Posts Tagged ‘intimacy’

Three Keys to Creating an Extraordinary Relationship

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Click here to read my English Usage blogs.

While love can make us soar to new and giddy heights, it can also bring us to our knees. Love can be difficult, daunting, and more often than we wish, devastatingly painful. Ram Dass, one of my favorite Buddhist teachers who speaks truths with both lightheartedness and great compassion, has said that relationship is the hardest yoga of all. So maybe we shouldn’t think any more highly of a monk meditating on a mountaintop than we do of ourselves for having the courage to struggle with loving another human being.

Most of us have secretly believed, at one time or another (or frequently), that if we just changed partners, it would be SO much easier. And we may be right. The problem is that our hearts don’t always know if letting go is the answer or is simply an avoidance strategy. What if we pick the same person/problems in a new disguise? What if our partner is right and we’re the problem?

When couples come to counseling, they want to know what I think: Are they better off apart? Is the relationship worth salvaging? Will it get better? How much better? Will it ever be good enough? Relatively pain free? Do they even dare hope for happiness? When will they know when they’re “there”?

Even with 27 years of experience as a relationship coach, I am terrible at predicting the future of relationships. I worked with one couple who I would have bet wouldn’t last another six weeks past our first session. Ten years later, they still write me holiday cards with photos of them with their growing brood, their smiles real and joyful. They always write something that gives me way too much credit for their happiness. I laugh, mostly at myself and how wrong I secretly was about their chances.

Another couple, who seemed to have only minor issues, left their third (and final) session grateful, holding hands, reassuring each other of their mutual respect and love. The next I heard, only a few months later, one of them was living with a new partner. Like many of their friends, I murmured to myself, They seemed so good together.

USA Today, in an interview I did for them, gave me the title of relationship expert. I chuckle at that. Is there really such a thing? What are the qualifications for such an exalted title? Should expert status be conferred by statistics? Is it how many couples I have worked with who have stayed together? Or maybe how many couples I have helped split amicably, avoiding costly attorneys’ fees? Or should someone be dubbed a relationship expert who is a good predictor of a couple’s chances?

We have such high expectations of relationship: We want to feel loved, safe, heard, respected, supported, beautiful/handsome/sexy, and…we are inevitably disappointed when our partner isn’t a deep enough reservoir. Should we give up and move on? Can we do better? Will learning tools or increasing our self-awareness really help?

If there are tricks or theories or strategies or paradigms or sociological studies, how do you know which one(s) to pick or whom to trust? A numerologist will give you one set of parameters for finding and keeping your “perfect” partner; an astrologist, another paradigm; a psychologist, a third set of compatibility factors. A Buddhist guide might help you see relationship through the lens of karma. The psychic has spirit guides, tea leaves, or your palm at his/her disposal. Most of us take the smorgasbord approach: We try a little of this, a little of that, hoping to cobble together our own paradigm for success in relationship.

So, as USA Today’s relationship expert and, more truthfully, humble observer of hundreds of couples, let me add another morsel to your plate with my three keys to creating an extraordinary relationship. I believe that these are the “must have” tools that will help you find your way back to trust, intimacy, and friendship.

Jane’s Three Keys to Creating an Extraordinary Relationship

1. Ask open-ended questions. When people tell me what makes them feel most loved, they’ll mention roses, sex, cards, candlelight dinners, long walks, back rubs—all the usual stuff. They never mention being listened to. But I’ve found that it’s the act of love that is most appreciated, melts even the most cynical heart, and is a more potent aphrodisiac than chocolate or flowers.

2. Provide a safe haven. You know that Allstate insurance commercial with the two hands cupped together, palms up? When the chips are down for your partner, be that. Don’t judge or give advice; just gently hold their precious spirit in your hands. This is as close to unconditional love as one adult can ever offer another.

3. Offer truth, not just mere honesty. You may be honest if you tell your partner, “You were an inconsiderate boor” or “You’re an idiot.” Honesty can be hurtful to a relationship because it can contain judgments and assumptions. The difference between honesty and truth is that truth is nonjudgmental. I can say in truth, “I am really angry that you talked about my weight loss struggles in front of our friends. It felt humiliating.” When I teach couples this distinction, they sometimes argue that the truth sounds so much scarier because of the vulnerability required. I say, “Exactly! How do you expect to have intimacy without vulnerability?” It’s a choice—a courageous one. Truth is a form of love. When we are willing to tell the truth and hear it, we let our partner know that we are risking everything for the sake of the highest good of the relationship.

In my book, Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life, I offer many more tools that will minimize your pain and maximize the intimacy and joy in your relationship. But these three may be enough to get you out of your relationship rut and back to remembering why you were attracted to each other in the first place. Here’s to your courage, your vulnerability, and your compassionate intention!

Announcements

Click here to read more about Jane’s popular self-help book, Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life, #15 on Amazon’s bestseller list in the spirituality category.

Dear Jane Podcasts
NEW! Listen to and Download Dear Jane Podcasts
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Jane’s Coaching and Training
For over 20 years, Jane Straus has coached individuals and groups, facilitated organizational retreats, conducted training programs, and presented keynotes for corporations and nonprofits nationwide.
To get exceptional results from coaching and training, you need someone who knows how to assess blind spots as well as enhance strengths. Jane’s coaching helps individuals and groups maximize their potential and improve their productivity and work relationships. Jane works to ensure that each client receives the wisdom, skills, and support he/she needs to succeed and often co-facilitates with industry-specific leaders who have chosen to mentor the next generation.
Contact Jane directly at Jane@janestraus.com to discuss your coaching or training needs or visit JaneStraus.com for more information and testimonials.

Click here to read Jane’s article in USA Today on the lessons we can glean from celebrity breakups.
________________________________________
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation 10th Edition
Amazon’s #1 Bestseller in Four Categories!
#1 in Reading
#1 in Lesson Planning
#1 in Vocabulary
#1 in Grammar

An indispensable tool for busy professionals, teachers, students, home-school families, editors, writers, & proofreaders. Click here to see the contents of the book online. Plus 161 Subscription Quizzes that can be done online with instant answers or downloaded and copied to your heart’s content! Only $29.95/year. Discounts available for schools, bookstores, and multiple copies. Click to order

11 Keys for Getting the Most out of Relationship Coaching

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Click here to read my English usage blogs.

Every couple hits rough patches. Some may even find themselves suddenly “skidding on black ice.” But whether the problem in the relationship is chronic, causing simmering resentment, or seems to explode like a land mine, almost every couple contemplates getting help at one time or another.

In a tight economy, the pressures that couples experience intensify. This can put you in a push-pull situation: Already strapped for money, you are faced with the additional prospect of paying for a service that has no guaranteed outcome. Yet you suspect that if you don’t get coaching, your relationship won’t survive. You have to weigh the immediate costs of professional help against the potential costs of a breakup, including double rent or an additional mortgage, a forced sale of your home, moving expenses, attorneys, and additional childcare. Even if you aren’t married or don’t have children, breaking up isn’t just hard to do; it can be costly.

So how do you know when the right time for relationship coaching is? How do you know if it’s going to work? How do you know if your relationship coach/counselor is good?

Because each couple’s situation is unique, there are no simple answers to these perfectly reasonable questions. However, there are some things you can do to decide if relationship coaching is a good option and to maximize your chances of a satisfying experience. Here are 11 Keys for getting the most out of relationship coaching:

1. Don’t wait until you feel hopeless. Maybe you’re already at this crisis stage. In that case, don’t delay in getting help. If you’re on the fence about relationship coaching but think you want to salvage your relationship, consider this metaphor: When a scuba diver descends too quickly, her ears may hurt from the imbalance of pressure. At that depth, it won’t work for her to continue trying to relieve the pressure by swallowing. She must swim back up to the point at which the pain began, clear her ears with a good swallow or two, and then descend slowly, checking for pain levels periodically. Successful counseling is akin to the scuba experience. It is often a matter of finding the initial spot where the pain began. This is easier for everyone—coach and couple—if you don’t have so far to travel back or can’t even remember the last time you felt no pain. Crisis intervention leaves little time or energy for exploring the root causes of heartache, which may often include past relationships and childhood events. So, just as you wouldn’t let a physical wound fester without treatment, don’t ignore your emotional wounds.

2. Don’t use your coach as a referee. When couples are angry, they want someone to listen and see their side. That’s expected and reasonable. But don’t expect a good counselor/coach to take your side. That need can be met by friends who may commiserate out of sheer loyalty. A seasoned relationship coach knows that taking sides is counterproductive for the couple. She should listen to both of your feelings, fears, and complaints. She should then connect these to the deeper issues that precipitated your problems or even predated your relationship. A good relationship coach will provide you with useful insights (those AHA! moments), tools for communicating, and homework to raise your self-esteem, which often declines as a relationship deteriorates.

3. Don’t focus on being liked by your relationship coach. She’s not there to take sides; she’s there to help you find clarity, learn relationship skills, and develop higher self-esteem. If you try to be “teacher’s pet,” you may feel betrayed the first time your coach calls you on a behavior, which she will no doubt do if she’s any good. Don’t idealize her. Remember, when she’s not being paid to be the perfect listener and guide, she may not even be someone you’d like as a friend.

4. Commit to the process. Presuming you feel some “chemistry” with one another after the first session, your relationship coach will probably ask you to commit to a minimum number of sessions or length of time. If one or both people can’t make even a minimum commitment, there may not be enough elasticity in the relationship to make counseling worthwhile. If you have one foot out the door already, be up front with your coach. Don’t pretend that you are more invested in working on the relationship than you actually are or you’ll end up fighting the label of “the bad guy.”

5. Unless you have been abused, don’t threaten your partner with leaving during your counseling timeframe. If you’ve committed to three months of counseling, don’t walk in after three weeks and say that you’ve changed your mind. Give your relationship coach a chance to help you through at least one emotional abyss. I once worked with a couple where the husband threatened “the end” in the middle of every session (even though I asked him repeatedly not to do this). After enough of my calling him on his threatening behavior, he was willing to admit that his ultimatums made him feel a semblance of control. But he could also see that his threats fueled his wife’s distrust and provoked her in destructive ways. Once he stopped “crying wolf,” they both became more vulnerable about their underlying feelings and fears. From staunch enemies they grew (in just a few weeks) to become each other’s best friend.

6. Don’t withhold. If you have some big secret, there are many ways to handle this. Here’s how not to handle it: Don’t tell your relationship coach your secret in private and ask her to keep it from your partner. That’s poison for any relationship. If your counselor reinforces you in any way in keeping your partner in the dark, find a more ethical counselor. You don’t want to work with someone who colludes on secrets. How can you trust that she isn’t holding a secret of your partner’s that you would want to know? You’ve probably heard the saying, “We are only as sick as our secrets.” Your secret, be it about infidelity, credit card debt, or herpes, is already eating you up or you would have shared it with your partner. Because secrets reinforce our fears, they inevitably damage our relationships. Here’s what you can do if you have been keeping a secret from your partner: If you can’t imagine telling your partner outright, then go ahead and talk to your relationship coach privately. Tell her you need help finding the courage to share your secret. She won’t sugarcoat the consequences. Yes, you may lose your partner. But in my experience as a life coach, the relationships that almost certainly end are the ones where one or both parties had a secret they were unwilling or too afraid to confess. Think about it this way: You are afraid to tell because you are afraid of being abandoned. But the reality is that you are likely to be abandoned if you don’t tell. Why? Because your relationship is a mirror. If you are afraid of being abandoned, your relationship will mirror that fear in some way. If you think you are unworthy of your partner because of your secret, they will unknowingly mirror this back to you. Secrets set up a Catch 22, no-win situation. So you might as well offer the truth and find out if your partner can forgive you as you learn to forgive yourself.

7. Be truer to your values than to your fears. No one wants to be abandoned. But if you abandon yourself or your core values to keep somebody in your life, you will regret it. Most of us have done this at one time or another and know how bad we end up feeling about ourselves. Yet we sometimes try to “work around” our values in order to avoid loneliness or dissention. If your partner is behaving in ways that offend your moral sensibilities, speak up. If you try to talk about other, less sensitive topics in counseling when you are bothered by something bigger, you are wasting your precious time and money. Give your counselor an opportunity to help you honor your values and to explore your partner’s core values. Maybe your partner is behaving in ways that go against his/her own ethics and feels ashamed. If so, there’s a good chance that a relationship coach can help your partner realign with his/her values.

8. If you disagree with your coach’s interpretation, speak up. Even the best relationship coaches have filters based on their own life experiences. But a good coach doesn’t care more about being right than about the success of your relationship. While you don’t want to be rude, you don’t want to worry about objecting. You’re not there to coddle your coach’s ego just as she isn’t there to massage yours. She may disagree with your point of view and you may feel defensive. That happens. But you shouldn’t feel bullied, intimidated, or humiliated.

9. Don’t shoot the messenger. You may not like what you hear from your coach. But if it rings true, even if it bruises your ego, don’t blame her for doing her job well. Ignoring the truth translates to you and your partner suffering needlessly. Try to remember that a hard truth is better than a soft lie if your priority is a healthy, happy relationship.

10. Talk openly about financial issues. If you are wobbling about coming to a counseling session because of financial difficulty, let your counselor know before your next session. Obviously, it is respectful to give her time to think about how she wants to handle this. But perhaps even more importantly, she may make a connection between your financial difficulty and other issues in your relationship. Being truthful about financial stresses will help her put the pieces of your puzzle together in a way that could be quite illuminating as well as financially stabilizing.

11. Practice compassion.
You might not be in counseling if this were already so easy, but if you can’t find any compassion for your partner’s emotional wounds or the fears that drive his/her counterproductive behaviors, it’s hard to move forward or find hope. Ultimately, the capacity to create a successful, intimate, joyful relationship lies in our ability to recognize and remember that everything that doesn’t look like love is simply a disguised cry for help. Your relationship coach should demonstrate enough compassion that it “wears off” on you. It is compassion that promotes healing, vulnerability, truth, and forgiveness. Although there are few promises that can be made about the outcome of your time in counseling, I guarantee that the more compassion you practice, the more satisfied you will feel about the experience.

Announcements

Click here to read more about Jane’s popular self-help book, Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life, #15 on Amazon’s bestseller list in the spirituality category.

Dear Jane Podcasts
NEW! Listen to and Download Dear Jane Podcasts
I’ve got 32 podcasts available for listening so enjoy!
________________________________________
Jane’s Coaching and Training
For over 20 years, Jane Straus has coached individuals and groups, facilitated organizational retreats, conducted training programs, and presented keynotes for corporations and nonprofits nationwide.
To get exceptional results from coaching and training, you need someone who knows how to assess blind spots as well as enhance strengths. Jane’s coaching helps individuals and groups maximize their potential and improve their productivity and work relationships. Jane works to ensure that each client receives the wisdom, skills, and support he/she needs to succeed and often co-facilitates with industry-specific leaders who have chosen to mentor the next generation.
Contact Jane directly at Jane@janestraus.com to discuss your coaching or training needs or visit JaneStraus.com for more information and testimonials.
________________________________________
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation 10th Edition
Amazon’s #1 Bestseller in Four Categories!
#1 in Reading
#1 in Lesson Planning
#1 in Vocabulary
#1 in Grammar

An indispensable tool for busy professionals, teachers, students, home-school families, editors, writers, & proofreaders. Click here to see the contents of the book online. Plus 161 Subscription Quizzes that can be done online with instant answers or downloaded and copied to your heart’s content! Only $29.95/year. Discounts available for schools, bookstores, and multiple copies. Click to order

Making the Bed with Gratitude

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Click here for my English usage blogs.

The other day a client sat tearfully in my office, in pain over something she prefaced as “silly,” dismissing her feelings and herself preemptively with a wave of her hand. But her sobbing didn’t stop simply because her mind was in judgment of her feelings. “Please explain,” I encouraged softly.

She pulled a tissue out of the box and dabbed her eyes, looking at the carpet as she spoke. “I’ve had a lot of health problems recently. I don’t want to be a complainer but it’s been a push just to get up in the morning and go to work. Yesterday, my husband got up and left the bed unmade.” With that, her voice broke and she sobbed deeply.

“What does that mean?”

“It was Sunday—my day to make the bed.” She looked at me waiting for me to get the connotation. I was starting to get the idea so I just nodded. “It was more important to him that I keep some stupid agreement about making the bed than to help me when I’m sick. The part that hurts is that he didn’t want to help me.”

My heart ached. I thought of so many times where I’ve felt that what I did for someone mattered more than who I am, that without having something to offer, I wasn’t worthy. It’s been a belief I’ve been working on for a long time, but the need to heal that one still presents itself in surprising and painful ways. I took her hand. “You can use this as evidence that your husband doesn’t value you or you can confront him with his behavior and ask him to explain.”

“I’m afraid he’ll just get defensive and say he didn’t do anything wrong.”

“So what’s your worst fear in confronting him?”

She looked me in the eye now, searching for the answer that was already within her. “That it’s true,” she finally whispered, “that he doesn’t value me.”

“But since you already believe that, what is there to fear?”

“I might have to leave him.”

Of course that was her fear: that she wouldn’t have confusion as her excuse to hide behind anymore, that the decision to stay or leave someone who didn’t or couldn’t uphold her worthiness was her responsibility to make. Perhaps most difficult, she would have to face how much she was willing to value herself.

Before she left the session, she admitted to feeling unloved many times before but that this was somehow a last straw. She was resolved to confront her husband and face the consequences.

The woman who walked into my office the next week looked very different. Her shoulders were straighter and she had the confidence that comes with having just met fear with courage. I wondered what I would hear. Had she left him?

“He admitted that he’d been an ass. He said that I was right to be upset. Then he said that he cherished me. I must have looked pretty skeptical,” she said, “because then he asked how he could prove it to me.”

“What did you say?”

She smiled slowly, “I said, ‘I will know that you love me by how you look when you make our bed.’”

“And?”

“The next day I watched him as he made the bed, smoothing out all the wrinkles in the comforter. I could see the gratitude in his hands. He’s made it that way every day since.”

Announcements

Click here to read more about Jane’s popular self-help book, Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life, #15 on Amazon’s bestseller list in the spirituality category.

Dear Jane Podcasts
NEW! Listen to and Download Dear Jane Podcasts
I’ve got 32 podcasts available for listening so enjoy!
________________________________________
Jane’s Coaching and Training
For over 20 years, Jane Straus has coached individuals and groups, facilitated organizational retreats, conducted training programs, and presented keynotes for corporations and nonprofits nationwide.
To get exceptional results from coaching and training, you need someone who knows how to assess blind spots as well as enhance strengths. Jane’s coaching helps individuals and groups maximize their potential and improve their productivity and work relationships. Jane works to ensure that each client receives the wisdom, skills, and support he/she needs to succeed and often co-facilitates with industry-specific leaders who have chosen to mentor the next generation.
Contact Jane directly at Jane@janestraus.com to discuss your coaching or training needs or visit JaneStraus.com for more information and testimonials.
________________________________________
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation 10th Edition
Amazon’s #1 Bestseller in Four Categories!
#1 in Reading
#1 in Lesson Planning
#1 in Vocabulary
#1 in Grammar

An indispensable tool for busy professionals, teachers, students, home-school families, editors, writers, & proofreaders. Click here to see the contents of the book online. Plus 161 Subscription Quizzes that can be done online with instant answers or downloaded and copied to your heart’s content! Only $29.95/year. Discounts available for schools, bookstores, and multiple copies. Click to order

Love in the Age of the Internet

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

To view my English Usage blogs, click here.

Dear Jane,
How can I stop wasting my time on Internet romances that fizzle out? What really makes a romance blossom into a long-term commitment?

With Internet dating, you have more opportunities than ever to meet potential partners, which also means you have to be more discerning so that you don’t get overwhelmed, frustrated, and hopeless. But it’s important to say up front that no one has figured out a magic formula for success in finding a soul mate. Even with dating technology like winking, e-mailing, and personality profiles, finding Mr./Ms. Right is still a combination of luck, grace, and often a lot of perseverance.

However, here are 8 ways you can avoid sabotaging yourself when using an online dating service.
1. Pick at least two good pictures of yourself. Yes, they should be current, not ten years old, and shouldn’t be Photoshopped. But I’ve had some really attractive friends and clients upload some of the worst pictures. It’s almost as if they’re daring someone to get past the photos to be appreciated for the “real” them.
2. Ask your friends to help you write your profile. We rarely see ourselves the way others perceive us. This may also bolster your ego as your friends are likely to point out the traits they appreciate in you that you take for granted in yourself.
3. Set your sights on what would be a good match for you. If you’re a 54-year-old man with no money and health problems, seeking a 35-year-old woman who wants children will just leave you lonely and feeling desperate. Either change aspects of your own life or change your expectations. Or recognize that you’re not really serious about having a relationship right now, which is fine too.
4. Listen to your intuition. If someone looks good on paper but something doesn’t sound right on the phone—maybe you feel pushed into meeting too soon or that the person wants to control you without having even met you—take your time.
5. Take frequent breaks from online dating to remember who you really are rather than trying to continually figure out if you fit others’ criteria or if everyone interested in you fits your criteria. You don’t want dating to become like a never-ending job search.
6. Think outside the box. Many people end up being surprised by whom they fall in love with. You can have your list of criteria but be willing to add, subtract, or at least shuffle your priorities. Be open to discovering something about yourself in the process of dating.
7. Who says you’re limited to just one soul mate? You may have many partners whom you would be compatible with, many people you could love and be loved by.
8. If you do meet a soul mate online, don’t hide the truth from others. Why be embarrassed? Given our busy lives, online dating is a legitimate, efficient method of connecting. And if you don’t tell others, they’ll think that no one ever finds true love online. This simply isn’t true! In the last few years in my relationship coaching practice, I’ve witnessed many online romances blossom into long-term relationships, including marriage.

Once you are in a relationship, here are 5 keys to nurturing Great Love:
1. Tell the truth. Truth and love are synonymous. But be careful because telling the truth is not the same as being honest. Honesty may contain judgments, such as, “I think you’re narrow minded for saying you wouldn’t marry a Republican.” Truth is more vulnerable and does not contain judgment. Restated, the truth might be, “When you say you would never marry a Republican, I feel hurt and scared. I’m afraid that if I disagree with you politically, you will leave, regardless of the other great things about our relationship.”
If you don’t feel safe telling the truth about your past, your personality, or your quirks to your new relationship, tell your partner that you need to keep some things private still. But don’t massage the truth, don’t go into an act, and don’t lie. Remember, it’s hard to regain trust that’s been broken.
If you’ve lied to someone you’re involved with, don’t spend one more day torturing yourself with the shame, guilt, and fear that’s inside of you. No matter how afraid you are that you will be rejected or abandoned, clear the air without excuses. (The only exception to this advice is if you have reason to believe that telling the truth will endanger you physically. If this is the case, get professional help.)
Truth is sexy. Truth is passionate. Truth is intimate. Truth is love.
2. Be the love you want to receive. We all want love, loyalty, intimacy, respect, compassion, and friendship. But to deserve it, we need to offer those same things to our partner. And we need to offer them generously. An open heart is much more inviting and accessible than a protected one.
3. Become your partner’s safe haven. Becoming a safe harbor for someone is one of the greatest gifts we can offer and is very much appreciated. Allow your partner to express feelings, even negative ones, without rushing to judgment or trying to fix him/her. Feelings don’t need fixing anyway.
4. Fight fair. This is the hardest prescription on the list for many people as we’ve learned bad and sometimes destructive habits. If you can admit right now that you don’t know how to fight in such a way that you end up closer rather than more estranged, then get help. Hire a life coach or therapist or read books on conscious, loving communications (including my book, Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life). The sooner you become adept at this skill, the less resentment your relationship will build. Fighting well is cleansing and makes make-up sex even better!
5. Make a list of the 10 Things That Make You Feel Most Loved. Ask your partner to do the same. You may be surprised to hear each other’s lists. They often don’t match. Keep your partner’s list and look at it every day. If your partner loves to receive roses, then don’t send irises, even if they’re on your list of favorites.
In Enough Is Enough!, I talk about how I feel loved when my husband remembers that I like yellow mustard, not Dijon. We’re all quirky in what makes us feel loved. Honor your partner’s list and you will build a strong foundation that will get you through the hard times.

Announcements/strong>
Join Jane at Club Med in Cancun!
June 21-28, 2008
Enjoy the beautiful beach, delicious food, and luxurious setting while experiencing enriching programs. Check out this newly renovated Club Med for yourself.
I will be teaching Creating Your Abundant Life. Other wonderful teachers will be offering you daily opportunities to nurture your mind, body, and spirit.
Price: Get your Friend of Jane discount $1549 (regular price $1599), which includes lodging, meals, airport transportation, and all programs. Discounts for couples and families.
Contact Teresa Williamson at teresa@tangodiva.com for more information and to register. Put in your Subject Line: Club Med w/Jane

A Sneak Peek at Creating Your Abundant Life:

If you feel that you don’t have enough of any of the following:

• Time
• Money
• Energy
• Love
• Intimacy
• Fun
• Self-esteem
• Inspiration
• Direction

This workshop is for you!

There is a Buddhist saying that no enemy can harm us as much as our own worst thoughts. Three kinds of thoughts stop us from manifesting abundance:

Fear
Self-judgments
Limiting beliefs

Any one of the above can sabotage us, keep us stuck in a rut, stress us out, cause us confusion, or make us want to give up.

We will use cutting-edge strategies and fun processes to uncover and release your fears, self-judgments, and limiting beliefs so that you will begin immediately to manifest your spirit’s deepest desires.

About Jane Straus
Jane is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, www.stopenduring.com. Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.

She is also the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, www.grammarbook.com, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes. Contact Jane at Jane@JaneStraus.com.

The Gift of a “No Holds Barred” Apology

Saturday, January 5th, 2008

(Click here to read my English usage blogs.)

Recently, Ron Whitney, a life coach and lay counselor at his church, wrote to tell me that he had read my book, Enough Is Enough! He added, “I hope I am not being out of line, but as I read the chapter on forgiveness, I could not help but think that you might appreciate a letter I wrote to my ex-wife several years ago.”

Well, I thought so much of Ron’s letter that I asked his permission to reprint it for you. It is a wonderful example of (1) an unconditional apology (no ifs, ands, or buts), (2) self-forgiveness, and (3) nonattachment to outcome. (Ron asked for and expected nothing in response.)

Dear ____,

I have agonized over writing you for several years, trying to figure out how I would say what I want to say.

I want to tell you how deeply sorry I am that I offended you in numerous ways during our marriage. I am deeply sorry that I was not emotionally available to you. You were right in your frequent complaints that I “was always down the street and around the corner.” I am deeply sorry that I allowed my interests in Auburn football, softball, umpiring and church activities get in the way of our relationship. I am deeply sorry that I did not express my anger toward you when anger would have been an appropriate response. I recall on more than one occasion you asked me if I never got angry with you. My response was always, “I choose not to get angry.” I was so arrogant. I am deeply sorry that I did not confront you in a loving, compassionate way when I thought you were out of line. I am deeply sorry that I denied for almost all of our married life that I had a problem or that we had a problem.

I hope that you will forgive me for these ways I am aware that I offended you and caused you great pain. I also hope that you will forgive me for those offenses of which I am not aware.

Sincerely,
Ron

How many of us long for such a letter? How many of us would feel unconditionally loved by someone’s willingness to admit the wrongs they perpetrated against us?

I hope that Ron’s letter to his ex-wife serves as a reminder that you deserve such a letter, whether you ever receive one or not. And perhaps it’s time for you to write such a letter to someone who deserves the gift of your amends.

Jane Straus is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, www.stopenduring.com. Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.

She is also the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, www.grammarbook.com, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes. Contact Jane at Jane@JaneStraus.com.

Creating Your Ideal Relationship with A List

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

You can listen to and download this podcast by visiting StopEnduring.com or iTunes.
Dear Jane,
My life coach told me to come up with a list of criteria for what I want in a relationship. What do you think of this idea?

I often suggest this to my clients. As I write about in Enough Is Enough!, we are much more inclined to manifest something when we put our attention towards it. This also helps us discover and affirm the qualities that matter most to us. One of my clients (I’ll call her Jill.) created her list and guess what? A man who fits what Jill says “are the really important criteria” has come into her life. I love how honest, specific, humorous, and joyful her list is and asked her permission to share it with you. She and I both hope it inspires you to create lists of what you want in relationship as well as in work. Feel free to “borrow” from Jill’s list.

Jill’s Unedited Wish List for Her Ideal Mate

clean fingernails and toenails
well groomed
funny—a little Seinfeld, Stephen Wright, goofy, silly
smart knows what a haricot vert is, pronounces croissant properly
well read—can hang out in the bookstore with me and ask if I’ve read titles other than The DaVinci Code and rush to get me my copies of their favorites
has enough passion for music that they show physical movement
athletic but really, not just what they used to do can run a few miles without a chase ambulance, can ski the diamonds and actually make turns, understands the basic premise of wind and direction on a sailboat, gets soccer, can hit a tennis ball, cycles up a hill without more than the usual complaints
doesn’t need action/adventure movies
has at least one good friend that he’d bleed for
understands and suffers happily through single parenting and all that goes along with it
bilingual, and not in English and some ancient Star Trek Vulcan dialect
loves Moses
makes his bed in the morning
neat and well maintained home, and owns it
good driver, and I mean good confident, peppy
LOVES SEX AND WANTS TO DO IT ALL THE TIME FOR EVER AND EVER
along the same lines, a magical kiss and gets what making out is all about
loves travel not just for travel’s sake can blend with any culture
likes five star when appropriate
is polite and respectful to service people, and I don’t mean the military
has a passion for food and wine but no airs about it
can use the word sneakers and knows that tennis shoes are sneakers specifically for tennis
calls a bathing suit a bathing suit
loves the beach and the sand, even in places that are uncomfortable
can bodysurf waterskiing is good, but a little negotiable
isn’t afraid to fly
can swim laps with panache
has style, understands style, and doesn’t work hard at it
knows that tall and slim doesn’t need pleats in his pants
understands tailoring
owns a good watch
prefers good shoes
laughs easily
communicates respectfully
honest to the core
has a soul and shares it
isn’t afraid of physicians, and isn’t impressed by them
cares deeply for the planet
sees nature everyday
seeks out art
loves design of any kind
can actually talk about architecture
recliner isn’t in his vocabulary
is generous with love, money, time, energy, humor
can attempt a decent crossword puzzle
plays scrabble with more than 3 letter words
knows about power tools and can use them
uses a dry cleaner
does good laundry
has a gentle touch
curiosity, insatiable curiosity about everything
grace under pressure
good table manners
can feel pain and shows it
won’t try and cage me
respects my hard fought freedom
positive role model for my boys
celebrates me and my quirks
understands compromise and does so without guilt or pressure
kindness to animals, even bugs
seeks real intimacy emotional before physical
accepts his own vulnerability and trusts that I won’t take advantage of it EVER
loves me passionately and clearly and deeply and learns to love my children for who they are, not because they come with the package
understands that marriage is a commitment of the heart, not a legal binding agreement, and that the feelings are organic and grow and morph and change all the time

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Enough Is Enough! Seminar in New Orleans
I have been invited to New Orleans to give a workshop on November 18, 2007 for some folks whose lives were impacted by Katrina. During my stay, I will keep a video diary, which I will upload to my Web site, StopEnduring.com. If you live in New Orleans, you are invited to attend this free workshop. Contact me at Jane@janestraus.com.

Donation of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation to New Orleans Schools
I am donating 120 copies of the Eighth Edition of her bestselling reference guide and workbook, The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation. If you know of a school in the New Orleans area that could use the book, contact Jane at Jane@janestraus.com.

Jane on TV January 10, 2008
I will be interviewed on NBC 11’s The Bay Area Today on January 10. I will be talking about New Year’s resolutions. Expect a fresh take on the subject. More details to follow.

Jane Straus is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, StopEnduring.com. Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.
She is also the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, Grammarbook.com, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes.
Contact Jane at Jane@JaneStraus.com.

Anger and Decision Making

Friday, October 26th, 2007
 
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Dear Jane,
I was numb in my marriage for over ten years before starting therapy. Now I recognize that I have been angry and resentful towards my wife and want a divorce. I was ready to tell her this the other night after dinner. But we were watching Dr. Phil and he told a woman who was in the same situation that she wasn’t ready for a divorce until she’d worked through all her anger and was clear headed. With a lot of conviction, he said that as long as she could get riled up at her husband’s behavior, she wasn’t ready to leave. Needless to say, that shut me up. Do you agree with Dr. Phil? Am I not ready yet? Do I have to wait until I’ve released all my anger? How will I know that I’m not just going numb again?

Dr. Phil’s advice is based on the premise that most of us don’t know how to work with our anger consciously enough to make good decisions while in the throes of it. However, as I write about in Enough Is Enough!, anger can give us important information if we learn how to listen to its meaning.

Anger is a secondary emotion. In other words, we may feel anger first, but underneath anger are resentment, hurt, fear, and/or sadness. If we want to make good decisions, we need to get beneath the anger to our more vulnerable feelings.

Hearing about your anger and prior numbness, I imagine that underneath it you feel resentment towards your wife. But underneath every resentment is a personal regret. What do you regret about your own behavior? Do you regret being numb for so long? Do you regret wasting precious years of your life without experiencing intimacy with a partner? Do you regret being too afraid to look at your marriage honestly before now?

Once you are honest with yourself about your regrets, the next step is to give yourself compassion and forgive yourself. Take whatever time you require to do this until you are no longer in self-blame. Then you will be clear enough to choose whether to stay or to go. Even though you may not be done with feeling all your anger, every time it emerges, you will know how to work with it to get to your deeper truth. As you become competent with your anger, it will no longer run you; it will serve to give you the valuable information you need to make self-loving decisions.

Announcements

Enough Is Enough! Seminar in New Orleans
I have been invited to New Orleans to give a workshop on November 18, 2007 for some folks whose lives were impacted by Katrina. During my stay, I will keep a video diary, which I will upload to my Web site, StopEnduring.com. If you live in New Orleans, you are invited to attend this free workshop. Contact me at Jane@janestraus.com.

Donation of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation to New Orleans Schools
I am donating 120 copies of the Eighth Edition of her bestselling reference guide and workbook, The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation. If you know of a school in the New Orleans area that could use the book, contact Jane at Jane@janestraus.com.

Jane on TV January 10, 2008
I will be interviewed on NBC 11’s The Bay Area Today on January 10. I will be talking about New Year’s resolutions. Expect a fresh take on the subject. More details to follow.

Jane Straus is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, StopEnduring.com. Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.
She is also the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, Grammarbook.com, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes.
Contact Jane at Jane@JaneStraus.com.

Telling the Truth About an Affair

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007
 
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Years ago, I had an affair with my friend’s husband. The sexual relationship was short-lived because we both felt terrible. He’s remained faithful to her since and she and I are still close. You seem to recommend telling the truth no matter what. But wouldn’t confessing to her just be hurtful in this case? When should a secret stay a secret? I wrestle with this every day.

If you’re wrestling with this, it’s probably because you feel “two-faced” and have been unable to find relief. There’s good reason that secrets gnaw on people of conscience. It’s because lying “for someone else’s sake” is suspect. It’s more likely that you and her husband made a pact of secrecy out of your own fears and wants, not from caring for her well being. If you had really been considering her, you wouldn’t have acted on your attraction to begin with, right?

The question is: Do you have the right to decide what’s good for another person when you’ve betrayed them? Defining “good” is tricky because you and her husband are attached to what “good” looks like, which is how it affects you and her husband. “Good” to you means maintaining the status quo. If you told, you would decide that it was a “good” decision only if she were understanding, forgiving, or at least willing to continue both her marriage and her friendship with you. You see, the lens through which you judge whether the truth is “good” to tell is going to have filters on it that bias you.

What if she’s angry and hurt? What if she wants nothing more to do with you? What if she files for divorce? Because you and her husband are attached to maintaining everything as is, if these were the outcomes, you would probably judge telling her as a big mistake.

Yet, who are we to know what truths someone needs to find out or how they should deal with them? Maybe the truth about your affair would validate a nagging sense of betrayal she has already felt. Maybe she would be happier “moving on.” Maybe this information would allow her to explore and heal other wounds around betrayal and secrets. Maybe she has secrets of her own that she has been afraid to tell and this would help release her from her prison of fear.

So should you tell? My answer is that I don’t think you have the right to withhold the truth. Your secrecy is further betrayal and it is based on your wants and fears, not on her needs. You are covering up one deceit with another and attaching lofty principles to convince yourself that your continued deceit is noble and that you and her husband are the only ones carrying the burden of the secret.

But our secrets don’t just run and ruin us; they run and ruin others’ lives as well as I discuss in my book, Enough is Enough!. In over 25 years of private practice as a life coach, I’ve never heard one client who’s heard the truth about a partner’s affair say that they wish that they hadn’t been told. Everyone’s spirit suffers from secrets and betrayal because guilt creates separation. In perhaps dozens of ways, her husband has not been able to share himself with her since having an affair with you. And how has it impacted your friendship? How have you pulled away or hidden from her because of your guilt? How have you been emotionally unavailable to her?

The truth requires courage. When you tell her the truth, you need to find the courage to let go of trying to control her reactions or the outcome. You need to find the courage to grieve the potential loss of this friendship as well as the loss of your friendship with her husband. You need to have great courage to allow for what she needs rather than for your need to preserve her image of you.

The next part of your healing journey will then be about feeling the deep remorse that underlies your guilt and forgiving yourself for causing this kind of suffering to your own and someone else’s spirit. As you forgive yourself, make a commitment to your own spirit to always choose truth over fear.

Visit StopEnduring.com to read articles and excerpts from Jane Straus’s popular book, Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life; watch Jane on TV; listen to her radio interviews; and share your most personal secrets anonymously.

Being Real: Lessons from The Breakfast Club

Monday, June 11th, 2007

Have you ever tried to look better on the outside than you were feeling on the inside? Do you ever abandon your truth to please others? If you weren’t afraid of losing someone’s approval, acceptance, or love, if you didn’t feel that you had to choose between abandoning yourself or being abandoned by someone else, wouldn’t you be authentic all the time with everyone? Wouldn’t you stand up for yourself more?

Whenever I am challenged to please others at the expense of being real, I think about Anais Nin’s eloquent quote, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” It is painful to hold ourselves back. At some point, we stop thriving and begin living in endurance when we believe we have to maintain an act rather than be real. But if we let our fear of abandonment run us, we bully ourselves into submission.

In the film, The Breakfast Club, five high school students are given detention for various infractions against school rules. Their punishment is to remain in the school library all Saturday with the task of completing one assignment: Each of them is to write a thousand-word essay describing who they think they are. Because the assignment seems silly and boring to them, they begin instead to try to figure out who the others in the room are.

At first, they buy each other’s act: the jock, the brain, the crazy one, the prom queen, the criminal. They cling to their own acts too, uncomfortably comfortable with their labels. But as they spend hour after hour together, their real selves peek through, and each of them starts to chafe against the restrictions of his or her image.

As they break out of their molds, their false sense of security and identity are shaken, but they ultimately come to respect each other. By the end of the day, they decide to write only one essay among them, conveying that, like the adults in their lives who see them only as they want to see them, in the most limited of ways, they also saw themselves that way before spending the day together. They write that what they learned is that each of them has attributes of the others within themselves. They are all capable of being smart, athletic, crazy, elitist, or rebellious. They are all of these things and yet they are so much more. They leave detention as comrades, having learned something crucial: judgments are real but they are never the truth. They also come to see that their self-judgments were the most restrictive of all, forcing them to behave in ways that limited them and fed their fear of others.

When in an act, we behave incongruently with what we really feel. Whatever our reasons and fears of being authentic—hurt, ridicule, abandonment—the problem is that after we have our act for a while, we can’t remember who we were without it. And if we can’t figure out who we are, how are others going to really know us? How can we have intimacy if we are not authentic? If we sacrifice intimacy for acceptance, our relationships feel lukewarm and boring. We may keep seeking hot and exciting, never realizing that, as Dylan Thomas said, “Something’s boring me; I think it’s me.”

The Breakfast Club reminds us that molding ourselves into the image of what others want and expect is cruel to our spirit. It takes courage to be authentic in every moment. But who we really are is much more interesting than any character we could possibly play.

Jane Straus is the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life (Jossey-Bass pub.). Visit stopenduring.com to view her TV and radio interviews, read articles and excerpts from her book, or to contact her for keynote presentations or personal coaching.

Finding and Keeping Mr. or Ms. Right

Saturday, January 20th, 2007
 
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While some self-help books focus on strategies to get into a relationship, anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows that they require tending or they die on the vine. So how can you stop wasting your time on romances that fizzle out? What really makes a romance blossom into a long-term commitment? Here are 5 key strategies to finding and nurturing Great Love:
1.Tell the truth. Truth and love are synonymous. But be careful because telling the truth is not the same as being honest. Honesty may contain judgments, such as, “I think you’re narrow minded for saying you wouldn’t marry a Republican.” Truth is more vulnerable and does not contain judgment. Restated, the truth might be, “When you say you would never marry a Republican, I feel hurt and scared. I’m afraid that if I disagree with you politically, you will leave, regardless of the other great things about our relationship.”
If you don’t feel safe telling the truth about your past, your personality, or your quirks to your new relationship, tell your partner that you need to keep some things private still. But don’t massage the truth, don’t go into an act, and don’t lie. Remember, it’s hard to regain trust that’s been broken.
If you’ve lied to someone you’re involved with, don’t spend one more day torturing yourself with the shame, guilt, and fear that’s inside of you. No matter how afraid you are that you will be rejected or abandoned, clear the air without excuses. (The only exception to this advice is if you have reason to believe that telling the truth will endanger you physically. If this is the case, get professional help.)
Truth is sexy. Truth is passionate. Truth is intimate. Truth is love.
2. Be the love you want to receive. We all want love, loyalty, intimacy, respect, compassion, and friendship. But to deserve it, we need to offer those same things to our partner. And we need to offer them generously. An open heart is much more inviting and accessible than a protected one.
3. Become your partner’s safe haven. Becoming a safe harbor for someone is one of the greatest gifts we can offer and is very much appreciated. Allow your partner to express feelings, even negative ones, without rushing to judgment or trying to fix him/her. Feelings don’t need fixing anyway.
4. Fight fair. This is the hardest prescription on the list for many people as we’ve learned bad and sometimes destructive habits. If you can admit right now that you don’t know how to fight in such a way that you end up closer rather than more estranged, then get help. Hire a life coach or therapist or read books on conscious, loving communications (including my book, Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life). The sooner you become adept at this skill, the less resentment your relationship will build. Fighting well is cleansing and makes make-up sex even better!
5. Make a list of the 10 Things That Make You Feel Most Loved. Ask your partner to do the same. You may be surprised to hear each other’s lists. They often don’t match. Keep your partner’s list and look at it every day. If your partner loves to receive roses, then don’t send irises, even if they’re on your list of favorites.
In Enough Is Enough!, I talk about how I feel loved when my husband remembers that I like yellow mustard, not Dijon. We’re all quirky in what makes us feel loved. Honor your partner’s list and you will build a strong foundation that will get you through the hard times.
Does this seem like a lot of work? It is! But you will definitely reap the benefits. Even if the romantic relationship you’re in currently isn’t the one you will be in forever, all this practice will prepare you for Mr./Ms. Right as well as prepare you to become Mr./Ms. Right.

For more on living your extraordinary life in every way, please visit Jane Straus’s web site, www.stopenduring.com. Read her articles, watch video excerpts of her seminars, listen to her free teleseminars, schedule a private coaching session, book Jane for a keynote, and order Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life.