Creating fulfilling relationships

Author Archives: eric

A Story of Successful Relationship

Imagine you are born into a small community in which everyone knows each other. Your parents are valued in the community and are well supported. As a baby and young child, you are often held, carried, or wrapped against your mother or father, and they are very responsive to your cries for connection or comfort. What’s more, your extended family is directly involved in raising you. In fact, all of the adults in your community keep an eye on you and help care for you.

As you grow, you learn the rituals, customs, and mythology of your people, and you develop a deep connection to the land. Most of your time is spent outdoors playing with children of all ages. When the elders decide that you are ready, they take you through a rite of passage that allows you to leave childhood behind and step fully into adulthood. Through their guidance in your life and through the integration of your right of passage, the elders help you discover and understand your purpose – your unique gift to contribute to the community. Being acknowledged for the gift you have to contribute gives you a strong self-esteem. A mentor takes you on and guides you in mastering your purpose and in developing a healthy humility.

Of course, there is conflict in your community, but everyone knows and trusts the conflict process that the community uses. And the hardships of life, such as disease and drought, are well known by your clan. Nonetheless, there is a strength and resilience in each of you that is fed directly by the interdependent connection you share.

And now, as an initiated adult with a deep sense of belonging and a profound sense of purpose, you are ready for a relationship. Yet again, the elders and the community are there to guide, support, and celebrate you and your lover. A successful, healthy relationship awaits you because your love for your mate is balanced by your passion for your purpose and your bond with your community.

What is the cost for those of us not born into such a community?

The costs are great. Not only does the lack of such a community impede fulfillment of some of our biggest needs – belonging, purpose, support, meaning, being seen – our intimate relationships also pay a huge price. Without realizing it, many people expect a relationship to meet the needs that are meant to be fulfilled by a community. We have such high expectations of intimate relationships because we are told from an early age that we will be happy and whole once we find our prince or princess, our soul mate, our beloved. Our ancestors would have shaken their heads at such an idea. I imagine their hearts filling with compassion when imagining uninitiated, tribe-less lovers attempting to have a successful relationship and meaningful lives. I can hear our ancestors ask, “Are they really trying to move forward together and even raise a family without knowing their place in the tribe and their true gifts to contribute, without mentors and elders to help them on their path and guide them to become wise leaders? How does that work? Do they have some magical power that we do not yet know about?”  And then our ancestors weep when they hear about how this type of relationship does not work. They grieve deeply for our loss and for the cost our disconnected way of living has on the land and on all life.

I am not suggesting with this story that you should not have any expectations for your intimate relationships. I am suggesting that you put as much or more effort into building community, finding and following your true purpose, finding your mentors and elders, and connecting to the land, as you do into building your intimate relationships.

Most of us aren’t able to live in the kind of land-based communities in which our ancestors lived, so we need to piece it together as best we can. There are all kinds of groups that can act as surrogate communities – women’s groups, men’s groups, spiritual groups, therapy groups, social change groups – just be sure it is a group that is an interdependent group that helps you grow and shine brighter. Therapist, coaches and the like can be our mentors and elders, as can others who have the necessary experience and wisdom (be wary of those who claim to have all the answers). A deep connection to the Earth requires consistent time in nature, gratitude, and reverence – some guidance from those skilled in connecting to nature is recommended. As for finding your true purpose, here is my recipe: Rites of Passage/Initiation Rituals; Ongoing Inner Healing Work – integrating your wounds; Following Your Bliss (see Joseph Campbell) – following your dreams and doing the things that truly bring you alive; Guidance and Support. (Note: Your true purpose does not need to be your career.)

If the above suggestions seem overwhelming, don’t worry, you have the rest of your life to explore them. Consistent small steps are better than occasional mighty leaps (although, mighty leaps are called for at times). What’s more, these suggestions will not only improve your intimate relationship, they will give you a rewarding life. Author Esther Perel says that the quality of your life is determined by the quality of your relationships. In my opinion, that includes the relationships you have with your community, the land around you, and your sense of purpose.

Here is my latest recording for you https://soundcloud.com/thenextsmallthingmusic/a-thousand-mirrors-1. This song is about seeking inner clarity by spending time alone in the wilderness, and by slowing down and trusting answers will come. It’s also about shining our lights for each other when we get lost. Somehow, this song evolved into a dance song. Perhaps it will help you dance into a deeper connection with yourself, with your life and with the mystery of it all. The lyrics of this song were written by me and my sister, Simone Saavedra. Bryana Hope sings the back-up vocals.

Working Successfully Through Difficult Dialogues

A Structured Dialogue Process for Working Through Challenging Issues Inspired by Restorative Circles – www.restorativecircles.org This process is designed to build understanding and collaboration while working through important or difficult issues. Practice it with easier issues so that it is easier to learn. This process works best when you are as interested in the other’s… Continue Reading

Somatic Self-Empathy

SOMATIC SELF-EMPATHY If you are aware that your amygdala is activated, that you are in fight/flight or freeze and struggling to stay connected and compassionate with yourself or another, You can connect to your prefrontal cortex, regulate your upset, and find a healthy response to the situation by observing your breath, thoughts, and sensations; feeling… Continue Reading

Increasing Your Capacity to Feel

The following post is an excerpt from my book Meet Me In Hard-to-Love Places: The Heart and Science of Relationship Success Widen the Window Two of the most supportive things parents can do for their children are healing their own attachment trauma (thereby further developing their own neural pathways for emotional regulation and secure attachment) and… Continue Reading

What is a Conscious Relationship?

In an interview with Helen LaKelly Hunt and Harville Hendrix that I often recommend to people, Helen and Harville define a conscious relationship as one in which each partner is aware that the wounds and relationship dynamics from childhood will have a big influence on their relationship. In other words, they are conscious that what… Continue Reading

What is The Shadow

An important part of differentiation for adults involves uncovering and reclaiming the disowned parts that were not accepted or loved by their parents. The term “shadow,” first suggested by the psychoanalyst Carl Jung, is often used when referring to our disowned parts, or to the place in our psyches in which we have hidden them. If disowned… Continue Reading

My Time for Waiting is Over

My first two professionally produced songs are ready! The first song is Our Time for Waiting is Over. This song is a call out to answer the heart and find the courage, humility, strength and support needed to bring love to both the light and dark places. It is the theme song for my Gofundme Campaign… Continue Reading

Bringing Love to Painful Places

The end of a marriage, a cancer diagnosis, the destruction of nature, a politician who does not share your values winning an election, how on earth do we bring love to these experiences? Love finds an opening into painful places when we find a willingness to be present to what we are experiencing. The more… Continue Reading

Your Inner Leader

When building successful relationships, it can be very helpful to see yourself as a collection of different inner parts that developed in your psyche due to your various life experiences. There are all kinds of inner parts: a child part, a critic part, a victim part, a monster, a show off, a caretaker, a saboteur,… Continue Reading