This book was inspired by all the couples I’ve spent time with as a therapist over the past forty years. I have been touched by their honesty, courage, and perseverance in saving relationships on the brink of dissolution. These couples wanted more than just an okay relationship; they wanted to experience satisfying love lives. An inner voice nudged them and told them not to give up — there was something better out there.
To have one’s cake and eat it too is a popular Old English proverb first recorded in 1546. Its meaning is similar to the phrases “you can’t have it both ways” and “you can’t have the best of both worlds.The proverb suggests that we reign in our audacious desire to have or want more than we deserve. It speaks of the impossibility of possessing two incompatible things, like oil and water, rain and shine, and darkness and light.
In this book, cake is a metaphor for an exuberant love relationship in which freedom and commitment can coexist. Cake is about joy, sweetness, and levity, the stuff of robust relationships. We celebrate special occasions — birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings — by eating cake together. We love cake — red velvet, orange-glow chiffon, chocolate-raspberry ganache, devil’s food, angel food, and strawberry shortcake — to name a few favorites. Even thinking about cake spreads joy down to the cellular level of our being. Eating cake makes us happy.
Nowadays most people aspire to having the best of all worlds and believe they can achieve it. We, post-moderns sit poised to break through our narrow definitions of relationship and commitment. Deep down we yearn for a committed relationship that gives us enough space to feel free and enough security to feel safe and loved.
We have been given a dualistic relationship model — caged or free, single or saddled, take it or leave it. These outmoded models don’t fit our contemporary lifestyles, yet couples get stuck in them by default. People — Millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers — want more options. They long to loosen the constraints of old models and create relationships that are more congruent with their values and lives.
Our premise — you can have your cake and eat it too — embraces the sacredness of the contemporary values of individual freedom, personal control, and self-realization. To the greatest extent possible, we 21st-century people want a life that allows us to do what we want, when we want, on our own terms. We want a relationship that gives us room to focus on ourselves, and liberates us from feeling solely responsible for our partner’s happiness.
We live in an exciting time, a period in which personal growth and transformation are highly valued. Our collective impulse toward freedom is strong. Yet deep connection, forging an enduring bond with another human being, exerts its own gravitational pull. Love has the potential to be one of the most meaningful and satisfying experiences in a lifetime. Freedom without love can be empty.
To lead the exuberant lives we envision, we must embrace a new view of relationships. Each of us is responsible for having the relationship we want. To get it, we need to summon the courage to unearth and speak up for our deepest needs. We can benefit from a newly clarified perspective of our authentic selves and a fresh vision of our ideal relationship. Relationship Transformation guides you on a journey to your cake.
Times Are Changing
Beginning on the day you were born, your family and culture began to influence you. As a child you observed your parents’ interactions, and your experience of them formed the foundation of your beliefs. It continues to influence how you act in relationships even today.
Hollywood stories and Madison Avenue marketing bombarded you with a steady stream of romantic myths. Like most people, you were likely captivated by tales of white knights capturing the hearts of fair maidens, and by examples of infatuated couples who sailed off into the sunset.
Popular culture perpetuates such myths and mistaken beliefs: Your prince will save you, and your partner will always make you happy. If you encounter problems on love’s path, it must mean that yours is not really true love after all. To further complicate matters, the structures of traditional marriage roles and expectations have changed and continue to do so, making us long for terra firma as the ground shifts beneath our feet.
Latest statistics reveal that 50 percent of all first marriages end in divorce. These odds increase in second and third marriages. Not included in these numbers are breakups of long-term committed relationships, civil unions, cohabitating couples, and other, similar, unreported private arrangements.
What is particularly troubling about these statistics? They mean that in our mobile 21st-century lifestyles, in which a love relationship is the central connection in people’s lives, fewer of us have a chance at developing one. Fewer people live in the community where they were born, or near parents or childhood friends. More people work longer hours, commute farther, or work in isolation at home. Everyone appears to have less opportunity and less time available to build those all-important close ties with others.
In some ways, partners are now more dependent on each other, and expect things normally provided by various other members in a home “village.” It’s often too much for one person to deliver nurturance, friendship, sustenance, stability, and intellectual stimulation, and be a playmate, confidante, erotic partner, and more.
All these changes impact the nature of our relationships, yet old adages, rules, and expectations persist alongside a new, freedom-oriented zeitgeist, offering weak guidance for today’s couples. Based on the latest research and cutting-edge practices, and tempered by good-old common sense, Relationship Transformation empowers you to build a relationship suitable for the 21st century.
How This Book Works for You
Relationship Transformation is a book for everyone who wants a happy, enduring relationship. It is a practical guide for couples who yearn for both freedom and commitment in their relationship. We invite you to learn a better way of thinking and relating to yourself and your partner. We share the stories of couples who benefited from our approach and overcame their individual obstacles to love. You get front-row access to their interior lives — their plans and struggles, their conflicting emotions and desires, and their courage to work things out.
One of the couples you’ll meet is Anna and Greg, who deal with infidelity and the loss of vitality in their relationship. Can they get past the power imbalance and heal the loss of trust?
When a partner gets tired of an outmoded role and wants to change the dynamic, it puts strain on the relationship. Bella no longer wants to mother Ed, which makes Ed feel rejected and unloved.
You’ll also meet Glenda and Charlene, upended by turmoil over their role reversal. Charlene doesn’t want to be the sole breadwinner, and Glenda remains stuck in anger and hurt pride over a career setback.
Eva and Jack, another couple, struggle over individual freedom. On Saturday nights Eva wants to go dancing with her Salsa club. Jack watches hockey games, and expects Eva to be there on the couch beside him. What beliefs and habits need to be uncovered before these couples can solve their problems? Can freedom and connection co-exist in their relationship?
The couples who share their stories vary in age, socioeconomic status, education, career, and ethnicity, yet they have one thing in common: the desire for more robust, satisfying relationships to last a lifetime.
In each case, the couple faces a complicated situation. They resolve issues by looking inside themselves, by being honest, and by trusting and having faith in their connection. Their heartwarming success in solving their problems inspired me to write this book. I wanted more couples to benefit from the Transforming Relationship process by sharing with a wider audience. And from a global perspective, I could make a contribution one couple at a time. Happier couples create a happier, more peaceful world.
Part 1 focuses on transforming your relationship with yourself. You begin by shifting the focus to you rather than concentrating on your partner or the relationship. You’ll learn to link your conscious mind with your deepest self, that part of you that knows what’s best for you. You will explore the interplay of freedom and secure connection in relationships, and pinpoint the right balance for you. As you learn about your Inner Relationship Fingerprint™, you will get more clarity about yourself and unblock what holds you back. By the end of part 1, you’ll know yourself in a different way. You will have identified and articulated what you need and want. Overall, you’ll be more confident about getting what you want in your relationship. You’ll emerge a more whole* person with a greater capacity for connection, and know how to inject the power of you into the relationship.
In part 2 you will reconnect with your partner, reinvigorated and with a fresh sense of purpose. With guidance, you and your partner (who we hope takes this journey with you) will build a strong and lasting foundation and create a compelling shared vision that honors your individual uniqueness. Two whole people will link to form a robust, strong, and lasting “us.” Finally, you’ll have the opportunity to negotiate an agreement to support your vision.
Relationship Transformation is a system with an individual approach. Step by step, you tune in and connect with yourself and then with your partner. No one kind of relationship is offered as a panacea; rather, you get to create the one that works for you. Your path through this book is action-oriented. Time-tested tools, exercises, quizzes, and surveys will help get you where you want to go. You and your partner can use these tools at different stages of your lives. To preserve these pages for multiple uses and users, we suggest that you photocopy the exercises, write your answers only on the photocopies, and save your filled-in pages in a binder — thus creating a personal journal of the process. Alternatively, all of these tools can be downloaded at www.relationshiptransformers.com. You can print them and create your personal journal from the printed pages.
* A “whole” person is fully functional emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. A whole person experiences a full spectrum of feelings and is able to be intentional in his or her actions and to be authentic in relationships.
How Is This Book Different from
Traditional Relationship Books?
In traditional books and therapy, a diagnosis is made of what ails the relationship, and a treatment plan for its “cure” is designed. Couples learn conflict resolution, anger management, communication skills, and the art of compromise. Often they are encouraged to mold themselves into a specific, one-size-fits-all relationship model.
Yet studies reveal that couples therapy works only 35% of the time. On average, couples live in a troubled relationship for six years before seeking help. By then, negative patterns and the buildup of rage and resentment can make transformation very difficult. In therapy, couples promise to change their behavior without addressing the critical underlying issues that cause their distress. With each compromise a partner makes, he or she becomes more distant from his or her authentic dreams and desires. Partners who compromise too much risk losing themselves in the process.
This book takes a different tack by getting to the root of the problem. Relationship Transformation will change the way you think about your relationship. First you connect with your deepest self and get access to your desires and dreams. With the help of targeted tools you will puncture cultural myths, dissolve distortions, and discard old baggage. By uncovering old patterns and limiting beliefs, you will learn about what holds you back. Then you will collaborate with your partner to create a new vision. Relationship Transformation offers a method that puts you in charge. You will build a solid and dynamic relationship to last a lifetime.
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