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Respect is the Minimum of Love

Live Respectfully! While you cannot arrange to always feel loving toward your partner, you can make a commitment to never treat anyone, including yourself, with less than respect and to never allow others’ behavior towards you to drop below the level of respect. For instance, consider the difference between saying “That’s not true!” and “I see that differently from you.” The first respects only my point of view. The second recognizes that people who see the world differently are not necessarily right or wrong. They may be only different. Living with respect means respecting both yourself and the other. It means holding a position of valuing each person’s thoughts, feelings, needs, wants and unique experience of the world, even when these are in conflict.

Respect is the minimum of loveThe question arises, “Who defines what is respectful and what is not?” Most of us know intuitively what constitutes respect or disrespect for us. However, it is also important that you and your partner share with each other your own definitions of respectful or disrespectful behavior. To a great extent, respect is in the eye of the beholder. Respecting each other’s sensitivities around what feels disrespectful, even if you do not perceive it the same way, is a powerful move that puts your relationship on a firm foundation of respectful living.

However, you may find that you and your partner have some intense conflicts over what constitutes “disrespect.” For instance, if your partner grew up in a proper New England family where voices and energy are always kept low and calm, they may feel disrespected when you, who grew up in a boisterous Italian family, raises your voice and energy in a “discussion.” On the other hand, you, as the more high energy partner, may feel disrespected because when your partner refuses to engage with you at this level. So now what?

This is an excellent time to practice respect! Both of you can let go of defining your way as “the respectful way” and work to value the merits of the other’s style. You can work together to find a “middle ground” that incorporates both the “peace and quiet” of the “New England” style and the energy and engagement of the “Italian” style. Develop “our” style – one that fits for both of you.

There are a couple of other important points about living respectfully.

Blatantly disrespectful behavior, e.g. lying, cheating, screaming, name-calling, disregarding agreements, poisons your relationship in several ways. First of all, in behaving in these ways, you move to a position of disregard, even contempt, for your partner. From this position, there can be no love or connection. Secondly, when you treat your partner in these ways, they will inevitably build up resentment at being regarded as unworthy of respect. There also can be no love or connection when one is filled with resentment. So, your chance for loving connection takes a double hit.

Lastly, behaving respectfully towards your partner is a critical piece of maintaining your own self-respect. When you allow yourself to be blatantly disrespectful of your partner and/or your relationship, you cannot feel good about yourself. So, refraining from such behaviors is a great way to support your own sense of being a good human being.

Relationship Tip: How Do You Show Your Love?

We never outgrow our need to feel loved by the people with whom we are in a relationship. The best way to grow a committed loving relationship is by working to help your partner feel loved by you. Love is the grease that allows the wheel of life to rotate smoothly.

How Do You Show Your Love?Being a loving partner takes intention and skill. Intention involves the internal commitment to yourself to be kind, considerate and respectful in all of your actions and communication. Skill means that you have been willing to break old self-defeating habits and have learned some new ways to demonstrate the loving side of your nature.

Here are some skills you can practice:

1. Give your partner a verbal appreciation every day! Remind yourself of your partner’s best traits and behaviors and tell your partner how much you appreciate that aspect of his/her personhood. Be explicit and be concrete. “You are a good Mom” is a nice start. “I really admire the way you took the time to calm Jimmy down before you put him in that time out” is more concrete, specific and personal. If you want to learn how to make your appreciations even more powerful, practice telling your partner how you interpreted his/her excellent behaviors. For example, “I really admire the way you took the time to calm Jimmy down before you put him in that time out. When I saw you do that I realized how you are teaching him self-soothing skills even as you are giving him a consequence for his bad behavior. What a great move!”

2. Give your gifts from your heart. Gifts that have strings attached are likely to blow up in your face. When your partner senses that you are being nice because you want something in return, an alarm goes off in your partner’s survival brain that says, “Danger! Danger!” Instead of closeness, you get distance and wariness. And you wonder, “What did I do wrong?” Gifts, (i.e. both verbal appreciations and material presents) must be given freely with loving kindness and without expectations.

3. Use the Platinum Rule. The Golden Rule says, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” This is an excellent principal for treating others with consideration and respect. It is often referred to as the ethic of reciprocity. However, it can backfire in relationships. If you use your behavior in the relationship to attempt to signal to your partner what you secretly want given back to you, miscommunication often results. Take, for example, the anniversary where the husband (who wants more touching in the relationship) gives his wife a fancy electric massage machine. At the same time, the wife (who privately wishes they would spend intimate time reading aloud to each other) gives her husband a book of love poems. They pretend to appreciate what they received from the partner, but secretly feel disappointed and misunderstood.

In place of the Golden Rule, we suggest an updated version for love relationships. Harville Hendrix has called this the Platinum Rule. The Platinum Rule says, “Do unto your partner as your partner would have you do unto them.” Take the time to learn and to remember what your partner likes to receive. Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, can help you and your partner understand each other’s primary and secondary love receptors. To become the best lover you can be, you need to give your partner what they most long for, not what you think they ought to appreciate.

The Duality of Intimacy – Separateness and Closeness

I wear two wedding rings. No, I am not a bigamist, and I don’t practice Big Love. They snuggle up nicely together on my ring finger. The inner ring is a plain gold band, and the one next to it is more ornate, Black Hills gold with a leafy design. The first ring represents me and the second Suzanne, my lovely wife. They signify our togetherness and our separateness. They remind me that in this world of forms we are two, not one, even when we are deeply connected.

duality of intimacy

Intimacy is a dance of separateness and closeness. My rings remind me that both are necessary for a loving relationship to work well. Even though one partner is usually comfortable with more closeness and the other with more distance, each person needs what the other prefers. You may not choose to wear two wedding rings. I like how they fit – together and separately!

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Integral Parenting: An Outgrowth of Our Personal Conscious Evolution

What is integral parenting?

Integral parenting is an evolutionary, developmental consciousness and skill set that empowers adults to connect and relate to themselves and children from wisdom and compassion. It is a way of parenting that is different in many respects from traditional parenting. It is an outgrowth of our personal conscious evolution, as well as the growing awareness of human rights in Western society and culture. It is not helicopter parenting or laissez-faire parenting.

It is characterized from the beginning by deep consistent involvement of all parties with one another. It really begins with the parents being committed to their own awakening and growth, as well as cooperating with the nature of the child, which, in turn, leads to deeper and deeper connection with each person. Instead of exercising power over the child, the parents develop power with the child; this is essential. Power struggles are greatly reduced because one-up power is no longer in practice. Neither are children falsely empowered in integral parenting. Influence goes in all directions and love, practiced by the parents from the outset, is the motivating force. It’s not about getting kids to cooperate. It’s about parents modeling same-as power at first with each other and teaching this way of being powerful with others, rather than having power over others.

Fotolia_62440904_XSEach person’s needs are important; each person is enough, and they matter in spite of their limitations and imperfections.

Integral parenting is person-centered rather than child-centered or parent-centered. Initially, the focus is primarily on the needs of the child(ren), although not exclusively, with gradually developing respect for each person in the family and extending to others outside of the family.

All-inclusive respect is one of the cornerstones of integral parenting. This includes respecting oneself as well as others. This is extremely important for parents (frequently mothers) who may tend to forget their own needs in parenting their child. The needs of the child are always taken into account, yet not exclusively. Children gradually learn to take others’ needs into account as well as their own because this is what is modeled by their parents. They learn to become both assertive and considerate of others.

What does power look like in integral parenting?
It is power with one another, rather than over one another, and at the same time, recognizes and respects natural hierarchies and differential statuses. This means that parents and children have influence with one another and allow themselves to be influenced. Each person’s status in the family is acknowledged, honored and respected. Essentially, power in the family is the power of love rather than fear. Integral parenting acknowledges natural hierarchies, i.e. the different statuses of various family members with corresponding rights and duties, privileges and responsibilities, depending on age and capability of each member. No member of the family is more important or less important than any other.

Integral parenting is parenting from a deeply adult place rather than from wounded or adapted child. Attempting to parent from wounded child is extremely dysfunctional, and children suffer deeply when parents are barely older emotionally than the children. More common is parenting from adapted child – usually either in mostly unconscious conformity or rebellion to how we were parented. Unfortunately, children parented from adapted child are not really seen and responded to for who they are and are becoming. Integral parenting requires adults to do their own work of waking up and growing up, so that they can be responsive to their child as well as to their own needs.

In closing, the structures of integral parenting are gradually emerging in the consciousness of adults who are evolving their own integral development. Parenting from wisdom and compassion is a hallmark of spiritual intelligence in adults who choose this way of life. None of us are perfect at this. We do have the ability to become more and more skillful, more and more grown up in our lives, even as we support our children’s growth and development.

This is our evolutionary journey together in the awesome adventure of conscious, integral parenting.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
and
Suzanne Mariner,
Certified Executive and Life Coach, Licensed Massage Therapist

How We Inadvertently Project Our Feelings On Our Significant Other

Not too long ago, a friend called us and kindly offered us cuttings and plants from her garden. She said just come, pick them up and take all you want; they are sitting on my front porch.

So I went over and gratefully took a big bunch. I took them home, happy as a clam. I proudly showed them to my wife who proceeded to tell me: “You were a little piggy, weren’t you?” Crestfallen, I went out to the garden with my plants, now beating myself up with “You were a little piggy, a little piggy.”

Suddenly, I stopped myself.

two people facing each otherWait a minute! I remembered that I’M ENOUGH AND I MATTER, even if I was a little piggy (which I wasn’t). I felt much better.

I went back to the house and reminded Suzanne that our friend said we could take all the plants we wanted, and I didn’t like being called a little piggy. She apologized and said,”Maybe just a little, little piggy,” and I chased her around the house, both of us laughing.

Later she admitted that if she had taken the plants, she would have maybe felt like a piggy, and maybe, just maybe, she was projecting on me.

Hallelujah!

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Into The Wild: How to Successfully Venture the Road to Step Family Relationships

In his excellent book, INTO THE WILD, John Krakauer tells the true story of a young man who ventures into the wilderness of Alaska woefully unprepared. He didn’t even have a map of the terrain that might have saved his life.

This is unfortunately the situation of many, if not most, stepfamilies starting out. They embark on this amazing and daunting adventure of stepfamily life without guidance or even a map!

The statistics on the breakup of new families that think they have to go it alone and are not coached represent a national tragedy. One out of two new stepfamilies break up within the first two years. In contrast, stepfamilies that are coached and supported have an excellent survival rate. The Stepfamily Association of New York reports an 85% success rate with families that seek out coaching and counseling.

With this in mind, the Relationship Resource Center of Denver wants you to be aware of its ongoing commitment to stepfamilies. For many years we have helped parents and stepparents recognize and resolve the difficult status issues that are part and parcel of stepfamily formation and are not addressed even in the current literature on stepfamilies. (We plan to remedy this soon by publishing our work on status issues). We are breaking new ground in counseling stepfamilies and are excited to share our knowledge and experience with you.

journeyIt is important to realize that most stepfamilies starting out have little or no idea of what they are getting into, and they can really benefit from counseling and coaching. Many people who are stuck in pain because they have been floundering and become lost in this difficult territory, possibly for years, can also use wise and compassionate stepfamily counseling. We encourage you to let us be your experienced and caring guides on your stepfamily journey.

It can be very helpful to remember, you are not crazy, even if living in a stepfamily makes you feel like you are at times!

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Resentful Men: Power Dynamics in a Relationship

If, as I discussed in an earlier article, men are trained to be entitled (one-up) and women are generally trained to be (one-down) in this culture, why are men so often resentful in their intimate relationships?

This question addresses an insidious dimension of the state of intimate relationships in this culture.

Men, most often in the one-up position in this culture, are trained not to SEE the power dynamics in an intimate relationship, and women are trained not to SAY anything about the power dynamics in their relationships. When an individual’s entitlements (usually the man’s) are finally challenged, they often become angry and then RESENTFUL. “You’re crazy!” or “How dare you criticize me!” is often the initial reaction to an entitlement challenge. Part of the upset may be that the woman went along with her partner’s entitlements without challenging them for a long time. The unequal power arrangement was the “normal” state of things, even if the woman was resentful and unhappy. The traditional marriage contract was often we are one (and I am the one for the man) and yes, we are one (and you are the one, for the woman). This agreement is usually unconscious until the “we are one” myth is challenged and debunked!

coupleIf the woman begins to find her voice and starts complaining about her partner’s entitlements (sometimes louder and louder) and moves to blaming her partner, he is likely to become more and more resentful as well as entitled. Men often feel entitled to leave energetically and emotionally if they don’t like what’s going on, rather than talking about problems in relationships. Sadly, men are usually more unconsciously accepting of being lonely and disconnected in relationships than are most women. And then they wonder why a woman chooses to divorce them rather than stay in a situation where she is more lonely in the relationship than out of it.

So, in summary, many men get angry and resentful at the point where a woman begins to confront their unconscious entitlements. He may truly believe she has no right to do that or she has no right to do so in the WAY she is doing it, which is by yelling, complaining or blaming him. He has a point. Her complaining is not an effective way to bring about the change she wants in the relationship. Instead of complaining, she needs to find out if she has leverage with him meaning finding out whether he cares enough about her to make some changes in his behavior that she requests or, in some instances, demands.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The Dynamics of the Journey of Self Recovery

When men set out on the journey of self recovery and really begin to connect with their needs and wants and feelings, they are embarking on a journey into the long unexplored and long neglected realm of their hidden selves. The relatively few men in our culture who are courageous enough to take this journey can get deeply immersed in their needs and wants and feelings, so long ignored and possibly screaming for attention. The danger now, if they are in an intimate relationship with another, is to make what they need and want and feel preemptive; that is, more important than their relationship with the other. This is a challenging and often relationship-threatening place for a couple to find themselves.

The work of recovery takes on another dimension. I really begin to get that my needs and wants and feelings matter and are important and yet not more important than the needs and wants and feelings of the significant others in my life. Now I am faced with, maybe for the first time in my life, really being able to negotiate on an equal footing about needs and wants and feelings with another person rather than take entitled positions with them! This is because I am finally getting in touch with more of the whole of me than ever before and more able to be in touch with the whole of you.

But being able to do this is not enough. Now that I am more able, I must choose to do so; indeed to exercise and practice this new ability if it is to be more than just potential. In other words, now that I am truly growing up, I must also show up and know that I won’t do so perfectly. But you, my love, probably knew that anyway, and you may have been waiting a long time for me.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The Golden Rule vs. The Platinum Rule

Most of us have heard of the Golden Rule:
DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU.

This couple I know joined together in holy matrimony; he just loved his newspaper in the morning, and every morning he would lovingly bring her a newspaper. She craved her morning coffee and every morning, she would fix coffee for both of them.

One morning, about six months into their relationship, as he gave her the morning newspaper, she said, “This is so thoughtful of you, but I need to tell you that a newspaper in the morning is wonderful, but it’s not that important to me.”

newspaper

He was taken aback and said, “You know, I don’t care that much about coffee in the morning. It’s nice that you fix it for me, but actually I prefer tea most days.”

They had a good laugh and discovered the Platinum Rule:
DO UNTO OTHERS AS THEY WOULD HAVE YOU DO UNTO THEM.

She loved it when he would fix coffee for her, and he felt very cared for when she would bring him some tea and the newspaper!

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

A Rare Occurrence In Our Culture? Men Who Like Women and Women Who Like Men

Sadly, men who like women and women who like men are pretty rare in this culture.

Before you object absolutely to this statement, let me try to explain what I mean a little further. I am not talking about physical, sexual or romantic attraction between men and women, which is wonderful and exciting and better than the cat’s meow! (I can already hear some of you, particularly some of you guys saying, “So what else is there?”)

What gets in the way of deep caring and fondness between men and women is what I call following Terry Real, the dance of entitlement and resentment that entraps men and women in their closest relationships with one another.

I have come to really like women only as I have been willing to look at, understand, and change my entitled positions and move to a position of same as. Same as is basically the realization that I am not better or worse, higher or lower than any other person, man or woman. Coming to like, care for and trust women has been one of the gifts of my growth towards real equality I never could have imagined. Starting out on my journey, I did not realize that letting go of entitlement would feel much better than the alternative.

Women, for their part, have to be willing to let go of their resentment towards men. Resentment is a poison we carry for someone else and keep drinking ourselves. It is much easier for women to give up resentment when men move out of entitlement. Poison is still poison, however, and one way or another women have to let resentment go, even if it means moving away from men who love their entitlements more than them.

Embracing LoveFor my part, I am hopeful. I see men that I work with and love growing and changing, even when the growth and change is challenging to their up-bringing in what I call “guy school.” I see women turning to these men hesitatingly at first and more and more affectionately as their hearts open to one another. I am hopeful because I see my daughter both having excellent boundaries and being fond of the men in her life. I like to think her mother and I have something to do with that. I like that she likes herself, and I especially like that she seems to genuinely like me, in spite of my limitations and imperfections.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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