity is the ability to postpone our immediate reactions in order to achieve positive goals. Sometimes we have to "lose" in order, ultimately, to "win."

Empathy

Try to put yourself into the shoes of the other person. See the world through their eyes. Empathy is an important listening technique that gives the other feedback that he or she is being heard. There are two forms of empathy. "Thought Empathy" gives the message that you understand what the other is trying to say. You can do this in conversation by paraphrasing the words of the other person. For example, "I understand you to say that your trust in me has been broken." "Feeling Empathy" is your acknowledgment of how the other person probably feels. It is important never to attribute emotions that may not exist for the other person (such as, "You're confused with all your emotional upheaval right now"), but rather to indicate your perception of how the person must be feeling. For example, "I guess you probably feel pretty mad at me right now."

Exploration

Ask gentle, probing questions about what the other person is thinking and feeling. Encourage the other to talk fully about what is on his or her mind. For example, "Are there any other thoughts that you need to share with me?"

Using "I" Statements

Take responsibility for your own thoughts rather than attributing motives to the other person. This decreases the chance that the other person will become defensive. For example, "I feel pretty upset that this thing has come between us." This statement is much more effective than saying, "You have made me feel very upset."

Stroking

Find positive things to say about the other person, even if the other is angry with you. Show a respectful attitude. For example, "I genuinely respect you for having the courage to bring this problem to me. I admire your strength and your caring attitude."

Although it seems that people are being kinder and gentler with each other these days, nerves are also frayed and anxieties are high -- a good formula for upsets and misunderstandings. The ideas presented in this article can help all of us continue to be more aware and compassionate in our dealings with one another.

Designing for Trust


People yearn for relationships they can trust. They want to be able to depend on people. They want relationships characterized by ease, clarity and harmonious cooperation.

The hallmark of an enlightened partnership is intentional design. Great relationships don't just happen, mediocre ones do. If you are like most people, you yearn for relationships you can trust. You want to be able to depend on people. You want relationships characterized by ease, clarity and harmonious cooperation. The good news is it is easier than you think. With a little bit of education and skill you can design relationships that foster trust through clarity and agreement.

Clarifying the purpose of your relationship and crafting agreements is a foundational part of the design process for generating trust. The conversations you will have will illuminate what is truly important to each person. This knowledge is essential in creating relationships that work well over the long term. If you create agreements that reflect the authentic motivation of each person and you plan for predictable breakdowns in a way that fosters accountability you can relax into a new certainty and trust in your most important relationships.

What Is an Agreement?

What is an agreement really? An agreement is a method for coordinating action between two or more people. It is supposed to smooth the way for efficient harmonious interaction. But why do people so often not live up to their word? Usually an agreement fails because it does not reflect the true desire and motivation of all the people making the agreement. People who agree to something because they are afraid of what will happen if they don't agree, will more than likely not follow through, unless they are pressured to do so.

It is important to know that agreements alone will not secure the safety and dependability we all yearn for. For an agreement to be effective the internal motivator that drives it should be so compelling that the people involved are aroused to fulfill their part of their own volition. In other words, an agreement you can count on has to come from the right place.

Why Am I Agreeing to This?

That means that each person must answer the question, "For the sake of what am I agreeing to this?" This reason needs to be explicit. You can't assume the same thing motivates everyone. You have to question, discuss and clarify. Successful agreements are always driven by a clear purpose that inspires action. There are two very important things that need to be part of a process for creating agreements that will work, a clear and inspiring purpose for your agreements and a process for restoring trust when an agreement has been broken.

A good purpose statement for sharing household chores might be something like, "We agree to share in household chores so that we can enjoy a relationship that is free from resentment and filled with trust, intimacy, passion and fun!" For business agreements something like, "The purpose of the following agreements is to ignite an unstoppable force for imagination, creativity and collective accomplishment." It is also a good idea to post this declaration in a place where it will be seen frequently by the participating members, e.g., refrigerator, coffee room, bulletin board.

Once you have crafted an inspiring purpose statement for your agreements and you have listed the agreements, check to see that all the agreements are consistent with your purpose. Then you need to determine a protocol for handling the inevitable broken agreement. This protocol needs to be something everyone accepts and is willing to use.

Agreements Aren't Always Kept

Yes, it may be sad but true that even with the best intentions, sometimes agreements aren't kept. You agree to be on time and you get a flat tire. You agree to handle dinner tonight and you feel ill or exhausted from the day. The best kind of protocol is one that quickly restores trust and completely neutralizes any disappointment or hard feelings. This is important because we want to make sure the memory of the event doesn't carry forward any resentment, blame or guilt. Any of these feelings are toxic to a harmonious future.

We have found that using amendments to restore broken agreements is a stellar solution. When someone does not keep an agreement for whatever reason, they offer an amendment to the other person. It is much better if someone does not have to ask for an amendment, but the person who did not keep the agreement readily offers it.

Apologies and Amendments

An amendment is different from an apology. An apology includes saying "I'm sorry" and how you will handle things differently in the future. An amendment is something you do to make up for whatever disappointment or bad feeling happened when the agreement was not kept as promised. An amendment is not a punishment. It is an opportunity to restore trust. What you offer for an amendment depends on the intensity of inconvenience or distress the other person experienced because you did not keep the agreement as promised.

Imagine someone who is late for a meeting and says upon arrival, "I apologize for being late. I'm sorry you were kept waiting and wondering. How about I bring flowers for the front desk tomorrow to make up for it?" Offering an apology and an amendment is a winning combination. It is a very grownup move that rekindles trust and allows everyone involved to bounce back to a very high level of teamwork.

Amendments work best when they are pleasurable for everyone involved. Treating someone to lunch is a better amendment than cleaning their car, unless of course you enjoy cleaning cars. Buying flowers tomorrow is better than doing a big thing in two or three weeks.

No Big Deal?

Sometimes people want to pretend that the agreement being broken was "no big deal" and an amendment is not necessary. We caution you against reacting this way consistently. It sends the wrong message. It is important for people to keep their word, to be accountable for their promises. The ill feelings that come from broken agreements can build up over time. Using amendments is a great way of averting the kind of disastrous blow-ups that happen when people get fed up.

It is a good idea to bring a light heart, a sense of humor and your creativity to the amendment process. Remember the purpose of an amendment is to restore trust and harmony to a relationship.

Written Agreements or Verbal Agreements?

Sometimes people balk at the idea of written agreements. It seems like too much trouble. But if you take a step back and look at most of the failures in your relationships you will probably notice most of them came from lack of clarity and alignment. How many times have you had a different recollection of a conversation than the other person having the conversation? It is one of the most common problems in relationships, having different perceptions of the same event. If the agreements are written down, you won’t spend time arguing about them. Also, if everyone involved in creating the agreements is clear enough to write them down, chances are they know what they are and understand them. We are not talking about every agreement you ever make in the relationship, but most certainly the ones that lay the foundation for your relationship.

Here is an agreement crafted by two clients with the help of our coaching. We think you will agree that the clarity and strength shines through.

Our Relationship

The purpose of our relationship is to love, trust and nurture one another so that we both grow and achieve our full potential as soul mates, lovers and friends.

We promise to …

  • Have fun together
  • Share passion and fulfill each others sexual desires
  • Focus on things that we appreciate about one another and acknowledge them
  • Experience the things we have loved as if we were doing them for the first time
  • Treat each other with kindness and respect
  • Create a relationship where we can experience peace and contentment
  • Be lighthearted and not take ourselves too seriously
  • Experience unconditional love
  • Appreciate our strengths and accept our faults
  • Communicate openly and freely with ultimate trust and truth
  • Celebrate the relationship as the most important thing in our lives
  • Laugh a lot!!!
  • Share trust, love, intimacy to the deepest level possible
  • Have dreams together and share the journey of them coming true

In order to fulfill these promises we will…

  • Make time for that “Start the Day Hug”
  • Spend 10 to 30 minutes a day for Couple Time and Alone Time
  • Make our love visible with notes and cards
  • Spend a minimum of 2 weekends per month alone together
  • Have 1 relationship night per week
  • Enjoy regular “Holding Time” – 5 minutes or more each day
  • Share 2 energy or visualization sessions per week
  • Have 2 Heart to Heart Talks per week
  • Weekly “Support Review”
  • Review our triggers once a month
  • Pick a picture on the relationship creation boards and talk about what it feels like to achieve that
  • Take turns planning a “Date Day” twice per month

We agree that we both will …

  • Make our relationship a priority
  • Do whatever it takes to make our relationship mutually satisfying
  • Acknowledge each other frequently
  • Be emotionally supportive to one another
  • Be personally responsible for our own experience
  • Be honest in all ways
  • Have the right to say no without losing each others love
  • Create an environment conducive to love-making
  • Have a period of intimate sharing before sex
  • Be sensitive to each others needs and desires
  • Be responsible for our own sexual satisfaction
  • Communicate through any upsets until they are resolved to our mutual satisfaction
  • Always tell the truth about our thoughts and feelings
  • Be responsible in our communications, i.e. to speak in “I” sentences and to not cast blame
  • Clear our resentments and upsets daily with each other
  • Spend time looking into what’s going on with ourselves first, e.g., using the CURE Upset Resolution Process in order to avoid blaming the other
  • Seek outside support when we are stuck
  • Learn from an upset
  • Work on resolving unresolved issues from the past
  • Agree that it is OK to disagree
  • Not use these agreements to control or manipulate each other
  • Be responsible for keeping these agreements and to use an amendment system to restore trust and harmony in case they are broken

We know that the purpose of these agreements is to help us continually enjoy the precious treasure that our relationship is with out any distracting discord or hurt feelings.

Clarity is Power

Can you imagine the conversations these two people would have had to write all that down? Do you think those conversations would have assured they were both on the same page with one another and they had a pretty good idea what they could count on one another for? Do you think they would have enjoyed a superior level of trust in their relationship with one another? You bet! And so would anyone else with the foresight to plan for success.

The whole process of crafting an agreement for your relationship should be enjoyable. Don’t try and do it all in one day. Gather information through informal conversations that are mostly about getting to know one another. Then as the relationship is maturing you will see the right time to have a more formal conversation about designing your relationship for trust.

How to Create Healthy Boundaries in Relationships


“Good fences make good neighbors.” – Robert Frost

A successful relationship is composed of two individuals – each with a clearly defined sense of her or his own identity. Without our own understanding of self, of who we are and what makes us unique, it is difficult to engage in the process of an ongoing relationship in a way that functions smoothly and enhances each of the partners. We need a sense of self in order to clearly communicate our needs and desires to our partner. When we have a strong conception of our own identity, we can appreciate and love those qualities in our partner that make him or her a unique person. When two people come together, each with a clear definition of her or his own individuality, the potential for intimacy and commitment can be astounding. The similarities between two people may bring them together, but their differences contribute to the growth, excitement and mystery of their relationship.

One feature of a healthy sense of self is the way we understand and work with boundaries. Personal boundaries are the limits we set in relationships that allow us to protect our selves. Boundaries come from having a good sense of our own self-worth. They make it possible for us to separate our own thoughts and feelings from those of others and to take responsibility for what we think, feel and do. Boundaries allow us to rejoice in our own uniqueness. Intact boundaries are flexible – they allow us to get close to others when it is appropriate and to maintain our distance when we might be harmed by getting too close. Good boundaries protect us from abuse and pave the way to achieving true intimacy. They help us take care of ourselves.

Unhealthy boundaries often emerge from dysfunctional family backgrounds. The needs of parents or other adults in a family are sometimes so overwhelming that the task of raising children is demoted to a secondary role, and dysfunction is the likely result. Consider the role of the father who screams at his children or becomes physically abusive with them as a way of dealing in a self-centered way with his own anger. His needs come first, and the needs of the children for safety, security, respect and comfort come second. What the children are likely to learn in this situation is that boundaries don’t matter. As they grow up, they lack the support they need to form a healthy sense of their own identities. In fact, they may learn that if they want to get their way with others, they need to intrude on the boundaries of other people – just as their father did. They would likely grow up with fluid boundaries, which may lead to dysfunctional relationships later on in life. They would have a hazy sense of their own personal boundaries. Conversely, they may learn that rigid and inflexible boundaries might be the way to handle their relationships with other people. They wall themselves off in their relationships as a way of protecting themselves, and, as a consequence, may find it difficult to form close interpersonal bonds with others in adulthood.

Here are some ways in which unhealthy boundaries may show themselves in our relationships, along with some remedies –

Lack of a Sense of Identity

When we lack a sense of our own identity and the boundaries that protect us, we tend to draw our identities from our partner. We can’t imagine who we would be without our relationship. We become willing to do anything it takes to make the relationship work, even if it means giving up our emotional security, friends, integrity, sense of self-respect, independence, or job. We may endure physical, emotional or sexual abuse just to save the relationship.

The more rational alternative is to find out who we are and what makes us unique, and to rejoice in this discovery. Realize that your value and worth as a person are not necessarily dependent on having a significant other in your life, that you can function well as an independent person in your own right. When you move into accepting yourself, your relationships will actually have a chance to grow and flourish. This journey of self-discovery can be challenging – but highly rewarding. Working with a trained therapist or coach can provide the structure and support we needed to take on this task.

Settling for Second Best

We may cling to the irrational belief that things are good enough in the relationship – that we feel a measure of security and that this is as good as it’s likely to get. In the process, however, we give up the chance to explore our sense of fulfillment in life. We give up our own life dreams in order to maintain the security of a relationship. There is a feeling that if one of the partners grows and finds personal life fulfillment, the relationship would be damaged.

A healthy relationship is one in which our boundaries are strong enough, yet flexible enough, to allow us to flourish with our own uniqueness. There is a sense of respect on the part of both partners that allows each to live as full a life as possible and to explore their own personal potential. We don’t have to give up ourselves for a relationship. Healthy boundaries allow trust and security to develop in a relationship.

Over-Responsibility and Guilt

One characteristic of growing up in a dysfunctional household is that we may learn to feel guilty if we fail to ensure the success and happiness of other members of the household. Thus, in adulthood, we may come to feel responsible for our partner’s failures. The guilt we feel when our partner fails may drive us to keep tearing down our personal boundaries so that we are always available to the other person. When we feel overly responsible for another person’s life experiences, we deprive them of one of the most important features of an independent, healthy and mature life – the ability to make our own life choices and accept the consequences of our decisions.

A healthier response is to show our partners respect by allowing them to succeed or fail on their own terms. You, of course, can be there to comfort your partner when times become difficult, and you can rejoice together when success is the outcome. When boundaries are healthy, you are able to say, “I trust and respect you to make your own life choices. As my equal partner, I will not try to control you by taking away your choices in life.”

The Difference Between Love and Rescue

People who grow up in a dysfunctional family may fail to learn the difference between love and sympathy. Children growing up in these conditions may learn to have sympathy for the emotional crippling in their parents’ lives and feel that the only time they get attention is when they show compassion for the parent. They feel that when they forgive, they are showing love. Actually, they are rescuing the parent and enabling abusive behavior to continue. They learn to give up their own protective boundaries in order to take care of the dysfunctional parent. In adulthood, they carry these learned behaviors into their relationships. If they can rescue their partner, they feel that they are showing love. They get a warm, caring, sharing feeling from helping their partner – a feeling they call love. But this may actually encourage their partner to become needy and helpless. An imbalance can then occur in the relationship in which one partner becomes the rescuer and the other plays the role of the helpless victim. In this case, healthy boundaries, which allow both partners to live complete lives, are absent. Mature love requires the presence of healthy and flexible boundaries.

Sympathy and compassion are worthy qualities, but they are not to be confused with love, especially when boundaries have become distorted. Healthy boundaries lead to respect for the other and equality in a relationship, an appreciation for the aliveness and strength of the other person, and a mutual flow of feelings between the two partners – all features of mature love. When one partner is in control and the other is needy and helpless, there is no room for the normal give-and-take of a healthy relationship.

Fantasy vs. Reality

Children from dysfunctional households often feel that things will get better someday, that a normal life may lie in the future. Indeed, some days things are fairly normal, but then the bad times return again. It’s the normal days that encourage the fantasy that all problems in the family might someday be solved. When they grow up, these adults carry the same types of fantasy into their relationships. They may portray to others the myth that they have the perfect relationship – and they may believe, to themselves, that someday all of their relationship problems will somehow be solved. They ignore the abuse, manipulation, imbalance and control in the relationship. By ignoring the problems, they are unable to confront them – and the fantasy of a happier future never comes to pass. Unhealthy boundaries, where we collude with our partner in believing the myth that everything is fine, make it difficult to come to terms with the troubles of the relationship.

Healthy boundaries allow us to test reality rather than rely on fantasy. When problems are present, good boundaries allow us to define the problems and to communicate with our partner in finding solutions. They encourage a healthy self-image, trust, consistency, stability and productive communication.

Learning to have healthy boundaries is an exciting adventure, an exercise in personal liberation. It means coming to know ourselves and increasing our awareness of what we stand for. It also means self-acceptance and knowing that we are OK as we are and worthy of the good things in life. When two people with healthy boundaries enter into a relationship, they encourage wholeness, independence and a zest for life in their partner. They know that trust is possible and that the normal expected difficulties found in all relationships can be worked on constructively. They can find true intimacy as whole, complete and equal people. The journey to a sense of healthy identity is not always easy – but it need not be all that difficult. It often means letting go of some of our old misconceptions about the nature of the world. It means treating ourselves with respect and appreciating ourselves for what we really are. When we can do this for ourselves, we can take the same approach toward our partner – and then the true happiness and love that our relationship deserves can become a reality.

Healthy and Unhealthy Boundaries in Relationships – Some Examples

Healthy

  • Feeling like your own person
  • Feeling responsible for your own happiness
  • Togetherness and separateness are balanced
  • Friendships exist outside of the relationship
  • Focuses on the best qualities of both people
  • Achieving intimacy without chemicals
  • Open, honest and assertive communication
  • Commitment to the partner
  • Respecting the differences in the partner
  • Accepting changes in the relationship
  • Asking honestly for what is wanted
  • Accepting endings

Unhealthy

  • Feeling incomplete without your partner
  • Relying on your partner for your happiness
  • Too much or too little togetherness
  • Inability to establish and maintain friendships with others
  • Focuses on the worst qualities of the partners
  • Using alcohol/drugs to reduce inhibitions and achieve a false sense of intimacy
  • Game-playing, unwillingness to listen, manipulation
  • Jealousy, relationship addiction or lack of commitment
  • Blaming the partner for his or her own unique qualities
  • Feeling that the relationship should always be the same
  • Feeling unable to express what is wanted
  • Unable to let go

Make It Real

Here’s an exercise for you:

1. Make a list of all the people you care about, both personally and professionally.

2. For each person, write down the things that you no longer want to allow in your relationship.

3. For each person, write down the things you would like to allow more of in your relationship.

4. Pass this article on to them and ask them to do this exercise.

5. Have a conversation with those people about what is on your lists and invite them to do the same with you.

How to Complete Relationships Consciously: The Ten Essential Skills for Cocreating Conscious Completion


Completing relationships is often one of the most painful experiences of life. Because of this, people tend to avoid dealing with completion altogether. There are four ways we have observed that relationships can be completed; death, drifting apart, abrupt expulsion or ejection from the relationship and conscious completion. Sometimes completion is only about changing the form of the relationship and recreating it, not necessarily the end of the relationship altogether. A good example of this is when parents divorce; they are still responsible for co-parenting. Consequently they are remaining in relationship, albeit a different form than marriage and romance.

When people drift apart, it is often because there were things they were afraid to talk about. The cumulative effect of avoiding important conversations about difficult issues is emotional numbing and distancing. Often, the eventual outcome is drifting apart. Geographical distance can also lead to drifting apart, as well as a lack of common interests.

Sometimes, events occur in relationships that cause a sudden and abrupt end to relationships. An example of this could be a business partnership in which one partner is found committing illegal or unethical acts that compromise the life or reputation of the business and partners involved. Hurt feelings that people don't have the skills or inclination to talk about and work through, can also lead to an abrupt ending of a relationship.

Much more rare is for relationships to be completed consciously. That is because there is some skill involved and a high level of self-awareness and compassion. We offer for your consideration the following ten essential skills for consciously completing relationships.

1. Be alert to how the completion impacts the identity concerns of everyone involved. Our sense of self is very much tied to our most important relationships, whether personal or business, and when an important relationship completes it can have a painful impact on our thoughts and feelings about ourselves. It can cause us to question our conception of reality and our place in it.

2. Acknowledge and integrate the value and learning from the relationship. Remember from our soul's perspective relationships are for learning and creating. If a relationship is completing, it indicates that we have probably learned most of the lessons available for us in that relationship or new creations are calling us to a new path. Completion may be thought of as a graduation.

3. Own up to mistakes without self-invalidation. A valuable point of view is to consider that everyone is always doing the best they can with the resources available to them - even you. Undoubtedly, if we had it to do all over again, there is almost always something we would do differently. It's essential to conscious completion to acknowledge our mistakes. That is a part of the learning.

4. Make apologies. Even though we are not responsible for other peoples' feelings, it is also true that our words and actions have impact on others. If there is any way that you have spoken or behaved that has caused others pain, it is important to know how to make sincere and effective apologies from a place of self-love and compassion for others.

5. Redefine your common path -- Create a new form for the relationship. You may be moving from romantic partner to friend; or from marriage partner to parenting partner; or business partner to belonging to the same associations. The most important part in creating a new form is clarifying the purpose of the new relationship.

6. Articulate the highest spiritual thought about the relatioship. This requires looking at your relationship from your soul's perspective which is beyond time and immediate circumstances. It allows you to acknowledge and appreciate how you have grown and developed in the relationship. There is a feeling of gratitude and blessing about the relationship that acts as a balm, soothing the temporary wounds of separation.

7. Know what you need to feel complete. Are there things you need to say or requests you need to make? Are there missing pieces of information that would help you feel complete if you had them? Do you need to offer or ask for forgiveness for anything?

8. Generate a safe space for completion conversation. Make sure everything that needs to be said or done for everyone to feel complete is communicated in a spirit of love and dignity. Creating this kind of atmosphere can be challenging when there are hurt feelings and unresolved misunderstanding. It can be valuable to bring in a coach to facilitate the completion conversation.

9. Allow for a healthy expression of grief, fear, anger or any other emotion. Learning to be present to someone else's upset without taking it personally is a high level relationship skill, but it can be learned. It is important because the relationship won't feel complete without the acknowledgment of important, and often powerful, feelings. You also need to love yourself enough to acknowledge and express your own feelings. Unacknowledged feelings tend to show up in other relationships, which is why this part is so important.

10. Accept and flow with change. This is a time for us to acknowledge that we are each the source of our own happiness. This can be an impetus for us to let go of the notion that we need a particular person to actualize our full potential for wellbeing. With every ending there are new beginnings. Trust your own Higher Self who is always guiding you to your greatest good.

What does completion feel like? How do you know when you are consciously complete in a relationship? When you can think of the other person and not have any bad feelings of regret or pain, rather you are able to feel gratitude for all that the relationship was and all that you have learned from it. Completion can feel like anything from neutral (no negative charge) to love and appreciation. Anything less is just not, well, complete.

Are Your Partnerships Shipshape? The Top Ten Practices of Enlightened Partners


Partnerships are in many ways like real, seagoing ships. Just like a sailing vessel needs regular, constant care and upkeep, your partnerships need regular care and upkeep. The crew of a sailing ship is knowledgeable in the standard practices of seamanship, which is absolutely required to maintain a ship's seaworthiness. Unfortunately, most people are not knowledgeable in the standard practices of maintaining their partner-ships.

Yet, most people in partnerships of any kind are usually focused on the goals of the partnership, whether building a life or a business or a community center. There is very little attention paid to the partner-ship itself. And often, somewhere along the voyage of life, the partner-ship is unable to withstand the inevitable and predictable storms of life that can damage both the partners and the partner-ship. Maintaining a strong, stable, satisfying partner-ship requires knowledge and skill - neither of which is commonly taught in our culture.

Enlightened partnerships are distinguished both by the shared vision that guides the partnership as well as the standard practices of its partners. Enlightened partnerships are created and maintained through specific standard practices. Unfortunately, these practices are uncommon in a popular culture gripped by fear and ignorance. But, through the commitment to learn and use these practices, the partners and the partnership are elevated to new heights that uplift and evolve the soul.

Below we offer for your consideration the Top Ten Practices of Enlightened Partners to help you in building and maintaining strong, durable and enlightened partnerships.

Top Ten Practices of Enlightened Partners

1. Write down the purpose and desired results for your partnership. A partnership without a stated purpose and intended results is like a ship setting sail without a chart or plotted course. The purpose should be stated in a way that lifts the spirit of all partners.

2. Make choices grounded in love rather than fear. Become aware of your automatic reactions that are based in fear and look for the love choice instead. Ask yourself, what would love do or say in this situation?

3. Mutually agree upon strategies for dealing with predictable breakdowns, i.e., miscommunications, upsets or disagreements and use them when needed. It is important to have these strategies in place before the breakdowns occur. It is difficult, if not impossible, to create and implement them in the middle of a breakdown.

4. Commit to win/win outcomes; don't settle for anyone being the loser. For the partnership to win, all partners need to win. If anyone in the partnership loses, the entire partnership loses. Keep asking questions that lead you to the win/win outcome.

5. Communicate honestly from the heart and practice high performance listening. People respond positively to the expression of heart-felt truth because it builds trust, even if they don't agree with it. High performance listening is listening without judgment for the concerns of the other person that may be hidden behind their words.

6. Assume personal responsibility for your emotional reality and refrain from blame. Blame and projection will pollute the emotional climate of a partnership faster than anything.

7. Take the initiative for the satisfaction of your own needs and wants and make clear requests of others that inspire their cooperation. Don't wait for people to guess what will make you happy. Nobody likes to endure demands or covert manipulation.

8. Share power rather than struggle for it. Let go of the need to be right all the time. Value others ideas and perceptions as being as valid as your own. Heal your unresolved power/authority issues from the past.

9. See problems as opportunities. Every problem contains the gift of spiritual development within it. Learn to unwrap the package.

10. Nurture a conscious relationship with your Soul. The more spiritually attuned you are, the more enlightened you and your partnerships will be.

How to Share Power in a Relationship: The Five C's of Cocreation


The evolutionary edge for humanity is sharing power. As a species we are gradually moving from using our power in self-centered adversarial ways to sharing our collective power for the mutual benefit of everyone concerned. We are shifting from a paradigm characterized by me or them to me and them. We are just beginning to tap into the power of co-creation. 

It's going to take more than good intentions for us to pull this one off. We are all going to have to learn to think differently, make new distinctions and include new practices in our business-as-usual routines.

We offer you the 5 C's of co-creation to help you create a map for your exploration of this new and uncharted territory.

The 5 C's are commitment, communication, cooperation, collaboration and coordination. If you are intending to create a future with one or more people it's a good idea to deep the 5C's in mind and to check in with one another periodically to see if you are taking them into consideration as you progress.

COMMITMENT - Setting your intention. What are we all committed to? Can we all state it succinctly? Does the commitment generate enthusiasm? Does it live in our everyday conversations with one another in some way? Are there any obstacles to honoring the commitment to our fullest ability? How are we dealing with those obstacles? Are we all committed to doing what is in our power to do, to have the co-creative endeavor succeed for everyone concerned?

COMMUNICATION - Creating the environment. As human beings our relationships live in language. What we talk about and how we talk about it determines the emotional climate of our relationships. Is our communication style fostering safety and creativity? Are we communicating readily, honestly, and openly? Are there things we are afraid to discuss that need to be discussed? Are there unspoken emotional undercurrents distracting our attention? Are there any recurrent communication breakdowns and is there a strategy in place so they can be avoided in the future? Does our communication include acknowledgment and gratitude? Are people making requests in order to take care of their own needs and wants? Are we giving effective feedback so we can improve as we go? Are we communicating our unified purpose to others in inspiring and enthusiastic ways?

COOPERATION - The necessary attitude. Are we cooperating? Is our cooperation motivated by an inner passion or is it being forced by fear and the need to go with the flow of others intentions? Are we able to find a common path through adversity or is it every man for him self when the going gets tough? Are there any competing egos vying for the spotlight at the expense of others? Are we clear on the benefits of cooperation in this creative endeavor? What is at risk if we don't cooperate?

COLLABORATION - Synergizing ideas. Is there an attitude that everyone's ideas are vital to the whole? Are we able to express our ideas freely without fear of judgment or ridicule? As a group are we asking BIG questions that bring forth the talent of everyone involved and excite our creative impulses? Are we able to engage in possibility thinking, not limited by the past or what has been? Are we skillful in bringing out the best in each other? Is the system in which we are working set up to receive the avalanche of creativity we can generate?

COORDINATION - Synchronizing action. What's the plan? How are we coordinating our actions in effective and harmonious ways? Do we all have an overview of how all the different parts are working together? Are we clear on individual areas of responsibility and accountability? What are the consequences, if any, for failure to perform? How does time play into to it? Do we have established lines of communication? How often do we need to reevaluate the plan? How often and in what form (phone, meetings, e-mail) do we need to communicate in order to coordinate effectively?

We all play a vital part in the emerging paradigm of co-creation. Discovering our unique contribution is part of the adventure. We hope that using the 5 C’s will help you better play your part in fulfilling the promise of humanity's evolutionary potential.

We have found it very helpful to use written agreements that clarify the foundation of the co-creative relationship. These are the ones we like to use and we offer them for your consideration.

Co-Creator Agreements 

1. I agree to bring my passion and talent to our collective endeavor.

2. I agree to speak the truth with compassion. 

3. I agree to listen deeply and respectfully to others.

4. I agree to be responsible for my own needs, wants and sense of being valued. 

5. I agree to acknowledge others generously.

6. I will readily use our predetermined protocol for resolving upsets in a way that fosters personal responsibility and collective harmony.

7. I agree to use mistakes constructively and practice forgiveness when called for.

8. I will strive to maintain trust and affinity and restore them if they are damaged.

9. I agree to turn my complaints into requests and communicate constructively to the person who can do something about it.

10. I will refrain from negative gossip.

11. I agree to manage my agreements with others in responsible and courteous ways.

12. I agree to encourage and be encouraged in bringing out our individual genius.

13. I agree to nurture a soulful connection with my fellow co-creators.

Creating Agreements That Work: Building Trust Through Clarity


People yearn for relationships they can trust. They want to be able to depend on people. They want relationships characterized by ease, clarity and harmonious cooperation. But, is there any adult who hasn't felt let down or betrayed by someone who didn't live up to his or her agreements?

What Is an Agreement?

What is an agreement really? An agreement is a method for coordinating action between two or more people. It is supposed to smooth the way for efficient harmonious interaction. But why do people so frequently not live up to their word? Usually an agreement fails because it does not reflect the true desire and motivation of all the people making the agreement. People who agree to something because they are afraid of what will happen if they don't agree, will more than likely not follow through, unless they are pressured to do so.

It is important to know that agreements alone will not secure the safety and dependability we all yearn for. For an agreement to be effective the internal motivator that drives it should be so compelling that the people involved are aroused to fulfill their part, of their own volition. In other words, an agreement you can count on has to come from the right place.

Why Am I Agreeing to This?

That means that each person must answer the question, "For the sake of what am I agreeing to this?" This reason needs to be explicit. You can't assume the same thing motivates everyone. You have to question, discuss and clarify. Successful agreements are always driven by a clear purpose that inspires action. There are two very important things that need to be part of a process for creating agreements that will work. A clear and inspiring purpose for your agreements and a process for restoring trust when an agreement has been broken.

A good purpose statement for sharing household chores might be something like; "We agree to share in household chores so that we can enjoy a relationship that is free from resentment and filled with trust, intimacy, passion and fun!" For business agreements something like, "The purpose of the following agreements is to ignite an unstoppable force for imagination, creativity and collective accomplishment." It is also a good idea to post this declaration in a place where it will be seen frequently by the participating members, e.g., refrigerator, coffee room, bulletin board.

Once you have crafted an inspiring purpose statement for your agreements and you have listed the agreements, make sure they are consistent with your purpose. Then you need to determine a protocol for handling the inevitable broken agreement. This protocol needs to be something everyone accepts and is willing to use.

Agreements Aren't Always Kept

Yes, it may be sad but true that even with the best intentions, sometimes agreements aren't kept. You agree to be on time and you get a flat tire. You agree to pay a special project bonus and your biggest account defaults on a payment. The best kind of protocol is one that quickly restores trust and completely neutralizes any disappointment or hard feelings. This is important because we want to make sure the memory of the event doesn't carry forward any resentment, blame or guilt. Any of these feelings are toxic to a harmonious future.

We have found that using amendments to restore broken agreements is a stellar solution. When someone does not keep an agreement for whatever reason, they offer an amendment to the other person. It is much better if someone does not have to ask for an amendment, but the person who did not keep the agreement readily offers it.

Apologies and Amendments

An amendment is different from an apology. An apology includes saying "I'm sorry" and how you will handle things differently in the future. An amendment is something you do to make up for whatever disappointment or bad feeling happened when the agreement was not kept as promised. An amendment is not a punishment. It is an opportunity to restore trust. What you offer for an amendment depends on the intensity of inconvenience or distress the other person experienced because you did not keep the agreement as promised.

Imagine someone who is late for a meeting and says upon arrival, "I apologize for being late. I'm sorry you were kept waiting and wondering. How about I bring flowers for the front desk tomorrow to make up for it?" Offering an apology and an amendment is a winning combination. It is a very grown up move that rekindles trust and allows everyone involved to bounce back to a very high level of teamwork.

Amendments work best when they are pleasurable for everyone involved. Treating someone to lunch is a better amendment than cleaning their car, unless of course you enjoy cleaning cars. Buying flowers tomorrow is better than doing a big thing in two or three weeks.

No Big Deal?

Sometimes people want to pretend that the agreement being broken was "no big deal" and an amendment is not necessary. We caution you against this consistent reaction. It sends the wrong message. It is important for people to keep their word, to be accountable for their promises. The ill feelings that come from broken agreements can build up over time. Using amendments is a great way of averting the kind of disastrous blow-ups that happen when people get fed up.

It is a good idea to bring a light heart, a sense of humor and your creativity to the amendment process. Remember the purpose of an amendment is to restore trust and harmony to a relationship.

Written Agreements or Verbal Agreements? 

Sometimes people balk at the idea of written agreements. It seems like too much trouble. But if you take a step back and look at most of the failures in your relationships you will probably notice most of them came from lack of clarity and alignment. The hallmark of an enlightened partnership is intentional design. Great relationships don't just happen, mediocre ones do.

The process of clarifying purpose and agreements is a necessary part of the design process for relationships. The conversations you will have will illuminate what is truly important to each person. This knowledge is essential in creating relationships that work well over the long term. If you create agreements that reflect the authentic motivation of each person and you plan for predictable breakdowns in a way that fosters accountability you can relax into a new certainty and trust in your most important relationships.

Five Stages of Partnership


All partnerships, and all relationships for that matter, go through five predictable stages. Knowing these stages is like having a map that will help you to accurately assess where you are in your partnerships, see where you have been and where you can go. This will also allow you to deal effectively with the particular concerns of the stage you are in. For example, upsets, disagreements, miscommunications and misunderstandings are a predictable, inevitable and unavoidable part of the second stage. If you don't know that, you could easily misinterpret what is going on in the relationship, make inappropriate choices and miss important learning and growth opportunities. Each stage requires a different yet overlapping set of skills. Mastering partnership is about mastering these skills.

Stage One: Attraction

This stage of relationships is characterized by a fascination with another person, organization or project and a desire to learn more about them, as well as a desire to share yourself. It's fun and it feels good. This is the time when positive possibilities are sensed and explored. This is the stage people wish would last forever.

Essential Skills for Success in Attraction:

1. Be interested, not merely interesting.

2. Look for and focus on the best in others.

3. Acknowledge/compliment others on the good you see in them and their accomplishments.

4. Help people to relax with you - put them at ease.

5. Know what the most important things are for people to know about you and weave those things into your conversations so you feel they "get" who you are.

6. To simply "be" with others without an agenda.

7. Keep your word to build trust.

8. Be authentic.

9. Look good and smell good.

10. Speech acts to learn and master:

Greeting

Making requests

Declining requests

Making promises

Making apologies

High performance listening

Avoid:

1. Lying.

2. Jumping to conclusions.

3. Moving too quickly into a commitment conversation.

4. Expecting people to read your mind and anticipate your conditions for satisfaction.

5. Stereotyping or categorizing.

Stage Two - Power Struggle

This is the stage where people start testing each other. It is one of the most difficult stages for people. Who is going to get whose way and how? Distrust from your unresolved past manifests and there is often a fear of loss of control and heavy judgments of the other person start to show up. Many relationships never move beyond this stage and many end here. This stage is really about building trust.

Essential Skills:

1. Know and identify your feelings.

2. Speak congruently with your emotions.

3. Communicate without blame.

4. Self-reflection - observe your thoughts, feelings and behaviors without judgment.

5. Own/take responsibility for your mistakes without self-invalidation

6. Observe your automatic interpretations of others and events.

7. Be present to someone else’s upset without defense.

8. Know and articulate your requirements for trust.

9. Be able to restore trust when broken.

10. Use current upsets to resolve the past.

11. Ask for help.

12. Forgive yourself and others.

13. Make correction without invalidation.

14. Don't control others or make their choices for them.

15. Don't sacrifice - be generous.

16. Practice spiritual attunement to find the highest path.

17. Take the initiative - be responsible for your own needs.

18. Turn your complaints into requests.

19. Be clear-headed and rational while feeling intense feelings or while in the presence of others intense feelings.

20. Control your temper.

Avoid:

1. Giving ultimatums.

2. Blaming others.

3. Gossiping or participating in gossip.

4. Being mean, attacking, hurtful or hypercritical.

5. Saying things you'll regret.

Stage Three : Cooperation

This is the stage where you learn to trust one another and to resolve upsets to your mutual satisfaction and benefit. You learn to share power and appreciate each other's unique abilities and gifts. However, it is still self oriented - "What can I get out of this relationship?" rather than "What can we create with this relationship?" Beware of false cooperation in which one person acquiesces to the other in order to "keep the peace". This is still Power Struggle, only in a more subtle form.

Essential Skills:

1. Know and articulate the essence of your desires.

2. Expand your capacity for compassion.

3. Read others emotions.

4. Assess trustworthiness in others and assume trust rather than suspicion.

5. Inspire high level of trust from others.

6. Care deeply about others.

7. Feel connected with others.

8. Generate enthusiasm.

9. Find and define a common path.

10. Know and articulate how others affect you, e.g., their losing/winning, problems/thriving.

11. Make choices for long-term gain - overcome the need for instant gratification.

12. Competency with creation techniques, e.g., visualization, goal setting, etc.

13. Know and articulate your changing conditions for satisfaction.

14. Neutralize competition while inspiring cooperation.

15. Ability to articulate higher path, especially during stress.

16. Be diplomatic and cordial even when worried, upset and during stress.

17. Facilitate conversations for:

Speculation and possibility

Planning and design

Commitment and action

Avoid:

1. Making assumptions.

2. Sacrifice - it always leads to resentment.

3. Withholding important communication out of fear.

Stage Four: Synergy

This is the stage where there is a realization of a power greater than that of each individual. There is also a commitment to a specified focus and use of the power. Extraordinary satisfaction, intimacy, and a deep sense of mutual trust, empowerment and ease characterize this stage. It is a highly creative, high performance relationship. It also possesses a high level of acknowledgment and appreciation. The relationship emanates joy and power in this stage.

Essential Skills:

1. Regenerate creativity.

2. Balance work and play.

3. Be alert to and neutralize complacency.

4. Fine tune and evolve specific talents.

5. Dance and surrender during the times of chaos before new beginnings.

6. Let go of ego and attachments.

7. Be as committed to the larger process you are involved in as you are to your own individual part.

8. Practice letting the relationship "breathe".

9. Anticipate temporary Power Struggle when you uplevel commitment and prepare for it.

Avoid:

1. Taking the relationship and people for granted.

2. Becoming overly intoxicated with the glory of synergy and get out of balance in your life.

3. Expecting synergy to last without nurturing the relationship.

Stage Five: Completion

This is a stage many people fear and avoid dealing with altogether. There are four ways relationships can be completed: drifting apart, expulsion/ejection, conscious completion or death. Sometimes completion is only about changing the form of the relationship, not necessarily the end of the relationship altogether.

Essential Skills:

1. Accept and flow with change.

2. Acknowledge and integrate the value and learning from the relationship.

3. Spiritual attunement.

4. Own up to mistakes without self-invalidation.

5. Make apologies.

6. Redefine your common path - change form.

7. Articulate the highest spiritual thought about the relationship.

8. Know what you need to feel complete.

9. Generate a safe space and a conversation to make sure everything that needs to be said or done to feel complete is communicated in a spirit of love and dignity for all parties concerned.

10. Allow for a healthy expression of fear, anger, grief or any other emotion.

Avoid:

1. Feeling victimized.
2. Taking things too personally.
3. Resisting change.
4. Misperceiving that others are the source of your good or happiness.

Keeping the Love Alive: Maintaining Good Feelings in Any Kind of Relationship - Part I


Have you ever noticed how enthusiasm and affection between two people can dwindle as time goes on? Whether it's a romance, friendship, or work relationship, sometimes the air goes right out of your sails, seemingly for no reason.

But usually, it's not without cause. It's most often due to the emotional cancer of resentment. However mild or intense, resentment can erode a relationship. Because it is so subtle in the beginning, you hardly notice as it slowly destroys intimacy and trust and, finally, love.

What causes the cancer to spread? It's sacrifice, doing something for someone else that you don't really want to do, which is driven by the fear of what will happen if you don't do it.

In general, our culture confuses sacrifice with love, teaching us the virtue of loving others more than ourselves. So we attempt to demonstrate or prove love with sacrifice, and we get upset or feel unloved if others won't sacrifice for us. Yet sacrifice is a wheel that crushes everyone who gets on it. It goes like this:

  • When you sacrifice (do something you don't really want to do for fear of what will happen if you don't) you have …
  • An unspoken expectation (e.g., they will sacrifice for you later or regard you in a particular way or love you more) that creates hidden agendas, but, you get …
  • Disappointed because they fail to fulfill their end of the bargain (e.g., love you the way you want them to or do what you want them to) so, you become …
  • Resentful, perhaps angry ("After all I've done for you!"), which leads inevitably to …
  • Guilt (because resentment is an attack on the other and attack always boomerangs at some level), so the best way to atone for your guilt is to …
  • Sacrifice some more to prove what a good and loving person you really are. And 'round and 'round you go on the wheel of sacrifice.

You may be wondering if we think it's ever okay to give. Of course! Real service, or authentic giving, has no strings attached and expects nothing in return later. The reward is in the experience of the giving itself.

If you see you've been sacrificing, how do you get off this vicious circle? Three ways:

  • Use forgiveness to heal your guilty thoughts and feelings (the root of your impulse to sacrifice).
  • Stop sacrificing and create a new understanding in your relationships that sacrifice is toxic. Agree not to do it anymore or expect others to do it for you, which means you have the freedom to say no without losing love.
  • Make clear requests and express explicit expectations.

Can you imagine what your relationships might be like if no one sacrificed but did only what they wanted to do? The people you love and who love you would be in your life because they really chose to be there, not because they felt it was expected or it was what they were "supposed" to do.

Because sacrifice is so deeply ingrained in our culture, you may experience resistance as you consider what you're reading here. But we encourage you to experiment. When we first fell in love, we decided we would not sacrifice for one another. Instead, we would tell the truth about what we did and did not want to do, and we would not use "emotional blackmail" to try to get the other to sacrifice for us. We would not withhold love when one of us said no, and we would not extend ourselves with an unspoken expectation of reward later. It has not always been easy, but it has been one of the most important decisions we've made. We credit it as one of the primary reasons we are still happily together and our love is still so vibrantly alive.

In part two of this article, you'll see how to stop sacrificing (instead, create relationships that are resentment-free zones!), and practice the fine art of being true to yourself and the partnerships you create.

Keeping the Love Alive: Selfing, the Cure for Resentment - Part II


When your world is filled with many wonderful opportunities, it can feel difficult if you feel you must choose between them, and it's equally rough if you have a hard time saying no to people. Yet saying yes to everything can lead to both over-commitment and resentment, which can erode your relationships, whether at work or home or in your community.

Many people feel the symptoms of this without realizing what, exactly, is going on. See if you recognize yourself in any of these symptoms:

  • feeling conflicted in what you "should" do versus what you "want" to do,
  • feeling exhausted,
  • feeling guilty because you are afraid you are letting others down,
  • not having enough time,
  • feeling resentful, and
  • feeling as if the weight of the world is resting on your shoulders.

If you have any of these feelings, it's time to take your life back. It's time to collect your personal energy and redistribute it according to your priorities. Take your power back from the invisible tyrannies of a material culture that says, "More-more, faster-faster is a better way of life."

The solution is something we call "selfing," neither selfish nor selfless, but the perfect balance between the two. Selfing is the skill of being true to yourself and making commitments to others only when it does not involve sacrifice. (In this context, sacrifice means doing something you don't want to do because you fear what might happen if you don't. For more on this, see part 1 of this article series.)

Needing to accommodate others' desires and curry their favor at your own expense can be a cruel master; living your life according to other people's terms of success is no kind of life--or success--at all. Take your life back and recommit it to the people and activities that bring you the most peace, happiness and long-term satisfaction. Here's how you can start today:

  • Make a list of the relationships and activities that bring you the most peace, satisfaction and a sense of deep meaning in your life. Be sure to include time for regenerating and inspiring yourself.
  • Make note of how much time you spend in those activities or honoring and nurturing those relationships. Does it seem that you aren't giving enough to these areas?
  • Create the time to honor your priorities. Perhaps you'll have to start declining some invitations or scheduling your time better and then sticking to it. Perhaps you may have to set some new boundaries with friends or co-workers.
  • Write down the obstacles to re-ordering your life to your true priorities.
  • Create a strategy to overcome the obstacles. Get help from a friend or coach if you need it.
  • Refuse the efforts of others to manipulate, control or produce guilt in you. Be willing to upset the status quo for a while till things find a new and healthier balance.
  • Commit to loving yourself enough to stay on track with this new resolve.

Your life belongs to you. If you don't take care of it, you will suffer and everyone who really cares about you will suffer. The high art of self-love and self-care cannot be delegated. When you do honor yourself, you honor those you care about, too. You create relationships in which everyone can share true feelings and genuine commitment without sacrifice. Instead, they are filled with honesty and the real desire to live, love, play, work, or build something of value together.

Communication, Communication, Communication: The First Secret for Successful Relationships


You know the old adage for success in real estate. Location, location, location. Well, a similar adage could apply to success in relationships. Only, it would be communication, communication, communication!

Nothing is more important than your relationships, because your relationships affect every part of your life. We think you'll agree it is in your relationships that your deepest feelings arise. Your relationships can take you from the depths of hurt, disappointment, rage, and grief to the heights of joy, love, anticipation, and ecstasy - sometimes all in the same day and all within one relationship!

There is no question that relating with our fellow human beings can sometimes be heartwarming and magical and at other times tedious and agonizing. The fact is most problems in relationships are born of misunderstanding and miscommunication.

As individuals we live on our own solitary islands of reality, absorbed in and fascinated by our own points of view. Frequently we reach out to one another seeking to understand or be understood. The bridge between our separate realities is communication. Communication is what joins us with others. To communicate is to relate; without communication of some kind there is no relationship.

To a very large degree the quality of your relationships depends upon the quality of your communication. And it is the breakdowns in communication that often generate the heartbreak and disappointment of unfulfilled dreams, visions, and goals. The most treasured moments in our lives occur when we as individuals connect from the heart with the soul of someone else. Most people experience this rarely, if ever.

What we have discovered is that these moments of true connection can be deliberately created. There are principles and processes that you can learn to help you develop the skill to fill your life with these kinds of moments. When you do this, you will be reawakened to your capacity to connect deeply with the people you care about most in an upwelling of compassion.

"What is one of the biggest challenges you have in your relationships?" we often ask participants in our teleclasses and workshops. What we hear over and over again is, "Communication!"

Most people have a lot of frustration and confusion associated with communication. They recognize that they need to talk about some difficult issues but often don't know how to bring them up. Nor do they trust their ability to navigate all the way through the rough spots to honest, heartfelt resolution for everyone concerned.

Some people talk incessantly, as if in a desperate attempt to be heard and validated, but instead end up driving people away. Others are very closed and secretive, as if they are afraid of being found out somehow. Still others seem to blame everything wrong in their lives on others, then wonder why they feel isolated and alone. Some people never seem to listen, but are always quick either to talk about themselves or to offer unsolicited advice.

Do you do any of these things in your relationships? Do you know anyone who does? When someone is speaking to you, are you so busy thinking about what you want to say that sometimes you don't even hear the other person? Do you feel safe letting people know when you are afraid or insecure, or do you think you are supposed to appear strong and in control to be loved or respected? Can you talk freely about the things that are truly important to you, as well as the things that bother you, or are you afraid of appearing vulnerable and foolish?

What if you felt totally at ease and comfortable being your true, authentic self in your relationships with others? What do you think would happen if you felt safe enough to tell the truth about your thoughts and feelings all the time in your relationships? What if others felt safe enough to tell you the truth about their thoughts and feelings? How do you think you would feel about each other?

Our experience with our students and clients has shown over and over again that they end up feeling closer and more trusting with each other. There is a direct correlation between honesty, intimacy, and trust. Have you ever told someone you care about that you want to have a "heart-to-heart talk"?

For most people, having a heart to heart implies there is some truth or feeling to share. It could be any of a number of things: an expression of love and acknowledgment, a request for (or offer of) advice or counsel on a sensitive matter, or, just as easily, a problem or an upset. In all cases a request for a heart-to-heart talk implies value to the relationship and a certain level of existing trust.

Outside the context of such conversations, however, problems arise all too frequently in relationships because of miscommunication and misunderstanding. Feelings get hurt; there is anger, sadness, and defensiveness. The walls go up, and usually there is no further discussion. Over time love becomes more of a concept than a feeling. ("Why, of course I love you. Don't be silly!") Trust diminishes, and real intimacy is lost.

Usually when people are having problems and misunderstandings, they tend to think there is something wrong with them, or the other person, or both. The more disappointments you have over time, the more this attitude is reinforced.

We have a different point of view, however. What we have discovered is that people have problems and misunderstandings in their relationships not because there is something wrong with them, but rather because they lack education in the fundamental principles and practices of successful relationships.

If you approach relationship challenges with the attitude there is something to learn - and you can learn it - as opposed to the attitude that there is something wrong with you that needs fixing, then your chances of producing successful relationships are greatly increased.

One of the most important skills to learn and practice in relationships is the art of successful communication. When you practice effective, satisfying communication you are rewarded with relationships filled with more love, intimacy, understanding and trust.

©2008, Paul & Layne Cutright

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Lovers know what they want, but not what they need. - Publilius Syrus

 



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