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June 2009

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In this issue:

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Relationship Coaching Institute

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Tara Kachaturoff
Editor | Partners in Life Couples News

Copyright 2009 by All rights reserved.

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Ask Our Coaches:
What's a Legitimate Excuse for Not Getting Married?

"... John always has an excuse for not moving forward....
What's your advice?"

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,

We've been in a relationship for 5 years. We're both in our thirties. We've talked about getting married and we both want that but it seems like John (not his real name) always has an excuse for not moving forward.

We started living together a year ago to save money. He's concerned about his job given the current economics. And, I'm concerned with mine, too. I'm a flight attendant--my work is not steady. He has a lot of credit card debt (and I have a few thousand) and that is weighing heavy on him.

He doesn't want to have a wedding that is not our dream wedding. He says it's a once-in-a-lifetime event and he wants it to be memorable for us and our parents and friends. He thinks we need a lot of money, time for planning it, and the right circumstances to move forward with this important part of our lives. This has been going on for two years.

I'm concerned there will always be an excuse. What do I do? What are the legitimate "excuses" for not getting married? It seems like people get married all the time--life problems and all. Some people never get out of debt. I understand his concerns, but are these reasons for not getting married? What's your advice?

Sarah from Sunnyvale

Randy responds ...

It seems you have given him a lot of time, some of the best years of your life, and tried living together. I think it is time to start testing his commitment.

First, a wedding does not need to be an expensive affair. The purpose is a public statement of intention, and this can be done on the beach with a few close friends. Getting too hooked into the "wedding" is a mistake. The "marriage" is what is important -- two people facing life's problems together while enjoying each other's company.

If he is ready to be "primary partners," with a written commitment (marriage), and no expensive wedding, then go for it. This may entail a series of deep discussions about what marriage means to each of you. But, if he is not ready, or you cannot agree, then you need to consider moving back in the direction of a single life. This would ultimately mean moving out of the house and dating others.

These are painful, but necessary tests to find out how strong his resolve really is. If his intention is not strong enough, then you either need to decide that you are happy with the current arrangement, or decide to move on to find someone for whom marriage is the best solution. Coaching or therapy is usually very helpful.

Randy Hurlburt | | 858.455.0799

Rick and Jo respond ...

When Jo and I got married, we were in a very similar situation. I was worried about the cost of the wedding. Jo asked me for a budget amount that I would accept and then planned a low-cost spectacular! Jo was an eBay bride - dress, shoes, veil all from eBay and sold back after the wedding. No one knew - she was radiant and looked like a princess!

We found a venue with so much character and ambience we did not need to do any special decorating other than a few nice touches, which Jo sourced or made herself. A friend made our wedding cake, and I could go on and on about how we had a wedding that looked like a big deal, yet was very affordable. Even if you were both unemployed you could find a way to have a memorable wedding ceremony, and when the economic situation improves, re-celebrate in style! My point -- where there is a will there is a way.

While it's very common for pre-marital couples to focus on or get stuck on the wedding, this inability to resolve an important issue after two years is a warning signal. A RCI coach can lead you through the Conscious Mating Program for pre-married couples, so that you can move forward to your wedding day feeling certain you have both chosen your life partner wisely.

And Sarah, consider living separately again. Right now John has all the advantages of being married with no commitment!

Rick and Jo Harrison | | +61.3.5420.7366

Bill responds ...

I assume that you are certain that John actually wants to marry you and to be married.

If the money issue is the main or only item that is standing in the way of being married, based on your expression of these things being "excuses," I also assume that you individually, and/or together, have not created a formal, written plan to manage your financial agreements.

Forging one together would provide the following important visions and actions: It would allow you to formulate a precise, transparent goal reflecting when you will be free and clear from those previous monetary agreements. It will provide the framework for your lives, on a daily basis, allowing you to live in possibility as you stride toward the completion of your goal. And it will serve as an effective guide for managing any new agreements that you may want to enter into separately or together. This would include the wedding costs, regardless of what type of event it will be.

The very next thing that I suggest is that you, together, engage a relationship coach. This will be the wisest investment you can make given the "current economics." Together you will work to uncover and develop the requirements, needs and wants that are significant to both of you. You will discover tools, set the stage for the beginning of your created life together and begin the building of a profound and intimate lifelong relationship. All the best!

Bill Paglia Scheff | 860.209.9254

Liz responds ...

Financial concerns, in my opinion, can be a legitimate excuse for not getting married. The issue of money can affect people differently. What may not seem huge to one person can cause another person to suffer.

When entering into a marriage, it helps to have your circumstances as favorable as possible. However, keep in mind things do come up. It is just the ebb and flow of life. Some couples are able to manage quite well because they do not allow their finances to lead their relationship. They simply do their best to live within their means and they embrace the love that brought them together in the first place. This is a good opportunity to discover how you want to handle money concerns in your relationship.

In your situation, it sounds as if your partner has a vision of what he wants his future to look like with you. In that vision he wants financial stability and he wants to provide you with the best experience possible for the wedding and marriage. I would suggest taking the following steps as a couple to move into action:

* Get clear on your beliefs around money
* Develop a plan to pay down your debt
* Establish a fund for the wedding
* If you haven't done so, set a date for the wedding and discuss your wedding plans

I believe your ideal wedding is totally within reach. It is just a matter of taking the steps to accomplish your dream.

Liz Reed|

Dr. Jackie responds ...

John's behavior is speaking more loudly than his words. His behavior is saying, "I don't want to marry you." If he wanted to marry you, he would ask you and joyfully and enthusiastically engage in making it happen with you. John is not making excuses. That's your interpretation of his words that do NOT match his behavior -- which is saying some version of, "I don't want to marry you."

If you are ready to get married and John isn't, then please consider that John is not your ideal match. You deserve to marry someone who is as ready and excited about marrying you and building a life with you, as you are ready and excited about marrying him and building a life with him. I urge you to explore where else in this relationship you may be "in it alone" and explore other places where John's readiness for commitment and building a life together doesn't match yours.

Do you share a vision of your partnership and your life together? Does being with each other and in this relationship honor and esteem your personal (legitimate) needs and values? Have you explored where you might be settling for less, giving-up or giving-in too much?

It is painful to recognize when a relationship is an entanglement and not, in fact, a co-created, mutual, reciprocal, co-committed partnership. This is essential work to do, and it sounds like this is the perfect time to get to work! I wish you well on this important journey.

Jackie Black, Ph.D. | | 760.346.9795


Feature Article:
Conflict in Relationships:
What it is and how to resolve it

This month, RCI coach Dr. Jackie Black, discusses conflict in our relationships -- the common causes and tools and approaches to resolving it.

Tara Kachaturoff
Editor, Relationship Coaching Institute

Tara: What are some common areas of conflict with today's couples?

Dr. Jackie: The most common areas of conflict with contemporary couples are money, sex and parenting.

Disagreements over how money is managed, spent, and saved are common. Everyone has their own history, beliefs and attitudes about money -- their money psychology. The more information and understanding you have about your own money psychology, the better you can talk about money with your partner and make good choices.

Sex is another common area of conflict. Sex in marriage can be a problem area for two reasons: First, most women crave passion and intimacy more than sex. Most men, on the other hand, crave more of the pleasure and enjoyment that sex brings them, and can often do nicely, for much longer, with less intimacy. Second, too many women get stuck in the mindset of, "I don't want to give you what you want because I'm not getting what I need." So a lack of interest or the willingness to be sexual with their partners often results - which leads to conflict.

Finally, differences in parenting styles are another area of conflict in relationships. Each partner makes decisions based on their own background, experiences, and all the beliefs they have about children and being a parent. When partners create a safe place to explore beliefs and values and stop trying to convince each other that their points of view are right, the more effective, resourceful and successful their parenting will be.

Tara: What are the most important skills one needs to cultivate in order to be effective in resolving relationship conflicts?

Dr. Jackie: There are six basic skills that will enable couples to communicate effectively with each other during a conflict: The first is learning to accurately identify what you need or want. You do this by asking yourself, "If this situation really worked for me, what would be different?"

The second is learning to find the right words to tell your partner about your needs and wants. This requires that you sit down alone, tell your story to yourself out loud and over and over, and keep track of the words that keep coming up.

Number three is to be willing to express what you know to your partner. This means recognizing that nothing changes without talking; and you decide to talk even if it is hard and you are uncomfortable.

Fourth is to communicate from the "I" position. This means you are speaking about yourself, your thoughts and needs; and not speaking about the other person.

The fifth skill is to listen deeply. This requires that you are curious about what your partner has to say; you are not preoccupied; and you don't think you know how it will end.

And finally, the sixth skill is to be open to the outcome! Resist believing that you won't get your needs met and that no one really cares anyway.

Tara: What are three most common mistakes couples make when it comes to resolving conflict?

Dr. Jackie: The most prevalent mistake is that one or both partners come to the conversation believing that their needs won't be heard, respected, understood, validated or met.

Another common mistake is that one partner doesn't let the other partner finish speaking. S/he interrupts or becomes argumentative about something just said sometimes well in advance of his/her partner being finished speaking.

And a third common mistake is that one or both partners forget to insure that it is a good time for both of them to have a conversation to resolve a conflict. Someone forgets to make sure that his/her partner is able and willing to be in listening mode. Avoiding these common mistakes increases the odds that a couple will successfully resolve their conflict.

Tara: How do attitudes, beliefs and judgments affect a couple's ability to resolve conflict?

Dr. Jackie: Our attitudes and beliefs deeply inform our choices and decisions, and can affirm and esteem us, or, if those attitudes and beliefs are faulty or outdated, they can get in the way and cause us to react versus be proactive on our own behalf. When we judge, we have generally concluded that the thing that we are judging is either good or bad.

When you come to the table to resolve an issue, it is essential that you leave your attitudes, beliefs and judgments at the door and allow yourself access to your resourcefulness. When you are most resourceful your values drive your behavior; you respect yourself and your partner; you commit to discover an outcome that honors both you and your partner, and both your legitimate needs; and you are willing to co-operatively engage in a problem-solving process.

Tara: Is there a simple model or template for effectively resolving relationship conflicts?

Dr. Jackie: There are five distinct steps to problem solving:

The first step is to identify the problem: Whose problem is it? Ask yourself: Is it mine? Is it yours? Is it ours?

Step two is to analyze the problem and gather information. What is the problem? How do I know there is a problem? How is it a problem? To whom is it a problem? How does this negatively impact/affect me or my partner? What is the downside (negative aspects) to me or my partner? How do I benefit if the problem is resolved? How does my partner benefit if the problem is resolved?

The third step is to generate potential solutions. There are three main tools you can use to generate as many possible solutions as you can think of: Brainstorming, The Five Whys, and The Magic Wand.

Brainstorming is when you both sit down together and throw out one idea or suggestion after the other and no idea is too way out or absurd to consider. Asking "why" five times uncovers the basic or fundamental cause of the problem. The Magic Wand suspends your reality (stuckness) and evokes your creativity and imagination for your desired outcome. Keep track of all the possibilities in writing so you can discuss them at the end of the process.

Select and test the solution is step number four. The true test of the solution is that the problem is resolved, and you and your partner are completely satisfied with the outcome. Your needs and your partner's needs are met.

The final step is to analyze and evaluate the results. Does it make sense for both of you? If neither of you can answer that question with a resounding "yes," go back through the process one more time.

Tara: Are there any easy things couples can do to create an environment that is more conducive to resolving conflicts -- an environment that is supportive and amicable?

Dr. Jackie: There are several rules of engagement to follow to create an environment for maximum results. Before you begin the "Five Steps to Problem-Solving," take a deep breath. Get yourself grounded and remind yourself that you are not the problem and that your partner is not the problem! Remind yourself that the problem is that someone's need or needs are not being recognized or met. Perhaps you both have needs that are not being recognized or met.

From this very grounded place while you are breathing and centering yourself, go through this "Self-Esteem Reminder Checklist" silently in your mind:

"I know myself: my values, beliefs, attitudes and needs. I have self-confidence, and I know that I am good and I am enough. I am willing, able and responsible to create my life to be exactly the way I want it to be.

I have gifts, strengths and talents, and they are different than those of others (not less than or better than). I have limitations, and my limitations are about me. They are not about anyone else; and they are not a cause for problems with others. I set appropriate boundaries for myself, not against anyone else."

An acceptable resolution requires that your needs and your partner's needs be met -- that no one has given in, given up, or settled for something less than getting important, legitimate needs heard, honored and met.

Whenever you have a conversation, speak from the "I" position. Relate what you are saying to yourself and your issues, upsets, frustrations, awareness, thoughts, beliefs, fears, problems, ah-ha moments and so on.

Another key rule of engagement is to assess your readiness and your partner's readiness to communicate effectively. This is a process that will insure that you are both ready to communicate effectively. If you tell your partner the way you need him or her to listen, it will help your conversation to go more smoothly. There are three main things to listen for: to understand your feelings, to listen to the content and problem solve with you, or to offer you advice.

And lastly, when you speak with your partner, speak to him or her with the sole purpose of being known. When you listen to your partner, listen for the sole purpose of understanding, and vice versa.

Tara: What types of options are available to couples who may need assistance or more insight with resolving their relationship issues?

Dr. Jackie: Love is not enough! Successful love relationships require learning, practicing and mastering the essential relationship success skills! A relationship coach is your best answer to help you build and maintain your best life and love life for the rest of your life!

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.

Bonus Article:
10 Ways to Deepen Intimacy

by Katherin Scott

There's no real instruction manual for deepening intimacy. As with everything else in your relationship, being intimate depends on you. Every person is different, and so is every couple.

What makes you happy, makes you mad, and brings you closer are not things you can find in a guide. There are things you have to discover, together. Discovery is part of the path to intimacy.

Here are some simple tips for discovery:

Step 1: Have fun together

Of course, if you're together, you're already doing this one. You need to keep doing it. Doing things together that are fun for both of you is absolutely essential to deepened intimacy. There's no substitute for shared time.

Step 2: Do boring stuff together

All couples go on dates in the beginning, but you know you're getting intimate when you start sharing grocery trips together. Intimacy comes with familiarity, knowledge, and mutual reliance. Let each other into the nitty-gritty of your lives.

Step 3: Spend time with each other's families

A lot of people get freaked out when it's time to "meet the parents." This shows good sense. Getting to know your partner's family is a big step. You'll get to know each other in a much deeper way.

Step 4: Learn your partner's language of love

When it comes to the expression of love, there are as many languages as there are people. For you, being told "you look pretty today" makes today your own personal Christmas. For you partner, it's like saying "Good morning" -- nice, but not exactly a bolt of electricity.

Learn what makes your partner feel special. Will your partner feel loved if you pick flowers? Buy a special present? Take out the garbage? Do what your partner likes, and respect that you may not like the same things.

Step 5: Practice good listening skills

Talking and listening take constant practice. It's just not possible for two people to be intimate with each other without some misunderstandings. Take time for slow conversations. Be a "responsive listener." Verbally assure your partner you're present and listening. Say, "um-hum," "that sounds annoying," or "I'm so glad!" Don't assume you know what your partner means. Speak back what you hear before you give your own opinion.

Step 6: Talk about your feelings

I'm not talking about sharing to your beloved that the driver ahead of you is a moron. Talk about things that make you feel vulnerable and sad, things that you secretly hope for, things that you share with no one else. Talking can be harder than you think.

Step 7: Talk about sex

I don't mean have sex talk -- not that sex talk is a bad idea! What I'm telling you, though, is talk about sex. Talk about what you like. Talk also about what you don't like. Discussing your sex life requires great trust and great intimacy.

Step 8: Create situations for conversations

Talking is important. You need to talk about your feelings, about what you do together, about your memories, values, and future goals. Not all these conversations just happen. Sometimes you have to plan for them. Reading books together, going to museums and lectures, or volunteering together can make "issues" arise for you to talk about.

You'll have a chance to discover similarities and differences. Alternatively, you can go at it directly. Ask each other over dinner: Do you want children? Do you think spanking kids is okay? What do you think about immigration? If you had a billion dollars, would you give it to charity? Whatever method you use, try to get to know each other's wider interests and opinions.

Step 9: Cuddle

You don't have to cuddle. You can hold hands. The point is, being together physically, and not only in sex, encourages intimacy.

Step 10: Be independent

To be really intimate with another person, you need to be yourself. Don't get so lost in a relationship that you forget your own interests. Pursuing a career, a hobby, or your own group of friends helps develop a well-rounded self. You can then offer yourself to a deep, intimate relationship.

Remember, no one on the outside can tell you how to get closer inside. You have to know yourself, and you have to know your partner. Luckily, getting to know each other is exactly what will bring you closer.

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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