The (Almost) Inevitable Relationship Life Cycle

Category: Men and Relationship 

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Why most relationships simply won’t make it and how to avoid that fate…

 

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World
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As is turns out, most committed relationships travel through a fairly predictable arc with respect to changes in partners’ mutual fulfillment over time. And if they make it long enough to reach retirement there are two basic outcomes: a rekindling of their intimacy or “failure” reflected in either physical separation or just settling. Unfortunately, the failure mode is by far the likely outcome for most couples. This is because there are powerful innate forces that impact every aspect of every relationship. Forces that, if left unchecked, practically guarantees they will eventually lose the mutual fulfillment that brought them together in the first place.

Thankfully, there is a way to avoid this near inevitability. However, it first requires being aware of these inherent influences on your relationship. Then taking appropriate steps to repurpose their energy in a way that results in substantially increased fulfillment the longer you are together. I know, this is a very bold claim –but stay with me on this…

Six Stages of the Relationship Life Cycle

For every committed (i.e. long-term) relationship, there are six primary stages that impact partners’ experience of mutual fulfillment as depicted in the following chart:

(click image to see full sized version)

(click image to see full-sized version)

Here is a more detailed explanation of each stage:

  1. Courtship – this is the exciting “getting to know each other” stage. This is typically experienced as an exciting adventure often accompanied with the potential promise of a wonderful and fulfilling life together.
  2. Honeymoon – assuming courtship leads to commitment, couples enter into the well-known honeymoon stage. For the vast majority of couples, this represents the pinnacle of their mutual fulfillment and can last anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of years.
  3. Internal Stressors – once the thrill of the honeymoon period wears off, routine, distraction and gender differences start to erode mutual fulfillment. I call these internal stressors because they are something each partner has control over once they are aware of them.
  4. External Stressors – significant further diminishment of mutual satisfaction can occur when the relationship is impacted by external stressors such as career, finances, health issues, and most notably, having children. Without appropriate checks in place, these have the potential of creating deep emotional wounding between the partners with a subsequent and proportional impact to their sense of mutual fulfillment. Clearly, it is very possible (and common) to experience high levels of personal fulfillment surrounding one’s children, career etc. while your committed partnership is far less than desired. In fact, a big trap is to focus on external fulfillment as a distraction or replacement for lack of fulfillment within one’s intimate relationship.
  5. Stagnation – this is the stage where partners just keep things together as best as they can hopefully long enough for the external stressors to pass (i.e. retirement, kids leave home, etc.) This is also often the most likely stage where couple’s therapy is sought to address long-brewing conflicts and the lack of intimacy and fulfillment.
  6. Maturation – in most cases, this represents the final stage of the relationship and has three possible outcomes:
    • Rekindling – this is where the partners re-ignite the love and passion they had during earlier stages of their relationship leading to incrementally greater levels of mutual fulfillment. However, this rarely leads to achieving the same degree of fulfillment as experienced during the honeymoon stage.
    • Settling – this is one version of relationship failure where couples stay together out of convenience. Either for financial reasons or unwillingness to get out of their comfort zone that would inevitably happen during a breakup.
    • Termination – this is the second version of relationship failure where a couple decides to no longer be together primarily due to unresolvable conflict and deep emotional wounding.

It is important to note that the Maturation stage can occur any time after the honeymoon stage of the relationship cycle. Also, both internal and external stressors impacting relationships are cumulative and ongoing. For example, just because a couple transitions from internal stressors to external ones doesn’t mean the internal ones go away. In fact, unless proactively addressed, they only tend to become more deleterious over time.

Of course, all of this begs the question as to why most committed relationships seem to follow this progression. And, is there anything that can be done to interrupt this apparent fait accompli?

The Default Human Sexual Operating System

The default human Sexual Operating System (S.O.S.) is a collection of genetic and culturally based drives, beliefs and behaviors, primarily for the purpose and support of procreation, that has significant influence on nearly all aspects of intimate relationships. It is a model of human intimate behavior that very successfully predicts the stages and potential outcomes of typical committed relationships. Its significant power to negatively impact relationship behavior and outcomes is due to our inherent procreative imperative –collective survival of the species. And this is whether children are desired or not.

Its impact on intimate relationships can be summed up this way:

The way men and women are biologically and culturally “wired”, which is primarily for propagation purposes, gets in the way of the deeper emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy their hearts yearn for.

Essentially, most couples enter into committed relationships to achieve a deep sense of connection (i.e. intimacy) on all levels, only to be waylaid by the largely unconscious influence of the default S.O.S.

The value of a good model doesn’t end with its predictive powers. It should also provide insight on how to achieve positive outcomes. In this case, this means having a committed relationship in which mutual fulfillment continues to improve over time, rather than diminish.

Fortunately, the Sexual Operating System model provides us with this ability…

Imagine Your Honeymoon as the Starting Point of Mutual Fulfillment

What I am about to share with you next may be difficult to accept. However, I assure you that not only is it possible, my Partner and I are living proof of it. We have been together now for nearly four years (well beyond the typical honeymoon period) and our sense of mutual fulfillment on all levels (emotional, sexual and spiritual) only continues to increase.

As incredible as our honeymoon period was, it actually represents the low point of our mutual fulfillment. The following chart illustrates our continuing experience:

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(click on image to see full sized version)

And, this is not by accident. We very consciously and assiduously apply our knowledge of the default S.O.S. to the point we able to “upgrade” it. Essentially, by upgrading our S.O.S. we have learned to leverage these inherent drives and modify our beliefs and behaviors resulting in a virtuous spiral of steadily increasing mutual fulfillment. This doesn’t imply we are immune to internal and external stressors. It simply means we have learned, thanks to our understanding of the default S.O.S., how to mitigate them before they cause any lasting damage.

You can learn more about what we did to achieve this in the following articles. They delve more deeply into the human Sexual Operating System model and how to leverage it for maximum sustainable fulfillment within your own relationship:

Your Relationship Firewall

The Sexual Operating System model of human intimate behavior represents a powerful and fundamental breakthrough concerning committed relationships. It is most effective however for those relationships that have yet to experience significant emotional wounding. In other words, it is best used to prevent this wounding in the first place and provide a path to ever-increasing levels of mutual fulfillment. It is not well suited to “fix” broken relationships wracked by deep divides which typically requires intensive couples’ therapy.

Think of it this way. By learning about your S.O.S. and how to upgrade it you essentially create a nearly impenetrable “firewall” protecting your relationship from ultimate failure (either settling or breakup). And, you set yourselves up for levels of emotional and sexual fulfillment that most couples can barely imagine possible.

The key, however, is not to wait until the fires of relationship wounding already start consuming the most important and fulfilling experience of your life.

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About the Author

Michael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women, and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:         MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:             Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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New Warrior: a poem

Category: Poetry 

by Julien Devereux

From a long line of warriors
I came to reclaim my own, my father’s, grandfather’s and ancestors
Souls from hell.

Men whose dying wish, to gently love those who loved them, was never fulfilled.
It takes a lifetime for a man to become wise.
We need a new kind of warrior who is wise at birth,
Raised by a woman who nurtures and loves.
Taught by men who have been taught how to live for a cause instead of only die for one.

Men who understand how to father, because they have one,
Here and above.
Men who live in bodies they love
Taught by a mother who loves her own
And the earth on which she stands.

It will take a new kind of warrior who understands that the battle is within.
His fierceness comes not from his raging wounds
But from the courage to do what is essential
To create the world which he envisions that must be.

Julien

Julien Devereux is the 2016 MKP USA Chairman and Leads the Curriculum Development, Risk Managment and Equitable Community Initiative for the Mankind Project USA. Julien also is a certified trainer in Integrative Breathwork, Gender Reconciliation and completed his PhD at California Institute of Integral Studies in Transformative Studies in 2012. Julien has been a licensed social worker, addictions therapist, business coach, clinical consultant and supervisor over the past 30 years. Currently retired most of the work he does is pro bono for organizations like MKP USA, Directions 12, and Burning Tree Programs. Julien is married to Barbara Devereux for 43 years and has two daughters Michelle and Annie. His mission is to create a joyful and compassionate universe by loving life and exercising his freedom.

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Relationships on Autopilot Will Crash Everytime

Category: Men and Relationship 

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The last thing you want to do when your relationship is going smoothly is put it on “autopilot”…

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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Anyone who commutes to work has had the experience of arriving at the office and not even remembering the process of getting there. The first time you become aware of it having happened, it is frankly a bit scary. However, our brains are wired so that we can complete repetitive and complex processes without even being conscious of our actions. This is our “autopilot” mode. And while it can be useful for some circumstances, driving our relationships is certainly not one of them. Yet, this is how many couples behave much of the time, and to no good end.

I’ve Have It Handled

I distinctly remember during my marriage how important it was to make sure things were “handled”. This meant: providing food, clothing and shelter for the family (check), spending time with the kids so they grew up well adjusted (check), spending time with my wife so she felt attended to (check) and so on. It wasn’t until years later, well after my marriage had crumbled, that I realized I had put all those “things” on autopilot. Why? Supposedly so I could focus fully on my career to ensure a reasonable lifestyle and that our children could go to the best schools.

It was almost like running a business. I didn’t have to pay too much focused attention to anything as long as it appeared to be running smoothly. Only when a problem surfaced within the family or relationship did I show my full attention. In essence, if there was no fire to put out, everything must be fine which means I was freed up to do the “more important” things.

It eventually became clear that what I was really doing was avoiding being fully present and aware for the most important people in my life. Even now, it still pains me deeply to realize just how unconscious I was during that time in my life.

Relationship is Based Upon Presence, Not Process

Just a few days ago my Partner and I had an interesting exchange. She was being rather emphatic about the importance of novelty and new experiences within any relationship to keep it fresh and exciting. After pondering this a bit I responded with “Yes, however, even the pursuit of novelty can become a means to avoid being in the present moment for each other.” Think about it. Any process, even those designed to instill exciting variety, can become routine if it is not done within the context of being fully present and aware. It’s like thrill-seekers who are always pushing their boundaries for the next bigger rush of adrenaline. It’s a hole that can never be filled –it only makes it bigger, and often, more dangerous.

Being on autopilot is the very antithesis of being present. Being fully present, whether for your significant other or for life in general, means you are willing to face the uncertainties that come with it. When you are Present, you really don’t know what will come next –which is something our older, survival-imperative, lizard brains simply cannot handle well.

Being Present Is Not a Skill – It’s a Disciplined State of Being

We humans are exquisitely engineered to learn new things –it is one of our strongest survival traits. When we first start to learn a new skill, say typing or a musical instrument, we are consciously incompetent. In the beginning we are acutely aware of just how inept we are. The more we practice, the better we become until we reach the point of beingconsciously competent. We become good at it but it still requires being 100% focused.

If we keep practicing beyond that we may eventually reach that most sought after level of proficiency: unconsciously competent –that is, we don’t even have to think about it to do it superbly well. It is where the autopilot kicks in.

While mastery of any process or skill takes time, sometimes even years, Presence can happen instantly. That’s because it is a state of Being, rather than a process of doing, that only requires your conscious choiceto achieve and maintain it. And by definition being fully present, for yourself and others (especially your significant other), requires 100% full awareness. This is something our culture unfortunately conspires to help us avoid via a nearly an infinite array of available distractions.

Routine: Autopilot’s Second Cousin

Relationships often go down the road of routine to eventually end up being on autopilot. Routines are like little processes that we have “mastered” to make our life easier, hassle-free, and less bothered by that scariest of all monsters: uncertainty.

Think about your own intimate relationship and be brutally honest. What parts of it have become routine? Maybe you and your Life Mate have already seen the first signs and made an effort to change your ways, make things more interesting and novel. If so, then you may have fallen into another trap: the very act of pursuing a “doing” to spice things up will ultimately lead to more disappointment and frustration. I contend that no amount of “doing” can ever be enough for the long-term health and survival of an intimate relationship. It requires the discipline of Presence. And believe me, it is a discipline –one that can never go on autopilot otherwise it instantly vanishes.

If you think of your most significant intimate relationship as a work of art, you will see that it requires embracing the unknown and uncertainty concomitant with any creative endeavor. It also requires being fully present to allow the beauty of your mutual creation to blossom and reveal itself. And when you do you will find that no longer are you both driving mindlessly down the road of relationship mediocrity. Instead, you are on the most exciting and exhilarating adventure of your lives. An adventure you can choose to experience, right now.

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About the Author

MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150Michael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:         MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:             Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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Riverbed – a song by Patrick Mureithi

Category: Poetry 


by Patrick Mureithi

It followed me from evening to morning
chased me through the seasons of the day
chipped away my weapons and defenses
till unto my brother I did say
“Pray for my soul it has grown weary
heavy is the armor over me
it’s not the hand of man to reach and save me
but the hand that loves eternally”

Find me in the morning
awaiting for you to say
“I am but an empty earthen vessel
keen me to your guidance Lord I pray”
Yes, the admonition is to listen
though the summer fields turn to snow
trust me my child, my precious darling
we are never ever alone

Hold this firm from evening to morning
though may tribulation come your way
in the hills is where you’ll find your power
among the trees and riverbed I say
Hold this firm from evening to morning
though may tribulation come your way
in the hills is where you’ll find your power
among the trees and riverbed I say

patrickmureithi

Patrick Mureithi is a documentary filmmaker, musician and public speaker. He has produced, filmed and edited “ICYIZERE:hope,” a feature-length documentary about a gathering of 10 survivors and 10 perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, as they learn about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and go through a series of group exercises that are designed to build trust. His most recent documentary, “Kenya: Until Hope is Found,” was inspired by his experience in Rwanda. It is a film about forgiveness and reconciliation after the 2007/8 Post-Election Violence that left more than 1,200 dead and 500,000 displaced from their homes. Before he passed away, film critic Roger Ebert called “Kenya: Until Hope is Found” “an urgent documentary by a filmmaker I admire.”

After more than a decade-long hiatus due to an arm injury, Patrick has reentered the music world with his 10-song debut album, This I Believe. It is a melange of Delta blues, folk, reggae, and hip-hop, with songs that range from hopeful to forlorn to whimsical, all deeply spiritual. Ten songs, written over the past decade, feature Patrick playing acoustic guitar, slide guitar and ukulele.”

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What Are You Afraid Of? Remember It’s A Choice.

by Randall Rogers, Reprinted with Permission

afraidI’ll tell you now, before you’re in too deep, there’s genuine ugliness in this article. I am writing for myself, and, to paint a picture of growing up in innocent Minneapolis, Minnesota in the 60’s. A place that according to Governor Dayton, this past week, “might have to accept that there still is ‘racism’.”

I was raised by a man who was a bigot, a racist, a misogynist and a homophobe – and he had a hell of a smile. He died just a few years ago at the age of 87. He was 10 during the Great Depression. He served in the military and was stationed in Japan during the Korean War, he was a carpenter who did amazing work with humble tools and a high school education. He died a bitter, angry man convinced that God had betrayed him (if there was a God) and that life had given him the short end of the stick.

I mention some of these specifics because, well, they are true; but more than that, because they are reflected in the choices and words of this man and formed his reality as well as the messages I received growing up.

As a father figure he taught me, by means of sharing his viewpoints and life experience, many things about navigating the world. For example: I had a couple of bi-racial buddies in High School but, they couldn’t come to the house because my sister might ‘like’ them and that would be disastrous. He generally did not trust ‘niggers’, they were the ones always gaming the system. He often closed his blinds so they couldn’t see into his home. But, it was not just white/black racism. He was more egalitarian than that.

Serving in the U.S. Army gave him powerful anecdotal stories and support for his fear about others as well. His stories included the Jewish bunk mate who never paid back the money he loaned him, the Italian with the longest dick he ever saw who always got the girls, the black woman at the pub that all the men in his group took turns with to her delight.

That brings me to dating. He was a specialist in this area as well. At 16, he often told me, “if women didn’t have a hole they’d be totally worthless’, and ‘if you’re not fucking her, you’re out of your mind’. He was a fan of the “C” word and for years I foolishly expressed my disgust when ever he would use it. These were invitations for him to double down, I was for sure a “pussy”. I eventually stopped saying anything.

Less overt and offensive but, equally destructive was his advice on enduring relationships with women. “Women can’t be trusted”, “You should never be completely honest with your wife”, “Men and women just really don’t understand one another”. Or, more simply, “You just don’t understand me”. The primary offense and place to hide.

At 56, I am pretty clear most days on the abusiveness of this primary relationship in my life. I think, most of the time, that he was exceptional in his bitterness and fear of others – his fear that he would not “measure up”. And, when I see the hatred and the fear-mongering in the social media today, the name calling, the intolerance, the vitriol. When I hear the rhetoric of Trump sold as fact, the crimes of the “other” always the root of my problems, then I wonder just how exceptional. Maybe its more mainstream than I want to believe.

After years of therapy, counseling and working with other men on issues of honesty, authenticity and integrity, I look at my father and see the projections, judgements and the way fear formed his popular narrative. In various ways he believed to be real, he was a ‘victim’ of these other groups, including women. His own Fear of inadequacy made much of this more real and framed the view of the world he handed to me. Did anyone hand you their view of the world?

So, it is with humility that I acknowledge I have Fear. I Fear being like my father. I have fear, that in the quiet moments, despite the work I have done, that underneath, I still have these default positions lying dormant in my very cells. It is because of that Fear I resolve every day to be curious and inquisitive and tolerant of others. I host monthly conversations to get real about both the big and little twists in this human tale. I resolve to look in the mirror daily to take stock of the man I have become and what I do with the information that comes my way. It is a daily choice, after all.

I have another fear. A fear of being so damn honest. Of using the word “nigger”, even to make a point. It sits right next to the belief that if we, as a society, can’t get honest about the ugly stuff, we aren’t really ready to do anything about it.

I have anger. Anger that after watching so much systemic racism and bigotry in our daily culture – both subtle and glaring. Anger that in the face of countless police shootings, after decades of policy choices that preserve and ensure systemic racism and inequality – that someone has the nerve to suggest that, well, yes there might be an issue with a few bad police regarding racism.

And relief that someone in a publicly elected position finally said, “we might have to accept that there still is ‘racism’.” Maybe there is hope.

Wild Man

Used with permission from the Lair of the Wildman Facebook Page, a page dedicated to the Archetype of the Wild Man. Part myth, full of gold and shadow, this character and voice is the birthright of all men.

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Find Time or Find Someone Else

Category: Men and Relationship 

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Nearly everyone is stressed for time and here’s how to avoid having your relationship fall apart because of it.

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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Recently I was interviewed on camera by a highly regarded relationship coach where we discussed many issues surrounding sex and intimacy. The part where things became, well… “interesting” was when I talked about how critical it was for couples to set aside at least a two or more hours of unbroken intimate time together each week without any distractions whatsoever. He proceeded to play the Devil’s Advocate and said that it simply wasn’t practical in today’s extremely stressed and busy life style. And how I responded to his protestations took him by surprise…

2 Hour Lovemaking!? You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me!

My partner and I are both very busy people with our own businesses. And like most entrepreneurs, free time is at a high premium. Yet when we make love it is for a minimum of 2 – 4 hours at a time. When I mentioned this to my role-playing host, he practically did a double-take and said that couples today barely have time for 15 minutes of lovemaking. He even implied that most couples wouldn’t *want* to make love for hours even if they had the time (really?)

Now clearly, “quickies” are not for us (nor am I even capable of them given that I’m clinically impotent). So we schedule our extended intimate encounters each week. As unromantic as that sounds, nothing could be further from the truth. Imagine for a moment how your partner will feel about you (and your impending intimate encounter) when she or he knows that you care so much about them that you actually scheduled your most intimate time together. Your actions send the loudest message ever: “I care more about you and our relationship than anything else –period!” Despite that romantic notion, he still was far from convinced.

Too Exhausted, Want Time with the Kids, blah, blah, blah…

At this point he pulled out all the stops and said (again, playing a role) that he worked 18 hours a day and would simply be too exhausted to even contemplate that kind of intimate session with his wife. After admitting that his crushing work schedule didn’t include Sundays I suggested he set aside two hours during that day each week. To which he replied that was the day he wanted to focus solely on his kids because he essentially ignored them the rest of the week. Let’s see… guilt-atonement vs. intimacy –boy, that’s a tough one.

The excuses he used are very similar to the ones I incorporated into my own marriage. One that ended up in failure where the last 11 years together we were no more than roommates. And what I find interesting looking back on it all is that my excuses for not scheduling time just for my wife and I were all socially sanctioned –I was being a great provider, good dad and faithful husband. Yet our failure to have the discipline (yes, it is a discipline) to insist on extended intimate time for each other at least once a week essentially doomed our relationship in its early years after the “honeymoon” period was over.

And you want to know what is so ironic about this? I actually told my wife just after we decided to have kids (a powerful intimacy killer if there ever was one) that we should *never* forget who is bringing them into this world. We are the core of the family and we must always strive to honor that and each other. Well, we forgot it pretty quickly and that was the start of a long parade of wounds that eventually did us in.

The Ultimate Question

After listening to all his reasons for not being able to schedule at least two hours of uninterrupted intimacy with his wife, I finally had enough and asked him the ultimate question: “Are you telling me you can’t set aside just two hours a week to intimately be with the most important person in your life?” He became very quiet after that one.

 

Here’s the thing, there is *always* time for the important things in life –we all know that –your partner knows that. Do you go to the gym regularly? Do you go out with your buddies regularly? Do you watch TV or cruise the Internet on a regular basis? You get the idea. By not scheduling time for the most important person in your life your actions are effectively saying all those other things are more important. Even if your partner agrees with you (they are likely time / energy stressed too) the message makes its mark just the same.

Reality Can Bite or it Can Be Blissful

If you are in a committed relationship and have read this far you have already gone beyond the point of no return (sorry!) This means you are now (for the moment anyway) fully aware of the potential poisoning effect of not setting aside significant intimate time for you and your partner at least on a weekly basis.

If you are still struggling with the notion of how to find this kind of time for your significant other, it may be a sign that serious relationship counseling is in order. Or, it’s time to consider that this person may not be the right one for you. You both deserve to have a life partner who is more important than any other thing or person on the planet and who sees you the same way. It is well worth considering whether the one you are with now is that person or not. And if they are, I implore you to discipline yourselves right now to set aside that time together each week. If you do, I think you will find that your honeymoon period will re-ignite and only glow brighter as you go through this life together. When that happens, *everything* else looks brighter and better also.

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About the Author

MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150Michael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:         MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:             Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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How to Not Let Your Kids Destroy Your Intimacy

Category: Men and Relationship 

Here’s how to avoid your bundles of joy from absolutely shredding your relationship…

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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I remember so clearly how wonderful things were with my wife and I for the first three years of our marriage. Though we were working ungodly hours every day building a successful business together, we loved every minute of it. And, we NEVER fought. I also remember telling her, as we prepared to have children, we must always be aware that it is our special bond and relationship that is bringing them into the world. This beautiful, essential thing we have together must never become diminished in any way just because we are having kids. So romantic, so idealistic, so… wrong.

EVERYTHING Changes With Kids

Right. Well that pep talk went right out the window with a whack on the bottom of our beautiful first born daughter as she cried out in no uncertain terms that she has just arrived in our world. And things just went downhill from there.

Like most new parents, we had no idea on what to expect with this new bundle of joy (despite all the books we read). On top of all that refined cluelessness, our new daughter made things so much more interesting by being incessantly colicky. She just would not stop crying unless one of us held and gently rocked her –like all the freak’n time. Just perfect for those come-hither glances I gave my wife when I was feeling frisky (which was all the time too) only to have her return with the “You’ve GOT to be kidding me!” stare. One that included the oh-so subtle but supremely effective subtext of “You selfish bastard –how can you possibly be thinking about sex when our daughter is in distress!”. As a side note to new dads, never EVER argue with or even try to calm your wife down when she hears the baby cry. Her mothering instinct and hormones are in overdrive and she will simply run you over as if you were some insignificant rodent innocently crossing the road as if she were driving madly to put out a fire.

I know, I was a complete idiot for even thinking about having sex during the day. The only problem was, the nights were worse. You see, for the first 18 months, our daughter would not sleep unless she was in our bed –seriously. And by the time we figured out how to have her sleep quietly in her own crib, the cracks in our relationship already started to form.

Progeny 1, Relationship 0

All it takes is a bit of unresolved wounding within your relationship that turns your little rug rats into intimacy-sucking black holes of 100% focus on them. When your wife and mother of your children starts feeling separation from you, count on her putting most of her attention on the kids. It’s only natural, socially sanctioned and almost always the beginning death-knell of your intimate relationship.

When this happens, it is not unusual for the dad to start feeling resentment toward the kids, for hogging all of the wife’s attention leaving almost none for him. And, if he foolish enough to even hint that his needs are not being met (emotional or physical), then his chances of being labeled the world’s biggest jerk just increased significantly. Here’s the thing. When your kids become the primary (or in many cases, 100%) focus of your relationship, it is in deep, deep trouble before you even realize it.

And it doesn’t get any better as the kids mature. There’s school, sports, birthday parties, extracurricular activities etc. Trust me, there are nearly infinite ways to focus exclusively on your kids, turning your relationship into a mere shadow of its former, glorious self.

Despite intellectually understanding what was happening, my resentment continued to build. Including through the process of having our second wonderful child. It finally got to the point where I just threw myself into my business to support the family. A behavior that was socially sanctioned, practical and the final nail in the coffin of our relationship. I finally ended our marriage after 26 years, where things got so bad that the last 11 of those years we were 100% celibate. Unfortunately, not a very uncommon outcome.

How to Avoid the Almost Inevitable

I believe we actually started out on the right foot by declaring the importance of our relationship despite having kids prior to having them. Where things fell apart was in the execution once we did. There was no disciplined follow through to make it real. If I were to do this over, I would insist that my wife and I have a date night at least once a week no matter what. No distractions of any kind allowed unless it is an emergency. As her husband, I would also be much more cognizant of her needs during this time, not be so quick to rush into sex. Instead, I would spend a great deal more time being fully present for her and giving her plenty of time to “warm up” to the point where she wanted physical intimacy. And during this special time together, we ideally would reaffirm our commitment to each other as the nucleus of our wonderful family. One where our relationship demonstrates every day what genuine intimacy (emotional, physical etc.) looks like so our kids would have a good model for when it is their turn. This includes displays of affection between my wife and I so that the kids also see that Dad has a special relationship with Mom distinct from theirs.

The other thing I would do differently is insist that we maintain complete authenticity in our communications. If there is ever a charge between us (which you can expect almost daily with kids) we would always be willing to talk about it authentically and vulnerably. This way, small wounds don’t turn into gaping ones that become further wedged by over focus on the kids.

Someone once said that having children is the most wonderful and awful thing that can happen to your life. And it has been my experience that there is more than a bit of truth in that.

Just remember this. Someday your kids will grow up and leave home. How you look at each other in a now otherwise empty home can run the gamut from “Now what?” to “Yahoo! Let’s just you and me have some fun!”Where your relationship fits on that spectrum totally depends on how consciously you both worked to preserve the spark and beauty of your joining together within the context of noisy, demanding, poopy, snotty-nosed kids who also happen to be the other joy of your life. With conscious discipline it really doesn’t have to be either / or.

– – –

About the Author

MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150Michael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:         MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:             Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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Ditch Approach Anxiety Once and For All

Category: Men and Relationship 

Here’s how you can turn approach anxiety into reach out success minus the cold sweats and furtive glances…

– – –

See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

– – –

How many times have you been to a bar with a very danceable live band playing only to find the ones dancing are the women? My partner and I love to go out dancing most weekends and we typically find that we are the only “couple” actually dancing. And, the situation is always the same. Lots of guys standing around trying to look and act cool as they steal glances of the women in the room. Meanwhile the women are sending so many signals that they want to dance that you’d have to be blind to miss them. Yet, there they are, just like in grammar school – boys on one side of the room, girls on the other with a very obvious vacant neutral zone in between.

Whether in a bar, coffee shop, park or just strolling downtown, this scenario is played out in every city and town on the planet, so clearly demonstrating the crippling power of “approach anxiety”. Approach anxiety is near the top of the list of fears dealing with relationships. Fortunately, there is a way to eliminate it forever and in fact use its very energy to help you authentically meet anyone you want, perhaps even “The One”…

Next!

The biggest source of this paralyzing anxiety is being so attached to the outcome of approaching someone you find interesting (if only initially from a distance). When we place so much importance on whether the other person will react favorably to our advances it only inhibits our willingness to take the simple action of starting a conversation that may (or may not) actually lead to something for the both of you.

Now imagine for a moment what your life would be like if you were totally committed to meeting new people but without being attached to the outcome. The very thought of it is extremely freeing isn’t it? So, how does one let go of attachment to the outcome? The key to that is just one simple four-letter word: “Next”.

Here’s the thing, you cannot control how anyone will react to you no matter how you show up. So it’s really not up to you (nor are you to blame) if someone you approach selects to not reciprocate your interest. If that happens, don’t take it personally (because it never is –by definition they don’t even know you) and just say “Next!” to yourself (silently please –otherwise you risk a slap in the face :))

On the surface this may sound like something right out of a pickup artist’s manual –but it isn’t. This is merely to prepare you for the real work of getting ready to meet the right person(s) for you…

It’s All on How You Show Up

People who are painfully shy or bull-in-the-china-shop aggressive are actually exhibiting two sides of the same coin – reactive, fear-based behavior rather than being appropriately authentic and proactive. Which one is predominantly manifested during an approach to meeting someone new (i.e. potential mate) is often culturally determined. For example, a few years ago I spent three months in Brazil and there the prevalent Machismo attitude held by most men there is actually a good example of the aggressive side.

Early in my college years I had a great deal of trouble relating to people. Sometimes I was very shy and inhibited, other times I overcompensated by being aggressive. Neither one was effective at helping me form new relationships that had any chance of lasting.

Then I took an assertiveness class. Thanks to that invaluable training and insight I realized that shyness and aggressive behavior were both fear-based responses to social anxiety. And, the key to overcoming this seemingly huge and very frustrating problem was to simply be myself. Showing up authentically and vulnerably (i.e. no pretenses, no protective emotional armor) and do so not being attached to how others thought about me. Consider for a moment taking the following position when daring to meet someone new. If the other person is not attracted to the real you, then they are simply not the right person to be with. Think of it as the Universe doing you a big favor by not letting you get involved with someone who is in all likelihood not good to be in your life.

You will probably never completely eliminate the butterflies that flit around in your stomach as you approach someone new. Ideally you don’t want them to go away, but instead have them fly in formation. This is a way of taking the charge associated with approach anxiety and using it in your favor. Energy is energy. It can be used to stop you in your tracks, or give an extra spring to your steps. In addition to inspiring huge amounts of confidence in yourself, it is also a quality in which people find almost universally attractive…

Allow for Serendipity

Keep in mind that your best relationships may not come from the direct approach. You may end up meeting someone in an unexpected way or place. While you may feel more in control by always being proactive, don’t discount serendipity. This means of course showing up authentically and vulnerably in all situations –not just those in which you hope to meet someone. This is exactly how I happened to meet my Life Partner. At a time and place where meeting someone special was actually far from my mind. Yet, it happened. Think of it this way. All the preparation you make for meeting someone new (i.e. not taking things personally, showing up authentically and vulnerably, etc.) will position you perfectly for meeting someone in the most unlikely of situations too.

Biggest Regret

Now I want you to think about the scariest thing of all –your last moments on this planet. Invariably, the biggest regret people have at the end of their life is typically not something they did and wish they hadn’t, it is the regret of NOT doing something they wish they had.

When it comes to meeting the significant people (or person) in your life, there is absolutely no reason to die with this regret on your lips. You have absolute control over how you show up and whether or not you take things personally (i.e. are attached to the outcome). Fears can either be our greatest teacher, or most brutal prison guard –you, and only you, get to choose its role in your life. And that choice will directly determine the quality and possibilities of the relationships you have.

So next time you are in a position to meet someone new you find interesting, throw caution to the wind and approach him or her authentically and vulnerably and see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised.

– – –

About the Author

MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150Michael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:         MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:             Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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Sex, Lies and Menopause

Category: Men and Relationship 

When your partner uses menopause as the reason for diminished desire consider it your wake up call to something more serious…

– – –

See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

– – –

I recently visited a dear friend of mine in the mid-West. On all outward appearances he is happily married with two incredible teenage children and an attractive wife in her early 40’s. For fun I gave him some of my “secret” pheromone cologne to see how his wife would respond. After two doses he finally admitted that she didn’t even notice. He then went on to explain that his wife has been exhibiting much lower desire for sex lately because she said she’s going through menopause. However, I suspected that was something more going on here than what was meeting the eye.

(Author’s Note: the following is based upon observations made by myself and my partner who happens to be post-menopausal. I am not a therapist, and any implied generalizations are really just my opinions based upon my personal experience –your mileage may vary. And, as always, there are exceptions to everything.)

Why Menopause Is a Lame Excuse

When I shared this exchange with my Partner (who is post-menopausal), she matter-of-factly said “Oh, women just use that as an excuse –I used to say that to my former husband all the time if I didn’t want to have sex with him.” Apparently, as women age, saying to their partner: “Not tonight Honey, I’m going through menopause.” is the preferable post-child-bearing years “I have a headache.” excuse. Let’s face it, what guy in his right mind will argue with a partner that is going through the ravages of menopause? That is clearly a losing proposition.

My Partner went on to explain that menopause did indeed impact howshe wanted to have sex, not necessarily how much of it she wanted. Intercourse for most women during and after menopause can be uncomfortable, if not downright painful. There are several factors at play here. First of all, vaginal dryness typically associated with menopause can cause great discomfort during traditional intercourse. And, add on top of that a British university study which indicates that most women of any age are not all that into intercourse to begin with. This can be inferred from their research showing approximately 87% of all women (regardless of age) “moan” or vocalize during intercourse to: a) boost their man’s self-image as a lover, and b) speed things up (i.e. “Let’s get it over with already.”)

Also, based upon my own observations, a majority of women hesitate to authentically tell their partner what they really want in the bedroom. This is out of fear that the man will become hurt, angry and ultimately abandon them. Now you can see why menopause is the perfect inarguable excuse to avoid physical intimacy between long term couples. Yet, it simply doesn’t have to be that way at all.

Sexual Desire vs. Expression

In previous articles and numerous interviews I have shared how desire and expression (i.e. how that desire is manifested) are two completely different things, particularly as women age.

Physiologically speaking, intercourse is typically not the most pleasurable way most women can experience sex. Direct clitoral stimulation almost always trumps penetration. It has been my personal experience and that of others I’ve talked to that desire for physical intimacy in women does not have to diminish with age. However, *how* they want physical intimacy expressed in the bedroom very often does. Yet I’ve seen many men have a hard time understanding that what worked before (i.e. intercourse) is no longer that interesting for their maturing partner. And this disconnect can be the source of major frustration and even eventual marital celibacy or breakup. An all too common occurrence for long-term relationships.

Resignation is Not the Answer – Authenticity Is

When I offered to help my friend, he simply said: “Thanks, but that is just the way it is.” This is clearly a difficult subject for most couples because it is tied to so many primal fears associated with our standard Sexual Operating System. The danger here however is that resignation almost always turns into resentment. And resentment is one of the most powerful corrosives that can eat away at an otherwise beautiful relationship until there is nothing left to save.

The way out of this almost inevitable conundrum facing most long-term couples is by both parties insisting on authentic communication. The female partner needs to have the courage and fortitude to sincerely express what she wants from her mate with respect to physical intimacy, especially as it changes over time. And likewise, the male partner needs to authentically listen and do his best to comply. Now before too many guys reading this knee-jerk into a “Hey, what about my needs?!” response, know this: When you are able to genuinely please her (i.e. she’s not faking it), you will be one very happy camper. This is very much part of our hard-wiring as men.

So, next time you hear: “Not tonight Honey because I have _____________.”, treat it as an invitation to start an authentic conversation about what she really wants. Chances are she will love and cherish you all that much more because you risked doing so.

– – –

About the Author

MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150Michael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:         MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:             Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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How to Support Our LGBTQ+ Brothers & Sisters

by Rick Broniec

My Brothers & Sisters,

As a straight man, and MKP-USA’s Multicultural/Intercultural Rep, I am writing this as an ally to my GBTQ Brothers and to my straight Brothers. [Between a minor surgery (I’m just fine, thanks!) and other responsibilities, I have not been able to respond until now.]

First, to my GBTQ Brothers:

David, Robert, Walt, Dennis N., Frank, Jeff, Greg- and so many others- I love you.  I am so sorry this happened to your community.  My heart hurts for you.  I want to hear what you are feeling- in all its rawness. All of you is welcome here. If you’d prefer to hear from me off line or by phone, please, please let me know. I am at a loss to know exactly what you might need right now, so please tell me…or tell me to STF up!

To my Straight Bothers:

Like many of you, I struggle with HOW to be an effective Ally.  Like many,  I have this great desire to support my deeply hurting brothers, and I want to do it in a good way.  Since I can’t really know what its like to be Gay or Bi or Trans or even questioning, I am at risk to respond in a way that is harmful, if I’m not careful- especially when I am triggered and hurting myself!  (Which I am!)

I cannot know what it feels like to have my tribe attacked in such a senseless and vicious manner.

I cannot know what it means to have one of my safe places so deeply violated.

I cannot know what it means to feel the weight of oppression thrown in my face yet again.

I cannot know what it feels like to repeatedly hear in the news cycle that the attack occurred in a Gay bar. (Have you EVER heard the news report a murder in a “straight bar”??)

And there’s so much more I can’t even begin to imagine.

What I’ve learned (the hard way!) that is NOT helpful:

  1. Telling any GBTQ man that “you know how he feels because…”
  2. ‘Reminding’ them how much progress has been made previously in Gay rights.
  3. Telling them not to feel something…. or to feel something else.
  4. Dissembling or hijacking the conversation by making this incident about:
  5. Radical Islamic Terrorists.
  6. Gun Laws.
  7. Self-hating closeted gay men acting out.
  8. Soft targets
  9. Any political or religious point.
  10. Or anything else we want to say that takes the spotlight away from the fact that these 49 people were mostly young GLBTQ men and women who were massacred.
  11. Projecting MY hurt and MY pain on my GBTQ Brothers….that’s MY work!
  12. Defending our words or actions when we cause an “Ouch”.  (The “Ouch Process” teaches that I can simply say, “I hear my impacts. Tell me more, if you’d like.  I am sorry my words/actions landed on you that way.  It was not my intention to hurt or dismiss you or your pain.”  That’s all!)

If these are your thoughts, great!- take em to your I-Group to process. They are valid, just not helpful to our grieving GBTQ Brothers right now, I’m told.  Or I’ll hear them- call me.

So, what CAN I do that might be helpful?  I am no expert and have screwed it up plenty of times, but I have read a lot and asked my GBTQ Brothers often how I can support them.  Universally, I have been asked to simply listen to them and accept whatever comes forth.  So, I called many of my GBTQ brothers directly this week to ask how they were doing.  I let them know what actions I was taking in support (Like attending vigils, joining the HRC, etc.).  And I listened- just listened.

If you’re interested in the Ally Wisdom of some researchers in the field, here a list of behaviors that are ‘functional helping’. (These are from “Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook“, by Adam, Griffin and Bell.)  (Note: They work well for interacting with any target group, of course.)  Feel free to add any behaviors you know work.

Effective Ally Behaviors

  1. Listen openly and respectfully to people different from you.
  1. Actively pursue a process of self-education to learn about the history and culture of target groups.  Read, attend meetings, watch movies and talk to individuals representing target groups.
  1. Acknowledge and take responsibility for his/her own socialization, prejudices and privileges without shame or blame, as we all learned these behaviors from our culture.
  1. Respectfully ask members of a target group what support would look like for them as an individual.  This lessens the chances of a ‘dysfunctional rescue’ from happening.
  1. Seek out and enlist others to be allies; be the first to make a move!
  1. Be willing to examine and relinquish privileges.  This requires support and time.
  1. Learn about and take pride in your own identities.  Work on celebrating your own differences and the qualities you have gained as a result of having that difference.
  1. Establish friendships with people who represent Target groups you do not identify with.  Reach out respectfully and make contact!
  1. Know resources about and for Target groups and utilize them to educate yourself and others.  Form coalitions and support circles.
  1. Take a public stand against discrimination and prejudice.  Start small and work into more risky actions as you grow more confident.
  1. Interrupt prejudice and take action against oppression even when people from Target groups are not present.
  1. Risk discomfort- discomfort is guaranteed when doing this work!
  1. Try not to be self-righteous with others- it only pushes them away from doing their own work.  Also, try not to label others as “racist”, “sexist”, “homophobic”, “classist”, etc.
  1. Gently and respectfully challenge the internalized oppression of people in Target groups.
  1. Support the value of separate meetings, events and activities for members of Target groups. Targets need a safe place to do their Internalized Oppressions work, while Non-Targets need a safe place to do their “Isms” work.  This makes it safer and cleaner to do our work together
  1. Promote the leadership of people in groups that traditionally are not found in leadership positions due to their Target status(es).  This may mean giving up your own leadership in these organizations.
  1. Work to change system-wide problems that may be the root causes of inequality and oppression.  This might include issues at the institutional or cultural levels, as well as the personal and interpersonal levels.
  1. Develop alliances among groups.  This would be a strong institutional level action.
  1. Have a vision of and celebrate a healthy, vibrant multicultural society.  Isn’t that why we’re all doing this work in the first place?
  1. Also, look to ways to be an ally within your own cultural groups. (For example, a straight man supporting other straight men to work on their straight privileges.)

In Service and Deep Sadness & Reflection,

Rick

Colluding Lion

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Aggrieved Entitlement and Evolved Masculinity

Baldwin-Faced

Let’s face it, together.

Aggrieved Entitlement is a term I picked up from Michael Kimmel. It is the existential state of fear about having my ‘rightful place’ as a man questioned … challenged … deconstructed. Aggrieved entitlement is being told ‘No’ when the prevailing mythos of the culture has taught that I have a ‘right’ to something because of my birth (as male, as white, straight, educated, able-bodied … the list goes on).

Because men are not programmed to allow fear or to process grief, sometimes we compress it … this loss of meaning and power … into rage, violence, aggression, demonization of ‘other.’ The compression will find an outlet. It seems beyond ‘phobia’ or ‘ism,’ though it will often be tagged as such.  We must face as a society that we PROGRAM men to be this way. Toxic masculine codes, deeply embedded in the soul of our nation, are breaking us. 

And as Steven Barnes reminded me recently, not just masculinity. The [imposed] duality of gender, masculine and feminine, are two sides of the same complex coin.  The repression of femininity into its toxic shadow also hurts us in profound ways: materiality turned to objectification and self-loathing, sensuality & self expression turned to manipulation, power compressed into toxic shaming, fear of violent masculinity turned to the repression of emotional expression. The inability of our society to alchemize the complexity of gender leads us to where we are right now, standing on a fault line that is sending wave after wave of fracturing energy through our culture.

For men, constant behavioral reinforcement of the masculine mask of invulnerability inevitably leads to what we see … mass killing. Mass killing of LGBTQ people. Mass killing of brown skinned people. Of women and children. Mass killing through suicide, drug addiction, eating and drinking ourselves to death.

Mass killing through our nihilistic urge to extinction.

100%. This is NOT about MEN. I love men. I have dedicated my life to working with men. This is about the cultural and systemic construct called Masculinity. Toxic shadows of once sacred gifts that have long been infused into masculinity are intimately, economically, and politically tied to systemic oppression, violence, and destruction. In the past there was no movement or population large enough to say ‘No’ to the terror inflicted.

Today, the urge to peace and equity has created a critical mass. The violating power of masculinity is now being deconstructed. And those of us that feel this pressure have many choices we can make. Some men explode, some implode. Either way, they do great harm. Some men will disappear, their flame extinguished. I see them every day, hollow men trapped in a trance of transactions marching toward the grave. I do not expect that this will change soon. And yet progress toward a more just future will continue.

In this evolutionary time, many men will rise to the challenge. Many men are rising right now, even as I write. The crucible of this shift will reveal the strongest and most passionately nurturing men this planet has ever seen. There are so many beautiful and good and strong characteristics to be honed and burnished in men – so much potential for fulfilling a new role as partners in the creation of a new culture.

I follow a longing, an urge to beauty and connection, wildness and order.

The good news is that WE have the power to change the culture. Men – come stand with me and so many others. Come enter the dark path to your soul. What blinding brilliance you will find in that dark cave … I could try and tell you, but my words would fail.

Boysen Hodgson

Boysen Hodgson

Boysen Hodgson is the Communications and Marketing Director for the ManKind Project USA, a nonprofit mentoring and training organization that offers powerful opportunities for men’s personal growth at any stage of life. Boysen is the author of “The New Macho,” a credo for the mature masculine that has now been shared over 50,000 times in social media and published in numerous blogs, magazines and books. His mission is to transform culture by designing change and building bridges. He is an adoptive father and a dedicated husband. Boysen completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in April 2004 and has been working with men ever since.

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How to Find “The One” and Never Settle For Less

Category: Men and Relationship 

Most people settle when choosing a mate and end up living to regret it –fortunately this is completely avoidable…

– – –

See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

– – –

In terms of finding your “perfect” mate, let me break the news to you, there is no such thing. At least not on this planet. No one is perfect, everyone has flaws. With that said however, it IS very possible to find “The One”; a mate with whom you are so compatible and turned on by that the thought of having settled will never enter your mind. And the way to find (actually “attract” is a more accurate term) them is very straightforward.

Nearly Everyone Settles

How many people do you know are crystal clear about who they want to share their life with? And by “crystal clear” I mean actually took the time to write down in great detail who this person is. Chances are it is close to zero.

There is an old saying: “When you don’t know or care where you are going don’t be surprised by where you end up.” Let’s face it, most people go through life waiting (hoping) to meet someone where the chemistry kicks in big time. And when it does and it’s mutual, well, you’re off to the races! Wonderful, right? Except most of those races are either short or soon become very routine, unfulfilling or you just end up getting thrown (painfully) from the horse. That’s because chemistry alone is simply not enough to help navigate the complex waterways of long-term human intimate relationships. When the chemistry starts to wane, what is left is often the stark realization that the person you choose may not be ideal for other aspects of your life that are important to you.

When I met my future wife in 1982 there was chemistry and shared values. Yet, the writing was on the wall when we had this conversation just before we tied the knot. We asked each other what we wanted out of our life together. She responded with something like: “I want a house with the picket fence, two kids, a dog and a cat –the Leave it to Beaver experience, I just want everything to be ‘normal’”. To which I responded: “’Normal’ is the last thing in the world I want, I’m here to make a difference in the world.” And, in addition to that, we were also not particularly well-matched sexually.

Despite these differences, I knew she would be a terrific mother (which she was and continues to be) and she knew I would be a good father and provider for the family and a faithful husband (which I was on all counts). Our marriage lasted 26 years before I ended it. We do have two wonderful and successful adult children and the first half of the marriage was okay –just not great.

Basically, we both settled and paid the price for it eventually. And the reason we settled is that we each fell into the trap of finding a mate the same way the vast majority of people do, we waited to find someone where there was a spark and (hopefully) some shared values.

And I am here to tell you that is simply not enough if you want to have an amazing relationship that only grows stronger over time, rather than fizzle out as most do.

My “Dream Woman” Project

Dream_Woman_ThumbnailGiven that the last 11 years of our marriage my wife and I were effectively roommates, I was determined to not let that happen again. I also knew I wanted to share the rest of my life with a mate. So, only two weeks after ending the marriage and moving out, I launched myself into what I call my “Dream Woman” project. Over a period of several days I feverishly wrote down my unbridled and extremely detailed description of who this person was from every aspect and nuance I could think of.

In looking back on this process I realize the key to doing this successfully was having the courage to look deep inside myself and become abundantly clear about what was important to me in a life-long intimate relationship. Most people are afraid to be this clear, I think because if they are, they will also be consciously aware of the possibility that they may never find this person and end up disappointed. So instead, like countless others, they avoid risking clarity in the hopes that serendipity will just hand them their perfect mate on a silver platter –right. Lack of clarity practically guarantees you will end up settling –every time.

If you are interested in taking a look at my own Dream Woman Project, just click the image to download the PDF. When you do, you will see that in addition to being quite specific in my writing, I used visuals and images extensively to help describe what I wanted.

You can make your Dream Woman (or Dream Man) project as elaborate or simple as you want. The important part is writing it down and being as specific and detailed as possible. Taking this approach is essentially the same as going after anything else you truly want in life. It takes clarity, determination and a willingness to fully lay bare what you really want in the face of knowing you may not achieve it.

Clarity is More Important than Planning

When I created my Dream Woman Project I had no clue as to how I was going to find her. And, I deliberately left out how that was going to happen. I simply trusted that the Universe is a lot wiser than I am when it came to those details. The only thing I did was keep myself active and socially available (i.e. open to meeting new people and experiencing new things). If you expect to catch a fish, you at least need to be near the water.

For the entire year after I wrote my Dream Woman Project I didn’t even date and rarely even looked at it. Then, in the most unusual of circumstances, I met my current Life Partner and didn’t even know it at the time.

The Benefit of Not Falling Head-Over-Heels

When Jacky and I first met, I was preparing to go to Brazil for a three-month “reset” of my life. I wasn’t even looking at that point. And quite frankly, while we both were intrigued, it was hardly what you would call love at first sight. Thank God it wasn’t because that gave each of us the space and level-headedness to become good friends before becoming intimate.

About a year after we first met I decided to look at my Dream Woman Project for a course on Extraordinary Intimacy I was about to give. As I re-read through this document my jaw kept dropping lower and lower in disbelief. I called Jacky over to look at it with me (she had never seen it before) and when she did she gasped and said “Sweetie –that’s me!!” Turns out she fit what was described in my Dream Woman Project 100%. Not 80% or 90% –100 percent to a “T”.

We will soon be celebrating our 4th year together and our relationship only gets stronger and more fulfilling with time. And with respect to our intimacy, as powerful as it was when we first became sexually active with each other (you know, the “rip your clothes off” stage) it pales in comparison to what we now experience.

Taking the Risk

If you don’t take the risk to be absolutely clear about with whom you want to share your life, you have effectively chosen to settle by default. When you do express that clarity in writing it won’t guarantee that you will find that person, but it will significantly increase the chances you will. And, perhaps most importantly, you will know that you gave it your all instead of being a passive bystander waiting for anything remotely interesting that may cross your path.

This will likely be your greatest adventure in life. Don’t sell it and yourself short by taking the lazy way out by settling for less than you know deep down you want and deserve.

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About the Author

MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150Michael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:         MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:             Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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Why Ego and Intimacy are Strange Bedfellows

Category: Men and Relationship 

When it comes to romantic relationships, the ego is like the moon: romantic, literally necessary for our survival and has the ability to drive us temporarily crazy on a periodic basis. When you allow your ego to be the main driver of your relationship it will cause it to crash every time, sooner or later. While we can’t escape having an ego we can learn to live with it and even leverage it (appropriately) to achieve deep, connecting intimacy that continues to grow over time.

Ego and the Heart

What I am about to share with you is based upon my personal experience and keen observation of, and conversations with, many other couples. This is simply a model of human nature that works exceedingly well for me as for others who have adopted it. You don’t have to believe it’s true. All I ask is that you suspend judgment long enough to see if it resonates with you and your experience.

In the simplest terms, human beings have a dual nature and experience of reality. One based in our head as a mental construct (i.e. Ego) and the other as a core “essence” beyond the physical or intellectual which I call the Heart –our source of Awareness, the Observer.

Our ego forms early in our childhood with built-in wiring whose primary purpose is survival. It is shaped and formed by our experiences throughout life (especially during our vulnerable childhood) and expresses itself through our personality.

Our Heart (metaphorically speaking) is the true, unadulterated non-physical essence of who we are when we come into this world. Some philosophies call it the Soul, Higher Self, True Consciousness, Awareness and so on. For our purposes here, I’m simply referring it as our Heart.

The Heart never changes, can never be hurt or broken, is never needy, has no drama and is always fully at peace. Our Heart is where true, lasting connection with others originates. Keep in mind that any negative qualities typically attributed to the heart in our culture are really the realm of the ego. So next time someone says “She broke my heart.” consider thinking in terms of “She broke my ego.” instead. When you make it a practice to re-frame any negative aspect of your relationship this way you will be amazed at how it quickly it eliminates the charge around it.

Egos Falling In Love

When we fall in love with someone, it is primarily our egos that are doing the falling. I am not disputing that a deeper, ineffable connection (i.e. the Heart) is not there also; it often is. However, the flirting, physical attraction, charm etc. all come from the ego. Our egos can get very, very excited (“OMG, I’m SO in love with him/her!!!”) when we connect with someone who fulfills most of our relationship needs (assuming it is reciprocal, otherwise our egos get trashed). In fact, it seems that the typical definition of “love” is completely driven by our egos.

Who we are attracted to and how we interact with them is driven almost exclusively by our Sexual Operating System, which I’ve covered in previous articles. Because this most visible part of romantic connection is so ego-based, if left unchecked, it also becomes the source of the relationship’s undoing: every…single…time.

Ego is the Eclipse of the Heart

The Heart is like the sun, always shining, always pouring out endless supplies of warmth and connection. Relationship troubles start when we allow our ego to eclipse our Heart, by blocking its ability to transmit and receive true connection with others, especially our significant other. Ego is the armor we put up to “protect” ourselves from emotional wounding, tricking us to believe that it is our Heart it seeks to protect when in fact it is only trying to protect itself. And in so doing it effectively blocks our Heart’s ability to transmit and receive that deep connection with others. A connection so profound and transcendent that I propose we call this “Love” with a capital “L”.

When someone we love hurts us and we shut down or withdraw because of it, it is our ego that is hurt and the ego that forms the barrier. Our Heart continues to shine unabated as always. And just knowing that gives you a head start in reconciling the unlimited expression of your Heart with the needs of the ego.

Awareness as the Great Mediator

Consider for a moment as to what would happen if you took the time to become aware of your ego’s machinations. To stand back as it were to observe how the ego is driven by survival needs to interfere with the very thing you want most, transcendent connection with your partner.

When you develop the discipline (it require discipline because the ego fights it tooth and nail) to simply observe your relationship interactions in the context of ego, it puts you in a position to interrupt the ego’s reactive tendencies. And when you are able to do that consistently you will effectively eliminate all the drama from your relationship.

Does this mean that becoming aware and being the Observer will ensure your relationship will survive? Not necessarily. There may come a point (or not) when it is in the best interests of both parties to move on. However if it does come to that, through your awareness you will release each other out of Love rather than struggle over ego-based neediness and fear of loss. The ego sees this letting go as a little “death” while the Heart sees it as a celebration of what was, what is and what is to come.

As long as we are part of this human experience we will have an ego. It is both necessary for our physical survival and often quite helpful in our efforts to improve our circumstances. It is no surprise that most of our society’s leaders and innovators have rather healthy egos that motivate them. And as you read this last sentence I wouldn’t be surprised if your ego was saying something like “See! You need me to succeed!” It just never stops and simply cannot help itself.

But that doesn’t mean it has to be in the driver’s seat. By being aware and dispassionately observing it in action you give that steering wheel back to your Heart, the true essence of who you are. And when your Heart is your guide you will never, ever go astray.

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About the Author

MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150Michael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:         MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:             Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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Why Half a Heart is Simply Not Enough

Category: Men and Shadow 

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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Until four years ago, I had a serious issue with literally one-half of the entire human species – specifically… men. I didn’t feel comfortable being around them and never felt like I really “fit in” or was accepted by them. In essence, when it came to other men I just shut down and encased myself in a protective armor that would never allow for true vulnerability. And without vulnerability and authenticity I had no chance of establishing deep, meaningful relationships with other men.

So why do I need relationships with other men when I have an incredible relationship with my female partner? Very simple: you can’t be fully connected and intimate with anyone if you are shutdown to half the population. If I hadn’t transformed my relationship with other men during a fateful September 2012 weekend, I doubt seriously if my partner and I would even still be together…

You’re Not a Real Man

That was the message I received from my father and brothers growing up. As the youngest of four brothers by at least eight years and the 2nd youngest in a family of eight I evidently was quite different from what my Dad and brothers expected. Ours was a very patriarchal family where my Dad ruled with an iron fist and a stern look that by itself could put you through a wall. His idea of being “manly” was head-butting, concussion-inducing sports activities where 2nd place is not an option, along with a healthy dose of hunting (ideally with a bow and arrow) and fishing.

The implicit message was only the strongest and most brutal survived and women, well… they were second-class citizens preferably appreciated as seen but not heard (much to the angst of my four sisters). I simply couldn’t relate nor measure up to their definition of what it meant to be a “man”. I was far too sensitive and considerably more cerebral in my interests for their tastes. Towards the end of his life my Dad even admitted that he had no clue who I was during my teen years. Thanks to this bitter early experience I made a point of distancing myself from every male I encountered beginning at a young age. This impacted me so profoundly that I had substantial anxiety over the thought of having a son for fear we may not be able to relate (I did, and we do quite well now). It also robbed me of any potential male mentorship, which to this day I deeply regret.

I have learned since then that the inability to form relationships with men based upon authenticity and vulnerability is common for many men. This appears to be especially true for the Baby-Boomer generation – the one that signaled a shift from staunch testosterone-driven reactive behavior to a more conscious and balanced approach to life. But we had very few role models to help guide us through this magnificent shift. As a result, many of this generation feel adrift when it comes to relating to other men.

The Weekend That Changed Everything

The 2012 was the year where I was saying “Yes!” to nearly everything. I committed to facing my fears and demons no matter where it took me. I was through with feeling shutdown and disconnected. That way of life was killing me slowly and robbed most of the joy from my life and I was determined to no longer allow my fears to dictate the quality of my experience, no matter the circumstances.

So in June 2012 I chatted with a very wise woman who saw that I had a big problem with men. She suggested that I participate in a strictly male weekend event that was scheduled for that upcoming September. She said it may help me reconcile my anger and fears that were blocking my ability to have meaningful relationships with other men. And without hesitating I said “Okay” even though I had no clue as to what it was or how it worked. Shortly afterwards I completely forgot I signed up for it until a few days before Friday afternoon drive to remote retreat center. That’s when I started thinking “Oh shit, what did I just sign up for?!” Indeed…

The event is called The New Warrior Training Adventure and is put on by the ManKind Project during weekends throughout the year all over the world. I arrived that late Friday afternoon wary, guarded and even a bit angry (more self-directed for allowing myself to be involved with so many men like this.) By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, my ability to form deep personal and authentic relationships with men was completely transformed. I now no longer have the fears associated with male relationships and celebrate the depth of my male friendships at the same emotional level as I do with my female friends. And that ability is still with me, stronger than ever, three years later.

Words cannot do justice to that weekend because it is primarily experiential and evokes insights and states of being that transcend the ability to adequately describe. So, I guess you will just have to take a leap of faith on that one.

Making Peace with My Masculinity

What I didn’t realize before that is so clear to me now is that it is impossible to fully accept yourself if you are disconnected from the rest of your gender. And, not fully accepting yourself will get in the way of any kind of relationship you want to have, be it male or female.

We are all born with both gender energies / essences. A fully actualized person will welcome, embrace and utilize both. Then and only then can you expect to achieve the fullest possible depth of intimacy and connection with another human being, regardless of whether they happen to be a friend or your Life Partner.

A heart that is open only 50% is one that is feeling the pain of disconnect. Fortunately, we all have the ability to make it 100%. And yes, it does take courage and the determination to face ones fears without blinking –knowing that once you do you will never look back.

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About the Author

MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150Michael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:         MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:             Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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The Art and Power of Presence

Category: Men and Leadership 

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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What I’m about to share with you is a proven and almost magically powerful way to instantly (no hype here) change the way people see you. And once you learn and consistently incorporate this insight, people can’t help but be magnetically attracted to you. Imagine what this will do for your relationships, career and self-confidence. And the first step to having this secret work for you begins with reading the next 1,152 words very, very carefully –without any distractions whatsoever…

No One is Paying Attention

This next part shouldn’t surprise you at all: no one really pays full attention anymore. We are all too busy dealing (barely) with our collective anxiety about the future, and striving to be incredibly distracted so we don’t have to think about whatever causes that anxiety – things most of us can’t even identify. And a large part of our culture conspires to keep us distracted in myriad ways via digital devices, entertainment, drugs, hooking up, parties etc. Worry about future things we can hardly name is the very definition of anxiety. Is it really any wonder why more people are prescribed mood-altering drugs than ever before?

Now, this is where it gets interesting. As long as you play that game (i.e. not paying attention because of worry, distraction etc.) you will never break free from this “prison” of frustration, limitations and frankly, even really being “seen” by others. And this fact provides a hint to the way out…

The Art of Being Fully Present

When someone is not paying attention or is distracted, they are not “present” because their mind is simply somewhere else. And here’s the thing, others sense this at some level (usually subconsciously) and therefore treat you the same. So here we are, in this vast sea of people going about our day working, eating, playing and relating (sort of) while no one is truly paying attention.

Have you ever met someone that made you feel like you were the most important person in the world when talking to them? If you were fortunate to run into someone like this I bet you felt very comfortable and quite attracted to their presence. I’m not talking about narcissistic manipulation or empty flattery. Instead, someone who has really mastered what it means to be fully present with anyone they happen to meet –which by the way, is the antithesis of narcissism. In fact, they don’t even have to say much at all, you simply feel the authenticity of their undivided and deep awareness of who you are as a human being. The good news is that anyone can have this level of connection with others, no matter who they are or their circumstances.

Now, what if you choose to pay attention to everything and everyone you encounter during your day? What does that even mean? It essentially means that instead of living in your head wrestling with the past or worrying about the future, you practice just being fully aware, of everything in the here and now. And this kind of awareness can be instantly attained by simply being “present”, as a keen observer of everything you encounter. Let me give you some examples:

  • Your significant other – next time you are in their presence, simply be the observer of what they say, do or even feel. No reaction, no thinking ahead of the best way to respond, no concern of what they may think of you. Try this and you will find they will start to “change”. Actually what is happening is that you provided a safe space for them to be authentic, effectively mirroring the same trait they see in you when you are fully present for them. And trust me on this, when they do that, your relationship will see whole new levels of connection and intimacy.
  • Your co-workers – most places of work, no matter how friendly, can still harbor Machiavellian intent within certain individuals or even entire departments. This is usually a result of fear-based zero-sum thinking: i.e. “If someone else advances, I lose.” This hardly makes for a fulfilling career experience. Next time you go to work, just be the observer when it comes to other people’s behavior and emotions no matter how threatening or repulsive. Be fully present for them even if they come off as conniving or backstabbing. This doesn’t mean you don’t take measures to protect yourself. There is a big difference between be proactive and reactive. The key is to stay out of your head and not react, just observe dispassionately. Do this and you may find your career to be much more fulfilling, but probably likely to advance more quickly.
  • Strangers – how truly present are you for the person who checks out your groceries, or the one who bags them? How about people standing in the same line as you. I swear, most people act as if other people they encounter were simply placeholders necessary to move their life along. Either a means to an end or just in the way. Next time you are at a checkout, practice being fully present and aware of the people in line and in particular, the person who is serving you. You may find they smile a bit brighter for you as they react to the “space” of genuine awareness you created for them. And you may find yourself smiling a bit more as well.Just last week I was in grocery store in the checkout line. As my turn came up I distinctly remember practicing to be fully present. What surprised me was the fellow next in line spontaneously struck up a friendly conversation. Despite the fact we didn’t know each other, we had a real (albeit, brief) connection. This never happens to me when I’m in my head because people sense at some level that I’m not really there.
  • Nature – next time you walk in nature do it as a fully present observer. My partner and I do this all the time and we are astounded at just how more beautiful this world is from the perspective of being fully aware without mental labeling or chatter. This helps us connect with nature and its beauty far more deeply than anything we have ever done before.

It’s Simple but Not Easy

It takes practice and discipline to be fully and dispassionately present for everyone and everything you encounter throughout the day. Fears will undoubtedly creep from time to time which may break your space of being fully present. If that happens, practice being aware of that and then move back into that space of non-reactive awareness once again. You see, even being aware of your lack of full awareness can help you here. The cool thing is that once you are “aware” of the power of being fully present and aware, you will always have access to it.

This is one of my most important personal life disciplines. I can honestly say it has profoundly changed my life and that of those around me. And coming from someone who was about aware as a doorknob for the first 60 years of his life, I’d say your odds of having the same experience should you choose to have it, are pretty darn good.

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About the Author

MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150Michael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:         MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:             Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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Welcome to the Men’s Group – Exclusive Screenings for MKP USA

Category: Men and Shadow, Reviews 

Special Screening Event for The Mankind Project USA

The Mankind Project is offering an exclusive “Film Screening Event” during the month of June to coincide with Men’s Health Month and Father’s Day.

We are partnering with the producers of a wonderful new feature film about the inner life of men, WELCOME TO THE MEN’S GROUP.

MKP will coordinate access to a “sneak preview” of the film for I-Groups to create screening and discussion events around this provocative new film that tackles men’s issues with depth and humor.

The film is not yet released, so this is a very special opportunity to see it before the public does!

I-Groups can participate in this 18 day event by registering their screening and following the event protocols to invite new men, screen the film, and hold a discussion forum using the film as a vehicle for exploration and growth.

WHEN:

June 10 – June 30 – Screening window for MKP USA Groups

June 28, 2016 – MKP USA will host a LIVE Follow-Up Web Forum on with the Joseph Culp, the Director and Co-Writer, along with several special guests to talk about the movie.

To participate in one of these low cost screening events, please email outreach@mkp.org for more information.

SEE THE FILM TRAILER:

LIKE THE FILM’S FACEBOOK PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/themensgroupfilm/

FOR MORE INFO ON THE FILM: http://www.themensgroupmovie.com

About Welcome to the Men’s Group:

WELCOME TO THE MEN’S GROUP is a independent comedy-drama that takes us inside the dynamic of an all-male support group when they gather one morning for a ritual breakfast and their unique form of male bonding—One Sunday a month, these eight men refrain from beer and football to sit in a circle where they share their personal issues, in the noble hope of becoming a bit more evolved than their fathers.

On this day, things do not go as planned when one member appears suicidal, and long-standing conflict threatens to destroy the trust between the men. The film delves frankly into themes of male identity, competition, sexuality, shame, and grief.

WELCOME TO THE MEN’S GROUP takes us on an emotional roller-coaster through the often bumpy inner terrain of the male psyche, as we hear the men open about their lives, sharing truth, telling lies, and revealing secrets they dare not discuss in their lives. The film is largely inspired by the phenomenon of the “Men’s Movement” of the past 30 years which was championed by writers like the poet Robert Bly and his bestselling book “Iron John” which explored the need for men to reconnect to their authenticity through storytelling, myth and ritualized gathering. The film shows the major shift in men’s consciousness and the changing attitudes towards traditional models of masculinity that are evolving every day. It is a challenging look at “male vulnerability”. It also uses humor and irreverence to celebrate the zaniness and absurdity of men – “Irreverence is the doorway to the sacred.” Ultimately the film shows a group of flawed men in a noble, painful and outrageously funny struggle to find their authenticity and a sense of community, and invites us, both men and women, to do the same.

Untitled

NOTE FROM DIRECTOR JOSEPH CULP:

– What is the premise of WELCOME TO THE MEN’S GROUP? 

Men seek spiritual connection and support. It is often quite natural for women to come together and share their feelings, but for most men this is still a new idea. Men should have a place beyond the local bar or card game to find out what is really going on with each other. Men must adapt to changing messages of being a man today, but where will they share their confusion and their questions honestly? The feminist movement changed a lot for women’s roles, and it is still evolving, and men are learning to change as well. How is it if a woman makes more money than a man? Men are taking care of children more and more. The tough persona of the man who does not talk about his feelings is disappearing. John Wayne is long dead. But men don’t want to be feminized either – they want to maintain a connection to what makes them truly male. There are men’s groups all over the world that are trying to discover that original male energy by coming together to share their stories and support each ther in a new way. Men are still caught between the “civilized” man vs. the “savage” man – between intellectual sensitivity and also the impulse for violence. There needs to be more honest conversation between men, more vulnerability, more trust. I hope this film will bring more permission to have this conversation. The film is about the need for connection and it shows both the dark and light sides of men. Ultimately, the film has a positive message about the potential for honesty and change.  – Joseph Culp (co-writer/director)

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A New Paradigm for Making Love

Category: Men and Relationship 

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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A few days ago I had coffee with a good friend of mine who happens to be a licensed marriage / family counselor and a professional stand up comedienne (somehow, I can see how those two really go well together). We were discussing intimacy and she shared how she and her husband first “made love” on the dance floor at some local bar. She went on to described how their every move conveyed a deep sense of intimate giving to each other that could only be truly described as making love. This caused me to think about how so many couples have sex, but rarely really “make love”. That’s when it occurred to me that maybe the whole notion of what it means to make love is worth re-examining…

Making Love a Thousand Different Ways in a Thousand Different Places

My partner and I have the same experience my friend and her husband. Any time we walk or sit together and hold hands, we are making love. Most of the time when we kiss, we are making love. When we just lay together and listen to each other’s breathing and heart beats, we are making love. We’ve made love at the movies, while eating ice cream in public, while walking on the beach or enjoying a concert together. One time we made profound love just by sitting across from each other while staring into each other’s eyes and synchronizing our breathing. That particular instance was so powerful I almost started convulsing –and yet, we weren’t even touching.

And Then There is Just Sex

We live in such an overtly sexualized society where anyone with an Internet connection can watch two (or more) people fornicate in every way imaginable (and some, well… unimaginable). Having sex is what our culture typically refers to as “making love”. Deep down, how many of us really equate having sex as making love if it’s just the physical act, regardless of how pleasurable it may be? I suspect most of us feel there must be something more, something deeper, more intimate than the act itself to deserve the tender moniker “making love”.

It’s the Space Created, Not the Doing

This is something I think about a lot, given I am a clinically impotent male who has an intimate life I wouldn’t trade for all the money, Viagra or penile implants in the world. Prior to my impotency, sex and making love were synonymous –and most often, very unsatisfying. Losing my ability to have an erection was an invitation to my partner and I to explore other ways of being intimate, and not just physically. What we discovered is that the “space” we create for each other is even more important than what we “do” with each other.

By space I mean being fully present for and attuned to the other person. A space of focusing on giving rather than receiving. A space that replaces the need for performance with deep, connecting Presence. A space that allows the essence of who we are to merge into a sublime convergence of singular awareness. When that kind of space is made available, it enables us to “make love” anywhere, anytime, doing something with each other or nothing at all. And within that kind of space, our love making (whether physical or not) is the most exquisite either of us has ever previously experienced before.

Sex is Better When You Are Truly Making Love

Now this next part may sound a bit weird. Prior to physical intimacy, we make sure we have created space necessary to experience true love making. This means that when we do experience sex, it is *always* just one part of our love making; it never defines it. As a result of this approach, our physical intimacy is enhanced to the point it is almost beyond description and lasts for hours. And even after we are done with the physical part, we are still making love as we lay in each other’s arms afterwards savoring the experience we just shared. In some ways, it almost never stops. Now just think about that for a moment as opposed to the typical Hollywood or Net porn depiction of tearing each other’s clothes off just to achieve climatic release about 10 – 15 minutes later (if the whole process even lasts that long).

For us, making love (whether physical or not) is a selfless act of giving and receiving our attention, awareness and yes, even touch, in a context of being truly present for each other. This is not always an easy thing to do in a culture that conspires to keep us distracted and anything but connected on such a profound level. Yet we, and many couples we know, have found it to be so worth the effort. Practice makes perfect and I personally can’t think of a more important or fulfilling discipline for which to aspire.

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About the Author

MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150Michael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:         MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:             Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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How to Avoid Having Your Soulmate Turn Into a Roommate

Category: Men and Relationship 

It’s insidious and before you know it the love of your life turns into someone just sharing a space –here’s how to avoid that from happening.

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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In perusing Facebook this morning, I noticed this that a good friend of mine and his wife just celebrated their 33rdanniversary. I know them well and their relationship is solid, which makes them a rarity. Unfortunately, it has been my personal and observed experience that most marriages that “last” are really just a comfortably shared misery of settling that so often occurs when things don’t work out and neither party has the nerve to end or even acknowledge it. When I ended my own marriage of 26 years it was because I could no longer accept that we had gone from soulmates to roommates. A state of marital blisslessness that we shared for the last 11 years of that union.

Public Displays of Affection is the First Thing to Go

Unfortunately, it’s just not too often we see long-term couples holding hands or kissing these days. There was a time when my ex-wife and I kissed and held hands and I remember distinctly when we stopped. That was when I knew our relationship was in trouble.

And these problems only get worse when the kids leave the nest and the two of you are looking at each other with the unspoken thought of “Now what?” Ideally, you don’t wait until that point to address the lack of intimacy and connection –because if you do, chances are it’s already too late.

The Warning Signs

As a result of that experience and my observation of many other similar couples it became clear there are distinct warning signs that we could have noticed only if we had been paying attention. I share these with you now, especially if you are just starting out, so you hopefully can avoid this same fate.

  1. Incompatibility – it is often said that opposites attract. That may be true, but eventually those differences may become a growing wedge between you. Before we said our “I do’s”, my ex-wife and I discussed what we each wanted out of life. She said she wanted (metaphorically speaking) a house with a picket fence, a dog and cat and at least a couple of kids. She just wanted everything to be “normal”, kind of like a Leave It to Beaver or technicolor Pleasantville experience. To which I responded that “normal” was the last thing in the world I ever wanted –I was here to make a difference and not just go through life being comfortable and content. She found my drive and ambition exciting, I found her groundedness reassuring. Eventually however, these differences were a big (but not the only) factor that caused us to drift apart.
  2. Sexual Differences – this was a big one for me. I’ve always had a strong and adventurous libido, my ex-wife, not so much, yet we both settled thinking (and hoping) things would work themselves out. I still remember the day that I told myself she and I would never be intimate again. That was the day the final nail in the coffin of our intimacy was hammered in –11 full years before I formally ended the relationship. If you don’t address each of your authentic (i.e. no bullshit or holding back) sexual expectations early on, then don’t be surprised when things stop working in the bedroom. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Another important thing to keep in mind here is that expression of sexuality and physical intimacy will change over time, especially for women. So even if you two are totally in synch now as a young couple, things will change –guaranteed. In this case it is incumbent upon the woman to let her man know how things have changed and the man’s job to listen and abide. Anything else is a recipe for frustration at best.
  3. Little Wounds That Never Heal – every relationship causes wounding, it’s just part of being human. How you both react to that can make the difference between ongoing marital fulfillment and growing, seething resentment. Here’s the thing, any time there is a hurt, regardless of cause or fault, it is vital you discuss it authentically and vulnerably. The common response is to just “stuff-it” and chock it up to someone’s bad day at work or time of month. It’s not the wounding that causes the lasting damage, it is the unwillingness to address it fully that makes it grow and fester. Little wounds, if left unchecked, turn into gaping sores that eventually will kill or sterilize the relationship.
  4. Focusing On the Kids or Work to Avoid Issues – I remember telling my ex-wife early in our marriage that once we have kids we should never forget who brought them into being. That we need to always remember our relationship must never take a back seat to anything else, not even the kids. Yet that is exactly what happened. As our little wounds and incompatibilities started to multiply, we each found refuge in our dedications. For her, it was the kids, for me it was my work. Ironically, both are socially sanctioned as virtuous qualities but we used them to avoid the very difficult and painful issues that had arisen. Another facet of this is that we each stopped caring how we even looked for the other as we focused our respective energies on those things that would help us forget the emptiness our marriage had become. This is a very common and insidious relationship killer because both parties can rationalize they are doing something important for the family. When in fact, it is tearing the family and partnership apart.
  5. Settling – there is a huge difference between acceptance and settling. Acceptance means you acknowledge the differences and quirks of your partner and never let them become the source of resentment. A good way to do this is see your partner’s uniqueness as an adventure to be explored and savored. Settling means, at some level, you resent (i.e. resist) some of these differences but choose to live with them because it would be too uncomfortable or scary to do otherwise. The trouble with settling is that it is that it tends to grow like a cancer until you’ve found that your entire relationship is just one big resentment-filled settlement (i.e. you are now officially just roommates).

Don’t Delude Yourselves

If you are reading this and just starting out on your life together, I get it. Everything seems perfect, you are both totally in love and nothing, I mean nothing could ever change that. Without trying to be too harsh about this, I say… bullshit. While a barren and soulless existence together as you grow older does not have to be fait accompli, to avoid it does require you both be proactive towards the success of your togetherness. Long-term successful relationships take hard work, constant vigilance and a willingness to work things out with authentic and vulnerable communication. It also takes being super-aware of the potential pitfalls I’ve identified above. While even that won’t assure success, it will guarantee the highest possibility for its attainment.

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About the Author

MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150Michael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:         MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:             Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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The Power of Uncertainty

Category: Men and Mission 

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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I dislike uncertainty as much as the next person, perhaps even more. My reaction to it can cause deep anxiety that negatively impacts my health, wealth and overall enjoyment of life. Yet, despite uncertainty’s bad rep, I have learned that: a) no matter what we tell ourselves or how we arrange our circumstances, we can never be free of it, and b) learning to embrace it can lead to incredible possibilities that I didn’t even know was on my radar. As long as we are living, breathing beings we will always live with uncertainty. Knowing how to manage and respond to it can make all the difference between a rich, fulfilling life and one that is always fraught with the anxiety of what “bad” things could happen.

Ignorance is bliss… sort of

Simply put, anxiety is fear of the future whether known (if that’s actually possible) or worse, unknown. It’s a cliché to say that we all live in uncertain times. When I hear someone say that my first reaction is to ask “Does that mean our ancestors somehow suffered less uncertainty?” Which is ludicrous when you think about it. Given not that not to long ago (in the grand scheme of things) you were lucky to make it to your 40th birthday. However, the fact that we have unprecedented instant access to all the news, scientific studies and pundit theories as to all the ways we won’t make it as a species, I can see how this generation may be feeling a tad bit more anxious. It’s the hyper-awareness of all the things that may do us in (or at least, severely cramp our lifestyle) that seems to be causing massive pharmaceutical industry profits in chemically treating our collective malaise. So, it seems that anxiety due to uncertainty is more a function of how many things we know about could go wrong rather than the going wrong itself. From this perspective ignorance is truly bliss, until you are taken out by something you ducked your head in the sand about.

Different circumstances, different kinds of uncertainty

In my previous career I made a lot of money. And, I remember often thinking “Why do people stress out so much about money?” Did having a lot of money eliminate my uncertainty, hardly. Uncertainty is like a water bed, you push it down in one corner and it will pop up someplace else. There is simply no escaping it. The desire to escape it however can be overwhelming and in some cases cause us to do really stupid and sometimes incredibly damaging things. Dictators attempt to eliminate uncertainty by oppression and removal of all threats by any means they deem necessary. Wall Street attempts to eliminate uncertainty by rigging the game in their favor as evidenced by the recent scandal of major banks manipulating the currency markets. An even more interesting twist is how ideologies, whether political or religious, seek to eliminate uncertainty by showing zero tolerance for any individual or group that does not agree with their point of view.

A fear ignored is far worse than one faced head on.

Perhaps one of the more rational approaches to dealing with uncertainty is insurance. While it doesn’t eliminate uncertainty, it can mitigate its impact. Yet all of this begs the question as to why is uncertainty so universally reviled by our species? I personally think it boils down to one simple thing: survival. When you don’t know what’s coming, or worse, you think you know what’s coming but feel powerless to stop it, there is this deep sense of impending doom that can ruin your day. And, we are hard wired to avoid that at all costs.

How to re-wire our response to uncertainty

Fortunately for all of us, we have a free will (at least I’m sort of certain about that). And that means we have the ability to consciously “re-wire” our response to uncertainty. The best way I’ve found to do this is to:

  1. Face the fear of uncertainty – uncertainty gets the best of us when we try to pretend it’s not there. A fear ignored is far worse than one faced head on. Acknowledging it fully is the first step.
  2. Get skilled in being present – uncertainty is all about the future and therefore cannot touch you if you are fully in the present moment. While it is not practical to live in the moment all the time, knowing how to put yourself there quickly when the ugly head of anxiety shows itself will go a long way to help you conquer the hold uncertainty has over you. In this Age of Distraction, learning to be in the moment is one of the most important skills you can acquire.
  3. See uncertainty as the threshold to possibility – I can honestly say that the best things in my life came about as a result of embracing uncertainty and jumping head first into the abyss of the unknown. How different would your life be if you viewed uncertainty as a powerful force for incredibly good things in your life, and not just a sign of danger?

Uncertainty is always going to be with us, no matter what our circumstances. Fortunately we all have a choice on how to respond to it. Popping pills or using distractions to hide from it is one way. The other is fully embracing it and seeing what kind of adventure it will take you on. Not really much of a choice, is it?

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MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150About the Author

Michael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:         MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:             Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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Joe Bernstein – Drop the Armor

Category: Interviews, Men and Health 

by Boysen Hodgson

How is your health working? Do you have a layer of armor that you’ve put on to protect you from feeling and living the life you want to live?

Did it start out as protection and comfort and turn into a numbing cushion around your passion and vibrancy?

This is the work that Joe Bernstein has been doing for himself and coaching others on for the last several years. He was one of those men, like many of us, who took his health … in all its dimensions … for granted. Joe got a wakeup call in his life and took action to create something new. This is an interview I did with Joe to talk about his work and learn more.

You can check him out at: http://www.dropthearmor.com/

 

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