The Nine Essential Ingredients

Welcome to the 21st Century. Life is changing amazingly swiftly, and looks only to be speeding up, complicating our relationships tremendously. Relationships are one of the most important, vital things in our lives, but it’s one of the places we suffer the most.

The conventional relationship models that were handed down to us don’t quite fit so well, don’t have a great reputation for working, nor do we seem to have the skills to make them great and sustainable.

Our hunger for extraordinary relationships is a lot like ordering a meal at a restaurant: we look at the menu, salivate at the picture or description, and then start chewing away bitterly on the menu itself. We want the delicious, satisfying meal, but somehow settle for the cardboard facsimile.

But having the meal – the extraordinary, satisfying, delicious relationship you want – is absolutely possible. I know seems like it’s a chasm away, but it’s not; it’s only a paper ceiling.

Over the years of messing up grandly, suffering madly, but then getting diverse, top-level education and training, doing in-depth research, working with hundreds of clients, teaching scores of workshops and retreats and creating my own extraordinary relationship (for over 7 years now), I’ve found what it takes create – and sustain – extraordinary relationships. It requires some Essential Ingredients – Nine, in fact. You decide on the proportions and presentation, but all Nine Essential Ingredients have to be in there.

There’s not one right way to create the ultimate relationship feast – but there is YOUR way.

Using the Nine Essential Ingredients, we create a blueprint from which you will build an extraordinary relationship with yourself and, when you want it, with others. Retro-fit to you. Hand-crafted, rather than pre-fab from the factory.

I provide you with the Nine Essential Ingredients and the simple, spicy recipe guide for re-defining, re-designing and re-igniting your relationships for the 21st century.

How you mix, merge & integrate the Nine Essential Ingredients, that’s your role. Serving them up to you, in clear, usable, appetizing morsels – that's mine! I’ve presented it in small, doable, and bite-sized chunks that assimilate easily into your real life.

For example, if I handed three different people three sets of the same ingredients, say eggs, butter, flour, sugar, salt and zucchini, person one might make quiche, person two might make zucchini bread and person three might make a sautéed zucchini fritters andtoss the extra salt over her shoulder for luck!

There's no one right way to do it, and your outcome will be as unique as it will be delicious, but all Nine Essential Ingredients have to be there:

  1. Appreciation: the golden key
  2. Decoding Men, Demystifying Women
  3. Self-Awareness
  4. Communication Made Easy
  5. Conflict Re-Solution
  6. Truth-Telling
  7. A Divine Sex Life
  8. Relationship Vessel
  9. Community Creation

Ingredient #1

Appreciation: the golden key

This is the foundation. It begins and ends with and always comes back to appreciation.

I was once at a workshop all about love. It was tough and surprising – I guess I was expecting more light and daisies, but half-way through I found myself caught in a painful space of despondency and self-doubt. I could see how I blocked myself from love, but I could also see how the pattern had an element built into it that kept me from getting out of the pattern! I almost didn’t go back on the second day, but I did, and I asked my question about my pitiful state to the teacher. I don’t even remember my question, but I do remember her response. She looked at me and cocked her head and said, “Yeah, but underneath all of that, there’s a part of you that’s winking, and knows underneath it all the Truth with a capital T, and knows you’re pretty great.”

And so I checked. And she was right. I found the wink and the sweet knowing of the Truth with a capital T. Every time I bring this up with clients while working one on or in a group and ask them to check, they find their own wink. Every single time.

The most basic part of us knows the Truth with a capital T. Like a plant that will always lean toward the light, we also have this quality that will always lean toward balance, truth, love. It is these parts for whom it is second nature to appreciate and to want to appreciate. It’s in our very nature.

Appreciation is the foundation. It’s where we have to start.

When something’s bad or wrong, we try to make it better. It seems like a natural urge, but we are missing two crucial steps. We know that what you put your attention on, grows, right? Well, when we focus on what’s wrong and bad, even though we want it to be better, we likely just get more bad and wrong. It’s like a law of Physics, things can’t go from bad to better; they go from Bad ? OK ? Good ? Better.

After noticing that things are bad, we have to first say, OK. We spend so much time rejecting, pushing away, making wrong, denying and resisting this bad stuff, but that actually makes the bad stuff stick. When we can say, OK, bad stuff. You are.” then things can start to move.

Then there is space for us to notice what is good about that bad thing, or what else is good around us. And then from there, things have the space to get better – and better and better and better!

Bad ? OK ? Good ? Better (and better and better …!)

OK and Good are parts of Appreciation. When we can shine the light of appreciation on
what we are experiencing, on our selves, and on our partners, then things can start to get better and keep getting better.

I know you may be experiencing real conflict and suffering in your relationship world. Appreciation is not a palliative; you’re not to pretend everything is fine when it isn’t. Appreciation is the ground that connection, amiable communication, and open-heartedness can grow from. Appreciation is the thing that makes possible the working on the areas of conflict ad suffering. Appreciation changes how to see yourself and how you see others. It changes how you relate to others. And it transforms self-talk and how you speak to those in your life.

To dive into the power of Appreciation, and learn how to put it into action, you’ll find exactly this in my audio self-study course, Communication Made Easy.

Ingredient #2

Decoding Men, Demystifying Women: ending the war of the sexes and starting a partnership party instead!

At the end of the day, it’s true: we are all human beings; we are not “just” men and women. However, the differences in how we relate, process, perceive, organize, decide, think, feel, reveal, communicate and experience life, based on our gender, are vast indeed.

Whether we agree with it or not, we all live inside what I call an ‘adversarial” model of relating. If you want to have power, you get it by having power OVER another. There’s a top dog and a bottom dog. You might switch which position you are in, but there’s still one in power, and one, well, not. And the default is (even while acknowledging how much equality and opportunity there is for women, especially in the western world), that the top dog slot belongs to men, and the bottom, to women.

It is natural to want to feel powerful, and the only means around seems to be to struggle (or fight or manipulate) for the top-dog slot. This is particularly relevant to women these days. The women I work with feel like they have to choose between their own power OR be in a relationship. In fact I have an entire audio self-study course called, Powerful Woman AND Partnership: Is It Possible?

By decoding men and demystifying women, by understanding the other sex we are so often adversaries of, we actually can begin to shift the adversarial model to one of partnership. We can begin to shift from power over another to being truly empowered, to being “on the same team,” to appreciating and understanding each other, rather than feeling like we are sleeping with the enemy. When one person in the system has power over another, everyone loses. When even one person is empowered, there’s chance for all to be.

It’s the misunderstanding and lack of understanding that causes the war of the sexes. Women mistakenly think men are hairy women; women assume men process, see, interpret, decide, feel, think and act in similar ways as women do, they just have more hair! So then women misinterpret a man’s action or words and assume he’s lazy, disrespectful or dangerous. Similarly, men mistakenly think women are irrational men; men assume women process, see, interpret, decide, feel, think and act in similar ways as men do, they just are irrational. So then men interpret a woman’s actions or words to mean she’s crazy.

If you were to travel in Italy, wouldn’t it be nice to know a bit of Italian so you could order a good meal, have a conversation about love and wine, and keep yourself out of jail? Italy may not be your native language, and you don’t have to forsake your native tongue, but you’ll just have a better time speaking the language of the locals.

Decoding Men and Demystifying Women is like a UN translation skill; you learn the language of this often-seeming different species. So when you travel to the land of Woman, you can speak some WomanSpeak; and when you travel to the land of Man, you can speak some ManSpeak, for more ease, understanding and peace.

In my work with women and couples, I notice about 90% of all fights, communication struggles and conflicts are completely taken care of when they are able to Decode Men and Demystify Women. Most couples start here, in either an in-person Workshop Intensive, Decoding Men and Demystifying Women, or with my audio self-study course, Communication Made Easy.

Women usually lead the pack in the area of self-improvement, and stereotypically have more ease in the realm of relationships. But relationships still don’t work unless each person is in the same game and on the same page. And thus, I offer tools for you men – you extraordinary, brave men – willing to put your butts on the line in the unfamiliar territory of relationships. For you magnificent ones, check out For Guys Eyes in my Resources/Relationship Advice section.

Ingredient #3

Self-Awareness: you first, or how to stop stopping yourself!

We want to have a great relationship with another, but we have to have a great one with ourselves first.

One part of self-awareness is knowing YOU really well, what I call Know Thyself: your hot buttons, your wiring and plumbing, so to speak, your triggers, what sets you off on your Downward Spirals. This is not s that you can engage in endless self-absorbed naval-gazing, but so that you can essentially have your own owner’s manual to YOU. Then you are much more able to help others relate to you much more easily. If you don’t know how you work, how is someone else going to? Self-awareness is the first step in being able to shift unhealthy, unwanted relationship patterns and step out of your relationship ruts.

I often call our level of self-awareness “Hamster Wheel.” We are like little hamsters that get on our little wheels and run and run and run our pattern. Hamsters are known to run themselves to death without ever considering they could just get off the wheel. When we can switch to “Bird’s Eye View” level of awareness, then we can look down, with perspective and notice that we are running, running, running our pattern!

Of course the swiftest, most elegant way to shift unwanted, painful patterns is 1-on-1 coaching or counseling work or in-person Workshop Intensives, but until I get to work with you in that capacity, I offer something I call the Three-Step Process.

  1. Awareness and noticing of the painful thought or trigger of the pattern.
  2. Pause, interrupt.
  3. Ask yourself a leading question, like: “If I didn’t have to do or feel what I ordinarily feel right now, what could I do or feel?” or, “what do I really need or want right now?”

I go more in depth into the Three-Step Process in the audio self-study course, Powerful Women AND Partnership, in my Free E-Course, and in my foundations-level Workshop Intensives. Admittedly, it’s a relatively slow conscious process you’ll be using on your very quick, unconscious pattern, but it does work.

The more we know ourselves, the more we can align with our needs, passions and desires. We can then identify them, be OK with having them, be OK with asking for them and even be OK with getting them met.

Another part of Knowing Thyself, is knowing what I call your Relationship Blueprint. This explains a lot about why you are attracted to the same type of person over and over again who’s often “bad” for you – and how you can turn that around and make it work for you. Our Relationship Blueprint is formed by our imprints and impressions from our parents and caretakers; their positive as well as negative traits. We create a blueprint of the perfect blended being who will finally “save” us, make us complete or make us happy. We hold this Blueprint up to people in our lives we encounter and when we get a match, when we are reminded of the first people who brought us life, we feel attraction.

We relate to this person as our Relationship Blueprint, and when they don’t sufficiently act out their role of savior or completer or happy-maker, when our partner doesn’t do “it” right, we get upset, feel unsafe, afraid, resentful, etc. Most of us never figure out our Relationship Blueprint and we never learn how to relate to partner as a person, rather than as a failed savior. This is why we stay entangled in unhealthy patterns and can’t seem to climb out of our relationship ruts. You’ll learn your personal Relationship Blueprint – as well as how to work with it to truly relate to your partner as a person, experience more love, connection, intimacy, affection and respect – in any foundations-level Workshop Intensive.

The last piece of self-awareness is self-care – the ways we take exquisite care of ourselves, the ways we speak to ourselves, appreciate ourselves and relate to ourselves. Self-awareness is important so that you can stop stopping yourself!

Ingredient #4

Communication Made Easy … really!

Why is it that other person can get upset, defensive, distant, disengaged and cold when we try to communicate? A lot of it has to do with the first Three Ingredients, Appreciation, Decoding Men, Demystifying Women and Self-Awareness; but then we have go on to understanding what we humans want to give and receive most in communication – and what often goes un-given and un-received.

I break out communication into three parts:

    1. Expression: the thought, idea, experience or feeling we want to impart to another.
    2. Tone and Intention: the words and tone we use as well as the meaning behind those words and tone.
    3. Reception: did your expression LAND? Did that other hear what you said? Understand it? Did it arrive clear or garbled? Did it arrive at all?

And communication can go off track in any one of those above three parts. So many ways for it to go wrong!

What human beings want and NEED most of all is to be truly understood, seen, heard and appreciated. There is tremendous power in deep listening and being acknowledged for the beings we are. And most of our strange behaviors in communication – like getting upset, defensive, distant, disengaged and cold – come from not having those needs met. We all want to be understood, seen, heard and appreciated, and when we are not, we will settle for the next best thing: being “right.” It’s a cheap facsimile and the cost is great, but when we settle for asserting we are “right,” we feel less crazy and out of control.

I often have people practice using what I call the Appreciation Sandwich. It’s pretty simple:

    1. Appreciation: something you feel, think, are moved by, are grateful for or want to thank them for. It has to be real and genuine and from your heart.
    2. One clear, do-able request. It helps if you are specific about when, how long, how much, etc, rather than something vague like, “Do it better, please.”
    3. Appreciation: like the second piece of bread in a sandwich, it can be a thank you or another piece of appreciation.

Starting with appreciation opens us up. When our partner approaches us first with appreciation, we can breathe a sigh of relief that we are not in trouble and we haven’t already messed up in some way. When we start with appreciation, the other person is more open to hear what we have to say.

So often we make unclear, accusatory, thorny requests (“Would you please take the trash out this week since you haven’t for the last three?) or requests that are hard to know how to do (“Can you please do a better job with that?”). It’s helpful to know what, specifically, you are asking for. When do you want it? For how long? In which situations? When is enough?

Ending with appreciation ends you on a high note. You both feel more at peace, open and at ease. Not a bad sandwich!

Some people find this the most natural thing ever, and some find it can be a bit forced in the beginning. After years of using it in the true sandwich form above, my boyfriend and I mix it up and don’t always follow that format, but that’s because we really went for it at first.

You’ll get more practice with the Appreciation Sandwich – in and out of the bedroom! – in my audio self-study course, Communication Made Easy as well as in any foundations-level Workshop Intensive.

I had a male client, who was looking to get back in the dating scene after a divorce, and in our first session told me during the divorce proceedings, his ex-wife told him that she hadn’t felt like he loved her for years. He told me was amazed! After all, he can taken exquisite care of her car – waxed and cleaned it, kept gas in it – for years!

We all express and experience love, care, affection in what I call different Love Dialects. In Italy, for example, everyone speaks Italian, but most small villages have their own dialects. They are so different that even neighboring villages won’t understand each other’s dialects.

That’s what was going on with my male client and his now ex-wife. He was speaking one Love Dialect, called caring for her car, but she wasn’t hearing him. He was expressing love, care and affection in the most natural way possible for him, but it wasn’t the way she experienced love, care and affection.

There are six different major Love Dialects – and knowing yours as well as your partners can save you years of disconnect and pain, and can make your time together now rich, fulfilling and amazing. You’ll learn your Love Dialect in my audio self-study course, Communication Made Easy as well as in any foundations-level Workshop Intensive.

Communication isn’t usually thought of as easy. It usually seems like there is huge chasm separating us from the other person, impossible to bridge. But with a bit of information, understanding and practice, the chasm becomes a paper-ceiling. It can become truly easy to break through into black-belt level, simple – even fun –communication.

Ingredient #5

Conflict Re-Solution: from rupture to repair

I know sometimes you experiencing real, painful conflict. You are miserable, fighting or nagging all the time. You experience intense jealousy you are not sure how to deal with. You run up against what seems like an impasse, around having children or not, the different ways you spend money, your different views on religion, different importance placed on sex, whether or not spending the holidays with family is important or not, etc. You wonder if you should end it, or if you should stick it out to learn the lesson now, rather than repeating it in a future relationship.

If you are in conflict, you should consider first of all getting a third party to help you out; someone neutral to both (or all) of you, whom you trust. It could be a professional, a counselor, or a friend. But so often even when you mean well, the ways you try to solve the conflict only dig you deeper into the conflict itself. Someone outside the dynamic or conflict pattern can help tremendously, even just by listening and being there.

A good guideline for knowing if your relationship needs work, or if you are experiencing the ups and downs of all relationships is this: Ask yourself, or each other, “Are you are having fun, enjoying yourself and your partner less than half the time?” If so, your relationship could absolutely be better, and will likely get worse without doing something about it. The next questions to ask are: “Are you both willing to work on it and give it your all, either by reading books, working with a coach or counselor, taking courses, etc? Are you willing to do so for a good chunk of time (like three months), with no outs?”

What about when you are not sure whether to stay and commit, or to just end it? Here are some important questions to ask:

    1. Ask yourself: “Is this relationship abusive, emotionally or physically? Is my body in danger? Are the children, or those I care for, in danger?” Sometimes it’s hard to know yourself. You could be blind to the level of abuse in the relationship. Ask opinions of friends or those you trust.
    2. Ask your partner: “Is there something you are not getting from me that dearly want and need, you’ve given up on getting?”
    3. Ask your partner: “Is there something I’m doing that is losing your respect or your love or having you feel unsafe?”
    4. Ask your partner: “What can I do that would make you truly happy?” (Don’t forget to get specific: how much, when, where, for how long, etc.)

If you are experiencing jealousy, remember that jealousy is a complex blend of emotions: fear, loss, envy, exclusion, anger, sadness, etc. Jealousy can be a blessing, actually. It can point a strong finger toward an area within yourself where you are not feeling confident, clear or sure of yourself, and where you could use some growth, attention or self-care. It can also point another strong finger toward an area in your relationship where a boundary or an agreement needs to be remade or upgraded, so you can feel more at ease, secure, safe and open.

I often prescribe my Jealousy Meditation: when jealousy arises, take a moment and assess what you are actually feeling. What combination of fear, loss, envy, exclusion, etc are you feeling? What if those fears came true? What would that mean about you? Would you be able to handle it? What might these emotions have to “tell” you?

Taking some time to learn from jealousy rather than run from it or react to it, can turn it into a gorgeous blessing, and up the level of your trust and connection in your relating.

Always, but especially in times of conflict, make and keep your agreements. Boundaries and agreements are meant to be constantly upgraded and remade anew, but not in the middle of an agreement, and not without really discussing the new agreement!

We make messes all the time. It’s a natural by-product of growing, trying new things, taking leaps and being human. But, it’s important to take the initiative and responsibility to clean up – and learn from – your messes as soon as you can. You can apply the principles of what I call the Constructive Learning Curve to clean up any mess: Start with Appreciation. Listen, really listen to the other person’s experience of the mess. Acknowledge their perspective, even though it may not be yours. Trade and share your experience, and take stock of what you’d like not to do again, as well as what pieces you’d like to keep. Make a new agreement so you can both have the experience next time that you’d actually prefer having! And end with Appreciation.

Perhaps you can see how all Nine Essential Ingredients – or at least #1-5 so far! – feed off each other and have to be present for the whole thing to work.

To apply the Constructive Learning Curve to a mess you’ve made or are in, and to try out the Jealousy Meditation on an area in your life where the green-eyed beast has you by the throat, check out my audio self-study courses, Communication Made Easy and Making Sense of Non-Monogamy.

Ingredient #6

Truth-Telling: how trust and intimacy are born and grow

Ingredient #6 is Truth-Telling, but I could also have called it the Intimacy we all crave.. I could also call it the Trust and Honesty necessary for high-level relating, the Integrity and Congruity needed for us to thrive as humans and partners. But Intimacy, Trust, Honesty, Integrity, Congruity – all these elements don’t even exist without Truth-Telling.

If you are not telling the truth, you have a lie, not a relationship.

Why is it that we so deeply desire Intimacy, but at the same time we run from it like our tails are on fire?

As we are growing and developing little beings, we generally learn that parts of ourselves are not OK: Boys don’t cry. We don’t do that in this family. Don’t touch yourself. Don’t be mean, share. Don’t be so loud.

These parts of ourselves are not only not OK, they stand between us and the love, attention and belonging we need and want. So we hide and deny these parts, we pretend they don’t exist. We send these parts to the land of the Lost Parts, where hopefully we’ll never be troubled by them again. Our greatest fear is getting found out, as the wrong, worthless, flawed being we fear ourselves to be.

But the “trouble” is that when we send certain parts of us away, where exactly do they go? If we are at war with parts of ourselves, and we strive to win out over them, who loses?

And the other “trouble” is that these Lost Parts all have an intended positive outcome for us. They are at their essence, life-affirming parts that also want to be seen, heard, known and appreciated. We all want tobe naked – literally and figuratively – in front of another. We want to know and be known, thoroughly and completely. We want to share and open and connect. But we are afraid of the consequences of being our “real” selves, since it didn’t seem to go so well the first time we tried.

Creating and sustaining intimacy takes the courage and fortitude to tell the Truth with a capital T about all of who we are. (If that’s a new concept, check back to Ingredient #1: Appreciation).

A hugely important part of Truth-Telling, and a pre-cursor to building Safety, Trust, Honesty, Integrity and Congruity is a skill I call Unpacking or Re-Defining. A word like Safety – what exactly do we mean by that? There’s so much meaning, extremely personal meaning, sewn up in that one little noun. To me, Safety means one set of things, and to you it can mean an entirely different set of things. The process of Unpacking has you pull apart the word, and see what rich mixture of meaning is buried inside it, for each person.

What actions could I do that would make you feel safe? How will you know when you are safe? What lets you know when you are unsafe? How safe is safe enough? When would you like to experience safety?

And take a word like, Marriage. I have two friends who recently got divorced. For him, packed into the word, marriage, was the feeling that he’d “made it.” Marriage for him meant he was a good man, a good provider, he was secure, he felt secure, and he felt well-thought-of by his family and community. Marriage for her meant she was trapped, she couldn’t be who she really was, she was dependent, and she was no longer able to express her creativity. I always felt that if they had unpacked their personal definitions of “Marriage” they might have had a different experience.

Perhaps they could have gone so far as to Re-Define what Marriage meant for them both individually and created something that resembled Marriage, but didn’t set off alarm bells. The process of Re-Defining is taking a word like Marriage, or commitment, or trust or safety, and examining it; taking the parts that work, leaving the rest.

Re-Defining is to first respectfully know the definition as it stands in the dictionary, your culture, your family and your society. But then to re-claim and make it your own so you know in your heart what it means to YOU. You know what you mean by “commitment,” “trust,” “love,” and even “monogamy,” but does your partner? Does your community know, so they can support you in it?

Re-Defining any word for ourselves turns it from something static, to something moving, personal, vibrant and alive. Re-Defining is the process by which we take a concept dear to us and make it sing with new life – we examine it, unpack it, take a look at its innards and components. What was generic becomes personal. We re-interpret, describe and clarify for ourselves; we give crisp meaning to, and put into words anew.

We Unpack and Re-Define these important, tightly-packed terms, so we can go into our relating with eyes wide open, as much on the same page as possible, all the while updating and staying fresh.

Truth-telling requires radical levels of honesty. Not always easy, but I say necessary. Truth-telling also requires radical levels of personal responsibility and initiative. Telling the truth – about yourself, about what you want most – if not you, then who?

You can start with a delightfully blunt, brutally honest book by Brad Blanton, Radical Honesty. Working with your greatest fears, learning to create and sustain intimacy and unpacking and re-defining important words like “love,” “trust” and “commitment” are skills you’ll dive into in any foundations-level Workshop Intensive.

Ingredient #7

A Divine Sex Life: a body of ecstatic sensuality and the red-hot erotic

The most important aspect to having A Divine Sex Life is choosing monogamy – or not. For most of us, it’s a default setting. It needs to be a choice. Talk about a need for unpacking and re-defining; monogamy is on the top of the list. Monogamy is great, but only when it’s a choice. Likewise, non-monogamy is great, but only when it is a choice.

The statistics vary, but somewhere between 30-80% of people cheat. We say monogamy is the gold standard, but our actions do not at all align. To be blunt, many of us practice non-monogamy, but just lie about it, feel terrible about it and hide it.

What if it weren’t the actions themselves – of being sensual, sexual or flirting with others – that were the problem? What if it were the rules and default settings themselves? No one can decide if monogamy or some flavor of non-monogamy is right for you in your relationship, except you and your partner, or partners. It should – and has to be – your choice. Your conscious, eye-open, brave and courageous choice.

I know it’s a radical thing to say. To help make some more sense of it, check out my audio self-study course, Making Sense of Non-Monogamy for an in-depth, comprehensive sweep over how it can be done, and done impeccably well.

None of us want a boring, unsatisfying sex life. None of us want our sensuality to wane, the sexual sizzle to fizzle. We want divine union, ecstatic connection and a rockin’ good time.

My philosophy on sexuality is that it can’t be separate from, as it is traditionally, from spirituality. Regardless of what you believe or want, we are acculturated to a great extent that the way to spiritual connection is by denying, transcending and excluding the body, especially our sexuality. Instead I ask, how can we experience Sexuality As Spirituality? I borrow heavily from Vedic Tantric philosophy which offers that perhaps we can experience spiritual connection through our body and through our sexuality.

Vedic Tantrism offers that there’s nothing to transcend in order to get to the Divine. There’s no intermediary needed between us and the Divine. We are the Divine; the Divine is having a human experience through us. There’s nowhere we could go that the Divine would not also be. Including our sexual energy and body.

But why it that so often in long-term relationships, or when the trust, familiarity, safety and commitment grows, the sexual spark can die? Arousal, attraction and desire all require some element of newness, otherness and even danger to ignite. When we want or desire something, it is because we do not have it or know it.

When we know everything about our partner and there’s nothing left to discover, arousal, attraction and desire can splutter out. And for some people, they keep their sexual and erotic selves separate from their loving, intimate, committed selves, never the two shall meet.

But this by no means the sex always dies. I know it often does, but it doesn’t have to. We each have what I call our Erotic Blueprint – the complex conglomeration of meanings, beliefs, experiences and fantasies that make up our erotic self. If we plumb the depths of our Erotic Blueprint and bit by bit reveal it to ourselves and to our partners, and they to us, we can then see them anew. There becomes ever more to know and discover about them. There becomes room to grow infinitely into more ecstatic sexual connection and red-hot eroticism.

It does take time and energy; it does take creativity and commitment. A great teacher of mine once said, there’s only one way to coast.

A simple way to start is by using the Appreciation Sandwich in the bedroom. To review the Appreciation Sandwich, head back to Ingredient #4: Communication Made Easy. But a G-rated example might go something like this:

“Your hands on my shoulders feel so warm and delicious. Would you rub with a little more pressure? Ah, that’s amazing, thank you.” Repeat, rinse, repeat.

I know it may sound crazy to talk during sex. It might ruin the mood or the moment, you might feel awkward or stupid. But the problem is that so often in sex, our attention is anywhere but on pleasure, anywhere but on sensation, anywhere but on our body or on our partner’s body. Our attention is in our head, in our thoughts. We wonder if we look OK, if our partner is enjoying themselves, if we are doing it right.

Using the Appreciation Sandwich brings in appreciation (duh!), so it assuages our fears of doing it right, and then it re-directs our attention back to where it’s going to be best: onto our partner, onto pleasure, onto sensation, on to our own body. It harnesses the power of communication, it eroticizes the spoken word, it eliminated guesswork and mind-reading.

As you can see, creating and deepening A Divine Sex Life is hard to do without Ingredient #6, Truth-telling. Truth be told (ha, ha), it’s pretty hard to do without Ingredients #1-#6, as well.

To learn more about searing sensuality, sweet intimacy and heavy petting with the divine, for some exercises and home practices for the juicy, ecstatic and edgy stuff, check out more of my philosophy in Secret Subjects.

Ingredient #8

Your Relationship Vessel: charting a course, course correcting and enjoying the waves.

The seas of relationships are sometimes sunny and calm, sometimes they just about kill you, but the the important question is, what’s the condition of your boat? Where’s it going? What’s it’s name and mission?

My boyfriend and I a while back got into a really big disagreement, which felt like an impasse. Funny enough, it involved a boat. He had just learned how to sail and gotten his Captain’s license. My career was taking off in leaps and bounds. He wanted us to sail around the world, for a year or two or four.

It brought up all kinds of issues: Who’s desire do we follow? How to honor what we both wanted most with one option having us disappear from life as we know it and the other planting us firmly into it? It got rough and hard and pretty nasty for us both.

We asked a dear friend for some help – remember that third party bit from Ingredient #5: Conflict Re-Solutions? – and he gave us the best perspective ever. From his view, the “container” of our relationship was just too small; we’d outgrown it. We needed a bigger boat, with a different course and a different intention. We were experiencing some stormy seas, and we needed a more sea-worthy vessel.

We had to reassess: why were we in relationship? What were our goals, our intentions? What did we want most for our selves, for each other, for this period of our lives? Would what we both wanted most for ourselves, each other and our lives be better served by us NOT being together? Were we better people and more able to do what we most wanted, together?

This gave voice to the third entity of our relationship itself. It gave it shape, form, energy and animation. We feed this third entity, we care for it, we give it creative energy and time. It’s what carries us two along.

What happened with my career and his trip around the world? In the process of reassessing our Relationship Vessel, we found a third option: we’d go for a year and a half (a goodly amount of time to do some serious sailing) and I’d write my book on board, a next step I wanted in my work life. But we’d never have come to that elegant, mutually respectful place without taking a closer look at our Relationship Vessel.

A simple exercise you can do to create or re-create your Relationship Vessel:

    1. Spend some time writing, journaling or thinking on: What is your personal vision and goals for you individually? For the relationship?
    2. Do this or share this with your partner.
    3. Finesse it: agree on your overlapping elements.
    4. Decide when you’ll review & update. Even this Relationship Vessel is going to need an upgrade and course correction at some point.

If you have trouble doing this on your own, or it’s not flowing between you and your partner or partners, it’s something you may need to bring to a coaching or counseling session. It’s also part of any foundation-level Workshop Intensive for couples.

Ingredient # 9

Community Creation: the company you keep and who keeps you

We rise and fall to the company we keep. Those around us influence us, whether we want them to or not! Those around us have particular “listening” for us. When they listen to us like we are messing up and can’t get it right, we mess up and can’t seem to get it right. when they listen to us like we are doing a great job, making great choices and asking important questions, we do all that and more.

Those around you witness you in your relationship, they hold you to what your goals and intentions are for the relationship. We are social beings. We need others. We can’t do it in a vacuum. But selecting those around you with care and attention is vital.

About two years ago, I began working with a couple who was considering opening up their relationship. They told me how crazy they felt; they couldn’t talk to their friends and family about it, they didn’t know if other people were also wondering about the same things or whether they were just messed up, and they didn’t know how to get support for their exploration so the relationship didn’t implode in the meantime.

A first step was for them to put attention on their community. Were there people who had poor “listening” that they could spend less time with? Were there people, organizations, groups, resources they could add in to support them both?

Whether your relationship is traditional or non, you need a community of kindred tribe members to help you build it.

To start yourself in Community Creation, perhaps you can:

    1. Let go of one person/event/obligation that is an unhealthy drain.
    2. Add one new person/event/resource that is absolutely nourishing.

Those are the Nine Essential Ingredients. They will help you to step out of relationship ruts, to shift unhealthy emotional patterns and to create extraordinary partnerships.

You can consider me your intrepid guide on your joyride to Relationship Literacy, offering you:

    • The Nine Essential Ingredients for passionate partnerships for the 21st Century
    • Insight into how you are wired and how to get out of your own way
    • Fluency in the areas of radical personal responsibility, communication, conflict resolution, intimacy, honesty and commitment
    • Tools to decipher your partner and create profound partnership
    • Skillful use of joy, pleasure and passion as your touchstone

If you want to read more of my writing, you can check out the following in my Resources section:

Relationship With Yourself
It starts with you – knowing how you are wired, what your buttons are, what you love, what makes you tick. It starts with your ability to take responsibility for your own joy, sanity and health, before you can do it with another person. A solid Relationship With Yourself first allows you to have a great relationship with others.

Relationship With Others
Competency in relating with others (a skill set that got skipped right over in the curriculum of our 12+ years of school!) is vital for great relationships. You can find simple and practical application of things like communication, intimacy, honesty, commitment, and deciphering your partner in Relationship with Others.

For Guys Eyes
Women usually lead the pack in the area of self-improvement, and stereotypically have more ease in the realm of relationships. But relationships still don’t work unless each person is in the same game and on the same page. And thus, I offer tools for you men – you extraordinary, brave men – willing to put your butts on the line in the unfamiliar territory of relationships. For you magnificent ones, check out: For Guys Eyes.

Secret Subjects
What about the searing sensuality, the sweet intimacy, the heavy petting with the divine? That’s partly why you do all the hard work, right? Yes, there is some delicious discipline, some internal excavation, and some honest, hard work to creating extraordinary relationships – but what, you may be asking about the juicy, hot, ecstatic and edgy stuff? For that, there is … Secret Subjects.

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