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Ask Our Coaches:
How do you leave someone who has a serious illness?
"I want to go and live my dreams before it's too late."
This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your
questions to Tara@relationshipcoachinginstitute.com
who will forward them to our coaches all over the world. Each
issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.
I've been married for 25 years to a man who was my high school sweetheart. This relationship has been very hard on me. I think we got married for the wrong reasons, yet we stayed together because we ended up having children right away. We've always had arguments and disagreements and it's been one challenge after another. It seems like we really did have other dreams for what we wanted in life.
I've been learning about having a vision for my life and creating a plan to achieve it. I want to leave this relationship. I'm not happy. I'm tired of trying. I want to go and live my dreams before it's too late. Our children are both in college. But, there's another issue which complicates things. He's been dealing with cancer for the past 5 years. He has a negative attitude about everything, including his health. I just don't want to spend any more of my valuable life dealing with this. Sometimes I feel like he blames me for his health issues.
My children are completely understanding of my position. They see what's going on and while they love us both, they do want me to be happy. How do I leave someone with an illness like this without making it look like I'm a bad person - or without feeling guilty? What do I do?
Laura from Laguna Beach
It sounds like you are really clear this relationship has not been right for you from the beginning. It also is clear that you have the support of your children to make the right choices for yourself.
There are always reasons to stay -- the children, the illness, etc. I ask you to consider the following:
· What are you worried about if you do choose to leave? Are these worries worth the cost of your happiness and life aspirations?
· Has your husband consistently had a negative attitude, even before his illness? It sounds like you were aware of the red flags early on and married anyway (per your acknowledgment of marrying for the wrong reasons).
If this is the case in your heart and soul, it does not sound as though you should feel guilty, but that you are acknowledging your journey, your choice, and now need to make a different choice for yourself.
Consider that staying in the marriage may not be helping your husband heal or become well. If there is no peace, joy, or harmony in the marriage now, then how can someone who is ill focus on getting well when the marriage is such a drain on you both?
Making the right choice for you, ultimately is the right choice for everyone else who is directly or indirectly impacted, even if they do not see it or acknowledge it immediately.
Darshana Hawks| www.RelationshipSuccessSource.com | 704.846.0932
Susan responds ...
I hear your frustration and respond to this as a trained coach and also as someone who has had a chronic illness for many years. It sounds like things were strained prior to your husband's condition and that the cancer just brought this to the surface.
Having a health challenge does bring up a lot of anger, fear and negativity for the one who is ill and for those around them, and is challenging for everyone involved. Leaving a partner who is ill does not mean you're a bad person. It may mean that you don't feel capable of being with someone in that condition and that good health is a requirement or deal-breaker for you.
Letting go of the guilt is possible if you decide it is best for you to leave, and it may just take some time, some self love, forgiveness, and support.
Ask yourself how might you handle this in the future if you got ill or if you were with someone else who did? Would your husband even want you to stay if he knew you were doing so out of guilt and obligation? If you still wanted to be with your husband, what if there was a way you could stay and live your vision? What if your husband got some support and could be more accepting about his condition?
Sorting out whether you are just feeling depleted or if this relationship really doesn't meet your requirements would be a possible next step.
Susan Ortolano, M.A., CMRC, PCC | www.VibrantPathways.com | 818.232.3186
Rick and Jo respond ...
It seems to me that you are so caught up in the bind of feeling guilty about leaving someone who is ill and worrying about what people will think of you that you "cannot see the forest for the trees." Maybe you can get on with pursuing your dreams without leaving this man who has been your partner and the father of your kids for many years. If you could have it all, what would that look like?
I suggest you re-visit your vision for your life and then write down what you are prepared to do to continue supporting him so that you feel right about pursuing your dreams, without the need to feel guilty. Discuss it with your children. What are they willing to do to support their Dad?
Maybe you don't have to end your marriage to live your vision. Maybe you don't need to leave your husband if you decide to divorce him. Have a conversation with your husband about what you want and how you are intending to support him. Invite him to have it all, too. How could he pursue his dreams despite the cancer?
If he continues to be negative, don't buy into it. Stand for your vision and start living and loving it! A RCI coach can help you work your way through this dilemma with a win-win outcome.
Rick and Jo Harrison | www.SecretsToSoulmateSuccess.com | +61.3.5420.7366
Mary responds ...
It sounds like you have spent 25 years in this marriage and it is a very unhappy situation for both of you. There is some evidence that living in chronic stress and unhappiness can activate chronic illnesses, including cancer.
I suggest that you have an honest conversation with your husband. If you come to the conclusion that it is not possible to work things out and live happily together, then you need to move toward separation or divorce. There is a way to do this that can result in a win-win for both of you. It is possible that dissolving your marriage may be good for his health and well-being also. As for guilt, once we weigh all the options and do what is right for ourselves, there is nothing to feel guilty about.
Life is meant to be lived in happiness and freedom. If both of you are unable to work this through to conclusion on your own, which may not be possible given that your pattern is to fight and argue over issues, then I suggest you seek the help of a coach or mediator who can assist in making this a good life transition for both of you. My strong encouragement is to go in the direction of your deepest dreams and desires and trust everything will work out for the greater good for both of you.
Mary B .Butler | www.SoulAnchor.org | 847.475.1092
I married at 18. It lasted 20 years and I was unhappy and wanted to leave. As a hospice chaplain I've seen how serious illness can disrupt a family.
What I hear in your letter is concern over what people will think of you for leaving a spouse with cancer. It is your birthright to be happy and no one can "make" you feel guilty. Having a vision for your life is a necessary step toward creating the life you desire. It requires deep inner searching and a willingness to take ownership for the part you've played in a marriage that doesn't work.
A coach will help you design and explore your vision and appropriate exit strategies. The following visioning process helped me leave my first marriage and may help provide answers to your question: How do I leave someone who has a serious illness? Or, you may want to rephrase the question.
First, go to a quiet place where you won't be disturbed. Take a few deep breaths to center yourself. You might play some soft music in the background and have paper and pen ready to record your answers. Align yourself with your inner compass that guides you and ask these questions:
· What is the highest vision for my life?
· What must I become or embrace to fulfill this vision?
· What do I need to release in order for this vision to emerge?
· Is there anything else I need to know in this moment?
Them express your gratitude for this information and act on it.
Carolyn Carpenter | www.MysticHearts.org | 303.877.9913
Michelle responds ...
Read the book, Divorce Busting, by Michele Weiner-Davis. No, don't just read it -- take the book to heart and do the things Michele suggests. I know you said you're tired of trying, but what I've found when my clients say, "I've tried everything," is that they've tried the same handful of things repeatedly.
Have you talked with a therapist or relationship coach? Have you read books on how to improve your marriage? If you have, have you implemented the ideas you have received from any of these sources on a consistent basis -- as opposed to trying it once or twice and discarding the ideas?
My next challenge to you is to see the movie "Fireproof." Yes, it's a B movie and it has a decidedly Christian bent, which may or may not appeal to you. Regardless, it is about a young man who agrees to make a 30-day commitment to his marriage, regardless of how his wife behaves.
In a way, both Michele Weiner-Davis's book and this movie are saying the same thing: work on your behavior to improve your marriage and find your own happiness. I know you believe that your marriage is unbearable and I am NOT telling you to stay married simply because your husband has cancer. I would give the same advice to any couple who has already invested 25 years in their marriage (with the exception of domestic violence cases). I wish you the best of success.
Michelle E. Vásquez, MS, LPC | www.MichelleVasquez.com | 714.717.5744
RCI's 8 Core Relationship Competencies
by Frankie Doiron
The overwhelming majority of people have
had very little training in interpersonal skills. Typically, we learn such
skills through trial and error from our early relationships and through role-modeling from parents, caretakers, family members, and friends.
Unfortunately, the role-modeling we received
often reflects dysfunctional behaviors, which
interfere with achieving success in our relationships.
No matter what type of role-modeling you
received, or what your relationship experiences have been, you have a choice to create a new paradigm. They key however, is understanding that you will likely need to learn new relationship skills!
At RCI we have identified 8 Core Relationship Competencies that we believe are the main components necessary for creating and sustaining successful relationships. All of
these competencies can be learned, and in fact our Couples Coach Training program has been designed around these 8 competencies.
Competence is a combination of knowledge, skills, behaviors and actions that demonstrate one's ability to successfully perform a
specific role or task. The term "core competencies" has been the domain of the
corporate world and even though most of us have experience with job related
skills and competencies, we often don't think in terms of being "relationship
But the greater a couple's proficiency with
the core relationship competencies, which are required to create, sustain,
support, and improve relationships, the more successful their relationships
Positively & Effectively
A crucial competency in any
relationship is learning how to communicate effectively so that you are "heard"
as the sender (speaker) and "hear" as the receiver (listener).
There are processes for acquiring
the skills to become an effective communicator, but the real essence of this
competency is a willingness and genuine desire to communicate with love,
patience, and deep caring. That is the basis for a deep and loving connection.
What You Want
Developing the relationship with self by
becoming aware of your limiting beliefs, values, life purpose, vision and
relationship requirements and needs, sets the stage for developing a compatible
relationship with your life partner. The greater your knowledge of self, the
greater your ability to choose a partner who is a wonderful match for you.
One of the main reasons for ongoing misunderstandings
and frustration in most marital relationships is not taking personal ownership
(responsibility) for "my part" in the misunderstandings and frustrations.
Taking personal ownership for "my part" will help both partners begin to
understand the real cause of why they transfer their actions and responses to
their spouse, rather than own up to them.
4. Appreciate and Manage Our Differences
A major hurdle that all couples face is
their differences and how to co-exist happily, accepting and managing all the
ways they are different. This refers to differences in personality,
temperament, preferences, likes and dislikes, views, opinions, etc. Gender
differences also need to be considered, as males and females are not only
different in the hormones that drive them, but they are also different in the
way they think.
Commitment to the Relationship
There is compelling evidence that the path to long-term relationship
happiness requires commitment. Linda Waite, author of The Case for Marriage, found that two-thirds of unhappily married
spouses who stayed married reported that their marriages were happy five years
later. She coined the term "Marital Endurance Ethic," stating that "marriages
got happier not because partners resolved problems, but because they stubbornly
Commitment supports the growth of love and intimacy
over time, much like a safety net keeps a trapeze artist from falling to his
death. Those couples who are consciously committed will do whatever it takes to
grow, support, and improve their relationship. This includes developing the
core relationship competencies they need in order to be better partners.
Trust and Integrity
Trust is built through integrity and consistency in the relationship.
Mutual trust is a shared belief that you
can depend on each other to achieve a common purpose. It is the willingness of both parties to be
vulnerable to the actions of the other, regardless of their ability to monitor
or control the other person.
Being in integrity in a partnership means
being honest with yourself and your partner in a way that is
congruent in words AND action. We often have thoughts that are in integrity, but only by taking the appropriate action that demonstrates integrity, are
we actually in integrity. Action completes the circle, and
provides completion and wholeness.
Love and Intimacy
In order to get to know someone, to get closer, to create friendship,
intimacy, or love, you have to reveal yourself and be authentic. You have to
reveal personal, private things that help the other person get to know who you
really are. And the other person, likewise, has to reciprocate, revealing
personal, private things about him/her.
Successful love relationships progress from casual to intimate, with each
partner gradually revealing more and more of themselves. But once in a
relationship you're essentially operating on a higher risk level, because
deeper disclosures about self are necessary if true intimacy is to develop.
This means opening up more and more to the other. And this means an increasing
level of trust in the other so that you feel safer revealing your innermost
thoughts and feelings, without fear of rejection or judgment.
and Evolve Consciously
The unconscious relationship will always develop into a power
struggle between the partners where each one fights to have his/her needs met.
Or, alternatively it will develop into a relationship where one of the partners
succumb to the other's lifestyle, wishes, values and desires, to find that the
person they really are has almost disappeared.
The conscious relationship, however, requires maturity and a desire
to be self-aware and grow, both as individuals and as a couple. It is one in
which both partners are actively involved in building a solid partnership. They
consciously and consistently endeavor to gain knowledge about each other. They
don't focus on getting what they want; they help their partner get what
he/she needs in order to grow into their fullest potential. The focus moves
from demanding what "I" need, to a desire to understand what "you" need, and then
progressing to what "we" need to become whole and fulfilled.
Copyright © 2009 by Frankie Doiron. All rights reserved in all
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, 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. 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's going on and on, 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 sounds difficult," "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 but mean different things. If you're pressed for time, you're more likely to jump to conclusions. Before you respond ("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. Don't worry. 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, too. 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 | www.KatherinScott.com
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Tara Kachaturoff | Editor, PartnersInLife.org Couples News
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