Episode #55 with Mike and Becky



Being Grateful For Your Trials

Mike and Becky seem almost too good to be true... and that's why I love them.

One thing that stood out to me as I re-listened to this interview is the attitude Mike and Becky have towards each other, and the respect and esteem they have for their marriage.

Their marriage inspires them to be the best version of themselves.

I believe they feel so lucky to have each other and have so much respect for their marriage that it has completely changed how they experience life. They don't want to threaten or jeopardize something they deem so sacred, so they put an incredible effort to preserve and nurture everything that is good within their relationship... and they find ways to turn the trials into blessings.

It takes a special kind of person to be grateful for the good in life along with the bad. During the interview Mike mentioned how one of their biggest trials was when his wife was diagnosed with diabetes... then not 10 minutes later, Becky talks about what a blessing her illness has been, and how she's been able to use it to help, serve, and uplift other people struggling with the same disease.

There is a level of love that remarkable couples tend to reach that sets them apart from others. It's a realization that their relationship with each other extends beyond personal satisfaction. Their love carries beyond their partner. It even spreads beyond their children and immediate family.

Truly incredible couples realize that they way they love each other, and they way they respond to their trials and challenges can have an impact on their community and the world. They use their marriage as a catalyst to inspire and uplift others. They set themselves as examples and role models. They see the value in sharing their struggles, and uplifting those who are hurting and suffering.

The lesson I learned from Mike and Becky is that life is what you choose to make it.

What did you learn from this week's podcast? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

I hope you enjoyed our conversation with Mike and Becky. Here are some of the things we talk about in this episode, as well as some of the resources that were mentioned:

  • Waiting till marriage to have sex.

  • Burn the ships. Don't use the "Divorce" word.

  • Be grateful for each other and the work you do for each other

  • Child rearing conflicts. Good cop vs. Bad cop

  • The Love Monkey (holds love notes, and they'd hide him from each other)

  • When Becky got diabetes

  • Talking about sex with kids on their level

  • Focus on the Family

  • If you make it through one trial, you can be better prepared and stronger for the next one. There are no back doors.

  • Being grateful for the good and the bad

  • How much joy and excitement marriage can bring into your life

  • Finding your love language

Episode #52 - The Tao of Dating with Dr. Ali Binazir


[powerpress]On this week’s episode, Melissa and I sit down with Dr. Ali Binazir, author of The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman's Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible and several other books. He's a super insightful guy, and we cover a lot of different topics in this interview including:

  • The 5 Principles of the Tao of Dating

    • The Principle of Abundance Don't think scarcity

    • Be. Do. Have. Be the kind of person. Do the kind of things. Have what you want.

    • Enlightened Self-Interest Good decision making = The decision that serves the most amount of people for the longest amount of time. How do you fill your life with the things and people that will have positive long-term effects on you.

    • Yin Yang You must have polarity in your relationships. Masculine and feminine. Giving and receiving. Different roles are essential to a dynamic relationship.

    • Get Out of Your Own Way Often times the only thing standing in the way of what you want is you.

    • The power women have to bring light into a relationship, act as a goddess, and inspire men.

    • By mentally wishing happiness upon others, you can completely change your neurology. "May you be happy."

    • The gift of appreciation and gratitude will make others feel valued and give you power in your relationships.

    • The men determine the direction of the relationship. The women determine the depth.

    • How meditation will transform your life and your relationships. "Bring your mind back from distraction."

    • The destructive notion of Soulmates.

    • A great way to tell whether or not you're a good fit for the person you're with is to notice what kind of person you become when you're around the other person.

    • The Magic Question - What's important to you about that?

    • We also reference Gary Chapman in this interview. You can find his interview here.

Remember that in life, everything that you want is outside of your comfort zone. Because if something is inside your comfort zone, it's either something you already have or something so trivial as to be undesirable: you don't want something you already have. So in order to get what you want but don't yet have, you have no choice but to venture outside of your comfort zone. -Dr. Ali Binazir

How Gratitude Helped Me Find My Way To Monogamy


I never truly believed I’d get married. As a little girl, I dreamed of being the beautiful woman in the ball gown that the Prince chose to dance with at the Cinderella ball.

"That one," he’d say, pointing at me.

I would feign surprise, of course. "Who? Me? No..."

But I wouldn’t really be surprised. After all, if you’re the type of girl who gets chosen by a prince, you probably never doubted your specialness.

Just as often, I dreamed of a line-up of Princes, and getting to take my pick. Given that this was the 80s, my choices were probably Ricky Schroder, Michael Jackson (Thriller-era), the Karate Kid, and maybe Bo from Duke’s of Hazzard. And they were all in love with me.

But I never saw myself having a life with a guy. As I got older and fell in love, I fantasized about spending the night with a man -- a whole night. But I always froze in terror at the idea of waking with bad breath and needing to use the bathroom. No, I thought, I’ll always live on my own. Then I could always go home before morning.

Even as an adult, I could never settle on one guy for long. When I was supposed to be getting into committed relationships, starting around age eighteen, I couldn’t be. I was a monogamy failure from early on, even though I loved being in love. I even loved the intimacy of being with just one guy.

But my eyes and my heart always wandered. I hate to say it, it makes me feel like a terrible person, but it’s true. I wasn’t looking for something better, necessarily. I was looking for someone else to remind me that I was good enough. Looking for yet another prince to point at me, to choose me, to make me valid and real and worthy.

If it sounds to you like I was a profoundly insecure young woman, you’re right. But I fooled everyone around me, including myself. I exuded confidence most of the time. I felt pretty and sexy and desirable... but only for so long. The sense of being good enough always wore off after one guy’s affirmation was no longer shiny and new, and I’d go looking for more.

I started to wonder if I could ever be married, ever have children. After marrying at 21 and divorcing before I was 24, I decided that I would never be a mother. I didn’t want to commit, I didn’t think I was stable enough in a relationship to ever make a home solid enough for kids. And mostly, I didn’t believe in life-long love.

It took a few years after my divorce to really trust a man again. I had a lot to work through before I could be a good long-term partner for somebody. Specifically, my need for external validation from guys and my tendency to develop outlandishly intense crushes needed to be addressed. And let me tell you, that was not an easy road to walk.

I wondered, after talking with friends who were in polyamorous or otherwise open relationships, whether that was who I was. I have come to believe that while being committed to a person is a choice, being poly- or monogamous is probably more of an orientation, like sexuality. Was that my issue? Did I have some sort of innate need for more than one partner? Could I really be honest and forthright with whatever partner I ended up with about my desires for other people? Would I be able to handle them being as open? Most successfully polyamorous couples suggest that rather than being a license to cheat, polyamory takes more commitment to the marriage, more honesty and two very healthy individuals.

In my late twenties, I met my husband, and he was (and still is) the most monogamous human being on the planet. He was also the absolute best partner I could have imagined for myself. Not only was he handsome (and still is), he had a truly optimistic outlook on life. He laughed easily, he thought I was a goddess, and he let me always be in charge of the music in the house or the car. He saw both my intelligence and my beauty, and made me feel I was the smartest person in the room, even though he is probably twice as intelligent as anyone I’ve ever met, myself included.

For him, it was monogamy or bust. The choice after that was easy: The best man I’d ever met vs. the great unknown, dictated by my own insecurities. That was when I fell into gratitude. I knew I had to let my gratitude for love, for the goodness of a true partner, become more important than my fear.

As committed as I thought I was to other guys in my past, I grew into real monogamy late. I’m grateful I was faced with that choice, and I’m grateful that at that one clear-eyed moment I was able to appreciate the value of the man standing in front of me, offering me real, life-long love (not to mention a family).

Once I finally accepted monogamy – not just as a rule I was being forced to live by, but as my own choice both physically and emotionally, I was finally capable of having a profoundly intimate relationship with someone, and to be grateful for what we built together. Others may be able to gain that type of intimacy in poly relationships or while dreaming of someone else, but I wasn’t.

I’m grateful for the strength of my husband, who valued himself enough to say, “This is who I am, this is what I want. Decide if you’re with me.” And I’m grateful that I finally got to a place where I could say, “Yes, I want you. Just you,” and learn to be grateful for the love that exists today, that is real, and that we built together.

[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"] Joanna Schroeder is the type of working mom who opens her car door and junk spills out all over the ground. She serves as Executive Editor of The Good Men Project and is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on sites like xoJane,, and The Huffington Post. Joanna loves playing with her sons, skateboarding with her husband, and hanging out with friends. Her dream is to someday finish her almost-done novel and get some sleep. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.

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Choosing Gratitude while Expanding My Comfort Zone


I would not consider myself a writer by any means. I think it’s been about four years since I’ve written something of length that was intended for other people to read. This article is the product of one, Eric Strack, stepping outside of his comfort zone, and choosing to be grateful for the experience. We are always at choice, so why not choose gratitude? Easy, right?!


When my wife, Nicole, asked me if I would like to write about gratitude for the Loveumentary’s 30 Day Gratitude challenge, and said “it might be a great opportunity to start you said you wanted to...” I was instantaneously...let’s say...unenthusiastic. Scratch that, I was straight up afraid.

I was afraid of how long it might take me to write it, I was afraid of what people reading it might think of me, and I was afraid of looking dumb. I did not hesitate to say “thanks, but no thanks.”

[Spoiler alert: I ended up changing my mind.]

I was just on my way out the door, heading to the gym, when Nicole proposed this “writing about gratitude” thing. The gym is my temple, my happy place. So while plodding along on the elliptical, sweat dripping down my face, my fancy workout boxers running up my leg, I came to a realization: why not choose to see this as an opportunity to do the writing I’ve been saying I want to do, and be grateful for this opportunity as well? What a concept!!

Hold the phone, let’s change gears for a moment, I’d like to tell you a little bit about myself. I dabble in personal growth and am fortunate to have married a self-help guru (check out Nicole’s blog here). Furthermore, I spent most of my life up until now as what I’d call a “spiritual agnostic.” Now I am learning more about myself through personal growth practices, while also contemplating my connection with a higher being, be it God, Spirit, Source, Flying Spaghetti Monster, or whatever you want to call it.

These two, relatively-still-new-to-me, areas of thinking have created a whirlwind of questions in my head. Like a tornado, which is created when hot air smashes into cold air, my new, self-confident, empowering, and spiritual beliefs are clashing with older, science-based, limited beliefs. I am attempting to wade through this storm to really know who I am and where I stand.

One of the most annoyingly hard-to-answer questions for me is about causality. Nicole believes that everything happens for a reason and that the Universe provides exactly what we need (which includes experiences that come in the form of challenges). These are wonderful ideas that I really want to believe 100%...right now I’m at about 90%...and closing the gap every day. That other 10% is holding on to my old belief that we humans are just really good creating connections between things, after the fact.

Old-me (the me that didn’t believe in a higher power) would say that there is a logical, science based answer for everything. For example, finding a $100 bill on the ground is a happy accident...too bad for the other guy who lost it.

New-me believes that: 1) I am always at choice, and 2) the Universe constantly provides for those who are acting for the greater good. Now, with these beliefs, that $100 bill is directly tied to the $100 check I wrote out to one of my favorite charities earlier that day. I now know that the Universe rewards those who are generous, and I choose to be grateful for it. This really happened to me, by the way.

So there I was: faced with the daunting task of writing something about myself and sharing my thoughts with lots and lots of people. Initially, I defaulted to the lingering Old-me way of thinking, and waved the writing off as a random annoyance. It took me going to the gym to come around to New-me, and to CHOOSE to see that this opportunity was placed before me so I could do something new & different, and I am so very grateful to have had this opportunity to share a little snippet of my life with you.

Thank you.

How Gratitude Conquered The Numbness And Gave Me Back My Life


Some time ago, I was asked by a friend to participate in a Gratitude Challenge. As part of this challenge, I was asked to share a personal experience where gratitude had an impact on me and to share how I practice gratitude in my life. It may sound strange to you but I'm grateful for paper cuts.

Actually, I'm grateful for one particular paper cut...

It was in the spring of 2007, and I was traveling with my parents through New England. As a family, we had recently closed a very dark and wintry chapter in our lives and were eager to move forward. The surrounding countryside, positively satiated in springtime flowers, painted the promise of a new beginning.

While visiting a religious building, I fumbled with some informational brochures and accidentally gave myself a paper cut. The sting prompted a word that was—ah—shall we say...inappropriate for the location? (It was a swear word.)

As I covered my finger with a tissue, I was suddenly (and inexplicably) overwhelmed with gratitude—gratitude to be alive.

Six months earlier, I had tried to take my life. In fact, I would have succeeded had my dad not found me and taken me to the hospital. In the weeks leading up to my attempt, I remember one constant feeling: numbness. My entire world had been drained of color and energy. I felt so hollow, so void, and so dead that taking my life seemed like the only escape.

But in the months and years that have followed my suicide attempt, my family and friends rallied around me, offering me support, encouragement, and love. On one of those tedious nights immediately following my discharge from the hospital, I distinctly remember laying in my bed and being impressed with these words: "Seth, there are a lot of things in your life that have gone wrong. Yes, you're in pain. And yes, you have a lot of problems. But there are also a lot of good things in your life—like family, friends, a warm bed, good food, and air to breath. You've spent the past couple of years focusing on all the bad things in your life—and look what it's done to you. Maybe, instead of focusing so much on all of the bad things in your life, you could try to focus on some of the good things—because there are many."

Since that time, I have tried, to the best of my ability, to focus on the positive instead of the negative. Yes, I still struggle with chronic depression—I don't deny that. Yes, things go wrong and I still have bad days. But instead of focusing on what I lack, I focus on what I have. And that shift in focus has made all of the difference in the world. In a curious way, gratitude for life has actually expanded it. Every additional moment of my life, when coupled with gratitude, has only increased the joy and color of my life.

So as I stood there, clutching a throbbing paper cut, I was overcome with gratitude for that pain—because it meant that I was still alive. And later that day, while sitting on a couch with my parents, I reached across and put my hand on my dad's arm.

"Dad," I began. "I just wanted to thank you for saving my life."

My dad gave me a somber look. "I'm grateful I did," he said.

In our darkest moments, it's hard to even think about gratitude. Sometimes, the difficulties of life have a tendency to pull us inward and downward. But I ask you to try and shift your focus outward and upward. Consider your blessings—they are many. Take it from a guy who once hated his life so much that he nearly ended it: life is a beautiful and precious gift.

[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"] Seth Adam Smith is the author of the book, Your Life Isn't for You: A Selfish Person's Guide to Being Selfless. He is an amazing husband, friend, and he writes regularly on his blogs here and here. You can check out his episode on the Loveumentary where he goes into more detail regarding his story and his marriage with his awesome wife here.

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Nourishment is Gratitude: Feed Yourself Something Beautiful


A sushi spot and a nail salon.

I have two favorite spots in San Francisco that are my go-to, feel-good places to spend a little time in quiet reflection or restoration. It’s nothing fancy or special, but it means a lot to me.

After a long, tireless, thankless workday behind a computer drawing lines in AutoCAD and Photoshop, I’d descend the steps of the late bus back home from work tired, unmotivated, and exhausted. I would be hungry and a bit sad, and the prospect of heading back to my dark apartment alone sounded miserable.

I began to indulge in two practices of self-love almost accidentally. The first was once a week: I’d take myself to a small sushi shop just a few blocks from the bus stop, work bags in tow, and find a quiet spot under the window to sit. I’d take out a paperback book, order the same $12 dinner, and sit and read chapters of my book. It because a ritual of sorts—a treat of taking myself out to dinner just to read my book.

The second space I started frequenting was a whacky hot-pink nail salon run by three ladies who always drawled about how “fabulous” I was. I’d go in to get my nails done—not that I’m a nails-done kind of person—but because the experience of having someone take care of me, wash my feet, and letting me sink into the blissful state of relaxation amongst a massage chair felt so dang good. It didn’t hurt that they would do an additional shoulder rub for $10.

While battling student loans and low wages, I’d shop at the goodwill just to save up money to go to these stores. When I was too broke to spend the money, I’d fill up a big bowl in my apartment with hot soapy water and stick my feet in it and just sit there, quietly, until the water got cold. I did it because it made me feel luxurious.

These nourishment practices aren’t indulgent; they’re restorative. Healing. Filled with elements of self-care. We often overlook ourselves — taking care of everyone else and forgetting that one of our most important jobs is taking care of ourselves. And herein lies one of the paradoxes of gratitude:

In order to nourish yourself, practice gratitude.

In order to practice gratitude, nourish yourself.

We must be whole and healthy in order to do our best service in the world. Gratitude practices, however, help us to become whole and healthy.

Scientific Proof?

Being thankful and grateful affects your health. Lissa Rankin, author of Mind Over Medicine, shares that the scientific evidence is fairly conclusive when it comes to health: “Happy people live up to ten years longer than unhappy people, and optimists have a 77% lower risk of heart disease than pessimists,” she writes.

Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book, The How Of Happiness, sheds light on why this is. While “50% of our propensity for happiness is based on a genetic set point,” the other half is much more malleable—and something we can influence. Ten percent is based on life circumstance, and fully 40% is related to intentional activities and behaviors we cultivate.

What does that mean? “That means that we can be up to 40% happier in our lives without changing our circumstances one bit, and one of the key intentional activities is the practice of gratitude.”

How nourishing yourself is a gratitude practice.

What is nourishment? Nourishment is “food or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition.” Just as we wouldn’t expect plants to flourish in dark places devoid of water, humans aren’t meant to be deprived of love and care. Furthermore, the practice of nourishing yourself and taking care of your body and soul is an act of gratitude. It’s gratitude towards yourself, gratitude towards the gift of life, and gratitude for how hard and tirelessly you’re working.

Each of our actions is an opportunity for gratitude—towards ourselves, towards our lives, towards what we value.

Nourishment isn’t just food—although healthy greens, large glasses of water, and steaming cups of hot ginger tea aren’t a bad way to start. It includes feeding your mind with rich words and good ideas; your soul with vibrant love and caring thoughts; connecting to your community, and reaching out to others.

In yoga practices, the act of taking care of yourself begins with the simple, yet extraordinary practice of breathing. Each breath itself is a gift—a nourishing, cleansing, uplifting ritual in and of itself.

A simple practice of gratitude is breathing out a sigh of relief and taking in a deep breathe of healthy, cleansing, delicious oxygen.

Nourishing gratitude also comes in the form of taking five quiet minutes to yourself to reflect or pause. It comes in relieving some of the pressure on yourself. It comes in saying a gentle no to a busy night so that you can tuck into bed earlier. It comes in the form of getting a babysitter for no other reason than to sit on the couch and spend three hours to yourself. It comes in the form of a long, hot, shower. It’s taking yourself to the movies because you want to and you come back a better, more fulfilled person because of it.

Feed yourself something beautiful.

Gratitude is about nourishing ourselves and our communities. Food is nourishment for our body; words are nourishment for our soul. What are you feeding yourself? How are you nourishing yourself?

If it’s food, perhaps it’s a cup of warm soup, a ripe avocado, or a glass of cool, fresh, clean water. Or you nourish your body with an extra serving of healthy greens, or you add an apple to your bag on your way out. Perhaps you steam a hot cup of ginger tea and journal for a few minutes.

Perhaps you pause for a few minutes before you start a task and take ten cleansing breaths and offer up thoughts of gratitude to the space and the world before you begin.

Perhaps you feed your hungry spirit with thirty minutes of down time or restoration time, by getting your nails done (if you’re like me), or stopping by your favorite burrito place with a book and dedicating it to reading time.

You can also feed yourself with words. I have several poems and phrases I pin up on my walls to read and re-read each day. Just reading a poem is enough. That is gratitude. That is grace.

Today, the beautiful practice of gratitude is feeding your self something beautiful.

[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"]

Sarah Kathleen Peck is a writer, designer, open water swimmer, and urban nerd.

She teaches digital workshops on writing, storytelling, content strategy, and gratitude. This essay is an excerpt from her class on Grace & Gratitude, a two-week journey into the heart, mind, and soul.

By trade, Sarah specializes in media strategy, content strategy, and getting communications projects from conception to creation. She writes at It Starts With, is a stories-based site about psychology, motivation and human behavior, and her work has been featured on Fast Company, The Huffington Post, 99U, Psychology Today, and more. In her free time, she swims outdoors, teaches yoga, writes books, and teaches yoga.

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Be The One That Causes Someone To Be Grateful That They Know You


Without being cliché or sounding cheesy, I truly have so much to be grateful for. I know. This is what we’re supposed to say even if we don’t mean it and even if our life really sucks. I can’t say that I’ve always been grateful for everything in my life: a divorced home to grow up in, divorce and infidelity running rampant throughout my family, sleeping in a different bed every night as I split time between my mom and dad’s house (a change made later in my childhood), two completely different environments in each home, an incessant and overwhelming need to keep everyone happy, an inability to make decisions because I was so worried about who was going to be mad, etc.

I’m very aware that people have had a much worse and damaging time growing up. I’m not whining, making comparisons or trying to one-up anyone. This is just my story, and really the foundation that put me on a path to gratitude.

It often takes some space and time to understand the impact of gratitude and the need to be grateful. But, as I have reflected back on my life and with the filter of gratitude, there is a decision that my dad made almost 30 years ago that significantly changed my life.

In the midst of the custody battle - and it was a battle - my dad was allowed to choose one day/evening during the week that he could have me. The original agreement was he would have me one day during the week plus every other weekend. The day he chose was Wednesday. Why was this significant? Because Wednesday was church night in our little Baptist church. By the time he got home from work, it was time for church, and by the time church was over, it was time to get ready for bed. In essence, my dad “gave up” his night with me so that I could be in church on Wednesday nights.

This may not seem like much, but it was huge for my dad and me. For my dad, I was his only child and this one night a week plus the alternating weekends were the only times he was able to see me.

I'm a dad of two little guys and don't have the extra pressure that comes with shared custody, and I often feel like I just don’t get enough time with my them. I honestly can’t imagine how tough it was for my dad to further decrease the face-to-face time with me. My dad, however, had recently turned back to Jesus, and for the first time in a few decades he started to walk with Him again. (Another benefit of the divorce process.) My dad believed very strongly that at my young age, it was vital that I was in church with him and my step mom, who also came to Christ in the midst of this process.

Why was this significant for me? At the time, I didn’t really know what was going on. All I really knew was that I had a new step-dad and step-mom, and that I was splitting time between two different homes. Church on Wednesday nights was just a blip on my radar given everything else that was happening. Four years later, after being in church often and ultimately understanding my absolute need for God’s forgiveness and transformation, I accepted Christ. I was 8.

I know I was young, but God got ahold of my little heart and life and changed me forever. Although I’m far from perfect, I’ve never been the same. It wasn’t my dad that “saved” me or talked me into anything. It was my dad that made a difficult, but intentional decision to put me on the best track possible after the life-altering divorce.

My dad has done so many things for me over the years and broke many unhealthy patterns he received from his dad. Things like never hearing his dad say he loved him. I can’t count how many times a day I heard him tell me that he loved me and was proud of me. My dad also received very little, if any affection from his dad. I was often embarrassed, in a good way, by how affectionate he was with me. We never left each other without an “I love you” and a kiss on the cheek. The list could go on and on, but I want you to understand how significant these decisions were that my dad made and how grateful I am that he made them. I don’t want to know where I would be without his love, willingness to sacrifice himself for me and his vision for what he believed God had for me and his desire to do everything within his power to ensure I reached that potential.

Not only have these things impacted my life in the past, but this gratitude has carried into my life as a husband and dad. You better believe I’m raising my boys to be grateful. And you better know that they hear me say I love them and am proud of them many times today. And you can rest assured that they get lots and lots of affection. Why? I’ve experienced how important these things are, and I want them to know the love that I knew as a boy. Oh, and more significantly, by the grace of God and only by His doing, over the last year and a half, both of them have accepted Christ and allowed him to change their little hearts and lives. Amazing!

No matter your past circumstances and your story today, we can find things to be grateful for. It took me years of reflection to realize many of these things. I encourage you to not wait so long, but to start this process now. And, if you really haven’t received the kinds of things I have, then be the one to break the patterns. No matter what is behind you, you can choose today to be the one that causes someone to be grateful that they know you; that you are their husband; that you are their mom; that you were their friend.

[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"] Jackson Dunn is the Director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family where directs the programs, strategies and initiatives of the Marriage Division seeking to provide resources for couples preparing for marriage, to enrich the lives of married couples and to help couples in crisis. He was formerly the Director of University Ministries at the Center for Relationship Enrichment on the campus of John Brown University. In this position, he taught relationships courses, oversaw a national student assessment, directed a national couples retreat program, and helped developed a community premarital and marriage program.

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Photo credit: Lars Ploughmann


My Ex-Girlfriend Is A @*&#! - Getting From Blame to Gratitude


Warning, disclaimer! I’m going say some things and use a couple words in this article that might offend you. Don’t keep reading if you’re not up for it. Really. Stop right now. There’ll be another piece about gratitude that you can read and it probably won’t offend you at all. You can read that one instead. With that said, the reason you’re reading these words is because my friend Nate Bagley has asked me to create a piece for his 30 day Gratitude Challenge. For those of you who don’t know Nate personally I’d like to fill you in. Nate is an amazing man. The moment I met him, Christmas of 2013, I knew there was something special about him.

It wasn’t just because of his backstory, the fact that he’d hit the road to seek out, document, and share powerfully beautiful hopeful stories of love from across the United States. Neither was it the fact that my sister had a crush on him, so therefore he must be a pretty cool dude.

It was his presence. When I spoke to him he was there with me. His voice is solid and clear. He knows the work he’s doing is powerful and he owns it. When I asked him how much amazingness was possible within a relationship (having been wondering this to myself for quite a while) he responded, with no trace of hesitation, “Amazing, incredible relationships are possible. They’re real. Let me tell you a story…”

Knowing Nate has profoundly impacted my work and life. He’s inspired me to take bold steps forward and I’m so grateful to know him. I hope one day you’ll get to meet him too.

Oh, and if you didn’t know, Nate is creating a Love Coaching practice. Nate is a love expert. He’s interviewed hundreds of couples across the US and I know for a fact that his work has already impacted the lives of many, many people, whether single, dating, partnered, whatever. This man is doing amazing work. Marriages will be healed, parties will be thrown, and lots of really amazing sex will be had. You can see if coaching with Nate will be a good fit by taking this quick survey. I’m so stoked that he’s stepping it up and offering this service to individuals and couples. So stoked.

So… a piece about gratitude. Where should I even start?

I think I’ll start by telling you what’s true for me in this moment.

I’m on a bus.

Powerful, right?

Ok, there's more to it than that. At this very moment I’m leaving the house I’ve been in for 10 years and the city where I’ve lived for 12.

I realized last night just how much I’ve grown during the time I’ve been here. When I arrived I was in the midst of a powerful depression. I was suicidal, shut down, and almost totally disconnected from my sense of self-power. I was a shell of a man.

12 years later I’m IN LOVE with my life! I’m present with my experience in each moment. I’m in touch with my body. It’s my guide and the more fully I allow myself to feel all that there is to feel the better my life gets. I’m engaged in passionate romantic relationships with amazing women. These relationships are honest, emotionally clean, communicative, and quite free of expectation. I smile lots and laugh deep, resonant laughs that come out from my belly and fill up my whole body. I’m doing powerfully healing work. The kind I’d be doing even if I didn’t get paid for it. I choose my schedule and I choose to work with inspiring, authentically powerful clients.

I’m really, really happy.

And the best part of it all is that I know I get to be even happier. I choose not to limit my happiness. I get to have as much of it as I decide I’m worth having!

I’d like to tell you a piece of my story, a pivotal component of my transformation from empty and suicidal to deeply fulfilled.

This story begins with an ending. What ended was a relationship. We were together for about 2 1/4 years. We split up a while back.

And you know what? I’m still kind of pissed off at her. And when I say “kind of” it probably means “really”.

You see, I have an anger problem. It’s not the kind you’re thinking about. It’s the kind where I can’t tell when I’m angry and instead cover up how I really feel and end up people pleasing, wallowing in indecisiveness, and passive-aggressing (yes, I just made that into a verb).

So anyway, I’m really pissed at her. I think about all the times she got so angry at me for practically nothing. She yelled at me, she threw tantrums, she wouldn’t let me out of conversations that I didn’t want to be in. She was the biggest hypocrite I’ve ever met. Really. I can’t even count the number of times she practically turned around and did the same thing she just got done throwing a fit at me for doing.

Our relationship felt like a shit show about half the time. She pushed my buttons, expected me not to push hers, and then expected me to calm her down when I failed at that.

She was bossy, demanding, overly self confident, irrational when upset, and unappreciative.

She was an asshole.

I’ve used the word “bitch” before, in confidential counseling sessions. I’m absolutely NOT going to use that word here.

And I know I know that your level of respect for me probably just instantly dropped. I know that you’re probably judging me, perhaps heavily, for how I’m judging my ex-girlfriend. And you might be thinking that I’m a misogynistic asshole who walks around slinging sexist slurs at women who rub me the wrong way.

But I’m owning this shit. I am a complex human being. I contradict myself constantly and thoroughly. And this complexity is beautiful. Our rough edges are what give others something, anything, to hold onto. When we’re all smoothed over people try to grasp us, to know us, and we slip away because they have nothing to hold onto. There is no room for relationship when vulnerability and shadow are not acknowledged and invited to sit down at the table with all the other guests.

And here’s the turnaround.

The amazing life, career, laughs from deep inside my belly that fill up my chest and my whole body, the amazing relationships I now get to have… all of it I owe to her.

Literally and truly.

I know the changes I make ultimately come from within me, but if it weren’t for her I’d still be partially fulfilled, settling for ok, out of touch with my passion and body, and running the same self defeating emotional patterns that I’d already been running for so many years.

She is the most amazing, present, and (emotionally) intelligent woman I’ve ever been in relationship with. By leagues and by miles.

And know that I use the word “woman” very intentionally. Because she is. She is a brilliant example of what it means to be a woman who leans into and owns her personal power.

This is really what hooked me in the first place. It wasn’t the fact that she was and still is a total hotttie. It wasn’t how well she kissed. It wasn’t how smart she was and is about business. It wasn’t her unique and entrancing sense of style.

In this woman I saw something extremely special. I craved it, from deep inside me. I noticed a fierce anxiety/excitement. What would it mean to bring such a powerful force into my life? My body drew me forward. I had only an inkling of what lay in store for me OR for her.

Relationships occur because we see something in somebody else that we already have inside, but that we’ve lost access to. We see that this person can show us how to get back in touch with the parts that are who we truly are.

Is this THE truth? No. But it’s my truth. At least in this moment. I may change my mind later on…

So I dove in.

Who she was being pushed swiftly and quickly up against my boundaries. Except in so many ways I didn’t consciously know where my boundaries were.

So I dove in some more. I felt the intensity of our passion and the whirlwind of our conflict. I opened up to it. I let it in me.

I consciously chose to make myself available, for the first time in my life, to the full range of experience. Passion. Fury. Contentment. Sadness. Guilt. Joy.

I threw myself into the middle of the ocean with her. Sometimes the seas were calm and pleasant and sometimes they crashed over me unceasingly. I swam confidently in moments and I floundered completely in others.

And now it’s over. We chose to end it. The image that comes to me is of a rock at the shore of the ocean. In some moments the waves murmur and caress the rock. In others they leap up and come crashing fiercely back down upon it. But a rock is a rock and it will not budge, it will only become smoother and more beautiful with time.

I am now that rock. I feel its presence, peace, confidence inside me. Through our relationship I discovered my power, my sense of Who I Truly Am. It’s beautiful. I’m beautiful. And I’m so grateful for it all.

This woman is a marvel. She has made some very important choices about who she is being, what kind of life she is living, and what kinds of relationships she is creating. She is really smart. She is in her body.

She is a powerful healer. The work she’s done has DIRECTLY impacted thousands of people. Her friends, customers, and clients are taking the gift that she has offered them and are passing it on to THEIR communities. She’s inspiring. She’s bold. She is unapologetically herself and how she expresses it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed.

Earlier in this piece I told you all the stuff that pissed me off about my ex-girlfriend, this incredible woman. I basically called her a bitch. I told you all the messed up things she did and all the different ways she hurt me.

There’s a secret I want to let you in on. I’m a human animal! I have emotions!

When I believe the thoughts that my fear creates I live from a victim mentality and digging, sexist, hurtful epithets come up and out from inside me.

While it can be useful to express and honor my shadow side I also feel in the center of my being that living from victim and blame is a powerful poison.

I also know, from this place of wisdom-beyond-words, that gratitude is the antidote.

I practice gratitude. And yes, it is a practice. It’s a choice I choose to make over and over and over again. Consciously. My life is beautiful beyond words for it. I have deep relationships with my parents and sisters, deeper still with every passing week. I have strong relationships with my community. Each person means so much to me and I let them know it.

I’ve written notes of appreciation to roommates, sang songs to lovers and friends, spoken or emailed or texted to clients, smiled to strangers, asked genuine questions of curiosity to acquaintances. I have a million different ways of acknowledging and appreciating the person who’s in front of me or on my mind. I make it a practice to notice when I’m feeling appreciative and then to take action and let them know.

Feeling upset today? Call someone up and appreciate them. Write down a list of ways you notice them being and how they’ve impacted your life. Call them up. Read it to them. I can pretty much guarantee that you will both walk away from the conversation with a deepened connection and big smiles on your faces. The world will seem closer to you. The colors will be more vivid. You’ll feel that swelling sense of fulfillment that our bodies yearn for.

Earlier on I told you that this story began with an ending. That’s not really true though. Things aren’t over, nothing’s ended. Things just shifted. We stopped holding on to our stories about who the other person was or might be. In this moment I don’t know exactly what she and I are or what we’re doing, but it IS something.

I look forward to what our future together holds. Even if it means we don’t talk. That’s still a choice we make in how we will relate with each other. It’s a relationship still.

See, gratitude/true appreciation, is a continual process of letting go. It’s letting go of the projections that we put onto others and the stories we tell ourselves about what we must settle for or how so and so did us wrong. It’s letting go of the safety patterning that we took on as children, the places where we learned to close off and protect our tender, loving child-hearts.

Gratitude means doing the personal work it takes to open back up. It can be scary. It can make us feel like we’re dying. But I’ve shed and seen shed a lot of tears. I’ve been with others as they shook violently as long-locked emotions poured out of them, sometimes for the first time in their lives. They felt like they would literally die. And they didn’t. The opposite came true. Openness. Power. Peace.

Gratitude is about noticing. It’s paying attention to the thing that attracts you to another and then speaking that truth.

You get to do it with yourself too. It’s noticing just how far you’ve come since 1, 3, 14 years ago and letting in the truth that you are exactly where you ought to be. Know too that there is even better yet to come.

Gratitude is about curiosity. It’s a yearning to know yourself and others more deeply and intimately than you currently do.

Gratitude is simple. All it takes is a few words, a loving touch, or an act of kindness.

Gratitude is a practice. That means you do it once. And then another time. And then another time. Each time you do it you get better at it. That’s what happens when we practice things.

Gratitude is powerful. It has already and will continue to change your own and your loved ones’ lives.

Here, I’ll model:

Thank you for being with me through the end of this piece. I probably don’t know you and you probably don’t know me (yet), but the fact that you’re here means that we share a connection. There’s something that draws us closer together. It’s special and I am so honored to share this connection with you. I’ve shared extremely vulnerably with you. Thank you so much for honoring my vulnerability.

That you’re connected with The Loveumentary means you’re on the path. It’s happening right now. I want to let you know that I notice this in you.

You’re beautiful.

Thank you.

My bus ride is almost over. My new life is just around the corner. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

And one more time, thank you. With love, Bob Schwenkler

[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"] If you’d like to learn more about Bob and the work he does in supporting authentically powerful and loving men in living fully on-purpose and passionate lives please visit his website at (This is Nate now: Seriously people, Bob has been an amazing coach to me, and has helped me grow in ways I never thought I would. I am more authentically myself because of him. Get to know this man.) Want to get the 30 Day Gratitude Challenge sent to your email inbox every day? Fill out this little form here:

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Curiosity + Gratitude = Joyful Authentic Connection


Someone: “You were right.” Me: “I’m sorry, what was that? I couldn’t quite hear you...”

Someone: “You were right.”

Me: “Oh, I was RIIIIIIGHT!” *insert condescending chuckle here*I told you so. Never doubt me.”

Have you ever said, “I told you so” to someone? Did you feel totally validated and in-your-face-victorious! after you said it? I certainly have and I certainly did. Up until a few years ago, I used to REALLY relish being right, and I also loved rubbing people’s noses in my right-ness. I thought that “proving my worth” to people via being right would mean that I was worth something...that I was worth loving...and I was gravely mistaken in that belief.

Worthiness is not tied to right-ness. Because I doubted my worthiness, I attempted to prove it to people by being right. I didn’t see that my strong desire to be right [read: externally validated] was actually just pushing people away.

Everyone on the planet is born worthy of love and remains worthy of love for the entirety of their life. I have finally embraced this as a fact, and as a result, my whole outlook on life has changed. Instead of attempting to prove my worthiness through being right, I now stick to choosing love and letting things go. I don’t verbally fight to the death over things that don’t matter anymore [and here’s a secret: most of the stuff I used to fight to the death over didn’t really matter to begin with!].

This has completely changed my relationship with my husband, Eric. I used to think that there was only ONE way to do everything: MY WAY. My way was obviously the most efficient and logical and strategic way to do that was clearly the best and only way.

Yikes...not much room for collaboration with a mindset like that operating in a relationship, is there? I can answer that question from firsthand experience: no, no room for collaboration at all. Well then, what’s the point of choosing to share my life with someone if I’m not open to his contribution? No point, really...I might as well be dating myself.

Luckily for me, Eric has stood by me as I’ve shifted away from the, “I’m always right” mindset and toward a more curious mentality of, “Teach me how you see the world and how you process things...share your thoughts and beliefs with me so I can understand you better.”

This shift in my disposition has created an extraordinary shift in our relationship. Instead of seeing him as wrong when he sees things differently than I do, I get curious about his point of view. By choosing to be grateful for our differences, I’ve opened my eyes to the authentic Eric, instead of attempting to make him another me.

And my goodness, he is interesting! *insert goofy grin here*

I’m fascinated by the way that he sees the world, and his perspective on life has helped me to let go of a lot of my old limiting beliefs. Eric and I have different views on a lot of things, and instead of categorizing our views as right vs. wrong, I now see them as two valid views, and thereby expand my outlook on life and the world. Choosing curiosity and gratitude over right-ness and judgment has taken our relationship to a level of connectedness that I didn’t even know existed!

Below are some actions you can take to help you choose curiosity and gratitude in your interactions with others:

  1. First things first: stay focused on your desired outcome and eliminate “I told you so” from your vocabulary - when you operate from a place of genuinely wanting the best for others, you won’t need the validation of saying “I told you so” if the advice you gave them worked’d just be happy for that person because they had a positive outcome, regardless of where the advice came from. A desire to say “I told you so” comes from the I’m-not-good-enough insecurity, and causes you to seek out external validation. Focus on supporting the other person in manifesting what they truly want, instead of making it about you being right.
  2. Pay attention to your body - right-ness brings with it a physical might be a knot in your stomach, heat rising up your face, a tightness in your chest, a combination of these feelings, or something else altogether. Whatever it is, stay aware of your body and notice when it starts to engage in “fight or flight” mode. Take a moment to BREATHE...take a few breaths and think through what’s happening inside of you. What thoughts have brought up these physical feelings? Is your not-good-enough insecurity bringing up the desire to “prove” your worthiness? Acknowledge your physical response and then...
  3. Get curious, ask questions, and reevaluate - instead of spewing your own opinion all over a conversation, get curious about other people’s perspectives. Seek to know more about their point of view, and be open to changing your own point of view as a result of hearing theirs. There’s no shame in changing your mind about things, and the more open you are to other perspectives, the more well-rounded and accepting your view of the world will be. Stay committed to learning and growing, instead of holding on to being right. Reevaluate your own position, and if you do change your opinion and someone throws an “I told you so” your way...welcome it with the truth, “ did. Thank you for sharing your perspective with me.” :) Remember that their “I told you so” isn’t about you, it’s about their insecurity, so don’t let the potential for an “I told you so” stop you from open-mindedly evaluating and reevaluating all sides of the coin.
  4. Choose gratitude and fascination - no two people are the same...even identical twins have different likes and dislikes. Instead of judging a difference in perspective as being a negative thing, choose to be grateful for learning a new way of looking at the world. Be fascinated by the incredible diversity of the human race, and by how people can view the world so differently. I firmly believe that everyone is making the best choice they can, given the awareness they have in that moment, and that’s what makes this life so interesting!

Sending you love on your journey through life!

[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"] Nicole is a personal growth blogger and a photographer. Her life’s mission is to live authentically, connect wholeheartedly, and share openly. She’s married to her best friend, and because of the love they’ve created, Nicole knows that true love is way better than the stuff of fairy tales.

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Stop Waiting To Enjoy Life - Enjoy The Moments As They Come


As a new student and young father I had to work my butt off to keep up with school, family, work and all the other responsibilities that I had. I was working two part time jobs just to make ends meet and I was in school full time so I could graduate on time and move on to grad school. Times were tough and money was tight. I had to work hard just to keep my head above water. Some months we didn’t make it and had to go without some things. This was the hardest for me as a father. At these times I felt like a real loser and a failure. I felt like I wasn’t living up to my end of the deal in my family. Because money was tight, I had to make sure I stayed at the top of my class so I could go to a good graduate program that would allow me to demand a strong income in my first job. So I put a lot of time into studying. And in the mean time I put as much time into my two jobs as I could so I could pay the rent and buy diapers.

My daughter was less than a year old and didn’t know what our financial situation was. Being that young, she didn’t really care. But her big brown eyes and her innocence made me want to work harder at school and at work just to make sure that she would have everything she needed. My wife didn’t really care about our finances, either. Somehow we continued to get by. But for me it was miserable.

As a poor college student and young father working and studying so hard I found myself in the throes of a full blown, self-inflicted anxiety disorder. I had so many balls I was juggling at once that I planned my time in 15 minute increments. I developed a nervous habit of always checking my watch. Homework took about 2 hours a night - unless a paper was due then it was 2 hours and 45 minutes a night that week. It took about 15 minutes to drive to work. If I got a flat tire or someone showed up late to relieve my shift at work, I had to push back whatever family event was happening that weekend to make up for lost time. If I showed up late for work, it was X amount out of my paycheck (I knew exactly how much it was after tax back then) and I needed to make up for it by staying late. If there was a birthday (or, gasp, Christmas) that month I had to work a couple extra shifts and that meant I had to find time to my homework who-knows-when. I learned that necessities like sleeping and eating were really just added bonuses that people didn’t need that much of – or so I thought.

I was in the thick of things and couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I hardly saw my wife and baby because I was too busy trying to provide for them. For me, life was work. And not the leisurely kind where you could browse your computer while you do it. It was hard, exhausting, and consuming. I had to get ahead and stay ahead. This is all I could see and it was going to be this way for a while – at least until I graduated grad school in a few years.

Fast forward a few years and thankfully I have overcome those feelings and thoughts that once consumed me. But it’s not because I finally made the income that I was aiming for – I haven’t. It’s because I deliberately let go of the pretension and consumerism and the constant striving to attain things and status.

Instead of waiting for someday to enjoy life I’m able to enjoy life’s moments as they come. I’ve slowed down, smelled the roses and am enjoying pieces of life one simple moment at a time. There were a lot of realizations that I had to come to during my journey In order for me to stop wishing for someday and enjoy the moments as they come. Perhaps the most important realization I had was the role gratitude plays in living a fulfilling and rewarding life.

Gratitude was what was missing.

As I was going through the throes of my anxiety and working my butt off for someday, I never gratefully appreciated the beauty that was around me. I was absorbed in living the American dream – an external standard that society told me I should be trying to attain, instead of looking inside myself and finding what would make me the most happy and bring me the feelings of satisfaction that are truly fulfilling for me. I thought that society would somehow magically give this to me after I achieved the status I was aiming for. But I realized that satisfaction isn’t given to you. I found it within myself through gratitude.

I realized that in my desire to achieve and always wanting more that I never noticed the great things that were around me and right in front of me. I would get stressed out when I got a flat tire and felt resentful that I didn’t have a better car instead of appreciating the fact that I had a car that could haul me at 65mph to wherever I needed to go. Sure, life isn’t all cherry drops and gum drops and I still have crap things that happen. But in the meantime, it’s gratitude that makes my life fulfilling and rewarding.

There are many gratitudes I discovered along the way that help me to find happiness no matter what my circumstances are:

  1. I’m grateful to live in a country where the bare necessities (water, electricity, etc) are easy to come by. I realize I’m very privileged to have this and I’m grateful for it.
  2. I’m grateful for poetry, music and art that give life its extra flavor.
  3. I’m grateful that poetry, music and art are free on the radio, TV and in secondhand books that cost pennies.
  4. I’m grateful for friends and family who love me for me. Who don’t care what I wear, what music I listen to or what income tax bracket I’m in. They simply love me for me and I love them for them. And together we have a friendship that’s more rewarding than prestige or monetary success.
  5. I’m grateful for a country that protects its citizens and has laws in place to help them achieve, succeed and live in safety.
  6. I’m grateful for children and their smiles that warm you up no matter how bad of a day you’ve had.
  7. I’m grateful for nature and its many wonders and beauties. I’m grateful for easily accessible parks, streams and other places that I can enjoy the magnificent wonders of nature.

Most of all, I’m grateful for others. I’m surrounded by people who genuinely care about little old me with no reward for themselves. They have found something inherently good about me and love me for it. They don’t have to, they choose to. And for that I will always be grateful. It’s the love for me that I see in their eyes that truly brightens my day and makes me feel important.

[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"]

Aaron Anderson is a Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He also writes for several great relationship websites including the one you’re reading now, and the Huffingtonpost. He gives expert relationship information on his own blog where you can get information for all your important relationship needs.

Want to get the 30 Day Gratitude Challenge sent to your email inbox every day? Fill out this little form here:

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