Deep look at romantic relationships. Neil’s autobiography of transformation from being a womanizing sex addict, through therapy, concluding with commitment to his girlfriend. But interlaced in his story are powerful lessons about relationships.
What it means to tell the truth: It is to give someone else her freedom, to allow her to have a reaction even if it leads to negative consequences for you, to give her the voice that lying takes away.
When you meet someone and feel like it’s love at first sight, run in the other direction. All that’s happened is that your dysfunction has meshed with their dysfunction.
The things that we’re the most resistant to are precisely what we need. And the things we’re most scared to let go of are exactly the ones we most need to relinquish.
Lying is about controlling someone else’s reality, hoping that what they don’t know won’t hurt you.
Intimacy is sharing your reality with someone else and knowing you’re safe, and them being able to share their reality with you and also be safe.
Addiction: If you grew up feeling unwanted by or unimportant to a parent, this is a sign that neglect likely occurred: This creates wounded children, who are often depressed and indecisive, see themselves as flawed and less valuable than others, and feel they can’t face the world alone. In relationships, they tend to have what’s called anxious attachment. They may feel like they’re not enough for their partners; become so wrapped up in their relationships that they lose sight of their own needs and self-worth.
A healthy relationship is when two individuated adults decide to have a relationship and that becomes a third entity. They nurture the relationship and the relationship nurtures them. But they’re not overly dependent or independent: They are interdependent, which means that they take care of the majority of their needs and wants on their own, but when they can’t, they’re not afraid to ask their partner for help.
Only when our love for someone exceeds our need for them do we have a shot at a genuine relationship together.
Tell my eight-year-old self that I’m firing his parents - and that from now on I’m taking care of him.
To be free: It’s the one feeling I never had growing up.
Anything that doesn’t bring you alive is too small for you.
For most men, what’s tougher than breaking up is the moment when their ex finally falls out of love with them and lets go, perhaps because it triggers a childhood fear - a psychological terror - of losing the first woman whose love they needed: their mother.
Seeing the person you love with someone else is the height of passion. “Yeah, but usually the passion it ignites in people is murderous.” That’s the point: It’s something that’s hard to deal with. And normally you would feel jealousy and anger. But if you can control it…
Theoretical nonmonogamy, which is when two people say they’re in an open relationship - but instead of actually sleeping with other people, they just get to feel free knowing they have the option to do so.
Any good Jungian therapist will tell you, you’re not supposed to repress the shadow in the first place. That’s when bad things happen. The goal is to integrate it.
In life, whoever has the strongest reality wins. Lose your moral certainty and lose the ground you stand on.
It’s not society that holds us back, it’s ourselves. We just blame society because not only is it easier but it’s a nearly impossible weight to move. This way, we don’t actually have to change.
I used to think that a good relationship meant always getting along. But the secret, I realize, is that when one person shuts down or throws a fit, the other needs to stay in the adult ego state. If both people descend to the wounded child or adapted adolescent, that’s when all the forces of relationship drama and destruction are unleashed.
As long as at least one partner is in the adult functional at any given time, most - if not all - arguments can be avoided.
The person in a relationship with the least amount of comfort does get to set the boundaries - even if she keeps changing the rules.
You can’t force a relationship to happen. You just have to make a space in your heart for one, then let go of all expectations, agendas, and control.
The positive side of rules: They provide clear, fixed boundaries that keep us feeling safe.
“How have you been treating yourself?” It’s the perfect therapist greeting: one with a message. It is not about what’s happening or what’s new or how life’s treating me.
Become a scientist of your own lows. If you’re in pain of the heart, enter into the pain and try to find its source rather than letting the pain drive you, or trying to escape from it or overcome it.
The only relationship that’s truly a failure is one that lasts longer than it should.
Addiction is something that hurts your life and spirit, that gets progressively worse, and that you can’t stop doing even though you know it’s not good for you? “I just realized that you’re a marriage addict.”
Managing feelings is like taming lions. No matter how successful you think you are, they’re still ultimately in control.
Let yourself be emptied out and deal with whatever comes up in the process.
People do lemon juice and cayenne pepper diets to clean out their insides, so why not a cleanse for the psyche? Then I can start consuming healthy thoughts and experiences.
Once your desires are fulfilled in your imagination, the need to live them out in real life suddenly doesn’t seem so urgent.
So if you could design the perfect relationship for yourself, what would it be?
I made a mistake by equating variety with freedom. I’m off all social and dating apps and websites. That’s freedom. Less than twenty people have my email address. That’s freedom. My phone barely makes a sound. That’s freedom.
Each day, I try to take care of the six core needs:
1. physical, by surfing and eating healthily
2. emotional, by allowing myself to experience and express feelings
3. social, by spending time with growth-minded friends
4. intellectual, by reading literature, listening to lectures, and, most importantly, simply listening more
5. spiritual, through transcendental meditation
Recognize when you are backsliding into a childish or adolescent behavior. Then pinpoint what old story is being triggered and tell yourself the truth of the situation. Let go of the lie.
Instead of saying “I’m never going to cheat again,” say, “Today, I’m not going to do that thing that makes me feel weak and shameful about myself again.”
You can’t have a relationship with someone hoping they’ll change. You have to be willing to commit to them as they are, with no expectations.
Communicate and maintain healthy boundaries. This means finding the proper balance of filtering and protecting your self, thoughts, feelings, time, and behaviors without either closing off behind walls, or becoming overwhelmed or overwhelming.
Ask yourself throughout the day, “What do I need to do in this moment to take care of myself?”
Be aware of what legitimate needs and wants you’re not attending to, and then take actions to meet them on your own - or ask your partner for help if you can’t.
No one can make you feel anything and you don’t make anyone feel a certain way. So don’t take on responsibility for your partner’s feelings and don’t blame your partner for yours. The most caring thing to do when they’re upset is simply to ask if they want you to listen, to give advice, to give them space, or to give them loving touch.
Whatever your decisions, actions, feelings, and thoughts throughout the day may be and whatever outcome they may lead to, if you are healthy, then they are ultimately healthy.
You can’t change a person unless they’re in diapers.
To paraphrase the relationship writer Harville Hendrix, the unconscious purpose of a long-term relationship is to finish childhood. Or, as psychiatrist Eric Berne puts it even more succinctly, “Love is nature’s psychotherapy.”
Relationships don’t require sacrifices. They just require growing up - and the ability to stop clinging to immature needs that are so tenacious, they keep the mature needs from getting met.
It takes hard, conscious, diligent work to genuinely change.
Any style of relationship is the right one, as long as it’s a decision made by the whole person and not the hole in the person.