Every man knows that his highest purpose in life cannot be reduced to any particular relationship. If a man prioritizes his relationship over his highest purpose, he weakens himself disserves the universe, and cheats his woman of an authentic man who can offer her full, undivided presence.
Admit to yourself that if you had to choose one or the other, the perfect intimate relationship or achieving your highest purpose in life, you would choose to succeed at your purpose. Just this self-knowledge often relieves much pressure a man feels to prioritize his relationship when, in fact, it is not his highest priority.
Your mission is your priority. Unless you know your mission and have aligned your life to it, your core will feel empty. Your presence in the world will be weakened, as will your presence with your intimate partner. The next time you notice yourself “giving in” to your woman, postponing your mission and denying your true purpose in order to spend time with her, stop. Tell your woman that you love her, but you cannot deny your heart’s purpose and mission.
Co-Author Reboot Your Relationship, LMFT, Educator
David Deida, The Way of the Superior Man
“It’s your fault. You hurt me. You did this to me. I hate it when you… If you just….”
This is the message of the victim. It’s also an unchecked habit about how many of us relate to others. While very popular, it is very limited.
Hollywood, romance novels, and cheesy movies like Jerry McGuire perpetuate our magical thinking about relationship, as it did mine for over a decade (I was that guy who kept looking for the one to complete me, which caused me and the women I dated a lot of unnecessary suffering).
If our view (context) is that relationships are supposed to always be a safe haven, a place where we are fully met by our partner, or a “feel good” love fest where someone “completes me,” then the practice will be directed at trying to achieve this ideal. This view is a recipe for failure and disappointment, but most folks go along with it and keeps all parties involved stuck in immature love.
If, on the other hand, our view is that relationship is an ongoing practice rather than a static destination, then we can create practices that support this more realistic view. Our expectations and results will then be very different. We also start to see “practice” as a place other than the cushion or yoga mat. We see it all around us each and everyday.
If your claim is that you want to change your relationship life, you must be honest about where you are being a victim and wanting a rescue-job. It’s understandable where you got this message. The media and our culture inundate us with nonsense about how relationships are supposed to be. Many of us still think that when we find the one all will be well and they will complete us. Or maybe some of us think a “conscious” relationship means that we somehow transcend our issues, triggers, and neurosis.
When you don’t want to do the real work of relationship, you end up settling on these outdated views given to you by your parents, culture, traditions or teachers, thus perpetually avoiding the mountain of trauma, loss, hurt, anger, neglect, abandonment, rejection, that is living inside of you, which comes up very naturally in relationship.
This outdated view is keeping you perpetually young and unsatisfied. It keeps you trapped in the belief that you are supposed to always be happy in relationship or that the “right” relationship or “unrealistic” relationship will make you happy. Then we get upset when it never happens. We might even compare ourselves to others who make it look like this is happening (even though it rarely is) and we feel like crap. These are more reasons to be hard on ourselves. And, if we have a tendency to project perfection onto our teachers, we also remain susceptible to projecting “relationship perfection” onto our lovers and friends while remaining a hurt child inside.
The way out of this magical thinking?
We can learn to be adults devoted and committed to learning about “mature love.” We can heal through our relational hurts and pains and grow ourselves up on a daily basis.
We can turn this whole ship around people.
If our claim is that we are about being totally, authentically who we are, then we need to see all the places, and ways in which, we are afraid to live it. If we examine ourselves closely most of us are not living very authentically. We are living someone else’s dream in someone else’s value stream. And, if we take a deeper peek behind our mask, it turns out that we care about all kinds of things. We care about other’s opinions of us, we worry about how they might react to us, we compare ourselves. We put ourselves up and others down or them down and us up. We are afraid to feel the stuff we’d have to feel by being our genuine Self.
Why do a lot of us behave this way? Perhaps because we want acceptance. Maybe because it hurts to feel judged. Maybe it’s a higher priority to beat ourselves up in hiding than be a loving mess out in the open. But the big reason we dare not be who we really are is that as children we traded our authenticity in exchange for relationship. As kids we were not fully embraced for who we were, and since connection is food and we needed it, we abandoned ourselves and created strategies to belong in the family. These are the roots of co-dependency and if you are not aware of this, you’ll unconsciously keep rocking that smart strategy that worked for you as a child and be less fulfilled in your relationships as a result. Good to recognize and see what we are up against if we truly want to be a self-governed soul on this human journey.
Find Joe here:
I was emotionally shut down for years. Every woman I dated had to deal with my inability to identify a feeling. She would ask, “Hey is something bothering you?” I would reply, “No, I’m fine” with a hint of defensiveness.
The closest I ever came to identifying what was really going on was “I’m in a funk.” Many folks know this as feeling off somehow or my personal favorite, “I’m in a bad mood.”
Underneath such comments is an entire emotional landscape that remains largely unexplored. The metaphor I like to use is that of a lake.
When standing on the shore of a large lake, you can see ripples, colors, and reflections. If it is windy or stormy out, the surface of the lake changes and makes it even harder to see beneath the surface. Not until the storm dies down can you begin to see more clearly. When things are still, the lakes surface mirrors it’s surroundings.
Venture beyond the shoreline and even more possibility opens up. The lake takes on a new perspective. Looking beyond the reflection it becomes three dimensional and you can see below the surface.
We are very similar. When we are upset, it is hard to see things clearly. The only way to see things clearly is to take some space from the upset, calm down and gain a new perspective. Why am I mentioning this metaphor?
Because feeling helps you see clearly. And seeing clearly helps you move more freely toward what you want in your life. And when you get what you want, you are more fulfilled.
But Why Is It So Hard For Dudes to Feel?
Contrary to some big generalizations out there men do in fact feel, but most men were trained as little boys by the “boy code” to not feel. They were trained and taught to suck it up not cry etc. For example, as a boy I was trained by my Dad and my culture to not feel. To feel meant I would be judged as a wimp, a girl or even gay. (As if girls or gay people are somehow bad?) So, men do feel, it’s just challenging for many men to know what they are feeling.
So, it’s understandable why many men don’t allow themselves to feel and can’t even identify a feeling. Many adult men are still very scared to feel their feelings because if they do, their fear is they will be judged as not manly, acting like a girl or being weak or gay.
So, most men never venture out beyond the shoreline and certainly don’t look below the surface. Therefore, many men remain locked up, shut down and not free.
The cost of not being willing to feel
1. relationship blues
Sadly, these old fears keep many men locked up around their feelings and lead to very frustrating relationships for women dating these men. Rather than dive in to the unknown waters of intimacy, men stay on the shore, where it is safe. But as any sailor will tell you, a ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for (a William Shedd quote).
Moreover, men who shut down or stuff their feelings remain emotionally constipated and have very little facility or freedom when it comes to intimacy. Then, they keep resisting actual help like couples counseling.
2. narrow bandwidth of expression.
If you never let yourself feel grief, anger, sadness and other “negative” emotions, you will have less access to the “positive” emotions such as joy, love, and happiness. The waters you are able to swim and navigate are more shallow. For example, if you avoid “negative” emotions, you might experience some happiness but the depth with which you feel it is limited.
3. you are not free.
Staying on the shore, you never really get to test if your vessel is seaworthy. Freedom is the open water of who you are, not the shore.
4. physical problems.
Most body workers, massage therapists, and good body-centered, somatic therapists know that the body holds and stores trauma and unexpressed emotion. The more you hold, the more the body has to carry the burden. Your boat begins to decay having never touched water. Stoic men who never learn to feel, are simply in pain.
5. You are less available to give and receive love.
If you shut yourself off from your own emotions and never “set sail”, you’ll never know what it is like to swim or sail. The endless terrain that is available to you will remain a distant dream. If you want to feel more love, try feeling all your feelings. Try exploring what lies below the surface farther from the shore.
If you choose to feel, a huge reward awaits you
For the brave who do decide to face the unknown lake of discomfort and painful emotion, what you will experience may shock you. Try it and see what happens. Let me know what you discover. To me it’s something like an elixir.
But Where Do I Start?
1. Get quiet: When you are upset or “in a funk” sit down or lie down and be still. You cannot see below the surface until you are still. Meditation is a tool that can help.
2. Get Curious: Start with the facts before you begin to interpret or try to figure it out. Target 3 main areas:
a. Thoughts–When did it start? Ask yourself when this feeling started? Was it the fight with your partner last week? Was it a call with your parents? An ex-lover? Did something piss you off at work? Where are your thoughts going and what are they like?
b. Emotions—What does it feel like? explore the feeling quality and the sensation that goes a long with it. Is it hot? cold? tight? humming? vibrating? tense? soft, achy? Does it have a color? a tone? Does it radiate? is it dense? thick?
c. Body sensations–Where in your body do you feel it? Is it in your throat? Gut? Chest? Where does it live?
3. Take responsibility for what you are feeling: Name it, begin to articulate it with a friend. For example, “wow, for the last few days I was locked up. Now I know that it started when ____happened. I have felt tense and irritated ever since. I feel shut down and I don’t want to be around anyone.”
4. Notice what your default behavior is when you feel this way. When you find yourself, “in a funk” do you numb out with TV? food? sugar? porn? masturbation? alcohol? drugs? Or do you isolate? Or both?
5. Choose to feel it until it changes. Have the balls to turn toward it. After all, what is the worst thing that could happen?
Want to feel more love and lightness in your life? Then start saying “yes” to feelings you have been saying “no” to. Invite them in and get to know them. As John Wellwood says, befriend your emotions. See what happens and report back.
It is possible that when you venture out beyond the shores and swim farther out in the lake that you might experience more fear, but at the same time more freedom and aliveness.
Find Joe here:
In the mere contemplation of love, we are humbled. For who among us could ever claim to have “figured it out?” The mysteries of love and how to make it work baffle even the most well-intentioned. In many contexts, from parenting to marriage, friendship to business relationships, we find that our best efforts often fail and disappointment finds its way into our most valued sphere of life.
Why is this? There are many reasons, but they all come down to a basic orientation in ourselves towards ourselves. In other words, ever since the beginning of time, we have been basically looking out for number one, and that is the surest way to destroy a relationship. We have a tendency to think of ourselves first instead of the relationship itself. We are trying to get what we want instead of seeing also the needs of others. And as a result of this self-orientation we destroy all chances of getting what we want and need, which in the final analysis is always love.
So, in an edition dedicated to love we thought it appropriate to look at some of the things that we do that get in the way of love. In some ways, it is also a look at maturity, for it is only the mature person who loves well. We will be taking a look at the ways of functioning that prevent love from growing in almost any context, whether it be, friendship, marriage, parenting, work or really any and all relationships.
And before we get into looking at these traits, one sober word of warning: In looking for the problems in any relationship we are in, we always do well to point the finger back at ourselves. There is no doubt that others cause some of the pain and failure of relationships in our lives. But the reality is that we are probably adding to the problem or if we are not, we probably could be doing some things better that would give us a better chance of working it out, even if you find yourself in a relationship with a “problem person.” Sometimes, the most immature people can grow when in the presence of an integrating relationship. So, in looking at some of the dynamics of what the barriers are to good relationships, keep yourself in mind. The more that you can take ownership of these tendencies in yourself, the more likely you are to make relationships work and to pick people who are able to make them work as well. Mature people tend to pick mature people. Now, join me in a look at the things that poison love.
The Love Killers-Poisons To Avoid
Self-centeredness or Ego-centricity
Many people think of selfish people as being difficult. But “self-centeredness” comes closer to the real description of what a truly selfish person is. What it means is that someone basically experiences life mostly in terms of him or herself. Someone has said, “To interpret any event only in terms of how it affects oneself is to live on the doorstep of Hell.” And that is true.
When one is self-centered, he guarantees the failure of love, for love is an attachment between two people, and the self-centered person denies the reality of the “other.” He only sees others as extensions of himself. They exist to make him happy, serve his needs, regulate his feelings or drives in life. And whey they fail to do that by having an existence of their own, he has some sort of negative reaction, such as anger, withdrawal of love, controlling behavior or rejection. This orientation to another person being more of an object for self-gratification than a person makes a true attachment impossible. Love requires two people, not one person and an “object.”
We could write about this dynamic for a long time, but one quick way to understand it is to look at it in terms of the quote above. “Only me” involves not ever adapting to someone else’s wishes or needs, or sacrificing something that I want for another person or a purpose or group larger than myself. Or to think of the significance of events or people only as I am benefited or denied.
Lack of Observing Oneself
The idea is this and is one of the most frustrating qualities that anyone can have in a relationship: The inability to see one’s own behavior, especially when one is wrong. Have you ever had that experience, to be in a relationship with someone who could not see when they were wrong? There is such little hope to get past any conflict that you might be having.
No relationship or person is perfect. And we can work out any kind of conflict with anyone as long as the two people involved are able and willing to look at their own behavior and own it. The act of ownership of our wrongs makes moving past the conflict and getting to a deeper connection possible, and when someone cannot see their wrong, the relationship gets stuck.
The injured party feels hopeless, and there is little chance for comforting them by the one who hurt them, because no apology is forthcoming. The conflict cannot be solved.
Inability to Validate Another’s Experience
Being understood is one of our deepest needs. We don’t really need to know that we are “right,” as much as we need to know that someone understands how we feel and what our “reality” is. Making this connection with each other is called “empathy.” When we feel a certain way, we need to know that others validate our experience, meaning that they understand how it is for us.
We need to be listened to and understood, not quickly negated for how we feel and what we think. Research has shown that some of the most serious emotional disorders come from having ones emotions misunderstood. For instance, how do you feel when someone says, “Oh, come on, that didn’t hurt!” or “Oh, that wasn’t so bad.” We immediately go further away inside our hearts, and feel a breach with the person. On the other hand, when someone says something that shows their understanding, we are more open to input about our reality.
“Sounds like that was very difficult for you,” is an example of an empathic statement that draws people closer together.
Understanding how someone feels or thinks, or how an experience was for them is something that builds bonds and connections between people. The inability to do that destroys connection and alienates the parties.
This one sounds weird, for it seems that playing fair would be a good thing. It means that we treat others as they treat us. If they are kind, then we are kind. If they hurt us, then we hurt them back. If they are immature, then we are immature as well.
It is easy for us to be good to those who earn it. The problem is that no one earns it all the time, and every relationship has problem behavior. This is why simple “fairness” cannot work, for then the worst behavior in the relationship becomes the common denominator.
To transcend a pattern in a relationship, we cannot play fair and return evil for evil. The only way for any relationship to overcome our imperfections is for the receiving party to be “bigger than that,” and return grace and truth instead of the injury. Simple fairness will kill any relationship.
“The lights are on but nobody is home.” To be emotionally detached is to be out of touch with one’s feelings and unable to be emotionally present in a relationship. It can be a killer to intimacy, because it feels to the other party that they are alone, even though someone is there.
When we are out of touch with our feelings and cannot express them to one another, then intimacy is blocked, and our experience is one of the person’s heart being “far away.”
To feel close, we need to be present emotionally. Our needs, vulnerabilities, fears, pain, tender feelings, and the like must be communicated and expressed. When someone is detached from feelings, and the ability to express them, the other person cannot feel the kind of connection that we think of as “intimacy,” or “being known.” Intimacy involves the heart, as well as the mind. If someone is out of touch with their deep feelings and innermost parts, then shallow relationships are what follows.
Control and Denial of Separateness
The idea freedom is so important. But the reality is that many people do not honor freedom in their relationships. They do not see the other person as a free person from them, able to make their own decisions and have their own desires. Instead, they see the other as an extension of themselves, and have strong attempts to control the freedom of the one they “love.”
Love can only exist where there is freedom. Our attempts to control what another person thinks, feels, wants, does, values, believes, etc. are destined to drive them away, and ultimately destroy love. Love only exists as we see another person in their own right as a separate individual. When someone says “no,” we are to respect it. When they have choices and wishes that are different from ours, we are to respect them as well.
Wish For Eden
There was a time when everything was perfect. It was called paradise, and the Bible refers to it as the Garden of Eden. In that place, everything was “good.” But, as the rest of the Bible tells us, and history confirms, Eden has been lost, and we live in an imperfect world. What that translates to in the world of relationships is that we will always be in relationships with people who have imperfections.
To the extent that someone has come to grip with this reality, they have satisfactory relationships. They can accept others for who they are and solve problems. But if they still have a wish to be in the Garden where things are perfect, they are always frustrated with the people they find themselves connected to. They always want more, they judge and protest the reality of who the person is and there is very little safety for love to grow.
Narcissism and perfectionism are killers to real relationship. Real love can only grow where someone’s “real self” can be known and accepted by the other person. If there are demands for perfection and the “ideal person,” then love is blocked.
“I Know Better” and other “Parental Dynamics”
Adults who are in significant relationships are meant to be equals and share the reality of who they are in a spirit of mutuality. Some people, however, want not to be equals, but one-up on the other person. They want to be in more of a parent-child type of connection where they are in charge. They have expectations for the other to be in subjection to them in some strange way, and are dominating in their style.
This type of “I know better” stance blocks love in a horrible way, as the person who is “under” feels belittled, controlled, dominated and disrespected. In the best scenario’s, the so-called “benevolent dictator,” the one on the bottom rung fails to grow up and develop into who they were meant to be.
Typical of this type of stance are a lot of “you should’s,” that dominate the person’s thinking, as they freely tell the other person how to think, live, be and what to do. The biggest problems to love in this type of connection come from the resentment in the one-down person, and their drive to become independent from the dominating one. We are to all be equals and put no one on a parental pedestal.
Lack of Boundaries
The last block to love that we will consider is the lack of boundaries. What this means is someone’s inability to take a stance of self-control and to have a proper relation to the word “no.” Boundary problems are usually seen in someone’s inability to either say “no,” or hear “no” from others. When we have these kinds of disturbances, we either allow people to walk all over us in a way that destroys respect, or we walk all over them and “trespass” against them, destroying love in the process. True love respects each other’s boundaries, saying “no” when we need to, and respecting it when we hear it.
Another aspect of boundaries has to do with requiring responsible behavior from each other in a relationship and taking a stance against bad when it occurs. True love cannot grow when dysfunction and chaos is allowed to triumph. When we have the boundaries to take a stance against it, we preserve the good in a relationship and help it to grow by solving problems.
Love is not an easy thing to accomplish in this life. In fact, it is so difficult because of our particular inclinations to do the very things we just talked about. There is a part of all of us that tends to try to please ourselves instead of accomplish love, and in the process we lose the love that we wanted in the first place. Remember, love does not “just happen.” It takes work. And part of the work that you will have to do is to avoid the kinds of barriers to love mentioned above.
Find Joe Whitcomb at http://www.facebook.com/therelationshipsociety