Susie & Otto


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

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

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Affection: Why Is It a Challenge For Many People In Relationships?
A Look at Your Past Year
An Unhealthy Belief Many People Have About Relationships
Are Friendships Like These Good or Bad?
Asking for What you Want: Why is it so Difficult?
Be Here Now..
The Flower and The Gardener
How Can You Have The Kind of Love and Relationships That You Want?
How Differences Can Challenge a Relationship
How Differences Can Help Your Relationship
How Hot Can You Stand It In Your Relationships?
Instant Relationship Breakthroughs" pt.1
Instant Relationship Breakthroughs - pt.2
Is a Great Relationship Really Possible?
Kindness, Openness, Embracing the Unfamiliar and Honoring Others
Listening to Your Inner Voice
The Miracle Moment that Builds Relationships
One Secret To Putting More Life Into Your Relationships
One Way To Honor and Build Trust in Your Relationship and Each Other
Overwhelm Ahead--How Will Your Relationships
Patience and Why It Isn't Always a Good Thing
The Power of Speaking Your Truth
Take Time to Connect
10 Primary Reasons Why Couples Argue, Fight and Even Break Up Around Valentine's Day
10 Primary Reasons Why Couples Argue, Fight and Even Break Up Around Valentine's Day, pt. 2
10 Primary Reasons Why Couples Argue, Fight and Even Break Up Around Valentine's Day, pt.3
A Unique Valentine's Day Gift Idea
Using Laughter to keep Our Relationships Growing
What can we ALL learn about relationships from Kate and Andy Spade
10 Ideas for Expanding into Love and Enjoyment
Romantic Things to Do to Keep Your Relationship Vibrant, Alive and Exciting
What Do You Tell Yourself?
What is a 'Relationship Trap' and How Do You Know If You or Someone You Know is In One?
When Do You Want Chocolate?
When Is Flirting a Good Thing?
Which is it-- Wants or Needs In Your Relationships and Life?
Why do we seem to keep crashing into one another?
Why Relationships Are So Important and How You Can Make Them Great
You just don't listen to me
Your Perfect Partner

You just don't listen to me.

Have you ever said, heard, or "thought" this complaint (or maybe it's been said to you) ?

"You aren't listening to me"

Here's what a woman recently wrote to us about this very issue...

"All great advice, but you can't communicate with someone if that someone doesn't want to communicate with you---it's a one-way street! The person in my life believes that I never want to take advice from him and that I don't want to listen but what he forgets is that he is ALWAYS right and I can't speak my mind or he gets mad."

While it sounds like this woman is truly upset about her situation, we have to agree with her about one thing--you can't communicate with someone who is closed, shut down and won't allow you in. You also can't communicate if you hold onto a lot of resentment that has built up over a long period of time--as there may have been in this case.

As we thought further about this woman's comments, we completely understand that her relationship challenges are not unique.

Very often, we don't listen to each other. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions and in the best of relationships, we say and do things that we might often regret later. Maybe we're not as clear in our language as we can be. Maybe we're not as open to hearing what the other person is feeling as we'd like to be.

In any case, it isn't that unusual to not be "listened to" and here's one example from everyday life to illustrate this point and what can be done about it...

Some time ago, Susie had to have a home exam by a nurse to qualify for a life insurance policy. The nurse was 30 minutes late and finally called for directions because she was lost and couldn't find our house. When Susie explained directions to our house, Susie could tell that the nurse wasn't listening to her because the nurse kept saying that our house was near apartments. It isn't--but the nurse just couldn't seem to get past her pre-conceived idea of where our house was located.

Sure enough, she had to call again because she was unable to find our house so Susie explained again the same directions that she gave before.

The nurse was surprised that she couldn't find our house because she knew our city "like the back of her hand."

This seems to be exactly what happens in many relationships. We have a preconceived idea of how the other person is thinking or feeling so we don't listen when he or she speaks. 

One problem is that we often listen from our own agenda and our own frame of reference. We find ourselves listening to tell our story rather than listening to connect with the other person.

How many times has someone told you something and your response is not about them but about how the same or a similar situation has happened to you?

How many times has someone told you something and you start thinking about how what they told you will impact you instead of just listening to the other person and how they are feeling?

We struggle with this like everyone else but when we find that we are not listening to each other, we stop and acknowledge that it is happening. Then we do whatever is necessary to bring ourselves back into the present moment.

That may mean giving each other space to discover feelings that have come up that prevent us from listening with an open heart and mind. When we do that, we always set a time when we will discuss the issue again.

It may be that we need to simply turn and face the other person, stop what we are doing, and make eye contact to listen with the intention to understand.

One of the deepest needs that we all have is the desire to be understood and to feel important. One way another person can truly feel understood is if you listen to them to connect rather than to react or respond.

This week we invite you to consider making listening to connect with others a priority in your life. If you do, you'll see and feel a positive shift in your relationships.

One Secret To Putting More Life Into Your Relationships ...

How do you extend the life of a relationship or marriage?

This is an interesting question and one that was still on Otto's mind after he got back from his chiropractor's office recently.

What triggered this thought or question was a poster on the wall of the chiropractor's office.

The poster had the words "proper maintenance extends life" superimposed over a large picture of a "Classic" Buick or Cadillac car from the 1950's or 60's.

It was a great message that our chiropractor friend was trying to convey to his patients that was meant to suggest that with proper chiropractic maintenance you can extend your life.

This is a message that also applies to not just extending your health and life but for creating a relationship that lasts as well.

When it comes to relationships-- here's a startling fact that you may not have thought about up until now so brace yourself...

ALL Relationships End.

Notice that we didn't say that some relationships end and not others.

We said that ALL relationships end and here's why this is important...

Whether your relationship ends after just 2 weeks because your partner found someone else or your marriage of 60 years ends because of the death of your spouse, the reality is that all relationships do end.

The only question that goes unanswered is WHEN will it end?

We hope that you don't think we're being negative by bringing up this simple life and relationship truth because when we think about the question of "how long will we be together?" the truth is that we really don't know.

No one does.

Most people think that when they come together in a committed relationship that they are going to be together forever.

One of the philosophies that we live by that has helped us to create the outstanding relationship that we have is the understanding that even though we want and intend to be together forever, this moment is all we have and we try to act from that place.

One of our intentions in our relationship is to open our hearts as deeply and completely to each other while we are in relationship with each other.

It has been our experience that if you do this, then the life of your relationship will not only be extended but filled with love, connection and passion as well.

So, if we realize that every relationship will eventually end then that brings up the next question that most people would want the answer to...

How can we make the time we do have together the best possible experience?

Here are some suggestions for you to consider...

1. Be kind to each other. We're always amazed at how many people say they love one another and they aren't very kind to each other.

2. Never go to bed angry. Of all the couples we've talked to and interviewed who have been married 30, 40, and 50 years, this is the most consistent advice they have given us.

3. Be generous with compliments and thanks. Sincere compliments and thanks uplift people and can draw you closer.

4. Open your heart to the other person even if you are tired and it feels better to close down.

5. Continue to explore each other. There's always something new you can learn about your loved one even if you have been together for many years. Don't assume that you know everything about them.

6. Appreciate each other's gifts and don't make differences wrong.

7. Express your love and joy of being with your partner in whatever way that is genuine for you.

8. Be honest about what you are feeling and express it in a loving way.

These are just a few of the things that bring us closer and help us to make each day special together.

By writing this article, we are reminded to do them more and we invite you to do the same.

Always remember that love is a choice that we open up to in every moment.

You always have the choice of where you place your attention.

We hope that you'll join us in choosing love most of the time.

Overwhelm Ahead--How Will Your Relationships

It's not often that this happens to us but the truth is that most of us experience feelings of overwhelm at one time or another and lately that's what we've felt.

When it comes to feeling overwhelmed, one thing we know for sure is that it can play havoc with our relationships and often we don't even recognize what's going on.

When we become overwhelmed with life--maybe we've over-committed, have way too much "on our plates," or maybe a project is more complicated than what we had originally thought, something pretty universal happens.

Our thinking becomes muddled, we might get very "moody" or "touchy" and we start closing down . We may even get physically sick from the experience.

All of us have unique "safety valves" and ways of coping with overwhelm when it happens but the one thing that most of us do but do not realize that we are doing during those times is to shut others out, especially those we love.

The two of us have been experiencing overwhelm lately. Otto, among other things, has been redesigning and reorganizing our web site for personal growth and Susie's been trying to get a house renovation project underway, in the middle of attending a weekend workshop, taking part in an out-of-town family celebration, helping with her ailing mother, and having a tooth extracted.

With all of this going on, we realized that we had begun to close our hearts to each other in certain ways.

Nothing very dramatic, mind you--but we noticed that we weren't experiencing our usual close connection.

When we realized what was happening, we stopped our busyness and took the time to reconnect. Last night, we just sat and looked in each other's eyes and held hands. Even though we had a lot to talk about because we really hadn't had much interaction for quite a few days, we just sat and reconnected.

As we sat together with the intention of reconnecting, we waited for our hearts to open to each other.

Waiting for our hearts to open to each other seems like it's a passive thing but it's really not passive at all.

This is because reconnecting and opening our hearts requires us to make a conscious choice-- and the conscious choice is--are we going to stay closed or are we going to choose to open to our beloved and the other people in our lives?

This choice, by the way, whether we realize it or not is not a one-time choice or a function of our circumstances.

This decision about whether to open or close our hearts to the people in our lives is a moment-by-moment decision that we're all making thousands of times every day.

This decision about whether to (and how wide) to open your heart to others just may be the single biggest factor that will determine how close and connected your relationships are.

The feeling of being "overwhelmed" is one of many things in our lives that can cause us to lose track of what's really important in our lives and cause us to feel distance and separation with the people in our lives that matter most to us.

Because we know that many of you experience overwhelm in your lives from time to time too, we wanted to give you a few ideas for helping you to regain your sense of balance, open your heart and reconnect with those you love.

These ideas have helped us and may also help you.

1. When you realize that you are overwhelmed, stop, breathe and take a moment to slow life down. Do what you need to do to calm or center yourself.

That may mean taking a walk in the woods, sitting by yourself for a few minutes, Bach flower remedies, aroma therapy, meditation, exercise, listen to calming music, sing, dance--whatever helps you to feel in balance and "like yourself" again.

If you don't have a way to center yourself, experiment with some of our examples before you feel overwhelmed.

When we are overwhelmed, we often feel like we don't have the time to do those things that will help us. But what the two of us have discovered is that if we don't take the time to "center" ourselves, we just tend to make things worse!

2. Back up and re-evaluate your priorities. Get clear about your goals and what you want. Susie had the grandiose idea of painting one of the rooms in their house this coming weekend but with all that has gone on in the last couple of weeks, we decided to scale down our expectations.

We decided to get very clear about our goal for remodeling that room, to take a few steps back and to begin reorganizing instead. We'll paint it after a few other things are done to the room.

If you have a big project staring you in the face, take the pressure off, evaluate what you want and break it up into bite-sized pieces that won't overwhelm you.

You might even decide that you need to say "no" to something that will give you more space and time. Give yourself the permission to do that if it's needed.

3. If you are caught up in being overwhelmed, turn your attention to your relationships with the people you love. You may have been ignoring them and taking them for granted.

Make a connection with your kids, your partner/spouse, your friends, other loved ones.

Spend some time just being totally present with the ones you love and not thinking about what has been overwhelming you.

Always remember that we always have other choices for new possibilities in every area of our lives.

When it comes to our relationships, please know that we always have more possibilities than we realize to open more often and wider to the love that's available to us all the time.

We just have to be conscious enough, willing enough and committed enough to do this even when life gets crazy and a bit overwhelming.

Kindness, Openness, Embracing the Unfamiliar and Honoring Others

Last weekend we attended an absolutely marvelous, unique celebration of the wedding of the son of a good friend of ours.

This wedding celebration was both unusual and unique...

It was unusual because it was one of the few (if not the only) wedding celebrations we've ever been to where there was a rich aura of kindness, openness, honoring and embracing the unfamiliar.

The wedding and celebration was unique because the couple were married twice on the same afternoon--once in a traditional Hindu ceremony and once in a traditional Jewish ceremony.

These ceremonies honored the different cultures and heritages of the bride and the groom and their families. The ceremonies were both reverend and celebratory.

It was quite an afternoon that we really enjoyed because we were among the many groups of people from many different cultures that were gathered for several hours to honor this couple and what we observed was that there was an honoring on the part of everyone who was present.

As guests, we were honored with wonderful food, good music, an absolutely breathtaking setting for the ceremonies, many people of different cultures to talk with, and new experiences.

We all like to be honored for what we do for other people and for who we are. It's a way of showing and accepting love from other people--and it just feels good!

So, the questions we had for ourselves and ones we'll offer for you as well are these...

How are you honoring the people in your life?

How open are you when it comes to embracing the unfamiliar, new possibilities and new ideas for living with and being with others?

This includes your immediate family, your co-workers, friends, extended family and people you come in contact with on a daily basis.

We've talked about the idea of honoring differences before in this newsletter but after what we saw at the wedding celebration, we wanted to mention it again.

Very often the differences between us and the people we're closest to and those we come in contact with in our daily lives are not as clear and obvious. But in our experience the differences are there just the same.

As we think about the diversity of all the people that attended and participated in the wedding ceremonies we mentioned, we are reminded of the line from the Band U2's song called "One" that says "we're all one but were not the same."

You may have a different interpretation for that line but we think that it means that we all want the same things in life whether we realize it or not.

We all want love, kindness, openness and of course, we all want to be honored.

Since last weekend's wedding we attended was deep in diversely different traditions, we came away with the feeling that if there was anything that went on that afternoon, it was honoring on many different levels.

Of course there was honoring of the couple that got married and there was also honoring of and embracing of different cultures and experiences.

When it comes to the people in your life-- whether it's your significant other, your spouse or anyone else-- one thing is for sure-- they want to be honored.

How can you honor them and make them understand how much you care and how much you value their contribution to your life?

Honoring the other people in your life is certainly worth doing not just for that other person's benefit for yours as well.

Most of us are always interested in ways to build better relationships. Honoring each other is one of those ways to do it.

With that in mind, here are a few ideas for honoring and being honored:

(We're sure you'll have plenty of your own!)

1. Each morning the two of us honor each other by looking in each other's eyes and expressing how much love we are feeling. This only takes a few minutes to do and we can feel the effects throughout the day.

2. Instead of buying something for each other's birthday, we have a private celebration. This year for Susie's birthday, Otto is creating a special celebration to honor Susie. Find some special ways to honor your loved ones.

3. Something as simple as a "thank you" phone call, email or note after someone has entertained you, done something out of the ordinary for you or given you something is a way of honoring the gift and the other person.

4. You can honor someone with a smile, a loving thought and by being kind instead of impatient. How many times have we rushed around and been impatient with sales clerks and others when the lines haven't moved as quickly as we wanted?

We suggest that this week you look at the people who cross your path with new eyes. Look with the eyes of one who is appreciating differences and honoring the other person. If you do, we're sure that your relationships will become as rich as the ones we witnessed at the wedding celebration.

10 Ideas for Expanding into Love and Enjoyment

It's summertime where we live and the flowers are in full bloom. Since we've had quite a bit of rain, our yard is also lush with various shades of green.

With all of this "lushness" around us, we think that it's a great reminder for all of us to relax and expand into loving and enjoying ourselves and each other a little more than what we normally do.

We came up with 10 ideas for relaxing and expanding into more love and enjoyment this summer and we'd like to share them with you...

1. When driving your car, turn off your air conditioner and "roll" the windows down in your car. Feel the wind blowing through your hair and on your face as a way to feel more alive and open.

2. Eat "cooler" foods and drinks. It will reduce stress if you eat foods that are cooler and not as spicy. Sounds strange-- but true.

3. Show a little skin and wear some color. Be a little more daring and adventurous with your clothing choices. Even if you have a few extra pounds that you aren't happy with, experiment with wearing a piece of clothing or colors that you might not normally wear.

4. Let your fingers do the walking. Call or email your partner or a friend during the day and arrange something special to do together that evening. If you have a partner, It might be something very simple like sitting on the patio after dark and kissing instead of watching television.

5. Take more walks. Walking makes you feel healthier and is a great stress reducer. It can also bring you closer whether you are walking with a friend or your intimate partner. If you are walking with your partner, hold hands and create more closeness while you are enjoying the out-of-doors.

6. Play in the rain. Playing in the rain is something that many of us did as kids in the summer but not since we became grown-ups. The next time it rains (you might even use the lawn sprinkler), go out and run and dance in it. If your partner chooses to go with you, it's a great opportunity to laugh and have fun.

If your partner doesn't choose to go with you or if you have no partner right now, just go out and have fun by yourself.

7. Take a picnic lunch or dinner to a beautiful location. Even if you are living and working in a city, there are usually parks that are beautiful this time of year. Take advantage of this beauty and ask your partner or a friend to go with you.

8. Drink in a sunset or sunrise. In our town, we have a bike path by the river and it's a perfect place to watch the gorgeous sunsets that are happening.

The other evening, Susie just stopped and breathed in the beauty of the sky colors. There was even a rainbow! Enjoy this vision by yourself or with a loved one or friend.

9. Listen to music that helps you soar. Choose to listen to music that uplifts you. We are loving the music of Deva Premal and Miten right now. If you don't have music that uplifts you, go to a bookstore that has those music listening stations and experiment. Find what uplifts and expands you.

10. Do something kind for someone. Nothing feels better than to do something that's kind and loving for someone else. It might be something for your family, partner, friend, or a complete stranger. If you do it anonymously, it feels even better.

You might be wondering right now what all of these ideas have to do with improving your relationships...

Here's what we know and believe...

When we are feeling good, open and expanded, we are loving ourselves and each other more deeply. We feel a deeper connection with each other, we are more understanding and not as judgmental, and we have more fun.

Whether you resonate with any of our ideas or not, take this opportunity to open and expand and try some things that you might not normally do.

If you do, we're sure that your life will be a richer experience and your relationships will improve.

How Hot Can You Stand It In Your Relationships?

During the past couple of weeks, most of the United States, has been experiencing hot, hot, hot temperatures that are far above normal. When it's this hot outside, we can't help being reminded of the heat.

The ways we deal with this unusual heat wave and the high temperatures have a lot in common with the way many of us deal with our relationships.

Sometimes these ways can keep us from having relationships that are as good as possible.

How, you might ask?

We ALL have a certain temperature at which our body is comfortable. Once we start getting above (or below) that temperature, we'll do whatever we can to make ourselves comfortable once again.

For example, when the temperature gets hotter than we are comfortable with, we start doing things to get cooled off such as going to the pool, eating a popsicle, drinking lots of cold water, turning the air conditioners on full blast to make it cooler etc.

Oddly enough, when it comes to love and our relationships, many of us do the same thing.

Very often, when it starts getting really good or when the relationship "heats up," we start getting uncomfortable and start unconsciously doing things to "cool down" our relationship.

We start doing things like not returning phone calls, looking for things you don't like about the other person so you can "pick a fight," taking each other for granted, consistently being late for dinner, not treating the other person like the special person they are to you and so on.

In our relationship, there were times in the past when we experienced periods of deep intensity and connection but one or both of us would unconsciously do something to cause a disconnection.

For the longest time, we just couldn't figure it out.

But now we know what it is.

It's human nature that when you are growing and expanding your limits, there's a tendency to fall back into patterns that feel comfortable and safe.

Now you may think that intense connection may feel safe and comfortable but it just may not if it's an unfamiliar feeling to you.

So our question to you is this...

How hot can you stand it?

This question can be about connection with your partner or another person, sex or any other way you are willing to open yourself to expanding into experiencing more joy and happiness in your life.

If you are experiencing periods of opening and expansion and then shutting down or closing to the other person, know that this is pretty normal behavior when you are trying something new.

We're reminded of Susie's sister's 15 month old grandson, Josiah. He's been learning to walk and has taken his time doing it. In the last couple of weeks, he's done a combination of crawling and taking a few steps by himself. We've noticed that in the last few days, he's decided to spend most of his time upright and walking carefully.

The point is that he didn't walk overnight. Often he seemed to revert back to crawling just when we thought he had the idea of walking down pat.

This is exactly how we expand consciousness in our relationships. We usually don't do it in one fell swoop. We take one step forward, take a step backward and then take two steps forward.

So this week, ask yourself how hot or how connected you can stand it in your relationships.

Begin noticing when you do things to "cool down" your relationship when things get going really good.

When you start doing things to "cool down" your relationships, you might want to take a moment to discover what it is that concerns you about more intensity, more passion or more whatever--than you are comfortable with.

Also notice that this uncomfortable feeling may be just something that you need to pay attention to and then go ahead and take a step forward if that is your intention--or you just as easily might need to take a step backwards.

Be gentle and loving with yourself as you expand and move forward into greater, happier and more joyful relationships.

Why Relationships Are So Important and How You Can Make Them Great

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the many people whose lives have been irreversibly changed forever because of Hurricane Katrina that hit Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Like many of you, we've been watching TV and getting updates about all the damage that has been done. While we've been emotionally impacted in a big way by what we've been seeing, we couldn't help but think that there is a big lesson about the importance of love and relationships as we've been watching the unfolding tragic events in the USA Gulf coast region.

The big lesson is this:

Love and relationships are the most important things in our lives.

What we've seen in this tragedy is that while people are concerned about their homes, property, jobs and other possessions, what people most want to know is if their family, friends and loved ones are safe.

While it must be extremely painful to lose all the possessions you've worked so hard for (as many have during the past few days), all things can be rebuilt or replaced somehow or someway.

Although possessions are important and they do enrich our lives, It's our belief that when each of us gets to the end of our lives and looks back, what we will cherish most are the relationships we've had and the love we've shared with the people we've cared about the most.

The questions we are always thinking about in our lives are:

How can we love more, attract more love into our lives and how can we make our relationships even better?

These are good questions and the best and simplest answer we could give you is to suggest to you that you simply make your relationships a priority.

As you go about your life each day simply be a living, breathing example of love, gratitude and kindness in action.

This is not always easy but this is how you both attract and keep the love you want in your life.

Think about it...

If you want more love in your life, then be more loving. If you want more kindness in your life, then be more kind. If you want to attract a more open partner into your life, then be more open.

Brian Tracy calls this the "law of reciprocity" and it's very similar to the idea of "sowing and reaping" where you get out of something exactly what you put in.

We're always amazed when we're coaching someone about their relationship challenges and they aren't willing to look at themselves openly and honestly about how they are contributing to whatever challenges are going on.

Whether you're looking for a new partner or you have been with someone for 40 years, one of the best ways to attract and keep the love you want in your life is to become the kind of person that could attract and keep the kind of person you want in your life.

Everything else is just the details. All you have to do next is determine what those details are, do those things and open to being that person and you'll have all the love you want in your life.

That's it. It's not any more complicated than that.

It's just that most of us let our fears and programming of our past get in the way of having the love we really want in our lives.

Our advice:

Let go of the fear and let go of your programming from your past that is no longer serving you and say YES to love.

We're not always perfect, but that's what we continue to do every day to have the love we want and that's what you can do as well.

Give up the struggle and say YES to love at every opportunity. Love and a great relationship awaits.

Romantic Things to Do to Keep Your Relationship Vibrant, Alive and Exciting

It's often been said that it's the little things in life that make all the difference.

No where is this truer than when it comes to keeping your relationship alive, growing and vibrant.

Romance can be one of those things that keeps a relationship fresh and exciting.

We all have different ideas of what "romance" and "being romantic" means. There can be a lot of unmet expectations, frustrations and feelings of failure around this idea.

We don't think it has to be this way.

What being romantic means to us is that we are continuously discovering ways to laugh, love and connect with each other and deepen our intimacy all the time.

To us, romance is what we do on a moment-by-moment and day-by-day basis to make our relationship stronger and more passionate. Being romantic is a way of showing our deep love for each other.

Of all the romantic things to do, we've found that the small things make the biggest difference. Here's an example of what happened the other night...

Susie went camping for one night with her extended family and since Otto doesn't like "roughing" it, he stayed home. As she snuggled down in her tent with her sister, Susie called Otto on her cell phone to say goodnight. She told him that she loved him and missed him.

Although a phone call is a pretty normal thing to do between people who truly care about one another when they are apart, it can be a way to connect and rekindle love in a romantic way like we did.

Romantic things to do for each other are romantic only when they create the desired effect within the other person and within the relationship. Romance will only create the desired effect when it is not done out of obligation or because it is expected.

So what are the best romantic things to do to make your relationship more alive?

That depends on you and your partner because everyone is different. Romance is certainly in the eye of the beholder!

To some people, a "no-brainer" romantic thing to do is to send flowers. You can't go wrong with flowers, right?


You can go wrong with flowers if there is little or no "heart" in the gesture and if there's something else that the other person is wanting.

Susie's ex-husband often brought her flowers during their 30-year marriage. Although it truly was a wonderful gesture, what she really wanted more was to connect on a deeper level with him.

With that being said, here are some ideas around the notion of romance and being romantic...

1. Pay attention to what your partner likes. If he/she likes surprises, surprise him/her. If not, don't--even if you like surprises. Pay attention to your partner's favorite things that they seldom indulge themselves in and then do those things. It might be something your partner wouldn't buy or do for themselves like buy a cd of their favorite music.

2. A romantic gesture can be doing a very small thing. It might be after the kids are in bed, getting a bowl of ice cream and two spoons--then sharing it. It might be putting the kids to bed without being asked. It might be a hug or a foot rub. For Susie, a romantic gesture is when Otto lovingly puts his hand on the back of her neck.

3. Romance can be taking a trip down memory lane. Visit where you went on your first date or some other place that holds significance for the two of you. It's very romantic for the two of us to visit the natural setting where we went on our first date and where we got married.

4. We've heard people say that they are not romantic. If you've never considered yourself to be romantic and never really wanted to be but your partner would likemore "romance," you can begin by changing your thinking. Instead of thinking that romance is something artificial and outside yourself that you "do," you can begin thinking that romance is merely ways of expressing your love that your partner will receive and enjoy.

5. What if you want more romance and your partner doesn't seem to? Be more romantic and loving yourself in the way that your partner wants to be loved. Start with little ways and just see what happens.

Romance and being romantic are the things you do that bring you closer together and keep the spark alive.

Being romantic and finding romantic things to do is something that you or anyone can do. You just have to open to more possibilities, have the desire create special times with your partner or spouse and allow the ideas to flow from love.

Patience and Why It Isn't Always a Good Thing

Here's an important relationship question about patience for you to consider...

Is it true that patience is one of the biggest ingredients that it takes to create a great, long-lasting relationship?

Many people think so, including us. But that's not the whole story about relationships and patience.

Webster's dictionary defines "patient" as "bearing pain or trials without complaint. Showing self-control, calm, steadfast, persevering."

While we think that patience is a good virtue to have in relationships and can contribute to their longevity, patience alone will not make for a great relationship and here's why...

Recently, while attending a conference, we met a couple who were business partners and had been married business partners for well over twenty years. When they found out that we were relationship coaches, of course the discussion gravitated to the subject of how to have a great relationship. The woman told us that she thought that the key to having a really good, long-lasting relationship with her husband was patience.

The challenge with the belief that patience is the primary key to having a great, long-lasting relationship is that having patience alone is leaving it up to chance that her relationship and her husband will someday be the way she wants them to be.

For the person who believes that patience is the major requirement for creating a great relationship, they may be essentially saying that they are waiting for the other person to continue to grow and come up to their level.

Sometimes patience masks feelings of superiority and ridicule. The "patient" person might think to themselves--"I'll just wait until he/she finally gets it together." There might even be a bit of martyrdom in these thoughts!

Sometimes patience hides what's really going on in the relationship and allows both people to not take responsibility for creating the type of relationship that they want.

One person may need to set boundaries, say what's true for them, ask for what they want and start loving themselves in order for the relationship to grow and be great.

Patience can also mean passivity, implying that you do nothing but sit back and allow whatever is going on with the other person or the relationship to run its course or right itself.

Sometimes this is a good thing to do but many times it isn't. The other person may be in a crisis and may need some proactive help in getting out of it.

One man we recently talked to told us that he had been patient for many months after his wife went into an emotional depression. In the process of reaching out to find the help that he needed to cope with their situation, his wife also got the help she needed to finally start to heal. He was proactive and it is making his life and relationship better.

The ideas around patience that we would invite you to embrace involves honoring the other person for who they are and their path in life.

In our relationship, the two of us make decisions very differently and at times we have allowed those differences to drive us crazy.

Now, Instead of having our differences drive us crazy-- when we are faced with a big decision, we have learned to honor each other's processes and not force our way of doing things on the other person.

When one of us is having challenges, the other person is very "present" and there to support but not fix it. We may offer suggestions if asked, but we simply hold each other in a field of love.

With that being said, here are some of our thoughts around this idea of patience and it's role in creating a great relationship...

1. Recognize that patience is a virtue and is good but don't mistake the virtue of being patience with the idea of being passive to get what you want.

2. Commit to honoring what is inside you and sharing it with your partner or the people in your life.

3. Explore what you both want from life at your core and tell one another what you discover.

4. Understand that we are all always growing, expanding and evolving and constantly renew yourself and your relationship every day.

5. Listen, truly listen, without your agenda getting in the way.

As you've found by reading this article, patience alone (or any other quality) is not the key ingredient of a great relationship map, all by itself.

There are many keys to a great relationship and patience is just one of many.

Instant Relationship Breakthroughs" pt.1

Some people believe that change takes a very long time to happen.

These people believe that if you want to improve something or change something in your life that you peck away at it and eventually you'll have want you want.

It's been our experience that change happens in two ways:

1. Yes, it can take a long time to happen or

2. You can do things to create what we call "Instant Breakthroughs."

You can create these "instant breakthroughs" in any area of your life if you're open to them and since our focus in this newsletter is relationships-- the big question is...

How do you create "instant breakthroughs" in your relationships?

Before we give you some ideas on how to do this, let us first tell you what "instant relationship breakthroughs" are...

An instant relationship breakthrough is one moment when one or both of you in the relationship make a shift to do, say or act differently and there's an opening, a sense of understanding or feeling of connection and communion in the relationship that wasn't there previously.

If your intention is to create these breakthroughs, then you will create the type of relationships that you want and have more love, passion, intimacy and connection.

To give you an idea of what we're talking about, here are a few "Instant Relationship Breakthroughs" that you can begin practicing right now to make your relationships even better...

Instant Relationship Breakthrough Idea #1

~Be proactive and responsible in creating your life the way you want

If you don't have the love you want (or anything else), you're the one who is blocking it.

Think about your garden hose. What happens when it gets a major kink in it? The water doesn't flow past the kink. It's shut off until you remove the kink. That's the way we believe that it is with us in our lives. When we block our natural radiance, we block what we want from coming to us. We can choose to allow our life force to flow or not allow it to flow. It's our choice.

Some of you at this point might be arguing with us and saying "I'm not blocking it. It's because of __________ (you fill in the blank) that I don't have exactly what I want in my life." Any time that you don't accept that you are the one blocking the flow of love, then you are not allowing yourself to be responsible and to begin creating the life and relationships that you want.

We all have places in our lives where we can step up to the plate, so to speak, and take responsibility for turning our lives around--for making small or big changes that will make our lives and the lives of those we come in contact with better.

Today, ask yourself these questions-

1. "How have I put up walls and barriers to having the love and relationships that I think I want?"

2. "What mental shifts can I make to let go of the walls and barriers that I've created that prevent me from having what I want?"

Instant Relationship Breakthrough Idea #2

~The power of making completions that have kept you from moving forward in your life and relationships.

Most of us have an awareness of things that have been left unsaid that needed to be said or things that needed to be done that weren't done. If you need to do a completion about anyone or anything in your life, it can be a breakthrough moment for you and the other person.

Cathy took one of our courses and told us later that she had made two completions that by doing them, she was moving forward to having what she wanted in her life. She returned all of one man's things that were left at her house, including a computer, several months after they had broken their relationship and also she decided to break it off with a married man she'd been seeing every now and then for years.

These things from a former lover and the relationship that wasn't going anywhere were holding her back from being with someone who could love her the way she wanted to be loved.

Completions aren't always as dramatic as Cathy's but they always free up energy for something more wonderful and powerful in our lives.

On television the other day, we saw an interview with a couple who had been married 40 years. When asked how they kept their spark, they said that they never go to bed mad at each other. That's a great example of a completion--of not allowing resentments to build--of saying unsaid words that may be getting in the way of a great connection with a partner.

We all have ways we can make completions in our lives that will free up energy so that we can have what we want. Anything left unsaid is an incompletion. Challenges or problems in the bedroom or around sex are almost always about unspoken truths, withheld emotions and incompletions.

Today, ask yourself these questions...

1. "What is one completion that I've needed to make with someone or something?"

2. "What's one small action that I can take to start this completion process?"

#pt2 Instant Relationship Breakthroughs - pt.2

As we discussed in last week's newsletter...

An instant relationship breakthrough is one moment when one or both of you make a shift to do, say or act differently and there's an opening, a sense of understanding or feeling of connection and communion in the relationship.

If your intention is to create these breakthroughs, then you will create the type of relationships that you want and have more love, passion, intimacy and connection.

To give you an idea of what we're talking about, here are a few more "Instant Relationship Breakthroughs" that you can begin practicing right now to make your relationships better...

Instant Relationship Breakthrough Idea #3

~-Make a definite "yes" or a "no"

"Yes or no" is a way of discerning emotions--a measurement tool for gauging your emotions and making quicker decisions on how you want to run your life and for getting unstuck.

We are constantly making choices, either consciously or unconsciously, about how we will use our time, who we will be with, and what we will do. All these decisions (or lack of decisiveness) positively or negatively affect our happiness.

When we don't make a definite "yes" or "no," we get stuck in "maybe" land and others decide for us by default how we'll live our lives.

When people get stuck in "maybe" land, they tend to become angry and resentful but the fact is they didn't make a choice.

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

Imagine you and your partner or you and a friend decide to go to the local movie theater this Friday night. There are several possible choices of movies at your theater and you begin talking about what you'd like to see with your partner or friend.

Imagine that your partner or friend has a strong preference toward one movie and you'd really like to see another but you don't say anything. You give your partner or friend a weak, "maybe" or "I don't care" and end up seeing the movie they wanted to see. Later, you feel resentful and angry because this always seems to happen and you "never get to see the movie that you want to see."

A breakthrough moment is when you empower yourself and express what you want, giving a clear "yes" or "no."

A lot of people feel anger and resentment toward others but what they actually may be feeling is resentment towards themselves for not having the confidence to go for what they really want.

So how do you know whether a decision you are faced with is a "yes" or a "no"?

1. When someone asks you to do something or a choice is before you, take a moment to quiet yourself and breathe.

2. Check in with how you are feeling inside. To practice this, think of a definite "yes" in your life, something you are absolutely certain about. It might be "I'm a great dancer" or "I'm a good cook" or even "I have green eyes." When you think of the "yes," what do you feel inside your body? Where do you feel it?

When there's a "yes" for Otto, he feels a strength inside himself and a sense of expansion.

Now think of a definite "no" in your life. What does it feel like in your body?

When there's a "no" for both of us, there's a sinking and heaviness in our solar plexus and chest. This feeling may be somewhere else for you and it might not be a sinking feeling or heaviness. It might be a dull ache or feeling of being uncomfortable.

Whenever we are faced with a decision, if we take the time to go within, we can feel whether something is a "yes" or a "no." By doing this, we bypass the wishy-washy place of being stuck in "maybe."

This doesn't just apply to making decisions about which movie to see. We invite you to do this exercise of consciousness on a regular basis about all the things in your life.

When you do, you will be clear about who you are and what you are feeling so there's no chance of assumptions being created that get in the way of connecting with others.

Ask yourself these questions...

1. Where do you feel a "yes" in your body?

2. Where do you feel a "no" in your body?

3. In what areas of your life do you need to give a clear "yes" or "no"?

4. What are you willing to do to begin practicing this?

Listening to Your Inner Voice

If you never imagined that a goose could teach you about making your relationships better, think again. Here's a bazaar true story that Susie's daughter told her about a co-worker's experience.

Ann was training for a marathon, running on a bike path in a major city where she lives. As she was running, a goose waddled onto the path and she ran around it. When Ann made her second loop around the path, she saw a man playing defense with the same goose she had seen before.

By playing "defense", we mean that the goose was chasing after the man and not allowing him to pass on the path. The man decided to fool the goose and ran off into the woods. But as he did, the goose flew on the man's back and started flapping its wings.

Ann tried to distract the goose and the goose started after her! Now, Ann told Susie's daughter that she isn't necessarily "spiritual," "religious," or into personal growth but she did listen to a voice within her that said, "Be one with the goose."

She dropped into a squat and safely waddled around the angry goose.

The point of this story is to indicate that when we listen to that small, still voice within--as Wayne Dyer called it--miraculous things happen in our lives.

So often we find ourselves relying on the chatter that goes on constantly in our minds and fear blocks us from hearing what is truly inside of us.

We've discovered that one of the keys to creating the kind of life and relationships that we want is to listen to that still, small voice within.

Just as the voice from within can guide and direct us for getting help when our car has broken down or finding our way in a strange city, it can also help us to find our perfect mate, be a better partner or parent to the people in our lives and to learn to love ourselves.

The key is that we must be open to hearing and acting on what we hear.

You might be wondering if the voice and the information that you are hearing is your true inner voice and is really worth following or not.

What we have experienced is in order to know whether to follow that still, small voice from within, you have to determine whether it's speaking from a place of fear or empowerment.

We've also found that in order to hear that true voice, it's helpful to calm your mind's chatter by meditation, deep breathing, a walk in the woods or some other way that appeals to you.

Ann listened to her voice within and in her words, became "one with the goose" and was able to get around it without being harmed.

So, this week we invite you to remember Ann and her experience with the goose and begin to be more open to listening to your inner voice within.

When you do, we think that your life and your relationships will begin to open to more possibilities and to the flow of good things that are available to all of us.

What is a 'Relationship Trap' and How Do You Know If You or Someone You Know is In One?

Here's a new idea we wanted to share with you that can completely transform the quality of your relationships and your life if you do just one thing.

So, what's this NEW IDEA and what's the ONE THING?

It's the idea of "traps" and how we don't have to let them keep us from having the best if we can only learn to recognize them when we're in them.

Whether it's in our relationships, health, finances, or any other part of our lives, these "traps" can keep us from having the good things that are possible.

What's interesting is that most of the time we don't even recognize when we've created a "trap" and that we are staying stuck in this trap of our own creation.

Because we are bombarded by so much information all of the time, our minds have to have some way of organizing this information into a way that makes sense to us.

Sometimes we organize this information into ways that help and support us and other times, we organize it in ways that disempower us. The challenge for all of us is to recognize when our thinking is pulling us into a "trap" that doesn't serve us.

So how do these mind "traps" affect your relationships?

We'll tell you a story to explain what we mean.

This past week, Susie got her hair cut at a local salon. While she was there, she couldn't help noticing that a new hair stylist was waiting for her boyfriend to pick her up and that he was late.

The entire time the hair stylist was waiting on him, she explained loudly enough so everyone in the salon could hear about her current challenges with him. She attributed his moodiness this time to his cousin visiting for the last 3 1/2 weeks.

A few minutes later, Susie overheard a phone conversation in which this woman told someone that she had had it with her boyfriend. She said, "I've got nothing else to say to him."

Susie commented to the woman who was cutting her hair that it seemed like she had plenty to say to him and if she didn't, they were both going to be entrenched in their positions and stay stuck.

If we take out our crystal ball and look into this hair stylist's life, here's her possible and maybe probable future--

Their relationship will end. She'll find someone new who will eventually treat her the same way and she'll wonder what happened. Her old boyfriend will find someone new also and create the same kind of relationship he created with her.

This is an example of one of the most familiar "Relationship Traps" we see people falling into--two people who are unable to recognize what they are feeling and unable to express it to each other in a way that can be heard.

In our example, this woman's trap is her thought and learned belief that she has nothing to say to her boyfriend when she hasn't felt loved, appreciated and understood. She has told everyone else how she feels and not him.

The truth is that this woman has created a mind trap for herself. If she wasn't telling herself this "story" that she didn't have anything to say to her boyfriend, she would realize that she had plenty to say to him and that they were at a crossroads where this next moment will either move closer together or further apart.

What we are saying is that it's important to learn to recognize when your thoughts are empowering, when they are disempowering traps and have the awareness and wisdom to know the difference.

How can you tell the difference between an empowering thought or disempowering trap?

One way is to ask yourself this question: "Will thinking or acting this way give me more or less the results that I want in this situation?"

Using the hair stylist example--Will her thought that she has nothing to say to her boyfriend bring her more love in her relationship with him or less?

We invite you to use this question as a guide to help you determine whether any thought or action is in alignment with what you want.

Why do we seem to keep crashing into one another?

Because we're fascinated by relationships and our desire to understand why we are the way are and why we do what we do, we're always talking about and exploring how relationships work, both with our coaching clents and in our personal lives.

Recently, we saw the film "Crash" and although we certainly don't want to spoil it for you, we felt that the message about relationships we got from it was too important to not pass onto you--along with our thoughts.

The film is set in Los Angeles and the first words spoken as we watch several cars crashing into one another on the freeway are these--"Sometimes I think that people in this town crash into each other so they can feel one another."

The rest of the film depicts how people "crash" into one another in various ways for various reasons.

This "crashing" is not just the crashing into one another with our vehicles but how we crash into one another in a million other ways either consciously or unconsciously.

At the bottom of all of this "crashing" is the idea that we are all connected to each other and that we are all doing the best we can to feel it.

The message that we got from this film rang very true for us because we've watched as other people "crash" into one another and we "crash" into each other for attention, for love, for connection, to relieve pain, for revenge or to just simply "feel" another human being.

How many of us choose unhealthy ways of "crashing" into other people hoping for a different outcome or maybe just a small spark of connection, love or attention?

We keep trying to get the attention, love or whatever we want from others, even if it's done in a negative way and we keep getting negative results.

One vivid memory Susie has is when she "crashed" into her previous husband to try to get him to express emotion when her grandfather died. She badgered him until he broke down and cried.

They both had loved him very much but Susie's previous husband hadn't been able to show any emotion when her grandfather passed. Susie needed that connection with her previous husband and she needed him to show emotion--so she emotionally "crashed" into him to get through the walls he had created.

But in our relationship, the two of us have found out that it doesn't have to be that way.

We have discovered that we can love each other and the other people in our lives and connect without "crashing" into each other in negative and unhealthy ways that cause pain.

Just like you, we have our own lessons to learn and we know that we're not perfect. Occasionally we do have challenges that have to be worked through.

With this in mind, here are some ideas and suggestions we can offer to help you connect in more healthy and loving ways in your life...

1. Learn to first connect with yourself. While we all need to connect with others, we need to start learning to connect with ourselves. That means learning to feel your emotions and what you are feeling, acknowledge them and let them flow.

2. Allow others to be where they are and don't expect them to follow your path or feel what you are feeling.

3. Center or calm yourself before you tell someone what you are feeling or what you want from them. There are many ways to do this, one good way is using your breath. Get yourself into a space of feeling love for the other person--even if it's a person at work that you need to connect with.

4. Express what you need to express in a way that the other person can hear without judgment and blame. Don't let yourself get defensive and make sure of your intentions before you express yourself.

5. Make heartfelt requests when you need to from a calm, centered space. When you do, the other person will be better able to take in your request without getting defensive themselves and angry.

You don't need to "crash" into each other to get what you want and need . There are always other ways to get what you want or need.

We recommend that you try some of these ideas this week and see how your life and relationships change for the better.

Affection: Why Is It a Challenge For Many People In Relationships?

What do you do when one person in a relationship wants more affection than the other person is able to give?

Not only is this an interesting question-- but it's also a challenge that many couples have, not just about affection, but about how to deal with the differences between the wants and needs of each person in many parts of the relationship.

Recently, we received a question from one of our newsletter subscribers about affection that intrigued us and we thought we'd share our answer with all of you.

The question she asked was--"I would like to know how I can be a bit more affectionate. There is this guy I just started seeing and he is very affectionate, but I am not and it's a problem.

So how can I start to be more open with my feelings?"

What we would recommend to her and anyone who wants to be more affectionate (and isn't) is to take some time and examine the reasons why you aren't more affectionate.

We'll talk about some of these possible reasons in a moment, but before we do, it's important to point out that if you are feeling that you are not as affectionate as you (or your partner) would like you to be, then this suggests that you have some barriers to intimacy that are present in this relationship.

If this is the case, even though there may be much love and appreciation, caring and good feelings between the two of you, there is something within you that is causing you to keep yourself from giving more of yourself physically or emotionally to that person.

Take some time, feel what you are feeling when you think about your situation and then see what comes up for you.

In our way of thinking, if you're not as affectionate as you or your partner would like you to be, there could be many things going on.

Here are just a few of the possibilities...

1. You didn't see affection when you were growing up and it feels foreign to you.

2. You don't feel that you deserve to be loved in this way.

3. You have fear of intimacy that keeps you somewhat at a distance from your partner.

4. You have "bought into" some programming that has told you that it's not okay to be affectionate and you've never questioned this for yourself to examine what feels right to you. If you haven't questioned this idea and have embraced it as you own, it may have just become "the way you are" without you realizing you could choose to be different.

5. You're not really wanting to be closer to your partner and you don't love him/her as much as you think.

6. It's possible that there has been abuse in your past that holds you back from responding and giving affection.

While we're not sure which of these (if any) applies in this person's case or yours, those are some possibilities and potential "causes" for lack of affection for you to consider.

So, once you have discovered what's underneath your feelings, what do you do with this information?

While we're not suggesting that you dwell on the past, it is helpful to discover whether you need to work with a therapist or coach to help you heal some of your issues. Or it might be that just by realizing where some of your behavior comes from, you can switch your thinking to more of what you want on your own.

In any case, the first thing you can do is to decide if you really do want to be more affectionate with this person or not and how you'd like to be in this relationship. If you honestly do want to be more affectionate, you have a choice to make.

You can choose to hold onto the idea that you "aren't an affectionate person" or you can choose to change and be more affectionate with your partner and with the people in your life.

The two of us are very affectionate with each other and with other people, especially our family and friends. What we have discovered is that when we are not affectionate with each other or with the people in our lives, it's because of a feeling of disconnection.

So what do we do to create connection with each other and become affectionate once again? Here are a few things that work for us...

1. We have it as our intention to regain our connection and have the courage to open to each other.

2. We create a safe atmosphere to listen and talk with one another. We talk about the feelings that are creating the disconnection and come to some kind of resolution.

3. We become playful again with one another. This doesn't have to involve sex (but can). It can involve touching each other, sitting close, holding hands or any number of ways to show our love again.

4. We come to once again appreciate each other and what we each bring to enrich the other's life.

If you are wanting to be more affectionate, discover what's holding you back and then take steps to move toward what you want.

Remember, affection is really an outpouring of the love and appreciation that a person has for another person and this comes from the inside.

Affection can be a simple thing to bring you closer to another person.

It's one of the ways we keep our relationship passionate, alive and vibrant.

We think affection, if heartfelt, can be a powerful way to make your relationships better too.

Asking for What you Want: Why is it so Difficult?

Yesterday, Susie took her mother who has Alzhemier's disease to the hospital for an out-patient procedure to be done. They had to wait for 3 hours and to pass the time, they watched the nurses go about their duties and the other patients coming and going.

As they laughed and made up stories about the people, Susie noticed an elderly woman being seated in one of the cubicles, waiting her turn to get treated. The woman appeared to be shivering because she only had a short-sleeved shirt on and the temperature in the room was a bit chilly.

When a very kind nurse asked the woman if she wanted a blanket, the woman shook her head with a "no" and said that she had left her jacket with her daughter in the waiting area.

As we watched this woman, she continued to sit with her arms wrapped around herself, and it appeared that she was very uncomfortable.

Susie couldn't help thinking that if the woman had only accepted the warm blanket as her mother had done or if she had gone back out to the waiting area to get her jacket, she would have been so much more comfortable as she waited for her turn to have her procedure done.

Although we don't really know why the woman didn't choose to either get her jacket or accept the blanket even though she appeared to be very uncomfortable, we do know that it appeared that she was unwilling to ask for what she wanted and even accept help when it was offered to her.

What a relationship lesson this is!

Many people fall into the relationship trap of not asking for help, thinking that they can do it all themselves and not allowing themselves to receive. They may have the belief that by not asking others for help, they are creating great relationships.

We think the opposite is true! Asking for help when you need it and accepting the help of others actually opens the door to connection and intimacy.

Sound strange? Here's why we say this...

Nothing quite feels as good as helping other people and being appreciated for the help you give. If you are going through life with the attitude that you can help others but you won't let down your defenses to allow others to help you, you are denying them the opportunity to feel competent and be of service to you.

Our relationship works so much better when both of us are willing to ask for help when we need it and ask for what we want--when neither one of us either tries to "fix" the other when they haven't asked or have the attitude that we can do it all by ourselves with no help from the other person.

Here are some suggestions that have worked for us in asking for what we want:

1. First, find out what you want and need and believe that it is possible to ask and receive it. So many people don't know what they want and even if they do, they don't believe that anyone will give it to them. You have to believe that it's possible to receive the help or whatever you want.

2. Ask in such a way that the other person can hear the request. Tell the other person what you are feeling and why this is important to you. Choose a time when the person will listen to you without distractions or ask for that time. Make your request about what you need and why you need it.

3. Give a clear request. Often, people take a round about way to ask for what they want.

At our son's band banquet the other day, we sat across from a couple who were talking about their high school aged son. We heard the boy's mother tell his father that when their son was talking about a fund-raising event that was going to take place the next week, the boy was really hinting that the father participate with him. She said that the boy seemed to be afraid to ask his father outright.

Asking for what you want is the ONLY way you'll ever have what you want in any area of your life.

We're suggesting that asking very clearly for what you want will create better relationships and as the saying goes-- you'll never know until you ask.

When you ask for what you want--who knows? You might even get it!

An Unhealthy Belief Many People Have About Relationships

Here's an interesting question...

In order to create the best relationships possible for you--when are the best times to learn more about how to have a great relationship?

We hate to admit it but when we first started our relationship coaching practice and started working with individuals and couples to help them create better relationships, we thought everyone knew the answer to this question.

There are basically only two times that you would want to start learning more about relationships if you want an outstanding relationship.

The answer to when these two times are may surprise you when we tell you all about them in just a moment.

Recently, we received an email message from a person that was really interesting.

She told us that she no longer needed the information we were sending her because she was now divorced.

In other words, she was no longer interested in learning more about how to have a great relationship...because she believed that she wasn't in one.

Notice that her reason she didn't want any more articles from us wasn't because she didn't like the content in our newsletter, she didn't like our opinion about certain topics or anything like that.

She didn't want information about relationship because she was getting a divorce and felt that because she was no longer "in a relationship."

This is at best a cop-out because unless we are hermits and never come in contact with another human being, we are ALL in relationship all the time.

We don't believe that you have to (or would want to) wait until you are "in a relationship" to start learning about how to start improving your relationships.

The time to learn about how to have great relationships is right now. This is because even if we are not in an intimate relationship with anyone at the moment, we are all in relationships all the time--with co-workers--friends--family members and even the clerk at your local convenience store.

In our opinion, there is no separation between all the parts of your life. We believe that the "rules" for how to have great relationships don't change no matter what kind of relationship you are talking about.

For example, one of the real keys to a great relationship is emotional awareness. That means that you are aware of how you are feeling. That means that when you are tired and irritated, you don't take your day's frustrations out on the people you come in contact with. Instead, you take the time to go within to discover the source of your irritation.

One of the keys to making any change or improvement in your life is awareness. Most of us don't take the time to go within and discover how we feel about most situations. It's only when you go within that you can get to the source of your irritation or uneasiness.

Sometimes, one of us will say to the other, "I'm feeling irritated right now but I don't know where it's coming from." When this happens, if we want to stay connected in our relationship, we have to go within by simply sitting in a quiet space and breathing or taking a walk by ourselves to determine what the source of this upset is.

It will most likely have nothing to do with what the other person has said or done. But if our feelings go unspoken, distance will be created. If the feelings go unspoken, then we may start making assumptions about the possible reasons for the irritation that have nothing to do with reality.

In order for a relationship to work at its best, both people have to be emotionally aware of their feelings and be willing to communicate openly and honestly.

What we've found is that we can take this principle and carry it to all of our relationships including the ones at work and our relationships with the people in our extended families.

So, the point is, you can use the principles of creating outstanding relationships in all relationships. One of the reasons we have such a great relationship is that we are constantly learning about how to improve ours. And this learning carries over into all our relationships.

We suggest that if you want a great relationship, that you make the decision to never stop learning about them. It's no different than anything else that you want to succeed at. You have to continually keep learning and growing.

So, what about the two best times to learn about how to create a great relationship?

These two times are... when you're not in a relationship and also when you are in one.

There's no mystery to it. If you want to have a great relationship, continuously study and learn how to do it differently and this includes both when you're in an intimate relationship and when you're not.

The only way you can get better at anything (including relationships) is to change your beliefs about what is possible and to change your strategies to what will bring you the best results.

When it comes to relationships, what we are continuing to discover every day is that no matter what your relationship is like now, it can always be better.

We think we have a great relationship. We're also doing things every day to make it even better.

We're guessing that there are new things and new ways you could make some shifts in your relationships and life as well.

Are Friendships Like These Good or Bad?

Here's an interesting question that one of the subscribers to this newsletter asked us recently...

This is one of the biggest challenges that many couples face and can the lines get fuzzy really quick on this one!

Are friendships with people of the opposite sex appropriate if you are in a committed relationship?

Here are a few of our thoughts about this question...

Whether it's a friendship with a co-worker, an ex-spouse, ex-lover, or even the woman or man at the gym or club--jealousy can rear its ugly head and threaten to destroy an otherwise "good" relationship when a friendship is felt to be inappropriate by one of the partners.

So, are friendships with people of the opposite sex appropriate while you are in a committed relationship or should you just say "no" and not even go there?

We'll answer this question with a big-- It Depends!

It depends on two factors:

1. On the intentions of the two people who are creating the male/female friendship, and

2. On the spoken and unspoken agreements/commitments of the couple

Let's talk about intentions--

We all have intentions, either conscious or unconscious, for everything we do and every relationship we are in.

When considering relationships with people of the opposite sex outside of a primary committed relationship, the questions to ask yourself are "What is my intention for this relationship?" and "What do I want from this relationship?"

Sometimes the answers to these questions can be difficult if we haven't thought about them much (or at all).

What we have discovered is that whether we realize it or not, we ALWAYS want something or have either a conscious or unconscious intention for everything we do and this includes every relationship we get into.

Sometimes we get into relationships with people and don't realize until some challenges surface in our primary committed relationship that this "friend" is fulfilling a want, need or desire that isn't being filled in a primary relationship.

Please understand that we're not saying that every want, need, and desire has to be fulfilled by your partner in a committed relationship.

What we are saying is to make sure that you are consciously aware of your intentions for your friendships and that these intentions are in alignment with your agreements and commitments to your partner.

We not only suggest that you be very clear about your own intentions for the friendship but also be aware of the intentions of your friend.

We frequently hear from people who are in a committed relationship and are jealous of a partner because they perceive that their partner's friend, co-worker or ex-lover is "coming onto" them and wants more from the relationship with their partner than they are comfortable with.

When this situation happens, the fear is that the person's partner will succumb to the allure of the other woman or man. Whether this is actually fact or fiction, the point is to not bury your head in the sand and pretend that you aren't aware of the other person's intention. If you look closely enough, you can usually figure out what that intention is and deal with it in a way that is best for all.

It's also good to examine your intentions for your same-sex friendships. If your unspoken or spoken intention is to spend time away from home and away from your primary partner with someone else, take a look at what you are doing and the possible consequences of those actions. Do a reality check and look at it as a wake-up call for your primary relationship.

How about agreements and commitments?

Make sure that you are aware of what your spoken and unspoken agreements and commitments are around this topic of male/female friendships outside of your primary relationship. This is usually not something that couples talk about until one or both have formed unhealthy friendships that threaten the primary relationship.

We are urging you to talk about what each of your expectations are in this area and make your agreements and commitments in advance.

We like the term having friendships "within healthy limits and boundaries."

What this means to each person may differ and the challenge for each couple is to come to an agreement about what healthy limits and boundaries are for their relationships with other people.

We've found that if couples get bogged down in trying to come to an agreement about the definition of healthy limits and boundaries, if they begin listening to each other's wants and desires and honoring what's important to the other person, they are able to more easily come together on their ideas.

The point is to be very clear about how you want your relationship to be and how you want to be in your relationship. Ask yourself "Are my actions appropriate based on our agreements about how we want our relationship to be?"

One woman, who give us permission to use her story in our "No More Jealousy" book, told us that she had had a huge jealousy problem with every man she was ever with before her current husband. She said that one of the big differences in this relationship and previous ones is that she knows her husband is truly committed to her. When she visits his office, her husband's co-workers tell her that she is just as beautiful as he says she is. For her, jealousy is a non-issue in the face of that kind affirmation.

It's not clear whether her husband is friends with his co-workers or not but what is clear is that he adores his wife, lets everyone know it and his intention in his committed relationship is very clear.

Whether friendships with the opposite sex are a problem in your relationship or not, take this opportunity to ask yourself these questions that may help to strengthen your relationship--

1. How do you honor your partner when you aren't in their presence, no matter who you are with?

2. How are you nurturing your committed relationship?

One final thing--

Are we suggesting that it's not OK to be in a friendship with someone of the opposite sex if you are in a committed relationship?

Certainly not.

We both have "friends" of the opposite sex and our relationship is stronger, more vibrant and more alive than ever.

We think friendships with all kinds of people are expanding and necessary to our personal growth and can also make our lives much more rewarding.

We also think that these friendships can co-exist and thrive within the healthy limits and boundaries of our relationship.

When Is Flirting a Good Thing?

Have you ever "flirted" with someone?

Most of us have flirted in one way or another with another person.

It's fun, exciting and even if we don't recognize our motivation at the time, it's a way we can get our needs met when we do it.

The question becomes--Is flirting harmful or healthy?

When one of our newsletter subscribers wrote in to ask us what we thought about flirting, we thought it was a great topic that many people in committed relationships have challenges around, especially when it involves co-workers, friends or people you meet in social situations.

The dictionary defines flirting as "to behave amorously without serious intent" and "to deal lightly." We define flirting as focusing attention on another person with the intention to get some need of yours met.

In our opinion, in most cases when you flirt, you are sending out "feelers" to find out how receptive the other person is to you and whether this person will and can give you what you are wanting.

Maybe it's just a smile, laugh, a stroke for your ego, or conversation (it could be sexual stimulation) that you are wanting--whatever it is, we all flirt to get something in return whether we know it or not. It could be that flirting helps you feel alive.

If you are not violating agreements in a committed relationship and not violating any boundaries of the person you are flirting with, it can be healthy and fun. The challenges begin when agreements are violated and/or the flirting becomes unwelcome attention.

So what's the difference between flirting and just being friendly?

When you are being friendly, the intention may be to connect with the other person on some level without a sexual agenda or without having a strong desire for your personal needs to be met--except for the need for friendship.

When you are flirting, there is an unspoken (or spoken) need of some kind that you are wanting the other person to fill.

We both have flirted with other people when we were single and when we were in our previous marriages.

For her, as Susie looks back on those times, she realizes that she flirted to ultimately get her previous husband's attention and to feel attractive. There was a lack within her that moved her to attract the attention of other men. She was trying to fill herself up by looking outward to others instead of finding it within herself.

In hindsight, Otto now understands that he flirted to get unmet wants and needs met. In many cases, he didn't even realize what he was doing.He just thought that he was having some innocent fun and a good time. Sometimes this flirting turned out to create some challenges for him that took some real explaining.

You may find it interesting to know that as in love and connected as we are, the two of us do not wear wedding rings. Rings symbolize commitment but also we think they are meant to be an outward signal that the person wearing one is unavailable for a committed or sexual relationship or whatever the couple has agreed on.

When we made our marriage commitment to each other, our intention was that we would move through our lives in such a way that everyone we came in contact with would know that we were committed to each other. In other words, the rings wouldn't be necessary as an outward symbol of our love and affection for each other.

The point is not to encourage you to throw away your rings or to not include them in your commitment to each other if you are in a committed relationship, but to encourage you to look underneath at your intentions and motivations for all of your actions, including flirting.

If flirting is a problem for you, you might want to ask yourself these questions to help you sort out what's going on inside you--

  • Are there needs and desires within me that are unfulfilled?
  • Are there wants, needs, desires or interests unfulfilled and missing in my committed relationship?
  • Why am I flirting, how do I feel when I'm doing it and what do I want to get out of doing it?
  • Are there some other ways I can get those needs met?

If you are in a committed relationship and you are flirting with others or your partner is flirting with others and this is causing distance and disconnection between the two of you, take this opportunity to focus on your needs and how they can possibly be filled in ways that strengthen your relationship instead of possibly destroying it.

So, when is "flirting" a good thing?

  • Anytime you want to build passion, mystery and intrigue to a relationship.

In our relationship, we "flirt" with each other all the time. We think it makes our relationship more alive.

What we've discovered is that flirting can mean adoration, honoring and can build passion between two people and can be very healthy. It can also serve as a wake up call if you are in a committed relationship and are violating agreements within your relationship.

The challenge with "flirting" is to always make sure that it's appropriate to be building passion, mystery and intrigue with the person that you're flirting with.

Which is it-- Wants or Needs In Your Relationships and Life?

Recently, we received a great question from Karen, one of our newsletter subscribers. Since her question is one that many people have asked us in one way or another, we wanted to highlight it in this issue along with our comments that we sent to her.

Here's what she asked us...

"How do you decide WHAT you want in your life, and how is that different from what you NEED in your life, and how do you go about doing that?"

Here's an example of the difference between a want and a need and how you decide on the difference...

How about relationships?

In our opinion, you really don't NEED a partner, to be in a relationship, to get married, have kids--none of it.

We want all those things because we believe they will all bring us more joy in our lives. We believe that they will enrich our lives and make them more worth living based on our own criteria that we've decided on that we think will create a happier and more joyful life.

Same way with "things"... Otto needs a car for transportation- a way to get him to where he wants to go.

But the question becomes, does he really need the Mercury Grand Marquis that he drives that rides like an overstuffed sofa, has a terrific heater and the coldest air conditioner of any car he's ever seen?

No-- He doesn't need any of those things that his car has except the ability to take him where he wants to go.

So what's the difference?

Otto wants those things that his car has because they make his life experience more joyful and he is happier because his car has all these added features that make his life experience better.

Whether it's your relationships or anything else in your life, a couple of the best questions you could ask yourself to see whether you are living your best life are:

"How good do you want it?" and "How good can you stand it?"

Most of us go through life with one foot on the gas and the other foot on the brake and wonder why we can't or don't have more of what we want in our lives.

When it comes to our relationships, very often your internal negative "self-talk" is the "brake" that prevents you from having what you want. It jabbers to you with comments like "This relationship will never get better, so why even try?" "He'll/she'll never change!" "This relationship stuff is not worth the pain," or "This is the best I can have and I don't deserve to have anything better."

What if we just changed some of our internal self-talk from negative to a little more positive and uplifting? How much of a difference would that make in our lives?

We're guessing a lot. It certainly does change our lives when we shift our internal self-talk from negative thoughts about ourselves and each other to more positive ones.

When the two of us do that, we see dramatic shifts in all areas of our lives and we know you will too if you try it.

So what about wants vs. needs? We actually don't "need" a lot to live--some food, water, shelter and air to breathe.

But if we want richer, more fulfilling, happier lives and relationships, we'll allow our "wants" to lead the way.

Take the time to identify what your relationship "wants" are and start changing your self-talk to the idea that you are worth having them. Then get help if you need it to make the changes you want.

We suggest that you make it okay to Want and have a great relationship and not be willing to settle for anything less than you deserve.

How Can You Have The Kind of Love and Relationships That You Want?

Because we're Relationship Coaches and we talk to a large number of people on a regular basis about relationships, a question we are asked from time to time is----

"Is it really possible for me to create the kind of relationship that I really want?"

In a nutshell, YES!

We believe that we all have the potential to create our lives the way we want them to be. That may be a surprising statement to you but we and others know that it's possible because we've done it.

We also don't think that we've been endowed with some special "great relationship gene" that has enabled us to create the wonderful relationship that we enjoy.

We've found that one of the most difficult things for some people to learn and to accept is that they are the creators of their life and that they can do something to create the relationships that they want.

Some people who go from one unhappy relationship to another or those who remain in unhappy relationships stay stuck in part because they don't consciously decide what it is they want in their lives.

Many of these people who don't have what they want also feel that they aren't worth having it or there's some explainable reason (usually outside of themselves) why they don't have it and they live and act from this disempowered place.

Very often, they keep choosing the same type of partner or making the same mistakes over and over and they keep doing the same relationship "dance" either with their current partner or new ones they attract into their lives and expect a different result.

But it doesn't have to be that way. You can choose what you want, feel that you are worth having it and then act from that empowered place.

You may already have created a vision of what you want in your relationships by reading books, by watching people who have the type of relationships you want or any number of other ways. If you haven't done this, we urge you to begin doing this in your life.

In order for you to be able to have what you want, you have to get really clear about exactly what you want and the values and beliefs that underlay those wants.

We once heard a story that illustrates just how important this is! A woman wanted to create more love in her life and she kept this as her intention. She kept saying to her friends, family and anyone who would listen over and over and sure enough, she did manifest more love in her life but it came in the form of four small puppies instead of the man she hoped she would attract to her!

What we've discovered is that God, The Creator, Spirit or the Universe gives you exactly what you are committed to having.

While puppies can give you a lot of love, if you want the relationship you truly desire, you're going to have to clarify exactly what that might look like. The problem in her case was that she wasn't clear and specific enough.

We've discovered that people don't take the time and the energy to discover what they want in their relationships. They don't even realize that they can begin to envision what they want and take steps to move toward it.

We hear from people everyday who are dissatisfied with their relationships and want something different. If you want better relationships or even if you want to make your existing "good" relationships even better, we suggest that you focus some energy on asking yourself what you want.

If may sound impossible but it isn't. For example, if jealousy is ruining your relationship, don't just sit back and watch it happen. Take some positive steps to heal that part of yourself. Buy a book or course and work through the material. Get some coaching. Move toward what you want rather than constantly away from what you want.

If your relationship is lifeless, decide what you want it to look like and then learn some new ways to help it to come alive. Don't just sit by and watch your relationship crumble. Be proactive in moving toward what you want.

Don't relinquish responsibility for creating your life the way you want it to be.

Decide what you want and then move forward toward every moment of every day.

When Do You Want Chocolate?

It happens every time. Whenever Susie gets overwhelmed with too many projects or the general stress of the day, she wants chocolate. She wants the good, dark stuff that comes in succulent round, creamy balls wrapped in blue cellophane.

Even though she doesn't want to admit it, Susie not only gets a rush of good feelings when she eats chocolate but she also doesn't have to feel the "overwhelm," stress or frustration for a very short time. This doesn't just happen with chocolate--the same can be said for other activities, like having a glass of wine, over-working, keeping very busy with "doing" a lot of things, or even sex.

These things aren't certainly "bad" in themselves but when they are used to detract us from our feelings, then they don't serve our growth or our relationships.

Our emotions are signposts from our inner wisdom and if you pay attention, you can receive very helpful information from looking at them.

As many of us were growing up, we are taught to hide our feelings. We were taught mostly by example to do all sorts of things to not feel and to keep everything smooth in our lives.

So what does chocolate and your feelings have to do with your relationships?

If you aren't paying attention to how you are feeling and letting those around you know, how can you hope to have an honest, authentic exchange between the two of you and create a close, connected relationship?

You can't.

In our opinion, one of the "requirements" for creating close, connected relationships is to become emotionally aware. In order to do this, you have to begin becoming aware of the actions that are habitual and those that are stopping you from feeling certain emotions that you've labeled as "unwanted."

Susie became aware of when she reached for a piece of chocolate and before she ate it, she would ask herself what she was feeling. If her answer was frustration or overwhelm, she would stop what she was doing and take a short walk or do some yoga--something to acknowledge her feelings and allow them to be there.

If she needed to communicate something to Otto or to someone else, she had to feel it and recognize it first in herself and then communicate it.

As we've said many times before, one of the agreements we have with each other that keeps our relationship strong is the agreement to speak our truth as soon as we know it--which helps to create and keep our connection.

The first step is to learn how to read our emotions and to become aware of what our truth really is.

So what we suggest is for you to look within yourself and discover how you can be more emotionally aware and honest and speak a truth that you may have been holding back, either from yourself or others. Ask yourself "Will my relationship and my life have less pain and bring me closer to what I want if I am honest or if I continue to pretend those feelings aren't there and skirt the truth?"

Chocolate or no chocolate, we invite you to look at how you may be covering over your feelings and not willing to own up to them.

We invite you to begin creating vital, alive growing relationships that thrive on the truth. Becoming more emotionally aware is a huge first step.

The Flower and The Gardener

Recently, we received an email message from Olga, one of our subscribers and with her permission, we wanted to share a few of her thoughts with you about how she's using this newsletter to create an even better relationship with her "sweetheart" and soon-to-be husband Carl.

One idea that we wanted to pass on to you is a great way that the two of them use our newsletter.

She told us that she prints it out every week and they read it together. Then they make their own comments as to how the topic affects their own relationship.

We think this is a great idea and recommend that you do the same if you are currently in a relationship and your partner is willing to do so.

Another idea that she wrote about was their motto for themselves and their relationship... Olga said about their relationship, "We are both the flowers and we both are the gardeners."

We liked that idea not only because we can see glimpses of spring in southern Ohio but also because it's great advice for anyone in a relationship of any kind.

Here's what Olga said that their motto means to her...

"There are times that Carl needs me to be the gardener and there are times when I need him to be mine. A relationship cannot function at its best when one is ONLY the flower and the other is ONLY the gardener. That care could be listening to a problem, or supporting a decision, or pampering a pair of tired feet and sometimes it could mean just holding him in silence in my arms. Sure it is easy to be a flower. What takes a conscious effort of not being selfish is to be a gardener when you know you are needed in that role."

What great words of wisdom!

We would also add that for some people, it's easier to be the "gardener." They don't allow themselves to be the "flower" in their relationships. That's equally important.

Here are a few suggestions for being both the "flowers" and the "gardeners" in your relationships:

1. Be willing to ask for the other's help when you need it. Often, one person is able to ask for the other person's help in a relationship and the other person isn't. If you aren't able to ask for help, start now with some small request.

2. Be willing to show your love by going the "extra mile" for the other person. We've both been sick this past week with a wicked flu that's been going around. Since Otto has felt slightly better than Susie, he agreed to proctor her final exam yesterday for the university course she has been teaching. That is going the "extra mile."

3. Be willing to listen to each other without trying to fix the problem for them. Listen with your full attention, your love and your kindness.

Sometimes that's all we need to turn a relationship around or to make a good relationship even better. We invite you this week to pay attention to whether you are being both the "gardener" and the "flower" in your relationships.

Is a Great Relationship Really Possible?

What is one of the biggest factors that will determine the quality of relationships that you'll have in your life?

It's your belief about whether you think that you can have a great relationship or not.

It's just like the author James Allen wrote in his book "As A Man Thinketh" many years ago. "All that we achieve and all that we fail to achieve is the direct result of our thoughts."

When it comes to relationships, what this means is-- whether we have a close, connected and loving relationship or one that is filled with pain is the direct result of our thoughts about relationships.

The truth is that many people simply don't believe that they can have a great relationship and guess what?

If you have beliefs like "You can't have a great relationship," "All the good ones are gone," "I'm too young," "I'm too old," or "I'm too anything," then you probably aren't going to have a very good experience when it comes to relationships.

Along these lines, a very strange thing happened to us recently...

Just the other day, we got a phone call from a woman who had been in the audience of one of our first talks that we gave about relationships.

She said that she was just calling to find out if we were still together!

She wasn't calling to ask our advice about anything, she wasn't calling to see when we were going to be giving another talk in her city or anything like that. She simply had a burning desire to find out if we were still together after all this time.

As the two of us were talking about her call, we realized that what was probably underneath her question about our relationship was an even greater question about relationships in general.

That question is--"Is a close, connected, passionate relationship really possible over the long haul?"

Anytime that we are asked this question, we respond to it with a resounding YES and here's why...

Not only have we created a great relationship that just keeps getting deeper and better as the years go by, but we know of many other couples, like us, who are doing the same thing.

One couple we know has been married 34 years and they regularly lead workshops and do personal coaching about sexuality for couples who want deeper intimacy in their relationship.

Know that it really is possible, if that is your intention, to have this type of relationship in your life.

Here are some ideas to help you create and maintain an outstanding relationship...

1. Know what your values are up front and be honest about them. If you value your job, your hobbies, your relationships with your friends more than a close, connection intimate relationship, then be honest about it.

There's nothing wrong with your choices of where you place your values. Just be conscious about where you are placing your priorities in your life and live accordingly.

2. If you do want to create a long-standing close, connected relationship, then make your relationship a priority in your life. Create your intentions together and follow through with them. Make time and expend the energy to have what you say you are wanting.

3. The quality of your relationship and the depth of your connection and intimacy is largely dependant upon how open your heart is. When there are challenges between the two of you, practice opening your heart anyway. If you do, you'll find that you spend less time being disconnected and at odds with one another.

If you want closer and more connected relationships of any kind, it will require you to open your heart, be honest and vulnerable while at the same time maintaining strong boundaries, be courageous and stay open to possibilities.

Sound impossible? It isn't.

What can we ALL learn about relationships from Kate and Andy Spade?

You've probably never heard of Kate and Andy Spade.

We didn't know who they were until earlier this week when we read an article about them.

Kate and Andy are the subject of a feature article in this month's Fast Company magazine about how they work together to build their "fashion empire."

Working with someone you love-- even on a Saturday morning yard project isn't easy. But, Kate and Andy Spade are not only doing it-- but thriving in both their business and personal relationships.

But, how?

Probably not too differently than we do.

We are not only married partners, lovers and best friends, but are also business partners who share the same office as well.

This is not easy to do-- but we do it. What we've discovered is that there's a secret to how we spend so much time together and yet we are more passionately in love than ever.

Not everyone has figured out how to do this and in many relationships just the simple act of trying to work together around the house can be a real test of their friendship and love.

Otto recently asked one of his good friends (who owns a business with his wife) if he and his wife could work together in the same office with each other and he said "no way."

He essentially went on to say that even though they love each other deeply and their relationship is truly wonderful, the differences between the way they each work would be too great and would drive each other crazy. So, they continue to have a great relationship and continue to work in their business in separate buildings. That arrangement seems to work for them and that's okay.

While were not suggesting that you or anyone else needs to work together as closely as we do to have a great relationship--we are suggesting that there are some things you can learn from couples like us and Kate and Andy Spade that could make your relationships better.

One of these keys can be found in a quote written about Kate and Andy Spade on the front cover of Fast Company Magazine this month...

The quote is... "Where they intersect is so meaningful... but where they are different is where the magic happens."

To us, what this means is that they like, love and appreciate the ways in which they are alike and it also means that they have learned to like, love and appreciate the differences between them as well.

This is what we do not only when we are working together on a project and in our relationship coaching practice but also in our daily lives.

In order to have the best relationship possible, this is what you may want to consider doing as well.

The reason this is important is this... it doesn't matter whether you're talking about which movie you go see on your next date, how often to get the car serviced, how to raise your children, what should be done on your next remodeling project or even when and how to take out the trash each week-- appreciating, liking and even loving the differences between you and your partner will build a stronger love and relationship between you.

Here are a couple of tips for doing this:

1) Wonder...Instead of making your partner wrong, we suggest that you come from a place of "wonder" about what you can learn from them--why they think like they think and do what they do.

By doing this, you'll not just keep from making your partner wrong but you'll bring new possibilities to your relationship and life.

2) Make clear requests...Very often we ask something of our partner without being clear about the request.

You can do this by asking yourself these questions: *When would you like them to do this?

  • Do you want this thing done in a specific way?
  • Why do you want this thing done?

Making a clear request and sharing this information can very often ease tensions between you and your partner when this type of request usually sparks conflict.

When both people not only understand the "what" of a request but also know the "why," there's much more of a chance for the two of them to actually work together instead of being at odds.

3) Stay Open To Possibilities...Stephen Covey in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Book, referred to this as "fishing for the third alternative" when he was talking about the power of synergy in being and working together.

He was essentially suggesting that if you are open to it, that sometimes one plus one (in relationship and in contributing ideas) can sometimes equal more than two.

Very often the possibilities are endless in your relationships when you are open to what could be instead of what has been.

What Do You Tell Yourself?

Last weekend, Susie helped a friend teach a communication workshop in a city near where we live. Since Susie was filling in for her friend's partner who wasn't able to teach the workshop, she wasn't as familiar with the material as she would have liked to have been.

During one of the exercises, one of the workshop participants described a complaint about her partner to him in this way: "When I came into town last night, you didn't embrace me."

Susie (as well as half of the participants) "heard" and saw "airport" in her mind as the woman spoke. She could visualize the woman getting off the airplane, walking to the baggage claim area and meeting her partner there.

It was so real that Susie made some comments about their meeting at the "airport" and much to her embarrassment, the woman's partner said there was no airport. She had driven from where she lived (about 100 miles) to where he lived.

What was so enlightening about the situation is that Susie and half the other people in the class were very sure that they had heard "airport" as the woman talked and they obviously had not.

How many of us do the exact same thing during interactions with the people in our lives?

Another question that is equally important is--How many of us hang on to being right from false perceptions like the airport that really wasn't there?

None of the people who "heard" airport during the workshop argued with the people who were involved. But how many of us argue our points of view when we could just as easily have allowed our minds to run rampant with made up "stories" and not heard what was actually said.

So how can you make sure that you don't make this very basic communication mistake?

Here are a few tips to help you create clearer communication with the people in your life:

1. Listen with your full attention when someone is talking to you. If you can't give your full attention, let the person know and give them a time you can give them your full attention. Listening is not a time to multi-task. Many people think they don't have to listen as carefully to their partner/spouse or children. But the fact is, if you want to create close, connected relationships, you have to give your undivided attention to the other person.

2. In a conversation, if you need more information, don't make it up. Ask for clarification. Many people start assuming and embellishing on stories when they haven't been told all of the facts. We suggest that you get the story straight.

3. If someone corrects you and has another point of view on what was said or what happened and you are equally sure that your version is correct, don't immediately jump in arguing that you are right. You may be right but you may also not be right. Take a moment to find out the facts before you say or do things that can distance you from the other person.

It's been said that if six people see an automobile accident happen, there will be six different versions of what happened.

Like Susie, we're all human and create unfounded stories in our heads from time to time. The challenge is to remain open in those times, see the humor in it and discover what's really going on.

When you are able to do this, you'll find that communication will go much easier and smoother with the people in your life.

Take Time to Connect

Susie's daughter Amy works for her local YMCA in childcare and they were recently required to go to an in-service training they called "Beyond Service."

For three hours the big message (really the only message) was to be sure the employees were connecting with people and having fun. It was amazing to Amy how many people were rolling their eyes and complaining about being there.

While it was true that it was a Sunday afternoon and a long time to give up on a normal day off, Amy thought that it was such a rich reminder to just connect with others that you might not otherwise give attention to (like making eye contact, getting to know their name, etc.)

The training resulted from a study that had been done before and after the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Before 9/11, the top three things people were wanting from the YMCA in Amy's neighborhood had to do with good equipment, good price, and security.

Interestingly, after 9/11, the top three things people wanted from the YMCA all had to do with employees knowing their names, feeling like they were wanted at the facility, and feeling like it would matter to those at the facility if they didn't come back.

People wanted more connection.

If this is true of the people in a small area of Columbus, Ohio, we feel sure that this feeling is universal--even in areas outside of the USA.

Our message today is simple.

How can you connect more with the people in your life?

  • How can you listen to your children or partner more when they talk to you instead of allowing your mind to wander and even going about your work, not giving your full attention to them?
  • How can you smile more and show your love and affection?
  • How can you be friendlier to the people you meet in the course of going about your day?
  • How can you make eye contact with people who are waiting on you in restaurants or stores?
  • How can you stop the craziness of your life to enjoy it more of the time?

We urge you today to talk about these ideas with the important people in your life including your family and decide what each of you can do to connect more with each other and with other people in your lives.

If you do, we know that your life and relationships will be richer, happier and have more meaning.

How Differences Can Challenge a Relationship

This week we received an interesting question from a visitor to one of our web sites that seems to be a common complaint among couples.

The person wrote that she and her husband think differently from one another. He doesn't like how she thinks most of the time and she doesn't like how he thinks. She asked what they can do to stop arguing and communicate better.

We answered her in this way--

"You really has only three choices:

1) You can learn to appreciate, honor and value the differences in each other and think of them as a good thing. Love each other the way you are and decide that your love is more important than being right about who's right. Come from a place of "what can I learn from you" instead of making each other wrong for being the way they are.

2) You could continue arguing all the time like you're doing now or if options 1 or 2 don't appeal to you...

3) You could split up and no longer have the differences as a part of your daily lives."

Sounds like a really simplistic answer-- but these are her only options.

We couldn't help but think as we were writing this that if we were all the same, believed the same and acted the same, it would be a pretty boring world!

Our differences create the sparks that move us forward into creating and enriching our lives. Our differences are also one element that fuels our passion and desire for another person.

Although we usually choose partners who are very different from us (even though we don't think they are in the beginning), these differences that we love at first and think are "cute" can end up driving us crazy.

This seems to be what's going on with the woman who wrote to us.

So what do you do if you're having this challenge in your relationship?

You can first decide which one of the "choices" that we listed at the beginning of this article most appeals to you.

If you're like most people in this situation, you want help figuring out what it takes to build a closer, more connected relationship. You probably also want some help in getting unstuck from your unhealthy patterns.

Here are a few suggestions to help you if you want to make your relationship better and learn how to deal with your differences:

1. Spend time each day appreciating the value that your partner and other people bring to your life. Accentuate in your mind the positive things that go on between you instead of what you dislike. We do this and it works!

2. The next time your partner expresses a viewpoint or feeling that is different from you, step back out of your usual position and listen to what he or she is saying. Listen to understand where he or she is coming from. Don't automatically respond the way you normally respond. Commit to stopping the "relationship dance" by not reacting the way you normally react.

3. Approach the matter under discussion with an attitude of possibility, saying "What if?" and "How can we?" instead of "why" and "how could you."

The trick that we've learned in dealing with our differences is to not make each other wrong. When you do, you fall into becoming defensive and usually stuck in a "standoff."

So if differences are causing problems with anyone in your life, try out some of our suggestions. We think that you'll find that your relationships filled with more ease and flow as well as more love and kindness.

Using Laughter to keep Our Relationships Growing...

We agree with Cynthia.

Cynthia is one of our newsletter subscribers and a couple of weeks ago, she wrote to us about our article "7 Ways to Keep a Relationship Alive and Growing."

What she suggested was to include the power of laughter, fun and having a humorous attitude in our list of ways to keep relationships growing and we totally agree with her.

Norman Cousins, in his books "Anatomy of an Illness" and "Head First," proved that laughter creates endorphins within the body that actually helps promote healing when physical illness is present. Cousins cured his cancer by watching funny movies, reading jokes, books, and listening to tapes of comedy performances. Laughter truly was his medicine.

A few years ago, Robin Williams starred in a film about a physician in West Virginia named Patch Adams who used humor as part of his "bed side manner" to help ease the pain of children who had been diagnosed as terminally ill.

So the point is--if laughter can heal sick people and ease their pain, imagine what it can do for your relationships.

In our relationship, we've found that laughter is a great way for us to connect.

Just yesterday, we walked our neighbor's Labrador retriever named Nutmeg because her owners were out of town. We laughed as she ran, picked up sticks and discarded plastic bottles, and jumped in puddles of water. She was having so much fun that we found ourselves having an equally good time.

You don't have to plan expensive evenings out to enjoy the connection of laughter.

Here are some suggestions for bringing more laughter and fun into your life:

1. If you're in a relationship with someone, do something together that would be fun for both of you. If you are single, find a friend or just do something that you haven't done in a long time that used to bring you laughter and joy. It might even be something new that you try.

Rent a funny movie, watch and play with little kids or play catch with a dog.

It doesn't have to be something that's planned and is sometimes best when the experience is spontaneous.

For example, it didn't require both of us to take the dog on the walk. We wanted to be together, it was a spontaneous experience for us and the walk turned out to be a great time.

2. Laugh at yourself when you find that you are taking yourself too seriously. We do this when we see that we've fallen into old patterns that haven't served us and we can look at ourselves from a vantage point outside of ourselves. Laughter can really break through disconnection if it's not done at another's expense.

Here's a great idea for reframing a situation when there's been disconnection between two people. In challenging situations, people are fond of saying "Someday we'll look back on this and laugh." We suggest that instead of waiting until later to look at the situation and laugh, why don't we laugh now and create a closer connection.

That certainly doesn't mean abdicating responsibility or making fun of another person.

A couple of weeks ago, Otto stopped at a restaurant to eat with his son while on the way to his son's basketball game. As he got out of his car, he realized that he had just locked his keys inside. Ordinarily this would have been one of those tense times when he might say that it's not funny now but we'll look on it later and laugh about it.

Otto chose not to get upset about it and instead enjoyed his lunch with his son while waiting for help to arrive to get the car unlocked. What Otto and his son did was laugh about the situation by telling other stories about locked keys in cars to break the tension of the prospect that they might be late for the game. They weren't late for the game and they ended up having a great time that day together.

So what we suggest is to take every opportunity to have fun and laugh this week.

We want to thank Cynthia for the e-mail about laughter and hope that this suggestion will brighten your day. We hope that you use this article as a reminder to use laughter to help keep your relationships alive and growing now and always.

The Miracle Moment that Builds Relationships

Last weekend we went to a 3-day conference in Orlando, Florida. Halfway through the weekend, we had the choice of either creating a "miracle moment" or creating disconnection and distance in our relationship.

Here's what happened...

As we were walking out the door of the seminar for an hour and a half lunch break, two women in the group joined us and asked us to go to lunch with them.

As we walked with them, Susie looked at Otto and told him that while she would like to go to lunch with them, she would really like to take advantage of the beautiful sunny 80 degree day and take a swim during their 90 minute break. Otto told Susie that he would like to have a hot lunch and do some networking.

What happened in that brief discussion between the two of us can be called a "miracle moment."

The chance for a "miracle moment" in a relationship is when you either hide your truth and who you are or you are authentic and allow your partner to be authentic.

We took a "moment" to go within ourselves to find out what we each wanted to do with the 90 minute lunch break. And then after being clear within ourselves, we shared what was important to us and listened to each other in a non-judgmental way.

Even though we would have liked to have spent that time together, we were each able to do what we were really called to do without a lot of drama or feeling guilty about our choices.

Even when it's something as trivial as how to spend a 90-minute lunch break, it's in this moment that a lot of people get triggered by their fears or by their programming from past experiences and end up feeling resentful and angry with each other.

In this instance, Susie could have very easily gone to lunch with Otto and the two women and had a very enjoyable time. But she would have had a strong feeling that she had missed a great opportunity to do something that she loved to do and hadn't been able to for several months because we live in Ohio where it's cold outside. There might even have been some resentment if she had not gone swimming.

Otto could have been judgmental about Susie passing up the opportunity to "network" with other seminar participants. He could have had resentment that she wasn't fully there to learn and to make the most out of the seminar.

What could have been a divisive situation turned into a demonstration of trust and love. We made the decision to get our needs met, we listened and honored each other's needs, and we were present and loving with each other.

Often, we are asked how you can have freedom in a conscious, growing partnership and still remain close and connected as a couple. One of those ways is to choose to create "miracle moments" in your relationships.

Here are some ideas for you to consider to help you create your "miracle moments":

1. Take a moment to find out what you are feeling and what you want.

2. Say what you want in a way that it can be heard.

3. Honor who your partner is and what he/she wants.

4. Stay open and find ways that work for both of you.

The reason we're calling these situations "miracle moments" is that for some of us these situations can truly create "miracles" in creating love and trust in our relationships if we are open and conscious enough to recognize the possibility and potential in these moments.

In relationships, yes, big things can be destructive, but when relationships don't work it's mostly a culmination of many moments that make our relationships great (or not.)

The Power of Speaking Your Truth

Have you ever left a job and have had to do an "exit interview" before leaving?

Many companies and corporations do these "exit interviews" and it's been our experience that a similar phenomenon happens in personal and intimate relationships that are breaking up as well.

We'll explain what we mean...

In these "exit interviews," an employee is usually asked what, if anything, the company could have done to make their job and employment a more satisfying experience. What usually ends up happening is the employee tells the truth about why he or she is leaving and shares things that have previously been unsaid (especially to management) because now there's nothing to lose by being truthful.

It's been our experience that the same thing happens in personal and intimate relationships that are breaking up.

Like most people, both of us have experienced the break up of long-term relationships. As we look back on how these relationships ended in our lives, it was only after we had decided to "call it quits" that we were willing to honestly share our thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears and dreams without censoring them.

It was only after it looked like there was nothing to lose that we opened up to our partners and said what had been true for us in those previous relationships.

To us, the similarities between the "exit interview" and what happens at the end of many relationships are striking.

So if you're wondering why we're bringing this up, here it is...

If you want to have a great relationship, one of the keys is to be willing to speak your truth, straight from your heart as soon as you know it and in a way that someone else can hear it.

The idea is to share what's really on your mind and in your heart before your relationship gets to the "point of no return" and it ends.

The time to heal a relationship is as problems and challenges arise and not to let them simmer and fester into resentments that can build and finally destroy it.

Think of your car... If you hear an unusual sound or feel something out of the ordinary while you are driving, you will take it to a service department to get it looked at.

If you let the problems with the car continue and procrastinate getting it serviced, you may be in for costly repairs and run the risk of being stranded on the side of the road if your car stalls.

So it is with your relationships.

One of the reasons we have such a good relationship is that we don't wait for issues to become big problems before tackling them. When we got together, one of the first agreements we made with each other was to not "run away" emotionally or physically when things got tough and to tackle problems as they arise.

Here are a few tips we've discovered for creating great relationships:

1. Make sure your partner is in a space to listen to you without distractions. Ask for his/her attention in such a way that is not confrontational, judgmental or hostile.

2. Be willing to say what is true for you without pointing the finger at your partner.

3. Be authentic in what you are trying to say.

4. Be willing to listen without getting defensive (hard but really important).

5. Look for ways to agree and to understand each other.

6. Look for the good in your partner and in your relationship.

Great relationships are built one moment at a time. Nothing ever stays the same, including relationships. It's in each individual moment that a relationship is either strengthened or weakened.

In our relationships, we are either moving closer together or moving further apart. The question is...What are you doing to move you and the people you are in relationship with closer together?

Be Here Now...

Remember when you were in grade school and how the teacher would call the roll. In order to let her know that you were there that day, you would have to respond by saying "present" when she called out your name.

If you want your relationships to work, you have to be "present."

Recently Otto was taking some sales training and the first step in this 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, know the correct pricing of all the items, leave all your problems at the door, and be prepared to focus totally on your customer or client.

The sales trainer gave an excellent illustration of what it means to "Be here now" in our relationships. He said that recently 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." 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.

You've heard us say this before, but 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 might be a good idea to do what this sales trainer's wife did and "call" them on their lack of attention. 

We've learned that many communication problems 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 resentments and mistrust.

Along this same line, W. Clement Stone, a man who made many millions of dollars during his lifetime as the founder of Combined Insurance Company and founder of Success Magazine, attributed a portion of his success to his philosophy of W.I.N .that stood for "What's Important Now."

What's Important Now was a mantra that Stone would repeat many times throughout his day. He used it to keep himself focused on "what's important now." 

If your relationships are important to you, this is a question you need to ask yourself throughout your day--"What's Important now?"

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

Relationship Quote of the Week

"The present is always more interesting than the future or the past." Paul Williams

How Differences Can Help Your Relationship

Have you ever wondered why you are in a relationship with someone who is so different from you?

Most people when they get into relationships have an unspoken and even unconscious agenda that they want to make the other person just like them. The thought is--"Everything would be okay if you're just like me, if you like what I like and if you do things the way I like them to be done."

It may seem obvious--but we have to say it anyway--no two people alike. No matter how similar you think you are when you get into a relationship and how well matched, you are two radically different people.

What we have seen over and over--and we're sure you have too-- opposites do attract.

Many people come into relationship with someone who may appear to be the same but sooner or later they discover just how different they are and they end up being irritated about it.

The truth is that we all come into relationships to grow and if we are with someone who is very different from us, we have the choice as to how we react to those differences. We can either come from a place of fear, righteousness and judgment or from a place of love and growth.

What we have discovered is when differences come up, instead of making that person wrong, you have to embrace the differences between the two of you and use them to create a better relationship.

Sound impossible? It isn't and here's why.

The two of us have very similar interests and values when it comes to learning about love, relationships and spirituality. At the very core of us, there is a strong "glue" that holds us together. We are also very different people with very different ways of looking at life. This fact often makes being married business partners a challenge!

Through the years, we have learned and are still learning how to use these differences as growth opportunities.

Here are some tips that we've discovered as we've worked with these differences daily to create powerfully together instead of being at odds and critical of one another:

1. Open to possibilities. When you are closed to the ways of other people and only focus on how you've always done things, there's no growth. Begin by opening to hearing that someone else may have a different way of doing something and a different opinion. Being open means breathing, sitting, facing one another in an open way and making eye contact. Be open to changing a viewpoint, a way of doing something or even a value if it no longer serves you. It doesn't mean giving up being who you are but it means expanding who you are. Shift into an attitude of wonder.

2. Let go of needing to be right. All of us like to be right but when there are differences, we suggest you put that "rightness" aside. When we have hung onto being right, it's been helpful for us to go back to the thought--"Will this attitude move me closer to what I want or further away." Since what we want is a closer connection, we usually can let go of being right pretty quickly.

3. Listen without judging. This is a hard one but really necessary. Take turns talking and don't interrupt each other. Listen to each other and make an attempt to use "yes and" instead of "but" whenever possible. When you both feel heard, you will come up with a better solution to your differences than you could have if you had stayed in your "rightness."

4. Ask "What Can I learn from you?" This is truly the secret that we've found to dealing with our differences. Ask yourself "What can I learn from you that will help me to grow?" and then listen to what comes up inside you.

Shifting your attitude from blame to an openness to learning has transformed our relationship and we know it can your's too.

This week, whenever you are "hit" with someone's differences, change the way you normally look at those situations. Shift from annoyance, anger or judgment to openness, wonder and love. We think you'll see a positive change in your relationships and life.

One Way To Honor and Build Trust in 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..

Your Perfect Partner

A woman we'll call "Jane" thought she was a great "catch" and a "perfect partner" but she wondered why her relationships always seemed to fail.

Here's what she wrote to us--

"I dated men of various ages and cultures but all my relationships ended up in disaster. I constantly searched, hoping for love to come my way. Then I started reading your newsletters. I carried a lot of personal baggage from my past and set unrealistic standards and expectations for my lovers hoping they would fail because I was afraid to fail. I was afraid they would hurt me and disappoint me, so I made sure I would be in control when they did."

In this situation, Jane has an incredible opportunity in front of her. She can continue as she has been, being fearful and attracting people who will disappoint her or she can learn from what she has discovered about her patterns from the past.

It's been our experience that we attract the people into our lives who show us what we need to heal within ourselves, new possibilities for the future, and the contrast of what we want and don't want in our lives.

We take the rather contrarian view that there are no relationship mistakes or failures and only opportunities to heal, learn, grow and experience joy.

Even though "Jane" thought her relationships were failures, each one was actually another chance to become more emotionally aware of what was going on inside her, what she wanted for her life and to give her an opportunity to heal and create new ways to do it differently.

What we have found is that we keep attracting the same type of person, not just intimate partners, and experiences into our lives until we heal the past and "do it differently."

Otto's car is a black Buick Century with leather seats. He's very hot natured and since we live in Ohio where the summers are very hot and humid, he suffers in his "hot" car. He loved the way the car looked on the showroom floor, but his day-to-day experience has given him a powerful lesson of what he doesn't want in a car. As you can imagine, he's made a clear intention through the power of contrast that his next car will not be black or have leather seats.

He had an opportunity to learn this lesson when he was 18 years old and drove a black Ford Pinto station wagon with no air-conditioning to Tampa, Florida at the beginning of August. He swore then as he sat in traffic with sweat dripping onto the steering wheel that he'd never have another black car.

Obviously, he hadn't learned this lesson so he needed to bring another black car into his experience.

The point is that Otto has finally learned from this valuable experience and will do it differently the next time, although he really likes a lot about his current car.

This story is an example of coming to an awareness of what you want and what you don't want and of learning from past experiences that are not "failures" but are opportunities for expansion and growth.

Please don't misunderstand us and think that we are recommending that because you don't like something about your current partner or job that you "throw them away" and get another "model."

What we are recommending is that you take the opportunity to become emotionally aware, like "Jane" did, as much of the time as possible. Decide that you deserve to have a great relationship and a great life, whatever that means to you.

We are inviting you to learn from the past and the power of contrast so that you can begin creating the life you want.

Here are some ideas to help you...

1. Whenever something is important to you, don't stuff it down and pretend it doesn't matter. Have the courage to share it with your partner.

2. Accept responsibility for your part in past relationships that haven't worked out the way you wanted them to work out. Look for reoccurring patterns that will show

you where you need to heal.

3. Know that there's no such thing as failure in relationships, only experiences that you may not have enjoyed.

4. Embrace the idea that no matter what has happened in your relationships up until now, the future can be different.

So in a sense, each person who comes into our lives is "the perfect partner" for us if we use these experiences that we have with them to heal, learn and grow.

A Unique Valentine's Day Gift Idea

It's Valentine's Day this weekend in the United States and it's typically the holiday where all the lovers turn up their "love" a notch and make a good impression on their "special someone."

Like us, you've probably seen the ads in the media urging you to buy chocolates, diamonds, flowers and even give the gift of a chocolate mint massage to your loved one.

The best Valentine's Day gifts don't have to cost a lot of money to be special.

If you're on a budget or just want to give an original gift, we suggest that you send a love letter to your beloved.

It shows that you actually did think of the person and this wasn't a "last minute" gift on the way home from the office.

If you have no partner at the moment, we suggest that you take the opportunity to send a "love" letter to a special friend, your child, your parents or even to yourself.

This doesn't have to be a "love" letter. It could be a simple letter of appreciation for what this person has done or what they have meant in your life.

We'll go so far as to say that instead of just sending a "love" letter for Valentine's Day, you can make any day special by sending "love" letters or letters of appreciation anytime throughout the year.

An idea around this theme of "love" letters is to leave love notes around the house to your loved one or even to yourself.

When Susie's away from home overnight, she always leaves Otto an "I love you" note on his pillow. It lets him know that she is thinking about him and that even though she's gone for the night, this simple act helps keep our connection strong.

Here are a few tips for writing a "love" letter or note to someone you think is special:

1) It doesn't have to be long. It just has to come "straight from your heart."

2) Be specific in what you say. Tell the person why they are important to you and what you love about them.

3) Be sentimental. Think about the good times you've had in the past and remind him or her about what that situation, time or event meant to you.

4) Be authentic. Don't make up feelings that aren't there and don't say things that aren't true. No matter what's going on in your relationship, we believe that you can find some word of kindness to say to your partner or a loved one.

5) Don't just write these letters or notes on Valentine's Day. Write them unexpectedly throughout the year.

We are not suggesting that you bypass the chocolates, flowers, diamonds or even massages if that's what your heart says you want to do.

We are suggesting that writing "love" letters or personal notes is one thing you can do to create a connection with another person that may just mean more than those typical Valentine's Day gifts.

Once again, the trick to creating a good love letter is to be personal.

Be sure to put yourself in it. Start one today.

If you get stuck, our friend and Romance Coach Leslie Karshner has a great program called " Love Letters Now!" that can help get you unstuck and on your way to writing great love letters and notes.

To find out more about her program visit...

10 Primary Reasons Why Couples Argue, Fight and Even Break Up Around Valentine's Day

For millions of couples, Valentine's Day is a day for lovers to romance each other and draw even closer.

We love the fact that so many people spend so much time, effort and energy doing what it takes to make their love even greater.

For many couples, sadly enough Valentine's Day has a much different outcome.

With this intense focus on love for one day, they find that they are lonelier and more disconnected from their loved one than they realized.

Whether it's Valentine's Day (or any other day), there are many, many reasons why couples argue, fight and even break up.

In this 3-part series, we're going to share with you 10 of the major reasons this happens to couples and give you tips on how to create relationships that are close, connected and loving 365 days as year.

With that introduction--here's part 1 of our series...

1. Each person has different expectations for the holiday. One person likes surprises and the other doesn't. One person likes roses and the other buys carnations thinking he's pleasing her. Realizing that everyone has different expectations goes far beyond Valentine's Day.

The people who unconsciously or consciously think that just because they like something, their partner will like it also can be setting themselves up for overt conflicts or sullen withdrawal.

One woman we know was very upset with her husband because he brought flowers home with him after work instead of sending them to her work.

Sounds petty, doesn't it? But the reality is that we are all disappointed in one way or another when people don't meet our expectations of how we want to be treated and loved.

One key to a happy Valentine's Day (and relationship) is to share your expectations in advance. And yes, it is possible to do this and still keep the "romance" between the two of you. If you expect to be treated a certain way, make sure that you tell the other person that this is the way you'd like to be treated.

2. Existing Challenges are Magnified around Valentine's Day. Most couples avoid looking at and doing something about the problems that exist in their relationships--flirting with other people, jealousies, lack of passion, lack of common interests, to name a few.

People expect Valentine's Day to be a long-term magic elixir for the relationship (even if they give or get the "right" gift) and are usually disappointed that the old behaviors and attitudes are still there.

We suggest that you use this day as a catalyst for talking about how you can create the kind of relationship that each of you wants.

Does that mean spending more time together? If it does, how can this happen? Does it mean appreciating each other a little more? If it does, in what ways can both of you show appreciation to each other?

3. Communication is Lacking in the Relationship. For many couples, lack of communication is a big issue and it usually becomes even more evident around holidays. One person may agree to do something just to keep the peace and another person may be wanting to be loved and appreciated in a certain way but are not willing to say it.

To improve communication around this holiday or anytime during the year, make sure that each of you listens to understand each other. This is a skill that you have to learn to do because most of us weren't taught how.

Listening to understand means listening with your full attention, being entirely present with the other person, without becoming defensive about what each other is saying.

No, it's not easy to do but when you are able to do it, the two of you will become closer, more connected and more loving. We suggest you start by giving your partner your undivided attention and see what happens.

If you can't at the time he/she wants to talk with you, tell them when you can be totally present with them.

So there you have it--the first 3 of 10 reasons why people tend to have more conflicts around Valentine's Day.

Make sure you read parts 2 and 3 in the next 2 Relationship Gold Newsletters.

10 Primary Reasons Why Couples Argue, Fight and Even Break Up Around Valentine's Day, pt. 2

For millions of couples, Valentine's Day is a day for lovers to romance each other and draw even closer.

We love the fact that so many people spend so much time, effort and energy doing what it takes to make their love even greater.

For many couples, sadly enough Valentine's Day has a much different outcome.

With this intense focus on love for one day, they find that they are lonelier and more disconnected from their loved one than they realized.

Whether it's Valentine's Day (or any other day), there are many, many reasons why couples argue, fight and even break up.

In this 3-part series, we're going to share with you 10 of the major reasons this happens to couples and give you tips on how to create relationships that are close, connected and loving 365 days as year.

With that introduction--here's part 2 of our series...

4. Old Fears Surface.

Holidays tend to bring up fears from the past. These might include fearing not being good enough, attractive enough, wealthy enough or even feelings of abandonment. If fears are not looked at and healed, they interfere in some way or another with the health of every relationship. Take some time to notice when the fears surface, be loving with yourself but look inward instead of outward.

Ask yourself if your fears are "true" or are you just making "stories" up in your head. If you are creating those "stories" and there's no basis of truth to them, then change your thinking. It's not always easy to do and it takes moment by moment monitoring of your thoughts. If you need help and support to make the changes you want in your life, be courageous enough to get it.

5. Not Feeling Understood, Valued, Loved and Appreciated. Everyone wants to feel understood, valued, loved and appreciated and when we're not, we tend to either withdraw or attack the other person for not meeting our needs. If you want to be appreciated, start appreciating the other people in your life. Sounds simplistic but it really works!

If you are not feeling loved, start being open to seeing and feeling love and appreciation that people are giving you that you may not be aware of in your daily life. It may be that someone allows you to go ahead of them in traffic or tells you to go ahead in a grocery line. Send some appreciation back to them and to everyone around you and watch love snowball in your life.

6. Not Making their Relationship a Priority the other 364 days. Many couples take each other for granted and don't give their relationship the attention it needs most of the time. Since Valentine's Day focuses on romance and relationships, the lack of closeness and connection can be overwhelming. Make your relationship a priority in your life. Set aside time everyday to connect with your partner.

We believe that sex happens long before the bedroom. It starts all day long when you have thoughts about your partner--Are these thoughts positive or negative? It continues when you come together-- Are you happy to see each other and express love and appreciation or do you great each other with a laundry list of chores, things to be done or grievances?

These are just a couple of ways we make our relationship a priority. Try them in yours!

7. One or Both People are Made to Feel They are "Wrong." One of the biggest mistakes people make, especially on special occasions like Valentine's Day, is that they make each other wrong. As soon as critical words are said, defenses and walls go up and suddenly that person becomes an "enemy."

Before you jump into blaming and judging your partner, stop and take a moment to breathe. Ask yourself if making your partner wrong will drive you further apart or move you closer toward healing. Open your heart to understanding the dynamics of what's going on between the two of you.

Understand the full story before you start making someone wrong. So often we assume to know what is in someone's heart and we really don't. Take the time to find out!

10 Primary Reasons Why Couples Argue, Fight and Even Break Up Around Valentine's Day, pt.3

For millions of couples, Valentine's Day is a day for lovers to romance each other and draw even closer.

We love the fact that so many people spend so much time, effort and energy doing what it takes to make their love even greater.

For many couples, sadly enough Valentine's Day has a much different outcome.

With this intense focus on love for one day, some couples find that they are lonelier and more disconnected from their loved one than they realized or want.

Whether it's Valentine's Day (or any other day), there are many, many reasons why couples argue, fight and even break up.

In this 3-part series, we've been sharing with you 10 of the major reasons this happens to couples and give you tips on how to create relationships that are close, connected and loving 365 days a year.

With that introduction--here's part 3 of our series...

Reason # 8: Not Considering the Needs of your Partner as well as Your Own Needs.

Many couples tend to adopt a win/lose attitude when it comes to getting each of their needs met. When a problem builds into an argument, each person digs their heels in and stubbornly holds onto his/her position. To adopt an win/win attitude where both people can get what they want, open your heart and mind to different possibilities. Think outside the box that you've built for yourself.

Over the holidays when we were struggling with the effects of the ice storm, Susie had the idea that we had to put the generator in storage properly before the weather got bad again. Otto had other ideas for that particular day. We both assumed that our individual needs were most important until we shifted into "possibility" thinking. This shift happens when one or both of us decides to let go of "I'm right and you're wrong" and be open to another possibility.

The generator was properly stored in plenty of time before the "bad" weather hit and Otto was able to do what he needed to do. It just took us softening and opening to each other--one more time.

Reason # 9: One or Both People Making Assumptions about the Actions or Intentions of their Partner.

Making assumptions can kill a relationship very quickly. Take the time to find out what's really going on before you make assumptions about what did or did not happen. You cannot know what's going on inside another person or their motivations until you ask. So, ask first to get some clarity in this situation.

Mark Twain said, "I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened." We think this is exactly what happens to kill relationships. People make a great many assumptions about what people are thinking and doing without truly knowing whether that's what's really going on.

Often times, when you know someone's motivation, you begin to understand them a little better. So, before you jump into creating troubles, ask for a deeper clarification of what was said and what happened. You may end up being surprised when you do.

Reason # 10: Trust has been Broken Beyond the Ability of the Partners to Heal it or the Relationship.

In many relationships, one or both partners have done (or not done) something that has broken the trust of the other person at sometime in the relationship. No matter how long ago the trust was broken or how much the other person has apologized for the wrong-doing, holidays like Valentine's Day tend to bring up old wounds.

The "victim" and "martyr" roles tend to kick in and people find themselves reliving past hurts and hanging onto them.

We suggest that if this is the case with you and your relationship, ask yourself two questions: Is trust still being violated? Do I want to heal this relationship?

If you decide you want to heal this relationship and your partner is currently trustworthy, then you have the challenge of doing everything you can to learn to live in the present moment and let the past go. This might include talking about the past issue in a way that you have never done before without blaming and judging. It might mean deciding what making amends might mean for both of you to help you let that past issue die. If trust is being violated, then the issues need to come to light and decisions about what each person wants need to be discussed.

We hope that you have found this series helpful and we wish all of you a happy Valentine's day and even more, our wish for you is for you to have the types of relationships that you want in every part of your life.

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.

©2005 by Susie & Otto Collins

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