How to Argue to Strengthen Your Relationship, 3 of 3

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.


Speaking of breaking free of the criticizing habit, a step discussed in Part 2, it’s a lot easier to achieve when you also shift your focus to wanting to understand what both you and your partner want, and then actively supporting each other to realize your  yearnings etc. – at minimum with the energy you bring. These two remaining steps are the subject of this post.

Step 4: Know What You Each Want — and Why

This step consists of two parts: understanding what you want and why, and what your partner wants and their reasons.

Knowing what you want makes it more likely you will be heard and understood, and come to a resolution you desire.

Understanding your why’s, when it comes to goals, is what helps you sustain momentum from start to finish. No small matter, your reasons connect you to inner core emotion-drives to matter. It’s more often not about the kids, money, sex, communication, and so on; it’s about fulfilling certain unstoppable inner yearnings each partner brings to the equation to meaningfully connect, to matter in relation to life, self and the other.

Knowing what you want, and why, makes it easier to say and express what you want, and more likely to stay focused on what is most relevant in your discussion.

It’s not enough to have one-sided clarity, however.

In a couple relationship, it won’t work to only or mostly know your wants and why’s. This is often the cause of much disconnect because … a key part is missing. Like it or not, the realization of (most of) your goals is connected to the realization of your partner’s. The operating principle for healthy intimacy to grow in a couple relationship (and most adult relationships for that matter):

Your partner’s wants and why’s must fully matter to you as well as your own; otherwise, the relationship will remain off balance.

This double-sided clarity allows you to work on both sides of your relationship simultaneously, to avoid going around in circles, to steer away from energy-wasting ruthless (or subtle) competitions, and the like.

This rule may not apply to all your goals, however, it definitely applies to issues in which you’ve both fallen stuck in toxic reactive interactions for years … or decades. If you do not break these toxic reactions to one another, the principle that operates is:

The longer your response patterns remain unbroken, the greater the chance your brain will form ingrained, subconscious habits.

Partners can and do get addicted to “keeping” the problems or issues “alive”! Once a pattern is subconsciously repeated, it can trick us into thinking it is “our” personality, who we are, etc. A toxic pattern can feel so familiar in fact that “new” responses — even healthy ones that would promote healing – may feel uncomfortable, and get quickly rejected as “it’s not me.” (Keep in mind, you’re both wired to keep reaching to feel good about your self and life (i.e., happiness, joy), and thus, absent healthy ways of knowing how to feel good in moments of stress, boredom, etc., your body-mind will subconsciously opt for old tried-and-true “cheap-feel-good” options, which are often a waste of time and energy at best, if not harmful, destructive.

What if what one of you wants is harmful, i.e., “wants” drugs or to stay out all night? Another rule applies here:

What is healthy for you is ultimately healthy for your partner and relationship; correspondingly, what is unhealthy for you is ultimately unhealthy for your partner and relationship. 

The point is that, whenever you attempt to resolve an issue, and one or both of you feel short-changed, you are likely to get triggered, in which case, to discuss anything is likely a waste of your energy. When you think of it, aren’t you each following a script, rehashing the same worn dialogue again and again?

How do you show one another that your wants fully matter? Literally, you must energize yourself inside to want your partner to realize what they most aspire in relation to self and other, to be happy, to matter, to feel valued, and so on.

Without this focus, you are each at risk of getting triggered, or triggering one another, and does it really matter who got triggered first? If you’re stuck in patterns where you can “predict” what the other will say or do, stop and think with your frontal cortex. While it may be true that what your partner is doing is not working, that’s not the part you have 100% power to change. Each partner must own their partner to make this work. The sooner you own your part, the sooner you access your power to make optimal choices, i.e., to put the habit of criticizing to rest! After all don’t you already:

  • “See” and “know” how ineffective it is when your partner uses blame-, shame-, or guilt-inducing comments, or gets stuck on making negative forecasts, focuses on “lack” etc?
  • See and know how unloving or unloved you “feel” inside when your partner seems to be competing for “who” is right, better, superior, etc.

Ask yourself, do you really want the prize of “who’s more hurt, wronged, etc.” on your mantel?

Punitive tactics may work is a wrestling match; however they are guaranteed to help both partners fail in getting the secure, vibrant and passionate friendship they want with one another.

So, before discussing a sensitive issue, ask yourself: What do you really, really want, and why? Whenever possible, it also helps to write down what you want in advance in order to talk and say what you want in ways that most guarantee your partner “can” hear you.

And then ask whether one of your wants is for your partner to have what they really, really want? If so, then consciously (actively) seek to know and understand what they want, their reasons. Rest assured that when your energy conveys the sincerity of your commitment and your desire to be an authentic presence in their life, they will feel the difference.

An important caveat: True, we do not always get what we want. That’s not only a reality in life, it is a lesson of sorts, conceivably as essential aspect of learning to balance our giving and receiving. Ultimately it’s not about perfectly getting what we want per se; it’s about the process, the journey as relationship beings, the healing that takes place as we learn to shift what we want in order to grow wiser, heal and transform ourselves and relationships in the process as we become ever better versions of ourselves by learning how to treat self and other with dignity along the way (whether we get what we want or not).

Step 5: Support Your Partner to Get What They Want

This last step is about your role in actively supporting your partner to get what they want, as well as what you want. If wanting to know — and understand one another’s wants and why is critical, expressing the sincerity of your love through actions seals the deal. The rule that operates here is that:

Your actions are the most authentic expression of what you most want and yearn to realize. 

In other words, when you or your partner really, really want the other to have what they want, your actions will express this. Simultaneously, regular actions that let them know you want them to realize their wants and needs

Energizing yourself here means to see that your choice to consciously act to support your partner is a gift , ultimately, a practice of doing the “right” thing … just because. Love expressed as conscious actions in the highest interest of your partner, ultimately, are in your highest interest. Your ability to do the “right” thing even when you do not “feel” like it deepens and matures your capacity to love your self as well as the other.

Taking action seals the deal, which is why it is the last (but also ongoing) step.

What specific actions do you each desire the other to take that would increase your sense of safety and love in the relationship? How would this add meaning to your life? What do you want the other to understand? How do you want the other to respond to your communication?

How would having what you each want fulfill you both emotionally (see emotion-drives list) in the situation, for example, feeling heard, understood, valued?

Speaking of actions, one essential action to be willing to take is to make clear, action-inspiring requests. In couple relationships, often, this comes “easy” for one of the partner’s, and not so easy for the other. (If this sounds like you, it means both of you need to stretch and change or modify your approach. For the former, for example, their approach may sound more like complaints or ultimatums; for the latter, their approach talks them out of making requests as they “see” them as criticisms or “trying to change” others.)

Both partners must learn to “reimage” the other, and to “see” requests  as essential, powerful, infinitely more effective replacements for criticism.

To create the life experiences that meet your deepest yearnings means you must develop the ability to ask for what you want, and to listen to understand your partner’s. Knowing what you don’t want is also important, however, the human brain doesn’t process negatives as effectively. That’s because your words create images in your mind, and these images create an emotional reality of sorts. If your goal is to not argue defensively, for example, that’s great. Shift your focus, however, to what you want instead. Why? Your words put emotion-activating images in your mind. Use the workspace of your imagination wisely.

When you focus on what you want (rather than what you don’t want), you are in better position to suggest strategies to better meet your needs. Connecting to your core needs, or emotion-drives, also helps you clarify your action-requests, making them easier for your partner to see and make the connection.

In sum…

Realizing your potential is a living, breathing process that ebbs and flows. The most vital moment at any time in life is always the present one.

  • If you are not present as a witness to your inner world of emotions and feelings, wants and yearnings, hurts and doubts, etc., you cannot be present to your partner. They will feel the distance and disconnect. It’s as if you are not there.
  • If you do not own your happiness, seek to actively grow, to learn what works and what does not (wisdom), to take action accordingly, then you risk approaching your partner with discouraging tactics of criticism, blame, doubts, etc., triggers their deepest fears and doubts.  It’s as if you are not there.
  • If you allow your thoughts or self-talk to keep you worrying about the future or wallowing about past failures or regrets, you cannot be present moment as an observer of your self and your relationship with your partner.  It’s as if you are not there.
  • If you do not know what your partner wants and their reasons, you are at risk of making energy-deflating assumptions or treating your partner as an extension of your self.  It’s as if you are not there.
  • If you do not take actions to consciously support you and your partner to realize what you want, you are at risk of getting stuck in fear-based patterns that activate old emotion-command circuitry in your brain (so old, it takes you back to patterns formed when you were 3 or 5 years old!). Again, it is as if you’re not there.

Realizing your potential as individuals and a couple is less an “outcome” and more an intention to live life fully, to learn, to grow in wisdom and understanding, to realize the amazing built in capabilities you have to stretch your capacity for compassion for your self and your partner.

What does that mean exactly and what is true potential? One thing your potential isn’t is a fixed, static outcome written in stone. Flexibility is a characteristic of creative energy (power); whereas inflexibility is characteristic of destructive power.

Potential can be described as a growing desire to bring into your life and relationship more love, more authenticity, more integrity, more acceptance, more humility, more gratitude, more sense of wellbeing. This is living with the intention for you and your partner to love one another by living to keep reaching for your highest, true potential as individuals and partners.

Set an intention to become more and more aware of how you choose to use your power in present moments; your awareness of power to know, understand and take action is life-shaping.

Practice these 5 steps and you’ll begin to notice, more and more, the life shaping power you have to infuse life and love-activating energy into your couple relationship.


How to Argue to Strengthen Your Couple Relationship, 2 of 3

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

images-188Like it or not, you are the one constant in your couple relationship. If your couple relationship is on the rocks and you’re wondering why you seem to “attract” certain issues or partners, here’s a sobering thought (and potentially uplifting): What you bring to your relationship shapes you and your life. If you’re not consciously choosing what you bring, i.e., in terms of your intentions, thoughts, actions etc., you’re sitting on pure power, waiting to go to work for you.

In Part 1 we looked at the first two steps to shift “how you “argue” in ways that create an authentic connection between you and your partner. Here is step 3:

Continue reading… »

Pornography: Why It’s Guaranteed to Block Healthy Sexual Relations, 1 of 2

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

images-160Based on decades of research, marketing strategists know what few consumers come to realize, and that is: how powerful beliefs are in shaping human behaviors — and that beliefs can be altered subconsciously, without consent or knowledge.

How does it work? By associating carefully crafted ideas that spark emotions of pleasure or fear (or both), accordingly, with preexisting human drives (hardwired by nature), and repeating these ideas over and over.

This inside knowledge of how human beings learn and change can be beneficial.

Continue reading… »

Transformative Change: Five Steps to Empower Your Mind to Create a New Reality

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

426205_304363682960636_584253324_n               So what is transformative change about?

One way to think of transformative change is as an inner capacity you have to create the happiness and meaning in life that you’re naturally included to realize.

More specifically, it is a conscious way of thinking about your self and life that increasingly moves you in directions of seeking to learn and to keep stretching your ability to love your self and life around you, thus transforming your self and levels of happiness and meaning in the process.

In a nutshell, what you most aspire is a creative force in your life. Literally, you become what you most aspire. My clients often hear me say, “Be mindful of what you most want. You’ll succeed in creating it.”

Don’t take my word for it, do a quick check of what you’ve most yearned for from a child. In what ways do you have what you’re most focused on?

To understand yourself is to understand the nature of the power you have to literally create your own inner reality, thus inner resonance of energy, based on the belief systems you hold in your consciousness, of which you may or may not be aware. After all, most of the information that is collected by your senses is automatically ‘edited’ by your brain, and this editing is directly based on what you (learned to…) most deeply believe about yourself and world. Your beliefs (perceptions, interpretations, ways you explain the world in and around you…etc.) produce images in your mind and body to match the worldview you’ve been conditioned to believe.

Consider how your eyes have a blind spot where the optic nerve connects to the eye in the center of the retina. This part of your eye can’t see anything and your brain automatically weaves an imaginary picture together based on assumptions of what it expects from pre-conditioned experiences or beliefs. Hypnosis also give us indications of how ‘reality’ is created mostly inside us, and not ‘out there’ as most of us learn to believe.

These examples show how your life experience changes when you change one or more of your most basic assumptions about what is real for you. Such is the power of your mind to alter your reality according to your beliefs.

At present, in one or more areas of your life, there is a good change that you may be believing a world view is yours … that is not yours at all!

How would you know? Easy (sort of). Consider any “problem” areas of your life, and ask yourself:

  • Are you in a pattern of (repeatedly) making choices that provide short-term comfort or release, yet ultimately harm your personal health (emotional, physical, etc.) or key relationships?
  • Is your happiness dependent on — addicted to — any substances, activities or persons that you know deep down inside are a toxic drain of your energy?

In other words, any beliefs that are contrary to the primary directives of your body and mind (to support you to not only survive, but also thrive, at minimum to realize happiness and personal fulfillment in exercising your power to make conscious choices that allow you to live authentically and create authentic relationships, are untruths, lies, illusions of power and happiness, and the like.

It’s only natural, by the way, that certain beliefs may “feel” like they’re “yours” or “you”; this is not a conclusion you can afford to let your subconscious make on its own. You need to exercise your conscious mind, reflective, wise-self because what “feels true” may just be a belief that has been with you for a long, long time, perhaps from childhood. You’ve practiced it over and over, so it feels true.

You may be asking, “but what if I don’t want to feel or act this way or that way, and can see this as a problem?” While the answer is complex and unique to each person, consider the following:

This may be true for some part of you; however, at another level, some other part feels differently. If you want to change the pattern, you must courageously look deeper, be open to what you may not want to find, and so on.

The bottom line is that, whenever there is resistance to change, there are conflicting wants, beliefs, etc.

The conflict often comes in the form of a habit of making negative statements of what you want. For example, let’s say you are repeating certain thought patterns that are negatively stated, such as “I don’t want negative, demanding, angry people in my life! Why do I keep attracting them?!”

Again, while the answer to the question is likely to be unique to each individual, to a large degree, we can feel confident in stating that the reason the pattern will not change has to do with what you are doing in your head when you make a “negative” statement of what you want.

Your subconscious mind does not handle “not” statements well! The you’re more focused on what you do not want, the more you confuse and misguide your subconscious mind. That’s because:

  • Your subconscious mind is like a genie of sorts; it wants and supports you to have what you most think about, most know, most resonate, most feel most comfortable with, etc. In this case, it’s likely believing you want to make the problem of angry, demanding people your life mission and purpose!
  • It creates emotion-activating pictures in your imagination. In this case, your conscious mind thinks you do not want negative people, however, your subconscious mind is misguided to think and believe that, at a deeper level, the pictures your words/thoughts you most focus on in the powerful space of your imagination is what you most want!
  • Additionally, when a thought or behavior pattern becomes “familiar” to the mind of your body (subconscious), it feels like it is “wanted” to your body-mind because “feel good” hormones are produced, and thus, you’re likely to automatically repeat the behavior that produced the good-feeling feeling.

Fact, not theory: You have to change your thinking if you want to make changes in your personal and relational happiness.

This is not to say that you should go about getting another reality without making thoughtful considerations of what this may mean for you. Too often people are inclined to choose a reality that they “think” they want, and omit the step of reflecting on the reasons, purpose of their aspirations. For example, if the reasons are not aligned with the primary directives of your body and mind their subconscious (to matter as unique individuals, meaningfully connect etc.), you may as well have a goal of no longer needing to breath oxygen so you can go live with the dolphins. (This perhaps may fly in some future stage of human evolution, however, I think we can all agree that it is a totally unreasonable because it goes against the human body’s directives to survive, without which thriving is not a possibility either!)

The key is to realize that it’s incomparably more important how you feel about yourself in relation to your life and others than how others feel about you – and that feeling a new way about your life, happiness and relationships is change that … can be … just a breath away.

The solution then is not to change from one limited sense of reality to another. That would never bring the sense of personal and relational happiness you yearn to realize. The solution is to become consciously aware as a choice maker, as a creator of your life experience inside out, and in the process even become aware and accept that at least for a period you may be choosing limited beliefs that hold you back.

Paradoxically, acceptance is essential to processes of change. It is a complement that allows optimal change to occur as a loving, caring process, as part of your expanded capacity to love and have compassion for your self and others.

When you realize what you really, really, really want, and then seek to understand the purpose and reasons you really want what you want, the path to manifesting your dreams will most amazingly, even miraculously fall in place. Your most important tasks in the process is to stay tuned into your gut inspirations, and to act on these intuitive prompts. Your actions will get you there. It’s a guidance that is rooted to a deep, subconscious level of yourself, which is often beyond what you can understand with your conscious mind.

The problem lies in that most have a seriously limited perspective of who they are as individuals, and what they are capable of as human beings. And it’s also important to understand that this problem is common because of the way our society is structured to condition us as a whole to adopt a value system disempowers us to go after what provides only illusions of power, i.e., proving self-worth based on dehumanizing standards of how emotionally detached we are from the pain of love, who’s superior/right versus inferior/wrong, and in general approaching our key relationships in terms of win-lose competitions.

The truth of who we really are and what we’re really capable of realizing gets lost in these value systems that are dehumanizing rather than bringing out the best of what it means to be human.

You can change your old fear-activating belief systems, and it’s just a breath away.

The real solution is to awaken from your subconscious state of believing that you will “always” or “never” be this or that, or that you to prove your worth and value. You need assumptions that give yourself permission to free yourself from thinking and acting like your own (or others’) judge and jury, and instead to think of yourself as the captain, creator and choice maker of your life and relationships. And you don’t need to travel to the other side of the world to find this enlightenment. You just need to open the doors of your heart and gut and accept who you are. Stop hiding, and stop doing what keeps you and others in hiding – judging, harshly criticizing, condemning, blaming and the like. When you acknowledge who you are … and go within, you find you’ve always been at any moment what you most yearn to create.

So what is transforming change about. It is also about making a passionate commitment to mindfully exercising—and understanding—the power of your moment to moment choices. And it’s about clearly identifying what you want, and learning how to stay energized and motivated from start to finish.

Peak performers succeed because they determine what works and enjoy doing that consistently. They also, at the same time, avoid what blocks their success like the plague. Additionally, they maintain a laser-like focus on what they want, why they want it—and what they are willing to do to achieve it. If you don’t like what is happening in your life, and are sincere about making changes, there is a proven formula to help us succeed in making changes, which is based on understanding the concept of perception is projection, or the power of your mind to create your reality.

The formula is a five step process.

1. Adopt the following basic assumptions if you have not already:

What you have in your life at present is in large part a symptom of your own thinking, and that when you change your focus and beliefs, you will transform your life and self.

This first step gives you a new understanding of your life and self, one that connects you directly to your ability to make choices, to take responsibility for your actions, beliefs and thoughts, and the effect that you have on your self and others. It allows you to see more clearly that, what is happening in your life is a in large part a symptom of your thinking, a product of your beliefs and perceptions, and that your perceptions shape your imagination and actions, thus also impact the imagination and actions of others around you.

2. Focus your energy on what you want, guided by the following three questions:

      1. What specifically do you really, really, really want?
      2. What benefits do expect as result of achieving this (purpose, reasons for what you want)?
      3. What “losses” do expect as result of achieving this (what are you willing to do or let go of to have what you want)?

This step gives you to opportunity to focus your energies by consciously and carefully choosing what you want in your life and relationships, especially who you want to be and how you want to show up in life.  What you want, clearly articulated, allows you to then take charge of one of the most potent capacities you have as a creative being, your imagination. You cannot change the old illusions by focusing on what you don’t have, what you lack, what is going wrong or may go wrong. If you are really serious about change, this will show up in how open and willing you are to let go of your old focus on lack, and shift instead to clearly articulate and change your focus on what you want to create and who you want to be.

3. What actions are you willing to take as a result of what you really want?

In this step ask yourself:

What are five things would you do to move toward what you really want (step three) IF you were really, really motivated to make the change?

This step allows you to articulate and think of actions, even small actions, that you can take daily and regularly, to create new outcomes in your life.

4. Envision yourself in a motivated state of taking action. 

Think of a time when you were really motivated, and take a few moments to close your eyes, breath deeply and relax, smiling as you imagine this time. Involve all of your senses: See what you saw, hear what you heard, feel the empowering and good feeling emotions you felt.

 5. From this motivated state, chose one or two actions to start taking.

This step allows you to consciously shift into a motivated state of mind and body-emotions, by stepping into the picture of what you want when you take action. See the same brightness, same colors, size and location. Hear the same sounds. Feel the same feelings of confidence, strenth, and unstoppable momentum.

That is a formula for success!

You can enjoy success in what you desire. It works every time. It is like tuning in to the just the right frequency to listen to your favorite music, then making conscious choices to lock on to that station as you to create the highest success you can envision for yourself and relationships, personally and professionally.

Success and failure are an inside game. The power of an inside-out focus is yours for the seeking, providing you are also willing to take consistent action.

As you master the lessons you learn in life, free yourself to discover how powerful your choices are, moment by moment. Notice that wherever you put your focus, you activate the power of your imagination to literally fire and wire new emotion-command neural patterns.

This discovery is an amazing realization of yourself as a miracle making being with infinite possibilities for creating the life you want, simply by developing laser vision — and willingness to take action based on optimal thoughts and emotional states of mind and body.

The choice is yours, at any moment, to live the life you want. The evidence of your commitment to create new outcomes in your life rests on the extent to which you are open and willing to engage in the steps above, and in general to take action, even small actions, regularly and consistently. Change your perceptions, and observe how your new actions transform your world today…or soon.

What outcomes do you want to create with the power of your imagination??

Predictors of Infidelity: Why Do Partners Cheat?

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

images-492Though men and women’s sexual behaviors seem to blur on TV, movies and entertainment, researchers and professionals who treat couples indicate key differences persist.

In a recent study of predictors of infidelity in couple relationships, the findings overall indicated men and women overall seem to follow the stereotypes. The focus on sex, performance, variety and frequency tends to be driven by men, while the focus on emotional connection and nonsexual affection by women.

Drs. Mark, Janssen and Milhausen found no significant differences in rates of infidelity of men, with 23 percent for men and 19 percent for women, however, what predicted infidelity differed for men and women. Predictors for men in the study had more to do with personality traits, such as performance anxiety, a propensity for getting sexually excited by triggers, and so on, whereas relationship factors, such as emotional intimacy, partnership, etc., carried significantly more weight for women.

The reasons women cheat seem more related to unfulfilled expectations or failure, their own or partner’s, with regard to developing a deeper emotional connection. In contrast, author and sex addiction expert Robert Weiss states in an article on why men cheat that when it comes to sex, “men tend to be most aroused by a visual succession of body parts and sexual acts” where as women are “aroused by sexualized and romanticized emotional connections between people more than body parts.”

Continue reading… »

Genuine Love: Four Mantras to Calm Storms (& Feel Safe Enough to Remain, Present & Connected )

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.


Human beings yearn to be loved, and feeling loved and valued connects us to feeling safe and secure. In a recent book titled, True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart, author and Zen monk Thich, offers couples a series of practices to help them deepen their connection to what he calls four components of love: loving kindness, compassion, joy and freedom.

One of these practices are four mantras for partners to verbalize out loud to one another or quietly to themselves, as needed. Creating love is about energizing greater intimacy. Genuine intimacy is an emotional state of being; it is more about how your choices affect the quality of energy inside you and your partner — and less about overt actions. If you are in a place where you feel totally safe from the world when you reach for your partner or are in your partner’s arms — and — they feel t0tally safe when they reach or are in yours … that’s genuine intimacy.

Couples can use the following mantras to create a sense of love and safety, personal and relational happiness:

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The Neuroscience of Addictive Love: Attributes of Love Addiction

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

images-205What is this thing called ‘love’? Plato labeled love an ‘irrational desire,” and song titles such as “The Things We Do For Love,” as well as lyrics of songs such as “Why Do Fools Fall In Love,” convey the befuddling impact love relationships can have on human brains. For human beings, men and women alike, there is perhaps no bigger fascination or obsession for the senses, heart and mind, body and spirit.

The good news from fields of neuroscience and intimacy (known as social neuroscience, attachment, affective neuroscience and cognitive neuroscience) is that up-close studies of the brain mechanisms underlying behavior in social relationships have taken much of the mystery out of our quest to understand couple relationships.

As Dr. Sue Johnson states in a recent book, Hold Me Tight, quite the contrary, love relationships seem to be governed by an “exquisite logic” that follows rather precise algorithms. Bonding behaviors, it turns out, are less of a mystery and more a science.

We now understand, for example, there are neurochemical reasons why we tend to make poor decisions in certain relational contexts.

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Personal Power: How to Own It (& Stop Giving It Away) In Your Couple Relationship, 1 of 2

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

COUPLESIn successful relationships, partners take the basics seriously, and handle the yearnings of each to feel heard and understood as unique beings as really, really important; in short, they treat one another with dignity, recognizing their own and one another’s personal power.

As top trial lawyer Gerry Spence notes, what we face when we interact with one another, is what we most fear in our relationships, and that is: the power of the other as an agent of their choices.

The other has the power, for example, to choose to say no, to deny some need, want or yearning, and so on, and because this directly challenges our own sense of personal power (to realize dreams, wants and needs), it touches our deepest intimacy fears, such as fear of inadequacy, rejection, abandonment.

Not surprisingly, this dynamic is particularly intense in couple relationships.

Continue reading… »

A Checklist of 12 Science-of-Love Approved Wedding Vows, 2 of 2

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

iStock_000008686716Medium    This post lists the last 6 of 12 science-backed wedding vows, and is a continuation of Part 1. They are

7. “I vow to disallow my past to negatively influence our present and future together as individuals and a couple.

This vow stems from research on couple communications and forgiveness. Consciously or not, early experiences in interactions with primary caregivers can subconsciously shape our lives, particularly events that were emotionally intense. Many or most core beliefs about who we are, what we are capable of, how we want life to be, and so on, originate in formative years of childhood. Some affect us in positive ways, giving us stamina to overcome challenges, while others block or limit our growth and happiness.

Often the impact of negative (and positive) childhood experiences remains dormant until problems in an intimate relationship surface, making it imperative that we take a fresh look at some deeply painful aspect of ourselves or lives, perhaps ones we’ve disowned or kept well hidden deep inside.

Continue reading… »

What Does Reactivity Say? Finding Balance in Your Couple Relationship (Beneath the Surface)?

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

images-663Recent findings on the brain and intimacy remind us that all communications, regardless their delivery, are attempts to emotionally connect. We are wired for love and empathic connection.

With this in mind, let’s explore what defensive patterns in your couple relationship are saying to you and your partner. To be sure, your brains and emotions, thoughts and feelings, are doing what they’re designed to do whenever you or your partner perceive a threat, in this case, a threat to meeting a core attachment or intimacy (love) need.

What does reactivity say about what’s going on beneath the surface of your couple relationship?

Continue reading… »


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