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May 2008

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In this issue:

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Conscious Relationship Resources

Conscious Relationship
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David Steele
Founder and CEO,
Relationship Coaching Institute

Frankie Doiron, President
Relationship Coaching Network

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Tara Kachaturoff
Editor | Partners in Life Couples News

Copyright 2008 by All rights reserved.

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This newsletter is designed especially for YOU if:

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Our Conscious Mating Audio Programs provide detailed, comprehensive strategies for dating and mating, addressing all the relationship and decision-making challenges that arise when you're in the pre-commitment stage of a relationship.

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Program #1- Is This the Right Relationship for Me? Introduction to the Pre-commitment Stage

Program #2- Am I Ready to Be a Couple?

Program #3- Finding Lasting Love by Experiencing Your Experience

Program #4- Should We Live Together?

Program #5- Dealing With Our Baggage

Program #6- Are We Compatible?

Program #7- Sharing Our Vision

Program #8- Deciding "Is This The One?"

Program #9- When We Must Say Goodbye

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Ask Our Coaches:
 Trouble with Teens:  Move On or Move Forward?

"...I really don't want his daughter to stand in the way of our current and future happiness.... Should I move on?"

This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your questions to who will forward them to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.

Dear Coaches,

I've been dating a man with two teenage daughters, 14 and 16, for over 6 months.  He lost his wife several years ago to illness and he's been raising the kids on his own. We're both interested in a long-term future together. We've even talked about marriage -- but we're not engaged yet. 

I've never had children of my own. I get along well with the older daughter, but the younger one really doesn't like me. I've talked to him about this issue and he's assured me that it's not a big deal. He sees how she is with me, but says she'll grow out of it as she gets to know me better. 

Well it's been almost 8 months and it's not getting better for me. I really don't want his daughter to stand in the way of our current and future happiness, but I really don't think she's going to change. He doesn't seem to think it's a big deal. Is it? Should I move on or move forward? I really don't know what to do. I'm just not happy with this situation. I'm out of ideas.

Linda in Los Angeles

Judy responds …

Before you join a line dance, it's wise to observe the steps and moves of the other dancers. This is especially important when you consider joining the "dance" of a family that has been practicing for years before you entered their "dance floor."

You've described a few red flags! If the younger daughter doesn't like you now (as an intermittent intruder), what will make her attitude change when you're together 24/7? What will your day-to-day life be like when you take on the role of mothering and supervising your teenage stepdaughters?

It is not impossible to create a successful family relationship in your circumstance, but it won't be easy. It requires:

1) an accurate vision of ALL of the family members (who they are, what they want and how well they'll join with you),

2) a clear exploration of YOUR expectations (so you won't fall victim to unmanageable surprises), and

3) establishing an intentional game plan for your new role (to stay in conscious mode instead of helplessly reacting).

Bottom-line: you've got some thinking to do about what YOU want for YOUR future. Can you see yourself participating in this family's dance? Good luck.

Judy Armes | 509.892.6809

Hazel responds ...

In my experience, as a parent as well as a therapist, this kind of behavior is not necessarily something she will just "grow out of." It sounds like she is still in pain from the loss of her mother, which is very normal. It also sounds like she might be harboring some anger, perhaps at her father.

Eight months is not very long for a child to adjust to suddenly having her dad bring what she might see as another mother into her life. Teenagers have a challenging time just being where they are in life. If you and this man are planning marriage, I think this is something that really needs to be addressed and not just pushed under the carpet with the hope that it will resolve itself. That wouldn't be fair to the child or to you.

She may be thinking that you want to replace her mother. I would encourage you to bond with the child by taking her out on your own, spending a day with her and letting her get to know you? Talk to her. Ask her how she feels. Assure her that you won't take her mother's place – which is a very sacred relationship.

It might be a good idea to suggest a family counseling session for all of you so that thoughts and feelings can be aired with an objective third party. I wish you the very best.

Hazel Palache | | 818.972.4415

Ron responds ...

Children that have lost a parent often present a difficult situation because they may not like the idea of their lost parent being replaced. My first suggestion would be to find that place of compassion inside you and try to identify with the loss this child has experienced. You may want to reassure her that you are in no way trying to take her mother's place.

Second, I would suggest you have a heart-to-heart conversation with your boyfriend where you communicate very clearly how you feel. Be completely honest and tell him you are thinking of moving on as a result of his not taking this situation very seriously. The 14-year-old will likely be in the house for at least another 4 to 5 years at a minimum. That is a long time to deal with the situation as it stands.

Make it clear that something must change for you to be able to stay in the relationship. I'm not in any way suggesting you give him an ultimatum -- that will usually backfire on you. If he truly values you and the relationship, he will take positive steps to resolve this issue. At any rate, you will find out how important you are to him.

Ron Maddox | | 214.528.5426

Ann responds ...

Dating someone with two teenage daughters who have lost their mom understandably holds its challenges. You did not indicate whether the younger daughter is behaving badly, acting hostile toward you, or is simply indifferent.

In any case, I would suggest you confront the issue head-on. Take her out to lunch or on a walk and simply ask her what the problem is. Let her know you understand it must be very difficult for a girl to lose her mom – and reassure her you're not trying to displace her mother in her life, or her memory. Tell her you care for her dad, and your hope is that all of you can get along.

If her behavior continues, it is appropriate for her father to step in and help resolve things. At the very least he should acknowledge and validate your feelings – not discount them by saying it's "no big deal."

She should see the two of you as presenting a unified front. She may need professional help in resolving her issues, or it may be as simple as setting boundaries and guidelines for her behavior. In any event, at this point she's running the show, which is inappropriate for any teenager.

If her father will not support you and help you seek resolution, you will have to ask yourself whether you can stay in the relationship or whether you're willing to give it more time.

Ann Robbins | | 954.561.4498

Feature Article:
Criticism, Complaints and Requests

By Shirley Vollett

You will always have some complaints about the person you live with. But there's a world of difference between a complaint and a criticism.
--John Gottman

Understanding the Difference

Some of us are reluctant to bring up concerns or issues in our relationships. We fear being perceived as "nagging," "nit-picking" or "too demanding." We don't want to offend another, or risk conflict, friction and hurt feelings.

Yet we all know that little irritations have a way of growing into seething resentments. If we don't clear up issues as we go along, we risk having a volcanic eruption over something trivial, at some point in the future.

So it makes sense to learn how to raise our concerns in a constructive manner. Understanding the difference between a criticism, a complaint and a request can help us do just that.

A Personal Mystery

How to bring up and successfully resolve an issue with my husband was something of a mystery to me for years.

Sometimes I was able to do it flawlessly. I expressed my concern, he heard what I was saying, he told me how he felt, and we worked out a solution we both felt good about.

Other times I felt like I'd put my hand into a meat grinder from the moment I opened my mouth. He reacted defensively, justified his position, pointed out my shortcomings and generally dug his heals in. No "win-win" here!

I have now come to realize that the outcome of our conversations often depended on whether I expressed my issue as a CRITICISM, a COMPLAINT or a REQUEST.

If I started with criticism, his back went up and we got nowhere. If instead of criticizing, I simply expressed a complaint, he was somewhat more receptive to what I had to say. And I got the very best response if I could translate my complaint into a request.

As I have learned to distinguish between a criticism, a complaint and a request, it has become much easier and smoother to raise my concerns and resolve them positively. I share these distinctions with you, in the hopes that they will give you a helpful road-map for dealing with concerns.

Let's start with the difference between a CRITICISM and a COMPLAINT

Here are two examples of a COMPLAINT one spouse might make of another:

• "You left your dirty laundry all over the floor again and I'm really tired of picking up after you."

•"I'm really ticked that you promised we'd go to your parents for dinner tonight without consulting me."

A COMPLAINT addresses the specific action or behavior of another and your feelings about it.

A CRITICISM, on the other hand, doesn't simply focus on a behavior or action of your partner. It adds an element of blame and even "character assassination." Delivered as a criticism, the above complaints might sound like this:

• "You're such a slob, leaving your dirty laundry all over the floor."

• "You never think about anyone but yourself when you make plans. You always put your parents ahead of me."

Notice the difference?

Criticisms often contain accusatory words and generalizations like "you never" and "you always." They attack the person's character and personality. And there is an absence of "I" statements. A criticism is all about "you" and the speaker is not taking any ownership of his/her own feelings. The tone is also more contemptuous.

Criticism tends to elicit a defensive response. The criticized partner often justifies their behavior or tries to shift the blame by also going on the attack. No one gets heard, tempers flare and a positive resolution becomes very unlikely.

A complaint is a definite improvement over a criticism.

A complaint is a negative comment about a BEHAVIOR, rather than the person's character. It is usually a statement of feelings, in which the speaker reveals (and owns) his/her feelings. For example: "I'm really angry about" or "I get so frustrated when", etc. A complaint is less likely to provoke a defensive, angry response.

However a complaint is still a weak communication, in terms of creating change. And it is often negative in tone. It tells the other person what you're unhappy about, however it doesn't have the positive power of a REQUEST.

A REQUEST asks for a specific behavior change, that you desire.

In the case of the dirty laundry being left on the floor, a request might be:

• "Before you get into bed each night, would you put your dirty laundry in the basket? And if you forget, do I have your permission to remind you?"

Or in the case of the partner planning dinner without consulting their spouse, a request might be:

• "Would you promise to consult me first, before you accept a dinner invitation from your parents?"

Criticisms often contain accusatory words and generalizations like "you never" and "you always."

A request can be accepted, declined or negotiated. Perhaps your partner won't accept your first request; however she/he may offer an alternate solution. In either case, loved ones are much more likely to respond in a non-defensive and willing manner, if they are not attacked with criticism.

We always have a choice.

We can voice our concern via a criticism, a complaint or a request. I suggest that if you do complain, stick to YOUR feelings about the BEHAVIOR of your spouse. Steer clear of generalizations and those global judgments about her/his character. Criticism is corrosive to any relationship.

Remember, you can always choose to go straight to a request for what you really desire. You might be surprised at how often you get it!

Invitation to Take Action

Next time you need to raise an "issue" with your partner/friend or co-worker:

1) Identify the behavior that you are unhappy about.
2) Formulate your request of them.
3) Make your request calmly and respectfully.
4) Be open to negotiation.

Copyright © 2008 by Shirley Vollett. All rights reserved in all media.

Shirley Vollett
Shirley Vollett
is a Life and Relationship Coach who delights in working with pro-active individuals who want to make positive changes in their lives, their work/business or their relationships.

Bonus Article:
The Honeymoon's Over!
How to Keep Love Alive When Reality Sets In

By Ann Robbins

Honeymoon – where did this word come from and what does it mean? It is difficult to find the true origin of the word "honeymoon" but initial research suggests the term dates back to the 16th century.

A loose definition of honeymoon would suggest the word evolved from the idea that the first month of marriage is the sweetest. The love and affection of a newly-wed couple has been compared to the phases of the moon, and once it (both the moon and their love) becomes full, it immediately begins to wane.

In today's world, the honeymoon is the time the newlyweds spend together after their wedding to celebrate their marriage prior to settling into their new life together at home. The tradition of taking a trip together is believed to have originated in Europe and was done so the newly married couple could visit friends and family who could not attend the ceremony.

We've all heard the dreaded phrase, "Well it looks like the honeymoon's over!" And isn't every newly-married couple's intent to sustain the bliss of the honeymoon? Is this realistic or simply a fantasy?

Here are some tips to help keep the full moon from going into a total eclipse:

Talk, Talk, Talk

Remember when you first got to know each other and you could talk for hours on end, hanging on every word and never getting tired of listening to each other -- never running out of things to say? Keep the conversation going! Be interested and interesting! Allowing yourselves to become bored or stale dries up conversation and this can be deadly.

Listen, Listen, Listen!

Even if you've heard it a million times, allow your partner to tell you that stupid joke or old story. Look into their eyes when they speak to you and don't multi-task. Give them your undivided attention. Looking into someone's eyes when they speak to you provides connection and emotional intimacy. It enables them to speak freely and often encourages them to tell you more.

Schedule a Date Night

All the fun you had prior to the wedding can usually continue if you remain mindful of the importance of doing things as a couple. Work, household chores, family obligations – all these things have a way of getting in the way of good quality time to spend as a couple. Just as you schedule meetings, family events, trips to the dentist – schedule time with each other. It will pay off.

Avoid Routine

Complacency is deadly! Try not to let your new life together become boring or routine. Build in new and fun things to do together. Surprise your partner with a little note in their briefcase, put a chocolate heart on their pillow, call them just to let them know you are thinking about them. Do the unexpected and create excitement. Consciously work at all the little things that add up and make a difference.

Be a Best Friend

Provide a safe harbor for your mate! Let them know they can always rely on you to be there for them, regardless of how bad your day was. Validate their importance and put them first. The best way to keep a friend is to be a friend. Don't ever forget it.

Be Accountable

Remember, you are an equal participant in the relationship. Things will not be perfect all the time, nor will your partner! If things start to wane and your rose-colored glasses begin to fog, focus on the good things you love and enjoy about your partner while taking an honest look at yourself. See what ways you might be contributing to any stress in the relationship and hold yourself to the same standard to which you hold your mate. Do not ask him/her to change unless you, too, are willing to do your part.

Shift Happens!

They say the only person who welcomes a change is a wet baby – and even they cry in the process! Your blissful life will take unexpected turns. You will have ups and downs. And you will need the resiliency to get through it as individuals, and as a couple. The shifts that occur can derail you and cause you to lose focus on what's really important. Take time to stop, regroup and reaffirm your commitment to the relationship. Be open and focus on the things you can control.

Ask for Help

If you find you're losing the romance, and you fear the honeymoon might be over or even nearing an end, express this to your mate! Seek the help of a relationship coach who can help you through as a couple. And in the process, plan a second honeymoon! A great way to celebrate any milestone and reignite the passion you originally felt for each other. Allow the full moon to shine brightly on you, your partner, and your relationship!

Copyright © 2008 by Ann Robbins. All rights reserved in all media.

Ann Robbins
Ann Robbins
is founder and president of LifeWorks Matchmaking, a professional matchmaking and relationship coaching firm. She is a Certified Professional Matchmaker, a member of the Professional Matchmaking Network through the Matchmaking Institute of New York and a professional Relationship Coach through the Relationship Coaching Institute. 954.561.4498

For More Information, is a resource for couples offered by Relationship Coaching Institute, a worldwide relationship coaching organization dedicated to helping singles 'find the love of your life AND the life that you love'; to helping new couples 'make a wise choice in a life partner'; and to helping any couple 'fine tune and keep their relationship healthy and fulfilling.'

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