Susie & Otto


Menstuff® has compiled information and books on the issue of Relationships. This section is an archive of Susie and Otto Collins's weekly column featured daily on our homepage. They are spiritual and life partners who are committed to helping others create outstanding relationships of all kinds. They regularly write, speak and conduct workshops and seminars on love, relationships and personal and spiritual growth to audiences all across the USA.

They are the creators of the "Relationship Toolkit" which has helped people in over a dozen countries improve their relationships. It includes a video called Spiritual Partnerships plus two booklets Love and Relationship Success Secrets and 101 Relationship Quotes Worth a Million Dollars! You can also read more articles like these and subscribe to their weekly newsletter on love and relationships by visiting their web site at Their new E-book Should You Stay or Should You Go? has just been released and is now available See Archives 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002 and 2001.

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A Bigger Box
Anger in Relationships: Why It's Not Always What it Seems
An Interesting Idea on Creating More Love and Better Relationships
Bringing the Light into Your Relationships
The Challenge of moving from "I" to "We"
Creating Special Moments In Your Relationships that Take Your Breath Away
5 Ways to Avoid the Most Common Relationship Disasters this Holiday Season
How to Get More People on your Team
Is It Thanksgiving Everyday in Your Relationships?
Just Getting Through the Holidays
Making 2006 Your Best Relationship Year Yet
Simple Shifts For Making Relationships Better
Why is the vow 'Till Death Do Us Part' much easier than THIS in relationships?
Your Most Important Relationship is You

Your Most Important Relationship is You

Aside from your relationship with your Creator, your most important relationship, whether you know it or not, is with you.

Most of us spend so much time trying to figure out how to have a great (or even good) relationship with other people--whether it's at home or at work-- that we neglect to look at our relationship with ourselves.

What does that mean?

It means looking at what brings you joy, happiness and fulfillment.

And no, we don't think this is "selfish" and here's why...

If you are joyful, happy and fulfilled, the people around you can't help but be uplifted by being with you.

At a week-long spiritual retreat this fall, Susie received many comments about how vibrant, alive and beautiful she looked. This is not usually something that so many people tell her at one time so she paid attention to what was going on inside her to cause this reaction.

She felt open, loving and full of life. She and Otto were relaxing together and felt really connected, even though at times it was an intense workshop experience. She enjoyed interacting with the people she met and had fun with the activities.

The presentations we gave were lively and we felt connected with our audiences. The week was just a great experience.

The bottom line is that for Susie, she opened herself to being all she could be and doing the things that she enjoyed which fed her vitality.

Does this happen all of the time?

Of course not.

She keeps a photo that was taken of her at that retreat to remind her of just how good she felt. The photo is a reminder of what is possible for her in life.

So the question is--What are some of the qualities of a successful and happy relationship with YOU?

Here are a few ideas to get you thinking...

  • Humor and laughter. Are you being too hard on yourself? Are you filled with guilt and self-blame? Are you being with people and doing things that allow you to laugh and have fun?
  • Kindness and compassion toward yourself and others. How can you be more kind toward yourself? What does it mean to be kind to yourself? What are you still angry at yourself for? What have you not forgiven yourself for?
  • Doing more of what you love to do. What brings you joy that you haven't taken the time to do in a long time? What do you want to do more of that makes your heart sing?
  • Living honestly and in integrity with who you really are. How can you communicate more honestly with the important people in your life? How can you live more from the truth of who you are? How can you let your light shine in every moment?

We've discovered that if you allow your relationship with yourself to come alive, not shutting yourself down with doubts, fears and limitations, your other relationships will also come alive.

This week, we invite you to investigate how you sabotage your relationship with yourself--like holding onto anger, doubts or limitations that don't serve your highest good.

Begin allowing yourself the time and energy to start doing some things that allow you to enjoy life more fully and be your truly unique and wonderful self.

Simple Shifts For Making Relationships Better

Last week, we took a much needed vacation and headed off for the clear skies, sun and warmer weather that we don't typically have this time of year where we live in south central Ohio.

In addition to getting some sun and enjoying some time off, we also got to make some interesting observations about how to create great relationships.

Here's an example of one of the many interactions we noticed and what you can learn from it to make your relationships better in any area of your life...

Airports are usually pretty hectic during the holiday season and this past week was no exception. As we waited in line to check in for our flight, we couldn't help but notice a disturbance that was happening at the ticket counter next to us.

We didn't know this until last week but the airline we were flying on now has a baggage weight limit and travelers are charged an extra fee for anything above that weight. It so happened that the man at the counter had several bags and one of them was several pounds overweight.

The airline representative, in a very business-like voice, explained the policy and suggested that he could transfer the extra pounds from one suitcase to another to avoid the extra fee.

As we watched this interaction, we noticed that the traveler was obviously flustered as he rummaged through his luggage and the airline representative, although courteous, seemed distant and aloof.

This could have been the way their interaction continued but it wasn't. Instead, we were able to watch a wonderful example of understanding and connection being created right before our very eyes.

The traveler was frustrated with the policy and was upset about having to take a few extra minutes to rearrange his belongings to meet their luggage weight requirement.

In his frustration, he happened to say in a voice anyone could hear--"That's what I get for playing Santa." With those words, we watched the airline representative almost immediately soften her reaction to him.

As she laughed and made some comment, the energy in our area of the airport seemed to get lighter. We and everyone in line seemed to feel the shift of energy that came about from the simple understanding of why the man's luggage was so heavy.

After that, it was no time until the extra weight was shifted to his other luggage and he was on his way.

What this reminds us and we want to pass on to you is this...When you feel yourself stiffening or resisting someone or something, begin opening your heart to understanding the other person or event that seems to be causing your distress.

Sometimes it's just a tight feeling in your abdomen or it might be some feeling in your chest or head. Whatever it is for you, begin to learn how you close yourself off to other people when there's confrontation or when something uncomfortable happens.

Discover how you can open yourself to listening to understand the situation instead reacting from old patterns and habitual ways of being that have been destructive to your relationships.

We're not saying that the airline representative was doing anything wrong in her business-like approach to the problem that the traveler was facing. We are saying that we couldn't help but notice that a real connection between the two people was possible only when she understood the situation.

The traveler still had to switch the weight or pay the weight overage fee. That fact didn't change. What did change was the energy between the two people and even the energy among the people where we were standing in line.

So, especially at this holiday season, stop yourself from reacting in the ways you always seem to react with your family, your partner or spouse, your kids, or your co-workers. Remind yourself to find out more about the situation or what was said that might have hurt your feelings and have it as your intention to understand.

Think about how you can soften, be kinder and more loving with the people you come in contact with.

It may not change the outcome of the situation but it will change the way you connect with that other person.

If you do this, we are sure that you will see a change for the better in your relationships!

A Bigger Box

For many of us, the holiday gift buying season is in full swing. One of the all-time biggest gift wrapping questions we typically ask is "Do I have a box big enough to fit the item that I need to wrap?"

The same thing often applies when it comes to creating better relationships and here's what we mean...

What we have found is that sometimes we need to create a bigger "box" --to open our hearts a little wider to the people in our lives.

The question becomes--Is your heart open wide enough to give and to receive love this holiday season?

Opening your heart--or creating a bigger "box"--might mean being a little more compassionate, patient and loving when it's not so easy to do so--even with yourself.

A couple of weeks ago, Susie was upset, agitated, distant and aloof and she's not usually that way. What she realized was that she had wanted to connect with her mother and she couldn't.

For the past few months, her mother has not been able to acknowledge Susie as her daughter because of dementia but there had always been some type of connection. During this recent visit to the nursing home, her mother was not even able to make eye contact with Susie.

When Susie realized that this feeling of loss was keeping her from fully connecting with others in her life, she knew that she needed to change what she had been telling herself about this event.

What this required Susie to do was to know that her mother still cared about her on some level and that even though her heart was "hurt," she needed to open it a little wider.

It wasn't that the situation with her mother could be magically transformed and her mother would be who she used to be--filled with a lot of love for Susie and her family.

That wasn't going to happen.

What was important was that Susie didn't close her heart to her mother or to anyone else because of her pain.

Whether it's your aging parents, your teenagers, your toddler or your partner who is offering you big or small challenges right now--we invite you to stand guard at your heart to make sure it stays open instead of closed.

Does having an open heart mean being a doormat?

Not at all. It means stopping yourself before you react in old, familiar and harmful ways when someone does or says something that "pushes your buttons." It means acknowledging your feelings but not allowing them to keep you separated from others. It means finding a place of compassion within your heart for you and for the other person.

Whether you're 18 or 85, you are responsible for your own joy in your life. You are the only one who can give it to you.

By opening your own heart a little wider, you are allowing yourself to feel more peace, more joy, more connection and more love---even if it's just within yourself.

We challenge you not to get caught up in busyness and the "shoulds" of this holiday season. We urge you to focus on keeping your heart open to the people in your life and creating a bigger "box" that is filled with love.

This is not always easy but the rewards can be wonderful.

Anger in Relationships: Why It's Not Always What it Seems

Because so many people want to know how to stay open in love when they don't feel very loving in the moment, we wanted to give you some tips and ideas on opening your heart in difficult circumstances.

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

Every once in awhile, John gets really angry--so angry that Marsha thinks he's out of control, she does not feel either respected or loved, and doesn't want to be around him.

She doesn't know where all of this anger comes from, what she's done to deserve it and why it's directed at her.

Pretty common circumstance, right? Many people, including us, can identify with this situation to a certain extent, at one time or another in their relationships.

In every relationship, there's what we call "Relationship Dances" that take place.

A "Relationship Dance" is an on-going, repeating pattern of behavior that both people play out in the relationship. Sometimes a relationship dance can be beautiful, loving and wonderful and other times, it can be painful, exhausting and difficult to deal with---even though there might be great love between the two people.

Well, here's our take on John's and Marsha's relationship dance--why it's causing challenges in their relationship and how they can open their hearts to one another again...

Very often, upsets, anger, judgment, lashing out, or making each other wrong is sometimes nothing more than a mask for the pain that's underneath what someone is feeling.

What seems to be John's unreasonable anger can be his way of "puffing" himself up because he's feeling vulnerable and afraid--fearful that if he doesn't react in this way, he won't be heard, honored or get his needs met.

Please understand that we are not condoning or validating anyone's out-of-control rage or anger toward another--nor what happens as a result of this rage or anger, especially if physical violence is the result.

What we are suggesting is that in most cases, people who are expressing anger are not the strong, powerful people they are pretending to be in the moment. This may come as a shock to some of you to know that when most people act in this way, their actions and reactions are coming from their pain and their inability to know how to deal with their pain.

Marsha, on the other hand, feels blind sided by John's anger. She reacts from old patterns, either freezing and withdrawing from him or lashing out at him with her own anger.

Because John's anger may be so unreasonable and blown out of proportion, it may look like he's the only one who has contributed to their upset but that's usually not the case. Marsha's probably been doing her own things to contribute to the situation. Under the guise of helping John to become a better person, she might be pushing him in ways that he doesn't want to be pushed.

Whatever way their "Relationship Dance" goes, both people close their hearts to each other, shutting down any love or connection that they once felt for one another.

For many couples, the situation becomes too much of a "hot potato" and is never talked about again and therefore, never resolved. Even if the two people do talk about the issue, there's often a standoff, with both people holding on to being right.

So what can John and Marsha, as well as millions of other couples, do to resolve their situation and create a closer and more connected relationship?

Here are some tips to help...

1, If the person is full of rage and you fear for your safety, temporarily leave the situation. If alcohol or drugs are involved, make sure that before you try any of our suggestions, the other person is sober and/or drug-free.

You may want to get the help from a professional drug/alcohol counselor or groups if you are with a person who is a chronic abuser or if you are one yourself.

2. Know that underneath most displays of anger is a feeling that there is a need that's not being met or a want that's being stifled. Very often when there's a trigger that sets off the anger or upset, we bypass what's truly at the heart of the situation and go to the reaction that's familiar, instead of the fear or the cause.

Whether you are the "angry" partner or not, be open to searching underneath your behavior for any fears or unmet needs and wants. What is the need or want and what do you need to do to move toward having it without using anger as a crutch?

It might be that you need to be more honest more of the time. It might mean that you not run away when things get tough. It might be that you need to take more responsibility in your life. Make an agreement to listen to one another, speak from your hearts, and open to understanding each other, even though you may not agree.

3. We all create stories in our minds about what certain things mean that very often have nothing to do with the reality of the situation. It's the stories we make up that usually drive our behavior so finding out the facts of the situation is really important.

Examine the stories that you are creating in your mind that triggers any behavior that sooner or later you regret doing. Know that you can change the stories that you tell yourself about every situation and begin taking steps to change them by looking at the facts.

4. Commit to not holding grudges from the past. If you need to do some forgiveness work around some issues, do it. If you need to make amends for something you did in the past, do it. Clear up anything hanging over from the past so that you can start together with a clean slate.

Anger is an emotion and emotions are our friends. Our emotions tell us what we need to take a look at next in our lives if we are open to doing the work. Let the message of anger be "I need help" and then take the responsibility for looking at the issues underneath that you really need to address.

Making 2006 Your Best Relationship Year Yet

Almost everyone does it--typically every year around New Years day, people seem to instinctively look back on what happened in the past year and look forward to what they want to change in the new year and we are no different.

Over the past few days we've been taking some time to set our intentions and make some plans for the new year in our work, our personal life, as well as our relationship.

No matter how you celebrate the new year, we invite you to do some conscious planning for how you want your relationships and your life to be like in 2006.

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 go from rushing the kids out the door in the morning, to work, to soccer game, 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.

We think this is important for several reasons. By saying your goals aloud and what's important to you, you have the opportunity to talk about your desires and where you would each like your lives to go. Not only does that allow you to see where you each are headed but by making your desires known, you can discover where you're headed also!

When we do this, we've also found that it helps us focus on what we want rather than what we don't want.

One of our favorite songs is a Bruce Springsteen song, "If I should fall behind." In this song, Bruce says, "Let's make our steps clear so the other may see."

Consciously letting each other know "where you are" is one of the best ways we know to keep a strong connection and increase love between the two of you. We urge you to have that as your intention for the new year.

Once again, we are using a book called "Your Best Year Yet" by Jinny Ditzler to help us clarify what's important to us and what we want to be and do during this year.

We think that goal-setting is a great way to communicate what's important to 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.

Bringing the Light into Your Relationships

Today, at 1:35 pm Eastern time, is a scientific event called the Winter Solstice. At this time, because of the earth's tilt, the northern hemisphere is leaning furthest from the sun and daylight is the shortest. The sun has its lowest arc in the sky.

Many cultures have observed the Winter Solstice with ceremony and at the root of these ceremonies is the ancient fear that the light will never return.

In honor of the darkest day and the anticipation of the coming light, we invite you to choose to bring more light and love into your relationships.

What that means is different for everyone and every one of your relationships.

Take a few moments and list your important relationships and don't forget your relationship with yourself. Be sure to include the difficult ones and the ones that tend to irritate you the most.

Now, write one word or maybe even a phase of how you intend to allow more light and love to enter each relationship.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started...

1. Not jump to conclusions so quickly

2. Connect each evening, even for 15 or 20 minutes

3. Give a nightly foot rub to my beloved

4. Stop what you are doing and listen more intently to your kids

5. Treat yourself to a relaxing bath with music and candles once a week

6. Be more truthful when you don't want to do something or go somewhere

7. Visit or call your mother, even for 30 minutes, each week and really be there for her during that time

8. Stop yourself when you start getting critical

9. Be patient and loving instead of impatient

10. Learn something new that will increase your enthusiasm and zest for life

Choose some ways that speak to you that will bring more light into your relationships and practice them. Keep the list handy to remind you.

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!

5 Ways to Avoid the Most Common Relationship Disasters this Holiday Season

The holiday season is here in the USA and for many people, the holidays can be a time filled with stress and anxiety that very often lead to creating unwanted relationship disasters. The good news is that is doesn't have to be this way.

These holiday relationship "disasters," whether it's with your spouse, partner, family, friends or co-workers, can be prevented this holiday season and in this article we wanted to give you some ideas on how to do this.

What we've discovered is that during the holidays, many people experience a mixed sense of excitement and dread. They love the parties, get-togethers, connecting with others and fun, but all too often these get-togethers lead to disasters in even the most important relationships.

There are several ways to avoid relationship disasters and have much more fun during the upcoming holiday season and here are just a few tips and ideas:

1.Be clear about your intentions. Before any get-together, focus on what you want during the event and not on what you don't want. So often people focus on what they are afraid will happen and that's exactly what they get.

2.Stop all that internal chatter. Stop thinking about what you're going to say next while the other person is talking or how irritating Uncle Charley is or all the things you have to get done. Instead, focus on listening, truly listening, to your friends, relatives and co-workers. Find out something new that you did not know about them.

3.Get in touch with your feelings. If you get triggered by a conversation, take a few moments to check in with what you are feeling in the moment, even if you have to go to the bathroom to take these moments of quiet for yourself. Breathe and get in touch with you.

Acknowledge what you are feeling and set your intention that you are going to stay open to the other person and to understand his/her viewpoint. If you do, you will find that you are better able to make a connection and stay out of the old dramas.

4.Find something to appreciate about the family members or people who tend to get under your skin, especially at this time of the year. Believe it or not, if you find something positive about the person, your holiday experience will get better.

5.Have fun! Sit down and play with your children, grandchildren or any other kids at the gathering and give them your full attention. Even if there aren't any kids at the event, focus your attention and intention on enjoying yourself and watch how your holidays become much more relaxed and joyful.

We'll have more tips and ideas soon for making your relationships great during the holidays.

Just Getting Through the Holidays

How many times have you heard someone say--"If we can just through the holidays..."?

You might have even felt this yourself and haven't expressed it. Almost everyone of us has heard or felt someone say this kind of thing around this time of year.

Whether it's about the holidays or any other special event that involves a lot of preparation, anticipation and may hold an emotional charge for you, there can be a feeling of just wanting to do the best you can do to get through it.

If you have felt this or heard someone else say this, the question becomes...

"How can I shift from fear, dread and the stories I make up in my head to presence, love and perhaps even enthusiasm?"

Believe it or not, Otto is one of those people who feels some dread around the holidays.

One of the reasons for this is because of his divorce agreement from many years ago. As a part of that agreement, he is not able to be with his son on Christmas day. Even though his son is now a teenager and they have always maintained a great relationship, there's a part of Otto that's in pain when the holidays roll around.

Sure, he feels a lot of love from Susie's family and his own family of origin, but because he and his son are never together at Christmas there's always something that seems to be missing for him.

This year, he's decided to make some changes and begin actively shifting those feeling of dread that surround this time of year for him.

Here are some things that Otto is doing and we suggest that if you have similar feelings, you give them a try:

1. Focus on what's going "right" in your life right now. Anytime your self-talk starts going down the road of feeling regret, sorrow, fear or dread for what has happened in the past or what you fear will happen in the future, change your thoughts to what is going right in your life and whatyou appreciate.

2. When you find yourself feeling dread about getting together with people or any festivities that you find yourself "obligated" to attend, make a shift to being present with the people you are with. Bring your attention back to the present moment when you find yourself wandering into emotions that keep you separated from others.

3. Accept the reality of your situation and still look for joy. In Otto's situation, he is choosing to look forward to the day that is their Christmas day and is choosing to make that time special. In fact, he has the attitude that he can make any day special with his son.

If you will begin making small shifts in your attitude, self-talk and beliefs, we are sure that you will begin to feel a bit lighter and perhaps even more joyful this time of year or any time in your life.

For more tips and ideas on beating holiday stress we also recommend that you download or listen online to the recording of the conversation Otto had recently with Personal evolution coach Paul Cutright about how you can overcome stress, overwhelm, anxiety, guilt, fear, hurt, loneliness or any other emotional challenge during the holidays (or anytime).

How to Get More People on your Team

Love him or hate him, comedian Bill Maher had an interesting observation about relationships that we wanted to talk about in this week's newsletter.

In a recent Oprah magazine, there was a short article about Bill and we were fascinated by this quote by him:

"In America, everybody has to be on a team, and they work backward from: 'How can I defend the team I'm on?'

In the article, he goes on to explain how this attitude separates us from others.

We couldn't help but think how this idea carries over into all of our personal relationships.

We'll explain what we mean...

Whether we know it our not, most of us put everyone we meet either on our "team" or not on our team (even the people closest to us).

An extreme example is a woman who had six dogs and was an obvious dog-lover but would have nothing to do with you unless you loved dogs.

Even though all of us may not go to that extent in our lives, we do exclude people and not let them in--in subtle and not so subtle ways.

One woman wrote to us with a problem. She was attracted to a man who was 18 years younger than she was and he was attracted to her. Because of their age difference, her friends and family had been telling her that this relationship wouldn't work out. She was told and believed that he wasn't part of her "peer group" of men to choose from so he wasn't an acceptable mate for her, despite their obvious love for each other.

It takes courage to go against popular beliefs about what "team" you are on and stand up for what's in your heart. This woman did go with her heart and as far as we know, the two of them are very happy together.

Too often, we shut others out because they aren't like us or think differently. We react from old beliefs and ways of being, instead of acting with an open heart.

When the two of us were first together, Otto expressed that he might vote differently from the party that Susie had always supported. She sarcastically told him that he had better vote the way she did or else!

Well of course, that didn't go over too well with Otto and Susie had to come to the realization that she had reacted from old beliefs about what was right and what was wrong.

With her reaction, she had excluded him and had let him know that he'd better walk the party line if he was to be with her.

After she did this, Otto's reaction let her know that he wasn't about to be told who he should or shouldn't vote for. This situation was certainly what we call a "learning and growth opportunity."

How many times do we do this in our interactions with family, friends, co-workers or people that we meet?

Here are some ideas about how to include others even if they aren't on the "same team" we're on...

1. When you meet someone who is different or thinks differently from you, discover where the overlap is between the two of you. What might the two of you have in common? Even if there doesn't seem to be anything you have in common, what can you learn from that person?

2. Listen with an open heart when others talk. Ask for clarification, and as Princeton's James McDonnell, Distinguished University Professor of Psychology, Emeritus suggests--try to figure out how the other person could think that way.

3. Catch yourself when you start to react from old beliefs, even from something as small as how a loved one wants to complete a chore. Don't exclude them from "your team" because he/she wants to wash the dishes, prepare a meal or complete a project around the house differently from you.

4. Notice when you are excluding others and begin to think about how you can include them. How can you be more loving in your relationships? Yes, we love competition and competitive sports and root for our favorite teams of all kinds every chance we get.

While we agree that team sports are important, we also know that if we constantly separate ourselves from others, we cut off possible love in our lives.

What we recommend is that you find ways to open your heart more of the time when you find that others are different from you.

Remember that everything we do either moves us closer to the people in our lives or further from them.

Think about this when you go about your day. It will be a good reminder to help you be more understanding and caring about everyone in your life if you do this.

An Interesting Idea on Creating More Love and Better Relationships

If you're like us, you're always interested in learning more about what it takes to create closer and more loving relationships.

Here's an interesting idea about one of the things that keeps us from having more love and better relationships in our lives and what we need to do in order to stop doing it.

Last weekend, our family celebrated Susie's daughter's birthday by picnicing and hiking in the woods.

We have no idea how this got started but during the walk, several of us starting talking about, comparing and looking at the physical scars on our bodies.

Otto showed the scar on this hand from accidentally running it through a plate glass window when he was a boy. Another person had a scar from a bike wreck when she was 6 years old.

We know that this wasn't typical birthday party conversation but what was interesting was...when we were looking at and talking about the scars we each had, we could all recall instantly where, why and how we got those scars--as well as the pain that happened as a result of the accident or incident.

Although we could recall the pain associated with those scars, we could each view those incidents without being emotionally triggered by the events.

In other words, we were able to look at the events in hindsight, seeing them for what they really were. We knew that they were simply things that happened along our life's journey that left some physical marks on our bodies.

As we've thought about that conversation since then, we also couldn't help but wonder what would happen to the quality of our love and relationships if we were truly willing to look at our emotional scars and wounds that we've experienced in our lives in this way.

The truth is that all of us have had things happen to us in our lives that we consider to be painful and have in some cases, left deep emotional scars.

These include situations like the death of a parent, the end of a relationship (or many relationships), someone leaving you for someone else, your partner or spouse having an affair, physical or emotional abuse and the list could go on and on.

What we've discovered is that in some cases, even though the event happened many years ago, these scars and the wounds and pain of what happened are so deep that a person may react automatically from that wounded place on a daily basis. Very often, the person may not be aware that he/she is reacting from the memory of a past pain or wound that they have, but the reaction happens nonetheless.

Take Kim (one of our coaching clients) for example:

Kim found that she was snapping at her new husband for seemingly no reason at all. She blamed it on her work, on getting used to being married, on being tired and much too busy.

When she stopped her busy life to just sit with her feelings, she realized that she was carrying around a fear that her husband would leave her, just as an old boyfriend had years ago.

It seems that she unconsciously was pushing her new husband away before he had a chance to leave her.

When she discovered that this was her fear underneath her negative reactions, she decided to do whatever she could to change her beliefs and behavior.

Here are some ideas that we've used ourselves and we give to you if you find that you've been reacting from old scars. These ideas can help acknowledge you acknowledge your scars and help you to move into a place where you aren't emotionally charged by them any longer:

1. Stop your busy life. Take 15 or 20 minutes a day to simply sit in silence and breathe. When thoughts and feelings come up, allow them to be there but allow them to leave also.

2. Stay with your feelings, even if they aren't comfortable when they come up. Don't reach for chocolate, the tv or the computer to push down your feelings.

If you breathe into your feelings and allow them to be there, you'll find that the emotional charge around what has happened in the past to trigger those feelings will start to dissipate.

3. Bring yourself lovingly into the present moment when you find yourself being triggered and it doesn't seem to make any sense. Remind yourself that that was then and this is now.

You are not the same person you were when that event happened to you. You can be in charge of your life now, even though you might have felt helpless in the past.

There are many techniques you can use to help bring yourself into the present when you find yourself emotionally stuck in your past.

While these are good suggestions, probably the greatest "technique" of all is adopting the desire and the belief that you can create the life you want today, while allowing the scars and wounds from the past to fade and finally no longer emotionally trigger you.

Our wish for all of you is to have and be able to give the love you want in your life--for yourself and for everyone you meet.

If emotional scars are holding you back, we invite you to experiment with a few of our ideas for creating the life and relationships that you want.

Is It Thanksgiving Everyday in Your Relationships?

This Thursday in the United States, we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving, one day out of the year set aside to give thanks. We get together with our friends or families, have lots of food, and celebrate all the things we are grateful for.

As we were thinking about Thanksgiving, we couldn't help but wonder what kind of impact it would have if everyone gave their appreciation and thanks everyday to the people in their lives.

We practice appreciating each other everyday and that's one of the ingredients that helps us to create the loving, connected relationship that we have.

We take time every morning before we get out of bed --even 15 minutes--to let each other know some things we appreciate that day. It just takes a few minutes and it certainly deepens our connection.

We believe that in every relationship that we have, it is our moment by moment actions that are either helping to create relationships that are close and connected and getting stronger or creating relationships that are distant and getting weaker.

We read the book "Messages from Water" which was highlighted in the wonderful film "What the Bleep Do We Know?"

This book is the research of Masaru Emoto which shows beyond a doubt the beneficial effects of words and thoughts of appreciation and love on water. Since we humans are 70% water, we could easily see how appreciation can and does improve our lives and the lives of others around us.

Sharing appreciation and giving thanks are things you can do on an ongoing basis to ensure that you continue to build your relationships and make them stronger instead of allowing them to atrophy.

This morning we told each other what we appreciated about each other and we invite you to do the same with your friends and loved ones.

Even if you are appreciating someone and the other person does not reciprocate, genuine appreciation will feed your soul.

If there's no one around to appreciate you, take time to appreciate yourself. Very often we put ourselves down and don't appreciate ourselves. We often find it easier to pick at our supposed "faults" than to acknowledge and appreciate our greatness.

So whether you are appreciating another or appreciating yourself, we suggest that you be as specific as possible when you are sharing appreciation and giving thanks.

You may want to use the following phrases--"I appreciated you when you ______________" and "I appreciate you for _______________".

Try doing a "round-robin" of appreciation around your Thanksgiving table this year. Take a few moments and really connect with those you love.

Why is the vow 'Till Death Do Us Part' much easier than THIS in relationships?

Last weekend, we attended the wedding of the daughter of a good friend. The day was beautiful and the ceremony was a loving, personal commitment for the two of them. We really enjoyed being there.

The ceremony was a traditional, Christian ceremony and the vow "Till death do us part" was of course included.

Because we are relationship coaches and we spend a lot of time working with people on their relationship issues to help them create closer, more loving relationships, we couldn't help but think that keeping the vow "Till death do us part" truly isn't the tough part in a committed relationship.

Before you think we've lost our minds, here's why we say this...

Many people decide to live together forever and to fulfill this commitment. We all know people who are fulfilling it but their relationship has lost its life, and passion. In these relationships, it's clear that the two people no longer enjoy being together. They may not even like each other anymore, but because of their commitment, they are still together.

We are certainly not advocating divorce in these types of relationships just because the life has gone out of them.

Also, we aren't suggesting that you should or shouldn't make this vow when you get married. That is totally up to you.

In our opinion, more than longevity, the vow that really needs to be made to each other is the moment-by-moment commitment to stay open in love to each other rather than to close down in fear, especially when things get tough.

There are millions of ways our thoughts keep us from opening to each other. Here are just a few...

"He doesn't care what I think anyway..."

"She just wants my money..."

"An affair is no big deal..."

"If I could just get these kids through college..."

"I wish he wouldn't look at other women that way..."

"We just can't seem to communicate..."

So if many of us have these thoughts, or similar ones, how do we stay open in love to our partner even when we think he or she is being unreasonable, irrational or any number of things?

In our opinion, being able to know what to do when we are faced with these kinds of thoughts and feelings is at the very heart of whether you can truly be happy together or not.

It's whether you can do your inner work on a moment-by-moment basis that keeps your heart from shutting down.

John finds that he's always coming home late and his wife Jody is exasperated with him. It's a simple thing--John could call her when he is going to be late but he doesn't get around to it.

Maybe John is procrastinating, maybe he just forgets and loses track of time, maybe he's passive-aggressive, or maybe he secretly feels like his freedom is being taken away.

Whatever is going on, there are things that both of them could do to draw closer in situations just like these.

We all have our inner work to do and in John's case his inner work is to become more conscious, more focused, and more present to his commitment (assuming they've made one about this subject) as it gets later in the day.

If it looks like he's not going to get home on time, his commitment is to call Jody and let her know. This suggestion is not meant to restrict John's freedom but to be a simple courtesy so Jody won't wonder where he is and so she can make plans accordingly for the early part of the evening.

Jody's inner work, on the other hand, is completely different from John's. She knows he has challenges getting home on time and staying focused and so her job is to catch him doing it "right" and appreciating him when he does.

When he remembers to call, Jody can tell him how she'll be excited to see him when he gets home.

When he doesn't follow through, Jody can and should let him know about her upset or disappointment AND at the same time love him anyway (That's the tough part).

Both require practice, but if they can do the kinds of things we're going to suggest, they can continue to deepen their love. What we're talking about is negotiating the small day-to-day challenges and loving through your differences.

This is what brings you closer together-- when you can open your heart to each other no matter what's going on. When you can open your heart when you'd rather close down or react in a different way.

We're not saying that you can't have boundaries and that you have to put up with situations that are unhealthy and potentially damaging to you or your relationship.

We're saying that if you are no longer willing to settle for mediocrity in relationships, that you open yourself to love, even in moments of upset and challenge.

To help you do this, here are a few ideas...

1. If your partner is usually kind and generous but on a particular day, he/she isn't so kind or generous--feel deep into their heart and love them anyway. Instead of lashing out at him/her, simply breathe and just know that this person is your beloved who is having a non-typical moment.

2. Speak from your heart and not from your head when you need to tell your beloved how you are feeling about challenges you may be having with him or her.

To speak from your heart, you actually pull your attention away from your head/mind, and focus on your heart area as you describe what you are feeling. If you do, your beloved will be able to hear and feel what you are saying with greater understanding.

3. When you communicate, talk to and listen to your partner as if he/she is the most important person to you. If you treat anyone like they are truly important, they will respond from a feeling of appreciation, reverence and respect.

While it's our intention in our own relationship to be together forever, and we certainly value longevity as a positive trait in a relationship, we know that people can have it all--longevity and connection, trust and passion.

In order for you to have the best relationship possible, we urge you to focus on those little things that happen moment-by-moment that make all the difference in your relationship and can determine your level of happiness.

Creating Special Moments In Your Relationships that Take Your Breath Away

We really love watching movies and last night, we enjoyed seeing the movie "Hitch" again.

Without spoiling the movie for those of you who haven't seen it, "Hitch" is both the title of the film and the name of the main character who is a "love coach" who gives men strategies for how to connect with the women of their dreams. He coaches them on how to get to what he called the magical third date.

As we were watching it, we couldn't help but catch the "relationship truisms" that were sprinkled throughout the film.

While we don't agree with all of Hitch's advice in the movie, there was a quote about love and intimate relationships that really stands out for us...

"Life is not the amount of breaths you take, it's the amount of time your breath is taken away."

In our own relationship, even though we've been together for quite a few years, we continually cultivate our relationship in a way that we are able to experience moments of depth, passion and intimacy nearly every day that literally do take our breath away.

What do we mean by taking our breath away?

Whatever signifies beauty to you can take your breath away--a sunset, a baby's smile, a painting, a piece of music, a beautifully written phrase or poem. It's the "juice" that makes life magical.

For us, it's the moments that pass between us when our hearts are open to each other. It's the sheer awe of the beauty, passion, bliss and excitement that is almost overwhelming and takes our breath away.

Of course, this doesn't happen all of the time. We have our moments of conflict and misunderstanding just like you.

But the important thing for you to understand is that these beautiful moments that take our breath away can happen to you or anyone who is open to having them.

The problem is that many people in this world don't believe that these moments are possible for them to experience. It's been our experience that most people hold beliefs within themselves that actually prevent them from having the kind of love and relationships they say they want.

So, if blissful moments of love, appreciation, joy and wonder are available to all of us, how do we create them?

It's the little things we do every day that make the difference and here are a few examples of what we're talking about...

1. We are continuously and consciously opening our hearts to each other. We suggest that if you want more love and breathtaking moments, that you first allow yourself to open to the possibility of these moments and know that they can happen in your life.

So often, because of fear and past experiences, people close themselves off from each other. We suggest that you experiment with opening to a person in your life.

That might mean listening like you never have before to understand and connect with your beloved instead of from your own agenda.

It might mean simply making eye contact with that person when you are speaking with each other. It might mean sharing something with that person that you've never shared before.

2. We continually look at each other with "new eyes." This means that instead of taking each other for granted and assuming that we'll be together forever, we appreciate the moment we have right now with each other.

We are all constantly changing and growing and the truth is that we aren't the same person we were 20 years ago or even 20 minutes ago.

Don't assume anything in your relationships, except that they are always changing. Make it a practice to look with new loving eyes at the people in your life as much of the time as possible. If you have been looking through "critical" eyes, then start looking through "loving" eyes and see what a difference this makes.

3. We continuously look for new ways to love, appreciate and honor our beloved physically, emotionally and spiritually. It might mean touching each other in a loving way throughout the day or it might mean using words of appreciation to each other. It might mean saying kind, uplifting and supporting things about your beloved to other people.

In social situations, too often we hear people talk about their spouse or significant other, expounding on their faults and shortcomings. Even though the other person may or may not have heard these words, this produces a relationship where there is distance, disconnection and lack of trust.

What we have found is that if you are consciously looking at your beloved in love, appreciation, and wonder in all moments, you will create these times that can truly take your breath away.

Tony Robbins once said that when you get to the end of your life, you won't remember much of what happened. It's the special times and the special moments that you'll remember the most.

For us, we're sure that we'll remember those moments when we've looked at each other with awe and amazement that took our breath away.

The Challenge of moving from "I" to "We"

A little while ago we saw this quote by author Paul Ferrini that caused us to stop, discuss and analyze what he had said because it was so good.

We thought that this quote speaks to what must be done when you come together in relationship in order to have a great relationship.

Here's the quote...

"A relationship is a birth of a new entity. It involves moving from an "I" context to a "We" context without sacrifice."

So the question is--What does it mean to go from an "I" to a "We" without sacrifice?

When people come together as a couple, they have a choice to make about how they will view each other's differences. Usually this is an unconscious choice but we suggest that it be a conscious one. They can either look at those differences as a strength or as a "bone of contention." That "bone of contention" can turn into what some might perceive as "sacrifice."

If you go from "I" to "We" without sacrifice, you are honoring each other's strengths, while honoring yourself--your strengths, abilities, needs and desires.

We believe that we come together in relationship for our spiritual growth. In our opinion, when we came together, we began to create something "bigger" than either of us could be individually.

Stephen Covey calls this "synergy" in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." He said, "The essence of synergy is to value differences--to respect them, to build on strengths, to compensate for weaknesses."

In our relationship, Otto is the "outside of the box" thinker--the one with "big" ideas with a lot of passion for his projects and Susie is practical, focused and goal-oriented. During the early stages of our business partnership, Otto felt like he was on the "fast track" and Susie wasn't. Susie felt like Otto wasn't focused and was zinging around like a dervish! Instead of allowing our differences to work for us, we struggled against them as we each tried to control each other.

What our relationship has evolved into is honoring each other's differences and strengths (not always an easy task) and let go of control. We are consciously helping each other to build on their strengths instead of tearing them down. We are also learning how to improve our "weak" traits by asking for help. We are consciously stopping the struggle.

Are you struggling in your relationships? Where are the "bones of contention"? How do you try to control your partner or the people in your life?

We've discovered that the recognition of what we are doing to sabotage our relationships and when we are doing it is a first step. A second step to creating better relationships and a better "We" is to just stop and breath into that desire to control when it happens and stop yourself from doing what you normally do.

We believe it would dramatically improve your relationships if you would give up the struggle and the need to control or "be right" and begin to honor the differences of the people in your life. Try these ideas out and let us know what you think.

©2005 by Susie & Otto Collins

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