Some of My Favourite Relationship Resources

What are some of the most life-changing books and resources I’ve encountered in the past 25+ years of my personal growth and exploration journey?

It was very hard to narrow it down to just a few but here’s a start!

To be in healthy relationships, I think it’s essential that we have a healthy and loving relationship with self.  One of the most powerful books I’ve ever read on this is Susan Anderson’s book called “The Journey from Abandonment to Healing.”  She goes through the five stages of abandonment: Shattered, Withdrawal, Internalizing the Rejection, Rage and Lifting with a description of each and special exercises for healing.  I think everyone should read this book – whether or not you believe that you have experienced abandonment!  Her companion book “Taming Your Outer Child” is another keeper.  You will learn so much about self-sabotaging behaviour from this book.

Gary Chapman has written two very powerful books: “The 5 Love Languages” and “Love as a Way of Life.”  I encourage all my coaching clients to check out his 5 love languages so they can understand what theirs is, and the language of loved ones, whether it’s a spouse or a child.  When you understand your love language you can ask for what you need.  When you understand the love language of loved ones you can express your love in ways that are meaningful to them.  I think this is a real game-changer!  In “Love as a Way of Life” he talks about the qualities of being a loving person.  With descriptions and short assessments you can see if you walk the talk of being a loving person.  Again, a book that is very relevant to relationships

I learned about Alison Armstrong a few years ago from a male friend.  Since then, I have been to one of her “Queen’s Code” workshops, I’ve listened to audios, watched her videos and I’m a convert!  She has been studying men and women for over 25 years and she sees how women often expect men to behave like an ideal woman.  When they don’t women punish them and don’t honour who they are or what they are really good at.  I see this around me all the time and, through Alison’s work, I have learned skills and new understandings for really appreciating and connecting with men.  This is really important stuff!

Lastly, I really like a book by Daphne Rose Kingma called “Coming Apart: Why Relationships End and How to Live Through the Ending of Yours.”  She starts out with an examination of why breakups are so hard… and the overt and covert reasons we get into relationships.  The author doesn’t see ended relationships as “failures” but instead encourages readers to see them as opportunities for growth.  She offers a series of exercises to help with this process and to give closure.

I do customized coaching with my clients and I incorporate a lot of these resources.   It’s great to read books on relationships but it’s even more powerful working with a trained professional!

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5 Keys to Lasting Love

Well, February is the month of love they say (I prefer to think that every month is the month of love but I guess that doesn’t sell so many flowers, cards and chocolates!)

I was invited by my local TV company to do an interview about lasting love.  I didn’t get very long to talk so I decided to record a video and to write a blog about this because I think it’s really important.

I decided to narrow it down to five points although I have a lot to say about this topic!  Here are the 5 points:

  • make every day romantic whether it’s the time for a prolonged hug at the end of a busy day or taking time at bedtime to exchange an appreciation of one another
  • create a vision for your relationship.  What is possible?  Dream big because you are co-creating what YOU want!
  • honor your commitment.  I find that many couples don’t bring up the concept of commitment and that it’s just assumed – but this is really important!  If you make a strong commitment to one another – and keep it – you are able to express yourself honestly and openly and know that you have created a safe container.  This is where true intimacy comes from
  • take ownership for your experience and take responsibility for your feelings.  Nobody can “make” you feel a certain way.  Understand that your issues are your own unmet needs and that you can be triggered by things that wouldn’t faze others.  Learn how to communicate so each of you can express yourselves clearly and be a good listener
  • make your relationship a priority.  We all know it’s true that the more you put into something the more you get out of it!  I see a relationship as a garden that needs to be nurtured.  It needs to be watered and fertilized so that you both can reap the benefits.  Together you can grow and accomplish things that wouldn’t be possible alone.

I hope you have enjoyed my thoughts on what keeps love alive!  I love to do couples coaching so if you want a great relationship rather than a “good enough” one, let’s talk!

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How to be a Love Magnet

Have you noticed that some people seem naturally magnetic where others are prickly?  What are some of the elements that make some people love magnets?  In a recent speaking engagement I pointed out that most babies are love magnets without having to do anything: they are magnetic just by being themselves.  What happens over time to interfere with our natural birthright of being love magnets?  I think a lot has to do with others telling us we have been bad or wrong – or that we’ve disappointed them.  We start to doubt ourselves and question whether or not we’re lovable.  How can we shed ourselves of those negative messages and return to loving beings?  Here are three ways:

1) Fall madly in love with yourself! Celebrate your triumphs and be compassionate toward yourself when you make mistakes or believe that you have fallen short
2) Be friendly to others and create connections even if it’s just in a supermarket lineup! A friendly smile could be the highlight of someone’s day and it’s going to make you feel good, too!
3) Recognize the value of community. Get out there and participate! Make a difference in the world and shine that light of yours!

How might your life be different if you intentionally gave and received love with an open heart?  Why not give it a try?

With Valentine’s Day coming up very soon why wait for someone else to express love to you?  When you make a conscious choice to be a more loving person you can treat everyone you meet with kindness and compassion.  Many people save themselves and their love for a romantic partner but my belief is that if you don’t use it you lose it so why not practise love every day?

I have a friend who teases me about shining white light at people!  Actually when I walk down the street I smile at strangers.  Sometimes I get a smile back but often the person averts his or her eyes.  I hope someday everyone will feel safe to smile at a stranger.  I know it makes me feel good!

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Dev and Rachel need me!

love coach

I thoroughly enjoyed a new series on Netflix called Master of None which focuses on the life and love of Dev, played by Aziz Ansari. His love interest is Rachel. DEV AND RACHEL NEED ME!

Why do Dev and Rachel need a love coach? They, like many dating couples, are building the plane as they are flying it! How might things be different for them – and for you – if you really knew who you are, what you want, if you were able to communicate positive and effectively and if you could manage differences between you and your partner?

What is your vision for love? What do you think is possible in marriage? At one end of the spectrum is unrealistic fantasy of bliss that requires no work… and on the other end is the cynical belief that marriage is an outdated institution that clips one’s wings and that sucks the life out of people.
How can you have a partnership that enhances your life? First you need to know who you are and choose a partner who shares your key values and vision. Get to know him or her over time and determine whether you are both ready to make a commitment. I believe the key here is not to rush. It takes time to get to know someone. As you get to know the other person, you get to know yourself.

I believe that commitment is the key to a successful relationship. In this world of instant gratification and disposable everything, commitment might be a foreign concept to many of us. Think of what you’ve been committed to – whether it’s learning to play an instrument, learning a language or playing video games! Commitment takes dedication and focus. It’s also the key to getting results.

How might things have turned out if Dev and Rachel had me, as a love coach, in their lives? How might things be different for you?

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Always Hungry – for Love?

David Ludwig’s new book called Always Hungry? was released earlier this month.  He debunks a lot of myths about weight-loss saying that it’s not about lowering your caloric intake because you naturally get hungry and then have a tendency to overeat.  He advocates a high-fat diet rather than the high-carb, low fat diet that most people have been on for the past 40 years or so – because it simply doesn’t work.   For decades people have been trying to lose weight by following the “rules” but the rule book is flawed.  I imagine most people have experienced the hunger and deprivation of a “diet” and Dr. Ludwig gives us hope.

What does Always Hungry? have to do with love?  The way I see it is that there is a “rule book” about love in our popular culture.  It says things like:

  • you need to be young and attractive to find love
  • if you’ve met your soulmate you’ll recognize them immediately
  • chemistry has to be very strong right from the beginning or it’s not “the one”
  • don’t be your authentic self because you might get judged, dismissed and left
  • you’re no one until someone loves you
  • my partner should meet all my needs

I think that there are a lot of misconceptions about loved fueled by movies and other entertainment (similar to recommendations on eating from decades ago that suggested multiple servings of crackers and pasta daily)  The portrayals in the media of couples who have perfect relationships which seem to require no effort give people such an unrealistic idea of what is actually required.

What would my new rule book for love include?  One of my rules would be that you love yourself and having loving relationships with others rather than “saving” yourself to give love only to your partner – whether you currently have one or are hoping to have one.

Love is possible at any age, not just for the young and/or attractive.   I know someone whose 83 year old step-sister found love in a seniors’ home with a man of 84. Never give up!

Another rule would be that you acknowledge that chemistry is not the only indicator of a successful relationship but that companionship and commitment are also integral.  Once the sparks and passion at the beginning dim, what do you have left?

Be your true self.  Sometimes it feels risky but whether you’re looking for a partner or married, you need to have a strong sense of yourself so you will be healthy and whole even under stress.

Believing that your partner will meet all your needs sets you up for disappointment and sets your partner up for a lot of stress!  What do you need that supports, nurtures and interests you?  Maybe it’s a service group or your church or good friends with whom to share activities.  Be sure that you have a support system so you don’t expect your relationship and your partner to be everything.

Most songs about love and portrayal of love in movies and TV shows are about infatuation and romance, not about real love.  Romance sells, unlike the daily investment it takes for self-awareness and for co-creating a healthy relationship.

If you do the inner work and hone the skills necessary for a healthy relationship you will have a much better likelihood of feeling beautifully satiated and no longer “always hungry for love.”

 

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Master of None

I thoroughly enjoyed a new series on Netflix called Master of None which focuses on the life and love of Dev, played by Aziz Ansari. His love interest is Rachel.

DEV AND RACHEL NEED ME!
Why do Dev and Rachel need a love coach? They, like many dating couples, are building the plane as they are flying it! How might things be different for them – and for you – if you really knew who you are, what you want, if you were able to communicate positive and effectively and if you could manage differences between you and your partner?
What is your vision for love? What do you think is possible in marriage? At one end of the spectrum is unrealistic fantasy of bliss that requires no work… and on the other end is the cynical belief that marriage is an outdated institution that clips one’s wings and that sucks the life out of people.
How can you have a partnership that enhances your life? First you need to know who you are and choose a partner who shares your key values and vision. Get to know him or her over time and determine whether you are both ready to make a commitment. I believe the key here is not to rush. It takes time to get to know someone. As you get to know the other person, you get to know yourself.
I believe that commitment is the key to a successful relationship. In this world of instant gratification and disposable everything, commitment might be a foreign concept to many of us. Think of what you’ve been committed to – whether it’s learning to play an instrument, learning a language or playing video games! Commitment takes dedication and focus. It’s also the key to getting results.
How might things have turned out if Dev and Rachel had me in their lives? How might things be different for you?  Contact me!

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Authenticity is sexy!

The model for many standard romance novels is that the hero and the heroine play their cards close to their chests.  Neither really knows what is going on for the other.  There are misinterpretations and misunderstandings and then, finally, resolution.  This allows a novelist to create a book with lots of pages… but is this how you want to life your life?

How would things be different for you if you were truly authentic?  To me, it is much less stressful, for starters!  If you’re playing a role – and trying to be who you think the other person wants you to be – eventually it will break down because it’s not sustainable.  What do you have but a relationship based on people wearing masks?  How can that be fulfilling?

Being truly authentic requires courage.  It means showing the world who you really are: what you’re passionate about, what you won’t tolerate, what your views are even on controversial topics.  The beauty of being authentic is that people are then able to connect with you on a deep level.  Not everyone will “get” you.  Not everyone will agree with you, but when you are authentic you attract people who see you and appreciate you even if there are differences.

How is authenticity “sexy”?  I believe it’s because a fulfilling sexual connection requires intimacy, and intimacy isn’t possible without authenticity.

I believe that “the truth will set you free” and being authentic allows you to live your truth.  I invite you to take the brave step of showing the world your beautiful unique light!

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What are you Tolerating in your Relationship

“What are you tolerating in your relationship?” is a very powerful coaching question and one I invite you to ask yourself. I’d like to share an experience I’ve just had which I hope will be helpful to you. I met a man through online dating last October and we immediately felt a connection. It was very powerful and I described it as feeling like my “iron filings” were strongly attracted to his powerful magnet. We spent a couple of hours together and I reveled in the sense of awe, wonder and mutual recognition we shared. We both love Rumi, and spirituality is important to both of us. I kept marveling that I met a man like this on a free dating site! Who knew? What a blessing! (or so I thought at the time!)

As the following week went on, I had a text or two, and looked forward to getting together with him on the weekend, but he was too busy. I won’t go into all the details of this relationship which consisted mainly romantic of texts and vague promises. I won’t talk about the times I was disappointed when I asked for help and he didn’t come through. And I won’t go over the number of times I’d send texts that were simply ignored. I tracked all of this but what kept me going was that when were together it was wonderful. We both thoroughly enjoyed it but, sadly, these times were few and far between because he works 7 days a week.

Why did I stay? I’m a dating coach! Couldn’t I see the red flags within the first week? He was clearly not a good match for me but I was hooked. Now that it’s over I can see those hooks and I’m sharing my story with the hope that this will help you unhook if you’re in a dysfunctional relationship.

Hook#1: We believe what we want to believe even if it goes against our direct experience. I believed that someday we would have lots of quality time together reading Rumi, being deeply present and living The 40 Rules of Love (a wonderful novel by Elif Safak about the love between Rumi and Shams). My actual experience over 7 months was that we saw each other for about 2 hours every 2 or 3 weeks – yet I kept believing things would change. Wishful thinking!

Hook #2: My limiting belief was that this man is the ONLY man around who appreciates Rumi like I do and who really “gets” me. Every time I thought about leaving, my scarcity thinking would be triggered and I told myself that I may not find another spiritual man like this… even though I spent so much time sad, disappointed and feeling unheard. Once I worked through that limiting belief and embraced that there ARE other men out there, I was able to loosen the hook.

Hook #3: Chemistry! I learned a lot about the insidious nature of chemistry from this experience! It’s funny because I tell my middle-aged clients that chemistry isn’t so much about lust now, (not like in our 20’s and 30’s) but that’s just not true! The other thing about chemistry is that it gives you the sense that you have more in common with the other person than you actually do… and those hormones can actually make you think you’re soul mates! Unrecognized chemistry is devious dangerous and it can really mess with your wise judgment! It’s helpful to rely on your friends’ feedback about your partner so you get a reality check. When your brain is in a hormonal fog, this is next to impossible.

Hook #4: Margaret Paul (Inner Bonding) talks about our wounded self can get fiercely bonded to unavailable people because this is so familiar from our family of origin. That wounded part really believes it is possible to turn someone who’s unavailable into being available…. but, sadly, that can’t happen and it just means more pain for that part. There are many ways that someone can be unavailable to you: still married to someone else, unable or unwilling to open up to you; too busy to see you. I needed to comfort that inner wounded part of me so I could gently dash her hopes. The truth is that he would never become available. It was essential before I could move on.

Hook#5: Trying to make it all better by reframing it as spiritual boot camp. I wrote page after page in my journal. I read spiritual books. I did self-awareness and personal growth exercises. I tried to make his bad behavior OK. I blamed my pain on my monkey mind. I blamed my ego for being attached to wanting things a certain way (like being treated with courtesy and respect!) While I think it’s valuable to see things from different perspectives, there was really no way to see his neglectful behavior as acceptable. Treating others with consideration, courtesy, respect, compassion and care is non-negotiable in my view!  This is what I’m holding out for: to be treated with love and respect.  It’s basic!

I always encourage my clients to see the blessings in these sorts of experiences, and to see the lessons. When I recognized all that I had been tolerating, I knew that I had to take a stand and honor myself – and leave the relationship.

I deserve more and so do you.

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Dating as a Spiritual Practice

What is the goal of a spiritual practice?  For me, the goal is wholeness.

How can dating be seen as a spiritual practice?  Is it about finding “the one” so you can be whole?

That’s not how I see it.

In fact, it’s the opposite.  It’s using the trials and tribulations (as well as the triumphs!) of dating toward becoming whole and deepening your relationship with the Divine, God, the Universe or whatever term you choose to use.

Without a spiritual component, dating can be overwhelmingly daunting and frustrating.  If we come from a place of being lonely and desperately seeking someone to complete us or to make us feel good about ourselves, it’s pretty hard.  We often encounter disappointment, rejection and self-doubt…. how can we see the big picture?  How can we put dating into a larger context so the focus is as much on the journey as on the destination (of finding a partner)?

I believe that there are certain key elements.

Be aware of your resistance to being single:  I talk to many singles who are desperate to find someone.  They are terribly unhappy and think that if they could just find the right person, all would be well.  Because of their resistance to what “is”, they suffer.  How would it be to see being single as an opportunity, not as a curse?  How can you take advantage of this time to get to know yourself better and to explore what’s meaningful to you?  You can embrace being single and hold the vision of great love with a partner.

Practise compassion toward yourself and others: When dating it’s easy to be hard on yourself and to listen to your inner critic.  You’re not enough of this; you’re too much of that. etc. etc.  How would it be different if you were actually gentle toward yourself and if you chose to embrace your value?  And how would it be different if you saw other singles with compassion, knowing that they face many of the challenges that you do?

How can you get out of your own way in dating?  We often create obstacles to love with our limiting beliefs and attitudes.  When you hear yourself saying “all men…”  or “you never” or “you always” that’s a sign that there’s a part of you that is making generalizations that probably aren’t true.  Are you caught up in believing that all the good ones are taken?  That if people really knew you they wouldn’t love you?  These limiting beliefs and attitudes often run in the background and negatively impact our choices and how we are in the world.  When we have a spiritual practice we become more aware of these thoughts and we can make a conscious choice not to be led by them.

Gratitude: how can you be grateful for what you have – despite being single?  It’s easy when you’ve been disappointed in dating to focus on what you don’t have, rather than what you do have.  Making regular gratitude lists will help you see the big picture.

Trust: how would dating be different if we had radical trust that we are being supported and that we are given what we need?  I believe that trust gives us peace of mind.  My clients often wonder why it’s taking so long for their soulmate to arrive.  I think it’s about divine timing and true readiness on both people’s parts.  Joyfully anticipating being with our true love, and trusting that all is unfolding as it should, allows us to live happily and gratefully in the present moment… and to become truly ready to be in the relationship we desire.

We have a choice.  We can see dating as a necessary evil to find our beloved partner, or we can choose to see it as a spiritual practice.  What can you learn from the experience of dating?  How can you use dating to become more whole?

 

 

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