Posts Tagged ‘vulnerable feelings’

Three Keys to Creating an Extraordinary Relationship

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

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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!


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.

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Click here to read Jane’s article in USA Today on the lessons we can glean from celebrity breakups.
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Love in the Age of the Internet

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

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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.

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 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:

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, 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,, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes. Contact Jane at

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.


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, If you live in New Orleans, you are invited to attend this free workshop. Contact me at

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 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, 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,, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes.
Contact Jane at