Saturday, August 15, 2009

Should-less Inspiration: Louise Sorel

Louise Sorel is a wonderful and spirited actress who is known best by soap fans for her memorable roles as Augusta Lockridge on Santa Barbara, and the irrepressible Vivian Alamain on Days Of Our Lives. Fans of primetime television may remember her notable appearances on Charlie's Angels, Kojak, and even the original incarnation of Star Trek.

I had the chance to sit down and interview Ms. Sorel in Manhattan two weeks ago. The woman I met was not only an articulate and hysterically funny entertainer, but also a profoundly deep and soul-filled artist. She is struggling to find the balance in her life between staying true to her own voice, and conforming to other's expectations. She is trying to act up and fight for animal rights while not becoming overwhelmed and consumed with tragedy and outrage. She is on this journey, like most of us, to live an authentic and meaningful existence, while frequently clashing with outside forces.

As someone who is also trying to find his voice in this world, I found her hopeful and inspiring. I gave her a copy of Absolutely Should-less, hoping that the ideas about "shoulds" may help her to find more peace and grounding within herself as she carries forward with her passions and her struggles. Will it help? We'll see. But I was reminded during this interview just how much a connection with another soul can renew my momentum and energy. And this has helped me to make some important decisions coming up in my own life.

Please check out my interview with Louise Sorel here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Should-less Relationship Principle #5: Friendship

It never fails to astound me how frequently people choose to be in relationships with people they don’t like. Why would someone voluntarily spend time with someone they can’t stand? To get to the bottom of this I think it important to once again explore what you have learned about what relationships “should” look like.

If you learned from parents or primary caretakers that two people in a relationship are meant to argue and “should” each other over and over, then you are likely to carry that idea into your own relationships as an adult. I have heard many people approach dating like an Olympic sport—there is competition over who is “better”, who is smarter, who makes more money, who is more successful. There are rules, there is game playing, and there are definitely winners and a losers.

Then, once in a relationship, the competition gets kicked up notch. Conflicts become the norm, arguing is the primary means of communication, and manipulation is the strategy for getting your “needs” met. These kinds of unions frequently employ high stakes drama, ie, screaming, yelling, door slamming, dish breaking, phone hanging-up, as a habitual form of expression.

A big problem with that is that high stakes drama is hard to sustain, and often has to be escalated in order for each member to achieve the “high” they felt last time. This is frequently the point when I see violence enter into a relationship. Hitting rarely comes out of the blue, it is usually a natural outgrowth of the kind of aggressive and competitive patterns described above. This is not to say that it is ever excusable or acceptable to batter a partner. But it is important that we understand the “shoulds” and aggressive communication styles that lead up to violence being introduced into a relationship, in order to prevent them from continuing.

The good news is there is a much easier and more enjoyable way to relate to others. What if you had a relationship with someone that was based in friendship, agreement, and honor? What if you and your significant other were able to drop the “shoulds” about one another and instead focused on respecting differences, creating a supportive union, and supporting each other’s hopes and dreams? What if your partner was best friend?

These are the goals of being in a should-less relationship. In many ways, having your primary partner as your best friend may seem counterintuitive. After all, isn’t your best friend usually the one to whom you would confess your secrets, your fears, your guilty pleasures? Yes, they would, and in a relationship void of “shoulds” there is possibility for this to happen as well.

Some key questions to clarify this are:

- Do I like my partner?
- Do I choose to spend spare time with my partner?
- If I’m upset or sad do I want to turn to my partner for comfort?
- If something great happens, do I want to tell my partner?
- When I’m sick, do I want my partner to take care of me?
- Do I feel just as loving and concerned about my partner as I do my friends or my pets?
- Do I trust my partner?
- Am I able to accept my partner’s point of view even when it is different from my own?
- Do I feel equal to my partner?
- Am I feeling happy when I’m with my partner?

If you answered “no” to one or more of the questions above, then you may seriously want to examine if this is the right person for you. Again, the goal of this blog isn’t to tell you who you “should” be with, but it is to give you some guidelines and tools for deciphering with whom you can happily and peacefully share your life. If you don’t like the person you are with, it can make it very difficult to experience the fun and enjoyment that you deserve.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Should-less Relationship Principle #4: Setting Your Own Rules

Should-less relationships create their own standards and set their own rules.

Way too often, we assume that the people we are dating and connecting with share the same values as ourselves. These values may include everything and anything from where to live, what to eat, what kind of friends to have, how to spend leisure time. They may also relate to values such as child rearing, monogamy, spending money, addressing medical care. If you are automatically assume that the person you are with has the same standards and priorities as yourself, then you could be in for a some disappointment.

Of course we always want to think that our way of doing things is definitely the “right” way to do it. You may have learned the toilet paper “should” get pulled from over the top, and your partner may be absolutely convinced it should be from under. It might be easy to laugh how such an issue can be a source of strife between two people, but then think about what happens when the conflict comes down to money, sex, or taking care of an elderly relative. How do you negotiate who is “right” and how things “should” be?

The obvious answer in a blog about living “should-less” is that there are no absolutely right or wrong answers to any of these issues. Or to put it another way, there is no rule book telling you and your partner how you should live, what you should do, and what decisions you should make. You and your significant other are completely responsible for figuring out together what standards and agreements you are going to follow. From toilet paper to toddlers, from marriage to monogamy, you are setting your self up for failure if you automatically assume your partner is going to follow the same set rules as yourself. Unless you are living in a cult or a compound (and then unlikely reading this), you are living in a diverse society where societal values and norms are changing constantly. If you want the satisfaction and peace that a loving relationship has to offer you, then you may wish to create a set of agreements and standards with your partner that is agreeable for both of you.

As an example:

Should-filled relationship:  You should come with me to visit my mother on Sunday, that’s simply what good people do.

Should-less relationship: I would like your company when I visit my mother on Sunday. I hope you’ll come with me. But either way I choose to be at peace and hope you’ll make the choice that is right for you.

In the “should-filled” example, the speaker is trying to use “should” and social conformity to control what their partner does. In the “should-less” example, the speaker accepts that their partner may or may not come with them, but respects them either way, knowing that there are no hard and fast rules about visiting someone’s mother that everyone in a diverse society will agree upon. The speaker is practicing acceptance, staying in the here-and-now, and taking full responsibility for her or his own mood state.

What do you think? Is this more "BS"? Or is there some merit to communicating and co-creating standards with your loved one? Please, discuss!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Feast of Fun!

I had such a fun time visiting Chicago this weekend, and talking with the wonderful wacky boys of Feast Of Fun. Fausto Fernos and Marc Felion took Matt and myself to Halsted Market Days, introduced us to some wonderful locals, and even took us partying with Kristine W.!

On the podcast you'll get to hear the four of us discuss issues related to Should-less relationships, as well as Amazon's privacy rules (or lack thereof?), a heart-warming story of a dog's homecoming, and discussions of which of your loved one's body part you'd like to use as an urn. Don't miss it!

Please press here to listen to it, and feel free to leave comments below!