Is Your Spirituality The Problem?

MarianneW Millie should have been over the moon - not down in the dumps.  Finally, she was legally and financially free of her ex-husband.  He had been every bit as difficult to divorce as he had to be married to.  She was free at last and relieved to be free. However, she was also carrying a huge burden of sadness. “I’m thrilled to be free,” she said (tearing up in a way that did not entirely match her words). “It’s just that I feel terribly sad that I couldn’t help him.” Now, in worldly terms, Tom – her ex – didn’t need her help in the slightest.  He had been promoted at work yet again, he was making shed-loads of money (that he would not be sharing 50/50 with her).  He had as many women dancing attendance on him as he wanted.  He had a glamorous home and a glamorous lifestyle.  He had as much of a relationship as he could be bothered to maintain with their children. Happiness was not Tom’s middle name.  Still, he had plenty to feel (self-)satisfied about. Tom was the kind of guy who fell on his feet – which Millie knew. The problem with Tom – from Millie’s point of view -  was that he had not just feet of clay, but whole legs of clay. (And a heart of clay, besides.)  Millie had had to admit to herself that Tom really was not a nice guy. That fact REALLY troubled Millie. Millie is a delightful woman. She is one of those women – and let’s face it there are an awful lot of women like her around – who have been “tempered” by tough life experiences. She had been through a lot of difficulties in her life. She had discovered her spirituality, and she had come out the other side, stronger, braver and more spiritual.

Spirituality and the need to help

Millie had had to dig very deep to survive all that she had been through.  She had done a huge amount of work on herself.  In fact, she had made it her mission to use what she had learned to help other people to overcome the pain and the trauma in their own lives. Her own experiences helped to make her exceptionally good at what she did  which made it even more galling that she could not help Tom. In an ideal world, Tom would, of course, have wanted to learn from Millie.  In the real world, Tom regarded Millie’s spirituality as feeble-mindedness. In reality, Millie is not feeble-minded at all.  However, her spirituality has led her to tolerate far more abuse from Tom than she  should have.   I pointed out to Millie more than once that it was not her job to save Tom. She works – as do I, also – with people who are looking for a better way to live, who want to be free of their problems.  Tom does not belong to that group.  Rather, he would hate to be free of his approach to life.  He does not see it as a problem.  It is what makes him the man he is. Tom has no interest whatsoever in spirituality.  He is cynical, manipulative, and materialistic approach is the foundation for his – materialistic -success.  That is not to say that anyone has to live the way Tom does in order to be successful.  It is simply a method that works for Tom – at a cost. But it is a cost that Tom is happy to pay. Millie believes that Tom, just like everyone else, is a child of God.  By right, he should, therefore, behave like a child of God.

Choices and responsibilities

She has been making his behavior, and his choices her responsibility.  She had been trying, with the best possible intentions, to propel him along her spiritual path.  Her logic ran along these lines:  “Since Tom, also, is a child of God, he should be making the kind of choices I am making, rather than the kind of choices he is making.”  (Tom, it should be said, has no wish to see himself as a child of God.) Actually, neither Tom’s spiritual path not his choices are Millie’s business. Besides, as Marianne Williamson says: “Any man who holds a woman back is not a man a woman can afford to be with.” Tom held Millie back every which way for as long as she would let him – because that is what a man like Tom does. Millie’s spiritual journey cannot be about Tom. When she is focusing on what he most needs (in her opinion) she is not focusing on herself. She would prefer to save Tom from his dark side than get to grips with her own.

Flaws and imperfections

Too many people, like Millie, would like to use their spirituality to shield themselves from their own flaws, and imperfection. When we try to shield ourselves from our flaws and imperfections, we are trying to run from our wounds.  For as long as we do this, we cannot be healed. However, there is no need for anyone to be perfect. If you are spiritual, all that you have to do is surrender your flaws and imperfections to a Higher Power.  You obviously cannot do that until you are prepared to accept them. Even if you are not spiritual, you still have to accept your flaws and imperfections before you can surrender them on your path to wholeness and happiness. Either way, there is a message we need to take on board. Acceptance of who you are – shadow side and all – is hugely important.  You cannot be who you truly are for as long as you shift the focus away from yourself, and try to deny some part of who you think you are. Your shadow side does not make you bad. Especially if you see it simply as a spur to your growth. Acceptance is about owning your flaws and imperfections so that you can grow beyond them. You do not need to sugar-coat anything about yourself – or other people – in order to be spiritual. You simply need to own your feelings and surrender them – so that you can be so much more than whatever flaws or imperfections you may have.

THE PROBLEM WITH THOUGHTFUL PEOPLE

Do you know what the problem with thoughtful people is? We think too much for our own good.

See, thoughtful people can be great people to be around – because thoughtful people do think deeply, and they are people who are considerate of other people.  That makes them nice to be around.

But it's not always so great to be a thoughtful person. Life inside the skull of a thoughtful person isn't always the best fun.

Why?

Because thoughtful people tend to think about pretty much everything – except how they can be kind to themselves.

(“Wash your mouth out, Annie. Pouring yourself a cup of the milk of human kindness goes against the grain, the rules, and – quite probably – the Immutable Laws of the Universe.”

“Bah! Humbug!” say I.)

Let's be clear and open for a moment – after all, this is just between us: thoughtful people have been known to focus on the wrong things. The exact wrong things.

When something goes wrong, what do thoughtful people think?

They think:

How am I to blame for this?”

That's a great question... if you want to give yourself a hard time.  Otherwise, it stinks.

It isn’t even a 'learning' question. You won't learn very much of any use from the answer. Maybe you start from the premise that it probably must be your fault (yes, I know that probably must aren't words that should sit well together, yet that is the way that a lot of us end up thinking, unawares.  In which case, you aren't going to come up with much that will help you to move forward with the self-belief you deserve.

And you're certainly not being kind to yourself.

So, how do you move forward from there?

How about becoming a little more mindful, and rather less thoughtful.

It's good to think – deeply, if you must - about specific issues; like the best way to get a concrete task accomplished. But there's not much to be said for thinking deeply – especially thinking deeply, repeatedly- about your emotional state.

Our own emotional states fare better when they are managed rather than thought deeply about.

 

Most of the clients I work with get stuck not because things are so bad – although sometimes things are quite bad – but because they hit a road-block in their thinking. And like one of those battery-driven toys – or an inefficient robot vacuum cleaner – they keep banging up against the same old obstacle, instead of changing course.

Thoughtful people don't think as much as they could about the benefits of resetting their course.

Think Sat Nav if you will. Sometimes, you have to change your route in order to get to your destination. Unless you happen to like hold-ups, and traffic black-spots. And who does?

Thoughtful people can easily get stuck at the emotional traffic black-spots, because they don't realize they can just change course.

There's no shame in that.

Actually, there's often a lot of merit in it.

If you're a thoughtful person, and you've been hitting your head against the same (type of) obstacle, maybe you just need to think bigger.

Keep your eyes on your ultimate destination. It's good.

Now think about a course that will take you round the  emotional traffic black-spots. There's bound to be one.

Oh, and don't sit down and cudgel your brains to do that.

That would be getting all kind of thoughtful again. In other words, you'd be falling back into the same old counter-productive thoughtful pattern.

Instead, take time out. Do nothing for a while. Or do something totally different. Or else do something mechanical that leaves quite a lot of your brain to roam free and allow new ideas to pop into your head.  

Brilliant!

Do yourself a favour. Give thoughtful a rest, and allow playful, or creative, to take centre stage instead.

And you might as well prepare for some better results. You'll surely get them.

 

 

  1.  Give yourself credit for everything you do. Other people may, or may not, be as appreciative as you'd like them to be. That's just the way it is. Make sure you give yourself a pat on the back for everything you've done.
  2.  Make sure you have some time for yourself. Christmas is a great time for indulging in your usual trick of putting yourself on the back burner. Well, don't! Be sure to set aside even 10 minutes a day to spend in some way that you like to spend time. You could just lock the bathroom door, and spend some quality time with the bubble-bath. Whatever works for you.
  3.  Stop trying to be Superwoman. Last thing I heard, Superwoman's job is not up for grabs. So, how about you accept being you, instead of trying to rescue and perfect everybody else' Christmas world.
  4.  Make a point of registering every last bit of appreciation you get. It's easy to be too focused on what you have to do next, to be mindful of the positive feedback that comes your way. Appreciation is one of the gifts that you deserve not just at Christmas, but every day. At least over the Christmas period, make sure you enjoy that gift.
  5.  Laugh. Superwoman never has time for a good giggle. She's too busy saving the world. She's been missing out. Don't you do that. Be sure to look for the fun and laughter in every moment. It will even increase your stamina.
  6.  Make lists. Then cross off several of the things on the list, right away. If you're a people-pleaser, you're always trying to do way too much. Look at that list, ask yourself which things on it people won't even notice, and then cross them off, right now.  You’ll still have more than enough to do.
  7.  Add three new phrases to your vocabulary: “Could you help me with that, please?” “Could you do that for me?”, and “Would you like to do X to help, or Y?” You might be amazed at the difference it makes.
  8. Do NOT even think of getting stressed until you have asked yourself this question: “6 months from now, will it even matter?”  If it won’t, then it’s clearly not important enough to worry about now. 
  9. Don’t take it personally.  Mishaps happen.  People throw hissy fits, or go into Drama Queen mode – because that’s what they do.  You didn’t make them, and it’s not your fault.  Don’t make it about you.  Not even if they tell you it’s about you.  It’s still their reaction to a situation.   
  10. Set a time limit on any bad feelings that may come up.  Spoil them: give them your full, undivided attention for 10 minutes.  Then tell them: “On your bike!”  We’re not talking metaphorically, here.  Really visualize those nasty little critters, and then see yourself saying to them just that: “On your bike!”  Watch them as they struggle onto their bikes, and wobble off into the distance.  You are now free to enjoy the rest of your day.

 MinnymouseChristmas

 

 

Ten Quick Tips for Great Relationships

 My elderly mother belonged to the generation who learned to drive by getting in a car and... well, 'driving'.   Her first attempts were pretty hair-raising.  But, gradually, she learned to crash less, and maintain better control of the car.  Too many of us women do relationships in much the same way.  So, here are a few quick, fun, tips to help take the 'car crash' out of relationships.

Enjoy! 

  1. Discover who you are first, and then be sure to be yourself - from Day 1 on.
  2. Have a life worth living.  Don’t look to a partner to provide something for you that you aren’t providing for yourself.
  3. Don’t put your hopes in being able to tweak, change, or improve a partner over time.  A man is not a makeover project.
  4. Keep your sense of humour; and choose someone whose sense of humour is kind and gentle. 
  5. Don’t bother signing up for a Bad Boy, unless you’re happy to sign up for Bad Times.
  6. Don’t expect your partner to be a mind-reader.  At least, don’t expect him to be a mind-reader unless he has made a handsome income out of mind-reading – professionally - for 40 years, or more.
  7. It really helps to ask him the questions you want answer to.  It beats assuming, guessing, and projecting, every time.  Especially if you respect the difference between asking and interrogating.
  8. Don’t imagine that if you both bring unresolved baggage to the relationship, that shared baggage will be baggage halved.  It won’t.  At best, it will be baggage doubled.  At worst, it will be baggage multiplied.  A relationship is not a Get Out of Doing the Work on Yourself card.
  9. People with anger issues are best avoided.  You want a partner, rather than a life as a lion-tamer.
  10. You can’t just cherry-pick the aspects he reveals when he is at the top of his game.  Find out what his behaviour is like when he’s at the bottom of his game.  If you don't like what you see, then he’s not a good match for you.   There’ll be too many times when he is at, or near, the bottom of his game.  That's life.

“Sometimes, it’s hard to be…”

As I often mock complain to my lovely partner: “Sometimes, it's hard to be a woman. You can't argue with Tammi Wnyette.” (He's wise enough to simply nod in agreement.) 

Giving all your love to just one man” can be hard work - if he's one of those tiresome men who:either don't deserve it, or don't reciprocate. 

Unfortunately, there are other reasons, too, why it's hard to be a woman. It has a lot to do with the relationship we women have with ourselves. To say that the milk of human kindness doesn't run through our veins when we're deep in our own internal dialogue is putting it mildly. 

Most women are caring, compassionate, and empathetic – except when it comes to themselves. When it comes to them, they rarely miss a chance to remind themselves of everything that's wrong with them; as in, they don't have the body of Elle Macpherson, the youth of Jennifer Lawrence, the looks of Angelina Jolie, or the brains of Carol Vorderman. 

Do we women spend a lot of time comparing ourselves negatively to other women? 

Er... YES! 

The worst thing is, that most women don't have a clue how negative they are being: it just feels “natural”. It wouldn't feel natural to put friends, or children down, in that way. (The one person I cheerfully put down is my little dog Basil – who I often refer to as "The Snuggly Ugly". I can do this not just because he really is drop-dead gorgeous, but because he truly couldn't care less. He doesn't have have an issues with being lovable: he's perfectly comfortable with who and what he is.) 

Wouldn't it be nice to have Basil's deep sense of self-worth? To have his strong belief in being great exactly as you are? 

So, how do you do it? 

It has a lot to do with NOT taking 'thoughts' too seriously. 

There is Thought, that it is to say the capacity for high-level abstract thinking – which is one of the glories of the human brain. And then there are the 'thoughts' that knock around most people's heads, most of the time. These 'thoughts' are little better than detritus, left over from popular culture. 

A cursory reading of the papers over the past few days tells me I should definitely be adding:

  • bingo wings
  • back fat
  • liver stains on my hands, and
  • ageing vocal chords 

to the - almost infinite - list of imperfections I could be agonizing over. 

Does one woman even have enough time in her busy day to agonize over all her alleged physical, and emotional imperfections? 

More to the point, why bother? 

Is it not a waste of our brain-power, and our quality of life? 

When you get caught up in this mental detritus it doesn't make you feel good, at all. 

Michael Neill speaks about how we 'get caught in the feeling of our thinking'. That may sound complicated. It isn't. It simply means that our negative thoughts feel awful, so that when we pay attention to them we end up feeling awful. 

What to do instead? 

Acknowledge that your 'thoughts' are all over the place – that's their job description - and remind yourself that you, and your quality of life, are more important than the burning issue of being humanly imperfect. 

Even when your thinking may feel disastrous, it's just what's going through your head at a given moment. Past experience tells you that those feelings can disappear. Since they can disappear, it just goes to show that they don't have to be fixtures. Which means you don't have to put yourself through the misery of letting them run the show. 

When we let our 'thoughts' run away with us, it's harder to be a woman than it needs to be. There are better anthems around than “Sometimes it's hard to be woman”. What anthem chimes best with you? 

Are You Working Too Hard?

Are you be working too hard?  Especially at your relationships? Did last week's post about your job description trigger any thoughts about overworking? 

Most women overwork at their relationships. Of course, there are some notable exceptions: you can probably think of a few. But, in the main, overworking is what we're programmed to do. 

Our culture loves the concept of Hard Work, for many reasons: 

  • it supports the belief that we have to earn everything – including love
  • it suggests we're not – perish the thought!! - greedy: at least, we aren't trying to get something for nothing
  • hard work is seen as a virtue
  • whether or not it brings us rewards, hard work is meant to be it's own reward
  • it's the opium of the people - okay, that's me being flippant! 

Back in the day when I was a mere slip of a singleton, my mother told me to find myself a workaholic businessman (I think she, actually, meant a workaholic millionaire businessman). Why? Because she'd read something that suggested he would be too busy focusing on, and obsessing over, his precious business to stray! And if he wasn't actively straying, then we were just bound to be happy ever after, weren't we? 

Hmm! 

Mother's logic wasn't always flawless. 

Hard work, per se, is not so much a fulfilling Life choice as a Life-avoiding choice. 

In a curious sort of way, that holds true of relationships, too. When one partner is working their socks off in the relationship, it allows the other NOT to engage. The hard-worker will always pick up the slack. Picking up the slack is a job that 'just grows' – like the mythical Topsy. 

The hard-worker will keep doing the 'spade'' work. What they won't do is hold the other partner accountable. That requires quite a different skill-set. It requires them to hold the line, and step back. It requires them to give the other person the space to choose their own behaviour, and the time to make their own choices: choices you may not particularly like. 

What I've discovered from all the years working with hundreds and hundreds of women is that most women start working too hard at their relationships, virtually from Day 1 on. 

Why do we do it? 

Because: 

  • we believe that we have to earn everything – especially lasting love
  • it proves you're unselfish: at the veryleast, a partner will have to acknowledge you're not greedy, since you aren't trying to get nearly as much as you give. (Not until your partner finally has that 'light-bulb' moment, anyway.)
  • hard work is seen as a virtue
  • hard work is meant to be it's own reward 

What's more, it proves you are reassuringly low maintenance – as in, “You would not believe how emotionally economical I am to run” 

And, although my mother would never have put this into words: it may well leave you too busy, and too exhausted for an affair. 

How do you know if you are working too hard at your relationship? 

  • You frequently feel tired and drained
  • You're not getting heard – how much effort does it take, for Heaven's sake, for someone to LISTEN to you?
  • You're making excuses, or saying: “I'll be happy WHEN...”
  • The list of your chores goes on and on
  • It's been a while since you've heard much in the way of a heartfelt “Thank You”
  • You've just taken delivery of a new Superwoman suit... 

I don't think being Superwoman was a lifestyle choice for... Superwoman. But what I do know is this: understudying for Superwoman is a poor lifestyle choice for lesser mortals. It gets in the way of you getting what you really want. 

When you can't hold your partner accountable for his behaviours, you can't ask for what you need. 

When you can't ask for what you need, you stand next to NO chance of getting your needs met. 

Just because you can work flat out at your relationships doesn't mean you should. 

Superwoman got it wrong, bless her. Poor soul, she was so 20th century. She got it wrong, but you don't have to. Why not show her a better role model for the 21st century?

Are You Clear About Your REAL Job Description?

What's your job? 

I don't mean your job as in the world of work, I mean your job, in terms of your relationship. More specifically, what's your Job Description. 

Now, I know you probably don't have a formal, written one. Sure, you could argue that 'wife'' – or, for that matter, 'husband' – is a job description, in and of itself. And you'd have a point. But 'husband' and 'wife' aren't very clear job descriptions. They mean one thing to one person, and something else to another. So, my question to you is this: 

As a 'girlfriend/partner/wife which parts of the relationship do you feel are your responsibility? 

You see, over the years of working with clients, I've discovered something very important. Everyone has had a very specific job description programmed into them, where relationships are concerned. That doesn't mean they're even conscious of that job description. Most likely, they are not. But still, they do their level best to live up to it. 

Common features I've come across include: 

  • Must do everything possible to make things right for their loved one(s)
  • Must be willing to work long hours without expecting to be rewarded for overtime
  • Must be a background player
  • Must be an energetic, creative, hard-working, self-motivating problem-solver
  • Must be adept at establishing and maintaining strong relationships with difficult people
  • Must be able to analyse unsuccessful initiatives to improve future ones
  • Must have ability to take ownership of any task
  • Must be willing to commit to the job 365 days a year, including Public Holidays  

If anyone advertised a job like that on the open market, they probably wouldn't get too many takers. 

Might a job like that end in burn out? 

Does it have to be like that? Absolutely not. There are such things as job sharing, delegating, negotiating better terms and conditions that could be factored into what your responsibilities. 

However, if your unwritten – and unconscious – job description runs along those lines, you'll probably just keep on working your socks off. 

So, how do you do it differently – always assuming that you'd like to? 

You could start by asking your 'employer' for better working conditions. But you could run into a problem. See, your 'employer' may have benefitted from your job description. Chances are, they accepted it. But did they actually write it in the first place? Or did you take it into the relationship? 

The real question though, is what do you do about it? 

You could try simply doing less. But you'll probably end up feeling a bit guilty. 

So,what does that leave? 

Taking a good, hard look at that job description of yours. It sounds outdated to me – it probably sounds outdated to you when you start to review it. First, you make sure you understand all of the terms in it. Next, you choose the ones you want to modify. Then you rewrite the thing. 

When you do that, you'll have a better chance of ending up with a job description that works for you. And a contract that will work well for both you and your partner.

Who Are You Appreciating?

If you had to name the one thing that keeps relationships running smoothly, what would it be? 

Love never goes amiss, certainly. But you don't have to knock around the planet for a whole lot of years to know that not everyone means the same thing by 'love'; and some people's idea of love is a tad controlling, or tough, for other people. 

Respect definitely has its place. But a lot of us have had the unpleasant experience of being at the receiving end of people demanding respect. Sadly, respect isn't always a two-way street. And it doesn't always come combined with love and warmth. 

Sex – well we can hardly overlook it, can we? - has its place. Lovemaking is a precious aspect of a healthy, intimate relationship. But it's not going to be the thing that keeps all your relationships running smoothly. 

The thing that I would – do – nominate is appreciation. 

Appreciation, generally speaking, is seriously under-used, and under-valued. 

Criticism, whether or not that's constructive criticism, is something that most of us seem comfortable using. The old notion of sparing the rod and spoiling the child still casts a long shadow over society. Most of us seem to feel that giving too much appreciation will give the person on the receiving end an inflated idea of their own importance. 

Not true. 

In all my years of coaching, I haven't encountered too many truly confident people – that is to say, people who feel truly comfortable with the idea that they are worthy, lovable people. Most of us – if we're lucky – are confident in some areas of our life, but not in EVERY area of our life. 

That's what makes appreciation so valuable. 

Most people can do with more appreciation in their lives. A lot of people are downright hungry for appreciation. Either they don't get it, or else they have been so well trained not to 'get above themselves', that they don't hear it. (You probably know people who make dismissing appreciation/compliments an art form. Maybe one or two of those people are very close to home, indeed. When anyone says something positive, they quickly reply: “That? Oh, it's nothing special.” So, instead of hearing the positive thing, they simply reinforce their own belief about being nothing special.) 

How do you get more appreciation into your life? 

Well, you could start by giving yourself some appreciation!!! I know that sounds faintly indecent but, think about it: denying yourself appreciation isn't a fabulous way to encourage, motivate, and inspire yourself. Appreciating yourself means catching yourself doing something right and giving yourself the credit for it. (As opposed to catching yourself doing something 'wrong' and giving yourself hell for it.) 

You could, also, start to offer appreciation, occasionally, to the adults in your life that you don't habitually express appreciation for. (Funny, isnit it, how for a lot of us, that means our 'nearest and dearest'?) 

Why should you show appreciation to the people in your life who aren't showing you too much appreciation? Because appreciation has to start somewheere. If you start the process, then you can be sure it will start. Whereas, if you leave it to someone else, it may – or may not – happen. 

And in case you're wondering, will they think you are being insincere? They probably won't. The chances are they'll be too busy basking in the good feelings. If they do, then that is their problem to deal with, not yours. You can only do a right thing, you can't make other people experience it in the way in which it is intended. 

Appreciation is a brilliant tool. It can transform relationships, and open the way to a more meaningful dialogue, where there has been little true communication before. For many of my clients it has transformed the relationship with parents, partners, children, and friends. 

We all want to be heard and acknowledged. Showing appreciation gives another person that experience. When they truly take that gift on board, chances are, they'll want to start giving more back to you, too. 

Who are you appreciating?

What Does It Mean?

Ylemonssmallou know that old expression: “If Life gives you lemons, make lemonade”? 

As I sit here sweltering in our extraordinary UK heatwave, the metaphorical dimension of that saying almost fades away. The thought of – iced - lemonade has its attractions... 

But let's stick with the metaphorical meaning for a moment: if Life gives you lemons, what do you do? What do you make? 

What do you tell yourself? 

What's the message you take from those lemons? 

See, Life is not just about what happens to you. Mostly, it's about the sense you make of what has happened to you. 

That goes for relationships, and pretty much everything else that happens in your life. 

It's all about the sense that you make of it, the meaning that you give it. 

On Saturday, I spent the day at an event where every speaker had a compelling tale to tell of hardship and struggle that finally led to success and happiness. 

All of them had had an almighty quantity of lemons dumped on them. Usually from a great height. So many lemons that they were decidedly bruised and battered by them. Those 'lemons' included pretty much every major trauma you could think of. 

So, did those speakers make lemonade? 

Actually, they're all making meaning of the experience – positive meaning. 

They're not asking themselves:

“How come I was minding my own business, and I ended up having half a ton of lemons dumped on my head?”

Is that a bad question, or what? 

Will that help anyone to 'get out from under'? 

For every one of them, the moment came when they asked themselves: “What meaning do I want to take from all these lemons? What do I want to do with them?” 

What do you want to do with the disappointing stuff in your life? 

What sense do you want to make of rhe relationships that haven't quite worked out? 

What meaning will you give to them? 

Will they be the things that brought bitterness into your life? The things that left scars and bruises? 

Or will they be the things that taught you what not to do? And who NOT to be? 

Those lemons can be the things that push – or inspire – you to step up to the plate. 

Just like everyone else, you get a shedload of lemons. What message will you take from them?

What makes the relationship so successful…”

One great treat of an English summer is the open air opera season. Last week, I was blessed enough to enjoy Glyndebourne (the flagship for English – not quite - open air opera). We met up with friends for a perfect tea, in the perfect tea-room. 

Before long, we got round to talking about our relationships. 

The reason behind our relationship success,” my friend said, “is that we can argue, quite fiercely. But there's no rancour.” 

A bad relationship is one in which rancour thrives. 

Back in the day, I was in a bad relationship. There was a lot of racour. I remember one evening we spent with another couple who were obviously blissfully well-suited. Even as I was asking myself what made their relationship so much better than our relationship, the other husband answered that question for me: 

The reason our relationship works so well is that we're very good at resolving arguments successfully,” he said. 

Light-bulb moment for that younger me. 

Some of us have been brought up in the Annihilation School. You argue to win, and arguments are wielded, like clubs, to ANNIHILATE the other person's position. 

Some of us have been grought up in the Bogey Man School. You're taught to avoid arguments like the plague – because someone's bound to get hurt, and that person will probably be you. 

Some of us treat a 'good' argument like a stag night: it's an occasion when anything goes and, with a bit of luck, there won't be any lasting ill-effects. Although you can never be sure. 

You can use an argument to gather ammunition – for the next argument – as well as to use up some of your existing supply of ammunition. 

One thing we don't use arguments for, too much is learning how to communicate better. 

(Learning which topics we need to tiptoe round is NOT learning how to comunicate better. That's just learning to walk on egg-shells better.) 

Learning how to recognise – and be respectful of – a partner's vulnerabilities, while still expressing your point of view clearly and constructively, is a very real way to communicate better. 

We like to be agreed with. 

But we need to be heard. 

When we're heard, we feel validated. 

When we feel validated, whether or not we win the argument becomes much less important. Because in a way we win, anyway. 

Validation creates the win-win scenario for both parties. 

What do you really need to feel validated?

Are You Long-sighted?

Are you long-sighted? 

As someone so pitifully short-sighted I can't even hold a conversation on the phone without my 'eyes' in, I always thought long-sighted people had the better end of things... Until I realized that – just like many, many other women – I used to do relationships the long-sighted way. 

What do I mean by that? 

You know how we women meet a guy and we start looking at the long-term? That is, the life, and the lifestyle we can fantasize about having with this man. You can get really into that, can't you? 

So, into it that you end up taking your eye of the ball, so to speak. 

You lose sight of the everyday small stuff that's going on. 

That small stuff falls into a few different categories: 

  • how he behaves towards other people
  • how responsive he is to your wishes, needs, and feelings
  • how his values fit with yours 

And here's the thing: 

It's NOT small stuff. 

It's actually The Big Stuff. 

Sure, The Dream has massive pulling power. Much more than whether he spoke nicely to the barista in Costa, or how short his temper can be when he's stressed at work, or whether he's prepared to accommodate your wishes about not leaving his wet towel on your floor, but... 

The dream is a fantasy. 

His behavior is a reality. 

It's going to be seriously tough to build that dream with a reality that's not quite fit for purpose. 

Let me tell you about a little research project I was privy to a little while back. It was a modelling project. Specifically, it was about how men and women who were good at happy, intimate relationships selected the right partner for them. 

It turned out they had a pretty rigorous selection process. 

By the end of one date,or possibly two, they'd decided whether the potential partner was a good fit or not. 

They didn't do “grey areas”, or “Yes, with a few tweaks, and changes”. They didn't make excuses, or bring up mitigating factors; and they didn't indulge in any “not sure, let's it another month, or two, or three...”

They were focused right in on the detail – the find print -if you like. They gave their intuition its head. And it worked beautifully.

That's a lot less romantic than being long-sighted, in the short term. But lasting loving relationships aren't meant to be for the short term, are they?

Have You Ever Wanted To Give Up On Men?

Have you ever said, “I don't want a relationship? I'm through with men?” 

If you have, I'd like to congratulate you. It could be the most sensible decision you ever make...

Provided you go about it the right way. 

It all depends what you tell yourself, of course. If you tell yourself a story of all men being bad news, and you always attracting the wrong ones, that probably doesn't serve to make you feel any better about yourself. 

If you want better relationships, you need to start with better beliefs about yourselfTWEET THIS

The path to better relationships starts with you feeling better about yourself. 

So, how about having a well-earned 'Sabbatical' from men, and relationships? 

The fun thing about a Relationship Sabbatical is that it is a time for learning, and growing, and consolidation. Sabbaticals came about as a time when people could focus on bringing something new into being. 

Like a new way of doing relationships. 

If bad relationships, and men who are not worthy of who you truly are, have kept showing up in your life, it means something: 

Specifically, it means that you have yet to discover a way of doing relationships that works to your best advantage – and to your partner's best advantage, also. 

A good relationship is one in which both partners can – and do - foster what is best in themselves, and in the other. 

Learning something new tends to mean acquiring a new skill. 

Much as I have always been fascinated by stories of people who wake up one day fluent in a language they have never learned, or had any exposure to, it is at best a freak occurrence. Most times, we have to learn how to do something new. 

Most things are within our reach if we just take the time to learn them. 

Certainly, having a great, lasting, loving relationship is within your reach, provided you just take the time to learn how to do it. 

Having a loving, lasting relationship is within everyone's reach. TWEET THIS

It really helps if you know what works, and what doesn't. It works even better when you understand why some things work, and why they do not. 

The best time to do that is... when you're having a Sabbatical. You've got time to explore, and experiment, and play, and learn, safely. 

I remember listening to an air traffic controller who said that, in his job, doing his best was never going to be good enough. He had to get it right every time. That makes sense, doesn't it? That's why the training was long and rigorous before he was ever let loose off the simulator. 

If you're tired of the Hit-and-Miss Method of Relationship Building, you deserve a Sabbatical, and some great beliefs about yourself. It will make all the difference.

“Do You Do This, Too?”

Lots of women have a special way of being – that is behaving – in relationships. Do you? 

It's like they suddenly revert back to an earlier version of themselves. 

It's an anxiety thing. 

It's as though everything they've learned, all the wisdom and expertise they've acquired over the years, doesn't exist. As though they do relationships from some small, needy place in themselves, rather than from their confident, mature, wise self? 

Ah but, Annie....” you might say. “That's perfectly normal, isn't it? That's because when it comes to affairs of the heart there is so much riding on getting it right.” 

I see. 

There's so much riding on it that... you have to give your anxiety its head, right? 

Let's look at this a little more closely. You want something in your life – most commonly, your relationship – to be a certain way. And you're not too confident about it being that way. So, what do you do? You go right into your head and you worry about it. You focus on the anxiety which tells you an absolutely beastly story about how bad things could get and... 

Not only do you let that story influence you in the way you interact with other people, but you expect other people to respond to your anxiety, too. 

In fact, you do your level best to make them respond to your anxiety. Even though your anxiety may not make a lot of sense to them – or even any sense, at all. 

Your anxiety is not the most intelligent, socially accomplished part of you, is it? 

If youwere able to put your anxiety back into its little box, where it belongs, what would be different? 

How would you behave instead? 

What difference do you think that might make to the outcome? 

You are so much more than your anxiety. Isn't it time you learned how to be free of that anxiety so you can have the life and the relationships you desire? 

What Makes A Relationship Magical For You?

What makes something magical for you?

What has to be there?

And what is not there?

One of the most magical experiences I ever had happened some twenty years ago. I was married at the time, but I had no idea that relationships could be magical. In fact, I still subscribed to Father's notion that, once married, Love was guaranteed to fly out of the window. (Or, at the very least, keep bruising itself very badly as it crashed, over and over again, into the hermetically sealed double glazing.)

It was a balmy, end of summer evening, and I was sitting – with the then husband – on a terrace in Tuscany, with another two couples. The other two couples were old enough to be my grandparents. And they were wonderful, vibrantly alive people. We'd shared food, and good conversation together. Now, we sat in silence, all of us, in our own way, savouring the moment, knowing that this kind of effortless warmth and connection was as good as it gets.

That never happened in my marriage. We never shared moments like that between the two of us.

But, then, I didn't believe it could happen.

It is what happens in the relationship I now have.

See, I'm a believer in everyday magic, in readily available peak experiences.

I like to get the most out of my life as often as I possibly can, without needing to climb a mountain, trek off to distant parts, or consume half a bottle of wine, or so, to make the world look rosier.

A magical relationship is all about sharing a deep, quiet – or not so quiet – joy in the here-and-now.

That can only be based on love, trust, and mutual respect.

Sure, there are a lot of other positive, nurturing emotions in the mix. But they all cluster around love, trust, and mutual respect.

That's what makes for lasting relationship magic.

The adrenalin rush of infatuation, and rampaging pheromones, are fun - while they last. But they don't last that long, do they? And, as with any other 'high' the come down tends not to be pleasant.

The magic of magical relationships, on the other hand, is self-perpetuating.

It's easy to settle for mediocre or Just Over Bad in a relationship. A lot of people do that, often for a lot of years. And they stop seeing – if they ever did truly see – that there is so much more they could have. 

How often do you take the time to think about what your magical relationship would look like – and feel like?

You absolutely deserve it. That goes without saying. But you do need to take the time to flesh out what that means for you. Otherwise, how will you ever be able to create it?

Will you do it?

Constancy

Just for today, let's take a look at constancy. Constancy, it seems to me, is a grossly underrated virtue, and one that can bring a LOT of happiness to your life. 

Isn't it funny how our parents shape our expectations when it comes to relationships. My father was one of those half-empty glass people. His take on relationships was: “When you get married, Love flies out the window.” (That was before the days of living together, otherwise he would have included cohabitees in his bleak prognostication.) 

When I got married, I was absolutely D-E-T-E-R-M-I-N-E-D to prove him wrong. 

However... 

Despite my husband's and my best efforts to keep the windows shut, Love flew out of the door, or burrowed it's way out under the floorboards, or maybe . 

Father's belief that relationships are a downhill spiral came true – bless him. Not because he was right, but because or the beliefs, expectations, and behaviours he programmed into his only daughter. 

You see, it's not about what is - or isn't - true and right. It's all about what we focus on – and what we expect. Deep down. 

If you're at all familiar with the Law of Attraction, you'll know that you attract into your life what you focus on. So, if you're still telling yourself some kind of negative story, and you still have deep-seated negative beliefs about what happens in relationships, then.... 

What happens? 

You end up focusing on the bad stuff. You remind yourself, over and over again, about what you don't want. 

The net result? 

That focus brings it into being. 

Not least because negative beliefs open the way to attitudes and behaviours that are also on a downhill spiral. 

What distinguishes good relationships from the downhill ones? 

A certain kind of constancy. That is – and I quote google here: 

Constancy - Noun

  1. The quality of being faithful and dependable.

  2. The quality of being enduring and unchanging

Constancy is a commitment to good behaviour, and loving attitudes. A willingness to believe the best of your partner... and yourself. An expectation, and encouragement, to behave from the best and highest part of the self. 

Constancy is, I feel, a rather underrated value in relationships – that is, I have yet to hear a single client say to me: 

I want to be with someone who is constantly loving, and respectful towards me.” 

Yet, when I ask them: “How would it be to be with someone who is constantly loving and considerate -even if they're cross?” they're blown away. They say: “That would be amazing. Is that really possible? 

Nobody, but NOBODY, has yet said; “Oh, yuk! That would be disgusting.” 

Smarmy is icky, and putting you on a pedestal is, well... creepy, and bound to be short-term. But that's not the same as being really seen, heard, and LOVED for who you are. And how you are. 

That kind of constancy works for me. How about you?