Partners in Life Couples News, August 2009

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August 2009

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In this issue:

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Frankie Doiron
President & CEO
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David Steele
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Relationship Coaching Institute

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Tara Kachaturoff
Editor | Partners in Life Couples News

Copyright 2009 by Relationship Coaching Institute All rights reserved.

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Ask Our Coaches:
Prenuptials: What's wrong with them?

"...I told her I wanted her to sign a prenuptial.
And, that's when the trouble started."

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 dated Cheryl (not her real name) for a year and a half and we're recently engaged. After the engagement, I told her I wanted her to sign a prenuptial. And that's when the trouble started. She says I don't love her. That's definitely not true. Love has nothing to do with signing a prenup. I worked hard for what I've earned, as has she.

It's ridiculous that my assets, 401(k) and savings should be put at risk of loss should she decide to divorce me. Likewise, I want nothing of hers. I think what we earn and do after we're married is what should be "on the table" or at risk should anything happen in the future.

If she won't sign, I'm not getting married. With a divorce rate of over 50% and earning a living harder than ever, I think it's would be stupid for someone to hand over their lifetime economic accomplishments to another person should there be a breakup. Given that we both make about the same amount of money, I'm not sure what the problem is.

What should I do? Any advice? I'm not changing my mind and I don't know what else to tell her. Do you? Are there other options? Should I need to walk away and start again, when should I bring up the idea of a prenup? It would seem awkward to bring it up in the early weeks of dating. What do you think?

Brett from Burbank

Lisa responds …

Given today's divorce statistics, I understand your caution. I applaud your regard for the business side of marriage -- a very real part of the institution that is often put on the back burner, if not ignored. You sound very clear about addressing that business piece with a prenuptial agreement, which in this day and age is reasonable.

Try to get Cheryl to help you understand why she equates a prenup with the quality of your love. Is it possible that she perceives your protectiveness of tangibles as selfishness? Is there a deeper issue about money or trust that you have not yet discovered? It is important to dig here to be sure your values are shared.

Try not to be adversarial as you defend your stance about the prenup. Reassure Cheryl how much you love her and want to grow old with her, but gently remind her that life's unexpected challenges, as your marriage matures, can leave you both changed and no longer compatible. Cite examples if you can. Or, consider seeing an attorney, together, to discuss the merits of a prenup for both of you.

If Cheryl agrees to sign, make sure she does so from a place of personal conviction. Harbored resentment can rear its head in destructive ways later on. If, however, you choose not to pursue marriage with Cheryl, then when you are back on the dating scene, try to broach the topic casually, possibly by using this experience as a segue toward discussion.

Lisa Manyoky, CTACC | | 609.890.6645

Rick and Jo respond …

This is a topic with opinions ranging from, "People have to be smart and protect themselves, so a prenup is essential," to "If you want a prenup, you shouldn't be getting married." We believe it's critical to get this sorted now as it's about making a smart relationship choice.

Remember both of your positions on this matter are valid. You may feel that you must convince Cheryl that your point of view is right and that hers is wrong, but there is no cheese down that tunnel! The job for you and Cheryl is to determine if this issue is an unsolvable problem or something that can be worked out.

We recommend working with an RCI coach to dig deeper. The intention being to determine if your beliefs around a prenuptial are truly a deal-breaker for the relationship, or whether there is a need that can be uncovered. A need, which is malleable, can be shaped to allow for a win-win outcome if you are both willing to be flexible.

Under no circumstances however, should either of you compromise as that is a win-lose or lose-lose scenario which may result in one or both of you developing resentment (poison for a relationship).

Rick and Jo Harrison | | +61.3.5420.7366

Annette responds …

Brett, having a prenuptial agreement is obviously a requirement for you, and you have every right to hold it as a deal-breaker, meaning that you are not willing to get married or continue in your relationship unless Cheryl agrees to it.

But, rather than setting it up as a "my way or the highway" proposition, which will set the stage for future resentment or breakup, first consider that Cheryl is likely resisting for a different reason than you think. She could be interpreting the meaning of your desire for a prenup as a withdrawal of love and a lack of confidence in your commitment to your relationship. You are speaking the language of logic; she, of the heart.

In addition, for her, love and security might be very intertwined, while they are not so for you. This issue is not likely to be an isolated difference, but rather one of many to come. The differences we each bring into a relationship and the ensuing feelings of not being understood are a great predictor of marital unhappiness and future failure.

This does not mean your relationship is at doomed. Use this issue as a motivator to find out how committed you really are to making your relationship work, and if so, to learn how to deeply understand each other's needs and values, and to honestly assess if your differences in this and other areas can be bridged. A relationship coach can help you in this process.

Annette Carpien | | 610.428.2755

Randy responds …

I see nothing wrong with prenups -- they make sense in this day and age. However, she does not see it this way, and feels that it trivializes love.

First, this is a good test of things to come. There will be financial issues galore if you get married -- that's just the way life is. So it's best to find out now if you are able to resolve financial issues together. Getting married after a year and a half is a risk because you don't really know each other, but this is a good way to find out more about each other.

Check with an attorney. I understand in California, the basic law does exactly what a prenup would do, so a prenup is unnecessary except as a safeguard, or in case it isn't clear when various assets were acquired, or to facilitate divorce proceedings. So you might consider whether your position is worth the battle.

The other thing is to look "outside the box" for solutions. If the only solution is "prenup or no prenup" then it is "win-lose." But if there are other things you could give her that would make the deal acceptable, or things she could give you that would change your mind, then great! By "things" I do not mean only material things. For instance, you might give up the prenup if she would participate in relationship coaching, the theory being that it would be an even safer way to secure the marriage.  Good luck!

Randy Hurlburt | | 858.455.0799

Darshana responds ...

It is high time that men and women accept that pre-nups are here to stay and are a great way to protect ourselves rather than taking them as an insult. Assets brought in to the marriage are enjoyed by both parties while together. If separation occurs (which is never the intention), then both parties leave with what's left of what they brought in originally and split what was acquired during the marriage.

A very close friend of mine lives in South Carolina where all marital assets are split 50/50. She married and divorced within 2 years. He walked away with her pension, 401k, and other assets (50% of 30 years of hard work to acquire).

Bottom line: if she cannot see the fairness of you wanting to share your assets with her while you are married (and she does the same), and should either of you choose splitsville, with both walking away with what was brought in to the marriage and splitting what was acquired together, then this is a red flag and possibly foreshadowing of larger problems to come.

You have a clear requirement for a pre-nup. Maybe you should tell her to seriously reconsider this logically, rather than emotionally, as it has nothing to do with love and everything to do with asset protection, and this is a requirement/deal-breaker for you. Reactions about whether to pre-nup or not change as people get more committed thus not making much difference as to the timing of the conversation.

Dr. Darshana Hawks | | 704.846.0932 x11

Candace responds ...

Prenuptials are definitely a "buzz-kill" for women -- a pronounced shock to romance. It almost says out loud to your fiancé, "By the way, when things get tough, I'm not sure what will happen here, but I'm already thinking one of us might decide to bail." It's especially threatening when delivered as you're laying down your definition of commitment.

On the other hand your position is completely understandable. As you say, putting your life earnings on the line probably feels just plain crazy.

However, now that you have said this, she may decide that this relationship isn't for her after all. She may be thinking that her earnings potential may be interrupted if she were to decide to take time off to raise the children, or perhaps if she were to follow you on an overseas work assignment - both putting her at a disadvantage if you were to divorce with a prenuptial in place.

Both of your hearts are now vulnerable, the romance has been shaken, and you're at risk of losing the engagement ring. I believe the right time to address those important agreements is when you first realize that you are dating someone who you think could become your life partner.

To present an honest expression of your requirements at that time would allow for candid dialogue on the subject. Worst case, it would allow someone not comfortable with your requirement to leave the relationship without having made the extended investment of time and trust.

Candace Brindley |

Feature Article:
Personal Ownership:
Taking Responsibility for Your Relationship

by Dr. Jackie Black

Relationship success is an inside job! Love is not enough. A successful and fulfilling love relationship requires your deliberate attention and intention.

I'm certain you recognized you had to focus time and energy to learn certain skills to be successful in your job or career -- and you did that. And, no doubt, you continue to improve those skills and add skills as you become more and more experienced in what you do.

It's the same thing when it comes to love relationships. They don't deepen, grow and sustain themselves on their own -- you and your partner are responsible for that.

At the Relationship Coaching Institute (RCI), we believe there are 8 Core Relationship Competencies that can support and continue to improve your partnership. One important competency is Core Competency #3 – Take Personal Ownership.

What Does "Take Personal Ownership" Mean?

When I think about the idea of personal ownership, I think about being personally responsible. It's the idea that I am the source of my thoughts, feeling, actions and reactions, as well as my beliefs and attitudes. It means that personal ownership or responsibility is a choice!

The real meaning of the word "responsibility" is the, "ability to respond." When you have the ability to respond, you understand that you have the ultimate choice to decide what meaning you will assign to what you hear and experience, as well as what action you will take (how you will behave) in response.

You take personal ownership/responsibility and act on your own behalf -- responding in a way that matches your values.

Think of it this way: Life is a continuum. In the center of the continuum is Personal Ownership. To the left, and out to infinity, is Self Blame, and to the right, and out to infinity, is Other Blame. So, if you are not taking personal ownership then you are either blaming yourself or you are blaming someone else.

Blaming is the opposite of taking personal ownership of your thoughts, feelings, actions, reactions, belief and attitudes. You are out of personal integrity if you are blaming yourself or blaming someone else.

Self Blame and Not Taking Personal Ownership

In his book, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, Don Miguel Ruiz writes,

" …inside you have an inner judge who is more critical than anybody you've ever met, he/she is unforgiving and lethal to your self confidence and success."

If you permit experiences and faulty beliefs of the past to portend your present and future, and you don't have an accurate picture of who you are and who you are not, then you cannot act on your own behalf and say your real "yes" and your real "no." You will seriously limit your ability to be the creator of your life and the co-creator of your love-life.

Your work is to have a solid connection to your personal gifts, skills, talents and limitations; to own and honor them by being proactive on your own behalf, so you can be present and be your best and most brilliant and passionate self in the presence of your partner.

Other Blame and Not Taking Personal Ownership

Blaming others is the other end of the continuum. If you believe that if someone else was better, different or more, or if they just did this or that then everything would be fine in your world, then you are seriously mistaken.

When you blame others, you disempower yourself and send yourself the (wrong) message about your ability to positively impact, influence and affect another person or situation. You give your personal authority away to the other person who you decided was responsible for that which doesn't match for you or is upsetting to you.

There's an old saying: "When you point your finger outside, you have just now accepted the victim status." There are no victims in conscious relationships co-created by adults.

Behaviors That Demonstrate Taking Personal Ownership

Taking personal ownership starts with the understanding that, as partners, each of you is 100% responsible for your choices and decisions in your lives -- including in the relationship. You are each responsible for what you think and feel and for living with the intended and unintended consequences of your choices and behaviors.

Each partner knows and owns, without a doubt and without exception, that each is responsible for and sources within himself and herself the love, joy, upset, disappointment, hurt, intimacy, frustration, anger, fun, creativity, sadness, and any other emotion in any given situation or interaction.

When partners take personal ownership, you respect yourself and your partner. You resist reacting to your triggers. You create the container in which you listen deeply, are objective, non-judgmental and massively curious, while knowing that you and your partner both have legitimate needs that will be heard and honored by the other. No one will have to give-in, give-up or settle for less.

Taking personal ownership includes that you become aware of your limiting beliefs, inaccurate assumptions, expectations your partner doesn't even know you have, and the faulty meaning you may make when you hear or experience something that doesn't feel good related to your partner's behavior.

You know that it is risky to interact from a place where there is no right or wrong, there are no good guys or bad guys, and where everyone has to show up, undefended, vulnerable, and present for themselves and each other; but, it is also hugely liberating.

It is the place where deep intimacy grows and the kind of forever-love you are searching for flourishes and gets better and better, and deeper and deeper -- where you can both be more, together, than you could ever be alone.

Taking Responsibility for Your Relationship

You can transform the nature and structure of your committed relationship by taking personal ownership. Taking personal ownership means understanding that you are 100% responsible for your choices in your life and in your relationship.

Accept that you are the source of what you think and feel. Live in the intended and unintended consequences of your choices and behaviors. Call a time-out on blaming yourself and your partner, and for making excuses when you are less than your best self.

Make your relationship a No Blame Zone, be an example of what you know is possible, and act from personal authority. Become unwilling to do relationship "business as usual" by learning and practicing relationship skills that will support and continue to improve your relationship for years to come.

You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of. ~~Jim Rohn

Copyright © 2009 by Dr. Jackie Black. All rights reserved in all media.

Dr. Jackie BlackJackie Black, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized relationship expert, educator, author and coach, and an RCI Licensed Relationship Coach for Singles and Couples. She coaches men and women who are single again, pre-married, newly-married, new parents, long-time married; people living with or loving someone living with life-threatening or chronic illness and those grieving the death of a loved one., 760.346.9795

Bonus Article:
Listening Skills for Busy Couples

by Katherin Scott

What's the most important thing in a relationship? You might say love, you might say trust, or you might say passion. But what I think makes a relationship work is communication. You can have common values and chemistry, but if you don't have communication, the relationship is going to get hard-going sooner or later.

That's why being busy can be so hard on couples. It's difficult to communicate when you don't have any time. So what can busy couples do?

First: Make time not to listen to each other

It may sound strange (and a bit exasperating) but one of the most important things busy couples need is time for not talking. So much of your time is dedicated to getting things done, with your job, your home, and your relationship.

Make sure you're spending fun time together. Your dates don't have to be elaborate. Go out to dinner every other week. Go on a walk or watch a movie. It's so much easier to hear what the other person has to say when you like that other person. Schedule time for your relationship.

Second: Make time to talk about big decisions

When you're busy, you try to get everything done at once. Resist the urge. A heated discussion about whether to move or how much money to spend on a car is not something you're ready for at the end of a long workday. If you have a big decision to make, schedule a time to discuss it.

Third: Give yourself at least ten minutes every day to ask, "How was your day?"

It's very important to stay connected on a day-to-day basis. Even if you just have ten minutes to talk, you'll feel the difference in your relationship.

Fourth: Practice "responsive listening"

If you're busy, you're probably impatient. Your partner is going on and on about something, and you just want to get in your pajamas. Slow yourself down. Respond to what your partner says, even if you have nothing to say. Phrases like, "that sound difficult," or "I can see what you mean," and even, "um hum" show your partner that you're engaged.

Fifth: Don't assume you understand

People are different. We may say the same words yet mean different things. If you're pressed for time, you're more likely to jump to conclusions. Before you respond with, "Well, then make your own dinner if you don't like mine!" make sure you understand what was meant.

Sixth: Phone home

If you work long hours, call your partner during the day. Make sure you check in. It doesn't need to be long—even two minutes will do—but be sure to stay connected.

No matter how busy you are, you'll find there's always time to say the most important words, "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you." If you can squeeze another few seconds in, you can manage an "I love you" or two, as well. Then, who knows? You may suddenly find you have more time than you thought.

Copyright © 2009 by Katherin Scott. All rights reserved in all media.

Katherin Scott, MA, is an internationally recognized authority on dating and attracting love. She coaches worldwide and regularly conducts seminars and workshops to help people empower themselves to find love and happiness. Katherin's newest book is, ABC's of Dating: Simple Strategies for Dating Success.

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Tara Kachaturoff | Editor, Couples News

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