If we were truly the same, then there’d be no magic, no mystery behind the life-changing connection that can truly be called “becoming one.”

But that is just no way to live. Even though we tried, it couldn’t last. Thankfully, we made it through the tough transition from forced sameness to balanced oneness. We learned that Bono from U2 was right, “We’re one, but we’re not the same.” Oneness means two different wholes coming together to form one, all the while retaining the separateness that makes the oneness so profound. If we were truly the same, then there’d be no magic, no mystery behind the life-changing connection that can truly be called “becoming one.” Believe me; you don’t want your oneness to mean sameness. Otherwise, you’ll be eliminating the very spaces between you and your spouse that make coming together meaningful and genuine. Your lives and choices would overlap out of obligation or fear of conflict; they wouldn’t continue to commingle out of the same individual “I do” that connected you initially.

Runkel, Hal Edward. The Self-Centered Marriage (p. 52). Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale. Kindle Edition.

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Rabbi Edwin Friedman: “The reason why most couples separate is because they were unable to separate.”

Oneness Means Having No Boundaries, No Separation, No Individuality.

Perhaps my favorite quote about marriage comes from Rabbi Edwin Friedman: “The reason why most couples separate is because they were unable to separate.” Edgy, playful, and right on the money, this quote sums up perfectly the self-centered, ScreamFree approach we’ve been discussing so far. The most successful couples are those who continually see themselves as two separate individuals, continually choosing to commingle, overlap, and join their lives. But Rabbi Friedman understood quite well the controversy of talking about healthy separation in marriage. As a rabbi, he hailed from a Jewish tradition that, perhaps more than any other religion, touts the idea that “The two shall become one.”

I also understand that notion, as a former church minister of, and still active follower in, the Judeo-Christian tradition. So I can tell you that neither Friedman nor I take it lightly when we challenge ideas of oneness. Let me first say that I still tout oneness as the ideal model for marriage. I really do. But as you can tell by now, I teach and try to live a oneness that is carefully defined. This is not a oneness built upon absolute sameness; it’s a oneness built upon a balance of separateness and togetherness. This is not a oneness built on two halves coming together to form one whole; it’s a oneness built on two self-centered wholes coming together to form something larger, something that paradoxically makes both wholes stronger as individuals. I will, indeed, be talking about and illustrating this model of oneness throughout the rest of this book. I will also lay out for you exactly what this looks like in real relationships, and teach you a step-by-step formula for making it happen in yours.

Runkel, Hal Edward. The Self-Centered Marriage (pp. 48-49). Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale. Kindle Edition.

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There’s a powerful tendency in long-term relationships to favor the predictable over the unpredictable.

In her excellent book Mating in Captivity, Esther Perel associates our quest for security with a deadening of passion:

There’s a powerful tendency in long-term relationships to favor the predictable over the unpredictable. Yet eroticism thrives on the unpredictable. Desire butts heads with habit and repetition … without an element of uncertainty there is no longing, no anticipation, no frisson.

There’s hard science to support this theory. In a recent study at the University of Michigan and SUNY–Stony Brook, researchers found a direct link between boredom in marriage and long-term decreased marital satisfaction. Scientists have concluded that the reason for this link lies in a lack of closeness. When couples become bored, or feel as if they are stuck in a rut, their level of closeness decreases significantly, which in turn decreases their overall satisfaction.

So, if trust and safety aren’t the cornerstones of a long, healthy, and exciting marriage, what are? Self-respect and self-representation, at the risk of rejection, are the essential qualities that can actually lead to a growing, vibrant marriage.

I can hear you now: Wait a minute … do you mean to tell me that feeling unsafe in my marriage is the key to happiness? Well, yes—to some extent. Allow me to unpack this a little. We’ve all heard that trust and safety are the essential qualities and goals of a committed, intimate relationship. When we enter a relationship, we tell ourselves, “I need to be able to trust you. I need to know that you’re going to be able to accept me and honor me, and I need that from you before I will entrust myself to you.” And some of this is helpful. After all, Jesus was right in his admonition not to cast your pearls before swine. But here’s the problem: How many hoops does your spouse have to go through before he’s proven that he’s not a pig? And what happens if he does earn that approval, then breaks it once? Then how many more hoops does he have to jump through? It is a myth to think that trust can be earned. It’s never earned. It can never be fully earned. At some point, no matter how trustworthy someone appears to be, you still have to take a risk in revealing yourself to him/her. You still have to confront your feelings of insecurity, your lack of trust, in order to open yourself up to another.

We’ve all done this in one form or another. We keep score with our spouses to make sure that things are even. To make sure that no one is taking advantage of us. To make sure that we are withholding just enough to keep ourselves … you guessed it … safe. But safe is dead in a marriage. What keeps a marriage alive is risk. What keeps a marriage breathing in life is adventure and mystery in the form of risky self-representation—without knowing how your spouse is going to respond. Digest those words very carefully, because you’re about to explore them fully in chapter 3.

Runkel, Hal Edward. The Self-Centered Marriage (pp. 47-48). Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale. Kindle Edition.

Runkel, Hal Edward. The Self-Centered Marriage (p. 46). Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale. Kindle Edition.

Runkel, Hal Edward. The Self-Centered Marriage (pp. 45-46). Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale. Kindle Edition.

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Getting the validation you seek is your responsibility,

It is not your spouse’s job to meet these “needs” any more than it’s your spouse’s job to take care of your physical body. Getting the validation you seek is your responsibility, and true validation is not something you seek from another; it derives from a strength of character within that allows you to serve another … without needing them to serve you in return.

And fully realizing such truth frees you and your spouse to live up to your vows. After all, you said “I do” to a number of commitments that require a lot of inner strength and self-validation. “I do promise to love and cherish you … for better and worse, through rich times and poor, through sickness and health … until death do us part.”

You said “I do,” not … “We do.” You said “I do,” not … “as long as you do, I do.” You said “I do,” for life. And that “I do” is what gets you through times when you don’t feel like it, when your spouse isn’t sharing the same spirit, when you’re tempted to run because your needs don’t feel met. The “I do” spirit is exactly what will lead you to grow as a spouse, and grow closer to your spouse, without waiting for him/her to make a reciprocal move. And that’s why this book is called The Self-Centered Marriage. The first word you said in marriage was “I,” and that is the word that will lead you to the type of passionate, lasting connection we all crave.

Runkel, Hal Edward. The Self-Centered Marriage (p. 44). Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale. Kindle Edition.

Runkel, Hal Edward. The Self-Centered Marriage (pp. 43-44). Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale. Kindle Edition.

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Of course, as we’re looking to our spouse to continue that magical validating experience,

Of course, as we’re looking to our spouse to continue that magical validating experience, our spouse is looking to us to provide the exact same thing. That’s why it’s so easy to fall into patterns of complete emotional dependence on one another, especially after the newness of our mutual attraction wears off. But needing to feel needed by another is not authentic validation; it’s actually a symbol of our lack of authentic validation. That’s because, ultimately, validation is an inside job. Validation is only authentic and lasting when it comes from within.

I love the way Dr. David Schnarch puts it in his remarkable book Passionate Marriage. He talks brilliantly about how we can all be divided into two camps—those seeking connection whose validation comes from their spouse, and those seeking connection who are grown-up enough to seek validation from within themselves. He even provides two contrasting statements to highlight the difference:

Other-validated intimacy “sounds” like this: “I’ll tell you about myself, but only if then you tell me about yourself. If you don’t, I won’t either. But I want to, so you have to. I’ll go first and then you’ll be obligated to disclose—it’s only fair. And if I go first, you have to make me feel secure. I need to be able to trust you!”

Self-validated intimacy in long-term relationships sounds quite different: “I don’t expect you to agree with me; you weren’t put on the face of this earth to validate and reinforce me. But I want you to love me—and you can’t really do that if you don’t know me. I don’t want your rejection—but I must face that possibility if I’m ever to feel accepted or secure with you. It’s time to show myself to you and confront my separateness and mortality. One day when we are no longer on this earth, I want to know you knew me.”

Runkel, Hal Edward. The Self-Centered Marriage (pp. 42-43). Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale. Kindle Edition.

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Each of us has played a major role in perpetuating the negative patterns we complain about.

I thought of you when I read this quote from “The Self-Centered Marriage: The Revolutionary ScreamFree Approach to Rebuilding Your “We” by Reclaiming Your “I”” by Hal Edward Runkel, Jenny Runkel – “

When we begin to willingly focus on ourselves, when we see and feel the self-destructive power of such emotional reactivity, we begin to see and feel everything differently. We recognize that each of us has had a strong hand in creating the very outcomes we were hoping to avoid. Each of us has played a major role in perpetuating the negative patterns we complain about. We also recognize that without one partner having the calm clarity of mind to stop this kind of destructive cycle, there’s usually no end to it in sight.

See, it’s good news to know that you’re a powerful, creative actor in your own life, even if you’re learning how your own knee-jerk reactions have created powerfully negative patterns. This is good news because it means, quite simply, that you also have the power to stop those patterns and create new, positive interactions instead. It’s also good news to learn about the power of screaming, because that means, quite simply, that all you have to do is stay calm.

Perhaps this means setting aside your resentments about your wife’s lack of expressed appreciation, and instead making an honest list of all the things you appreciate about her, and sending that list to her … without needing her to reciprocate in any way.

Runkel, Hal Edward. The Self-Centered Marriage (pp. 31-32). Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale. Kindle Edition.

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Then he spoke. Softly, but surely. “Let’s be careful right now.”

I thought of you when I read this quote from “The Self-Centered Marriage: The Revolutionary ScreamFree Approach to Rebuilding Your “We” by Reclaiming Your “I”” by Hal Edward Runkel, Jenny Runkel – “

It was exactly in such a moment, that moment, that Felipe then did something remarkable. Nothing huge, mind you, but remarkable. He obviously wanted this relationship to work. After a calming pause, with both great restraint and great pursuit, Felipe gently reached for his fiancée’s hand. Then he spoke. Softly, but surely. “Let’s be careful right now.” That’s all he said. In reality, that’s all he needed to say. This is because Gilbert immediately knew what her fiancé was doing. She knew exactly what he meant. See, a couple of years before that, the two of them had been in a similar situation, leading to a similar argument. But just as the tone in that encounter was turning nasty, and they were beginning to question the relationship’s very survival, Felipe paused and said, “Let’s be careful.” “Of what?” Gilbert had asked at that time. “Let’s just be careful of what we say to each other for the next few hours,” Felipe explained. “These are the times, when people get tired like this, when fights can happen. Let’s just choose our words very carefully …” Since that initial episode, both Gilbert and Felipe had occasionally used this calming interjection to stop a reactive pattern—and pursue something more response-able. “Let’s be careful right now.” Care-full, indeed. Now back on that bus in Laos. As it had before, Felipe’s calm interjection this time managed to stop their negative, reactive pattern in its tracks—and created the possibility for something new. Gilbert no longer wanted to fight, because it is just too exhausting to fight with someone who refuses to get reactive. Felipe’s calm became calming.

” Start reading this book for free: https://a.co/cq9L7lP

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The most powerful force you can introduce into your marriage is the simple power of calm.

I thought of you when I read this quote from “The Self-Centered Marriage: The Revolutionary ScreamFree Approach to Rebuilding Your “We” by Reclaiming Your “I”” by Hal Edward Runkel, Jenny Runkel – “

The most powerful force you can introduce into your marriage is the simple power of calm. By centering on yourself, by staying both calm and connected, you have the power to stop any argument in its tracks, identify and change any dysfunctional pattern, and transform any relationship into one you’ve always dreamed about. By just staying calm and connected, you can remain focused on adhering to your principles instead of clinging to your anxieties. By staying calm and present, you can become a calming presence for your marriage and your whole family. I want you to imagine yourself as such a calming presence. Your wife attacks you verbally, for instance, accusing you of a slew of wrongs—some accurate, most not. With a careful pause, you calmly reply, “Honey, thank you for telling me; believe it or not I really do want to know how you feel. Please tell me more about how you really feel about all of this.” Your spouse is dumbstruck, not knowing who you are, or what she’s supposed to do next.

” Start reading this book for free: https://a.co/4RD1k4T

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You don’t want to change your spouse, you want your spouse to want to change.

I thought of you when I read this quote from “The Self-Centered Marriage: The Revolutionary ScreamFree Approach to Rebuilding Your “We” by Reclaiming Your “I”” by Hal Edward Runkel, Jenny Runkel – “

You don’t want to change your spouse, you want your spouse to want to change. You want it to be his decision. You want him to want to change his housecleaning habits. You want her to want to give you more compliments. You want him to want to grow up whenever Mom comes to town. That way you can still respect him as an equal, independent partner, choosing to act differently on his own—not just because you asked him to. And, believe it or not, that’s the real power of focusing on ourselves, of becoming more “self-centered.” See, when you are actively centered on yourself, you are more conscious of your own behavior than your spouse’s. You’re more concerned about knowing and representing your real feelings and desires than you are with getting your spouse to do the same. And most important, you are most concerned with staying calm and connected, making sure that, at the very least, you are not reactively contributing to the very patterns you want to avoid. When focusing on yourself and staying calm is your number one priority, you learn how to push your own pause button. You learn to create a space for yourself between stimulus—your spouse pushing your buttons—and your response. That way you can then choose what you do next, out of your highest principles and desires, rather than simply react without thinking. And the best part? Creating such a pause for yourself, in turn, creates a new space for your partner to do the same. By simply creating a small pause, a calm, centered spouse can transform any marriage into a deeper, lifelong connection. I honestly and absolutely believe that, and that’s why I’m writing this book.

” Start reading this book for free: https://a.co/7cm38Ay

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… you have to learn to focus on yourself.

I thought of you when I read this quote from “The Self-Centered Marriage: The Revolutionary ScreamFree Approach to Rebuilding Your “We” by Reclaiming Your “I”” by Hal Edward Runkel, Jenny Runkel – “

But applying this model of relating with others is definitely possible. And it all begins with one shift. As I said at the beginning, you have to learn to focus on yourself. Obviously, not in a “I only care about myself” kind of way. That type of self-absorbed approach is not at all what we’re talking about. Truth be told, being self-absorbed is not focusing on yourself, it’s getting others to focus on you. Whenever we need others to think, feel, or act a certain way to suit our own needs, we are focusing on others for our own benefit, and that’s the height of self-absorption. See, being self-absorbed is not being “self-centered,” it is actually being other-centered. It’s centering on others so that you can either get them to focus on you or get them into a mood—or get them to behave in a way—that makes you feel better.

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Plus 3 yellow quotes next page.

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