Category Archives: Being in Relationship

Articles on all aspects of meaningful relationship with other human beings.

Freedom in Relationship


In 2008 at the end of a heart-wrenching breakup, I captured these thoughts about what I wanted in a relationship. While I have refined these thoughts even further since then, they are still true for me today.
• I want to have absolute freedom in a relationship, to be trusted and to trust that what I am being told is truth, even if it is uncomfortable or even painful.
• I want the freedom to spend time with anyone I choose to spend time with, without worry about jealousy.
• I want the freedom to continue to explore life and make mistakes, knowing that my partner will not judge me, but will provide that sanctuary for me to reflect, grow and learn from those experiences. This IS a “best friend.”
• I want my relationship to surprise me on a regular basis, in a delightful way, as we discover all the layers and complexity of each other.
• I want my relationship to ‘enhance’ my life, not consume it. I want it to be a delightful compliment to my life experience, not my ‘everything.’

Is What You Are Feeling Really Love, or Something Else?


In our culture we use the word “love” to express many things, most of which are not love—I love that shirt! I love your hair. I love hiking in the mountains—do we truly love any of these things? Chances are, what we feel about these things is a powerful emotion, but is it love?

The word “free” comes from the Old English root “freogan” which means, “to love.” Therefore, offering freedom to another (the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint) is to love that person.

Love vs. Lust
The word lust in Wikipedia is defined as “an emotion or feeling of intense desire in the body. It can take any form such as the lust for knowledge, the lust for sex or the lust for power … or such mundane forms as the lust for food as distinct from the need for food. Lust is a psychological force producing intense wanting for an object, or circumstance fulfilling the emotion.”

Lust (or desire) seeks to get—to possess, love seeks to give—to offer freedom.

In relationship, when we seek to possess someone, regardless of the duration (whether for one night or for a long-term commitment), we are operating out of lust or desire (to long for, demand, expect), not love. Because love wants the other’s freedom and has no desire to possess.
When we make demands, or require expectations to be met by another person, we are seeking to “get” not to “give” and this is not love.

Setting healthy boundaries
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t set clear boundaries for what we want in our own lives, simply that it is not our job to “require” another person to go against what they want in order to meet our forced-upon-them condition.
In setting healthy boundaries for ourselves, we determine what we want in our lives, and then decide what we need to do to maintain this for ourselves. For example, if someone in our life swears, and we don’t want to be around profanity, we would not “require” the person to change their behavior. We could make a request, but not a requirement. In making the request, we could gently let them know what we will need to do if the request is denied. No force, no demands, just communication of what is best for us.
Instead of trying to change them (which we can’t do anyway), we decide what we need to do to avoid the experience. If the only way we can prevent it is to avoid the person, then that is what we would do.

Love seeks only to give
Love only wants to give, give and give some more. No agenda, no expectations, just to share. Most of what we call “love” today is not really love. When I say I love pasta, I’m not saying that I want what is best in life for pasta. What I’m really saying is that I enjoy pasta, a lot. Many times when I say I love someone, I’m not saying I want to share in their burdens as well as their joy—that I want to contribute to their life in a way that makes it better for them. What I am often saying is—If I give you this, I expect you to give me that in return. This is not love, it’s a transaction.
Love seeks nothing in return. Love is self-sacrificing—not for the sake of being a martyr, or getting recognition, but because it cannot help itself.

When we love, I mean, really truly love, we will risk our own life to save another’s life without even thinking about it. Love can’t help it—it’s more powerful than our will to survive.

So the next time you say the word love, give it some thought … would you risk your life for the object of your love? If not, then you probably aren’t experiencing love, it’s more likely that you just like or enjoy whatever or whoever it is, a lot.

Choose Love and Experience Freedom

How much of the disappointment with love that men and women now feel in our culture is actually a displaced but unrecognized disappointment with life itself?

The greek word “agape” describes a selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. In the book, “Wisdom of Love,” Jacob Needleman, says “Agape is the love that descends upon human beings from God, or from a higher state of being. It is distinguished from ordinary human love, which is rooted in incompleteness and desire. Agape is the love that pours out from fullness; ordinary love, arises out of lack and the sense of personal need,” such as, sexual need or social/psychological conditioned needs, which includes cultural demands.

Agape is intentional. Not automatic, like “falling in love.” Agape is not within our power, but it’s a power we can be given, a capacity that a human being can receive. We must be able to open ourselves to the transcendent power that draws all conscious beings toward each other through drawing them toward the fundamental source of the universe itself—God. Needleman says, “Such a choice from moment to moment is the ‘perfume’ of conscious love.”

The more we consciously love the unseen, aka God, the more we love the people we see and the beauty in the life all around us. This love can then permeate our existence and guide our every thought and action.

The result? Freedom. Freedom from the power of life itself to devour our inner possibilities.

“Love God and do what you wish.” –St. Augustine

You Can’t Change People, So Make Sure to Select the Right Partner For You

Movies provide the fantasy escape from the reality of what a relationship really looks like. In a heartwarming movie, you have characters that fall in love almost at first sight, have some slight issue that distances them and causes them to recognize the bigness of their love for each other, at which point they go rushing into each others arms and the movie ends.

While it is true that some distance placed between two people can cause them to reevaluate the importance of the relationship, it is not a formula, like in the movies.

The reality of a long-term love relationship is two people trying to integrate their personalities with each other. Coming from different upbringings, they have different communication styles, different methods of conflict resolution, different lifestyle preferences, etc. Some need to talk things out, others just want to withdraw and think. Some are less concerned with tidiness; others are driven crazy by an unkempt house. All these differences make what seems like the simple act of integrating two lives, much more challenging than it would seem.

We grow up in a specific environment with specific expectations about how people are supposed to communicate, behave, live, love, etc. We take these expectations into our relationships and are frequently disappointed when others don’t show up the way we expect. Whether it be consistently leaving socks on the floor, or they do things for us but never say ‘I love you’. Whatever our expectations, when they are not met, we become resentful. We nag, we plead, we feel hurt and unappreciated.

When we first begin a new relationship, we ignore many things about the person we are involved with. We only look at the things that align with furthering the relationship. Later down the road, we begin to look at those things that we ignored before as if they are brand newly discovered. We then begin to call them out much to the surprise of our partner, who is bewildered because those things have always existed. Thus begins the process of trying to get someone to ‘change’ to conform to our expectations of how they ‘should’ be. This is a losing battle. They don’t want to change any more than you want to change. They are who they are and have been the whole time, we just neglected to acknowledge the things we didn’t like when we were busy making long-term plans.

So, if we could take things slower in the beginning, giving ourselves a chance to ‘calm down’, create some space for the ‘infatuation’ phase to mellow, wait to see things more clearly, we would have a better shot at ending up with the right person.

Close Friends Improve Health and Life

People don’t just desire human interaction; they require it to maintain emotional, mental and physical well-being.

Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs,” a theory proposed by psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943, states that people have an essential need to belong, to love and feel loved. When they don’t feel loved, they become lonely, suffer from social anxiety, and can even develop clinical depression.

Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States.

“When you’re depressed, where do you want to go? Nowhere,” declares a TV ad for a popular antidepressant. “Who do you feel like seeing? No one.” The image moves from happy couples smiling and running on the beach, to multiple scenes of people alone in various settings, with looks of despair on their faces. “Depression hurts, in so many ways, sadness, loss of interest, anxiety … [we] can help,” concludes the first 30 seconds of the commercial.

The next 60 seconds, in scene after scene, people delightedly interact with each other. Soft music plays in the background while the narrator describes in a velvety tone potential side effects. She says, “Not a complete list …” and proceeds to warn of fatal liver problems, increased blood pressure, headaches, weakness, confusion, problems with concentration and memory, unsteadiness, problems with urine flow, nausea, dry mouth, sleepiness, fatigue, constipation, dizziness, decreased appetite, increased sweating and suicidal thoughts.”

Why would someone willingly ingest a substance that has more serious side effects than the issue it claims to “help”?

Technology—TV, Internet, mobile phones—urban sprawl and the increasing pressures of time and money have contributed to increased levels of social isolation. People have become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, and communities. They are spending less and less time in the company of actual people.

The steady and progressive movement away from real personal connection and toward shallow parasocial (emotional attachment to TV and movie characters) and virtual (social networks like Facebook, Twitter and texting) connection has lead to increased feelings of isolation and loneliness, causing folks to seek out a variety of unhealthy antidotes.

Antidepressants have become the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States.

As people move about the world, everywhere they go, everything they do, every opportunity to connect face-to-face with another human being is mediated by technology—giving them fewer and fewer chances to connect with someone in any meaningful way, leaving them isolated … alone, and lonely.

Americans have more TVs than people in their homes. They squander an average of 31.5 hours each week glued to their screens. Another seven hours per week is expended on the Internet. That’s a full-time job. It’s no wonder they feel isolated.

Scientists and health professionals now believe that the more socially active people are, the less likely it is that they will experience dementia or Alzheimer’s. In fact, maintaining many close friendships may even prevent these illnesses as well as positively affect overall heart and brain function.

Socialize For Well-Being

“Socializing is just as effective as more traditional kinds of mental exercise in boosting memory and intellectual performance,” says Oscar Ybarra, psychologist and lead researcher of a Social Psychological and Personality Science study conducted in 2010 at the University of Michigan. The higher the level of social interaction, from youngest to the oldest, the better their cognitive functioning. “We found that short-term social interaction lasting for just 10 minutes boosted participants’ intellectual performance as much as engaging in so-called ‘intellectual’ activities for the same amount of time,” Ybarra said.

A 1996 study for the Institute of Heartmath revealed the heart’s electromagnetic field extends out in all directions into the space around a person and can be measured several feet away from the body by sensitive devices. Researchers, Rollin McCraty and Mike Atkinson discovered “when people touch or are in proximity, one person’s heartbeat signal is registered in the other person’s brainwaves.” When two or more people are together in a coherent state (experienced as positive emotion such as love or appreciation), their hearts sync-up and operate at the same frequency.

“Intuitive listening,” is a technique employed by Heartmath, where a participant focuses on the heart and maintains a neutral or appreciative attitude while listening to another person. Because of a reduction in their own internal dialogue, individuals hear the speaker’s words with more clarity and focus and become aware of deeper and subtler aspects of the communication that are not contained in the words alone. This increased sensitivity and intuitive awareness offers access to the other person’s underlying feelings and the essence of their communication.

Spending just 10 minutes talking to another person can help improve your memory and your performance. Visiting with loved ones can elevate your overall essence.

People need people. Technology is best used to facilitate and reinforce face-to-face communication, not replace it. The less time spent interacting with technologies, the more time available to interact with real people and improve the health, happiness, and prosperity of one person, a community and a nation.

Does Your Marriage Have a Purpose?

Is Marriage Obsolete?
With so many marriages happening later in life, and ending in divorce, you may ask, “Is marriage obsolete?” With over 2 million weddings occurring each year in the US alone, I would say, “no” marriages are not obsolete. Have the parameters of what defines a marriage changed? Definitely.

We no longer get married primarily to “raise a family.” Without this common purpose for the marriage, there is also less incentive to “stay together” when things become difficult. Many couples are also choosing not to have children.

What this means for marriage today is that couples enter into this sacred union with a limited foundation and vision for their commitment. In the past, this “vision” was provided by our culture. Family was its focus. We “knew” what marriage looked like and what it was supposed to accomplish. We also believed that it was our job to stick it out. Now, we have a much lower expectation of “commitment” to stay in the marriage when times get tough.

So, while marriages are not obsolete, longevity of marriage may seem obsolete. Without a sense of purpose for the marriage, there is no compelling reason to stay together when challenges arise.

Define a Purpose for Your Marriage
In the absence of a cultural expectation for marriage, couples are now left to define this for themselves. Unfortunately, many are not giving this much thought. Weddings have become more about the party aspects of the day (cake, dress, venue, etc.) and less about the reason they are there in the first place—to commit their life to another human being. A lifetime agreement to fulfill a purpose.

To lay the foundation of a lasting marriage, the couple must take the time before the wedding to get clear about their expectations for their marriage and what promises they wish to make to each other to ensure a “forever” kind of life together.

What is the purpose of your marriage? Is it a purpose worth fighting for when times get tough?

Loss Can Tranform Your Life

Loss, especially of a loved one, can be incredibly painful. But it is also a time of enormous possibility. A moment to refocus our life on what matters.

Our perception of death is often tragedy. But death in its philosophical sense makes way for something new—A new perspective, a new relationship, a new habit, a new life. Sometimes it is death to the life I leave behind. When we let go of things that no longer serve us, through a type of death, we open ourselves to the possibility of the birth of something better.

Even physical death is not without the possibility of something good to come from it. Some of the most profound acts of love result from the most horrific events. Tragedy gives us an opportunity to demonstrate true heart—compassion. To step off the treadmill of society and into the heart of life and be reminded of what truly matters. In that moment when we are face-to-face with our own mortality, we recognize the only thing of any real value in this life is relationship with other human beings.

At the end of the day, what else is there of any value? Love is all there is. Cliché? Yes. True? Emphatically.

What matters the most to you? Does your day-to-day life reflect it? If not, what are you going to do to change it?

Lead With Your Heart

In our jargon rich corporate environment, we talk about things like; what does she “bring to the table”? … We need to get his “buy-in” … What she really needs is more “facetime” … or … We need to do some “team-building” if we want to achieve our goals. Contrived, impersonal, meaningless rhetoric.

If we spent less time coming up with cool buzz words to describe our poor attempts at relationships with our employees and more time just building a relationship with them, we wouldn’t have a need for the implementation of a company-wide “Employee Engagement” program … “Engagement?” … Really? Is my leader going to get down on one knee and propose to me? Is there a “honeymoon” period? In the end will I be “married” to my company?  Oh yeah, sign me up.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and in the middle of explaining something important, they began checking their phone for messages? Or maybe they just got that glossed over look like they were going through their “to do” list in their head. How did that make you feel? Did you even care anymore about what it was you were trying to explain? Chances are you felt they simply didn’t care what you had to say, or more specifically, they didn’t care about you.

How does it feel to have someone genuinely listen to you? Not just listen because they need something from you—information, performance improvement, an explanation—but sincerely listen, because they care about you?  This is the stuff that relationship is made of. When you believe someone cares about you, not just because of what you can do for him or her, but because they honestly value you as a person—don’t you want to do things for them, help them, and contribute to their success?

When your heart is in it—when you care about the people more than the corporate “bottom line”, that is when it becomes possible to achieve those ridiculously remarkable results for your company’s Profit and Loss Statement that defy reason. And caring doesn’t mean letting people do whatever they want, whenever they want. Similar to your relationship with your children, sometimes it is necessary to hold them accountable for their actions and sometimes even kick them out of the nest. But all your actions, when heart-driven are ultimately what is best for that person you care about.

In the book, “Inspiring Excellence”, by Michael Schutzler, he insightfully instructs, “Leadership is a relationship … an intricate web of relationships linking people with a common hope. Build this web and you succeed; break it and you fail.”

The best place to start developing this relationship is to listen … with your heart.