Susie & Otto


How Hard Is It To Be In A Great Relationship?

One of our newsletter subscribers wrote to us recently and made a statement about relationships that we both agree AND disagree with.

Here's what she said...

"Being in love with someone is a job, a job you have and you must do your best with, every day. It is not easy, but we're in this life with one reason--to learn how to do it."

We will certainly agree that part of the reason we are all on this earth is to learn to love--ourselves and others.

We cannot agree, however, that "being in love" or loving others is a job. When something is a "job," there's an implication of it being hard work and a task or group of tasks that need to be performed to reach a goal.

Hopefully your relationships aren't this way, but for most people (at least in this country), their job is something they do each day because they have to (it's a means to an end) and not because they want to.

Our feeling is that if you approach being in love or loving others as a job, it makes it somehow separate from the rest of your life and something you "do" to get what you want.

We think that being in love and loving others is not a job or task but rather becomes your entire being if you allow it. It's also something you want to do and not something you have to do.

We'll explain what we mean...

Most of us have learned how to love others (and ourselves) from role models that have not been very successful in this area of life--or maybe not successful in the way we want to be.

Mostly unconsciously from these role models, we've developed habits of "loving" that turn out to not be so loving and that simply haven't brought us what we want in our lives.

So in our viewpoint, if there's any "job" that we have around this topic, it is to let go of old habits and ways of thinking that have kept us stuck--that have kept us from being the loving beings that we truly are.

Being in love and loving others is a choice and decision that we make in every moment and often we are making those choices from those old habits.

Here's a story to explain...

Last weekend, Susie attended a 2-day conference by herself which Otto would normally have attended. Because it was his weekend to be with his high school-aged son, Otto chose to honor that commitment instead of attending the conference.

These past few weeks, Susie has been having some physical problems that were certainly heightened by sitting in a hot, crowded ballroom listening to speaker after speaker at this weekend seminar. In other words, on Saturday she had a pretty negative attitude about the experience she was having.

Saturday night, as she was complaining on the phone to Otto, it dawned on her that she had a choice as whether to be loving and open the next day at the seminar or to be stuck in her physical discomfort.

She decided to attend that day's seminar with the intention of being open to meeting new people and enjoying her day. She decided to change the "habit" of closing herself when she's in physical discomfort and allow her heart to open to others.

What happened was that she did have a much better day on Sunday as a result of her decision and intention to open to love and connection--no matter what.

It wasn't her "job" to open. It was her attitude, intention and decision to do so.

Is loving easy?

Certainly not always...but here is what we have discovered...

It is when you make a decision and choice to open instead of close, especially when things get tough, that makes all the difference in your relationships and life.

We know what opening and closing to love mean to us and you have to decide what they mean to you.

Then you have to be courageous enough to challenge your old habits and beliefs that have held you back.

Being in love and loving others and life is never a job. It's our natural birthright. We've just forgotten how to allow love to flow without restriction in our lives.

In order to have the depth of love that we know is possible, "opening" more of the time than closing is a must.

How Good Can You Stand It?

If you're like most people, you probably think that everyone wants an outstanding relationship. If that's really true, why do so many people sabotage their chances of having what they really want in their relationships and their lives.

Here's an example of what we mean...

We were talking with someone recently and shared with him how much we appreciated his contribution to a project we'd all been working on.

At first the person accepted the words of appreciation with gratitude--but when we continued our praise, he thought we were joking and insincere. We observed that he could accept some appreciation but it didn't take long before he wouldn't allow himself to believe our positive comments.

We were sincere but it appeared that his internal belief system would only allow just so many good feelings about himself before he shut down emotionally and viewed our comments to be untrue.

This is what many of us do when it comes to our relationships. When things start going really well, we do or say something that sabotages those good feelings and snaps us back into more familiar and comfortable roles and feelings.

You may be asking yourself right now--"Why wouldn't everyone want to feel good all the time?" and "Why would feeling bad be comfortable?"

There are many possible reasons why someone would sabotage something that's going well, but one of the main reasons is the belief that "I don't deserve the happiness, the praise, the passion, the good feelings, etc."

Many people are afraid that their relationship won't last or they feel that he or she will leave them anyway so somehow either consciously or unconsciously, they do something to push the other person away. We've seen that this happens a lot when jealousy is involved.

We allow fears--such as fear of abandonment (either physically or emotionally), beliefs such as "I'm not enough," "I don't deserve happiness" and so on --to keep us from having the great relationships that are available to all of us.

If it were not for our fears and our self-limiting belief systems, we would all have outstanding relationships.

While we are continually working on this within our own relationship and lives, we'll offer you a few suggestions that have helped us.

1. The obvious thing would be to first identify your beliefs and fears that are holding you back from having the relationships and life that you want.

2. Once you've identified these beliefs and fears, then we would invite you to explore whether you are willing or not to allow them to keep you from having the relationships and life that you want.

3. Make a commitment to allow yourself to feel good and to have what you want.

4. Understand that chaos and disruption in your life is normal and you should expect it when you challenge old ways of being and take on a new belief system--especially one that is empowering.

5. When or if your life feels overwhelming, take a moment, breathe and center yourself. If you do, you will find a calmness in your chaos and you'll be able to move forward from joy and not fear.

As Les Brown, the famous motivational speaker, said, "You can always better your best." We take that to mean that you don't have to settle for what you don't want in your life. You can have what you want.

In every relationship that you have (even the one you have with yourself), we urge you to start being as conscious as possible in all ways. Consider whether your words and actions will build the relationship and take it higher or weaken and possibly destroy it.

Take some time to figure out if and how you sabotage yourself from having the relationships and life that you want. If you do, we think your life will just get better!

Falling in Love with Potential

One of our newsletter subscribers asked us recently...

"How can I tell the difference between falling in love with a person's 'potential' and falling in love with someone who I can have a true soul/heart connection with?"

This is such a good question because whether you are single, between relationships or are in a long-term committed marriage or relationship, this question is one that many people face as they change, grow and move through their lives.

The typical scenario around this topic goes something like this...

You may like or love many (or a few) parts of the relationship with this person and you see glimpses every now and then of what it "could" be. But the truth of it is--you never seem to really feel that full potential realized. Something always seems to happen to stop or sabotage those good feelings and your relationship seems to always fall short of what it might be.

You also keep hanging in there because you just *know* that he or she can be better or be more than they are currently showing or giving you.

While every relationship is different, a few things could be going on...

1. If you are attracting partners who have a lot of "potential" but never fully come through, believe it or not, you may be setting yourself up for relationship failure because it serves your needs. You may be attracting these types of partners because that situation gives you an opportunity to "fix" someone else--and that is a comfortable role for you even though you may not realize it.

2. You may also be attracting someone with a lot of "potential" to you because deep in your heart, you don't feel that you deserve to be in a fully alive, growing relationship that serves your needs.

3. You may have blocks to receiving love.

4. You may have seen this dynamic in action when you were growing up and you are unconsciously imitating it.

Well--if you're saying right now, this is all about me--what about the other person who isn't fully living up to his/her potential?

Of course, it always takes "two to tango" in relationships and we recognize this. That's what relationships are about. But what we know for sure, nothing will change unless you start dealing with your part in whatever relationship dance is going on.

What we've discovered in our own past relationships and in relationships of our coaching clients are a couple of things about this issue...

1. Many people don't consciously pay attention and listen to the clues that they are given of the other person's true nature and core essence before they get deeply involved with them. Usually, if we ask our coaching clients who are in this situation, they will admit that they heard what they wanted to hear and didn't accept what the other person was saying.

2. When faced with this issue in a long-term relationship where one person may have grown and the other chose not to grow in the same direction, many people hang on to what "could" be instead of what both people are actually wanting this relationship to be. People either hang on for years, living with feelings of longing for something better or waiting for the other person to end the relationship--or they choose to move on.

3. If you are saying to yourself "If only he'd be this way.." or any other "if only," it may be a smoke screen that is diverting your attention away from looking at your needs, confronting your situation and moving toward what you want.

In order to create closer, more connected relationships in your life, we encourage you to always be consciously moving toward what you want.

Here are a few suggestions for you to help you with this type of issue...

1. Step back and honestly assess your situation from a different perspective--as objectively as possible.

2. Ask yourself what you want in your relationship and from a partner. Take some time with this one and be honest with yourself.

3. Begin focusing on what you like, love and appreciate about this person as you are exploring both of your needs in the relationship.

Ask yourself some of these questions:

  • What do I love about my partner?
  • What's great about our relationship?
  • What does he/she brings to the relationship that noone else has done before?

4. Ask what your partner truly wants. If you don't know, then ask. This can be a positive and extremely helpful conversation if you take your ego, preconceived ideas defending and all judgment out of your listening.

5. Talk about what you are both willing to do so that both of your needs are met. You'll learn a lot from this discussion.

6. Feel into your heart if you can have what you want with this person.

Being loved for who you are is the most wonderful gift you can receive and also that you can give.

We urge you to love honestly.

Dealing With The Big and Little Things That Annoy You

Since we're all about helping you experience the gifts of connection more of the time in your relationships and lives, here's an interesting question for you...

What is it that irritates or annoys you?

If you're like most people, there's probably been some time or another you've found yourself irritated by the small things that others say or do.

These could be mannerisms or annoying habits of loved ones or co-workers that seem to drive you crazy. For most of us there always seems to be something that doesn't seem to be such a big deal to others but is a big deal to us.

For Susie, loud gum "cracking" and "loud" eating have always been irritating to her. To you, these may be really small things and may not bother you but we're sure that you probably have things that seem to get "under your skin" as well.

When it happens, that annoying or upsetting behavior seems to be all we can focus on. In short, we become "nit-picky."

At times, our focus seems to get so intense that we seem to expect that other person will always act that way and sure enough--they usually do!

If you find that you are irritated or are being "nit-picky" with someone in your life, one of several things may be going on.

It may be that you are actually looking at a mirror of your own personal challenges or issues.

It may be that by focusing your attention outwardly, you're choosing not to look at your own challenges.

It may also be that expectations, assumptions and controlling behaviors have gotten the best of you and you are trying to live someone else's life instead of your own.

Susie noticed that when she's irritated by loud gum chewing or eating, it's usually a time when she's not feeling centered and maybe a bit overwhelmed. By being "nit-picky," she's choosing to look at an outer distraction instead of what's going on inside her. There is probably a little "controlling" behavior going on there too!

What Susie has learned to do when this happens is to look at what's going on inside her and pull her attention away from the so-called "bad" behavior of the other person. When she is successful in pulling her attention away from others and focusing on herself and what's going on inside her, the whole situation seems to lessen in intensity for her.

Along with focusing on the emotions that she may be trying to cover up, she also begins to focus on the qualities in the other person that she appreciates.

When she's able to do this, she not only discovers what is at the bottom of her irritation, but she also finds that the dynamics between her and the other person change for the better.

It really is true that what you focus on persists--so it you focus on what irritates you about the other person then you will just get more of it.

So, is there an irritation in your life or a situation that you'd like to change?

Just try for one day to change your attitude about that person or situation and see what happens. When your mind begins to mull over minor irritations or actions that you don't like about another person, change your attention to yourself and what you are feeling.

Take a moment to stop what you are doing and breathe. Pull your attention inside you and just feel what emotion may be lurking there that you may not be aware of.

It might be that there's some anger about something else that really might need to be addressed or maybe your feelings are pointing to an attitude that you've been carrying around that you no longer need.

Whatever you discover about yourself, breathe into that feeling, acknowledge it and allow it to "soften". It will if you will allow it and then you'll be able to see clearly what needs to be done, if anything.

Next, in your mind's eye, see qualities that you love or like about the other person. Hold that image in your mind.

We think if you try this two-step process, your "irritations" will decrease in your life and you'll begin to enjoy yourself so much more.

Are You Talking on Eggshells?

As Relationship Coaches and simply observers of all kinds of relationships--if there's one thing we've noticed, people do a lot of "talking on eggshells."

We'll explain what we mean with a story...

Samantha and her sister Karen had their differences when they were growing up but those differences have never been so apparent as when they had to deal with their father's serious illness.

Each sister seemed to say and do things that would cause the other to feel defensive and to either lash out or withdraw.

Each sister was afraid to say what was really on her mind because of what she feared would happen to their relationship if she did.

They were both stuck in not understanding one another and reacting in ways that were not healthy for their relationship.

When they talked, it was as if they were "talking on eggshells"--talking carefully around hot-button issues and fearing that one of them would say something to destroy their relationship forever.

We're pretty sure that you have either had this type of communication challenge in a relationship or you have seen it in action.

It's pretty painful to be in the middle of this type of situation and also painful for loved ones to watch it happen.

When the two of us first came together, Otto felt like he was "talking on eggshells" with Susie's daughter.

During that time, he didn't want to say or do the "wrong" thing to make Susie's daughter mad because he knew how Susie valued her relationship with her daughter.

Otto found himself "talking on eggshells" when he was with Susie's daughter and was fearful that he was going to lose something special if he didn't say the "right" things to her.

Their relationship and communication changed for the better when they both chose to change their attitudes toward one another.

Here are some ideas that Otto and Susie's daughter used to change how they communicate and also a few suggestions if you are in a similar situation as in our example of Samantha and Karen...

1. Look at your situation realistically, without making up stories about what the other person is thinking or meaning when the two of you communicate. You truly don't know what if anything is underneath what the other person is saying or doing. Discover what is accurate from the most objective viewpoint that you are able to muster.

2. Become emotionally aware of what's inside you. What feelings come up when you are triggered by what this person says? Identify those feelings and just "sit" with them. Are they feelings that have come up for you in a previous relationship? Look beneath anger for what is there for you. It could be feelings of unworthiness or a number of different emotions.

It could be the feeling that you can never have what you want.

3. Become aware of what you say when you are triggered in this situation. Do you retaliate against the "real" or imagined threat by lashing out at the other person or withdrawing? Do you get resentful and "punish" the other person with snide comments or cruel jokes?

4. Have the courage to look at your situation in a completely different, new way. Stand back and look with new eyes on this relationship--and begin opening your heart to this other person.

5. Have the courage (and it does take courage) to say what is true for you--in a way that can be heard. Be sure when you are speaking that you are telling the other person how you feel and not what they have done wrong. The other person may not be aware of how their words and actions affect you.

Tell the other person how you would like communication to be between the two of you.

6. Listen to how the other person feels and what he/she wants in this situation. Listen with an open heart and from a place of wanting to understand rather than defending.

7. Commit to changing and healing this communication challenge. Changing any habit takes time and takes a moment-by-moment commitment to do it differently.

What we've found is that "talking on eggshells" is a habit that can be changed. If this describes a challenge in your life, begin now to create a happier, healthier relationship and life experience by taking a few steps toward healing.

Are You Listening from Love?

One of the questions that we often ask ourselves, as well as our coaching clients, is very fundamental to creating a great relationship.

That question is--"Are you listening from love or are you listening from your own agenda?"

Listening from love is one of the elements that we think is important in our relationship. It helps us feel respected, honored, important and even cherished.

And when we don't do it--we feel separation and distance from each other.

So, what is "listening from love"?

Listening from love is listening with total attention to someone and with the intention of creating a deeper connection and to truly understand them.

Very often people think that if they truly listen with the intention to understand someone that they have agree with them. In our experience, this is not the case.

You can listen to someone with an open heart, suspending your opinions, without losing your identity and who you are. You can ask someone to clarify what they mean by what they said without having the need to jump in and defend.

Listen from love is not judging. It's listening --truly listening to someone and suspending our fear, doubt, judgement and other defense mechanisms that prevent us from creating deeper connections of the heart.

One common complaint between partners is "you never listen to me."

This was true for one couple that we know. What we found is that he was listening but he was too fearful to say what he was really thinking because he thought his wife would "flip out" if he did. As a result, his wife thought he was agreeing with her all along but in reality he had simply withdrawn emotionally.

There was no conscious agreement between them because fear prevented him from revealing his true feelings. In this case, the real issue was not his lack of listening but rather his not feeling enough safety and trust in the relationship to be honest.

In order to "listen from love" more often, here are some ideas that we use...

1) Whether you're listening to someone on the phone or in person, give them your undivided attention. If you don't have time to listen at that moment, arrange a time when you can truly listen and be fully present. Listening is a time to forget "multi-tasking."

2) Stay in the present moment when you are listening. Don't let your mind drift into thinking about things that happened in the past or what may happen in the future--or what you might say or do next. When you feel yourself mentally "leaving" the conversation, gently (or not so gently) pull yourself back into the present. It's helpful to place your attention in your heart area when you are doing this.

3) Make agreements with the people who are closest to you that you will honor each other by listening when the other speaks. When you make and keep conscious agreements like this one, a feeling of safety and trust grows between you.

4) Make a conscious effort to avoid reacting defensively, even in your mind, if this is your pattern. When you feel yourself reacting to what's being said, bring your attention back into your heart, breathe, and you might ask something like this--"Tell me more?" When you ask that question from your heart, very often you hear what is truly going on for the other person and it may not be what initially triggered you. Before you react, explore the situation deeper.

5) When you do speak, take the time and have the courage to speak your truth.Sometimes that takes a great deal of courage but if you will suspend assuming how the other person will react, very often you will find that it goes better than you thought it would.

No matter where we are in our lives, we can always increase the times that we are able to listen from our hearts. We invite you to practice this skill this week and see how your relationships improve.

Relationships, Careers, Lifestyle Changes, Kids and Keeping the Love, Passion and Connection Alive

Here's another great question from our recent survey that seemed to be on the minds of many when we brought up the topic of passion.

"How can we work with the changing nature of passion as it transforms over the course of a relationship, and with different events occurring, such as career and lifestyle changes, or having children?"

The typical scenario that many people experience around this topic of passion that this person is referring to goes something like this...

You find a person who you just seem to "click" with and both of you can't wait to be together. You are able to spend hours just looking at each other, making love and just having fun together. There seems to be a deep bond and connection between the two of you that you may never have felt before.

Then circumstances change. You get married or move in together, you or your partner take a demanding job, you have children, you have to deal with step-parenting, you have to take care of family members--or any number of other changes that can happen in your life.

You gradually realize that you have "lost that loving feeling" as the Righteous Brothers sang many years ago and you and your mate are simply living together as roommates and possibly as friends.

So what happened to the passion that was once there and why did it change?

What we have discovered in our work with coaching clients and by observing our own lives is that it's not the passion that changes.

The passion, if it was once there, is available all of the time. What changes is your focus, your decisions about your life and your commitments and intentions.

You might be saying something like this...

"But I work long hours and I have a lot of responsibilities in my life now. There simply isn't time for passion."

We certainly know what that feels like. We also know what it feels like to not have passion in our lives and the two of us have made a commitment to each other that we will keep it alive and growing throughout our relationship.

From the beginning of our relationship, we made the commitment to consciously keep our connection and passion as we go through events instead of disconnecting from each other.

That might mean different things as we move through our lives but connection is at the core of all of it.

You may or may not know this, but we spend a minimum of an hour each morning connecting with each other.

This "connecting" that we're talking about can take many forms, including talking, connecting, laughing, touching, lovemaking and a variety of other possibilities but an hour a day in the mornings of connecting with each other is our conscious intention for our relationship and life.

So, to go back to the person's question about how to keep the passion and connection alive when life becomes too overwhelming, with too many commitments--

What do you do to keep that connection and passion at those times?

An example of how we deal with our relationship and "life happenings" occurred just a few weeks ago.

As many of you may recall, Susie's mother passed a few weeks ago and during the last couple of weeks of her mother's life, Susie spent a great deal of time with her mother, as well as time spent traveling to see her.

Even though we weren't able to have our love-making and connection time each morning during the time of Susie's mom's passing, we stayed connected by phone and in our hearts.

We never lost that "loving feeling" for one another even though we were going through a life-changing event.

We keep that "loving feeling" because it's our intention and commitment that it's important in our lives. We keep it because we talk about what we are feeling and try not to hide. We keep it because we truly listen to each other without judging.

Are we perfect at it?

Of course not. But we are good enough at it that we have kept passion and connection alive through the ebb and flow of our lives.

If reconnecting to the passion that you once felt is important to you, we invite you to explore what commitment you are willing to make.

You can start small. One couple decided to simply begin having breakfast together and talking together after many years of passing each other in the hallway as their only way of connecting.

Another couple decided that keeping their connection was more important than taking the job promotion that would have required more time away.

Another couple still yet, simply "made new rules" for how they wanted to be together and committed to live by those rules that would bring them closer.

Remember, rekindling passion begins with connection.

We invite you to begin connecting today on a deeper level. We believe your life will be much richer and more rewarding if you do.

©2006 by Susie & Otto Collins


Susie and Otto Collins are spiritual and life partners who are committed to helping others create outstanding relationships of all kinds. They regularly write, speak and conduct workshops and seminars on love, relationships and personal and spiritual growth to audiences all across the USA. They are the creators of the "Relationship Toolkit" which has helped people in over a dozen countries improve their relationships. It includes a video called Spiritual Partnerships plus two booklets Love and Relationship Success Secrets and 101 Relationship Quotes Worth a Million Dollars! You can also read more articles like these and subscribe to their weekly newsletter on love and relationships by visiting their web site at Their new E-book Should You Stay or Should You Go? has just been released and is now available See Archives 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002 and 2001. Other Relationship Issues, Books

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