Tag Archives: Romance

I had a lover’s tiff

Habit is the enemy of romance, but rituals provide a structure in which romance thrives.

Currently, I have a goodbye ritual – sipping coffee and chatting in a lovely cafe before kissing goodbye. I wrote about it a little while ago

Its a gentle way to part from a lover after a couple of days in each other’s company.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I said goodbye without that ritual. On this occasion, we parted without visiting the cafe. There were kisses for sure, but they were exposed to the sharp air of sudden separation. I convinced myself that this wasn’t a problem. I would be mature about it – I would simply acknowledge my feelings and that would be enough.

But it wasn’t. The sharp air of separation stayed in my lungs and grew into irritation. Three days later, sharp air became the sharp words of a lovers’ tiff.

The balance of energy between lovers is delicate. Rituals help to keep that balance clear and in flow. My goodbye ritual works, but I ignored it and experienced the fallout. I know that gentle goodbyes work for me. I need time to peel myself out of a full immersion in romance, and bring other aspects of life to the fore.

We ignored the ritual because we didn’t feel that we needed it on that day. We had just had tea, and going to the cafe seemed superfluous. But with ritual the content is less important than the performance of it. Its the performance – not the content – that gives romance the structure it needs.

What works for you? What rituals can you put in place to keep the energy of your romantic life clear and in flow?

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Posted by on 04/03/2014 in Romance


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Oyster Card Romance

Londoners, you know that thing when you swipe your oyster card, the red light beeps and the gates stay shut, even though you have enough money on the card? Apparently it happens when you ‘swipe’ or ‘press’ rather than ‘touch’ in.

This happened to me the other day. The nice Transport For London staff member who was standing there, put on his best ‘I want to roll my eyes but I’m going to be patient’ voice and said, “Stand back a step…. Now just touch the card lightly.”

I did. It worked.

As I stood on the escalator I started to smile realising that his instruction was a brilliant metaphor for how to love.

In romantic relationship we want to get closer to each other. But closeness can easily slip into familiarity. Before we know it we’re being less attentive and more mechanical. The relationship feels easy and comfortable but lacks spice. Over time, romance stays shut – unresponsive to your mechanical ‘swiping’ or ‘pressing’. At this point, familiarity starts to feel stifling.

So take a step back – give each other more space and privacy. And be ‘light touch’ in your emotional interaction – don’t presume that you can press or swipe your way into each other’s hearts. The gates of romance will keep flying open for you.

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Posted by on 12/12/2013 in Romance


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Rare Romance

Romantic love isn’t so much a single emotion as a container for many shades of emotion. That’s why we’re more susceptible to feeling hurt by a romantic partner than a friend. That’s why we can be infuriated with a lover and long for them at the same time.

Some loves have a way of containing the vicissitudes of romantic relationship while remaining beyond them. Underneath the range of emotions that play through the heart, lighting it up or ripping it up, there is a quality of love that witnesses. In a way its not so much a quality of the heart but a quality of Being.

Rare to experience in romance, but exquisite when its there.

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Posted by on 04/05/2012 in Love, Romance


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Less contentment, more bliss please.

At some point towards the end of last year I decided to dedicate 2012 to being the best lover I’ve ever been.  Because the idea thrills me. Because for me love is a practice and pleasure. Its my core passion. In the last few weeks, I’ve been paying keen attention to my physical and emotional sensations to get a clearer sense of  what I really want in this endeavour.

In November I was interviewed for Imago People TV by The Barefoot Doctor. He asked me what new things I’d been exploring. I said that in 2011 I had learnt to appreciate contentment in relationship. I’ve never naturally been drawn to the placidness of contentment. But in exploring it, I had come to appreciate its gifts.

I’d contrast contentment with the sweetness-‘n-sharpness that relationship can offer. I’ve always been naturally drawn to the poignant sensations – both sweet and sharp – of tasting another human being.

Contentment is soft and safe, but in large doses I find it a little dull.

This year, I want to experience more sweetness and less sharpness in love. I know that some would say that the two are inseparable, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think that sharpness starts to dissolve in the light of self refinement.

My yoga practice is my template for love practice. The aim in yoga is to move beyond being pulled about by the duality of pleasant/painful, good/bad, positive/ negative experience, into an awareness characterised by non-dual bliss. Bliss – ananda in Sanskrit – is not the same as happiness. Happiness has an opposite – unhappiness.

Confusing bliss (ananda) with happiness (sukha) has led to one of the biggest fallacies in the contemporary world of self development. When Joseph Campbell said, ‘Follow your bliss,’ he was referring to ananda. He had come across the word when studying the Upanishads – esoteric Sanskrit texts on the nature of being and existence. When most people repeat, “Follow you bliss,” they mean something along the lines of, “Follow what you think will make you happy.”

Following bliss is not the same thing. Its an endeavour in changing your state of consciousness. Its a yoking (yoga) of attention to self in a subtle and often searing manner.

For the purposes of this discussion, ananda is perhaps best described as a state of fullness, radiance and self-sufficiency. Yogic meditation practice aims to induce that state of awareness. But the next step is where it gets interesting. The next step is about bringing the qualities of ananda into the sensory (and sensual) experience of daily life. Its about bringing those qualities into the arena of duality. This is rarely understood or taught in the context of yoga or meditation, which are seen as ways of withdrawing from the stresses of the sensory world in order to grab some peace before returning to daily life.

Duality of pain and pleasure, happiness and sadness reside with poignant clarity in the space of romantic relationship. I’ve found that something interesting happens when I introduce the qualities of fullness, radiance and self sufficiency into that space. The sharpness of painful sensations soften, and the sweetness of pleasure heightens. I don’t understand it, but I like it. And I look forward to experiencing more of it. And perhaps beginning to understand it.

This year I want less searing and more subtlety, less sharpness and more sweetness. Lets see if I get it.

A clip of my interview with The Barefoot Doctor is here. We discuss romance Discussing romance for Imago People TV


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Sacred Romance: Being, In Love

Sacred Romance begins with Self. It moves through Self and returns to Self. It is not selfish, but centred in Self. This is the secret to truly loving romance. It is only by continually returning to our own centre that we can truly unfold in the arms of another.

The word ‘sacred’ speaks of something other than the mundane; it intimates the numinous, set apart from the ordinary. It is both the exquisite experience of being in (comm)union with another person and the numinous experience of one’s self that comes about through that (comm)union. Experiencing sacred romance requires the conscious effort of being fully present and aware of what happens in your Self during the romantic encounter. 

The image I have of Sacred Romance is that of a double spiral: a spiral that moves both in and down into one’s self, and up and out toward the other. This simultaneous and complementary movement is the mechanism for being in sacred romance. The extent to which we are able to dive into our own depths will be the extent to which we are able to open into another.

Taking Radical Responsibility

That’s ‘radical’ as in deep, core and foundational responsibility. In romance this means acknowledging 100% responsibility for whatever occurs along both directions of the double spiral: for both one’s inner experience of emotions, thoughts, impressions, longings, orgasms, memories, and for one’s outer experience of events, (mis)communications, interactions, agreements, orgasms, commitments. This does not mean taking responsibility for the other person’s experience. Even in the most intimate relationship the shared space does not encompass the whole of each individual. We can only ever share some of our stream of experience but we can and do choose what to share. Our outward movement toward a lover is entirely our responsibility. Acknowledging this would effect a subtle but radical shift our experience of romance. We are acculturated to think that romance simply happens – an inevitable but accidental consequence of two people experiencing a particular attraction for each other. This results in a ‘lets try it and see what happens’ approach. Now that may be just fine – after all, it appears to be the general modus operandi. However, by consciously choosing how you want to experience romance, something very interesting happens. Your options open up exponentially. You can write your own rules, ask for more, give more (interesting things), say ‘no’ more, say ‘yes’ more. And yes, I’m speaking from experience. Its very freeing. And it takes more guts, more heart, more energy and intent than doing it the other way. Sacred Romance is not for the risk averse. It invites you to risk your entire being in every moment of interaction with the other.

 Sound too much? ‘Too much’ doesn’t even cut it. This is what being present in romance feels like. Its challenging, simmering and fully alive making. Again, I’m speaking from experience.

On Making Love

Once again I am filled with longing for your presence with my body.

And now my eyes fill with tears of longing for all that has been in my life and all that will be.

 Now that longing expands into an exquisite awareness of the soulfulness of all humanity.

Tell me, my beloved, how is it that you inspire so much?

How is it that a romantic encounter can open our awareness of things way beyond the encounter itself? This is one of the greatest mysteries of erotic love – its capacity to outstrip itself.

Perhaps this is the hallmark of a true romantic encounter – one that opens us to so much more than itself. In terms of sacred romance, one of the purposes of making love is to make us innocent. In the moment of love making we become soulful, free of right and wrong, going beyond duality into union. In this moment the double spiral implodes into Flow and the distinction between inner and outer ceases momentarily. Making love is the numinous power of romance at its most potent. The challenge is to carry that innocence beyond the act of love making into other interactions with a lover. But for now, I remain in awe of the innocence of our flesh and the power of our bodies to show us our sacredness.


Posted by on 15/11/2009 in Romance


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In Praise of Marriage and Divorce


We tend to think of marriage and divorce as being each other’s opposites. At first glance it would appear that this is purely a logical and neutral observation. Logical perhaps, but not neutral. The opposition holds a raft of qualifiers that look something like this:

marriage good, divorce bad

marriage success, divorce failure

marriage love, divorce lack of love


The list could go on.


(It is like a score card so I suggest reading it to yourself in the intonation used by the guy who reads out the league table results on a sunday afternoon)


It seems to me that the relationships of the 21st century call for a different way of thinking of marriage and divorce. We’ve outgrown the fairy tale of ‘happily ever after’. The thing is that the fairy tale always relied on a cunning sleight of hand: notice how the ‘happily ever after’ was always pronounced at the moment of wedding (preferably after the hero has saved the damsel in distress). This ruse effectively freeze frames the rest of the couple’s lives in the moment of their wedding – a continuous present moment that forbids the story from moving on. The curtain comes down and as children we were neatly fooled. But fairy tales are not just children’s stories. They plant, replant and nurture collective seeds of expectation of reality. Somewhere, long after we’ve stopped reading the Brothers Grimm, ‘happily ever after’ calls to us. 


I definitely think we need new fairy tales (I’m working on it) but for now I’ll spin a different sort of yarn.


Part of the problem of operating as we do under a tyranny of coupledom is that a marriage or marriage-style partnership is held up as the ultimate success. If you are single, you must be waiting to get into a relationship. Once you start a relationship there is the idea that it progresses in a linear way – getting more serious over time. The ultimate goal is to enter a marriage or marriage style partnership – characterised by certain features such as living together, sharing life goals, etc. This type of partnership is the real life representation of the fairy tale’s ‘happily ever after’. If the marriage or partnership ends before one of the partners dies the relationship falls short of ‘happily ever after’ and stumbles ignominiously into the ‘bad/ failure/ lack of love’ category. I remember when I got my divorce someone saying sympathetically, ‘Well at least you’re young.’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – the subtext was ‘you’ve got plenty of time to find another husband’. What?? I was flabbergasted. Does that mean that people over a certain age – whatever that might be – ought not to get divorced because they have less chance of finding another partner? The assumptions that underpinned that remark are shocking but are pretty firmly embedded in our collective psyche along with the fairy tale. They are assumptions about love, sex and romance being the terrain of youth. They are assumptions about the extent to which ‘older people’ have a full right to happy, fulfilling lives. They are assumptions about the claim that ‘young people’ have on freedom and rebellion – because divorce is still a rebellion. All of this in the frieze framed moment of ‘happily ever after.’ Fortunately is seems that current trends are defying the agism of these assumptions, with divorces among people of post retirement age on the increase. 


Ironically, the happily ever after approach does not mitigate against divorce and it sabotages marriage. It sabotages marriage in the sense that it only offers one option for success: till death do you part. And its an option that people increasingly opt out of – or want to opt out of, but fail to – for fear of failure. I consider my five year marriage to be a great success –  partly because I allowed myself to get a divorce. As adults, if we really have outgrown fairy tales, surely we can consciously choose other options for successful relating. And people are increasingly doing just that – many couples do not live together full time, for example.  


If we reframe divorce and marriage as different possible stages that a partnership might go through, something very different occurs in the field of possibility. Of course they retain a logical relationship with each other given that divorce is the dissolving of the marital state. However, taking the failure out of divorce means that romantic partnership is no longer a competitive match wherein there is one winning option and one losing one. It means that a love match is about the happiness and lives of people, and that each one will be unique – with its own needs and its own path. It also means that we can celebrate marriages irrespective of their longevity and the manner of their completion. And so, a toast to divorce and to marriage. Long may they be happy bedfellows!



Posted by on 05/10/2009 in Breakups and Divorce


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The Rhythm of a Heart-Broken-Open: Unfolding, Contracting and Opening (all in its own time)

This blog entry partners the article ‘The Gifts of a Heart-Broken-Open’ that appears in the September issue of Julia Armstrong’s newsletter  


The article in the newsletter touches on what I see as the core gifts of a broken open heart: becoming more available to the world and to yourself. I mention that the heart has its own rhythm – this is what I focus on here.


We tend to think that its best to mend a broken heart as quickly as possible and move on. While I certainly don’t see any sense in becoming stuck in pain, there is a danger of simply ignoring or disconnecting from the hurt. Sometimes the rawness of the experience is such that its easier to disconnect. One of the symptoms of this disconnect is that people distract themselves with other things – such as burying themselves in work. I have had clients come to me who have successfully distracted themselves from their broken open heart for years – nearly two decades in some instances. Thats a lot of distracting. And all those years later the broken-open-heart is still there – waiting for the attention it needs.


Giving one’s heart attention in its raw moments is very different to wallowing or becoming stuck in pain. The two things feel, sound and look completely different. The latter is characterised by blame, bitterness and a lack of taking responsibility for the situation. The former is characterised by tenderness, acceptance, acknowledgement and taking responsibility for oneself – without blame. This includes allowing a space for anger and the emotions we tend to categorise as ‘negative’. 


The immediate aftermath of feeling your heart break open in romance is a uniquely devastating space. Acknowledging that – whether to oneself or to others – is a vital part giving attention to the heart. Secondly – and this is my top recommendation – pamper your body. Eat well, sleep cosily and get lots of hugs from your friends. Gentlemen that includes you. Your hearts are just as important as women’s hearts and no, you are not better equipped to deal with this stuff on your own. Spend time with people in whose presence you feel at ease.


Pampering your body has a direct benefit for your heart, because the heart is both an emotional and physical organ. Our emotions are pumped around our body as hormones and other chemical substances. Psychopharmachologist Dr. Candace Pert has discussed this at length – hence her famous phrase ‘molecules of emotion.’ When the heart experiences a significant trauma it is carried around the rest of the body. By attending to the body, you attend to the heart. 


Unfolding, contracting, opening, re-folding, withdrawing, reaching out – the heart has its own rhythm, its own timing and its own dance. And that rhythm is rarely linear. The heart doesn’t so much move on as unfold. This means that waves of different emotions might come at the most unexpected times. You might think that you had ‘dealt with’ something to find that it revisits you. Allowing it to have its rhythm is the most efficient and elegant way of you being able to ‘move on’.   You don’t need to wait for your heart to ‘get over’ someone before you move on with your life. If you waited for that, you’d possibly never move on. The power of some romantic encounters is such that they mark our being indelibly. The trick is to allow your heart to have its mark and to move forward simultaneously. Ironically, by allowing the heart its own rhythm that will not necessarily match your linear ‘moving on’ you are able to truly move your life on. 


Posted by on 21/09/2009 in Romance


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