Maryanne | Miseducated

Author Archives: Maryanne

Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Healthy Relationships, based in San Francisco, CA., an organization committed to the science of creating healthy and sustainable relationships.

Every now and again you come across a situation in your life that blows your hair back, your skirt up or … just blows. For example: you find out the person you’re seriously considering spending the rest of your life with isn’t interested in a long term relationship with you.  Or you discover one evening, quite by accident, that your husband prefers blondes…who are hung like a horse. Or you learn that your new girlfriend is really a man, or that your movie star/Governor husband has impregnated your housekeeper and has been paying her hush money (out of your pocket) for the last decade.

While most of us have developed various coping mechanisms and strategies for dealing with such blustery situations, including confrontation, therapy, drinking heavily, freaking out, leaving and divorce, the pink elephant is quite a different animal! For those who aren’t so familiar with this unwelcome visitor, the pink elephant is commonly referred to as “… an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.” (Wikipedia) You see, in most cases when confronted with certain truths we know what to do, or at least have some vague idea and are compelled to take action because some line has been crossed and all people involved implicitly agree and act accordingly. Whereas when the pink elephant appears…it just hangs there like the house guest who never leaves.

Some examples might be: your roommate keeps eating all your food and never admits it or offers to pay, but you don’t say anything because you can’t afford to live there without them so you carry on as if nothing’s wrong, him shamelessly eating his way through your house and home and you cringing every time you see him secretly wanting to scream: “STOP EATING MY FOOD, YOU FOOD STEALER, LEECH, COUCH POTATO, MOOCHER!” Or maybe your boyfriend drinks too much, too often and embarrasses and scares you, but you don’t say anything because he says he can’t live without you and…you are financially dependent on him and afraid to be alone so you muddle through growing more and more emotionally distant, eventually having angry or passive obligatory sex because now you can’t stand when he touches you, yet you don’t have the courage or resources to say no, so you don’t.

Or maybe your closest relative, the one you have spent every birthday and holiday with for most of your life, has just embezzled money from his boss (who you know intimately) and neither one of you says anything to the other partly because you are in shock, you can’t believe they would ever do such a thing, and partly because you don’t even know what to say. Really…what does one say in such circumstances? Weeks and months pass while you tell yourself they will come around, make things right…right? Then after months of no one saying anything, a family function presents itself and out of what feels like the complete blue they send you an invitation as though nothing’s happened and sign the card “love and miss you”… and you think What the?

Or maybe someone owes you money and said they would pay you, yet every time you see them they don’t mention it and well, because you’re a polite person and don’t want to seem rude or desperate or (fill in the blank) you suck it up and tell yourself, if they don’t mention it next time you will say something except in between now and next time you realize this isn’t the first time this has happened and that this person always seems to borrow money and not pay you back, and further has some convenient, tear-jerking story about why they can’t. So naturally you, being the loving, understanding person you are, wouldn’t ask someone who is down and out to pay you back when they are going through hard times…except you notice when you see them next they tell you about the trip they just took or the new jacket they just bought or show you their new cell phone and you think…What the…?

So, what do you do when you don’t know what to do? When clearly something is amiss and no one is saying anything about it? The great thing about the pink elephant phenomenon is that it disappears almost completely as soon as one person has the courage to speak it. Literally poof…gone. The challenge is, more often than not as I illustrated, it feels like so much is at stake so we put it off. The problem in that scenario is obvious: the elephant remains or in some cases, grows proportionately. So before you buy a voodoo doll or go postal or, worse, try to make the elephant your pet, here are a few suggestions I recommend when you find yourself faced with the pink beast:

How important is it? What’s the relative importance of this issue on a scale of paper-cut to open-heart surgery? If it’s really an ego issue or a matter of pride or some other such nonsense, then you may want to deal with that rather than make a bigger issue out of something when there is no need. On the other hand, if you decide it’s a major deal at least you have taken the first step to putting the situation in some perspective.

What have you really got to lose? There is an expression, “You can’t lose what you never had.” So why not take a real honest look and see what it is you’re really dealing with here. You may want to consult an expert, pray, see a therapist or talk openly with a friend. See if you can’t get some clarity and objective about the situation and see what’s truly at stake. Never underestimate the power of support nor the power of the Divine illumination!!

Take the high road! They call the high road the road less traveled for a reason; namely because it’s not always easy to say what needs to be said or do the right thing. Don’t let that stop you. As my mother always says, “This isn’t a dress rehearsal, bring you’re A game,” and in the end you will know in your heart you were true to yourself!

Trust yourself, above all…you know the answer. The truth is always right there inside you, sometimes it just takes a while to get our courage up to do what we know we have to! On that you can always rely!

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Picture it: you’re in the eighth grade and someone you like is across the school yard. You want to approach them but don’t know if your approach would be welcome. You get a warm fuzzy feeling, but there’s also a panic that comes with it – after all, most kids that age would rather die than suffer rejection. The humiliation that would result would be unbearable, especially from the most gorgeous person in the entire school district – no, make that the entire city.

So no matter how much you want to go and talk to them, you wouldn’t just stroll over there and say hi, would you? You couldn’t risk it. As a girl especially, you certainly wouldn’t walk up to him when he’s talking to his male friends and blurt out, “Hi, I’m Maryanne – I think you’re really cute, and I’m looking for someone to go with to Karen’s party this weekend, and I was wondering if you’d be my date?”

I know, I know, I should have guessed this would be a disaster. But at the time, I felt like I had nothing to lose – sure, he was the hottest guy in the school, everyone was staring at me, and of course girls weren’t really “supposed” to do things like asking guys out. But I liked him, and my curiosity got the better of me in the end, so I just threw caution to the wind and went for it.

Naturally I was nervous – I was a kid, and this was my first limited foray into the world of romance. But my nervousness was more the exciting kind than the nauseating kind, and I was so focused on what might happen if he said yes, that I didn’t let myself think too much about the other option.

Until it happened. His face crinkled up into a mixture of annoyance and confusion, and he asked the question I’ll never forget: What’s wrong with you?! And I spent a lot of time and heartache trying to figure out the answer to that exact question – what was wrong with me? In order to put a stop to the pain and protect what was left of my ego, I wove a story for myself, and the moral of the story was this: I will never allow anyone to hurt me like that again for as long as I live. And that was it – I stuck to my story, and I never approach a boy directly ever again.

There are no other stories we enjoy better than our own. We love to spin our own tales, we love to tell them, and we love to hear them back again from others. We never get tired of them no matter how many times we’ve heard them before. And while it’s true that our stories are based on actual events (at least most of the time), why is it that we cling to certain ones and let others fade into obscurity? Certainly I have had other humiliating experiences in my life that eclipsed that particular schoolyard event, and yet that’s the story I keep coming back to. I think it has a lot to do with recognizing the moments when we separate from our Divine selves, and create an alter-self that we use to try to survive when we think our authentic self can’t hack it. These are moments where we consciously assign disproportionate meaning to events that wouldn’t need that meaning in a perfect world.

We create stories about ourselves for all kinds of reasons. We do it to shield ourselves from pain, to make people like us more, or to create a persona that acts as a protective shell for our real selves. So the question remains: who would we be without that shell, without those stories? Personally, though I have spent a great amount of time and effort examining my stories in order to try to understand who I am, it wasn’t until I released my grip on my stories and let them go that I truly found out the answer.

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There was a time in my life when wake-up calls would have to be pretty dramatic for me even to notice. I was so reluctant to come out of my little status quo cocoon, and it would take quite a crisis for me to wake up and see what was important. But in each of those instants where I would suddenly wake up, I’d see exactly what was important, how precious life is… only to crawl back in my cocoon again.

Nonetheless, those intermittent moments of being awake in time built up to help me change my life, and these days I use them as markers on my path, to remind me why I’m here and which direction I’m heading. If I wake up one morning feeling a little stiff or tired, instead of sitting around and moaning about how I’m getting older, I can go for a brisk walk and know that this is my body’s way of reminding me that exercise is important. If I don’t get something that I had asked for, I know that it’s either on its way, or something better is. I don’t sit and wonder whether I don’t deserve the things I want, or whether I’m just not good enough. Not holding back from loving someone was the hardest wake-up call of all, as I learned it when my father suddenly died at age 63. I had tried to punish him for not meeting my expectations of love, and I was waiting for him to come to the realization that I was right.

There are still still times when I’m aware that the path is never-ending, that one always has to practice vigilance in order to stay awake and be present. As I sit at my desk, I suddenly hear fire trucks in the distance, and I silently send out blessings to the rescue team and the people they are being sent out to rescue. Then I take a look at the collection of objects on my desk, and it’s fitting that the alarm of the sirens should make me take notice. Here are all the things that represent what I love, put there specifically so I will have a constant reminder, and yet sometimes I can lose focus until the sirens bring me back again. My pocket astrologer, a Buddha figurine, notes from friends and family, photos of everyone I love most, a small angel sculpture, and of course a few chocolates are all things I still see right through sometimes. But at least these days, the sirens are needed less and less, as my vigilance has supplemented my desire to be awake and present. For this I’m very grateful.

I’m reminded of a Zen story, one where all the masters gathered together to discuss where the Key of Life should be hidden. One master was adamant that the top of a mountain would be a great hiding place, but the others disagreed. Another master suggested that maybe the bottom of the sea would be better, but again he was met with unanimous dissent. Discussion went back and forth for quite some time, and finally, just when it seemed like all the good ideas had been used up and rejected, one master stood up. “I’ve got it!” he exclaimed. “Let’s hide the key in the one place that humans never search: inside themselves.” Everyone agreed that was the best place to place the key, and there it remains to this day.

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It can happen just about anywhere – you’re standing in line at the bank, or at the grocery store, and then you feel someone brush up against you accidentally. You turn and find it’s a very attractive person. Then you start to think… maybe it wasn’t an accident! But how can you know for certain? You have to test the situation out, so you look at them again, for two reasons: one, to check them out a second time, and two, to see if there are any signs that the brush was on purpose. After all, it might have been a legitimate accident, and you don’t want to make a fool of yourself by assuming they’re into you when they may not have the slightest interest at all. So before you do anything, stop and think about what’s at stake, and ask yourself if this is just another mundane everyday event, or if this is the moment when everything changes in your life.

Take our quiz and see what you know about flirting: Answer True or False, then add up and click here for answers)

1. When someone goes out of their way to talk to me they are flirting

2. When someone makes prolonged eye contact (more than three seconds) they want my attention

3. When a woman is flirting it’s obvious

4. When a man is overtly flirting he generally has one thing on his mind

5. There’s a difference between being flirtatious and flirting

6. There are right ways and wrong ways to flirt

7. Saying inappropriate things in the name of flirting is acceptable

8. Flirting when you’re in a committed relationship is fine as long as you don’t act on it

And now, some tips to help you flirt effectively and without embarrassment:

First of all, focus on yourself, not the other person. Ask yourself, what are you hoping to accomplish by flirting? What is it that you want from this situation? A fun conversation? Casual sex? A relationship? The answer to this question will tell you what signs to look for. If you want a relationship, for instance, you’ll be looking for things like an bare ring finger, a shopping cart devoid of baby formula, and no spouse or kids hanging around. Don’t make a move if anything indicates the person isn’t available.

Step two, once you’ve decided the coast is most likely clear, you need to determine your own safety. No, this part is not particularly fun or spontaneous, but what’s REALLY not fun is being reckless and ending up in a situation where your personal safety is threatened. So check in with your intuition and make sure your body is not giving you any cues that it’s time to get out of the situation. You should be feeling completely comfortable and safe before you do anything at all. If not, don’t risk it or adopt a wait-and-see attitude – just get out of there.

Thirdly, let the fun begin! Believe it or not, most people are way too anxious when it comes to flirting, because really we’re all born with the ability. You may not buy that if you think you’re particularly awkward, but most awkwardness comes only when we become conscious of things that were unconscious. Many times we give off signals without even noticing we’re doing it! Checking to see who brushed up against you, and then checking a second time just to be sure – this is all part of the flirting process! If you can find something authentic to say in the moment, even better. Keep it simple and have fun above all else. The more you can relax and enjoy yourself, the more your flirting will be a sincere reflection of who you really are, which of course is exactly how you want to present yourself.

Remember that even though meeting people on the internet is all the rage, there’s nothing like connecting with a person in real life. So don’t be shy, practice connecting with people wherever and whenever, and load your tool belt up with these three things: your intention, your safety, and your natural ability to flirt!

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There are thousands of ways you can express yourself, thousands of things you can do that could come across to someone as loving. However, it’s where these actions come from that’s of utmost importance if you want to be genuine.

You might think that you’re expressing love by not arguing back when your partner says something you strongly disagree with, but if you’re only doing it so you can have credit for controlling your tongue, or if you’re just hoping the payoff for verbally agreeing will be sex, what good is that in the long run? Very little!

If you want to express love from a place of authenticity, start with these tips:

Make the effort to get to know your partner. You’d be surprised how much two people can not know about each other, even after years of being together. This is especially true when you consider that what people like changes from moment to moment. What does your partner enjoy, what do they not enjoy? What are their pet peeves? What do they think about various topics? Knowing these things may not change your actions per se, but investing your interest in your partner will greatly increase the health of the relationship.

Listen to what your partner is telling you. Of course there’s the literal aspect to this – the things they actually say – but there are the more subtle clues and hints that you can learn to pick up on. If they keep saying the same sorts of things over and over, learn to read between the lines. “Wow, isn’t it great to have a moment of quiet” could be a sign that it’s time to start scheduling in times when you both agree to turn off phones, computers, and the TV.

Include your partner’s happiness in your assessment of your own happiness. Make a habit of inquiring whether things are going well for them; learn what they’re struggling with, what would make their lives better, what they’re happy with right now, what they’re lacking, as so forth. Incorporate these things into your daily self-inquiry practice.

Act in whatever way you can to make your partner’s day better. Even little things can make a big impact, so don’t underestimate your ability to transform your partner’s daily life. For example, I love sleeping in and my husband knows that, so in order to let me have five extra minutes of sleep, he makes my tea just the way I like it every morning, even when we’re traveling. I happen to know that he craves time alone, so whenever something needs to be done and I can handle it on my own, I send him off for half an hour to go meditate, and I sort things out myself. It’s the little things.

Consider the new things that will pop up that you don’t know about each other yet. Find ways to discover these things. My husband and I love taking spontaneous drives in various directions – we never end up in the same place twice, and it’s always an adventure. When we get home, we talk about the experience and how we each perceived it. We’re constantly learning new things about each other in this way.

And these are just a few suggestions you can start with; add your own ideas and start seeing how much joy it brings you to bring joy to your partner! It’s this authenticity of expression that makes all the difference.

If you actually care, then act like it!
Great relationships begin within!

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Have a question you’re just dying to know the answer to? Want to discuss something extensively in email with us? Please send us an email and we’ll forward it to the appropriate Miseducated writer.

Reader

Last year my wife flipped out when I bought her lingerie for Valentine’s Day. The truth is, I still don’t know why. She just got angry and said “Isn’t it obvious?” and that was it. Any advice on what I get her this year that won’t set her off (and that we both can enjoy), which is what I thought the point of Valentine’s Day was?

Maryanne

Hi Rob, thanks for your question. And it’s a great question, too, because I know a lot of guys would have blown it off and just guessed again this year, and as you’ve probably figured out, that’s not a great solution if your track record with guessing is less than stellar. Unless of course you just enjoy sexual frustration.

So, in terms of a gift… it’s less about “buying the right thing” and more about getting some clarity on what she expects from Valentine’s Day in terms of general atmosphere and activities, and also what you expect. Because it’s likely that her reaction last year was not so much about the gift in particular, but rather was a symptom of something else going on. Now that she’s had a year to feel resentful about whatever it was, it is more important than ever to get clear on what each of your expectations are.

But how does one begin such a difficult conversation? Starting a simple and loving way, telling her that you realise last year was a little rough, and you were hoping to talk about what you could both do together to make this year really special. One of two things will happen: either she’ll give you a straightforward answer and open up a conversation strictly about possibilities for Valentine’s activities this year, or you might get a chance to listen to the real reasons behind why she was upset last year. This is a great foundation from which to talk about what Valentine’s Day means to both of you.

It’s important, however, to make sure the conversation stays on course. You don’t want to start playing the blame game or devolve into finger-pointing; here are some tips to help you engage in an effective, constructive, and mature conversation.

Start by agreeing on what you’re talking about: “I would like to talk about how we can make Valentine’s Day special.”

Don’t ruin things with bad timing: When you say, “I want to talk,” most women will want to talk right now. Keeping that in mind, it’s probably not a great idea to approach the subject when she’s agitated about something, in a hurry, or in the middle of doing something else.

Set up ground rules: Maybe you could agree to each have 3 to 5 minutes to speak uninterrupted, about whatever you would like (this Valentine’s Day, last Valentine’s Day, or whatever you want). Make sure you are careful to focus on your feelings rather than your perceptions of what the other person did wrong. For example, “I felt confused when you got angry” is much more constructive phrasing than “you always get angry for no reason.”

Recap what you heard: It’s important to take turns and repeat what the other person said, so that you are each sure your message is getting through.

Talk honestly about the ideal situation: Take another 3 to 5 minutes each describing what an ideal Valentine’s Day would be like if you could have everything exactly how you wanted it.

Negotiate for each other: It might go like this: she might say, “how about we go see a movie, then we’ll come home and I’ll make you dinner, and maybe I’ll give you a massage?” Then he might say, “why don’t I take you out to dinner before the movie, then afterward we can come home and give each other massages?”

Connecting with and listening to each other is a delicate art. Each of us is subject to changing moods and changing desires, and often we expect the other person to read our mind. When you hear what each other is saying, often you find you’re looking for the same thing: to spend time together and be happy around one another. There may be some compromise involved, but remember that the true meaning of Valentine’s Day is that love is kind, responsible, and above all, respectful.

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World Sex Report 1971

Some people just can’t help it – sex, no matter how casual, means something to them, and they feel some attachment. Others seem to be able to do it, put their clothes back on, and walk away without so much as a second thought. Often, those who tend toward a large variety of sexual partners use the excuse that it’s not natural for humans to practice monogamy, and that because we are, at our base, animals, it’s perfectly acceptable to behave like animals.

What’s interesting is that what goes on in the brain of any human does not vary according to how they feel about monogamy and sex. Either way, the process begins in the brain stem, which is responsible for our lowest nature, but it then continues on up through the mammalian brain, where it encounters a bridge between thoughts and actions, and finally it ends up in the neocortex, which is where the thoughts get processed into decisions, according to desires, beliefs, or influence from our conscience.

So that means that as much as some people try to tell themselves that their behavior is not their fault, that’s complete nonsense. The thing that separates humans from animals is this more complex cognitive process, which gives us the ability to override our base nature any time we choose to. If this weren’t the case, you wouldn’t be reading this right now at all – you’d be grunting and trying to decide whether the computer is something you could eat or something you could hump.

Nonetheless, a staggering amount of us try to pull the “it’s the nature of the beast” card when excusing the hurtful and careless behavior of others or ourselves. How many times have you heard women (or even the men themselves) justify promiscuity by saying, only half-joking, “it’s not his fault, his penis has a mind of its own”? This sort of cop-out has nothing to do with a penis (or indeed a vagina) actually leading anyone around, but rather it is the way our egos rationalize the things we probably shouldn’t be proud of. All our egos want is more and more pleasure more and more of the time, and the easiest way to get around the hurt this can cause others is to blame nature instead of taking responsibility.

If you’re skeptical that we actually have the power to choose a higher nature rather than just reacting to a lower one, think about the way we eat versus the way a “natural” human would eat. When was the last time you saw a guy in a suit chasing squirrels in the park, catching one and biting off the head for lunch? Not too recently? Because we have accepted that we can choose the higher path of buying food at the grocery store, no one feels like they “must” give in to the natural tendency to hunt.

The same goes with many aspects of our sexual practice. Most of us understand that we cannot just mount people randomly in the street whenever we feel like it – we must gain consent, find a suitable place, and so forth. So clearly we can accept the higher consciousness option when we feel like it, and yet when it comes to some abhorrent behavior we want to justify, we try to get out of the guilt by saying we can’t help it, it’s just who we are.

So maybe it’s time that we all look inward and inquire about the true meaning of claiming that something is in our nature, because when we don’t examine that concept and simply act as if it were fact, the results can be truly devastating. It is an insult to our intelligence to cop out and say that we couldn’t be expected to behave any better, but choosing to change that attitude is a fantastic way to create greater understanding and respect between people. At the very least, you can enjoy the freedom that comes with being completely honest about your thoughts on sex and monogamy!

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2011: can we predict that it will be better than 2010?

“Maybe…”

It has to be said that I am not a trained healer by any means. I am simply someone who aims to interpret her own signs, and I struggle even with that. All my life, I have always been fascinated with the assignment of meaning, the mechanism in our brains that causes us to give value and significance to one particular thing while we reject or dismiss another for completely arbitrary reasons. What is it that causes us to form the prejudices to say that one thing means something or has a certain value, and that another does not? We even vary from context to context, often believing that something means something at a certain time, but not at another time. I find this both interesting and confusing.

Take, for example, two incidents that happened to me recently. On three separate occasions this week, I saw the exact same armored truck at a market I frequent. The chances of that, while not astronomical, are pretty slim, and I made note of how unusual it was. Later in the week, I was sitting in my car while I was out running errands and a rat ran in front of my car. There are who-know-how-many thousands of rats running around in a typical city, and seeing one on the street is hardly a rare occurrence.

So which one do you think I interpreted as a sign? Believe it or not, it was the rat.

I can’t really explain the logic behind my choice, either, as it wasn’t really a choice but more of a feeling. And I started to wonder how I would “know” that something commonplace was a sign when something unusual wouldn’t be. I tried analyzing the potential meanings behind either of these sightings to see if anything would present itself. The armored truck, for example, could have meant good fortune, or security, or money coming into my life. Those all sound like great things, why wouldn’t I be inclined to see that as a sign? Rats, on the other hand, are harbingers of danger – they are the first to sense when all is not right, and they turn tail and run in an effort to save themselves. Sure, these are all vague interpretations, but I was still no closer to determining why I would accept the rat so readily as a sign, when I had dismissed the truck just as readily.

It didn’t make any sense to me, and I was about to drive myself crazy thinking about it, when suddenly one of my most beloved Zen tales wandered back into my head from where it was buried in my memory. This story is a perfect example of how perfection, irony, paradox, and beauty can coexist without problems, as in my experience with the rat and the truck.

An old farmer was working on his crops one day when his horse got loose and ran away. His neighbors came around that evening to sympathize, telling him that he’d simply been a victim of bad luck.

The farmer replied, “maybe.”

The following day, the farmer was working when his horse returned. The horse had met three other wild horses and had brought them back to the farm. The neighbors rejoiced and congratulated the farmer. “Such good luck!” the said.

The farmer replied, “maybe.”

The following day, the farmer sent one of his sons out to ride the wild horses to try to tame them. The son did his best, but fell off one of the horses and broke his foot. Again the neighbors came around to console the farmer about his bad luck, telling him that he was simply misfortunate.

The farmer replied, “maybe.”

The following day, a group of military draft officers came around to take the young men of the village away for combat duty. The farmer’s son, however, couldn’t go because of his broken foot. The neighbors laughed with delight and told the farmer just how lucky he really was.

The farmer replied, “maybe.”

And this is what offers us equilibrium in the midst of the paradoxical path we walk – no matter how much we wander from one side to the other, it’s a daily practice of self-inquiry that keeps us centered. Remember, Great Relationships Begin Within!
?Take your soul for a stroll and join us at www.maryannelive.com as we bring in the New Year!

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‘Tis the season to… get hitched? Well, maybe weddings themselves are more popular in June, but according to a survey sponsored by the Fairchild Bridal Group (the people who publish Modern Bride) marriage proposals in November and December represent more than a quarter of all proposals for the entire year. And this is the reason most people get married – not because they’ve thought about why they want to get married, but simply because someone asked them! This brings me to the subject of this week’s blog: a young man I met recently named Antonio. He’s 24, and he used to play soccer in his native Spain but had to give it up after a foot injury ended his career. He made the best of his situation and turned to music and songwriting as a new career path. I encountered him because he provides music equipment for bands, and also karaoke machines for people like me who like to have noisy Xmas parties. As we chatted, he mentioned that he loves his job, he loves his band, and he has an ex-girlfriend he’s thinking about marrying. As you can imagine, I made a face at that, and asked him for clarification.

I mean, why would he want to marry someone who is his EX-girlfriend? Presumably the EX part is for a reason! He suddenly got very quiet and shrugged and said, “I guess I just… I don’t know… you know, she really wants to get married.” What? No no no. NO! I cannot have any response to that other than NO.

I asked Antonio if he would be interested in the kind of advice that would change his life and his way of thinking. I explained a little about who I am and what I do, and before he could really respond either way, I jumped right in to tell him my thoughts on the matter. After all, when again would I get an opportunity to mold his young spirit and get him onto the right path? I knew this was a critical moment and I would only have one chance to get it right.

“Here’s the thing, Antonio,” I said. “The only reason you should ever even CONSIDER, even for a brief moment, the sacrament of marriage, is because when you wake up in the morning, this beautiful, amazing person is the first thought in your head, and that thought makes you glow from the inside all day long, and you cannot stop thinking about how lucky you are that you get to spend your free time with this person, and that you get to be the recipient of their love and respect, and vice-versa. There should be no doubt in your mind that this is how you feel, before you even let the word ‘marriage’ come anywhere near the conversation.”

He stared at me as if he’d just been smacked in the face with a book and was wondering which direction it came from, and thought I knew I came on strong, I did it intentionally, hoping to get through to his young brain. He could have responded in a dismissive or irritated way, but he didn’t – he simply stared at me for a few seconds, and then slowly said, “thanks for that.” Did I get through to him? Well, of course I have no way of knowing for sure, but lets just say that this very professional and very competent young man left without collecting the very item he came to pick up.

And that made my day! It always thrills me when I can get through to people by using my larger-than-life passion for helping people find real love!

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on melrose

I’d like to travel, for a moment, back to the time when I was five years old. I remember my mother shushing me for trying to talk to a stranger. I didn’t understand what the big deal was. She said that “we don’t talk to strangers,” and that “it’s rude to ask people personal questions!” This made no sense to me at all – if you never talk to strangers, how are you supposed to make any friends or get to know anyone? Obviously I wanted to avoid a spanking, so I did as I was told, but even the threat of corporal punishment couldn’t quell that insatiable desire inside me to talk to people and get to know them. Now, of course, it’s part of my work as a relationship expert, but what I’d like to do today is pass on to you the skill of really getting to know people, including yourself.

Going back to my childhood for a moment, I used to make mud pies quite frequently. I’d put them on my neighbors’ doorsteps and wait to see how they reacted. In my head, this was a way of testing the waters to see who was friendly and who wasn’t. If someone accepted the pie and the humor that came along with it, then for me they were safe, friendly, and open. If they didn’t see the humor, then I would use that as a sign to steer clear. I didn’t cry about it or beg them to like the pie or call them or stalk them or promise to change the pie into something they’d like better… I just moved on to another doorstep and tried not to take it personally. My pies weren’t to everyone’s taste, and that was fine. No big deal.

So I’m asking you now to make the leap forward with me and apply this to your own life. How many of us currently play a much more neurotic version of the mud pie game, giving too many pies to people who don’t want them, and causing unnecessary suffering by not listening to our intuition when it tells us the response to the pie isn’t a positive one?

Learning to see people for who they really are – and who they aren’t – is not just a matter of learning a few clever tricks that will give you insight into the opposite sex, and that’s not what I’m trying to do here. Instead, I want to give you the power tool of all power tools for your relationship tool belt – the knowledge of how to inner-view for success!

The difficult part about “learning to see people for who they really are” isn’t the people out there – it’s learning who YOU really are and what you really want. If you look at great relationships and think that could never happen to you, I want you to know that you are wrong! Great relationships ARE possible for you! You just have to put in some initial legwork getting to know yourself, and setting up a plan that will not only help you succeed in finding someone compatible for you, but that will also greatly increase your chances at having a great relationship.

Remember that getting older does not necessarily mean getting wiser. Many of us make the same mistakes over and over again. But the basics of a great relationship are easy to learn, no matter how many times you’ve gotten it wrong. When we want to explore a spark we feel for someone, we offer up the adult version of a mud pie: a friendly introduction, a smile, or a flirty glance. Then it’s the intuition’s turn to measure the response we get from that, and decide either to back away, or take another step forward into a conversation. After that next step, then the intuition does its magic again, and again it’s up to us to read the signs and choose which way to go. My goal for you is this: once you have a comfortable knowledge of who you are and what you want, then you can learn to take your passion for connecting with someone, and use it wisely, to make sure your time and energy are spent on the positive road to your next great relationship!

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