Evolutionary Blog

Distinctions to accelerate your personal and professional evolution

Evolutionary Relationships | Questions From a Commentor on #RelationshipGenesis

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Evolutionary Relationships | Questions From a Commentor on #RelationshipGenesis

Do all relationships have a beginning, middle, & end?

Is it egocentric to hope or aim for a life-long evolutionary dyad? How do you move forward when you sense the end is a painful cliff?

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Q:  “Do all relationships have a beginning, middle, & end?”

Yes, they do. Though how much time, energy, and focus is spent on each of those stages - the duration of each stage - varies widely.

Sometimes the beginning may take a very very long time. Sometimes they happen very quickly. Sometimes there is a seemingly paradoxical combination of both.

For instance, with my last relationship, I had known her for 12 years and had always had a bit of a crush on her. In fact, I still remember the red dress she was wearing when I met her in 2008.

 But circumstances were such that it would have been inappropriate for me to express that at the time. 12 years passed, and then we just happened to be in the same city at the same time and she reached out to me asking if I was in fact in that city - I think I have Facebook's proximity function in Messenger to thank for that.

 Anyway, the circumstances were such now that it was no longer inappropriate for me to express it, so I did. And we decided to meet up for a date and to catch up, had an incredible kiss at the end of that date, and then ended up living together for several months almost immediately after that.

And yes, all relationships end. 

Sometimes it ends after just a few months in a volatile fashion. 

Sometimes it ends amicably and it is navigated and negotiated and the two parties can remain friends but just realized that it was not a fit in the context of romance or intimacy for them to be together.

Sometimes the end does not occur until one of you dies after many many many years - decades - of being together. 

But be that as it may, all relationships eventually have an end

Q: Is it egocentric to hope or aim for a life-long evolutionary dyad? 

I think we should have as a starting point the belief or even the conviction that you can have everything that you desire in your relationship.

 Sometimes that's not possible if you're in a relationship already and you realize that something is very important to you, and the other person is either incapable or uninterested in engaging in that way of relating with you. 

However, I think it would be fantastic. 

If you are single, then I think it's appropriate to have that as part of your criteria if it's something that is very important to you and would be fulfilled in that way.

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Agreements For Healthy Relating | We Do Not Hold Eachother accountable to Agreements We Have Not Made

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Agreement 2:  We do not hold each other accountable to agreements we have not (explicitly) made

Holding people accountable to agreements they have not made - by punishing them for not being aware of your preferences - is just one aspect of unclean relating. It is also fundamentally unjust.

How do they punish? By withdrawal and withholding.

Intimacy, connection, love, all those things. The things you are there to experience with them.

Sometimes they dress it up as "making sure you understand the impact". Oh, I understand. I understand what they are doing and I see the control game they are attempting to play.

And the degree of attachment and emotional enmeshment one has and external validation one seeks is the degree to which one will be controlled by these gimmicks.

Play a higher game. If your partner will not join you in that cleaner, higher game - will not co-create it with you - choose a new board to play on.

We do not hold each other accountable to agreements we have not made

What does this mean?  How does this occur? What are the indicators?

We’ve all done this. We’ve all had this done to us. Some more recently than others.

The word “should” is one huge indicator, and all-too-often we punish the ignorant - and for what? For not reading our minds? Fro simply being themselves? Sarcasm aside: how do we punish them? 

Most often by withholding intimacy and connection - while blaming them for that very choice we just made. It’s not pretty.

While there is something to be said for having an overlap in world-views and values as a natural fit, I have known people who grew up in the same small town, went to the same church, and still had different ideas, standards, opinions, and rules about how a relationship, a partnership, or marriage should operate in the day-to-day. While you may begin to intuit your partner's needs and desires, this only comes from a process of educating one another about our preferences.

No “they should have known” or “shoulds” in general. Not in Evolutionary Relating.

As an Evolutionary, we understand the difference between an agreement - or rule that we have both agreed to - an expectation, which is usually an unstated desire, and a standard, and/or a boundary.

To fully understand - and therefore be able to agree to - the 2nd agreement, let’s distinguish the difference among those four.

First, if you are upset by something they did or did not do, ask yourself, “do we have an explicit agreement about this”?  If the answer is no, then you can skip to Agreement 3 and decide if you want to make a request around this particular thing or not. If so, and if they agree - it then essentially binds both of you to a new agreement.

Bear in mind that the more rules you have in your relationships the less freedom of expression both parties will have and the more attention you have to have on those rules and agreements. And the truth is - if you are looking to bind someone to an agreement to limit their behavior in some way because you are uncomfortable with how they are - when no real harm is being done by their behavior - but you want to control them or you fear something happening - then you are trading self-expression and spontaneity (read: fun) for stability and safety. And there is a place you are not free emotionally if you want to control or constrict them in some way.

There is nothing wrong with that - just be aware that is what you are doing - and look deeper for the work you can do to allow yourself more freedom there, which will, in turn, give others the freedom to be.

But even if it hasn’t been communicated we still can’t hold that person accountable. If it has been communicated and the person agrees then it’s a new agreement And they can be held accountable.

But in terms of holding someone accountable to an agreement they have not made - it occurs all the time. So if you do not have an explicit agreement around something and you find yourself cutting them off or punishing them in some way - be it punitive or by simply withholding connection - you can reconnect again and take care of your own needs by simply making a request - and they then do not have to guess what your needs are, you are taken care of, and you can get back to connection and love - which hopefully is the primary purpose of your relating.

Hopefully.

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Agreements for Healthy Relating | Agreement 1: Truth Over Comfort

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The Four 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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The Importance of Taking Time To Heal After A Breakup

breakupo-grief The importance of taking time to heal after a breakup by Jason McClain

The most cringe-worthy statements I've heard on how to handle breakup grief:

From a woman: "The best way to get over a man is to get under another one."  From a man: "Just drown yourself in p*ssy until you forget her."

There are so many things off with this I am not even sure where to begin, but I will start with the fact that it will not help you get over them at all. It may numb the pain - it may anesthetize you - but so much of the gift and benefits in facing the pain will be lost.

It is important to grieve and give yourself time to heal. 

After each relationship, I recommend taking at least 6 months and stay single and celibate during that time. In the last 15 years, I have had periods of being single and celibate that were 14 months, 18 months, 22 months, and 7 months. None of them started out as intentional - other than knowing I needed to take time - and the duration was undetermined when those periods began, but there are several solid reasons for this.

Reasons To Take Time After A Breakup

1. You are not truly fit and ready for healthy romantic love until you are fundamentally okay being alone; you have to love yourself before you can love another

2. So you do not repeat the same patterns and mistakes.  Have you ever wondered why you date a person with the same problems or had the same kind of conflicts in each of your relationships?  Almost like the movie Groundhog Day? You can avoid that by taking the time to do some conscious and intentional work to resolve those patterns and triggers and gaining the benefit of new and more subtle intricacies and patterns.

3. Learn what you need to learn from the previous relationship. 

a. What was your part in the breakdowns and conflicts? What could you do differently to have a more loving, easeful, fulfilling experience

b. Which areas do you need to heal from your more distant past that impacted that relationship - the stuff that predated that relationship but were uncovered by the level of intimacy you shared?

c. What triggers arise that need to be cleared or healed?

4. Uplevel your next partner and next level of relating

a. What did you love about the love or lover that you want again in the future? 
b. What are the qualities and characteristics you want in your next lover that they shared?  
c. What new and additional qualities or characteristics do you want or need in addition?
d. What did you miss or skip over that you need to make sure has attention in the future?

5. So you can be more open, more present, and ready to love fully - rather than guarded, closed down, still hurt and scared to love again. So you are ready to love more fully, deeper, and more completely than you have before.


What’s next is always better if you make sure you are better.

What’s next will always be better because you will make sure you are better.

If you avoid these important steps, you will - at best -  be engaged in spiritual and emotional bypass and at worst you will engage in transference - or worse still, just stuff it all down never to be addressed and it will fester and turn into even worse pathology down the road, negatively impacting your emotional and even physical health, and negatively impacting your loved ones around you and certainly your next relationships and you will end up being destined to repeat the same mistakes. 

Or you will simply shut down more and more and become less and less open and less and less present and therefore, less capable of true love and true intimacy.

Let’s avoid that.

Become intimate with yourself by taking time to heal and grow so you can be ready for an even deeper love that could be right around the next corner or in the next coffee shop once you are ready and open to the possibility.

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The example from my own life that is most poignant here, was in early 2017 when I met the most recent love of my life.  I had been in love before, but never like this. A paragraph I was so smitten with her that I would drop things when I was around her. I would cut myself shaving if she stayed the night - something I had not done in a decade.

I was overwhelmed with my love for her and my attraction to her.

It will be useful for you to know a little bit about me and my relationship to convention and obligatory holidays - while being a romantic: I would often give her roses - always two dozen. Usually weekly or biweekly. And always hand-arranged by me. I wrote her poetry. I would make sure that I not only demonstrated but also verbally expressed my love and appreciation of and for her on a daily basis. 

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

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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.

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© Jason D McClain

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