For most of my clients, everything looks perfectly good from the outside.
Men and women, women and women, men and men…all are devoted to their family, they work hard and show up for birthday parties and soccer games. They remember anniversaries (at least most of the time), and they are typically supportive of one another.
And, under that, the relationship includes deep, unspoken pain. The pain that comes with not being seen, not feeling heard, not being cherished, not being admired, or desired.
Sally was 48 and Gary was 47 when I met them a few years ago. They have two children, Natalie was in 10th grade and Jasmine in 8th grade.
In their home, they had happy family photos of all four of them, of each child, and groupings of various sorts. (Though with my eye, I noted that in all the recent family photos Sally and Gary had their arms around the girls and far less often around one another.) Sally is an attorney and Gary owns a medical supply company.
They both work hard.
Nevertheless, they were able to arrange things so that Mon-Thursday Sally was home when the girls got home from school and needed to be driven to ballet, choir, soccer or swim team, and Gary was home early on Fridays so he could take them to their extra dance class now that they were both on pointe.
By all appearances, they looked like a happy family, with Sally and Gary enjoying a happy marriage.
And, in many ways they were.
They didn’t argue about finances. They rarely argued about anything. And when they had a disagreement or different inclinations, most of the time they did what Sally wanted.
They used to spend some time negotiating things, but in recent years there seemed to be a lot less negotiating, and a lot more moving into whatever Sally wanted. She sometimes wondered about that and wondered if that really worked for Gary.
But it was a fleeting concern because she also knew that what she wanted would be best for everyone in the family, so it made sense to her that they did what she wanted.
Every now and then Gary had an idea which was awesome, but mostly she knew better what to do. He seemed to have recognized that and didn’t put much effort into resisting anything that mattered to her.
Gary was the decision-maker in his company and had a lot of challenges there, and had learned to become an effective leader, taking good care of his team, and being in a position to provide well for his family.
So he never saw the point in pushing anything when Sally wanted to do things, and he felt that it all worked out well for everyone. With busy full lives and such a satisfactory relationship, Sally and Gary sometimes felt smug and proud that they had such a strong marriage.
After all, they had friends who had gone through divorces—some toxic, nasty, and really hurtful and some seemingly more collaborative, but either way, there was such loss of dreams, of the family, of a future built with their partner in life.
So, yes, sometimes they were smug and glad to get along so well.
However, when I met them, they weren’t feeling smug; they were feeling very tender.
And hesitant to talk about their difficulties.
Unsure if they even needed my help. I listened, recognizing this familiar situation.
The situation where everything seems like it should be great.
But…it is not.
They hadn’t had sex in 6 months, and they couldn’t remember when last they made love—losing themselves in one another and feeling more alive because of it.
They had shed any flirtatiousness and had transitioned into being roommates and hadn’t even noticed when it happened. So here they were, yearning for more connection with one another, and feeling hopeless, with no idea what to do about it.
Sally had read a few books and tried to implement some suggestions. The results were disappointing: it never worked out in her life the way it did in the books.
She wondered if she was no longer attractive to him. And what emerged is that Gary was totally attracted to her, but trapped with feelings of inadequacy, unable to figure out how to make his woman happy—in bed and out.
This is a very tender moment in a relationship—the time when everything looks like it’s great and a couple is ready to…
Acknowledge to themselves that it isn’t, acknowledge it to themselves, and also take a step to do something about it.
And, what I tell every single couple, is that there truly is SO MUCH to be done.
Intimacy (emotional and otherwise) is absolutely a learnable skill and I teach it every single day.
If this resonates with you, know you are not alone and in fact, the majority of couples are in this kind of situation.
If this resonates with you, let me know how it feels to read this email and if there is anything you want me to write about next.
In Service to Your Transformation,
Last week school started where I live. Traffic patterns shift with drop off and pick up times. The neighborhood is quieter during the day. Parents everywhere have a little more breathing room in their schedule. The newness of shiny backpacks and unread books brings excitement, along with trepidation about what’s ahead.
It’s also a great time for new beginnings for adults. As temperatures cool and heads clear, there is room for new endeavors, for tasks not yet done to be completed and new dreams to emerge.
If your dreams involve more self-love, improved communication skills, or getting started in business, I have some low cost or FREE opportunities for you, amazing workshops and classes being offered by three of my friends and colleagues.
Kari Lynn Morgan is a passionate woman who knows how to enjoy life in the good times, and how to connect with herself in times of struggle. She will be teaching, “Finding Self-Love in Times of Darkness”.
How do you love yourself when you feel unlovable?
In times of sadness, anger, resentment, victimhood, we can still choose to love who we are.
This 6-week course will explore ways to stay present and loving, with all parts of you, even in difficult times. We’ll explore questions such as:
- What does self-love mean to you?
- How do you stay connected when you want to run?
- What is the difference between self-love and avoidance?
- What happens when it gets too difficult?
- Why shouldn’t I just “pop out of it?”
Click here to find out more about this live online course, taught by Kari Lynn Morgan.
Terri Moon is offering “Increasing Connection with Self and Others: An Intro to Heart-based Communication”.
Terri is a warm-hearted woman with a loving, generous presence.
For more information, click here.
I have had the pleasure of teaming up with Jen Serebrin, host of “Successful Start for Entrepreneurs”. Her online show is all about getting started in business, learning tips and tools from others who are successful, so that you set yourself up for success!
The show starts on September 3rd and is FREE. Register for the event by clicking here.
In Service to Your Transformation,
One of the big challenges in relationship is not having role models worth emulating.
If you want to be an Olympic gymnast, you have Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas (and many others) to inspire you. If you want to be an amazing entrepreneur you have Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos to inspire you. And so it goes in music, science, and yes, even politics, though not necessarily currently.
But when it comes to relationships, it’s really hard to find people who inspire and whose relationship you would want to recreate in your own life.
This really matters.
Because as humans we learn through imitation; the lack of role models makes it that much harder to create the relationship you really want.
This is what inspired me to create “Conscious Partnership: Connect, Ignite, Create”. In it I tell the stories of three amazing couples I have coached, sharing details about their relationship before working with me, what they did to shift it, and what their relationship is like now (all with their permission, of course).
Their stories provide Inspiration, Permission, and Hope.
In the Conscious Partnership Program, during the live calls, couples get to hear about one another’s journeys, and it is always amazing how relevant one couples’ challenges and triumphs are to others.
After years of coaching couples privately (which I still do), I was a little hesitant to offer a group program where couples enjoy interesting videos and exercises, and also participate in a Group Q and A Coaching call. I thought it might have people share less, but the opposite happens.
In the Conscious Partnership Program, couples are inspired hearing one another’s stories. They get perspective on their own story just from hearing what someone else is dealing with. The calls are the opposite of the “everything’s perfect”, curated sharing that is available on Facebook and other social media.
In these calls, sharing is real and authentic and heartfelt. And sometimes quite painful, when that is the reality of the moment.
In hearing others, something synergistic happens! Invariably, when one person shares and receives coaching, everyone evolves.
I wonder if that’s how it was when we lived in much more connected neighborhoods, and small villages, coming together around common needs for survival and companionship. The closest I have come to experiencing that was when I was 22, and worked in a hospital lab. All of my coworkers were women.
Every decade was represented, up to a woman in her 70s, and each of these women lived a life that aligned with some similar and some different values. I doubt we would have chosen to all hang out on a regular basis—in fact I am certain of it. Yet, being together 8 hours a day in the closeness of a microbiology lab, we did a lot more than work together.
In that lab, I listened as one woman spoke about how she felt when her young daughter discovered her husband’s stash of Playboy magazines. (This was before the internet and internet porn.). She had been able to look the other way, and feel that it was “no big deal” for herself, but when her daughter brought them to her with questions, she realized it hadn’t felt as straightforward as she had wanted to believe.
Another woman, herself in an arranged marriage, talked through the realities of a daughter who shared with her that she was planning to lose her virginity to her high school sweetheart. That woman was all courage as she wrestled exquisitely with her childhood culture blending with her daughter’s reality. She strove to deal with the tension in herself, while still giving her daughter some standards that made sense.
In that lab, one of my coworkers was very overweight—a wonderful woman wanting to be healthy and feel attractive. But every time she lost more than 50 pounds her husband passive aggressively undermined her. If she became too confident and too attractive, it would completely distort the couple’s power dynamic–one which he thoroughly enjoyed.
I listened, with gratitude for the authenticity of these shares. And in the decades since, as I married, raised children, and faced other situations I first learned from them, their heartfelt yearnings have come to mind…they are fuel for my own deliberations and decision-making.
In the Conscious Partnership Program Q and A Coaching calls, this quality of sharing is the norm. People share things rarely spoken to others. And, in the process, magic happens…man and woman soften.
They become Soulful, Proactive, and Inspired–completely in awe of what is possible in their own and others’ relationships.
- Where do you get inspiration for your relationship?
- Do you have people in your life whose relationship you admire?
- Would you like to join the Conscious Partnership Program and join our riveting, helpful conversations?
When my husband and I had been married for 15 years, we were interviewed by a woman in New York City, I’ll call her Jessica.
She was a successful professional who was living with her boyfriend of five years. He wanted to get married, but she really wasn’t sure what she wanted. One thing Jessica knew for sure… was that she didn’t want to get married and then discover she had made the wrong choice.
A friend of ours suggested she reach out and interview couples who were married for at least 5 years, and ask them what worked for them and what didn’t, how they knew they were right for one another, and any other questions that naturally arose.
At 15 years of marriage at the time, we had been married longer than any of her other friends, and she chose to interview us first. She got a lot of useful information from the conversation; for my husband and me it was an absolutely amazing experience.
The call took place in July, and each one of us was in a different location. Jessica was in her apartment in New York City, running the air conditioning to avoid the heaviness of the city’s summertime humidity. I was in Massachusetts with our children, enjoying occasional breezes from the nearby ocean while I packed up a 4 bedroom home where we had lived for 5 years.
I was packing it up, and also discarding about half our belongings in preparation for our move halfway across the United States to SW rural Kansas. Meanwhile, my husband was already on his way to our new home, and spoke as he drove through Missouri and hours and hours of flat Kansan prairie.
After living in New England for a decade and a half, with meandering roads and uneven terrain, I recall him saying that all that expanse seemed to put things in perspective, and help him access the big picture.
As he drove, and I took a break from packing, and Jessica sat in her NY apartment, we had a three way conversation. We took turns responding to Jessica’s questions, which meant I got to hear everything my husband said and he got to hear everything I said. Two of his responses really stuck out for me.
The first was when he described falling in love with me.
We met in medical school, and grew our relationship passing notes to one another as we sat together in Biochemistry and Gross Anatomy lectures.
This was long before smart phones, and we passed actual pieces of paper back and forth—sometimes commenting on the lecture material, sometimes commenting on other students who annoyed or impressed us, sometimes commenting on the evening we had enjoyed the night before, or an argument we were having…. As we wrote, we often had a guest lecturer.
A researcher, who was an expert in his field, would come and teach us for one day, or perhaps two. He or she shared about their topic and then left again. This meant that most days there was a new professor at the front of the room, a new professor who wasn’t familiar with the buttons and switches required to operate the technology.
So…sometimes they just didn’t operate it.
This meant that a lecturer would be teaching us something with the lights on, and then start a powerpoint presentation that would be hard to see in the bright lecture hall lights. I would find it astonishing, but sure enough the lecturer would keep talking.
So I raised my hand and when called upon, did not ask a question about the biochemistry equation or the layers of muscle in the lower back. Nope, I raised my hand to request the professor turn the lights down so we could read the slides. A bit of fumbling would ensue, and then the lights would be turned off.
This was fine, until the professor wanted to illustrate a finer point by writing on the blackboard. So, again, I would raise my hand and request the lights be turned on so we could see what was on the blackboard.
Eventually, I would raise my hand and request the lights be adjusted as needed for learning, and inform the professor where the switch was to cut down on the fumbling, and minimize the break in the flow of learning.
For me it was confounding.
How could someone be teaching and not be oriented to optimize our learning?
I attended alternative schools and had highly engaging wonderful teachers in college, and had never experienced this kind of attitude in teachers prior to entering medical school.
My husband, on the other hand, attended very fine public schools and Harvard University.
He was very used to the lack of attention on the learning experience, and in fact, had never encountered someone who cared so much about the experience of everyone in the room.
At the time I felt a little embarrassed to be raising my hand to communicate about lighting, and wished I had more erudite questions about the material like some of my smartest classmates.
For my husband, that never mattered. Because almost two decades later he was telling Jessica while driving through Kansas, that experiencing my attention to the environment and people’s experience was what had him fall in love with me.
Experiencing my attention to how things work and feel had him feel good, relaxed, and joyous in a way he had never known before. I will always be grateful to Jessica for being the one who asked the question that gave me this answer.
The second thing that caught my attention was when he spoke about how our relationship went from pretty okay/good, to really superb and excellent. He said there was nothing I said or did. There was no particular event. There was nothing that suddenly caught his attention.
He just woke up one morning, clear that he was going to show up as much as he possibly could, and rather than waiting for me to make everything great, he was going to do everything he could to be the kind of man who is in an outstanding relationship.
Among the boxes, I melted. Not from the heat—from the reality, the pure, unadulterated truth I was hearing.
There was nothing that I had said or done. No event that happened.
I just LOVED him and cared about our experiences, and implemented what my coaches had taught me. And one day our relationship became the MOST important thing in the world to him.
I could easily say it was random and so there was nothing I could do about it. But that’s not quite true.
I was focused on improving our relationship for years, very explicitly so. And I had come to the realization that I can’t control my husband. And, furthermore, I didn’t want to.
That’s not how I wanted to create the changes I was yearning for! And, sure enough, as soon as I stopped inwardly trying to push/inspire/make it happen, he woke up one morning and chose to make it happen all on his own.
This is the kind of change I trust. This is the kind of change I can pray for, but never ever manipulate if it is going to be sustainable.
- Is there a change you are yearning for your partner to make?
- Is there a change you are trying to make happen, either explicitly or totally under the radar?
- How’s it going?
- And would you consider letting it go, trusting it will all work out?
I’d LOVE to hear your experience. Hit reply and let me know.