If You Want an Extraordinary Relationship — Do “The Work”
Most people just fall in love and hope for the best –here’s how to do much better than just hope…
See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World
I’ll admit it, I’m one of the luckiest guys on the planet when it comes to the incredibly beautiful and thrilling relationship I have with my significant other. I can’t even count how many times we hear this from other people who meet and get to know us. Yet, I know deep down in my heart and soul that “luck” is only part of the picture here. To paraphrase Louis Pasture “Fortune favors the prepared mind, body and spirit.” I did a hell of a lot of “work” before I ever met the love of my life. And we both continue to do “the work” to sustain, grow and deepen our relationship as we continue on this wonderful adventure together.
And with this in mind, I freely share with you here what I did to prepare myself for a relationship that continues to exceed our wildest dreams…
For most of my adult life I was a very shut down guy. I couldn’t relate to men at all and avoided being vulnerable and authentic with the rest of the population. And, in addition to an inability to truly connect with others, I always felt that something was missing from my life –a sense of purpose. Despite having several very “successful” careers, I was never very happy nor content for any extended period of time. My typical state of being was a bundle of nervous energy looking for a place to express itself despite having no real direction in my life whatsoever. From this perspective there should be no surprise that my first marriage of 26 years failed.
The day-to-day anxiety I felt became so overwhelming that I started taking Zoloft just to numb those intense feelings. Feelings, I later discovered, which were clarion bells urging me to wake the f*ck up. And to do that I made a simple, yet profound shift that instantly changed everything. A shift that many years of various types of therapy, transformational seminars, books, clairvoyants (you name it, I tried it) failed miserably to produce.
So, what was this big secret, this blinding insight that changed everything? I simply chose to live with an open heart and be willing to feel everything –even those painful things I tried to avoid feeling my entire life. For me, an “open heart” is just removing all the armor that built over the years as a way of protecting it. And in so doing I was now, for the first time in my life, able to truly connect with other human beings, deeply and authentically. Essentially, a return to how I originally came into this world before life happened.
Ironically, it wasn’t until I made this leap that I realized that, for me at least, the heart needs no protection. My ego was the one fearing the intense feelings as well as everything else for that matter. Out of this one determined choice came a flood of changes in other areas of my life. In the space of just a few months I looked 20 years younger (check out MichaelRusserLive.com to see what I mean). In addition to a radically changed physical appearance, my eyes were shining bright and alive again. I no longer chased the rainbow of purpose as a “doing” as I had most of my life and now see it as a way of “being” ‒ fully present, authentic and open-hearted. In other words, I now found a way to live my purpose instantly and ongoingly, no matter what I “do”.
Despite this significant transformation, I still had big issues with relating to men. Way too much wounding from my childhood was holding me back in this area. So I needed a bit more help and found it in the ManKind Project New Warrior Training Adventure — a three day intensive weekend that completely changed the way I relate to other men (and yes, in just three days). After all, how could I say I was truly open-hearted if it was open to only half the people on the planet?
Once I opened my heart I was able to be much more clear about who I wanted as a life partner. Shortly after drawing that proverbial line in the sand of being heart-open, I threw myself totally into my “Dream Woman Project”. Thirteen pages describing in fine detail the woman with whom I wanted to share the rest of my life. Almost exactly one year later we found each other under the most unusual of circumstances –and, she was a 100% match. Serendipity? Luck? Perhaps. However, I prefer to believe that my total, unwavering commitment to clarity about her within the context of an open heart and willingness to take the risk I would never find her pushed the odds significantly in my favor.
I am also exquisitely clear about the duality of our human nature. How my ego is not really who I am. How my true essence can dispassionately observe the drama of the ego and choose to not be sucked into it –which admittedly is not always an easy thing to do. Now I not suggesting that this perspective of humanity’s dual nature is true. Like everything else I talk and write about, it is just a context or lens in which I choose to view my experience of life. However, I can say without hesitation this has been and continues to be one of the most empowering contexts I have ever adopted.
Just the other day I read an article that espoused how “living in the moment” can be downright dangerous. Unfortunately, the author collapsed the distinctions of “living in the moment” with being fully present. The former is a state of being oblivious to consequences (which is indeed dangerous), while the latter is being acutely aware of everything without distraction, labeling or judgement. Mastering being fully present is not easy, especially for someone like me who used work and other distractions throughout his life to avoid ever being in the moment and the awareness of pain it could unveil.
I have since learned that being fully present doesn’t create or enhance pain or suffering. It is actually the only place I know of that allows me to embrace the “what is” of my circumstances (whether perceived to be “good” or “bad”) with equanimity. And through this I realized that life can be seen as a series of waves. Some will give an incredibly wonderful and thrilling ride, while others will mercilessly pound us into the sand. In either case however, those waves pass to make room for the next ones. Fighting them has *never* worked for me. Instead I now “surrender” to them and strive to master leveraging their energy for the most appropriate outcome possible.
I think one of the biggest factors to the continued growth of the relationship my Partner and I have is our willingness to be fully present for each other all the time. Especially in the bedroom, both in the giving to and receiving from each other. This, along with its cousin, authentic communication, has led to levels of emotional, physical and even spiritual intimacy beyond anything we could have imagined.
There is No One Way
I share the above with you, not to declare “this is the way”, but rather in the hope you may gain some helpful perspective for your own particular journey. I truly believe each of us already carry the answers we need –it’s just a matter of being willing to listen to them. But I will say this, whatever “work” you need to do, don’t expect to have a long-term successful relationship without first doing it. And when you do, don’t be surprised at all when you find that your Life Partner has done it as well.
Here are several resources that have helped me with my “work”:
- Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle — I have read this little book at least 120 times, one passage in the morning each day. He is by far my favorite author.
- The Presence Process by Michael Brown — this book has helped me learn how to become fully Present even in the most upsetting of circumstances
- New Warrior Training Adventure by the ManKind Project — by far the most powerful and immediately impactful experience that has led to a total transformation on how I relate to other men.
The story was previously published on The Good Men Project.