Tag Archives: Relationships

Relationships: Making space for someone new

This article was first published in humanHi magazine in November 2008.

Being connected

To me being connected with someone means that you have feelings associated with them. Those feelings can either be positive such as love, compassion, trust and pride; or negative such as hate, resentment, blame, loss, fear and guilt. When we are connected to people in a positive way their presence in our lives is enriching and supportive; negative connections drain our energy and distract us from what we really want in life. They are bad for our health, wealth and happiness.

Take a moment now and cast your mind back through your past relationships. Are there any ex-partners who bring up negative feelings when you think about them now? Anyone who you have kind of split up from but are still in your life? Anyone who you no longer see and would like to forget but are reminded of often and for all the wrong reasons? How much of your energy and attention is taken up by these unhealthy connections? What other uses could you find for that energy?

In any relationship there is give and take. To illustrate this I like the metaphor of two people living in separate houses who start having a relationship with each other. To begin with all of their possessions are in their own house and they take it in turns to visit each other. As the relationship develops a certain amount of lending and borrowing begins to happen. He wants to borrow a CD from his partner and she is happy to lend it to him. She plans to do some DIY but needs a specific tool that he has and is happy to lend it to her. He has a small house full of junk and needs some extra space so she offers to store some boxes of junk in her loft. If this process continues then the partners possessions can become quite mixed up and they may even forget who owns what. (In the real world people move in with each other and own things jointly which can make splitting up even more difficult but for the sake of the metaphor lets assume that they keep their separate houses.)

On an emotional level there is also give and take. There are certain things that I want to do which I do not do because I believe that they will hurt my partner, for example, not sleeping someone else who you meet on a night out. There are other things that I don’t really want to do but I do anyway because I believe they will please my partner, for example, going with them to see their favourite band. I behave in the way that I do because I believe I know how my actions will emotionally affect my partner and I take responsibility for those effects. I hold an impression of them as a person in my imagination and use this internal model to guess at their reaction and choose my behaviour accordingly. Some of the information I use to build my internal model of them will have been based on their past reactions; others will be assumptions I am bringing into the relationship based on my experience of how other people have reacted in the past (transference) or how I would feel if someone did it to me (projection). Me having this model of them in my imagination is a bit like some of their stuff being in my house. Me guessing at their reactions based on how I would feel is a bit like me putting some of my stuff into their house.

Splitting up

Being in a relationship is sometimes likened to walking hand in hand down a shared path. We keep each other company and support each other along the way. But as we grow and experience life our priorities can shift and our paths can change direction. A good example of this is when one partner decides they want children and the other does not feel ready for this commitment. We find ourselves at a fork in the road and compromises begin to look like neither partner is getting what they want. Rather than trying to hang on sometimes it is better for both partners to let go and move on.

An ideal separation happens with love and compassion. Both partners are honest with each other, decide on the split together and stop taking each other into account when making decisions. In our house metaphor they give back the things that do not belong to them. In emotional terms they stop consulting the model of their ex-partner when deciding what to do and this image gradually fades and recedes into the distance.

Other separations are less ideal. Sudden cutting of ties such as walking out during an argument, leaving home without warning or even an unexpected death give no opportunity for both partners to be open and honest with each other, understand and forgive each other and move on. Emotions such as pride, fear of violence or emotional overwhelm may hold them apart. In the house metaphor he holds onto the CD to piss her off and she is sad and angry because she misses it; she doesn’t want to give the tool back because she is using it and he feels too guilty to demand that she gives back; he doesn’t have room for his boxes of junk and she doesn’t feel able to throw them away. The internal models of the other may be pushed away or blocked out but they are big and powerful, amplified by negative emotions, sapping energy, still exerting control.

The problem perpetuates

If you have not properly disconnected from your previous partners then you are not in a good position to welcome another partner in.

Every time you see something that belongs to them or remember something they have of yours you are reminded of them. Every time you are reminded of them you feel those unresolved negative emotions. When you feel negative you focus on the negative; and then you get what you focus on: a new partner with the same characteristics as your exes.

If a new partner does come along your internal model of them has to live with the internal models of you exes. The models of your exes influence what you expect of your new partner and you transfer these expectations into the model of your new partner rather than building a clean model from scratch based on your experience. You behave according to your flawed model of them and they simply respond to your behaviour … probably in a way that fulfils your negative expectations.

Making imaginary space

In last months article I introduced a way of disconnecting and freeing your energy by talking to the models of people you hold in your imagination. This technique gets the same result but by using energy rather than words.

– Find yourself a comfortable place to sit. Take a few deep breaths to relax and allow your eyes to close.

– Get a sense of the ground beneath you and encourage your awareness down into it. Continue down through the layers of earth until you reach the centre. As you connect with the centre of the earth notice how this sense of groundedness affects the way you feel at the centre of your body – in the area of your navel.

– Remaining connected to this centre now sense up above your head and out into the vastness of the universe. Imagine a source of light and infinite wisdom – a sun or higher form of self – to be there above you, happy and ready to help you when asked.

– Allow the image of your ex-partner to come to you – this is your model of them. Notice what it is like between you … is there anything preventing them from being right there in front of you were you can see them easily? Allow the source of light to heal anything which is preventing you from facing them until you are able to sense them clearly.

– With the support of the light above you accept back anything that they were holding for you. If you are holding anything that belongs to them then give it back.

– Notice how you feel as you face them. Allow the source of light to shine on you and heal any negative feelings in you – filling you up with acceptance and compassion.

– When you are healed share this energy with the model of your ex-partner. Allowing the energy to flow where it is welcome and heal what wishes to be healed.

– When you are both healed notice the sense of understanding and forgiveness between you and allow the other person to drift away. When they have gone bring your attention back to your sense of connection with the earth and the light above you. Notice how this strong connection with yourself gives you the freedom and ability to make new and empowering connections with others.

After you have completed this exercise allow yourself some time for reflection. How do you feel about that person now? What has changed? Who are you now and what is important to you? Complete the process with all of your significant exes and then with the less significant ones all together.

Making real space

Now you have cleared space in your imagination it is time to put that freedom into action. My challenge to you now is to go through your possessions and to make a pile of all of those things that belong to ex-partners. Dig out your address book and return them to their rightful owners with a polite note requesting that they do the same for you. While you are at it notice how many other objects such as photos and gifts there are on display. Do these bring back good memories or bad? Is it time to clear them away now and make room for some new memories to begin?

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Relationships: Knowing what you want

Originally published in September 2008 by humanHi magasine.

Know what you want and why

If you ask some people what they are looking for in a partner they will often say something like “I don’t have a type, I’m not fussy, I’ll just know him when I meet him.”  For some people this may well be true … they are relaxed with being single and either find someone or they don’t; no problem.  But other people are waiting.  Waiting for Mr or Mrs right to come out of the blue. Waiting for their life to be complete; but not actually being that aware of what it is that they are actually waiting for.  Just that they will know it when they find it and hoping that God, the universe or chance will bring it to them.

The “I’ll know him when I meet him” signal is probably a thrilling and often overwhelming love / lust feeling which puts the pink coloured spectacles on and makes us act in impulsive and sometimes irrational ways.  It feels good but how reliable is it really?  Have you ever felt this feeling and, later on, realised that the person was really not all that?  Or have you found yourself being attracted to partners who, at some level, you know are not good for you; repeating the same patterns again and again.  But what can you do?  It’s just chemistry, right?

While the attraction process is an unconscious one then there is little you can do … except, perhaps, loose confidence in your emotions altogether.  What I am proposing here is that you bring the attraction process into awareness.  When you know what your are attracted to you will know what to look out for and when you have actually found it.  And if you are attracted to ‘the wrong kind’ of partner, perhaps you can make a few changes before the pink spectacles get put on again?

Become aware of the qualities you are looking for in a partner

The first thing I would suggest is to make a list of the qualities you value in a partner.  We are going for a high level view here so keep them abstract.  If there are certain specific things you normally look for then ask yourself what they are an example or indicator of.  “Blonde hair and blue eyes” may be an example of “Good looks”; “Masters degree” may be an indicator of “Intelligence or Education”.  Get the idea?

When you have a good long list of qualities choose your top 8 – 10 and put them into a rough order of importance (most important first).  For example: Kindness, Beauty, Sexiness, Intelligence, Depth, Positivity, Fun, Passion.  To check the order of the list perform a series of thought experiments by asking yourself: “Would I rather have a Kind partner who wasn’t very Beautiful; or a Beautiful partner who wasn’t very kind?” You may find that your list changes somewhat.

When you have completed this process you should be able to describe what it is like as you meet your ‘Ideal Partner’ and find that it pushes all the right buttons!  For example, “I am meeting a sexy, beautiful man.  He is kind and intelligent and I can tell that he has great depth.  He is positive about life, with a great sense of fun and is financially stable.”  There should be no surprises here … more a sense of recognition – you are describing what, at some level, you already knew.

Uncover any lurking negativity

Now comes the really interesting bit.  For each of the qualities you have chosen find a word which describes the opposite … try to get a separate word rather than just putting “un” or “not” in front of what you already have.  When you have the opposites you are going to consider the proportion of yourself which is attracted to the positive aspect, compared to the proportion which is repulsed by the negative aspect.

Quality & proportion of me attracted to
this

Opposite quality & proportion of me repulsed
by this

Sexiness 80%

Beauty 90%

Kindness 60%

Intelligence 80%

Passion 30%

Positivity 50%

Fun 40%

Financial stability 20%

Coldness 20%

Ugliness 10%

Nastiness 40%

Stupidity 20%

Boredom 70%

Negativity 50%

Boredom 60%

Brokeness 80%

You get what you focus on

Have you ever ridden a bicycle around a sharp bend in the road?  When you look around the corner towards where you want to be then you tend to get around easily; when you are distracted by the gravel in the gutter that you don’t want to hit, skid on and end up in a horrible nasty mess on the side of the road … yep, you tend to create what you are trying to avoid.

As you can probably guess, the qualities we are interested in are the negatives with more than 50% of your energy going into avoiding them.  Though the person in the example is saying she wants someone Passionate, Fun and Financially stable she means that she is trying to avoid being with someone Boring and Broke.

Given that ‘the energy flows where the focus goes’ the chances are that she will have a pattern of attracting Boring and Broke partners.  Or, perhaps more likely, she attracts partners who appear to be Passionate, Fun and Financially stable but then reveal their ‘true’ nature later in the relationship!

Change the pattern

If you find that there are certain qualities you are avoiding I suggest the following meditation:

1 – Remember all the people who you have known in your life who have the quality you are now trying to avoid.  How did they behave with you? How did that make you feel?

2 – In your imagination invite each of these people in turn to be there with you in the room.  Are they standing or sitting?  What direction are they looking in?  What are they wearing?  Politely explain the impact that their behaviour had on you.  For example, “David, when you sat on the sofa watching TV when I was trying to talk to you I felt ignored and hurt.”; “Jane, when you never offered to pay for dinner I felt exploited and that made me angry.”

3 – When you have said your piece invite them to say anything that they need to say to you.  Really listen to what you imagine they would say.  (Repeat as necessary until you have cleared the air between you.)

4 – Forgive the other person and ask for their forgiveness in return. Then allow them to drift off on their way.

5 – Repeat the process for each other person.

When you have completed the meditation consider how you feel about that quality now.  Do you still find it repulsive or is it different now?  Less emotional charge?  Less important to avoid it?  Revisit your List of values … does it need to change now?  Are other things more important?  What difference does that make?

What’s your name and where do you come from?

To the tune of Eminem:

Hi! My name is … my name is … my name is … R – R – Richard Evans-Lacey!

I was christened (Not my choice – I was too young to decide to live my life by the rules of a religion) Richard Eric Evans (without the Lacey) shortly after my birth in June 1974 and I kept that name until November 2002.  This was the year that I decided to change my life. I left my safe, well paid consulting job in order to study Integral Philosophy and Neuro-Linguistic Psychotherapy.  To mark my decision to change myself I decided that I also wanted to change the way I symbolise myself – my name.

I considered a number of options and particularly liked the sound of ‘David England’ (my Grandad used to mistakenly call me ‘David’; the ‘England’ came from the idea that if I ever became famous then my name should look good on a poster).  But in the end I felt that abandoning the surname of my father was disloyal and, therefore, wrong.  Mum’s maiden name was ‘Lacey’ and it struck me that ‘Richard Lacey’ had a very nice actorish ring to it. So instead of changing my name I added to it.

Changing my name was surprisingly (and almost scarily) simple: I simply walked into my local solicitors’ with some ID and £15 and they asked me what I would like to be called.  It was at that moment that I realised that I could call myself anything I wanted.  For a second I was tempted to add ‘Danger’ as a middle name but the gag had just been done by Austin Powers so I thought better of it.  I stuck to my plan and after getting the certificate witnessed by the solicitor down the road I officially became ‘Richard Eric Evans-Lacey Esq.’

The ripples from this change were relatively plain sailing.  As I had added to, rather than changed my name outright, it was easy to keep using the same signature, bank accounts and even passport (I simply inserted the certificate as proof).  My friends thought it typically eccentric but were not interested in making a big deal of it.  And new people who I meet occasionally assume that my ‘double barrelled’ name means that I am more ‘posh’ than I actually am.  (When asked I favour Michael Cain’s response in Get Carter: ‘Only relatively…’)

An important evolution

The idea that hyphenated surnames are posh comes from the 18th and 19th centuries.  When 2 ‘important’ families were joined through marriage it was common for the couple to take both family names rather than simply drop the wife’s in favour of the husband’s.  While this sounds egalitarian enough it is worth remembering that the wife’s family name is most probably her father’s family name and so, in my view, this hyphenating is basically saying that this man and this woman both come from important lines of men.  Chances are that you don’t have a double-barrelled surname.  If you are male or an unmarried female you probably have the surname of your father’s ancestors.  If you are female and married you probably dropped your surname to take on the surname of your husband’s ancestors.  This is not a bad thing … it is just tradition.

The tradition of passing the male name from generation to generation has it’s roots in a society in which the man is the hunter, the head of the family, the achiever; men make the rules, police the rules and everyone is eventually judged by a male God.  I am reminded of Harry Enfield’s spoof 1930s ‘public improvement film’ in which a woman at a 1930s dinner party attempts to join the conversation with ‘a wild and dangerous opinion of her own’ causing the men to look at her with contempt, the party to break up and the earnest strap line ‘Women: know your limits!’

Happily, thanks to evolution, times have been a-changin’ at quite a pace.  Most of us have outgrown the fear of personal judgement by a supernatural God and no longer feel the need to religiously follow the literal truth in whatever holy book our parents happened to have on their shelves.  We are free to enjoy and achieve in the real world that rewards talent and hard work with celebrity and material wealth.  Fewer businesses can afford to stock their boardrooms with fat, lazy old school ties; glass ceilings have been smashed by ambitious women who are motivated to prove their abilities and get what they want.  And many of us have begun to wonder if this selfish, consumerist society is what life is all about.  We are concerned with the environment, equality, diversity, disarmament.  We are guilty for what we have done to ‘mother’ earth in the name of God and capitalism and we are motivated to care for it and nurse it back to health.

Given where we are at I wouldn’t be surprised if a reasonable number of people (including some apologetic men) could be convinced that it should be the woman’s rather than the man’s name that should be passed on from generation to generation.  After all, it is her body and her who decided to have the child and sperm is just a commodity nowadays anyway, isn’t it?  And it goes without saying that the world would be a better place if it was run by women, right?  Wrong.  We do not need weak men and strong women to make the world better: we need balanced and well developed men AND women.  We need a society that values the virtues which used to be embodied in the metaphorical Gods and Goddesses that were lost to us so many centuries ago; where the strengths of masculinity and femininity are recognised and celebrated.  This is a society in which the contributions of mothers and fathers are different and important.

It works like this:

If you are single and decide you want to honour your masculine and feminine lines take your father’s surname and your mother’s maiden name and simply put them together.  (Your mother’s maiden name is probably her father’s name … it would be nice to have your mother’s, mother’s, mother’s … maiden name but where do you stop?  Start with your mother.)  If you are male your father’s name goes first, if female then your mother’s.

Nice in theory but why should I bother?

Just pause for a moment and consider how close you feel to your parents. Are they together or apart?  Are they in your way, holding you back, kept at arms length or at a distance?  How different would things be if they were completely on your side?  And what if your parents had their parents on side too?  And so on, back through the generations.  How would life be if you knew that your entire lineage is stable, solid, supportive and open to the love and wisdom that flows through it to you like the blood that is so much thicker than water?

For many of us this sense of belonging in our family is a fantasy.  Fault lines permeate the structure and are held together by fear.  Open wounds spill blood and may have been there for generations.  How many of the issues and problems that you experience now can be traced back to your pre-teenage years?  Perhaps you have memories of times when your parents were unreasonable or uncaring and you learned the meaning of anger, sadness, fear or guilt?  Do you still feel those emotions now when you remember what your parents did?  Do you start acting like a child again when you go home to visit?  Do you swear to yourself that you will not be like them?

According to NLP originator Richard Bandler ‘It’s never too late to have a happy childhood’.  The first step to healing the self is to become aware of the possibility that things could be different.  The next is to understand and forgive the people (including yourself) who made it that way in the first place.  And finally to either re-connect with those people (if you want to maintain a relationship with them) or to let their memory go (you can always re-establish a relationship if they come back into your life).  For the problems that go back through the generations then you can heal back through those generations.  Easier said than done?  On your own, yes.  But with your commitment and the support and guidance of a talented therapist or coach these deep transformations are probable rather than possible.

The first step to transforming your life is to decide to.  And whatever route you choose I am confident that at some time, in some way, you will end up proactively forgiving and asking forgiveness of your parents.  Taking responsibility for unilaterally healing the relationships within your family is an important turning point that deserves to be marked and celebrated.

“Hey, I know! Let’s do a ritual!”*

(*This is a quote from the Charles Band movie “Ghoulies”. In the movie this is definitely NOT a good idea. But don’t let that put you off!)

The time we really decide we will do whatever it takes to forgive and love our parents for doing the best that they could is a turning point which I believe marks the start of true adulthood.  An ideal time to gather your friends about you and perform a re-naming ritual.

What happens when I get married?

Some people gripe that many of the fun things in life stopped happening when they got married.  But I am not talking here about the kind of marriage that constrains people, but rather the kind where 2 people come together and decide that they will be together as one for as long as this is in their best interests.  Whether or not you decide to have a legal contract, a re-naming can symbolise the sharing of identity you are undertaking.

Traditionally, of course, it is the woman who takes the man’s surname when they get married.  As we enter the integral age the idea of a man ‘loving and protecting’ and the woman ‘serving and obeying’ are amusing (in an ironic kind of way) but inappropriate.  I believe the equality of the partnership is better shown by a giving and receiving of names – much as there is a giving and receiving of rings.  The man gives his father’s surname to replace her father’s surname.  The woman gives her mother’s surname to replace his mother’s surname.  Both partners then share the same names.

The only issue with this convention is how to refer to the couple as a whole. It would have been Mr & Mrs Evans but this is no longer accurate and both partners carry mirror images of the surname.  If we are going to use the Mr & Ms (or, of course, Mrs or Miss) pre-fix then I suggest that the surnames are in the order masculine then feminine: Mr & Ms Evans-Cowper.  If addressing the couple as Ms & Mr then the it would be Ms & Mr Cowper-Evans.  Sorted.

And when we have children?

When kids come along it is simple: sons take the father’s married surname and daughters their mothers.  If these children marry and have children of their own the boy carries on the masculine line and the girl carries on the feminine line.

And if relationships change?

I believe that one of the most damaging things a couple can do is to stay together ‘for the children’.  Even if a couple try not to argue overtly the children will still pick up on the atmosphere.  It is easy for a kid to pick up beliefs that may inhibit them for life, for example, commitment is painful, women (or men) are weaker than men (or women) or that the unhappiness of their parents is their fault for being born.  At its worst the confusion can lead to a child becoming ‘difficult’ or physically or mentally unwell.

If the partners decide to move apart and become single or re-marry then it is natural that they will want to revert to their original parents names or take on a new married name. But what of the children?  Their parents have not changed and so neither should their names.

Some interesting questions

The following questions push the boundaries of my ideas on naming. The answers are my musings and are not intended to be prescriptive.  If you have other ideas please let me know.

What if it is a same sex marriage?

If a same sex couple want to have the same surname then I would suggest that they take the same sex component of the other partner.  If a man is marrying another man then he would swap the feminine component of his surname for the masculine component of his partner’s surname.

What if the names simply sound terrible together?

Whether something sounds terrible or not is subjective.  If you and your partner love each other then perhaps you could learn to love an unusual sounding combination of names?  At the end of the day it is your choice: when you are filling out the deed poll form you can choose to be called whatever you like.

What if the woman becomes pregnant by accident or against her will?

Irrespective of the circumstances of the conception it is the father’s genes which are being passed on.  It is the father who is connected by blood to the child.  I would argue that as a general principle the child should always take the biological father’s surname.  Even if the mother and father are not in a loving relationship they have come together and are producing a new life.  If the mother chooses to have the child then she is choosing to have his child.  In making this decision it will greatly help the child if the mother has fully forgiven the father for any actions she judges as bad.  Acknowledging the truth of where we have come from helps us to fully appreciate the situation we are in right now.

What if the father’s name is not known?

If the pregnancy is as a result of a sperm donation or one night stand then the mother may simply have no way of knowing the father’s name.  In this case I would suggest that the child takes both elements of their mother’s surname (in reverse order if the child is a boy).  If, at some time in the future, the name of the father is found then the masculine component of his surname can be inserted into its rightful place.

What if the child is adopted?

It would be nice if a name could honour both genetic and adoptive parents and if I had to choose one set to suggest over the other I would go with the genetic parents’ names.  This may take some coming to terms with for the adopting parents but if they are cool about this then the chances are that the child will be too.  Acknowledging the biological parents in the child’s name in no way undermines the love that develops between a child and their adoptive parents and may well help the child to keep a loving connection with their biological parents – however far apart they are in reality.

Addendum

I am writing this some time after the rest of the article.  On reflection I have come to the conclusion that I have miss ordered the names.  I now believe that, for a man, the male name should come second and last in the joint surname (and similarly for a woman).  This way the name starts and ends with the most important names.  Much better than having the penultimate name staying the same and the last one changing upon marriage.

So, I’ll become Mr Richard Eric Lacey-Evans.