Appreciating “Are You The One For Me?” 20 Years Later

Are You The One For Me BookApril – 20 years ago – I started reading Barbara De Angelis’ book, “Are You The One For Me?”. August of this year I’ll be celebrating meeting my now wife, Jane, and the relationship and life we’ve created together. ”Are You The One For Me?” played a big part in helping me to see that she was ‘the one’ even when I wasn’t sure myself. Here’s what happened:

When I finally decided to end my first marriage after 16 years, I felt both a sense of excitement around possibility and sadness around not being with my 3 daughters day in and day out. I did however come to the realization that if I was ever going to have the chance of experiencing the kind of love I desired, and of modelling a high functioning relationship to my children, now was the time. Much to my former mother-in-law’s disbelief, I wasn’t seeing anyone else; I was simply tired of feeling dead every night I came home from work.

Now, on my own, I started creating time for me to simply wonder what I wanted for my life. As part of my process I came across the book “Are You The One For Me?”, by Barbara De Angelis, PH.D. Knowing that I wanted to get clear about what I did want, rather than what I didn’t want, this book seemed very relevant at the time. I don’t recall too much about the book other than at the end there was a section that encouraged the creation of a wide-ranging list of attributes I was looking for in a new partner. Based on this suggestion and the great examples that were provided I created my list of 72 things I was looking for in my future, unknown, partner. Being an accountant, I even created a spreadsheet to assist me.

I remember having my list printed out and tucked inside my bedside table. Whenever I would go out on a coffee date I would come home, pull out my list and see how many characteristics I could check off as being a part of this new person I had just met. Most often I would get less than half way down my list and I’d have more no’s then yeses. So I could stop and know that I had a “no” for this one. I’m smiling as I remember this – did I really need a list tell me they were no’s? Probably not, but it was certainly a huge help as I learned to trust my instincts and my choices.

Then on an auspicious late afternoon in August 1994 it happened. I had invited a friend and her family over for a barbecue to thank her for being a reference for my new job. Unfortunately her husband was away hiking with friends and she was reluctant to come on her own with her 2 kids. After finally accepting my invite she called back moments later to ask if she could invite a friend of hers to come along. Her friend also had 2 kids. I recognized her discomfort and immediately said yes although I realized that some of the women I had turned down lately were all friends of hers and how would this new friend be any different. Shortly after this phone call I received another call from her telling me that her friend was looking after 2 kids of friends that were out of town so could she bring them along as well? By this time I was doing quick math in my head. My 3 girls, my friends 2 kids, her friends 2 kids and 2 more kids she was looking after for the weekend. Nine kids aged between 3 and 12. After saying yes and having the shock wear off I immediately started planning activities, games, food and movies all to make sure the kids had fun and the adults would have a bit of time to ourselves.

The day went off fabulously. We started with a water fight. Each person had their own water gun and the hose was off to the side for refills. All 12 of us laughed and soaked each other for almost an hour. I was delighted to note that this new woman jumped right in and played big. I was having so much fun that it took me a moment to see how she was helping me tick off my list with yeses. Loves kids, tick, likes to play, tick, loves to laugh, tick, looks great in a wet t-shirt, tick. You get the picture. Afterwards the kids did some crafts, munched on kid friendly food and were easily talked into watching a movie. Now it was time for our adult dinner. The three adults ate, talked, laughed and generally had fun getting to share stories and past lives. I found out that this new woman liked to play squash, tick, and enjoyed all kinds of food, one more tick.

While, initially, I wasn’t exactly sure about whether she was the one for me, over time I was able to give a positive tick mark to 71 out of 72 attributes I was looking for. The one “no”? Loves to golf”! I actually pondered this for awhile and came to the conclusion that I could live with that ‘no’ with a hidden hope that maybe she would come around on that one. She never has.

Now, almost 20 years later, I can still recall that first encounter with great detail and delight. And my life and my relationship have flourished every day since. Just last year when I told someone that I had been married for over 17 years, they told me that they thought we were actually still newlyweds given the way we carry on and how much love they see between us. Who says the honeymoon has to die after a couple of years?

My relationship and marriage to Jane has been the best choice I’ve ever made and I have a ton of appreciation for the woman and her book that helped me create a list of 72 attributes. Thank you Barbara De Angelis! Your book contributed massively to me seeing what it was that I was looking for. And I was smart enough to use this tool to manifest that amazing relationship I have today.

BobandJaneNow this isn’t the only reason why I have an amazing relationship that sparkles after almost 20 years. There are many other factors that I’ve learned over the years. For anyone who wants to learn more come visit us at VibrantCouples.com where we’re willing to share all we can to guide you toward creating the relationship you’ve always wanted.

7 Sizzling Valentine’s Day Ideas To Wow Your Main Squeeze

Playful CoupleAre you letting the daily grind put a damper on your love life? Time for a refresher course!

Valentine’s Day has become so laden with traditions, expectations, and marketing mania that it’s easy to slip into thought patterns like: “I have to …”, “To heck with it, I’m NOT going to …”, “He’d better do …” and/or “What on earth am I going to do?” All of which create angst and effort and resentment and, often, disappointment; the antithesis of what Valentine’s Day is all about … love! On this holiday, you should be focused on celebrating and appreciating your love for each other.

Here are 7 quick attitude adjustments that can help bring your Valentine’s Day experience back around to a true celebration of love, meanwhile adding some high-octane fuel to the intimacy, passion and play in your relationship!

Read the full article as published on YourTango.com by clicking here:
7 Sizzling Valentine’s Day Ideas To Wow Your Main Squeeze

heart with couple inside

Valentine’s Day For Men – Hype or Heartfelt

Love HeartGuys, with so few days left before Valentine’s Day are you looking forward to it and planning ahead or are you rolling your eyes and wondering how to get through this day one more time? I (Bob) have read so much about how this day is for women and men just need to comply for their own good that I feel little sick. So instead of sitting here complaining I thought I’d write about my approach to V Day.

In case you haven’t noticed over the years, red roses become extremely expensive on Valentine’s Day. This is just one of many reasons not to send flowers on V Day. Instead, buy a single red rose and then add a note that says “I want you to know I’m not buying into the hype of Valentines Day. I love you everyday of the year and I want to show you this by sending you flowers randomly throughout the year.” And then at least once every couple of months SEND FLOWERS on a random day. Send them to her at the office and think ahead to whether she has a vase in the office If not, include a vase. In your note write a piece that say’s something about how you appreciate her, and be specific. And then sit back and wait for the phone call. What I discovered is that after awhile Jane would say to me, “You know you don’t need to do this” and I would smile and say “I know – and I want to!”

Now with dinner on Valentine’s Day the same thing happens each year. Everyone takes their partner out to a restaurant where the service is slow, the restaurant is noisy and the prices are inflated. Instead, plan ahead and either create a dinner plan you can easily execute yourself or visit your favourite restaurant and see if they will create a dinner for you to take home. Tell your partner, a few days in advance, that you’ve got V Day dinner covered so they don’t need to plan anything. This is especially significant for those who see this as an act of love. Then on V Day, dress nice, no jeans, bring out your favourite special drink, light a few candles and chat about this whole experience for you.

Lastly, don’t expect sex on V Day. This is another myth. Realize that sex comes from desire not love. Love is cuddly and offers safety and security. As humans we do need both love and desire and V Day is all about love. Park your desire and watch a movie together and then chat a bit more, or pour her a bath while you clean up.

Couple Celebrating LoveWhatever your approach is on Valentine’s Day remember to take this opportunity to appreciate your partner. You chose each other for a reason so celebrate all that brought you together and all you have discovered about yourself now that you’ve been together. And if you can deliver your appreciation while looking into her eyes you’ll see even more of the amazing person you chose.

Happy Valentine’s day!

Banff Couples Conference – You Going?

Banff Couples Conf

Why you should come to the Banff Couples Conferenceby Marilyn Robertson

2013 was a hard year on families and marriages. There was the flood. Some Albertans still don’t have homes; some have incurred financial hardship while rebuilding their homes. Some are silently watching their loved one fight disease – whether it is physical or mental, some have lost family members. Many Albertans work in the oil and gas sector or for businesses that support it. The impending layoffs that have already or will occur as companies sell off their Canadian assets in an effort to be remain profitable. These are just some of the public challenges. There are many more that are quietly fought. These all spell stress, stress on families, stress on marriages. Do these ring true in your world?

It is during these times that couples often pull away from one another. They are certain that if they just don’t tell their partner they can protect them from additional pain. They really don’t need one more thing to stress them out. This is where we should never assume what the other is thinking.

In reality what they need is to be closer. Close enough that you can gather your courage and whisper to your partner what it is you need from them without feeling fear of judgment or retribution. What you need is to feel cherished, valued, loved, desired and what that looks like in your world. Perhaps appreciation needs to be shared with the other. Open the lines of communication and be honest but kind. But how? How does one create the sacred space to share those thoughts? How do you start?

I would encourage you to come to BCC this year. For one weekend put aside the troubles and invest in your future. You need one another. Let nature’s beauty seep into your pores, let the warmth of your partner’s touch warm your body, let their eyes take in grandeur that is you and the words you share build a sacred place between the two of you. Come and continue to fall in love all over again.

You’ll find all the details at http://banffcouplesconference.com/registration.html

What is the Purpose of Relationship?

Small cute surprised child in blue pajamaWith so many people wanting to either get into a relationship, make their relationship better or get out of a relationship I (Bob) wonder about our understanding around the purpose of being in relationship.

For some people it appears they want to be in relationship so they have someone to take care of them, to feel safe with, while for others it’s about wanting a parenting partner and still for others it’s about traveling, laughing and lots of sex. These feel like goals or desires, and are outcome based.

For me, I’ve come to see the purpose of relationship as something very different. I see that the primary purpose of relationship is to be the container within which each person gets to grow, discover and evolve. This container is like an oyster shell with its potential to create a pearl. And just like it takes a whole bunch of sand to create the pearl it also takes the grit and abrasiveness inside a relationship to assist us in becoming who we are meant to be.

Notice how many of your friend’s relationships are not what they were hoping for. Like most of us, they argue (or at least disagree) about kids, sex and money. They complain about what their partner does or doesn’t do and how they don’t communicate the way they like. Some of them wish they knew how to make it perfect so that all this ‘sand’ would just disappear, while others have resigned themselves to never seeing what a great relationship looks and feels like. Problem is there are very few couples who have made it to the space where they get that their relationship is all about their own personal growth and development.

When I look at the purpose of relationship with this set of glasses I start to see the value of my relationship. How could I possibly become aware of my patterns, traits and values if I didn’t have a foil to push up against? How would I ever learn to become responsible for actions, my thoughts, feelings, reactions and myself? And how could I see the potential and possibilities for my relationship if I didn’t see that it was all in my best interest?

Bob 2013-2Of course there’s no way to know if my perspective is right. And the only way I can prove out my theory is to live inside my relationship with this belief – that my relationship is my greatest discovery tool. Which is why I continue to use my relationship as a living laboratory to test out my theories and beliefs.

I invite you to take a look at your beliefs about the purpose of relationship for your life and then use your relationship to test out what you believe.

For all of us I hope the results are amazingly positive!

So what’s the purpose of relationship for you?

Engage with us on Facebook – we’d love to hear from you.

Are you willing to be surprised?

Couple married olderHave you been with your partner for a considerable period of time? Do you think you know everything about them? Do you believe you know everything about you? This has been our area of exploration for many years now. Early on in our relationship we’d talk for hours and discover all kinds of new things about each other. Over the years, however, these discoveries became less and less. And then something magical happened.

Jane realized that she was expecting a certain response from me (Bob) and much to her surprise I said something that totally caught her off guard. Her puzzled look was my invitation to ask what was going on for her. She was convinced that would have responded differently just a year ago and so she was surprised.

I assured her she was probably right and that having given the topic more thought I’d come to a new conclusion. In effect, I had changed. This was her opportunity to ask about my process and our discussion went on for over an hour. Afterward, we noticed we both felt more connected to each other. There was a warmth in my heart that since I was being accepted for who I was now and not judged for who I was previously.

Herein lies the value of being willing to be surprised. Rather than just assume you know everything about your partner, look at them with wonder in your eyes and consider, “Who are they becoming?” To your delight, and theirs, you will start to see them again like you did when you first met. Your curiosity will be infectious and playfulness will follow!

couple playingOver the last couple of weeks we’ve been interviewed 3 times. And one of the exciting bits for us is continually learning more about each other and ourselves with every interview. This willingness to be surprised has become our best tip!

Become willing to be surprised today and start seeing your partner for the very first time again! The benefits are a lifetime of passion and play!

But I KNOW I’m Right …

I (Bob) have been receiving some feedback recently that hasn’t been the easiest to hear or acknowledge. What’s delighting me is that I’m noticing a big shift in my habitual patterns. Rather than becoming defensive, and pointing out where the other person might be missing some facts, or jumping to incorrect conclusions, I’ve chosen to simply accept the feedback and open up to see what it is that I’m being invited to learn about myself. As a result I’m able to stay in the present moment and not waste what used to be copious amounts of energy engaging in angry conversations and accusatory rants. All these happened in my head rather than out loud, so they were emotion-full and emotion-unexpressed – in other words a huge drain on my energy.

I can remember times as a child when my dad would tell me about something he didn’t like that I was doing and I would immediately start arguing with him that he was wrong. All this ever did was create more anger coming my way. As I grew older I learned to suppress my expression of these feelings so I wouldn’t get into trouble. I adopted a grin and bear it mentality, all the while believing I was right and they were wrong and that’s all there was to it. I refused to see these interactions as a learning opportunity – I didn’t even realize that was an option!

Not surprisingly, when I became a father I repeated this pattern with my daughters only this time I was right and they were wrong. And I still wasn’t open to learning from my interactions with them.

The natural consequence was that I kept having the same repeating relationship interactions. People would provide feedback, either through their words or their actions, and I would create reasons in my head why they were wrong and I was right. I can still recall an incident at a personal development training I was attending where the leader offered feedback through illustration after illustration and my response was, “You just don’t understand!”, to which her comment was something like, “Well, I guess you’re not open to receiving this as feedback!” This moment shook me deeply and I decided right then and there I needed to change, but how?

By that time I knew that the how wasn’t going to become clear until I was actually willing to commit to what I wanted – and I was willing. “I commit to being open to learning from every relationship interaction.” Now change didn’t happen overnight. I would slip back into my old ways, which I could see happening almost as fast as it happened. In these moments I would recommit and start again. Recommitting became my ally.

And through the committing and recommitting came more and more opportunities to turn my focus away from what someone else was or wasn’t doing (totally outside my control anyway) and onto what it was that I was being invited to learn (totally inside my control). Anger and self-righteousness were slowly replaced by curiosity and wonder. Energy draining mental rants were slowly replaced by energy enhancing discovery and delight.

So if you find yourself being defensive, like I was, and sometimes still am, and you want to become open to learning from every relationship interaction, then start with a commitment. The simple fact that you are aware of what you want and reaffirming your commitment whenever you slip will create the space for an opening to appear and your particular brand of “how” will present itself.

Watch out though, your life will never be the same!

5 Tips For Creating Relationship Happiness!

Bob-Tomes-Jane-Warren“You guys seem so happy” is a comment we often hear. Must be because we are!

What we’ve realized however is that Jane’s not making Bob happy and Bob’s not making Jane happy, it’s not even our relationship that makes either of us happy; it’s our own choosing to be happy that produces happiness.

Here’s an important relationship axiom to get: “Only you can create your own happiness!”

We’ve also discovered that there are a number of things that we (and you!) can do that supports the creation of authentic happiness. Interestingly enough all of them involve some form of taking responsibility for your own happiness.

Today we offer five of our favorite tips for supporting yourself and each other in the creation of happiness.

1. Agree that each of you will take responsibility for your own happiness. This relieves your partner from any responsibility for making you happy and creates a whole bunch of space for them to focus on their own happiness. According to Alison Armstrong, “The long-term possibilities of any relationship are limited by or expanded by what the partners are being accountable for.” Being accountable for your own happiness is a relationship expander.

2. Agree to never compromise on anything important. When we were renovating our condo we came up with this agreement. If one of us felt like we were not fully in agreement with a renovation or decorating decision we agreed to say so. And then we’d keep looking for a different solution that brought happiness to both of us. We have also agreed to do rock-paper-scissors for the small stuff. So when we’re out for a walk and one of us wants to go east while the other prefers west – well there’s really no point wasting time looking for a third way solution for the small stuff!

3. Notice what brings happiness into your life and focus on that. This is where sitting quietly or meditating comes in very handy. Take 5 minutes each day to sit quietly and notice the times when you felt happy. If you do this at the end of each day you can think back over times during that day when you felt happiness. These don’t have to be big, life altering moments. We’ve felt happy when we are sitting in the warm sun having lunch or cuddling as we watch a movie together.

4. Create an agreement to eliminate blame and criticism from your relationship. This agreement is one of the most difficult and most impactful agreements you can create with your partner. Culturally we have been patterned to blame others and be critical of their actions or words so to agree to eliminate blame and criticism is much more difficult then it sounds. And when you do slip, and initially you will, simply notice what you are doing and recommit and move forward.

5. Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Notice whatever is happening in your life and be grateful for every learning opportunity. When it comes to your relationship, notice and express appreciation to your partner at least 5 times a day. These can be small: “I appreciate you for taking out the garbage this afternoon” or “I loved how you cleared the dirty dishes at dinner tonight”. All that is required is that your appreciations are heartfelt and authentic. It’s amazing how much happiness is created in the one offering the appreciation.

BobandJaneHappiness can come in many forms and arrive at any time of day or night. Realizing that the choice for happiness is yours and making this choice starts the flow of happiness that no one can ever take away from you. When two people come together with the realization that they are both responsible for their own happiness and they are willing to participate in supporting each other, then happiness will blossom continuously through their lives and their relationship. Friends will see this happening right in front of their eyes.

And then you’ll be hearing “You guys seem so happy!”

Taking The Labour OUT of Your Relationship!

With the Labour Day weekend over, we got to thinking about how relationships are often described as “hard work”. The image of taking a deep breath and exhaling swiftly comes to mind. Wondering what would happen in relationships if we re-defined the terms and concepts. Here’s what we came up with:

Relationships:

Are a “labour of love” OR Are a playground for love
Are hard work OR Are intriguing and curious
Are challenging OR Are discovery rich
Require lots of work OR Are an invitation to explore
Don’t work unless both people carry an equal load OR Soar when I bring my most authentic self
Work, if I’m sure to always be positive and upbeat OR Thrive if I’m willing to express what’s true for me
Give me a partner to help solve life’s problems OR Give me a partner to share joy, play
and creative ease

 

How we talk about our relationships influences our emotions, outlook, attitudes and intentions. And then we step out into the real world and low and behold our actual experience matches what we are expected.

What we’ve noticed is that when we start with an attitude of gratitude, and a belief that our relationship is our greatest teacher for self-discovery and playful collaboration, every aspect of our relationship becomes easier and more fun!

Check in with how you describe your most important relationships and see what happens when you choose new words and phrases. Notice your level of aliveness at the beginning of the week and at the end of the week. And then decide how you want to move forward.

We’ve got a ton more ideas so if you’re looking for more don’t hesitate to drop us an email.

Bob@VibrantCouples.com

Keeping Your Relationship Juicy

We recently celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary and friends have been asking what we’ve done to keep our relationship so “juicy”.  Their term, not ours!  So we put our heads together and wondered aloud about what are some of the things we’ve done over the years that have contributed to that juiciness and what are those actions really all about?

One of the fun memories we have is about how we started creating surprises for each other many years ago.  This all started out from our inquiry into a situation that could easily have become a point of contention in our relationship.

Bob liked to buy Jane gifts, like jewelry or flowers, out of the blue, for no reason at all, still does!  When this first started Jane was a little skeptical about the intention behind the surprise.  What was Bob really wanting and what was he not saying?  What was she supposed to do in return and how could she “return the favour” without feeling obliged to do so?

Bob on the other hand was simply so appreciative of Jane being in his life that he wanted to express this gratitude in some fashion and this was the outlet he chose.

After a while it became clear that giving gifts was something that Bob liked to do and this was his way of expressing.  Jane, while enjoying the gifts, was not a gift giver naturally.  She had other ways of expressing her appreciation and was intrigued with how she could “give” in a more direct way.  Both of us were curious to explore.

After a little thought and discussion we came up with the idea of creating monthly surprises for each other.  One month Bob would create a surprise for Jane and the next month Jane would do the same for Bob.  This created space and allowed for expressions of appreciation from both of us, expressions that could take a variety of creative forms.  Sometimes we would agree to some kind of attribute like – next surprise is a colour surprise – and we would each create an adventure that firmly incorporated a colour of our choice.  Imagine an evening sipping blue Curacao martinis at the Blue Iguana restaurant, followed by new blue lingerie and a bedroom transformed by blue light bulbs, blues music and … (is the present tense of blue, blow??).  And, no, the surprise did not always involve sex – but sometimes, it did!

Other times we limited the spending on the surprise to no more than $20.  Sometimes we included food, sometimes we agreed to create something that specifically excluded food.  Sometimes it was a thing not an event.  You get the picture.  As we moved forward we naturally got more and more creative and dropped a lot of the structure.  The point is once a month we set aside an evening (or some part of a day) and one of us would share the surprise we created for the other.

We’ve kept this up over the years although we’ve abandoned the monthly schedule.  Now the surprises vary over time and are a little more random than before.

When we started to look at what we were doing and the key attributes or elements of these surprises two common themes emerged.

First, we noticed how we loved the element of anticipation, both as a giver and a receiver.  As a giver we could fantasize, plan, sculpt, create and generally have a great time thinking about how we would like to express ourselves.  As a receiver we would wonder about what might happen, sometimes nervously, when we saw the other person so excited about what they had created.  Remember back to when you first met and the element of anticipation was in the air?  The excitement around, “Will he kiss me tonight?” or “I wonder what will happen if I start to undress her?”  Whatever those first dates were like for you there was almost always an element of anticipation.  Keeping anticipation alive in a long-term relationship is one of those juice creators.

The other element we realized that these surprise evenings created was variety.  By having a few simple parameters like colour, cost or location we were creating variety in what we were doing.  Going back to the first couple of dates scenario you likely often created variety by meeting at different places or going to the movies one night and meeting for coffee or dinner at different restaurants.  The saying, “Variety is the spice of life”, comes to mind here.

So looking back here a formula that’s work wonders for us:

Anticipation + Variety –> Juice!!!

Yes there are other things that contribute to Juice as well, and this is a great place to start!

Whatever stage of relationship you are in, what would happen if you created more opportunities for anticipation and variety?  We’re guessing there’ll be more laughter and a juicy flow of fun that results in greater connection and openness.

Let us know how you use anticipation and variety to keep your relationship juicy and we’ll share your story in a future blog.

Here’s to your Vibrant Relationship!