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Agreements for Healthy Relating | Agreement 1: Truth Over Comfort

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The Agreements

From Chance to Wisdom 

In my experience, there are four agreements that are necessary as foundations for any healthy relationship regardless of the context - meaning it doesn't matter if it's a professional context, if it's friendship, or if it's sexual, intimate, and romantic.

In fact the more intimate it is the more important I think these agreements are, but unfortunately - and paradoxically - the less likely someone is to actually be willing to have the conversation that’s required. That's for many reasons, most of them self-esteem issues are at their source and fear-based.

Let me explain: If we are attached to the hope that someone will like us, to the degree that it becomes a need for their approval and therefore induces fear in ourselves, and/or we have scarcity around whether or not we will actually find somebody who is a fit, or whether or not we can find someone else if a relationship does not work out, we have a tendency to overlook things that we know are important to address because if the person doesn't like us then we may take that personally in the case of a self-esteem issue, or we don't want to set up any barriers to them liking us or connecting with us.

But in doing so, we skip over critical foundational steps - and virtually assure we end up with someone who is not a fit or find ourselves in a conflict without the agreement reality as to how we find our way out of it and get back into connection.

So we ignore wisdom in favor of the immediacy of false connection - so as to not "rock the boat". At its worst, of course, this borders on codependency and external validation and that a path that if you continue down that road leads to frustration, heartache, and worse.

However if we have an abundance mindset - a certainty that there are plenty of people out there who might be a fit for us - and fit is more important than not being alone - we understand that it's easier to find somebody who's a fit that it is to deal with the frustration and challenges and eventual heartbreak of someone who is not a fit, and we are internally validated in terms of our esteem for ourselves, then we choose wisdom over chance.

The reality is we are actually choosing wisdom and communication over something much worse than chance: predictably negative results.

When do I lay out these agreements?  On the first date.

Some people may fret at this moment - and they are worried it is too late - they already skipped over these agreements and find themselves in the quagmire of shoulds and implicit agreements and unstated yet clear expectations you never agreed to. That can be an icky and frustrating place.

But don’t fret: you can transform any relationship - or “reboot” or - or start over from scratch and begin to date someone again - you can use the agreements as a way to transform friendships - I have. I have used the agreements and the conversation around them to bring years-long friendships back to life.

We’ll talk about skillful means - how most effectively to do that - after we lay out the agreements and flesh them out fully.


The Agreements

Four Foundational Agreements For Healthy Relating

  1. We tell the truth and we hear the truth and we value truth over comfort
  2. We do not hold anyone accountable to agreements they have not made
  3. If we are upset, we make a request (for a new agreement)
  4. We accept that we are responsible for our own experience and our own emotions.
    1. Make no assumptions
    2. Don’t make anything up

Let’s examine each of these agreements fully.

Agreement 1:  Truth Over Comfort

The first agreement is that we tell the truth and we hear the truth and we value truth over comfort. 

The “comfort” might be our own, or it may be the comfort of others.

Here is an excellent standard: if we are afraid to say it - or afraid that somebody can’t hear it or might take it personally - that’s probably the very thing that should be said. 

And as I am sure you have experienced, the longer we delay the telling of that truth, the bigger it becomes in our mind and the worse it will be when we tell them - for the relating, for our internal anxiousness around sharing it, and for them when they find out how long we delayed; telling the truth brings relief for all without delay. There may be broken agreements to clean up - something we will address later on in this book, but that aside, telling the truth should increase intimacy and connection. 

Hearing the truth - if done openly and spaciously - always will.

Telling the truth is not an excuse to be a jerk.

There is a popular theme in some circles where someone is a jerk (that is a technical term) and they finish it off (or begin it) with “I am just speaking my truth”.

That is not in alignment with the spirit of this rule - because most often “speaking your truth”  is just being self-indulgent. The spirit of this rule is to increase intimacy and to increase connection. Thus, we want to tell the truth with skillful means - meaning in a way that honors both ourselves, yet delivered in a way the other person is best able to receive it.  As well as caring for the relating or the relationship - the 3rd entity that is created by the synergy of the two of you.

Why is this so important?  Relationships begin to die in the unsaid.

The grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence; the grass is always greener where it is tended to, cared for, and nurtured.

If there is enough unsaid in the relationship, you are not even relating to the human in front of you anymore - you are relating to all the stuff you have not said, or do not think you can say - and that shows up as being distracted, shut down, simply not present, or simply being silent. So instead of relating to the dynamic and vibrant human in front of you, you are simply in your head about … all the things. 

That build-up - that residue - kills true intimacy.

And yet, telling the truth and hearing the truth are - at the very least - very different sets of capacities. 

That can not be overstated - and as I have said over and over again, communication skills are physical skills that take practice - and these component skills definitely take a lot of practice.

To start with, telling the truth can take a lot of courage. Hearing the truth takes openness and, at times, a willingness to hear feedback and truths that are difficult to hear. 

And the list goes on - on both sides.

But imagine telling the truth about something - something you are scared to share about yourself - and having your partner thank you, express gratitude for trusting them to share it with them, and acknowledge you for the courage that it took and to express that they trust you even more now - and to do it without judgment - with love and acceptance. 

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From Conflict to Connection

fight-fuck From conflict to Connection

From Conflict to Connection

If you are fighting, you should probably be fucking.

If you are a man in a hetero-normative relationship here is an inside tip: if you find yourself say “WTF?” because your woman is picking strange fights over little things, she’s not well-fucked. She may not even be aware that the static and tension in her body is her need to run sexual energy - and it needs to be about her pleasure, not yours.

The more feminine she is on the spectrum - from masculine to feminine - the more accurate this will be.

First, context is important as is the sequence. And there are a few dos and don’ts.

If you find yourself in conflict over something you consider silly - like you keep dropping your dirty underwear or socks wherever you please - the worst thing you can do is say: “you just need a good fucking” as a retort. This will lead to a bigger fight. Don’t be an asshole and … be an adult: pick up your own socks. Put your dirty underwear in the washer or the hamper or wherever it is you need to.

Pick up after yourself.

Don’t expect her to take care of you in any way - in fact, leave everything a little cleaner than you found it in the kitchen and the bathroom. She will be grateful and she should not have to pick up after you.

The healthiest relating is one where two autonomous yet complementary adults come together to create more than two.

Relationships are a quantum affair; 1+1 does not equal 2. It either equals less than 2 (conflict) or it equals more than 2 (synergy). And the degree of turnon and sexual desire in the relationship is a good sign of the degree of health and vitality in the relating.

Think about it: it is the unstated, the secrets, the unexpressed, and the built-up negative patterns and residue that get in the way of your desire for each other. This is why when you get all that stuff out of the way, connection and desire are restored or return to your dynamic.

But, let’s take the socks.

Pick them up. Take responsibility. Thank her for expressing her frustrations - this will encourage her to tell you the truth more. Ask her if there is anything else that she is frustrated with that you do.

Listen.

Hear the feedback and get it handled.

Then wait a bit.

Maybe 10 minutes. Maybe 10 hours. Depending on your dynamics. Then put some attention on her. Acknowledge how beautiful (or courageous or brilliant or … how much she excites you because of the way she embodies her femininity … something you authentically appreciate about her).

Whatever your way in, make love to her in a way that shows your enthusiasm for her, your desire for her, and focus on her pleasure first. Believe me, if you are focused on her pleasure, she will be more hungry and grateful for you than you could ever hope - and this is doubly true if you are good at playing her body like the heavenly instrument that it is.

As we have already talked about, getting good at sex - which takes communication, knowledge of physiology, and shame-free space, curiosity, and openness to explore the other’s body and desires - is critical for the long-term health and vitality of your relating, and as stated above, desire is a good barometer of the health and vitality - and the amount of truth being told and the amount of intimacy and safety - in a relationship.

AND … if you are a man in a hetero-normative relationship, sometimes your woman needs to get fucked until her eyes cross.

If you know how to hit her spots, you’ll find that you can occasionally toss your socks in the kitchen sink and she may just shrug it off because she’ll still be blushing/flushing from thinking about how you ravaged her and gave her otherworldly pleasure just a few hours ago.

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The Problem With Most [Male] Polarity Coaches [Part 2]

Part 1 of The Problem With Most Male Polarity Coaches is back »here«.

Part 2 is below.

Recently I have peeked into male-oriented polarity groups and I’ve been researching how a lot of men are coaching men around relating to women in all-male containers.

I am going to make some sweeping generalizations here, and I know not all men’s groups and coaches will fall into this category, but the overwhelming majority I have seen falls into what I will talk about. And I will explain why I think they are making some grave mistakes.

First, they are addressing a real problem. The problem that has women lamenting “where have all the real men gone?” for at least the last decade. The problem of the lack of polarity. The problem of milquetoast intimate relating between men and women. There are many things in our cultural evolution that have led to this problem - one I have been examining and hearing about for over a decade now with some intentionality - but I’ll get into the “why” we find ourselves here at another time. For now, suffice it to say they are addressing a real problem. That, and men who feel isolated or guilty simply for being men. So there are men attempting to regain their masculine core.

Fair enough.

But what I have noticed - by far - are men giving men coaching that has them be liked by other men. Not be more effective with feminine yet empowered women. It’s as if they are more comfortable high-fiving in the locker room than they are gazing into a women’s eyes while you make slow, deep, connected love to them.

The themes I see are these:

  • Women are basically children and behave like children and you have to treat them that way
  • Women “can’t be trusted” because they have feelings that are transient that make agreements or understandings fluid and - the one that finally had me say “enough” and write this:
  • At her worst, she is broken and at her best, she is fractured. No matter how many accolades, successes, or children - a man is what makes her feel complete.

Frankly, it borders on misogyny.

==

My basic reaction to this is: “Wow. How do you say you date young women with low self-esteem to make yourself feel superior without saying you date young women with low self-esteem to make yourself feel superior?”

==

Jesus man.

There is a lot to unpack there, but to men who buy into this sh*t: don’t listen to men who have clearly only dated low-quality, still in trauma, or immature women who have low self-esteem.

These opinions not only reveal more about those men who think these things but also, reveal a lot about the kind of woman he has dated and continues to attract than it does about women in general.

These aren't insights. They just reveal low consciousness. Average mindsets. Mediocre relating and below-average relationships.

But if you say any crap congruently enough, plenty of people will buy it. Especially if they are lost and looking for direction. And in the echo chamber of man-on-man polarity coaching, there is a lot of crap. But are they effective with women? Are they having fulfilling relationships - regardless of how long? Or are they just plowing through one-night stands and getting high-fives from their “bros”.

Humans rise to the expectations we hold for them, communicate to them, and if we are developed enough and aligned enough within ourselves, we become a truing element - we don’t even need to declare a boundary usually because it is woven into the fabric of our being. It is an outgrowth of self-respect.

Just as when a woman says “all men ever want is sex”. First, if she believes that, she will attract those kinds of men. Basic Law of Attraction stuff - and then her confirmation bias will make it seem like the ultimate reality.

Similarly, if men think all women need a man to feel complete, can’t take care of themselves, and are basically childlike and/or broken, they will notice, attract, and continue to date those types of women. Basic Law of Attraction stuff - and then his confirmation bias will make it seem like the ultimate reality.

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Becoming Your Own Guru | What Triggers are and How to Best Relate to Them

triggered

Given all this talk of responsibility and blame, how do we best relate to triggers?  What are they? How do they occur?

Triggers are most often referring to feelings of hurt or anger.  What I mean when I say “trigger” is that you lose the balance of your mind or that you “lose facility with self” in a disproportionate way.

Some people call it “going into red”. Some refer to it as a “trauma response”. Some refer to it as “pissing you off”, or what have you. There can be many names for it, but I think the disproportionate nature of it - where you say things you have to apologize for or simply can’t communicate responsibly - or simply yell or lash out or hurt the other person physically or verbally - is symptomatic of being “triggered”.

We usually speak about them in a relationship as if the other person is somehow to blame for our lack of emotional facility or rationality.  “They triggered me” or “they made me angry” or my personal favorite “you made me worry” we can be heard saying.

Yes. That’s right:  they put a gun to your head and made you fantasize horrible things may have happened to them. When really all that was happening was their cell phone battery died. Or they fell asleep. But they made you worry.

What is the problem with this? 

Not only does this give our power away, but it also makes other people responsible for our feelings, which is simply not the case.

They did not trigger us - it is not their behavior that is the problem:  it is our relationship to what they did that is the problem. Or it is how we interpreted it - what we made up or made it mean - that produced the emotional response in us. We got triggered.  Or it triggered something from our past. More often than not, something that happened triggered off something from our past - or a series of events from our past - hence the disproportionate nature of the trigger. 

We’ve all experienced this in the micro. If your lover keeps leaving dirty underwear on the counter or leaves the empty toilet paper roll on the dispenser without replacing it … and it happens over and over again - you may have a disproportionate response to that and blow up at them about that or about something else. 

This is good news; something from our past that is unresolved or in need of resolution has presented itself.

This is a gift if we relate to it as such.

My partner does not trigger me. I get triggered. Or something from my past was triggered.

If I relate to it like they triggered me AND I wait for them to come in after me and “make it right” I am not only playing a victim, I am making them responsible for my trigger and my happiness. Even worse: they now have all the power over my current emotional state: and I gave it to them by blaming them.

There are also some who use this as a control dynamic/power play; withholding love or connection until you “make it right” when in fact you broke no agreements. But they hold you hostage - or perhaps you have done this yourself to someone to feel special or … extract your pound of flesh.

This is not the exercise of power - it is the use of emotional force. True power comes from developing your facility with self; learning to navigate your interiors - so that you can have ease, flow, and happiness in your life - and a funny thing happens when you do: people enjoy being around you more when you manage your own internal experience - because you are giving them the freedom to be themselves.

They will thank you for being gracious. They will thank you for being understanding. But mostly, they will continue to be more and more self-expressed as you will have clean relating absent of any shame or irresponsibly expressed anger. They won't feel blamed simply for being themselves.

Here is where I give you two new tools - practices really - one for resolving shame, hopelessness and other “emotional atmospheres” as I like to call them, and one for dissolving anger while simultaneously building empathy and compassion.

If you master these simple practices, you will enjoy lasting and increased levels of joy, happiness, and ease, where you used to beat yourself up, get frustrated or angry - or blamed others for things and felt powerless.

You will become equanimous.

This will give you true power, but it is absent of any force.

One of my favorite translations of the word "guru" is "one who is solid in themselves" - so they can not be blown over by external events. I have no interest in being your guru. But I am heavily invested in helping you become your own guru.

These tools will speed you on that path.

Copyright

© Jason D McClain

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Relationship Postmortem | How to Decide When It's Time To Leave

dalmation-time-to-end-it-relationship-postmortem

#RelationshipPostmortem

While most of this section is going to deal with what to do after the breakup - how to process the grief, how to use that period of deep pain for your own development, transformation, and personal evolution, and how to set yourself up for success in the next relationship so you don’t repeat the same mistakes, we’ve all wondered at some point … 

When is it time to leave?

This may be the most difficult question for us to answer for ourselves and there are so many variables - if there are children involved it makes it even more complicated even if the end result is the same.

But one thing we want to be sure of is that we do not stay in the relationship for the wrong reasons.

What are some of the “wrong” reasons?

Let’s start with a few mindsets or orientations to the process before we answer that question. For me personally, these aren’t just mindsets or beliefs, they are convictions; I am willing to assert them as self-evident truths.

First: every human is worthy of a loving and of a fulfilling romantic relationship and/or partnership.  What does fulfilling mean? For me, it means that you're lit up in every way: sexually, lovingly, intellectually, and spiritually. That they are an incredible lover and your best friend. Most important of all:  that you can express yourself - just be you - without being judged or shut down. That you are appreciated, encouraged, loved, and feel a deep connection to this person. That you can communicate through anything.

At the very least, your values need to be aligned enough - and your preferred forms of those values - how they would show up in your relationship need to have enough overlap that the little things don’t matter.

But whatever “fulfilling” means to you, every human is worthy of a loving and of a fulfilling romantic relationship and/or partnership. 

If you are reading this and you are single, you can use the Values and Forms exercise we laid out earlier in the book as a way of determining a greater degree of likelihood for success in your relationship. Values are a far greater determinant of compatibility than any typing system [zodiac, Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, etc] as your level or stage of ego development will have a far greater influence - for instance at a certain stage you may experience differences as problematic, at yet another stage you may begin to see them as more of a benefit - complementary rather than conflicting - and so on. 

If you are reading this and you are in a relationship, you can use the same exercise to gain an understanding and deeper insight into why you are in conflict and … ultimately … whether you are a functional fit or not.

Second:  while it takes two to tango, it only takes one to transform [the relationship].

This is another fundamental truth. If you alter your internal relationship to the person and behave differently - and come at the whole situation fresh and open to possibility, they will respond to that. It may take longer than you desire - but I firmly believe [and this part may not be true but it is still the powerful way to relate to it]  any relationship can be transformed if one person is lovingly but unwaveringly committed to transforming it. You can infuse new life into it at any point. 

The question is not can it be transformed or not, the question is how.  

Not all relationships should be, but I believe all relationships can be transformed.

Lastly - and this makes a good segue to the “wrong” reasons to stay in a relationship:  

Longevity is not an effective gauge for success. You can be in a relationship that feels dead 20 years and people will congratulate you just based on the amount of time you have been together. Here’s the problem with that:  most humans aren't in a relationship. They're just in a habit.

Having said that, there are a few “wrong” reasons to stay in a relationship:

1. You are afraid to be single or alone. 


If you are afraid to be alone you are very likely in some form of co-dependent relationship and are having to sacrifice your happiness and - at times - your mental or emotional well-being. 

In this case, if you are in a relationship you consider “dysfunctional”, leaving may be the bravest and most powerful and empowering thing you can do - despite (or maybe even because) of how scary it is at first.

2. You don’t think you are good enough to have a more fulfilling relationship.

In my research, I was surprised at how often this came up - that some people didn’t think they were worthy of a more fulfilling relationship - or a higher quality partner.

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