Marriage. How to save the first year, or any year.

The first year of marriage can be hard. Really hard. Not always of course, but it’s common enough that you could find dozens of articles about it with a google search. I could describe a litany of issues that contribute to the first year blues, but instead I’ll offer what I believe to be the most influential that perhaps you haven’t considered.  What I share below isn’t meant to scare you; instead, it’s meant to prepare you, strengthen you, and inspire you. It doesn't have to be hard. In fact, it can be beautiful and bonding. If you read closely, all the steps I outline have something in common: We are 100 percent accountable and in control of the level of energy, focus, and love we bring to our relationship. If you stay on top of these 4 potential issues and follow the steps to maximize your potential for a loving first year, you WILL experience joy and intimacy. But what is required of you is this: you must value the love you share more than anything else. Literally. It won’t always be easy, and no doubt you’ll be challenged at times to show up. But remember this: beginning a marriage, or any committed relationship is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to grow in ways you never thought imaginable. To step outside of your own head - your fears, your wounds, your outdated beliefs and stories, and into the heart of this person you love. Blame will get you nowhere. Criticism will kill love. Expectations and rules will limit you and your relationship. So, have more conversations where you share your dreams, and ask to hear their's. Practice more fun and appreciation every single day. Instead of keeping tabs of what you're getting or not getting, give more love. Help each other grow. 

There are 4 major reasons why the first year of marriage is difficult, and what to do about it.

Reason #1:

You didn’t know your spouse for very long before you got married. ”very long” is relative, so before you go on a head trip, let’s just say under a year or so. And don’t worry, rest assured you can still have a beautiful life together. But, it DOES mean that there are most likely things you don’t know about your new spouse. For example, if you haven't experienced your lover under extreme stress and pain, chances are you’ll witness this within the first year or two of marriage, simply because life happens. The longer you’re together, the more you’ll bear witness to all the parts of this person, and what you see might surprise or even down right scare you. I promise though that you’ll be scary to your spouse at times too. It is a masterful skill to be able to manage stress well, but let’s face it, not all stress is created equal, and what YOU find stressful might not be so for your hubby or wife, and vice versa. 

What to do: * note this applies to everyone, even if you’ve been married 20 years.

1. Stay focused on your own level of emotional resiliency. In other words, life will be painful at times, in small and big ways and the best thing you can do is take massive action towards changing your own habitual reactions to stress, and commit to daily practices that keeps it in perspective. **These practices are different for everyone. Connecting with friends can lower stress and cortisol levels, but for others, taking space and alone time is imperative.

2. Always transform your criticism into curiosity. AKA, you must accept your partner of who he or she is, and never, ever, EVER try to change them. Over time, you are going to learn A LOT about this other person. But I promise you this: what you think you know is not all that you know. Read that again. What do I mean? You are complex. We all are. And, we are NOT our behaviors, we’re so much more than that. So before you judge a part of your man or woman that you don't like, get curious about what really is going on for him/her at that moment. Seek to understand him. Commit to listening to her.  Ask questions. And while you’re at it, do this for yourself as well.

Reason #2:

The law of familiarity. It’s a truism: when we get used to something, someplace, or someone, we’ll take it for granted. Marriage, or even just co-habiting is by nature filled with daily monotonous routine. Routines are necessary and I even recommend them, but they have to be balanced by rituals, or practices that keep the aliveness of your relationship. Below are 3 specific ones to begin now.

What to do: 

1. break up the routine. This could mean every week you have date night - but take it a step further: SURPRISE your spouse with a date once and a while. Do something that is fun for him or her. If your lives are extremely busy, then schedule it. But do it.

2. Appreciate your spouse. Appreciate him/her in your mind and heart as much as you can daily, but be sure to actually share some of those sentiments.

3. Come alive again. Sometimes we forget who we were in the beginning of a relationship. Were you more carefree? or more independent? more loving? Sexual? Bring that person back more than you think. This will make YOU feel more alive, and your aliveness will bring excitement and passion back to your relationship.

Reason #3

Expectations. Expectation is poison to your relationship because of two reasons. 1. You lose appreciation and acceptance for what is, and therefore you drastically limit your joy and your partner's. 2. Most of our expectations are born out of conditioning, not out of what is currently true to you. For example, you have beliefs about what your marriage is supposed to be like and what it’s not supposed to be like. So does your spouse. And guess what? They may not be in alignment. I’ve found that this topic is rarely discussed before people get married and yet, it’s probably the most important topic to discuss. But this may surprise you: You must have this conversation with YOU first. And no, it’s not too late.

What to do:

1. Challenge old beliefs. Ask yourself how much is your belief about what marriage is supposed to be or not be actually your own? Or, is it more a societal belief? Or maybe one you were raised to have based on your parents, or what their beliefs were?? At this very moment, step outside of your younger self and into the person you are today. Even better, into the person you want to grow into. From this place, ask yourself, “what kind of marriage do I want?” Challenge yourself not to be influenced by your conditioning. Then ask, “what is the marriage I would like to build long term? Why?”

2. Communicate. Share this, lovingly with your spouse and ask what his or her beliefs are. See if the two of you can dispel any old beliefs that no longer represent your deepest principles and desires NOW, and co-create something new and current. Listen to him. Hear her. Yes, it’s ideal to have this conversation before marriage BUT the truth is these convos can’t stop just because you’re married. *One of the key habits of a strong, life lasting marriage is the habit of having these types of conversations more often than you think. Keep checking in with each other. This leads me nicely into reason 4.  (*to read my 4 Keys to Genius Communication, sign up now for my newsletter to receive that plus other game changing strategies I gift to my incredible community of subscribers) 

Reason #4

Loss of vision. Usually the time before marriage is an exciting one. No matter how long you’ve been together before tying the knot, there’s nothing like the engagement period. It breaths life into relationships, and super charges each person into new heights of energy. Not to mention, there is a lot of excitement (good and bad) planning a wedding. Even if it’s stressful planning or you’re headed to City Hall, it’s still a distraction, and it’s a day to look forward to. Once married, planning for the future often becomes too logistical or simply just ignored and forgotten. People lose site of what they really want for their marriage long term, and this is actually very damaging to intimacy and closeness. Why? Because having a shared vision or purpose for what your life is going to be together is a crucial element to a fulfilling marriage. Growth is a fundamental need every human being must experience in order to feel fully alive and fulfilled. As long as you’re progressing towards something, you’ll feel like you’re growing, and your life will have meaning. It will have purpose. Think of your marriage as a life. You want to make that life meaningful and purposeful, just as you strive to make your own life meaningful. You must co-create the life and future you want your marriage to have. And yes, the path may change over time. It always does, so leave room for flexibility. 

What to do: 

1. Co-create your future. Communicate your dreams and values with one another. Try answering these questions and see what evolves, and be sure to make it fun and loving. Ask yourself and each other questions such as: 

1. If our marriage stood for something, what would it be? For example, what is a powerful metaphor for our bond?

2. What parts of our individual principles, values and purpose are shared? Do we both share a desire to help others, or animals? Is it building a certain career or company?

3. If giving back is a shared principle, what might that look like?

4. Is there a lifestyle goal we both want? What does that look like, and what are the steps we both can take every day to reach our goal?

The quality of your relationship is in direct proportion to how willing you are to grow yourself emotionally. When this happens, you will both magnetize each other closer, not push each other away with control and judgement. YOU are the shepherd of your marriage. As is he, or she. As long as you stay focused on how well you can love - aka grow, listen, and learn on a DAILY BASIS, you will be prepared for life’s challenges; first year, or any year of marriage.

The 7 Steps to Survive a Heartbreak

By Jillian Turecki

Note: For a free audio training on how to survive a heartbreak, click here

Can you remember the last time your heart was broken? Maybe it was from a major breakup with a lover, or from a different trauma entirely. Below are my 7 Steps to Survive Heartbreak - inspired by my most recent break-up, my divorce 3 years ago. But listen, that break-up wasn’t the only heartbreak I experienced at that time, so these steps can help you move forward no matter what the circumstance. So whether you’re in the midst of splitting with your significant other, happily coupled, OR single - read on. You never know who it might help, including you.

Before I delve into the steps, I want to tell you this: nothing I share with you is going to take away the pain, especially if you’re in the thick of it right now. BUT, there is a way to reduce the suffering. You see, pain and suffering are different. Pain is an inevitable part of life and is therefore a very natural and organic part of the human experience. You will experience physical pain, and the emotional scratches, burns and bruises cut even deeper. This is why all spiritual leaders, books, metaphors and masters describe pain as something to accept, something to surrender to, as it will all pass. But suffering is different. Suffering is when you have deep pain AND you feel like you have no control. The moment you feel powerless to change your circumstance is the moment you suffer.

But here’s the truth: there is so much we can’t control – especially in a break-up. But, there is a lot we CAN control. So, although pain is a fact of life, suffering is optional. Right now I want to talk about ending and preventing all unnecessary despair. There are steps, actions and shifts to your thinking that can be taken to ease your transition into this (often) abrupt new life.

The Steps:

  1. How you grieve is your business. I will warn you that avoiding your feelings all day long will only delay and amplify your pain. However, I think distracting yourself at times during the week is necessary. A lot of people are of two camps: distract or feel everything. I say both. Do NOT avoid your feelings, but don’t think you have to be wallowing in pain all day long. Distract yourself with: being with friends, trying new activities, watching a movie, reading, writing. If this heartbreak is fresh, go into a cave and lick your wounds if you need to, but come out for air periodically. If you need to talk about it obsessively, find a friend who will listen and then take moments of silence. Feel your feelings AND MAKE ROOM FOR OTHER FEELINGS TOO. Joy is always available to you – even if it’s fleeting. And so is RELIEF. Seriously, it’s ok to feel relief.
  2. Get help. There are people in your life who love you and want to be there for you even if they don’t know how. (Forgive them for that). So round the troops. Call your tribe. Even if it’s just one person. We really can’t do the vicissitudes of life on our own.
  3. Move your f*cking body. 3 years ago I lost my marriage and my mom was on her deathbed. I could barely lift a finger - I was so fucking wiped all the time for an entire year. But thankfully I have a dog that needs to be walked. So, I walked. A lot. I breathed deeply when I remembered to. If you’re tired, walk and breathe. If you’re the opposite with pent up anxious energy, get your ass to the gym, go to a yoga class, or jump rope and dance in you apartment. Do something. Breathe, lift your chest and raise your head on top of your shoulders.
  4. Change the meaning.  If you’re in the throes of heartbreak, I bet you’re focusing A LOT on the other person and playing a movie, narrative and story in your head on repeat. But here’s what you may not know: you actually have a choice as to what this loss is going to mean. Yup, re-read that sentence again. Trust me. For example: This experience could mean that you’re unworthy, unlucky in love and life, fucked up, a failure, stupid, mean, bad. All of which are extremely limiting thoughts that are bullshit even though you believe them. OR, this breakup/loss can mean you are being pulled to GROW PAST YOUR COMFORT ZONE. It could mean you’re meant to take a different direction in life that will be more fulfilling and meaningful to you. It could mean you’re meant to see, feel and know your strength. You see, if you give this event an empowering meaning, one that is meant to grow you, then growth is what you’ll focus on. And when we focus on our own growth and progress, fulfillment follows.
  5. Date yourself. Now’s the time to get in touch with YOU. Your values, your principles, your beliefs. And not the ones you have been conditioned to have and believe based on your environment, but the ones you want to cultivate right now. What is truly important to you? What old wounds or stories of your past are still controlling you and what you believe? What do you value at the highest at THIS time in your life –meaning not last year or last week? Write them down. Make a list. Add to or delete from it every day for a year, then monthly after that. When you shift your focus AWAY from the other person/relationship, away from shitty meanings that support self-loathing or inadequacy, then you will grow. Remember this: Growth = progress = fulfillment. You can grow and still grieve. You can be sad and lonely, but if you know you are evolving you will feel fulfilled in spite of your pain.
  6. Create a future to look forward to. I believe we all need something to look forward to, and when we can’t imagine a brighter future, this leads to suffering and despair. It’s unfortunate that we’ve been conditioned to believe that our future just happens to us. NO. We have to create the future we want. Will there be delays and detours? Yes. But there will be nothing worth mentioning if you don’t create. As out of control and confused you may feel, move towards something. Maybe it’s a career change you’ve been dreaming about one day making, or an epic travel experience, or continuing education, or joining a club or a group of some sort. Or perhaps there is a person or organization you’ve been wanting to serve in some way? Whenever we give back, we get out of our heads. And getting out of our head is the ticket to healing.
  7. Recognize moments of Grace.  I think of grace as moments when life feels like it’s giving me a gift. But often these gifts go unrecognized because they appear seemingly small, and we’re too in our heads to notice. But no matter what your belief system is about the universe I promise you this: You are being gifted all the time, and the more you wake up to them, the more love you will feel. For example: On the day after my husband unexpectedly called it quits I was sitting on a bench outside my apartment building in complete shock and intense despair. My neighbor, who happened to be a coach, found me, sat down, and we started talking. I won’t burden you with all the details here, but that evening marked the first day of my new life.  To listen to the story, you can subscribe here: (link to anna’s podcast) That’s a big example, but there are others - such as when you run into someone loving you know on the street, or you get that call or email at just the right time, or someone shows up at work with your favorite juice or coffee. Etc.

I know what you’re going through, (or what you went through) so when I tell you this, know that it comes from the deepest part of my heart and compassion: You need to be courageous now, and even though you might think that’s impossible, I’m here to tell you it’s not. It’s not a linear road to feeling better. It’s rocky then smooth, then rocky, then smooth and so on. But, if you really follow these steps, things will begin to improve, and eventually you WILL get out on the other side so much better. Stronger, for sure, but better. Happier. Wiser. Certain. Give yourself time. Don’t rush, take it day-by-day. This, I promise you, is a process and there are people and opportunities waiting to help move you forward and up. You are loved.

Here’s to moving onward.

Note: For a free audio training on how to survive a heartbreak, click here

Reigniting the Spark in Your (Very) Comfortable Relationship

By Jillian Turecki

It’s Sunday night. You’ve had a lazy day catching up on your email, and perhaps you went to the gym or a yoga class. It’s time for you and your lover to get into pjs, order in take out, and put on the latest and greatest HBO series. Everything is perfect. You’re cozy, with your best friend who you are in love with, and nothing could be more comfortable. Life is good. Sound familiar? 

This story describes the comfort of certainty, and there’s nothing wrong with it at all. However, if this is how you and your partner spend the majority of your time together, most likely your relationship is lacking passion. This is problematic. Passion, electricity, sexuality, and romance are half the relationship - without it, you have a friendship. Without it, you may have a safe and even good relationship. But, you definitely do not have an amazing one.

Certainty in an intimate relationship is absolutely crucial. If you want to be in it for the long haul, you MUST feel safe emotionally. For example, not knowing if your partner has your back and supports you is a horrible feeling that makes it very difficult to relax into the flow of the relationship. On the flip side, when we feel certainty with our partner – total confidence that this person will support and be there for us no matter what, we are able to drop more freely into the flow, and relax.  Being able to enjoy comforts with your lover creates a bond and a feeling of comradeship. So please, have your cozy Sundays on the couch watching Netflix and eating ice cream. But if you want a truly fulfilling and exceptional relationship, you have to balance security and comfort with the thrill of uncertainty.

Passion lives in the realm of uncertainty. We simply cannot experience excitement without the risk of stepping into the unknown. 

If you want to bring passion back into your relationship you have to bring back the part of you that co-created that passion to begin with.

When we get stuck in a relationship rut, we are often overwhelmed with the feeling that the passion has died having convinced ourselves that we’re powerless over the circumstance. As you may relate, this brings the energy way down in a relationship. The good news is if you once had passion, it can be recharged. It is not gone, lost forever. You nor your partner are not all of a sudden passionless people, or incapable of being in a relationship long term. It just means you are stuck in a pattern, and it has to be broken by reclaiming the part of your self who co-created the fire to begin with.

You see, in the beginning of a relationship, everyone has a HIGH energy – at least the majority of the time. We smile more, we focus on making the other person happy, we think of exciting things to do together, we take risks sexually and emotionally, and the charge of falling in love often inspires us to take risks in other areas of our life. We are our highest, sexiest, most interested and interesting selves. In other words, we have generated a beautiful emotional STATE. 

No matter how stunning or hot your partner thinks you are, your VIBE is what turns him or her on more. How you make that person FEEL when they are in your presence is everything.

If you are in a relationship that was once exciting but is currently not, it’s because of two reasons: You have repressed (at least around your partner) the high vibe part of yourself AND you’ve BOTH neglected each other’s needs for variety, surprise, fun – all code words for (healthy) uncertainty. 

Don’t wait for your partner to make changes. Take ownership of your influence and do the things that you did in the beginning of the relationship, now. 

Here is what you can do right away to break the patterns that are killing the passion in your relationship.
 

What to DO:

Take a quiet moment to yourself, and if possible, take a seat with your chest elevated, and breathe. If it helps to place a hand on your heart and feel it’s beat, then try it. Now, go back in time to the first few to several months of your relationship. Think of how you felt - what was the dominant emotion? Try not to intellectualize this. FEEL that emotion. What must you focus on to resurrect that feeling? Where do you feel it in your body? Maybe it’s as subtle as feeling your shoulders relax, or your stomach loosen. Maybe you feel a charge of energy and excitement, almost like an internal pressure cooker, but in a good way.

Now, think about how you dressed back then –is it different than how you dress now? What are some of the things you would say to your lover? Did you compliment him/her? How did you flirt? Did you playfully tease? How did you use your voice to seduce or inspire him? Was there a recognizable pattern to the way you would say certain things that inspired more intimacy between the two of you?

Now think about some of the things you did together. What did you do that was exciting, fun, entertaining?

As you can see, we are getting quite specific here. The more you can feel the EMOTION of that time, the more you will understand what is required of you to reclaim your relationship fully.

Consider details about how your partner responds to a variety of gestures:

For example: Is your partner sensitive to sound? If so, bring back the voice, cadence, and melody with which you spoke to him/her. Is your partner a visual person? Wear something that you know makes her/his heart pound. Does your partner love to be surprised? Does he or she love not knowing what is coming next? Then plan a surprise! Perhaps he’s kinetic and feels love when he is touched. Then you simply just have to make the effort to touch him more, and you must touch him the way he likes to be touched – not how you like it. This exercise is about giving, not about you.
 

What NOT to do, no matter what:

Play games. This is always a form of withdrawal, or withholding – and it will DESTROY your love. For example, some people all of a sudden act uninterested, cold, or behave in ways that make them seem uninterested, like they just can’t be bothered. These are the bullshit games people play in relationships and they NEVER work because no one is acting authentically – and it just creates confusion and pain for both people. Whenever you withhold love, you kill your capacity to experience it.  Never, ever do it no matter how frightened you may be.
 

DO NOT BLAME your loved one: 

It really does take two. If you get stuck in the blame game, you not only lose all your power to create positive change, but you also miss the point. When you blame your partner for the lack of physical passion in your relationship, you create a pattern that will paradoxically become largely responsible for the fire burning out. It’s the attack and defend pattern, and it is NOT sexy, or safe for that matter. No one feels sexy or sexual when they are defending themselves. Don’t “blame” yourself either. You can take ownership of your part with the sole purpose of taking action. Once you go into a self-deprecating mode, you are definitely NOT generating a good state. Remember, you must bring back the part of yourself that co-created the passion, and the passion will follow. If you hate on yourself you’re just throwing water onto that sexy fire.

I’m not claiming that this is easy. It IS very simple, but not necessarily easy. It will require for many to step outside of their heads and into the unknown. It will require courage, especially if you are in a situation where your self-esteem may have lowered, and you are questioning your relationship. But every single one of us has the capacity to take our relationship to a new level, even you. We must all remember that the reason we get into relationship is to magnify emotion – to give more life to the feeling of love within ourselves, and to our ability to give it to another. But what we may not know consciously is that we also get into relationship to better understand ourselves, and to evolve our relationship to ourselves to the next level. Your STATE is the most valuable tool you can use to transform any part of your life, particularly your relationship. Every moment is an opportunity to make a decision. Decide to invoke that part of yourself that fell in love to begin with, and have fun in the process.

The Power of Pain

Deep emotional pain is the ultimate uncomfortable feeling humans can experience. It is a fact of life, and most will do anything not to have it. It’s my belief that pain, or rather the avoidance of it, is the strongest driving force in the human psyche. When things get rough enough, we literally will do anything not to live there. 

One could kill the pain with drugs and denial. This will temporarily numb, but ultimately it will lead to more pain. Burying emotions is like feeding a monster that WILL find it’s way out of the deep abyss of one’s denial. It’s the low road, and we have all done it to varying degrees. The highroad, however, is far more interesting because it involves what we thrive on: Action. Herein lies the opportunity for growth.

When you are suffering emotional pain, follow these steps to feel more empowered and make a change.

Tell yourself the truth

Don’t deceive or manipulate yourself in any way. This is the time to get disturbed by your current state. Don’t ignore or make light of your pain. Getting disturbed is what is going to drive you into action.

Ask yourself, “what else could this mean”?  

The reason why certain events cause us pain is because of the meaning we give to these events. Repeat that to yourself several times until it starts to resonate. Meanings such as, ‘my life feels over without this person’, or ‘no one will hire me now’ are just meanings that we have given the loss. Instead, if you can get really curious about your situation, and investigate another message the pain is trying to show you, then you’ll begin to catch glimpses of an empowering meaning. It won’t take all the pain away, but it will dissolve the suffering and give you back some control.

Make a decision

Once you identify the empowering meaning, then it’s time to make a decision. You may not be able to change the events, but you can change you and your life. Make a decision to move in another direction. One of purpose.

Make a plan

Immediately following a decision you must start to plan. Ever notice how you feel after making a decision? You feel strong and powerful. Which means you are in a powerful state. Use that state to create momentum. The greatest remedy to pain is ACTION. Why? Because action means we are in control again, and the main ingredient to suffering is the feeling that we have lost control. Think carefully about your goals in all the major zones of your life. Write them down. Be specific. Assign reasonable and measurable deadlines to them.

Keep up the momentum

Don’t stop. Not for a second. Seriously, whatever goal you set for yourself, think about it, strategize around it and do at least 1 thing – even if it’s small each day to achieve it. 

Round up the troops

The friends and family who love you are going to be psyched about your interest in something outside of your pain. When you allow people to support you, you will feel a greater sense of connection and love.

Change your beliefs

Along the way, you will lose confidence, and fear and pain will set in. This is when the real work begins. You must recognize the beliefs you have about yourself and the world that are in direct conflict with where you want to be. Identify the internal conflict. Begin to notice all the insidious ways you have become adept at negative self-talk, and change your language to reflect acceptance and patience. Recognize all the rules you have about how things should be, and then consider breaking your rules. 

Have faith

We have to trust that something greater than ourselves has our back in some way. If you think, ‘faith is for the religious, and I’m an atheist’, I say bull. Faith is something we are born with. We get into cars, trains and planes because somehow we have faith that we are going to get from A to B. NO one can be certain that they will make it to their destination. But we trust, or have faith that we will make it. That’s the kind of faith I’m talking about. Trust.

Cultivate your spiritual life

Ultimately, this is about strengthening your connection to yourself.  It’s understanding that seeking the empowering meaning is what gets us out of bed in the morning during painful times. It’s about connecting to your intuition - that knowing part of you where faith and truth reside. There are a myriad of ways to do this. Rituals are a fantastic way to deepen your spiritual life. Rituals such as daily exercise, yoga, meditation, volunteering, going to 12 step meetings, taking time to express yourself creatively, all give us a sense of connecting deeply with ourselves and with others.

Pain is an unavoidable reality of life. However, there is a difference between pain and suffering. Suffering is when we perceive we have no control, and that we will live in pain for an endless amount of time. My suggestion is that we do have control – not necessarily over the events, but to the meaning we give those events. Don’t succumb to the belief that you just have bad karma or that the world is out to get you. Instead, get brutally honest with yourself and get curious about what else it could all mean. The world is beckoning you.

What is your primary question?

Take a moment to pause and reflect on the one question you have been repeatedly asking yourself for years. It may take a little time as you inventory yourself, but if you pay attention, it will surface. Examples of these questions are “what if?” “will it be ok” “is it safe” “should I?” “will I have fun?”, “is it good enough?”,  “is it bad?”  “why does this always happen?” etc.

Once you have identified your primary question, notice the profound impact it has on how you navigate the world. These impacts have been both positive and negative. Take in all of it, and decide if a new primary question is in order. Experiment. Notice how your question makes you feel. Are you empowered by your question, or are you sad, angry, or fearful? Observe what unfolds when you consciously decide to ask a different question, one that will give you a better answer.

 

 
Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.
— Tony Robbins