When Giving Up Means Getting a Dog

If you think all men are dogs then you might consider trading your needs for your wants…

A friend of ours recently declared that she was SO over men that she decided to get a dog instead. This woman is in her mid-30’s, attractive and really has it together in most other areas of her life. Apparently, the men that did show up during her many attempts to date and connect with just turned out to be dogs. So why not just get a real one. You know, that will love her unconditionally and forever be her best friend without all the B.S. that comes with the hominid variety? And she is not alone in making this decision. A recent study in the U.K. revealed that 1 in 10 women in relationship with a man actually prefer their pet over their man. Is the male gene pool really that bad off or is there something else going on here that suggests these women could go about finding the man of their dreams in a more effective way…

Tick, Tick, Tick…

We have another female friend in her mid-30’s who is drop-dead gorgeous, and very, very frustrated. One day my Partner and I walked into a restaurant only to see our fetching friend having what appeared to be an intimate conversation with yet another new man. We didn’t hear a word either of them said yet is was instantly clear to us that this was going to be another let down. We came to this conclusion so quickly because her body language was like a neon-sign flashing the words “I need a man!” over and over again. Since she is so attractive, she ends up with having many short-lived relationships where the men get the sex they want until her needs pushes them away. In the inevitable aftermath of each one we are debriefed on what “dogs” all men are.

We observed similar behavior in many women in their 30’s and it is really no surprise. The 30’s are the period of a woman’s life where the ticking of the biological clock becomes more strident the closer one approaches 40. And this is true whether the woman wants children or not. It’s all part of our default Sexual Operating System that is designed for propagation rather than fulfillment.

Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again

The problem here is not the biological clock nor all the horn-dog men out there. The real issue lies with: a) not even being aware of these drives, b) assuming one is “incomplete” without a mate, and c) not being clear about with whom you want to share your life. And without these being addressed honestly head-on, one is doomed to repeat the same experience over and over again. That is, until old Fido and his incessant wagging tail starts looking really good as a substitute life companion.

Finding the right partner starts with first learning to be totally comfortable in your own presence. This means you have the ability to fully enjoy life with or without a partner, i.e. alone yet not lonely. Likewise, want and need are two completely different things. You can still feel complete and yet desire someone to share your life adventure. However, the moment you feel a mate is necessary to feel complete, your needs only serves to ward off potential compatible partners.

Finding the right partner starts with first learning to be totally comfortable in your own presence.

While I can’t speak for all men, I will say that a self-assured woman is far more attractive to most men than one who comes off as needing someone to fulfill them. And, this kind of self-assurance will not settle for anyone she feels does not meet her standards and is fully willing to risk waiting for the one that does.

This of course assumes one is willing to be very clear, ideally in writing, about whom they want as a life Partner. I firmly believe this takes a great deal of introspection and self-questioning as to why various characteristics within a mate are so important. It also means being equally clear on what qualities are not acceptable, no matter what –i.e., the “deal-killers”. While most people will tend to agree with the efficacy of this approach, very few ever follow through. It’s as if they would prefer to have God or the Universe just magically deliver the right person on a silver platter. Without clarity, you are essentially tying the hands of Fate from being able to deliver. And by the way, if you are waiting for Prince Charming you may as well as get that puppy now because P.C., who is the very definition of filling a need, is never going to show up.

…a self-assured woman is far more attractive to most men than one who comes off as needing someone to fulfill them.

Don’t get me wrong I love dogs, and cats, for that matter. They love unconditionally, never judge, comfort you when you are down and can even help you keep warm at night. However, they will never, ever provide the depth of fulfillment that can only come from having an authentic relationship with someone you want and respects you as an equal. And that is the ultimate shared human experience worth risking to prepare for.

Who’s Entitled to Sexual Entitlement

Why sexual entitlement in committed relationships is an anachronism we can do without…

Recently a very close friend of mine reviewed my latest work on extraordinary intimacy. This particular part focused on men giving their female partner what they want in the bedroom. All with the idea that men are wired to feel their greatest sense of sexual fulfilment the more they are able to selflessly please their partner in the way they desire. While he enthusiastically agreed with my thesis and approach, he mentioned something else that took me by total surprise. The very idea of selfless sexual giving apparently also triggered his shadows surrounding male sexual entitlement. My friend is one of the most conscious men I know, so it blew me away when he brought it up. I actually had to ask him if this kind of thing was still prevalent in our society, which he readily confirmed. Wow…

“I have needs.”

I first had to ask him to clarify what he meant by sexual entitlement just to make sure I was fully understanding what he just said. Essentially, he defined his shadow of “male sexual entitlement” as the right to have sex with his partner when he wanted it, primarily to release his periodic libidinous impulses. I guess that’s where the expression “Wifely duty” originated. While he is certainly not the kind of man to act out on these impulses, the fact that he still had them just confirmed how strongly the default human Sexual Operating System* is still in place.
(* The default human Sexual Operating System or S.O.S. is a collection of largely unconscious drives, beliefs and behaviors that impact nearly every aspect of intimate relationships primarily for the purpose of propagation of the species.)

This exchange prompted me to explore more deeply into the issue of sexual entitlement in general. One of the first definitions I found was: “Male sexual entitlement is the belief that men are owed sex on account of their maleness.” Okay. I can see how rapists may justify their actions this way, but conscientious men in committed relationships living in highly advanced societies –come on, really? Perhaps a more sedate version of this is “If I provide for you and the family, you owe it to me to put out when I want it.”

Women Can Feel Sexually Entitled Too

In sharing this story with a sex coach who works primarily with women, she was not the least bit surprised and went on to explain just how prevalent this still is within our culture. She then shared how some women feel equally entitled to “get off” with their man when they want it. Essentially a form of female sexual entitlement. Clearly, as women have become more independent in all areas, this was bound to emerge. It is also not uncommon that the female within a committed relationship has the stronger and more demanding libido. Great news for the lucky stiff she happens to be with, right? Hardly. Unless he really gets off on being used as a flesh and blood masturbation tool.

No One is Entitled to Sexual Favors

I sincerely hope the irony is not missed here. The very definition of a deeply connecting committed intimate relationship asserts that *no one* is owed sexual favors. Sex is one of the most intimate forms of giving that happens to be highly pleasurable. Turning it into an obligatory act of helping one’s partner achieve gratification flies in the face of being truly connected. If I ever felt my partner saw themselves as entitled to my body and sensual giving rather than enjoying it with mutual respect and desire of it, that relationship would soon be over. In my view, the idea of exchange of sex for being a provider or giver of some other value within the relationship is just a more socially acceptable form of the world’s oldest profession.

The very definition of a deeply connecting committed intimate relationship asserts that *no one* is owed sexual favors.

Granted, it is almost impossible for two committed intimate partners to have the same levels of desire at the same time. This will often result with one or the other building up sexual tension looking for release. This is something my partner and I encounter occasionally. I typically have the stronger libido between the two of us. If I sense a strong buildup of sexual energy and desire prior to us getting together, I will sometimes “bleed it off” via masturbation. I do this out of respect for her so that we are on the same level sexually speaking and I am not constantly fighting overwhelming desire for release when we are together. This is something we have discussed openly and she fully appreciates as it reflects my love and respect for her and her needs.

Call me naïve and idealist, but I simply cannot fathom how in 2016 some men (and women) residing in highly advance societies can continue to assume sexual entitlement.  In the grand scheme of things it simply serves no one –period.

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……

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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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…

Being Aware

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.

Despite having several very “successful” careers, I was never very happy nor content for any extended period of time.

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?

Being Clear

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.

Being Present

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 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.

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.


How Gender Bias Rears Its Ugly Head In the Best of Relationships

Deeply rooted gender bias can undermine relationships – here’s a way to make sure that never happens…

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World – – – Gender bias can be a very sneaky, insidious thing that never serves any of the parties involved. And men can be subject to that bias just as easily as women. Now you would think that in a committed relationship with two otherwise intelligent and conscious human beings it would rarely, if ever, rear its ugly head. Well, I’m here to report that it most certainly can, and just how potentially destructive it can be.

The Setup…
As couples and relationships go, my partner and I like to think of ourselves as evolved, conscious and willing to authentically and vulnerably communicate no matter what the topic or how uncomfortable it may be. This has been the basis for our relationship since we’ve been together for over three years. And it has worked exceedingly well. So well in fact that I often use the success of our relationship and the resulting incredible emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy we consistently enjoy as the basis of my writing and speaking career on achieving extraordinary intimacy.

On top of all that, I just finished serving as the Program Director for the recent Conscious Men Summit featuring John Gray, Arjuna Ardagh and co-sponsored by the ManKind Project USA. The central theme of this four-day event (featuring some of the top speakers, authors and thought leaders in the conscious men movement) was how to help men overcome cultural stereotyping and allow themselves to fully express and feel everything without a sense of self-diminishment or shame. This includes helping men to avoid shutting down and “tough it out” when confronted with emotions that are difficult or painful. Not an easy task when male expression of vulnerability is viewed as a “weakness” within our culture rather than the strength it truly is.

The Irony is Killing Me
So it is with the height of all irony that just last week I find myself being subjected to a profound and deeply embedded gender bias. From my female partner, the love of my life, no less.

Sometime last weekend (the week prior to my writing this) I expressed to my partner some anxiety I was feeling about uncertainty now that my gig as Conscious Men Summit Program Director was coming to an end. I honestly don’t even remember what I said or when I said it –but I certainly was feeling the anxiety and she was picking it up. So clearly, I was having a very vulnerable moment.

My partner and I typically schedule our weekly lovemaking sessions on Sunday mornings so we can enjoy giving to each other without interruption or distraction. Only this particular Sunday morning my partner (who typically has a high libido) said she wasn’t feeling particularly frisky. So, we did what we always do, we talked openly about the possible reasons. What she said actually made a lot of sense. She went on to express her concern that she might not be able to climax for me and felt quite a bit of performance anxiety over that possibility. Well, this happens to be one of my areas of expertise that I speak and write about all the time. So, I shared with her what I coach others to say: “Sweetie, I’m not concerned about whether you climax or not –only that you enjoy my giving to you. Will you enjoy it even if you don’t climax?” And she responded: “Of course, but I don’t want to disappoint you.” To which I said: “I absolutely LOVE doing what I do for you, as long as you are okay with it.”

With that we proceeded to make beautiful love. And, as it turns out, her concerns were quite unfounded as she came explosively many times. Funny thing though, I felt deep down that there was more to this because our usual heightened sensual energy still felt a bit “off” –I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

Fast forward one week later. After having a particularly stressful day dealing with computer issues (to which I admittedly *way* over-reacted), we had a wonderfully enjoyable evening of dancing. When we returned home, my partner felt compelled to share some feelings and insights about me. This is something I always welcome even if it is not particularly flattering. It’s one of the ways we continue to learn about ourselves from each other respectively.

Only this time, what she said, frankly left me dumbstruck. She went on to share that her lack of initial desire last time surprised and bothered her as well. It wasn’t until she left to return to her own home that she really started to consider the reasons. It eventually became crystal clear to her that my exhibiting vulnerability and anxiety about my interim financial situation was the source of the turn-off. In her words, it made me look weak in her eyes and she, like many women, find “strong” men, those who exhibit certainty in all things to be more sexually attractive. Ouch!!!

Even though she does not depend upon me financially, just knowing that at this time my ability in this arena is somewhat limited, along with my exhibited concern, caused her to feel less sexual attraction. This is very much within the realm of the default Sexual Operating System I have written about previously. And, if left unchecked, is the primary source of many relationship failures.

Let’s look at this for a moment. Her very reasons for being turned off are the very definition of the expected gender-bias imprinting for males still very much alive within our 21st century culture. Even though most women today no longer need to depend upon a man to survive, the old paradigm of the strong, dependable, emotionally stoic male provider as the ideal mate still impacts even some of the most conscious of women. It was the very antithesis of what the Conscious Men Summit was all about –and, it came from the mouth of the woman I absolutely respect and adore.

Shutting Down is a Choice
When she shared this with me in her very matter of fact way I felt stricken, diminished and frankly, angry. It was as if I had taken one right in the gut by Mike Tyson and was left reeling. For a full minute I just sat there looking into her eyes not saying a word or showing any expression at all. Underneath that façade however, I could feel the icy cold hands of shutdown and disconnect wrapping themselves around my heart. My very first impulse was to completely shut-down and disconnect from her. If she wanted a man who just stuffs his feelings and shows only “strength”, I can give her that. After all, the first 60 years of my life were like that –I had plenty of practice.

Now remember, I’m the guy that teaches other guys how NOT to do this. So, with some re-centering and internal observation of the ferocious battle my ego was having I finally chose to let my heart win instead. Later that evening (more like 2:40am in the next morning) we talked about it with candor, respect and vulnerability –on both sides. She admitted she was totally taken by surprise that those feelings emerged within her despite knowing better, despite being so conscious and aware. And I admitted just how hurtful and diminishing it felt (to my ego –not my heart) and how over-reacting to my own fears certainly did not instill confidence.

Within that darkened bedroom a space of authentic and vulnerable communication opened up between us. One where we reconciled and took full ownership for the respective parts we played in this little drama. All of which ended up being a very powerful healing process that gave us much deeper insight into the unconscious forces that are always ready to kick in under stress.

Clearly, men have every much as right to express authentic vulnerability as women. In fact, it could be argued that the very survival of our species will depend to some significant degree that we can give men the safe space needed to do so. Regardless of gender, we are all human beings. Old gender paradigms served quite well to help propagate our species. But now that we have “survived” and in fact risk over-population, these deeply embedded imprints no longer serve us individually nor collectively.

Awareness Cures All
So does this mean that my partner will no longer have her sexual attraction for me be impacted by how “strong” or not I show up? Hardly. We both know it will ALWAYS be there, lurking –waiting to spring its attack, just as my urge to over-react to perceived threats (and my own biases) will always be in the background as well. The big difference now is that we are both are sublimely aware of their nature and proclivity to emerge at the absolute worst time. And with awareness comes the ability to handle it.

This ended up being an exquisite learning / growing experience for each of us. We both believe that our relationship is that much stronger and resilient because of it. And, it is my hope in sharing this that you and your partner don’t have to risk learning these same insights the hard way. Instead, use your respective awareness to heal it when and if it ever does appear.

The Extraordinary Pleasure of Intimate Giving

There is sex and then there is transcendental ecstasy –here’s a way to consistently experience the latter…

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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When we hear people excitedly exclaim about an amazing experience they will often use the expression: “It’s better than sex!” –which is really just another way of saying *nothing* is better than sex. However, there is “sex” and then there is transcendental ecstasy that goes beyond what most couples have experienced or can even fathom. And what I am here to share with you is how you and your partner can access this level of pleasure and fulfillment consistently.

From the Abyss of Despair

First of all, my partner and I arrived at this state of sexual awakening in the most unlikely of circumstances after we first met. She is a 50 year old post-menopausal woman who now finds traditional intercourse to be… well let’s just say, not very satisfying, and even painful. My situation, unfortunately, was far worse. As a result of treatments for prostate cancer, I was rendered clinically impotent. And because my treatments included surgical removal of my prostate, it meant that in addition to never being able to have an erection, I also cannot ejaculate (no prostate = no semen). For many men, this is a fate worse than death (I’ve actually had a few tell me that to my face). And admittedly, in the beginning I felt completely devastated about this state of affairs, to say the least.

So for all practical purposes, penetrative sex was simply out of the question for us. Fortunately, we both greatly enjoy giving and receiving oral pleasuring. And that opened up a whole new world for us in unexpected ways…

To Heights of Complete Transcendence

The first time we made love we spent hours together expressing deep connection, intimacy and a great deal of exquisite pleasuring. She was able to climax several times which gave me the confidence that I could still be a “man” for her sexually speaking. Yet, as excited as I was and no matter what she tried, I simply could not release. In fact, I tried so hard that I actually started getting exertion headaches, like sometimes happens when you do resistance training beyond your current capabilities.

Now this is where it gets interesting. Despite not being able to climax I wasn’t feeling frustrated. In fact, quite the opposite –I never felt so fulfilled. This response puzzled me because it was totally out of the realm of my previous experience or expectation. I should have been climbing the walls. Instead, I was basking in a deep glow of intense intimate satisfaction that exceeded anything I had ever experienced before. While neither my partner nor I knew it at the time, this was our first clue to achieving heights of sexual bliss that neither of us ever imagined possible.

After about a month and a half of trying to climax, my brain suddenly and without forewarning “rewired”. The first time it happened was unlike *anything* I had ever experienced before. Starting in my entire pelvic region waves of seemingly high-voltage ecstasy traveled up from my pelvic floor through the femurs of both legs all the way to my kneecaps. It was so powerful and lasted so long that I literally screamed. And from that point on they have only become stronger and longer lasting.

From the perspective of having the experience of previous explosive ejaculatory orgasms (prior to prostate cancer) verses what I happens now –there is no comparison. I can only imagine that this is similar to what women who are highly tuned into their sensual bodies experience during climax. An experience I wouldn’t trade for anything –including getting my hardon back.

We are two lovers who are consistently receiving sexual pleasure way beyond anything that we thought was humanly possible. And, we would both give it up in a heartbeat…

Meanwhile, my partner’s experience has only continued to become more intense and frequent. So frequent in fact that she is now somewhat embarrassed to discuss how many times she climaxes during our lovemaking because most people simply would not believe her.

So there you have it. We are two lovers who are consistently receiving sexual pleasure way beyond anything that we thought was humanly possible. And, we would both give it up in a heartbeat…

Our Ultimate Sexual Experience

My partner and I openly and authentically discuss our respective intimate experiences and what we like / don’t like with each other all the time. We often ask each other the same question: “If you had to give up one thing, the receiving or the giving, which would it be?” And, without a hint of hesitation we both said we’d give up the receiving as long as we could give to the other. Meaning, we would both be willing to forego our own climaxes as long as we could give them to the other.

Think about this for a moment. When many couples become intimate, often their respective focus is on how each of them can receive powerful climaxes. What we have found is that our greatest pleasure is the ability to give them to each other. Remember how I mentioned earlier on about that extended period of time when I simply could not climax no matter what my partner did or technique she used? Yet, I was totally and completed fulfilled without a hint of frustration? Exploring that seemingly contradictory experience is what helped lead us to our intimacy breakthrough.

Focusing on giving to the other while being fully present for them and without expectations has been truly one of the most powerful realizations of our intimate life together. Intimate giving, without conditions and in the way our partner wants, provides each of us the most intense, pleasurable and fulfilling physically intimate experience either of us has ever had by a wide, wide margin. Much more so than even the explosive climaxes we each now consistently experience.

Focusing on giving to the other while being fully present for them and without expectations has been truly one of the most powerful realizations of our intimate life together.

Extraordinary intimacy, we have found, is all about giving and receiving in a fully present and vulnerable way. But for us, the giving is far more important to our overall experience than the receiving could ever hope to be.

So the next time you make love, ask your partner what they would truly like and then give them that in a space of being fully present for them without attachment to outcome –and watch what happens to them. And, perhaps even more importantly, what happens to you…

Relationships on Autopilot Will Crash Every time

The last thing you want to do when your relationship is going smoothly is put it on “autopilot”…

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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Anyone who commutes to work has had the experience of arriving at the office and not even remembering the process of getting there. The first time you become aware of it having happened, it is frankly a bit scary. However, our brains are wired so that we can complete repetitive and complex processes without even being conscious of our actions. This is our “autopilot” mode. And while it can be useful for some circumstances, driving our relationships is certainly not one of them. Yet, this is how many couples behave much of the time, and to no good end.

I’ve Have It Handled

I distinctly remember during my marriage how important it was to make sure things were “handled”. This meant: providing food, clothing and shelter for the family (check), spending time with the kids so they grew up well adjusted (check), spending time with my wife so she felt attended to (check) and so on. It wasn’t until years later, well after my marriage had crumbled, that I realized I had put all those “things” on autopilot. Why? Supposedly so I could focus fully on my career to ensure a reasonable lifestyle and that our children could go to the best schools.

It was almost like running a business. I didn’t have to pay too much focused attention to anything as long as it appeared to be running smoothly. Only when a problem surfaced within the family or relationship did I show my full attention. In essence, if there was no fire to put out, everything must be fine which means I was freed up to do the “more important” things.

In essence, if there was no fire to put out, everything must be fine which means I was freed up to do the “more important” things.

It eventually became clear that what I was really doing was avoiding being fully present and aware for the most important people in my life. Even now, it still pains me deeply to realize just how unconscious I was during that time in my life.

Relationship is Based Upon Presence, Not Process

Just a few days ago my Partner and I had an interesting exchange. She was being rather emphatic about the importance of novelty and new experiences within any relationship to keep it fresh and exciting. After pondering this a bit I responded with “Yes, however, even the pursuit of novelty can become a means to avoid being in the present moment for each other.” Think about it. Any process, even those designed to instill exciting variety, can become routine if it is not done within the context of being fully present and aware. It’s like thrill-seekers who are always pushing their boundaries for the next bigger rush of adrenaline. It’s a hole that can never be filled –it only makes it bigger, and often, more dangerous.

Being on autopilot is the very antithesis of being present. Being fully present, whether for your significant other or for life in general, means you are willing to face the uncertainties that come with it. When you are Present, you really don’t know what will come next –which is something our older, survival-imperative, lizard brains simply cannot handle well.

Being Present Is Not a Skill – It’s a Disciplined State of Being

We humans are exquisitely engineered to learn new things –it is one of our strongest survival traits. When we first start to learn a new skill, say typing or a musical instrument, we are consciously incompetent. In the beginning we are acutely aware of just how inept we are. The more we practice, the better we become until we reach the point of being consciously competent. We become good at it but it still requires being 100% focused.

While mastery of any process or skill takes time, sometimes even years, Presence can happen instantly.

If we keep practicing beyond that we may eventually reach that most sought after level of proficiency: unconsciously competent –that is, we don’t even have to think about it to do it superbly well. It is where the autopilot kicks in.

While mastery of any process or skill takes time, sometimes even years, Presence can happen instantly. That’s because it is a state of Being, rather than a process of doing, that only requires your conscious choice to achieve and maintain it. And by definition being fully present, for yourself and others (especially your significant other), requires 100% full awareness. This is something our culture unfortunately conspires to help us avoid via a nearly an infinite array of available distractions.

Routine: Autopilot’s Second Cousin

Relationships often go down the road of routine to eventually end up being on autopilot. Routines are like little processes that we have “mastered” to make our life easier, hassle-free, and less bothered by that scariest of all monsters: uncertainty.

Think about your own intimate relationship and be brutally honest. What parts of it have become routine? Maybe you and your Life Mate have already seen the first signs and made an effort to change your ways, make things more interesting and novel. If so, then you may have fallen into another trap: the very act of pursuing a “doing” to spice things up will ultimately lead to more disappointment and frustration. I contend that no amount of “doing” can ever be enough for the long-term health and survival of an intimate relationship. It requires the discipline of Presence. And believe me, it is a discipline –one that can never go on autopilot otherwise it instantly vanishes.

If you think of your most significant intimate relationship as a work of art, you will see that it requires embracing the unknown and uncertainty concomitant with any creative endeavor. It also requires being fully present to allow the beauty of your mutual creation to blossom and reveal itself. And when you do you will find that no longer are you both driving mindlessly down the road of relationship mediocrity. Instead, you are on the most exciting and exhilarating adventure of your lives. An adventure you can choose to experience, right now.

Find Time or Find Someone Else

Nearly everyone is stressed for time and here’s how to avoid having your relationship fall apart because of it.

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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Recently I was interviewed on camera by a highly regarded relationship coach where we discussed many issues surrounding sex and intimacy. The part where things became, well… “interesting” was when I talked about how critical it was for couples to set aside at least a two or more hours of unbroken intimate time together each week without any distractions whatsoever. He proceeded to play the Devil’s Advocate and said that it simply wasn’t practical in today’s extremely stressed and busy life style. And how I responded to his protestations took him by surprise…

2 Hour Lovemaking!? You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me!

My partner and I are both very busy people with our own businesses. And like most entrepreneurs, free time is at a high premium. Yet when we make love it is for a minimum of 2 – 4 hours at a time. When I mentioned this to my role-playing host, he practically did a double-take and said that couples today barely have time for 15 minutes of lovemaking. He even implied that most couples wouldn’t *want* to make love for hours even if they had the time (really?)

Imagine for a moment how your partner will feel about you when she or he knows that you care so much about them that you actually scheduled your most intimate time together.

Now clearly, “quickies” are not for us (nor am I even capable of them given that I’m clinically impotent). So we schedule our extended intimate encounters each week. As unromantic as that sounds, nothing could be further from the truth. Imagine for a moment how your partner will feel about you (and your impending intimate encounter) when she or he knows that you care so much about them that you actually scheduled your most intimate time together. Your actions send the loudest message ever: “I care more about you and our relationship than anything else –period!” Despite that romantic notion, he still was far from convinced.

Too Exhausted, Want Time with the Kids, blah, blah, blah…

At this point he pulled out all the stops and said (again, playing a role) that he worked 18 hours a day and would simply be too exhausted to even contemplate that kind of intimate session with his wife. After admitting that his crushing work schedule didn’t include Sundays I suggested he set aside two hours during that day each week. To which he replied that was the day he wanted to focus solely on his kids because he essentially ignored them the rest of the week. Let’s see… guilt-atonement vs. intimacy –boy, that’s a tough one.

The excuses he used are very similar to the ones I incorporated into my own marriage. One that ended up in failure where the last 11 years together we were no more than roommates. And what I find interesting looking back on it all is that my excuses for not scheduling time just for my wife and I were all socially sanctioned –I was being a great provider, good dad and faithful husband. Yet our failure to have the discipline (yes, it is a discipline) to insist on extended intimate time for each other at least once a week essentially doomed our relationship in its early years after the “honeymoon” period was over.

And you want to know what is so ironic about this? I actually told my wife just after we decided to have kids (a powerful intimacy killer if there ever was one) that we should *never* forget who is bringing them into this world. We are the core of the family and we must always strive to honor that and each other. Well, we forgot it pretty quickly and that was the start of a long parade of wounds that eventually did us in.

The Ultimate Question

After listening to all his reasons for not being able to schedule at least two hours of uninterrupted intimacy with his wife, I finally had enough and asked him the ultimate question: “Are you telling me you can’t set aside just two hours a week to intimately be with the most important person in your life?” He became very quiet after that one.

Here’s a clip of that particular exchange taken directly from the interview:

Not surprisingly, women who see this tend to have a significantly different reaction than the men who viewed it.

By not scheduling time for the most important person in your life your actions are effectively saying all those other things are more important.

Here’s the thing, there is *always* time for the important things in life –we all know that –your partner knows that. Do you go to the gym regularly? Do you go out with your buddies regularly? Do you watch TV or cruise the Internet on a regular basis? You get the idea. By not scheduling time for the most important person in your life your actions are effectively saying all those other things are more important. Even if your partner agrees with you (they are likely time / energy stressed too) the message makes its mark just the same.

Reality Can Bite or it Can Be Blissful

If you are in a committed relationship and have read this far you have already gone beyond the point of no return (sorry!) This means you are now (for the moment anyway) fully aware of the potential poisoning effect of not setting aside significant intimate time for you and your partner at least on a weekly basis.

If you are still struggling with the notion of how to find this kind of time for your significant other, it may be a sign that serious relationship counseling is in order. Or, it’s time to consider that this person may not be the right one for you. You both deserve to have a life partner who is more important than any other thing or person on the planet and who sees you the same way. It is well worth considering whether the one you are with now is that person or not. And if they are, I implore you to discipline yourselves right now to set aside that time together each week. If you do, I think you will find that your honeymoon period will re-ignite and only glow brighter as you go through this life together. When that happens, *everything* else looks brighter and better also.

Ditch Approach Anxiety Once and For All

Here’s how you can turn approach anxiety into reach out success minus the cold sweats and furtive glances…

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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How many times have you been to a bar with a very danceable live band playing only to find the ones dancing are the women? My partner and I love to go out dancing most weekends and we typically find that we are the only “couple” actually dancing. And, the situation is always the same. Lots of guys standing around trying to look and act cool as they steal glances of the women in the room. Meanwhile the women are sending so many signals that they want to dance that you’d have to be blind to miss them. Yet, there they are, just like in grammar school – boys on one side of the room, girls on the other with a very obvious vacant neutral zone in between.

Whether in a bar, coffee shop, park or just strolling downtown, this scenario is played out in every city and town on the planet, so clearly demonstrating the crippling power of “approach anxiety”. Approach anxiety is near the top of the list of fears dealing with relationships. Fortunately, there is a way to eliminate it forever and in fact use its very energy to help you authentically meet anyone you want, perhaps even “The One”…


The biggest source of this paralyzing anxiety is being so attached to the outcome of approaching someone you find interesting (if only initially from a distance). When we place so much importance on whether the other person will react favorably to our advances it only inhibits our willingness to take the simple action of starting a conversation that may (or may not) actually lead to something for the both of you.

Now imagine for a moment what your life would be like if you were totally committed to meeting new people but without being attached to the outcome. The very thought of it is extremely freeing isn’t it? So, how does one let go of attachment to the outcome? The key to that is just one simple four-letter word: “Next”.

Here’s the thing, you cannot control how anyone will react to you no matter how you show up. So it’s really not up to you (nor are you to blame) if someone you approach selects to not reciprocate your interest. If that happens, don’t take it personally (because it never is –by definition they don’t even know you) and just say “Next!” to yourself (silently please –otherwise you risk a slap in the face :))

On the surface this may sound like something right out of a pickup artist’s manual –but it isn’t. This is merely to prepare you for the real work of getting ready to meet the right person(s) for you…

It’s All on How You Show Up

People who are painfully shy or bull-in-the-china-shop aggressive are actually exhibiting two sides of the same coin – reactive, fear-based behavior rather than being appropriately authentic and proactive. Which one is predominantly manifested during an approach to meeting someone new (i.e. potential mate) is often culturally determined. For example, a few years ago I spent three months in Brazil and there the prevalent Machismo attitude held by most men there is actually a good example of the aggressive side.

Early in my college years I had a great deal of trouble relating to people. Sometimes I was very shy and inhibited, other times I overcompensated by being aggressive. Neither one was effective at helping me form new relationships that had any chance of lasting.

If the other person is not attracted to the real you, then they are simply not the right person to be with.

Then I took an assertiveness class. Thanks to that invaluable training and insight I realized that shyness and aggressive behavior were both fear-based responses to social anxiety. And, the key to overcoming this seemingly huge and very frustrating problem was to simply be myself. Showing up authentically and vulnerably (i.e. no pretenses, no protective emotional armor) and do so not being attached to how others thought about me. Consider for a moment taking the following position when daring to meet someone new. If the other person is not attracted to the real you, then they are simply not the right person to be with. Think of it as the Universe doing you a big favor by not letting you get involved with someone who is in all likelihood not good to be in your life.

You will probably never completely eliminate the butterflies that flit around in your stomach as you approach someone new. Ideally you don’t want them to go away, but instead have them fly in formation. This is a way of taking the charge associated with approach anxiety and using it in your favor. Energy is energy. It can be used to stop you in your tracks, or give an extra spring to your steps. In addition to inspiring huge amounts of confidence in yourself, it is also a quality in which people find almost universally attractive…

Allow for Serendipity

Keep in mind that your best relationships may not come from the direct approach. You may end up meeting someone in an unexpected way or place. While you may feel more in control by always being proactive, don’t discount serendipity. This means of course showing up authentically and vulnerably in all situations –not just those in which you hope to meet someone. This is exactly how I happened to meet my Life Partner. At a time and place where meeting someone special was actually far from my mind. Yet, it happened. Think of it this way. All the preparation you make for meeting someone new (i.e. not taking things personally, showing up authentically and vulnerably, etc.) will position you perfectly for meeting someone in the most unlikely of situations too.

Biggest Regret

Now I want you to think about the scariest thing of all –your last moments on this planet. Invariably, the biggest regret people have at the end of their life is typically not something they did and wish they hadn’t, it is the regret of NOT doing something they wish they had.

Ideally you don’t want [the butterflies] to go away, but instead have them fly in formation.

When it comes to meeting the significant people (or person) in your life, there is absolutely no reason to die with this regret on your lips. You have absolute control over how you show up and whether or not you take things personally (i.e. are attached to the outcome). Fears can either be our greatest teacher, or most brutal prison guard –you, and only you, get to choose its role in your life. And that choice will directly determine the quality and possibilities of the relationships you have.

So next time you are in a position to meet someone new you find interesting, throw caution to the wind and approach him or her authentically and vulnerably and see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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image: DepositPhotos.com

How to Not Let Your Kids Destroy Your Intimacy

Here’s how to avoid your bundles of joy from absolutely shredding your relationship…

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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I remember so clearly how wonderful things were with my wife and I for the first three years of our marriage. Though we were working ungodly hours every day building a successful business together, we loved every minute of it. And, we NEVER fought. I also remember telling her, as we prepared to have children, we must always be aware that it is our special bond and relationship that is bringing them into the world. This beautiful, essential thing we have together must never become diminished in any way just because we are having kids. So romantic, so idealistic, so… wrong.

EVERYTHING Changes With Kids

Right. Well that pep talk went right out the window with a whack on the bottom of our beautiful first born daughter as she cried out in no uncertain terms that she has just arrived in our world. And things just went downhill from there.

Like most new parents, we had no idea on what to expect with this new bundle of joy (despite all the books we read). On top of all that refined cluelessness, our new daughter made things so much more interesting by being incessantly colicky. She just would not stop crying unless one of us held and gently rocked her –like all the freak’n time. Just perfect for those come-hither glances I gave my wife when I was feeling frisky (which was all the time too) only to have her return with the “You’ve GOT to be kidding me!” stare. One that included the oh-so subtle but supremely effective subtext of “You selfish bastard –how can you possibly be thinking about sex when our daughter is in distress!”. As a side note to new dads, never EVER argue with or even try to calm your wife down when she hears the baby cry. Her mothering instinct and hormones are in overdrive and she will simply run you over as if you were some insignificant rodent innocently crossing the road as if she were driving madly to put out a fire.

I know, I was a complete idiot for even thinking about having sex during the day. The only problem was, the nights were worse. You see, for the first 18 months, our daughter would not sleep unless she was in our bed –seriously. And by the time we figured out how to have her sleep quietly in her own crib, the cracks in our relationship already started to form.

Progeny 1, Relationship 0

All it takes is a bit of unresolved wounding within your relationship that turns your little rug rats into intimacy-sucking black holes of 100% focus on them. When your wife and mother of your children starts feeling separation from you, count on her putting most of her attention on the kids. It’s only natural, socially sanctioned and almost always the beginning death-knell of your intimate relationship.

When this happens, it is not unusual for the dad to start feeling resentment toward the kids, for hogging all of the wife’s attention leaving almost none for him. And, if he foolish enough to even hint that his needs are not being met (emotional or physical), then his chances of being labeled the world’s biggest jerk just increased significantly. Here’s the thing. When your kids become the primary (or in many cases, 100%) focus of your relationship, it is in deep, deep trouble before you even realize it.

All it takes is a bit of unresolved wounding within your relationship that turns your little rug rats into intimacy-sucking black holes of 100% focus on them.

And it doesn’t get any better as the kids mature. There’s school, sports, birthday parties, extracurricular activities etc. Trust me, there are nearly infinite ways to focus exclusively on your kids, turning your relationship into a mere shadow of its former, glorious self.

Despite intellectually understanding what was happening, my resentment continued to build. Including through the process of having our second wonderful child. It finally got to the point where I just threw myself into my business to support the family. A behavior that was socially sanctioned, practical and the final nail in the coffin of our relationship. I finally ended our marriage after 26 years, where things got so bad that the last 11 of those years we were 100% celibate. Unfortunately, not a very uncommon outcome.

How to Avoid the Almost Inevitable

I believe we actually started out on the right foot by declaring the importance of our relationship despite having kids prior to having them. Where things fell apart was in the execution once we did. There was no disciplined follow through to make it real. If I were to do this over, I would insist that my wife and I have a date night at least once a week no matter what. No distractions of any kind allowed unless it is an emergency. As her husband, I would also be much more cognizant of her needs during this time, not be so quick to rush into sex. Instead, I would spend a great deal more time being fully present for her and giving her plenty of time to “warm up” to the point where she wanted physical intimacy. And during this special time together, we ideally would reaffirm our commitment to each other as the nucleus of our wonderful family. One where our relationship demonstrates every day what genuine intimacy (emotional, physical etc.) looks like so our kids would have a good model for when it is their turn. This includes displays of affection between my wife and I so that the kids also see that Dad has a special relationship with Mom distinct from theirs.

The other thing I would do differently is insist that we maintain complete authenticity in our communications. If there is ever a charge between us (which you can expect almost daily with kids) we would always be willing to talk about it authentically and vulnerably. This way, small wounds don’t turn into gaping ones that become further wedged by over focus on the kids.

Someone once said that having children is the most wonderful and awful thing that can happen to your life. And it has been my experience that there is more than a bit of truth in that.

Just remember this. Someday your kids will grow up and leave home. How you look at each other in a now otherwise empty home can run the gamut from “Now what?” to “Yahoo! Let’s just you and me have some fun!” Where your relationship fits on that spectrum totally depends on how consciously you both worked to preserve the spark and beauty of your joining together within the context of noisy, demanding, poopy, snotty-nosed kids who also happen to be the other joy of your life. With conscious discipline it really doesn’t have to be either / or.

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image: DepositPhotos.com

Certainty of Shit vs. the Bliss of Uncertainty

Here’s how you can live on the “edge of your fear” and have a life others are afraid to even dream about…

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

– – –See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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I’ve been an observer of human nature my whole life. And one thing that has always amazed me is how the vast majority of human beings seemingly would prefer the certainty of their shitty circumstances than risk going for their dreams. Hell, most people don’t want to even THINK about their dreams so they don’t have to face the risk of never achieving them. And here’s the cruelest part of this. No matter how much you avoid throwing your all into going after your dreams or even identifying them, there is a part of you that will always know you didn’t have the guts to even try.

Fortunately, there is a sure-fire way out of this self-imposed hell…

Survival vs. Revival

Humans are hard-wired to avoid uncertainty for a very simple but incredibly powerful reason: survival. Back in the hunter / gatherer days, uncertainty usually meant an untimely death either as the main course of some fierce predator or at the hands of an enemy (who, in all fairness, were probably working out their own survival issues).

The survival instinct still is the most powerful motivator of human behavior in general. Yet ironically, to truly have any chance of thriving instead of just surviving, it requires one to consciously and willingly going against that inborn instinct. To press forward through those (mostly irrational) fears into the abyss of not knowing for a chance to come out the other side as a human being who has chosen to live life fully rather than sit desperately quiescent on the sidelines.

There is No Such Thing as Certainty

“Certainty” is merely a mental construct. When we talk about being certain, it simply means our perception of a situation or circumstance appears to be predictable. And while it is true we have influence over predictability from a purely statistical standpoint, the fact remains that nothing in reality is certain –except for one thing: our power to make choices.

It is through this infinite power of choice alone that allows each and every one of us to transcend our primal wiring and to live lives that others are afraid to even envision.

Our free will to make choices is what separates us from the stimulus-response automatic Darwinian behavior that effectively controls the rest of the animal kingdom. It is through this infinite power of choice alone that allows each and every one of us to transcend our primal wiring and to live lives that others are afraid to even envision.

Choosing to Risk Uncertainty = Choosing to Live Fully

I’m a veteran of jumping into the abyss of not knowing what’s next more than once. And I did (and continue to do) this because the pain of being aware of not living fully greatly exceeds any misery of uncertainty I may have. I can honestly say that every time I have done this, my circumstances and experience of life had improved tremendously –most often in ways that were never even on my radar. Essentially, my forays into the unknown become doorways into possibilities I had never even considered before.

To be honest, until recently, I thought I had a personality defect for making these big leaps when so many others around me just went about their lives quietly and (apparently) contently, and with predictably unremarkable outcomes.

Then I started reading “The Way of the Superior Man” by David Deida. In it he talks about men who are willing to live on the edge of their fear. Never allowing themselves to shirk back into their comfort zone:

“And a fearful man who still leans into his fear, living at his edge and putting his gift out from there, is more trustworthy and more inspirational than a fearful man who hangs back in the comfort zone, unwilling to even experience his fear on a day to day level. A free man is free to acknowledge his fears, without hiding them, or hiding from them. Live with your lips pressed against your fears, neither pulling back nor aggressively violating them.”

No matter what your current circumstances, you have the power of choice.

He also talks about men who pursue their mission and purpose passionately only to eventually chuck it all to go into their next period of not-knowing until clarity once again emerges. Each of these cycles ideally brings us closer to our true sense of purpose and mission. When I read this my jaw dropped a bit because it was like reading about my own life. For the first time I now had a context for my otherwise inexplicable behavior that has always been driven by this need, this hunger, to live life fully. To transcend my fears and dissolve the invisible chains of uncertainty that strove mightily to imprison me.

The Way Out of the Certainty of Your Misery

No matter what your current circumstances, you have the power of choice. And, here are the ones I recommend you consider if you want a life fully lived:

  1. Acknowledge your fears – awareness of your fears, no matter how uncomfortable, is the first step. Being fully present to your fears (i.e. not using distraction to avoid them) is a discipline anyone can learn.
  2. Dare to dream authentically – your dreams may be big or small, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is to be authentic in identifying what yours are, no one else’s. Write them down with the unrestrained passion and fury of your being. And, with the full recognition that you risk never achieving them (see step 1. above).
  3. Do what scares you the most first – make a habit of starting your day by tackling the one thing you dread the most but could have the biggest impact to achieving your dreams. When you do this the rest of your day will seem like a walk in the park.
  4. Be willing to let go – birds would never taste the freedom of flight if they stayed within the safety of their nests. It’s your life, figure out what it means for you to fly then do it and screw whatever anyone else thinks about it.
  5. Persist – life will inevitably throw you setbacks, often time and time again. Each setback is an invitation. To your primal self it is an invitation to back off lest you end up disappointed. To your true self it is an invitation to learn, strengthen your resolve and to enjoy fully the process of this adventure.

If at this juncture you ask yourself: “If I do these five things will I achieve my dreams?” you have missed the point entirely –go back and re-read them.

You have a choice. You’ve always had a choice. You can choose to shirk your possibilities and live a life of quiet desperation. Or, you can choose to risk the uncertainty, the abyss of the unknown as a way of life, as a way of the Warrior. One where facing your fears head-on, unwaveringly brings you the moment by moment bliss of living full out regardless of outcome.

– See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/certainty-of-shit-vs-the-bliss-of-uncertainty-mjr/#sthash.HSbu3u8v.dpuf