Tag Archives: Relationship

Coming Soon . . .

It’s been over a year since I last wrote.

Indeed,  a year ago almost to the day, Mark and I arrived back into the USA after 2+ years living and working in New Zealand.

We had a fabulous adventure there and are still processing all we learned, undertook and became thanks to that opportunity.

I stopped blogging for this past year because processing all of this precipitated a near-vertical learning curve. I could not keep up with myself. I’d write something and the next day – literally – I’d find myself thinking about the issue in a whole new light.

So, I’ve been allowing the new ideas to take root, put up shoots and flourish just enough to feel I can share them with you again.

Anyway, to let you know I’m alive, climbing back into the saddle and preparing to blog regularly in 2015, I’m sending you a fun little teaser.  Check out the trailer below for a new Pixar motion picture (or emotion picture as they say!)  coming in 2015.  It’s a clue as to how I look at the world, and how I work to (as my updated tag line states) ~

  “Nurture your ability to master the art and science of great relationships”.

If you find yourself a little intrigued, please stay tuned!  If you stay with me (and feel free to invite others to join us) you can be part of this community dedicated to improving the way we relate to ourselves and to one another.  I promise you the conversation will be upbeat, fun, provocative and hopefully that “just right” mix of inspiring and supportive that we need in the face of becoming our best selves.

With gratitude for you all.



Second Breath of Apology ~ Feelings

If you’ve just stumbled upon this post, it will make more sense if you read the summary below, and then Breath 1.

If you’ve read Breath 1 – skip down to Lucy, below.


When someone you love does something that hurts you emotionally, it’s quite common to find yourself caught between two opposing desires:

  • Revenge – make ‘em pay for your hurt
  • Forgive – and forget as quickly as possible to remove the pain.

Neither is great.

If you practice revenge you reinforce your own pain since (think about this) emotional pain arises from our story about an event – not the event itself.

If you rush to forgive, forget and avoid having an honest conversation with yourself and whoever hurt you, you practice being a coward in the face of your true experience.

A robust reconciliation, based upon an artful apology, avoids both these problems. In my work I’ve found there are five stages or “breaths” you need to take. Why “breaths”?

  1. When we are stressed it really helps to breathe: Keep breathing!
  2. There are in-breaths and out-breaths.  To stay alive, you need both.  A reconciliation between 2 people that avoids revenge or victim-hood needs both these perspectives.

Breath 2  ~  FEELINGS

Screen shot 2013-06-11 at 1.14.34 PM


Acknowledge the other person’s FEELINGS  ~

Put yourself in your accuser’s shoes and imagine how they felt, even if they have not expressed any feelings beyond anger. Until you have done this they will continue to have no interest in anything you have to say.

Trust me!

It will not help them one iota for you to tell them:

  • But I didn’t mean to.
  • It wasn’t my intention to hurt you.
  • Let me just explain.
  • You have no idea the pressure I was under.
  • Hey, you could have done something.
  • I did not do this on purpose for heaven’s sake!
  • Can’t a person make a mistake?

In fact,  these tend to make things worse. Have you noticed?

So, resist the urge – which will be strong!   Instead, try this ~

Oh Fiona, you felt awful that night!  You felt abandoned by me when I did not introduce you to those folks we were talking to. And then at dinner, it sounds as though you felt jealous that I had someone to talk to – and it did not help that it was a woman – and you were stuck between two folks you did not enjoy.  And for sure you don’t want to get put in a situation like that again. Did I get this right, or am I missing some parts still?”


Cultivating the will-power to curb your righteous-indignation and make the effort to see a situation from another person’s point of view is like weight-lifting for the soul. It’s very hard, takes vast effort, is super good for you, and (I promise) gets easier with repetition. If you can start by practicing this with people you love – your children, partner, family members and friends – one day you might find yourself being able to empathize effectively with someone at work. Or , you might even find yourself being able to talk down an angry, violent person who simply needs someone to listen to them. You never know how this sort of inner strength will come in handy.

Screen shot 2013-06-11 at 1.08.53 PM ACCUSER   

Continue to clarify your  FEELINGS ~

Did the person who triggered your pain manage to express accurately enough how you are feeling? Do you need to have them understand any aspect of that painful event more fully?  Now is your chance to see if you feel genuinely and fully understood. It’s your job to help the accused understand you – there is only so much they can guess.

Well, you’ve got most of it right. I did feel abandoned and jealous. I think what made it worse for me is that you know how vulnerable I feel amongst your super-smart financial market friends. Right in the midst of my six month parenting leave and all I can think to talk about is Sylvia sitting up and how cute she is. I ended up feeling boring, dumb and unattractive.”

ADVANTAGES?  This is a gift for you. When someone has – inadvertently or otherwise – triggered some hot buttons for you, being invited to name and share your feelings will help you get over your pain more quickly than any other way I know of.  You can help the pair of you by staying present. What are you feeling?  Need help identifying your feelings? Click here – parrott-emotions-tree-2001(3).  Remember, emotional pain arises from our story about an event – not the event itself. You are in pain because of these feelings which have been triggered in you. This means your way out, is through.

Screen shot 2013-06-11 at 1.44.02 PM

ACCUSED   Repeat Breath 2  ~  Keep going around by inviting your accuser to say more about their feelings while you continue to acknowledge what they are saying.

Again remind yourself – you are not pleading guilty. You are simply helping someone in pain to identify precisely how they are in pain, so they can feel better. You did not plant these feelings. These feelings were triggered by the other person – it is important they feel them so they can start to understand how they were triggered and maybe how to not have them be triggered next time.

This is Part 2 of 5.

Check back tomorrow for Third Breath of Apology ~ COMPASSION

Dating~When to call it quits

Twelve Questions to ask yourself if you’re wondering whether you are dating the right person

Show up honestly to these twelve questions and really listen to your answers. If you are still not sure, seek a few sessions with a good relationship therapist since possibly some family-of-origin ghosts are getting in your way.

1. Do you like who you are in this relationship?

2. Think of someone who loves you very much (parent, sibling, grandparent, coach, your child…) would they think this was the best you could do relationship-wise? If not, what’s getting in the way of that?

3. Are you growing in a way you like, or stuck in a place you dislike?

4. After a fight, can you get back together and talk about what the real issues were until you each understand what precisely each of you was upset about? In other words, do your fights bring you closer or build a wedge between you? *(see NOTE below)

5. Is there a healthy balance of give and take? If any of these statements are true, read number #6

  • “I show my love by fixing my sweetie’s problems.”
  • “My sweetie is just going through a rough patch.”
  • “Love is all about giving.”
  • “I’m sure my turn to receive will come.”

6. Do you know the difference between healthy helping & enabling helping? Healthy helping is stepping in when someone really can’t manage on their own, like driving someone to the hospital when they are sick. Enabling helping is preventing someone from experiencing the consequences of their own behavior or choices, like endlessly listening to your friend kvetch and complain about how much they hate their life – so you run around endlessly trying to make the edges better – when actually, your friend needs to make some drastic changes.

7. When you think about yourself 3 years out – do you feel excited at the thought you’ll still be with this person, or  poundingly depressed?

8. Do you know, in your heart of hearts, you need to move on, but can’t bear the pain this might cause the other? If so, read #9.

9. As a parent, will you let your kid’s teeth rot in their heads rather than expose them to the dentist? Will you continue to enable this person to live a lie? If they’d be devastated by you moving on, they must think you love them more than you do. Respect them enough to tell your own truth. You will both be the better for it.

10. Are you stuck because you made some dumb decisions that have you all muddled up financially – like buying something big together (house, car, boat, time payments on a costly trip?)  If yes, see #11.

11. Debt together is different from life together. Grow up, get out the spread sheets and talk to a lawyer if you need to get some teeth into independent repayment plans for these once joint financial commitments.  You get to enjoy the consequences of your action which means you won’t make this mistake again – right?

12. Do you keep circling around to “But I love him/her?”  Love is so much more than a fuzzy feeling. It’s a verb in the most life-affirming sense. Love is a crucible for growth like no other. If – despite your fuzzy, lovey-dovey, achingly addictive feeling – you can also check these boxes…

  • It brings out the best in each of you;
  • Your friends and family see you expand in confidence;
  • You care enough to drill down to understand your differences;
  • You willingly try on new ways of being;
  • You allow one another to take risks and to comfort one another when you fall – you don’t wrap each other up in cotton wool and hide;
  • You savor the moment and feel optimistic about the future;
  • Your expression of love and your experience of love are fully congruent;
  • You can show up wholeheartedly and truthfully;
  • As a team you are more powerful than you were as two individuals;
  • Your love is emotional (and chemical) yes, but also born of intellect (you’ve thought this through) and spirit (you choose to grow within this co-created crucible) and flesh (you willingly surrender your precious body into those arms for cherishing);

. . .  why then, you might be on to something very valuable.

*NOTE ~ While the content of each fight can vary, the values you each hold that might have been compromised are often the same ones.  So, if you can’t figure out what the real issue is now – before you make a long-term commitment  – it’s like jumping into a swimming pool with alligators in. If you know there are there – better to get them out first.

Coming:  Dating~How to call it quits



Do they make a difference?

Thinking of Pope Francis I as he anticipates becoming leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics  I find myself wondering what sort of vow he makes in relationship to those he serves. And if he does make a vow, does it help guide his behavior in any way?

Since 1688 in Great Britain, for example, Parliament changed the Oath an incoming monarch would say to identify that ultimately (unlikely as this might seem) power lay with the people through Parliament and the monarch had to swear they would act  “according to their respective laws and customs.” There is of course also a whole bunch of obedience to the Protestant Church who originally held great power – but that’s for another blog post! However, if a King or Queen gets too uppity, in theory, we can get them out. There is a public pledge of understanding about the expected rules of reciprocity: “You be King but don’t get too out of hand, we’ll all enjoy the pomp and circumstance.”

Which has me wondering about marriage vows. Working with so many couples — some married formally with the big white wedding; some married simply in a back yard but none-the-less legally bound; some cohabiting, maybe with a housewarming bash to mark the event; some who drifted together with no “promises” in place; and of course, gay and lesbian couples who’d love more legal status yet who get creative in terms of formalizing their unions — I see a huge variety in the degree of Vows, or “expected rules of reciprocity.”

I’ve yet to conduct a survey exploring the correlation between these agreed-upon “rules of reciprocity” and marital satisfaction – but it might prove interesting.

Here are the vows Mark and I said to one another on November 20th 1982. We adopted these from dear friends Julia and Stuart. Feel free continue adopting and adapting if they fit for you!

I take you to be no other than yourself

To love and comfort you

Honor and keep you

In sickness and in health

In sorrow and in joy.

Loving what I know of you

Trusting what I don’t yet know

With respect for your integrity

And faith in your abiding love for me

Through all our years

And in all that life may bring us

I greet you as my husband/wife.

Reading these again now (and as we do around each anniversary) I have to say, without wanting to be trite or corny, I think they’ve played their part on our successful journey toward one another over the past 30+ years. I’ll start my survey tonight by asking Mark what he thinks!






Don’t Die Without . . .

Expressing Your True Feelings


In Bronnie Ware’s heartfelt blog http://www.inspirationandchai.com/Regrets-of-the-Dying.html she notes that the five most common regrets of those near death are ~

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier.


How about that!

Feelings – those things I’m constantly encouraging us to become more familiar with and fluent in – rank as the number 3 most devastating loss when not expressed.

Here is what Bronnie wrote:

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

What does it take to express your feelings? If you are not sure, join me for Emotions 101,  a five-part fun series running 4th – 8th March 2013. Topics include ~

1. Is that a feeling, or a stomach ache? Don’t laugh – it can be hard to tell sometimes. Learn how to recognize your emotions. (Blog on 4th March  2013);

2. Sad? Mad? How about Lonely, Wistful, Incensed, Ashamed? Dump the kindergarten terms for your complex internal maelstrom.  (Blog on 5th March 2013);

3. “I’m fine.” Great, so is my wine! Aren’t you Enchanted, Elated or Thrilled?  Let’s liven up your Happy place. (Blog on 6th March 2013);

4. “I feel like you should…”If this is how you’ve been talking about your feelings, it’s time to learn how to be more honest and effective. (Blog on 7th March 2013);

5. “No you don’t!” If this is how you respond when someone shares their feelings, come learn how to listen so people will open up to you. (Blog on 8th March 2013).

So – whether you’re Oscar Wilde ~

I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them. ― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

or Elizabeth Gilbert ~

“Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

you’ll find something of interest. See you for Emotions 101,  4th – 8th March 2013.






Top 10 Emotional Needs

Why do we couple-up?

According to Dr. Harley of MarriageBuilders.com (from whom I have adapted these descriptions of needs) couples cite the 10 emotional needs listed below as most important to them. These are what they want out of their primary love relationship. For fun, rank order these with #1 (most important to you) to #10 (least important to you), and compare notes with your lover. You might each learn a thing or two.

_____ AFFECTION  (you have a consistent and willing place in your partner’s arms and heart for touch, hugs and snuggles)

_____ SEXUAL FULFILLMENT  (you enjoy making love and find your sexual relationship is allowed both full expression and evolution).

_____ RECREATIONAL COMPANIONSHIP (you enjoy spending most of your free time together and find that certain activities are enhanced by sharing them with your partner.)

_____ INTIMATE CONVERSATION (your partner is your go-to person for what is on your mind. You find it easy to open up to your partner because he or she listens and understands you in a way that feels satisfying and unique.)

_____ HONESTY AND OPENNESS (you trust one another to share what is important and not to withhold secrets that might be hurtful.)

_____ PHYSICAL ATTRACTIVENESS (you are proud to be with your partner, you like showing him or her off to your friends, you are happy to have “caught” such a person!)

_____ DOMESTIC SUPPORT (you and your partner have figured out how to run a home together. You know what your areas of strength and weakness are and you both manage to navigate these successfully so your home space meets both your needs.)

_____ FINANCIAL SUPPORT (you and your partner can discuss how the income you need is brought in. You can agree as to how each of you contributes, how much, how often and what to do when you need to renegotiate these needs.)

_____ FAMILY COMMITMENT (you and your partner have a similar appetite for sharing your lives with extended family. You can manage your in-laws with consideration and compassion and can put your marriage ahead of pressure from outside.)

_____ ADMIRATION (your partner is proud of who you are, what you accomplish, how you accomplish things and tells you this quite often).

It’s pretty common to find we try to fulfill the needs we want for our partner – assuming they want the same thing. So, if you’ve not been connecting as well with your sweetie lately – compare notes.  If your #1 is Intimate Conversation and your partner’s #1 is Recreational Companionship, it might explain why the fishing trips are so fraught. You want to use this time away for some D & M’s (deep and meaningfuls) whilst your partner just hopes you’ll both pursue fish.

Watch this space for EMOTIONS  101 – a five-part series, starting on 4 March 2013, on how to recognize, talk about, express and use your emotions effectively.

How Relationships Offer Us Everyday Transformation

Invited to contribute an article to my friend’s Doors of Transformation on-line magazine. You can link to it here http://thedoorsoftransformation.com/how-relationships-off-us-transformation/, or just read it below.


“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”

Carl Jung

Once upon a time two travelers decided to leave the village and try their luck in a new environment.

Both were keen to visit a nearby town of interest so, seeking some advance information, they consulted the renowned sage of the area with their shared question:

“Tell us Oh Sage – what sort of community do you have there? What are the people like?”

“Of course I will tell you. But first, tell me if you will, can you describe the community you have just left? How did you find the people there? Why do you wish to leave them and venture afar now?”

The first traveler jumped in with a sigh. “Oh Sage – I have had a dreadful time of it which is why I am leaving – to seek my fortune amongst better folks. The people in the old town are mean spirited, cold hearted, not inclusive nor kind nor curious. They seem to look at me with nothing but contempt and judgment. I am desperate to put some distance between myself and that place!”

 “Oh, I am so sorry!” said the Sage. “You will most certainly be disappointed here for they are all just like that!”

With a stamp of frustration the traveler turned and left in the opposite direction.

The second traveler was looking on in amazement. “Oh Sage!” he burst forth,

“but I have had such fortune there!  I have laughed and loved and learned so much! I have been feasted and included in the day to day of many lives! I only leave now for sheer joy to see if the world is full of wonderful souls or whether these people are uniquely delightful!”

“Oh, I am so happy!” said the Sage. “You will most certainly not be disappointed here for they are all just like that!”

To the extent we are that first traveler, what can we learn from the second?

As Jung notes – when we allow ourselves to be touched by another we may be transformed. But in what way? Clearly all villages have their fill of fiends, fear mongers and frauds as well as sweethearts, sages and saints.

Why do some folks become cynical, disillusioned and hopeless while others seem to overflow with so much warmth, goodwill and kindness that these inner qualities transform any external situation – like a beam of light transforms the darkness?

The key, it seems to me, is to take control of the only things you can – your own heart and your own mind. Every encounter invites you to deepen your ability to be the second traveler.

“Ye s yes!” you say (with perhaps a hint of frustration).

“But you’ve not met my uncaring boss, nor my grouchy spouse, nor my defiant rude child; nor my back-stabbing friend, nor my narcissistic mother, nor my garrulous neighbor.  Sometimes my day is one long dodge and weave session through land mines of other peoples’ emotional sludge!”

OK – fair enough. This is probably what the first traveler saw when he took stock of his unsatisfying day-to-day interactions. It may never have occurred to you to consider transforming these encounters.  If you are like most of us, it would be more apt to say you alternate between tolerating, ignoring, getting angry with, giving helpful feedback to or having a drink to numb your feelings about  – your boss, spouse, child, friend, mum and neighbor.  

These are coping strategies – but you’re reading a magazine about transformation so clearly you want more.

Let’s go back to the key being your own heart and mind. Two of your most powerful muscles – OK technically the brain is an organ not a muscle, but it operates like a muscle to the extent it responds to exercise (try telling that to your kidneys). With your heart you can choose a different feeling. With your mind you can choose a different response.

Here are three ideas that will allow you to cultivate a “second traveler” mind set:

1.     Choose to see the other as a mirror ~ Notice the judgments you have about someone else and ask yourself, “To what extent am I like this? Where in my life am I uncaring, grouchy, defiant, back-stabbing, narcissistic and boringly talkative?” And in your heart, thank this person for showing you so perfectly that which you could choose to improve upon in your own life.

2.      Choose kindness ~ When someone is generating symptoms (I see unhelpful behaviors as symptoms of unmet needs) consider asking the person about it. If your boss seems uncaring, might she be under huge pressure? Could you ask how she is? Might your spouse need some understanding? Your child some slack?

3.     Choose compassion ~  A deeper blend of the two above, you could practice a form of Tonglen meditation,. First note your judgment. “My spouse is grouchy.” Next connect to the suffering behind the grouchy. What might your spouse be feeling that is generating the symptom of “grouchy”? Maybe exhaustion, overwhelm, fear, irritation? Thirdly, quietly allow yourself to connect with that pain and breathe it in. A long, deep, slow in-breath sucking up all that sadness. Then, breathe out what you want for your spouse: peace, joy, happiness, solace. Send to them waves of good things. And let it be.

Over time, this will transform you into a second traveler. One who sees it all, learns from the judgments, offers kindness to the sad and connects with the universality of all through a deep breath of love.