Tools for Having the Best Relationship Ever — the second article from my soon to be published book
In This Moment
This is week 2 of sharing samples of my soon to be released book, The. Best. Relationship. Ever..
If you’re looking for a partner that “fits you,” you owe it to yourself to read my re-issued book. Find Your Perfect Partner It’s available as a Kindle book here, for $2.99 US. Two of my other books, This Endless Moment and Half Asleep in the Buddha Hall, are also available as Kindle books, same price. Those two are also available from Amazon as paperbacks.
Last week, I described my new book, The. Best. Relationship. Ever. It’s due for publication (I hope!) February 14th, 2013.
I wanted to give you a few samples. As I promised, here’s The Chapter, "Tools For Relating." This chapter will give you a good idea of the "meat" of the book.
Chapter Four: Tools for Relating
Elegant, Intimate Relating (EIR)
EIR is a structure for living deeply and fully with others
With EIR, nothing is taken for granted. Elegant, Intimate Relating requires the active participation of two separate and distinct beings, both of whom are dedicated to rigorous self-exploration. Each is using the relationship to gain depth and breadth of knowledge about the only thing each can know: themselves.
Elegant, Intimate Relating is enacted at the direct meeting of two whole persons. I call this â€œmeeting at the boundaryâ€ â€“ I am still I, you are still you, and we meet to explore, to reveal, to be open and vulnerable through honest revelation.
The revelation has to be authentic
In EIR, you are choosing to be transparent with your partner. EIR is not about saying nice things, not about manipulating your partner to see or do things your way. Nor is it about hiding the fact that you have a range of feelings and emotions â€œin there.â€ Transparent authenticity is choosing to let yourself be seen â€“ as you are, and how you are.
Elegant, Intimate Relating happens only in the Here and Now
Itâ€™s not about your stories. Stories, at best, serve as a framework for true vulnerability.
Vulnerability is expressed by letting out what is going on for you, right now, with no excuses. This is me, right now. And part of â€œme, right now,â€ is the emotion that is happening inside of me. Not descriptions of the emotions, not blaming someone for the emotions, but rather the emotions themselves.
Once you â€œget this,â€ youâ€™ll also notice that emotions are fleeting. I can be sad, then bored, then weepy, then laugh-filled, then have the feeling of â€œnothing much,â€ but only if I do not cling to my story, a.k.a. thinking too much.
Un-guarding yourself means being willing to own and share your in-the-moment reality, without filtering. Being un-guarded means speaking your truth â€“ the truth that comes from â€œHere is what is so for meâ€¦â€
The point of Elegant, Intimate Relating is to clear the decks so that you can shift what is not working. Letting go of guardedness gives us the opportunity to see how we are structuring our stories to stay stuck. From there, you choose to do something new and refreshing. Itâ€™s not meant as an exercise in self-aggrandizement, and emphatically is not a game to stay stuck, while pretending to â€œget it.â€
Un-guarding means loosening the filters, and expressing yourself as you are, with focus and clarity.
The Beginning of Elegant, Intimate Relating
The Tools section of the book describes the â€œhowâ€ of an EIR. Hereâ€™s the â€œwhat.â€
Engaged Intimacy, first of all, requires a dialogue agreement
Let me whip out my crystal ball and declare that your past relationship failures were caused by poor, faulty, or non-existent verbal communication. Other problems were: non-verbal communication, magical thinking, lack of physical intimacy, and lack of self-responsibility.
We are going to establish a dialogue agreement, and then discuss how to enact it.
The Dialogue Agreement
â€œI have decided to commit myself to open, honest, and vulnerable communication. I will use a Communication Model, self-responsible language, and will keep my boundaries open and flexible. I will be in dialogue with you for no less than 30 minutes per day, and when issues cannot be resolved within that time-frame, I agree to make as much time as necessary to resolve the issue, with no compromise. I commit to keep you totally informed about what is going on for me: my stories, my games, my evasions. I will keep you completely informed about my feelings, my attractions, and my other relationships. I do so not for permission, but to facilitate clarity.â€
The Physical Contact Agreement
Given that weâ€™re discussing your Primary Relationship, physical contact is a given. Weâ€™ve noted that Engaged Intimacy is also available for other relationships. I think itâ€™s important to establish physical parameters, even within the Primary Relationship. Thus:
â€œI commit to using physical contact as another way of exploring my emotions, blockages, and my connection with you. I accept that physical contact is an end unto itself â€“ that it is not primarily a means to having sex. I will be open and honest about my need for emotional expression, and will use safe methods of expressing my emotions thoroughly. I will ask for what I want as regards physical contact, recognizing that what I want â€œnow,â€ may not be what I want â€œlater.â€ I will invite Bodywork pressure on â€œstuckâ€ parts of my body, and offer to do the same for you. I am open to expressing whatever feelings arise through physical contact, will stay focussed on myself, and will feel my feelings fully.â€
This becomes the framework for Engaged Intimacy
From this baseline, which you are free to add to, but not reduce, we begin the process of building intimacy and presence. I would suggest that you look carefully at the above Agreements, and then read through the â€œToolsâ€ chapters to follow. Once you have a grasp on how this all fits together, sit with your partner, begin right here with the Agreements, and structure your own agreements.
You will want to write out what you are agreeing to, and then sign it. Remember: all you can agree to is what you will do. This is not a conditional, â€œIf you do this, then Iâ€™ll do thatâ€ kind of agreement. You are making the commitment to yourself to act in a certain way, while in your partnerâ€™s presence. Iâ€™ll be reminding you of that as we go along.
The 9 Tools
It is our belief that self-knowing happens best in your Primary Relationship. This relationship has as its keys: elegant communication, vulnerability, (the willingness to open up) openness, (the willingness to take in) and intimacy (making full, honest contact.)
Through dialogue, baseline parameters are set, in the following two areas:
Engaged Communication â€“ this is the minimum requirement â€“ that there be open, honest, and intimate dialogue. We propose following the basic Communication Model described below â€“ using it to dig deeply, and learn more of both â€œselfâ€ and â€œpartner.â€
Engaged Contact â€“ after the above is established, the couple creates levels of physical contact. Itâ€™s essential to create flexible boundaries in this area, and to immediately discuss areas of confusion / discomfort.
Within the â€œsafe handsâ€ of Engaged Intimate, Relating anything is possible. We have the opportunity to trust, to open, to be vulnerable, and especially, to explore our own darkness, in the presence of a partner who is a curious, active participant.
The following 9 Tools form the basis for what is to follow â€“ we believe that this is the only way to achieve personal and relational contentment!
As I noted earlier, this book is seemingly about relationships, but itâ€™s actually a self-development book. Self-work is the only way to engage with life, with others, and with our way of being. Our relationships shift precisely as much as we, as individuals, shift.
What follows are brief descriptions of the 9 Tools
Iâ€™ll flesh them out in later chapters of this book. For now, let me suggest some understandings for each of these points, and how each applies to personal living and Elegant, Intimate Relating.
1. Total Honesty
Itâ€™s impossible to have a rich and meaningful relationship while keeping secrets (â€œThe flaw of omission,â€) or while lying (â€œThe flaw of commission.â€)
Many are the excuses for dishonesty:
â€¢ â€œIâ€™m an adult and I have a right to privacy.â€
â€¢ â€œ(S)he might get mad if I was honest about everything.â€
â€¢ â€œI just want to be me â€“ no need to talk about it.â€
â€¢ â€œWhite lies arenâ€™t harmful.â€
Being dishonest is a mini-betrayal. Itâ€™s an indicator that you donâ€™t trust your partner enough to share whatâ€™s up for you, and are embarrassed about your actions.
We advocate Total Honesty. And yes, sometimes being totally honest is scary, or might lead to a protracted discussion. But the truth is this: almost everyone who lies gets caught.
Personal: â€œIt is my intention to tell the truth, all the time. I recognize that how â€œdeeply I goâ€ depends on who Iâ€™m interacting with, but I will answer truthfully, and be direct and clear with everyone.â€
Relational: â€œFrom this point on, my policy with you is Total Honesty. Iâ€™ll let you know what I am thinking, how I am deciding, and what I am doing. I am not doing this for permission, but rather to foster intimacy and deepen our relationship.â€
2. Being Present
Presence is about 2 things:
â€¢ being in the moment, the Now, and
â€¢ being focussed on what you are doing.
Most of us live our lives either in our heads (story-telling), or detached from our selves (numb.) Sort of ghosts, walking.
Being in the Now helps us to stay focussed on the immediate situation, while adding little or no drama through storytelling or future projections. This kind of presence allows us to deal with each situation as it occurs.
Personal: â€œI just tuned out and ended up imagining all kinds of stories that have nothing to do with the situation before me. Iâ€™ll just have a breath and come back to the present moment.â€
Relational: â€œAs I listened to you, I caught myself telling myself familiar stories about how hard-done-by I am. I recognize that my stories have nothing to do with you or the situation, so Iâ€™m filling you in as a way to come back to the Here and Now.â€
3. Being self-responsible
Self-responsibility is not about self-blame. Rather, itâ€™s about claiming ownership of our lives.
It is â€˜normalâ€™ to push responsibility away. Most are willing to take credit for success, and want to point a finger elsewhere when confronted with things judged â€˜wrongâ€™ or â€˜bad.â€™
Self-responsibility is simple â€“ â€œI am the author of all of my life, as I view it right now.â€ This is not a denial that â€˜badâ€™ things happen,â€ and that others may even intend us harm. Itâ€™s to say that nothing compels us to act in ways that are non-helpful.
Personal: â€œThis is going on right now, and I am making myself uncomfortable. Nevertheless, I am in this situation because of my choices. I can, at any time, choose differently.â€
Relational: â€œI am upsetting myself over the way I perceive our relationship. Therefore, I will own my responsibility for having gotten myself into the state I am in, and I will decide what I will do next.â€
4. Speaking clearly – Use dialogue to know yourself
We teach a specific Communication Model, and do so because most people are lousy communicators. Rather than use communication to deepen their self-understanding, they use it to justify their â€œhardenedâ€ behaviour and thinking, while proving others wrong. Or, they use communication to blame.
As soon as you harden a thought into a belief, you become â€œunteachable.â€
Dialogue, on the other hand, is about exploring our personal beliefs as we listen to feedback. It is essential to bear in mind that this exploration is only possible if you choose to hold your beliefs and â€œdemandsâ€ loosely.
Personal: â€œHere is what I see, here is what I feel in my body, and here are the stories I am telling myself.â€
Relational: â€œI want to share with you my provisional guesses about what I see happening right now. Iâ€™m wondering about your perspectives on my stories.â€
5. Being Curious — and NODing
When we live our lives up in our heads, dwelling on the past and fearing the future, we think that our version of misery is reality. We get locked into thought-loops. We exit the moment, shut down by tightening our bodies, and dwell in â€œNever-Never Land.â€ The â€œNeverâ€ part is actually, â€œMy life will never be different, and Iâ€™ll never be able to change.â€
Curiosity is the opposite of self-righteousness and blame. If you pay attention, youâ€™ll notice that you are often confused about your own motivations and actions. How then, could you ever think you had a clue about whatâ€™s up for others?
Personal: â€œI am drifting into past and future again. What is actually happening right now? Is anything required of me, right now? What does my body want to do? What would happen if I stopped telling myself stores, sat down, and had a breath?â€
Relational: â€œWhen I confront situations like this one, I get caught in a mind loop… Iâ€™m wondering if you would have time to listen to my description, and then Iâ€™d like to hear about how you get yourself out of your mind-loops.â€
6. Letting go of Drama and Storytelling
Obviously, we have a story about ourselves â€“ one we are anxious to tell others, and one we believe is â€˜true.â€™ The story contains fragments of our biography, and mostly consists of examples that support our victim-story. One of the great leaps of self-responsibility is the understanding that our stories are â€œjust stories.â€
We have much invested in our life-story, and also give much energy to defending everything that props it up. We move past this by allowing ourselves to question both the accuracy and validity of the stories we are telling.
Letting go of drama is similar. Because we spend so much time talking to ourselves, about ourselves, we have a tendency to see ourselves as the centre of everything. Now, certainly, we are the centre of our own universe and experience â€“ weâ€™re just not the centre of anything else. Despite our desire, no one is going to make us the centre of their universe. And the stuff that happens is the stuff that happens. Itâ€™s not happening to you personally.
Personal: â€œHere is what is actually happening right now. I notice the story Iâ€™m struggling to tell, where Iâ€™m a poor, helpless victim, and I choose, this time, in this moment, to let that story go. In this moment, Iâ€™ll be present and aware, and see what, if anything, is required of me.â€
Relational: â€œSo, I notice that Iâ€™m hearing you speak, and Iâ€™m seeing what youâ€™re doing, and Iâ€™m telling myself all kinds of stories about how you are punishing me, or trying to manipulate me. I notice that I am creating these stories out of my thought-loops, and I want to acknowledge that Iâ€™m doing this. I will now let go, and return to being open and curious.â€
7. Being Flexible
The lynch-pin for Elegant, Intimate Relating is flexibility.
I may have spent years developing my relating style, but I also have the power, each time, to change what I am doing.
Integrity plays a big part here
While I know that I have complete freedom of expression, I also begin to look at the consequences (results) of my actions. I evaluate the result I am getting against what I have committed to â€“ Elegant, Intimate Relating â€“ and only do what deepens my relating.
This is flexibility
Personal: â€œHere I go again, doing the very things that endlessly land me in the soup. This is who I am, but right now, I can transform this pattern by stopping, having a breath, and making another choice.â€
Relational: â€œWow, there I go again, blaming you for how I am feeling. I accept that I do this, and am pleasing myself that I caught myself this time. Give me a second to have a breath, and then Iâ€™ll shift back to dialogue.â€
8. Feeling Your Feelings
Feelings have a bad reputation. People resist their â€˜negativeâ€™ feelings â€“ are caught in judgement â€“ endlessly assigning â€œgood / bad, right / wrongâ€ categories to everything.
Essential to Elegant, Intimate Relating is total acceptance of each and every feeling
As we meditate, for example, what becomes clear is that thoughts and feelings flow through us like clouds crossing the sky. If we latch on to the feeling / thought, we create suffering for ourselves. If we express the thought or feeling, we can let it go.
There are no â€˜badâ€™ feelings â€“ there are, however, non-useful ways to express them. So, we accept and transform each feeling by expressing it with awareness.
Personal: â€œI am aware of my anger, my boredom, my sexuality and sensuality, my tightness, my shutting down â€“ all of my feelings. I accept that these feelings pass through me â€“ they are not me, but rather expressions of my moment-by-moment experience. I therefore choose to express them safely and thoroughly.â€
Relational: â€œIâ€™m noticing that [the current feelings] are coming up for me, and Iâ€™m wondering if youâ€™d be interested in helping me to fully experience and express them, so that I can learn their lesson and then move on to whatever is next.â€
9. Exploring Sensuality and Sexuality
Most adults have â€œissuesâ€ around open, honest, and deep revelation and expression of matters sexual. The discomfort is deep-seated â€“ stretching back to childhood.
Because of our discomfort, we talk in euphemisms and hints. We tend to only get part of what we are looking for, and might be unclear about what we want.
We also have desires and attractions for others, and are uncomfortable both with the feelings themselves, and with sharing them. We avoid conversions about our â€œturn-ons,â€ out of confusion, fear, and to avoid jealousy. We end up more confused, blocked, and wary.
Personal: â€œI am doing some serious work exploring my sensual and sexual nature. I am going to use clear language to describe who I am and what I want sexually, and I am going to create â€œVulnerability Projectsâ€ to explore areas I am curious about / scare myself over.â€
Relational: â€œI am noticing that I have some issues as regards my sensuality / sexuality. I am exploring these issues, and I will keep you informed about what I am discovering, as well as invite you to work on some of this with me. I also commit to keeping you updated on people I am relating with, and letting you know who I find attractive, chargy, etc.â€
Letâ€™s see how this all plays out.