Summary

Does your relationship or marriage really suck, or did it just get really scary, and you don’t know what to do?

Are you single and you really want your next relationship to be much better and/or much longer than anything prior?

Great news! If you read Al’s writing, you’ll be better informed than 99% of the general population and 80% of all relationship therapists and marriage counsellors.

It boils down to:

  • Keep everything safe
  • Find out what makes your partner happy
  • Do it
  • Repeat

Al’s site has a lot of information. I curate some links below to get you started.

I have another relationship tips page here: 14 Relationship Tips You’ve Never Heard Before

If you’d like to talk to me about any of this, say hello


Al’s Writing

Getting to Work

  • After a while of living together, every couple begins facing a lot of pain. What they are doing isn’t working in many ways, and life together is not only not fun but has become down right uncomfortable. They have three options: quit and split, give up trying, get to work.

I don’t understand how I can know so little about love and how it works. How I can be so bad at it when it’s all I’ve ever wanted. All I’ve ever known is about leaving or being left.

Carrie Ryan (The Dark and Hollow Places)


Safety and the Lizard - The Logic, Science, and Art of Maintaining Safety between People

  • every couple I have seen, comes into the office making the same mistake – they are using threat in an effort to get love

Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words “make” and “stay” become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.

Tom Robbins (Still Life with Woodpecker)


Story: Are you trying to love and not getting anywhere?

  • She took one look and was hopping with anger. ‘You always do things without letting me be involved. You control freak!’
  • ‘You were on Channel 3 sending her love, and she was on Channel 4 receiving control.’
  • The relationships principle: What you intend is interesting but not very important. How it comes across is critical and is what counts.

What you feel only matters to you. It’s what you do to the people you say you love, that’s what matters. It’s the only thing that counts.

THE LAST KISS


Relationship Posters for the Wall

  • “I am trying to turn myself into someone you would like to get together with. Thanks for giving me the opportunity.”
  • “I am working as hard as I can to tell you the truth.”
  • “I guarantee that you, can move as slow as you want, your pace, in my presence forever. I am really working on this.”
  • “My goal is to become a source of safety to your lizard. What can I do right now that might help you feel safer?”
  • “What can I do for you that would make you inclined to do what I want?”
  • “Of course you feel lonely! I shut down easily, when I feel overwhelmed, and I am sure you feel abandoned. Let’s work on this.”
  • All people disagree with you all of the time. They can either tell you this or keep it a secret.
  • Always be ready to give your partner more space than they need, at a moment’s notice. Learn to live with it.
  • You will never get love by chasing a lizard.
  • I am no longer the general manager of the universe. But they want me to be.
  • “I am not available for an argument.”

One Liners that have helped me stay Dialogical

  • Fighting in a marriage or relationship is really “hurting ‘em till they love you.” It never works.
  • Love and Threat can never coexist. Never! Stop trying to earn love while using or encouraging threat.
  • Up to age 8 you are entitled to everything. After that, you are lucky to get oxygen. Adults are not entitled to anything. Learn to earn what you want.
  • When you hug your lover, occasionally look over their shoulder at the price tag.
  • Hermits are not born. Hermits are people who need friends, but who’s history of friends is awful.
  • Avoiders/Isolators see Contact as Conflict.
  • It takes one to make a marriage; two to make a divorce.
  • Get the benefits of divorce while you are living together.
  • Patience is a trait of adults. Impatience makes you appear childish.
  • All conversation can proceed at the maximum speed of the slowest person present.
  • History is a safety net, based on the idea that on some day someone really knew what was going on, and history is used to keep us from falling into the mystery of life.
  • A relationship is a participative mystique – we are all involved, but no one knows what is really going on.
  • The only one who will keep you away from your last Imago Match, is the next one.

You and I, it’s as though we have been taught to kiss in heaven and sent down to earth together, to see if we know what we were taught.

Boris Pasternak (Doctor Zhivago)


Problem Solving for Couples

  • Couples work together, or against each other, trying to solve problems. If both believe that progress is being made, then they will feel “hope”. The amount of progress can be very small, and still there will be a sense of “hope”. When progress stops or moves backward, people feel hopeless and couples often don’t stay together long after hopelessness arrives. Progress is very important.

Healing Frustrations: Finding the Gold

  • What keeps a troubled relationship moving toward success is hope – hope that things are getting better. What kills hope is lack of progress. When a partner feels stuck, with no progress, it is only a matter of time before they begin to either resign or to start looking elsewhere.
  • Frustrations occur after someone else does something, or after you discover that something happened. The trigger is outside of you, and it is the only thing that occurs in a frustrating event that is outside of you. Everything else, including your interpretation of what they did, occurs inside you.

Story: The Old Dog

  • The person complaining is the one who’s got to do something.

Getting an Answer: When He/She Won’t Make a Decision

  • How long do you choose to wait for this person – your distant and perhaps indecisive partner, to make a decision? It is a decision that says, “I don’t know how to live fully peacefully with this person, and I am gonna learn how to.”
  • “Honey, I care about you. I want to have a great and happy life with you. I am working on this teaching myself lots of things. But I find I need a partner to work with, to practice all these skills I am learning. Just make your decision and either let me know or don’t. It is your call. Thanks for listening.”

It is so hard to leave - until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.

John Green


Earn it or Spend it: Interpersonal Capital

  • How to get your partner to do what you want
  • There are two reasons people do things: a) because it avoids pain or b) because it is pleasing to do.

Here is the simple truth about people: Love the ones you want to keep.

Iain S. Thomas (I Wrote This For You)


The Problem with Expectations

  • An Expectation is a Frustration in with a sense of ownership complicates things. An easy way to grasp the difference between wanting something and expecting something involves a belief that when I expect something, I have decided that it is already “mine.” Thus when I experience some blockage, it feels as if someone is robbing me of what is mine. The Anger, that appears when someone takes away that which you think is yours, can be very intense. One defends one’s property vigorously. And the Grief at losing that which is yours can be profound.

Our love is hitchhiking across the California desert and no one is slowing down. Is a lie still a lie if you say it pretty? You’re saying you don’t know what you want and I’m picking pieces of glass from your throat. Something is burning but I can’t tell what it is. I’ve had a nightmare every night since I was a kid and it always ends the same. I can’t breathe and I can’t move and I am stuck in this place without air in my lungs. This is all to say I think I knew you before I knew my own name.

Fortesa Latifi


Why to Learn Validation?

  • If you live with another person your greatest risk is that they will keep critical secrets from you.

“Out of the Blue” means “Read the Tea Leaves”

  • Read the message that he/she somehow didn’t let you know that this surprise was coming – you think it is out of the blue. But they knew!
  • Learn that if you aren’t hearing everything regularly from your partner, you are probably at risk! You see, until then, until you are hearing regularly from them, your partner is living “in the Blue.” Read those Tea Leaves!

What to do when He/She Leaves?

Histories: She/He has left. Now what?

When to Fold ’Em?

  • If my partner is moving away, is leaving me, when should I give up? How do I make that decision?

Sometimes the door closes on a relationship, not because we failed but because something bigger than us says this no longer fits our life. So, lock the door, shed a tear, turn around and look for the new door that’s opened. It’s a sign that you’re no longer that person you were, it’s time to change into who you are. It’s going to be okay.

Lee Goff


Affairs and How I Approach the Topic


“You Make Sense - Always!”

  • when a person does something that does not conform with our way of thinking, they are doing something that conforms with their way of thinking
  • you can always understand anyone, if 1) they tell you, and 2) you listen
  • we need others in order to find our sense. People who will sit on the edge of their chairs waiting for us to reveal ourselves: the factors that lead us to do what we do.

What to do when he won’t talk to you. Assuming you want to chat with them.

  • People won’t talk cuz they don’t feel safe to.
  • Probably the first thing you need is to send the message that “you can wait.”
  • Patience is the habit of comfort when things don’t happen at the pace you desire.
  • “I was wondering about something you did the other day. If you ever figure out what was going on for you when you did that, I’d love to hear about it. In the meantime, let’s have dinner.” Notice how these are all statements with no question mark at the end of them. Many people feel pushed by questions. Just being asked a question often feels like an attack. So, just don’t do it.
  • Never interrupt. Never add more questions. Just listen and encourage them to say it all. Accept whatever they say. Never, never, never argue.

The Gentle Art of Pulling

  • you are trying to invite a deer to come out of the forest to eat out of your hand.
  • It isn’t enough to try to be gentle. You must find out what to do that comes across as gentle.
  • It’s much more important to create a gentle tone of inquiry than to get answers ‘now!’

It is Not Fair! The Testicle Principle

  • In this particular problem, and in this problem only, there is a designated leader.
  • Put two people together and one will be more clingy (reacting to insufficient or unreliable contact) and one will be more avoidant (reacting to too much contact).
  • During these events, both tend to drive each other crazy.
  • Panic causes a Clinger to activate. Panic causes an Avoider to shut down.
  • Your goal is to use your energy, panic, and wisdom to keep your partner out of Overload. As long as they are out of Overload, all other problems in the relationship are solvable by either one leading – or both. When your partner is in Overload, no one can do anything productive.
  • KEEP YOURSELF OUT OF PANIC in the presence of your partner! Boy, is this hard!
  • This situation will not seem fair to you. It isn’t fair. But this works.
  • I think it is good to not blame yourself for becoming overloaded. This is a normal Lizard brain behavior, when it thinks it is dying. This is Freezing. It is protecting you the best way it knows how.

We waste time looking for the perfect lover instead of creating the perfect love. Wouldn’t that be the way to make love stay?

Tom Robbins (Still Life with Woodpecker)


Stop chasing your partner away! - Building Trust (marriageadvocates.com)


Peace Building

  • When two or more people come together they are immediately faced with a challenge. How to deal with the existing differences of opinions or points of view that they bring with them.

Points of View: Relationship Confusion

  • How do I get to know “you,” if I am trained to “fight” with you about whose ideas are right? Do I only listen to you to see if you “agree” with me, or to see if you have the “truth” I can agree with? Or do I listen in order to decide that it might be safer to pretend to agree or to be silent in order to avoid conflict.

Guilt, Fault, and Who is to Blame

  • If you are blaming your partner, then you are usually trying to assign them too much responsibility
  • If you are accepting guilt (passive blaming) for a situation, usually you are taking on yourself too much
  • there are no fault-o-meters, friends

Show me a woman who doesn’t feel guilty and I’ll show you a man.

Erica Jong


Stop Domestic Violence

  • arguing is the verbal form of domestic violence

MASTER/SLAVE, Two World Problem

  • The one reason a person is quiet is that it is not safe for them to talk.
  • The one reason a person lies is that it is not safe for them to tell the truth.
  • Most couples who come to see me started their relationships in Friend/Friend and then at some critical point, they switched to Master/Slave and have been there, fighting, ever since. They fall in love, are buddies and then move into a house where they start to argue over what is “right”.

Dealing with MasterTalk

  • No one is a Master, they just speak, and perhaps think, from the Master position. No one is a Slave, they just speak from the Slave position.
  • MasterTalk is any sentence that implies there is a single truth – a single reality. The Master form implies that the speaker owns the truth or has that reality. The Slave form implies that the speaker doesn’t own the truth or doesn’t have that single reality.
  • Some words are clues to MasterTalk: truth, right, wrong, correct, real, fact, know, lie, false, should. Also most sentences that begin with “We…” or “You…” seem to be MasterTalk.

Dialogue In A Power Differential Situation

  • a dysfunctional Power Differential Situation is one where people are attempting to maintain a power differential when no functional purpose is present. It is the arena of bullies, of dominance, of aspects of dictatorship, and also of agreed-upon servility, personal irresponsibility, and victimicity.
  • My top all time list of people having trouble “getting it” are medical doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists/psychologists, administrators, ex-marines and ex-police.

Thank Heavens for Bullies. We need them.

  • If you want Peace, you have to build muscles – the strong skills of standing up for “getting along”.

Boundaries for Individuals: The Essay

  • A boundary is not just a line, but also the skills to assure than no one crosses it.

Boundaries for Couples: The Essay

  • I believe that getting along with your intimate partner can be 40 times as difficult as getting along with people at work.
  • Prevent Panic from happening in either of you
  • Stop Panic from building in either of you
  • Exclude Panic behavior from the relationship
  • Learn to recover from Panic as quickly as possible.

The Power of Passivity: The Essay

  • I began to see the overriding value of shifting people toward being dialogical, and toward durable empathic relating – what I had called the posture of Friend/Friend.

The Glories of Rebellion, Stubbornness and Passivity

  • I have encouraged people to stand up to tyrants, but not stand over tyrants.

Avoid becoming a Bully, yourself!

  • The goal for me, is to remain a Dialogical partner – a Friend. I stay their friend even when their actions try to pull me into those other positions.

Story: The Troubles with a Short Temper

  • Jack had earned this. This was his retirement program. Every time he used his temper at someone, he invested in their resentment. Every time he interrupted, yelled, overruled, scared his wife and children, he was earning their future anger in return. That retirement program didn’t show until he badly needed caring from his “loved ones.” At that point, his account was empty. He got exactly what he had earned, day in day out, year in year out.

Are you a Controller? Sure!

  • A controller is a person who spends much of their time trying to relax.
  • they are just trying to calm down by “doing something” or “fixing something”.
  • everyone is a controller to some extent – and I never blame controllers.”

TimeOuts

  • A TimeOut is a relational tool and is an essential skill for any intimate relationship.
  • The purpose of a TimeOut is to remove pressure from the relationship.
  • TimeOuts are also the ideal way to deal with temper and to stop “temper tantrums.”

To be safe you must share

  • To feel safe, to have low blood pressure, to be free of tension (at least when with your partner) all you need is to create a relationship of few or no surprises.
  • selective sharing in a long-term relationship is a problem. The secrets will surface. Thus, there will be Big Surprises, and with those surprises, there will often be a sense of betrayal.

Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life.

Gabriel García Márquez


How much should you tell?

  • How you share is critical. Do it dialogically.
  • Prepare yourself to listen to anything and remain relaxed.
  • Protecting someone from distress is a way of keeping them from growing up.

No relationship can truly grow if you go on holding back. If you remain clever and go on safeguarding and protecting yourself, only personalities meet, and the essential centers remain alone. Then only your mask is related, not you. Whenever such a thing happens, there are four persons in the relationship, not two. Two false persons go on meeting, and the two real persons remain worlds apart.

Osho (Intimacy: Trusting Oneself and the Other)


Mirroring Benefits

  • A person who will mirror is a ghost-speaker – someone who helps the speaker put their ideas into clear and understandable forms.

The Road to Empathy

  • to be able to relate to the inner world of another person, while realizing that it is not your world. Another definition might be “to relate to the subjectivity of another, while retaining your own subjectivity.”

Pre-Validation: More Thoughts

  • Somewhere along the path to having an adult brain, each of us discover that we see things very differently from the way others see things. My belief is that this awareness of difference is frequently scary. Our brains question themselves – wonder if they themselves are “crazy.”

Diversity and Pre-Validation “The Two Icebergs”

  • No one ever, exactly, makes someone elses sense. They always make their own.
  • two people never make exactly the same sense, ever.
  • At some level of detail, people never really agree on anything.

Notes: On Teaching Validation

  • We agree to create and maintain a community in which we do not need to agree.

Validation: The Skill and the Art

  • I think it critical to teach people the difference between their model of why their partner does things, and their partner’s model of why they do things.

Learn Validation! Get really good at it. Tis just an idea.

  • Finally. Someone understands. Somebody gets me without trying to fix me.

Perhaps it is true that we do not really exist until there is someone there to see us existing, we cannot properly speak until there is someone there who can understand what we are saying, in essence, we are not wholly alive until we are loved.

Alain de Botton (Essays in Love, On Love)


Find Mr. Right or Ms. Right

  • “I am single and am looking for a partner. I know I have defects. How do I attract the right partner, one I can work with? How do I go about it?”
  • What makes for a wonderful relationship has mostly to do with a) selecting the right partner and b) using the right skills to evolve the relationship to the point of reliable joy
  • It is true you only need one person, but you have to get involved with the selection process in order to pick and be picked by that one.
  • I think, maybe one out of every 500 people your age and relative social group may be an Imago match. Looking at all I know, I think there are many Imago matches out there for everyone. You just have to find one and get to work.

Having perfected our disguise, we spend our lives searching for someone we don’t fool.

Robert Brault


Relationship problems? Say hello