Letting Go Of The Energy Of Past Relationships

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  • Do you feel paralyzing fear at the thought of dating, or as you start dating a new person?
  • Do you compulsively compare new potential partners to your former one(s)?
  • Are you concerned that the new person is going to behave or treat you like your ex?
  • Do you worry that you’ll fall back into unproductive habits, patterned while you were in your previous relationship?
  • Are you thinking too much about your former relationship(s), much more than just having occasional memories pop up in your mind?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you might be energetically stuck in a past relationship, maybe one that has ended a long time ago.

For some people, it's not that easy to transition from a relationship that has ended to a new one that is just starting (or even just to the idea of a new relationship). Having once been intimate with someone at the emotional, physical, spiritual and intellectual levels can leave you with some energetic leftovers preventing you from approaching dating and the creation of a new relationship with a new person in a fresh way.

Sometimes, what's in the way of finding your special someone to build a happy and healthy relationship is indeed... a former partner (or several ones) that you are no longer dating but to whom you are still energetically attached, maybe unconsciously.

When your intention is to create a new happy, healthy and long-term relationship with a new kind of partner and with new ways of being and behaving, it is essential that you let go of past attachments once and for all.

But how?

Emotionally and energetically, the end of an intimate relationship involves a grieving process. Because it's the death of the intimate relationship that must be grieved and not the death of your former partner* it can feel appropriate or even desirable to continue a relationship with the ex, as acquaintances or even close friends.

* Note: In this post, I’m limiting myself to relationships that have ended by decision of one or both partners, not because one of the partners passed away.

Transitioning seamlessly from being intimate partners to close friends while resuming dating and building a new relationship with another person is possible for some people. For others – maybe you - such direct transition does not allow the completion of the grieving process and the energetic reset needed to approach dating and a new relationship in a happy, healthy and effective way.

Therefore, if you have been struggling with letting go of a previous relationship (or several previous relationships), if you feel pulled back into old patterns when dating a new person, or if you realize that your energy system has not been reset yet, the best way to make progress and get the fresh start you need is to take a step back from dating for now and complete your grieving process by cutting the leftover energetic cords that still bind you to your ex-partner(s).

Here are a few ideas for you to get started:

1. Commit to NO contact… for now.

Going NO contact consists of stopping all contact with your ex-partner until all emotional and energetic connections have been completely cleared. If it’s easier to commit to, you can decide that it’s a temporary measure and imagine the possibility of reinitiating contact in the future. Chances are that once your old attachments will be cleared, you no longer will need to reinitiate contact because you will have completely moved on. You’ll be able to simply wish them well from a distance.

Regardless of what you end up doing later, for now NO contact means:

  • No calling and no answering calls (block number if needed)
  • No texting and no responding to texts
  • No emailing and no responding to emails (block email address if needed)
  • No messaging through any kind of apps (remove ex partners from your contacts)
  • No following on any social media platform or website (remove ex partners from your lists of friends and connections)
  • No frequenting locations where the former partner(s) go (to the extent that it is realistic)
  • Defining clear boundaries with common friends by asking them to refrain from talking to you about your former partner(s)

If you’re currently involved in a friendship with your ex, you may want to announce your change of mind so that there is no misunderstanding or (too) difficult feelings. Communicating something like this would suffice: "For the time being, I need to stop being in touch with you, so please respect my decision by not contacting me. This is a self-care practice and nothing personal against you. I wish you well." And then, commit to your decision and go NO contact.

Note: Full-on NO Contact is of course impossible if you have children with your ex partner. However, you can define strict boundaries for your interactions with the parent of your children by limiting the methods of contact, the frequency of communication and the topics discussed.

2. Get mental closure.

Personal closure:

Clear your personal space of all photos, items and souvenirs reminding you of your ex. Put them in a box and hide it from sight. Again, this can be a temporary measure but chances are that it will become permanent as you clear these old attachments for good.

Interpersonal closure:

To my experience, beyond the break-up conversation attempting to get answers and/or analyze what happened with the ex rarely brings more clarity. If clarity was possible, the relationship would have survived or you would not feel stuck after the break-up. Do you know that you can get interpersonal closure by "talking" with your ex in your mind or by writing letters that you do not mail? Yes, you can have whole conversations that do not involve the actual person! You will be surprised to realize that this way of expressing everything you need to while “they listen" can bring you more peace and clarity and generate less additional baggage than having actual conversations with your ex in real life. I called these conversations "conversations between spirits".

3. Cut the energy cord.

If you still feel attached to an old partner, it might be because you still have an “energy cord” bonding you to your ex partner. Such leftover energy connections lead to major leaks of your energy.

Reclaim your personal power and precious energy by engaging in a daily ritual where you imagine cutting all the energy cords still connecting you to your ex. You can even do physical movements as if you were slicing through cords connecting your heart with the person visualized. You may choose to end your ritual with a short wish of well being for the person from whom you are working to separate yourself energetically. Energetic separation does not mean not caring; you're simply practicing loving from a greater distance.

4. Take yourself on awesome dates!

At least once per week, take yourself on a date all by yourself. This might feel easier to introverts who enjoy time alone than extraverts who thrive on social interactions, but this is a wonderful and essential practice to do regardless of whether it feels easy to you or not. Learn to commit to your own Self, find pleasure in your own lovely company, learning more about yourself and intentionally doing things you like. By the way, some dates can be very simple and take place at home, but you must be deliberate and call them “dates” : )

5. Get a fresh start.

As you work through these steps, at some point you will realize that you no longer think so much about your former partner and your memory does not get triggered by random events as often as it used to. At that point, you might be ready to date again!

Do a little "back to dating" ceremony. How about getting a new haircut or buy a couple of new going-out outfits? Or maybe consider creating a vision board of what your next relationship will feel like and how you are going to navigate it this time around.

And if going back to dating feels daunting, if you're not sure how you're going to navigate the sensitive process of vetting prospective partners and going from the first hello to commitment, consider getting the personalized support of a Dating & Relationship Coach.

I'd love to assist you in developing your most authentic and effective dating strategy and support you as you build the happiest and healthiest relationship of your life!

Turn Your Inner Critic Into An Ally

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Got a voice in your head?

A nagging, critical, belittling voice?

Or maybe it's a sensation of tension, at times crushing a part of your body?

This part of your psyche that criticizes us and saps our energy is called the superego, the judge within, or the inner critic.

Left to its own device, the inner critic is one of the biggest obstacles to joy, fulfillment and success because a superego on automatic pilot triggers a lot of unnecessary fear and shame. It's deeply disempowering.

The inner critic is a structure present in everyone's psyche and it's there to stay. No one is immune to it, although some people have a more intense inner critic than others.

Ironically, the inner critic's original purpose is to protect us. It indeed has good intentions! It wants to prevent us from making mistakes so that we do not feel ashamed, it wants to stick to familiar experiences so that we do not feel afraid, and it wants us to behave in specific ways so that we are respected and liked by others.

The inner critic's negative impact comes not from its intention, but from its way of fulfilling its intention. The inner critic was patterned into our nervous system by our genetics, life in the womb, caregivers, family and culture of origin and experiences during our early development, when we were incapable of making wise decisions on our own. At that time, it made sense to have a primitive system on automatic pilot to prevent us from hurting ourselves when we were exposed to physically or emotionally dangerous scenarios.

Over time, as we develop into autonomous adults, the primitive inner critic’s shaming and fear-inducing automatic reactions become misguided and/or overkill. In the name of “protection”, the inner judge prevents our adult selves from fulfillment and self-realization by keeping us small and powerless. It does not feel good, but we don't know what to do when we are attacked by a part of our own mind.

So what to do?

SInce the superego is a natural part of ourselves and not going anywhere, the best way to deal with the inner critic is to first accept its existence and seek to understand it better. Rather than trying to shut the voice up by yelling back at it or by numbing ourselves from it by engaging in various unhealthy behaviors, it's more effective to be curious about that part of our psyche, start a dialogue with it and discover if we can team up and develop a healthy collaboration with it.

After all, even if it does not feel like it when we are under a vicious attack, at its roots the inner critic is on our side, so it will cooperate better if it is fully acknowledged and accepted. Compassion always work better than silencing or retaliation : )

Eventually, our inner work leads to upgrading our primitive inner critic to the role of a wise ally able to fulfill a more sophisticated function than nagging, criticizing or crushing. Disempowerment turns into a reclaiming of our personal power.

Journaling Questions:

  • What kind of inner critic am I dealing with? How intense is it? How does it show up?
  • When does my inner critic tend to get activated?
  • How do I tend to respond when I'm under attack from the inner critic?
  • What could I do differently when my inner critic is acting up?
  • What kind of support do I need?

When To Have Sex For The First Time In A New Relationship?

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Popular answer: "Whenever you want!"

Coach’s answer: "It depends"

It depends on:

  • What sex (*) means to you and what effect having sex with a new partner has on your Mind, Body, Heart and Spirit.
  • What kind of relationship you are hoping to build with your new partner.

(*) Note: What I mean by sex is all the activities that involve sexual pleasure for one or both partners. If sex means intercourse for most people, it’s helpful to realize that intercourse is far from being the only way to share an intimate sexual relationship. After all, there is a decent number of relationships out there that don’t involve any penis at all : )

So yes, even if you're the kind of person for whom sex simply means sharing a pleasurable activity with little emotional or spiritual repercussion, starting a sexual relationship with a new partner will nevertheless have profound effects on your energy system at the Mind, Body, Heart and Spirit levels, and the timing of when you start having sex might affect what kind of relationship you'll be able to build.

There is of course no strict cause and effect between when you start having sex and the outcome of your new relationship. Some people develop a happy and healthy relationship out of a one-night stand and some people who get married after three weeks of passionate dating make it to their 50th anniversary.

But that's rare.

When the sexual aspect of the relationship starts before a genuine emotional connection is developed between partners, it energetically (and sometimes literally) communicates to your own self and to the other person a message of transience. Once the novelty and chemistry wear off, there is nothing real and solid to keep sexual partners interested in one another and the relationship is at risk of fizzling quickly.

On the other hand, when the emotional and sexual connections develop together fast, but without assessing compatibility and ability to make a commitment, sex has a knack to make a relationship that has little chance to work long-term last way past its expiration date. And this is not good if you're looking to build a life-long relationship. When you are hoping to find your special someone to spend the rest of your life with, the last thing you need is being stuck in a sexual relationship with someone you are not going to be with in the long-term because of built-in road blocks that you could have identified early on.

Additionally, sexual pleasure bonds people (especially women, and some men too) more intensely to their partner. It’s actually one of the great roles of sex in a happy, healthy and long-term relationship – acting as an energetic bonding agent between partners, in addition to the other elements of the relationship.

Do not underestimate the power of your hormones and neurotransmitters that have evolved to make us make lot of babies!

Having sex early on in a new relationship, before you know your partner well, could contribute to making you feel close to - or even make you feel like you're falling in love - with someone who might otherwise not be compatible with you, not able to commit to you or even who does not treat you with the respect you deserve. Finding yourself in such predicament will drag out the inevitable ending of a relationship that is not meant to be and make the break up much more painful than necessary, because you will feel more bonded, more in love, and more confused than if you had ended the relationship before getting to third base.

This being said, it's not always just sex that create this bonding effect, but the domestic intimacy that comes with having sex. People who have a sexual relationship are more likely to spend the night together, do "couple-ly" things, and just spend more and more time together. Obviously this is a important stage for the relationship to go through at some point when you are looking for a spouse or long-term partner, but it should not take place before making a basic compatibility assessment, getting a good sense of each other’s commitment's ability and quality of character. And having decided to be exclusive.

If you are looking for a long-term partner, why would you share the most imtimate aspects of your being, your home and your life with someone who would not commit to being with you until next week?

For all these reasons I’m inviting you to be mindful of when you choose to start the sexual aspect of your relationship, even if you think that it does not matter much to you. It's about staying emotionally and physically safe, keeping your head clear, and taking your time to decide how you're going to invest your most precious energy.

If you're looking for your future spouse and the parent of your children, you must first focus on creating an emotional bond, on getting to know one another’s values and character, and on making sure you have some basic level of compatibility and commitment.

Allow your prospective partner to finish dating all the other people that might distract them before starting to be sexual. Once you know that your relationship stands a chance, you can open your relationship up to the great joy of sexual pleasure and deeper bonding through physical intimacy, and continue to get to know one another in more profound ways.

And by the way, this preliminary process does not need to take a long time. More than three dates but less than three years : )

In summary, starting to have sex too soon in a new relationship could either lead to the unnecessary ending of a relationship that could have lasted had you developed a bit more emotional connection before sex, or conversely it could keep you stuck in a relationship that does not have what it takes to be truly fulfilling in the long-term.

Avoid these pitfalls by first establishing a solid foundation of basic emotional connection, compatibility and exclusivity. As an added bonus, sex will feel safer and more fulfilling!

The No Gossip Rule

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For the purpose of this post, "gossiping" involves discussing other people's personal stories, talking negatively about others behind their back, repeating sensitive matters shared in confidence and engaging in other potentially damaging conversations about people who are not present. To me, it's also participating passively by listening to others engaging in gossip.

Gossiping is devastating to all relationships, both professional and personal. The negative energy created during these conversations not only affects the subject(s) of the gossip, but also everyone who participates in the gossip.

Why is gossip such a negative activity that must be stopped?

  • Gossip is the creation of negative energy and we definitely don't need more negative energy; we need more positive energy.
  • Gossip trains us to think of people negatively and to judge them, rather than focusing on their basic goodness first.
  • Gossip robs people who are being talked about of their freedom to decide whether they want to share their private stories, and of their right to present their facts in their own way.
  • Over time, gossip participants unconsciously start distrusting the others taking part in it because it's only a matter of time until the gossipers do to them what they are doing to the people they are gossiping about.
  • It's a complete waste of time and energy. Who has time for gossip when it's already hard to fit enough sleep, proper diet, exercise, mindfulness practice and productive conversations in a normal day?

Now, the problem with gossip is that it's highly addictive once the habit has been started. We're instinctually drawn to starting gossip or to passively listening to it (way of getting attention from others, feeling better about oneself, being entertained, etc) because like every other addiction, it has a numbing effect on our own feelings and it distracts us from our own pain and self-judgement.

Nevertheless, if we want to continue to expand ourselves by developing our nervous sytem in a positive way, and if we want to build healthy and trusting relationships with others, we must learn to say NO to gossip, no matter how hard it can be to stop something that feels good in the moment.

Are you now convinced that you must stop participating in gossip?

If yes, here are a few ideas to get started on your "No Gossip" rule:

1. At the end of your morning practice, set the intention to refrain from starting or participating in gossip. Every single effort starts with a clear and precise intention.

2. At the end of each day, as you review how your day went, ask yourself about whether you started or participated in gossip. Over time, your self-reflection will turn into an ability to catch yourself in the act and stop. With a bit more practice, you'll be able to refrain from starting it or participating in it in the first place. As you make progress, do your best to suspend self-judgement and simply aim at making baby steps towards your intention.

3. If you find yourself part of a group gossip, simply excuse yourself and leave the conversation. It's a great time to take a bathroom break! Alternatively, if it looks like there is a conflict to resolve, respectfully suggest that all people involved in the conflict meet together and talk it out with everyone present.

4. If you find yourself in a one-on-one conversation where your conversation partner starts gossiping about someone else, gently try to change the topic and if this fails, politely interrupt them and ask them if they know for sure that the person they are talking about has agreed to their personal facts being shared.

5. If you must talk about someone else who is not present, for example as part of a work-related review/assessment meeting, talk about the person by imagining that they are present in the room and listening to what you are saying about them. Would they hear you talk about them in humanizing and nuanced ways? When listening to your negative feedback, would they hear you mention these as areas of growth with a possibility of evolution? Would they hear you mention what's good about them too? Practice talking about other people in the same way that you would like them to talk about you, especially when there is a negative assessment to make.

6. When there is a benefit in sharing someone's story with others for learning/teaching purposes, anonymize the story and its subjects. Only discuss the relevant information and completely omit identifying features, so that the subject keeps their privacy while the lessons can be shared and learned.

Refraining from gossip is a powerful practice to do for yourself and for others. It builds the ability of your mind to be fair and nuanced, and it keeps your relationships healthy and grounded in trust.

Relationships between people who say NO to gossip are healthier, happier and safer.

What Is The Hallmark Of A Healthy Relationship?

It's being willing and able to address and resolve disagreements and conflicts together.

As I'm writing this, I'm in the process of teaching a 5-week class series about my "Four Pillars of Happy & Healthy Relationships" model. For the next four Sundays, we will be gathering at the lovely Shanti Naam yoga studio in Castro Valley to talk about Commitment, Love, Compatibility and Personal Development.

Come check it out! : )

These four elements must be present for a relationship to be happy, healthy and last in the long-term, and if I had to point to one decisive aspect that most clearly indicates that a relationship is healthy is the ability of both partners to address (and hopefully resolve) disagreements and conflicts candidly, effectively, and lovingly together. Effective conflict resolution naturally happens in a relationship that is supported by The Four Pillars.

Addressing and resolving disagreements mean no sweeping difficult feelings and differing opinions under the rug for the sake of "being the bigger person" or "trying to be accepting". It also means no angry outbursts or attempts to forcefully impose our will on our partner.

Here are the features of effective conflict resolution:

  • Being able to be with our fear of conflict and resisting the need to discharge the fear through passive, aggressive or passive-aggressive behaviors. 
  • Realizing that in every disagreement or conflict, both parties have a contribution, regardless of individual responsibility. It takes two to tango; to disagree and have a conflict as well.
  • Being curious and seeking to understand before needing to be understood.
  • Being open to be wrong, acknowledge it, and change our mind.
  • Being grounded and able to stick to our opinion when that's what still feels right after having listened to the other opinion and having had time to think and reconsider.
  • Being comfortable with making requests such as asking for our turn to explain our own opinion and feelings, or asking to take a break in the conversation.
  • Making amends and apologies, even when it's just expressing regret for our contribution to the conflict.
  • Being patient. Some conflicts will be resolved promptly while some will require several rounds of conversations.
  • Favoring unity over having our way. Being willing to choose a second or even third preference if it's the option that will work for both partners.
  • Asking how to move forward when the situation appears to be stuck and exploring the possibility of getting support.

Journaling Questions:

  • Which skills am I already comfortable with?
  • Which skills are my blind spots?
  • When I reflect back on my past relationships, how did I address/resolve conflicts with my partner?
  • If I'm in a relationship now, how do I evaluate our conflict resolution skills?
  • What kind of support would I need to become more skilled at conflict resolution?

Living Slowly In A Fast-Paced World

  • Do you feel rushed?
  • Always behind?
  • Overwhelmed?

When everything feels like it’s moving much faster than we can handle or like to handle, there is a feeling of overwhelm and an impression of living in a constant state of emergency.

Long-term, it's incredibly uncomfortable to live like that. It's also not healthy to be rushed all the time, and living in emergency mode jeopardizes the health of our intimate relationships. It's not even the best way to be productive because productivity requires calm, purpose and focus and needless to say, it's hard to feel joy when we spend our days like a hamster running on its wheel.

So how can we slow down when the world we live in constantly pushes us to move faster and faster?

It starts with tuning into ourselves and listening to our own inner rhythm. When we have a better sense of our inner landscape, we can then learn to stay grounded within ourselves, not allowing external factors to push us around like dead leaves in the wind.

1. Start the day with your own self. Just yourself.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up and open your eyes? Are you grabbing your phone on the nightstand to turn off your alarm, and then immediately proceed to open your Facebook app or Newsstand?

Such reflex is normal when the same device serves as clock, phone, camera and computer. It's unfortunately also the best way to be dragged away from oneself before the day has even started. When you tune into your friends’ announcements or the world news before tuning into yourself first, you set the tone for a day where you don’t even know how you’re feeling and how you want to spend your day. This progressively robs you from your inner power.

Tip: Refrain from starting the day with your electronic device(s). If it’s difficult to resist the pull of the phone, consider recharging it overnight in a different room and using an old-fashioned alarm clock in your bedroom.

Practice: Design and engage in your own morning ritual before firing up any device. Starting your morning with a Morning Centering allows you to tune in into your own energy, pace, and voice first. Only after you have grounded yourself is it time to decide if it’s a good idea to tune in into the energy of others and of the world. Some days it will be, some days it will not be.

2. Choose how to use your time wisely.

A fast-paced world makes us believe that we can do it all, if only we’d spin our plates faster or juggle our balls more skillfully. Truth is, there are only 24 hours in a day, we need at least 8 hours of sleep, and there is only so much that can be done in the remaining 16 hours. It's essential to make choices that make sense with the time and energy we have and with what we want to accomplish with our lives.

Tip: If you feel overwhelmed, chances are that you are overcommitted for the level of energy you dispose of. In some seasons of life, you will have to scale down your schedule. Some people will never be able to do as much as what others can manage, and it's ok. Please don't compare yourself to others because it is pointless to compare completely different energy systems and life circumstances. Choose to commit to always doing the best you can with what you have at any given time. Learn to say no or not now with no regret, so that you can say yes! to what you can and want to do.

Practice: Every weekend, purposefully schedule the following week. Refrain from scheduling commitments back to back; this contributes to the feeling of being rushed. Always plan "buffer time" to allow for transitions such as transit, parking, last-minute to-do items, or taking a short break to recenter yourself. Decide how many evening commitments are reasonable for you. Schedule “me time” sessions to refresh, process, organize, and take care of yourself.

3. Be present.

Learn to bring your attention to your breath as often as possible. When you do something while being in touch with your breath, you are fully present. Your productivity increases, your creativity soars, your feelings get cleared out of your organism naturally, and time seems to slow down. Focus makes you more productive, which in turn saves time and increase trust in yourself. It's a virtuous cycle.

Tip: Consider setting up reminders on your phone to be reminded every hour of so to take a few deep breaths. Little by little, you will start to remember without prompting and you will become more and more present throughout the day.

Practice: Devote a few minutes every morning to practice mindfulness. It can be a formal sitting meditation, yoga, tai chi, chi kung, mindful walking, etc. Start with 5 minutes and build your practice from there.

4. Be friends with someone who lives slowly.

Do you have at least one friend who is good at helping you return to your own self? You need one of these people in your friends circle!

Having a friend who moves slowly, deliberately and enjoys making time for "slow time" will help you tune into your inner rhythm. It sure is fun to run around doing all sorts of activities, yet sitting quietly together and sharing one-on-one allow the both of you to reset after a long day of work and other commitments, and it's a great way to deepen your friendship through more intimate conversations.

5. When everything feels extra crazy…

Always return to the basics.

Whenever you feel extremely overwhelmed and/or exhausted and/or super anxious, ask yourself:

  • Am I sleeping enough? If not, cancel all evening commitments for the time being and go to bed super early until you feel more rested.
  • Am I eating nutritious food? If not, go to the grocery store and purchase brightly colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and lean proteins.
  • Am I drinking enough water? If not, start carrying a water bottle at all times and set up alarms on your phone to remember to drink every hour.
  • Am I getting enough fresh air? If not, go outside every two hours for a 5-minute deep breathing session.
  • Am I moving my body enough? If not, start by adding one or two 10-min walks in your day.
  • Am I processing my feelings regularly? If not, go buy yourself a new journal and write for a few minutes every night before bed time.
  • Am I getting enough support? If not, get in touch with a supportive friend. Talk it out. Ask for what you need. Your friend will be happy to be there for you. An alternative (or in addition) is to go talk to a per counselor, coach or therapist.

Keep that list handy and go back to it in times of crisis. Work on each item in that order. Little by little, you will get out of the immediate crisis and access a state of being when you can troubleshoot with more specificity and depth.

We must tune in to our own rhythm and resist unhealthy outside influences. We can be in the world without being of the world by moving slowly, deliberately, purposefully and by breathing deeply.

Exclusivity Matters!

Although I fully accept alternatives to monogamy for those who need them at some point in their life or permanently, I strongly believe that dating exclusively is an essential step to take on the path towards developing and nurturing a deeply intimate and satisfying long-term monogamous relationship.

Not that long ago, dating was assumed to be an exclusive arrangement by default, even in the early stage of the new relationship. It was safe to assume that prospective partners were not dating other people, and any other behavior would have been considered disgraceful and dishonest. To some people it's still very much the only acceptable way to meet and date people nowadays.

With the development and increasing in popularity of dating websites and apps allowing people to meet and date multiple people at the same time, norms have been turned upside down and the safe belief to hold these days is to assume that there is no exclusivity before a formal agreement is made.

What does it mean?

On the positive side, it means that people not interested, ready or capable of exclusivity, monogamy and commitment now have easy access to sex and companionship with no strings attached, whereas in the past they would have been pressured into a serious relationship or a marriage that they were not ready for. When more options are socially acceptable, people are more likely to be honest with themselves (and others) and be less at risk of getting into arrangements they can not sustain.

On the negative side, it also means that people interested, ready and capable of a serious relationship or marriage can no longer assume that dating is a path towards the exclusive and intimate long-term relationship they are hoping to develop. Dating has become an in-the-moment activity that can lead to all kinds of outcomes and therefore the onus is on the person who wants more than Netflix & Chill to do the detective job of figuring out what the other party is up to and what they are capable of.

Because The Thread of Ariane is about developing and nurturing long-term relationships, my purpose is to help you get into a happy and healthy long-term relationship rather than into a casual arrangement. When you are looking for a spouse - or at least a long-term partner with whom to live a good chunk of life - a crucial step in your early dating is going to decide whether you and your prospective partner want to start focusing on one another exclusively, with no other "distraction".

And this first step has to take place as soon as possible if your relationship has any chance to grow and develop into something deeper.

No, the exclusivity talk does not have to take place on the first date. After all, you and/or your prospective partner might have several first dates that week or a second date already scheduled. However, after a few dates, you need to be able to decide whether there is enough spark, interest and compatibility to explore things deeper and if this is worth it to let go of other options. It might take a few dates, but it should not takes weeks or months to get there. In dating, ambivalence means no.

Remember, agreeing to exclusivity is not marriage! It's not even a real commitment. It really is just a date-as-you-go agreement: you promise to be committed to one another until your next date. It's a very low standard to meet, really, one that is not hard to fulfill at all. When you can still end things at the next date, it's far from a binding or constricting commitment because you still have a lot of freedom, yet such agreement gives your new relationship enough focus and safety to have a chance to grow if it is meant to. If you or your prospective partner can't agree to exclusivity within a reasonable time frame, it means that one of you is not ready to focus on one person or that they're just not that into you.

Does dating exclusively mean that you might miss out on other possibilities? It sure does, and so what? Each time we make a choice, we give up on plenty of other choices. Making a choice is good! If you don't choose to focus on the real human being who is right in front of you, what you are going to miss out on is that special person who is willing to give you time and energy.

Your fear of missing out on a fantasy will make you miss out on a real possibility.

Now, if you are the one ready for exclusivity and it's not being offered to you or accepted when you suggest it after a few dates, here is what you are going to do:

Move on.

Please understand that if you're looking for a long-term commitment, investing in someone who won't commit to you for three or four days until your next date is a waste of your time and emotional energy because they are not going to become capable of making a lifetime commitment to you within your dating time frame. Stop wasting time: make a graceful exit and move on to someone who - just like you - is fully ready to explore the possibility of a serious relationship by not shying away from exclusivity.

Being free from casual arrangements makes you emotionally and energetically free for a serious relationship.

If it's acceptable and even pretty effective to meet several new people at the same time and do a first round of vetting in a non-exclusive context, sooner rather than later you must choose to focus on one person if you want to learn about them and about you two as a couple.

Exclusivity is the only way to develop true emotional intimacy, true knowledge and true depth.

Do You Allow Your Likes And Dislikes To Control Your Life?

During my Integral Coaching training, the founder of the methodology and my teacher during the course, James Flaherty, explained:

"A mistake that a lot of people make is justifying doing something because they like it, and not doing something because they don't like it."

That's how in just a few words, James clarified what keeps people stuck:

Using likes and dislikes as valid tools to decide what to do and how to use our precious time.

When we allow ourselves to do more of what we like doing just because we like doing it, and to resist what we don't like doing just because we don't like doing it, we prioritize immediate gratification over long-term satisfaction. We let our limited self (ego) take over our life by constantly hunting pleasure and in the process, we fail to manifest what we truly want to accomplish in our life in the long-term. We prevent our Higher Self the chance to unfold and to make progress towards our life purpose.

As our ego feels increasingly more powerful, another part of us also feels progressively more powerless.

To get unstuck and out of this cycle of liking/not liking, we must develop our self-awareness and self-discipline. We must learn to commit to our Higher Self and to our life purpose. To do that, we must - as my teacher James said - heal our addiction to liking and become willing to do things we might not like, for the sake of the long-term satisfaction of living a life aligned with what we are truly meant to be doing.

It's about sending our ego take a nap while our Higher Self gets back in the driver seat.

This does not mean that we give up taking delight in all the little pleasures of life. We can infuse our days with pleasure and ideally be fully present while deeply enjoying them. However we must resist our addiction to "doing more of what we like" and stop rationalizing our avoidance of what we don't like, so that we can devote time and extend purposeful energy for what will bring us true joy.

Because joy is so, so, so much better than pleasure.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

If you have been following The Thread for a while, it's now obvious to you that I'm passionate about making relationships work well in the long-term. But what if the relationship or marriage you are part of is in a confusing stage of not being fulfilling while still being quite functional in some aspects? How do you decide between continuing trying to improve things and calling it quits, and how much time and energy do you devote to such questions and process?

If it's of course impossible to write a definite list of decision-making criteria, understanding what makes relationships happy and healthy as well as getting some clarity on the kind of marriage you are part of could help you make a decision.

When a relationship or marriage is not working well, I think it's because of one of three general scenarios:

1. It's a marriage that should never have started in the first place:

Lot of people get married because they're in love, feel that it's "meant to be" and hope for the best, and they skip the careful and methodical evaluation of their long-term potential as a couple.

When one or both partner(s) have serious character flaws, an undiagnosed/untreated mental illness or addiction, is unable to stay faithful and committed and/or when there is serious compatibility issues of life goals and lifestyle between partners, it's best to call it quits before getting married.

If you realize your mistake after the fact, as heartbreaking as it is it might actually be wiser to get a divorce before making even bigger decisions, such as having children or making big financial commitments.

2. It's a marriage that was promising and could still be happy and healthy if only...

When both partners have been able to love one another in ways that speak to one another, are compatible in life goals and lifestyle, have good intention and a decent character and have been able to stay committed, everything seems to be going well - sometimes for decades - and the relationship is still promising in the long-term.

And then, life happens. What seems to be going well on the surface is more appearance than reality - at least for one partner. Busy-ness has led to neglecting the nurturing of the relationship, old wounds have been (re)activated, unexpected problems with the kids have surfaced, financial issues have added stress,... After a few years or decades of neglecting their bond, otherwise compatible and committed partners could realize that a huge rift has arisen between them, as well as perhaps a feeling of "having grown apart" or of not being compatible any more.

By the way, this is when infidelity is most likely to happen... with all the other problems that occur when such mistake is made.

Leaving a relationship that has good foundation with the hope of getting in another one that will feel more fulfilling right away is tempting because although it's a heartbreaking decision, it's still the easier decision to make than the even more painful one requiring too look deep within and getting serious about personal healing and grieving old disappointments and unmet expectations that are part of a normal life.

Calling it quits at that time before doing this personal work and making some serious changes could be a terrible mistake because the issues that have led to these relationship difficulties are very likely to lead to the end of future relationships as well.

In a marriage, we're called to grow and develop oursleves throughout inevitable life changes and the changes that our partner go through. We must continue to learn about ourselves, our partner and life. We must continuously recommit to our own personal healing and to our practice of loving another imperfect human being, regardless of what curve balls life throws at us.

If you decide to embark on a personal and relationship healing journey, it would be wise to give it a general timeframe (maybe a year or two), so that you can fully commit to giving it your best with adequate time and support for the amount of effort required, and also not take the risk of getting stuck in an unhappy relationship for many years.

It goes without saying that such journey takes two to tango, and if your partner is unable or unwilling to take responsibility for their own part in the relationship difficulties and do their own personal development work alongside you, you might still have to accept the inevitable. In any case, it's worthwile trying to make changes on your own first, especially if children are involved.

3. It's a marriage where everything was on track... until one partner unexpectedly changed for the worse:

In some rare cases, the relationship has good foundations and has been going well for a long time, and then - maybe as a result of a traumatic event - your partner develops a serious mental illness and refuses to seek treatment, or becomes addicted to a substance or behavior and does not make it a priority to get sober, or engages in a criminal activity.

I believe that this kind of situation is rare because signs for such tendencies (including denial/defensiveness and the refusal to take responsibility) usually show up early, most likely in the first or second year of dating, before a decision to get married takes place. However as mentioned above, life happens... and if you find yourself in this situation of having done your due diligence and having had a great relationship for years until such unexpected and tragic change takes place, the outcome will depend on your tolerance level and capacity to forgive. You need to define your own limits and decide what is best for your family.

As human beings, we are called to practice Unconditional Love. We must be willing to stretch ourselves if we want to enjoy the delights of a happy and healthy marriage. However there should not be unconditional relationships; we must have boundaries for every relationship we are part of. In some cases, we must accept that some relationships are not possible and make the choice to love from a greater distance than within an intimate partnership.

And it's ok.

Fruit Spritzers Are The New Margaritas

An incredibly positive step that you can take for your self care is reducing your alcohol consumption.

Drinking alcohol is a very popular coping method, an easy way to relax and numb out negative emotions. It also contributes to our sense of “fitting in” because alcohol is part of our social rituals.

The problem? Numbing out our feelings prevents us from processing them and releasing their energy, which leads to all kinds of mental and physical ailments.

Each ounce of alcohol consumed indeed increases our risk of heart, liver and pancreatic disease as well as cancer of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver and breast. Drinking alcohol also weakens our immune system, which contributes to an increased risk for various other illnesses. Finally alcohol interferes with the brain’s neurological pathways, and can affect the way the brain works. These modifications affect mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination. This leads to poor-decision making and increased risk of accident and injuries - for ourselves and others - with all kinds of potential tragic consequences.

And then there is the elephant in the room: as a highly addictive substance, alcohol can lead to dependency, and all the heartbreaking personal and relationship problems that come with addiction. In the USA, 7% of the adult population has an alcohol problem and over half of that population is alcohol-dependent.

To limit the risk of all these negative outcomes, new research suggests to limit alcohol consumption to less than 10 drinks per week, with a maximum of two drinks on a given day and two sober days each week to allow the organism to detoxify.

One standard drink is defined as 0.6 fluid ounce or 14 grams of pure alcohol. It’s a 12 fl oz can of regular beer,  5 fl oz of wine,  2-3 fl oz of liqueur or 1.5 fl oz of distilled spirits. It’s actually not that much, most likely less than what is regularly served in restaurants… or in your kitchen as dinner is being prepared.

Although I personally have completely stopped drinking alcohol ten years ago and have pretty much not looked back – at the exception of a yearly mojito shared with my husband on our wedding anniversary : ) – I’m not advocating for you to completely quit. However I’d like to encourage you to reassess your alcohol consumption and see if you could reduce it a little bit. The sharp mental clarity, the sense of ease with feeling each feeling, the trust in decision-making and coordination, the new friendships made over herbal tea, hot chocolate and fruit spritzers, and… the financial savings are all worthwhile.

And in case you're wondering, I can guarantee you that not drinking alcohol does not take away the fun of life. Sobriety can actually lead to pure and authentic joy and very happy and healthy relationships.

Journaling Questions:

  • How many alcoholic drinks do I consume each day and each week?
  • What circumstances lead to me drinking alcohol?
  • How am I usually feeling emotionally and physically when I’m drinking alcohol?
  • What effect(s) does the alcohol have on me mentally, emotionally and physically over time?
  • How could I reduce my alcohol consumption?
  • Who/what could support me in this effort?

Balancing Your Body, Mind and Heart Centers In Dating

A challenge commonly faced in dating is finding balance between the excitement of a new bubbling attraction and the hope that it’s going to work out with the need to remain clear-headed and realistic about the actual potential of the new relationship.

When we’re blinded by chemistry, romance and hope that “this is it”, we’re extremely likely to overlook the most essential question of dating: does it have what it takes to become a happy, healthy and long-term relationship?

On the other hand, when we are too intellectual about dating, making list of must-haves and focusing too much on details and process, we inadvertently close off our hearts and struggle to feel attracted or to connect emotionally to new people, and we take the risk to rule out perfectly suitable prospects simply because they don't fit our list of criteria or strict dating methods.

Effective dating requires the development and integration of all of our intelligence centers - Body, Mind and Heart - because we need all our resources to make what is possibly the most important life decision that we can ever make:

With whom am I choosing to share my energy, feelings and body?

In everything we do, including dating, we tend to favor one of our intelligence centers – Body, Mind or Heart - at the detriment of one or two of the others.

People whose Body intelligence center is the strongest follow their physical impulses too much. They can’t help putting too much emphasis on chemistry, tend to become physically intimate prematurely, and are at risk of following their gut instincts blindly.

We’re in trouble when we become addicted to someone’s body even when the relationship shows little to no chance to lead to what we truly intend to create.

People who rely too heavily on their Heart intelligence center follow their feelings too much. They allow themselves to fall in love quickly, they reveal a lot of personal information really early in the relationship and they tend to easily experience “I just know” feelings.

When we are addicted to our feelings, we take the risk of falling in love with people that we are not compatible with, sometimes with people who do not reciprocate our intention and feelings at all.

People who strongly depend on their Mind intelligence center believe their thoughts too much. They want their prospective partners to fulfill specific criteria – sometimes not even relevant to what relationships truly need - and they get overly attached to their must-have lists when dating.

When we are addicted to our lists and over-intellectualize our dating, we might pass on potential great partners and we can end up perpetually chasing the elusive “perfect” partner.

Balancing Body, Mind and Heart centers in dating requires of us that as we meet new prospective partners and start getting to know them, we refrain from relying too heavily on the intelligence center that we already use too much and purposefully strengthen the one(s) that we don’t use enough.

We must seek balance between facts, feelings and chemistry to have a real chance at building a satisfying relationship.

Now, how do we balance and integrate our intelligence centers?

We do this by developing ourselves. We start the process by increasing our self-awareness and capacity to be with very intense and sometimes conflicting feelings, then we learn to release our attachment to our strongest intelligence center, and finally we engage in new practices to strengthen our weaker intelligence center(s).

Journaling Questions:

  • Which intelligence center do I tend to use too much?
  • Which intelligence center do I tend to underuse or ignore?
  • How has this imbalance affected my dating process so far?
  • What would be my next step to improve my dating effectiveness?
  • What/who can support me in this intention?

What Are You Doing With Your Feelings? (Part 1)

Chances are, not enough!

We’re all trained by our cuture and family of origin to become “thinking” and “doing” machines, and to forget about our feelings as much as possible.

It starts early. As young children, we’re told that we don’t need to feel afraid, that it’s not ok to feel angry, and to pleeeease stop crying when we feel sad. And that's before we're even asked how we're feeling!

It’s like it’s only ok to express happiness. Anything else is either not valid or cumbersome to others.

We learn to reject our painful feelings and in the process, we reinforce the notion within ourselves and in others that only positive feelings are worth being expressed. If we do allow ourselves to express difficult feelings, we take the risk to see our feelings called invalid or getting “fixed” by others who believe it is their duty to “make us feel better”.

It’s an addiction to pleasure and a complete rejection of pain.

There is a reason why we feel emotions and feelings, including painful ones. When we feel a feeling, we’re getting information about ourselves and the environment. If we don't use that emotional information, we lose the crucial insight of one of our major intelligence centers and we jeopardize our ability to take good care of ourselves and our capacity for emotional connection with others.

Feelings are indeed energy that needs to be processed wisely then cleared from our organism. Repressed feelings fester in our bodies until they become extra weight, physical pain and illnesses, and/or linger in our minds to turn into resentment, chronic anxiety and/or depression. Unconscious rejection of painful feelings is also what lead to all kinds of physical and behavioral addictions.

When we are not aware of our feelings and the feelings of others, the first interpersonal skill that becomes compromised is our communication. Authentic and effective communication is more about taking into account and addressing underlying feelings than understanding and eloquently expressing pure facts. Not taking the emotional dimension into account when communicating affects our relationships with our intimate partner, but also with people to whom we are less close.

Therefore, the most important inner work that we can do for our self care and relationship care is reclaiming our ability to be present to each of our feelings. It’s about becoming aware in real time of what we are feeling, deepening our understanding of what triggers our feelings, learning how to express our feelings authentically and respectfully, and finally clearing the energy of our feelings out of our organism to make room for fresh new feeling experiences.

Journaling Questions:

  • How do I relate to my inner world of emotions and feelings?
  • Do I allow myself to feel fully or do I tend to distract myself from feeling?
  • What feelings am I most willing to express? What feelings do I tend to ignore or resist?
  • How do I process my feelings? What could help me become more intentional in processing my feelings?
  • Who can listen to me expressing my feelings without trying to change them?

Purify Your Marriage From The Poison Of Resentment

Resentment is mentally re-experiencing past events and difficult feelings in ways that are emotionally, physically and spiritually destructive. Being resentful is literally stewing in old layers of anger that has not been fully processed and energetically eliminated from our organism.

Anger is usually activated in response to the following triggers:

  • When we think that someone did something to us that was thoughtless or hurtful.
  • When we think that someone did not do we what believe they should have done.
  • When we think that someone have not done enough for us.

And when an episode of anger is not fully understood, processed, resolved with the other person when appropriate, forgiven and let go of, it gets buried into our organism. If we allow the cycle to repeat itself over and over, we build resentment. Then resentment coats our psyche like an invisible but dangerous layer of fuel; a simple spark is capable of triggering a five-alarm fire.

 “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” (Nelson Mandela)

Although we might believe that we have been wronged and that the other party should be punished, the irony of resentment is that it actually emotionally, physically and spiritually hurts us; not the other person towards whom we feel resentful.

When resentment is directed towards our spouse, over time it slowly erodes our emotional connection to them, which can sadly lead to the ending of the marriage if no appropriate healing measures are put in place.

Choosing to let go of resentment is not a gift to our spouse, it’s a gift of healing to ourselves and when appropriate, to the relationship that we have built with our partner.

Interestingly, as I have listened to the confidences of multiples people suffering from resentment, I realized that the initial reaction in the chain of events leading to resentment often comes from very good intentions:

  • A desire to be fair, accepting, or to promote unity in the relationship.
  • A respect of the other’s person own difficult feelings in the moment.
  • A belief that it’s fruitless to “complain” since facts can’t be changed.

How tragic it is to be engulfed in the suffering of resentment when it’s a good intention that started it all!

The mistake that is made in all of these situations is holding the belief that facts matter more than feelings and that some feelings are invalid or unfair. The truth is that feelings matter more than facts in intimate relationships, and that all feelings are always valid and fair even if we must remember that they are no accurate representation of the whole truth of a complex situation.

Therefore, at the core of resentment is a problem of not really knowing what to do with our feelings, a discomfort with our vulnerability, and sometimes a desire to control the outcome of a conflict.

Now, what can we do to purify our relationship from the poison of resentment?

Of course, the best approach is to not let resentment build up in the first place. Learning and using the following skills allow the cleansing of our relationship on a regular basis:

  • Increasing self awareness by learning to identify our feelings in real time. Becoming able to identify which feelings are triggered from present events and which ones are activated from old wounds.
  • Learning to listen well in order to understand the other person's point of view (it allows to discern intent from impact).
  • Developing the courage to ask to be listened to patiently and to express our own feelings and experience of a situation, by making sure to avoid the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
  • Energetically letting go of the physiological and emotional components of the difficult feelings experienced.
  • Radically forgiving ourselves for our own contribution and our partner for theirs. Forgiveness is real strength!
  • Carefully choosing what to do next. Hopefully forgiveness is followed by a new beginning in the relationship, but sometimes forgiveness has to be followed by a graceful goodbye.

Now, if a relationship has been impacted by long-term resentment, it’s going to take a lot more work to heal it, because first you'll have to learn the above skills quickly and then you’ll have to go back in time with your partner and address one by one each issue and disappointment that was not fully processed in time. If there are decades of old stuff to process, it’s going to take a lot of time and energy and it’s going to feel painful before it feels better. It’s like a physical cleanse, the toxins have to come out before healing takes place and radiance is restored.

If you’re still committed to your relationship, if you are still compatible in values and lifestyle, and if there is still some love, you can work it out. Don’t give up quite yet. Roll up your sleeve, ask for support, and get to work!

Meal Planning for the Busy Single/Couple/Family

Are you one of those people who love cooking so much that they make it happen as often as possible because it's a hobby or a relaxing activity?

If yes, would you please add me to your rotation of friends to invite for dinner? : )

If not, continue reading!

Here is my dilemma:

I don't enjoy cooking at this time in my life, and... I want to cook all (or most of) our meals.

When I was single I had a hard time committing to cooking for myself because 1. I did not have these values to ground my commitment, 2. I did not have a system to make cooking happen despite not liking cooking.

We need strong values and effective systems to be able to consistently do something that we don’t like doing.

Ever since there have been two people to feed rather than one, the above values have served as an incentive for me to create a system to support me in my commitment to cooking our meals. Now, meal planning and cooking are on automatic pilot (even when I'm on my own for a while), so that I can go manual for everything I truly enjoy in my life.

Today I’m going to share my system of how I cook 24+ servings of food - and clean the meal prep dishes - in two cooking sessions and in less then 3 hours per week with the intention of inspiring you to create your own system, based on your own personal values and circumstances (single, living with housemates, coupled, whole family,...).

First step:

  • Making the meal plan for the week: to feed the two of us for 7 days, I need 4 batch dishes of 6 servings each to cover 6 lunches and 6 dinners. We eat leftovers for the last lunch and we get take-out or eat out on one of the weekend nights : ). An alternative is to only eat cooked food for one meal per day and eat sandwiches for the other one.
  • Creating a list of suitable recipes to choose from every week. One pot meals are my friends but dishes that are cooked in several parts work too for so long as the different parts of the dish can be cooked at the same time.

On Fridays:

  • Choosing four recipes for the four weekly batch dishes. Although it’s often difficult to design a perfectly balanced diet on a daily basis, the weekly planning makes it much easier. I make sure to choose recipes using diverse sources of protein, a variety of vegetables, a mix of raw and cooked food items, etc. I choose dishes that are easy to cook at the same time: one is usually a slow cooker meal that will cook throughout the day while the other is cooked on the stove or in the oven.
  • Making the weekly grocery list. We use the OurGroceries app for easy sharing between devices and users. In the app, we have lists for the two grocery stores we shop at and multiple subcategories sorted by aisle for faster shopping. I add all the ingredients needed for the four dishes, as well as all breakfast and snack food items needed for a whole week.

On Saturday mornings:

My husband has been doing our weekly grocery shopping on his own for a couple of years now (Thank you, hubby!) and he manages to shop at two local stores in about one hour. Every 2-3 months, we visit a third grocery store further away from home to stock up organic bulk items. Once a month, I cook a batch of beans and store them in the freezer for easy use when needed.

On Sunday mornings:

Sunday morning is Cooking Time #1. I start with prepping the stove/oven meal and while it’s cooking, I prepare the slow cooker meal. When everything is cooking, I start doing the dishes. I usually need 1.5 hours, maximum 2 hours to prepare and cook two batches of six servings and to do the dishes. This food is packed/served for lunches and dinners on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

On Wednesday mornings:

Wednesday morning is Cooking Time #2. It's the same program as on Sundays but I start very early. I usually do a very short morning centering practice before 6:15 AM so that I can cook between 6:15 and 7:45 AM. On Wednesdays I usually do the dishes at night (or ask the hubby to do them : ) so that I can have breakfast and take care of preparing for the work day while the food cooks. This food is packed/served for lunches and dinners on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and/or Sundays (there usually is a leftover lunch or a dinner out on weekends).

My system is based on the following non-negotiables:

  • I do not want to cook too many different dishes every week and therefore we are willing to eat the same thing up to three days in a row (with different dishes for lunch and dinner though).
  • I do not want to cook every day and therefore we are willing to eat food that has not been cooked right before our meal time.
  • I do not care about making food look pretty at this stage of my life and therefore we are willing to eat inelegant one-pot meals. Freshly chopped herbs add a bit of flavor and flair when desired : )

What we gain with these trade-offs:

  • We save plenty of time and money because each part of meal planning has been fully optimized.
  • Food is always ready to be reheaten and eaten when we come home hungry and tired.
  • Meals are healthy, balanced, mostly organic and inexpensive.

As you’re probably quite horrified at some of our trade-offs, I’d like to point out that there are many ways to tweak this system including scaling up for a larger family or cooking fresh food daily if that's your non-negotiable. Regardless of how you change it to make it suit your own needs, here is what you must keep to make your system truly efficient:

  • Meal planning for the whole week.
  • Only one weekly grocery trip.
  • Scheduling your cooking time(s).

Journaling Questions:

  • What system would support my meal planning and cooking within my unique circumstances?
  • What do I value? What do I absolutely need regarding my meals and nutrition? What am I willing to give up?
  • Who can support me? Any partner, child(ren), friends willing to collaborate or taking turns with me?

Proper nutrition is essential self care. Cooking for loved one(s) is essential relationship care.

Are You Dating Someone Who Has “Label Phobia”?

Photo by vesmil/iStock / Getty Images

Has someone you had been dating ever told you that "they don't like labels" or that "they don't want to label things" with you?

If yes - and assuming that you are dating with the purpose of building a serious relationship - how did you respond to such statement?

  • Did you feel a little disappointed but chose to “play it cool” by not voicing your feelings and concerns?
  • Did you agree to continue dating (or “seeing”) this person on their terms, hoping that they would want to be serious with you sometime in the future?
  • Did you allow yourself to get more emotionally and physically attached to this person while they were dating you very casually and/or possibly non-exclusively?

How did this end up for you?

Because going on dates with someone no longer automatically means exclusivity and the exploration of a future together, defining each step of a relationship has become necessary. Such conversations are not fun but there is no way around them since people go on dates with a variety of intentions, and sometimes with no intention at all!

Equating clarifying the first stage of your dating relationship to assigning a label is unfair at best and manipulative at worst, because this evokes a valid progressive concept of our Western culture – the rejection of using labels to avoid stereotyping – to influence you in believing that it’s acceptable (maybe even desirable) to reject giving a name to your relationship.

In truth, it’s not being progressive at all. It’s preemptively declining any emotional responsibility in a relationship without saying this in plain English so that you could understand it for what it is and move on.

Label phobic people do not really want you, but they do not want you to move on either.

When people start dating (or “seeing”) each other, want it or not they enter a sensitive emotional territory, which requires both parties to be more caring to one another. Two people getting close physically and emotionally must take some level of responsibility towards each other. Not much, not like marriage, just the basic agreement of being there for each other in a mutually satisfying way, based on level of closeness and commitment that is desired by both parties.

I’m using the words “mutually satisfying”…

If you are looking for a serious relationship and the person that you are dating declares to you that "they don't want to label things”, what they are truly saying is that they are not interested in being serious with you. It could be that they are not ready to be serious with anyone or it could be just not with you. Even if the difference matters a little to your ego, at the end of the day it does not matter at all: since you’re looking for someone who is also looking for a serious relationship, continuing to date a label phobic person is literally giving up on your chance to be satisfied in a relationship.

There is nothing more unsatisfying than giving up your legitimate need to be dating someone willing to take you seriously.

Here is what's going to happen when you condone label phobia and choose to “play it cool” with a label phobic person: you are going to get just that - no clarity and... a lot of coolness! All of this while your “date” is going to have their cake (seeing you when they feel like it and on their terms) and eat it too (forgetting about you when it's convenient to them and not allowing you to express dissatisfaction since... no label!).

How does all of this get you any closer to getting your own cake, which is to date someone willing (and excited!) to claim you as their girlfriend, boyfriend, sweetheart, partner - or whatever name works for the two of you that means that you are each other’s special person and that you are focusing on one another exclusively for the time being, until you figure out whether or not you are going to get married.

It's time to take a stand, call "label phobia" for what it is, and move on to someone who can't wait to call you their partner!

Next time you're dealing with someone who is afflicted by "label phobia", remember the following points:

  • Make a graceful exit as soon as you get the first hint of label phobia. If you don't feel that you have built the necessary self-confidence to do this powerfully and elegantly yet, go get yourself a coach as soon as possible!
  • You can’t control the person you are dating but you can control yourself. Not getting into a situation that you don’t want is the first step to be available for the situation that you do want.
  • Stay committed to yourself by choosing to date propsective partners who share your purpose. It's more effective and more satisfying!

Can You Lead Yourself?

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Being immersed in the personal and professional development world, I'm flooded with stories, articles and offers of workshops on leadership.

It's like everyone is learning to become a leader or teaching others to become leaders!

For some of us, becoming an effective leader is indeed essential to fulfilling our life purpose. For many others, learning leadership skills is a valuable investment to make for the sake of our personal development, because - regardless of professional goals - the very first person that each of us must learn to lead is...

Our own self.

At the core of self-leadership is working on an equilibrium between self-love and self-discipline. We must treat ourselves with both compassion and rigor, so that we can be grounded and feel confident while we challenge our own limits and consistently do what we must do to accomplish our life purpose.

Needless to say, it's a tall order because issues with self-love and self-discipline have deep roots, complex ramifications, interesting ways of hiding and showing up, and therefore will take quite a bit of time and energy to be addressed and resolved.

And we must resolve them before attempting to lead others because there is no effective leadership without self-leadership.

Journaling Questions:

  • What triggers the most resistance for you: self-love or self-discipline?
  • What is in the way of loving yourself?
  • What would it take for you to have more compassion to yourself?
  • How self-disciplined are you?
  • What is in the way of honoring the commitments you make to yourself?
  • What have you tried so far to grow in self-love and/or self-discipline?
  • Who could support you on this path, with both rigor and compassion?

Are You Teammates or Individualists in Your Relationship?

Photo by Bonerok/iStock / Getty Images

A happy and healthy relationship requires partners who are fully committed to functioning as teammates. A relationship is in trouble when partners put their personal goals above the couple’s shared goals or even worse, when they compete with one another.

Teammates work together on shared goals. They give priority to the team's needs and success.

In a relationship, shared projects could be one or more of the following: managing a household, raising children, engaging in a hobby or a sport as a couple, reaching financial independence, growing a business, collaborating in a community service, unfolding in the same spiritual tradition, etc.

Being committed and giving priority to working on one or multiple shared goals together as a couple does not require giving up on personal endeavors. For example, a couple could be working together in raising their children and saving for retirement, while one partner is into advancing in their career and the other is involved in a hobby they are passionate about. Later in life, the same couple could engage in a new hobby or volunteer together, while one partner spends a lot of time with friends and the other starts a business.

Serious relationship problems develop when one or both partners start putting their personal goals or needs above their shared commitments; or when shared goals have been realized without new ones being created. 

That’s the “growing apart” issue that so many otherwise compatible couples complain about.

In some cases, partners in a couple literally compete. They are unconsciously preoccupied by questions such as “Who is the most successful in their career?”, “Who is the best or most liked parent?”, “Who is the most insightful or developed?”, “Who is right?”, etc. When one or both partners compete for status in the relationship, the relationship shifts from a healthy team dynamic to an unhealthy power dynamic.

Power dynamics take place between rivals; they have no place between teammates.

In a happy and healthy relationship, partners are committed to prioritizing their shared goals while also supporting one another in working on personal projects. They make sure that their personal endeavors do not conflict with their shared commitments and they keep the lines of communication open about what they want to accomplish as a couple and as individuals, and how to create a good balance between shared and personal goals.

Creating and giving priority to shared goals is a key element of a couple's intellectual and emotional intimacy.

Journaling Questions:

  • What are the shared goals of our relationship?
  • How did these goals evolve throughout our relationship so far?
  • Who is my partner to me? A teammate or a rival? Who am I to my partner? A teammate or a rival?
  • What have come first in our relationship lately? Shared goals or personal goals?
  • What does our relationship most need based on my responses to these questions?
  • How would my partner answer these questions?
  • What/who could help us strengthen the team spirit of our relationship?

Morning Centering

Early mornings have always been a pleasurable part of my day as I naturally wake up early and enjoy the quiet energy of that time of the day.

From a simple pleasure, my morning routine has evolved into a powerful self care practice when I started to be purposeful with my morning activities.

When everything goes well (most of the time it does not : ), this is what my early morning lovely piece of life looks like:

  • 5:45-6:15: Waking up naturally after 8-9 hours of sleep.
  • Around 6:00 AM: 20 min of mindfulness practice.
  • Around 6:20 AM: 10-20 min of yoga.
  • Around 6:40 AM: Getting ready/dressed for the day.
  • Around 7:00 AM: Making herbal tea, feeding doggie, cooking breakfast and packing lunches, checking if hubby needs anything.
  • 7-20-7:50: Eating breakfast and enjoying tea while reading emails, news, or a book.
  • 7:50: Kissing hubby and doggie goodbye : )

For me, the day starts well when I have an hour and a half to two hours for myself before work and other responsibilities start begging for my attention. When the day begins with meditation and yoga, I feel more centered throughout the day and I’m a more pleasant person to be around.

My morning ritual grounds me into who I truly am.

If this sounds good to you, here are a few tips to get into a great morning routine:

1. Go to bed early. In order to free up time in the morning it’s essential to be able to… get up! It’s hard to get up when we are chronically tired. And we’ll be exhausted if we don’t get 8-9 hours of sleep in average. On most nights, I wrap up my daily activities at 9:00 PM and aim at falling asleep around 9:30 PM.

Side note: I make every effort to refrain from screens between 9:00 PM and 7:00 AM.

2. Get the rest of the family on board. If you have children, arrange to do your morning routine before they get up. Since they need much more sleep than adults, there is some free time available before they get up. If you have a partner, ask for their support and suggest to take turns to take care of the kids. When they are passed the baby stage, consider including your children into your routine, by helping them develop their own morning rituals alongside you as they grow up.

3. Your morning routine does not have to be long. You can create a lovely grounding 20-minute ritual with 10 minutes of mindfulness practice, 5 minutes of gentle workout and 5 minutes of reading something inspiring while sipping a cup of your favorite hot beverage. A simple routine can already bring a lot of benefits. This is what I do when I can’t afford more time or don't feel well enough for a longer practice.

4. If becoming a morning person at this stage of your life is not an option, how about creating an calming evening routine? Same concept, but even more gentle so that you don't activate your nervous system before sleep. Quiet reflection and gentle stretching are especially suitable for evenings and can be done with the kids or after they go to bed.

Journaling Questions:

  • How do I feel in the morning? Physically? Emotionally?
  • How does my morning look like these days?
  • Do I like my current routine? If yes, what is it that I find enjoyable? If not, what would I like to do differently?
  • What is in the way of having the morning routine that I envision?
  • Who could support me in making some positive changes?

Is There Such a Thing as the Perfect Dating Timeline?

Yes!

But it's not an abstract set of rules of "what to do when" and an one-size-fit-all scenario that fail to take specific people and circumstances into consideration. The perfect timeline from your first hello to your "I do" (if that's what you're looking for) is the pace that allows you and your prospective partner to bond together, get to know one another well, and develop your relationship in balance between purpose and flow.

Dating with purpose means that you are getting to know prospective partners with the intention of building a certain kind of relationship together. It involves actively investigating your compatibility of intention and purposefully building foundations for the relationship that you both envision. On the flip side, it also means gracefully ending any dating situation once it is clear that it will not lead to what you are looking for.

On the other hand, allowing flow is giving a new relationship the chance to grow organically, by respecting each partner's own rythme. Letting things flow means refraining from controling or pressuring, and instead taking individual preferences and needs into consideration.

Finding an equilibrium between purpose and flow is about being intentional without attempting to control the outcome, and allowing a seed to grow into the plant that's meant to become without being passive or giving up on what matters to you.

Developing a happy and healthy relationship with purpose and flow fulfills the needs of both partners and adapts to the unique circumstances surrounding the start of the new relationship. If it does not fit the needs of both partners, it's time to make a graceful exit and move on.

With all that being said, I'm going to offer you a loose timeline of how a relationship can develop from the first hello to "I do" and beyond, in a way that allows both partners to progressively grow closer intellectually, emotionally, physically and spiritually, while respecting each person's need for space and ongoing commitments and keeping the possibility of ending the relationship as painlessly as possible if it unfortunately ends up being necessary.

Note: these guidelines assume that you are looking for a long-term monogamous relationship (with or without marriage). What follows will not make sense to casual daters and people who engage in polyamorous or open relationships.

1. The early stage:

When you start dating a new prospective partner, meeting one to two times per week in person is a must. You want be in one another's physical presence frequently enough to be able to bond emotionally and to observe each other in various "real life" scenarios, but you don't need to suddenly spend all your free time with someone who is still a stranger. Having self-control and a bit of restraint even if you fall in love hard and fast could make the difference between success and failure in the long-term. Don't burn your new candle by the two ends. Pace yourself. Some people (I'm thinking of some of you, dear men : ) fall in love in their partner's absence.

Keeping in touch in between dates can be done by occasional texts, phone calls and emails, but the same idea of pacing applies here too. Be in regular touch, show you're thinking of them, be cute and all, but give your prospective partner some space for their other commitments and for... missing you a little : )

2. Exclusivity or becoming boyfriend/girlfriend/partners:

Depending on the dating culture you operate in, there might be a time period when you and/or your new flame potentially go on dates with multiple people. If this is the case, beside deciding the level of physical and emotional intimacy you're willing to share with someone before dating exclusively, you also have to figure out how much time you are willing to spend in that unclear stage. Because I consider exclusivity more an ongoing agreement than a long-term commitment, I believe that agreeing to focus on one another exclusively is best done sooner than later (I'll talk about that in a future post), but exclusivity should definitely be agreed upon by the 2-3 months mark if you're looking for a serious relationship. After all, we're just talking of exclusivity, not of making a long-term commitment! Growing emotionally close to one another and creating something special and unique between you two must be done without any interference from other people. Also, if you're going to spend the rest of life together, it's essential to demonstrate the ability to resist FOMO ("Fear Of Missing Out") on other options while you're still in the dating phase. If you or your prospective partner can't make up your mind after 2-3 months of regular and purposeful dates, it's a sign of ambivalence and I'd suggest to move on.

3. Moving in together:

When to move in together is going to depend on a crucial question: are you open to living with someone to whom you are not engaged or married, or do you like the idea of doing a trial cohabitation before making a life commitment? Regardless of the answer to this question, don't move in together only out of passion or convenience. Make sure you have carefully investigated your long-term compatibility and your ability to resolve conflict peacefully. Be especially careful if moving in together means giving up on a good housing situation that will be hard to get back to if things don't work out long-term. Be more patient if you have children from a previous relationship; don't drag them from cohabitation to cohabitation - their need for stability trumps your need for passion and convenience.

4. Making a life commitment (domestic partnership, engagement, or marriage):

Please, please, please do not make a life commitment before having dated for at least a whole year. This means no formal domestic partnership, engagement, or marriage before taking a whole trip around the sun together. You must go through the four seasons before knowing a person well because we human beings feel and act differently throughout the year. Resist the temptation of following your gut feeling that says that "I just know". If your feeling of "I just know" is right, it will still be right a few months later. You owe it to your future children to do your due diligence in choosing their mom or dad, and if you already have children, you owe it to them to be careful about whom you bring into their life.

On the other hand, taking too long before making a life commitment can signify ambivalence, unresolved issues, and/or fear of commitment. Make sure to address these possibilities if your relationship stops progressing after a couple of years together. Research has shown that the most enduring relationships are made of partners who have dated 2-2.5 years before getting married. It means that neither rushing nor procrastinating correlates with long term success. Long-term happiness does grow out of a balance between purpose and flow.

Of course, all kinds of exceptions to these guidelines can arise depending on your unique circumstances. That's why you must take your unique needs and the ones of your partner into consideration rather than trying to stick to strict guidelines. Being young and/or being in school requires delaying the process. If you have children from a previous relationship, taking more time for each step would be wise for a graceful blending of your families. In general, there are more valid reasons to justify delaying the moving in/commitment process than accelerating it.

In summary, make sure to spend enough time bonding with your prospective partner, but not so much that you neglect important aspects of your life. Make sure your relationship continues to grow by gently guiding it throughout the stages of progressively increasing commitment, but do not pressure your partner into agreeing to more than they are comfortable to. Be purposeful but adapt to the unique circumstances you two are facing.

And most importantly, enjoy your new partner and take delight in the early stages of your new relationship!

A Fresh Start

To many of us, 2016 felt like a very difficult year. Beside our own private struggles, we collectively felt disbelief, grief, fear, and anger as a succession of devastating local, national, and international events unfolded over the last twelve months.

How can we find inner peace and happiness in 2017 - and in the rest of our lives - in the aftermath of such challenging times?

There is no quick answer and there is no quick fix. All the events that happened did in fact happen. Our feelings in response to these events are real and valid. They inform us that we are experiencing something worthy of our attention.

When we feel disbelief, it’s because we feel challenged in our faith, in what we believe to be true.

When we feel grief, it’s because we feel the loss of something that we cherish.

When we feel fear, it’s because we feel threatened in our survival and in the survival of those we care about.

When we feel anger, it’s because we feel a loss of control at what is happening in our life.

Our first reaction tends to be escaping these feelings. They are painful and we are wired to resist feeling pain. Depending on our personality of origin, our resistance shows up as denial, depression, numbness, anxiety, aggression, or escapism through compulsively engaging in coping activities.

Despite being natural, none of these reactions will lead to inner peace and happiness in the long term, and they will not resolve the problems that we face privately and collectively.

Paradoxically, rather than resisting, the first step to inner peace and happiness is to deliberately slowly and fully feel our feelings. Feeling the pain of hopelessness, grief, fear, and anger allows us to honor our experience, get to know ourselves more deeply, and later on transform their energy into meaningful action.

When our core values are challenged, negative feelings are activated. Therefore when we allow ourselves to fully feel these feelings and inquire about their meaning in the present moment, we are brought back to the deep place within ourselves - the root of our authenticity and integrity.

Journaling Questions:

  • What are my core values? What do I stand for in my life?
  • What values of mine have been challenged?
  • How do I tend to react to difficult feelings? Do I withdraw, become numb, depressed, anxious, aggressive, distracted?
  • How can I manifest what I stand for in the face of challenges and in the life I currently live?
  • Who can support me in this effort?

Fully feeling our feelings, knowing what we stand for, and finding ways to manifest our core values even when they are being challenged by outside forces is essential to find inner peace, happiness, and make positive change along the way.

We can’t control what happens and we can’t control our feelings, but when we are in touch with our deeper self, we can control how we respond to these challenges from a place of authenticity and integrity. We can be the change we wish to see in the world, starting with our inner world and our closest relationships.

Symbolically, today is the possibility of a fresh start. How are you going to bring in the new year what you stand for?

With love,

Ariane