Susie & Otto


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

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

Allowing the pain in our lives to help us create closer relationships
All You Need is Love...
A Look at Your Past Year
Are your relationships getting better or worse?
Are your relationships skinny or fat?
Be Here Now
Being Clear In Your Communication
Blame: Letting Go of the need to be "Right"
Cold Mountain's Lessons of Love
The Common Relationship Game of 'Gotcha'
Compatibility---Is that all there is?
Creating an atmosphere of love
Embracing The Change Around Us
Everything isn't always as it seems
5 Steps To A Great Relationship
A Good Way To Change What Doesn't Work
How Good Can You Stand It?
How To keep From "Losing Yourself" at the Holidays
How to keep passion alive in your relationships
How to Use Completions to Move From the Past to a Promising Future
I'll Open My Heart If You Open Yours
Is It Really Possible to Attract Someone into your life that is your Perfect Partner?
It's Time to Let Go of Old Roles....
Kindness and Love Matters
Letting go of your stuck position
Oh, The Stories We Tell Ourselves!
One Way To Honor Your Relationship and Each Other
One Way To Honor Your Relationship and Build Trust, Part 2
One Way to Keep Your Relationships from Going Sour
The Power Of Giving Your Relationships a Spring Spruce Up
Raising The Bar on Love
The real issue when you want someone else to change
Recognizing Opportunities For More Love

The small things can sometimes make all the difference
Is Thanksgiving Everyday in Your Relationships?
The Relationship Dance of Smothering and Backing Away
Tips For Getting What You Want In A Relationship
What are you Noticing?
What Can You Learn About Building Better Relationships From a 950 Pound Pumpkin?
What Games do you Play?
What's Most Challenging In Your Relationships?
What You Can Learn About Love At A Concert
What You Can Learn About Love From Nancy and Ronnie
What You Can Learn From Margie About Relationships
What Relationship Movies are You Running in your Head?
Which is it: Love of Something Else?
Which of These Things Do You Do In Your Relationships?

A Look at Your Past Year

What can you learn about creating better relationships from what happened to you last year?

Much more than you think.

As we told you in last week's newsletter article, we've been taking time to do our personal and business planning for 2005 using a great book by Jinny Ditzler called "Your Best Year Yet!"

Because of this process, we've made some interesting observations about our personal and business lives that are going to help us create an even better relationship and a stronger, more thriving business in the coming year.

These insights are both simple and profound and we hope that you are able to use them in your life to create more of what you want as well.

So what have we been learning (and re-learning)?

Even though we are relationship coaches, authors and have done a tremendous amount of work on ourselves, we, like a lot of people, sometimes have to be reminded of what we already know.

During the planning process, Otto was amazed at how much he had "forgotten" about all the "good" things that had happened during the past year. As often happens, he had been much more focused at times on what he wanted in the future, what he wanted to change about his life, and what he could do better instead of what had gone "right."

Otto discovered during this process that when he appreciates himself, his contributions and what is already going "right," then he is actually paving the way in his mind for getting what he wants.

This is what happens in your relationships as well.

By celebrating what is going right in your relationships, instead of dwelling of what's wrong or needs "fixed," it actually helps you to create more of what you want because you are in a positive frame of mind and open to new possibilities.

We suggest you create a celebration of what has gone "right" in your relationships this past year and see what happens in your life!

For Susie, one of the most valuable aspects of this planning process was identifying the different roles she plays in her life and setting intentions for how she wants to live in each of those roles.

She asked herself how she wants to be as a mother/step-mother, a spiritual partner, a business partner, a family member, and a friend--to name a few of her roles.

So often, if we do any goal-setting or planning, it's in the context of what we want to accomplish in our business lives or how to be more successful. If we do planning for our personal lives, it's often tangible things we want to accomplish, like moving to a different house, paying off credit cards or losing weight.

If you look at the different roles that you play in your life and set intentions for how you want to live in those roles during this year, you will probably be looking at parts of your life that you rarely look at.

Do you want to spend more time with your partner? Do you want to have more patience with your child or be more loving toward your parent?

If you want to create better relationships in 2005, try being clear on how you want to be in those relationships.

So whether you are going through the planning process like the one we've been using or some other goal setting process, we suggest that you take some time to reflect on what went "right" in 2004 and how you would like to live in each of the roles in your life.

What we've discovered is that successful relationships (whatever that means to you) don't just happen by accident.

You have to decide what you want in your relationships and then and devise a plan for making it happen.

Our relationship is much better than anything we could ever imagined just a few short years ago. Now we know we can go even higher.

No matter how good your relationships are now in your life, you can make them better.

We appreciate the opportunity to help in whatever way we can.

Allowing the pain in our lives to help us create closer relationships

We've been sick for the past two weeks with colds and flu symptoms and at times, we've been in pain and have not been at our best with each other. We haven't been as creative as we normally are in our work. Plus, some old, limiting mental beliefs have surfaced for each of us and have kept us from being as close and connected as we normally are.

It's not only health issues that can cause old issues to resurface and come between two people. It can be any emotional or physical event that happens in our lives to rock our equilibrium.

While our recent illnesses were in no way serious, we were reminded just how easy it is to slip into distance, disconnection and disharmony with the people around us. We were also reminded what a gift it is to have another opportunity to heal what is unhealed inside us.

Painful situations can be very obvious like a serious illness, the death of a loved one or a divorce-- or they can be moments of frustration when our child is being difficult or not living up to his or her potential.

The point is that when we are faced with events that shake our world, even in a minor way, we have two choices--we can either stuff our feelings down and maybe lash out at others, creating distance between us and the people in our lives, or we can choose to use this situation to heal and create closer relationships.

It isn't always easy to do--but one of the keys to healing any situation in your life when there is pain is to find ways to allow yourself to feel all of your feelings--whatever they are--and to acknowledge that the pain is there.

We've discovered that physical pain can and usually does mask emotional pain. When we can recognize what's underneath our physical pain, acknowledge it and maybe talk about it, both the emotional and physical pain begins to lessen.

The idea is to shift your attention to be with your pain, to feel it and allow yourself to move through it, giving you another opportunity to heal perhaps something deeper than you realized.

It may mean getting some support in the way of therapy to help you move through it or it might be taking some time to meditate, do some journaling, talk to a friend or take a walk by yourself in the woods.

A woman we know lost her mother a few years ago and as you can imagine, it was a very difficult time for her. Recently, something happened in their family which triggered her to once again mourn the loss of her mother.

She allowed herself to feel her grief--she cried and then she called her son and told him about what she was feeling. As she talked about her mom, she realized that she felt a closeness with her mother and also with her son.

What this woman did was to acknowledge her painful feelings and then allow her grief to flow without hanging onto depression. She also opened to someone who loved her and who she loved and in the process, felt much better.

When you find yourself in pain and old feelings and possibly limiting beliefs are coming to the surface in your life, here are some suggestions to help you to heal:

1. Commit to healing and to love.

2. Acknowledge your pain--don't try to stuff it down and pretend that it doesn't exist.

3. Look at things in your life the way they really are. Be careful of the "stories" you tell yourself about the situations that happen to you. Don't create "stories" about the situations that make them worse than they really are.

4. Feel what you are feeling in your body--locate where you are feeling the pain and breathe through it.

5. Talk to someone who cares about you.

6. Allow the feelings to move out of your body. Give yourself permission to heal.

7. Don't distance and shut yourself off from your loved ones. Allow them to love you and allow yourself to love them back.

Even though it might be difficult, think of these situations as opportunities to move into a greater, more empowered you. It is possible to create closer, more connected relationships during these times and we urge you to have that as your intention.

What are you Noticing?

When it comes to creating great relationships, there's an important lesson about "noticing" even when it comes to seemingly ordinary happenings and events in our lives.

Take for example, writing this newsletter...

Sometimes when we sit down to write this newsletter, it goes really well and we're able to write an article that we think you'll find of value fairly quickly and easily.

Other times, it doesn't go as easily and we seem stuck in our efforts to bring you a meaningful message on creating better relationships.

That is what happened today. We just couldn't seem to get our ideas on paper.

When this happens, we take a step back to "notice" what's going on within each of us and in our relationship that's making it difficult in that moment to write about something we're very passionate about, like relationships.

Have you ever had a car that started making a small noise and you ignored it, thinking it was no big deal? Very often these "small" noises turn into something much more serious that require our attention in order for us to keep driving the car.

So it is with our relationships. If we ignore feelings of separation, distance, lack of trust, jealousy (you name it), those feelings usually only get worse.

We suggest that you start noticing when things are not quite "right" between you and another person--also within yourself.

This noticing is about becoming a non judgmental observer of your situation and the feelings that are arising within you.

When you are able to become the observer who doesn't assign blame but rather notices what's going on, you are opening yourself to making changes that will create better relationships.

Here are some tips for "noticing" what's going on in your relationships and in yourself:

1. Make the commitment to becoming more aware of your emotions. It might be some form of meditation, breathing or simply stopping what you are doing and listening to what's inside you.

2. Become aware of whether you are moving closer together or further apart. Do you feel open and present with this person or are you shut down in any way? The two of us have a tendency to withdraw and "shut down" from one another when we are triggered in some way and it may not have anything to do with what's going on between us. When we feel that we have withdrawn or shut down emotionally, we recognize it, call attention to it and get to the bottom of why it happened. When we do, we are able to reconnect in a powerful way.

3. Be open to receiving an insight or "ah ha" from your "noticing." You will receive the information you need to make the changes you want if you are open to receiving it.

4. Notice when you are feeling good and congratulate yourself when you notice how far you've come toward having what you want. Be appreciative of yourself another person if that person has contributed to your good feelings. Notice and appreciate you when it's going "right."

Whether it's in writing a newsletter article or anything else that we do in our lives, this "noticing" that we're talking about is one of the best ways we know to create closer, more connected and alive relationships.

How To keep From "Losing Yourself" at the Holidays

We read a great booka while back,"The Cultural Creatives," and in it, the authors, Drs. Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson, give one of the best descriptions of openness that we've heard--"Trusting yourself to listen to others and not lose your sense of direction."

We think these are good words to live by, especially during this holiday season.

One of the challenges for many people is to stay open to others and not lose themselves, especially during holiday get-togethers, with family, friends, co-workers and even intimate partners.

Many get caught up in other people's dramas, losing sight of who they are and taking what family members, co-workers and friends say or do personally. They get caught up in playing old roles and in old arguments before they realize what happened.

They step right back in where they left off, even though it may have been many weeks, months or years since they have been with those people.

Recently, Otto took his parents out of town to a family celebration. He found himself talking and mostly listening to a family member who had very strong religious views which were not the same as Otto's.

Otto found himself walking a fine line between being listening respectfully to this family member and expressing his own views in a way that could be heard.

If you find yourself in one of those situations, we suggest that you listen to understand and stay open to the other person but in the words of Don Miguel Ruiz, author of "The 4 Agreements"--don't take it personally. Be the observer and stay in your center.

How do you do that? Take a few moments to quiet yourself and check in with what you are feeling in the moment. (Even if you have to go to the bathroom to take these moments of quiet for yourself.) Breathe and get in touch with you. Find your inner sense of direction.

We talk a lot about being conscious in your life and in your relationships. When you are listening to people, a good measuring stick to find out if you are staying open without losing yourself is to ask yourself how it feels inside when you "try on" what they are saying or even how you are acting when you are with them.

Are you feeling joyful, excited or is there fear, anger, sadness? Are you acting out old roles that no longer serve you?

Honor the feelings that come up and tell yourself that you can choose another way of being if you don't resonate with the way that's being shown to you or if you no longer choose to act a certain way.

Is it important for you to express your viewpoint? If so, how can you express yourself so the other person can begin to understand you?

We've heard it said many times that people are afraid of committing to an intimate relationship because they fear that they will "lose" themselves. We say that you can't "lose" yourself if you know who you are at your core and live from that place inside you.

We think that your holidays, your relationships, and your life with be filled with much more peace and joy if you do.

A Good Way To Change What Doesn't Work

Because the holidays are here, we decided to give you a "pre-holiday" tip for enjoying the holidays with less stress and more love.

We know it sounds simple but the tip is--If there are things about your holiday or family traditions that you don't enjoy or that add unnecessary stress to your life, ask for something different.

Now, don't get us wrong--we think tradition is great and that certain activities and events can be very important in peoples' lives. Your family might have the tradition of serving Aunt Betty's special pecan pie and candied sweet potatoes each year at the holiday meal and everyone really enjoys these foods.

Here's what we're talking about...

For many years, Susie's family all gathered at her mother's for Christmas dinner and other family occasions. When it became apparent that her mother's Alzheimer's disease was preventing her from putting these meals together, Susie stepped into that role because she was the oldest. The problem was Susie began to feel resentful and stressed out when it appeared that no one was helping with these big meals.

When she decided that she no longer had to "do it all herself" and could ask for help, she began getting it.

Susie had to first realize what she was feeling, not ignore it, and then ask for something different in a way that her family could hear and understand what she was experiencing.

Recently, we received a great story from a woman who had purchased one of our books and we wanted to pass it onto you because it illustrates our point beautifully.

Here's what she said--

"This weekend we went to visit my mother-in-law. Thanks to reminding myself to use many of the same techniques and attitude approaches suggested in the book, I think we had the best visit ever. For example, just by "asking for what I wanted," we all ended up doing something besides just sitting around the old folks home. We definitely had much more fun. Even mom, who is 89 and in a wheelchair got out of her care home and went shopping for clothes, plus having dinner at her favorite restaurant. Both are things she hasn't mentioned wanting to do in ages."

This woman asked for something different and magical things seemed to have happened because of it.

Here are some tips for asking for what you want or something different:

1. Take a few moments, quiet yourself, and go inside yourself to find out what you are feeling.

2. Decide what you would like to have happen instead of what's currently happening or what probably will happen.

3. If it seems important, tell the other person or persons how you are feeling but if it's not important, simply make a positive suggestion about what you'd like to do or to have happen.

You might find that others are happy that you have made your suggestion and are glad to go along with it.

We've found that holiday get-togethers are very special times for families and groups of friends but they can be stressful and full of dread if you aren't actively participating in how your experience plays out.

The real issue when you want someone else to change

People write to us everyday--upset that their partner or mate isn't who they want them to be.... Suggesting that "if only he or she would only do this or that, or be like this or that" then everything would be just fine. They even say, "I've tried everything to get them to change--and nothing's worked."

We agree that change is difficult and the bottom line is that you cannot change someone else. You can only change yourself. 

A movie that has impacted us greatly is called "Pay it Forward." If you haven't seen it, we recommend that you rent it.  

The major premise of the film is that 11 year old Trevor wanted to change three people's lives for the better and they would in turn change three other people's lives. What he found out was that he couldn't change people the way he wanted them to change. But, he did impact their lives in ways he didn't realize.

Trevor tried to help Jerry, the vagrant drug addict, but Jerry just couldn't seem to kick the habit. Trevor thought he failed but his impact on Jerry was even greater than he thought. Because of Trevor's initial act of kindness, Jerry was able to ask for help from a person in the most unlikely of circumstances and take a step forward in healing himself. 

Because of Trevor's example of unconditional love and kindness, his mother was able to extend forgiveness and unconditional love to Trevor's grandmother who was an alcoholic living on the streets. No, the grandmother didn't kick her habit but she was able to take a tiny step forward.

What we are saying is, that no matter how we want someone else to be--they may change, but not necessarily the way we want them to. This is big reason we preach the value of "unconditional love." 

Now, we believe that you have to decide what want out of life and if the people in your life are ones you want to be there.

So, what do we suggest to the person who wants another to change ?

We believe that people can change. But, in order for a person to make significant changes in their life, they have to want to change for their own reasons and not for you.

Let go of the need to change them and examine your motivations for wanting to change them. If you are wanting another in your life to change, then your needs for the relationship are not being met. And that's the real issue-- it's that your needs are not being met. 

So, we suggest that you concentrate on what you want out of life and don't focus on the faults of the other people in your life. Those perceived "faults" will only be magnified if you do.

If you find that what you want out of life and what the other person wants out of life are so different then it may be that you can find happiness with someone else. It also may be that if the other person truly understands what your needs are that they can give you what you want.

Relationships do require constant effort but they don't have to be a struggle.

Relationship Quote of the Week

 "All relationships are a transformative experience. We transform and let go of old Identities, like the snake shedding an old skin." Angeles Arrien

The small things can sometimes make all the difference.

We recently had dinner with some friends at one of those "buffet" type restaurants. One of the women accidentally bumped into her husband at the salad bar and began courteously apologizing before she realized it was her husband.

Everyone at the table joked that they'd never heard her be so courteous to him. What she said next, completely astounded us. She turned to him and said " If I'd known it was only you,I wouldn't have been so apologetic."

What we've observed is that many people treat strangers with more courtesy and consideration than they do their co-workers, friends,loved ones and partners.

This may seem like an isolated event-- but it's really a metaphor for how many people treat those who are important in their lives.

In Susie's previous relationship, she often found herself walking through the house, straightening things up while her ex-husband was trying to talk to her. She didn't give him her full attention and chose to do numerous other tasks instead of focusing on him.

One of the things that we agreed upon early in our relationship was to give each other our full attention when we talk to each other. We are also very conscious of showing each other on a regular basis how important we are to each other.

So, what this has done is to help create trust between us. It's a simple and wonderful way to honor another person who is important to us.

Think about you kids, your co-workers or your partners... do you say "hello", "goodbye", "excuse me" and "I'm sorry" and give them your full attention when they are talking to you?

When we do our "relationship coaching" sessions with people, one of the things that usually comes up is that one or both people don't feel appreciated, valued and honored by the other.

Now, we're not saying that every relationship that's in trouble can be healed by only a kind word. But, we are saying that by consciously deciding to treat those people in your life with courtesy and love, you you are strengthening your relationships and helping them to become more vibrant and alive.

Our suggestion is to decide consciously to be an "uplifter" of others--even your loved ones. In life, what you send out usually comes back to you. When you send out pure positive, loving energy--that's what you'll get back.

Relationship Quote of the Week

Love allowed to flow in a trickle brings happiness in dribs and drabs. Love allowed to flow in volumes brings a happiness and joy until now unimagined. Otto Collins

Is Thanksgiving Everyday in Your Relationships?

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

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

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

Appreciation can come in all sorts of packages and here's a great example of that. Recently, Otto had a conversation with someone in which he wasn't owning and embracing some skills that he has. Later on, Susie pointed out to him that he did have those skills and he practices them on a daily basis. He told her how much he appreciated her for pointing this out.

That simple acknowledgement that he appreciated her for being his friend and advocate and helping him to see what he couldn't see himself is a little act of kindness that keeps the connection strong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start using these phrases and come up with your own as you begin making each day a day of "Thanksgiving."

Being Clear In Your Communication

Recently, Susie and her 6 year old grandson were traveling in her car listening to a tape of the comic adventuresof Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish. Amelia Bedelia is a housekeeper who takes her instructions quite literally. Reading the list of chores that her employer has left her, Amelia begins with "Dust the furniture." How odd, Amelia thinks to herself. "At my house we undust the furniture." Nonetheless, she dutifully locates the "Dusting Powder" in the bathroom, and proceeds to sprinkle it all over the living-room furniture and floor. Next she is asked to "Draw the drapes when the sun comes in." So of course, Amelia sits down with a sketchpad and gives it her best shot.

Her employers were quite upset at the end of the day except for the wonderful lemon meringue pie she baked for them. In the end, they learned to "speak the same language" so that the work would be done according to the wishes of her employers.

We think this is a great example of how we often communicate in our relationships. We speak and hear from our frame of reference, assuming that the other person is "following along" and is on the same page as you are. When the reality is, much of the time, they aren't following along at all.

When we first got together, we had an experience that illustrates this point beautifully. Susie asked Otto to shuck the fresh corn for dinner and then asked Otto to throw the corn husks in the yard. Just like Amelia Bedelia,he took what she said literally and threw them in the yard.

When Susie saw that he hadn't thrown them in the compost pile at the end of the yard but had thrown them in the middle of the back yard, she laughed. She laughed because she realized instantly that she wasn't clear in her communication and that he had done exactly what she had said to do!

We realized later that this incident was one of the ways that we built safety and trust in our relationship. In Otto's previous relationships, his partner may have accused him of "not listening." When in reality it was just one person not being clear in their communication and the other not asking questions.

Because we used laughter instead of accusations we learned a valuable lesson about being clear in our communication with each other. As a result, we were able to feel more connected because we approached the situation with love instead of judgement.

There's a line from one of our favorite songs that's worth mentioning here. The line is from Bruce Springsteen's song "If I should fall behind" and the line says..."Let's make our steps clear so the other may see."

This line "let's make our steps clear, so the other may see" is a wonderful suggestion we can all apply to improve not only our relationships, but our communication as well.

So, if you're a person who often complains that someone in your life doesn't "listen" to you-- take some time and think about whether you are communicating clearly or not. Remember, what you think is clear may not be to the other person.

If you're a person who often hears "you don't listen to me!" be sure and take an active role in the communication process by asking for clarification if you're not clear about something.

Be gentle with one another and laugh whenever possible-- after all your friend,co-worker or loved one is not the enemy.

Relationship Quote of the Week

"We can learn to stop struggling by realizing we're naturally buoyant. If we relax and persevere, we cannot drown . " Paul Williams

Compatibility---Is that all there is?

Last week we (and probably millions of other people) got an email from a company that promised to help us or anyone else find a "compatible" partner.

Since we're inundated with unsolicited, s*p*a*m email messages daily, we usually delete and ignore them.

The message from this dating service caused us to think...

Here is what the message said...

"Our TRUE Compatibility Test is the only truly scientific online compatibility test and the only one endorsed by Psychology Today. We measure 99 relationship factors to help you finally meet your most compatible partner, someone who you totally fit with."

While we're certainly not against compatibility, we think there's much, much more that goes into creating a relationship that is passionate, alive, vibrant and growing than just compatibility.

Webster describes the word "compatible" as "able to exist or act together harmoniously."

To many people, "acting together harmoniously" is something that they don't have in their current relationships and they would love to be with a "compatible" partner.

Sometimes there's the belief that compatibility means never having "issues" that come up between the two of you--there's "smooth sailing" and neither one of you is ever triggered by the other.

We don't think this idea of compatibility is what "alive" relationships are all about. We think there's much more that's possible for all of us.

We believe that one of the reasons we are all in relationships is to help each other expand, learn, and grow.

If you are helping each other expand, you are continually evolving and changing which may mean that the two of you aren't "compatible" at times.

We've found that a common denominator in truly alive relationships is a commitment to growth, change, authenticity and keeping the relationship alive.

How many "compatible" relationships have you seen end because the life had gone out of them and both people had stopped growing together? They had stopped doing the things that would keep their relationship alive.

If you're like us, you've seen plenty of couples in this situation.

Here are some tips that can help you create relationships that are more than "compatible", whether you are currently in an intimate relationship or looking for a new partner...

(If you are looking for a new partner, practice these ideas in other types of relationships.)

1. Make the commitment to growth and allow change. Take the time and have the intention to constantly bring new energy into the relationship. It might mean listening to each other when you are not being "compatible" or trying something "out of your box." It might even mean opening to a new level of intimacy.

2. Make a commitment to authenticity. Nothing can kill a relationship quicker than if there are things left unsaid that are building walls between the two of you. Sometimes being authentic is very difficult but we've found it's one of the main ingredients to having a relationship that's alive and growing.

3. Talk together about what you want for your relationship and your life. Take the time to focus on each other, your relationship and your life. We often get too busy constantly "doing" in our lives and forget what's really important.

4. Open your heart and never take your relationship or each other for granted. Recently, we talked with a friend of ours who's a cancer survivor. When we asked her and her husband what they most learned from this experience, both of them immediately told us that they learned not to take each other, their relationship and their lives for granted.

We think these are wonderful words to leave you with this week and hope that you will look beyond relationships that are merely "compatible" and choose to create ones that are vibrant, alive and growing.

Be Here Now

It often been said about the weather here in Southern Ohio where we live-- "If you don't like the weather, just wait 24 hours and it will change."

Today was absolutely gorgeous. It was one of those perfect and totally beautiful 70 degree autumn days and Susie took some time off to go rollerblading.

Since she's not an expert at it, every time her attention would wander from looking at where she was going, her skates would wobble.

She never fell but because she want to stay on her feet, she was constantly being reminded to keep her mind on skating and not on anything else.

This is a great reminder for your relationships as well.

One of the most important things you can do to help your relationships is to be entirely "present" with each other and to give your full attention when you are with someone.

Several years ago, when Otto was a salesperson for one of the region's major employers, he was taking some sales training and one of the first steps in the training process was what the trainer called--"Be here now."

In sales, the idea of "Be here now" is about being fully prepared to greet customers, knowing the correct pricing of all items, leaving all your problems at the door, and being prepared to focus totally on your customer or client.

Not only did the sales trainer show how this applied in sales, but he told us about a personal situation in his life that also gave an excellent illustration of what it means to "Be here now" in our relationships and the importance of doing this.

The sales trainer said that he was having one of those days where a million different things were going on. There were problems to solve and a dozen different pieces of paper strewn all over his desk when his wife called to tell him about a problem she was having with one of their young children.

He found himself just saying things like "uh-huh" and "sure" and "wow" and wasn't really listening to the problem she was describing to him.

Midway through her explanation of this situation, she suddenly stopped and said to him, "I'm really getting angry with you because you're not listening to me at all."

Needless to say, this got his attention.

He had not really been present with her. He was not really listening to her and was focused on other things.

As you can see by this story, there are really two important aspects to the idea or concept he called "Be here now." One requires that you, the listener, clear your mind of chatter, worry or planning what you're going to say next and focus totally on that person and what they are saying.

We believe that giving someone your full attention is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone.

Whether it's the clerk at the local convenience store, your mother, your mate, or your child--give them your full attention. If you don't have time at that moment,tell them that you will give them your full attention when you finish what you are doing and then keep your word.

The other aspect is that if you are the one speaking and you notice the other person "nodding off" and not following what you are saying, it's a good idea to do what this sales trainer's wife did and "call" them on their lack of attention--possibly by asking for their attention. Something like--"I have something I'd like to talk with you and I'd like your full attention. Is this a good time to do that?"

We've learned that many problems in relationships result from this very issue of not being present for another person. By not being present for that person, you are not honoring and respecting them. And by not speaking up when another person is not totally with you, you risk building up resentment and mistrust.

We've discovered that the concept of "Be here now" is really important if you want relationships that are vibrant, alive and growing.

Being present to us means focusing on what's happening in the present moment with yourself and between you and your partner and not allowing your mind to wander to the past or the future.

What takes us out of the present moment?

When we are too absorbed in the daily nitty, gritty details of life or just get too busy and too much in a hurry, we're pulled out of the present moment.

One way you can tell if you're not in the present moment is if you've got a lot of mental chatter going on in your mind. Mental chatter can come in many forms, like judging others and yourself, living in the past or making assumptions about the future.

Whatever form it takes, your mental chatter blocks you from hearing and understanding others and allows very little chance for true connection with yourself and with other people.

So this week, we suggest that you give the people you are with your full attention when they are talking to you. If the person you are with doesn't give you their full attention, ask for it.

If you do, we know that there will be a deeper connection between the two of you.

What Can You Learn About Building Better Relationships From a 950 Pound Pumpkin?

It's billed as "The Greatest F-R-E-E Show on Earth" and whether this is really true or not can be up for debate.

But, one thing is for sure-- there's a lot that can be learned about relationships from this event that happens every year at this time in a small town not far from where we live in Ohio.

Of course we're talking about the "Circleville (Ohio) Pumpkin Show"

What happens is that every year during the third weekend in October, over 200,000 people attend this 4-day festival in a town with normally 14,385 residents.

Schools and some businesses are shut down for the week and the town is transformed into a big street fair and celebration of the pumpkin. There's the usual carnival food, along with a full line of pumpkin delicacies like pumpkin donuts, pumpkin burgers, pumpkin pizza and pumpkin ice cream.

Some people come to see the world's largest pumpkin pie (It's is 6 feet in diameter and weighs 400 lbs) and some people come to see the large pumpkins. Last year's 1st place pumpkin weighed in at 950 lbs.

We couldn't help but think what it would be like if we treated our relationships like the people of Circleville Ohio treat their "Pumpkin show."

Most of the downtown streets are closed and the people of the town are inconvenienced. Funny thing is--the people not only accept this "inconvenience" but seem to embrace it as something that is "for the good of the town and the Show."

In other words, there's no blaming and finger-pointing about their inconvenience. They are just acting in kindness and love when many people might be upset because of how difficult it is to get around with this many people in a small town.

What if we treated each other every day--even when we may be inconvenienced or not feeling at our best--with this same feeling of love and caring?

As we said before, during this week every year, the Pumpkin Show is the focus of the community and everyone joins in.

What if we treated our relationships, especially those with our loved ones, with the same kind of focus and attention?

During the Pumpkin Show, there are parades at least twice a day and the streets are full of people celebrating and having fun.

What we've seen this week makes us think about questions like these...

  • How could we celebrate those relationships that are special to us more often?
  • How can we shower the people we love with more love?
  • How can we open our hearts more of the time?
  • How can we act with kindness more often?

These are great questions to think about. Ones that can make a difference in our relationships and lives.

So, if you're in the area, we invite you to visit the "Greatest F-R-E-E Show on Earth" and enjoy the pumpkin delicacy of your choice.

If you are or aren't able to attend, we invite you to bring a renewed feeling of focus, attention and celebration to all of your relationships and just see what happens.

What we know for sure is that the more we focus on, give attention to and celebrate the relationship between the two of us, the better it gets.

We're willing to bet it will work for you as well.

What's Most Challenging In Your Relationships?

One of the things that a majority of people find the most challenging about creating better relationships is being able to act from and be in a place of love even when they are triggered and when it's difficult and uncomfortable to do so.

Here's what we mean...

Yesterday, we visited friends who live about 1 1/2 hours from our home.

Because it was late when we left, Susie was tired and she wanted to get home as soon as possible because she had to teach a class this morning.

Otto was driving and stopped for gas at convenient mart on the way. When Otto went inside the mart to buy some water and pay for the gas, he also decided to search for something to buy to eat. From the car, Susie could see him leisurely walking down each food aisle and she began getting more agitated by the moment.

She got out of the car, walked to the mart, opened the door and in a very agitated tone of voice said "Could we go?"

What Otto did next was very different from the way he might have reacted in similar situations several years ago.

What most likely would have happened in a situation like this several years ago was that he would react from a place of fear, anger and rebellion instead of love, compassion and understanding.

Years ago, he might have thought the other person had no right to tell him what to do. He might have reacted negatively, harshly or with anger if he even suspected that another person was trying to tell him what to do or "restrict his freedom."

We all have our triggers and predictable patterns when we're upset or angry. Those just happened to be Otto's.

Years ago, Otto might have ended up lashing out at the other person or becoming silent, distant and cold.

What he did last night instead was what we are calling an "instant relationship breakthrough."

He initially felt himself react negatively to what Susie was saying to him but then shifted his thinking to his love for her and having compassion for her needs.

He quickly made a conscious choice to come from love and not fear, anger or the desire to be right. As a result of his decision, we stayed connected and there was no distance between the two of us.

Coming from a place of love can be very challenging when there is a perception that the other person is being critical.

It's important to understand that while we are encouraging you to come from a place of love, compassion and understanding as much of the time as possible-- we are not suggesting that if you are being emotionally or physically abused that you just "take it" and not do anything to help yourself.

Setting boundaries and expressing how you are wanting to be treated is important in all relationships.

The lesson in all of this is to approach every situation with as much love, kindness and compassion as possible because you have no idea what the other person is going through in the moment.

In order to create great relationships, it's important to act from a place of love as much of the time as possible no matter what else is going on.

If you think that doing this might be difficult, start by taking baby steps, noticing when you have a better awareness or more positive reaction to things that would normally trigger or upset you.

When you find yourself triggered, stop and take a moment to ask yourself "Will this reaction move me closer to or further from the love and connection that I really want with this person?"

This simple question may be difficult to do in the heat of the moment but if you practice it, it will become second-nature to you.

The more you are able to do this, you'll find that your relationships will be closer, more loving and more connected and your life will be much more rewarding in every way.

5 Steps To A Great Relationship

Someone wrote us a shocking e-mail recently. It was very brief and we couldn't help but wonder whether other people truly feel this way.

In the body of their note, they said-- "In my humble opinion, the only thing necessary for a relationship to work is great sex and that is all."

After we got over our initial shock-- we couldn't help but think that this is a person who has much to learn about relationships.

Let's be really clear, we enjoy making love and having sex as much as anyone.

What we've discovered about relationships from our own lives and from working with thousands of people from all over the world in our relationship coaching practice, is that "great sex" alone does not make a great relationship. There's much more to it than that.

If we could sum up how to have a great relationship in 5 steps, here's what they would be:

1. Decide what's most important to you in your relationships and spend your time, focus and energy on creating that. Many people go through life on auto-pilot, never taking the time to decide what is important to them and then living their lives according to those things. In order to have great relationships, you have to first decide what that means to you and then commit to having them. This doesn't mean that if you're in a relationship with someone already that you have to leave them to have it. Quite the contrary! One of the biggest surprises that many people who buy our book "Should you Stay or Should you Go?" tell us about is that by reading and going through the questions and exercises in the book, they find out (sometimes for the 1st time) what's important to them and what they haven't been doing to support those things in themselves and their relationships. We urge you to take the time to discover what is important to you in your relationships and then commit to moving toward having it.

2. Keep an open heart and open mind All of us bring our past experiences with us as we come together with people in relationships. Many times, we build walls between us and others because of past experiences that have been painful. We are not saying to ignore the lessons from the past but rather to acknowledge what you've learned and open your heart and mind with compassion for others. Before we judge or label others, be open to listening to understand where the other person is coming from. You may not agree with that person but if you truly listen to understand and acknowledge that understanding, you will feel a connection on some level. Opening your heart to other people requires us to risk. But if you don't risk, you may never have what you want.

3. Make your steps clear. Learn to know what is truly inside you--how you are feeling and thinking-- and then let others know who you are, your hopes and your dreams. Don't make the mistake of thinking that your partner, your friends and family are psychics that have a special crystal ball that lets them know what's going on inside you. If you don't share where you are in your life, you can never expect to get what you want and to have the relationships that you want. Make conscious agreements with the people in your life. A conscious agreement is between two or more people about what they expect from each another in a given situation. Ideally, you would create these conscious agreements in advance before the situations became real problems. Of course, following through on these agreements is an important element to their success. Conscious agreements can ward off problems and can be created for any relationship in any area of your life. They require you to take an inventory of what you want and then be honest with each other.

4. Commit to working through all challenges without running away. Many of us have not learned the art of "staying with" a challenge until it's resolved. We run away physically by leaving the room or we shut ourselves off emotionally by agreeing when we really don't mean it or by turning on the television, computer or television and retreating. In order for the relationship to grow stronger, both people must learn how to stay present and not get defensive even though there are challenges to work through. Here are some things that we do that help us not "run away" when things get tough:

  • Find out what "running" away means to each of you
  • Make an agreement before you have disagreements that you will not run away
  • If you are too angry or emotional to talk and listen, take some time to breathe and feel what's underneath that anger and emotion. That may mean time by yourself to clarify what you are feeling.
  • If you do need time by yourself, commit to coming back together at a certain time
  • Give yourselves some private time and space to listen and speak to each another. Turn of the television, look at each other and stay present.
  • Remember that you love each other.

5. Keep passion alive between the two of you What we're talking about here is not just sexual intimacy between two people but rather the aliveness and connection that comes from constantly growing together and appreciating each other. So many couples we see are polite with each other but the passion has died many years ago. There is no excitement in the relationship and both people feel like something is missing. No matter how many years two people have been together, we know that this doesn't have to be the case. Here are some ways to keep passion alive:

  • Treat each other with respect. Think more about the words you use, especially when you are tired, irritated, need sleep, or stressed out
  • See how gossip hurts people, including yourself and your partner, and work to eliminate it from your life
  • Try to replace words that hurt with words that encourage, uplift and give praise
  • In your thoughts, dwell on what your partner is doing right instead of what he/she is doing wrong

We realize that there are many more ideas we could talk about that go into creating great relationships but these may give you food for thought.

Whether you are not currently in an intimate relationship, in the beginning of one or making a conscious choice to try to improve an existing relationship--we believe that these are some practical things you can do to create sensational relationships in your life.

You can use these tips to improve any relationship and we invite you to put some of these ideas into practice.

What Games do you Play?

We recently talked to a friend who complained that the women he meets "play games" and even went so far as to say that ALL women "play games" with the people they are in relationships with.

As we thought about his comments, we are certain that playing games is not something that only women do but pertains equally to both genders. This "game playing" also isn't limited to just the people that we date or are in intimate relationships with. Game playing goes on at work, in social groups, organizations and in our families.

There are a lot of different behaviors that could be considered "gam playing" in relationships. Some examples of might be-- trying to intentionally make somebody jealous by being with another person; telling someone you are busy when you really aren't; misrepresenting who you really are and what you're thinking; agreeing to go somewhere or do something that you really don't want to do; and telling your boss at work you're sick when you just don't want to be there.

If you "play games" in your relationships and in your life-- fear is at the bottom of your game playing.

Many people fear that if they are completely honest and open with the people in their lives, they won't get the love that they want and their needs won't be met.

The trouble with "game-playing" is that when you play games to avoid what you fear may happen--then what you fear usually happens by default.

When you play games in your relationships--you are creating distance, disconnection and mistrust. If you are trying to get more attention from your loved one by trying to make him or her jealous or any other ways of conscious or unconscious manipulation to get what you want, it will backfire and only push you further apart.

We both played games in our previous intimate relationships. Before we got together, we had decided that what we wanted in an intimate relationship was to reveal our full selves, to be open, honest, share all of our feelings and to live consciously.

From the very beginning of our relationship, we made a conscious agreement to eliminate game playing and to be open and honest with each other no matter how painful it might be to do so. We've attempted to carry this commitment to every part of our lives.

If you want to create more connected, vital and alive relationships, we invite you take a hard look at the areas in your life where you play games.

Step one is to eliminate the game playing and step two is to begin living your life in a manner consistent with who you really are and who you want to be.

How to Use Completions to Move From the Past to a Promising Future

It was almost 25 years ago that Marsha suddenly decided to end her relationship with her lover. It wasn't until a recent coaching session with us that she realized that she had been carrying the guilt and pain of that broken relationship into every corner of her life. Why? Because Marsha didn't have closure with her boyfriend, she has guarded her heart, sabotaging every relationship since then.

What we have discovered from our own experiences and from working with our coaching clients-in order to begin creating the life and relationships that you want, it's often important to make completions.

One of the challenges that most of us face is learning from the past, appreciating it, leaving it in the past and focusing on the present moment. Making completions in a loving way is one way to move into the present and start moving toward what you want.

Does your life seem stuck? Are there important words that you haven't spoken to someone? Are you still holding on to past relationships that have ended-whether you consider them to be "failures" or not? Are you wondering why you're not meeting a person who could be your "perfect partner?"

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, there may be some completions that you need to make and here are some suggestions:

1. Have a long-neglected conversation with the person, either in person or with a likeness. Our coaching client Marsha contacted her old boyfriend and apologized to him. After she did, she felt a peace that she had not felt for many years. If you cannot or choose not to actually talk with that person, you can make a likeness of the person with something like canned biscuit dough and then have the conversation that you need to have with that likeness. In this conversation, make sure that you thank the person for what you have learned by being in that relationship. If possible, do this "ritual" by a lake or river and let the likeness go in moving water, along with those old feelings.
2. If you need to forgive yourself or the other person, take steps toward doing so. Remember that forgiveness is always a step toward your physical and emotional health and does not mean that you condone what you or the other person did in the past. When you begin to realize what you learned from that situation, you can begin to appreciate it and to forgive.
3. Do a physical act to get rid of constant reminders of a past relationship that keep you tied to the past. A year after Sam left his marriage, he burned his collection of Jackson Browne CD's which was the music that he listened to during his painful, last years of marriage. During the burning, he let his old feelings go into the fire. In addition to the burning, he stopped listening to that music that was only reinforcing the pain that he had felt during his marriage. After several years, he was able to listen to Jackson Browne's music again without those emotional ties that had been so painful for him.
4. Do a ceremony, giving thanks for what you learned in a previous relationship and the blessings that it brought to you. Years ago, after the two of us decided that we wanted to be together, we chose to do a ceremony at a beautiful spot at the ocean on Bald Head Cliffs in Maine. We thanked our previous spouses, sent them love, threw our wedding rings in the ocean and made a commitment to each other. This "Ring Toss" ceremony opened us to developing the beautiful relationship that we have built with each other.

Completions, if done in a spirit of love, can create the space for you to move from the past and begin attracting what you want for your life. If you are willing to appreciate the past and let it go, wonderful things just may be in store for you in this present moment.

Tips For Getting What You Want In A Relationship

Sally and Robert have been dating for two and a half years and although they've had many good times together, they've fallen into a familiar relationship trap without even knowing it.

Here's the problem:

Robert wouldn't always follow through when he said he would call or arrange to get together with Sally. He didn't always do what he said he would do.

In the past, Sally would get very upset with him and tell him what he was doing wrong. When she would do this, he would become defensive and say "Well I just won't say anything anymore" and clam up.

Because they have a great connection at times, Sally didn't want to give up on the relationship but she also didn't feel respected when Robert behaved irresponsibly. She was so frustrated with this situation that she was ready to call it quits with him.

Before ending the relationship, she decided to try a different approach in telling him how she was feeling and she hoped that it would make a difference.

Here's what she did...

Before she talked with him, she centered herself, got herself into a calm place and rehearsed how she wanted to tell him about how his behavior made her feel.

When she talked with him, instead of "beating him up" for not coming through once again, she asked for what she wanted in a positive way.

She said, "I would like for you to do what you say you're going to do" and then gave him some examples. She also told him that she may choose to leave the relationship if he didn't make some changes.

This time he listened, thought about her request and agreed to make the changes that she asked.

Although she doesn't know if he truly can and will make the changes she wanted, she felt empowered and knows that even if he can't follow through and she chooses to leave the relationship, she was able to say what was true for her in a way that he could hear and understand in that moment.

What many people often do in relationships is focus on the negative behavior of others instead of focusing on the result or the outcome that they want.

What we've found is that if you continue to stay focused on what you don't want in your relationships and your life, that's what you'll get more of-- what you don't want.

What Sally did was great. She made the shift from telling Robert what she didn't want to what she did want.

So, how can you use this idea to make some improvements in the quality of your relationships?

Here are a few simple shifts you can make using this idea that we think can make big differences in the quality of your relationships...

1) Take some time to be very clear about what you are feeling and what you want. Get into a clear, calm space and listen to what's inside you.

2) After you know what you want, choose a time to talk with the other person when they are most likely to be able to hear you without distractions.

3) You might start the conversation something like this-- "Remember when we were first together and we always made time just for us? That's what I'd like for us to do again."

4) Ask very plainly for what you want. If you don't ask for what you want, chances are you'll never get it! To continue the example above--"I would like for us to have a 'date' for just the two of us once a week, even if it's taking a walk together."

Focusing on what you want instead of what you don't want is an abundance principle that's been taught for thousands of years.

We invite you to put it into practice in your relationships this week.

What You Can Learn About Love At A Concert

What we are about to tell you is an amazingly simple idea that (if used) can dramatically improve the quality of all your relationships almost immediately.

Although it's a very simple idea, not doing this one thing will almost assure you of having mediocre or even poor relationships.

So, what's the idea?

The best way to share this with you is to offer three lines from a song that Kathy Mattea sang at a recent concert we attended of hers.

The lines she sang that night were ones she said that her father had once said to her. We think that these lines contain a lot of wisdom in three short sentences.

The lines were ...

"You've got to sing like you don't need the money
You've got to love like you'll never get hurt and
You've got to dance like nobody's watchin' "

Since this newsletter is about relationships, we want to focus on the power of the second line--"You've got to love like you'll never get hurt."

If we don't love like we'll never get hurt, then we're spending our time focusing on the very thing we don't want--and that's getting hurt.

If we're not loving the other people in our lives like we'll never get hurt, then we're coming to those relationships with our hearts closed while at the same time wondering why those relationships aren't as close and connected as we would like them to be.

An open heart is one of the master keys to a great relationship.

What we've discovered is that the quality and depth of your relationships are directly related to how open your heart is.

Some of you may have had some past relationships that have caused you a lot of pain and you find that you have been guarding your heart in your current relationships.

Some of you may be in relationships right now that bring you a lot of pain and you find that you are putting up walls between you and that other person so you won't be hurt again.

Trying to have more love come into your life when your heart is closed is a little like trying to talk with someone on the telephone when that person isn't available.

Opening your heart doesn't mean being a door mat and allowing yourself to be hurt over and over. It does mean loving yourself and setting limits while being open to new possibilities, whether with that person or with someone else.

What if every time you got in your car, you thought you were going to have an accident? You probably wouldn't drive very often.

So it is with relationships. If you have the mind set that you are going to get hurt, you probably will. You'll probably keep attracting those kinds of relationships into your life that will be painful in one way or another.

We've learned that each of us is responsible for our own happiness and for creating our lives the way we want them to be.

So we suggest that you begin to open your heart more and at every opportunity, "love like you'll never get hurt."

The more you are able to do this, the more love, happiness and joy you're going to invite into your life.

Raising The Bar on Love

Last weekend, we saw the movie "The Notebook" and it was a remarkable love story. There wasn't a dry eye in the theater!

What was interesting was the comment Otto overheard one woman make to another as they were coming out of the theater after seeing the movie.

She said to her friend, "After seeing this movie, it's caused me to raise my standards."

We thought this was a very interesting comment because it's been our experience, whether you're single and still looking for a perfect love or you've been married 6 months or 30 years, something we all can do is to continually raise our standards.

What does it mean to raise our standards and why is it important?

Raising your standards in love and relationships can mean different things to different people.

To the person looking for a partner or a mate, raising your standards will mean determining exactly what you want in a partner and not settling for anything less.

To the person who is in a relationship that isn't as good as you want it to be--raising your standards will cause you to continually look for new ideas and strategies that will make your relationship stronger, better and more alive and vibrant.

To the person who's already in a good relationship--you can always find small ways to make your relationship better if that's your intention.

To the person who is dating around--raising your standards may mean not being with people you don't want to be with.

The point is that no matter what kind of relationship you have, you can always raise your standards and go for something higher and better.

Our own relationship is a good example of what we're talking about...

Even though we feel we have an outstanding relationship, we are always looking for ways to take it to the next level.

In the last few days we've been doing just that. We have been "raising our standards" in our relationship by finding more empowering ways to communicate with each other on an old issue that comes up every now and then.

We've made some discoveries about how to deal with this issue that are going to help us deal with this issue more effectively and be more understanding and compassionate with each other about it.

These new ways of dealing with this issue will ultimately make our relationship better in all ways. To us, this is very exciting.

Even though we consider ourselves to have a great relationship, we feel that there is always something positive that we can do to create even more love in our lives.

Raising our standards continually is one of those things.

Here are a few suggestions for "raising your standards"--

1. Decide you are worth it.

2. Adopt the mind set and belief that you can have what you want.

3. Look for examples of possibility.

4. Ask for what you want.

Raising your standards can be a joyous process if you have that as your intention.

Raising your standards is also something that must happen in order for you to have more of what you want in any area of your life (especially your relationships).

Don't settle for less than you deserve. Know that a beautiful relationship is available to you. Just determine what you want and then start creating it.

That's what we've done and you can do it too.

Everything isn't always as it seems

Because we live near the area where a sniper killed a woman and shot at 23 other vehicles on major highways near Columbus, Ohio, we have been paying attention to the news about this for the past several months.

Since we're relationship coaches, we found it fascinating about what Amy Walton said on the national news earlier this week concerning her brother who was arrested in Las Vegas as the accused Ohio highway sniper.

She said that he was the kindest, most gentle soul she'd ever known and that she would stand behind him no matter what. She also said he was a very passive individual who would never hurt anyone.

In this case, her relationship and experience with her brother are totally different from what most other people experienced him to be, especially the 24 people he supposedly shot at on Ohio highways.

It's amazing but true that no two people have the same relationship or experience with anyone.

Recently, we attended the funeral of the husband of a friend of ours. Although we have known this woman for many years, we had never met her husband. We only knew about him from what she and other people had told us.

Just like in the example of the accused sniper and his sister, our perception of our friend's husband wasradically different from the person who gave his eulogy at the funeral.

We really wondered whether the speaker was talking about the same man that we had heard so much about because his eulogy spoke of our friend's husband being a kind soul who had wonderful relationships. This is definitely not the same perception we had of him!

These two stories made us think about how we often judge and form perceptions of people without really knowing them and how others do the same.

These stories also remind us that each person is a complex, multi-faceted individual and that just because one person has a negative experience with someone doesn't mean that you can't have a different experience.

The question is...

Are you really open to the possibilities in the relationships with the people you come in contact with every day or do you find that you pigeon-hole people based on what you've heard about them, their looks, where they live, how much money they make or how much education they have?

If we didn't come to our relationship with an openness to possibilities, we wouldn't have gotten together and you wouldn't be reading this newsletter right now.

For example...

*There's 16 years difference between the two of us *We do not come from the same socio-economic background *We had radically different religious upbringings *We have not had the same educational opportunities

If we had judged each other based on these differences before we got to know the "real" person, we would never have attempted to even begin a relationship together.

We're very grateful that we remained open to possibilities because the relationship we now enjoy is much greater than anything we could ever have imagined.

Now, we're not saying that you shouldn't pay attention to differences when you are entering into a relationship with a person, especially an intimate relationship.

What we are saying is to open to learning who this person is instead of pre-judging them by how they look, their job, their living arrangements or perhaps what you've been told about them.

Decide in your own heart and mind what feels right to you about your relationships with anyone in your life.

Cultivate and honor your own ability to make choices in your life. Remember, everything isn't always what it seems.

Recognizing Opportunities For More Love

A couple of weeks ago, we got some sad news. Gypsy, our 16 year old cat is dying.

It seems that Gypsy has been diagnosed with something called hyperthyroidism and after being given our treatment options by the veterinarian, we decided that we didn't like any of them.

What's happening is that her metabolism has sped up so much that she's losing weight to the point that it's obvious that she's very ill although she doesn't appear to be in any pain.

The interesting thing is that we are finding that we are being kinder to her in little ways. We give her extra pieces of her favorite foods--chicken and turkey. We're giving her extra attention during the evenings when she wants to cuddle.

Now, don't misunderstand us--we've never been anything but loving with Gypsy but now we're even more loving and kind because we know that she is dying.

With what we've been noticing about our own behavior with Gypsy, there are some big relationship lessons we want to share with you.

A similar kind of lesson came to us several years ago after Otto felt like he had been misled about a job promotion in a company where he was employed. He found that he had become bitter and angry with his employer and this went on for several months.

About the time that Otto decided to leave this job, he noticed something interesting about this situation. After making this decision, he found that he became kinder, more friendly and more co-operative with his co-workers and employer.

The point is that in any of our relationships, we don't need to wait until someone you care about is dying, a relationship is dissolving, or you're leaving a job you can't stand to open your heart a little further.

In your own life--Just think about all the missed opportunities for connection and love because of anger, resentments, holding onto the need to be right, preoccupation, and busyness.

We invite you to take a moment and show kindness and/or love to someone or something that you may have been neglecting in your life.

Otto's father always said that he wanted his flowers while he was living and we think this is great advice to pass along to you this week.

This speaks to the idea of showing the people in your life that you love and care about them and how important it is to let them know.

As for now--Gypsy seems to be doing well and is enjoying her time with us.

Which is it: Love or Something Else?

Have you ever wondered when love is really love?

Is it possible that you or someone you know has thought they were "in love" when they were really coming from some other place?

Here's an example of this kind of question in action...

Margaret recently woke up and realized that she has been obsessed with a man she thought she was in love with. They are miles apart but keep in touch by email and instant message and when she doesn't hear from him, she's lost. She is always thinking about him and can't seem to concentrate on anything else until she has been in touch with him.

She asked us--"What's the difference between obsession and love?"

This is a fascinating question and here's our answer...

Love is coming from a place of fullness, possibility, joy, acceptance, appreciation, truth, authenticity, connection, and beauty. Often you are a better person for truly loving another.

That doesn't mean that all of those things are happening all of the time between two people who are in love. But it does mean that some or all of those elements are present between them much of the time and they come back to them again and again.

Obsession, whether it's about another person, an activity, a hobby, or anything else you seemingly can't get enough of is coming from a place within you of lack, fear, doubt and it completely rules your life.

For example--We've all known people who seem to be obsessed with an activity or hobby such as running.

If the person is obsessed with running everyday and something happens that prevents them from doing it, they might emotionally beat themselves up and feel worthless. Maybe they fear that they'll gain weight or any other thought which is based in lack and fear. They might be concerned about what others will think of them if they miss one day.

In contrast to this are people who truly love running for the sake of running. They love the way it makes them feel--physically, mentally and emotionally. They might enjoy connecting with nature, beauty and appreciate the way their body moves. They are motivated to run for the sheer love and joy of it.

The difference between love and obsession is the same whether you are talking about relationships or about an activity, such as running. The motivation that is underneath will tell whether it's an obsession or it's love. One is healthy and one is unhealthy.

Why is it important to be able to recognize this difference in relationships?

If you are coming from a place of obsession or fear, that's what you'll attract more of to you--relationships based on fear, lack and limitation.

If you're approaching your potential or existing relationship from a place of love and possibility, that's what you'll get more of.

If you ever find yourself wondering whether you are in love or coming from someplace else, we suggest that you look underneath at your motivation for being with that person or doing that activity.

Are you trying to fix that person to be who you want them to be? Are you fearful that they will leave you? Are you jealous every time that person talks with someone of the opposite sex and they really aren't doing anything to warrant the jealousy?

Remember, love is abundant and is everywhere. All we have to do is to tune into it, embrace it and start loving ourselves as well as other people in healthy, empowering ways.

Kindness and Love Matters

We think there should be more displays of public affection and love.

We're not talking about inappropriate displays of public affection-- but, what we're talking about are true expressions of love and appreciation.

Here's an example of what we're talking about...

Recently, Susie visited her daughter and grandchildren who live in another town not too far away from where we live.

As she walked up to the door, she watched both of her grandsons run to the window and saw how their faces lit up in huge, excited grins when they saw who was there.

The term "heart overflowing with joy" couldn't begin to describe how she felt at that moment by such a display of love.

What we've noticed is that most people do not show the ones they love even half of this type of excitement and joy in their day to day interactions.

Some people tend to treat their loved ones much worse than they would treat their friends and even total strangers. They go out of their way to impress casual acquaintances but don't bother to extend common courtesies to the most important people in their lives.

There seems to be the assumption that these people will be with their loved ones forever so they feel they have "permission" to take them for granted and possibly even rudeness and unkindness.

We believe that kindness, appreciation and respect matters-- (and yes, even excitement) no matter what the relationship and especially with those you love.

We believe that we can be uplifters of those in our lives by complimenting them, thanking them, appreciating them for what they bring to us and our lives.

We can even be excited when we see them like Susie's grandchildren were.

Think what changes there would be in all of our relationships if we all treated each other that way.

Instead of focusing on what you don't like about your husband, wife, partner, your kids, your parents--direct your thinking to what you appreciate about them and tell them how you appreciate them.

In our relationship, we regularly tell each other what we appreciate in the other--why the other is special to us--and that strengthens our relationship. We do not take each other "for granted." We think that "thank you," "you're welcome" and other words and acts of kindness are important if you want to have a good relationship too.

We know that this sounds very simplistic and you are probably thinking, "I know that." But we've found that very few people actually treat each other that way.

We all have seen the bumper sticker that encourages us to "Practice Random Acts of Kindness." We think that's a good idea and we should start with the people closest to us.

This week, we in America will celebrate our nation's independence and many of us will be celebrating with our families and friends. We urge you to take this opportunity to extend kindness and appreciation to those you love.

You might tell them something like--"You're important to me. You make a difference in my life."

Make every moment of your life count. Be an uplifter of those around you and give thanks that they are in your life.

I'll Open My Heart If You Open Yours

Carol was one of our coaching clients who came to us because she was wondering why her relationship with Jim wasn't as close as she thought it should be after being together as long as they had been.

As we talked with Carol, it became very clear what the challenge was.

It was as if Carol was standing in front of a stove and saying to the stove, "Give me heat" without putting any wood in it and lighting a fire.

Because Carol had been "burned" in relationships before her relationship with Jim, she had been holding herself at a distance and taking a "we'll see how this relationship goes" attitude before she felt comfortable enough opening her heart to Jim or anyone else.

One of the challenges in relationships is when one or both people wait until they feel like they can "trust" the other person before they open their heart to them.

The problem that this creates is that if you don't open your heart from the beginning a relationship, you've actually begun to build your relationship around distance and separation instead of closeness and connection.

What we've discovered is that whether you're starting a new relationship or you want to make an existing relationship closer, you can't wait for the other person to make the first move toward connection.

You have to be willing to open your heart first.

Maybe you're one of those people who thinks that because you've been hurt in the past that it just makes sense to hold back until you are sure the other person can be trusted.

Maybe you think that because the person you are in a relationship with has hurt you, you feel like it is THEIR turn to come to you with an open heart first!

If either of these situations is the case in your relationships, we suggest that you may want to rethink these beliefs and strategies for getting love--here's why...

Love or anything else that you want to have in your life only comes to people who are open to having it. For example, if you find out about the perfect job for you but you don't take the initiative and apply for the job, you won't get it.

It's the same way in love and relationships. If you don't open your heart to allowing another to come in, you won't have a close, connected relationship.

What does opening your heart mean?

To us, it's a little like whether a door is open or closed. If the door is open and the environment inside is warm and inviting, someone may come in. If the door is closed--there's a padlock on it and iron bars enclose it--there's a clear signal that you don't want anyone to come in.

It means setting aside your fears and giving the other person your attention and love while they talk. It means listening without becoming defensive and sharing, with emotional honesty, your thoughts. It means honoring what's important to the other person, as well as what's important to you.

Does opening your heart mean that you are always a doormat?

No, quite the opposite. It means that you are open and available while at the same time, standing in your own truth and power.

It does not mean that through your openness you allow people to take advantage of you physically, emotionally or mentally.

If you are willing to open your heart and keep it open, the possibility for joy, peace and connection exists. If you don't, you may be spend your whole life wondering why these things are not part of your experience.

We all could open our hearts a little more in certain circumstances. Here are some ideas that may start you thinking about how you can open yours:

1. Share with others what's important to you
2. Be open to hearing what's important to them
3. Smile and look at others' eyes when you do it
4. Focus on the good and positive things that people are bringing to your life
5. Be open to seeing that someone else's way may be just as good or better than your way
6. Choose love instead of fear
7. Make amends or a completions with a person who you have become estranged with--This is for you more than the other person! If you're holding onto hurt and pain, it might be keeping you from opening your heart to another person.

Opening your heart is not without risk and not always easy or comfortable. If you do it with discernment, we think that you will experience more love, connection and joy in your relationships and your life.

What You Can Learn About Love From Nancy and Ronnie

You probably know by now that former US President Ronald Reagan died last weekend after a long illness.

What's interesting is that just a few days before his death, we read an article about former President Reagan and his wife Nancy's relationship that really touched us emotionally.

In the article, the author quoted from a speech Nancy gave recently where she said --"Ronnie's journey has taken him to a place I can no longer reach him."

Former President Reagan had Alzheimer's disease for several years of his life and that limited and eventually stopped his ability to communicate with those around him.

What we interpreted Nancy's comments to mean was that she wasn't just talking about physically reaching or touching him. She was talking about how she was no longer able to emotionally reach and connect with him.

The times that are the most painful for two of us in our relationship and life is when we are disconnected and not reaching and connecting with each other at the deep level that we normally do.

Most of the time when this happens, it's for very short periods of time But, when it happens, it's quite painful for both of us.

Just like what Nancy Reagan was referring to in her talk, we long for and miss that beautiful and wonderful connection between the two of us when it's not there. That's why we do whatever is necessary to regain our connection when we lose it.

How about you and your relationships?

When something happens to create disconnection between you and someone in your life, do you let fears, judgements and insecurities stand in the way of what could bring you more love, joy and connection or do you recognize what's going on and then move toward healing the relationship?

Our message to you is that life is too short to stay disconnected from the people you love or care about. The present moment is all we have and we urge you to recognize the importance of that when you are choosing how to spend your time, what thoughts you think and how you are with the people in your life.

Let go of anger or the need to be right. If you need to talk with someone who has hurt you or you have hurt them about what you are feeling and clear up old misunderstandings, do it.

If you are fearful of being open and honest with the people in your life, we urge you to go through the fear and communicate openly and honestly anyway.

No matter what your political beliefs--whether you loved what he accomplished in his presidency or not--Nancy and "Ronnie" appeared to have a close, connected relationship.

If you want to have close, connected relationships in your life, make sure that your heart is always open for love and that you remember that each moment is all we have.

This way you'll be much more likely to get the love you want in your life than if you don't.

How Good Can You Stand It?

If you're like most people, you probably think that everyone wants an outstanding relationship. If that's really true, why do so many people sabotage their chances of having what they really want in their relationships and their lives.

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

We were talking with someone recently and shared with him how much we appreciated his contribution to a project we'd all been working on.

At first the person accepted the words of appreciation with gratitude--but when we continued our praise, he thought we were joking and insincere. We observed that he could accept some appreciation but it didn't take long before he wouldn't allow himself to believe our positive comments.

We were sincere but it appeared that his internal belief system would only allow just so many good feelings about himself before he shut down emotionally and viewed our comments to be untrue.

This is what many of us do when it comes to our relationships. When things start going really well, we do or say something that sabotages those good feelings and snaps us back into more familiar and comfortable roles and feelings.

You may be asking yourself right now--"Why wouldn't everyone want to feel good all the time?" and "Why would feeling bad be comfortable?"

There are many possible reasons why someone would sabotage something that's going well, but one of the main reasons is the belief that "I don't deserve the happiness, the praise, the passion, the good feelings, etc."

Many people are afraid that their relationship won't last or they feel that he or she will leave them anyway so somehow either consciously or unconsciously, they do something to push the other person away. We've seen that this happens a lot when jealousy is involved.

We allow fears--such as fear of abandonment (either physically or emotionally), beliefs such as "I'm not enough," "I don't deserve happiness" and so on --to keep us from having the great relationships that are available to all of us.

If it were not for our fears and our self-limiting belief systems, we would all have outstanding relationships.

While we are continually working on this within our own relationship and lives, we'll offer you a few suggestions that have helped us.

1. The obvious thing would be to first identify your beliefs and fears that are holding you back from having the relationships and life that you want.

2. Once you've identified these beliefs and fears, then we would invite you to explore whether you are willing or not to allow them to keep you from having the relationships and life that you want.

3. Make a commitment to allow yourself to feel good and to have what you want.

4. Understand that chaos and disruption in your life is normal and you should expect it when you challenge old ways of being and take on a new belief system--especially one that is empowering.

5. When or if your life feels overwhelming, take a moment, breathe and center yourself. If you do, you will find a calmness in your chaos and you'll be able to move forward from joy and not fear.

As Les Brown, the famous motivational speaker, said, "You can always better your best." We take that to mean that you don't have to settle for what you don't want in your life. You can have what you want.

In every relationship that you have (even the one you have with yourself), we urge you to start being as conscious as possible in all ways. Consider whether your words and actions will build the relationship and take it higher or weaken and possibly destroy it.

Take some time to figure out if and how you sabotage yourself from having the relationships and life that you want. If you do, we think your life will just get better!

The Common Relationship Game of 'Gotcha'

Have you ever made a quick decision and then come to realize that you had made the wrong decision and then wondered how you could right the situation?

That's exactly what Martha did when she "broke up with her partner prematurely" because she didn't give him the chance to talk over a misunderstanding.

After she realized that she had made a mistake, he wouldn't talk with her. She asked us if there was any hope for their relationship.

One of the common relationship mistakes Martha and her partner found themselves making was what we call the "Gotcha" game.

Martha created the first challenge in this situation by jumping to conclusions and not allowing her partner to explain what had happened. To make matters worse, instead of trying to understand the situation, she made the unilateral decision that the relationship was over.

Martha's partner chose to react from his pain and withdraw from her when she realized that she had made a mistake and tried to mend the situation

So now, both people feel a great deal of hurt, anger, mistrust and being misunderstood.

"Gotcha" is typically what you do because of the pain you feel when you perceive that someone else has inflicted pain on you. It's a pay-back. Although "Gotcha" is usually an unconscious protective device, it ends up being an intentional act to make someone else pay.

"Gotcha" can come in many different shapes and sizes such as:

1. Withholding love, affection, or sex
2. Cutting, satirical remarks
3. Physically walking out or refusing to talk
4. Physical and emotional abuse
5. Superiority
6. Busyness and avoidance (and many other ways)

Most people don't make the connection that when they are trying to pay someone back because of a perceived wrong, they are acting from their pain, fear and from past patterns.

In order to not allow the "gotcha" to creep into our relationship, we committed very early on to not run away when things get tough. We agreed to listen to each other, no matter how difficult it might be at the time, and to stay with the process until we understood one another.

What a difference this has made in our relationship compared to others we've been in!

What we realized was that the game of "gotcha" just brought us pain and if we wanted to have a truly wonderful relationship, we had to commit to not playing it.

Here are some suggestions to help you quit playing the "gotcha" game in your relationships:

1. Come into an awareness about your part in the "gotcha" game. Ask yourself when you first started playing it and with whom.
2. Recognize your patterns. Which of the behaviors that we listed in this article do you fall into when you start playing this destructive game?
3. Ask yourself what types of situations and behaviors trigger you to react from the "gotcha" position.
4. When you have this information and you feel safe enough, talk with your partner or whoever you play the game with about what you've learned. Choose a time when you aren't playing the game.
5. Talk about your part in the game and ask if your partner sees the dynamic and if they see their part.
6. If your partner refuses to talk about it or take responsibility for their part in the game, you have the choice to keep playing the game or to withdraw yourself from it by speaking what is true for you and not from your pain and pattern.
7. Recognize when you go into your pattern of "gotcha" and choose healthier ways of expressing yourself.

"Gotcha" can be a very destructive game that many couples play.

We suggest that you stop when you find yourself playing it and choose love instead.

The Relationship Dance of Smothering and Backing Away

Do you know anyone who's had to deal with this in a relationship?

With one of our relationship coaching client's permission, we'd like to tell you her story and what we call a common relationship "dance" that often happens between two people in many types of relationships.

Our client, who we will call Linda, has struggled with her relationship with her son (who is now in his 20's), especially since he's become an adult.

Linda has also had several intimate relationships in the past few years that didn't seem to work out. She couldn't help but wonder "why" when she seemed to have so many things going for her in her life.

Sometimes, it's the small, subtle things that can actually push people away instead of drawing them closer to you and that's what Linda found out.

With her son, for example, she seemed to try to anticipate his every need before he could even ask as he was growing up. Even when he became an adult, she was always there to make his life better--even when he didn't ask or want her help.

Their relationship as parent and adult child, although close, was filled with drama and times of estrangement that Linda didn't understand.

Sometimes her son just seemed to push her away and Linda didn't know why.

We've noticed that this dynamic also happens frequently in many intimate relationships. When it occurs, one person usually shuts down, backs away, or gets angry. It leaves both people in the relationship wondering why they feel so distant when it's apparent that there's much love between the two of them.

In Linda's case, this turned out to be what happened. When she found that she had pushed away a man that she was getting to know, as well as her son, she came to us for help.

Here's what we helped Linda to discover about herself...

  • Her "smothering" behavior and intense overwhelming desire to make herself "invaluable" is really an unspoken request for love
  • Underneath this "smothering" of other people in her life, there is a fear that if she doesn't give and give and give that she will be abandoned by the people she loves. Because of her "smothering" actions, she was creating the very thing in her relationship and life that she didn't want--distance and separation.
  • Her "smothering" has nothing to do with the reality of what may or may not be happening in the present moment but is the result of believing the "stories" she has made up within her mind.

This kind of behavior that appears to be smothering can manifest itself in a lot of different ways. Some people want to demonstrate the depth of their love by insisting that you over-indulge in food, alcohol, sex or anything else that they think you would enjoy.

Through a lot of courage and self-examination, Linda is learning to recognize the signs of when she starts acting from fear and her neediness. She's beginning to make a shift inside her by telling her son how she is feeling and then learning to back away energetically while still remaining connected.

She's learning to begin focusing more on her life, what she wants, and the best way to ask for what she wants. She's also learning to wait until the other person asks for help.

It doesn't mean that she can't or shouldn't do things to help other people but it does mean that she is learning to identify the motivations underneath her insistent and persistent behavior.

Here's an exercise we gave her that she suggested we pass onto anyone else who is experiencing this dynamic in a relationship because it was so helpful to her:

1. Learn your particular feelings, thoughts and signs within your body that signal that you are "smothering" another person.

2. When you recognize that you are moving into this thought and action pattern, take a moment to close your eyes and visualize yourself backing up, while still remaining connected with a silver cord. Play with the image so that you are feeling connected, while giving the other person and yourself breathing room.

3. Back up energetically until you feel there's an appropriate distance between the two of you.

4. If you feel comfortable doing so, tell the other person what you are doing and talk about new ways of being together.

5. Be clear about your needs and ask the other person to be clear about their needs. Have them tell you how much time they want to spend with you or how much help they want with projects around the house.

We're happy to report that Linda is in a new intimate relationship that is going really well and her relationship with her son is much freer and closer for both of them.

Sometimes there can be too much of a "good" thing. No two people want to be loved in exactly the same way. Take some time to discover how you and the people in your life want to be loved.

When you do, you'll find that you'll be able to attract more love and connection into your relationships and your life become much more joyful.

Is It Really Possible to Attract Someone into your life that is your Perfect Partner?

Our answer may surprise you.

Other people think that attracting a perfect partner is something that "just happens to you" or it's just a stroke of "good luck" that accounts for creating the right circumstances for your perfect partner to show up and create a terrific relationship in your life.

That hasn't been our experience.

While it's absolutely true that no one can guarantee that you (or anyone) can find your perfect partner -- what we've found is that there are things you can do to dramatically increase the possibility of attracting a "perfect partner" into your life if that is something you truly want.

In short, YES, we do believe that it is possible to have exactly the kind of relationship that you truly want.

So, how do you do it?

The first step is intention. It's about deciding what it is you want in a relationship and then moving one step at a time toward attracting the kind of relationship that you want in your life.

The biggest question most people never stop to ask themselves is "What do I want?"

The next key to attracting the perfect partner into your life or creating a great relationship is about what Dr. Robert Schuller called "possibility thinking."

Most people think about "impossibilities" instead of "possibilities."

How many times have you seen headlines on the front of your favorite magazines that wonder "Are all the good men/women gone?" or "Is it possible to ever find true love?"

When you are focused on "impossibilities" instead of what you really do want, that's what you'll get...more "impossibilities" and who wants more of that?

Next is Faith...

Napoleon Hill's book "Think and Grow Rich" is considered by many to be one of the best books ever written on the subject of success. In the book, Hill talks about the power of faith when it comes to attaining your desires.

He says that "all thoughts which have been emotionalized (given feeling) and then mixed with faith, begin immediately to translate themselves into their physical equivalent or counterpart."

In other words, if you believe you can have something--You Can. It's no different when it comes to attracting a perfect partner or wanting a great relationship. Having faith is critical to getting what you want in life.

Years ago, before the two of us found each other and started creating the relationship that we now have with each other, one of the things that we did to instill more faith within ourselves about attracting the perfect partner was to ask ourselves whether "ANYONE HAD EVER ATTRACTED THEIR PERFECT PARTNER INTO THEIR LIFE"

The answer was an emphatic YES! .... We could each think of at least one other person who had by all appearances attracted their perfect partner or relationship into their life.

We then figured that if one other person anywhere could do it, then it was possible for us too.

Without the belief that what you want is possible, then you will never have what you think you want, whether it's attracting your "perfect partner" or anything else.

The Importance of healing the past...

We've all been in relationships that didn't work out--sometimes painfully and sometimes with grace.

What we've discovered is that most of us go from relationship to relationship and never learn from the relationships of the past

Whether you want to attract your perfect partner into your life or you just want some new relationship skills, it's important for you to understand that relationship is the one place where we get to experience the most opportunity for growth in our lives. It's also the place where we can experience the most joy.

As Kenny Loggins said in his book, "The Unimaginable Life" "We All Long for Love, Everything Else is just killing Time."

If you are one of those people who are so jaded by past experiences that you've just given up on love and think that it's not really possible to have big love in your life anymore--we want you to know that it is.

If you've been settling for less than you deserve in your relationships and your life, you don't have to any more.

If you would like to attract your perfect partner into your life, then we want you to know that we have a brand new course that starts this Wednesday that we'd like to invite you to participate in.

This new course is called, "7 Proven Secrets For Attracting Your Perfect Partner Into Your Life."

This course is for anyone who wants to know how to attract and keep their perfect partner.

You can get complete details on this course by clicking here...

A O L Users Click here to attract your perfect partner

We appreciate you for being one of our newsletter subscribers and as always, we hope that we are able to provide some insights into what it takes to create an outstanding relationship.

The next regular edition of our newsletter will be out in just a few days.

Until then we wish you many blessings.

All our best to you

One Way to Keep Your Relationships from Going Sour

Otto started noticing a terrible smell in his car a few of weeks ago. After one of those 80 degree spring days that we had here in Ohio, the smell became almost unbearable and he didn't know why until he started searching through the car.

As it turned out, this is what had happened...

Otto's son had left an unopened carton of milk under the car seat and it had been punctured and had leaked out onto the carpet.

After this discovery, Otto and his son bought carpet cleaner, a sponge and some air freshener. Because Otto loves the beach and the smells associated with it, he thought with some cleaning and the smell of coconut air freshener (because he hoped it would smell like sun tan lotion) his car would be as good as new.

This didn't turn out quite the way he had hoped. For the first few minutes after cleaning and applying the air freshener, the smell of coconut seemed to help the car smell better. But after those first few minutes, the coconut smell mixed with the sour milk smell and the combination was even worse!

These tactics didn't fix the problem at all. They only covered up the root of the problem and made it worse.

If you're wondering what this story has to do with relationships, it's very simple. These are the same kind of tactics that people very often do to try to create short term "fixes" to help their relationships. When they do, they simply mask the "real" problems that are going on and make their situation worse.

When we aren't open and honest and we cover over what we're doing, our real feelings, and what's important to us, the truth always comes out sooner or later. The problem is that it usually comes out in worse ways (like the coconut/spoiled milk smell) than it would have if it would have been addressed honestly in the first place.

An example of this might be a situation where one person is trying to "please" the other person by never telling the truth about how he/she is feeling, just to keep the peace. When asked if something is wrong, the reply is "No, everything is just fine" but it really isn't. The person stuffs down resentments and anger until they explode and the person who asked in the first place doesn't know what happened. For whatever reason, the person who exploded had been unconsciously masking their true intentions and their true feelings.

Wouldn't both people have been better off if the truth had been tackled in the first place or at least after they knew their feelings and had their thoughts together about the situation?

Another example might be when someone has sex with another person to please that person and to be liked when they really don't want to have sex. Please don't misunderstand us that we definitely believe that a close, connected relationship can be and is greatly enhanced by beautiful love-making. What we're suggesting is that the person trying to get something in return for sexual favors is not being "real" and is masking his/her intentions and feelings. When this happens, the relationship usually turns "sour" sooner or later.

If you want to have close, connected relationships, you want to be as "real" as possible. Here are some tips to help you avoid letting resentments build:

1. When feelings come up, don't stuff them down or make them unimportant. A feeling, whether "positive" or "negative," is a barometer for us to observe whether what is going on in the moment is in alignment with our idea of what happiness is or not.

2. Take some time to listen to what you are feeling and express those feelings in a way that others can hear, if it's appropriate. It's helpful to discover whether these feelings are coming from past relationships and are not "true" in this situation or if they are "true" at this moment, with this person and need to be expressed so that a situation can change.

3. If you don't feel "safe" enough in the relationship to tell what you are feeling, it's a sign that there are things within the relationship that need to be healed. Maybe you can heal the issues by yourself or maybe you need to get help.

If physical safety is an issue, that's an even bigger sign that you need to get outside help for your situation.

Whenever you are trying to mask your true feelings or cover something over, you are trying to control the situation to get the love and approval of someone else. This usually doesn't work for very long.

Underneath all of this is low self-worth and the fear that you won't be loved for who you really are.

Not only do we all deserve to be loved for who we really are but we believe that love is possible for all of us.

Embracing The Change Around Us

Whether you're 18 or 80, there's a lot to be learned about love and relationships from a new friend we made last week and here's what happened...

We attended the funeral of Otto's good friend's mother, Juanita. Before the service began, a woman sat down beside Susie and after a few minutes, she introduced herself. Her name was Ann and she began telling Susie about her relationship with Juanita--her best friend since the first grade.

As Ann reminisced about the wonderful times with her friend, she reminded Susie that change is inevitable and to love the people who come into your life, every moment of every day.

Not only was Ann an example of love in action but she was a excellent teacher of graciously accepting the things in your life that you cannot change and moving forward. In that moment of her own pain, she chose to focus on her belief that Juanita was in a better place after her prolonged illness and on their good times together.

She went on to say that she had buried two husbands, along with losing this close friend, and yet she continues to focus on the joy and love in her life.

We think that Ann is a wonderful example of how to accept change with an attitude of gratitude for what has gone before and openness to possibilities and love.

Change in our relationships and in our lives is as inevitable as the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening.

Here are some suggestions that we have found to be helpful for accepting change in our relationships and in our lives:

1. Embrace "what is" When large changes happen in our lives, sometimes we would rather avoid looking at the truth and deny that the changes are happening, instead of looking at "what is." One woman called us a few days ago to ask for help to save her relationship. The only problem is that her husband, who has been in counseling for 6 months, has repeatedly asked her for a divorce. In spite of his repeated request, she seems to be holding onto a relationship that he no longer wants to be in.

We're not at all suggesting that leaving a relationship or giving up on a relationship is always the best thing to do. In fact, we are great proponents of hope and revitalizing relationships. We're simply pointing out that this woman seemed to not see the "writing on the wall" and to accept his wishes and this change in her life.

What we are suggesting is that in your relationships and in your life, you can always...

2. Learn from what happened Embrace every relationship, every moment as a learning experience waiting to happen. Every now and then we'll lose our connection with each other and when we do, we take time to learn from what happened. We try to come up with ways to change that will make our relationship even better.

3. Be in gratitude for what was Like Ann, no matter what has happened in your life and in your relationships, you can always be in gratitude for what has happened. Because the truth is that you are who you are in this moment because of your experiences, the people you've met, and the stories that have touched your life.

We've discovered that shifting to being grateful helped ease the pain when dramatic changes rocked our lives and we think that it will do the same in yours.

4. Look at where you are now and determine how you want to begin moving forward in your life Whether you are in a good relationship and want to make it better, in an unhappy relationship, or not in an intimate relationship now, we suggest that you take the opportunity to determine what it is that you want. What's one small step that you can take to move toward having what you want? Figure out what that one small step is and do it.

We all experience change in our lives and we hope that some of these suggestions are helpful to you as you too begin to open more to possibilities and to love.

The Power Of Giving Your Relationships a Spring Spruce Up

It's springtime in Ohio and that not only means beautiful blooming flowers, bushes and trees but also a time to spruce up the inside and outside of your home. It can also mean a time for "sprucing up" your relationships and a time of renewal.

To spruce up our home, we just had a new concrete patio poured, filled in the hole of an old cistern, had new gravel added to the driveway and cleared out some old "junk" from our back storage room.

Just like our home improvement projects, whether you are single or are in an intimate relationship, it's time to look at ways to begin to "freshen up" all of your important relationships.

As you know, we are all about bringing awareness about how to create better relationships and in this article, we'd like to offer you our tips for "sprucing up" your relationships.

Ask yourself these questions...

1. "What important relationships do I want to "freshen up" and make better?" There may be people you have not seen for many weeks or months that you really enjoy being with. Take a moment and make a list of people you would like to contact and maybe make a date to get together with them.

2. "What's one thing I can say or do to bring more happiness to me and to the people in my life?" An example of this might be writing a simple "thank you" note to your beloved or someone who has done something special for you or just someone who means a lot to you.

Susie's mother was really big on writing and receiving thank you notes and she was right! They are important. We got two of them this week, along with several email "thank you's" and they meant a lot to us.

3. "Are there old things sitting around my home that remind me of unpleasant relationships or events from the past?" Look around your home to see if there are things sitting around that are keeping you stuck in the past in some way or the other. Clear out old, unwanted "stuff" and you'll feel better. Old, unwanted "stuff" keeps you focused on the past and keeps you from moving forward to what you want.

Believe it or not, this does help your relationships! If you want more info about this, get some books on Feng Shui.

4. "Am I carrying around old, unwanted feelings that are keeping me from feeling joy?" Most people hang onto events/hurts from the past that may be able to be handled and addressed with a little courage (or a lot of courage) and effort.

It might be that you need to talk with someone or it might be that you begin the process of forgiveness by yourself. Forgiveness is for your health and welfare and we urge you to start now if you are carrying a lot of bitterness against someone.

We like the book "Radical Forgiveness" by Colin Tipping. Mary Chapin Carpenter said in one of her songs this line--"Forgiveness doesn't come with a debt" and we think that's great advice.

Take this opportunity to "spruce up" and freshen your relationships and your life. You'll feel lighter, more joyful and more full of life if you do.

Blame: Letting Go of the need to be "Right"

Have you ever blamed anyone for anything for any reason? Of course! All of us have at one time or another.

Here's the problem with blaming anyone else for anything in your life--When you blame another, you sever the connection of the heart and soul between the two of you.

There are a lot of reasons why blame can happen but it always comes back to one person's need to be right. Yes, there are times when one person is "right" but we've found that if these grudges are carried for any length of time, they can destroy the relationship and can even destroy the person who's "right."

For several years after Otto's divorce from his ex-wife, Otto hung on to the need to be "right." Even though he was the one who left her, in his mind, it was important to him that she take half the responsibility for the marriage not working out. After the divorce, he was outraged because she blamed him totally for the broken relationship. He blamed her for her not taking her share of the responsibility for the relationship not working out. Because both people had such an entrenched attachment to "being right", this presented major communication problems in issues that had to be addressed concerning their son after the divorce.

It wasn't until Otto gave up his attachment to "being right" that communication began to improve. Otto was able to let go of a lot of anger when he let go of the blame. Communication still isn't perfect but they are now able to work through issues without finger-pointing and name-calling.

In our view, when you blame, you have two choices--one is to continue to act out of fear and entrench yourself as the victim, telling all of your friends (over and over) how you were hurt and how angry you are; Or you can begin the healing process by giving up the attachment to the need to be "right" and then spend your time and energy on whatever is necessary to heal the relationship. In some cases, it may not be possible to "heal" the relationship but you will heal yourself when you let go of blame and grudges.

We know this is difficult, especially if there are emotionally charged issues involved. But here's our suggestion--If you find that you've been blaming another or even yourself for a problem in a relationship, stop the negativity. If you want to heal the relationship, spend your time focusing on the solution and how you would like the relationship to be and how you can heal it instead of the problem and how you have been wronged.  

Relationship Quote of the Week

"Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past of a pioneer of the future." Deepak Chopra

One Way To Honor Your Relationship and Each Other

There are things in every relationship that are sacred. One of these things that we think is most sacred is the trust that can be developed if both people in the relationship honor that thoughts and feelings, whether they are of a positive nature or negative, will be shared first with each other.

Here's an example from our own lives to show you what we mean...

Both of us, in our previous relationships, felt the need to talk to friends and not always our spouses about what was really on our minds. We often chose to tell our inner most secrets and frustrations to our friends and omit this information when we talked with our spouses.

Although this wasn't the primary reason both of these relationships ended in divorce, we think that it was one way that trust was eroded and not built in those relationships.

When we got together in our relationship, we figured out that if we hoped to have a relationship built on trust and deep connection that this type of intimate sharing with others was a pattern of behavior that had to stop.

If there was conflict, disagreement or challenges that came up, we agreed that we would talk to each other instead of venting our frustrations with a friend or co-worker. This was our sacred agreement with each other.

We just love Bruce Springsteen's song, "If I should fall behind" because it says exactly how we have chosen to be in a relationship with each other. In the song he says, "Let's make our steps clear so the other can see."

To us, this means telling the other person what we are thinking as soon as we have sorted it out ourselves. We don't feel like we have to hide or sugar-coat our truth about a situation or unload on a friend how we are truly feeling without first telling each other.

This doesn't mean we never talk to friends and other family members about our thoughts or what's happening in our lives. Quite the contrary.

What we are saying is that we have agreed to tell each other first, things that are personal and feelings that come up about the other person.

If you find that you have been complaining to other people about your partner or someone close to you and you are not telling your partner how you are feeling, stop.

By talking to others first about your issues instead of the person involved, you will continue to erode the safety and trust in your relationship. By talking to others about your issues instead of the person your conflict is with, you could be playing the role of the victim or martyr.

Believe it or not, you may actually be enjoying the sympathy and attention from other people that you are getting from complaining about the situation with your partner.

If you want to build trust and create a close, connected relationship, we've found that this kind of behavior has to stop.

Choosing to let your partner know where you stand and what is going on inside you is not only a way to build trust but also a way to deepen your connection as well..

One Way To Honor Your Relationship and Build Trust, Part 2

Last week's newsletter article seemed to strike a nerve in some of you.

If you didn't catch last week's issue, we've put it on this webpage if you'd like to read it in its entirety...

In a nutshell, here's what we talked about...

"There are things in every relationship that are sacred. One of these things that we think is most sacred is the trust that can be developed if both people in the relationship honor that thoughts and feelings, whether they are of a positive nature or negative, will be shared first with each other."

The comments and feedback that we got ranged from accusing us of promoting unreal hopes that relationships like this exist (they do) to the idea that friends can be used as "sounding boards" to make sure that a person is not over-reacting to situations before they talk to their partner.

In light of these and other comments, we thought we'd ask the following question in this week's article-- "How do you honor your partner and your relationship, and talk to your partner first about the important things going on in your relationship and your life?"

One woman sent us the following message (that was meant for her partner) and we think she's on the right track to answering this question:

"Hmmmm, I don't know about you but this will be something that I will work on myself. I defiantly go to other people first when I'm upset with you. Not to say that I don't go to you..just not right away. Partially and honestly because I feel that you always fight me on the ways that I feel at times and try to make me feel as if my feelings are wrong. So just maybe you can work on that and I will work on coming to you instead of venting to my choice friends.

Do you hear that this woman is being honest about how she feels when her partner doesn't listen and accept her feelings? Do you also hear that she is taking responsibility for her part in their relationship "dance"?

While both of us have vented in the past to our friends (and we're not denying that it can serve a very useful purpose at times), what we're advocating is getting to the root of the communication and trust problems that are probably there if you are choosing to go to friends first.

Friends are usually "safe" and although that's tough to admit, if you're going to them first, you may think or feel that your partner may not be "safe,"

What the woman who mistakenly wrote to us was perhaps saying was that she didn't feel safe to go to her partner and tell him her feelings because she felt like she wouldn't be heard or understood. She went to her friends first because she knew they would listen to her and would allow her to vent.

In her email, she was asking that her partner listen to how she is feeling rather than dismissing those feelings or trying to "fix" her.

What we've found is that the very things that can help you take your relationship to the next level or improve it the most are often the things that can be the most scarry or difficult.

Sometimes these things will require you to summon a great deal of inner strength or courage that you didn't know you had.

Sometimes taking your relationship to the next level or creating the kind of relationship that you want will require you to be open and vulnerable.

Sometimes taking your relationship to the next level requires learning to laugh at yourself and your situation.

The woman who mistakenly wrote to us was taking a risk by letting her partner know that she wanted something more and was willing to do her part to make it happen.

If you ever wonder whether allowing yourself to risk what might happen if you open up your heart one more time or a little further is worth it... our answer is YES.

Love is worth the risk.

Which of These Things Do You Do In Your Relationships?

Here's an interesting question...

When challenges come up in your relationships, do you tackle them right away and let the angry, hurt feelings go or do you allow resentment to simmer and build, holding onto it for days, weeks, months or years?

Because we've been watching a lot of NCAA men's and women's basketball games lately, we were reminded of an interview with Rudy Tomjanovich that we heard a couple of years ago.

Although Rudy Tomjanovich was a former NBA player and coach and was talking about an event that happened on the basketball court 25 years ago, we found it to be a very profound relationship lesson.

In the interview, Rudy described what happened during "that" NBA basketball game...

...A fight broke out among the players and Kermit Washington landed a reactionary punch on Tomjanovich's face, dislodging his skull and disfiguring his face.

The intention of this interview was to show the impact on each of these two men's lives 25 years later. The interviewer probed both men about the event and what had happened to them since that game.

The amazing thing was, when Tomjanovich was asked about how he felt about the events leading up to the fight, he answered that he didn't want to spend time and energy trying to figure out who did what and why--in other words, to assign blame.

He said he was more concerned with letting go of the past and doing everything possible to be happy in every single moment.

On the other hand, Kermit Washington has seemed to have had a difficult, unhappy life since that time.

We think that Tomjanovich is a great example of someone who is willing to take the circumstances that he was dealt and move forward to make the best life possible for himself without wallowing in being a victim.

He is staying in the present moment and not allowing resentment, blame or judgment to take anything away from the life he's working hard to create for himself.

This story is a great lesson for all of us and one we can apply to improve our relationships.

We've discovered that one way to let go of resentment about a situation that hasn't worked out the way we wanted it to is to begin focusing on what we want to create in our lives instead of what we don't have or what someone has done to us in the past.

Here's what works for us:

1. Take some time to breathe, come into the center of your being

2. Change your thinking to what you want your life and your relationships to be.

If you have unfinished business with someone, take this opportunity to tell them how you are feeling--without blame--and then if you are able, begin the healing process of forgiveness.

Carrying around resentment is like carrying around a sack full of large rocks that keep getting heavier as we travel through life.

If you find yourself in this situation,and having difficulty letting go of resentments, remember Rudy Tomjanovich. Even though he was nearly killed by something that happened during an NBA basketball game, he isn't harboring resentment toward the person who did this to him.

He is creating the life he wants and you can too.

What You Can Learn From Margie About Relationships

Margie was with a group of friends and was sharing with them about how happy she was in her new relationship. She noticed some of the people in the group getting quiet and they weren't making eye-contact with her. She didn't feel like they were really present with her as she spoke.

As she wondered what was going on, one woman finally said to her...

"I don't want to hear about your great relationship anymore because it only makes me jealous."

The woman went on to tell Margie that she has a hard time being around people with good relationships because it makes her mad.

When Margie told us about this conversation, we couldn't help but think that this woman who was being very honest with Margie was like many people who can't seem to manifest what they want in their relationships.

They are secretly filled with anger and sadness that they don't have the kind of relationship that Margie was sharing about.

At this point in the story, Margie's friend is faced with a choice--the choice to be angry, sad and upset because of what she doesn't have or the choice to look at this as a learning opportunity for how to do it differently.

The truth is that for Margie's friend, the model for how to manifest the kind of relationship that she wants is right in front of her eyes if she will only embrace it instead of pushing it away.

Whether they are in relationships or not, some people who have been hurt over and over again, say to us--"I'll never have a good relationship!" "All the good men (women) are gone" "It's too late for me." or any other expression of pain.

We say that the possibility of creating the type of relationship that you want is always there. One of the ways to do it is to look around you and learn from people who have the type of relationship that you want.

Don't get us wrong--no relationship is perfect and completely harmonious but there are always things to learn by looking at people who have elements of what you want.

As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience."

What we are suggesting is to appreciate insights when they come your way instead of rejecting them because they may be painful to look at.

Margie shared with us that she did just that during this past year.

She exercised regularly with a friend who is in a great relationship after many relationships that ended in disappointment. Even though Margie wasn't in a relationship at the time, she didn't close herself off from listening to her friend's stories about this new relationship.

Margie said that she actually began creating the kind of relationship that she wanted first in her mind, as she listened to her friend, and was actually enjoying her "imaginary" relationship as she listened to her friend. Her friend was, in a sense, a messenger of hope and possibilities.

Whether you're not currently in a relationship and want to be or you're in a relationship and want to make it better, here are 4 suggestions for discovering how to create more of what you want:

1. Be around people who have what you'd like to have or read books about possibilities.

2. As these people talk about their experiences, feel their joy and imagine that you are having the same kind of happiness.

3. Come from a place of wonder about how they are doing it and how you might adopt similar strategies that would work for you. What changes would you like to make within yourself?

4. Be open to having what you want in your life. Don't talk about your lack, but talk about possibilities.

How to keep passion alive in your relationships

One of the top questions people ask us is "how to keep the passion and excitement alive in their relationships."

Our answer to this question may seem glib but we mean it from our hearts--you just "decide" to.

The Latin root of the word "decide" actually means "to cut off." This means to cut off all other possibilities. This means that you've decided that passion is important in your relationship and you're not going to settle for anything less.

So, what happens when you want anything else in your life? You weigh your choices and make a "decision." What if the home or apartment you're living in doesn't meet your needs any more? You can "decide" to find a place that better suits your needs.

We think it's the same way with relationships. If both you and your partner want the passion and life to return, the only way it will happen is for you to make a decision for it to happen.

So many of us start relationships unconsciously and don't decide what we want from them. If you want passion in your life, the only way to have it is to decide to in a conscious deliberate way.

So what does it mean to make a decision to have passion in your relationship? For us, it involves many daily decisions that maintain our connection of the heart. It involves taking the time to talk and to listen, perhaps letting less important things take a back seat. It might involve a decision to turn off the TV or the computer and take a walk together. You and your partner must decide what will rekindle your connection. And then do it.

We've all seen the articles in popular women's magazines-- giving you 10 ways to make your relationship sizzle. Those 10 ways usually include a trip to Victoria's Secret and something involving Saran Wrap. While we're not trying to make light of the suggestions in these magazines, we believe that true passion and intimacy in a relationship only come when there's a connection of the heart. And the decision to maintain the connection is continuous one and a conscious one that requires effort.

If passion is missing in your relationships, then one of two things is the case-- either you haven't made passion a priority or the connection of the heart isn't there.

If you haven't made passion a priority, then you can "decide" to make it one. If the connection of the heart isn't there--then you have other challenges that should be addressed.  

Relationship Quote of the Week

"Love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction." Ann Morrow Lindburg

Oh, The Stories We Tell Ourselves!

Everyone loves a good story. When it comes to our relationships, sometimes the "stories" we tell ourselves about situations with other people in our lives aren't very healthy.

In his book, "Awaken the Giant Within," Tony Robbins said, "It's not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean."

It's the meaning you attach to something that determines how you react and how you feel about it.

Susie really tries not to spin "stories" in her head about how other people react to her but recently she caught herself doing just that.

She has been friends with a woman in our community for many years. In fact, this woman sometimes teaches Susie's Women's Studies class for her when she is out of town. This woman is very busy with her job working in student services at our local college.

Susie started noticing that this woman was abrupt on the phone with her when she called her workplace.

When Susie gave a speech at a local woman's group and this woman was in the audience, Susie noticed that this woman seemed distracted and not really paying much attention.

Well, you guessed it...Susie began making up "stories" in her head that Susie had done something to cause this woman to be "cold" and distant with her.

Luckily, this didn't go on very long because the two of them ran into one another at the YMCA and it was very evident that the woman's stress and apparent distance had nothing to do with Susie and everything to do with her job.

What a glorious learning experience and reminder this was!

Had Susie chosen to distance herself from her friend because of supposedly being snubbed, she would have lost out on a long-time friendship and would have carried unresolved hurt and anger perhaps for a very long time.

What "stories" do you tell yourself about what's going on in your relationships with your friends, family, co-workers or partner?

Are they things that will bring you closer together or move you further apart?

When we tell ourselves unhealthy stories that aren't based on reality, it only keeps us stuck in the past or has us spending time projecting into the future about something that may or may not happen.

To create conscious, connected relationships, we suggest that you choose to look at what's actually happening in the present moment.

If you don't know what's really going on with someone else--ask.

Take the courage and the time to find out what's going on with the person. It's the only way you'll know.

Are your relationships getting better or worse?

Whether you've been in a relationship with someone for one day or one hundred years, the relationship is either getting better or worse.

As the old saying goes, "The only thing constant is change." Our relationships are no different. They are constantly changing and evolving and nothing stays the same.

A common misconception is that a relationship is like a self-propelled lawn mower. You just start the relationship and it propels itself forward with little attention. With a self-propelled lawn mower, if you don't guide it, pretty soon you could be mowing down your neighbor's flower garden. So it is with your relationships. Even if your life is going smoothly and all of your relationships are working, you still need to consciously guide them if you want them to be vital and alive.

Think of your car--if you just parked it in the yard and never drove it or did anything to maintain it, it would deteriorate much quicker than if you drove it. Pretty soon it would be part of the landscape.

Your relationships need that kind of attention. We suggest that you determine what kind of relationships you want for your life and decide the steps you must take to have those relationships.

Susie has had the same best female friend for over 20 years and this has been a conscious choice. They have been running and exercise partners and make it a point to talk and get together several times during the week. The point is that this is the type of relationship both of them want and they consciously work to preserve it.

We've all been in relationships that have dissolved and fallen away over time. Some of these relationships have dissolved because one or both of you were growing in different directions or at a different pace. Most of the time, however, one or both of you haven't put the kind of energy and amount of time necessary to keep it vibrant and growing.

What are your priorities in your life?

  • Are you spending time in activities and with people that are in alignment with what you value?
  • Are your relationships the way you want them to be? If not, why not?
  • Are you focusing on what you want them to be rather than what they aren't?

So, the question is, are the relationships in your life that are important to you getting better or worse?

If they're not getting better, just the awareness that you now have is an important part in changing the dynamics.

Relationship Quote of the Week


"Try leaving a friendly trail of little sparks of gratitude on your daily trips. You'll be surprised how they will set small flames of friendship that will be rose beacons on your next visit." Dale Carniege

Are your relationships skinny or fat?

For Susie's birthday, Otto gave her a card which said, "Their love was big and fat because they fed it a lot between meals." This was such a great metaphor for relationships that are passionate, alive and growing that we decided to write about it this week.

We feel that to have a great relationship of any kind, you have to feed it a lot. Most people usually do a great job of feeding their relationships in the beginning stages but then slack off as the relationship matures.

Most people feed their relationships until one or the other adopts the attitude that they will be together forever and that they can now stop putting effort into their relationship.

Most people have no problem "feeding" their relationship with a mate before having sex or before an anniversary or maybe during a vacation to the beach. But they neglect to "feed" their relationship "between meals" which we feel is even more important for creating a powerful connection between two people.

We're constantly asked by people how to keep boredom or monotony out of their relationships and we feel that the best answer we can give is to "feed" it constantly and never stop growing spiritually and personally.

In Harvey Mackay's book on networking, "Dig your well before you're thirsty," he makes the point that having a network of contacts in life isn't enough. You have to constantly feed and nurture these relationships or they'll be just names in a Rolodex and nothing more. This is true in the business world as well as your personal relationships.

So we'd like to offer you a few ways to "feed" your relationships "between meals." We'd suggest that you think of even more ways that foster a connected relationship of the heart. 

1. Believe that you are not guaranteed another moment with your mate, your child, your friends. Treat them with kindness and love every step of the way. As Jewel sings in her song "Hands"--"Only kindness matters in the end."

2. Keep in contact with one another. Susie was out of town visiting relatives for a few days this week and to stay in touch, she called Otto each day and they talked about the important events of the day. As a result, even though they were apart, they stayed closely connected to each other.

3. Give the people in your life your undivided attention when they are communicating with you or let them know when you can give them this attention. Many times we shortchange the people we love--especially with our time and attention because of so many demands. Make them a priority.

If your relationships are important to you, you have to treat them that way. As Stephen Covey suggested in his book, "First Things First"--the things that matter most should never be at the mercy of the things that matter least.

Relationship Quote of the Week

"Both people have to be committed to making their relationship the most important thing in their lives. As the saying goes, "what you focus on usually gets done." Otto Collins

"All You Need is Love. . ."

$1487.57 -- That's the amount of money that resulted from selling the contents of Susie's mother's house at a recent garage sale after the family took what they wanted.

Susie and her sister moved their mother into an assisted living facility and are in the process of selling the family home of over 50 years.

During this process of clearing out the house, we were all struck by the transitory nature of possessions. The $1487.57 that was collected at the garage sale is inconsequential compared to the real value of the love that was expressed during those 50 years in that home.

As Kenny Loggins said in the introduction of "The Unimaginable Life"-- "We all long for love. Whether we know it or not, everything else we do is just killing time." Most of us spend our lives rushing around--going places, doing things and accumulating possessions. We don't stop and think that what is most important is the giving and receiving of love.

Many people who we come in contact with are going through dramatic life changes--They are leaving jobs that no longer fit them; they are leaving partners who are no longer a match or partners are leaving them; they are becoming parents to their parents; they are moving to a different community.

These changes are usually very disruptive as we let go of old roles, people and things. We have found that by focusing on the love rather than the loss, change or fear of what might lie ahead, we attract more love and the path becomes easier to travel.

When Otto left his first wife, he left with less than $300, his stereo, cd's and his clothes. He was truly starting over. The whole purpose of his leaving was to find the love that he wanted and needed. He took a leap of faith to find love--not only for a partner but also for himself. By focusing on love and not fear, he did attract the love and partnership that he had been looking for.

Don Miguel Ruiz in "Beyond Fear" says "If you have eyes of love, you will see love wherever you go." And we would add "attract more love to you."

If you are experiencing change or loss in your life--if doors are closing, we suggest that you see with "eyes of love." Take some time and love yourself. Appreciate those who are in your life, giving you love and support throughout your changing circumstances.

Wherever you go, go in love. Appreciate the people who serve you food at a restaurant or the cashier at the grocery store.

These offerings of love will ease your transition through whatever changes and challenges that you are facing.

No matter what's going on in your life, we honor you and send you love.

Relationship Quote of the Week

"Love is like water. If it doesn't flow, it stagnates." Deepak Chopra

What Relationship Movies are You Running in your Head?

As humans, we talk to ourselves all day long and what we say to ourselves largely determines the success we have and the quality of life that we experience. If a videotape recorded all that we say to ourselves and the "movies" we run in our heads, what we would see may not be what we are wanting to consciously create in our lives.

You are the director of your life and your relationships and if something isn't working, we are suggesting that you change the script and start creating a different "movie" for your life.

According to Shad Helmstetter, author of the book "Choices," up to 77% of what you tell yourself may be working against you. We are often unaware that we are making unconscious choices with this negative self-talk that sabotages and defeats us.

We'll explain what we mean. Every now and then we have "ear worms" that simply drive us crazy. These aren't actual worms but are songs that get in our heads and we can't seem to think of anything else. For whatever reason, these are usually songs that we don't like in the first place but just seem to "stick" in our brains, playing over and over.

To remove these "ear worms," we play a cd that we love and the "ear worm" disappears.

That's what it's like when we constantly run negative, disempowering movies and self-talk about our relationships and our lives.

We need to become aware of what we are doing and start making new choices if we want positive results.

For example...

Instead of running a movie and perpetuating self-talk like "I'll never have a great relationship" and see yourself in unhappy relationships (past or future), we suggest you change the self-talk to something like.."I'm open to new possibilities in my relationships and my relationships are getting better." Your positive "movie" could be seeing yourself happy and going on a date that goes really well.

The trick is to not simply repeat these positive phrases a few times a day but rather to run the "movie" that you want and can believe many times during the day.

For example...

If you are in an unhappy relationship and you tell yourself that you have a fabulous, close, connected relationship, your brain will simply tell you that you're crazy. But if you run the movie of something you can believe that is a little better such as--"I'm finding some ways to enjoy myself in my life and my relationship" and then imagine what those ways might be, your brain just may accept that idea.

When you play this "movie," be sure to add tastes, feelings, sounds and anything else that will make it seem real to you.

Susie used this technique last weekend when we were at a seminar in Texas. We had been up early and late to bed for several days in a row and the little voice in her head told her that she would be very tired the next day and not alert.

When she realized that she was running a self-defeating movie in her head of being tired the next day, she immediately changed to seeing herself energetic and excited the next morning. Guess what? She did feel energetic the next day.

Before you discard this idea as positive-thinking mumbo jumbo that will never work in your life, we urge you to give it a try this week. If you do, you may be surprised at the positive changes that can happen in your life.

Creating an atmosphere of love

Sharon, a woman we know, told us she wanted a better relationship but in the next breath, she said that she wasn't willing to put forth any effort to do anything about it.

We're fascinated with the number of people we come in contact with that tell us, just like Sharon, that they want more love, closeness and intimacy, but don't take any steps to create it.

Whether you want to attract a new partner into your life or want to create more intimacy in your current relationship, one of the best ways we can suggest is to create, as author Daphne Rose Kingma calls, an "atmosphere of love" around yourself.

So what is an atmosphere of love? One of the best ways we can describe it is by reminding you of its opposite.

We're sure that you've all experienced stepping into a room and having the feeling that the energy was so "thick" with anger, rage, sorrow or any number of intense emotions that you could "cut it with a knife."

When you create an "atmosphere of love," it's exactly the opposite. You are creating a presence around yourself that is inviting, alive, warm and giving. It's an openness for possibilities and for trust between two people.

Otto's sister creates an atmosphere of love around her. She always expresses that she's happy to see us when we get together. We feel welcomed and loved when we go to her home. She sends us cards of appreciation every now and then. There is a warm, open feeling of love in the room when we are with her.

If you want to create an atmosphere of love to attract more love into your life, here are a few things that we do to create it in our home:

  • We greet each other warmly and openly when either of us comes home, even after being away for only a short while.
  • We often give each other hugs during the day or just touch.
  • We try to really listen to each other and maintain eye contact while we do it.
  • We laugh together at our "mistakes" or shortcomings and try not to blame each other.
  • We try to honor how we are different and what blessings these differences bring to our lives.

Whether you are in an intimate relationship and want to make it better or you would like to attract an intimate partner into your life, we suggest that you begin to create an "atmosphere of love" with the people that are already in your life.

You can take some of our ideas if they resonate or feel right to you and add your own.

Start thinking about what you can do in your life to start creating an "atmosphere of love."

When you focus on this, we think it will make a big difference in the quality of your relationships and your life.

Cold Mountain's Lessons of Love

If you haven't seen the movie "Cold Mountain" yet, we recommend that you go see it and here's why...

Although parts of the movie are painful, violent and difficult to watch, we think that it holds a wonderful lesson about relationships that we'd like to share with you.

Woven within the film (and the book by Charles Frazier) is a beautiful story of two people who discover that they have a deep connection and are then separated for several years.

Although they are separated and tempted by various people, situations and events, they remain true to their desire for a deep connected relationship with the other and aren't willing to settle for anything less.

Watching this movie reminded us of what our connection felt like from the moment we got together and still feel like today.

What we had was an instantly recognizable feeling of love and connection that we continue to nurture on a moment by moment and day-by-day basis to keep that connection alive.

Are we special and among the fortunate few who can have this deep connection with a partner?

We don't think so. We think it is available to anyone who has the desire and intention to create a deep, loving relationship and are willing to do the things necessary to keep it alive and healthy.

In "Cold Mountain," once the two lead characters had a taste of something truly special that they couldn't explain, no matter how many times and how they were tempted, they weren't willing to settle for an "average" or superficial relationship.

It's one of the few films we've ever seen where the main male character, Inman, was only interested in a loving, connected relationship and not superficial sex. It certainly is a radical departure to how most men are portrayed in films.

So what does all of this mean to you in your life and what can you use to make your life and relationships better?

We think that it's a good reminder for you to take a look at what kind of relationships you really want in your life and what you are willing and not willing to settle for.

You may be in a committed, loving relationship that's good but you want it to be even better. Finding ways to spend more time together or to communicate better are examples of ways that you might focus on to become even closer.

You might be in a committed relationship where there is love but you seem to be going in two different directions and the connection just isn't there. Ask yourself (and if possible your partner) if you want a closer relationship. If you do, look for what is blocking your connection and agree on some ways that would bring the two of you closer.

You may not be in a committed relationship right now but want to be. If so, ask yourself if a committed relationship is really what you want at this time in your life. If it is, then ask yourself what are the blocks within you that are preventing this from happening. Simply by becoming aware of what's blocking you from having what you want will start you on your way to having it.

Whether it's in a relationship you are in now or one that you want to be in -- as a friend of Otto's once told him -- Always go for the highest and go for the best.

If you go for the highest and go for the best, we think you'll find that your relationships will be happier, more fulfilling and bring you more joy than you ever thought possible.

It's Time to Let Go of Old Roles....

There is something happening in almost every corner of the world that is bigger than any one of us individually that is changing the face of our relationships forever.

What is happening is that men are becoming more conscious, connected and emotionally aware and women are becoming more empowered.

Some people still believe that men and women are coming from different planets and that each sex's wants and needs are so radically different that each gender requires an interpreter to figure out what each other wants.

We think that some of this may have been true at one time--but, not anymore.

In his book "The Soul Stories," Gary Zukav referred to these evolutionary changes in men and women as the "New Male" and the "New Female."

The "New Male" is desiring in increasing numbers things such as love, connection, closeness, truth, authenticity and a depth in their relationships that they simply didn't allow themselves to have in the years gone by.

Men in increasing numbers are embracing what would be typically thought of as more feminine qualities and developing a real sense that they want more from their relationships than they have allowed themselves to have in the past. They are wanting connections with their children that weren't possible previously.

What today's "New Female" is creating is a life of empowered possibilities, hope, and a new sense of self that hasn't seemed possible for many women until now. She is choosing how she wants her life to be and doesn't need someone to "take care of her" but rather is a co-creator in her life experience with another person. She is asking for what she wants instead of waiting for someone else to lead the way.

In the past, men did what was considered "men's work" and Women did "women's work." We each knew our roles and we played them well. This served us well in many ways like ensuring safety for our families and making sure the children were taken care. However, this didn't do much for creating closer and more connected relationships between men and women. In fact, in many ways it seemed to divide them.

As we see it, one of the most important things that men and women can do to create the love, connection and passion in their relationships that we know is possible is for both men and women to make it okay for men to become emotionally aware of their thoughts and feelings.

In the past, most men haven't felt like it was acceptable in this culture to feel and express true emotions of the heart. In fact, many women have helped to perpetuate the "ideal" male who is the strong, silent, tough guy--the guy who's a little wild and needs a "good woman" to help him "settle down."

While it is hardly true of all women, many, on the other hand, have looked to men to support them financially, make all the important decisions, and to be a "knight in shining armor" who will sweep them away and keep them safe.

In our opinion, the most important thing for women to do in order to create the relationships and lives many say they want is to claim their own personal power and take personal responsibility for their lives.

This doesn't mean that women should take the stance of becoming angry, hostile, vindictive, or that they "have to do it all themselves" and perhaps be alone, but rather develop within themselves the attitude of equality, worth, purpose and take responsibility for their own happiness.

In our workshops and personal coaching that we offer, one of our favorite phrases concerning differences is to encourage people to wonder about "What they can learn from others" instead of having the differences be divisive. We think it's very appropriate to include and apply this idea to this discussion.

Instead of complaining about how emotional women seem to be, men can learn a great deal if they are open to asking themselves the question about the women in their lives--"What can I learn from you about how to feel and express my emotions and about being caring and nurturing with others?"

Instead of complaining about how men get what they want and are "advantaged" in our society, women need to ask themselves when they are feeling like victims or second class citizens--"What can I learn from you to step up and assume my birthright as your equal and learn how to empower myself?"

If men and women want to create close, connected, passionate relationships, the desire for a connection of the heart and soul has to become more important to them than holding onto the gender roles that society has dictated for hundreds of years.

While these roles served their purpose at one time, in this time of expanding energy in the universe, both men and women need to learn from each other so that they can move forward into co-creating together, as partners, the lives that are possible for them to enjoy.

So this week, we invite you to spend some time reflecting on how you can find ways to create more love, connection and creativity in all your relationships.

We also invite you to examine what kinds of beliefs you may be attached to and how letting go of some of those old beliefs could actually help you move forward to a deeper place and provide the catalyst for creating a richer and more rewarding life.

It's time for all of us to become partners, co-creators and collaborators on the path of love instead allowing our fears to keep us separate and distant.

Letting go of your stuck position

Marlin and Dory found themselves in a whale's mouth hanging on for dear life, fearing that if they fell into the whale's belly, they would be eaten.

Dory happened to be able to speak "whale" so she told the whale that they were trying to find Marlin's son and that they needed the whale's help. The whale told them to just "let go."

Fearing the consequences of falling into the whale's stomach if they just "let go," Marlin asked, "How do we know it will be okay?"

The whale answered--"You don't."

This, of course, is one of the scenes from the Disney film "Finding Nemo." Although the characters are not human, we think this scene beautifully illustrates what happens in the lives of many people when they are "stuck" in their relationships and when they are faced with many decisions in their lives.

What we have found in almost every "stuck" situation is that there is either some kind of fear or an unconscious payoff that is holding them in a frozen place.

Many winters ago, Susie was driving down a very icy, steep hill and she found that no matter which way she turned or how slowly she went, her car slid sideways, blocking the road. Since she was afraid to move the car forward or backward, she just got out and left it for someone else to move.

We hope that this story gives you a visual of what can happen when you find yourself stuck in making a decision or in a relationship challenge where no solution seems to be "right."

So what might your "frozen place" look like?

A "frozen place" might be something as big as deciding whether to stay in a relationship, paying off debts or something as ordinary as holding fast to the position of "being right" in an argument.

We realize that in life, there are times to act and there are times to wait. What we are talking about is when you know that some action should be taken in order to move forward or even to heal a relationship. In situations like this, you may want to take action but are afraid of the consequences either way you decide. So you "freeze" and do nothing.

What the whale was trying to tell Dory and Marlin is that although they couldn't "know" that they would be safe before they let go, staying in the whale's mouth would not move them toward finding Marlin's son Nemo. Only by "letting go" could they hope to move toward having what they wanted.

We are suggesting that sometimes moving toward having what you want in your life takes letting go--letting go of fear, of anger, of needing to be right, of "what will others think" and anything else that might be holding you back from taking action.

Staying stuck may feel safe but it does not move you toward your goal.

So, this week we invite you to try to discover where you are stuck in your life. In what area are you not moving forward?

Take some time to look objectively at your fears and discover if there are any you can "let go" of so that you can take some action that will lead you toward having what you want.

By the way, Marlin and Dory were safely blown out of the whale's blow hole and they did find Nemo.

It's our hope that you are able to have what you want in your relationships and life, as well.

©2005 by Susie & Otto Collins

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