You've got to ac-cent-thu-ate the positive E-lim-i-nate the negative Latch on to the affirmative Don't mess with Mister In Between
These guys knew what they were talking about. Almost a hundred years ago, but it’s just as true today as it was then and as it will be a hundred years from now. Because sound advice is timeless. Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative. A great rule to live by in general but especially so when it comes to romantic relationships.
I’ve worked with a lot of married couples, and the couples I’ve worked with who were in trouble all said basically the same thing. Some version of, We’ve grown apart. I don't know who he/she is anymore. And I say, How long have you been together? They say, Fifteen years. And I say, Are you the same person you were fifteen years ago? They say, Oh hell no, and laugh. And I say, But you’re surprised he/she has changed? They look at me kind of funny while they process that and then I say, You didn’t just grow apart, you lost your focus.
Yes, people change. Some smart person said, The only constant is change. We’re all changing all the time, our feelings change, our behaviors change, our desires, wants and needs change. Life happens around us and to us and the way we show up to manage it shapes and molds who we become. The same is true when we enter into a romantic relationship. The relationship itself takes on a life of its own and the way you show up and manage it shapes and molds what the relationship will become.
Of course it’s easy in the beginning. Those first three to six months, when you can’t get enough, when being apart from each other feels like drowning. But that part doesn’t last forever, at least not in the form we call Falling In Love. And it’s not supposed to last forever. Look, I don’t want to burst any bubbles, but the work we do here is about mastering our influence over the nervous system. And to do that we need to understand how and why the nervous system does what it does.
What we call Falling In Love is a nervous system event. Our brain is hardwired to do two things: Stay alive, and make mini versions of you. That’s it. It achieves those goals by creating feelings inside of us. Those feelings generate thoughts and together those thoughts and feelings drive the way we behave. When we fall in love with someone, our brain goes into reproduction mode. It floods our synapses with dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, all the good stuff, and we’re overwhelmed with feelings of love, joy, passion. Those feelings generate thoughts like, We were a single soul, separated and lost in the vast energy of the universe, and we’ve finally been reunited. And those kinds of thoughts lead to behaviors like public displays of affection that no one’s interested in seeing.
And everything’s perfect. Partly because you’re all doped up on those feelgood chemicals, but also because everyone’s on their best behavior, right? Everyone’s minding their p’s and q’s and putting their best foot forward. No one’s pooping with the bathroom door open. Because your brain and your nervous system are pulling out all the stops to make sure the two of you bond and get down to the business of starting a family. But eventually we come back down to earth and we bring all our old emotional patterns with us.
They may have been conveniently tucked away while we were on the amusement park ride of falling in love, but they’re going to settle right back into place because, when left untended, that’s what they do. One of the common mistakes I see is that people mistake those early days of love and joy as proof that the other person is the answer to all their problems. When those old emotional patterns and behavior patterns start rearing their ugly heads, it must be the other person's fault. They’ve changed. They’re not doing the thing that made me feel good. Nope, that’s all you, baby.
Our emotional patterns are as connected to us as our shadow. They run in the background like the operating system on your computer. Most people go through their lives completely unaware of them. They just feel and react. Which means they spend a lot of time with their nervous system on alert, and if there’s one thing the nervous system is expert at, it’s finding things to be afraid of. When we bring that to a relationship, it’s like laying a field with land mines then asking your partner to walk through it. And getting pissed off when they step on one.
Most of the time you won’t even know you’re doing it. Just your patterns doing their thing. (And, by the way, your partner is living out patterns of their own.) And now time is going by, and now you’re getting married, and now you’re having kids, and your relationship has developed patterns of its own. When a feeling like anger is present, or fear, it can be easy to fall into the belief that it’s because of something the other person is doing. Or not doing. Then there’s blame and resentment, and you’re wondering how the person who once burned like the sun at the center of your universe became the snoring lump in bed next to you.
The thing is, you don’t create what you intend, you create what you focus on. You intend to be a loving partner, to create a joyful, meaningful, fulfilled relationship. But if you’re not in tune with the nervous system, when that initial rush of new love subsides, you’ll go back to focusing on whatever old shit is swirling around in there. Unworthiness, shame, fear. Because your brain likes what’s familiar and what’s more familiar than the emotional patterns you’ve been living with since before you could even talk? So even though your intention is Happily Ever After, your nervous system is like, Not so fast, Sally, we’re soaking in our insecurities over here.
Pretty soon you’re focusing on all the things you think are wrong: He doesn’t look at me the way he used to; I can't think of the last time she brought me a cup of coffee; he used to bring me flowers. From there the inside voice goes to blame and criticism. Oh, I guess the laundry’s going to fold itself; Is snoring considered an irreconcilable difference?; If I find another GD sock on the floor, I swear I'm going to… These thoughts fuel emotions, the emotions drive the mind to create more similar thoughts and you fall into an emotion loop that just keeps cycling on itself.
The good news is, you can decide to do something different. With our Power of Focus training, you can learn to recognize when those old patterns are acting up, and you can reverse engineer the results you really want. Feelings of love, gratitude and connection. You can learn to quiet the nervous system and focus on what's right and good and plentiful and amazing about your person! When you put your focus there, the inside voice starts to pick up the tune and before you know it, you're thinking about what an exceptional dad he is and how he manages to keep such a calm, even keel even with all the estrogen flying around; how her unending optimism keeps things moving forward and brings joy to everyday life. And then you find yourself stealing a kiss as you pass in the hall.
That person who set your cockles on fire is still there, you just lost focus on what’s important. Maybe you both lost focus. But with some training, that giddy, new, wonderful love doesn’t just go away. It grows and evolves into the deepest kind of love we experience with another human being. So when you catch the mind misbehaving, think of that old song in your head:
You've got to ac-cent-thu-ate the positive E-lim-i-nate the negative
And get busy getting focused on what you want to create. In the meantime, join us for our Power Series and get your nervous system tuned up and aligned with the outcomes you want. The Power Series where we train the personality to behave, dammit! Click HERE to learn more and sign up today!