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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Evolution of Psychotherapy GetAway

The Convention Center   Anaheim

Every four years thousands of therapists from around the world gather for one of the most exciting conferences offered, called The Evolution of Psychotherapy. It has always been held in December. It all began in Phoenix in 1985. Jeffrey Zeig, the director of Phoenix's Milton H. Erickson Foundation which sponsored the event, counted 15 major schools of thought on the program plus Thomas Szasz, a psychiatrist who didn't believe mental illness exists. Some other presenters were Freudian Bruno Bettelheim, 82 at the time, Human-Potential Guru Carl Rogers and Joseph Wolpe. Other internationally known stars, Rollo May, Albert Ellis, R. D. Laing, Carl Whitaker, Virginia Satir plus grandchildren of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Alfred Adler participated. Four of the renowned presenters were in their eighties and most had never met before.

Seven thousand therapists from around the world attended the conference. Three thousand more were turned away because there wasn't room for them. At breaks between workshops, bathroom lines were daunting. It snowed in Phoenix that week. Crusty Albert Ellis slipped and fell on the icy sidewalk in front of his hotel. I heard later that he sued the hotel. I don't know if that was true. The convention hall vibrated with energy and excitement.

This year instead of walking the trails and inhaling the crisp salty air at Sea Ranch, I will be sitting in huge classes at the Convention Center in Anaheim attending the seventh Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference. The 49 famous presenters now include people like Daniel Amen, Steven Frankel, John Gottman, Harville Hendricks, Sue Johnson, Otto Kernberg, Harriett Lerner, Donald Meichenbaum, Violet Oaklander, Michele Werner-Davis. The conference eventually ended up at the gigantic Convention Center in Anaheim with classes spilling over to the Marriott and Hilton Hotels next door. More restrooms are available!

I mailed our Christmas cards, not in the Sea Ranch Post Office, but at home in Fair Oaks. For the past ten years we rented a condo early in December and wrote our Christmas cards while gazing at the ocean waves crashing on the rocks a few steps away. If I am lucky again, I may find myself late at night riding up the elevator with a very tired Violet Oaklander. We have a lot in common. We are both getting old.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Good Listeners Are Hard to Find

Listen, Please Listen

Has anybody said to you, "Please listen to me!"? How about, "You never listen to me!"? Do you stop listening sometimes after the first two or three words because you think you know what the speaker is going to say? Perhaps you feel frustrated because that seems to happen often and you don't feel heard. Listening is a skill. People who take the time to learn to listen better enrich their soul mate relationships. Listening the Forgotten Skill, an excellent book by Madelyn Burley-Allen gives help for serious learners. Some of the questions she suggests the listener keep in mind:

     What is the speaker's intent?

     Am I listening actively, formulating my meaning and then checking back with the speaker to see if my meaning is his or her meaning?

     What information does the speaker want me to have?

     What assumptions and conclusions am I reaching?

     Am I resisting the feedback clues because I don't want to deal with the situation? If so, what can I do about it?

     Am I sizing up the speaker? How is this affecting my interpretation of the message?

     What barriers might be at work distorting the message?

     What questions could I ask to verify my understanding and minimize the effect of barriers?

     What information is not being provided?

This book was a big help to me. Years ago I lent it to a client and never got it back. I hope it has helped him as much as it helped me.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Listening Is Active, Not Passive

How to Listen So Your Lover Will Talk

One night I came home from work very tired. Listening to people's problems all day sometimes reinforces negative responses to my own problems. I had been dealing with some of the normal consequences of aging--my husband's retirement and the subsequent change of roles we have expereienced, and other stresses.

I  needed some information for a task my husband and I were working on. When I went to retrieve it from the place I have kept such information for years, I could not find it. In exasperation, I said, "I feel so off-balance these days, because we organize things so differently. I never know where anything is any more."

Everett responded, "You get off-balance easily." What I heard at that moment were the words of a man to his wife in my office that morning. "You are crazy," he had said. "You need help."

I reacted in anger to Everett's comment. I said, "Don't say that!"

A dozen thoughts raced through my mind in a matter of seconds leaving me depleted and feeling depressed. I put my head down on the kitchen table. "What's the matter, Honey?" Everett was concerned. "I don't know." I honestly did not know. I tried to sort it out in my own mind. "What is going on for me?"

Everett, who would tell you he has been a poor listener for years, encouraged me to talk. He has learned some listening skills over the years. He used all of them to help me sort out my feelings and gain some understanding of the pressures I felt. What a gift that was.

Sometimes when you feel exhausted or stress has accumulated, you need a listener to help you sort out what is going on for you. The listener does not solve your problem or try to tell you how you feel. He simply listens carefully and reflects the feelings he hears. By his doing that, you begin to identify the feelings and sometimes the perceptions that led to the feelings. Then you can understand what you need to do to resolve the problem.

note: see Chapter 6 of my book, "Becoming Soul Mates"

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gender Differences in Defining Intimacy

I just did a review for my parenting blog on a book titled, "Raising Boys by Design". The authors, psychologists who have a special interest in boys and brain science make a strong case for the importance of differences in male and female brains, behavior, and development. It reminded me of the huge gender differences that keep men and women from understanding each other.

Couples usually relate to books describing the differences in love language. One of the hardest differences to get past is the difference between how men and women understand intimacy. In surveys that question what women want most in relationships, nine out of ten women say intimacy. Men rarely rate intimacy first. How can men and women understand each other's love language if they speak separate emotional languages?

When my husband and I first married, I would put cards and notes with loving messages in his lunch bag or on his pillow. One day he said to me, "Honey, don't keep giving me cards and notes. I know you love me. You don't have to do that."

Women, be willing to tell your guy what makes you feel loved and ask what you can do to make him feel loved. Pay attention. Guys, pay attention to what your gal responds to. Exits and entrances are important. Take time to greet each other with a hug and kiss. Look at him/her. Does he/she look nice? What is new or different? Notice! Then say something about it.

It takes time to become a good lover. How would you rate on a scale of one to ten? Make a goal to improve that number. What you give you are likely to get back!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Hawaii the Ultimate Getaway

Our retreat has changed.

What Makes Hawaii a Perfect Retreat?

Just as the artist puts the last touches to a perfect painting, one imagines God created the Islands last. The ocean gave birth to these priceless gems to give meaning to the word, "Paradise". It would be difficult to find uptight stressed looking rude people on the Big Island. At Kona Coast Resort even the maintenance workers smile and wave when we pass by. Millions of people come to the islands every year to rest, play, and leave their worries behind.

As we stepped off the plane on Thursday, we felt the energy of the Iron Man race scheduled for Saturday. Two thousand one hundred sixty six registrants representing 48 states and 52 countries participated this year. Interestingly, many of them brought their families.

Since we were here two years ago, the Sheraton Hotel has turned its bar and huge open lounge into a beautiful dinner restaurant. The old lounge had been our secret retreat. The hotel is about two miles from our timeshare and we would bring our books and sit in easy chairs listening to the ocean splash against the building. Tables and chairs have replaced the couches and coffee tables. Now guests have discovered our wonderful retreat and it is no longer ours.

Restaurants close and new ones open. We discover old ones we had not found before Fresh fish and fresh fruit appear on nearly every menu. Yesterday we had a delicious seafood omelet at Smashers on the Bay. Everett and I soak up the peace and beauty of our week in Hawaii. We come home with renewed energy and appreciation of the many years we have loved each other.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Salads and Conflict

I solicited pictures of salads for my last blog post. Several of my friends responded. After I posted a picture I liked, my cousin sent a picture of a beautiful salad he had while visiting India. Darn! I liked his picture and I wanted to use it. In 58 years of marriage there must have been other conflicts triggered by salads.

Oh yes! I remember one. Not long after the shock of Everett's eating my left-over salad without asking, he began talking about the wonderful potato salad his mother made. Wanting to please him, I made a potato salad the next day. He didn't comment. The next night we invited some friends for dinner. Conversation turned to potato salad. "I haven't had potato salad for a long time", Everett said. Shocked, I said, "We had potato salad last night." "Oh," he responded, "Was that potato salad?" Being somewhat fragile back then, I think I felt hurt and probably angry, too. Our guest responded, "Everett, I'll make you a potato salad."

I learned Everett didn't like my potato salad because I put pickles and olives in it. When I got this information, I couldn't wait to see the salad our friend had promised. To my great delight she came with a "loaded" potato salad. Of course, he graciously thanked her and told her how good it was.

We resolved that conflict quickly. Everett always makes the potato salad. By the way, I like them, vinegar and all.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Identify Trigger Words and Actions

What Are Your Trigger Words?

Some trigger words are easier to identify than others. Common trigger words: "you always, you never, you should, you need to, I love you, but", cause problems in all relationships. The same words or actions can mean different things to different people. Pay attention to words and actions that instantly cause a reaction.

Trigger Actions

Action triggers lead to wonder and confusion. "What did I do to get such a negative reaction?" My husband and I had an issue over property rights. It took years for us to identify this source of conflict and begin to work on resolving it. Some trigger actions that resulted in an intense reaction from me: using my computer, comb, scissors, pencils, pens, and other personal items without asking permission; assuming everything I buy and own belonged to everyone in the family.

One weekend Everett and I went to a marriage retreat. The leader asked couples to write down something they didn't like about their partner. Everett wrote, "She is possessive." I was surprised because I am generous. It didn't take long to understand our conflict was about property rights.
I grew up in a family who believed in authoritarian parenting. My parents micro-managed my behavior and emotions. They were loving generous people who believed strongly in property rights. If you wanted to enter my bedroom, you were expected to knock. If you wanted to use my pencil, you needed to ask me to use it. So property rights became a huge part of my sense of self.

Everett is the next to the youngest of seven children. His parents had few rules. He signed his own report cards and controlled his own life. He never had a bedroom of his own. He slept with two older sisters, had no drawer or space of his own. He had no concept of property rights. During our first week of marriage I brought home a salad I hadn't finished eating at a restaurant. When I looked for my salad the next day, it was gone. I asked Everett, "What happened to my salad? He said, "I ate it." I said, "You ate it? You didn't ask me!" He looked puzzled. I didn't care if he ate it, but it was my salad. It took us years to identify the cause of this kind of conflict.

Look for the words and actions that trigger conflict. Then avoid them, clarify them and eventually get rid of them. I must admit this one still comes up sometimes. It helps to laugh at it when you understand it and good will abounds.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Satir's Fifth Freedom

The Freedom to Take Risks in One's Own Behalf, Instead of Choosing to be Only "Secure" and Not Rocking the Boat.

According to Satir, congruence comes from being emotionally honest which is necessary for making contact. That means taking risks. Taking risks is doing something you have never done before or doing the same thing in a new way. For growth we must all be willing to change. A wise thinker coined the phrase, no gain without pain.

Change creates anxiety. Welcome anxiety as an invitation to learn and grow. You handle it by giving yourself encouragement and affirmations:
  • "My anxiety tells me I am choosing to risk. I can manage it."
  • "What do I need to learn from taking this risk?"
  • "What can I do differently to make this situation better? Do I need to set boundaries? Do I need to risk? Where does my power lie?"
  • "I am choosing to love. I am choosing to put down my shield. What an adventure!"
As you learn to take responsibility for your own anxiety, you open up to loving and being loved with no strings attached. A world renowned family therapist, author, lecturer and consultant, Virginia Satir's work, books, and posters had a profound influence on my life, books, counseling, teaching, and now on my blogs. Her five freedoms are at the heart of her wisdom.

The introduction to her little book, "Making Contact" begins with this. "I believe the greatest gift I can conceive of having from anyone is to be seen by them, heard by them, and touched by them. The greatest gift I can give is to see, hear, understand and to touch another person. When this is done I feel contact has been made."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Satir's 4th Freedom

The Freedom to Ask for What One Wants Instead of Always Waiting for Permission

My book, "Becoming Soul Mates--How to Create the Lifelong Relationship You Always Dreamed Of" begins with a chapter on intimacy. Many men do not know how to respond to their wife's or lover's complaints of lack of intimacy. Women, apparently, have difficulty asking for what they want.

I begin my book with: "A deeply frustrated man sat in my office and burst out, 'I don't know what she wants me to say. If I knew, I would say it.' One way or another many men express the same sentiment to their therapist in response to their wife's or lover's complaints of lack of intimacy."

Many times the lack of communication results from the speaker's believing she has been heard and understood when she hasn't. When asking for what one wants, be clear, specific, and check to see if what you asked for has been understood. Remember, men and women speak separate emotional languages. A conflict in language can easily turn into a conflict of needs. In many surveys nine out of ten women surveyed ranked intimacy highest in what they want from marriage. Men rarely rate intimacy first.

Shortly after my husband and I married, I would say, "Talk to me." He would answer with a smile, "Lie down and I will talk to you."

Satir ably describes the five freedoms necessary to make contact with others. In her book, "Making Contact" she also describes the four types of communicating that often go with people who have low opinions of themselves, who have not yet learned to live their five freedoms. She describes them as placating, blaming, super reasonable, and irrelevant. I highly recommend this book.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Oregon Coast Getaway--Day Three

The third day of our getaway down the Oregon coast we ate breakfast a few feet from the ocean at the Adobe Resort restaurant. We sadly packed to continue south vowing we would return some day. What new things would we discover today? We felt lucky to have the sun's warmth along for the drive.

At North Bend/Coos Bay we took the road to Charleston looking for a light house to photograph. We missed our turn to go back to 101 and found ourselves in dense woods along the ocean. We discovered the gorgeous Shore Acres Gardens as well as a great opportunity to take a picture of a light house a short distance south of the Gardens. The road we had taken continued south but ended in a state park where we headed back to the road we had missed.

At Bandon we ate lunch and visited a farmers' market. South of Bandon on 101 Misty Meadows Jams and Jellies offers an abundance of choice jams, jellies, and other goodies. I remembered it from a previous trip through Oregon. We spent a fun half hour looking at all the condiments offered.

Two great nights by the sea spoiled us. When we reached Brookings we wanted a room overlooking the ocean. We found the Best Western Beach Hotel right on the beach. They only had one room left on the ocean side. It had a deep jacuzzi by a window overlooking the beach. The room was a little pricey for us, but we couldn't resist. We haven't regretted it. Have you ever sat with your lover in a jacuzzi overlooking the ocean? Priceless!

Across the street from the hotel a seafood restaurant served us the best crab louie salad I have ever eaten. After we had gone to bed some partyers set off fireworks on the beach a stone's throw from our bedroom window. Can you think of a better way to spend our last night on the Oregon coast?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Oregon Coast Getaway--Day Two

After our great breakfast at Seaside, we took a long walk on the Promenade before checking out of the Best Western Oceanview Hotel.  Another day of beautiful sunshine followed us down Highway 101. We stopped at Tillamook cheese factory where we bought cheese curd, smoked salmon, smoked tuna, salmon pate, meat sticks and other snack delicacies. We left 101 to take the long way out to the peninsula southwest of Tillamook. We drove past lush green forests, a long bay and finally the ocean. We ate lunch at a popular tavern on the beach before returning to 101.

About 4o'clock we reached what was once an old Indian settlement white settlers named "Ocean View" in 1887. In 1916 it was renamed "Yachuts", the name of one of the local tribes that had been removed in the 1870's. We lucked out again when we spotted the Adobe Resort. We got a corner suite with a dining room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living room with a fireplace. We could sit in our living room with the front door open and watch the ocean waves crash against the rocks. The price was an unbelievable $139.

The long Lodge curves to take full advantage of the ocean view. The restaurant and lounge windows face the ocean which is just a few feet away. We could watch the sea gulls gather on the beach as the waves splashed over them. Two small beaches, each covered with coarse sand and pebbles, are the only places for miles where regular smelt "runs" occur directly on the beaches.

We fantasized spending a week at the Adobe Resort as the rhythmic sound of waves splashing just feet away put us to sleep.

Oregon Coast Getaway--Day One

If you love the ocean, I highly recommend a trip down the Oregon coast in July. After visiting our friends in the Tacoma area, we spent three wonderful days coming home along the Washington and Oregon coast. We had a delightful lunch at the 42nd Street Café in Long Beach, Washington. After lunch, we decided to drive on to Seaside, Oregon, a great choice.

Seaside offers 35 hotels, motels, and resorts; two bed and breakfasts; five RV parks; and seven vacation property managers. Something for everyone. We chose the Best Western Oceanview hotel, one of many large hotels lining the mile long Promenade next to the widest beach I have ever seen. The beach has two volleyball courts and swing sets at two ends of the beach. This beach could host hundreds of visitors and not even be crowded. Bicycles, skateboards, baby strollers, walkers, and runners share the Promenade with no problem. A variety of restaurants and an aquarium located between large hotels dot the water front.

The Best Western employees treated us well. Our room overlooked the Promenade and beach complete with ocean breeze and the sounds of the crashing waves. Topping it off the next morning the restaurant connected to the hotel offered one of the best breakfast buffets I have ever had. Everything from oatmeal to sausages tasted gourmet. I expected the usual unremarkable Best Western breakfast, so this tasty start to the day provided the exclamation point to a memorable three day trip down the Oregon coast.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Satir's Third Freedom

The Freedom to Feel What One Feels

Have you ever said, "You make me so angry" or "They make me so angry"? No one can make you angry. You make yourself angry about what others do or do not do. Owning your own anger and other feelings gives you self-power. If children were taught to think, "I am making myself angry about.".......they would learn to own their feelings and not make themselves victims when they are not. Virginia Satir's third freedom, "the freedom to feel what one feels, instead of what one ought" helps build self power.

Power Plays Work Against Good Relationships

When you do not know or own your own feelings, you do not feel congruent. Your relationships become a series of power plays with win/lose situations. When relationships become power plays, power is misused. Use feelings to identify what is going on for you. That leads to good choice making and becoming a responsible human being.

Self-Power Gives Energy to Connect

Self-power gives you energy to connect with another person. You can make the other person responsible for your feelings or you can make yourself responsible. "Making real contact," says Satir, "means we make ourselves responsible for what comes out of us."

Friday, August 9, 2013

Satir's Second Freedom

The Freedom to Say What One Feels and Thinks

Virginia Satir, a wise woman, lists what she calls, The Five Freedoms in her book, "Making Contact". We often hear the word power used in a negative context. Essential to living life well we must understand the importance of personal power. Satir's five freedoms make personal power possible, because one relates from one's authentic self.

You may raise your eyebrows in disbelief when you read the second freedom, "the freedom to say what one feels and thinks instead of what one should." Knowing what you feel and think and accepting that allows you the freedom to respond appropriately and wisely when relating to others. Satir explains, "Making real contact means we make ourselves responsible for what comes out of us."

Own Your Own Feelings and Behavior

Owning our own feelings and behavior is prerequisite to change through all of Satir's work. It is essential for self-acceptance, growth and change. Giving our personal power away leads to living as victims, always reacting instead of acting. Some people live their lives always focused on what they don't have and believing good luck has made it possible for others to have happy relationships and marriage.

Good relationships and happiness don't come from good luck. They come from good choices and hard work by two people willing to learn and grow together. Living as a victim robs you of personal power and a happy relationship eludes you. Start where you are. Own your feelings, behavior and strengths. Then you can make contact from an authentic self.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Virginia Satir and Her First Freedom

Change Is Possible
In May, 2009, I shared Virginia Satir's Five Freedoms. The freedom to see and hear what is here instead of what should be, was, or will be is the first of what she calls the five freedoms. She believed we have to stay open to new possibilities, to try new ideas and practice using them. Doing that would make it possible to experience self-esteem. Before we can change we must be honest with our feelings. That requires taking a risk and doing something we have never done before or doing the same thing in a new way.

Change Creates Change
Change affects how we feel about ourselves, how we communicate, and how willing we are to continue risking. As we become more and more authentic we can make real contact with ourselves and others. We can let go of manipulation, competition, criticism, and defensive power plays. We can be open to learning and enjoy the freedom to own our own power. Personal power gives energy to develop responsibility and make good decisions. It prevents living as life long victims.

When We Change Ourselves, Those Around Us Must Change
We have all heard this truth, "You cannot change anyone but yourself." Interestingly, when we are open to learning and change, we will make better contact with ourselves and those around us. That means they cannot continue to relate to us in the same way. Good boundary setting, risk taking, comfort with our own feelings and the feelings of others increase our self-esteem and self power. That means closer, better relationships.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Village Green Gardens Oregon Getaway

Early on a Saturday morning we left to visit long time friends in Washington. It had been years since our last trip through the luscious green mountains and countryside in Northern California and Oregon. I had forgotten how its splendor dazzles us. Our destination on that day was Village Green Resort and Gardens at Cottage Grove located on Oregon's Interstate 5, just 25 miles south of Eugene. Rooms scattered through 14 acres of themed gardens provide a haven of peace and comfort for a perfect getaway. The back door of our room led to a private garden patio.

In the lobby of the resort we saw a basketful of umbrellas sitting by the front door. I am guessing July must be the best time to visit. We spent Sunday exploring. The historical old town had some interesting stores but most closed on Sundays. Cottage Grove, the Covered Bridge Capital of the World, doesn't make it easy to find the six covered bridges within ten miles of the town. We had a good time trying. We found half of them. We also visited an interesting winery with a dozen sheep curled up sleeping in a small pasture near the front door, bushes loaded with blueberries nearby.

We passed rivers, lakes, creeks and lush vegetation wherever we drove. I can't imagine the Garden of Eden more beautiful. We never met any unfriendly people. Some Oregon service stations still have attendants who fill your tank and wash your windshields. If you want a quiet peaceful getaway, I highly recommend Village Green Resort and Gardens.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What Can Same Sex Marriage Teach

Headlines on the front page of the Sacramento Bee, "Call me Dad, not just sperm donor".

Lost Boys' actor Jason Patric wants to change state law to allow sperm donors, in certain situations, to become legal parents and share custody of children born from their sperm. His former girl friend argues that the law protects her as the child's only legal parent because she never married Patric and used a medical procedure to conceive.

I agree with Caitlan Flanagan's Time magazine essay when she writes, "No other single force is causing as much measurable hardship in this country as the collapse of marriage." Movies, television, books and magazines glorify relationship hopping. The subtitle to Flanagan's essay is: "Buffeted by affairs and ennui", the intact, two parent family is under assault. What America needs to get over its commitment issues  (Hint, it isn't love)"  We righteously deny same sex couples the right to marry, while heterosexual couples carelessly spurn that right. Same sex couples who have been together for years and may be raising children cherish and celebrate that right. We can learn from them. I hope they never lose their joy in making life-long commitments to each other.

The Western Civilization has plummeted into a time of decadence never seen before. Pornography has become a multi-million dollar industry and is not confined to dark store fronts or lavish showcases. It has entered the American home and rattled the stability of American marriage and family. Our children become casualties.

Decadence has always led to the collapse of civilizations. Read Arnold Toynbee's "A Study of History". Commitment to marriage and family can go a long way toward preventing misery caused by the collapse of marriage. Children, especially, depend on it.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Why Marriage Matters

The July, 2009 issue of Time magazine published an essay by Caitlin Flanagan titled, "Why Marriage Matters." According to Ms. Flanagan, "marriage can be a vehicle for the nurture and protection of each other, the one reliable shelter in an uncaring world--or it can be a matchless tool for the infliction of suffering on the people you supposedly love above all others, most of all on your children."

Ms. Flanagan reminds us in the past 40 years the American family has changed profoundly. She refers to Sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin in his book,"The Marriage Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today" who says the difference between contemporary American families and those of other nations is their combination of frequent marriage, frequent divorce and the high number of short-term cohabiting relationships which creates a coming and going of partners. This lack of commitment creates hardship and hurts children.

People today still hope to be married forever, to still be loved and cherished as we grow old. We want to achieve a soul mate relationship, but are we willing to do the work and make the sacrifice it takes? Those of us who have been together fifty plus years will tell you it is well worth the effort. Our family gets together because we delight in each other's company. We feel loved by each other and by our children and grandchildren. We are experiencing the payoff of years of sacrifice and hard work. Aging is without question the most difficult stage of life. Love of family gives us the strength to accept the losses. Family matters!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Do You Believe in Soul Mate Relationships?

On April 25, 2008 I wrote a post on "What is a Soul Mate?"
Here it is:

I was asked by a radio interviewer to define soul mates. That was easy. A soul mate is someone who knows you very well and likes you anyway. A soul mate sees your strengths and discounts your weaknesses. A soul mate accepts you just as you are without any changes. A soul mate believes in you.

Acceptance empowers, encourages, comforts. It is the greatest gift one person can give another. No wonder so many people search for a soul mate. Not many realize they have to learn how to be one.

Recently some relationship experts discussed the question, "Do you believe in soul mates?" Elisa Mecco kindly gave me permission to post her comment. "My husband and I are licensed soul mates according to Dan's criteria. We have also been to hell and back and supported each other through adversities of every sort. We are closer as time goes, we take responsibility, we have worked hard at our relationship and still work out everything that life throws at us together. We love each other more deeply every day. We enjoy each other's company more than the company of anyone else. We enjoy the company of the same friends and we have many real friends. We miss each other in a calm and serene way when we are not together. We are excited about each other after all these years. We believe in each other being well aware of the other's imperfections and limitations. We can and do tell each other everything. I believe this is possible because we are different in more superficial aspects (and we complement each other), but we are similar in the deeper aspects of what really is meaningful in life, what makes sense to do, what are our priorities and values. We have a strong spiritual connection. We both try to help others, find the deepest gratification in giving, in empowering others. This has often gotten us in financial difficulties because there is always someone who needs help and a cause to support. Somehow we always manage to get out of it and we don't let it get us down.We have learned to do without. We grow together and try to help others do the same."

Later Elisa added a postscript:
"This is the result of hard work, understanding, patience, trust, and unconditional love.It wasn't anything like what you see in romantic movies, no love at first sight, actually a solid friendship and mutual understanding on important matters was the foundation. My husband and I have been giving each other the space and support to be ourselves to manifest and actualize the essence of our beings.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Competition for Power in Relationships

Who Has the Power in Your Relationship?

An interesting part of the struggle in relationships is the denial of the competition all couples face in deciding the many things that mates must decide. Where to live? Whose job is most important?  Do we rent or buy? Who manages the money? Who does what to run the household? Do we have children and if so, how many? The list goes on and on.

Because of the denial that all of these decisions involve power, people unconsciously compensate by engaging in subtle behavior to maintain their own self-preservation. Some conservative Christians, for example, emphasize Paul's admonition in 1 Corinthians to women to be submissive to their husbands. They don't include the advice to men to love their wives as they love themselves and to couples to be submissive to each other. Women who try to follow this rule usually become skilled at manipulating to get what they need to hang on to themselves.

Some men make their mates their mother. Someone once said, "When you make your wife your mother, you have to get a girl friend." Many women complain that they resent feeling like a mother to their husbands. I have had a number of women in counseling tell me, "I feel like I have three children instead of two" or whatever the numbers are.

For a relationship to become a soul mate relationship, the couple must feel they are equals. They must be willing to learn how to resolve conflict and to focus on each other's strengths. They need to recognize their own denial that there is competition between them and be willing to identify the frustration of being unable to always get what they want. If they can communicate those feelings without blame and learn from each other, their love will grow.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Desire for Intimacy

Desire for Intimacy Depends on Different Levels of Differentiation

According to Dr. David Schnarch, expert on spirituality and sex, desire for intimacy depends on different levels of spirituality. He divides spirituality into two levels. Level one is childlike: a reflected sense of worth, other validated intimacy and desire out of emptiness. Level two is mature: internalized sense of worth, self-validated intimacy, and desire out of fullness.

It is a sophisticated way to say. "People who have more poker chips are willing to risk more." People who have childlike needs focus on themselves and what they need while people who have internalized their sense of worth are focusing on the joy of giving to another. They don't worry about losing what they have.

The joy in a mature relationship comes from being able to share with one's lover what comes from overflow in themselves. They do not fear closeness or of losing who they are. The closeness becomes the validation that increases their sense of self and the differentiation from any other person. Two people in relationship who have become mature evolve into the soul mate relationship most people look for.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Bob and Suzanne Cummings--44 Years

Bob and I met on my 21st birthday on Wednesday, May 21, 1969, in Albuquerque, NM. I've recently discovered this is my "Golden Birthday". I had never heard of that before. Your golden birthday occurs when your age matches the date of your birth. It has always been a special day for us but now it is even more special to me.

After my performance in the University of NM spring choir concert, a friend and I decided to go to the Pizza Hut for a late night snack. The only other people at the restaurant were a group of mostly young and fit men. After I sat down, I noticed a particularly handsome guy sitting directly opposite me at their table. We shared a few glances at each other and later shared how we were immediately attracted to one another. I shared with my friend how I felt, but I was in a quandary about how to get acquainted with him. Bob would tell you that I winked at him, but it absolutely is not true! My friend had a great idea. She went out to the car and brought in the small cake she had baked for me. Someone at the men's table asked how old I was. When I said, "21", he asked why I was drinking coke instead of beer. I didn't drink alcoholic beverages and besides, my friend was only 20.

The guys got up to leave and I was afraid I would never see the handsome stranger again. To my delight, he walked over to our table and asked if it was really my birthday. When I said, "yes", he offered me two free tickets to a baseball game. I thought he was asking me for a date, but I learned his name was Bob and he played on the Albuquerque Dodgers baseball team. He intended to leave two passes at the gate.

Later Bob called. I told him I would go to the game on Saturday night. By Saturday morning he had left two passes at the gate. He reminded me that the other pass was for my friend. I wondered if he was interested in my friend and not me, but he must have realized how it sounded and explained that his friend wanted to meet my friend.

The rest is history. We were engaged two months later and we married the day after Christmas that same year. Yesterday we celebrated 44 years of our first meeting and on December 26th we will celebrate 44 years of marriage. By the way, May 21st is a much easier day to celebrate than December 26th!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Traits of People Who Become Soul Mates

  1. Soul mates choose to understand the significance of life and share in God's being.
     2.  Soul mates accept whatever happens as an opportunity to learn and grow.

     3.  Soul mates begin relationship with commitment and trust.
     4.  Soul mates risk in relationships. They have compassion without the need to rescue.

     5.  Soul mates can identify and share with their mates what they have programed as needs and let
          go of those that are not fitting.

     6.  Soul mates look for strengths in people--themselves, their mates, children, co-workers.  They  
          focus on what they can enjoy in others.

     7. Soul mates understand that they are responsible for their own happiness. No one can make
         another person happy.

     8. Soul mates take responsibility for their own thoughts, feelings, and behavior. No blame.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Foreplay Begins in the Morning and Lasts All Day

Wanting to make love begins when mates get up in the morning with a loving greeting to each other. They notice when their partner looks nice and say so. They treat each other with respect. When they are together there is physical contact: kisses, hugs, a pat on the back, holding hands, touch. They do nice things for each other: serve a cup of coffee, put gas in the car, put the car away. They share the workload. They make time to talk. They prioritize time with each other They go on getaways. They have family time and share parenting tasks. They support each other to their children, family, and friends. They know they have each other's back.

If you have this kind of foreplay, the chance of wanting to make love increases dramatically. Sex becomes the icing on the cake.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How Important Is Sex in Marriage?

Are You In a Sex Starved Marriage?

You have probably heard the joke about the guy whose wife wanted sex only once a year on their wedding anniversary. He decided to go to a sex education class. On the second day of the class, the teacher took a survey. "How many of you have sex every day? A few hands went up. How many twice a week? More hands were raised. Once a month? The teacher noticed one man who hadn't raised his hand. The teacher said, "Once a year?" The man excitedly waved his hand in the air. The teacher said, "You are happy about that?" The guy said, "Oh yeah! Tonight's the night!"

Sexual Intimacy Helps Keep Marriages Strong

Michele Weiner Davis hit a nerve when she wrote a book titled, "The Sex Starved Marriage." This book has been helpful to couples who didn't understand the role of sexual intimacy in keeping marriages strong. Dr. Davis writes, "It is estimated that one out of every three couples struggles with problems associated with low sexual desire. One study found that 20 per cent of married couples have sex fewer than ten times a year." In the next paragraph Dr Davis adds, "If you've been thinking that low sexual desire is 'only a woman's thing', think again. Many sex experts believe that low sexual desire in men is America's best kept secret."

Sexual Intimacy Helps Couples Stay Connected

Enjoying sex with your mate makes it easier to stay connected on every level. Disconnecting happens gradually. We live busy demanding lives. Life passes quickly. Take time to enjoy and get to know each other. Relationship is dynamic, always changing. Intimacy has to be nurtured and tended to. Sex is a good barometer to how you are doing. If you are not interested in sex, go for counseling. Read books like, "Sex Starved Marriage". Talk to each other. Focus on yourself. Share what is going on for you. Avoid blame and defense. Together you can learn how to make each other feel loved.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Wally's Hot Springs in the Spring

We have just returned from a beautiful relaxing four days at our timeshare, Wally's Hot Springs. We chose to take Highway 88 to see the last of the high mountain snow. Silver Lake, Caples Lake, and Red Lake were peeking out of their winter covering of ice and snow. Photos do not capture the exquisite beauty of these Sierra masterpieces.

Wally's Hot Springs nestles at the base of the mountains about a mile south of the old historic town of Genoa where Nevada's first stage coach stop was established. Genoa brings thousands of visitors to its Candy Dance Festival the last weekend of September.

At Wally's the sounds of hundreds of birds fill the air in the spring. Dozens of geese strut in pairs across the vast lawns and walkway like couples who have just come from a mass wedding. One pair brings three tiny goslings out of their nest in the evening to feed on the green grass. In the morning they strutted proudly down the path with their babies running between them.

At night we watched hundreds of bats doing their spring cleaning, peeling insects off of plants and out of the air. The moon revealed three quarters of itself on its way to becoming full. We looked forward to sitting in the hot springs and gazing at the moon. Getaways make love grow!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Our Most Thrilling Getaway

One of the biggest thrills of my lifetime came in 1993 after purchasing our Kona Coast timeshare on the Big Island. In one of those "we can't afford it, but we'll pay for it somehow" moments, we decided to take a biplane tour of Hawaii out of the Hilo airport.

The sun gave luster to the cascading waterfalls as we flew up the coast from Hilo and then back over the Rainbow Falls and south to the mighty Kilauea Volcano. Our scarves waving in the breeze, the pilot flew the little open-air plane into the hot giant mouth of this monster still spewing ash and smoke. I caught my breath as we escaped and followed his drool down toward the sea. We flew low over a village frozen in time by hot lava which reached the rafters on some houses. Half buried cars lined the streets waiting for riders to dig them out. Surprisingly, the lava didn't have to touch me to freeze that image in my memory for as long as I live.

Overwhelmed and excited, as soon as my feet hit the ground after landing, I ran up to the gruff old pilot and gave him a hug that took him so by surprise he couldn't suppress a smile. This blog is for Hideko, a dear friend I met in California who grew up in Kapoho, the village memorialized by the great volcano. I have just finished reading her book, "Kapoho". What is the chance that I would meet France Hideco Kakugawa who grew up in a town that I will always remember? Getaways will enrich your relationships and your lives. I highly recommend Frances' book,"Kapoho".

Thursday, April 4, 2013

What Can I Do To Make My Marriage Better?

Asking This Question Is a Good Beginning

Just asking this question indicates a strong positive mental attitude. Actively looking for what is right and how you can creatively make it better leads to other important questions. How can I learn and grow and support my partner's learning and growing? What are the opportunities for loving and being loved? What new insights can I experience and how can I use them to increase intimacy and love? How can we embrace each other as special separate individuals and balance our union with our strengths and minimize our individual weaknesses?

Change Requires An Open Mind

Because you have spent years coming up with your interpretation of reality, it is not easy to challenge that. Change requires an open mind, a passion for learning, and a willingness to change. You must be willing to see yourself as lovable, capable, and competent. Good relationship seldom happens when one person sees himself as less than his partner.

Explore Weaknesses and Strengths Together

You can help each other become aware of distorted perceptions. That requires you to be strong, not fragile and easily hurt and defensive. Perhaps if you both take time to list what you perceive to be your own weaknesses and strengths first, you will be better equipped to consider which ones come from distorted perceptions which have led to limited confidence in what you can or cannot do. To make your marriage better, you must both focus on each other's strengths. Just remember, whichever you focus on become twice as many as you had when you were single.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Personal Disasters Can Distort Self Image

I love to sing. Growing up I sang solos and duets in my church. I also sang in my school choir. My Junior High music teacher decided to weed out some of the students who sang off pitch. About forty kids went through a rigid test singing alone. At the end of the song the teacher hit the last note of the song on the piano. If the singer didn't match that note he or she would be out.

I was first. Terrified and shaking as I reached the last note, I was flat. The teacher looked shocked, but he had to follow through. Because everyone had to sing the same song, most of the others memorized the last note and easily passed the test.

That experience, besides being very embarrassing, distorted my perception about my ability to sing. I avoided singing in choirs until we attended a small chapel in Germany. The choir leaders sang professionally in a nearby Opera House. They taught voice lessons during the first fifteen minutes of weekly choir practice. I learned how to breathe and sing from my lungs. Imagine my surprise when one week the choir director asked me to sing the solo part for the Sunday service.

I began to realize that my interpretation of my singing ability based on my early experience had been disastrous and crippling. I sang with my first graders when I taught school and I loved singing to my own children. Singing filled my life with joy.

What distorted perceptions of yourself are you hanging on to? Are they crippling you in your relationships? You can correct those faulty interpretations of your abilities and free yourself of perceived weaknesses. Your relationships will be much easier because you will be free to focus on other people's strengths and not on your own weaknesses.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Do You Feel Loved?

To Love You Must Feel Loved

In his book "Escape from Phoniness", Aaron J. Ungersma stresses the importance of understanding your feelings. "For millions, the inner nature--the self--remains unexplored territory, full of unknown dangers, hostile forces, fearful possibilities. Anxiety, guilt, dread, surge to the surface in modern man. He is unsure of himself and marked by a restlessness, uneasiness, and loneliness unequaled in all of his previous history. Instead of being shut up within ourselves, is it possible to be locked up outside ourselves--to be out of touch with our inner selves?"

If There is No You, There is No One to Relate From

Are you one of the millions Ungersma describes in his book? Think about it. If you cannot give anything of yourself to others, you probably struggle with feeling loved. Identifying and owning your own perceptions and feelings can be frightening and painful, but it is necessary to genuine interpersonal relationship. If there is no self, there is no one to relate from.

That is why the second chapter in my book, "Becoming Soul Mates" is "Begin with You". The first question to ask, "How can I stay connected to you and still be who I am?"

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Learn to Negotiate

Unresolved Conflict Can Damage Relationship

What happens when you and your partner cannot resolve a conflict? Cold silences? Frustration? Long periods of unresolved issues? Blame and defense? Feeling of always being the one who gives in? Resolution to conflict is possible if you both are willing to negotiate.

How to Negotiate

First, clearly define the conflict. Then each of you makes a list of your needs. Brainstorm ways each of you will get some of those needs met. Neither of you will get all of your needs met. Decide on something to try. Follow through. After four to six weeks evaluate. If it is not working, try some thing else until you can find a solution both of you can live with.

Here is a simple example. We have three children and at the time of this incident a foreign exchange student living with us. The six of us went to the mountains to cut a Christmas tree. We all liked different trees. We finally chose a tree none of us hated. Sometimes that is a solution. Ongoing conflict can damage relationship. There is no such thing as winners and losers. If one loses, you both lose.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sharing Dreams Promotes Intimacy

Where Do Dreams Come From

Dreams have fascinated people from the beginning of time. Some experts insist they come from buried unconscious issues. Others see them as prophetic warnings. Psychiatrists explain them as psychotic ramblings produced by a sleeping brain. Whatever your perspective, most people find dreams fascinating. Sharing dreams with your special person opens new doors to intimacy and closeness. My husband and I have lots of fun trying to figure out what caused our dreams.

Sharing Dreams

Here is one of my dreams. Everett and I fell off a cliff on to a remote snow covered mountain peak with precarious footing. We were terrified we were going to die. Sure enough! The snow broke off again and we hurtled through the air. We yelled good-by to each other. This is it! Then we both landed softly in the snow surprised to be alive. Slowly we worked our way down the mountain. As we rounded a bend, we met a man, dressed in a forest ranger's uniform, and two companions climbing the mountain. They were nonchalant about us and clearly did not believe our story. Our fears melted. If they could climb up the mountain, we could get down the rest of the way.

Sharing my dream with Everett gave us an opportunity to explore and process fears and hopes we might share. It also made us start the day with laughter which is a great way to start any day.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Jampolsky--Love Is Letting Go of Fear


Constructive fear protects us from harm, but fear can also block love and happiness. Imagined danger caused by superstitions and distorted perceptions can paralyze people with anxiety and phobias. Jamposlsky, in his book "Love is Letting Go of Fear" says, "Love is the absence of fear." That is certainly true of soul mate love.

Don't Make Yourself Victim

In our last post we talked about not giving your power away. That means owning your fear and not making yourself victim. You make yourself victim when you blame others for your feelings. If you grew up as a survivor, you may automatically go into a victim role. Jampolsky suggests asking the question, "What is real?" He goes on to say fear distorts perception and confuses us. I tell my clients to ask themselves, "Where does my power lie?" It is the prayer for serenity approach. Don't beat your head against the wall where you have no power. Do identify where you have power and use it to let go of fear.

Peace of Mind, Love, Serenity

"Peace of mind as our single goal is the most potent force we can have", according to Jampolsky. Serenity is what we experience when we ask God to help us know the difference between what we have power to change and what we don't. Absence of fear and nurturing love for yourself and your partner give you serenity.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Virginia Satir on Communication in Relationship

Own Your Own Power

Virginia Satir, a world-renowned family therapist in the nineteen hundreds gave us the key to becoming better communicators. She gave us the five freedoms of personal power. (See earlier blog post) Then she added this, own your own power. "Making real contact," says Satir, "means that we make ourselves responsible for what comes out of us."

Types of Communication

Satir identifies types of communicating used by people with low opinions of themselves. She calls them placating, blaming, super reasonable, and irrelevant. She says, "They limit the use of an individual's resources and ability to build with one another."
     Placating-----"I'm always doing everything wrong!" Power in Placating : "People who feel guilt, pity, and contempt can't make loving contact."
     Blaming-----"You never do anything right!" Power in Blaming: "Fearful, helpless, and resentful people cannot make loving contact."
     Super reasonable-----"One needs to face the fact that one makes errors in life!" Power in Super reasonable: Anyone facing this kind of power can feel inferior and stupid so making contact is unlikely.
     Irrelevant-----"Ho Ho, balance! Errors, errors! Anybody got a penny?...." Power in Irrelevance: This kind of communication distracts and disrupts and does not lead to making contact.

The Key to Making Contact

All of this has to do with giving our power away. In order to make contact in relationship it comes back to owning our own feelings and behavior. For more from Virginia Satir, check out her book,"Making Contact."

Monday, February 4, 2013

Ageing and Marriage

Growing Old Together

No age comes without challenges. When we first married my husband had just been discharged from the navy. Three months later he enrolled in college. I taught school. Marriage and family have always been top priority for us. Like most people, we went into marriage with some unrealistic expectations.
Learning to live with someone different from you is a huge challenge. Making it from payday to payday was another challenge. Savings did not exist. We were on our own. Our parents had no money and could not help. We learned how to get along with what we had.

Mid-life Crisis

Middle age is a time of transition and evaluating. Usually finances have improved. You may question sacrifices you believe you are making. You wonder how much time you have left and how much of your bucket list have you crossed off. Some people blow up their marriages by having an affair or letting their family know they are gay. It is hard to begin again, but you learn from experience if you stay open to learning.
When our children all reached school age I decided to go back to college and get a masters degree in Counseling Psychology. Everett was supportive. It paid off in many ways. We both learned more about ourselves and each other. We worked together with our children to help them go to college. We got through the "empty nest" syndrome.

Aging is the Biggest Challenge

The future becomes shorter and shorter while life together grows sweeter. You no longer feel in control of staying together forever while anxiety about the future increases. You live with losses; hearing, vision, agility, keen memory, friends, family, and even decreased sexual activity.
There are also pluses. If you have spent time working on understanding and accepting yourself and the relationship, this is pay-off time. Gone are the conflicts over routine tasks; who does the dishes, makes the bed, cleans the toilets, pays the bills, etc. In evolving soul mate relationships those things have probably been worked out by the time the Kids have gone. You are comfortable with yourself and your mate. In the beginning you liked each other. In time you truly love each other, but after years together you adore each other.
To love and be loved like that is the ultimate achievement in life. Deep, satisfying love as life runs its course can come to anyone at any stage of life if two people want it and are willing to do what it takes. Don't forget. God is love and having God in your life is the biggest blessing of all.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Interesting Survey

To see the results of an interesting survey on the top 10 truths about romance, men, and engagements go to Fully Engaged, the Robbins Brothers engagement ring store. The survey was conducted online and remember this is a commercial website so they have a commercial interest in the outcome. I have to wonder who responds to these surveys and how accurate they are. They have put the results in an interesting format and it may be fun to speculate on the reliability of the information.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

How to Celebrate Valentine's Day

My husband and I have always found any excuse to celebrate our love. Lovers look forward to Valentine's Day like football fans look forward to the Super Bowl when their team plays in it. They see it as the acknowledged celebration of love. Everett and I have celebrated nearly 60 Valentine's days together so we might legitimately qualify as experts on what feels romantic and what doesn't.

We don't go out to dinner. Many years ago we learned that lesson. Our favorite restaurant had a cozy dining room and tasty soul satisfying food. We made a reservation two or three weeks before Feb. 14th and looked forward to our romantic dinner for two. Imagine the let-down when we arrived to find the parking lot full and a line of people waiting to be seated. The bar had been turned into a dormitory style dining room with tables pushed together and couples seated next to strangers with a challenge to mingle. Service was exceptionally slow. Disgruntled diners surrounded us.

One of my friends shared they go out to dinner before or after Valentine's Day. On Feb. 14th they make valentines for each other and do something together they haven't done for awhile. It might be hot potato soup and a movie or a drive to nearby mountains.

A day set aside for love can provide all kinds of opportunities that most couple can't seem to fit into their busy every day schedules. Here are a few suggestions. Light candles and put on soft music and reminisce about special times you have spent together or warm memories from your childhood. If you are older, drag out family movies or photo albums. If you have young children, spend the evening making valentines for each other. Spend some time brainstorming romantic ideas. Even that can be fun..

Do hang on to something that has become a tradition if it guarantees a jump start to romantic feelings. For the past few years Everett has gone to a fish market to buy fresh clams. He learned how to steam them in a delicious sauce. I set up the table with fresh flowers, candles, a special table cloth and dishes. We chill a bottle of champagne and fill two glasses. We bought the glasses two at a time every anniversary until we had eight. We had to drive to an interesting gold era town, Nevada City, to get them. Lots of memories fuel the romantic feelings. Everett is retired and I am still working so this celebration fits nicely. The disappointing dinner has become one of our favorite stories. We laugh when we remember our mutual let-down feelings. Clams and garlic bread may not work for you, but find what does and Valentine's Day will become a day to remember.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Intimacy Begins with Self-Acceptance

Our pastors have begun a new series of sermons based on God's plan for your life. When I was young I had a lot of anxiety about "finding" God's plan for my life. When a young minister asked me to marry him, I agreed because I thought the reason I didn't want to marry him was because I didn't want to be a minister's wife and maybe that was God's plan for me. Fortunately, with my mother's support, I was able to end the engagement. I caused this young man unnecessary pain, but happily he found another woman who was a better fit for him.

I began to realize God's creation is perfect and glorifies Him just by being. Just look around at the beauty of the earth. The recent Rose Bowl Parade showed the splendor of thousands of flowers. Hundreds of varieties color the earth. They do nothing to get attention. They glorify the Creator of such beauty by being. God created each one of us unique. There is no one in the world like you. You are a once in history event.

When I began to understand that concept, my anxiety about finding God's plan for my life ended. I began to realize God's plan for my life is to accept who He created me, flaws and strengths and all. Then trust that whatever I choose to do He will empower me to be who I was created to be. That's how we glorify God and begin to experience the beauty of intimacy. It begins with the God of love, and flows from us to those around us.

People who accept themselves become free to accept another person. They understand that if I give up me, there will be no relationship. If there is no you, there is nobody to relate from not even to God. Self-acceptance is the first challenge to experience intimacy and learning to be soul mates.