Tools for Relating — it’s not enough to have some knowledge about relationships… you need tools and techniques to excel at relating.
Here’s another sample chapter from my relationships book, The. Best. Relationship. Ever. Enjoy!
If you’re looking for a partner that “fits you,” you owe it to yourself to read my book. Find Your Perfect Partner It’s available as a Kindle book here, for $2.99 US.
Two of my other books, This Endless Moment 2nd. edition and Half Asleep in the Buddha Hall, are also available as Kindle books, same price. Those two are also available from Amazon as paperbacks.
The easiest way to check out all of the books is to go to our publishing site, The Phoenix Centre Press.
Last week, I described my book, The. Best. Relationship. Ever.
Here’s The Chapter, “Tools For Relating.” This chapter will give you a good idea of the “meat” of the book.
Chapter Four: Tools for Relating
Elegant, Intimate Relating (EIR)
EIR is a structure for living deeply and fully with others
With EIR, nothing is taken for granted. Elegant, Intimate Relating requires the active participation of two separate and distinct beings, both of whom are dedicated to rigorous self-exploration. Each is using the relationship to gain depth and breadth of knowledge about the only thing each can know: themselves.
Elegant, Intimate Relating is enacted at the direct meeting of two whole persons. I call this “meeting at the boundary” — I am still I, you are still you, and we meet to explore, to reveal, to be open and vulnerable through honest revelation.
The revelation has to be authentic
In EIR, you are choosing to be transparent with your partner. EIR is not about saying nice things, not about manipulating your partner to see or do things your way. Nor is it about hiding the fact that you have a range of feelings and emotions “in there.” Transparent authenticity is choosing to let yourself be seen — as you are, and how you are.
Elegant, Intimate Relating happens only in the Here and Now
It’s not about your stories. Stories, at best, serve as a framework for true vulnerability.
Vulnerability is expressed by letting out what is going on for you, right now, with no excuses. This is me, right now. And part of “me, right now,” is the emotion that is happening inside of me. Not descriptions of the emotions, not blaming someone for the emotions, but rather the emotions themselves.
Once you “get this,” you’ll also notice that emotions are fleeting. I can be sad, then bored, then weepy, then laugh-filled, then have the feeling of “nothing much,” but only if I do not cling to my story, a.k.a. thinking too much.
Un-guarding yourself means being willing to own and share your in-the-moment reality, without filtering. Being un-guarded means speaking your truth — the truth that comes from “Here is what is so for me”.”
The point of Elegant, Intimate Relating is to clear the decks so that you can shift what is not working. Letting go of guardedness gives us the opportunity to see how we are structuring our stories to stay stuck. From there, you choose to do something new and refreshing. It’s not meant as an exercise in self-aggrandizement, and emphatically is not a game to stay stuck, while pretending to “get it.”
Un-guarding means loosening the filters, and expressing yourself as you are, with focus and clarity.
The Beginning of Elegant, Intimate Relating
The Tools section of the book describes the “how” of an EIR. Here’s the “what.”
Engaged Intimacy, first of all, requires a dialogue agreement
Let me whip out my crystal ball and declare that your past relationship failures were caused by poor, faulty, or non-existent verbal communication. Other problems were: non-verbal communication, magical thinking, lack of physical intimacy, and lack of self-responsibility.
We are going to establish a dialogue agreement, and then discuss how to enact it.
The Dialogue Agreement
“I have decided to commit myself to open, honest, and vulnerable communication. I will use a Communication Model, self-responsible language, and will keep my boundaries open and flexible. I will be in dialogue with you for no less than 30 minutes per day, and when issues cannot be resolved within that time-frame, I agree to make as much time as necessary to resolve the issue, with no compromise. I commit to keep you totally informed about what is going on for me: my stories, my games, my evasions. I will keep you completely informed about my feelings, my attractions, and my other relationships. I do so not for permission, but to facilitate clarity.”
The Physical Contact Agreement
Given that we’re discussing your Primary Relationship, physical contact is a given. We’ve noted that Engaged Intimacy is also available for other relationships. I think it’s important to establish physical parameters, even within the Primary Relationship. Thus:
“I commit to using physical contact as another way of exploring my emotions, blockages, and my connection with you. I accept that physical contact is an end unto itself — that it is not primarily a means to having sex. I will be open and honest about my need for emotional expression, and will use safe methods of expressing my emotions thoroughly. I will ask for what I want as regards physical contact, recognizing that what I want “now,” may not be what I want “later.” I will invite Bodywork pressure on “stuck” parts of my body, and offer to do the same for you. I am open to expressing whatever feelings arise through physical contact, will stay focussed on myself, and will feel my feelings fully.”
This becomes the framework for Engaged Intimacy
From this baseline, which you are free to add to, but not reduce, we begin the process of building intimacy and presence. I would suggest that you look carefully at the above Agreements, and then read through the “Tools” chapters to follow. Once you have a grasp on how this all fits together, sit with your partner, begin right here with the Agreements, and structure your own agreements.
You will want to write out what you are agreeing to, and then sign it. Remember: all you can agree to is what you will do. This is not a conditional, “If you do this, then I’ll do that” kind of agreement. You are making the commitment to yourself to act in a certain way, while in your partner’s presence. I’ll be reminding you of that as we go along.
The 9 Tools
It is our belief that self-knowing happens best in your Primary Relationship. This relationship has as its keys: elegant communication, vulnerability, (the willingness to open up) openness, (the willingness to take in) and intimacy (making full, honest contact.)
Through dialogue, baseline parameters are set, in the following two areas:
Engaged Communication — this is the minimum requirement — that there be open, honest, and intimate dialogue. We propose following the basic Communication Model described below — using it to dig deeply, and learn more of both “self” and “partner.”
Engaged Contact — after the above is established, the couple creates levels of physical contact. It’s essential to create flexible boundaries in this area, and to immediately discuss areas of confusion / discomfort.
Within the “safe hands” of Engaged Intimate, Relating anything is possible. We have the opportunity to trust, to open, to be vulnerable, and especially, to explore our own darkness, in the presence of a partner who is a curious, active participant.
The following 9 Tools form the basis for what is to follow — we believe that this is the only way to achieve personal and relational contentment!
As I noted earlier, this book is seemingly about relationships, but it’s actually a self-development book. Self-work is the only way to engage with life, with others, and with our way of being. Our relationships shift precisely as much as we, as individuals, shift.
What follows are brief descriptions of the 9 Tools
I’ll flesh them out in later chapters of this book. For now, let me suggest some understandings for each of these points, and how each applies to personal living and Elegant, Intimate Relating.
1. Total Honesty
It’s impossible to have a rich and meaningful relationship while keeping secrets (“The flaw of omission,”) or while lying (“The flaw of commission.”)
Many are the excuses for dishonesty:
- ~ “I’m an adult and I have a right to privacy.”
- ~”(S)he might get mad if I was honest about everything.”
- ~ “I just want to be me — no need to talk about it.”
- ~ “White lies aren’t harmful.”
Being dishonest is a mini-betrayal. It’s an indicator that you don’t trust your partner enough to share what’s up for you, and are embarrassed about your actions.
We advocate Total Honesty. And yes, sometimes being totally honest is scary, or might lead to a protracted discussion. But the truth is this: almost everyone who lies gets caught.
Personal: “It is my intention to tell the truth, all the time. I recognize that how “deeply I go” depends on who I’m interacting with, but I will answer truthfully, and be direct and clear with everyone.”
Relational: “From this point on, my policy with you is Total Honesty. I’ll let you know what I am thinking, how I am deciding, and what I am doing. I am not doing this for permission, but rather to foster intimacy and deepen our relationship.”
2. Being Present
Presence is about 2 things:
- ~ being in the moment, the Now, and
- ~ being focussed on what you are doing.
Most of us live our lives either in our heads (story-telling), or detached from our selves (numb.) Sort of ghosts, walking.
Being in the Now helps us to stay focussed on the immediate situation, while adding little or no drama through storytelling or future projections. This kind of presence allows us to deal with each situation as it occurs.
Personal: “I just tuned out and ended up imagining all kinds of stories that have nothing to do with the situation before me. I’ll just have a breath and come back to the present moment.”
Relational: “As I listened to you, I caught myself telling myself familiar stories about how hard-done-by I am. I recognize that my stories have nothing to do with you or the situation, so I’m filling you in as a way to come back to the Here and Now.”
3. Being self-responsible
Self-responsibility is not about self-blame. Rather, it’s about claiming ownership of our lives.
It is ‘normal’ to push responsibility away. Most are willing to take credit for success, and want to point a finger elsewhere when confronted with things judged ‘wrong’ or ‘bad.’
Self-responsibility is simple — “I am the author of all of my life, as I view it right now.” This is not a denial that ‘bad’ things happen,” and that others may even intend us harm. It’s to say that nothing compels us to act in ways that are non-helpful.
Personal: “This is going on right now, and I am making myself uncomfortable. Nevertheless, I am in this situation because of my choices. I can, at any time, choose differently.”
Relational: “I am upsetting myself over the way I perceive our relationship. Therefore, I will own my responsibility for having gotten myself into the state I am in, and I will decide what I will do next.”
4. Speaking clearly — Use dialogue to know yourself
We teach a specific Communication Model, and do so because most people are lousy communicators. Rather than use communication to deepen their self-understanding, they use it to justify their “hardened” behaviour and thinking, while proving others wrong. Or, they use communication to blame.
As soon as you harden a thought into a belief, you become “unteachable.”
Dialogue, on the other hand, is about exploring our personal beliefs as we listen to feedback. It is essential to bear in mind that this exploration is only possible if you choose to hold your beliefs and “demands” loosely.
Personal: “Here is what I see, here is what I feel in my body, and here are the stories I am telling myself.”
Relational: “I want to share with you my provisional guesses about what I see happening right now. I’m wondering about your perspectives on my stories.”
5. Being Curious — and NODing
When we live our lives up in our heads, dwelling on the past and fearing the future, we think that our version of misery is reality. We get locked into thought-loops. We exit the moment, shut down by tightening our bodies, and dwell in “Never-Never Land.” The “Never” part is actually, “My life will never be different, and I’ll never be able to change.”
Curiosity is the opposite of self-righteousness and blame. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that you are often confused about your own motivations and actions. How then, could you ever think you had a clue about what’s up for others?
Personal: “I am drifting into past and future again. What is actually happening right now? Is anything required of me, right now? What does my body want to do? What would happen if I stopped telling myself stores, sat down, and had a breath?”
Relational: “When I confront situations like this one, I get caught in a mind loop… I’m wondering if you would have time to listen to my description, and then I’d like to hear about how you get yourself out of your mind-loops.”
6. Letting go of Drama and Storytelling
Obviously, we have a story about ourselves — one we are anxious to tell others, and one we believe is ‘true.’ The story contains fragments of our biography, and mostly consists of examples that support our victim-story. One of the great leaps of self-responsibility is the understanding that our stories are “just stories.”
We have much invested in our life-story, and also give much energy to defending everything that props it up. We move past this by allowing ourselves to question both the accuracy and validity of the stories we are telling.
Letting go of drama is similar. Because we spend so much time talking to ourselves, about ourselves, we have a tendency to see ourselves as the centre of everything. Now, certainly, we are the centre of our own universe and experience — we’re just not the centre of anything else. Despite our desire, no one is going to make us the centre of their universe. And the stuff that happens is the stuff that happens. It’s not happening to you personally.
Personal: “Here is what is actually happening right now. I notice the story I’m struggling to tell, where I’m a poor, helpless victim, and I choose, this time, in this moment, to let that story go. In this moment, I’ll be present and aware, and see what, if anything, is required of me.”
Relational: “So, I notice that I’m hearing you speak, and I’m seeing what you’re doing, and I’m telling myself all kinds of stories about how you are punishing me, or trying to manipulate me. I notice that I am creating these stories out of my thought-loops, and I want to acknowledge that I’m doing this. I will now let go, and return to being open and curious.”
7. Being Flexible
The lynch-pin for Elegant, Intimate Relating is flexibility.
I may have spent years developing my relating style, but I also have the power, each time, to change what I am doing.
Integrity plays a big part here
While I know that I have complete freedom of expression, I also begin to look at the consequences (results) of my actions. I evaluate the result I am getting against what I have committed to — Elegant, Intimate Relating — and only do what deepens my relating.
This is flexibility
Personal: “Here I go again, doing the very things that endlessly land me in the soup. This is who I am, but right now, I can transform this pattern by stopping, having a breath, and making another choice.”
Relational: “Wow, there I go again, blaming you for how I am feeling. I accept that I do this, and am pleasing myself that I caught myself this time. Give me a second to have a breath, and then I’ll shift back to dialogue.”
8. Feeling Your Feelings
Feelings have a bad reputation. People resist their ‘negative’ feelings — are caught in judgement — endlessly assigning “good / bad, right / wrong” categories to everything.
Essential to Elegant, Intimate Relating is total acceptance of each and every feeling
As we meditate, for example, what becomes clear is that thoughts and feelings flow through us like clouds crossing the sky. If we latch on to the feeling / thought, we create suffering for ourselves. If we express the thought or feeling, we can let it go.
There are no ‘bad’ feelings — there are, however, non-useful ways to express them. So, we accept and transform each feeling by expressing it with awareness.
Personal: “I am aware of my anger, my boredom, my sexuality and sensuality, my tightness, my shutting down — all of my feelings. I accept that these feelings pass through me — they are not me, but rather expressions of my moment-by-moment experience. I therefore choose to express them safely and thoroughly.”
Relational: “I’m noticing that [the current feelings] are coming up for me, and I’m wondering if you’d be interested in helping me to fully experience and express them, so that I can learn their lesson and then move on to whatever is next.”
9. Exploring Sensuality and Sexuality
Most adults have “issues” around open, honest, and deep revelation and expression of matters sexual. The discomfort is deep-seated — stretching back to childhood.
Because of our discomfort, we talk in euphemisms and hints. We tend to only get part of what we are looking for, and might be unclear about what we want.
We also have desires and attractions for others, and are uncomfortable both with the feelings themselves, and with sharing them. We avoid conversions about our “turn-ons,” out of confusion, fear, and to avoid jealousy. We end up more confused, blocked, and wary.
Personal: “I am doing some serious work exploring my sensual and sexual nature. I am going to use clear language to describe who I am and what I want sexually, and I am going to create “Vulnerability Projects” to explore areas I am curious about / scare myself over.”
Relational: “I am noticing that I have some issues as regards my sensuality / sexuality. I am exploring these issues, and I will keep you informed about what I am discovering, as well as invite you to work on some of this with me. I also commit to keeping you updated on people I am relating with, and letting you know who I find attractive, chargy, etc.”
Let’s see how this all plays out.