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Tag Archive 'relationships'

Dec 04 2014

You. Me. We. Wow!

Published by under Knowing Relationships BLOG



A Relationship Has a Mind of It’s Own.

You’ve probably intuited this, sensed it vaguely. When you reach a certain level of maturity  you can really see this. But it takes effort.

When my collaborator, Marilyn Bronstein, and I interviewed really successful couples, this is what we saw: they not only had a significant amount of self-respect (The “Me” mind) and they not only had a genuine and intelligent appreciation for their partner (The “You” mind), they also had a reasonably solid sense of how the two of them fit together into a “We.” And more than that, the loved the “We.” Sometimes they thought the “We” was so cool they were blown away in awe.(Wow!)  You. Me. We. Wow.  That’s how great relationships seem to work.

So let’s look at the We.

(This is a little abstract, but it’s a start.)

A relationship is a shared mental process. In fact, at times couples aren’t sure who thought what, i.e., “Was that my idea or yours?”

  • A relationship has a presence, a personality and an emotional impact. If one partner has an intense emotion – anger, lust, sadness, pick one – the other person feels it. An emotion is alike a rope both people are holding; it can and will make demands on both partners. It shapes how partners see each other.  It is a lens through which partners understand each other. When there’s lust, they see each other as attractive, when there is anger, they see each other as dangerous, and so on.    Send article as PDF   

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Oct 02 2014

Reinventing Yourself

Published by under Knowing Relationships BLOG

escher hands



Sometimes I find the same basic idea in contemporary psychology and also ancient wisdom. So then I think there is a lot of truth in it. And then, when I find it in a quote by an artist I admire, I feel that I’ve found something especially trustworthy.   Here is the quote:

“We have to invent and reinvent who we are until we arrive at a self we can bear to live with and die with.”

It’s by the poet, Stanley Kunitz and I don’t know how he discovered the principle. I hadn’t heard it elsewhere. Usually what I hear is “Be true to yourself.” How do we reconcile those two thoughts? How do we reconcile “being true,” with “reinventing?”

Kunitz died in 2006 at age 101. He was twice named as U.S. poet laureate.  Younger poets made pilgrimages to be with him. I’m sure he practiced what he preached. In the quote, he was talking about how he became a good poet.

The more I thought about what he said, the more I felt that it also applied to becoming a good  partner. If you have a love relationship and the two of you are building a life together, all that he said about being a poet is also true for being a partner.  What’s true of creating is also true of co-creating.    Send article as PDF   

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Sep 10 2014

“Live with Purpose” or “Live one day at a time.” Which will it be?

Published by under Knowing Relationships BLOG

teeter totter



I had a very interesting conversation over the weekend with a man I’d just met. The conversation was so good that  we ended up with a better question than an answer. It’s always very satisfying to walk away with something to think about. I’ll share the question first, then the story of how we got there, then how I think I’ve answered it.

First, here’s the question:  How can you live your life according to your highest purpose and also live in the moment? And this wasn’t an idle question. It had serious consequences.

It all started on a Sunday afternoon in late August in one of Montreal’s most beautiful city parks. There was a lake with ducks, people wandering the paths around the lake, a white lodge with a café on the terrace serving lunch under the trees, a man playing accordion near the lunch tables, a great lawn with many picnic tables and grown-ups and kids and dogs all over the place, everyone very happy. Cyclists and joggers passed by one the paths and mountainous clouds passed by overhead.    Send article as PDF   

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May 06 2014

Can A Relationship Be Sacred To One But Not To The Other?

cat and horse


Let’s look more closely at this and we’ll start with the least sacred way of thinking I can imagine: cold, impersonal, chemical interactions inside the brain. Ah, psychology has a way of getting to the heart of things, don’t you think? The presence of loved and loving partner, may I say, “the sacred presence,” triggers a specific brain chemical called oxytocin.


Now it would be a great mistake, if not a modern one, to reduce all this to oxytocin and say, “Well Really, it’s just a change in brain chemistry.”  I cringe. That would be like saying that the chemical level is the only level that really matters. But still, in the presence of the Sacred, we do have a change in brain chemistry and this change makes a change in the way we experience life. Oxytocin makes us get personal and gushy. Oxytocin is the cuddle neurochemical. It appears in the brains of babies and mothers during nursing. It’s in lovers in their sweet afterglow. It appears in the brain when two become as one. It appears when we become part of something bigger than just ourselves.    Send article as PDF   

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May 06 2014

How the Sacred Appears in Intimate Relationships.

spring waterI was going to call this post, “How to make a relationship sacred,” but that can’t be done. You can’t make something sacred. You can recognize, or discover it. You can’t make it. And there is something sacred within some relationships. However it exists independently of you or your wishes and schemes, and that’s partly what makes it sacred.

What you can do, in response to that sacred something is honor and protect it, or desecrate it. Either/or. I don’t think there is a neutral position.

But first, I’m going to try to define the sacred without using words like “God” and “Spirituality,” words that are equally mysterious and poetic. (I am trying find ways to think about my experience of these things that feels fresh and personal. I don’t want to just listen to elders without including my own voice, especially now that I’ve become elder myself.)

What does it mean when I say something is sacred? I was fascinated to learn that the Hebrew word for “blessing” was very close to the word for a fresh water spring. It also means something set apart.

I like looking at how humans first start using a word. I helps me understand the deep meanings of that word. Maybe the old word for holiness is an ancient metaphor. Suppose we lived in a desert and one day, one of us found a fresh water bubbling up, a spring. Imagine that, water, the stuff of life, coming up out of nowhere right in the middle of a desert! We’d all stop and look and remember this place forever, something we discovered that changed our life for the better. That is want it’s like to find something sacred.    Send article as PDF   

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Aug 29 2013

Partners who are very different understand something important about what makes a relationship work.

Published by under Knowing Relationships BLOG


Partners who are very different

By Philip Alan Belove, Ed.D. All rights reserved

For the past three years Marilyn Bronstein and I have been interviewing couples that have been together a long time and who have relationships they are very pleased with. (It’s been very interesting and very different from talking to troubled couples. The book will be available in October. We’re very pleased. More news about it on the sidebar.)With some of the couples in our research, the partners came from very different backgrounds – different languages, different cultures. To some extent we all have to deal with how we differ from our partner. This is the source of most of the challenges in a marriage, and the greater the differences, the greater the challenges. The people we spoke had to find positive ways to think about their differences. They have figured out something important for the rest of us. They have insights to share. First I want to share some examples of what we heard.

She:    It’s a beautiful dance that we get to do because our differences are actually not opposite. They mirror each other.

He:    There are so many Yin and Yang things about us.

This is the essence of emotional intelligence, this sense of how the two sides fit together, I am calling it “A Feeling for the Relationship,” as in “an intuition about the relationship.I saw it in those couples.    Send article as PDF   

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Jun 24 2011

Affairs That Initiate a Midlife Crisis: What’s Going On, Why They Work and Why, Eventually, They Usually Don’t Work.    Send article as PDF   

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Apr 26 2011

How to Read Someone’s Intentions Like a Pro.

In almost every counseling and coaching session I end up teaching this particular tool, so I’ve decided to write down the mini-lecture. It’s the sort of thing that took me years to finally learn and appreciate. So rather than repeat it as many times as I needed it repeated to me, I’m going to write it out. Please read and re-read. Please pass it along. As far as I’m concerned, it’s gold.

“The dangerous man is the one who has only one idea, because then he’ll fight and die for it. The way real science goes is that you come up with lots of ideas, and most of them will be wrong.”  Francis Crick.

If you’ve settled into a relationship, really settled, you know your partner’s quirks and you know how your partner is unique and different from you. But if you haven’t settled in, sooner or later you are going to be challenged by something your partner does that doesn’t make sense to you and which, often, you won’t like.

It’s important to remember this: You don’t know this person intimately. Not yet. The only people you know intimately are people you’ve had previous enduring relationships with, and maybe not even them. You are still learning.

What mental habits do you need in order to help you understand this new person’s intentions?

Here’s the golden rule: Always have three guesses about what’s really going on. And then watch how things unfold to see which of your guesses is best.    Send article as PDF   

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Aug 03 2010

Is Your Boyfriend a Werewolf?

by Philip Belove, Ed.D.
Remember “The Wolf Man”? It was old silver screen horror story that mayseem pretty tame by today’s standards, but lately I find myself thinking about it as I work with people struggling to create good, intimate relationships.
Here’s a plot summary: The lead character is warm and easy to be with — that is, except during full moons, when he grows long teeth and hair, gets angry and rips people apart. He can’t help it; he is a good person, but with a curse. But here’s the key part: He wants to be released from his curse and the only way that can happen is for someone who really loves him to shoot him through the heart with a silver bullet. He has to be in a relationship with someone he really loves and she has to see the darker side of who he is and then she has to destroy him.
Someone who approved this script said, “That’s right. That makes a certain kind of sense.”
How does this weird lesson apply to the successful creation of a long term relationship?    Send article as PDF   

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