Photo Credit: Joseph Sohm. Published with permission. Thanks, Joe. You’re the best.
Written by Terri Crosby for In Care of Relationships
Are you in a relationship that seems exponentially difficult? Is it just too hard? You want to dump your fancy altitude gear and take a leisurely hike in the flatlands? Or lie down in a field of bright yellow daisies and watch the clouds go by?
Maybe your relationship is not working and you don’t see how it ever will, ’cause there’s way too much tough stuff going on. You’re weary and worn down, and sometimes — if you could wave a magic wand — you’d wipe the slate clean as a whistle and start over. You’d take time off and be with yourself. Heck, you might even take up meditation and regular exercise.
Again, I understand.
Whatever Mt. Everest relationship you’re talking about — your rebellious child, your difficult work relationship, your interesting mother in law, your impossible partner, or your ridiculous boss — you think to yourself that this climbing-all-the-time has got to stop. It’s simply wearing you out.
You might feel relieved to know that this “shall I stay or go” question is one of the most frequently asked questions. Clients say things like shall I stop trying or shall I hang in there? Is it me or is it them? Is this a deal-breaker, or can we make this work? Is this situation hopeless, or am I just missing something?
WHAT’S YOUR MT. EVEREST?
Before we talk about hanging in there vs. hanging up your gear, allow me to offer a few more Mt. Everest variations. Some of these examples may have you thinking of a friend or two as well.
With your parents, your efforts have never been quite good enough. According to them, you could do better, try harder, scale the heights, make them proud. You still feel criticized, judged and clearly — you don’t measure up. They drop hints to make sure you know that. Boy, do they drop hints! Can this ever change? Should I stop talking to them for a while? Maybe forever?
You and your potential partner are pretty far apart on the subject of children. He already raised his kids, and as a single dad helped with enough recitals, school events, and slumber parties for two lifetimes. He’s ready for a new chapter called “Footloose and Fancy-Free.” You agree, he deserves it — but you’ve got a ten-year-old. Can you make it work? Will your love for each other get you through this? Maybe, maybe not. How much compromise is OK?
Your partner is driven, and lately, you’re just not. Your partner is building an empire, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that! But you’re doing your best to relax more, and be healthy and happy for a change, which, by the way, is a major achievement for you! You’ve finally figured out how to be less Type A and more easy going. You’re done with fast and furious. You’re over it. You crave slow Sunday afternoon conversations while sitting by the pool. Or a talk over lunch on the deck — minus the bullet points, hovering deadlines, or phone interruptions from far-off lands after hours. You want to go slower and you want your moments to feel more l-u-x-u-r-i-o-u-s. It’s time to stop and smell the roses. In fact, you realize, it has always been time to stop and smell the roses — you just forgot for a while. Isn’t that what life is really about? So how do you spend pleasant time together with two radically different lifestyles?
Photo Credit — Katie Boyle and Angela Livezey
Your — business associate/boss? intimate partner? celebrity employer? — is kind, caring, and quite professional on the outside, but has a dark side you can’t really talk about publicly. First, no one would believe you. And, second, you’re in a position to put that person in an unfavorable spotlight, and maybe even cause the crumbling of their empire if you chose to unveil details to the world. (This situation happens way more often than you might think!) What should you do — look the other way? Focus on the positive, ignore the negative? Or wear shades, look cool, develop your ability to keep secrets and keep right on pretending everything is just plain peachy?
You got married and adapted to your husband’s lifestyle. You’ve catered to his needs and forgotten your own. You’re drowning in an ocean of sacrifice. You’ve lost yourself. Your heart is aching for who you know yourself to be. You’re longing to make use of your true skills — what were they now??? Surely you can find them again. Oh where oh where has the real you gone? Do you have the strength to call YOU back?
In your intimate relationship, your partner throws a monkey wrench into even the simplest situations: an innocent conversation, cooking a meal together or an outing with friends. There is an astonishing variety and never-ending stream of misunderstandings, upsets and drama. It’s downright jaw-dropping. Your friends think you’re crazy to stay in that relationship, but rather than dealing with the confusion and chaos around you, they simply begin to avoid you. It’s subtle at first. And then suddenly, you look around and your friends are GONE. Way gone. Even when things appear to be better with your partner, you can be sure there’s always somethin’ comin’ around the mountain. There is always backlash or repercussions. Makes you wanna say, Holy Cow, shall I moooooo-ve on?
Your boss is asking you to run his company and produce miraculous results (which you do every single day, thank you very much) without the staff support and cooperation you need — whoa there! You’re doing the work of at least three additional people. Is it him? Is it me? Why is this happening? How did this start? Is this totally out of control? Should I walk away? Do I stand up for myself enough? Is it possible to make progress on this giant ball of un-workablility, or should I go elsewhere and start over? Could I climb this Mt. Everest if I wanted to? Should I climb? Is it worth it?
CAN WE MAKE THIS WORK?
Photo credit: Joe Sohm
In a complicated situation, ask simple questions.
Do I see that this as mine? Do I see that I built this step by step? (yes or no)
What can I see? What’s obvious? What stands before me? (word, phrase, or sentence)
What feeling is present in this situation for me? (one or two words)
What feeling is present for others? (one or two words)
What is the foundation of this relationship? What’s it built on? (word or phrase)
Is this supporting me? (yes or no)
What is my preferred relationship foundation? (word or phrase)
What do I love? How do I want to live? (one sentence)
Do I believe I can have that? (yes or no)
How shall I begin? (how can you be true to yourself in this next small moment, and the next and so on)
“Responsibility begins with the willingness to take the stand that one is cause in the matter of one’s life. It is a declaration not an assertion, that is, it is a context from which one chooses to live. Responsibility is not burden, fault, praise, blame, credit, shame or guilt. In responsibility, there is no evaluation of good or bad, right or wrong. There is simply what’s so, and the stand you choose to take on what’s so. Being responsible starts with the willingness to deal with a situation from the view of life that you are the generator of what you do, what you have and what you are. That is not the truth. It is a place to stand. No one can make you responsible, nor can you impose responsibility on another. It is a grace you give yourself – an empowering context that leaves you with a say in the matter of life.”
When a couple seeks help with their marriage, what they want most is to feel better about how they get along Maybe they want better communication — they don’t enjoy walking away from an interaction with each other feeling bad about it. They don’t want to feel critical, they want to feel loving. They don’t want to reject, they want to accept. They don’t want to argue, they want to discuss or explore.
Basically, couples ask me how to have more happiness and ease in their relationship. They are looking for ways to feel less negative emotion and more positive emotion.
In every session, we begin with where they are, by validating where they stand. Initially, many people find this somewhat counter-intuitive, meaning that they don’t like where they stand, so why in the world should they feel self-approval for what seems to be causing them all sorts of trouble? They believe they should push away from where they stand as fast as possible, not embrace it. But in the session, we embrace it, because there is a gift in where they stand.
For starters, where any couple stands is a perfectly legitimate place to be or they wouldn’t be there. There are very good reasons to be thinking what they are thinking, or feeling what they are feeling, and together, we find them. Unless we embrace where we are, we drag the past along into a new situation without meaning to, and can’t figure out why a problem follows us. It’s the idea that what we resist persists.
So a beginning point in every session is learning to welcome where we are, and welcome the gift of being there. One of those gifts usually involves welcoming negative emotion and seeing its value.
While anger, sadness or blame don’t feel heavenly, these negative emotions are actually helpful. Negative emotion is a signal that we’ve just disagreed with how our Higher Self thinks. Negative emotion is a clue from our all-knowing Self that what we’re thinking isn’t going to help us get where we say we want to go. It’s not going to help us receive what we say we prefer. Negative emotion is a flag.
Let’s say you want a loving relationship with your husband. You’ve decided this. The two of you are pretty good at getting along, but every couple can use help here and there, and you’re no exception. You love being together and both of you are open to upgrades to your “couple-ness.”
And here you are, moving about your day, and things are going quite swimmingly — until the two of you go suddenly sideways! He just said something that makes you irrationally and instantly upset and now you’ve gone and slammed a door. You’re in a huff. To make your point (and maybe give it extra clout) you’re walking out the door. You’re done talking. He’s wrong. You’re right. This is a moment where being right is clearly more important than being in love.
Are you with me? Have you done this?
Ah, probably. We’re human, and we humans have emotional wounds — we have ouchy places. You may have noticed that when someone pokes your ouchy place, it can cause an emotional ruckus.
So the question is not whether somebody’s ever going to poke our wounds. Someone will
The question is, then what? Then what will we do?
I have a suggestion for a starting place: Begin very simply.
Notice what’s happening and how you’re feeling and say it aloud if possible. You can also say it silently to yourself, if that’s more appropriate to the situation.
“Wow, I notice I’m really upset about this!” or “Whoa. I notice I’m really amped up about this.” or “I notice I am totally, completely, 100% pissed off.”
Saying “I notice…” does a brilliant thing for you: It puts you outside the reaction just enough to no longer be IN the reaction, or be (so much) at the mercy of the reaction.
You become the reporter. You’re the Observer, and this is where all good and worthwhile change can begin.
Notice your body.
What’s going on? Do you feel tense? Where? How’s your breathing? Your heart? Again, this puts you in Observe Mode. You’re outside, looking in. You’re not stuck as the doer of the action, you’re watching yourself.
For now, practice this step. No need to change anything, just notice. Next time, we’ll talk about change.
The conversation started out innocent enough. My husband Eric ventured that he wanted to ask me a question, but said he didn’t want his question to sound like a criticism.
HE: (to me) So how would I do that — ask a question that could go sideways?
ME: I don’t know, just go ahead and ask me. Just blurt it out and we’ll see how it goes. It can’t be that bad.
(At least I could hope.)
We were eating a late lunch in our living room in Spring. Bushels of beautiful light was pouring in everywhere — it’s a spacious room with big windows and skylights. He was sitting on the couch, with me across from him on the other side of the coffee table in an easy chair. In his left hand, he held a piece of pizza made by yours truly — pepperoni (his favorite), chicken breast, asparagus, kale, tomato, garlic, and Cheddar and Amish Pepper Jack cheese. He gestured and spoke with his right hand.
HE: OK, so here’s my question. Do you put green vegetables on the pizza because you enjoy them or for some other reason?
The question stopped my brain. It sounded like a backward question to me, a non-direct question, a “what do you really mean by that” kind of question. So it confused me for a second. But I decided to take the question at face value. In my experience, that’s a really, really good place to start. Answer his question, no matter what I think about the question itself.
So his question hung in the silence. Why do I put green vegetables on the pizza?
Huh. I thought about it. I smiled. I had my answer.
ME: I put them on the pizza because it’s pretty.
HE: (bursts out laughing) OK, well, there you go! I just wanted to know!
ME: (apparently I felt compelled to elaborate) You know, making food is an artistic thing. Food needs to be appealing to the eye. So I spread tomato sauce like a backdrop color on the pizza canvas. And then on goes the asparagus spears here and here and here — nice color, don’t you think? (I demonstrate with air art.) And then round I go with red Roma tomato slices. And bright green kale goes here and here for contrast. And I figure the bonus is that if there are many colors in the food we’re eating, we’re probably getting our vitamins and minerals as well. But it’s really important that food be pretty.
He smiled in a twinkly kind of way. (Love that about him.)
Clearly, he also thought it was humorous that I thought food should be pretty. But to his total credit, he let that idea all the way to the middle of his soul. He continued the conversation by mentioning that he picks off the vegetables first so he can really enjoy the pizza, which totally made me laugh out loud. In 16 years of being together, he had never said that to me!
I had sometimes noticed that he picks off the veggies, and occasionally wondered why, but never asked about it, and I thought it was admirable and bold of him just now to say why he does. His comment piqued my interest. This conversation was clearly very important to him — he brought it up — and it made me curious to know more. He was taking a risk to talk about it, and I was taking a risk to listen and take in the feedback. The work goes both ways, always.
HE: You know, really, I just like tomato sauce, meat and cheese on my pizza. Everything else is just extra. And not an important kind of extra. Take mushrooms for instance. To me, they don’t add or detract from the pizza. If they don’t add to my experience, why would I want them there? I’m neutral about mushrooms on pizza.
ME: (I had just taken a bite of my lunch, which was entirely different than his because he won’t eat fish, and isn’t fond of peas or mushrooms and a whole lot of other things. Sputtering through my food I blurt) Oh, that is SUCH BS that you’re neutral about mushrooms!!! That’s just not true! If you were truly neutral, you wouldn’t be bringing up the subject. It would be like, who cares, and you wouldn’t even talk about it!
I was in a positive frame of mind, but I was not going to let that kind of BS go by without a spirited and sparkly “that’s a bunch of crap” comment from me. And about this time, I had to take off my jacket ’cause I could feel my temperature a risin’. My brain was ready, I had food fuel in my tummy, my BS meter was ON, and I was ready to take on this man I adore. C’mon, give it to me! I was in the mood for some spunky fun.
(But first, a personal confession) I think Eric is a (very) picky eater (compared to me). (In my opinion) he doesn’t appreciate a variety of food (like I do, and my way is better of course), and (compared to me) he has a very limited palate (how boring.) There are all sorts of things he won’t eat (which is different than me, and did I say my way is better) and that’s truly no way to live (according to me, ’cause of course my way is better). Yep, I have an attitude. Clearly!
Then something unexpected happened.
I became magically super aware of how opinionated I was about “his BS,” but what was different was that I was vividly aware that it was fun — really fun — to be opinionated while being super aware. In that moment, my opinionated side struck me funny. I started giggling.
(You know, we’re all pretty funny if we stand outside ourselves and take a look!)
And at the same time Eric found it frigging hilarious that we were having a conversation about neutrality while neither of us were being neutral. This kind of humor is right up his alley.
So, right along with me, he started to lose it. Both of us began to unravel. Who even knew we needed it! It was like the water rose too fast, and our laughing dams broke at the same time. Pipes burst, ropes broke, pins snapped.
There is a way that Eric laughs that makes me laugh harder. The more he lets go, the more entertained I am by watching him. It usually happens when he gets surprised — something funny comes out of left field — and he’s helplessly, hopelessly humored. His voice jumps up a couple of registers, and he laughs in falsetto.
So there we were, giggling about disagreeing. (But hold on, we’ve barely begun!)
HE: Really, I don’t care one way or another, but if veggies on my pizza don’t add to my experience of enjoyment, then why would I have them there?
ME: (the pizza maker) Well, I totally get that, and I often make your half of the pizza different than mine — just don’t call yourself neutral!
Which sent him into further peels of laughter, you know, because of my lack of neutrality about his lack of neutrality.
There is no earthly reason it should have been quite that fall-down funny, but we were on a roll. And no-o-o-o-o, heavens no, I wasn’t done pontificating yet.
ME: You know, you are also SO FULL OF BS about how you’re neutral about pecans, too, no different than the darn mushrooms. Even though you SAY you’re neutral about pecans, if I put pecans in your gosh darn chocolate chip cookies, you come into the kitchen all sad and disappointed and all like ‘how could you do this to me’ waaa, waaa, waaa, so don’t even use that word neutral about pecans in chocolate chip cookies. You’re so FULL of it!!! You’re not neutral! You’re a thousand million trillion miles from neutral!
(Imagine my voice traveling the octaves here, and me gesturing extra dramatically to make my points ..)
HE: Oh, and I’m not being neutral! (He’s pretty much unable to breathe at this point. We’re really, really totally out of control.)
Two people who love each other, who are willing to be entertained by their strong opinions (rather than upset by them) can pull a whole lot of fun out of practically nothing and nowhere, and end up more in love when it’s all over.
HOW ABOUT A LITTLE SCIENTIFIC PROOF ABOUT THE VALUE OF LAUGHTER?
ME:Your words say one thing, but your vibration says another. It’s a complete disconnect. If a consulting client of mine did this, I would totally call them on it!
He was laughing even harder now.
ME: (now in complete hysterics): You know, I wish we had this on video, so I could teach my relationship clients how to argue — teach them the finer points of arguing!
Which sent us both reeling…
I plunked my plate down on the table next to me so as not to spill the whole thing on the floor, and leaned back in my chair, giving my now helplessly flailing arms more freedom to express. Eric practically dropped his plate on the coffee table, and then fell backwards on the couch, holding his stomach and laughing.
This went on for a while… quite a while…
Then when we could breathe better, we talked, exploring the whole question of eating preferences and neutrality and who knows what all. We talked about a lot of things.
After talking for a while, he said, “Wow, if I had known arguing would be so much fun, I would have brought up this food subject long ago!”
Which, of course, started the laughing all over again!
Who knew “almost arguing” could be quite so entertaining! I highly recommend it as an aerobic workout — and way more fun than a treadmill!
If you know me at all, you know I’m happy to share helpful information, or a valuable resource about anything, especially about the subject of relationships. I love passing information to you that is useful in a daily way or a lifetime kind of way, no matter where it comes from
I love sharing what works.
Also, if you know me, you’re aware that I’m a very big fan of Abraham-Hicks material. I’ve listened to hours and hours of their work over the last 10 years or so. Their material has been beyond valuable to me personally. And every once in a while, even after all this time, I hear something that totally blows me away. which happened (yet again!) this morning. I was blown away.
There I was doing yoga on the mat. Thinking it would be fun to listen to a YouTube recording while I stretched, I reached over to my phone and found one. I pushed PLAY as I did my first down dog.
But you know what? The Abraham conversation I heard was so perfectly unfolding, so masterful, so helpful to anyone in a partnership, that I did a few minutes of yoga and then without thinking, found myself spontaneously, naturally, completely still as I listened to this amazing exchange. Here’s how it starts.
HE: I want to know how to stay positive and have a happy marriage when the other partner is really negative.
(gentle laughter from the crowd, in recognition of his situation)
HE: (continues) I meditate, I’ll be in a happy mood, and man! Bam! She hits me with this stuff, and she always wants to talk about the negative. And I’ll tell her, hey I don’t want to talk about the negative, I want to talk about the positive. It’s been a real struggle, especially since we have a 2 month old baby. And it’s real hard on me. I’m practicing, I’m trying, and it works in a lot of areas in my life, but this one is the hardest.
So Abraham begins very gently with a talk about compassion, saying that compassion isn’t quite like sympathy or empathy. Instead, according to Abraham, compassion is being in a receptive mode and focused on someone, so that your viewpoint is including the viewpoint of your Source.
What an amazing definition of compassion.
So what this young man is given, in 17 minutes and 13 seconds is a very poignant lesson about what to do about talking to his negative wife. I’m going to keep today’s blog really short so you can spend a little time listening to this totally brilliant conversation.And if you’d like to join me for an outstanding online relationship event, go toLOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH.If you like the Abraham recording, you’ll like this event. I guarantee it.
You’re broken down and tired Of living life on a merry go round And you can’t find the fighter But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out And move mountains We gonna walk it out And move mountains
And I’ll rise up I’ll rise like the day I’ll rise up I’ll rise unafraid I’ll rise up And I’ll do it a thousand times again And I’ll rise up High like the waves I’ll rise up In spite of the ache I’ll rise up And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you For you For you For you
When the silence isn’t quiet And it feels like it’s getting hard to breathe And I know you feel like dying But I promise we’ll take the world to its feet And move mountains Bring it to its feet And move mountains
And I’ll rise up I’ll rise like the day I’ll rise up I’ll rise unafraid I’ll rise up And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you For you For you For you
All we need, all we need is hope And for that we have each other And for that we have each other And we will rise We will rise We’ll rise, oh, oh We’ll rise
I’ll rise up Rise like the day I’ll rise up In spite of the ache I will rise a thousand times again And we’ll rise up High like the waves We’ll rise up In spite of the ache We’ll rise up And we’ll do it a thousand times again
During this strange time in history, I noticed y’all were tackling all sorts of interesting projects. I decided I needed one, too—something positive to remember the pandemic of 2020 by.
I decided to pay attention to something I had abandoned…
Nope, I’m not cleaning my garage. I am not organizing one single thing. I’m not planting a garden or cleaning up my yard.
Instead, I decided to take care of myself better. This, folks, has made all the difference for me.
With relatively little time and effort on my part, I feel so much better than I did a month ago.
On March 30, I got on the exercise bike and the yoga mat for the first time in a long time, and did 30 minutes each. I liked it so much that I decided to do it every day. But I fell short of that, and changed my commitment to every other day, which felt more manageable, reasonable, and doable.
I also get off the bike after every song, take a couple of sips of water, shake out my legs and arms for a few seconds, and get back on. This makes the bike project a reasonable proposition, too.
Daily walks of any length—by myself, or with my little guy, Jackson—are a fresh air bonus.
My recumbent exercise bike has pulleys to work my upper body while I pedal, which gets my heart rate up fast, and also helps my whole-body strength. It feels good to get up from writing, or doing a consulting session with a client, to do something physically challenging while listening to good music.
After only a month, I feel a sheet of muscles on the front of me I haven’t felt for a very, very long time. Goodness gracious. Who knew they were there. I’ll be posting rippling ab photos soon, I’m sure.
I have no idea what the scales have to say about my bike/yoga project—I don’t care. Paying attention to scales tends to send me sideways, and therefore, I’m ignoring them completely.
But—I LOVE the way I feel! Hang in there, everyone.