My Partner’s Ex Keeps Coming Up

My friend comes to me and says, “Here we go again,” he exerts frustratingly, “My girlfriend keeps talking about her ex.” If you’ve been in a serious long-term relationship, and are meeting someone who has also, you might find yourself proclaiming, “My partner’s ex keeps coming up.”

Even though fashion magazines and tabloids proclaim that talking about one’s ex is one of many red flags, more often than not, this is not as bad as it looks on the surface. It could be good therapy. Maybe your partner is just working out the details of that past relationship so that he or she can move on healthfully with you.

Your partner’s talking about his or her ex cannot just be either disregarded or seen as a threat to your new potential relationship. If you are prone to jealousy, then you might jump to the red flag conspiracy theory, otherwise it’s good to keep an open mind to see if you can assist your partner in unloading a little sensitive psychological baggage as you prepare for your potential journey together.

Sometimes all your partner needs to do is to release some of the pent-up psychological pressure from his or her past relationship. If this is the case, you can feel good about your partner trusting you with this sensitive data.

A sociopath, on the other hand, will use the talking-about-your-ex method of keeping you off-kilter and if you’re not joining-in the ex-bashing or ex-edification, then he or she might ask you about your ex to get you to participate. Then, later, when you express your concerns about him or her talking about their ex all the time, they’ll point out that you talk about your ex all the time, too. (In the mind of the sociopath, it doesn’t matter whether they asked you about it, or not. It’s just one of their clever tactics of pre-disarmament.)

Whether or not your partner has good or bad intentions, by all means, speak up and tell him or her how you feel about talking about his or her ex. Your partner is not a mind reader and might be assuming that you are as concerned about his or her resolving any issues from past relationships to have greater potential with you.

You will never know, unless you have this conversation. (Even then, there’s a 10 percent chance that it will be a clever manipulation, and there’s no way to know for certain, until later.)

It’s best to be open, and not made jealous or offended easily. Seek first to understand, then empathetically try to put yourself in his or her shoes. How would you feel?

Healthy relationships are all about being open and honest, give-and-take, and maintaining a healthy balance. If you’re jumping to emotional judgment, or looking for red flags in an effort to defend yourself, maybe it’s time for a little self-examination.

If your partner is pushing your buttons, that is to say, he or she is doing something that makes you upset or rubs you the wrong way, it is highly likely that its not your partner who is at fault. He or she is just awakening a weakness by way of activating a trigger which is activating an emotional wound from your past.

Instead of accusing your partner of something, be open and honest by telling him or her how this makes you feel, then, if you are wise, you look within and ask yourself, “Why?” There’s a good chance you will find something hiding deep inside you protesting too much because of a wound from the past.

In my friend’s case, he had been in a relationship with a woman who left him to return to her ex. This wound was activated when his new girlfriend talked about her ex. He was triggered, and thought, “Here we go again,” because it seemed similar to his past experience, which had not turned out the way he would have liked.

All relationships are different, and just because something is similar, does not mean it’s the same thing.

In the end, it’s up to you. You have to decide whether you can live in a relationship where your partner’s ex keeps coming up, whether it’s comparing you, complaining, or uplifting. Whether you can negotiate a compromise, or resolve the conflict between each other, or within yourself.

Whatever you decide is right for you.

Reduce Conflict at Home

Isn’t it time to reduce conflict at home? Sometimes people just can’t seem to get along and this leads to a lot of conflict at home, work, school, among friends, and even while driving. When you get upset at something that someone else does, says, or communicates in some other way, you are likely to experience some degree of stress.

The greatest stressors will be initiated by those whom you know the best, the people within your family. While the family unit is no stranger to stress, if there are little witnesses to these active familial stressors, they will be affected the most. This is how children learn to interact with others, and this follows them into adulthood, even if they cannot consciously recall these events.

Even if the conflict does not engage the children directly, they are still being affected by these stressful situations. If you don’t believe me, just think back to familial conflicts which you witnessed when you were a child. How does that affect the way you handle stress and conflict today?

If you have children around watching your interactions with your family, you might consider taking a break or a timeout, the next time you feel tensions building. Maybe you can reason with the person you’re experiencing the conflict with and pick up the discussion at a different place and time. You might be surprised that delaying the discussion will allow you both to revisit the topic when emotions are not running as high.

This works for adults, adults interacting children, and among children as well.

This can have a tremendous effect on reducing the familial stress in relationships, also, it gives whoever might be inclined to do some deep inner work time to reflect on his or her own past to see if there are any hidden anchors from the past triggering the feelings which are being experienced in the moment.

If you are in a relationship with someone and are not able to manage taking a break or timeout, then you might consider seeking a relationship coach, counselor, consultant, or a member of the clergy, whatever appeals to you and seek assistance from a qualified third party, someone you can trust.

There are many techniques which can be applied to any type of relationship which will reduce both conflict and stress, and it’s up to you to check it out and take the appropriate steps to change your life. No one else is going to do it for you.

This is your life, and those whom you care about deserve not to be impaired by your lack of control, and left to itself unhindered by someone’s drawing explicit boundaries, not seeing eye to eye, or having different points of view, could turn into an abusive situation.

If ever, any relationship is visited by abuse, you have the right and the responsibility to stop the abuse. You are never required to fight back if there is abuse. Just take the steps necessary to isolate yourself from any further abuse.

This takes a great deal of courage and determination, but you can do it.

You have zero tolerance for abuse.

What Is Your Love Language?

When you express your affection to someone, you possess a certain style and method for communicating how you feel. Likewise, your partner has a particular method of expressing him- or her-self. Both of you also have certain expressions which you are particularly fond of that make you feel as though you are deeply loved. This method of giving and receiving love is a form of communication referred to as your “love language” as coined by author Gary Chapman.

What Is your love language?

Gary Chapman

In Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, he delineates five different communication methods or styles of communicating love. By reducing these into five basic categories, you can easily determine which love language(s) you and your partner are most aligned with.

According to the author, everyone has a primary and secondary love language. Most people tend to express their love for their partner using their own love language. If getting a gift from someone make you feel loved and cherished, then it is highly likely that you will express your love to your partner by giving him or her a gift because Receiving Gifts is your primary love language.

What if your partner’s heart speaks a different love language?

Here is the rub: You buy your partner gifts because this is meaningful for you but your partner’s heart speaks an entirely different love language. No matter how many gifts you give your partner to express your affection for him or her, while appreciated, your partner is not receptive to the sincerity and tenderness of your love’s message.

Learning what love language your partner’s heart speaks is a highly regarded tool for effective love communication.

Let’s take a brief look at Chapman’s five love languages. They are:

1. Words of Affirmation

If your partner’s love language is Words of Affirmation, his or her heart responds to certain spoken and/or written words which make him or her feel loved and appreciated, such as, “I love you,” “You are amazing,” “You look sexy in that outfit,” or, “I am so proud of you.”

Different words of affirmation work best for different people. What might be seen as a compliment to one person might be seen as offensive to the next. Taking your time to do a little research to find out which words and phrases your Words of Affirmation partner responds best to is effort well spent.

2. Quality Time

If your partner’s heart responds to Quality Time, he or she will revel in spending private and focused one-on-one time with you.

Could be anything from a quaint dinner out at a restaurant with enough privacy to talk and gaze into each other’s eyes to sitting on the sofa with the TV turned down and phones silenced, having one-on-one time. Attentive listening to your partner and giving him or her the uninterrupted space to express him-or her-self wile you look into his of her eyes and listen attentively could be done anywhere, anytime, if he or she is receptive to this type of loving communication.

3. Receiving Gifts

If your partner’s heart responds to gifts, keep in mind that they not all be expensive gifts. Simple gifts are just as meaningful, if not more so. A handmade card, presenting a freshly picked flower while taking a stroll with your partner, or giving your partner a monetary gift that he or she can contribute to his or her favorite charity.

Those who are prone to receiving gifts as a sign of being loved and cherished will desire a little something-something in between holidays to feel deeply loved. Fortunately for you, they don’t have to be expensive, only meaningful to your partner.

4. Acts of Service

Acts of service are those things that you do which make your partner feel loved and adored. Like all love languages, you will need to find out which specific acts speak to your partner’s heart.

Simple acts of service could include volunteering to perform a chore which your partner normally accepts as his or her responsibility, detailing his or her car, or joining in an activity your partner is engaged in to show love and supportiveness. Pretty much any assistance you can offer to “lighten the load” of any responsibility he or she might have would be particularly endearing to the Act of Service lover.

5. Physical Touch

People either like being touched or they don’t but if your partner’s heart longs for physical tough, then by all means, reach out and touch him or her, even if you are one who doesn’t like to touch or be touched.

Simple touching can be just holding hands in public, a little foot-play under the table at dinner, putting your hand on his or her arm or leg while deeply connecting in conversation or listening will go a long way with someone whose love language is Physical Touch.

Of course, sexual intimacy is assumed in the language of Physical Touch, but it need not be the primary form of communication to express sincere love.

For more information, check out The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

What is your love language?

Show Appreciation

One of the best ways to keep your love alive in your relationship is to continuously find ways to show appreciation for your partner. It’s so easy to let a love go stale when everything is going good and easy but don’t let your beautiful lake view turn into a swamp by restricting the flow of fresh, new appreciation to keep your lake of love vibrant and alive.

Letting your partner know he or she is not taken for granted is very meaningful and just taking the time to show appreciation helps to keep those love hormones alive, increasing the bond between partners.

You can show appreciation without a great deal of fanfare and still increase love’s bond by…

Talking About Your Partner

Simply taking the time to ask your partner about his or her day, letting them say whatever it is they need to say, echo it back in your own words, and ask for more. Resisting the temptation to jump in and talk about yourself and keeping the focus entirely on him or her releases Oxytocin which is widely known as the bonding hormone. In fact, most, if not all, efforts to show appreciation releases Oxytocin in the brain which endears your partner to you, and it goes both ways. You also receive a dose of Oxytocin from making the effort to show appreciation to your partner. Note: you get extra credit for turning off your phone during a one-on-one conversation.

Attentive Compliments

If you pay attention to your partner’s life throughout the day you can take note of some of the little things that endear you to him or her, things that are often overlooked or taken for granted. Later in the evening you can review those things and pick one or two (or three) and compliment your partner on these things that you are grateful for. This helps to keep your love alive.

Do Something Your Partner Wants to Do

We all know that opposites attract and more than likely your partner would love to do something that is not on your bucket list (and it might be on your activities-I’d-rather-avoid list of things not to do). Taking the initiative of offering to attend an event or engage in an activity with your partner that he or she knows you’d rather not do, is a great way to show your support and appreciation.

Lend a Hand

When you know your partner is knee-deep in a project that is trying their attention and may be moving their vibrational frequency toward stress, offer to help. You may, or may not, be able to help but offering your assistance can make all the difference. Think of other ways you might be able to relieve a little stress by rubbing his or her shoulders, a foot rub, or running a hot bubble bath for him or her. This communicates both support and appreciation, letting your partner know that his or her efforts are not taken for granted.

Play Dress Up

It’s easy to get stuck in the same ol’ same ol’ routine, play dress up, have a glam night and get duded-up for either a night out on the town or a candlelight dinner at home. If you set up a dress up even with a degree of spontaneity without any special event or occasion attached to it, this can add a little spice to your life and increase your attachment and intimacy. Of course, there are other forms of dress up, you can be creative and use your imagination, keeping your relationship fresh and new.

Digital Thoughtfulness

We all can be easily caught up in the daily details of making our way through life. You can let your partner know that he or she is appreciated by reaching out with a little nonchalant effort of recognition in the middle of his or her workday by letting your partner know that you appreciate him or her in a brief test or private message. Embrace available technologies that let you take advantage of the ability to connect with your partner, without having to interrupt him or her when they might be in the middle of something intense.

Flowers and Chocolates

To add emphasis to your show of appreciation you can add flowers (for women) or chocolates (for men) to add that little extra something to your admiration. This is a given for special occasions but it is far more meaningful when unexpected, for no other reason than you care deeply.

Show Appreciation in Public

Three times the Oxytocin is released when you recognize your partner in public vs. in private.

When you’re in a group with other people, sharing your appreciation for your partner in a public setting in front of other people as a way to recognize him or her, goes a long way in strengthening the bond of love between you.

Loving How to Communicate in Love

Heartfelt communication can make the difference between sweet love and love crisis in love and romance. How you share those most important issues any normal couple faces amidst your love life makes all the difference in love and loving. How to communicate in love with compassion is the doorway leading to the next level in your love’s exponential potential.

Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt created a loving technique which helps you understand how to communicate in love and relationships called the Imalgo Dialogue or “safe conversation.” This is a process of moving through communicative exchange between two people which engenders loving how to communicate in love.

Here is a basic structure you can follow to experience what it is like to engage in the loving communication model.

Let’s say your partner has something important to say to you. If you want to use this safe conversation model to have a deeper level of connection and communication with your partner, oversimplified, it would go something, like this:

1. Tell me about it.

Allow your partner to tell his or her story.

2. That’s interesting. What else?

Now, you’re inviting your partner to delve deeper into their story.

3. How does that make you feel?

This is safely inviting your partner to share how they feel, which is often overlooked in conversation, unless it is exposed when negative communication styles erupt emotionally.

4. Is there more?

Let’s face it, we’re all a little protective about how we feel. This is a safely guarded spot in our heart, where we hide our feelings. Being invited by your partner to express any underlying, deeper emotion, is not only increasing your connection, it also enables you to examine and rationalize what might be underneath why you are feeling the way you’re feeling.

5. Let me see if I’ve got that.

This is when you restate your partner’s story, and how they feel about the issue at hand in your own words, trying to see it from his or her point of view, including how he or she feels about it.

6. Is that right?

This invites your partner to make any corrections to your attempt to understand his or her point of view. Let hi or her correct you, then repeat go back to step 5. Repeat as necessary, until your partner indicates that you have a good understanding of his or her perspective and feelings regarding the topic at hand.

7. Is there more?

This introduces a loop back to step 4 which might appear to be redundant but actually, your partner has often uncovered more about the topic of this discussion, discovered new information, and found links to other emotional issues from the past. There may be new information to share.

When all is said and done, you can lovingly let your partner know,

“I see how that make sense. And understanding that, I see that it could make you feel…” fully supporting him or her without interrupting, challenging, or judgment. This is compassion in action.

You can find out more about the Imalgo Dialogue in Getting the Love You Want, A Guide for Couples by Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt.

Unacceptable Behavior Loss of Love

I’m Falling Out of Love with You

Relationships are not for the weak. At times you can get to that critical point in a relationship when you’ve lost respect and admiration for your partner due to something that has bubbled up to the surface. In the beginning, it may not have been a problem, but as time has gone on, it could have grown to the place where you might find yourself saying, “I’m falling out of love with you,” due to this situation or behavior.

What can you do if unacceptable behavior or something your partner is doing is causing your love and affection to deteriorate?

Maybe your partner is displaying behavior that is damaging to you or him or herself, such as being too stressed out, overeating, drinking, declining health, short-tempered, etc… and his or her continuing to engage in this kind of behavior is causing you to fall out of love with him or her.

Ask yourself, “Can I take another ten years of living life like this?” If not, it’s time to do something about it before it gets even worse.

You need to create a safe space to have a critical conversation. This is far beyond the frightening, “Honey, we need to talk,” but you need to try to make it as unfrightening as possible, and ask for a block of time that is about three times longer than you might need for this conversation, because you need to allow your partner space to reply and react.

Unacceptable behavior loss of love couple communication I'm falling out of love with you

Abandon ancient ideals about, “not going to bed angry,” or trying to communicate without putting your partner on the defensive.

Once you ask for a block of attention, your partner may want a head’s up about what the talk is about. Don’t give it up, stay true to having the physical and emotional space to follow this topic through to have the best possible outcome, especially if now is not a good time, and energy levels may be running low or are exhausted. Make sure you’re both as well equipped as possible mentally and emotionally (late at night, not a good idea).

Remember to support your partner as much as possible through this process. Recall all the things that are endearing about your partner, how wonderful he or she is, remember all the reasons you fell in love with him or her in the first place, and think about the things you would miss if he or she was not in your life at all any longer.

And preface any conversation with appreciation and gratitude before getting to the heavy portion of your subject.

Your partner is going to be defensive because no one does a thing unless they receive some benefit from it. At the outset, it makes perfect sense to him or her, and so he or she will feel justified in being defensive and fighting for something that provides some form of satisfaction or self-worth.

Remember that this person probably loves you and wants you to have the best relationship possible, so cut him or her a little slack by remembering this is who you fell in love with, while staying true to your position, and trying not to take it personally if your partner reacts emotionally in a negative manner. Don’t change your position or give in.

Besides fighting for the right to engage in the activity which has you falling out of love with him or her, they are likely going to counter-attack you with something about you which is disappointing to them, and the delivery could be harsh. This is a common self-defense tactic, so be aware and prepared for it, if it arises.

If you’re accused of something, don’t fall into defensiveness yourself, and resist the temptation to escalate the abrasion. Instead, respect and hold onto the accusation because it can be invaluable in negotiating an amazing breakthrough in your relationship.

When you’ve reached critical mass at this stage of your relationship and you can’t see yourself going on under these conditions, be honest and open with your partner and say what you’re feeling,

“I feel like I am falling out of love with you, and this is why…”

Then tell him or her. You might even add,

“If I’d have known this is how things were going to be, I wouldn’t have married you in the first place.”

This is about as grown-up a talk as you could possibly have, so don’t be afraid to say it like you mean it, and be committed to arriving at an outcome. Do not walk away from this issue until you get an acceptable answer.

This is a critical turning point in your relationship. Remember, this is the person you love, even though the love is waning at the moment, and he or she is not doing this as an assault on you. It is his or her issue, and you want to be as supportive and loving as possible throughout the process if you’re to have any hope of successfully moving forward in your relationship.

Seek to understand and arrive at a win/win conclusion, if at all possible. This is where the accusation which you filed away can come in handy. More valuable than a bargaining chip, this might be the key to arriving at win/win. Maybe you both can get what you want.

If things get too hot and heavy, and emotions are running high, take a break. Be compassionate with yourself and your partner. Try to avoid saying something you might regret. Allow time to cool down, re-center, remember all the good things, and re-engage when you are ready.

It’s Time for Me to Leave My Partner

Yes, no doubt, you’re feeling like you can’t take one more minute and that, “It’s time for me to leave my partner.” It may be well to call it quits if your relationship is completely dysfunctional and filled with abuse, then, by all means, you have to do what you have to do. But you might be jumping the gun if you feel like your connection is waning, you’re feeling like you have less and less in common every day, you’re feeling like you and your partner are growing apart on different paths, and if you’re just not feeling the love anymore, then you might be thinking, “It’s time for me to leave my partner.”

When nothing could be further from the truth.

In most cases, when two people are feeling like they are growing apart and feeling like calling it quits, this could be the worst thing you could do, if you are on an expansive path of personal growth and/or a progressive spiritual journey.

On the surface, that sounds whacked, but you must know that this feeling between two people is a marker, a huge blinking neon sign that begs you to, “Dare to Love More!” This feeling is the gateway through which you must pass to make it to the next level in your love vibration.

It is very likely that you and your partner are not as far apart as you might think, only that you are expressing yourselves in different ways, which should be celebrated, not eradicated.

Sure, your growth and expansion may look different, but you are both growing, changing, and expanding together, even though you might be using different distinctions, words, and phrases in an effort to communicate your expansion one to the other.

Let’s say the woman loves to practice meditation and yoga, while the man would rather play a team sport and also engage in watching team sports on television. You might think this to be an incredible mismatch.

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Even though the symptoms look quite different, and the words and phrases sound very different, both members of this relationship can actually be growing in spirit and truth even though it looks quite different.

You might be surprised to know that team sports are very spiritual, and when athletes are engaged in team sports, they often get themselves into a spiritual state commonly referred to as “The Zone.” In this state, the brains of the teammates can co-create, communicate and access source energy, not unlike one might in meditation, prayer or in a group spiritual practice. This state of spiritual elevation is the same, though it looks very different, and it was accessed in very different ways.

When you are feeling as though things are getting difficult, or not feeling right, this is a clear indication not to look at your mate, to blame your partner, or look at your relationship as deteriorating. No, this is your sacred challenge to look inside yourself and realize this is a divine invitation to dare to love more and expand yourself.

If you feel as though your partner is annoying you, or up to no good, ask yourself why you feel that way?

The highest form of love is unconditional love, which usurps, “I love you no matter what.” Could you dare to entertain the idea of loving your partner unconditionally? This is your true calling. This is what this life is all about.

But it doesn’t start with your partner. In fact, it has nothing to do with your partner at all, except for your partner is provided to you as a tool, a mirror, reflecting back those areas where you have unresolved issues with you. Again,

Why do I feel that way?

Why does this or that drive you crazy?

If you’re doing meditation and yoga, it’s because this is necessary for you to grow and expand. It is clear that your partner doesn’t need to do those things. Your partner is managing his or her growth and expansion in a completely different way, and that’s okay.

It’s likely your partner has been trying to tell you this over a period of time but you’ve been able to understand him or her due to the variance in vocabulary. It’s as if you’re saying the same thing but in different languages, it’s no wonder it was difficult for you to understand, though the misunderstanding is understandable.

Maybe it’s time to listen with your heart and not be so quick to pass judgment. In fact, to do so would be hypocrisy. No one path is more right or wrong than another, and to suggest that your partner must grow, expand and express him or herself in the same manner as you is nothing less than spiritual arrogance.

There are many ways to achieve connection, you must allow everyone to find their own way and not condemn them for doing it in the manner which suits them best at any particular time and place.

Your divine mission of love is to love yourself first, then to the degree that you are able to love yourself, you can love others. You must love yourself for who you are, all your weakness, idiosyncrasies, all your missteps, and failure, as well as all your gifts, talents, and strengths.

Your challenge is to grow in love, to love yourself unconditionally, then, and only then, will you be able to love your partner, and others unconditionally.

You love, and allow them to be free, free to be whoever they may be, freely expressing themselves in the world which is perfect and different for each and every human being on this planet.

If you dare.

Buried Treasure in Fighting

Conflict in relationships is part of the growing and expanding love opportunity. You can choose to join forces support and heal each other through each conflict, or let each successive conflict tear away and erode the relationship until there is nothing left to fight for.

If you as a couple unite and allow for conflict to be a tool for advancing your love, creating deeper meaning, connection, and intimacy in your relationship, you will find the buried treasure in fighting and are very blessed indeed.

To effectively approach conflict in its most positive and powerful form, it might be good to understand what fighting is all about.

1. Fighting is Not about Us

When you’re in the midst of a passionate discussion, conflict, or fight, try to keep in mind that while the surface message may be an important message about you, your relationship, some circumstance or situation surrounding your relationship, honor and listen to this surface message, but the passionate delivery or rage, has little or nothing to do with you or your relationship.

2. Fighting is about Fear

A useful part of our physiology, the brain’s secretion of the danger cocktail (a combination of Adrenaline, Cortisol, and Norepinephrine hormones) disconnects all resources that might be used for conducting thoughtful rationale in exchange for the focused struggle for survival, a definite advantage when encountering man-eating lions, tigers, and bears. And fear is the trigger that sounds the alarm, overriding our nervous system.

The “fear” may not be what it appears to be on the surface. You will notice this when your first reaction might be, “Why are you so upset?” because the subject doesn’t seem to match such an intense emergency response. In this case, most likely, the fear is anchored in your partner’s past.

We all accumulate fears from the time we are born, and they routinely express themselves as we walk through our adult lives (often at the most inopportune times) and link themselves to something which triggers the emergency response and you are prepared to fight or run as fast as you can to avoid peril or impending doom.

3. You as a Couple are Allies

Remembering that you are in this together is a key component. When you are facing an obstacle, challenge, or emotionally charged threat to the relationship, remember it is not you against your partner. It is you and your partner linked side-by-side heart-to-heart against this invisible adversary who is trying to come between you.

You and your partner are committed to each other and this relationship. You wouldn’t intentionally do anything to hurt your partner. You love and support him or her and would do anything to help him or her.

And if you can clearly see your partner overreacting to an issue and spinning out of control emotionally, this is a sign that your partner needs your help. So, stay calm, don’t let yourself get lost in the drama, be the strong support that your partner needs in this vulnerable and sensitive state.

4. Pay Attention

Listen and pay attention to what might be represented as unspoken content or underlying fear. Honor the surface message by clearly understanding what your partner is trying to communicate and seek clarification and acknowledgment that you are understanding correctly while continuing to look below the surface for clues.

Our fears, which hold us back and block us from our highest potential have accumulated and followed us from birth, and these fears are normally anchored to our relationship with our parents (like fear of loss, or abandonment) or other childhood traumas.

If you are attentive and fueled by the love for your partner and his or her best interests, you might be able to uncover the hidden connection to his or her fear(s) from the past. This is when you,

5. Find the Buried Treasure

The buried treasure in the conflict.

An example might be,

You and your partner agreed to (driving in separate vehicles) meet in the parking lot of a restaurant. When you showed up ten minutes late due to a traffic jam, you met with your partner’s outrage. Let’s say, you did the right thing, did not get defensive and help the space sacredly for your partner’s outrage, letting him or her get it out.

You let your partner know that you understand that he or she is upset because you were late and rather than take the time to let him or her know that you might be late, you decided to focus your efforts on getting there as quickly and safely as possible.

You reinforce that you wouldn’t do anything to hurt or harm your partner, your heart is filled with love for him or her, and you would do anything to protect your partner and be there for him or her to the best of your ability.

Then, after a while, you might query, “Is there a time when you can remember in your life, in the past, when someone showed up late?”

You can see the rage start to build as your partner tells the story about how he or she was left to wait alone in the school parking lot, waiting for his or her father to pick her up after school. The father had forgotten and she waited alone, now in the dark, for four-and-a-half hours!

Bingo! You found the buried treasure!

Now that you and your partner recognize this, you can move through the process of your partner’s healing about this traumatic episode from his or her past.

You guys are a super team!

You have supported your partner and helped him or her face his or her demons face-forward and come out on the other side victorious! Nothing draws a couple closer together or engenders greater intimacy than that.

Kind’a makes you look forward to the next fight, ’eh?

Oh, by the way, in honor of the surface message, after apologizing for being late, you also agreed to call ahead if at all possible (more possible now, with cell phones) if you’re going to be late out of courtesy, love, and respect for your partner, which is something that his or her father never got to do.

Note: This example was a pretty direct conclusion to arrive at. In other circumstances, it could take a lot more investigative work on your part as you collect data from a past fear expressing itself repeatedly before you are able to properly detect it.

Empathic Understanding

Connection via empathetic understanding is the real connection between two people and is the most endearing act of love and honor which one can present to another. This connection is the most meaningful part of any relationship. You know it. You remember when you’ve felt it. When your friend finishes your sentences, when you’ve had a strong bond with a teacher or mentor, you felt connected, understood.

You know this. Yet, surprisingly, I see a lack of empathetic understanding as the underlying indicator of trouble ahead in the most important relationships, between lovers. Maybe you felt a connected and/or understood in the beginning (though that was likely a more powerful driving force than connection) but after a while, you realize that the connection you felt was simply you projecting your desire to be connected and understood onto your partner.

When you’re in the projection mode, you see everything interpreted through your special lens which is rose-colored and sees synchronicity in all things. Following the passing of time, things that used to be “cute” are becoming annoying, and you’re no longer feeling as though you are connected or understood, as you once thought you were.

When you’re projecting your feelings onto your interpretation of another person, you feel as though they are feeling your feelings, even when no such connection exists.

It is this feeling of another’s feelings that Stephen Covey refers to as his, “Habit number 5: Seek first to understand then to be understood” in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This is the connection which exemplifies the highest integrity and connection between two people, whether used in business relationships, or more importantly, at home. It is a powerful connection which promotes and deepens respect, trust, and intimacy.

This simple method of joining the worlds of two people into a united vision felt by two is the secret of the most successful relationships. Sometimes it just happens organically, and the two people don’t even know they are doing it. For the rest of us, we need to first understand the concept before we can even think about attempting such a thing. And it’s on you to proactively take the first step.

Understanding is not giving advice, being over-protective, or fixing things for another person. Empathetic understanding is simply the process of actively listening, inviting them to dig deeper, and even more deeply, until they have gotten it all out, while you are using your imagination to feel what it might be like to be in that other person’s shoes, empathizing with him or her.

Empathetic Understanding

If you’re unaccustomed to this higher level of listening, it may take some practice. Creating a safe and sacred atmosphere can be an important component when someone is sharing something close to their heart, so eliminating distractors, such as the TV, music playing in the background, or retreating to a place where more privacy can be established are excellent ways to honor your partner’s sharing.

Nodding your head and looking them in the eye indicates you’re listening, while you are resisting your inclination to interrupt or interject when they are sharing. Let them speak their piece and listen carefully. When they pause, simply try to restate what they just said in your own words, starting with, “Let me see if I get what you’re saying…”

Then ask them if there’s anything more they’d like to say about that? And let them continue. Repeat this as many times as necessary, until they’ve announced that’s all they have to say.

Rather than give in to the urge to counsel or help him or her fix something your partner is concerned about, after first imagining what he or she might be feeling, feeling it as though you were feeling them yourself, offer up validation of your partner’s feelings. Something like, “Wow, you must have felt devastated.” And allow them to either agree with you or reclarify what they are feeling about what they were sharing. If they reclarify, imagine what it would feel like from that perspective.

If you have different opinions about something like your partner was terrified by a ride at the amusement park and you found it exhilarating, you can validate your partner’s feelings while agreeing to allow each other the right to their own experience. For instance, you might say, “I can feel how terrified you must have been on that ride,” (empathy, and continue) “but I was having the time of my life.” It’s okay to have different points of view, but very important to deeply understand where your partner is coming from and honor them by allowing them to have their experience any way they want to.

If they’ve intimated their story to you devoid of feelings, it might be helpful to lightly probe and encourage them to share their feelings by simply asking, “How did that make you feel?”

I think you’re ready to take your relationship to the next level.

An Affair of a Different Technology

When trust is lost in a relationship, how are you to recover from the broken sacred bond between two people?

In my work with couples, I have seen breaches of trust, that may not look like much on the surface but left to itself, like droplets of water over time, can erode and naturally cut a canal between a couple’s otherwise potentially healthy terrain.

One such subject of erosion is tied to emerging technology which is greatly impacting our lives and may be causing our real relationships to erode as we seek more temporal relationships found via social networking and cell phone communication.

There is an addition to this emerging media which allows people to bond with other people without the risk of a face-to-face component, reducing the fear of rejection or failure that is ever looming over a live interaction between two people. The technology buffer helps to protect us, and give us a false sense of safety, as we carry on online or via cell or another device.

You see the erosion in a coupled relationship begin (albeit barely noticeable at the outset) when one of the parties begins to spend more time communicating and engaging with their virtual friends or mates, than their real-life partner.

When examined, it all seems so innocent, as it’s just a bit of sending funny pictures or videos, just exchanging jokes for a little laugh, nothing really harmful in itself, while some of them may well be members of the opposite sex, and may also be a threat to the current partner, or not.

When approached or challenged about your virtual relationships, if you protest and justify your actions with,

“It’s not like I’m having sex, or anything…”

then there’s a pretty good chance you’ve already compromised your current relationship, and if you continue, it will only get worse.

Why do you think your partner queried you about your virtual relationships?

Could it be that he or she feels that your virtual relationships are a threat to the sacred bond which holds a committed couple together? Why do you think he or she might feel that way?

And why are you so defensive about defending your right to carry on with your virtual relationships?

I will tell you why, because in that moment, when you defend your virtual friends, you further compromise the relationship, by indirectly stating,

“My virtual friends mean more to me than our relationship.”

I know it sounds crazy, but think back to the early stages when you were developing the relationship that you’re in now; what kind of things did you talk about with your prospective mate?

When you move this intimate communication component to relationships outside of your current one, the effects are equivalent to having an affair. While the affair may not possess a sexual component yet, and may never go there, the emotional breach has already taken place and can be even harder to recover from than a sexual transgression.

So, when you’re reaching out to your virtual friends with conversations about your problems, or the latest happenings, observations, concerns and struggles going on in your life, this is robbing your real-life relationship of the glue which bonds the two of you together. As it continues to deteriorate, and you reach further and further outside your relationship for comfort or connection, the relationship deteriorates and falls apart.

I’m not saying all casual relationships turn into a wild, sexual affair, only that in a relationship between two intimately connected individuals, the connection is broken when you turn your attention about the intimate (not necessarily sexual) details of your life away from your partner and toward someone else.

Think about this; when you get wind of a good joke, catch a meme that tickles your funny bone, hear a good bit of gossip, or catch a breaking news headline, who do you first report it to? Virtual friends, or coworkers? If so, you’re giving away your relationship adhesive. Even if you feign the attempt to share it with your partner after work, you’ve told and retold it enough that it has lost its impact or flavor, it once had when it was fresh.

Do you enjoy a little harmless flirtation with members of the opposite sex at work, online, or via text?

Have you ever shared intimate details about your life, or your relationship, with someone of the opposite sex, in person or via other communication devices?

If you have, the adhesive is continuing to erode. If this energy was turned toward your partner, you know it would bring you closer together, but now you’ve basically turned your back on (or at least your attention away from) your mate, and putting this energy in the hands of someone else.

Even if nothing transpires physically between you and this other person, you have compromised your bond and transferred the bonding agent to someone else.

I have been helping couples for years, and even though current technology makes this sharing of sacred energy even easier, believe me, there are plenty of other ways to give your energy away, and it’s been going on for as long as there has been coupling, its nothing new.

The only way to keep it from destroying your relationship is to stop doing it.

And if the mere thought of giving up this innocuous relationship seems offensive to you, that in itself is proof that it is not as benign a relationship as you might think. Not to mention that a key component of grooming someone is to develop a deep, non-threatening emotional attachment over time (which is a whole different subject altogether, but does rear its ugly head in circumstances when the attention of one of the individuals in a relationship allows their attention to stray).

“But,” you say (they all do), “There’s nothing going on here, this person is meaningless to me and it is not damaging my relationship.” Okay, if that’s true, then just stop it.

Stopping this type of emotional affair and returning your attention to your partner, could be the most important thing you could do to save your relationship from its being reduced to little more than ash.