Ask Miseducated: STDs and Ethics

It’s always a painful situation when you feel like you have finally met the mate of your dreams, only to find out soon after that you were very, very mistaken. One of my students was recently in this situation, and shared an ethical dilemma that she had encountered as a result. All the names below have been changed.

Dear Maryanne,

When my goddaughter went off to college, I made sure that she had plenty of condoms, and a copy of your book. I’ve encouraged her to make smart choices, but unfortunately I wasn’t smart enough to follow that advice myself. As a result, my heart is broken, and I am paying the price for trusting someone who didn’t deserve that trust.
I met Darren through a friend of mine who assured me that everything about him seemed great. He was also a known philanthropist, and as I spent time with him I felt like he was the kind of person I could trust. As a result, I agreed to spend the night with him, and naturally the subject of condoms came up. But Darren insisted that he had been tested and was healthy, and stupid me throw all sense out the window and believed every word he said. So of course my heart sank when a few days later, after never having had an STD before, I had an outbreak that turned out to be herpes.
The first thing I did was approach Darren about this, but then suddenly he became evasive and wouldn’t speak to me about this so-called clean bill of health he supposedly had This just confirmed what I already knew, even though it was in Hindsight!
But now I have a decision to make. Should I just take myself out of the situation and let others worry about themselves, or should I tell the friend who introduced us not to recommend Darren to anyone else? My therapist thinks I should leave it alone now, but my conscience worries about the other women who could put themselves at risk. I’d be curious to hear your opinion.

Thank you,
Rhonda (full of regret and feeling stupid)

Well Rhonda,

you have experienced firsthand how getting in a sexual relationship too soon can distort the reality of a situation. It takes time to build that level of trust, and you need to allow yourself the opportunity to see whether this person’s appearances of integrity check out. This time buffer, combined with asking the 14 question that are outlined in Hindsight, can greatly increase your chance of spotting trouble before it’s too late.

Nonetheless, it is terrible to have to learn such a harsh lesson in this way, and I certainly feel for what you’re going through. You clearly have been trying your best to use your CORR® relationship techniques, and I’m sorry that in this case things crashed and burned so dramatically. When a friend recommends someone, it’s so easy to perceive that recommendation as some sort of guarantee of trustworthiness. But in the end, it’s up to you to find out whether the person you’re getting involved with has earned that trust.

letterTake some time and effort now to return to your loving center. You can do several things to aid this process. First, cover all your mirrors with paper for three days, and choose to look inward rather that at your outer reflection for validation. Rediscover who you are according to your highest self, and use your inner beauty and wisdom to help your reference point become internal again.

You can also benefit from a period of cleansing your sexual palate, and this will mean a period of dating during which you don’t take the relationship to a sexual level. This will allow you to explore why you were so happy to trust a man you didn’t know that well, and give you some insight into the kind of men you attract, and how you behave around them.

Lastly, a clearing ceremony can be tremendously cathartic and healing. Invite your closest friends to join you, create a sacred space, and fill it with all four elements, your favorite music, and things that remind you of beauty. Make a ritual of writing down all the things you want to heal, as well as the things you want to let go of. This is a very effective way to turn a disaster into an opportunity to love yourself.

Take your time – this process is not a race. When you feel centered again, I think you’ll see more clearly what you want to do. I am available if you need someone to answer some more questions.

Can a Bad Relationship Make You Sick?

There are so many ways in which relationships affect our overall health. Recent studies have shown how coupling can add years to your life, boost your immune system and even help with anxiety and depression. Naturally one might wonder what influence the end of relationship might have on your health and wellness.

Most of us don’t have to think to hard to conjure injurious feelings about a relationship gone bad. And while the pain and grief due to botched relationship vary from one individual to the next, we need to explore our baseline beliefs about everything rather than jump to overly simplistic ideology. “My relationship ended, it felt bad and now I am sick because of it,” is precisely the kind of unexamined thinking and superficial generalization that spins us into imbalance in most cases.

For example, most of us don’t take into account how we arrived to relationship. Did we come healthy and balanced? Did we know who we were, what we wanted, were we purpose-driven and spiritually and emotionally actualized? Did we know how to sleep alone, be alone, fulfill our needs ourselves, and understand that we are responsible at all times for our own reality? Had we taken care to understand the complexity of human emotions and feelings and how to maintain inner peace and harmony BEFORE we met our beloved ~ would they have thrust the blade, turned it and left us for dead? I suspect, should you honestly ask yourself these questions, I think not.

Rather, most of us sidle up to our relationship candidates, seducer or seductress in full force, selling some version of ourselves we find acceptable and hopefully lovable so as to better secure our hostage. The person that will make it all better, soften life’s hardships, ease our fear, anxiety, help lift our depression etc, in exchange for ~ well, whatever we sell it for. How much do we pay to have someone comfort us in the night because we are afraid to be alone, to walk our path alone; to have someone hear us, see us, love us, accept us, celebrate us? We rarely think of this, as we are seduced ourselves into the story of Happily Ever After, hopefully swept into bliss where we can hide or be transformed there, rather than in the suffocating truth of aloneness.

Yes, we are safe from many ailments in relationship for a while, but most of us come to find, “wherever you go, there you are.” Eventually, whether in relationship or not, whatever shadows you have run from/tried to camouflage or hide/temporarily derailed/quelled return. Only, oddly, we look at our partner and think they now are the culprit! The relationship ends and we pick up where we left off. The same anxiety returns, the depression, low self-esteem, loneliness, etc., etc. Our symptoms multiply in the wee hours of the night when we are unable to distract ourselves, until perhaps we manifest an ailment we can point at and say, “Look at this, I am alone, therefore I am ill and out of balance!” Round we go chasing our tail (or tale), not quite seeing that it is alone we must be to know we are never alone ~ it is with ourselves we must know who we are and not. It is in our own presence that we must ultimately embrace the truth; that the wound of separation, when not seen for what it is, keeps us “Chasing Amy” (illusions) and never knowing the freedom, balance or joy that is available in sickness and health, until death do you part.

Video

To see Maryanne talking about the need to “go where you’re frightened,” watch this video:

Five Male Myths Finally Busted

There are a number of myths out there floating around about guys and gals ~ usually perpetuated by members of the opposite sex. Some have a bit of rooting in fact, while others don’t. Here, I debunk a few myths about males.

Top 5 male mating myths

All the good ones are taken

A man’s penis has a mind of its own

All men only want one thing

Men are dogs

Good guys are boring

male

So let’s start at the beginning:

All the good ones are taken

Let’s start with the word ALL. Right away, this sweeping generalization has to tip you off to the fact that’s it not even possible to get around to all 3.4 billion members of the male population to test this ridiculous yet popular notion. Instead, this is an idea conjured from a deeply lacking mentality. I have never believed this. Rather, I thought “So many men, so little time.” And so it was true for me. Energy flows where attention goes, right? So maybe you need to switch up your internal chitchat. Remember, water seeks its own level—like attracts like! OUCH, I know, that stings, and sucks to be with. You may want to consider that perhaps your belief that there are no great ones available is simply a clever way to avoid looking at who you are being and why you attract the kind of men you do. Man up, ladies and take a good look in the mirror. You may not like what you see, but know this—until you do, in the long run, neither will anyone else!

A man’s penis has a mind of its own

Really. This may be the world’s oldest excuse for men behaving badly. Want proof? Set up an interview with one (a penis, that is). I think you’ll find your subject disappointing, aside from one rather impressive calisthenic move. Bring a tape recorder in case you’re the one person in history that will get one to talk instead of drool. Be reminded, ladies, of the definition of mind: That which is responsible for one’s thoughts and feelings; the seat of the faculty of reason.” Should any man want to argue that his penis is the seat of his faculty of reason, RUN!

All men only want one thing

That’s so insulting, not to mention untrue. Donald, my fish, wants more than that. Think about it. If it were true, men would never get into relationships, never marry; heck, never leave their houses, and Vaseline stock would be worth billions. Yes, men love sex, most people do—but don’t sell yourself short.
It may very well be that you have learned (as many women do) to value that most about yourself, and therefore attract men who place that extremely high on their priority list. Again, go to the mirror. What do you value most about yourself –really? What do you believe? The man you attract will simply reflect this belief. How much time and energy do you spend trying to be attractive and alluring? Get a handle on your beliefs and check in with your archetypal seductress; maybe it’s time to re-group, re-prioritize and re-think what you’re putting out there. Lead with sexy, get sex. Lead with your magnificent, authentic, sacred self and, believe it, you’re 100 times more likely to attract the same!

Men are dogs

If you approach any man thinking he’s a dog or someone to be trained, you are in trouble. Relationships are challenging for most of us under the best of circumstances; don’t make it harder by starting out at a deficit, holding anyone you’re interested in such low regard rather than in their highest light. Great relationships require a huge deal of respect to make it over the long haul. If you suspect the person you are with to be operating out of their lower nature, move on. It’s the loving thing to do. We don’t need to pause and let them know what we think needs to be improved, or (in detail) how we feel about the way they are choosing to be. Just notice that it doesn’t jive with what you want for yourself in a partner and respectfully—GO. A great definition of Love I recently heard: Let others voluntarily evolve. WOOF!

Good guys are boring

Yeah, if you’re a drama junkie. Well, are you? My mother, God bless her, said something to me I have never forgotten. I made the mistake of telling her I was bored once, when I was probably 10 or 11. She smiled and looked squarely at my little face and said simply, “Well, honey, if you’re bored, you’re boring.” I don’t think I’ve been bored a moment since. My mother taught me the lesson of a lifetime; that I am the only person responsible for my delight, my joy, my entertainment and happiness. That the party is wherever I am. I will always be grateful. So many of us women think it’s a man’s job to manage our emotional thermostat. If you want romance, take a bath and light some candles, buy yourself some chocolate or flowers. And while you’re at it, you might want to take a hard look at your relationship history and patterns and explore your love imprint. Saying all men are boring is overly simplistic, and you may miss out on someone who is a sleeper, someone who just needs a while to warm up. Happy trails!

What’s So Fake About You?

What comes with knowing yourself? Oftentimes it’s too overwhelming and intimidating, and we return to our previous patterns. If we’re persistent enough to embrace who we really are, it can still be a lonely road. Sometimes, finding out the truth about ourselves just seems to be too much trouble. So we keep making the same mistakes and falling into the same patterns because we haven’t really unwound and understood the root of these patterns in the first place!

Someone once (or twice) said, know thyself. Let’s see; the Oracle of Delphi, Jesus, well, heck, about everybody worth mentioning has some twist on it. Why? Most of us who have been in therapy, read numerous self-help books, etc., are left being mostly acutely aware of what is wrong with us and eventually head back to the barn (what’s familiar). There is only so much we can take. And those of us who hang in there still complain of the loneliness and austere life it seems the road less traveled requires. “To Hell with it!” we say, “Life is short and I need a reward for all this vigilance and self-examination, arrgh…pass the Kool-Aid.” So, we continue the search, now seeking elsewhere for guidance, and perhaps decide Popeye was right, “I am what I am” and get on with life.

If knowing the truth and ourselves is that much trouble, I can’t be bothered: I have bills to pay, mountains to climb, kids to feed, men to seduce (who will hopefully rescue me from it all), women to charm (who will hopefully distract me from my failures), pounds to lose, wrinkles to conquer, a legacy to leave so I can get to Happily Ever After already. So we ditch Buddha for Santa Claus (& Popeye) and keep looking for the secret. “Know thyself, ha!” we mutter and join the proverbial “if ya can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” crowd.

We manage to skate for a while on our latest distractions: a new love interest, new job, new cosmetic procedure, sudden influx of cash, new handbag or project. Yet the gap between how we act and who we are widens, and no matter what we tell ourselves, eventually the suffering returns, most of it silent. And we wonder why. So we up the dues: get more sex, more stuff, more money, more attention, better projects, a different house, another baby, another job, travel (that’s it! I need a vacation!), a face lift, a tummy tuck, lose 20 pounds, a younger wife, get another degree, REDECORATE for God’s sake… THIS IS AMERICA! The pursuit of happiness is my birthright!

Beneath the façade of fake smiles and the it’s all good story swells the raging sea of discontent, the cauldron of disappointment, chilled by terror and fueled by resentment that things are not different. This cocktail is lethal—we chase it down with envy and regret as the elusive dream slips further away.

According to scientists, our daily behavior is 90% subconscious. From years one to five a projection reel spliced with trauma, false beliefs and genetic inheritance has been cast upon our nubile brains: the reel continually spins out our reality, like the daily press, in predictable neural loops over our lifetime. It seems who we are is simply who someone else (“they”) told us to be. Most of us were duped and now are understandably pissed, as we find interrupting these patterns and uncovering who we really are feels like trying to stop a nose-diving 747 jet with a diaphragm.

You might cry, “Why do I pretend to be more than I am, have more than I have? Why do I feel that I am not enough, why don’t I want what I have, how come happiness escapes me, why do I believe that when I get (blank) everything will be okay, but that never seems to come?” The good news is, what is fake about you is NOT who you are! Who you are is magnificent, eternal, and unique. Yet until we know this true self we feel trapped in a life directed by an unconscious dictator, our subconscious beliefs and patterns.

While you may be tired, overwhelmed and have no bandwidth right now as survival is taking its toll, as my mother would say, “Don’t give up 5 minutes before the miracle.” Here is an exercise that may help you reignite your search for freedom of being, as well as put some pep back in your step—the energy it takes to pretend to be someone you are not, be fake, is extraordinary.

What’s fake about me? Exercise

1. Get a piece of paper and write down all the things that are fake about you (you may burn after reading, of course). Examples might be that you are:

Fake skinny: you spend an inordinate amount of time watching your weight so that people will find you attractive or so you will feel loved or seen. You fear that if you were fat you would never be happy, popular, get a man, be loved or accepted.

Fake nice: you spend much of your time trying to make people like you, manipulating your circumstances by being nice so you can get what you want, while underneath you seethe with resentment or envy of those who don’t seem to care what others think.

Fake rich: you pretend to be successful, you have mortgaged your life so others will think you are a person of worth, you lease your car that you cannot afford, buy clothes to create a false image, live in a house beyond your means, etc.

You get the idea, go ahead and explore all the fake parts: fake smart, because you believe you need to know so you can hide your fear of being inept or stupid; fake pretty, in hopes of being perfect-looking so you can finally be important, special or loved; fake happy, because you know people don’t want to hear your problems and would never want to be around someone as depressed and messed up as you really feel. Fake straight, fake sexy, fake sensitive, fake caring, fake in control, fake good mom, fake happy marriage, fake great relationship, fake healthy, fake spiritual, and on and on. Let it out. You have an opportunity to relieve yourself of the burden of living this secret life by simply admitting it!

2. Be with it. Sit down with what’s fake about you and move deeper into it. Exaggerate it, even. Give it a voice. Let the fake part or parts have a turn telling you about themselves. You might be surprised at what they have to say!

3. Feel it. Whatever feeling or emotions come, let yourself have them. Like a wave, they will not hurt you; they will wash through you and heal you if you have the courage to feel them all the way. (It could be helpful to have an enlightened witness to share this part of the process with, someone you trust to your core.)

4. Allow it. Relaxing into this allowing, comes freedom. In the acceptance comes understanding and then compassion. Including all our parts allows us greater freedom of being. Developing unconditional love for ourselves expands our capacity for intimacy and joy.

5. Know this is not all of who you are. My teacher Kathy reminds me of this fact all the time. I feel relieved and all at once welcomed back to the human race and condition. We find our right size again. This perspective gives space for a sense of peace and well-being, room to breathe and dream forward your heart’s true desires again. Your soul shines, your authentic self is free to be!
Namasté and blessings, freedom seekers!

Make a List: Naughty or Nice?

When we don’t know who we are, what we want or have our priorities intact, we fall into the default loop that was programmed into our subconscious long ago. “I want someone handsome, tall, and strong; someone rich, who will take care of me, someone sexy who is great in le sac, etc.” At some point we start to realize these aren’t things that make a great relationship. Someone we thought was hot becomes really unattractive when their real character starts to show.

Here’s an email I got recently:

“I wanted to thank you also for your story about “presence” that you told at your talk recently at Open Secret Book Store in San Rafael. I had an important experience of that this weekend. I have been contemplating dating a man I met recently who is a financially successful lobbyist, and we have many other interests aside from politics. The wining and dining is great, but when we’re together, it is odd: he is always distracted by his cell, a meeting, not enough time, etc.

This weekend, another man, a very old friend, came to town…we’ve known each other 35 years (college). He came to my studio and asked about my work, and he was incredibly “present” with me. And you are right, it was a total and complete turn-on. Whoa!

The next day, I had dinner with the other man (the lobbyist) and he spent most of the time talking about how his recent ex-girlfriend is using a popular dating site and how her profile is full of lies, and that he ought to get his own profile on the site so he could compete in attracting new women (so what am I, chopped liver?). Not present at all. Big turn-off! We were supposed to go on a date this Saturday, to the ballet, but I canceled it because I decided I would rather have my own precious company, than his….

So I just wanted to echo what you said, that presence is really “IT”! and my back-to-back experience of it, with these two men, absolutely convinced me of what I want, and do not want, in a relationship with a man. Thank you for your teachings, Maryanne!”

A few days later…

“Hi Maryanne, so interesting what happens when I choose me. I came home to find a huge box of flowers from my college friend. I’m sure that saying goodbye to that lobbyist was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Thank you…”
J.Alder, Nor Cal

Bottom line, ladies and gentlemen: when we don’t know who we are, what we want or have our priorities intact, we fall into the default loop that was programmed into our subconscious long ago. “I want someone handsome, tall, and strong; someone rich, who will take care of me, someone sexy who is great in le sac, etc.” At some point we start to realize these aren’t things that make a great relationship. Someone we thought was hot becomes really unattractive when their real character starts to show.

I have met too many people who, time and again, confess that the things they thought they wanted weren’t essential at all—or, at minimum, fell lower on the priority list than they once realized.

Perhaps rather than “hot and successful” being at the top of the list, you could alter it some and require that certain other qualities be immediately apparent:

Present
Kind
Interested
Honest
Generous
Purpose-driven
Attractive
Sensual, etc.

So, yes, make that list, but check it twice as the holidays approach. Do you really want someone naughty or do you want someone one who’s mostly nice (and maybe a little naughty only on special occasions)?

Are your Friends or Lovers Holding you Back?

The mutual flow of respect and support is essential to all healthy, sustainable relationships. Whether friends or lovers, we all want to believe those closest to us want for us to thrive, to fulfill our dreams and to achieve inner and outer success. Yet when this isn’t our experience, we might want to look more closely at the nature of these relationships.

I can remember getting what for me was my first big break in my budding media career. I squealed with delight when the producer called from a popular syndicated radio show asking to interview me. My heart pounded, my mouth went dry ~ I had worked so hard and now it seemed things were about to unfold. I was ecstatic.

After I enthusiastically accepted the invitation, naturally I couldn’t wait to tell the three people closest to me (okay, and a few strangers along the way, I couldn’t contain myself). The funny thing was, the one person I thought would be the happiest for me was anything but. Upset by his confusing affect, I pressed the matter. “Aren’t you happy for me? This is what I have worked so hard for, to get the message out there, but you seem upset?” He looked at me and unexpectedly said, “Now what, you’re going to be some big star and have to start traveling. I don’t want to be with someone who …” He didn’t finish the sentence. He didn’t have to, as it turned out; his attitude towards me and my being successful was a major culprit in ending our relationship a few painful years and many missed opportunities later. Opportunities that I passed up, afraid he would leave me if I didn’t.

It would take me years to identify and learn the importance of surrounding myself with supportive people. The mutual flow of respect and support is essential to all healthy, sustainable relationships. Whether friends or lovers, we all want to believe those closest to us want for us to thrive, to fulfill our dreams and to achieve inner and outer success. Yet when this isn’t our experience, we might want to look more closely at the nature of these relationships.

Signs of Un-Supportive Relationships

Making ourselves small ~ you notice you place others’ needs or wants above your own, or hold back your wants and desires because you are afraid to alienate friends or lovers.
Hiding our success ~ you hide or minimize or significant events or progress towards your heart’s desires, not to arouse negative response, rejection or criticism
Jealousy~ you notice people who say they love or care about you are giving you mixed messages about your good fortune or advancement toward your goals. I.E. You just graduated from law school, your friend slaps you on the back and sarcastically says, “How does it feel to be part of the bottom-feeders club?” or “Ya know, most lawyers don’t even end up using their degree!”
Undermining~ someone you care about purposely says or does something to throw you off track. Perhaps your single roommate conveniently doesn’t tell you your hot new boy friend called, twice; or doesn’t mention your name to someone who could help your career when they said they would; or worse, bad-mouths you behind your back.
Competitiveness~ maybe your buddy hits on a someone you have had your eye on for quite some time and then says something like, “Hey dude, snooze you lose.” Or picks your brain about your latest idea, takes it without telling you, and uses it themselves without cutting you in.
Devils advocate~ This person is always telling you why you can’t do something or why it won’t work, even when you don’t ask and they’re not an authority on the subject. “No one’s ever done that before.” “You can’t do that; you don’t have a license!” or “Where are you going to get the money to do that?” “She’ll never go out with you!” etc.

If you suspect someone you care about or love is holding you back, consider this: Great relationships begin within! No matter what they’re doing, we need to look first at how we treat and care for ourselves. Relationships stem from this fundamental truth.

*Another of what I call my 7 Essential Truths™ is surround yourself with supportive people! This may take some work, yet you will have a group of people in your life committed to you attracting and creating what you want. One of my husband’s and my marriage vows is “I want what you want for yourself,” and the friends I have today are as much fans of my living a rich, fulfilling life as I am of them doing the same. I am grateful every day to have them all in my lives!

If you have specific questions you want Maryanne to answer for you, please email us and she’ll take a look!

How to Create Sustainable Relationships

When you think about sustainability, what comes to mind—global warming, going green, doing your part to lessen your carbon footprint? How about relationships? We should compost old relationships and only get involved with organic people? Not exactly, no. Although the concept is intriguing, this would be implausible for most of us, given our cultural proclivity towards big “relationship footprints.”

If you have had a few relationships you know what I mean by “sustainability,” especially ones that have been a source of pain or suffering to some degree. (Some of which have compelled you to dispose of them by almost any means, organic or not.) But what of the ones you wish to keep, nurture and grow rather than watch die prematurely or unexpectedly? Given all the energy most of us spend putting ourselves “out there” on the emotional limb (oftentimes left with nothing more than a “seed,” or perhaps less some seed, as the case may be), let’s wise up and turn those seeds into wisdom. Let’s instead get on with how to make our lives fertile so that we can more optimally attract and create more healthy, fulfilling, sustainable relationships. Ones that have the greatest potential for an amazing harvest, for season after season to come.

Relationships can be complicated, given the myriad of unique nuances that make up any one individual, the layers of experiences that create the filters we each see reality through. The real enigma seems to be a matter of skill and planning—how to create a optimal climate for potential for growth within this human complexity. Just like plants, relationships grow and flourish under optimal circumstances and care as well.

Okay, enough with the plant metaphor. You get it (hopefully). The deal is that if we come to relationship broken up, with some serious unexamined baggage, expecting to attract great relationships, odds are the next one will end up much the same—in disappointment and regret. At some point, as I have said many times, you gotta be thinking, “Hey, maybe it’s not just them.” Friends and lovers alike, we need to bring our “A” game to the party and expect nothing less from our prospective playmates and potential soulmates as well.

Here are some pointers for how to sustain any great relationship (platonic or otherwise), once you have carefully selected who you want to be in it with:

Respect

Here’s a word. Know what it means? If you don’t, you have no chance at REAL, lasting intimacy (in my not-so-humble opinion). If you respect yourself, just double it. Don’t just talk about it either—this is an action item. Respect is not a feeling, it’s a way of behaving!

Responsible Communication

You get to choose from every word in the English language (or whatever language you share) in whatever tone you choose to communicate your thoughts and feelings to another, so choose carefully. You have no one to blame if you don’t tell the truth or say what you want. My teacher says “We are always doing one of two things; creating separation or connection.” What is your intention?

Integrity

Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it, as often as humanly possible. And don’t BS yourself. Nobody trusts a flake, nor does anyone want their vulnerable hearts to be in the care of one. If you love and respect someone, ACT like it!

Compatibility

If you are mad about the outdoors, can’t live without reality TV, are a screaming (or worse, Nuevo) liberal, or abhor people who over-accessorize or don’t keep up on current events, then you probably wouldn’t want to hang out with…me, for example. Just because someone has good energy doesn’t mean you do real life well together. Watch what people DO, not only what they say. Make sure they match or you’ll be sadly disappointed, eventually bored and even resentful. There are 7 billion people on the planet—check some more of them out and quit trying to make someone they are not!

Compassion

Walked a mile in their shoes, have you? I recommend before you think you know whatever you think you know about the person you say you love, one of the most loving acts of all is to try and understand as much as you want to be understood. Old adage for a reason. ‘Cause it’s a damn good one!

Expectations

The fastest way to get back to love in any relationship is to want nothing. Period. Try it. No one is responsible for your happiness or anything else, unless expressly agreed to.

Consciousness Agreements

One of my all-time favorites. Let people know what’s important to you up front. As soon as possible, in fact. In any relationship the time to negotiate is up front, not after you are in deep! Don’t want to party a lot, but notice you keep giving in and feeling bad about yourself—but afraid to lose your friends if you stand up for yourself? Don’t want to have sex so much, but because you’re afraid they will leave, you do it anyway (see compatibility)? Two of my “needs” (if you can call them that) in a friendship is that a) we don’t make unilateral decisions about ending the friendship, and b) if we have a problem we bring it to the other person as soon as possible. What are your non-negotiables?

These tools and skills have helped me immeasurably over the years and I rely on them all today, as they are responsible for helping me maintain the loving, healthy relationships I have today! Remember, relationships take work, they are not just “add water,” and people are not disposable. They are precious blessings, and in their presence I feel blessed to keep on my path to becoming the best version of myself, as well as have the privilege to witness l those I love do the same!

Got Friends?

Finding a handful of friends is, in many cases, no easy task; especially given the cultural fad of vapid, disposable, let’s-do-lunch, I-love-you-after-five-minutes, overweening, entitled, texting, emotionally handicapped, walking wounded human beings most of us act like. And that’s before you even get to hello. Finding your peeps, as they say, isn’t as easy as it seems but, like all good things, is definitely worth the work!

My mother told me I was lucky if I could count all my real friends on one hand!

Must have been fifteen or so years ago now, when it occurred to me after a string of disappointing intimate relationships that maybe she was right—again. That it might be wise to invest more time in creating some deep and lasting friendships, as they theoretically seemed to have greater staying power and could be in many ways equally fulfilling, perhaps in some ways even more.

I must add that, up until that that point, my history with friendships was rather sketchy and my role models even more so. My mother barely trusted women (her best friend slept with my dad) and my father, well, made a lot of offers people couldn’t refuse. Childhood aside, the relationship skills I had gathered afforded me as many pleasant and happy memories as traumatic or forgettable ones. Over the years, many of the friendships had been more fragile than I liked, and oftentimes out of balance one way or the other. Either I was too needy or too unavailable, or our lifestyles were not totally compatible—being a single mom certainly didn’t help. Yet, the ones I did maintain (for whatever length of time) offered a mutual comfort that, when absent, left me yearning for that very specific kind of connection that only a platonic camaraderie offers—one that, no matter how compatible, a sexual relationship does not.

Finding this handful of friends is, in many cases, no easy task; especially given the cultural fad of vapid, disposable, let’s-do-lunch, I-love-you-after-five-minutes, overweening, entitled, texting, emotionally handicapped, walking wounded human beings most of us act like. And that’s before you even get to hello. Finding your peeps, as they say, isn’t as easy as it seems but, like all good things, is definitely worth the work!

So, how do you tell if someone is got the right stuff to be your new BFF or just a GF? I figure that most of our same propensities arise when it comes to friendship as they do in an intimate relationship—except, of course, Le sexe. It’s safe to say that we are looking for many of the same things in a friendship that we are looking for in a relationship. With a few exceptions:

1. Someone to hang out with (you actually like)
2. Someone you have something in common with (aside from Le sexe)
3. Someone who will listen to your incessant or inane whining should it arise, however untimely
4. Someone who will show a genuine interest in you and your life, however ordinary or dull
5. Someone who has a high tolerance for your weaknesses
6. Someone who will have your back if ever need be
7. Someone you can count on (from OMG I have nothing to wear to my high school reunion, to OMG I have breast cancer and need someone to hold my hand during chemo)
8. Someone who will tell me the truth even if I don’t want to hear it (with compassion when needed)
9. Who doesn’t care if I am 10 pounds overweight (fill in the blank)
10. And still love me if I decide to shave my head, take up drumming and move to India for a year

Finding these select few, these magical, unconditionally (most of the time) loving phenoms can take some sussing out. Once you have decided that you want some great ones—who, if you’re lucky, just may be around throughout your lifetime—here are a few things to keep in mind. They just might make your journey a little easier done than said!

1. Set your intention—it works with friends too. Maybe you want to make two or three new good friends in the next year. Set achievable goals.
2. Set forth your criteria. What do you want? I wanted girlfriends who were self-sustaining, had a daily practice of self-care, who were on a similar spiritual track, and who had impeccable communication skills, etc.
3. List your non-negotiables, the things that just won’t work for you. One of mine was, “If you are upset you need to tell me directly and not make unilateral decisions that affect me as well.”
4. Interview well, ask good questions and wait and see if their actions match their words.
5. Don’t settle (even if you’re bored or desperate, you’ll be sorry you did!).
6. Tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable, better now than later, I always say.
7. Set your boundaries regarding money, men, and all things sacred!
8. Give as much as you get and make sure it flows the other way too!
9. Take your time, no need to rush, getting to know a new friend is fun and should be savored, and trust is built over time
10. Most of all, be silly, be yourself, and have some fun!

And remember, great relationships, including friendships, begin within!

How To Best Approach a Relationship

Here’s the deal. Most of us approach relationships like drunken sailors, intoxicated with the ideas and fantasies we have about relationships as opposed to the sobering reality of them, and desperate (or lonely, as the case may be) like your ship has just come in—or is about to leave port. Not a great strategy if you want a great relationship.

So, get a piece of paper and write these things down:

1. First, what do you want? (spell it out)
2. What are you willing to do about it?

I know, I have said this before, but let’s take a closer look—trust me. Let’s start with number 1: What do you want? On your paper, across from each item you have listed in your want column, write down what you have instead. For example:

I WANT

An ideal partner, someone to share my life with
A big house with 3 kids, a dog and live near the water
To be debt-free and have 1 million dollars in the bank

I HAVE

I am single and live alone
I live in the city, small flat w/a fish
I am in between careers and in debt

Whatever the case is, write it down. The space in between what you have and what you want, let’s call your motivational crevasse. For some this may seem gaping, for others totally achievable. Which brings us to number 2: What are you willing to do about it?

On the back of that paper, write down what time you woke up today and what you did, go ahead, write it. Include when you got up, who you spent time with, what books you read, TV you watched, when you went to work, and so on. And be as specific as you can! Then I want you to get another piece of paper, draw a monthly calendar, and mark the days that are pretty much like this day. Go on.

If you’re like most of us, we do about the same thing pretty much each day, consistently, whatever those things are; hang out with certain people, go to particular places, participate in certain activities, watch TV, go on our computers, etc. We have routines and patterns. We are creatures of habit.

We also know that it takes a certain amount of discipline and practice to bring a thought or idea into fruition, or “make them real,” as they say. For example, we get our diploma by going to school, studying, showing up and doing what it takes to make that happen. Same applies for our dream relationship, our dream life.

Now for the math equation: Take what you want, add what you do all day, and see if it equals what you have!

I know, this seems harsh, well…what can I say, it is. When we want something bad enough, we do what it takes to make it happen, rather than sitting around believing in fairy tales, hoping “the one” will just show up and we’ll live happily ever after. Odds are this is never going to happen, and the facts are in, ladies and gentlemen; it almost never does. Why wait? Go make it happen yourself. The good news is, since what you do begets what you have, try something different! Instead of watching TV, take a relationship class; or instead of hours of doing things that aren’t getting you what you want, start doing things that will bring you closer to creating what you do want! Next thing you know, you will want what you have… which, Buddha says, is the definition of happiness.

The Need in Speed

frog prince

Here’s the deal; the facts are in. At least 50% of marriages don’t make it—which, if you’re a gambler, is slightly better than a crap shoot – this is what I told RadarOnline, when asked for a comment about Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom’s marriage.

And it would seem obvious to many people that marrying someone you have only known a few weeks would increase your odds of failure…among other things. So perhaps a better question to ask is not what are the downsides, but rather…why? Why get married? So you can have a party? Show up your sister on TV because you are profoundly insecure or desperate for ratings? What’s the rush? It’s not like love has a shelf life. Unless one is deeply religious, which is not evident in this case (correct me if I am wrong; I don’t think so), there are so few reasons to rush into nuptials before we have taken time to do a minimum of due diligence.

What I do know about these two people is they know something about success. It takes discipline, skill and focus (and perhaps a little luck) to turn your desire into reality. Hence my concern, again, about their haste. I am not convinced that these two people understand the game they are in. I feel whatever their motivations for wedlock—“looks good, feels good,” ratings, or whatever—they would benefit by focusing on the fact that the same commitment, discipline and skill that supported their success is needed to enjoy a successful relationship; particularly a healthy, fulfilling, sustainable one.

With all due respect, if these two people love each other, or feel a strong connection and want to jump into marriage (which I likened to jumping out of a plane, considering, well…that they have just barely met), they should strap on a parachute. Which is to say, they should strongly consider checking under the hood to make sure they have what it takes to make the journey before Sunday. Many things are very difficult, if not nearly impossible, to re-negotiate after they say “I do.”

While celebrity marriages may seem qualitatively different than the average boy-meets-girl scenario, all relationships thrive best when they rest on a solid foundation. In some ways, the celebrity relationship needs to pay even greater mind to this, as their relationship is subject to stresses, pressure and scrutiny that on a good day most of us cannot even fathom.

So I would say to this couple, go for it! IF they have managed in this three-week period to establish the following, at minimum:

Their top three non-negotiables.

If this person is worthy of their unconditional devotion and respect.

A strong “out” clause or good consciousness agreement.

If they themselves are a strong, loyal, devoted, trustworthy partner.

They have revealed all their deep secrets or habits that have the potential to destroy the relationship if not revealed and healed.

They have cleaned up all their past relationships.

Have the capacity to tell the truth despite the consequences, and see the value of truth as a cornerstone of their relationship.

Love each other’s friends and current daily lifestyle.

Have agreed upon children and child-rearing responsibilities.

Understand and are in alignment about money.

They are confident in each other’s ability to negotiate their feelings and concerns responsibly.

Know what each other values most in life.

Have shared and are in alignment and support of their 10-year plan.

Have agreed to see someone (either within the family or outside) to act as an unbiased counselor, to help support the relationship should they get stuck or feel they cannot resolve any matter that has the potential to end the relationship.

This, I believe, would afford them a good start. While relationships are a great breeding ground for personal development, chemistry as a litmus test for the potential of a relationship is too often a crash-and-burn method & can be quite painful. Rather than each failed relationship being a lesson learned, the pain becomes either fuel for the next one or a barrier to intimacy.

In our 20s we are at a peak in some ways, in terms of learning about who we are and who we are not, and oftentimes get into relationships based largely on chemistry—without having acquired some essential relationship tools and turned them into skills. Life will teach them soon enough. The good news is, if they really want a healthy relationship they are in a position to develop these skills, provided they have interviewed each other and revealed their shadows and non-negotiables to each other. Some of these deal-breakers, like infidelity or drug or alcohol addiction, are things that you want to know before you get married, not after!

Hard to establish trust when you have had so little time to see if the person’s words and actions match up. If you are in a rush, and clearly Khloe and Lamar seem to be, I’d advise them to take some time before Sunday to drop in with each other, because having a success plan is important! Bottom line, at least half of marriages end in divorce. If you want it to work, make sure you are prepared and have what it takes to make that happen.

To Re-cap

Hard to negotiate your needs after the marriage ceremony; double check your non-negotiables, you two!
What do you want and expect from each other & the marriage: do you both want kids, how will you share your money, or not? I call this a consciousness agreement.
What kind of relationship skills do you bring to the table? Do you have issues with commitment and intimacy, do you have a track record of being able to stay and hang in there when things get tough? “Looks good, feels good” isn’t going to cut it when things get sideways…these things are very difficult to negotiate after you already have established a pattern. Talk about it. What are you committing to?
Happily Ever After is not a place, and chemistry is not enough to keep a relationship together. They say that, in unconsciousness, the thing that brings you together in a relationship will be the thing that pulls you apart. What is your foundation for your relationship? I recommend spirit, God or the divine, and having a real practice.
Love is a choice and a privilege, not a sentence, so act like it!

I recently explained my take on the Khloe/Lamar situation at a book signing. You can watch it here.