December 2013


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The Journey Beyond "Happily Ever After"

By David Steele

What's beyond?What you conceive and believe, you can achieve. - Napoleon Hill (paraphrased)

If Napoleon Hill is correct, this also means that what you don't conceive or believe, you can't achieve.

As relationship coaches our clients want to live "happily ever after" and we help our clients achieve their dreams. This is cool, but there are big limits to the "dream"-

1. You might have a desire ("love") but not a clear idea or dream or vision for what it looks like, so you're stuck with "what is"

2. You might have a clear dream, but don't believe it's possible or realistic, so you're stuck with what you'll allow yourself to have

3. Your dream is limited to what you can conceive or envision, so you're stuck with a narrow range of possibilities

However, a good coach will help their client dream big and reach deep down to uncover and envision dreams they didn't know they had. So there's a "next level" to this dream stuff. This is what we're doing with Radical Marriage- exploring what's possible in relationships and providing strategies to go far beyond what would be most people's dream relationship, because we can't envision something we haven't seen or experienced before.

The Dirty Little Secret of Relationship Happiness

All couples want a "good" relationship and live happily ever after together, but is "good" enough? In the past a "good" relationship was commonly defined as not having problems. In today's world, couples seek fulfillment in their relationship and the simple absence of problems just isn't good enough anymore.

Even "good" relationships are exciting when new, then can quickly get dull and routine. Little problems of everyday living start to pile up and interfere with the closeness and intimacy we really want.

But we tell ourselves that this is as close as we can get to living happily ever after, while deep down inside we're asking ourselves, "Is this all there is?"

We feel selfish, ungrateful, unfaithful, and unrealistic for wanting more for our life and relationship.

Here's a dirty little secret of relationship happiness - "good" can become suffocating if the relationship is stuck in routine and not continuing to evolve.

The Journey Beyond Happily Ever After

Dreaming is for sleeping, but your dreams are for living life to the fullest. But as we mentioned above, our dreams are limited to what we can conceive. A fulfilling relationship is a journey, not a destination, but most of us can't see beyond "good," so the journey stalls.

In today's world the bar has officially been raised and we need to look beyond "happily ever after" because we're discovering that "happiness" is a moving target and having a great relationship is one of life's greatest adventures.

This is new territory in the field of relationships, and since each relationship is unique, each couple's "radical relationship" would be unique to them and they would be the pioneer of their relationship and discover uncharted territory together. We can provide them with the support, skills, strategies, and a roadmap, but the journey is theirs to take.

Isn't that exciting?

So here are some key ideas-

1. Your "dream" is what you can currently conceive, but you can go far beyond that

2. To do so you must be aware that "you don't know what you don't know," be open to possibilities, and be willing to continually progress forward into new territory with your partner

3. This is not for everyone and requires a good, strong partnership with willingness to embrace the journey, the learning, the adventure, and to be a pioneer (instead of seeking comfort, tradition, and familiarity)

4. The dream beyond "happily ever after" only seems to further reveal itself as you progress forward. Each step forward allows you to see more of the possibilities and the horizon. So there is really no such thing as "achieving" a dream because when you get to where you're striving, you see more, can do more, want more, and continue striving.

5. This requires a leap of faith and willingness to embrace and enter the unknown. There's a great Indiana Jones scene here that illustrates this- Only after Indy made that first, frightening step into the abyss did he discover the path across. Embracing your fears and not letting them hold you back is a big theme here as well.

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said- Do one thing every day that scares you.

Or, as Buzz Lightyear put it so succintly- To infinity and beyond!

Copyright © by David Steele and The Relationship Coaching Institute. All rights reserved in all media. Used with permission.

David Steele, MA, LMFT is founder of Relationship Coaching Institute.

For more information and free Radical Marriage resources for couples visit

Ask Our Coaches

Help! I hate being around my husband's family during the holidays!

woman_scale Dear Coaches,

Another holiday season is upon us and I'm dreading spending time with my husband's family. I love my husband very much, but his family is loud and there's always a lot of tension and drama. And the worst part, my husband changes into one of "them" when he's around them. Any advice?

~ D.K. from Ohio

Susan Ortalano

Susan responds ...

That is a tough situation! My feedback to you would be to have an open, heart-centered, authentic discussion with your husband about how you feel without blame, name-calling, or accusations.

The conversation can be focused on you sharing your feelings, what you'd like to negotiate wth him that might be a better win-win solution. It currently sounds like a win-lose situation for you, and the two of you can see what you can create that you both consider common ground around the holiday visits. Many couples struggle with where to go, whose family to see, etc.

From my perspective, that decision-making process can be a shared one, and negotiated so each partner is content and feels that the outcome is a win-win.

Susan Ortolano |

Chuck Ames

Chuck responds ...

In general, men feel loved, when trusted, accepted and appreciated. You're being asked to commit a true act of love, by accepting him in his native habitat.

It's especially difficult if he doesn't understand how you feel about the experience. My coaching guess is that communication hasn't occurred. (But that becomes a general question about your entire relationship.)

In general, women need to feel understood, cherished and respected to feel loved. The connection that comes from being understood is necessary to feel cherished and respected. "How can he love me, if he doesn't understand me; if he doesn't know me?"

Discuss your feelings by asking him for his help. (You can then appreciate him, as he comes through for you.) Let him know that you'll accept whatever he decides, but that you need that he understand how hard spending holidays this way is for you. This should arouse his innate desire to care for (cherish) you.

Use appropriate "I" messaging - strictly about how you feel - so that he isn't defensive. (Leave out, "You change into... one of them.") Then try to find a mutually satisfactory solution, where you both win.

Chuck Ames |

Michelle Bianco

Michelle responds ...

The holidays are a time for family and enjoying time together, with that being said it can is also be a stressful time. It is not always easy dealing with different sides of the family, but at the end of the day you love your husband and that includes his family.

You married your husband (and yes his family comes with the territory) but what a gift would you give him if you put your feelings of dread aside and looked at things from a different perspective?

Have an open mind and ask yourself what can I do to make this a better situation? You cannot change your husband or his family and how they act. What you can control is how you can handle the situation and the meaning you give it. The meaning you give the experience becomes the experience.

Take some time for yourself before you spend time with your husband's family - time where you can relax and get yourself into a good state of mind. Focus on how you want the experience to be and think of how pleased your husband will be knowing that you are supporting him.

Michelle Bianco |

Nina Potter

Nina responds ...

I have found great relief and inner peace in similar situations from a practice called Tonglen where you breathe in the tension and drama coming from their hurt and fear and breathe out peace, love, security, compassion, patience, or whatever you sense is needed in the situation for relief.

It helps to imagine being in a smoke filled room where each breath you take with this intention is safely filtering the irritant and replacing it with clean, clear air.

This is an ancient practice that I find works well in any situation where you don't have influence or are not able to become involved directly in a way that will be effective. Often this Tonglen practice is MORE effective than intervening because it's coming from your compassionate heart that gives off a scientifically measurable transmission rather than your limited egoic mind.

For more in-depth information, search for Pema Chodron on Tonglen and HeartMath. You may be pleasantly surprised that this practice will allow you to start looking forward to your next interaction with his family. For maximum benefit, start practicing today at work, home, or wherever you find yourself and enjoy your holidays.

Nina Potter |

This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your question here and it will be forwarded to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.

Tips to Make your Holidays Bright

Helpful Tips

Family Comes First - But Which One?

As the holidays are fast approaching one big debate that tends to come up with couples is the dreaded decision of whose family to celebrate the holidays with.

Communication with your spouse is key! Do not avoid discussing the topic - set some time aside where you can discuss this without any distractions and really focus on having a productive conversation.

Be sure not to make commitments to either side of the family until you and your partner are on the same page with what you want to do.

Have options for celebrating the holidays and decide together how and where you want to spend the holidays. There is the option of alternating holidays between both families; you can celebrate the holiday the week before or after the actual holiday.

No matter whomever may host the festivities, remember the holidays are about family and making memories.

Michelle Bianco |


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Darlene Steele | Editor, Couple for Life News | CONTACT DARLENE
Copyright © 2013 by Relationship Coaching Institute. All rights reserved.
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