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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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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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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Being Single: An Opportunity not a Liability!

How do you feel about being single?  Many singles would much rather be in a relationship and feel like they are putting in time until their ideal partner comes along.  Other singles are relieved to be out of a dysfunctional partnership or an unhappy marriage and are afraid of choosing someone just like their ex.

How can you make the best of being single?

The way I see it is to use this time to learn more about yourself: who you are, what you want, and to acknowledge your part in past breakups.  What would you need to do differently next time?  Maybe it’s being more cautious about who you get involved with. Maybe it’s learning some new relationship skills like being able to communicate calmly instead of yelling.  Perhaps you need to cultivate the skill of seeing someone else’s point of view even it’s not the same as yours.

Over the years have you lost yourself?  I see this very often, in both men and women, because they have focused so much on their partner and kids that they don’t really know who they are.  Who are you?  What are your dreams?  What are your deepest-held values?  What is your vision of the relationship you want?  These are all important questions to answer before getting involved with someone new.  This is how you approach dating “consciously” instead of repeating old patterns or getting swayed by chemistry.

Being single is an opportunity not only to learn more about yourself, but also to appreciate your own company.  When you can enjoy time alone, then you can approach dating from a place of contentment and abundance, rather than desperation.  It is then possible to have a significant other in your life because you want someone, not because you need them to make your lonely and miserable life better!

Need some help in becoming your own best friend?  Seeing a counselor, therapist or relationship coach can be very helpful.   There is no substitute for the soul-to-soul connection and perspective of working with a trained professional.   Is this the next step for you?  I encourage you to see how being single is actually a wonderful opportunity for growth and evolution – and to see the value of reaching out so you can get there!

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Common Red Flags

Last week I talked about why we ignore red flags.  There are many reasons, often due to loneliness and other factors.  Sometimes we think it’s easier to stay with a person because the alternative of going back into the dating pool seems even worse!  When we have the ability to step back and look at the situation, and when we know ourselves, we can move through the temptation to ignore red flags and move on with the goal of finding someone who is more suitable.

What are red flags?  We all know that nobody is perfect.  We all have our shortcomings, so what is the difference between an annoyance and a red flag?

How someone loads the dishwasher, how they put toilet paper on the holder, how they squeeze the toothpaste tube – these are classic examples of annoyances for some people.  Some of us tend to sweat the small stuff more than others do!  We can choose to notice our reactivity and then look at the big picture.  Then we can realize that, in the scheme of things, these are not important differences.

Red flags are another story.  These are behaviors or situations that have the potential to be deal breakers and to undermine the health of a relationship.  Here are some examples: the person sees him/herself as a victim and blames others for their life situation; he/she reacts with blame, rage or extreme anger when frustrated; he/she consistently acts impulsively and/or irresponsibly; he/she is negative or pessimistic about things that matter to you; he/she is unsupportive of your goals and dreams; he/she acts with a lack of integrity; he/she dominates conversations and talks only about him/herself and isn’t interested in you.  The list goes on.  Basically, if you’re noticing these behaviors right at the beginning, they do not bode well for the future.

You may have your own personal red flags that aren’t universal.  For example, you may consider it a red flag if someone isn’t local, where others may be OK with a long distance relationship.  You may consider it a red flag if someone is a smoker, where others won’t care.  Same with drinking: depending on your history you may want someone who doesn’t drink at all, or drinks moderately, where someone else may actually want someone to enjoy a glass of wine or beer with.  Look back at your relationship history and come up with all behaviors that you now see as red flags.

You owe it to yourself to be mindful of any red flags you see in the early stages of dating.  Please pay attention and if there are behaviors that concern you or don’t feel right, move on!

Need help with this?  I have a Dating Red Flags Checklist I’d be happy to email to you.   Go to my Contact page and make your request!   This will be very helpful for you if you’d like to start dating with more awareness.   This is what I want for you: to have fun dating, and for you to find your ideal partner!

 

 

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Choosing the Wise, not the Easy, Path

Falling in love is so compelling.  We appreciate the companionship, the touch, the sense of belonging, the chemistry and the euphoria when we first meet someone and we think we’ve found “the One” at last!  A cocktail of feel-good hormones is rushing through our bloodstream… but what if one person really isn’t ready to be in a relationship?

I have a client who has done a lot of personal work and she believes she is ready for a relationship.  We’ve gone through my Relationship Readiness Quiz and she has given herself a high score.  We’ve talked about areas where she might need a little work, but she’s at a place in her life where she is really ready to date.

She met a man recently who is not ready for a relationship.  He recognizes that he has some things he needs to attend to before he can be the partner he truly wants to be.  They love spending time together.  They communicate well.  They have fun… but they are both aware of the red flags.

So… what should they do?  Should they proceed hoping that the red flags won’t interfere with the co-creation of a healthy relationship?  Should they be “just friends” for a while and see how it goes?  Should they go their separate ways?  What they have decided to do is to take a 6-month break, then re-assess after that period of time.  Does it feel risky?  Yes.  Neither knows what will happen in that 6-month period but he knows he needs to do some work.  Might she meet someone else?  It’s a definite possibility but they have made this decision because they agree this is the only way to have a strong foundation for a healthy relationship… whether or not it’s with each other.

This seems to me to be the wise path.  It’s not the easy path.  They enjoy their time together and bring out the best in one another.  As a relationship coach I have supported her in taking this step so they can both come from a place of health and stability.

Have you ever made a conscious decision to part from someone because that’s the wisest choice?  What has been your experience in trying to have a healthy relationship when one person really isn’t ready?  Please leave your comments below!

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