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23 Feb

Guidelines for Effective Communication

An excerpt from Loving through Your Differences by James L. Creighton, PhD

Couples fight. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Sometimes these fights provide comic relief. At other times they threaten the very survival of the relationship.

 

Psychologist and relationship consultant James Creighton wrote his new book Loving through Your Differences: Building Strong Relationships from Separate Realities to help reduce conflict between couples, especially those that are based on different perceptions or experiences of reality. The book’s primary aim is to empower couples with the knowledge and practical skills they need to choose to live happily and productively together, finding excitement and fulfillment, rather than disappointment and frustration, in their differences. We hope you’ll enjoy this short excerpt.

 

# # #

 

In order for couples to jointly reexamine the meanings that they give to each other’s behavior and find new ways of relating to each other, they need to share feelings, thoughts, and beliefs at a very deep level. This requires that both partners feel safe — meaning that they don’t feel judged or criticized for feeling the way they do.

 

To create a safe environment, couples need to communicate responsibly. This means avoiding behaviors that force the other person into polarized positions. When conflicts get out of control, it is difficult to acknowledge how our own interpretations may have added to the dispute. Yet it is this kind of behavior that can move disputes beyond arguments over who is right into intimate sharing about our most important feelings.

 

Both people must learn to recognize and avoid communication rooted in blame or judgment, concentrating instead on communicating emotions and the meanings that create them. Even when the other person’s communication seems to create conflict, you can make choices about how you respond. If you can imagine that each of you is a country, your job is to describe what’s going on in your country rather than interpreting or judging what’s going on in the other one.

 

Guidelines for Responsible Communication

 

Here are some basic guidelines for communicating your feelings in a way that reduces defensiveness and reaction:

 

  • Take Responsibility for Your Feelings One of the biggest causes of fights between loved ones is blaming the other person for your feeling: “You made me feel…” As we’ve discussed, your feelings are not caused by an external event alone, but also by the meaning you give to the event. Those meanings are yours, not the other person’s. If we’re brutally honest, you made you feel whatever you feel.

 

When you say the other person is responsible for what you feel, that person is likely to feel blamed or accused. They may become defensive and want to protect themselves. We have the beginnings of a full-on battle.

  • State Feelings, Not JudgmentsWhen we are in conflicts rooted in different perceptions and different emotional realities, it is imperative that we communicate feelings, not judgments. Acknowledging our feelings — feeling hurt, rejected, or angry — is essential to understanding our emotional realities. But expressing judgments — saying that our partner is being unkind, unfair, or cruel — gets in the way. It makes it almost impossible to turn the search for understanding into an exciting joint venture. Instead, both people feel accused, put down, and angry.

 

Most of us have learned to communicate in what can be called “you” messages, which are often expressions that judge, challenge, or blame the other person, like these:

“You made me feel…” (blaming the other person for your feelings)

“You are being…” (judging the other person)

“Why are you…?” (challenging or questioning the other person)

One way to remind yourself to communicate a feeling, not a judgment, is to start your sentence with “I’m…” or “I feel…” Psychologists and counselors refer to this kind of message as an “I” message. Here is a comparison of “you” messages and “I” messages:

  • Connect Your Feelings to a Description of the Behavior or CircumstancesIt’s true that just stating a feeling is not enough. If all Alice says is “I’m embarrassed,” Jorge is not going to understand her. Some explanation is needed for why she is embarrassed. But this is a place where judgments can slip in. Efforts to communicate feelings sometimes go awry. For example, Alice might say: “I was really embarrassed when you were so rude.” The only word Jorge will hear in that entire sentence is rude. That’s because Alice has connected her feelings with a big fat judgment. She’s mixed an “I” message with a “you” message.

 

Just putting “I feel” in front of a judgment doesn’t make it any less of a judgment. If Alice were to confine her comments to a description of Jorge’s behavior, avoiding judgment, she might say: “I really felt embarrassed when you said what you did to Irene.” That’s an effort to describe Jorge’s behavior without judging it.

  • Tell the Other Person What You NeedSometimes it’s enough for couples to share their feelings about something that has happened; at other times it is helpful for them to tell the each other what they need in order to avoid conflict in the future. For example, when Peter comes home from work, he finds it really upsetting if the house is all messy. Having an orderly environment helps him feel at ease. He’d really like to come home to a tidy house. But he and his wife have three kids, all under seven years old.

Here is Peter’s attempt to send an “I” message:

I’m upset when the toys are left on the floor. I really need calm and order when I first get home from work.

He takes responsibility for his feelings by saying “I’m upset,” rather than “You are upsetting me.”

 

He tries to communicate a feeling rather than a judgment with “I’m upset” rather than “You’re not keeping the kids under control.”

 

He describes a behavior rather than judging it: “when the toys are left on the floor” instead of “when everything is so messy.”

 

And he expresses what he needs: “I really need calm and order when I first get home from work.”

 

To put it another way, you can construct an “I” message as follows:

 

I’m (or “I feel”) _________ [emotion] when _________ [description of behavior or circumstances]. I need _________ [the change you would like to see].

 

“I” messages do not automatically bring about the result you want. People may still feel upset, hurt, or angry even when you send a good “I” message. Your job is to express your feelings in ways that minimize the risk that the other person will feel the need to react defensively. Their feelings are their own responsibility. If both people send “I” messages, you’ll significantly reduce the risk of a fight, or speed the recovery if you are both upset.

 

# # #

 

James L. Creighton, PhD, is the author of Loving through Your Differences and several other books. He has worked with couples and conducted communications training for nearly 50 years around the world. Visit him online at www.jameslcreighton.com.

 

Excerpted from the book Loving through Your Differences. Copyright ©2019 by James L. Creighton. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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14 Feb

A Valentine to Love

Valentine’s Day has us all thinking about love. We can’t escape the ads, the decorations in the stores, the promises of chocolates and roses at every point of purchase. We get caught up in the celebration and romance of this holiday. And yet, we know that there is much more to love than cards and candy.

Love is all there is.

Really. There’s nothing else. It’s what we’re made of. It’s what we live for. It’s who we are. Love is at the source of all creation. It’s something we all strive to understand and that we all have in common. It’s what connects us.

Love is our greatest teacher. It is so big, so all-encompassing, that individually we could study it throughout our entire lifetime, and as a society we have studied it throughout the ages. We can learn about love, we can learn from love, we can learn to love.

Bhakti yoga is the path of love. Bhakti yoga teaches us to love everything and everyone, because all of it is divine. Each small thing is a part of the greater whole, and that whole is divine. So when we practice Bhakti, we experience the feeling of love in the recognition of divinity, with everything we come across.

We experience love the most profoundly through our relationships. Although there is only one love, love is expressed in many different ways. There have been sonnets and songs written about love throughout the ages, yet it is still difficult for us to define, because it is so vast. The Indian sages have come up with terms to help us understand some of the many aspects of love.

-Santa: Santa is peaceful, calm, and slow. This is a love we might feel for ourselves. It is gentle, steady, and natural.

-Dasya: Dasya is the love that we might feel toward a teacher, a mentor, someone we respect and want to serve.

-Sakhya: Sakhya is the love we feel for a dear friend. In friendship, there is a kind of equality, a give and take, an exchange of feelings, a sharing of ourselves.

-Vatsalya: Vatsalya is the love that a parent feels for a child. A baby is so innocent, and we can’t help but to want to give love to that child, without demands or expectations for anything in return. Children are pure and completely lovable. We recognize this without hesitation.

-Madhura: Madhura is the love of our beloved. This is the “in love” feeling when we are swept off our feet, blissful, devoted, and intense.

Bhakti yoga continually reminds us to “love the highest.” When we find ourselves infatuated with our jobs, our cars, any material thing, Bhakti tells us that we are misguided. When all of our human desire for what is new, fun, novel or beautiful is instead directed toward love, we then experience the greatest delight.

In our human experience, love is not all hearts and flowers. Sometimes it’s messy, it can be complicated, and it can hurt. Love itself is pure, simple, and perfect, but we tend to muddy it up with our humanity. We question, we expect, we desire, we need. And in our attempts to understand, we come up with definitions, we analyze, we discuss, and then we filter all of this through our past experiences to come up with what we think love should be, would be, could be. And every one of us is doing the same thing, with oftentimes very different results. Jealousy, temptation, broken hearts and bitter break-ups are the inspiration for many songs and screenplays.

But the basic truth is that love is. It just is. Love is beyond definition, beyond space and time, beyond any relationship. Love is a true constant in this world. It does not need to be created, it is always here, it has always been here, and it always will be here. We have only to know this to notice it. Eyes open, mind open, heart open, love is available to us in all of its myriad forms, essential simplicity and spectacular glory.

“Namaste” is a Sanskrit greeting that means: “The Divine in me recognizes and honors the Divine in you.” That recognition of the divine is Bhakti, or love. On Valentine’s Day, and every day, let’s try to practice Bhakti a little more often. Not just with our valentines, but also with everyone we meet. Let’s love the highest, starting with ourselves. This is where we start. This is where the seed is planted, where love can grow, and thrive, and blossom within each one of us into a delightful bounty that can be shared. We can feed our souls on this banquet of love. No one need go hungry.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Namaste!

For more by Lissa Coffey, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.

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11 Feb

Crafting the Perfect Love Letter

By: Dalma Heyn & Richard Marek, authors of How to Fall in Love

 

Let me tell you a story of a botched attempt at crafting love letters.

The hero of How to Fall in Love : A Novel is a master of love letters—of reading, collecting appreciating them.  He is putting together a retrospective of one of the greatest love-letter anthologists of all time, and in doing so, reads history’s most elegant and familiar love letters, from those of James Joyce to those of Napoleon.  But, knowledgeable as he is, when it comes time for him to write a love letter to his own beloved, Eve, he caves. He can’t do it. Here he is, surrounded by the world’s most brilliant love letters, and he feels as if his own words will sound silly and empty and banal.  So he “borrows” those of the greats instead of speaking in his own voice, admittedly a rather tongue-tied voice, and pretends they’re his own.

Of course that can’t work! He’s plagiarizing, for one thing. For another, he’s broken the only one rule there is in love-letter writing, and that’s SPEAK FROM YOUR HEART.  You can’t copy another’s love letters. You can’t steal others’ expressions of love.  You can’t even mimic them. A love letter is nothing else if not a genuine, heartfelt, authentic, idiosyncratic articulation of your own very personal, very specific feelings for the unique object of your love. It’s your rhythm; your humor; your way of relating.

Other than being as specific as you can about your feelings and making sure you’re writing something pure and not loaded or hiding another agenda (a love letter must have no agenda other than to express your bursting feelings), there are no rules of craft. Unlike the business letter, with its carefully presented details and rigid format; or the letter of apology, with its crucially important elements of regret for bad behavior and desire to make it up to the offended person; the love letter is a completely wild and lawless entity. It can be on scrap paper. It can be written with lipstick on a mirror.  Nothing is limited to procedure, per se,  in the love letter—neither format nor grammar nor substance, even.  Only that the lover express with clarity and imagination precisely what’s in the writer’s heart, and do so, it is hoped, in a way that the beloved is touched, moved, charmed, amused.  It’s a work of art, the love letter. Not replicable. It can’t be duplicated because only the writer feels the specific feelings and he can’t feel that way about anybody else or express himself to anyone else in this form. How personal that fact is! So his goal is to convey, maybe with some wit and imagination, that which will strike the beloved as real and true and specific to her. Specificity is key:  you’re after connection, after all, and to connect well, your emotions must resonate with your lover.  And only you know how that can be done. Because after all, only you know her this well. It’s your love  and your love alone that has broken through to her. You have a pipeline to her heart , as she has to yours.

If there are any “rules” at all, they’re rules of forethought. You’re bursting with the need to express your feelings—but is this a good moment? Is your lover so occupied with other things that to present a letter now is just  bad timing– and inflicting on her your deepest feelings is going to feel more like a burden than a joy? Are you writing a letter at a time you’re bound to get hurt, or be cast aside—because of external events? Think carefully about timing.  And, are you able to put yourself  aside enough to speak only of appreciation and the miracle of love—and not, instead, itemize all the ways you’re being boosted by love?  (A letter that says, in effect, I love you because you do this and this for me and without you I’d never have accomplished this and this and this…is an eloquent thank-you note.  But a love letter it isn’t.)

A love letter is generous. It’s specific. It’s unafraid. It’s in your voice. It’s about the beloved and only the beloved. It’s a bare-your-soul expression that only you can write—so write it when you feel emotions well up in your heart along with the glorious urge to express them.

***

IS YOUR LOVE LETTER SWOON-WORTHY ENOUGH TO WIN A TIFFANY RING?

New York Times Best-Selling Authors Share Tips to Win

The 2019 Love Letter Contest

In the era of online dating, Cupid’s age-old trappings like hand-written love notes have fallen by the wayside. But this timeless display of affection will never go out of style. Given the rarity, a love letter could be just what you need to win over that crush, rekindle the romance, or even show your squad-love for Galentine’s Day. When was the last time you told someone you loved how you really felt?  Where do you even begin?

Luckily, expert writers Dalma Heyn and Richard Marek have your back.

This husband and wife team of New York Times best-selling authors are sharing insight and advice to communicating love in the digital age.  

Whether it’s platonic or romantic, Heyn and Marek will show your audience secrets to crafting the perfect love letter, the three things every lover note must have, and the complexity of communicating love in the age of Tinder. They also have examples of hilarious “worst ever” letters that encourage the audience to respond with their own “worst evers.”

ABOUT THE 2019 LOVE LETTER CONTEST:

To celebrate the release on Feb 5 of their new book, How to Fall in Love, Heyn and Marek are on a nationwide search to find the perfect love letter. The 2019 Love Letter Contest runs until April 30, it is totally free to enter, and the winner will be announced on May 15.

The winner will receive:

  • A rose-gold Tiffany Paloma Picasso Love Ring  (valued at $500).
  • A framed, gorgeously hand-written copy of their letter.
  • Your winning letter shared (if the winner chooses) with our entire social network.

Participating is easy. All you need to do is:

  1. Bare your soul in writing (okay, that part might not be all that easy).
  2. Send your love letter to us at thestoryplant@thestoryplant.com.
  3. That’s it! (You might, of course, want to share the love letter with the person you were writing it to, but that’s entirely up to you.)

To see the complete set of contest rules, click HERE.

 

ABOUT AUTHORS DALMA HEYN & RICHARD MAREK:

Husband and wife team Dalma Heyn and Richard Marek are the authors of  How to Fall in Love , a provocative love story for the digital age. Heyn is the author of the New York Times best-seller The Erotic Silence of the American Wife, Marriage Shock and Drama Kings.  Her books, published in 35 countries, have been best-sellers both here and abroad. Richard Marek is one of the most accomplished book editors and publishers of his generation, working with writers James Baldwin, Thomas Harris, and Robert Ludlum, among many others. He is the author of Works of Genius and has ghostwritten a number of best-sellers.

 

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04 Feb

Ancient Secrets of Seduction

“Tantra” means “instrument of the body.” It sounds exotic, but it is actually very simple. Tantra teaches us to use all five of our senses consciously, because our senses are how we are connected with the physical world. And of course, it is with our five senses that we connect with each other, too. If you’re looking to up the romance quotient in your relationship, here are a few tips from ancient India. And for good measure, let’s use the romantic rose in each example. Red roses were said to be the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Red signifies desire!

Touch (“Sparsa” in Sanskrit)

The skin marks the visible limits of the body; it is where we make contact with the world. Our skin is our largest organ, and 16% of our body weight. With touch we experience much of our environment: temperature, clothes, sheets, shower, etc. Wake up the sense of touch with massage. Use different materials and textures, such as a feather, a velvet hat, baby powder, a silk scarf, or rose petals. Infuse sesame oil, or unscented body lotion with rose petals, or rose essential oil for a wonderful massage oil.

Smell (“Gandha” in Sanskrit)

Women are particularly sensitive to smells. Our pheromones are the scents that we give off without even realizing it. These pheromones train us to recognize and desire our partners. When people stop smoking, they are amazed by how much they rediscover their sense of smell. Studies have shown that the loss of the olfactory sense is often accompanied by a loss in sexual interest, so it is a good idea to keep our noses functioning optimally! Fragrances have quite an allure to them. Roses just smell like romance. Use rose-scented candles, and sprinkle rose petals in the bathtub. Shower together with rose-scented shower gel.

Taste (“Rasa” in Sanskrit)

Is it any wonder that we say we have a certain “taste” in partners? The tongue is super-sensitive. By blocking out the other senses, by closing your eyes for example, you can focus on the taste more fully. Love is sweet — there’s a reason why we call each other honey and sweetie and cupcake! Savor and delight in the tastes and textures of various foods and drinks: whipped cream, chocolate, a strawberry — and, yes, rose! Sweet rose tea is made for romance! It smells wonderful and tastes divine — and it is the perfect way to end a romantic meal. Tulsi Rose Tea has the added benefit of helping you to relax, and de-stress…to get you in the mood for romance! It is easy to make your own blend of rose tea with dried rose petals, or dried rosebuds, steeped in hot water.

Sound (“Sabda” in Sanskrit)

Sounds have a profound effect on the body. Studies have shown that sounds can open up our inner pharmacy and balance our physiology. They can help us to be healthier, and to generally feel better. What sound do roses make? They’re silent. Sweet and soft. Whisper sweet nothings to your loved one. Play soft, sweet music. Dance with the rose between your teeth, let your body move to the rhythm, breathe gently into your partner’s ear.

Sight (“Rupa” in Sanskrit)

For romance, it’s all about lighting. Think pink — use rose-colored light bulbs, so you naturally see things more rosy! Dine by candlelight. Spread rose petals on the table. Make a trail of rose petals that leads to a surprise. Do a few Bollywood shimmies, put on a show. Look into each other’s eyes until you get lost. Feel the intense connection that you create.

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21 Jan

Better Sleep Can Warm Up A Relationship

For couples having trouble under the sheets, improving their relationship could be as simple as getting a good night’s sleep.

Catching extra winks together in bed can significantly help improve a relationship. A good night’s sleep is restorative to the mind and body, gives us energy and improves our mood—all attributes that can make us better partners in romantic relationships. On the other hand, a poor night’s sleep —often the result of a couple’s mismatched sleep styles— can be a major problem for a relationship.

Many couples can live happily together, but they can’t sleep well side-by-side, which can negatively impact their relationship. Sleeping together is an important way for couples to feel connected with each other. And not getting enough sleep can leave us feeling sluggish, cranky and hard to get along with.

If your partner’s sleep style is keeping you up at night here are some tips to bring harmony back to the bedroom and into your relationship:

1.
Problem: Your partner kicks in his or her sleep, waking you up.
Solution: Make sure your bed gives each sleeper enough sleep surface to move around comfortably. For couples sharing a bed, the mattress should be at least queen-sized.

2.
Problem: Your partner likes it hot, you like it cool.
Solution: Ideally, your bedroom should be a cool 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. But a few simple adjustments can make it possible for a person who craves heat and a person who craves cool to sleep side by side comfortably.
• Double-fold the blankets so there is more coverage on one side.
• Invest in a dual-control electric blanket or a twin-sized electric blanket on one side.

3.
Problem: Your partner snores, keeping you up at night.
Solution: Snoring can be a serious health concern, so make sure to consult your physician. If your partner’s snoring is not a serious health condition, try alternative treatments like investing in anti-snore pillows, sprays or nasal strips that are designed to help people breathe more easily.

4.
Problem: Your partner tosses and turns.
Solution: It may be your mattress. Mattresses should be evaluated for optimum comfort and support every five to seven years.

5.
Problem: Your partner loves to cuddle, but you like your space while you sleep.
Solution: Compromise. Before falling asleep, spend some time snuggling together and then agree to sleep apart.

6.
Problem: Your sleep schedules don’t match.
Solution: Try finding a bedtime that works for both of you. Be considerate if you are a night owl or an early riser compared to your sleep partner. Keep overhead lights off and use minimal lighting while you are awake and your partner is asleep.

A bad night’s sleep affects your mood, work and relationships with others. Sleep, like proper diet and exercise, is essential to overall well-being.

More sleep tips at BetterSleep.org

Sleep Tips video

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29 Nov

Divorce Is Forever

My friend Sandy and I had had yet another one of our philosophical discussions this weekend. She said, “I have a great title for your next blog: Marriage is Temporary, Divorce is Forever.” Having been divorced myself I can understand her sentiments. Yes, divorce is forever. But now, truly happily married, I’m in the state where I once again feel that marriage is forever, too. Maybe there really is no delineation — maybe it’s that these relationships we get ourselves into go on and on, and it’s just the definition of the relationship that changes. Whether married or divorced, there is this person in our lives that we love — or loved — and through whom we are tied with children, or finances, or history.

As celebrities give us this great illustration with which we can all better understand, let’s explore this theory with a few examples. Bruce Willis and Demi Moore: married, seemingly happily, for enough years to produce three beautiful daughters. They divorce amicably, and no bad blood shows up in the press. She later marries Ashton Kutcher, and Bruce shows his support as the three attend many family occasions and holidays together. One big happy family! And when Bruce remarries, of course they’re all there, too. Very civilized, very mature. So Bruce and Demi, although married to different people now, are still tied to each other through their children, and have managed to maintain a functional relationship.

Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt do not share any children, although they shared years of their lives together as husband and wife. Will the press ever let them forget that? I think not! Even as Brad welcomed his 5th and 6th child, twins, with his current partner, Angelina Jolie, tabloids speculated about an Aniston-Pitt reunion. What gives? These people have all clearly moved on, but why can’t we? Is it because Brad and Angie have yet to tie the knot? They are clearly committed — and they certainly are looking to the future as they raise these children together. I think it’s because we want to see that Jennifer is okay. We want her to be happy, and in love, like Brad is. That way it seems more “fair.” But life is not always fair. Life gives us lessons, and sometimes they’re tough ones. We just have to trust that somehow, someway, through some power greater than our own, that it all balances out in the end. Karma? Destiny? Maybe that’s it.

From Sandy’s point of view, her marriage was temporary. She didn’t plan for it to be that way. She went in with the best of intentions, until death do us part. But as it goes, things happen, people change, and plans go awry. So now she’s divorced, which she considers to be permanent. This is the new definition of her relationship with her ex. Can she “wash that man right out of her hair?” No. They have kids together. They had a life together. And now all of that has to be shifted to fit this new paradigm. It can be painful, and certainly stressful. There are unfulfilled expectations. There is grief, fear, and uncertainty. And what can we do about it? Somehow we have to manage. We have to redefine the relationship in such a way that it makes sense to us, and that we are okay with it, taking the good with the bad, however we choose to see that. We have to let go of any anger or resentment because there comes a time when we realize that we are only hurting ourselves with it.

So yes, my first marriage is over. But am I over it? Probably not. I’ve still got these two kids as constant reminders of the years we shared in it. Those years don’t disappear. They are a part of my memory, and my psyche. They helped to shape who I am today. But I still wouldn’t change a thing about it. I know mistakes were made, but those mistakes helped both me and my ex to learn and to grow. I know we are both better off where we are today. I love my life, I love my husband, and I know that I wouldn’t have what I have right now had the divorce not happened. So it’s all good. And I am sure that my ex feels the same way.

Life is full of challenges and full of risks. Marriage is a big risk. Divorce is another. Both take a commitment. It’s a commitment to living life to its fullest, to being true to yourself, to doing what you feel is best, and to honoring the wisdom that you have gained through your experiences.

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15 Oct

13 Romance Ideas to Warm Up the Fall Season

1. Join In On Football Season

For many men, “Fall” is just another name for “Football season.” Since you can’t beat ’em, you might as well join ’em! Get tickets to a local game, pack a tailgate picnic and head out to the stadium. Be sure to bring a warm blanket for the two of you to snuggle under, and maybe a thermos-full of hot chocolate laced with coffee liqueur for half-time.

2. Take Advantage Of Pumpkin Season

Jack-o-lanterns aren’t just for kids — this Halloween, pick up a couple of extra pumpkins and spend the evening carving them up together! Maybe you want to work together to create an amazing masterpiece, or maybe you want to work solo to design special “his and hers” messages for one another. Some ideas: a big set of lips and some false eyelashes on a girl pumpkin for him — an “I love you” message that lights up when the candle is inside for her!

3. Play High Stakes Board Games

Take a traditional board game and make up your own rules. Yahtzee can become “Strip Yahtzee,” by simply adding that for every three of a kind you roll, your partner loses a piece of clothing. For every four of a kind you roll, you get a “wish”: a kiss, a foot massage, etc. And for every Yahtzee, set the timer for 5 minutes (and only 5 minutes!) of “high scorer dominance.” You can do something similar with Scrabble – earning extra points for sexy words, or Monopoly – paying for properties with “favors” rather than cash.

4. Share Firelight

There’s nothing more inviting than the glow of a fireplace on a crisp Fall evening. Spread a blanket out in front of the fire, toss around a few fluffy pillows, and serve up some warm apple cider with cinnamon sticks. Relax and enjoy each other’s company. Soon you’ll be toasting more than your tootsies!

5. Dance In The Dark

Set up an impromptu dance floor in your bedroom. Light some candles, turn on the Harry Connick Jr. CD and hold each other close. Dance the old-fashioned way, cheek-to-cheek, and whisper sweet nothings in his ear. Let the music move you, and melt into each others arms.

6. Want To Make It interesting?

When the weather’s crummy and he wants to spend the day watching sports on TV, make it interesting for both of you! Place bets on how many car commercials are shown in the next station break, which team’s cheerleaders get on camera next, how long it takes five minutes to really play. Bet kisses, massages, sweet treats, etc.

7. Puzzle Him

This takes a little forethought – get a jigsaw puzzle and put it together on a piece of cardboard. Put another piece of cardboard on top of it and flip it over. Now write a message to your significant other, or make it an invitation! Be creative, even naughty! Then flip it back over and pull the pieces apart. Keep one piece hidden in your bra. That night, ask him to help you with the puzzle. If you have a glass top table, do the puzzle directly on the table. Once the puzzle is all assembled, have him look for the missing piece under the table. When he can’t find it, crawl under the table to help, and show him your message. It won’t take long for him to find that missing puzzle piece now!

8. Create Your Own Starry Nights

Get a pack of glow-in-the-dark stars to stick on the ceiling over your bed. Have them spell out a love note to your honey. When the lights go out, you can lie under the stars and cuddle.

9. Wash Your Cares Away

How about a soothing bath for two? Make bath sachets by wrapping cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange peel in pieces of fabric and tying with a ribbon. Drop into a hot bath, add a few capfuls of almond oil. Indulge!

10. Tea For Two

Take a little time-out with an afternoon tea party. De-stress over chamomile and banana bread, and take turns with the shoulder rubs.

11. Recipe For Romance

Cool Autumn breezes call for simmering stews. Spend time in the kitchen together chopping up herbs and veggies and create your own cold-weather feast! Serve with corn bread and your favorite wine.

12. Bicycle-Built-For-Two

Enjoy the last few sunny weekends by renting a bicycle built for two and cruising the neighborhood!

13. Story Time Together

Grimm’s Fairy Tales take on a whole new meaning when read aloud by the one you love. Curl up on the couch and revisit some of your favorites, and love happily ever after.
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10 Sep

To Find the Love of Your Life, Know Your Dosha!

Ask anyone and you’ll get the same answer: What’s the most important thing in life? Love! We want to be in love, and we want that love to last. So how do we go about finding that one person to share our lives with? And how do we live happily ever after with that person once we find him or her?

There are many ways of looking at our compatibility with other people – such as the Mars/Venus theories, and the Love Signs system based on astrology, among others. But long before any of these formulas were even a twinkle in the cosmos, philosophers and scientists in Ancient India devised a system of health care called “Ayurveda” – or “the science of life.” Within this holistic system lies everything we need to know about love.

Ayurveda explains the nature of everything in the universe. It is a compelling way of looking at all of life, the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Ayurveda “types” people according to both their physical features and personality traits. Ayurveda tells us how we “tick,” and how we relate to the rest of the world, including the other people in it!

Once we understand the basics of Ayurveda, we see that we can get along with anyone. There are no “bad” matches! So whether you want to end the squabbling with your mate, you’re having a hard time with your boss, or your boyfriend just can’t commit, with this system of Ancient Indian Love Matches, you’ll find ways to make the relationship work.

It is impossible to go through this life alone. We all have relationships, people in our lives to interact with. The purpose of those relationships is to help us learn and grow. And more than that, the purpose of any relationship is to help us learn more about ourselves and who we really are.

When we understand who we are, and why we are here, everything seems to fall into place. We’re happier, more content, and we feel our connection to the universe. We attract like-minded people into our lives and our relationships become stronger.

As important as our relationships are to us, how much time and effort do we really put into them? So often we go about living our lives and expect that another person either fits into that picture or doesn’t. But we each have needs, and temperaments, and ideas about how we like things to be. When we better understand ourselves, and each other, we can focus on what is important, and what makes a relationship work.

When I first learned about Ayurveda, I was impressed with how simple and clear it made everything to me. The whole system just makes sense, and you can apply it to anything in your life! I’ve read lots of books about Ayurveda, and even more books on relationships, but I’ve never come across one book that applied this age-old system to our very modern-day relationships. So I decided to work it out myself, and that is how my book, “What’s Your Dosha, Baby? Discover the Vedic Way for Compatibility in Life and Love” came about.

Because Ayurveda sees people as three different mind/body types, or “doshas,” there are basically nine different “Love Matches” (3 x 3). Of course in reality there are an infinite number of combinations, because no two people are exactly alike in any particular way, but we’re keeping the numbers manageable here! Once you find out your particular dosha (free online quiz at www.whatsyourdosha.com), and the dosha of the person with whom you are in relationship, then you can look up the chapter that corresponds to the two of you. Here you’ll find clues as to how you interact with each other, your communication styles (physical and emotional as well), instinctual preferences with regards to food, travel, lifestyle and work among others. This system shows us how we can please each other and ourselves at the same time. It shows us how we can live in harmony with those around us by recognizing a person’s natural qualities and bringing more love into the world

If you are looking to understand or strengthen a relationship with someone other than your mate – say, a colleague or friend or child – it will help you with that, too. And because we all have a unique relationship with our environment, there are principles called “Vastu” we can use. Through our use of space and color, we can create an environment where we feel inspired and blissful.

Love is an amazing phenomenon, and the reason that all of us are here. It’s worth our study, our attention. Why are we attracted to the people we are attracted to? Why is that we feel as if we “can’t help” who we fall in love with? What is the chemistry that draws us to certain people?

We may never figure ourselves out. Or maybe we already have. Maybe the ancient texts are right and all the answers we will ever need are available to us now… we just need to keep learning and growing until we finally “get it.”

One thing’s for sure, finding love and connection is one of the most important – and pleasurable – things we come here to do. My hope is that Ayurveda, with its ancient Indian secrets for keeping love burning bright, will not only help you in your process of self-discovery but enable you to find and nourish the love matches of your dreams.

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03 Sep

Got Closure? How To Move Forward Powerfully And Positively

Each of us experiences some kind of loss in this lifetime. People come and go from our lives, whether by choice or circumstance. How we cope with these events affects how we move forward, how we see the world, and how we feel about our lives.

I’m not the only person to have been through a divorce. When my first marriage ended after 17 years, I thought I handled it well. It was an amicable parting, and we maintained a friendly relationship. But then a few years later my sister’s husband died unexpectedly. My grief brought up new emotions, and I felt sad and angry and hurt as I relived the divorce in my mind. I realized through this experience that although I had moved on, I hadn’t really gotten over it; I didn’t have closure. I saw the parallels between my sister’s loss and my own, and I actively sought to come up with a formula through which we could both alleviate our pain.

Relationships take many forms: marriage, friendships, family, co-workers, classmates, lovers. Whenever two people have some kind of a connection, a relationship is established. Our energy goes into these connections, our emotions, our hopes, our human vulnerabilities. A relationship is an organism itself, and it can have a life cycle. But since relationship is a spiritual organism, it doesn’t die. It merely changes shape. The relationships we build with the people we encounter continue in spirit, in memories, and in lessons learned.

We are invested in our relationships with other people. We spend our time, and emotions, developing a kind of bond with a person. We give of ourselves, through our love, our friendship, our concern, and our efforts.

When we are faced with what seems to be the “end” of a relationship, we may feel loss, grief, anger or pain. We might even feel relief, or freedom. We may question the purpose for this change, whether it is abrupt or expected, and the necessity of it. The change may or may not be our choice, or our desire, but something we must learn to live with. The uneasiness may nag at us for years as we struggle to understand. How do we get that “closure” that our hearts and minds so desperately seek so that we can move forward with our lives?

We need to shift our perspective a little bit when it comes to relationships. In our human form, we see the illusion of death, and the ending of relationships. But what really takes place is a transformation. As we learn and grow through our relationships, our relationships evolve. We can use this evolution as an opportunity for continued growth, and for personal transformation. The pains that we feel are growing pains. However a relationship changes, whether it is a loss from physical death, a divorce, a move away, a growing up, or a falling out, we can not only survive, but thrive, knowing that everything, always, is exactly the way it is meant to be.

A Natural Law works whether we are aware of it or not. It is a principle of nature that is in effect at all times, without favoritism. Gravity is a natural law. It works the same for everyone, at all times. By being aware of gravity, we can move about more freely, with less risk of pain from falling down.

The Law of Relationship is two-fold. It says:
1) We are all connected.
2) We are here to help each other.

We are all connected in one way or another. We feel the same emotions; we share the same experiences. We are brothers and sisters on this planet. This connection bonds us, and gives us a relationship with each other. A mother in any part the world, can relate to another mother she has never seen because she knows what it means, and how it feels, to be a mother. We are all born the same way, and have to learn how to walk and talk and find our way in the world. We face challenges and heartache, no matter where we live, or how we live. Our connection cannot be broken.

With our challenges and experiences we learn and grow. Our relationships bring us many challenges and experiences, and through our relationships we learn and grow. This is how we help each other. We may not even know that we are doing it, but just by being in a person’s life, in some small way, we are contributing to the learning process, as they are contributing to ours. Our actions affect other people in ways we can’t even imagine. Even in times when we feel hurt by someone, that is an opportunity for us to learn and grow. We might not realize it in the moment, but in some strange and miraculous way, we are helping each other by going through this experience together.

Closure is different than grief. Grieving is looking back; closure is about looking ahead. We want to let go and move on. This is what closure gives us. We may have gone through the grieving process and still not have the closure we seek. The law of relationship helps us to maneuver our way through the five set process of closure: Recognition, Acceptance, Understanding, Integration, and Gratitude. When we reach a feeling of gratitude, we know we’ve come full circle to experience closure.

Closure is actually the perfect word for it. It’s more than neatly tying up loose ends. Think about life as a series of events and relationships, all linked together in some sort of artistic way, like a beautiful piece of jewelry. We can’t wear a necklace or a bracelet if the chain is just left dangling. The jewelry maker finishes off the piece by adding a clasp, one loop that kind of ties together the beginning and the end, the start and the finish, so that what we are left with is one strong continuous chain. Our closure is that clasp. Closure helps it all make sense. It turns something seemingly broken into something useful, purposeful, and lovely.

Lissa Coffey is the author of CLOSURE and the Law of Relationship: Endings as New Beginnings.

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02 Jul

Royal Marriage Manners

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have just visited Southern California and of course the media covered every moment. Upon their arrival in Los Angeles from Canada, I noticed something that I don’t think everyone did, but that could be very telling of the royal relationship.

After William and Kate disembarked the plane, they went through a receiving line to be welcomed by Governor Jerry Brown and his wife, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other dignitaries. Will went through the line first, followed by his bride. They were greeted, curtseyed to and shook hands with each person graciously. When Will was finished, he made a bee-line for the Range Rover and got in the back seat without a glance back. Kate completed her duties a minute or so later and went to the back seat on the other side of the car.

What is unusual about this? Since the British are such sticklers for etiquette, they should be practicing it in their marriages as well as amongst commoners. The gentlemanly thing for William to do would have been to wait for his wife to shake the last hand and then walk over to the car with her. Ideally, he would walk her to her side of the car and help her in before entering the car himself.

This may be a small thing, but it shows respect and consideration. I get that they’re both on a schedule and being shepherded around by security. But in a marriage, there is a kind of radar that keeps you aware of where that other person is at all times. I get that William is the prince and probable heir to the throne. But whatever happened to common courtesy and “ladies first?” If I were in Kate’s position I’d be saying to my hubby: “Hello? Wait for me!” Of course it’s not good form for couples and especially royals, to correct each other in public.

While I’m on the subject, yes, it was a lovely gesture that William gave Kate his mother’s ring. However, I do believe that Kate deserves her own ring as well. Why have Diana’s ring be her engagement ring? After all, even though Diana’s ring is beautiful and historic, it did originate from a marriage that is widely known as unhappy and that ended in divorce. That’s a lot of baggage to be carrying around on your finger. Already Kate is being compared to Diana and this will inevitably follow her throughout her lifetime. Kate is her own person and this is a new relationship, so I say give her a new ring.

Kate has a lot to put up with. Every bride has to deal with in-laws, but Kate has to do it under the scrutiny of the world. She had her wedding in the same church where her husband’s mother had her funeral. She’s a good sport to go along with her new family in all these decisions and I know this will go far in keeping Will and Kate together.

The royal couple is sure to get lots of attention wherever they go and whatever they do. But they need to remember that it is the attention that they give to one another that will be what makes this marriage succeed. It is both the attention that they give to each other in private, at home, when it is just the two of them. And it is also the attention that they give to each other in public. I remember hearing from body language experts about the sweet glances they gave each other during the wedding ceremony and how that was a good sign of a true loving relationship. The world is watching! The pressures of the position will be there and there will be obligations and schedules and demands. But the smallest reassuring glance, the hand on the back as a guide and the simple act of waiting for the other person to finish before going ahead with the next task, that will make all the difference.

This royal marriage is only a few months in and as time goes on, these simple courtesies will mean more and more. I would advise William to get in the habit of being a gentlemanly husband now. A husband with good manners is a true Prince.

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