Posts Tagged ‘improving your relationship’

PART 3. Great Love. More About Observing Myself.

Note: This is PART 3 in a series.

PART 1. Get Going On Great Love, Fun Love, Happier Love.

PART 2. Great Love. The Surprise Flip To Avoid.

Closets and relationships are hardly the same animal, but closet cleaning principles can help me when it comes to “cleaning up” my intimate relationship.

(If you haven’t read the first blogs, for sure read them.)

So far, we know that the first step in closet cleaning is to take everything out of your closet and become aware of what you have now.

This step translates well to relationships — notice what you do and say now.

During noticing, you’re not trying to change anything in your relationship yet, you’re simply becoming aware of what’s there. You’re paying attention to what’s currently in your “closet.”

Because this step is pivotal, today we address more about it, including the importance of starting at the beginning, which is with me, not my partner. I’m going to tidy my own relationship closet, not my partner’s.


I begin by Observing myself.

Observing myself means I’m simultaneously being myself (doing, saying, thinking) AND I’m standing outside myself, observing me doing, saying or thinking.

I’m the one watching myself talk over the fence with my neighbor as I’m having the conversation.

Later, I’m the sweeper and the one watching me sweep.

I sweep my floor and at the same time, I’m noticing what’s going on with me while I sweep — how the broom rests in my hands, what I hear as I sweep, what I see gathering in the pile I’m making, and especially — what I’m thinking about.

A little later in the day, I’m delayed leaving the house for an appointment, causing the possibility that I’ll be late.

I’m the driver, and I’m the observer of the driver, noticing my emotions and thoughts as I move through traffic.

I’m on vacation in Paris, and I’m the observer of the tourist that I am.

On the streets of Paris, I’m wearing a comfortable and beautiful outfit, feeling good and strong as I walk. I notice what I think about the people passing by, and how similar or different it is from home. I walk by a chocolate shop and a restaurant and notice my thoughts. That evening, there is a classical concert in the street. I feel the enthusiasm of the crowd, I hear the beautiful music, I feel the breeze ruffling my hair.

Back home now, I am a swimmer and the one watching a swimmer.

Approaching morning laps, I notice my body as I enter the cool water. As I swim, I notice my thoughts as I do the front crawl, the breath required to move my body through the water, how the water feels passing over my skin. I notice the person swimming next to me, how strong she is, how the water moves over her shoulders.

All of this is simple practice in being an Observer of myself relating to my environment.

This is a key skill in a relationship, the ability to observe myself in action. It’s crucial to learn to be a watcher of myself, while I do, say, feel or think.

I’m not a judge, though, I’m an observer. There’s a big difference. As an observer, I note facts only — I’m a fact collector. I don’t come to conclusions about the facts, or judge them.

All of these situations are practice Observing myself in action.


Below are more examples of me learning about myself. I am hoping to improve my relationship with others, my husband for instance, by beginning with me. I’m conducting simple observational experiments — of me, not him — in order to learn about myself.

Experiment #1: I decide to Observe myself watching the evening news. I’m sure the news will provide grist for the mill, and I’m not married to the politicians I’ll be hearing about, so it will be easier to be an observer of my reactions, attitudes, or whatever comes up.

Why am I watching the news?

To see what’s now hanging in my relationship closet.

(Remember the hint that if you want to improve your relationship with your partner, don’t start by practicing with your partner, start with someone you don’t know. That’s what I’m doing here. I’m learning about myself by practicing with strangers, with animals/pets, or simply with myself.)

OK, the news on TV begins. I’m in “observer mode.” I’m collecting facts about me. That’s my only job.

  • I welcome my thinking — while observing and noting.
  • I welcome my attitudes or points of view — while observing and making notes.
  • I welcome my emotions — while observing what they are.

My reaction to the news begins almost immediately during a lead story about a Washington politician. First I notice my reaction — it’s disgust and it’s pretty strong.

Disgust is obviously in my closet of options. Good to know.

OK, let me see how disgust feels. Where does it show up in my body?

Well, I must say, I don’t usually stop to notice how disgust feels in my body!

FEEL: Disgust feels pretty bad, actually. My heart tightens. My lungs are a bit scrunched. My stomach doesn’t feel relaxed.

THINK: I wonder to myself if this has anything to do with the development of health issues such as high blood pressure, heart issues, or indigestion…yeah, probably…

DO: The only thing I do about what I’m noticing is that I make notes. No need to change anything, just notice. Pay attention. There is nothing wrong here. There is only me noting what I’m doing and the results of what I’m doing. I’m becoming aware of what’s in my “closet.”

I don’t get on Facebook and say, “Did you hear that so and so did such and such…” I don’t email my friend who would agree with me. I don’t mull it over, fume about it, wondering how to combat this politician who is clearly doing everything wrong, according to me.

I’m just noticing. That’s my only assignment. I’m at the hub of my wheel of life and my job is to notice what’s happening at the hub.

As I continue to watch the news, I also experience fear, frustration, skepticism, worry, suspicion and a little flare of anger. The final story is a happy one, and I experience joy and hope.

I make notes in my little notebook. “Evening news. Disgust toward ____(certain decision). Fear about ___. Frustration toward ___.”

And so on. I list them. All of these things are hanging in my closet.

Experiment #2: Now I’m at the grocery store. I can’t seem to find my list. I was so sure I put it in my purse. What were those things I wanted? Gosh, I know I need at least five pantry items for guests coming. I don’t have time to make two trips to the store.

I begin to feel frustrated, slightly bad, with a little extra judgment and self-criticism. When things aren’t going efficiently, I see that I react (even momentarily) with negative emotion.

The short story? I spend time feeling bad when I think I’ve done something wrong.

OK, I get it. I make an entry in the little notebook I’m carrying in my purse. “Lost grocery list. I’m wrong. Frustration, self-criticism, worry.”

Experiment #3: The next morning, I’m at my computer, writing. I open the window to hear the birds outside in early morning. The chorus is beautiful. Many sounds, many birds. The wood thrush is having a heyday with his song, and other song birds are joining in. Along comes a flock of noisy crows — caw, caw, caw. It’s not my favorite sound and I hope the crows go away soon.

Ahh! Another reaction, isn’t it? It’s teeny tiny, but good for me, I noticed it. I noticed that I’m playing god, really, thinking that I know better than the birds what the birds should be doing.

In my notebook: “Crows cawing. I know better. They should stop.”

Managing the bird universe seems to be hanging in my closet. More generally, what’s hanging in my closet is “managing others” or “knowing what’s best for others.” Again, good to know.


Eventually, I may be able to remove a response from my repertoire.  And maybe as I learn and change, I’ll feel more naturally confident, loving, and authentic. I’ll get there. Right now I’m on step one. I’m learning about myself and where I am now.

In the coming days, I spend many moments in observation, and I see so much about myself! What I think (about myself or others), how I react (to a homeless person asking for money), how I feel (as I walk up the hill, what I typically think about as I walk).

That’s my starting gate to great love, fun love, happier love — I observe myself.

What do I notice? What do I Observe about me? How does it feel?

When I make notes about what’s now in my closet, I realize “I have that” but I AM NOT THAT. It’s just something that’s hanging in my closet now. Soon, I can focus on what to keep and what to give away.

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Being Too Direct or Not Direct Enough — Here’s Help

Horseshoe Falls at Sunrise

Photo Credit — Joseph Sohm

Written for In Care of Relationships by Terri Crosby

ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?


ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?


ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?


ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?


ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?

WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.

ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?

WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.


There are folks who speak their mind without hesitation — like the Witness in the above interchange.

I also know people who do not have a direct bone in their body. They barely say what they say.  Some avoid conflict at all costs.

While it is clear to me that I’m certainly on the “speak up” side of the equation (I was born with some spunk, I’d say) there are also times when I notice I hold back and don’t say what I think. Perhaps most of us straddle the line here and there.  We do a little of each.

Whether you feel you need to speak up more — or less — here’s help for both sides of the question.

In an excellent Huffington Post article Free Yourself By Being Direct, author Joyce Marter says, “Being direct and assertive involves being honest and genuine while remaining appropriate, diplomatic and respectful of yourself and others. It is not passive (being a doormat or a wimp), passive-aggressive (indirect communication, like not returning calls or emails hoping somebody gets the hint) or aggressive (being hostile and rude.)”

She gives examples of situations in which it may be scary or difficult to be direct, talks about what keeps people from being direct, and gives reasons why being direct is a good thing.

On the other hand, if your directness is not working for you or others, here’s an article on the other side of the coin: “Too Direct? Five Ways To Dial It Back.” by Mary Jo Asmus.

She says, “An overly direct leader can be abrupt. They may not recognize when they have not provided the care and time needed to speak to others in such a way that there is a give and take in the conversation. They may appear to have an attitude of “its my way or the high-way”. They may be rushed, and may not be fully present in the conversation. An emotional hot button in the leader may be hit, and their tone of voice may escalate and become more insistent.”

She gives five good ways to soften an overly direct approach and says, “You can still be honest and direct without crossing the line into bluntness and shutting others down.”

Photo Credit -- Joseph Sohm

Photo Credit — Joseph Sohm


What’s Good About Being Direct

All in all, the most valuable thing about being direct is that it gives us the golden opportunity to wake up wherever we are.

Ka-POW! She said what?!? And I reacted how? And what does that show me about myself? Is there anything I prefer to shift about that? What can I learn here?

Ka-POW! I said what?!? Did you hear what just came out of my mouth? And he reacted how? And did that work? Was my communication successful? Is there a more effective way I could have made my point? How can this help me?

Everybody wins when everyone is awake.

(And responsible.)

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The Biggest — Huge Deal — in Brilliant Relationships

ginger lemon tea

Written by Terri Crosby for In Care of Relationships

SO many relationship-ish concepts, so little time. But here’s one that matters.  And it matters BIG. It has to do with how you perceive your partner, child, family member. No surprise there, you say, but what else? Here’s the question of the day. As my friend, my mother, my partner, my whoever — Can you see me in this moment as I am now, or are you thinking I’m the same as last time we talked or were together?

How you see me guides our relationship.

How you perceive me shapes our relationship.

How you perceive me governs what you see, therefore what you believe, therefore what you expect, therefore what you create, therefore what you have.

How you see me is what you get from me.Lenses

That’s a BIG deal. Here are more ways to say this idea:
  • Are you curious?  And open?  Are you in this new moment with me?  Or do you think you already know me?
  • Do you know me, see me, and hear me right now? Or are you holding me in the place I was 5 days ago, or 3 years ago, or yesterday or a minute ago?
  • Do you see me as my yesterday self, my last year self, or can you leave all that behind, so that I can as well?
  • Why bring then into now, unless you liked then?
  • Are you assuming I’m the same as I was or have been or are you assuming I’m an evolving being?
  • If you hold me to what I used to be, or see me as I used to be, can you understand how it might be more difficult to be seen — around you — for who I am now, who I’ve become?
  • Am I — the new and ever-evolving me — visible to you?  As in this quote from a poem by e e cummings:  “… now the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened.”
Think about these things and have a holy cow, a-ha, wow kind of week.  Let me know what happens!  How did you see newly?


For more information about In Care of Relationships, click here.

About Terri Crosby — I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains with Eric, my partner of 14 years, two cats and a dog, and as many flowers and vegetables as I can plant.  I love really good food, good friends, good relationships!

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More Tips for the Starting Line — Improving Your Intimate Relationship

couple -- website

written by Terri Crosby for In Care of Relationships

Are you trying to improve your relationship?  Make it better? Here are a few more tips for getting started.

Hold Your Horses…

Resist the temptation to try to remodel your relationship on top of the current conditions — the conglomeration of good stuff, the bad stuff, and everything in for remodeling Do a little due diligence and give yourself some time to investigate and reflect.  Don’t be in a hurry.  You have months or years and plenty of energy invested in your relationship, so give yourself the time it takes to see what’s really going on. If you don’t know how to do that, get help. Otherwise, it’s like trying to fix something without really knowing what to fix.  Or trying to repair a sputtering engine without doing a diagnostic or checking the basics.  You can fix this and fix that, but still the engine doesn’t run well.  You haven’t found a main issue yet.

Hey, How About A Little Duct Tape?

duct tapeIn business, it would be like trying to consistently solve problems with a quick fix.   When an issue arises, you get out your handy-dandy duct tape. For example:  “Oh, we’ll just tell our customers we’ve had an unexpected  and unavoidable delay.  It’s out of our hands, but we’ll get the product to you as soon as possible.” Maybe that’s true and maybe it’s a convenient story.  But it’s duct tape.  It’s only going to hold things together until that emergency is over. Instead of being pro-active, and making a long term plan to create a different outcome next time, often we’re relieved that the emergency has passed and we simply go back to business as usual. But sooner or later another emergency arises, and out comes the duct tape.  Maybe that same problem rears its head again and maybe it looks like a new problem.

The Problem With The Quick Fix

But here’s the thing.  Duct tape can only do so much — it has its limits.  It’s not going to fix a foundational issue.   Swooping in with a quick fix of any kind does help with symptoms, but not main issues. Relationship emergencies are no different.   You can duct tape until the cows some home, but it’s not going to solve anything foundational.  Are you tired of duct taping your issues and making things appear reasonably OK?   If you don’t know how to get through your yeow-ly moments, disagreements, crashes, problems — then you’ve got nothin’ but a circus on your hands. Seriously.  You’ve got a Barnum and Bailey Circus Extravaganza — in your relationship!

Been There, Done That

So here’s what we sometimes do — and we’ve all done it or seen it.tiger in cage There’s a big, awful disagreement between me and my beloved.  Now it’s over.  But there’s something we’re supposed to do in a few hours, a dinner with friends, and on a good day, we’d really want to go. So we take a deep breath and gather a little inner strength.  We put our lions and tigers away in their cages — lock ’em in tight.  We make sure the snakes and the tarantulas are all quiet, too, and we get all freshened up.  And, yes, we go out to dinner with our friends. During the evening, there is always that chance, (and you know exactly what I mean here), that one of my personal tigers could get loose, say,  after that second glass of wine. And wow.    It can be a pretty profound and defining moment. Here’s how it might look. First, let’s be clear that I’m not over what happened a few hours earlier.  Let’s also be clear that I’m pretending to be present and I have put on my “I’m fine” face. circus cannonSo… someone says something. I react. Instinctively,  I set my tiger loose. I set my tiger loose ’cause (in my defense) I saw one coming at me — from someone at the table. ( I TELL YOU — there WAS a tiger coming at me.  I had to save myself.) Maybe it’s from my beloved partner (with whom I had the earlier squabble.) Or perhaps it’s (an annoying) family member, in-law, or someone I’ve never met who miraculously got invited to this dinner and gets under my skin. But, in any case, I react. Darn it. (It’s out there.  I can’t take it back.) Now, in that looooong pause while the others at the table are staring at me waiting to see what happens next and wondering if the scene’s going to get ugly(er) —  it’s tense. It’s tense for me.  It’s tense for everyone. Someone lit my firecracker (they hit my personal reactor button) and did it blow things sky high? (Well, yes, actually, I did feel something explode…) Table mates are wondering, “Are we all going to be on pins and needles from now on?  Am I going to be able to digest my Scampi and Risotto?  Or shall we all rise to the occasion and spin happy circus plates in the air to distract ourselves from all this disgruntlement?  Shall we pretend???  Act nice?  Try to help?  Ignore it completely and start a side conversation?  Join the ruckus?  Get out the boxing gloves?” Whatever shall we do? We’ve been there…. we’ve either seen it or done it.

How Do I Turn This Around?

So… back to the more personal example at home. If you want to calm things down, slow things down, and take a look at what’s really going on in any kind of chaos, start in an easy place.  Look for the little places — not the big places — where you react to your partner or someone you relate to on a daily basis.  Make notes.   Here’s what I mean by a reaction.
  • You know that thing s/he says or does that instantly makes you angry?  And you have a reaction?  And it’s not a good reaction?  That’s what I’m talkin’ about.
  • Or s/he is predictable — oh, here we go again.  The same (damn) story.  The same (damn) habit.  The same (damn) whatever.  And you want to run away screaming?
  • Or you feel disappointed when your partner doesn’t do something.  That’s a reaction.
  • Or your partner isn’t holding up his/her end of the bargain.  S/he said employment was in his/her future, but it’s not happening.  And you have a reaction.
  • Or your partner criticizes you?  Cuts you down?  And you defend, explain, justify?   All of that is reactive (both sides).  It’s not creative.  Reactions aren’t wrong — they just don’t help you thrive.  They are simply inefficient.  They aren’t helping you get what you say you want.
You may think,  “These reactions are really no big deal.  Everybody deals with these.  Everybody has them.” Yes, that’s true.  Every human being has reactions. And the reactions sound small individually, but when you put them all together, and then add years and years of practice, and you’ve got a big clump of  icky that’s not much fun.  It can weigh on you and weigh on the relationship.  It can be awful.

What Makes a Relationship Thrive?shift gears head

A thriving relationship moves from being  “reaction based” to a place where you can be more creative together. Which means that YOU move from reactive to creative.  Don’t worry about your partner, just concentrate on YOU about this. Instead of ups and downs, or one crisis after another, and a lot of strong sticky tape,  quick fixes or courses in Circus Management, the ride is smoother.  You are more present.  You see each other.  You appreciate.  You listen more, defend less. For a relationship to thrive, shift gears.  Shift your focus.  Shift your perspective of the circumstances. (Yes, I know, easier said than done.) For instance, shift from “We have a problem and this is a PROBLEM, this is bad, OMG…” …to “We have a problem and this is a golden opportunity.” Just start there. Yes, there is a way for a problem to bring you closer.  I really mean that.  The solution to the problem can help your relationship, if you let it.  You become closer because of that problem.  No recovery needed. Wouldn’t it be amazing if your “big problem” creates a solution that strengthens your connection?  Yes. It’s totally possible.  It’s possible if you see your “problem” as an opportunity to become more of who you are.


new shoots 2About Terri Crosby — I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains with Eric, my partner of 14 years, two cats and a dog, and as many flowers and vegetables as I can plant.

I’m in favor of wandering time in the morning, listening to the birds calling to each other in the woods all around me.

Making fresh food is one of life’s big yummy pleasures, along with singing – especially creating heavenly, improvisational, prayerful, meditational sound.

It is my experience that children are born to teach (remind) parents, not the other way around.   I’ve learned more from my daughter than from all other humans combined.

I believe that poet Mary Oliver writes the best bedtime stories available on Earth.

For more information about In Care of Relationships, click here.

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Intimacy Is Everywhere

Hello Everyone,

Today, intimacy.

Love to you all,

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Friday Love: Bam! Gate Breaking, Anyone?

Good Friday, Everyone!

Today, I’m sharing a story about how I accidentally accomplished something on my bucket list. I ran through an exit gate while looking the other way. The hood of my car is scratched up, and one windshield wiper is a mess, but let’s have a good laugh about how we never expect what “getting what we want” includes!

Let me know if you relate…

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Enough with the Name-Calling

It seems to be a growing fad these days to call someone a narcissist, or declare they are toxic.
Political name-calling is similar—we assign politicians and voters to categories, and brush them off as if they are unintelligent, inferior, or even worthless.
By labeling others, we miss their humanity. We gloss over their struggle, their best effort at dealing with life. We dismiss them.
We do to them what we believe they are doing to others.
Look past a label, and in the soft light of day, there stands a person like you or like me, coping as best they can. At the end of the day, no friend, parent, or lover making conscious choices intends to be mean, or to ignore, or to embellish. There is always more to the story.
If we label others, then for sure we label ourselves. We trap ourselves into believing we are less than. Or not enough. Or we don’t give ourselves the time and forgiveness to work through our “stuff.” Maybe, if we stopped accusing others of narcissism, we could forgive ourselves for those moments when we were narrow-minded, inconsiderate, or afraid.
When it comes to labels, nobody wins.
So, my dear people, I suggest we peer a little deeper into ourselves to investigate a need to separate ourselves from others by tacking them with a label filled with disdain or scorn.
It is my wish that you view this video and take it to heart.
Much love,

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Terri Crosby

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