Susie & Otto


How To Relax and Let Go Of Constrictions and Restrictions That Keep Us From Having The Love We Want

If you've been getting our articles for any length of time at all, then you know by now that we can find a love and relationship lesson in almost anything and here's a perfect example of that...

Otto's foot has been hurting him really badly for the past week. He had no idea why and since we've been packing and gearing up for our move this coming weekend, he certainly wanted to resolve this problem as quickly as possible. He knew that he needed to do everything he could to make our move "pain-free" for him.

Today, he realized the reason for his pain and it was something so simple that he just had to laugh at himself...

He had been tying his shoe strings very tightly and when he relaxed this constriction, his feet began to feel a lot better. The pain is gone and now he's ready to start moving boxes and furniture!

Think about this simple, embarrassing example of Otto causing himself intense foot pain by tying his shoes too tightly and ask yourself ...

How often do you do something similar to this in your relationships?

How often do you create constriction and restriction in your life and relationships by your negative thoughts, assumptions, "stories" you tell yourself about someone else's motivations, criticism, judgments and any number of other ways?

What if we rephrase the question to ask...

How often do you create constriction within yourself that keeps the love, passion and connection that we say we want at a distance?

The reality is that we create constriction and restriction with ourselves and others much more than we realize.

Imagine what our lives and relationships would be like if we gave ourselves permission to relax judgments of ourselves and others, as well as other things that keep us separated from others.

If there's one idea that we've learned and re-learned is that we and we alone are responsible for our own happiness, pain, challenges and creating restriction in our relationships.

If this is true (and we're sure that it is), we can always make a different choice in every single moment .

That different choice can mean relaxing our strangle- hold on ourselves, a situation or another person by using some or all of these ideas:

1. Look at "what is" instead of wishing something, someone or some situation is different. So often people try to "force" another person to think like they think or act in a certain way. This usually causes a great deal of restriction in the relationship and one or both people can shut themselves off emotionally because of it.

Looking at "what is" can help us to see the situation or relationship as it really is and soften or relax expectations.

2. Open to your emotional truth--your own as well as to another person's truth. There might be some feelings that you've been pushing down and not willing to face. Although this can seem like an oxymoron at the time, taking a look at what is real for you and allowing the other person to tell what is real for him or her can certainly lead to a softening and more relaxation between the two of you.

3. Choose to focus on what you want rather than what is missing. This may sound contradictory to #1 but it really isn't. If you are feeling restriction in a relationship and you just can't seem to connect with that person, begin to notice connections with other people in your life.

These connections can be a smile, making eye contact, or even a kind word with someone you meet. Notice what feels good about these connections with others and then start making more connections so that you begin to focus on what you want more of rather than what you don't want.

So this week, we invite you to look at how and with whom you feel constriction in your life. We all do from time to time because unfortunately (or fortunately) that constriction often spurs us to grow into being better people, healing our pasts, and creating more love in our lives.

We invite you to choose not stay stuck in restriction but learn and grow from it.

When you relax into love your relationships and life will be much more connected than when you don't.

3 Relationship Ideas For Keeping Your Relationship Alive, Connected and Growing

This week we've got a great relationship question for you...

"What approach or philosophy about relationships or marriage would create the highest short- and long-term payoff in your life?"

In other words, what would be the best thing you could start doing or start doing more of to create more love and connection (or anything else) in your life?

With this in mind, we challenge you right now to think of a relationship that you want to make better...

It could be your relationship with a spouse, a child, a co-worker, a friend, an acquaintance--you get the idea.

Now, think about how you'd like this relationship to be more of the time.

Maybe you want communication to be better between the two of you. Maybe you want more honesty or more openness. Maybe you want to be "you" more of the time and for some reason you aren't able to be "you" in this relationship.

To show you what we mean, we're going to talk about 3 approaches or philosophies that we use in our relationship that keep it alive, connected and growing.

While these ideas are not in any particular order and certainly aren't the only ones we use to create the close, connected relationship we have, they are applicable for any type of relationship.

We offer them to you here as examples of how you can make some simple shifts to create stronger, more loving relationships.

Don't discount their simplicity, because their simplicity is part of their power to create the kind of relationships you probably want more of...

Idea or Approach # 1 Honesty

You may think that honesty as a "philosophy" is something that is a "given" in relationships and pretty obvious. But in many relationships, it isn't.

Even though there may be a lot of love in the relationship, one person may not feel safe being honest and may not trust that he/she will be fully understood. So there's a lot that isn't said and a lot that is assumed. When there are assumptions, resentments usually follow.

Emotional honesty is sometimes the most difficult kind of honesty to deal with. But what we've discovered is that when we know what we are feeling, we are better able to interact with others and each other from a place of love and connection. When we are not trying to hide our feelings from ourselves or others, we are better able to move through difficulties.

Committing to emotional honesty, first with yourself, is a very positive step toward creating your life and relationships the way you want.


#2 Willingness to Open to Each Other

The degree that you are able to open yourself to another is the degree of safety and trust that the two of you have between you. A man we know told us that he had noticed that his teenage son was starting to share with him his hopes, dreams, conflicts and much more.

When we asked him what had changed between him and his son, he said that he had quit trying to "fix" it for his son and instead, he has learned to simply listen to him. The two of them are much more willing to open to one another because there is a new-found trust between them. There's also much more ease and flow in their relationship.

In every relationship, we can choose to open a little deeper to one another to allow more trust, love and connection.

How can you open more?

This is the third idea we'll share with you...

#3 Always Have And Keep A Commitment to Connection.

When you commit to connection, you have to challenge your "stories," your defensiveness, being right and anything else that separates the two of you.

Committing to connection means paying attention when you get triggered and telling yourself something positive about your relationship or your true feelings for the person. At these times, it's also helpful to remind yourself that you have made the commitment to connecting and keeping that connection strong.

When the two of us become disconnected for some reason or another, one of the best ways we use to regain our connection as quickly as possible is to simply remember that we've made a commitment to do so.

Our commitment to connection is important to us and we think that it's a great way make any relationship better.

Would a commitment to connection be a positive step that you could take in your relationship?

Probably so.

What we have discovered is that it takes no more energy and effort to work through issues, upsets and challenges than it does to stay upset and keep yourself distant and disconnected.

So... with our way of looking at it-- if it requires the same amount of effort to create a connected relationship as a disconnected one, why not go ahead and go for the best?

That's what we do and what we recommend you do as well if you want connection instead of disconnection more of the time.

Staying Connected During Changes in Our Lives

If there's one thing that we know from first-hand experience, it's how challenging it can be to stay connected during major (or even minor) changes in our lives.

As you may know from reading past newsletters, we're in the process of moving from a small town and house where we have lived for many years to a larger city about an hour away.

If you've made a move like this yourself, you know the amount of "stuff" that has accumulated during those years--and you have to move it, sell it or give it away.

For us, the challenge has been to find ways to stay connected through the stress of selling our house, buying a new one and preparing to move to our new location.

We know that moving is not the change that can create challenges for a couple or other members of your family to stay connected. We'll list just a few and we're sure you could add many more to it...

  • Birth of a child
  • Loss of a job
  • New Job
  • New Boss
  • Child leaving home for college or moving out
  • Financial challenges
  • Health challenges
  • Death of parent
  • Becoming the care-giver for a parent
  • Death of a child

And the list could go on and on...

The changes that can challenge your connection can be major ones or even not-so-major ones. Believe it or not, even planning and going on a vacation or the kids starting back to school can create disconnection!

So how do you keep your connection through changes, whether big or small, that come up in your life?

Here are some ways that we've used throughout our moving process and have helped us...

1. Make your steps clear. Don't assume anything. Talk with your partner or family member about plans that you are mentally creating and about your motivations and reasons for those plans.

We are constantly communicating, from the very smallest decision like where to store boxes that have been packed to larger decisions like what furniture we want to sell, take with us to the new home or give away.

If you're not constantly communicating your mental plans and your motivations behind those plans, it's easy for the two of you to create situations where you are at odds and there's disconnection.

2. Make sure that you truly listen to each other During times of stress and change, it's very easy to not focus your attention on listening to your partner or the other person. You might be distracted or in a hurry and listening simply isn't a priority.

If you want to keep your connection strong, make listening to each other a priority. Stop your busy-ness, take a breath, sit down and talk and listen. When you do, you'll discover that things just seem to go more smoothly.

3. Make sure you keep your sense of humor Keeping a sense of humor can be a challenge in stressful situations and not usually possible when going through something like the death of a child.

What we've discovered is that if we can find something to laugh at, especially during this move when contracts have fallen through or closing dates have been changed, we are better able to keep our connection strong.

4. Keep Focused on What you Want It's so tempting when your life gets stressful with lots of changes to focus on what is being left behind or what "used to be."

We've kept our connection and regained it when we've lost it by changing our focus to what we are going to rather than what we are leaving behind.

No matter what the changes are in your life, if you both focus on what you want, you'll be able to move toward it rather than be holding on to the past.

There's no doubt about it--the changes that you go through in your life can play havoc to your relationship and can create disconnection.

If you are going through any kind of change right now, we invite you to be proactive in creating and keeping a strong connection with your partner or others. If you do, you'll find that you are better able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and you might even start enjoying the process.

Memories, Inspiration and Allowing Yourself To Shine

You may remember as a child singing the words "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine."

Recently, we bought Bruce Springsteen's wonderful album and dvd "Live in Dublin" and one of the selections in this unique and compelling collection of folk songs is his version of "This Little Light of Mine."

Bruce and the Sessions Band sing it this way...

"This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine...everyday, everyday, everyday."

What a simple yet powerful lesson for all of us to remember to help us create the life and relationships that we want.

So what does it mean to let your light shine? And what does it mean to let our light shine in our relationships?

Does it mean that you have to constantly have a smile on your face, no matter what's happening in your life and no matter what's being done to you or those you love?

We think the idea of letting your life shine is very personal and unique to each person. It means that we live our lives from inspiration without hiding behind fear, mistrust, limitation and our old negative stories about ourselves and others.

Dr. Joe Vitale and Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len have written a wonderful book called "Zero Limits" and in it, Dr. Len says that in every single moment, you are living your life from either memory or inspiration.

In other words, your thoughts and actions originate either from experiences and fears from the past or from a place of possibility, openness, and a knowing that wells up inside you.

The "light" is this inspiration, the place from which you act from or "shine" as much of the time as possible.

We'll give you a practical example...

As you may know, we've been in the process of selling our house and buying another one in a larger city about an hour from where we live now.

During this process, we've had plenty of opportunities to notice whether we were acting from a place of memory or from inspiration and shining our light to each other, as well as the rest of the world.

When we've thought or acted from memory--events from the past that need to be healed, we haven't been open to each other and there's been a feeling of disconnection.

When we've acted from pure inspiration and love, our connection has felt strong--and we've felt sure of the steps that we are taking are the right ones for us at this time.

So how do you live from inspiration and let your light shine more of the time?

That's certainly a big question. It's one that we live with every day and here are some ideas we'll share with you that have helped us to live from inspiration more of the time.

We think they could help you as well...

1. If you feel an uneasiness come up inside you or you are triggered by what someone else is doing or saying, stop yourself before you react from "memory" or the way you've always reacted before.

Feel what's coming up inside you. You might know where these feelings are coming from and you might not be able to identify a memory or reason for your feeling or reaction.

Does this mean that the other person is "blameless"?

Of course not. But if you want to live your life with more ease and have more love, you have to start with you and what's going on inside you.

2. Find a way to love yourself and that memory. If you have no clue about what memory is coming up, just keep loving yourself with your thoughts and even your words. We've discovered that when we do, the situation becomes easier and there's a feeling of letting go and relaxation.

3. Allow room for inspired action. Open to listening to the other person and say what's true for you so the other can hear. True inspired action can come from this type of honest dialog. We know because this is what we try to practice in every moment.

This week, allow your light to shine as you live your life more from inspiration than memory.

If you do, you'll discover how much joy and love can come to you.

Using Something 'Non-Negotiable' To Create a Relationship that Is More Fun, Exciting and Enjoyable

When there is something that is "non-negotiable" in our relationships and lives, there's often a negative, uncomfortable, closed feeling that goes along with that thought or idea.

We've discovered that "non-negotiables" in our relationships can actually make them dramatically better and filled with much more love, passion and connection.

Curious? Here's how...

Recently, we picked up Jack Canfield's book "The Success Principles" and were fascinated by what he said about commitment and how that relates to creating great relationships.

In his book, he talked about making a "100% commitment to the outcome" and that successful people "adhere to the 'no exceptions rule' when it comes to their daily disciplines."

He goes on to say that once you decide something is non-negotiable, you don't have to think about it anymore and life is easier.

Okay, so let's translate that idea to relationships...

For us, our commitment to each other is that we connect on a deep level every day. It's "non-negotiable" and we don't have to decide if we're doing it or not. We just do it!

Whether we connect in person during our hour of connection in the morning or by phone on the rare occasions that we are away from each other--we express our gratitude, appreciation, love, angst and anything else that's important to us in that moment in all sorts of different ways with each other.

We've discovered ways to make keeping our commitment fun, exciting and enjoyable--instead of something we "have" to do. That time is certainly a high point in our day.

Another commitment we've made with our extended family is to physically get together at least once a month. Whether it's a picnic at a park in a city that is central to all of us or it's an overnight at Susie's sister's house to celebrate a birthday, we are committed to connecting and having fun in some way or another--with each other. This commitment is "non-negotiable" for all of us.

So our questions to you are these...

What's non-negotiable, by choice, in your relationships?

What commitment are you willing to make to create your life and relationships the way you want them to be?

What are you willing to say that you'll make a 100% commitment to doing that will improve your life and your relationships?

In other words, what can you choose to commit to right now ( or in the near future) that could change and improve your relationships for the better?

It might be something that you stop doing--like judging and criticizing your loved ones or a co-worker--or stopping what you are doing to actually look at them when they are talking to you.

It might be something new that you begin doing--whether the other person is in agreement or not.

It might be a commitment that you make with your partner-- something that would revitalize and re-energize your relationship.

Whatever this idea may mean to you, we invite you to look at how you can open to experiencing more love and connection in your life.

Spend some time thinking about and creating some new positive and fun "non-negotiable" commitments and let us know what you come up with.

We know from personal experience that when you make new commitments that are "non-negotiable" that will help you create more love,passion and connection, the payoff can be amazing.

Money Issues, Finances & Differences In Relationships

There's no question about it...Differences over money and finances are some of the biggest
issues that challenge couples and tear them apart.

In relationships, the question always becomes how to look at these challenges as unique opportunities to heal and move toward
deeper connection rather than to disconnection and separation.

So why does money drive a wedge between two people who are committed to loving one another and in many cases have an otherwise great relationship?

Here are a few reasons why...

1. Different backgrounds, values and beliefs. We all come from different backgrounds and carry different values and belief systems from our birth families and life experiences. Sometimes we don't even know why we carry these values and beliefs but they still have a very deep hold on us. We just know that they are "right" and can react. unconsciously when someone goes against these values and beliefs.

2. "Spender and Saver" Combination. If there's one scenario we've seen over and over, it's the "spender/saver" love combo. One person likes to spend money ("You can't take it with you" attitude) while the other person feels more secure saving money with a "Just in case..." approach to life. There's usually great love and/or friendship between them but this difference usually is difficult to deal with.

3. Never taught about money. Most people aren't taught how to deal with issues that arise over money and finances with a partner who may look at life differently. They try to use their parent's model-and that model may not work with the person they chose to share their life with.

4. Two people/different goals for their financial lives. One person's concern may be paying for a child's college education while the other person may want to save for a vacation home or spend whatever money is earned right now.

So, how do you deal with these differences and even create a deeper connection with a partner when you have them? Here are some tips...

1. Look at your history, beliefs, and values about money and finances. Ask yourself who was your role model for your beliefs about money and then question if these beliefs still serve you. Susie's parents lived during the depression and saving money was an important part of their lives. So Susie likes the security of having a financial cushion to fall back on-and lots of money in the bank. To Otto, saving money doesn't have the importance that it does to Susie. We've discovered that we were both out of balance and needed to come to the center on this issue.

2. Decide in advance how you are going to handle the finances. Early in our relationship, we decided to share equally the household expenses but not combine our personal finances. It has been important to us to feel like equal partners and this was one way that we could do it. This may not work in your circumstance. All we are saying is to consciously decide about how you are going to deal with finances before you get married, move in together or make any kind of long-term commitment to each other.

3. Talk about what each of you values in the area of finances. What are your short-term and long-term goals? Talk about them with your partner. It's only after you know what's important to you and your partner that can you create and keep a deep connection with each other.

4. When misunderstandings come up, listen to your partner and try to understand the frame of reference he/she is coming from. Be open to taking a look underneath at what you both think is the problem-because more than likely it goes much deeper than what it appears. When you listen to each other and share with an open heart, you might uncover and clear up some misconceptions and assumptions about intentions behind your actions or words.

Years ago when we were discussing business finances, Otto felt tight and restricted when Susie used the word "budget." His frame of reference from 20 years in sales was that "budgets" were imposed from some outside authority and meant restriction.

Susie's frame of reference came from managing a library and she dealt with budgets every day. She didn't feel triggered by the word "budget"--it was just a business tool--but she was triggered by Otto's reaction.

It was only until after each of us understood the other's frame of reference for this word that we could make sense out of what was going on between us and choose to connect with each other instead of stay disconnected. We were also able to discover some deeper fears that this "money" issue uncovered.

In your relationships, whether you're talking about money or anything else, It's important to understand and respect your partner's needs, desires, frame of reference and values, as well as your own.

When you're trying to work through money issues (or anything else) one of the big keys is "staying open" personally and emotionally to your friend, partner or beloved.

Another key is to chose to love the other person anyway--even if they are different from you and look at different issues in ways you don't.

Romantic Comedies and Your Relationship

This week, someone asked Susie such an interesting relationship question that we thought we'd share our thoughts about the topic with you.

This question and our answer are important to anyone who wants more love and connection in their relationships and life.

So what is the question we're talking about?

Susie and her sister were having a "girls getaway," visiting their two cousins who live in Richmond, Virginia, which is about an 7 hour drive from where we live in Ohio.

The four of them grew up together and have been very close friends since. They always have such a good time at these "reunions" and one of the fun things the four of them did in the evenings during this reunion was watch romantic comedy movies on DVD and laugh together.

You know the way romantic comedies go... there are always bizarre twists and turns on the way to getting the guy or girl of your dreams and the movies that the four of them watched were no different.

In fact, in two of these movies, the couples met and fell "in love" within a week.

As the four of them talked about the movies later, Susie's sister asked if it was really possible to fall in that kind of love in a week.

Susie thought that was an interesting question because that's exactly what happened to the two of us.

We've been together for many years now, but we were only acquaintances before going on our "first date."

As strange as it sounds and just like in those romantic comedies, our connection was so strong and so intense on that "first date" that we were together as a couple from then on.

Whether you're in a relationship now and want more spark, connection and love or you're not in a relationship and want to be...

Here's the relationship lesson we'd like to share with you in all this...

While we love a good movie about love and romance, the one thing that's never told is what you should do next after this initial attraction to keep the spark alive in your relationship.

These movies focus on the fun and excitement of the meeting, the attraction and the initial romance.

Yes, the feeling that you've found the true soul mate that you've wanted in your life can be incredible because we know from our own experience.

But why did this "big love" happen to us?

Was it a fluke?

Was is our destiny?

A divine plan?

Were we just soul mates destined to find each other?

Was it karma?

Can it happen to anyone?

These are all legitimate questions...

We believe that the reasons that we have this "big love" and incredible connection are not just answering "yes" to any of those questions.

As good as a new passionate, romantic relationship feels, in our opinion, it's nothing compared to what is yet to come if you just learn how to keep your love alive with your partner.

We've discovered that anyone can have and keep more love, more passion, more connection, more trust, better communication and deeper relationships.

As we look at our relationship and the lives of our coaching clients that we've helped to create close, connected relationships, one thing is clear...

The real magic in relationships happens after the initial attraction that creates lasting love and an incredible connection over the long term.

Whether you are currently in a committed relationship or you are opening yourself to attracting a new partner into your life, here are a few things that we did and you can too...

1. Choose to look at your beloved with fresh eyes and begin each day with gratitude. That means letting go of old grievances after they've been resolved and focusing on appreciating what you love about each other instead of what's "wrong."

2. Do something every day to keep your connection strong. It can just take a few minutes of stopping your busy life to turn and look into the eyes of your partner. Don't let a day go by without renewing your connection.

3. Keep a sense of humor. You will make "mistakes" and your partner will too. While it's healthy to know what you want and don't want in a relationship, be kind to yourself and your partner when things don't go too well.

4. Keep passion alive. So many couples allow the passion that was once there between them to die. Keep it alive and growing.

Whether you are currently with a partner or are available for a new relationship, begin creating your own romantic comedy--with the idea that there is no "ending" but simply a continuation of passion, love and connection between the two of you.

Always be asking yourselves and each other ""how can I / we open to more in this relationship and with you?"

You can always open more and you can always love more. Every moment is a new opportunity to create and enjoy.

Very often we just have to let go of our preconceived blocks and notions about what is or isn't possible.

Other times it's a bit more complicated than just letting go of preconceived notions and ideas but if your intention is to open instead of close and love instead withhold then you're certainly on the right track.

Sticks, Balls, Jumping In The River and Opening To Love

For the past two weeks, we've been dog-sitting for our friends' fun-loving, gentle, yellow Labrador retriever (Nutmeg) and we're having a ball with her.

We've been taking Nutmeg on long walks on our city's bike path and playing catch in the river with balls and sticks. As we've gone on these excursions, we've noticed a wide variety of reactions to the dog from the people we meet.

A few days ago on the bike path, we walked past two young children on bicycles and their grandfather. They were all excited to pet Nutmeg and she was equally excited to get their love and attention. "Nut" has never met a stranger.

Several other people walked or ran by us without a glance our way. One man skirted the other side of the paved path as we passed and was obviously very afraid of Nutmeg. He asked us in a low voice as he quickly passed, "Does she bite?"

When we thought about his question, as well as the various ways that people reacted to our adopted dog--what a mirror for how we all look at relationships and life so differently!

Some of us are open and friendly to strangers, as well as to those we love. Some of us largely ignore those we meet and those closest to us--and stay in our own little world. Some of us are very frightened of opening to others and keep ourselves closed off.

We've observed that these differences seem to come from our beliefs and our past experiences--and not so much from what's happening in our present.

So, this week, we invite you to notice how you react to your loved ones and how you react to strangers.

Do you keep yourself very busy doing "things" so you don't have to interact with people--either strangers or your loved ones?

Are you open to stopping, making eye contact and listening to your loved ones or even people you meet?

Are you fearful of opening to something new with your partner or even with people you haven't met?

Becoming aware of our reactions can show us where and how we need to grow next. The important thing is to notice what we do to keep ourselves separate and then decide if we want the possibility of more joy and love in our lives--and open to it.

Opening to the possibility of love, whether you are in a long-term relationship or not, can be a scary proposition because of habits, beliefs and past experiences.

It may take some courage to say "no" to these habits and try something different--if you want more love in your life.

We suggest that you choose some way that you'd like to open to more joy in your life this week.

Important Insights to Understand When You Want Your Partner to Be Different or Change

We saw the movie "Knocked Up" last weekend and while some people may be offended by some of the language and themes in it, we loved it.

We don't always agree with the reviews from critics of a movie but we agreed with the reviewers on this one--that it was funny and worth seeing.

There were so many life and relationship themes throughout the movie and so many observations that we could make about relationships. If you've seen it, we're sure that you have plenty of your own.

But as we think about one of the major themes for us from the movie, we remember what one of our relationship teachers once said to us in a workshop we attended....

He said-- "Men marry women hoping they don't change; Women marry men hoping they do"--and that's one of the big themes in "Knocked Up."

Just like in real life, in the movie, the question goes something like this--

Can the guy who doesn't hold a job, smokes dope and seems really irresponsible become responsible enough to become a good partner and parent?

Can women change men and if men do change, are they happy after they change?

Good questions, huh? And ones many of us have pondered more than once.

So what about trying to change your partner...

Can you do it and is it worth it if you do?

In "Knocked Up," we get to see a close up of not only the couple who are strangers (Alison and Ben) that just got "knocked up," but we also get to see the "inner workings" of the life and relationship of Alison's sister and her husband.

This couple "had" to get married because she was pregnant and now after 10 or 11 years later, we see that both of them are restless and not feeling loved or valued by the other. There seem to be secrets between them that are pulling them apart. They just don't seem to be "in sync" anymore and plainly aren't happy.

Alison doesn't want to end up like her sister, in a not-so-good marriage--so throughout the film, she questions whether Ben (her partner and father to their unborn child) can change enough for the two of them to make a go of it.

We won't tell you any more of the plot in case you haven't seen it but this did trigger some thoughts and observations we wanted to share here about trying to change a partner...

1. You truly can't change someone who doesn't want to change for their own sake. Changing for another person--whether it's to stop smoking, lose weight, being a more attentive father or partner--will only cause resentments later on. Each person has to want to make the changes, independent of the other person.

2. Men can and do change--and so do women. Expect change to happen. If it doesn't, it just means that the person doesn't want to be or act different from what they are currently being or acting. Look at your situation with hope but realistically.

3. Listen to each other and talk honestly about what is going on inside you. In "Knocked Up," both relationships could have been so much better if the partners could have talked and listened to each other without getting so triggered and reactive--but then we wouldn't have had a story, would we have?

4. Open your heart to understand your partner. We are all very different and look at the world very differently--even though we might now realize it. Open to understanding what your partner's hopes, dreams and desires are--and be willing to share yours.

In our relationship, we've learned that trying to change each other just doesn't work. Love and understanding does.

We've also discovered that change does happen in relationships but that change comes from openness and from a place of curiosity about what embracing new ideas and new ways of being might mean.

Some times opening to these kinds of changes can be scarry. But, what we've discovered is that no matter how scarry opening may be, it's no where near as painful as living your life closed and emotionally shut down.

The bottom line is to make the changes that you want to make in yourself so that you can create more of what you want.

Independence Day Relationship Advice

As we're sure you know, this week (on July 4th) in the United States we're celebrating the founding of our nation, freedom and independence.

Just like a lot of you, we'll be spending time with friends and family and attending Independence day celebrations complete with fireworks.

One thing that's for sure is, the idea of independence means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

In relationships of all kinds, the idea of "independence" is also pretty important and that's because freedom, independence and inter-dependence can be one of the stickiest issues that people and couples have to deal with.

Since we're all so different, each of us has a greater or lesser desire for freedom and independence--and that's where the "rub" comes in.

If you're "too" independent in relationships, there's little or no connection--no matter what kind of relationship it is. There may be great love but the other person can feel like something is missing in the relationship and that he/she is being held at arm's length.

If you're "too" dependent, the other person can feel smothered and search for every opportunity to have some freedom.

We see this dynamic a lot in couples who struggle with jealousy but it can happen from time to time in any relationship.

So how do you cope with varying desires for freedom and inter-dependence--while still keeping a close, connected, open, loving relationship?

How do you balance and honor a need for independence as well as keep a strong connection?

Here are some of our ideas...

1. Listen to yourself and know what you want. We know that we sound like a broken record but in order to connect with another person, you have to learn to connect with yourself. Don't bury your feelings, thinking that you are being "kind" in acting in a certain way that you think the other person wants or needs.

Not necessarily true.

You can't assume that you know best for the other person. You can only listen to what's inside you and then let the other person know in a way that keeps both of you open.

2. Listen to the other person with an open heart and stay in the present moment

Listening with an open heart means not assuming and jumping to conclusions. It also means staying in the "here and now," without leaping to the future or staying stuck in the past.

All kinds of fears can come up when you tackle these independence/inter-dependence issues and your best line of defense is to stay focused on the present moment.

Don't play the "what if" game. It always brings up fears that usually don't materialize.

3. Express what you want in a way that opens the door between the two of you and isn't defensive, controlling or demanding.

When you adopt a defensive manner when you are expressing what you want, the other person usually energetically "steps back" and can shut down any connection or line of communication.

Be aware of your energy as you express yourself. If you're unclear how you "come off" to others, ask a trusted friend for some honest feedback.

Become aware of your tone of voice, your non-verbal mannerisms and your words. You may be surprised at the feedback that you get when you ask.

Love is all about respecting and honoring each other--and that includes honoring and understanding each other's needs for independence and inter-dependence.

What To Do When You or Your Partner Is 'Caught Looking'

What should you do if you notice your partner looking at an attractive man or woman?

This is an interesting question that pops up in nearly every relationship at one time or another and it's a much bigger deal for some people than it is for others.

There are all kinds of possible answers to this question of what to do when you "catch" your partner, mate or friend looking at someone else and here are just a few...

For example, you could say nothing, be silent and pretend it never happened (again).

You could make a big deal out of it and create a "scene."

You could sulk and withdraw.

Heck, you could even try to punish them or withhold something from them that you think might get their attention and try to get them to change their ways.

If you really think about it, there are an unlimited number of things you might do when you "catch'" your partner, mate or friend noticing someone else.

And the most important question that ever needs to be answered about this issue is this -- Will your response be one that moves you closer to or further from what you want?

Painfully, we must say that if your response to your partner is like most people's response when this happens, then you're probably creating what you don't want instead of what you do want.

Most of the time you're probably doing this without even realizing what you're doing.

Here's what we've discovered about "noticing" other people and "attraction" that may be helpful to you or someone you know...

Attraction is a normal part of being human.

Each of us is attracted to certain jobs, friends, partners and activities and that's why they are in our lives.

As for noticing an attractive man or woman that is not our partner or the one we're with...

Unless you're dead or lying, almost every one of us would have to admit to "noticing" an attractive person from time to time.

It's normal and natural.

While all of this attraction is normal, it can certainly get you (and your partner) into hot water in your relationship if you aren't paying attention.

It's been our experience that it's what happens next after someone "notices" an attractive (or even average looking) person that isn't their partner that makes the difference in your relationship and your life.

Here's what we mean...

When this happens, one of the first things you have to figure out is... "Is he or she just simply 'noticing' or appreciating another person's beauty, attractiveness, presence, or other gifts or is there something really harmful going on?

After all... in most cases when this happens, what you're really concerned about is the fact that this other person appears to be getting your partner or friend's attention that you want. Isn't it?

We think it's perfectly OK for you (or your partner) to notice or look at someone else who is attractive or interesting but in our opinion, here's where the problems begin...

It's when whatever is going on--either real or imagined-- gets in the way of your connection and your relationship.

If your partner seems to be truly attracted to someone else and it is interfering with your relationship, here are some ideas for you to consider...

1. Take some time alone and decide what you want in your relationship. It's not good enough to merely think--"I just want him/her to stop flirting" or "I just want him/her to come home at a decent hour." You have to decide what you want in this relationship. Do you want more time together? How do you want to connect with your partner? Do you want more attention, kindness, or anything else?

2. Chances are that if you have felt your partner being attracted to other people or activities to the detriment of your relationship, you've told him or her about it--and there's probably been denial. Take a different tactic and instead of "pushing against," talk about what you'd like in your relationship and tell them how much you want to be with them.

Don't ignore what you think is happening if you get a feeling about it but also shift your focus to making your relationship better.

3. Open your heart to listening to what your partner wants and ask that your partner listen to what you want in your relationship. Is there an opening for each of you to strengthen your relationship?

4. Until your partner is honest about the attraction--with himself or herself and with you--it can linger there, even if you set a boundary and it's honored.

Take a positive step toward what's happening and remember it doesn't mean that you are lacking in some way. It just means that you both need to be honest about what's going on and decide what you want for your relationship.

If you are attracted to someone and it is interfering with your committed relationship, here are some ideas for you to consider...

1. Take some time to feel inside yourself and recognize what attracts you to this person or this activity. What are you getting out of the attraction that may be missing in other parts of your life?

2. Be honest with yourself and don't dismiss your partner's complaints, if there are any. Be honest about your motivations and needs that are being met by this attraction. It could be the element of excitement or that you are getting the kind of attention that you want. It could be that you can be who you really are by being with this other person--and you can't be that way in your partnership.

3. While we're not saying that your intimate relationship has to fulfill all of your needs, we are saying that if there is a deep desire to be with another person or experience an activity that dominates your thoughts and time, it's a call for you to turn and focus on your intimate relationship--and to shift your attention away from your attraction.

4. Instead of being defensive and denying your attraction, talk with your partner about what you'd like more of in your relationship with him or her. Open to what might be possible but be honest.

In the course of relationships, attractions can happen.

It's what you do with them that make the difference between whether your relationship with your partner is alive and growing or it loses its passion and love.

Passion, Adventure, Romance and Pirates

Can you believe it?

We just found out that the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" broke the record for the highest worldwide six-day opening, with $401 million.

As fascinated observers of our culture, we couldn't help but wonder why?

Don't get us wrong... we really enjoyed the movie but we wondered what it is that attracts millions of people to choose to pay their money and spend their time watching a movie like this.

Because we're also students of relationships and are always on the lookout for insights into how to create outstanding relationships, we couldn't help but wonder if wasn't something we could learn about creating successful, happy relationships.

Setting aside the vast media hype that's gone on to promote this movie, we came to the conclusion that the creators of "Pirates of the Caribbean" give us what a lot of us find lacking from our relationships and lives.

While we certainly don't want to spoil the plot for you if you haven't seen the film, we do want to give you a few take-away ideas to think about and possibly apply to make your relationships more alive.

Here are some of our thoughts...

1. The clever script had humor and wit. Most of us enjoy humor and want more of it in our lives and in our relationships. So the question becomes...How can you look at situations in a more humorous, lighter, more loving way? How can you expand to include more humor or fun in your life?

2. The plot was filled with surprising and unexpected twists and turns. How can you create surprises that will bring you closer to the people you love? It might be planning a special night of romance or it might be doing something very small--something out of the ordinary for your loved one.

3. There was passion at every step of the way--romantic passion, passion for the sea, following a good captain, passion to right a wrong, to complete a debt. What do you have a passion for in your life? How can you rekindle that passion if it has dimmed or even died? What step are you willing to take to create more passion in your life?

4. The characters passionately stood up for what they believed in and "stepped up" for what they wanted. What are you committed to having in your relationships and are you willing to "step up" and do the things that will bring you closer to having it?

It sometimes just takes a small action to move you toward what you want, like making a connection with your eyes with your beloved or with a family member or friend. It sometimes takes a very small action to stir up passion in your life.

If you haven't seen the new "Pirates" movie, go see it because it's a lot of fun.

If you're like most people, you want to feel a little more passion and excitement in your life and watching this movie lets you have it vicariously by spending a couple of hours in the theater.

Our suggestion is to not just live vicariously through the characters and events of a movie (or anything else) but to really live with passion in all aspects of your life, especially your relationships.

When it comes to your relationships, we believe that if you want more than you currently have right now, you can have it.

You can create more passion, love, connection, trust, intimacy and spark in your relationships.

It all begins with you and it all begins right now.

A Sure-Fire Way To Make your Relationships Easier

If you've been following along with us lately, not only did we "birth" our newest book "Red Hot Love Relationships," but we put our house up for sale during this month.

Getting the house ready to show to perspective buyers has been no small task because we had accumulated a lot of "stuff" over the many years we've lived here.

So, the house and surrounding area looks great--except for one thing...

Our neighbor's stuff!

Our neighbors, who are very nice people, have accumulated lots of things that sit outside their house and no amount of encouragement on our part has led to their cleaning up that area.

As you can imagine, in our minds (and what we've been told from perspective buyers), this is keeping us from selling our house.

Now in this situation we have a couple of choices about how to handle this. ..

We can keep blaming the neighbors for our house not selling as quickly as we would like and continue spending a lot of energy and holding on to anger and frustration about the way our neighbors are choosing to create their outside environment.

Or we can make a choice to take a much healthier approach and "relax into our frustrations."

What's all this have to do with you and your relationships and how do you "relax into your frustrations?"

More importantly-- why would you want to relax into your frustrations in the first place?

We'll explain it this way...

We're guessing that you have at least one relationship in your life that frustrates you--someone who you know if they would just follow your suggestions, everything would be okay.

Sometimes it doesn't work that way. Sometimes the people in your life don't do what you think is best or what you want them to do.

In one of the chapters of our new book, we talk about how to not make relationships hard work. This pushing against someone else to follow your path is simply hard work.

So what do you do instead of pushing against?

You relax into your frustration and be in gratitude.

We'll explain what we mean by using our personal situation...

When the thought comes up that we are never going to sell our house because of these neighbors and their "stuff," we need to recognize that that thought is a faulty belief. We can ask ourselves Byron Katie's question--"Is that true?"

In this case, the answer is "no." When we take that new thought in, we can begin to relax our bodies. Because the truth is that we don't know who the "right" buyer is for this house.

We can also be grateful that they are nice people who don't pollute the area with a lot of noise.

Whenever frustration comes up again, we just keep repeating the process.

Is this moving the sale of our house along?

We don't know. But what we do know is that we feel better when we do this and it's a healthier way to live.

So this week, if you find yourself becoming frustrated because someone isn't doing something that you think they should be doing--take a moment and ask yourself our question and "relax" into your answer.

We send you lots of love as you move toward what you want in your life.

What You Can Learn From This Magician's Bad Relationship Advice

We thought we'd heard just about everything until we saw this...

It was an ad for guys about how to seduce the "hottest" women by doing magic tricks.

Now, if you've been reading any of our materials, you know that we are NOT about seduction for the sake of manipulation.

We are about love, juiciness, aliveness, passion and connection.

But after we mulled over this magician's idea, we thought that there was something that we all could learn from it to make our relationships come alive.

If you're like most people, you're probably wondering how could it be that there's something to be learned from this guy?

After all... there's something kind of creepy about what he's doing and...

Yes, he's using "tricks" to get the attention of beautiful women and...

Yes, he's teaching guys (gullible ones) that seduction and tricks are the way to a girl or woman's heart....

Once you get past all this-- he's doing something out of the ordinary that we can all learn from that can have a truly positive impact on our relationships.

Let us repeat this so we make sure you get it.

He's doing something out of the ordinary.

That's right, that's what we're suggesting you do in your relationships--

Do something out of the ordinary.

In the case of this magician-- he's teaching guys that you can get the attention of another person you might want to meet by doing something you wouldn't ordinarily do.

Whether you are currently in a relationship or not, choose to spice up your life by doing something that is different from what you might normally do.

If you are single and want to be in a close, connecting, loving relationship, go somewhere to meet people who are like-minded--somewhere you haven't gone before. Even if you connect with someone who can be a new friend, take a chance and open yourself to a new friendship.

The two of us met at a spiritual study group in our small town and had known each other as acquaintances for a couple of years before we got together as a couple. You just never know what will happen when you open yourself to new experiences!

If you are in a committed relationship or marriage and want to get closer, take this opportunity to spice things up with a new and different experience. It doesn't have to be a huge, planned or expensive event. It can be something very small but whatever you choose, focus on increasing connection, passion fun, and friendship in your relationship.

This morning, during our connecting time, we tried a new way of "melting" together.

Did it take much preparation?

No--it just took our desire to keep our relationship alive and growing along with a little experimentation and openness.

So our advice to you is to continually find new ways to bring "magic" into your life and your relationships.

Start small and do one thing that can possibly bring you more of what you want.

Plugging Up The Holes in Your Relationships

Are there any "holes" in your relationships?

If you're like us--the answer is yes.

In fact, in many relationships there are usually quite a few "holes."

"Holes" are those things in your relationship and life that you may know are there but it's always a surprise when you fall into one.

Your relationship can be just fine one minute and then before you know it, you've fallen into one of those "hidden" holes again.

You can be thrown into a relationship hole by a certain word or look from the other person. These "holes" always create distance, disconnection and even anger, sadness or a range of many other emotions.

The house we live in is over 130 years old and just like a lot of relationships, there are many "holes" in the nooks and crannies in the exterior of the house.

At its core, our home is solid and stable. But the fact is that until the past few months when we decided to sell our house and move to another city, we really haven't paid a lot of attention to maintaining it. Of course the neglect was really beginning to show.

Since we've been focusing our attention on revitalizing it, the home is in much better shape.

The truth is that whether you're talking about a house or a relationship, if there are any "holes" in them, they didn't just show up overnight. They are there because you didn't notice them and then fix them right away before they grew bigger. You didn't focus attention on the house or the relationship.

We could move to another house but it wouldn't be long before problems would start showing up in our new house if we didn't do a better job of maintaining it. So it is with relationships.

What does it mean to plug up the "holes" in a relationship?

It means doing the things every day and even moment-to-moment that lead to a great relationship.

One of those things is giving the relationship your attention. Many people get into a relationship and then put it on auto-pilot. Then months or years later, they wonder what happened.

If you haven't planned a date together in a while, take some time right now and plan some type of get-away even if it's just for an hour at your favorite restaurant or a walk in a park alone together. Make some time for the two of you to be together and to enjoy each other.

No matter what kind of relationship--paying some attention to it can help plug up the holes.

Another thing that we find helpful is to be honest about what you are feeling--with yourself and with others.

This means whenever something comes up between you and another person, don't let it linger and become an even bigger issue. In other words, if you tackle these issues when they're small, you can certainly avoid falling into huge "pot holes" later on.

Fixing a relationship with holes may not be an overnight process but it can be done if both partners in the relationship are committed to making it better and stronger.

A Controversial Kiss Offers Many Lessons For All Of Us

During the past few weeks, there has been a furor over Actor Richard Gere kissing Shilpa Shetty on the cheek during an AIDS awareness benefit in India.

There's even been a lawsuit brought against Gere over his actions and there's talk of arresting Shetty as well.

While we're not avid followers of Hollywood gossip, this story was intriguing to us because this is much to be learned about relationships if we really think about this incident for a moment. .

This whole situation has been very polarizing for different groups of people.

Some people are dismissing these allegations as the actions of extremists and that they are embarrassing to the Indian culture. Some people are saying that Gere was out of line and that he should have known better.

Needless to say, if this had happened in the US, this would certainly not have been an issue. The reality is it happened in India and because of this it is a problem.

So what does all of this have to do with your relationships?

Plenty and here's why...

All of our actions come from our beliefs, experiences, and attitudes--and we are all different.

Actions that are acceptable to one person, another might find objectionable and even offensive. Whether it's a relationship in the workplace, a friend, family member or intimate partner--we are all triggered from time to time about what others say or do.

Their actions and words may bring up feelings that we may not even know existed and may not be aware of why we feel that way.

These differences in beliefs, experiences and attitudes are how misunderstandings are created. We disconnect from others when we make assumptions based on our own view of the world.

A good example of this is when a woman asked us a question about her relationship that had recently ended. She told us that she was getting conflicting signals from her "ex" and didn't know what to think about her situation and how or whether to move on or not.

Her "ex" had told her that he didn't trust her. When we asked her if she knew what she had to do to regain the trust of her "ex," she didn't know.

We told her that if she wanted to make that relationship better--whether it remains intimate or changes form--she had to find out what it would take for her ex to trust her again. She had to discover what his world view is when it comes to trust and then decide is she wants to do what it would take to regain that trust.

So, what do you do if you are caught in one of these misunderstandings or are at odds with someone who is important to you?

Here are some ideas for helping you to untangle yourself if you find that you are stuck in one of these situations...

1. Become aware of the assumptions that you may be making in the situation and what assumptions the other person may be making.

2. If you don't know what assumptions the other person is making, ask for clarification. Several of the reports on the Gere story intimated that the majority of the Indian people didn't condemn Gere's actions but were silent about it. Don't be silent if this person is important to you. Ask for clarification.

3. Question your beliefs. Decide if your beliefs will allow you to move forward in this situation or if you need to modify or change them in some way.

You get to decide what you believe and how you act on those beliefs in your relationships. We say this often--be a conscious creator in your life and decide how you want to live it.

While we don't know what will happen to Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty over this incident, we do know that it's the human condition to have different viewpoints over the same situation.

If we want to create great relationships, we have to learn to understand each other and to open to understanding ourselves at a deeper level.

What are You Resisting?

We'd like you to imagine for just a moment that there is an unlimited amount of love, passion, connection, abundance (and anything else that you want) available to you in your relationships and life.

If this is true (and we believe that it is), then we'd like to ask you this question...

What resistance to experiencing more of what you want are you feeling in your relationships and life right now?

Resistance might be coming in a variety of ways--but the truth is that if there is an unlimited supply of love and abundance, then at some level you are undoubtedly blocking or resisting what you want from being a part of your life experience.

Susie's feeling a lot of resistance right now toward moving on to a larger city and leaving her house of over 30 years and the small town where she's lived since 1969. She "knows" deep inside herself that this is a good move for her and for us, but within that "knowing" is a resistance to change.

Like Susie, you may be challenging something in your life or relationships that you have a deep "knowing" about. You might be saying to yourself "Yes, but..." and "That won't work for me." If this is the case, then these are small examples of resistance.

There may also be other forms of resistance that are present for you, such as resistance to "what is," resistance to opening wider to your partner, resistance to claiming something positive for your life, resistance to letting go of limiting beliefs, resistance to allowing the time, energy and focus that this path might take.

To go back to our example of Susie's resistance...

She has the most difficult time when she slips into believing his negative, limiting thoughts that in the new city, she'll never have what she has in this house and beautiful natural setting.

The reality of the situation is that even though this house is located in a private, wooded setting, both the130 year old house and its surroundings are more than we want to take care of right now.

There are also things like a garage and a bathroom off the master bedroom that appeal to Susie in a newer house. To top it off--her grandsons live in the city where they are moving so she will get to be with them more often.

So the truth of it is--although Susie is resisting this move in some ways, there are some wonderful, positive advantages for letting go of the past.

In relationships, people hold onto old, limiting beliefs that create resistance without taking a good look at what is currently happening in the present moment and the outcome that they want.

They hold on to grudges and things that have been done to them in the past without looking at what's going on right here and right now.

We've discovered that holding onto resistance is hard work--like hauling a ball and chain around with you all of the time.

While it may not be "easy" to let go of whatever you are resisting, we've discovered that when we do, we feel lighter and more love comes into our lives.

The trick is to spend as much of your time, effort and energy as possible focusing on the positive outcome that you want to happen instead of focusing on any short-term pain that you may feel as you work through any personal or relationship challenges that seem to keep you stuck in a place you don't want.

Pay attention to any negative emotion that arises. Ask if what you are telling yourself about what you are resisting is true. Often, there's no truth to your fears and even if there is some validity to your resistance, make a choice to focus on where you want to go.

In life and relationships, it's up to each person to decide what he/she wants and not let something we perceive as difficult get in the way of having something amazing in any area of our lives.

We suggest that you begin creating your life on purpose, whatever that means to you, especially when it comes to your relationships. Look resistance right in the eye. Then, make the decision that you are not willing to allow your resistance to keep you from having what you want.

The Pursuit of Relationship Happiness

Recently, we watched the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness" which gave us much food for thought about overcoming challenges while holding the vision for what you want.

The story was based on parts of Chris Gardner's life story and although we don't want to spoil it for you if you haven't seen it, the film is a great example of someone who is successful because he held his vision and he was willing to do what most people aren't willing to do.

He was persistent in following his dream, even when everything seemed stacked against him and his vision was more powerful than the pain in the moment.

Having this kind of vision, focus, persistence and doing what few are willing to do is what it takes to have a great relationship--of any kind.

We'll give you a small, practical example of what that means...

Last night, while Susie was at her pilates class, Otto left to go exercise and to do a few other things.

Because he hadn't left a note saying where he was and he couldn't remember whether he had told Susie he was going out or not, he called home when he knew that Susie would be there. He let her know where he was and what time he might be expected back home.

Because of his vision for what he wants in an intimate relationship, he did something that other people may consider an act of a "hen-pecked" husband.

At another time in his life and with another partner, he might have felt that making a phone call of that sort was restricting his freedom and he wouldn't have done it.

Now, he knows that that phone call was an action of courtesy, respect and love--and in keeping with the vision that we both have for our relationship.

Many people write to us about their relationship challenges and if one thing is clear from what they write, it's this...

They don't have the relationships that they really want because they are focusing so hard on what they don't want instead of holding onto their vision for what they do want.

Unlike Chris Gardner (the main character in the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness"), many people are choosing to allow the challenges they are faced with to stop them cold in their tracks.

Simply put-- many people (who don't have what they want) aren't willing to do the things that other people are willing to do to create what they want.

Now, we all get stuck in our challenges from time to time, but what can move us out of them is making a shift in thinking to where we want to be.

Is that positive thinking mumbo-jumbo?

No, it's simply focusing our attention in a different way to move through challenges that present themselves in our paths.

Alan Cohen, in his book "Relax into Wealth," tells a great story about selling his car. As he was driving to meet a potential buyer, the car stalled and quit. The buyer of course didn't buy the car at that time.

As the car was being towed, Alan held his vision that the car would sell and that he would do what it took to repair it.

The repairs turned out to be minor and after the car was fixed, he called the potential buyer and she bought it.

Are relationships that simple to "fix"?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no--but what we know is that if you hold your vision for what you want and do things to move toward that vision, it may not look like you originally thought, but your life will change in positive ways.

Here are some questions to help you create the relationships that you want...

1. Create your vision. Many people don't have a vision for what they want in their relationships and creating one is the first place to start. What do you want your relationship to look like? To feel like?

2. What types of things do you need to be doing to move toward making your vision a reality? Do you need to change some thoughts or actions?

3. What can you do to create what you want that few people are doing? This week, we invite you to look at the vision you want for your relationships and life. Renew your resolve to move forward toward your dreams.

Using Agreements to Resolve your Communication Issues

We all have different ways of looking at life and those differences can certainly cause communication breakdowns and disconnection in our relationships.

The story we're about to tell you will illustrate how to communicate with another person and create an agreement that not only works but also helps facilitate a closer and more connected relationship between two people, or even more.

When you read this story, don't make the mistake of thinking that "this doesn't apply to me."

While this actual situation we describe may or may not apply to you, what's important and what will be helpful to you is to see how we took a challenging situation early in our relationship and created an agreement (actually several of them) that helped us to draw closer and at the same time work through this challenging situation.

When we first got together, Susie was used to a neat, clean home because she had lived by herself for awhile before getting together with Otto.

Otto has a now 16 year old son from a previous marriage who visits twice a week and is with us every other weekend.

When a rowdy, young boy entered the picture, Susie spent a lot of time, effort and energy trying to get him to pick up after himself.

Back then, the problem was that Otto's son never seemed to get the idea and it seemed that he always had to be reminded of what was expected of him.

As a result, Susie would become frustrated, Otto would become angry and his son would retreat into a video game or a television show to avoid the situation.

We (Susie and Otto) decided to practice what we preach and create some agreements between the two of us about what our expectations would be concerning Otto's son and how we would deal with various situations when he was with us.

One of our agreements was that Otto would be the one to remind his son to pick up his clothes and dirty dishes if there was a need to. And Otto would do this with humor and love before his son's bedtime each evening. Susie agreed to not worry about whether all this would happen or not and to trust that Otto would take care of it.

Fast forward several years--Because of our agreement, Otto's son now takes more responsibility for picking up after himself. There also seems to be more ease and flow with all of us during the times he's with us.

The point is that we came to an agreement about how we were going to handle that situation and then each of us followed through.

Since it was his son, Otto felt that he (and not Susie) needed to be the one to "parent" and Susie agreed to lighten up about her expectations around this issue.

We figured out that what Otto's son really wanted from him was love and attention. With this agreement, his son gets both in a much healthier way and we also get what we want.

We are telling you this story as a reminder that you can create your relationships and life the way you want them to be. You can also unravel those sticky communication issues.

Opening up and telling each other how you feel is a beginning step to making agreements. You do this by not blaming but by simply saying what it is that you want and looking at possibilities.

We could not have made the agreement that we made if we had hung onto blaming each other and the idea that we were each "right" in this situation.

In any of your relationships, you have to be willing to make the commitment to communicate with each other no matter how painful it becomes. You have to speak your truth and you have to listen without judgment to what the other person has to say.

If you aren't in the habit of creating agreements with the people you live with or work with, start now. When you do, your relationships will go from where they are to where you have always hoped they would be!

We'll have quite a bit to say about this and many other communication challenges in tomorrow night's teleseminar that we described in the "News and Notes" section of this newsletter. We hope you can join us.

Dealing With Virginia Tech, Chaos and Tragedy

We've All have had to deal with tragedy at some level at
different times in our lives.

This week, just like you, we've watched as the story from Blacksburg, Virginia and Virginia Tech has unfolded about a very troubled student and how his rage ended in tragedy for many families.

Whether we know anyone at Virginia Tech or not, we all have been affected on some level by the massacre that happened there this week.

We've watched as the students and people from all over the world have come together for comfort and support, calling themselves a family.

We've also watched as commentators have blamed the officials in one way or another. We all have different meanings and interpretations about what it all means to us.

So the question is--How do we deal with this tragedy or with any tragedy in our lives?

How do we still find love in our hearts and how do we still open to one another in spite of the chaos and senseless tragedies that frequently happen in every corner of the earth and in our lives?

When 9/11 happened, the two of us were attending a spiritual retreat and one of our wise teachers told us something that we'll never forget.

She counseled us to keep in touch with what was going on in the world but to remain centered. According to our teacher, you "remain centered" by finding the silence within yourself where you feel only love. You can find this silence in prayer or meditation. Meditation can take many forms--seated meditation, dance meditation, fishing, running, hiking, in the shower or even sitting on a crowded bus.

At that retreat, we also had the feeling of being supported by our "family" during this time of fear and uncertainty, in much the same way that we've seen the students at Virginia Tech drawing together in love this week.

In the face of any tragedy, whether it's one that touches many people or just you and your family, we suggest that you draw together for love, comfort and support but also allow yourself to move into the silence within yourself.

Take a moment when you start to feel overwhelmed, quiet your mind and feel yourself go within, feeling only divine love.

If the chatter and fear in your mind starts getting loud, bring yourself into the present moment instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about potential future events that may never happen.

Make a choice to focus on love instead of the pain.

You don't need to sit for long periods of time to feel the changes that will happen if you do this periodically during the day. It often just takes a change of focus and the silence can support that change.

We recently listened to one of Wayne Dyer's tape sets where he quoted Herman Melville who said "God's one and only voice is silence."

That's what happens in meditation--you find "God's one and only voice."

No matter what has happened in your life, these short periods of replenishing silence will help you to mourn when you need to mourn, help you to feel what you need to feel and to help you let go of what you need to let go of in order to move forward in your life.

It doesn't mean that you can't feel anger, hurt, sadness because those are all natural emotions to feel when there is tragedy. We are saying to do what you can to focus on love instead of hate and the best way to start is by becoming centered within yourself.

Maybe, just maybe, if you focus on love and we focus on love, and our neighbor focuses on love--even though there is tragedy in the world--peace may become a reality on this magnificent earth. This is our hope.

Are You Moving Closer to or Further from What You Want?

It's an absolute fact that we ALL talk to ourselves.

The important question is-- What do we say when we talk to ourselves?

Think about the times when you talk to yourself...

What do you say to yourself?

Does it help you or hurt you?

Does it move you closer to or further from what you say you want in your relationships and life?

These are certainly questions worth considering and ones that can help shift you from disempowerment to empowerment in a matter of moments if you are open to the answers that come back after asking questions like these.

After one of our recent workshops on creating greater intimacy in relationships, we overheard a woman say something that brought up a very important idea that we wanted to share with you.

The essence of what we overheard this woman saying was that she could never have the kind of relationship that we had just described in our talk.

In our presentation, we had shared ways to open deeper to others.

We gave some communication and trust-building skills and we talked about what was possible when it came to deeper intimacy in and out of the bedroom.

What was interesting about this woman's comment was that she, herself, was not open to something better for her own life.

She had already made a judgment that it was great that the two of us have been able to create a beautiful, loving, close, connected, passionate and alive relationship but it was impossible or "out of reach" for her and her life.

Even though we've talked about this idea many times in this newsletter column, it's worth repeating.

If you want something different or better for your life, you've got to begin doing different things, in different ways in order to have that.

It's hard to say for sure, but it appears that this woman was unable or unwilling to see beyond her present situation and her present thoughts, attitudes, fears, beliefs and actions that are creating her current reality.

She was unwilling to make one small shift to improve her life and her relationships. She wanted to continue doing what she had been doing instead of looking toward something better.

We all get to choose how we want to live our lives and we're certainly not judging this woman's decision.

Like this woman, for many people it's easier to make an unconscious decision about their lives and say, "I'll never be able to have that" than to take a step toward what they want.

So, to create what you want, does it just take thinking good thoughts?

Recently, Otto watched an interview with James Arthur Ray that was really interesting. As you may recall, James is one of the presenters in the movie "The Secret."

In this interview, he was asked if thinking good thoughts was all it took to be able to create or manifest all that you want for your life. He said that he believes that to be able to create anything that you want, you have to get your thoughts, beliefs and actions lined up toward creating exactly what it is that you want.

We think James is right because this has been our experience in our own lives and in creating our relationship.

If you are wanting to move closer to what you want in any part of your life, here are some suggestions that have helped us...

1. Take something that you want in your life. Look at your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about having it. When Susie looked at moving from her home of over 30 years, she saw that the thought and belief of "I can't have what I want in our new location" was present for her.

2. If the thought or belief is contrary to what you want to move toward, challenge it every time it comes up in your mind by asking this question-- "Is this true?"

3. Each time you think this thought or belief, change it to one that is a better thought and one that you can believe. Susie can believe that it is possible to have what she wants because she has seen areas at the new location that have what she wants.

4. As Otto's father has always said-- sometimes you have to "Put legs on your prayers." To us, this means take one action step toward what you want and then take another.

Right now and for the past few weeks, we have been periodically taking trips to the new area where we are moving soon and looking at houses.

We are sorting out what we want and don't want in these searches. In other words, we are lining up our energy, as James Arthur Ray says, to create what we want.

You can do this in any part of your life, especially to improve your relationships.

When it comes to your relationships, what thoughts or beliefs do you have?

Are these thoughts and beliefs taking you toward what it is that you want in your relationships and life or are they moving you further from it?

Are the actions you are taking moving you closer to or further from what it is that you want?

The choice is always yours.

Open First

One of the keys to more intimacy in your relationships and your life is to be open to the other people in your life.

In Stephen Covey's book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," one of the seven habits is to "seek first to understand and then be understood."

We think this is a great principle and we have recommended this idea to many people.

We also think that when it comes to the idea of creating more intimacy in your relationships, there is another "first" idea that we think you'll find to be equally important.

It's called "open first."

What do we mean by "open first" and how can you use this idea to create deeper intimacy in your relationships and lives?

In every relationship, one person always has to be the initiator in every situation.

One person is always the initiator of asking for the first date, the first kiss, and to suggest an activity or choose a restaurant. One person has to be the one to ask the other to marry them or to at least suggest it. Even if both people want the same thing, one person is always first.

So if one of the keys to more intimacy and deeper intimacy in your relationship is to open, then be the initiator and open first if you want to create something greater than you are experiencing right now. If it's a new relationship and you'd like to go deeper with this person, then open first.

If you're in a long-term relationship or marriage, and you would like to feel closer and more connected, one of the keys to more intimacy is opening. If you're not sure whether your partner will open to you first, go ahead and do it yourself. Open first. It's sort of like walking into a building--one person has to be the first to go in.

This can also be a little bit like sticking a toe in the water. When you go into the ocean in the off-season, as we did during our recent vacation, to see whether you want to put your whole body in, you usually just stick a toe in as we did.

When you do this, you are seeing how much you can open to going into the ocean with your whole body. In the case of our recent visit to Folly Beach, the ocean was too cold to go in very far.

It's the same way when you are in a relationship with another person. One person has to be the first person to stick his/her toe in the water--and then invite the other person to come in.

In relationship, if you are the first to be warm, open and inviting, then the other person you are in relationship with will likely join you and open as well.

You might be saying well that's all well and good but what if the other person ignores me? Where do I start?

A typical scenario might go something like this...

"I just want my husband to open to me. He comes home sits down in front of the tv and doesn't move until bedtime. What can I do?"


"My wife talks on the phone for hours with her sister but she rarely even looks at me when I talk with her. What can I do to get closer to her?

In both of these cases, the place to start if you want more intimacy is not to wait on your partner to open. You open first.

We suggest that you start revealing feelings, not from a place of blame or judgment or complaining but from a place of revealing who you truly are.

You can ask for attention from a place of wanting to connect deeper rather than taking an opportunity to chastise the other person.

When there is a disconnection and you want more connection, one person has to make the decision to open first. There has to be a softening and an opening of space between the two people so that healing, connection and understanding can happen.

Does that mean that you have to be a doormat and always cave in to the other person?

Certainly not.

Softening and opening means simply pulling yourself away from blame, righteousness, or punishing. It means stopping the mental chatter and stories and allowing love to live between the two of you.

One of the important aspects of "opening first" is learning to receive love as well as to give it. Don't confuse giving love and kindness or "doing" with true intimacy. True intimacy asks that you learn to receive love, connection and intimacy as well as to give it--and that might be very hard for people who show love by "doing."

If you think about this idea of opening first--what we're really saying is be proactive instead of passive in creating more of what you want for your relationship.

A question to ask yourself this week is this...

If there is ANY place in any relationship where there is a problem, challenge or distance, how can I open first to connection and intimacy, either to give or receive love?

Can You Be Too Honest in Relationships?

The other day, we were asked an interesting question about relationships. The question was--How honest is too honest in relationships?

In other words, this person wanted to know if we thought you can damage a relationship if you are "too honest?"

This question doesn't just apply to intimate relationships or marriages. It applies to every relationship that you're in--friends, family, and coworkers.

In our opinion, there's no such thing as being too honest in a close, connected, alive relationship--no matter what type it is.

With that being said, we recognize that there can be some problems with honesty and here are a few...

1. Saying or doing something that is inappropriate for a given situation

We remember being at a funeral for a friend's husband and we were shocked by the eulogy that portrayed him as a model husband and father. That was not what we knew of him through our friend.

Did we express our shock at the funeral?

Of course not! We did, however, tell our friend about our observations at a much later time and in a private setting.

2. Having the conscious or unconscious intention to hurt the other person with your "honesty" or to mask the "real" issue

One woman wrote to us that her husband constantly tells her that he wants to make love with other women.

Now while we don't know why he is motivated to do this but we do know that there is a bigger dynamic between them that needs to be addressed. His "honesty" is a smoke-screen covering the real issue.

3. Giving your honest opinion without being asked

This was one of the big lessons that we had to learn in the very early days when we started helping people with their relationships.

We were trying to "help" everyone (whether they asked or not) and what we quickly figured out is that not everyone wanted help with their relationships!

In fact, if we were out in a social setting and trying to "fix" them by giving advice that was not requested, they would shut down and close to us.

So what have we learned about honesty and what are some ways that we can all live in integrity with ourselves and the people important in our lives?

Here are a few tips and ideas about honesty in relationships that are worth considering...

1. In our relationship, we've agreed to being totally honest with one another--and it's a conscious choice.

We might "feel" into each other for the appropriate time to speak if it a "touchy" subject, but we are committed to being emotionally transparent with each other.

2. We've learned to always ask others, as well as each other, whether the other person wants our advice or if they just want us to listen. Sometimes, other people just want to be heard by someone and are not asking for advice.

We've found the phrases "Would you like some feedback about that?" or "Are you open to a couple of comments about what you just said?" to be helpful when you feel like you have advice to give but don't know if the other person is wanting advice or not.

3. We've learned that sometimes we withhold some of our feelings, opinions, and certain experiences because we don't trust that the other person will understand and accept who we truly are and our "honesty" could cause unnecessary pain and even estrangement.

In these relationships, the level of intimacy and the cost of withholding ourselves is relatively low.

While these are not the best kinds of relationships, sometimes we find that in order to interact within a group (an extended family or certain friendships are great examples of this), we are not totally forthcoming.

While we might be making certain assumptions, we also are learning whether we can trust or not and at what level.

A few questions to ask yourself when trying to decide whether to be totally honest with someone or not might be these...

1. What level of intimacy do I want and think I can have with this person? Is what I have to say necessary to maintain the level of intimacy or even take the relationship deeper with this person--if this is what I want?

2. What are my motivations for saying what I want to say to this person? Am I just wanting to get something off my chest no matter what the cost or will it further the relationship if I say what I want to say?

3. What problems will I create within myself if I withhold this information? Am I getting physically ill by keeping this information from this person?

Honesty in relationships is a huge topic and these are just a few of our thoughts.

So this week, we invite you to consider what honesty means in your life.

Relationship Role Models and The Secrets To Lasting Love

If you want to create a great (or even good) relationship or marriage, here's something you might want to keep an eye open for...

Whether you are currently in a marriage, in a long-term relationship, at the beginning stages of coming together with someone or not with a partner at the present time--one of the best ways we know of to begin creating the kind of relationship that you want is to keep your eyes open for role models.

Role models are everywhere and you don't even have to know or even talk to them for them to an inspiration for you.

We found an article in the March/April 2007 AARP magazine about an 86 year old surfer, Dorian (Doc) Paskowitz. He's been married to Juliette, who is 75 years old, for 48 years.

When Juliette was asked what their secret was for staying happily married for so long, she said, "You have to find someone you want to make love to for the rest of your life."

Doc and Juliette seemed to have found that because Doc made it known to the authors of this article that they still make love at least three times a week.

Are they the best role models for everyone?

Of course not. But they are an inspiration for some of us because they show what's possible for us even late in life.

That's the beauty about role models. We get to pick and choose the ideas that inspire us and those that we would like to embrace from the lives of others and throw the rest away.

A couple of our personal role models in the beginning of our relationship were Kenny and Julia Loggins. We were so taken by the way that they authentically related to one another and were so emotionally transparent with each other. Their book, "The Unimaginable Life," inspired us and we incorporated many of their ideas into our own relationship as we were "growing" into it.

The point is to open yourself to learning from others-- even from some unlikely places--in ways that expand your thinking but also are in alignment with what you want in your relationship and your life.

As you are reading this, you might be thinking something like this...

"That's all well and good but my partner isn't open to growing and doesn't want changes. He/she likes our relationship the way it is and I want more."

We hear this quite a lot from people who have lost the spark that was once there between them and they have settled into friendly or not-so-friendly co-habitation.

While there's nothing wrong with friendly or not- so-friendly co-habitation if that's what you want, there's usually one person who wants more.

So what do you do?

If you are committed to the relationship, we suggest that you still look for role models--but look beyond the obvious for ideas of how to create a better, happier life for yourself.

For example, you might focus on where the two of you "overlap" instead of focusing on your disconnection and disappointments.

You might take a new look at yourself and see if you have gotten yourself into a power struggle and holding onto being right about something that is separating the two of you.

There usually are no easy answers in this scenario but there can rather be an openness to move toward what you truly want.

If you are currently not in a relationship and want to be, how do you choose your role models and the ideas that you want to embrace for creating a new relationship?

We've discovered that asking ourselves this question usually separates the wheat from the chaff...

"What makes my heart sing?"

If you are currently not in a relationship and want to be, you have a great opportunity to start gathering ideas that create a crystal, clear picture of what you want.

Have fun with it. Pay attention to what makes your heart sing and keep a record of it somewhere where you can see it often.

Whether you are currently in a relationship and want to make it better or you aren't with a partner at this time--keep your eyes open for role models, ideas and images that ring true for you.

Your future is in your hands. Take hold of it and go for what you want.

Can Problems, Challenges and Chaos In your Life Actually Be a Gift?

Here's a quick question for you...

Has there ever been any period in your life where things were difficult, painful, where you experienced what seemed like more than your share of problems, things seemed wacky, or even felt chaotic?

For most of us the answer is a definite YES!

For some, these periods of chaos are shorter and less painful than for others-- but we all seem to have these periods of time where we experience pain or chaos. It just seems to be a part of this experience we call life.

Here's what's interesting...

Not always, but very often, it's out of the painful moments and chaos in our lives that we find the impetus to create a better life for ourselves.

It might have been leaving a dissatisfying, dead-end job for a much better one. It might have been leaving a relationship that didn't work out and moving on to a more loving one-- or it might have been any number of other "disasters" that turned into blessings.

For the two of us, we've had several chaotic periods in our lives and one of the most painful was when our previous marriages ended.

What we've both discovered is that what emerged from the chaos of the experience of our previous marriages breaking up was the vision of what we wanted in an intimate relationship and what we have been able to create with each other.

While neither one of us is a scientist, we've been studying people who talk about something called the "chaos theory."

So, while we're not going to bore you with a big description about "chaos theory". ... what we will tell you about it is that it's in these seemingly random, chaotic events that turn your life upside down where the growth happens within you and your life.

What are we saying here and what does it mean for you and your relationships and life?

What we're suggesting is that every time life "throws you a curve" and these apparently random, chaotic events happen that knock you off your center, you have a choice to make.

You can let the chaos of life knock you out and keep you down OR you can choose to find meaning and order out of these difficult times that spur you into a better life--a life that is more expansive and filled with more of what you want.

Most of us usually try to avoid chaos, disruptions and problems, but problems and chaos (however uncomfortable) is where the growth is.

In avoiding dealing with the chaos, we also try to avoid feeling our feelings and usually don't recognize our resistance to "what is" and "what could be."

We keep repeating the patterns of the past and just want to get rid of the "chaos" and the "problems" that are created so that we can have some peace.

We don't look at the enormous opportunities that can come from changing our attitudes and beliefs about the chaotic times in our lives and we stay stuck.

So how do you change your attitude about the chaotic times in your life and actually use them to help you to create better relationships, more love and a better life?

Here are some ideas that we use during those times that helps us to make sense of what's happening and bring "order" to the chaos...

1. Look at the problem or challenge as an opportunity for learning something new about yourself or your partner. This is sometimes easier said than done but we've found that as we are mulling over the situation, searching for an answer, if we just open to seeing what it is that we can learn from it, solutions seem to flow.

2. Be easy about all of it. Be more loving toward yourself, toward your partner and also toward the situation. Most of the time, the situations that we create that are filled with problems or challenges are not nearly as big or as serious as we make them out to be.

Our minds work overtime and we start assuming things that may not be true, creating more chaos in the process. We suggest that you stop your churning mind, bring your attention and love to your heart area, breathe and lighten up.

3. Bring yourself into the present moment. So often, we stay stuck in what happened in the past and what might happen in the future. We've found that if we just deal with our present circumstances, we soon find a solution to whatever is challenging us. Know that this situation is temporary and will pass.

4. If possible, find the humor in the situation and find ways to be grateful for what is going "right" in your life. We know from experience that if you focus on gratitude and humor, the uncomfortableness eases and you will attract to you more of what you want instead of what you don't want.

5. Find things that you love to do and that bring you joy. One of those things that brings Otto joy is listening to music. So when he feels that life is overwhelming, chaotic and he's "out of sorts," he listens to some really good music. When he allows himself to focus on the music and how much he is enjoying himself listening to it, he usually shifts from his negative funk to a more joyful state of mind.

Start focusing on the positive aspects of something new, something that you enjoy or that you find pleasurable--even if it's a very small thing that's going right in your life like a warm bath. Instead of focusing on your problems and the chaos, if you begin to focus on something more positive, your situation will change.

As you read this, you might be saying to yourself that these ideas sound too easy and good to be true and that you have real problems and challenges in your relationship and your life that don't seem to be going away.

We agree that life can throw some pretty rough curves from time to time that can seem impossible to move past. When we're caught in the chaos and challenges, we often can't see our way out and may beat ourselves up for getting in them in the first place.

We're saying that these are the perfect times to change your thinking about what chaos and challenges mean in your life and relationships. If there truly is perfect order in the chaos, then you can begin to take some baby steps that will bring you out of your situation and into a better life.

It seems to be human nature to want to snap our fingers and see all of our challenges and problems disappear. The two of us have discovered that our greatest understandings, growth, and our ability to connect deeper have come from moving through these challengesand not instantly having the situation corrected.

While it might seem that life would be easier and certainly more peaceful if we didn't have to go through these periods of chaos, that's where we find the greater impetus to move us forward to deeper love, sensuality, connection and understanding of ourselves and each other.

So, this week we suggest that you take a fresh, new look at the situations or times where chaos pops up in your life and what you can learn from it.

Find order and meaning in it as you are traveling through it and be in gratitude for the amazing journey you are on.

The Silly Side of Love

The former Beatle Paul McCartney once wrote a song called "Silly Love Songs" where he wondered whether people had had enough of "silly love songs" or not.

Like Paul, we're not sure whether people have had their fill of silly love songs or not but acting silly, having fun, and yes, even writing a silly song for your mate, significant other or friend can enhance your relationship.

Very often, Otto will make up and sing what he refers to as a "Susie song."

A "Susie song" is a spur-of-the moment, inspired song about his beloved that he sings to her about how amazing he thinks she is--often to the tune of "I'm a Little Tea Pot."

These "Susie songs" are certainly not songs that anyone else would want to hear or think were cute or funny--but that doesn't matter.

What is important is to understand that this is one of the things we do to create a romantic, intimate, happy, connected moment--when Otto spontaneously bursts into one of his "Susie songs."

If song-writing isn't something you would like to do, how about something else that might be considered silly or humorous to create a romantic or special moment that you'll each be sure to remember?

How else can you embrace the silly side of yourself and life to create a special, romantic or connected moment that neither of you will soon forget?

How about renting and watching a silly movie that you both can laugh at?

Recently, Otto's teenage son rented the crazy movie "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" and invited us to watch it with him.

None of us are NASCAR fans and this movie certainly is not what we normally watch, but we all laughed throughout the whole thing. It was silly and it was really funny.

What it takes to be silly or doing something fun is going to be different for every single person reading this article--and we suggest that you just go for it.

Don't think or care about what other people might think during these times. Just focus on having fun and creating special moments.

Another idea is to come up with a time where you and your partner or friend can go to a park and take on the personas of 7 year olds or 12 year olds. Agree to act like that for a specific period of time--maybe rolling down hills, sledding in the snow or playing on the playground equipment. The point is to have fun in a different way than you may normally think of fun.

In todays world, we're all trying to get more done in less time than ever before. Technology was supposed to save us from having to do, do, do but it hasn't worked out that way.

If you are like us, you spend a lot of time being "serious" and what we find is that it is such a breath of fresh air when we laugh and allow ourselves to be silly and playful--whether it's with each other or with other people.

Laughing and being silly is a great way to relax and to connect.

This week, we invite you to explore how you can enjoy life a little more by doing or enjoying something silly--something that you might not normally do.

Are Great Relationships Hard Work?

A question that we've heard many times is this...

"In order to have a great relationship, does it have to be hard work?"

We'll give you our answer in three parts...

1. If you're wondering whether it has to be hard work to have a great relationship, our first response to you would have to be..."Compared to what?"

It depends on what your definition of "hard work" and what you're comparing it to. Since we're all different, we all have different definitions of what "hard work" is.

The two of us are taking ballroom dancing lessons and for Otto, the lessons are "hard work" because this is an entirely new experience for him and doesn't come naturally to him. He has to "work" at learning the steps and learning to lead. Since Susie's been dancing all her life and loves it, it comes naturally to her so taking the lessons isn't hard work for her.

It's that way with relationships. Because of previous life experiences, as well as beliefs, it's easier for some people to be more open in their communication and sharing of themselves than it is for other people. Since we're all different, we all have different ways that we are triggered and close ourselves from others which get in the way of having a close, connected or "great" relationship.

What's "hard" for some is "easy" or "easier" for others.

For some, it's much "harder" to be in a relationship where they consider there's no depth, life or intimacy because of how much pain they are in if they don't have the love and kind of relationship they want. The "easier" route for these people is to keep doing the things that will bring more intimacy and vitality to the relationship.

For others, it's much "harder" to be in a relationship with a person who wants deeper communication and intimacy than they are willing to open to.

It's easier for some to sit in front of the television, computer or some other distraction each evening without interacting with their spouse. These people feel more comfortable and it's easier to avoid talking about or "dissecting" their relationship.

For these people, focusing on, talking about and "working on" their relationship or marriage is a harder way to live their lives.

2. The second way we'll answer the question of whether it's hard work to have a great relationship is that It depends on how much resistance you have to having a great relationship (whatever that means to you).

What we've noticed in our own relationship is that it only becomes "hard work" when there's resistance--resistance to "what is", resistance to your partner, resistance to claiming something positive for your life, resistance to letting go of any limiting beliefs and so on.

To go back to our dancing lesson example--Otto has the most difficult time dancing when he slips into believing his negative, limiting thoughts that he'll never be able to "get" it right. The reality of the situation is that even though dancing is difficult for him, he is getting better at every lesson.

In relationships, people hold onto old, limiting beliefs without taking a good look at what is currently happening in the present moment. They hold on to grudges and things that have been done to them in the past without looking at what's going on right here and right now.

We've discovered that this is "hard work"--to hold onto old grievances which is kind of like hauling a ball and chain around with you all of the time.

While it may not be "easy" to let these grievances go, many people have discovered that they feel lighter when they do and more love comes into their lives.

3. The third way we'll answer the question of whether it's hard work to have a great relationship is that It depends on what you want for your life experience.

Otto keeps going back to the dancing lessons because he is seeing progress and he's feeling that he will be able to get more of what he wants if he keeps at it. He sees that he is moving toward what he wants rather than away from it--and he feels, "Yes, it's worth it."

If you want to have a great (or even good) relationship, you have to decide that the positive or good things that will come from that will make any challenges you choose to work through "worth it."

The trick is to spend as much of your time, effort and energy as possible focusing on the positive outcome that you want to happen instead of focusing on any short-term pain that you may feel as you work through any personal or relationship challenges that seem to keep you stuck in a place you don't want.

In life and relationships, it's up to each person to decide what he/she wants and not let something we perceive as difficult get in the way of having something amazing in any area of our lives.

We suggest that you begin creating your life on purpose-- whatever that means to you, especially when it comes to your relationships. We also suggest that you decide how you want your relationships to be and then start moving toward that vision.

Keeping the Fire Lit In Your Relationship or Marriage

Here's an interesting question...

Did you ever want to do something and know that it would be good for you but you couldn't seem to find the energy to actually do it? 

Most of us have had that dilemma at one time or another in our lives so we're pretty sure that you know what we are talking about. 

This applies to a lot of different areas of our lives such as home, work and especially our relationships. 

We want more and yet somehow we have challenges finding that energy that it takes to create more. 

Along those lines, here's a great question from one of our newsletter subscribers that puts into words the experience of a lot of couples.... 

"We both work hard and have raised 3 kids to adulthood. We are in good shape but are tired at the end of the day/week. How do we find the energy to keep the fire lit so as not to let the flame go out?" 

When the two of us were talking about this question, a story from the famous motivational teacher Zig Ziglar came to mind that we want to share to illustrate a point... 

Imagine that someone comes to you and says that they are giving you an all-expense paid dream vacation to somewhere that you've always wanted to go. The catch is that you have to be packed and on the plane by 12 midnight tomorrow. 

So if this were truly the dream trip of a lifetime for you, you were truly committed to going and you were convinced the offer was real--would you do what was necessary to make sure you were ready to go?

For example, would you find a way to get off work for several days in that short of notice? 

If you have children, could you either get your children ready to go or find child care for them during the time that you were away? 

What about that important meeting or presentation at work? Would you be able to re-schedule it or have someone else do it?

What about household chores? Could someone else mow your grass or just forget about it until you returned? The questions that you would face could go on and on. 

If this is a trip of a lifetime (and someone else paid for it), we're guessing that you would clear your schedule and re-arrange your life so that you could take advantage of this opportunity. It would be so important that you probably would do things that you normally wouldn't do so that you could go.

This story is a great metaphor for your relationships. It's what you focus on, make a priority and are committed to having in your life that actually happens.

Here's a practical example from our lives of what we're talking about...

One of our goals for our marriage has been to constantly deepen our connection with each other and to keep the "fire" lit. One of the ways that we like to do this is by reading books together and talking about the ideas that we find to be pertinent to our lives. For instance, these books can range from philosophical / psychological ways of looking at life to very practical tips on love-making.

What we find is that while we absolutely love to do this together, we also love to "veg" out in the evenings in front of the television and the internet. So at the first of this year, we agreed that we would read, talk and connect with each other one or two evenings a week after we stopped working for the day.

This commitment to each other is a conscious step for us to focus on what we want more of in our lives--which is to keep our passion, love and connection alive--rather than let "life" and other distractions dictate what our priorities are.

Here are a few ideas if you are wanting to find more time to rekindle and keep love alive in your relationship... 

1. Decide what you truly want. If you want to keep the "fire lit," then what does that mean to each of you? Talk about how you both like your connection and relationship to be without blame and without getting defensive. Be honest about what really excites you. 

2. Focus on your positive outcome. Get on the same page, if possible, and hold that vision for how you'd like to be together. You will have the energy to move toward what you want if you just hold that as your vision for your life.

3. Make this a fun experience rather than something that "should" be done. Remember the all-expense paid vacation story? It obviously wouldn't be worth your time and energy to get everything in order before you left if the vacation didn't promise to be filled with fun, excitement, relaxation or whatever else you were after. 

The same thing could be said for finding the time for closeness and connection. It has to feel really good in order to choose an activity that will bring you closer rather than one requires nothing of you. Even tiredness seems to dissolve when the rewards outweigh the allure of "vegging" out.

From our own lives and from observing the lives of many people, we've found that you can make one of two choices:  

You can allow others or circumstances to dictate the course of your life or you can be a conscious creator of your life. The choice is yours.  

Today and in every moment, we invite you to consciously choose things that will keep the fire lit inside you, whether for your relationship or for your life.

A New Years Relationship Nudge

It's pretty interesting when you think about it.

Every year around New Years day, people seem to find themselves looking back on what happened in the past year and looking forward to what they want to change in the new year.

Around this time each year, the two of us create our intentions and make some plans for the new year in our work, our personal life, as well as in our relationship. 

We have a close friend who told us that he and his significant other were going to take some time on New Years Eve to talk about and visualize what they wanted for their relationship and their lives in 2007.

No matter how you celebrate the new year, we invite you to do some conscious planning some time in the coming weeks for how you want your relationships and your life to be like in 2007.

Napoleon Hill said, "Every well-built house started with a definite plan in the form of blueprints." 

The question is do you have a set of blueprints for how you want your relationships and your life to be? 

We have observed that most of us are fairly unconscious of the direction that our relationships and lives are going. 

We often spend time thinking about planning and creating the "other" aspects of our lives but more often than not, most of us don't typically spend much time thinking about and planning how our relationships can be better.

A lot of people go from rushing the kids out the door in the morning, to work, to soccer games, to the grocery store, to household chores--often in a state of auto-pilot. 

If you don't decide what it is you want for your life, it will be decided for you by other people. 

One thing which is helping to set the direction for our relationship and our lives is the conscious setting of goals.

Even if you can't spend a lot of time together each week, we suggest making it a goal to spend 10-15 minutes or more talking about what you want and what is important to each of you. Your goal might also be to have more fun together, doing some of the things together that used to give you both pleasure.

No matter what you choose as your goal or goals for your relationship, we think that taking some time to talk about them is a great way to communicate what's important to each of you--and to see where your partner's steps may be taking them. We've found that it is a very effective communication tool and helps keep the energy flowing in your relationship.

Most of the e-mail messages that we get from people asking for help in their relationships center around communication problems with a significant other.

Now, we don't think that everyone has to do what we do to have a passionate, alive, connected relationship but it is important to find ways of communicating constantly and connecting that work for you.

So we suggest that before you start the new year, you find some ways to communicate your plans, goals, and desires to your partner and listen to theirs.

If you don't have a partner, we suggest that you do this with a friend or simply write your goals by yourself to help you see what you want for your life.

We think you'll be surprised at the good things that happen when you do.

Can You Treat Someone Too Special?

Recently, we received a couple of great questions from one of our newsletter subscribers and we thought that the topic raised a challenge that many people seem to have in their relationships.

Here is what the person wrote...

"Is it possible to treat someone too special? Can you give some examples on how to become someone who can attract more love, passion and connection?"

Here's our take on treating someone too special...

1. First of all, we all have different definitions of what being treated "special" means to us and some of us may not even want to be treated "special." Since we all have had different experiences from which we have formed our beliefs and attitudes, this is a very common pitfall that anyone can fall into when their belief system says this--

LOVE = Treating someone special in ways that "I" think are special and in ways that I would want to be treated.

The other person can and often does equate this "special" treatment with being controlled or being smothered. The person who gives the "special" treatment meets resistance, anger or withdrawal and has no clue why it happened.

A good example of this happened in our friend's life. She had been dating a man for awhile and had fallen into the habit of "doing" things for him that he usually didn't appreciate. One time, shecleaned out his garage as a surprise for him and he was really upset with her when he found out what she had done. He felt controlled and manipulated by her actions and she was only trying to help him and make him feel "special." Her "good" intentions backfired and she wondered why he had such a strong negative reaction to her actions.

They just weren't on the same "page" with what they each considered to be an expression of love.

2. We would suggest that the person who wants to treat another "special" take some time to examine his/her motivation in doing so. While there's certainly nothing wrong in treating a loved one as the special person they are in your life, it can get you into big trouble if your motivation is to get something in return for doing it.

If this is your challenge, you might say that your intentions and motivations are only to give love--but on a closer look, are they?

Often, there's an unspoken assumption that "if I do this for you, you will give me the love or attention that I want in return." It usually backfires and the giver feels empty and not appreciated, valued or loved.

The friend in our example wanted her boyfriend to show his gratitude and appreciation for what she had done and she wanted his attention. "Doing" for others was a way that she could by-pass truly looking inside herself for what she wanted. She just "expected" to get what she wanted in return.

While we all like receiving gratitude and appreciation, doing things for others with the idea that you are going to get them in return can lead you down a long, lonely road.

If you do things for others with unspoken expectations of what you want in return, it usually ends up being painful for all involved.

Not only would it have been better for our friend to have found out if her boyfriend wanted his garage cleaned out and if he wanted her to do it, but it also would have been healthier if she would have examined her motives in doing it in the first place. If she wanted more of his attention, she could have talked with him about how she would like their relationship to be and listened with an open heart to find out how he would like it to be--which had nothing to do with cleaning the garage.

She may or may not have gotten the answers that she wanted but they may have been able to come to an agreement about their relationship that would have suited them both.

Here are our comments to the second question from our newsletter subscriber--that go along with the first question...

How do you become someone who can attract more love, passion and connection?

1. Adopt an attitude of openness. We all close ourselves off from others when we feel fearful or any number of other emotions. When we feel ourselves closing, practice challenging that closing and open your heart.

2. Take a look at your rules. We all have rules by which we run our lives. Some rules serve us and some don't. When we clash with loved ones (or anyone for that matter), it's usually a rules violation. When there's a challenge, learn to look at your rules from an objective place and decide if this is a rule that you can relax and possibly look at from someone else's view or if it's one that you feel you have to remain rigid in upholding.

3. Ask before suggesting or doing. So often we act only from our point of view and experiences. We offer advice, comments, or help without knowing whether the other person is open and wants the advice, comments or help. Always ask first.

4. Listen with an open heart. The art of listening isn't taught and few of us truly do it. As someone else is talking, there's usually a dialogue going on in our own heads and we aren't truly present when others speak. The practice of listening with an open heart (without defending oneself) is one of the best ways we've found to attract more passion, love and connection into your life.

5. Find healthy ways to show your love. Be clear about your expectations and motivations, find out how the other person likes to be loved and make agreements when they are needed. If you get caught in the "doing for others to get love" trap and it's not working, then stop your habitual "doing" and find some other way to express your love. Instead of expensive gifts that are unappreciated, you might want to truly be present with your partner and enjoy their company.

6. Ask for what you want from a place of openness and love. Get to know yourself and then start creating your relationship the way you both want it to be--by focusing on what you want rather than what you don't want.

We are all in relationships to heal, learn, grow and yes, to enjoy life. If you are having challenges, take whatever of our suggestions that speak to you and try them. If you do, we think that you will start seeing some positive changes in your life.

A Prediction for 2007 About Your Relationships

Happy New Year...

We don't normally make predictions. We typically try to leave that up to the newspapers you find in the checkout lines at the grocery store.

But since it's now 2007, we couldn't help but make one prediction about your relationships that is GUARANTEED to be true for the coming year.

We'll also offer some tips for creating more passion, love and connection in the coming year.

So-- what's our prediction?

It's that your relationship or marriage will be pretty much the same as it was in the previous year unless you change.

Just yesterday, Otto was talking with a potential coaching client by phone and she was asking how she could get her partner to open up to her more and how she could rebuild their relationship.

It was clear from the conversation that she was really wanting the relationship to get back to a place where she and her partner could feel closer and more connected.

She told Otto that they once had a great relationship but work, the amount of time she spent with friends and other factors has created distance between the two of them. She felt like everything she was doing to rebuild their relationship was creating the opposite of what she wanted and seemed to be pushing him further away.

As Otto listened to her, it became clear to him that this woman was spending a great deal of time effort and energy trying to "fix" it for her partner.

She felt that if she couldn't get him to open up to her and "work on their relationship," their 8 year marriage would probably end.

There's much more to this situation than we can go into in this brief newsletter article-- but one thing that's for sure was that she needed a different strategy if she was to rebuild her relationship with her mate.

One of the things that Otto told her was that instead of trying to "fix" her husband, what she should probably commit to was becoming THE person who would attract the kind of relationship she wanted once again with her husband.

What we have discovered after working with hundreds and hundreds of individuals and couples in our relationship coaching practice is that you certainly can't make anyone open their heart to you and magically fall in love with you all over again no matter how much you try.

What you CAN do is spend time working on yourself and become so incredible that your partner (or potential partner if you're not with someone) will notice.

Here are some tips for creating the best relationship or marriage possible in 2007...

1) Become the kind of person who could attract the love, passion and connection you want.

Please know that we're not just talking about this in the context of a *new* partner. We believe that we're constantly renewing and regenerating our relationship into something new (and hopefully better) all the time.

2) Approach Your relationship or marriage from a place of wonder and excitement.

Many people get into a relationship and before long stop doing the things that made the relationship great in the first place. Never stop doing what made you fall in love. If you've stopped, start again.

3) If you want a truly wonderful relationship, one of the keys is to look at and treat your partner or spouse as your "beloved" or "someone special."

In our own lives, one of the primary reasons our relationship continues to grow and get better all the time is because we treat each other "special" as much as possible.

Focus on treating the people you care about in your life as special and we think you'll be amazed at the transformation that will happen right before your eyes.

As we begin this new year, we know that we (or anyone) can't predict how your relationships or marriage will turn out.

What we can tell you is this...

The quality of your relationships will be determined by factors such as your intentions, your attitudes, your beliefs, your relationship rules and the actions you take to create what you want.

Please know that whatever you focus on in your relationships and your life in the new year is going to expand.

If you spend your time, effort and energy focusing on love, passion and connection, you'll create more of that. If you spend your time, effort and energy focusing on the things you don't want in your relationships and life, you'll attract more of that.

Nothing happens by accident, especially creating a great relationship.

Creating an outstanding relationship or marriage simply requires you to do things that create more love, and connection and not stop doing them no matter what.

New Ways Of Honoring Each Other and Deepening Our Connection With Each Other

Sometimes the best relationship tips and the most interesting relationship and life lessons come from some pretty unusual sources.

Here's one such example...

Recently, Susie rediscovered a wonderful book that she had read many years ago, "Mutant Message Down Under" by Marlo Morgan. This book is about the author's journey on foot with the Australian aborigines and the lessons that she learned along the way.

One of these beautiful lessons that Morgan wrote about held a special meaning for us and we think that by sharing it with you, it can help all of us to create wonderful lasting relationships that are filled with love.

Here's what Marlo Morgan said in her book...

"They (aborigines) celebrate no holidays in our yearly manner. They do honor each tribe member sometime throughout the year, not on a specific birthday, but rather to acknowledged the person's talent, contribution to the community, personal spiritual growth. They do not celebrate getting older; what they do celebrate is becoming better."

What a concept--celebrating becoming better!

In our culture, we usually create holiday and birthday celebrations but they are usually not focused on honoring each other in this way.

These celebrations are usually not times of meaningful and fulfilling connection. In fact, in some cases, they are difficult and show how separate we've all become in our society.

What we've discovered is that it doesn't have to be this way. We can all learn to celebrate each other in meaningful ways.

Here's a simple example from our own lives of how we recently did this...

Last weekend, we spent a couple of days with a group of like-minded friends and someone in our group made a suggestion that you or anyone can do at your next gathering of friends or family that could be transformative for everyone.

What was her suggestion?

As a way of connecting with each other and deepening the friendship and appreciation we have for one another, one woman in our group suggested that we do something that in hindsight seemed very close to what Marlo Morgan described in her book that she experienced with the aborigines in their celebrations of each other.

As we sat around a table after sharing a meal together, we took turns receiving from each person in the group what they considered our talents and contributions to be, as well as how they perceived we had grown spiritually over the past year.

What an experience to hear words of love from each person and to take in who we truly were in their eyes.

Otto was appreciated for being a "dreamer" and for helping several in the group who were starting their own businesses see possibilities that they couldn't see.

Susie was appreciated for her loving compassion and ability to accept people as they were--where they were.

Each person felt "filled" and loved as we completed our circle.

So what can this mean in your life?

At your holiday gatherings of family and friends, we invite you to tell those you love (or even admire) what you see their talents and contributions to be.

It may not be as formal and structured as our experience was last weekend with our friends, but you can do this in any setting and can be done individually, one person at a time.

We're sure that there are many ways that people contribute to your life and positive things that you see about them that they may not see.

To give the gift of appreciation and celebration of others may be the greatest gift of all. We invite you to spread some love maybe in a slightly different way this holiday season, as well as in every day.

10 Ways To Be A Brighter Light This Holiday Season and Beyond

Since most of are interested in ways to make our holidays brighter and our relationships better, we thought we'd offer some tips in this issue for creating lighter and more joyful experiences.

The holidays can be quite a festive time and a big attraction in our community is decorating with lights.

Downtown buildings and homes are outlined with lights, elaborate yard decorations are created and luminarias line our city park lake.

Our community's city buses run free tours so people can enjoy seeing the lights and it's a tradition in many families to visit the areas of the city that the local newspaper suggests have the best displays.

We're sure that our community isn't unique in this way of celebrating the holidays and that your community is very similar.

Why are we all so involved in festive lighting and enjoy the lights so much this time of year?

There are probably many reasons having to do with celebrating the religious meaning of Christmas. But one other reason is that the days are so short in the northern hemisphere that we all crave more light--and the light from the holiday displays helps us to feel better.

We know you're probably thinking to yourself-- "This is great but, what does all of this have to do with our relationships?"

The point is that we can make the choice to bring more light and love into our relationships--at this time of year, as well as every day.

Here's a brief list of what bringing more light and love into your relationships might mean or look like in action...

1. When you are interacting with loved ones, co-workers or anyone else, stop yourself from jumping to conclusions and making assumptions. Take the time to listen, truly listen, to what they are saying and be fully present in the here and now.

2. Connect with your loved ones each evening, even for 15 or 20 minutes. Connecting for us means actually making eye contact and sitting down together without the distraction of the computer or television.

3. Make contact with a dear friend or relative who you haven't seen in awhile. Even if you're really busy with all the holiday "things" to do, take a moment to connect with someone who loves you and who you love.

4. Stop what you are doing and listen more intently to your kids. It's so easy to allow our "busyness" at any time of year to interfere with our listening--especially with our kids. Treat them with the love and respect that you want for yourself.

5. Treat yourself to a relaxing bath with music and candles once a week--if that's a treat for you. The idea is to find some way to give yourself more love.

6. Be more truthful when you don't want to do something or go somewhere--but speak with kindness.

7. Focus on what you truly love about the people who you are interacting with. When you start to criticize someone with words or even in your mind, stop yourself and focus on what makes you happy and what you appreciate about him or her.

9. Be patient and loving instead of impatient, even while you are waiting in long lines to buy gifts. When you are in holiday gatherings, find out something new about your loved ones or the people you are interacting with that you did not know about them.

10. Learn something new that will increase your enthusiasm and zest for life. Focus on bringing more light into your life by bringing more of what you enjoy into it.

This world needs all the love and light it can get right now and the best place to start is with you and your relationships.

Our blessings to you for a happy holiday and many loving relationships!

Are you a Hugger, A Kisser, A Shaker or A Wisher?

Someone came to one of our web sites recently and asked us this question which we thought was thought-provoking enough to warrant an answer in this week's newsletter so everyone could benefit from his question and our answer.

Here's his question...

"I have a friend that flirts with everyone wearing long pants and will kiss friends on the mouth when leaving a party."

He wondered if this was "normal and acceptable."

What an interesting question?

While you may not have this specific issue with your partner or with people who are close to you--what we have found is that no matter who you are-- the differences in how you and others relate to each other can create some interesting dynamics and potentially cause big problems in your relationship with them.

In this article, we're not going to discuss his concerns about his partner "flirting with everyone wearing long pants." We'll leave that for another day.

We DID want to discuss what different people consider to be a normal, natural and acceptable way of greeting and interacting with people in our culture.

Here's what we've observed...

There are at least four ways of showing affection/greeting in social situations:

1. Mouth/cheek kissers--Many in Susie's family kiss each other hello and good-by on the mouth or cheek, mainly because Susie's mom was a mouth kisser and seemed to set the tone for the family. Susie usually greets close friends, male and female, with a kiss.

2. Huggers--Otto's family are huggers, often one-armed huggers. Otto tends to greet many men and women with really good, solid two-armed hugs.

3. Pretend kissers or "Air" kissers with a slight hug--We've seen this in action but don't do it ourselves. With this one, we don't really "get it' but after all we wouldn't because we're huggers and kissers.

4. Hand shake or no touching--This is a pretty normal way for people to greet someone they've just met but in some families, this is the acceptable way to greet anyone.

And we could go on and on with examples--and we're sure you could too.

The point is that whether you've thought about it or not, we all have our "rules" or acceptable and unacceptable ways of greeting and interacting with others.

So what happens when there's a "rules" violation within a relationship?

What if the two people have two different meanings and associations to each others' greetings and goodbyes? What happens when there's a conflict and how do you resolve this kind of difference?

This question could play itself out in millions of ways in each of our lives and relationships.

Let's take for instance the example from our web site visitor who questioned his partner's kissing and flirting.

This is especially important during the holidays or during special occasions because a kiss on the mouth can mean many things depending on the intention of the kisser and of course the receiver of the kiss.

To one person, a kiss on the mouth of any kind indicates desire, love or is an expression of an intimate feeling.

For other people, kissing the people in their lives on the mouth and lips indicates a friendly connection and nothing more or less.

If there's a conflict, here's what we suggest...

1. Take a few moments and get in touch with the fear that is underneath the conflict--because some fear of some kind is always at the bottom of most conflicts and especially this type of conflict. You might even stand back, look at your feelings and realize where your fear comes from and why it's there.

2. Talk about your differences without any accusations. Sounds easy but often not easy if you've built up resentments and beliefs about what certain actions mean. Talk about what you learned when you got in touch with your fear and even where you think it originated and that may by-pass some of those communication blocks.

3. Listen to understand where the other person is coming from and why they do what they do. If you listen from an open heart without judging, you might learn some things about your partner that you didn't know.

4. Discover what you each want more of in your relationship instead of dwelling on what you want less of. Do you want more attention from your partner? If so, suggest some specific ways this could happen instead of a general complaint that you want more attention.

5. Create some agreements that you both are comfortable with and can live with. It might be that the other person's behavior that you find objectionable may be no big deal to them--or it may be a big deal. It might be that both of you can agree to become more aware of your actions and beliefs behind those actions--and also the beliefs and actions of the other person.

We, of course, know that lines can be crossed that are unhealthy for relationships, depending on both people's rules for the relationship. And if they are, you have a choice whether to step up and stick to what you believe or ignore the unhealthy actions which can eventually kill any relationship.

Whether there's a conflict about this type of situation or not in your relationships, we invite you to explore the "rules" that you've set up for your life and the "rules" of the other people in your life.

Since we all bring our individual experiences and ways of looking out at the world to our relationships, our "rules" for interacting with people other than our intimate partner can certainly cause havoc in our relationships but they don't have too.

We encourage you to take a look at what's appropriate, normal, acceptable or customary in your interactions with the people in your life and take a look at why you feel that way in advance of situations that can cause problems and hurt feelings.

When you look at these kinds of things in advance, we think you'll enjoy more love and connection as well as a more rewarding life.

Who is Keith Urban and What Is The Surprising Relationship Lessons He Knows That Many People Don't?

Keith Urban is a Country music star and is married to actress Nicole Kidman.

Professionally, he's a star.

Personally, he's had his share of problems, challenges and just like everyone else, he carries around his share of baggage.

Strange as it may seem, he's got more than a few things right when it comes to relationships.

We just finished reading a great interview with Keith in the December 2006 issue of "Performing Songwriter."

In this interview, he not only talks about his music but also discusses marriage and relationships.

Since he did not marry until he was 38, we thought he had some insightful things to say about dating and marriage and having a happy and successful relationship that we wanted to pass along to you.

In our opinion, one of the most important things that Keith had to say in the interview was his response when asked if he had fears during those years when he was single that maybe the right one wouldn't come along.

Here's what he said about finding the perfect partner and having a great relationship or marriage that we thought was a brilliant insight...

"I thought that the right one would come along but I knew that it would take me becoming the right one first."

He went on to say -- "It's easy for us to think that someone's going to come along and fix everything and make you a better person. But you've got to bring something to the table, so I had a lot of work to do on myself. And still do. But I believe that I've found the right person and that we can go the distance together."

While we don't think that everyone has to wait until age 38 to get married or there is any age more appropriate than others to take that big step--we do think that it's wise to have a good idea of who you are and what you want in life before making that commitment.

Do you have to be "perfect" in having yourself all together before you marry?

Of course not. We don't think there is any such thing as perfection. There's always room for growth.

What we do believe is that it's important to know yourself well enough to know what you want in life, adopt the attitude of being open to growing constantly, and choose someone who you believe is also open to growing--someone you can "go the distance together" as Keith said.

Too often, people choose their partners unconsciously and they "fall" into their relationships and marriages as if by default. We're advocating that before you commit to someone, you take some time and look at yourself and your goals, values and aspirations--as well as your partner's. When you do, you get a better idea of where the two of you might grow together as a couple and how you might grow yourself in this relationship.

Having the attitude to grow together is one of the biggest ways to keep a marriage alive, passionate and full of love over the long haul. So often, married couples or couples who have been together for many years find themselves growing in different directions and the glue that held them together just seems to dry up. They might stay together for the kids or for other reasons but the passion just seems to disappear because they have closed themselves off from looking with new eyes at each other and their relationship.

We know that it doesn't have to be that way. If you commit to grow together and do the things that will keep you growing, you can keep the passion and love alive between the two of you.

From our experience, one of the other secrets to keeping a relationship alive is what Keith said about continuously working on himself. When each person in the relationship brings the attitude that personal growth and change is good, as well as a shared vision for what they want their relationship to be, there is a far greater chance that the relationship will not only last but be filled with passion, love and connection.

So how do you "grow" together, as well as each person open themselves to growing?

Here are some things we do...

1. Adopt the attitude that we are choosing to grow together, as well as choosing to grow individually.

2. When we are triggered by the other person, we look at ourselves first and recognize what we are feeling and sometimes it doesn't have anything to do with each other.

3. Make time to be together, do things together and connect with each other.

4. Recognize when you are closing to your partner and find ways to open yourself. It doesn't have to mean that you agree. It just means that you are opening yourself to understanding.

5. Read books and listen to audios that will stimulate both of you to opening to new thoughts and ideas.

6. Practice loving in every moment no matter who you are with.

Growing individually and as a couple can certainly be an adventure. We invite you to begin today.

The 12 Things Not To Forget this Valentine's Day or Any Day If You Want Your Relationship to be Special

As you've probably noticed, we are all being bombarded with messages like don't forget the flowers, boxes of candy, and of course, the diamonds because Valentine's day is approaching.

Valentine's day can bring up a myriad of emotions which can either bring couples closer for a short period of time or create feelings of loneliness and separation for other couples or singles.

So how can you deal with a holiday like this and actually enjoy yourself, whether you are in a "relationship" or not?

Here are 12 suggestions to make your relationships better-- no matter what day it is...

1) Don't Forget Kindness and Thoughtfulness. We all get in a rush sometimes and forget to be kind. We just want to get the things done that we have to get done and move along to the next thing to be done. Whether you are currently in an intimate relationship or not--take a moment to be kind to the people in your life. Kindness certainly doesn't have to mean "doing" for someone (but it can.) It can mean just giving a smile, sending a kind, loving thought, or simply listening to a story that you may have heard many times before.

2) Don't Forget Appreciation. So often we find ourselves dwelling on what irritates us about the people in our lives and we forget to appreciate the things about our relationships that are working. Appreciation only works when you want nothing in return. If there are "strings" along with your appreciation of another person, (like you want appreciation in return) it will seem like an empty, needy gesture. Appreciation has to be expressed from your heart and in such a way that is genuine.

3) Listen Closely to What Your Partner Wants. Whether it's to make plans for a Valentine's day celebration or just listening to how your partner's day went--leave your ego and your desire to help or "fix it" for him or her at the door and just listen. We all get into habits that stifle communication--that shut off a true connection of the heart. To open up and bring more joy and ease into your relationship, take a moment to realize what you do to assume, to fix or to judge (even though you may not think you are doing those things) and just listen to understand your partner.

4) Listen Closely to What You Want. Listening closely to what you want can be even harder than learning to listen to your partner. So many people have learned along the way that it's not safe to feel emotions--and they simply don't know how to listen to what they want. You have to practice listening to the voice inside you so that you can be honest and authentic with the people in your life. You have to learn who you are and honor that by letting others know who the real "you" is.

5) If It's an Intimate Relationship, Don't Forget Time Alone. In our busy lives, we often forget to recharge by spending some time alone. Whether it's taking a walk outside by yourself and enjoying nature or it's taking 20 minutes to meditate or tune in and calm your thoughts--we've found that we are much better people and treat each other more lovingly if we take time for ourselves.

6) Don't Forget to Breathe. It may seem kind of silly to remind you to not forget to breathe, but so many of us actually live in the land of anxious, shallow breathing. Belly breathing can relax you, help you to clear your mind and keep you in the present moment. What's that got to do with creating great relationships? When we are relaxed, we listen better to others and we don't react quite so quickly from old patterns. We are able to access a fresh point of view when we breathe that can promote more understand and closer connections.

7) Don't Forget the "Show". What's the "show"? The show is what we do to show the other person that he/she is special in our lives. It can be a greeting card, a present or creating a special night or weekend away. It can be elaborate or it can be simple--whatever the two of you prefer. The main thing is that you "show" the other person how special they are to you.

8) Don't Forget Discernment. The media likes to use hype and if you buy into what the mass media promotes as "the way Valentine's day should be," then you might be setting yourself up for disappointment after the big day comes and goes. Remember, it's not about the money you spend or where you bought that special diamond necklace or ring. It's about the love that's underneath all of that.

9) Don't Forget to Be Present and Be Real. If you're like most people, you're usually either mentally thinking about what you have to do or are going to do in the future or thinking about what happened to you in the past. The present moments fly by without you really participating in them. To be present and real means to be fully focusing on what's going on right here and right now. Great relationships are built on that idea and whether it's Valentine's day or not, it's a terrific practice to get into.

10) Don't Forget to Think Long-Term Love and Not Just Short-Term "wow". Whether it's a dating situation or long-term committed relationship or marriage, when you are thinking about a celebration of your love or of your relationship, keep in mind what would create and help foster continued long-term love instead of going for the "wow" factor. To know the difference, you have to be in tune with how you and your partner like to celebrate--and everyone's different so you have to pay attention and listen.

11) Don't Forget that You're Never too Young or Too Old for Love. Many people have a fixed age in their minds where love is no longer possible. This age might be 40, 50, 60, or 80. We're here to tell you that love is possible at any age. The trick to finding or renewing it is to recognize what ideas and beliefs have held you back or have sabotaged love in the past and change those habits. Anyone can change and at any age. It just takes a willingness and desire to do so and to take a chance on having something wonderful.

12) Don't Forget About Nostalgia. Anyone want to bring out those old records or tapes of the music you used to listen to when you first fell in love? What a special way to celebrate your love and to renew those feelings at the same time. You might go to a restaurant or park that you used to go to or do some activity together that used to make your hearts sing. Even if you are not currently in a relationship, you can resurrect things that used to be fun for you and have a mini-celebration of you.

We hope that these 12 tips on what not to forget will be helpful to you in creating relationships that you truly want. At any time during the year, we invite you to make conscious decisions about your life and not just let "life" happen to you.

The Momentum of Love

Today, February 14th is Valentines Day. It's a day that most of us celebrate our love for the important people in our lives.

It can be full of love, romance, kindnesses, sharing and of course--Chocolate.

If you consider yourself part of a "couple," chances are that you are doing something special today or maybe this coming weekend to focus on love, romance and treating each other special.

If you're not currently in an intimate relationship, you may be doing something special to show your love for the people in your life like sending flowers to your mother, greeting cards to your children or grandchildren or even stopping for a visit or dinner with someone you love.

No matter what your circumstance, we suggest that you continue the momentum of love--of treating your significant other or important people in your life very special.

Why momentum?

Momentum allows you to keep building your relationships toward what you want instead of what you don't want and it also carries you through the tough times. And-- momentum becomes a very positive habit in your life.

It's just like starting an exercise or health and fitness program...

In the beginning, you go to the gym regularly and are excited about your new program. One day, you might not feel like you have much energy or maybe you feel like you simply have too much to do and you want to skip your workout.

If you keep up momentum and your health and fitness program becomes a habit, it just becomes a part of your life. If you allow yourself to sink into your excuses about why you can't go, you lose your momentum and your new program can die a natural death.

About now, you might be saying that you don't want to buy flowers, diamonds, greeting cards or taking your loved one out to dinner every day to keep up the momentum and make it a habit.

So what do you do?

You find little ways in every single moment to capture your beloved's heart and make him/her say, "I'm glad I'm with you."

We'll give you a relationship example from our own lives...

We keep the momentum of love going every day by communicating to each other in small ways how special we think the other is.

The other day Susie traveled out-of-town to take care of her grandkids while her daughter and her husband had a special "date."

As Susie was driving home, she called Otto to connect with him and tell him how her day went. A phone call is such a small thing but it allows us to keep up our connection and the momentum of our love for each other.

We've discovered that the "goal" with momentum is to start and continue doing the "right" things (whatever that means to the two of you) that will continually keep you moving toward what you want for your relationship.

One couple we know recently took a couples massage class together. To keep the momentum of connection and closeness going that they felt during the class, they are getting a used massage table and giving each other massages every week.

While we realize that massage or even phone calls might not be what you are interested in doing, there are some things that you can start doing right now that will create momentum for having a great relationship.

We invite you to not let Valentine's Day come and go without beginning to create momentum toward what you want in your life.

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.

©2007 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 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002 and 2001. Other Relationship Issues, Books

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