Susie & Otto
Archive 02


Menstuff® has compiled information and books on the issue of Relationships. This section is an archive 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

Accentuate the Positive
Being "Real" in Your Relationships
The Challenge of moving from "I" to "We"
Communicate Conscious Agreements
Creating A Connected Relationship
Dealing with Jealousy in Relationships
Feel All Your Feelings Deeply
Forgive and Forget--We don't think so!
Friend or Foe?
Healing the Past. . .In the Present
How Badly Do You Want Intimacy In Your Relationships?
How do you want to be loved???
How Good Can You Stand It?
If Only
The Importance of Saying only what you mean!
Is it Lying or Loving?
The Issue of Money in Spiritual Partnership
Is this the year of the Soulmate?
It's never too late
Keeping it together when others around you are Losing it!
Listening from your heart
Power, Vulnerability and Money in relationships...
Secrets to Healing after Leaving a Painful Relationship!
Surviving step families
10 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve Your Relationships
Up Until Now
Vulnerability in Relationship
What are your communication challenges?
What Games do You Play
What Happens after you Find your Soulmate?
"What if Every Day was Valentine's Day?"
What's Most Important to you?
When conflict rears its ugly head
Withdrawing and Pushing in Relationships" Part 2 ...
Working together, Loving Together
You Have A Choice...
Your Personas and How They Serve You...
Your Soulmate Experiences

Other Relationship Issues, Books

10 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve Your Relationships

Here are 10 Simple strategies for improving your relationships.

1) Start Your Day off with a prayer of gratitude. This is how we start each and every day. Before our feet ever hit the ground in the morning --we say a prayer of gratitude for all the good things about our lives. By doing this what we find is that it sets the tone for the day in a very positive way. We express gratitude for each other, the people in our lives and the abundance that surrounds us all.

2) Make your relationships a priority. If your relationships aren't what you want them to be--one of the reasons may be that you haven't made them a priority. Whether it be with your intimate partner, your mate, the people you work with, the people in the social organizations you belong to or the people you meet on the street---make ALL your relationships important--More important than getting things done.

3) Turn off the TV or Stop spending so much time on the Internet. Start reading self development or inspirational books --maybe a chapter a night with someone you care about and then discuss the important discoveries you make about yourself and each other. We suggest Gary Zukav's Seat of The Soul, Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements and Gay Hendricks book Conscious Living as good books to start with.

4) Be present in All your relationships. In every relationship you're in and in every personal encounter give whomever you're with your full attention. Giving another person your full attention is as good of a gift as you can give anyone.

5) Love the other people in your life the way they want to be loved and not how you think they want to be loved. Believe it or not there is a difference in almost all cases because we all come from a different set of circumstances and experiences. So take the time to ask the people in your life--"how do you want to be treated or loved?" Then treat them that way.

6) Speak your truth in all your relationships. Sometimes we think we are being kind to another when we hold back from telling another person how we are feeling. We've found that if you want your relationships to be real and authentic instead of being mired in fear, you need to speak your truth. 

7) Honor the people in your life even when they're not present  If you have an issue with someone that needs to be addressed--be sure to address it with that person and not make it a part of water cooler conversation at work. 

8) Listen to self-development or inspiring tapes in the car instead of the radio. The average person will spend over 750 hours a year in a car traveling somewhere. You can be using that time for personal and spiritual growth instead of listening to the latest information abou wrecks and drug busts on the news. For some great titles of audio tape programs to get you started click here

9) Don't take anything personally. This is great advice and is one of the four agreements from Don Miguel Ruiz's book--The Four Agreements.  If someone else is having a bad day it may have nothing to do with you. If someone you come in contact with is inconsiderate or rude just practice sending them love instead of taking offense. You have no idea what things may be happening in the life of that other person.

10) Tell the people in your life how much they mean to you. Otto's father has had a saying for many years that he wants his flowers while he's living. What this means is, he wants to know how much the other people in his life care now instead of after he is gone.

Honor the people you love today. Don't wait.

Relationship Quote of the Week

"In every relationship, whether it be a friend, family member or a colleague, or a deep-loved one, what is required is a child-like innocence...loyalty and committment...and the gift of spaciousness--the allowing of space for contemplation, introspection and the need for being alone. " Angeles Arrien

Forgive and Forget--We don't think so!

In every relationship you're involved in, It's inevitable that something will happen in the relationship that will cause you to be upset with the other person or the other person will be upset with you. Now, we've all heard the expression "forgive and forget" but we believe that "forgive and forget" doesn't serve you. We believe that in most cases, you really don't forget and here's why.

Have you ever had the feeling that the harder you try to "forget" something, the more you end up focusing on it.

If someone says to you, "Don't think of the color blue" "Don't think of the color blue" "Don't think of the color blue," no matter how hard you try, you probably can't stop visualizing or thinking about the color blue.

The same thing happens when you try to "forget" a negative situation that has an emotional charge to it. No matter how hard you try, you just can't seem to do it. 

We believe that instead of forgiving and forgetting, you have to forgive and let go.  

Many people write to us wanting to know how they can forgive when they have been wronged--a spouse cheated on them; they've been abused in one way or another; or maybe their feelings have been hurt and they don't feel loved or valued. 

What we have found is that the process of healing a relationship requires more than forgiveness. You must also let go.

But let go of what? 

In almost all cases when you are having a difficult time forgiving someone, you are holding on to an attachment of some kind or another. The attachments most commonly manifest themselves in the need to be justified, the need to be honored, the need to be right, the need to be vindicated, the desire for revenge, and the inability to move past fear. 

So when you are holding onto an attachment, what you are actually doing is holding onto a position which is serving you in some way but it is not moving you forward in healing the relationship. 

Eckhart Tolle in "The Power of Now" talks about how to let go of negativity and we think that the same holds true for letting go of attachments--Tolle's response was "By dropping it. How do you drop a piece of hot coal that you are holding in your hand? How do you drop some heavy and useless baggage that you are carrying? By recognizing that you don't want to suffer the pain or carry the burden anymore and then letting go of it." 

Just decide to do it.

Recently Susie and her sister moved their mother from her home of 50 years to an assisted living Alzheimer's facility. Their mother had and continues to have anger, hurt, and resentment toward her daughters and her new situation.

From the time of taking her car away from her, Susie and her sister have been practicing letting go of her anger, while allowing her to feel her feelings. They continually practice forgiving the words of anger that are directed toward them and just send her love.  

Susie has been practicing a "Thirty-Nine Day Prayer of Forgiveness" given to her by Shaman Connie Parkinson to help with this situation with her mother. She's used it before to help heal a broken relationship.

Here it is--along with an explanation--and we urge you to try it. It really works!

 "Every day, for 39 days, all alone and in private, you say the following: (Name), I thank you for all you have done to me and those I love. I ask your forgiveness for all I have done to you. Let us begin a new relationship.

(Your own name), I love you. You are an exceptionally wonderful and beautiful person and I approve of you. 

This prayer is extremely simple, It's extremely hard, it's extremely effective. By thanking the one who has injured you, you are putting yourself a little bit in that person's place, and you are recognizing that everyone is driven by impulses we are not to know, and that everything that happens to you is for your growth and your good." 

By asking forgiveness for yourself, you are recognizing that you had a part in the relationship. By telling yourself that you love and approve of you, you are renewing strength in the one human being in your life who can truly help you--yourself. 

The 3 is for the triune spiritual effect of will, action, and manifestation. The 9 brings an ending to your grief and anger and resentment against the person. The prayer itself opens you to a new understanding of both yourself and the one who injured you. The only thing you are trying to change is yourself and your emotions. As for the relationship, wait and see. You could be surprised how you'll feel toward this person at the end of 39 days." 

You can learn How to Manifest Abundance (or anything else you desire)

Here's some great news. You--Yes, YOU CAN Manifest anything you want for your life. "IF" you are willing to follow certain principles of life. You can create the life you want.  We believe it's possible.

To learn 7 keys to manifesting abundance in any area of your life just click here

Relationship Quote of the Week

"Forgiveness is "selective remembering"--a conscious decision to focus on love and let the rest go." Marianne Williamson

Creating A Connected Relationship

Recently, a friend asked us what we do to create the deep, connected relationship that we have.

As we thought about this question, several things came to mind. One of the things we'll share in this article is how important we feel creating "ease and flow" has been to us in creating our relationship.

One of our favorite quotes is by Fritz Perls who said, "Don't push the river. It flows by itself." This is the way it is in relationships that have ease and flow. There's very little struggle and pushing against each other. That's not to say that we haven't "pushed" against each other or had challenges.

When challenges have come up, our commitment has been to tackle the issues as soon as possible so we can regain and keep the feeling of "ease and flow" that is so important to us.

This idea of ease and flow works for all relationships.

Otto has a relationship with a friend that he characterizes as having a great deal of ease and flow. Otto and his friend recognize and honor the differences between them. They don't try to "fix" each other. They help each other when they need it and they allow their relationship to be what it is. As a result of their intentions for this relationship, there is an ease and flow between them.

Whether it's a relationship between two friends or intimate partners, we've determined that having ease and flow in the relationship is one of the important characteristics if you want to build a deep, connected relationship.

Here are some suggestions that we've used in our relationship and other relationships to create more ease and flow:

1. Appreciate and honor the other's differences.
2. Set your intention to create more ease and flow in your relationship.
3. Don't try to make the relationship into something that it isn't. Let the relationship be what it is.
4. Let go of the need to be right.
5. Don't try to change the other person--they have to want to change themselves.
6. Learn to be confident of who you are in your own skin.

This week set it as your intention to create the feeling of ease and flow in your relationships. Start applying some of these ideas that we've shared in this article and watch as your relationships also begin to experience more ease and flow.

Up Until Now

If your life or your relationships aren't the way you want them to be, we have a new philosophy you may want to adopt.

This philosophy is called "up until now..."

What the "up until now..." philosophy means is that no matter what mistakes you feel you've made, challenges you've had or problems you've encountered along the way, today is a new day and anything is possible from this moment forward.

This weekend we were talking with a woman who was expressing her concern that her relationships constantly turn out miserably. She's never been able to create what she considers to be a good relationship and is fearful that this will always be the case.

What we told her was that this may have been true up until now but in this moment, she has the opportunity to learn to do her life differently.

Whether you're 20, 30, 40, 50 or 80 years old, it's never too late to begin again.

Whether your challenge is in the area of love and relationships, money, health, overcoming fears or any other challenge--it's never too late to learn a new skill, go to college, take more responsibility for yourself, meet new people, have more fun, make more money or find the love of your life.

So, how do you do this?

Step one is to acknowledge for yourself that there are other people who have exactly what you want for your life and to adopt the belief that if it's possible for someone else--then it's possible for you too.

Once you begin to believe that yes, other people do have what you want and it's possible for you too, then begin opening yourself to opportunities that will come your way.

Don't beat yourself up if you fall into old patterns that don't serve you. Simply recommit to creating the life or relationships that you want.

If you feel that you must talk to others about your disappointments about the way things have been in the past, always use the phrase "up until now... " By using the phrase "up until now..." you are opening your heart and mind to possibilities.

A few weeks ago in this newsletter, we talked about Susie's 82 year old mother finding a new, exciting love and happiness. We suggest that when you think that you can't have what you want in your life, that you think of all the people who didn't give up on their hopes and dreams.

Your Soulmate Experiences

A lot of people ask us our opinion about soulmates. They want to know if this person they've discovered they have a deep connection with is their soulmate.

Although we agree that this soulmate connection can be a special, once in a lifetime event, we hold a somewhat contrarian view of the whole idea of soulmates.

You've probably been led to believe that there is one soulmate for you and if you miss that one opportunity to be together, you will have to "settle" for a life of mediocrity when it comes to intimate relationships.

That's not what we believe at all!

We believe that a soulmate relationship can be one filled with passion, excitement, an incredible connection and bond, steamy sex, and all those things you've read about in romance novels and imagined it to be. We recognize that those relationships do exist and we feel that it is possible to "find" that special person if that's your intention and path this time around. But that's not the whole story.

Here's where we take a fork in the road from many popular beliefs about soulmate relationships. We believe that soulmate relationships can take many different forms. They can be intimate relationships, like we have, or they can be between friends, co-workers, family or people on the street. We believe that the purpose of all relationships, and especially soulmate relationships, is that we come together for personal and spiritual growth.

Soulmate relationships are those meaningful relationships that help us to move along our spiritual paths and we may encounter several in our lifetime.

Soulmates teach you in a powerful way about yourself. How many times have you felt a powerful connection with someone when you first met them and couldn't explain it? How many times have you met someone who really irritated you for no apparent reason? These are all your soulmates who have come to help you learn about yourself on your journey through life.

We know that this sounds somewhat glib but we believe that if you change your way of thinking about the meaning of what a soulmate is and who the soulmates are in your life, you will gain an new appreciation for the people who are already in your life.

Here are some questions for you to consider--Think of a person in your life that you have or had a deep connection to or one who irritated you consistently and you don't really know why.

Ask yourself--

  • What have I learned about myself as a result of being in a relationship with this person?
  • How did this relationship help me to move forward to heal, learn and grow?
  • What new beliefs did I take on or let go of as a result of being in this particular relationship?

Be grateful for these soulmates who come into your life. Each one is holding a mirror for you to see yourself in a new way. By changing your viewpoint about what a soulmate is, new possibilities will begin to emerge and you will see your relationships for what they have given to you.

Communicate Conscious Agreements

Recently, we received a message from a woman we'll call Joyce who asked for our advice about her relationship with her partner. The problem is her partner has a close relationship with a woman at work and she's very uncomfortable about it.

By Joyce's account, he spends a lot of time with his co-worker, talks to her about his problems and worries about her welfare. He tends to make light of Joyce's feelings about his relationship with his co-worker. Joyce knows that this relationship may be innocent but she is tired of being fearful that something may or may not happen between them.

In our judgment, Joyce needs to first decide how she wants her relationship to be with her partner, find out what he wants from their relationship and then begin to create conscious agreements that will work for both of them in all areas of their lives.

If you want to create an outstanding relationship, forming conscious agreements with each other is one of the best places to start.

So what's a conscious agreement? A conscious agreement is between two or more people about what they expect from each another in a given situation. Ideally, you would create these conscious agreements in advance before the situations became real problems.

Of course, following through on these agreements is an important element to their success.

Early in our relationship, one of us had jealousy and abandonment issues from the past, especially in social situations. So what we did was create a conscious agreement we both could live with that would help us keep our connection, help us create trust between us, and eliminate the possibility of jealous feelings before they came up.

What we decided to do in social situations such as parties or large get-togethers was to connect with each other intermittently throughout the evening by making eye contact or by coming together for a quick hug.

In creating this agreement before the next social event occurred, we were able to talk about what we each would like in those types of situations and how we would like to be treated. Because of this agreement and the follow-through, the healing of old issues began and now the jealousy is not an issue in these situations.

Most people don't create conscious agreements for how they want their lives and their relationships to be in advance. They might fear that if you begin making conscious agreements in advance, the "mystery" and fun will disappear from their lives.

We disagree because when you don't create conscious agreements, your relationship is ripe for fear, futurizing, disconnection, assumptions and worry about things that may or may not ever happen.

Conscious agreements can ward off problems and can be created for any relationship in any area of your life. They require you to take an inventory of what you want, honesty with each other, and courage to speak your truth.

So this week, we suggest that you look at the issues you have in your relationships and talk with your partner about ways to begin creating conscious agreements between the two of you.

What are your communication challenges?

We all have developed communication challenges along the way--unhealthy patterns and ways of avoiding communicating what we are honestly feeling in situations.

For us, even though we have a great relationship and work hard at communicating clearly, we sometimes lapse into old patterns when conflict comes up. We're guessing that many of you do the same.

When old patterns come up for Susie, they usually manifest in unhealthy ways like being afraid of speaking her truth if it’s unpleasant for the other person to hear, agreeing for the sake of keeping the peace, and not clearly asking for what she wants.

Otto’s communication challenges are making assumptions, imagining fear in the future, black and white thinking, and not speaking about what’s bothering him but letting things build up.

What gets in the way of your ability to communicate with the people in your life?

Are you immediately defensive when someone starts to criticize something you are doing or calls attention to something you could improve? Do you think one thing and say another? Is your mind always somewhere else instead of listening to the people in your life?

Take a few moments and write down the ways that you stop communication with other people. If you have a partner or a close friend, talk over your challenges with them. Talk about ways that you might be able to stop yourself from going into some of these unhealthy communication patterns. Talk about how you'd like to communicate in your life.

Clear, honest communication is a skill that can be learned if you have the desire to do so. Making yourself aware of your particular communication issues is one of the first steps to creating close, connected relationships.

Have a great week everyone.

Friend or Foe?

When your partner, mate or friend flips out, becomes upset or acts irrational about something, what do you do in emotionally charged situations?

Do you act like a friend or foe to that person?

We're not talking about situations where there is a concern about physical or emotional safety. What we are talking about here ishow we can help each other move through the conflicts and situations that come up from time to time in all our relationships.

Let us give you an example from our own lives-- recently, the heater on our waterbed quit working. Because Susie is working at home and has more time than Otto, she took on the project of replacing it.

It seemed like it would be an easy project but turned out to be much more involved than it first appeared.

As a result, in the middle of the project she became frustrated and angry.

When she made a statement that sounded like something that her 3 year old grandson would say, Otto was triggered by what she said and wanted to take over the project.

Here's where most people in relationship get stuck in situations like these...

They get "stuck" in blame, in judgement, in criticism and anger. What we did instead of getting "stuck" and being angry for days like we may have done in previous relationships is to consciously decide how to heal this situation now and when similar situations occur in the future.

We both quickly realized that we needed to go deeper and discover what was triggering both of us to act and react in these unhealthy ways.

Otto helped Susie to see that this was a pattern that had happened before and she asked him for help to heal this wounded place within her.

We agreed that if Susie went into this similar pattern again, Otto would not try to "fix" the situation but ask her one simple question without reacting.

The question is--"how old are you?"

This question is one that Susie feels safe with and will bring her into the present moment quickly. This question isn't one that everyone would necessarily want to use. You might want to find what will work for you.

The idea is for your mate or friend to help you to break from your unhealthy pattern of the past and bring you into the present so that you can deal rationally with the current situation.

You've heard us say this many times before--but, in relationships, what's going on often isn't what's going on at all.

Here's the process that Charlotte Kasl gives on her tape series "If the Buddha were in love" that we've found to be very helpful in moving through conflict or challenges.

1) make an agreement to help each other during these times
2) own up to your unhealthy behavior and want to stop it and
3) decide what would be helpful to you to interrupt the pattern.

The whole trick to being successful in any relationship is to be conscious. This process will help you do this.

Surviving step families

One of our readers recently requested that we write an article about how a relationship can survive the blending of step-families.

Often, there may be a feeling that there's a conspiracy against the new couple because it may seem like there's never enough time, privacy, or energy to really be together and to have the fun and connection they once had together.

We think this is a great topic, not just because so many of us are trying to blend step-families together --but, because the same dynamics that are at work in step families are present in nearly all relationships much of the time.This would include work and social situations, as well as families that are not blended.

In most cases, there seems to be a jockeying for position when two families come together because there's an unconscious belief by one or more of the family members that there isn't enough love to go around in this new arrangement.

This "jockeying" for position that happens when two families are trying to blend into one is very close tothe dynamic that is present when there is jealousy in a relationship. When someone is jealous, it comes from fear that their needs won't be met.

We don't have a magic bullet for these conflicts. But we do have are a few suggestions that have worked for us.

  • Plan special dates alone with your children so that they know there is enough love to go around
  • Plan regular alone time with your spouse--to talk, to hold hands, to make love, to be together
  • Remember your spouse is your friend and listen without judging, without butting in with advice unless asked.
  • Get rid of blame and the need to be right. Work together towards positive solutions with open hearts and minds.
  • Honor each other's differences. Parenting styles are so different and it takes a lot of courage to learn from each other and not be so rigid, thinking there's only one way to parent--your way.
  • Clearly define roles, rules and expectations--Everyone in the family should be included in a discussion and buy into them. Make your steps clear.
  • Be persistent, patient and don't take it personally!

If you are in a blended family, we urge you to make a commitment with your partner to take steps to improve the communication between you. We've found that our family situation has improved as we have learned to communicate better with each other.

Everyday we recommit our love for each other and our belief that we are together to learn from each other.We wish the same for you and your families.

Working together, Loving Together

As most of you know, we just released our newest relationship book, "Creating Relationship Magic." We learned a few things while "birthing" the book and we'd like to share some of our thoughts with you.

From the beginning of our relationship, we have had it as our intention to honor the other's differences, gifts and strengths to create something greater than we could have individually. We have learned that this is a cornerstone for us in creating a conscious, alive, passionate, connected relationship. Writing, creating, and publishing a book gives us a great opportunity to put this philosophy into practice.

It's a concept that we think is important for any relationship--whether it's with family members, co-workers, or an intimate partner.

Stephen Covey calls it "Synergy"--where the sum is greater than the parts. While this is a wonderful concept, it's sometimes difficult to carry through in real life situations.

Where the challenge comes in for us is that we are two people with two totally different ways of creating and thinking. This is not so different from many people who come together in an intimate relationship or in a work situation.

We just seem to attract into our lives those people who will expand us and show us another way of looking at things. And these people sometimes know how to "push our buttons" and make us crazy.

When we are having challenges because of our differences, what works for us is to remind ourselves that this person who we are not understanding in the moment is our friend.

It sounds simple, but when we turn our attention to appreciating each others gifts instead of holding onto what we think is the "right way to do it," we create true synergy.

Our goals for this project were very simple--to create an outstanding book that would help people and at the same time keep the bond between us growing.

Coming back to these goals and appreciating what the other was bringing to the project helped us to move forward in a positive way.

Whether you are trying to write a book together, find a direction for your relationship, decide on how many kids to have, decide where you're going to live, or complete a project in a work situation-- be conscious about your relationship and decide in advance whatyour intentions are in each situation.

When each person's intentions are clear, you are both able to listen to each other and understand where the other is coming from without judgment. When both of you work together, honoring what each brings to the project or discussion, new possibilities begin to unfold--if you are open to them.

Your Personas and How They Serve You...

Last weekend we attended an incredible workshop taught by Kathlyn Hendricks co-author of several books on relationships, growth and change including "Conscious Loving" and "Conscious Heart."

We learned a lot about ourselves, as well as took our understanding of why we do certain things in our relationshipsand our lives to a whole new level.

One of the concepts we did a lot work with is something called "Personas." You may have heard about personas if you took an introductory Psychology course. Essentially, we have all created one or more images in our minds of how we are and how we should be and act in certain situations. These are our personas. They always serve us in some way, but if we act from our personas instead of love or our true essence, they can become road blocks in our relationships and in our lives.

Otto knows a great deal about the game of baseball. One of his "personas" is that of "The Coach." (especially when it comes to his son who is now playing in Pony League.) The problem comes when his son, Steven, doesn't want his help and Otto is attached to being "The Coach."

In these situations, Otto has an attachment to the desire to make his son be a better baseball player whether he asked for the help or not. A few years ago, this dynamic used to cause a great deal of pain between them. Now, whenever Otto slips into "The Coach", as soon as he recognizes it, he tries to let go of that self-appointed role and focus on what's more important - having fun and enjoying being with his son.

Personas can come in all flavors and sizes. From "Mr. or Miss Perfect" to "Tough Guy or Gal" to the "Victim" and everything in between. We're sure you can identifysome of your own.

So, this week we would invite you to look at your "personas"--especially, the ones that seem to create challenges with other people in your life. Think about how you may be able to let go of whatever role you are playing and just love that other person.

We think you'll see a change in your relationship if you do.

Withdrawing and Pushing in Relationships" Part 2 ...

In last week's newsletter, we talked about what happens when someone "pushes" and another "withdraws" in a relationship.

Since, we spent most of the article last week focusing on the person who "pushes" and the dynamic of "pushing"in relationships, one of our newsletter subscribers asked us for suggestions on how to "prompt reaction and interaction" from someone who "withdraws."

Because it is a lonely and frustrating place to be in, most people who are with someone who "withdraws" will try almost anything they can think of to get them to open up their heart.

But, as pure as their intentions can be, we think that trying to prompt some sort of reaction with another doesn't go far enough.

In our opinion, the goal should be to find a way to reconnect with each other.

So, how do we reconnect with someone who has "withdrawn?"

What we do in our relationship when this happens is to let the other person who has withdrawn know that we are their friend and not the enemy.

What we always do next to bring about reconnection (when we are able to become the observer and get our ego out of the way) is to explain to the one who has withdrawn what we are seeing, feeling, thinking and experiencing in the moment without judging.

An example of this might be...

"I'm feeling really sad that we're not connecting. I would like to recapture the same kind of feeling that we had when we were first together and right now I'm not feeling that."

Another example might be...

"Our relationship is really important to me and I'm feeling distance between us right now and I'm wondering how I can feel close to you again?"

If you find yourself with someone who has withdrawn, share with them the specific differences between what's happening in this moment and how the two of you were when you were the happiest or most connected.

In our relationship, when both of us recognize and admit to contributing to the changes that have happened in the relationship, it helps us to regain our connection.

Realize that if there is someone "pushing" and another "withdrawing," there are probably some resentments and painful truths between both of you that have to be unearthed before this dynamic can be resolved.

If you are with someone who is so withdrawn that it is painful for you to be in that relationship, you have to decide whether you want to stay in this situation or not.

There are no guarantees that the person who is withdrawing is able or willing to open up to you or anyone. It may be too painful for them.

It is worth a try, or several tries, to allow the space, the honesty and the love to create a reconnection between the two of you.

Our purpose in talking about this dynamic is to shed some light so that both people will stop this common relationship "dance" and begin moving toward reconnection.

We hope that we've given you food for thought. If you have relationship issues or concerns that are universal in scope that you'd like us to address in future newsletters, feel free to ask.

What's Most Important to you?

One of the biggest issues that people ask us about and we experience ourselves is how to find the time for our families, our jobs, our community and our partner. How can we do it all? We are pulled in so many different directions!

The short answer is to determine what the "First things" are in your life and live your life according to what you have predetermined as the most important things in your life. In Stephen Covey's book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," Habit 3 is "Put First Things First" and we have found that this is key to living our lives the way we want.

The first step to living our lives the way we want them is to consciously determine what is most important in all areas of your life. After determining what you value most, compare these values with how you actually spend your time.

Brian Tracy says, "It's not what you say or what you intend to do but what you actually do reveals what's most important to you."

We fill our lives with so many activities and often place our priorities in alignment with what's not very important to us. As Mona Lisa Schulz says in her book, "Awakening Intuition," "You can't have it all. You have to choose."

We think this can be a glorious, freeing experience but can also be a scary, unfamiliar place to venture. The challenge is to choose what you do and how you live-- consciously.

We've found that your values can change and that's why constant communication is so important. Earlier in Susie's life, she placed a higher value on her job and community activities than she does now. She spent more time on those activities away from home and invested more energy in cultivating relationships with many different people. Now, she is spending more time with family and her partner Otto.

Before we got together, we consciously determined what we wanted from our relationship--what we valued. Our values have been clear and we have tried to live and spend our time according to them.

We're not saying that everyone should adopt our values but we are saying that it is important for you to determine what your values are and to understand the most important things in your partner's life from his/her frame of reference.

We suggest that you have a family discussion about what each person values.

You'll find that understanding will be fostered and resolving conflicts will be easier in the future.

A great way to determine what's most important to you in your life is to make a list from the answers to the following questions--(we're sure you can make up more)

"What's most important to me in my relationship with my partner/spouse"?

"What's most important to me in my career"?

"What's most important to me in my relationship with my kids"?

"What's most important to me in my spiritual practice"?

You get the idea--Take a few minutes this week and consciously decide what's most important in your life and your relationships. Set a family meeting and ask your family members to do the same.

As Stephen Covey says, "Things which matter most should never be at the mercy of things which matter least." Make sure you know what things matter most to you.

If Only. . .

We don't know if birds do it or if bees do it but we do know that most of the people we've come in contact with do it. What we're talking about is the mantra of the modern era--"If only...." 

"If only" is what most of us tend to focus on in all of our relationships. We tend to focus on the qualities that we don't like in others rather than the qualities that we do like. "If only he/she would listen to me." "If only we had a bigger house." "If only he would pick up his clothes." "If only I had a better job." "If only there was more passion in our relationship."

One of the biggest obstacles to having great relationships is focusing on what we don't like about someone else. In fact, it's not just in our relationships that we do this. It's in most of the areas of our lives.

One of the keys to creating great relationships requires you to change the way you look at life. It requires you to focus on what you like, love and admire about the people in your lives instead of what you don't like.

Otto's son Steven says he wants to improve his performance in little league baseball. The challenge with this is, Steven doesn't really have the desire to improve. He would prefer to spend his time watching his favorite shows on TV, playing with his Poke'mon cards or playing video games. What ends up happening is, Otto spends a lot of time trying to help him become a better baseball player by telling him "if only you'd do it this way you'd get better." Steven and Otto both usually end up frustrated.

Every time you find yourself saying those two little "If only..." words, this should serve as a reminder that you are wanting someone or some thing in your life to be different than it really is. You've heard us say before in this newsletter about how important it is to love others in your life wherever they are and not where you'd like them to be.

We suggest that if you find yourself saying "If only..." about a person or a situation in your life, stop yourself and focus on the good things about this person or situation.

The joy in life just gets sucked out of you if spend your time dwelling on past unhappy events, things you don't like, things you can't control and futurizing about negative events that haven't happened yet.

In life and in your relationships you have a choice. You can spend your time trying to get someone else to change and be more in alignment with what you want or you can find a way to love them where they are.

If it's not possible for you to love another person where he or she is, then you have another choice that only you can make.

This is also true of a job or any situation in your life. If you spend your time at work saying to yourself (if not out loud) "If only..." then I'd like my job-- then you are hoping for someone or some thing outside of your control to change or be different. In this situation, you are again faced with the same challenge. If you can affect change, do so. If you cannot, then your only option is to accept your employer and your job as it is or move on.

So we suggest that tomorrow you pay attention to the situations where you find yourself saying or thinking,"If only..." then write down what you appreciate about that person, job or relationship. Keep that list handy so that you can focus on the positives in your life instead of the negatives. This is gratitude in action and can change your life.

Feel All Your Feelings Deeply

During this past week while on vacation in Mexico, we read Conscious Living by Gay Hendricks. When we run across an important book, we will often read it together--taking turns reading aloud--while discussing and dissecting the main points. This is a great way to connect and to move through your lessons together.

Gay's first lesson of conscious living is feel all your feelings deeply. He says, "Always and in every moment, embrace what is real inside yourself and focus on what is real outside yourself."

This is a tough concept for anyone to master and it's just plain hard to do because no one likes to sit with pain in their life experience. We will go to any lengths to hide from our own feelings of pain and separation from ourselves, our Creator, and from others in our lives.

Everytime you reach for that box of cookies, that glass of wine, or remote control when you are angry, sad, frustrated, or lonely, stop yourself. Sit quietly, find your center, and go to that place where it's safe enough where you don't have to hide from your feelings. Really examine what's going on inside of you. Gay Hendricks suggests that when you do this process, you try to remember the first time that you felt that feeling. Where were you? What was going on? Who were you with? What conversation was going on?

He says that by doing this you are opening your heart to all of life--the pain and the pleasure--and therefore becoming conscious in every part of your life.

This week Otto was angry at himself for unconsciously spending $185 on new sunglasses after spending two weeks studying about becoming more conscious with his finances and all areas of his life. He wasn't upset about spending the money for good quality sunglasses. He was upset that the purchase was not well thought out and not part of his financial plan.

When he realized that he was becoming quiet and withdrawn, he told Susie about his feelings and went inside himself to find out what was wrong. He discovered he just felt stupid and felt like he just blew it.

What might have taken days or weeks of pain was resolved in a few hours. How he resolved it was to make the choice that the purchase was in the past and to let the feelings go. He also resolved to be more "awake" when making any decision.

When you consciously decide not to carry around any baggage of unexpressed feelings for any reason, you are living life more fully and more authentically. You are also creating stronger relationships with the people around you. The side benefit is that when you are real and authentic, your self esteem cannot help but flourish.

So take some time when those uncomfortable feelings arise within you. Sit with them and allow yourself to breathe and feel them.

Don't allow yourself to miss any part of life out of fear and unexpressed painful feelings.

The Issue of Money in Spiritual Partnership

Sex and money are two of the biggest issues that challenge couples. Today we're going to talk about money and the unique opportunities for growth in tackling these issues.

So why does money drive a wedge between two people who are committed to one another? We all come from different backgrounds and carry different values and belief systems from our birth families and life experiences.

Here are some ways we see people differ on this issue:

1. Spender and Saver Combination. One person likes to spend money while the other person prefers saving over spending.

2. Never taught about money. Most people aren't taught how to deal with money with a partner. They use their parent's model.

3. Two people--different goals for their financial lives. One person's concern may be paying for a child's college education while the other person may want to save for a vacation home.

There are many more examples that we could list. The most important thing we have discovered is that when there are unresolved money issues in a relationship, there are problems with safety and trust.

In a relationship where there are safety and trust issues surrounding money, you can almost always trace it back to one person having more either real or perceived power in the relationship and the other feeling more vulnerable.

So, we have some tips on dealing with money that we've used in our spiritual partnership and they may work for you.

1. Examine your perceptions about money. Ask yourself who was your role model for your beliefs about money and then question if these beliefs still serve you. Susie's parents lived during the depression and saving money was an important part of their lives. Therefore Susie likes the security of having a financial cushion to fall back on. To Otto, saving money does not have the importance that it does to Susie.We've discovered that we were both out of balance and need to come to the center on this issue.

2. If you decide to form a partnership, decide in advance how you are going to handle the finances. Early in our relationship, we decided to share equally the household expenses but not combine our personal finances. It has been important to us to feel like equal partners and this was one way that we could do it. This is only one model that works for us because are individual incomes are similar. This may not work in your circumstance. All we are saying is to consciously decide about finances.

3. Discuss what each of you values in the area of finances. What are your short-term and long-term goals? Talk about them with your partner. It's only after you know what's important to you and your partner, can you move forward toward having the needs of both met.

4. When misunderstandings arise, listen to your partner and try to understand the frame of reference he/she is coming from. A simple problem of semantics like the one we had recently illustrates this point. Last week when we were discussing business finances, Otto felt tight and restricted when Susie used the word "budget". His frame of reference as 20 years in sales suggested to him that budgets were rigid and could never be changed. Budgets were imposed from on high. He preferred to talk about plans. Susie's frame of reference comes from managing a library and she deals with budgets everyday. A budget does not have a negative connotation to her but is merely a business tool. It was only until after each of us understood the other's frame of reference for this word could we resolve it and move past this issue.

In your relationships, whether you're talking about money or anything else, it's important to constantly communicate, one moment at a time. It's important to understand and respect your partner's needs, their desires, their frame of reference and their values, as well as your own.

Power, Vulnerability and Money in relationships...

Marketing Guru and consultant, Jay Abraham made a statement once that changed the way we look at communication challenges, relationships and life. It's a concept he called going "one question deeper."

Jay used this idea as a way to get to the core issues that face business owners. We have adopted his "one question deeper" idea as a means to get to the core of the jugular issues that we face in relationships.

One of those issues is money!

In our judgement, when there are issues about money in our relationships, they aren't really issues about money at all. They are issues that surround power and vulnerability.

There is a woman we know who recently bought a van and two days after, the transmission blew up and had to be repaired. To make a really long story short there was a lot of name calling and accusations flying back and forth between her and the car dealer. As she tells the story the problems were because in addition to the transmission blowing up on the van, her payments were going to be much higher than she originally thought them to be. She ended up getting so upset that she forced the car dealer to take the van back.

Now, on the surface it appeared to be a problem around a money issue. We heard another version of this story which took it "one question deeper."

We found out that the "real" reason her payments were going to be higher was that she wanted the van to be in her name only instead of being on the title and loan with her husband. This is a woman who has made no secrets that she and her husband have been having problems.

The way we see it, this whole issue was not really about her monthly car payment. It was about her needing to feel more powerful in a shaky relationship. A major traumatic experience was created for several people all because of her desire to have the van in her name only. This way she could feel more powerful.

In the type of relationship that we prescribe, a Spiritual Partnership both partners in the relationship are powerful. They can also be vulnerable. In a Spiritual Partnership the balance between power and vulnerability often changes, shifts and flows back and forth consciously. In Otto's previous marriage, the balance between power and vulnerability often around money issues changed and shifted back and forth. But, it wasn't conscious.

What we do in our relationship when any issue comes up is to take our discussion "one question deeper."

We suggest that when issues come up around money (or anything else for that matter), you begin to look beneath the perceived problem. When you look underneath the surface, we're pretty sure you'll find unresolved issues surrounding power and vulnerability.

Often just talking openly and honestly about your fears and why you feel vulnerable creates a framework for understanding. You find that the original issue was just something to get your attention and force you to tackle the hard issues.


We just got back from a very powerful workshop on Spiritual Partnerships with Gary Zukav, author of Seat of the Soul, and his spiritual partner Linda Francis.

The great thing about attending a weekend workshop like this is that you get to learn a lot about yourself and your partner. We got to learn about how making simple assumptions can damage relationships very quickly. Simple assumptions that we make about each other and situations can lead to resentment, distance and emotional separation if left unaddressed.

During our 12 hour drive to the workshop, Susie had a apple as a snack. She asked Otto if he wanted an apple. He looked at the apple and saw only one and assumed that that was the only apple in the food bag. Since he wasn't hungry in that moment, but knew he would be soon, he mistakenly assumed that Susie was about to have the only apple.

A short time later Otto had tortilla chips for a snack instead of the apple he would have preferred. Now he didn't resent Susie for eating the "last apple" but he silently wished there was another apple to eat instead of the chips. Susie was unaware of his assumption and desire for an apple, and it wasn't until the food bag was taken to the room and unpacked that three other apples appeared.

If Otto hadn't assumed that there was only one apple in the bag, he would have had what he really wanted to eat instead of the chips.

Isn't this what we often do in relationships?

We silently want our relationships to be more passionate, more connected, more loving but we don't know how to communicate our needs to our partner.

We assume what we want isn't available or isn't possible, without attempting to make the connection with our partner and speak our needs in a way that they can be understood.

Sometimes we know what our needs are but don't express them because we are fearful what our partner will say or how he/she will react. So it's easier to keep silent.

In our relationship, we have learned that if we don't communicate consciously and constantly, we start to make assumptions about how the other will react in a given situation and those assumptions are usually dead wrong.

We've found that when we make assumptions, we're not living in the present moment--we are either in the past or in the future.

We suggest that you not make assumptions about how someone else is feeling or thinking in any relationship--no matter how long you've been together and how well you know that person.

We are all constantly growing and changing. If we want to grow together instead of growing apart, the most important thing you can do is to constantly communicate, one moment at a time. Decide to consciously create your lives the way you want them to be instead of allowing your lives to happen to you.

Live consciously at all times based on your intentions on how you want your life to be. The apple is there if you want it.

Is it Lying or Loving?

At our workshop this week, the women in the group all agreed that they grew up with the expectation that they would be "nice" and make everyone in the family feel good. They were not taught to speak their truth but rather hide what they were thinking in order to keep the peace.

Most people believe they are being loving when they withhold perceived unpleasant information from their partner, spouse or friends.

So the questions is--do you tell that other person how you feel in all situations? If you don't, is that being loving or is that lying to the other person?

Bell Hooks, in her book "All About Love," would say that it's lying. She says, "Lying has become so much the accepted norm that people lie even when it would be simpler to tell the truth." She goes on to say that "In today's world we are taught to fear the truth, to believe it always hurts."

We have found that when you tell the truth, it may hurt. But when you are completely open and honest, it is ultimately freeing for both people, giving you the opportunity to deepen your connection.

Some of you may question this--but we feel that if you are in a spiritual partnership with the intention of growing together, there simply is no other way. Bell Hooks says that "it is impossible to nurture one's own or another's spiritual growth when the core of one's being and identity is shrouded in secrecy and lies."

The lies don't even have to be that big to drive a wedge in a relationship. Just not being forthcoming with your feelings is living with a lie and will ultimately create a separation.

In last week's column we quoted David Viscott-- "If we were to live honestly, our lives would heal themselves." Hard as this seems, we believe it's the only way to live. We've done it the other way and now we're trying to do it differently. Our experience tells us that when you communicate constantly openly and honesty, that's what builds safety and trust. That's what creates the real juice in any great relationship!

The Importance of Saying only what you mean!

This weekend we read "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz and we think it's a great resource for tearing up your past belief systems and starting over with more empowering ones.

The first agreement is "be impeccable with your word." In other words, speak with integrity--saying only what you mean. We think this is really important in relationships of all kinds and especially in intimate ones.

If you aren't impeccable with your word, trust begins to erode within the relationship--and we're not just talking about the big stuff. Our belief is that there is no small stuff in relationships.

When Susie bought her new used Buick, the dealership couldn't find the remote control and an extra key. In fact they said that this model didn't come with one. A mechanic even looked at it and said that it wasn't wired for a remote. To Susie, a remote is a nice amenity but not a necessity. But--she'd had one with her previous car and this new car just didn't feel as nice because there was something missing. Trying to get to the bottom of the problem, Otto sat in the dealership and made the dealers look in the specs to see if a remote was standard equipment for this model or not. To make a long story short, Otto managed to get a remote for the car.

Because we were told that the car didn't have a remote and it through persistence found out it did, we have an issue with trust with that dealership. We'll put a question mark in front of anything they say from now on.

Isn't this the way it is in relationships? It's like Steven Covey's concept of the emotional bank account in "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." Good deeds, kind words and following through on your agreements build deposits in your emotional bank account with another person. False statements, not following through on agreements create withdrawals in an emotional bank account in a relationship. The idea is that you must make many more deposits than withdrawals to keep the trust level high between the two of you.

Being impeccable with your word means following through on what you say you're going to do. Susie asked Otto to use the weed eater the clear the weeds along the driveway this weekend and Otto said he would. Although this is a small matter, if he hadn't followed through and whacked the weeds when he said he would, some of the trust between them would be eroded. When we don't follow through on what we say we're going to do on the small stuff, doubt creeps in about follow through on the "big stuff" too.

Being impeccable also means being conscious of what you say and the intention behind it. Have you ever said something that you really didn't mean? As soon as it left your mouth, you wished you could capture it and destroy it before anyone could hear it?

The challenge of being impeccable is to be aware of how you are feeling, watch what triggers you, and stay in the present moment without reacting from past unhealthy patterns and old family tapes.

This week as you go through your day, be very aware of what comes out of your mouth. Be very conscious of what promises you make and what you say to someone when your are emotionally triggered. Make a new agreement, as Don Miguel Ruiz says, to be impeccable with your word.

What Happens after you Find your Soulmate?

What's your perception of life with your perfect soulmate? Joy, bliss, happiness--a life with no conflict and no major issues to work through?

Ward and June or Ozzy and Harriet with passion? In our opinion, that just isn't the way it works. In our relationship, we are best friends--we have passion--we have joy--we are totally comfortable with each other and enjoy being together. Even with all this, we still have issues that challenge us and that "rock the boat."

We hate to burst your bubble, but we believe that soulmates come together to help each other to heal, learn and grow. It's what we and others, such as Gary Zukav, call Spiritual Partnership. Some people, such as Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks and Kenny and Julia Loggins, refer to it as "Conscious Relationship."

We also believe that you can find several "soulmates" in your lifetime. Wayne Dyer said that your soulmate can be the person who you can't stand but are in your life to teach you a powerful lesson.

Carolyn Myss says in "Spiritual Madness" that we are here to heal the parts of ourselves that don't know God yet. We believe that Soulmates help us to heal those parts if we are willing to do the work and look at ourselves openly and honestly. Soulmates can trigger certain reactions in you that point the direction to what needs to be healed.

So what happens after you find your soulmate?

Remember the Zen proverb that poses the question of--What happens before enlightenment? Chop wood, carry water. What happens after enlightenment? Chop wood, carry water. We feel this is a good analogy of what happens in relationships. You still must face your personal challenges but if you're conscious and awake, you can realize that you have a powerful ally to walk beside you on your path to enlightenment.

Many of us are finding that perfect "Soulmate" and many are searching for one. We suggest that you look at the people in your life--the ones who challenge you, the ones who love you. Say of prayer of gratitude for these "teachers." When someone close to you "presses your buttons," look at what you can learn from the situation. What parts of yourself need to be healed? What feelings come up for you?

Marriane Williamson has said that every thing we do is either an act of love or a cry for help. That's what a soulmate does for you--they are there to love you AND to help you when you cry for help. They also have the ability to "press your buttons" and this is for your highest good.

How do you want to be loved???

To have a relationship that really works loving your partner is not enough. You have to love the other person exactly how they want to be loved. Just as importantly, they have to love you how you need to be loved. That’s what makes our relationship work. We’ve taken the time to specifically ask our spouse how they want to be loved and that’s what we do.

When marriages fail most people spend some time analyzing the reasons why. That’s what we did as well. We realized our previous partners loved us. But, we just came up feeling empty inside. Our partners loved us from their frame of reference. But, not ours.

Otto’s former wife believed in being prepared for the worst. Each winter she packed a small survival kit for the car complete with coffee can, a candle and matches to keep him warm in an emergency. Also included would be a couple of non-perishable snack food items like cheese and peanut butter crackers so he wouldn’t starve. Packing this survival kit was an act of kindness and love from her point of view.

From Otto’s point of view this wasn’t important at at all because he said repeatedly to her that “ he would go for help rather than being stranded in a car for several hours or more”. So, is there any fault here ? No, just what was important to her wasn’t important to him.

Even before we got together we started making lists of how we wanted to be treated by a partner. One thing that was important for Susie was, If we were at a party or a function with a large group of people that even if Otto was across the room he would sporadically make eye contact with her and acknowledge her. Whereas Otto wants to be greeted with kisses and hugs when he reconnects with Susie when we’ve been apart.

Before you can expect your partner to love you how you want to be loved, you have to first find out yourself. Once you know how you want to be loved, the next step is to tell your partner. The key is communication. Unless you tell your partner how you want to loved there is no way you can expect them to love you in this manner. After all, most of us are not mind readers.

Relationships are a two way street. Both you and your partner have to love each other the way you want to be loved. When one person’s needs are met and not the other’s resentments are created. We found that talking openly and honestly about our needs is vital to the relationship. We also found that, sometimes compromise is necessary to experience what Stephen Covey calls a “Win-Win” relationship.

Sometimes you simply cannot give what your partner needs. In Susie’s previous relationship sailing was the most important thing to her partner but not to her. She simply could not make sailing her passion to the exclusion of everything else. This was a core issue in their relationship. This was an issue that eventually divided them forever.

Love lesson Number 1 :

1) We suggest that before you enter into any relationship that you first make a list of how it is you want to be loved.

2) Commit to sharing this list with your partner or potential partner and talk about why the things on the list are important.

3) Make sure you follow through and do the things that you’ve committed to do.

Vulnerability in Relationship

The paradox of vulnerability in relationship is, the path to connection is to allow yourself to be both strong and vulnerable at the same time. When you do, it allows your partner to get to see the real you with your defenses down. This means no hiding. Not from yourself, not from your partner and best of all no hiding from the truth.

Recently we had a conversation with our friend George that was quite telling about how men in this society are taught to deal with vulnerability. George told us about how he grew up on the streets of Manhattan and you just didn’t show any signs of weakness. If you did you were dead. He went on to explain that he would confide his feelings to both his male and female friends much more quickly than his wife (if at all).

George loves his wife and there is a deep bond between them but, he doesn’t want her to perceive him as being “weak”. Plain and simple George is typical of most males in our society. They are taught- don’t show vulnerability. It’s the sign of weakness.

Women in our society are taught to let a man lead. Women are taught to wait for a man to call them for a date, for men to open doors for them, to ask them to marry them, to initiate sex and much more. Whether consciously or unconsciously, even the strongest women in the corporate world find themselves allowing the lead in relationship. Dotty was a very successful labor consultant. Making three times the income her husband made. Her friends were astonished when she confided in them that she would have to ask her husband if she could buy a new pair of shoes.

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable in relationship is the fuel that propels the relationship to move forward and grow. If you don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable what you are doing is building walls to keep others from being able to hurt you. As life and business philosopher Jim Rohn says “the walls we build to keep out the sadness also keeps out the joy”. Mona Lisa Schultz reminds us “it’s not healthy for your relationship, your emotions or your body when one partner has all the power and the other has all the vulnerability. In fact, either position can be painful. You have to learn the joys and benefits of the opposite position of being vulnerable when the occasion calls for it and seizing power when necessary.

In our relationship we consider ourselves partners who maintain a healthy balance between power and vulnerability. Like many couples, our previous relationships were not that way. Even though we were married for many years to our previous partners, neither of us felt safe enough to truly be vulnerable with them. In Susie’s case, vulnerability was met with avoidance, distance and perfunctory solutions to problems. In Otto’s relationships, he never felt safe enough to express vulnerability but did whatever was necessary to just “get along” and somehow make the relationship work. This doesn’t mean there wasn’t love in our previous relationships. It only means there was an imbalance of power that didn’t serve either partner or the relationship.

When you don’t feel safe enough to tell your partner anything in fear of how they might react or what they might say or do, the passion dies and the relationship shortly thereafter

Dealing with Jealousy in Relationships

Marianne Williamson says, “Everything we do is either an act of love or a cry for help.” The Course of Miracles says there are two emotions: love and fear. Jealousy is about real or imagined fears—fear of abandonment, fear of loss of love, fear of being dishonored in the relationship, fear of being shamed in the community.

In our relationship one of us has had jealousy as an issue and one hasn’t. The source of jealousy comes down to insecurity within the relationship, which is ultimately fear. This insecurity did not come from any action of the other partner but rather from experiences in past relationships and imagined fears about potential pain in this relationship. Insecurities can arise from relationships that you have witnessed other than your own, such as parents, other family members, friends, neighbors, or other role models. Fears can arise from the knowledge that your partner has been unfaithful in past relationships.

“If he or she did it once, then it can happen again,” is the thought process even though you are in a totally different relationship. Tony Robbins’ advice that your past does not equal your future just doesn’t hold water in this case. The patterns come up again and again unless both decide to work through your fears and not bury them.

Jealousy can take many forms in the relationship other than concerns of faithfulness. One can be jealous of the talents, abilities, financial resources, social status and a host of other reasons.

In partnership there is no room for jealousy. Whether you sense the jealousy is your own or your partner’s, it has to be addressed. For the relationship to grow and flourish, jealousy has to be exorcised like a ghost in a haunted house. If you don’t, you will build walls between you and your partner, thus strangling the relationship.

Philosopher Jim Rhon reminds us that the walls you build to keep out the sadness also keeps out the joy. Jealousy can wreck a relationship. The way we have dealt with it is with total honesty about the past and our intentions of the future. This isn’t always easy but when this issue comes up, we first take turns speaking our truths, going to the core to find the real issue. We stay with the process of communicating how we feel and no matter how hard it is to say or hear what’s said, we don’t run away. We are each other’s best friends and it’s always important to keep that focus during any discussion, especially one of a jugular issue.

When jealousy issues come up in your relationship, we suggest you first take some time to determine the real issue. You may have to get clear about your feelings by yourself first and then communicate with your partner. We use the term “staying with it” to express working through a problem until it is resolved. Journaling may help if you are feeling stuck.

Just remember that what’s at the bottom of the problem may not be apparent immediately. With any issue in relationship, you have to patiently and lovingly talk through it without judgement or blame. Creating the relationship of your dreams is hard work but, the rewards are ongoing and abundant.


Everyone gets angry. Some people show it openly and others don’t. If you are one of those people who claim you don’t get angry- you’re either not in touch with your emotions or you are lying.

In relationship, Anger can be either healthy or unhealthy. Anger is just an emotion. How you process it is what determines whether it becomes a tool for growth or a source of pain and destruction. In this society anger is perceived as a negative emotion. If you are a person who expresses anger, society would tell you that you are someone who can’t control your emotions and can’t control your behavior. Most of us suppress anger and deny it exists until it rears its ugly head.

In our relationship, we’ve found that it’s always best to deal with any anger that comes up right away. In the past Otto would always let resentments build and build until they got out of control. Then he would just explode and end up saying things he would end up regretting later. In his past relationships it wasn’t safe for him to express his true feelings. Susie was taught that you should always be nice and there was no place for anger. Her parents were never openly angry with one another. Angry feelings to her meant something was wrong with her. Because she repressed her feelings, she found them overwhelming and was not able to express what she was experiencing.

All emotional feelings are signals that there is something in your life that needs to be dealt with and anger is one of those emotions. When anger comes up, it is a signal that something in your life is out of balance and incongruent with how you believe your world should be. When anger comes up in our relationship, we want to get to the root of the problem and find out what’s really going on. What we have found helpful is to open up a dialog and just allow the person who is angry to express how and why. When you are angry, you need to take responsibility for it and not project it onto someone else.

The partner’s job is to listen in a detached, non-judgmental way. If this sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. This process takes trust and practice but the reward is a relationship, which is free of resentments.

Reacting quickly and honestly to angry emotions bypasses the tendency of periodic explosions and tends to “clear the air” much like a spring rain. When you defuse anger, you’ll be able to bring back the connection and love that you’ve lost in that moment.

Susan has learned not to run away from angry feelings but that it is safe to express them when they appear. Otto has found that when he expresses anger, he is able to move past the anger and discover what he is really upset about.

The lesson we learned is that a foundation of safety and trust in the relationship must be present to express or listen to anger from love instead of fear.

Listening from your heart

One of the most difficult things to do in relationship is to listen--truly listen from your heart without blame, judgement or "you ought toos and you shoulds." It's also difficult to take the time to listen without allowing distractions to pull you away from what the other person is saying. It doesn't even matter if the person you are listening to is baring their soul or not, It's incredibly important to stay present, interested and focused on that person.

How many times have you been talking to someone and they reach around to tuck in a loose tag that's hanging off your shirt or pick a loose thread off your sweater right in the middle of your conversation?

This might seem like a trivial thing but what it really says is that in that moment they weren't listening to what you were saying. They were thinking about that loose tag or thread and how they could fix it.

All of us want to feel loved, respected and honored. And one way we have found to have this is to love, respect and honor someone else. We found that listening without interrupting the other shows respect and also builds trust. What a simple concept, but how hard it is to do.

Something that is even more difficult to do is to listen to someone when It's uncomfortable to do so. When there are conflicts or resentments in a relationship that haven't been dealt with yet, there is an emotional charge that is present and that makes it difficult to stay focused on the present moment.

In that time you're not really focused on the other person andwhat he or she is saying. You are focused on your emotions or your attempts to avoid pain.

Another difficult situation is when you have preconceived prejudices and judgements of the person. Our judgements build walls even in the healthiest of relationships. When you are trying to listen to someone with whom there have been challenges, it requires you to listen with unconditional love in that moment. That doesn't mean you have to agree with everything they say.

But, it does mean forgetting yourself and your issues while they are talking. We are so quick to rush in and prove we are right, that all we do is create more distance.

So, how do you really listen--without judgement or coming from your own agenda?

It's like the symphony director said when he was asked, "how do you get to Carnegie Hall?" He said, "practice."

Start with focusing your attention on the check-out person at the grocery store or the waiter or waitress at your favorite restaurant. Engage them in a short conversation and REALLY listen to what they have to say. When you get brave you can try a family member with whom you have some unhealed issues.

Practice by listening without needing to respond from your frame of reference. Hear what they have to say from their point of view. It's amazing what can be healed when you do this. As Stephen Covey points out in his book, The seven habits of Highly effective people, it's important to seek first to understand, then be understood. When you do this the walls and defenses crumble and healing can take place.

Sometimes the greatest gift you can give someone is to just listen with your heart. So this week practice listening and coming from love in your relationships. When you do, we know you'll see a difference.

"What if Every Day was Valentine's Day?"

Imagine what life and your relationships would be like if everyday was Valentine's Day?

First of all, we'd all be 300 lbs. from eating chocolate hearts and pink cookies. More importantly, we'd either be excited by or guilt-tripped into expressing our love and appreciation to the people in our lives every day.

The question is--why can't it be Valentine's Day everyday? Why do we need one day a year on which we've all agreed that we will express our love to our loved ones?

We suggest that everyday should be a day you express your love--whether you have a "significant other" or not.

Otto's father says that he wants his flowers while he is living--which means don't wait until he's dead to tell him that you care. We think this is good advice for all of us.

The whole idea of having Valentine's Day everyday takes some work and being conscious. People who believe you can have a great relationship without putting forth any effort are living in a fantasy world.

Today we received a great story from a friend which was written by Laura Jeanne Allen about her grandparents.

Laura's grandparents were very much in love and they had this game that they played with each other. Each would take turns leaving a note around the house for the other to find. These notes might be hidden in the sugar bowl or buried in a roll of toilet paper and on them would be a single word-- Shmily.

Shmily meant "See How Much I Love You." They held hands every chance they could and they stole kisses. Before every meal they bowed their heads and gave thanks, marveling at their blessings: a wonderful family, good fortune, and each other.

This beautiful story illustrates some of ways that can keep love alive between two people long after the honeymoon is over but this principle doesn't just apply to people who are married or have a significant other.

This principle applies to your friends, your family and to co-workers who touch your life everyday. Let everyone in your life know how much you care.

So tomorrow, even if it isn't Valentine's Day, we can't help but wonder what would happen if everyone acted as if it were.

How Badly Do You Want Intimacy In Your Relationships?

This week Susie was at a meeting of all women and one of the participants wistfully told them about the elk. According to this woman, the female elks live and raise their young in the company of other female elks. The male elks come around once a year, the females pick out the best males, mate, and then separate for the rest of the year.

This woman was envious of this arrangement and suggested that humans might be better off to emulate the elk's ways. Because we're students of relationships, we couldn't help but make a few observations, hopefully providing food for thought for you.

If we, as humans, emulated the elk, the people with whom we would have intimate relationships would be kept at a distance. In our opinion, emotional distance and intimacy cannot co-exist.

To us, this is not an issue of gender or sexual preference but rather an issue of intimacy within relationship. We believe that intimate relationships, whether between sexual partners, close friends or family members, are opportunities for spiritual growth and personal healing.

If we find that we are putting distance between ourselves and anyone we are intimate with, then one of two things may be happening: either fear of one kind or another is present or the dynamics are changing between the two of you and you begin growing in different directions, causing emotional separation.

Everyday we receive email messages from people who talk about being in disconnected relationships and having disconnected sex. We've learned from our own lives and from other's lives that disconnected sex does not bring intimacy. It only provides a temporary mask which covers up the challenges within the relationship.

Do you notice the number of ads for Viagra and the number of people using it? Now, we're not being judgmental here--just pointing out that many people are searching for that connection of the heart and soul-- that intimacy that is missing or has evaporated over many years of marriage.

Intimacy is not something that you can fix with a drug. It takes two people truly interested and willing to work for a connection of the heart and soul.

Gary Zukav, author of Seat of the Soul, talks about the new species of human that is being born today. We're no longer here for physical survival as our ancestors but rather for a spiritual awakening.

We feel that this spiritual awakening is happening in great numbers because people are desiring to live more consciously and authentically in alignment with whom they really are. Intimate relationships or spiritual partnerships are helping people to do this.

Most of us spend our whole lives, consciously or unconsciously, trying to find our connection with Spirit. We believe that this is the same connection that we feel in a deep union with another person.

We've found that if there is distance between two people and they want an intimate connection, there's only one way-- and that is to tackle the core issues that they fear may destroy the relationship.

Kenny Loggins, in his book The Unimaginable Life, asked the question that we'll ask you-- How badly do you want an intimate relationship?

Do you want distance and separation like the elk or do you want a deep spiritual connection?

The choice is up to you.

Secrets to Healing after Leaving a Painful Relationship!

It very easy to get into a relationship. But, it's usually very difficult to get out of one that no longer serves you and begin the healing process.

It seems that everywhere you look, many long-standing relationships and /or marriages are dissolving. In this week's article we thought we'd give some suggestions to help those of you who are still going through the healing process.

Our suggestions are :

1) To never look at a relationship (or anything else) that didn't work out as a failure.

Robert Schuller, the famous TV evangelist and founder ofthe world famous Crystal Cathedral said in his book "Success is never ending Failure is never final" --"Failure doesn't mean you're finished, it does mean you have a chance." He also said, "Failure doesn't mean God has abandoned does mean God has a better idea." Often it's the seed of a current or past "failure" that fuels you to the very success that you've always dreamed of.

2) Turn from the past and look toward the future...YOUR future. As Tony Robbins says "Your past does not equal your future. Sometimes after a separation, we find ourselves dwelling in the past, our thoughts consumed with that other person. You will begin to heal when you start thinking and writing about what you want for your life.

3) Know and understand that there are no "accidents" and that everything happens in divine order. Every thought, every moment, every action, every relationship and every event that happens in your life, happens to propel you toward your next phase of learning and personal growth.

4) Acknowledge, without blame, your part in the breakup of the relationship. When it doesn't work out, then two people have to share equally in the responsibility of the breakup. No matter who appears to be at fault.

5) Learn from the patterns of the past. Stay conscious in all your relationships so that you won't repeat the same mistakes.

6) Give thanks for the lessons that you learned in that relationship. Honor that person as a teacher, here to help you on your journey.

Being "Real" in Your Relationships

This week we joined the 20-something masses and attended a Dave Mathews Band concert. They played a song called, "Ants Marching" and we felt like the lyrics really told the story of a lot of relationships and lives.

In his song, Dave depicts the average life and the average relationship. "He wakes up in the morning, Does his teeth, Bite to eat and he's rolling. Never changes a thing. The week ends, the week begins. She thinks, we look at each other Wondering what the other is thinking But we never say a thing

And these crimes between us grow deeper. Take these chances. Place them in a box until a quieter time. Lights down, you up and die."

What Dave's really saying in his blunt way is that most of us in our relationships aren't willing to speak our truth about our thoughts and we end up taking these thoughts, unspoken, to our graves.

The great motivational speaker Zig Ziglar talks about the tragedy of people going to their graves with their music still in them--not living their lives to the fullest.

If you want your relationships to be "real," alive and powerful, we suggest the concept of spiritual partnership. A spiritual partnership is not about religion--it's about two people coming together, using their relationship as a venue to heal, learn and grow.

How is a spiritual partnership different from other types of relationships? In a spiritual partnership, (this can be any relationship) each partner is committed to telling the truth, and not holding back, however painful it might be. The relationship is alive, growing, and filled with passion because of constant communication and being willing to tackle issues as they arrive. Each partner can be himself or herself--with no hiding.

This concept was introduced to the masses by Gary Zukav's book "Seat of the Soul." We were dramatically impacted by this concept and it has changed our lives forever.

So how often are you not living your truth in relationships? What is the underlying fear that comes up for you when you think about telling your truth? We all have relationships where we don't feel safe enough to be open and honest. Those relationships are dead and aren't going anywhere.

We've found that Steven Covey's phrase, "Old resentments never die--they just get buried alive and come up later in uglier ways," is so true.

Haven't you had that happen in your life? If you just bury a hurt feeling or misunderstanding, it just comes up later in another situation or with another person as misplaced anger.

So we have found that the only way to create outstanding relationships of all kinds is to have open, honest communication at all times and by doing it in such a way that the other person can hear your truth.

This is tough. But what is tougher is having a relationship that is mired in unspoken issues.Do what Susan Jeffers suggests, "Feel the fear and do it anyway." When you do, your relationships will be more real and honest.

So we challenge you this week to choose a relationship or situation that needs to be healed and tackle just one small issue that stands in the way of a more harmonious relationship.

If you do, you'll be one step closer to forming a great spiritual partnership with that other person.

Keeping it together when others around you are Losing it!

In our family, we call them "meltdowns." We don't know what you call them, but we're sure you've had some experience with them. "Meltdowns" are when one or more family members just plain "lose it" and get out of control.

This weekend Otto and his 11 year old son Steven spent the entire weekend alone together because Susie was out of town. Steven is with us every other weekend. Because Steven has trouble accessing and articulating his emotions, he has "meltdowns" on a somewhat regular basis.

This weekend, yes, Steven did have one of these "meltdowns" but what happened was different from other weekends. Otto did what most of us do when caught in the middle of one of these dramas. At first, he found himself going into his emotional pattern which is to react negatively to Steven's outbursts.

What was different this time was that somewhere in the middle of all of the drama, Otto was able to go within himself and allow Steven to have whatever emotional experience he needed to have. Otto was able to not take Steven's "meltdown" personally.

This incident is a perfect example of becoming emotionally aware in the middle of a tense, emotionally charged situation. Emotional awareness is the master key to having great relationships or anything else in your life that you want.

Think about the emotionally patterns that you go through when other people in your life have varying degrees of meltdowns. These could be people at your workplace, friends, family or your intimate partner. Do you try to "fix" their problem as you see it? Do you get angry and lash back at them?

Do you become emotionally distant? Do you hide? Take a few minutes and think about how you react in similar situations.

We think it is crucial that we all own our own emotions, even when we can't identify them. Sometimes we just don't know why we feel the way we do and it takes some time to figure it out. But it is important to figure it out.

It's also important to allow others to feel the way they feel without also being sucked into their emotional vortex.

Steven didn't know why he was so angry at the time of his outbursts. Otto just allowed him to have those feelings without trying to fix it after he stopped himself from being part of Steven's emotional drama. Otto stopped himself from taking ownership of Steven's angst--that somehow Otto was the source of all of Steven's problems. He just allowed Steven to "own" his own emotions.

Don Miguel Ruiz in "The Four Agreements" says, "What causes you to be trapped {in other's emotional dramas} is what we call "personal importance." Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about "me." Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world."

So this week, we suggest that you "step out of" other people's emotional dramas. That doesn't mean being insensitive or unloving to others when they "lose it" but it does mean staying in your "center." The important thing is to do your own work and allow others to do theirs.

How do you want to be loved???

To have a relationship that really works loving your partner is not enough. You have to love the other person exactly how they want to be loved. Just as importantly, they have to love you how you need to be loved. That’s what makes our relationship work. We’ve taken the time to specifically ask our spouse how they want to be loved and that’s what we do.

When marriages fail most people spend some time analyzing the reasons why. That’s what we did as well. We realized our previous partners loved us. But, we just came up feeling empty inside. Our partners loved us from their frame of reference. But, not ours.

Otto’s former wife believed in being prepared for the worst. Each winter she packed a small survival kit for the car complete with coffee can, a candle and matches to keep him warm in an emergency. Also included would be a couple of non-perishable snack food items like cheese and peanut butter crackers so he wouldn’t starve. Packing this survival kit was an act of kindness and love from her point of view.

From Otto’s point of view this wasn’t important at at all because he said repeatedly to her that “ he would go for help rather than being stranded in a car for several hours or more”. So, is there any fault here ? No, just what was important to her wasn’t important to him.

Even before we got together we started making lists of how we wanted to be treated by a partner. One thing that was important for Susie was, If we were at a party or a function with a large group of people that even if Otto was across the room he would sporadically make eye contact with her and acknowledge her. Whereas Otto wants to be greeted with kisses and hugs when he reconnects with Susie when we’ve been apart.

Before you can expect your partner to love you how you want to be loved, you have to first find out yourself. Once you know how you want to be loved, the next step is to tell your partner. The key is communication. Unless you tell your partner how you want to loved there is no way you can expect them to love you in this manner. After all, most of us are not mind readers.

Relationships are a two way street. Both you and your partner have to love each other the way you want to be loved. When one person’s needs are met and not the other’s resentments are created. We found that talking openly and honestly about our needs is vital to the relationship. We also found that, sometimes compromise is necessary to experience what Stephen Covey calls a “Win-Win” relationship.

Sometimes you simply cannot give what your partner needs. In Susie’s previous relationship sailing was the most important thing to her partner but not to her. She simply could not make sailing her passion to the exclusion of everything else. This was a core issue in their relationship. This was an issue that eventually divided them forever.

Love lesson Number 1 :

1) We suggest that before you enter into any relationship that you first make a list of how it is you want to be loved.

2) Commit to sharing this list with your partner or potential partner and talk about why the things on the list are important.

3) Make sure you follow through and do the things that you’ve committed to do.

Is this the year of the Soulmate?

We picked up one of those community newspapers and in it were predictions for 2002 by one of our region's most well-known psychics.

Among his predictions was his declaration that this will be the year of the "soulmate." He said that this year many of us would be finding our soulmate.

Since we have felt very strongly that we are soulmates and we have given workshops and presentations about how to have a soulmate relationship, we wanted to share our views about what a soulmate relationship is.

Thomas Moore, in his book Soul Mates gives a definition that seems to be what most people believe a soulmate relationship to be--"A soulmate is someone to whom we feel profoundly connected, as though the communication and communing that takes place between us were not the product of intentional efforts, but rather a divine grace. This kind of relationship is so important to the soul that many have said there is nothing more precious in life."

We certainly agree that when you find your soulmate, it is as if divine intervention has happened and you have no other choice--because that's the way we feel. But, here's where we take a fork in the road from most people who write and speak about soulmates.

We believe that even the most deeply connected soulmate relationships still require constant attention.

Further, even people in "soulmate" relationships have challenges that come up between them but what we've found is that their connection is so important to them that they would do whatever is necessary to keep it.

We've found that there is a significant difference between the relationships most people are involved in and the relationships that soulmates have.

This difference is that both people in a soulmate relationship are willing to do whatever is necessary to keep their relationship alive, vibrant and growing. Their relationship is that important to them.

It has been our experience that people in relationships that aren't working may not be committed to doing whatever is necessary to keep their connection and the relationship alive.

If you are in a relationship that isn't exactly what you would like it to be, we would invite you to ask yourself this question--Are you and your mate willing to do whatever is necessary to have the relationship that you want.

If you and your partner are willing to do whatever is necessary, then start doing it.

If you or your partner are not willing, then you may need to take a look at how this relationship is serving you and whether you want to continue in this way.

In future issues of this newsletter, we'll give you more insights about how soulmate relationships are different from other relationships and how you can benefit from this information.

Whether you are in a good relationship and want to make it better, in a bad relationship or not with anyone at the present time--we feel that the information that we share about soulmates will be something that can be applied to any relationship to make it better.

Relationship Quote of the Week

"If you go within to find the answers, they will surely come. Not always in the ways or at the time we would like. But, the answers always come as long as we are willing to hear them." Otto Collins

Healing the Past. . .In the Present

Has this ever happened to you? Somebody says something to you that immediately triggers negativity within you. You don't have a clue why you are so upset and you wonder just where that feeling came from.

Tony Robbins would call this a "negative anchor"-- something that is said or something that is experienced that you associate with a previous negative event. Peter Levine refers to this as trauma being held in the body. Whatever you want to call it, the event and feelings surrounding the event, rear their ugly heads again and again until you are able to heal the original situation.

This weekend, we were with Susie's extended family of 14 people, ages 1 year to 79 years. The living room was crowded as we watched the NCAA basketball game. There wasn't a chair for Otto as he stood in the doorway watching the game. Several family members offered to make room for him but he declined. As they continued to insist that he sit down, he became agitated.

It took him a few hours but he realized that his agitation came from previous situations with his ex-wife when she would say to him, "Please sit down! You're driving me crazy!" His agitation was from the trauma of the past.

The agitation from the present situation fired off a negative anchor within him that instantly took him back to a time in a previous relationship that needed to be healed. At that moment he pulled out the baggage from his previous unhealed relationship but had the awareness to realize that his present negativity had nothing to do with the people in the room and the present moment. He was able to let those old feelings go and live in the present moment, enjoying the game and the people in the room.

This situation is what Stephen Covey talks about whenhe says, "Old resentments never die. They just get buried alive and come up later in uglier ways." The resentments we hold which are not resolved usually manifest themselves again in other relationships which have nothing to do with the original trauma.

We suggest that the first step in healing these past resentments is to stop yourself when you first feel it and examine where the negativity is coming from. The first step to creating any change is awareness. Go back in your mind to your previous relationships--where did this feeling come from, who was there and what was the situation? It's very important to differentiate what happened in the past from what's happening now.

Ultimately, you will want to work on forgiving that person and honoring how that experience created who you are today. Only after you are able to release the past, can you experience the emotional freedom that we all desire.

The Challenge of moving from "I" to "We"

We recently read this quote by author Paul Ferrini which caused us to stop, discuss and analyze what he had said--"A relationship is a birth of a new entity. It involves moving from an "I" context to a "We" context without sacrifice."

So the question is--What does it mean to go from an "I" to a "We" without sacrifice? When people come together as a couple, they have a choice to make about how they will view each other's differences. Usually this is an unconscious choice but we suggest that it be a conscious one. They can either look at those differences as a strength or as a "bone of contention." That "bone of contention" can turn into what some might perceive as "sacrifice."

If you go from "I" to "We" without sacrifice, you are honoring each other's strengths, while honoring yourself--your strengths, abilities, needs and desires.

We believe that we come together in relationship for our spiritual growth. In our opinion, when we came together, we began to create something "bigger" than either of us could be individually. Stephen Covey calls this "synergy" in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." He said, "The essence of synergy is to value differences--to respect them, to build on strengths, to compensate for weaknesses."

In our relationship, Otto is the "outside of the box" thinker--the one with "big" ideas with a lot of passion for his projects and Susie is practical, focused and goal oriented. During the early stages of our business partnership, Otto felt like he was on the "fast track" and Susie wasn't. Susie felt like Otto wasn't focused and was zinging around like a dervish! Instead of allowing our differences to work for us, we struggled against them.

What our relationship has evolved into is honoring each other's differences and strengths (not always an easy task). We are consciously helping each other to build on their strengths instead of tearing them down. We are also learning how to improve our "weak" traits by asking for help. We have consciously stopped the struggle. Are you struggling in your relationships?

Where are the "bones of contention"? Would you like your partner to be more like you in certain ways?

We believe it would dramatically improve your relationships if you would give up the struggle and the need to be right and begin to honor the differences of the people in your life. Try this out and let us know what you think.

You Have A Choice...

A couple of weeks ago, we had an early birthday celebration for both Susie and her sister. Most of the family was there and as usual when our family gets together, there were opportunities for forging a deeper connection with each other as well as experiences that gave us opportunities for growth.

In this week's newsletter, we wanted to share something that happened that we hope will propel you toward creating and maintaining the kind of relationships you really want.

As we were all finishing our dinner at the birthday celebration, one of the family members suggested that we go around the table and have everyone share out loud what they most appreciated about Susie and her sister in the past year.

After we had gone around the table and everyone had shared their thoughts and feelings, one person who was not a family member, made the comment that this display of genuine love, caring, openness and sharing could not be possible in their family.

He went on to say that it wasn't possible because of the unhealthy dynamics that exist in their family.

Otto then commented that the reason that our family has the close, connected relationship that we do is because this is the intention of each person.

In order to create an outstanding relationship of any kind, you have to first create an "intention" for the relationship. Then, in order for it to really work--everyone involved has to "buy in" to the intention and keep focused on that intention.

Whether it's a relationship between two people, a family relationship or relationship much larger in scope--it all begins with intentions. Everything else is just the details.

What are your intentions for your relationship?

If you are thinking that you don't have the kinds of relationships that you want in your life, then we would invite you to go ahead and assume that you do.

In your relationships...

Is it more important for you to be right or to be kind?

Is it more important for you to continue to hold onto unexpressed feelings or to create a close, connected relationship?

Is it more important for you become angry and defensive or to get to know the "real reasons" someone is acting in the way that they are?

Is it more important for you to be judgmental of others or to look for the good in them?

So what if you are the only one in your group or family to hold the intention of being kind and loving? You can choose to step out of the group dynamic, whatever it is, and let go of the "dance." You can do it differently--it just may be that the entire group will change because you do.

Accentuate the Positive

We recently read the book Whale Done!: The Power of Positive Relationships by Ken Blanchard, Thad Lacinak, Chuck Tompkins and Jim Ballard.

In the book they primarily tell the story of how the trainers at Sea World get those huge whales to do those incredible tricks. They do this by continually focusing on catching the whales doingwhat they want them to do and giving them lots of positive feedback when they do it--even when it's not done perfectly.

This is a simple yet, powerful message that most of us know but forget when dealing with the people in our lives. Everyone knows that we respond better to positive feedback than to negative feedback but most of us still continue to dwell on the negative.

Many years ago when Susie's daughter was in school and she brought home her report card with mostly excellent gradeson it, Susie would find herself commenting first on what she could improve upon instead of complimenting her on doing a good job.

In these instances, a great opportunity for connection would be spoiled because Susie focused on what her daughter could improve on instead of what she was doing well.

In the past few years, accentuating the positive is something we are trying to consciously incorporate into our lives.

Since Susie works at our home office full time and does most of the cooking, she appreciates it when Otto calls to let her know when he will be late for dinner. When he calls, she tells him that she appreciates his call. She gives him an "attaboy" instead of complaining that he's going to be late or that the dinner will be ruined.

Otto getting an "attaboy" for calling to say he's going to be late has a much more positive effect on him than if Susie would have said, "Late again" or "Dinner will be ruined!"

This is just one small example of something that we both do on a regular basis that improves the quality of our relationship and builds trust between us. We are constantly telling each other how we appreciate the value we each bring to the other's life.

So you might be asking--What do you do if your partner is always late, or he/she doesn't do anything that you appreciate? What if there isn't anything positive in your relationship?

No matter how bad a relationship is, there has to be something positive that you can catch the other person doing so that you can begin to show your appreciation. That's where you start--wherever you are. That's how you build a great relationship--one moment at a time.

We've learned that if you focus on the negative, that's what you'll get more of. If you focus on the positive, that's what you'll attract into your life.

What Games do You Play...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's never too late.....

If you don't have the kind of relationship or the life that you really want, chances are excellent that there is one of two things standing between you and having what you want-- either there are things that you are not willing to do in order to have what you want or you are holding onto beliefs that are keeping you stuck.

We know from our own experience that when we have held onto limiting thoughts and beliefs about something that we wanted and hadn't gotten yet, we remained stuck. It wasn't until we opened ourselves to possibilities and changed our beliefs about those situations that we were able to move forward with those goals.

In this newsletter, we want to specifically address the belief of "I'm too old to_____________".

This belief of "I'm too old to..." could apply to a lot of different areas in your life--learn new skills, get an education, find a new love. You could just as easily substitute the words, "too fat", "too unattractive", "too uneducated," and the list goes on and on.

We hear this phrase, "I'm too old to", quite often when people talk about not being able to have the relationship that they want.

Susie's 82 year old mother is a living testimony that you're never too old to find and create love in your life. She is in an alzheimer's center and one year after entering the center, met a man who graduated with her from the same high school. They had not known each other very well in high school and hadn't seen each other since graduation. Both of their spouses had passed on many years before and they found themselves falling in love with each other when he became a "day patient" at the center.

Susie's mother has found a very different kind of relationship with this man than she had with Susie's father who she was married to for 49 years.

This new relationship has brought fun, laughter, a lot of attention and yes, even passion into her life. At a recent family gathering, Susie's mom and her new "boyfriend" looked like love-struck teenagers!

They are wonderful examples for all of us that it's never too late for love, friendship, fun or whatever else you want in your life.

If you find yourself saying "I'm too__________" (you fill in the blank), we invite you to consider that this is only a limiting belief that you've developed that will keep you from having what you want in your life. Susie's mother had to allow herself to open to the possibility that love could come into her life again in order for it to happen.

So it doesn't matter whether you're 18 or 80, you have to be willing to open yourself to possibilities in order for you to have love or anything else that you want for your life.

How Good Can You Stand It?

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

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

We were sincere but it appeared that his internal belief system would only allow just so many good feelings about himself before he shut down emotionally and viewed our comments to be not true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When conflict rears its ugly head

When conflict and challenges come up in most relationships, people tend to react in one of three ways: Fight, Flight or Freeze.

You've probably heard this many times before but for most of us, it still doesn't stop us from going into those patterns. We've learned that most people go into "fight, flight or freeze" to protect themselves against painful feelings that are difficult or impossible to experience at the time they are happening.

These "fight, flight, or freeze" defense mechanisms were useful at some time in our lives but if you want close, connected, alive relationships, you have to be willing to explore what you are feeling and have the courage to change this reaction.

For us, we think that the goal is to be so conscious and aware of what we are feeling that when we get triggered by what someone says or does, we are able to simply express what we are feeling without fear, judgment or blame.

Even though we consider ourselves to be soulmates and have a very conscious, connected relationship, we occasionally lapse into those old patterns of "fighting" (holding onto being right), "fleeing" (withdrawing emotionally) or "freezing" (getting stuck and not being able to move).

Because our connection is so important to us, we are committed to dealing with conflict as soon as possible after it has come up. We have made an agreement with each other that we will help each other recognize our patterns of the past and come into awareness of the present moment. In other words, we help each other come to an awareness of what's going on right now within ourselves and our relationship.

When we are in this place of separation, we try to get to what each of us is feeling in the moment. When you focus on feelings, you are not pointing fingers at each other. And when you quit pointing fingers the healing can begin.

Anytime we realize we are stuck in one of our patterns that is causing us to feel and be disconnected, we ask the question--"Will acting in this way bring us closer together or tear us apart?"

This question usually helps us to come into the present moment and find a way back to our connection.

So, we suggest that if or when you find yourself in conflict with the people in your life, to stop your normal pattern and reaction, recognize what it is you're thinking and feeling and begin the process of healing the conflict between the two of you.

No matter how much fighting, fleeing, or freezing seems to be serving you in the moment, the undeniable truth is that when you are stuck in any of these patterns, it is impossible to have close, connecting, alive relationships.

©2002 by Susie & Otto Collins

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The intense happiness of our union is derived in a high degree from the perfect freedom with which we each follow and declare our own impressions. - George Eliot

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